Walk the Sky Aflame

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Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by xfiend1013 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:10 pm

"Frack off, Granth." Luke Skywalker said. He had his lightsaber hilt, and he had the presence of a man who'd saved the galaxy a few times, despite his fluffy blonde hair and boyish good looks.

"Come on now, Skywalker." Garrett Granth said. His appearance was more sinister, scarred and bald and crazed, but it held the same weight - so you saved the galaxy too?. "It's just a look in that archive. I just need to know what Revan found out about the Rakata."

"You know the same as I do." Luke said. He relaxed a bit, took his hand away from his belt. The jungle storms of Yavin IV whipped the world outside into a frenzy of bent stalks and swaying trees.

"That's not true, Luke." Han Solo said. He'd just entered with Katarn and a couple of others on his heels. Katarn was trying to calm a couple of Jedi, and Chewbacca the wookiee was walking through them like they were nothing more than the vines and palms outside, beleaguered by a wind they couldn't understand, pushed to the ground by something bigger and more powerful than them all.

"You too, Han?" Luke asked. He seemed hurt.

"Yeah, me too." Han replied. He never seemed to move for his blaster, but the position of his hips made the gun visible. "Just show the Doctor the data. It's probably nothing, but after the story he told me, I wanna know."

"The story he told you! He's a liar!" Luke shouted. The shout was louder than it had any right to be. "He tells stories, Han! Trust me on this one!"

"Luke, I trust ya." Han said. "But your Jedi secrets gotta come out here. This could be big."

Skywalker sighed, turned his back to the crowd. Several of the younger Jedi were furious, held back only by Katarn and their limited patience. Kyle Katarn had his arms held wide in the doorway, holding them all back with nothing more than his reputation and the threat of a wookiee being a few feet away.

"Come on, Luke. I've done you right before." Garrett said.

"You've done me wrong before. You've frelled with the New Jedi Order, Granth. You've stolen secrets and supplies and doomed men to the Dark Side of the force with nothing but your own unconsidered words!"

Garrett twisted his foot a bit in the sandy grit of the Jedi Temple. The rain beat against the ancient sandstone.

"It's just Rakata, Luke." He said. "Nothing I can do to hurt anyone."

"Come on, Luke." Han said, arms crossed over his chest.

"Alright." Skywalker said. "The Rakata. What killed them, eh?"

"No." Garrett said. "What happened right before them. What happened to the Celestials. The Killiks knew. Revan knew. The Jedi Exile knew. There are records they wanted for the whole galaxy, but only the Jedi order has them, Skywalker. I need to know. I've found something. The Celestials - the Architects - they didn't die out or leave. They died in a galactic genocide."

"What?" Luke asked.

"A good question." Garrett said. "You know enough about the subject to know to ask that question. Let's take a look." He said, extending a hand. "Nothing to lose but old paleoarcheological data. Nothing to gain but the galaxy."

Skywalker took his hand, shook it, and the tensions deflated in an instant.

"Kyle, get these people out of here." Luke said. "Han, Chewie, Garrett - let's take a look."

[Four Months Later]

The whorls of hyperspace outside the cockpit had done little to settle anyone's mind over the past months. The Millennium Falcon may have been the fastest ship in the galaxy, but to get to the edge of known space from Yavin was still taking plenty of time.

The ship smelled mostly of wookiee by this point, but there were plenty of spaces where it smelled of ozone and welding, where Garrett Granth had been working on the worn out ship and the worn out droids.

"Didn't bring Leia?" He asked Han at one point. It earned him a look worthy of a blaster bolt, but nothing was fired.

"I'd rather you never bring her up again." Han said. "...after what happened."

Garrett nodded, knowing when he'd pushed his considerable luck.

"Alright. Today is the day." Luke said. When he said it, Garrett was chewing on a bit of dried jerky and wishing he had real food.

"We're here. The coordinates are the same ones that Revan left us in the archive. The ship is out here, but broken. The Jedi who came to this point ran into Columi codes that they could not break." Luke said.

Garrett swallowed. "I found this on Columi. If I'm right, there's a reason that the big-headed bastards never leave their solar system."

"The Celestials?" Luke asked.

"No. What killed them." Garrett said. The Falcon came out of hyperspace, and there it was.

A single ship, floating in the void, trailing bits and pieces that had broken off in the millennia that had passed it by. There were no stars in front of it, only black space and scattered points. Behind them was the jewel that was the galaxy, shining into the dark space, providing no illumination at this distance, even though there were billions of suns.

"A Columi vessel." Han Solo said. "Well we better analyze it quick. We've got a days worth of food to spare."

"I'll drink my meals for a week to get more time." Garrett said.

"You drank your meals on the way out here, Granth." Solo grumbled. "That wasn't all your liquor."

"It is now, unless you want it back." Garrett said, as he finished putting on his space suit.

"Just get out there and do your thing..." Han Solo said as Garrett went out the airlock. The vessel that had been there for fifty thousand years was traveling fast, almost a quarter of the speed of light. It made for an odd spacewalk, remembering the tiny fluctuations of space and time that were happening, constantly readjusting the computers onboard the spacesuit and R2-D2, onboard the Falcon was doing the same.

It did not take long. The ship was breached, the computers cracked, the ancient codes deciphered.

"I got it." Garrett said with a grin. "Let's bring it back to Professor Goldenrod to translate. Luke, did you upload that translator program?"

"He most certainly did!" C3P-0 said with his characteristic warbling vo-coder. "Though R2 did have to scrub it of your malware and surveillance programming."

"Hey!" Luke said over the network. "We aughta leave your arse here in darkspace!"

Garrett was silent, checking the Columi chronometer. "This ship has been here for fifty thousand years." He said. "Right before the Rakata rose to power. Fifty thousand years after the Columi retreated to their planet and cloaked it. It left at the same time as the Great Kilik Extinction, one hundred thousand years after the Celestials vanished, at the same time that the Gree genetics underwent a catastrophic bottleneck."

"What are you getting at, Granth?" Solo asked.

"I'm not sure." Garrett said. He was coming back through the airlock, taking off the suit. "But let me ask you a question, Skywalker. What was Revan so afraid of?"

"We'd always assumed it was the ascendant Sith Empire." Luke said. "But whatever the case, his quest to unify the galaxy started after his discovery of the Rakata Star Forge."

Garrett sat down, lit a cigarra. "And how were the Rakata able to become so dominate, so quickly?" He asked. "I think it's because they were fitting into a void. The void left by the Great Kilik Extinction, the same Void that had been left fifty thousand years before that, when the Columi ran and hid, the same void the left the Celestials doomed and forgotten. The genetic evidence is unmistakable, but only if you look at non-sentient species. Every planet where sentient life lives, every planet where we find the most ancient of ruins, something happens every fifty thousand years..."

"My analysis is complete, Doctor." C3P0 chimed in. "Would you like me to play back the only non-fragmented audio file?"

"Let's hear it." Garrett said.

There was a whine of static and white noise, slowly resolving. "...beacon ship... Warning... transmitted to all... galactic central hub.... warning... galactic central hub..."

"Clean that up, Goldenrod." Han said.

"....warning. The Reapers are coming."

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Re: The Black Fire

Post by xfiend1013 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:02 am

[Mon Calamari]

"I'm not asking you to believe me." Han Solo said. "I'm asking you to believe Luke fracking Skywalker. Hero of your New Republic. Grand Master of your New Jedi Order."

The Senate Select Committee on Security seemed more than impassive, they seemed hostile.

"Jedi Master Skywalker said that the warnings are little more than hearsay backed up by the word of a known con artist. A few audio fragments, and you want us to what, exactly? Investigate this where? How? Last I checked, General Solo, you had your own means to do exactly that, and in our considered opinion, we should hold you until you give up the location of Doctor Granth, but due to the fact that Master Skywalker has already done so, and we have a team on route to arrest him, we're going to let you go and chase phantoms and legends all on your own. Dismissed, General Solo."

Han stormed out.

"Luke!" He shouted down the hall. The Jedi Master was in his formal robes, discussing something with two other shrouded men, quietly. He waved his hand in front of one of them and ended the conversation, but didn't turn to Han.

"What's the big idea! Giving up our old friend to the cops, leaving me standing there like an idiot in front of the Senate - you were there, Luke, eight months on the Falcon, all the warnings and details that the Doc was able to wrangle out of that Columi data - this is real, Luke. This isn't just some spooky Jedi story like you'd believe in a heartbeat!"

"Don't mock my ways, Han." Luke said, removing his cowl. The two shrouded men peeled off and left together, side by side. "While we were wasting time out in the rim, I dispatched two Jedi to look for clues with the Killiks. They made a great sacrifice, one of them joined the Hive Mind. When the Senate chases down Garrett, who you know they won't catch, they'll follow him to the hidden Columi homeworld. All that remains is to find out what we can from the Gree."

"Never heard of 'em." Han said, folding his arms. "I don't like it, Luke. What if our buddies catch Doc before he shows them the Columi homeworld? It's not easy to find, it's not easy to get to, I don't care if you are Garrett Granth."

"Have some faith." Luke said. "I have to meet with the Jedi who joined the Killik hive mind. Lando told me about another ancient race, that went into a self-imposed hibernation exactly one hundred thousand years ago. The Sharu. They hid their intelligence. Their works. Just like the Columi. Just like the Killik."

The commlink buzzed. "It's Kyle." Han said, pulling out the holocommunicator.

"Skywalker, Solo. Get back to the Falcon, we've got problems. Couple of would-be Sith Lords or..."

He screamed in agony as the screen went to static.

***

[Columi]

"Frelling faster!" Garrett shouted. The Corellian Corvette Tzohar dropped like a skyscraper falling from orbit. Plasma bolts zipped bright red lines across the sky below them, the curve of Columi stretched below him, a continent-spanning typhoon beneath the ship.

"Granth!" Vailhai shouted, his Mon Calamarian voice roiling like rocks in a stream. "The planetary guns aren't responding. But someone else is shooting at us."

The Tzohar rocked and rolled and lost most of her shields.

"What the frell, Vailhai?!" Garrett shouted, throwing his cigarra on the deck. He left his lab in a hurry. "It sounds like they're shooting us, not shooting AT us!"

"I don't know what just hit us, Granth!" Illiana shouted. "It was just one shot! I'm taking evasive maneuvers! Hold on!"

Gravity went and frelled itself.

Garrett heard nothing but air and ringing metal.

He looked up at the hole in the ceiling and saw spinning sky. Then - something. Something huge, but through a tiny hole, a hole spinning 360 degrees eight times a second, right at the limit, any faster and he'd have blacked out.

Illiana slowed the spin, dragged them down, then straightened out the Tzohar.

"What the frack was that?!" He shouted. At the same time, he patched his datapad into the sensor banks of the Tzohar. The Tzohar was a research corvette, equipped with every imaginable detector, sensor, and 'scope - and the computer power to check every last digit.

But outside - a huge ship. As long as a star destroyer, easily. But shaped...

Shaped like the head of a quarren. Jaws down, landing on the surface of Columi like no ship that size should have been able.

Thermal winds blasted away from the landing zone and shredded the jungle surface, setting half a continent ablaze.

"Doctor! Do you want to know?" Illiana shouted in the Pilot Couch as Garrett hauled himself into the cockpit.

"What hit us?" Garrett asked, afixing a helmet before the oxygen ran out.

"No. What's in orbit." Illiana said. Bolts of plasma and ions roared past them, setting the air on fire before they vanished into the rising plume of smoke.

"What's in orbit?!" Garrett asked.

"Apparently, a New Republic Fleet, with Jedi assstance, was following us. They ran into a Sith Blockade that we avoided, and now both parties are engaging us and the dreadnought in the Columi atmosphere."

"Wait, what? Who? Who brought a dreadnaught to this fight?!" Garrett asked, strapping himself into an escape pod.

Lights went red and blue and the ship shook hard, the corvette couldn't hold up for long in the sheering turbulent atmosphere.

"Garrett!" Venia toned into his headset. Venia was the onboard AI. "It's GAIT. That's her flagship. We, the Republic, and the Sith are all under attack by fleet under her command. Her ship is new. Now it is called Harrow."

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by Mandalore_The_Uniter » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:38 am

Alleria Kol-Rekali was an Jedi Knight, A Shadow, and a Warrior; so she naturally wanted to be on the ground during this fight, whoever GAIT was commanding was looking for something. Alleria didn't fight GAIT personally, but she knew enough to know that GAIT was bad news, and it was worth it to find what she was looking for first. Alleria moved towards the hangar, intent on taking a fighter and going down to the surface herself, to try and get whatever GAIT's new friends were looking for. When Alliera reached the Hangar of the ship, she motioned that she was going to use one of the Delta 7s, and hopped into the cockpit of it. Alliera Kol-Rekali pulled out a Holo of Her, Alex, and Rach, she kissed the holo of her family, and put it back into it's pocket on her armor. Rach was with Little Alex, safe on Ossus, under the Protection of several galactic polities.

Alleria was wearing a black set of Mandalorian Shock Trooper armor, with a Jedi Robe over it, expecting some pretty serios combat. Alleria was outfitted with 2 lightsabers, 2 pistols, and a few grenades; the newest part of her arsenal was a sword, a GDI Commando Vibro-blade that had a Cortosis weave. The Sword was in it's shieth on Alliera's back, it was a fallback if Alleria lost her connection to the force, and her blasters were insufficent for the foe encountered.

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by Mandalore_The_Uniter » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:50 am

Alleria had taken off, and was using the force to avoid the myriad of energy weapons being fired about, hoping to reach the surface. It wasn't long before she picked up a tail, a particularly dedicated droid starfighter, but it couldn't get a lock on the Jedi. Alliera just dodged the fighter's fire, not wanting to be delayed any longer than she had too, as she entered the atmosphere. When The Jedi entered atmo, she looked for the settlement that seemed to have the most activity. When Alleria found what she was looking for, she lost the Droid Starfighter with a series of hair-raising manuivers in the trees, Alleria thanking the force that she knew how to pilot a Delta-7.

Alleria landed in the settlement with the most activity, the ground forces were looking for something, and she was going to get it first. Alleria closed her eyes, and reached out with the force, wanting to find what they were looking for.

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by Mandalore_The_Uniter » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:41 pm

Alleria threw both of her lightsabers, as she slid under the arms of the 2 IG-88s that tried to block her path, the lightsabers destroying them. Alleria caught the weapons, and cut through anouther pair of GAIT's droids, moving closer to whatever the droids were looking for. As Alleria moved towards the highest concentration of GAIT's forces, she was cutting through droids, dodging fire. Alleria was stopped in her tracks by what she saw around the next corner, the droids were hauling Columi onto a Tripod Pedistal, which produced a spike that impailed the little creatures a second later. Alleria couldn't hide the disgust on her face, but kept her mouth shut, her shadow training coming in handy to sneak by the large number of Droids.

After Alleria found a way around the huge concentration of droids, she found herself near more of the 'Dragon's Teeth', with the poor Columi on them. The Spikes suddenly retracted, and the Columi were revieled to have been altered someway, as they rose up and started mooving towards alleria. The Columi-creatures seemed to have repulsorlift engines integrated into them, as they floated closer to Alleria, and seemed to be concentrating on something. Alleria found out what the creatures were concentrating on a few moments later, as she was thrown into a nearby wall a powerfull Force Push, and anouther Creature attacked her with Force Lightning. Alleria screamed in pain as the lightning arced across her body, reaching for her pistol, blasting the Force Lightning Creature so it fell down. Alleria used her blasters to eliminate the creatures at range, between being tossed around and nearly fried by the frellin' things, untill eventually they all went down. Alleria got back up shakily, breathing heavily as her armor smoked, and started walking in a direction that she was drawn to by the force. Eventually Alleria reached what looked like an artificial spire, 3 times as tall as her, and made of some kind of smooth Obsidian Metal. Alleria hobbled towards the device, wounded by the battle with the Altered-Columi, and drawn to the spire by the force. When Alleria got close enough, she felt herself be literally pulled upwards and closer to the spire. Alleria absentmindedly noted the sound of Blaster Fire and Lightsaber attacks, along with odd screams that denoted the presence of the Creatures, as there was a hot spike of pain in her mind as the spire forced a vision into her mind.

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Re: On Wings of Fire

Post by xfiend1013 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:36 pm

The Tzohar wasn't crashing. Well, not exactly.

It was a somewhat controlled spin. With repulsorlifts, the pilot could be comfortable while everyone else in the Corvette held on for dear life.

Also, things were on fire. Things were on fire and flying around in flaming ellipses that choked the place with smoke.

"Why?" Vailhai shouted over the commlink. He was strapped into his own pilot chair, growling against the G forces.

"Well, it's like my father always said." Garrett said as he hauled himself into an escape pod. The artificial gravity of the pod took over and he managed to get into the hazard suit he'd built in a few years back, all while coming up what he hoped to be a snappy completion.

"...if you find a planet under Imperial blockade and you're not pirating the backed-up traffic..." Garrett began.

"Your father never said that!" Vailhai replied as he activated the backup inertial dampeners.

"We don't know that." Garrett said. He strapped himself in.

"You don't know that. You never listened to your father." Vailhai said. He armed the guns and the automated quad-lasers onboard the Tzohar added to the horrible plasma rain that was superheating the atmosphere. Lightening tore at the sky in electric seams, and the clouds were glowing orange.

"I might have if he ever had better advice." Garrett said. He picked that point to say the line, even though Vailhai couldn't see him, because he often operated under the assumption that he better look cool when he did things.

The Tzohar banked to the side to launch a pair of escape pods towards the surface. Then Vailhai activated her shields, and used the repulsion between the ionically charged field and the atmosphere to accelerate his escape. The repulsorlifts kicked in, ions blasted out into air, and the escape pods plummeted.

Retrorockets roared and the friction-fire ringed craft crashed through a communication tower in a shower of twisted metal scaffold and squealing wire. But the emergency shielding held, and the ablative shell worked as intended and was now spread out in a smoldering circle from the crater the pod had left behind.

Garrett was stunned from the crash and the blasting of the release bolts. The door popped off and fell smoking into the rubble.

Columi had surrounded him in their repulsorlift sleds, each chair bristling with humming weaponry and thrumming shield generators.

"Life signs!" One of the Columi shouted.

"He's not an imperial."

"Just shoot him anyway." Another said.

"Wait!" Garrett said, holding his hands up. "The empire shot at us! I know who's attacking you! I can help! I'm with the republic!"

The last bit was technically a lie, but in the grand scheme of the lies of Garrett Granth, it was minor indeed.

"Who are you?" The Columi adviser asked. Unlike the others, who were driving armored hoverchairs, this Columi was integrated into a fully enclosed hovertank. It's anti-gravity field suspended debris underneath the heavy plates of near-indestructable shielding.

"I'm Garrett Granth, uh... special adviser to the Republic on matters concerning artificial intelligence and GAIT." Garrett said.

"Then you're going to become very much in demand, before you die." The Columi said, his voice modulated and artificial in the hovertank. "We're moving to intercept a column of droids headed for a research facility. What GAIT is searching for is there."

Garrett hopped on top of one of the sturdier hoverchairs. "Let's go, then."

***

The sky was now criss-crossed with explosions and ships breaking apart. Garrett didn't know who was attacking what - between the Imperial blockade, the Republic ships following him and the massive dreadnought that GAIT had brought to bear on Columi, the chaos was pure spectacle, even from the surface.

"There." The diminutive columi said, pointing to a spreading mass of droids that was branching from the road. Garrett and the others were above them, hiding in the thick trees. Hovering drones zipped above them, jammed by the sophisticated Columi technology.

"I see 'em." Garrett said, peering through the macrobinoculars. "What are those spires?"

"We've taken to calling them The "Dragons Teeth." The columi said. "Living victims are impaled through the middle of the back, and filled with nanoscale machinery, then rapidly transformed as the spike rises. Then they sit there, Force knows how long, until the spike retracts. The resulting creature is nothing but incarnate violence, mindless and ferocious."

Garrett didn't speak. The images that he was getting from the columi network - they were enough. Glowing blue tubes extending from the outsized head, weird mechanical lubricants being mixed with miscolored blood. Each image seemed as though it had been recorded mere moments from the death of the columi that had recorded it, framed with outstretched limbs or lens-smeared with blood.

"There's the facility." The columi said. The macrobinocular display lit up to show the smoldering walls and gates, the wrecked guardhouses, the toppled defense towers. The mindless husks of the Columi hovered around using their implanted repulsorlift, circling slow like vultures.

Shrieks filled the air. High-pitched wails, from above, in the trees. Garrett jumped to the ground as tiny metallic claws tried to grab his back, but the thick exterior of the HEV suit kept them out. He rolled, took the safety off of the e-11 as the columi started firing.

Several of the cyborg columi creatures grabbed one of their living compatriots from his hoversled and hauled him into the air in a frenzy of blood and claws. Garrett fired left and right, trying to hit something - anything - that filled the air.

Then the drones attacked. Rockets, blaster bolts, bullets - the sleds, the hovertanks, and the flying creatures raining down bolts of weird energy.

One hurled him into the air with the force, snatched at him with misshapen claws, and then began hauling him upwards in an inverted fall that quickly brought him higher than any fall he could hope to survive.

It tried to let go of him, as the other flying horrors had done to the hapless columi troops. But Garrett held on to the huge distended head, dug his armor-plated fingers into the small of the wounded back.

Technically, the fingers were not "armor-plated." They were, according to technical manual G3IN:HEV4, which had been in the escape pod - "electrically-integrated carbo-plast fiberweave digital manipulators."

Garrett had read most of that manual when purchasing the escape pod. The selling point had been the aforementioned Kaminoan ArmorCorps HEV4 Hazard Suit, which he'd installed in the escape pods due to them being atmospherically sealed, radiation-resistant, chemically inert, waterproof to fifty meters, fire-resistant, and, as noted in the small print, "protection from most small-arms fire."

None of that included any protection from a twenty-meter fall, so Garrett held on tight.

"Okay, so how the frack are these things made?" He asked himself. "Impalement through the small of the back, near the spine..."

He reached around as the small withered fingers clawed at his visor. At the top of the hips was a mechanical outgrowth, but on each side, soft infected, necrotic tissue. All torn to bits, glowing internal parts within.

Garrett dug his hands in, going through the wire-crossed dead tissues. He was shocked at how easy it was, even though the thing couldn't have been dead for more than a few hours.

Where kidneys should have been, repulsorlifts had been "grown." It was weird, a writhing synthesis of technology and biology.

He held onto these repulsorlifts and fell, fell slower than the bleeding husk that he'd pulled them from, it smashed into the huge tree limbs and was lost in the drooping leaves of a forest fire that was consuming the columi who'd brought him.

Garrett continued on a bit, wriggling in the sky, gliding down.

He fell onto the toppled wreckage of a hovertrain. Nothing but smoke and shattered duracrete lent itself to identification. Where he stood - it could have been a library, or a laboratory, or barracks, or...

Blowing flimsiplast was afire, and a single sheet plastered his visor as got to his feet. An expense report. This had been an office building. They sold server space and cloud computing clusters. "Xhyron" had signed off on it.

Garrett felt as though Xhyron was probably dead. Or worse, part of the aerial scavenger flock.

He had no weapons, so he followed a trail of dead. None of them seemed armed. Civilians at first, the tiny bodies were often slumped in the still-floating hoversleds the Columi favored. Traffic-clustered ques of them had lined up to take injured and unconscious Columi to hospitals and infirmaries, and they'd been ambushed, mowed down, the droids and husks had fixated on the dead and wounded.

They were eating them. Using them. Changing them.

Now he saw dead droids. Lightsaber wounds. Cut into pieces.

"Great. I bet it's Sith." He sighed. One of the droids had been holding a weapon, a cheap e-11 knockoff from the Rim. So Garrett took it, saw that it had a whole clip. Whoever had taken the droid out had done so before it had known they were there.

More dead husks littered the path now. Burning buildings were on each side of him, he recognized them as the shattered guard-houses and walls of the columi research lab.

He saw a man - tall and armored - coming his way, with an escort of stormtroopers firing wild into the sky. He moved faster, rounded a corner, and then...

A woman was hanging there, airborne, levitating, arms and legs wide, head held towards a strange ebony stone obelisk. She was wearing armor a slight better than the HEV suit he was in, and it looked like it had seen good use - it was pockmarked and carbon-scored.

The obelisk pulsed, wreathing her in a weird blue energy. Garrett ran back, away from the building low thrum. He snatched his sonic screwdriver from his belt and tried to 'scope the thing, but just then it exploded with white light and threw him back. The burning world turned to bright light and whatever crumbled rocks he landed on were as comfortable as the best bed.

[Later]

He woke to the hiss of air as his HEV helmet was released. The world was too bright for him to see who'd taken it off. They grumbled at him, pulled him up by the collar, then shoved him into the rubble again.

"Get the pieces loaded up. Secure the prisoners before those things come back."

He tried to look around, get a sense for what had happened to the woman who'd been levitated, tried to see who'd pulled off his helmet, but the only figure he could place was a stormtrooper, loading obsidian into a crate.

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Exit Burn Left

Post by xfiend1013 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:54 pm

Garrett had once spent seven years stranded on the planet Tyrnian, where technology lagged behind Galactic Standard. He'd been repairing his hyperdrive the entire time, but was forced to travel to all parts of the low-tech world to gather the parts and materials he'd need - scientific curiosities, crash-landed bits, things that were unique to a world, but common to a galaxy.

He'd managed to do all this rail and balloon and ship travel by cultivating a charismatic personality, a celebrity status, not as a scientist or oddity (for they were just a bunch of stranded near-humans themselves) or offworlder (who'd have been dissected) but as an escape artist.

The mechanical nature of the lessons he'd learned were unique to Tyrnian, but the underlying ideas were much the same. He'd been breaking free of Imperial bondage for longer than most men lived, and the stun-cuffs he found himself in this time were no different.

Relax the wrist muscles to an unnatural degree, twist the hand, dislocate the finger while keeping the wrist slack - not simple, really, but then again only a galactic fugitive would have practice.

Garrett had practice.

With a crack and a crunch he brought his hands around, under his legs, snatching his sonic screwdriver. He stood, to get a clear view of the chaos that had just engulfed him.

The Jedi woman had gone back into the fray. Lightsabers gone strong, the weird air pressure changes that indicated a battle via the Force were ongoing.

Garrett ducked just in time. An explosion of energy sent her flying, reeling, over a crushed railing that crumbled off over the cliff-face they'd all been perched on.

He rolled out of his cuffs and started to do what he did best - run.

Something snagged him by the nape of the neck, hauled him back, something invisible that he could not grab, no matter how much he scrabbled for it.

The Force turned him around, let him see who'd done this.

Delth. Delth Ardin. Blue veins bulged in his neck, his eyes seemed glazed with silver.

"Granth. You. You would be here. At the end. She wants you, you know. She wants you to join us."

He had been pointing at Garrett, and now he brought his hand back against his breast. Garrett came with it, came within a few feet of the once-familiar face.

"GAIT. I beat her once. You were there. You helped. You know. I... beat her... once..." He staggered, and Garrett fell to the ground, scrambled for the power pack to the e-11. The confused stormtroopers were suddenly cut down by droids that swarmed into place.

Delth growled, something low and primal, something haunting.

"...if anyone can run. If anyone can run and go get help..." he said, a hoarse whisper, tinged with pain as the droids came circling. They raised their blasters at Garrett, who was scrambling to his feet.

Delth cut them down in one huge arc of his lightsaber. Sparks flew, oil spurted, odd silicate gels oozed onto the broken ground.

"...tell someone. I tried. I was going to stop them." He said, clutching his throat. "But she... they... it's not even GAIT. It's not even..."

Delth put both his hands on the ground once again and looked at Garrett with eyes that seemed, somehow, wrong.

"I'm sorry." He said, raising his lightsaber.

"You're right about that." Garrett said, snapping the power pack of the e-11 carbine into a power cabling on his belt. His personal shield generator went into overdrive.

The Tzohar came screaming out of space, burning the atmosphere, cued in to Garrett's sonic screwdriver, quad lasers already firing, missiles already screeching through the air.

The ground erupted, turned over, the sky was where the dirt should be, and the roaring didn't stop until Garrett found himself clutching the hands of one of the crew.

Delth was down there on the ground, trying to pull the ship from the air. The anti-grav engines gave in a bit, howling, the repulsors could not seem to repulse enough, the tattered Jedi figure on the ground was keeping them from the sky with nothing more than an outstretched hand.

The crew snapped to work and sent a quad laser bombardment his way, breaking his attention as he fled, the ground exploding in a shower of char and ruin.

The Tzohar rose into the burning sky, the huge robot ships of GAIT and her droid minions framed them like a closing net, the air criss-crossed with burning bolts of plasma.

They hit hyperspace, and Colum burned.

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Convincing the Blind

Post by xfiend1013 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:16 am

[Mon Calamari]

Garrett was shouting at the Senate. The whole Senate. It was something he'd always wanted to do, as long as he could remember.

"Just put me in front of the senate." He'd thought. "And I will shout at those frellers until shavvit gets done."

It was far less fun and far less effective than he'd imagined.

"May I remind Mister Granth that the only reason he is being allowed to speak is because of his actions here at Mon Calamari? That the only reason we have not had him arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life, is because of those actions, and the advice of my brother?" Leia Organa-Solo practically spat at him. The way she said "Mr. Granth" made it seem like the lowest possible insult.

Han Solo stood up behind him.

"And your husband." He added with a grin that quickly deflated when the groaning muttering crowd gave it's opinion on the value of that.

"Granth, the Republic, the Jedi, and... if I'm reading this right, the Sith Empire, all lost minor fleets above Colum. Due to the actions of GAIT, who, I should point out, was believed dead thanks to you, the person who was required to make certain she could never return. Which she has. We are all in danger enough without you insisting that the Galactic Empire was helping her!"

"I insist that this man be arrested as he was the last time he was here!" The Imperial Representative shouted. He was near the top of the Senate, where the damage from the still-recent battle of Mon Calamari had not all been fixed. Wire and bare scaffold still showed on his holoscreen.

There was a murmur of assent.

"But it wasn't the Empire! It was Delth Ardin." Garrett said. He pounded his fist into the podium, his voice rising in volume and timbre. "Frack it all, I've got video!"

"Video from a known forger, slicer, and master manipulator of data!" The Imperial Representative replied. Leia nodded her head.

"A fleet will be dispatched to deal with GAIT before she can gain followers and material for another war with the galaxy. The Harrow will be destroyed, and this matter will be cleared up." Leia said. "Garrett Granth, you are exiled from Republic territory and will be subject to punishment for your numerous crimes should you venture to return."

"...and get caught." Garrett added under his breath.

Han shook his head. Chewbacca gave a small and mournful roar. They flanked him as he left.

"What about Luke?" Garrett asked. "What did he find?"

"He's on Mustafar." Han said. "The Jedi that joined the hive-mind, he pointed him there. Said there was a ruin that could help explain."

Garrett nodded. "Then it's a good thing Mustafar isn't technically in Republic space."

"I'm coming with you." Han said. Chewbacca roared the affirmative.

"And we're taking my ship."

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Re: Incendiary Terrain

Post by xfiend1013 » Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:22 pm

When the Millennium Falcon came out of hyperspace high above Mustafar, Garrett felt his stomach clench for a moment, a terrifying bit when he saw the world burning, before he remembered that it was constantly wreathed in fire and lava.

"So Luke's killik-mind Jedi said there were ruins here?" Han said.

"Hopefully there's something down there." Garrett said. "I've got a stash of planetary scans I downloaded, compare them to some preliminary scans from the Falcon, concentrating on these stable geological regions that I've highlighted."

Chewbacca let out a trilling roar.

"Or, yeah, you could take that call from Luke Skywalker." Garrett said.

Han opened the channel and Garrett watched over his shoulder as Chewbacca pushed him back a bit.

"Don't crowd the wookiee." Han said with a bit of tired warning.

"Han, this is Luke. I've found something. A piece of technology, like nothing I've ever seen before, jutting down into a cavern. It's on the outskirts of the Mensix Mining Facility."

"Oh. And it's crawling with droids. They're looking for this ruin, too."

"GAIT?" Garrett asked.

"I thought you said you killed her." Han said quietly.

"I thought I did." Garrett replied. "How do you know they're looking for the ruin?"

"They're spreading out. Covering the place in a sort of grid. It won't be long before they find this place." Luke said. "I'm going to see what I can find, and record it on a holocron. I could use your help."

The Falcon shot through the smoke and came in low over a field of boiling rock, the weird shimmering heat was like a magnifying overlay on the exposed slow-flowing waves of rock.

Chewbacca growled, low and fierce.

"We've gotta stay under their scans." Han said. "Hey, if anyone can do this..."

Chewbacca grumbled, a sort of hairy sigh.

"There she is." Han said, pointing. The ship sank in the heavy air, through the mirages that distorted the huge sky-high pipes and chimneys. Smoke was not coming from the high spires, but blaster bolts were.

The Falcon went vertical, repulsor-engines howling and straining as Han pointed the nose straight at a refinery tower that seemed to be composed of nothing but black pipes and shimmering heat, all reaching skyward.

GAIT's creations were nested in there, like strange ceramic crabs, multiple legs splayed out into the industrial skyscape, bristling with blasters.

"Missiles!" Garrett pointed.

"Garrett, Chewie, get on the guns!" Han shouted as blaster bolts crashed into their shields. Boiling rock rose up into the sky behind them in a searing plume.

Chewbacca howled and pushed Garrett out of the way. He was transfixed with a datapad.

"They're GAIT." Garrett said. "Not GAIT's droids. They're communicating, but it's only one set of programs. One consciousness. Frell. She's... all of them."

"Great, well, I'm sure that's not gonna ever become a problem." Han said. "Get on the fracking guns, Granth!"

There was a thrum as the shielding strained, and Han threw the ship between a huge hexagonal chemical-tank and the rising cement mesa that contained endless rings of cooling coils all stacked inside one another.

They shot past a squad of the multi-limbed droids lining up survivors and throwing them into the lava. Each turned simultaneously, raised scanners to them and watched, transmitting to the others.

Garrett stopped at the ladders to the turrets, looking at his datapad, intercepting the myriad transmissions.

"I think I can do better here." He said, sitting down as the ship rocked and the wookiee started screaming at him.

"Look, no, I can... I can filter us out, temporarily." He said. They hovered slow and low for a moment, taking a sharp turn, then rocketing into acceleration, the normal blue wash of the engines was entirely faded out by the bright burning rock below.

Garrett worked quickly, fast and calm. The quad-laser turret was audible here, he heard Chewbacca clicking things into place, heard large wookiee fingers on the keyboards, then the blasts, quick and precise, not the spray-and-pray panic of an untrained gunner.

A bolt hit a Gait that had been nestled into a series of tight-packed pipes, which exploded in a spray of white-hot magma that rained down into the mechanical canyon.

Han twisted the ship through a plume of smoke, there was a moment of invisible waiting. Chewbacca did not shoot. Nothing shot at them.

When they came out of the plume, nothing noticed them. Chewbacca whirled in the chair, yanking the guns into place.

"No, wait!" Garrett said. "They're not paying attention! I've put us a low priority task. Don't start resetting their queues!"

Growling and howling came from down in the tube.

"They're not shooting!" Han shouted from the commlink.

"I'm emulating one of these... gaits." Garrett said. "I created a video of the Falcon exploding when it hit the smokestack. They're buying it for now..."

"How long?" Han asked.

"Let's get to Luke now. And land the ship so they can't find it and start asking questions."

Han landed underneath one of the towering dodecahedral chemical tanks. He got out his trusty DL-44, Chewbacca grabbed a bowcaster, and Garrett loaded the e-11 he'd kept from Colmn, slapping a clip into place. He strapped his datapad across his chest and slid the sonic screwdriver and snapped his few other possessions into their appropriate pockets and holsters.

"Do you know how to fire that thing?" Han asked.

"Yeah. I was practicing on the way over." Garrett said.

"Where?!" Han asked.

"Sims..." Garrett replied, folding the stock back. "...I've gotten better."

Chewbacca gave a mix of snort, snarl, and gargle in reply.

"Yeah, you go first and be sure to use the frelling safety." Han said.

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Re: Into the Deep Fires

Post by xfiend1013 » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:30 am

"Gorram, it's hot." Garrett said, peering down into a huge volcanic vent. Hot air came billowing out, reeking of sulfur and smoke, hot enough to make you look away.

"Stop sayin' that." Han said. He was kneeling down next to Garrett, assembling a quick climbing pulley.

Chewbacca snarled, firing the bowcaster. The green energy slammed into one of the oncoming gaits, a spindly four-legged thing with a large single optic in the center of it's "head." They looked far less human than they had when GAIT had been working with the Xen Chi.

Fortunately, there were far fewer, as well.

"He's right, start shooting!" Han said, snapping everything into place. Garrett extended the stock on the e-11. Normally, he'd have been the one assembling and checking the climbing gear, being an expert mountaineer, but Han had gotten the machine cheap from some company Garrett had never heard of, and he had no idea how it worked.

The burst of shots went wide, and he trained it in, relaxed his shoulder, and put the next burst right through the optic of the gait that had been knocked over by the bowcaster.

"I might get the hang of this." Garrett said, snapping the fire selector to "single." He took a single shot that did little more than score some armor, then sighted it down and sent a bolt clean through a mechanical neck, sending the head to the floor. The body fell towards them, clattered, tried to raise itself on four reverse-jointed limbs, then collapsed into a pile of oozing white ceramics and strange, flexible metals.

Blaster and bowcaster bolts overhead, Garrett crawled towards the wreck. Han was lowering himself into the hole. With a flash of his datapad he took a quick scan, ran his hands through the wreckage, took a quick look.

It was obvious to the trained eye that GAIT hated life. Here she had captured what made life, with an obsessive, detailed eye: the sacks and counter-pulls of muscle, the lightweight honeycomb matrix of hard bone, the thin and intricate delivery systems that were blood vessel and nerves.

But each bit seemed to bend the wrong way, each piece had been forced together, the wires pierced without housings, the bones were fashioned with sharp points, the tension in the thing caused it to unwind as he watched, garbled electronic whirring and squealing came pouring out with the strange clear silicon gels and unraveling magnetic assemblies.

He'd been watching too long, only looked up just in time because of a howled warning from the wookiee. A ceramic foot, part crab, part human, a white armor cladding around stirrated grey muscle, came snapping towards him.

He ducked, crashing the front of the HEV suit into the pile, then came bounding up, the leg over his shoulder, the e-11 one-handed on the other side, firing. The recoil bucked it upwards, the first few shots tore through the rear shoulder, then the neck, across the chest, carbon-scoring and cracking the sooty plates that protected the innards. Grey goo oozed out, motors and servos howled in protest, and then the thing slumped down, caught itself in a strange insectoid walk on reversed hands and feet.

Garrett fired another burst, grabbing the gun with both hands. The gait sank, spasming and sparking, into the remains of it's brethren.

"Go!" Chewbacca howled, ducking down into the volcanic cavern. Garrett ran for him, slid, snatched a quickdraw into the rappelling equipment, and did not look down as he clipped his HEV harness into the assembly.

A grenade came hurling overhead, into the hole. Garrett hoped Han wasn't too far down, but began to follow him as flamethrowers started to lick at the lip of the cave.

"Shavvit, Han, don't go any..." Garrett started, but his concentration broke when hovering drones came whirring over the lip, spinning, building up some sort of electric charge.

It hit him full blast, but the HEV suit managed to ground most of it. The explosion below hurled hot air, he felt the line go slack.

"Han! Chewie!" He shouted, but the helmet muffled his voice. Cutting lasers took care of the rope for him, he felt himself start to fall.

With a stomach-churning twist, he pushed off the wall, wrapping his arms around the little Gait drone. It buzzed with electricity, but he was safe, and dropping fast.

He hit the hot ground in a well-executed roll, crashing shoulder-first and skidding on the smoking rubble. A few feet away Han and Chewbacca were shouting something that didn't register at first, but the pointing behind him did.

The wall was bulging, collapsing, very hot.

It was holding back a vein of magma.

Garrett was up and running. Hover drones dropped down behind him, spinning on repulsors.

The wall broke, and a billion tons of boiling rock came hurling after it.

"It's always running!" Han shouted. "Anytime I go anywhere with you it's always running!"

"I stay in shape!" Garrett replied, hurling himself up an incline. Chewbacca was already at the top, both huge hands hauling the pair of spacers up. He rolled over backwards and took them with him, rolling through loose gravel. Strange pylons and pillars were visible in the walls.

Garrett would have loved to have seen any of them for longer than half a second, but sprinting top speed with a wall of churning lava wasn't the best condition to do archeology.

Chewbacca was clambering quickly up a sheer rock tunnel, some sort of shaft that had been lined with metal. Han was holding onto his bangolier, kicking off the back wall, and Garrett was using a liquid cable-caster to make good time behind them.

The magma was coming slower now, but the air was hot enough to be painful to breathe.

Garrett felt his toes sizzling inside his boot. He kicked at the rocks, knocking them into the brine, feeling himself slip just as a huge hairy paw shot down from the cusp of the shaft and yanked him up to safety.

They ran, but then the magma cooled, solidifying rapidly.

"I hope there's another way out of here." Han said.

Garrett was looking at the huge, ancient mining laser, the stasis field, Luke Skywalker behind it, pacing.

Han and Chewie had eyes on the wookiee warlord flanked by phalanx of Gait, coming towards them. They buckled down, kneeling, setting into position.

"I should have known you would be here, serving your master." The wookiee said, hefting his bowcaster.

"Big talk coming from a droid's pet." Chewbacca answered, slinging his own bowcaster as Han took a knee.

Garrett pulled his e-11, set it to burst fire. The droids bristled with energy, the hum of the laser barrier was loud in the background.

"Delth will return the wookiees to our true nature. Our planet will become the seat of an empire of war, the machines in the heart of Kashyyyk will once again make us strong, make us warriors, increase our numbers..." The wookiee said.

"It's just a legend." Han said.

"The rakata machines are no myth." Garrett said. "They're as much Kashyyyk as the trees."

"Older than that. These alien machines simply block our true nature, Delth will destroy them." The wookiee said. "Your masters do well to learn our tongue, slave. If they survive this, they will need that tongue in our coming empire."

Chewbacca jumped at that, hurling over one of the Gait droids, one foot on the head, his bowcaster down, blasting a huge crater in the ceramic armor.

Han shot first, though, striking the wookiee in the chest, causing a roar, and then Chewbacca tore a grenade launcher out of the hands of the droid next to the wookiee before the two crashed together.

Garrett took a shot to the thigh and went down firing, the triplet of shots taking out another Gait.

When he staggered to his feet, the battle was over. The wookiee was dead, Chewbacca was covered in blood, the geth lay shattered in a smoldering circle.

"Luke!" Han said, but Luke, behind the blue barrier seemed to be entirely incapable of hearing or seeing them. He merely paced back and forth.

"I think I can get this." Garrett said, limping to the ancient mining laser.

"We gotta get him outta there, Doc. This place is gonna blow...." Han said, hand on the floor.

Chewbacca prodded the dead.

Garrett took a few minutes, his datapad and sonic screwdriver proving to be up to the task of reactivating the ancient machine. "It's still got power." He said, astonished. "Their battery technology must be..."

"Shut up and get him out of there." Han said.

"Right." Garrett said, blasting into the rock below the barrier. Luke stepped back, still looking around, trying to sense something.

"Han!" Luke shouted when the tunnel was complete.

"Luke, what the frell were you doing in here?" Han asked.

"It's weird. I... I couldn't see past the field, couldn't use the force, couldn't hear anything... I've never seen anything like it. We need to study it..."

Garrett was already scanning it when the ground began to rumble.

"No time!" Han shouted. "Is there a way out of here?"

"There's a lift." Luke said. "I was scouting a way down deeper, but this blocked my way. Follow me."

They ran, and the fire rose below them...

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by xfiend1013 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:51 pm

[Onboard the Millenium Falcon]

"We just barely got our asses out of there, Luke." Han said, leaning back against the holochess unit that Garrett was rewiring.

"And we still don't know anything else about the Reapers, Han. I know." Luke said. He sighed, clutching his false wrist. "Maybe Kyle and Lando have something. I'll go ask them. I need you three to go to Hoth."

"Hot, cold, if I come down with the flu does the republic cover my insurance?" Han asked.

"We should go to Taris." Garrett said. "I took a sample from the gut bacteria of that wookiee. He'd been there. He'd been with Delth."

"Delth wouldn't do this to us, Garrett." Luke said.

"Delth is doing this to us. He knows something we don't."

"Then I am afraid." Luke said, clasping his hands behind his back. He was dressed all in black, his scars more visible than usual, and he looked haggard for a Jedi Master. "But I saw them on Hoth. I know you don't trust the force, Garrett. But before this all went upside-down, I sent..."

He hung his head.

"I sent Kalja to Hoth. Wookiees and strange droids had attacked the pirates based out of there. Lando had come to me with the news, and I sent her to check it out."

"Ah frack." Garrett said.

"Do you think she knows?" Han asked.

"I hope she does." Garrett said. "Because if she doesn't, we're going to have to tell her."

"Not it." Han said with a flippant raise of the hand.

"Drop me off at Sardis Station." Luke said. "Don't tell anyone what you're doing. You three are, as of now, the only ones I can trust."

"What do you mean?" Han asked. "It's not like just anyone will team up with galaxy-destroying xenomorphs."

"That may not be as true as you think." Luke said. "I'll see you on Mon Calamari when you know what's happened."

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by xfiend1013 » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:17 am

[HOTH]

"Welcome to Hoth. I hope you brought winter clothing." Han said.

"I didn't!" Garrett exclaimed. "I've never heard of this shavvit-hole."

Han's icy glare was commiserate to the outside air.

"Just kidding."

"There was a rebel base here, during the rebellion. We got stomped on. Literally." Han said. Chewbacca roared.

"Too soon?" Garrett asked. The wookiee huffed.

Weapons loaded. The Falcon, sliding towards a series of domes.

"Luke's Jedi built a base out here. For studying... something. It's where Kalja went."

No one hailed them, no sensor lights turned red. The dome opened, the ship slotted in, no room to spare.

Inside was normal, other than the cold. Doors accepted them. No Jedi came, no sesquipedalian protocol droids greeted.

"I've got a bad feeling about this." Han said.

"Would you prefer robed pundits in blather mode?" Garrett asked, entering a room marked 'caution.' Inside, databanks hummed smoothly, red and green light flashing like a gauche lifeday pole.

"I'm gonna take a look around, see who's here." Han said. He and Chewbacca left quietly. Garrett noticed they weren't announcing their presence - or asking him not to slice the Jedi network.

He looked behind the black plastic racks, traced fingers over wires. There, amongst the chrome studs and ports, was an arachnid device, form like the GAIT machines.

"Shavvit." He set at it with a multitool, dislodged the magnetic grip. Twitching legs and probing spikes writhed mechanical in his palm.

"There there." He extended a tiny dataport to a burner datapad. The thing grasped at it, suckled like an infant deprived. He regarded the screen, data flowing in hybrid languages, things he had never considered mixing with familiar routines.

He unplugged it, threw it to the floor, brought a boot down.

"Garrett! Get up here! We've got corpses." Han said over the commlink. Garrett took out another device, set it where the GAIT had been.

In the meditation room, blast doors had been torn to shreds, steel cut by torches lay in shattered webs on the floor. Dead bodies, five of them, were in fire-lanced robes. Jedi.

A semi-circle of GAIT lay near the door, fragments embedded in the walls, a pile of untold number, oozing fluids that seemed biological, save for their synthetic sheen.

"Heads." Han Solo said, as though it were the most macabre coin-toss ever. But he was pointing to a pair of skulls. Cauterized wounds at the neck, robed bodies on the floor.

"A lightsaber did this."

Garrett took in a sharp breath. "Delth?"

Han shrugged. Chewbacca kicked over a corpse, rummaged.

A beep from his datapad told Garrett that the routines had run, the machine had worked the best it could. Downstairs, it incinerated itself, fried the jedi computers with a burst of electricity.

Garrett propped up the datapad.

"Kalja landed with a transport. They were here, then headed to some starship wrecks to the North."

"They?" Han asked.

"We better get going."

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Re: Walk the Sky Aflame

Post by xfiend1013 » Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:33 pm

"Garrett, you're the guy I rely on to answer questions like this." Han said. The smoking, still-twitching corpse slapped chitinous plates on the grill of a floor as the metal was eaten by the acid blood leaking from it.

"I don't know what the frack they are, Han." Garrett said. Shaking metal and squeals caused him to turn, take a knee, fire three rounds that split another of the unnamed beasts in acrid halves.

Chewbacca beat down a door like it had mentioned his son. Behind it was another pile of scales and tentacles, though in a spirited change of events, this one was eating one a GAIT, or, at least, dissolving it with digestive juices spurting from between the mandibles.

Then, it too was no more. A figure draped in black came spinning through the air, a green neon blur out at all angles, the singular hum of the lightsaber not-quite-loud in the tiny corridor.

"Luke!" Han shouted. "Ask Garrett what these things are! It's fun!"

"I know what they are." Luke said, extending a hand. His lightsaber flew out, twirling, shearing apart the pressurized tubes. Cold air blasted in as the crumpling metal and transparisteel blasted into the hallway, sealing it off in a matter of moments as snow and ice flowed towards them.

"We walk." Luke said, turning away. "I'll explain."

"Great. Usually people are walking while *I* explain things, this will be a great change. Do I get to put on some robes and act all cryptic this time, or is that a Jedi only thing?" Garrett said, reloading the e-11. He made a mental note that he'd been a much better shot than usual with the weapon. Practice was making him more deadly, if not perfect.

"Your sense of humor does you well, Garrett." Luke said. "You may need to draw on it in the dark days to come. This is the most dangerous threat any of us have yet faced, and we are entirely unprepared."

"Not entirely." Han said, with a roar of approval. "We're about on top of things as usual."

Chewbacca roared.

"Well it's better than it sounds."

"No, Han. This has been a grave miscalculation. I see it now. All the great conflicts of history. The Rakata built an Empire to fight this. Revan was trying to prepare for this. The Sith Emperor of old, he grew to a power that could devour worlds, just in preparation. Palpatine's superweapons, GAIT's original assault, the eternal war waged by the Xen Chi..." He paused, opened a door. The cavernous interior stretched out and up, huge glass tubes running all around, walkways and catwalks and railings covering the scene.

"Even what Sivter did. It was all to unify the galaxy. To prepare us for the Reapers. And we fought it." Luke looked to the ceiling. In the tubes, the strange insectoid creatures scurried through, and now human figures could be seen above.

"We beat all that. We can beat this. They lost, Luke." Han said.

Chewbacca gave a grumble.

"Maybe we are the best suited for the task." Luke looked oddly composed as the four women came strolling down towards them.

"Master Skywalker." The woman at the top of the stairs said. Garrett recognized the voice, though something was off in it.

"These are ancient killik." Luke said, not addressing the woman. "They have a hive mind. They can tell us much. But they are not like the killik of today. These are genetic weapons. Made to fight the Reapers. Lost too soon in the last war."

"Master Skywalker." The woman at the top of the stairs said again.

"Kalja Leidias." Luke said. Han and Garrett took a slight step back.

"Not Master Leidias?" Kalja said in a way that made the blood run cold.

"I sent you to commune with the Killik. Not these beasts." Luke said, hands at his side. The triangle of women in front of Kalja stopped short, a good twenty feet from Luke.

Clicking feet were all in the walls. Up and down the glass tubes. Above them all, a huge leviathan form, slithering in blue ooze, a tube the size of an X-Wing hanging there.

"Luke. Han. Chewbacca." Kalja said. She narrowed her eyes. "Garrett."

"These are the true Killik. A beautiful mind shared in song, a living weapon. Delth sent me here, to find what the Jedi had found."

"Did you speak to Delth?" Luke asked.

"Delth spoke to me. I reached out to him, our link is strong. He told me so much. Showed me so much. Garrett, you remember our fight with GAIT."

Garrett nodded.

"She showed me much. She showed me this. How Delth and I could stop this, how our love could unite the Republic and the Empire, and bring a stop to the Reapers. Until you killed her, Garrett."

"You can't reach him, you know?" Luke said.

"I know. Neither can she." Kalja said. "But you can't stop me now. GAIT has shown me. She has given Delth and I what we finally need. What we need to succeed where Revan and Palpatine and Sivter failed. Where you failed, Skywalker. Where you failed, Garrett."

"We're not done yet, Sister." Han said.

"That is where you're wrong."

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