The Last Days of the Jedi

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Halomek
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The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:58 pm

Tangrene – 19 BBY

It was a risk coming to Tangrene, and by doing so, striking deep within Separatist territory, but it was also a calculated move. Vice Admiral Reng Kasr was certainly not adverse to taking risks to accomplish his goals if he felt the rewards to be gained were worth it. It was in fact a standing point of contention between him and the Jedi General who was technically in charge of the Vanguard Fleet. He and Hisani Sane had participated in numerous arguments over their differing viewpoints on the correct path to take during their years fighting together in the Clone Wars...

Kasr felt that sacrifices were an inevitable part of battle and that such sacrifices could potentially bring about an end to a battle far sooner than more conventional warfare. Hisani, on the other hand; she wanted to do everything within her power to protect the lives of the troops under their command. It took many battles together, but eventually the two had found a sort of middle ground. Kasr had come to appreciate the challenge of devising tactics to bring as many soldiers back alive as possible and Hisani had come to accept that sometimes loss was inevitable, even at times necessary, to achieve victory.

However, in the decision to strike deep behind enemy lines at Tangrene, the two were in complete agreement that the risk had to be taken, no matter what the cost. Word of a Separatist superweapon that was decimating Republic forces had been brought to their attention thanks to Republic Intelligence. Chancellor Palpatine himself had tasked Vanguard Fleet with locating this weapon and destroying it before it could cause further harm. After a series of undercover missions undertaken by Hisani, it had finally come to light that the superweapon always returned to Tangrene after its battles were over.

Very little except raw tactical data could be recovered from the Republic's encounters with this superweapon since every encounter had resulted in a Separatist victory and the complete annihilation of Republic forces. In some cases, this included any Jedi that had been unfortunate enough to be in the battle. One might therefore assume it to be some kind of weapon of mass destruction, but that didn't mesh with the state of the battlefield afterwards; people and machines looked to have been literally torn apart without any signs of carbon scoring that would have been left by more conventional weapons.

Kasr had his theories, but none of them seemed believable to him.

All of this was in the back of his mind as he spoke with the Separatist commander over the viewscreen. “Your fleet in orbit has been destroyed, we're jamming all of your outgoing transmissions, and you can't match our ground forces. I'm offering you a chance to surrender now, General Dasmana.”

Beside him, Hisani spoke up: “We know of your war record, General. You're a shrewd commander who can recognize when a battle is over. If you surrender to us, the Republic would be more than happy to compensate you for your knowledge and experience. Our only goal here is to remove the Separatist superweapon from the war. This is an opportunity you could profit from.”

General Dasmana, a Koorivar with a large horn on his head indicative of his species, didn't appear cowed at all. “You consider the battle over, do you? I may not be able to contact reinforcements, but I can certainly outlast your little blockade. You don't have the firepower to overwhelm our shields from orbit and you can't starve out an army of droids. If you want the superweapon, you're more than welcome to come down here and try to take it. All I need to do is wait for the Confederacy to investigate why they've stopped receiving transmissions from Tangrene and then you're finished.”

With that, Dasmana cut the transmission, leaving Kasr with an unpleasant feeling in his gut. “He certainly seems confident,” he mused quietly to Hisani. “I hate to admit it, but he has a point too. We have maybe 24 standard hours before the Separatists start investigating. We might be able to ward off the initial wave, but this deep in their territory, we won't be able to hold out for long. The only thing in our favor is that Tangrene doesn't get a lot of outside traffic.”

“Then we have no choice,” Hisani concluded. “The success of the Republic's war effort depends on us destroying that superweapon. I'll lead the ground assault immediately.”

Kasr nodded. “Of course, but there's a few things I'd like to discuss with you in my briefing room first.”

Hisani nodded. “After you.”

The two left the bridge and entered Kasr's private office. As soon as the door closed, Hisani's usual stoic Jedi demeanor evaporated into one of concern. “You hide it well as always, but I can sense how worried you are, Reng. I've never seen you like this.”

Kasr looked over at Hisani. She was a Pantoran, with light blue skin and long flowing dark blue hair. Although strikingly beautiful from a humanoid standpoint, Kasr had come to recognize her as a formidable warrior in spite of her more restrained attitude in preserving the lives of her soldiers. War had done much to temper her skills.

He moved in close to her. They had come far since their first meeting. Initially Kasr could barely tolerate her presence, and she had seen him as reckless and arrogant, but their years in battle had created respect and eventually so much more. He placed his strong hands on her shoulders and leaned down to kiss her. Their relationship was a closely guarded secret, known only to them. Such things were forbidden by the Jedi Order after all.

Hisani returned the kiss in equal measure, in clear defiance of Jedi strictures, but continued to show concern once it was over. She wanted an answer out of him.

“I'm worried for you, Hisani,” he finally admitted. “I know you can handle yourself in battle better than practically anyone else in this fleet, but you've seen the aftermath of this superweapon too. You know what it's done to your fellow Jedi, to say nothing of the Republic forces. And Dasmana is confident that it can hold out against our vastly superior numbers. Nothing in his profile has indicated him to be arrogant or deluded with his power.”

She leaned against him. “I don't like it any more than you do, but you know as well as I that we've come too far to turn back now. We need to at least try to destroy this weapon. We've accomplished the impossible before. We can do it again.”

Kasr forced a small smile for her benefit. “Is that what the Force is telling you?”

She shook her head. “No. Experience tells me that. Our relationship didn't happen by accident, Reng.” Hisani turned and placed her fingers between his, interlocking them. “Our strengths and faults balance each other out, creating something much stronger than their individual parts. If I fail, I know you'll find a way to turn it around, and I, likewise, will do the same for you. Today is no different.”

He kissed her again and found that, quite despite himself, he did feel reassured. “There might be something to this Jedi wisdom after all. I never thought I'd be the one lacking confidence.”

“I promise I won't tell anyone,” Hisani said with a teasing smile as she broke contact. “Now, the troops are waiting for me and we don't have a lot of time to spare...”

Kasr nodded. “Of course. Good luck out there.”

“And may the Force be with you,” she replied as she headed for the door.

***

The battle on the ground was not complicated. Tangrene was a fairly barren and rocky world with few settlements and little native life. It's main strategic focus was how out of the way it was, allowing secret projects to be worked on out of the galactic eye. Towards that end, the Confederacy of Independent Systems had built a factory on the planet for experimental droid designs that could be mass produced elsewhere if such designs proved useful. It's garrison forces were plentiful enough to dissuade most attacks, but it's main defense was it's shield generator, which was strong enough to deflect concentrated bombardment.

General Sui Dasmana watched the unfolding battle with dismay as his troops were systematically wiped out by the advancing Republic forces. Intelligence files indicated that the Jedi General in charge was one Hisani Sane of the Vanguard Fleet. She and her subordinate, Reng Kasr, were nearly as infamous as that accursed duo: Skywalker and Kenobi, of the Open Circle Fleet. Seeing her and her troops in action, he had to admit that she lived up to her reputation.

Dasmana turned to the person next to him, an enormous elephantine being that hailed from a species that called themselves Cragmoloids. “The Republic forces are well within our jamming field now. I believe it's time for you to turn this around.”

The Cragmoloid brushed a giant finger against one of his tusks thoughtfully as he watched the live footage of the Jedi fighting. The tusks had been carved with some kind of runes in a language Dasmana didn't recognize. “I was expecting more from someone of Sane's reputation,” the Cragmoloid rumbled to himself. “To be frank, I'm disappointed that we still haven't drawn out Skywalker or Windu, but I suppose they don't feel their presence is necessary yet.”

“The less the enemy knows about you, the greater our chances of success,” Dasmana pointed out. “Need I remind you that the Confederacy has been very generous in compensating you for your services, Mr. Crix? As long as you work for us, you will abide by my orders and my strategies.”

Crix looked over at Dasmana and made a fist while cracking his knuckles at the same time. “I'll say this for you, it takes a lot of courage to say something like that to me. If I thought for one moment that it was born out of disrespect, you'd be nothing more than a smear on the wall.”

“Then it's good that we understand each other.”

Crix slammed his fist into an open palm, creating a small burst of wind, before he turned to leave. “Quite.”

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Halomek
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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Tue Jan 03, 2017 2:40 pm

The battle was going exceedingly well. Kasr insisted that all the troops in the Vanguard Fleet undergo rigorous combat drills based on regimens of his own design. Although it was harsh, the extra training showed through on the battlefield. Hisani would have no qualms about pitting the skills of the Vanguard troops up against the finest in the Republic. The life expectancy of a clone was brutally short, but thanks to her insistence on saving lives and Kasr's training and tactics, there were several troopers in the fleet that were old campaigners, having been with Vanguard since the fleet's first mission. That experience was showing through today.

It did worry Hisani that the supposed superweapon had not yet been deployed, but as they got closer to the factory, she started to hope that it was because it couldn't be deployed. Perhaps it was brought back to Tangrene for repairs and they had simply caught the Separatists by surprise while it was still in pieces. Maybe, just maybe, they could win this one quickly with a minimum loss of life...

Her hopes were dashed, however, by the sudden unexpected sight of an AT-PT flying overhead, one of it's legs bent at a strange angle. With thoughts of trying to save the trooper inside, not to mention the soldiers it might hit on the impact, Hisani tried to grab the large machine with the Force, but the momentum was too much to compensate for. Despite her best efforts, the war machine crashed down and exploded some distance away into a squad of advancing clones.

Hisani barely had a chance to mourn their deaths before the sounds of explosions and the dying screams of troopers echoed from the front. The battle had managed to kick up a lot of dust and debris from the barren landscape, so Hisani wasn't able to actually see what was causing the destruction. She reached out with the Force to try and detect what was happening instead. What came back to her chilled her to the core.

Hisani sensed a being using the Dark Side. That in itself was nothing new. The Separatists were well known to use Darksiders on occasion, to say nothing of Count Dooku being a Sith Lord. She and Kasr had even faced one or two Darksiders during the war, but the being she sensed now was nothing like them. This new Darksider was raw, animalistic, and filled with such an overwhelming amount of rage that Hisani actually gasped at the depth of it.

Unfortunately, just as she sensed him, he also sensed her. She could feel the change in his intentions as the Darksider headed straight towards her at a frightening pace. Hisani barely had a chance to adopt a Soresu defensive stance before she spotted an armored elephantine creature, as tall as the AT-PT had been, emerge from the haze of the dust cloud in the air.

Hisani attempted to halt his charge by pushing with the Force, but she might as well have tried to move a boulder by blowing on it for all the good it did her. Whatever impact the power might have had on him was seemingly shunted aside as soon as it hit him. Hisani didn't have a chance to try something else before the frightful beast smashed through her Soresu stance by simply batting aside her lightsaber blade with a wave of his fist. It was only by reflexive action honed from years on the battlefield that Hisani was able to avoid his followthrough attack by leaping backwards.

Everything had happened so fast that it took Hisani a moment to realize that she was in fact staring at the Separatist superweapon. It was no machine, like everyone had surmised, but rather a living weapon unlike any she had ever seen or heard about.

Then the Darksider smiled. “Your life is at an end, Hisani Sane,” he said as he advanced towards her. “If you want my advice, you should submit and allow me to end it quickly. There's no sense in delaying the inevitable.”

Hisani's mind was racing as she fought to think of some way to overcome this unexpected challenge. She was too experienced to feel fear, but if she was being honest with herself, she was started to feel panic start to claw at her psyche. Her mind was still reeling a bit at seeing this Darksider swat aside a lightsaber blade with noting but his bare hand.

There was perhaps one chance, something her former master, Oppo Rancisis, had taught her. She didn't like using it, but right now she didn't see any other alternative open to her. Using the Force, Hisani reached out and began to affect the creature's equilibrium to induce a severe sense of nausea. Unfortunately, she was not nearly as skilled in Malacia as Master Rancisis had been and she began to feel a twinge nauseous herself. It was why she avoided using the technique, she had never quite managed to induce the feeling without at least some of the sensation bleeding back to her.

At least she had the satisfaction of seeing the Darksider's eyes widen in surprise as he fell to one knee. “What are you doing?!” he demanded before clutching his sides with a grimace.

“I'm stopping you,” Hisani declared as she kept a hand outstretched to keep sending waves of nausea at her enormous opponent before recalling her lightsaber with her other hand. “Surrender now and I'll release my hold on you.”

In an enormous show of willpower, the giant managed to get back on two feet – if a little unsteadily. “The moment you stop is the moment you die. I won't surrender.”

Hisani hated to admit that the Darksider had a point. Unless they could find a more permanent way to restrain him, there was nothing stopping him from pulverizing her once she could no longer sustain the Malacia. However she did have a counterargument: “That may be, but without you, your Separatist benefactors can't win this battle. I simply need to hold you here long enough for my forces to take the factory and then your reason for fighting will be gone.”

“You can destroy the factory and kill Dasmana for all I care. My reason for fighting has nothing to do with the Separatists,” he said through gritted teeth. “They are merely a means to an end. What I seek is an end to the Jedi Order and all they stand for.”

“Why do you hate the Jedi so much, um...” Hisani hesitated as she stopped herself just short from calling the being in front of her 'monster'. The last thing she needed to do was make him even angrier.

He must have picked up on her hesitation, because the Darksider answered her unspoken query first. “The name is Crix,” he told her as he managed to take a step towards her. “And as for why I hate Jedi, that's not something you need to concern yourself with. You won't be alive long enough to worry about it.”

Hisani increased the potency of the Malacia and felt the bile rise in her throat as her knees threatened to give out on her, however the effect on Crix was far more severe. With a groan he collapsed to the ground, barely managing to stay up with one hand while the other remained clutched at his side. All he could do was glare daggers at Hisani as he struggled to fight the sensations of his own body. It seemed as though Crix's defenses were all about stopping damage to himself, but he had nothing to use to counter against Malacia since it didn't actually cause damage to the body.

Hisani would have breathed a sigh of relief if she didn't feel so sick. It was only a small consolation to her that whatever she was feeling, Crix was feeling far more potently. Fortunately a group of clone troopers had arrived to surround her and Crix. She signaled to the nearest commander: “Status on the battle?”

The clone trooper saluted. “Ma'am! We've broken through their lines and are currently in the process of securing the factory. General Dasmana has surrendered to us and dropped their jamming field. We're able to contact the fleet again.”

She smiled. “Excellent work. Contact Vice Admiral Kasr immediately. I need to update him on our current predicament.”

***

Kasr mused over Hisani's words thoughtfully. The Darksider as she described him would never be held by conventional means. Even some of the methods he had devised over the course of the war to hold rogue Darksiders likely wouldn't be much good against someone like Crix. The odds were good that his enormous strength would simply overcome them.

He did have a flash of inspiration though. He quickly pulled up a report of the factory they had captured and smiled when he saw that it had what he needed. He motioned to his second-in-command, a clone officer that Kasr had dubbed “Keffi” after the prized and intelligent riding beasts used by Anaxsi nobles.

He began quickly inputting data into a datapad before handing it to Keffi. “Get some engineers down to the carbonite freezing facilities in that factory right away and modify their largest pit to these specifications.”

Keffi looked over the specifications and seemed to immediately grasp what Kasr had in mind. He was definitely bright for a clone – one of the reasons Kasr had chosen the officer's particular nickname. “You're going to put this Crix in to carbon freeze? The chances of a living being surviving carbon freeze without using the proper facilities for such a procedure-”

“He'll survive,” Kasr assured Keffi. “And even if he doesn't for some unforeseen reason, I'm fine with that outcome as well. The fact is that General Sane won't be able to hold him much longer, so it's this or nothing. Now send my orders. I'll be departing for the surface with help to keep Crix restrained. You're in charge of the fleet until we return.”

Keffi saluted. “Yes, sir!”

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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:33 am

In the end, they were able to keep Crix constrained through another bit of technological improvisation from Kasr. Industrial strength tractor beam projectors were mounted on grav sleds and used to hold Crix in midair while he was transported through the factory to the carbonite chamber. It wasn't any kind of long term solution, the power draw to keep the beams at maximum power – Kasr wouldn't chance anything less with someone like Crix – had the portable generators just shy of the redlines.

Hisani was looking weak from having to keep Crix under an extended bout of Malacia, but was still doing her best to put up a strong front. She wanted to see this through to the end as much as Kasr did. Kasr also didn't want to admit it, but if Crix did somehow break free, all the soldiers they had with them probably wouldn't amount to much. Hisani was still the best countermeasure they had to be able to subdue him again.

As the Vanguard troops got the chamber ready and Crix into position, Kasr opted for a quiet aside to Hisani: “How are you doing?”

“Well enough,” she replied back with an equally low tone. “I just thank the Force that Master Rancisis was so insistent about teaching his students that technique.”

“Don't sell yourself short,” Kasr said with a meaningful look. “Plenty of Jedi before you fell to this thing. They should put you on the Jedi Council for this.”

Hisani chuckled sadly. “Hardly. I just wish Master Rancisis was still alive to see this. No one ever quite mastered Malacia like he did, but I think it would have made him proud to see how well I was able to use it today.”

“Indeed,” Kasr agreed. “Without you a lot of lives would have been lost.” He then turned to face Crix, who was being lowered into the carbonite chamber with the tractor beams. “Were it up to me, monster, I would have you executed on the spot. Personally, I believe you're far too dangerous to keep locked up, but that decision is out my hands. Your fate will be decided by the Jedi Council.”

Crix laughed at this. “How terrifying. What will they do? Exile me? Try to reform me? Releasing me from this carbonite prison to face their judgment is the last mistake any of them will ever make.”

“What happened in your life to give you so much rage?” Hisani asked, almost pleading. “With your power and abilities, you could-”

“Save it,” Crix cut her off. “I'd rather be put into carbon-freeze than listen to what you're about to say. Your subordinate has the right idea, but the Jedi would never kill a defenseless opponent, no matter how dangerous they are. That's what makes them weak and I'll have no part of that.”

Hisani bowed her head sadly. “Very well. Begin the procedure.”

Although it still rankled him a bit to be referred to as a subordinate, Kasr kept his cool and nodded to the technicians on standby to activate the chamber. From what he had read about the process of freezing living beings, it was relatively quick, but could also be painful during those brief moments before they were put into carbon-freeze. As much as a part of Kasr wished that Crix would feel a little bit of pain for nearly killing Hisani, he was not surprised at all when the new carbonite slab was removed to see that the large creature had taken the freezing process without apparent discomfort.

Once the slab was attached to portable hover units, another technician rushed over to check Crix's vitals. “He's alive and in perfect hibernation.”

Only then did Hisani breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank the Force. I was not looking forward to facing off against him again if he broke out. The way you found to keep him contained was inspired, Admiral.”

Kasr smiled to himself as he walked over to examine Crix's carbonite slab for himself. “As my old teacher, Ptolemy Alexander, once said: any problem can be solved with the right combination of technology and innovation. I can't take all the credit though, I was not the first person to figure out how to safely freeze a living being in carbonite.” He glanced back at Hisani. “Still, I must admit, without your skills in the Force, we likely would have lost the entire contingent before I would have been able to formulate a solution.”

Kasr looked back at Crix again one last time, thoughtfully. “It really is kind of frightening what the Force can do in the wrong hands...”

***

With Crix contained and Dasmana taken as a prisoner of war, it didn't take long to wrap things up on Tangrene. The factory and the remaining battle droids were scuttled and all pertinent data that could still be recovered from the factory computers was downloaded for further analysis. Before long the Anaxes and the rest of the Vanguard Fleet had departed the planet and was headed for Coruscant to transfer possession of Dasmana and Crix to the appropriate authorities.

After such a successful mission, Kasr should have been relaxing or celebrating, but instead he was troubled. He ended up in one of the sparring rooms onboard the Anaxes and was practicing martial arts with training droids as he tried to clear his mind.

It didn't take Hisani long to find him. She entered the room and observed his movements for a few moments before speaking up. “The droids don't appear to be giving you much of a challenge.”

Kasr hit several special pressure plates on the droid in front of him, meant to represent typical weak points on a humanoid body, which caused the droid to shut down and fall to the ground. He walked away from it in disappointment. “Droids rarely do.”

Hisani smiled before shedding herself of her usual Jedi robes, revealing that she was wearing workout clothes of her own underneath them. She walked over to meet him halfway. “How would you like a real workout then?”

Kasr paused for a moment. It wasn't often that he saw Hisani walking around without her bulky Jedi robes, so the visual was always a treat for the eyes. He smiled at her. “Judging by that outfit, I'd say you already know my answer. Have I become so predictable? I thought I had learned to shield my mind better than that.”

Hisani smiled back at him before stretching a bit to warm up. “Reng, one thing you aren't is predictable, but I know you better than anyone else in the fleet. I didn't need to read your mind to see that you were troubled by our battle today.”

He sighed before nodding. “You're right, of course.” He adopted a combat stance. It was slightly reminiscent of Teräs Käsi but it wasn't anything standard to the usual martial arts taught within the Grand Army of the Republic. He challenged her with a beckoning gesture with one of his hands. “If you want to know more though, you'll have to earn it the hard way.”

Hisani was momentarily taken aback by the odd stance before she took a more standard Tae-Jitsu pose to counter him. “Something new?” she teased him. “I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Reng Kasr is developing his own martial art.”

“It's a work in progress,” he confirmed for her, “but I needed to do something. I'd like to win a match against you one of these days.”

Hisani tensed her body as she readied herself to strike. “Don't count on it.”

Kasr remained calm, his ice blue gaze taking everything in. “Don't hold back.”

Hisani ended their brief stand off by striking first. Kasr could tell she was holding back despite him telling her not to. She always did. The Force gave her a significant advantage in speed and anticipating her opponent's moves, so she did this so as not to overwhelm him. It was a kindness he knew was meant with the best of intentions, but it was misplaced.

Sparring against her over the years had made him into a truly formidable fighter, but he had never quite been able to overcome her abilities. Every time he came close, she upped her game to another level, but after so many years of this he was sure he was close to seeing Hisani fight him at her absolute best. It just needed an extra push...

They went back and forth for a bit. Kasr used his powers of observation and working knowledge of the way Hisani fought to anticipate and counter her enhanced speed. Hisani, as always, had the Force as her ally. Kasr patiently waited for an opening to surprise her with the new technique he had been developing, but kept his intentions carefully shielded so as not to give away anything before he was ready.

Finally he saw it. One of her strikes was slightly off, which would leave her briefly unguarded – not to any normal attack of course, but perhaps it would to something unexpected. Kasr seized upon the opportunity and harnessed the adrenaline in his body to briefly increase his speed as he retaliated.

His gambit worked as his punch suddenly came much faster than Hisani expected. Try as she might, she couldn't mount a defense in time and stumbled backwards in a vain attempt to dodge it. She would have failed if not for Kasr stopping his punch a mere inch from her face.

They stood still for just a moment, frozen in time, surprise on Hisani's face and triumph on Kasr's. Then they both started laughing at the absurdity of it all. Kasr lowered his fist to wipe a tear of mirth from his eye, but instantly regretted it as he felt his body seize up and cramp as the adrenaline rush faded.

Hisani was instantly concerned. “What's wrong?”

Kasr tried not to grimace as he felt his body angrily send waves of pain at him for the incredible stresses he had just put on it. “A side-effect of the technique I tried. I didn't think it would be this bad. My whole upper body is knotted up.”

Hisani gave him a stern look. “Okay. Get that shirt off and lay down on the floor.”

Kasr tried to wave it off. “I'll be fine.”

Hisani wasn't having it though. “That's an order, Admiral.”

They both knew it wasn't, but Kasr wasn't about to argue. He braced himself for the pain and managed to get his shirt off before gingerly taking a position on the floor, chest to the ground.

Hisani knelt down next to him and began to firmly massage his aching muscles. Everywhere she touched seemed to instantly feel better. “What was that back there?” she asked him as she continued to work his back. “I didn't think you could move that fast.”

“I used my body's natural adrenaline to give me a boost,” he told her. “It's something I've been working on to fight Force-users.”

Hisani briefly paused in her ministrations. “Why would you need something like that? Does the thought of losing to me really bother you that much?”

“No... Yes...” Kasr sighed as he struggled with his own internal conflict. “It's not you, Hisani. It's the general idea that those of us without access to the Force need to be helpless against those that can use it. What happened on Tangrene is a perfect example. Everyone just takes it for granted that the Jedi will always be around to protect the galaxy from those that use the Dark Side. That's dangerous thinking.”

Hisani continued her massage, but slower this time. “The Jedi have been around for a thousand generations and they've always stood against evil. What makes you think that will ever change?”

“Dooku is a former Jedi Master and he's the whole reason we're at war in the first place,” Kasr replied as he clenched his fists a bit. “The Force is the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy. You should know better than anyone what can happen when a Jedi goes bad.”

Hisani turned him around so that Kasr was on his back. The look of pain on her face caused him to feel a pang of regret at his words. Of course she knew. Her master had been slain by a former pupil who had turned to the Dark Side. The idea that Jedi were free from emotion was a misconception and Kasr realized that his words had stung more than he had ever intended.

He propped himself up on his elbows. Even after such a brief massage, his body felt remarkably better. “I'm sorry, Hisani. It wasn't my intent to bring up bad memories. It's just that I've never been so close to losing you as I was today. Crix could have easily killed you and everyone else down there and there would have been nothing I could have done about it. Fear and helplessness are not emotions I'm used to dealing with. It really just brought everything into focus about how dependent the galaxy is on the Jedi.”

Hisani nodded before straddling him about the waist. She then leaned down to kiss him. “Reng Kasr, you're the most terrifying man I've ever met. I've never seen a limit you couldn't surpass or odds you couldn't beat. I never know what to expect from you, but I thank the Force every day that you're on our side.” She kissed him again. “It's not just any man who can cause me to break the Jedi strictures on intimacy.”

Kasr smiled back before abruptly grabbing her and reversing their positions. Hisani yelped in surprise and delight before he leaned down to give her a kiss of his own. “And you, Hisani Sane, are the most unnerving woman I've ever met. You're always forcing me to see this galaxy in ways I never imagined before. I wouldn't be half the man I am today if not for you.”

Hisani grabbed Kasr by the head and pulled him back towards her. They met in another kiss that quickly turned into a much deeper intimacy as the Anaxes and the rest of the Vanguard Fleet steadily made its way to Coruscant...

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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:20 pm

Coruscant

The return to Coruscant was a happy occasion for Kasr. It had been nearly half a standard year since he had seen the capital planet. Coordinating the Vanguard Fleet during the Outer Rim Sieges had required his near constant attention, leaving little time or opportunity for him to be anywhere else unless it was on official Republic business. If he was being honest with himself, he didn't much mind being stuck in the Outer Rim. Fighting a war was a challenge he relished and his subsequent relationship with Hisani had given him even less reason to want to go anywhere.

However, he enjoyed speaking with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine on the occasions when he was called back to Coruscant. To Kasr, Palpatine seemed like one of the last hopes the Galactic Republic had in staving off the corruption that plagued it. He very much doubted that the Republic would have fared as well as it had during the war if not for the actions Palpatine had taken.

As Kasr entered the office, Palpatine smiled and rose from his desk to greet him. “Ah, Vice Admiral Kasr. I'm so glad you could make it. Please take a seat.”

Kasr smiled back as he did so. “Thank you, your excellency,” he replied formally. “It's a pleasure, as always.”

Palpatine nodded back. “The pleasure is mine. It's commanders like you that are helping us to win the war against the Separatists. Your latest victory was most impressive.”

“General Sane deserves the credit for Tangrene,” Kasr replied as he subtly corrected the chancellor. “After reviewing the data on the ground battle, I don't believe anything we had on the surface would have stood a chance against Crix if not for her.”

Palpatine raised an eyebrow in mild surprise. “You do yourself too little credit, Admiral. It was not Master Sane who so effectively routed and destroyed the enemy fleet in orbit. You were also the one who thought of the idea of freezing that brute in carbonite.” He smiled warmly. “Frankly, it surprises me to hear you speak so highly of Master Sane. I seem to recall that you were not pleased to have a Jedi commanding you.”

Kasr struggled briefly to think of what to say. He hesitated to mention his relationship with Hisani, even to a man he trusted, like Palpatine. “In many respects, I still don't like it. The idea that the Jedi make better commanders than experienced military officers is something I will never understand, but I've been able to find common ground with General Sane. After a lot of trial and effort, we've gelled into an excellent team.”

Palpatine made a thoughtful noise as he placed the tips of his fingers together. “It seems as though that's more than most officers in your position can say. Please don't misunderstand me, the Jedi Order will always be invaluable to the safety and security of the Republic, but I sometimes wonder if they have the best interests of our government at heart.”

“What do you mean?”

A look of concern crossed the older man's face. “Surely you've noticed it as well? The tendency of the Jedi to abandon their posts to address threats more specific to the Jedi Order? As much as I admire and respect the Jedi, it has become clear to me that they heed callings from the Force before those of their government. And yet, despite all of the free reign they are afforded, they're still no closer to locating this supposed Sith Lord pulling Dooku's strings than they were at the start of the war.”

Kasr nodded in understanding. Even Hisani wasn't immune to this. There had been a few times during the war in which the Jedi Council had tasked a mission to her, necessitating her temporary departure from the fleet. Kasr had enjoyed her absences at first, since it meant he was indisputably in charge of the fleet, but now that they were together, that was no longer the case. “It is troubling,” he agreed.

Palpatine leaned back in his seat. “It's been hampering the war effort. I've come to learn, however, that new legislation is being drafted to add an amendment to the Security Act which would remove Jedi and Senatorial oversight over the military. I would have direct control over all military appointments if it passes – purely for the purposes of ending this war all the sooner, of course.”

Although he was normally not one for politics, the ramifications of such a thing did not escape Kasr. “That would mean that the Jedi would no longer automatically be in charge of our forces.” He frowned. “Honestly, I like the idea, but I don't see how it would pass. The Senate has afforded you a lot of power already, but this would be an enormous sacrifice on their part.”

“Indeed,” Palpatine agreed. “I expect it to fail unless something catastrophic happens soon to change hearts and minds. For too many senators this war is looked at more as a distraction than a real threat. They don't think the war can truly touch them here on Coruscant.” He smiled sadly. “It's actually a relief as I doubt the Jedi would handle the removal of their authority all that well.”

Kasr tried to think of how Hisani would take such news. Would she agree with the actions taken or would she take issue with it? He realized with a start that he had no idea what she would do. It was a troubling revelation. “You might be right...”

Palpatine gave Kasr a knowing look. “The Jedi haven't had a true challenge to their power and influence since the Ruusan Reformation nearly 1,000 years ago. They will object to losing their hold over the workings of the Republic. The only question is how strongly.”

***

Hisani Sane waited in the middle of the Jedi Council chamber, feeling a little nervous despite her outward Jedi calm. She was surrounded on all sides by the best in the Jedi Order. Most were represented through holograms, but a few, like Master Yoda, were there in person. When she had received the summons to appear before the council, Hisani had assumed that it was to get her opinion on Crix's fate, but now she wasn't so sure. She could sense that there was something more they had in mind.

Mace Windu was the first to speak. He was one of the few to be in the chamber in person and the sight of one of the Order's most powerful warriors gave her pause. “Do you know why we have summoned you here, Master Sane?”

She shook her head. “I do not, but I am, as always, here to serve. What does the council wish of me?”

Yoda was also there in person. Even though Yoda was even more powerful than Mace Windu, Hisani did not feel intimidated by him. How could she? Like so many other younglings, Master Yoda had always been there to give her guidance and help her grow in the Force for as long as she could remember.

“To be congratulated, you are,” Yoda said to her. “Stopping Crix, no small feat it was. Proud of you Master Rancisis would be. Know this, I do. A great friend he was.”

Hisani smiled sadly. “Thank you, Master. That means a lot coming from you.”

The hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke next. “Of course that's not the only reason you were summoned here. Defeating Crix was just the latest in a long line of impressive accomplishments you've done since you joined the war effort. It's high time we acknowledged your contributions.”

“I'm afraid I don't understand,” Hisani replied with a frown. “I seek no accolades for my efforts. Besides, I didn't do it alone. Everything I've done, I've done with the support of the people of Vanguard Fleet. They made our victories possible just as much as I.”

Kit Fisto, also represented by hologram, laughed before flashing that famous smile of his. “Your humbleness will put us all to shame, Master Sane. Please tell us more about those you work with, particularly Vice Admiral Reng Kasr.”

Hisani's heart skipped a beat at the unexpected mention of Kasr, a fact which wasn't lost on the members of the Jedi Council in attendance in the room with her. In that instant Hisani realized her mistake and that any attempt to hide her romance with Kasr now would be pointless.

“Your feelings for him are strong, Master Sane,” Yoda observed. “How strong are they? Attachment, forbidden it is for a Jedi! A path to the Dark Side it can be. Seen it before, many times I have.”

Hisani marshaled her resolve and looked around the council. “With respect, Master Yoda, I know our teachings well. I'm no wide-eyed Padawan. My relationship with Reng was not a spur of the moment thing. He's proven many times over to be one of the most remarkable individuals I've ever met. Together we are greater than we are apart.”

Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “No one is blaming or condemning you for your relationship with him, Master Sane. Even the best of us can succumb to these feelings during times of conflict, but take it from someone who has experienced love and loss before: it can bring out darker parts of yourself that you didn't even know were there.”

“I'm afraid I still don't understand the purpose of this meeting,” Hisani said to them. “Are you forbidding me to see him anymore?”

Mace shook his head. “That is a choice you'll have to make for yourself, Master Sane. In every other way you have been a model Jedi, so perhaps we can overlook it. However, it will disqualify you from being nominated to the Jedi Council if you continue to see him.”

The importance of Mace Windu's words took a second or two to register with Hisani. “You... you want to nominate me to be part of the Jedi Council? Masters, I'm not worthy of such an honor!”

“There she goes, being humble again,” Kit Fisto said with a chuckle. “Nothing has been decided yet. The purpose of this meeting was to bring all of this to your attention. If you're not careful, Skywalker might snatch the spot instead.”

Obi-Wan groaned. “Please keep your voice down, Master Fisto. Anakin doesn't need anymore encouragement in that regard.”

Ki-Adi-Mundi, yet another hologram, spoke up for the first time. His tone was reserved. “You don't have to answer us right away, Master Sane. We'll give you time to reflect on our meeting today. However, I would advise caution when it comes to Reng Kasr. We've noticed that his loyalties tend to be more towards the Supreme Chancellor than to the Republic itself.”

Hisani looked around again. “Aren't they one and the same?”

Yoda shook his head. “Remains to be seen, it does.”

“The Supreme Chancellor has managed to gather an enormous amount of power since the war began,” Mace explained to her. “We're watching him very carefully now.”

Hisani took a calming breath. It was a lot to handle all at once and she wasn't sure yet just what to think of it all. She bowed respectfully. “If you'll excuse me, Masters, I'll leave to consider everything we've discussed.”

After she departed the Jedi Temple, Hisani discovered that her hands were shaking. What worried her was that she didn't know if it was due to excitement or fear.

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Halomek
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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:32 pm

After his talk with Palpatine, Kasr received orders that the Vanguard Fleet was to head to Kashyyyk to reinforce the Republic forces already stationed there. The Separatists had begun a series of probing attacks and it was felt that the planet would erupt into full-scale war very soon. He had already been informed by Keffi that Hisani had sent the majority of the fleet there already. As the Jedi General, she had undoubtedly been given their new orders before him.

He was surprised to learn, however, that “maintenance issues” was delaying the departure of the Anaxes itself. That in itself didn't appear to be so unusual, except that Kasr was steadfastly insistent on running a tight ship. The idea that his flagship would be suffering from some routine mechanical problem, while seemingly a legit issue to an outsider, would be patently ridiculous to anyone who served in Vanguard Fleet.

It didn't take a lot of deductive reasoning to see that Hisani clearly didn't want them to leave yet, so she had ordered Keffi to give Naval Command that excuse. The question was why.

When they met in person in the Central District, he asked her that very question.

Hisani appeared distracted. “We need to talk, Reng.”

He raised an eyebrow. “We are talking.”

She shook her head. “Not here. Somewhere more private.”

Kasr had never seen Hisani look so worried or unsure of herself. He gripped her shoulder in concern, forcing Hisani to look at him. “Of course, but at least tell me what this is all about first. What happened to you?”

“The Jedi Council knows about us,” she told him. “They know everything.”

Kasr felt a weight drop around his shoulders. This day had been bound to happen, of course. Kasr didn't even need to ask how they knew. It was the Jedi Council, they were going to find out about it eventually. Judging by Hisani's reaction, the council had been predictably negative about the idea of their relationship too.

He took a steadying breath before coming to a decision. “We'll figure this out, okay? I'll make us reservations at the Manarai Range for tonight. We can talk there.”

She blinked in surprise. “I know that place. It's one of those upscale restaurants that float around the mountains. That's not exactly private.”

“It's private enough,” he argued. “It's also one the last places someone would expect to see a Jedi. Trust me, Hisani, once you change out of those Jedi robes, they'll barely recognize you.”

“I don't know...”

“The fact is I want to do this for you,” Kasr insisted. “The war has constantly been in the background of our relationship since it began. I want to treat you to one night where we can forget all of that. Tonight the only thing that matters is just the two of us.”

Hisani thought about it for a moment before giving him a smile. “That actually sounds really nice. Okay, the Manarai Range it is then.”

He smiled back before departing. “I'll see you there in three standard hours. It's formal wear only, so you'll want to choose something nice.”

***

Kasr arrived at the restaurant first. He had chosen a black formal suit that was closely tailored to resemble his military uniform – only more stylish and with less ornamentation. In fact he had come about 30 standard minutes before the reservation time he had given Hisani so that he could make sure everything was up to his standards before she arrived.

Hisani was punctual, as usual, and by the time she arrived, Kasr was seated at their table – a secluded spot in front of a window overlooking the Manarai Mountains. He was sampling an Alderaanian wine when the concierge showed her to their table. Were Kasr a more excitable man, he might have choked on his drink at the sight of her. As it was he hurriedly finished the sip he was taking before getting up to greet her.

She was, in Kasr's mind, stunning. There was no other word as apt to describe it. Hisani had taken the idea of wearing a formal dress to heart and had come to the restaurant wearing a backless formal dress. It was light blue but gradated to a darker blue further down, ending near her thighs. Small gemstones and been inlaid into the fabric to resemble a starfield.

“I feel ridiculous,” she said under her breath as Kasr seated her.

“You look amazing,” he assured her before sitting back down.

She smiled back at him. “You don't look so bad yourself.” Hisani reached for her own glass of wine before looking around. “How did you manage all of this in so short a time? This doesn't seem like the kind of place where you just show up and grab a table.”

“It's not,” he agreed. “I know some people and a few of them owed me favors. I make it my business to know as much about my associates as possible.”

Hisani took an experimental sip of her wine before a look of mild surprise crossed her face. “I've never tried wine before. That's better than I thought it would be.”

“I should hope so. I had them bring us the best vintage.”

She laughed. “So you're a wine connoisseur now too? Since when?”

Kasr took another sip. “I made a point of learning about it, as well as several other topics regarding high society, before I ever left Anaxes. There's just not a lot of call for that knowledge when fighting a war in the Outer Rim.”

Hisani leaned forward and rested her chin wistfully in one hand. “Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that while you reference Anaxes a lot, I've never heard you speak about your time growing up there. Everything I know about you prior to our first meeting comes from your military record.”

Kasr set his glass down slowly and looked out the window. It was an amazing view as the sun slowly began setting behind the mountains, but he barely saw it. “Anaxes is a beautiful planet, but... I'm not fond of my childhood. I don't like to talk about it.”

Hisani reached out and touched his hand, causing him to look back at her. “Please,” she asked. “For me? Every Jedi basically has the same childhood growing up. I'd like to hear about yours.”

Kasr was conflicted at the idea of sharing something he had spent the better part of his life trying to forget, but Hisani was not just anyone. Finally he nodded. “Very well. This doesn't go past this table though. Are we clear on that? The only other person I've told any of this to is Jer Roviditian.”

“You have my word,” she promised and Kasr could tell she realized how serious he was. Hisani had met Jer a few times during the war. She knew how much of a father figure the older man was to him.

Kasr took another sip of his wine. This was not a topic of discussion he thought they would end up talking about, but it was too late to go back now. “Hundreds of years ago on Anaxes there was a powerful and influential noble family known as the House of Kasr. It eventually fell into ruin for many reasons and has been all but forgotten in modern times; the bloodline long scattered.”

“I plan to resurrect it,” he stated so matter-of-factly that it would be impossible to argue that the outcome would be any different. “The problem is that the most cherished and prized Anaxsi traditions all revolve around naval service. My claims to resurrecting the House of Kasr will fall on deaf ears if I don't have the military clout to back it up.”

Hisani nodded, but they both knew Kasr was still dodging the question and was avoiding speaking about his actual childhood. He could tell she was about to try and prod some more, but a waiter arrived with their first course.

Kasr then seized upon the opportunity and changed the subject after the waiter left. “We can talk more about my childhood later. Let's talk about you. Tell me more about what the Jedi Council said to you. That is partly why we're having dinner here in the first place.”

She looked downcast. “Reng, you've made this such a nice night. I don't want to ruin it by talking about it now.”

“Nonsense,” he insisted. “If there's a problem, I want to know about it. It brings us that much closer to solving it.”

Hisani took a bite of her salad before answering him, as if trying to put it off as long as possible. “They offered me a seat on the Jedi Council. The only condition is that I end our relationship.”

“I see,” Kasr said to her neutrally. Inside he was seething. “This all goes back to their restrictions on intimacy. They'll deny you their highest honor, in spite of all you've done in their name, simply because they're afraid of their own emotions. I expected this, but to see it fulfilled disgusts me. The cowards.”

“Reng,” she replied calmly, trying to soothe him. “It's not that simple and you know it. You said it yourself: the Force is incredibly powerful. If I lost control of my emotions because something happened to you, the damage I could do... It's not something I want to think about it.”

“You're better than that, Hisani,” Kasr said to her. “You're better than all of them. Don't start doubting yourself because of what they said. I'm starting to think that the galaxy would be better off if we never learned about the Force.”

“I'm not going to accept their offer.”

Kasr was about to rant some more, but Hisani's statement cut through his anger immediately like an ointment to a burn. He looked at her in surprise.

She nodded. “I wasn't sure before, but I am now. They can keep their position. I won't sacrifice what we have for that. The price is too high.”

“You shouldn't have to do that,” Kasr said to her, calmer now. “You deserve that seat. Don't think I haven't noticed the look in your eyes whenever you talk about the Jedi Council. You've wanted this for a long time. Don't deny it.”

“I could do a lot of good as a member of the Jedi Council, it's true,” she agreed, “but I can do a lot of good right here too.” Hisani smiled at him. “I dare you to say I'm wrong.”

“That would be a lie if I did,” he admitted as he smiled back. “I'm not quite ready to give up on getting you the recognition you deserve, but for now let's just enjoy the night.”

Hisani held her drink up for a toast. “I can get behind that.”

Kasr raised his own to comply, but as soon as the two glasses touched, an alarm suddenly sounded throughout the restaurant. They both looked around in surprise before the ambient music was replaced by a male voice: “Attention patrons. We've just received a report that the Separatists have launched an attack on the capital. Please remain calm and proceed to the nearest courtesy shuttle. We'll be flying you to a nearby shelter until the danger passes.”

Kasr and Hisani looked at each in disbelief before Kasr pulled out his comlink to try and reach Keffi. All he got back was static. “Communications are being jammed,” he confirmed.

Hisani nodded. “I can sense signs of battle off in the distance. I need to get down there to help.”

Kasr stood. “Go. I'll find a way up to the Anaxes and see what I can do from there.”

“It was a nice night while it lasted, thank you.” Hisani then reached over to kiss him before dashing towards one of the shuttles.

Kasr watched her go for a moment. He reached one hand into a pocket and fingered a small box thoughtfully, before he sighed with regret and set his mind to the task of somehow getting into space. It had been a nice night, but now he had work to do...

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Halomek
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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:02 am

Getting to a spaceport was a task that was easier said than done for Kasr. The attack on Coruscant had taken everyone completely by surprise. Once the emergency shuttle set him down at the shelter he looked up as he heard the distinct engine noise of tri-fighters flying overheard. He tracked the enemy fighters visually before he saw them fire on the Manarai Range.

The restaurant, which was built to look nice and nothing else, crumpled under the fire of the military machines and began to list out of control as its repulsors failed it. Other restaurant patrons around him were crying out in shock or dismay, but Kasr simply stood and watched the building crash into the ground before it exploded.

What could be the point of blowing up a civilian restaurant? There was none and droids wouldn't just randomly attack non-strategic points unless... His eyes widened as the answer came to him. This battle wasn't about trying to take Coruscant. It was a distraction from their true objective. The Separatists wanted something on the planet, but what?

With a feeling of dread slowly clawing at him, Kasr fled from the shelter on foot as he searched for some kind of vehicle he could commandeer and vainly wished he could use the Force to make himself faster. He eventually ran across a shot up speeder that had been abandoned in the middle of a road. Kasr looked it over with an expert eye. It wasn't pretty, but it looked liked it could move and that was what he needed more than anything else. After quickly hotwiring the starter, he sped off towards the nearest military base.

***

By the time he arrived at the military base the speeder was stuttering and belching black smoke, but Kasr was able to limp it to the entrance. The base looked to be in okay shape. Anti-aircraft weapons were firing at the enemy starfighters, but it looked as though the Separatist ground troops hadn't advanced this far yet.

Two clone troopers guarding the gate trained their weapons on him, but Kasr pulled out his military ID, causing them to suddenly salute instead.

“Give me a sitrep, trooper,” he ordered. “What's going on?”

“Sir!” one of the troopers answered. “The fighting is mainly centered around Galactic City and the Senate District. We're still working on breaking through their interference, but there are scattered reports that General Grievous has been spotted on the surface and is making an attempt on Chancellor Palpatine.”

“Oh no,” Kasr thought to himself as the feeling of dread intensified. That explained why the droids were creating as much of a distraction as possible. There was no way he'd be able to find Palpatine in the heat of battle, but perhaps he could still do something up in space and prevent Grievous from making an escape. If they could capture or kill the general, this war would be that much closer to being over.

“Do you have any fighters still docked that are capable of getting into space?”

The clone trooper nodded. “There are some spare V-wings in the hangar, but you'll need to get permission from the base commander.”

“Tell the commander that Vice Admiral Reng Kasr has just authorized it,” Kasr ordered before he dashed past them towards the hangar. He just hoped he wasn't too late...

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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Pryde » Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:03 pm

Elsewhere Hisani was coming to the same conclusion. Down below her the forces of the Separatist appeared to be attacking random targets. Targets of little or no strategic value. She didn't have Kasr's military experience or his brilliant mind but even she could deduce that there were better places to attack rather than the middle of Galactic City. Like the Jedi Temple or the Senate Building, for instance. So far the bulk of the Separatist forces seemed to be concentrated elsewhere. But why? It doesn't make any sense, unless... Her eyes widened at the thought. The attack was just a distraction and if the Separatists weren't here to capture Coruscant then their only objective could have been the Chancellor.

She pulled out her comm device and tried to contact the Jedi Temple to no avail. Communications were still blocked by Separatist jamming. Looking down into the streets, though, she could see other Jedi fighting back against the Separatists. She didn't have any time to stop and warn them of the danger, however, by now the Separatist attack was well underway and if the enemy truly was making a play for Chancellor Palpitine then she would need every second she could get to stop it.

"Take me to the Senate plaza," she told the driver of the transport she'd been riding it. It took a good deal of convincing to get the man to drive her into a warzone but again she didn't have time to flag down a military transport.

The driver nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. The senate plaza was outside of the combat zone. So far all reports had indicated the Separatists had yet to attack the Senate Building or threaten the government in any way. Still, if the Separatists were brazen enough to attack the heart of the Republic then they would have sent their best general. That meant that General Grievous would be down there somewhere on the battlefield and if Grievous was here then it stood to reason that he would be the one leading the attack on the Chancellor. Hisani had only encountered him once or twice during the course of the war and both times she narrowly escaped. She just hoped that by now she had improved enough in her skills to prepare herself for a rematch...

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Re: The Last Days of the Jedi

Post by Halomek » Sun Jul 09, 2017 8:52 pm

Although he was trained and accredited to fly all of the starfighters in use by the Galactic Republic, Kasr didn't consider himself to be anything more than an adequate pilot. He was of far more use overseeing the battlefield than being in it. His hand-to-hand skills notwithstanding, Kasr knew his strengths were all about tactics and strategy.

Kasr omitted the usual routine of dressing in a flight suit before entering the V-wing. It was a risky gamble since the starfighter had no life support systems, but he was relatively confident that the air in the cockpit would last him long enough to make it to the Anaxes. Not freezing to death once the starfighter entered the cold vacuum of space was what worried him more, but it was another risk he was willing to take. He figured that his formal clothes should keep enough of his body heat inside long enough for it to be survivable.

Time was everything right now. If Palpatine was lost, so was this war.

Once the V-wing was safely away from the military base, Kasr engaged the sublight drive at the maximum speed to join the battle in space. The g-forces on his body were only partially compensated for by the inertial dampeners, but Kasr resisted it. If his body couldn't handle this, then all of his physical training would have been for nothing anyway.

Once he entered the upper atmosphere and into space, the temperature drop was immediately noticeable. It was biting enough to make Kasr think he might have made a serious mistake by not suiting up after all, but it was too late for regrets. He had more important things to do as he quickly consulted the tactical map to see the state of the battle. He needed to see two things: one, where the Anaxes was, and two, what Grievous was up to.

He didn't like either answer.

The Anaxes was on the outskirts of the battlefield since it looked as though Skywalker's Open Circle Fleet had arrived to engage the Separatist forces. That made tactical sense considering that all the other ships in the Vanguard Fleet had already been sent off to Kashyyyk, but it also meant he was going to be in this cockpit longer than he anticipated.

And second, although the Open Circle Fleet was doing a good job of keeping the Separatists engaged, it didn't look as though they realized what Grievous was really after.

Kasr tried to open communications, but the V-wing's limited communications gear couldn't break through the jamming signals – and since Kasr had taken the starfighter without any prior notice, it hadn't been updated with the newest Republic code frequencies. He was effectively flying silent until he reached the Anaxes.

As much as he wanted to try and cut through the fighting in the center in order to reach the Anaxes faster, Kasr decided to skirt around on the outside. It meant longer in a rapidly cooling cockpit and more time for Grievous to try and abduct Palpatine, but if he was blown up getting there, he couldn't help anybody.

By the time he reached the Anaxes, Kasr's hands and face were numb from the cold, but he still had enough control to land the starfighter. It hit the hangar floor with a thud, so it wasn't his most glamorous landing, but the ship was still in one piece. He wasted no time popping the cockpit and jumping out, nearly stumbling into an undignified heap as he did so thanks to muscles sluggish from the freezing temperatures he had endured.

Kasr forced himself to rush towards the bridge, taking a short detour to grab a hot cup of caf to warm his body, before he reached his destination. He wasted no time issuing orders as soon as he entered the bridge. “Get me a line of communication with General Skywalker now!”

The bridge crew were well-trained, as to be expected of anyone serving under him, and got to work without questioning his unexpected appearance or the sudden interruption to everything that was going on. They knew that an order from Kasr was to be followed. The only people who had any standing to question them were Keffi and Hisani.

However the man that appeared on the screen was definitely not Anakin Skywalker. Kasr recognized the face immediately and saluted Admiral Wullf Yularen. In Kasr's opinion, Wullf Yularen was one of the finest officers serving the Republic, and in fact Kasr had found that much of his career had some eerie parallels to Yularen's. The man was a living legend.

“Vice Admiral Kasr,” Yularen greeted him back with a perfunctory salute of his own. “I'm surprised to see that you're still on Coruscant. I would have thought that you would be with the rest of your fleet at Kashyyyk, regardless of the state of your flagship.” He paused for a second and eyed him. “Why are you out of uniform?”

Kasr hesitated only briefly. “It's a long story, Admiral. I have urgent information for General Skywalker or General Kenobi.”

Yularen kept his face impassive except for a slight downturn of his lips. “The Jedi Generals are leading our starfighter assault on the Separatist forces.”

“Both of them?!” Kasr exclaimed in surprise. “That's-” He stopped himself and regained his composure. “I don't see the strategic logic in sending both fleet commanders into the heart of battle. Did they give a reason?”

“They are Jedi,” Yularen replied back dryly. “Military protocol is not something they tend to follow.”

Yularen was doing a good job of keeping his expression neutral, but Kasr could recognize the resentment in the admiral's eyes. No doubt this wasn't the first time Yularen had questioned the point of putting Jedi in charge of major military operations. Kasr recognized it because they were the same thoughts he had. Even after coming to an understanding (and more) with Hisani, Kasr still couldn't see the decision as anything more than a hindrance to the war effort. Not every commander had the kind of understanding with their Jedi General that Kasr had managed to forge with Hisani.

Kasr sighed angrily. After all the trouble he had gone through to make it back to the Anaxes, neither Skywalker or Kenobi were around to hear his intel... “Admiral, I have reason to believe that General Grievous isn't trying to take Coruscant. He's attempting to either kidnap or assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. The capital ship formation, the attack pattern of the starfighters, they all point towards-”

“I know,” Yularen interrupted him. “That is my thought as well. I'm afraid my hands are tied. Until I hear back from the Jedi, my orders to keep our current formation stand. I'm sure they know what they're doing.”

Yularen's face made it clear that while he didn't like the situation, arguing with him about it would get Kasr nowhere. If there was one difference between Yularen and himself it was that Yularen was much more by the book than Kasr had ever been. Yularen would follow any orders given to him by a superior, even bad ones. Kasr would, up to a point, and that point had been crossed.

“I understand, Admiral,” he replied. “Fortunately for both of us, those aren't my orders.”

Yularen nodded. “The less I know, the better. Good luck, Vice Admiral Kasr.”

Once Yularen had signed off, Kasr turned to Keffi. “Plot a course. We're going to make sure the Invisible Hand stays right where it is.”

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