Altered Legacies

2 years prior to The Force Awakens...
A persistent and interactive galaxy set shortly before the events of Episode VII

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Pryde
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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 22, 2017 12:19 am

Isis was too distracted by thoughts of Hirai as the party made their way through the sewers. She knew the others had trusted Qan but there was just something about him that rubbed her the wrong way and now he had her friend. Her last known position was miles off shore and while Isis still remembered their trajectory it wouldn't help them track her if at some point they changed course after the tracker went dead. At best all she could get from that information was a guess and while Isis had a tendency to act on most guesses she didn't much like the idea of placing her friend's fate in the hands of a guess.

"You alright," Tav asked after noticing how quiet she was being.

"I'm worried about Hirai," she told him. "What if Qan... What if he hurt her," she finished instead, unable to even suggest the other thing.

"I don't think he would," Tav assured her, "They went through a lot of trouble to get her here. If they wanted her dead they could have done it back on Corellia."

That made her feel slightly better but the thought of her best friend in the clutches of the enemy was still unsettling. As the seven companions made their way through the sewer Isis' mind was occupied with all manner of imagined tortures that Hirai most certainly must be enduring right now and that made her increasingly angry. Silently she vowed that if she ever got her hands on Qan Kisa she would rip him in two...

**********

Hirai stared out the window of her single bedroom suite that she'd been assigned to. The storm surrounding the island continued to pound heavy sheets of rain against the glass as lightning bolts raced across the sky, some even striking the ground. The hellscape of Pek Kular looked almost as though it came straight out of a holo flick. How could a place like this even exist in the real world and how did it become like this in the first place?

There was a light tone at the door just before a droid entered. He had some fresh sheets in his arms as he walked to the center of the room. "Forgive my intrusion, Ma'am, but I am to prepare your bed chambers for the evening."

Hirai simply nodded in response and the droid walked past her into the bedroom. After a few moments had passed he came back out into the living room and bowed awkwardly at the hip. "If that will be all, Ma'am," he said and then he started to head for the door.

Hirai turned around then and stopped him with a word. "Wait," she said, "I have questions."

The droid stopped in his tracks and turned back to her. "Of course, Ma'am, I will answer what I may."

Hirai glanced over her should back out the window. "I know Ruk and Qan said there were Sith ruins on this island and that they were researching them, but... What kind of research are they doing, exactly? They never did say."

"Hmm," the droid said and Hirai got the feeling that If he could frown he would be doing just that right now. Instead he simply made gesture that could be considered an approximation of human uncertainty. "I'm afraid I can't answer that," he said.

"Because it's classified," Hirai asked pointedly. Not satisfied with his answer through in truth she had expected it.

The droid shrugged, or at least he attempted to. "I can't answer because I simply don't know. Ruk keeps much of his research compartmentalized. I am merely one of the maintenance bots here. I clean the labs from time to time but the particulars of Ruk's research are beyond my clearance."

Hirai sighed then turned her back on him. "Alright, you can go," she told him and the droid bowed again before leaving the room. Meanwhile Hirai's eyes were transfixed on the storm torn landscape surrounding the facility, a sinking feeling in the pit of her gut.

What is this power I'm feeling, she asked herself quietly. Since landing at this facility she'd had this uneasy feeling like someone or some thing was watching her. Qan had told her that Ruk was the only other person here but Hirai couldn't help but feel like they weren't alone. I hope Isis is okay, she thought. She hadn't seen her friend for a couple of days now and she was really starting to miss her. Especially now, she could really use some of Isis' brash confidence. The other girl always had a way of making Hirai feel better even in the most tense of situations. Something like that could really ease her nerves right now.

**********

It was some time after their escape from the prison. Soon after they had gotten out the JSI had moved in and secured the place. There were patrols in the streets now looking for escaped convicts or crazed guards and dodging them hadn't been very easy. Fortunately, Korzen had an ear on the pulse of the JSI and his info helped them immensely to avoid any unnecessary entanglements. It took several hours but eventually they made it to one of Sysen's safehouses. Obviously they couldn't stay for very long but at the very least it gave them a chance to rest and recuperate and to get some much needed answers.

At the moment, though, the group was in a heated conversation. Isis had just about worked herself into a frenzy with worry and the second they got to the safehouse she just about exploded. "How could you let her go with Qan," she said, turning on Clara, "I told you to watch her! That means keep her close not 'let the slimy son of a hutt who lured her here take her away!'"

"You never said that," Clara shot back, "As I recall you put a tracker on me and left."

"I gave you the look. Did you not pay attention to the look," she asked, then she turned to Tav, "You saw the look, right?"

"I would rather stay out of this," he said, holding up his hands.

Clara just ignored him. "I still don't see why you're so upset, kid," she answered back, "Hirai has your tracker on her and now that we have my Uncle we can follow that right to her."

Isis' hands balled into fists and she ground her teeth in frustration. "That would be easier if I hadn't lost her, damn it," she snapped.

Clara's expression hardened and a sudden feeling of fear for the well being of her cousin began rising from the pit of her stomach. "What do you mean, 'lost her'?"

"I mean her signal blinked out in the middle of the ocean," Isis explained, "All I've got is her last heading, but if the bastard changed course at all then who the hell knows where she is!"

After hearing that Clara swore and turned her back on the girl and Isis continued to press her. "Did he at least say where he was taking her," she asked and Clara looked at her then shook her head.

"Great," Isis answered, "real smart move letting that bastard take her without asking where he was going."

"Relax," Tulsar told her, raising his voice a few volumes above hers, "Qan said he was taking her somewhere safe and I trust him to keep his word."

Isis turned her gaze onto him. "No offense, Old Man, but I don't buy that 'Jaska's the one behind it' story one bit. Him showing up at the farm like that with insider information and offering to take Hirai somewhere safe just seems way too convenient for me. I get that he's your friend but Hirai is my sister and I don't trust him."

Then she pointed an accusatory finger at Habas. "You! This is all your fault, you know! Hirai wouldn't even be in this mess if it weren't for you," she told him, "You're supposed to be some great assassin, right? So why'd you let yourself get caught?"

Habas was caught off guard by the accusation. "Kid, I haven't the faintest idea who you're talking about."

"I'm talking about your daughter," she snapped at him and those words hit Habas like a sack of bricks.

"Daughter?" He repeated, his mind racing to process this information. So dumbstruck was he that he just stood there in disbelief. A daughter? How could he have one? When? And with who?

All he could do was just stare at her in shock. "Who," he asked, unable to finish a complete thought.

"Kana McKay, you remember her, right," Isis asked him, "She had a kid after you rescued her eighteen years ago. Hirai is eighteen, do the math."

Clara crossed her arms over her chest and leveled her with a glare. "Weren't you the one who said Hirai should tell him herself?"

Isis half turned to her with a look. "That was before you geniuses let her leave with that slamo Qan," she shot back, "If we have to go rescue her now then I'm going to make damn sure your Uncle is properly motivated."

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:21 pm

“Listen here, you-” Clara started to object angrily as Isis dared to imply her uncle would abandon anyone in need, but she was stopped by Habas himself with a hand on her shoulder.

“Kana McKay is a name I've not heard in a long time,” Habas said to Isis a little distantly. “A long time...” He sighed as he brought himself back to the present. “My time with her is not something I talk about often - and that was for her sake.” He glanced over at Clara to include her in conversation. “She and I were in a relationship for the better part of a galactic standard year and very much in love, but it couldn't last. I have too many enemies to ever stay in one place for long.”

Even though Clara had come to accept that Hirai was more than likely her cousin, she was still a bit shocked by her uncle's revelation. “I never knew. I had no idea you were ever with anyone like that.”

“No one did,” Habas confirmed. “She was already being hunted when we met. The last thing she needed was to be targeted by my enemies too.” He looked back at Isis. “I loved her with all my heart, and leaving her was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but at no point did we ever agree to have a child. No child would be safe with me as a father.” He frowned. “Assuming everything you say is true, it seems she felt differently.”

“She's your daughter!” Isis insisted. “Accept it.”

“That remains to be seen,” Habas replied, with an eerie detached calm that was frightening with how inhuman it was. His tone made it clear he wasn't interested in arguing about it.

Something about his demeanor even seemed to unsettle Isis, if only briefly. As if she was able to glimpse for the first time behind his unassuming exterior and see one of the galaxy's most deadly assassins standing before her. She was briefly speechless, which turned out to be fortuitous as Sysen called them over to the holoviewer.

“We're in trouble,” the younger Leidias said to them grimly as he turned up the volume on a news broadcast.

“Our top story tonight,” the news announcer said in grim tone. “Betrayal by one of Juoi's most esteemed families: the Leidias family. Shocking new evidence obtained from security footage of the prison riot has revealed the presence of Tulsar and Sysen Leidias. Sysen Leidias, of course, was arrested and convicted for conspiracy against Director Jaska. At the time, it appeared that Sysen's actions were isolated, but now it seems clear that he was not acting alone.”

As the announcer spoke, footage of Tulsar and Sysen fighting the inmates of the prison was displayed.

“JSI's experts have concluded that no physical external forces were used to induce the prison riot and believe that the deranged behavior was caused by the Force itself. The footage recovered from the prison has confirmed their assessment.” The footage then changed to show images of Clara, Isis, Tav, and Habas. “The Leidiases appear to have also freed known galactic assassin Habas Molariou along with his niece, NRI operative Clara Molariou, and finally Isis Sinclair, daughter of New Republic senator Isaac Sinclair. Experts are still unsure if Clara Molariou and Isis Sinclair's presence constitutes an intergalactic conspiracy against the Sovereignty of Juoi by the New Republic.”

The camera cut back to the news announcer as the faces of everyone appeared behind him, including Tav's face, although he wasn't mentioned by the news announcer. “Although Korzen Leidias and Falanis Leidias have been taken into custody, the instigators behind the prison riot are still at large. The government is currently offering a one million credit reward for information as to their whereabouts of these extremely dangerous individuals.”

Sysen muted the holoviewer and looked to the group. “You were set up. I don't know how he managed it yet, but Jaska has been playing all of you from the beginning. He wanted this to happen. This is his end game.”

***

Strangely enough, despite the chaos happening outside of the building, Hirai's nightly rests were undisturbed and each morning she woke up feeling refreshed, driven, and focused. Little by little Ruk was allowing her to explore the facility, although she was still restricted to staying inside while he left to conduct his research in the temple.

However, one morning she caught him practicing with a sword against a droid specfically meant fur dueling. Although Qan had told Hirai before that Ruk was supposed to be well-versed with swords, she hadn't expected him to actually practice with them. To Hirai's eye, his form could give Tulsar a run for his credits, although his movements were much slower due to them being unassisted by the Force. Without his labcoat, Ruk's body was revealed to be actually very toned and muscled, but far more taught and wiry than the elder Leidias. If Tulsar's body was a durasteel plate, Ruk's would have been a durasteel cable.

It didn't take Ruk long to notice her astonishment and he ceased his workout. “Not what you expected?” he asked rhetorically.

Hirai shook her head. “You didn't seem the type.”

“There's a lot you don't know about me,” Ruk said to her calmly. “I would chastise you for judging me by looks alone, but I was guilty of the same thing when we first met. Swordplay has always been a passion of mine. It's what got me interested in studying ancient weaponry in the first place.”

“Have you ever faced off against Tulsar?” Hirai asked him, genuinely curious.

He shook his head. “Qan has talked about it many times, but it just never seems to happen.” He gave her a toothy smile. “That would be the ultimate challenge though, wouldn't it? Maybe one day I can see how I measure up.”

Hirai nodded, not quite sure what to say, so she blurted out the question that she had been wanting an answer to since she arrived. “Um, so what exactly is the focus of your research here? The ancient weapons?”

Ruk eyed her for a moment before seeming to come to a decision. “Actually, no. That's not what we've found to be the main focus inside the temple. Do you believe in ghosts, Hirai?”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:58 pm

"Up until a few days ago I didn't even believe in the Force," Hirai told Ruk, surprised that he would ask her about something so outrageous. Was he trying to imply that there were ghosts on this continent? "Is that what you're researching here," she asked, "Ghosts?"

**********

Isis sat in stunned silence after Sysen had switched off the news report. This was the second time she'd been framed for a crime she didn't commit. The first time had nearly destroyed her family, she dread to think what this accusation would do. "How far does this go," she asked, her voice trembling ever so slightly.

"So far it's only local," Sysen told her, "Juoi still hasn't officially announced that they were holding Habas Molariou in prison."

Tav seemed to catch on to what her concern was and stepped closer to her. "Are you worried about your father," he asked.

Isis shook her head. "No, if it's just local he'd have to have someone on Juoi to be able to--," as she spoke her comm link started chiming at her. She pulled it out of her pocket and glanced up at Tav.

"Guess that means he does have someone on Juoi," he said sardonically.

Isis sighed heavily and answered her father's call. "Dad," she said, feigning excitement, "I was just about to call you! What? ... Juoi? Dad, I have no idea what you're talking about... Yes, yes, we're on our way home right now... News report? Don't be silly, I haven't talked to any reporters. Anyway, Dad, gotta go. Talk to ya later!"

Then she quickly hung up before he could get another word in and looked back at the others. "If they have Falanis and Korzen in custody then we need to bust them out," she told them.

"What happened to saving Hirai," Tav asked her, "You seemed pretty gung ho about it a second ago."

She turned her back on him and looked away, hiding her frustration. "We don't know where she is, Ace, and even if we did if we went after her now...," she left the rest hanging in the air but the implication was pretty clear. If Jaska and company really wanted to keep them away from Hirai they could leverage the lives of Tulsar's family against them. Hirai might be safe from harm as their enemies had wanted her alive but neither Falanis nor Korzen share that same invulnerability...

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:20 pm

“I'll get them back,” Tulsar said, his tone leaving no room for argument to the contrary. It was a simple fact that it was going to happen.

“Alone?” Clara asked him anyway, picking up on the implication inherent in his words. “That's exactly what Jaska wants. I have no reason to doubt that he'll have all kinds of things set up to either take you prisoner or take you down. At the very least take me with you. You wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for me.”

“She's right,” Sysen spoke up. “I want to rescue Mom and my son too, but that's exactly what they want us to do. You'll be walking right into the mouth of the beast to get them back.”

Tulsar shook his head. “No one knows Jaska and the JSI as well as I do. I appreciate the offer, Clara, but I knew what I was getting into by helping you – and it seems something like this was bound to happen anyway. Besides, you'll only slow me down by coming with me. Any of you. Even you, Sysen.”

Sysen sighed as he shook his head. “You're a damn stubborn man, but you're probably right.”

Tulsar placed a hand on Sysen's shoulder. “You have a more important job. It's not going to be long before the JSI finds this place too. You need to get everyone to your real safehouse that you told me about. We need to gather the evidence you have stored there that proves Jaska is not who he claims. The people need to see what's going on. That's going to be the only way we'll be able to clear our names.”

Sysen nodded reluctantly. “Good luck, and may the Force be with you.”

Tulsar nodded back, giving his son's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, before glancing around the room to everyone else. “And to all of you as well.” He then departed from the room before anyone else could try and stop him.

Sysen looked back at the assembled group. “He's right. We'll need to leave from here soon. I have a stealth airspeeder stored in the hangar below this place. It's configured to obfuscate the JSI search algorithms. It'll be a tight squeeze, but we should all be able to fit into it.”

“Where are we going then?” Tav asked.

Sysen eyed him for a moment, as if still trying to decide if any of them could be trusted, before he made a decision. “We're changing continents to Stoni. It's Juoi's largest and mostly occupied by mining corporations. Otherwise it's very sparsely occupied. It'll be easier to hide from the JSI there.”

***

“I know how it sounds,” Ruk said to Hirai. “However, there have been many accounts about individuals who were strong in the Force somehow managing to retain their form and consciousness after death. Colloquially, people tend to refer to them as 'Force ghosts'.”

Hirai made a disbelieving expression. “That sounds a bit too farfetched to be true.”

Ruk chuckled, which was perhaps the first time Hirai could recall sounds of genuine mirth coming from the Shistavanen. “So quick to judge, young Hirai. Did you know that swords like yours are fabled to be able to cut through, among other things, the essences of Force ghosts and destroy them? There aren't many weapons that can do that, not even the modern lightsaber is capable of that feat. I'm surprised that whoever taught you to make those swords never told you about everything they're supposed to be capable of.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Wed Oct 11, 2017 3:08 am

"I'm really not liking the way they name things around here. Joy? Stoney? Mercy? Really?" Isis grumbled to everyone. Truthfully she was irritated at Tulsar for assuming she'd only be in the way, but she decided to keep those thoughts to herself. She much rather preferred to focus on finding Hirai, anyway, and this gave her the chance to do that. "How long is this little side trip going to take, anyway?"

"Not long, if we leave now," Sysen told her.

"Then let's get going," she said and she kicked off from the table she was leaning against and followed Sysen out of the room...

**********

Hirai's cheeks flushed slightly and she turned away. "My mother tried to teach me something like that but I refused to listen," she said. "I didn't believe in any of this Force stuff and I was angry at her for keeping me isolated and stuck inside all the time. So I tended to rebel--a lot. Especially during training."

"You're mother kept you isolated," Ruk asked, seeming genuinely interested. "Was she hiding from something?"

"Or someone," Hirai answered, "I don't know, maybe. We lived in a small house in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't another person around for miles and I wasn't permitted to travel very far from home. I never even met another person until I attended Beruss. Isis was my first real friend."

"Did she ever tell you who she was hiding from?"

Hirai shook her head. "She, um... She died before she could tell me." She stopped then and reflected for a moment. "It's funny," she continued, "I barely know you yet I've already told you so much about myself. I just... I feel like I can trust you. You've taken such good care of me since I arrived here."

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:28 pm

Ruk simply nodded at the compliment. One thing Hirai had learned was that he didn't smile often, though she was getting over how offputting that could be at times – both when he didn't smile and the rare times when he did. Ruk wasn't interested in comforting her, instead choosing to trust Hirai to take care of herself as long as she heeded his words. It was refreshing in a way.

“Your mother sounds like she was strong in the Force,” Ruk said to her. “She would have to be in order to make swords like that. I wonder if...”

Hirai waited for him to verbally finish his thought, but when the silence started to get awkward, Hirai couldn't help but prompt him. “What? What are you thinking?”

Ruk seemed to come back from a distant thought. “Nothing. I don't want to give you false hope. I was merely speculating to myself that if my research here pans out, then perhaps your mother could be a viable option.”

Hirai froze as he said those words. Until her time with Ruk, she had never even considered that her mother could be anything more than the woman who had raised her. The more she learned here though, the more she was starting to see her mother in a new light. She was beginning to realize that there was a lot she didn't know about her. Now Ruk was implying that she could see her mother again?! She had never even imagined the possibility.

Ruk scratched his chin thoughtfully as he noticed her reaction. “And this is why I didn't want to say anything. Until practical trials are conducted and I can examine the place where your mother died, it's impossible to tell how successful it would be. Put it out of your mind for now.”

Hirai nodded, although his suggestion to just forget about it wasn't going to happen.

Ruk nodded back, apparently satisfied, and was starting to make his way out of the room, before Hirai stopped him by speaking up.

“When are you returning to the temple?”

He paused mid-stride, his back already to her, as he cocked his head to the side. “I plan to resume my research there tomorrow. Why?”

Hirai had to struggle to overcome the apprehension she felt before she asked her next question. “Can I come with you? As your assistant?”

Ruk turned around to fully face her. He made no secret of studying her before he made a thoughtful grunt. “Perhaps. You do take instruction well...” He scratched his chin again. “This is the opposite of what Qan wanted though. The temple is the most dangerous place on Juoi.”

“I'll heed your every word,” she promised. “I want to do more than just wait around here. I want to earn my keep.”

“There are many ways to do that without putting you in danger,” Ruk said to her. “I could have you work on cataloging the items I've recovered, for example. Besides, your ulterior motive is not hard to figure out.”

Hirai started to object, but decided to just nod instead. “There is that too,” she admitted. “I'll go along with whatever you decide.”

Ruk surprised her by smiling again. “Your response is promising. A good assistant is one who has a passion for the work. I may consider it on one condition.”

“Name it.”

Ruk walked back into the center of the room and brandished his sword. “Show me how skilled you truly are in a fight. I've heard many things about how capable of an instructor Tulsar is. I'd like to see it for myself. Don't hold back.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:01 pm

Hirai hesitated a moment before drawing her sword. Ruk had told her not to hold back and she had seen just how good he was with a blade but still part of her was nervous about hurting him. She took a deep breath and tried to push those thoughts aside. After all this was all towards the possibility of seeing her mother again. With a new determination she slowly drew her blade from its sheath, the steel sounding a soft metallic ring that seemed to echo off the walls as it was drawn. Finally she slipped the scabbard and her other sword into the belt at her waist and took up a fighting stance. The two combatants circled each other for a moment as Hirai carefully scanned him for an opening.

A week ago I would have just rushed in, she thought to herself. Her fighting style had been heavily influenced by her friendship with Isis who rarely took the time to think before rushing into things. Granted Isis was pretty sharp witted and great at improvising at a moment's notice but Hirai didn't quite boast those qualities. Isis usually beat her whenever the two of them sparred. Now she wondered just which one of them would win after her training with Tulsar. Hirai had a feeling it would still be Isis regardless. She just didn't have the same kind of creativity Isis has when it comes to cheating to win.

Hirai stopped circling then and charged straight in at Ruk. The Shistaven, sensing an opportunity to finish the bout fairly quickly braced himself for her attack but it never came. Instead she drew up short just as Ruk was raising his blade to block her strike. Then she spun around him to the side and redirected her blow at his midsection from a different angle. Ruk had to admit she was fast, faster than he was expecting. He had to hold his blade at a strange angle which weakened his guard somewhat but he managed to turn her strike into a glancing blow before launching a strike of his own at her unprotected back. Much to his surprise though Hirai continued the momentum of her blade and lifted it up over her head and then behind her back just in time to block his attack without even looking at where it came from. Then she twisted her body around, pulling his blade along with her until they were facing each other.

Just watching the battle one might have thought she was fighting like a Jedi but an experienced combatant would be able to tell that she had managed that without the use of the Force. Rather she was fighting on pure instinct. She knew just where Ruk's first strike would come from because she had deliberately presented her back to him and forced him to turn and swing at her in such a way that she could easily defend from his attack. She was good, surprisingly good but still inexperienced. She would find that she would not be able to control the rest of their bout quite so easily...

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:13 pm

“Not bad,” Ruk admitted. “You had me at a disadvantage, so why did you stop your attack?”

Hirai looked at him in surprise. “We're only sparring to show you what I can do. I don't want to hurt you.”

Ruk circled around her, looking very much like the kind of predator his people evolved from. “I expressly told you not to hold back. I guarantee that the things you'll come across out there won't hold back. If the wildlife out there hasn't been directly affected by ancient Sith engineering, the influence of the Dark Side has certainly perverted their evolutionary path to become savage and ruthless just to survive. If you show mercy to anything out there, a quick death will be the best thing you can hope for.”

“I'm... sorry,” Hirai stuttered, realizing as soon as she apologized that she had said the wrong thing to Ruk.

“Perhaps you're not ready,” Ruk ruminated out loud with clear disappointment. “It's just as well. Explaining your corpse to Qan when he returns is not something I would look forward to.”

Hirai could feel desperation starting to claw at her from deep within. She had only just learned that seeing her mother again was a possibility and now she was losing that chance all in the same day. She couldn't let it end like this. She had to do something!

She had to... She had to...

Making a snap decision, Hirai abruptly sprung forward to attack Ruk without any warning whatsoever except for a yell. The Shistavanen was forced to quickly block her attack or risk having her swords cut into him. Once again she was fighting on pure instinct as she darted around Ruk in an attempt to exploit any opening to strike. Ruk, however, was up for the challenge and consistently held his own against her.

As their duel continued, Hirai began to gradually see just what Ruk had been wanting from her. Fighting without self-imposed restrictions was freeing in a way. It allowed her to explore avenues of attack she had never considered before because she had always been afraid of the harm she could do. Even when pushed to her limits by Tulsar, she had always known that the eldest Leidias was never going to seriously harm her and likewise that she could never expect to hurt him. There had always been a safety net there, hampering her abilities in ways she had never realized.

Ruk was different. There was no safety net. The Shistavanen was not quite the consummate swordmaster that Tulsar had been. His duel style was much more raw and unrefined and it felt like she could beat him. There were even instances in which she was able to knick Ruk's skin and draw blood. The first time it happened had almost been the last time as Hirai was so surprised by it that she momentarily dropped her defenses in shock. It nearly cost her as she was forced to dodge a return strike that would have run her through the stomach. As it was, she still took a gash to her arm from the late dodge.

Hirai fought through the pain, and the pain from the other minor injuries Ruk managed to inflict on her throughout their bout. Finally, in a move that took Hirai completely by surprise, Ruk's presence seemed to abruptly grow especially dark and savage as he used his sword to knock her swords out of her hands with one extremely fierce blow. He followed through by spinning completely around and landing the edge of his sword at the back of her neck. It was close enough to be felt, but was just shy of drawing more blood.

“Enough,” Ruk decreed. “The duel is over. You've convinced me that you're capable enough of coming with me.”

Even as Hirai was trying to sort out just what had happened in the last few moments of the duel, she felt a wellspring of elation surging through her. It was enough to make her forget all about the numerous cuts over her body. As soon as Ruk took his sword away, she turned and hugged him happily. “Thank you! You won't regret this!”

Ruk was visibly surprised by her show of emotion before he cleared his throat to snap Hirai back to the right frame of mind.

Hirai immediately let go of him and bowed sheepishly. “Sorry. I just felt so... so....” she struggled as she tried to find the right words to describe the roiling emotions inside of her.

“Alive?” Ruk suggested.

She nodded as the word just seemed to fit. “Yes. It was amazing.”

“There is much you could learn,” Ruk said to her. “However, I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. Now go see to your injuries in the med lab. We'll be departing for the temple first thing in the morning. You'll want to be well rested before we make that journey.”

Hirai nodded again as she went to retrieve her swords. As she did so, she was reminded again of Ruk's odd change right before the end of the duel. “Um, Ruk, do you mind if I ask you something about our duel?”

“You noticed then?” Ruk asked rhetorically. “Good.”

She nodded as she put her swords away. “What happened to you? For a moment you - I don't know - you felt like a different person.”

“I told you not to hold back,” Ruk answered her. “I never said that I would do the same. What you glimpsed was a brief look into what I'm like when I get serious.”

“But I thought...” Hirai started to say. “I mean, I thought I was fighting you at your best.”

“That was my intention,” he informed her. “If you felt safe, then I wouldn't see you at your best, because there would be no stakes. Likewise, if you thought I was unbeatable, I wouldn't see you give it your all – because why bother, right? However, if you thought you were just at the cusp of being able to overcome me, then I could see you truly give it your all in an attempt to overcome that milestone.”

Hirai looked at Ruk and at the cuts all over his body. She was trying to fathom this new way of thinking. He had intentionally held back, allowed himself to get injured repeatedly by her swords, just to try and draw out her talents to the fullest. That was a sacrifice she had never seen anyone do for her, not even Tulsar had gone to those kinds of extremes.

“I think I see what you mean,” Hirai said to him. “It's a lot to process though.”

Ruk nodded as she gestured out the door. “Don't worry about that right now. Just get yourself fixed up and ready for the real challenges you'll face tomorrow.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:11 am

Hirai nodded then turned to leave the room. Out in the hallway she drew up short when she felt her hand trembling. She stared down at her palm then finally grasped her wrist with her other hand to quell her shaking. Was that really her in there? She had been in desperate situations before where it was fight or flight but she'd never enjoyed it. As the adrenaline gradually receded from her body and her senses came back to her she began to feel a cold, icy lump in the pit of her stomach. Maybe it was the thought of seeing her mother again that distracted her, but now that she had time to think about it she had to admit this place was changing her. Though, whether it was for the better or worse she honestly couldn't say...

**********

Isis awoke with a start when she heard something slam down onto the table next to her. Groggily she hefted herself up on her elbows and looked up at Clara who had just dropped a bag onto the only table in the room. The other woman said nothing before turning to walk away. Some of the things Isis had said to her before about her Uncle apparently hit her pretty hard. Granted, Isis doesn't actually know who Habas is but the way he so casually dismissed Hirai as his child left a cold shiver running down her spine.

With a sigh she leaned back in her chair and wiped the sleep from her eyes. Tav was seated nearby watching her. "You've been staring at that thing for hours," he said gesturing to the datapad sitting on the table in front of her. "Are you hoping Hirai's tracker will just suddenly blink back on again?"

"No, I--," she started then she shook her head. "Forget it," she finished, reaching down to power the datapad off then her hand stopped when something caught her eye.

"What," Tav asked, "Did it actually come back on?"

"No, it's something else. Look at this," she told him and Tav stood from his chair and walked over to her. He stared at the datapad for a moment then blinked in confusion.

"What? I don't see anything."

"Here and here," she said, gesturing to certain parts of the map near where Hirai disappeared, "Look at the currents."

Tav stared at the map for a moment longer then he finally noticed. She was right, in the places she had indicated the ocean currents split for no discernable reason. As if the water were being displaced by land.

"Show me that map of the planet I asked Quex to retrieve," Isis said and Tav reached into his jacket pocket for a small holoprojector. He pressed a switch and the holographic image of Juoi appeared above his hand.

Isis reached up to manipulate the hologram, turning it this way before turning back to the datapad. "Longitude, latitude," she was mumbling to herself, barely audible enough to be heard by anyone else. Finally she turned to the globe and pointed. "There," she said, pointing with her finger, "that's why Hirai's tracker stopped transmitting."

Tav looked at where she was pointing and noted the huge, swirling cloud of a gigantic storm. "I remember seeing that on the way down," he said, "I thought it was just a tropical storm."

"There's something there and someone doesn't want it found. That's why these charts were altered," Isis replied, gesturing towards the datapad on the table, "That's where Qan took Hirai, I'm sure of it."

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:11 am

Hirai nodded then turned to leave the room. Out in the hallway she drew up short when she felt her hand trembling. She stared down at her palm then finally grasped her wrist with her other hand to quell her shaking. Was that really her in there? She had been in desperate situations before where it was fight or flight but she'd never enjoyed it. As the adrenaline gradually receded from her body and her senses came back to her she began to feel a cold, icy lump in the pit of her stomach. Maybe it was the thought of seeing her mother again that distracted her, but now that she had time to think about it she had to admit this place was changing her. Though, whether it was for the better or worse she honestly couldn't say...

**********

Isis awoke with a start when she heard something slam down onto the table next to her. Groggily she hefted herself up on her elbows and looked up at Clara who had just dropped a bag onto the only table in the room. The other woman said nothing before turning to walk away. Some of the things Isis had said to her before about her Uncle apparently hit her pretty hard. Granted, Isis doesn't actually know who Habas is but the way he so casually dismissed Hirai as his child left a cold shiver running down her spine. Even after arriving at Sysen's safe house on Stoni things between them still felt--unsettled.

With a sigh she leaned back in her chair and wiped the sleep from her eyes. Tav was seated nearby watching her. "You've been staring at that thing for hours," he said gesturing to the datapad sitting on the table in front of her. "Are you hoping Hirai's tracker will just suddenly blink back on again?"

"No, I--," she started then she shook her head. "Forget it," she finished, reaching down to power the datapad off then her hand stopped when something caught her eye.

"What," Tav asked, "Did it actually come back on?"

"No, it's something else. Look at this," she told him and Tav stood from his chair and walked over to her. He stared at the datapad for a moment then blinked in confusion.

"What? I don't see anything."

"Here and here," she said, gesturing to certain parts of the map near where Hirai disappeared, "Look at the currents."

Tav stared at the map for a moment longer then he finally noticed. She was right, in the places she had indicated the ocean currents split for no discernable reason. As if the water were being displaced by land.

"Show me that map of the planet I asked Quex to retrieve," Isis said and Tav reached into his jacket pocket for a small holoprojector. He pressed a switch and the holographic image of Juoi appeared above his hand.

Isis reached up to manipulate the hologram, turning it this way before turning back to the datapad. "Longitude, latitude," she was mumbling to herself, barely audible enough to be heard by anyone else. Finally she turned to the globe and pointed. "There," she said, pointing with her finger, "that's why Hirai's tracker stopped transmitting."

Tav looked at where she was pointing and noted the huge, swirling cloud of a gigantic storm. "I remember seeing that on the way down," he said, "I thought it was just a tropical storm."

"There's something there and someone doesn't want it found. That's why these charts were altered," Isis continued, gesturing towards the datapad sitting on the table, "That's where Qan took Hirai, I'm sure of it."

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:57 pm

“If that's where your friend is, then things are worse than we think,” Sysen said to them as he walked up behind the pair. “That storm has remained in place ever since Juoi's founding back before the Clone Wars. There's evidence that it has been there for thousands of years before that too.”

Tav scratched his chin, intrigued. “I've seen long-lasting storm centers like that on gas giants, but never on a terrestrial planet, let alone one so receptive to humanoid life. I assume you've at least sent a recon droid or two to observe it.”

“More than that,” Sysen confirmed with a grim set to his jaw. “The government has sent several manned expeditions to the land mass which that storm covers up. Of all the teams sent, there's only been one man to survive long enough to study what's down there. Because of how dangerous the continent is, everything about it has been highly classified by the JSI.”

Realization flared for Isis as something clicked. “Pek Kular? Is that it? I saw mentions of it while I was doing some digging around.”

If Sysen was surprised that she knew the name, he didn't show it. Instead he looked even more grim. “That's the place. That continent is overflowing with the Dark Side of the Force. There are ruins of an ancient Sith temple which is likely the source. There were rumblings about sending in my family to purify the area, but nothing ever came of it, and talk about it just stopped once my sister left. Out of all of us, Kalja would have had the best chance of accomplishing the task. Dad, Korzen, and I are more combat-oriented. My mother has some skills in other areas, but trying to clean up something as large as Pek Kular would really tax her abilities.”

“And Hirai is all alone there!?” Isis exclaimed in a near-panic. “We need to get her away from there now!”

Sysen barred her way. “I agree we shouldn't leave your friend in such a place, but Pek Kular is not somewhere you can just go to on a whim. The storm shorts out all electronics. If you go there in a normal ship, you'll just crash and kill yourself.”

Isis paced back and forth like a caged animal. “Ace can handle it. Right, Ace? If you're really as good as you say, then you could handle a little storm.”

Tav held up his hands. “A normal storm, yes. I'm not about to knowingly fly through a storm that'll kill all my controls though. There's only so much you can do when piloting a rock. Plus there's no telling what kind of terrain will be there to greet us, but if what Sysen says is true, then crash landing there is the last thing we want to do.”

Seeing that Isis was still antsy, Sysen came up with a suggestion. “I can modify the shuttle we used to get here undetected by the JSI. The same tech that shielded us from sensors can protect us from the storm with a little reworking. Besides, we should wait until my father gets back before even attempting to venture onto Pek Kular.”

“We don't know how long that's going to take!” Isis objected, trying to find some perch to argue on. “The JSI has your mother under heavy guard. It would take an army to break her out.”

“Maybe not!” Clara shouted at them from a couch where she was busy cleaning her blaster while listening to something with an earbud. “Check the latest news broadcast.”

Sysen made a gesture with his hand and the main holoviewer turned on by itself. A moment later it was switched to the local government-run news. What looked like a scene out of the Galactic Civil War played across the viewer. Armored vehicles were overturned or cut to pieces and smoke was trailing out from behind what looked to be high security JSI bunker. JSI soldiers were on the ground or being attended to by medics. It was an impressive scene of carnage, made only more so by how little actual carnage there was...

“-remarkably there appear to be no casualties after this unprovoked attack by the Jedi criminal, Tulsar Leidias on a JSI facility. Director Jaska was quick to remind everyone of his frequent warnings about how dangerous Force-users can be and this seems to-”

Sysen shut off the news with a mixture of disgusted amusement. “That's certainly not going to help us prove our innocence, or Jaska's guilt, but I admit to a certain satisfaction in seeing my old man's handiwork again.” He looked over to Isis and Tav. “He rescued mother, just like he said he would. When it comes to protecting the family, I pity anyone who chooses to stand between my father and those he loves. They'll both be here, you can be sure of that.”

***

When it was time to leave for the temple, Ruk led Hirai to the facility's hangar and to an old A6 Juggernaut. The model dated back to the Clone Wars. It was full of dents, and perhaps more disturbingly – scratches and gashes in the armor. Droids were milling around it performing basic maintenance, but the facility didn't seem outfitted to handle replacing the heavy armor of such a large vehicle of war.

Ruk didn't seem concerned with the exterior damage. “Repulsorlifts are unreliable outside of the facility,” he informed Hirai as he made a gesture to open the hatch for them to enter the cockpit. “The second expedition discovered that after seeing the fate that had befallen the first expedition. Walkers, likewise, aren't very reliable with the harsh terrain - and the few that are built to handle such terrain are too easily tripped by some of the larger creatures. The third expedition learned that after seeing the fate of the second expedition. This Juggernaut came with the fourth expedition and it has proven to be the most reliable mode of transportation we can use on Pek Kular.”

“You were with the fourth expedition then?” Hirai guessed as she ascended the ladder behind Ruk into the Juggernaut's cockpit.

The Shistavanen shook his head. “Of course not. I was with the first expedition. Those other expeditions wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as they did were it not for me clearing the way for them and setting up the facility. At some point, however, they all grew complacent and assumed that just because I had survived here for so long that they could lower their guard. They're dead because of it.”

Ruk sat down at the command console and began inputting commands. “We are not all created equal, Hirai. On Pek Kular, only the strong survive. If you're unworthy, you will be chewed up – sometimes quite literally. There is no better proving ground than this hellish landscape to test yourself. I'm as strong as I am because I put myself to that test every time I leave for the temple.”

Alarms began blaring inside the hangar as the doors opened. The droids vacated the area as a harsh wind began blowing into the hangar. Without hesitation Ruk drove the massive vehicle into the hostile rocky landscape and the doors closed behind them.

“We'll be leaving the safety of the shield shortly,” Ruk informed her. “That's when the attacks will really begin. That's when you'll face Pek Kular's test for yourself. I think you can pass it, but it will be up to you to prove it.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:23 pm

Isis stared at the blank holoviewer a moment or two longer. It was sobering to see the kind of carnage a Jedi could cause and really put into perspective her irritation at being accused of getting in his way. As good as she was she could never hope to accomplish the same feat as he just did. A direct assault on a fortified position would have been suicide for anyone else.

Briefly she glanced over her shoulder at where Habas was sitting wondering if maybe there wasn't a way to handle this more quietly. As Sysen said this assault would do little to mend their broken relationship with the people of Juoi, but if it could have been done any other way then Tulsar would have considered it, wouldn't he? He didn't strike her as the type of person to act rashly.

She shook her head. Without knowing the specifics she couldn't say for sure. Maybe given enough time she and the others could have cracked whatever facility they were holding Falanis in and got out quietly but time was not on their side. Things were moving faster now and it still felt like they were just one step behind. If Jaska really was after Hirai then why? It was the one question Isis just couldn't answer.

Another thing she couldn't prove was Qan's involvement. She felt so certain he was behind it all but she had no proof, just a gut feeling that he couldn't be trusted and that wasn't going to be enough to sway the others. More than this, though, she couldn't figure out what the end game was. Why capture Habas and use him as bait? Why take Hirai? Why kill so many just to discredit the Leidiases? Just what are their enemies trying to accomplish?

She groaned in frustration and leaned her forehead against her hand. "Really wishing we hadn't come here, Ace," she muttered to Tav. "This whole time it's like we've been trying to solve a puzzle without all the pieces and now this," she said, gesturing to the holoviewer, "If one man can do all of that...," she left the rest hanging in the air.

"I would think that'd be reassuring," he said, "That man's on our side."

"Yeah, but who's picking a fight with him," she asked, finally turning to look at him and Tav could see the desperation in her eyes, "Everyone here knows what he's capable of yet the person who's behind this is not afraid to cross him. That should tell you something. I told you and Hirai we were out of our depth. I should have never let her come here...," her words trailed off as she walked away, wandering to the other side of the room to find somewhere to be alone.

**********

Hirai gripped her swords a little tighter as the Juggernaut made it's way out of the hangar. A part of her wondered what type of creature had claws sharp enough to cut gashes into the side of an armored transport but she tried to push those thoughts away. Whatever the danger she would face it. For the chance to see her mother again she would not let anything stand in her way.

"Just get us to the temple and I'll show you what I can do," she said, her voice brimming with determination. She wasn't about to let this continent get the best of her. Not if she had anything to say about it...

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:47 pm

The A6 Juggernaut was designed for many things, but comfort was not one of them. Even up in the cockpit, every bump in the road was keenly felt – and there were a lot of them. It was charitable to even call it a road and Hirai would have sworn Ruk was simply going offroad if not for the occasional glimpses of prior tire tracks along the wind-blasted terrain. The vehicle was frequently pelted with large gusts of wind and sand, which would have necessitated keeping on the Juggernaut's lights on even if the light outside wasn't so dim.

The further out they went, the more Hirai could spot scraggly and gnarled vegetation tenaciously clinging to life in the hostile environment. They drove for about five minutes at speeds that would have been considered dangerously fast in such extremes, but Ruk seemed perfectly at ease as he drove the enormous transport towards their destination.

Hirai was not fooled, however. She had learned that with Ruk, appearances could be deceiving and she was sure that the Shistavanen was perhaps even more aware and alert than she was. It was a hypothesis he seemed to confirm moments later as he spoke to her without taking his eyes away from the road.

“There's a flock of spitters inbound. They might have been mynocks once, but over time the power coming from the temple has warped them into creatures that will eat anything, including metal. They spit acid that can dissolve the armor to help them digest it.”

He pressed a few buttons on the console in front of him to bring up the weapon controls. “I'll fire at the swarm to try and deter it, but the guns can't really target creatures so small and nimble. You'll need to go up through the top hatch and clean them off manually if they persist in attacking us – which they most likely will.”

Hirai nodded and was halfway out of her seat before she noticed that Ruk hadn't budged. “We're not slowing down to handle them?”

He shook his head. “We slow down and something far more dangerous might attack us instead. I've done this countless times alone with the autopilot. Keep your footing, stay aware of your surroundings, and they should present no problems. Just make sure you get all of them. Understood?”

***

Tav walked over to Isis. He wasn't sure how much she wanted to be comforted and how much she just wanted to be alone, so he tried to split the difference. “Confidentially,” he said to her in low tones, “I'm not exactly 100% trustful of anybody who has the kind of power Tulsar and his kin have either, but right now are chances are better with them than without them. Besides, from everything you've told me about Hirai, I doubt even a whole fleet of Death Stars could have kept her from coming here.”

He placed a reassuring hand on Isis's shoulder. “I'm going to give Sysen a hand with the shuttle modifications, but just know that I'm with you in this until the end. Juoi's internal problems can go space themselves for all I care, but I will help you get Hirai back. That's a promise.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:32 pm

Isis nodded silently but said nothing. Tav watched her for a moment or two longer before heading out to help Sysen with the modifications. Isis didn't even turn to watch him leave. Instead she stood there, arms crossed, eyes at her feet. She didn't like feeling helpless like this, not one bit. Nor was she the type of person to ever give in to despair. Even when the odds were stacked against her she exuded confidence. She always had a plan or the adaptability to come up with one but here... Here she didn't know what to do.

The people they were up against were powerful, of that she had no doubt. Not the kind of power that Senator Aarik had wielded but a mystic, more mysterious kind of power. One she had spent most of her life believing had never existed and now here she was right in the middle of a confrontation between two titans. Maybe more, none of them had any idea how many of their enemies were arrayed against them. Everyone seemed to accept it was Jaska behind this whole charade but Isis knew that was wrong. She didn't know how she knew she could just feel it in her gut. Jaska wouldn't be foolish enough to pick a fight with someone like Tulsar Leidias. There had to be someone else, someone on the same level as Tulsar. Someone that was leagues beyond anything she could ever bring to bear. Someone that could probably kill her with a thought.

How exactly does one fight something like that? She had no answers. She had never in her life been in a situation where she couldn't find the answer and all of this circular thinking was not helping her one bit. While the others were distracted she slipped out the back. Not to run off on her own to try and accomplish something but rather to relieve some stress. While Sysen and Tav worked on the shuttle Isis had set up a makeshift targeting range with various cans, bottles and debris at different ranges. She'd been there for awhile having already spent one power pack when someone finally found her.

Isis didn't even turn to see who it was instead focusing all of her attention on a piece of debris some fifteen meters away. One shot from her blaster had knocked it up into the air. The second shot bounced it higher as did the third. She was about to hit it a forth time when a blaster bolt she didn't even fire rang out of nowhere and blasted what was left of the debris to cinders. Finally Isis turned to look at the person behind her...

**********

Hirai quickly found that her training with Tulsar, however short it was, had actually paid off. Sure these creatures were basically mynocks and probably the least dangerous thing on this island but she could already tell her combat focus and reflexes were much improved. Cutting down the vast majority of the creatures felt almost effortless and maintaining her footing while traveling along this rocky and most certainly not level terrain didn't even feel that difficult. For a moment she allowed herself to think that maybe Ruk had over sold the danger of this place, but that thought was quickly dashed as the last mynock-like creature fell.

A sudden shockwave shook the ground, causing Ruk to inadvertently veer the craft unexpectedly. Hirai lost her balance and fell, scrambling for purchase and managing to find a grip before she fell off the side of the vehicle and was left behind. Some distance away from them a hole opened up in the ground and a large creature she'd never seen before emerged. Hirai stared up and up at it, the color visibly draining from her face at the mere sight of it.

Somehow, I think I'm going to need more than a sword to kill that, she thought to herself, scrambling back to the hatchway into the vehicle. "Ruk! What is that thing," she hollered down to him.

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:50 am

“It doesn't matter what it is,” Ruk shouted back at her. “Take care of it!”

Hirai looked back at the giant creature, some sort of armored worm that looked like it could chew up the Juggernaut with just a few bites. Ruk was currently driving away from it, but the worm was pursuing on the surface. It was hard to tell from the low light, but it appeared as though the worm had pairs of insectile legs running along its length, making it more of a centipede if not for the giant gaping maw it had for a face.

“It's too big!” Hirai objected. “My swords will barely scratch that thing!”

“Size isn't important,” Ruk countered with an irritated tone in his voice. “Your swords are more powerful than you realize. If you can't even deal with this, then it truly was a mistake to bring you out here. Remember, if that thing catches up to us, you'll never see your mother again. Focus on that and the path to defeating it will become clear.”

***

Habas walked out of the dusk with his blaster still smoking. He smiled at Isis before blowing on the barrel to cool it off and returned it to his holster. “Sorry, I couldn't resist,” he said to her. “I used to do trick shooting before I became an assassin. You're a pretty good shot, I'm impressed.”

“Thanks,” Isis replied grudgingly. “If you don't mind, I want to alone right now.”

“I don't think that's true at all,” Habas replied as he stubbornly walked closer to her. “Being alone isn't going to help you not think about your friend, Hirai. If anything, it's only going to make it worse.”

“Your daughter, you mean,” Isis said to him with a scowl. “Why can't you accept it? Even your niece has come around to it.”

“Clara is a sweet kid,” Habas said with a bit of a chuckle. “Don't let her fool you. She has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen once you get past that rough and tumble attitude of hers. Me? I'm not as willing as her to extend that kind of trust. I can't. I won't.”

“Why not?!” Isis demanded. “Hirai adores you! The thought of finding you one day was one of the few things that kept her going. How could you be so cold-hearted to her?”

“All I know about Hirai is what little I've been told,” Habas reminded Isis. “That's hardly enough to blindly accept her claims. I've never wanted a daughter, or a son, or any kind of family. In my line of work, it's too dangerous to have those kinds of connections. That's why I've tried to put as much distance between myself and my brother and his family as I can. Not that Clara will let me do that, but I've made my peace with her stubbornness-”

“Shut up!” Isis cut him off angrily. “Just go. Leave the planet and never come near us again. Hirai is better off not knowing a father like you. Maybe it was for the best that you abandoned her. All you'd do is hurt her again.”

“Now wait a minute!” Habas demanded. “Just because I don't believe she's my daughter doesn't mean I want any harm to come to her. I'm going to help you rescue her and get to bottom of whatever is going on here on Juoi.” He pointed an angry finger at Isis. “And for the record, I never abandoned anyone! You can't abandon a child you never had!”

It took a few seconds for Habas' words to register with Isis. “What? What are you talking about?!”

“The reason I don't think she's mine is because I've never had any kids. I've been very careful about that,” Habas explained. “No woman I've been with has ever been under the idea that I wanted a family and certainly none of them have ever been pregnant. If I ever did have a child, then I'd never willingly leave them. I'd do all I could to protect them.”

“Then why would...” Isis started to ask before trailing off. Something wasn't adding up.

Habas softened his features as he let his anger ebb away. “Look, since she's on your mind anyway, why don't you tell me more about what Hirai told you about her childhood? Maybe we can figure out what's actually going on before we start making more angry accusations.”

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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Pryde » Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:01 pm

Hirai stared at the creature, her hands tightening around the hilt of her swords. It was still some distance off but heading right towards them and the closer it got the bigger it seemed. Could she really fight something like that? Something so massive? She glanced down at the katana in her right hand, somehow seeming so small by comparison. How could a weapon like this be as powerful as Ruk claimed? She wanted to see her mother yes, but dying was not going to help. Surely there were other ways of fighting.

The armored vehicle shook violently as it barreled through some loose dirt, jarring her and nearly sending her sprawling overboard. When she righted herself she caught sight of a series of intricate canyons and cliffs just large enough to permit them passage. She glanced back over her shoulder at the creature, it was still getting closer and this was their only chance. She headed back to the hatch and jumped back down inside. Ruk heard her and glanced over his shoulder.

"What are you doing," he demanded, "Get back out there and kill that thing!"

"No, I can't," she told him.

"Then you'll never see your mother again!"

"Shut up for a second," she shouted at him, "Do you see that?"

She pointed off towards the canyons and Ruk's eyes followed. "We can lose it in there," she continued, "That's got to be better than throwing my life away!"

**********

Isis sighed heavily and turned away. Really it should be her telling him this but then she wasn't here, was she? Still, if anything she might say would convince Habas that Hirai was his then it was worth it. "Fine," she said, "it's not like we have anything better to do, anyway."

Then she turned back to him, a stern look in her eyes. "But you have to promise me you won't tell her I told you. If she found out she'd kill me."

Habas held up a hand. "Scout's honor," he told her.

"Alright," she said, "Hirai didn't really talk much about her mother and I never met her, either. She died before Hirai started attending Beruss..."

Isis' story went on perhaps longer than she had intended. She began with their first meeting and went over in detail everything Hirai told her about her father. From the way she spoke it sounded like Hirai idolized the man and to some degree maybe even Isis as well. Meeting him had certainly disenfranchised her. It came as a shock how casually Habas had brushed off Hirai as his daughter, but there was no denying the man's legacy held a certain appeal to both girls. Even if Isis wouldn't ever admit it. Near the end of her tale she began to talk about Hirai's mother, or what little Hirai had divulged.

"I must have asked about her mother a thousand times," Isis was saying, "Hirai would usually try to dodge the question and change the subject but there was one thing she said that stuck with me. I had asked her to at least tell me what she looked like and she finally agreed. She turned to me and she had a sad look in her eyes and she said, 'Like me. She looked like me, beautiful but sad.' I never could figure out why. She had an amazing daughter and lived a peaceful life so why...," her words trailed off as a thought occurred to her and she turned to look back at Habas.

"She left you, didn't she," she asked, "She was the one who left you."

Habas looked back at her but said nothing. If her realization had any effect on him he did his best not to show it. "Did you love her," she continued and again he said nothing, "Tell me!"

He opened his mouth to speak then but before he could answer they were interrupted. Tav gently cleared his throat to draw their attention and they both turned to look at him. "Tulsar's back," he told them, "and the shuttle's almost ready..."

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Halomek
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Re: Altered Legacies

Post by Halomek » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:19 pm

“You... failure!” Ruk snarled as he made his way back inside. “The worm is nothing compared to what waits for us inside the temple. It's just a dumb animal, it's mind barely operates above pure instinct. Killing it would have been an easy task.”

Hirai held her head low in shame. It was tough to tell what stung worse: Ruk berating her or the fact that it echoed what she was saying to herself internally. She had panicked. She knew it. On the face of things, attacking a monster like that with just a sword would have been suicide, but she had seen so many amazing feats performed by Tulsar and Ruk in her short time on Juoi...

Both of them had insisted she could do these things too – and sometimes it felt like she was reaching beyond what she thought she was capable of – but she always drew back right when she was on the edge of success. Why? WHY?!

“You're filled with fear and self-doubt, Hirai,” Ruk suddenly said in a calmer tone, seeming to answer her unspoken question.

She looked at her erstwhile mentor. It was clear he was still angry, but the flames of his anger had died down to simmering coals. Somehow it was far more frightening than the worm that was chasing them.

“I knew this, but I allowed you to persuade me to take you along anyway,” Ruk continued. “Fear can be a useful emotion. It can open reservoirs of untapped power in times of desperation, but not if you're forever doubting your ability to wield such power.”

“I... I can turn us around and head back,” Hirai offered in a tone barely above a whisper. The readouts inside the cockpit were showing that the worm was running out of steam and turning away from its intended meal.

Ruk was silent for a moment before he shook his head. “Turning back now would accomplish nothing. We will continue to the temple in spite of your doubts and mine. Perhaps inside you will finally see what you're trying so hard to deny yourself.”

***

The flight towards Pek Kular was somber and quiet aside from the normal sounds of the ship flying. Inside was everyone who had been hiding out, including Falanis – who looked a little worse for wear after her captivity, but refused to stay behind. Tulsar made a half-hearted attempt to try and talk her out of it, but it was clear that no one was going to stop her.

The stealth modifications seemed to be doing their job as there was no sign of the JSI as they approached the gigantic mess of storm clouds shrouding the small continent. Tav was at the controls, although it was clear he didn't like the thought of diving into the storm.

“Is it just me, or do those clouds seem really angry?” he asked no one in particular.

Isis placed a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Ace. Now's the time to really show us what you've got.”

Sysen pulled up a holographic topographical map of the continent with representations of the ship, the temple, and the research facility highlighted on it. Their shuttle was dishearteningly far away from either location. “Our best bet would be to try for the research facility.”

“No,” Falanis spoke up in a distant voice. “We need to head to the temple. That is where we'll find Hirai.”

Tav glanced back at the group as if to ask if that was right.

Tulsar nodded back at the unasked question. He had faith that his wife wouldn't steer them wrong.

Tav turned back with a sigh. “This would be so much easier if I was coming down from space,” he grumbled as he stretched his arms and cracked his knuckles in preparation of what was coming next. “I hope everybody is strapped in because we're about to do everything my flight instructors warned me against.”

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