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Another good number of fics this month for the topic "Navigational Error"! :D Writer and Black Knight of Keno tie for first place for Haven and From Error to Destiny respectively. DarthInsidious takes second place with As LAzarus Contemplates the Ocean. Coming in at third place is JediAthos for Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Place.

 

The poll can be viewed here.

 

As there are two winners, just follow the links if you want to read the fics ;)

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  • 1 month later...

August '09 gave us the bleak topic of "The Horrors of Loss". vanir came out tops again with Whole lotta loss, while Alkonium's Loss takes second place. exodus is created by exoduz was third.

 

The poll can be found here.

 

Below is the winning entry as it appears, enjoy!

 

Deepspace Rescue sn501493: Corellispace

Location: 3-N-51 Colonial

Wilderness Sector

 

Sitting at the navicomputer Tarna confirmed the distress signal received and flipped some switches, cracking a nail on one in the process.

"Damn it," she cursed, engaging the ships intercom,

"-Coming up on that signal, Captain. Slowing to point two, sublight in fifteen minutes."

 

Erzon Mallian warily looked over his sabacc hand as the scoutship's engines altered tone with the loss of speed. The cards were useless and he tossed them up on the table.

"Lost again, Captain?!" the smart alec copilot, Vandas joked as he scooped his winnings.

 

Erzon stood, grazing a knee at the table edge and losing his cool, sending a splashing tumbler across the main hold with the back of his hand. Stumbling towards the cockpit he lost his footing and careened into the wall of its access bulkhead, a minute or two later he finally made it to the pilot's seat and promptly dumped himself into it with a sigh.

 

"You're looking pretty tragic," Tarna, still sitting at the navigator station mentioned blandly.

Erzon eyed her miniskirt, low cut blouse and knee high boots, before turning his attention back to the viewport.

 

"And you're looking pretty slutty."

He didn't have much self respect, so he figured he may as well lose that too.

 

"Well it's what got me into your bunk, isn't it?" she countered with a raised eyebrow, and a moment's fantasy related to sharp implements and a certain appendage of the Captain's. Although they often talked to each other this way, she lost her virginity to this guy and didn't like being referred to like a blow up doll.

 

Vandas entered and took his seat, not an easy feat since it was designed for traditional humanoids. He sensed the thick air between the other two.

"What'd I miss?" the Gorlack bellowed cheerily.

 

"Just the loss of humanity," Tarna replied through gritted teeth.

 

"You've lost me," he bantered.

 

"Alright," Erzon interrupted, "Kicking in sublights in ten seconds, standby."

 

Vandas started filling out an insurance policy.

 

"Three-two-one, sublights on," the Captain narrated.

 

The hyperspace tunnel outside the viewport shifted to elongated streaks of light for a second, before they settled to the familiar pin points of stars. Tarna routinely began checking their position against the navicomputer charts.

 

"Where are we?" Vandas inquired.

 

"Where's that signal source?" Erzon added.

 

"Hold on a minute," Tarna answered, still in a short mood.

 

"Don't tell me we're lost," the copilot jibed.

 

"Okay you two are about to lose a lot more than your way if you don't...hang on...oh there it is. Three arc-seconds off the port bow, five thousand metres."

 

Erzon entered the coordinates into his consol and adjusted a relief gate that poured energy into the ion-drive. The vessel lurched forward and altered course.

 

"Not much on sensors," mentioned Vandas, turning some dials, "Two-hundred metre keel, four storey, thirty metre beam, ports and bulkheads open, no other readings."

 

"Dead in space?" Erzon pressed.

 

"Total power loss," replied the copilot as he turned to face the Captain, "Well, except for the distress signal. There's nothing alive in there."

 

"Pressurised?" Tarna asked.

 

The cruiser quickly drew into visual range at the main viewport, a distant sun lighting one face of its greyed and tarnished hull.

 

"There's atmosphere in several sections, don't know what kind," answered the Gorlack.

 

"Alright, prepare for docking," Erzon declared, "We might as well do a salvage since we're here."

 

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

The creature existed in subspace, not entirely within any physical dimension. Its very nature was loss, coldness, the dark. It was a vacuum, a doorway to another place no living being could sustain contact with. It was entropy, the antithesis of nuclear fusion, it was what inhabited those regions of time before the galaxies were created. It was sentience, but nothing like sapients had ever seen. It was symbiotic and parasitic, all-knowing and occasionally liked to wander. It rarely left the wildspace regions and was what crazy old spacers made ridiculous claims about in drunken canteenas. It was death given form, a walking, talking antiparticle.

 

Erzon clipped a rebreather hose to his belt and checked the energy pack of his blaster carbine as he stepped through the airlock. He used a tongue operated mike built into his mask to communicate with his crew in the cockpit. A portable mediscan on his utility belt sent a readout of his vital signs.

He entered the ghost ship.

 

"How's it looking in there?" Tarna asked.

 

"Gimme a break, I just walked through the door."

He made a visual scan of the inner airlock, cautiously making his way into the vessel's interior. Vacuum suits untouched, medical kits laying unused on their shelves. Some repair tools were missing from their racks, the short-armoury was empty (but that wasn't unusual in practise, ships weapons were typically kept in the locked armoury either in the Captains cabin or a closed section of the main hold).

 

"Everything looks normal so far. I'm entering the access hall," he advised, continuing his way toward a blast door exit. He pressed the side consol and it opened.

 

There was a lot of condensation in the air and some sort of vapour. It was cold, clammy and difficult to see, and lighting was by bioluminescant emergency panels only. Shadowy areas abounded, doorways, alcoves and various access hatches down the length of the hall.

Erzon retrieved a glowstick from his belt and activated the direct beam, holding it under the barrel of his carbine, along his line of sight. He stepped forward.

There was a crackle in his comlink earpiece, something in the atmosphere was causing interference.

 

"Your heartrate's up Captain, what do you see?" asked Tarna, genuinely worried.

 

"Nothing. Emergency lighting is pretty sparse. Can't see much."

 

He continued slowly down the hall, sweeping the beam laden barrel of his carbine side to side as he went.

"I'm going to try to find an access consol for the main grid, see if I can't pull up some blueprints on this baby."

 

"I still don't get why you didn't at least let me come with you," Vandas scorned.

 

"Because I'm the Captain. And I don't need any dragging feet in case we need to leave in a hurry."

There was also the fact he was the only member of the crew with military grade combat training.

 

The creature sensed the intrusion, was aware another starship had docked. Could feel the lifeforce of a lone explorer within the cruiser. It entered a maintenance shaft and began to follow the sensation towards its source.

 

Erzon soon found a monitoring station, next to the central turbolift bank. Locating a consol, he pulled a datapad off his utility belt and plugged it in, using the small device's own energy cell to power it. Such an improvisation wouldn't last long, it was an old commando technique that could give you a few minutes of mainframe access before draining the datapad. Assuming you could bypass any security encryptions.

 

"Okay, downloading a floorplan now. Looks like the main crew sections have been sealed off. That's strange. I might have to gain access through the maintenance shafts, see if I can figure out what happened here."

 

There was a lot of static on his receiver.

 

"...Captain...make sure.... in touch," was the garbled reply.

 

Damn this atmosphere, he muttered under his breath, looking around for maintenance hatches. It wasn't like he was too concerned, any life readings would've been picked up by Vandas' initial sensor scan on approach.

With no luck finding access hatches in this room he exited back to the hall and continued along it.

 

The creature reached the central turbolift bank and moved down its shafts to the main deck, sensing the room beyond presently empty. There was however a psychic imprint, a sapient had recently been here, a human. The creature was able to detect a handful of residual memories, two companions were associated with the intruder, who enjoyed an intimate relationship with one of them, the intruder was a murderer but not unkind, and he was headed towards the recreation deck.

 

Erzon found a maintenance hatch at the other end of the hall and checked the blueprints on his datapad. The crawlspace behind it led to the recreation deck above, and he entered.

 

The creature was already there, waiting. It had taken an appropriate human form, a simple illusory matter and was sitting on a sofa, in the dark when Captain Mallian entered. Unaware, he gave the room a cursory scan with his lightbeam and noted the ship's bar to one side, all manner of liqueurs and condiments adorning its shelving.

Excellent, he said to himself. Time for a drink. He'd already planned it as he approached, he'd pour a shot or two, and simply hold his breath, remove the rebreather and toss them down. Then replace the mask. No problem.

 

Halfway there he noticed a movement in some shadows to his left, instinctively bringing the barrel of his carbine to bear and illuminating an incredible looking woman in the torchlight. She was seated on a couch, wearing a glittering evening gown.

 

"Hello Captain," she said simply. Her voice was husky and it seemed he could feel it in the pit of his stomach, echoing through the corners of his mind.

His finger tightened on the trigger and she gently raised a hand, motioning for him to lower his weapon.

 

"I'd really prefer you didn't do that," she soothed.

 

All his military training screamed at him to squeeze off a few, but he did as she asked and pointed the blaster a few centimetres to one side. He had thermal clothing and breathing apparatus to survive walking around in here and she was barely wearing a dress, he didn't think she was a ship's waitress or crew survivor.

Plus there was a tingling at the rear of his scalp he definitely didn't like, the simple fact was there were telepaths in the galaxy and strict military protocol was to shoot first, figure it out later...but it was a fact he was no longer in the military. And some parts of that life didn't sit well with him.

 

There was a crackle over his receiver, and he stepped closer to an exterior viewport for a better reception, waving the barrel of his carbine in the seated woman's general direction.

"Come in Tarna," he transmitted, tapping the earpiece, "I can't read you."

 

He'd taken his eyes off her for barely an instant, but she was gone.

Erzon immediately panicked, leaping the few steps to the sofa and sweeping the beam ridden blaster throughout the surrounding entertainment deck. Not a sign of the mysterious woman.

 

Sith eyes! he cursed at himself. It took a few seconds to put it together as he stood there wondering about his next course of action, adrenalin pumping. A non-human telepath that doesn't give off life readings just said hi to him in an evening dress, read his mind and disappeared. It was headed to his ship, which it was probably going to turn into another ghost ship.

 

Erzon hit the maintenance hatch he'd entered by at a sprint. He cut his hands and legs on the internal wires and tubing negotiating it at a fast paced slide, and almost broke his ankle landing heavily back in the central corridor. All the while he tried desperately to raise the cockpit of his scoutship. There was no reply.

 

He covered the length of that hallway in record time, a little blood splattering his torn trousers as he went. One of his hands had been cut deeply but it bothered him not in the slightest, he couldn't even feel it over his own heartbeat. He started to gain reception on the comlink as he reached the inner airlock and took the corner at a run, blaster pointed ahead of him.

He saw nothing but heard a muffled scream over the receiver.

 

Face reddening, Erzon hit the access panel to his ship, someone had already entered the code and the hull door retracted open on a single entry key. His security access had been one of the things gleaned by the telepath.

 

Entering the scoutship he slowed to a cautious pace, pointing his way with the blaster and heading directly for the cockpit. Then thinking twice, he paused outside its bulkhead door and accessed a wall mounted maintenance consol. He flipped a few switches, entered an override code and resumed his course into the cockpit.

 

The two bodies no longer resembled his companions. These were freeze dried husks, seemingly drained of their very lifeforce, wrinkled, decrepid and barely skin hanging over bones. The blood drained from Erzon's extremities, his eyes welled with tears, his arms and legs shaking. He turned to face the shadowy rear of the cockpit and the figure he knew was standing there. Mallian levelled the barrel of his carbine. He was going to say something when his finger simply pressed down on the trigger.

There was no response. He tried again and again. Still nothing. Tilting it to its side he saw the power pack was drained.

 

"It won't do much good," the woman told him, "I am what I am."

 

She stepped forward and smiled, a beautiful visage and he could see elongated canines under the light of the consols, jet black eyes. The two things which betrayed her secret, the darkness within, the predator without, she was a vampire.

 

"Were you human once?" he asked, barely capable of retaining any semblence of calm.

 

"Several times," the woman answered, as if she were already bored by the conversation.

 

"So what now, are you going to drain me too?"

 

"That could be problematic," she confided, "Does this vessel have a backup hyperdrive?"

 

He knew she could read his mind anyway, Erzon answered truthfully. There would be little point in telling lies which could bring painful repercussions...she obviously wanted something of him.

"Yes."

 

"Good. The central reactor will overload its circuits before too long under my presence, but for some reason chemical capacitors seem to last much longer."

 

"And the backup runs off the ship's biometric power cells. That cruiser didn't have a backup, huh?"

 

She shrugged with a frown, "Civilian vessel."

 

"So you activated the distress signal in the hope of attracting a military grade rescue vessel."

 

The vampire smiled again, Erzon couldn't help continually noting she was attractive. After all her mannerisms were guided by telepathic accord, and similarly her selection of forms to inhabit were intuitive to say the least.

 

"You're going to take me to a colonial system," she informed him, "It's lonely out in space."

 

Erzon took a seat, eyeing his chronometer and looking up at her.

"Well I can understand why. But it's not exactly going to happen."

 

"I can make you," she said.

 

"I'm sure you can, but I've already set the ship's self destruct."

 

Captain Mallian had timed his revelation well. The vessel exploded in the next moment. Thermonuclear, both ships and all within vapourised. Incredibly his mind was still conscious even as the explosion happened, even as the atoms of his body were ripped apart he was still a saddened observer, noting all which was happening around him. It was rather strange he thought, but he was aware of something else. Somewhere nearby was Tarna, calling out to him. Somewhere in the space surrounding him. He reached out for her...

 

 

--------end---------

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  • 4 weeks later...

'Getting the crystals' was the topic of September '09. machievelli takes top honours for Heart of Stone, while Writer and Endorenna tie for a close second, with Music of the Force and T'katlu respectively.

 

Click here for the poll.

 

Here is the winning entry as it appears! :)

 

Heart of stone

 

Tinker set down her tools. It was hot on the plains of Jakara, and she sipped from her canteen. Thanks to the little impeller that spun as she moved it was deliciously cold.

 

Her name wasn't Tinker, it was really Karai, But it had been so long since anyone called her by name she had to be called three times or more before she responded to her name. Ever since her parents had died of Ruby fever four years ago she had been raised by the entire village. While it sounded loving, it meant she had a dozen fathers to punish her, a dozen mothers to demand chores, and three dozen siblings who treated her like something the feline had brought in, then brought up on the carpet. Only her gift with repair work kept her from being a literal slave.

 

She looked at the roller bike, then selected a spanner. The bike was old tech. Instead of an antigrav it had wheels and an engine fueled by vegetable oil of all things. But it took you from place to place, and that was all that mattered. She had put it together a year or so ago, and she had fought to keep it away from the other kids. To them it was something to take away from her, but to her it was the first thing she ever remembered owning that was hers. She had even installed a lock pad off a crashed cruiser so no one could steal it... unless they were willing to push it everywhere.

 

She heard a chittering sound, and looked down as the Kuruku grabbed the spanner she intended to use. With a chittering giggle it took off across the grass on six short but fast legs. She sighed, locking the case, then gave chase. The damn things liked shiny objects, and a well used spanner was shiny enough to attract their attention. Finding a nest was like looking through history because while they stole everything that attracted their eye, Kuruku never lost anything.

 

She stopped at the hill, looking for the hole that had to be there. She spied it, kneeling to look in. She was a slim girl of thirteen, and she could squeeze in. There were a lot of dangers on her home world, but Kuruku were merely annoying. She began to slide into the den, and in front of her she could hear the giggling. She flipped on her hand lamp, and crawled on. She could see the eyes of maybe a dozen of them, but they receded as she moved forward.

 

The tunnel ended, and she looked down. It emptied into a much larger cave, and she looked around. It was large, but she knew nothing that was dangerous lived here; Kuruku would not live here if there was a danger. She turned, reaching up to catch roots that dangled above, and pulled herself out like a cork coming out of a bottle. The floor was flat and she ran the light across it pensively. It was too flat to be natural. She knelt, and dug into the soil. Less than an inch down she found ferroconcrete.

 

She realized it was an old camouflaged bunker from the war. The Mandalorians had occupied the planet, then the Jedi had used the planet as a staging area, and between them they had built emplacements everywhere. Then the Sith had taken it a few years later. Now both were gone, and as most felt, good riddance. She turned her lamp, seeing the floor, the rooms with doors sealed, the ship-

 

She looked at it amazed. It was a Mandalorian assault shuttle, the sleek lines broken by gun barrels and missile tubes. It could act as a fighter or a shuttle with room for twenty troops, and had hyperspace capability. It would double the worth of the little village where she lived...

 

She sighed. Yeah. She would do that and what would she get? Maybe a new second hand tool set at the years end festival. If she owned this ship... Wait, salvage! The government had declared any war materials remaining on the planet salvage, which meant that technically she did own the ship, the bunker and everything else.

 

Her mind buzzed with the possibilities. She could survey and find everything of value here first. Then she would get on the planetary net and find out what it was worth. She walked over, touching the control pad by the ramp. It hissed down as if ten years had not passed, and she walked aboard. The lights were down, but she worked at the circuit breakers. It wasn't lack of power, a small broadcast power receiver fed the bunker and it's systems. It was just that if not occupied for a period of time, the ship would shut down interior lighting to save power. She touched the control and the interior lights came on.

 

It was huge inside. Large enough to take about a third of the harvest from the village to the only city on the planet, and fast enough to haul the entire harvest before an other village had even gotten half way. Some liquid had been spilled on the ramp, but it was long dried. She followed the smearing. She stopped when she saw what looked like a bundle of clothes cast off in the corner.

 

She knelt, looking at it. The bundle was too angular, as if someone had piled up sticks then draped the black cloth over it. It took her a few moments to realize that one of the Sith had never left her world. What remained of that person lay before her.

 

Hesitantly she touched the body. It had the feel of aged leather over sticks, and she could see the head turned a bit toward her as if the person was watching her. The hair was really long and a brown like fur, so she figured it had to have been a woman. Her hands were curled up to a massive wound in her chest, and now she recognized the black splotches that dotted from the ramp to here. She had been shot, and had been bleeding until she fell here, and the dark patch below her meant she had bled out here, alone.

 

One hand had a tube, and she gently pried the fingers from it. The tube was 30 centimeters long, with what looked like glass set in the ends, and a series of switches set in it. She touched one treadle switch. Some kind of comm-

 

With a snap hiss two blades of light leaped out, and she almost dropped it in surprise. Was this a lightsaber? She didn't like that sharp red color, though. It seemed... angry somehow.

 

She put it to the side, then began exploring the ship. There were survival rations in one of the small storage compartments, and a rack with half a dozen guns still locked into it. Papers and holocrons littered the small table in what had to be the mess hall, and she picked one up idly as she chewed one of the rat bars. She'd heard of holocrons as well, lumps of crystal that somehow allowed you to record on them like discs. She set it down again, At the moment, the only thing worth taking was the light saber and maybe a few of the bars. As the 'last' child as they were always calling her, she was also the last to get fed, and it would be good to have food no one knew about, even if it did taste like refined sludge.

 

She found a backpack, and stuffed a dozen of the bars and the lightsaber into it. All right, now the rooms. She walked down the ramp, closed the hatch on her (on her!) ship. Then started at the starboard nose. There was little to find there. Scattered magazines that went to weapons, some discs with boring data on them, and a silvery tube the length of her palm. She looked at it, puzzling out the markings. Having had both Sith and Republic troops on the planet meant the local language; especially the written component, was eclectic. The marks were simple when you knew that. It was a summoner. It was used to call a ship down from orbit to a specific location, acting as a homing beacon and with the com unit attached, a method of controlling systems on the ship even if there wasn't a crew aboard.

 

She flicked the com on. “Landing lights.” Then yelped as suddenly the bunker was more brightly lit than daylight. She could barely see the nose of the shuttle, but with the light on, it looked like a vulpine predator crouched there. “Lights off.” The space was suddenly plunged into darkness. She stood, eyes closed, letting the headache that suddenly light had caused subsided. She slowly opened her eyes, and that was when she noticed the pale glow in the corner far to the rear of the shuttle. She walked that way, hands out. There was nothing between her and- She struck her head, falling on her butt, then looked up. -nothing but the wing of the blasted shuttle that is. She stood crouching, hand up as she lifted her head. She found the wing with her hand this time, and half crouched below it toward that soft glow. She heard a Kuruku chittering angrily at her, then heard it scuttling away as she stood over that gentle light. The glow was several small lumps about the size of her thumb, and she knelt, heart in her mouth to pick one up.

 

It was a mud stone as the locals called them. A long time ago, this area had been under water, and a kind of slug thing was the dominant life form. They grazed on whatever they happened to eat until an earth quake had shoved it into the air. The slugs had burrowed into the wet mud, but as slow as they were, they died there before they could reach the ocean. The mud they lay in was covered with dirt, then more dirt until the mud became a smooth stone highly prized for building. The remains of the slugs had become smooth ovals of a different stone.

 

But some of those slugs ate something different from the others. While called mud stones by most people, they were also called Star stones by traders. If exposed to bright light they would glow for hours. If left in the sun all day they would glow all night. Depending on what the slug had eaten they would glow with a different color. They were very valuable, drawing a good price if a trader saw them. Why old man Rantan had bought a brand new planter machine with just two of them. Holding the six lumps in her hand as if she had swept part of the sky into her palm, she looked at doubling the village's worth yet again.

 

Beside the stones was her spanner and she slid it into her pocket absently. She had found so much today, she decided to wait until later to finish surveying. It was getting late. She started to put the stones in her pocket, but stopped at the largest of them. It was a pale rose like you saw at sunset. So delicate you aren't sure it's there even when you see it. When she was younger, she had drawn and colored a sunset once. People had told her it wasn't real. Others had seen the same view, and none had detected all the colors she had seen, just like how she could feel and almost see people hiding when they played hide and seek. She never got to be it because it took her only a few minutes to find everyone. If she was hiding they would even avoid finding her.

 

She considered the color of the lightsaber blade. The rose stone was a much better red.

 

Weeks passed, and she went to the bunker only once. The survey had turned up little more of any value, though the cases of uniforms and guns would draw a good price. By ripping off any insignia and dying the gray cloth they just became clothing. Depressingly, she discovered that being under age, any claim to the ship and bunker would have to be filed by Makos, the man who had taken her in. So he would get the money and goods. If he had treated her better over the years, she would have been willing to allow that. But always being served last because his 'real' children were more important soured her.

 

When she was alone she took a stick and pretended it was the lightsaber. She pictured two blades, but the red still bothered her. She had few clothes that were red, and the color had never appealed to her. It was hard; she knew the blade would cut anything but the Beskar iron of the Mandalorians, and she worried about cutting herself. She rigged to lights, using some old photo reactive cloth strips on her clothes. She found where she didn't move correctly, changing her stance, her swings. Soon she could go an hour or more without touching her skin with the light even once.

 

*****

The next day was cool when she got up. Her Da as he called himself was sipping tea at the table, watching her with an odd expression. She made a cup for herself, and joined him. “You turn fourteen next week, Tinker.” She nodded. It was merely a statement after all. Like saying the sun was up, or your hair is a certain color. “Old man Koros wants a third wife, and he wants you.

 

Tea sprayed as she stared at him in shock. “That fat old pile of blubber wants a third wife? What does he do with the other two beyond overwork and beat them?”

 

“Keep a civil tongue in your head, girl. He's willing to deed 100 hectares of land to us if you assent, and I agreed.”

 

“You agreed?” She was on her feet, furious. “Then you marry him!”

 

“You live in my house, eat my food, and as long as you're under age you have no say.” Makos snarled. “And you come of age in a week. You will do as I say!”

 

“Then I don't want the food or house. You're not my father!” She spun avoiding his grab, running from the house. Part of her wanted to run to her wheel bike, but she knew better than to slow when one of the older people was in this kind of mood. She had not asked for them to feed her; handing her the last of the stew, the cast off clothes from their sons and daughters. She had been expected to pull her weight and half the machinery in the village only ran because of her work. Yet still they thought of her as property.

 

She stopped only when she felt the steep hill dragging the breath from her. Down below she saw the village. Most weren't up yet; lucky for her because having a bride tied up and dragged to her own wedding happened often enough that it wasn't a joke on this world. The unmarried girls, a lot of them older than her would have been binding her in an instant rather than replace her.

 

Makos was standing in the street, sagging. She had run these hills all of her life, while he sat in a chair at a console on the harvester. He couldn't keep up and knew it. He signaled angrily for her to return. Her gesture was not only negative, but obscene.

 

She had best run. Once the other kids were up, they'd be sent to catch her. She ran toward the next set of hills, breaking her trail as often as she could to make it more difficult. There was a stream that ran between her and them, and she plunged in, running upstream as far as the frigid water allowed, only climbing out when the soil gave way to a rocky slope.

 

By staying on stone and wiping the few tracks she did leave, she was able to reach the bunker, going in the same way she had before down the Kuruku hole. She had found it could be closed off, and she did so once in. That meant the Kuruku couldn't leave, but they were better neighbors then she expected to find at home. There were enough rations to last her a couple of weeks. Long enough that she would be of age and no longer subject to her guardian's whim.

 

She spent days working on the ship. Even with the manual in one had and a spanner in the other she had never felt so alive. She wished she knew how to fly it. Of course, she touched the summoner, she didn't need to the manual on how to control the ship using it was simple, as were the commands. She pictured taking off, heading out, telling the nav-computer to head for Coruscant or Corellia or a hundred or more other worlds she had heard of. To be free, to be more than a little unwanted girl on a farming planet.

 

She had rigged up a small sonic generator, and it kept the Kuruku from coming aboard. After a while she would break one of the ration bars into chunks ans toss them to the Kuruku, who seemed to like the idea of the food. They obviously didn't know better. This allowed her to take paints from the bunker's stores and mark her shuttle to suit her.

 

At night when she slept in the bunk more comfortable than she had been given back in the village she examined the inner workings of the lightsaber. It disassembled without tools, and she marveled at the way it worked. It was like it had been made by a gunsmith, because any gun you needed a tool to disassemble was more trouble than it was worth. Press these two studs with your fingers, rotate each in opposite directions, and the ends popped off. The high discharge batteries in the center with a series of delicate lattices between them and the emitter coils. There were two lumps of red stone, and she took them out, snorting.

 

There were spaces for half a dozen stones, and she considered this. She knew from what she had read on the planetary net that a combination of crystals altered the color and capabilities of a light saber's blade. The ones used by the Jedi were usually natural stones from a number of worlds. The Sith on the other hand made their own artificial stones. She could tell the ones that had been in the saber she held must be man made. They looked like someone had made a crystalline form in wax then left it in the summer sun. The blades hadn't been angry, they were embarrassed.

 

She took the Star stones she had found, and placed the smooth ovals in the lattice. The ones she had made a delicate pastel rainbow, and she put them in sequence, a rose red, orange, amber yellow, lime green, sky blue, and a purple as deep as ligoberries. She tightened down the tiny clamps, then slid the lattice home. The emitters settled back into place with a click.

 

She touched the control on the water dispenser, making herself some tea then heard a beeping from the cockpit and walked forward, expecting to see a vehicle near the bunker again. The passive sensors routed through the grid of the bunker had picked up skimmers and wheeled vehicles several times in the last ten days. She was more valuable to the village then they were willing to admit, obviously. He must have raised the dowry to 200 hectares.

 

But it wasn't ground traffic. She didn't recognize the energy signatures, but they were several hundred meters in the air. She touched the weapons station panel, and it came up, flickering through the data base of ship sizes and signatures. FRELORO CLASS: REPUBLIC ASSAULT LANDING CRAFT. She almost shrugged. Big deal, Republic issue landing craft. But something made her touch another control. Last used by the Republic... thirty years ago. Another query; the weapons systems were hot.

 

Her blood ran cold. Most shuttles that arrived here were that old. Salvage or sold off as newer models came out. But Assault shuttles were used where you expected combat. Coming in with weapons hot suggested you expected an attack. Or, as she let her mind ran on, if you were a pirate, resistance.

 

There had been reports in the planetary nets of pirates, raiders coming down on the smaller communities to raid. They took food, any Star stones that had been gathered, and any girls that caught their eye; but those had all been other villages. Maybe it was her own village's turn, she thought. So what they had never liked her, or really cared-

 

She stopped the thought. Maybe they had never liked her but they had never been cruel except for the normal cruelty of children. When she had been sick two of the women had spent time caring for her, and that was more than someone who didn't care would have done. She fingered the summoner.

 

*****

 

“Is there a reason we have to do this, Atton?” Mira grumped. They were laying in the dirt of the hill overlooking the small village. “We could have just paid for the repairs to the ship.”

 

For a long moment, the man laying beside her said nothing. His macrobinoculars scanned the village. “We could have paid.” He agreed. “But the Government council wanted proof that the Jedi were back as they should be. Stopping some pirate raids would do that.”

 

“Sure it would.” She agreed sarcastically. “If they paid us minimum standard as bounty hunters it would have cost them ten times as much.” She snorted. “Instead we spend a week working out the attacks, figuring which village would be next then paying some mud grubber to drop us off here so we can catch them as they land.” She shook her head. “Next time you decide to pretend you know bounty hunting, why not ask a professional?”

 

“Silence, children.” Brianna said. “Our quarry arrives.” She pointed up, and the other two aimed their macrobinoculars upward. There were three of them, antique Freloro class assault shuttles. She stood, her brown clothes would have been invisible against the hill but the pure arctic white of her duster. “Let's be about it.”

 

They split up, each headed toward where an assault team would set up to surround the village. They moved with a mixture of stealth and speed. Atton's location was almost exactly across the village and he tried to move faster, but that shuttle came down long before he could reach the village. Men poured out, and Atton put on a burst of speed to hurry toward it.

 

Twenty men, if he didn't move faster- The shuttle they had landed in exploded, and the men from it dived for cover as metal slashed through where they had been standing. Behind it a gray shape rose into the air, turning as it searched out it's next prey. As he dived for cover he recognized the shape as a Mandalorian Viper class, though no Mandalorian would have painted flames around the engine nozzles, and eyes around the cannon muzzles. It centered, cannon raving, and the second shuttle was blasted off it's skids. The shuttle dropped it's nose, then spun as the surviving pirate shuttle rose. Shells smashed into the new shuttle, and it reared, then spun.

 

It climbed, chasing the pirate shuttle. The guns roared, then a single missile detached, chasing it. The pirate shuttle exploded, the Mando'a shuttle flashing through the debris as it climbed like a hawk attacking prey.

 

Atton didn't care who they were. The crew of that shuttle had stranded the raiding parties, and confused them badly enough that three Jedi were more than their match. The three Jedi all by themselves raced through the sixty odd warriors like a harvester gathering grain. Perhaps ten survived, and they were chivvied down to the village they were raiding before they even knew the tables had been turned.

 

Mira looked up, then pointed. “Score!” She shouted. Brianna and Atton looked up at the star that had suddenly blossomed in the sky. The raiders cringed as the villagers gathered. Above them there was a cracking sound, and the Mandalorian shuttle came down like a vengeful meteor. It slowed, drifting past above the raiders, and then stopped, hovering less than ten meters up. The ramp dropped, and a small figure dropped to run toward the raiders. A lightsaber blossomed as she ran toward them. The blade was odd in that one edge shifted from rose to orange to yellow, the other from green to blue to purple.

 

“You attack my family?” The miniature harpy screeched. The raiders screamed as she charged toward them, but as a tricolor blade came down, a tawny yellow blocked it. The girl glared at Brianna. “They threaten my family. Stand aside!”

 

“No little sister.” Brianna blocked that blade up, instinctively blocking the other darker blade. “Will you kill someone who cannot threaten?”

 

The girl stepped back, blade horizontal in position one, protect from both sides. She was furious. “They threaten-”

 

“Yes, my sister.” Brianna's double blade vanished. “They raised you, and now enemies attack. They did not care for you but they gave to you. You feel that they deserve protection, but will killing those who cannot fight ease that?”

 

The girl stared at her. Then the blades of her saber died. “You have taken them captive?”

 

“Yes, little sister.” Brianna told her. “Of sixty that attacked, these survive. Let the people who would be harmed deal with them.”

 

The girl stood there, eyes locked with Brianna. She turned. Lifting the summoner in her hand. “Kuruku. Land.”

 

The shuttle slowed, dropping to the ground. A man ran toward the shuttle and the girl snapped, “Kuruku, protect!” The man skidded to a stop as the shuttle lifted only enough to turn it's guns of the encroacher. Brianna looked at the girl, eyebrow lifted in question.

 

“Local salvage law.” The girl replied shrugging. “If more than one person finds it, the first to touch the salvage owns it.” She faced the villagers who came toward the Jedi. “Stop there.” She ordered. “This is my ship.” As she said the words, it boomed from the loudspeakers aboard the shuttle. Someone spoke from the crowd and the girl lifted the summoner. “I am of age, Man who raised me. Any who deny me salvage deserves what he gets!”

 

The shuttle turned slightly, scanning the crowd with weapons that would have ripped a ship apart at it's command. No one was foolish enough to challenge that even by voice command.

 

“Who's the squirt?” Mira asked. Brianna's hand landed on the girl's shoulder as she turned to snarl at the woman.

 

“Calm, my little sister.” Brianna said soothingly. “Mira, she is the one who commands our support.” She motioned toward the silent but deadly shuttle.

 

Tinker glared at the people she loathed and loved in equal portion. She had revealed herself to save them, and one of them had tried to use law to claim her ship! The woman had stopped her and she had met those blue eyes. Eyes that asked and didn't judge. Now her shuttle was settling down as the others of her own kind moved toward it.

 

Her own kind. Tinker rolled the phrase across her tongue. They had gone out of their way to protect others. People who were different, but worthy of protection. She had lived among them her entire life, but these three were her kind. The man who felt he had to redeem himself, the girl who considered it all a game or hunt for sport; and the one who looked upon all life and judged it not only fairly but with compassion.

 

The shuttle ramp opened, and the two Jedi chivvied the prisoners aboard. Brianna assured they were bound as the youngest looked around woebegone.

 

“Little sister?” Brianna knelt, her eyes even with the girl. “That is so cumbersome. You do have a name I assume?”

 

“I'm Tin-” The girl paused. “My name is Karai.”

 

“And from your weapon, a Jedi in heart rather than truth.” Brianna commented. “Would you wish that we teach you all such a title means?”

 

The girl looked up, eyes bright. “Please.”

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November '09: Getting to Know Each Other

 

The winning entry was A World Overturned by Writer

 

A World Overturned

 

Revan. From the first time the name had turned up, whispered in the darkest corners of her mind, Isara Deir hated it. For Revan, the Endar Spire was destroyed. For Revan, Isara found herself stranded on Taris under Sith blockade, partnered with a man who clearly didn’t trust her any more than she trusted anyone. And though she didn’t realize it until much later, Revan had also been the reason she’d been forced to risk her life countless times to find Bastila after the young Jedi had been captured.

 

Because of Revan, Isara and Bastila had shared dreams, no, visions. Because of Revan, they ran off to Dantooine, hauling other clueless souls with them. Even if she hadn’t been sitting with them now, Isara could see their faces, seared into her mind. Mission, Zaalbar, Canderous, Carth, T3. Because of Revan, Isara had agreed to be trained to use the Force, in spite of her own personal reservations. And because of Revan, at the very end of Isara’s training, she was forced to take another lost soul into her fold. Juhani.

 

To follow Revan, Isara led an odd group of strangers from one end of the galaxy to the other. They found Star Maps, references to a Star Forge, and picked up a few more strangers. Jolee. HK-47. To follow Revan, they risked their lives countless times. Why? Because the Council thought it necessary. Because Isara and Bastila were having visions. Because no one knew what in Nine Corellian Hells a Star Forge was, but it sure as Bantha’s breath sounded bad.

 

But in following Revan, this little band of strangers became friends. How could they not? For in following Revan, they brought a worse hell down on themselves than any of them had ever imagined possible, least of all Isara herself. In following Revan, they came face-to-face with the greatest evil they had ever heard of; they faced Darth Malak, Revan’s former apprentice. And in that meeting, Isara Deir faced an even greater evil.

 

And she denied it. But in denying the evil that dwelt in her shattered mind, Isara lost the one member of their little group she had come to depend on most. She looked at him now and her heart broke as he refused to return the favor. Desperately, Isara sought to hold onto what peace was still left in her life. But with one question from one of her friends, every fragment of that peace was suddenly shattered.

 

“Where’s Bastila?”

 

Isara swallowed hard, but Carth beat her to the punch.

 

“She’s not coming,” he said sharply. Finally, he turned to face Isara, but his eyes conveyed betrayal more than anything else. “She gave her life… to save you.”

 

Near tears, Isara bowed her head. “She was taken by Malak.”

 

Mission’s eyes widened in dismay. “What? We have to help her.”

 

“We can’t!” Carth snapped.

 

“Carth is right,” Jolee said calmly. “If we go after Malak now, he’ll only destroy us. Our only hope is to continue the mission.”

 

Everyone seemed resigned to this course, but Carth wasn’t finished. He scowled at Isara. “Well? What about it? Are you going to tell them or should I?”

 

Six pairs of eyes and three photoreceptors bored into her. Tears now flowing freely, she shouted at him, “Carth, please! We don’t have time for this right now.”

 

She was grateful when he agreed and stormed off in the direction of the cockpit. Dazed, Isara stumbled away from the group and their questions, forgetting the chance that she might be needed at the gun turret. But Canderous saw that need and filled it. Mission and Zaalbar ran off together to find a place to sit until they were safer. Juhani tucked herself away in a corner, T3 shuffled off to see how he could make himself useful. Just as Isara was about to pass out of hearing range, HK commented about a desire to fry some meatbags and a lament that his master had designated all meatbags aboard ‘off-limits’. Only Jolee saw fit to follow the woman who had been leading the group almost from day one.

 

“Stop runnin’,” he growled good-naturedly. “Makes ya hard to keep up with, what with my arthritis an’ all.”

 

Isara wheeled on him, snarling, “What do you want, old man?”

 

Jolee cracked about the cheesiest grin Isara had ever seen. “What?” he demanded. “So the young whipper-snapper can ask questions whenever she wants, but the old man gets shushed? Oh, that’s about the best idea I’ve heard since the Wookiees stopped bathin’.”

 

In spite of her misery, Isara had to laugh, but in the process, more tears came. To her great surprise, Jolee wrapped his arms around her.

 

“Ssh,” he murmured. “You’ll be alright.”

 

“How can you say that?” she cried, burying her face in his shoulder.

 

“I can say it because I see how hard you’re tryin’ to deny the truth that just bit your nose,” he answered.

 

Shocked, she pulled away, and her jaw dropped open. “You knew?”

 

“Course I knew,” Jolee answered with a derisive snort. “I may be old an’ more’n half senile, but if you wanna insult my understanding of what’s goin’ on in the galaxy around me, you got another thing comin’.”

 

“You knew,” she whispered, still disbelieving.

 

“I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you,” he said. “But you said you were Isara Deir and who was I to argue?” Shaking his head, he said truthfully, “It wasn’t my place to tell you.”

 

Sighing, Isara turned and entered the dorm she had fled to. “I need time to think, Jolee.”

 

He nodded. “Of course you do.” And he withdrew.

 

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

 

Half an hour later, they were safely in hyperspace, en route to a little-known trading post in a practically unknown system called Yavin. At this time, Isara slowly left the dorm and began preparing a meal for herself and her companions. Halfway through her preparations, Mission joined her and attempted to weasel a bit more information on what had happened between Carth and Isara. But Isara was not in a talkative mood. Ten minutes later, she told Mission to call the others in for the meal.

 

Everyone came, but the tension around the table was so thick that no one could muster the courage to speak. Everyone knew that something was very wrong, but most assumed it had something to do with the loss of Bastila. Only a few minutes into the meal, Carth slammed his glass down and glared at Isara.

 

“I can’t pretend anymore,” he snapped. “You. Tell them. Now.”

 

The tears came easily again and Isara stood, planting her fists on either side of her plate. Leaning forward, she screamed at him, “I don’t care what that tin-voiced monster and his lackey told us. I am not Revan.”

 

The name hit the group like a ten-ton brick. Even Carth seemed a little astonished to hear it coming from Isara’s lips. But his astonishment was over in a flash and the judgmental glare returned.

 

“Bastila confirmed it,” he growled. “It’s no use denying it… Revan.”

 

Zaalbar growled, scratching his head in confusion and Isara barely caught his mumbled words. [i swore a life debt to Revan?]

 

Isara felt like accepting the identity of Revan was admitting defeat, and under ordinary circumstances, that was something she would never do. But in this moment, she felt so defeated that it was the only option.

 

Nodding miserably, she said, “I was Revan.”

 

“All the news reports said that Revan was killed.” This from Canderous, though Isara could see a glint in his eyes as though he found the truth far more intriguing than he’d ever found the lie that was Isara Deir.

 

Swallowing the last bit of her denial, Revan shook her head. “I very nearly was. Malak fired on my ship. It was only by Bastila’s aid that I survived. But my mind was broken.” Her voice grew steadier as she spoke, but she couldn’t help feeling like a part of her was dying with every new word. “The Jedi Council needed to know how Malak and I could have amassed such a large army in such a short amount of time, so they created the Isara Deir persona and implanted it in my mind.”

 

Even Zaalbar stopped eating at that.

 

“That’s awful,” Mission breathed.

 

Revan bowed her head, unable to look any of them in the eye for shame of who she had been. “If any of you want to leave… I’ll understand.”

 

A weighty silence settled over the table and seconds felt like hours. Then Canderous cleared his throat.

 

“I’ve told a few stories of my involvement in the Mandalorian Wars,” he said. “Enough at least that you know from a Mandalorian’s perspective why we fought.” His eyes bored into Revan and slowly she raised her eyes to meet his. When she had done so, he went on. “Revan gave us the fight we were looking for. There was no disgrace in losing that fight and I hold no grudge against Revan. For that matter, neither would any Mandalorian.”

 

He grinned. “Had you been born a Mandalorian, we would have defeated the Republic in a heartbeat, Revan.” He gave her a Mandalorian salute. “Whatever you decide to call yourself, it’s an honor to serve beside you and I know that in doing so, I will find myself in combat truly worthy of my skill.”

 

With this said, he sat down abruptly and returned to his meal. The silence was shorter this time.

 

[i swore a life debt to the person you are,] Zaalbar said, [not the person you were.]

 

“Big Z’s right,” Mission piped in. “When I look at you, I don’t see the Dark Lord of the Sith. You’re Isara Deir, and you were the first friend I ever had after Big Z. I’ve watched you risk your own life to save ours too many times to count. Would a Sith do that?”

 

I am Isara Deir. I am Isara Deir. I am Isara Deir. Isara smiled faintly. “None that I’ve ever heard of.” She turned. “Juhani?”

 

The Cathar met her with a bold, determined gaze. “It was Revan… you were the one who inspired me to become a Jedi Knight, and you were the one who turned me from my dark path. To see you resisting what you were even now, it gives me confidence. Isara Deir, I will follow you until I can no longer.”

 

Scowling, Carth got up from the table and stalked away. Isara’s smile faded as she watched him go and she turned to Jolee, her eyes pleading.

 

“Go after him,” he advised. She rose to do so, but HK-47 stopped her.

 

“I am experiencing something unusual, Master,” it said. She frowned, her mind still on Carth.

 

“Can’t it wait?” she pleaded.

 

“Objection: This will not take long, Master.”

 

Sighing, defeated, Isara said, “What is it?”

 

“Observation: You and the other meatbags were speaking of Revan. I noted your observations were directed toward yourself, Master. Query: Are you Revan?”

 

Isara wanted to break his neck and crush his head. “Do you want to hear it spelled out plainly?” she spat. “Here you go then. I. Am. Revan.”

 

“Observation: My assassination protocols have been restored, Master. It seems that I was equipped with a homing system which restores deleted protocols and memories upon my return to my original master.”

 

Isara frowned. “Revan was your original master.”

 

“Affirmation: Correct, Master. It seems my core was designed to be restored upon positive confirmation of the identity of Revan, which you have now given.”

 

She glared at him pointedly. “That could have waited.”

 

He stepped aside. “Reluctant resignation: Of course, Master.”

 

She pushed past him and ran up the corridor to the bridge. There, she found Carth in the pilot’s seat, staring out at the hyperspace tunnel with his hands on the controls, though there was nothing for him to do. She sat in the co-pilot’s seat and waited. When he still didn’t speak, she closed her eyes in dismay. His refusal to look at her or even to speak to her was unbearable, but she didn’t want to force him into anything. Determined to let him speak first, she delved into the Force, seeking to calm her nerves. But the peace eluded her. She felt as though the foulness of the woman she had been was crawling all over her. Perhaps Carth was right to hate her.

 

And then, he spoke, almost too softly for her to hear.

 

“I can’t hate you.”

 

For the first time since they returned to the Ebon Hawk without Bastila, he looked at her without judgment. There was sorrow there, but whatever had made him despise her before didn’t seem to be a problem anymore. Feeling a little guilty, she wondered if it had been her own projected guilt she had seen lurking in his eyes.

 

“I tried. I tried to tell myself it was all your fault. My wife, my son, my home. I-I just…” He paused, as if still trying to figure out what he wanted to say. He spun his chair and caught her hands earnestly. “Do you remember it? Do you recall being Revan and doing all those terrible things? Do you remember leading Malak down the path that led to the destruction of Telos?”

 

Slowly, Isara shook her head. “It’s hard, Carth. I think I… sometimes I think I remember something, but it’s gone before I can identify what it was.”

 

He relaxed a little. “Mission’s right, though. You risked your life countless times to be sure the rest of us were safe, and you really drew us together. Hell, you cracked me open when I didn’t realize that was a good thing. You gave me hope, which is something I’d been missing.” He leaned forward suddenly intense again.

 

“Isara, you gave me love when I thought I would never love again. But I do. I love you more than I would have thought possible. So right here, right now, I’m going to tell you what I couldn’t at the table back there. I’m with you, Isara. Until the day I die, I will stand by you. You have my word.”

 

Overwhelmed, Isara nearly fell out of her chair, but Carth caught her. Every shred of the mask she had thrown between them was gone and all she could see in his eyes was love. Overjoyed, she kissed him deeply.

 

Her eyes dancing with joy she said, “Now I know I can move on.”

 

Then, she turned to the galaxy map and said, “There’s just one planet left we haven’t visited, and that’s Korriban.”

 

Carth chuckled. “Whoa there. Take your time.” He shook his head. “I honestly don’t know how you do it. You get the biggest shock of your life and then you just bounce back like this?”

 

Isara shook her head. “We know Malak’s going to try to turn Bastila to the Dark Side. If we don’t act quickly-”

 

“If we act too quickly, we’ll be destroyed,” Carth cut in. “Come on now. Think it through. Where’s Revan the strategist, of whom the mighty Canderous Ordo said, ‘Her strategies were unbeatable!’ who drove the Mandalorians into the ground not by might, but by plan?”

 

Isara chewed on the inside of her cheek thoughtfully. “You’re right. We can’t just walk into the Sith Academy and demand the Star Map. Although…” A mischievous grin lit up her face.

 

Carth laughed. “Darth Revan returns? Oh, no. Don’t pull that on me. I’m too vulnerable.”

 

Isara’s grin faded. “So am I, Carth. So am I.”

 

But she couldn’t deny the logic of his advice. At least one element of Revan had to be brought back. And for the rest of the trip to Yavin, Isara did just that.

 

At last, though her world had been overturned, it began to make sense again

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December '09/January '10: In the Face of Darkness, Joy

 

The winning Entry was A Name Never Known by Kyvios

 

A Name Never Known

 

 

The air is stale in this forgotten tomb, light no longer exists in a place where no life should be. Trapped, so alone and trapped I wonder what brought me here, that things beyond my understanding brought me to this place? Brought me to a place of darkness and despair? My voice it fails me, the only thing that escapes my mouth is the air I breathe and the slight laughter of my mind gone mad. It’s not lost though; no part of me still clings to what little sanity I have to write this down. To write down my most terrible crime. Though I’m certain that once you read this, the crime will seem far less then what you were expecting. But for me… for me it signed it signed its name to my end.

 

They were my friends… my dearest friends… and I failed. I failed so utterly and miserably that this dark corridor that I have been confined too is only too fitting for my end. My acceptance of this eternal damnation. This beating in my chest, this organ called a heart why is it allowed to feel such pain? Such misery? In some ways it doesn’t seem fair, to having strong feelings for another only to have it stripped away in a moment, one… single moment…

 

Exploring is what we enjoyed most. All the planets in the entire galaxy wasn’t out of reach for us. We craved understanding, craved knowledge at its purest. Things untainted by the moral views of someone else’s eyes. And what we learned, we saved upon our ship that is now lost somewhere on this planet. What planet was this again? The name… I do not remember… could it have really been so long that I’d forget something that use to be crucial… or maybe…

 

[…Part seems to be illegible…]

 

There… there we stood before the statue with in this tomb… this tomb… meant for one, but contains many. We just wanted to understand! Why couldn’t they just listen! They trapped us… trapped us like animals…and I… I helped them! I betrayed my closest friends! And for what… a few credits… a few stupid credits… But as always betrayal is met with betrayal. No one was supposed to die… no one… my friends I’m so sorry…

 

Damn them… Damn them… Damn Them!...

 

She looked at me the whole time and I did nothing, nothing to help her. The tears… her tears haunt my mind driving it closer to madness. As she looked upon me her brilliant blue eyes pierced my soul. Then it was done, and there she laid beaten, broken, and destroyed. Life was gone, completely gone… a cold lonely stare was all I could see from her…she… she was gone… And they didn’t even give him a chance, the first sound of a blaster signed his death in the darkest of blood I’ve ever seen.

 

Forgiveness… I wonder… if that is too much to ask for…

 

[…This part seems illegible…]

 

…I feel so tired now… suppose time is running out. The infinite thing known as time coming to an end. Almost makes you want to laugh… guess I am in a way…

 

The pain in my heart… its gone… I see them, they’re waiting for me… my friends…peace is ama….

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February '10 The Ship, The Ship

 

Winning entries were machievelli with Sleeping Dragons and Writer with Freedom.

 

 

 

Freedom

 

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The office complex of the Corellian Engineering Corporation was quiet at six in the morning, for most of the engineers and designers on staff preferred to keep late-night schedules. A few scattered individuals were hard at work, but only one of them saw the tall, grim-faced young man with cold eyes enter. And she only saw him because he approached her directly.

 

“I'm looking for Deitra Prasanna's workstation,” he said quietly.

 

“Deitra's not here,” she told him. “She's on vacation for the week. Is there something I can help you with?”

 

Sighing wearily, the man nodded. “There is. Deitra is dead. My name is Slade. I'm her brother. As I understand it, you were her supervisor.”

 

Wide-eyed, Thal Brek turned fully to face him. She couldn't believe her ears. Deitra was dead? Swallowing hard, she barely managed to ask, “How did it happen?”

 

A flicker of pain touched Slade's eyes and he shook his head. “The detective I spoke with wouldn't tell me any details. Please, Ms. Brek. You were her supervisor, yes?”

 

Blinking back tears, Thal nodded. “We were good friends too.”

 

“I'm sorry,” Slade murmured. “I'm here to retrieve her things.”

 

Slowly, Thal's mind registered what Slade was telling her. Finally she nodded. “Of course.” She rose to her feet and then suddenly remembered proper procedure. “You don't mind if I confirm this with the police?”

 

Slade shook his head. “That's fine, Ms. Brek. Do what you need to do.”

 

Ten minutes later, Thal had confirmed Slade's report and his identity and she turned back to find that Slade had disappeared. Her eyes narrowed and she rose, moving swiftly toward Deitra's workstation. The young designer's workstation wasn't far from Thal's own, but when she reached it, Slade was still nowhere to be found. Panic clamped down on her and she swiftly accessed Deitra's workstation, hoping beyond her wildest dreams that this mysterious brother of Deitra's had not taken anything Deitra was working on for the CEC. It took several minutes of intense searching before Thal was satisfied. Then, she checked Deitra's desk. Her personal items were cleared out, but again, there was nothing CEC-owned that had been taken.

 

It was only after confirming this that Thal called the police again. This time, she was put directly through. “He's gone,” she said. “He must have run off while I was speaking with you the first time.”

 

The image of the detective scowled. “That is not good news, Ms. Brek. Slade Prasanna is a very dangerous man. You should not have turned your back on him.”

 

“He didn't harm anyone,” Thal protested. “All he did was exactly what he said he'd come to do. He cleaned out his sister's personal items. Nothing more.”

 

“He killed his sister,” the detective shot back. “Bet he didn't tell you that, did he?”

 

Thal's mouth dropped open in horror and she whispered, “No.”

 

The detective nodded. “The team I sent should be arriving at any time. When they do, you will tell them everything you've just told me. They should be able to pick up his trail, even now.”

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

Slade purchased five tickets off Corellia using five different aliases. Some were known to Imperial Intel; others were not. Of all the people they'd trained, Slade was one who took to it most effortlessly. And so, he knew that though they would not expect him to leave Corellia after such a pointed display of his various identities, they would also have eyes on every single one of those flights. Instead, he hitched a ride with a smuggler, one who'd had plenty of experience getting around Imperial patrols. All he asked was that the smuggler ask him no questions. Given the outrageous show of Imperial strength, the smuggler had no issues with that deal.

 

He carried Slade to Imperial Center and there, they parted ways. Slade had a lead to follow as to why his sister had been caught in the middle of an illegal weapons deal the Empire was looking to shut down. To do this, he ventured down into the underlevels of Imperial Center and found himself in a small mechanic's shop. But the young woman seated behind the front desk with her heels kicked up on its surface was not at all who he was expecting. She eyed him lazily for a moment, then stood.

 

“Somethin' I can help ya with, stranger?” she drawled. He recognized the accent. She was Corellian. Cute, too. But he shook his head.

 

“I'm lookin' for Elias Bord,” he said, once again picking up the Corellian accent he had ditched while going through covert ops training. He hoped it would catch her attention and make her more willing to cooperate with him.

 

Only the slight flicker of surprise in her eye told him she'd noticed his accent. “I'm Katlyn Drea,” she said. “I run this place. Mr. Bord only owns it, and he's never here.”

 

“Where is he, then?” Slade asked. “I'm an old friend. I'd like to see him again.”

 

But Katlyn Drea was a perceptive little firecracker and she shook her head. “Friends don't come lookin' for their old friends without warning, nor do they come lookin' with a spark in their eye that speaks revenge.”

 

Slade laughed. “Revenge? Oh, not that, lil' Kat. He owes me more than he could ever repay, but I have a job for him, a ship that needs to be built.”

 

Displeased at being called “lil' Kat”, she scowled at him. “You must have been out of touch with him for quite some time. This isn't a shipyard.”

 

“For the right project, Elias Bord will agree,” Slade told her confidently.

 

But she wasn't convinced. “Show me.”

 

Grinning, he obliged.

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

“Absolutely out of the question!” Elias Bord raged. “Katlyn, you were absolutely right not to lead him to me. The man is dangerous.”

 

“But the ship,” Katlyn protested. “The ship!”

 

“I don't care if he wants a flying palace,” Bord snapped. “He's not getting it from me.”

 

Kat scowled. “Except it's not exactly your decision. You left me in charge of your shop.”

 

His eyes widened in astonishment. “You wouldn't dare!”

 

She gave him a cold smile. “Watch me.”

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

It took a week, but Elias Bord finally agreed to meet with Slade, though he dragged his feet every step of the way. Slade was waiting in the shop with young Katlyn Drea, who seemed to be warming up to him. The sight made Bord's blood boil, but there was little he could do about it. Slade Prasanna wasn't the sort of man you threatened if you wanted to live longer than a few more seconds.

 

Seeing Bord approach, Slade immediately got to business. There were no pleasantries he could offer Elias Bord that would change the old man's mind, so why bother?

 

“I assume lil' Kat here has shown you the ship I want built,” he said. “What I never told her is I expect to fully compensate you for it. You may owe me a number of favors you'll never repay, but I simply can't afford to care right now. Name your price.”

 

Bord knew Slade Prasanna had very deep pockets and he didn't really want to know what the younger man had done to earn them. But he did want a piece. “Six billion.”

 

Slade laughed. “Do you think your outrageous prices are going to astonish me after all I put you through? You can have six billion if you start right now and have the ship ready for test flights in three weeks.”

 

Katlyn Drea's mouth dropped wide open. “Six...” she mumbled.

 

“Billion,” Slade answered, turning to face her. “Problem?”

 

She was too stunned to reply.

 

“Damn you, Prasanna,” Bord growled. Then he turned to Kat. “Authorized. I'll have preliminary materials and a work crew down here in an hour. This is our only job right now, understand?”

 

Wordlessly, Kat nodded, wondering who in nine Corellian hells could drop six billion credits without even flinching.

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

One hour later, three full work crews turned up in the work area. Minutes later, pre-fashioned framework pieces of various shapes and sizes were delivered and the work began. At times, the three work crews seemed disoriented and people were always getting in the way, but by the end of the first day, they had each settled into comfortable positions and work progressed unhindered.

 

The next morning, the mysterious Mr. Prasanna came to watch them work and Kat attempted to learn a little more about him. It was a waste of time; he had tighter lips than her boss, who, when she had asked what line of work he'd been in before had answered, “I can give this job to someone else, you know.”

 

Slade at least was a bit more straightforward. Scowling faintly, he said, “My background is not open for discussion.”

 

“What about your future?” she asked bluntly. “Why a ship like this? And why my boss?”

 

“If you don't know,” he answered, “then it's best if I don't enlighten you.”

 

Spy, she thought. He had to be a spy. But shortly after that brief discussion, he left the work crews to their duties.

 

 

The week passed without another visit from Slade and Kat gave up on him. Instead, she plunged headfirst into the work of bringing his ship to life. At the end of the week, the framework was in place, with just a few finishing touches to be added. Their deadline was inching closer and Kat was growing concerned. If Slade wanted a quality ship, three weeks would not be enough time.

 

Two more days passed without any sight of Slade. When he entered, halfway into the second week, Kat pounced on him.

 

“You're insane,” she spat. “Do you really expect a ship of high quality if you rush the workers?”

 

“Tell me what you want,” he said calmly.

 

“Dismiss two of the work crews and push the deadline out another four months.”

 

Slade shook his head. “I don't have four months. Can do one and a half total. Can you make it happen in one more month?”

 

Kat almost winced. “I don't-”

 

“I'm giving your employer six billion credits,” Slade interrupted. “Do whatever it takes. I need the ship complete in a month.”

 

“How much of the money have you given him thus far?” Kat asked. “Because the kind of effort you're asking for costs more than I have access to.”

 

Slade nodded. “Get Silas down here again.”

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

Silas Bord was an extremely unhappy man, but he came and took on the title of “overseer”, demoting an outraged Kat to supervising a fourth team he brought in. However, as the ship began to take shape, Kat couldn't stay upset for long. She had seen the beauty in the design when Slade first showed her the schematics, but to see it taking shape in real life was almost breathtaking.

 

Two more weeks passed, with Slade visiting the construction site almost every day. With the addition of Kat's crew, he actually seemed impressed with their progress, but she constantly warned him that he would need a seriously competent engineer to iron out the inevitable kinks in such a rushed job. He promised her he'd take that into account.

 

Late in the third week, they began the work of stretching the hull plates over the framework. While two crews worked on that, the other two began fitting pieces of technology brought in by Slade into their respective places, according to the schematics he'd brought in for them to follow. Among these pieces, there was a rather unusual power source, the likes of which Kat had never seen.

 

“It's a self-sustaining system,” Slade said when he found her staring at it, just a few hours after a specialized team came in to install it. “Fill it with some sort of chemical cocktail and it just recycles itself over and over, putting out a decent power supply while it's at it. Can't say I know all the details myself.”

 

From that point onward, device after strange device were installed. Many of the exterior installations were clearly weapons, but then there were the internal ones whose usefulness eluded even a bright engineer like Kat. There was one that had something to do with the water supply, and another got hooked up to the shield generator. A third looked like a simple metal box, but it got connected to the computer system.

 

“What is all of this?” Kat finally asked Slade when the crews were nearly finished with their work. “How is it useful for more than weighing you down?”

 

Slade only shook his head. “Some of it even I'm not sure of. What I am sure of is that this will be a starship like none other.”

 

Kat had to agree with that. But Elias Bord was getting more and more reluctant with how long his little repair shop had been monopolized for the building of this strange and beautiful ship. To speed things up, he bought a Class 1 hyperdrive and ordered a rush on the install. By that point, he'd cut the work crews down to two and placed them both under Kat's watchful eyes. When the hyperdrive installation was completed, Bord insisted the work was finished and that he wanted the ship out of his shop.

 

“We don't even know if it'll run properly,” Kat protested.

 

“Besides, Class 1 isn't good enough,” Slade put in. “I need at least a 0.5.”

 

Kat scowled. “Then you really need computer test flights,” she said.

 

“I'll have none of it,” Elias snapped. “Prasanna, you may have given me six billion for this job, but the job is done. Be on your way.”

 

Slade frowned thoughtfully. “So be it.”

 

Kat cringed. “No, you can't!”

 

“Let me explain why I'm so willing to trust this ship,” Slade said. “The design is one of my sister's, and she never did things halfway. She got so far on it as to work out full schematics, which means she knew without a doubt it would work that way. Why she never gave this one to her superiors at CEC, I'll never know.” He chewed on the inside of his lip for a moment, and then shook his head. “I'm leaving, Ms. Drea. If you want to be certain I don't lose my life, why don't you come along?”

 

“Out of the question,” Bord said quickly. “Ms. Drea runs my shop. I'll not have her leaving with the likes of you, Prasanna.”

 

Kat turned a full death glare on Bord. “As if it was your decision.” She turned to Slade, death glare still raging and growled, “Right now, I don't much care if you live or die, but that ship will not leave Coruscant without the best mechanic I know, and that's me.”

 

Slade Prasanna actually smiled as he extended his hand to her. “Well then, lil' Kat, we'd best be going.”

 

She shook his hand and her death glare faded to a scowl as she ordered don't call me that.”

 

Grinning, Slade turned to Bord. “Well Elias, looks like you'll have to be doin' more of your own work. Good luck down here.”

 

Bord was angry, but he wasn't going to try anything with Slade Prasanna so damned close. With Kat gone, Bord would likely have to shut his little shop down. Then, a thought struck him. Six billion. It had been an insane month and a half, but he was rich. A goofy smile appeared on his face and he held out his hand to Slade.

 

“Six billion,” he said, giggling just a little. “I'll never have to work again.”

 

Slade nodded. “You have three billion now, yes?” He pulled out a datapad and tapped a few keys. “There. Your full six billion, Bord. Have a nice life.”

 

As Slade turned to go to his new ship, a very happy Elias Bord sobered up just enough to offer one last warning to Katlyn Drea.

 

“I think it goes without saying that Slade was a spy,” he said. “But he's gotten out of the business. And he's done it in the worst way possible. Ms. Drea, your new captain is a fugitive. If you still mean to go with him, please be careful. There's no telling what they'll send after him.”

 

Kat's blue eyes flickered almost gray and she smiled serenely. “That will not be a problem, sir.”

 

Something about her expression made Elias Bord decidedly uncomfortable and he hurried away as quickly as he could. The further away he got, the happier he became and soon he had no more concern for Katlyn Drea or Slade Prasanna.

 

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –

 

 

The ship rested quietly within the now abandoned repair shop, simply waiting. Slade and Kat stood side by side, staring at the finished result. During their conversation with Elias Bord, a team of painters had done a hit-and-run job, rendering the ship finally finished, both inside and out. Slade drew in a deep breath and released it slowly.

 

“She's bigger than I'd have imagined, given my sister's design schematics,” he said finally. Looking over at him, Kat realized the sadness she'd heard in his voice had also found its way onto his face.

 

“What happened?” she asked gently. A flash of emotion, then nothing.

 

He opened his mouth once. Twice. Then, he shook his head and opted for a completely different subject. “If you're going to be the mechanic, you need to know her inside and out. Granted, you practically built her, but...” he fished a datapad out of his pocket. “Here. This is the manual.”

 

Kat took it, nodding slightly. Then, she nodded to the ship. “What will you name her?”

 

For a long time, Slade didn't answer. At length, Kat looked up at him. To her surprise, there were tears in his eyes. He caught her looking and turned away. With another deep sigh, he turned back to the ship and nodded, the decision made.

 

“She's Freedom.”

 

 

 

 

Sleeping Dragons

 

The woman scanned the building. There were supposed to be a dozen guards within. But there was only one life form in the building. She considered the situation. Why would the target have removed his defenses?

 

No matter. She had been hired to kill Moran Cos. That was her guiding purpose today.

 

She slid back from her perch. The way into the building was clear. A security net of mines and sensors were laid over the area, but there was a narrow way in. Enough to get her in.

 

It took an hour; sliding past the kath hound pack they had imported, and the electronic sensors. She had slipped through the defenses like a knife through nerf butter. She was inside, and she mentally checked her weapons.

 

The rooms were silent, and she anticipated some trap. Not that it would help the one she sought. Traps had closed on her, yet had never seriously slowed her.

 

Yet there were no traps. The door opened, and her weapon extended, locked on her target. He looked up. There was no fear in his eyes, not even the acceptance of his fate. He leaned back. “I have waited for you. I sent my guards away. No need for them to die to prove your prowess, my daughter.”

 

Her finger relaxed a mere millimeter. “Speak.”

 

He told her why she should not kill, him, or rather, why she should wait. Her finger relaxed, and she slid the blaster into her holster. “There is someone you should speak with.” She said.

 

 

Sela leaned forward, her tears staining the console of her ship, Subtlety. Gentle hands touched her. Sela Yah, a godsdamned HRD massaged her neck.

 

“Please, tell me it isn't true.” She moaned.

 

“It is the truth, my sister.” The duplicate told her gently. Her hands plied the pressure points on her original's back.

 

She sighed. Against her will she was relaxing. Godsdamnit, why had she faced this of all things? “Sela Yah, please.”

 

“You have to speak with him.” Sela Yah told her flatly. “After that, you can do what you want.”

 

“What I want? Or What I have to do?”

 

“Whatever you decide.” Sela Yah leaned forward. “As it should be.” Her hands stopped their gentle movement.

 

“Damn you.” Sela snarled. She turned, rubbing her eyes to wipe away her tears. “Bring him in.”

 

Sela Yah walked out, coming back in with Moran Cos. The man stopped. He looked from Sela Yah to Sela. “A clone?”

 

“Sort of.” Sela Yah replied. “Tell her what you told me.”

 

He looked at Sela. “Sela, I am your father.”

 

She stared at him. “I have no father!' She snarled. “He ran away, left mother and I. Then she died and I was left in that hell hole of an Imperial orphanage.” She stood, hands clenched into fists. “I promised to kill the bastard if I ever met him.” She reached down, the blaster coming out of the holster. She lifted it, aiming between his eyes. “Any last words?”

 

He sighed. “Your mother obviously never told you what I did. I was a smuggler, a good one until I got caught on the Kessel Run. I was imprisoned working in the spice mines of Kessel, sentenced to life. I escaped, and tried to find you. But the Orphanage had reported that you had been killed in an accident. I lost all hope.” He looked away, his eyes glistening. “I joined Black Sun as a ship's captain. I was good at my job, and made a lot of money. Enough that I bought my own ship.

 

“Then I heard of a bounty hunter, a woman of unsurpassed skill, that carried out her missions with skill and daring. That turned Callum Dorrt over to Prince Xizor after going through Dorrt's defenses. A woman named Sela.”

 

He wiped his face. “I quit. Black Sun doesn't like people quitting, so they sent bounty hunters after me. I knew if I stayed on the run long enough, they would send you. I risked my life for only one reason, to meet you in person before I died.”

 

He raised his hands, looking at her with something she had never expected to see. “Your choice, Sela.”

 

 

“Excellent work.” The Vigo purred. “Giving up your ship was choice.” He reached into a drawer, pausing as the blaster she carried was aimed at him. “Relax.” He lifted his hand out. There were half a dozen chips in it. “A bonus.”

 

Sela holstered the piece, taking the chips.

 

“What are you going to do about a new ship?” He asked.

 

“I seized Cos's ship to replace it.” She looked at him levelly. “You have a problem with that?”

 

“No.” The Vigo shook his head.

 

“Good.” She stalked out.

 

The ship was a work of art. The design had been built by a Corellian yacht maker for people who like to travel to dangerous sectors. She was shaped like a bird in flight, and hidden in her nose were a dozen laser cannon large enough to shred anything smaller than a blastboat. Sela walked up the ramp, closing it.

 

Sela Yah looked up from her preflight. “Welcome home.”

 

“Home.” Sela sighed. “I wonder what it will be like to have a home.”

 

From the copilot seat, Moran grinned. “We can find out together, my dear.”

 

Sela Yah shook her head, slipping on her headset. “Tower, Sleeping Dragon departing.”

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