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Author Topic: Chronicles of War  (Read 2884 times)

Aniketos

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Chronicles of War
« on: June 09, 2011, 09:39:17 PM EDT »

Chronicle One

The sun broke over the surroundings as Aniketos strode towards the edge of the clearing. Soft, welcoming rays of light snuck their way up his legs before bathing him entirely in their warmth. As he knelt towards the earth, he slowly ran his hand across the damp morning grass, the texture stirring up long forgotten memories.

"Just like Kor Vella," he sighed.

The sweet, familiar scent of lavender surrounded him, rousing him from his reverie. Allowing himself the reverence of the atmosphere for a mere moment longer, he stood and brushed the soil from his hands.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2012, 01:38:08 AM EST by Eri Berus »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2011, 01:22:09 AM EDT »

Chronicle Two

Screams filled the room as Aniketos knelt in a corner of the medical ward, watching as surgical droids hovered about, attending to the injured soldiers. Their various robotic arms restrained the patients at hand, as they applied the necessary anesthetics before beginning the surgical protocols required to treat the cauterized wounds caused by blaster fire. Even with the anesthetics though, he knew they still felt the pain, the myriad of his own scars a testament to his experiences.

Beside him, Admiral Garret stood impassionate as he looked over the room, his meticulous uniform at odds with the ragged robes and armour of the man kneeling next to him. "The droids predict a thirty-seven percent survival rate of this batch." Admiral Garret said nonchalantly.

"We've suffered far too many casualties, and our supplies have become dangerously low," he said as he slowly stood, before raising his hands above his head and stretched. "We must head to the nearest supply hub."

Nodding, the Admiral turned and followed Aniketos from the room, leaving the sounds of agony behind. "I've had a course plotted, we should arrive within seventy-four hours. The men appear frustrated, my hope is that the time out of the field will calm them some."

"It's understandable, these last few months we've been doing nothing but retreating." Aniketos replied as they made their way down the corridor of the Hammerhead-class ship. The bustle of activity was everywhere they went. Repair teams busied themselves restoring damaged sections back into working order, while maintenance droids cleared the walkways of scrap the teams placed aside.

"If you would excuse me Admiral, I'm going to rest for awhile," he added, before he parted ways.

The crew quarters carried an entirely different atmosphere. Whereas the medical ward was loud, busy, and traumatic, this area of the ship was sombre. The lack of chaotic activity gave a false sense of refuge. The people here were tired, he could see it in their faces. Rounding the corner to his personal quarters, he felt a presence tug the edge of his mind. Stopping just outside his door, he dropped his head against the bulk head and sighed. Taking a deep breath, he compressed the door console and entered.

There in the centre of the darkened room knelt a small waif of a girl leaning back on her haunches, her ankles crossed and tucked beneath her rear. Long, black hair flowed past her shoulders and vanished into the shadows created from the corridor lights.

"Eri, why are you not in your own quarters?" He asked as he removed his boots and placed them against the wall. Walking to a nearby bureau, he waved his hand over the sensor, the top drawer sliding open with a quiet hiss, and began removing his armour.

"I like your quarters, and I thought it would help me focus." She replied as she raised her hand from her thigh to brush aside some stray hairs, her fingers tracing the geometric patterns adorned across the bridge of her nose.

He sighed once more as he continued to change. "You don't need to concentrate, you need to rest. It will be several days before we reach our destination, so in the mean time we are going to have some down time to replenish our energy." He said as he put aside the last of his armour, before continuing. "Now stop what you are doing and go get some sleep."

"Yes Master," she whispered as she rose in one fluid movement. With unhurried strides she approached the door and compressed the console to open it. As it slid open, she paused, slowly chewing on her lower lip. "Master, may I sleep here then?"

Frowning, Aniketos shook his head, "Eri, you know that isn't wise-"

"Please Master," she begged, cutting him off, "just for a bit? It'll help me sleep."

Groaning, he dragged his hand down his face. "Dirty trick. Alright fine, but if I allow this you agree to take part in any training of my choice, understood? And take your damned boots off."

The door slid shut as she removed her hand from the console and quickly kicked off her boots. Grinning, she quickly skipped to the nearby bed and with one small hop, landed mid centre before she lay down and tucked herself in the sheets.

With a small shake, he chuckled under his breath as he headed off to finish cleaning himself up.

- oOo -

Aniketos sat, watching the scene before him in wonder. Across from him sat a Eri, who had just devoured her third helping of rations, and showed no signs of slowing down. "How can you eat so much?"

Stopping mid bite, Eri quickly swallowed before she answered, "What? I'm hungry, and we haven't had a decent meal in months."

A round of laughter erupted from a pack of troopers nearby. Picking at his own food, he grimaced. "I wouldn't call this a decent meal."

"You're just picky," she quipped.

Lowering his utensils, he picked up his plates and put them aside to be cleaned later by the mess crew. "Don't take long, I'll be waiting," he flicked her softly, catching the soft blush that flushed her cheeks as he continued out of the mess hall.

As he passed by various people on their way to eat, he let his mind wander. The Order's oncoming assault on the Hydian blockade drew near, and the Mandalorians were a difficult opponent in any challenge. Clearing his thoughts as he entered one of training rooms the ship possessed, he went about removing any nearby obstacles before sitting down and began to stretch, waiting on Eri to arrive.

After several minutes, she finally entered the room, a content look warming her face. "Go stretch out," he said, waving his hand toward the corner of the room. "Today we'll be practicing unarmed combat."

"Unarmed? But I never win at that against you." She complained, looking up in dismay as he finished his own stretches.

Laughing, he walked over and helped her up with an offer of his hand. "That's the point, you need to improve. Besides, this is what you get for invading my room."

"Bah." She replied as she placed herself across from him.

Slowly they knelt, each bowing before the other in unison, then rising together. Taking several steps apart and bowing once more, they took their stances. Eri struck first, her leg coming up to strike at his centre.

Forcing her leg aside, he struck at her chest with his palm, forcing her to stumble back. "Your attacks are too wild, it leaves you completely open." He cautioned as he parried another strike.

Taking advantage of an opening he swung hard at her side, only to have her duck below him and thrust her arms upwards, glancing his jaw and forcing him roll backwards to avoid to brunt of the attack. "Good," he cheered, "just like that." Chuckling at the smile that spread across her face, he recovered from his roll and continued to circle her.  

As they continued, something skirted at the edge of his senses. His strikes became laboured, his focus distracted, causing him to lose ground against Eri's barrage of attacks. Stumbling back, he saw her launch herself at him, before a powerful force hit his gut and pain spread throughout his body. Cries of frustration, despair, and pain crashed into his mind as he felt himself fall.

As the edges of his vision darkened, he could hear a voice calling to him, but it was muffled and difficult to understand. All he felt was a bombardment of images and emotions, before it all stopped. He breathed heavily and frantically looked about trying to compose himself. Hearing the voice call out again, his eyes shot up. Above him sat Eri, straddling him as she called out in fear, "Master!"

"We failed," he murmured as Eri looked down in worry, "the assault has failed."




 
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 08:03:36 PM EDT by Aniketos »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2011, 10:09:27 PM EDT »

Chronicle Three

Shadows engulfed him, their presence so thick it was suffocating. Everywhere he looked hectic swirls of yellow and blue darted in and out of the darkness and clashed together as if he were in the center of a storm. Voices shrieked at him, the anger so intense it seared his chest. The colours were so chaotic, the voices so frenzied, it was all he could do to keep himself from breaking. He fell to his knees in agony and slammed his hands up to ears, his teeth grinding together, all in hopes of stopping the assault on his senses.

Every fiber of his body screamed as it all continued to churn, until it was too much. He dropped his head down into his lap and howled out in anger. His voice cut through the flurry around him and everything stopped. The colours no longer swirled about, but instead hung suspended midair as if it were snow. The rage in the voices now whispered around him, echoing each other as they spoke.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 10:35:10 PM EDT by Aniketos »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2011, 02:23:29 AM EDT »

Chronicle Four

The marvels of Coruscant never ceased to amaze him. The planet wide city encompassed every aspect of life in the known galaxy, and it was seen everywhere. Traffic screamed by overhead, massive crowds clashed and merged as if they were water, and everywhere the ever eclipsing skyscrapers loomed. The sense of vertigo was almost overwhelming for him as he casually looked at the cityscape.

The crowd around them shuffled in closer, forcing his gaze down toward the approaching shuttle. Tucking his arms into the enlarged sleeves of his robes, he turned toward his younger companion and noted the look of expectation on her face.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 10:35:24 PM EDT by Aniketos »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2011, 03:28:42 PM EDT »


Chronicle Five

Stars idly streamed past the window as Aniketos scrutinized the young girl standing a few meters from him, her arms lifted from her sides. She stood motionless in meditation as a dozen metal rings orbited them, all no bigger than his forearm, spiralling casually amongst themselves as if imitating the world beyond the ship's hull. Folding his hands behind his back, he continued to circle her, careful to avoid contact with the floating objects. With one swift movement he brought his palm down against her shoulder, her arms faltering and a soft whimper escaping her lips, while several of the rings wavered and met with an audible clang.

"Focus Eri," he scolded, "you must learn to ignore distractions."

"Yes Master," she murmured. He watched as she lowered her head and closed her eyes in concentration, the ribbon charm tying her hair back jingling with the movement.

Stepping back from her, he watched as the rings steadied and continued their pattern, before circling her again. He did not envy her. He knew each time he struck her it hurt, as it once had for him, but it was necessary to help focus her mind. The power she possessed, that all Jedi possessed, was powerful and potentially dangerous if one was not properly taught.

Softly ducking under a passing ring, he quietly stopped in front of her. Her damp clothes clung to her skin after hours of training and her skin was puckered and flushed where he had struck her, the geometric tattoos adorned across her body glowing. The long, black hair atop her head had become loose and wild.

From the corner of his eye, he spotted some of the rings beginning to waver once more. Tracking one of them, he watched as the fluctuating increased, its path bringing it above their heads. With a swift lash, he struck at her bare stomach, breaking her concentration and causing the rings to fall before she stumbled down onto her rear.

"Ow," she complained as she rubbed her head.

Walking to the nearby condenser, he filled a glass with a cold, dark blue liquid. "That is why you must focus and be aware of your surroundings. Even of the ones you cannot see."

Tucking her feet under herself, she knelt as he approached and handed her the glass. Quickly forcing down the liquid, she let out a relieved sigh before placing the chilled glass against her cheek. "Thank you Master, I needed that."

Reaching down and picking up one of the rings between them, he casually exerted a small amount of power. The ring lifted a few centimeters above his up turned palm, harmlessly rotating as he replied. "Concentration is an important ally Eri. Without it, the Force is nothing more than a chaotic power. But with it,-" Eri looked up at him as the ring unfolded and straightened, before it began to bend, and snake, and flow as if it were liquid. Raising his other hand, he slowly cupped the metal as it folded on top of itself, and pressed his hands together. After a moment, he lowered himself down in front of her and opened his hands, "-it can become a creation, an art."

What had once been a ring had now become an intricate puzzle, the metal wrapped and interwove within itself. As his weight shifted and the lights above shone on the object within his hands, it began to gleam and shimmer. Placing it into Eri's now outreached hands, he stood and proceeded to put away the remaining rings.

- oOo -

"If you insisted on hijacking my bed, would you at least change into some fresh clothing after we train?" he queried as he laid his lightsaber on the cloth on the floor before him, the massive hilt stretching for a foot and a half. Worn, decorative markings circled the weapon, and gold trimmed several letters of Aurebesh at each end, while two small medallions hung from the base.

As he shifted his weight on his knees, he began separating the various components. Carefully removing several crystals, he placed a worn one aside before continuing. Within minutes the complex weapon has been deconstructed, its parts spread across the cloth.

"I'll go change after you're finished," she replied as she laid on his bed, her head hanging upside down over the edge. Lazily she rolled onto her stomach and propped her hands under her chin as he removed the small case he received on Coruscant. "I still can't believe it took you four days to imbue that crystal."

"Pontite is notorious for that," he casually replied as he removed the crystal from the case and laid it next to the other components.

Glancing over everything before him in approval, he released a small ebb of power, the various parts softly lifting from the floor and quickly snapping together in place. After several moments the weapon had reassembled itself, his newly acquired crystal firmly set within. Reaching out, he pocketed the remaining crystal before claiming the weapon with both hands.

"Master, I meant you ask you while we were on Coruscant, but what are those?" she questioned as she sat and pointed at the pair of medallions hanging from the end of the hilt.

"These are Jedi Credits," he replied as he placed the lightsaber next to his armour before taking a seat at a nearby table. "Corellian Jedi award them to their members who are elevated to Masters, they serve a similar purpose as your Mirialan tattoos. The ones we collected while on Coruscant were lost over time, and are on their way back to Corellia to be archived."

Nodding in understanding, she swung her legs off the edge of the bed, her bare feet gingerly touching the floor. "If you don't mind me asking, to whom do they belong?"

"One is mine, given to me by my own Master. The other was his, which I claimed when he passed to remember him," he replied, arching his back in a long stretch as he idly ran his fingers along the edges of the patch covering his eye.
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2011, 02:55:50 PM EDT »

Chronicle Six

« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 01:47:18 AM EDT by Aniketos »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2011, 12:43:17 AM EDT »

Chronicle Seven

The shuttle was quiet on their return as Aniketos leaned deep into the seat, his brow creased from the ache throbbing behind his eyes. Rustling equipment was all that was heard as the soldiers of the boarding squad shuffled in their armour. His hand idly grasped the pulsing, pyramid shaped item within his robe as he watched Eri across from him, her eyes narrowing in confusion as she periodically looked at him.

« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 01:14:08 AM EDT by Aniketos »
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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2012, 02:13:28 AM EST »

Chronicle Eight

Silence filled the quarters as Aniketos sat, his chin resting upon his laced hands as he watched the small girl before him. Whimpers escaped past her lips as she erratically tossed her head from side to side. Damp hair matted her face, obscuring the flashes of pain that marred her soft features. Dragging a rough hand down his bearded face, he let out a tired sigh as the soft chime of someone entering was heard. Curt steps slowly approached until they stopped behind him.

"Should she not be in the sick bay?" asked admiral Garret, his voice breaking the silence.

"Her physical condition is not the concern," Aniketos replied without turning. "The medical droid have already come and gone, and found nothing."

Stepping past him and approaching the bed where Eri rested, the admiral carefully looked her over before turning, "Perhaps the droid was faulty. She clearly has a fever of some sort."

With a small shake of his head Aniketos continued, "No, the issue is spiritual, for a better lack of term."

"I see," replied the admiral, his brow raised. "Then this is something of a Jedi nature?"

"It would appear so," Aniketos sighed.

Humming in response, the admiral handed a datapad to Aniketos as he adjusted the trim of his uniform. "Our technicians have finish their preliminary report on the Imperial ship. It seems they stopped at a planet just outside Republic space, before traveling deeper."

"Any indication to what their orders were?" asked Aniketos.

"Not as of yet," replied the admiral. "What logs could be accessed show that six days after crossing the border, they wiped the internal databanks. Nothing is recorded afterwards. We will need to wait until the specialists from S.I.S. arrive to do a thorough search to try to recover any of the erased data."

Scanning over the information as his fingers moved across the datapad, Aniketos paused at the data pertained to the mentioned planet, before he returned the device to the admiral. "I'll contact the Council and see if they have any information on the planet they stopped at."

"Very well, I will take my leave." Glancing down at Eri once more, the admiral continued.  "You have my best wishes for a quick recovery, and those of the crew. They seem quite fond of her."

"Thank you, " Aniketos replied as he settled deeper into his seat, listening to his steps leave.

As the silence once again returned, his brow knotting as more whimpers came. Leaning forward, he pulled the covers some before he settled back into his seat, and closed his eyes, letting the exhaustion overcome him.

- oOo -

Soft blue lights adorned the dwelling, casting a calming hue as Aniketos made his way up the walkway, twin moons shining in the night sky. Rows of white flowers lined the path, their petals seemed to stretch and bloom as if to bathe in the cast light. Pausing, he knelt and plucked one of the flowers before he continued. Stopping before the door, he activates the nearby panel before he curiously inspected the flower held within his hands.

"Well this is a nice surprise, I've never had a suitor come visit me this late before, with flowers no less," spoke a gentle voice, his gaze climbing up to meet a pair of bright blue eyes.

"Pardon?" he mused, his tone rye as his gaze swept over the woman perched within the door frame.

A soft chuckled slipped past her lips before she smiled and took the flower from his hands, "I'm kidding. Please, come in Master Jedi. I'm Narina, Eri's mother."

"Ah," he replied as he composed himself. "Of course. I'm Aniketos."

Leading him inside, she casually waved over to an area with several seats. "Please, make yourself comfortable. Eri is already asleep, would you like some tea?"

"Yes, thank you," he replied, seating himself.  "You  have a lovely garden. Those flowers, they must be nocturnal."

"You have a keen eye, Master Jedi," she answered with a smile as she handed him a small glass. "They are native to this planet, and are particularly active during nights when both the moons are full. I've always been a bit of a night creature, so they act as my little guilty pleasure."

Humming in response and drinking lightly from the offered tea, Aniketos waited for her to settle down across from him before continuing. "I suppose I should start by asking if you have any questions for me."

"Oh no, the administrators at the Jedi Temple were very thorough. You are to be her mentor until she is old enough to pass her tests," she replied as she tucked her legs up on her seat. "And tonight will be the last night I will be with her."

"You are taking it all very well," he commented.

Another smile graced her lips, sadness creeping behind her eyes as she glanced. "Eri can have an entire galaxy's worth of experiences, I couldn't possibly take that from her."

Placing his glass down on the table before him, Aniketos leaned forward. "Jedi are forbidden  contact with family in order to prevent any kind of emotional influence. However, the Council and I disagree on this matter. I will allow Eri some time, when possible, to contact you. But this will be our little guilty pleasure we share together."

Tears slowly slid down her cheeks, before she brushed them away with the back of her hand. "Thank you."

Soft steps from the hall disrupted their conversation. A small Mirialan girl stood just around the corner, her thin fingers clutching at the wall between them. At the sight of the Jedi seated with her mother, her fists rose to those same eyes he'd been greeted by as she rubbed away the sleep.

Her short, black, tussled hair fell in front of her eyes as she clumsily pushed it aside while she crept closer, the arm of a small plushed animal clutched under her arm.

"Eri, why aren't you in bed?" the girl's mother asked as she shifted her body to face her daughter.

"I can't sleep," she replied.

Patting the empty spot next to her, Narina gestured her over.  "Ok, come curl up next to me, but you have to be quiet, alright?"

Nodding her head tiredly, Eri crawled up next to her and tucked herself into a small nook. Placing her arm around her daughter, Narina carefully brushed her fingers through Eri's hair and quietly began to sing. Gentle, alien words flowed and slowly lulled her asleep, the entire time Aniketos sat, a smile on his face.


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Aniketos

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Re: Chronicles of War
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2012, 11:08:03 PM EST »


Chronicle Nine

Soft, electronic beeps could be heard as Aniketos casually accessed the holo terminal, the overheard lights dimming as several figures appeared before him. The blue projection flickered as the connection was stabilized and secured. Applying a final command to seal the debriefing room, a quick hum was heard as the magnetic locks were set into place before he turned his attention toward the live feed.

"Greetings masters," Aniketos began as he bowed his head.

"Greetings Aniketos, thank you for your vigilant updates," replied one of the figures, a Twi'lek dressed in the traditional Jedi garb. "How is your Padawan today?"

Shaking his head, Aniketos subconsciously tapped the nearby console. "No change. I've sent an updated medical file of her condition to the Temple."

Silence ensued as the various masters quickly went over the information off to the side. Soft murmurs were heard as they spoke amongst themselves, while Aniketos remained motionless, his hands anxiously laced behind his back. Several minutes passed before one of the masters motioned to someone out of view.

"We will send this to our medical specialists here in the Temple. They have already gone over the readings from your previously sent data packets," spoke an elder male human, his aged face crinkling in thought. "However, there isn't much they can do without being there in person."

"Indeed," continued another, a female Torgruta. Her darker skin and facial markings stood out amongst the group. "Even a simple diagnosis cannot be done with the information given at hand. Our librarians have uncovered nothing in regards to the holocron, or the planet it was found on. You are our only point of contact."

Pausing, Aniketos struggled to form the necessary words, his hands moving unconsciously as he did. "She has been feverish for six days and she thrashes in her rest. The Sith holocron has been inert since she handled it and the droids detect nothing. Yet I can feel some sort of darkness within her, poisoning her from the inside out."

"Perhaps a lingering effect from the holocron," the Twi'lek pondered. "It is not uncommon when handling Sith artefacts. Especially for those untrained in dealing with the dark side of the Force."

"That may be the most logical assumption at this point, how long until you reach Coruscant?" asked the Torgruta.

"We are still several days away from the nearest Republic supply hub. From there, it will be at least a week's travel by shuttle to Coruscant," replied Aniketos, his fingers tracing the edge of the patch adorned over his eye.

"Very well. Continue your observation of her. We shall broaden our search and see if we can discover anything related to her symptoms or the holocron." With that, the projection faded from view, leaving Aniketos in the dim light. Slowly he approached the nearby port window,  his face slack as he delved into his thoughts. A heavy sigh slipped past his lips when he arched forward, his brow pressing against the cold duraplex glass. Distantly, he was aware of the stars whisking by as he quietly cursed.

- oOo -

A large civilian transport dropped out of hyperspace, its massive engines dimming as they powered down their coils and shifted into position for atmospheric descent. Inside, thousands of passengers mingled amongst themselves as they prepared for the final portion of their journey. Mixed within the large crowd in one of the many ship cantinas stood Aniketos, with a young Mirialan girl wrapped tightly around his leg.

"Are you alright Eri?" Aniketos asked, the corner of his lips tugging up as she nodded her head quickly.

"Come, we'll get something to eat and then I have something to show you."

Making their way towards one of the various automated vendors, he selected two small meals and watched as a mechanical arm grabbed their food before placing it on the dispenser. Meals in hand, he led them out of the cantina and towards the turbolift that accessed the upper levels.

Shuffling deeper into the lift as more passengers boarded, the doors quickly shut and the lift began its ascent. Reaching down to hand Eri her meal, Aniketos noted her attention focused on a nearby man. Placing his hand atop her head, he knelt down beside her. "You probably haven't seen many non-Mirialans, have you?"

"No," she whispered, her gaze lingering over the various passengers.

Smiling, he stood as he gently reached over and placed his hand on the stranger's shoulder. "Excuse me, my friend, I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time? My young companion is rather new to the galaxy at large, and I was wondering if you could introduce yourself."

"Of course!" the stranger chuckled in a slightly mechanical voice, his words distorted by the breathing apparatus attached to his face. "Judging by your reaction, I bet you've never met one of my kind before."

Tucking herself behind Aniketos' leg as the stranger knelt down to her level, she gazed away. "What's that on your face?"

"Eri, don't be rude," Aniketos scolded.

Laughing, the stranger continued. "I'm a Kel Dorian, and my people need these to breath when we are away from our home planet."

With a soft jolt, the turbolift stopped and its doors opened, its passengers pouring out. Spotting their destination, Aniketos gently reached down to take her hand. "Come Eri, we don't want to miss the view. Would you care to join us?" he asked the Kel Dorian.

"It would be my pleasure," he answered.

With Eri in hand, Aniketos led them to the nearby observation deck, its massive port window reaching across the width of the ship. Slowly the transport altered its course and began to descend, the hull vibrating slightly as it breached the atmosphere. Carefully picking Eri up, he placed her atop the nearby ledge, her face immediately widening in wonder. Before them stretched a massive city, its ever present lights covering the planet.

"Welcome to Coruscant," Aniketos spoke, trying to contain his laugher as he was forced to hold her back as she leaned closer. "Welcome to your new home."


- oOo -

The bridge bustled with activity as dozens of crewman went about their duties, their voices filling the section of the ship. In the centre stood Aniketos and Admiral Garret, along with several officers as they discussed the current outcome of the war.

"The Empire continues to push deeper into Republic space with every passing day," spoke one of the officers. "We are only holding them back through miraculous victories like those on Bothawui."

"Indeed," replied Admiral Garret. "The Imperials are constantly one step ahead of us."

Leaning forward, Aniketos activated the holo-display, a large projection of the galaxy appearing before them. Highlighting a section via the console, it zoomed in closer to a series of solar systems. "Jedi intelligence has discovered a large build up of ships bordering the hyperspace lanes accessing the Mid-Rim."

"That isn't very far off from the Hydian Way," the admiral commented as he centred the display toward a new section of space. "Perhaps they intend to reinforce the Mandalorians with th-"

The admiral's words came to an abrupt stop when a large tremor suddenly tossed them all about the bridge. Emergency alarms activated, their shrill tone overlapping the panicked cries. After a moment to collect his thoughts, Aniketos rose from the floor before reaching for the admiral.

"Explosion on personnel deck twelve, atmosphere is venting!" a nearby ensign shouted.

"Emergency shielding activating. Medical crews are being dispatched."

"Negative contact from section security. Unknown casualties."

"Cause of the explosion?" demanded the admiral above the chaos, as he shared a glance with Aniketos.

"Unknown. Sensors are down." replied one of the crewman.

"Sabotage?" the admiral questioned under his breath.

"Perhaps," Aniketos pondered. "I will go meet with the security team and aid where I can."

With a nod, the admiral turned and began dictating orders. Making his way toward the turbolifts, he grasped his lightsaber from the scabbard on his back, the long hilt settling in his hands. As the lift doors shut behind him, and the chaos on the bridge faded, he descended. His fingers clutched at the Jedi Token that hung from the saber.

Several minutes passed as the descent continued before a quiet chime slipped from one of the many pockets within his robes. He extracted a small communications device and activated it. "Yes?"

The small image of the admiral flickered, his form gesturing to someone off screen before he spoke, "We've lost contact with the medical crew and security that were meant to meet with you. We are unsure of why due to the havoc the explosion caused, but I've sent more to meet you."

"No," Aniketos replied carefully. "I will reach the personnel level soon. Give me a two minute count and then seal the level behind me. I will contact you once I deem it safe for the medical crews to enter."

The image of the admiral fell silent, their gazes meeting for a brief moment before he nodded. "Very well. We shall wait on your word. Master Jedi, be careful."

As the holo-display faded from sight and the turbolift doors opened, Aniketos was met with anarchy. Fire engulfed the corridor, plumes of smoke billowing into his face as it snaked into the now open lift. Bodies covered the floor, their broken forms strewn about haphazardly as the blaze quickly consumed them.

His steps were cautious as they carried him forward, toeing over the bodies as he made his way deeper into the chaos. He held his sleeve held up to his face in an attempt to block out the smoke and stink of acrid flesh. Raising his free hand, he drew in a small amount of power and forced aside the scorching inferno, ignorant to the flames licking at the edges his robes as he passed.

As he rounded the corner, another explosion cascaded further down the corridor, jolting him roughly against the wall. His fingers pressed against hot metal in an attempt to steady himself.

The attack was sudden, the pain unmistakable the moment a foreign presence slipped inside and assaulted his mind. The floor came rushing towards him, agony lighting within his knees as he fell. A panicked cry rose from his lips, his palms grasping at his head as he fought in vain against the invader. The presence struck deeper, punishment for his resistance and tore a strangled shout out of him. His eyes flicked down the corridor and though it was blurred from pain and the cloud of haze marring his vision, there at the far end, stood a figure that shattered his heart. Her long black hair swirled around her, responding to the energy that pulsed through her and darkened her flesh.

"Ours," she spat, her voice edged in a malevolence so pure.

He staggered back to his feet, stumbling towards the woman he had raised from a child. His every stumbling step brought him closer to her, but as he closed the distance, it was the dark veins climbing up her neck and the blackness that invaded her once sky blue eyes that drew his gaze. It wasn't until he was within reaching distance that he finally stopped, ignoring the flames and smoke that churned at their feet.

"Eri, I..." Aniketos whispered, faltering at the sight of her.

He paused the moment Eri casually raised her hand to meet his, her fingers gently threading through his. His eyes narrowed in confusion as her other hand began to climb his stomach before halting at his chest. He gazed down at her, unsure of how to respond and no time to react when her lips peeled back into a sickening smile and he was launched back. Tiny dots ate away at his vision when the back of his head connected with the adjacent wall.

A violent cough ripped past his lips before he managed to pick himself up, the faint taste of blood staining his mouth. He scrambled for his lightsaber and activated it, the long yellow beam crackling to life moments before it blocked Eri's swift attack. Her movements were liquid fast, quicker than anything he'd ever witnessed from her before. It was only by a breadth that he managed to parry her, even as she continued to force him backwards. The heat of the blaze ate away at his robes, the scent of burning fabric rising in the corridor. But the most disturbing was with each attack, that horrid smile only grew, stretching unnaturally across her face.

"Enough, Eri!" he shouted, hoping to reach some part of her still lucid. There was no response, only the sensation of her strength passing over him. Something stuck him, something hard. He dropped heavily to the floor, his back in agony. Next to him lay a ply of sheet metal, one that had once formed the wall, now torn away by her power. Denying him any opportunity to collect himself, she struck again and again, an eruption of noise deafening him as she ripped more metal sheets from the wall, lobbing them at him. It was only at the last moment that he managed to create a barrier around himself, the metal ricocheting away before striking him.

Her lips curled into a sneer, those opaque eyes focusing on him. He felt himself rise from the floor, not of his own will, and was suddenly sailing backwards, heated air whistling through his ears. A violent howl was torn from his lips the moment he struck the wall. A pain beyond anything he'd ever suffered consumed his shoulder. He was only capable of a passing glance, horrified at the sight of bent metal protruding from the upper swell of his chest, deeply stained with his blood.

She took pleasure in his pain, he could see it in the spiteful grin that spread once more.

"Eri..." he murmured. "Stop..."

If she heard him, she made no indication as her small frame rushed forward, lightsaber lit, and launched herself towards him. The pain was immeasurable as he lifted his hands and channeled his own strength at her, catching her mid-flight.

She twisted midair before landing on her feet and sliding away, her sabers blue beam gauging a line out of the floor in an attempt to slow her down. Using her distraction to his advantage, he wrenched himself off the wall, dropping back down to the floor and barely managing to keep on his feet. Frantically, he called up dozens of tactical defenses, searching for one that wouldn't cause her any permanent injury. To his dismay, there were none. He forced himself to swallow as he dropped his lightsaber, the metal cylinder bouncing as it hit the floor. There was only one possible outcome and it had to be done right. She made to rush him once more but before she could reach him, he forced every ounce of energy he possessed into her.

He lifted her small frame from the ground, his own Force spindling through her just as she had done to him earlier. Tiny whimpers fell past her lips as she struggled against his hold, her body thrashing in a desperate attempt to free herself. He felt his power thread through her, seeking out the source of the corruption. This was the only way and he knew that. He inhaled a single deep breath before finally ripping the pervasion from her. A long and curdling scream rent the crackling air, spilled forth from her lips as she writhed against his hold. Between them formed a swirl of darkness, lit with veins of black, its foreign voice screaming in the recesses of his mind.   

He drew his arms in, slowly feeding the lurid presence into his body. Liquid fire seared through his veins as he felt the corruption begin to spread. The pain was unimaginable, so much so that tears welled over his cheeks. He knew the moment he released her from his hold and the moment he did, he collapsed to his knees, straining for every breath. Ever slowly, it invaded and merged with him, until he felt it cloud his mind, its dark thoughts mixing with his own. It was distinct now, but he knew with time, they would be one. 

It was Eri once more that lay crumpled before him, the darkness fading from her skin as he watched. A small smile curved his lips as she slowly began to stir, the gentle jingling of the charm he'd given to her rousing warm memories. Her dark lashes framed those now clear eyes as her gaze now met his. Her face succumbed to fear as she crawled across the demolished floor. He took her hand within his and guided it over to his fallen lightsaber.

Her eyes widened as she realized what he wanted. "No, no," she chanted, her voice frantic as tears stained her cheeks.

His hand rose slowly, his fingers curving over her jaw as he forced her gaze to meet his. It was becoming difficult to differentiate his thoughts from the presence. They had little time. "You must, it is the only way to be rid of it."

Her ebony locks spilled over her shoulders as she shook her head back and forth, her panicked voice continuing her desperate chant.

"Eri..." he commanded, his fingers tightening as he struggled to make her see reason.

"Please, no," she begged, her hands curving over her shoulders as she tried to draw him to his feet.

The presence roared in his head, images of things he once desired taking shape behind his eyes.
"Eri!" he yelled, distraught with the fear of losing himself to it.

He felt her body jerk against him and he gasped the moment the beam sank into his flesh, the pain a welcomed release from the darkness that infected him. He gazed down on his padawan, her eyes wide with disbelief. He fed her a gentle smile as his hand slowly rose to cup her cheek, his blood staining it. He slumped against her, his mouth resting against her ear as his lips moved in a fevered whisper. His vision faded and he toppled to the ground, his blood smearing across her cheek as his hand fell away.

Surrounded in fire and death, Eri knelt in shock, watching as her master passed. Silence pervaded her ears as his lightsaber deactivated and slipped from her grasp. His rushed words echoed through her once more and she knew she would never forget them.


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