Characters (and what we know about them so far):
Claymore Trelk: Senator of the Poulos system
Hara-Kalor: Kwol Jedi Padawan
Oord Womba: Force-using Republic Investigator
Piban Macrosun: Pilot.
R0-B1: Protocol droid (?)
Trian Letstra: Street tech
Piban sat on the rock and, despite the glare, stared forlornly into the lava where the freighter had sunk. A patch of the molten rock seemed to have a silvery sheen, but it was the only evidence there had been anything there.
The shuffle of a reptilian foot preceded Hara-Kalor's arrival. "I too wissh we sstill had the sship, even if it didn't work" said the Jedi.
Piban climbed wearily to his feet. "It's not that" he said. "I finally found the throttle assembly for my phoenix firebird on Coruscant, and it went down with the ship. I'm going to find those Sith guys- now it's personal".
The padawan did not reply.
There was a hollow clanging sound from the detached cockpit of the modular conveyor, lying on the blackened rock some distance away. Kraych, the doogo soldier, scrambled out one of the hatches. [Two standard ration packs] the rodent announced [And these] he held up several loops of green rubbery links.
"What are they?" queried Oord, standing below him. He was answered by senator Trelk, who clapped a hand to his mouth.
"Ithorian sausages" he said through his fingers. "Had them in the Gallitrax campaign. They make them from some kind of boiled grass. Get them away from me!" he tottered away from the wrecked vehicle.
"I hope he doesn't go too far" Oord commented as the senator receded into the distance. "We have to move out soon".
"And go where?" Hara-Kalor's tongue flickered over his scaled lips. "We're sstuck on thiss planet with nowhere to go".
"That way" the Seeker's hand stabbed in the direction of a distant mountain range. "The Rough Cut didn't go up to space, it went over, as if heading for somewhere. I took a bearing with my helmet macros".
Trian's head appeared in the hatchway above them. "We're in luck" he said. "This thing's climate control system is water-cooled. There has to be about forty litres of water in the pipes".
"But we don't have anything to carry it in" replied Piban. "Unless we can carry the piping, and who's going to do that?"
Trian spun a hydrospanner in his hand and grinned. "The ship is".
The rock was caked in an inch of ash that crunched
underfoot. Beeone's shuffling pace quickened slightly now that he
was almost back to the vehicle and the others.
"It's a modular conveyor" Trian's voice accompanied his feet sticking out from under it. "The cockpit is made to be disconnected so they can lengthen or shorten the clamping section of the fuselage. Of course it drew its power from the engines at the stern which were melted, but that round thing there is a hypercapacitor which caches the power for the nav computer and life support, so if I can repair these repulsors underneath "
[Too much time] objected Kraych. [We've been working on this for almost a day. I can walk to those mountains before two days].
Beeone raised an arm "If I may say so sir, I have finished my reconnoiter and I favour master Trian's opinion. We're on an island".
"A wh<KLONG> oooh" Trian squirmed out from under the vehicle, rubbing his forehead. "An island?".
"Yes" the droid confirmed. "We are totally surrounded by lava. However some of the islands do bump into each other from time to time, so-"
"And we're moving?" Piban glanced down at the rock between his feet.
"Not at a fast rate" Beeone cocked his head "But yes. It certainly seems safe enough, but this rock is not entirely stable".
Kraych crouched down next to Trian. [You.. uh.. need a hand with this?]
There was an air of tension as they all finally
clambered up into the cockpit. Trian had dared to give the
repulsors and single maneuvering thruster a test burst and they
had powered up (with some spluttering), but the vehicle, if it
could be called that, had a large crack in the roof. Behind them
a corridor led back to a jagged hole open to the sky, the excess
metal having been trimmed with Hara-Kalor's force lash.
Given that the thing moved only on repulsors they entrusted its piloting to Kraych, who had experience with hoversleds. "Everything and everyone is in" informed Claymore, attempting to shut the side hatch. The handle came off in his hand and the hatch fell open again.
"I know what I'm doing" Trian stated. "The repulsors will work".
"I'm certainly repulsed by it" put in Piban.
The engine fired and the former cockpit of the cargo hauler groaned into the air, shaking. The doogo wasted no time, moving it across the rock at an angle to pick up momentum. They had flown over barely fifty meters of the molten rock before the power plant coughed and they dipped into it. Kraych scrabbled at the throttle and they were back in the air in a moment, but the ominous smell of burnt electrical wiring filled their nostrils. Nobody said anything- they all knew there was not much time.
Molten, spitting rock blurred under them in flows and rivulets for ten minutes, then they were over the black mass of an ash-encrusted plain. The vehicle barely made it another five before the back end of it began scraping on the ground, and as the power died it slid to a stop on the ash with a gentle sigh.
Nobody suggested trying to get it going again- they knew it was a miracle it had made it this far. Piban slapped Trian on the back on the way out, and even Claymore gave him a respectful look.
"What about that water?" reminded Oord as they stepped down into the ankle-deep ash. "We won't get far without it".
"I have an idea there, but you're not going to like it" said Piban. Reaching back into the wrecked ship, he drew out the emergency spacesuit they had used while in space. The pilot produced a knife, cut off the limbs and knotted the ends, and began to fill them with the coolant water from the piping.
They set out, trudging wearily in the northerly direction the Rough Cut had gone. The ash turned the undulating plains into a sea of black dunes, and it soon worked its way into boots, claws and servomotors. As the kilometers passed beneath their feet the planet never stopped making sounds- hissing, rumbling, cracking. The thought passed through more than one mind that the world itself was angry.
By the time they reached a group of low hills, the brighter patch of cloud denoting the sun had lowered itself to near the horizon. "This way" said Piban, taking the lead. "Let me show you how to find shelter in volcanic regions".
"And why would you know?" questioned Trian, irritated after a long day's walking.
"I've studied a lot on survival techniques" Piban replied. "Comes in handy when piloting fails".
A few moments passed before even one of them realized he was joking about his flying skills.
Nightfall saw them in a deep hollow that was almost a cave, out of the icy wind that had picked up and whipped blinding ash across the landscape. The ration packs and Ithorian sausages made for a sorry meal, and the water tasted of rust.
"We need to set a watch" said Oord, coming down from a hill. Beeone had shut down for the night, and Kraych was already asleep. Trian rose to take first watch.
"What are you doing?" Piban asked Claymore, who was working away on his datapad.
"Composing a message of support to the new Chancellor" said the senator. "Palpatine is much more decisive than that weed from Alderaan- he's the best Chancellor we could have".
"I thought you said Valorum was the best Chancellor we could have" objected Piban.
"Exactly" nodded Claymore. "You're catching on".
The night passed almost without incident. Trian had investigated some sounds to find a slow river of rock oozing their way, and Hara-Kalor had seen his master in his dreams. They set out again wearily at dawn, moving back down onto the plains.
The mountains were getting closer, dark lumps where the clouds seemed to coalesce into solid form. One of them seemed to leak; a dense cloud crept toward them from the northeast.
The acrid stench of sulfur was getting worse, and more ash seemed to whip at their eyes. Over the course of the next half an hour they began to realize that the cloud was in fact traveling very fast- a wall of grey so tall they could not see the top of it.
"Ashstorm" said Piban, lifting his collar over his nose.
Others followed his lead. Oord donning the angled shape of his helmet, and Trian gave Kraych the helmet of the cannibalized space suit.
It was now very close, a whirling tidal wave that blocked all peripheral vision. A dim darkness fell as it loomed over them. They could hear the hiss as the ash struck the sandy dunes in front of them, and then with a stab of fear they were lost in blinding greyness.
It seemed like they were underwater, so complete were the grey eddies around them. The ground seemed to shake, or perhaps it was just the hypnotic spiraling of particles. Vision was limited to just beyond arm's reach.
"Sstick together!" shouted the voice of Hara-Kalor. Groping blindly, they moved to comply.
<Plot> something sounded amid the ash cloud. <ploSS> <ptump> Something landed next to Trian. It was a rock larger than a human head. <PTANK> a pebble resounded off Beeone.
"Sscatter!" shouted Hara-Kalor again.
A helpless fear washed through them as they ran. Lethal volcanic missiles were falling from the sky and they were totally unable to see, let alone look for cover. Trian suddenly found himself facedown in the ash, and when he tried to climb to his feet he found that his left arm didn't seem to be working. An instant later the burning sensation of a jagged tear in his shoulder set in, and he couldn't stifle a scream. Another chunk, a suitcase-sized rock glowing red, crashed a few meters away, showering him in ash and chips of rock that stung where they touched skin. Dimly he heard the shrill squeal of Kraych in pain.
Then the tectonic spasm had passed, pattering to silence, and there was only the whirling greyness. Oord stumbled to him out of the haze, a ghostly figure covered with powder, and with his help Trian struggled to his feet. They moved toward the voices of the others.
In minutes they were all there- but nobody knew where 'there' was. Everyone had become totally disoriented in the ash, more rocks might fall from the sky at any moment, and if they went the wrong way they could head into more of it, or blunder back the way they had come.
"It's this way, I'm sure of it" Oord waved his hand into the grey.
"Are you mad?" Claymore shot back. "We were heading over there" he pointed a full ninety degrees from where Oord had indicated.
"I didn't take a bearing, but it was in this direction, I know it" Oord pressed.
"I've had to rely on my sense of direction many times" Claymore stated with authority. "Now come on, everyone".
Nobody moved. [Vote] Kraych suggested, and although it was close, more of them believed Oord. They formed a chain, hands on shoulders, and shuffled behind him nervously. They walked.
The ash continued to swirl, making breathing difficult and irritating the eyes. It seemed to go on forever, and there was a nagging feeling that they might have been walking in circles. They could not tell. At least no more rocks had dropped.
Claymore was unusually quiet, sulking.
"I've lost track of time" Piban's muffled voice sounded through his clothes.
"Yeah" Trian shouted back.
"Actually, sir" Beeone's voice was slightly amplified "we have been walking for one hour, twenty-three minutes and fourteen seconds".
Piban just nodded wearily, too tired to comment.
Seventeen minutes and forty-two seconds later, the sky began to brighten. The constant swirling lessened to downward drifting, and before long the ash was a cloud receding behind them. The mountains were much closer now, and while they had wandered off their original path they seemed to have kept to the same general direction. It was mid afternoon.
They dressed the wounds of Trian and Kraych as best they could, using some of their precious water.
"Did you see that?" snapped Claymore suddenly.
"Ssee what?" Hara-Kalor replied, looking in the direction he was pointing.
"A flash of light!" the senator exclaimed. "Where the third and fourth of those mountains meet".
Oord studied the area with his macrobinoculars but found nothing. "Got a bit of ash in you eye?" Trian prompted, but Oord cut him off.
"It's the first lead we've had" said the seeker. "I trust him, and we didn't have any other plans when we got to these mountains. Any objections?"
They resumed their journey, reaching the foothills when night fell.
That night, Hara-Kalor had dreams of his master
again. Tsai-Roshi was running urgently and called out a dim
warning to him, but Hara-Kalor's voice was gone.
"Capsella bursa-pastoris" intoned Piban, holding the plant up in the morning light. "Otherwise known as shepherd's purse. A hardy little plant, and quite edible" he poked the heart-shaped seeds into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Claymore followed suit, tempted by anything that wasn't an Ithorian sausage, then they resumed clambering up the scree slope.
From the top an ominous sight met their eyes. Some kilometers away a black tower rose from a mesa between the darkened mountains like the hilt of a giant dagger thrust into the heart of the world.
Looks pretty old came the voice of Oord beneath his helmet, studying it with the macrobinoculars. And recently inhabited. Theres some kind of energy fence at the base of it that looks new, and theres a landing pad on the side of the tower with a ship on it. The Rough Cut.
Hmm Claymore grunted. Not my first choice for a ship to steal. Still, we may only have to reach a communications console in that tower and send a distress signal.
They covered the distance slowly, making use of the mountains to shield them from view. As they drew closer they began to notice the yellow marbled veins in the structures black rock. Hold here Oord said in a low voice when the tower started to loom above them. Its time for a professional to check it ou- Trians little droid scurried between his feet and off through the grass toward the energy fence.
Muttering, Oord followed. He kept low to the ground, working his way in a wide arc until downwind of the compound ringed by the energy fence. Crawling slowly through the long grass and mindful of being seen from the tower above, he edged closer until details could be seen.
It appeared to be some sort of colony. Hemispherical huts dotted the compound, formed of blackened mud, and among them walked short spindly humanoids. They were grey skinned with large eyes, and to Oords trained eye they walked with the defeated stoop of prisoners. In this case he knew that they were more likely slaves.
The energy fence looked state of the art, wires crackling with power and the apparent reason that he could see no guards. At the base of one of the poles he saw Trians droid, who had apparently ran through the grass and smacked into it, stunning itself. Crawling over on his elbows, Oord reached out and retrieved it.
One of the passing slaves turned at the movement, looked right at him, then continued on its way.
Oord pondered this for a moment, then keyed his comlink. Come on up he said. Quietly.
While waiting for their approach, he made a beckoning gesture to the alien. Hey he said Come here.
The small, thin humanoid approached. Though Oord had never seen the species before, he could tell it was terrified. I wont hurt you he assured it.
The creature didnt meet his eyes. The masters do what the masters wish. Yes, they do.
Oord gave it a pitying look as his friends arrived. Were not the masters. We want to help he offered.
We dare not be helped. No, we dont.
The power fence seemed designed with the short creatures in mind, and was gingerly overcome by the group and some cooperation. Once Beeone and Claymore joined the conversation things began to get easier, and they questioned a few of the slaves.
They were of a race called the Stroo, a subterranean civilization that was renowned on some worlds for their keen eye in finding and cutting gemstones. Theyd been rounded up by some humanoid pirates and transplanted there as an entire colony almost a year before. They werent well confined (the power fence could be carefully climbed through), but there was nowhere to go on the planet and the colony was held hostage by a bomb in the center of the compound. If the Stroo rebelled, it could be activated and their underground breeding chambers would be flooded with toxic gas.
Trian found the bomb device in the middle of the compound, an ominous looking plunger implanted in the ashen surface with a slot that fitted an activation key. He looked it over carefully and concluded that it was too risky to attempt disarming it.
From their new perspective they could see the security door set into the base of the mesa below the tower. According to the Stroo, some guards would come out of it regularly with a cargo sled to deliver food or take some of the Stroo to work within the tower. The ones that had been inside didnt have much to report, just dark rooms where they sorted purple gems in search for ones without flaw.
According to this Stroo added Beeone, chatting to another in a percussive language The guards are due at sundown, about four standard hours from now.
Then have that long to come up with a plan said Oord grimly.
three guards were all Ohrine. As thick-set and strong as a
Gamorrean, their tough grey hides and bony nose protrusions made
them formidable in combat. Not that they had seen much combat
lately. The Blastech Snap-3 carbines they held at the ready had
not been fired in the months since they had moved to the volcanic
system to serve the Crystal Circle as the Stroos keepers.
It was boring work, lacking in variety and glory.
When the turbolift hissed to the bottom of the liftwell, the three pushed the hovering platform down the short, dimly lit corridor leading to the Stroo compound. When they reached the security door they set their weapons from habit (two to kill, one to stun), in the eventuality of the spindly humanoids having any surprises for them.
The door scraped upward. The compound lay there as it always did. As they strode out into the dusk Stroo eyed the guards expectantly, torn between coming to them (in case theyd brought food), or keeping away (in case they needed slave workers).
None of them saw Trian slip out of the thin locker in the corridor behind them, and drop the security door. Before the clang had finished echoing, the tech had scrambled the security code and the others emerged cautiously from behind the turbolift.
Well, thats that Piban commented smugly.
Lets move Trian snapped. They might be able to pick the lock as well as I could.
The turbolift seemed to them to be out of place, a modern convenience added to an ancient structure. They readied their weapons, keyed the controls and as it ascended through the rock, they couldnt shake the feeling that there was someone watching them.
They passed a few levels before the lift reached one that it stopped at. Sixth floor- underwear, shoes, hosiery Oord announced as the doors slid open to reveal a small warehousing area dotted with small crates.
They edged out cautiously, but the room was as empty of life as the corridor leading from it.
[Medpacks and food] informed Kraych, lifting the lid of a crate with a claw.
Letss keep moving said Hara-Kalor, throat-patch phasing to orange as his eyes took in the corridor Can't you feel it? Thiss iss an evil placce.
Beyond the room the stonework was much older, and very opulent. The floor between their feet was composed of large black stones almost a meter square and polished to give a dull reflection, and overhead a jagged red mosaic pattern overlaid the black. One could look at the place and feel the centuries. Claymore wondered why it had never been found by the Jedi or republic.
The corridor twisted and opened into a rounded room that was so far across it made them realize for the first time how big the tower was. There were several tapestries on the walls, three small archways on the far side and the flickering light from burning braziers gave the room a feeling of eerie reverence. Pillars reached into the gloom overhead.
Oord slipped his blaster from its holster. Nobody asked why or thought he had seen something, they all understood. The feeling as they crept across the chamber was one of an ancient evil. Their search for a way to escape the planet had let them to the dragons lair.
The burning braziers flared and in an eyeblink the chamber was in total blackness. Fear spiked inside them, followed by disorientation.
Helmet night vision is out reported Oord's voice. This darkness isnt natural. Somewhere close to him he heard Kraych sniffing.
A voice sounded within the room, an alien throat that sounded like grating stone. As our order has returned from the dead, so it seems, have you it rasped.
Trian shook his head. He felt like was on a merry-go-round. Was the floor turning? Rising? Who is this? Claymores voice asked the echoing dark.
This said the voice slowly is a test. A simple measure of the capabilities of one of our new servants.
No-one replied. The Servants of the Sith had already shown their capabilities in capturing them all, taking them to this forsaken planet and dropping them into molten rock.
A deep growl echoed in the room, sounding reptilian and BIG. They heard the clatter of claws on stone.
And the voice continued our pet.
is it, thought Piban. In the last few weeks Ive escaped
more danger than any man is meant to, and my luck has run out.
Im going to die.
We have to work together he called into the darkness.
There was no reply. He was alone.
crouched low, straining his senses for whatever was out there,
and cursing that he was in action without other Seekers. In such
situations the operatives could sense each other, but his friends
were out there somewhere and could be killed by friendly fire.
Those friends didnt give it a second thought, and panicked
blaster bolts punched through the darkness at an enemy they
couldnt see, shedding no light in the unnatural black. Oord
gave up and fired too, aiming away from the sound of the other
blasters. The feeling of being exposed and helpless was
He moved to the left, away from where the growl had originated, and met a wall. There had not been one there before. He thought there was something close to him, then it was gone.
The floors moved he called. A blaster bolt smacked the wall above him.
Theyre splitting us up Claymores voice sounded tensely to the right. Who else can hear me?
I can said a voice.
Im h- Beeones voice was interrupted by what sounded like a hacksaw being dragged though a metal plate. here sir, but I seem to have suffered an injury from.. something.
[And me] Kraych added shrilly.[You were right about this room- a pillar here is sliding upward]. There was a metallic tearing sound. [Something just cut my blaster in half!]
Nobody else reported in. Something large scratched across the stones between them, and Claymore thought he felt breath on his face. Were they being toyed with, worn down slowly?
I should suggest that we move together Beeone contributed as the panic fire resumed.
And everyone shoot away from our voices! shouted Oord.
groped around in the darkness and yelped when a claw touched his
Itss me Hara-Kalor reassured. He thought he could hear sounds of fighting, but it seemed far off.
Careful Trian said. I think the floor drops away around us.
Cant you feel it? the Jedi answered. Were rising. Theres something waiting above us, and a presence I know well.
crept forward feeling carefully with his feet, groping blindly
with the hand that wasnt holding his blaster. He could have
wandered back down the corridor through which they had entered
the room, or perhaps he was unconscious and dreaming. It seemed
just as dark whether his eyes were open or shut.
And then, like passing through a curtain, he stepped out of the darkness and stood blinking in an unfamiliar room. It appeared to be some sort of crew quarters with hammocks lining the wall. Bags of equipment lay on the floor and hung from hooks, and on the far side the room an archway opened to the dizzying drop outside the tower. Silhouetted in the arch was an Ohrine mercenary engaged in fastening a bulky belt covered in circuitry.
Piban recognized two things in an instant. One, it was a paragrav belt and he was going to jump. Two, he had around his neck an activation key the same
size as the slot in the Stroo compounds bomb.
The mercenary jumped, powering the belt as he did so, and began to float toward the ground and compound below. Piban didnt hesitate, scrambling across the room to the archway and snatching up one of the other belts.
He struggled with the buckles. Paragrav belts werent hard to use (some towers on Coruscant even stocked them in case of fire), but it was an unfamiliar design and the urgency of the situation make him all thumbs. Once everything clicked into place the pilot checked the indicator lights with a glance and, swallowing hard, jumped without powering it on.
The move was deliberate. The mercenary had a solid lead, but gravity was on Pibans side. With the wind in his face he plummeted facefirst from the tower, fighting to keep his head clear from the panic of vertigo and estimating the distance. Jabbing the activator hard, he arrested his freefall scant meters above the drifting mercenary, who watched the ground expectantly and was completely unaware of his presence.
Piban made himself known by pumping two blaster shots deep into the Ohrines shoulders and waist. It roared in agony, spinning away from the pilot with the force of the bolts and flailing with its own blaster.
Piban offered it no respite. The lives of the Stroo were at stake, and the Ohrine was probably headed for the bomb because of their intrusion. He gripped the blaster in both hands and fired again.
They say there is no such thing as luck. Had Piban been conscious afterward he would have asked them to explain exactly how else a badly wounded Ohrine blinded by pain and facing away from him could have swung his arm around and fired a panic shot that caught the pilot on the side of the head.
[GM's note: The 'wild die' part of the gaming system produces some great flukes, both good and bad]
Time to die, Jedi lovers said the voice. Oord recognized it
this time. It was Kek Rendar, the cult member that
had rescued them from bounty hunters to use them as bait above
Beeone fired his stubby blaster again, photoreceptors straining to make sense of the inky darkness. Audio processing registered a sound 0.047 seconds after the shot that indicated there was an 88% chance it had struck something organic. He hoped it wasnt his master the senator.
Like the lifting of a veil the darkness vanished, to reveal a sight just as startling. They were in a circular room that was obviously used for cartography, filled with wheeling holographic images of planets and suns. In the center of the room lay a spiderlike creature with serrated appendages and a wolfish carnivorous head. It was bigger than a speeder, and dead.
At first Claymore though that the room was ringed by a head-high wall, then he realized they were in a large sunken pit that provided easy viewing of holographic system maps and doubled as the creatures lair. Atop the wall, on the half-level above, were banks of mapping computers and a man in dark grey robes. Kek Rendar. Fallish Tor, Highservant of the ancient order that had waited a millennia for the Siths return.
Though he seemed startled at the disappearance of the darkness, he immediately threw something to the floor that began to fill the room with smoke. As he began to disappear behind it, Claymore saw him draw a black-bladed sword from beneath his robes.
The Senator fired up into the smoke from his small holdout blaster, hearing only the hissing of melted stone. Beeone appeared in the smoke to his right, a flickering moon passing eerily through him.
Claymore glanced down at his blaster. It only had one more shot, but to stay where he was was to wait for death. The Highservant didnt seem to be planning on leaving anytime soon.
Cover me he asked Beeone. Im going up there.
blinked as the darkness disappeared, and snapped his blaster
reflexively toward an oncoming ringed planet that passed through
his head, buzzing holographically. He saw Beeone and started
toward him, but smoke started to fill the room and the droid was
lost in swirling whiteness.
He set his jaw. Theyd regained visibility only to have it reduced to less than two meters. Finding a pillar, he set his back to it and watched the smoke intently as planets disappeared and reappeared around him. The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
A figure of grey appeared above him, silhouetted by nebulae, twisting in the air. In its hand was a glowing white sword. Oord fired a snapshot without conscious thought and his aim was true. The figure hissed, then there was a flash and Oord was thrown to the floor. He fired again but the grey man flipped out of sight, trailing a thin arc of blood.
Then the pain hit him, a stripe of agony over his shoulder and chest. Looking down Oord saw that his armour had not been cut but melted, and even in the brief moment of the attack he had felt the intense heat coming from the weapon. The sword was white hot.
With the stench of his own burnt flesh in his nostrils, Oord rose to one knee and steadied his weakening hand with the other one. The smoke began to thin.
The figure flew at him out of the smoke, flying kick leading the sword. Oord's blaster moved to track it but the foot brushed the blaster, causing the bolt to burn through the grey cloak. Another bolt from somewhere in the smoke passed close to the grey figure's head, then the heatblade flashed downward into Oord's thigh.
The darkness seemed to be coming back. Oord fell into it.
clambered to the upper level of the room, but their attacker was
no longer there. Somewhere in the smoke Oord scream in pain.
[Fsst!] A sound gained his attention. Kraych, having lost his blaster in the fight, had somehow climbed up one of the two pillars in the room and was above the smoke. He pointed to near the other pillar. Claymore strained his senses, tiny blaster following his vision, and saw a grey figure flit through the thinning haze. He fired the blaster's last charge, a fine snap shot, but not good enough.
The senator jumped into the pit again as a sound reached his ears, one that sounded like Oord's armour falling to the stone. He ran toward it, hoping to aid his companion or, if that failed, at least to grab his blaster.
He found Oord lying on the floor next to a pillar, in a coma or worse. His wounds were deep and cauterised, and the heavy blaster was still in his hands. It was quite an effort to remove it.
Claymore stood in a combat stance over the Seeker's body, eyes darting rapidly around the room and self-doubt creeping up his spine. Did he still have his skills at this sort of thing? In days gone by he had taken on his share of assassins, but he was not so young any more...
He never got the chance to find out. He had barely registered that Fallish Tor was behind him when two thick bolts of energy punched through the grey robes. The Highservant crumpled to the floor in death as ROB-1 stepped out of the smoke, blaster sweeping for any more threats to his master.
The heatblade clattered to the stone and eased to red as it began to cool. Claymore shot the Servant's body again in anger.
floor didn't seem to be moving any more, but Hara-Kalor and Trian
only felt in greater danger. They had edged slowly forward
together, and now a gentle wind in their faces indicated that
they were in the open air.
Helplessness had set in when the darkness vanished in the blink of an eye. Both of them gasped in shock.
They were just outside the doorway leading onto the tower's large landing platform. Barely fifteen meters away stood an imposing figure of an insect species, robed in black. A purple gem gleamed from between two compound eyes, and red lightsabers flashed in two of its four arms.
was obviously he who had induced the darkness, and it was also
obvious to Trian and Hara-Kalor why he had not been able to
maintain the concentration the darkness needed.
He was in mortal lightsaber combat with Tsai-Roshi, Hara-Kalor's Jedi Master.