Jom caught up with the others waiting at the doors to a pair of elevators. As he joined them the doors slid open and they all stepped in. Lok pressed the button marked “1” and they headed up. As the doors opened they were surprised to find a droid waiting for them. “Good morning gentle beings. I see you are visitors. May I help you? I can take you wherever you are going or give you directions.”
Tarth took the initiative. “We’re here to see Dr Cerone Gabbett, directions will do fine.”
“Of course, the office of Dr Gabbett is located down this corridor, then take a left and continue to the end. It is the last door on the right and clearly labelled.”
Tarth immediately started walking in the direction indicated, but Thoulyakk paused to say “Thank you very much.” To the droid. Catching up with Tarth he whispered “That was rather rude!”
Tarth whispered back at him, “Thoulyakk we are pretending to be the bad guys! Bad guys are rude.” Jom and Lok shared a look at Tarth’s complete failure to use the codenames they had set up earlier.
Reaching the office they found it empty and locked, as they had expected, however before they could break in an employee from a nearby office stopped by to offer assistance to the visitors. Tarth ended up accepting her offer to fetch her supervisor to help, on the basis that he might be able to let them in peacefully, and if not then stunning two office drones would not be much more difficult or risky than stunning one. As it turned out it was a good call as Lok, using data he hacked from the local network, managed to convince the man to let them in. Unfortunately as soon as they got in and saw the large window they realised they had made a fundamental mistake. The science building only connected to the Inquisitorius base at the bottom, up at this level there was a large gap between them that would be very difficult and far too obvious to traverse.
The group made a show of collecting a briefcase, having claimed the need to collect a classified item as their reason to enter the office, and left the floor. Tarth thought to press the button for the lobby floor, just in case the staff were suspicious and watched to see that they were really leaving, but they were truly heading to the basement level. As the basement level was full of labs, and they had not prepared an excuse to be there, Tarth suggested that they could climb out into the lift shaft to give them somewhere to hide and make a new plan. Before the group could discuss it, the lift arrived at the lobby floor and the doors opened. The group stayed quiet as a scientist entered the lift with them, checked that the button for the basement had been pressed, and turned to face the doors as the lift continued to descend.
Tarth glanced up, the hatch in the ceiling looked big enough. He stuck his stun gun into the scientists back and pulled the trigger. Grabbing her before she fell, he used the force to boost himself as he leapt up through the hatch and onto the roof of the lift. The others panicked and froze, unsure what to do. Moments later the lift arrived at the basement floor. The doors opened. A few scientists walked past without looking at them. The doors closed again. Before the lift could start moving, Thoulyakk smashed his fist into the controls, breaking the front plate and mashing the electronics inside. The lights went out.
Tarth’s head popped down from the hatch in the ceiling. “Thoulyakk, what are you doing?” Now they’ll investigate and find this scientist!” he hissed.
“Well why did you stun her? If you’d left her alone there’d be nothing to find!”
“Stop it,” El interjected, “eet’s done. Nozing we can do about it now.”
Tarth dropped lightly to the floor. “She’s right. And we can’t stay here. El is dressed in a lab coat, I suggest we follow her and walk with purpose towards the far wall adjoining the Inquisitorius. We find ourselves any empty room we can.”
After a bit of walking and some quick work from Lok, the group ended up in a laboratory that they had managed to reserve for themselves, with the doors firmly locked behind them. Along the way they had seen many other laboratories that appeared to be experimenting with diseases or maybe even bio weapons on various aliens. Tarth and Thoulyakk had been greatly disturbed by this and discussed various plans for destroying the laboratories and mercy-killing the victims, but the fear of unleashing a plague upon the heavily populated metropolis world greatly restricted their options. In the end they decided they would deal with it on the way back. Worst case Tarth had a couple of thermal detonators he could leave behind on a timer.
Using a lightsaber they cut their way through the thick walls. It took a long time, using a complex cutting technique of conical and cylindrical cuts, but within 10 minutes they were through.
The group emerged into what appeared to be either a prison cell, or a rather spartan bedchamber. The lack of locks upon the door suggested the latter. As they quietly explored the floor they were on they quickly determined that the floor they were on was mostly comprised of individual quarters along a pair of corridors with some kind of arena in the middle.
Most of the chambers were empty, but a few chambers along from the one they entered by, they found one that still had a made bed, and a few personal items and clothing. Tarth quickly identified a book detailing lightsaber construction techniques next to the bed, whilst Lok examined the dust build-up on the bed and concluded it had not been used in at least a week. When Jom examined the half open door and found the word “Mai” stencilled upon it, they realised this was the chamber belonging to Assana. The fact that she had not slept in it since her apparent escape reassured them. Tarth felt slightly guilty that he had taken her lightsabers and now was taking the book she would need to build replacements, however he rationalised that all the knowledge here had likely been stolen from the Jedi in the first place.
Of all the rooms on this floor, Assana’s had been the only one showing signs of occupation. Entering the central chamber however, they found two figures that Tarth quickly identified. IG-100 MagnaGuards, very expensive and well designed droids capable of combating even fully trained Jedi Knights. Fortunately, they both appeared inactive. One was clearly broken into pieces, cut by a lightsaber, whilst the other seemed in-tact. Lok plugged his datapad into the in-tact one, whilst Jom and Tarth poked tentatively at the other. “The electro-staff might be worth having Jom. It’s made from a cortosis ore and can block a lightsaber. If we do run into another inquisitor it could be the only thing you can use to protect yourself.” Jom was hesitant, he wasn’t much of a fighter and certainly not hand to hand, but it seemed like a sensible last resort, so he cautiously picked it up.
Meanwhile Thoulyakk had been examining the source of light in the room. In the centre of the arena was a large statue of a robed and hooded figure, holding some kind of floating light source aloft in one palm. The light source was out of reach, and he was loath to use his jetpack as it would make a lot of noise and light. After a while his presence attracted Tarth and Jom who came over to see what he had found, and Tarth simply reached up and used the force to pull the light source to him. It was an ornate metal pyramid illuminated from within by a red light. When it landed on Tarth’s palm, parts of the object opened up and the hologram of another robed figure appeared.
“I am Darth Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith. Those who use the dark side are also bound to serve it. To understand this is to understand the underlying philosophy of the Sith. The dark side offers power for power's sake. You must crave it. Covet it. You must seek power above all else, with no reservation or hesitation. The Force will change you. It will transform you. Some fear this change. The teachings of the Jedi are focused on fighting and controlling this transformation. That is why those who serve the light are limited in what they accomplish.”
As the monolog completed the holographic figure disappeared. Tarth quietly closed the object back up, and secured it with the lightsaber construction manual. Jom and Thoulyakk were staring at him, so he felt some explanation was deserved. “Revan was… something of a myth. He was a Jedi who became a Sith and then a Jedi again and then maybe a Sith again. There are contradictory stories, and it’s not something I really studied. But as this holocron was made when he was calling himself a Lord of the Sith, this is probably some pretty dark stuff. I’m not sure if we should look at it or destroy it, but either way we shouldn’t leave it here.”
When they returned to Lok it was to find him with a somewhat functional IG-100 on remote control. Unfortunately the droid was protesting this treatment and threatening to murder them all, so Lok had to manually disable it’s vocoder. With the search of this floor complete, they headed upstairs to ground level.
With their less than subtle movements, Tarth relented on his self-enforced restriction on using the force in an attempt to avoid alerting other nearby force users, and he reached out to feel for other living beings nearby. He could feel most of the ground floor and could detect only a single person, who seemed to be asleep or maybe unconscious. Tarth and Thoulyakk led the way, with Lok and his new droid acting as rearguard.
Entering the room they found a human male shackled to some kind of medical bed or operating table in what seemed to be a cross between a hospital and a torture chamber. A screen suspended above his head displayed the words “Lanai Pone Gnu” to the prisoner. He also had the word “TRAI” scratched into his chest deep enough to be bleeding. Thoulyakk turned to the members of the group who had served under Captian Slex aboard the Pigeon, “Is this him?” Tarth answered first, “Yes, it’s him.” They all looked at Tarth with surprise, nobody was aware he had ever met Sauto or indeed even knew what he looked like, but before they could discuss it further Lok pushed into the room. “This blue light in the room is not just a light, the whole room is being recorded in full holo!”
“We should move him!” said Thoulyakk, but before they could move Sauto any further a door at the opposite end of the room opened.
Three figures emerged. The two at the back were clad in black robes with imposing helmets and electro-staffs, but they were led by a bareheaded human in segmented black armour. He was older, with a receding hairline, but clearly fit and looked very competent to wield the lightsaber clipped too his belt. The handle was longer than usual, with an emitter at each end. He did not immediately draw his weapon however, and the group in turn held still, waiting to see what would happen. Instead of addressing anyone in the room, he turned his head to the side and addressed and unseen observer. “As you can see my lord, my plan has worked exactly as I expected.” In response a holo projector on a side table lit up, displaying a dark helmeted head with an angular respirator. “So I see,” the figure paused for a laboured breath, “but you have not yet finished the job. Do not fail me again Commander Flisk, the next failure will be your last.” With that threatening comment the projector turned off, and the blue light of the holo recorder that had bathed the room also turned off, leaving the group in shadowy gloom, lit only by some minor side lights.
Turning at last to the rooms occupants the apparently Inquisitor addressed them. “For form’s sake I will make this offer, but only once. Surrender now and you will not be killed.” Thoulyakk and Tarth stepped forwards and drew their lightsabers, igniting them with a snap-hiss. The Inquisitor smiled a feral grin, “so be it,” and snatched his own weapon from his belt. With his henchmen following his lead, the room exploded into violent action.
Flisk leapt at Tarth in a blur, his double ended lightsaber letting him unleash a punishing flurry of blows that forced Tarth onto the defensive. Flisk was the more skilled, and quickly battered down Tarth’s defences, until he slipped his red blade past Tarth’s yellow and struck him with a classic Sheak to the centre chest with a triumphant cry. The triumph turned to shock when the blade failed to penetrate Tarth’s armour, and the surprise impact threw his balance off. Tarth quickly retaliated with a brutal kick to Flisk’s forward knee, now exposed, which made a horrible crunch. As Flisk staggered back, limping badly, Tarth followed up with a counter blow from his own lightsaber and was equally surprised to find his blade too bounced off Flisk’s armour.
Flisk steadied himself and recomposed his defence. “So, we have taken the measure of each other. But I am still better than you Jedi.” He smiled at Tarth, a confident sneer. Tarth in turn unclipped his second lightsaber and tossed it to El who was trying to get a clear shot. “Cut Sauto free,” he said. Turning back to Flisk he raised his blade in salute. “That may be, but I have one thing you don’t darksider. Friends.” Flisk looked around at his guards. One was being badly mauled by Thoulyakk, with Jom adding a distraction with his acquired electro-staff. The other guard was faring slightly better against the IG-100 droid, but he certainly wasn’t winning. Flisk lost his grin as he turned back to Tarth. “All I need is time, Flisk.” added Tarth. “So be it,” Flisk spat, and leapt back into the fray.
At the start of the battle Thoulyakk and Tarth had got stuck in with their lightsabers, and that left Jom without a clear shot. Instead he edged cautiously around the fray and started jabbing at the leftmost henchman that Thoulyakk was fighting. The trooper was armed with some kind of lightsaber resistant electro-staff much like the one Jom had collected, and was skilled enough with it to be defending himself from Thoulyakk’s lightsaber blows, but the stature and power of Thoulyakk was quickly overwhelming him. Looking for an opening he jabbed at the apparently less skilled Jom, driving him back and forcing Thoulyakk to intercept and defend his friend.
At the other side of the battle the second trooper was locked in combat with the IG-100 droid Lok had dubbed “Maggy”. He was winning, and driving the droid back, until Sauto, who El had quickly freed and armed with Jec’s spare lightsaber, joined the fray. All at once the combat turned, Sauto cut down one trooper whilst Thoulyakk, enraged by the assault on his friend, battered through the defences of the other.
Flisk was better than Tarth, but Tarth had a strong defence and was well aware that all he had to do was buy time. Flisk on the other hand was running out of time, and his fighting had become less composed as the battle wore on. He now found himself alone, weary and wounded, and surrounded by enemies. “You should surrender,” Tarth said, although without much conviction. “You should DIE!” shouted Flisk and he leapt at Thoulyakk, lashing at him furiously with both ends of his saber. Thoulyakk took some damage but hastily composed his defence, and the three lightsaber wielding allies closed a ring around Flisk.
With his skilled defence and lightsaber resistant armour none of them could get a clean blow it was a slow but inevitable and gruelling battle of attrition as each of them in turn found holes in his defence and wounded him. Eventually it was Sauto who managed to finish of Flisk, who by this point was a half blinded wreck powered by pure rage. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.” They all felt somewhat sickened by their participation.
Breathing heavily they looked around and found that the battle was over. Sauto looked around at his rescuers. “Jom! Lok, El… you… you should not have come here. And, I do not believe I know these other individuals.”
“I am Thoulyakk, and I believe this belongs to you.” Thoulyakk proffered Sauto’s lightsaber which he had brought with him to return to Sauto. Sauto received it gently and with affection. “Indeed it does,” he said, staring at the weapon. “And this I believe is yours,” he said as he looked at Tarth with curiosity. Tarth removed his helm and looked into Sauto’s eyes. “My name is Tarth Arlos. We do not know each other, but I believe we met before, not too far from here.” Jom and Lok looked at each other behind Tarth’s back; Lok raised an eyebrow and Jom mouthed the words “not a Jedi”.
Sauto looked deep into Tarth’s eyes and after a moment nodded hesitantly. “Yes, it’s been a few years... We should get your wounds treated,” suggested Tarth. Do you know why they carved “TRAI” into you?”
“That was me, I was trying to write ‘trap’ but I lost consciousness before I could finish.”
“Ah,” said Tarth, mentally kicking himself, “of course. And ‘Lanai Pone Gnu’?” he said, gesturing to the now broken screens. Sauto turned to Jom, “Jom, you have my ship, right?”
“Er… the Pigeon…”
“Ah yes, I forgot we had renamed her the Annual Pigeon. She has many secrets of the Jedi Order engraved into the hull plates. I trust she is still safe? And KT? She must have shown you where my lightsaber was hidden...” Jom and Lok looked at each other in mild horror, each unwilling to speak. Tarth spoke for them, “The Pigeon is damaged but recoverable, however we came here on a different ship. R2-KT is waiting there for us.”
Whilst Lok treated Sauto’s injuries Tarth and Thoulyakk scouted around. Tarth collected Flisk’s lightsaber, and the valuable cortosis infused armour plates he wore. In the study next door Thoulyakk found a paper bound volume and showed it to Tarth. “What is ‘Vapaad’?”
“Oh dear. It is a dangerous lightsaber technique, one that few Jedi can master without corruption. We should probably not use this Thoulyakk, but I don’t think we should leave it here either. I will put it with the holocron.”