The Sidori Gambit

Imperial Divisions
In which the Empire isn't as united as it appears

by The_Flax

Moff Yeagar swiveled around in his cushy chair and peered through the wall sized window pane behind his two guests. Gastogne’s Karakas mountain range was unremarkable in a galaxy filled with wonders, but Jeremiah Yeagar found the rocky peaks majestic and in a way, they made him think of himself, towering over their surroundings. To say Moff Yeagar was a powerful figure in the Sidori Cluster would be an understatement, Moff Yeagar was the penultimate authority in the Cluster and his word was law. That’s how it was in theory at least, in practice things were more… fluid.

The puffy Moff absently scratched the back of an earlobe and decided his guests had waited long enough to impress upon them his importance. He stared at the first of the two officers, Captain Irene Hayes, and realized his petty stratagems were lost on her. She sat straight like a duracrete pillar with her graying dark hair bundled severely behind her head, the expression of her angular, gaunt features, impassive and her gaze unflinching. Yet none of these were her defining characteristics, slowly Moff Yeagar’s stare drifted to the left side of her face, completely covered in burn scars and he almost gaped, for the scarring seemed much lighter in her profile.

The nervous smile of the second officer, Captain Crip Hokum, managed to bring him back to reality as he turned to consider his associate. Hokum had been operating with him here for the better part of year and the young blond man had already started losing his lean form and the telling crispness of every young officer straight out of the academy. Unlike Hayes, a rare breed, Hokum hadn’t been promoted for his competence and he would probably make Admiral before the older woman, something that had not been lost on Moff Yeagar who already had the young Captain deep in his pocket.

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The Youngling

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Thirty-one years before the Battle of Yavin

The youngling emerged from the rotunda chapel to find a woman waiting for her, dressed in the brown robes of a Jedi, with the hood pulled down over her eyes. A smile crossed her lips as she said, rather than asked, “Zeva Vigil.”

“That’s me,” the youngling replied, the words touched with the accent she’d inherited from her clan’s Cathar warden. She brushed her bangs away from her eyes, taking a moment to look at the Jedi. “And you are Dambraya Tulu.”

“That’s right. I didn’t think they told you that.”

“They didn’t. We met before, once. When my clan won the tournament that year.”

“Really?” Tulu closed the distance between them. “That was five years ago.”

“Yes.”

“And you’re how old now? Ten?”

“Nine.”

“Are you now.”

“That’s right. And in all this time, I haven’t met any other Mirelurks.”

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Sir

by Ellanutella

Eleven Years Ago

“Kes.”

The cockpit was a fairly tiny affair but larger…and a bit less shiny than she had been expecting, given how polished the outside was. Clean, to be sure, but the metal was dulled with a few years of use. A sign of a good ship, then, to have lasted a while and still be put together and working as well as was told. A pair of seats, pilot’s and co-pilot’s, were separated by a panel with screens on the surface. A pair of thin pipes ran along the wall, just below the ceiling. It all seemed very sturdy, well-built. Just a bit of polish when the captain wasn’t looking, and it could look like new.

“Kes!”

The dashboard glowed with many little lights, flickering colors. She tried to take them all in, eyes following them as one lit and another extinguished. Most of the buttons weren’t labeled – how would she ever be able to tell what they were? Blasters had a handful or two of buttons at most, easy enough to remember; this ship, and it was a small one, all things considered, had at least a hundred of them, and dials, too. But already, she had found a favorite button – a big, bright red one, one that she probably should not ever touch. Especially considering it was surrounded by glass.

“Oh, for the love of – Kes!”

Nalin touched her shoulder firmly. Kes turned around, tearing her eyes away from the console. She opened her mouth to demand what he wanted, but then realized to whom she was speaking and why she was here in the first place. She snapped her hand to her horned forehead in a sharp salute.

“Sir! Sorry, sir,” she said just barely suppressing a sheepish grin.

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The Padawan

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Twenty-nine years before the Battle of Yavin

“There is no emotion, there is peace,” said Tulu. “What does that mean?”

Zeva had heard the words all of her life, but no one had ever asked her that before. “Emotion is a falsehood,” Zeva said tentatively, fidgeting with her Padawan braid. It sounded stupid, but it was the first answer that came to mind, and she’d been taught to trust her instincts.

“Look around you, Zeva.” Tulu waved her arm at the vast lavender Fields of Banir, stretching out in all directions around the ruins of the Jedi Temple. After Tulu’s business on Dantooine had concluded, master and student had climbed to the Temple’s summit for this lesson. “Isn’t this place beautiful? Doesn’t it make your heart sing to be here?”

“It does.” Leaping before you looked, however, was always frowned upon, for reasons like this.

“Then try again. And don’t guess, this time.”

Zeva pursed her lips. “Emotion… is part of life. It is life. But the Jedi must be able to set her feelings aside… to remain at peace. Because anger and fear lead to the dark side.”

Tulu nodded. “Better, but it’s not just anger and fear. Even feelings of love can turn against you.”

“Love?” Zeva laughed. “Isn’t that just in stories? Jedi falling in ‘love’ and coming to horrible, tragic ends because of it?”

“No, Zeva. It’s not just in stories.” The master got to her feet and walked toward the steps down the Temple, stopping just at the edge. She turned her face to one of Dantooine’s moons; from her position, Zeva could see Tulu’s vestigial eye sockets. In two years of apprenticeship, she had never seen them before. They weren’t hideous, just… different. “You’ve seen enough of the world beyond the Temple to know that, now.”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean that it happens to Jedi.”

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The Other Side
In which the Coalition of Freedom decides upon a new course of action.

by The_Flax

Five figures were seated around a makeshift table, indistinct in the dim light, their complete privacy assured by the rocky walls and roof. They all had two things in common: they each wore more than two weapons, and they hated the Empire with a passion.

Shiri Torr, a green skinned Twi’lek in a tight fitting black jumpsuit, sat in a relaxed fashion, crossed legs resting on the table with her right hand repeatedly tossing and catching a vibrodagger. She was the nominal leader of the Coalition of Freedom, but in spite of the size of their fast growing organization, its structure remained fragmented. Those present here had either connived or muscled their way into power, sometimes both. As such, Shiri Torr, the youngest and most ruthless in the room, observed the rest in silence. Each looked at the others mutely, mimicking the Twi’lek and waiting to see who would commit themselves first. Finally, a smooth, relaxed voiced echoed through the small cavern.

“The Imps brought in bigger guns, or so I hear.”

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Trial of the Flesh

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Twenty-one years before the Battle of Yavin

After weeks of being stuck on the Argo Ecliptic with Master Tulu and all the clone troopers, Zeva was bored to tears. Not that she wanted to be on the front lines – nearly a year to the day since the Battle of Geonosis, the war was getting worse all the time – but Master Tulu’s negotiations always went smoothly, from one planet to the next, meaning that they spent most of their time on this accursed ship.

She chided herself for wallowing in her own misery. Tulu was a negotiator, doing what she did best, for the good of the Republic. Zeva’s role was to support her master, and learn what she could in the process. Do what has to be done, even if it’s boring.

She would never get used to the company of clones, though. Their sameness bothered her… disgusted her, even. Zeva knew that they had individual characteristics, and that they were here to protect the Jedi… but she didn’t have to like them.

The deck plates juddered beneath her. The Argo was dropping out of lightspeed, which meant they must be arriving in the Kira system. This wasn’t another diplomatic mission, though – they had orders to investigate reports of unidentified ships in the area. Since the Argo was a CR70 corvette, they had a better chance of going unmolested than the ships more commonly associated with the Grand Army of the Republic.

Master would be looking for her. Zeva got to her feet, emerging from behind the control panel – and saw an ASP-series droid closing a cargo container. What’s he doing? she thought, and shouted “Hey!” before she could stop herself.

The droid looked over his shoulder at her, turning his head farther than any human could – and with his photoreceptors still locked on her, he ran.

“Hey! Stop!” she shouted, but the droid kept running.

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Deception Point
In which Caster gets off-world

By Relimited

At a first glance, the spaceport clerk didn’t like him. It wasn’t something she could easily name; after all he seemed simple enough with his sandy blond hair, olive completion, and average build. She could have sworn she knew the face from somewhere, but couldn’t seem to place it. No, it was his eyes that set her at unease. They seemed to glare at the world, like someone angrily surprised it could hurt him. She looked away for a moment, and when she looked back, he had noticed her and started walking toward the counter.

Actually, she thought it was a totally different person. There was a huge smile on his face, and he waved as he walked up. His eyes seemed to shine with mirth. “Hello!” He called as he walked up. She smiled.

“Hi, young man, what can I do for you today?” she responded, put at ease by his demeanor. “Ma’m, you have really pretty eyes.” He looked down quickly, like he had said something wrong. “Oops. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. Pretty girl like you probably has a very important and nice partner.” He bit his lip. “Sorry, ma’m. I’m not trying to flirt with you, promise.”

The compliments made the clerk almost glow with pleasure. No one had ever paid that much attention to her before. She batted her eyes, replying “Why thank you, dear. Now how can I help you today?”

“Well, you see, I kinda need a favor…” his face fell, he seemed very embarrassed. “You see, I need to take off on a ship I have docked here, but I kinda forgot the paper work. And I was staying in a place far away, and I can’t really afford to wait, because I need to make sure everything’s in working order, and I need to get off world and out to the Sidori sector to make it to my mother’s house in time for her birthday…”

“What’s a handsome young man like you doing on a planet so far away anyway from your mother?” She replied.

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Trial of Skill

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Twenty-one years before the Battle of Yavin

Zeva woke up to find herself in a tiny bed. Where am I? she thought. How did I get here?

She recognized her dimly-lit surroundings as the sleeping quarters of the Katarn clan, where she had lived before becoming Master Tulu’s Padawan. Just how had she made it back here? And who had dressed her in her sleepwear, anyway?

She swung her legs out from under the covers, found the floor cold beneath her bare feet. She moved to the center of the room, then quietly said “Where is everybody?”

“We’re here,” a familiar voice said.

Zeva turned to see a human youngling, a female. As the child stepped forward, Zeva realized she was looking at her own face. But this young Zeva had white hair, not blond.

“Master Tulu is gone,” the youngling said. “Teach us.”

Zeva brushed her bangs away from her eyes. “I’m not sure that the Council would – “

“Teach us,” said another youngling, her face also revealed to be Zeva’s as she stepped into the light.

“You know the rules. I can only take one.”

“Teach us!” said a third little Zeva, who’d appeared at her side, tugging on Zeva’s arm.

Zeva counted twelve – no, twenty – younglings crowding around her, little hands reaching out for her. “Back off!” she shouted, gathering the Force around her… too late, she fell to the floor, lost in a sea of younglings….

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The Hero With No Fear

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Twenty-one years before the Battle of Yavin

Her war on the poison took Zeva beyond all knowledge of space or time. Her world became a kaleidoscope of nightmares; the only mercy was that she had no time to comprehend each horror before a new one took its place.

She finally reached some sort of lucidity behind a control panel in the Argo Ecliptic’s cargo hold, where she heard something scraping inside a cargo container. She went to look, and saw the same bomb she’d seen before – but this time, Master Tulu was arming it.

“Master?” Zeva said. “What are you doing?”

“Avenging Gaeriel.”

And the bomb went off.

- – - – -

Zeva’s eyes snapped open to the sight of the lake. “I’m alive,” she said – or tried to, her voice cracking on the words. She was parched – and starving. How long had she been out of it?

She pulled her right arm out of the bedroll. It looked worse than it felt – scabby, and bruised almost black, with darkened veins spread nearly to her elbow. Shifting around reminded her of half a dozen other cuts and scratches, only barely mended.

But I feel rested, she thought. Not great – not even good – but still, much better than before. And I can feel my fingers again, even if they are still shaking.

She ate her last food pack, but it wasn’t enough to curb her hunger. She would have to take what she needed from the jungle.

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Trial of the Spirit

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Twenty-one years before the Battle of Yavin

Zeva found the underwater tunnel, and surfaced for one last deep breath before following it. The passage led deep beneath the lake, suddenly turning back up before it opened into a larger pool. Unable to hold her breath any longer, Zeva swam upwards, breaking the surface and sucking in great lungfuls of muggy air.

She found herself in a pool within a cave, its vastness suggested by patches of glowing fungi clinging to the walls. Once her breathing returned to normal, Zeva made for the shore, so grateful to get the bottom beneath her feet that she ignored the unpleasant mud between her toes. Strange, she thought. I never thought I’d miss boring diplomatic negotiations…

She left the pool and reached out into the Force for a better sense of her surroundings, but pulled back at once when she sensed something unlike anything she had ever encountered before. As curiosity overtook fear, she walked deeper into the cave, not noticing the bones buried in the muck, drawing closer to a stalagmite as high as her waist. As Zeva approached, a ruddy, unearthly light appeared at the top of the formation. She closed to within three meters, and the light became too bright to look at. It seemed to radiate from some sort of crystal…

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” someone said. Zeva looked over her shoulder to see a human woman clad in a robe, cloak, and hood of black… a woman with Zeva’s own face. No stranger than anything else I’ve seen lately. Still, where’d she come from?

“Yes,” was all Zeva could think to say. The waterproof case seemed very heavy in her hand.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Zeva,” the woman in black said, coming a little closer with precise, graceful movements. “I’ve been waiting for so long.”

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