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A Phantom Pain

standbyranger

Knower of Nothing, Watcher of Furries
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Mar 2, 2018
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Ruination! The Republic, once a bastion for peace, has rotted from the inside. Now ruled by the Emperor, the Republic was mutated into the Galactic Empire. It has been four years since the galaxy had been dominated by the Sith.

However, the Dark Side has yet to corrupt everything; pockets of resistance have began to surface, and despite them being all but destroyed during Order 66, the Jedi Order continues to exist in small numbers.

One such pair of Jedi, Padawans Alanna Noymara and Krellis Odorin, have managed to survive the unceasingly hounding Imperials for the past five years. But now, their luck is beginning to run short.

With their remaining allies scant, and their list of places to run becoming short, the duo make haste to Ossus; a dead planet that could harbor them, and is rumored to contain ancient histories on the Jedi…


“Padawan Vastra, do you know why we called you before us today?”

The Jedi Council room was underlit; the curtains were drawn, making the faces of the attending Council members hard to discern. Rane Vastra, sixteen years old and led to believe he was on the cusp of Knighthood, pretended to ponder the Master’s question, “I assume something important; If I didn't, you'd be so kind as to tell me, right Master?”

“Please take this serious, Padawan,”
sighed one of the shadowy masters, “We do not take as much joy in this as you think we do.” The voice was stern, matter of fact, and to the point. Hearing it made Rane tense on reaction, as though he were about to be put through a rigorous inspection. Rane knew this voice well; spend nearly a decade being lectured by the same person and it felt like you could pick them out of a lineup of all the galaxy’s citizens.

“Of course, Master.” Rane complied along with a bow of humility. A moment of silence passed before the same Master spoke again.

“You were called before this council to discuss the past events on Korunnai, in which we have been led to believe that you endangered the code that we live by and let your emotions claim the best of you. This is a very serious accusation for such a prospective learner such as yourself, Padawan Vastra. If you have anything to say, now would be the time.”

_

Five Years Later…

“Vastra…. Vastra.” The voice was lighter and less pissed off than the one Rane had listened to in his dreams, but that soon changed. It repeated his name rhythmically, as though it would call life into the man’s inert frame.

Rane was face first in his pillow, ignoring the nagging voice rather poorly. He grabbed both ends of the pillow and stuffed them into his ears, drowning out the nagging but making it rather difficult to breath. Worth it.

The voice ceased its vain efforts. It chuckled, and went silent; Rane thought he finally won, but was proven wrong as a steel toe boot promptly entered his side. He grabbed at the pain and rolled over to look his assailant in the eyes.

Gaz Talcna, an aging Duros and Rane’s bunkmate, stood over him smirking; his yellowing teeth highlighting his mouth in the darkness of the room. Rane jabbed at the air with a finger, aiming it at the grinning alien.

“Hey! We agreed--cough to take it easy on the wake up calls!”

“We sure did,”
Gaz goaded his bunkmate, “but that’s only when your lazy ass gets up the first time I call you.” He leaned in close to the prone man, swatting the prodding finger away, “Now get your ass up; it’s your watch.” Toothpaste was a luxury at this point, but that doesn't mean Rane could ever get used to the scent of an alien with tooth decay.

Rane swatted at the Duros with his pillow, but Gaz snatched it from his friend’s hand before it could connect with his face, “Mine now.”

Rane groaned dramatically before he rose from the cot. It took him only a few minutes to collect his appropriate gear (including a salvaged DC-17m rifle), and for Gaz to make himself comfortable on the now vacant cot. The Corellian was getting ready to head out when Gaz stopped him, “Hey, almost forgot: Captain wants to see ya.”

“About?”
Rane asked, stopping in the doorway. Captain Auxian never spoke much to those she didn't have to, so a face to face conversation usually meant she had some shit to hash out with you.

Gaz was laid back with his legs crossed, hands folded behind his head when he gave Rane a shrug, “No clue, but she’ll be waiting at your post. Now get out and let me sleep.” With that, Rane stepped out of the bare, stone room and into the similar looking hallway. The hallway belonged to an ancient ruin on the planet Ossus, the latest bastion for the ousted Antarian Rangers.

Rane thought back to the Collapse of the Republic while on his way to his post; his thoughts were given a tempo of echoing boots in the empty hallway. Rane had been alongside the Rangers, charging Separatist lines on the planet Orto when he felt as though someone lit his veins on fire; his legs gave way in the middle of the battle, which forced a few of his squadmates to disengage and carry Rane to safety. No one in the Rangers knew exactly what happened during the Collapse, but when next they came across Clone Troopers, and were almost immediately fired upon, Rane had to figure that someone in the government wasn't in their right mind.

And he was right.

Chancellor Palpatine, now the Emperor, had branded both the Jedi and the Rangers as traitors to his new galactic order.

Rane couldn’t figure out the details about how all of the events of the past few years came to be; the Rangers had no secure access to the HyperNet, so the best they ever got were rumors from farmers or merchants on backwater planets. The ex-Jedi was well aware of his current situation, though: wandering the halls of an ancient Jedi ruin, just like the ghosts that still cling to the living.

Rane’s post was near close to the precipice of the aging temple; a short lift ride a few floors up and another vacant hallway ferried him to his home for the next four hours. His post was a balcony with an overwhelming vantage on the neighboring lands. What has now been affectionately referred to as the “Crops o’ Dust” by the Rangers continued to do what it did best: rot. The loose sands of the barren planet were easily picked up by the weak breezes of the morning; and, just as expected, Captain Auxian sat on the handrails watching the sunrise while waiting for the young man.

Captain Auxian’newa was a female Twi’lek who had been with the Antarian Rangers for far longer than any Ranger could guess. No one knew her real age, but it was quite obvious that no matter how old she was, the Captain aged extremely well. Plus, she was a kick-ass soldier. Rane had seen her wrestle a Super Battle Droid to the ground and gut the thing with her vibroknife firsthand. He had been head-over-heels for the woman ever since.

Rane stood there for a moment, admiring the view of his CO and the natural “beauty” of the sky. Her auqamarine skin made her seem like a refreshing oasis in the sickly brown desert of Ossus.

“Are you just going to stand there, Corporal Vastra? Or, are you going to join me at your post?”The Captain’s words, spoken with her back to Rane still and a gentle pat of the rail, shocked him back to the real world.

“I’m gonna have to get a raincheck, ma’am,” Rane said as he approached his Captain’s side. He peered over the edge of the balcony at the battlements below. They had initially been hastily set up in fear that the Empire wasn’t far behind, but the lack of contact with anyone beyond the sector had given the Rangers the time needed to turn the temple into an actually defensible position, “If I sit now, I’m just gonna fall back asleep.”

Captain Auxian chuckled, “Fair enough, Corporal.” Rane could see her lekku twitch and undulate slightly as she spoke, “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, if you like dead things.” Rane was deadpan as he studied the barren wastes about him. It was something the Captain always found amusing about him, “Is that why you came to visit me, ma’am? To enjoy the sunrise?”

“Well, there’s that,”
Auxian said, still gazing out into the distance, “And this too.” She offered him a datapad, a new model by the look of it. Rane accepted the device with some hesitance.

“Where’d you get your hands on this?”

“Scouts returned last night from the Core Worlds. Brought that with them.”
Rane fiddled with the datapad as Auxian talked. Within, he found an assortment of articles from the past few years. They were all categorized under the keyword: “Jedi.”

“‘Jedi Temple Burned to the Ground following Intense Battle between Jedi and Imperial Army; Renegade Jedi Apprehended by Loyalists on Corellia; Jedi Scum Put to the Sword in Public For-- Captain, what the hell is this?” He had been reading of a select few headlines from the list, his anger growing word by word, “You trying to scare me into hiding?”

Auxian shook her head, her lekku following suit, “No. The opposite, really. Just… Keep reading.”

Rane sighed and continued to scan the headlines; there was more of the same the further he went down the list. He was about to toss the damned datapad off the balcony when he came across a peculiar title,“Empire to Revitalize Archaeological Programs: Searching for Ancient Aliens on Ossus... It’s from a few days ago… What does this mean?”

“It means, we’re not safe,”
Auxian finally stood up to face Rane. She was about his height, maybe an inch or two shorter, “You know exactly where we are, Vastra: an ancient Jedi temple, ripe for the pickings. And now that we've found that in the catacombs...

“You think the Empire is coming here? For whatever the hell we’ve been trying to dig up for the past year? Something they'd have no frikkin' clue of knowing about?”

“Not just that. The Emperor is calling for our heads.”


Rane scoffed, tossing the datapad back at his Captain, “You’re paranoid, ma’am.”

“You don’t get to a position like mine without a fair bit of paranoia.”
Captain Auxian cradled the datapad in the fold of her left arm, “They’re trying to snuff out the last remnants of the Jedi; your people… you.” She came closer to Rane; he could discern her scent from the pungent death of the planet around him. She smelled like sweat and fear, just like the rest of the Rangers.

“Afraid of losing me, Auxian?” Rane asked jestingly.

“I’m afraid of losing all my soldiers, Corporal.” Auxian’s tone changed from concerned to annoyed like the flip of a switch, “But what I’m truly afraid of is losing all of my friends, in a way that I couldn’t stop. In a way that would break my heart.”

Rane lowered his head, embarrassed, “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Auxian shook her head, “Don’t be. That’s the reality of command.” She turned away from Rane, facing back towards the decaying plains, “Just… When the time comes, don’t get carried away. If the rumors we keep hearing are true, you’ve already lost more friends than I could ever bear to.”

Rane nodded silently, his thoughts being pulled back to his days amongst his fellow Jedi; the days of his youth, a simpler time.

Silence hung around for what seemed like a lifetime, the two soldiers silently accompanying the other, keeping eye contact. Rane was the one to break the silence, “Is there anything else I can do for you, ma’am?”

“Yes, there is,”
Auxian sighed. “In preparation for what’s to come, I want you and a few men to establish a listening post close to the ruins a few miles east. If we’re not the Empire’s first stop on their whirlwind tour of archeological pursuits, I want to know immediately.”

Rane nodded, “It’ll get done, ma’am.”

Auxian smiled; it was weak and weary, but it still managed to warm Rane’s heart. She placed a hand on his shoulder, “You’re a good soldier, Rane.”

“Only the best soldiers for the best commander, ma’am.”


With that short exchange, Captain Auxian left Rane to his own devices. The Corellian returned to the balcony and his view of the “Crops.” He stood there for a time, cradling his rifle in his arms, before noticing the Captain had left her datapad behind.

Can’t be coincidental, thought Rane. Despite his misgivings to the shoddy journalism he had witnessed earlier, Rane snatched the datapad up and began familiarizing himself with what the galaxy had done to his people over the past few years.
 
Last edited:

Tristar

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In life there are many qualities that define the individual. One may not necessarily be perfect in the grand scheme of things but the size of their heart and the intentions behind their actions are clear beacons of their shining and radiant personality.

Facing the great sandy beyond with the half buried spacecraft behind his back, Krellis was experiencing a moment of perfect bliss, achieved by ignoring the right proper blunder they were currently in. His shawl wrapped around his body, the sweaty clothe clinging onto his sweat stained back like a persistent lover; the scorching heat was their reward on this dead planet and as the silent moments passed the knot in his stomach twisted even tighter.

A small astromech wheeled itself to his side, the lovably named 53N-3.14159 bleeped forlornly at the man. He sighed, raising a hand that went to rustle his hair, but hesitated before giving the pessimistic trash can a punch.

The droid recoiled but so did the fist that struck it; cussing silently to himself, Krellis gave the droid a glare if admonishment as if it was the droid's fault that his knuckles stung.

'It's all your fault, you know, ' he said miserably in a sleepy, smooth voice. 'You told me that our engine could last us until we made contact with the ground.'

The droid bleeped back, this time somewhat aggressively. Krellis graced its retort with another smack on its cylindrical head, only to swear even louder at his own self inflicted pain. 'I don't regret buying the star chart that lead us here especially since it came with those textbooks about the local star system- those are very hard to find, you know. Real actual paperback books, not just-'

'Well you don't have to say it like that. I'm sure the ship's manual suggested that we have it undergo maintenance every few cycles, but who was the one that reassured me the engine was fine in the first place?!'

The droid went silent, as if acknowledging its defeat. Krellis gave it a little smug smile before returning back to his previous activity. Standing with his arms crossed, his viridian eyes swept the dunes and crests for any distinctive markers. He sighed in exasperation, something akin to regret tugging at the hem of his cargo trousers. The news reel at the cantina had mentioned about the latest "alien archaeological effort" by the Empire and as a self respecting scholar-in-hiding that he was, his mind immediately exchanged the words "alien" with "Jedi".

Everything they did was a front for a witch hunt for any Jedi that managed to escape the net sanctioned by Order 66. His forehead scrunched up in annoyance: not that he didn't feel traumatised by the event, but before the clones started to open fire on his mentors and seizing ancient delicate records he had lead a perfectly peaceful, if reclusive life. Order 66 was a huge mess and despite fighting tooth and nail, he barely left the archives with anything in his satchel.

It was a painful loss. Perhaps it was because he hadn't made any actual lasting bonds with anybody in the library that he was simply able to shrug it off. He could remember more names of lost valuable records better than recall the faces of the library archivists that fell clutching their sabres.

Bweep!

'You told he- I should have never listened to Alana and rescue you from that junker! You're the worst partner in crime I've ever had; you don't go about revealing that we did the bad thing to anybody, least of all her. You're not getting a maintenance check yoursel- Ow!'

He watched sullenly as the astromech did the equivalent of sauntering off, patting out the spot where the rascal had singed his pants. The pain flared up as grains of sand slid through his fingers and made contact with the sensitive patch of skin. 'Ah nerf herder's crap that stings so much. . . Stupid sand.'
 

Oncaro

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“Harris wrench,” the young woman said, holding a hand out from her position underneath the ship's engine. She heard whirring servos and a conversational beeping, to which she didn't respond immediately. Her focus was on the engine-- namely, cleaning it and repairing what damage she could.

This was partially her fault, she figured, as she took the Harris wrench and began loosening a stripped bolt along its casing; gently, slowly working it back and forth. Several bolts she had removed in this manner already, and a light sheen of perspiration was on her forehead, her tank-top already soaked with sweat in the heat. But she wouldn't have needed to be doing this in the first place if she had simply checked the engine more regularly instead of leaving it solely to their droids. These were the mistakes of a rookie, and something she couldn't afford. Coming across new ship parts in the Outer Rim that weren't exorbitantly priced was hard enough as it was.

“No, I'm not mad, Arfour,” she answered at last once she loosened the bolt and, finally, was able to remove the panel keeping her from the deactivated engine. Yoda's walking stick, it looked filthy! Why oh why did Krellis not get this thing looked at?!

“Scrubber,” she said, holding her hand out, and Arfour tootled as he propped a tool akin to a scalpel in her hand. Sticking the tip of her tongue out of the side of her mouth in effort, she began scrapping at the gunk as delicately and precisely as she could, ignoring the way the sound and sensations made her skin crawl a little, like nails on a chalkboard.

“I'm just... baffled, really,” she continued. “Why Krellis said the ship was good enough for a landing is beyond me.”

A few sour beeps, and the woman chuckled.

“Yes, well, I suppose we did land... now the objective is getting back in the air.”

Roughly an hour later, finally crawling out from under the engine, Alanna Noymara stood up and brushed herself off. Her long red hair was bunched up in a bun, and grime covered parts of her face and her slender, toned body. But even with that, there was an undeniable beauty and sense of graceful serenity about her, amplified when she removed her scrunchie and allowed her lovely red locks to flow freely down past her shoulders.

“I'm gonna take a break, Arfour. Be back in a few,” she said, her boots thudding along the flor as she walked away. Retrieving an ice cold bottle of water from their kitchen fridge, Alanna strode out into the desert sand, her beautiful blue eyes falling upon her companion and the droid she had insisted they adopt.

She and Krellis had known each other since they were children, and she considered him a friend, but there were times where she looked to him and wondered just how in the Galaxy he had been trained as a Jedi. He certainly never really acted like a Jedi was to properly behave even before the Clone Wars.

“Engine's coming along,” she said, opening the water bottle and taking a swig of it as she walked over to the two. “I'll be able to get it working, no doubt, but... Next time, when we get asked for a maintenance check, let's at least not be in actual need of one, yeah?”
 

Tristar

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The hooded figure flinched a little as his more mechanically inclined compatriot joined by his side: she had the beauty to bewitch the senses but was about as deadly as poison in a drunkard's cup. The combination made for something of an anxious situation for Krellis, who already saw the world through very narrow slit holes.

He noticed her sweaty and oil-stained overalls, her report on the engines twisting the knot in his gut even further; was she soon to explode in a blaze of anger?

In a painfully stark contrast, books were so much easier to understand. He fished out a bundle of papers bound together by a thin layer of leather, what the trader generously called a "book". He waved it in front of Alana, putting on a smug smile on his face. 'Never fear: I shall leave all mechanical problems to you from now on.'

53N chose that moment to wheel back into the conversation, bleeping with machine gun frequency at the lady. Krellis returned the favour by "gently" nudging the droid away. 'Yes well, 53N will say plenty of things but half his predictions rarely follow through. . . The crashed ship for one. Speaking of which, this-' he said, flourishing the book in her face, '-makes our unfortunate situation less unfortunate. '

He stood there with what constituted as an attempt for a genuine smile but quickly dropped the act as his cheeks begun to ache. 'At least, according to the book's rather discreet author. Then again. . . The book is supposedly over several hundred years old, so me not recognising the name shouldn't be taken as seriously as it seems. For instance, on page 364 we can see that the author- a man, I think judging from the way he writes and phrases things. Also because he directly refers to himself in male pronouns. '

By now Krellis too had a similar sheen of perspiration on his face, though now warped in an expression of a lecturer teaching advanced algebra to a first grader in primary school. His metallic companion had finally uprighted itself with an undignified squeal and the robotic equivalent of a huff. It moved to give its master a good beating but was veered off course by a sudden inexplicable gust of wind that only seemed to target the trash can on wheels.

It gave another angry bweep, thoroughly ignored by Krellis as he continued with his explanation. 'He makes a certain number of references in his notes, sometimes on things beyond logic and comprehension- typical for a raving lunatic that he seems to be- but still brilliant, yes. Of a container of vast knowledge that fit within his palm.' A crazed smile that didn't suit his lazy features slow slid onto his face like a mask, though in all fairness was as sincere as Krellis could be to himself.

'I think he speaks of a holocron somewhere in the ruins of this misbegotten, twice damned planet. ' he turned around and stretched his arms wide open to the great beyond, the smell of adventure- and sweat- eminating off of his slender body. 'Somewhere out there, Alana. Somewhere there's something much more valuable than a sandy patch of dirt. '

BWEEP BWEEP BIP BOOP BWEEP BIP!

'Yes? Oh right.' The astromech was finally extracted from its compromising situation by its master, who dumped the droid unceremoniously on the pain of the conducted heat from the planet's sun. The two engaged in a sort of ritual as the droid proceeded to zap its master, threatening arson with its miniature flamethrower as the scholar dodged the many attempts, vocally threatening to send the droid to a compactor.

The poor choice of words only increased the ferocity of the droid's attacks.
 

Oncaro

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Alanna frowned, half-listening to Krellis' explanation of what he had found, half watching he and 53N attempting to hurt each other. Alanna was an ardent supporter of the rights of droids, and certainly didn't appreciate Krellis' abuse of the droid-- she had convinced him to adopt the droid precisely to try to get him to show kindness to another being. 53N's attitude didn't help either, though, and Alanna had repeatedly tried to get the droid to treat Krellis more kindly.

“Guys, please-- Stop. That's enough,” she said as they continued bickering. Then the flamethrower came out, and Alanna spoke much more loudly and firmly.

“STOP!” she called to them, amplifying her voice through the Force. Her voice carried for miles around them in the empty wasteland, and the vibrations of her voice actually caused the top layers of sand below her feet to shift away from her by at least an inch, possibly more. Looking at them both with a look of motherly disapproval-- something that had become increasingly common as of late-- she marched over to them both. She wasn't angry; she rarely really got angry at anything, to be honest. But she needed them both to stop trying to hurt each other and listen to her.

“When I convinced you to take Sen into your care, Krellis,” she said, her tone gentle yet firm as she marched up to him and looked him in the eye with those haunting blue orbs, “I wasn't doing it to give you a metal punching bag. That droid isn't simply some robotic toy you can bash around when he acts up; he is your companion, your responsibility, and he has thoughts and feelings just like you do. And you…”

She turned to the droid, putting her hands on her hips as she looked down at him. “Krellis isn't the kindest person in the Galaxy, but that doesn't mean you should treat him badly either. When I saw you, I saw a lonely droid who needed a home, but that home isn't just something you should take for granted. Krellis isn't perfect, but I know he does his best. If you treat him more kindly, he should do the same to you.”

She began walking back to the ship, taking another swig from her bottle.

“You should both come inside, get out of this heat. We'll talk more about this holocron business once I'm finished with repairs. Sen, I'll work on cleaning you up too, get that sand out of your system. Sound good?”
 
OP
OP
standbyranger

standbyranger

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Watch had been predictably dull. Rane spent the necessary four hours doing a combination of flipping through holonet news stories and staring out at the barren dust fields; in the year since the Rangers arrived on planet, it had been nothing but staring at the decayed husk still considered a proper planet. Rane hated it there; the planet’s aura was suffocating, as though Ossus itself were trying to share the pains of being dead on whatever poor sucker was reeled into its grasp.However, his more philosophical side tried to convince him that the Force itself, having been mutilated and torn apart by the execution of so many Jedi, was crying out in pain as its metaphysical wound grew deeper with each passing day. Rane knew Master Windu would have been proud to hear his Padawan contemplating the nature of the Force during a crisis, but would have wondered why he was not spending more time on his lightsaber skills instead.

Rane mentally scoffed as he thought back to his old master; ever serious and a difficult taskmaster, it was a wonder Master Windu put up with the rebellious Vastra for so many years. Though Rane would love to state that his time under Windu was both a mental and physical hell, the young man knew he would not be the same person he was this day without his master. The dry winds of Ossus tugged at Rane’s hair as he searched the Force for any signs of the Jedi Master; he came up empty handed.

It was then that Rane’s relief arrived. The two exchanged pleasantries, but nothing further. The ex-Jedi then wandered the aging halls of the temple, gathering together a handful of idle Rangers to go out and fulfill the orders the Captain entrusted him with. The group, five in total, was on their way out into the dusty plains in short order.

____

“How far out does the Captain want this thing, Vastra?”
The Rodian who had been unfortunately saddled with carrying the listening equipment spoke up after a long period of silence.

“There’re ruins further out still this direction,” Rane responded, pointing out into the ever-expanding wastes before them, “It’s out in the open, no other structures around for miles. Should keep the air waves nice and clear, and give us a plenty of time to react to any Imperials that could come our way.” The walk was beginning to wear on his troupe, Rane could feel it. He had snuck into the ration stores and picked out some treats for the squad before the departure; he knew that squad would be out in the wastes for a long time, and with the deteriorating conditions that the Rangers lived in, the men and women around him could use the pickmeup.

Something tugged at the pack of Rane’s mind as they continued walking, almost like someone was toying with the locks of hair on the back of his head. Determined to ignore it, Rane trudged along, but the tugging soon turned into a pounding. He stopped mid stride as the feeling became stronger, before exploding inside of his head. It did not hurt, but it made him dizzy and he lost his footing. Gaz was there to keep Rane from tumbling to the ground.

“Woah, woah. Easy there corporal.” The Duros righted Rane, allowing him to stand and recollect himself, “You skip out on food again today? Didn’t the Captain already get on your case for that? Supplies are low and all but that doesn’t mean you-”

“No, no, it’s not that,”
Rane cut his friend off, “There was this… presence that I felt, in the Force. A presence I haven’t felt in…” His mind began to race as he tried to come up with who, or what, could be on this dead world other than the Rangers.

“Keep heading to the ruins,” Rane instructed the Rodian from earlier, “Set up the equipment, and we’ll meet back up there in a few hours.” Rane slapped Gaz on the shoulder without any further words, indicating to the Duros to follow him, and setting his mind on the presence (or presences he found, as his mind became clearer) he felt not too far away.
 

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"I would hardly think 53N's qualified to be a punching bag. If anything he's more like a very expensive doorsto-" The Jedi cursed loudly and swatted the hem of his cloak. The astromech chittered angrily, raising its arc welder threateningly. "I'm sorry, alright? Put that away!"

53N lowered its arc welder begrudgingly and bleeped a sorrowful reply at Alanna. Its wheels struggled to find purchase in the soft sands, disturbed even more from the flurry of activity. Krellis watched in pained silence as his droid slowly dragged itself into the ship. Its gun-metal grey body disappeared just as gentle winds blew across his feet, shifting millions of grains across his feet in a swirling, random pattern.

He stared at Alanna with an empty expression, pursing his lips in thinly across his sun-scorched face. The silence never seemed to end, and eventually he walked back into the ship past the woman.

He didn't share her love for droids- or companions.

It was still difficult to remember that he no longer afforded the safety and comforts of the Archives. His initial excitement ebbed away as the heat of the planet washed over him, cooling his sweat off from his back. He walked past 53N in the cargo bay, its mechanical eye tracking the Jedi suspiciously, making ready to pounce at the slightest bit of provocation.

"Dust off 53N." he quipped back, rifling through the sheaf of papers in his hands. The droid responded back, though with much less animosity than usual.

He noted that down mentally, and proceeded to the front of the ship, where he stole the co-pilot's swivel seat with a grunt.

Now, he thought as he swung around to face the glass windows. Alanna's Force-amplied voice may have been purely instinctive on her part, but it was at that exact moment that Krellis felt something in the Force. Far beyond just the two of them, whose presence was already a beacon in the dark.

As though. . .. He paused, mindlessly flipping between pages to keep himself busy. Suppre-.

It was then that the door slid open with a hiss, as Alanna followed through. And with her arrival, went his train of thought. "You could knock; I was thinking."

He swiveled back, snapping the book shut. "About the holocron. If there is one. We should do a planet-wide scan with the ship's sensors. Find out what else is nearby us, and maybe park the ship there, do a bit of Jedi sleuthing while we're at it."
 

Oncaro

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As Alanna marched back into the ship, she was joined by Arfour, who tootled at her curiously. She glanced at him as she took another swig from her water bottle, then placed the bottle down on the small dining table of their ship.

“I do in fact believe their relations will improve, in time,” she said to her closest companion. “I'm just trying to prod them both in that direction.”

She sat at the table for a few minutes to catch her breath, before watching Krellis move to the cockpit. After a little hesitation, she moved in after him-- and found herself chastised. Pursing her lips, Alanna listened to her companion speak, and her lips curled into a smile.

“Jedi sleuthing is always fun,” she said. “Before we reunited, I did sleuthing on my own sometimes. And Ossus seems like a treasure trove for Jedi sleuthing.”

Giving Krellis a brief pat on the shoulder, she said: “Go ahead and get everything ready. I'm going to shower. I won't be too long.”

With that, Alanna moved out of the cockpit and toward the small living areas of their ship, stripping off her clothes in the refresher and stepping into the shower. She let the hot water wash over her, cleanse her as her eyes closed and her mind wandered.

She had not been with Krellis since Order 66 had occurred, instead spending several years on her own, trying to survive as best she could. And that had meant hiding from the Empire-- and a particular young member of the Imperial Security Bureau whom had… an interesting relationship develop between himself and Alanna since they had first encountered each other soon after Order 66 had occurred.

Kardin Harring… A young noble from Kuat. Tall, handsome, polite… and devoted to the Empire. Despite this, and despite the young man making it his mission to find Alanna and either kill her or bring her to the Imperial Inquisitorius to convert her to the Dark Side of the Force, Alanna couldn't help but feel there was a… connection, between the two of them. Perhaps not a bond through the Force, but… maybe a something.

She pondered this as steam rose up from the shower floor and filled her nostrils, clearing her sinuses and alleviating a headache that had been budding. And as she breathed deeply, she calmed her mind, allowing herself to feel the Force flowing through her being…

And through it she felt a presence drawing closer. A presence that was vaguely familiar. It wasn't shrouded in darkness, so there was that, at least. She frowned, remaining in the shower and puzzling over this mystery.

What-- or who-- was it?
 
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standbyranger

standbyranger

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"What a piece of junk." Gaz surveyed the bastard child between a landing and a crash site from a rocky vantage point some hundred meters away. From below, Rane could feel the disgust in the Duros's voice as the crimson-eyed alien peered through a solitary sniper scope. "Th'engine's probably not been scrubbed since the stop before their last. They'll be able to get that thing running again, but it's gonna take awhile. Can't be that these guys planned this stop."

Rane listened, but was only half-interested in Gaz's spot inspection. The ex-Jedi's fascination with ships stopped and ended at the cockpit.

But Gaz wasn't explaining his run-down on proper ship-maintenance for Rane's sake. The news of the Republic's collapse and the destruction of the Jedi Order hit the Rangers hard. They had all been galactic peacekeepers and warriors fighting for the Light and the good of the Republic one day, then fugitives and criminals the next. Most Rangers handled their new lives as enemies of the Empire in stride. Their sense of duty prevailed over despair; they knew where they stood in the eyes of the Force. There were Rangers who weren't doing as well as their compatriots, however. Gaz being one of them.

Gaz was always a clown; he did everything he could to keep the remaining Rangers in high spirits whenever the Captain's heartening speeches couldn't.

But Rane spent more personal time with the mechanic than anyone else in the company did. Not only did he notice the nervous ticks that began to crop up in his friend (pining for a return home, reminiscing about his life before the Rangers), Rane could sense the tension and stress within the Duros. Rane had never been the type for heart-to-hearts; he was merely empathetic, so he had no idea how to go about approaching such a topic. Would Gaz appreciate the concern?

"Looks can be deceiving." Rane called up as he began reassembling his DC-17m into a new mode. The rifle had been a lucky score, so lucky though, that he hadn't been able to scavenge an entire kit; just enough to keep the blaster and sniper modes functioning well enough. "Did you see how many there were?"

A second of silence passed. "Nah, but there can't be too many of them. Ship's small, probably five of them at most."

"You keep saying 'can't.' Stop, you're jinxing us."

"I thought you Jedi didn't believe in chance? Besides, I have good feelings about this sorts of thing."

"Those commando droids on Ord Radama would beg to differ."

"Well those commando droids are dead, so I'm not sure if you're going to get much out of them."


Rane clutched the 17m Sniper and rose from his sitting position, chuckling at his friend, "Hopefully your good feelings help with your aim. Here, catch, and toss me your carbine." The two traded weapons, but Gaz cocked an eyebrow in curiosity at his superior.

"You're going out there alone? What about that jinx I put on us?"

"I was only messing with you. I've only been able to sense two presences on board since we got close. Chances are they're just scavengers in a bad way."
Rane began his walk towards the ship, omitting the two supposed scavengers' connections to the Force.

"Keep your eyes open, and your ears too for that matter," Rane continued over the communicator, "we're going in friendly, but if your good feeling doesn't hold up, you know what to do."

A pit grew in Rane's stomach as he walked. The closer he came to the ship, the more anxious he grew, but he didn't know why. A strong gust of wind blasted sand into Rane's face. He tied his neck scarf around the bottom of his face and threw on his goggles to keep it all out.

Now only a few meters from the landing site, Rane had to agree with Gaz: the ship really was a piece of junk.

Rane kept his distance, well within the cockpit's sight, but no one emerged immediately. "Rude, no one's coming out to greet the guest."

"Definitely rude,"
Gaz replied over the communicator, "Maybe knock?"

"Nah, I got a better idea."
Rane cleared his throat, and centered himself. His command over the Force had waned since he left the Order, but he still knew the simple tricks. With a Force-powered voice, Rane called into the ship with his face still shielded from the growing winds, "Hello there! You picked one hell of a spot for a pit-stop. Need any help?"
 

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Krellis grunted a reply back at Alanna, closing the door behind her as she left. He barely returned to his seat when his astromech rolled in with a robotic equivalent of a huff. It bleeped a few syllables at the Jedi, edging towards the cockpit.

"Hm?" He barely spent a glance at its query, flipping through the pages of his book. 53N often exaggerated the smallest of issues, and Krellis still bore a grudge against their malfunctioned engine.

But the issue of the Force presence kept pervading the edges of his mind. He had been with Alanna long enough to know her signature, and anyone else he knew prior to . . .the incident was long dead. Or lost, without a trace. If he and Alanna, one scrawny and the other hotheaded, could survive as long as they could on the tip of their toes around the Empire's reign- Then not all were lost. Who knows?

He flipped through the pages idly with a bored expression. Alanna very likely didn't appreciate Krellis's suffering as he slogged through the boorish writing of the author, who went through great lengths to describe each and every trivial piece of information. Almost as though the author was writing to a group of blithering idiots.

"Or maybe, you just wanted one last hurrah before people forgot your name." He raised an eyebrow. "Or you were just as insufferable as your own writing suggests."

53N bweeped a reply, rolling around to face him. "There's nothing out there." Krellis muttered back, his eyes poring over the same line twice now. The droid seemed unconvinced.

"If there was-" he tutted as his concentration lapsed over the ambient sound of the cockpit. No matter what 53N claimed, the ship was annoyingly loud and hardly conducive to a working mind. "There's nothing out there, because if there was, we'd feel it. Force signatures aren't that easy to miss out, you know."

He raised a finger as he continued his explanation. "This planet's barren from the moment we burned through atmos, and it's only been scorpions or the local wildlife we've been picking up. Sentient signatures tend to be a. . .a lot more. . ."

Krellis dropped the book down onto his lap and spun his chair to face the glass window, peering over the sand dunes. 53N's started to chitter excitedly and roll around the small interior, barely bumping into walls and panels. "53N. 53N. 53N!"

The droid stopped comically and nearly flung itself into the wall, emitting a single, harried BING! Krellis was sure the droid had copied it from one of the holovid series they picked up in the last stop. "How soon can you spool the engine up?"

It gave a reply laced with cynicism and disbelief. "Fuck! Then get the guns warmed up, we might have disagreeable comp-."

"Hello there! You picked one hell of a spot for a pit-stop. Need any help?"

The Jedi fell back into his seat, a little dumbfounded. The voice sounded familiar, and the Force signature even more so- but he couldn't pin a face, or a name- on the owner.

He stared blankly at the command panel, fiddling with his fingertips while the droid scurried around checking the ship's vitals.

Somehow, his fingers managed to find their way to the ship's external speaker toggle. He hesitated for a moment.

Flick!

"You Empire?" Krellis paused, thinking of the best approach to handle the situation. "Our engine's suffered a little hiccup, but we're not planning on staying here for long." He lifted his finger off the intercom button, but quickly pressed it again.

"So- how's your day been?"
 
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standbyranger

standbyranger

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Rane's shrouded head looked over his dusty garb. The once olive drab combat gear had been stained beige from his stay on Ossus, no insignia denoting his allegiance was visible. "No, not Empire. Treasure hunter. Or I was, until my ship decided to retire without asking. I guess we have that in common."

The Ranger strode slightly off to the side, getting a better view of the ship's ramp. "I'm no mechanic by any means, I paid people to do that for me. And now those people are out of a job too, I'm sure they wouldn't mind taking a look at your problem."

"I'd be alright with that, so long as they return the favor and smuggle us some food from the Core Worlds. I'm getting sick of Bantha jerky."


"We could only be so lucky," Rane replied in a hushed tone to his far off comrade before calling to the man in the cockpit,
"Is there any way we could have this conversation somewhere I don't have to keep my neck at a fifty degree angle the entire time?"
 

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There was a pregnant pause before Rane received his reply.

"Your people; they Empire?"

Krellis covered the microphone and turned around to look at his astromech droid expectantly. The whirls and whizzes behind his back told a frantic story as 53N desperately tried to coax the ship into some semblance of life. He saw sparks fly and wince: he was no mechanic by any means, but even he knew when the ship was too stubborn to move. They were grounded, whether they liked it or not.

He breathed slowly and considered his options. He could fight whoever it was, though the faint tingle of the Force worried him. He heard of old Force tricks that could suppress one's signature, even read stories about those who willingly disconnected themselves from the ambivalent energy.

Krellis hurriedly walked out of the cockpit and went towards Alanna's door, his knocks a rapid fire action that threatened to breakdown the duraplast doors. "We have company!" he said, raising his voice, hoping it would penetrate the walls to reach out to her.

He went back to the comm's console and flicked it back on, ruffling his hair. "Meet me back at the ship's ramp. Hands in the air too, can't trust no one these days."

With that message sent he switched the panel off. The Jedi ducked beneath the controls and rummaged through the passenger compartment, grumbling at the shoddy, messy state it was in. When he got back up it was with a blaster in hand and an energy pack to feed it with. Krellis had- some vague understanding of how it worked: he knew that a blaster bolt was merely a weakened, temporal state of the same energy beam his 'saber used. He knew that to make a blaster, one needed similar mechanical bits and pieces to make a lightsaber as well.

But he never actually. . .used it. The Force was a very versatile power and the lightsaber simply trounced a blaster for sheer firepower when in range. That, and he preferred reading than fighting, something his Jedi trainers frequently complained about.

Still, he managed to make heads and toes off the strange device, slapping the pack into the magwell and priming the weapon. It gave an oddly satisfying clack! but was equally uncomfortable when held by its handle. "53N." he said quietly.

"Lower the ramp."

The planet's oppressive heat threatened to kill the coolness generated by the ship's temperature control unit working overtime. He stood on the edge, breathing heavily. "Alright." he muttered under his breath.

"Hands where I can see 'em."
 
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