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Old 12-27-2005, 04:58 PM   #2
JasraLantill
No One Liners
 
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Scotland, UK
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Current Game: SWOTR
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Hidden Shades of Grey--Chapter One

In the tranquil gardens of the Jedi Temple on the core world of Coruscant, Carth Onassi nervously paced in front of one of the fountains, while he waited with the rest of crew of the Ebon Hawk for their Jedi companions to return from the Council Chambers. He ran a finger over the golden medal given to him by Admiral Dodonna only a couple of weeks ago. He and his friends had all overcome incredible odds to earn this in their last mission—finding the Star Maps, destroying the Star Forge, and defeating the Dark Lord Malak and Carth’s own arch-nemesis, Admiral Saul Karath. It had been a long and arduous journey, both physically and mentally. Now they had finally made it to Coruscant and right away the Jedi were at their secret meetings once again.

He needed some…no, *deserved* some time off—time to recuperate, relax, to come to terms with all that had happened, and, hopefully, to rekindle his relationship with his son, Dustil. But even in this very serene place, amongst the fountains and neatly manicured greenery, he could find no peace. Again, he felt the tug of the Republic taking precedence over his private affairs and the first sparks of conflict rise within him like the initial tinges of an ion storm.

“I’m bored,” Mission Vao complained, as the young T’wilek swung her legs back and forth from the low garden wall she sat upon. Apparently, she couldn’t relax either, though Carth attributed the cause to youth, rather than any complex internal dilemma. “They’ve been in there for hours,” she moaned. “What do you suppose they’re doing in there anyway?”

“Talking,” Canderous the Mandalorian answered matter-of-factly, without looking up from the blaster he was polishing. “That’s what the Jedi do best. They talk, and they talk, and when they are finished, they talk some more.”

“Trouble is,” Carth sighed, “they never seem to talk to us.”

“C’mon, Carth,” said Mission, as she purposefully hopped down from the wall. “Let’s you, me, and Big Z go into the city. It’ll cheer you up. You know, I heard that they have anything and everything in Coruscant. Exploring it is bound to be more fun than waiting around here.”

Carth frowned a bit. “Erm…I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Mission.”

“I agree,” said Canderous Ordo. The grizzled Mandalorian gave Mission a look that a commander reserves for disciplining his troops. “Rade told us to wait here. So *that’s* what we’re going to do.”

Mission heaved an over-dramatic sigh. “But we’ve been waiting for hours!” she complained, stamping her foot for emphasis. “I mean, the Jedi Temple is nice and all. Way better than being cooped up inside the Ebon Hawk, but…sheesh! All these fountains, and flowers, and trees…well, it’s …it’s boring!”

“Arrr!” Zalbaar grunted.

“Erm…sorry, Big Z,” said Mission. “The trees are nice. Really. It’s just that I’m not used to them like you are, you know?”

Zalbar snuffled softly in apparent acceptance of her apology.

“C’mon, Carth, please?” Mission pleaded. “This is the very first time I’ve ever been to Coruscant. I just want to see what’s out there. You know, grab a meal, do a little shopping, maybe even check out a few of the local hotspots. Is there anything wrong with that?”

“No,” said Carth. “And when Rade comes back, I’m sure we’ll all have time to go and see it. Together. But for now, we wait.”

“It’s not like they’re coming out anytime soon,” Mission continued in her plea. “Besides, we need something to eat. I’m starving!”

Zalbaar roared in agreement.

“See? Big Z’s hungry, too. And you know what he’s like when he gets hungry.”

“Wookies are always hungry,” Canderous grumbled. “That’s what makes them good hunters.”

Zalbaar’s eyes narrowed and he growled softly at the Mandalorian.

“What?” Canderous gave Zalbaar an incredulous look. “It’s true.”

“All right, drop it you two,” Mission chastised them. She turned back to Carth to continue her pitch. “Look, I don’t know about you, Carth, but I’m getting sick of all this so-called healthy stuff the Jedi insist on feeding us. I mean haven’t they ever heard of….” Mission’s words hung in the air and her jaw dropped, mesmerised at something she saw over Carth’s shoulder. “Sith’s Blood,” she said softly.

Carth frowned. “What?”

Zalbaar growled in a low, ominous tone.

“Well, would you look at that….” Canderous muttered to himself.

Carth turned to see what everyone was looking at. Escorted by a Jedi Temple guard, was, at first glance, what looked to be a small detachment of Sith. Their leader, a tall man with chiselled features and dark hair worn in a single braid down the length of his back, wore the black garb indicative of a Sith Master, but he carried no visible weapon. Walking at a brisk pace behind his Jedi escort, his stride exuded the confidence of a seasoned soldier yet, at the same time, the composure of a diplomat.

Behind him marched four individuals, soldiers by any account. Covered from head to toe in black, their faces were obscured by deep hoods and they armed themselves with intimidating, yet elaborately decorated, double-bladed brands which they carried upright. Ceremonial weapons, Carth surmised. These four dark soldiers surrounded a fifth individual, although it was unclear to Carth if the figure was being escorted or guarded.

Either way, their charge was blatantly different from the rest. Wearing not the traditional black of the Sith but a floor-length, deep-hooded robe of a most unusual shade of violet, Carth watched the fifth person float gracefully across the polished stone floor of the open air corridor while the remainder of the party proceeded forward with precision and purpose toward the entrance to the Jedi Council Chambers. The Temple Guard rapped twice on the door, and the party was ushered inside.

Carth scowled. “What? There aren’t enough Sith roaming the Galaxy that the Jedi have to go and invite them to come here?”

“Only the leader was a Sith,” Canderous said knowingly. “The others are Jantessans.”

“Jantessans?” Carth echoed. His brow furrowed in thought. “Never heard of them.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Canderous. “Jantessa is located far out on the Outer Rim, about as far as you can get without leaving the Galaxy. They prefer to keep to themselves. Few outsiders are ever allowed on their world.”

“So how do you know about it? No, wait.” Carth smirked. “Let me guess. You Mandalorians conquered them, right?”

“Conquered them?” Canderous chuckled. “We tried. Never could get past their defences though. They had some type of planetary shield that we could never break through. And though our forces were superior in numbers, their small fighters managed to take quite a heavy toll on our resources. So, we moved on to more… rewarding targets.”

Carth’s brow raised and he snorted with amusement. “You mean to say, there was someone out there who defeated the Mandalorians before the Republic even got involved?”

“I wouldn’t call it a defeat,” Canderous said defensively. “More like a draw. Even so, I’d like to think we did them some damage.”

“So, why didn’t they help the other worlds that were being ravaged by the Mandalorians?” Mission asked.

Canderous shrugged. “Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. But I did hear a rumour that after Revan’s fleet turned on the Republic, the Jantessans willingly co-operated with the Sith.”

Mission scowled. “So they *are* Sith!”

“Perhaps,” Canderous answered. “Perhaps not. Either way I can tell you this. They didn’t come all this way for a social call. Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. They detest ‘outlanders.’”

Carth rubbed his forehead. “I don’t like this,” he said softly. “Something tells me that we’re going on another mission.”

“We’re not going anywhere until I’ve seen the city,” Mission said adamantly. “Besides, if those Sith guys have just arrived, then there’s no way our friends are coming out anytime soon. Please, Carth? Can we go? Pleeeease?” She batted her eyelashes persuasively.

Carth rolled his eyes, and exhaled a sigh of defeat. “It’s against my better judgement, but…all right, Mission.”

“Woohoo!” Mission jumped for joy.

“But just to get something to eat, all right?” Carth interrupted firmly.

“Yeah, sure,” Mission agreed, though she couldn’t hold back her mischievous smile as she rocked back and forth on her heels with anticipation. “Just to get something to eat.”

“Think I’ll stay here,” Canderous said, giving Carth an unenviable smirk at what he perceived as babysitting duty. “I’ll go and see how the droids are getting on in the maintenance bay.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Carth said flatly. “And, if Rade comes….” He paused, then shook his head. “Oh, who am I kidding?” he said under his breath. “We’ll meet you back here in a couple of hours, Canderous. C’mon, Mission. Let’s go.”

No sooner than Carth had turned his back, than Rade Chano’s voice called out his name from across the garden’s courtyard.

“Abandoning us already, are you?” Rade grinned broadly and his dark eyes smiled as he approached with Bastila, Jolee Bindo, and Juhani in tow.

Startled at his friend’s sudden appearance, Carth floundered a bit. “What? Erm, no, we were….”

“We were just going into the city to get something to eat,” Mission interrupted, glaring at Carth not to contradict her. “Care to join us?”

“You mean to leave the Temple grounds?” Bastila shook her head in shocked disbelief. “Oh, no. No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Mission. Coruscant is a very big place. Even dangerous, in some sections. Besides, you’ll find that the food provided here is far superior in its quality and nutritional value than anything you will find on the outside, especially for the needs of a….”

“If you say *growing child*,” Mission warned her, “I swear I’ll….”

“Food sounds good to me,” Rade chimed in, attempting to end the dispute before it got started.

Bastila stared back at Rade. “But she’s…”

“Hungry,” Rade finished for her. “Lighten up,” he added, giving her a quick wink. “I think we could all use a little diversion for a while. Don’t you?”

Bastila blushed. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to…to get our minds off of Council matters for an hour or so.”

“An hour?” Carth asked warily. “So is that how much time you expect those Jantessans to take with the Council?”

Rade winced. “Ah. You saw them, did you?”

“Yeah, we saw them,” said Mission. “In all their creepy Sithiness,” she added with a shiver.

“What do they want?” Canderous asked bluntly.

Rade sighed. “I can’t say.”

Carth snorted. “Typical Jedi,” he muttered under his breath.

“No, Carth,” said Rade. “I can’t say, because I don’t know. None of us do.”

“Then can you at least tell me what you were discussing in there for hours upon end?” Carth asked testily. “You know how much I hate being left out of the loop.”

Rade grinned. “I know, I know.” He paused, looking first at Bastila, then Jolee, then Juhani. “The Council didn’t say I had to keep it a secret,” he said to them.

“Are you sure you want to tell them?” Jolee asked with concern.

“They are your friends, Rade,” said Juhani. “I think they have a right to know.”

Bastila’s brow wrinkled. “Rade, I think it might be wise if you consulted with the Council before….”

“No,” Rade said decisively. “Juhani’s right. They all travel with us by their own decision. They have a right to know.” His deep brown eyes locked with Carth’s. “The Council was trying some ancient healing techniques to help me gain some of my memories back.”

“Oh,” Carth said, nodding even though he wasn’t quite sure what to make of Rade’s statement.

“Memories of when I was the Dark Lord,” Rade added.

Carth’s anxious expression quickly turned solemn. “Oh.”

“Jantessa is one of the worlds Revan visited. When the Council received the request from the Jantessans for an audience, they also received a curious query about Revan.” He shifted uncomfortably. “About me. They wanted to know if the Jedi had any information on where I might have travelled to after the Mandalorian Wars. The Council thought it was important that I try to remember visiting Jantessa to discover the reason behind their interest.”

“Oh,” Carth said tonelessly.

“And did they?” asked Mission. “I mean, did you remember anything?”

Rade shrugged. “Nothing substantial. Bits and pieces. Like the visions of seeking out the Star Forge.”

Mission let out a tense sigh. “Well, that’s a relief. I mean, not that I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything useful, but I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything…well, you know….”

“Sithy?” Rade teased.

Mission smiled. “Yeah. Sithy.”

“Don’t worry,” Rade said, and although he was answering Mission, he was looking at Carth. “I’m not Revan anymore. And if I ever do remember anything ‘Sithy’, you’ll be the first to know. As long as I’ve got friends like you to help me, there’s no way I’ll ever fall again.” He gave Bastila a look that told her what was true for him was true for her as well. “No way any of us will fall again.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” Mission said.

“Yeah, that’s…that’s good to know,” Carth echoed, noticeably relaxing, but still visibly tense.

“So, c’mon,” said Rade, smiling once again. “The city, and all of its inferior, unhealthy, non-nutritious culinary delights await us.”

“Ah!” Jolee Bindo rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “*Real* food!” He put a grandfatherly arm around Mission and led the way out of the gardens. “Now, I’m not knocking the Jedi’s version of ‘nutrition,’ but what I am really sick of is all that gunk that comes out of those damn processors on that ship of ours! Food? Hah! You know,” he said conspiratorially to the young T’wilek, “there used to be this little place that I knew of not far from here, found it when I was a student here, oh, a millennia or so ago, that used to serve the best Szantisian Paddlefish steaks this side of….”

As the rest of the group followed Jolee and Mission, Rade discreetly pulled Carth aside. “I have a feeling that the Council will be sending us on another mission soon,” said Rade. “You up for it?”

Carth nodded. “I’ve come with you this far. I won’t let you down now.”

“And what about your son, Dustil?” asked Rade. “I know you haven’t had the time off that you deserve. I’d understand if you had other obligations…”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Carth. “I’ll see Dustil again, but not at the expense of letting you or the Republic down. I serve the Republic so he can have a better life. He knows that.” Carth smiled weakly, then sighed. “C’mon. We’d better catch up. We’ll need to keep an eye on those two,” he said, nodding his head at Mission and Jolee walking up ahead. “No telling what kind of trouble they’ll get into.”

Rade patted Carth on the back. “Right. I’ll take Jolee. He’s old, and easily distracted,” he added with a grin.

Carth gave a quick grin back. “Aw, gee, thanks. And, thanks, Rade,” he added in a more serious tone. “For keeping me in the loop about your memory and all. It means a lot to me, and I appreciate it. I shouldn’t have doubted you.”

“I’m your friend, Carth. Voicing any doubts you have only helps me to stay on the right path. So really, it’s me who should be thanking you.”

“Still, it was wrong of me, and…and, well, I’m sorry. I do trust you, Rade. You know that, don’t you?”

“I know.” Rade’s eyes narrowed mischievously. “Just… don’t get all sentimental on me, okay? Bastila’s watching, and, well…,” He winked. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

Carth laughed. “I won’t say another word.”


Veni, Vidi, Velcro. (I came, I saw, I stuck around)
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