A'Tuin's Wild Ride

In Darkness, Searching for Light

It was dark, and… cold? Cold wasn’t the right word, since the feeling was inside his brain and not on his skin, but Mek— was finding fewer appropriate words to describe his sensations as of late.

He’d been thinking back to the stories of his childhood frequently. More and more, they seemed to leave out so many important details; details that would prove quite useful at this particular moment.

He’d come across passing references of some sort of trial that Jedi had to pass to become Jedi, but it was his understanding that that was after some kind of training, or preparation, or at least a quick talk about what to expect. But now, here he was, wandering alone through the dark while voices clamored for attention inside his head.

He wasn’t even supposed to be alone. Wen Yanbo had been with him, until he’d caught a glimpse of that crystal. He’d found himself darting down a pitch-black corridor after without even thinking, and the next thing he knew, he was alone in the dark. He thought about calling out, but he wasn’t sure what would respond in here.

He could feel a presence, the skin-crawling sensation of being watched. Blinking, his eyes straining against the dark, he caught sight of a dim glow ahead. He could feel the crystal calling out in his mind, a pure note amidst the chaos.

Mek carefully made his way forward; he desperately wanted to run, to get as far from this place as he could. Even so, he knew deep inside that this crystal was important somehow. And now, here it was. Well, sort of. He was looking over the edge of a cliff into an abyss of blackness. Even so, there on a ledge 2-3 meters below him was the crystal, gleaming radiantly, it’s beckoning song overpowering the fear and doubt and chaos in his mind.

Rummaging around in his pockets, he pulled out a length of cord and a small filter wrench. The grasping mechanism on the wrench looked to be just the right size to fit the crystal. Dropping it over the edge, he lowered it slowly. The last thing he wanted to do was knock it into the void below. Mek moved as slowly as he could, trying to keep the contraption from swinging too wildly. Holding his breath, he dropped it the last few centimeters, and let out an audible gasp. He’d done it! Now he just had to pull it up and find his way out of here…

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Wonder of Wonders...

Ever since arriving at the Citadel, Mek’s companions had seemed… awed. Wen Yanbo said something about this place being strong in the Force, but Mek wasn’t sure what that meant. That’s when the miracle happened.

The light touch of a hand on his shoulder, and then the world exploded. A thousand sensations filled his mind, their sources unclear. It felt to Mek as if he’d never used his eyes or ears before, and now everything was wreathed in energies formerly unsensed. Phantoms of other places and times crowded for attention, and just focusing on as simple a task as remaining standing proved a challenge.

Rising from the chaos, a familiar voice; he realized someone was talking to him. “…see what we feel all the time, although certainly not to this extent. This place is truly powerful in the Force.” Mek could only dumbly nod in assent, though he was unsure who spoke. The sensations even then were fading and clarifying, as if finding the space in his brain where they belonged. His head felt full, a constant pressure of sensory stimulus that he could only mostly control and contain.

Fifties has apparently beaten them here, and everyone had started away to meet him. Jogging to catch up, Mek wondered how long the hangover from his brush with the Force would last.

Hours later, sitting in a cantina with Fifties and Roc, and trying to make sense of the tragic and traumatic events of the day, he slowly began to realize that the “hangover” may, in fact, be permanent…

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Data Log Entries Rok's Journal Entries from the first day at the Citadel.

Data entry: Evening the citadel. This place is amazing. The power of the force is all around. I’ve felt the force and used it before but the things that are possible here are unimaginable. There is so much I could learn here; but we have so much left undone. Our call to the Slaver ship, the return to the junk world. Perhaps we’ll find some answers to that here. Don’t forget we still need to discuss payment. Seems Wen Yenbo got a new friend today too. Hope that doesn’t come back to bite us all in the tail.

Data Entry: Morning. Woke up refreshed. I feel called to the crystals here. Memories or visions, something is calling me. I’m not sure whether to run and hide or embrace it. The Force is deep like the sands of the great desert. The surface is hot and electric but the depths of power here are so great just like the coolness of the center of a dune. But it moves and flows so much. I swear I felt mother and father in the force. The stories of Jedi I heard about Uncles Hondo’s exploits during the Clone Wars. If at one time the force moved like it does here, no wonder, they were so powerful.

Data Entry: Afternoon. Someone is calling me. Checked the comms and the vents, nothing. It’s loudest in the atrium coming from somewhere deep below. Wen Yenbo nodded at me and said I should seek it out if I want to. I don’t know where to even begin in this place. My understanding of the force is growing just by seeing how it works here. Where do I start to read? So many libraries where do I even go to begin?

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More Repairs and More Reflections

Limping into Serenno, Mek was initially struck by the pastoral beauty of the planet. The sudden lurching of the crippled A’Tuin quickly snapped him back to his duty: landing her safely and getting help for the refugees on board. Utilizing the maneuvering thrusters’ max capabilities to counteract the damaged engine, he carefully set the ship down at the designated pad, and let the ship shudder to a halt.

Already running through the list of things needed to begin repairs to the ship, Mek was shocked but not dismayed when the Serenno (Serennese? Serennoan? He made a mental note to check later) personnel offered the use of their repair facilities. He’d been contemplating a few quick and dirty upgrades to a couple systems, and this would be the perfect opportunity to implement them.

It wasn’t until several hours later, jumpsuit splattered with lubricant, that Mek realized that he could technically be considered a hero. Looking back over the last several days, it was just like the stories he’d grown up with; action, adventure, danger, triumph, and despair. But it felt all wrong. He didn’t feel like a hero. Mostly he’d felt scared and desperate, lost and out of his depth.

Stop.

Breathe.

Right action comes when we are at peace, and one with the Force.

But he wasn’t as sure about that as he used to be. After all, he’d witnessed his companions all do incredible things with the force, but they didn’t seem especially enlightened, or particularly wise, or even all that special in any way (seemingly random Force ability aside). What could that mean?

Stop.

Breathe.

There was a Right and a Wrong. Mek knew this; it was the very fibre of his being. He would do his best to be the Right, to act as an example to his friends…

Mek blinked mid-thought. But yes, he supposed this rag-tag group of strangers had become his friends. He couldn’t remember really having many friends before. Although, he supposed, a few life-and-death close calls could bring even the oddest of groups together.

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Hanging out by the lake

After the others headed into the woods, O-In revisited the field of crashed ships, following a hunch about what might be left behind. Working through the wrecks of dozens of ships, he quickly amassed a collection of small, interesting items – a few books, some small statues, and a collection of items of obscure purpose and value. Unfortunately, this pile quickly became unmanageable – exceeding the mesh bag he had brought. After lowering the overfull bag to the small dune alongside the wreckage of a Techno-Union Iblis-class heavy freighter, its blocky, pyramidal fuselage slightly on its side, he took a break. As O-In stared at the high-end collectibles he’s salvaged, and at the dozens of ships remaining, he sighed ruefully. There’s almost no way he could possibly retrieve all the relics that are likely to be in these ships – especially the larger ones in the lake.

He suddenly smiled, and headed back into the Jade Iblis – he’d seen a collection of TN prospecting droids in the shielded cargo hold, though most looked damaged. With some work, O-In reactivated one of the sturdy droids – mostly by scavenging parts from five others. Soon, he had a flat-topped, thick-bodied hoverdroid at his side – able to carry everything he had found so far, and a fair bit besides – it revealed its designation as TN-SR.

The two walked along the lake toward a beautiful Hadrian Gossamer-class sloop, the droid suddenly slipped lakeward by almost a meter. TN-SR quickly reoriented itself and caught up with O-In, chirping in consternation. This happened several more times, each about 20 minutes apart, and synchronized with the pulses of blue light within the lake.

Now more concerned about the light and its apparent effects, O-In and TN-SR headed back to the A’tuin. Quickly securing the droid to the ship, in hopes it won’t drift too far into the water, O-In put on his breather and headed into the lake. The ships crashed here were much larger than most of those on the shore – the potential wealth that could be obtained from the holds of a Neutron Star or Nebulon B was simply incalculable.

Putting aside thoughts of wealth, O-In quickly located the source of the blue light – a tower rising from the lake bed near the wreckage of a Mon Cala ship. Except…the frigate looked to be really good condition – it had settled on the bottom in good trim, unlike all the other ships that seem to have crashed nose first. And in the fading light of the afternoon, it seems like there may be large things swimming about the sunken ship. Rather than risk tackling them alone, O-In headed back to the surface to wait for his teammates to return.

They were definitely going to have to deal with whatever…whoever…was at the bottom of the lake.

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When troubled waters are ahead
A hiaku from Rok

When troubled master said I should focus my mind, I struggled until I sat down to write this.

A strange light shines out
Stillness in the deep dark sea
Chill winds creep about

Dry winds find favor
Bright shining sand blasting there
On Heat scorched floor

Damp desolation
Rusted jumble of wreckage
Dark machination

Why does the water which gives so much life frighten me so? I need to overcome this strangeness. This ill temperament towards it.

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Stranded

Well, we’ve crashed in some sort of ship graveyard, though a relatively hospitable one, at least on the surface.
Wreckage from several ships is nearby, and Fifties assures me that they all lost power shortly after crashing – much like the A’tuin. That’ll make escaping a bit trickier. At least we’ve got some room for the folks we rescued to spread out – the cave Wen Yanbo found is fairly decent, and we’ll probably be safe from most of the local fauna.

I’m disturbed by Rok’s assertion that there is some sort of flashing light in the depths of the lake – if they were friendly, why have they not approached us? I think we’ll have to check that out soon, but we need to make sure our refugees are secure. I think we need to set up a small council, to see to things while we are gone. Deb has shown herself to have a cool head – I’m sure Fifties will support me in putting her in charge. I think Liana Keller will also be a good choice – she seems to have the respect of most of the children and adults, and from some conversations we’ve had, apparently has a background in agricultural administration. For a third, i’m not sure, but Gon Fudo has been willing to step forward at the drop of a hat – even when no one asked for help. We may regret it later, but he is able to sway a fair number of folks.

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Aftermath and a Dream

Klaxons scream. O-in yells out, “Get on board. We’re leaving now!” Dozens of security personnel flood the hanger bay. The loading ramp slowly starts to raise. Wen Yenbo stands resolute out, “Go if you must, I’m staying.” Mac-tu Rok grabs hold of the Kel Dor’s arm pulling him back toward the loading ramp, “Master! Please!!!” pain and fear in his voice. The Kel Dor brushes him off looks at him with disappointment and strolls toward the hoard.
Rok turns jumps up the ramp and turns as it shuts behind him looking out. Slamming his fist into the hull next to the plastisteel. Watching as Wen Yenbo is swarmed and overtaken by a swarm. “No! Master Why!!” The hoard parts and three figures stand where Wen Yenbo was. Two ISB agents and a chrome clad figure, circled with lightening. It’s eyes open and dark lightening crackles out after the ship. Striking through the hull and directly into Rok. Rok rolls on the hull dark energy crackling over him and a metallic voice calls, “Join us or die…”
Rok’s eyes jolt open his sweat soaked berth on the ship echoing with the sound of the whisper. When he came in here hours ago it was filled with refugees. Now it’s empty.
He peels off his shirt, blood stain soaking the sleeve. It was a dream, just a bad dream. Pulling on a clean shirt he palms open the door and a refugee kid tumbles into the room. Sighing he steps over the child, It’s cold here on the ship even with all these people. Refugees speak in a whisper and point at him as he carefully winds his way to Wen Yenbo’s quarters.
“Master?” Rok opens the door steeping in. Wen Yenbo sits kneeling in his room in meditation. Steeping closer. “Master? Are you upset with me?”
“No. It’s not wise to be quick to anger…. Or impulsive for that matter. Come, sit with me.” Intones Wen Yenbo motioning to a spot beside him. “Calm your emotions, reach out, and let the force guide your thoughts.”
Rok kneels beside Wen Yenbo and tries to do as instructed. Breathing in and out slowly trying to reach out to the force. But meditation never comes easy.
“Tell me, what do you feel?” Wen Yenbo asks quietly.
“I feel cold… Should we have stayed? Was it cowardice on my part? I feel I almost lost you, Master.” The questions tumble out of Rok. Wen Yenbo indicates to slow down. Sighing, Rok continues slowly,” I’m torn. Why did we go there? We didn’t settle anything. But it felt like the place we were supposed to go?”
Calmly Wen Yenbo begins, “The facility is shrouded in darkness. The force led us there for a reason, I am sure we have not seen the last of it. I was wrong to have wanted to stay. And I shouldn’t have put you in the position to choose between following me, and following the crew. You shouldn’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. We did what little we could by getting these few off the ship. I am sure, when it is appropriate to speak with them we will learn a great deal more about that facility. We might even learn a weakness that we can exploit. Don’t let your feeling betray you. You are right to feel conflicted, we must do what is right. But that is not always so clear.”
“Thank you Master. I’ll keep that in mind.” Rok stands and opens the door. The smell of fear and sweat fill his nostrils as he steps back into the hall.
So many refugees. What are we going to do. Why is it so cold?

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Romantic Diversions

As the tour drags on, a nagging something stirs at the corners of O-In’s mind. The commander’s justifications rang hollow, and shadows of falsehood lurked behind his words. Hoping to get the truth, O-In slows his pace, pulling Fifties back with him. Then, with the others as a distraction, the two slip off into the shadows of the manufactory.

Away from the Commander, O-In & Fifties explore the facilities, looking for evidence of deception, evidence of weakness. As they reach one of the back walls, a despairing voice cries out for help. O-In reacts with a start, but Fifties seems unusually calm – almost as if he had not heard it. “Did you hear that scream?,” and Fifties curious expression shows he hadn’t.
“There’s someone in trouble, just the other side of that wall – can you get us in there?”
Fifties humors his friend with a casual smile, “See, you are starting to understand how I feel!” before igniting his universal passage generator. It sparks and hisses as it slices through the steel walls, and as it cuts, more screams break out, screams both heroes can here.

Once the passage is large enough, the two step into a room occupied by cowering women and children. Standing in from of them, holding a chair up as a crude defensive weapon, is a bold Bothan woman, her lithe figure clad in the remains of designer exploration gear and her fur shimmering with doubt, rage and fear. Seeing Fifties, she exclaims, “You aren’t part of the crew – who are you?,” naively unaware of the existential crisis she invokes with that simple question.

While Fifties recounts his latest self-conception tale, something involving clones, nanodroids, and purple lightning, O-In moves among the others, working to calm them down and find out their situation. It only takes a few minutes to realize that these people, despite their fear and confusion, do not share the rigid similarities of much of the crew. They share stories of deprivation, manipulation, and abuse that are both disgusting and distressingly comprehensive.

As Fifties winds down his origin story, O-In is stunned to notice the Bothan woman appears quite taken with his friend – in fact, she radiates an intense fascination. “O-In, this is Deb Pastor – she is a prisoner here, along with these others. Apparently, the ship is home to an evil hive mind that has taken control of the combat capable folks!”

For once, O-In isn’t shocked by Fifties amazing statements, and instead offers a curt concurrence, “Agreed, and these folks need our help to escape – let’s see if we can get them to the A’Tuin without anyone noticing.”
Unfortunately, herding 8 women, 4 men and 19 children through unfamiliar corridors is not conducive to stealth. Which is how the two of them wound up in a two-way running battle against dozens of near-mindless cyborgs, with O-In picking off pursuers while Fifties cuts a path through the defenders, while carrying on a conversation with Deb, one that is never interrupted, even as she is struck by a shot aimed at him, and he slings her into the crook of his arm, carrying her to safety behind the blazing shield of his flashing lightsaber. Thus, they burst into the main park, shepherding their rescued charges, only to be nearly stopped by the sight of their crewmates arrayed for summary judgement…

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Intercepted transmission 2
Fifties data hooks strike again

Appearing on Fifties data taps, cypher not used since the mid rim trade dispute. Voices are unidentifiable

A- What are you doing?
B- We have to land here, that ship is the only one that we can reach before the engine fully quits.
A- We have a hole in the hull not an engine breach, those Naboo fighters hit us hard. The Naboo are a fairly peaceful people. What do you mean we have to land there?
B- The hull breach is in the engine compartment, if it gets worse in this nebula we’re toast, our sensors didn’t pick up anything inside here, this cloud wall is scaring me. If what’s at the centre is what I think it is we’re in huge trouble if it pulls us too close.
A- I don’t want to think about that.
B- Anyway if they hadn’t given us that beacon to home in on we’d have been in that annoying vortex in the middle of this.
A- They sounded like a cult, both of their voices sounded off. I don’t think this is going to end well for us.

Message breaks up at this point.

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