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41  1:38am 14/01/16        
The Slothful Padawan
“Someone? Or someones?” Irtar asked with a frown as he began unhooking his looted interface from the console.
 
“I don’t know.” Ahnk replied solemnly as he began to examine the damage of his severed hand.
 
Irtar’s face however contorted with worry. He couldn’t sense that far in the Force, he was lucky to sense things five feet away most of the time. But Ahnk seemed to be able to case an entire building. If he wasn’t able to sense what was down here….
 
It’s not often that someone jams for a particular gem, perhaps it could be-
 
“I also do not know who would have set up these defences.” Ahnk said, cutting off the train of thought in the padawan’s mind.
 
“Yes, but to jam for this particular gem… Is there any group that pops to mind?” Irtar offered.
 
“It was no secret that we used Corusca Gems. It is almost impossible to keep a mining operation of that scale secret.” Ahnk said with a frown as he prodded at a few smouldering servos. “It is something difficult and challenging to do, for certain. Dampening fields like this are not cheap, and only work in a small radius. But it is possible.”
 
Irtar finished packing up, and walked towards his Master, looking at the broken robotic hand as he went. “May I?” He offered.
 
“Of course. Never understood why all the maintenance on these things seemed to require two hands to do.” Ahnk said with a smile despite the pain receptors in the device continuing to scream out bloody agony.
 
“Let’s see…” Irtar muttered, his old pre-Jedi comfort of droid work coming comfortably to his mind. A few of the motors were severed, along with the structural damage to the fingers. “Did you bring any spare parts?”
 
“Not enough.” Ahnk said with a frown, turning the carbon scared hand over.
 
“Well, lucky for you we’re surrounded by thousand year old battle droids and whatever else were left behind by the old Jedi Order and however ransacked this place. I’m sure I could find something that’ll do the job. Not as well as properly measured and fitted servos and structural bits, mind you. But it’ll do in a pinch.” Irtar said, motioning towards the deactivated turret and other broken bits scattered around them.
 
“How long will this take?” Ahnk asked, dubiously looking at the piles of scrap around them and thinking of the bigger piles above them.
 
“Damned if I know. I haven’t even had a crack at this ancient tech yet. Could be an easy thing. Could be complicated.” Irtar hesitantly replied, tapping at his chin. He let out an exasperated sigh as he walked back the way they came. “Well, I’ll start upstairs I guess? There was more salvage up there.”
 
“We search together.” Ahnk corrected, following behind the padawan.
 
“But shouldn’t someone be on watch or something? We don’t know if we’ve set off some alarms and if someone is on their way down, or up.” Irtar said, looking past the deactivated turret, into the untouched darkness.
 
“And we don’t know if there are any hidden pathways, or if they are already lurking here.” Ahnk said, putting a comforting hand, his only hand, on Irtar’s shoulder. “And any group that prepares for a Sith Order and I can’t sense through the Force is nothing that a one handed old man or a young padawan should face alone.”
 
“Consider me reassured.” Irtar groaned as they made their way back up to the previous floor.
 
Despite the darkness, the death, and the danger, Irtar felt in his element for the first time in months. He eagerly picked apart the old droids, measuring, testing, and teasing for what he needed. His mind flashed back to those early days on Naboo. After Leia left, and he was left to his own devices. The run he built, the droids he restored. It was a peaceful life, though frustrating at the time.
 
In the end, maybe the Force had a plan for him. It would explain why he never found a Master that would deal with him longer than a month at a time. Either that or he was a terrible student that no sane person wanted to deal with.
 
Irtar cast a quick look at Ahnk who was quietly looking where the turret had grazed his shoulder. Thankfully, it looked like it was just a glancing blow. Like a deflected shot that was just a fraction of a fraction of a second too slow.
 
“So, how’s the arm?” Irtar asked from his collection of likely candidates he picked out on his first pass.
 
“Better than my hand.” Ahnk replied dryly as he wrapped a bandage around the plasma burn. “You never really struck me as the salvager type.”
 
“What can I say.” Irtar said as he tossed a piece of steel into his makeshift rejection pile. “Engineer, politician, salvage expert, Jedi, general pain in the ass. I am a man of many skills. A couple of them are even helpful.”
 
Irtar took a look, eyeing up an ancient chunk of steel he thought would make a good temporary index finger, before deciding against it. Too much of a curve, would make gripping unwieldy. The trick was finding something rigid enough to maintain stress without being too stiff to survive a shock. You want something that won’t bend, but will bend before it breaks.
 
The metal these old droids were made out of would have been ideal. When they were originally made. The millennia hadn’t been kind on these units, nor had the Stormtroopers. There was also the stress of time. Neither knew if there was a legion of troopers assembling beneath their feet, or descending from above. It seemed almost impossible that whoever had set these defences up would have no idea that they were here or coming.
 
Irtar held up a small shock absorber and gave it a good hard look. With a nod he added it to his keep pile. It wasn’t as degraded as the other steel and had been one of the best candidates he’d seen so far.
 
“So, anyone else come to mind?” Irtar probed as he began to knock together what parts they had found that could do the job into a makeshift cybernetic hand. It’d have none of the sensitivity or precision of his properly built one, but it could hold a lightsaber. 
 
“Hrm?” Ahnk had been settling in to meditate while Irtar worked.
 
“The guys behind all this.” Irtar motioned from the broken droids to the carbon scorched walls. “I know you said it could be anyone, but these guys beat you to this lost city, and came specifically set up to counter the Sith Brotherhood. Surely some group has got to come to mind.”
 
“Dozens.” Ahnk replied, his eyes closed with most of his attention being elsewhere. “But I wouldn’t expect to find Zark Ekan in a place like this.”
 
“Who?” Irtar soldered together some wires from the makeshift data port to the motors on the fingers. They were giant by any measure for modern prosthetics, but still small enough for the job at hand.
 
“Nevermind.” Ahnk said, his focus drifting off entirely.
 
Irtar worked about another half an hour in silence, Ahnk journeying to parts unknown through the Force. No troopers came storming up or down. No Sith came crawling from the walls. No rats even went scurrying about. The only company the noise of his work, and the sound of the empty city rusting around him.
42  1:46pm 07/11/16        
Blink If You Can Hear Me
"I need a power cell," Irtar said, and Ahnk snapped to attention.

Ahnk looked around and shrugged. "Any specific type?"

Irtar shook his head. "I can jury rig it, just something with juice," he replied.

Ahnk nodded. He reached down and grabbed one of the old E-11's from the ground, pulling out the battery. "Will this work?"

Irtar made a face that didn't look very promising. "Throw me the rest of the rifle," he said. Ahnk grabbed it and tossed it over. "I also need a step down transformer. Can you grab me a helmet from one of the troopers? They have one between the powerpack in their armor and their HUD."

Ahnk reached down and took one of the helmets off the trooper. "Wow," he said. "This is... Order 66 era trooper. This battle took place long ago."

Irtar looked over and nodded. "Creepy how they all looked the same," he said. "The clones I mean." He thought back to their earlier treks on the planet and then frowned. "Sorry, no offense."

Ahnk smiled. "Just keep working," he said, throwing the helmet over. He marvelled a bit at how the hard seal had kept the trooper preserved... then a few seconds later, coughed as he realized he'd broken the hard seal and was now breathing decades old death. "There's something about this whole situation that bothers me."

"Besides the ancient traps that have been retrofitted with modern technology and the very real possibility that there is someone actively trying to kill us?" Irtar asked.

"But why us?" Ahnk asked. "It's too much of a coincidence that someone comes down here and is still down here when we show up. But if they were trying to murder us, there have been a dozen times where we were more vulnerable than we are now. We slept on this planet yesterday; if they were specifically after us, they could have killed us then."

"So you don't think this is a trap set for us," Irtar said, and was confused when Ahnk shook his head. "You do? I am confused. What are you saying?"

"I think someone set up a trap for us, and then got trapped here themselves," Ahnk said. "It's the only thing that makes sense. They came down here, knowing that this place had things too valuable for me to allow it to fall into hostile hands. But before they could spring the trap, the construction crew up top moved in, and effectively cut them off from both the surface, and additional resources, and their prey."

"And they've been stuck down here, waiting for us," Irtar said. 

"Not us," Ahnk said.

Irtar shook his head again. "I'm gonna bury my head in this," he said, holding up the helmet and the blaster pack. "You meditate on our current situation."

Ahnk smirked, knowing Irtar meant it sarcastically, and fully intending to do just that.





Suddenly, everything was much colder.

You don't understand the effect that carbon dioxide has on your body until you're in a building with properly recycled, and temperature conditioned, air.

"This is more like it," Ahnk said, as he walked through The Jedi Library as it had been, decades ago.
"It's almost pretty in a way," a voice answered back, causing Ahnk to swivel his head.

"Who are you?" he said, trying to reach out with all his instincts.

"No one you know," the voice answered back. "But then, you know. If you knew who you knew, then you'd already know."

"I don't know about that," Ahnk said, smiling. "You're very familiar... and very close."

"Familiar, maybe, close, definitely," the voice said back. Ahnk could make out slight details... a woman, probably in her twenties or thirties. Human or humanoid. Intelligent... slightly amused.

"I don't know what you came here for," Ahnk said. "If it's knowledge, or power. Artifacts... whatever it is, we can work out a deal. There's no need for further violence."

"And what," the voice asked, "if violence is why I'm here?"

Suddenly, Ahnk felt it. A warm feeling, like fire. Around him, the walls were aflame, crumbling and smoking around him. He felt, for a moment, the source of the rage. Then it was gone, and Ahnk was surrounded again by only the broken fragments of the glory he had previously beheld.

"Come find me, Ahnk Rashanagok," the voice said, now much more amused. "The path you have laid stands before you... its time you walked to the end."

And then, suddenly, it all made sense.





Ahnk's eyes snapped open, and he reached up with his one remaining hand to wipe the sweat from his brow.

It was then that Irtar stepped into the room. "Okay," he said, and then threw something to Ahnk. As he caught it and looked down, he realized it was a rudimentary mechanical hand. "I didn't have parts fine enough for properly articulated fingers, but I figure those will work. And the whole thing is built on a blasterpack, which are prone to exploding."

"Well, worst case scenario, it explodes and I start punching things with a fireball for a hand," he said.
"Or it explodes and takes half your ribcage along with your arm," Irtar said, and didn't like the resulting glare from Ahnk. "Fireball fist does sound much cooler and it's just as likely, so let's go with that. Did you get any insight into our situation while I was gone?"

Ahnk nodded. "I think I've been able to narrow down what felt off about this whole situation," he said.

"Great," Irtar said, and then when he saw Ahnk's expression, he frowned. "Not great."

"Not great. I don't think this trap was set for me," Ahnk said. "I think this trap was set for you."
OS: In a world of bon-bons, you are a twinkie.
Ahnk: God damn you, I am Count Chocula and you know it.
I'm not spending my anniversary night thumping my head against the wall. - Damalis, on Moderating TRF
Then tell him you want it harder, damnit! - Ahnk, on Damalis
43  5:49pm 11/11/16        
The Slothful Padawan
Irtar furrowed his brow at Ahnk. He just simply didn’t believe it. The man just couldn’t see himself being that important. The only people who at some point may have wanted him dead were the Sinsangese isolationists, but he stopped being a threat to them when he hung up his obligations to the Galactic Coalition. Of course there were the Sith, but why would they both going after him? More importantly, which amongst them would know that Irtar was with Ahnk? And put themselves in a position where they would have to go toe to toe with both of them?
 
It all didn’t make a lick of sense.
 
“So. Someone decides the best way to kill me is to what?” Irtar begins, putting his hand to his head as his brain tried to assemble the logic. “Wait for my Jedi Master to inevitably drag me off to hidden Jedi city hundreds of light years from where I was? A Jedi city, I might add, almost forgotten to the Galaxy and you yourself only found from years of research? And then their plan is to somehow fight me AND said Jedi Master that dragged me off to said forgotten city?”
 
“The Force could have guided them here.” Ahnk offered, Irtar just frowned at that.
 
“So the Force told them where the city was? And that we’d be coming here? But not the construction crew?” Irtar asked, and incredulous expression on his face. It seemed just plainly ludicrous to him.
 
“Yes.” Ahnk replied, calmly and as if it was an obvious truth.
 
There were a few choice words Irtar wanted to yell at his Master at this moment, but he bit his tongue and held it in. The Force is a strange and confusing thing, and if the Force wants to have someone fight them in the bowels of a ruined forgotten Jedi City, who was he to argue with the Force. Or maybe Ahnk was wrong. Either way, there was nothing to be done for it by arguing.
 
They were in a trap. They could either withdraw, and risk having this unknown assailant follow them out, or press forward while they’re trapped and finish the matter now. The problem is, they had no idea how much further they had to go. How many more traps there were. How much deadlier they could become.
 
“Whoever this is, if they know you’re here with me, and wants to kill me? They probably don’t want to fight both of us. So they’ll likely try to split us up, somehow.” Irtar warned; the Jedi Master nodded along. The man was much more experienced than him, and had likely already thought through the entire strategic situation. Still, Irtar felt better for such things to be said aloud.
 
“So… I guess forward and onward?” Irtar asked with a shrug, really unsure of what to do.
 
“We know the trap is here. We shall spring it so we avoid setting off the next which we may not see.” Ahnk said, moving his new hand slowly as he adjusted to the rudimentary machine.
 
“Be careful with that thing. Remember, fireball.” Irtar warned as they stepped out of their room and back into the halls of the ancient library.
 
Things were quiet now. That knowledge of the trap filled that void of sound with suspicion. Every creak and every step bore the potential terror of a thousand deaths. But Irtar could not let that consume him. He was a Jedi, like it or not. He forced his mind to calm, and to slow, keeping even breaths at every step. He had to look beyond the terrors his subconscious played before him to think cleanly and with clarity. It was only through the clear lens of serenity that he could hope to gaze past his would be assassin’s veil of fearful traps.
 
The goal had changed from one of hunting for knowledge to hunting for their assailant. The quickest way would be to split up, but that would increase the odds of one of them being caught on their own. Ahnk was confident in his abilities, a seasoned duelist and warrior. Irtar however… was not. If this foe thought it could, in the best case, disable a Jedi Master? It was not something that would be wise to face alone. To think otherwise would be arrogant and reek of foolishness and bravado.
 
The pair pushed on past the burnt out hulks of the turrets that fired at them earlier, and past the thinning signs of foreign intervention. If the pair didn’t know any better, it would seem as if the halls were untouched at this point. Irtar could even hear the faint hum of ancient machinery, continuing on its daily functions as it had for millennia. Perhaps they were databanks filled with ancient knowledge? Or perhaps that was the sound of yet another trap?
 
Irtar felt out with the Force, doing his best to keep those ideas at bay. If the Force led his attacker to him, perhaps the Force would lead him to his attacker. He frowned slightly as he walked, each step feeling about the same as the next. He had never been particularly skilled at using the Force for the mundane, may as well for the more mystical like dousing.
 
“Do you sense anything?” Irtar asked Ahnk, snapping the strained silence. He was about ready to give up on searching himself. He just had no practice in the Force in this regards. It felt like trying to pick out details on the bottom of a muddy pond.
 
“No.” Ahnk replied in his short way, seemingly oblivious to the world around him as he was lost in thought or meditation. “This place is draped in the Force, both Light and Dark. It is hard to find something that doesn’t want to be seen.”
 
“Well, what do we know?” Irtar hoped that Ahnk’s silent pondering had produced some results.
 
“It is a woman. Probably. And we can assume skilled enough with the Force to mask themselves.” Ahnk answered in a noncommittal way. The uncertainty did not fill him with a great deal of hope.
 
It was something, but it wasn’t much. Likely a darksider of some description, but he didn’t know any that would want to go to such lengths. At least, he didn’t think he did. He knew some of the Sith Orders liked to send their apprentices abroad to kill a Jedi as a sign of their strength. That would have made sense if he was still on his own, isolated and far from any other Jedi.
 
He had faced a Sith Knight once, but that had been a man.
 
Maybe it was one he had faced before? Aretsuya and her Mistress? That one mysterious darksider he had faced on that windy planet? Or perhaps even… No, it was impossible. It couldn’t possibly be HER.
44  1:14pm 14/11/16        
Blink If You Can Hear Me
"I'd just like to reiterate, I think this is a really bad idea," Irtar said, hesitantly.

"Noted," Ahnk replied. "Prepared to do it anyway?"

Irtart smirked. "Whenever you're ready," he said.

Ahnk raised his lightsaber handle in his remaining real hand. "Ready... go!"

Coordination was key, but there was a benefit to raw speed as well. Irtar moved first, ducking out from behind the wall and jerking his arm forward, down the hallway. Then he ducked behind the column of the wall across. Then, Ahnk stepped forward, exposed, into the hall, and brought his saber to bear.

Deep breathes, Ahnk thought to himself as he watched everything slowly move around him. There was a series of clicks as the turret pivoted in it's axis, tracking from Irtar to Ahnk, then it fired. There was a snap and a hiss as the lightsaber shot out from the hilt, and then a soft hum as it cut the air. The timing had to be precise... the blade swung up to intercept the blaster bolt...

...and then the bolt deflected away, into the stone wall. Ahnk tried to remain calm; needed to focus. Pull the blade, adjust position and trajectory... he only had so many shots at this... the turret had fired again, and Ahnk eyed the blaster bolt as it moved, slowly, towards him... shifted his arms, and his hips... the bolt stuck the saber...

...and Ahnk followed the trajectory with his eyes and smirked. "Fire in the hole," he said, and in the corner of his eye, saw Irtar duck away.

He barely had time to turn himself before the deflected blaster bolt struck the plastic explosive that Irtar had thrown down the hallway. Meant to be remote detonated, the compounds were reactive enough that hitting them with a blaster bolt was all the energy needed to trigger their explosion. And it was, truly, a glorious explosion.

Ahnk could feel the heat at his back even as he pressed himself into the stone. He looked at Irtar, and Irtar looked at him, and both of them gave the other a satisfied nod.

They did, all things considered, make a good team afterall.

"Good work, Master, one more turret down," Irtar said.

"You should take some of the credit, as it was your idea," Ahnk said.

"One I immediately regretted saying, since I thought it was way too crazy to work," Irtar corrected.

Ahnk smirked. "Crazy always works, because no one ever sees it coming," he said. "That turret didn't know whether to shoot you or the explosive, and by the time it decided to shoot me I was ready to deflect whatever it sent my way."

"Shall we go?" Irtar said. "I think that should be the last turret on this level, so we can either search this level more or proceed to the next one."

"I'm ready whenever..." Ahnk said, pushing himself up and away from the rocks. Then, almost immediately, he fell back against the stone, hard. "Uh, hold that thought."

Irtar rushed over, and his hand went to Ahnk's back, sliding up and down. "Oh yeah, it's bad," he said, feeling burnt clothes, burnt skin, and some raw human insides. "Looks like you caught the tail end of the explosion before you ducked to safety."

"Apparently," Ahnk said. "I was so thrilled we'd blasted the thing I guess I didn't notice. Okay, help me up."

"No way," Irtar said. "This is a bad wound, Ahnk. The kind that ends an expedition like this."

"No!" Ahnk said. "We can't. We have to see this through, and finish what we started."

"You're in no condition," Irtar said. "We need to get you medical attention."

"We can't leave," Ahnk said. "Whoever is down there, they came here looking for something. And if we leave now, we risk them being able to leave with it."

Irtar frowned. "I thought you figured they were here for me," he said.

"We can't rule anything out," Ahnk replied. "We're here. We have to finish what we started before we leave, or we may never know, and we may never have this chance again."

"Alright," Irtar said. He offered his arm and they tried to pull Ahnk away from the wall, but he hissed in pain and pieces of him began to slide down the rocks behind him. "Okay, looks like we're not going anywhere for the minute," the apprentice said, and let the older man slide down a bit to a more relaxed, seated position.

"Look around, see if you can find anything that might be helpful," Ahnk said, "like maybe a surgical bay or something."

"Wait, something's off..." Irtar said. He canvased the hall and seemed to be looking for something. "Ahnk... can you smell that?"

"All I smell is my own seared organs," he sarcastically replied, and then saw Irtar was seriously scanning around. "What am I smelling for?"

"Anything else," Irtar said.

"No, I don't..." Ahnk said, and then it slowly began to dawn on him. "I don't smell anything."

"We just set off a shaped charge in a confined space about ten feet away," Irtar said. "We should be able to smell the scoring and residual smoke."

"Or the displaced dust, or even just the old dust stuck to the walls," Ahnk said, and ran a finger along the stone. It came back clean. "Irtar, step out of my path."

Irtar wasn't sure what Ahnk had in mind, but he gave the Jedi Master room to work. Ahnk lifted his lightsaber and thumbed it on, then softly pressed the tip into the opposing wall. The rock there began to heat up and as it did, pieces of the rock melted and the gas inside exploded from the heat. Small clouds of black smoke formed as the rock melted...

...and then disappeared, sucked into a thin space between the wall and the ceiling.

As Ahnk thumbed off his saber, Irtar ran a hand along the seam. "Air recycling," he said. "This far down some of the original systems seem to still be online," he said. "Maybe..."

"What's on your mind, Irtar?" Ahnk said, and Irtar blew on a section of the wall and then wiped at it with his sleeve. "An old terminal... if the central computer is still active..."

"Only one way to find out," Irtar said, and touched the screen. It flashed momentarily and then began scrawling binary code across it's surface. "Well, I'd prefer a GUI, but this will work." Irtar scanned line after line and then found what he was looking for. He touched a piece of the code and it lit up, then the code all disappeared and a rudimentary map flashed on the screen. "Excellent. This is where we are," Irtar said, touching the screen, and then dragging his finger, "and this is the nearest medical station. Stay here, I'm going to go get something to fix you up."





The state of Ahnk Rashangok was continually getting worse. Partially burnt, with a missing hand hastily reconstructed with spare parts, he started resembling something somewhat healthy when Irtar tightly tugged the bandage around him and then stapled it closed.

"This is going to be a very temporary and very haphazard solution," Irtar said, "and when shit starts hitting the fan, I can't guarantee the whole thing doesn't tear and start looking Ahnk goo all over the place. So we should stop and you should heal yourself a little bit before we go."

"We're close," Ahnk said. "There's nowhere for them to go."

"Her to go," Irtar said. "I know who it is. I can feel it."

Ahnk raised his eyebrow. "Strange that I cannot," he said in reply.

"I can tell," Irtar said. "My instincts..."

"Your thoughts can betray you, Irtar," Ahnk said, and closed his eyes, exhaling deeply. "Look at your hand."

Irtar looked down and realized, involuntarily, he had bunched his hands up into fists. "You don't know what she did to me," he said.

"I have some idea," Ahnk said, "but regardless, this isn't about settling a score. It's about survival now. Me keeping you alive, you keeping me alive, and both of us keeping whoever is down there from getting what they want."

"We know what she wants," Irtar said, impatiently.

"Irtar," Ahnk said, simply. It was a very forceful uttering of the word.

Irtar sighed, and calmed considerably, posture relaxing. "Yes, Master Ahnk?"

"Clear your mind of preconceptions and assumptions," Ahnk said. "We are in a dangerous enough situation as it is. We can't allow our imaginations to further complicate the situation."

"But I've always been taught to feel the force, and trust what it shows me," Irtar said.

"And when you can tell the difference between the flow of the force, and the reverberations of your own fear, then you can look inwards," Ahnk said. "But you're nervous, and it's clouding your judgement. Take a deep breath, and let all your nervous energy bleed away."

Irtar took a short breath, and then, seemingly feeling better, followed it up with another, slower, longer one.

"Now, we can try to reach out with the force, but we're dealing with another force user... I think we both agree on that," Ahnk said.

"It seems highly likely," Irtar replied.

"So what we try and see may be intentionally distorted," Ahnk said. "We can't trust our senses. But fortunately, we have other resources."

Irtar frowned. "What do you mean?" Ahnk gestured his head, and Irtar followed with his eyes. "Of course, the computer."

"If it can show a map of this level, I assume it can show us what's below," Ahnk said. 

Irtar grinned. This was right up his alley. "This is us," he said, and then tapped a piece of code. The view of the map turned and it showed layers of space... a more three dimensional perspective. Then, just like that, another bright dot appeared. "That's them. Looks like just one person."

"Once again, let us not assume anything," Ahnk said. "There are beings that don't register on standard sensors, and a force user can mask their life signs so they don't show up either. For now, we make a plan around that space, but we keep our senses attuned as we move into the final level; no preconceptions."

Irtar nodded his head. "None," he said. "Master, if we do find down there what I think we will..."

"Our goal is to survive; we neutralize any threat," Ahnk said. "But we do what we have to do. Not what we want to do, but what we have to do."

Irtar nodded. "I understand," he said. "I'm going to see what systems are still running. Maybe, if I'm lucky, there is some sort of surveillance system active down there... we might be able to get some camera shots."

"If you don't need me, I'm going to slip inside my body and try and stitch myself back together," Ahnk said. Irtar nodded, and Ahnk closed his eyes, and allowed his mind to empty.





"You're hurt," the voice said to him, tauntingly.

"Don't be so happy about it," Ahnk said. "I spent decades as a Sith channelling my pain into anger and my anger into murder. Me taking damage is the worst case scenario for you getting out of this alive."

"You talk tough, Ahnk Rashanagok," the voice said, still taunting. "If you fight half as hard as you talk, this might actually be a challenge."

"I've given you a chance to negotiate your way out of this," Ahnk said. "I'm giving you another. You might get another, if I feel generous. Or I might let Irtar kill you. But I can talk him down, we can work something out. No one has to get hurt."

Her eyes flashed with rage. "Someone has to."

Ahnk nodded. "If bloodshed is what you want, then prepare yourself. The Jedi are coming."
OS: In a world of bon-bons, you are a twinkie.
Ahnk: God damn you, I am Count Chocula and you know it.
I'm not spending my anniversary night thumping my head against the wall. - Damalis, on Moderating TRF
Then tell him you want it harder, damnit! - Ahnk, on Damalis
45  3:31am 18/11/16        
The Slothful Padawan
Ahnk’s injury had given him the chance to distract himself. The search for medical equipment had given his mind somewhere else to focus its attention. It was a short lived reprieve, but it was what he needed. A little slack off the stress to give his mind a chance to cool off.
 
But as his Master went into another meditation, Irtar was left with nothing again but his thoughts. The strings of thought in his mind began to grow increasingly taught as he worked on slicing through the ancient system.  Each line of code gave time for another thought to take root. Another shred of doubt, or fear, or regret, or anger.
 
It had hit him like a cargo trawler going lightspeed. He had nearly doubled over when it happened. It could only be her. That red headed demon. Despite his training, he had to face a wave of emotions. It was no easy task to try and process and compartmentalise them all safely away to be dealt with.
 
Sorrow over the reminder of his mother’s brutal passing.
 
He had been in the caves of Dantooine when it had happened. His focus had been on finding a crystal for his lightsaber as part of his attempts to become a Jedi Knight. It had felt like centuries ago. Back when he was part of the Jedi Order and before he had went off on his own. He didn’t even feel the passing of his mother he was so obsessed at advancing.
 
Self-loathing of his own inadequacies.
 
He hadn’t felt the Sith’s arrival. He had been so blind. So stupid. He didn’t know she was there until she came upon him in the caves, lightsaber in hand looking for blood. She found him, eyeing carefully through crystals looking for the best. Lost in engineering and analysis.
 
Anger at the one who did it.
 
At the time, Irtar couldn’t face her. He only had a simply training lightsaber with him. There was no way he could harm her with it. The only other thing he had on his person was a blaster. In his desperation, he fired it into the crystal formations. The blaster fire split and refracted, for a moment the world had lit up with fire. The walls had come in, burying both of them in rock.
 
Fear of how much stronger she had become since then.
 
She had fled to recover, he had stayed to recover. She rejoined her Sith, but Irtar was cast out of his family for the trouble he caused. He cast himself out of the Order over the ordeal. While he had wasted time trying to play politics to do what he thought was best for the government in the Galaxy he had thought would be the best for the people of the Galaxy, she could have trained. While he was meeting politicians, she was likely honing her skill in the Force. For every minute he wasted, she gained that much more of an edge on him.
 
Apprehension of what was to come.
 
His Master was badly wounded. His attempts to shield his Padawan from the dangers of this place were taking a terrible toll on him. He had lost his prosthetic hand and nearly a pint of blood to the dangers of this place, and they still had one more level to go. How much longer could his Master’s strength hold up?
 
Guilt over everything.
 
His Mother had died a horrible death because he chose to leave home and try to find adventure. He had failed all his Masters with his head strong attitude and indifference. Sinsang had become even more corrupt in his attempts to play politician, ruining the lives of an unknown thousands of people. His current Master lay there trying to stitch together his flesh being drawn into his problems.
 
Some people said that to be a Jedi was to be without emotion. That there was no emotion, there was peace. But he had never met a Jedi that embodied that. Jedi were people. People felt. They loved, they hated, they feared, and they wanted. The Jedi Code was not the code of how to exist as a Jedi. It was the code of how a Jedi had to interact with the Force. Or so Irtar understood it at least.
 
One could use their emotions to rattle the cage of their soul and try and bash the Force into obedience. But that was the path of the Dark Side, and a dangerous one. It made one go against the Universe, and try and demand power from it. It worked, in a way, but it was dangerous. Consuming.
 
For a Jedi, like Irtar tried to be, required calmness and serenity. Inside every being was the Force. From the small bacteria to the greatest space slug, every being had a spark of it inside of them. In the Jedi, that spark could become a flame if focused upon. With the focus of calmness and serenity, the spark would light to flame. Emotion muddled the lens of focus, and left the spark without the energy to take light.
 
So, the trick wasn’t in not feeling at all. It was in learning how to handle one’s emotions. You had to learn how to parse those emotions out safely, and get your mind into the right place it had to be in for you to focus.
 
But this tide was almost too much. Irtar felt his connection to the Force nearly completely ebbed. He was not much better now than he was before he even heard the word ‘Jedi’. Possibly even worse if he was being perfectly honest.
 
All of Ahnk’s attempts to keep him safe in this hole, and in some ways Irtar was worse off than him. Ahnk at least had kept his center and composure. Physically he was weakened, but mentally he seemed as resolute as ever. To be strong in the Force was greater than being even the strongest man in the Galaxy. And all this had cost Irtar his strength.
 
The Padawan paused to reflect on where he was. What he was doing. Why he was here.
 
Ahnk had more cause to grieve than him. This entire world and situation had to give echoes of the monster he once was. Every step a reminder of atrocities and crimes and deaths. Irtar’s failures, though grievous, were never intentional. He had never intentionally hurt anyone. But Ahnk had in another life time.
 
Here he was, in the bowels of a broken Jedi city, in a world that once was filled with the Sith and their servants. Here he was with a former Sith Lord and dictator, with a killer the level below. Someone who had committed their own crimes, and who hated Irtar not for who he was. No, she hated him for WHAT he was.
 
Irtar took a deep, calming breath. He had to push it all aside. He had no choice.
 
She has killed. She will kill. She had to be stopped. Running would just make it worse. He had to fight her. He had to stop her. And the whole way, he had to stop those dark roots she had cast upon his subconscious.
 
He wouldn’t just defeat her. He would OVERCOME her.
 
For his mom.
 
Irtar nodded to himself in resolution, rallying himself. He had to keep it together. He went back to hammering away at the ancient code, trying to find some monitoring system or something. Some way to find out how or what could be down there and to give them some sort of edge over the Sith. He couldn’t afford self-pity, or failure. Lives depended on it. Not just his, or his Master’s, but every life she would take afterwards.
 
He had to clear his mind, and focus.
 
--------------------------------------------------------
 
Ahnk began to stir from his meditation. He sounded a little less horrible than before, but he still didn’t seem to be in top form. The fact he was still in a form other than bloody mush was just a sign of how skilled the man was with the Force.
 
“Ah, morning.” Irtar said, oblivious of what the actual time was. Ahnk grunted a response as he checked his burned side to see how much mobility he still possessed.
 
“While you were under, I was looking at the schematics for the lower levels. Mostly utility corridors and the like.” Irtar said, pointing at the rudimentary non-holo 3D display on the screen. “Right, now there’s no cameras down there. Well, at least none of the network. But what I was able to do was bring up the draws of the separate breaker circuits down there.”
 
“This place has been running for centuries. We have no idea what equipment would be down there.” Ahnk said, looking at the map. Not dismissing the fact, but waiting for Irtar to fill in how this would be useful information.
 
“Well, this place also has centuries of logs. We had a spike in energy consumption a couple decades back. I’ll assume that was our Imperial friends here.” Irtar said, motioning towards the hall they had come down littered with desiccated Stormtroopers. “And we see spikes beginning a week or so back. I’ll assume that’s when our Sith came here and started setting up traps.”
 
“So we know when she got here.” Ahnk said, nodding along.
 
“Ah, but I can do you one better.” Irtar quickly entered some commands and a few of the dots along the corridor lit up. “These are new draws that weren’t there before and seem consistent with the turrets we’ve seen so far. These things here and here, I have no idea.”
 
“Good work, Padawan.” Ahnk said, patting Irtar firmly on the shoulder. He nearly jumped at the sudden show of praise. Irtar assumed it was simply Ahnk’s want to not be shot at again getting the better of him. “We can avoid these traps if we take these corridors instead.”
 
“Yes, but those are just the energy traps. If she’s studied me as much as she would have had to figure all… this out then she’ll know I can figure out this information. Could be we’ll find lower tech traps.  Or even techs on independent generators. These will make bottlenecks.” Irtar said, tapping at the screen with a bit of a frown. “It’s a trap.”
46  11:41am 11/02/18        
Blink If You Can Hear Me
"Only one thing you can do to a trap," Ahnk said. He rolled up his sleeves.

"Are you sure you are ready for this?" Irtar said. "You're badly injured."

"I am, but that doesn't mean I can't help you," Ahnk said. He reached down and grabbed something from his robe. "Take this."

Irtar took it and examined it; a small transparent cylinder, capped on either side by metal, filled with a black liquid. "What is it?"

"This... situation," Ahnk said. "I think we might be overthinking it. But it's better to be too prepared than not prepared enough, would you agree?"

Irtar nodded. "So what's our next step?"

"Well, like I said, only one thing you can do to a trap," Ahnk said. He kicked a panel on the wall that Irtar had mapped as belonging to a vent. "Spring time."




Once they reached the lower level, they backtracked until they had a defensible position. "We assume they're alone," Ahnk said, "because that's the information we have. But we take no chances."

"No chances," Irtar agreed and the two backed up into an alcove with only entrance forward of their position. "Then...?"

"You'll have to go corridor by corridor, clearing traps and boxing in the person who set them," Ahnk said.

"Me?" Irtar said. Ahnk nodded. "Where will you be?"

"I'll be with you, but physically I am staying here," he said. He pointed with his arm. "Your map indicates that all of the stairwells on this level are collapsed except that one. I'll cover it and make sure they don't slip past you. In the meantime, each time you approach a corridor, I will use my senses to augment yours. With your technical knowledge of how the traps have been set up and my decades of instinctive responses, we can keep you alive. Together."

"Together," Irtar said. "Are you not afraid that, if this is a trap, you're walking me right into it?"

"There's something else going on here," Ahnk said. "Correlation is not causation; I've misread things, I am starting to believe, and made connections where none exist. If I'm right, all you need to do is cut off the avenues of escape, and then we can talk things out."

"And if you're wrong?" Irtar asked.

"Then there is no one I feel more comfortable of taking care of themselves in such a situation than you," Ahnk said. "It's been a long time since we first met and much has changed since then, but what hasn't changed is that you remain as dedicated and talented as any student I have trained. You are ready, Irtar Mal'gro, to take the next step and become the Jedi you were always meant to be. If we get out of this alive, I owe it to you to formalise that process."

Irtar was silent. "I'm not sure what to say," he said.

"Nothing, until we're both out of this alive," Ahnk said. "And remember, it will be a much more sombre ceremony if you let them sneak by you and kill me. You don't want to bury another master do you?"

"I've never wanted to bury one as much as I have you," Irtar joked, "but still, I don't want to get a reputation."

Ahnk smirked. "Nor I," he said. He reached out his hand and Irtar shook it. "Now, go, slowly."

Irtar nodded, and started walking. Onward he marched, straight into the jaws of hell...





"You again," she spat out, almost derisively.

"Yes, me," Ahnk countered back. "We're on your level now, Irtar and I. He's going to slowly make his way through the facility and back you into a corner."

"Excellent," she replied. "You've given me exactly what I wanted."

"Maybe," Ahnk mused. "But I don't think so. I don't think you set a trap for Irtar. I don't think you even knew he was here. No, I think you want something else. You came here thinking it would be here not knowing that I would never leave something so valuable where anyone could find it. You want something else, and without any way to get it, you're trying to salvage what you can of a wasted endeavour by adding to your killcount."

She didn't answer, but the way she paced told him he was onto something.

"Well, maybe you get what you want, and you kill Irtar, but it's just as likely he kills you," Ahnk said. "I've tried to convince him to take you alive. But I don't know if I was able to get through to him and, besides, if he can't convincingly overpower you, he may need to kill you. And let's face it; he's spent enough time training with me that all of his killing muscle memory is nice and fresh. Are you... honestly... convinced you can stop him?"

"It sounds to me like you're not convinced he can stop me," she countered.

"There's a lot of uncertainty here, that much is true," Ahnk said. "So let's eliminate it. You want something. Make me an offer, and we both walk out of here alive."
OS: In a world of bon-bons, you are a twinkie.
Ahnk: God damn you, I am Count Chocula and you know it.
I'm not spending my anniversary night thumping my head against the wall. - Damalis, on Moderating TRF
Then tell him you want it harder, damnit! - Ahnk, on Damalis

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