World 52: Firefly, Part 1

OF HOSTS AND HOSTAGES

Previously: Into The Long Dark

Themesong: The Ballad of Serenity by Sonny Rhodes

Huh… looking back… I realize something. The promised Bounty Hunter never showed. I can’t help thinking this is a baaaad thing. Meetra, once she sobered up, took exception to my betrayal of Vitiate. To which my response was “He was a genocidal psychopath who would have betrayed us all if given a chance.” and to which Vivian added “Additionally, should the two of you have remained in your native setting, you’d have been murdered fighting him and spent hundreds of years keeping Revan sane while Vitiate tortured him. This is to say nothing of the galactic war he’d have started.”

I blinked. “Databases restored?”

“Affirmative, Commander.”

“Wonderful. Now… I guess it’s a good thing we brought you along. Welcome aboard. You’ll find the Warehouse to be full of diversions. Just ask around… oh, and be warned, everyone one here is a shapeshifter.”

“What!?”

I love newbie day.

“This isn’t my true form,” I said with a smirk. “This is.” and I shifted. “But I’ve got a few dozen forms to be honest… plus, unlike most of the others, I’m actively a polymorph.” and I ran through the lot of my various forms… then became a chair, a speederbike, and a very large silver and green waffle. “Jedi Down. I repeat, Jedi Down. Please bring a pillow and ice cream to the private lounge.”

“You have pillows in there already.” Zane called.

“But they’re my pillows! She might get Force Cooties on them.”

Several Pillows pummeled me from various directions.

“Warning. Incoming Vending Machine. Incoming Vending Machine. Brace for Impact.” A klaxon sounded as soon as the unfamiliar voice finished its warning.

I looked up, quirking an eyebrow. “What, the…” and then a boom shook the warehouse as a large metallic object smashed through the roof and impacted in the swimming pool, drenching everyone lounging around it and sending waves of water surging through the warehouse, only partly contained by various force fields and bulkheads. “FUCK?” I scooped up Meetra and leapt to the balcony of my bedroom, setting her down on a daybed safe from the flood, then descended to the cracked and broken pool deck. The thing in the pool was not, in fact, a Vending Machine.

“The fuck?” It looked like an escape pod. And a moment later, the hatch blew off and a figure in pitch-black Mandalorian Armor leapt from it on a jet plume, blaster drawn and firing. Note to self, don’t get hit by Mandalorian Ripper bolts. They smart.

My sword hand stinging, I glared at the impossible bounty hunter and growled, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Then hit the idiot with eye-beams that slammed it back through part of the apartment building.

Slowing time, I teleported to his side as he bounced off the far wall of the Warehouse, caught him by the helmet in one massive claw, and shook him violently enough to sent the blaster flying, squeezing hard enough to crack the metal. “How, in the name of me, did you get in here?”

“The..” he gasped “Others… will… stop… you.”

“Riiight. Sure. Others. Good to know.” I pulled on the helmet, trying to wrench it off, but he began to burn, then glow, and, almost before I could throw up a force bubble, imploded into a cloud of glowing anti-particles. Cursing as they began interacting with the air in the bubble, my sense of time slowing more and more as I pushed at the sphere, launching it out of the hole in my warehouse roof, into the unknowable void. “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” I screamed, slamming as much of a barrier over the edge of the rend in reality.

The explosion was unlike anything I’d ever imagined, what I can only describe as a reality quake.

“BANKER!”

The VMoD inside the escape pod beeped “That entity is currently unavailable.”

“What?! Why the fuck not?”

“The entity you know as the Banker has been… detained.”

I felt a creeping sense of dread at that pause, and the cold way the machine said “Detained.”

I looked at the VMoD in my ex-swimming pool… then over at the still shuttered alcove where the VMoD usually stood. “You’re not the Banker’s Vending Machine, are you?”

The voice that came out of the VMoD was smooth, cruel, and not at all friendly. “Heh. You are clever, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question and barely a complement. “Call me… Mensarius.”

“Cute. Can I assume you’re… detaining the Banker?”

“You… could. Yes.”

“Would I be right?”

“Perhaps. Who can say?”

I sighed “Clearly you want me to run through your little… adventure.”

“Would you Kindly?”

“Fuck you.”

“As you like it.” The VMoDoom went quiet… and stayed quiet for the next 11 years. The Banker’s Vending Machine didn’t appear. The Warehouse roof was still damaged, though we’d patched it up as best we could, but for some reason we couldn’t pass anything into the void beyond safely and anything that was exposed for too long was damaged, though CP items would repair themselves when removed from contact with the void. A forcefield generator had been placed over the hole, and that had been covered by a spare blast door from one of the Jenny refits, but it needed routine and annoying maintenance, as if something was slowly decaying it.

Finally my stubbornness yielded in the face of near universal boredom. I say near because, honestly, we had so much media to consume and so many games to play and so much subspace real-estate that we could have probably held out for 11 centuries… but even with all that room, we were beginning to annoy each other with constant proximity and the stir-craziness was getting to everyone just a little. Well, except Velma (who could read for days at a time without getting bored), RayRay (Who slept most of the time), Toph (who had spent decades alone in a swamp for no particular reason), and Ziggy (who didn’t really care as long as there were squeaky toys to play with). There was also a problem with needing to air out the Warehouse. No closed system has perfect recycling, and with the hole in the void, Air levels would become dangerously low in another three millennia.

So, finally, I approached the VMoDoom, now moved to one of the damaged apartments with Force TK, (the walls had been fixed, the furniture was trashed). “What’s the offer?”

“Ah, you’ve returned. I-”

“Yeah yeah. You knew I would. That’s how hostage situations work. Offer?”

“A challenge, if you will.”

“Great. Offer?”

“A Treasure Hunt.”

“Fun. Where?”

The machine morphed, and a familiar tune began to play. “Take My Life, Take My Land.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. I could curbstomp the entire setting without breaking a sweat… and without using any of my more extreme special abilities.”

“I knew you’d say that.”

“So? Where’s the challenge? You want me to destroy the Alliance? Could have just asked.”

“I would never propose to tell you what you have to do with regards to any other living creature.”

“Riiiight. So?”

“You merely have to find something for me. Call it a Key.”

“Somewhere in the Verse?”

“That’s right.”

“What does it look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Great. Wonderful. How will I know when I’ve found it?”

“It will be utterly unlike anything else in the Verse.”

“Uh huh. And if I do this?”

“I shall arrange for the one you call Banker to become… undetained.”

“Great. Let’s do this.” I looked at the screen, then checked the coin return. “Where are the CP Keys?”

“Oh. Sorry. I’m not the Banker.”

“Then how the fuck am I going to buy stuff?”

“Drawbacks?”

“You’re an asshole.”

“Temper, Temper.”

I scrolled down to the Drawbacks section. It all looked totally thematic, very pretty… and had a cap of 2 Drawbacks for no more than 600 points. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh. Right… “ the screen flickered and three new drawbacks appeared below the three hundred point items. Each was worth 500 and each was listed as “Does not count against Drawback Limit”. They were “No Power in the Verse”, “Trade Barrier”, and “Alone in the Black”.

“No Power in the Verse” said “Normally, No Power in the Verse could stop you… but that was then, and this is now. All your magic and super powers are removed and all your transhuman abilities are reduced to peak human levels.” “Trade Barrier” said “all technology more advanced than that found in the Verse will be impossible to remove from the Warehouse for the duration of your stay in the Verse.” and “Alone in the Black” said “Like your crew? Well, with this you can keep’em safe inside your Warehouse, because they ain’t coming out until you leave the Verse.”

I growled, “You added these in just to fuck with me, didn’t you?”

“Mayhaps, little lady. You could even take all three, if you wanted.”

“The Banker is a Bastard… but you… you’re a special kind of asshole, aren’t you?”

“I could take them away again.”

“You won’t. You need me.”

“Oh? Figure that do you?”

“You can’t actually enter my Warehouse can you? Or revoke my abilities if I don’t let you. You could get at the Banker, somehow… but you can’t enter the Verse… and I’m betting the Banker hid something there that will stop anyone of your agents from finding it.”

“Smug too.”

“I didn’t quite hear that.”

Mensarius growled “You’re smug too.”

“Yeah, well. Deal with it. You want me to do this… we’re going to make a deal.”

“I already made you-”

“I looked through the whole thing. There’s no companion import option. You’re going to modify the document to put one in. A free one… or rather one priced to match however much this little treasure hunt of yours is worth in aggravation. Free Origin, All Freebies, and 800 CP.”

“300.”

“6”

“5”

“A thousand.”

“6 it is.”

“Great. For all my companions.”

“WHAT!?”

“How much is this Key worth to you, fuckface?”

“You’ll regret this.”

“Already do.”

“Not all. You can bring… 16. And they’re all baseline Human for the duration. I assume since you’re talking about companions you’re taking the other two options.”

“I am. And fine. 20.”

“I said-”

“I heard you. I’m just being annoying. You have inconvenienced and annoyed me. Had you asked, maybe I would have done this without screwing with you. But you empowered a Mandalorian Bounty Hunter to break into my warehouse… and I’m assuming you’re drawing on the Banker’s CP Matrix or whatever to empower this jaunt, because… just a guess… Any CP from you would result in those anti-particles like from the Bounty Hunter.”

“I loath you.”

“Feeling’s mutual, Bub. But I’ll get your Key. And you won’t do this again.”

“Perhaps.”

“Yeah, well… How do I get the Key to you?”

“Send it through the hole I provided.”

“Of course.”

=====

“SJ? Do you think it was a good idea to antagonize one of these beings?” Zane asked a few hours later.

“Zane. Either Mensarius can or cannot squash us like bugs. Antagonizing it won’t have much effect on that. We can’t trust it in the slightest, but we also can’t be certain what its end goal is. The Banker hasn’t interfered yet, which either means he either can’t or won’t. But if we work under the assumption that the Banker’s resources are being… diverted to fund this caper, I’m going to maximize our return on his investment.”

“And take advantage of the opportunity.”

“That too.”

“Why didn’t you ask for more CP for yourself?”

“I figure there’s a thousand point plus-minus 1000 safe limit, give or take. Also, The Banker might be annoyed at that and revoke overage for me… but I think… think… he won’t bother taking them from you all. This isn’t a high power setting like Fairy Tail and everyone got 300 CP and a free magic there. Everyone. This seemed reasonable.”

“Shame we can’t get a ship. It’s 800. I assume you’re not forking over half your points for one.”

“Not a chance. And no need. The tech lockout doesn’t say anything about funds. We’ll buy one… no… three.”

“Three?”

“Yeah. Three. There will be 23 of us, counting me and Ahab and Joy. That’s three crews of seven each.”

“Why seven? That leaves two left over”

“Well, someone’s got to tag along with the Serenity Crew.”

“Ooooh. I seeee. You’re going to leave us to search for the Key while you meddle.”

“I would never…”

“We can tell when you’re lying.”

“Humph.”

“If we can doubt what you’re saying, you’re lying.”

“Maybe I didn’t say it passionately enough.”

“Uh huh.”

“Harumph.”

“Anyway… I need three Captains. Go tell the others to elect three captains. Those three will pick an XO. Then, the Captains and XOs will, together, agree on a pilot, an engineer, and two gunners for each ship. No one gets to pick Ziggy. Leave Rayray to sleep. The twins are staying here. Dyna too.” The twins were still grounded and Rayray and Dyna wouldn’t care if they were left out of the fun. But that still left 3 who couldn’t come. Normally I’d leave Kagetane behind, because I still didn’t like the man, but in the Verse, his kind would be very handy, even without his cybernetic augmentations. “Leave Cirno out of the loop. She won’t cope well to no powers and I want her, RayRay, and Dyna to stay back and protect the Warehouse. I don’t trust Menarius.”

Zane nodded. “Bao?”

“Naw. He’s good for the Chinese culture and doesn’t get out enough. Tell Reggy and Gaius to pick one of the two of them to stick behind and play baby sitter.”

“Not both?”

“Err… If they both want to stay back, that’s fine, but I doubt they will. They don’t actually like each other that much… just a lot of chemistry and raw aggression. Assuming they do split, we’ll leave Uriel back. He’s a pretty decent teacher. But I’d prefer one of our two megahitter furycrafting generals to stick around to help lead the defenses.”

“Right… well… okay, you said Captain, XO, Pilot, Engineer, and two Gunners… that’s 6. You said seven per ship.”

“Oh. Yes, well… Ahab, Joy, and Caine are going to be special operations.”

“That leaves one left over. Who?”

“Meetra. Let’s see how she does as a bodyguard.”

“You sure about that? She was a General. Shouldn’t she be a captain?”

“She should… but would any of the companions trust her in a position of leadership? Remember what happened at Malachor.”

“Good point. She had her reasons, good ones perhaps, but…”

“She sacrificed them for the mission. It’s what a commander has to do, but I doubt she told them, and that’s what a friend does.”

“Yeah. Okay, I’ll go get the others.”

****

In the end, Zane, Gaius, and Bao were elected as the Captains, each for different reasons. Zane and Bao were detectives, but while Zane was aggressive and hard hitting, Bao was cultured and clear thinking. Zane would get the job done in the most aggressive way possible. Bao in the most refined. Gaius, a leader of the old school rounded out the trinity as the one who would get the job done… full stop. Zane (of course) picked Kendra as his second, and Bao picked Uriel, but Gaius selected Velma (Reggy, as expected, had decided to stay with the Twins and expressed general disinterest in “tramping about in the back of beyond running capers and looking for trinkets.”).

The wrangling for who got whom among the others was… heated, but I kept it closed doors and sent Meetra to mediate as I made plans… and tech-level testing devices. This was the final breakdown: Jade Lotus, Captain Zane and LT. Kendra commanding, with Toph on engines, AJ on the stick, and Francy and Kagetane providing muscle. Invictus, Master Gaius and Purser Velma commanding, with Petra on drums, Kohina on lead, and the Hibikis as backup dancers. Feng Shui, Scholar Bao and Ensign Uriel (I didn’t pick the damned titles, don’t blame me) commanding, with Tokimi as Maintainer of Harmonious Transmission, Yuzuha as Apportioner of Vector and Magnitude, and Mini and Franky as Guardians of that which must be Defended. Some people…. Oy. Ahab, Joy, and Caine would be doing their own thing, moving from ship to ship as the situation demanded.

Which left only the building and planning phase.

In addition to the Tech Embargo and the Power Lockout, I still had up to two Drawback slots to fill. I considered not filling them, but figured I’d see if there was stuff that wouldn’t unduly hinder me in this world. The three 300-pointers attracted Reavers, The Blue Handed Psychos, and Bad Luck… all three issues I really didn’t feel like dealing with… not that being around Mal and company wouldn’t make me a target to begin with. The two 200-pointers saddled the taker with PTSD and Morales respectively. And the two 100-pointers made the taker a Greedy Jerk or a Lech… an incompetent one. Of the lot, I could deal with the PTSD but not happily, but the Ethical Code… I could… and would… live like that regardless. So I selected “Mercy is the Mark of a Great Man” [+200/1200/1200] (You are one of the rarest of creatures in this verse; a human with a true moral code. You may be a pessimist, or a realist, but you have at least some code that you hold to. It may be as simple as trying to never kill a man in an unfair fight, or a complicated system even you’re not sure of, but in the backwaters and hellholes, expect to end up in a lot of trouble just for being an honest man. You’re the guy people can trust to deliver cargo without looking inside (making you the perfect patsy), and the gal who will actually deliver on contracts just because people sign them (Making you a fool). Or, you might end up having to end a lot of your jobs under fire from both sides.) and figured I could come back for “You Never Leave” if I needed it.

The origins on offer were Drop-In (as usual), Browncoat (think defeated civil war veterans if you don’t know), Alliance Citizen (think British Citizens out in the Colonies… except that the Alliance is a lot like Big Brother in many ways), and Shepherd (Wandering Christian Priests. Nooo waaaay!). I didn’t see any reason to buy one of the backgrounds, so I went as myself, dropping in and a quick spin of the dice told me I was 27 years old. Well… not a bad age… not that I really understood what it was to age any more. I had memories of the process, of course, lots of them… but they were becoming irrelevant, just maturation, a cycle that kept resetting but not grinding down. Not a great loss, but a tiny bit of my fundamental mortality that I vaguely regretted losing in a sentimental way.

The freebie for Drop-Ins was “Leaf On the Wind” (sadness.) which was the complete pilot package, granting an intuitive understanding of orbital mechanics, top notch reflexes, and instinctive comfort in the cockpit or behind the wheel. That might be handy one of these decades, certainly not going to say no to it. “Calm and Steady”, which was discounted, would allow me to easily achieve a zen-like state where external distractions simply wouldn’t bother me, which was a decent deal for [100/1100/1200]. The other discounted item “Welcome on my Boat” was another [200/900/1200] and pretty much guaranteed I’d be welcome anywhere, be part of the group, or just fit in anywhere. No bouncers barring the way, invitations to interesting places and a general sense of belonging. Could get kicked out, if I was being a brat… just wasn’t likely.

After that, it was mostly picking up little tidbits that seemed interesting. Formal Companion training, (under the title “Never Call Me That Again”) which (as the Companions were legal and professional prostitutes slash geishas) came with mastery of the arts of pleasure, massage, body language, psychology, and subtle manipulation, and all the contacts and credentials that went with it, cost me [400/500/1200]. “Gut Feelin’”, which provided a instinctive sense of where someone was trustworthy or not (but not infallibly so) and when trouble was on the way (but only usually) cost [200/300/1200]. I took it to cover up the gaping hole in my paranoia that would be left by the lack of my third eye and telepathy. Not being able to scan people’s intentions was going to drive me nuts, but this was covering it as best as was available.

I considered taking “Fuzzy on the Subject of Kneecaps”, which is always a great line, and which would allow me to shoot people in nonlethal places, or make them knock themselves out by startling them, and even came with a fair intimidation bonus… but I should be a top notch shot still… I’ve been trained a couple of times, spent centuries of practice on the range, and still should be a crack shot, even if my perks were subdued. I really had no idea how nerfed I’d be if limited to the realm of human excellence. I also considered taking “Some People Juggle Geese” because it was a funny line… but I didn’t normally need the ability to resist annoyance. If my Vulcan calm got nerfed, I’d cope. I still had ages of practicing being calm, thanks to meditation and martial arts practice… plus deep diving my own psyche. Shoot ‘em Politely was also funny, but not needed.

Much more tempting was “Machines, They Just Speak to Me” [200/100/1200], which was low-grade technopathy, a general sense of how to make them work the way I wanted them, how to diagnose systems by listening and jury rig things to work for at least a little while. Again, I wasn’t all that certain my tech-skills would come over unscathed and in the Verse, tech was all that separated us from the void. Plus, Kaylee was awesome. The sense of the machine element was also a decent addition to what I already had for only a slightly unwise price. And, hopefully it would, in the future, help me diagnose problems with what I was building slash tinkering with.

I also wanted “Take a Beating” [200/-100/1200]… enough to willingly take on the PTSD of the “You Never Leave” drawback [+200/100/1400]. Nightmares, terrible memories, and dangerously vivid flashbacks… as well as disturbed sleep weren’t something I wanted… but I didn’t want to like the Verse. Exciting it might be, but it was a cesspit and I didn’t want warm fuzzy associated with it. It was the kind of place I wouldn’t willingly have gone to if I was in control of my destiny, no matter how much I enjoyed the show. Take a Beating was a prime example of why… It was, at the core of it, a toughness boost… one that allowed the taker to have fight left after being shot, to power through even when suffering bloodloss, hypoxia, and poison… and even to laugh in the face of torture, though I already did that, thanks to They Live… or why else would I laugh at most sitcoms… I’d been tortured before… it wasn’t fun… but I suspect I’d be tortured again, probably this jump if nothing else.

I didn’t have precognition (beyond the next three seconds) but I could tell that the next few years (no idea if it would be a decade as normal once the Banker was freed) would be… unpleasant. Hell, just looking at how many times Mal got injured in the show’s 14 episodes and 1 movie (I won’t torture you, dear reader, with all the other seasons we’d been able to locate using the Adaptinator from Princess Bride).

Of course, that left me with a spare 100, which I decided to spend on Body Armour [100/0/1400]. I could, arguably, make my own, but I’d have to worry about the tech level boundaries, so I couldn’t rely on my typical stuff, and the text implied such stuff was pretty rare. It was a high tech suit of body armor that could be worn under my clothing, and would stop bullets from most firearms. If I was risking my life, I might as well risk it less.

And that was that. 11 years in limbo was coming to an end, and now, to protect my chain I’d have to risk everything to recover the Banker. This… was going to suck

========INSERTION======

Companion Builds & Conversations

Captain Zane

“So? What’cha got for me?”

“Browncoat. Me and Kendra both.”

“Makes sense. Matches your general attitude of mouthing off to superior authority. Gets you Shoot’em Politely and a Brown Coat, right?”

“While I deny the existence of a Superior Authority, yup. Plus a discount on Chain of Command, which we’re both taking.”

“Of course. Knock off Mal and Zoe… and I’m not just saying that because Kendra used to be Black.”

“Dark Brown.”

“Yes, blue boy, but you’ve been on Earth as a human often enough to know the slang.”

“True… but I’m not human at the core. Still seems odd to be prejudiced against the Shinies.”

“Errr… can’t say it ever made sense to me either. But never thought of Black people as the Shinies of Humankind.”

“That’s just because humans are weird.”

“No argument from me there. What else?”

“I picked Intimidatin’ Manner and Fuzzy Kneecaps. People shall fear my wraith!”

“Wrath.”

“Whateverth.”

“And Kendra?”

“Friends in Places for the criminal contacts, Take a Beating for the toughness, and Geese Jugglin so she doesn’t try and kill me for my jokes.”

“Wise woman.”

“Ain’t she just?”

Master Gaius

“Talk to me.”

“At your request, I’ve planned according to the idea that I’d be a transport captain for higher class goods. To that end, both Velma and I will be Alliance Citizens, the better to blend into the power ascendency, or at least the Anglo-sphere of it. I assume Bao will be handling the Sino-sphere?”

“That was the general idea, though he’ll be doing passenger work more, luxury stuff pretty much… with a sideline in high value small quantity smuggling.”

“Of course. Quite rightly so. Being completely up and up will not achieve our long term goals.”

“Exactly. Citizen gets you… Lets see. Coin… that’s what… enough for crap lodgings for two years on the rim? And Edumacated… which is formal education for 17 years for Alliance Citizens.”

“Yes. Coin should be enough for pocket money until we start drawing on the Warehouse’s resources. The education will simply make passing for normal easier.”

“True. Will you be okay without your Furycrafting? You’ve never been without it.”

“When I was a child long ago I was.”

“Perhaps. But I doubt you remember it.”

“True. Only in the vaguest way. I also have purchased Calm and Steady and Gut Feelin, as well as Friends in Places so as to have military and governmental contacts.”

“That leaves you 100 short.”

“I also bought a Mighty Fine Hat.”

Long Pause. “Errr. Why?”

“Because it increases my people skills, of course. And for no other reason.”

“You’re mental.”

“Maybe I’ll make it a cape.”

“Tell me about Velma before I hit you.”

“She spent all her points in that luck perk.”

“Which one?

“Things Go Smooth?”

“Right… the slightly less crazy one. If I were sane, I’d have just taken that and Big Damn Heroes and called it a day.”

“You don’t like relying on luck.”

“Too many dice rolls. Luck gives out. Always better to have plans and count on things going sideways.”

“I prefer ‘Pear-shaped’.”

“That is a good one.”

Scholar Bao

“My Empress?”

“You don’t have to call me that, you know.”

“I’ve served you too long to think of you as anything but.”

“I prefer to think of you as a friend, Bao.”

“And I as well. But this is a formal moment and so I believe formality, at least a little of it, is apropos.”

“Fair enough. Gaius says you went Alliance as well. What about Uriel?”

“Shepherd.”

“As an XO?”

“Indeed. For reasons he was loath to explain. I suspect he finds the Alliance… bothersome. Or he just wanted the discount on Stealth and the free contacts in future magical groups.”

“Very well. You took Chain of Command, I take it?”

“I did not. I took Fancy Medical Training to go with my Edumacation, as well as Companion Training and Fluency. And Gut Feelin, just to better read my passengers.”

“Ummm… Bao… you speak fluent chinese… at least 5 different dialects if I remember correctly.”

“Six. but I made my choices based on the idea of maximizing my passengers comfort. Speaking flawless Core English and Core Chinese will, I believe, help with that. And perhaps it will have use in the future, though it doesn’t indicate that.”

“What, the ability to understand both languages in any bilingual culture we come across instead of just one?”

“Perhaps. As for Uriel, he too took the Education perk, plus It’s Called Stealth, Calm and Steady, the Peacemaker item, and a stack of Grenades… under the principle that untraceable explosives are always good.”

“Oh. I agree. I can’t ever run through enough of them. Without magic, I suspect I’ll be using a lot more this time round.”

“My magic hasn’t ever been powerful enough to truly worry about that.”

“You’ve gotten quite powerful over the centuries, I’m certain.”

“Perhaps. But I prefer to remain more a scholar than a warrior. Especially in my old age.”

“Ha! I say thee, HA!”

“In pure chronology I am older than you are.”

“That’s because you were in suspended animation for 1800 years!”

“True.”

“That’s cheating!”

“So is counting the total age of all your incarnations, rather than the length of time you were them.”

“I was always them… We just didn’t realize it. And I don’t count the times I was a Drop-In, since I have no memories of reaching that biological age. If I’ve got the memories, I’ve got the years. You don’t even remember being frozen in time.”

“It wasn’t very interesting.”

“I’m sure. Now get. And send in the engineers.”

The Engineers

Me: “Ladies… come in. First off, do any of you object to being selected as Engineer for your specific team?”

Toph: “I’m Good”

Petra: “I like Machines. They’re like family.”

Tokimi: “I would have prefered to be in command, but understand that I am, perhaps, not yet trusted by the others. Barring that, technical work is acceptable.”

Me: “Great! Tell me about yourselves. Toph?”

Toph: “Browncoat. For the discount, but also because rules are for suckers.”

Petra: “Says the woman who invented her world’s first police force.”

Toph: “Yeah… well… it wasn’t a totalitarian police force. We’d just come out of years of war and were founding a new, unified polity… and oh, god… the same thing can be said for the Alliance, can’t it?”

Petra: “Yesss… come to the Shiny Side! We have Pie!”

Toph: “No thanks. You Alliance people are creepy. No one should be that happy and clean all the time. You’re like the Dai Li.”

Petra: “Yeah, pretty much. At least our government clearly is. Or more like your daughter’s protege, trying to unify the Earth Kingdom whether it wanted to be unified or not. Lots of parallels.”

Toph: “That is sobering. And you’re metal… “

Petra: “No Bend I.”

Toph: “Har… Har… Har… Anyway, I took Machines they speak to me, Can Stop the Signal… it’s a master hacking perk, should be useful, and Leaf on the Wind… just in case we need a spare pilot… you know, incase of Washburn Syndrome.”

I flinched. “Riiight. Petra, you’re Alliance?”

Petra nodded. “Yes. That seems to be the theme of our ship. As clean as we can make it. I had to pay full price for the jury rigging technopathy, but it was worth it. Took an actual Education into how ships run though.”

Me: “Makes sense. What else?”

Petra: “Calm & Steady and Intimidatin’ Manner. I want to be able to get the best parts and not pay too much… and to be able to keep calm while the ship’s trying to break down every 5th episode.”

Me: “Yeah… that sounds about right… Better than Star Trek’s average. Tokimi? Alliance or Browncoat?”

Tokimi: “Shepherd. I am intrigued by their faith in a higher power.”

Me: “Well, that’s a reason. But I doubt you’ll find him in their book, but more power to you.”

Tokimi: “That is assuming I haven’t already found her.”

Me: Wince “Right. Perks?”

Tokimi: “Friends, Machines, Geese. And the Sonic Screw You.”

Me: “Why would you want that horrific thing?”

Tokimi: “So we can make more of the earplugs, create jamming fields for it. I doubt we want to be caught off guard by the Blue Handers. Not as vulnerable as we will be.”

I nodded. “That’s a good plan. Hadn’t thought about it.”

Toph: “You’ve been busy. Should we send in the Pilots next?”

Me: “Yeah. Do that. Good work, and good luck. You three will need it.”

The Leaves on the Wind

Me: “Tell me you all didn’t take Drop-In just to get Leaf on the Wind Free.”

AJ: “Just me and Yuzu.”

Me: “And Kohina?”

Kohina: “I went Browncoat. Someone has to have criminal ties on that crew. Plus, I want to get off the ship and shoot people.”

Me: “So… Shoot’em Politely, Fuzzy Kneecaps, Friends in Places, and Intimidating Manner?”

Kohina: “All right but the last. Chain of Command. People should damn well listen to me. Ship Shape!”

Me: “I don’t think that’s a battle cry.”

Kohina: “It is now.”

AJ: “Just humor her.”

Me: “And what am I doing about Humoring you and Yuzu?”

Yuzuha: “AJ and I have identical builds.”

Me: “You both took Big Damn Heroes, didn’t you?”

AJ grinned. Yuzuha smirked. It was a sight to unnerve strong men. Good thing I wasn’t one.

The Muscle, Part 1: Kagetane and Francine.

“You’re calling yourselves what?”

“The Psycho Squad.”

Eyes Narrowed. “Whyyy?”

“Because we both took GCPGA.”

“For the love of god, why?!”

“I’m not used to not having psychic powers,” Francy said. “This was the only way to get them. And I like River Tam. She’s… the smart one.”

“You’ve got an IQ of 5000 and you think being crazy is a good thing?”

“Eh. It might be fun.”

“And you, Kagetane?”

“I was a government experiment before, Lady Jumper. Being one again poses no great change for me. I was a psychopath then, I doubt this will make me worse. Plus, be good to have someone who can stand up to Reavers on the ship. I doubt anyone would appreciate being raped to death then eaten.”

“I can see that… but I still have a bad feeling about this. Origins?”

“I’m Alliance, he’s Browncoat. Not that it matters much.”

“True. At least it doesn’t come with Tam level wanted.”

The Muscle, Part 2: Yoiko and Ryoga

“Alliance? Really?”

“Yup. We’ll be ex-military enlisted types.” Ryoga said, his sister nodding.

“I’ll be the medic. I took Medical training and Calm & Steady… plus Shoot’em Politely, cause politeness matters. And Take a Beating, cause combat.”

“Yoiko… Fancy Medical Training isn’t combat medic… it’s top of your class surgeon. It’s Simon Tam level doctoring.”

“Oh. Okay. So I’m less “MEDIC!” And more Hawkman Jones.”

“Hawkeye Pierce.”

“Yeah Him.”

“Pig Boy?”

He ignored the age old insult. “Sergeant at arms Pig Boy, Bitch. And I took Intimidating Manner, Take a Beating, and Kneecaps.” He grinned his fanged grin. It was still enough to send a shiver down my spine after all these centuries. Damn the boy was sexy.

“Right. Break time. Ryoga, come with me. I have a special assignment for you.”

The Muscle, Part 3: Franchesca and Minerva

“Dare I ask why you two are dressed in matching Kimonos?”

“We’re getting into character.”

“We’re going to be twins.”

“And Companions.”

“And Doctors.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be the, you know, ship security for your team?”

“We fought the Neuroi. We know guns. You were there.”

“Yes, well… that’s true.”

“Plus, the training sounds like fun. And if we don’t take it, you’ll have an unfair advantage.”

“Oh. Um… well… Yes, unfair. Ahem. Companion Doctors. Well, if anyone gets hurt, they’ll be in good hands. Anything else? Alliance Citizenship I’m assuming?”

“Yes. And Body armor.”

“But Franky wanted Calm and Steady.”

“And Mini wanted Gut Feeling.”

“So we’re not completely identical.”

“No… I can see that. You don’t have to sit in the same chair as me to give your report.”

“But we wanna!”

“Yes, well… um… that is… shit… “

The girls looked annoyed at my sudden distraction from their attempts to distract me.

“What?”

“There’s no doctor on Zane’s boat.”

“Is that a problem?”

“I… hope not. They’ll need to hire one. Won’t be Simon level… but… now it’s got me worried… fuck. No way to cover all the bases without reassigning someone or asking someone to respec. Damn. This whole situation is fucked up… but hopefully they’ll be able to find someone useful and trustworthy. Fuck… this civilization built robots that could terraform entire planets without supervision then launched them through the interstellar void ahead of all of humanity loaded on generation ships… but can’t make a damned auto-doc? I may have to invent one.”

“Can you do it later?”

“I can, but why… oh… good reason.”

Spook Squad

“Ahab, Joy… sorry about cutting you out of the grand CP loop.”

“No problem. We’ve got our own tickets to Paradise, as it were.”

“I figure you took Shepherd? It’s the only thing that wouldn’t be a complete waste for you.”

“That was our thought too. Plus the Mysterious Box of Fruit will be a nice little bribe item out in the sticks.”

“It’s what Book went with. I look forward to discovering your identities in Verse. Caine?”

“I went with Shepherd too. They can go almost anywhere. I picked up the Stealth skill and the hacking skill. It seemed like something we should have at our disposal.”

“Good… though it sounds like you’re less the Spook Squad and more the God Squad… but if it works, it works. Hell, there’s a better than even chance that what we’re looking for is some kind of holy relic.”

Meetra

“I’m not certain I understand the point of this.”

“Well, it’s either you stay in the warehouse for the entire time we’re here… or I import you into the setting as a paid companion. It’s like a form of guarantee.”

“I… yes… you said. But how?”

“In general, anything that has CP sunk into it is protected. Look, see this gun?”

“Yes, you call it the Ace of Winchesters, if I recall correctly.”

“That’s true. If I were to, say, accidentally toss it into a star, it would, you would imagine, be destroyed, yes?”

“Very much so.”

“Well, Zane paid CP for it. So it will simply respawn in the warehouse within, usually, about 24 hours.”

“How?”

“No clue. Perhaps a causality loop? Perhaps temporal editing? Maybe it’s just an exact duplicate copied from a timeline where it still existed. Or perhaps its waveform was merely disrupted by the apparent destruction and whenever that happens it just reforms in its slot.”

“And the same applies to all of them?”

“Except the boys and you? Yes.”

“Why not them?”

“The boys are the children of two of my companions. We’ve no idea if they’re protected the same way companions are. You… you’re like, sorry to say this, a trophy I collected. As far as I know, you’re unfunded. I didn’t have the Banker’s permission to take you with me. Remember how Vitiate stayed dead? The same could, probably would, happen to you if you leave the warehouse without importing. And at this point, it’s entirely possible you might be killed if you stay here. It’s safer to import you then not. Even if these CP are stolen and probably contraband.”

“You think they’ll protect me?”

“I do. Or at least I hope so.”

“And I’ll… gain new memories?”

“You’ll become the version of you that would have existed in this reality. A Meetra Surik that has the same basic personality, but the memories of having been born and raised and grown here instead of back in your home galaxy.”

“So I’ll forget all that?”

“Not at all. That Meetra will be in her twenties… or his twenties if you choose that… and won’t have known about any of the stuff you know about… but the moment you two become one, the moment of Insertion, that Meetra will remember everything that you remember as well as everything she remembers.”

“But which of us will be in control.”

“There is only one of you. But the memories of the new lifetime will feel stronger, the personality quirks will be more on the surface. There will be differences. But that will end when we leave. At that point, the new memories will fade and you’ll be the you that was… plus a few years or a decade of the memories the combined you had made.”

“And the memories of the me of the Verse that was before Insertion? Will that me be no more?”

“Not no more… simply… absorbed into the gestalt, like the memories of childhood, faded but not forgotten.”

“And you have done this many times?”

“I am different.”

“Because you are the… primary?”

“No. Because I have Astral Layers. All aspects of me exist within me, each distinct and whole, yet part of a collective. I am less an I than a We. I wonder if this is what it is like to be Elohim.”

“What is Elohim?”

“In the faith of my birth, there were many names for god… for the creator of all things. Elohim is one of them. Except it the term Elohim is non-binary plural.”

“Non-binary?”

“The language it is in has two different plural forms. El, Eloha, Elohim. God, Two Gods, Many Gods… except Elohim is used in our holy text both as a singular and as a plural in different context, because our faith was one of the first on our world to be henotheistic and then monotheistic. Oh… Henotheism is believing in many gods but worshipping only one, while monotheism is worshipping and believing in only one god. But my point is… God is, to some of my faith both an I and a We… and I am an I and a We… Of course this gets into sophistry and isn’t the point.”

“I… see… so… like how a Jedi becomes part of the Force, all the parts of you… after their time is done… become parts of you? That sounds stupid when I say it that way.”

“Pretty much. We are a collective… but I am also just… me. The product of 13,000 years of experiences and growth, both as different people and as myself. For much of that I was both myself as a god and my living incarnation, the Manifestation… or rather a series of them, living, dying, being reborn again and again. I now contain the entire litany of the Magi Kingpriests from the dawn of their civilization until the time I left.”

“What happened to their civilization?”

“Nothing. It is still out there, waiting, paused, for my return.”

“But… the Magi are long gone in my time.”

“That was a shadow of the Magi. There are always shadows of the Magi. It is part of who and what we are.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Knowing you don’t is the start of the path to true wisdom. Come, join me.”

“And I do that… by subsuming myself in a new me?”

“Letting go and embracing the unknown is how we grow.”

“I… very well.”

“Excellent. Now, you’ve watched the series?”

“The 14 episodes and the movie. Why wasn’t I allowed to watch the rest?”

“No way of knowing how they’re different from what happened. Plus, if we are here long enough to reach the movie’s time… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“So… what should I pick?”

“That’s up to you. Drop-Ins avoid the messy memories, but have no place in the world. Everything else gives you memories and documentation and all that good stuff… or bad stuff in a big brother state.”

“I sense that you feel much the same about the Alliance as you do about the Republic.”

“The Republic is a bit too lax… the Alliance a bit too harsh. Not as bad as Vitiate’s Empire, but… not good. Personal liberty is heavily curtailed and they… well… you saw the movie. They killed an entire colony trying to create a gas which would pacify the populace into willing obedience.”

“And in doing so created a… Wound in the Force?”

“Something like that.”

“Then I shall be a Brown Coat. Those are the ones who fought the Alliance. A worthy goal.”

“Cool.”

“And I shall take the Encyclopedia with my points.”

“What? Why?”

“I have 600, it costs 600.”

“You don’t have to spend all your points on one thing.”

“I am aware, thank you. No, this contains the sum total of human knowledge as of the current year and keeps updating. All the technology, all the history… everything. I have much to learn and this seems the best way.”

“Well, your points I guess. Vivian could probably download it off their Cortex pretty easily.”

“Not if it contains information that was lost in time. You said things bought with CP are often more powerful than things that otherwise might exist in setting. This certainly seems more powerful than Simon’s book version.”

“Yeah… that had to be a computer book to have something as obscure as wedding rituals of that one particular moon. It was too small to be otherwise.”

“A Book datapad is certainly more interesting than a flat boring plate one.”

“Well, more aesthetically pleasing perhaps. Not quite as useful.”

“Mine is a cube.”

“Bully for you.”

“I am pleased that you are pleased.”

“You’re sooo going to get a kick out of Mal. He’s like Revan, only snarky.”

“I quiver in anticipation.”

“Bite me.”

Next: To Hell

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World 51: Starwars KOTOR

INTO THE LONG DARK

Previously: Hoc in Hora

Themesong: Bodies by Drowning Pool

The remaining four years of my oh, so lovely return visit to the darker side of Harry Potter were spent cultivating a celebrity persona as a maligned prisoner / fallgirl of the Umbridge administration, speaking publicly to crowds around the world on subjects ranging from tolerance to forgiveness, and all in all trying to put out the numerous fires the Psycho in Pink had started. That said fires existed often in both the mundane world as well as in the wizarding world… not to mention realms beyond in more than one case, caused no small trouble, as I had to be as honest as possible to the muggles while deftly lying to everyone involved. It was a juggling act that only someone with massively layered Multiple Personalities and a perfect memory could have pulled off… so I did okay, but the stress was anything but restful.

Add to that the psychological trauma of my surviving companions… Tokimi and Yuzuha had fared best, since they’re both a) crazy and b) had had the least time to be poked and prodded… but Cirno had been bound by a particularly twisted Russian witch who had used the fairy as an assassin to take out her rivals before I could rescue the faithful… and deeply offended fairy, who wanted lots of cocoa and to be told she wasn’t a bad person. But head patting doesn’t work for most people’s traumas. Victor had been heavily damaged, Victoria even more so, and both were being dissected in the bowels of the Ministry. Have you ever tried to provide therapy to an AI? I didn’t have the programs, so I sat Victor down with his mother while I communed with Victoria on a spiritual level.

Turns out, she’d almost enjoyed being tortured… not the pain of it… but the testing of limits. Then again, it had only been a week for her. Dyna had had it for 8 months courtesy of the US Government and Toph had somehow ended up in sub-saharan africa being hunted by child soldiers. Dyna seemed more confused than harmed by the experience, but Toph, though mostly unharmed by her only marginally supernatural foes, had to be treated for PTSD and rage issues against the human race as a whole. Dyna had also, it seems, stepped out into the world and become part of it, gaining the import I’d denied her all those centuries ago. She’d become Dianne “DeeDee” Driver, Ravenclaw. 3 years my junior, Hogwarts Graduate and Drop-In, a Memory Spell Specialist and Metamorphmagus with a focus on Wandlore and Muggle-style Duelling.

Mini and Franky too had been to Hogwarts it turned out, using up my last two long unspent import slots, though they weren’t drop ins and had had to finish up their school years before the end of the jump, a fact that earned me (and Mini) more than one of Professor McGonagall’s half-confused glares. Mini found the presence of her elderly alter-ego a bit confusing, but in the end they treated each other much the way their school mates treated them, as grandmother and granddaughter. Franky, a Just and Loyal Hufflepuff, was a Half-blood from a wealthy muggle family, with Veela Blood and a gift for both Occlumency and Legilimency, the one-two punch of reading others and keeping them from reading you in return. Mini was, of course, a Middle-class, muggleborn Gryffindor, brave at heart, dedicated, witty beyond measure… and her particular magical gift lay in the Nullification of the magic of others.

Of the others, Caine was inscrutable, but it was clear his experiences had shaken the immortal, who was unused to feeling helpless when the chips were down. Ryoga and Yoiko had managed to survive everything that had been thrown at them, but the things they’d been forced to do while Imperiused would have haunted them too much, so I erased those memories completely. The rest… hadn’t survived. Franchesca, Bao, and Gaius had been sacrificed in bloodrites. Rayray and Ziggy had been taken out while rampaging. Kohina, Reggy, and Kagetane had gone down in hails of wandfire, and Velma and Uriel had died while trying to kneecap the US government.

Of Zane, Kendra, Joy, and Ahab… I found not a trace.

Still, I suspected they’d (along with the slain) would return at the end of this horrible decade, and so I spent as much time as I could studying up on trauma therapy, both magical and mundane, diving back into old issues of the magazine subscription from Psychonauts and practicing Diving techniques I hadn’t used more than casually in ages. My final exam was returning the Longbottoms (Neville’s Parents) to sanity, stitching their shattered psyches back together through a series of rather harrowing dives that featured some truly terrifying “boss battles”. Like it or not, being inside the mind of another carried with it innate limitations and vulnerabilities, not to mention the potential to do real and lasting harm.

I did decide to take Professor McGonagall up on her offer to replace Flitwick as Charms Master, at least for the last three years, though to be honest I was actually in class less than a third of the time… or at least physically. It was becoming easier and easier to be in more than one place, and I still had cleanup to deal with. Umbridge and Runcorn had not acted alone and dismantling the hidden web they’d crafted was time consuming and taxing… not that all of it was dismantled. Some of the networks they’d created to support OWO had been comprised of those who honestly wanted change, while other parts weren’t fundamentally evil, but merely mercenary.

As One World Order, now rebranded as Our World Network, transitioned from terrorist group to vehicle for social change, I found myself using Supervillainess skills even longer dormant than my psyche-diving skills. This world was too dark, too full of nastiness and reality to allow me to be too altruistic, but what is a supervillain if not a visionary with no limits or constraints and a seriously superior attitude.

As the decade came to a close, I resisted pulling a Superman Returns and spying on Jason or Snape. I’d verified through various means that they were still safe and well and hidden, and hadn’t gone farther. He was almost twelve now, and while part of me wanted to see him, the rest of me doubted we had any right to interfere with his life. I could no more answer his potential questions than I could deal with the emotions surrounding him, so I pushed them away. It was all too easy.

The decade ended not with a party, but with a solemn memorial. I had too many regrets about this world, too many moments of sadness. My last time here I’d been suffering PTSD and survivor’s guilt… as well as from the knowledge that, right or wrong, I’d ended the Reapers, committed genocide against a species where each individual was the gestalt mind of an entire once living race. It hadn’t been an easy choice, destroying all that had been to save all that could be, but I had made it to break the cycle. Now, if anything, I was leaving this world with more anger, more frustration, more personal trauma than the last time. Hopefully the next Universe would have some catharsis.

Stepping back through the Pillars of Time into the Warehouse at Jump’s End I was prepared for anything. What I got was screaming, thrashing, and a mad rush towards bathrooms, potted plants, or the exit portal to either throw up or get revenge. Ziggy hid under the sofa.

About a minute after my return, Zane and Kendra tumbled into the Warehouse, trenchcoats smoking and looking like they’d just solo’d against Smaug. Ahab and Joy materialized a moment later, Joy covered in blood, Ahab looking a little… ghoulish… though he pinked up quickly. Zane looked over at me and quirked an eyebrow “Where’d you guys go? We couldn’t access the Warehouse at all and the phones didn’t work.”

I looked at him and growled “The Banker thought it would be funny to send the rest of us back to Hogwarts.” He opened his mouth to say something snarky, but I added “Hellblazer edition.” before he could and he paled. “How bad was it?” he asked. “Umbridge was PM and Minister of Magic. Runcorn was in charge of the secret police, and they’d used my legend to turn me into a global terror leader. It was a shit show. Your trip?”

“Joy got killed by a psychopath. Ahab got undeaded into a corpse-eater. We had to kill him. It was essentially a decade of running about and screaming. Wasn’t too bad. I give it a 2/10, would not visit again unless the other option was actual hell, but the food wasn’t bad.”

Kendra snarked “You only say that because you weren’t sexually assaulted by Asmodeus.”

“That has nothing to do with the quality of the food.”

“Fair enough.”

“And we did chain him to the rock of eternity and sic the vultures on him.”

“Couldn’t happen to a nicer fiend.”

“Sounds like we could all use some group therapy. Let’s make sure everyone’s here and getting the medical or narcotic help they need, then we’ll spend the next three weeks or so talking things out and… beginning to come to terms. I’ve already asked the Banker to delay the arrival of the VMoD until the last week of the month.”

Shan’t go into the details of those weeks. There were many unpleasant scenes and various people’s coping mechanisms are different. I very much ignored my own issues in favor of helping the others. I could put off my emotional responses in theory indefinitely, and there really wasn’t anyone on crew who was qualified to help me… and helping the others made me feel like I was doing something useful. Still, it was clear that the mental scars weren’t going to fade quickly, though I was doing my best. What I needed was a Councillor, I realized… but all I had were warriors and scholars and monsters. Maybe a return to Star Trek was in order…

I was debating the sanity of using a decade long return to the Federation just to pick up a Betazoid… when the VMoD sprang to life. John Williams’ immortal Star Wars theme began and I growled “Wrong Stars. Wrong type of Councillor.” Then I looked over at the machine and grimaced “Wrong era too. I don’t even know if there is a Jedi Council in the Old Republic.”

Mini, who’d been nearly glued to my side for the past 4 years, looked up at it and blinked “What is Kotor? Is it bad?” She was a little nervous, but more resigned to hardship than I was happy with. I hoped I could help her get back to her more carefree and adventurous state, but rolling back the clock had to be used… carefully. Franky, by comparison, had been heavily drugged and remembered nothing more than a bunch of pain and a floaty feeling.

“Knights of the Old Republic. Star Wars Videogame. Never played it. I know that the main character can follow either Dark or Light paths… that’s about all I know. Oh, and this nice seeming old lady is actually a Sith Lord. And there’s someone named Revin.”

“So… this is set when? Before trilogy… the second one I mean?” “Way before, if I’m remembering correctly. Pretty sure on the order of 300 years or so. But date’s aren’t going to be helpful, since most dates in Star Wars are given in, if I remember correctly, in years before or after the Battle of Yavin. So anything before that is going to be pretty much impossible to set exactly. It could be 20 years before or 20,000. I just don’t know enough about Star Wars Extended stuff.”

“Actually,” came Vivian’s soothing voice, “The game takes place some 4,000 years before the events of the five trilogies.”

“What? How… five?” I spluttered.

“You forget. The Mass Effect Reality I am native to was accessed from your home reality via the entity known as BioWare. BioWare is also the entity that created the game which served as access to the Knights of the Old Republic Realty. Thus, that game and its backstory were accessible to the society of Earth in the Mass Effect Reality. Plus, it was available for purchase in Buffy, West Wing, and Gargoyles Realities in the later half of each jump.”

“Ah… well… good. Helpful. Potentially. Assuming the details haven’t changed across versions. Are there any substantive story differences against the scope of the… what… four different versions you have?”

“I do not know. Someone has erased my memories of having played the games, as well as my copies of the games, the walkthroughs, and my reviews.”

“Soo… how do you know it’s 4000 years before the movies?”

“It says so on the screen of the VMoD.”

“Right. I knew that.” I looked. “Peace! It is the Year 3960 BBY and with the conclusion of the Mandalorian Wars, both the Republic and the Jedi take a sigh of relief and celebrate victory over their malicious foes. However, victory in this conflict has come at a massive cost; with dozens of worlds devastated, millions dead, and the rogue Jedi Revan and Malak disappeared into Unknown Space. Within the next year, the galaxy will be plunged back into violent conflict. Revan and his army will return to spark the Jedi Civil War, and (if history goes unhindered) the first jedi purge will follow soon after. You are a young force sensitive placed in the perfect position to change the course of the coming events. Armed with your lightsaber and some essential supplies, will you succeed in your quest for greatness, or fail and lose everything?”

Okay then. That’s something.

The list of freebies was… impressive. Force Sensitivity was a boost to luck and all natural abilities, such as strength, agility, wisdom, charisma… and came with all the basic jedi powers. Force Speed (I am with the Force, the Force makes me go zoom), Force Sight (improved visual and spiritual perception, allows one to see through obstacles like darkness or solid matter), Precognition & Farsight (allows one to see events from the past, present, and future… at a distance), Force Empathy (the ability to sense the emotions of people and creatures), Force Telepathy (the ability to communicate across long distances mind to mind), Force Telekinesis (the ability to manipulate matter and energy with the mind), Mind Trick (allows one to influence the thoughts of sentient creatures… especially those with weak wills), Force Stealth (allows one to hide their presence in the force and to make oneself less noticed in crowds)… and basic Lightsaber Training. Also came with a free single bladed lightsaber. Pistol Training however did not come with a pistol.

“Please Note: You keep everything you’ve gained from previous universes and can decide if people will question companions or powers from said universes or simply accept them as things that could happen. All your companions and podded followers automatically gain a connection to the Force if they accompany you into the Star Wars Universe, regardless of whether they are imported or not.” A connection to the Force is nice… not as good as Force Aptitude or Force Sensitivity, but I shan’t look a gift Force in the mouth.

The good old Wheel of Locality had two locations I knew by name (Coruscant, the Republic’s capital and home of the Jedi Order, an Ecumenopolis… and Dantooine… which is not home to the Rebel Alliance… and won’t be home to it in 4,000 years either.) The others were a desert world named Korriban which was the Sith Homeworld, an ocean world called Manaan, a farm world that’s home to the Jedi AgriCorps called Telos IV, a heavily industrial world named Onderon which had traded hands several times in the recent Mandalorian wars (Fett’s armor is Mandalorian), and a second eccumenopolis called Taris. “Big City… Big City… no whammies” I said as I spun…. Only to end up on Dantooine… a world described as “Largely uninhabited, where the only threats are raiders, wild animals, and the occasional fallen Jedi.” Oh… doesn’t this sound like fun. “Explore the crystal caves and Force Sensitive Ruins!” can I not?

A second spin and I was now 23 again… does living Ice have a biological age? Origins… origins… Drop-In… Jedi, Sith, Grey Jedi, Mandalorian… So No Training, Indoctrination, Brainwashing, Chip on your shoulder, and most over-rated people ever. Seriously, Drop-in came with powers and zero idea how to use them. Errr… no. Jedi came with a caring master and a rival! Wooo. no. Sith… no. no nono. What a terrible idea. Mandalorian origin was essentially Stockholm syndrome the origin, a padawan captured and kept as a pet by the Mandos… Which left Grey Jedi, taught to be all Jedi by parents who abandoned the Jedi years ago. It wasn’t perfect, but the groundwork, the “Things are not Black and White” was there, so I might as well go that route. Cost me 100 CP… but better than the alternatives.

And then it was time for… Species. Excellent. I could remain human… hah… that was a joke… on any number of levels… or I could take my pick from Twi’lek (Bib Fortuna’s race… the guy with the head tentacle behind Jaba), Zabrak (Darth Maul’s race… the badguy who died like a chump in episode I), Togruta (Ahsoka Tano’s race… Anakin’s padawan), Nautolan (no clue, kinda bugfaced tentacle heads… apparently amphibious), and Cathar (kitty people!!!). Togruta were kinda cool and had passive echolocation, which seemed like it would be cool, since it effectively granted better perception and spatial awareness. They’re carnivorous (mmeeaaaat!), with colorful skin, long (stripped) head-tails, and horns. They had their own language and spoke Galactic Basic… and buying it would come with some interesting new instincts and memories… and what can I say, I’m an experience junkie. It wasn’t free like Human or Twi’lek, but 50 was affordable, so I took it.

Now, I know you’re thinking “Location, Age, Origin, Race… clearly, it’s time for Perks, right? Or maybe drawbacks?” Nope. apparently every Force User had to pick a path along which their powers would develope. The choices were Strength, Intelligence, and Balance, and each came with a bonus power. Strength was for Jedi Guardians and Sith Warriors and boosted combat and physical abilities. Balance was for Jedi Sentinels and Sith Assassins, and improved skills while keeping physical and mental aspects balanced. Neither was really my jam. Intelligence was my thing, always has been. The path of Consulars and Inquisitors, Intelligence boosted mental abilities and made learning skills and force powers easier. What’s not to love? The bonus power was Force Healing, which could be used to mend injuries and cure diseases. Strength’s force bubble protective power and Balance’s force cloak stealth power didn’t come close to that. And it was all free.

And speaking of free, it was finally time to hit the Perks and grab me some freebs. Grey Jedi got Persuasion, a natural affinity for speech and psychology that made it easy to convince people to do what I asked them to… and to get better deals from merchants. Social Fu additions were always welcome. As gear went, Grey Jedi also got a Datapad (a personal computer tablet complete with journal, map, digital storage drive, holoprojector, calculator and sketchpad… with wireless connectivity to any nearby computer network and a rechargeable battery), and 50,000 Galactic Standard Credits, tax free and legal.

Grey Jedi also got a discount on Hardware (a perk that was training in how to operate, repair and improve machines. Easily rebuild broken droids from salvaged parts or fix starships with enough time and equipment… no thanks, I should be able to figure this one out on my own). Disable Droid (a force power that would temporarily deactivate machinery, and lightly damage electronics and droids. Could be very useful.), Beast Control (a force power that did exactly what it sounds like. Interesting.), and Pyrokinesis (a force power that was far too expensive for something weaker than what I already could do. It was a nifty force power however, and had no alignment.)

Hmmm… was it worth paying points to get Force Powers? Couldn’t they be learned? Was it like Bending, where buying Force Powers gave you training and experience, but if you didn’t you’d still be able to learn those abilities like any other Jedsithi? Hmm… If so, that was good… if not… I was going to need more points. Drawbacks hooo!

A six hundred point limit seemed reasonable, and within moments I’d found exactly that. Wild was a +100 item that made it so that I’d have difficulty controlling my Force powers, in that TK type abilities would react to my emotions and other powers would randomly stop working for short periods of time… but it was (potentially) overcomable with either strong willpower or long periods of training. I had the first… and was willing to put in the second.

Broken was another +100 which meant I’d have my left arm cut off (in grand Star Wars fashion) years previously and replaced with a cybernetic one. It would be a weak one, especially for doing force powers, but it too was potentially fixable via upgrading the thing. I like projects, and this seemed a reasonable one.

Blind was nearly free points. At +200, it might have been scary to be without working eyes, but the presence of Force Sight negated most of that… but I’d been through this before. I’d spent considerable time before relying on non-ocular sight, and in the world of Star Wars, being forced to rely on the Force was practically a bonus.

Hunted, another +200, was nearly perfect… dangerous, but perfect. A powerful bounty hunter would be after my head. They’d be impossible to negotiate with and would continue to hunt me until one of us was dead. Excellent. A (potentially) one and done fight. Worth the risk… and it would keep me on my toes.

It wasn’t really close. All the others were worse. Slow hamstrung Force Powers and reaction time. Speciesist made dealing with other species a hassle. The less said about the +300s (Notorious… how to be hated by everyone, Phobia… of starships, and Aura… how to be hated by everything.) the better.

So that left me at 1450… time to start spending. First thing was Chosen Ones [200/1250/1600] which would allow me to import 8 of mine, giving them all the freebies for their origin and a new body. Good. I think several of them could use it.

Tactical Info [200/1050/1600] was another undiscounted item that caught my eye. It equipped me with an HUD that quantified my remaining health and the amount of Force energy I had available, displayed the amount of damage I did per hit, showed a complete list of the powers and abilities I had available, and automatically recorded all of my current and completed tasks in an electronic journal format. A built in organizer, a training tool, and all around useful piece of information. Hopefully it was toggleable and not too intrusive.

I guess I should grab Disable Droid [200/850/1600], Beast Control [200/650/1600] and Hardware [150/500/1600]… I should be able to learn them, but I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t buy them and couldn’t… I had a hand to fix and getting a leg up on local tech wasn’t a bad idea… plus, there really wasn’t anything else worth 50 CP I wanted, so that last 50 would be going to waste… it kinda made Broken a wash… but not too bad of one.

In the gear section were a set of Lightsaber Crystals… two of which were “alignment” locked. The Solari Crystal enhanced the blade of the saber, as well as the user’s willpower… but was for Jedi only. The Qixoni Crystal also enhanced the saber’s blade, as well as the user’s Force Powers… but was for Sith only. The last, the so called “Mantle of the Force” Crystal, could override those lockouts and slightly enhanced the effectiveness of the others. Collectively, they were [300/200/1600]… and well worth the cost, in my opinion. At the very least, I was guaranteed three lightsaber crystals post jump.

Which left me enough to pick up the Mandalorian Ripper [200/0/1600], an energy powered ballistic pistol that ignores personal shields and most armor. It could be modified with attachments like scope or silencer, was more durable than most blasters, and was highly illegal. It also could not be completely deflected by a lightsaber. That… could be useful.

Which only left the companion importing… and there I was… conflicted. Did I bring along the most useful among them? What would that mean, since I had precious little contextual knowledge of this period in Jedi history? Did I bring along those who’d been the most traumatized? I was going to bring everyone along regardless, importing just elevated them from Force Connected to Force Sensitives. In the end… I just decided to invite those I thought would have the most fun… without being terrifying. Well, that’s not true. I did invite Yuzuha… just because I found the idea of seeing what a Sith with the full force of The Tree of Darkness could do. I’d briefly considered Caine for the same, but decided instead to bring Kohina along as a Jedi… she could use some centering and calming meditation after what had happened.

Aside from those two (and Joy & Ahab), I decided to bring along the Ladies (and Ryoga)… and Tokimi… whose inclusion was… pending. Strictly speaking, she was… or had been… a suitor… but honestly… the thought of sleeping with her was more than a little bit creepy… and I’m not certain she even understood the mortal desire to mate on anything more than a chemical level. Maybe she’d understand more after an import… or fifty. I wouldn’t hold my lack of breath.

“Okay… who’s what and why? Anyone wasting the opportunity to be something other than human doesn’t get dessert tonight. Joy?”

“Nautaloid.”

“Nautolan?”

“Yeah, same diff. Grey Boy. Intelligent.”

“You’re being deliberately annoying.”

“Yeah, well… this is lame.”

“Hush, it’s for the reader’s edification.”

“What readers? We’re all here… and no one’s taking minutes.”

“I am.”

“Shut up Vivian.”

“I shall because I want to, not because you told me to.”

“Children…”

“Sorry SJ.”

“Sant. Sant Jara. That’s my new persona’s name.”

“Oh. Good. Cause that’s not a terrible… I’ll shut up now.”

“Good thought. Ahab?”

“Hornhead, Bounty Hunter, Brawn.”

“Now you’re just being… moving on… Velma? Are you going to-”

“Twi’lek Sparkles, the Jedicorn of Balance.”

“I’ll just be over here, damaging the infrastructure with my head, shall I?”

“Mini say Nya!”

“Franky say Nya too!”

“Cathar do not talk like that.”

“How does bossy lady know that?”

“Fine… Cathar probably don’t talk like that. What kind of Sensitives are you?”

“Mini is Smart Kitty Jedi.”

“Franky is Strongk Kitty Jedi.”

“Should never have introduced you to the internet. I blame Japan. Kohina? I know I said you had to be a Balanced Grey Jedi… what race did you pick?”

“One of the tentacle ones… are they prehensile?”

“What? No… Strictly speaking Tentacles aren’t. Arms are. Tentacles are only partly manipulators.”

“Oh… darn.”

“I’m not going to ask… or scan… to find out why you wanted to know… which type of tendril-head did you pick?”

“The sex slave one.”

“Ah… I don’t think Twi’lek females are always sex-slaves.”

“Shame.”

“I… right… moving on.”

“I wasn’t asking you to enslave me.”

“Good.”

“But you could if you-”

“Right… Yuzu? What did you settle on?”

“As you advised, I went Sith… Balance… though I followed your lead and went Togruta… they seem the most vicious.”

“More than the Zabrak?”

“Zabrak are aggressive… but it’s for show. Those horns are too small to be effective. A Togruta’s horns are considerably larger, plus, they are ambush predators. One can tell from the coloration, diet, and sensory suite.”

“Ah… yes… It is interesting that 4 of the races on offer are carnivores. Tokimi?”

“Oh. Well… In an effort to fit in, I have decided to mirror your choices. They seem most… reasonable.”

“In other words, you haven’t the faintest idea and just went the safe route?”

“As I said… reasonable.”

“Right. Hibikis… you decided yet?”

“We’re going as Zabraks.”

“And Strength”

“And Strength.”

“But he’s an idiot.”

“Jedi are the idiots.”

“Shut up Sith Boy.”

“Make me.” “Children…”

“Sorrry.”

“That’s better. Good. remember, no matter what side of the Force you’re on, you’re on my team. Anyone going too far into anyone’s dogma is going to find out what it’s like to be a Force Ghost real quick.”

“Actually, that sounds-”

“It’s not cool, Yuzu. It’s a punishment. No snacks for Force Ghosts.”

“Oh. Never mind.”

INSERTION

Well, here we are on Dantooine… where’s the plotline around here, because this place is fucking boring as all hell. Sure sure, it’s a big planet, lots to explore… but frankly, It’s a farming world with bugger all to do. Been here six weeks and all there is is bucolic countryside and farms and little communes as far as the eye can see. I’ve no idea what year it is, or where the plot is… it’s like… exile. “You’ve been a bad girl. Sit here and consider all you’ve done until we decide something interesting can happen.” Oh, and the Force? I think I know why so many Jedi turned Sith. It’s like… a voice whispering “Uuuuuuse meeeeee.” and when you ask “Use you to do what?” the only answer is “Yes.” It’s literally the most fucked up power source. It’s life force at it’s most raw, and these idiots are wandering around claiming it has a dark side and a light side?

Fuck that… the midichlorians are only collectively aware in the vaguest sense. They’re absolutely interested in only one thing… their own survival. And as they’re symbiotic with essentially every lifeform in this galaxy, they’re interested in keeping those lifeforms alive and healthy… and I suspect that means at odds with each other to a certain degree, as aggressive species are harder to eradicate than pacific, supine, cattle-like species. But I don’t think the Midichlorians really understand anything on any complex level. They’re treating their hosts as if they were… I dunno… still primitive planetbound tree-dwellers. They can’t really understand the difference between a group of Wampas beating each other up and massive star fleets crushing each other in planetary orbit.

But that’s a guess. Maybe they understand completely and have a reason to keep spurring Sith into being megalomaniacs and Jedi into being tools. As it is, I’m still adjusting to using the force to see. Mostly, I do this by sitting in a field and throwing little flechettes of ice at bobbing wheat stalks. And by throwing, I mean using the force to pick them up out of my palm and launching them across the field. I refuse to move from this spot until the plot finds me. Either that, or until I’ve decapitated every last grain of wheat, one at a time.

Oh, look, a hopping mouse. Fuck it’s boring here. Good thing I only have one hand right now or I’d be hitting myself with the other one. My 14th new hand blew up this morning when I tried channeling the force through it. The tech here sucks. Oh, and Yuzu totally doesn’t get why neither she nor I can regenerate my missing limb. Drawbacks are fiat enforced is why, of course, but she’s not used to people telling her no and living. She’s offered to beat up the Vending Machine for me. I told her to go play with Ziggy for a while.

It is soooo quiet here. Just wind and the sounds of tiny wildlife. It’s somewhat relaxing… and I need relaxing. For instance, when I started looking into recent galactic events, you know what I discovered? Shit. Not the “We didn’t find shit.” kind of shit. No. I found out that the Jedis of this era are even bigger fuckups than of the Prequel Era.

Take this for an example. 4 years ago, give or take, a group of Jedi Masters on this nearby planet called Taris killed… murdered… massacred… their own padawans… because a Force Vision had fucking convinced them that one of them was going to turn to the Dark Side. They straight up murdered their pupils, who fucking trusted them, because of a vision. Instead of, you know, getting them counseling. And these brilliant fucking Jedi Masters couldn’t even kill all 5 padawans. One of them survived and brought the whole thing to light while being hunted and framed for the murders of the others. Morons.

Of course, that wasn’t the worst… no… that was the Republic-Mandalorian War… which the Freaking Jedis mostly sat out because it wasn’t their fight. Except the ones who went rogue, like Revan and Surik. And they managed to end the war by freaking destroying the Mandalorian fleet… and their own fleet… and the planet Malachor V using some insane super weapon called, if the rumors are right “The Mass Shadow Generator”. I can feel the… the… I don’t know what to call it… the rent in the fabric of the Force? The Scar? I don’t know… but I can feel it throbbing like a canker even from here… and I haven’t the faintest clue how far away Malachor is from Dantoine because I don’t understand the hyperspace system these fucking morons are using. MEASURE THINGS IN LIGHTYEARS YOU FREAKING MORONS!

I really should study up on this shit… but I don’t have any local spaceships so I can’t be arsed… plus, mastering the Force and making a functioning hand seem more useful… hello little mouse, yes, you can have a piece of ice. Very cute… please stop nibbling at my robe. Oh… I’m flesh again. Turns out a new form is what I needed. Can turn back into ice if I need to, but am frankly enjoying having internal organs again. Oh…. and a lightsaber. Sure, I have energy swords, but Lightsabers are cool. I have five right now. Not sure why, but I had my starter lightsaber and decided to see if I could use my replicator technology to replicate the crystal. Took three tries… and rebuilding the unit once to do it, but I did. So now I have five. Could make more. Doesn’t seem to be any point to it at the moment.

Invented a stunner Lightsaber design, haven’t built it yet. Need to synth a totally different crystal for it. Have a design for a Lightblaster, uses lightsaber crystals to focus the beam, allows a force user to adjust the blast… not sure there’s a point to it. Designed a Lightsaber version of a buckler… that’s in fabrication right now. It has a core of mandalorian metal and can block lightsabers, and deflect blaster bolts… in theory.

Right… sorry… the tech isn’t great, but then again, it’s 4,000 years behind what I’d expect from Star Wars. And in some ways, Wars tech is better, but in other ways it’s worse than Trek Tech… and all of them are different from Asgard or Juraian tech. Then again, Asgard and Juraian… and Magi tech for that matter aren’t hyper tech, they’re clarktech. Trek and Wars stuff is soooo last epoch. But what can you do?

So, scarred reality, Jedi are idiots… and they don’t know that Revan is going to come back leading a bunch of… renegades I guess… I have no idea, and set off some kind of Jedi Civil War and after that a Jedi Purge? I haven’t the faintest idea who’s on which side or if I should be siding against Malak & Revan or not… though since those names sound a little evil, I’m guessing against… but until they show up calling themselves Darth Whosit or Count Fuckit, I’m just guessing.

There’s a local group of Jedi here. Apparently they’re like… the back up Jedi Council. Oh, I do know that the Jedi order is having a trial for Meetra Surik, Revan’s second in command. She’s the one who detonated the Mass Shadow Generator and killed both fleets and a planet. Sounds like a lovely person. Apparently she’s been cut off from the Force because she killed so many people. Huh… that never happened to Palpatine or Dooku or Vader. Maybe because they didn’t pull the trigger? But neither did Surik. Apparently she ordered someone else to do it with, of all things, a head nod. That’s got to be one hell of a headnod.

“She nodded her head, Nuke the Star System!”

I’m tempted to go to the Malachor system to feel this scar up close… but I doubt anyone sane will fly me there. “Hi, You don’t know me, but I’d like to hire your ship to take me to Malachor.” “Lady, you blind, right?” “Yeah?” “Well, Malachor is gone. The planet’s just, like toast. Lots of floating debris… not a tourist location… and you can’t see anything anyway. So what’s the point.” “There is a hole in your reality.” “Great. Ain’t going near it.” “Darn.”

So, that’s why I’m in a field, playing with ice and mice.

1 YEAR LATER

Remember how I talked about Surik being on trial? They exiled her from the order. Oh, and there are some ruins on Dantooine, really old ones. We’ve been exploring them. I have a hand made of living wood, and fifteen lightsabers. My main one has three crystals and generates a blade that is actually three blades spiraling around each other in a triple helix. It’s silver… or so I’m told by people who have eyes that work. I don’t know why I keep building more lightsabers. Two of them are lightsaber tonfas… one’s a lightsaber three piece rod… one’s a trident. I’ve been really bored. Maybe I’ll piss off the Jedi Council for something to do.

1 YEAR LATER

Sooooo… Remember how I said I’d worry about Revan when and if he showed up calling himself Darth? Hello Darth Revan, Emperor of the Sith Empire. Fuuuuuuuck. Apparently Jedi are going over to this screaming cunt in droves. Sith doesn’t, apparently, have a bad rep yet. Fucking morons. This is what happens when you have a pair of monastic orders and, while neither of them is at all fun, one of them gives you freedom to be a psychopath and the only thing the other gives you is “that’s not nice, oh… and your skin will rot off.” See Sith Lords and Masks for proof.

Sooo, yeah… maybe having spent the last year dropping into the local Jedi Temple and arguing with them about the finer points of Jedi philosophy… while engaged in lightsaber duels… might not have been the best thing I could have been doing. Have picked up over a dozen new fighting techniques though. Some of those old guys can fight… especially Vandar Tokare. He’s like Yoda, but with a bigger stick up his butt. Means well, but…

Now I’m fairly sure I’m going to have to stop a galactic war. No idea how yet. Still don’t have the faintest idea how to navigate this universe and most of my companions are off planet learning exactly that. We found this holographic star map in one of the ruins and I sent off everyone but Yuzu and Tokimi to track down the other maps that were hinted at in the map we found. Something about a Star Forge… a matter replicator on a huge scale… could be interesting technology.

1 YEAR LATER

Well… fuck me sideways with a Thermal Detonator… Malak apparently betrayed Revan and Revan’s dead. Interesting. Supposedly, the only survivor of the Jedi taskforce that took down Revan’s defenses long enough for Malak to betray his master, one Bastila Shan, is coming to speak with the Jedi Council here. I’m so glad I tapped their coms. Must talk to this Bastilla. See what she knows. Maybe convince her to take me to Korriban… that’s where the Sith Empire’s capital is… or wherever Malak is. If I can get close enough, say in the same system, I can probably deal with Malak…

Now, where the hell are my companions?

1 WEEK LATER

Ahahaha… oh… this… this is sooo wrong. Shan lied! Hahaha. She’s got Revan with her. Dude’s brain is… heh… he’s lost most of his memories. It’s… I shouldn’t be laughing… dude’s being reprogrammed by the Jedi Council of Dantoine to think he’s just this guy who happens to be force sensitive and Shan’s going to use him to take down Malak. Pretty sneaky for Jedi. I’m going to sneak on board their ship. I figure this has got to be the plot rearing it’s ugly head. Interesting that I can’t read Revan with his… identity scrambled. It’s as if he doesn’t know who he is… even on the spiritual level. I wonder if he turned to the Dark Side willingly. Or is this just how someone looks when their balance of good and evil or whatever is in flux? Can’t say. Not willing to take him out yet… the fun has finally arrived.

Yuzu asked me a good question, though “Why don’t you just change history so all the Sith stop being Sith.” to which I replied… Because nothing will stop them from shifting back again. I can change history… not the people who caused it. Also, I really don’t know how well it would work on a galactic scale. If it would work… I suspect the drain of even trying it would leave me too weak to do anything for… who knows how long. I’ll stick to planetary bodies with that power… for now.

Oh, and speaking of range limitations… apparently the Warehouse coms don’t work on galactic distances either. Fucking hell. I’m going to have to rebuild the damned things. But that’s for later. I left a message for the Questors in a spot I knew they’d find and boarded Bastila’s ship, The Endar Spire.

SEVERAL DAYS LATER

Well, huh… the ship just got attacked and deorbited over that Taris planet… same one from the Massacre… small… fucking… galaxy. Dude-Who-Used-To-Be-Revan has teamed up with some git named Carth to go rescue Bastila. Am tagging along just to see what happens. This is very strange, stealthing my way through life, trying not to be noticed. The Force actually makes that pretty easy.

They met a weird tribe down in the belly of the eccumenopolis that covers Taris… totally different vibe from the ones built by the Asari or by my Magi. Definite “underbelly” vibe. Anyway, Revan and friend ran into a twi’lek girl named Mission… yes… that’s her name… sigh… and her pet wookie, Zalbaar. Kid’s cute, wookie’s… a wookie… and pretty young too. Turns out Bastila’s being held by some gang boss named… eh… fuck it. Who cares. Minor gang leaders involved in turf warfare in some city I couldn’t care less about. Fetch Quest, gambling minigame, racing minigame, blah blah blah.

It’s about the same time that Revan, Carth, and Mission… plus he-who-shall-not-be-getting-a-medal… meet up with and rescue Bastila… instant sexual tension between R & B… cue Barry White singing “Let’s Get It On.” but not really… that Malak’s fleet shows up and starts just… fucking… carpet bombing the god damned city for no fucking reason.

Look. I don’t give a flying fuck about the people of Taris. Met like… 15 of them and 13 of them were jerks. But this shit don’t fly. I think I may have derailed the plot… a little bit. Star Wars ships are big and tough… but these weren’t Star Destroyers and a freaking Tie Fighter can take one of them out. Getting into orbit took Ziggy and Yuzu a few seconds. Destroying the enemy fleet took less time. I took the flagship… No idea how I knew it was the Flagship, it just… felt like it. Fucking Force. Drew me right to Malak.

What can I say about Darth Malak? Well, momma always said… haha. No. Unlike Revan, Malak had his mind and memory intact. I pulled him inside my mind a split second after I smashed through the armourplast windows of his command bridge so he didn’t get sucked into the void and considered him as he flailed around looking for a) his lightsaber and b) the Force.

“Hiya!” Soul of Ice said as she kicked him in the mask. “You have been weighed.” added Victoria. “You have been measured.” added Silent Judge. “You have been found wanting.” He didn’t get the reference. Talk about being out of the cultural loop. He struggled for the first hour, but I think by the end of the movie, he was getting into it. Of course, he lacked the proper frame of reference, so we had to pause every so often to give him a crash course in whatever he was missing, but I think he got the point by the end… of the lance… never mind.

Anyway, while torturing him with popculture of a universe that wouldn’t exist for a very long time in a galaxy far far away, I was reading his mind, trying to figure out what made a Jedi turn Sith… and not just one, but a multitude. Malak and Revan had turned many a Jedi to their cause.

What I found was… disheartening. Torture, mostly. Forcing them to experience overwhelming negative emotions… and utter bollox preparation by the oh so wise Jedi in how to deal with any of this crap. “Deny your emotions. Emotions baaad. Attachment leads to…” you know the spiel. But it went further than that in Malak’s case. Revan’s too, for that matter, if Malak’s memories were to be believed.

After the Mandalorian Wars, the two of them had headed out past the edge of the republic, looking for whoever had manipulated the Mando Clans into going to war in the first place. They’d found the Sith Empire. Not, I should point out, Revan’s Sith Empire… noooo… a totally different but identically named (because fuck logic) Sith Empire ruled by an immortal douchebag named Lord Vitiate or The Sith Emperor. Apparently, after something called the Great Hyperspace War way back a thousand years earlier, the Really Old Republic had smashed the then Sith Empire and he’d emerged from obscurity to put it back together again… because apparently, when you smash an entire fucking star nation, you just say “eh, they probably won’t emerge again if we leave their worlds alone. Let’s just ignore that part of the Galaxy and hope nothing bad happens”… because fuck logic.

So they’d found Dark Lord #897 and he’d turned them into Dark Lords #898 and #899… and now I had to go blow the fucker and his empire into itty bitty Sith bits because Fuck the Force’s manipulation of events… and I found out where my god-damned companions had gone. Turns out, Malak and Revan had found the fucking Starforge and were using the damned thing to pump out all these fucking ships (where the hell they were getting the crews from is beyond me. Malak just subcontracted that to the lesser Jedis he’d corrupted.)

Turns out, the Starforge was orbiting the homesun of this truly fucked up species called the Rakata who’d figured out how to use the Force to create a freaking stellar powered, Dark-side of the Force using matter compiler (the Starforge itself) which they’d used to pretty much conquer the galaxy (previously ruled by the Force Sensitive Kwa (what does the penguin say? Kwa!) and (after killing off most of those nice Kwa who’d uplifted them from barbarism… before figuring out that the Rakata were cannibalistic assholes who could only use the Dark Side) establish “The Infinite Empire” (Arceus, these names… good me. This is why Sci-Fi Fandom gets a bad rap. Fucking repetitive nonsense.) some 32,000 years ago… but that Infinite (good thing they hadn’t called it the Eternal Empire or the name might have been bullshit… ahahaha… I laugh… not) Empire had come to an end 11,000 years later when the Rakata had been all but exterminated by a slave race called the Esh-Kha and a massive plague that ravaged the Rakata population and severed their connection to the Force (The Force clearly screwed these guys, but why, exactly, did it let them get away with this shit for 11 millenia?).

Without Force Users and with a techbase built entirely on Force Manipulation, and the survivors sealed away on their homeworld Lehon… behind a disruptor barrier that destroyed the comms and navigation systems of any ship nearing the planet and trapping the survivors there… with the freaking Rakata. Which meant I had to go to Lehon. Thankfully, Malak knew where it was. And where Vitiate’s Sith Empire Mark II was.

Step one, visit Malak’s capital on Korriban (which had been the ancient Sith Capital & homeworld of the actual Sith… did you know they were a species? I didn’t know that.), kill or imprison all the Sith I could find. Step two, visit Lehon, rescue companions using tech that laughed at the idea of being disrupted… literally, Ziggy said it tickled and Yuzu almost orgasmed at the pure darksidedness of it all. She also ate the Star Forge… I mean it. She… absorbed the entire thing into the superstructure of hershipself, using its Darkness to fuel her own powers. If it had been a living thing, I’d have felt sorry for the titanic weapons factory.

Step three… Look, I can’t say I liked doing it, but any empire with Sith in the name can’t be allowed to keep warships. At least not a home fleet. With the help of Malak, who was really not enjoying the constant rotation of sit-coms, rom-coms, and other feel good couch surfing material, and my crew (several of whom had bothered to figure out how to read local starcharts and learn how hyperspace navigation worked) we arrived in the Dromund Kaas system, all five of my starships (yes, the Black Jenny had been upgraded to Juraian battle tech thanks to Vivian’s robotic minions… and even Victor had gotten some upgrades, not that he’d needed much, most of his tech was Magi.) moving to neutralize anything that registered as a threat.

Twenty-two minutes later, my fleet settled into parking orbit above the capital, Kaas City, and began the invasion. KAIJU HOOOOOO. I, meanwhile, pulled out my rolodex and dialed Lord Vitiate’s private number.

“I’m busy! Who is this?”

“Hi! My name is Sant Jara and I’m the psychotic bitch who just destroyed 71% of your spacebased infrastructure, several centuries worth of military hardware, and landed multiple nearly impervious giant monsters on your capital.”

“WHAT! Who… Why are you doing this. We didn’t attack you? I… my people are a peaceful-”

“Oh, can it, fuck face. I know you True Sith dickheads have been plotting against the Republic and the Jedi for a thousand years since you went into exile way out here. Interesting reading, back in the ruins of Korriban. Just came from there… well, after taking the Rakatan Star Forge out of commision.”

“Your ships aren’t Republican Ships!”

“No. They aren’t. They’re Magi. You’ve heard of the Magi, right? (thanks to the Civ jump, pretty much everyone had, in some way, heard of the legendary and long gone Magi).”

“You’re lying. The Magi have been extinct for a million years.”

“Eh. We got better. Anyway, I’m here on behalf of the Galactic Republic to accept your immediate, unconditional, and complete surrender. I will be landing in front of your palace in ten minutes, and any armed guard I see will be killed without warning. If you care about your people… no… never mind. You don’t. You’re Sith. You only care about revenge… never mind that if you’d just fucking played nice with the other kiddies they wouldn’t have exterminated your kind. 5000 years of hatred and plotting and all you’ll ever be remembered as is the bitches who were always on the wrong side of history. Empire after Empire you build and it always comes crashing down. Because you can’t be trusted. So tell your people to fucking stand down or I’ll vaporize an entire random Force-Damned sky-scraper for every weapon that so much as twitches in my direction.” My voice had grown steadily darker and harder edged as I was reminded of the unspeakable atrocities that the Dark Lords of the Sith would perpetrate on the Galaxy again and again and again. Proportional response for Taris weighed heavily on my thoughts… though I didn’t actually mean it. My Kaiju had gone after military targets and defensive installations, not civilian centers. I’m sure they’d squashed some non-combatants, unfortunately, but it really couldn’t be helped.

I dropped from orbit under my own power, swathed in Victoria and all the stealth systems and magic I could muster, blanking my Force Signature as well as I could, and cloaking myself from precognition. The palace was… nice enough, if a bit grim, and the guards, although clearly uneasy by my appearance, had also been told not to offer any insult.

A senior General appeared to guide me to “His Imperial Majesty” and I nodded, Victoria looking like nothing more than simple grey robes (at least she says they were grey… my force vision wasn’t in color). They could have been hot pink with polkadots and I wouldn’t know the difference. Nor, strictly speaking, would I have cared.

It’s easy not to be impressed when you’ve lived in palaces for thousands of years. It’s easy to become jaded. I don’t think I was, but I really hadn’t come to sightsee and the propaganda of the Sith Palace’s architecture failed to impress me. The throne room was… trite. Vitiate stood, seething, amid several dozen courtiers and functionaries. His mind was full of hate and his soul was as black as mine was frozen.

“You were a fool to come here, alone, unarmed.” He said, voice cruel and mocking. He drew his blade and descended the dias slowly, the crowd parting around him, giving him plenty of room to maneuver.

“Ah… here we see the classic NLF in action.” I drawled.

“N… L… F?” He asked, confused.

“No Lightsaber Fallacy.” I chuckled “You, of all people, should know how little such toys matter.” I held out one hand and Force Lightning played across my fingers… know something? Watching Return of the Jedi? Enough to allow CopyCat Technique to work… at least if you’re in a setting where it qualifies as “Historical Document” and not “Light Entertainment.”

“You’re not a Jedi. You should-”

“Join you? Hah. More like you should join me. I’m orders of magnitude more powerful than you and I have a muuuuch better health plan than the Darkside. At my side you could live forever and amass power the likes of which even you’ve never dreamed of.” I chuckled dryly, smug in my wit and condescension.

Vitiate blinked at me. Then his lightsaber shut off and he knelt. “How may I serve, my Master?” I… hadn’t actually meant it to be an invitation. Really. Honestly. I had not come to Dromund Kaas looking for a 3rd Emperor. But, I had spoken the absolute truth. As powerful as Vitiate was, he wasn’t nearly as powerful as many of my companions and the majority of them (18 to be exact) were an order of magnitude older than him and had survived… a lot.

Ooookay… not what I wanted… but… right… “You do realize that, by now, the only people who really know what the hell Sith even were are historians no one listens to and a bunch of Jedi who, truth be told, haven’t clue one. Your empire contains, far and away, the vast majority of active force users… by about 10 to 1, if I’m any good at guessing. The problem is… your people can’t be trusted.” I glanced around at the courtiers who were just beginning to get over their shock. “Look at these fuckers. Half of them are plotting how to betray you and the rest of them are plotting how to betray each other. So here’s what you’re gonna do.”

And that’s how I conquered the True Sith Empire, established meaningful reforms, opened up lines of trade with the Republic, and transformed the Sith into Grey Jedi. Took most of my remaining time, but… eh… I’ve always enjoyed civilization building… I wonder if there’s a Master of Orion Jump.

Oh. Revan got his memory back. Eventually showed up to kick some serious Emperor Butt, with the inimitable Meetra Surik in tow. I welcomed them to the Palace, where everyone knew to refer to me as “The Butler”, and gave them a tour. Vitiate, it turns out, knows a fuck ton about the Force. Waaaay more than anyone else living I suspect (when 1300 years old you are, look as good you will not.” I really didn’t like him (dude had gained immortality by absorbing the lifeforce of an entire damned planet), but he had… like… aaall the Sith Holocrons and if I was going to have any chance at stamping out this idiotic divide in the Force, it was going to be in this time and in this place.

In the end, I sent Revan back to his wife, assured that, in fact, the New Magi Concordance was no longer a threat to the Galactic Republic and wanted only peace and a chance to discuss ancient grievances like civilized people. Meetra, on the other hand, intrigued me deeply.

She was a walking void in the Force, but one she’d made of herself. When she’d made the fateful decision to end the Mandolorian War with the Mass Shadow Device, she’d been linked to most of the command staff of most of the Republican Fleet via Battle Meditation. She’d been bonded with all of them as they died, and… sadly… in the moment of their death, she’d closed herself off from the Force completely in order to preserve herself, entirely without realizing that’s what she’d done.

I convinced her to come with me to Malachor, to show me the terrible Wound in the Force, to confront what had happened, and there we used the Mass Shadow Device to permanently destroy itself and Malachor’s shattered remains, sealing the wound and allowing Meetra to come to terms with her massive case of survivor’s guilt. She needed waaay more therapy than a couple years could provide if she was going to make a complete recovery, and so I invited her to come along as well. It seemed a fitting balance.

In the last year of the decade, in the year that would eventually become known as 3951 BBY, a human explorer named Kwilaan discovered the planet Naboo and established a small colony there. I figured that was as good a beach as any, and, just outside of the settlement of Thead, me and my companions old and new, waited on the end of an era. Meetra, very drunk, and Vitiate, eyes twinkling, watched in amazement as the Pillars of Time rose from the sands of Naboo and the Universe froze around them.

Vitiate chuckled as he stepped into the warehouse, though Zane had to help carry Miss Sulik. “Excellent.” Vitiate chuckled, smiling as he looked around the extradimensional space of the Warehouse. “And you say-”

He never finished the sentence. As the connection between his universe and the Warehouse ended I materialized Soul of Ice and cut him down, running the blade not just through his heart, but through the center of his very soul. I looked up into his eyes as the color returned to my vision and hissed “As if I’d ever… ever… grant eternity to scum like you. I just had to get you somewhere where the Force was meaningless, you murderous, genocidal, sociopathic fuckhead. It’s not enough to abandon you on some primitive world, or to banish you to a hell dimension. You’re so fond of those… festering boils that the Sith made? Well, good. Because you’re going to spend the rest of time trapped inside one.” And I pulled the very lifeforce from him and sealed his very essence inside a holocron I’d prepared just for that very occasion. Then I sealed it in a layer of hyperice and stuck it… ah… but that would be telling.

“Someone get Meetra to the bathroom, she’s about to be…. Never mind. Cleanup, Aisle seventeen.”

Next: World 52 – Of Hosts and Hostages

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