I awoke to a series of electronic beeps. The noises were decidedly mechanical, loud, and distinctly the type of thing that would occur when a sci-fi ship was experiencing an emergency. With the noise, my vision slowly came. First colors, with an array of bright reds and blues piercing the blackness. Then shapes, and finally, I could make out that I was sitting in some type of cockpit with a terminal in front of me.
I was greeted by a red and black console that blared warnings. Both visually and auditorily it made sure I knew that something was wrong. Utilitarian lettering appeared and indicated that I crash-landed. There was a breach in the hull, and the engines were destroyed. Thankfully, it seemed that the reactors were stable, and the ship itself was stationary.
Looking over the cockpit and computer console got my lethargic brain moving, and I realized why the place looked familiar.
This was my personal Fury-Class Interceptor inside The Old Republic remakes. Years ago, back when I was just a kid, I spent hours playing both Knights Of The Old Republic and then later Star Wars: The Old Republic, but the two games had eventually been discontinued. With the new PS8 VR System both were remade into a single massive RPG that bridged the story gap. With the new generation of tech, it even fleshed out many of the planets and plots featured in the originals. Everything was made much larger, and they added in thousands of new storylines. Needless to say, I was addicted.
I thrust my hand out with my finger pointing straight in front of me. It was the system’s universal way of opening the menu. Ever since waking up, I was getting a serious headache. Meaning it was time to finish my gaming for the night. Besides, I had work tomorrow.
Nothing happened. No light blue menu came into my view. I repeated the action a few times before giving up in bewilderment. The game might have glitched out. No type of menu or HUD could be found whatsoever. None of the ability displays I was used to nor status screens were visible. It was like I entered cinematic mode but had no way of leaving it. So instead, I moved to pull off the VR goggles.
The PS8 VR system was essentially a fully functioning VR gyro-ball. Every real-world movement translated to an in-game movement. Thus, taking off my VR headset should have released me from the game.
Except I never touched them. There was no apparatus around my head, just bare skin.
I bolted from the cockpit chair and ran to the ship’s bathroom where a full-length mirror was readily available. A cursory glance at my surroundings told me the ship, while immobile, hadn’t suffered any serious internal damage. That said, anything not mounted or bolted to the walls/floor were strewn across the floor. It made for quite a mess.
My heart was pounding at the possibility that I was trapped somewhere in the game or worse, that it was real. I’m not sure what I expected in the mirror. Everything else appeared the same it did in the game, so why would my body be any different. I looked exactly like my character. Staring back at me in the mirror was Darth Zaros. Yes, even in my 30’s I was paying respect to the best god in the RuneScape Pantheon.
I was menacing. I was the embodiment of evil in the galaxy. I was a member of the ancient race that gave dark side users their name.
I was a bulky and blood-red humanoid that stood tall and imposing with glowing golden eyes. Small bone spurs jutted out of my square jaw, and close-cropped black hair grew on my head. While I was what people called a Sith Pureblood, my design kept me very humanoid. I only had a few small facial ridges and didn’t have the weird tentacle-like face appendages that many purebloods sported. Heavy black and silver armor hung from my body, protecting and obscuring the mass of red skinned muscles underneath it. A long black cape clasped around my neck and ended just above my ankles.
In front of the mirror, I once again felt around my body. There should have been a VR apparatus around it that I could remove. But, there was nothing. I was just touching either my armor or exposed skin. Even worse, there was a direct feeling that accompanied my touches, as if it was my real skin and not the simulated touch of a VR suit.
There and then, the man called the Empire's Wrath, a man that had bested countless and killed thousands, sank to his knees. The real me, the me that was a simple nerd felt like crying. My body didn’t respond to the request though. My eyes stayed dry; my heartrate calm. Yet inside my mind whirled like a storm.
“2V, give me a diagnostic,” I told the vaguely humanoid droid. The two of us were standing in front of the fried sub-light engines. They were exceptionally destroyed. Even with the power off, acrid smoke could be seen escaping the terminal.
“With the spare parts from storage, I should be able to get our engines running serviceably. I have already enlisted X2-C3 for hull repairs,” it replied in its typical monotone.
“And the hyperspace engines?”
“…They appear to have been completely destroyed and we do not have enough spare equipment to repair them,” the droid replied, this time betraying its monotone programming with some apprehension. 2V-R8 was a seneschal droid. That meant he was a servant droid. Over the years, he received enough upgrades to fulfill many duties. He can translate, fly a ship, perform scans, repair things, and even fire a blaster. He’s a terrible shot though, and when 2V has to start shooting, shit has hit the fan. Probably the weirdest thing about the droid is that he thinks I might decommission him every time something goes wrong. It's probably his most illogical quirk, I mean if I was going to get rid of him, I wouldn't have spent so much money on upgrades.
“No need to be nervous, I more or less expected that to be the case. Can you at least tell me where the hell we landed?”
"According to our star charts, we are in the mountainous region south of the academy on Korriban, sir.”
“That’s great! I was kind of worried about getting back here from wild space. So why hasn’t anyone showed up to investigate a crashed interceptor?”
“That is just it, sir. We have been using all of the imperial signals but have not received a reply… In fact, lifeform readings show the planet to be almost completely deserted.”
I turned to the droid with wide eyes before exclaiming, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Korriban was the heart of the Empire and the home world of the Sith. Every force sensitive kid in our swath of the galaxy should be here.
“Sir, there are no lifeforms detected at the academy. Almost all of the main centers of organic life have been abandoned with only a few forms detected throughout the planet. Almost none of these zones were occupied when we last visited Korriban.”
“So they moved the school? We were on Korriban only a few months ago…”
“I’m not sure, but none of the transmissions we intercepted were in the imperial codes.”
I rubbed my temples in frustration before replying. “Ok fine, I’ll do some recon. How’s the Eclipse looking?”
“It survived the crash landing admirably, would you like me to prep it for you?” the droid replied.
“That would be great.”
One good thing about being absolutely addicted to a game, especially as an adult with a job, is that when you actually find yourself isekaied inside, you’re spoiled for choice. For years I spent cash on this game for memberships, DLCs, and even to pay other players for their in game items.
When I crashed, I was wearing the Malgus styled set of armor. It had the mechanical appearance that the Sith Lord was known for. I was an absolute Malgus fan-boy ever since I saw the first SWTOR cinematic. His storylines afterwards further cemented him as my favorite archetype. I strived to replicate it in the game. Sure, we had our differences, I mean I wasn't going to murder my wife any time soon. But his ideology made him one of the best dark side users. In fact, the best reforms that the empire adopted, like the movements towards inter-species equality, were practices that Malgus was using decades ago.
Sure I was a bloodthirsty fighter in game, basically a murder-hobo having spent hours completing raids and fighting in the arenas. But, I always chose the fair options and respected my enemies. I wasn't much for tricks and deceit during the storylines. Sure they had their place in forcing someone to battle, but it was always better to fight honorably. Hell I even gave my crew second chances and tried to limit how often I used fear to control my underlings. When I did take dark-side decisions, they were for the good of the empire or when I felt the outcome was deserved. My decisions were hard but fair, just like Malgus. I even went out of my way to be nice every now and again, though it didn't do much to reduce the body count I left in my wake.
Now, one of the problems with reality was that my current attire was covered in grime and sweat by the time we finished examining the ship. Unlike when I was in the game, I would have to regularly change outfits and clean them I supposed.
Thus, I donned the Warden Armor set. I had thought about the Praetorian Armor, but it seemed a little over the top for a recon mission. Despite it being one of my favorite sets, the praetorian pieces were far too flashy with their wild spiky shoulder pads and red coloring.
Soon I was decked out in form-fitting black athletic-wear topped with thick black armor plating on my vital spots. Choosing to mix and match a bit, I placed the praetorian helmet around my head. It integrated with the rest of my armor surprisingly well and a HUD activated with hiss causing the suit to become airtight.
The helmet's head fin was a little too much for my taste, but it was that or the weird gas-mask-esque helmets that the Sith seemed to hand out like candy. Honestly, not every head piece needs to be a breathing apparatus. A real helmet would also prove especially useful at blocking the harsh winds kicked up via the highspeed travel.
The Aratech Eclipse was a sleek speeder bike. It was all black and made of sharp aerodynamic angles. In the game, it wasn’t that fast. Here and now though, it certainly looked like the type of machine that could break the sound barrier.
“Any word from Vette or the others?” I asked 2V as I climbed onto the bike.
“No sir.” His reply left me disappointed. It would have been nice to have the old crew, especially if they were real people now. My memories of them were muddled in this regard. On one hand I remembered them as the NPC's I spent time with in the game. On the other hand, I now had memories of them from Zaros's mind added on. These were incredibly humanizing memories, and made it hard to think of them as anything less than friends.
This hit the hardest with Vette. In game, she was my characters romantic partner. To me, it was just another part of the story. To Zaros, she was an indispensable part of his life. She was a constant source of comfort and assistance. I also now had my head filled with more than a few scenes with her that never would have made it in the pg-13 games. More than that, the thought that Zaros, that I may not ever see her again left me feeling hurt and exposed.
The foreign...memories made my head hurt. I thought back to Korriban proper and playing as a student. But there was more to it. I had a memories of classes, training, lightsaber forms. Physical memories, bodily memories. I remembered the way it felt to swing a sword, to get into the stance. Not just as a holographic game, but the physical feeling of doing those things.
“Somehow, I’m not surprised…” I said as I checked my equipment with a grimace. On my belt was my trusty saber handle. It was nothing flashy, but instead the rather clunky design typical of the Old Republic. On my back hung an imperial enforcer blaster rifle. I never used it in the game. As a Sith Warrior you were really only meant to use a lightsaber. But it seemed like a waste to not bring it with me.
“Well, keep trying to get in touch but don’t do anything to bring attention to us," I told 2V.
“Yes Sir,” the droid replied.
The speeder was fast, exceptionally so. That being said, I could push that speed far more than I expected. In the real world, getting up over a hundred miles an hour was…kind of scary. Even in a car, it was easy to feel out of control. On the speeder though, hovering a few meters in the air meant almost no terrain problems. More importantly, the high speeds felt almost comfortably slow. I could easily perceive everything, down to the smallest speck of dirt kicked up by the rush of my vehicle. No matter how fast I pushed the machine, it didn’t matter. I was able to keep the bike straight and avoid anything. Images of future obstacles appeared in my head running alongside my visual perception allowing me to see… no, feel any turns I would need to make before they happened.
Korriban was mostly how I remembered it. A barren desert wasteland, that is. The lack of flora and fauna didn’t really bother me, though it was surprising to not see any type of sentient activity. After a few hours of travel, one would have usually run into some group of people. Mourners, temple workers, raiders, and/or students; in-game you could usually find at least one of these groups while exploring the wastelands.
The coordinates 2V gave me led to a small village, a hamlet really, of… farmers? That’s definitely not something I ever thought Korriban would have. They must have seen me flying towards them. I wasn't hard to spot with a large dust trail blooming out behind my craft.
A loud horn sounded and caused a flurry of activity before I managed to make it into their midst. Their few dozen houses were arrayed in protective circles with a large grassy field in the center. The structures were basically huts. Only one of them looked to be any taller than a single story and most looked to be about the size of a studio apartment. The entire area was protected by a palisade and metal spikes. The only opening in the defenses was a crudely-made spiky metal gate.
People and animals clambered through the gate in a hurry. Apparently the horn was a warning signal for their herds to find safety within the village should someone approach. Long before I arrived the gate was barred and two large spear-wielding Togruta stood by it. The two men were wearing ragged but heavy brown robes with cloth wraps on their arms and legs.
Upon seeing that they weren’t going to open the gate for me, I whipped the speeder sideways and performed the typical sliding bike stop. It kicked up an inordinate amount of dust. The two men were momentarily surprised by the display. They only recovered their menacing aura long after I stepped out of the thick dust cloud and into their view.
“State your business or be on your way stranger,” the man on the right said. He was the older looking and slightly larger of the two guards. His voice was gruff and the decorative white lines on his face were shifted at odd angles further adding to his grimace.
I cocked my head in slight confusion before a startling amount of anger permeated through me.
“Stranger? I should strike you down for not recognizing your betters,” I replied with more than a few drops of haughty venom.
The reference to violence set the two men on the edge, and they both raised their weapons, some type of energy spear, towards me.
Their continued hostility fanned the flames of my anger, causing it to almost bubble over like a pot. I fingered the thick handle of my saber.
Why am I talking to a bunch of farmers when it would be so easy to end them…
Wait, what? Why am I so ready to murder a few villagers?
I took a deep breath and pulled my hand away from the saber before mindfully rubbing my hands together. “You really don’t recognize me?” I replied after a few moments.
“Should we? At most you look like some warrior,” the Togruta Replied.
“You’ve never seen this helmet before?!” I asked in confusion. “Ya know? The one that designates the elite protectors of the emperor himself?”
I received no other reply than their blank stares. I took that as a no, so I removed my helmet and flourished my hand towards my now exposed face. “Does this ring a bell? You’re on Korriban for Ragnos’s sake, there’s no way you wouldn’t recognize a true Sith," I demanded.
“…what’s a shith?” the younger Togruta asked after looking from me to his older partner.
“A Sith! You peasant bumpkin,” I replied, my haughty tone reemerging along with my seemingly easy to stoke anger. “You know the rulers of this world, the wicked and iron-fisted elites like me that crush all who dare oppose us.”
“Move along, we’ve got no time for the ravings of a man driven crazy by the deserts. This is Moraband and I doubt you're a member of the Commerce Guild," the older man replied.
I was about to let out another burst of anger, until he said those last words.
“The Commerce Guild? Those weird-looking corrupt aliens from…” I meant to say the Clone Wars, but the words caught in my throat for a moment. My arms fell to my side, while my grip on the helmet loosened. “Wh-who is the Chancellor of the Republic?!”
“You really must have been in the desert for a while if you haven’t heard of Chancelor Palpatine,” the younger of the two said with a chuckle.
“Palpatine…” I said to no one in particular. “There’s a war going on then?” The imperious tone I had taken before evaporated at this point.
“Yeah, it’s been going for a while now, maybe three years. Funny you brought up Palpatine, just yesterday we heard he was almost kid-“
“-napped,” I said, finishing his sentence. “and the leader of the separatists was killed by the Jedi Strike force that saved him. Am I right?”
They both nodded, causing my shoulders to slump.
“You guys sell any alcohol? I’ve got thousands of imperial credits…” I said before trailing off again when I reached into my pack and spotted the imperial coins that were more than a thousand years out of use. In the other pouch were various pieces of survival tech and plenty of rations. I pulled out the pouches and dropped them at their feet.
“I’ve some things I can use to barter. You can hold onto my blaster if need be," I said instead.
“Imperishables?” the older man said upon inspecting them.
I nodded in response before explaining that they were military-grade rations and covered the entirety of a person’s nutritional needs. Hell, they even tasted pretty good, something I only found out on the trip over. Ok, good might be an overstatement, but they were certainly palatable.
He thought for a moment before giving me a curt nod and holding out his hand for my blaster. I handed over the Enforcer, though I made no move to hand my lightsaber. The two men didn't seem to notice.
The two men opened the gate and allowed me to walk the bike inside.
“Back to business everyone, he’s just a passing trader. We’ll be at the hall,” The older guard called to the rest of the village. He must have been trusted to an extent because the villagers quickly emerged from their homes and went back to their different trades. In less than a few moments, the near empty village burst with life.
The younger man stayed by the gate as some herdsman and animals were brought back outside to graze on the sparse prairie grass that grew around the palisade. Up close it was quite clear just how…rustic this group of people were. Their huts were well built but created out of an odd set of patchwork materials. There wasn't a lot of technology around either. Everything save for the pumps and moisture traps looked hand powered.
I got several curious and several more suspicious looks from the various citizens of the small town. It was an oddly diverse cast of cannon species. The Togruta and Twi’leks made up a clear majority, though there were a number of other species like a few Bith and Ghand. There were surprisingly few humans though.
The older guard followed me inside and directed me to park the bike next to the only two-story building in town. It was apparently a type of community hall, meeting house, and tavern that the townsfolk used. Inside was a bar but no bartender, tables but no hostess. The place was empty and quiet save for a soft holovid that played a continuous news stream on the wall. The older guard motioned me towards the nearest stool before stepping behind the bar and dusting off a glass.
“What are you having?”
“I’ll take a shot of something gross, and then maybe something medium to wash it down. I doubt you have any landsharks?,” I replied as I took a seat.
“You want meat?” he asked while grabbing a bottle of blue liquid. He poured it into a smaller glass. Then he poured a dark brown liquid into a larger mug before pushing them both towards me.
“It’s not meat its a...have you ever heard of beer? Its like a fermented grain.”
“Are you stupid? That's a beer next to your Azure Fire?” the man said with a grin. I looked at the shot glass with renewed suspicion. Gross beer I can handle, but I had no clue what Azure Fire was.
“Why don’t you pour yourself some too. My treat.” I said, returning his grin.
“I shouldn’t while I am on patrol.”
“Hah, fine. Then pour me a double instead,” I replied. “And, tell me your name while you’re at it.”
“Suden, I’m the headsman for the town. Now you can tell me yours,” he said as he poured another two glasses.
“Nice to meet you Suden,” I said while we shook hands. “I’m Darth- you can just call me Zaros. Now drink these with me, or I’ll just force you to waste those two glasses," I continued. I almost physically cringed at calling myself Darth Zaros when I tried to give him my name. It all felt a little too edgy.
He smirked before relenting to my weak trick. We picked up the blue shots in unison and threw them back. It was tongue curling-ly bad, about as bad as the type of vodka that comes in plastic bottles one would find at a college party. On top of the normal disgusting taste of alcohol it had a serious heat to it, like a mixture of cinnamon, cayenne, jalapenos, and whiskey. I almost spit it out. But I was eventually able to force myself to swallow. Though it took a massive gulp of the surprisingly normal beer to get the taste out of my mouth.
I sighed with some contentment before leaning back into the stool. “So why are you people farming on this hell-scape?” I asked.
“Gotta get food somehow,” he replied.
“I meant that no one in this village could have been born here, you’re all from off-world.”
“I was born here…but I understand what you meant, most of the villagers here immigrated or ran away from the spaceport. The short answer? Korriban is hard to live on, but it’s safe from the war. The separatists could hardly care about it since it has less wealth than Jakku. Hell, the place is a tax-free zone simply because it would cost more to collect than it would be worth.”
“So you’re refugees?”
“Some, some are freed-slaves. Others are just too poor to afford a ticket off-world no matter how hard they try.”
“Is it expensive to leave?”
“Not particularly, its just hard for someone here to scrape any real number of credits together.”
“Is it hard to get credits, or is it just hard to keep them?” I asked. Their clear wariness at my first arrival was more than enough information to guess that this place was far from peaceful.
Suden gave me a suspicious look. “We’re more than capable of keeping our credits safe…” he replied. His attitude betrayed the man’s words, and it was clear there was more to the story than he was letting on. “But, I would be lying if I said it got any easier here.”
I waved him off with one hand while I took another sip. “Don’t worry, I’m not in the business of thieving from farmers. I only asked since my starship needs a new hyperdrive,” I replied. “I’d rather not be surprised by roving thieves on my way to get it fixed.”
“Well, yes there are more than a few who take what they can.”
We chatted like that for around an hour. I learned that Suden’s parents had first come to Korriban as settlers before the clone wars. Years ago, the place was growing in wealth due to the civilization brought by thousands of pioneers willing to try and tame the rocky deserts. It was a tax-free zone, so for a time money flowed to take advantage. With the onset of war, the area had become somewhat of a neutral zone. The Commerce Guild had a theoretical reign of the space, though more than a few pirates exerted control in the area. As we discussed before, the place was just too poor for the confederacy to have much of a presence. Suden believed the same went for the Republic, as they didn’t seem willing to contest the area.
“But what brought your parents here? I thought Togruta mostly stayed in communes.” Sadness emanated from Suden for a moment as he cupped his glass with both hands.
“They never told me, I imagine it wasn’t a happy story. It was hard, but we Togruta have a tendency to find each other; find community even in the far-flung planets of the outer rim.”
“I suppose that means you wouldn’t be willing to work as a hired gun?” I replied.
“No, I have my place here. But now you’ve really piqued my interest. A red man comes out of the desert offering food and talk then requesting guns for hire?”
For the rest of the conversation I did my best to sound convincing while answering his probing questions. Though it was hard to decide on a backstory. Was I the simple human computer-nerd from earth? Or the bloodthirsty but honorable Sith Warrior from the Old Republic? I mean what were my goals here. Could I even get back to my old life? Instead, I explained that I was on the planet due to a crash and was in need of a new hyperspace engine, among other things. Muscle of any kind would be welcome in the coming days though.
Apparently, the only place to find anything like a hyperdrive would be in Dreshdae, about a day’s ride via speeder from here. I was happy to know that the city was still there. That being said, Suden hadn’t heard of either the cities of Vardin nor Kaniset. Both were massive ports back in the day. He knew of the ruins and the tombs but not that they are called the Valley of the Dark Lords. He certainly never heard of the Academy.
“You’ve been here your whole life and haven’t bothered investigating any of the ruins? They’d probably have more than enough trinkets to keep a whole village supplied,” I said to change the subject.
“Hah, I’m no fool. Almost no one comes back from trips into those accursed areas. It got to be so bad, I stopped any of my people from venturing near any of them.”
Nobody comes back? Sure, the graves of Sith lords were dangerous, especially in the expanded lore. But in-game, the area wasn’t a death trap. You could raid certain ruins and temples easily, even as a low-level player. Though even as a low level player character you're constantly reminded about how special you are. So relatively easy for a young Zaros may be impossibly hard for a someone normal.
“They aren’t that dangerous; I’ve raided more than my fair-“ I began to say before the same horn I heard on my approach sounded.
“Expecting more company today?” I asked.
Suden shook his head, before running out of the tavern, spear in hand. I downed my drink then, after a moment of consideration, finished Suden’s as well before leisurely following him outside. By the time I was back out into the hot sun, my drinking companion had already made it to the gates where there was a commotion. Another dust cloud was kicked up by what looked like a speeder gang.
“I thought this place was too poor for collections,” I muttered under my breath.
Around a dozen speeders manned by what looked like a bunch of Weequays were arrayed around the closed gates. Behind them were a larger boxier hovercraft resembling a freighter.
“Well, well, Suden. I told ya we was gonna be back,” the lead Weequay said in a raspy voice. His dark reptilian skin was mostly covered by a thick flowing shirt and tight breeches. A dark cape hung from his back, while a wide-brimmed hat kept his face shaded. His facial ridges were set in a sadistic smirk that showed off sharpened teeth. “Have ya prepared yer promised tribute?”
“We’ve never made any promises with your kind Tenno, so move out,” replied Suden. He and the other guard were taking cover behind the gate. Their spears were sticking out of small holes in the structure, their tips sticking out towards the visitors.
“Come naw, Suden. Payments be made in credit, resources, er if you’re unable to pay in traditional methods, I’m sure we canna fill out some stock from among yer fine stock of people…” Tenno replied. Then he motioned towards the men behind him who produced their blaster pistols. Some were pointed at the gates, though surprisingly most were pointed away from us. Following their sights, it was clear that they were pointing towards the various pumps and moisture collectors. “Don’t get me wrong Suden, I wouldn’t wantcha crops gettin parched.”
“What’s the situation?” I whispered to the younger guard after crouching behind him. The unexpected sound surprised him and he nearly jumped out of his robes.
“Gah! Don’t do that. That’s the Tennowatt Gang, moved in a few weeks ago, extorting anyone they can.”
“And you haven’t bothered shooting them yet?”
“There’s maybe two other blasters in the settlement besides our range-spears,” he replied.
“Three actually since you’re holding onto mine somewhere,” I corrected him. I felt oddly calm for the situation. Realistically speaking this was the first time I had ever been around real operable guns or had them pointed in my general direction. Back on Earth, I would have been shitting bricks. But here, now, I was as calm as I would be on the couch watching an action flick. Which is to say, not falling asleep, but with only a slightly raised heartbeat.
“Oh yeah, here-“ he replied before pulling out my enforcer from his robes.
“Actually, just hold on to that for now. Did those idiots just threaten slavery on your people? How many are in the gang besides them?”
“Uh ok, and yes and I’m not sure, the other villages reported the same amount of bandits in their visits.”
“Enough! Clear out or I’ll start shooting!” Yelled Suden. While our sidebar had been going on, he and Tenno had been having a deteriorating back and forth on the payments.
“Have it yer way Suden, I’ll give you till the count a ten to change your mind. 10…”
“Suden!” I hissed. “Will you be able to repair the pumps?”
“Maybe some of them, but we don’t have the parts for everything, he’s basically telling us to pay or starve.”
“Do you mind if I take care of this for you?” I said while freeing my saber handle from my belt slot.
“Of course, be my guest,” he replied with sarcasm.
Without answering, I rocketed into the air over the gate. I tipped end over end in a tight front flip, igniting my blade in the process. With a flourish, I drove the blade into the ground between the semi-circle of speeders and energy… no, the force pulsed out of me in all directions causing a small shockwave to ripple through the ground and air. The force, the power of it felt incredibly good, like a rush of adrenaline and ecstasy. It made me feel dangerous and important. It felt like using it would allow me to do anything I wanted.
A general shriek arose from the gang members when they were thrown off their bikes. As they groaned on the ground, I rose to my feet and lifted my left hand out towards their leader. More power coursed through me and around my hand. I commanded the force to lift Tenno while invisible pressure began to build around his neck.
Tenno began coughing and pulled his hands up to his throats, scratching and clawing away at the invisible tendrils constricting his airways. His squirming body slowly drifted towards me before I caught him under the shoulder with my left arm and brought my lightsaber to his throat.
Only after I was sure he was secured in my grip did I release the force-choke.
“Now, Tenno right? Shall we renegotiate?” I said.
Tenno just sputtered and gasped for a few moments as he regained some oxygen.
“Maybe I should give you a 10-count before I cut off your head,” I said while growing impatient. By this point, the men around us had gotten up and leveled their pistols in my direction.
“Let em down er we gonna shoot!” one of the Weequay snarled. He and the rest of them were much younger than Tenno. Hell, they barely looked legal.
“Yeah-no, I’m not doing that. How about you put your pistols on the ground and raise your hands above your head, or your leader will lose his, and then you will each lose yours for defying me,” I said as I brought the blade to within just a few centimeters of the Tenno’s neck. At that distance the heat would have grown incredibly uncomfortable.
“Wait, wait. Do as he said lads, my neck just started workin again, I don’t plan on losing it now.” For a moment nothing happened. Then one of the flightier gang members tried to back away from the situation. He was stopped in his tracks when a well-placed blaster-shot knocked his gun from hands. That seemed to convince the rest as a dozen clanks could be heard from the men dropping their weapons.
“Nice shot Suden. Do you and uhh.. the kiddo still got your guns trained on them?” I called out.
“That was the kiddo's handiwork, and our weapons are ready Zaros. What’s the plan?”
“Why don’t you come to collect these weapons and tow the speeders into town, then we can all have a nice chat with the Tennowatts.
A few minutes later, the would-be extortionists were patted down and disarmed of all their weapons, even a few hidden boot knives and some hand-made one-shot zippo blasters. They were further restrained with ropes and knelt on the scraggy prairie grass of the town’s common area. The once feared raiders were restrained a few feet from lazily grazing animals and even a few children running about.
Just after we finished, my communicator beeped with a call from 2V. I opened the device in my upturned palm, and a holographic recreation of the droid appeared.
“Sir, I’ve gotten our engines back online, and the hull repairs were finished. We still have no hyperdrive, and I haven’t been able to get in touch with any members of the crew or any imperial stations for that matter,” the droid stated.
“Don’t worry too much about communications, it’s not a priority. Why don’t you bring the ship round to my coordinates?”
“Yes Sir!” the droid replied before I cut the signal.
“What do you want to do with them?” asked the younger guard. He had been keeping a polite distance while the call held, but joined me once it was over. “By the way, my name is Alhoy, not kiddo.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Anyways, I really have no clue. Um, killing them is probably not an option?" I asked, to which he shook his head. "…we could stuff them inside their own cargo hauler and send it into the desert?”
“I’m not entirely sure that will work either,” replied Alhoy.
“It was more or less a joke. I think I have a brig, though I’ve never tried to keep fifteen people inside," I replied.
Then what, I fly around the galaxy with a bunch of halfwit wannabee bandits for the rest of my life? I suppose I could just drop them off at the next planet. If I left them alive on Korriban they'd just go back to raiding.
“Do you think they’ll fit?” inquired Suden who joined us after checking on our prisoner’s bonds.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make them fit.”
“I’ll drop them off in the next habitable system, that should keep them out of your hair, and they won’t be uncomfortable for all that long,” I explained.
“You are leaving then?” Suden asked.
I scratched my head before replying with, “There’s a lot to do, the galaxy will be a little hectic in the next few weeks believe it or not; next few days even.” I motioned towards the freighter and assorted speeders before continuing. “More importantly what will you all do with your newfound riches?”
“The speeders are yours by right, the cargo is stolen and should be returned though,” Suden said without giving the situation much thought.
“Hah, keep the spoils. Those rusty bikes are an insult to my Eclipse anyways and those blasters won’t do me any good," I replied while motioning to the gorgeous piece of equipment. "You all are probably too good for this planet; give me a call and I’ll relocate you somewhere more suited for the generous type.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Alhoy a little indignantly. I took a few moments to ponder how best to explain it.
“You guys don’t know what Sith are right?”
The two warriors shook their heads.
“But you do at least know of the Jedi?”
“Of course! Ah is that what you are? It all makes sense now,” cried Alhoy with enthusiasm. “You have the sword and used the magic of the force!” For some reason, I felt incredible irritation at his misnomer of me.
“No, I’m not a Jedi,” I said matter-of-factly. “That’s beside the point, this entire planet is covered in evil magic and the dark side of the force. That’s why it’s so hard to grow or make anything here. I’m kind of surprised you all haven’t become lawless rage-filled fighters under its corruption.”
“You’re kidding right?” replied Suden. “Could this planet really poison our minds?”
“I don't know. Sometimes that's how it works, while other times it doesn't matter. But, there are definitely safer and easier places to make a living if you guys want to get off-world. My ship only has fifteen beds or so, but between the various rooms and cargo hold it could easily handle your sixty or so villagers especially if we only travel for a few hours.”
“That’s…an incredible offer actually, but I would need to discuss it with the rest of the village elders,” Suden replied.
“You’ve got time, I’m gonna be doing some mildly dangerous activities for the next few weeks, but afterward I hopefully shouldn’t have any serious responsibilities stopping me from helping out.”
“Where would we go?”
“There are plenty of places better than Korriban. Hell, if you like deserts, I can think of three other worlds with less dark side corruption off the top of my head.” I replied while looking off into the distance where I could feel the force emanating from the Valley of the Dark Lords. “Anyways, my offer for a hired gun still stands, I could use some muscle even if for just a few days.”
“No, my place is here. I’ll be plenty busy trying to sort out these goods and training up a few of the villagers with our newly found weapons,” he replied.
“I…I could come with,” Alhoy said. “If you’d want me… and if Suden will let me.”
“You’re a free man Alhoy, I’d rather you stay with us, but I could never force you,” answered Suden.
By that point the Fury was in view, flying along at a good clip in the air. The three of us escorted our captives outside the village to a decent landing zone.
“So, where’d you learn to shoot?” I asked him as the ship was setting down.
“My sister and I often hunt when the harvests can’t fill our stomachs, well we used to at least,” he replied.
“I still go, but a few months back some creature almost killed us both while we hunted shyracks. It was huge, almost like rancor. We managed to bring it down, but not before it ravaged her leg. Now she’s stuck in the village.”
“Big like a Rancor? Did it have large spikes on its head and thick skin?”
“A terentatek then...seems like you went out of your way to hunt shyracks inside one of the tombs.”
"We may have gotten...ambitious in our attempts to make credits," he replied.
"But you bested the beast?"
“Well yes, she and I did it together. I was providing shots from a distance when she got hurt.”
“Bring her here. I assume you kept a trophy? If the two of you can kill a beast like that, she’s earned a place on the ship just as you have.”
“But her leg…”
“Don’t worry about it, I have a working med bay that is more than capable of fixing a messed-up leg. In the worst-case scenario, we could just put a prosthetic on her,” I said nonchalantly. Rather than being mollified, Alhoy’s face became worried at the mention of cybernetics, so I added, “That last part was a joke, I wouldn’t force robotics onto someone unwilling, now go get her.”
Technically speaking, there was no brig on the Fury, so we stripped the conference room of anything that could cause a problem, removed the furniture, and wired the door to lock from the outside. By the time our new guests were settled in, Alhoy returned carrying his sister and a large horn in his arms. As far as I could tell, it looked like a terentatek spine.
The two certainly looked related. While Suden’s skin was a lighter orange, theirs was a much darker red. They also had almost identical white patterns adorning their faces and striped red and white montrals. The easiest way to tell them apart was their physiques. Alhoy had a clear warriors build, mostly bulk and muscle like Suden. His sister seemed far more agile with her lean and sinewy muscles.
“Medbay is over here,” I told them as I opened up its doors and had them follow me in. "Lay her on one of the beds, while 2V gets the tank ready.”
2V got to work prepping the kolto tank even before I finished speaking.
“Your ship is… a little intimidating,” the girl told me once she was propped up on the bed.
“Yeah, it was designed to be. Get used to it though. In a few years, this style of the ship will be all over the galaxy,” I replied. “I’m Zaros by the way. I was told you’re a decent shot,” I said while putting out a hand to shake. She grasped it with a decent grip.
“The name is Alha, I can shoot well even now, though I’m much better when both legs work,” she said and motioned to her left leg. The knee had taken a beating to the point that it was surprising she still had a lower leg. Her lower leg was barely hanging on with possible torn tendons. Unlike her healthy right leg, it had atrophied almost to the bone.
“I’ll heal you regardless of your answer, but do you want to work for me? It may...no, will be dangerous,” I said after looking her over.
“Heal this leg and I’ll follow you across the galaxy,” she said with hopeful eyes.
“The tank is ready sir,” interjected 2V. Alha allowed herself to be picked up by the droid who got to work attaching a mask and various tubes to her body once she was suspended by a few cords inside the tank. Once she was enclosed, it slowly filled with a blue liquid until no air was left in the tank. The girl nervously looked around with her eyes, before the sedatives began to knock her out.
“How long will it take?” Alhoy asked me once she was asleep.
“I’m not sure actually, what do you think 2V?”
“The healing itself won’t take more than a few hours, though there is much scarring that will need to be removed before her flesh regenerates correctly,” it replied impassively.
“There you have it. Now let’s get out of here unless you wanna watch the scalpels at work,” I said as I led him back into the main hold.
Suden was waiting for us by the hollo-terminal after having entered the village’s signal code into it. “Here is where we part friend. I hope I’m not being too forward in calling you such,” he said to me.
“You aren’t. I consider anyone who will share a few drinks with me worthy of being called a friend,” I replied. “I’ll stay in touch, if your people decide to leave I can be back in around a week. But, there’s a decent chance things will go sideways by then, so I’ll keep you updated,” I replied. The two of us clasped hands before he left the ship and I handed him a transponder. Once he safely offboarded, the ramp receded, and our propulsion engines slowly lifted us into the air.
As we made our way over to Dreshdae, I had a chance to see what kind of armor suited Alhoy. We settled on the male version of the Shae Vizla armor. It was Mandalorian of course, which could cause some problems should we run into any fanatics, but by this point, they should all be caught up in the Republic invasion of Mandalore. After that it would be their own civil war. And after that it would be their rebellion against the empire.
In game, the Beskar armor didn’t provide any tangible benefits but here in the real universe it could turn someone into a tank. Even the side arms and jetpack worked, which would give my new ally many options in battle should he master these gadgets. I had 2V manually disable them. I didn’t want him accidentally lighting my ship on fire. Sadly, the helmet and almost all my helmets were fitted for people without montrals and headtails so he wouldn’t be fully armored for now. He further chose a rather long-barreled scoped-blaster and small pistol from my storage. For the life of me, I couldn’t recall either blasters’ name. It was getting harder to differentiate the various weapons without any game text. God forbid I try to tell my sabers apart, save for the differing designs like the pike, most of the handles looked identical at this point.
“Now you look like a proper gun,” I told him once he had the armor correctly worn. It had taken him a few tries to fit all the pieces of armor together until 2V took over and forcefully placed everything together for him. “You may want to keep this covered though,” I told him as I handed over a thick black cloak.
“Some may take offense to you wearing such a … distinctive set of armor,” I told him.
“Who? Why? Why am I even wearing it?”
“Just some idiots who are too busy killing each other to notice us right now. You’re wearing it because the benefits outweigh any downsides to wearing it,” I replied. “Just stick close to me and wear the cloak overtop. That way, I doubt any would-be disgruntled mando will cause you trouble.”
“This…is Mandalorian armor? Beskar?”
“Yeah so try not to get lost. I rather like this armor set and it would be an inconvenience to hunt you down for it,” I told him.
“Did you kill the previous wearer and win it by right of combat?”
“Nah, I bought it online, there’s a second set in there for your sister too,” I replied before thinking a moment. “I’m pretty sure Shae Vizla, she’s the one who this stuff is modeled after, was still running about when I got stuck here. Though, she’s long dead by now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Sir, we are entering the cities airspace, I’m receiving landing signals from the freeports, shall I respond?” 2V interjected, causing us both to look towards the outdoor windows. Dreshdae was in the same area as in the game, though the city was far different, far smaller than it used to be. It was situated on the edge of steep cliffs. Grim stainless-steel structures jutted out from the yellow dirt of Korriban. The architecture was mostly metal cylinders, though various structures ranging from brick huts to tents crowded the streets.
“Do what you need to, but I’m not paying for parking,” I replied.
“I suppose we can set down outside the city center sir.”
“That works for me, keep the ship ready and get Alha dressed if she’s finished treatment before we’re back. I hope it goes without saying that I don’t want any unauthorized entries,” I instructed my droid.
“X2, you’re with us, let’s move out.”
The astromech droid responded with a long series of beeps that roughly translated to: Lets go.
The night was quickly falling on the barren landscape when we left the Fury. It reminded me of the passage of time and caused me some slight anxiety. I crashed in the morning and by the time I had sorted everything out we already lost a day. “You’re sure that the Chancellor was rescued yesterday?” I said to Alhoy as we trekked towards the city gates.
“We watched the battle in real-time over the holo-vid back at the tavern. I’m pretty sure most of the galaxy tuned into it. It’s not every day a fleet raids Coruscant,” he replied. His phrasing made me chuckle. One of the expansions from the remakes allowed you to fight alongside Malgus during the sack of Coruscant. It was an event I thoroughly enjoyed and replayed more than a few times on different accounts.
“So, what’s the plan?”
“Well, I’m tight on cash, so we’re just going to have to requisition some pieces of equipment,” I replied as we stopped by a roadside terminal. X2 released a peg from one of its compartments and slipped it into the port. It began whirring and spinning as the droid accessed the city’s computers. “There’s commerce guild offices in the city, which also means there will be a commerce guild dock for their ships as well,” I explained in a low voice.
“Wait you want to steal from the guild?” Alhoy hissed at me, a little too loudly for comfort.
I gave him a glare before responding, “Yes that is the plan and it’s not as risky as you seem to believe. The guild is collapsing. In a few more days their assets will be absorbed back into the republic and their leaders executed. No one will notice a scrapped ship in that time,” I explained. “A backwater office like this isn’t used for anything important. The workers here are essentially being punished, so we aren’t dealing with anyone competent.”
“That sounds surprisingly convincing, but how do you know they’re finished?”
“You watched the battle of Coruscant, the separatists lost their largest fleet and their leader. Grievous barely escaped with his life and the Jedi have already tracked him down. A strike team is probably on the way as we speak. When the separatists fall so too will the guild and they won’t just be allowed to re-enter the fold after causing such destruction across the galaxy.”
X2 let out a series of beeps, signifying it had completed the task. The droid let us know that the nearest commerce guild shipyard was situated on the cliffside underneath a set of guild offices. So, the three of us headed that way.
The streets of Dreshdae were a busy lot, especially after nightfall. Drunken idiots and roughnecks prowled around outside of bars. The three of us passed by more than a few fistfights on our way to the cliffsides. Thankfully, the two of us cut such an intimidating image, bedecked in our heavy armor that no one felt like bothering us. That and I was releasing a small amount of my intimidating aura to ward away any fools.
Like the rest of the city, the Guild Offices were a set of three large shiny cylinders, connected via crisscrossing covered bridges. Their sleek designs would have been impressive, but the lack of upkeep on the buildings were obvious as rust and dirt had built up around the outside.
Instead of marching right up to the gate, I pulled my companions into an alley within line of sight on the main entrance about half a city block away.
“So, what’s the plan, we just march in and steal a shuttle capable of hyperspace?” asked Alhoy.
X2 let out a series of beeps, which basically translated to “The storage lists indicated no spare hyperdrives planet-side, thus any drive will need to be ripped from some other ship.”
“It’s a little more complicated than that. You and X2 will fly down the cliffs and upon my signal enter the docks. I will walk in the front door and cause a disturbance. Once the droids hear a lightsaber wielder is cutting them down, they will concentrate their forces to stop me. While that’s happening I expect you two to have commandeered a shuttle and brought it back to the interceptor. I will do what I can to keep them occupied but try not to let them follow you.”
“There’s just one problem in that plan, Zaros. I haven’t tried this jetpack out, I don’t even know how to turn it on.”
I rolled my eyes. “X2 was transferred control of your gadgets on the ship, just hold onto him and you two will be there in no time,” I explained. “Now go!”
With that, X2 shot out a cord that wrapped around Alhoy’s waist before his jetpack ignited sending both of them into the sky. “Wait wait wait!” Alhoy squeeked, as he was sent out of sight.
I casually walked over to the front doors where three B1 battle droids were stationed with blasters in hand. They were motionless, almost as if they were powered down, though I knew otherwise.
When I was a few feet away, I waved at them with my unpowered lightsaber in hand. “Excuse me, Excuse me, can you help me out with some directions?” I called out.
The three droids shot to attention, as one responded in that annoying voice all B1s were programmed with. “Stop right there, this area is restricted to only guild employees,” one of the droids called out.
“Yeah, and if you don’t leave we are obligated to open fire,” another said.
The third droid nodded and said, "roger, roger."
“No need for that,” I replied as I kept walking towards them. “Like I said, I’m just lost and in need of information.”
The droids didn’t seem to buy it as they all cocked their guns in my direction. “This is your last warning,” the third droid stated.
Obviously, I didn’t heed them. I ignited my red blade, which elicited gasps of horror from the three droids.
“I’m calling for backup!”
The three of them yelled out at the same time while they palmed the triggers on their blasters, sending a slew of red bolts in my direction. I reacted immediately and subconsciously. My blade moved in a flurry deflecting the bolts in all directions. With a little more will channeled into my arms, I was able to deflect a bolt straight into the body of one of the droids. It crumpled to the ground in a smoking pile.
I continued to deflect their bolts as I moved forward. In a few steps I was able to close the distance with a force powered charge and knock the two droids back. In two slashes, I dispatched the disoriented fighters.
By this point, the structure’s alarm was going off. Good, now if I cut a path to some random room, most of the droids should follow.
A single slash to the wall terminal did the trick in opening the otherwise locked doors. I’m not entirely sure why that worked, it seemed like a serious design flaw in security, but the Star Wars universe was never great in that department. Depending on the state of just about every door, you could either lock or unlock it by destroying the terminal.
Once inside, I sent a signal to X2 letting him know they can start their operation.
With that out of the way, I could really let loose within the lifeless halls of the guild offices. I breathed in deeply before pulling the force into me. I called upon the same feelings of annoyance and anger I felt throughout the day to empower me. It was intoxicating and I let out a roar that reverberated throughout the hallways. As it echoed and faded, I could begin to make out the clanking boots of droids. I picked up speed and began sprinting throughout the compound letting myself be guided to their whereabouts.
I turned a corner and was met with a group of battle droids. They wasted no time in firing upon me but my Juggernaut training left my defenses impenetrable. My blade blocked all their blasts long enough for me to force smash the floor beneath them sending out a shockwave that knocked them all to the ground. In a frenzy, I set upon the weak droids and cut them down.
This scene played out more than a few times. Room to room, hallway to hallway, droids fell to the floor the same way each time. Though thankfully by the time my anger was quenched and my brow perspired, my transponder began beeping.
When I opened it, a holographic miniature of Alhoy appeared. “Zaros, we’re clear of the city, and are circling around to the Fury as we speak,” he reported.
“Good, I was just getting bored here. I’ll be out momentarily but don’t wait up. I want that hyperdrive switched over ASAP,” I replied.
“We’re on it!"
I gathered a few thermal detonators from the fallen droids before making my way towards the front doors. I experienced little resistance on the way. Once outside, I turned and threw the half dozen grenades back inside before sprinting into the night. I was away and down the street before they went off, causing a series of explosions that would cripple the offices for the time being.