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3 Gungan

About Whips

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    Single Mother

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    Coruption I
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    Alex Murphy
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  1. Whips ran as fast as she could, the Cannibals loose everywhere, snarling and huffing as she gave chase. The men were busy fighting for their lives, caught off guard by Pendragon releasing the cannibals earlier than usual. She ran past crude stone houses and flickering street lamps. She saw fires ahead of her. Flame throwers. It didn't matter. She had her weapons back, plus one new one. Let them try and stop her. She flashed on her blood red lightsaber, tapping into her rage again, letting it soak her brain in fuel and light a match. She saw in red as she spotted four more guards ahead and without even pausing in her stride, brutally sliced through them in a wide arc even as a pack of cannibals continued to chase her through narrow cobblestone streets. *** Pendragon was silent. Everyone was silent in the Sun Room. He watched, fists clenching together as Lash had died in the most grotesque manner possible. She had let her anger get the better of her, and now Morgana's student was running to the exact center to get to his insurance policy. Morgana, it seemed, hadn't chosen some halfwit. She had picked someone able to adapt and think on her feet. Lash had been right. This one HAD been too dangerous. Not only had she lasted far longer than anyone else, she was now in genuine danger of humiliating him again and turning his own doomsday switch against him. One of his guests, a human woman, drunkenly rose. Pendragon didn't even remember her name at the moment, so beside himself in his rage. "Well, this is new. Pendragon at a loss for words," she joked. Her beauty somehow marred from the depravity she had engaged in already despite her raven locks and fair skin. Pendragon dashed over to her with Force assisted speed and snapped her neck. She dropped where she stood. "Boil her," he instructed the other guests, while he got out his comlink, watching with mild amusement as the guests dragged out a large cauldron from the built in kitchen in the walls. While the dumped the impudent woman in the giant pot, Pendragon got out his comlink. "All guards on the outer estate, withdraw. This is a direct order. You are to proceed into my inner sanctum and stop the woman attempting to reach the center of it by any means necessary. Fail, and you will suffer ten times what Lash suffered. Get moving." Pendragon threw down the comlink in a rage. "Cook!" he shouted at the guests. *** Kev ran through the tunnels hearing hell unleashed in the distance. He was out of breath. He stopped, struggling to take in air. It was all that witch's fault, he thought, struggling to breathe. Not Morgana. Not really. Ryleya. It was all her fault. A horrible thought came to him suddenly. What if his mother hadn't really made it out from The dead witch's tower? What if...what if the witch's magic had somehow...remained. What if Kev had never won that day? What if, in ending that bloated thing's life, some...small piece of it's evil had escaped in his mother? Kev didn't want to think of the other possibility. He couldn't. Couldn't stand the idea that his mother might have always been that way, deep down, and he couldn't see it...or wouldn't... They should have run. Run to the core worlds. Run for the thickest part of the underworks they could find. At least there any wickedness his mother pulled would have been limited, lost in the drone of a thousand other crimes and victims. He should have been more forceful, more a lot of things. That settled it, he thought. Morgana had to go. They had to take her down by any means. And then...Kev somehow had to convince his mom to let go of her powers. The more she used them, the more she wanted to use them. The more horrible she would get. Morgana had been a far more savvy con artist than his mother had given her credit for. She had completely upended everything. Kev ignored the fact that their troubles were his mother's doing. He did not see the red hands until they reached out to snatch him. Hands belonging to a grinning devil. Kev screamed as the Devil of Mustafar seized the boy, clapping a hand over his mouth.
  2. Whips cursed. It was the Twi'lek. She got out the rifle as she heard a shuffle of guards start rushing upward. Whips flip-cocked her cut down lever action rifle one handed and cackled, opening fire into the hapless guards as they tried to get closer to her, charging up the stairs, a bullet going through a bare face. The other guards, realizing she had a gun, and that their armor, designed according to extremely ancient methods, wasn't ever meant to go up against even simple fire arms, retreated, some jumping out the windows on the second story to evade her bullets. After seven shots, she was out of ammo and the one remaining guard decided to be brave, charging up and swinging a sword for her face. Her rifle dropped and her knife came out, ducking his sword swipe and driving her knife between the plates in his abdomen, kicking him backward, he swooned by charged forward with wild, ferocious swings, desperate to behead her. She clenched her hand, and invisible tendrils of the Force closed around his body, immobilizing him, causing him to drop his sword when he could not quite swing and Whips sprang forward driving the knife upward between the plates, into his heart. He dropped, dead. Whips sheathed her knife and grabbed her rifle, loading more bullets into it. She would have one chance against Lash to get this right. She headed downstairs hesitantly. Lash had the advantage and she knew it. That strange lightwhip had reach but she suspected it would suck at actually blocking, meaning Lash would have to constantly move. Plus, given its length...she would also need room. Whips got an idea. If Lash wanted to get her, she was going to have to come in to do it. She went to the nearest window. "COME IN HERE IF YOU'RE WOMAN ENOUGH!" she shouted back. Whips heard Lash shout for her body guards, and cursed mentally. She'd give Lash credit; whatever other things the Twi-lek might be, stupid wasn't one of them. She ran back upstairs and climbed out the window she had originally gotten in through, and continued to climb upward quietly, even as she heard shouting from inside the primitive stone building. In the distance, she heard the shrieks and howls of the Cannibals in the distance growing louder. She continued to climb silently until she reached the top. Crawling on all fours. She got out her rifle, taking careful aim, and fired at Lash's center of mass. The Dark Jedi dodged it, to Whips unpleasant surprise and jumped a seemingly impossible distance towards her, as the shrieking of the Cannibals in the distance grew closer. Lash's bodyguards still outside the building opened fire at an approaching pack of them. Whips had seconds to react and did the only thing she could, force pulling the woman out of the air and sent the flailing Dark Jedi crashing to the ceiling. Whips backed away as Lash sprang up in pure rage, cracking the tip of her flexible blade at Whips face only for Whips to Force pull Lash closer, making her stumble and making her run face first into the blond woman's forehead, which crashed into her nose sending her swooning backward, and she dodged Whips gunfire more out of desperation and instinct than talent. She retaliated with another crack to her opponents midsection and Whips bolted left to avoid the blade, scrambling forward and tugging her sash off when she spotted her lightsaber hanging from it. Her blood-red blade shot out and she barely parried a secondary crack whose tip scorched her shoulder badly, leaving an ugly burn on her right shoulder. She fell back as Lash drew her whip back for another strike. In a desperate move, Whips dropped off the side of the building, driving her saber into the building itself, slowing her descent just enough that she reached the bottom at a safe rate, even as she heard frantic snarling behind her. She barely managed to swipe her blade forward in reflex and cutting through three cannibals. She thoughtlessly swiped through four more that got too close, showing zero mercy, momentarily lost in her bloodlust as she started to gleefully cut through the pack of beasts. Lash's shout of rage broke her from her merriment and landed beside her, and the two were suddenly attacking eachother again, the Cannibals having been momentarily scared off. Whips slashed with murderous abandon forcing Lash to dodge her violent hacking and counter with swift cracks of her whip, forcing Whips to back off. "Im guessing this isn't how you imagined your evening going," Whips cruelly mocked. "You're DEAD!" Lash snarled in fury, bolting forward, nose broken from Whips earlier headbutt. Whips charged forward, throwing her hate into her strikes, and when Lash tried to ensnare Whips blade again, Whips struggled tugging backward before she got an idea. It was crazy enough it might work. Whips struggled as best she could, making sure the tension was as tight as possible for Lash's whip...and letgo of her blade, Force pushing the entangled saber forward using the momentum grom Lash's pulling attempt to aid its direction. Lash screamed, unable to move away as the entangled saber tumbled through the air towards her, slashing through her left arm, carrying the flexible blade of her own whip past her in its wild tumble with Whips blade and ensnaring her shoulder, part of the flexible blade going through Lash's right leg and wrapping around her neck. Lash dropped, screaming in horror and agony as her own blade ate through her flesh, burning through her lekku and eventually her neck, severed head and brain tails tumbling from a rapidly burning body, both blades starting to burn through the ground itself, though for the lightwhip it was taking longer. Whips rushed forward, grabbing both blades, carefully untangling them, even as she heard the Cannibals starting to rush forward. Without really thinking about it, she flicked the lightwhip tip into a cannibal's face, taking its jaw off, her past experience with whipping people to death giving her some minor, albeit crude insight into how the weapon worked, as well as picking up a few things based on how Lash had worked the weapon, though her use was far cruder, and much less crisp than the way Lash had wielded it. It was just really simple, experimental twirls and cracks, and a few times she pulled back on the weapon, she had to dodge the Whip blade to avoid its former owner's fate. Once the Cannibals were driven back once more she looked at Lash's corpse and spat on it. "That's what you get for being eye candy," she said mockingly, shutting off the Whip and clipping it to her belt. The body guards outside were dead, eaten alive by the Cannibals. She saw one defender in the stone building, one of the bodyguards Lash had sent in to force her out staring. "You...you killed her..." the Iotran bodyguard said. "All these years and no one managed to get the better of her...until you..." Whips eyed him with pure contempt. This one didn't seem interested in fighting. Seemed she had beheaded the snake. "Tell me, does Pendragon have anything left? Perhaps if your info is good enough I will allow you your life." "Most of Pendragon's entertainment is dead or worse by this point. You're the only one who has ever lasted this long. Maybe you can escape...maybe you can kill the evil prick..." "How so?" "Pendragon was always paranoid that one day not even his money would be enough to buy his life if the guards turned on him for his crimes. He has a "doomsday" switch installed in the cavern somewhere." "What's it do?" "It activates hidden tunnels in the cavern that lead up to the mansion itself...but this means anyone, including all these cannibals would be able to get inside. Plus, all the security turrets would turn on the guards inside the mansion and on the mansion grounds. Like I said, Doomsday." "Where is it?" "At the only place in this entire death trap that truly contains the last of his father. At the exact center of this place. Don't worry...you'll know the building when you see it." "How come you know of it?" "I've worked here for years, found out about it by accident when Lash let something slip about a few months back. Me and Lash used to be kinda friendly, at least as far as a Dark Jedi gets to being friendly with the help. She could have cut my head off after realizing what I knew but instead she just gave me a warning to not utter a word. But she's dead now, and the only reason I stuck around was because she was easy on the eyes, but now that you kriffed that up," the bodyguard muttered, "I got no reason to continue working for the crazy nutjob that owns this place. I got no reason to lie at this point. Now will you spare our lives?" *** Whips walked out of the guardhouse two minutes later carrying three severed Iotran heads. "No," she answered, tossing them next to Lash's corpse, which was already being taking apart by the Cannibals.
  3. Lash and a pack of mercenaries entered the staff turbolift to the hidden microcity in Pendragon's cavern. The cannibals were ready to be released by the staff in the security section of the mansion above. But in truth she was looking to kill the Dark Jedi herself. Li had humiliated her one time too many. The only caveat would be how to do it in a way that would not anger her employer. And she wanted this. The cannibals would overwhelm her but that would deprive Lash of feeling Li's blood on her fingers. She licked her lips at the thought of how tortured and labored that Dark Jedi's death would be. "Remember boys...I'm the only one who spills her blood. You are to merely prevent her escape. If she dies at your hand, you die at mine," she warned them. They all wordlessly nodded their heads, powering up blasters but setting them for stun. She got out her lightwhip, the hilt a black color with no shroud, but a spiked pommel. Li's lightsaber hung from a sash around her waste, a trophy really, but useful in case the whip wasn't enough. As the turbolift reached the cavern's bottom and opened, Lash heard snarling sounds. Familiar ones. She started swearing mentally as Pendragon contacted her on her earpiece. "Pardon my releasing the cannibals ahead of schedule, but frankly, my dear, your motives are transparent to me. Just making sure you stay on task." "Of course, milord Pendragon," she said suppressing her frustration at the thought the cannibals would kill the Dark Jedi before she could. "New plan, boys, switch to lethal, shoot anything that snarls at you. They're loose now." The armored mercs started swearing violently. *** Whips worked her way through darkened streets, sticking to shadows and avoiding the patrols that had suddenly gotten heavy in number, bearing torches. She stuck to natural allyways made by the buildings after that, though the patrols were starting to explore them also. Whips soon realized she was in a dragnet. They were now systematically hunting her. At one point, desperate to evade detection, she had climbed an open window into a darkened room. She crouched under the window, huddling, as a guard came by and used his torch to peer into the room. Whips dared not even breathe. And even if she hadn't been just a hair's breadth from detection what she saw when the torch lit the room would have stopped her breath all the same. They had all been made to stand in a corner, facing the wall. The skin had been flayed off. And they had been impaled on spikes. They had clearly been human, in varying ages. The part that was Li shivered in horror and disgust at Pendragon's insanity. Whips ignored this part forcing more hate to the surface to keep her buried. The natural taint of this entire cavern aided her greatly. Soon the guard stopped looking and Whips moved through the darkness, noting the smell from the corpses. As she moved through the house in near darkness she noticed more flayed corpses positioned in the corners, and she got the disturbing feeling this wasn't the only house down here Pendragon had decorated like this. She found steps that led up a floor and went up it silently hoping for a window she could climb out through or even just reach the roof. Her danger sense kicked in and she quietly got out her bow and drew and arrow from the quiver knocking it, and drew the bow to full draw and fired where she sensed the dangerous life force, hitting the invisible archer who had been perched at the top in a small adjacent bedroom filled with a rotting corpse pile. Whips quickly went over and searched the corpse, the arrow having gone through the archer's eye. She took his credit chits from his wallet. She heard snarling and screaming however, and immediately rushed to the window, watching as snarling, starved, emaciated men and women in scraps and fragments of clothing, mostly naked, charged through the streets, tackling the unlucky guards who were too close or too slow to draw their swords. They were swarmed, like a tasty dead insect gets swarmed by a pile of ants. She saw blood splattering where guards fell. Others were brutally hacking away at the weak men and women, driven mad by a combination of drugs that increased aggression and damaged the logic centers of their brain as well as torture and starvation. Whips didn't care. The weak would die in the wild. It was only natural. She heard snarling down stairs, suspected those flayed corpses would only buy her so much time and crawled out through the window, just barely reaching the top of the roof from her position and pulled herself to the top, just as the feral pack of monsters reached upstairs. She heard blasterfire, and her danger sense ratcheted higher. These cannibals were a nuisance. Whatever had come with those blasters was the real problem. She remembered where she was in relation to the rest of this gigantic abattoir Pendragon had constructed. The guard house containing her slug thrower was nearby. In fact, in the distance she could see guards falling back to the square building with purple banners draped over it. For a second she questioned the wisdom of trying to reacquire it in all this chaos but Whips eventually realized she had no choice. The slugthrower was the only one with range, the only one with true stopping power if all else failed. Whips made a plain jump unassisted to the next roof, looking for a relatively empty street where she could continue her way unimpeded. She broke into a run when she climbed down from the roof top and made a short drop to the street, heading directly for the guardhouse, which was now filled with guards. A cannibal leapt from the shadows, only for Li to bring it down with a hammer blow from her cudgel in mid-leap, smirking as she felt the starving man's skull shatter against it. She continued her run, away from the blaster fire, sticking to the shadows in case not all the patrol were running for their lives. She heard the shrieking and snarling of the cannibals behind her along with the death screams of plenty of Iotrans. The ripping and tearing of flesh loud even at this distance. As she closed the distance between her and the guard house her knife came out and she put it in her teeth and began quickly using the uneven bricks and natural hand and footholds of the way the place had been built to ascend to the third story as quietly as she could, by climbing up the corner of the building, the smell of blood becoming intense. She made her way carefully to the third story, though she nearly lost her grip when some of the brick crumbled. She heard the shrieking grow louder as she took a peak through the window, assuring herself no one was there, before carefully and tentatively climbing in, just as she heard footsteps on a nearby staircase in the stone structure. She ducked behind the solid wall serving as railing for the staircase as two guards headed up, each checking a seperate window. "The sick bastard released them at a different schedule than normal!" One grumbled. "What the hell's his problem?! He know how many rookies were out there tonight?" "Look at it this way, if they figure out how to survive you know they belong!" another joked morbidly, without an ounce of humor. Whips rose silently and crept to the nearest one, sticking her knife inbetween the armored plates on his back and shoving it in. He managed a single gasp that got the other guards attention, only for Whips to grip his neck with the Force, making him choke. He fell to his knees, gasping, as Whips pulled the knife out of her first victim and with a smirk, took aim. She tossed the knife hard, aiming well, and struggled not to laugh as the blade went cleanly through the man's eye and sank into his head deeply. She walked over, releasing her force choke and pulled the blade out of the corpse, completely absorbed in her carnage, plucking a set of primitive metal keys from the dead guard and heading to a nearby closed door with a built in metal lock. She began testing the ring of keys on each lock, until a rusted one finally opened the door. She stared. Her slug thrower rested on a simple wooden table with a pouch of ammo next to it. Li smiled...and tossed her knife into the face of an archer hidden by a stealth field. It was the drawing of the bow that had given him away, not her Force Sense. She saw the knife stop in mid-air, disrupting the field and revealing the Iotran archer, whose face looked to be in a state of shock. "Nice try, Penny," she remarked under her breath, grabbing the slug thrower. Checking it. It still had the ammo she had loaded into it from earlier. She smirked. Now her chances of survival looked considerably improved. As she put it in the empty holster slung over her back, attaching the ammo pouch to her belt. Then she heard it. "DARKSIDER! I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE! COME OUT AND FACE ME!" Lash shouted from outside.
  4. Whips moved swiftly in the darkness, unconcerned with the effort it had taken for Pendragon to build a small city underground. She stuck to the shadows, where she was naturally the most comfortable. She sensed the Dark Side permeating the area, creating a delicious fear and agitation she could see in the others patrolling its streets. This place must have been saturated with suffering over the years she tried to draw it into herself, take in the horror and evil of this place and make it her own. She had a theory, one she could not be certain of, as she didn't truly know much of the Dark Side beyond instinct, but she was starting to think the reason she was so easily drawn out was because this place was so strong with hate and fear that it had enhanced the innate bloodlust Li possessed, giving it form and definition as long as she drew on it, without having to wait for Li to put on a mask. Meaning that as soon as she left this place, her ability to take over might gradually fade, and she would once again be under Li's dominion. The thought angered Whips. Li had been a doormat, albeit a cunning and quiet one, always ignoring her own desires for adventure. The thing now calling itself Whips had first come into being when Li had given into her rage at her parents death, violently slaughtering the war party of Sand People that had murdered her father and mother through stealth and ambush, stalking them for days as they tried to make it back to their enclave. She hadn't been truly seperate from Li then, as Li had spent the next few years of her life trying to forget what she had done nearly losing all reason in her solitude. No, whatever Whips was, a fugue state, a seperate persona, or simply the real person underneath the unsophisticated moisture farmer, or some combination of the three...it had truly started to be seperate from Whitewolf when she had murdered Kolbu the gangster. Li had surrendered to madness and bloodthirst in torturing the man that had burned down her home. And in that moment, Whips had truly started to take shape, subtly influencing all of Li's actions since fleeing Castell, however, before now, it required Li changing her appearance in order for Whips to truly get any freedom. And Li always retained final control. But not today. Whips approached the guardhouse, modeled much like the last one, and saw two guards standing by their posts at the front. Iotrans, just like the last three. She darted into the shadows, taking cover behind a statue of Pendragon in swirling, large robes. "How come he ain't released the cannibals yet?" one Iotran asked. "He usually cuts 'em loose by now." "He wanted to change the schedule up tonight," the other answered. "I HATE it when he does that. It's bad enough he never gives any warning. Last time we did this I didn't see one of those mutilated freaks until they were within striking distance. Just barely managed to stab it..." "Tell me about it. Last year, me and a buddy of mine were set to patrol the fountains down in the center of this place. Those drugged up nasties had made a nest in one of the alcoves. My buddy gets snatched and torn apart. They were so dug in it took me and a couple of others with flamethrowers to drive 'em out. Still can't get the smell out of my nostrils. "You hear about who they got down here this time? Some sort of Dark Jedi. Lash caught her with a lightsaber and everything." The first Iotran peered at the second. "Serious?" "Like an earthquake. Why you think we stopped getting check ins from post zero?" "How are we supposed to stop a Dark Jedi?" "The bowmen will get her...eventually." "But what about us?!" "You signed the dotted line. You knew the risks." "This is some shavit..." Li was about to move from cover, the guardhouse was surrounded by a wall of stone brick, one and a half times taller than Li. The brick work was rough and primitive however, allowing for plenty of places to grab and climb...but then her keen eyes picked up a shimmer in the air next to the guards. Man sized. Faint, but there. It was a stealth field. Li had seen them used before, had even learned how to work one, but never owned one. She would have to be extra careful. Pendragon had shelled out for high quality units...it had been sheer luck she had spotted it. The cheap ones light bending field shimmered more. Whips moved from cover, keeping to the shadows outside the guardhouse perimeter, slowly, quietly. She got close to the wall and began to quietly climb it, and in seconds she had reached the top, pulling out her Trench knife, her dark outfit blending her in with the darkness above from the cavern. Her trench knife came out, and Whips floated it telekinetically with an evil grin, aiming the knife at the shimmer. Exerting the max amount of speed possible she sent the knife at the shimmer. She smirked as the knife stopped. She heard a gurgle as the man's stealth field failed and he collapsed, causing the guard's to head over, to try and help. The knife had gone through chainmail, impacting the midsection, buried deep. Whips then sent a bolt of electricity a piece at both of them, feeling the painful sting and burn on her hand as she leapt down, removing her cudgel why the guards were stunned, their muscles having seized up, forcing them still even as they began to tumble, her cudgel reaching their unprotected face, with two swift, heavy whacks. They fell down dead. Whips grinned, enamored with her own brutality. She plucked the keys off one guard, retrieved her knife and opened the front door with the keys to its lock Inside, she noticed it was quite different, having an expensive looking red carpeting, faceted statues of Muun's made of marble, and in the center of the place lay a simple table, holding her bow and arrows. Whips was no fool, anymore than Li was. She approached cautiously, looking for anything that did not belong. She moved forward, slowly. She had been just about to take a step when she noticed a seam, faint but there in the carpet. Two seams actually. On that ran horizontal and the other vertical, all the way to the table at the center. Li took out her cudgel, tapping the seamed floor. The floor ahead collapsed, revealing a bed of sharp, jagged spikes. And then Pendragon's voice spoke up. "Well, done, disciple of Morgana. I would have been disappointed if you hadn't noticed that. Still, though, you are along fairly early. No reason to get truly excited about you just yet." Assuming he could here her, Whips huffed in annoyance. "Really Penny? A bed of spikes? How...horror film. All that money, you'd think you'd come up with something original. This is pedestrian. No wonder you are so bored." "I am going to mount that tongue of yours on my wall," he snapped. Whips ignored his threat, instead focusing the Force to retrieve her weapons, lifting them from the table telekinetically, floating both bow and filled quiver to her direction, over the bed of spikes. "My father first discovered this cavern, supported by natural pillars, when I was but a boy. He instantly had dreams of a private, hidden sanctum, though his tastes were far different from my own. He wanted to make a this cavern resemble the images he saw in his mind, wonderful floral patterns, an entire cavern as a piece of art." "Sounds like a guy with a better plan than yours," she taunted as she grasped them, slinging the quiver around her back. "My father lacked vision is all. I made sure to rid myself of most of it once he was gone. Those marble statues you see are among the last signs of his influence. I saw this place for what it was, a nice, isolated place for my...delights." Whips heard nothing more from him but was not dissuaded. She had to get her slugthrower next but that was deeper in the complex. She turned and headed back out. *** In the Sun Room, one of the guests, a male Bothan, was still annointing himself in the blood from the slain slave next to him. "I must say, Pendragon, your Dark Jedi certainly is getting through the early parts quicker than most do. She even spotted the bowmen that killed the last one...AND she is taking the piss out of you--" Pendragon turned around, walked over to the guest, smiled, and snapped his neck. The other guests cheered, not even drunk. Pendragon chuckled, bidding his slave to come over and drip more wax on his feet. "First impudent prick of the night. Ladies, gentleman, you know what to do." The guests scrambled up with scalpals Lash had passed out while Whips had been making her way to the second guardhouse and immediately began slicing and cutting into the dead Bothan, for no other purpose than a rush and to collect a souvenir. They were prepared to do this to each other also, in the event Pendragon decided one of them was to die for angering him. Pendragon looked at Lash. "Triple the patrol in the central sector, and prepare for the release of the cannibals. I want her hearded in. And in case the cannibals do not succeed, I want you down there to finish her off. She has insulted me for the last time. But do try and give a good show of it when you do. Nothing boring, okay?" Lash smiled wickedly. "As you wish, milord Pendragon." The purple Twi'lek walked out of the chamber, heels clicking as she walked past a guest caressing a lump of Bothan flesh.
  5. Li listened to Pendragon's proclimations, watching the golden sphere at the top of the stone tower. The Pilot had warned him of Pendragon's penchant for using cannibals, so if she did well it probably wouldn't be long before he resorted to using them. Li began looking around for her cudgel, smiling as she spotted it. "Okay, Penny, let's see what this hell hole has that's got everyone so scared," she muttered. Li instantly crouched in the shadows, listening as she heard footsteps, spotting what looked like an guard in purple silk clothing with a basic durasteel armor and helm, armed with a simple, double edged longsword with a hand and a half hilt, the pommel a red orb of transparisteel. He had obviously been sent to intercept, test whether or not she could be killed on the spot. She hugged her place in the shadows on the wall, watching as he ventured to the seat where she had been deposited, and she advanced behind him, utterly silent, moving with her clothing and placing her feet evenly on the rough ground to reduce noise. Her cudgel was primed for a strike, and his back was to her. She targeted the back of his head, whose neck was protected only by chainmail. She swung her cudgel, smiling as she heard a sickening crack that signified a broken neck. The guard crumpled face forward, dead, sword tumbling out of his hand and clattering to the ground. She ignored the sword, it was too heavy a blade for her liking. Besides, the rest of her weapons were down here...or so Pendragon claimed. Li would kill every single person here if she had to. She didn't care. Pendragon would die. His secrets would be Morgana's...but they would be hers first. Li decided she needed to leave the starting area, get a better idea of what she was dealing with. She took a few steps forward out of the darkened alley. She saw a street lined with torches, but a few good shadows to hide in. Pendragon had used a natural underground cavern...she could see gigantic support pillars by the stone tower, where Pendragon was getting a good view of this. He had to have spent millions for all this. How did he hide where the money went, she wondered. Lawyers? Good ones? Beneath that tower was a grid of small buildings, not going above four stories, and watchtowers lit with torches. Almost a microcity. They had not been kidding when they said it was a primitive military fortunes. She still didn't understand what Pendragon got out of this. He must be so rich he was bored out of his skull. No challenge in his life. Li felt a stab of realization as she realized this might be, in a way, a foreshadowing of her own fate if she succeeded. Settled down into nice and quiet routine...and with these new powers, these new skills having virtually no purpose beyond keeping a roof over her head. Where was the fun in that? Where was the point? Li had hated being a punching bag on Tattooine. She had watched Morgana do virtually nothing with her power save hunt a man likely no one cared about. She was here, alive, seeing more action, more adventure, than she had ever seen. Even killing the war party that had murdered her parents wasn't exhilarating, just a hatred driven chore that was complicated by hot suns and dry sand. This...this was special. If there was anything she would ever be greatful to Morgana for, (even though she would never admit it outloud) it would be giving her the chance to experience true adventure, put her skills to the test. And test the power of the Dark Side. Li ventured into the street, bolting quickly into the shadows as a pair of guards came with torches. They peered around suspiciously, having obviously heard her dispatch the runner-up. They drew their swords and stepped forward slowly, while Li hid behind a pillar with polygonal shapes painted onto its surface. She decided to test that bit of wisdom the beast had chosen to bestow upon her. She reached out, stretching her perceptions, focusing on her hatred and rage as that creature had advised, placing her faith in the Dark Side without hesitation, feeling a giddy sensation when she felt it swim up her spine. It was intoxicating. She let more of it into her, letting it fill the recesses of her mind as she tried to seize control of one of the guard's minds, trying to dig around for his fears. He struggled, shaking his head. She surged forth with more hatred, drawing more from the Dark Side to give her the strength to keep reaching. He struggled further, trying to fight, and she drew on the Dark Side more, instinctively understanding the beasts advice. She was enjoying herself anyway, so why not? She dug even deeper, The Darkness readily aiding her in her task, since she was giving herself so freely to it. She finally found it...the guards fear. He feared insects. So she brought that fear up brutally, dragging it up to the surface until it was all he could think about, the very idea of them crawling all over him too much for him to bear, until, to her delight, he started to shriek, scratching madly at himself. When his friend turned, asking what was wrong she moved from the cover of her pillar, concentrating on a different application of the Darkness she had discovered by pure accident, and had since tested a few times to be certain of its effectiveness. With a snarl of hate, a bolt of electricity leaped from her hand and impacted against his chest. He stiffened, muscles locking him in place as she rushed forward bringing the cudgel down on his face, smashing it with a wet but satisfying crack to Li's ears. The bloodthirst had entered her, as it had on Tattooine, except the Dark Side was amplifying it's effects. Making it take over, driving the sane part of her away...at least for now. Li's eyes fluttered in her head for a second. And then the part of her the thugs had given a name to, the part that Li had ignored with Kev's help, came out. Whips smirked, striding confidantly over to the still screaming guard, putting a boot on his throat to make him stop. That thing the thug on Castell had seen in Li's eyes was out in full force and the mother of Kev was...somewhere else. "Maybe if you stop shrieking long enough, you might be able to direct me to the rest of my weapons," Whips said gloatingly, delighted as she watched him shake and shiver. It was only appropriate. "Make it stop!" He begged, out of his mind with fear. "Of course," she lied. "Where are my weapons?" "T...They're scattered. Put into seperate guard buildings. Don't...know where which weapon was...p-p-placed in which." "Good boy," she replied coldly, bringing her foot down harder and breaking his neck. She savored feeling his death, his agony...and was pleasantly invigorated, if only for a second. Whips looked around wondering which guard building she should go to first. She made a note to refine her technique for future interrogations...she needed to get more info out of the next guard...and she wanted to make the suffering last longer. Whips swooned, the bloodthirst beginning to wane. The bloodlust she was composed of. She could have maintained herself longer had she her mask, which served as a focus, a truth Li had subconsciously realized...and perhaps for that very reason had forgotten to take it with her. She thought about focusing on the Dark Side more to maintain this new state, free of whatever token morals her old self maintained but drawing on it so readily, so greedily, had been exhausting. So for now, the bloodlust that had been amplified and finally given persona by Li crossing this threshold thanks to the Dark Side, retreated, letting a corrupted but still sane mother wanting to see her son again reassert itself, hiding behind whitewolf's sulphur eyes, knowing Li would drawn on that threshold again...and then the bloodlust would take hold. And it would be harder to shake off next time. Li blinked, knowing that suddenly she had felt like she did when wearing her mask...except it had taken only the Dark Side to conjure that state of mind that was wanton and murderous. She had felt only cold...but a pleasurable cold, one she wasn't sure she wanted to be free of. At the same time, the realization just using the Dark Side could bring her to that state, without the mask...and no longer quite in control of her actions at that...frightened her. She needed some semblance of control if she was going to care for Kev. The mask was a safety valve. A way for her to be someone else without placing her son in danger. Li, deeply troubled by this revelation, ventured back into the shadows a tad more hesitantly. The bloodlust hiding behind her eyes and keeping quiet. For now. *** The Mute looked at Morgana as though she were insane. He had barely survived getting jumped by five guys, and now she expected him to jump onto a shuttle? He was injured. And how had she made it here without getting spotted? She should do it if she was that stealthy! The gunfire resumed, tearing through the walls of the apartment building they were in, forcing him to hit the ground, gesturing for her to do so. He had no idea how to take that thing out, especially as it had a lock on where they were, and would no doubt be sending reinforcements armed to the teeth in here after it stopped shooting. He gestured for Morgana to find a hiding spot as he crawled into a torn open apartment, six more devils entering from the staircase below, armed with flamethrowers, which they immediately started spraying above them, hoping to draw their prey out. *** Li moved through the streets in the shadows, still unsure about how she felt about what she had just experienced. She was under no illusions that the part of her that came out when the mask came on was dangerous to every living thing around her. But the feeling of euphoria the Dark Side had given her was so incredible...she wanted to taste it again, even if it meant risking the mask state, which deeply frightened her. It influenced her actions and thoughts enough as it was, but she had always been able to shut it off before. Always... But what if she could not? Worse...what if she didn't want to? How could she be a mother then? As she spied a rectangular, temple like structure surrounded by a rock garden in the distance. It was simple brickwork with narrow windows, patroled by three guards with torches. She looked, no real way to sneak through. She would either have to cause a distraction or... Tap the Dark Side again. Doubt, for the first time in a long time, entered Li's mind. Li decided she needed to use it. This was a dangerous situation. Very dangerous. The creature had warned her that she needed to, for her own purposes obviously, but still the truth. Li dug greedily into the Dark Side again, but digging into her own reserves out of instinct, bubbling up her hatred, her rage, her terror and uncertainty, and used that to stretch out her hand, finally getting an insight into how a certain power she had tried to refine on Castell worked. One of the guards began clutching his throat, he struggled but she focused harder, to distracted with her task to notice the bloodlust had begun to seep into every pore of her mind, tinging her vision red. She was awkward with it, and the guard still struggled, but he was clutching his throat, having genuine trouble breathing as he was sent to his knees, struggling stand, forcing a shout out between Li's unsteady grip, and getting the guards to come over. Li snarled with rage, and with great effort, and the aid of the Darkness, broke it. Li collapsed to her knees from weariness...but it was Whips who rose with a cold smirk, empowered by her rage, using it on instinct to infuse her muscles, her whole body with the Dark Side, allowing her to charge forward with a savage yell at great speed, taking the remaining two guards by surprise, as they readied the swords, but Whips' instinct-driven use of Force Rage allowed her to cross the distance from her hiding place to the court yard in two and a half seconds, swiping aside a sword blow with her cudgel thanks to now improved reflexes, kicking the guard so hard in the stomach he was flung backward into a wall. The last guard made stab for her torso, but Whips spun around, seizing his sword arm and lifting him by the neck with a snarl of hatred and chucked him face first into the wall with his friend. Whips swooned, the rage fading from her body, but she had loved the feeling, the mere use of it having given more definition to her own nature, and making her take root much more quickly in Li's mind. She strode over, weary, and tired, but now much more in control. One guard was struggling back up when he was hit by a bolt of electricity, sending him to the ground with a shriek. Whips felt his suffering, drinking it in, feeling the Dark Side repair her body and give it new energy somewhat. She delicately placed a boot on his hand, snapping all his fingers. He shrieked, only for his shriek to be cut off by Whips giving him that same unsteady Force Choke. They were all the same aliens in control of the mansion estates. Whips needed the fuel to keep going, stay in control longer. The less Li had a say, the better. She had hated being stifled. All to have some boring, normal life. Which would have led her back to her being a doormat for the whole galaxy. She crushed his fingers some more, and choked off his air supply with the Force, squeezing his trachea a bit too hard until she accidentally snapped his neck. "Oh, drat. Gonna have to work on the pressure," Whips remarked cruelly, not sorry in the least. She went to the other Iotran. "Lets see what entertainment your friend will provide..." *** A few minutes later, the Iotran had cracked after she had busted his knees with her cudgel. Li's knife was in there, Whips had gone to get it after breaking his jaw. She had then proceeded to use that knife to slowly kill him, scalping him first, every ounce of suffering feeding the dark side, mending the wounds on her skin, feeding the innate cruelty and contempt for life this persona was composed of, a malignance that had silently taken root after that desert monster had first invaded Li's mind, a little, tiny bit of the fiend imprinting, little more than a seed, looking for the right water to grow and become terrible in its own right. It had received that water finally, a being of pure cruelty sprouting to existence when its foolish host had unwisely tapped too hard, too far, too fast. Whips had gotten more information out of this one, in the end. She now knew which weapons had been taken to which guard house. She would go and get them. And then she would make Pendragon suffer and bleed. She was infused enough with suffering that she didn't feel Li coming back anytime soon. In any case, she could now maintain a hateful and cruel state with little effort. She gripped the Dark Side firmly in her mind, rooting it there, accepting it without reservation, as the witch had advised Li. She forced it into her bones, drinking its power. She needed more. Thirsted for more so she could remain in control, so Li couldn't bubble up at the last second and ruin it all. Whips headed down the elaborate, twisting road, keeping to the darkness...keeping an eye out for more guards, knowing Pendragon was bound to try something soon.
  6. Character Skills and Abilities Force Powers Enhancement Force Dash Force Body Restoration Force Invigorate Protection ~ Astral Force Sense Telepathy Perception ~ Psychokinesis Telekinesis: Intermediate Force Wound ⇉ Force Choke Force Push Environment Drain Life Force Shock Skills Melee Weapons Novice Blade Weapons Throw Proficiency Lightsaber Novice Single Saber Novice Lightwhip Form I: Novice Shii-Cho Survival and Stealth Novice Survival Novice Stealth ⇉ Intermediate Stealth ⇉ Expert Stealth
  7. Skills, Abilities and Talents: Li forced herself to become an expert at changing her appearance and moving through shadows undetected, sneaking up on people and ending them before she can be ended. Since her introduction to the Dark Side, Li has shown a steadily growing natural connection to it, as well as a basic understanding of torture. Talented lock pick enthusiast. Also has some experience with torture. Biography: Li was once the average child of two moisture farmers. Her father was a poacher of Sand People banthas, as he figured they had no right to complain when all they did was kill everyone they met. He implanted the maxim she would live by for the rest of her life: do whatever it takes to take care of yourself and kin, even if it screws over someone else. When she was sixteen however, the sand people, having finally tracked down her father after a mistake on her part led them right to their home they laid waste to the farm, brutally murdering her parents while she hid in a safe room. She chased after them in a brutal trial across the desert, eventually killing the entire war party of fifteen men through stealth and ambushes. She then went back to the remains of her home, rebuilt it and then spent the next few years of her life quietly going insane from guilt and isolation, losing her grip on reality and how to relate to other people. However a path out of her self imposed hell presented itself when one day, hunting wild dewbacks she decided she would adopt a child after watching a bantha care for its young. She named the baby she took Kev, and raising him began to lift her from her descent into madness, finding some semblance of humanity as she doted on him. But ominous portents heralded her future. A few years before she was forced to leave Tattooine She and her son experienced a run in with the Dark Side in the form of a shapeshifter dubbed Ryleya the Geo Witch, who kidnapped them both, with the intent of making Kev her slave and draining Li of her life and knowledge to assume her identity. Kev interrupted just as she was getting started and resisted a mental attack of the witch, beating her to the floor with a stun baton, buying enough time for Li to revive and murderously stab the Shi'ido while she was set on fire. Believing she and her son had killed the creature, she and her son went home but the damage was done, as the mental attack had given Li some unconscious inkling and connection to the Dark Side. Eventually local thugs ruined her home life when they began harassing her for protection money. But Li, having lived by her father's wisdom, refused to capitulate, resulting in one of the thugs burning her home to the ground, and nearly killing her and her son in the process. Li snapped from the pressure, tracking the thugs down and torturing him to death by whipping him with a piece of rope, causing her to acquire her nickname. She escalated the situation when she then murdered the local crime boss and friend of the thug, when he tried to detain her. Encountering the Dark Jedi Morgana on Castell, who discovered her after she killed two drug pushers to obtain a small fortune, and offered to train her, which she accepted. Morgana got on her death list however when she threatened to kill her son during a training session. Li is now plotting to murder Morgana horribly after obtaining every bit of knowledge Morgana has.
  8. Name: Whips (Real name Li Whitewolf) Gender: female Species: Human Force Rank: Novice Date of Birth: 3660 BBY, 29 years old. Appearance: A beautiful, fair skinned blond with short cut hair, yet possesses a feral air about her...has icy blue eyes and is lean and wry. Personality: Li was once a shy and withdrawn, quiet person but that was because she had no interest beyond survival and caring for her adopted son. Now that she is studying the Dark Side she has embraced a long hidden thirst for violence is best described as completely amoral, flirting with sadism and cruelty and will think nothing of hurting those actively standing in her way. The one way she clings to humanity and sanity from years of isolation and survival in the desert is her adopted son Kev...he is the only person in the world Li genuinely loves after her parents passing at age sixteen. Fascinated by masks, and enjoys pain. Li operates on a near constant survival basis, much like an animal, and does not understand the purpose society or civilization serves. Other people are merely obstacles or boons to that goal. If something will facilitate her survival she will consider attempting it. She can become easily infuriated and often does not think of the consequences to her actions, and has a terrible understanding of "fancy" words, though she is a quick study and keen to perceive the truth about someone, and will often feign ignorance so it may not be as easy to take advantage of her as it may first seem. That being said, she DID spend most of her life as a moisture farmer. Many things in the galaxy she has no context for are present.
  9. Li snuck through the rocky pathway leading to the greenhouse in the back of the estate, and it wasn't long before she spotted another guard doing his rounds by a locked gate that led to the back. There was a flashlight on the rifle he was carrying. Li had to move quickly. She still had her cudgel in hand as she approached, ducking behind a tree planted in the pathway on the side as the light came her way. It came closer and she tensed, waiting for it to pass by her. The Iotran walked by the tree and the cudgel slammed into the side of his head, and he fell forward, Li catching his blaster rifle, having seized his fingers as the cudgel had made contact so he wouldn't squeeze the trigger reflexively. She dragged the body behind the tree, stripped him of his blaster clips, and his key card, which was labeled for the Green house area, the yard outside and maintenance shed inside. The security guys were smart. They compartmentalized so no one card could get you into more than the area they were meant to be relevant to. Li went over to the gate and used the keycard to open it quietly shutting it after swiping the card over the reader next to it. She headed down the rest of a graveled path, bushes on her side, more of those red lampposts guiding her way. She saw two guards armed with flashlight heading her way. "How is wealth--fortune--measured?" Pendragon's voice over the loud speakers asked suddenly, startling her. "Is it the size of one's house? The number of outfits in one's wardrobe? The number of vehicles in one's garage? The amount of food in one's storage unit? No, no, no, and no," he asserted. "Though my Muun...'brethren'...would disagree surely. Real wealth...real success...I long ago learned when I was...away to study...to learn...things...that true fortune requires different merits of measurement. Namely, the first measurement, is how jealous you can make others...how much you can get away with through sheer shameless audacity...the level to which you are both able and willing to impose yourself upon others and inconvenience them and get away with it, without ever having to make amends or redress...that, my friends...that is true wealth...if you can do that, the speeders, the food, the homes, the whores...those will all fall into place in time, like they did with me. If only a very specific rival of mine had remembered this rule, she might not be quite so wanting in her goals...I can't begin to tell you the number of times she was humiliated...first by her parents, then by her instructor and finally by a deranged psychopath that caused her sister to jump off a gorram building...and that isn't even counting all the times I got to humiliate her. Oh, she hated me so! It was adorable actually...when she wasn't proudly and loudly proclaiming her background and using her sob story like the attention whore she was..." Li snickered slightly as she heard all this while making her way up the steps to a transparisteel section of the mansion shaped like a bubble. She couldn't see too well as to what was inside. She swiped the reader with her keycard and an automatic door slid open quietly with a hiss. She was inside. Now to find Morgana's little prize, off Pendragon somehow and escape, in that order. Li gasped. The greenhouse was lined with exotic looking plants she had never seen before, arranged on pedestals and with custom fountains that were silent at the moment, polygon shaped and in various sizes with a faceted look to them. The plants rested on stone nests that spiraled up to the top of the greenhouse, supported by metal lining the transparisteel structure. Pendragon in the meantime, continued speaking, this time over a house P.A. System. "Some, upon witnessing the delights I and my associates engage in while throwing these little shindigs say I am an evil man. Obviously, I disagree, but not for the reasons some would suspect. It is not because I think everyone would act the way I do if given the chance...why, if the other Muun's knew what goes on here they'd have me killed for making the race look bad. No, the reason I say I'm not an evil man is because I think evil is merely a perception, a meme enforced by others. If I don't view myself as evil, merely a man not constrained by frustratingly dull society and simply exploring sensation to it's maximum...why...I'm perfectly innocent..." Li, for reasons she didn't quite understand, found his rhetoric seductive, even though she knew it was ultimately self serving. Li never bothered with excuses, herself. She made her way through the rows of strange plants and finally, after a few twists and turns, found the exit, swiping the reader next to the door... ...and was greeted by a few dozen Iotran guards pointing blaster rifles at her. The lights came on and Li heard a snap hiss behind her as a purple skinned Twilek woman wearing a white Leotard and durasteel high heels with a noticeably muscular frame came out from behind, her lightwhip dragging it's blade on the ground behind her. "Welcome," she said with a silken tone and a smirk. "Welcome to Pendragon's home, Dark Jedi." Li's lightsaber was out instantly, but a flick of Lash's weapon ensnared her blade and ripped it from her hands into Lash's waiting palm. "You're just in time for the festivities," Lash said with a wicked laugh, giving a hand signal to one Iotran, who fired a stun bolt at Li, knocking her out cold. "Prepare her for entry into the Stronghold, but bring her to Pendragon's chambers first. He wanted to speak to her personally," Lash ordered the Iotrans. *** Li was splashed awake by a bucket of water. She looked around, tried to move and realized she was trapped in a seat with built in restraints in some sort of lavish bedchamber colored in scarlet and with gold sheets on the bed, which was circular. There was an oil portrait of Morgana cradling a bloodied woman with clearly broken bones, whom Li guessed to be Patricia. Morgana clearly looked pained and whoever had created the oil painting had gone to great pains to imagine the would be Sith's suffering, which made Li smile in malicious amusement. She found herself wishing Morgana had another sister, so she could kill her right in front of her teacher, though such an act would almost certainly mean her death. "Do you like it?" called out Pendragon's voice. "Morgana's nose is a little big but otherwise...spot on..." "I knew you served Morgana," his voice called out. Li craned her head and saw Lash next to her holding a bucket. She saw an area in the chamber concealed by a crimson sheer. She could barely make out a tall figure in a taller chair. "This one is hardly worth killing, Pendragon," Lash opined. "She barely knows how to work a lightsaber..." "You shouldn't always judge a Darksider by their ability to work a blade, Lash...especially considering how your own weapon is hardly without weakness..." Pendragon replied. "Some...have other talents." "So tell me, Penny, what kind of a name is Pendragon anyway?" Li snarked. "I know of Krayt Dragons...never heard of no Pen Dragon." "My father's legacy," Pendragon answered. "Our original name was boring, so he changed it. Got it from a book, some story about a peasant pulling a songsteel sword from a stone..." "Oh, no, tell me you're one of those pretentious artsy types that go by only one name, Penny... Li grumbled, only to be punched in the face by Lash. Li split some blood out. "You'll have to pardon Lash, she has a thinner skin than I do...it serves her well, but can be irksome at times, especially when I'm trying to have a conversation," Pendragon said from behind the veil, his features still obscured. "You should take that as a hint, headtails," Li snarked at Lash, who punched her again. "I don't like this, Pendragon," Lash snarled. "I was always taught to immediately kill the one's who aren't scared..." "You should be scared," was all Li said. "Feisty little one," Pendragon chuckled. "Amusing...I always get so annoyed by the one's who start immediately blubbering in fear." "Morgana was kinda glib about you...do you deliberately do this to everyone you catch, try and act all mysterious and shavit when you're just a spoiled little rich schutta with way too much time and money? You'd think you'd do something constructive, Penny," Li turned to Lash. "So, are you and him having sex, or something?" Lash snarled and gave her another blow to the jaw. Li chuckled again. "You like pain, schutta?!" Lash snapped. "What's the matter, don't you?" Li asked. "Got a few ways to draw some screams from you if you're game..." she added suggestively, though in truth she was just trying to screw with the Twilek's head. "She'll do splendidly in The Stronghold," Pendragon said. "Has everything been prepped? My guests grow impatient in the Sun Room." "The Stronghold is ready, Pendragon. I doubt she'll last long," Lash said in derision. "What's this about a Stronghold?" Li asked. "Tell me, Darksider, would you like to walk away from all this alive?" "What are you talking about? I 'am' going to walk away from this." "I like your confidence. Let's see if it's well placed," Pendragon said. "For the record, Penny, you're going to die screaming along with your...girlfriend? I'm sorry, I'm not clear exactly what's going on between you two. Why...why is she wearing that white leotard?" Li asked, looking Lash up and down. "I'll admit, she's got the body for it, but the high heels...not a good combo. It makes you look...easy..." "Let me kill her, Pendragon. Pretty please?" Lash growled. "I admit, your thighs are superb though...you do leg lifts a lot? Does Penny help?" Li asked in a mockingly sweet tone. "Motherkriffer--" Lash snarled, going for her lightwhip... "Lash..." Pendragon said calmly, but there was an unmistakeable undercurrent of warning in the way he said her name. Lash's grimace only grew when Li made a whip cracking sound with her mouth. "That's right, Penny, keep your dog on a leash when she's in heat," Li snarked. "Do you spank her?" "We're getting off track," Pendragon said quickly, knowing it was taking Lash all she had to keep from killing the arrogant Dark Jedi on the spot. "The Stronghold will kill her if she's weak." "Did you make purple slut here run the gauntlet before you let her...work for you?" Li asked, her voice dripping with insinuation. "SCHUTTA!" Lash shrieked, punching her in the face. Li laughed. "Enough, Lash," Pendragon said with naked command. "So what's this 'Stronghold'?" Li asked. "Is it where headtails here got her leotard?" Lash glared at her when she said this. "The Stronghold is an artificial environment that mimics elements of ancient cities and castles. I spent years putting it together," Pendragon explained. "The Premise is simple enough...I dump people like you who breach my home inside and me and my guests watch you die horribly. "In all the years I've run it, no one has ever escaped. I'm a sport though...no advanced weapons or scanners are giving to the guards to hunt you, just their senses and thoroughbred Kath Hounds. Nothing but ancient weapons, the bow, the sword, the mace--" "You, sir, are kinky," Li said with a grin. "However, I have given the bowmen some stealth field equipment...no need to make it completely even." "And what if I manage to make it through all this?" Li asked. "You go free of course. The exit is at the far end of the stronghold. But no one has ever escaped. No one." "Probably because you cheat. You know, you disappoint me," Li snickered. "I come here expecting some wicked sorcerer in a sinister mountain retreat. Well, you got the mountain retreat down, but as for you? All I see is a spoiled little rich boy who doesn't know what to do with himself, hiding in his own little world because he doesn't know how to function out side it. Maybe Morgana didn't want to deal with you because you ain't worth facing in person, Penny..." Li felt her throat constrict suddenly. She couldn't breath and her vision went red around the edges. "I am more than a match for Brillante. I am her superior," Pendragon stated, a hint of genuine anger entering his voice for the first time. He let go and Li gasped in sweet air. "You're Morgana's type of student...ignorant and feral and easily manipulated to her limited whims. I see why she chose you..." "Do you ever do anything useful with your wealth?" Li asked, undeterred. "I can think of literally a thousand things more useful to do with my money than investing in this stuff. Worse, you're too impersonal...I do my dirt up close..." Li said, looking right at a furious Lash as she said it. "More fun that way. You ever take your time with that whip? I have with mine. Adrenaline rush like you wouldn't believe..." "Pendragon, let's just kill her right now. I got a bad feeling about this. She isn't like the others..." Lash was given pause as Li flicked her tongue at the Twilek. "We are killing her, my dear," Pendragon said. "Well, it would have been nice to have a productive chat, but as is so typical of Morgana she chose an uneducated hooligan." "What the kriff is a hooligan? Does everybody on this stupid ice world use fancy words?" Li asked. "Here, I got a fancy word: cacophony. Used in a sentence? I'm gonna cause such a cacophony in this schutta you're gonna have to deal with me personally, after I take my time with your slut here," Li said, who was punched in the face yet again by Lash. Li spit out more blood. "Charming," Pendragon muttered. "I suppose I should have you marched to the Stronghold before Lash gets any more blood on my carpet. Off with her." A panel opened up from the wall behind Li, and two halves of a capsule were rolled onto a track system under Li's feet, closing around her chair and sealing. "This is some spy movie shavit, I love this! Great idea, Penny!" Li called out from the darkness of her capsule as her capsule lowered through the floor. Lash turned to Pendragon. "Orders?" "Leave the cudgel we found on her at the starting point...I do not wish her completely unarmed. It's not sporting. And prepare for my entry in the Sun Room." "As you wish...though I strongly protest this course of action. She's different...can't you feel it?" "I admit...it's not like Morgana to pick someone with such an openly hostile nature...I'm not all that certain Morgana realized what she was training until she was committed," Pendragon confessed. "But regardless, she won't make it to the exit. No one ever does, and even if they did, they'd be immediately killed by my guards." Lash smiled. "You always think ahead, Boss." "Thank you, Lash." *** The Sun room was a gigantic, circular golden chamber, lined in gold filigree, and the main light came from a gigantic globe of a sun with a cheerful though somewhat rustic smile, done in the old Pius Dea era style of faceted polygonal crystal that gently turned in place, showering golden light on the inhabitants of the chamber, who reclined upon gigantic cushions. Most of them, women or men, human or alien, were clad in sheer silk, human and Twilek slaves feeding them grapes. One of the guests, a male Togrutan, held up goblet of wine, clearly sloshed. "Pendragon, old chum, where are you? When's this game of yours start?" "Oh be patient, Huru, you know how Pendragon like's his entrances," said a Rodian woman. "I just hope it's not like last year. One can watch only so many young men be boiled in feces before the rush wears off. The novelty of it wore off after the third one, to be truthful. It was VERY amusing the first time though..." "It was most stimulating when he opened that pregnant Lurmen up though..." said a female Rodian, downing another goblet of wine a slave poured. The large Turbolift doors opened at the end of the chamber and out stepped Lash, her durasteel heels clicking on golden marble. "Ladies, Gentlemen, I present to you...Pendragon!" she said, giving an introductory wave to the veiled chair carried by weak humans with obvious leprosy sores. They carried it on their shoulders, as it was mounted to special bar rests, which they set down with great effort, all groaning in pain. They waited, and Lash cackled as her lightwhip came out, slicing through their diseased flesh and killing the screaming, cowering slaves where they stood., to the roaring applause of half naked guests. "Finally, some action!" Huru exclaimed enthusiastically. "The best is yet to come..." Pendragon trailed, coming out from behind the veil of his special chair at last... He was tall, like most Muun's with a sickly, greasy sheen of sweat and pungent oil across his whole body, clad in only a metal speedo. His brow possessed patterned knife scars, rings piercing his lips and the flesh underneath his nipples. Images of leprosy sores and needles were tattooed across his chest and when he smiled, there were a few teeth missing on the bottom row, having been knocked out by his Sith Master out of sheer disgust and horror at the abyss that was his depravity upon discovering it. Pendragon had barely escaped with his life that day. His neck still bore the scars from when the old Bith had tried to open his trachea. His fingernails were overly long and painted strawberry pink. At the center of his sternum was an image of a Sun, smiling. "My friends," he said warmly, gesturing his arms as though he were embracing all of them. "Welcome once again to my true face." The walls around them, in actuality high definition viewing screens, flickered from their default color, showing a capsule being lowered from a transparisteel tube system and setting down on a target painted on the ground in an artificial alleyway. "This year, I have some entertainment different from the usual thieves and killers I've dumped into the Stronghold in the past. I have found for your amusement a Dark Jedi." The Guests perked up at this. One Rodian just poured wine on his chest and moaned suggestively. Pendragon stared at this. "Well, at least we're all in a good mood," he joked, gritting his teeth as a female, brown haired and pale skinned slave poured a drop of hot candle wax on his feet. "Yeah...keep doing that...you stop I'll kill you..." "Pendragon is definitely in a good mood...he usually doesn't start with the candle wax..." a gray haired male Bothan noted. "I take it the strangulation will take place shortly?" "Patience, Volso, Patience. Coruscant wasn't built in a day. Besides this is a special occasion. This fool is a student of my oldest rival, Morgana," Pendragon explained. "As you know, Morgana was the primary reason my Master refused to continue my training as a Sith. She discovered my...heh heh...proclivities. No one was more surprised than my master when he discovered he could still be repulsed by another's acts. It's my belief that when he discovered what I did for kicks it actually caused him to rethink his entire life for the briefest of moments...which probably contributed to the beating I received..." the Muun chuckled. "Maybe that's part of the reason Morgana hates me so...maybe she doubted just a little herself..." "Tell me you're going to release the cannibals, Pendragon," Huru called out. "It was so funny last year, watching all the men you stationed down there die..." "My dear Huru, I'm gonna release every kriffing cannibal I have in stock...when the time is right..." Pendragon laughed playfully. "Now WHERE! IS! MY! COMLINK!" he shouted suddenly, ending the shriek with a girlish laugh. Lash handed him on and he stiffened, eyes rolling in his head as a slave poured more hot candle wax on his feet. "Testing...testing..." he called out, eyes still rolling upward in his head. "Darksider? Can you hear me?" On the screens in the Sun Room, the capsule holding Li popped open by remote. The restraints on the chair released and she was out. "If you look on the ground, you'll find that my men have deposited your cudgel for you. Your other weapons are down there of course, but it's up to you to discover their location. Except for your lightsaber of course, which remains with my lovely assistant, Lash...can't let it be too easy for you now can we?" he asked, bemused by his query. "You should be seeing a great tower of stone and brick about four blocks away, with a great golden sphere atop it connected to the stone cavern above. That is where I am currently. If you can make it to the top of my tower, I'll let you go free. You can go crawling back to your master. Perhaps she'll kill you for your failure. Funny thing is I'm not even sure what you were here for originally, but at this point...who cares?! Let's go insane!" he cackled. "The only thing standing between you are approximately a hundred and fifty guards, Kath Hounds and...other surprises..." he laughed. "Try not to die too quickly...now if you don't mind, me and the others have to start the festivities...Ta!" Pendragon turned to his other guests. The light from the globe above dimmed. "We all know this next bit..." Pendragon announced. "Everyone except the slave's of course..." One of the slaves noticed the guests palming daggers. The slaves started to back away... "The festivities commence...NOW!" Pendragon shouted. The guests leapt up, some with knives, others with machetes, and immediately begin to murder the screaming slaves. Pendragon smiled as some of the blood splashed across his face and he looked down and saw the slave beneath him trembling as she poured more wax on his feet. "Oh no...you're fine, trust me," Pendragon assured her. "Just as long you don't. Stop. Pouring." The slave trembled but nodded her head and continued dripping hot wax on his feet, drop by drop. "Not so fast. You gotta go one, precisely one, drop at a time. Two or more irritates me. Remember! Violent death!" he assured her as more blood from a murdered slave splashed his face. *** Castell... The Smoker, the man who'd been hunting Li and now Morgana since this whole thing had started, snarled as the weequay threatened him over the Comlink. He was high up in his assault shuttle, where Morgana could not reach him. There were now reports of a shuttle engaging what was left of his men on the perimeter. "How many we got left?" the Smoker asked, his cigar smoke graying the air." "About forty, on call," the Pilot answered. "Boss, you'll be lucky if YOUR Boss doesn't have your head..." "You just concentrate on flying," the Smoker snarled. "We got that detachment chasing Li to Mygeeto? Like I ordered?" "Yes sir. Shouldn't be long before they arrive...wait, hold on, getting a frequency alert..." the male human pilot trailed, appearance concealed by a full flight suit and helmet. The pilot turned to him. "It's Mr. Prosper...he wants to talk to you..." The Smoker paled but took out his comlink. "Patch me through..." he said hoarsely. The Pilot nodded. "Mr. Prosper?" the Smoker called out. "Why is Li Whitewolf and her son not in my custody?" an icy, rough voice of a man asked on the other end. "We've run into unexpected difficulties," the Smoker admitted. "She has Force Sensitives helping her. They've killed many of my men--" "You were warned of Morgana." "It's not just Morgana...there are two others we didn't know about...blind guy with a saber in his cane and...my guys tell me there's a weequay." "Failure against one Force User would have been unacceptable...but even you couldn't have prepared for three..." Mr. Prosper said. "But I think ahead as well...that is why I sent reinforcements behind you." The Smoker paused. "We're getting reinforcements?" "A mercenary outfit...the Devils of Mustafar." The Smoker went white. "You sent the Devils?" "Yes..." Mr. Prosper answered. "Pull your men back, Johann. The Devils are already filing in...with more specialized training. And weapons..." *** As Kev ran through the cramped tunnel, he occasionally caught glimpses of the streets above to to exposed grating. He stopped when he heard a sound above them, like thunder. He dared to peak through a grate. They came out of the mist of the night. They were all clad, men and women, in bright red armor. Their faces were covered by helmets stylized to look like grinning demons, with their tongues hanging out They were equipped with weapons Kev had only seen once before on Tattooine...Charrics. There were dozens of them. Some looked like their armor were equipped with combat exoskeletons. As the Devils of Mustafar ran to secure the perimeter around the Meat Factory, they all activated cloaking fields... Kev had no choice...he had to keep running. He broke into a sprint. *** "Secure the perimeter," the Head Devil ordered in a synthesizer-disguised voice through an encrypted comlink in a soundproofed helmet. "And shoot down that shuttle attacking Mr. Prosper's men." One of the Devils nodded, taking out a rocket launcher and getting into position on the second floor of an apartment complex that had been abandoned when the shooting had started, right where the shuttle had been reported. "Estimate of time before Authorities interfere?" The Commander asked. "They're too scared to even go near what's happening. Colonial police from Czerka ain't equipped for this. They're gonna have to get military here to flush us out. That will take them about an hour," the Devil next to the Commander said on the cobblestone street. "Their comms will be jammed soon." "Prepare to strike on my command. Hit fast and hit hard. No more softball stuff. Use Flame Projectors at close range. They won't be able to deflect your charrics...the impact will threaten to knock the lightsaber out of their hand. Gunship ready?" "Gunship ready, sir," the Devil replied. "Seventy caliber fragmentation rounds, as you requested." "Good. Morgana may have defeated simple mercenaries but the Devils of Mustafar will be her end," the Commander said with a clenched fist. "Start your attacks." A rocket shot out from the apartment complex, hitting the engine of the shuttle the Mute was piloting, which was sent crashing into the street. The Mute was dazed as he struggled to escape the wreckage, bleeding and injured...the plan had gone pear shaped. He heard the Gunship before he saw it with his Force Sight. It was blaring opera music on some speaker, more Devils leaning out it's side with a heavy machine gun. The Devils outside the Factory's main entrance tossed in smoke and flash bang grenades, opening fire on anyone they spotted moving with automatic scatterguns, even as the gunship opened fire on the factory, shattering it's walls. "DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" the pilot on the gunship screamed. The Mute sprinted into an alleyway, trying to sense out the boy. He was too far away...he had to help Morgana somehow! The buckshot barely missed his face. He broke into a run, barely staying ahead of the squad of Devils sent after him. He kicked down a door into another building...he didn't know where to run at this point, he just needed to get out of their line of fire. He sprinted up the stairs and the devils followed. He had to find someway to shake these guys... He could hear them coming after him up the flight of stairs, firing scatterguns at him. He barely stayed out of the way, and surviving not one but two shuttle crashes had taken the wind out of him. He had no choice...they'd run him down like this. He had to attack. With a yell he Force jumped towards them from on high, tackling them on the flight below even as small pellets of buckshot got him in the leg and arms. The Adrenaline numbed that for the most part as his green blade came out, stabbing one in the groin and using him as a human shield to absorb gunfire as he pulled out the pistol on his now dead Hostage and opened fire point blank at the two in front of them, hitting them in their unarmored throats and dropping them. A garrote slipped around his neck from behind. The remaining Devil. He struggled, choking, vision going black as he was forced to drop his cane. He still had the pistol though, so he fired behind him, hitting the Devil in the foot. The armored mercenary screamed letting go as the Mute tackled him with a yell, firing into his foe's armpit and penetrating the flight suit, killing him. The Mute collapsed from exhaustion, to tired to even shuffle uselessly before forcing himself back up. He needed to distract as many of these devil masked freaks as possible. He ran up the steps, knowing he needed to get that gunships attention first before it obliterated Morgana and whoever she had called to her head. He soon reached the rooftop, still clutching his pistol as the Gunship fired on the meat factory's walls. Fires had broken out throughout the building and if he wasn't so intent on keeping his word he would have written Morgana off for dead by this point. But he was in range, and if there was even the slightest chance she was still alive AND he could give her the opening needed to take that damn thing out he had to try. The Mute gave a war cry, opening fire on the gunship, peppering the Cockpit with weak, ineffectual bolts. The Gunship turned it's attention to him and he gulped, running as the gunship opened fire on his position. He barely got back inside, hitting the floor and crawling to the stairs as gunfire tore through the area above him as he barely reached the stairs...
  10. Li meditated on the crystal in the cavern, slowly imagining it take in her hatred and bloodlust toward Morgana. Some days now, when she wasn't doing things for Kev, or slowly whittling down the credits she had robbed from those two drug pushers, she thought about all the excruciating ways she could end this woman that had waltzed into her life. Not for the first time, she wondered if she should have refused Morgana's "generous" offer to train her...would she even be in this situation now? The Dark Side whispered in her mind harshly, rebuking this question, pointing out that even if she had refused, this army of thugs might have still tracked her down, and without any training even as good at hiding as she was, they would have found and killed her eventually, along with Kev. All because some jerk on Tattooine couldn't learn his lesson the first time. Fury gripped Li as she focused on the image of the crystal in her mind. She had been meditating for three hours. Kato was perched upon a seat, watching her. "Why'd you decide to be a witch?" he asked out of idle curiosity, chin resting upon his hands. "This galaxy baffles me. I don't understand society, don't understand it's purpose. You know, when you spend most of your life in a desert, only a few things are important: Keeping yourself fed, keeping yourself warm, and taking care of your young." "Sounds like you lived like an animal." For some strange reason, Li wasn't insulted by the comparison. "Perhaps. And then you get out here, and suddenly you encounter people who place importance on strange things." "What kind of strange things?" Li opened her eyes, putting down the crystal for a moment. "Ideals," she said, still perplexed at the thought people would kill for something beyond survival or rage or dominance. "People kill for abstract concepts. I don't get that. And there's this stuff called etiquette that must be observed, and people react strangely and arrest you when you start fights in the street. And people purchase things so expensive it's not worth it. And politicians...what the kriff is that all about?" "It's really that hard for you to understand?" "I only remark on it's strangeness because on my home world I never had need for such...pretense. On Tattooine you did what you had to in order to survive. You never have to make apologies. Kill or be killed. Everyone from the Gangsters to the slaves knows one basic truth and they don't need any other type of truth." "What's the basic truth?" Kato asked, curiosity deepening. "If even Tattooine could be described as a...society...then it's a closed one. And as a rather eccentric drug user I encountered once put it...'In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity'." "Have you been stupid?" Li paused at this. "Possibly," she admitted quietly. "I let my anger get the better of me when my home was burned down. Should have just left, done nothing. I ignored the basic truth." "Why, if it worked so well for you before?" Li thought a moment. "Pride," she answered finally. "Farmers are only one link above the absolute bottom of the food chain on Tattooine. Only slaves are lower. But Farmers don't get treated much better. And when you're someone like me, someone who only wanted to survive alone with the only person who gave their life any semblance of meaning, and others won't let you? It gets to you, after a while. Can't let people walk all over you forever, right?" Kato snorted. "I doubt most of my people would agree. We're 'supposed' to be pacifists?" "You aren't?" Kato looked away, to the ground. "Why do you think I'm alone?" "Ah," Li remarked, taking her crystal back into her hand. *** She had studied the schematic extensively, but she was no mechanic, and it had taken her a while to figure out where everything was supposed to go. Kato had helped her by providing tools to help connect what needed to be connected. He'd taken some apart with a laser cutter and was able to point out the general idea of how everything was supposed to work. Next had come the meditation on each piece, feeling the metal through the Force. Feeling it's contours, binding herself to it through anger and hate as she had done the crystal. She lifted the parts together telekinetically, having memorized where each part was supposed to go, and then fitted it together. More meditation. Another four hours of binding the blade together at the molecular level, as the Beast had advised in the footnotes she left in the schematic. Li followed every step exactly as written. She used telekinesis to meld the circuitry and magnetic parts together for more power efficiency. When she was certain she had done all she could, she opened her eyes and gazed at the finished product. It was a sleek, black hilt with silvery trim around the emitter, and a bulbous pommel. It possessed simple engravings...swirls of gold in the middle. "Umm...Witch? What happens if you didn't put it together correctly?" Kato asked. "It detonates like a grenade," she answered casually. "Fingers crossed..." "Can I get behind something?" Kato asked. "What's the matter Kato? Ain'tcha a gamblin' Lurmen?" "Yeah, but still..." Li chuckled. "A life without risk? Booooring..." She pressed the activation stud. The blood-red synth blade shot out with a deep, yet somehow utterly chilling hum. Li grinned as she held it. "Sweeeeeeeet..." she trailed. She went back to business. "What's the best way to get inside Pendragon's home?" "After you go through the pass between two cliffs, there are old unused aqueducts built by my people on his land. Some of those aqueducts lead right under his home...but he keeps them deliberately unsecured, precisely because he knows people will attempt to breach security through that route..." "You mean he let's people break in?" "Yeah. For sport. He's a witch or something like you, right? He'll probably know you're coming. Hell, he probably knows you're here," Kato answered. "But there is one route, near the back, patrolled by security. It leads into the Greenhouse of the mansion. The mansion has many more areas underground...where his sick games take place. You could say his Mansion is a big giant mask for the evil under the surface." "It should be nighttime, I imagine," Li replied, brushing off the intense discomfort at hearing anything involving masks, given how much she wished she was wearing hers. "Yeah, it's nighttime. I heard from my informants his party should be starting in an hour. Be careful about his enforcer." "The pilot mentioned he had a confederate." "A Twilek named Lash. Purple skin, white leotard, carries a lightwhip. She'll be guarding him. You want him, you'll have to get through her first. I'm sorry, but I don't know where he'll be inside, and I don't have a floor plan. I don't even know how many men he'll have guarding the inside." "You've given me enough. He's a dead man, one way or the other." *** Li exited out of the Lurmen's home, clad in the black armor she had found earlier, hood drawn over her head. The bow and arrow set she had acquired was slung over her shoulder along with her slugthrower. Her trench knife was strapped to her knee and her cudgel and lightsaber hung from a belt on her waste, along with an ammo pouch for her gun. She was as prepared as she was going to get. She moved quickly through the snow, the armor keeping her surprisingly warm, fitting tightly to her figure. It was almost pitch black above her, but the snow persisted, the wind starting to pick up. She needed to move now lest she freeze. She headed up the path between two rocky cliff, making note of the harsh red glow between two tall straight black lampposts, the light emitted from spherical bulbs at the top, caged by gilded iron marking the pass. Li passed over it, unaware of a presence masking itself on the cliffs above, aiming a sniper rifle at her. It was a Twilek woman, purple skinned, curvy, with a round face and full lips with sulphur colored eyes hiding her muscular figure underneath a heavy fur coat. "Target is entering area. Sloppy. A beginner," Lash said, her voice silken and oily. "Does she have a lightsaber?" asked the low, quiet voice on the other end. "Yeah. Must have constructed it inside Kato's house...Got Dark Jedi written all over her. I don't understand why you don't kill Kato sometimes..." "Morgana's lackey, no doubt. So, she decided to send someone finally...and as to your other question, Kato's scheming amuses me on this dreary hole of a world..." "I got the perfect shot. One trigger pull and she's dead." "Oh, Lash, you're far too quick to deny me entertainment..." "Letting petty thieves sneak into your house that don't know any better is one thing. Dark Jedi are an entirely different matter." "It wouldn't be the first time." "If this Darksider was trained by Morgana, that means she's an assassin sent by the one person who knows you better than anyone. She would not have sent her if she didn't think she had a shot." "You give Morgana far too much credit, Lash," the voice on the other end replied, a slight hint of enthusiasm in his tone. "I know Morgana better than Morgana knows Morgana. She's undertrained and under-prepped her student. If the Student does indeed have any genuine potential it's in spite of her 'training'. Not because of it. What of that woman you reported earlier? The one giving her that gift?" "No sign. It looked like they knew each other. Blondie was scared out of her mind too, I could tell they weren't friends." "Hmm...lemme know if she shows up again." "This is a bad idea. We should pop her now, feed her corpse to the dogs." "Let her through. You said she's a rookie." "A rookie who came here with nothing, yet immediately loaded herself up when given the chance. She's still coming, which means she's committed and thinks she can take you." "You will not deprive me of the chance to humiliate Morgana," the voice on the other end said tersely. "Let. Her. Through." Lash sighed. Pendragon was difficult enough as it was to reason with when he wasn't bored. The last break ins had barely provided him any entertainment and he was looking for a cheap thrill. Besides, it was during another of his 'parties'...he wouldn't pass up a chance at showmanship. "As you wish, Pendragon...though I must strongly caution against this. I wouldn't be doing my job otherwise." "Of course, Lash. Report back to me. Festivities are nearly ready to begin. Double the patrol...no need to make it too easy for our would-be assassin..." "Of course," Lash said with a smirk. "Don't warn any of the patrol..." Lash frowned. "You know, if you keep throwing guards lives away, nobody on this world's going to want to work for you..." "Iotrans are a credit a dozen." "As you so like to remind me. But the other Muun's will eventually grow suspicious..." "They can join the Iotrans in their graves then." Lash sighed. "As you wish..." *** Li eventually cleared the pass and came upon the estate grounds. Her breath froze at the sight. The Mansion was supported by a row of tall columns at the front, with a pointed arch depicting a sun with a smiling face. It rose about three stories into the air, and minaret like structures were positioned on the wide ends of Pendragon's rectangular home. Li peered closely. Guard towers. The Mansion was set at the foot of the Mountain beyond, which loomed like a terrible black spike. The estate grounds, the grass, the bushes, were set in a circular, grid-like pattern around the mansion itself with false, leafless trees made of transparisteel lined the main path to the mansion itself. Limousine speeders in various colors were parked at the front. There were the same, glowing red lampposts lining the main pathway. Li moved silently, away from the main entrance, keeping track of the guards moving on the estate grounds. The bushes, which were tall, would provide limited cover, but would also limit her own field of vision. Plenty of opportunities for an ambush. She kept to the outer darkness, noting how Pendragon had built his mansion grounds in a natural perimeter of rock, which surrounded his home on all sides. Stone statues of various beasts and animals, some of which she had only seen in educational texts were scattered throughout the grid of bushes and grass, life sized. She saw Iotrans in black combat armor patrolling the grounds, close to the mansion itself, though some armed with flashlights were closer to the outer edges of the giant grid. She used the statues at the outer most edge for cover, stopping when a guard got too close...she let him pass by. She could not afford to let them know she was here now, otherwise it was doubtful she would ever get in. She moved closer, darting between statues, joining with the shadows present in the area when necessary and going absolutely still when one got too close. The flash light from another Iotran came deadly close to shining over her. "Today," came a quiet, silken voice of a man on some hidden speaker system on the grounds. "Today is a day for celebration. A day for casting off the conventions of 'polite' society. Sooooociety. What does it even mean? Especially these days? Why do we force ourselves to adhere to these systems when we're around others? Wouldn't it be nice if we could just ignore them for once? When my father built this estate, he built a place where he could be himself. A place where he could enjoy the comforts of hard earned wealth. But my father, he had no love for jewels or fine clothes. He had taste, but he never put taste above his own identity, never let the perceptions of others dictate his preferences. No, my father built this place to show off his ideal world...a world much different from the world around us, this frigid place of ice and snow. Of rich people," said the man, who Li figured to be Pendragon by this point. There was a hint of disgust in his voice as he said the final two words. Why was he addressing the outside? "Rich people often don't know what to do with themselves. Some, they put their money in the stock market, some to charity...I know, what a waste of time, right?" Pendragon asked with a bemused tone. "Still others spend their money on showing off. Not me. No, when my father passed, right before he died, he said to be true to myself whenever I could. So I took his mansion, and his wealth...his fabulous wealth...and I created a world I could be comfortable in. A world I hope tonight that you can be comfortable in as well, my guests. Come inside if you haven't already...I've prepared a...thorough evening of particular delights..." Li, hiding behind a statue again by this point heard a guard start swearing. "Kriffing psychopath," the Iotran grumbled. "I hate it when he throws these parties...Always gotta use a disruptor on the bodies afterward to get rid of the stink...what the hell does he need with a pool of boiling animal feces anyway...?" Li raised an eyebrow, but continued making her way through the mansion grounds, closer to the Mansion itself, moving only when she was absolutely certain a guard would be looking the other way. She surveyed the terrain ahead. Bare grass, no bushes. She got on all fours and crawled close to the shadows...right as the guard tower spotlight was activated. She froze a few feet from the radius of the bright light itself, watching as it slowly went past her. The guard in the tower might have access codes, frequencies, maybe even keycards...she needed to get inside it before she could even think of getting into the mansion. Luckily she had brought along just the right tool... When the spot light swept again over the area ahead, she broke into a sprint, barely clearing the radius as it swept the area. She got to the side of the guard tower, examining the door. It was locked from the inside. No matter. She headed to the side, out of the line of sight, and took her lightsaber from her belt, activating it into the side, enjoying the feeling of power from just holding the deadly sword of energy, feeling her hate coursing through the plasma somehow. She cut a circle into thick walls, deactivated the blade, lifting the sectioned off piece with telekinesis, straining as she had never lifted something that heavy before with her mind and shoved it through and found herself in a stairwell. The inside was lit by a globe of glass emitting a soft aura of gold as she crept up the steps silently, removing her cudgel from her belt as she soon reached the top, keeping alert as she spotted an Iotran working at a steel desk, working the spot light from a camera and remote control. His head was uncovered. Li brought the cudgel down violently, hearing a sickening crack that sent a shiver of pleasure up her spine. She was enjoying herself. She searched the corpse. Just as she thought, she found a keycard. She set the spotlight to the auto sweep command she saw on screen. It would maybe buy her some time. She checked the keycard. It was labeled for the mansion lobby and security barracks. Li decided to search the data pads he had been browsing when she spotted her. There were a few codes mentioned, one of them being the security code to a laser grid inside, though it didn't say where precisely. It also made mention of Pendragon overseeing festivities from something called "The Funhouse". Li frowned. Still so much she didn't know. Morgana had been a fool to send her in blind like this, just to fetch his damn secrets. Li began making her way back down the steps and to the hole she had made, heading back out to make her way to the green house. Kato had said guards were patrolling the back...maybe they had the key to that back entrance. *** Kev frowned as Morgana explained her plan. There were very few places left to run in this colony and the one's she was telling him to run to were places even his mother wouldn't use unless in pure desperation. The Mute frowned, not liking the idea of splitting up from Kev, but even he couldn't deny Morgana had a point. The ship that was next to the factory might give an advantage, but he wasn't sure how useful it would be against professionally armed mercs. Regardless, he wasn't running like a coward. He was going to find a way to help Kev survive, just like he and Li had agreed, separately from Morgana's suggestion. The boy and the silent Adept headed back to the office to study the network on the computer. Kev's hands shook in fear as he read the route, telling the Mute the best route to make to the factory's docking bay. The Mute saw the boy afraid, grasped him by the shoulder, patted him on the head to comfort him, even as part of him knew Morgana's teachings would eventually tear him and his mother apart. But he had problems of his own. Men who needed to die for their crimes, regardless of the Jedi Order's views on taking vengeance. As Kev nodded in agreement, they all heard the mercs breach with an explosive through the doors, filing in with weapons pointed ahead of them, carrying torches. Morgana went to draw their fire and the Mute spotted a purple glow from a lightsaber in the distance. Someone was attacking them from behind, and as the mercs shouted in confusion, yelling for some to cover the entrance they had gone through and hit the "demon" with suppressing fire, others tried to make their way through the facility past the racks for hanging skinned cattle. trying to cover back entrances. Kev signal led he'd memorized the route and the Mute fried the terminal with his lightsaber. "Morgana is...sneaky..." he admitted. "Keep you eye on her...a con artist is a con artist to the day they die." The Mute nodded in agreement. The boy was smarter than he had given him credit for, his soft brown eyes betraying a quiet intelligence when under stress. "MORGANA!" on of the mercs, a Zabrak screamed. "GIVE IT UP! YOU GOT NOWHERE TO GO! YOU THINK ME AND THE OTHERS WON'T LEVEL THIS PLACE?! WE'RE GONNA SCALP YOUR SORRY ASS WHEN WE CATCH YOU! THERE'S NOWHERE YOU CAN RUN ON THIS SORRY EXCUSE FOR A PLANET WE WON'T FOLLOW!" As Morgana engaged them and more of the mercs spotted her and opened fire, the Mute grabbed the boy, sticking to the darkness as he made his way down to the floor while they were all distracted. He spotted the emergency tunnel hatch in the floor and quickly tipped the switch on the ground, installed in a small recess in the cement to open it, which it did with a slight hiss, the fire from slugthrowers drowning out anything they did as the Mute helped the boy into the tunnel, nodding to Kev for good luck as he went to sneak up on the mercs from the right. The green blade that emitted from his cane sliced through the first three mercs, then he tore through another two, never staying still so their slugthrowers could be trained on him. The others covering the entrance opened fire but the other force user heading their direction kept most of them occupied as the Mute kept moving with his unmerciful application of Form One. He had soon killed most in the immediate area, only to be opened fire on from above as mercs blasted through the ceiling with submachine guns. This time there was no thought of standing and fighting. He had done all he could to help Morgana up to this point, now he had to stick to the plan and make for a ship. The Mute ran from the bullets, force-pushing open the doors to the docking bay, a small white hanger facility that helped transport meat to markets across Castell and finding a small shuttle armed with a blaster cannon. He opened it with a pass card he found earlier and headed inside. The thing was barely armored, more for stopping attempted thefts then repelling full on assaults but he had no choice. He fired up the vessel, even as he heard bullet impacts outside. The blaster cannon on the shuttle blew open the docking bay doors and the Mute throttled forward, knowing the criminals hunting them all would follow.
  11. The XS freighter touched down on the snowy spaceport, having braved the asteroid field that surrounded the planet. Li had scrounged up a heavy coat from the Pilots closet and thrown it around herself. She entered the cockpit. "So this fence who might or might not be here," she said to him in a growl. "Where would he be if he was still here?" "Spaceport security was getting tougher last time I was here," the Pilot answered. "If he's still here, he probably has moved his operation to his home out in the fields, south of the starport terminal entrance, about half a kilometer out from the main entrance. Maybe they rebuilt the tunnels." "Tunnels?" "Underground smuggler network. The Muuns been trying to crush it for months, but the Lurmens keep rebuilding the network." "What are Lurmens?" "The original owners of this planet before the Muuns seized control," the red headed man answered. "Short and furry. Bunch a stupid pacifists...like anybody in this galaxy can AFFORD that luxury." Li seemed amused by this concept. "Pacifists? They won't fight?" "Most of them won't. And even the one's that do don't kill. But if you're after Pendragon..." he said slowly. "They MIGHT be willing to make an exception." "He's THAT bad?" she asked. "You have no idea," the Pilot growled. "When I tell you he's sick, he's sick. Not in front of other Muuns of course, no, no, no. He would never be able to do business with them if they knew the full depth of his depravity. It's at these parties he throws that the real him comes out. Otherwise...it's like he's wearing a mask in public..." A part of Li stirred uncomfortably at this statement, reminded of her own penchants. "I'm starting to figure out out why Morgana didn't want to face him herself...even Sorceresses can handle only so much crazy..." "Oh?" he snapped, turning off the engines, rolling his eyes. Li craned her head to him. "I don't consider myself crazy if that's what you're implying." "Then what the kriff are you?" "A survivor," she said, staring out of the cockpit window. "A survivor who finds this Galaxy bizarre. Difficult to comprehend. Apparently, most people are so weak that an army of thugs and murderers have banded together, thinking they can have it all and force the Galaxy to pay tribute. I mean, we had that same problem on Tattooine, but I didn't think it was actually possible to have an entire civilization of criminals. They say all Hutts are criminals, but that's not quite accurate. Some are capable of being perfectly legitimate. But these Imperials...why would anyone be stupid enough to let them get that out of control? Why did this thing you people call society not kill them all when it had the chance?" she asked, genuinely confused. The pilot looked at her wryly. "A lot of people have been asking that question for a ridiculously long time. You won't be the last, I assure you." "Huh. Well, if they do end up winning, it'll be Society's own damn fault for treating them with kid gloves," Li remarked, still not quite fully understanding the Sith Empire. But the truth was even if she had understood it and it's policies, what it was fighting for, to her it would just be an 'other'...something else she could exploit for her own ends. Whose laws she could find a way to bend or ignore at her whim, and any ordinary person loyal to that system who tried to stop her in the process would die...painfully. "There's some bitter truth to that," he agreed. "I've had some time to think." "You can think?" "Kriff you. I can do 'one' thing to help you. A guy at spaceport security still owes me a favor from about a year back. I can comm him, ask him to not have the guys outside check you for weapons. But that's the best I can do. Once you step off this ship you are completely on your own: I have to hightail it back into orbit before Pendragon realizes I'm here." "What kind of a name is Pendragon anyway?" "How the kriff should I know? I only ever knew him as Pendragon. That's all anyone's ever known him as. I only met him once and once was enough. He finds out I'm here before I clear orbit he'll send mercs after me. So if it goes south and you get caught don't go expecting a rescue. And if you get the chance," the Pilot said, leaning towards her. "You put him down like the animal he is. He is rabid. Like a dog can go rabid. I know Darksiders are evil...but there's evil and there is whatever the kriff he is." "I'll keep it in mind," she replied snidely. "Have a nice day." *** Li headed off from the landing platform. The whole place was strange to a desert dweller. She had never been this cold, for starters. Desert nights could get very cold, but If one stayed indoors and kept a fire going, one could tolerate it. Here thought...the world was mountain ranges and endless snow. It was so cold it somehow burned. Li hated this place already. Her slugthrower and trench knife were in large pockets of the heavy winter coat she wore. She walked the narrow bridge of the platform, suspended off a mountain ridge and what looked to be a bunker-like Starport terminal. She crossed the security barrier, and three strange brown skinned aliens with flat, wide foreheads large jaws and fangs in black and gray armor walked up to her. "State your business human," one of them growled. "Present your passport!" Just then, the com-link on the second Alien's belts blared. He picked it up. "This is chief of security Ujot. The human is to be allowed through. No searches." "That's not normal procedure. Whose vessel is that parked outside?" the Iotran growled back. "Second Lieutenant Kinso, you will follow orders or you can start looking for work...along with the rest of your compatriots," the Chief on the other end growled back. The three aliens stared at Li. Li smirked, holding up her hands. "I know I'm hot, but it's rude to stare, gentleman!" The aliens scowled at her but backed off. "Keep an eye on her...something about the way she stares ain't right..." she heard the third whisper. Li shrugged and began walking through the terminal lobby, watching the snow hit the panes of a transparisteel window. The star port had a smooth Eco-architectural feel to it, arches blending into the ceiling, benches seemingly melting into the black marble floor of an otherwise off-white interior. She spotted crystal formations hung decoratively on the ceiling like chandeliers. "Welcome to Crynot Intergalactic Spaceport!" a female, perky voice on the P.A. System announced. "A public terminal run by the IBC, this spaceport is among the finest on Mygeeto, welcoming everyone from diplomats to entrepreneurs looking to make their fortune here. So whether you are here to explore Mygeeto's vast and beautiful lands or here on business, we hope you enjoy your stay!" "Pff. Yeah, right," she muttered, heading past people she didn't really notice nor care about. They blurs to her, obstacles. Sometimes she really couldn't even recall Morgana's face, because she didn't really care. Morgana was nothing to her except something to destroy eventually. Painfully. Li walked casually past the lobby and to the main entrance. Before she walked out, she stopped at an information desk, secured behind an oval booth with a large maroon canopy over it. There was a tall, lordly Muun kicking back on his seat, reading a data pad. Li stared. She had never seen a Muun before. Only aliens she were truly familiar with were Hutts, Twileks, Zabraks, the occasional Trandoshan, one of those funny looking Mantis creatures, which especially creeped her out, and that one time she'd been forced to kill something called an Anzati, which tried to suck her brains out. Also, there was whatever the hell that witch that only looked like a Twilek had been. The Muun, like all his species, had a long forehead and thin, gaunt features, dressed in maroon colored civilian robes. "Yes, what is it, human?" "Do you know the directions to Pendragon Estate?" The Muun raised a brow. "And what business do you have there?" "Gotta make bank, son," Li answered. "How delightfully thuggish," The Muun replied, disinterested as he went back to reading. "I suppose if you have a death wish, who am I to stop you? Pendragon is up the road two kilometers from here, through a small pass between two cliffs. "Death wish?" The Muun continued to read from his data pad. "Even Pendragon's money can't stop all the rumors. But as you yourself put it with your utterly charming little colloquialism..." "The kriff's a colloquialism? Is that Muun-speak?" The Muun sighed. "Oh, you're definitely going to make bank here. Ta-ta, ma'am." "Um...ta-ta?" The Muun looked at her. "It means good day." "Why the kriff didn't you say that then? You confuse me. I don't like you." "The feeling is mutual ma'am, I assure you." "You use a lot of fancy words." "Yes, that's what a college education buys you," the Muun said. "Will there be anything else? A dictionary, perhaps?" Li laughed in spite of how pissed she was. "See you later." "If you're going to Pendragon Estate, I seriously doubt that." Li huffed petulantly, deciding she would snap his neck when she got back from Pendragon's. *** Li walked on the lonely path, passing by an inhabited settlement, ignoring what looked like festivities, clutching her heavy winter coat, face bitten by cold. She could see large white crystals jutting out of the rocks and boulders. A frigid world of frigid people. So cold. Thoughts of murdering Morgana kept her warm. She knew how Morgana would die...the same way the man who had burned down her home, Kolbu, had died. Li had whipped him to death. She might as well start living up to her nickname. Journeying up the road, she spotted what looked like a very small dwelling, too small for a human or Muun to stand upright in. It looked like it was carved from a rock, and had no windows save one in the front. Little crystals jutted out from the home. "He's still in business, in case you're wondering." Li spun around, it was a woman. She wore a long gray dress with a gray blindfold. She was a statuesque woman, middle aged, but still very beautiful. Her brown, shoulder length hair was tied in a pony tail. Her face was smooth but oval in shape. Her hands were behind her back. Li stared. Something was off. Why wasn't she in warm clothing? More to the point, why hadn't Li sensed her? Morgana had drilled that lesson in after telekinesis. She remembered suddenly that Morgana had mentioned it was possible, though difficult, to hide ones presence in the Force. "Beg your pardon?" Li asked, suspicious. The woman clasped her hands behind her back. "The Fence, of course. He had to close up operations at the space port. Damned Iotrans actually started doing their jobs for once. But not enough to kill the smuggling." "You buy from him regularly?" "Oh, no, not me. I'm here on business." "What kind?" "Talent scouting," the woman answered with a wry smile. "Not wise to make just one investment. Especially when one deserted me so recently. Not sure how to take that rejection, to be honest...in retrospect perhaps I came on a little strong. Should have played hard to get. But I have it on good authority I'm...something of an acquired taste. Still though...I probably would have overlooked his rejection if he'd come to his senses. Corellian men...too headstrong, but that's what makes them sooo...enticing..." she said licking her lips at the thought of tasting his. And maybe killing him afterward. "Sounds like your business is seduction." The Woman smirked. "You could say that." "What are you? A...lady of the night?" Another smirk. "Technically. But I don't often get into someone's pants...I get under their skin. I say all the things they are afraid to say out loud." "You're a strange hooker." The woman grinned. Li was terribly frightened suddenly, but could not understand why. It was the kind of fear a child has when they see the closet door creek open by itself in the dead of night. It wasn't so much that the door was opened. It was the question of what was behind it. This woman...for reasons Li couldn't quite understand, she thought of the strange woman as that something behind the closet door. "Refreshingly blunt. I can respect that." "There...there something I can do for you?" The woman shook her head. "No. On the other hand...perhaps there is something I can do for you..." "I'm good. Thanks." "Oh, but you're marching off to your doom. Did your little shavit of a master even give you a proper tool?" "How the hell do you know about me?" "I always keep track of the one's that intrigue me. And you my dear, intrigue me," the Woman replied. "I rarely leave my abode, but you have too much promise to leave things entirely to chance or that incompetent, Brillante." "You know Morgana?" "I know OF her. I wasn't impressed. I mean, I'm no prize. I make mistakes, but the way I hear it, the woman is TRYING to get herself killed...too flamboyant," the Woman answered snidely. "And here she is, throwing a perfectly teachable apprentice to the grinder FAR too early. Ah well. Best to run before you can walk. I do hope you kill her someday." "You and me both, lady." "There's a good girl," the woman said as she smiled. "You got a name?" Li asked, terrified by this point, though hiding it behind a mask of sarcasm. A chuckle. "What's in a name? Not like you identify with yours." "What's behind your back?" "A...welcoming gift. I sometimes give them out to street Darksiders like yourself who I see potential in." At this the strange woman presented a rectangular white box, tied with a red foil ribbon. "What's inside it?" Li asked. The woman shrugged. "A gift, as I said. Nothing sinister. I can place it on the ground, if you like." The woman did so before Li could object. "How do you know I'll accept it?" Li asked finally. "Because you're curious, like a real Darksider should be," the Woman answered. "And because you like to cheat. Oh and do watch out for Pendragon...there must be some reason he failed his Sith training. Perhaps he was too warped for even his own master to stomach. At least, that's my suspicion." The Woman began to walk away. Li dared not follow, watching until the woman disappeared. She stared at the box in the snowfall. It was three minutes before she picked it up. It felt like hardwood. She heard the door open. A scratchy, gruff, though somehow diminutive voice of a male made her turn around. "Is it gone?" the four foot tall furry Lurmen asked. It's head seemed larger than the neck it rested on and had golden-orange eyes with a small mouth and snout close to it's face. It's fur was ashen gray, and wore black and yellow rags and cloth shoes. Li looked at the road again. No sign of the woman. "Yeah, she's gone." "Not she. It," the Lurmen answered. "I smelled it, even in the wind. Vile." "What's...it...smell like?" "Death...and suffering. Blood too," the Lurmen snapped. "I'm surprised anyone could encounter it and live." The Lurmen paused. "You smell of murder, though not like 'it'. What do you want?" "A pilot I traveled with said you were a fence." "Shhhh!" the Lurmen said, putting a long, clawed finger to his snout. "Not so loud! Someone could be listening! I already got shut down at the space port on suspicion alone! Come inside..." Li sighed, and crammed herself into the small dwelling, crouching and sitting in the corner. It smelled strange in the tiny home full of odds and ends. She didn't recognize most of the objects. "This pilot that mentioned me wouldn't happen to be a red-head would he?" "Yeah. That's him," she said gruffly, forced to sit in an almost fetal position. "Thought I'd heard the last of him after Pendragon chased his sorry ass off Mygeeto," the Lurmen replied, getting some stew in a bowl for himself. "You here to kill Pendragon?" "Maaaaayyyybe..." she answered coyly. "Well good if you are. Mygeeto is bad enough with the IBC trampling all over my people...but Pendragon is worse than any of those officials. Runs a whole network of bribes, murderers, torturers..." "To what end? What's he gain from this...cruelty?" The Lurmen looked at her with what she guessed was a sour expression for a Lurmen. "Shavits and giggles. Men like Pendragon don't need an end. They're creatures of impulse. He'll kill other Muun's, even arrange for the deaths of Muun's way above his own rank just for amusement. But he's clever enough that he doesn't get caught. And what he does to my own people...all my friends and family moved away..." "What does he do?" The Lurmen looked at her, clenching his fists. "We end up on his table. We're delicacies to him." Li raised an eyebrow. "Why are you still here?" "He ate my wife...while she was pregnant. Alive." There was murderous rage in the Lurmen's voice. Li's blood ran cold. "No wonder Morgana didn't want to face him. Bastard's sick as they come." "Muuns look down on non-Muuns. They think of us as immature and fit only for exploitation. But even the staunchest, most arrogant Muun would recoil at the thought of committing his crimes," the Lurmen explained. "If you're talking to me, it means you want weapons, right? I can give you them...long as you promise to pay me when it's all over." "I could die going in there." "But I'm going to be an optimist. See, I have connections too. You kill Pendragon and rob his mansion? You bring a cut back to me, and I'll open my network up to you for future purchases. But make sure you bring me Pendragon's head. I'm going to mount it on my wall if you succeed." "I don't live on Mygeeto, Lurmen." "Doesn't matter. I can send merchants to you if you follow procedure." "Deal," Li answered, in no position to refuse. "You got a name?" "Kato," Kato answered, lifting a rug on his floor and revealing a wooden trap door, which he lifted and revealed a metal ladder. "Follow me," he said, climbing down it. Li awkwardly repositioned herself to follow. She managed to make her way down and climbed down to a large cavern cut from rock. There were tunnels leading to two different directions and the Lurmen lit some torches, revealing a number of chests and workbenches. "Now, I can't give you stuff that's too expensive," Kato explained. "If you die, I don't get that stuff back. But I can give you some entry level items. Just pick what comes natural. Li, still clutching her gift box, set it on a table and looked. She took her slug thrower rifle and knife out of her coat. "You got ammo for this?" she asked, handing him the rifle. Kato examined it from all sides. "Thirty caliber...modified for close quarters..." he unloaded the round in the chamber. "Flat headed slug...I think I can help you out..." As he searched a few boxes of ammunition, Li came across a metal bow and arrow set. It looked like a competition piece. Her father had taught her how to shoot a bow and arrow when she was younger, but it had been a few years since she had used one. Her father had used them to both bring down Bantha's and kill unarmored sand people. He'd often use their clothing to get close, then ambush them, having studied their habits. "Hey, you're not too attached to this, are you?" she asked Kato. "Oh that. Odd ball sold it to me. Markets limited for it but still...if you wanna use it I see no reason why you shouldn't." Li went rummaging through the chests. She picked up what looked to be a black, one-piece body armor made of fiber. It'd stop a knife, but not much else. It came with a hoodie. There were curious clasps on the front, on the abdomen, and to the side. She spotted a black pentagram on the neck. "I'll take this," she said. "Where'd you get this?" Kato looked at the armor. "Iotrans found the corpse of a female assassin last month in one of these Muun kriffs estates. It looked like she had accidentally tripped while attempting to evade patrols by going down a flight of stairs. They aren't certain but they think she worked for an organization that calls itself Pentagram." "Pentagram?" "Yeah. See the funny star on the collar? That's their symbol." "What do they do?" "That's just the thing...no one's really sure. No one's been taken alive that worked for them. They gotta be relatively small...but they seem to be popping up in the Republic in particular, though I've heard rumors they've dared to operate in the Sith Empire. The only reason anyone knows about them is because they didn't manage to kill all the witnesses. No one knows what they're up to." "Huh," Li muttered. She spotted what looked like a simple metal cudgel and took that also. "By the way, that...thing outside...what did it give you?" "Good question," Li replied, going over to her gift and unwrapping it. She hesitantly opened the box, with Kato watching. Inside she found a number of parts and a power cell. A flimsi schematic and a large, but folded note written in cursive, and a dark red crystal. She took it out and lay it on the bench, opening the book first. I'm assuming that even your incompetent teacher at least instructed you in the basics of form one, it read. What you have are the parts to constructing your own lightsaber. I even went to the trouble of procuring you a synthetic crystal. This one is not like the one you've no doubt seen in Morgana's blades. It's color is a bloodier red than what most Darksiders put in their weapons. To start, you will need to meditate on the crystal. A few hours if necessary. Infuse it with your hate and fury and it will bind to you. Focus your wrath into it. Make the crystal a part of you in the Dark Side. Give yourself to it. Place utter faith in it. The schematic I have included will tell you how to assemble the weapon correctly: I machined parts I thought you might consider stylish looking. I have one other freebie to share with you: A technique for causing fear in others. You wish to be feared, yes? This technique is crude, unsophisticated but effective, especially on the weak minded. Reach into their minds with your hatred of their life, summon fear and force them to experience it. Scratch at their minds to find it. Reach out to them with the strength of the Darkness by expanding your own mind into theirs. I would go into more detail but you are pressed for time and besides, I have already been quite generous. It's effect is short but will by you time. I ask nothing in return for this. I made a mistake with my previous investment in that sense: Pushed too hard. By the end of this letter you will no doubt realize who I am. You will be rightly suspicious: What reason have I to be generous to you? The answer is that I am a mature adult, able to recognize that my defeat was entirely my own fault due to arrogance. It's a personal flaw. This is not forgiveness, of course, don't mistake it for that. In your case, I saw simply too much budding talent and knew killing you and who you love most in revenge would be a tragic waste. Besides, if you truly keep to the Dark path you will make yourself alone in due time, so what need have I to act? Think of all this in truth as giving you enough rope to hang yourself with. Perhaps you will fail: there is always that possibility. If so, onto the next prospect. But if you succeed, I do wish you will have the courage to come visit me on Tattooine someday. I have far more to offer than that failed Sith leading you by the nose when it comes to the Dark Side. One last bit of advice: Morgana may be a pretender but she is still quite dangerous in her own way. I would excercise patience before striking. Learn all you can coax out of her and butcher her afterward. Sincerely, your generous benefactor. P.S. If you survive, and you see Kev again, be sure to let him know that while I was quite furious at the way he humiliated me in my own sanctum at the time, I understand he was simply doing whatever it took to save you. While my beliefs prevent me from 'forgiving' him, he has earned my respect nonetheless and thus he can consider the matter 'forgotten' on my end of things. Li went pale, hands trembling as she read the letter the Beast had written. She felt weak in the knees and needed to sit down. "What'd it say?" Kato asked. "A demon decided to show me favor. 'Why' is something else entirely. Perhaps in it's warped mind it considers this patronage." "I recognize those parts in the box. I've sold lightsabers on the black market before," Kato admitted. "You might wanna think about quitting while you're ahead...I mean, after you settle things with Pendragon..." Li looked at him. "Stick to your trade, Lurmen. I'll stick to mine." The Lurmen held up his hands. "Fair enough..." Li took out the red crystal and began to meditate on it, focusing her innate bloodlust and hatred of Morgana into it as she closed her eyes... *** Meanwhile, on Castell... Upon hearing Morgana's instructions, Kev began poking through the computer terminal of the office they had holed up in inside the meat factory. The thugs were still outside in the streets, in the dead of night expanding their search. It was only a matter of time before they discovered they were in the meat factory. The Mute, ever a mystery to those around him, silently watched from a window while Kev went through the database, having found the password scrawled on a note in a desk. As the boy tried to find a map of the place, he asked the Mute after Morgana had left to search the place herself a question. "So your master...what was her name?" The Mute turned, stared, and headed to a scrap of paper with a nearby pencil. He wrote the name on it and gave it to the boy. "Huh," Kev said quietly out loud, but not loud enough that Morgana would hear it in case she was close by "That's a pretty name." Kev stared up at the Mute, a tall, slightly tanned man with buzz cut hair in dark hand-me-down clothing, wearing a simple blindfold over sightless eyes. "Why did you leave your master initially? I mean, I know you said why you weren't with her...but why were you gone in the first place?" The Mute clutched his cane tightly, a cold sweat beading up on his forehead. Hesitantly, he took up the pencil, and after a few minutes of drawing on flimsi, showed him. Kev stared. It depicted two stick figures armed with swords, entering an area where many stick figures lay scattered everywhere. The shack he had drawn was the only thing truly detailed. It's door was open. On the inside of the shack there was nothing but a swirl...and swords inside that appeared to be on fire... Kev did not press for details...it was doubtful the Mute could be more clear. But it was obvious whatever he had seen inside that shack had shaken him badly...badly enough to leave his master and take up drinking. The image frightened him for reasons he could not explain. What was inside that had broken him like this? Kev had no real time to wonder as the Mute tore up the image and through it in a trash bin. He was still sweating, on the verge of hyperventilating as he went back to his watch at the window. Kev, after a few minutes brought up the schematics, printed them out and went looking for Morgana. "There's two exits," he explained. "An emergency exit on the factory floor leading into a tunnel network that leads out to the streets. It was installed after a fire last year broke out and killed several workers who were cut off from the main exit when part of the ceiling collapsed. The second is an exit through the loading bays. We could try taking our chances in the tunnels, but they are small and narrow: We get caught by these jerks there with slug throwers it's a kill box. On the other hand, the loading bay exit is exposed once you leave the building...it wouldn't take them long to spot us from there. They could hem s in from three separate points...thoughts?" Just then the Mute came running. He tapped his cane once in clear alarm, pointing to the main exit. Flashlights could be seen out the window.
  12. Selona 21st, 3632 bby. Li meditated, still hurting everywhere. The rumbling of the ship did her no favors, she seethed with hatred of Morgana, who had foolishly led those criminals to her doorstep. She'd endangered her entire livelihood on Castell! She'd kill Brillante for this! She'd grow strong enough to torch her with her mind! She'd flay her! Just gotta get strong enough," she told herself, feeding off her rage at her teacher, letting it strengthen her. She focused it, letting it twist around her heart like a snake as she built up her reserves. It felt like she was on the threshold of something, but could not be certain what. But no matter how angry she was at Morgana, she was angrier at herself. Killing Nordra had set all this in motion. But he hadn't given her any choice! She was being shook down! Her livelihood was being stolen! What had they expected when they had burned down her homestead?! Li never rolled over for anyone...anyone...unless given no alternative. Her father had taught her that. You roll to chumps, her father had said, while skinning a Bantha after having murdered it's sand people caretaker, you roll to anybody. And once you roll to anybody, you never stop. He'd never thought much about killing Sand People. Not because he viewed them as monsters...he knew enough to know they weren't that. But they lived by the law of the jungle, as he had put it. They lived by the sword. And if you were bold enough to live by the sword, you were bold enough to die by it. The Sand People killed damn near everyone...so what right had they to complain when it was done to them? At least, that was how her father had explained it, had justified it. When she was younger she had hated the self serving justification. She had loved her father, but the man forgot about a law even older than that...the law of Karma. She had been very young when it had been explained to her...a persons past actions determine their future...and generally if someone acted wicked then wickedness was their due. This was a mind-blowing concept to a five year old girl. She'd never been able to decide if it was true or not. At this point, she wasn't certain she cared. After all, with these powers, why act as a passive recipient when you could act as a Deliverer? It was with this mindset she went forward. Once she'd figured out these powers she'd be a law unto herself. That was if she survived. Li continued to meditate in the sparse crew quarters for the next few hours, the pilot she had rescued generally avoiding her. He didn't like what he'd seen in her eyes. Those icy blue things scared him to death, and they both knew that. Li couldn't help but be proud of that just a teeny bit...no one had feared her on Tattooine...then again, she hadn't been trying to be feared, merely alone with her child, who helped keep the desert madness away with love. The thought that her child would be ripped from her once more caused a surge of fear through her...the thought she'd be alone, with nothing to show for all this scraping for power, for skill, doing this schutta's dirty work, breaking into some mansion owned by a man she didn't care about. But he knew black magic like Morgana did, so maybe she could get a different perspective. And maybe some sweet loot. She'd read about mansions, but had never seen them, the closest being whatever building those fat slimy Hutts were content to squeeze through. She'd snuck into a Hutt palace once, stealing loose credits, clothing, anything that wasn't nailed down. She mostly stole food and clothing though, because Dad had taught taking from others was perfectly acceptable if your goal was survival. One of the few things that caused Li as a person no particular perturbation when it came to crime was stealing. Stealing was like taking Bantha's from sand people...and since she was trying to give herself a better future for her and her son, then stealing and killing whoever got in the way was just what came with the territory, nothing to feel guilt over. Li snapped out of her meditation and moved...stiffly...the wounds she had sustained were barely out of the red zone. She decided to check her weapons. She was gonna steal the shavit out of that place. She had checked her new lever-action. She had unloaded it. Seven rounds left. Loud. She checked her knife. It was that trench stiletto she'd taken earlier from the first one to try and kill her. And that was it. Nothing else. Li snarled in frustration. She was going in so underprepared. How was she going to go in? She needed more. Way more. Li rose and left her bare quarters, she sought out the pale, scrawny, red headed pilot that was taking her to Mygeeto. He was stitching himself in the galley, sewing shut a wound on his leg. He was in a blue tank top and red overalls. "Do you know where I can find weapons on Mygeeto?" Li asked. "And how close can you get me to Pendragon's estate?" "Lady, I barely know where my gorram head is at," the Pilot snapped. "I been tortured, shot at, and Miss Creepy here wants me to tell her what to do. Look, Morgana called in a favor, so I paid back an outstanding debt to a Dark Jedi, 'cause a Dark Jedi is the LAST person I wanna owe anything to. You want weapons? There might be a blaster rifle around here, I dunno. As for how close can I get, Mygeeto authorities take a dim-as-kriff view of people landing outside legal landing spots, plus, no one knows we're coming. I can only get you as close as that mansion is to the nearest spaceport. Once you're on the ground, getting inside that bastard is your problem--" "Don't..." Li snarled, reaching out with her hand. The Pilot stiffened and doubled over in pain, falling out of his seat. "...take that tone with me, worm," she finished, releasing her hold over his body. He rose, coughing. "You sure Morgana is your boss, not the other way around?" "Only for the moment. But if you don't wanna see how well I've taken to her tutelage," she snarled again, beside him with the quietness of a Sandpanther before it leapt. "I suggest you start being a little more helpful." The Pilot blinked a moment, deciding he'd come as close to getting his throat cut by her as he was comfortable with. His eyes slinked to the side, the messy kitchen area dirty with bandages and torn open antiseptics packs. "There 'may' be a fence on the planet. He was at the star port last time I was at Mygeeto...but he may have packed up," the Pilot answered carefully. "Of course...all this is a moot point..." "Why?" Li asked, inches from his face. She made sure he could see the teeth, particularly the canines. She wanted to tear his cheek open with them. "Because all-knowing, all-prim-and-proper Morgana sent you to your death! Pendragon estate is a no man's land for thieves!" "Good thing I'm not a man," Li snapped. "You ain't human either, so don't go patting yourself on the back just yet, schutta," he snarled. "Pendragon Estate is run by a sadistic madman who happens to have enough friends in the banking clan that simply having their men pop him would be problematic. He's up there, he's holed up in that place, just near the mountains, just where it starts to get really cold. Nobody who tried to break in ever escaped. The people who worked there know it's a death trap...Pendragon hosts lavish parties, treats 'em to a real show...they watch, from the comfort of a lavish chamber, as people who've angered him are hunted down like animals by people he's tortured and starved. Makes 'em insane for the taste of meat, they say. The mansion is built like something between a maze and a military fort on the inside and not only are raving cannibals released for entertainment, they have men wearing stealth fields equipped with bows and arrows aiding in the hunt." "And you know this how?" "Because I almost found myself in said hellhole. I pissed Pendragon off, stole from him...he found out, so he sends one of his underlings, a chick armed with a light whip. Only reason I managed to escape is 'cuz Morgana happened to be around...and she held that debt over my head ever since. But she told me if I do this, the debts paid. Not you got your answers. Up to you what you do with them," he answered. "Now if it's all the same to you, I need to bring us out of hyperspace, and...you need to find some warm clothing." The Pilot left, and Li went back to cursing Morgana. This was even worse than she thought.
  13. Li creapt through the darkened interior, hiding behind a few seats as another guard walked past her. "Daris, you read?" he called out. "Daris? Where the hell are you? I've been trying to reach you on my com link." Li circled around this one in the darkness. She never attacked from the front if she could help it. She wasn't at full strength, even. The adrenaline was still going, but the rib pain was starting to creep up. She winced and accidentally drew a sharp breath, her whole side going ablaze for an instant, and it was all she could do to control that pain, drawing deep from her own twisted enjoyment of it to keep going and not shout. The guard froze, wheeled around. And Li ducked behind a trashcan, keeping herself concealed from the flashlight, even when it got closer, she dare draw no breath, even as her side began to hurt more. She still had the blaster, but if she fired it now everyone would hear it. She readied her knife. Her arms felt sore and tired, like the rest of her, and she struggled to stay conscious and coherent, just wanting rest from it all, wanting to hold her son, and tell him everything was going to be alright, that mommy wasn't being turned into a monster like the old hag in the desert-- --As the light grew closer, she sprang up, driving her knife straight into his eye socket. At the same time her hand shot out, snatching the slug thrower rifle out of his hand. He fell down on his back, gurgling horribly, jerking until he stopped moving. Li smirked, taking her knife out of his eye, Three down. She had counted two guarding that pilot. It was time to finish this. "Remo?" blared the dead man's com-link. "Remo where are you?" Li was already moving back to the main area where he was being held, holding her new Slugthrower, a lever action rifle with the stock cut off. She'd seen her father work one when she was a child, seen him load it when he had taken her hunting. He'd poach stray bantha from the Sand People, teaching her how to quickly cut off the most valuable meat and skin. Occasionally the stray bantha would be found before he was done by the Sand People that had lost it to begin with. He'd taken their weapons and clothing too after they challenged him. She'd once asked him why he'd kill the Sand People too. His reply would greatly inform her opinion about how the rest of the universe must work, and would greatly influence how she dealt with obstacles of the people related variety later in life: "Because they'd kill us right back if they could. Best to screw them over before they screw you over." After a few moments trying to jog her memory about how to fire it, Li slung it over her shoulder. Her knife in hand still dripping blood from it's edge. The rifle was a last resort. After a few minutes of creeping around, she spotted them, in the process of pulling out the captured pilot's fifth tooth. His mouth was completely bloody. Li shook her head in annoyance. Amateurs. Couldn't even pull a tooth out right. She had pulled most of Kolbu's teeth out in the first two minutes before the whippings began. They hadn't even broken his jaw so he couldn't bite them in the process. All they were doing was ineffectually punch him in the gut: But she knew it wouldn't work. That pilot knew he had bigger problems. Li heard him yelp as another tooth got pulled. She quickly closed the distance, their backs were turned, their own hands bloody. The knife went right into the skull of the thug with the pliers. The thug on the left turned, only to find that rifle stuck in his face. Her abdomen blazed with pain as she struggled to keep the weapon trained under his jaw. "Perhaps you're wondering why you aren't dead," Li said quietly, face speckled with blood. He shivered as she smiled slightly, something he didn't recognize hiding behind icy blue eyes staring back. "Call your boys and tell them you spotted me slipping out of here. And call the other guy out side in here." The thug nodded, reaching for his com-link slowly, the rifle jammed under his chin...and then kneed her in the stomach. Li felt the air go out of her, the pain in her rib now making it very hard to breath due to being newly re-injured. The thug tackled her, slamming his fist into her face and yanking the gun away. She swooned, the world and pain disorienting her, feeling her vision tinge red at the edges, but refusing out of pure rage at his defiance to be knocked out. She was going to kill the person hitting her and she would savor her victory. She would watch him die because she willed it. Survival mode kicked in as his hands went around her throat. "You killed all my friends!" he snarled. "Yeah. So?" she gasped, driving her thumb into his eye with a feral strength born of contempt and hatred. He yelled, and Li managed to scramble out of his grasp as his grip loosened. She crawled on all fours to the rifle, only to be tackled from behind by the thug again, who reached for his com-link. "GUYS SHE'S HERE SHE'S HERE! GET THE OTHERS!" he yelled into it. His hands went around her throat and this time she simply could not breathe. She looked around desperately as her vision began to darken. She spotted the pliers they had been using to pull the pilot's teeth out. The thug she had just killed was still clutching them. It was so hard to move, the pain, disrupting he ability to concentrate fully beyond reaching that tool. It was her one lifeline left. Using her remaining strength, she wrenched herself forward and grabbed them, slamming the pliers backwards into her attackers face. He screamed as they punctured his eye and he let go of her. She tackled him as he tried to rise, just as the guard that had been patrolling outside rushed in, having to shoot the lock out since Li had stolen the key from him earlier. Li spotted him, even as she was trying to kill her newest victim, and wrenched her would be killers body over her as the other opened fire, the shots hitting the durasteel chest plate her attempted strangler had been wearing, her arm wrapped around his neck to prevent him escaping. More shots hit her victim, killing him, but preventing Li from being hit on the ground, as she pulled out the pistol from his holster and returned fire, forcing the guard to retreat momentarily while she scrambled for the slug thrower, helping as he hand shook. She had taken a grazing wound on her arm in her desperate attempt to use her meat shield. The Guard, knowing she was trying to free the pilot, opened fire on him, only for Li to shoot the legs on the back of the chair off with the pistol, barely able to focus through the pain and fear to get a proper shot off The Pilot fell backward, the shots barely missing his head. The chairs back broke on impact and the Pilot scrambled behind a support pillar, keeping himself out of the line of fire. Li came out from cover, aiming the rifle, trying to remember how her father had held the rifle. It was so distant. Her father and mother had died when she was sixteen. She'd been on her own since then, dealing with the most vicious that Tattooine had to offer. Years of toiling to survive heat, thirst, crushing loneliness, because the only other alternative was death. Li hadn't wanted to die then, and she didn't want to die now. She worked the lever in a panic, frustrated until the old thing finally managed to load a round after being shot at several times She let off a shot, felt the kickback and almost fell backward but managed to stumble behind cover as the Guard returned fire, breaking parts off of the pillar. Li aimed at the lights above, hitting them and darkening the whole area, forcing the guard to turn on his gun light while Li bolted as quick as she could back to the newly made corpse of the man she had used as a human shield and pulled it back over her, aiming the rifle one handed, making the best aim she could for his chest, the pain almost completely incapacitating everywhere she had been hurt a burning reminder of weakness. As the light flashed on the pillar she had previously been hiding behind, Li fired, and the slug hit the man square in the stomach. He dropped, yelling in pain. Li came out from behind the body, dragging herself up, coughing, almost choking from the pain and fear, firing another slug into the man, who started gurgling blood, even as he jerked uncontrollably. Li grinned and shot him in the head, fighting off the pain a moment to aim properly. His blood hit her face. She turned, looking for the pilot. "Yo! You still alive?" "You that lady Morgana wanted me to fly to Mygeeto?" the man asked, coming out of cover. He could barely see in the darkness and was startled when he suddenly heard her voice right next to him, voice quiet but strained with exhaustion and rage and suffering. "Yes," was the reply, simple and quiet, next to his ear, and it made everything in his body tense. "We'd better get moving. He managed to get a signal to his buddies. I reckon we have two minutes, at best." "Yeah, sure. My name's--" "Don't care," Li interrupted, pulling her knife out of the corpse she had made. "Lead me to your vessel." The Pilot gulped, nodded, grabbed a small remote that controlled entry to his ship that had been confiscated earlier by one of Li's victims and began sprinting, with Li behind him. He led her to a small hanger where an old XS with a bronze sheen to it awaited. He tapped the remote and the hatch opened. They both sprinted up it just as more mercenaries caught up to them and began firing. Li returned fire, emptying the rifle in their direction as she retreated up the ramp, bullets and blaster bolts whizzing by her just as the hatch closed. She dropped to the floor in pain, the stomach kick making itself remembered, having gotten past the adrenaline. She heaved for a few seconds, fighting through a panic attack before forcing herself to remember what was at stake...and how it really was her fault. All of it. She dragged herself to the cockpit, flinching as she heard impacts on the hull. That was it. She was spent. She would have no more to give until Mygeeto. The pilot activated the turrets on the vessel and opened fire on the team shooting at them. Their bodies were blown back, set ablaze or simply came apart as he began lifting the vessel off, blasting through a hanger wall as he flew it through the hole, rocketing it into the atmosphere as Li got into the Co-pilot's seat. The pilot looked at her, mouth still bloody. "You tell Morgana," he snarled as he punched in the coordinates to hyperspace. "That this is the last favor I'm doin' for her. After I take you there and--assuming you survive--pick you up--that's it. Me and her are through. I draw the line at tooth torture." Li rolled her eyes and lay back in the seat, disinterested, than unconscious.
  14. Whips slinked through the darkness and slowed her pace as she got closer to the second of the guards. She badly wanted her mask by this point, because she didn't feel right about all this otherwise. A sound in the distance made the guard pause. Li froze with him as he went forward, rifle raised in suspicion. Li crept closer. Oddly, she hadn't felt this alive since Tattooine. It made her question herself. Life with Kev was fulfilling, but what was it about danger and suffering that gave her this rush? Was she naturally cruel? How can someone be cruel by nature, she asked herself, as she crept within striking distance, drawing her brand new pistol, which she held by the barrel as she raised it, reducing any noise from her clothing by moving with the clothing, not against it...and slowly at that. She brought the butt of the handle down on the back of the mercs head and he collapsed, shaking slightly as she heard a weak crack of the skull. Had anyone else been present, that crack would have been heard from one end of the area to at least a fifth of the way to the other side. He was the one shaking, however, not her. He continued to do so for a few moments before losing consciousness completely. She heard a rustle from down at the other end, and knew it was time to move. Li stared, feeling nothing. She was disconcerted about not feeling anything over what she'd done just now. And in the back of her head, she questioned if she was evil. They say evil people do things like this. She was struggling to keep moving now, the muscles starting to cramp badly. She had to end this soon, or she would be useless. She needed rest. The Adrenaline and fear and rage would only hold her up for so long. Deeply uncertain about the answer she would give herself about whether or not she was evil, she put the question aside for now as more important things were at stake. She heard footsteps coming up behind her and she blended into the darkness, dragging the recently shaking body out of sight. *** "So who are you?" Kev asked, as they waited in a barren office in the meat storage facility on the second floor. The place had no lights on, leaving the office lit only by moonlight from a nearby window. The Mute had been sitting across from Kev, watching as the boy paced anxiously. The Mute gave the best answer he could, holding out his fist, closing it, and then opening it quickly, wriggling his fingers. "You're a nobody?" Kev asked. The Mute nodded. "How can you be a nobody? You must have had friends," Kev posited. Hesitantly, the Mute paused, pulling out his photo of the blond woman with the ocean eyes. He handed it to the child, who took it and examined. "Who is she? She's beautiful," Kev asked. "Is she your wife?" The Mute shook his head. "Sister?" The Mute shook his head again. He got on his knees, placed his saber cane in front of him, placed his hands on his thighs and bowed his head. "She was your master?" Kev asked. The Mute nodded. Kev handed the photo back. "What happened to her?" The Mute slowly drew a line across his neck with his finger. "Oh...I'm sorry..." Kev said slowly. "Why did she die?" The Mute stood up, looking for something. He found a small figurine the boy had played with earlier, took it and dropped it, then took a nearby hydrospanner and covered the lower half of the figurine with it, making an explosion sound with his mouth. "She was crushed in an explosion? Where were you?" The Mute pointed to a nearby unopened bottle of liquor that the owner of the obvious apparently kept for late hours, circling a finger around his temple in shame. "You weren't well. I get it," Kev sighed. He paced a bit. He then noticed some flashing outside at a window. "Its her," Kev said. "Damn it all, she made it." The Mute snickered at this, pocketing his photo. He gestured for the boy to wait here while he went to meet her down stairs. He opened the front door once he got downstairs, activating his own saber and bidding her forth.
  15. Li ran, adrenaline having flooded her body as the Thugs gave chase, firing their slugthrowers. The bullets whizzed past her, and she ducked into the the backyard of antiques shop. They followed, one of them switching on a night vision goggle in order to better track her, flipping it down over their face as they followed her. She no longer cared about the pain in her rib, the adrenaline dousing most of it. All she could think about was survival now. Li hid in the bushes, the human following her was flanked by two others, all wearing black combat armor. Her night vision for the most part was excellent. It had had to be, during those nights she had stayed awake to protect Kev in their home whenever she heard rumors of sand people convoys passing through the area. They had never ventured into the exact area they had lived in, because of the Evil Witch that lived there it would turn out but she had stayed awake on some nights out of sheer paranoia never the less. In fact, the house she had lived in had been constructed by her parents, who had installed a small panic room in the event of Sand People attacks. Not that that had saved her or Kev's livelihood from Kolbu the collector in the end... She kept still in the bushes, suddenly glad she was in her favorite flower print dress, as there were actual flowers growing out of the bushes and it helped break up her shape at a distance. She spotted a crate that had been delivered earlier to the shop, large enough to crouch behind. She went immediately behind it, scrambling for ideas. She saw the one equipped with the goggle, heard the sound of light sabers and an explosion in the distance. She found herself hoping Morgana made it, in spite of how much she hated the con-woman. She did not move as the goggle equipped man turned his head and she smelled the waft of cigarette smoke by her and she struggled not to cough from the acrid fume. She kept deadly silent, as the man's gaze passed right by her and the crate she hid behind but he spotted part of her dress. He started firing in the bushes, forcing Li to roll out of the way of the shots passing through the crate, spring forward with deadly speed, hands reaching out and snapping his neck, shoving his tumbling corpse to his friend on the right, diving with him as the remainder opened fire, forcing her to react. Li drove the dead man's rifle into the man that had fallen with her firing into a gap between the armor plates, grabbing a blaster from the dead man and shooting the remaining one. She scrambled up as she heard more shouting, running for her life to the streets leading to the space port... *** She had barely reached the out skirts of one of Castell's numerous spaceport hangers when she saw more gangsters patrolling the outskirts, flashlights attached to automatic slugthrowers. Li got behind some crates, trying to plan it out. She peaked from behind cover. Two patrolling the empty front office. They must have bribed the officials to leave...or killed them. Either way, they controlled the area. Li began to realize Nordra had been more than just your typical local crime boss. He had been some bigshot's son. This was getting more serious the more she thought about it. And she had robbed that big shot of his second son. She didn't feel bad in the slightest. Li stole another glance from the crates. The hanger was circular, and most of the running lights had been deactivated. She got out from the crates, slinking towards a security checkpoint booth that was set in front of the large entrance for speeders to pass through. She went still as she saw the flashlight of one of the gangsters pass by. Killing him would be risky. Any interruption in the patrol would be noticed. Besides, she hadn't met the guy who was supposed to fly her to Mygeeto. They might actually have him, for all she knew. She waited as soon as the man turned his back and slipped by silently on the asphalt, creeping while crouched (which put strain on her knees and back) and then slipping to the side of the hanger on it's left. She froze when she saw another gangster, patrolling with a scattergun, also equipped with a flashlight. Li spotted a door that required a key card. She hid in the shadows from a nearby garbage bin, cringing as she saw the man's light get closer. She tucked her legs in as he passed by, and she spotted a keycard on a chain hanging from the back of his pants. Li grimaced, but then began to creep up behind him. She hadn't picked a pocket in a long time. It had been a skill she had once possessed great facility at, but with having to take care of Kev as a baby, it had atrophied. Still she crept behind him, distributing her steps quickly but evenly to reduce sound. The pain made her strain, focus twice as hard as she would have had too otherwise, the muscles needed for this already strained and injured, but it was either this or die without seeing her boy again. Li would see her son, she vowed. The man stopped a moment, adjusting his pants. Li got closer. The card was attached securely to a simple key chain. Li's hands hovered over it as the man's hand swept by hers. Her breathing had stopped entirely as her fingers silently, ever so delicately moved with the man's pants in the precious second and a half he adjusted them, undoing the latch and retrieving the keycard, before he started moving forward again. Li let him move forward. To raise any sort of alert at this point would be fatal. She could handle one guy, maybe three, like at the antiques shop, but that had been because she'd been lucky. She retreated to the side entrance, swiped the card through the slot when the man was a respectable distance away and slipped into the entrance. Another reason she wasn't eager for violence was that she didn't feel as...confident...without her disguise. The area she entered was a baggage check area, with a row of conveyor belts for the efficient scanning and clearing of luggage. She heard someone yell out and crept to a check in booth and stared at a passenger waiting area full of cheap seats with triangular shaped lights in irregular sizes lit up. Couldn't risk getting closer to the light. She saw two gangsters beating a helpless young man with pale skin and red hair with blue eyes in brown overalls. "Alright you lousy sonavaschutta I'm gonna ask one more time...what's the codes to disable the shield around your vessel? No use pretending you don't work for Morgana...she already tried to make a deal with us to allow you and the farmer safe passage to Mygeeto. Not that we would ever take it." "You think I'm gonna betray some Dark Sider just 'cause you're beating me a little?" the red head mumbled, spitting a tooth out. "Anything you can do, she'll top it." "Morgana's likely gonna be sleepin' with the mynocks soon. C'mon, your jobs blown! Not like we wanna kill you. We ain't here for you. We just wanna make sure the Farmer can't escape if she makes it here. Once we got her...we'll cut you loose, honest!" said the Male Togrutan Gangster wearing a red combat suit. "Oh, Kriff off! You think I don't know how you gangster types work? And if Morgana's gonna die, your boss would have called it in. But your com link is suspiciously quiet. Me...I'm thinkin' she's still gotta fightin' chance. No dice, you head tailed orange skinned prick." This earned him another blow. The alien snarled at the three others present. "Get the pliers." Li, quaking with fury at what she had just heard, wanted to bury Morgana alive. The fool had actually tried to cut a deal with gangsters?! What had she been thinking? That they would honor it? Gangsters honored nothing, and no one. Some of the group split off to continue their patrol, while another handed the alien the requested tool. The Red Head begin to scream. Li began to sneak through the conveyor area, ducking behind a support pillar as one of them came by, a flashlight attached to his rifle slug thrower. Li began sneaking up behind him again, having noticed a slug thrower pistol with a silencer on his holster. Why so many slugthrowers? Li realized they must have learned Morgana was training her, plus slug throwers would be very useful against Morgana's blades, which couldn't deflect solid projectiles. They had come prepared. Li struggled to keep up with the man's brisk pace, not ready to cause an alarm. She stopped after a moment, ducking behind the side of a checkout counter as the man wearing black combat armor like the one's who had pursued her earlier passed under an overhead light...any shadows the light cast behind him would alert him. Li instead clambered over the surface of the counter, sliding across it like a snake, and continued her effort to get close, as the red head's yelling grew worse. Li slowed her breathing to a crawl as she got close, freezing as he stopped, waiting as he took out his com link. "Guys, nothing on my end, you hear from the others yet?" he called out. "Nah. Li hasn't reached us yet. But they still haven't reported in, strange. "This hanger's secure so far, will keep an eye out for anything strange," the man replied, fastening his com link to his belt. In the precious few seconds he did, Li closed the distance, arms wrapping around his neck and yanking violently and quickly to snap it. He dropped like a sack of stones, and Li took his pistol, dragging the body away and hiding it behind the counter. She had to move quickly now, find the others and end them before they realized their defenses had been breached. Li began to scout for the other guards. *** The Smoker swore as he heard Morgana's message. He switched his com link to another frequency. "Jevik, those reinforcements here?" he barked. "Yeah, boss, speeding to your location now." "Tell the others to regroup. We are NOT doing this Morgana's way! I want that Schutta fried, you hear? FRIED!" he barked as he heard the sounds of light sabers closing in the distance. A number of speeders showed up in the area, and out came men armed with chain guns and flame throwers. The Smoker hopped in a speeder car piloted by his right hand man, a Rodian named Jevik. "Jevik, your snipers on the roof?" "Yeah Boss," he announced. "ALL TEAMS, CONVERGE ON THESE COORDINATES!" he shouted in his com link before wheeling around, flanked by chain gun wielding gangsters as He spotted Morgana heading his direction. "Alright, Morgana, let's see how hardcore you really are! KILL HER!" he roared as the pilot maneuvered towards her for a strafing run, firing a grenade launcher while more gangsters appeared on rooftops firing slugthrowers at her position. *** Morgana's arrival could not have come at a better time, the Mute decided, as he ran with Kev in his arm, Those gangsters had been getting too close for comfort. He resented the idea he was capable of handling only three though. He had been outnumbered worse than that at times. Still the three she left him after her surprise assault was a relief. Best not to look a gift Ronto in the mouth. So she wasn't useless after all. The three gangsters, curious why Morgana simply hadn't finished them all off, shrugged and turned their guns on the Mute, who charged forward, dropping Kev behind a dumpster as they fired. He clenched his teeth as a bullet grazed his side, green blade flashing and slicing through one rifle, bisecting the first two in a clear Shii-Cho cadence. He twitch dodged the third, and his blade went through the third rifle and then the final remaining thug. Another bullet grazed his shoulder and he snarled in pain as the final one dropped without his head. Kev peaked in fear as he heard sirens finally starting to blare in the distance. The Mute picked himself up after a moment turned to Kev, picked the boy up and stared to run for the meat factory.