-"Say what? Oh, so you wanted to grow up to be a Jedi, did you? Ahh, Poodoo! Look here, I've been all over this galaxy... and I've seen a lot of pretty strange things. So you just take my word for it, kid, when I tell you that all that dancing around with ancient relics, and mumbling mystical chants, is pure non-sense. Trust me, kid... one day, you'll see that all the Jedis little parlor tricks, are still no replacement for having a good, old fashioned, illegally-modified, blaster strapped to your side!"

-prophetic words of wisdom, sagely being passed down from one generation of scoundrel, onto the next-

Chap24_

The erratic whining of multiple servos mixed with the chaotic 'clack'-ing and scraping sounds of violently clashing metallic alloy-on-plastiod armor, filled the tight tunnel space around Trey, as the battle droids hard edged legs lashed and kicked wildly beneath him, and it's alloy-armored arms, swung maliciously while battering hard-edged blows randomly upon him, from seemingly all angles.

Unable to do anything else, Trey also began to swing and twist his own armored appendages, as he attempted to defend himself from it's assault, and to, hopefully, dislodge himself completely from it's entanglement.

First, he had to get his bearings, enough at least to figure out which direction he had to go, in order to get away from this belligerent droids dangerous embrace.

It didn't take him long to figure out that when the wreckage of his collision with the droid had finally come to rest, he was left laying on his stomach, with the droids legs pinned beneath him. The robots heavy metal torso, however, was crushing down on top of his aching back. So he found himself sandwiched between the backwards-folded droids upper and lower halves. The pivot-point of it's narrow midsection, was currently wedged firmly against the tunnel floor by the right side of Trey's damaged chest plate.

Consequently, that meant his best avenue of escape lay to the left.

One of the more unfortunate advantages 'tinnies' have over 'wets', Trey came to realize... is that droids are more flexible than clones (especially ones encumbered by a malfunctioning suit of armor). And so, it was not a surprise to him that the machine had less of a problem being able to get itself righted quickly... and thus, back into a more stable firing position... than he.

In a blur, his enemy had rotated it's upper half fully around, one hundred-and-eighty degrees. And just as quickly, leveled it's hand-held repeating blaster's sights towards it's newly acquired target.

On instinct, Trey reached out blindly behind him and somehow managed to grab onto the barrel of the droids weapon... an instant before it began spitting molten hot death directly into the back of his skull.

Instead of blowing his genetically engineered brains out onto the floor, the blazing bolts passed mere millimeters away from the left side of his face. The high frequency shrieking of the rapidly discharging reports made his ears ring so loudly, he feared they would deafen him. The searing crimson flashes, erupting in such close proximity, also threatened to blind his left eye, despite the protection of his helmets shielded optics.

Somehow, over the din of blaster fire, Trey heard something else... the familiar scrape/crunch of more droids stomping closer... all tactically programmed to quickly get into the action. In the minuscule fragments of time between shots, Trey's extra-sensory perception told him that the incoming attack would only be coming from one side. So that, at least, if he managed to get free of his present predicament... he wouldn't be completely surrounded. And that meant, that even though he'd soon be outnumbered, he still had a chance of surviving. A very, very, slim chance.

If he wanted to make it out of this, Trey needed to get his hands on a functioning weapon.

Luckily, he already had his hands on one. Well, one hand anyways.

As the blaster in his grip continued to pour out deadly fire, Trey exerted all of his strength and pushed up on the droids weapon, forcing it's rounds farther from his throbbing eardrums, and towards the incoming formation of battle droids closing in on him from farther down the tunnel... the one he was battling 'bringing up the rear' of the droids formation.

He raised his head and guided the lethal stream of repeating red, as it stitching it's way across the dirty tunnel floor, kicking up tiny shards of rock and dust as it passed.

Using a maneuver he'd learned on Kamino for close quarters fighting, Trey violently twisted his torso... so that he was, for a moment, laying on his back; while he slipped his right hand (the one holding the blaster, around the weapons barrel as he rolled. Next, he threw his other arm over the droids extended limb, and snaked it around... locking it in tightly against the crook of his elbow.

Arm now secured, he threw his left leg over the droids bulbous head, then bent it back inwards... right around the robots exposed neck joints, trapping it's upper body between his powerful legs. Now that Trey had control of the both it's arm and head, he squeezed tight as he violently jerked straight with his entire body. With a screeching of over-torqued metal, and popping of severing cable connectors... he ripped the droids arm almost completely free from it's spark-emitting socket.

Although the arm now hung detached in Trey's grasp, a few strands of wiring remained suspended between the jostling, twisted nub of the droids snapped off shoulder joint, and the twitching end of the piece Trey had torn free. Enough connection must have survived, however... as the battle-droids hand-motivators were still locked into place. The blaster never stopped shooting, because the robotic finger never released it's grip from the firing stud. The result, was that while the droids hand still had hold of its weapon... Trey now controlled the arm that aimed it.

Keeping the metallic appendage close his body, Trey directed the hijacked blasters fire right into the chest of the closest in line of the three other battle droids who were just now getting close enough to target him... and all raising their weapons, preparing to fire.

Upon seeing one of their own taking fire, the rest opened up while still too far away to get a clear lock on him. Stray shots pinged all around him as he held fast to his position, and continued to pour his rounds into the closest threat to him. It finally crumbled to the floor beside Trey, leaving it's unused blaster laying only inches from his free hand.

Trained to always seize an opportunity on the battlefield, he quickly snatched it up, while continuing to sweep the tunnel with the still firing blaster, his opponents hand still held.

Another twist of his torso to re-adjust his aim, and the second droid dropped... it's sparking head-case now blown nearly in two.

Taking the unexpected second of safety he'd created, Trey let loose of the metallic mess he was latched onto, long enough for him to reach up with his left hand, and grab a hold onto the constantly discharging blaster With a quick twist, he ripped it from the droids feeble grasp, and raised his newly claimed rifle, and hit the firing stud just as the last approaching battle droid lumbered into range, and opened fire.

It's crimson shots carved a dotted swath across the tunnel wall, as it was sent spinning from where Trey's first shot hit it, high upon it's chest.

Firing both rifles at once, his second and third shots sent the careening droid crashing into a heap on the far side of the tunnel. It's weapon, however, kept on firing. And was now etching it's way back down the wall face, right towards where Trey lay pinned!

With the steady aim that was literally the benchmark for survival for a Kaminoan clone, Trey's next shot (also, the last shot in the blaster he had first 'acquired') passed through the machines central core processing unit, located just behind it's left mechanical eye... putting an end to both it's pathetic struggles to rise, and to the arc of death descending down upon him.

The doomed droids last, defiant shot, however... while barely missing the left side of Treys head; did hit his blaster, just above the hand-grip, right into the power cell... causing the foreign weapon to explode in Treys hand!

The fire of a thousand suns engulfed the end of his left arm... the heat from the erupting core, being even more than the rating on trooper armor could withstand. Trey screamed as the plastoid of his glove melted in the fireball he suddenly found himself grasped onto.

His hand sprang open faster than his mind could tell it to, and a reflexive jerk of his left arm sent the mini-super-nova flinging down into the tunnel darkness... like a shooting star blazing its way through an ugly, brown nebula.

Shock took over, and the overwhelming flash of pain abated... most of the the nerve endings in his flesh, already having been completely burned away.

Trey grasped his right hand tightly around his left wrist... squeezing it, as if the wound was spouting blood, and immediately required a tourniquet. But in fact, there was very little blood. All of the fluids in his hand had been flash-boiled away.

He feel over to the floor, and rapidly rolled from side to side... holding his lamed hand high up into the foul air, as if awaiting the healing touch of some primitive cultures' deity. For several minutes, Trey was unable to do anything but stare in horror at his grotesque injury.

In the skewed, ruby glare of his fallen torch, what Trey saw highlighted against the shadowy gloom... looked like the deformed claw of some nightmarish creature from one of Quay's holo-comics, now come to life.

Turning his gauntlet over to survey the damage, Trey winced as if the light itself had somehow become toxic to his injured limb. Forcing himself to inspect it, in order to correctly asses his battle readiness, Trey was shocked at how much damage had been done.

Most of his glove was gone. Flash-melted, and now frozen into the forms left behind by it's recent liquefied state. Although the armor had saved his hand from being blow completely off, what was left no longer looked like skin and flesh. Small wisps of steam drifted from them, through the vent holes of his ruined armor. Although he saw no glowing embers still burning, Trey still felt like his fingers would forever be on fire from what he was sure were amputation-worthy burns.

A scrapping sound from behind him, reminded him that, wounded though he was, he wasn't dead yet. And the fight the keep it that way wasn't over yet, either.

While he was distracted by his infirmity, the one-armed droid he was still grappling with, used it's free arm to reach out and grab another one of it's fallen allies weapons, which had also slid close, after being dropped by its previous owner.

By the time Trey turned his head towards to the whine of it's firing system charging... the weapon was firmly being pointed right between his eyes.

Inside Trey's chest, he felt his heart stop beating... and time seemed to stop with it. Trey felt something like a shadow descend upon him... only it was on the inside.

His left limb went suddenly numb. And just as quickly, the ring he wore seemed as though it had come alive, and taken control of Treys injured arm!

Having no ability to stop himself, Trey stared in horrid fascination as his blistered hand swung around in a feeble slap, directed at his assailants head. Just before it landed, he saw the red glow filling the muzzle of the droids rifle. And from the corner of his eye, he caught a glimmer from within the mess of melted armored digits at the end of his rogue left arm.

Then, the excruciating pain of his blows impact, ran up his arm, and directly into his brain. Before his scream could escape him... and before the droids blaster could shriek out it's report... Trey heard a faint 'tink' sound, of metal-on-metal.

In the same instant, Trey felt the same overwhelming coldness that had take possession of his arm, stab a tendril of itself up into some primal section deep inside his mind. Then the voice cried out to him in purely savage intensity.

"Unleash your emotions! NOW!"

To amazed to disobey, Trey pushed forth as commanded... with all of his pain, all of his fear, and all of his anger.

The golden ring beneath his ruined glove... now exposed, and pressing against the battle droids skull; ignited into a ball of light between where the two metals met. Trey's eyes burned from the flash, but he was unable to move even his eyelids before witnessing the top of the droids head melt into a pool of glowing magma beneath the intensity of the rings flame.

In the pounding of his next heartbeat, he noticed the glow from the blasters barrel fade to back to black. Although his soldiers instincts told him that the threat had passed, and he should hurry to get moving again... inside, the voice urged Trey to draw even more of the raw power he felt flowing through him.

For moment, he felt dizzy... as if he had awakened to find himself balanced on a ledge. On one side, he felt the firmness and safety of the ground he knew, and trusted... on the other, he heard the pull of the voice, tempting him to let go... to release himself to the mystery of the void.

Trey stared into the abyss presented before him, and leaped.

He pressed his blistered palm harder against the metal surface, using the added pain to fuel his wrath that fed the power the ring so hungrily cried out for.

Then the robots eye-modules erupted from their sockets, spilling forth a swarm of electrical currents that cascaded down the automatons paralyzed frame. Blue light and golden sparks flickered in the gloom as the droid jerked and jolted like a metallic marionette.

Trey felt a wave of something like joy... only, twisted and tainted in some way; echo through him as the voice for a moment filled with ecstasy from tasting he power channeling through him. Then, the droid's demolished carcass ceased it's struggles, and fell limp... pulling itself away from Trey hand, and the destructive touch of the ring.

The loss of contact put an end to the electrical storm pouring from the ring, as well the coldness that had invaded Trey's body. His arm fell numbly to side, once again his to command... save for bouts of involuntary twitching.

After a few breathes, Trey feeling began to creep back into his extremity, and he was finally able to heave the trashed droids crushing bulk off of him.

Once free, he stared at the blackened remains of the robot before him. He didn't know how much voltage it took to do that, but he was sure it was a lot. They had to have some level of military grade shielding built in, didn't they?

His eyes wandered to his equally blackened hand. Seeing the wounds reminded him of how much it should have hurt, although he must have still been in a mild state of shock, because it still mostly felt numb. He wondered if that was a result to the electricity, and wondered why so much current hadn't toasted his hand even more. Then, his eyes turned was the dull luster of the crude ring. To his amazement, it wasn't marked at all. No scorch marks, no deformations. Just a poorly forged circle of some golden alloy. But he could not deny the effect putting it on had on the power of the voice.

He realized that it seemed to function like an antenna, bringing what was once a fuzzy signal... his fledgling psychic abilities... into much sharper focus. However it worked, he knew there was no way he could have summoned enough power to melt a battledroid like that, without it's aid. No matter how many ancient doorways the feeble powers he normally contained could manage to unlock.

Like him, a non-standard clone, Trey wondered how much more there was to this odd little ring, than it outwardly appeared to be capable.

Trey gazed deeply at the amulet he'd adorned. As he did so, he thought he could almost hear the echoes words. Words, it seemed that were being spoken directly into his mind!

It took him a moment to understand the mystical message he was mentally receiving. He held his breath, and tried to focus on what advice his inner voice had to give. It was something urgent, and... somehow familiar.

Adrenaline flooded him, as understanding dawned. It was telling him to...

"RUN!"

At the same time, Trey's disabled hearing registered the low, buzzing noise that steadily filling the tunnel. Then, he noticed all of the small red lights... blinking ever more rapidly, as the battledroids automatically triggered, internal self-destruct mechanisms, swiftly counted down.

He sprang to his feet and moved to gather up his flare, which had by now burned almost two-thirds of the way out. Trey winced as he closed his dragged his damaged fingertips along the rough ground, and again as he closed them around the tiny torches remaining nub. With his other, healthy hand... he reached down, and snatched up one of the many non-functional droids, still-functional blasters. And then, Trey ran as fast he could manage along the dusty corridor, desperately searching for any sing of a side-shaft that he could quickly divert into... to help shield him from the coming waves of destruction.

Just as his internal warning system was telling him his time was up, Trey saw a dark opening off to his left... and dove for what he hoped was more than just a trick shadow upon the uneven tunnels walls.

Blindly, he tumbled through the cloudy air, until finally hitting the hard ground, and rolling down into what appeared to be a safely unoccupied tunnel. Before he even came to a stop, he heard, saw... and felt... the explosions from the self-immolating combatants carcasses he'd created just minutes ago.

The resulting shockwaves brought with them a shower of violently displaced stone and steel...along with a fresh cloud of red dust, thickening the existing fog into a nearly impenetrable, copperish haze.

Trey remained tucked and covered until he was sure that the the last of the explosions, and their resulting hails of shrapnel, had subsided. Once he felt it was clear, he regained his footing, and slowly ventured back out into the main tunnel, to visually inspect the aftermath.

Even though visibility within the effected area was almost nothing, it didn't take long for Trey to get the full measure of destruction. For, from just a few steps before the side shaft opening... all the way from the ceiling to the floor... now stood a solid wall of rubble.

Standing there, staring up at the wall before him, it took him a moment to realize how truly lucky he'd gotten! Not only, had he somehow survived being the horribly outnumbered by battledriods, but their destruction had actually served to seal off the entire tunnel. And so, the entrance to the hidden temple!

And along with that, any evidence of all that had occurred within!

Because of the tunnel collapse, the carbonized remains of the dead Jedi might possibly never be found! For the first time, Trey began to fell that everything might just be fine. If, he could only find his vode... and then, finally find their way out of this kriffing labyrinth!

Reinvigorated by hope, Trey turned his back on the blocked tunnel, and started off to reunite with his brothers.

As he walked, he studied the weapon he now held, feeling the balance and heft of it. He fired off a shot at the ground, no longer as worried of drawing enemy attention... in order to gauge the recoil the unfamiliar weapon generated. It was no Decee, he decided, but at least now he was armed.

Beneath his helmet, he felt his lips slowly form into a menacing smile.

For the first time since the EMP's had blown, Trey felt like a real trooper again. A fatal fighting force, once more. A superbly honed instrument of war... now, fully locked and loaded.

Lethal.

Newly procured blaster, and overly used torch, held out before him... Trey started out anew, turning down the first tunnel shaft he came to. He was a man on a mission: To locate, and possibly even rescue, all three of his lost brothers, and get them all to safety.

Positive that nothing could stand now in his way, he ran around the corner, and charged into the next alleyway... ready, eager even, to take down any and all obstacles.

The next thing Trey knew, he found himself flying weightlessly through the thick, dim air.