Anubin called on the Force to lift the third artifact into the air, forming a triangle in midair. The artifacts began to spark with power, and a line of lightning shot out of each, connecting them to each other. The space between them warped, the beginnings of the rift described in the tablet buried with the artifacts. Anubin reached out again to add his own power to that coursing through the artifacts…
And was interrupted by the holocom ringing in the main hold. His concentration broke and the artifacts fell to the floor. Anubin cursed and dropped to his knees, checking the artifacts for damage.
"Andronikos," he called, "inform whoever is on the holo that I'm in the middle of a breakthrough, and I couldn't care less what the hell they have to say!"
Less than thirty seconds later, Andronikos came into the conference room. "It's Darth Marr. He says your breakthrough can wait. I don't think he's interested in a 'no'."
"Very well." Anubin stood, dusted off his clothes, and took his sweet time making his way to the holocom.
"Darth Occlus," Marr said by way of greeting. "Ravage has discovered a planet on the far regions of space that appears to host a small civilization of Force users."
"And you think they'll have artifacts and such for me to study," Anubin concluded. "You want me to join an invasion force?"
"That will be Ravage's call. He has called a meeting of the Dark Council to discuss it and other matters."
"Immediately, or should I make my way to Korriban?"
"Dromund Kaas. We convene in two days' time." With that, Marr's holo-image disappeared.
"He never is much one for goodbyes," Anubin muttered. To Andronikos, who had emerged from the conference room, he added, "Set a course for Dromund Kaas. I'll call Advena and see if she's been informed."
"You got it."
Anubin met Advena outside the Council chambers with a brief hug before both entered, taking their places – Anubin next to Marr, and Advena at the head of the chamber, as her position of Emperor's Wrath allowed. Shortly after they entered, the holo-images of several absent Councillors flickered to life, and the doors of the chamber closed, signaling the beginning of the meeting.
"I've discovered a planet with a civilization of Force-users," Darth Ravage began without preamble. "It's not on any chart. The only place I could find mention of it was in ancient texts; it seems our ancestors came upon this planet and its people."
When he did not continue, Anubin rolled his eyes. "And?"
"The Lords subjugated this planet, but for some reason they left it almost as soon as they had arrived. Some Lords stayed behind, manipulating the society to fit their ideals."
"How long ago was this?"
"Milennia ago, when the first Sith Lords had just discovered the Sith species and formed their new Empire. Recently, I made a preliminary scouting trip…" Ravage looked quite smug about this. Anubin was sure Ravage was enjoying knowing more than he did; his rival was always glad to have an advantage over him. "There are still Force users present on the planet. The group I made contact with attacked me, but I suspect there are other groups on the planet."
"You want to send a bigger scouting party, then?" At Ravage's nod, he offered, "I will join, then. If this civilization is truly as old as you say, they will no doubt have artifacts and rituals for study."
"Very well," Darth Marr said. "Darth Ravage, who else would you send?"
"I will go myself, of course. As head of expansion and diplomacy, it is my duty to make contact with newly discovered civilizations."
"We want to make contact with them before subjugating them? That's a new one."
"Occlus, I will not have any of your cheek today!"
"Enough," Marr interjected before the vitriol really started to fly. "Occlus has a point. And given that memebers of this civilization have already attacked you, can you be certain that your diplomacy will be welcomed?"
"Who would you send, then?"
"I shall join Occlus in this venture," Darth Vowrawn spoke up. "Who knows what could be discovered on this planet? It's quite exciting!"
"We can take my ship. We shouldn't need much more than my crew for a diplomatic mission."
Vowrawn clapped his hands together. "That's that settled, then! Now, what else ought we to talk about?"
Anubin spent the next week before they departed gathering information on the planet and its civilization. Unfortunately, as Ravage said, information was severely limited, aside from what Ravage had already gathered. Anubin had access to that much, but Ravage was, of course, spectacularly uncooperative when he asked him for his people's reports.
"Can you just get over yourself and allow me access to the reports? As certain as I am that you want to see me fail, it would benefit us all if this venture succeeds."
"Why, Occlus, it is of course my singular pleasure to watch you succeed in all things, but I'm afraid I can't allow you access to the reports."
"And why is that?"
"Simply because they haven't been written yet." Ravage laughed at Anubin's incredulous look. "You see how difficult it is for me to offer you something that does not exist."
By the time they were to depart, the sum total of what Anubin had studied were some mentions of the planet in texts from around the era of the Great Hyperspace War, a few descriptions of the Force users' abilities and methods, and a detailed but corrupted document on their foci, which they called 'wands'.
"Not much to prepare ourselves with, is it?" Vowrawn asked rhetorically, skimming the small report Anubin had put together.
"Unfortunately, Ravage's reports weren't ready, so all I had to go on were a few mentions."
"You did quite well with such limited information. We shall make do."
With that, Anubin turned his attention to his crew. "Is everything prepared?"
"All supplies are loaded and stored away!" Talos confirmed with a grin. The archaeologist was as excited as Anubin was about this venture; a new planet to explore was all he'd ever dreamed of!
"Course is set. We heading out?"
Anubin followed Vowrawn's nod suit. "Let's go."
Three days later, the Angel arrived in the new planet's system. Andronikos brought the ship in closer, and Anubin reached out his senses, searching for Force-users on the planet.
"There's a great concentration... here," he said, pointing to one particular continent and rattling off a string of coordinates. "The whole planet is teeming with life, but there are a few places where the Force runs more strongly."
"Taking us down."
The descent was uneventful until suddenly all of the ship's systems shut down.
"What the hell?!" Andronikos swore, slamming his fist against the console. "We're going down! Brace for impact!"
Anubin threw himself into the captain's chair, buckling himself in a second before the cockpit windows showed bright green grass as the ship crashed. Everything went black.