Chapter 2: Trough the Ashes
The turbo lift shaft was reasonably clear, the car had managed to reached D3, but was now inoperable due to a malfunction, probably caused by the recent attack. The dreadnaught itself didn't seem so badly damage either, except of course ... for all the bodies. Javif cautiously emerged from the turbo lift, although the automatic decontamination had managed to bring the radiation down to safe levels, the young Jedi Knight used the force to shield himself from any left over resonance.
Never before had Javif seen a sight so disturbing, several bodies litter the area on the other side of the turbo lift. He could identify several officers and ship technicians of D3 while the nearby medical droids had already begun clearing them away. Probably taking them towards one of the medical labs, where, according to the droids outdated programming, living beings will be waiting to give orders on how to proceed. Only, there wouldn't be.
Javif continued to navigate his way further into the dreadnaught, finding more bodies grouped together along the long hallways. It didn't take long for the Jedi to realise that he had wandered into a familiar area. On this deck, mere hours ago, Javif and several other Jedi had mind melded with the force in a meditation technique that would defend the Outbound Flight from the Vagaari forces hyper efficiently, mainly by sending them into a state of mass confusion. Unfortunately during a surprise manoeuvre by the Chiss Commander; Javif, along with his fellow Jedi, felt the indescribable amount of agony, pain and death of the Vagaari as they were annihilated by the Chiss attack.
This forced the Jedi to break their connection with the meld and allowed an opportunity for small divisions of the Vagaari fleet to attack the Republic dreadnaught. Turbo laser fire had bombarded this very section of the ship, causing the collapse of durasteel bulkheads and other debris to rain down around the area. Javif remembers coming to after the meld, only to find that most of the other Jedi to be killed in the resulting attack. The Milaluka Jedi could see the remains of his fellow Jedi scattered around the deck. Until he came across a section of fallen debris and pinned underneath it, still to Javifs horror was Jedi Master Justyn Ma'Ning ... Javifs own master and friend.
"I should have tried ... stop ... him sooner" Javif painfully remembers the murmur of Ma'Ning voice as he rapidly grew weaker. "But he was ... Jedi Master ... Jedi Master".
"Don't talk, let me help you", Javif pleaded as he tried to use the force to remove the surrounding debris trapping his master.
"No!" Ma'Ning said, "too late ... for me"
"But I can't just leave you." Javif protested, again he tried to remove the debris, but he was still weakened from the recent mind meld.
"I am far beyond your help", Ma'Ning said, a deep sadness In his voice. "go ... help those who can still be helped."
"Now!" Ma'Ning spat out, as his face contracted from a spasm. "you're ... Jedi ... taken oath ... serve others ... go .. go"
Javif swallowed "Yes master... I." He struggled to find the words, but there was nothing else to say.
"Goodbye Jedi Marr" Ma'Ning simply said, a ghostly smile touching his lips as his former padawan sensed his life force flicking out from the mortal realm. Javif recalled himself forcing to leave his friend where he laid and venture on towards his fateful encounter with Master C'baoth. Now, the young Jedi had returned to his masters side, dropping to his knees and closing Master Ma'Nings eyes with his hand.
"Goodbye Master Ma'Ning." Javif whispered out. After a moment of mourning, he noticed a familiar cylinder object by his side ... Master Ma'Nings own lightsaber. Javif picked it up and held his close to him, wondering how the force will help him now.
"Hello! Is anyone there?"
Javif paused, that voiced ... could it be? He feverishly looked around to find the source of the voice, hoping that he'll here it again.
"Can anyone hear me out there? This is Lorana Jinzler of the Jedi Order, If any survivors on D3 can hear me please respond?"
Lorana? Thank the Force she's alive, Javif thought to himself. Her voice was coming from a console just outside in the nearby corridor, he hurried to reach it in time, hoping she's still on the other end.
"Please ... anyone? Respond!" Lorana pleaded. Javif had reached the console activated the comm link.
"Lorana!" Javif cried in relief, "Lorana, it's me Javif I can hear you."
"Is anyone out there, this is Jedi Knight Jinzler, someone ... anyone respond."
Javif examined the console more closely, it doesn't appear to be damaged but maybe the ships internal comms have been.
"Sith spit!" Javif spat out in frustration. "Lorana, I can hear you. Can you hear me?" He waited for a response, but it wasn't the one he was hoping for.
"If anyone is receiving this message, I'll be moving between dreadnaughts, searching for other survivors. Make your way to D5, I'm heading there now."
Javif abandoned the console and dashed back towards the main turbo lift. It didn't take too long for him to retrace his steps back to section that intersects with the rest of the Outbound Flight, but when he reached his destination, the young Jedi was frustrated to find that not only the turbo lift he arrived in was damaged beyond repair, but the remaining ones are out of power. This section of the ship must be running low on power, Javif thought to himself, cursing how he is suppose to proceed now.
"The Bridge!" Javif realised, if there was anywhere on D3 that could still contact Lorana it'll be there, it's a long shot but it's the best chance he has. He sped off toward the direction of the bridge, since D3 was the same as the other sections; a Rendili StarDrive heavy cruiser, the lay out is the same as the dreadnaught Javif mainly served on, so it was easy to navigate his way through the interior.
Suddenly, Javif stopped dead in his tracks. He felt something had changed, he sensed something ... someone new. The ship has been boarded. Acting quickly, the young Jedi continued to make his way throughout the section of the ship. Soon , Javif entered into a corridor that leads to the bridge, only to discover that someone had beaten him to it.
A squad of humanoid looking aliens in yellow trooper armour were positioned around the entrance of the bridge. Javif didn't recognise the armour, nor the insignia that they bore or even their species. Though most of the squad had their faces covered by helmets, one of them, likely an officer, was bare faced. Whoever these aliens were, they bore a strong resemblance to the Pandorian species, with their blue skin. However they lacked the yellow markings on their faces and had piercing red eyes.
"These must be with the ones who attacked the Outbound" Javif thought, "the ones who killed almost everyone on board with that chemical weapon."
For the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, a flash of anger occupied Javifs thoughts just as the officer noticed Javif come into view. He alerts his troops in his native tongue and the yellow troopers moved into position and began to open fire on the Jedi. In response, Javif activated his lightsaber and used its orange blade to deflect the incoming laser fire. The Milalukian Jedi let the force flow through him, trusting it to guide his every action and thanks to his training, was able to even redirect occasional blaster bolts back towards his enemies. After taking down a few troopers, Javif closed the distance between them. When he was close enough, he raised his hand and let out a force push, knocking back several troopers to the ground. As Javif approached the squad, some of the troopers pulled out vibroblades and lashed out. Unfortunately for them vibro weapons were no match for one skilled in lightsaber combat. Javif easily countered their attacks and used his lightsaber to pierce and dismembered the troopers. As those under his command fell to the ground dead, the Chiss officer drew his side blaster and aimed it at Javifs head. However the Jedi was quick to react by raising his blade up and deflecting the blaster bolt back, right through the officers forehead.
Looking down at his handiwork, at the corpses littering around him, Javif realised his mistake. He acted to aggressively towards them, he should have tried to take them alive, find out more about them and their mission. But instead he took them down hard. Realising he didn't have the luxury to reflect on his actions, Javif hurried inside the bridge and sat in its command chair.
"Come on ... come on ..." Javif muttered to himself as he activates the command console and attempts to create a communication link with Dreadnaught 5. It took a little time, but Javif managed to succeed and a few moments later ... his connection was answered.
"Can you hear me? Is anybody there?"
The image of a young human Jedi appeared in hologram form upon the console. The medium sized female was wearing her traditional Jedi robes, though it was torn and charred in several places. Her long dark hair that normally was neatly groomed at shoulder height was in a mess, strains of hair covering her face.
Javif could here the tone of relief in her voice, forcing a smile across his face.
The young Jedi sighed in relief, "Thank the force your alive Lorana. Are you alone? Are there any other survivors?
"No, apart from myself there are some colonists trapped in the central core. But I haven't heard from anyone from the other dreadnaughts ... I think we all that's left."
Javifs heart fell upon hearing those words, but deep down he knew it was true.
"How many colonists?"
There was an uncomfortable pause before Lorana responded.
Its that all? Javif thought, out of fifty thousand crew and colonist on board the Outbound Flight, only fifty nine had survived the attack. Suddenly Lorana spoke again, breaking Javif away from this thoughts.
"What about Master C'baoth? Do you know if he...?"
Lorana was Jorus C'baoth's own Padawan before she was knighted alongside Javif himself. Of course she would be worried about him, but she must have sensed it, his fall to the dark side and his eventual death. "Master C'baoth ... he ... fell." Javif waited to hear how Loranas would respond, he could sense her troubled mind.
"I ..." her voice trembled slightly, normally Lorana was stale ward even in the most stressful of situation. Even though this would clearly be the exception, Javif thought, it was still disheartening to hear her like this. "I ... sensed it."
"I'm sorry Lorana" Javif said gently.
"We can't dwell on that now" Lorana interrupted, "we have to help the survivors."
"What's the situation on your end?" Javif said, "Is your section of the Outbound still functional?"
"Mostly." Replayed Lorana, "With the Outbounds main bridge destroyed, I can reroute the command systems to the bridge here on D5 and use it to pilot the ship."
"You can do that?" Javif said in surprise.
"Master C'baoth gave me the codes to do so, thankfully he also wanted a number of us to be capable to fly the Outbound if necessary." Informed Lorana. "There's a star cluster, two days away from our current location. Once we reach it, there should be at least 10 habitable planets within the vicinity that we can take refuge on. From there we can negotiate a way back to the Republic with the Chiss Ascendancy."
Javif was puzzled by this plan. Though a sensible one, it was very detailed and ... the Chiss? Are those the ones who attack the Outbound? "How did you come by this information?"
"That would from me."
A new, raspy voice responded from the intercom, a strangers voice that put Javif on the defensive. Suddenly the holographic image of Lorana stepped out of view and was soon replaced by a man in a plain black officers uniform. A man of the same blue skinned alien race as the troopers that he despatched recently.
"Who is this?" Javif demanded, "Identify yourself."
"I am Force Commander Mitth'ras'safis of the Chiss Expeditionary Defence Fleet. But you may address me as Thrass."
Javif was stunned by this; why would a commander of those whom attacked their ship want to help them now? What's going on? "Why should we trust you?" Javif accused, "your people attacked us and killed almost everyone on board. Even some of your men tried to kill me just now."
"That boarding party was one of several sent by the ruling families of the Ascendancy" Thrass explained, "They want to salvage your vessel for its technology. I am here on a different mission."
Suddenly Loranas voice interrupted. "Thrass and his brother agree that if their people retrieve the Outbound, it would upset the current balance of power between the ruling families."
"That cannot be allowed to happen." Thrass uttered in a serious tone. "And the loos of life on your vessel was ... regrettable."
"Regrettable?!" Javif spat out.
"My brother had no intention of using the weapons that killed your crew." Thrass explained, "but when he was attacked by your Jedi Master C'baoth, one of his lieutenants gave the order in retaliation, against my brothers instruction."
"Javif.." Lorana uttered, "we cant change what happened, but we can still help the remaining survivors buy getting them planet side."
The young Jedi sighed and re-examined the situation at hand. As much as he hated to admit it, she was right, Lorana always had a frustrating habit of being that. "Ok." Javif answered, "what do we need to do?"
"First of all we need to get your vessel off it's current fixed course." Thrass explained. "My brother will buy as much time as he can with the ruling families, while I will try to recall the remaining Ascendancy forces from your vessel."
"Understood." Responded Javif. "However..." the Chiss commander cut in, "they are not directly answer to me. Should you encounter more ... you must do what you need to do."
"I understand." Javif reassured, "I'll bunker myself down here for the time being."
"May warriors fortune, smile on our efforts." Thrass said. Javif could tell that this must have been a farewell blessing of sorts of his people, so he in turn could only respond with the traditional Jedi farewell. "And may the force be with us."
On that note, Thrass's image disappeared and Lorana reappeared.
"It'll take a little time to re-calculate the new coordinates." Lorana confirmed, "Perhaps you should do a diagnosis of the Outbound. Make sure that the ship can hold itself together for the journey."
"Agreed, I'll get started immediately." Javif said, "You just focus on getting the ship under your control."
"Javif...!" Lorana suddenly blurted out.
"I'm really happy ... you managed to keep yourself alive." Lorana said bashfully. "I couldn't have wanted anyone else to survive through all this with."
Javif smiled softly before simply responding with. "nor could I." And with that, Loranas hologram disappeared, leaving Javif alone. Over the next several minutes, the young Jedi Knight performed a diagnostic on the ship. Luckily the hulls structural integrity is still intact, despite some minor damage. It seemed that most of the systems were still functional, apart from some minor ones. As he continued his checks, Javif thoughts drifted back to Lorana. He was surprised how quickly she took control of their current situation. Normally she was a little shy and unsure of herself, which was unsurprising considering who her master was. C'baoth had a reputation of being overly critical and incredibly harsh on his former Padawan, demanding absolute perfection In everything she did.
Javif always felt concerned for her well being even as far back as their early training, when they were first assigned to their masters. He originally thought that the force was with Lorana on the day Master C'baoth chose her as her Padawan. To be trained by such a prestigious Jedi Master, made him think that she was destined for greatness, but instead the pressure placed on her was immense. By comparison, Javifs own teacher, Master Ma'Ning, was a relatively obscure Jedi of little renown. He wasn't a legendary lightsaber duelist like Masters Windu or Dooku, before he left the order. Nor did he achieve some great feat in his life like Master Kenobi or possessed a powerful connection in the force as Master C'baoth or Grand Master Yoda. But he was patient, caring and a good listener. Master Ma'Ning wanted to bring out the best in Javif and reach his full potential, while Lorana had her abilities and achievements constantly scrutinised by her own master.
But that was no longer the case, C'baoth was gone and only he and Lorana remained. Maybe it was the will of the force, maybe not. But only time will tell what fate held before them and whatever it was, they would face it together.
Javif was snapped out of his thoughts and turned his attention towards Loranas hologram now reappeared, but something didn't feel right. "What's the matte?" Javif answered.
"We have a serious problem."
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