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The Miscellaneous Adventures of Eksa
(Hello, all! This thread will contain a series of short stories centering around my rogue Jedi/bounty hunter/heavy alcoholic, Eksa. These won't be in any chronological order, and most likely won't have any regular upload schedule; they're just little events in Eksa's pre-RP history that I thought would be fun to write out when I find myself with enough time and energy to do so. Hope you enjoy!)
Dusk and Dawn
Oppression literally hovered over the galaxy.
In the few years since its arrival, the Eternal Empire of Zakuul had taken a sizeable chunk of the galaxy into its iron grip. The symbol of its dominance was dotted about the galactic map, in the form of its Star Fortresses. Hundreds of these massive metallic eyes bore down on just as many planets: Tatooine, Alderaan, Voss, Nar Shaddaa, and more besides. The looming threat of planetary annihilation was certainly an effective method of ensuring compliance; the devastation of Bothawui saw to that.
In one such Star Fortress, its commanding figure—an Exarch of Zakuul—leaned back in his chair, surrounded by computer screens displaying all manner of leisurely entertainment. This was his reward for serving the Eternal Throne; a relaxing post in a quiet corner of this backwards galaxy, lording over some meaningless planet whose name he didn’t care to remember. Why such a ball of dirt would have any meaning to either of the feuding governments—Republic or Empire—was beyond the Exarch. But, who honestly cared? It was a nice, simple—
The blaring of alarms prompted a yelp from the Exarch as he scrambled to his feet. He drove his armored fist into a button on the console.
“What in the Void is going on down there?!” he demanded.
A dying wail took the subordinate’s last breath. The Exarch hit another button. “Engineering, status report!”
“Intruder, sir!” the second subordinate replied. “One of those—”
The last thing to come over the second subordinate’s comm was the hiss of plasma and a cry of pain. Then, there was only static. With a growl, the Exarch punched some more buttons, dispatching his entertaining shows to reveal security footage.
The supposedly impregnable Star Fortress had become a graveyard.
Bodies littered the corridors, Zakuul’s human soldiers now sporting scorch marks and missing limbs. The Skytroopers, the mechanized backbone of the Eternal Empire’s military, lied scattered and shattered in the wake of wherever the intruder had gone. Beneath his visor, the Exarch’s eyes narrowed; there was a pattern in the trail of carnage, leading directly to the Star Fortress’ center.
“Sun generator guards, be alert,” the Exarch growled, slamming his fist into another button. “The invading party is on its way there. Make sure they’re properly welcomed while I make my way to you.”
With a swish of his cape, the Exarch stormed out of his command center. Some fool had interrupted his quiet and easy job, and they were going to pay
The madness had reached the Star Fortress’ heart in moments.
At the station’s core was a unique power source: a miniature sun. Surrounded by a ring of computer stations designed to maintain it, the sun fueled the Star Fortress’ systems like the beating heart it was, from the most benign to the most lethal. As such, the core was maintained by a legion of guards with the best training the Eternal Empire could muster.
Most of these guards were now dead or dismantled.
The Exarch stood before the sealed door, waiting for the intruding force to come. Once his subordinates wore them down, the Exarch would claim his prize. Perhaps even be rewarded by Emperor Arcann for slaying a threat powerful enough to lay waste to so many of Zakuul’s finest?
On the other side of the door, the sounds of clashing lightsabers rang out for a few moments, the Zakuulan Knights clearly giving their all against the intruder. Then, slowly, the clashing sounds died down. Silence followed. Calm.
A cyan beam of light abruptly ripped through the door, slowly carving a line down the middle until it reached the floor. The newly-split door then sprang off its frame, the pieces sliding across the floor. The Exarch gripped his saber pike and shield tightly, steeling himself to face the opposing force.
One man. The intruder who had caused so much destruction was one man, clad in light armor sans the scarf and goggles around his head. On his belt seemed to be a cylinder resembling a flare launcher, but besides that the intruder seemed to have no visible weapons of his own. In one hand, however, was an active Zakuulan lightsaber, the source of the cyan blade that had secured him entry.
“Interesting sabers you people have,” Eksa remarked rather flatly, looking over the weapon for a moment. Once he seemed satisfied, the cyan blade retracted into its hilt, which soon found itself clipped to his belt.
The Exarch stood fully erect, grip on his weapons tightening at this perceived insult. “Outland scum! You have trespassed on the property of the Eternal Empire, murdered dozens of its defenders; high crimes against the great and mighty Eternal Thro—”
Eksa just took a flask off his belt, pulled his scarf down just enough to expose his mouth, and chugged away without a care in the world.
“Are—ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?!” the Exarch shrieked incredulously. “What do you have to say for yourself?!”
Eksa corked his flask and replaced it on his belt. “Not much of anything, to tell the truth.”
He plucked the Zakuulan saber off his belt again, taking it in his left hand. Eksa then flicked his free hand, a compartment on the right side of his armor opening as another lightsaber—this one with a canister mounted on the side and a tube further connecting it to the primary hilt—slid into his right hand. Seconds later, two blue lightsaber blades roared to life, but the Exarch merely scoffed.
“Now I see what you are!” he declared. “You’re one of the Republic’s vermin. A ‘Jedi’!”
“No,” he said bitterly. “I’m not.”
In a sudden burst of speed, Eksa charged in with sabers at the ready. The Exarch countered with a swift jab of his saber pike, but Eksa quickly dropped to the floor and slid beneath his Zakuulan foe, one blue blade sweeping for the Exarch’s foot. With a yelp, the Exarch stumbled and rolled aside, almost tangling himself in his own cape in the process.
“Well, whatever you are, you will die here!” the Exarch declared, slamming the butt of his pike on the ground. A wave of energy surged across the floor, knocking Eksa off his feet. The twin saber-swinger recovered quickly, however, flipping onto a wall only to quickly vault off of it and towards the Exarch.
The Zakuulan overseer raised his shield, but a flurry of aggressive saber swings saw it separated from his hand in seconds. His now-freed hand quickly went to his pike, and he brought the entire weapon down on Eksa. The mysterious intruder positioned his sabers in an X formation, three blue blades locking in a struggle for dominance. The Exarch pushed down, laughing as his superior strength seemed to overwhelm Eksa. He paid little attention to how Eksa slowly turned the butt of one of his sabers, namely the one with the canister attached, towards him.
It immediately garnered his attention when a jet of fire erupted from the saber’s bottom.
The Exarch cried out in shock and horror, desperately batting his now-flaming cape and armor. The fire was small and easily extinguished, but the goal had still been met. Eksa took advantage of this new opening, lunging forth and thrusting one saber through the Exarch’s chest. Another saber soon followed, slicing the Exarch from shoulder to side. The dismembered parts fell to the floor, burning wounds immediately cauterized.
Eksa sighed, his sabers deactivating. Without a word, he trudged over to a computer console and planted a small device on it, then tapped the side of his headgear.
“Teefour?” he said. “Do your thing.”
The device beeped, and a few moments later, the sun in the Star Fortress’ belly began to pulse and ripple. Jets of flame erupted from the sphere of power, its stability compromised by failing equipment. Knowing the inevitable result of this, Eksa made as quick an exit as he could manage.
The planet below saw fire above as the Star Fortress tore itself asunder. Dusk had fallen on the Eternal Empire's hold over that world; now, a new dawn had arrived, heralded by the destruction of the oppressive symbol that once loomed overhead. The citizens rejoiced, the eye in their sky now blinded.
Few saw a dingy XS light freighter escaping the blast, carrying their unknown liberator with it.
Posted Mar 25, 18
· Last edited Mar 25, 18
No Turning Back
Eksa’s room on Tython looked the same as it ever did: one table of half-decent size, a locker big enough to hold the barest essentials, and a couple of small lights. Wherever he lived, the same level of sparse décor surrounded him. He would know.
After all, he had been staring blankly at it for quite some time, now.
He rolled over in his bed, being mindful of his Zabrak horns. Then he rolled over again, and again. Each movement was a desperate attempt at shaking away the void where his heart had once been. All he could do was fight it. Indeed, fighting was all he knew how to do, in spite of his Jedi teachings. But his current opponent was none other than himself.
He had been a fool. A stupid, traitorous fool. When she needed him most, he had stabbed her in the back, solely because he was too much of a coward. Stupid. Stupid. Stupi—
There was a knock at his door.
“Eksa?” ventured a voice from the outside world. “It’s Tal. May I come in?”
The answer was silence.
Eksa sighed bitterly, another silence lingering over him for a moment before he replied. “Fine.”
The door slid open, and in stepped a Miraluka with slick brown hair, a tray of meat in his hands. Tal gave Eksa the friendliest smile he could, but the Zabrak could only frown.
“Hello, there,” Tal nodded. “How are you holding up?”
Eksa gave him a look that demanded to know just how few brain cells the Miraluka had.
“Sorry. I suppose that was a rather silly question,” Tal chuckled. “I merely thought to ask, since…well, you haven’t left your room in several days. The Masters are worried.”
“Good for them,” Eksa said flatly, rolling over to face away from Tal.
But the Miraluka’s gaze, despite his lack of true eyes, never wavered. “Have you eaten lately?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Well…in any case, I brought you something,” Tal said as he set the tray down on the sole table. “One of the guids in Master Quilb’s care passed away recently. He and I agreed that its body would be better used to nourish others rather than simply rotting away in the ground. Such is the circle of life.”
He was met once more with silence. Tal frowned and sat on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t need Force sight to tell me you’re troubled,” the Miraluka ventured. “And I suspect I know what’s on your mind.”
More silence. Tal took this as his cue to reach out with a hand, but Eksa turned his head just enough for his emerald eyes to pierce into Tal’s olive branch. The Miraluka froze, nodding apologetically before drawing his hand back.
“Eksa,” Tal began. “I know this is difficult, but let me assure you that you made the right decision. You acted as a Jedi would.”
“First time for everything,” Eksa replied flatly, finally rolling into a slumped sitting posture on the edge of the bed as his gaze fell to the floor.
“There’s no need to be so hard on yourself,” Tal shook his head.
Eksa’s eyes snapped back up to Tal, now bearing a venomous glare. “She was my friend, Tal. My only
friend in the entire Order. And I betrayed
“You did only what was necessary,” Tal replied as calmly as ever. “It’s natural to feel guilty, but the longer you let it fester, the worse you’ll feel. You must push through. Remember: there is no emotion, there is pea—”
“Tal,” Eksa interrupted sharply. “You’re not helping.”
Tal frowned, but bowed his head. “I apologize. Just remember that what you need to hear and want to hear may not be the same—”
This time, Tal paused. “I’ll…stop then.”
The room was quiet for a moment.
“You know…it may do you some good to engage with the other Padawans,” Tal suggested. “Perhaps you could make some new friends?”
Eksa raised an eyebrow. “Not sure the Padawan who keeps getting into fights is the one people would want at their back.”
“In that case, let me know if someone causes you trouble,” Tal nodded. “I’ll intervene, or get one of the Masters to help sort things out.”
“…how do you plan on ‘intervening’?” Eksa slowly asked. “Talking at them?”
Tal shrugged. “Negotiation is the Jedi way. I know that concept can be difficult, but—”
He fell silent when Eksa scowled at him.
“I’ll…just leave you alone, then. Give you some time to think on our talk,” Tal announced. “The food is still yours, if you want it. Some nourishment might also do you some good.”
The Miraluka stood up and strode out the door, quietly shutting it behind him. With another bitter frown, Eksa looked down at his stomach. The smell of the freshly-cooked meat was certainly getting to him, triggering all manner of grumbles from his stomach. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate, that much was true. Maybe it really was time to stop wallowing in misery and do something about it.
He pulled the tray onto his lap and took some slow bites, mind poking and prodding at him all the while. The person he had called his friend—maybe even more than that—would have eaten with him. The two rarely had a meal apart since meeting; this fact made Eksa’s sense of isolation all the more crippling. Every such realization saw him take fewer and fewer bites.
Roughly a third of the meat remained by the time Eksa set the tray aside. After a moment of contemplation, he stood up and trudged over to his locker, throwing the doors open. The inside was largely vacant; Eksa only had one set of robes to call his own, and only a few possessions of note remained.
One of these possessions was his lightsaber, a hand-crafted hilt that had seemed to have been compiled from scrap metal. The other was a more professionally-built lightsaber, with decorative prongs and a sharp horranth tooth attached to the pommel. Eksa’s heart sank at the sight of the second saber. It was the weapon of his friend; the weapon she had left behind when she left the Jedi Order. When his cowardice drove her away.
It was his fault. Her pain, her fear, everything she must have felt now. It was all his fault.
Eksa took a deep breath, then he picked up the two lightsabers and strapped each one to his belt. As Tal had said, the pain would only grow if left unchecked. Drowning in sorrow would solve nothing; only action would.
Night had long since fallen by the time Eksa had left his room. The door slid open, and after a moment to scan for followers, Eksa pulled his robe’s hood over his horned head and quietly made his way out. Tython’s other residents—Eksa’s fellow Padawans, the Knights and Masters who taught them, and the occasional trooper or civilian who visited for one reason or another—were absent from the temple’s halls. No one was going to stop him.
Eksa stalked the winding corridors, face shrouded in his hood, until he found one particular room in the temple: the shuttle port. The space next to the Council chambers seemed an odd choice to place a shuttle off-world, but it was convenient enough. Now all that remained was to piece together how to start up a shuttle, fly it out into the galaxy, and—
A light flicked on in the hangar. Eksa froze.
Behind him stood Tal, a small akk dog by his side. The beast made an inquisitive noise and ventured forward, but a gentle hand from the Miraluka held it back.
“Eksa, what’s going on here?” Tal asked. “Why are you out of bed so late?”
The Zabrak only clenched his jaw, still facing the shuttle as his hand slowly balled into a fist. Tal frowned.
“…are you planning on leaving?” Tal asked in a low voice.
Eksa’s emerald eyes finally found their way behind him, staring at the Miraluka. “…I don’t belong here. I never did.”
“Eksa, you don’t have to go out into the galaxy on your own,” Tal pleaded. “If you don’t think being a Jedi Knight is your calling, then…well, perhaps we can talk to the Masters about what we can do to—”
A heavy sigh from Eksa cut him off. Tal watched as his Zabrak friend wordlessly turned away and trudged over to the nearest shuttle.
“Eksa—” Tal began again, but paused. “…it’s her, isn’t it?”
“Eksa…she must surely have fallen to the dark side by now. She’s go—”
“You don’t know that!” Eksa snapped, whirling on Tal with fangs bared. Tal’s akk dog let out a low growl at the perceived threat, but Tal recoiled slightly.
“Please, just hear me out!” Tal pleaded. “If…if you don’t believe you belong in the Jedi, then please feel free to leave in the morning. But you shouldn’t try and search for Va—”
“I ruined her life
, Tal!” Eksa’s eyes lit up with rage as he stormed over to Tal, orange face now inches from the Miraluka’s.
The akk dog tried to intercept him, but a vicious swing of Eksa’s hand and a wave of Force energy sent the canine tumbling into a wall. Tal reached out to his pet, but soon found his attention focused back on the irate Zabrak before him.
“If being a Jedi means stabbing people in the back in order to ‘do the right thing’, and leaving people to die just so we don’t get in trouble with the Masters you’re so in love with—”
“Eksa—” Tal tried again, but once again found himself interrupted. This time a fist rocketed towards the Miraluka’s head, only to be caught in Tal’s hand. “Eksa, please, remember your training! If you give into your anger like this—”
A blast of Force abruptly launched Tal off his feet and into a wall, the would-be negotiator soon slumping onto the floor in an unconscious heap. The night was silent again.
Then rustles and stirs echoed through the halls. Eksa grimaced; the commotion must have roused the other Jedi. The Zabrak quickly dashed into the first shuttle he could find, sliding into the pilot’s seat and pressing any button that seemed like it would do something. Eventually, Eksa found the button that closed the shuttle door. Another few presses ignited the engines.
Drawing on whatever knowledge of flight simulations he remembered, Eksa took the controls. As Jedi investigators began to trickle into the hangar, the hijacked shuttle lifted into the night sky, rocking and waving unsteadily but nonetheless flying. Eksa clenched his jaw, gripping the controls tightly. There was no turning back now; certainly not after the way he left the Jedi. But this was what he had to do.
He had to make things right.
(I apologize in advance for this particular story; it turned out very satirical towards behaviors I've witnessed and been subjected to, moreso than intended. Hope you enjoy regardless!)
Rest and Recreation
The bottle’s bottom met the countertop, the rest of the container soon finding itself pushed back to the tender.
“…refill,” was all Eksa said, his slumping body leaning on the counter with his headgear hanging from his belt.
The bartender blinked, scratching his Weequay head. “You sure, fella? That’s some pretty potent stuff you’ve gone through three bottles of.”
Eksa simply shrugged, the tender following suit.
“Whatever, man, it’s your money,” he said, taking the bottle and filling up a fourth drink. “I mean, I can’t fault you for wanting to stay hydrated; we’re on Tatooine, for crying out loud. I’m just saying there are better ways to do that than drowning yourself in alcohol.”
Eksa only shrugged again, nodding to the bartender upon accepting his refilled drink. “Thanks.”
“Hey, don’t mention it,” the tender grinned, dismissively waving a hand. “You need anything else, you let me—”
The tender gritted his teeth and groaned at the sound of the raucous roar. Eksa shifted his gaze to the entrance, spying a trio of Mandalorians seemingly attempting to muscle past one another as they pushed their way into the bar. Some stray elbows and limply-swinging blasters battered a patron or two, but the Mandalorians didn’t seem to notice.
“Tonight, ner vode
, we celebrate a successful hunt!” declared the lead Mandalorian, dressed in armor of an obnoxiously bright orange shade save a few grey patches. “Our fourth one this week!”
His comrades, one in green armor with orange highlights and another in blood red armor with an orange visor, belted out another cheer at the top of their lungs. Eksa merely let out a small, dejected sigh as he turned his focus back to his drink.
“Barkeep!” the Mando in orange-and-grey roared, dramatically slamming his hand on the counter and depositing a fair few credit sticks. “Your finest tihaar
for the finest warriors this side of the galaxy!”
“Sure, coming right up,” the tender sighed, scooping away the credits and turning away just in time to hide a roll of his eyes. Eksa quietly kept his eyes on the drink he nursed, doing his best to simply ignore the armored party of three.
Their lack of volume control made this an increasingly difficult task.
“How’d you even hit that last wraid, vod
?” the red-armored Mando said to his green-and-orange comrade, punching the latter’s shoulder in a manner that seemed a bit more than out of jest. “You couldn’t hit the broadside of a bantha!”
“Hey, at least I can fire a rifle without having it blow up in my face!” Green-Orange snapped back.
“Oh-ho! Copaani mirshmure’cye, vod
?” Red-Orange sneered, swiftly putting his orange T-visor directly in Green-Orange’s face.
“Hah! Yes, fight! Entertain the bar!” laughed Orange-Grey, turning to the rest of the patrons and throwing his hands out wide. His fellows began punching and kneeing each other as he spoke. “Feast your eyes, arutiise
! Witness the sort of great battle you’ll never see in the Republic or Empire! Two warriors of true honor, bodies clad in glorious beskar
and bellies full of the wondrous tihaar
“Which you haven’t even had yet,” the tender pointed out. Orange-Grey simply climbed on top of the counter, still facing the crowd as if the bar’s owner hadn’t said anything.
“BEHOLD!” Orange-Grey roared, dramatically gesturing to his brawling comrades. Red-Orange picked up a stool and promptly drove the seat into Green-Orange’s helmeted face, forcing him onto the floor. “YOUR WINNER HAS BEEN DECIDED! GAZE UPON YOUR CHAMPION, THE GALAXY’S STRONGEST AND MOST HONORABLE WARRIOR!”
Orange-Grey leapt off the counter and hoisted Red-Orange’s fist into the air, both Mandalorians filling the air with more exaggerated cheers. The remaining patrons responded with a few murmurs and the sparse clap.
“Are you done?”
Clan Orange turned their collective T-visors towards Eksa, whose drink had long since been emptied.
“What’s that?” Orange-Grey lumbered over, putting a hand to the side of his helmet to act as an ear. “What did you say, aruetii
Eksa rotated in his seat just enough so that he would be scowling directly into Orange-Grey’s visor.
“…you know you’re not the only people here, right?” Eksa asked.
His statement was met with uproarious laughter from all three Mandalorians.
“You hear this soulless waste of armor, vode
?” Orange-Grey guffawed. “He thinks we give a kriff what he thinks of us!”
“How ‘bout you pull the stick out of your shebs
, horn-head?” Red-Orange added.
“Yeah!” Green-Orange spoke up. “We are who we are, and that means you have no right to judge us for any reason!”
The tender chose this moment to set three bottles beside the Mandalorians. “All right, fellas, here you are.”
Clan Orange’s attention quickly shifted, all three of its members lunging for the tihaar like a canine chasing a thrown stick. They raised their glasses high, though didn’t make any motion resembling removal of their helmets.
“You know, vode
? I gotta level with you,” Red-Orange spoke up. “I’m honestly getting tired of dealing with di’kuts
He jabbed a thumb over at Eksa, who slowly raised an eyebrow.
“I know, right?” Green-Orange nodded. “We have our beskar’gam
, our tihaar
, our war stories…why can’t all these chakaars
just accept that we’re better than they are?”
“They should try to be more like us!” Red-Orange agreed, pointing a finger at his green-and-orange compatriot. “Our ways are clearly superior, and all the stupid aruetiise
who don’t fit our mold should be thrown out an airlock!”
“Ah, ner vode
, remember why we’re here,” Orange-Grey interjected, attempting to inject a wizened tone into his usually jocular voice. “We’re here to celebrate, and enjoy ourselves. Life is short, and we should spend it wisely.”
He raised his glass, and with solemn nods, Green-Orange and Red-Orange clinked their bottles against his.
“Which is why we’re going to the Imperial fleet when we’re done here!” Orange-Grey announced, raising his bottle as high as he could. “We’ll jetpack up to that ring above the cantina and lord over all the di’kuts
like the superior warriors we are!”
!” his comrades cheered as loudly as they could, also raising their bottles.
“Yeah, kriff the thought of actually interacting
with the rabble!” Red-Orange added.
“Especially kriff the idea of planning and fighting a real war when we can just grab some cheap thrills instead!” Green-Orange piped up.
Eksa just heaved a sigh at this point, slipping his headgear back on as he stood up. Without a word, he walked past Clan Orange and took his first few steps out of the cantina.
“Where you think you’re going, aruetii
?!” Red-Orange barked, practically leaping out of his seat to position himself between Eksa and the exit. “We’ve got unfinished business! No one criticizes how we live our lives and gets away with it!”
“Why are you even here, anyway, aruetii
?” Orange-Grey stood up as well. “Bars are places full of life and social time, and you don’t fit in with either.”
“Yeah!” Green-Orange added. “What, do you just go to a bar to drink
and do nothing else? That’s so kriffing lame
Eksa slowly turned his gaze towards Green-Orange, silently staring for a moment. The tender winced, whisking away whatever fragile objects were still atop the counter. He had a bad feeling about this.
“Well?” Red-Orange snorted. “What’s the matter, di’kut
? Krakjya got your tongue?”
Eksa remained silent.
“So much for the big bad critic from earlier!” Green-Orange sneered, drawing back a fist before driving it towards Eksa’s face.
Eksa quickly ducked out of the path of Green-Orange’s fist, then grabbed hold of the Mandalorian’s arm before flinging him towards his red-and-orange comrade. Green-Orange’s momentum carried him directly into Red-Orange’s path, flooring both of the armored patrons and knocking their helmeted heads together.
“Hah! Not bad for an aruetii
!” Orange-Grey laughed, cracking his knuckles as he advanced on Eksa. “Let’s see how you handle a rally master at the top of his gam—”
Before Orange-Grey could finish, Eksa’s palm shot out and struck the plate covering the Mandalorian’s chest. The Force lashed out in tandem with Eksa’s strike, sending his armored assailant sailing over the bar and into a wall. Orange-Grey slid out of the resulting crater and slumped into a heap on the floor, a pitiful groan escaping from beneath his helmet.
With all three Mandalorians down, Eksa heaved one last sigh. He placed a few more credits on the counter, as if to apologize for the ruckus, before finally leaving the bar.
He hated Tatooine.
Posted May 18, 18
· Last edited May 22, 18
Hoth was not a planet Eksa had been prepared for.
In the several months since he had abandoned the Jedi, he had visited a variety of planets: the luminescent cityscape of Nar Shaddaa, the war-torn lands of Balmorra, the strange quagmires of Taris, and more besides. Wherever he went, he went far out of his way to serve the people he came across, fought for their justice and helped them with their problems. And every time he did, he made certain they knew who he was.
He knew that spreading his name so freely would be a double-edged sword. He knew—feared—that the Jedi could use it to hunt him down, drag him kicking and screaming back to Tython for…something. At the most, a punishment for his violent departure. At the least, some unnecessary rehabilitation effort that would ultimately go nowhere. Eksa had no idea what would actually come if a Jedi found him, and he didn’t even want to know. But he had to risk still using his name and what little Jedi authority he carried.
He had to risk it if there was any chance it would reach her ears.
Eksa clutched his robes tighter against himself, shuddering as Hoth’s frigid winds gnawed at him. The armor he had stitched onto his once largely-unprotected garments seemed to do little to keep him warm, if the chattering teeth beneath his domed cap were any indication. Yet he still trudged through the knee-high snow as he neared his destination.
A door of durasteel embedded in the side of a snow bank, two pirates—boasting the frost-covered armor of the infamous White Maw group—standing guard. A transport parked outside, bearing the familiar emblem of the Sith Empire. A rumor stating that a Sith Lord of mild renown sought to form some sort of alliance with the pirates, perhaps even adopt them into the Empire’s fold.
Eksa clenched his jaw, inhaling the freezing air once more. This was it. This was what he was here to stop. Cutting down these offenders would save countless lives, and nothing was going to stop him.
As the snow-covered wanderer slowly approached, the two White Maw guards gave him a funny look before glancing to one another. As if reaching some unspoken agreement, they took aim with whatever weapons they had. Seconds later, a sapphire shaft of light ripped through their wrists like a buzzsaw, followed shortly by a golden blade that rent their bodies in two. The Force silently guided the two airborne lightsabers back to Eksa’s hands, and without a word, the renegade Jedi plunged them both into the door.
“What the—hey!” a voice bearing a distinct Imperial accent cried from the Imperial transport, its pilot apparently jostling himself awake and scrambling for a communicator. “My Lord, we have company! There’s a Jed—”
Eksa suddenly ripped one saber out of the door and flung it at the transport’s cockpit, silencing the pilot in a shower of sparks and sheared metal. The moment the lightsaber returned to Eksa’s hand, his focus turned back to the door. Heat blazed from each saber as Eksa carefully cut a path across the doors, making sure the size of what he hoped to cut away was bigger than he was. Once assured of his handiwork, the Zabrak took a few steps back and put his sabers away, taking a deep breath as he pointed his open palms at the door.
Once more, the Force flowed through him, this time battering the portion of the door he had weakened. That portion soon burst off the rest of its mechanism, allowing Eksa to simply step through.
“Halt, Jedi!” another Imperial voice cried, this one belonging to a soldier who took aim at the silent Zabrak with his rifle. Other rifles and pistols followed suit, be they Imperial or White Maw. “We have direct orders to prevent all interferen—”
The soldier’s sentence ended in a scream as the golden-bladed saber struck him down, the weapon returning to Eksa’s hand just in time to whirl along with his blue-bladed one as they deflected dozens of blaster shots. Some of the fire sailed into the wall. Other shots went back to those who had sent them forth. Still others simply missed entirely as Eksa bounded across the room, going from soldier to pirate and back again as he cut down each and every individual in the room.
In moments, death was everywhere. Mutilated bodies surrounded Eksa, discarded blasters and vibroblades littering the floor. The only sound was the Zabrak’s heavy panting.
Then came the echo of footsteps against metal. The slow clap of gloved hands.
“Still a firecracker when you get going, aren’t you?”
Eksa’s jaw clenched as he tensed his body, staring down the last living sentient in the room. His final opponent was a Cathar who showed off his imposingly burly physique by limiting his torso wear to a pair of shoulder pauldrons. His legs were more covered, but still largely sported cloth with minimal armor over the knees.
“Rheo,” Eksa said flatly.
“It’s Apprentice Thar, now,” the Cathar replied, lips drawing back into a fanged grin.
Eksa clenched his jaw, the delight in Rheo’s voice prompting him to tighten his grip on his sabers. “What happened to Va—”
“Ah-ah-ah!” Rheo interrupted, waving one index finger. “That’d be spoiling the surprise, and I really want to see your face when you get a load of it.”
Eksa merely pointed one blade at the Cathar. “Where. Is. She?”
“Ooh, look at you, trying to ‘intimidate’ me,” Rheo chuckled. “Not very Jedi of you, Padawan.”
Eksa gritted his teeth. “What are you even doing here? And why are you showing off your chest fur on Hoth
, of all places?”
Rheo burst out into jocular laughter for a few seconds, but recovered soon enough to pick an elongated lightsaber off of his belt.
“Well, what can I say? If you have strength, you show it off,” Rheo smirked. “As for your first question…”
His thumb clicked a button on the lightsaber hilt, releasing a dark crimson blade.
“Does this answer it?” Rheo grinned.
Eksa’s body tensed even more. “This is where you went when you left the Jedi?”
“Who says it was just me?” Rheo snorted, idly tossing his lit saber up and down in his hand. “I’m not the first Jedi to ‘fall’, and I won’t be the last. Not like I was cut out to work with those wimps, anyway.”
“Tell me what happened to her,” Eksa growled.
But Rheo simply grinned, catching his saber’s hilt one last time. “Make me.”
With that, the Cathar lunged for his Zabrak prey, roaring madly as he raised his saber high. Eksa gritted his teeth, then shifted his dual sabers into a scissor-like pose to catch Rheo’s blade between them. His defensive position established, Eksa slid his crossed blades down Rheo’s crimson beam to force the Cathar’s weapon back, only for Rheo to suddenly yank his lightsaber back and lash out with a kick. The burly beast drove his heel into Eksa’s stomach, and the impact forced Eksa down onto his back.
“Is that it?” Rheo chortled. “What happened to the fighter who outplayed me when I gave his little bestie a hard time?”
His foe’s words hit home, and Eksa gritted his teeth as he stood back up.
“Not that he'd be much help at this point,” Rheo grinned, dragging the tip of his blade along the floor. A path of sparks scattered in his weapon’s wake, but Eksa’s eyes—now obscured by a visor built into his cap—were darting about in search of something else. “Things are different from how they were back then. Now I know that peace is a lie; there is only passion.”
One of Eksa’s feet shifted back slightly, adjusting his stance. That slight movement was all the opening Rheo needed, and with a bloodthirsty grin, the Cathar lunged again. Eksa brought up his blades against Rheo’s saber assault, the echoing hum of their weapons accentuating the constant clashes.
“Through passion, I gain strength!” Rheo continued, forcing Eksa back. As he ranted on, his prey continued to block his strikes, the two combatants steadily nearing the open doorway. “Through strength, I gain power! Through power, I gain victory! And through victory, my chains are broken
The beast brought his blade down one more time, Eksa now blocking it with only his blue-bladed saber. Rheo’s lips pulled back into a grisly snarl.
“The Sith have made me more powerful than you can imagine, Eksa!” he raved. “I will be the example my people need! I will be the strength that leads the Cathar to their rightful place of supremacy! I will rule the—”
Eksa’s off-hand blade suddenly cut through Rheo’s lengthy saber, separating the blade from the hilt and rendering the weapon powerless. The mad Cathar barely had time to react before Eksa’s armored foot swept him off of his own, forcing Rheo onto his hairy back with a thud. His attempt to rise again was met with a blue lightsaber aimed directly at his nose.
“One more time,” Eksa growled. “Where. Is she.”
“What are you gonna do, Jedi
? Kill your prisoner?” Rheo laughed in the most mocking manner he could muster. “You’ll never find her, tough guy. She doesn’t want
Eksa’s blade hovered over Rheo’s nose, the Cathar’s gleeful eyes gazing expectantly at him. A tongue dragged across the beast’s grinning fangs, salivating as he waited for the end.
And then Eksa’s sabers deactivated. The hilts returned to their places on his belt.
“I knew it,” Rheo snorted. “Still too soft to—”
A sickening crack cut him off as Eksa’s boot abruptly collided with Rheo’s mouth. Blood spurted out of broken teeth as pitiful moans replaced the boasts and growls, the confident grin vanishing in an instant.
“And you still talk too much,” Eksa replied flatly. “Your transport’s escort is dead, and so are their comms. Though you can’t say much with a broken jaw, anyway. Might as well see how long you can avoid hypothermia.”
Then, without another word, Eksa turned on his heel and walked out the door. There was no reason to give such a wild animal the sort of death he wanted. But as he left, Rheo’s golden eyes glared balefully at the Zabrak’s departing back.
This was not over.
Into the Shadows
The ebon clouds of Umbara parted for just a moment as a Republic military shuttle burst through, then quickly sealed themselves shut again once the craft was clear. The troopers inside, each one clad in the Republic army’s signature white armor, adjusted their weapons in preparation for the mission to come. The clicks of loaded ammunition were soon joined by the heavy boots of a commanding officer.
“Welcome to Umbara, soldiers,” the officer said with a nod of greeting, ceasing his advance once he found himself before his troopers. “The second you step out here, you’ll notice it’s called the ‘shadow world’ for a reason. Sunlight doesn’t fully reach the planet’s surface, so we’ll be in darkness around the clock. Hope you remembered your night-lights.”
A couple troopers nudged each another in a gesture of jest. One trooper on the end simply adjusted the barrel of his pistol.
“That being said, we’re not here for a vacation,” the officer continued. “Umbara is one of several planets with access to adegan crystals. For those unfamiliar with this specific type of crystal, I’d like to remind you of the Battle of Ilum from some years back, where the Empire found a way to process that planet’s adegan crystals to create a new breed of stealth fighter. Given that adegan crystals also play a part in the creation of lightsabers, I’m sure you can see why it’s a resource we need to keep out of the wrong hands. That, however, is exactly what we’re here to prevent.”
The officer began to pace back and forth before his battalion. Every visor remained glued on the commander as he spoke, bodies erect with rapt attention. The one trooper on the end held himself a bit more loosely, but still made an effort to match his comrades’ enthusiasm.
“Intel states that the Empire has come here to secure some of Umbara’s adegan crystals,” the officer announced. “What their plan for the crystals is, we’re not positive. But we’re going to stop it, aren’t we?”
“Sir, yes, sir!” came the sharp chorus of replies.
“That’s what I want to hear!” the officer laughed. “We’ll be touching down at our outpost soon, ETA four minutes. I want all of you prepped and ready for a full brief by the time we get there, so buckle in. Dismissed.”
With an exchange of salutes, the officer turned on his heel and headed for the cockpit. The troopers relaxed upon his departure, some engaging one another in conversation as the promised four minutes ticked away. Eventually, the shuttle touched down, and the door opened. The troopers filed out, weapons ready.
Umbara was just as dark as promised. The shrouded sky proved an effective barrier against natural light, mist hovered all around, and whatever plant life that eked out an existence seemed twisted and alien. After taking a moment to acclimate themselves, the troopers stood at attention once more as their commanding officer passed by. With a nod to his troops, the officer led them into the Republic outpost.
He failed to notice the trooper with the pistol slip away from the pack and fade into the mist.
Disguising himself as a Republic trooper had taken more effort than Eksa had expected. But the outfit he had cobbled together had served its purpose, and now he was where he wanted to be.
The adegan crystals were of interest to Eksa, as well. Worlds like Dantooine and Ilum were his usual stops for spare lightsaber crystals, but there were only so many he could retrieve from there until his presence became more known to the locals than he was comfortable with. Umbara’s remote nature appealed to him for that reason, though he would have to be careful in his approach. It would only be a matter of time until someone saw through his trooper disguise.
Especially if he made a habit of walking face-first into rock formations.
“Ngh,” Eksa grumbled, adjusting his now-disjointed helmet and rubbing the visor with his hand. “How does anyone even see in these things?”
With a sigh, he resigned himself to using the Force as a sort of sonar while he searched for the crystals he was after. The permanent loss of one’s lightsaber was a constant risk in Eksa’s line of work, especially given his oft-reckless fighting style. Garnering a collection of spare sabers helped to mitigate this problem, but the supply was not infinite, hence his goals today.
Eventually, the combined efforts of Eksa’s instincts and the Force led him to a particular rock formation, one that curved out into a cave-like shape. It was as good a place as any to start his search. He cautiously approached the cave, experience teaching him that feral guardians were always a possibility.
Then he caught sight of something that prompted him to flatten himself against the rock, hiding himself from view. A massive train hovered by the cave entrance, surrounded by the familiar black-and-red uniforms of Imperial soldiers. A series of droids carried boxes of purple crystals out of the cave, loading them into the train. Eventually, the train sealed its doors with a loud hiss.
“That’s this cave cleaned out,” one Imperial soldier said to his comrade. “Good haul, too.”
“Nice of the locals to lend us their little trains,” the other trooper remarked with a chuckle. "Should make it all the sweeter when we stamp the alien filth out."
“Well, the Empire will put the trains to better use anyway,” the first trooper shrugged before putting a finger to his helmet comm. “All clear! Move out!”
The train let out another hiss, followed shortly by a lively hum. Eksa peeked out from his hiding place, managing to spot the two soldiers approaching a pair of speeders. With a flex of his hand, Eksa carefully approached, being sure to obscure himself from sight whenever possible. Imperial soldiers were sure to fire on someone wearing Republic military armor, regardless of how many were there.
“Ready for the next one?” one of the Imp troopers asked of his fellow.
Before the other one could answer, a component seemed to fall off of his speeder of its own accord. Its pilot could only groan.
“Give me a second,” he grumbled as he knelt by his speeder to retrieve the part. “Ugh, remind me to trade in this blasted thing when we—”
His body suddenly lurched head-first into his speeder, as if pushed there by some unknown entity. The trooper’s comrade went over to him, but soon found himself yanked off his feet and tossed onto the ground beneath him.
The last thing either of the Empire’s finest saw was a Republic trooper with a lightsaber bearing down on them.
Moments later, Eksa—still in his Republic soldier garb with the pistol still strapped his belt—chased after the Umbaran train with the assistance of a stolen Imperial speeder. With the Force as his guide, he steadily zeroed in on the train’s rear carriage, clenching the speeder’s handles tighter as his mind laid down the barest skeleton of a plan. Eksa pressed on the gas just a bit more, inching the speeder into what he hoped would be a blind spot at the corner of the caboose. Once there, he lifted his legs until he held a crouching position on the speeder.
Then he let go of the speeder, treating his folded legs like coiled springs as he leapt onto the train.
The abandoned speeder fell by the wayside, tumbling along until an ill-fated encounter with a sizeable rock brought about its fiery demise. Eksa, however, kept up his momentum by quickly jabbing a sapphire blade of light into the carriage door, shifting the saber up before abruptly Force pushing the door in.
Some of the Imperial troopers inside let out a few shocked utterances, but quickly found themselves silenced as Eksa carved a path through them. One trooper raised his blaster, only for Eksa to suddenly throw his blaster pistol—now missing its barrel—directly at the soldier’s head, the bullet-like speed of the Force-boosted blow knocking him to the floor. Eksa gripped the lost barrel in his left hand, a lightsaber blade of pale blue soon protruding from it. That blade quickly proved its worth, lodging itself in an Imperial soldier’s chest in short order.
A cacophonous symphony rang through the carriage: the shriek of blaster fire, the hum of dual lightsabers, the panicked cries of troopers desperately scrambling for some control of the chaos. Slowly, the frantic concert died down as instruments clattered to the floor, their owners no longer able to play on. Finally, with one last hum and grunt, silence reigned once more.
Eksa paused for a moment, taking a few breaths. He looked to the door of the next carriage, a crowd of Imperial reinforcements becoming visible in the door’s window.
With a sigh, Eksa gripped his sabers and went to greet the new arrivals.
The Republic found the train a few days later, abandoned in the expanse.
At the train’s cockpit, the squad’s commanding officer surveyed the scene. The pilot still remained in his seat, though a large hole seared into the back of the chair pointed to his ultimate fate.
“Sir!” a private cried, marching into the cockpit and greeting his superior with a salute.
The officer nodded. “Status report?”
“We’ve canvassed the whole train, sir,” the private replied. “Lot of dead Imperials who look to have been killed by lightsaber strikes.”
“Lightsabers?” the officer put a hand to his chin. “There may be Alliance involvement here. What’s the status of the train’s cargo?”
“The adegan crystal shipment is largely untouched, sir,” the private reported. “Only one container of crystals appears to be missing.”
The officer blinked. “Just one?”
“Yes, sir. Just one.”
With a sigh, the officer pinched the bridge of his nose. “Well, that rules out the Alliance; they’d take a lot more than one container if they had the chance. The forced entry in the rear also rules out an inside job, though it’s still possible a rival Sith and his forces ambushed the train for their own purposes.”
The private nodded. “How should we proceed from here, sir?”
“Hmm…call a Jedi,” the officer replied. “Hopefully the Force might be able to give us some answers.”
Hearts and Homes
At age seven, Eksa’s idea of “focus” consisted of scrunching his brow and igniting his frontal brain with his best effort at concentration. By this time, he had only been with the Jedi Order for a total of three years. Most of that time was a blur of lessons and lectures, more than a few being remedial in nature.
“We’ve been over this. Relax your mind, and your body will follow. What you seek will come to you.”
Eksa’s breath slowed, seeping in through his nostrils. His eyes remained closed, but the wrinkles of intense effort faded ever so slightly. Around him, the forests of Tython towered overhead, the local birds carrying out their chorus from the treetops. A rock at the foot of one such tree was the chosen meditation spot, a canopy of shade nullifying the summer heat.
“…Master?” Eksa ventured.
“…what am I looking for again?”
Focus, as it turned out, was not Eksa’s strong suit. The Jedi Master currently in charge of the boy found himself learning this, as had several before him.
“What you must find, Eksa, is tranquility. Calm,” the Master answered. “These are key traits in any Jedi.”
“But I’ve been trying for an hour!” Eksa whined, eyes snapping open. All he saw was the Master hold up a hand to stop him.
“Patience; something else that becomes a Jedi,” the Master explained. “Perhaps we should try a different approach? After all, one destination may have many roads that lead to it.”
Eksa blinked. “…what? What do you mean? What roads?”
“It’s an expression, youngling,” the Master chuckled. “If stillness doesn’t suit you, perhaps you will feel more at ease when occupied?”
“…does that mean I can get off this rock, Master?”
Another chuckle. “Yes, Eksa, it does. Perhaps we can go for a walk?”
“Okay,” Eksa nodded, sliding off of the rock. He winced as he did so, massaging his sore rear for a moment. The Master shook his head with an amused smirk, and with a gesture, began to lead Eksa down the pathways of Tython’s wilderness.
As they walked, Eksa’s vibrant green eyes danced about at the slightest sign of movement. Nature surrounded him and his current Master, deploying its arsenal of gentle beasts and rustling bushes. Eksa clenched his jaw; he couldn’t relax. What if a tree fell on them? What if a Flesh Raider burst out of nowhere to attack them? What if a hundred
Flesh Raiders charged them? They had to be ready to defend themselves in such an event.
The young Zabrak’s wandering gaze quickly turned up to his Master again.
“Calm yourself,” he advised. “Nature is not your enemy. Not today. Today, we are far from anything that would do us harm.”
Eksa slowly nodded, mumbling an acknowledgment. Now the Master’s eyes drifted down to him.
“Is there something on your mind, Eksa?” he asked.
The Zabrak shook his head.
“Are you sure?”
“Very well,” the Master said with a light sigh.
Silence passed between them for a moment, Eksa’s eyes on the dirt beneath him as if the slightest misstep would take him off-track. His gaze soon began to wander once more, the Tythonian scenery dangling all manner of distracting noises and movements before him. The chirp of birds pierced the air, followed by the distant scurry of small creatures darting from bush to bush.
How was he expected to “focus” like this? To just tune everything out as if it didn’t exist? What if they weren’t as safe as the Master thought? What if a wild horranth attacked them? What if they encountered a manka cat? What if—
“How are things at the temple?”
The Master’s latest question snapped Eksa to attention. “Huh?”
“I said ‘how are things at the temple’?” the Master repeated. “Doing well in your lessons?”
Eksa frowned a little, shrugging. “I guess.”
The Master raised a brow. “You ‘guess’?”
A pause. “I see. Are you making friends?”
Now it was Eksa’s turn to pause. He clenched his jaw, mouth locking itself down. A concerned frown spread across the Master’s lips.
“It’s all right, Eksa,” he assured the boy. “I’m here to help you, not judge you.”
Eksa turned his face away, finding a sudden interest in the ground. The Master only frowned more.
“Are you willing to tell me what’s wrong?” he asked. “If you’re having trouble, I will do everything I can to help.”
Eksa clammed up for another moment, but could feel the Master’s eyes boring into him. Pressure weighed on the boy’s shoulders, some unseen hand leaning on his body. More and more he felt the Master’s pleading eyes, the building pressure, until finally…
“I don’t have friends.”
The valve released.
The Master stopped in his tracks, Eksa taking that as his cue to do the same. The elder Jedi blinked in bewilderment.
“No friends at all?” he asked. The young Zabrak slowly nodded. “Why not?”
“…I hear them talk about me sometimes,” Eksa slowly spoke. “They say I’m only good at fighting. I don’t think they like me.”
Another worried frown appeared on the Master’s face.
“…and they’ve heard how I got in the Order,” Eksa continued. “When I set the Master who tried to bring me here on fire.”
The frown quickly flipped into a chuckle. “I’ve also heard that story. I’m told you were very determined to not let Master Ivonne anywhere near you.”
Eksa only gave a sheepish bow of his head. “…yeah.”
The next thing the young Zabrak felt was a hand on his shoulder. His body tensed at first, expecting a lecture or punishment or whatever other method of disapproval the Master felt inclined to pursue. Eksa clenched his jaw again as he slowly, tentatively, turned his gaze upward.
The Master’s kind smile never wavered. His eyes radiated warmth. Every aspect of his body language was the picture of trust and reassurance.
“I think we’ve spent enough time out in the wilderness, Eksa,” the Master suggested. “After all, it’s approaching lunchtime.”
Eksa paused again, frowning as the suspicion of an ulterior motive crept upon him. But he nonetheless nodded, and the Master offered a hand. The young Zabrak tentatively placed his own hand in his Master’s, and the elder Jedi led him along the path home.
A short few days later, Eksa carefully descended the steps as he headed to the temple foyer. Panic flitted through his green eyes, one hand clutching the handrail for dear life. Once he finally reached the bottom, his jaw clenched. Several Jedi Masters were gathered at the entrance, the one in charge of the Zabrak among them.
“…you asked for me, Master?” Eksa ventured nervously.
His Master flashed that familiar warm smile. “Ah, Eksa. I’m glad you were able to make it. There’s someone here I’d like you to meet.”
Eksa blinked, then his Master stepped aside to reveal a young girl standing in the doorway. She looked to be a Togruta, her purple skin dotted with white facial markings and miniature horns protruding from her scalp. Most of her body seemed to be hidden behind the nearest Jedi’s leg, but a gentle tap on the shoulder from that Jedi prompted the little girl to look up.
Her eyes met Eksa’s. He gave her a nervous wave. She returned it.
“It’s her first day here,” one of the Masters explained. “We were hoping you could help Master Vak show her around, Eksa.”
Eksa’s eyes trailed over to the girl. He recognized the fear that dominated her eyes. She was in a foreign place; just like he had been once.
Knowledge of that sort somehow set him more at ease.
He nodded to his Master, and with a preparatory breath, took a few steps over to the girl. A ginger push from Master Vak placed the young Togruta in front of him. Eksa clenched his jaw…and slowly offered her a hand.
“…hi…my name’s Eksa,” he greeted her. He paused, still clenching his jaw as the Togruta’s eyes fell upon his outstretched hand. “…you want to be friends?”
The girl blinked, then—after a moment of pursing her lips—she nodded.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, taking his hand and giving it a light shake.
Eksa gave her a smile, which—like the earlier wave—the girl returned. The fear in her eyes was gone; hope had taken its place. Hope dawned in Eksa’s heart, as well.
Maybe, with someone by his side, things would be different.
(Happy Halloween! Here's a thematically-appropriate story for the occasion.)
Things that Go Bump in the Dark
“All right, listen up!”
A line of heavily-armed volunteers—mercenaries, guns for hire, whoever was willing to earn a few extra credits—gathered in the caverns beneath the surface of Alderaan. Before them stood a human who, in spite of the rebreather affixed to his face, made every effort to carry his voice to every ear. Around them, all manner of sentients bustled about, most wearing similar sorts of rebreathers but all bearing the same symbol on their equipment.
“All of you are here because you answered the call put out by the Hyland Organization for Rakghoul Neutralization,” the human continued, eyeing each individual volunteer. “But this is definitely
not going to be a walk in the park. Down here, in these tunnels? Rakghoul ground zero. The epicenter of the outbreak is here, and it’s THORN’s job to wipe it out.”
Eksa stood at the far end of the line, quiet and stoic as he took in the THORN representative’s words. Beside him was another human, this one with messy red hair that went down to his neck. The red-head seemed unable to suppress a snicker, putting a hand to his chin—carefully avoiding a rebreather of his own—as he, too, looked on.
“I don’t blame you for walking away,” the THORN speaker shook his head. “But, if you go in there and make it out in one piece…there’s a stack of credits waiting for you. Now, gear up, and make sure to get vaccinated
! If you get infected, we’re putting you down; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
The hired help dispersed, some prepping their weapons while others lined up for their vaccinations. Eksa joined the latter category, quietly taking his place at the back of the line as a medical droid’s needle provided the safeguards the mercenaries so desperately desired. The red-haired human slunk in behind Eksa with a cheerful swagger in his gait.
“My, my, my. Quite the line,” the human remarked. “I take it no one’s feeling particularly—oh, what’s the word—‘adventurous’ today?”
Eksa turned his gaze to the human, face obscured beneath his scarf and goggles. The talkative red-head returned the look, grinning beneath the rebreather.
“Good day, friend! Call me Veerun,” the human said, holding out a hand for Eksa to shake. It hovered there unanswered for a moment. “Strong and silent type, I see! Very well, very well. I do admire a focus on getting things done, to be sure.”
Veerun drew his hand back as the line shifted forward. Eksa turned his blank stare to the front of the line, watching each mercenary’s individual injection.
“What do you think we’ll run into out there, hmm?” Veerun continued. “I’ve noticed quite a variety in Rakghoul types: plain pale specimens, fungus-bearing specimens, ghost-like specimens…I’ve even heard tell of a creature called ‘the Eyeless’. A Rakghoul beyond compare, I’m told, surpassing even the infamous Nekghouls. Such fascinating diversity, really.”
Eksa still said nothing as he accepted his injection. It stung, like most needles did, but it was tolerable. He moved out of the line, leaving Veerun to take his own vaccine. Most of the volunteers chose to gear up, but Eksa simply headed straight for the camp’s exit.
“You lost?” one of the THORN guards spoke up, putting the end of his rifle in Eksa’s path. He looked the hunter over, spotting no visible weapons. “You’re gonna get eaten alive out there.”
“I’ll live,” Eksa said flatly.
The guard simply shrugged and stepped aside. “Your funeral.”
With his path unobstructed, Eksa trudged out into the darkness. An eclectic collection of volunteers followed, Veerun among them with a brandished bowcaster in hand. The guard eyed them all as they left, slowly shaking his head.
“Raks are gonna eat tonight,” he sighed.
The volunteers had been presented with a list of pre-approved tasks befitting heavily-armed mercenaries. These tasks ranged from simple deeds, like gathering infantile Rakghouls for study, to more risky and complex ones; chief among these later ones was directly entering the infestation’s origin point, which would involve wading through hordes upon hordes of the monstrosities.
Eksa stood beside several other mercenaries as they lined up, shoulder to shoulder, at the mouth of a spacious cavern. Within that cavern was a garden unlike any most galactic wanderers would have seen: luminescent mushrooms, withering foliage, trails of blood and slime coating the ground. Bones had been collected in seemingly ritualistic piles, nestled away in the darkest corners. The only sound was the dripping of saliva from the cavern’s stalactite fangs.
Not a living being in sight.
“Got a bad feeling about this,” one of the mercenaries muttered, sporting a bug-eyed helmet.
“Hey, they don’t want to face us, that just makes our job easier,” a Mandalorian shrugged. “Let’s just get in, get the samples, and get out. Easy credits.”
Eksa just slowly shook his head; it was never that easy. Before he could bring that up verbally, however, a familiar red-haired human jogged up beside them.
“Hello, friends!” Veerun greeted the group. “Entering the epicenter, are we? Would you mind if I tagged along? I’m quite interested in gathering some samples of my own, you see.”
“Sure, whatever,” the Mandalorian grunted. “More bait for the Raks.”
Veerun paused, furrowing his brow slightly. “Rude.”
“Look, if we’re going in there, can we just get it over with?” the bug-eyed mercenary piped up. “If the Rakghouls really are playing hide-and-seek, I’d prefer to get done before they get done.”
wimp,” the Mandalorian snorted. “Come on, then, let’s go. Comms on. We spread out, get those samples, and head back to camp. Got it? Good.”
Without a second’s hesitation, the Mandalorian strode in, every step producing a squishing sound akin to stepping on fruit. The bug-eyed mercenary sighed as he followed, with Eksa trailing behind. Veerun snickered as he, too, made his way into the abyss. As the group progressed inside, the Mandalorian immediately separated from the group, Veerun doing the same with a happy-go-lucky spring in his step. Bug-Eye attempted to follow each member of the group in turn, but quickly lost track of them in the darkness.
“Uh…you sure we should split up like this?” Bug-Eye asked over the comm.
“What, did I stutter?” the Mandalorian snapped. “Stupid aruetii
“Not his fault you want us divided and conquered,” Eksa spoke up.
“Hey, who’s the warrior here—”
“Oh, you do
speak! Lovely, lovely,” Veerun interjected, cutting off the Mandalorian’s retort. “Regardless, I believe I’ve secured my sample.”
“That was fast,” Bug-Eye remarked.
“Oh, I’ve done this a few times before,” Veerun replied. “I do some independent Rakghoul study myself, you see. Fascinating creatures, really, quite fascinating. For instance, did you know that these skeletal mounds suggest—”
“No one kriffing cares,” the Mandalorian interrupted. “Now stop yapping before your big mouth attracts the Rakghouls.”
A rather loud squishing noise came from Bug-Eye’s direction.
“Uh, before you do…could you tell me what exactly I just stepped in?” he asked. “It’s all icky and green.”
“Oh! I believe that would be Rakghoul fecal matter,” Veerun replied. The sounds of frenzied scraping could be heard from Bug-Eye’s end, alongside a stream of disgusted mutters. “It’s quite useful as a repellent, actually. For all their carnivorous traits, Rakghouls are actually not known to demonstrate cannibalistic tendencies.”
“If you’re done, Professor, I’ve got what THORN wants from the plants here,” the Mandalorian interjected. “Now, if you low-lives have actually done the job you’re being paid for, how about we—”
All movement ceased, silence overtaking the cavern.
“Uh…you guys heard that, right?” Bug-Eye asked.
Another growl broke the silence.
“…dammit,” Eksa muttered.
“You’re telling me?” Bug-Eye added. “I’m getting out while I can—”
His sentence ended in a scream.
A compartments on Eksa’s torso armor opened up, one lightsaber sliding into his hand. He stood still for a moment, breathing slowly as he focused his use of the Force. Something was moving around the room, but too quickly to easily predict its next attack.
“Stupid little aruetii
got himself killed,” the Mandalorian grumbled. Eksa soon winced as blaster fire rang out, sparks bursting from the ceiling as the shots made impact. “Come on out, you freaks! I’ve got weapons designed specifically by THORN to kill you! Give me your best shot, you cowardly anima—”
A growl and a thud.
“Ha! There you are!” the Mandalorian cried.
More blaster fire rang out, accompanied by frantic snarls. Eksa immediately turned in the direction of the fire, dashing in that direction as the blue blade of his lightsaber clicked to life. Veerun readied his bowcaster and took aim.
A rather large Rakghoul had landed atop the Mandalorian, scratching madly at his armor. Slaver slid from the beast’s mandible-laden mouth, its flesh a ghostly pale and skeletal arms ending in obsidian claws. Every scrape tore away a chunk of armor, the monster panting faster and faster as its pace quickened.
A blue beam of light abruptly jutted through the Rakghoul’s chest before rising upward and cleaving the beast in half from the collar up. Eksa withdrew his lightsaber, deactivating it as the now half-naked Mandalorian shoved the dead creature aside.
“Hmm…curious, curious,” Veerun knelt by the beast, trailing a gloved finger by its saber-induced wound. “This appears to have once been a Killik, but there’s yet to be documentation of anything but near-human species reaching this level of mutation. Perhaps this is some new strain of Rakghoul plague? Or it could be that it has yet to reach the level where one Rakghoul, regardless of species, becomes indistinguishable from another? So many possibilities, truly, it’s—”
“JEDI FILTH!” the Mandalorian roared at the top of his lungs, springing to his feet and pointing his blaster at Eksa. “How dare you make me look weak!”
Eksa simply stood there, one hand on his lightsaber. His grip tightened, fully expecting a pointless fight; it was what he had come to expect from Mandalorians. The backwards logic so many demonstrated was—
Stirring. Scurrying. Faint growls. Eksa tensed, a storm of fledgling emotions surrounding him. Hunger. Anger. Pain. Fear. Desperation. Aggression. Every thought and feeling haphazardly bundled into the sort of package that drove a sentient being to animalistic madness. And there were quite a few of those thoughts around what remained of Eksa’s small mercenary party.
The former Jedi paused, allowing the sounds to permeate. Veerun looked around, uttering little more than a “hmm”. The Mandalorian kept his blaster trained on Eksa, but the latter spoke up before the former could.
“More Rakghouls are on the way,” Eksa warned. “You can shoot me for wounding your pride. Or you can shoot them to keep from having a much more wounded body. Wouldn’t recommend doing both.”
“He does bring up a good point, friend,” Veerun added, looking to the Mandalorian. “I managed to pick out the distinct voices of at least, oh…seven or eight Rakghouls? I’ve done this for quite some time, you see. Point being, it would be much wiser if we were to put our differences aside and make our exit before our fallen visitor’s reinforcements become too curious as to what became of him. And, uh—” He gestured to the holes and missing pieces of the Mandalorian’s armor. “—if you don’t mind my saying, your armor doesn’t look quite
up to a more intense test of endurance.”
“A Mandalorian is more than his armor,” the Mando snorted. “We’ll be better off without this Jedi slowing us down.”
Eksa only heaved an exasperated sigh, shaking his head. He found himself reeling back slightly, however, when the Mandalorian roughly pressed the barrel of his blaster against Eksa’s forehead. One armored finger snaked around the trigger, the hum of energy started up…
…and then the Mandalorian fell to his knees. A new wound was in his back, playing host to a slime-covered metallic sphere. Eksa took a step back, and the proud warrior collapsed onto his stomach with a pitiful groan.
“Well, I’d say that’s one liability out of the way,” Veerun remarked, placing a new cartridge on the bottom of his bowcaster. “Shall we get going?”
More growls. Louder. And louder.
A clawed hand burst from the ground, followed shortly by the gaping maw of a Rakghoul. More Rakghouls rose from the beyond in a similar manner, while others simply leapt from stalactites or bounded from the shadows. A swarm was coming, vicious and ravenous enough to put a school of firaxan sharks to shame.
There was no more banter between the mercenaries; even Veerun’s constant cheer was gone. The two survivors rushed to the cavern’s mouth, Eksa’s Force-boosted speed carrying him there first. Once outside, he reached for Veerun and yanked his own hand back, the red-haired human suddenly vaulting through the air and tumbling beside Eksa.
“Stand back!” Eksa cried out, drawing a second saber. He quickly threw both blades up at the ceiling above the two mercenaries, the twin sabers carving out a path before returning to his hands. Without a second’s hesitation, Eksa reached upward with his hands, concentrating, visualizing one part of the ceiling collapsing. Veerun seemed to catch on rather quickly, opening fire with his bowcaster on the area Eksa’s sabers had weakened.
The Rakghoul horde advanced en masse, scrambling and snarling all the way. Their prey was before them, hearts pumping precious drink throughout their flesh. All the monsters could see was their objective, their food.
They did not see the roof of the cavern’s doorway destabilize.
With a groan of effort, Eksa pulled with as much might as the Force would allow, dropping rock after rock in the entrance. Veerun fired off more shots from his bowcaster, keeping back any Rakghouls who dared to come too close. One bounded over its fallen comrades, over the blockade of rocks, leaping towards its prize.
But its only reward was a boulder plummeting onto its spine. The broken beast died with a whimper. The cavern from whence it came was sealed. Eksa heaved a sigh of relief, falling to one knee.
“Well done, friend, well done,” Veerun said, offering Eksa a hand. The Force-user was in no mood to argue, accepting the hand as Veerun helped him to his feed. “It is quite handy to have a Force-user by your side, isn’t it?”
“…so I’m told,” Eksa sighed.
With that, he turned to leave, Veerun following.
No monster followed them.
“All right, good work,” the THORN representative nodded, a pair of scientists accepting the offered samples. “We’ll get this analyzed, and will transfer the credits to your respective accounts.”
“Ah, excellent, excellent!” Veerun chuckled, offering the man from THORN a two-fingered salute. “Pleasure doing business with THORN, as always.”
The red-haired human left, but Eksa remained. The THORN representative raised an eyebrow.
“What? Do you need something else?” he asked.
Eksa shrugged. “One of the mercs we went with said he had weapons built by THORN. Was wondering where I could get some.”
“Oh, right. We do,” the representative pointed to another man in a respirator, sporting a jacket to match. “We supply our volunteers with whatever weapons they need: assault cannons, pistols, rifles…”
“…lightsabers?” Eksa finished.
The representative blinked. “Uh…actually, yes. We get quite a few Jedi and Sith volunteers, believe it or not. Do you know someone who’d be interested?”
“…something like that,” Eksa slowly nodded. “Thanks.”
“Thank you,” the representative nodded back. “You’ve done good work today.”
Eksa simply turned away, approaching the vendor as he pulled some credit sticks out of his pocket. All he hoped from the transaction was that the seller would ask the barest minimum questions and accept whatever credits came out to full price. Whatever hope he had for the weapon itself was that being created to combat creatures of the Dark Side would give it some benefit.
If nothing else, buying a lightsaber would be a change of pace from making them himself.
Posted Oct 31, 18
· Last edited Oct 31, 18
In with the New
Eksa wrapped himself in his robes as he knelt in the snow, heaving a sigh as he closed his eyes and made his best effort at pushing the cold away.
Ilum was undeniably frigid, but what distinguished it from the chill of Hoth was the stronger presence of the Force. It flowed through the ice and snow like a gentle river, seeping into the glistening crystals that gave a Jedi’s lightsaber its heart and soul. Along a soft breeze the Force rode, surrounding Eksa with nature.
His breathing slowed. His tension slowly faded. He allowed his mind to empty itself.
A small emerald wiggled in the snow, eventually levitating into the air in front of Eksa. In a circle around him, the miscellaneous parts and pieces he had gathered began to lift up and forward, turning and shifting as they encompassed the emerald.
The process was slow. The process was steady. Everything was calm.
Eksa had learned so much throughout his journey across the galaxy. Betrayal followed him at every step. The ideals and people he believed in had changed and warped into shells and abominations so far removed from what he had been taught they should be. Every step of his journey, every new facet of life he uncovered, built an ever-expanding void in his heart.
Now, he slowly allowed his mind to drift onto a tranquil cloud. His troubles dripped away, one by one. A new lightsaber began to take shape before him, guided by his focused thoughts. One slow piece at a time, the new weapon—the only thing he worried about now—assembled itself. The last pieces slid into place…
A distant rumble made Eksa’s heart skip a beat. The near-complete lightsaber dropped limply onto the snow, its creator rising to his feet as his eyes snapped open. His moment of calm had clearly ended.
Even from within his cave, Eksa could see the fire of explosions in the distance. Speeders blazed by the cave entrance, fighters soaring across what was visible of the sky.
The feel of the Force grew heavy and oppressive. Darkness had come, bringing a storm to dispatch the calm. Eksa merely sighed, picking up his new lightsaber as he tucked it into his robe to finish later.
Some things never changed.
The valleys and pathways of Ilum filled with blood and bodies, both living and dead. The Republic’s finest in all its forms—renowned Jedi, dutiful soldiers, infamous privateers—clashed against a veritable menagerie of foes. Gamorrean guards swung their axes with porcine squeals of glee, Kaleesh mercenaries roared their mightiest battle cries, Mandalorian warriors spread fire wherever they went, and countless more creatures ravaged the Republic every way they knew how.
Even the Empire found itself beset by the onslaught of oddities. Ugnaughts ambushers burst from the snow beneath their enemies’ feet, Trandoshan hunters crippled their prey with snares, and Anomid engineers guided their droids on the path to conquest. Spearheading the alien efforts were a cadre of soldiers whose uniforms resembled a facsimile of the Empire’s soldiers, replacing the charcoal and bright red with a deep navy and crimson.
It was a storm unlike any other.
From his perch atop a nearby hill, Eksa weighed his options. His bitterness whispered that he should depart, go back to his cave. Let the Republic and Empire fall; his travels had shown him the forms of corruption both preferred. There was no justice to be fought for here.
But, his jaw clenched, his logic speaking up. Something that the Republic and Empire both
called a foe would be foolish to ignore. And both galactic superpowers were clearly struggling; what if they failed here? What if this new threat, whatever it was, left Ilum for the greater galaxy? How many lives would be lost? How much more blood would be spilled?
Eventually, Eksa heaved another sigh. He slowly stood up, dusting the snow off of the armor stitched onto his pant legs, and took a few steps back. Then, he rushed forward, calling on the Force to enhance the leap he took off the hill and into the fray.
His usual two lightsabers—the blue-bladed one of his own make, and the golden-bladed one his childhood friend once wielded—slid into his hands and ignited as he sailed over the heads of a Republic battalion, paying the soldiers no heed as he landed directly in a mass of enemy forces. The world around him became a blur as his sabers danced about, piercing and slashing through every living thing in their path. Blaster fire shrieked around Eksa, bolts glancing off whatever armor he wore as he kept himself moving as often and as quickly as possible, carving a path through the eclectic enemy.
Before he could gain much ground, however, an unseen hand lifted him off his feet and drove him into an icy wall, a web of cracks spreading from beneath his body. The hand pinned him there, pushing him in deeper as a robed Ongree approached him with a crimson lightsaber in hand.
“<For Emperor Malgus!>” the Ongree Sith declared in his native tongue, raising his blade. “<For the New Empire!>”
Then he froze. The last life faded from the Ongree’s bulbous eyes as he fell into the snow, his Force grip on Eksa finally weakening. His Zabrak victim slid down from the wall, landing unsteadily on his feet.
“You all right, Master Jedi?” a Republic trooper approached him, smoking rifle in hand and likely the source of the circular burn on the dead Ongree’s back. “Sergeant Kayna Ventambul, Republic Army. Your timing was pretty spot-on, we might be cut a path through now.”
“…I—” Eksa gave his head a shake and spoke again. “I’ve been out of the loop lately. What’s going on here?”
“The name Darth Malgus ring any bells?” Kayna asked without missing a beat. “He was involved with the Battle of Alderaan, led the Sacking of Coruscant, and apparently he’s not done warmongering in spite of what's already on his resume. Some hours ago, he sent out a transmission to all standard Imp channels, one the SIS intercepted. Malgus has split off from the Empire to form one of his own, and he’s got a lot of non-human freelancers on his side. Guess he’s trying to turn the Empire’s xenophobia against them.”
Eksa glanced at the collection of dead and dying aliens. Not a human among them; definitely odd for one of the Empire’s champions.
“In any case, Malgus has been using Ilum’s adegan crystals to power an armada of stealth ships,” Kayna continued, “and we could use all the bodies we can get.”
Eksa paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Well…doubt I’ll make a big difference, but I might as well try.”
Kayna chuckled. “Can’t argue with that, Master Jedi. Come on. My unit’s looking to cut off some supply lines going to Malgus’ people, and we’ve got more of this ‘New Empire’ to go through before we can get there.”
Eksa nodded, and with sabers at the ready, turned to forge ahead. With a few quick gestures to her unit, Kayna followed suit.
“Fellow Sith. Citizens of the Empire.
The combined efforts of dual sabers and military blasters carved a tunnel through the New Imperial legion. Their destination became a bunker, a variant of the Sith Empire’s logo—largely unchanged save inverted colors—emblazoned upon its guards’ armor.
“Too long, the strength of the Empire has been beholden to the infighting of the Dark Council and the disappearance of an apathetic Emperor.
Blaster bolts whizzed through the air as soldiers on both sides fell, scorches marring their armor. But still Eksa and Kayna’s unit pressed onward.
“Sith, children of Sith, and warriors everywhere…I declare a new Empire open to all who long for conquest, freedom from inhibition, and the right to follow their passions.
Eventually, the Republic forces burst into the bunker’s main room, dimly lit save the large holoprojector that served as the centerpiece. Surrounding it were representatives from each of the variegated species and professions united under the New Imperial banner, headed by a single figure in robed armor of a faded crimson. A few of Malgus’ minions turned their eyes to the intruding Republic, but the Honor Guard held up a hand to halt them from action.
“The Dark Council is dissolved. Those who would join Darth Sereven in supporting me, cast aside your titles and let me lead you to victory. Those who will not…prepare to face our stealth armada.
Eksa held his sabers in a defensive posture as he narrowed his eyes at the holographic figure looming over the Honor Guard and his allies. The projection of Darth Malgus himself spoke with utmost eloquence, in spite of the rebreather fastened to his charred jaw. His gestures were grand, but not exaggerated, as the would-be Emperor continued his speech.
“The Emperor is gone. His station and power are mine,” Malgus declared, clenching a fist. “We will conquer the galaxy while the Emperor sleeps.
With that, Malgus’ hologram faded away. The Honor Guard nodded to an Anomid by his side, the latter retrieving a data chit from the holoprojector while the former finally turned to face the Republic forces. As if on cue, his alien and mercenary allies turned as well, brandishing their weapons.
“The first decree of a new Emperor should be recorded for posterity,” the Honor Guard said simply. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yeah, like a baby’s first words,” Kayna scoffed, aiming her rifle. “In the name of the Galactic Republic, I order you to surrender.”
The Honor Guard laughed. “And have the justice we all have fought for slip out of reach? I think not.”
As the formalities of posturing ensued, Eksa used this time to quietly size up the Honor Guard and his allies. His emerald eyes scanned each member, stopping on the Honor Guard as he reached for something on his belt.
The Honor Guard’s blade ignited with a brilliant purple, followed by a pair of smaller spikes of energy bursting from a vent on each side just under the primary blade. Giving no time for an analysis of his unusual blade, the Honor Guard pointed his weapon forward.
“For the New Empire!”
At the sound of their leader’s rallying cry, the coalition of non-humans charged into the Republic forces. Chaos quickly erupted once more.
Kayna shot down an Ugnaught who tried to leap up and bludgeon her with his wrench. A Mandalorian thrust a wrist-mounted blade into a Republic soldier’s side. Other of Kayna’s unit focused their fire on an Anomid sniper and the New Imperial troopers who covered him. Eksa Force-pushed a Gamorrean aside, watching the rotund creature tumble across the icy metal before moving onto the next target.
With a kill already to her name, the Mandalorian turned her focus to Kayna, the sergeant drawing a sidearm pistol to ward off the assault. Eksa found himself beset by a Trandoshan, the cortosis in the reptilian hunter’s sword safeguarding it from destruction by Eksa’s lightsabers. The Honor Guard bounded into the fray, his swings an elegant display as his own unique lightsaber cut through the Republic forces.
Noting his allies’ plight, Eksa quickly kneed the Trandoshan in the stomach and abruptly decapitated the reptile before turning to the Honor Guard. The New Imperial’s purple blade raised high as he prepared to strike down another victim, only for Eksa’s blades to intercept his own with a scissor-like motion.
“Foolish Jedi!” the Honor Guard barked, aiming his free hand at Eksa and releasing a blast of lightning. Eksa could only cry out in pain, stumbling back as he struggled to hold onto his blades.
Kayna fought off the Mandalorian with a sharp blaster bolt to the T-visor, turning her weapon on the Honor Guard. A swipe of his saber hand, however, sent the weapon sailing out of Kayna’s hand. But the momentary distraction was enough to halt the Force lightning, and Eksa seized that opportunity to push himself to his feet and meet the Honor Guard in saber-to-saber combat once more.
“Emperor Malgus has opened countless doors for the galaxy!” the Honor Guard roared, catching one of Eksa’s sabers in one side of his makeshift saber trident. “I will not fall here and let—”
Eksa gave him no time for a speech, swinging his other saber around to force the Honor Guard to block that strike. With one saber locked in the saber guard’s grip, Eksa used his other blade force the Honor Guard’s saber downward, away from anything he could protect. Kayna used this opportunity to open fire on the Honor Guard’s torso, firing a volley of shots and riddling his body with burns and holes.
The last of Malgus’ advocates fell to the now-bloodied floor. Only a few Republic soldiers, including Kayna, remained standing.
But the battle was over.
Eksa sighed, finally deactivating his sabers and allowing himself to press one hand on a wounded shoulder. As Kayna saw to her troops, their Force-using ally knelt by the fallen Honor Guard and picked up his discarded saber. Eksa looked over the weapon, eyeing its unorthodox make, before tucking it into his robe. Perhaps studying this lightsaber would let him build a similar model of his own in the future?
“You all right, Master Jedi?”
The Zabrak failed to suppress a small sigh. “You really don’t have to call me that.”
“Maybe, but using rank has been drilled into me,” Kayna shrugged. “Mind if I take a look at your shoulder?”
Eksa hesitated, clenching his jaw, but the pain of the wound prompted him to give in. Kayna gently pried his hand away and aimed a hand-held device at the wound, scanning it for a moment before retrieving a small packet from her bandolier.
“Here. It’s kolto. Spread it on your wound. It might sting a little later, but the healing process should at least get started more quickly,” she said as she handed the packet to Eksa. After giving him a moment to follow her instructions, Kayna spoke again. “Thanks for your help, Master Je—”
Another sigh from Eksa cut her off. “…can you not?”
“Sorry. Habit,” Kayna chuckled. “Still, thanks for your help. You planning on sticking around? Malgus’ Empire isn’t done yet.”
Eksa paused, clenching his jaw as he considered her offer. “…maybe. I don’t know. A lot’s happened lately that I’m…still processing.”
Kayna slowly nodded, her tone softening. “Understood. Just know that you’re free to drop by and help whenever you’re able; we’ll take every saber we can get.”
Eksa nodded as well, then silently turned to leave, stepping over a sea of bodies in the process.
“Oh, by the way,” Kayna called after him. Eksa stopped in his tracks, this time successful in suppressing his latest sigh. “If I can’t call you ‘Master Jedi’, I need something to call you.”
The Zabrak paused for a moment, then looked back to Kayna and gave her a one-shoulder shrug. “…Eksa.”
Kayna nodded. “Eksa it is. It’s been good working with you.”
A quick salute to Eksa later, and Kayna turned to her remaining soldiers. Eksa slowly shook his head at her gesture, but left the bunker back into the cold air of Ilum. He pulled the Honor Guard’s three-pronged lightsaber out of his robe and examined it some more.
Now, what could he do with this…?