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OoM8 | "Mum's the Word"

An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...


As Alderaan’s warm morning sun gently rose over the distant mountains, a young blonde-haired woman – whose appearance and attire made her seem as much a natural part of her regal surroundings as any Duke or Duchess – stood on the balcony to her guest room where she had been hosted the preceding night by house Organa. Dee-Anne looked out as far towards the distant horizon as she could and marvelled at the peaceful tranquillity which appeared to wash over the entire land. She marvelled not just at the tranquillity, but the lie that she knew it to be; for she knew that just about every foothill in the region hosted a nest of Killiks – vile insectoid creatures native to this world – that would almost certainly at some point throughout the course of the following day mount an attack on some outpost or another belonging to the human population of the world. She scoffed at the thought of this peaceful and tranquil exterior acting to mask a chaotic and confused underbelly. More so at the perfect analogy this held for her of the Jedi Order whom she had – until recently – being a promising young student of.

It had been several months now since Dee-Anne met with the master Jedi whose vision had driven her to follow a path independent of the Jedi Order. She harked back in her mind to that fateful day; the unnamed master who approached her on Nar Shaddaa with the greeting "You... you are the one from my dreams..." The days of meditation and contemplation that followed. Then, the day when she came to terms with the fact that all was not as she had learned on Tython and in fact the Force was far more complex than she had ever dared to imagine; "Think not in terms of black & white as the Jedi & Sith Academies would teach you..." the unnamed master would recite to her on a daily basis "...try to imagine the force in shades of grey; as infinite in their possibility as they are in their overlap. Understand not only the Force itself – but how the Force users of the galaxy choose to interpret these shades of grey". That was the day Dee-Anne had to publicly break the Jedi code and force the Council to exile her from the Order and in doing so, grant her the freedom to pursue her true destiny for the greater good of the galaxy.

Dee-Anne closed her eyes and took a deep breath, allowing the smell of Alderaan’s morning air to fill her lungs as she continued to meditate on her current situation. At times she regretted turning her back on the Jedi – making an outcast of herself was one of the most difficult things Dee-Anne had ever attempted with her life – even more so than joining the Jedi in the first place. But now as she stood looking out over the Alderaan landscape that she had come to think of as her home for one last time, she knew that all of her sacrifice was about to come to fruition – today was the day when she would fulfil her destiny. As much as she was at peace with what she had done – with what she must do; Dee-Anne was not so comfortable with the deception she was being forced to maintain over her supposed allies. Despite these reservations, the young former Jedi knew to trust in the wisdom of the unnamed master and accepted that she perhaps did not possess all of the facts required to control such a decision. As her mind dwelled on this awkward relationship already established with her allies before she had even met them, Dee-Anne could hear the distinct thrum of a BT7 Thunderclap dropship approaching – the signature transport of Havoc Squad: her allies to be.

Major Storrm stood at the tip of the Thunderclap’s boardwalk ahead of her squad as it lowered her to ground level. A quick visual scan of the interior to their hangar by the Mirialan veteran commander confirmed no suspicious activity – at least not enough to warrant drawing a weapon. Taking that long awaited first step back on to solid ground was savoured briefly by the Major, as the rest of Havoc Squad were quick to disembark and savour the taste of fresh air once more. Their last tour had taken them to the furthest reaches of the known territories and they had all been cooped up on their ship for longer than any desired. Even the battle droid – M1-4X – seemed unusually emotional about finally leaving their ship - displaying a very human reaction of mixed pleasure and relief.

Upon falling into a relaxed formation behind the Major, Havoc was greeted by a single human female. Storrm studied the young blonde-haired woman as she approached; her years of experience with the Republic military had trained her to spot Jedi a parsec away. Yet she could not shake the feeling that there was more to this young woman; whilst her instructions to rendezvous at this place and at this time came from the Major’s most trusted of allies, something felt... different, and coupled with the limited information she was given up front that made the Major uneasy – but that would not sway her professionalism, "Hello Major, allow me to introduce myself; my name is Dee-Anne." Storrm cocked her head slightly to the side when Dee-Anne did not proclaim a title "of the Jedi Order?" she queried. The Major’s challenge caught Dee-Anne momentarily off guard and she felt taken aback by the Majors instant association of her with the Jedi "Once, but no longer" she replied as she subconsciously lowered her gaze for a moments contemplation. "I see." As surprised as the Major initially was to hear that this rendezvous was with a former Jedi, she was not as troubled by this revelation as she normally would be – given her trusted source who arranged for them to be there.

"So Dee-Anne, I trust that you have a little more information for us regarding this mission? At the very least a destination would be good!" Dee-Anne obliged and handed a data pad to Storrm which she was quick to glance over before handing backwards to her second in command Elara Dorne "So we’re heading to Ilum? Well, we’ve been hankering for some fresh air – and it doesn’t get much fresher than that ball of ice!" Dorne joked, clearly not looking forward to revisiting the ice plains of Ilum. Dee-Anne smiled quietly to herself at the seemingly relaxed and comfortable disposition of her escorts since it eased her nerves a little, however it did not ease her guilt over keeping the truth from them. "Anything else we need to know up front, or will all be covered in the mission briefing en-route?"

Major Storrm – whilst not eager to be back in the hyperspace lanes so quickly – was eager to get their mission underway. "I think I can cover everything en-route for you and your team. I am ready to leave when you are." Dee-Anne’s reply carried an air of relief at being granted more time to calculate the details of her deception. Major Storrm turned to face her squad, who’s feelings at immediately being despatched to Ilum of all places could be read on every person’s face and allowed a wry grin to form across her face briefly "Havoc Squad; move out!"

As the BT-7 Thunderclap barrelled through hyperspace clean across the galactic core and out towards the unexplored region of the galaxy which Ilum bordered, Dee-Anne addressed all of Havoc Squad in the on-board briefing room. Storrm stood in the doorway to the rear of the room leaning against the wall with her arms folded as she took in the details that Dee-Anne was giving. It was clear to her that the young former Jedi was holding back on something, but the mission parameters were simple enough and as long as the withheld information did not compromise those parameters; Stormm would remain content. It was a relatively straightforward setup; standard escort & protect duty. Havoc Squad would be deployed into the ice plains of Ilum’s Eastern Shelf where they would assist Dee-Anne in her search for a long lost temple whilst providing strategic support and protection. Once again Major Storrm’s veteran years made her believe that despite Dee-Anne’s insistence that the protection is from native peoples and creatures; their presence on this mission was called for by a much larger threat. The Major left the in-progress briefing as her squad began to assess the details and specific questions of the young woman to aid in the deployment plans, making her way instead towards the bridge of her ship where she would often sit back and marvel at the visual performance of a hyperspace corridor. On this day however she did not sit back and enjoy the view, but instead made a beeline for one of the research consoles sited behind the main pilot seats where she quickly set to work learning all she could about her passenger, their destination and the mysterious lost temple which formed their goal. It was not long before the Major found exactly what she was looking for; the lost temple was also highly sought after by the Sith and planetside recon suggested that they already had a strong presence on Ilum which was at least partially owing to their own search for Dee-Anne’s temple. Storrm contemplated her next move and after careful consideration decided to keep the Sith threat to herself for now. Whilst knowing that this was the most likely explanation for what Dee-Anne was holding back on; there was always a chance that there was yet more to learn – and the Major was keen to glean the truth of their situation one way or the other.

The trek across Ilum’s treacherous ice plains went relatively hassle free for Dee-Anne and Havoc Squad. Their presence only noted – and challenged – by a few native beasts and one band of pirates; not enough cause for Havoc to even break pace, let alone fear the outcome. As it transpired, Dee-Anne had been holding back on at least one detail during her briefing – the exact location of the temple which she sought. With her head down to brace against the biting winds which howled across the landscape at them, Dee-Anne allowed the Force to guide her blindly through the terrain on a straight and true bearing towards the lost temple. Storrm admired this in her as there are not many in the galaxy who could maintain such a true bearing in the conditions which currently surrounded them – she chuckled to herself through her breather mask at the thought of Dee-Anne having a map in her head with the temple highlighted as a bright green marker and Dee-Anne’s current position and bearing also showing as pointing straight towards the temple although she had never before seen it – as though some unseen force beyond even the Force itself was controlling her actions.

Upon their arrival at the partially buried temple entrance Havoc Squad were quick to secure the perimeter whilst Dee-Anne and Storrm set about finding a way inside. Storrm’s s frustration built at being so close to shelter from the elements but also so far as long as the entrance remained sealed. Eventually the trigger happy soldier within her took hold and drawing her rifle, she hunkered back as she unleashed a guttural roar from the pit of her stomach and a flurry of bolts at the ice surrounding the doorway from her rifle. Dee-Anne turned to face the Major with all the intent of reciting a classic Jedi teaching about patience, but before she was able to get a word from her mouth they both felt their attention drawn to a rumbling sound coming from the ground – a sound that was increasing in volume as the ground around them began to shake. Both the women shared a wide eyed glance before each leapt as far as they could in opposing directions as the ground where they had only moments before being standing started to crack before disappearing into a newly formed abyss below. Storrm dusted the snow from her armour as she stood and observed that the temple entrance was now clear. She turned to Dee-Anne wearing a very smug grin, but her elation was quickly tempered by another load crack in the ice below.

While Dee-Anne cleaned herself off and tried to use her fingertips to brush the wet snow from her now ruffled hair, she stood and saw that the doorway into the temple was now clear. She turned towards Major Storrm knowing that the impertinent soldier would now be feeling even more justified in her actions. Dee-Anne’s suspicion was confirmed as soon as she made eye contact with the Major who was wearing an unbearably smug grin; she rolled her eyes at the Major’s cockiness and was about to make a suitably witty comment when her attention – and Storrm’s – was drawn back to the ground beneath their feet the loud cracking noise that interrupted both women’s train of thought. Dee-Anne could only watch as the Major’s eyes grew wider than before as the ground gave way beneath her feet sending the trooper tumbling down into the abyss below. The remaining members of Havoc Squad quickly gathered at the edge of the broken ice where their commanding officer had been stood, their eyes all fell to Dee-Anne who needed no words to perfectly understand their collective message; "If she is dead... so are you".

In the abyss below the ice plains the dust and snow was still gently falling through the pillars of light from above as Major Storrm slowly regained consciousness. Groaning in pain as she eased herself into a sitting position Storrm quickly took stock of herself and her injuries – always breathing a sigh of relief to find every limb still in place "Well that’s a start" she would always say to herself in times like this. As Storrm’s eyes slowly adjusted to the darkened chamber in which she had landed, she found that she must have hit her head on a rock when she landed since she was bleeding heavily from her temple "That’s not so good" she sighed as she touched a hand to the thick red blood trickling over her right eye. Storrm was quick to triage her injuries with her emergency medkit, attempting to stand up she found that she had also suffered some injury to one of her legs though it did not feel so painful as to be broken. Knowing that her leg injury would slow her down, Storrm reached behind her back and drew her rifle with the intention of using it as a crutch until she could rejoin the rest of her party. She pulled the rifle down to her side and leant her weight against it – testing the weapon’s ability to support her weight as she eased her injured leg off the ground, but before she was able to fully lift her foot the rifle barrel sheared clean off almost sending Storrm tumbling back to the ground – however she was able to regain her balance quickly enough to prevent such a fall. The injured Major lifted the broken half of her rifle still in her hand into sight, from the looks of it she had landed on her back when she fell – or at least part way down – since the rifle had clearly taken severe impact damage; Storrm cursed herself for not checking the weapon for impact damage before attempting to use it in the manner in which she had. Letting out a defeated sigh, Major Storrm drew her sidearm and prepared to proceed slowly – and painfully – in her attempts to escape the abyss.

Whilst Havoc Squad desperately analyzed the stability of the newly formed abyss and started to formulate a rescue strategy, Dee-Anne meditated – reaching out through the Force in an attempt to ascertain the Major’s fate. "Are you just going sit there while we perform this entire rescue op?" Elara Dorne – now Havoc’s acting commanding officer in Major Storrm’s absence – made no effort to hide her anger with Dee-Anne. Elara’s anger was only fuelled further when the young woman didn’t even respond to her challenge, barely even lifting her head at the sound of Elara’s voice as she pressed harder "Well?!". Sensing the anxiety in the young trooper, Dee-Anne opened her eyes and calmly stood to face Elara at eye level "Major Storrm is alive." She spoke in the same calm and eloquent tone she had used ever since Elara first met her on Alderaan, and this threw the young trooper off guard almost as much as the statement itself "But... how do you..?" "I can still feel her presence through the Force." Dee-Anne continued having anticipated Elara’s initial response. Dee-Anne closed her eyes momentarily andn tilted her head as she frowned slightly and tried to reach further towards Storrm’s energy "She is hurt badly, but Major Storrm is definitely alive down there." At hearing those words Elara’s face was written with as much relief that her commanding officer and friend is alive, as with that she would no longer be facing the prospect of filling Storrm’s boots – a prospect Elara did not cherish. She moved with haste to the edge of the abyss and dropped to her knees, leaning over the side in the process "MAJOR STORRM?" she yelled cupping her hands to her mouth in an effort to project her voice further below "MAJOR CAN YOU HEAR ME – ARE YOU ALRIGHT?"

The few seconds that followed after the abyss walls had given the only reply by way of the echo from Elara’s voice, the longest seconds of Elara Dorne’s life – and Dee-Anne’s – ticked by at a painfully slow rate turning their brief hope in despair before a new distant voice called back "MAJOR STORRM... REPORTING FOR DUTY!" At hearing the Major’s voice carry her droll humour back up the abyss every member of Havoc Squad let out a huge sigh of relief – as did Dee-Anne who could once again feel safety for her own life. "MAJOR, ARE YOU INJURED?" more painfully slow seconds ticked by as everyone felt they were waiting an eternity for the sound to travel the depth of the abyss before the eventual reply came back up, "I’VE SEEN BETTER DAYS, BUT I’M STILL MOBILE." "MAJOR HANG TIGHT, FOREX IS GOING TO RIG A WINCH SO WE CAN COME GET YOU." ........ "NEGATIVE ON THAT. ELARA – I’M INSIDE THE TEMPLE – I’M MOVING FORWARD, YOU CAN CATCH UP." Upon hearing the Major's instruction Elara raised her eyeline to meet Dee-Anne's once more; her eyes asking the question of possibility, "It would not surprise me." Dee-Anne stated flatly "Centuries ago when temples such as this were built the landscape would have been very different; it's entirely likely that the door we found once led onto a balcony raised high above the landscape." Elara nodded confirmation but turning her attention back into the abyss holding Major Storrm below "UNDERSTOOD MAJOR. HAVOC EN ROUTE." She knew better than to wait for a reply from the Major, she knew her commanding officer too well in that she would not have waited for Elara's response before proceeding in her exploration of the temple. Elara turned to her squad members who needed no further instruction to know it was time for them to move out, so settling into a defensive formation around Dee-Anne they entered the buried temple with Dee-Anne's golden lightsaber lighting the way.

Major Storrm maintained a respectable yet gently and cautious pace as she ventured deeper into the dark temple. The Major surmised that she had landed in an antechamber not far from what would have been the once grand entrance to the temple. As she attempted to study the ruined statues around her in the darkened corridors she was unable to determine their origin due to the state of decay - this troubled the Major as it was as likely that she was walking the once proud halls of the Jedi as she was a dark home of the Sith. Turning a corner which faced her towards a larger chamber, Storrm saw fire light eminating from the room ahead. Taking a more defensive stance against the wall with her weapon held out in front but lowered, the Major steadily moved forward to a point with a better view of the room ahead. As she worked her way towards the archway the Major leant in around the corner - once again having to work with here eyes adjusting to a change in light. As the room came into better focus she could see Imperial banners hanging on the walls - clearly recent additions - and what appeared to be a small shrine in the centre of the room set between two large pillars which she suspected were the only things supporting the icy landscape above them.

The Major turned to enter the room, weapon still drawn in front. But just as she turned the corner she heard approaching footsteps. Hunkering down behind a pile of rubble, Major Storrm watched intently as shadows began to dance across the walls of the adjoining corridor from the far side of the room - growing larger then smaller as the approaching figure passed multiple torch sconces. She hunkered back as far as she could without breaking her eyeline on the entrance as a figure came into view. Storrm watched intently as young woman wearing what appeared to be tattered robes calmly strolled into the room, but she had to duck behind her cover quickly when the Sith broke her stride and stood for a moment. Storrm imagined the Sith staring at the pile of rubble she was hiding behind and hoped that she had not been noticed - waiting a perceived eternity for the sound of footsteps to continue in the opposite direction.

Soon enough Storrm's hopes were answered as she heard the footsteps resume their casual pace across the echoing stone and towards the central altar. Taking a deep composing breath, Storrm cautiously raised her head to observe the Sith approach the altar before kneeling in front of it in meditation. Deciding that it was now or never, Storrm quietly stood from her cover and approached the young Sith - raising her weapon as gained ground on her target. As Major Storrm approached the Sith woman, she took note of the exposed dark green skin that was the most distinct trait of her own race - Mirialan - and rued the prospect of one of her kin turning to the darkside, almost as much as she did the prospect of having to gun down one of her own if this was true. "In the name of the Galactic Republic; show me your hands and stand up - slowly!" The Major realised at this point that the Sith had clearly been aware of her presence since she made no reaction to Storrm's challenge. She watched intently as the young Sith slowly raised her head from her meditation before turning to face her - lowering the hood of her robe as she did.

Dee-Anne and Havoc Squad moved quickly through the temple, whilst Dee-Anne had the benefit of insight through the Force telling her that the Major was in danger; Havoc willingly followed the strong pace through a mere suspicion of the same fact. As the group approached the main chamber of the temple, the corridors became lighter to the point where Dee-Anne no longer needed her lightsaber drawn to see the way - but this was not enough to make her want to holster the weapon. Instead as they approaced the main chamber, she twirled the lightsaber in her hand and swung her arm out holding the weapon in a prone position ready for combat whilst she increased her pace to almost a full sprint. Entering the room, the group was greeted by the sight of Major Storrm holding an unknown woman at gunpoint. All quickly grinding to a halt at a safe distance - not wanting to upset the balance of whatever stalemate may be playing out in front of them, they could all but watch as the young woman stood.

Storrm watched the young Sith girl place something down on the alter then stand up in front of her and slowly reach up to pull back the hood of her robe. Storrm's jaw dropped wide open when she looked upon the face of her assailant and took in the distinct teardrop formation tattoos customarily worn by many Mirialan. Frozen in shock, Storrm could not find any words to address the girl - her hands lowered bringing her weapon to her side almost subconsciously as she continued to stare at the young woman who appeared to wear a look of satisfaction at the Major's reaction to her presence, "Hello Mother."

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