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"Perfect Square Act II" Pt. 4


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

 

"That's actually not a bad idea," ADIN spoke through the comms as he addressed Kelly across the engine room.


"Objection: This plan contains a disappointing lack of meatbag disembodiment," the assassin droid chimed in.


"They don't know we're here yet," Kelly replied. "No need to change that if we don't have to. ADIN will need someone else to transfer into the astromech- HK, you know the proceure. Go out there and don't kill anything."


"Query: If I make them aware of our presence while on the hull, then we will be able to board?"


Kelly shook her head, "Then I will deactivate you. Now do as you're told."


"Yes, master," HK muttered back.


Proceeding into the cargo bay, where HK was already waiting, ADIN grabbed the single jetpack hanging on the wall, attaching it to the back of the combat droid model. Once ready, both droids stood by the large blast doors as Yatuni, managing the ship systems on his own without ADIN's help now, activated the force field to prevent the entire compartment from being vented when the gateway to space opened. Grabbing HK, ADIN gave the all clear and with a hiss and a metallic clank the doors opened, sucking the droids out of the ship. The distant flare of the jetpack activating could be seen for a moment before they disappeared, flying too far to be visible using eyes alone.


Making her way back up to the cockpit, Kelly lowered herself into the copilot's seat beside Yatuni as she monitored the movements and communications of the enemy ship while awaiting updates on the status of the mission from her droids...


Having joined Kelly in the cockpit and now stood in the doorway to the room, Laesa watched and listened patiently as well. HK and ADIN drifted gently towards the disabled transport after burning the jetpack long enough to grant sufficient momentum. They approached the small ship from the opposite side to the astrometch hatch allowing them to gain a solid footing before the small droid appeared. Working their across the surface of the hull, the two droids made their way towards the disabled engines where the spiking energy would mask them from the astromechs sensors. A few moments later, a small circular hatch slid open further down the spine of the transport and a small astromech appeared; immediately making it's way towards the engines. Upon approaching the damaged engines, the astromech could easily tell that this was the result of weapons fire and it's body turned upright - a small transceiver popping out from the top of it's head as it attempted to detect anything nearby. Springing into action; HK crawled up from behind the damaged engine casing - revealing himself to the astromech who - after a few inquisitive beeps, squealed with panic as it turned and began to make it's way back towards the hatch. However as it turned, it found it's path cut off by ADIN who had come up behind it. Stopping in it's tracks, the astromech's head swiveled left and right as it looked between the two much larger and combat ready droids. A defeated 'woooo' came from the smaller droid as it did the astromech equivalent of hanging it's head in shame with a slight shake. At this point HK fired a single EM pulse shock at the astromech - frying it's core and allowing ADIN to remove it. With a silent nod of confirmation, ADIN turned his back towards HK allowing him access to remove ADIN's chip from the droid chassis - which he did so and inserted it into the astromech. As ADIN assumed control of the small droid chassis, he looked up at HK - now communicating in the astromech's customary beeps and chirps - and confirmed that he had control of the body. Quickly running all the astromech's servos through a motion test, the astromech ADIN spun around a couple of times before making his way back towards the hatch, pausing partway there and turning it's head back towards HK with more beeps and chirps, "Objection: I am a HK series assassination droid, not a cargo loader. If you wanted your former body returned you should have planned ahead." ADIN responded with a simple astromech raspberry blowing and a chirrupy chuckle before continuing towards the hatch. Shaking his head in dismay, HK reluctantly retrieved the body and hit a short burn on the jetpack to begin his return to the ship. Back in the cockpit, a distorted voice finally came in over the comms, "Report: Infiltration disappointingly successful. Returning with spare chassis now." Meanwhile, inside the transport; ADIN falsely reported a blown manifold on the hyperdrive to the pilot and played the part of the dutiful astromech as he now played a waiting game. "Nice and smooth" Laesa smiled, "All we need to do now is take care of the distress signal so they get their desired help from Tython and ADIN should be well on his way. You and your team do an excellent job, agent"


"Thank you," Kelly smiled back as she tapped on the console in front of the copilot seat to allow the distress call through. "ADIN, HK and I have worked together for almost a year now, but the other members of the crew are newer and fit in very well so far." She cast a glance at Yatuni, "No hazard pay for this, though. That's for life and death situations, not sneaking up on unsuspecting transports." "But we snuck up on them in the middle of Republic space!" the Weequay complained. "Yes...in the Deep Core which is largely uncharted or untraversed space," countered Kelly. "Fine, fine..." Another minute of waiting passed before HK announced his arrival and the cargo bay doors were opened to accommodate his reentry with ADIN's spare body. Once everyone who was supposed to be on board was accounted for, Kelly instructed Yatuni to depart the region as she left the cockpit for the lounge. Without ADIN in the ship systems, she had to manually establish a secure connection to the Imperial Citadel as she contacted her handler back at Intelligence HQ. "Watcher Nine," Kelly greeted the fellow agent as her hologram appeared on the terminal. "I'm sending you several planet names and one moon which may be relevant to our search. What do we have on file about them?"


"Receiving your transmission now" Watcher Nine coldly replied, without a single expression of query as to why the information was being sought, "I will collate what data we have and transmit a packet back on this channel. I'm afraid that - in summary - the archives hold little more than astrometric information on any of these systems. There, data packet sent; let me know if you require any further. Watcher Nine out" With that she promptly disappeared from the holoprojection, leaving Kelly to peruse her findings. As Watcher Nine had stated, there was very little to go on for any of the locations Kelly requested information on. The only real insight gained from the data was a history of Sith activity on Yavin Four and the current presence of a large tribal race called Massassi. With no real leads developing further, Kelly is faced with the tough call of either waiting for ADIN to report back, or picking one of the locations to investigate for herself...

Kelly pondered carefully for the next few minutes as she scrolled through the astrometric data received from Watcher Nine. When she finally made her call, she activated the comm system from the terminal as she relayed her decision to the cockpit, "Yatuni, take us to Dathomir. Broadcast the following line to the Sith Academy there- 'Through passion, we gain strength.'" "Uhh...okay," came the Weequay's response. Following her odd request, Kelly returned up the stairs, heading towards the cockpit where she last saw Laesa in hopes of locating her.


Laesa turned to see Kelly approach as she had indeed remained in the cockpit with Yatuni, "I heard the destination. Did one of your leads come through?"


Kelly nodded, "Yavin sounds like a promising lead, but I don't want to risk parking the ship in orbit there in case ADIN needs a quick extraction. Besides, we're going to need a guide for a planet with Sith history, they tend to be very dangerous. I want you to join me as you could be useful, but if you're not comfortable stopping by a Sith Academy, I won't pressure you to go."


Laesa smiled back, clearly appreciative of the thoughtfulness behind Kelly's comment, "Whilst I know I do not necessarily adhere to the Sith teachings as I know them, I believe it would be an interesting experience to see. And... you are likely correct that my presence could be of value there. Fear not; I may still be finding myself, but I know enough not to allow others to manipulate me or my connection with the Force."


"Speaking of which," Kelly took the opportunity to transition to a question she had been waiting to ask, "what of your studies of that holocron? Did you learn anything beneficial from it?"


"It was a very fruitful experience" Laesa began, walking back towards the lounge with Kelly to sit back and relax while they made the jump to Dathomir. Continuing as she nestled into one of the couches, "She helped me bring order to the otherwise sporadic knowledge of the Force born into my genes. It is early days yet of course, but I feel she has a lot still to teach me when I am ready. " She paused and looked sideways to Kelly, "I am curious... how did you come into possession of such a thing?"


"It was a...gift from an old friend," answered Kelly. "I'm not sure why she gave it to me, as I clearly can't open it, but I think she believed it would serve some kind of purpose, that maybe I'd figure out how to use it someday. Who knows, maybe she even foresaw you using it and meant for me to pass it on to you."


"I suppose anything is possible" she smiled, "either way; I am very grateful for the opportunity you have afforded me in allowing me to study it. I just hope I can make it up to by helping to find your friend as you hoped. That, and... bringing me out of stasis and all" she smiled.


"You'll have some more time to use it while we're on route to Dathomir," Kelly smiled back. "But first..." She waved for Laesa to follow as she unlocked the doors to her chambers, making her way through the luxury bedroom and wardrobe into the hidden compartment at the very back. Kelly browsed through the racks and drawers of armaments, picking out a single blaster pistol to hand to Laesa. The weapon was clearly of fine make, with polished metal and a smooth, comfortable grip, though it was not a particularly sophisticated model, lacking any notable scope or muzzle attachments.

"This is a Corellian K5 Blaster, designed for quick draw and favoured by many pirates and outlaws for that reason," explained Kelly. "It's only got iron sights as it was never meant for precise aiming. It relies on a user's instincts and speed, which makes it very deadly in the hands of a powerful Force-sensitive like you. It's fairly light and simple to use- doesn't pack as much of a punch as heavy disruptors, but it does have a lower setting to stun enemies who you don't want to kill."


"Thanks" Laesa smiled, while eyeing the weapon in her hand; studying it's form, "Let us hope it is not required on this excursion!" she said sliding the blaster through the back of her belt, "Will the journey take long?"


"It'll take some time, but the journey'll be slightly shorter than coming into the Deep Core from the Outer Rim," Kelly replied. "Is there something you'd like to do in the meantime? I don't exactly have the facilities for you to test and get a feel for the new weapon, but I can have HK set up a rough range in the cargo bay if you want."


"I'm sure that won't be necessary" she chuckled, "No, if we have more time then I can best spend with continued studies using the holocron; especially going to a world dominated by Force-sensitives. Should you need anything of me in the mean time, you know where to find me" She offered with another soft smile as she turned her attention back to Bastila's holocron.


Kelly returned to her bedroom, studying the information on Project LAES and the logs that Laesa had been reading earlier. When she finished, she decided to take the remainder of the time to rest, telling Yatuni to broadcast a message once they were fifteen minutes away from their destination. Following some much needed sleep, Kelly awoke before the call came, taking the extra time to dress up neatly in her field uniform. When Yatuni's voice sounded over comms, she pressed the panel and stepped through the hidden door into the armoury. "Time to go," she signaled for Laesa to wrap up what she was doing and lock away the holocron as she chose her usual weapons- the custom sniper rifle and the modified Imperial pistol. Kelly checked over her rifle as she waited for Laesa, slinging the weapon across her back once the two of them were ready. The ship had landed by the time they made their way to the lounge, though the boarding ramp did not lower until their approach. The landscape that greeted them was sinister and gloomy. Almost completely barren, this area of the planet was visibly tainted by the power of the dark side of the Force. The only thing that grew in the environment were roots curling up from the ground, like the tentacles of some hungry creature waiting to seize its prey, and even those looked dead, as if the tentacles had been frozen in the beast's most desperate moment and now lay withering away. Tall, jagged rocks surrounded the landing pads, the tallest of which formed a small mountain where a single entranceway could be seen. This presumably led towards or perhaps directly into the Sith Academy Kelly had spoken of when they had set their course here.

A chilly mist clung to the valley, and from it emerged a single man clad in a black robe. Even before the lightsaber hanging at his waist came into view, his attire had already made it clear that he was a member of the Sith Order. His appearance, however, with well-cut features, shining blonde hair and glowing golden eyes, contrasted the darkness of his clothing. While his initial expression matched the cold atmosphere around him, his visage lit up with the excitement of a much less rigid man as he saw the new arrivals. "Kelly Haron," he smiled. "It's been too long." Laesa could sense that his connection to the Force was quite strong, as one would expect from an individual bearing the prestigious title of Dark Lord of the Sith. His power seemed scattered and unfocused, though, as if he could not channel it properly. There was something that was greatly lacking, not in ability, but in will. "Lord Morgist," Kelly greeted him. "I'm glad to see you still remember me." "Oh you've given me quite a bit to remember you by," the Sith replied. "I didn't take you for the type to come all the way here to visit an old friend, though." "You're starting to make me think I showed you a little too much of myself," she smirked as she took a step closer. "You're right, I need your help." "Does this have something to do with the powerful Force-sensitive you've brought along?" "No. Well, yes, but not in the way you're thinking. She's Intelligence's, off-limits to the Academy right now." "Don't worry about that. I'm much more interested in you. Tell me what you need." "I need to investigate something on a moon called Yavin IV," Kelly explained. "I thought your expertise in Sith lore could come in handy there." Morgist shook his head, "I'm afraid I can't." Kelly narrowed her eyes, "If you're so quick to reject the idea of coming with me, why did you even come here to meet me at all?" "You mistake me. I want to, but the last time I was with you I was almost-" "The last time you were with me I seem to recall you saying it was the best week of your life," Kelly moved even closer, setting a hand on his cheek with her body nearly pressing against his. "It was...I've never felt more alive, more powerful. But if Darth Æmeria finds out I helped a member of Intelligence tread sacred Sith grou-" "You'll be powerful enough to take on any Darth that dares question your choices," she ran her fingers gently down the side of his face, trailing off once it brushed his neck. She leaned in as her hand drifted away, lowering her voice to a whisper as she does press on him now. "You're Sith. You don't have to answer to anyone, my lord." "Stand by my side, then," the Sith Lord grasped Kelly, keeping her pinned in her current position. "Give me this power." "It'll be my pleasure," she purred, sliding her tongue across the bottom of his jaw before pulling back. "Your ship this time?" "We've only got shuttles at the Academy." "That'll do. There's only three of us." Lord Morgist nodded as he let go, "I'll prep one for launch then." As the Sith left for the group of shuttles across the landing area, Kelly turned to Laesa with a smirk, "Despite what they claim, some Sith are very much a slave to their emotions."


Laesa allowed herself a small smile at Kelly's comment, clearly eased by the relaxed rapport between her and the Sith. She found herself pleasantly surprised by his demeanor; not what she had come to expect from the Sith. Though still with an air of trepidation about her - as much for the unknown nature of what they were doing at the shuttle as for their presence on this dark world. Falling in behind Kelly and Morgist, Laesa could still not fathom the unusual presence in the Force emanating from the Sith. She chose to focus on this after several glances up towards the academy; there was something else up there drawing her attention. It was alien to her and felt of a dark presence, and yet... a sense of familiarity kept calling her back to it.


Kelly observed Laesa as Morgist entered the shuttle first on his own to clear it for their use. She noticed her looking to the Academy and turned her attention that way herself, examining the menacing mountain jutting out of the surface of the planet. "Everything alright?" she asked. "I hope this isn't too...overwhelming for you."


Laesa shook her head vaguely - not taking her eyes from mountain - "It's not that" her voice was somewhat distant... distracted. "There is something up there - not like the holocron. I can't explain it, only that it feels... familiar, though intensely dark"


"Could this have something to do with your sister?" Kelly glanced away from the Academy entrance to Laesa. "Or does it feel different from that?"


Laesa shook her head again, only more confidently this time as she turned to face Kelly, "No, at least I don't think so. It is hard to say when I have not actually been in her presence yet, though this does not feel like the vision at least. No, this is something different; something... more"


"The Sith Academies are home to some very dangerous things, and dangerous people," warned Kelly. "Let's not overstay our welcome; we can come back after the mission is done if you're curious about this new thing you sense." They stepped into the shuttle that they saw Morgist enter, a standard Imperial transport with two seats in the front for a pilot and a copilot and a door leading to the rear which possessed two rows of passenger seating that could be folded up to convert the area into cargo storage instead. The Sith Lord was already at the pilot's chair, working to lift off the shuttle while Kelly sat down in the copilot's seat to run their destination of Yavin IV through the computer to calculate a hyperspace jump. Her arm occasionally brushed against Morgist's as she moved about, and he often glanced in her direction, even when she was not touching him. Kelly motioned for Laesa to enter the cockpit as well, cramming in behind the two seats as the shuttle doors swung shut and they took off. Flying briefly over the planet's landscape before pulling up, the various other ecosystems of Dathomir could be seen, and it was apparent that the entire world was not completely corrupted by the dark side. Once the Academy was left behind, a lush, elegant landscape of forests, rivers and mountains became visible for a few seconds, until their craft ascended too high to see anything but the clouds beneath them. Soon, even that was gone, and the blue of the sky turned into a blazing flame as they burst out of the atmosphere and into the emptiness of space. They floated about there for almost a minute before the stars stretched into streaks, the unmistakable sign that they were entering hyperspace. "We'll be in the back," Kelly smirked as she took Morgist's arm, tossing Laesa a datapad with her other hand. "I brought some reading material on our destination. Of course, if you get bored, you could always join us." The two proceeded to the rear of the shuttle, and after a very awkward ride, they finally came upon the fourth moon of Yavin. It took a few minutes after dropping out of hyperspace for the cockpit door to slide open. Kelly entered first but remained in the corner of the room, while Lord Morgist stepped in after her and made his way to the centre. "Welcome to Yavin IV, stronghold of Naga Sadow, the seat of power of Exar Kun," he announced as he stood proudly in front of the window, hands folded behind him. "What is it you are here for?" "We're searching for someone," Kelly replied simply, glancing to Laesa as if turning the question over to her and leaving it to her judgement what to reveal to the Sith Lord.


"Yes, though I am unsure what to expect here" Laesa replied distantly as she watched their descent into the atmosphere. She left her response purposefully vague as the shuttle made its approach, waiting to disembark first and get a proper look at Yavin. As they exited the shuttle, Laesa took in the thick jungle surroundings and distant mountain ranges, "This does look somewhat like the place I saw in my vision..." she began before looking up at a clear sky and the large gas giant of Yavin loomoing across much of the distant skyline and shaking her head, "...but this place feels wrong" she added as she observed the lack of any adteroid ring. She turned to face Kelly and Morgist, "Also; we are not alone here. Someone... or something is watching us" Laesa focused her attention on Morgist, "I assume you sense it too." To which he nodded silently, clearly still trying to get a better read on what he could sense as Laesa again turned away to survey their surroundings, "I saw a jungle like this in a vision while meditating. It led to an ancient temple high atop a mountain where we found the person - or one of the people - we're looking for." She looked back to Morgist over her shoulder, "Do you know of any such temple here?"


"There are many temples on this moon," Morgist replied. "Are there any more specific details you can recall?" "I think there was a waterfall or something nearby," Kelly answered first. "I remember hearing it in her description, which got me to search for worlds with jungles and surface water." "Then we may be able to use the same approach here," the Sith headed back to the shuttle. "I'll check a geological map of Yavin IV for any temples in a suitable location. Being on top of a mountain should make it easier to find." Once Morgist had disappeared inside the craft, Kelly turned back to Laesa, "By wrong, do you mean we have the wrong planet, or that there's something unnatural about this jungle?"


"Both..." Laesa replied flatly, "...maybe neither, I don't really know." She looked skyward again, "This is not the sky I saw. But that does not mean this is not the right place for us to be; we must trust in the Force" Before she could continue, Morgist emerged from the shuttle shaking his head, "There are no temples recorded as sitting on top of a mountain as you describe. That said, there is a mountain range just a few clicks south of here that is supposedly home to some unnatural formations. That could be indicative of some ancient structure, but I can not say for certain." Laesa looked to Kelly who had already turned back to face her in anticipation of the judgement, "Well if it's our only viable option, we had better get moving. It will be slow progress through this terrain." She followed Kelly and Morgist back into the shuttle to collect their packs of basic provisions ready for the trek through the jungle. However partway up the boarding ramp Laesa paused, slowly glancing back over her shoulder as she once again got a strong sensation of the presence she felt watching them. She turned sharply with one hand moving towards the blaster holstered in the back of her belt, but as she surveyed the treeline surrounding their landing site; she saw nothing. Narrowing her eyes slightly with a moments consideration she stared deep into the surrounding jungle - into the darkness of the undergrowth where no daylight could penetrate - and for a fleeting moment, she felt almost sure she could make a pair of eyes glistening before quickly going dark.


Kelly stopped as well, turning to look at Laesa as she glanced around. Unhooking her sniper rifle from her back, she took a few steps in the direction she had come to stand beside Laesa, joining her with weapon ready. When her eyes could not detect anything unusual about their surroundings, she activated the thermal view on her rifle's scope, peering into it as she swayed the weapon left and right. Her finger hovered just in front of the trigger, ready to open fire should she spot anything potentially dangerous.


The greyscale view through Kelly's scope revealed nothing; not just the lack of whatever Laesa felt she could sense out there, but absolutely nothing. No wildlife or movement of any kind, which in itself was odd for such a lush wilderness environment. As she lowered the weapon and looked sideways to Laesa, the genetically engineered Force user could only offer a quirked smile in appreciation for Kelly's checking, "Whatever - or whoever - it is, something tells me they will not be revealed to us until they want to. Come, we have a long trek ahead and should get moving while we have sufficient daylight." With that she continued into the shuttle to retrieve her gear.


"Looks like it's scared the local wildlife away, too," Kelly remarked. She lowered her rifle, still keeping it ready in her hands as she collected the odd supplies she had not already brought along with her, including a motion tracker which she strapped to the inside of her wrists. Fitting in just beneath the vambrace on her left arm, it was positioned in such a way that it would be visible to her while holding her rifle, allowing to check for movement around herself with a simple glance to the side, or down if she was holding the weapon in a more relaxed stance. Once they were done, Lord Morgist headed out of the shuttle first and Kelly signaled for Laesa to go after him, "I'll watch our flank, in case whatever it is that's following us decides it's time to strike. You follow behind Morgist, let me know if you think we're on the right track, or if you sense something else."


The trek through the jungle was long and arduous. The trio moved efficiently through the terrain and made good time over the course of some hours before arriving at their destination. Emerging from the tree cover they were confronted by what first looked to be a mass of jungle overgrowth climbing high above the treeline. It as only upon closer inspection that a distinct formation of constructed arches could be made out forming the underlying rock surface to which the overgrowth was formed. Further into the artificially constructed region the group could define what appeared to be the remnants of small out buildings; this was clearly no temple, but they appeared to be on the right track.


Seeing that both Kelly and Morgist were looking to her for guidance - despite the distinct feeling that this was not the place from her vision - Laesa began to lead the way, allowing the Force to guide her through the ancient ruins. After a short distance the path she followed wound down and under a heavy arch remnant before seeming to disappear back into the jungle once more, "I do not understand..." Lord Morgist opened with a puzzled tone, "...this should be the temple entrance".

Laesa looked around further and followed her instinct through a small but thick patch of overgrowth. The terrain was rising steadily and they had already climbed far enough since the landing site to notice the air being thinner. She did not have to look far until she could make out the distinct form of an ancient stone stairway climbing steep through the trees, "This must be it" she nodded; stepping up her pace to ascend the stone stairs now they appeared to be on the right track.


The stone was damp and slippery, causing Laesa to stumble a few times as the years of erosion had left also left each step a hefty climb. However a steady pace and the occasional helping hand from one another, the group slowly ascended the stairs up through the treeline as night began to fall. The climb seemed to take as long as the trek from the landing site did, but eventually the path began to even out and the stairs faded into a rolling green hilltop. The overgrowth was still rife though the thick jungle was now far beneath them. Squinting in the dimming light, Laesa looked up to see that the apparent valley they had climbed up to was in fact just a relatively small nook between two larger mountaintops which ascended further still into the clouds. Most remarkably however, they could now clearly see the temple they sought at this location. It was indeed a structure of ancient and unknown origins. It was as overgrown as the valley in which it sat and formed from a very traditional style somewhat resembling a pyramid structure. The face nearest them was flanked by a pair of giant obelisks as tall - if not taller - than the peak of the main temple, "There we go!" Laesa declared triumphantly as she finally paused to rest her weary legs, bending over and bracing her hands on her knees as she looked upon the temple before them.