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"Perfect Square Act II" Pt. 7


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

 

"Not just yet, but I can give her a comm frequency so she can contact us," responded Kelly as she stepped into the shuttle, returning moments later with a small datapad which she handed to Keelah, "I presume you know how to use this. If the chips don't interface with your tech you can use the pad to read and input it manually."


"Let's get off this moon before something else decides we make good dinner," she addressed Laesa now, though the warning went for their new alien companion as well. "I'll send a message to my ship once we're in orbit, see what news we have from ADIN and then set up a rendezvous point. Come on."


With a wave to signal Laesa to come along, Kelly entered the shuttle again, this time without re-emerging. When both of them were inside, the rear entrance of the craft sealed and it began to hover above the ground. Their takeoff was shaky as Kelly familiarized herself with the controls, and they narrowly missed the jungle canopy, with several of the taller branches and leaves rustling against the shuttle's belly as they brushed by. As they pulled away from the surface, the distant ruins of temples and structures became specks of rock amidst the green flora. It was not long until they burst through the atmosphere, leaving behind the dark corruption of Yavin IV for the emptiness of space, which felt welcoming in that moment.


Knowing that it would still be some time before Keelah arrived due to their head start, Kelly set the vessel in geosynchronous orbit and rose from her seat, "That Sith disabled my jammer and signal encoding device with that probe of hers. I'll see what I can do to secure the shuttle again and get an at least somewhat encrypted message to my ship. Let me know if our new friend sends us a holo."


She proceeded to the rear of the craft to do her work, leaving Laesa to monitor the cockpit and await Keelah's communication.


They did not have long to wait before the shuttle scanners detected a small craft ascending from the moon. Drawing closer to form up alongside the shuttle, the craft appeared to be about the size of a single seat starfighter, though its bulkier rear half suggested an integral hyperdrive. As the craft drew alongside, Laesa could see it was black skinned and armed; clearly designed for stealth and combat whilst appearing to be outfitted for scouting with extra stowage and sensor pods. She could make out a windowed cockpit over the nose of the craft though she could not see inside it's reflective surface. Moments later a small holo of Kerlah appeared on her display - showing only from the shoulders and up as she was clearly in a restricted space. She looked to Laesa expectantly with a cheery wave. "Are you all set to follow us to Dathomir?" Laesa asked, the holo of Keelah simply nodding in response and looking over as she saw Kelly return. Following her gaze Laesa turned around, "We are all set" she informed as Kelly nestled into her seat. The shuttle jumped to hyperspace closely followed by Keelah's fighter. The trip did not take long and upon arriving in the Dathomir system they were greeted by a comm from Yatuni, "It's about time! ADIN's sent a message with co-ordinates for a planet. I figured you would want a quick getaway as usual, so already cleared to head out as soon as you're ready.


"Meet us outside the system, these coordinates," Kelly instructed as she typed on the shuttle's console, sending the coordinates to both Yatuni and Keelah. "Prepare the docking ring for external connection." With an extremely short hyperspace jump and two minutes of sublight navigation, all three vessels arrived at the designated location. Kelly approached her ship with the shuttle, holding close to it and letting Yatuni adjust their position as he was the more experienced pilot. It didn't take him long before they were angled properly and the docking ring extended, locking on to the rear of the shuttle. When that was done, Kelly opened the doors and, having previously gathered any equipment she brought, picked up her case and returned to the familiarity of her personal luxury yacht. "Welcome back, master!" she was greeted by HK-X1 as she stepped on board. "Time for you to explode something," Kelly smirked, glancing back to make sure Laesa had come into the ship as well before giving the next command. "Yatuni, retract the docking ring then move the ship away. HK, shuttle's all yours for target practice." "Exclamation: Excellent! My only regret is that there will be no meatbags on board." Kelly dropped off her equipment in the lounge, motioning Laesa along as she made her way up the stairs with HK. While the assassin proceeded to the back of the vessel and down the ladders to take control of one of the laser cannons, Kelly stood in the cockpit with her arms folded, passively observing the performance of her droid. This was as much a regular test of his abilities as it was a source of entertainment for the HK unit. "We don't know what other surprises that Sith might've had in store for us," Kelly explained to Laesa as she watched. "Even if she's not tracking the shuttle anymore, she's probably got a method of identifying it if her people do find it, which could give her some information about our whereabouts or what we're up to. That's why we're leaving nothing behind." A single bolt shot out from their left cannon, striking one of the wings of the shuttle. The wing was pulverized instantly and the impact sent the craft spinning. As it slowed down, the hull of the shuttle was visibly scarred by the explosion, with the entirety of the side of the broken wing being blackened. HK did not wait for the rotation to stop completely, firing a second shot which impacted the other wing, disintegrating that as well. It began to spin wildly again, but with the main body being a much larger target, HK unleashed another bolt as soon as the cannon was ready. This one tore through what remained of the shuttle, ripping it apart into several pieces. Kicking the weapon into rapid fire mode, the assassin droid rained down a volley onto the debris, cutting apart anything large enough to be salvaged. "Report: The shuttle has been completely obliterated, master," the HK's voice came in through comms. "Good work," congratulated Kelly as she set a hand on the back of her pilot's seat. "Yatuni, send the location of this planet ADIN found to the other ship following us and then plot us a jump there."


The trip through hyperspace was long; crossing right through the galactic core to the unknown regions beyond the Outer Rim. This afforded everyone sufficient time both to reflect on the events of Yavin and prepare for the mysteries that lay ahead. Laesa had used the time to further study the holocron as well as keeping Keelah company via the holo. Though dialogue was still a challenge and Keelah lacked the luxury of space to sign her words as before; the two still talked at length and built something of an understanding. Keelah would sometimes just drift off into telling an exciting story whike Laesa sat and listened. She was able to pick up some of Keelah's speech now but nowhere near enough to converse. Instead she happily listened to the changing inflections in Keelah's voice and read her face to interpret the changes in mood. After a while she would return the favour and tell Keelah a story, though she really didn't have much experience to call on for such things trt and so talked more about the great first adventure this was turning out to be, and her trepidation regarding what awaited them ahead.

Eventually Yatuni announced to all over the intercom that they were approaching the co-ordinates. Making her way back to the cockpit where she also found Kelly, Laesa watched as they dropped out of hyperspace on an approach vector to a ringed planet and she smiled.


"This is it" she declared with confidence. The entire system seemed to be sat within a nebula as the distant stars were all obscured by a red haze. But the distinct twin suns from Laesa's vision were clearly present. But that was not all that present here. The moment they approached the planet Laesa could sense something from it. Seemingly as could Keelah was straight onto the holocom expressing misgivings about the place; clear to all regardless of the language barrier from her tone and concerned look. She was somewhat eased by Laesa's reassurances though, enough at least to follow them down to the surface. None of them knew where on the planet to start looking. There were no obvious population centres or signs of civilization. Opting instead to trust in the vision which had led them this far, Laesa stood beside Yatuni with her eyes closed and a hand placed over his. Focusing her mind as so taught by the holocron she instructed him to approach the planet, fently guiding his direction as she felt her way through the Force.

Keelah's ship followed them down through the atmosphere and across a wild looking continent as they slowly descended. She saw a world not unlike Yavin though the dark corruption here was rife; with entire regions and continents appearing completely devoid of life as though the entire planet had been consumed by darkness.


"Here" Laesa declared, opening her eyes to see a fairly large clearing on a lakeside; sufficient space for both ships to land. With a nod from Kelly, Yatuni landed - closely followed by Keelah - and powered down the engines. Laesa turned to Kelly, " night is already drawing in so I suggest we make camp for the night and continue at first light as-..." she was interrupted by a banging noise coming from the boarding ramp, closely followed by HK on the intercom, "Observation; Master, there is a pointy eared meatbag banging on the ship. Can I go disintigrate them?"


"Lower the boarding ramp and let her in, HK," Kelly instructed through the comms. "Best we all stick together instead of moving separately."


Speaking off the comms now, she looked to Laesa, "It's definitely not a good idea to go out into the night, we don't want to run into any more Sith monsters. Garrisoning in the ship might be better than setting up any kind of camp though. It's armoured, big enough that ten rancors can't tip it over and if things really get bad, we can always use it to make a quick getaway."


"Sounds good to me" Laesa nodded, "Do y-..." she was interrupted by the sound of approaching voices, "Il- proddien amin yassen tanya nat' ri' lle'll auta ta!" (Quit prodding me with that thing or you will lose it!) Came the unmistakeable sound of a frustrated Keelah, "Objection; to do so would negate my ability to disintigrate you should you my master allow it!" HK responded as they approached the cockpit; HK steerinf Keelah forward with his rifle. "Auteria, amin delotha edain!" (Goddess, I hate droids!) She declared with a somewhat venemous tone as they appeared. Though her expression softened as she laid eyes on Laesa, "Ta naa quel a' elea lle Mellonamin" (It is good to see you my friend) she smiled, taking Laesa's hands in her own as a way of greeting.


"HK, you can stand down," Kelly nodded to her droid before stepping up to Keelah. "Sorry about that. He gets a little too excitable at times. So...I believe we promised you some secrets, yes? If you want I can show you to them while we wait out the night."

Keelah tilted her head slightly at the uncertainty of what Kelly referred to, looking to Laesa for guidance, "Yaara sinta" (ancient knowledge) Laesa affirmed, immediately noting the look on Kelly's face, "We spoke at length during the journey. I am far from fluent or even conversent, but picked up a few phrases and such"


With the clarification, Keelah bowed humbly before Kelly and nodded her desire to see that which had been offered.


"Nicely done. You're quite the collection of talent," Kelly smiled at Laesa before waving Keelah along. "If you'll come with me..." She turned to the large curved doors leading into her personal chambers, tapping on the panel beside it to unlock the room. Glancing behind her to make sure those whom she expected to follow inside (namely Keelah and Laesa) were present, she locked the doors once again and instructed them to wait inside the bedroom. "You can make yourself comfortable here," Kelly addressed them. "I'll be back in just a moment." With that, she disappeared into the wardrobe, where Laesa knew she would open the hidden storage compartment behind her racks of clothes, which served as the ship's secret armoury. Once inside, Kelly would retrieve the holocron of Bastila Shan from its discreet location in one of the many storage drawers. This was exactly what she did as Kelly emerged a minute later, holding in her hands the small square-based pyramid with a flattened top. She offered the device to Keelah. "Here. I'm not sure how useful this is to you, but you can search through it as a token of good will."


Keelah studied the item in her hands, turning it slightly as she studied it's ornate markings. After a few moments it became clear that it would not react to Keelah as it did to Laesa. Stepping forward, Laesa held out a hand, "Allow me" she smiled. Handing the holocron to Laesa, Keelah watched with aweatruck eyes as the figure of Bastila formed, "Hello again Laesa" the figure smiled before turning to Keelah, " I see you have brought someone new to me" "Auteria, re quena selphi?!" (Goddess, she speaks Selphi?!) The astounded Keelah murmered in a humbled tone. "To your ears only" Bastila clarified before looking backto Laesa, "She hears me in the language she speaaks. Just as you do. Why have you brought this one before me?" Laesa glanced to Keelah, "I believe she is also pure as you found me to be. She wants to learn". Bastila shook her head, "She is far from pure. But there is... something unusual about her presence in the Force" "Amin il- tanka tanya lye naa e' y' mori yamen'" (I can't help that we are in a dark place), Keelah interjected having pickedup on Bastila's half of the conversation. The holocron image studied her a long moment, "You are Force-adaptive?" To which Keelah nodded. Bastila looked back to Laesa, "You did the right thing. She is a complex presence, but it is a beauriful one I have never before witnessed. We have much to share..."


"Force...adaptive?" Kelly looked from Keelah to the holographic image of Bastila. "I've never heard of that before. Does it mean you can change between the light and the dark side somehow?"


"Something like that" Bastila confirmed as she turned to face Kelly, "I have never met one myself, but as I understand it; she would be technically Force-neutral but able to call on either the light or the dark given appropriate circumstances" she added looking to Keelah for confirmation. "Amin gwaith yela lye ithil-dae" (My people call us Moonshadows), "Lye yela deno' me'a ed' seorsa. Nan' nu i' me'a en' i' ithil lye yela deno' i' huine" (We can call upon light by nature. But under the light of the moon we can call upon the darkness). "That is remarkable!" Laesa commented with an impressed smile, "I assume this something inherent to your people rather than something which can be learned?" To which Keelah gave an affirmative nod while Bastila elaborated, "Many Force users can call upon both light and dark power, but with her it is more that her natural state shifts requiring no extra effort"


"That's why you were using lightning back on Yavin!" Kelly caught on to the explanation. "So, your people draw upon your environment instead of emotions or calmness to use the Force? Which means if you ever stepped foot onto Tython, you'd use the Force like a Jedi?"


Keelah nodded, with a a slight wavering of her hand to suggest 'more or less'. Bastila chimed in to clarify, "I believe it is less that her people draw from their environment, and more that it directly influences their natural state - regardless of choice or desires. This will be perfectly natural to her, but for those around her who are unfamiliar with such a unique being; it could prove disconcerting if not armed with the proper knowledge. I suspect this is why her kind are seldom seen by outsiders - for one like her to associate with an Order like the Jedi, or the Sith, would be troublesome at best - unlike Selphi from the homeworld who have on occasion been seen with the Jedi. Imagine a promising young Padawan starting training at Coruscant, the using abilities such as lightning or essence drains against their fellow students." she shakes her head, "She is not a danger because of who she is. She is a danger because the others are too narrow minded to understand how beautiful her gift is. This is why it is good that you brought her to me, so you can better understand." Laesa listened intently to the detailed explanations before turning to Keelah with a warm smile, "Well I think it is a beautiful gift indeed" To which smiled back graciously.


"I've never seen anything like it before," Kelly commented. "It's certainly very interesting, but does it ever get...odd? I mean, you're used to it so it won't be 'odd' for you exactly, but, you know...troublesome. Like how the holocron mistook you for a dark side user at first because of being on this world. Given how the two biggest Force-using organizations hate each other, it could be a problem when one of them thinks you're the other."


"As with all matters of the Force; the danger is subject to the knowledge." Bastila began, "For you as her allies - which I assume to be the case given the feelings I sense from you" she said turning to Laesa, who flushed as she shied away; unable to deny her fascination with the exotic alien, which inevitably brought a humbled smile to Keelahs face as Bastila continued, " - the danger would be in a lack of understanding, which has now been mooted. The greatest danger is really a tactical asset to you as it is her opponents lack of understanding that will lead them to underestimate her capability. This you can use to your advantage" she said addressing Keelah, who nodded her understanding.


"A less understood ability means it's more likely to succeed as the enemy won't know what to expect or how to counter it," Kelly smiled. "Interesting and useful, I see. Well, I'll leave you two to study the holocron; hopefully it'll have something useful to you, Keelah." She turned and exited the chamber, closing the door behind her and offering the two privacy as she remained in the lounge. Tuning the holoterminal in the centre of the room to display the external cameras and sensor feeds from the ship, Kelly observed their surroundings and kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary before slipping into sleep on the couch. When she woke, it was early morning, and she found Yatuni at the kitchen beside her, digging for food. "Hey, this is a luxury yacht, right?" he addressed Kelly as she stood up from the couch. "You got, you know, anything besides raw stuff? She shrugged at him, "ADIN usually does the cooking. The only thing I know how to do is warming up a pack of field rations." "No no no, no rations please," the Weequay shook his head. "Let me try something." After about fifteen minutes of cutting up and throwing ingredients into a pan, Yatuni returned with two plates of...something that resembled an omelette. Kelly stared at the dish for a long moment before finally cutting a piece off and taking a bite. "Okay, ADIN still does the cooking around here," she chuckled after a taste. Sitting down at the table, Yatuni tried his creation and began to laugh as well, "Yeah..." The two chatted at the table for a short time as they finished their food. Once done, they dropped their dishes into the automatic cleaner and Yatuni headed back to the bridge as Kelly checked the chronometer. Deciding that it was about time to prepare for setting out, she hit the doorbell on the panel beside the entrance to her bedroom, signalling Laesa and Keelah who were inside.


Laesa appeared at the door a moment later, already dressed and ready to start the day, "Oh, is Keelah back already?"


"Back?" Kelly gave Laesa a confused look. "I thought she was with you."


"She went out a few hours ago" Laesa clarified as she exited the room and walked back to the central chamber with Kelly, "I'm not sure what exactly she wanted to do, but she was very enthusiastic and reassuring before sh-..." She was interrupted by the sound of more clattering around coming from the kitchen area ahead. Entering the main lounge area, they were met with a beaming smile from Keelah who had apparently just got back, "Quel, lle naa n'alaquel! hama, hama!" (Good, you're up! Sit, sit!) she spoke excitedly as she indicated towards the table for them to sit down. Sharing an uncertain glance with Kelly, Laesa did as instructed at sat herself down. As the two sat down, Keelah turned and plopped a medium-sized animal carcass on the table with a dull thud. It appeared to be a winged creature of some description; it's two beady - cold & dead - eyes staring up at Kelly and Laesa, "rusvamata!" (breakfast!) she declared triumphantly as she retrieved the carcass and returned to the counter. Laesa blinked at the carcass, turning back to Kelly with a slight chuckle, "Apparently she was out gathering breakfast for us!". As Keelah prepared the food - happily humming a melody unknown to the others, but from her homeworld - Laesa talked with Kelly, telling how of the endless hours the two of them spent through the night learning from the holocron. It wasn't long before the smell of finely seasoned meat filled the room and began to whet Laesa's appetite; she licked her lips as Keelah turned and set plates down in front of them. Taking a tentative first bite, Laesa smiled enthusiastically, "Wow... this is great, Keelah. Thank you!" she commended while continuing to enjoy the delicious food as Keelah sat down and tucked into her own portion.


Kelly took a bite as well, slowly savouring the seasoning before downing the food and speaking, "This is definitely better than Yatuni's breakfast all right. Good thing we got you while ADIN's away." She chuckled before eating another piece, "Did you find anything else when you were out hunting? Any giant monsters, Sith temples, that sort of thing."


"Il- ikotane sai-, nan' eller naa y' teena' men leadien n'e tuulo' sina latina ar' e'a i' taure" (Not so much, but there is a distinct path leading out from this clearing and into the forest.) she narrated happily, tracing a finger across the tabletop in a variety of sweeping lines to illustrate her words. "I believe that is where we must go" Laesa added, "We have already made preparations and can leave as soon as you are ready. Keelah even helped me prepare packs for us all, as well as showing me to better utilize what I was already carrying!" she continued happily, highlighting the small leather pouches now attached to her belt - clearly hand crafted, and of the same style as Keelah's. In doing so she also revealed the fang which she had retained from their encounter on Yavin, "Oh, and look!" she said, pulling it out to show Kelly more thoroughly, "She taught me how craft a grip on to this thing so it can be wielded more effectively as a dagger too!"


"Nicely done," Kelly smiled proudly. "It'll make a fine sidearm. Not as sharp as a vibroknife, but most people won't be expecting something like this, especially if you add more poison to it or something." "Let me gather my own equipment and then we'll be on our way," she added as she finished her food, standing up and starting a comm broadcast on the central terminal. "HK, gear up and meet us in the lounge." She first placed her plate in the cleaner before heading into the armoury. Then, she checked that the holocron had been secured before putting on her personal armour, the same set that she had worn in preparation for attacking the transport to Tython. Though her gear had not seen action that day, she knew that the chances of it being needed today were high. Thus, she inspected her weapons carefully, ensuring that her sniper rifle was functioning as efficiently as it could before briefly looking over her pistol. Instead of reaching for her usual knife, she took a larger vibrodagger and filled her toolbelt with various grenades- two concussive, two smoke, one flash-bang and one EMP. Fully prepared, she returned to the lounge, where HK-X1 awaited, armed with a long sniper rifle attached to his back, a pistol on his hip and a row of explosives strapped around his chassis. The assassin droid greeted his master enthusiastically as he saw that she was similarly equipped, meaning that they were heading into action. Kelly nodded back to him, both acknowledging him and confirming his suspicion as she addressed them all. "Alright, we'll be going out there in standard formation," she looked to the two other women. "Keelah, you've got the ability to sense things here. Laesa, you've seen this place in your vision. Your weapons are more suited to closer range engagements too, so you'll both take front. I'll be right behind you, I've got the best rifle so I can cover front and back. HK'll tag along further; his advanced photoreceptors and sensors will be good for watching our flank and making sure things don't sneak up on us. Everyone set?"


"All set" Laesa confirmed while Keelah simply gave a single affirmative nod, now donning her ragged headwrap and robes over her armour. Stepping off the ship first, Laesa looked up to the sky as she descended the boarding ramp; it was early dawn and the first of the planet's twin suns had barely began to creep over the horizon. But even now, the red haze they saw surrounding the planet during their approach cast an eerie hue over the landscape. She looked up to see the skyline carved in two by the asteroid ring which also surrounded the world, "This place feels right..." she mumbled to herself, "...and yet so very wrong".


Sensing the unease in her new friend, Keelah approached Laesa from behind and set a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Though her warm smile was masked by the rebreather she wore under her hood, Laesa could see it's warmth in her ocean coloured eyes and returned the smile, placing her own hand over Keelah's which rested on her shoulder; giving it a gentle squeeze as she pushed it away and stepped out into the clearing. Drawing up alongside her, Keelah pointed them towards the path she had found earlier; signing her intention to scout ahead, "Just don't wander so far that we are out of contact" Laesa instructed, with a nod of confirmation that she understood Keelah's intention.


Trekking through the dead and corrupt terrain, Laesa could not help but draw comparisons to the landscape of Yavin; noting the differences between the two worlds in contrast to their similarly dark presence. It was a few hours before they found any evidence that this was indeed the place from Laesa's vision and the second sun was now peaking over the horizon as the first - primary - sun painted the landscape with an uncomfortable heat through the red haze. Keelah had scouted ahead a few hundred yards and as the rest of the group approached, they found her crouched in the undergrowth, turning and waving for them to join her as she observed something in the distance.

"Eller" (there), Keelah spoke quietly as she pointed ahead. Laesa peered through the overgrowth to see the wilderness fading ahead at the base of a steep cliff. Shifting her head left and right to better see what caught Keelah's attention, Laesa spotted a single - tall - brazier burning brightly at the base of what appeared to be a narrow path winding it's way up the side of the cliff. She nodded and turned to Kelly, "This is it..." her gaze drew up the side of the cliff, the top was not visible from their vantage point but it did not appear to climb as high as the one they ascended on Yavin, "...She is up there, somewhere." "Eller naa ner; lye naa il- ereb sinome..." (There is more; we are not alone here...) Keelah added, passing an distrustful glance at the terrain behind them. Though her words may not have been completely understood by those present, the tone with which she spoke them accompanied by her gaze served to make the point adequately clear.


"Beta, are you sensing her here?" Kelly asked Keelah, gazing down at the movement tracker on her wrist before glancing over her shoulder. "HK, picking up anything on sensors?"


"Observation: I am only reading local wildlife," came the droid's response. "Nothing worth my assassination protocol."


Kelly nodded, taking a scan of her surroundings through the infrared vision of her scope before lowering the rifle, "Keep looking and stay alert. We'll slowly make our way up."


"Amin uma il- sinta manka ta naa he` ri' il-" (I don't know if it's her or not) Keelah shrugged, "It's not" Laesa chimed in, though her saying no more made it clear she could not elaborate further.


With the two Force-sensitives still leading the way, the group began the slow ascent up the mountain path. It was narrow and somewhat treacherous in places as the countless centuries of wear had not been favourable. However the group progressed without incident and eventually drew near to the summit. Winding around another tight corner, Laesa's eyes lit up as she recognized the formation ahead; with the path disappearing into what first looked to be a cave entrance. She looked up as they approached and could see the sky through the top of the entrance - confirming that it was indeed the one from her vision. She glanced over her shoulder to Kelly, giving an affirmative nod before proceeding through the final incline - tracing her hands across the vertical rock face either side of her - with Keelah right behind her.


Nearing the top, she