Monday, January 29, 2007

<--- Rules Update: The VPG-1 Beam Rifle --->

Created by Vaaro Ouulak'kt, a Rodian Commando and ex-member of the Rebellion Forces, the VPG-1 Beam Rifle is a fusion of technologies between the DC-15 Clone Trooper Rifle and a Jedi lightsaber.

Extrenally, the VPG-1 is identical to a DC-15 except for a pair of catches under the barrel cooling exchanger on the firing end of the weapon and a small black metal protrusion that resembles the emitter hood of an Anakin-style lightsaber. This protrusion is an additional focusing element and cannot be removed from the weapon; it is a fused part of the rifle and remains with the gun as an integral piece.

The cooling emitter has been slaved to a holding compartment sized for a single lightsaber; the VPG only functions when a saber is in this chamber and properly hooked into its structure. Installing or removing a lightsaber from the VPG-1 requires a properly modified saber and takes a full round action either way.

Because the rifle's cooling array has been mostly removed to allow for the saber dock, the VPG does not have a multi attack setting; heat buildup cannot be mitigated fast enough to provide for a high cyclic rate of fire. What it does boast is the ability to fire bolts of coherent energy that duplicate the cutting power of a lightsaber, completely ignoring the damage reduction of objects or personal armor.

The VPG has three modes of fire - normal, beam, and overblast. In normal mode, it acts as a standard blaster rifle without the ability to take advantage of auto and multifire attack forms. If a wielder has feats or class abilities that raise the damage of lightsaber attacks, he or she may apply half their amount (minimum of +1d8) to each successful attack.

In beam mode, it continually generates a beam of lightsaber energy out to a distance of 30 meters. Past this point, the mean diffuses and fades out. This allows the weilder to use the VPG-1 like a melee weapon with a Reach of 30 meters at an attack penalty of -2 for every full 5 meter increment. All feats and abilities the wielder might have regarding lightsabers and/or armed melee combat apply to attacks with a VPG in this mode, except for Weapon Focus (lightsaber), Weapon Finesse (lightsaber), and Precise Attack.

Overblast mode is a full attack action and completely drains both the rifle and its mounted lightsaber of power. The attack generates a cone of energy 10 meters wide and 20 meters long. All targets within the area of effect suffer 8d8 energy damage and may make a Reflex save (DC 20) for half damage instead. Damage reduction from objects and personal armor is only half effective (round down) against this attack.

The VPG-1 Beam Rifle

Cost 1,500 cr (custom work)
Damage 3d8 (+ 1/2 wielder's Lightsaber Increase value)
Critical 19-20
Range Inrement 20m
Weight 5.0 kg
Stun Damage/Fort DC -- (no stun setting)
Special: Beam and Overblast modes, Ignores DR from
objects and personal armor
Type Energy
Size Medium
Group Blaster rifles

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Turbulent Skies

"You look amazing."

Maya chuckled to herself, one hand on the co-pilot's control stick and the other feathering her hair. "You've said that three times now, Darrus."

"Oh." He sounded so adorable, she was almost sorry to have called him on repeating the same thing so often. She was used to attention like this at the bar; a person doesn't dress like she does there and not expect to be stared at. It was an ancient woman's trick - display the goods and men get really, really stupid. Stupid and easy to manipulate. In truth, she could have gotten away with a lot more than she had. She only used her "powers" to help people... and manage the occasional larger tip.

But now, she'd have to get past that compassion, those limits she placed upon herself. To convince the Scarlet Wake on Tatooine, many of whom were regulars of the Transverse, that she was one of them would take every skill she had, every asset she possessed. In the Rebellion against the Empire, she'd done a little undercover work. This would be harder than all those missions combined.

The comm crackled again as Jeht spoke from the front cockpit of the Starwing. They were soaring over the dunes, leaving the old hermit's hut behind in the keeping of a psychotic Rodian. "Miss him already?"

She nodded, then pressed the intercom button. "I do. He and I have a long history. When I left the Rebellion, my blasters, my medkit, and he were all I took. He got me off Hoth, killing more than a dozen Stormies to do it. I owe him my life."

"I understand. Don't worry; he'll be okay. That hut is the safest place on all of Tatooine, I'd bet my saber on that."

She smiled. "I know, but thanks. I'll be okay."

"Good. Do you want to make the comm call or should I?"

Maya pulled up the signal frequency that came along with Darrus' ring. "I'll do it. We are just about in range now for an LOS transmission. They'll appreciate not having a contact that can be tracked."

She groaned inwardly. She knew they were only going to join the Scarlet Wake so they could take it down from the inside out. Vaaro was counting on them doing just that; he and all the other 'inhuman' people on Tatooine were targets for that hate group if they didn't. That's why he'd been so helpful lately. Unless he left this planet soon, this mission could mean the difference between living or dying for him.


She blinked and then blushed. Lost in thought, another hundred kilometers had flown past. "Sorry. Calling now." Her lithe fingers worked over the knobs and dials of the ship's complex comm array. Built for command level transceiver work in deep space, it was overkill for a planetary contact. Once the frequency was dialed, all that remained was to hit Send.

But her hand hesitated. Right now, it was just Darrus and her, alone and free. They could go anywhere, do anything they pleased. This craft was capable of hyperspace and could tangle with anything out there and reasonably expect to fly away intact.

The moment she placed this call, that would change. They would be caught in the Wake's web, never to escape until they found a way to tear it down. That familiar feeling came over her, the same one that forced her to flee from Hoth; this was danger. If she pressed this button, life would change. Life might possibly end. This wasn't a game; this wasn't a lark.

"Are you sure about this, Darrus? We could still get out of here, take Vaaro and blast out into space. We don't have to have anything to do with the Scarlet Wake, or even Tatooine if you don't want to stay here."

There was a long pause before his reply. "You'd do that? You'd leave your bar?"

She took a deep breath but there wasn't a moment's hesitation before her answer. "Yes. For you..."

Her empathy flared; she could literally feel Darrus blush. It brought a smile to her face, one that faded slightly as she felt the next thing in his heart. Duty. Then Honor. Then a sense of responsibility. She could see into his heart, hear the words of his soul.

"I have to do this. I have to make my survival mean something. I should have died. I should be gone. So many lives. So much death. How can I atone?"

Closing her eyes, Maya pushed the send button and waited for a response. "Darrus, when this is over, can we find somewhere safe? Somewhere to be away from all this, if only for a little while?"

She could feel the truth in his words as he answered. "Of course, Maya. If such a place exists, we'll find it." Then, after a long pause, "I'd like that."

Her smile returned. "So would I, Darrus. So would I."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Second Skin

"We try again." Vaaro went back down into the basement, muttering in Huttese and turning a curved piece of dark metal over in his hands. Unfinished strapping dangled from both sides of it, evidence of several failed fitting attempts.

"I hope I am not offending him," Darrus said quietly once the Rodian was out of earshot. "I just want to be able to see through it properly."

Maya smiled and nodded, her finger guiding a needle and thread through several pieces of black leather. "I wouldn't worry. He just complains. You get used to it after a while." Holding up the partial jacket to examine her handiwork, she added, "If you really want to know when to be worried, start panicking when Vaaro doesn't say anything."

Darrus could appreciate that. His worst moods were also accompanied by total silence. It was a side of him he was trying to grow beyond, to leave in the past where it belonged.

"Oh, Maya. I wanted to thank you for trying to get my glasses repaired. At least the optics still work, even if the lenses are shot."

She nodded again, running a line of ballistic cloth under the top layer of bantha hide. When it was done, this garment would be able to stop a sporting blaster at close range and offer at least passable protection from anything larger. In the Rebellion, she'd put together several gunner vests for commandos; at least now she was making one for herself.

"Do you think Vaaro will be able to get that mask functional? The optic units weren't built to be used like he's proposing."

Holding up her needle, she re-threaded it with a knowing grin. "Vaaro can get anything to work. It might not be what he originally planned or promised, but he's never outright failed. If it takes him a dozen day-cycles, he'll come out of that basement with something."

Darrus gave her a flat expression. "Should I start panicking now?"

Emphatic nod, wide smile. "Oh yeah."


Several hours later, the Rodian woke them both up with the grinding echo of the basement door. Putting on his pants and sliding into a light robe, Darrus met him at the door of the sleeping room. "Yes? Any luck?"

Vaaro's green hand pushed a black and silver mask into his pale ones. "Try it on. It will fit this time. I not do wrong again."

Darrus gave a slight bow at the assurance and turned the metal curve over, placing it against his face and adjusting the back straps. They slipped over his head easily, buckling with one hand into cunningly worked half catches. It was stable, comfortable, and utterly dark.

"I... I can't see." Darrus' voice dropped into a low sigh. "It fits now, but I still can't see." His next sensation was a hard rap over his right cheek. Vaaro had just punched him in the face!

A moment later, the inside of the mask began to glow and the optical systems came online. Through low emission corneal input, Darrus' sight returned. The mask was beaming a full 180 degree field of vision directly into his eyes. The wavelength was slight enough that it caused no pain and the image was brighter than he could normally see without discomfort. Essentially...

"This is better than my old visor, Var." His voice was hushed; Darrus was suitably impressed with the Rodian's work. Again. "Thank you."

"Not any trouble, Darrus Jedi. You had good mask and good parts to work from. I just put them together."

Vaaro was being modest, but he wasn't actually wrong. The mask was a technical marvel, not to mention a total mystery. Found in one of the locked storage containers that came along with the Legacy's parts, the mask was of unknown history and unknown origin. He'd never seen anything like it, though its styling suggested Old Republic era and its material age was estimated at more than three thousand years. Whatever else it was, the mask was old.

"I also paint it for you. Original paint was black and red. Red was flaking off, so I replace. I use dark steel paint, like hematite rock, where red was. Black was easy to replace. Lens in eye slot needed fixing to, so it not red anymore either. I use spare purple crystals you had." Then, almost as an afterthought, the Rodian made an awkward apology. "Hope you not mind."

Darrus was too pleased by the mask to be concerned. The crystals were spares, after all, so if Vaaro had found a use for them, so much the better. "Not at all. You were welcome to any parts you wanted. Thank you for the excellent work."

He followed Vaaro out of the hallway and downstairs to the rest of his new armor. The Rodian seemed excited to see the entire outfit in use and truth be told, so was he.

First came the undersuit, a single piece of black uniweave. According to Maya, the material had been salvaged from Sandtroopers, soldiers of the Empire equipped to deal with the harsh conditions of desert worlds. The bodysuit she'd made from the cloth was light, breathable, and thermally insulating. It fit like another part of his body; she'd done a fine job.

A secondary garment went on over the understocking. This was also black, made of ballistic fabric and covered in connector clasps like the straps of his new mask. A wide gray strip went down both sides of the outer coverall, starting at the underarm and ending in a tapered point just before the foot cuff. A third strip, this one triangular in shape, began at the neck and ended with a similar taper below the belt line.

The plates came next, each piece of armor locking onto corresponding clasps. A reinforced belt brought the suit in at the waist, several pouches and compartments lending a respectable weight to it while providing storage for necessary power cells and other useful items. The whole ensemble took more than five minutes to get into, a lengthy time frame Darrus hoped to reduce with practice.

The last item to put on was a sleeveless long coat that matched the black coverall. The coat honestly served no purpose other than to give him the feeling of still having robes. He'd gotten used to them over his years of Jedi training. Going without them completely just didn't feel right. The hooded coat was a decent compromise.

Hefting his new rifle, Darrus turned to Vaaro and asked, "Well? How do I look?" His voice, modulated and amplified by the mask, sounded louder and deeper than his own. It was completely unrecognizable, a good thing considering how distinctive Jeht's could be.

Vaaro tilted his head, looked him from head to toe, and gave him a serious compliment considering it was coming from a Rodian. "You look... dangerous."

Darrus smiled softly. If he was going to pull off being a bounty hunter and infiltrating the Scarlet Wake, that was exactly how he needed to look. Appearances weren't everything, of course. He would also have to watch his mannerisms, his actions, even his mode of speech. He would have to become someone new. The Jedi known as Darrus Jeht would have to stay here in the Dune Sea for a while. When he left this place, he had to be this other person. This "Wraith", as Maya had dubbed him.

No sooner had he thought of the bartender then her voice echoed out behind him. "Well, boys? How do I look?"

Vaaro and Darrus both turned to look at the woman who'd slipped downstairs while they were otherwise occupied. Standing there before them, Maya was wearing skintight pants, an almost impossibly low-cut silk shirt, a black jacket that matched the long coat Jeht was wearing, and two low slung gun belts with a custom heavy blaster hanging casually off each one. Tall boots with armor plates running all the way up the knees completed the image.

An image who's effect was to leave two males utterly dumbfounded.

Maya grinned wickedly. "That good, huh?"

Monday, January 15, 2007



Darrus was not sure what that meant in Rodese, but he had a suspicion it was very, very rude. Offering an apologetic look to Maya for interrupting their Sabacc game, he hurried downstairs to see what the crazy green man was cussing about this time. From the soft footsteps behind him, he could tell Maya was not content to just wait for his return.

They both came upon the same scene; Vaaro was beating on an old, white half-plate of face armor with an unlit cutting torch. "Una chooto varash kana!"

That was Huttese, something he did speak. After a fleeting blush at the biological implications of Vaaro's words, he cleared his throat. "What is it? What's wrong?" Though his voice was no louder than it used to be, it was no longer a rasping pain in his throat when he spoke. Grateful for that, and grateful to this place for helping him through so many problems, he waited for Vaaro to hear him... and for Vaaro to stop beating on the defenseless plasteel visor.

Neither happened very quickly. It was Maya shouting, "Var! Get back in orbit!" that snapped him out of his inanimate-object killing spree. As sheepishly as a Rodian could be, he looked up from the pile of shattered debris and set down his tools.

"Sorry for that. Mask is broken. I can no fix it but maybe can salvage optics. Maybe."

Jeht looked at the wreckage. "Was it broken before or after you blaster whipped it?" Behind him, Maya chuckled slightly, then covered her mouth in a vain attempt to not embarrass her long time partner and friend.

From the wan look on Vaaro's face, it was far too late to avoid that. "It was already broken. I just make it worser. Visor had big crack on front and mounting straps all dry rotted. Visor no good before I get here."

Maya nodded, but Jeht did not respond. He was looking past Vaaro at another work bench altogether. The Rodian had moved several small tables into the basement so he could work in privacy, something Darrus had not objected to at the time. This place felt a bit like home now; he no longer felt like an intruder here. A little extra furniture was not a concern.

But what he saw past Vaaro's work-suited should very much was. "What have you done?!" Rushing past the surprised Rodian, he reached the object of his focus, a half-disassembled cylinder with a string of wires exposed on its back end. Reaching to his belt in disbelief, he was stunned to find that in fact, his lightsaber was no longer there.

Maya cut Vaaro a sharp look, one that grew even sharper when the Rodian shrugged and said, "What? He was asleep."

Darrus spun, his eyes darker than usual. "Explain this. Now."

Vaaro raised both hands and took a step back. "Be calm with yourself, Jedi. I not do anything permanent to it." He gestured to a third table, one with something covered by a length of tan fabric. "You ask that I help you hide what you are. I doing that." Then, in a softer, once again sheepish voice, "That and... I always wanted to try something. I think it will work."

Darrus closed his eyes, centering as best he could. It was just a weapon. It wasn't worth hurting a friend over. This could be fixed. Killing Vaaro couldn't be.

"You have five minutes to finish your work on it. Understood?" He was as calm as he could be; Maya could feel the turbulent emotions he was suppressing. She was used to Vaaro's total lack of respect for personal space and privacy. Jeht wasn't, and if her friend didn't do as he was being told, the Jedi's sense of outrage could get wildly out of control.

Crossing the room, she laid a hand on Darrus' shoulder. "Come on. If he's only got five minutes, let's give them to him in peace. We have a game to finish, Tuursh." Tuursh was the Tusken word for a violent, avenging spirit, a wraith. It seemed to fit the brooding man well and besides, he really wasn't the kind one could call Honey or Dear with a straight face. He wasn't the sweet pet name sort, no matter how gentle he could be sometimes.

Nodding, he followed Maya up the stairs, pausing to look back at Vaaro with a withering gaze. It finally seemed to sink into the Rodian's brain that perhaps he had erred. Before they were even fully out of the room, he was feverishly moving around the sundered saber.

Four minutes and forty three seconds into their next round of Sabacc, the door to the basement opened again and Vaaro came out holding a blaster rifle. It was one of the old style combat models used exclusively by Clone Troopers - a DC-15. Aside from some scuffing along the forward vent and around the gas receptacle, it looked brand new. After a split second to determine that Vaaro wasn't holding it with intent to fire, Darrus stood up and glowered.

"That is not my lightsaber."

Vaaro nodded. "Come with me to outside." Without waiting for an answer, the Rodian stepped out of the villa and into the trackless sands beyond. Maya nudged Darrus with her chin and followed.

"Come on. I know he's a bastard sometimes but he always means well. I am sure if he's done something to your poor saber downstairs, you'll be able to fix it."

Unsure about that but with no other course open to him aside from brutal homicide, he walked with her outside, squinting from the harsh glare of the noonday sky. Darrus had trouble with one sun; two was like a kind of torture.

By the time his eyes adjusted to offer him a least a little vision, Maya had already done as Vaaro was instructing. Three old cantina bottles were sitting on metal drums in the distance. They were both standing by the Starwing, Jeht's rebuilt ARC-170, at its back cargo ramp was open. Not that Jeht was willing to admit it, but he hadn't even known the ship had a back cargo compartment until Vaaro mentioned it a few days ago.

The Rodian was standing beside Maya; both of them were armed with DC-15 rifles now. Hers was in perfect condition as far as Jeht could tell. Vaaro was pointing down towards the bottles and telling her something. His senses still screaming from the bright light, Darrus concentrated on them, trying to get himself under control.

" Just shoot the one on the left." A long, emerald finger pointed to the bottle he wanted Maya to take out. As Darrus watched, the lovely ex-field doctor shouldered the unfamilar weapon like a professional soldier and fired after only a moment's aim. The blast was perfect, lancing over the sand in a bright blue bolt before shattering the bottle into a hundred molten shards.

Darrus was impressed. "Nice shot, Maya." His sight was getting better and with it, the rest of his senses were relaxing. He could hear now and he no longer felt the slight vertigo that always came with getting light blinded. He no longer had his special glasses and without them, he was at a serious disadvantage on a bright planet like Tatooine.

The medic blushed. "Thank you," she murmured and set the rifle stock-end down beside her. Vaaro nodded his agreement with the compliment and shouldered his weapon next. Though Maya had been surprisingly adept at using the DC-15, Vaaro was an obvious expert. He had the right stance, the right grip, and his firing form was perfect. Maya had received some very solid training but her partner was a true soldier. At least, he used to be.

"Are you watching, Jedi?"

Darrus nodded, then whispered, "Yes, Vaaro. I am right here, but I want to know what happened to my..."

His words were cut off by the Rodian taking his shot. The end of the rifle flared and fired, a beam of raw, violet energy streaking out and slicing through the bottle's center like a purple scalpel. Vaaro held down the trigger and as he did, the beam continued to pulse. Shifting the weapon from side to side, he cut the bottle in half without damaging anything else around it. All that remained at the target site was an intact bottle on the middle barrel and a neatly severed bottom half of one on the cylinder to the right. The top fell, shattered, and rained down amber glass into the sand.

"What?" Both Darrus and Maya said the same thing at the same time. Vaaro grinned at them both and tapped the front end of the DC-15.

"Lightsaber is in here. I mount it into rifle, add new focus to end of barrel and run bypass from its core to the gun's systems. See what happen now on full power." Before they could respond, he slid a bar on the side of the rifle's housing all the way forward and fired again.

The barrel of the DC-15 looked for a moment like a flamethrower, venting violet in a meter wide tapering cone. The blast coalesced into a wide path past the purple burst, roaring forward to envelope the entire upper end of the middle barrel. When it faded, there was nothing left. A glowing mass of slag and vapor marked where the beam had been.

"By the Core!" Darrus was stunned, as was Maya. Vaaro, on the other hand, just looked inordinately pleased with himself. Reaching up to touch the barrel of the gun, he grimaced as a hissing sound and a stinging pain told him what he'd suspected would happen. The rifle's venting was not capable of handling that much power. The gun's entire front half was nearly white-hot. If it was fired again like this, it would surely be ruined and could potentially explode.

He shrugged. That wasn't really his problem, though, since it wasn't his weapon. He let the rifle cool off while Maya and the Jedi gaped at him. By the time they were ready to talk, he was ready to show them the part that would probably keep Darrus from beating him into Bantha paste. Probably.

"See, Jedi. Here is best part for you." Vaaro opened a pair of catches on the underside of the still uncomfortable warm front barrel and slid open its underside. Within, the firing chamber had been replaced with Darrus' lightsaber. There was a small ring of additional metal on the back end of it where the saber touched the rest of the rifle's plasma coils but it was otherwise intact. "It comes out with just one twist. See?"

Vaaro reached inside, pleasantly surprised to feel the lightsaber's cool surface. The gun was broiling but the saber was fine. He'd been counting on that. Turning it left to unlock it from the barrel, the Rodian pulled out the lightsaber and handed it to Darrus. "All safe and sound and deadly as new, like angry Rancor baby."

Darrus took it, still staring with growing amazement at the rifle. He lifted his lightsaber up and touched the activation plate. In truth, he didn't need to do that; he'd installed a mind circuit in the weapon that allowed him to fire it up with just a thought and the Force. Regardless, his manual switch didn't do anything. The saber wouldn't turn on.

He tried the mind circuit. Nothing.

All admiration for the rifle disappeared as the glower came back. "Vaaro!"

The Rodian held up his hands again. "Be one with calm, Jedi. Is just a dead power cell. Using full blast on rifle drains cell in both gun and saber. I was expecting this." He held up a new cell for the lightsaber and Darrus took it swiftly. It was in the saber.

Now it lit up beautifully. The violet blade hissed to life, thrumming with power. Jeht felt instantly better, gazing into its depths as he let his hostility go. It had been unfounded. Vaaro hadn't meant any harm. He couldn't afford to let his emotions get like this anymore. If it was this easy to get furious at a friend, how could he ever hope to avoid the Dark Side when he confronted the Scarlet Wake?

Darrus breathed easier and as his mind calmed, Maya felt comfortable enough to put her hand on his shoulder and kiss his cheek. Turning her head to Vaaro, she smiled. "It's wonderful, Var. Really amazing."

The Rodian nodded, picking up the rifle Maya had been using and handing it back to her. "Of course it is. The VPG-1 will serve Darrus Jedi well, yes?"

Jeht nodded. The least the Rodian deserved was a little gratitude. "It will. Thank you." He bowed slightly, a gesture of respect the Rodian seemed to appreciate. "But the name? I assume V stands for Vaaro, yes?"


"But what do P and G stand for?"

Vaaro's snout widened in an adorably arrogant grin. "Pure Genius."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

<--- Minor Edit --->

Just to let you all know, Jeht's sheet has been edited to add the missing Knowledge ranks in Jedi Lore. Damn I hate getting caught. :)


<--- Rules Update: Darrus Jeht's Character Sheet -->

Here is Darrus Jeht, Jedi Master in .gif format.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Changing Roles

"Where you thinking you are going?"

Vaaro's Basic wasn't very good, but his words were clear enough. Darrus had been hoping everyone was asleep. It was nearly noon; the sky was blisteringly bright and both the Rodian and Maya were typically as unconscious as he usually was at this time of day. He turned to look into the accusing, large black eyes of the determined, small green man.

"I can't put you all at risk for what I need to do alone."

Vaaro nodded. "I will no go. They would no like me in any case and I no like being shot. But you no leave Maya." His arms were crossed, long fingers set against his biceps in a determined pose. This was one ex-commando in no mood to be denied.

Still, Jeht had to try. Pulling his desert robe around him tighter, he looked down and his tone, already a whisper, softened even more. "I don't want Maya getting hurt. These people..."

The Rodian scoffed. "These people mean nothing to her. You go without her, you hurt her worse than they ever could." Then he drew his blaster and pointed it at Darrus, something that made the Jedi's eyes widen. "And if you hurt her, I hurt you. You are understanding?"

Darrus leaned against the door frame. He could have his lightsaber off his belt and ignited before the green-skinned gunner could pull the trigger. But this wasn't really an attack. It wasn't even a threat. It was a statement. There was no hostility here. Only fact. And the fact was something Darrus couldn't deny.

"She's very sweet, Vaaro, but these aren't the kind of people you can be sweet with. I don't think she can handle what might happen once I get involved with the Scarlet Wake."

Vaaro did not lower his gun. "Then you no have any idea who she is. You know nothing, dark eyes. She handle herself better than you think. You should give more credit to her." The Rodian snorted, something Darrus wasn't aware that race could even do. "She was soldier like me. She knows these people. She will not go wrong."

Darrus closed his eyes. Vaaro was right; he wasn't giving her enough credit. He didn't know how well she'd do under pressure. It was wrong of him to assume that because she wasn't a Jedi or one of his men, she couldn't take care of herself. "I'm sorry, Vaaro. You are right."

"Damn right I am right." Then, as Darrus started to chuckle at the response, "But you going to get Maya killed. And you too."

He blinked. "What? What do you mean?"

Vaaro walked over, finally putting his blaster away, and pointed to Jeht's belt. "Your weapon; it make you look Jedi. Many people have long memory; you look Jedi and you will get killed. She will get killed too and then I will have to come kill you again."

Darrus sighed again; was he really as naive as Vaaro made him sound? Perhaps what Millinae had said so many years ago was actually true. Perhaps there really was no subtlety in his soul.

Still, he was not going to part with his lightsaber. "I could hide it, but I won't give it up. It's a part of me now."

Vaaro nodded and tapped his blaster again. "I know feeling." He looked around the room, his eyes settling on the passage leading down into the secret room. It was closed now but the Rodian commando obviously knew it was there. "I also have idea."

From the way Vaaro rifled through the storage shelves after taking Darrus down into the hidden basement, he'd obviously been down there at least once. While Darrus had been outside practicing, the Rodian had apparently been down here casing the place. Any other time, Jeht might have been upset about such a thing. Right now, he was just grateful for the help.

Vaaro found what he was looking for - a long, deep metal box with a locking lid. With two small tools, the Rodian popped its catch in less than a minute. "Old Republic lock. Military grade. Too easy."

Inside, Darrus could see something very familiar, something he;d never expected to see again. "That's battle armor. Jedi battle armor."

Vaaro nodded and starting pulling pieces of it out. "This is not so known. I found yesterday, but it no fit me. I think it fit you good. You can no be Jedi right now, but I think we can make you something better. Something that no get you or Maya killed for being stupid."

Darrus narrowed his eyes, but the insult fit. He was being stupid. If he was going to survive in this world after the Clone Wars, after the fall of the Jedi, he needed to get a lot smarter. Gone were the days when he could wear his robes and his title proudly. This was a different time, a different galaxy altogether. One he didn't quite know his place in yet...

"We will have to get you papers done, but I already start that. You should already be able to sign up and get your number."

Now he was confused again. As they'd been talking, Vaaro had taken the box outside and he'd followed. The never-still Rodian was already laying out a paint cloth and arranging armor pieces on it. The spray atomizer was charging and a fresh can of black pearl paint had been loaded. It was the same color that Vaaro had used on his ARC-170; the paint looked like a metallic night's sky. Beautiful to be sure, but this was all going by too quickly.

"Wait, what? What number? What are you saying I need to become?"

Vaaro looked at him flatly. "You fight. You fight good, you fly good, and you think okay when you are not being so dumb."

Darrus thought he saw where this was headed. "Oh no. I am not going to enlist. I do not want to be a soldier again. No more wars for me; one was enough."

Vaaro laughed, a very disconcerting sound from a Rodian. "Soldier?!? Bah."

"Then what?"

"Bounty hunter!"

The look on Jeht's face made Vaaro laugh even harder....

Friday, January 05, 2007

Red Awakenings

The small box was wrapped in a piece of old, crimson cloth. "What is it?"

Maya shrugged and sipped at her broth. "I have no idea. It was given to one of my girls while I was out here doctoring you."

Jeht nodded solemnly and examined it again without picking it up. There wasn't a lot of trust in him after his experiences and mysterious gifts sent him straight into extreme caution. "And you are sure it's supposed to be for me."

"That's what she said. One of our regulars gave it to her." A long noodle disappeared between her lips. Darrus tried to ignore how sensual that looked.

"Did she say anything else?"

A quick nod as Maya went back into her bowl with a spoon. "Actually, yes. She mentioned it was someone she's seen a lot since the bar reopened and that she thinks he can be trusted. Good guy, apparently."

Darrus narrows his devoid eyes and lifted the box, feeling its weight and being surprised at how heavy it was for such a tiny package. "Appearances can be deceiving."

That brought a chuckle from the former Rebel Officer turned barkeep. "I've noticed, Jedi."

Darrus hid most of his reaction to the gentle jibe but couldn't suppress a slight smile. "Point taken, but I've seen explosives smaller than this. The weight suggests a heavy compound, perhaps blastique or XJ-10."

"You know, Darrus," another noodle disappeared down her throat. "not everything on Tatooine is a trap. Would the Imperials still left here really try to kill you with a mini-bomb?"

He sighed. "Perhaps not. One way to find out, though." He reached on top of the box and pulled the cord tying it shut. The moment he did, Vaaro dove behind the old hut's nearest wall, covering his head with both hands. Darrus' smile grew wider.

Then he opened the parcel. The cloth, probably once part of a quality garment before it was cut to wrap the small box inside, fell away like flower petals. The container itself was metal and highly polished, reflecting Basic letters written on the underside of the fabric. Darrus pulled it off the box completely and read the note out loud.

"We could use a man like you. This will get you in to see us if you want to join up. -the man you saved."

Looking more than a little confused, Darrus cracked open the box, angling it away from the others just in case, his powers primed to try and absorb any blast that might occur. Explosions were the hardest form of energy to mitigate with the Force but no one was going to die again because of him. Not if he could help it.

The small container opened without incident. He looked inside and his confusion increased. "What the Kessel is this?" Showing the box to Maya and Vaaro, who was now bravely peeking out from between his long green fingers, he was dismayed to see the look on her face. "What?"

Maya reached over, took the box, and Reached back to toss it into the night furnace. Darrus caught her hand before she could. "Maya, what is it? What does it mean?"

She glared at him for a moment, then caught her temper and dropped the box. "I'm sorry. I forget that you aren't a local sometimes." As she sat down in the nearest chair, Darrus knelt and took the box back.

"It's all right, but what's so upsetting about a ring?" He opened it again and drew forth the item of contention. A steel band with a wide setting of red crystal, the finger cuff had a strange symbol engraved on the gem. "And who did I save?"

Quietly, Maya relayed the whole story of the bar fight with the Trandoshans to him. This was actually the second time she'd talked about this with Darrus, but he'd been very weak and out of sorts before. She wasn't surprised he didn't remember it.

"And that's one of their rings, Darrus. You saved a member of the Scarlet Wake and now they want to 'thank' you by letting you into their murdering little club." She took his wrist with an imploring look in her eyes. "Please, throw that thing into the sand. It's nothing but trouble. People are getting killed for wearing it. Killed, or doing the killing."

Darrus tilted his head down and kissed the backs of her fingers, a gesture Vaaro would have raised an eyebrow over if he had any.

"Won't the authorities do anything about this?"

Maya almost spat on the floor. "Authorities? The crime lords have their own affairs, the locals are either supporting the Wake or too afraid of them to do anything, and the Imperials won't lift a black-gloved finger to help because most of the victims are only aliens."

"What about this so-called Rebellion? They won, right? When will they get involved?"

She shook her head, surprised again that someone like Darrus could be so naive when it came to politics. "They are half a galaxy away and still fighting the retreating Imperials on a daily basis. It'll be a long time before their New Republic makes a dent of difference out here."

Darrus looked back at her, slowly understanding the extent of the problem. This place literally had no law. People did what they liked if they could enforce it or lived in the shadow of others who could. In an environment like this, the Scarlet Wake could go unchecked for years. Already had, apparently.

"So no one's going to try and stop them?"

She shook her head, pushing away what was left of her soup. "No one."

He nodded, pocketing the ring, and pulled her into a tight hug. "I didn't mean to spoil your appetite. Want to go for a walk?"

She nodded eagerly, standing up even as Vaaro was stealthing towards the rest of her meal. "I'd love it. Thank you, Darrus. I couldn't stand the thought of you having anything to do with the likes of them."

Jeht just nodded, said nothing, and headed out into the sands to think...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Two Minds, One Heart

The next time she found him late at night, he was standing in one of the nearby dune valleys. Maya knew better than to get too close when Darrus was outside at night. These evenings, he only went out for one reason - to practice.

She didn't want to go in either. With a pair of macrobinoculars and a full canteen, it had become her personal ritual to come out a few minutes after he did, spread out a blanket, and lie on the warm sand while she watched him. There was something hypnotic about the way he moved. Before, in the back room of the bar, she'd been fascinated by his sword katas.

Now that he had two weapons again, he was an order of magnitude more breathtaking.

Darus moved like a ghost over the sand. Maya watched the dunes carefully and there were honestly times when he left no tracks as he danced. Danced was a good way to put it. This wasn't merely combat training; there was a grace and a flow to his motions. His metal sword would sweep up as his lightsaber arced through the desolate horizon, parallel to his chest. All the while, his body never stopped.

In the bar, he'd been fairly still as he "fought". Now, he was a completely different animal. There was a frenetic yet completely controlled energy to the way he acted. She could see the sand swirl around him. The Force, he'd called it, was in turmoil while he danced, yet he seemed entirely focused. His eyes were not wild and violent like they'd been with the Trandoshan. He was calm, almost placid as his blades wove death in the cool night air.

He had also apparently picked up a few moves from Vaaro in the last few days. The ex-commando had been chiding Darrus earlier about needing a weapon to fight. In response, Darrus had smiled, nodded, and punched the Rodian in the face. The resulting battle spilled out of the villa and into the desert before they both collapsed, grinning and laughing like fools.


Ever since then, Vaaro was teaching Darrus how to fight with his body instead of with beams and blades. Maya could see now that the former Jedi was a quick learner. In less than a hundred hours, he was already incorporating martial strikes into his combat dance. There was a kick with both weapons crossed above his head. And following it, a back flip after a punch with the hilt of his saber.

A fast learner indeed. Maya'd studied with Vaaro occasionally, but even after years of practice, Darrus' move were cleaner, faster, and better than her's. She'd have been jealous if she didn't detest violence so much.

Detesting violence... That raised another question.

Maya put the binoculars down and rolled over onto her back, eyes cast starwards. She left the dark-eyed force of nature to his katas and turned her thoughts inward for a moment. If she hated violence so much, why was she becoming so attracted to a man who could reasonably serve as its incarnation?

He'd pulverized that Trandoshan. He'd sliced apart a trio of stormtroopers while she watched. He'd even admitted to her he was a General in the Clone Wars, an officer who'd doubtless killed thousands if not billions of sentients. He was everything she'd come to detest in men. In people of any gender. War turned her stomach. Death hurt to even imagine.

So why Darrus? Why these feelings? And why couldn't she make them go away like she had so many times before?

Overhead, a streak of light caught her attention. A shooting star.

Sadly, Maya missed her chance with it. Her mind locked up, completely unsure what she should wish for...