Friday, February 19, 2010


Using the small monitor built into his wrist brace, Darrus was able to keep track of the new Maelstrom's progress. They were lifting into the upper atmosphere now, about twenty minutes from rendezvous with the crippled Mandalorean vessel in orbit.

While he knew Vykara would not be able to handle all the minutae of capital ship combat on her own, a simple approach and dock was well within her capabilities. He had come to depend on his basilisk since becoming bonded to her; he had faith that despite her strange nature, she could always be counted on when he needed an ally.

The two people with him fell into that category as well. Tymor, for all his similarities to Marr-ek, did not feel untrustworthy. Darrus could certainly envision a day when they might come into conflict, likely on the battlefield, but for now they were almost friends. Darrus found himself appreciating that and hoping one day that 'almost' would be gone. Jedi might prefer allies to emotional attachments but he knew himself better than that now.

He had ruined too much in life by trying to be a 'good Jedi'. Being a good Jedi had brought him nothing but hardships and loss. The Dark Side was definitely not an answer to his woes but neither was the Jedi Code. If he had to divest himself of all emotions, all connections, to attain someone else's ideal of perfection, he would just have to be content with being flawed.

One of those 'flaws' was the other person with him - Maya. Since meeting her, since being rescued by her from the sands of Tatooine, she had quickly become a fixture in his life. He knew she had turmoil of her own, but the ex-medic had given up her whole life to follow him. Darrus winced inwardly at the realization that in all honesty he had no idea exactly where he was going or what she was following him into.

Were they still trying to track down the powers behind the Scarlet Wake? Was he intending to use all these new resource to equip a Mandalorean army? Did he intend to track down Skywalker and see if the son was anything like the father? What was his purpose now?

Did he even have one?

Then he reached the last security door on this narrow, hidden hall and one purpose reasserted itself. There was one thing he absolutely had to do. He had to protect what his friends and fellow Jedi had fought and died for, what he had now been entrusted with safeguarding.

"Beyond this door lies the real trea..."

Tymor sighed. "Enough preamble. Just open the door before I blast it down."

Maya smirked softly, nodding her agreement. "I think we are both just anxious to see what's here, Darrus. Please show us?"

"Right, of course." Darrus keyed in the authorization code and freed the final locks. The door slid open to reveal a chamber so brightly lit that all of them were blinded for a moment. Polarizing lenses compensated quickly, easing them all back into being able to see.

The room was round and extended at least twenty meters into the air. The center of the chamber housed a column of plate crystals set into a lattice of shimmering iridium lines. Several of the plates were slightly tinted, each of a different hue, giving the pillar the look of a stained glass column from floor to ceiling.

Some of the plates were also polarized and shedding light; these were hologram projectors current set to simply emit a broad spectrum of radiance. They were all connected by glowing lines in the glass to a plinth on the floor inside the column. This five-sided platform stood two meters tall and had the appearance of an esoteric computer bank, lights flashing across each of its faces.

For all of this, the most impressive sight in the room was the object floating above the plinth. It was fashioned like the column, a dodecahedron of platinum and crystal with a barely visible glowing structure at its heart. Each of its twelve sides was engraved in aurebesh characters, every string of letters more complex than the last.

Staring, Maya could not help noticing the similarity between it and Darrus' red crystal pyramid. "Is... is that a...?"

He nodded, watching in quiet wonder as the shape turned, orbiting in its vacuum pillar over a gravity hover disc. Each time it pulsed, a spark traveled along one of the circuit lines and a random holo-screen flickered. "Yes. It's a holocron."

"These are rare treasures," Tymor said as he approached. "But they are not unheard of. Why so much trouble for something like this? The cost and loss seem disproportionate to the value of the item."

Darrus smiled very softly to himself. "Are you sure you aren't a droid, Ty?"

That earned him, Darrus was sure, a sour look under the man's helmet. "Just answer the question, Silverlord. What am I not seeing?"

To reply, Darrus just raised his hand to the nearest screen and touched it. Instantly, shapes and characters began to flash over the black panel. Several tiers of data extended outward, projecting as holograms of nested menus just waiting to be accessed. "Tell me what you see now, Tymor."

The Mandalorean stepped up and touched a selection. After a quick scan, he touched another. And another. And still another. There did not seem to be any end to the option, to the number of things he could select off each new open display.

"What I don't see would be a shorter list. How much information is in this thing? It seems to cover just about every topic I can imagine."

Darrus nodded. "As well it should, considering what it is."

Maya leaned close, kissing him on the cheek. "And just what is it?"

"This, Maya, is something that as far as I can tell does not exist any more. I did a scan through the holonet for it back on Tatooine when I had access. The original is not on Coruscant and, from what I was able to see? It was likely destroyed. I didn't detect any other copies online either."

She bumped her forehead against his. "Like the scary man said, no more preambling."

Darrus blushed softly. "Sorry. This, my dear, is a full backup of the largest information codex in the galaxy. Astrogation, galactic history, cultures, science and philosophy. It is a compendium without compare in known space. If anyone knew something anywhere in the galaxy as of twenty years ago, it is in here. It even documents most everything known about..."

He paused for a moment before admitting this. "...the Force."

Tymor nodded, his suspicions confirmed. "Then this really is what I think it is?"

"Yes," Darrus relied quietly. "This is the Jedi Archives."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Beyond the vault doors, several massive chamber awaited. Each wide hallway was connected by a series of open gateways of plasteel and supported by large squared pillars that stretched from the smooth metal floor below to the high vaulted ceiling above. Track lights were flickering on in a sequence that moved away from Darrus and the others, revealing each of at least a dozen such sub-vaults stretching off into the distance.

As impressive as these gallery halls were in design, neither Tymor nor Maya paid them much attention. All they could see were the contents of the vaults as the growing rows of light illuminated them clearly.

Down the middle of each chamber, a stacked wall of interlocking cargo crates formed a kind of divide. Ten crates tall and at least two wide, this barrier bore dozens of different demarcation symbols, many of which Maya recognized. Preserved food, vacuum stored water, gasses in suspension, and medical supplies that went on as far as she could see.

Tymor understood what some of these symbols meant as well - they were the sorting glyphs of the Republic Army under Jedi control. They meant armour, weapons, ammunition and many other forms of military hardware. These crates alone were a find of epic proportions. Combined with the other supplies, all their material needs were solved. Even the thousands on the Ird-Adora would take years to go through all these consumables.

Even if their ship was irreparable, no one would starve. This planet not be a good final home for a warrior-born but there were children to think about and wounded that needed tending. Tymor sighed inwardly. If this was where his legacy ended, it was better than fading away.

"Impressive, Silverlord. These rooms hold the solution to all our supply problems."

Darrus looked at Tymor and smiled very enigmatically. "This? Oh, this isn't what Kaazon died to protect. And these aren't the vaults. This is just the central corridor." He stepped into the hallway and turned to face its control panel by the door. Protected from the ion pulse that Master Kaazon paid his life to keep intact, it was on low power but fully functional.

With a quick command login, Darrus raised the blast walls on either side of the chain of galleries. Every hall stared to open, its side walls raising into housings on the ceiling. What they revealed left Maya staring in shock and even Alayt Tymor's composure shaken.

Vehicles filled the newly exposed space as the hall in front of them became a double hangar. Darrus started down the right side of the row of crates in front of him, gesturing for them to follow. The walk slowly revealed that every gallery was the same, an open hangar full of craft both starboard and aft.

Starfighters, shuttlecraft, ground assault vehicles, squadrons of speeders and more; this long row of vaults has all the craft needed to defend a planet or conquer one. Tymor knew these designs well. They ran the gamut from pre-Clone Wars technology to ships that were the cutting edge at the birth of the Empire. Mostly it was the latter. V-19 Torrent fighters and TX-130 tanks sitting on either side of decked out gunships.

All this firepower, preserved and maintained for an emergency that passed the Jedi by in a war they were fated to lose before it started. Just looking at it made Tymor both giddy and crushingly depressed. There was no enemy here and none of these craft, with the exception of the ARC-170s, were capable of hyperspace that he knew of and those were too small to survive passage through the Abyssal.

Darrus reached the end of the lengthy walk and paused at another panel, calling up a diagram in the middle of a wall screen that showed where they were - a long map of hangar chambers with detailed lists of their contents scrolling beside each room. "What is wrong, Tymor? You seem disturbed."


Maya answered for him softly. "He's feeling regret that we now have the numbers and materiel for a army and no way to leave this world, Darrus. I think this Vault of yours is like the ultimate heartbreak for a Mandalorean."

"Hmmm, really?" Darrus set his helmet down on the floor and focused on the communications link in his forehead. The lights in his implant made his brow glimmer as he reached out to the cybernetic machine on the other end.

"Vykara, do you have everyone inside the landing facility as I commanded?"

He felt his basilisk's affirmative and got an image of the shuttle crew and the handful of Mandals that had come down with him to the planet's surface. She sent him another affirmative when he asked about climate and structural integrity.

"Perfect, Vy. Thank you."

"Tymor, watch the screen for a moment, will you? I need to need to bring more systems online."

While his Alayt stared at the map, Darrus started issuing wake orders to other computer clusters nearby. Years-dormant systems started to rouse, appearing on the map as new sections of the complex. As more and more of them merged with the hall of hangars, Tymor began to see the pattern of what they were forming.

"This," he said in a quiet, breathless voice, "is no base. It's a..."

Maya finished for him again. "It's a starship."

The floor trembled. The lights above started to flicker as power flowed into pressor beams positioned around the outer hull, long-since programmed for the task they were performing now. Pulses of gravitational force slammed into the false earth that had been packed around the ship when it was hidden here two decades ago.

All these supplies and vehicles would have been of little use without a way to transport them and a command vessel to guide the army for which they were intended. Blasting free of the valley floor, they started to rise into the air.

All of Tymor's regrets vanished along with any of this doubts of Darrus' plan to bring them here against all reason. The map showed this vessel clearly now. It was a huge warship, Venator class, and all decks were active now. As he watched, Darrus was typing in a set of command codes to bring the ship up to full function. One field was still blank. The vessel was apparently 'new', having likely never seen combat and flown here shortly after construction.

It did not yet have a name.

"This, Silverlord? This is what you Jedi fought and died to protect?" Tymor's voice was more than a little awestruck. This vessel was huge, powerfully armed and large enough to house all of his people aboard the crippled ship in orbit. This was worthy.

Darrus quickly typed in the only name that came to mind. Only one word had ever meant 'warship' to him; only one word ever would.


The next field was an authority command password, the authorization for the highest level systems of the ship. Though Darrus punched it in quickly, Tymor saw what he typed and committed it to memory. Just in case.


"Darrus," Maya said softly, hand on his shoulder. "I know it may not seem like much right now, dearest, but your friend saved our lived by saving this ship. It's amazing."

Darrus blanked the screen and sent a command to Vykara to bring the Maelstrom up along the Ird-Adora. The ship would need an hour or so to propagate power to all its myriad systems and be ready to take on passengers. Until then, there was one more thing for these two to see.

"No, Tymor. No, Maya. This isn't what he was protecting either."

They both stared at him. For once, Tymor had nothing to say.

Darrus opened the sealed door at the end of the hall where they were standing and took them into a small steel chamber with no apparent exits. He walked to the far wall, activated the concealed panel and typed in the newly set command code. The smooth, featureless metal in front of him slid open to reveal a dimly lit ramp going up toward a security door.

"Follow me. I'll show you Sanctora's real treasure."

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Whisper from the Grave

With hesitant fingers, Darrus worked the controls of the dust-covered holorecorder. It took a few moments for the nearly spent capacitor in the device to get the projector working. After a series of seemingly random flickers above the small metal disc, an image began to coalesce.

"Do you want us to give you some space?" Maya asked softly. Her voice was pitched to be private but the small chamber they were in made every sound a booming echo.

Darrus shook his head, his facial expressions blessedly hidden by his faceplate right now. "No need." Then long spent hours of etiquette training kicked in, reminding him to do what he should have remembered in any case. "Thank you."

As Maya smiled and stepped back to the nearest wall, the image began coherent. It was the Master that laid nearby, slumped in death on the barren floor. In the projection, of course, he was sitting upright and moving. Darrus noted with some sadness that even alive, he looked just as sallow and dry as his corpse did now. "I am sorry, Kaazon," he murmured under his breath before image started to speak.


It hurt to hear how frail the once vibrant elder's voice had become.

"I have this message biocoded. Only you should be able to retrieve it. If you are not Master Darrus Jeht, I beseech you in my capacity as a member of the Jedi Order and a General of the Republic Army to see it into his hands if he still lives. What I have to say is for his ears only and would profit you nothing to keep from him."

Master Kaazon was even diplomatic in his last moments. That only made the guilt stab at him more. This was his fault. He changed the last door's security and told no one. If he had been willing to trust just a little more...

"Darrus, as you no doubt know, we came under assault by the Trade Federation's droid armies. They disabled our repulsion cannons and took down our shields before they attacked. All of this is evident just by what you have seen. What you may not have been able to discover is how they found us. You need to know this. I wanted to bring you the news myself but, alas, we will never leave this hall."

More pain, regret at the death of one of his few friends in the Order. Of course, they were all dead now, weren't they? They died while he was lost in time.

"We were betrayed by our own droids. A maintenance droid at our scanner relay detected a Separatist scout cruiser searching the nebula. The droid transmitted a signal to others around the outpost and they took us down from within. They alerted the cruiser and dropped our defenses. We never had a chance."

The image flickered for a moment as Kaazon doubled over, wracked by a dry cough. Darrus felt his heart ache at the sound of it.

"You should know three things. The first is that every droid betraying us was made on Uffel back in the Cularin system. I was able to get their programming nullified but I suspect others out there may also have the 'traitor circuit'. Beware of it.

"The second is that we were able to shoot down the cruiser before it could secure us as captured. This means they never got to leave the nebula and send any transmissions. Our planet here is safe. Or, my friend, as safe as a world that may be overrun with murderous droids can be. I am not sure if you have had to fight to reach me here.

"If you have, I am sorry. It means my last gambit has failed. After I record this, I am going to use the terminal here to send a kill signal to the outpost's secondary reactor. It will drop the core's shielding and, if I am successful, ion flash the whole base. Everything will shut down, every droid and every means of accessing this place. The doors will freeze and only the private shield in the Vault will keep it safe."

The half-withered Master coughed again, his ragged voice taking on a tone of regret.

"And therein lies the reason for this message. Commander Halx tells me there is nearly a full enemy battalion at the landside security door to the Vault on its far side. The Uffel droids must have told them about it. Only the shield is keeping them from cutting their way in. If I open this door, the shield drops automatically."

Darrus' eyes widened as he started to do the terrible math.

"What we brought here cannot fall into enemy hands. You know as well as I what terrible damage the Separatists could do if they obtain access to it. Perhaps it was arrogance that led me to think we could safeguard it. If so, now I must pay the price for that conceit."

"No... Kaazon, no. You did this? You trapped yourself?"

"If there are no droids here, if the Vault is intact and if I have passed on, you will know we did not fall here in vain. It is safe, safe and now in your keeping. Grieve not for me, Darrus. Remember what I tried so hard to teach you in your youth.

"There is no death. There is only the Force. May it be with you, my friend.


His head hung, Darrus stood motionless as the recorder's light swindled and its cells sputtered out the last of their power. For a long time, he did not move. He did not speak. He was as still and silent as the bodies at his feet.

When the quiet was finally broken, it was by Tymor's business-as-always voice. "Sir, what was he guarding? What do you have here?"

Darrus looked up at him, faceplate hiding eyes that were pitch black and nearly devoid of emotion. How dare Tymor show such disrespect? A good man died here, three good men counting the clones, and all this Mandalorian could think about what what it could profit them? How dare he? Such an insolent cur should be cut down where he stood!

Darrus felt his hand flinch to his belt, to the spot where his lightsaber rested. In that moment, the instant between wanting to kill and doing it, he snapped back to his senses.

What was he thinking?!

Darrus staggered back, dropping the holorecorder and shaking his head to clear it. Maya, sensing his distress, rushed to his side. She held his arm, staying close against him. "Shhhh, calm. Calm. This is a terrible place, Darrus. Come back. Please."

He focused on her voice. Breathing in, he tried to find his center. "I... this place. The Vault."

Tymor stood more cautiously, unsure of what just happened. "Yes, sir," he nodded, keeping his eyes on Darrus now. "The Vault, yes. But what is in the Vault? Jedi do not die idly or for nothing. What could be so important that this one willingly made this hall his tomb?"

In answer, Darrus turned around. The murdering impulse was gone now, just a fleeting moment of weakness. He would have to meditate on that, come to terms with where it had come from and why it had taken hold so easily. Was his control slipping? Just how far down the dark path was he now?

But that was for later. For now, Tymor's question was a valid one. It deserved to be answered. He hooked up his datapad, made a connection to the door's terminal and sent the override code. Old metal groans, brittle circuits flared to life.

Darrus glances back at his companions as the door opened, revealing the Vault. He could only imagine that behind the Mandal's visor, his face was as awestruck as Maya's. The woman's expression was one of stunned and utter disbelief.

"Welcome," Darrus said softly,"to the true purpose behind Sanctora. Welcome to the Vault."