[Originally written by Acario]
Imperial Army Chronicles: The Force Walker
PROLOGUE The morning started as a typical day on the Northern Beach of Naboo. The birds were chirping, the fambaas had just begun to make bellowing sounds, and the wind was blowing in a light breeze. Acario had pulled an all-nighter working on one of his secret projects in the bottom floor of the Inquisitorium. He had just completed the final piece of a special holocron he was constructing. It was something special to him as he viewed its contents as the most important discovery in the last several decades. He secured the holocron in his meditation room and headed toward the turbolift. Suddenly, a strange tremor hit the complex. Several objects in the hallway fell off the walls and crashed into a hundred pieces. Acario rushed to the shaft in a hurried pace and proceeded to the top floor. Another tremor shook the complex and the sound of metal screeching and grinding could be heard as the mechanical components holding the shaft car in place were about to give way. The car finally came to a stop at its destination, the ground floor of the complex. No sooner than he stepped out of the car did another tremor hit sending the car down to the bottom of the turbo-shaft. Acario looked back and realized how much the Force was on his side today. Just moments and he'd be looking for another way out. Quickly, he surveyed the room but nothing but debris could be seen. In the debris, Acario noticed the remains of some of his droids and troopers that operated the facility. Acario could feel no movement in the Force near him; they must have all perished in the first tremor. He quickly ran outside and to his awe, he saw a fleet of rebel ships reigning down havoc that would make even the most dangerous Dark lord of the Sith pleased. The city hall was in rubble, the shuttle port had been devastated, craters littered the parade grounds and everything else was masked in smoke and fire. Acario jumped on his STAP, a prized possession he had acquired from his years of exploration, and headed west toward the old Imperial Army Command Center (IACC). The old IACC was once a great compound with multiple bases, med center, troop barracks, PX and even a cantina for R&R for the troops stationed there, but all that was gone now and had been for some time. It too had seen a great battle and most of the facilities had been relocated to its new location in the town that used to be known as Paradise Palms. As Acario neared the old IACC, he thought about using his personal comm device to warn others about the attack, but knew it would be to no avail. Most of the other members of the 47th had left on several missions to investigate leads off-world concerning the stolen plans and shield codes that had led to the destruction of the second Death Star. He would need to reach his ship to warn the others using the long-range transmitter on the Praetorius. Acario could see Y-wing bombers swooping in and devastating the earth below. One thing that kept creeping into his thoughts was how the attack even occurred without warning. Naboo is guarded by several star destroyers and an early warning system operated by the Royal Security Force (RSF). The star destroyers, however had just recently been deployed to meet up with the rest of the Imperial Armada in the Endor System, but the question remained on how the rebel fleet made it past the defense code. “The RSF must have willingly given it up the codes”, Acario thought to himself. As Acario lifted off in the Praetorius, he passed over Theed. Looking down outside of his cockpit window, he could see some sort of celebration going on down in the streets below. He knew the Empire had come to an end. He must warn his friends and push ahead with his secret plan. As he began plotting a course for Korriban, he began sending out distress signals to as many members of the 47th as he could. **Emergency Imperial Transmission Incoming** **Imperial Code Authenticated** **Transmission Source: Grand Inquisitor Genteel** "Captain Obiradd, abort Kessel mission!!! It's a trap! Rebel operatives set us up. IACC has been left vulnerable and I suspect all our leads have been falsified. IACC is under attack and I believe all our assets are investigating false leads. Watch your six! (As the transmission continues, it begins to become more garbled as if something is trying to jam the signal.) I'm evacu----the Command Center. Rebels have stolen pl---shield codes. No warning was given. I'll rendez--- with the 47th, if I can on Corusc....." *End of Transmission* *** The lights of blurring stars slowed to a halt as the Praetorius came out of hyperspace. It had been only a few years since the Emperor had revealed to him the location of the ancient Sith homeworld of Korriban, but it had been sometime since Acario had last visited the planet since inquisitor duties had taken up a lot of his time. The simple fact that he knew its location was nothing short of honor bestowed upon him as a Grand Inquisitor. Korriban's coordinates were something of an enigma since they weren't recorded on any star charts anymore, something the Emperor made sure about, not even the standard inquisitors were given this information. Acario opened up the comm channel to the planet below. "TANGO-KILO-FOUR-FIVE-TWO-ONE, Come In. This is Grand Inquisitor Genteel, requesting landing permission. Transponder code is being submitted." The comm channel remained silent for a brief second and then crackled alive. "This is Tango-Kilo-Four-Five-Two-One. Welcome to Korriban, Grand Inquisitor. Landing codes authenticated, you're clear to dock." The Praetorius slowed to approach speeds as the old temple came into view. It was crude, ancient, and in a dilapidated condition, but it was to be expected from a structure so old. To be told, the temple could have been constructed by the ancient Sith in their glory days, or even the legendary Rakatas that were rumored to have provided the galaxy with hyperspace travel; either way, the years had taken its toll on the temple that was a blend of rocks and technology. As the ship landed on the docking platform, Acario pondered the events that occurred just over four hours ago. The attack on Naboo was swift and devastating. There must be a reason behind the alliance's bold move. Naboo was typically under heavy orbital guard since the Emperor maintained a private retreat there near Moenia. The strike could have only been successful without the usual Destroyers in orbit, but how did they know the defenses would be lowered. This is something he would need to know before he pushed ahead with his plan. But for now, he needed to keep his thoughts to the here and now. He had travelled to Korriban to retrieve an artifact from one of the tomb vaults. Acario began making his way down through the valley. The whole valley was covered in the same red dusty rock that covered most of the planet. The valley was scarce of vegetation but not devoid of it. As he came closer to the tombs, he could easily make out the statues of several ancient Sith lords. Korriban was the burial home to several prominent Sith lords so much that it had been called the Valley of the Sith Lords for as long as anyone could remember. He had been collecting the ingredients for this ritual since news of the tragedy around Endor circulated through the Imperial remnants. There was but one more ingredient needed to complete the Sith ritual, but it was more of a focus item rather, designed to harness dark side energy into a focal point. The timing for the ritual was still in question as there were some parts of the ancient tablet that Acario was following that was written in the lost language of the original inhabitants of Korriban. Translation for ancient dialects was something he would have to do manually due to the sensitivity of the matter and the rarity of finding a protocol droid that can read the ancient Sith language of Zhiesj Sith'tar. As the Empire crumbled, many of the Empire's former bases were abandoned or re-occupied as fortified compounds for local warlords, most often former imperial moffs. This crumbling effect had turned the great empire into thousands of warring factions, almost overnight. Acario's only concern was to retrieve the artifact before the Alliance or some other tomb raiders loot it. The local garrison wouldn't be able to be counted on anymore once they realized they no longer had an operational command structure. As he neared the entrance to the tomb that was said to contain the relic, a low growl could be heard from behind one of the rock formations... As Acario slowly angled his way around the formation to gain a better view, he spotted two red glowing eyes from the shadow at the base of the pillar. The tuk'ata leaped at him with amazing speed and power. Acario spun to his left and simultaneously brandished his saber and ignited it. The hungry beast landed where Acario had been standing only a second ago. With only a couple meters between him and the beast, he surveyed his surroundings and could sense two more Sith hounds approaching him from the cave entrance. He could hear a faint a mumble between the beasts. They seemed to be speaking in the Sith tongue, but nothing recognizable. Without a doubt, Acario knew these were more intelligent than any normal beast and sensed a pack cohesion between them. The three hounds began circling Acario. He kept turning to keep what he perceived as the Alpha to his front, meanwhile focusing his force senses on the other two. Suddenly, one of the rear ones pounced into the air in his direction. Sensing him through his thoughts, Acario raised his saber behind him and the tuk'ata flew straight into the blade of the saber. Acario spun around and in one sweeping motion decapitated the injured hound. The other two swiftly joined the attack. Not liking being flanked, Acario back-flipped into the air to regain some distance. Now, with both of his attackers in front of him, Acario extinguished his blade and holstered it back to his belt clip and with both hands, unleashed a hailstorm of lightning from his fingertips. The rage that was flowing through him focused the lightning between the two hounds. Still, it was not enough. The ancient Sith must have known to breed these hounds to be resistant to lightning attacks. While the hounds withered in pain, Acario slowly pushed toward them. Once he was within striking range, he dropped his right hand while steadily controlling the lightning in his other hand and drew his weapon through the force. He then dropped the force attack all together and with both hands drawn down the full power of his saber on the nearest hound killing it one swift blow to the head cavity. The last remaining hound, the alpha recovered from the lightning attack and pounced on Acario knocking him to the ground. The alpha then reared up on its hind legs and Acario took advantage of the opening and slit the hound in half from the bottom up. The tuk'ata stood stunned for a moment and then fell as the two halves separated. Acario recovered his posture and dusted himself off and then pulled out a small pyramid-shaped device in his palm and entered the tomb entrance. As Acario entered the cave, he began reflecting on the events that had brought him to this cave. He remembered coming across this ancient Sith holocron by mere coincidence while shopping in Coruscant’s underbelly. An old traveler was trying to sell off the item as a mere trinket, but the holocron had a mind of its own and kept scaring off potential buyers until he had showed up. Acario quickly recognized that this particular Sith holocron predated all of the holocrons he had on hand at the Inquisitorium’s repository. Initially, he had thought to present this ancient relic to the Emperor personally, but decided to hold onto the device until he could study it some for fear that once the Emperor had it in his possession, that it might become part of his permanent collection. As fate would have it, the Emperor would die on the Empire’s second death star before he could present the holocron to him. He also recalled the events that preceded the attack on Naboo. The 47th Imperial Expeditionary Force had just received special orders from the Emperor to tie up loose ends and received data from Imperial intelligence to facilitate the orders. General Atomics had gone to the Death Star to personally address his concerns for the new orders with the Emperor. Meanwhile, Surface Marshall Jaxx had issued the directives at a special briefing. Immediately following the briefing, Captain Obiradd and Major Scelestus were to begin preparations for special patrols of their respective routine sectors. Captain Obiradd had left the medical bay in the hands of Acario’s younger brother, Astin. Kaz’lath, his personal engineer and friend had remained behind as well tinkering with some new droid components for the 47th. He thought about Astin and Kaz for a moment. When he was fleeing the battle, he had briefly noticed that those two buildings were one of the first ones reduced to rubble. He was unsure if his brother had made it out, or if he were even on the planet when hell broke loose. Kaz, on the other hand…had pulled an all-nighter, as well and he had just spoken with him a few hours before the attack had started. Acario took some comfort in knowing that the blast would have killed anyone inside instantly and death would have been painless. The other members of the 47th had been tasked to silence leads on some leaked information. The shuttle Tydirium had recently been stolen by rebel forces after a previous failed attempt and with it, clearance codes for the Shield generator around Endor. Also stolen were the coordinates for the location of the new death star, also around Endor. The leads were traced to Bothan spies around several planets including Corellia and Talus. While these events were taking place, Acario had stayed behind as part of the rear detachment to continue day to day operations. He then began thinking of his friends that were off planet when the attack took place. He hoped they had found some way to go underground at least until the dust settled. After some internal thought of the matters, Acario re-focused on his task. Somewhere up ahead in this tomb was an ancient amulet he needed. Rumor had it that this amulet had once belonged to Ulic Qel Droma before he betrayed Exar Kun. He was certain it was here as he could sense it calling to his soul. The tomb was eerily quiet. The only sound that could be heard was that of the wind whipping through the cavern. The place had a cold, empty feel to it, as if it were a bottomless abyss. Acario picked up a torch that he found and lit it. It had been there for ages it would seem but was in surprisingly good shape. Through the darkness, he pressed on following his instincts and his perception of the Force. There was something drawing him closer and he knew it was what he had come here for. He finally came to the end of the tomb and there, behind the sarcophagus, laid the amulet upon a pedestal. There was definitely something special about it. The pedestal, sarcophagus, and the floor were all covered in dust, yet the amulet had a bright shining glow to it as if it had been encased in a protective container. There was no dust or dirt to be seen anywhere on it. As Acario approached it, he could feel a strange reverberation coming from it. It was calling to him through the Force. He couldn’t tell if this was the same amulet worn by Ulic over four thousand years ago, but nevertheless, this is the amulet he had come to Korriban for. Acario, knowing the dangers of donning ancient Sith relics, placed the amulet into a satchel he had brought with him. The amulet called to his mind with whispers of power beyond imagination, still though, Acario refused its offer, for now. *** Acario approached his ship sitting on the landing pad of the Academy. “Deck Officer, prep my ship for take-off. I have urgent business to attend to.” “Yes, sir,” the deck officer replied as he began to run pre-flight checks on the outside of the Praetorius. Acario boarded his ship and made his way to the bridge. He placed the holocron he had been carrying with him inside the satchel alongside the amulet. He could feel the power of both speaking to him. At first, there were two distinct voices whispering to him incoherently in a strange language. The voices continued and soon became a single voice. He had guessed that this must be the spoken tongue of the Ancient Sith, still though, he could not understand it. For now, he would try to ignore it. He had to ignore it. The fate of the galaxy depended on him. His friends depended on him. The ship lifted off and soon Korriban shrunk in the distance until it was just a twinkle in the background. Acario set in hyperspace coordinates for Coruscant into the nav computer. He then made some adjustments to the power amplifier for the communication transmitter. One last transmission would be broadcasted on the 47th’s encrypted channel. Acario already feared that the channel had been compromised, but he had to take the chance. He needed to meet with his comrades in person and let them know what he was up to. It was his only chance as he thought about the holocron he had made, but had left back on Naboo in the depths of the destroyed Inquisitorium. If he couldn’t contact his friends, the holocron contained the only hints as to his disappearance or death. “ATTENTION: All Units of the 47th IEF. This is Major Acario Genteel. I am enroute to Coruscant to rendezvous at our hidden facility there. I have a plan of action that should reverse the actions of the last few days. I will explain in detail upon my arrival. Genteel, OUT.” No sooner than Acario finished the transmission, the proximity alarms went off. The targeting computer announced, “Ten bogies spotted within two kilometers.” Acario checked the radar screen and saw the signatures of ten X-wings and then a new blip appeared and revealed to be a single Mon Cal cruiser dropping out of hyperspace. Acario thought to himself, it couldn’t have been his transmission. The rebels appeared too quick. Someone down on Korriban must have radioed someone while he was in the tomb. Acario aborted the hyperspace countdown. He couldn’t risk the rebels following him to the rendezvous point. The survival of the 47th was much more important than he was. He thought of one last ditch effort; it had been common knowledge among most skilled dark side users that black holes by their very nature focus a tremendous amount of dark side energy into its focal point, the center of the event horizon. If he could get to the Kessel system, it contained the nearest black hole to his location. He would have a chance to force walk and save the Empire. It was risky, but he had to try. Acario was taking heavy pounding. The turrets were being operated by the ship’s flight computer which had been modified to operate weapon systems in the absence of crew personnel. The turrets were doing well enough to keep the enemy fighters at bay, even taking one down. The Praetorius had more to worry about, though with the Mon Cal cruiser. The imperial gunship was armored well against fighters and other frigates, but was no match for a full blown cruiser. Acario punched in Kessel’s hyperspace jump point and weaved the gunship between missile strikes while waiting the final calculation. The Praetorius disappeared from view as the ship entered hyperspace. Moments later, it dropped from hyperspace with the Maw staring the ship down dead ahead. Acario programmed the flight computer to maintain a constant distance at the edge of the event horizon. Acario placed the holocron in the center of his ship at the base of a Sith statue. He placed the amulet upon his neck. Immediately, the avatar of the holocron appeared and the image pulsed for a few seconds before transforming into something much more ghastly. Something much older than the holocron or the amulet stood in front of Acario. It was a figure bearing a horned helmet. He could tell this was what was whispering to him and now he could understand. “Acario Genteel, you have been chosen to save the Empire from total destruction. Events are taking place that will destroy the Sith forever. This must not come to pass. You are to take this ship into the heart of the Great Maw that sits before you. There, you will be given power that is unimaginable. The dark side is powerful in you. Through us, you will become stronger.” The spirit fades away, but the whisper continues. Acario programs the nav computer to edge nearer to the event horizon. He then sits in front of the statue and focuses his thoughts on the past. He thinks of his time with the 47th, his childhood in his family’s palace on Alderaan, and his journey to become an inquisitor. Strangely, other visions now entered his thoughts, things that have been, things that are to be, and the two being the same, somehow. In this vision, Acario also sees a great force bombarding a planet below with star destroyer type ships bearing a similar emblem of the Galactic Empire, but much different. Suddenly, as if some unknown force is guiding it, the ship reorients its self and is now pointing at the center of the Maw. The ship’s flight computer counts down over the intercom, “3, 2, 1…” In an instant, the ship hits the center of the Maw, and a tremendous blast of force energy is released from the black hole as it reacts with the amulet and the holocron which are now in tune with each other…
CHAPTER 1 Acario awoke to find himself in some sort of dream state. He could tell he wasn't really awake because he's had similar visions before, but nothing quite like this. He could see events that have taken place, as if he was an outside force quietly observing. He saw the attack on Naboo, then the Death Star around Endor exploding, then twin torpedoes entering a shaft of a large spherical object that could only be assumed to be one of the Death Stars. Then, the visions got faster and faster. He was blurring through events he was unfamiliar with. There were visions of the clone wars and visions of the Battle of Ruusan. So many other visions were now flowing through him. And then he realized, the visions he saw weren't flowing through him, but rather he was flowing with them. Thus is the ways of Force Walking, to be connected through the Force to space and time. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. The Force can be felt in everything: the life forms, the trees, the rocks, the stars, and the black holes, everywhere. Acario's final vision brought him back to the massive black hole that he had just flown into. His ship, the Praetorius, now just outside of the event horizon was clear of the Maw's gravity well. Acario opened his eyes and as he regained consciousness began taking in the sights and sounds. The Praetorius was in a 'Red Alert' condition. Red strobe lights flickered through the halls of the ship, the alarm was going off, and Acario then realized his ship had sustained severe damage. He rushed to the bridge and could hear the hull ripping and bending as life support air vented into deep space. Acario concentrated and used the force to grab the escaping air and bend it around the ship to create a bubble of air around it. It would prevent more air from escaping, but it would not last long. While concentrating on the bubble, he made his way to one of the ship’s escape pods. Another explosion rippled through the ship after a broken plasma conduit ignited an ammo container. The explosion broke Acario’s concentration momentarily enough to force more air out and widened the gaping hole in the hull. With oxygen levels nearing 15%, Acario manages to pull himself inside the pod and hit the manual eject button before passing out. *** In the dead of space, a single escape-pod flies through the cosmos at blazing speeds...a planet approaches on the horizon. Acario is awakened to flashing alarms as the pod's flight computer alerts its only passenger that the ride is about to abruptly end. Peering out the view window, he sees a strange seemingly dead planet grow to engulf the whole window. He ponders how long he might have been unconscious for, how far has he drifted from the Kessel system. Soon, Acario could feel the so-called craft enter the upper layers of the atmosphere as it begins to shake violently. Now fully conscious, he straps into the seat’s harness. The pod transitions to its landing protocol. Reverse thrusters begin firing at intervals to slow the descent; heat shields have moved to protect the few windows the pod is equipped with, other thrusters are firing to keep the craft upright. The craft has now smoothed out as it has passed through the upper layers of the planet's atmosphere. As the heat shields retract over the windows, Acario could see a dismal balance of dark ominous colors against a gray background. As the craft descends closer to the planet, Acario thinks to himself, "These dark colored silhouettes look like build..." Suddenly, his ship hits one of these head on and flies through the object, tumbling out the other end and the direction of travel slows and changes direction all at once. Acario could feel his stomach near his throat as the gravitational forces exert themselves against his chest. Whatever inertial dampeners were being used in the landing routine were now non-existent. With time running out, Acario blows the pod's hatch and undoes his safety harness. With one swift, powerful leap, Acario shoots out through the door and does a back-flip while the craft meets its final resting place in a million pieces below. Acario lands in the middle of the ensuing dust cloud. *** As the dust settles, sounds of scurrying creatures can be heard from all directions. No doubt, the commotion caused by the crash alerted all nearby natives that a free meal may have fallen from the heavens. Acario had an uneasy feeling as the last light of the day vanished behind one of the ruins. As his saber illuminates the area on its activation, he can make out the ominous eyes surrounding him with a low growl. This was something more sinister than what he had encountered on Korriban, but he could feel the dark side taint within these creatures, as well. Soon, strange humanoid creatures began sprinting toward him from all directions. He waited to make his attack. Two steps forward and a spin, and three dropped to his feet. Then, he does a back flip into the air and slices as another falls to his feet in two halves. Acario repeats the dance a few more times adding different flourishes to his offensive ballet. After a few minutes of this, he realizes he needs to withdraw to safety. These animals are out for blood and he can’t dance with them forever. Acario made his way to the top of one of the semi-intact buildings, systematically cutting down any creature that came close enough to encounter the deadly end of his saber. Once there, he barricaded himself in and waited for daylight. *** Morning came as a ray of sunlight broke through the shadows of Acario’s makeshift fort. He pushed the rubble out of his way that he had used to close the doorway. Once outside, Acario made his way to the rooftop or what counts as the roof to get a mynock’s view of the surroundings. Glancing around the area, he saw a patrol of soldiers in black, grey and red marching toward his vicinity. Acario reached into equipment pouch on his belt and removed a small binocular. Viewing the soldiers through the binos, revealed them to be Imperial, but their insignia was altered from the normal Galactic Imperial insignia. These soldiers bore a red version of the insignia with a hexagon shape rather than the traditional circle. Acario guessed that the patrol must belong to an elite special forces, perhaps a private guard of the Emperor. Not knowing where he was, Acario decided that talking to the patrol might be his best way of making his way back to civilization. Upon seeing a robed stranger, the imperial patrol drew their weapons. “Halt, Jedi! You’re under arrest and coming with us,” ordered the squad leader. “I’m no Jedi. And if you hadn’t heard, the Emperor killed them all years ago,” replied Acario. “In fact, I’m Grand Inquisitor Acario Genteel.” “Grand Inquisitor, eh? We’ll sort this out back at base. Cuff him” Acario debated on whether to resist or go along and decided it might be best to accompany the patrol back to their base to clear up the confusion. *** “Welcome to our forward base, Master Jedi. I am Colonel Tevran. I was informed by our scout squad that they were bringing an imposter in for questioning that they found sneaking around the jungle swamps,” greeted the base commander. “As I informed your squad before, I’m not a Jedi,” replied Acario. “I am the Grand Inquisitor of the 47th Imperial Expeditionary Force. I demand to speak to the Inquisitor in charge of this sector.” The base commander thought to himself for a second. “We shall see who you are. I’ve served the Empire for over twenty years and have never heard of the 47th. If you are indeed an Inquisitor, then Lord Drakonis will be able to tell and he will deal with your fate.” Tevran looked over toward the squad leader. “Take him to the detention block and activate the ray shield in his cell. Bring his weapon to my office,” commanded Tevran. “Yes sir,” replied Sergeant Jaxter as he poked his blaster into Acario’s ribs. “Move along. You heard the Colonel.” **** An imperial transport approaches the base’s landing pad. After landing, the entry ramp lowers and two guards exit the ship. They proceed to the base of the ramp and then stand guard. A hooded figure steps out of the ship and descends the ramp escorted by six commandos to be greeted by Tevran. “Greetings, Lord Drakonis. We have a force sensitive detained. He claims he’s not a Jedi, but says he is an inquisitor serving an imperial unit designated as the 47th. I am unfamiliar with that unit, my lord,” says Colonel Tevran humbly. In a deep and eerily frightening voice, Darth Draakonis replies “Bring the prisoner to the interrogation chamber. I will probe his mind and uncover who our mystery guest is.” “As you wish, my Lord.” **** Acario is pushed into the interrogation room. The magna-seal door closes behind him. As he surveys the room, his shackles automatically unlock and fall to ground. The door reopens as a tall figure walks in wearing a hooded, ceremonial robe. His face is concealed behind an ancient Sith mask. Acario notices that the figure is holding his saber. He reaches out through the force and snatches it from the stranger’s hand. Acario immediately ignites it and lunges forward to strike the robed figure. The Sith lord laughs sinisterly, and then unleashes a barrage of force lightning that engulfs the whole room. Acario writhes in pain as he collapses to the ground dropping his saber. The lightning was more potent than anything he’s ever focused himself. “I am, Darth Draakonis, Chief Inquisitor of the Taris sector,” speaks the Dark Lord. “You are not from here. I sense something different about you.” “I am not from Taris, Chief Inquisitor. I…I’m from Naboo,” replies Acario as he tries to catch his breath. “The Colonel tells me that you claim to be a Grand Inquisitor. I find that amusing. Who are you and what are you doing on Taris?!” Acario replies, “I am the Grand Inquisitor from Naboo and my ship exploded. My escape pod has been adrift for some time. My arrival on Taris was completely unplanned.” “SILENCE!” orders Lord Draakonis. While Acario is still on the ground, Darth Draakonis reaches out with his hand and places his fingertips on Acario’s forehead. “I will find the answers for myself,” says Draakonis. Darth Draakonis peers into Acario’s mind probing his thoughts. He sees things that have not yet become. He sees star cruisers that span the galaxy, space stations as big as moons, and a galaxy absent of Jedi. He sees Darth Sidious. The stranger, collapsed in front of him, can be seen kneeling at the feet of this new Emperor. In an instant revelation, the Sith Lord knows that Acario is from a future time. A time where the Sith have won against the Republic and the Jedi Order. “You are not worthy to be called an inquisitor, yet. If you so desire, I can complete your training. Only under the direct instruction of a Sith Lord will you be able to proclaim yourself as a true Inquisitor, a Sith Inquisitor,” says the Dark Lord. Acario thinks about the opportunity to receive tutelage under the great Sith lords of old. With the new power, he will be able to carry out his self-imposed mission. “I accept, Lord Draakonis. Perfect my studies in the dark side and interrogation methods. I am your humble, apprentice.” “Rise, Apprentice. Your apprenticeship to me must remain a secret. You will be sent to the slave mines near Korriban. There, you will be discovered to be strong in the Force. The slave masters will send you to Korriban for inquisitor training. Do not reveal your loyalties to me. Do not reveal your true origins. I will contact you when the time is right.” “As you wish, my Lord,” replies Acario humbly.
Chapter 2 Morning came particularly early for Acario as he had been working 20 hour shifts for the last several months mining a substance called isotope-5 and had just managed to squeeze off three hours of sleep before the wake-up klaxon began blaring throughout the barracks. Acario stretched his arms out wide as he sat up out of bed and gave a large yawn. Without a thought, he reached out toward his pants that were resting on an old duraplast chair a few meters away. Quickly realizing what he was doing, allowed his clothes to drop to the ground just before a guard walked by his cell. "Whew, that was a close one," he thought to himself. Acario had been given explicit instructions to conceal his force sensitivity until the time was right. He had spent several months training to become proficient at force concealment before being inserted into the mining colony on Makeb, but anyone with mastery of the Force could still detect him. Thus, he had learned to steer clear of the Sith Masters and usually went out of his way to avoid all Sith just to be on the safe side. During the first few months, there had been a handful of accidents that resulted in the deaths of several elder Sith. Their untimely deaths were necessary precautions. On those particular incidents, Acario had momentarily dropped his focus and accidentally allowed a sith to become suspicious of him. On Makeb, mining operations were a high risk operation and slaves died on a daily basis, even the Wardens were known to have been crushed in a groundquake or two. Hiding the deaths of those elders wasn't too hard of a task for a master of the dark side. The cell door opened up and Acario stepped through it and out onto the mezzanine. The chow line heading to the mess hall was always extremely long. With 500 slaves at the facility, it wasn't unheard of to stand in line for an hour waiting to get fed. Acario took his plate and sat down at his usual table. The usual dinner company included a pair of rodian twins, another human, and a wookie that he never could understand. For the most part, the company was pretty low key and never drew attention to themselves, the perfect group of acquaintances for someone hiding their identity. Acario was half through his meal when a stranger walked by and bumped into his tray knocking it to the ground. Acario stood up, turned around and landed a right hook square into a twi'lek. The twi'lek was a medium-sized male with pale lekku's. During the ensuing fight, the twi'lek whispered to Acario, "It's time. You'll know when." The guards rushed in with stun batons and broke up the scuffle. Acario was immediately escorted by the guards out to the personnel transport which ferried the slaves out to various drilling rigs. When the transport arrived at the rig, Acario realized it was one he had not been to before. He had worked on several rigs on at least six different locations, but not this one. This particular one was on a mesa overlooking a coast line. The view of the coast from the mesa reminded him of his childhood stomping grounds back on Alderaan. His family was part of the imperial nobles stationed on Alderaan to run day to day affairs. They had a mansion near a cliff side overlooking the ocean. Every morning, you could look out over the cliff and see the morning fog rolling in from the ocean. All of that was just a memory, however. While on duty as an inquisitor, Acario had gotten word that his family and all of the other imperial nobles were evacuated off Alderaan prior to the Empire making an example out of its former inhabitants. Alderaan was now just a collection of asteroids and dust but not in this time, though. Here, Alderaan would still have a few thousand years of life left. Focusing his attention back to his present situation, Acario followed the other twenty slaves into the drilling complex. Inside, he saw an entourage of Sith lords accompanying a taller one. The dark side could be felt wafting off of him in waves. It was pure, unbridled, raw power. Acario focused himself more closely trying to mask his force signature. As the line of slaves drew closer, the Dark Lord stopped speaking to his underlings, and turned his head toward the slaves focusing on Acario. “What have we here?” inquired the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord walked closer towards the line of slaves, reached his hand out, and grabbed Acario by the throat and pulled him by the Force towards him. Halfway there out of instinct, Acario broke the force hold, landed on the ground and prepared himself in a Teras Kasi defensive stance. Acario had been a black belt in Teras Kasi prior to becoming an inquisitor. The fighting style complimented his force training later on and he still favors it for when hand to hand combat is necessary. The guards immediately started firing at Acario. Not remembering that he didn’t have his saber, he tried to deflect one out of instinct, but got hit in the shoulder. The pain was a quick reminder, but it also fueled his anger. Acario reached out and shot a chain of lightning that electrified the squad of guards crumpling them into piles of smoldering flesh. The slaves, now freed, all ran for the exit. Acario reached out through the Force and yanked the ceiling down on top of them. Now positioned in front of the Dark Lord, the Sith underlings assumed attack stances with sabers drawn illuminating the walls in crimson color. The Dark Lord watched the events unfold out of curiosity. Acario waited for them to make their move. Three of the male Sith lords, flanked to his right. The other two Sith, a male and a female flanked toward his left. Simultaneously, they all lunged at him in combat flourishes. Acario dodged the saber attacks. He focused his force energy, jumped into the air and when he landed, punched the ground with his cybernetic fist. The force shockwave sent his right flank toppling to the ground. He stood up and sent an electrified force wave at the other two stunning them. Acario walked over to the female and pulled her hilt out of her hands while she wriggled in pain, unable to move still and jabbed it into her midsection. He took two more steps, spun and decapitated the male that was near the female. The remaining three had now had a chance to stand back up and were rushing toward Acario with blazing speed. Acario twirled the saber in hand in a taunting display and then rushed to meet the trio. Expecting Acario to leap into the air, the three leaped to meet him, but Acario slid low and dismembered their legs in one swift motion. They all landed with a thud. Acario reached out and grabbed all of their sabers and hurled them into the pit in the center of the drilling rig. Acario was now wafting in his own dark side energy. His eyes had turned a sickly yellow. He turned and faced the Dark Lord, who was now walking toward him with his saber drawn. Acario considered testing his skill against the Dark Lord, but decided it wasn’t time yet for that kind of combat. He surveyed the room, found the main control console, and shot an arc of lightning that overrode the console causing the drilling laser to come online. Klaxons started blaring. Red strobe lights began flashing. The complex began shaking. Spews of red and orange lava began spitting out of the lower regions and began melting the structural beams. Acario dashed for the exit, using the force to pull down the ceiling above him as he passed under. The building shook even more violently. The Dark Lord tried to pursue, but the falling roof slowed him down. Just as Acario made it back to the mesa, the complex broke free from its supports and began falling into the volcano. The Dark Lord emerged out of the building which was now on its way to becoming molten scrap. He jumped with the aid of the Force. Acario took the saber he had acquired and threw it at the Sith with the Force guiding it. The blade caught the Sith in his abdomen causing him to fall short of the edge. Acario watched while the Sith fell to his demise. Acario turned from the edge of the mesa and saw a strike force circling him in transports with a contingent of Sith on the ground.
Chapter 3 Six months had gone by since the day Lord Solusar and Lady Sandra M'rfee had showed up on that mesa with their Sith contingency force. Makeb, at the time, was under secretive guard from the outside galaxy and Imperial Command had designated a quick reactionary force to shore up any issues with force users on the planet since there was always a threat that the Republic might send Jedi back to the planet. Lord Solusar had wanted to execute Acario immediately for being a Republic spy, but Lady Sandra prohibited it and had requested Acario to be sent to Korriban for training as an inquisitor. She had felt a darkness and strangeness in him that made the likelihood of him being a Republic spy as likely as him being the Emperor. The Darths above her approved her request and Acario had shipped out to Korriban to be trained. Acario progressed through the ranks quickly, surpassing his fellow pupils. The Academy's instructors took special interest in Acario's abilities. He had shown a gifted aptitude for controlling the Dark Side and bending it to his will. Many of them were surprised by his display of control in channeling Force Lightning. It was typically a power used by 3rd year students. Due to his Force prowess, Acario had been forced to complete his Sith Trials solo without competition. The instructors feared that he would have just wiped out his class and the war had already taken a toll on personnel resources. There was plenty of room in the Sith ranks for cannon fodder. As a substitute for competition, however, his trials were made much more challenging if it were for anyone else than someone that channeled the Dark Side through a black hole. After finishing his trials, Acario was granted the title of Sith Lord and transferred to Dromund Kaas. Darth Acina had recently been tasked with reigning in the damage unleashed by the Dread Masters and had heard of Acario's talents at the Academy. For that reason, she had personally requested him as one of her new apprentices. While hunting down one of the "Seeds of Rage" devices that was scattered across the galaxy, it was discovered that one of them was on Taris. Acario had long wanted to go back to his original crash site but hadn't had a clear opportunity to do so without raising suspicion. Sometime in the hours that followed his initial landing, he had lost the talisman that he used for his force ritual. The travel to Taris was pretty uneventful. When he arrived in the sector, the Taris Imperial Authorities hailed him on his imperial comm channel, "This is the Tarisian Imperial Docking Authority, please verify landing codes and report your reason for visit." Acario transmitted the codes and replied, "This is Lord Acario under direct orders from Darth Acina. Nature of the visit is classified. Check code 'Lambda-Alpha-Nu-Delta-Niner'. "Codes verified. You're clear to land. Welcome to Taris, my lord." Acario landed his Fury-class interceptor in a clearing just outside of the Toxic Lake Garrison. As the landing ramp opened, Acario drove his speeder bike down the ramp and took off west toward the forward outpost he had first encountered. He could feel the talisman's energy vaguely, but it wasn't calling to him. Although he could still sense it, it felt more like a distant memory. The dark side energy from the talisman was faint enough that he couldn't pinpoint its location and had started randomly moving rubble. After a couple of hours of moving rubble, the only remnant of his escape pod or the talisman he could find was a partial insignia of the Galactic Empire on a piece of durasteel. Acario stopped moving and tossed the plate back down. He sensed someone or something was watching him. Acario spun around to his rear just as something hit him in the neck. He instinctively touched his neck as if reacting to an insect sting. "What the...?" questioned Acario as the lights dimmed around him and his knees collapsed. **** Acario opened his eyes slowly. His head was pounding as if a baby sarlacc was sucking on his brain. Acario figured it was a side effect of being drugged, but wasn't sure by what. The last thing he remembered was being on Taris looking for his crash site. He had gone back recently now that he was a Sith Lord. He had more mobility without much oversight on his whereabouts. As an apprentice, he couldn't take two steps to feed a tak'ata without his master or any of the Academy's instructors asking where he was going, or what he was doing. Acario surveyed his surroundings. The cell was in a museum of some sort. He could see some of the other exhibits. There were some with republic items, souvenirs of a sort. There were also several that contained Sith artifacts: holocrons, crystals, and other ritualistic items. The cell he was in had some sort of crystal fragments on display. Acario meditated through the Force, but could not sense his medallion. He took some comfort in knowing it wasn't here. Through the meditation, however, he did sense the vibrations of the ship's engines. They didn't seem to be running through hyperspace; the vibrations felt more like the typical sublight hum. He wasn't sure how long he had been here but judging by his appetite, he estimated somewhere between a day or two. Aside from several maintenance droids, this part of the ship was devoid of activity. Acario had been meditating for several hours when he felt the presence of a large group of people. He stood up and looked out through the ray shield. He could see a Dark Lord standing in front of the group. It appeared he was giving commands to the group. A few moments later, a blast vibrated through this section of the ship. Shortly after, the blast doors to his cell slid open and the group entered the cell. They didn't say much mostly focusing on the crystals in the room. Several of them had their weapons at the ready cautiously watching Acario. "Thanks for the rescue. I was wondering how long it would be before Imperial command would report my absence," stated Acario. One of them, a bounty hunter female, turned to the Dark Lord who had just entered the room and asked, "Can I shoot him? I don't trust him." No emotion could be conveyed from behind the Dark Lord's mask. No words were spoken, but it was obvious that the bounty hunter understood and holstered her weapon. "I still don't trust him," replied the bounty hunter as she exited the room following the rest of the group. Acario was shocked and intrigued by what was transpiring. He wasn't sure if the rescue was intentional or accidental, but kept getting the feeling that he most definitely was not there mission. The group moved with precision, though. He could tell this was some sort of elite special forces. Not knowing their destination, Acario continued to follow them. He figured if they wanted to kill him, he'd be dead already. The group eventually made their way to a large internal part of the ship, probably somewhere near the reactor. Several in the group located the bridge controls and activated them. The shield blocking the bridge access dropped and a light bridge activated across the gap. Acario followed the group sprinting across the bridge before it deactivated again. The group started organizing commands on which person to handle which controls. Several of them pulled out their magnetic grappling guns and began moving into position. Acario volunteered to take the last location. Several in the group looked toward the Dark Lord who remained silent, but seemingly gave his approval. "Alright, drop down and take a right. Controls are up above across the small gap," said one of the them. "Everyone, move into position. Captain Lee should be just up ahead." Acario dropped down to the lower support structure and ran down the beam balancing his weight. He made the turn and spotted the controls on his upper left. With lightning agility, he leaped toward the wall to his right, pushed off and shot across to he higher platform and waited for instructions at the control panel. One by one, the controls came online and each control operator activated their switch. The upper shield dropped and the group made it across to their intended target. Acario was a bit farther out of reach from the rest of the group. He would have to find an alternate route back out. Echoing through the chasm, Acario could hear one of them commanding, "Take Captain Lee to the infirmary, stat." The sound of foot steps echoing got quieter and quieter as the group moved out toward the infirmary. Acario continued to move toward the group's last location, climbing up tresses, and leaping to various support beams. After about thirty minutes, Acario finally made it up and spotted the exit near the cell's location. The cell was now empty and the group had all moved out. He continued on through the exit and found himself on a typical Sith cruiser. Acario continued down the corridors making his way to the infirmary. As he passed the Sith troopers, they stopped whatever activities they were doing and salute him. It was starting to seem like whoever grabbed him didn't have legal authority do so and for the most part, the crew had no idea what was going on in the bowels of the ship. Acario entered the medical bay and made his way towards the group who were now all half-huddled around one of the beds. As he approached the bed, an impossible revelation manifested itself. "Obi..?"