Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 44

Ayli opened her eyes and was sprinting out of the cave the moment Ravas struck. Linking her mind to Nix’s had been clumsy and weird but she couldn’t deny it had made them both feel stronger, the harmony between them calling forth the confidence they had in each other as a shield Scytheus hadn’t been able to pierce.

Scytheus’ lightning however was another matter. Force Lightning, from what Ayli could remember through the haze of the blood rage she’d been in at the time, was singularly destructive and immeasurably painful. Even wearing a dead body, Scytheus had fled rather than try to stand against the storm she and Ravas had summoned.

That was not something she was willing to let Nix be struck by.

Or Ravas.

When Ayli had joined with Ravas’ ghost, she’d done so with the thought that she would never be free of the Zabrak woman’s spirit. 

But Ravas had left, had separated them of her own accord. 

And didn’t seem to be angling to reclaim her hold over Ayli.

Maybe because there hadn’t been any sort of hold. To the extent that anyone had been in charge of their raging gestalt, Ayli couldn’t say who that person had been.

Some weird blend of the two of them perhaps?

There had certain been as much of Ayli’s rage as Ravas’ driving the destructive rampage they went on.

Ayli wasn’t sure she would ever feel warmly towards Ravas. The anger which united them was too raw and sharp to allow anything except wary recognition and respect, but Ravas had earned at least that much.

Also, no one was allowed to hurt Ayli’s crew and after their time together, Ravas had unfortunately earned that distinction.

Ayli wasn’t alone in her desire to protect Ravas though, and someone else was much closer when the lightning started flaring.

From the mouth of the cave, Ayli watched as Kelda’s blue Force ghost emerged from Nix and grappled the Force Lightning away from the writhing and screaming Scytheus Dread. It looked neither easy nor painless but the fierce concentration on Kelda’s spectral features didn’t waver. 

Nor did the ice cold rage in Ravas’ eyes as she crushed, and crushed, and crushed Scytheus’ essence to dust.

In the end, he wasn’t destroyed in a grand explosive finale but as a scream which faded to empty silence.

A silence which ended a moment later as the ghost army he’d brought with him surged forward with a roar.

Ayli lit her lightsaber, for all the good an arc of plasma was going to do against spirits only to be pushed back in tracks by a single word.

“BEGONE!” Kelda and Ravas had turned back to back with each other and spoken as one. Against the planetary mass of Dark Side energy, they cast the defiance of the living Force and the Dark Side was the one who blinked first, the ghosts fading away and back as the two master Force users commanded.

Or that was what Ayli thought at first.

“Okay, this is bad,” Nix said. “We need to leave. Right now.”

“The Goldrunner’s at the base of the mountain.”

“Let’s hope not,” Nix said, pulling a communicator from one of her pockets. “Goldie, give me some good news.”

“I’ve got lots of good news!” Goldie said over the little device. “Look up, see all those shooting stars?”

“The Klex didn’t win the fight,” Nix said. “That’s good. Especially since we need to get up there ASAP.”

“Well, there I might not have as much good news for you,” Goldie said. “The Ion drive took a hit, or thirty seven hits, and it’s not behaving well at all.”

“Can you get airborne?”

“I’ve managed about 2 seconds of power through the drive so far. So no,” Goldie said.

“That’s good. We can work with that,” Nix said.

“Two seconds of flight will not protect us from what’s coming,” Ravas said.

“It won’t,” Nix agreed. “Not on it’s own. But it’s something to work with, and we can do a lot with that.”

“How are we going to get there? We can’t run down the mountain that fast,” Ayli said, not entirely sure that was true, but caring enough about the state of her knees that she wasn’t overly interested in putting it to the test.

Of course being buried in lava would do pretty dreadful things to her knees too, so if push came to shove…

“I don’t know, but I know it’s this way,” Nix said, her eyes alight with some hidden certainty and distant as if she was already at their destination.

Their destination which seemed to lie within the Third Temple.

“She can’t be relying on the Force, can she?” Ravas asked. “Not here.”

“Don’t look at me,” Kelda said. “I failed as a Jedi, remember.”

“I don’t,” Ravas said, which seemed to have multiple meanings buried in it, none of which did they have the time to unpack.

Nix, clearly sensing that, was already moving when Ayli glanced back to her, forcing Ayli to run to keep up, something which Ravas and Kelda’s ghost seemed to be able to do without effort.

“The Temple has literal tonnes of Phrik in it. There must be a vault made of it in there. Can we hide there? Is that what you’re sensing?” Ayli asked as they sprinted through the Temple’s main doors.

“I don’t think so,” Nix said. “If the volcano blows, we’d survive the explosion but being buried in an indestructible vault under a lake of cooling lava doesn’t seem ideal. Also we need to get Goldie, Sali, and Zin.”

“That’s a tall order.” Ayli was all too aware of how often sacrifices had to be made. How the mission mattered more than the ones who were tasked with carrying it out. How not everyone always got to make it home safely.

But what if the mission was to bring everyone home safely? That was what Nix had demanded and what she’d promised. Would that mean none of them were going to make it out?

Being stuck as a ghost on Praxis Mar seemed like a pretty terrible fate, but with the evidence provided by Kelda’s tiny sanctuary, Ayli had to wonder if their ghosts wouldn’t be able to form a tiny little paradise too.

“You’re not wrong,” Nix said without sounding at all defeated. “Getting out of here with all of us is more than we can do on own.”

Ayli caught Nix’s meaning from the hope with glittered around her words.

“We’re not alone though,” Ayli said, her thoughts leaping skyward, into the starry black above them. “We’ve got a whole fleet with us.”

“A victorious fleet,” Nix said.

“I’m not sure they’re going to be able to get here in time Mom,” Goldie said over the still open comm. “The defensive array…ohhhh!”

“Exactly,” Nix said. “The defensive array around the planet has to have controls somewhere and if you were a paranoid Dark Side cult would you trust those controls to be anywhere but directly under your thumb?”

“Jedi aren’t supposed to be trained to think like that,” Ravas said, looking to her side at Ravas as Nix Force pushed a door open at the end of the Great Hall revealing a long spiraling stair case leading up towards the volcano’s summit.

“We’re probably lucky she’s not a Jedi then,” Kelda said.

“You…you really didn’t train her?” Ravas asked.

“To do this?” Kelda asked. “What part of I had no idea any of this was possible makes that seem likely.”

“You became one with the Force. That’s supposed to give you perfect insight isn’t it?” Ravas grumbled.

“Um, well, about that,” Kelda said. “I might have been skirting the truth there with Scytheus.”

“What? How?” Ravas asked taking up the rear position as the four raced up the stairs.

“Even at the end of my life, I hadn’t fully redeemed myself,” Kelda said. “No. That’s a lie too. Even at the end, I didn’t want to redeem myself. I was never really sorry for what I did to Scytheus. Till the day I drew my last breath, a part of me wanted him to come back so I could hurt him more for what he did to you.”

“Then, I don’t understand, how are you here? Immortality in the Force was something they said only the greatest of Jedi could attain.”

“They were wrong,” Kelda said. “About a lot of things. Or they just didn’t want us to think we could skip taking our lessons seriously, so they simplified things. I’m sure Jedi who have fully mastered their abilities and are in perfect harmony with the Force can transcend to a higher state of being. I didn’t do that so much as simply held on. When I died I could have let go but I could feel that you weren’t there, so I wasn’t willing to leave either. Over time, I was able to become more present, but only to those where a connection existed.

“I never knew,” Ravas whispered, so low that Ayli almost missed it. The sorrow embedded in the words was unmistakable though.

“I never told you,” Ravas said.

“Heh! Just like I thought!” Nix said and Ayli cast her gaze forward to see the room beyond the door at the top of the stairs was a technological throne room, complete with systems still blinking and functional long after they’d last been used.

In the center of the room, the titular Throne stood, an elaborate affair of wires, cables, actuators and variated displays.

As she stepped into the room, a feeling of revulsion past through, in part because the aura of the Dark Side was particularly noxious in the Throne Room but far more so due to her sense that something was deeply, horribly wrong with the volcano.

“Goldie can you patch us through the fleet?” Nix asked.

There was a crackle on the line rather than a response and Thirty-two answered the hail.

“Looks like you folks could use some help,” he said. “Unsurprisingly, we could too.”

“I thought you beat the Klex armada?” Nix asked.

“We did. You’ll see their ships deorbiting if you’ve got any view of the sky where you are,” Thirty-two said. “Some of them are still in one piece even. Not a piece which contains a working drive system or functional weapons, but there’ll be survivors. Probably.”

“That’s fine,” Nix said. “There’s a new problem though, isn’t there?”

“Yes. A fleet shaped problem,” Thirty-two said.

“What did you do to my fleet?” Sali asked, cutting in on the channel.

“Oh, our fleet is fine, mostly, the Klex got a few shots in, but nothing we can’t scavenge parts from them to fix. No, our fleet problem is shaped more like a dozen new Republic Battle Cruisers.”

“What is the New Republic doing out here? They’d don’t have jurisdiction over Praxis Mar. They didn’t even know this place existed before today,” Ayli said.

“One of the downsides to our fleet being populated almost exclusively by convicted criminals,”  Thirty-two said. “According to their “stand down” order, we’re supposed to surrender so that we can be returned to serve out our proper sentences.”

“And they’re going to shoot you down if you don’t comply?” Nix asked.

“That seems to be the general impression they’re trying to give,” Thirty-two said.

Nix was pacing and flailing her hands as Ayli watched her enter some kind of hyper-focused mode.

“We do not have time for that,” she said. “Like, seriously, no time.”

“Something is drawing near. Something I have never felt,” Ravas said.

“Not something good either,” Kelda said. “It’s like all the Dark Side energy on the planet is being drawn together.”

“We can’t fight that can we?” Ayli said.

“Not at the height of both of our powers,” Kelda said, indicating herself and Ravas.

“And we can’t fight a new Republic Fleet of that size,” Thirty-two said.

Nix paused, her eyes going bright and her fingers dancing.

“And we don’t have to!” she said. “Sali, you can get us out of this!”


“Arrest Thirty-two and the rest of our fleet!”

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