The Eclectic Pen - Escape From Dagu


By: Blake B. (Blakeish)   + 6 more  
Date Submitted: 3/4/2009
Last Updated: 3/4/2009
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy » Science Fiction
Words: 22,046
Rating:


 
I did this story a few years ago, so if it seems child-ish in anyway, you know why.
Also, it's a Star Wars FanFic. I did this short story based on the canceled novel by William C. Dietz. I hope you enjoy it, and tell me what you think.




Era: Clone Wars [Nine months after the Battle of Geonosis.]


Dramatis Personae:

A-17, "Alpha"; ARC trooper

Artel Darc; Dark Jedi, (Human male)

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus; Dark Lord of the Sith, (Human male)

Shaak Ti; Jedi Master, (Togruta female)

Nearohut; slave (male Rybet)








CHAPTER 1
Shaak Ti stepped out of her small hut. Dantooine's sun was setting in the distance. She glanced around the large valley that she and her troops occupied as a command post. She strode forward. Different huts were spread across the valley, clone troopers were moving about swiftly, each of them doing their own tasks. They were practically sitting mynocks in this valley.
If the Confederation of Independent Systems brought the fight to them, they'd be slaughtered immediately. Luckily, though, the CIS had no idea where this command post was, and Shaak Ti and her troops were moving to a different location the following morning. They kept changing positions to through the Separatists off, for what purpose, Shaak Ti had no clue.
It was all Admiral Arikakon Baraka's plan, and he refused to share it with Shaak Ti, and she was a Senior Jedi General. She shook her head. She'd have to talk some sense into that Mon Calamari some time. Her second in command A-17-Alpha-ran up beside her. "General," he saluted. "There's a call for you in the communications tent." Shaak Ti sighed in relief. "It better be Admiral Baraka."
The Advanced Recon Commando shrugged and said, "unknown, General." Shaak Ti hurried forward to the comm tent. An analyst was sitting at the small holo-table, tinkering with some sort of machinery. "Ah, General Ti," the clone said, standing. "Urgent message for you from the Capital." Shaak Ti was bewildered. "Coruscant?"
The clone nodded. "Thank you, sergeant." The clone saluted and left the tent. Shaak Ti sat on a small stool and opened up the comm wave. An image of Grand Master Yoda shimmered into the air. She bowed. "Master Yoda! It is so good to see you." Yoda inclined his head. "And you as well, Master Ti," he said in his raspy voice. "Something to tell you, I have." Shaak Ti waited. The Grand Master took a breath and continued, "a Republic courier from the Outer Rim, we are placing in your car. Escort him back to Coruscant, you will." Shaak Ti raised her eyebrows. "A courier, Master? What sort of courier?" Yoda fixed his gaze on her.
"Valuable information concerning hyperspace lanes, this courier does. Allow him to fall into Separatist hands, you cannot." Shaak Ti inclined her head, "Yes, Master Yoda...and, Master, if I may?" Yoda nodded, "Go ahead, Master Ti."
"When will I be receiving this courier?" Yoda gave her a crooked grin. "Ah, getting to this, I was. No patience have you, Master Ti? Hmm?” Shaak Ti looked down. "Sorry, Master." Yoda laughed. "Already in your midsts, this courier is, landing in a moment, he will be. Escort him tomorrow morning, you will." Shaak Ti felt unsure about leaving her troops without her. But, they do have Baraka, she thought to herself. Shaak Ti stood and bowed. "It will be done, Master Yoda." His image winked out. She walked out of the tent, looking p at the sky. Sure enough, there was a Republic gunship swinging down to the other side of the valley. She began making her way over to that side, when she felt a sudden disturbance in the Force.
"Oh, no," she breathed.
She flipped into the air just as a laser beam flashed out at her. Her lightsaber was already in her hands, blue blade humming. Clones yelp in surprise and dashed for their blaster rifles. Shaak Ti deflected more blaster bolts, her three striped head-tail like montrals lashing all around her. Suddenly hundreds of battle droids came pouring into the valley. Hr blade was in constant motion, deflecting bolts and sending them back to their owners. Her troops were firing blue blaster bolts at the oncoming enemy. She dodged out of the way of a huge explosion. Hailfire droids. The huge droids with their hoop wheels and missile launchers were joining the battle. A Republic tank exploded, instantly vaporizing the four troops surrounding it.
Shaak Ti launched herself into the air. She Force-hurled a super battle droid into and oncoming hailfire droid. It simply clanked off it wheels. Shaak Ti landed and dashed for cover. "General Ti!" Alpha ran up, crouching down next to her.
"There's too many of them, General!" Shaak Ti spit on the ground. "How did they find our location, Alpha?" Alpha shook his head and fired off two shots, then answered her, "unknown, General. A quick flyby in a starfighter may have done the trick." Shaak Ti stood and deflected more bolts. She shook her head.
"No! The surrounding mountains wouldn't have let the starfighters see us!" Alpha rolled out of the way of a red beam. Shaak Ti Force-hurled herself at a battle droid and stabbed it in the gut. She took hold of it and Force ran along the perimeter of the battle, holding onto the droid with the Force for cover from blaster fire. She needed to get the courier! A blaster bolt flew by, singing her orange-skinned hand. She gritted her teeth and ran on.
She reached the gunship just as it was lifting off. "Wait!" she cried. A missile flew out to meet it in the air. She reahced out with the Force, desperately trying to grab hold of the missile and steer it off-course. Too late. The gunship blew up into flames, pieces of durasteel flying all over the valley. Shaak Ti raised her arm to cover her head. A searing pain erupted from it. A piece of durasteel had raked her. She bit her lip. She twisted around, drawing on the Force to help keep her strength up. She evaded more blaster fire. Everywhere she looked there were droids locked in combat with her troops. She saw a clone pilot dash behind a rock. She ran over to join him. "Did someone get off that gunship?" she yelled over the blaster fire.
"I think so, General!" Shaak Ti looked around. "Where?" The clone shrugged and shook his head, yanking out his blaster pistol. "Unknown, General! I'm sorry!" He ran, firing off blaster bolts. He was shot down an instant later. Her danger sense pricked up. Without turning she lashed her blade backward and redirected a bolt back to its sender. She leapt backwards, flipping in the air. She brought her blade down on a droid. Bodies littered the ground, clone and droid alike. She sent a wave of raw Force energy to a nearby droid. "Destroyers!" someone called out. She twisted around to see three rolling forms trundling onto the battle field.
One of them stopped three meters from her. It deployed itself and raised its shields. Shaak Ti raised her blade. It began firing off shots at her. She evaded and deflected them and, using the Force, made the earth under the droid implode. It went sailing into the air and came crashing down on another droid. Another hailfire rolled onto the battle field. It was onslaught, her troops were losing the battle. "General Ti," Alpha was suddenly at her side, "we must surrender! It's a bloodbath!" Shaak Ti knew the consequences if the Confederacy got their hands on the Republic courier. She shook her head. "We fight to the end, Alpha."
Alpha was silent a moment, then fired three rounds off at a droid. Quick as a viper, Shaak Ti moved out of the way of a red bolt and slashed at a droid's torso.
"General Ti!" Alpha's voice yelled. "Look out!" Shaak Ti twisted around. A Hailfire droid was zipping toward her. She didn't have time to steer it off course with the Force. She rose her lightsaber and jumped out of the way.
She slashed out with her lightsaber, destroying the link the droid had to its wheels and sent it off its course. The explosion that followed sent Shaak Ti fifty feet through the air. She came down on the ground, hard. Very hard. The last thing she remembered hearing before going unconscious, was Alpha yelling, "The General is down! Surrender!"
Then the world faded.
The sounds of battle became muffled.
Black.



CHAPTER 2

Count Dooku shuffled into the control room of the droid control ship, boots clanking loudly on the cold durasteel floor. Neimoidian Nute Gunray turned around to face him and waved a stubby finger in his face. "Count Dooku!" he said bitterly, "you have gone too far this time! Ordering my troops to fire upon a Republic base without consulting me and the other Separatist leaders? We lost nearly half our army! And for what? Just so you could retain a few clone troopers!"
Gunray was a pitiful creature. Dooku held up a hand. "Patience, viceroy, this bit of information I have will not make you so sour at me." The viceroy folded his arms. "Well, let's hear it." Dooku strode to the viewports and watched the distant space battle between Republic and Separatist fleets. The curved arms of the Lucrehulk-class battleship added a claustrophobic sense to the battle. Dooku slowly turned around, deliberately trying to irritate the viceroy.
He walked to the viceroy, cape flowing behind him. "What if I were to tell you that there was a Republic courier among our captives, carrying vital Republic information?" Gunray eyed him in askance. "I would ask what sort of information he was holding, and how you attained this information." Dooku smiled slyly and said, "our spies overheard a call to an unknown source, they think it was to Admiral Baraka. And, my dear viceroy, this courier is withholding information that could bring upon the downfall of the Republic."
Gunray lit up a bit. "What's the information?" Dooku paused for effect, then continued on. "Where Republic battle groups are going to attack, and the hyperspace lanes in which they would be entering." Gunray almost jumped up and down. "This is wonderful news! We could ambush them! Set mines in the hyperspace lanes! We would destroy their precious fleets in a moment." Dooku nodded. "Then you see why we needed to capture those troops." Gunray lowered his face, "I do now, Count. Forgive my initial outburst." Dooku placed a hand lightly on his shoulder, "Forgotten, viceroy."
Gunray stood erect. "Are you taking the prisoners to Dagu?" Dooku nodded, smiling. "Yes, they will be slave laborers there, and build our base from the vile swamps." Gunray bowed, "Yes, Count." Dooku pushed his cape behind him and began to walk out of the room. "I will be in my quarters, viceroy, see to it that I'm not disturbed."
Before the Neimoidian could answer, he walked out of the room. His boots echoed down the corridor. He came to a stop in front of his door. It slid back with a hissing sound and he entered the dark suite. It slid closed behind him, plunging the room in total blackness. He made his way in the dark to a panel in the floor. He opened up a comm wave and got down on one knee.
A cloaked figure shimmered into the air. "My lord," Dooku said, "we have captured the courier, as you wished. Unknown species, possibly non-clone. He and what's left of the resistance are being sent to Dagu." Darth Sidious took a deep, long breath. Then he said in his slow deadly voice, "Good, my apprentice, very good. But, do not underestimate the Jedi. They will no doubt attempt to foil our plan." Dooku lowered his head, "I don't see how a Jedi will learn of our plot, my lord." Sidious seemed to ponder that for a moment. "Then, Darth Tyranus, I hope you see to that personally." Then, the transmission was cut and Dooku was plunged into darkness again.


CHAPTER 3

Shaak Ti fought her way back to consciousness. She opened her eyes groggily. A blinding light shown down on her from above. She briefly panicked, wondering where she was. Then she remembered. The ambush on Dantooine, her troops getting killed off, Separatist forces pouring into the valley, she getting knocked unconscious...her montrals twitched at the memory.
She tried to sit up, but was rewarded with lightning shooting up and down her spine. She whimpered and collapsed down onto the cold hard bench. She must have been badly injured in the explosion. She took a deep breath. Through her training as a Jedi Consular, she was able to focus more on mastery of the Force, and she was a very skilled healer.
She began to the Jedi-healing-trance. She let her mind go numb and let the Force flow into her body, coming in when she inhaled, and out when she exhaled. She felt the Force begin to heal her wounds, felt some of the pain begin to drift off. Of course, it would take probably a little more than fifteen hours for the trance to take full effect, but at least some of the pain was already gone. Although she focused on mastering the Force, that did not mean she wasn't a master swordsman. Once, during a practice session with Kit Fisto, she and he had battled valiantly.
To those who may have been watching, it would have looked as if the two Jedi were trying to slaughter each other. But to Shaak Ti and Kit, they were enjoying themselves very much. She'd defeated the Nautolan Jedi in three swift blows, in which she destroyed his lightsaber. She'd apologized, but Kit didn't mind. He'd said she was the finest swordsman next to Master Windu. As the healing trance took more effect, she stretched out with the Force, groping for some hint of where she was. She felt thirty other presences nearby. She also felt that they were knocked unconscious. She concluded that they were prisoners aboard a Confederacy shuttle.
Then, she remembered her lightsaber. What had become of it? They Separatists may not know that she was a Jedi, maybe a local on Dantooine and had gotten caught up in the action. But, if they found her lightsaber and discovered she was Jedi, they would kill her for sure. She heard a door slide open and two droids clanked in. She kept her eyes closed and sensed them walk closer and closer, blabbering to themselves. "...and thirty clone troopers."
As they drew closer, they took notice of her. "And one Togruta. Female." One of them jabbed something hard into her breast. They clanked on. Shaak Ti felt the ship jump into hyperspace and one question occupied her mind, Where are they taking us? It was obvious they were prisoners of war. And they had no communications to the Republic. As the healing trance took more and more effect, she drifted off into sleep with the knowledge that almost made her cry: she and her troops were in the hands of the Confederacy.







CHAPTER 4

Shaak Ti awoke with a start. Her wounds were all healed up by the healing trance, but she was still a bit sore. There was only so much a healing trance could do. She sat up carefully and found her wrists cuffed to the bench. She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, letting out a long, slow, breath. She opened her eyes to a dim light. Her troops were cuffed to their benches as well, their helmets off. Even though she knew they were clones, it was still strange to see them all look exactly the same.
But they weren't the same. Some had different jaw sets, some had different scars. By the looks of it, she was the only one awake. By the hum of the hyperdrive, she assumed they were still in hyperspace. She remembered her early misgivings about her lightsaber and began to search for it. She wasn't wearing her Jedi robes, she'd needed to take it off for the battle.
Now, she wore a long brown one-piece jumpsuit, ripped and battered by the battle, the sleeves were torn, revealing her long slender and orange arms. On her feet, all she had were sandals. She must have dropped her lightsaber at the battle grounds. Perhaps, if she got the chance and materials, she may be able to build a temporary lightsaber.
She could free herself from the bench with just a thought, oh yes, but she wouldn't dare attempt to take control of the ship without her trusted blade. One of the clones began to come to, he shook his head and groaned. "Karking, droids..." he muttered. Shaak Ti looked at him and whispered, "Trooper." The clone looked up and his eyes widened. "General Ti! You were assumed dead!" Shaak Ti motioned for quiet, pointing to the door with her free hand where she knew security droids were standing guard.
"What happened?"
The trooper shrugged, "I don't remember much, sir. All I remember is Commander Alpha telling us to surrender after you were caught in that explosion. The droids told us to lower our weapons and they took us to one of their troop transports. Then, they shot stun shots at us, and here we are." Shaak Ti was silent for a long while.
"Where is Alpha, trooper?" The clone shook his head, "Unknown, general. I assume he's somewhere in here. Or, knowing Commander Alpha, I'd say he got into a bit of trouble and they showed him to the airlock." Shaak Ti scoffed and whispered, "this is just perfect." The clone didn't say anything. Just then, three security droids stormed into the room. They raised their blaster rifles and one of them said, "Don't move. Set it for stun, Corporal." The other droid replied in kind, "Roger, roger!" Then two blue rings shot out of the rifles, one towards Shaak Ti and one towards the clone. Shaak Ti fell into unconsciousness...


















CHAPTER 5


She was awaken what seemed like eons later, to something cold and hard being shoved into her side. Shaak Ti's eye's fluttered open and caught herself before she sent the droid flying. "Get up, Togruta." They had undone her restraints.
She stood. They put her arms behind her back and handcuffed her once again. "Don't try anything," one of the droids said in its flat metallic voice. Shaak Ti walked forward, her troops had been woken up in the same fashion as she had, and now they were all heading to the exit.
One of the troops noticed her and his face lit up. Shaak Ti subtly shook her head. The troop fell silent. They went into a corridor, the long line of prisoners and droids' footsteps echoing throughout the halls.
Shaak Ti was the last prisoner, in the back. A droid pushed her in the back. "We're cooperating, there's no need for violence!" She glared at the droid.
Its face was impassive. "Keep walking." Shaak Ti shook her head in disgust. They walked on for a while longer in silence, then the lead droids turned into a a large room. Docking bay, by the looks of it. "We exited hyperspace, we will be landing on the planet shortly," the droid behind her said loud enough for all to hear. While they were waiting to land, more prisoners came into the room.
Almost all were clones. One Devaronian, two Gotals. And one Togruta, her. Four non-clones. Shaak Ti felt the ship break the atmosphere. They landed a short while later. The wall began to slide downward, and a brilliant white light filled the bay. Shaak Ti turned away, then once she was used to it, she turned to look outside. The scene would stick with her for as long as she lived. There were hundreds of slaves, aliens, most of which were being whipped with stun whips.
Ten huge Techno Union starship were under construction. The whole place was one big swamp, it covered nearly everything. Big round platforms rose up from the mud, making a small city-like place with connecting durasteel sidewalks about ten meters wide. These connected to the platform, allowing one to travel between the platforms without always having to enter the swamp. One each platform, there were small dugouts, some of the slaves were stumbling their way up the steps to them. Reptilian-like aliens were the majority of the slaves, most of them a bit shorter than an average human, with three long fingers and three long toes, all with greenish skin tone, a bulbous head, and huge eyes to complete the package. Other than them, clone troopers, probably only about ten. There were Morgukai: big, burly, red, and angry . They seemed as if they were the slave masters. One of them whipped his stun whip around the neck of one of the reptilians. Shaak Ti turned away. The droids led them out to the platform they had landed on. A Morgukai walked up to the prisoners. When he talked, it sounded like tow pieces of sanded paper rubbing against each other. "Hello, slaves. Welcome to Dagu."






CHAPTER 6

The slave masters put some sort of chip inside of the slaves. If the slaves attempted to escape, they could locate them in a heartbeat. The chip was transfered through a needle injection. Shaak Ti was one of the last to get the shot. She went through a scanner to check her health condition and other things, then she went into a booth.
A Morgukai held the needle and flicked. He sterilized the spot where he would inject the chip into her arm. She traced the chip through the Force as it swept into her blood stream, and felt sure that she could locate and destroy it if she needed to. After all the new arrivals had gotten their shots, they were rounded up to stand in an area. The prisoners were whispering amongst themselves. "General Ti!" A voice whispered from behind. Shaak Ti turned around, a clone trooper was standing directly behind her. She narrowed her eyes.
"Forgive me," she said. "I cannot tell which troop you are." The clone glanced around cautiously. "It's me, Alpha." Shaak Ti made a mental note to remember each trooper's face and name. "Alpha. It is good to see you." The ARC nodded, "and you, general." The crowd fell silent as the biggest Morgukai she'd ever seen stepped up to a platform. He cleared his throat. "Hello, prisoners. I hope you will enjoy the hospitality the Confederacy is showing you, because if you were my prisoners, you'd all be working until your arms fell off."
He began to pace. "You are prisoners of war, if you hadn't noticed. Ah, I see we have a few extra, as well," he said, locking eyes with Shaak Ti, the Devaronian, and the two Gotals. "Your sole purpose here will be to help raise new starships for the Confederation. As you can see, others have already started. You will begin working immediately. Any slacking off will not be tolerated. Now, you will begin as soon as my master has a word with you."
He stepped down from the platform. People began to part, letting a fairly tell, blond haired man through. He wore a long black tunic, with brown trousers and knee-high black boots. Very near to standard Jedi clothing. As her passed, he locked eyes with Shaak Ti. Ice crept up her spine as she recognized the aura surrounding this man. When he stepped up to the podium, Shaak Ti whispered to Alpha, "he is a dark sider." Alpha nodded. " My name is Artel Darc. As Zinder already told you, you are prisoners." His voice was deep and echoed.
It sent shivers down Shaak Ti's spine again. "If you fail to do your duties, you will be executed on the spot. My lord, Count Dooku, doesn't want any slackys. Now, I think you have the basic jest of what we want here. My men will give you a quick tutorial on how to weld the pieces to the starships." Count Dooku! Shaak Ti hissed between her teeth. They were led away, Darc's icy blue eyes following them every step of the way. They stepped into the knee-high swamp water. A Morgukai handed her a welding hammer and they got to work.
While she was ascending a lift to get to the upper level work area, she suddenly remembered-or perhaps it was a whisper in the Force- something that had been lost to her since the battle on Dantooine. A courier had been placed in her care, she was to escort him the very next day to Coruscant. But then, the Separatists had attacked. She knew the kind of information that courier was holding, and it proved vital to the Republic's survival. If the Confederacy found out about the courier...maybe they didn't know at all. She searched her memory. What had the courier looked like?
She hadn't seen him when he landed on the planet, she was too wrapped in the battle. She would have seen him the following day on the escort ride. She would need to find this courier, if he was even with them. There was a good chance he had escaped on Dantooine. This was not good. Not good at all.

Artel Darc stepped from the platform and walked in a big circle, watching the new arrivals. He had a sense through the Force that something was just not quite right with one of them, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Commander," a droid shuffled over to him. He stood up straight. "Count Dooku wishes to speak to you, sir." Artel as momentarily taken aback. "Yes," he sputtered, then cleared his throat. "I mean, take me to the transmission center."
The droid turned on its heel and led him away. They came into a fairly large room, and Count Dooku's simmering form stood in the middle. Artel bowed. "Darth Tyranus." Dooku inclined his head a bit, "Commander Darc. I see you have the newly arrived prisoners." Darc nodded. "Yes, my lord." Dooku smiled slightly and continued, "Good. Very good. No, I need you to retrieve something for me, Artel." Artel bowed lower. "Anything, my liege."
"There is possibly a Republic courier among the new arrivals, holding information that could bring about the destruction of the Republic. The information holds different hyperspace lanes and routes Republic fleets would be taking. If we get this information, we could set dozens of traps for the fleets." Artel was speechless. He caught himself and cleared his throat. "This... this is wonderful news!" Dooku held up a hand.
"Wait, you must handle this delicately. The courier would kill himself rather then give you the information. You must observe for a while, stretch out with your feelings. Then, when the time is right, spring in and take the information from the pathetic fool." Artel nodded. Made sense. "Although," Dooku went on, "don't take too long. The sooner we get the information, the better." Then, the hologram ended. Artel stood. This was very important. He would need to meditate on this. But first, we would do a bit of observation himself. He would not fail his master.












CHAPTER 7

The stun-whip crackled on Shaak Ti's back. She cried out in pain. "Faster," a gruff voice said from behind her. She was tempted to send him flying with the Force, but held back. Shaak Ti pounded harder on the durasteel panel. Amazing. This planet was on the very edge of the Outer Rim, nearly in the Unknown Regions, and the Republic had no knowledge of this facility.
If, and when she escaped, she would have to report this to the Council. She heard some commotion down a hundred feet below. She looked over the edge of her lift to see three huge tentacles flipping slaves away. Screams filled the air. Three Morgukai ran up, stun-whips crackling. They sent the tentacles swimming away. The stun-whip snapped again on her back. She gritted her teeth and returned to work. Alpha subtly worked his way over to her. "This is sickening." He spit on the metal ground. Shaak Ti let out a breath.
"That is an understatement, my friend." The whip snapped close to Alpha's ear. "Less talking, more working!" Barked the slave master's voice. Shaak Ti whirled around. The Morgukai was leaning against the railing of the lift. One push, and he would go flying over the edge. But she was a Jedi. She wouldn't, couldn't, stoop to their level. "You want something?" the alien asked. Shaak Ti shook her head. "Just admiring the sunset," she hissed. She nearly got whipped. A Separatist shuttle flew low over head. Out of the corner of her eye, Shaak Ti could see the jungle landscape. The air was perhaps the most humid air she'd ever breathed. Farther away, mountains started at the end of the forest, perhaps a volcano or two.
Odd.
A swamp world with a volcano? This was indeed the strangest planet she'd ever been on. One of the reptilian aliens she'd seen before was sticking to the wall like a spider, a fusion cutter in its right hand. She reached out with the Force. She could feel the dark sider, Artel Darc, nearby. Had he sensed the Force in her? It was plausible. Darkness began to creep over the swamp.
The moon came out. Shaak Ti looked at her slave master. "Do we stop now?" The Morgukai looked at her as if she had said the funniest thing in the galaxy. Then he laughed a deep, throaty laugh, echoing trough the swamp. It made her cringe. "Stop?" He barked. "Oh, no. You're nowhere near from being done." As he said that, huge floodlights turned on, making an artificial day time. Alpha grunted. The Morgukai looked into her eyes.
"Now, get back to work before I fry you montrals." Shaak Ti scowled at him and went back to work. Five grueling hours later, they were allowed to go to their dugouts for a short while before dawn. Then, it would be back to work. She, Alpha, another clone, and the reptilian alien were all escorted to the second dugout, right bunks occupied the small cramped quarters. The battle droid turned to them. "Don't try anything funny. We have sentries throughout the entire complex." Shaak Ti took a seat on a bunk. The clone trooper and Alpha too the bunks on either side of her. As soon as the droid left, the reptilian alien turned to them.
"You from the wars, eh?" Shaak Ti did not want to be exposed as a Jedi just yet. She shook her head. "No, I was a local on Dantooine when the battle went down. I was captured while trying to give medical support to the brave troops. Who...er, what are you?" The alien went into a fit of sissing, which Shaak Ti took to be laughter. "I, am Nearohut. I am a Rybet. Me and my people were enslaved when the Confederacy took control of our planet." The Rybet spit. "We were defenseless. The republic doesn't know we exist. We have no defense fleet. They took hold of us in less than a week and make us build their star cruisers."
Shaak Ti was momentarily taken aback. "That's...that's awful." She gulped. The Rybet sissed again. "That's not the half of it. For those of us who were too young or old or weak, they killed them on the spot. And continue to do so today. We cannot breed, they only kill the babies." Shaak Ti felt rage boil inside of her. "The Confederacy will pay." The Rybet was silent, then said, "how? We have no communications out here. We're already dead. As soon as they get what they want, they'll kill us all." Shaak Ti didn't know what to say.
The Rybet eyed her. "What's your name, Togruta?" Shaak Ti exchanged a glance with Alpha. "My name is Shyla," she said quietly. "Hm," Nearohut said thoughtfully, "female. I'm surprised they didn't kill you." Now that Shaak Ti thought about it, she hadn't seen any women anywhere the whole day. "Well," Nearohut said lying down, "we should get some sleep. Tomorrow is bound to be worse." Shaak Ti rose her eyebrows and slowly lay down. The Rybet wasn't very optimistic. She wanted to purge the topic about Nearohut's people, but she decided to leave it for the following day. Shaak Ti let out a breath. She wasn't sure how she'd get out of this one.

CHAPTER 8

Shaak Ti had a rude awakening the following morning. A loud siren began to blare through the quiet, dripping, dawn. She sat up in her bunk. Two droids came to the entrance of the dugout. "Get up." One raised its blaster rifle. Shaak Ti held up a hand. She slide her feet over the side of the bed and stood. Alpha and the other clone, Lon, were already awake and up, their grim faces giving no hint to what they were thinking. Nearohut was nowhere to be seen.
The battle droids led them out to the swamp. This time, when Shaak Ti stepped into it, it was up to her waist. "Rained last night," Lon stated. They went to a lift, but their slave master cut them off. "Halt," the Morgukai said, "where do you think you're going?" Shaak Ti motioned to the lift. "I assumed we'd have the same positions as yesterday." Apparently, that angered the slave master. He yanked his whip out and lashed it at Shaak Ti. Alpha jumped in front of her. It zapped and crackled against the trooper's chest. He fell back into Shaak Ti's arms, semiconscious. "Alpha," Shaak Ti whispered. "You don't have to protect me. Here, I am not your general. Here, I am a fellow prisoner." Alpha opened his eyes and grinned. "General Ti. No matter what you say you'll always be the general," he said whispered back, weakly. Shaak Ti glared back at the slave master, but held her tongue. Lon came over to help her straighten Alpha. "If I had my blaster..." The Morgukai motioned to a half-built platform. "That is where you'll be working today," he said. Alpha, with the help of Lon, stumbled away. Shaak Ti followed and felt a presence come up behind her. A hand traced down her arm. "You're a strong one," the slave master said into her hear, his breath like acid. "We don't get too many women folk around here. Gets a little...dull." Shaak Ti jumped away from him.
"Get away from me!" She yelled. The slave master laughed. "You'll come around in time, flower." Shaak Ti nearly threw up. Reaching out with the Force, she pulled one of his feet out from under him. He fell into the swamp. He came up, thrashing and cursing. He glared all around, seeing who might be laughing. Shaak Ti simple turned, lifted her chin, and walked to join her comrades. The sun beat down on their backs as they worked. Shaak Ti felt the slave master's eyes on her as she worked. She spit into the murky swam water.
Blisters were split open, body parts were sprained, thumbs stubbed. She looked around the clearing and spotted Nearohut being led toward her, Lon, and Alpha. His eye was bruised and bloody. "What happened to you?" Shaak Ti asked after the security droids left. Nearohut spit blood. "Kriffing rodders didn't like how fast I worked. Needed to speed up. I told them they could go eat bantha-" Shaak Ti held up a hand. "I understand."
Stun-whips crackled, voices cried out in pain. Once, a slave master was so angry, he threw one of his workers from a lift a kilometer up. A sickening thud followed soon after. Shaak Ti turned back to her task. She drilled a panel into place, duracrete was being placed in. Something slithered by Shaak Ti's foot. She raised it. It didn't budge. Something was holding it. A hard tug pulled her under the swamp water. "General- uhh Shyla!" Alpha cried.
She was being pulled toward the forest. How she knew this, she did not know because she couldn't see a thing through the murky water. She clawed at the bottom of the swamp, losing breath quickly. Her hands grabbed nothing but mud. She screamed under water as something sharp moved itself into her leg. She began to feel herself black out. It was trying to knock her out so she would be easier to capture! Not if she had anything to say about it. She heard voices yelling through the water, splashes sounding all around. She delved into the Force and found the massive presence attacking her. As the world began to blacken, she drew on the Force to keep herself awake. She lashed out with her leg and hit something soft and mushy.
It simply absorbed the kick and held her leg. She was almost completely out of breath, even while drawing on the Force. Then, she felt something pull her out of the water, the creature holding her released its grip. She came out of the water gasping for breath, and standing before her was none other than Artel Darc. Battle droids and Morgukai rushing up to finish of the swamp monster. Alpha also ran up, with Lon in tow, and supported her weight. She accepted the rest gratefully. Artel took a step toward her and said in his icy voice, "it's a good thing I was observing the work area, Shyla. The swamp creature was too fast for any of my troops to reach you in time. You would have been dead."
He paused. "I noticed you didn't black out as soon as you were infected with the sedation." Shaak Ti's heart got caught in her throat. "How did you know he injected me?" She asked equally. Artel began to pace, the water sloshing around his jet black boots. "The dark side tells me things you could only dream of, m'lady." Shaak Ti bit her lip. Artel studied her. She sensed him reach out with the Force and probe her feelings. She concealed her Force powers as best she could. Apparently, he didn't sense it and walked on, saying to her slave master, "see to it that she gets the proper medical attention. Then back to work."
The Morgukai bowed low. "Yes, sir." Artel jumped onto a platform and vanished from view. Alpha looked her over and said, "are you alright, General Ti?" Shaak Ti nodded. "I'm fine, Alpha." The slave master walked up to her. "Let's go, flower." Shaak Ti reluctantly released Alpha. Alpha held onto her wrist. She gave him a look and he let go of her. The slave master led her into a large domed building.
They weaved through corridors and went into a small room with a medical droid. As the droid treated her, the slave master looked her up and down. She had half a mind to twist his neck around at a 180 degree angle. The Morgukai leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his broad chest. After the droid was finished treating her, she thanked it and briskly walked out of the room. The Morgukai grabbed her arm. "Not so fast, flower."
She slowed her pace and they walked outside. Dusk had fallen over the clearing. The floodlights turned on and she went back to work. Shaak Ti would like nothing more than to be holding the cool pomel of her lightsaber in her hand. Late that night, when they were done working and in their bunks. Shaak Ti sat up in her bed, talking with Alpha, Nearohut, and Lon. "We need a plan of escape," Alpha said. Nearohut sissed with laughter.
"No one has escaped this place. The only way out, is to die." Shaak Ti was tempted to tell him that she was a Jedi, but decided to wait a while longer. Alpha looked to her a moment, then turned back to Nearohut. "I'm sure that with enough troops here, we can overpower the droids and Morgukai." Nearohut shook his head and said sadly, "in case you haven't noticed, trooper, there's a Dark Jedi running the complex. I hear them lightsabers can cut through anything." Shaak Ti said nothing. An idea formed in her mind. She glanced at Nearohut.
"Do you know where one could find crystals around here?" She asked. Nearohut eyed her. "Why? What kind of crystal?" Shaak Ti shrugged and said, "I don't know, maybe a type of focusing crystal?" Nearohut thought a moment. "Well, long ago, our people's young adventurers would go into the volcanoes. Some would bring back some crystals. But, one day people stopped going there because they became active. No one's been there since."
Shaak Ti locked eyes with Alpha, he grinned. She turned back to Nearohut. "Is it possible there's anymore left?" Nearohut shrugged. "Anything is possible." Shaak Ti was about to mention his not-so-optimistic feelings to escaping Dagu, but held her tongue. Nearohut fell asleep. Shaak Ti turned to her troops. "We need to find the courier," she whispered, "then, we will make plans to escape. But, we can't escape if I don't have a lightsaber."
Lon looked out into the night. "the volcanoes are bound to have at least one crystal." Shaak Ti shook her head. "The best crystals are found in the ice caves of Illum. But, if I find more than one crystal, I may be able to build a suitable lightsaber for our getaway." Alpha laughed bitterly, "that is, general, if we get away." Shaak Ti fell silent. Good point. She rose a finger. "True. Also: we'd have to bypass the security droids to get to the mountains." Alpha nodded. "General, another question." Shaak Ti looked at him, "continue," she said.
Alpha put a hand to his chin, a day's worth of stubble surrounding his lips. "Well, how will we get weapons to defend ourselves from the security forces?" Shaak Ti thought a moment. Good question. Lon piped up. "We could steal the working tools they give us to work with." Shaak Ti shook her head. "No, they wouldn't do much damage. Besides, those aren't long range weapons. You'd be shot down at the first sign of resistance." Lon fell silent.
"Well, I could take out the security droids at the entrance, give the weapons to you two, we move on to more droids, take those weapons, give them to more troops, and so on and so forth," Shaak Ti said. Alpha nodded, "that may work." Shaak Ti nodded and said, "of course, we'll have to work out the kinks in this plan." The two clone troopers murmured their agreement. Shaak Ti's eyes narrowed. "But first, we must find the courier."

CHAPTER 9

The next day, they were on lifts again, working on the Techno Union starship. It would be tough trying to find a courier here, where the only people you could talk to were the ones in your working group. Shaak Ti concluded that it would be either the Devaronian, or one of the two Gotals. She reached into the Force, trying to get a sense of something from one of them. Maybe a hint of anxiety, fear...she felt a shudder run up her back as Artel Darc walked out onto the working area. She pulled her Force presence in on itself. Artel's arctic gaze wandered lazily around the area. But, under that lazy gaze, Shaak Ti could sense a rage that seemed to burn like a sun. He walked to a speeder, lightsaber bouncing as he walked. He stepped lightly onto the speeder and it banked to the left. A stun-whip crackled close to her ear. "Back to work," the slave master yelled.
Shaak Ti cursed under her breath. In her peripheral vision, she could see one of the Gotals working on another of the Techno Union cruisers. Feeling Artel wasn't paying attention to their section, she warily stretched out with the Force, probing the Gotal's feelings. She found nearly everything she was looking for. She pulled back when Artel's speeder rose to the Gotal's level. He jumped off and came up behind the Gotal, no doubt sensing what Shaak Ti just felt.
Artel turned his head slowly and locked eyes with her. She turned back to her work. Artel tapped the Gotal's shoulder and said something out of earshot. The Gotal trembled visibly and was led to the speeder. Shaak Ti hissed between her teeth.
"No."
Alpha glanced at her but said nothing. The speeder zipped away. Shaak Ti slammed the hammer down on the deck. The slave master growled, "pick that up." Shaak Ti glared at him and bent down to pick it up. She got to work. Three hours later, the Gotal came back. Shaak Ti used the Force to enhance her hearing and heard Artel tell his driver, "just a jittery one. Not the one we're looking for." Shaak Ti nearly cried out in relief. The interrogation didn't seem to go too well for the poor Gotal. He nearly collapsed as he was led away to his dugout. Artel glanced at the other Gotal and the Devaronian and Shaak Ti.
She heard him mutter, "it's most likely one of the non-clones. We will continue interrogation tomorrow." Shaak Ti bit her lip. Artel would no doubt attempt to interrogate her. And then, eventually, he would discover her Force sensitivity. She needed to find the courier before Artel Darc did, otherwise...she didn't want to think about what might happen if he got his hands on that intelligence. At about midnight they were allowed to go to their dugouts. The two droid guards stood outside the door to their hut. "Alpha," Shaak Ti said, "we need to talk to that courier. Tonight." Alpha eyed her. "How will you bypass security?"
Shaak Ti gritted her teeth and shook her head. "I'm still working on it." Nearohut spread his hands out in front of him, palms up. "What courier? What are you two talking about?" Lon looked him dead in the eye. "If we tell you, we'd have to kill you." Shaak Ti nearly barked with laughter when she saw the expression on Nearohut's face when the Rybet realized Lon wasn't joking. She glanced at the entrance. "Okay, I have it. Lon, stay here. Alpha, you're coming with me." Shaak Ti headed for the entrance. She reached into the Force and made a booming noise sound close to the guard droids. One of the droids swiveled its brown head. "What was that?" The other droid raised its rifle, "Let's check it out."
"Roger, roger!"
They clanked off. Shaak Ti motioned to Alpha to follow her. They started across the dimly lighted platform. She used the Force to pull a shadow around she and Alpha. They went up about three of four stairs and came to a higher platform. She reached into the Force, trying to get a sense of where the Devaronian and Gotals were. She came to an abrupt stop. Alpha slammed into her back. She grunted. "What?" He asked. Shaak Ti pointed to the other dugouts.
Guard droids.
"I don't see how we'll get passed them without weapons," she said. Then, she grinned. Alpha eyed her. "Don't move around," Shaak Ti said, "just think 'light.'" Alpha looked puzzled. "Light, General?" Shaak Ti held a finger up to her lips. She let the Force flow through her body, becoming one with everything surrounding her. The swamp. The humid air. The rocks. The guard droids. She pulsed the Force out towards Alpha and her feet. They lifted into the air. Alpha seemed surprised, but didn't speak. She lifted them up further into the air.
This took tremendous effort, and she nearly let them go. But she held on. They floated about ten feet above the droids and the came down behind one of the dugouts. Shaak Ti gasped and fell to her knees. Alpha help her up. "Nice, general." Shaak Ti smiled weakly. "But," Alpha held up a finger, "how are we going to break in?" Shaak Ti cursed herself. She should have thought of that sooner. She turned around, looking out across the dark swamp. Moonlight shown a bit through the heavy clouds. She jumped into the waist-high muddy water. "General Ti, what are you doing! There are predators in the swamp at night!" Shaak Ti motioned for silence.
She wadded forward. She came to the working platform that held the fusion cutters and other working tools. She grabbed some of this and began to wade back to Alpha, keeping a wary eye on the platforms and another on the murky swamp water. She heard a splash behind her. She bit down on the fear that rose in her chest. Fear was not of the Jedi. She turned around to face the splash. And, of course, there was nothing there. She reached further into the Force, stretching out to feel a presence of some kind. She found it, coming right at her.
Using the Force, she hurled herself out of the way. A big slimy tentacle whipped out of the water groping for her. She was very close to Alpha now. She went as fast as she dared without making splashing noises. Alpha reached a hand out for her. She took it and he pulled her up. The water swirled where she'd been only a moment before. She sighed in relief and handed the fusion cutters and welding-hammers to him. She turned one of the cutters on and began to open the bantha leather that covered the dugout. It took three full minutes to cut a large enough hole to fit through. She pulled the-still-hot leather back. The dugout was dark, and it seemed as if no one knew they had entered. "I can't see a thing," Alpha's voice came from somewhere behind her. They stepped in and Shaak Ti used the Force to pull the flap she'd cut open back into place, then with one quick swipe of the fusion cutter, it was welded. She moved to a cot and narrowed her eyes to see a silhouette on it.
She reached out and shook the being. His eyes fluttered open and he brought his feet around, kicking Shaak Ti in her side. He tackled her to the ground. Shaak Ti retaliated by sending him flying, with the Force, into his cot. The wind got knocked out of him. He held up a hand. "I surrender," he said with a thick accent.
Shaak Ti stood, trying to catch hr breath. "Surrender to what?" The silhouette stood int the moon light that flooded in through the opening she and Alpha had made. Devaronian. Alpha came to her side instantly. She held a hand up. She stepped forward. "I am Senior Jedi General Shaak Ti. My troops and I were taken captive and brought to this planet. When I blacked out, I forgot that there was a courier I was to escort to Coruscant. I have reason to believe he was captured as well." The Devaronian was silent for a while. "Jedi General, huh?" Shaak Ti nodded. The Devaronian looked around and leaned in close.
Suddenly, pure terror rolled off of him in waves. Shaak Ti felt it in the Force like a hit to the gut. "Yes, I am the courier, you must help me! If the Confederacy get their hands on this information, we will all be destroyed for sure!" Shaak Ti placed a hand lightly on his back.
"Don't worry, my friend. Alpha and I are planing an escape. We may be able to get away. What is your name?"
The Devaronian looked at her and said, "Tik'Had." Shaak Ti turned to look at the entrance. "We must hurry with our plans, Tik'Had. Artel Darc will be questioning us tomorrow. If he finds out I am a Jedi...i don't know what will happen." Tik'Had nodded. "Well, I have been working on a plan, actually." Alpha waved a hand. "Let's hear it."
They planned and plotted for about a full two hours. This was the plan: Shaak Ti and Alpha would need to slip away tonight. When they reached the forest, Shaak Ti would use the Force to destroy the tracking chip, which would make the Confederacy think she's dead. Alpha would keep his chip and wait for the Separatists to come pick him up, then he would tell them Shaak Ti was the courier and that she wanted him to kill her. And he obliged and duped her body in a volcano. They would take him away. Shaak Ti would go to the volcanoes and find a focusing crystal for a lightsaber, build it, come back, and help lead the revolt that would set them free. They would get blasters from the guard droids. She stood, "We need to go, Alpha." He nodded. They said good bye to Tik'Had and they started off to the mountains.

CHAPTER 10

Artel Darc was not happy. Not happy at all. He felt a great disturbance in the Force. He was seated at his desk, concentrating on his datapad. He was getting video feeds from all over the slave encampment. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but he felt something. Something he couldn't put his finger on. He leaned back in his hover chair. He ran his finger along the cool pomel of his lightsaber. What he'd give to have a chance to use it in combat. With a flick of his wrist it was in his hand. He spun it in the air and caught it again. Count Dooku had told him countless times that this weapon wasn't a toy. But, Artel couldn't think of it any other way.
It was a toy of mass destruction, if there was such a thing. He grinned coldly. He would use it against the pathetic Republic and their pitiful Jedi Knights. He wanted nothing more than to encounter a Jedi. He knew of their strength, oh yes, but those Jedi weren't trained by Count Dooku. Artel stood silently, clicking his lightsaber onto his belt.
He strode to a window. The night was crisp and hot. By Artel's standards anyway. The unfinished Techno Union starships cast eerie shadows over the dimly lighted swamps. The muddy forests stretched for miles and miles, then the large mountains and inactive volcanoes. He flicked his head to the left to get blond hair out of his eyes.
He turned and walked to the corridor. He went to the turbolift and rode it down to the lowest level. A guard droid saluted as he walked by. He shuffled out into the night. He looked up at the dark half-moon, wondering if he'd ever get his chance to fight a Jedi. He smiled.

CHAPTER 11

Shaak Ti and Alpha pushed through the bushes. The entire forest floor was knee-high swamp water. "We should have brought something to defend ourselves with," Alpha muttered. Shaak Ti glared at him. "Shh." They continued on for an hour before coming to a stop. "How much further before the chips in us alert them that we're gone?" Shaak Ti shrugged, "I'm not sure. But, I should destroy it now." Alpha nodded. "Go ahead, General."
"I should be able to locate it...," said Shaak Ti thoughtfully. Alpha only fixed her with a determined stare. Shaak Ti sighed and reached deep into the Force. She felt it flow into her veins. She felt around for the one little electronic microchip in her being. She did not sense it. She delved deeper into the Force. All of her senses became alert, she became every nerve within her. And, she sensed the chip. She smiled. Now, how to destroy it? She made a bubble encase the thing. Then, she began to close it. The chip short circuited. She grinned triumphantly at Alpha.
"I did it." Alpha didn't look so gleeful. "Yes," he said, "now you must go." Shaak Ti smiled sadly. "Yes, they may kill you, Alpha." Alpha shrugged, "I don't fear death, General. Just get back as soon as you can." In the dark night, Shaak Ti could only make out the silhouette of Alpha. She put one orange hand on his shoulder. Then, she trekked on. Alpha watched her go, then he took a seat on a stump, waiting for the Confederacy to find him. Shaak Ti gave one last glance before vanishing into the brush. She walked for five straight hours. On Coruscant, it would be sunrise already. But here, dawn had barely broken the sky. Alpha would have to tell the others that she was dead. If he survived. She shook her head to clear it. No, Alpha was strong. He was an ARC. Whatever tortures they put him through, she knew he'd pull through.
Shaak Ti noticed something swimming in the swamp water. She gasped. That was the biggest lizard she'd ever seen. It was probably ten feet long, green, with black eyes. She turned away, repulsed. She Force-launched herself into a tree and began jumping from branch to branch. Ones or twice, she noticed vines hanging down from the branches. Ones or twice she also noticed most of them were some kind of snake.
Everything was a dark green, except for the brown swamp water. The sun was just creeping over the trees when Shaak Ti stopped. She was parched. There was nothing to drink except for the repulsive water covering her legs. She may be able to use the Force to purify it. She scooped some up. She used the Force to purge the different mud and germs and small animals inside the water. She put it to her lips.
Delicious.
She scooped more up, repeated the process and drank more. She sat on a rock for a moment, catching her breath. Then she stood and continued on.

CHAPTER 12

"What?" Artel shouted. "How did this happen?" He had just received word that two prisoners had escaped. The droid looked up at him, its face expressionless, "we don't know, Commander. We lost one of the signals." Artel felt rage boil inside of him. "Lock onto that remaining signal! Prepare my ship!" He sped down the corridor and to the docking bay. He ran up the boarding ramp and took the passenger's seat.
The droid almost looked surprised. "Commander!" Artel waved him off and handed him his datapad. "Get to that target immediately. Stop at the working area first." His shuttle lifted off. They sailed out of the bay and flew a kilometer to the work area. They ship landed on the platform. He stood on the boarding ramp and called two Morgukai slave masters over. "Two of your slaves have escaped," he hissed. The two aliens looked shocked and turned around to do a head count. He grabbed their shoulders and whipped them around.
"Come with me. We have one of the two on our scanners. We're on our way to retrieve the slave now." He and the two Morgukai stormed up the ramp. The shuttle lifted off and skimmed the trees for a good twenty minutes. "There," he said, pointing at the ground, "land." The shuttle came to a rest on a large flat rock. The boarding ramp extended. He and the two slave masters ran outside. They turned on their electrostaffs made of cortosis that could stand up to a lightsaber, the native weapon to Morgukai.
Artel rounded a tree and saw a clone trooper sitting on a rock. As soon as the clone saw them, he jumped off the rock and began to run. One of the Morgukai took its stun-whip from its belt and sent it after the clone. It wrapped around the clone's ankle ad the Morgukai dragged him back. "Kriffing aliens!" Artel leaned down to the trooper. "Tell me, bold one. How did you escape?" The clone spit in his face. "You've got another thing coming to you if you think I'd tell you that." Artel back slapped the clone. Artel leaned closer and said, "where is the other slave?" The clone looked as if he was remembering. "The Togruta? She asked me to kill 'er. Said she couldn't let the Confederacy get what she was withholding. So, I threw her in a volcano. Pretty annoying too." Artel could sense that the clone was lying, but he kept his mouth closed. This may be useful. Artel nearly twisted the clone's neck. "No!" Artel shouted. He used the Force to pull the trooper up off the ground so he was looking down on Artel. "You realize, trooper, that you will have to pay," he said, feigning anger. The clone shrugged and said, "hell must be better than this place." Artel gave him a smile that could cut through rock.
"No, clone, I'm not going to kill you. That would be all to relieving for you. No, you will be punished the old fashioned way." Artel took his lightsaber hilt and slugged the troop on the side of the head with a loud crack. The troop went limp, unconscious. "Scum," Artel muttered. The two Morgukai dragged the clone through the mud and back up into the shuttle. "Get back to the work area," Artel said. The shuttle lifted off.

CHAPTER 13

Shaak Ti was very tired by now, drawing heavily on the Force to keep her going. And she was probably a little more than half way there. She grasped a sharp branch she'd picked up after an encounter with a tentacled monstrosity. She was back on the muddy forest floor, but now it only came up to her shins. I must get closer, she thought.
She ducked out of the way of a passing reptilian-bird. She picked up her pace. It was mid-afternoon when she made visual contact with mountains. About a kilometer to go, maybe more. She used the Force to boost her stamina and she took off.
She ran past the trees and past various colored frogs. She leaped over a fallen tree. She did a somersault in mid air and landed in a crouch. She continued to run, stopping only for a water breaks, which, she kept to a minimum due to shortage of time.
Shaak Ti was aware that there wasn't really a time limit, but she didn't know if Artel would buy that she was the courier.
So, she needed to do this quickly. The water was at her ankles when she reached the base of one of the mountains. She looked up, the peak was in the clouds. Shaak Ti muttered curses that would have made the Jedi Council gasp. She began her long hike up the side of the mountain. She nearly fell on two occasions at about a thousand feet up. It was near impossible to find footing on the slick rock. But, with help from the Force, she managed to get to the top within a respectable time. Night had fallen, and it was cool up on the top of the volcano.
She looked into the fiery maw and gasped as the heat wave slammed into her. She backed up. There must be another way into the volcano. She began to scale the side of the mountain, looking for caves that may lead to the center. After about five hours of search, she founf none on her side. She'd have to go all the way around to the other side. After ten hours of brutal exertion, she final found a promising cave. When she got within ten feet she was hit with a heat wave that left her gulping for air. She backed up. She'd have to find a...there!
There was a smaller cave that seemed tall enough for her to stand upright. This time, the heat wave was not so strong. Perhaps because this cave was further away from the actual magma? She did not know. The closer she got to the innards of the volcano, the hotter it got. Pretty soon her eyes were watering and her throat was torn up from the smoke and the unrelenting heat following it. She coughed. Which resulted in her tasting blood in her mouth. She used the Force to clean the air for a moment. She sucked in big breaths gratefully.
She continued on her hands and knees for the tunnel began smaller and smaller. Finally, it opened up wide into a huge cavern that had a river of lava running through the middle. It was like breathing fire. Each breath she took hurt. She walked a few yards into the cavern and came to a small rise. She climbed it, expecting a rock wall at the top-only to discover a ledge that overlooked a canyon with millions gallons of magma flowing through it. She nearly fell over, but righted herself in time. Her jaw dropped in awe.
She closed it when heat poured into her throat. The scene before her was very near to being beautiful. Now then, back to business. Where could she find a focusing crystal for a temporary lightsaber? She looked to her left. Nothing. To her right, also nothing.
Wonderful.
She sighed. She thought that she'd just come in here and find a crystal right away. Evidently not. Her Togruta ancestors were predators. And predators had to have sharp eyesight, a keen sense of hearing, a very acute sense of smell, and a lean, strong, body. Shaak Ti and all other Togrutas had inherited these traits, and she would use them to the best of her ability here. She narrowed her eyes to peer to the other side of the large canyon. It seemed as if another cave occupied the small area. She took in a breath and sprinted to the edge and just...jumped.
She released herself to the Force and let it carry her across to the other side of the large canyon. She reached the other side and landed lightly on the ground. She looked around. She walked into a small arch. A gleaming caught her eye. She turned to her right. Attached to the top of the arch, a group of white crystals were all clustered together. Shaak Ti nearly squealed with delight. The crystals were just out of reach. Not a problem.
She jumped into the air and smashed them with her elbow. Only after her arm started bleeding and no crystals fell, did she realize that wasn't a good idea. She picked up a rock and hurled it at the cluster of crystals. This time, some of them broke into pieces. She sighed. This time she Force-hurled the rock into the cluster. They fell into dozens of pieces. She picked up seven pieces of about the right size she needed. She put them into a small pouch. She went back to the cliff edge and leaped over to the other side.
She walked out of the cave and fell to her knees, gasping for the fresh, humid, air. Through the ultrasound cavities in the hollow part of her montrals, she made her way through the darkness. She picked up an ultrasonic sound and made her way toward it. It sounded like an animal sending out ultrasonic frequencies. She made her way awkwardly across the sloping, ashy, terrain. She rounded a big boulder and came to a dead stop. On a small rocky overhang there was a big nest thirty feet in diameter. In the nest a huge reptilian insect was buzzing its wings. The creature was fairly large, probably ten feet high and fifteen feet long. It had six legs all with leathery skin coating it. It had huge four wings with a twenty foot wingspan. It looked nearly like a wasp, with the head, thorax, and abdomen, and a stinger at the end.
A raptor-wasp.
Shaak Ti raised her eyebrows in surprise. She'd thought they were only native to Corellia. In the nest there were three babies, all looking exactly link the parent, only with pinkish skin color, not green. The raptor-wasp took notice of her instantly. It rose up into the air. Shaak Ti retreated only a few steps. She had an uncanny connection to animals, especially fierce ones. Just as it was about to strike Shaak Ti, she stretched out through the Force and gently touched the raptor-wasp's mind. It stopped in mid-air, its stinger only a meter from her face. “It's okay,” she said soothingly, saying it out loud and through the Force. “I won't hurt you, or your babies. All I ask for is a favor.” The raptor-wasp seemed to comprehend what she wanted through the Force. Shaak Ti grinned and touched its leathery leg.








CHAPTER 14

The clone screamed in agony. “This is for running away,” Artel said, grinning. He unleashed more Force lightning upon the clone. More screaming. They were in the interrogation room in the command center on the other side of the work area, and the clone was making this far more harder on himself than necessary. Artel sighed. “If you just surrender to the pain, it won't hurt so much.” The clone screamed curses at him.
Artel only increased the lightning. The clone fell silent, spasming on the floor. Now that he was unconscious, Artel could pry the clone's mind. He exerted himself through the Force and plunged deep into the clone's memory. A strange thing, the clone mind. They simply obeyed orders without fault. The memories seemed to be filed away like a file cabinet.
Artel groped through each one. The clone spasmed once or twice. Artel simply kicked him in the side. The clone grunted and fell silent once more. Artel continued his search. Ah, here was something interesting. Very interesting. Artel gasped in shock. Not only did he discover the plan the clones were making, but he also discovered that the Togruta was a Jedi General? A Jedi General? Shaak Ti. He should know this name. He shook his head and moved on. How could he have been such a fool, not having sensed it before? She was still alive, searching for a...a what?
He was pushed from the clones mind when the clone began to stir. Artel lashed out with his foot at the head of the clone, but he dodged the attack and whipped his leg around. Artel sent him flying into a wall with the Force. He couldn't tell the clone he had found out the information he'd learned. When Shaak Ti got back, the clone would tell her what Artel knew. No, for now, Artel would feign ignorance. An idea began to form in his mind. A very evil idea indeed. His master would be proud. Artel walked over to the clone, who was gasping for breath on the ground.
“You are free to go, clone. Tomorrow, you will receive no food or drink.” The clone simply wiped his bloody mouth and stood...only to fall to his knees again. Artel rolled his eyes, grabbed his arm and pulled him up. He pushed him to the exit where two Morgukai were waiting to take the slave back to the dugouts. He released the clone into the custody of the two aliens. He turned his back on them and closed the door. He sat at the table, pondering what he should do next. So. A Jedi General was here, planning an escape with her troops?
Artel chuckled to himself. Let her try. He grabbed his comlink from his belt and opened up a channel. “Slave Master Zinder. I need you to make a special delivery for me...”

Alpha was shoved into his dugout at dawn. “Make sure you stay in there,” one of the Morgukai snarled. “If you try to escape again, I'll decapitate you myself! Tell the others to get up, you'll get up in an hour or so.” The other called. They put more guard droids around the dugout.
Alpha made his way over to his bunk. “Commander Alpha!” Lon gasped, “I thought you and General Ti were killed!” Before Alpha could answer, a groan came from the other bunk. “Wha...clone? I haven't seen you around here for a couple days now!” Nearohut coughed haggardly and rubbed his eyes. Alpha shrugged, but was only rewarded with pain. He gently massaged his shoulder and answered Nearohut, “the Togruta and I tried to escape.” Nearohut suck in a breath. “And? What happened?”
Alpha shook his head and said, “they tracked us with those darn chips. It turns out, the Togruta was a Republic courier. She asked me to kill her. I did.” Lon looked confused and Alpha remembered that he had no idea of their plan. Alpha shot him an I'll-tell-you-later look. Nearohut looked equally confused. “A Republic courier? Out here? Are you sure?” Alpha nodded, “I threw 'er in a volcano...I think.” The Rybet raised his brow. “You think?” he asked.
Alpha nodded. “It's all a little hazy,” he lied. The Rybet nodded and said, “well, you better get some rest, I bet they gave you a capitol punishment or something.” With that the Rybet turned over on his side and was soon snoring. “Strange species,” said Lon.
“Now, what happened with you and General Ti?” Alpha told him of everything, from the plan to the last conversation he had with the General. Lon was simply quiet at the end. “It may work,” he said. Alpha looked outside the dugout, careful to keep his voice low, “we're planning on it. As soon as the General gets back. You need to spread the word to the other clones too.” Lon nodded and said, “I can do that, they were going to amass us in a big group today tell tell us of how to build some new shipment they're getting in.” Lon gaze carried over to the Rybet. “Get some sleep now.” Alpha nodded and slowly lay down in his bunk. “Oh,” he said, “you two need to get up, you're wanted.” Lon nodded and went to wake Nearohut. Alpha closed his eyes. Sleep was upon him in a moment.

CHAPTER 15

A thousand feet in the air, Shaak Ti and the raptor-wasp, whom she had named Shaak Ti's alias, Shyla, were skimming on the clouds. She patted the beast's thick neck. “Thank you,” she said, both physically and mentally. Shyla only flapped its wings faster and flashed through the clouds. It would take nearly half a day to get back to the camp, but only because she wanted it to.
She still needed to work on the hilt of her new lightsaber. She reached into her pouch and pulled out the stolen fusion cutter and welding hammer. She would work with these components to make her temporary lightsaber. Even though it would be temporary, it would still need to be a good one to fight that monster, Artel Darc. She could work on the lightsaber on the Shyla's back, just can't drop anything off the side, she thought.
With the Force, she brought the pieces into the air, and began the task that demanded her full attention. At dawn, she was barely half way through. It was said that skilled Jedi Masters could build a lightsaber in under two days. She didn't have two days. Artel may still look for the courier, if he suspects any deception in Alpha...which he most likely will, or has, Shaak Ti thought. She stretched out with the Force, searching for any enemy starfighters doing a routine sweep of the area. None so far. She glanced at the forest far below, the trees glistening with dew in the early morning light. She applied the power source for her lightsaber.
Now the crystals...she twisted the emitter placing on. She tinkered with a for another three hours, and finally, when she seemed sure it would work, she prepared to turn it on. There was a very high chance that the lightsaber would explode when she turned it on. She warned the Shyla of this. The raptor-wasp simply urged her to go on. Shaak Ti nodded and reached out with the Force trying to sense if any danger would come from the lightsaber. She didn't sense anything at the moment. She took a deep breath.
She'd only get one shot at this. She thumbed the ignition blade. The familiar snap-hiss of an igniting lightsaber filled the air. Shaak Ti grinned triumphantly. The blade hummed when she moved it. She swung it in a large arc over her head. She laughed with glee. She stared at the silver-blue blade, marveling at it. It felt so good to be holding a lightsaber again. After so many days in captivity, she thought she'd never touch one again. She loved the smell of the ozone it gave off. She laughed again. She stood on Shyla's back. The raptor-wasp's surprise radiated through the Force. She began to practice lightsaber drills, falling deep into the fourth form of Jar'Kai.
She kept her balance with the Force, leaping into the air, slashing away at invisible enemies. A couple hours later, it was nearly noon, and she was hungry. She hadn't had anything to eat since the day of her great escape. She urged Shyla through the Force to go down to the forest for a moment. The beast complied and banked to the left, then flew down to skim on the tree tops. She stretched out and felt for any presences that would be edible.
She wasn't looking forward to eating a snake, but would if she must. Shyla seemed to have an ideal location herself because she zipped away even faster. She perched herself in a huge tree. Shaak Ti climbed down. “Where?” she asked. Shyla gave her a mental shove forward. Shaak Ti turned her gaze on a tree that had some sort of yellow ooze coming from it. It smelled very, very good. She sloshed through the swamp water up to the tree and ran her hand in the ooze and put it up to her lips. It was very good, it tasted like a sweet candy, making her tongue tingle, yet she could feel strength returning to her weak, tired body. She gathered up more and downed it down.
She got more and more until she was stuffed with the stuff. She felt slight amusement coming off of Shyla. She waded back to Shyla and lightly leaped onto her back. Shyla took flight and they were soon back in the sky. She felt a danger sense in the Force after ten minutes of flight. It must be the routine starfighter scouts, she thought to Shyla.
Shyla raised herself into the clouds. Shaak Ti looked down and saw two vulture droid starfighters fly by. She gripped the pomel of her new lightsaber. She wasn't looking forward to a fight with two starfighters, not when the only thing she had was an over grown bug and her lightsaber. Shyla sent a wave of resentment at her for being call an 'over grown bug.' She sent her apology through the Force and turned her attention back to the starfighters.
They were coming around now. Shyla stayed in the clouds, barely moving. The starfighters were right under them one of them suddenly lifted into the clouds. Shaak Ti yelped in surprise as the starfighter crashed into Shyla. The droid fighter seemed equally surprised at its new discovery. “Shyla! Pull back into another cloud before they...” Too late. The droid fighters had locked onto Shyla. Shaak Ti stood on her back, keeping herself anchored with the Force.
She ignited her lightsaber and batted three laser bolts away. Facing a Jedi on the back of a giant raptor-wasp wielding a lightsaber a thousand feet in the air, was probably the last thing the two droids expected. She would have to finish this quickly before the droids sent out a distress signal. She used the Force to smash the two droids in to each other. The two fighters fell to the ground below, tumbling and exploding in the air. Shaak Ti patted Shyla's neck. “It's okay, they're gone now.” Shyla dipped lower to the ground, scanning the sky, then she pulled back up into the clouds. Shaak Ti mused, “they're going to notice if two droids don't come back to them. We need to get back to camp. Quickly.” Shyla went full speed. Shaak Ti was hanging on for dear life. After a long while, Shaak Ti could make out the unbuilt Techno Union starships in the distance. She touched Shyla through the Force, telling her to land. Shyla complied and dipped down and landed in the forest half a kilometer away from the swamp site. Shaak Ti patted Shyla's head. “Thank you, my friend. Go back to your little ones. They will live another day once I'm done here. The Republic is in your debt.” The raptor-wasp could only make out her gratitude. She rested her large head on Shaak Ti's, then it blasted into the air with a large gust of wind. She turned and sat on a tree stump to wait for night fall. Then, their plan would be put in motion.



CHAPTER 16

“Very good Slave Master Zinder,” Artel praised. Zinder bowed low, saying, “I live only to serve, Commander Darc.” Artel waved a hand in dismissal. “Leave.” Zinder stood up and quickly sauntered out of the large docking bay. Artel turned his attention to the crowd in front of him. Over a thousand Rybet women and children. Some of them were whispering to each other in Rybese. Artel was standing on a repulsorlift platform, his feet three feet apart, hands clasped behind his back. The woman and children cowered when he passed his gaze over them. He chuckled to himself. Pathetic creatures.
He used the Force to project his voice to the far reaches of the bay, “welcome, Rybets. I hope you enjoy your stay here at the command center. We have a special task for you all.” Some of the females looked at each other, terror rolling off them in waves. He smiled menacingly. “You have very good reason to be afraid,” he said. “I'm sure your wondering what your very simple task is?” Some of the braver females looked him in the eye and one of them called, “what is it, you monster?” He looked at the female in the eye and said simply, “to die.”
Suddenly the female was flying through the air and slammed into the wall with a sickening thud. Some of the children screamed and the females cried out in shock. “Now,” he said slowly, “you will all cooperate without any trouble. For if you do attempt to revolt, I will personally kill every single one of the children.” One mother held her infant closer, tears rolling down from her purple eyes. Artel merely smiled again and used their terror to feed the dark side within him.
He motioned toward one big door where three Morgukai were waiting to take the prisoners to their designated location. Artel jumped down from his platform and brought up the rear. One of the Morgukai came back to join him. “Commander Darc,” the alien said, “we have everything set up as you wished.” Artel nodded. “Good,” Artel raised his hand as if another thought just occurred to him. “Ah, and can you clean up the mess I left behind?” He gestured to the dead Rybet female's body on the floor. The Morgukai motioned with his hand at two droids and turned to give them orders. Artel quickened his pace to catch up with the prisoners, his hands once again clasped behind his back, lightsaber bouncing against his hip. He smoothed out his wrinkled black tunic. He hadn't slept at all the past night. He'd been too busy planning his delicious plan for Jedi Master Ti. He chuckled, startling one of the females in front of him. She turned to look behind her at the noise, saw Artel, and fainted from pure terror. One of the females turned in surprise to see her fallen fellow prisoner. The female bent down to help the woman. She glared up at Artel. He grinned down at her. “Come now,” he said, “I am I really that frightening?” The female lashed out with her hand, apparently attempting to slap him. She never came close. He sidestepped to the right, grabbed the female's arm, and yanked her up. The female Rybets were considerably taller than most humans, standing at nearly six feet high, and much higher than the males, who were only 1.5 meters tall. This was not so for Artel Darc. He was over six feet tall. The woman instantly tried to pull back. He only grabbed her other hand to prevent more resistance, and pulled her close. “Too late for that, ugly.” Her eyes widened as she felt a deep pressure in her head. Artel pushed harder with the Force. Green blood came out of her nose and ears. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her knees buckled. Artel let her go and told the Morgukai to clean up. He grabbed the fainted woman's arm and dragged her to the Morgukai. “See to it she wakes up in the next minute. If she doesn't, kill her.” With that Artel executed a perfect military turn\ on his heal, and walked out of the exit, following the prisoners.



CHAPTER 17

Night was almost here. The three moons were coming out, the two suns setting in the distance, though, she could barely see either due to the tall trees blocking her view. It was time to move. Shaak Ti had spent the rest of the day meditating, regaining her strength and perspective, and putting some final touches on her lightsaber. She stood, stretching her cramped joints. She grabbed her lightsaber from her belt, leaving it unlit. She sloshed through the swamp water. She was feeling strong and confident. She stretched out with her feelings, searching for any hostile life forms. No immediate danger at the moment. She continued on. She'd have to execute this perfectly. She'd first try and find Alpha and Lon. Once she alerted them to her presence they'd begin their attack. Surely Alpha had spread word of the plan by now? Perhaps Shaak Ti could recruit the Rybets as well. There was the Morgukai as well, and they were known for being Jedi haters and killers. She'd have to take them out first. So: forty clones, and one Jedi. Could this be enough to take the entire planet? No, of course not. They could only win this fight with the help of the native Rybet people. She looked up a the ever-darkening sky. Her danger sense pricked. She jumped aside as something sloshed down in the water where she had just been. She ignited her lightsaber. “I can't tell you how dreadfully sick I am of you creatures,” she hissed. A tentacle shot through the water toward her leg. She brought her blade down. The smell of burnt...whatever the creature's skin was made of filled the air. She brought her right shoulder back, forearm aligned with her upper arm, palm out with fingers spread. She let the Force flood her, then she pushed outward with all strength she could muster. The tentacled beast blasted out of the water, limps flailing. It slammed into a tree and it fell over. Dead. Shaak Ti deactivated her lightsaber. Let that be a lesson to whatever bantha fodder crossed her path. The fight had left her disoriented; she needed to find the camp again. She Force launched herself into a tree and jumped from branch to branch to the crown. She looked out in front of her. Black. She turned did a 180 and narrowed her eyes. The floodlights from the slave camp brightened the northern horizon a bit. She leaped lightly to the muddy ground and started north. It was pitch black now, but she could almost literally see with her ultrasound and infra cavities in her montrals. She quickly covered most of the half kilometer she had to go. She jumped into another tree to make sure of her surroundings. She could make out the shapes of the floodlights. She crouched down on her haunches and put a hand to her chin. How should she make her approach? Darc had no doubt posted guards since she and Alpha had made their 'get away,' and if she killed them, Darc would feel the disturbance and come out to meet her. No, this would need to be a stealthy approach. She slowly lowered herself into the swamp water so as the guards wouldn't hear her sloshing in the water. She slowly crept to the perimeter and stopped behind a tree. She stretched out through the Force to feel for any beings. Two of them, one to her left and one to her right, fifteen meters ahead of her. She climbed up the tree she was climbing and began leaping from tree to tree, careful to be silent whenever she landed. When she reached the tree where she felt the two presences, she peered down through the branches and saw one Morgukai and one B1 battle droid. She reached out with the Force and brushed the Morgukai's mind. She nudged him to look the other way for a moment, trying to convince him there was something worth inspecting to his right. She used the Force to push the droid into its master. They both went fumbling into the swamp water. The Morgukai came up sputtering curses and yelling at the droid. The droid tried to get up, but only fell down atop the Morgukai due to Shaak Ti. In the confusion, she jumped down into the shadows of the tree, careful to stay out of sight from any other guards who may be watching the ordeal. She used Force-camouflage and ran out thirty meters to the nearest platform, staying in its shadow. The floodlights were blinding, slaves still working on the Techno Union ships, and some kind of new ship she couldn't identify. She took a deep calming breath. It looked as if no one had seen her. But Shaak Ti had learned long ago not to rely on looks. She reached out with the Force, trying to get a hint if anyone was looking in her direction. None other than hostile gazes sweeping the area. The Morgukai and battle droid had righted themselves and were now on watch again. She looked up at the slaves on the starships. There would be no way to tell which of them was Alpha. Assuming he was still alive. She bit down on the thought and scanned the ships closer. She'd have to wait until the slaves were allowed to sleep, then she'd locate Alpha. She ducked deeper into the shadows of the repulsor powered platform as a Morgukai passed by screaming orders at a slave. She waited another hour until it finally seemed like they were finishing up their tasks. The slaves were bound with stun-cuffs and led away to their dugouts. The floodlights switched off and the work area was pulled headlong into darkness. She peered out, her eyes getting used to the black. The guards were still there, scanning the area. She slowly backed up, the hot rush of air from the repulsor ports rushing over her. She came out on the other side of the platform. There were guards there too, if not more. She was surrounded, and if she attempted to make it to the dugouts, Morgukai eyesight was phenomenal, she'd be spotted in an instant. And she wasn't looking forward to a fight with a dozen of the aliens. She looked up at the platform's bottom, also shrouded in darkness. An idea formed in her mind. She reached out with the Force to touch the new starship, now on heavily armored stilts. And with a little tug through the Force, those stilts came crashing down. The bulbous spacecraft, about thirty meters long, plummeted into the water. Cries of shock and outrage resounded through the work area. A ripple through the Force alerted Shaak Ti of three Morgukai deaths. In the confusion, she ran out from under the platforms, onlookers may have just thought she was a concerned Morgukai coming to look into the trouble. She ducked under the dugout's platform. Morgukai and droids sloshed over to see the wreckage, the aliens howling curses. Shaak Ti felt with a ripple of the Force, Artel Darc walk out to inspect the damage.

Artel smiled in spite of himself. He'd been called in his quarters by the tower security droid. It said there were some complications wit the new troop transport shipment they'd gotten. Artel had already been awake, plotting his plan. He knew this was not from a malfunctioning mag-clamp. He'd felt the pulses through the Force. Shaak Ti was back. His rival, his kill, was back. He didn't dare try to search for her through the Force, that would give him away that he was on to her. “What happened here?” he yelled in mock-anger. A Morgukai ran up to him. “Commander Darc, we suspect it was a faulty mag-clamp on the support beams.” Artel shook his head in feigned bewilderment and said, “how in the space did this happen, soldier?” The Morgukai shrugged and shook his head. “I'm sorry, Commander. Those mag-clamps come from the Trade Federation, perhaps they would know?” Artel waved his hand in disapproval. “The Federation would only feign ignorance. They can never say when they've made a mistake. They're a disease.” He turned back to his quarters. “See to it that maintenance gets on it right away. I want construction to be back up and running by the day after tomorrow.” He walked away grinning a wicked smile. “She's baaaack...”

Shaak Ti watched him go, disgust rearing up in her. She turned around and headed for the low stairs she could just make out with eyesight. Through her ultrasound cavities, she could sense where very single person in the clearing was-even when she was facing the opposite direction. She slowly climbed the stairs, being careful to keep low. She dashed to her left before any of the dugout's guard droids could see her, and went behind one of the dugouts. The dugout blocked her view of the confusion in front of her. Hopefully, that meant no one could see Shaak Ti. The dugout she had hid behind was the one she used to share with two clone troopers and one Rybet. She ignited her lightsaber, hoping against hope that the hum of the blade would not be overheard, due to the loud curses and orders. She quickly cut a hole in the back of the dugout, shut down the blade, and jumped inside. The three room occupants were at the dugout entrance, apparently trying to see what was happening outside. She cleared her throat. Alpha, Lon, and Nearohut whirled around. Shaak Ti smiled broadly. “Hello, my friends. Are you ready to kick some humility into the Confederation?”

CHAPTER 18

“I trust you two spread news of our plan?” she asked sitting on her bunk after the initial warm greetings. Lon nodded vigorously. “Yes, General Ti. Everyone knows and are awaiting your signal.” Shaak Ti nodded approvingly. “Good, Lon.” Nearohut looked grim. “The clones told me everything after we were sent to our bunks.” Shaak Ti held his gaze and asked, “do you think your people will stand up and help retake the planet?” Nearohut thumped his chest. “You bet your montrals on it! I managed to get some word of it to some other Rybets. Everyone should know by morning.” Shaak Ti thought a moment. “Good, because without you and your people, Nearohut, we will surely fail.” Nearohut flashed her a sharp-toothed smile. “Anything to get our planet back,” he said. “But, esteemed Jedi, how will you ever defeat Darc?” Alpha and Lon cast a sidelong glance at Shaak Ti, then alpha said to Nearohut, “you've never seen a Jedi in action?” The Rybet shook his head. “Should I have?” Lon grinned. “I'll tell you this: it will be the most fantastic sight you'll ever lay eyes upon in your life,” he said. Nearohut looked at Shaak Ti, a new found respect in his eyes. “I look forward to it then,” he said cautiously. Shaak Ti turned to Alpha and Lon, all business again. “We need to speak with Tik'Had, the courier.” Alpha stood, then half-reached for his side. Lon stood and pushed him back down. “No, Alpha, you stay here, you're too weak. You need rest for the battle tomorrow.” Shaak Ti raised an eyebrow and scowled, looking at Alpha. “So Darc did torture you.” Alpha nodded solemnly. She motioned for Lon to follow her. “I will heal your wounds when I return, Alpha. As Lon said, get some rest.” Then, they started to the back where Shaak Ti had cut out a piece of the bantha leather. Lon stooped out first, followed by Shaak Ti. Shaak Ti pointed to the dugout across the large platform. Lon nodded and they began walking along the edge of the platform, going in a wide semicircle. Shaak Ti reflected distantly that she and Alpha should have done this the first time they went to see Tik'Had. Lon whispered back to her, “General, what is the purpose for going to see the courier, if I may ask?”
“We need to warn him of the coming danger, I want him by me through the whole battle tomorrow,” she replied, “if we lose him...” she trailed off as a guard droid passed by from one of the dugouts. Shaak Ti and Lon ducked behind the dugout and continued on as it passed. They reached Tik-Had's hut in no time. The whole she had made before for an entrance was still there. She simply exerted herself through the Force and the flap fell back. A She and Lon stepped through. Tik'Had looked up from what he was doing and his eyes widened in astonishment as he saw Shaak Ti. “Jedi Ti!” he exclaimed, “I haven't seen you around the whole work area for the past four days! I thought Darc had found you out and killed you!” Shaak Ti put her finger to her lips, desperately urging the Devaronian to be silent. Too late, the other roommates began to stir. “Devaronian...” one of them muttered. It was a clone. As soon as he spotted Shaak Ti, he lit up. “General!” She motioned for silence. The other roommate, a Rybet, sat up. “Hey! Who are you?” the Rybet said, scowling. “Get out of our hut!” Shaak Ti slammed him to the floor with the Force. She placed a knee on his back, placed a hand over his mouth, and whispered into his ear, “I am your savior, Rybet. You may have heard about the revolt happening tomorrow? I am leading it. I am a Jedi. Now, you must be silent so I can plan with the Republic courier you have been living with.” She released his mouth and stood. The Rybet radiated shock. Apparently, he hadn't heard there was a revolt, hearing she was Jedi must have been a shock, and the Republic courier part probably made him shut up. She smiled and turned back to Tik'Had, who's mouth had dropped at her use of the Force. “Now, Tik'Had. This is the plan for tomorrow. At dawn, I will use my lightsaber to cut the guard droids down, once that is done, you come out and stay by me. No exceptions unless I tell you otherwise. From there we will raid the Command Tower. Once I confront Artel Darc, you stay with Lon-” she gestured to Lon- “and Alpha. I will take care of the rest.” Tik'Had nodded. “I will do as you say, Master Jedi,” he said. Shaak Ti directed her attention to the Rybet, who was just now getting up. “You,” she said, “will grab a rifle and fire at anything brown and metallic.” The Rybet scratched his slick, bald head. “Those Morgukai are going to put up a hell of a fight, Jedi.” Shaak Ti smiled slightly. “Leave them,” she said, “to me.”

CHAPTER 19

“They attack at dawn,” Artel said to the dozen Morgukai slave masters before him. “Move the females to the front of the Command Tower.” The Morgukai nodded. Artel pointed to three of the biggest aliens. “You three,” he said, “will be my personal bodyguards. Stay with me at all times. The Jedi will be m ore resourceful than you may think.” The three nodded and stepped forward, two on either side of him, and one behind him. Artel laughed. “This will be a most delicious treat indeed,” he said. He moved to a planning table. The Morgukai gathered around. “Now,” he said, “once the distraction with the females and children have been set into motion, we will attack the battle group from all sides. Zinder, you will lead three dozen battle droids and attack them from the rear. Maklad and Tigher will attack from each side, and there will be nowhere for them to run-except the Command Tower. Where I and my Elite-” he motioned to his bodyguards- “will be awaiting Master Ti.” Zinder raised a hand. “Commander Darc, If I may?” the alien asked. Artel nodded. “Are we going to receive any support from the battle fleet surrounding the planet?” Artel looked t the ceiling, as if he could see it right now. “No, Zinder, the fleet will do us no good but unnecessary bombardment. We will handle this operation ourselves. If things get a bit out of hand, I will call for more troops. But other than this, it will be no more than an exercise, if you will. The battle will be easily won, and the courier will be singled out, the Jedi will die along with all her precious troops and the Rybet species, and the Confederation of Independent Systems will win the war.” It sounded even better when he said it aloud. He called his lightsaber to his hand with the Force and ignited it. “Come,” he said walking down the corridor, “I must teach you new skills in your combat for confronting a Jedi.” One Morgukai harrumphed. “Morgukai does not need any help in dealing with Jedi scum,” he said. Artel rounded on him, slashing outward with his red blade. The Morgukai ducked and rolled on the floor. An instant later, he was holding his cortosis electrostaff, the discharge blade sizzling with electricity. They clashed and separated. Artel jumped into the air appearing as if he'd come down behind the Morgukai, for the Morgukai whirled around, attempting to meet him there. Instead, Artel used the Force to propel himself all the way to the ceiling, pushed off of it, and came down in the same spot he'd launched from. He grabbed the Morgukai in a choke hold and put his blade to its throat. The Morgukai's eyes raised in shock at the swiftness of Artel. He smiled and shut down his blade, releasing the Morgukai in the same process. “Tell, Morgukai,” he said. “When was the last time any of you fought a Jedi?” They were silent a moment. Artel turned and walked down the corridor. “Exactly. You've been trained to fight the Jedi of old. The Jedi have honed their skills, adapted, and evolved. You must do the same. Tonight, you will. Now come!” The swiftly followed him down the corridor.

CHAPTER 20

Dawn approached quickly. Shaak Ti's eyes fluttered open.
It was time.
Lone and Alpha were already awake, practically bouncing like excited children. Nearohut looked equally jittery. She stood and unhooked her lightsaber in one fluid motion. She turned to the others. “Are you all ready?” she asked. They all nodded. Shaak Ti stretched out with the Force to the other huts. Nearly all of them had the same sense of anxiety in them. Three dozen guard droids were on the platform. Not nearly enough weapons, but they would attain more as they progressed to the Command Tower. She also sensed something else...something darker...she shook the feeling away. “Follow me,” she whispered. She and her three companions walked to the entrance. She stuck her hand with her unlit lightsaber outside and next to a guard droid's head. It turned to see the emitter sizzle to life with silver-blue energy. The droid's head fell off, its comrade turned to see the commotion. Shaak Ti swung the blade to her left and decapitated that droid as well. She ran to the center of the platform. Droids fired stun bolts at her. She simply deflected them back to their sources. Lon and Alpha took up their fallen guard droids' blaster rifles and began firing red laser bolts. Other clones and Rybets poked their heads out of the huts and went for the rifles that had once belonged to guard droids. Shaak Ti, Alpha, and Lon battled their way to Tik'Had's hut. She destroyed the two guards and went inside, Alpha and Lon taking up firing positions outside. The clone trooper and Rybet inside went out to join their comrades, Shaak Ti stepped over to Tik'Had and handed him a blaster rifle she'd picked up. “Stay close to me,” she breathed, then ran back outside. Three clones and four Rybets lay dead in different parts of the platform. She raised her blade over her head and shouted. “My friends, this is for our freedom! Follow the battle plan and do as much damage as you can! For the Republic!” She cried. “For the Republic!” The resounding cry echoed through the whole field. The battalion of nearly two hundred clones and Rybet alike ran down the stairs. Tik'Had stayed behind Shaak Ti, Alpha and Lon on either side of her. “Droids,” one of them stated. Sure enough, a group of fifty or more battle droids were coming out of different places, two Morgukai led the attack. It was almost as if they were waiting there...”the Morgukai are mine, Tik'Had, stay with Alpha,” she said, then launched forward, powered by the Force.”Jeedai!” one of the Morgukai snarled, turning its electrostaff on. Blaster bolts began ringing out from both sides of the battlefield. Shaak Ti Force-hurled herself into the air. The two Morgukai anticipated her attack and spun out of the way of her oncoming blade. Their weapons clashed for a moment, she ducked out of the way of a stray blaster bolt. She flipped backward into the air, sent a Force push out behind her. A cry of astonishment sounded from below her. She landed and saw the two Morgukai sprawled out of the floor. They cursed and stood up, holding their staffs in the defensive position. She raised her blade in front of her. The clone/Rybet army and droid army were rushing at each other now, blaster bolts flying between the two-where Shaak Ti and the Morgukai were. She saw a stray blaster bolt coming and Force-pulled the Morgukai into its path. Its body went limp and slumped to the ground. The remaining Morgukai radiated hate and surprise. He rushed at Shaak Ti. When he was less than a meter from her, she pivoted on one foot and slammed her elbow into the Morgukai's back. He went stumbling. She pulled her blade up and caught him along his spinal cord. The body stumbled and went crashing off the platform into the water. Shaak Ti raised her blade and ran down the durasteel sidewalk. Lon and Alpha came up beside her and they charged into the droid ranks.

Artel had watched the whole ordeal through the highest level on the Command Tower. Of course, all the combatants looked like ants from here, but he could distinctly make out the silver-blade of Shaak Ti. He raised his comlink to his lips. “They're coming,” he said. “They're about five hundred meters away, get the females and children out there now. Tell Tigher to commence with the attack once they defeat the droids they're fighting now.” He signed off and turned to his bodyguards. “Shall we?” They nodded and walked out of the room.

Shaak Ti cut down the final droid. The clone/Rybet army surged forward, keeping wary eyes on their surroundings, and picking up more weapons on the way. An earsplitting explosion sounded from behind her and she felt the shock of a dozen deaths through the Force. She whirled around. “Particle cannons!” Alpha yelled, aiming with his rifle. A huge armored cannon on treads was coming up the ten meter wide sidewalk. It fired another shot, killing more of her soldiers. She flashed forward, launching herself over the heads of the her troops. She landed and raised her lightsaber. The cannon controller targeted her. She was too fast for him, spinning out of range and jumping into th air. She landed right behind the open cockpit. She brought her blade up, slicing through the torso of the battle droid. A Rybet wearing a vicious smile ran up to her. They traded places, the Rybet took a seat at the controls. “You know how to work this?” Shaak Ti inquired. The Rybet shrugged. “No, but I think I can figure it out.” Shaak Ti jumped from the cannon and went back to the front. The army surged forward once more, now with a new particle cannon to add to their ranks. They reached a platform that would take them to another sidewalk, which would lead them to the Command Tower. They rushed up the stairs, the particle cannon simply rolled up them as well, breaking the stairs themselves. Waiting for them were a Morgukai and a hundred more battle droids. The Morgukai smiled maliciously and Shaak Ti remembered that this was her slave master. She smiled back and raised her blade. The Morgukai's smile faded and was replaced with a snarl. “You feeling lucky, Jeedai?” he said. Shaak Ti nodded as her troops fired on the droids. “Yes, I am actually. Quite lucky, in fact.” Then, she and the Morgukai were charging each other. She deflected some stray bolts that reached her, then brought her blade down in an arc before her and parried the electrostaff that flashed out at her. She slid her foot to the right and swept the Morgukai's feet out from under him. He went with the fall and rolled backward, coming to his feet laughing at her. She rushed at him whirling her blade in a circle before her. The Morgukai backed up a bit, unsure of how to attack. She stopped her blade and lashed out with the Force and knocked the Morgukai backward. Then, she neatly, almost gracefully, brought her blade down on his torso. He didn't move again. She went to join her troops in battle. She sent many of the droids flying off of the platform, into the murky swamp water, her troops sending blaster bolts after them. She evaded a bolt and unleashed a volley of slashes with her blade. The droids began to fall back. “Charge!” She called. She and her army followed the droids down the walkway. They're leading us right to the Command Tower, she thought warily. The droids parted to the left, running to what looked like a docking bay. She point to Lon. “Take some of our men and finish them off,” she ordered. Lon nodded and picked out two dozen men, then they ran off to finish the droids. Shaak Ti and the rest of her army ran to the Command Tower and rounded it. As she came around the corner, she saw the entrance blocked by a group of a thousand or more battle droids. Her jaw dropped in shock. Her army opened up with blaster fire, cutting down droids-who were barely putting up resistance. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She felt deaths of a hundred innocent souls as the particle cannon opened up with its deadly volley. These were not droids. They looked like droids, but they couldn't be. “Stop!” She cried, falling to her knees, overwhelmed wit the deaths. “Stop firing!”
Alpha looked down at her. “General? What are you doing? What's wrong?” She grasped his arm. “Those aren't droids!” she gasped. Alpha called off the attack. Suddenly, like a holo-image shimmering away, the droids vanished, and in their place were hundreds of dead and spasming Rybet females and children. Gasps of shock and cries of outrage and anguish echoed through the platform. She looked up at the Command Tower. Artel Darc. He did this. It was a Force illusion! He made them think the helpless Rybets were battle droids. The monster, she'd kill him. She looked at the mostly-dead group of Rybet females. Some of the Rybet males ran out to help, but were shot down by snipers. Suddenly, droids and Morgukai alike rose up from the swamp and began firing blaster bolts on her forces. It was a trap. The whole thing had been a trap. She shook her head. She would not let Artel Darc get away with this. Not if she-or the Force-had anything to say about it. Her troops cried out in surprise and returned as much fire as they could, another droid force was coming up fro behind them. She stood and activated
her lightsaber. “Alpha,” she said, looking at the entrance to the Command Tower, “I'm going for Darc, without their commander, they'll fall. Think you can handle things here?” Alpha gave her a reassuring smile. “I'm sure we can, General Ti. Just hurry.” Shaak Ti took off across the platform, batting away blaster bolts and stepping over the dead bodies that littered the ground. She turned away from the gruesome sight. I'm coming for you, Artel Darc. I hope you are ready to die, she thought as much as sent it through the Force.

CHAPTER 21

I'm coming for you, Artel Darc. I hope you are ready to die. Artel received Shaak Ti's warning with only amusement. She never be able to reach him. He had set up many traps for the Togruta, and even if she reached the level, she couldn't make it past his Elite. Artel walked away from the window. His plan had worked perfectly. Shaak Ti and her army had been thrown totally off guard by the killing of the female Rybets and the children. But this was war. The Clone Wars. Sacrifices had to be made. He could feel Shaak Ti battling her way through the series of traps he had planted. He looked to his Elite. “General Ti is coming, be ready,” he commanded. He turned back to the window. The clone/Rybet army was now trapped between Artel's forces, being cut down little by little. Then, he saw about two dozen clones and Rybets run from the docking bay, shooting blaster bolts into the droids and Morgukai. This presented a minor difficulty, though, as some of the droids turned to fight the two dozen and Morgukai went out to meet them, electrostaffs raised. Artel and his Elite were about five levels lower from the one he had originally been, both to see the battle better, and for Artel to have more weapons at his disposal in case he needed it. Shaak Ti was getting closer and closer, riding turbolifts and climbing maintenance stairs. “Hmm,” he said thoughtfully, “she's very hard to kill.” He turned to a analyst droid. “Call up a video feed, all twenty levels,” he said, turning to the large viewing screen before him. Hundreds of feeds came up. But he was looking for one in particular. Finally he saw the Togruta come out of a shaft. “That one,” he pointed, “enlarge it and track to the target.” The droid obeyed. The feed became large, and Artel could make out Ti's facial expressions as she deflected bolts and sent them back to her attackers. She reached the fifteenth floor. She'd made it. He turned to his Elite. “Our guest has arrived. Let's give her a warm welcome.”

Shaak Ti cautiously stepped up to the doorway. She palmed a button and it slid backward. Hatred and anger and mild amusement came from inside the room. She looked to her left and saw Artel Darc standing with hands behind his back and smiling. In front of him, there were three huge Morgukai, all nearly seven feet in hight. “I am so glad you could join us, Master Ti. A pity you couldn't stay longer, but, I do have a battle to win,” Darc said. She spit and ignited her blade. “Stop hiding behind your guards, Darc. Fight me,” she growled. Artel chuckled. “Why, my dear, I can't do that,” he said, then waved a hand at his Morgukai guards. “Kill her. I want to hear her scream.” The guards switched their electrostaffs on and spun them in a wide arc. She raised her blade to the defensive and flashed to the guards. They twisted out of the way and one of them blocked her attack, the other two jabbed at her side. She jumped backward and their weapons clashed again. She Force-hurled one of the guards into the wall. His head smashed in on itself with a sickening crack. The other two paid no heed. They simply kept on jabbing and slashing at her. She deflected every blow thrown at her. She didn't simply let the Force flow through her, she let it envelope her. She wasn't simply a user of the Force. She was one with the Force-she was the Force. She blocked parried, sidestepped and attacked. Attack, block, sidestep, dodge...all this time she kept her eyes locked with Artel Darc. With a final sweep of her blade, she killed each Morgukai. Darc's eyes filled with fear. But that was an understatement to what she felt in the Force. In the Force, he radiated pure terror and shock-his terror so great it felt like a shock wave. Shaak Ti smiled. Artel turned tail and ran. But there was nowhere for him to run. Shaak Ti was in front of the only exit. His red blade sprang to life. Shaak Ti charged him and their blades clashed. He held his hilt in the reverse-saber position. She put her blade in a stabbing position and jabbed at him. He easily parried an whirled at her. She sidestepped and Force-hurled him to the wall. His feet came first and he pushed off of it. Shaak Ti barely had time to raise her blade before he came crashing into her. They both fell to the ground. Their lightsabers clattered away. They locked eyes a moment, then they were back on their feet. Artel unleashed a volley of Force-lightning at her. She caught it and sent it back at him. She jumped aside and called his lightsaber to hand. Shaak Ti did the same and their blades were clashing in another instant. They stood there for a moment, their blades locked in a block, their faces only inches away from each other. “You're weak, Jedi. You've been fighting for a very long time, you need to rest.” Shaak Ti scowled. “You wish, Darc,” she spat. Their blades separated and she did a round-house kick that sent the Dark Jedi flying. She took a moment to regain some of her strength. Artel was on his feet again in th nest moment, lightsaber blazing. He sent a wave of Force-energy at her and she was hurled through the air at the nearest wall. Her ears rang with the impact and she felt her consciousness begin to fade. She pushed it aside and stood. Once her sight returned to normal, she saw the Darc was gone...and the window was shattered. She ran to the window, nearly falling out of it due to loss of balance. Darc was running-literally running-down the side of the Command Tower. Shaak Ti shook her head. “Unbelievable,” she hissed, then promptly threw herself out the window. She reactivated her lightsaber on the way down. She used the Force to propel herself at Darc. He snarled and twisted around, his red blade lancing out at her. She pushed off the side of the building, flipped through the air over him, and slashed backwards. He parried the attack and followed up with three decisive strokes to her midsection. She evaded every one. The ground was coming up quickly, now. Shaak Ti used the Force to let herself lightly float to the ground. Artel, apparently, was not so skilled. He almost smashed into the ground head first, if he hadn't used the Force to right himself and soften the landing. They were on the opposite side of the building now, on the other side of the battle going on in front of it. She arced her lightsaber over her head and brought it down on Artel's. He sent a punch into her gut that took the breath out of her. She deflected slashes at her while gasping for breath. He feigned to the left, appearing as if he'd bring his blade over and try to decapitate her, instead he went right, lashing out for her legs. She jumped and struck his jaw with her heel. Dazed, he stumbled backward, still parrying and deflecting her strikes with the Force. She thrust her blade forward. Artel sidestepped and jumped into the air. He somersaulted over her head, too fast for her to nick him in the back with her blade. As soon as he landed he sprinted forward. Shaak Ti gave chase. He was leading her to the battle. And she couldn't let him get the support of his army, that would be all the more difficult to kill him. She used the force to pull some duracrete out of the side of the Tower. He yelped in surprise as big chunks of the duracrete landed before him. Shaak Ti grabbed her lightsaber with both hands and launched into another series of parries and thrusts. Artel sent a wave of Force-lightning at her. She caught it with her blade, the ozone burning her eyes. Artel back flipped over the pile of rubble. Shaak Ti cursed and followed. When she jumped over the rubble pile, Darc was just...gone. She looked around, sounds of the battle right around the corner. She dashed in that direction. Her forces had managed to do a good job of killing off most of the droid attackers, but they were still outnumbered. Darc was nowhere to be seen. She raised her blade to deflect laser bolts directed at her. She went to help her troops with the battle. She cut down many droids, losing count after fifty. All the while, she had not seen or felt Artel Darc. It was like he vanished into thin air. A huge shock wave of an explosion knocked her on her face. She looked over to her right. Another particle cannon. She ignited her lightsaber and dashed to the edge of the platform. She launched herself into the air. She felt the warning in the Force at the same time Alpha yelled, “General Ti, look out!” She looked to her right, Artel Darc was launching himself from another platform and coming right at her in mid-air. A blue blaster bolt fired between his legs, missing him completely. She barely had time to bring her blade to the defensive. Sparks flew as their blades collided. Artel whipped his leg around and slammed it into the side of her head. She went fumbling and landed in the swamp. Artel followed, laughing triumphantly. She switched her blade off before it could touch the water for fear of it fizzing out. Artel evidently had the same idea for his blade winked out. They she stood as soon as she landed in the swamp. Artel's blade was already swinging at her. She ducked and ignited her lightsaber, swung it upward, and cut deep into Darc's side. He howled in pain and rage. It only fueled his attacks. He slashed downwards at Shaak Ti. She jumped aside and kicked him in his wounded side. H cried out again and Force-hurled her across the swamp. She skidded in the swamp and slammed into a tree. Artel was limping toward her, blood-red lightsaber in hand. He stood over her as she slumped against the tree. Artel smiled, free hand holding his side. “So, Jedi,” he said, his lightsaber at a downward angle, inches from her chest. “Are you still feeling confident? You have lost the battle. Your men will be killed-along with you. Now, are you prepared to join the Force?” Shaak Ti smirked. Her lightsaber flew into her hand and she pushed the emitter onto Artel's chest. “No,” she said simply and ignited the blade. Artel had no time to react, or even move for that matter. His blade was still only inches from her chest. It shimmered away and Artel's eyes glazed over. He fell into the swamp water before her, dead. Shaak Ti stood. “I pity you, Artel Darc. You were so twisted in the ways of the dark side, you didn't even see your own failure and downfall,” she said sadly. Then, she picked his lightsaber up and tossed it deeper into the woods. “Dagu is where your spirit will remain. Forever.” She walked back to the main battle help her troops finish the fight. Alpha greeted her. “The battle goes well, General, we're holding them off pretty well, although they're bringing in more particle cannons,” he said. Shaak Ti looked over at the battle. “It is finished, Alpha. Darc is dead, the droids have no one in command. They will be thrown into their own web of confusion. Hold back the cannons. I have a call to make to the Republic.” Alpha nodded solemnly and ran back to the now dwindling battle. Shaak Ti jogged back to the Command Tower deflecting the few blaster bolts that were directed at her. She went into the entrance and rode the turbolift up to the floor where the battle had begun. The door slid open and she strode to the office. The analyst droid did not see or hear her come in, but the next thing it new was that there was a glowing blade of silver-blue energy simmering in front of its metallic neck. “Hello, droid,” Shaak Ti said pleasantly. “I need you to patch me through with the closest Republic fleet. If you refuse, I'm afraid I will have to destroy every circuit in your body.” The droid shook its head. “I cannot do that ma'am. Its against my programming. Master Darc would be immensely displeased,” it said. Shaak Ti held the blade closer to its neck, searing the paint. “Your master, droid, is dead. He said I am now your new master. Now, patch me through,” she said the last part as if each word were its own sentence. The droid nodded slowly, careful to keep its chin away from the glowing blade of the lightsaber. “Right away, ma'am.” Shaak ti smiled and deactivated her lightsaber. She leaned against the desk, exhaustion finally taking its toll on her. It was over, the weeks of slavery were over. They were free. The Republic was coming. It was time to go home.

EPILOGUE

Three Republic Acclamator-class assault ships dropped out of the sky. Hundreds of droids, Rybets, and clones lie dead on the ground. Though there weren't really hundreds of clones, only about forty, it did seem like hundreds. Shaak Ti pursed her lips. Too many died here today. Alpha, now in full ARC trooper armor again, came up to her side. “General Ti, your transport is waiting,” he said. Shaak Ti nodded. “What became of Nearohut, Alpha?” she asked, fearing the worse. Alpha lowered his head a bit. “Dead, sir. He was killed while trying to take out a cannon. It exploded. He was vaporized instantly.” Shaak Ti felt grief. And she let it come for a moment, the loss of a friend truly was sad. But grief was not of the Jedi. She bit down on it. “May you rest in peace, Nearohut,” she whispered. He was with his family now. She believed that was what he wanted most. She turned and began walking with Alpha to her shuttle. A Rybet female-one of the few who had survived the onslaught-ran up to her, another dozen behind her. “Master Jedi Ti,” the Rybet said. “We of the Rybet people thank you for as long as the sun burns. We are eternally in your debt. Thank you for setting us free of the awful Confederacy.” Shaak Ti laid a hand on the female's shoulder. “Yes, you are free. Retake your planet, Rybet. Some Republic forces will remain here for a while to be sure of no return from the Confederation. You are safe now.” Shaak Ti strode up the boarding ramp to her shuttle, the voices of thousands of Rybet's voices echoing behind her, “Master Ti! Master Ti! All hail Jedi Master Shaak Ti!” The shuttle lifted off and flew out through the atmosphere, Alpha at the controls. Then, the ship jumped into hyperspace, and Shaak Ti left Dagu behind. Forever.

“We award this Medal of Honor, to Jedi Master Shaak Ti,” Supreme Chancellor Palpatine said in the Senate Chambers on Coruscant that following day, “for her esteemed bravery and courage. She has freed the Rybet people and won back the planet of Dagu.” Shaak Ti dipped her head as Palpatine slipped the medal over her montrals and around her neck. He smiled warmly at her. “And also for protecting the Republic courier. If he had fallen into Confederacy hands, the Republic would have fallen. I-the Republic thanks you!” A cheer rose up from the throngs of senators in their hover pods. Tik'Had smiled at Shaak Ti from the other side of Palpatine. “Thank you Supreme Chancellor,” she said,”but I could not have done it without my faithful troops and the Rybet people!” She gestured to the new podium with three newly appointed Rybet ambassadors. They Senate Chambers filled with claps and cries of congratulations. She bowed to Palpatine, who bowed to her. Then she left the podium. The Senate began to brake up. Waiting for Shaak ti inside the Chancellor's office, were Jedi Masters Yoda and Mace Windu. Shaak Ti smiled warmly at them. “Master Yoda! Master Windu! It is so good to see you,” she said. Mace smiled back and Yoda chuckled. “Good to see you as well, it is,” Yoda said. Mace nodded his agreement. Yoda's gaze narrowed on her. “A report, you must fill out,” he said. Shaak Ti nodded and said, “I will write the report and report the Council immediately.” Yoa chuckled again and looked at Mace. “A long time, it has been since a new Council member has joined us, it has.” Mace nodded and said, “Master Yaddle's place has yet to be filled.” Yoda nodded. “Perhaps time it is to appoint a new member,” he said looking directly at Shaak Ti. Shaak Ti's heart soared. “Master?” she asked hesitantly. Mace led Shaak Ti to he door, Yoda in tow. “Come, Master Ti, if we are going to appoint you to the Council, we need to pick out a new chair for you, Yaddle's chair is far to small for you to fit in,” he said, grinning slightly. Shaak Ti smiled in turn and let her hand touch the hilt of her new lgithsaber. She may just keep it, forever a reminder of the events on Dagu. She left the Chancellor's office that day feeling like the happiest woman in the galaxy.










































The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Blake B. (Blakeish)

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Blake B. (Blakeish) - 3/5/2009 10:37 PM ET
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