Clan Story Arc: Strife

This thread will house all fiction updates that are part of the Strife story arc, which takes place after the Resistance arc. You can also find all of these updates on the clan holocron.

Chapters:

  • Breaking Point: Part II (Feb 2019)
  • Breaking Point: Part III (July 2019)
  • Catalyst: Part I (Nov 2019)
“Breaking Point: Part II”

Her Imperial Majesty’s Parlor
Voraskel Palace
Kiast

“You have to understand how this looks.” Slynn Keldra was enjoying this far too
much. The tall, obnoxiously dashing Captain of the Vatali Royal Guard was smirking
beneath his eyepatch.

The Human woman seated across the parlor from him kept her posture non
combative, hands folded in her lap, but met Keldra’s gaze with an unflinching stare. “I
understand that my people fought on your behalf, Captain Keldra, to reign in the guilds
on Daleem,” Alethia answered. “I understand that in recent weeks, my people have
fought and died on the Empress’ behalf. I understand that I myself have been marked
for death by your enemies, whom I have tireless worked to thwart, and been called
‘barbarian whore’ by half your supporters.”

The guardsman opened his mouth as if to reply, but Archenksova kept going, her
gaze shifting to room’s other occupant as she did so. Empress Kaltani Anasaye was still
recovering from a would-be assassin’s poison, but her frailty only served to give an
otherworldly, ethereal cast to her already majestic appearance. There was a notable lack
of tea and sandwiches compared to their previous meeting.

“Furthermore,” the Human continued, “you must understand that I have my own
army and navy at my disposal, and that you could not in your wildest dreams compelled
me to return to the palace by force. If you want Odan-Urr as an ally, majesty, you need
to treat us as one.”

Kaltani seemed to think on this for a moment, then gave a very slight nod. “Then
what are we to make of the forged decree?” she asked softly.

“We have many enemies, majesty, and it does not take much imagination to
speculate that they and the Dominion both benefit from turning us against one another.
Captain Keldra’s forged orders on Daleem, your poisoning, and turning me into a focal
point for Vatali discontent have all worked to that end.”

“You think this was the work of your Sith adversaries?”

Alethia smiled at the question. “Actually, majesty, that is precisely what my trip
outside the system was about.”


The Grand Conclave
Voraskel Palace
Kiast

For the second time since Alethia’s fateful meeting with the Empress, the Grand
Conclave chambers were packed to standing room only. Despite the conspicuous
absence of much within the nobility — many of whom had defected to the Vauzem
Dominion — the influx of minor functionaries and hangers on had more than made up
the difference.

The Empress, in full ceremonial regalia but remaining seated, addressed her
people in a quiet yet steady voice. She occasionally paused to renew her breath, the only
sign of Kaltani’s slow recovery.

One of which she could easily disguise as a planned pause to build upon the
reactions of her subjects.

“People of Kiast, it is my most profound pleasure to look upon this Conclave once
again.” A cheer went up, which Anasaye allowed with a fond smile.

“As many of you know, my absence from this assembly has not been accidental.
Our enemies, under the orders of Beldroth Anasaye, have made a most nefarious
attempt on my life. Those who have aided and abetted this heinous treason will be found and brought to justice,” her clear voice hardened more as she came to the end, a
near sibilant quality to her words in the Sephi’s anger.

“I wish that our fight were limited to those few criminals who have conspired
against us all. But, unfortunately, our enemies are many and our battle just begun. The
supporters of my late brother Vauzem, who murdered our brother Essadan and plunged
our empire into bloody chaos, seek once again to bring all our accomplishments to ruin.
And they are not alone.” A poignant pause as she drew breath.

“Our Jedi allies of Odan-Urr have served as our most steadfast friends and
protectors in this time of crisis, and they have uncovered the depths of our enemies’
treachery. The pretender to this throne has conspired with forces outside the empire to
drive Odan-Urr out of our system, to the detriment of us all.” Here, the Empress hung
her head for a moment and visibly drew a deep breath before raising her eyes. Purpose
was clear in their depths.

“Yesterday, the Jedi apprehended the emissary of this hostile foreign power as
she returned from a meeting with the so-called Dominion. This individual, who died
resisting arrest, serves a nefarious group known as the Collective. These barbarians,
under the guise of an industrial concern named Capital Enterprises, seek to exploit our
bountiful natural resources and enslave our people for their own profit. They seek the
deaths of all Jedi, and of all who would join them in the protection of freedom and
justice throughout the galaxy.”

The eyes of their Imperial leader swept over all that had gathered, drawing their
attention at the familiar, regal motion. “I, Kaltani Anasaye, Empress of the Vatali, do
hereby call upon this most noble Conclave to issue a declaration of war against the
Vauzem Dominion and the Collective.”


High Councillor’s Office
Pharos
Palioxis Cloud Nebula

The office suite on Pharos had been crafted to Archenksova’s exact specifications,
all dark, polished durasteel offset with deep sapphire blue fabrics and the occasional bits
of white or gold trim. The furniture was built to accommodate her exact height and weight, the colors formulated specifically to accentuate her eyes and skin and hair. Since its construction, no one but droids had ever been inside the offices without Alethia
present, seated, as if in a throne, in a position of authority behind her desk. It was, by
design, difficult to imagine the office without her in it, and even more so to imagine
anyone else seated in her place.

Archenksova had quite literally rebuilt the office of the High Councillor around
herself in little more than a year.

As the doors parted and Aurora stepped inside, the High Councillor was there, as
always, smiling and bathed in a pool of sunlight every bit as false and artificial as the
war Alethia had just started between the Vatali Empire and the Collective.

“Ah, Aurora,” the Human began as the doors hissed shut behind her deputy, her
eyes still glued to whatever report was in front of her. “I’ve had Ishanta transferred
to—”

“You lied.”

Alethia didn’t bother to look up from her reading. “I take it you’ve seen the
Empress’ speech. It seems to have made quite an impression on the Conclave.”

“You lied to them! You started a war. Don’t act like this is some game!”

Archenksova shut the datapad in her hand off with the click of a manicured nail
and set the device primly down upon her desk before responding. “What the Vatali do
isn’t my responsibility. As long as they don’t boot us from the system, I don’t care what
the Conclave does.”

“Then why didn’t you tell the Empress about Ishanta?”

“Because I needed our people to hear it was the Collective,” the Human
answered, her tone shifting subtly to the voice she used when she thought she was
teaching Aura some great mystery of statecraft. “It needs to sink in if we want to get
everyone excited for the ceasefire with the Brotherhood.”

“Are you insane?”

“We are fighting three wars, Aurora, and we are losing.” Ice crept into the High
Councillor’s voice, but Aura didn’t back down.

“We just forced Capital Enterprises out of their own headquarters!”

“Yes, and we did it with the help of the entire Iron Legion. That’s the point, Aura.
When we fight alone, all we do is delay the inevitable, try to limit the casualties. When
we fight alongside the Sith, our enemies bleed.”

“You can’t honestly believe they’re really on our side.”

“I can believe that they hate the Collective more than they hate us. I can’t say that
Oligard is that flexible. Believe me, we tried.”

“So then what? The Sith will turn on us the second we break the Collective.”

“Well, what do you want us to do? Sit here in Kiast and take tea until Oligard and
Telaris die of old age?” the High Councillor snapped, finally losing her temper. She let
her thought hang in the air for a moment before continuing. “No. We are going to have
peace on one front, at least for a time. I’ve spent too much of the past three years
watching things go from bad to worse.”

“I wasn’t here for New Tython but I’ve heard plenty of stories. Let me remind you
of a few. Three hundred million natives were wiped out with help from the Dark Council
and its allied clans. Two hundred and seventy thousand colonists were killed, to include
Mon Calamari, Bothans, and Humans. That is what our blind trust got us—”

Alethia abruptly cut off her subordinate, her own ire having grown through the
Zeltron’s retort. “Do you know what I was doing while you were off prancing around the
Meridian with your laser sword? I was in the hospitals, visiting the wounded and
holding people’s hands while they died. I’ve had two planets shot out from under my
feet. Don’t you dare lecture me about war.”

“I can’t let you do this… I can’t let you build our future on nothing but lies.”

“Let me? Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?” Alethia laughed, the mellifluous
warmth of the sound an eerie contrast to the icy sneer on her face.

“The Council will decide your fate.”

“The Council will do what I tell it to,” the High Councillor corrected. “Do you
know why? Because I own SeNet and the OEF. I am what’s kept the men and women
you’ve dragged into your pointless religious wars from murdering you all in your sleep
and running to the Collective. The Council knows what I want it to know, and it decides
what I want it to decide. And, if you have a problem with that, there is always room for
you on the front lines.”

Aura kept her expression as neutral as she could, refusing to look away as she
wrapped her fingers around the metal cylinder in the pocket of her robes. She had
hoped it wouldn’t come to this. The younger woman pulled the device out and held out
her open hand where Alethia could see it. “I think they’re going to be a lot less
cooperative when they hear this,” the Zeltron replied, watching for any change in
Archenksova’s expression.

For a long moment, the two women stood in dead silence, the audio recording
rod glinting in the light between them.

Finally, Alethia broke the silence. “I see your compulsive need for the moral high
ground has its limits.” The Human sighed. “What do you want, Aurora? If you ruin this
deal, we will never have peace. You can’t possibly want war with the Sith that badly.
What kind of world do you want your daughter to grow up in?”

“One where our values aren’t just empty words we throw away as soon as they get
in the way,” Aurora retorted passionately, clearly incensed at the attempted emotional
blackmail by bringing her child into the discussion. It was a trick Alethia herself had
taught the Zeltron to spot.

“We are going to arrange a ceasefire with the Brotherhood. I am not going to let
you derail that process.”

“Fine,” there was a weary resignation to the Zeltron’s tone that had not been
apparent before. “I’m not going to stop you from working for peace. But I’m not going
to let you keep lying to the Council, to everyone. Odan-Urr deserves better than that.”

“You think it’s so easy,” the Human sneered. Whatever warmth had ever been
between them was gone now, so suddenly and violently that Aura wondered if it had
even been present at all. Archenksova, the ISB officer, the woman Vorsa had tried to warn her away from in the beginning, slid the datapad she had been holding across the
desk.

“Fine. We’ll see just how good you really are.”


Jedi Praxeum
Or’ena Mountains
Kiast

A thin mist hung in the air, emphasizing the chill common in this mountainous
region. Despite this, there was a training session in progress in the lush verdant grasses
of the southern courtyard.

A small group of teenagers were in a loose circle around an adult, who seemed to
have finished his demonstration and moved onto the ending lecture. He had adopted a
similar attire — a light tan tunic, tied at the waist over light green trousers and soft hide
boots — to the students, likely to serve as a subtle reminder that he was the same as
them.

“Remember, Initiates, there will always be those who cannot be talked down from
violence. What is the best weapon in our arsenal?” Mercurial eyes flitted from one to
another, finding a student that seemed to be daydreaming. “Savis?”

The student in question gave no visible response beyond a twitch of her lekku at
being singled out. A small blush dusted her cheeks, noting the amount of eyes on her
before she carefully answered. “Our minds, Master. If not through the use of the Force,
then to form a strategy using what we have in our surroundings to evade attacks and
wear them out until the will to fight has left them.”

Although he had attempted to convince others within the academy to use a less
formal means of address, it had been rebuffed. The lack of familiarity was to ensure that
the students remained respectful and would follow orders in the event that they were
given.

Celevon gave the young teal-skinned Twi’lek an approving smile. “Very good,
Savis. Although we may believe otherwise, we are never truly disarmed. Once you have honed your minds and senses, you will pick up on things you otherwise might have
missed. For example, Councillor Ta’var quietly joined us just a minute ago.” There was
a twinkle of amusement in his eyes as all of the Initiates jumped and turned to greet the
Zeltron. “When you’ve finished saying hello, you should get toward your next lessons;
the bell will be ringing momentarily.”

The bell, more reminiscent of a gong, rang across the grounds. The duo waited
for the teenagers to disperse before they could speak openly. It was when they were
clear that the former Commander of JTF Hoth spoke. “What can I do for you, Aurora?
We usually restrict our sparring to the mornings.”

Despite her irritation with the fact that the half-Echani continually refused to use
her nickname, a small smile quirked the lips of the new High Councillor.


YT-2000 Light Freighter Majestic Goddess
Hyperspace

“She blackmailed you?” Turel couldn’t keep himself from chuckling into his
Corellian whiskey.

“You don’t have to sound so impressed,” Alethia sighed. The two Humans were
playing dejarik, as they had so many times before, this time in the small lounge aboard
Turel’s personal vessel.

“I’d be proud if I didn’t want to have her shot,” Alethia continued, idly moving a
piece as she spared a quick glance towards her new permanent bodyguard — Kenneth
Iode — before returning her attention to Turel. “I did what I had to do. You of all
people should understand that.”

Her Jedi companion turned somber, the weight of years suddenly playing across
his face. “Aura probably thinks she did what she had to as well.”

“Perhaps.”

“So what now?”

“I’ll be traveling to Arx for the peace negotiations. That should keep me out of
the picture long enough for her to establish herself. I trust you’ll be kind enough to
show me around?”

The Goddess shuddered slightly, and a brief tone over the intercom system
announced that they had reverted to realspace. The freighter’s autopilot was more than
capable of handling the empty skies above their destination

“Looks like we’re here,” Turel sighed. “Home, sweet home.”

The pair left the dejarik table as it was and headed back to the freighter’s lone
escape pod. One very ragged, very angry Chriss was waiting for them, her hands
completely encased in stun-cuffs, a shock collar around her neck, and a rag in her
mouth. Red eyes turned up to look at them, willing the Odanites to suffer and die.

“Ishanta.” Alethia broke the silence, her voice cordial if not a bit gloating. “It
feels terribly informal to call you that, but I’m afraid ‘Grand Inquisitor’ is no longer
accurate.”

“Morgan stripped you of your rank and declared you a traitor to the
Brotherhood,” Sorenn added.

“Naturally, her instinct was to sentence to death in absentia. However, we’ve
convinced her to reduce that to exile.” Archenskova’s expression took on a mischievous
cast.

Turel smirked as well. “And we knew just the place for you. Remote, low
population, nice beaches…”

“As I recall the street food was excellent.”

“Exotic plant and animal life.”

“I’m particularly partial to the birds.”

The mirth faded from Turel’s face and his voice came out almost a whisper.
“Barely a day goes by when I don’t think of it.”

“My last act as High Councillor was to order your exile to Harakoa.”

“You might know it as New Tython.”

Archenksova’s hand hovered for a moment over the pod’s launch controls as the
Grand Inquisitor screamed through the gag. “Goodbye, Ishanta.”

The pod door slammed shut, and with a shudder and hiss the Majestic Goddess
sent Ishanta onward to her fate. Through the viewport, the blackened remnants of New
Tython looked back them as the pod disappeared into the distance.


Chambers of the Council of Urr
Pharos
Palioxis Cloud Nebula

Aurora Ta’var waited for the clamor of protests from her announcement to die
down. When prompted, she had announced who she had chosen for the position of War
Councillor, which caused several notable members to oppose this decision. Loudly.

“Enough!” Councillor of the Roll, Len Iode, snarled in annoyance. It was suitably
audible to draw the attention of the others within the Council; not to mention the fact
that he rarely spoke up unless specifically called upon. “Will you allow her to state the
reasoning behind her choice or continue squabbling like children?”

There were a few grumbles, but clearly an assent as they grew quiet and turned
their attention to the Zeltron. She smiled and gave Len a nod of thanks before opening
the floor to hear the objections. “Now let’s try this again, one at a time.”

It seemed that a majority of the protests were related to his past in one form or
another. Several voiced concerns over the fact that the male was known to be a thief and
was still active in a network that dealt in assassination contracts. Was he trustworthy or
not? Would he stab them in the back if an opportune moment presented itself?

I’ve known Celevon for over five years now, in both personal and professional
capacities. We served together up until the end of the campaign that brought us to
Korriban. A few weeks after that battle, he traveled to Nar Shaddaa without orders
and saved my life from a battle I was losing with my personal demons. In my guilt, I was slowly killing myself with drugs and drink.
” Turel Sorenn, the former High
Councillor spoke up in the form of a holoprojection. Whilst considered a rogue amongst
the Jedi, his voice was still respected within these chambers. “He stayed by my side in
the months following, helping me work through the chemical dependencies I had
developed while also working through the misplaced guilt. Before he showed up on
Nar Shaddaa, I only knew the face he presented to the galaxy and his reputation. I
have considered him both an ally and a friend since then.

“He also came before members of this Council and willingly underwent Force
interrogation before we allowed him to join our ranks,” Liam Torun-Urr, the oldest Jedi
on the Council, added serenely. “He made no attempt to resist or deceive us. Since he
stepped down as Commander of Hoth, Edraven has taught at the Praxeum twice weekly;
teaching the next generation primitive survival, personal self-defense and philosophy.”

“What of the fact that he was a Dark Jedi? That he was present when nuclear fire
eradicated Menat Ombo?” Another demanded. “And that’s not even going into the fact
that he earned the rank of Grand Inquisitor.”

Aurora squirmed uncomfortably for a second before she quirked an eyebrow.
“Might I remind you that I was a member of the Sith and did far worse things than
Celevon? Yet you voted for me to become High Councillor. While it is true that he was a
Dark Jedi and an enemy combatant, he was just a soldier following orders.”

One of those who had attended Edraven’s interrogation spoke up. “The bombing
of Menat Ombo was the first event that shook his faith in the Dark Council. According
to his records, it took weeks for him to recover.”

He was at the edge of the blast radius,” Councillor Sorenn elaborated for those
who were unaware of the circumstances. “His physical wounds were healed, but the
psychological still remain. Celevon had just began to train in the mental aspects of the
Force; his undisciplined mind felt the screams of the souls that were extinguished, both
innocents and combatants alike. Those still haunt his subconscious to this day.
” His
translucent form shifted in his seat to face the one who had brought up these concerns. “Before the purges began, Celevon was a member of the Inquisitorius. Yet he was one
of the first aiding refugees in escaping them, where he lost his arm and nearly died
from blood loss; I will remind you that those who aided the refugees in escape, myself
included, were the founding members of the Lotus. After that, he remained within the
ranks as a double agent — rising to the rank of Grand Inquisitor in the process — to
save the lives of Odan-Urr, our allies and sympathizers alike.

The High Councillor decided it was time to take hold of the meeting; if allowed, a
debate could go on for hours. There were more pertinent concerns that this gathering
had been called to discuss. “I selected Celevon for the position for several reasons. First
and foremost, his views both contradict and balance my own. You all know me as more
of a traditionalist. Where I would prefer a clear cut enemy, he is willing to take a more
pragmatic view of the galaxy. Moreover, our adversaries are no longer so simple. His
experiences in the underworld and serving as an assassin are beneficial to us in the long
run; he earned goodwill with the Vatali by pointing out various holes in their security
that allowed the Empress to be poisoned. Most of all, he is no stranger to war. If there
are any more objections, I would like to hear them. If not, I suggest that we vote on this
appointment and move on to more important matters, such as the declaration Empress
Anasaye requested of the Conclave and the reports of riots by the Quorahi.”

The most ardent dissenter decided to voice a question most of the Council had
been pondering. “Just where is Edraven? Most present themselves for a vote on their
appointments.”

Ta’var felt keeping a straight face during her response was the best bit of
undercover work she had ever done. “He is currently giving his students a tour of the
station to keep them out of mischief. The original plan was a field trip to teach them
wilderness survival; it is now to help us survive the general chaos of overly curious
teenagers.”

“Breaking Point: Part III”

Clan Odan-Urr prepares for war! Everyone feels the rising tensions, whether they
are a Force User or not. Those members who have previously experienced or sensed the
calm before the storm know what is coming and are preparing accordingly!

After the Collective went quiet following their financial backing being crippled,
Clan Odan-Urr focused on their home system of Kiast. Alethia Archenksova, former
High Councillor (Consul) of COU, was proven to have manipulated the Empress of the
Vatali Empire into declaring war against the Collective. Since this point, Alethia was
replaced as High Councillor by Aurora “Aura” Ta’var with Celevon Edraven Erinos
filling the void left as the Councillor of War (Proconsul).

Tensions arose as the Quorahi got heavily involved with the Vauzem Dominion —
those who left the Vatali Conclave, believing themselves to be the rightful government of
the Kiast system — and members of the Clan decide which they should back. The Vatali
Empire or the Quorahi? As a result of this, Empress Kaltani Anasaye of the Vatali
Empire asked the Conclave to go to war against both the Collective and the Vauzem
Dominion!


Dominion Headquarters
Kiast System
37 ABY; 1938 Hours, Local time

All was calm within the confines of the auditorium that the Vauzem Dominion
had deemed their ‘Conclave’. Numerous small groups had started discussions amongst themselves, despite the fact that it was all a hopeless endeavor. Despite their beliefs that
they were the true ruling body of the Vatali Empire, very little of what was discussed
made headway.

In the wake of the current Empress’ approved request through the Vatali
Conclave, members of the Vauzem Dominion had been declared enemies of the Empire
alongside some group known as ‘The Collective’. Anyone who associated with them was
to be considered a traitor and dealt with as such, the punishment for which was death.
Several of the Noble families who had been with the Dominion had withdrawn their
support, cutting off all communications and any funding that had existed.

A young man (by Sephi standards, at least) was now their leader, the presumed
heir of their former leader. Today, the rest had learned of his plans that would never see
the light of day; to infiltrate the Vatali Empire and gain the trust of Kaltani Anasaye.
However, with the announcement of war against the Dominion, that plan had shattered
into billions of fragments.

They were unaware of the planning that had been put forth between Clan
Odan-Urr and certain members of the Vatali Conclave. The majority of said planning
had been the result of intelligence gathering by the Sentinel Network (SeNet).

All of those weeks of planning came to fruition in a single instance.

A large window shattered. Within a fraction of a heartbeat later, their young
leader collapsed near the podium, unseeing eyes staring into their midst. The precious
seconds of eerie silence was punctuated by the retort of a slugthrower from outside,
followed by an armed guard dropping to the ground, a spray of crimson on the wall
behind him.

“Sniper!” One of the guards called out as they heard a following retort.
Unlike that of blaster technology, where the bolt would lose energy and fizz out if
it went beyond its maximum range, a slugthrower was different. With the necessary
knowledge, a slug could hit its target beyond the range of the weapon itself. The other
difference, where there was relatively little sound from a blaster, the slugthrower would
be heard. The amount of time it took for the sound to reach them following the slug
hitting its target simply told just how far out the shooter was.

“Get away from the windows!” A former member of the Vatali Royal Guard
added frantically as another guard went down, hands impotently trying to halt the flow
of life fluid from a hole in his throat.


SeNet Mobile Command Post
Orbit

This is Reaper from Crow’s Nest. Head di’kut is down, along with two 1 guards,” the unmistakable voice of Celevon Edraven Erinos came across the comms, along with the sound of a new round being chambered into his rifle. The next retort from the slugthrower was thankfully muffled. “Make that three guards down. Send in Ooroo, Vixen.

From her seat at the communications center, Alethia Archenksova rolled her eyes
at the codename the half-Echani had given her. “Roger that, Reaper. Stick to Basic, if
you please. Sending in the S.P.E.A.R. team now.

This signal was easy to send, as it only took the repeated push of a button to the
comms operated by Revak Kur. The former High Councillor returned her attention to
the feed from within Celevon’s helmet, thankful that the thermal spectrum worked so
well. Alethia would have been easily bored otherwise.

Another Mobile Command Post (MCP) was covering a raid that was being
conducted by the new Security Teams with the Peacekeepers, several Vatali Royal
Guardsmen (who were interested by the new initiatives) and members of the Knights of
Urr.

From what the former High Councillor had heard through the grapevine, Tython
Squadron had been given the assignment of taking out any craft belonging to members
of the Vauzem Dominion.

Not that many were given the opportunity to flee.

Still, it showed just how much preparation had gone into the operation itself
when simultaneous targets were being taken out all at once across the system. Admittedly, Alethia had been concerned at first when the Councillor of War stepped
back to allow others to alter the original plans.

Then, it had shifted to being reluctantly impressed. The half-Echani had willingly
acknowledged that he worked better in the field than as a Commander. It was better
when someone would admit this rather than letting others fall prey to their
incompetence.

1 Di’kut: Loosely translates to ‘Idiot’ in Mando’a.


Formal Tea Room
Voraskel Palace, Kiast
24 Hours after Operation Vanguard

The slight scrapes of porcelain cups against their saucers echoed around the
room as two women sipped their tea in quiet, the china inlaid with the crest of the
Anasaye Family. They were in a small, ornate room, all entryways sealed to ensure the
utmost privacy. The golden baubles decorating the room could have been gilded but
their reflections from the glow of the room lights were nonetheless impressive. A
portrait of the departed Emperor Taselm completed a room meant to both intimidate
and impress.

Aurora Ta’var looked at her counterpart and looked for visual cues; the
recovering Vatali leader looked better and better as each day passed. The Sephi merely
stared back and gave her a small smile as she slowly sipped her tea. The High
Councillor of Odan-Urr fidgeted with the handle on her cup, her thumb rubbing against
the emblem on it.

“You look nervous, Councillor. Credit for your thoughts?” asked Kaltani.

Aura lightly set her cup within its saucer and placed her folded hands together on
the table. “Odan-Urr wants to become citizens of Kiast with all the rights that come with
it,” she blurted out. The Jedi took a breath, pulled out a short stack of flimsi from her
bag, and handed it the Empress.

The Sephi arched a brow, her poker face revealing little of the surprise that the
Jedi could feel coming from the Empress. Kaltani eyed Aura as if she were a strange
creature before reading the document. Large letters at the top read ‘Request for
Citizenship’, followed by a long list of supporting arguments, many of which recounted past deeds of service.

“So, you want to become one of us,” the Empress finally remarked.

“Yes. We’ve earned it.”

“Have you?”

“Without our help, this entire system would still be threatened by the Collective
and the Dominion would still be a very real threat to your crown,” Aurora responded as
she had rehearsed.

“Without your presence, the Collective would not have known of our existence,”
the Empress retorted coldly, unimpressed by the lack of refinement. “Still, your efforts
against the Dominion have not gone unnoticed. Even some within my Conclave have
seen that.”

“We want a home and we’ve chosen Kiast,” the Zeltron replied stubbornly.

“You know, there are stories about our Jedi of old. They brought as much trouble
with them as they did peace.”

Aura stayed silent for a moment, choosing her words carefully. “Their value
outweighed their risk and the same is true for us. Besides, we aren’t all Jedi.”

“To say you have a motley crew would be a correct statement given the report I
read on the operation against the Dominion leaders. Can you ensure Odan-Urr will
serve faithfully?”

“We are one team, Empress. We are worth a lot more than any trouble that
follows us. I promise you that.”

“So you say. But you realize you are asking for a lot more than our old Jedi ever
did. Do you realize how this might look to the Conclave if I add your Clan as a full
voting member?” Kaltani asked seriously, pursing her lips.

“I do. But consider this: You use our services for the paltry reward of a system to
sleep in. Your so-called nobles do much less and get much more. We want representation too. Let us formalize what we have always been to Kiast: Family,” Aura
replied as she leaned forward.

The Sephi busied herself with more tea and slowly poured in some creamer,
leaving the Zeltron to stew before she replied.

“The only way this would work is if I made Odan-Urr a noble house. Is Odan-Urr
prepared to handle the burden of that?”

“We already do.”

The Empress openly smirked with amusement. “You think you do. My nobles
may not look like they do much but they’ve been around a lot longer.”

“Give us a chance. We’ll prove our worth.”

Kaltani pursed her lips again in thought, unfurling her hands and slightly smiling
despite her reservations. ‘This just might work,’ she thought to herself.

“Fine. But you have to give Kiast something in return and you need to appoint a
representative for the Conclave. As much as I appreciate your passionate nature,
Odan-Urr needs someone with a bit more grace to handle that audience.”

“I’m not a politician anyways. Let’s talk terms,” Aura replied, hopeful all would
go well.


Vatali Conclave
Kiast
The Following Day

Empress Kaltani took her seat at the head of the Conclave, the heads of her Sephi
nobles followed her curiously as a female Pantoran followed in her wake. The latter took
an empty seat at the end of the long table, pulled out her datapad, and looked up
expectantly. The rest of the Sephi gave her a long stare before turning their attention
back to their monarch.

“I call this Conclave session to order. To start, today we have a new addition to this body. Everyone join me in welcoming Suya Narya, whose presence will be explained shortly.”

One of the nobles looked as if they were going to sling a retort but thought better
of it after a brief stare down with the Empress. The Sephi turned on a holoprojector and
showed the faces of several key Vauzem Dominion leaders, each with a red ‘X’ over their
face.

“Two days ago, I asked Odan-Urr to execute Operation Vanguard in order to wipe
out the leaders of the traitorous Vauzem Dominion. I am pleased to say that their high
level leaders, including their founder, are now eliminated. We have them on the run.
Send out your fleets to help track down and detain any remaining supporters; eliminate
them if necessary.”

The Sephi nobles nodded in agreement, some with a wide smile and others with
anxious expressions. Empress Kaltani looked at each in turn, happy to have made her
less than loyal nobles support her again. She doubted they would have done until she
presented her leverage. Kaltani pressed forward, changing the holoprojector to show a
picture of the Kiast system, it’s blue glow illuminating the faces below it.

“Second order of business is of a troubling nature. We’ve had reports of increased
pirate activity in the Xesh section of our nebula. Scouts report unusually large amounts
of debris in the area, mostly small rocks of similar composition to the asteroid field. Our
scientists believe this could only have been caused by a very large explosion. Debris
suggests a large capital ship’s reactor went critical. The asteroid field is closing back
together as we speak but we have little idea of what got through or who would sacrifice a
ship’s reactor just to break into our system.”

“And? The nebula will take care of them, if anyone actually survived,” interjected
one of her subjects.

“We assumed that before, but the Collective still managed to help raise the
Vauzem Dominion against us. Moreover, scouts report that these pirates came from
outside the system. I’m already getting additional reports of stolen goods from our
trade convoys. It appears the nebula is not killing them.”

Kaltani’s datapad lit up with a new report as she finished speaking. The Empress’
brow furrowed as she quickly scanned it and tossed it back down.

“New report from one of our intel agents, who did not live long after it was sent.
Collective troops were found hiding amongst a convoy of unknown pirates.”

Kaltani played it for the entire Conclave to watch, the entire room going silent as
they saw the familiar facade of an augmented Collective soldier gun down the Sephi spy
with zero emotion. Sadness permeated the room, quickly to be filled by anger. Several
of the nobles glanced toward Odan-Urr’s representative as if to blame Odan-Urr itself.

“Why don’t we just give them the Jedi so they leave us alone?” asked another
Sephi noble.

“Because they won’t leave us alone even if we do. We are one and the same to the
Collective. Instead we are going to strike back so hard they don’t forget who they are
dealing with.”

“Our forces are already occupied with our existing duties,” complained one of the
nobles to a general murmur of agreement around the room.

“Luckily enough, I have found someone who can.” The room looked curiously
back at the Pantoran again before returning their gaze. All was silent. “In return for
Odan-Urr’s excellent service to us in the past and their promise to continue to do so in
the future, I have granted their request for full citizenship and a seat on the Conclave;
Ms. Narya is their representative. They will take on the missions we cannot and will
help carry the burdens placed upon the members of this Conclave, some of those
burdens brought to us by their presence in the system.”

Several Sephi nobles started to breathe heavily and there were more than a few
clenched fists throughout the hall.

“Unless you’d rather me use up your own resources?” she asked pointedly.

Tensions remained but none spoke. Kaltani changed the projector one last time,
this time to open a comms line to the Consul of Odan-Urr.

“Ms. Ta’var, does Odan-Urr hereby swear to do everything in its power to protect
the Kiast system from threats foreign and domestic to ensure peace and prosperity?”

“We do as long as we draw breath. This is our home now, something we’ve
always wanted,” replied Aura.

“And what do we get in return when something happens inside our borders? All
you do is bring trouble to our system,” asked a disgruntled older Sephi.

The Empress gave the Consul Ta’var a knowing look, but the Zeltron was ready.
“We help those who need it in whatever form we can. Kiast will not just be a safe
place for Jedi, but for everyone. This extends to beyond the borders of Kiast as well.
The galaxy has a lot of problems that need to be fixed. Speaking of which, I’m happy to
announce that our Venator-class Star Destroyer ‘Sunrider’ is finally ready for
deployment.”

“Those ships were used during the Clone Wars, Empress. Whilst I do prefer a
newer design, they should do the job well enough,” advised a male Sephi to her right.
“Powerful shields, sturdy armor and a well-rounded armament for a variety of situations
that she could encounter.”

Kaltani nodded in acknowledgement and then said, “I hereby declare Odan-Urr
as full citizens of Kiast with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. I hereby
also officially recognizes you as part of this Conclave. Your first mission is an offensive
strike back at the Collective. Our remaining fleets will defend the system while you are
gone. Any questions?”

“Empress, thank you. We know what we have to do. I’ll let you get onto other
matters. Good luck and may the Force be with you,” offered the Consul of Odan-Urr.

“And also with you, High Councillor,” replied Kaltani before the holoprojection
vanished.

“Catalyst”

Pharos Station
Kiast System
37 ABY

Fourteen days had passed since the end of the Great Jedi War and the hallways of
Pharos station were more packed than usual, the arrivals from the war front crowding
the spare room on the station. Some of the arriving Odanites had volunteered to double
up in the residential blocks to help save room for the regular personnel who were busy
with military drills. As such, the normally pristine and orderly OEF military station had
taken in a certain lived in quality to it that drew the ire of some of the regularly stationed
troops. Aura Ta’var listened patiently to the station’s commander sitting across her desk,
synthetic lights marking the start of evening already.

“Ma’am, this is a military installation. I have civilians, mercenaries, and untrained staff
everywhere. We told you about the military exercise months in advance. Can’t they go
somewhere else?”

The High Councillor recalled her previous meeting earlier in the day, wherein
representatives from those same temporary groups on the station had complained as
well about the strict rules.

“Commander, no one is happy about this arrangement but it will end soon enough. Your
exercise ends in a week, no?”

“Yes.”

“And they are going well dispute the additional station guests?”

“It could be better but we’ve somehow managed to stay ahead of schedule. Some of the
guests have actually helped out with the logistics.”

“Oh?”

“Revak Kur and Ka Tarvitz. I’d like to give them a small token of my appreciation before
they leave if you don’t mind.”

“I’m sure they’d love it. Go ahead and surprise them.” Aura paused for a moment.
“Commander, I think I have a way to concentrate our guests and get them out of your
hair for a while. I’ll need control of one of the residential blocks for a few days.”

“If you think it will work then by all means,” agreed the station commander, wondering
what she would do.

24 Hours Later
Residential Block Alpha
Pharos Station

Loud music echoed through the hallways of the residential block, emanating from its
social hub in the center. Strobes of light pulsed back and forth as a sea of bodies moved
rhythmically together inside it. Makeshift counters housed busy barkeeps and people
unwilling to dance but willing to drink. Finger food was set up at the back of the room
just in case anyone got hungry. Lured by the aroma of food, fine spirits, and a good time,
both guests and some regular staff found themselves joining the party. For once, the rest
of the station was relatively quiet.

Aura Ta’var put down her datapad and yawned, finally finishing the last letter to the
families of all the recently deceased Odanites. She didn’t feel like celebrating. Many had
died and one of their own had been taken. Damien Blackadder may have been a man of
slippery alliances but he was an Odanite nonetheless. Casting a dark look towards the
vastness of space, she left her office and made her way to the party, keeping her promise
to make an appearance.

The Zeltron put on a forced smile as she joined the crowds, made her way to a
bartender, and ordered a Rancor Tequila bottle. Ethan Martes, Morgen B. Sorenn, Essik
Lyccane, and Tisto Kingang were already engaged in a no-holds-bar drinking challenge.
She wasn’t sure who was leading but none of them looked sober. This could only end
well
, she thought sarcastically. The High Councillor cheered them on and headed to the food dispensers to get a bite to eat. Gavriel Kadesh, Jafits Skrumm, Junazee, and
Celevon Erinos were already there, taking in their fill before Gavriel ate it all. Aura
almost chuckled as they playfully fought over some meat sticks, the latter three ganging
up on the Elder to make it a fair fight.

“There is plenty of food. No need to fight,” Aura reminded them as she took a container
of sushi, and scarfed it down herself, fully aware of how much her clanmates could eat.

The Zeltron grabbed a second and third helping, found a bit of wall to lean against while
she waited, and then scanned the rest of the room looking for someone in particular. She
found instead the Daegella sisters, Revak Kur, Maximus Alvinius, Len Iode, and Tyraal
Bitshiver hosting a dance off with whoever would join them. The Daegella twins were as
competitive in dance as they were a cockpit. Meanwhile Zanothi Nightblade, Alethia
Archenksova, Shayna Phantom, and Talis DeMorte stood near the edge of the dance
floor, absorbing the scene in silence. The High Councillor reached out with the Force
and found the four of them at peace, lost in their own thoughts. She resisted the urge to
pair them up with suitable partners and left them to their contentment, finishing up the
rest of her meal.

“Did it hurt when you fell from Cloud City?” interrupted Teikhos as he leaned next to
her and took her free hand.

Aura smiled for real for the first time tonight, shook her head in amazement, and ate
another bite of sushi before answering. “You know, you don’t have to keep using pickup
lines anymore.”

“But you enjoy them so much. By the way, it’s time for your speech. Just get it over with
and you are free the rest of the night,” he replied, wondering how many sushi containers
she would down tonight.

The High Councillor reluctantly put down her food and maneuvered with cat-like grace
to the stage where volunteer musicians had set up. Grabbing a microphone, she peered
down into the crowd and told the DJs to cut the music. Her clanmates went silent,
looking up expectantly.

“Are you all having fun!?” she called to the crowd as she raised her bottle. They cheered
in response.

“Thank you all for attending this wonderful party in honor of the living and our
comrades who could not be with us. I know this war has been a stressful time for all of
you and your time on the station has not been perfect but take these next few days to
remember to celebrate life and our hard-earned victory. We went to the enemy, won the
war, and came back alive!”

Aura paused to oblige the cheering crowd before continuing.

“Moreover, we came back as citizens of the Vatali Empire, not merely guests. And in a
week you will all get to go to those homes well fed and well-entertained!” The crowd
cheered. “But remember as you do so that at least one of our own has yet to be brought
home. Our ambassador, Damien Blackadder, was taken by the Collective. Many of you
do not know him but he risked his life to serve Odan-Urr and we will do everything in
our power to get him back!”

Aura paused once more for the raucous crowd.

“So as you celebrate over these next few days, live for those that can’t and make it one hell of a party!”

The High Councillor cued for the music to turn back on as the crowd roared, stepped off
stage and grabbed more sushi containers on her way out, her faithful companion in tow.
She walked with a purpose to the opposite side of the station and sighed in relief as she
entered a quiet room with dimmed lights and plenty of comfy cushions. Vyr Vorsa, Sa
Ool and Aerwin Tribwell-Urr sat cross-legged in front of a trio of Odanites, leading a
meditation session. Creshkin Vos, Irhan Lo’Vex, and Agate Gua’lara sat around them in
a semicircle, enjoying the time off to focus on the training of the mind. Aura smiled once
more, glad to see the five of them connecting together in the Force. Their positive energy
flowed effortlessly around the room, easing even the most tense of minds. The pair of
Zeltrons sat near them and shared a quiet meal together, glad to be alive and with so
many friends on the station.


Sephi Mining Outpost Cresh
Kiast Asteroid Field
Kiast System

The Sephi commander, Garik Monsula, of the mining outpost named Gadessa looked at
his holoscreens in horror as he watched his meager defenses, made mostly of older
starfighter models, fight Quorahi pirates equipped with a baffling array of ships. Red
and green laser bolts spewed forth from 6 T-70 X-wings, 6 R-41 Starchasers, 12
TIE/SFs, and 12 A/SF-01 B-Wings. All Garik had was 1 squadron of the older model
X-wings and 6 Z-95 Headhunters. A lone YT-2000 freighter sat at the back of their
formation presumably waiting to welcome the inevitable additional supply freighters
once their attack on the compound was complete.

“How the hell did they get so many fighters? And where did they get those new models?”
he growled to an empty room, having already sent his subordinates to protect the mines.

Meanwhile, the battle outside was just heating up. A grizzly pilot codenamed Aurek, war
hero and veteran of several wars going all the way back to the Second Quorahi War, lead
his formation of X-wings in a series of defensive maneuvers. Laser bolts flew around his
cockpit in all directions, forcing him to shoot predictably. Sweat went down his brow as
he squeezed the trigger between the openings the enemy allowed him to have, his shots
glancing blows at best. Next thing he knew, his cockpit rocked back and forth from a
couple shots that grazed the fuselage, but luckily it stayed intact. A third fighter had
come to fight him.

“Besh, where are you?! I’ve got three of them on my six.”

“Sorry Aurek, I’ve got three of them on me as well. I’m trying to make my way to you but
they keep cutting me off.”

“Everyone join me at rendezvous point A and we’ll use our asteroid field to our
advantage.”

“Roger,” called out eleven other voices, each of which sounded tense.

Captain Aurek weaved his way towards the rendezvous point, keeping an eye on his
fellow pilots as much as he could. The enemy fighters tailing him took the bait as did
their comrades. He could see his fellow squadmates on his radar as they got closer to a
large cluster of rocks that were notoriously difficult to predict. As his X-wing entered it,
the black starry canvas of space was filled with large dark brown asteroids, some of
which had a maze of passageways drilled into them.

“Alright team, battle plan A-5. Remember your speed runs, keep your turns tight, and
keep track of your wingman. If we do this right, we might take a lot of those pirates out.
Besh, let’s go!” he ordered, his sentences punctuated by the sound of laser fire and
broken rocks as his pursuers missed their targets.

Squad leader Aurek put as much power to the engines as he could and shot towards the
nearest Sephi-made tunnel in one of the larger asteroids nearby. Gritting his teeth he
jerked his ship to and fro in an effort to evade his pursuers yet accelerated as quickly as
possible, taking a few more glancing hits to his starfighter’s hull that left black scorch
marks near his canopy. The Sephi counted each heartbeat as he lined up his final entry
into the large rock and then went for it, hoping his ship would make it out in one piece.

“Entry via R-3A,” said Aurek as he turned on his external mounted lights on his wingtips
and immediately took a sharp left off into a sub tunnel, guided by small reflective lights
built into the rock.

“Roger. I’ll meet you at the main hub,” replied Besh, who was already inside as well.

The Sephi continued along his twisted route, randomly turning left and right as if
pre-programmed. He didn’t know if anyone was still behind him but he hadn’t felt an
explosion yet. As if on cue a single green laser bolt smashed into the ceiling behind him,
but Aurek was already executing another term to what his pilots fondly called the “loop
de loop”. It was a spiraling circle that lead back to a main hub inside the asteroid’s maze
and it required absolute precision. The Sephi expertly handled the curves but his
pursuer was still behind him, firing pot shots whenever possible.

“Got one confirmed left on my tail, exiting into the hub in 10 seconds.”

“Roger. None tailing me and ready to fire,” said Besh.

“Excellent,” relished the Sephi.

Aurek burst out of the spiral and into a hollowed out sphere inside, which was big
enough to fit a small mining base, and veered off to the right. A TIE/SF followed shortly after but Besh was already firing, his shots tearing the starfighter apart. The two
X-wings hovered for the span of a few breaths, waiting for any more to pop out.

“Besh, you have confirmed collisions?”

“Negative, Aurek. They’re still on my radar though.”

“Stay alert. We’ll deal with these and then help the others.”

The Sephi allowed himself a deep breath as he scanned the openings into the hub,
confident the enemy had already gotten lost and was soon to follow. Only his personally
trained units knew of these maneuvers or the tunnels. He smiled as he saw errant shots
fly into the cavern, his prey drawing near. His finger rested on the trigger, ready to fire
the moment he saw their craft. He could have sworn he saw small debris floating nearby.

“Aurek, they’re bombing the tunnels instead of engaging. How did they find the other
entryways?!”

“What?! That’s impossible. How could they—” the Sephi squad leader yelled as he
looked around him. Indeed they were all being shot closed at once.

“Blast a way out if we have to. Those bastards aren’t getting out of here alive,” cursed the
Sephi commander as he moved to a closed off exit and started to fire. “To the rest of my
squadron, retreat back to the nebulae cluster. They know about the tunnels! I repeat
they know about the tunnels!”

For once, the old veteran was scared. These asteroids could crush you if you weren’t
careful and he was stuck inside. There wasn’t even a guarantee he could cause a large
enough collapse to affect the fleeing starfighters.

“Captain! They’re waiting for us. I can’t escape. They’re wait—”

“Aurek, I’m trapped. I repeat I’m trapped. Attempting to blast my way out.”

“Captain! The asteroid is collapsing. They’re bombing us. What should we do?”

“Captain! I can’t get—”

The Sephi Captain banged his fist on his console and yelled out a string of curses before
he opened a channel to the leader of the Z-95s.

“Captain Aurek to Z-95s. We need support. Over.” The Sephi paused a moment or two
before trying again.

“I repeat. Captain Aurek to Z-95s. We need support. Over.”

Still static. A small measure of dread started to form in Aurek’s stomach. Are they dead
already?!

“Aurek, this is Commander Monsula. The Z-95s are gone and enemy starfighters are
nearing the compound. The Vatali Fleet is still an hour away. Can you free yourself and
intercept?” asked the administrator in a panicked voice.

“I’ll try my best, commander.”

The Sephi Captain quickly addressed his unit. “We won’t get any reinforcements for
another hour. Give them hell and let’s get back to the outpost!”

“Yes sir!” yelled the brave souls of his squadron.

Aurek gritted his teeth and fought to clear an entryway with his buddy Besh. Barely a
minute had passed when his own asteroid started to rumble and small rocks above
started to drift downward and ping off their canopies one by one. First as smaller
pebbles and then larger rocks. The Sephi veteran looked towards Besh in horror and
immediately unleashed a coded message directly to the Vatali Fleet.

“To the Vatali Fleet, this is Captain Aurek and Lieutenant Besh. The pirates are on the
move, have superior firepower, and have acquired new starfighters. Mining outpost
Cresh is no longer safe. Tell the Empress we served her well and tell our families we love
them.”