The alarm went off, stirring Griever from his sleep. He silenced it with a wave of his hand, telekinetically hitting the controls, then rolled over onto his back, sighing. A wave of unease washed over and enveloped him, leaving him feeling like he wanted nothing more than a good brood, however, he simply didn’t have time. Dying had given his second mortality a sense of urgency he’d lacked before the battle of New Tython. There was a lot he needed to do in this lifetime.
He stifled a yawn and got out of the small camp bed, stretching. His lodgings were temporary, and left a lot to be desired. Teroch had found and destroyed no less than 3 of his safe houses, including his primary one in the few years Sashar had been gone, and the Elder had no others in Estle city. So, he’d taken lodgings with the Summit Guard and shared his quarters with no less than eight other clones, each bearing a striking resemblance to his brother, Kieran. The barracks were, however, empty. Besh Company must’ve been on-duty at the time. Sashar quickly pulled on some underwear and padded to the ‘fresher, where he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and sighed. The face looking back wasn’t his; it was the face of a man ten years his junior - a child barely out of adolescence. True, it was his younger self, but the body he occupied hadn’t been trained practically from birth for war. His musculature was gone, the various scratches and tattoos he’d accumulated over the years glaringly absent; his eyes were naturally brown; not the Ayumarka eyes Juda had made from him, when the Yuuzhan Vong had torn them out during the war. It would take years and years of intensive training to regain the psychique he was most used to. Granted, it was better than being dead; a lot better, but taking over a clone body that had been vat grown in just under eight weeks left little time for muscle growth. He was still getting used to his new limitations, and it was frustrating, to say the least.
He threw on some of the clothes the clone commandos had lent him for their off-duty hours, clothes that would blend in on a thousand worlds (but still dwarfed Sashar), and made for the exit; he had trade.
Sashar sat down opposite another ghost, another remnant that was too stubborn to die. The young man rarely let others see his face, but it was hauntingly similar to his brother’s.
“Don’t call me that. You look younger than me. It sounds ridiculous.”
Sashar grinned at Nadrin Erinos’ interruption. “Fair enough. You have a lot of sway in Soulfire Strike Team. I’ll be frank. You need me.”
Nadrin leaned back, letting a hand run along the fake bantha leather banquette. “No pleasantries? No catching up about the family? Your aliit? Hell, no questions about Teroch?”
Sashar’s grin grew wider. “That’s a trap designed to provoke. If I’d asked about any of that, you’d have criticized my sentimentality. If I got straight to business, you call me cold. You’re not doing it out of spite, so I can only assume that this is a test.”
Nadrin said nothing. He took a long drink from the glass in front of him, not blinking.
Sashar stared right back.
“You’ve got his stubborn temperament-”
“Before we go any further, uncle, let’s get one thing clear. Zandro was osik. He created me as a lab rat, and when he was stupid enough to get himself killed, he tried to take over my body. You look identical to Teroch. How do I not know you’ve done the same thing to his body?”
Sashar sighed and leant back in his chair, then lifted the hem of his shirt, showing a completely blemish free stomach. He let the shirt drop back down and leant forward, grabbing his own drink. “No mark of the di Tenebrous. You know how to remove Sith tattoos?”
“You can’t.” Nadrin responded slowly.
“Top marks. This body was cloned from my original DNA. Teroch…helped gathering my consciousness. He’s decided that life in the military isn’t for him, and has departed for parts unknown. Now, back to the issue at hand. Soulfire. I want in. You need me in it. Soulfire used to be the elite of Arcona. I’ve had a look at its current roster. They’re lacking.”
Nadrin’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Don’t count them out just yet. They’re a solid bunch. They just need a new structure, which is in the works.”
“Call it what you want. I’m the strongest member you’ll get-”
“No, you’re not. I’m familiar with the whole cloning process, Sash. Your body… Yeah, it’s you, but it’s you when you were 18. That’s over half a lifetime ago. You won’t be used to your body. Plus, your Force presence has changed. It’s different, somehow. Like looking at you via a reflection in a pond. Distorted. Right now, I could probably take you.”
Sashar nodded, not even trying to deny what Nadrin had said. “Probably, yeah. But my memories. My mind. It’s all me. I have a wealth of experience. Let me help you.”
“…Fine. But I’m in charge. I won’t take orders from you, and don’t talk about my father. He’s dead and burned. Leave him that way.”
Sashar nodded and finished his drink. “I’ll meet you back at Giletta tomorrow.”
“Welcome home, Sashar.”
“So are you in?”
Sashar nodded and flopped down on the sofa, throwing his jacket over the back of a chair. They were in a small but comfortable apartment in the upper city, tastefully decorated in muted hues of purple and burgundy.
“We’ll that’s something. How was he?”
Sashar accepted the glass of merenzane gold from the red-skinned being who sat down in an arm chair next to the sofa. “About what I expected. He harbors a deep-seated hatred for Zandro. It was hard not to punch him in the neck. But I can work with him. He’s family.”
“Does he know that you were aware of him being commissioned as a test-bed for Teroch?”
Sashar grimaced. “Unknown. Anyway, enough about that. How was your morning?”
Dash shrugged easily, his visible skin rippling as an accompaniment to the gesture. “Productive. I made contact with someone who can get you the kouhoun. They’re being delivered in a week or so. I’ve also got hold a uniform and some forged papers.”
Sashar nodded appreciatively. “Thank you. When are you going to get started?”
“This evening. Anything in particular you want me to look out for?”
“The usual. Get dirt on the big names, find out who is rocking the boat, who’s calling the shots. I want a lay of the land in the military so I know which way to push.”
Dash nodded, as if expecting it. “And the summit?”
Sashar’s expression darkened. “I already know the answer to that. The Entars hold sway. I just need to know how invested their inner council are. If it’s not too heavily, then I can influence the Consul as and when needed.”
“What about Marick?”
“He’ll do what he thinks is best. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean what’s best for the Clan, as he’s got this whole Darker Than Thou thing going now-”
“You mean like you did when you were Consul?” Dash interrupted, smirking.
“Exactly like that. He tried to shoulder too much. Can’t fault his ambition, just his ego that needs a slap. Right. I’m going to make some more house calls. Good luck.”
Dash smiled and ruffled Sashar’s hair as he got up. “Like I need luck. It’ll be a week or so until I’m back in contact.”
“That’s fine. Be safe.”
Dash laughed openly. “I never am.”
Glimmick music blared through the doors and Sashar winced in anticipation. This particular brother of his warranted quarters fitting a former Consul, however his neighbours would hate having to endure that day after day. He hit the bell, and the occupant either didn’t hear it or didn’t care. Sighing, Sashar tapped an override into the controls, only to still have his request rebuffed. Clearly, there’d been some modifications made.
“Verd’ika! Open the shab’la door!” Sashar shouted, pounding it with his hand.
The music stopped, and anticipation built up inside the clone. Those had not been the first words he wanted to speak since his demise to Celahir Erinos.
The slicer opened the door, offered a small, wry smile, then jerked his head back towards the interior. “Oh hi, come in.”
Chuckling ruefully, Sashar followed Celahir into what could only be described as organised chaos. Half-dissembled tech and computers littered every flat surface, and holo-displays and flat screens covered every vertical one. Cigarette smoke hung in the air, and even the panoramic windows lining one wall had sheets of flimsi taped to them, or were covered in an untidy handwriting replicating lines of half-completed code.
“How’ve you been?” Sashar asked, looking for a place to sit. Celahir slumped back down behind a desk into a chair buried in dirty clothes, took a sip of something that smelled way too sugary to be healthy, and went back to tapping away at a console. Worryingly, it looked like he was mid-way through hacking into the DIA’s archives.
“Dealing with your son. Nice of you to finally come see me.”
“Was he that bad? I’ve heard some stories, but didn’t realise he’d be quite that…incendiary.”
Celahir shrugged and lit a cigarette, then turned and offered one to Sashar, who accepted.
“Fine. I’m sorry I didn’t come see you earlier. I had a lot of catching up to do to make sure some Entar di’kut didn’t off me before I became a threat. And honestly…I was nervous. Didn’t know how you’d react to me coming back from the dead.”
“Stop being such a girl.” Celahir smirked at the computer screen.
Sashar rolled his eyes, then knocked a stack of flimsis and datacards off a sofa. Celahir didn’t seem to care. Sitting, Sashar took another drag of the cigarette, and looked around, trying to sail through the awkward silence. It was clear that the slicer was shaken up and trying to hack through a mental quagmire of conflicting emotions, but he wasn’t going to let on. The Adept wasn’t going to push him, either. It was a lot to take in, after all.
“I am glad you’re back, though.” Celahir said eventually, making every effort to act casual.
“Me too. So, you busy these days?”
Celahir snorted and turned around to face Sashar, taking him in. “Do I look busy? I’m bored to haran and spend my days taunting the DIA slicers when I get past their firewalls. The Nighthawk-”
“It’s a frigate Teroch had commissioned. It’s pretty beasty, to be honest, but the summit cut the budget to it half-way through the project, so it’s hardly got any of its potential filled. The Nighthawk got boring after Teroch was fired from Captain, so me and Maaks just came back here and have been doing… not much of anything since.”
Sashar nodded, glad to hear that Maaks was still around. “I could use you. I’m going back to Soulfire. I’m thinking of getting the old crew back together. You want in?”
Celahir shrugged and stubbed out his cigarette, then took another long swig from the can of energy drink next to him. “Sure. It’s been a while since I was in combat, though. I might be a little rusty.”
Sashar grinned and stood up, crossed over to his brother, and pulled him up into a bear hug. “Well, you can tell me who all these new faces are, and I’ll crack their skulls in if they give us trouble.”
“Deal. Now get off me, you skinny little di’kut.”
‘Griever’ and Celahir walked side-by-side into the Hangar bay - Soulfire’s designated meeting spot - and sighted a pair of individuals already there. One was familiar to Sashar; his nephew Nadrin, now with his mask back in place. The other, however, was new to him.
Both Celahir and Sashar had dressed to kill. The former wore a dark grey jumpsuit festooned with pockets (almost all of them bulging) and a black flack jacket, again covered in small compartments. Around his waist was a tool-belt, and his lightsaber jostled up against hydrospanners and other acoutrements, simply another tool to the Kiffar. It was the closest Celahir got to combat-ready, these days. Sashar, however, had donned his ‘Griever’ attire: A dark brown and grey form-fitting combat suit that looked more organic than anything else, and a robe with the hood up covered it. Around his belt, a lightsaber was evident, and a disassembled Bowcaster was slung over one shoulder. There was almost certainly a small arsenal of knives and other blades hidden about his person; but he wasn’t in the habit of advertising.
It wouldn’t take long for the others to assemble.