The Lost World
By Michael Crichton
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    #295
    Soon after filming of JP was complete, a raptor skeleton discovered in Wyoming was quickly dubbed "Spielberg's raptor" because of its uncanny resembelance to the raptors in JP. (From: Rippnraptor)
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    Star Wars: Threads of Destiny (Prolouge-Chapter 2)
    By Aragorn

    Note: Neither myself or Seth Rex are really all that fluent in the Expanded Universe stuff, so this kind of ignores all that and the only stuff we regard as cannon in relation to this, are the 6 movies. Though the very few things I do know about the E.U., I do try to incorporate where I can.



    Star Wars
    Threads of Destiny

    Written by Jeffrey Long
    Based off an idea by Michael Banno



    A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...


    ~PROLOGUE~


    Lord Siege glanced out of a viewport from inside of his own personal starship, the name-fitting 'Dread'. Siege picked the name himself, so everyone who was aware that the ship was around would know of who occupied it, and would know not to cross him.

    From inside, Lord Siege glanced at the approaching planet and its extensive Defense Network of a dozen heavily-armed battle ships. He let out a slight smile as he approached the small but bustling planet of Gurl'katck – a planet that the Skenvi Empire had modeled after the great city world of Coruscant.

    The humanoid Skenvi race were once weak and easily manipulated and controlled, but that fateful day 94 years earlier, when the Galactic Empire crumpled and the Skenvi people were freed, that was the day that the Skenvi Empire was formed, to build up its strength and not allow its people to be ever be slaves to anyone else, ever again. They scavenged what supplies and equipment they could from various abandoned Empire-owned bases and ghost ships and over time were able to build quite the impressive army.

    But it wasn't enough for the Skenvi. Like all empires throughout the history of the galaxy, they longed for more and had an unsatisfiable thirst for more and more power. It started with minor threats to get some of the smaller nearby planets to join with them, but once they felt they were large enough, they began taking systems by brute force.

    The New Republic, of course, would hear none of it and extended many warnings to the Skenvi Empire to cease their activities, each one more dire then the one previous. The Skenvi, no longer wishing to bow down to anyone since their freedom from the Galactic Empire, ignored the Republic's warnings and instead launched a pre-emptive surprise strike against them that led to the start of a brand-new war.

    Lord Siege's thoughts currently focused on how despite the Republic's massive size compared to that of the Skenvi Empire, the Skenvi have still been able to not only hold their own in battle, but have stood their ground so well that no one could say for certain which side was winning the war and which was loosing.

    He had actually been away, overseeing a very vital battle, when he received word straight from the Skenvi Emperor to return to Gurl'katck immediately. Seige wondered during the entire journey back to the Skenvi homeworld just what his Emperor could possibly want, but knew it had to be a matter of utmost secrecy for him not to give any details over the com-unit.

    Thinking about it still, Siege let out a sigh as his personal ship entered the atmosphere of the always-night city planet. He turned away from the window, never liking to watch the flight through the city. He always loved watching the descent onto his home planet, but once there, he got frustrated easily with the careless navigating of most of the residents of the planet, and he did not wish to be in a sour mood when he met with the Emperor.

    Instead, he decided to make his way down the bare metal corridor and into the cockpit.

    "Lord Siege!" The pilot exclaimed anxiously. "Is something wrong?"

    Siege loved unexpectedly entering the cockpit and surprising his old pilot. He loved to see the fear and nervousness that flowed off of him like a waterfall whenever he was in the presence of Siege. Such respect and power was intoxicating. Siege was glad to see his new pilot would not be so different.

    "Nothing at all, granted you get me there in one piece," Siege spat as another smaller ship quickly crossed in front of the Dread and nearly caused a mid-air collision.

    "I'll...I'll try...sir," The nervous pilot stuttered as he tensed in Lord Siege's presence.

    Once Siege located the exterior landing platform in the distance that was their destination, he left the cockpit and made his way to the loading bay where he would exit. Most men would be nervous when meeting the Emperor, but not Siege. As far as he was concerned, if he so chose, he could kill the Emperor with little trouble and take his place. However, running an entire Empire was not Siege's goal, nor did it interest him much. His heart longed for the battles and not much else.

    By the time that the Dread made a soft landing on the black metal of the circular landing platform, which was lit only by a small ring of dim lights, an armed black-cloaked garrison of the Emperor's own personal guards stood at attention, waiting patiently. Each one looked identical – black cloaks and body armor with painted-blue facial masks that resembled the war-masks of the primitive natives on Fulush.

    With a hiss of thick steam, the bay doors of the Dread slowly opened and a thick metal plank lowered. Lord Siege walked quickly off of his ship, with his black cloak flapping in the high-altitude winds behind him. The only guard that was not wearing a mask – a tall bald man, stepped forward and bowed.

    "Lord Siege," he greeted as he straightened himself up. "The Emperor has been awaiting your arrival."

    "I know," Siege scoffed. What did this idiot think? That he was not aware of his meeting? The Emperor had contacted him personally! The only thing he hated more then being told things he already knew, was being treated like a commoner.

    Without even waiting for this guard to show him the way, Siege moved around him and marched inside of the Imperial Palace on his own, the garrison of mask-glad guards falling into line behind him.

    ***

    Deep inside the extensive dark palace, the white-haired Emperor stood before a green hologram of a planet where a handful of battles were currently being fought before him. Despite his obvious age, he was quite feared among his people for his ruthlessness. Rumored to be over a hundred years old, he was supposedly the last remaining Skenvi that had actually lived during the rule of the Galactic Empire and personally suffered at their hands. Regardless of being over a hundred years old, many would however venture to say he looked quite young for his age, and it would be true, as he didn't look a day over sixty, a few extra wrinkles aside.

    In the room with him was his most-trusted Generals and Advisers, all of which turned at the sound of the door behind them hissing opened. Two masked guards entered the room, making way for Lord Siege, who removed his traveling cloak out of respect at being in the Emperor's presence and handed it to the nearest guard. He stood before his leader in his own military outfit that consisted of black clothing with blood-red shoulder pads and belt, black gloves, and slicked back neatly-kept hair.

    Siege dropped to the floor on one knee and bowed his head. "My Lord." The Emperor nodded his head and Siege returned to his full height. He glanced at the other officials in the room and noted that Admiral Krathos was in attendance.

    Krathos was quite possibly the only being in all of the Skenvi Empire – nay, the entire Galaxy – that Siege could consider a friend. The man had believed in Siege since he was young and helped him get to the position he currently held. If not for Admiral Krathos, Siege had no idea where his life would be now.

    Glancing away from the other top-ranking men in the room, Siege eyed the hologram before him. "Has The Battle begun? Have our troops been deployed?" Siege asked, referring to the long-awaited plan to launch an attack against Titan V, the main planet that the New Republic used for a large number of it's bigger starship factories.

    "No, to both of your questions," The Emperor answered. "That battle is still yet to come. I realize this meeting has given you the impression that we've started that attack, Lord Siege, but I did not call you here with that in mind. I have a mission that I can only entrust into your care. I also trust you to see things in many perspectives, in a situation as crucial as this."

    Lord Siege tilted his head, confused. "Sir?"

    "War can be won through many means," The Emperor stated, taking a step toward Siege, his long golden robe flowing behind him.

    "Such as diplomacy?" Lord Siege nearly spat at the word.

    "So you've heard," The Emperor smiled.

    Lord Siege felt sick to his stomach at the confirmation of what had assumed until now were lies. He had heard talk - rumors back on Esplin Eve during his time in battle there - that the Emperor was planning to pursue a more peaceful strategy. Lord Siege was quick to do away with such 'liars' – nobody talked bad about the Emperor when Siege was around.

    "I assume you've heard of the planet Coreign," The Emperor said, continuing.

    "Naturally," Siege mumbled, still deeply upset at this unfortunate turn of events. "It is a planet ruled by a well-respected Monarch and they have always praised peace and democracy, but strength is obviously not in their vocabulary." Siege scoffed once more. "Why do you ask? Are they planning on aiding the New Republic in their war efforts?"

    "They may very well end up doing so," The Emperor stated, unimpressed with Siege's current attitude toward him. "Spies have informed me that the New Republic will be entering negotiations with them in a treaty of annexation."

    "...and you're thinking of beating them to it..." Lord Siege spoke almost too-quietly to be heard, finally piecing the puzzle together.

    The Emperor chuckled, showing that out of all the things that have gone in his old age, hearing was not one of them. "Exactly. I have already sent a small delegation to the King."

    "And what does this have to do with me?" Siege asked, feeling his often in-check patience slipping.

    "I would like for you to go and press the matter for us," explained the Emperor as if it was the most obvious answer ever given.

    "I'm assuming their Ore is what has spurred all this new-found interest in this particular planet," Lord Siege stated.

    For the first time during their current meeting, the Emperor made a smug-filled sneer so cold and evil, that even Siege himself felt shivers travel through his body. "My faith in you is not misplaced after all. Their Allubium Ore would be an unparalleled asset to us. It is regenerative – unique throughout all of the known universe."

    Lord Siege didn't need to be told about all they could gain from this. Even a small amount could lower vehicle and ship repair costs drastically for them. It could potentially push them past the Republic's current state in the war and would put the Skenvi Empire very close to winning it.

    "The Republic also believes that this ore could tip the war in their favor," The Emperor continued. "They no doubt will send Jedi representatives to charm the King and Queen to sign the treaty with them." Siege's eyes burned with hatred at the mention of Jedi, but allowed his leader to go on. "I do not have the luxury of sending such charming people into their embrace. But I certainly do have the capacity of sending my finest warrior."

    "When do I leave?" Siege asked coldly, his entire demeanor having changed at the mention of Jedi.

    "Immediately. It would be best if you had time to familiarize yourself with Coreign, before the Republic's ambassadors arrive. In the meantime, I'll see to it that the Republic's military is kept occupied." The Emperor smiled once more. "I don't want anything to stop us from gaining access to this ore."

    "Very well, Your Majesty," Lord Siege bowed his head. "I will take my leave."

    The Emperor nodded and, along with his Generals and Advisers, turned back to the Battle Hologram. Siege straightened, turned, and marched out of the room, followed by the two guards that entered with him.

    ~1~


    After the fall of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, the Galaxy broke loose from the Galactic Empire’s evil clutches and became free once again. Once the New Republic was formed under the rule of a new Chancellor, the remnants of the Galactic Empire, and those found to still be loyal, were hunted down and imprisoned. The new Chancellor spent many hard years trying to re-form the Republic into what it once was before it was created into an Empire – into something better.

    Many of the planet systems shied away from the New Republic, refusing to join in fear that history would repeat itself. The new Chancellor worked very hard at getting the planet systems to re-join, and although some did, most refused. The Republic, once gigantic and great, was now no more then a half-dozen systems.

    But they were far from alone in their struggle. With the evil Sith destroyed, the Jedi were allowed to flourish once again and the great Jedi Hero Luke Skywalker opened a new Jedi academy on Yavin IV, inside one of the long-abandoned ancient temples. It took many years of searching and scouting, but eventually he found a handful of Force-Sensitive people from many races, to train as his first class. Once the galaxy learned of the re-emergence of the Jedi Order, thousands flocked to Yavin IV in hopes of being trained. It wasn’t long until the Jedi Order was made up of thousands once again. The Jedi again worked alongside the Republic Senate, with Luke Skywalker leading the Jedi and his sister Leia Organa leading the Senate. Under their leadership, the two groups entered into a long-lasting truce.

    Raven Darkham loved the New Republic with all his heart. It stood for everything that a young Jedi Apprentice loved and it was because of that, that he willingly went into battle time and time again.

    He had been discovered on his home planet of Titan V when he was only four years old. He wasn’t really sure of the story himself apart from knowing that a Jedi scout was on Titan V for separate business when he sensed how strong Raven was in the Force. The scout brought Raven to Yavin IV, where he was tested and the New Council agreed to have him trained. That was really all Raven knew of his life before being a Jedi, although he did slightly remember his family, but only through dreams and deep meditation. He always told himself that one day he would go back to visit, but not until he was a full-fledged Jedi Knight so his family could be proud of what he had become.

    Raven shifted uncomfortably in his hard leather seat. As much as he loved flying, he wondered when the Jedi would create a comfortable seat for their starfighters. He thought that maybe after his return to Yavin IV, he would dig up the original plans for the starfighters used before the Galactic Empire had taken over, to see how those seats were made. Whoever designed the plans for the new starfighters certainly didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘comfortable’.

    Trying to take his mind off the uncomfortable seat, he looked out his side window at the other Jedi Starfighters and Republic X-Wings. He knew his Master, Soran Darr, was someplace among them, but couldn’t locate him. At that moment one of the X-Wings slightly tilted and Raven spotted his Master’s dark blue starfighter on the other side of it.

    He looked ahead again and saw what they were approaching; there was a small Skenvi Invasion Fleet orbiting a blue planet with random large patches of land sprinkled here and there. It was a planet Raven had never been to and couldn't even remember the name of, but he knew that the people of it had agreed to join the New Republic if they were successful in defending them in battle against the Skenvi Empire, as they had no military forces of their own.

    Soran Darr’s voice filled Raven’s cockpit. “Attack Formation.” Raven didn’t have to look to know that the X-Wings were opening their wings to form the X shape, or to know that all the starfighters were slowly spreading apart from one another so as not to bundle together and form such an easy target.

    When they got nearer to the Skenvi Fleet, Soran’s voice once again filled the radio waves. “May the Force be with us all.”

    Small, awkward-shaped Skenvi Bandit Fighters zoomed out of the docking bays of the larger Warships and towards the Republic Fleet and the two sides instantly began exchanging intense laser fire. Ships from both sides broke formation and picked a target as they flew around. The vast blackness of space was suddenly witness to an extensive light show of colors as the Fighters waged battle; red, green, blue, and yellow laser streaks zooming in every direction.

    As Raven exchanged rapid fire with a Skenvi Fighter in front of him, a second Skenvi Fighter came in behind from a half-turn from some place above.

    “You’ve got one coming up from behind you,” Soran’s voice sounded a warning throughout Raven’s cockpit. Raven destroyed the Skenvi Fighter in front of him in a glorious display of smoke, fire, and twisted burning metal, but before he could turn his starfighter around to deal with the other, it also exploded in a similar fashion and Soran's ship appeared through the wreckage, passing directly over-top of Raven’s crimson starfighter. “Be mindful of all things surrounding you, not just what’s in front of your eyes.”

    "Sorry Master," Raven apologized. "I will try to do that from now on."

    "Either do it, or don’t do it," Soran came back to him. "There is no middle ground."

    Raven fired at a Skenvi Fighter that dropped down in front of him, but it kept rolling back and forth around his shots. Another one dropped down behind him, boxing him in. Raven lifted his ship up, allowing the laser fire from the Fighter behind him to destroy the one in front of him.

    Maneuvering into a flip, Raven came up behind the Skenvi Fighter that used to be behind him. He fired at it and it exploded. Raven spotted another Skenvi Fighter and gave chase, slightly raising his own ship in order to narrowly avoid colliding with a passing X-Wing.

    ***

    Jedi Master Soran Darr was having just as much luck with two Skenvi Fighters bearing down in front of him. He flew straight ahead, rolling his ship in a circle, the shots from the two Fighters zipping all around him. Soran hated that move; it made him feel sick and the last thing he wanted was to throw up in his starfighter again. However he always just let the Force guide him and never thought beforehand about his actions.

    He opened fire and his shots hit both of the ships. He straightened his starship and turned away from the explosions, locating another Skenvi Fighter to intercept.

    ***

    To say that Gorge Underwood was a good X-Wing pilot would be an understatement - at least in Gorge’s eyes. According to him, he was the best darn X-Wing pilot the New Republic had to offer, although just about everyone else in the Fleet would say otherwise.

    Gorge dodged a few laser blasts and dipped down, pulling back on the throttle. His X-Wing picked up speed and zoomed back behind his attacker. He fired, but the Skenvi Fighter exploded before the shots even hit it. A second X-Wing maneuvered around the explosion and came zooming from beside it. Gorge opened communications with the other X-Wing and said, “Damn it, Daviton. That one was mine.”

    Daviton O'Malley just laughed over the radio. “I didn’t see your name on it, buddy.”

    “That’s because it was sketched on the bottom.”

    Daviton continued laughing. “Just because I’m a better pilot then you, doesn’t mean you need to get mad.”

    “Better pilot? Ha!” Gorge laughed. “Maybe with a TG-167 back on Bronsoon, but up here in space with an X-Wing, I’m the master of the…” Gorge paused as he opened fire on a Skenvi Fighter passing in front of him. He changed directions to avoid the ensuing explosion and continued. “Up here, I’m the master of all.”

    Daviton caught up with Gorge and the two flew side-by-side. “You always were one for thinking too much of yourself.” Gorge turned to look through the side of his window and into Daviton’s X-Wing, seeing Daviton broadly smiling. Gorge was going to laugh, but before he had the chance, Daviton’s ship exploded into a fiery mess. Gorge turned serious and looked on the sensor screen.

    A Skenvi Bandit Fighter with a long black burn mark on either side of its hull was following him. It opened fire, but Gorge pulled his X-Wing into a 90 degree turn, narrowly avoiding the blasts. The Skenvi Fighter copied the move and continued firing. Gorge moved his precious ship from side to side, avoiding the lasers blasting all around him. A few skimmed his X-Wing hull, shaking him around a bit.

    This guy is good, Gorge thought to himself as he wiped sweat from his head. More of an ace then the others, that’s for sure. But still no match for a pilot like me! He moved his X-Wing straight up, only to be met by the Expert Skenvi Fighter’s blasts.

    Gorge would never again get the chance to boast about how good of a pilot he was.

    ***

    Raven zoomed away from an exploding Skenvi Bandit Fighter. Another Jedi starfighter flew down in front of him and quickly zoomed away again, chasing after a Skenvi Fighter. Raven watched as the Jedi starfighter blew up its target, and then he opened a com-channel to it.

    “Seth, follow me,” Raven commanded. Jedi Knight Seth Re'X was one of Raven’s closest friends. He was about six years older, but had always acted like a big brother to Raven when they were kids. That closeness stuck right with them through the years, even after Seth had passed the Trials and became a full-fledged Jedi Knight.

    “With you now, kid.” Raven didn’t have to look around to know that Seth’s matching-red starfighter was beside his. In the distance, Raven spotted the Ace Skenvi Fighter that killed Gorge and Daviton earlier, wipe out a Jedi starfighter. He brought it to Seth’s attention.

    “Let’s take him out,” Seth suggested. The two zoomed towards the Ace Fighter together. As they got nearer, another Skenvi Fighter zoomed past them, firing. Knowing it would cause problems if they ignored it, Seth broke away to chase after it, wishing Raven good luck.

    Raven, now alone again, concentrated on keeping with the Ace Skenvi Fighter as it zoomed about, twisting and turning around the floating wreckage of other ships. Raven got the impression that it was trying to loose him. That impression was soon proved to be a wrong one however as the Fighter flipped up and landed behind Raven, firing instantly.

    Raven quickly dodged to the side, narrowly escaping the blasts, and then also pulled up behind, once again coming up behind the Ace Fighter. He fired at it, but it dodged his shots with seeming ease.

    Raven cursed under his breath as two other Skenvi Fighters arrived and he had to break away from his attack to dodge the incoming shots. Seth returned and blasted at one of the Fighters, blowing it up.

    “Thank you, Seth,” Raven communicated with his fellow Jedi.

    Raven took out the other Fighter and looked around the zooming Skenvi ships for the one with the burn marks. It didn’t take him long to locate it and returned to his chase.

    You aren’t getting away from me that easily, Raven thought.

    ***

    Soran avoided laser blasts from two pursuing Skenvi Fighters as he flew in the that blasted corkscrew manner again to dodge the shots. When he straightened himself up, he maneuvered so that he was heading toward the Skenvi Fighters from their side.

    He let loose a barrage of laser fire, destroying two of the three Fighters. The third avoided the shots and went to spin up behind Soran, however the wreckage from an exploding ship blasted right into the Fighter’s path and caused it to also explode as it collided with the wreckage.

    ***

    Raven felt like he was getting even more distant from the Ace Skenvi Fighter; it seemed no matter how well he stayed with the Fighter, he still managed to get further away. Wondering if maybe the Fighter had some kind of accelerated speed drive, Raven felt himself getting frustrated and angry at the situation. He quickly forced himself not to think such thoughts before his Master sensed it and gave him a lecture that he heard a hundred times before.

    The Ace Skenvi Fighter that Raven had been chasing went to fire at a passing X-Wing in front of it, but Soran came out of nowhere and rammed the Ace Fighter from below, sending it straight up into Raven’s path. Raven locked on and fired, blowing it up. He sighed with relief.

    “Thank-You, Master. I was having trouble with that one.”

    “I know; I could sense your feelings of frustration.”

    Raven bit his tongue, hoping that Soran wouldn’t give him a lecture. He decided to cut him off before he could even start. “I’m sorry, Master. I tried not to let them control me.”

    “Your feelings will always be a part of you, Raven. The true test of a Jedi is learning to control them, not them control you.” Soran could hear Raven sigh over the com and silently told himself that there would be a better time to talk about it. They were not in a good place for such a talk. “We’ll talk more about this when we return to the Temple. Right now we have a battle to mop up.”

    Raven breathed a sigh of relief as Soran’s ship flew away from him. He had no doubt that Soran would lecture him when they returned, for Soran was not a forgetful person, but at least he was saved from such a boring speech for the time-being and could concentrate on the battle. Of course, that was assuming there was still a battle going on.

    Raven scanned the area and saw a couple X-Wings take out the last of the Skenvi Bandit Fighters and noted that the large Warships, now empty of Bandit Fighters, turning and preparing to jump to hyperspace as the platoon of X-Wing fighters started zooming toward them.

    “Seems to be all clear, Master.”

    Soran replied on the com-channel to all the ships, “Alright, it's all clear. I say we head home.”

    Just as the Skenvi Warships jumped into hyperspace in the blink of an eye, the remaining X-Wings and Jedi starfighters turned around and zoomed away.

    Raven realized he would be getting that lecture sooner then he hoped. He turned down his radio and rolled his eyes as Soran lectured him during the long trip home.

    ~2~


    Lord Siege hated Coreign. The planet was home to vast blue lakes, thick green forests, bright yellow sunlight, and above it all, it was ruled by kind and gentle rulers - all things he hated. Happiness and cheerfulness were not things he was particularity fond of, as he himself was void of them.

    As Lord Siege stood in the majestic main hall of the Coreign Royal Palace, staring at several large wall paintings while waiting for the King to arrive, he thought about how much he hated Coreign and personally felt that the Skenvi Empire did not need them in such a manner. All they had to do was arrive in force with even just a small fleet of Warships, and they could easily take what they wanted off the planet. By trying to talk the King into joining their Empire, they would end be wasting valuable supplies and time. Of course the Emperor of the Skenvi Empire thought differently and for whatever reason wanted his most-trusted ambassador to discuss the matter peacefully.

    Lord Siege almost spit when he thought of the word. The
    Skenvi Empire was about war mongering and death to enemies. Not peace. Just the word alone made Lord Siege sick to his stomach. He was now almost willing to admit that the Skenvi Emperor was getting soft in his old age and he never would have thought the day would come when he preferred peace over war. Just thinking of it was insulting to the entire Skenvi Empire.

    His thoughts were interrupted as three Royal Guards, dressed in their brown leather vests, walked in the room. Two went onto either side of the doorway and the third walked across the room and stood at the middle of the back wall.

    King Juster Ad’Lah and Queen Erin Ad’Lah walked into the room shortly after, dressed in their finest clothes, arms locked. The first thought that went through Lord Siege’s mind was that they both looked quite old and he could easily make their deaths look like an accident. Of course that was not why he was there and he forced himself to push those satisfying thoughts away before he acted on them.

    Lord Siege smiled his best fake smile at the Royalty as they approached. “Greetings,” Lord Siege slightly bowed. “I am
    Ambassador Siege. The Skenvi Emperor has sent me to formally discuss his proposal with you. If there are any questions you have regarding the treaty of annexation, I will be glad to listen.”

    King Juster stood tall and firm, despite being so old and frail. “We are still considering your offer, Lord Siege. You will be informed when we make our decision.”

    “But your Grace,” Lord Siege began, slightly irritated. “With all due respect, you have had more than enough time to consider all the merits of our proposal.” Lord Siege’s smile slowly faded. “If I had to guess, I would say that you were stalling.”

    The King of Coreign proceeded with caution. He knew how dangerous Lord Siege could be. However, he also had to show Lord Siege that he would not be bullied around. “Taking the time to weigh both sides of an argument is not stalling.” King Juster said with a firm tone that suggested he would not back down. “As you are no doubt aware, the Republic has also approached us with the same offer.”

    Lord Siege fumed with anger, but tried not to show it. “So the Republic has made a counter-offer, I presume. What is it that they have promised?”

    “For one, they won’t senselessly mine our planet for their war machines. The Republic is at least concerned with its citizen’s sensibilities.”

    Lord Siege chuckled and had to hold back a guffaw. “I assure you, your Grace, the galaxy is not. You are in the center of a conflict far greater than yourself. Do you think it will change to accommodate you, to pamper your peaceful neutrality? The Skenvi Empire recognizes the necessities of warfare, but we are not unreasonable about the demands we place on our systems.” He paused, considering how to word his next sentence. “The Republic would force you to embargo us, would they not?”

    “And I see no problem with that,” King Juster stated. “Your two
    Nations are at war.”

    Lord Siege realized that angle was not helping his case and decided to try another. “What sort of market would they provide for your allubium, which as I understand, is the staple of your economy?”

    King Juster opened his mouth to speak, but paused. He thought about the answer for a second. “A free one.”

    Lord Siege was hoping that the King would reply with something to that effect. He already had his response tactically planned out, “And also one whose demand is considerably smaller than your supply. The Republic’s greatest weapon is their Starfighter Corps, your Grace, and armor made from your ore would make a mass that is too much for them to handle. Our Empire, however, favors capital ships and corvettes. We will not allow your economy to crumble and your people to sink into poverty.” The Skenvi Ambassador smiled, pleased with his reply. Of course there wasn't even a grain of truth in any of it, but he’d be surprised if the Coreign king still fully trusted the Republic after such a counter.

    To his surprise however, King Juster only frowned. “No,
    Ambassador, you would bleed us dry.” King Juster knew he was treading on dangerous ground with the Skenvi Ambassador and glanced away from Lord Siege’s fuming face and at his wife for support.

    Queen Erin smiled her special loving smile that King Juster knew all too well. She always understood every situation and whenever King Juster was frustrated or didn’t know what to decide, all it took was that one smile of support to make him feel better; that one smile to let him know that no matter what he does, it will be the right decision.

    The King looked back at Lord Siege, who was not even trying to hide his anger. “I’m afraid that this dialogue isn’t going anywhere at the moment, Ambassador. I have other matters to tend to, so we shall have to bring it to a close for now.”

    Lord Siege’s eyes flared as a surge of anger traveled through his body. How dare this old fool dismiss him like that! He glanced around the room and was reminded of the Royal Guards. If he wanted to, thanks to his training, he could snap the King and Queen’s necks like twigs, and take out the guards before anyone even knew what was happening. Of course the Skenvi Emperor would not like that at all and he would no doubt be hunted as a traitor and killed.

    He decided that he could do no more at the moment. “Very well,” Lord Siege replied. “I will return soon to further discuss the matter.” He bowed and then turned and walked out of the room.

    Two of the guards turned and followed Lord Siege to make sure he actually left the Palace. Suddenly another door opened and the King and Queen turned to see fourteen-year-old Princess Arianna Ad’Lah walk in, her long blond hair falling against the back of her sparkling green dress which dragged along the floor behind her. Her eyes caught a glimpse of Lord Siege before the door closed.

    “Who was that man?” She asked her parents.

    “No one for you to concern yourself with, dear,” King Juster replied with distaste.

    “He was an Ambassador from an Empire that has taken interest in our planet,” Queen Erin informed her daughter.

    “I do not like him,” Arianna said. “I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about him that I cannot explain. I don’t think he can be trusted.”

    King Juster smiled and looked at his daughter. “You have nothing to worry about. We don’t trust him.” King Juster knew his daughter would make a great Queen one day. She had always been able to pick up on different levels of vibes and her initial feelings towards a person were almost always spot on.

    They were interrupted when the final guard approached the King and Queen with a small hologram projector. “Your Grace, the Chancellor of the New Republic wishes to speak with you.”

    King Juster thanked the guard as he took the projector. Arianna knew she needed to leave such business to her parents and walked out of the room again.

    Waiting until his daughter was out of the room, King Juster pushed a button on the side of the device and a small hazy hologram of Chancellor Dorren of the Republic appeared. King Juster found it interesting that the current Chancellor was the youngest person to ever be elected Chancellor at the age of thirty-five, which always made King Juster feel a bit awkward talking with him; he felt he was talking to a teenager, although to his credit, the Chancellor acted far from one.

    The hologram briefly flickered a few times. With such a far distance for a communication, it was expected to be a little bit distorted. “Greetings Juster,” The Chancellor greeted with a giant smile that could warm an entire room. “So nice to speak to you again. And your lovely wife as well. I’m honored to even know you.”

    King Juster smiled. It was a fake smile however. Even though he liked the Chancellor far more then the vile Lord Siege, there was still something he disliked about him that he couldn’t put his finger on. Of course the tug of war between the Republic and Skenvi involving Coreign didn’t help his feelings towards either side either.

    “To what do we owe this mutual honor?” King Juster asked.

    The Chancellor sighed and his smile dipped slightly. “I fear that I will not be able to arrive in person to conduct the negotiations,” he confessed. “With the war escalating, I simply must be on Coruscant to monitor things. You know how Generals get when you leave them to their own devices,” he chuckled.

    Although he said nothing, King Juster did not know. Coreign had been a peaceful planet for hundreds of years - since long before his time.

    With the King remaining silent, Chancellor Dorren decided to continue. “In my place, I will be sending two Jedi as ambassadors. I hope you will afford them the same courtesies you would if they were me.”

    “Of course, Chancellor. You have nothing to fear. We are gracious to all our guests.”

    Chancellor Dorren clapped his hands together. “Good. Again, I regret not being able to attend to this personally, but the Jedi are more than capable of handling it in my stead. Goodbye, Juster, Erin…and thank you so much for your cooperation in this. It is much appreciated.”

    As the communications ended, King Juster hoped the Jedi would arrive soon. Although he did not voice such concerns to his wife, he honestly didn’t know how much longer he could deal with Lord Siege alone.

    ***

    While the Republic’s X-Wings returned to the city planet of Coruscant, the Jedi Starfighters went to their own base - the lush jungle planet of Yavin IV.

    Yavin IV was home to one of the new Jedi Academy. After Luke Skywalker created the New Jedi Order, he used the long-abandoned Yavin IV Temple as his own personal Jedi Academy. When more and more Jedi were recruited, other Academies were opened elsewhere and constructed across the galaxy.

    The Yavin IV Temple housed the strongest, most famous Jedi Masters, including the Jedi Council itself. It was no secret that some of the best Jedi Knights were trained at the Yavin IV Temple. To be trained there was a high honor that every Jedi in the galaxy wanted.

    Luckily Raven was one such Jedi that trained at the Yavin IV Temple. While some Jedi thought of the Temple as the most amazing Jedi structure in the Galaxy, Raven thought of it as Home.

    Like most people returning home after a battle, Raven was glad to be back home. He climbed down from his Jedi Starfighter, which was housed inside the Temple’s main Hanger Bay, and met with Soran Darr as he also exited his vehicle. Behind him, a group of Repair Droids scattered around like rushing worker ants as they prepared to refuel the ships and begin to fix any damages that they had obtained during battle.

    As Raven approached his master, he tripped over one of the smaller scattering droids but caught his balance. He apologized to the droid, which beeped and whistled at him angrily.

    “I know I lectured you quite a bit on the way home,” Soran stated to Raven as they turned and walked across the polished floor and towards the Temple Entrance. “But overall you really did do a good job. You’ve proven that you can handle yourself quite well in a space fight.”

    “Thank you, Master.” Raven was surprised at his master’s complimenting, but made sure not to show it in his voice.

    Soran continued, “If you continue doing so well, it won’t be much longer until you’re ready for the Trials.”

    Raven’s face lit up with joy and excitement. He couldn’t hide his emotions any longer. The Trials were the most important stage in a Jedi’s life. If a Padawan passed the Trials, they were promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight, and potentially a Master themselves. “You really think so?”

    “I do.” The duo reached a door and Soran pressed a small button on the wall. The door slid open and they walked into a brightly lit well-polished hall. “Now I suggest you go catch some rest. We’ve had a long journey and you can never be sure of when you’ll be needed next.”

    Raven nodded his head and they split apart, going down opposite ends of the hall. Raven still couldn’t believe that Soran thought he was almost ready for the Trials! How did Soran expect him to get sleep after dumping that huge news on him? He’d have to start self-training himself in his spare time, to make sure he had everything down pat.

    Raven reached a hallway filled with numerous doors on either side. He walked past the first few and then turned and pressed a button on the wall. One of the doors slid open and he walked into his personal quarters.

    Raven’s room was just that - one room. There was a single neatly-made bed next to a barren wall with a computer terminal nearby. He had various Jedi robes and clothes hanged tidily on hooks on another wall. Raven walked over to a holder on the wall and placed his lightsaber horizontally on it.

    He looked out his one tiny window at a grassy field. The field was currently occupied by a group of Jedi students training in the art of dueling. Raven recognized the thick mane of Jedi Master Fallon D’Kurk. Master D’Kurk was a Cathar - a species that heavily resembled a humanoid lion. They are widely known for their bravery and honor, both of which D’Kurk was filled to the brim with.

    Raven had great respect for the Jedi Master. He was trained in the art of saber dueling by D’Kurk when he was younger and knew that he was possibly one of the greatest duelers in the Galaxy. He’d be surprised if Master D’Kurk had ever lost a match in his life.

    Raven closed his shutters and turned away from the window, walking over to his bed. He laid on it and closed his eyes, freeing his mind and forcing all thoughts to leave. He breathed in slowly, then out just as slowly. Before long, he was in a deep meditative sleep.

    ***

    Raven opened his eyes and groggily sat up. His eyes widened when he realized that instead of his bed, he was laying in a grassy field under a bright sun and a warm breeze.

    He jumped to his feet and started turning around, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there while he slept. had he been drugged?

    Raven stopped turning when he saw a great city in the distance with a Palace rising up high above, towering over the city. For some reason it filled his heart with a warmth feeling that he could not explain.

    ***

    Raven’s eyes snapped open and he immediately looked at his surroundings. He was still laying on his bed in his room. Raven shook his head and wiped some sleepy dust from his eyes.

    A dream, Raven thought to himself. That was all it was.

    Someone coughed and Raven whipped his head around. The most beautiful blonde-haired girl Raven had ever seen was standing in his doorway, dressed in Jedi robes. She gave Raven the same warm peaceful feeling that the city in his dream had.

    Raven stared at her, confused. Living at the Yavin IV Jedi Academy since he was four, he had come to know every other student there, on some level, but yet he didn’t recognize this one. She couldn’t be new though, as she was far too old to have just started her training.

    “Your future lies with me,” said the girl of pure beauty as she smiled warmly at Raven. Raven opened his mouth to ask her who she was, but the girl disappeared - vaporized from view. Raven was left alone to ponder what just happened. Was it somehow a remnant of his previous dream? Was he still dreaming? That last question was answered by Seth Re’X walking into the room.

    “Are you ok, Raven? You look a bit dazed.” Seth noticed Raven’s confused look and saw him continue to stare blankly at the doorway, long after Seth walked into the room.

    Raven snapped out of it and turned to face his friend. “I’m fine.”

    “Good, because Master Soran Darr has requested that you meet him in the Jedi Council Chambers immediately.”

    Raven thanked his friend and Seth nodded his head and walked out. Raven rubbed the remaining sleep from his eyes. He looked back at the door, but the mysterious girl never returned. He decided he’d talk to his master about it later.

    Raven stood up, stretched, yawned, and then walked out of his room.

    ***

    As Raven approached the Council Chambers Entry Hall, he thought a bit about his Jedi History lessons. He had learned not too long ago that the Council Chambers used to belong solely to Luke Skywalker himself. He used the room as a meditation chamber, but that changed after he put together a new Jedi Council. Raven often thought about what it would be like to be on the Council. When he was a Youngling, he even used to pretend he was on the Council.

    Raven’s thoughts changed as he wondered what Master Soran could want and why he wanted to meet at the Council Chambers. His first thought was the Trials, but he knew that wasn’t it as Soran said that he’d be ready soon, not that he was ready now. So Raven was back to square one and didn’t have the slightest clue as to what to expect. That was a feeling he did not like to have.

    By the time he reached the Entrance Hall, Soran was already standing there, waiting for him.


    “Why are we here, master?” Raven questioned as soon as he reached his master. The only times he’d ever been summoned to the Jedi Council in the past had been right before they sent him on an important mission, but he had just returned from one not two hours before, so that couldn’t be the reason.

    “I do not know myself,” Soran admitted. He had been in deep meditation when a representative for the Council approached him and informed him of the Council wishing for his and Raven’s presence. “But we will find out soon enough.”

    The two giant oak doors creaked open and the Jedi stepped inside the colossal room. The area was wide open, with giant windows lining the back wall and only four seats forming a semi-circle in the middle of the room. In those four seats sat the four great Jedi Masters of the Council. The first one that Raven noticed was Yollen, a short green alien about two and a half feet high with pointed ears and round beady eyes, much like Grand Master Yoda from the legends. Yollen straightened his thick goggle-like glasses as he looked at the two Jedi.

    Next to Yollen was Keagle. Keagle sat up straight and tall, like a father proud of his son. He was of the Lupine species and resembled a grey humanoid dog, but with bloodshot red eyes and a hood up around his head. When Raven was younger, he had to often control himself from laughing at the sight. He had always wanted to give him a bone or a doggy snack, but refrained from doing so. Angering the dog Jedi was not a good idea. The memory of those thoughts however, always made Raven smile.

    Across from Keagle were two humans. One was a female with thick black hair flowing all the way down to the floor. Raven knew of Saline, but had never seen her outside of the Council Chambers. The other was a male, Joran Korn, who Raven knew of very well. Joran Korn had been a great friend of Soran’s when Soran was only an apprentice. Back then, Joran Korn had not been a part of the Council and Raven sometimes wondered if his master harbored any ill feelings towards Joran Korn at all, for getting accepted to a seat on the Council while he had not.

    Joran Korn, in actuality, was far older then Soran Darr, although he didn’t look any older then early twenties. That was due to the fact that Joran Korn’s race aged much more slowly then the average being. Soran often told Raven stories about when he and Joran Korn were friends. Although Joran Korn had been a Jedi Knight long before Soran was even a Jedi Youngling, they still carried an instant bond. The stories that Soran had told Raven were nothing short of marvelous; they were the stuff bedtime tales were often made of.

    Raven and Soran approached the middle of the room and stood perfectly still, facing the Council. They put their hands behind their back and stood straight up.

    Joran Korn spoke, “On behalf of the Council, I wish to present to you another assignment. The Republic has approached the planet Coreign with an offer of annexation. We have been received enthusiastically, but the Chancellor deems it prudent to send a Jedi as an ambassador, in order to show our…” he paused as he thought of the better word to use. “…eagerness…for them to join.” Joran Korn’s face hardened, but continued, “Unfortunately, the Skenvi Empire has also approached Coreign with their own offer. They are likely more concerned with the planet’s resources - its unique ore, to be more specific - than they are with its people.”

    Soran cracked a small smile. Did the Chancellor really expect them to buy such lies? It was obviously clear what was on the Chancellor’s mind. “Joran Korn, you and I both know that while the Republic cares a great deal about its citizens, the only reason they chose to approach Coreign now is also because of that ore. They want it just as bad as the Skenvi do.”

    “That is probably true,” Joran Korn stated. “Although I do hope you will be a bit more diplomatic when you meet with the Royal Family. Remember the stakes here. If the Skenvi Empire gains exclusive rights to Coreign’s ore, the Republic will be that much closer to losing this war.”

    Soran felt a shiver travel through his entire body. As much as he disliked the New Republic constantly hiding their alternate motives, he at least understood them to some extent. He and Raven had been on the front lines of many battles with the Skenvi Empire and not all of them ended as well as the last.

    “Don’t remind me,” Soran stated glumly. “We’re barely holding our own as it is.”

    Raven hated talking about the war. It always dampened every conversation. He decided to change the topic back to what the Council called them there for. He usually never spoke to the Council himself, as it was out of place for a Jedi Padawan to do so and was frowned upon greatly, but he felt it was needed this time. Remembering the uncomfortable Starfighter seats, Raven asked, “Have you arranged transportation? I doubt our starfighters will make for a comfortable trip there.”

    Joran Korn nodded, “We have hired a pilot to take you there covertly. No reason for the Skenvi Empire to be alerted to the presence of Jedi there.”

    Soran bowed. “Then we’ll be off.”

    “May the Force be with you.”

    Soran turned and walked out of the Council Chambers, Raven following close behind. They began walking down the halls, away from the Council Chambers. As much as Raven enjoyed getting assignments and knew that they helped a Jedi Apprentice prepare for the Trials sooner, he couldn’t help but feel slightly frustrated.

    “Another mission, Master? This is overkill. Why are they sending us back out again?” Raven asked. “We've only been back a couple hours.”

    “I must admit, I felt something in the Force when we returned, hence why I suggested you get some rest.”

    “I was hoping to continue my studies,” Raven stated. He knew his dueling with a lightsaber, his piloting a starfighter, and his abilities to use the Force in various ways, were all top notch. If he was to prepare for the Trials, he needed to study his Jedi History, among a few other things, a bit more. Raven had always been more interested in the hand’s-on training then with reading and studying texts.

    “This mission will be a good exercise for you,” Soran continued. “A firm grasp of diplomacy can often be a Jedi’s greatest asset. Having the strength and skill to win a fight is not nearly as important as being able to avoid one in the first place. And, might I remind you, you will be tested on such things during your Trials. Practice such as this mission will serve you well.”

    Raven realized his master was correct. He didn’t have much experience in negotiating and all of a sudden started to feel worried. Negotiating he felt, was something he was far from prepared for, and would need a lot of practice before he would be ready for the Trials.

    Soran sensed Raven’s nervousness. “Relax, my padawan. I will not recommend you for the Trials until I feel you are fully capable.”

    Raven untensed his body slightly, knowing that Soran was right once again. He would not put Raven through the Trials prematurely, and although Raven dreamed night after night of facing the Trials, he would rather wait just a little bit longer if it meant he’d be more prepared.

    “Now go and pack your things. I’ll meet you in the Hanger Bay. We will leave as soon as you’re ready.”

    Raven nodded and turned down a separate hall from his Master.

    ***

    It didn’t take Raven very long to pack and get to the Hanger Bay. Soran was already there waiting for him by the time he was ready. Raven wondered how Soran could have moved so quickly, but just passed it off as light packing.

    “Let’s go meet our pilot,” Soran smiled as they walked together across the Hanger Bay towards an old transport ship that had more rust on it then Raven had seen on any ship in his entire life. Leaning against the outside of the unkempt ship, was a heavy-built man in his late thirties. Given the appearance of his ship and the way he dressed himself, he was surprisingly clean-shaven.

    “You two boys must be the Jedi I’m transporting,” The man stated matter-of-factly.

    “We are,” Soran replied.

    The man extended his hand and Soran shook it. “My name is Karus Kahn and I’m the pilot of this fine beauty. StarStream’s her name.”

    Raven winced at the thought of calling that ugly bucket of bolts a beauty, however Karus didn’t seem to notice. Raven kept his mouth shut and allowed his Master to do all the talking. “I’m Soran Darr, and this is my apprentice, Raven Darkham”

    Karus nodded a ‘hello’ at Raven and looked back towards Soran. “The Council said that time is of the essence here, so I suggest I get you two settled on-board so we can take off.” Karus turned and walked up the ramp into his decaying ship. Soran and Raven followed behind.

    ***

    Inside the ship, Karus showed them the main Passenger Compartment. It was quite small. There was a red cushioned bench in the corner with a table in front of it, with just enough room to walk from one door to another. Raven looked around, disgusted. This time Karus caught his look.

    “Hey, usually I don’t transport people so you’re lucky I have even this much for passengers.”

    “It’s fine,” Soran stated to reassure the pilot that they were more then grateful for his help. He looked at Raven. “Appearances can be deceiving. I have full faith that our pilot knows what he’s doing.” He laid his bag on the floor and went to sit on the bench.

    Raven continued to look around, seeing if there was more then meets the eye to the room, but there wasn’t. What he saw was what he got. Appearances can be deceiving…yeah, sure. Raven sighed and joined his master.

    “You boys might want to buckle in when I make the jump to lightspeed,” Karus stated as he turned to head for the cockpit. “It can get a bit shaky back here and the inertial compensators on this baby aren’t what they used to be.”

    Soran thanked the pilot and Karus disappeared into the cockpit, closing the door behind him.

    As the ship powered up and began to take off, Raven asked, “What are the people of Coreign like, Master?”

    “Well, they are a peaceful planet. According to the Jedi Archive, they used to be a war-loving planet until about three hundred years ago when a civil war caused the downfall of the Coreign Dynasty and new rulers were elected. It has been a peaceful planet ever since and the people there now strongly oppose war.”

    “What will the Royal Family be like?”

    “I do not know, but I assume they will be kind and gentle. Now, enough talk of Coreign. Let’s start on your lessons.”

    Raven reached inside his bag and pulled out a Data Pad that had dozens of electronic books stored on it. Because Raven was still a padawan, it was required that if he went on any missions, that he continued his studies during the trip.

    ***

    The StarStream exited Yavin IV’s atmosphere and entered space. It shortly went to lightspeed, leaving the black expanse of space around Yavin IV once again silent and undisturbed.





    11/13/2010 10:51:07 PM
    (Updated: 11/13/2010 10:53:50 PM)
    (Updated: 11/13/2010 10:54:01 PM)

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