"Kronis. No- No- No- No- No. Why? Why lay down your life? Just come to me. Talk to me through the Force. Make me understand why you'd do such a thing." DarkRula is sat in the pilot seat of the Scimitar, having landed it. Now he talks to the Force, and specifically Kronis, but is still getting no response. DarkRula then sighs and gets up from the seat. "Well, if no answer comes, I may as well find one out." Walking to the lift pod, he gets in. A vision then comes to him, and he is fully immersed in that vision that all sound and sight of his surroundings leaves him. Walking onto the bridge, DarkRula meets up with Kronis. He had been told to report to the bridge as Kronis had got some news for him. When looking out at the viewscreen, he sees the planet they have arrived at is Ilum. "What are we doing here?" DarkRula asks. "This place," Kronis announces, "is the home base of the Jedi." "This frozen wasteland?" The planet was a mixture of greys and white. The scans on the computer screen DarkRula could see indicated blizzards of snow storms and icy conditions. "Dismiss it for a frozen wasteland you may, young Max, but this has been the home of the Jedi for the last hundred years." "Kronis, not that name! You, of all people should know that it's DarkRula." "The Jedi will never accept that as a reasonable name, and neither do I. When we go down to the planet, you will acknowledge yourself with your full name only." "Well it was my fault for not expressing myself clearly." "It was their fault for not realising the danger! Each one gave their lives to protect me and that Jedi cruiser, and even though only you survived the legacy of that group continues on through you." "What did really happen to the base?" DarkRula then asks. "We'll be going down in five minutes. Get yourself to the hangar." "Answer the question," DarkRula says with vigour. "It doesn't need answering, but if you care for answers, perhaps all will be explained when we get to the planet's surface." DarkRula then walks out of the bridge. The shuttle ride down to the planet is quiet. DarkRula just sits strapped in the seat, riding the turbulence of the blizzard as the shuttle fights its way to the landing platform. Landing with its docking claws, laser wall emitters enclose the entrance of both shuttle and Temple. Kronis walks out, telling DarkRula to follow. Unstrapping himself, DarkRula reluctantly follows Kronis out of the shuttle. The laser wall emitters seemed to do nothing more than block the wind. The space between the two was quite large, so two people could stand side-by-side easily. DarkRula stands beside Kronis, shivering in the cold, and admires the crystal walls that make up the Jedi Temple. The two walk forward, and doors open on the crystal wall. Another Jedi walks out, followed by two guards. The three walk forward cautiously, until the Jedi recognises Kronis and tells the guards to back down. They stay put while the Jedi continues walking forward. Another human, the Jedi calls for the two to walk and follow. Kronis walks, and DarkRula follows, studying the wall. Passing the guards, they take up the rear as the group walk into the Temple proper. More of the same crystallised structure is inside the temple, with the same blue-grey colouring as the outside. Turning left, the corridor leads to a lobby of turbolifts. Crowding inside one, the lift shoots up. At the top is another larger lobby, with two views. One view is the landing platform outside, and the other is the main hallway of the temple. Both of the views are small, so they must be a long way up. "Wait here," the Jedi tells Kronis and DarkRula. DarkRula looks around from the window to see a door. The two guards take up positions either side as the Jedi enters it. The guards stay in those positions, and two minutes pass before the Jedi appears at the door again, calling Kronis and DarkRula inside. DarkRula expected more blue, and more ice, when he entered. He was surprised to see a lavishly styled room, with red carpet and yellow walls. With a cylindrical shape, the window was thin and ran all the way around the room, bar where the door lay. Around the walls were seats. In each seat was a Jedi. All the Jedi had the same robes of brown, and tunics of pale yellow. Some, however, wore different items of clothing, whether from size or something different, DarkRula didn't know. One of these Jedi was a Lurmen, and this Jedi spoke first. "Kronis, I believe you have someone to introduce?" "Yes, Master Kanar Tee Vol," Kronis says. "This here is Max Golden, a pilot who is strong in the Force and rescued our cruiser from trouble. He had some... difficulty with the pilot group Thunder Strike Delta, who wanted him executed for losing his pilots. He was group commander." "You should have left me," DarkRula says. "I could have handled him." Kronis looks at DarkRula. "And to what end? More would have followed, and without the training of the Jedi, you would surely be dead." "He has some problem with what he did?" Master Tee Vol asks. "Well, it wasn't his fault, but he still blames himself." "Darkness I sense in you, young Max. But if you are willing to train him Kronis." "Whoa. What?" DarkRula asks. "Be trained? As a Jedi?" "What better course of action is there?" a Zabrak Jedi comments. "Being a Jedi allows you access to the best piloting skills in the galaxy, as well as the best ships." "Enough," Master Tee Vol states. "That will be when you are a proper Jedi. Until then, you will be a Padawan learner under Kronis' tutelage. However, first you must prove yourself." "Prove myself?" DarkRula asks, with a slight pause between the two words. "In the crystal caves of Jedi Passage," a tall humanoid says. This Jedi is a Muun. "You will go there, collect your crystal, and find yourself on the way," the Lurmen Jedi Master announces. "I'm... willing to give it a try," DarkRula says. "No!" the Lurmen Jedi shouts. "You won't try. Try is a lack of confidence in yourself and a lack of concentration on the task at hand. You will do, and succeed, as you have those qualities. Or you will fail. In which case you are not the material we are looking for." "What?" DarkRula says. "And what if I pass with flying colours? Faster than anyone before?" "Oh, I doubt that would happen," Master Tee Vol says. "But if you did, I could see you progressing faster than most, and becoming a Jedi Knight yourself." "Right then. How do I get to this cave?" "Kronis will take you there. He has been there numerous times to know what has to be done." "Thank you masters," Kronis says with a bow, nudging DarkRula to do the same. "I will take him there at once." The two turn to the door and exit the Council Chamber. Into the lift and down to ground level, DarkRula then follows Kronis back to the entrance, where opposite there is another corridor. Walking along this one, it is more jagged and rough than the others. It also seemed to curve around the exterior of the Temple itself. "Whe-" DarkRula starts to ask, but Kronis hushes him. After another ten minutes walking, the corridor comes to an end. The lobby has a darkened interior, with a thin frozen ice sheet covering what looked to be an entrance. This wasn't where DarkRula was led though. Branching off this lobby were other tunnels, one of which was like a large whale mouth. On this middle of the lobby was a raised dais, and this was where Kronis walked to and stood. "Come here," Kronis calls. DarkRula walks to him, stepping up onto the dais as well. "Now then. Once you step off this dais, you must enter the cave. You can only leave on two accounts. If you succeed, or give up. Now go." DarkRula steps off the dais and walks forward to the cave opening. Once inside, he starts running. A coldness like no other lurks in the cave, and sound echoes like a crescendo of bass instruments. It was sub-dark inside and the ice structures were more jagged than ever. And somewhere, in all this, DarkRula was meant to find a crystal, his crystal, within these twisting passages. If he didn't do something, he'd never get his crystal. And he wasn't giving up. Making a left turn down another passage, the air thickens and the darkness becomes even more imposing. DarkRula runs even faster, hoping to get out of the darkness. But the darkness just keeps getting thicker and thicker until no light is left. Trying to concentrate, DarkRula makes a high jump upwards and arrives in a higher passage. This one still had the darkness surrounding it. Then out of the darkness, voices call to him. DarkRula recognises them. They are the voices of his pilot group. "You are a disgrace to us." "You should never have been our commander." "Just because you're special with those abilities doesn't mean we all are." These messages and more creep towards him, whispering to him, echoing around the passage. And then, the penultimate words came to him. "You are a dark ruler. You are corrupt. You think that anyone else is beyond you just because you have special powers. And now, you will be executed for failing to realise that. The galaxy does not need people like you in power, as history dictates." "NO!" DarkRula shouts into the darkness. The voices quiet. The darkness still looms. "I know I should have made my instructions clearer, but I don't see myself above the rest of you. Just that I'm a better pilot." "Which in turn is where you get your brashness and self-importance." "And? What's so bad about that? Think about myself, keep myself out of harm." "And while you may have no emotion, hatred will consume you, by your thinking only about yourself." "Hatred? I don't hate anything! Not myself, not the Jedi, not..." "Your internal hatred has now become you, with your adopting the name of DarkRula. There is nothing more pitiful than an embodiment of hatred." "Stop it! I cannot believe I would say this, but the only thing I do hate is what I became on that day. What I have become now. I would give anything to forget it, but I know I will never dispel it. Never. "If you need me to say it again, I will. But..." DarkRula trails off. A glint of light had come to him through the darkness. It then disappears. "But... I am sorry for everything that happened on that day. I see my anger clearer now than I ever could. It has become me, but will always stay a part of me. All I wanted was a better future for me, and when that future seemed uncertain, and likely to fail, I did anything I could to follow it through. "The battle, the losing of my squad, all of that, so I could just get a chance to be a Jedi. If I'd have followed it through, I would have seen that there was always the certainty I would become a Jedi, no matter what happened. "And now, I detach myself from my guilt of that day, but no matter what, will I change who I am. This is what I'll always be." From the darkness, two points of light start glinting. Both of them red. DarkRula concentrates on those lights, and raises a hand. Through the darkness, he starts walking in a straight line, directly toward the lights. As one hand closes in on one of the points of light, the other raises and grabs the second. Once the two had been pulled from the wall, the glow emitted from them fades. The darkness filling the room is instantly flooded with light, and DarkRula looks down at his hands to see two red crystals. The path back to the lobby where Kronis stood waiting was easier than the path to where he had found the crystals. That could have been due to the fact he hadn't actually known where his crystals would be, or it could have been the fact his conscious mind was following a beacon without him recognising it. Either way, when he reached the lobby, Kronis was giving him a studious look. "What?" DarkRula asks. "Is there something you want to say about your experience?" Kronis asks. "Not really." "There is nothing you can hide from a well abled Force user. In time, you might be able to block the thoughts from others, but I know emotional conflict crashing around you." "I am DarkRula," he says faintly. "There is nothing I can do to change that. But I do realise the position of power is not to be taken lightly, and instructions are not meant to be followed, but tested and proven before being acted out." While not strictly true, Kronis thought better than to tell him. He could feel the different paths those thoughts were taking, and in time would indeed heal fully. For now, however, the best meditation was to build his lightsaber and start on practising and learning. "Let me look at the crystal you obtained," Kronis says. DarkRula brings both hands forward and opens them palm up. A red crystal in each hand glint. "I got two," DarkRula says. "What does it mean?" To have earned two crystals from the cave was a great feat. And the red, while not symbolic of the Sith any more, was indicative of darkness. He chose not to disclose this information, however, and replied with a simple "Nothing."
DarkRula could feel all this, including Kronis' thoughts, through the Force, present day, and jumped when he saw he was standing on the ramp of the Scimitar and two Battle Droids were waiting for him. "Er, sir. We await your command." DarkRula looks down and realizes he had lightsaber in hand. Whether he wanted to or not, he would find what the memory was trying to tell, but with his emotions high over Kronis' death, there was only one thing he could say. "We're going to find Kronis, and avenge his death." "How're we going to do that, sir?" a Battle Droid asks. "Well the last place he would have been would be on the bridge, to have made such a clear call to me. And I'm guessing those things don't know about this place, so we'll have to be careful." Leading the droids to the turbolift pods that rose upwards to the main of the ship, he sets one to take them up all the way to the bridge. As the doors open, they see two Battle Droids already inside. "And what are you two doing?" DarkRula asks. "Uh... Welcome back sir. But we were looking for the other human." "Other human. This doctor, huh?" "Yes. He'd gone somewhere, but we don't know." "Hey!" the other Battle Droid exclaims. "If I know he's searching for clues, how come you don't?" "Searching for clues? Where?" "On the ship with those droid things. There seems to be something wrong with their hyperdrive you see. It's powering up, but taking its time." "Well where are you going now?" DarkRula asks. "For a closer look. We borrowed these from some J-type Battle Droids." The droid indicates what is on its back. A jetpack. "Borrowed?" the other Battle Droids chips in. "They were just lying there next to them. The droid things must have destroyed them. It'll be a wonder if that thing still works." "Well then? Are you going?" "Uh... Sure." "And keep me updated. I want to hear everything going on with that other cruiser." "Yes, sir!" both Battle Droids say, before exiting the pod. "Now then, let's get in and get going." "Sir!" DarkRula walks into the lift pod, followed by the two droids. Pressing a button, a clank starts up and the doors close. The pod then starts accelerating. One of these pods could reach speeds of up to forty miles an hour. He therefore, even though tense with nerves, closes his eyes. That was a bad thing to do though, as another vision flashed in his mind.
The chilly cold came to him again, and DarkRula knelt down. Kronis deactivates his own lightsaber and walks to him, kneeling down as well. "What is up?" he asks. "Nothing," DarkRula replies, looking up at the ice structures of the cave. Ilum was still a very chilly place even within the caves. "Just a bit frozen." "There will come a time when you will no longer feel the cold, but only when you are deep within the Force. Now then, let's get back to practising." DarkRula looks down at the lightsaber in his left hand. A double-bladed lightsaber of curious design, the hilt was twice as long as a normal lightsaber to accommodate the two crystals. It was steel grey, and had indents to give better grip. The only other option that had presented itself had been two lightsabers, but DarkRula only cared about having one. The styles for two lightsabers didn't give him much of an edge in combat, he felt, and he also knew some unique tricks with a double-bladed lightsaber. Getting up, he activates both blades, and holds it behind him with the outer blade pointed up. Kronis gets up as well and takes a few steps back, activating his more simpler styled lightsaber. While both of DarkRula's blades were red, Kronis had a dark blue blade. "Now then. Remember - invert twist and attack," Kronis says. "With the other blade, make sure to defend and keep it away from you." "Sure." With a countdown from Kronis, DarkRula then executes the move perfectly, reverting to a defence stance once finished. Kronis then attacks with a basic three stroke attack, with DarkRula blocking all the strikes easily. "It seems you really are picking it up easily. But-" DarkRula turns around and looks where Kronis stares. Thirty or so pirates are rushing in, guns and pikes at the ready. "I thought this place was well defended?" DarkRula asks. "Just put your skills so far to the test." "What? You're not going to fight?" "Only when I need to step in." DarkRula held his blade up to defence and rushed into battle. Within the first few attacks, he knew they were skilled. His defence work was brilliant though, and no bolts from the guns hit anything but their owner. Which was then he realised, as the first few fell, this was a test. The pirates were in fact PROXY droids, but the combat variant. Realising they were only droids unlocked a battle rage within him, and instantly he swapped from injuring them to full out destruction. This battle rage made even the injured droids full-on scrap metal. Once the last one fell with a vertical slash, severing it in half, DarkRula blinks twice and deactivates his 'saber. Kronis gives him a reproving look.
Opening his eyes again, DarkRula sees that the lift has arrived at its destination, and the Battle Droids are staring at him. The doors were still closed, which was good, as anything that could see in wouldn't be good stealth. "Well, let's go," DarkRula whispers to the droids. "And make sure you are quiet as well." "Uh, sir-" "No pointless remarks. No saying anything that isn't important. Got it?" "Uh. Yes, sir," both Battle Droids say. DarkRula sighs and shakes his head, using the Force to prise the lift doors open. Running from corridor to corridor, he makes himself as small as possible against the wall before looking out around the corner of any intersection. He could use the Force to sense where they were, but he preferred using his eyes for that. The Battle Droids, as ever, were clanking uselessly to each point DarkRula ran, and he wasn't surprised that none of these Daleks had caught them yet. At the next intersection though, he had his answer. Running to a point of intersection, he doesn't need to flatten himself against a wall to see them coming. Hoping they would be too busy to look up, DarkRula jumps onto the ceiling and gets a grip with both hands and feet on some pipes. The Daleks turn the corner screaming "Move! Move! The Doctor has been sighted aboard our ship! Block his escape!" at the same time the Battle Droids clank into view. Without bothering to think, the Daleks blasted the two droids down and ran into them in their haste. DarkRula couldn't be bothered with the droids, and using the Force to sense whether there were any more Daleks incoming, he drops and continues on his way. Running to the other lift, he arrives at the tower and bursts into the bridge. Looking around, he couldn't see Kronis at all, and hoped that he had lived. But he couldn't use the Force to pinpoint Kronis' location, or even get a vague sense of his being. He knew the inevitable had happened. Slowly walking around the deserted bridge, DarkRula then sees the body crumpled against the side of the communications console. DarkRula runs to the body and kneels down beside it. Just to see his old master again was too much for him to take, especially in this state. DarkRula knew that, in time, he would be able to forget this and let it pass, as all Jedi should, but for now he let his emotions reel themselves out, for what would possibly be the last they ever would. At least the light side ones, anyway. "I'm sorry I failed you Kronis," DarkRula cries, hugging his former master to him. "I should have been here... to protect you. The... duty fell to me... and now... without you... I don't know. I asked for guidance and these images aren't helping. They're- They're just making things worse. I know you tried to rid me of my dark feelings, but I said it myself - the lack of emotions I hold make me more powerful. Only you ever truly understood me, and that fact. "The only thing I can do now is go back to Neimoidia, but then they'll surely point the blame on me, no matter whether we were close or not. Won't they? They'll say I killed you, just to take the power. The Jedi know of my past, but even they can't help me." As DarkRula kept talking to himself, he could feel a rising anger returning to him. No. Not anger. Frustration. The fact that so many choices presented themselves to him, and he had no guide to sort them out, was indeed frustrating. He hadn't just lost a mentor, he had lost a brother and a friend. His only friend, it felt like, in the entire universe. "I could say so much more. I could say that I want you back, no matter what. But how can I? It's not like you'll ever be back. There's no way you could guide me." The frustration inside him boiled up to its peak, and quickly he stood up. A comforting feeling then ran through him, as though Kronis himself was sending them. Either way, they comforted him and made him settle back down. "I suppose I should let you go from my mind. But with the universe in danger, I will never let you go. Your death at the hands of these things bring the fuel to my heart, and I will avenge you." Crouching down, DarkRula removes Kronis' lightsaber from the belt clip, and attached it to the second one on his own belt. He also removed the teleporter from Kronis' wrist, and snapped it onto his own. The body of Kronis then disappears, leaving just the robes of the greatest man DarkRula ever knew. DarkRula stares at the robes for a long time. He isn't aware of anything else. The clanking of Battle Droids walking outside. The whoosh of the doors to the bridge opening. More clanking as a Battle Droid walks in. He doesn't even notice as it speaks. "Uh. Sir? Did you hear me?" Pause. "Um, you do realise The Doctor needs our help, right?" the droid tries again. "How?" DarkRula says. His voice is quiet. He's not even thinking really about what he is saying. He is just talking on autopilot, only slightly aware of any talking. "Well, those things are heading back to the ship he is on? Don't you think we should be trying to stage a rescue?" "Rescue?" DarkRula snidely remarks, firing up and twisting to face the Battle Droid. "Who was there to rescue Kronis, huh? Who even tried? Who even considered it? Wait! I forgot. You're all droids. You do as you're told and nothing else!" "No need to talk like that sir. We didn't know what was going to happen." DarkRula scoffs. "Fine. Get some droids around to that other ship and see what you can do." Another droid runs in. "Sir! Sir! The docking tube of the other ship is being retracted! Scans indicate The Doctor's inside!" "Fine. Just get a slab to cover it and get it down to the position of the hole." DarkRula then closes his eyes and scans with the Force for the disturbance in The Ark. Locating it, he teleports to that point. It seems as though time slows down. For all he can see is one image. The image of him and Kronis on a desert planet. He looked younger in that image, and DarkRula instantly recognised it as a mission he had been on during the early years of him being Kronis' Padawan. The scene changes though, ever so slightly, so that a different man is standing next to him instead. This man wore a red one-piece suit with many weird symbols and shapes. He also seemed to be wearing a top hat. DarkRula also notices that he looks the same as he did now in the image, and that another person is stood next to the man. The image then fades, and DarkRula comes face to face with a gaping hole sucking the atmosphere from The Ark. The Force must have been keeping him held down, as he wasn't being sucked out into space. There was, however, a man who looked very similar to the image he had just experienced floating in the void of space. Looking to the left, DarkRula sees two Battle Droids carrying a large metal plate between them. They were a fair distance away, so he had time. Concentrating the Force to the man outside, he feels that the man is swimming in and out of consciousness, and that he had two hearts. Maybe he was a humanoid, DarkRula thinks as he pulled the man inside using the telekinetic power of the Force. As soon as the man was inside, DarkRula receives another insight. He saw the main hangar with its assortment of ships and shuttles, and tucked away in a corner, a blue, oblong box. This must have been important, DarkRula thinks as he reverts from the image, as the image only came to him as he touched the man. It must belong to him. DarkRula turns and sees the Battle Droids almost upon him. "Get that hole covered immediately!" he shouts, before teleporting him and the man to the location he saw in the image. He hears the "Roger. Roger." of the Battle Droids and the slight scrape of metal on metal before being warped to the hangar and right outside the blue box. The teleportation must have given the man his consciousness back, as a voice abruptly states "Whoa! Where am I?" DarkRula looks down and sees the man is indeed awake. Removing his knees from under the man and standing up, he helps the man to a seating position, while replying "Where you are safe. Well, you will be right now. Those things you call..." He tried to remember what Kronis had told him, before his fateful death. "...the Daleks just jumped to hyperspace about a minute ago." "To what?" the man exasperatedly asks. DarkRula hadn't been sure on this man's identity, but now he was almost certain. Anyone who didn't know what even the basic functionality of hyperspace was would have come from a different universe. This man, then, was The Doctor. "It's what we call travelling outside the usual timeframe," DarkRula explains. "Surely you can understand that?" "Oh. Well. Yes," The Doctor flusters, "of course. But my time machine recently suffered damage and I need to assess it for myself." "Well, we're right by your time machine so..." It then hits DarkRula. Time machine? But that means-! And now, it was the moment of truth. "Anyway, what's your name? I heard from General Kronis that it's The Doctor. That true?" "Yes." The Doctor didn't elaborate on that. "Now, shall we?" he asks, indicating the door to his time machine. The Doctor walks forward and opens the door. Both walk forward and inside, with The Doctor allowing DarkRula to pass, then he closes the door. DarkRula was just getting to the point of thinking it, when The Doctor says out loud "And before you say, yes. The TARDIS is indeed bigger on the inside. Now. Let me concentrate." "Right..." After having that confirmed, DarkRula's next thought was on what type of doctor this Doctor was. In no way would any sane doctor allow such a mess in his workspace, and DarkRula felt it needed to be said. "Call yourself a doctor? Look at this mess! No doctor would ever allow a place to get into this kind of mess. Well, maybe a doctor of engineering. But only if he was in a bad mood." He could sense The Doctor was a bit miffed at that, and DarkRula was fully expecting a reprisal. He didn't get it. "That is my name, not my profession. My name will remain a secret from everyone. And anyway, might I ask what you are called?" It was only fair that he should ask, DarkRula thinks. But that just brought bad memories back, thinking of his name. His real name. And this was reflected in his voice, which suddenly went more surlier and darker. "My birth-name is Max Golden. But after joining a specialist pilot group and somehow leading them all to the death, I've gone by the name of DarkRula ever since." The Doctor suddenly became inquisitive. "And you show no remorse of such account happening?" "Live and learn, and then forget. That's the way I roll around," DarkRula says, wishing what he were saying was actually true. He was haunted by those memories in his darkest moments. "Well, I need to access damages anyway so just- Just do something. Anything really. I've got leads to follow." And with that, The Doctor went back to work, ever looking as though he was in an office. "Right..." DarkRula quietly says. Looking around, DarkRula thinks it a shame to not be doing anything, and settles into the Force and into the TARDIS. He couldn't touch the TARDIS itself though, only the dust and rubble that had settled around the place. But still, at least he was doing something. Words from The Doctor then started to drift into his mind, so he pulled himself out of the Force, satisfied he had done a good job. But then he realised The Doctor wasn't talking to him, but rather - himself. "...so no time-travel for the time being. At least the spatial geometer is working perfectly. Space travel only until the old girl has fully repaired herself. Although I would like to travel back in time in this universe to see how long the Dalek's have be-" "You sound like this thing is actually alive," DarkRula states, unable to take it any longer. The darkness of his tone had crept back up. "You're a pilot. You should know about the emotional contact between man and machine." "No, actually." "Well," The Doctor says, looking around. "I see you've cleaned the place up." "The Force is strong in me. Dust and rubble I can clean easily. But the electrical systems reject any touch from the Force." And now, it was a last hope. One last hope to get him out of this mess. The only one he could see that would allow him to see all his goals through. "But one thing I did want to ask is, can I come with you? Can I become your apprentice?" He could see The Doctor considering it greatly. Then he spoke. "Well I was planning to drop you off, but now you ask, I suppose I could use some company. And your expertise would also be welcome. I'm new here and I've got no experience dealing with the creatures of this universe. So yes. You can be my new apprentice. And anyway, I'm guessing you've been an apprentice to someone else before me. So can I ask who that was?" Now he had done it. The Doctor had brought all of DarkRula's locked emotions to the fore. And it was then that it finally hit home, that no matter when he was made 'protector', he still should have been by Kronis' side. The Trade Federation could forget it had ever aligned itself with him. He then realised The Doctor was still waiting for an answer. "Sure you can ask," he started in a husky voice. "I was originally his padawan, but then I passed the trials. Since then, I've been more like a Jedi Protector to the man. I protect him at all costs. But not any more. Now there is no point." "So may I-" "I was the Jedi Protector of General Kronis." "Well that must be hard for you," The Doctor began. "No. Don't," DarkRula states. "I don't need it and I don't care." The Doctor is taken aback. "You don't care that your mentor has been killed? That you failed to protect him?" he asks with concern. "Of course I care," DarkRula says in a trailing voice. "It's just..." He gulps and continues. "It's just that we as Jedi must not allow our attachment to come before our duty." His voice becomes stronger again. "And I don't know where you're going, or plan to go, but we've got to return to The Ark first." The Doctor looks blank, then slaps a palm to his forehead. "Oh, sorry dear chap. I didn't realise I had done it. Now that unfortunate thing happened, you've become captain and- Sorry. Rambling on again. Anyway, let's get back to your new ship." "It's not exactly mine, but sure thing." The Doctor pauses in tapping away at the control panel. "What do you mean?" "The Ark is a ship that belongs to the Trade Federation. It can never be mine." "I still don't understand." "The Trade Federation accused me of killing one of it's commanders once. What do you think this looks like, even if he was my mentor?" "Well, I gue-" "You don't get it, do you? Kronis was hired by the Trade Federation, and him alone. I was his padawan, I had to come along. The Trade Federation didn't like that, and requested on numerous occasions that I was taken from the ship. Put into the care of another Jedi. It was only when the Masters got involved that they gave up, but still they try everything they can to get me out." "That isn't fair," The Doctor exclaims. "That isn't fair at all. I have faith in you. I'll argue your case for you." DarkRula laughs. "They won't take notice of you. They never really took notice of me. And if you think that you arguing my case for me is going to help, you wait until we land back on The Ark." "Oh! I was setting coordinates. Oh, my." The Doctor taps a few more things into the control panel and grips a lever beside a screen. "Well, here we go." The TARDIS then starts moving, though the occupants could hardly feel it except for occasional rough bumps, and lands in the main hangar bay of The Ark. The doors open at a command from The Doctor, and an intercom message floods in. "All Battle Droids to the hangar bay. Surround that ship at all costs." "Wha-" "I told you," DarkRula states. "I told you! They've already took command." Both DarkRula and The Doctor walk toward the door and look out. Already Battle Droids are flooding in from all directions. "I really didn't want to have to do this, but if it comes to a fight, then so be it." "Comes to what?" The Doctor asks. DarkRula indicates to the right, where a number of long, gowned figures move sedately toward the TARDIS. Pale faces that look sunken, the three of them move in guarded by other Batte Droids. "Now, what do you mean by returning here, and who is this other person?" the middle creature asks. It has a halting voice. "I'm the rightful owner of this ship, and I'll fight all who oppose me. Including you." "What my rather rash friend is trying to say," The Doctor chips in, "is you cannot take full ownership of this vessel because it's previous owner was killed when it already has an owner." "Killed by the apprentice for full rights, I assume," the creature says. "I would never kill my master, and no Neimoidian will ever tell me what to do!" DarkRula growls. "So be it. Droids, destroy them." DarkRula reaches down to his belt, but The Doctor rests a hand on DarkRula's before it gets halfway. "Wait," The Doctor says. "What?" DarkRula exclaims. "Trust me." The droids had set up a perimeter and had their guns ready. Waiting. "Fire!" the Neimoidian calls. Blaster bolts spray the TARDIS, but don't actually hit it. Instead they dissipate on a shield over the opening. The droids continue firing. The Neimoidians look shocked. "Stop them! Get in there and get them!" another Neimoidian screams. "And now, we retreat," The Doctor says, pulling DarkRula back inside, and rushing to the control panel. Pressing a button, the doors close again. Frantically, The Doctor starts pressing more buttons. "Quick! Give me a safe place to go." "It's not safe, but if we're going to settle this, there's a hangar on the tower of this cruiser, so commanders get easier access between ship and bridge." "Great." And with a flick of the lever, the engines activated. Outside, the droids fired even more blaster bolts into the TARDIS, still to no effect. As the TARDIS started to dematerialise, those blaster bolts ripped straight through the TARDIS' shadow and into other droids. The Neimoidians screamed. The TARDIS rematerialises at a new hangar. At the minute, there were no ships apart from the TARDIS around. This one was smaller. A lot smaller. Only one door led to the bridge. "And so, what do we do now?" The Doctor asks. "Head to the bridge, and take this cruiser back," DarkRula replies. "I'm not surprised that they managed to get here so fast. In fact, I think there is a Federation base near here. We could take it after we-" "No. We don't need to get into even more fights. Just drive these... Neimoidians off this ship. That's all we have to do." "Fine." DarkRula sighs. "I suppose the only way to do that is force some kind of settlement. And to do that, I seriously hope the hyperdrive has been fixed." DarkRula lifted his comlink to his mouth. "Droid engineering. Has the hyperdrive been fixed yet?" "Sir? Is that you?" the voice came through. "Just tell me," DarkRula hisses. "Uh. Yes. It has. Why?" "Never you mind. And don't say anything of this conversation to anyone." An affirmative comes through as DarkRula switches the comlink off. "So. What's your plan?" The Doctor asks. "Follow me." Both DarkRula and The Doctor head out of the TARDIS and through the angular corridors of the tower. The corridors are arranged as two rectangular loops with links between them. One of these rooms leading off them held the room where DarkRula had spent his sleeping hours while he had been a part of the Ark's crew. Out of the second loop, the lift lobby stood between them and the bridge. If anyone came out of the lifts, it would be game over. No-one did though, and they were right outside the door. "Aren't we going inside?" The Doctor asks. "We don't need to," DarkRula states. As he finishes that sentence, collective shouting comes from within the bridge. The door opens and a Neimoidian runs out. The door slams shut quickly, giving DarkRula the opportunity to use the hilt of his lightsaber to knock the Neimoidian out - who hadn't even noticed them. "So what did you do?" The Doctor asks. "Put us into hyperspace before blocking out communication to the hyperdrive." "You managed to do that within seconds of getting to this point?" The Doctor asks. "Yes. Like I said, we don't need to do anything." A banging then started from within the bridge, which sounded as though someone was knocking on the door, desperate to be let out. A hiss sounded behind them. Both looked around. The Neimoidians who had been on the main hangar bay had finally reached the tower. One of them walks out the lift first, looks down at the Neimoidian who had been knocked out, then at the bridge door. "And so the truth comes out," the Neimoidian says. "You really are after control of this ship." "I'm only taking what's rightfully mine," DarkRula growls. "This ship is part of the Trade Federation." "Despite your insistence that I'm not, I'm a part of the Trade Federation." "Neither you nor Kronis were fully a part of the Federation. We merely wanted a few extra commanders. Kronis counted as one, and this ship was leased to him. You, on the other hand, had no such part in our deal. This ship now returns to us." DarkRula was about to retort back, but a shout rose up from within the bridge. "Let us out! Let us out! Emergency! Emergency!" "Stop whatever you are doing to keep that door closed," another of the Neimoidians snaps. DarkRula shrugs and lets the door finally rise up. The Neimoidian who had been banging on the door fell through. Emergency lights flooded the bridge. DarkRula walked calmly up to one of the status monitors and smiled. He then turned to the Neimoidians still at the doorway. "The game is up. This ship is headed straight for a star." The Neimoidians gasped, and The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "So why hasn't anybody done anything about it?" one of the Neimoidians calls. "Oh, they have," DarkRula exclaims. "Except for one thing. I have control of the hyperdrive." "You are foolhardy. Reckless. You risk all for nothing!" "Give me this ship, and rightful ownership, and I'll consider letting the hyperdrive shut down." "How will you manage this ship with no-one to crew it?" "Oh, the droids will stay. All of the droids on board will be staying. After all, wasn't it me and Kronis who helped you to design and ultimately power your latest droid model? I think the first batch are among these here." "You bargain too much." "Fine. There's little under a minute anyway." The Neimoidians stood looking at each other silently, calculating. "Fourty-five seconds, Gunray. Your call." "Stop this ship and get me out of here!" Gunray yells. The alarms stop blaring as the cruiser pulls itself out of hyperspace into a vast sea of empty space. "Where's the star! Where's anything?" Gunray calls looking out of the viewport. He then turns on DarkRula. "You! You..." "That's the thing Gunray, you're too easy to bluff. Now get your crew off my ship and get back to your base. Before I start doing it by force." Gunray calls the Neimoidians to depart. The Neimoidian on comms opens a ship-wide call for all Neimoidian personnel to report to the hangar bay, and then he too disperses. Only Gunray is left. "The Ark may be yours for now. But I promise that this ship and all its contents will soon belong to the Federation again." Gunray then heads to a lift pod and the doors close out his face. "Well," The Doctor speaks for the first time since the confrontation. "That was handled rather well, if I do say so myself. Rather a bit more forceful than I would have done so though." "It still got the job done, and that's all that matters." "Care to say how you managed that bit of wizardry?" "While I put us into hyperspace using the Force, I calculated the route so as not to take us through a star or gravity well. Programming the computers to make it seem as though we was heading to a star was also by the Force." "So what would have happened if the confrontation had lasted beyond the timer? It wouldn't have taken them long for them to realise nothing was happening." "Once the timer reached zero, we would have pulled out of hyperspace regardless. And then things would have to have got more serious." "If by serious you mean using that lightsaber of yours, I'm glad we avoided that." "You know of a lightsaber?" DarkRula asks, surprised. "Your friend Kronis showed me his. Not something I'd use, but it seems like an able weapon." "In other words, you haven't used a weapon before, have you?" "Well, my dear Max, that is for another time." "Doctor, not the name. Please," DarkRula pleads. "And besides, we've got work to do." As DarkRula walks over to the comm station, The Doctor says quietly "Sorry dear chap, but it feels wrong to call you that... name..." DarkRula never heard this though, deep in conversation with a droid he wasn't paying much attention. Closing off the link he turns to The Doctor. "It's settled then. The Neimoidians have all left and all the droids are intact." "So what now?" The Doctor asks. "Well, the Ark is now mine," DarkRula says. "The first thing we need to do is hunt down the Daleks, wherever they got to. But before that, we need to get out of here. I wouldn't put it past the Neimoidians to send up droid reinforcements, and that's not a good thing."
"Sir! I think we have something!" one of the deck officers call. Tir LeRane was pleased, but slightly fearful at the same time. The Daleks had been trusting in him to succeed. No. Not trusting. The Daleks didn't trust. They had ordered him to succeed. And failure was not an option. But failed they had. After evacuating all Mandalorian personnel from the cruiser the Daleks had took over, he had noticed he was a man short. He hadn't worried about that before. He was now. LeRane had done as he had said, and pulled away from the scene. He had tracked a Scimitar ship entering into the sector. The same Scimitar, LeRane had noted, that had been took from Fira Veers after he was killed. That meant the Jedi DarkRula hadn't been on the Ark. Though that was where he headed. The next thing he had noticed, and had called for a zoomed up scan on, was a man. This man was wearing red clothes with a black hat, and was floating in space. The Daleks had pulled the connection tube from the Ark. And a second after their ship had jumped to hyperspace. He then had told the officer on duty to track that ship. The officer though, had informed him of cruisers heading their way. The signature transponders tagged them as Trade Federation cruisers. Not wanting to deal with more fights, LeRane had ordered the officer to pull away into hyperspace quickly. A short hop later, and they had started to plan a search and rescue. They had stopped in the Atrivus sector, where a transponder similar to the one they were searching for had blipped on their computers. But before engaging, a report had been sent. The report had been to the leader of all Mandalorians. Not the Mand'alore, who technically was only a poster man of power, but the leader of all fighting clans. A descendant of the long remembered Kal Skirata, who had been involved with the Clone Wars and the Empire that followed all those many years ago. That had been the hardest time for all Mandalorians, but they had still survived. And the legacy of that half Jedi-half Clone solider he had looked after still nurtured itself within the blood of the line. If anything happened, Krayt Skirata would be able to carry on the work of the Daleks. And hopefully fare a lot better than his own clan had been doing. "Sir! Are we doing anything?" the deck officer asks. "Yes," Tir LeRane says quietly. Bringing his voice back up to commanding strength again, he says "Get us over to the location of that blip and let's check it out." The Keldabe-class Battleship moved forward at half speed, LeRane watching through the viewport as a stormtrooper vessel came into view. "That's the one. Prepare a shuttle to take me over there." LeRane then walks off the bridge. Passing two of his soldiers, he tells them to follow him. Both of them check their weapons and pull their helmets on. LeRane leaves his off. At the hangar, a pilot is waiting outside one of the shuttles, beckoning them to him. Upon entering, the group takes up seats within the bridge, and the pilot takes the shuttle all the way to the stormtrooper cruiser. "I'll wait here," the pilot says. "From my assessment though, I'd say the cruiser is unstable. If anything happens to unstable it more, we could find ourselves down with it." "At least we'd no longer have to serve those... things," LeRane says darkly. "Why don't we just leave? Why are we here at all?" the pilot asks. "If we don't do anything, it'll be worse for us all. Not just this clan, but the entire Mandalorian culture. Even those in the city of Sundari. These things will hunt us all down, and find someone else to replace us." "Let's get this over with then," one of the soldiers whisper. LeRane and the two soldiers leave the shuttle to find the hangar untouched from how it had been left. The bodies of stormtroopers were still littered around. They were also littered around the hallways where the fighting had been fiercest. At the lifts to the bridge, LeRane thought that what he saw was another stormtrooper body. Since his last visit to the bridge, it hadn't been moved. Last time, he had only had a casual glance at the body, but this time he realised the shoulder plates had his clan insignia pasted on them. "Oh. Fierfek," LeRane softly says. "We can't deal with this now," one of the soldiers says. "We've got to go up." "Yes..." LeRane slowly says. He hadn't even realised that he'd knelt down beside the body. "Wait. The bridge was supposedly destroyed. I took them to the communications room. This way." LeRane led the other two through to the communications room. As the door opened, the Daleks all looked around. Dalek Zane moved forward. "Where have you been?" it called in it's deep voice. "We've been tracking the signal ever since you lost the battle and jumped to hyperspace," LeRane says, his confidence back. "No. We lost because you failed to deliver The Doctor to us. Now he has escaped, and has a Jedi as a guide." "No! It's not the truth. Mistakes can happen!" "The Daleks do not recognise petty foolishness as mistakes. You will be exterminated for betraying your masters. We will take control." "You won't get anywhere near to doing so," LeRane growls. "The Leadership will not accept it!" "Quiet!" the other Daleks parade. Dalek Zane says the ultimate death word. "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" And a shot is fired. LeRane jumped sideways. The laser hit one of the other Mandalorian soldiers, who collapsed. The other had drew his pistols. LeRane now had his helmet on, and had activated the power assist on both of his sabers. A crackle of static sounded as the electric beams charged into existence. "So. A fight it will be," Dalek Zane says. "It is foolish to do so. You are outnumbered." "Mandalorians don't know the meaning of the word," LeRane fires back, and charges. The soldier fires upon the Daleks one by one, but the lasers only bounce off them. Two of the Daleks fire upon him, but he dodges out of the way. LeRane had took on Zane, and swiftly moved around the Dalek, all the while dodging the lasers the others fired and striking Zane with his sabers. The sabers were having no effect, but did seem to slowly drain the energy from the Dalek. The soldier had took out one of the Daleks, and was seen moving his head, all while still firing and dodging. They both knew they wouldn't survive, but any info on weaknesses they could get would help others. LeRane knew the Daleks were smart. He had guessed that they would still use the other Mandalorians. His clan and the other clans were the only ones they had a hold on. And they could be persuasive. And enforcing. While still talking, the soldier caught a glance from one of the Dalek lasers. His left arm drooped, and he suddenly had only one arm to use. Mandalorian iron could block most weapons' effects fully. But others could get in after boring into the iron for a while. The Dalek lasers looked as though they could get through, which meant ion pulse weaponry - or something similar. LeRane was protected fully against that. He had armour fully made from Mandalorian iron. The solider only had patches protecting the important parts. The rest was made from lesser protective material. Durasteel. And as such had faults. With the loss of use of his left arm, the soldier had overbalanced. He was still fighting from the ground though, but was unable to dodge fast enough. Having destroyed two more Daleks, the others scattered lasers all over him until one laser hit his helmet. He was still fighting but his reactions were slower. As such, three more lasers caught him in the head. He was now down and out, with LeRane the only one fighting. And being the only one fighting, all the Daleks had now turned their attention to him. More and more of the Dalek lasers were hitting their target, and LeRane tried to block as many of them as he could. A misstep put him on his knees, and Dalek Zane moves in close. Weapon stalk now able to make direct contact, Zane twitches it up and the helmet rose half off the face of Tir LeRane. "Just tell me," LeRane pants. "Why?" "We are the superior beings," Dalek Zane answers. "All lesser mortals will bow to us or be exterminated." "Someday, someone will find your weakness and exploit it. Then all of you will be no more." Dalek Zane fires. "It matters not. We always return."
Dalek Zane looks down at the three Mandalorians. The other Daleks do too. "Now we enforce," Dalek Volk calls. "Those three must have used a transport. We will commandeer it and force the Mandalorians to our will." "I believe a better tactic is needed," Dalek Zane injects. "We will put fear into them. Anyone who now disagrees with our judgement is our enemy. And they will be exterminated. We will show no mercy to them. And we will win." "This ship is under stress," one of the other Daleks call. "It cannot take much more damage." "All surviving Daleks will return to the hangar," Dalek Zane informs. "Let's move." The remaining Daleks of the communications room move through the corridors, the occasional Dalek moving into line with them, until ten Daleks entered the hangar, where a lone shuttle waited. The ramp was down, and a Mandalorian stood waiting. "Are you all ready to go?" the Mandalorian asks. "Yes. Move," Dalek Volk commands. "Where's LeRane and the others?" Ten laser stalks pointed at the man at these words. Dalek Zane moved forwards. "We killed them for disobeying orders. Move and take us back to your cruiser otherwise you will suffer the same fate." The Mandalorian looked shocked, but did as ordered. All ten Daleks filed into the shuttle. It took off with a slight wobble, but moved slowly out then picked up speed. Within minutes it was back in the hangar of the Keldabe-class cruiser. The Daleks left without a word to the pilot, and headed straight for the bridge. By the looks of it, a second-in-command had already took over. Dalek Zane had the feeling the pilot had already talked. This was confirmed when the second-in-command greeted them with no mention of where his allies were. "We have orders to return to base..." he says awkwardly. "If that is okay with you..?" he then adds, confirming what Dalek Zane was thinking. "We will remain quiet on the battlefield for now," Dalek Zane commands. "Return to base and inform us when you get there." "Yes. Sir!" the officer says with a salute. Zane dismisses the salute, and indicates to the Daleks they should head out of the bridge. Quickly Zane conquers a room big enough to fit them all within the tower. "That went better than expected," Dalek Zane says. "They fear us. And so they should." There was still the question of reinforcements. There were now only ten Daleks. And in a universe where no-one fully understood them, that was both good and bad.