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PS44 - Dreams of Empire

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PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« on: April 24, 2019, 09:47:17 PM »
While Tal rested after the jaunt onto the Silver Star where they had survived a surprise attack from the cyborg fallen-Jedi Shroud, the rest of the Hellions worked together to learn more of the Force Relics that had been Shroud's quarry, and gather more information from the Freighter. Resting after a harrowing fight where he'd literally held onto Venn to prevent her from being sucked into the vacuum of space, it would have been understandable for the Mandalorian to want to rest and recharge a little, especially once it was clear the threat was gone.

The ship moved away from the freighter that was about to explode, the chest that held an ancient powerful weapon was closed and left in the cargo bay.

While the Aeon Mallard made its way toward the closest star and the rest of the Hellions sought to recover, gather information, or simple re-orient themselves, Tal would find himself drifting toward wakefulness.

I sense your anger.
A deep, powerful voice said in his mind. Your fury at your insignificance.

The voice almost purred into Tal's head, though the fury that rode behind it was like speaking to an avatar of rage.

There will be more like him. More that are beyond your strength to fight alone.

But I can help you.

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2019, 10:19:14 PM »
One moment he slept, merely staring endlessly at the bulkhead of the Aeon Mallard as his mind showed him hundreds of fights where he'd been one step quicker, or just better, than the other person fighting him. Ashley's healing made him feel like himself again, but the energy expended always made him feel just a bit groggy, a little sluggish, until he could rest and get his bearings.

But the voice in his head snapped him back to wakefulness and reality.

Tal sat up in his bunk and hunched over, rubbing his face with his hands. My bunk. Hellions. Aeon Mallard. First Order. Shroud. Tal pieced together the last few hours of his life and sighed, then rolled his neck slowly from left to right. It popped twice, then popped three more times when he rotated in the other direction. He sighed.

Insignificance.

Anger simmered in Tal's gut, so deep and powerful that he couldn't tell if the voice in his head sounded that way on its own or if he was just filtering it through how pissed off he was about the fight. Shroud had practically ignored him during that fight. He'd called in help to deal with Tal while he fought with Venn. People didn't ignore him during fights. They came at him and he put them down. If they made the mistake of underestimating him, he made them pay or it in pain. In blood.

Shroud barely deigned to look at him after his blaster rifle ran out of power.

Insignificance.

He remembered the way that Elaiza gestured and flung him across a room and into a wall, and then didn't even look at him again. She'd hurt him bad, then, and it was only because of the Ewok that she didn't carve them all into pieces. But if she'd flicked on that lightsaber of hers, Tal wouldn't have had a chance in hell of stopping her. He wouldn't have even slowed her down.

But I can help you.

He could be imagining this whole thing. Maybe there was no voice and he was still actually asleep. He pinched his arm, then tore out three of the fine hairs on his forearm. Yep, those hurt. He was awake.

"Where are you?" Tal asked.


Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2019, 02:05:57 AM »
Your allies have tried to bury me in a chest made of merely metal.

They fear the power that I offer. They would keep you weaker then them. A servant and a weapon.

An accessory.


Somehow Tal's feet led him toward the voice as it called down the halls, guiding him through the small vessel toward the cargo bay. Weren't the doors supposed to be locked with such a dangerous relic within it? Hadn't Venn warned that such items were known to drive entire crews mad?

And yet, when Tal moved to open the cargo bay door to follow the voice, it opened as if it had been waiting for him. The case was still there, closed and locked, shoved against the wall and inert. But even from here, across the room, Tal could feel a great power coming from the container.

I sense the rage inside you. Building within you.

With me your enemies will not be able to ignore you.

With me, they will FEAR you.




« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 10:11:09 AM by Dash »

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2019, 10:41:30 AM »
Tal followed the voice. A voice in his head whispered, softly, maybe this isn't a good idea... but his feet moved toward the cargo bay all the same. Venn said that these were dangerous items, not to be trifled with. Of course, she'd said that before Shroud had nearly killed her with Tal just a few feet away, being ignored as insignificant. Unimportant.

A non-factor.

Then Shroud had escaped and nearly sent them all off into the cold void of space. All his strength and the only thing he'd managed to do was keep the Force-User from getting sucked into space. Maybe next time he could just hold the door for everyone while they handled the real business.

One moment he was outside his bunk. The next moment, he was in the cargo bay. He vaguely recalled crossing the space in-between. He didn't even remember opening the door.

It couldn't hurt to listen, right? He could listen and walk away if it this thing was playing him. He could just leave. That's what he would do.

"I'm here. Why me? I'm sure that there's someone else on this ship who could wield you better than me.

So why me?
"


Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2019, 11:42:08 AM »
THAT is the first reason you are ignored, Mandalorian. The voice seemed to almost sneer at him. Your fear. Fear of yourself. The shadow you live within of a man who never amounted to anything.

The fear that you will not belong.

I will give you the strength to awaken the warrior within you. When these Jedi and Pretenders face you, I will be your shield, and you will wield me as the weapon I was MEANT to be.

And you will know the strength that I have awakened inside of you. Why settle for being a mere Mandalorian?

Why not become Mandalore Himself?

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2019, 12:07:14 PM »
"My father was a good man!" Tal snarled.

Tal's fists clenched in anger. Who did this bastard think he was? His father was a good man. He was a protector of people. A warrior and a leader. He did the best he could a for a son whose head was always focused on the stars and other places, rather than the place that gave him life. He died on the planet he'd chosen while Tal watched helpless from above.

Helpless.

Helpless, again, because Tarno didn't consider him a threat. He'd followed orders to the letter. He'd worked hard to bridge the gap between the Empire and the people of Concord Dawn. He beat that deadline and helped bring in the prisoners. He did all of that and, in the end, all he managed to do was watch a lot of people die.

And when he tried to make it right by relieving Tarno of his command...the crew turned on him.

He didn't belong with the Empire. He hadn't belonged anywhere since he left Concord Dawn. Clan Awaud would accept him once he passed his test, but until then...he was still Dar'manda. Separated from his people. He didn't even have iron skin, like Rook, to show his heritage. He was just a brusier using anything that landed in his hands.

"I never wanted to be Mandalore. I just want to be the deadliest warrior on the battlefield." he said.

What if the price was too high?

He walked over to the crate.

"So what do I have to do to make this work?"


Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2019, 12:13:41 PM »
Being GOOD is not enough. Wanting to do the right thing is not enough. One must have the strength to follow through with their convictions. The only way to assure that the ones you love do not die is to take destiny into your own hands.

Your rage is a weapon. I will show you how to wield it.
The voice was a deep rumble of dark whispers, preying on his insecurities and his desires. The unspoken and unhealed wounds that festered still within his heart were ripe for the lessons the Spirit of the Sith Lord needed to speak to displaced Mandalorian.

What is Mandalore, but the Ultimate Warrior? The Leader by Action. Think of it, Tal. You alone could make Clan Vodax great again. You could restore your family's name to one of honor, rather than one of shame.

You could become the man your father would be proud of.


The voice seemed to narrow and come from the crate.

Open the chest. Pull the weapon free from its prison, and I will teach you how to become the deadliest warrior this galaxy has seen in a thousand years.

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2019, 12:29:59 PM »
He could turn around and walk out right now. Walk out of the cargo hold, go back to his bunk, and pretend this didn't happen. Ignore the probably-evil Jedi guy and find another way to beat Shroud. They almost had him that time. Even with him ignoring Tal, the others had taken away his lightsaber. Venn held her own. Even with Tal's blaster rifle failing him, they'd held him off.

But then he took down Venn and escaped. He'd killed the entire crew of that ship and turned them into monsters before the Hellions arrived. And all he did was run his mouth during the whole fight. Shroud laughed them off and escaped. What happened the next time they faced him? He could kill Kesvo or Rook with a thought. He cut down Venn and Venn was training with Ashley. Ashley was a good man, but he was the computer guy and the medic. Could they afford to throw more on his shoulders?

What if there wasn't another way to beat Shroud and the ones like him? What if this was the only way?

He turned away from the chest. He forced himself to breathe. To think.

His father was dead because he tried to find another way, instead of doing what he should have done all along.

Tal turned back to the chest.

"No one else dies."

Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2019, 12:34:29 PM »
The voice laughed, a dark and cruel sound on the ears.

I'm a sword, not a blanket! There will be more death, but it won't be your allies and friends who die to my blade.

The voice shifted to something more amused, almost smiling. But your enemies. They will die. A field of corpses at the hands of your wrath.

Open the chest.

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2019, 12:36:12 PM »
Tal really didn't like this guy. He sounded like the kind of person that Tal would punch in the face. But he set that aside.

He opened the chest and looked for the blade.

He'd reach for it if there was nothing stopping him.

*

Kesvo Kam

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  • Hellion-3
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2019, 01:01:52 PM »
A couple of hours after leaving the Silver Star behind, the Mallard had quieted down considerably. The Hellions had scattered to their corners to recuperate or reflect or work on dissecting what they'd learned. Kesvo had initially spent her time going through the retrieved lockbox and then mulling over everything that'd happened, until a gnawing queasiness in her stomach convinced her that she'd taken on more rads than she'd realized. She headed to the medbay to find something to alleviate it. She'd meant to find Rook after, to see what (if anything) had been gleaned from the other ship's data stores, but paused when she noticed that the door to the cargo hold was open. She almost ignored it. Surely, after everything that'd happened, Venn hadn't gone back to...

But she found herself turning anyway, and moving towards the hold anyway. It both surprised her and shocked her to find none other than Tal standing over the cursed crate, his broad frame obscuring Kesvo's  view of the chest's contents.

"Five." A million other phrases and sentiments threw themselves at the back of her lips, trying to burst forth. People were funny things, though. The wrong words might push too hard, or pull too roughly. Kesvo steeled herself, and moved into the cargo hold, approaching her crewmate from one side.

"What're you doin', man?" she asked more softly, watching his face with concern etched into her own.

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2019, 01:13:21 PM »
Kesvo's voice cut the through refrain in Tal's head. He needed to do this. He needed to pick up this weapon and use it to keep the others safe. Was she going to see it that way? She wasn't his enemy. She was his friend and his leader. She'd seen a lot.

"I'm...trying to do the right thing, Kesvo. For once in my life, I'm trying to do the right thing." Tal said.

He'd paused in opening the chest, but barely. His hand still hovered near the release.

"We nearly died today, Kes. Venn almost did. I should have cut Shroud to ribbons the first chance I got. Got distracted, though. Should have been holding his attention so that Venn could take him down." he said.

"Seems like we've got a way to do that now. Isn't that the right move?


*

Kesvo Kam

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  • Hellion-3
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2019, 01:36:40 PM »
Tal sounded so unlike himself in that moment that it made the little hairs on the back of Kesvo's neck stand on end. She didn't show the shiver that ran down her spine, but she felt it all the same. Where was the bravado? The can-do spirit? Where was the surety and confidence he'd displayed without fail since she'd met him? Memories of how badly the thought of artifacts like the sword had upset Venn whispered darkly to her in the back of her mind.

"Hey," she said quietly, tilting her head to try and catch his eyes. "Look at me, Tal," she entreated, her voice soft as she reached a hand to lay gently atop his extended one.

"If it's the right move to make, it'll still be the right move ten minutes from now, after we've had a chance to talk for a few. Let's leave it alone for right now and talk about it. You can always come back to it later if it looks like the best course."

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2019, 01:47:11 PM »
He didn't look at her right away. The power was right there. It was right there. The voice hadn't set a time-limit, but delaying certainly wasn't the best tactic. Every moment he didn't learn how this thing worked was a moment wasted. He had to be prepared for the next time they ran into Shroud. Or Zhane. Or Molec.

But she insisted and so Tal finally looked at her. She placed her hand on top of his. She had a point. If he didn't remove it right now, it would still be here in a few minutes. If he could convince Kesvo to sign-off on this, the others would fall in line. Rook listened to Kesvo, as did Ashley. Riprock trusted her judgement. Even Venn listened to Kesvo. He just had to get her to buy-in on the plan.

"Okay, let's talk. Right here. I just...you saw what Shroud did to us. Yeah, we drove him off but he'll be ready for us next time. He almost killed Venn, Kes. All I could do was keep her from getting shot out into space." Tal said.

"If we've got a way to stop that from happening again, shouldn't we use it?"

*

Kesvo Kam

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  • Hellion-3
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2019, 02:08:37 PM »
"Yeah, I saw," Kesvo said, with a nod. "I saw us get blindsided unexpectedly by a psychopathic cyborg ex-Jedi that we didn't know was going to be there. He had time to prepare; we weren't expecting to run into him until later. I saw him--" her eyes wandered from Tal while she gestured with her hands, trying to find the words to describe the macabre puppeteering Shroud had done with the bodies of the Silver Star's crew. "Raise... the dead.. somehow, and set them against us, and I saw him blow a hole in the side of the ship and escape through it like it was just another hallway." There was a mild breathlessness to her recollection, as though the feats she described were shocking her all over again as she recounted them. She shook her head.

"But I also saw him running away from us," she added, returning her gaze to Tal's, resolution standing firm behind her amber eyes. "I saw Two knock his lightsaber out of his hand, and I saw One restrain him. I saw you forcing him to split his attention, passing his saber to Four so she could druk it up, and then you saving Venn's life when the bastard ran away. I saw a team, our team send what should've been a god to us running away." She'd released Tal's hand earlier to gesture, but she let it fall against his forearm again now, a simple but real link in hopes of grounding him some.

"He'll be expecting us next time, but we're gonna be ready for him, too. Trust your team, Tal. Venn was so upset by the thought of this thing," she said, gesturing to the box as her voice lowered temporarily to a whisper. "--that she lost her shit on Coruscant, remember? It wasn't the thought of Shroud that bothered her but this. That's bad mojo. I mean why else would Shroud even be after it, otherwise? We're not gonna beat him by becoming him. We'll find another way."
« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 03:16:20 PM by phinn »

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Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2019, 03:06:34 PM »
Tal nodded at Kesvo's description of things. Shroud was ready for anyone who came after him. He'd turned dead people against them and then ran off, singing or laughing or whatever he was doing the whole way. Tal remembered it and it once again drove  home his failure, especially after Venn went down. He saw and heard the way Kesvo talked about it. None of that could have been easy for her to endure, either.

He froze, though, when she talked about how Shroud had run away. Venn had given nearly as good well as she'd gotten and Shroud hadn't just dispatched them and walked away. She'd done it because Tal was standing there, even if he wasn't useful. He still felt like he'd failed for not even attacking Shroud, for not taking the chance to destroy him, but that had left his hands free to catch Venn before she took a one-way trip into the black.

They hadn't won a decisive victory, but they'd made him bleed. How much more would Shroud bleed if they used this weapon?

Why is it so easy for you to believe in everything but your own people?

His father had asked him that at the crux of their last argument. Tal didn't know, then, that it would be years before he spoke to his father again. He'd just assumed that the old man would always be there, like the sun or the earth, or the stars. Tal could safely ignore him until his anger abated, then try again to make him understand.

And then he was gone, taking all of his wisdom with him.

Tal hadn't moved to open the box. He hadn't truly responded to Kesvo's hand on his forearm, but he wasn't moving to pull the box open and take the weapon. He'd only seen Venn lose her composure twice since he met her, but the Umbaran seemed genuinely worried, terrified even, of going after these artifacts. This box had been on the Silver Star. Now no one was alive from that crew to tell the tale of it. They were all dead. Had any of them heard the voice? Had they obeyed?

"I trust the team, Three. But I'm worried that there's not another way. All this Jedi and Sith stuff is just...so beyond me. They were the enemies of my people, more or less. We had weapons to fight them, a long time ago." he said.

"Remember Elaiza, back on Skye City? She threw us around with her mind. I remember hitting that wall and being pissed-off and in pain, but I was...I was scared, too. How do we stand up to power like that? We're not Force-users. One swing of those lightsabers and we're dead. That's that. Even my sword can't stop one of those.

But this can.
" Tal said.

"Couldn't it be like the Star? We used that. We kept that from becoming a trophy or giving someone an invincible weapon." he said.

"I just don't want to be the reason that we lose someone, when we could have saved them."

*

Kesvo Kam

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  • Hellion-3
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2019, 08:50:22 PM »
"Listen," Kesvo said, tugging gently on the merc's forearm to try and coax him to face her more than the chest. She'd move some herself, if she needed to do so in order to hold his gaze completely. "I hear you. You think I don't remember what it felt like to be launched across the room by something I can't see, can't touch, can't fight?" Indeed, the way she felt about that experience was written plainly on her face and lent quiet passion to her words. Even so, her tone dipped to a softer, more discreet volume as she continued. "You think I don't have nightmares sometimes about Ashley getting worked up and accidentally crushing me to death with his mind? This druk is scary, Tal. You're not wrong about that. And normally, I'd be right there with you. Any advantage, as long as it gave us a hand-up over this stuff. But..." she looked down towards the chest, shaking her head slowly as she recalled how it felt to be shoved aside by the chest itself, earlier.

"We've faced down two Force users, now, and walked away from both." She returned her eyes to his, her expression shifting to something... soft, still, but not without determination. "What we're doing... the team we have, the skills we have... it's working, Tal. It's scary and there have been close calls, but it's working. And it's only going to work better the longer we're together and the more we gel. If you mean it when you say you trust the team, then prove it. Listen to Venn when she says the best thing to do is destroy this thing. Listen to Ashley when he says he wants nothing to do with it. Listen to Rook, who almost can't be in the same room with this thing without shaking in her boots. Listen to me: not only do we not need it, it'll be bad for us."

She paused, and her eyes narrowed slightly, a discerning and thoughtful cast passing briefly over her features. "But you already know that, don't you?" she murmured. "Which is why you're here by yourself, rather than trying to plead your case to Venn or the others."

Kesvo dropped her eyes again and softly sighed, then gave a gentle shake of her head.

"You've been down this path already, Tal," she said, lifting her eyes to look back up at him intently. "You know where it goes. You tried to strong-arm your way through something when you were desperate once before. You know it's not the simple fix it promises to be."

Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2019, 07:18:26 PM »
Survival is not victory. The voice spoke from the now open chest into Tal's mind. The sword's black metal seemed to shine in the dark of the cargo bay, but the runes inscribed upon it glowed a bright red, angry light.

Why must you PLEAD your case? Because the Jedi are your masters?

Listen to her, and you will always be an accessory - to use and discard when the time is right.

No respect ever comes without a measure of fear. Without an acknowledgment of equitable power.

Without me, you will always be weaker than them.

Pick me up and they will no longer be able to ignore you.

*

Tal Vodax

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  • Hellion-5
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2019, 01:43:23 PM »
"I'm here because I see a path forward. I'm explaining it you because I know you get it." Tal said.

Trust your team.

The Sith Lord's voice in his head felt like oil and thunder. The rage, the hate in that voice mirrored the rage in his heart. Turning down this power sounded like a bad idea. If anyone died after this, it would be on his head.

Trust your team.

"Stop talking." he said, trying to get the Sith Lord to be quiet. If he just found the right words, he could get Kesvo to understand. Unfortunately, the abrupt and hostile tone of the words (and the lack of target assigned to them) might lead Kesvo to think that Tal was talking to her.

"We can't just throw this away. It would be insane to just toss away this kind of advantage." he said, turning away from her.

Trust your team.

He palmed his face. He shook his head, trying to clear it. The Hellions had survived everything they ran across so far. Was that enough? Was it enough to survive to fight again? What did victory look like against beings who could tap into a power level that he couldn't feel or touch?

"I've trusted the team. Are you guys going to trust me on this one?" Tal asked.

*

Kesvo Kam

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  • Hellion-3
Re: PS44 - Dreams of Empire
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2019, 03:33:23 PM »
The sudden hostility in Tal's words caught Kesvo off guard, and the narrowing of her eyes that resulted was more a look of confusion than offense. She didn't interrupt him while he went on to reassert the need he saw for the weapon in the chest, but when he turned away she didn't miss the chance to smoothly insert herself in front of the chest. He seemed agitated, to her. Bothered. While she was still considering that, though, he asked her if the team meant to trust him on his choice here.

"If you want that answered, you'll need to ask the team," she pointed out, quietly. "We've got some time yet before we reach the system where Venn wants to dump it. If this is the right path, it'll still be the right path an hour from now, after you've filled the rest of the team in on what you want to do. Alright? It's not going anywhere in the meantime. Let's go round them up and talk."