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01 Mission To Partha

Written by: Tuba and posted on: May 1, 2013

Acolyte Tuba walked respectfully into the antechamber of the Dark Cathedral.  His footsteps echoed through the halls as he passed under vaulted ceilings and past sculptures of unknown Dark Lords.  The immense power of the Dark Side resonated within the structure’s walls, giving even the most gifted Dark Jedi pause when faced with its barely restrained might.  For a mere neophyte, the magnitude of simmering rage was nearly overwhelming. 

Tuba paused at the inner door, and knelt.  He swayed slightly, fighting to overcome the fear this place instilled.  After several minutes the panic threatened to overwhelm him when the inner door opened, revealing Sith Battle Mistress Blade.  “Rise, Acolyte.  You lasted longer than most.”

The fearful Acolyte quickly complied, following Blade to a nearby balcony.  Once outside the fear was still palpable, but manageable under the clear skies of Lien.  His fear contained, Tuba managed to find his voice.  “You summoned me, Mistress?”

Blade turned and examined her newest recruit, then produced a crimson data crystal and levitated it toward Tuba who caught it.  “Proceed to the Parthan system and join the negotiation team already in place.  Assist the negotiators in procuring mining rights to the planet and its moons.  The particulars and background are on the crystal.  Return when your mission is complete.”

“I do not presume to question your orders, Mistress, but why me?”  Blade’s eyes narrowed.  “You are unknown to our enemies, yet you possess the talent sway the negotiations as I have forseen.” 

“This is a great honor, Mistress.  I will not fail.”  Tuba bowed and retreated from the balcony.  Blade’s final command echoed through the corridors, “See that you don’t, Acolyte”.

Two days later Tuba stepped off the shuttle, his boots crunched the frozen ground.  In contrast with the warm jungle climate of Lien, the icy Parthan air bit sharply with every breath.  Tuba shivered beneath his parka, and looked about.  Snow and ice spilled from the glacial landing area onto the distant plain below.  In all other directions, mountains surrounded the frozen plateau. 

While the shuttle supplies were unloaded, a large enclosed speeder arrived.  A short man emerged and waved at Tuba to approach.  Upon reaching the speeder, the Acolyte was warmly greeted. “I’m Judor Rayn, assistant envoy to our chief negotiator, Baron Solus”.  He shook Tuba’s hand vigorously.  “Glad you’re here.  I assume you’re briefed on the situation?”

Tuba nodded.  “I read the background material during my flight.”  Rayn smiled and opened the speeder doors.  “Great!  Let’s continue our discussion in warmer environs.”  The pair entered the speeder, briefly enjoying the interior warmth before Rayn expertly steered around the cargo loaders and toward the main camp. 

“We’ve been in place for a few months now, with little success,” Rayn began.  “The Parthans are feudalistic with a primitive knowledge of atomics.  Our attempts to make inroads with offers of technology and assistance have thus far failed.”

“Why not simply invade?” Tuba interrupted.  “Such a society cannot hope to withstand our forces.”  Rayn laughed.  “The Baron requested a bombardment group two weeks ago.  Instead they sent you.  I don’t suppose you have the Empress Teta hidden in your bags?”  Tuba laughed and shook his head.  “Pity,” Rayn continued, then turned serious. 

“We’ve tried the usual negotiation tactics, but the Parthans are fanatically religious and remain unimpressed.  That normally wouldn’t pose a problem, except the New Republic is also negotiating for these same minerals.”

“So outright invasion would unravel our ceasefire with the New Republic forces,” Tuba reasoned.  “It’s only temporary, but command feels we can resolve this without overt force.  At least that’s what my orders are”.

The speeder arrived at the main camp and stopped in front of the largest of the prefabricated buildings.  Tuba noticed the Emperor’s Hammer Crest above the double doors, accompanied by a smaller, yet far more ostentatious crest emblazoned with golden katarns snarling across a background of red lightning.  “Lord Solus’s official residence,” Rayn explained.  “He’s expecting you.”

Tuba and Rayn exited the speeder and walked into the three-story residence.  Inside it was opulently adorned with greelwood bas reliefs and tapestries depicting historical battles.  A tall man dressed in a Moff’s uniform waited in the main office.  Tuba approached and bowed slightly, “An honor to meet you, Your Excellency.”  The Baron shot to his feet.  “Stuff your pleasantries!  Where’s my battle group?  Why aren’t we bombarding these seditious cretins from orbit?  This sad devotion to their ancient religion is killing my career!”

Tuba glanced at Rayn, who gave the slightest grimace.  Undeterred, Tuba smiled.  “As it happens, Your Excellency, I am a student of ancient religions.  Perhaps I can succeed where more direct methods might fail.”

“Yes, well make it quick!  We haven’t time for any flim-flam rituals or chanting.  The cursed Republic negotiators are on the verge of defeating us!  If only the king’s son were well.  This matter would have been decided weeks ago if not for his illness.”

“Illness, milord?”  Tuba inquired.  “How does an ailing son affect our negotiations?”

“Because he’s the sole heir and he’s dying of radiation sickness from their primitive reactors!” Solus exclaimed.  “Without him, the throne passes to the king’s niece, who is sympathetic to those Republic scum.  The standard anti-radiation treatments are working for the niece and the king, but the prince and his aunt are too far gone.”

Tuba considered the situation for a moment.  “I can help.  When is the next round of negotiations?”  “This evening,” Rayn offered.  “Good.  Then you may plan to conclude the talks no later than three days hence.  Please continue the discussions but begin injecting pleas to the Parthan’s deity to save the Prince.”

The Baron looked near apoplexy.  “That’s it?!  You want me to pray with them?  No new treatment regimen?  Just a cryptic promise that all will turn out for the best?  What sort of lunatic has command saddled me with?”

Tuba’s expression darkened, and the room’s lighting appeared to dim.  His rant curtailed by the sudden palpable darkness in the room, the Baron clearly heard Tuba’s quiet response: “The sort who gets results, Your Excellency.  I will see you again in three days.”

That night, Tuba entered the royal castle as a member of the medical team tasked with saving the prince’s life.  Dressed in the simple uniform of a field medic, he carried diagnostic equipment and followed the team’s human doctor and medical droid.  Walking the perimeter of the royal hall, the team overheard bits of the negotiation.  Both negotiators spoke confidently of the benefits their side might offer the Parthans, but Solus sounded strained where the New Republic negotiator, Captain Palay, portrayed confidence.

Once on the far side of the hall, the team entered the royal residence.  Prince Fal’al, once the robust scion of his family, lay wasting in his bed.  Tuba was startled at the young man’s emaciated condition.  “It’s a wonder you’re still alive, Your Highness.”  Fal’al struggled to raise his head.  “You’re new,” he managed.  “Come to save me where these two have failed?” He gestured weakly at the doctor and droid who both remained silent.  “If I am able, Your Highness.”

The Acolyte grasped the Prince’s hand and gasped.  The young royal’s condition was more dire than the physicians knew.  Without immediate aid he wouldn’t last the night.  “See that we are undisturbed,” Tuba instructed the doctor.  Tuba grasped both Fal’al’s hands and concentrated.  Through the Force he perceived the sickness and radiation damage as areas of angry redness, festering and spreading to the few healthy parts of the Prince’s body.  Tuba focused his mind on the lethal pestilence, directing the Force through himself and into the Prince.  Waves of concentrated light coursed through the fallen Prince, who immediately began breathing easier. 

Several hours later, Tuba released Fal’al and nearly collapsed.  The doctor and droid rushed over and steadied him.  “Get me back to my quarters unseen by anyone, especially Captain Palay.  We will continue this tomorrow,” he instructed them weakly.  The pair complied and Tuba spent the entirety of the next day in deep meditation, recuperating from the exhaustive first session.

The second night, Tuba returned with the doctor and droid, but was intercepted just outside the royal hall.  “You fool!” Solus quietly exclaimed.  “You’ve made it worse!  Now Prince Fal’al is in a coma and we’re on the verge of failure.”  Tuba regarded the Baron.  “All is proceeding as planned, Your Excellency.  Please continue as we discussed.”  Solus feigned calmness and drew close to Tuba.  “If this venture collapses, I’ll have you shot!”  The Acolyte smirked.  “If I fail, my superiors will do far worse.”

Chagrined, Solus returned to the royal hall and Tuba heard him loudly praying for divine intervention before reaching the residence.  Once more he grasped the Prince’s hands and marshaled the power of the Force.  The healing trance, coupled with the first cleansing had dramatically improved Fal’al’s health, but more energy was required to save the young man’s life.  Tuba delved deep into the Force, communing with the very fabric of existence, guiding and shaping the raw power into healing energies.

Hours later, Tuba released the Prince.  “It is done,” he informed the doctor.  “Give him sufficient sedative to last until tomorrow night’s negotiations, but continue attending him as you would normally.” 

Orders given, the Acolyte left the Prince’s room and returned to the camp.  His meditations the next day were uninterrupted, and on the third night he returned to the castle. 

An hour into negotiations, all the parties were stunned when Fal’al strode boldly into the royal hall.  “Father!” he exclaimed.  The king jumped from his throne and embraced his son.  “It’s a miracle!  A miracle” the king proclaimed.  After several minutes of enjoying his son’s newfound health, the king turned reverently to Solus.  “Our prayers were answered, and you are the reason, Baron.  Your devotion to our beliefs has saved our son and guaranteed the future of our line.  For this, you shall have our minerals.  Let everyone rejoice!”

The next day Rayn drove Tuba back to the waiting shuttle.  “I don’t know how you did it, but the Prince is in perfect health.  I’ve never seen the Baron happier.  Are you sure you don’t want to meet with him before leaving?”

“This way avoids exposure and unnecessary questions,” Tuba responded.  “Better for all involved if my presence here is not advertised.”

Rayn looked uncomfortable for a moment.  “You returned to the castle last night, but didn’t see Fal’al.  May I ask what were you doing?”  Tuba gave the slightest smile, but did not respond.

The speeder stopped on the glacier and Tuba disembarked, carrying only the single bag he had arrived with.  He shook hands with Rayn and strode toward the shuttle.  The icy air burned his throat but he reveled in the sensation for a moment, marveling in the planet’s stark frozen beauty.

Just before boarding, Tuba sensed Rayn running behind him.  He turned and met the breathless envoy.  “I just heard over the comm!  The king’s niece is ill again and she’s not expected to survive the night.  The king’s interpreted this as another omen and expelled the New Republic representatives, calling them ‘servants of darkness’.  Captain Palay is convinced we poisoned her, but there’s no evidence.  Apparently their treatments just weren’t as effective as ours, right?”

Tuba considered Rayn for a few moments then responded, “What purges lingering toxins may also intensify them.  Such is the fate of all who oppose us.”  Rayn nodded once and watched the Acolyte board the shuttle.

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