Time's Arrow

At a standoff at the Kustetiera System, the young Kixi Rajki is unwittingly caught in a vicious confrontation between herself & the military leader of that system. With the weight of having to make a hard decision resting on her shoulders, she finds herself with little choice but to fire a lethal biological weapon upon an enemy that is now all but defeated. That, or watch her soulmate who is taken hostage by that very same leader be murdered. Little is she aware, that matters are by far more complex than she can possibly imagine, & that treachery runs deeper than she could even possibly begin to foresee. Unknowingly, her choice ultimately making no difference to the destiny of her beloved girlfriend, her life as she knows it is about to dramatically change forever. Soon after, an unprecedented chain of events is triggered, as she departs on a perilous mission in an attempt to change the events at that one pivotal moment of deception at Kustetiera, to save her one & only true love.

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14. Chapter 7

 

Upon the arrival at the Krayiss System, the view outside the ship changed from the breathtaking shimmering blue tunnel effect of hyperspace, to once more give way to normal space. There in front of the ship was the Krayiss Two world. 

At that moment, the MXS Morihei Ueshiba dropped out of hyperspace on the farthest edge of the remote system, Kixi exited its starboard hangar bay in her prized Câlder mit Arkhan star fighter. On this occasion Kixi piloted the fighter, while its other occupant, Mako sat quietly in the rear seat positioned directly behind the forward cockpit seat of the pilot.  

Clear of the Ueshiba, she then kicked in the ion drives and continued slowly toward the only habitable planet – a small world orbited by two smaller moons, the lowest of which hung relatively close to the planet's surface. The planet's official name was Krayiss Two – the Krayiss part being the same name as the solar system. The planet itself was locked in orbit around a pale yellow star.

Below her the world was a patchwork of small tropical islands separated by bright blue ocean. She used the Arkhan's sensors to identify the largest landmass, then swooped in looking for a place to touch down. The island was almost completely covered by thick, lush jungle, and there were no clearings large enough even for a small star fighter such as her ship. Finally, she pulled the throttle back and began a slow descent, landing the Arkhan on the crystal sand beach on the island's edge.

As soon as Kixi's feet touched the ground she felt it – a deep thrumming, similar to what she'd first felt on a remote world back in her own galaxy in the sole presence of Lord Xiz'Jhan. However this was much, much stronger. Even the air felt different – heavy with ancient history and secrets long forgotten.

Evening was slowly settling in, and it was during Krayiss Two's night cycle, that the two orbiting moons gave the world a source of meager illumination. Something that both Kixi and Mako observed as they looked up in the purple sky, that soon would become pitch black like the permanent sky of space in which the two had come from.

Standing with her back to the ocean, staring into the virtually impenetrable wall of forest that covered the island's interior, she sensed something else, as well - a presence, a life force of immense size and strength. It was moving toward her. Quickly. A few seconds later she could hear it crashing through the undergrowth. It must have been drawn by the ship's landing on the beach, an enormous hunter looking for fresh prey.

Kixi didn't need any further delays knowing what exactly the deadly menace was.

"Mako, run the other way, I'll lure the creature to follow me into the nearby cave!" Kixi shouted from under her breath and had already jumped into the cave's pit several metres below her. The huge beast smashed through branches following her, and produced a deafening roar before Mako could even respond. 

At least Mako would be safe – provided the creature didn't finish her off first and then go for Mako next. Kixi thought of that scenario to herself, as she hit the hard dirt rocky surface with a loud thud, despite the Force slowing down her impact. She rolled several times to break her fall, causing mud, dirt and sand to flick all over her body, and across and onto her face and mouth, ultimately causing her to cough painfully. 

With no time to gather her thoughts, Kixi picked herself up off the floor. She found she was now in a large cavern, the walls formed of craggy boulders pocked with lightless crevices. The half chewed bones of countless animals were strewn over the floor, smelling of decayed flesh and twisted fear.

"Fuck!" She cursed under her breath. Then with infinite calm, Kixi surveyed her surroundings as she felt a moment of relief when she felt her weapons were still clipped onto her body. She backed quickly to the wall and crouched there, watching.

Out of the same opening high above that she had come from, emerged the giant creature now identifiable as a Rancor. The size of an elephant, it was somehow reptilian, somehow as unformed as a nightmare. Its huge screeching mouth was asymmetrical in its head, its fangs and claws set all out of proportion. It was clearly a mutant, and wild as all unreason.

Kixi retrieved her blaster pistol from its holster, and began firing laser bursts at the hideous monster. This only made the beast angrier. It lumbered toward her as she kept firing, ignoring the laser blasts which were clearly ineffective on the mammoth sized beast.

Realising it would be pointless in trying to shoot the creature dead, Kixi re-holstered her blaster, leaping ten metres straight up in a Force assisted jump, and grabbed onto what appeared to be a thick branch that loomed overhead from a wild overhead growth. Realising that there were many more branches just like it spread across in an almost parallel pattern, Kixi traversed the branches toward the corner of the cave, struggling to maintain her grip in the process. One hand slipped on the uneven rough branches, and she dangled precariously over the baying mutant.

The Rancor pawed at Kixi from below, but the Züncålazin woman dangled just out of reach. Suddenly Kixi released her hold and dropped directly onto the eye of the howling monster, and then tumbled to the floor. The Rancor screamed in pain and stumbled, swatting its own face to knock away the agony. It ran in circles a few times, then spotted Kixi again and came at her. Kixi stooped down to pick up the long bone of an earlier victim. She brandished it before her and had an idea, one that insanely involved being picked up by the monster. The monster did just that, grabbed Kixi and brought her up to its salivating mouth. At the last moment though, Kixi wedged the bone deep in the Rancor's mouth and jumped to the floor as the beast began to gag. The Rancor bellowed and flailed about, running headlong into a wall. Several rocks were dislodged, starting an avalanche that nearly buried Kixi, as she crouched deep in a crevice near the floor. 

Meanwhile, the Rancor had knocked the bone from its mouth and, enraged, was scrabbling through the rubble of fallen rocks, searching for Kixi. Kixi, though her vision was partially obscured by the pile that still sheltered her, could see now past the monster, to a small tunnel beyond the beast - and beyond that, to a possible way out. If only she could get to it.

The Rancor knocked away a boulder and spotted Kixi recoiling in the crevice. Voraciously, it reached in to pluck the woman out. Kixi ignited her Plasma X weapon, otherwise known as a lightsabre, and cut it along and down on the creature's finger as hard and deep as she could. As the Rancor jumped, howling in pain once more, Kixi turned off her lightsabre and  ran for the tunnel. She had considered trying to slash at the creature with her laser sword, but thought the better of it given the monster's quick reflexes and tough to penetrate body. At best if she didn't strike at the beast in a vital spot, she would have just enraged it further, in addition complicating her already dire situation.

Kixi turned around to see the monster coming angrily after her. As the Rancor drew closer to the young Züncålazin, Kixi backed against the side wall, as the Rancor reached into the tunnel for her. Suddenly parts of the wall above the tunnel began collapsing, paving the way for enough height room for the monster to enter. Kixi turned her head slightly behind her and realised there would be no way through. It was a dead end, she was trapped – her heart felt as if it were about to jump out of her mouth. It was a horrible realisation, and brought with it a terrible feeling of helplessness.

The Rancor began to enter the now enlarged tunnel, closing in for the kill. Kixi instinctively re-ignited her lightsabre in a last second futile attempt to shield herself against her prey when, it was at that very moment, happening all of at once, that a brilliant silver white light enveloped the monster before it vanished in thin air.

Mako who had been outside the cave and on the surface above had been witness to her lover's entire frantic ordeal. It had taken the skilful and experience crew on the MXS Morihei Ueshiba some time after the half cyborg girl had made them aware of their apparent captain's distress. Within seconds following, Mako was able to visually confirm that they had successfully beamed the monster site to site, and into the ocean far away. A large splash that dominated in the distant horizon before disappearing back into calmness, confirming the fact. The Rancor would be no more. 

Several more seconds after that, another bright flash of white rays of light, and Kixi materialised before Mako's eyes, and to her utter relief. Immediately Mako wrapped an arm around Kixi's shoulders and pulled her close, gently rubbing her arm. Despite the heaviness in her stomach, it fluttered at the feeling of her body pressed against hers. She sunk into the warmth of her side, appreciative of the simple gesture. Kixi's touch made her body warmer somehow. In that moment the arms squeezed a fraction tighter and Kixi breathed more slowly, her body melting into her girlfriend's, as every muscle lost its tension to the surrounding air. Neither spoke, as the realisation of the dangers of their line of work sunk in hard, with the reality that either could lose each other to oblivion in the blink of an eye. That was life, real life.

 

*****

The trek through the forest to the temple ruins, would at least on that part be an uneventful affair. On arrival, the empty halls of the temple above trembled with the reverberations of Kixi's triumphant booming laughter. It had taken nearly an hour before both Kixi and Mako had reached their destination. The vegetation around them was teeming with life, but as they ran along through the jungle, they had seen nothing larger than insects or small birds. 

Most creatures scattered before their advance, with Kixi's purple coloured lightsabre held high in front of her in the lead. Kixi sprinted at an alarmingly rapid rate, assisted by the Force, whilst Mako competently followed, able to match the pace of the latter with the help of her one cybernetic leg. The creatures however, vanished long before the duo ever came close enough to catch even a glimpse of them. 

Kixi couldn't see more than a few metres ahead through the thick vegetation, but she knew they were close now. She could sense the power of the temple, calling to her from behind the impenetrable curtain of tangled vines and twisted branches. Clamping down with what was surely now the full power of the dark side, using her lightsabre, she broke through into a clearing, a circle nearly one hundred metres across. In the very centre stood a Sith Temple. 

The structure rose nearly twenty metres to the sky, a monument of carved rock and stone. The only entrance was a broad archway at the peak of an enormous staircase carved into an outside wall of the temple itself. Its surface was pristine, stark and pure, unsullied by clinging moss or climbing ivy. The grounds surrounding it were barren, but for a carpet of short soft grass. It was as if the jungle feared to creep forward and reclaim the tainted stone.

The duo proceeded to walk towards the entrance, with all of Kixi's attention focused on the structure towering before her. She had found what she was searching for. She took a trembling step forward before stopping short. She shook her head to clear it. The dark side was strong here, so strong it made her feel light headed. That meant this was a place of danger. She couldn't afford to be wandering around in a stupor. According to the accounts she'd read in the archives of the Jedi Temple on Lothal, this Sith Temple had once been protected by a powerful energy shield, one that required a team of Sith warriors, of which each individual had been a powerful Force user to bring it down. She didn't sense any such barrier, but only a fool would proceed without caution.

Kixi began to probe the area around her with the Force. She felt the echoes of the safeguards that had once protected the temple, but they were so weak as to be almost nonexistent. She wasn't surprised. The shields around the Sith Temple had been fueled by the power of a significantly large orbiting powerful Sith Battleship. That was according to the archives that she'd read. With the ship's eventual destruction, the shields had failed, along with all the other defences that had made this world a graveyard of ships.

She along with Mako, who had remained silent after having summoned the Ueshiba to rescue Kixi from the clutches of a large Rancor, crossed the surrounding courtyard, and mounted the temple steps. The staircase was steep but wide, and the stone was neither worn nor cracked despite its age. It ended at a small landing leading to the stone archway of the entrance, three quarters of the way up. They paused at the threshold, then passed through. Kixi had a brief sensation of what it must have felt like for those who came before her. The anticipation, the thrill of discovery. Once inside, however, it only took a few minutes of exploration for her excitement to fade.

The temple had been stripped of anything of value. They searched for hours, beginning with the top floor where they had first come in, and proceeded deeper and deeper until they reached the bottom level, combing every centimetre of the empty halls and deserted rooms. Yet even though their search was proving futile, Kixi didn't despair, as she was certain there was still power within the temple grounds, and that there had to be something here for her to find. She was certain of it and refused to accept failure.

It was in the lowest level of the temple, far below the planet's surface, that her obsessive quest would finally end. When she first stumbled into the room her attention was immediately drawn by the remains of a massive computer, but it was clearly beyond any hope of repair. And then she noticed something on the stone wall behind the computer. The surface was etched with a number of arcane symbols. The language of the Sith perhaps. They meant nothing to her, and she would have dismissed them without a second glance. Except that one of them was glowing. She almost hadn't noticed it at first. It was subtle, a faint violet hue tracing the edges of one of the unusual shapes. It was almost perfectly level with her eye.

As she stared at it, the glow grew stronger. She stepped forward and reached out tentatively with her hand. The light winked out, startling her into taking a step back. She reached out again, but this time, instead of using her hand, she reached out with the Force. The stone character flared to life. Struggling to contain her eagerness, she again extended her hand and pressed hard against the glowing symbol. There was the sound of turning gears, and the grinding of stone on stone. The seams of a small square less than half a metre on each side took shape in the wall as a section of stone pushed out.

Kixi stepped back as the chunk toppled down from the wall and shattered on the ground at her feet, revealing a small cubbyhole behind it. With no hesitation, she thrust her arm into the darkness to seize whatever was inside. Her fingers wrapped around something cold and heavy. She drew it out and stared in wonder at the artefact in her hand. Slightly larger than her fist, it had the shape of a four sided pyramid, a tiny replica of the Sith Temple in which she stood. 

Kixi instantly recognised her prize for what it was. A Sith holocron, a repository of forbidden knowledge just waiting to be unlocked. The art of constructing holocrons had been lost for countless millennia, but from her studies, Kixi knew something of the basic theory behind their design. The information they contained was stored within an interwoven, self encrypted digital matrix. A holocron's protection systems couldn't be circumvented or broken. The information couldn't be sliced or copied – maybe. Perhaps it could be done with Sajnen Nanite Replicator Technology. But for now she would put that aside, and attempt to access the knowledge captured within from the only way it was intended to by its creator. 

Each holocron was imprinted with the personality of one or more masters to serve as guardians. When accessed by one capable of understanding its secrets, the holocron would project tiny crude hologrammic images of the various guardians. Through interaction with the student, the programmed simulacra would teach and instruct in much the same way as would a flesh and blood mentor. However, all accounts of Sith holocrons had made mention of the ancient symbols adorning the four sided pyramid. The holocron she held in her hand was almost completely blank. 

Moving carefully, she set the Holocron gently on the floor, then sat down before it. She crossed her legs and began the deep, slow breathing of a meditative trance, while Mako stood back several metres and silently observed. Gathering and focusing her energy, Kixi projected a wave of dark Force power out to engulf the small relic on the floor. The holocron began to sparkle and shimmer in response. She held her breath in anticipation, unsure what would come next. A small beam of light projected out from the top, the particles scattered and diffused. They began to shift and spin, coalescing into a cloaked figure, its features completely hidden by the hood of its heavy robe. Then a voice spoke, crisp and clear. "I am Darth Kaarth, Dark Lord of the Sith."

Kixi sat motionless, eyes riveted on the avatar of a Dark Lord thousands of years dead and gone. Kaarth's projected image winked out of existence, then slowly flickered back into view. The holocron was failing. Dying. The material used to construct it, the crystal that channeled the energy of the Force to give the artefact life was flawed. The more Kixi used it, the less stable it became. Yet she couldn't set it aside, even for a moment. She had become obsessed with tapping all the knowledge trapped within, in the hope to find that sole bit of information she desired most – the orb, and she spent hours on end drinking in Kaarth's words with the same single minded determination she had used when infiltrating the Jedi Temple back on Lothal. Mako on the other hand was forced to just stand there the whole time – in total silence, but she would not dare protest. After all, her obsessed girlfriend was doing all of what she was witnessing for her. 

"The dark side offers power for power's sake. You must crave it. Covet it. You must seek power above all else, with no reservation or hesitation." These words didn't necessarily agree with Kixi's ideals. Kixi was a Züncålazin, aligned neutrally to both light and dark side aspects of the Force. Yet for the ultimate purpose of her quest, one that she could now feel that she could indeed feel she was edging closer in achieving, Kaarth's words rang especially true for her. It was as if the preprogrammed personality of her now virtual Master sensed it was nearing its end, and had tailored its last lessons especially for her.

"The Force will change you. It will transform you. Some fear this change. The teachings of the Jedi are focused on fighting and controlling this transformation. That is why those who serve the light are limited in what they can accomplish. True power can come only to those who embrace the transformation. There can be no compromise. Mercy, compassion, loyalty – all these things will prevent you from claiming what is rightfully yours. Those who follow the dark side must cast aside these conceits. Those who do not, those who try to walk the path of moderation, will fail, dragged down by their own weakness." The words came as a total shock to her. There could be no neutrality in the Force. The Züncålazin way was wrong, and most importantly of all, Kaarth's words perfectly described the flaws in the Jedi ways.

"Those who accept the power of the dark side must also accept the challenge of holding on to it," Kaarth continued. "By its very nature, the dark side invites rivalry and strife. This is the greatest strength of the Sith. It culls the weak from our order. Yet this rivalry can also be our greatest weakness. The strong must be careful lest they be overwhelmed by the ambitions of those beneath them working in concert. Any master who instructs more than one apprentice in the ways of the dark side is a fool. In time the apprentices will unite their strength and overthrow the master. It is inevitable. Axiomatic. That is why each master must have only one student." Kixi didn't respond, but her lip instinctively curled up intrigued at the words she was hearing. The Sith ways did not really interest her, let alone understanding the opinionated words of this one Sith, yet she understood patience, and that would eventually lead her to what she sought. That she was most certain of. 

The image flickered and jumped, and then the tiny replica of Darth Kaarth bowed its head. Kaarth had discovered many of the rituals of the ancient Sith, and as the holocron's avatar explained their nature and purpose, Kixi could barely wrap her mind around their awesome potential. Some of the rituals were so terrible, so dangerous to attempt, even for a true Sith master, that she doubted she would ever dare to use them. However she didn't care. There was only one thing she desired, and within all the wealth of knowledge that had been presented to her by the once great Sith Master Kaarth, the knowledge of the Orb of Passage was amongst it all. Kixi did not seek ultimate power, she didn't crave it, she only sought to change the fate of the love of her life, and in doing so she would ultimately erase her own journey to the full power of the dark side from ever have occurring. 

Kixi was sitting crosslegged on the stone floor of the central chamber on the Sith Temple. She spontaneously sprung to her feet and turned to Mako.

"I have it Mako, finally it's mine!" Kixi said in a wicked like sounding voice.

"What do you have. I don't fully understand?" Mako replied very confused and concerned.

"I have the knowledge on how to replicate the Orb of Passage." Kixi replied ecstatically.

Just then Kixi approached Mako placing the palms of each of her hands onto both of Mako's cheeks. "I have what I need to save you. To change what happened at Kustetiera. It's what I've come here to do, as all I strive for is you Mako. You are all I really care for, live for, nothing else matters."

Mako gazed at Kixi, frozen, overwhelmed and speechless. Kixi then took a step back, unable to conceal her excitement at the prospect of achieving her dream in altering both the destiny's of her girlfriend and herself. 

"Mako, quickly replicate only the knowledge of how to reconstruct an exact replica of the Orb of Passage from this holocron using Sajnen Nanite Replicator Technology. Hurry, as the holocron is dying." Kixi said with an extreme sense of urgency.

Mako did not hesitate to do as ordered. In fact, she dutifully would do more then just copy it down like one would on a disk or sheaves of flimsi, so that it could be studied in greater depth later. Thanks to technology given to them by the Asgard, as well as the Ancient database in Atlantis, the people of the Androj'Meden Galaxy, those of the now Sajnen Confederate, like their human counterparts on Terra-Sol in the Lat-Saena Galaxy were able to create virtuality anything from nanite based replicators, including ones of human form. Mako didn't need to go that far of course, but with the same nanite technology, she would copy the Orb of Passage. 

In the basic elements upon which all replicator technology is based. Kerons are the fundamental components which construct replicator blocks to assemble replicators in what ever form they require. Each mechanical replicator is made of blocks held together by a keron based energy field, a keron itself is a rare energy particle unknown to the habitants of the Galaxy – well at least to the best of Kixi's knowledge.  Each block has advanced computing technology, although a single block by itself is inert. Replicators ingest raw materials, such as ship hulls, which they use to construct additional replicators. To help with ingestion, they spray acid at the materials from a mouthlike spout. Replicators are able to use a ship's power to help in the replication process, thus they seek out energy sources. A critical mass of blocks is necessary to link up via the keron energy and form a new replicator. A larger number of replicators achieves a higher level of cognition, provided the subspace network is functioning. The Sajnen Nanite Replicator Technology bases its technology on the very same concept, except that it's virtually at the next step of its evolution. The keron energy transforms everything into nanites in an almost liquid type form. These can then be injected in a subject's bloodstream and transform them into a replicated humanoid form – with the downside of ultimately killing the host.

"My time here is ended. Take what I have taught you and use it well." And then Kaarth was gone. The glow emanating from the holocron faded away to nothing. Mako had been able to replicate what she needed in the small nick of time she had been given, much to Kixi's relief. Kixi still held the small crystal pyramid in her hand, but it was cold and lifeless. She felt no trace of the Force inside it. The artefact was of no more use to her. It therefore needed to be discarded. She let it drop to the floor. Then, very slowly and deliberately, she crushed it with the power of the Force until only dust remained.

"When the time comes, I will inject that into my bloodstream." Kixi said as she began to walk back in the direction she had come from. 

"But it will inevitably kill you!" Mako immediately protested.

"It won't matter, as before it can, I will have successfully gone back in time, changed the events of that one pivotal moment at Kustetiera, thereby erasing these whole series of events that have proceeded to occur in this reality of the timeline. However, first I need to create more hate to unleash its absolute power. I can achieve this by first torturing and then destroying that Bothan scumbag for no other than hatred towards him. Then we will use a modified version of the Genghis Virus used to eradicate the Vistesh on Trandosha, wiping out billions on their entire world, while I make Vinskk watch painfully before I kill him too." The power of the dark side flowed freely now through Kixi's veins as she spoke her words of hatred. "Oh and don't worry, all this will be erased once time is altered, thus I would not have killed anyone in the end." Kixi concluded with a broad smile on her face. "C'mon now sweetheart, we're leaving." She said immediately taking Mako's arm, and directing her towards the exit, and not allowing her to dare speak her opinions of dire concerns against Kixi's plans which were in the eyes of her lover, well beyond recklessly insane.

 

*****

The duo were finally almost back to their awaiting star fighter, the Câlder mit Arkhan, when Kixi suddenly felt a bizarre surge through the Force, the presence of a familiar signature that she had only felt for the first time on her first visit to Coruscant. 

"We're in grave danger," Kixi spoke in a kind of emotional resonance with her lover Mako. Her thoughts were all of a sudden elsewhere. 

Mako tried to buoy things up. "Hey I don't have a clue on what you've possibly spotted now, but why don't you try to be optimistic about whatever it is you've detected?" Mako felt beleaguered by negativity.

"He knows I'm here," Kixi avowed, who seemed taunted by something. And then, all at once, in the midst of the stillness of her contemplation, she grew absolutely motionless. Not a breath, not even heartbeat stirred to mar her concentration. She strained her every sense into the ether. What had she felt? Her spirit tilted its head to listen. Some echo, some vibration apprehended only by her, had passed – no, had not passed. Had swirled the moment and altered the very shape of things. Things were no longer the same.

The sight of another ship appearing over Mako's shoulder, still too far in the distance to make out a model or affiliation, put an end to her deliberations. An instant later she felt the unmistakable dark side power of the one being on board. Mako who had partial Force sensibility must have felt it too. She turned and looked in that direction, then turned back to Kixi with a worried grimace.

"Something is definitely wrong, what is it?" the half cyborg girl asked, noticing the exchange. 

"We were followed," Kixi muttered.

The ship was coming in quickly, too fast for them to get into their own star fighter and take to the sky. If they tried, the other vessel would shoot them down before they took off.

"That ship must have streaked past the Ueshiba unnoticed – it probably exited hyperspace close to the planet's atmosphere slipping past its sensors." Mako said stating the most probable reason of their new menacing arrival.

"We must run back to the temple – now!" Kixi ordered. "Darth Ravik has found us."

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