Visions of Darkness, Part I
5 minutes later
Imperial outpost, Raydonia
8 months BBY
The whine of TIE engines echoed through the cloudy skies as the Kandosii'tal hovered just within reach of Xel's jetpack, the entrance ramp lowering to receive him. His heavy booted steps echoed through the ship's corridors as Alen took off, heading for space and increasing the distance between them and their pursuers. As Xel's legs took him straight into the cockpit, Alen barely glanced back, keying the nav computer before speaking.
"Good news, Xel. I managed to track that shuttle's last hyperspace trajectory. We can follow him."
He sounded so happy, Xel almost hesitated in shattering his hopes. Almost. "No, we can't."
Alen frowned at him in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
Xel sighed as he pulled his helmet off, laying it on the dashboard as he slumped into the copilot's seat. "The man who confronted me was an Imperial agent, probably reports directly to Vader. As such, he's not gonna be stupid enough to go straight to his final destination, which means the coordinates you have are either a decoy location he'll go before jumping again or an ambush."
"So we're just gonna give up? If there's a chance we can get to Mom—"
"There isn't." Xel's voice was far harsher and angrier than his brother had heard in a long, long time. "Just get us out of here."
Alen scowled at the nav computer. "And go where?" he asked in a near-whisper.
"Anywhere but here."
The Jedi rapidly programmed a course to Nar Shaddaa and punched the hyperdrive just as the pursuing TIEs closed to roughly a kilometer.
The Kandosii'tal, hyperspace
When Xel stormed toward the armory, Alen followed, the anger rolling off his brother in waves. He couldn't help but flinch when the younger boy slammed his fists on a durasteel table, eyes widening as he saw the dents left behind. Several more loud bangs came from repeated assaults on the offending countertop before Alen stepped forward.
Xel was breathing hard, an angry scowl on his face. "I had her." His hands rotated palms-up in a clawing position, as if he were trying to hold onto something invisible. "I had her right there, in my grasp. We had her back." His hands clenched into fists. "And then we didn't."
Alen put a hand on his brother's shoulder, channeling the Force into the touch in an attempt to calm him down. "Just tell me what happened."
Caden breathed a little lighter, though from his own self-control or Alen's manipulations no one could tell. "I found her on that landing pad, right next to the shuttle. Didn't even feel the other presence until it was too late. Either I was too focused on her, or too damn relieved..."
"I wouldn't blame you for either case. It's been six months since we last saw her."
"I blame me for it. Dad warned me against tunnel vision once, and I ignored his advice. And now, our mother is once again far beyond our reach." He looked away, expression falling from anger to melancholy. "Maybe in more ways than one," he added quietly.
Alen's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
Dark blue eyes met ice blue. "I mean...somehow...she was turned."
Alen's eyes shot wide open. "What? No, that's...that's impossible."
"I thought that too, until I saw the look in her eyes." He shook his head. "It was like I couldn't even recognize her anymore. The anger, the disappointment. She was so...critical and exacting. So cold. It was like every cause for resentment or anger was multiplied tenfold in her mind, so much that she...she forgot who the real enemy is."
"Stang." Alen slumped into a nearby chair, hand shielding his eyes as he slouched in his seat. "I...I had heard stories of the Dark Side's corrupting power, but for someone like Mom to succumb like that..." He shuddered visibly. "I'm almost glad I wasn't down there with you."
"If you had been, things might have turned out differently." The flash of guilt over their Bond pushed Xel to keep talking. "Don't...don't mistake me saying that for me blaming you. We agreed to split up because we assumed she'd be on our side. We were wrong. No way around that."
The young Jedi sighed heavily. "Right. I guess...I guess we're back to square one...but when we find her next time, we have to consider the possibility she might be even further gone."
Xel's fists tightened. "Much as I hate to admit it, yes." The Mando could feel his already substantial hatred for Darth Vader grow a bit more. Pushing the sudden surge of vengeful thoughts to the back of his mind, Caden turned to his despondent brother. "You should get some rest. I'll make sure we're on target for Nar Shaddaa."
Alen nodded slowly as he rose from the chair and headed for Xel's old room, falling into bed and pulling the covers around him like a protective barrier from all the evils of the galaxy before adding another with the Force. As the door slid closed between them, Xel felt he could relate.
30 minutes later
The Kandosii'tal, hyperspace
The screams in Xel's mind were enough to jolt him out of the half-unconscious stupor he'd fallen into at the controls, head snapping upright and legs propelling him to his old room. The door slid open at his command, revealing a heavily sweating and somewhat horror-struck Alen sitting on the bed.
"You all right, vod? I heard screams."
Alen made eye contact as he nodded slowly with a gulp. "Just...need a second."
Xel pursed his lips tightly. "Nightmares?"
Ice blue eyes narrowed at the floor, the Jedi's lips slightly parted in thought before his head shook. "Not just dreams, Xel." His eyes closed and his body shuddered as if he were recalling them. They snapped open in his brother's direction a moment later. "Visions. Visions from the Force."
Caden's eyebrows skyrocketed as he leaned back against a wall, arms crossed. "Of what?"
"I...I'm not sure, exactly. I saw a world of twisting blues and greens, landmasses surrounded by oceans. I...I saw a city, large and elevated, with multiple levels. It looked deserted."
"That doesn't explain why you were screaming."
Alen shook his head. "The screams you heard were not from me, but from my vision. I must've been subconsciously projecting parts of it over our Bond."
"Well whatever it was, it was scary as haran. And if the city was deserted, who was left to scream?"
The other boy sighed and looked down. "It got worse. I couldn't see the people around me, not really. It was like they were just silhouettes, shadows that were emitting black flames, but that wasn't the freakiest part. The worst was the black-cloaked figure in the middle of the city square."
Xel's ears perked up as he straightened. "Black-cloaked? Was he wearing a hood?"
"Yes, and I couldn't make out his features." At Xel's absent expression and hopeful feel in the Force, he wondered out loud, "Why?"
"Might be too vague for a positive ID, but that matches the man who took Mom to a tee."
"You don't think—"
"That's exactly what I think. Why else would you have a vision from the Force at a time like this?"
Alen looked unconvinced but hopeful. "I don't know, but whatever the vision meant, we have to find out the truth."
"Would you be able to recognize the planet from a galaxy map?"
Alen leapt from the bed and moved rapidly toward the cockpit. "Got you one better. I know where it is." The Jedi pulled back on the hyperspace lever, leaving them somewhere between Nar Kreeta and Tatooine. Rapidly putting coordinates into the nav computer, Alen waited for the display to glow blue.
Xel furrowed his eyebrows and took a good look at the location, pulling up the galaxy map to compare notes. "Alen, there's...nothing there."
"According to that map, maybe, but I get the feeling that the shadow I felt over the entire planet was more than just the vagueness of a Force vision. I get the feeling the world itself is hidden."
Caden stared at him incredulously. "How is that even possible?"
"Think of the hiding we can do with the Force, to mask our presences from the Empire. Now think of that on a massive scale." At Xel's incredulous look, Alen defended his position. "According to the holocrons, it's possible. Exceedingly difficult, but still possible."
The Mando shook his head. "Still doesn't explain why it's not on any of our maps."
Alen frowned at the empty display. "No, it doesn't, but I guess we'll find out the truth soon enough."
And hopefully find Mom, the Mando added mentally to the end of his sentence.
The Kandosii'tal, orbit around unknown world, Allied Tion Sector
"Okay...I stand corrected."
Alen arched an eyebrow at his brother's declaration before smirking widely and returning his eyes to the world in their viewport. Just beyond the window was the same globe with blue and green swirls all across its surface, a slight haze inexplicably obscuring his vision. "Xel, do you...feel that?"
"Yeah," he responded uneasily in a near-growl, drawing a hand over his eyes and clearing the same affliction, "like someone just spiked my tihaar. I don't like it."
"Gotta press on though."
He nodded firmly, throttling up and starting reentry. "For Mom. For our buir." A few minutes later, they had entered the planet's atmosphere and descended through the first layer of clouds. "You have any more specific coordinates for where we're headed?"
"No, but something tells me we'll know it when we see it."
A series of beeps and a blinking red light on the dashboard alerted them both to an incoming holomessage. Xel thumbed the projector on and perused the humanoid image with widened eyes. Before either could speak, the image did.
"Greetings, offworlders, and welcome to Voss. I am Lorak-Reh, at your service." The man, a bald humanoid with strange markings on his face and compound eyes that seemed to glow, bowed respectfully.
Alen and Xel returned the gesture, the former tilting his entire torso as his brother merely inclined his head.
"Your nav computer should be receiving coordinates to a nearby landing pad in Voss-Ka. Please make your way there at the earliest convenience. The Three wish to speak with you."
The brothers exchanged a confused look before Alen spoke up. "You mean...you're expecting us?"
Lorak-Reh simply pursed his lips and folded his hands over his midsection. "I am not at liberty to say more. An escort will arrive at your ship by the time you land. The Three will explain when you reach the Sanctuary."
"Understood," Alen said uncertainly, the hologram vanishing after Lorak-Reh bowed once more.
The brothers exchanged a long, confused look before speaking in unison. "What the hell?"
10 minutes later
The moment the brothers stepped off the landing ramp of the Kandosii'tal, Xel in his beskar'gam, Alen a full set of dark brown Jedi robes, complete with a cloak and hood, they realized there was something very odd about this planet. Their "welcome wagon" consisted of five armed Voss, all toting blaster rifles with collapsible electrostaves on their backs. Their glowing orange eyes, made startlingly clear by the darkness of night, and multicolored skin fascinated Alen and unnerved Xel a little. He had rarely felt such piercing stares, and only ever from his parents, who were both Force-users. The lead Voss, made apparent by the ornate markings on his face and uniform, stepped forward, his weapon held non-threateningly.
"We are here to take you to the Three, offworlders."
Xel nodded his acknowledgement, his t-visor locking gazes with the captain for a long moment. Somehow the alien was still able to meet his eyes, as if he could see through the faceplate. The Mando instantly decided never to get into a staring contest with one of these things. Sensing that the moment had passed, the captain made an about-face, motioning swiftly to his men, who effectively boxed in the two Force-users and led them down a long series of roads, the captain at the front.
As they traveled, Alen silently admired the architecture of Voss-Ka, with some buildings adopting a circular pattern, others rectangular or triangular, all with intricate relief designs, some even depicting scenes of great battles. These in particular drew Xel's attention. The most impressive of all, however, was in the city square, which was pointed out by Alen, who had seen it once before, though not in all its glory. It depicted a hooded figure in armored robes—wielding a lightsaber. The brothers exchanged a look before Alen spoke up.
"Excuse me, captain." The group came to a stop and the man in question turned to face the Jedi as he pointed toward the sculpture. "What is that?"
The captain followed his line of sight and exhaled audibly as a slight upward tilt tugged at his lips. "That is a memory from a bygone age. Once, over 3000 years ago, a Jedi came to our world in a time of great turmoil. He taught us to trust offworlders, and the Jedi Order in particular. Although we never took a side in their war, we maintained a healthy rapport with the Jedi for many years hence." His expression darkened. "Sadly, however, the years eventually began to sour, and our contact with the Republic and their Knights waned. We eventually faded from their memory into the fabric of myth and legend."
"A shame," Alen said genuinely. "From your architecture alone, I can tell you have much to offer."
The captain seemed taken off-guard by the unexpected display of respect and inclined his head respectfully as a result. "We should move on. The Three are not to be kept waiting."
Alen nodded as they continued the march, approaching a massive rectangular building with two pyramidal obelisks flanking a proportionally massive door. The obelisks, like much of the additions to buildings in the city, were made of a black and gold material, the two colors creating intricate designs and shapes, some simply ornamental embellishments, others in a language neither brother could understand. The building itself was, like most in Voss-Ka, made of a dark tan stone, almost like duracrete but harder and smoother. It too was covered in fascinating reliefs and other such art, most of it focused on the history of the Voss, if Alen was interpreting correctly.
The doors were made of the same material as the obelisk, and consisted of three panels, two in rotated L-shapes on either side, the third a rectangular one that retracted into the floor on the bottom. That seemed to be the primary locking mechanism, and it disengaged once the group was within fifteen feet. The side panels swung outward noiselessly, the only sound the rush of displaced air as the twenty-foot-tall portal opened. Both Alen and Xel seemed dumbstruck by the display before the captain cleared his throat discreetly and ushered them forward. The relatively dim lighting inside made the brothers squint for a few seconds as their eyes adjusted to reveal a long, wide hallway with torches lining the glyph-covered walls.
Despite the knowledge that they were in no imminent danger, Xel couldn't help but feel like he was walking into a tomb. A familiar figure strode toward them from inside the building, the captain coming to a halt and saluting him briefly as he bowed in response.
"Captain Jor-Le," Lorak-Reh said respectfully, "thank you for bringing them with such speed. I will take it from here."
Jor-Le nodded stiffly before turning to the offworlders and giving them each a hard stare, his gaze lingering on Xel a moment longer than necessary before he nodded to his men and wordlessly left them alone with Lorak. The Voss in question spoke up as his team left the building.
"It is a pleasure to meet you two in person, and I'm sure the Three will agree once you are face to face."
The brothers exchanged another look of confusion as they followed Lorak-Reh. What was with these people and their cryptic speech? He led them through the long hallway, through a maze of hallways and staircases to a set of double-doors, the same black-and-gold material comprising them, images of three hooded Voss embossed on the surface.
"The Three await inside," Lorak said, as if it weren't already apparent. "Please have as much patience as possible." He looked a little longer at Xel when saying this. "The Three have not met in person with offworlders for a long time, since before your Clone Wars. Their speech may...confuse you at first."
As if we're not already? Xel thought. When Lorak-Reh gave him a pointed stare, he slammed the door in his mind and triple-bolted it shut before sharing a look with Alen.
"Definitely Force-users," his brother sent over their Bond.
Xel's nod was near-imperceptible. He turned back to the doors as Lorak stepped aside, each of the pair pushing one and striding through as one unit. They had learned to do that a lot over the last six months. When one is hunting something the Empire wants to keep hidden, one learns that working in poor concert is the fastest way to get caught or killed. The pair walked forward along an ornate stone path into a circular room, a curved, semicircular platform on the far side of the room holding three finely dressed Voss, all in hoods, their eyes glowing in the pleasantly dim lighting.
While Alen focused on their mysterious hosts, Xel's eyes tagged the positions of every guard and weapon in the room, immediately concluding that the only ways in or out of the room were a heavily guarded door on the Three's platform and the double-doors they had just come through. It sat ill with him, but he forced his hunter's instincts down in an attempt at being a pleasant guest. As they approached the center of the elevated platform, he was sure the three beings on it could see right through him, their glowing eyes peeling away his layers of protection like an onion. His teeth gritted. He hated that feeling.
They finally reached a circle at the end of the path and stood in place, both facing the Voss just fifteen feet above them. The Three seemed to study them for a moment before the central Voss spoke up, his voice booming and echoing in the wide chamber, filling every crack and crevice until it was all either of them could focus on.
The simple word sent a shiver up Xel's spine, his uneasiness with the whole situation skyrocketing instantly as he felt the sheer power lacing this man's speech.
The same Voss stepped up to the edge of the platform and motioned to them both. "Please, remove your hood and helmet. We would see your faces."
Alen and Xel exchanged a look before the former drew back his hood and the latter popped the seal on his buy'ce, tucking it under one arm, forcing his empty hand to curl into a loose fist to avoid betraying his frayed nerves. He was sure they noticed anyway.
"Once again, we welcome you to our world. We hope your journey here was not too tedious."
"Not at all, sir," Alen answered, the Jedi within him lending calm confidence to his words. "In fact, I think we rather enjoyed the impromptu tour of your city. It is...quite magnificent."
The faintest hint of a smile graced the alien's features. "We are glad you think so, Master Jedi." A light blush filled Alen's cheeks. "It has been quite some time since a member of your order has graced our world." His expression darkened. "Although, with the Empire attempting to hunt your kind to extinction, that is hardly a surprise."
"It has been...difficult, being alone," Alen conceded. "So much has changed in the galaxy, and I fear things may never be the same again."
"All too true. It is because of this, and a vision of darkness revealed to us by our Mystics, that we were forced to sever all ties to the failing Republic."
Alen's eyebrows furrowed. "Wait, are you telling me you saw Order 66 coming? Your people foretold the rise of the Empire?"
"In a way, yes," another of the Three, a female, said. "As difficult as it was for us to believe, our Mystics reported the imminent fall of a powerful Jedi and the rash of death and destruction that would follow him."
The third Voss, a blue-eyed male, spoke up at last. "Although we do not hold to your interpretations of 'Light' and 'Dark,' the Voss know all too well what the Sith are capable of. As a result, we took precautions to ensure that a conflict as had occurred in ages past would never happen here again."
"So," Xel said sharply, speaking for the first time, "you had your people wipe your existence from every database in the galaxy, isolated yourselves completely, and cloaked your planet with the Force."
The Three turned their heads to face him, the center Voss responding. "Essentially, yes. When we heard the reports of Force-users being hunted down and either turned or slaughtered, we knew we had made the right choice. The razing of Horuun Kal is one notable example."
Xel glanced at Alen, catching his mournful expression and making a note to ask him about it later. "So, the million-credit question. Why, if you've spent the last eighteen-plus years avoiding the Empire—and the galaxy, if I might add—are we here?"
The Three's expressions became grave. "We need your help."
The Mando's eyes narrowed in suspicion as his brother's widened in surprise.
"A darkness has fallen on our world, growing every day. All have been effected by its presence, and we fear we are helpless to stop it."
Xel continued to stare at them silently, his hopes of finding Telia here dashed with those few words, a dark feeling rising in his gut.
"What kind of darkness?" Alen asked warily.
"After we severed our connections to the galaxy, our researchers unearthed an ancient artifact of mysterious power. It did not reveal its true nature until years later. This Dark—"
"Is that it?"
The question was so quiet, it might have been a whisper were it not for the echoing walls. Xel's dark blue eyes rose to the Three as a scowl dominated his features. "Is that the best you can do?" His fist hand clenched hard and mental shields slipped. He didn't care.
"Xel," Alen warned, a hand landing on his armored shoulder.
The Mando shrugged it off and took a single step forward, anger rolling off him. "You send a nightmare into my brother's mind, drag us halfway across the galaxy away from a deathly important mission, and that's the best you can do?"
The central Voss seemed unfazed by his outburst. "You were the closest Force signatures we could find. Your brother was more responsive than the other we attempted to contact."
Xel blinked rapidly. Other? What other? "I don't care," he snarled. "We've got problems of our own without worrying about your mystic osik."
"Xel, stop," Alen said firmly.
He turned toward him, breathing heavily and keeping his voice quiet. "Our mother was turned to the Dark Side, barely turned back, and reclaimed by the Sith, and you want to take the time to battle some vague enemy on some Force-forsaken world?"
Alen stepped away from him, taken aback by his stark observation. "It...it's my duty. As a Jedi."
Xel's jaw dropped a little. "She's your mother," he nearly whispered.
"She's our mother, and if she were here, she wouldn't turn away either."
The Mando huffed and turned away, pacing in fuming silence.
"Xel, look at this logically." He put a hand on his brother's arm, stopping him. "We have no leads, no direction. We...we don't even know if she's alive."
Xel locked gazes with him. "You felt any particularly agonizing pains lately?"
"Then we know she's not dead."
"Right," the Jedi said quietly, mentally kicking himself. After all, hadn't he said the same thing to Xel on Obroa-skai? "Regardless, we still don't even know where to start. If these Voss are as farsighted as I think, maybe they can help."
Xel blinked rapidly. "So this is a bounty then. A favor for a favor."
Alen shrugged. "If you want to see it that way, fine, but...look, just let me do the talking."
Caden conceded with a nod.
His brother gave him a reassuring smile and turned back toward the Three, who had been waiting patiently. He clasped his hands in front of his torso in a sign of respect before speaking. "Honored Three, with your permission, we will give you any assistance you need." Alen hesitated, giving Xel a glance. The Mando could tell he was uncomfortable making conditions. "But," he said nonetheless, "in return, we would like yours."
The female Voss raised an eyebrow at him.
Alen gulped uneasily before continuing. "Someone very dear to us has been captured. We don't know where she's been taken."
"And what would you have us do?" the female asked.
"I'm...not sure of the extents of your power, but we would appreciate it if you could...I don't know, search for her with the Force. From what I understand, some of your people are capable of this...Mystics, I believe?"
The blue-eyed Voss pursed his lips. "It is difficult, but possible, given enough detail about the subject of the search."
"Would a Force signature suffice?"
The center Voss's eyebrows shot up. "This woman must be very dear to you if such details are available."
"She should be," Xel said firmly. "She's our mother."
A look of grave understanding passed over the Three as they nodded. "In that case, consider the bargain struck. We remember the Jedi, and if you are able to cleanse the taint that has long stained our world, such a payment would be more than appropriate."
Both brothers nodded, Xel walking over to join his brother in the center again. "Speaking of," the Mando said, "what exactly is this...taint?"
Their expressions again became grim as the central Voss pulled a holoprojector from his belt. "The artifact is of Ancient Sith origin, infused with the life force of a powerful Sith Lord." The projector showed a 3D image of a thin rectangular prism with clawed designs and Sith inscriptions along its body. "The secrets of such powerful...'enchantments' have long been lost to time, so when our people discovered its existence and true nature, they attempted to reverse engineer it."
"Woah, back up," Xel said, raising his empty hand. "Life force?" He glanced at Alen, then at the Three. "You can do that?"
"It is a lost art," the female said, "to be sure, but yes. Ancient Sith, by channeling their hatred and inner darkness, learned to infuse a portion of their life force into powerful artifacts bearing their unique personal signatures, thus binding themselves to the land of the living even after death."
"So," Alen interrupted, "you were studying the artifact to discover the secret of immortality." He sounded more than skeptical.
"Indeed," the blue-eyed Voss said with more than a little reservation, "but the results were sour, even for the Sith. What remained of them after death was often little more than an angry ghost. Powerful, but ethereal and lifeless. Their influence after death was often reduced to naught but death and destruction, which, considering their usual path during life, they would find quite agreeable. In most cases."
"And your artifact?" Alen asked.
The Three's expressions darkened before the center Voss spoke. "This particular Sith Lord...was far more cunning and insidious." The holoprojector shifted images to what looked like security cameras inside a research station. The artifact was there. "Over our years of study, some of our scientists and Mystics reported hearing whispers around the artifact, unintelligible words that itched at the backs of their minds even after leaving the research center. As time went on, however, matters worsened." The Voss pressed another button on the projector, and the feed fast-forwarded years.
"Some of our people began staring at it for long periods of time, not recording observations or doing anything whatsoever. They became unresponsive after a while and had to be bodily removed from the center. Their catatonic states seemed to fade after a while, and once the connection was made, we halted all research on the artifact, keeping everyone away from the center except the guards needed to keep it locked down." His lips tightened and expression darkened further. "But this too failed to contain it." The images shifted to the halls leading to the artifact chamber, and two guards were shown heading toward it. "Some of the men tasked with protecting our people from its influence were unable to protect themselves, and so went looking for it. The results...were catastrophic."
The two guards were shown entering the room and approaching the prism, one of them reaching out despite his comrade's reluctance. The moment his hand touched it, a change seemed to pass over his body, and he pulled back slowly, his shoulders seeming to broaden and chest puffing out with a sudden and newfound pride. He promptly turned to his comrade and drew his pistol, plugging him twice in the chest despite the man's pleading. His eyes were changed as well, now that they were within the camera's range, now emitting some kind of energy, its color indiscernible in the blue-tinted image. He turned for the door and strode out, the other feeds showing him going on an unstoppable rampage before he shot a nearby camera out.
"It took over a dozen of our commandos and almost two hours of relentless fighting to bring him down," the blue-eyed Voss said, his voice and expression heavier than the others.
Xel rightly figured he had a personal connection to the deranged guard, noting the darker blue his eyes had been before his transformation.
"After that incident," the female continued, "only the strongest-willed of our commandos were assigned to guard the artifact while our Mystics and scientists tried to find ways to destroy it or otherwise rid us of its influence."
"Only you couldn't," Xel assumed.
"No, we could not. Whatever was used in the construction of that cursed object, be it materials or Sith magic, it was indestructible by any means we could produce, so it remained here, under our watchful care. If a guard began to slip, he was immediately relieved with a fresh one. No one was allowed near that building except those strong enough to resist its influence...or so we thought."
"One of our finest commanders," the center Voss said, "Makar-Sei, was a failed Mystic. He underwent the trials but never received visions or was able to heal others—those are the primary functions of our Mystics. Regardless, he took the rejection in stride and strove to become a great member of our commando corps. He succeeded, and quickly rose through the ranks to become a leader. As both a powerful Force-user and strong-willed, moral individual, Makar was the ideal choice to watch over the artifact. Unfortunately, he was also the perfect vessel for its power."
An image of a tall, strong-looking Voss pervaded the projector, his build alone commanding respect.
"Over time," the Voss continued, "we noticed a drop in the number of men that needed to be relieved and wrongfully assumed it was because the artifact's power was weakening. In reality, the Sith Lord imbedded in it was merely focusing all his attention on Makar-Sei. Over a period of years, lasting until days most recent, Makar resisted the Sith's influence, but even the strongest minds break if assaulted long and hard enough."
"Or given the right incentive," Xel muttered under his breath.
"When he finally caved in, the fallout was...even worse than anticipated."
The hologram shifted scenes to Makar-Sei, whose right arm was swinging an electrostaff as his left fired a pistol at another commando. The Sith object hung from his belt, flapping with his movements as he struck down his former comrades one after the next. Xel shuddered as he watched his rage-driven movements, seeing his own hybrid blaster-saber style mimicked in the Voss's actions. The last commando in the group trying to stop the rogue commander sprinted straight at him, electrostaff held high, before stopping short and seizing, hand going to his throat as he slowly lifted off the ground. Makar stared at his choking victim with absent interest for a few moments before clenching his fist, the man's body falling limp in his Force Grip as his bones and internal organs were crushed.
Alen gave out a shuddering sigh and looked away, unable to watch any more. "How did you stop him?" he asked quietly.
A moment of hesitation passed before the female Voss spoke. "We didn't."
Both brothers exchanged a look before locking gazes with the Three.
"And so," the central Voss said, "you see our dilemma."