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Sword and Shadow: Beneath a Lightless Sky


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Beneath a Lightless Sky

Galactic City, Coruscant
Level 1294


Silence, it was an unfamiliar concept to those who called Galactic City home. At any time, in any place, speeders raced overhead, blaring through the open air. Voices rang throughout the lower levels. People kept moving, never slowing. It was as if their lives depended on the ceaseless motion between one location to another. Wake up, get ready, go to work, go home. Very few bothered to question the dull routine of Coruscanti life. There were worse places than the upper levels of Galactic City, nestled comfortably within the Alliance's heart, after all.

Ryv stood atop one of many durasteel spires, electrobinoculars in hand. He scanned the skylanes for activity, searching for a singular speeder or emergency vehicle that should've been there, only to find open-air for miles stretching in all directions. Even with the binocs, he couldn't place activity beyond his roof. With a huff, he reattached them to his belt and turned away from the ledge.

He strode across the roof in silence, mind racing as he considered the implications. Business stayed the same throughout the early stage of the travel ban. The vong were a threat, but they weren't everywhere. People still continued with their everyday routines, unphased, as if the constant dangers they faced were a minor nuisance at most. Could he really blame them? Everything in their lives demanded the almighty credit. From the food they ate to the bills they paid, credits were due. It sickened him to think the only changes his people faced were those of danger and cruelty.

Arriving at one entrance into the building atop the roof, the Jedi Knight pulled a keycard from his pocket and held it up to the terminal. An iridescent blue light slowly rolled across the card's surface before the device beeped. The durasteel door slid to the side, and Ryv descended the stairs.

He repeated the process with his keycard at his apartment door, then stepped inside. His home was how he left it, tidy and clean, if not a bit bare.

A large holo terminal rested on one side of his living room, a couch across from it. Chairs were tucked beneath his dining room table, which stood adjacent to the kitchen. He plucked a jogan fruit from the counter as he wandered past. His couch welcomed him without complaint.

He took a bite of the fruit, kicked his feet up onto the table before him, and activated the terminal with the remote at his side. Late-night holo-animation started up as expected. With all the trouble centered around Atrisia, he was happy it hadn't ruined the planet's entertainment industry. Holo-animation might've been the only positive contribution to the galaxy the world had managed in decades.

"What do we got tonight?" he asked aloud. The holographic screen faded almost immediately. Apparently, he'd caught only the tail end of the episode. "Unfortunate, really."

Reaching for the remote, Ryv paused as the screen flickered back to life. Four different scenes revealed themselves at once, each depicting separate accidents along the skylanes.

".... according to our reports, there was a malfunction in the droids piloting the vehicles...."

Ryv perked a brow and sat up.

"The marshals have reached out and confirmed each shuttle belonged to the famed Republic Engineering Corporation or REC for short. The contents of each shuttle were delivered earlier this evening. While en route to their local warehouses, the droids at the wheel apparently short-circuited and shut down. While a joint investigation will be launched by the marshals and REC, no foul play is suspected..."

The screen clicked off at Ryv's behest. He stood and made his way towards his bedroom. BD-8 perked up as the kiffar entered, lights flickering to life. He smiled at the droid and stepped over to pat it on the head. Big Chieftain nuzzled against the touch for a few seconds before returning to its rest state, the bright lights dulled a split-second later.

Ryv straightened, his attention drawn to the bed. The plush blanket covered most of a woman's form. He took a seat beside her and reached out to place his hand atop her back. Her pink flesh was near-flawless. The only notable blemishes a pair of scars across her upper back. A finger slowly traced one, then the other, curiously examining each inch of the imperfections.

The kiffar's hand inevitably found its way to her azure tresses. He twirled a lock between two fingers, enthralled in its silken texture. Her chest rose and fell in tune with her rhythmic breathing. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. It quickly overtook the stoic mask he favored. He leaned down and brushed his lips along her cheek, planting a soft kiss before moving to stand.

Her hand found his wrist as he stood. He looked back, somewhat surprised to see his momentary selfishness shook her from her rest.

"Ryv?" she sat up, clutching the blanket to her chest with one hand, the other hard at work rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

He sat back down, his hand guided to the same cheek he kissed. "Hey there, lovely. What are you doing awake?"

"I could ask you the same," she leaned into his touch.

"Fair point. I'm not too tired, honestly. Thinking about staying up through the night."

"The nightmares?" she asked.

"Yes," he lied.

"Okay, well," she laid back down. An exaggerated stretch followed suit. Her movements pushed the blanket aside, a coy smile at play as she eyed the Jedi Knight. "I wouldn't mind a bit of company until I get back to sleep."

Ryv found it harder to stand then than he did a minute before, but he managed to work his way back to his feet nonetheless. "As much as I'd hate to skip out on something like that, tonight's just not the night, beautiful. I'll join you in a few hours, okay?"

"Suit yourself," she shrugged and rolled over, the blanket drawn back over her shapely frame.

Silent curses filled his mind while he crossed from one room to the other. He fished his phone out of his pocket when the door shut behind him, the kiffar now far more conscious of his nightly affairs with his company awake. It vibrated weakly as he unlocked the device and pulled up his contact list. Finding his way to its bottom, he clicked the last name and waited. A few seconds later, the thin-framed form of one Zaavik Dagoth materialized.

"Z, we've got a problem. I'm sending you an address. Suit up and meet me there ASAP."



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Galactic City, Coruscant
Level 3999


A low rumble announced Zaavik's arrival long before Ryv could place him. The zeltron's swoop bike swept around one side of the speeder garage, slowing as it and its rider neared the kiffar's position. Zaavik kicked down the bike's stand and slipped off in one fluid motion. He stepped up beside Ryv and studied the Jedi Knight's atypical attire. No jacket, trusty armorweave replaced with something new, untouched. Even Resolve was missing from the Jedi Knight's belt. All the zeltron could recognize was the red-plated mask held in the kiffar's off-hand.

"Huh... I heard rumors some psycho was working the lower levels for information. Never thought it be you," Zaavik nodded towards the mask.

"Yeah," Ryv lifted it and slipped it over his face. "Everyone in the Alliance knows Ryv Karis. Can't place him if they don't see him. Here."

He passed Zaavik the binoculars. "See anything weird out there?"

Zaavik peered through the borrowed binocs. He studied one side of the street from the other. "I'm not seeing anything."

"Exactly."

"Ah," the zeltron handed them back. Zaavik turned to face Ryv, leaning back against a nearby pillar while he crossed his arms. "So, we've got empty skylanes and a bunch of vong down here. I'm not making the connection here, man."

Ryv moved towards his speeder bike and knelt down. He tugged open a bag strapped to the side. One by one, he withdrew a sheathed vibroblade, a vibroknife, a twinned pair of blaster pistols, and what looked like a utility belt straight out of a holocomic. He slipped the blasters into their respective holsters, then clipped the sheathed knife opposite them. He transferred the blade up and over his shoulder with an overexaggerated flourish, tying it into place shortly after that.

The Zeltron passed by Ryv's speeder to the swoop bike beside it. Zaavik picked through the armory he'd brought with him, opting for a similar loadout to his companion. A blaster pistol, given to him by his master, was the first out of the bag. He holstered it and slipped a vibroknife into a sheath attached to his boot. What looked like a sleek baton was the last item pulled from within. It joined the pistol at his waist.

The kiffar looked over his bike at Zaavik as they prepared. "I don't think this is tied to the vong. You catch the news tonight?"

"No."

"Dammit, Z. You're killing me here," he chuckled and straightened. "Four different shuttles traveling back to a REC warehouse crashed simultaneously. Malfunction with the pilots, they think. I thought it is worth checking out."

"Okay..." Zaavik blinked. "And... What are you expecting?"

Ryv detached the bag from his bike and fitted it over his shoulders. "No idea, but I'm feeling something out there. Where the hell is all the other air traffic?"

"Fair enough," he followed the kiffar towards a turbolift across the garage. "You thinking this might be tied to Bastra?"

"Maybe," the Sword passed him a datapad. Faint stains marred the sleek metal surface. "Take a look at that. I reached out to one of my old man's informants from OS days. The dude's been working the Coruscant underground for over thirty years. "

Zaavik took hold of the datapad and turned it over in his hands. Lithe fingers trailed the faded stains. It didn't take long to conclude what the mess was, but he couldn't find it in himself to care. They both had blood on their hands. It was part of the work.

He clicked on the device and skimmed through several pages. Most of what he read listed thousands of disappearances over the last several months. There was no immediate connection between the victims from what he could tell—humans, aliens, male, female, force-sensitive, and not. It was only after he caught sight of a passing mention of Corellia did the zeltron look back up at Ryv.

"These are all kidnappings from the Core, aren't they?"

"Yes," the turbolift slid open. The pair moved beyond the cramped space and drifted along the speeder garage's topmost level. "Remember that mass abduction Ripley and I stopped back on Zardossa?"

"The one where you got thrown from a speeder?"

Ryv blinked.

"Yeah, yeah," Zaavik laughed. "I remember it."

"Since then, the abductions have occurred solely on Coruscant. With a planet of a trillion people, it's a lot easier to find folks who won't be missed."

"Sound logic, I guess. You think these Krayt dragon cucks have it in 'em to work the center of the galaxy?"

"Sure hope not," Ryv stepped up onto the ledge. "But, we're gonna find out."

He took a deep breath and leaped from the ledge. Zaavik hopped up after him. He watched Ryv soar across the way, narrowly catching hold of the ledge opposite them.

"Never an easy night with you, huh?" the zeltron grinned and jumped after his friend.
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Ryv
Ryv
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