Picking Up the Pieces

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Bastian Grimwulf
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Picking Up the Pieces

Post by Bastian Grimwulf » 2015-12-24 15:38

Bastian stood with only the sound of his own breath as company. The rest were elsewhere--Thrakis and Ace verbally sparring, Luke making sly remarks most likely. After the first few weeks, the situation had become serious enough that Bastian became more of an afterthought to the important players in the galactic game of intrigue that had forced all of them to hide in the uncivilized snowfields he currently called home.

"Home."

He didn't speak--Bastian did precious little speaking anymore--but even the active thought of the word stirred a roil of emotion in his chest. Since the day Mai had taken him as her apprentice, nothing had gone according to any plan. Bastian's place of belonging on the Imperial Paladin with Kail and his crew surely no longer existed. The latter would believe him a traitor. The former...Bastian could only hope that wherever Thrakis had left her, she understood. He had gone from a quiet, forceful master, to a quiet, insane master, to three masters each full of their own ideas, in a matter of months. When historians told tales of Bastian's rise to power, if such a thing ever came to pass, they assuredly would have their hands full with his training.

Truth be told, Bastian spent most days training himself. Thrakis came and went as required, Ace and Luke often disappearing to conduct some crucial dialogue. Figures of power from all throughout the Federation came and went regularly, all part of the greater campaign that Ace conducted to reclaim the galaxy from his crazed counterpart.

Rarely did anyone ask for Bastian or look for him. He spent his days and nights far afield of the rest, wandering the icy wastes, and sleeping wherever seemed comfortable. He never left a perimeter of possible return if word came that the time had again arrived to move to another world, but Bastian's suspicion was that there would be at least another week before the next relocation. For the first time since the planet hopping had begun, Bastian didn't mind the thought of staying longer.

In the months they had been repeating this pattern, Bastian had unlimited time to focus--particularly without the distraction of natural eyesight. Ace had offered to remove the Force clamp months earlier, but Bastian refused. He had come to prefer the austerity of sight through the Force to the jumbled confusion of human vision. The benefit of that unclouded focus had been incredible improvement. Bastian had graduated past basic telekinesis and manipulation long ago, with the lessons Ace had taught him on Dagobah becoming part of a greater foundation that Bastian had largely built himself. As time had passed, however, manipulation grew less and less interesting to Bastian. Certainly, he enjoyed the simple pleasure of moving objects--or himself--through the Force, but something in his core began to reject such casual control as satisfying. He had a greater need for something, though he could not have said what in the earlier months when such feelings first began to emerge.

At first, he thought it was loneliness, stripped as he had been of familiarity and comfort. Of course, it was nothing so simple. For a brief time, he thought it to be a lost sense of purpose, and so he thrust himself into the planning of meetings and rendezvous to facilitate Ace's secret rebellion. They had wanted his aid as little as he wanted to provide it, leading to a mutual parting of ways. Bastian had become a tagalong to the sweeping saga of Ace Roscoe, always present when it was time to relocate, but otherwise rarely to be found. Bastian had turned his focus entirely inward, taking solace in his solitude rather than pining for company as had been his long standing practice. He preferred the silence.

Throughout the ten-plus planets they had visited, all had given him opportunity for solitary training, though few were of any real interest to him. It had taken him aback when he found that this most recent planet had felt significant the instant he set foot in the snow. He preferred it above the rest immediately and felt that it preferred him as well. They were a pair; a blind man and his massive ball of ice, floating in cold space.

From where he stood in the midst of icy plains that extended for miles in every direction, Bastian imagined the natural view was rather spectacular. The snow and ice assuredly glowed like quicksilver in the midnight bright of the planet's twin moons--the same moons that gave the world's arctic seas such intense tidal motions. To Bastian's 'eyes', he could see the light of the moons and identify the snow by the impact it made on the microscopic lifeforms that called the ice shelves home. There were billions of them in every direction, sparkling like fields of diamonds in the moonlight. He required no effort to see them--the Force had long become his comfortable lens for the world.

He turned his attention outward for a moment, projecting his aura through the Force to discern if he had been followed. Certainly, Ace, Luke, and Thrakis had sufficient command of their power to shade themselves from his sight, but Bastian had come to know this planet's voice very, very well and remained confident that even when shielded, he would detect them against the familiar silence. They didn't know it, but this planet belonged to Bastian. He felt it in his bones, in the tiny hairs that rose and fell along his neck with the invisible energy that surged beneath his feet like a rolling river.

When his reconnaissance revealed no followers, Bastian focused on the task at hand. He had been learning from this world--from the cold and the dark--since stepping foot on the planet. At first, the driving urges stirred in him had left him confused and afraid, but as he opened himself to the voice of the world, he found it full of strength. Strength for him, wrapped in lessons learned by millions upon millions of years floating in frigid black void.

As he had for the first time weeks earlier, Bastian turned his focus inward, gathering the Force to himself slowly but constantly, creating a warm core of energy that seemed to float just behind his stomach. He had told no one of what the planet was teaching him and of the changes it had wrought. Bastian had learned that his every movement and every choice had been defined and constrained by a fear of failure; not just the failure to succeed, but the failure to live up to the ideals that he had set before himself. Even his training and first gifts for the Force had been shaped by his intense desire to be...something. He had never even known what he had been living up to. Some self-imposed impossible standard, perhaps. To the rest, he had maintained that facade, ensuring the deception that kept his true growth secret and safe. If Ace or Thrakis suspected, which was likely, he had grown proficient enough with his own mental control to keep them from gathering the truth.

The ice and snow underfoot, with all its diamonds of life, had taught him that he had been living incorrectly. Fear had been his siren, seducing him ever and again from control to dash upon the rocks of futility. The cold was not fearful. It heard no songs of terror and offered none of its own. The dark knew no fear, though it engendered much.

Bastian focused on the core of Force energy he had gathered and began to concentrate it with his mind, turning upon it the self-truth he had learned from the diamonds in the dark. They were fury. Tranquil, infinite fury. The cold angered at all the warmth of the galaxy, the dark raged at the light, but never out of control. Never out of fear for their opposites, simply in contempt of them. Bastian knew them, now, and embraced them.

The ball of Force energy turned cool in Bastian's gut, but that wasn't enough. He drove it further and further down, feeling each drop in degree like ice water in his veins. The sensation had been unpleasant the first few times, but he had quickly come to enjoy it. The ice did not give, the dark did not break. Bastian took strength in them and drove the temperature further--repeating a process he had learned and followed each day for the duration of their stay on the barren planet. Soon, the ball of energy within him was dark and so, so cold. Certainly colder than the air around him and the snow at his feet. Truth be told, he no longer noticed. Now that they understood one another, they had becomesymbiotic. A focus of each other's strengths and will.

The energy at his core ready, Bastian took a slow, deep breath and tapped into the true emotion that had always driven him from underneath the fear. With practiced effort, he let his fury at his circumstances, at his lost life, at what had once been his helplessness, infuse that energy and drive it from his gut throughout his body, where it felt as though his limbs had been dipped in the cold fire of carbonite. He took pleasure in the feeling, but let the pleasure pass like a fleeting thought. Slowly, he allowed the energy to rise off his body like a cruel parody of heat from a flame, dropping the temperature around him by degree upon degree with each passing second. As he lifted his arms, the cold spread, condensing the looser snow to ice, and the ice to the mirrored black that risked a fall at every step. At the same time, absolute darkness--the same darkness Bastian had experienced when Ace had taken his sight--filled the more frozen void, pouring from him like a long shadow in every direction. A few moments later, and a large area around his still form was absolutely dark and unfathomably cold; he took a slow, long breath of air that burned his throat with its touch and felt both his own pleasure and the more distant satisfaction of the planet itself.

With a sudden movement of his left hand, a jutting pinnacle of razor sharp ice shot upward where his fingers indicated, perhaps six feet in height. With a flourish of his right, a near invisible dagger of black ice formed in his palm and flew off into the pinnacle precisely where we wanted. Bastian allowed himself the smallest of vindicated smiles, before lowering his hands and releasing the cold and dark to the nothingness from which he had drawn them.

For hours following, he stood still in meditation, until the sun rose.

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Kane
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Re: Picking Up the Pieces

Post by Kane » 2015-12-28 05:57

Interlude while waiting for Thrakis...
While Bastian had a newfound understanding of the Force - albeit such new depths invariably lead to new questions and new depths to be found - Ace and Luke were having a personal conversation like they have had many times already. Strange is it seemingly were, but the two of them actually had a lot of things in common as it turned out. There was the fact that they were two of this galaxy's foremost Force users, but they also shared certain kinds of experiences and personality traits, even though they were also sharply different in ways that served to make the other interesting. Past the last meeting, Ace was now sitting, if you could call it that, hovering just above the icy ground and seemingly meditating near a steep cliffside that offered a grand, if not spectacular, view of the sparsely forested valley below it.

"You're still holding back on me", Luke interrupted as he approached the seemingly-deeply concentrated Ace. If he hadn't simply fallen asleep, but doing that while hovering above ground would have been quite a feat.

"She was fifteen, so was I, and it was one of those dreadfully boring nobility balls complete with intrigue and alliances over our heads".

That particularly comment caused Luke to raise an eyebrow slowly.

"That's not what I was going to ask."

"My point is that, yes, I'm still not telling you everything, much like you're not telling me everything. Aside from possible lingering trust issues, some things are just private."

Luke paused for a moment. "Fair enough. But what I was going to ask is this: you've changed. Ever since you came back from the dead? Not a trace of the dark side in you. No pain, no anger, no Force lightning. That teleportation thing you're doing now feels more of Aing-Iii philosophy than anything else."

"...and the question is?"

"Sorry. What I mean is why? What happened? I know Mai didn't do it. She didn't make, or change, whatever your essence is, your soul if you will. She gave you a vessel to keep it in, but I have no idea how she would even go about profoundly altering your personality in the process."

"You mean dying can't have a deep and profound meaning and change a man?"

"Some would say that nothing can change the nature of a man. In any case, I don't know what happened, so I'm asking."

Ace took a deep breath and let it out slowly, like a very drawn out sigh. It was more to pace himself and reflect than any need to breathe for a long story.

"For some time, I was on the other side. Dead, if you will. It was timeless... everything cut off. No anger, no fear, no pain... no needs, no wants. I was surrounded by Angels."

"Angels."

"Diathim. Angels of Iego, that's what we call them. A lot of superstition surround them with myths, of course. I investigated ever since I learned that Nikhayla was, well, a half angel or somesuch. In any case, they're quite real... and whatever real world presence they have, they're also casting shadows on the other side. Beautiful. Otherwordly. Immortal. A slice of heaven, or as close as you can get to it. At least, that's what it was to me."

"It sounds wonderful."

"I suppose it was. I was, for a time, content. Satisfied. Happy, even. But I made a promise, and it appears that neither death nor heaven could hold me back from fulfilling it."

"You made a sacrifice."

"I guess I did. Don't let it get out, though, that I choose a galaxy full of people who fear and loathe me rather than stay in my own personal paradise free from the shortcomings of men."

"Very noble of you."

"Was it? Or would it just have been incredibly selfish of me to stay away?"

"One thing haven't changed, at least. You still managed to find the downside to everything. But that still doesn't really explain everything... such what you plan to do after Kane is defeated. Because you can't convince me that the man who plays Dejarik nine moves ahead or more haven't though of it."

"First, I have to defeat Kane. Whatever else comes after that. Also, would it be entirely wrong of me to linger for a moment on this side of the edge rather than spend it on thinking of the hard part of what comes next?"

"Fine, you don't want to talk about it, and I guess that's at least part of the reason why you'd rather not. But just how do you plan to defeat Kane, then? He's got every bit of your skill and he haven't suddenly given up everything that fuelled his power."

"I guess that's what I have the most famous Jedi master in the galaxy around for?"

Luke smiled briefly at that. "I bet there's a thing or two I could teach you about defeating darksiders with the light side only, yes", he said and took Ace's hand and helped him up from his seated position.

"Let's get to it, then."

With that, the two of them disappeared from the cliffside to seek the battlegrounds.
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Re: Picking Up the Pieces

Post by Kane » 2016-01-12 00:51

"Not bad", Luke finished while breathing out and lowering his lightsabre, then turnning it off with a characteristic wzzhmm-like sound.

"Not good enough", Ace replied. "You won."

"Not by that much... and it's not surprising. You don't have a weapon of your own design and... you have a new you to learn how to use, too."

"You were the clear winner, nonetheless. At no point was I threatening your guard."

"Is that a compliment? Anyway, I didn't have such an easy time that I could relax. Even with your disadvantages, you're still very, very, good. Lightning fast, with completely solid basics and a lot of unexpected moves. But you were also fighting very differently from what I've come to know from you... and you don't fully master your new style. Which is good, I suppose, because if you did, I'm not sure I'd have anything left to teach you."

"You're quite right", Ace replied and turned his lightsabre off - which was in fact one of Luke's spares, and he gave it back. "I have something to do before we'll do this again."

Ace smacked his lips as he looked around what they called the battlegrounds. It wasn't more than a cleaned up, flat surface clearing with all major rocks removed, and a minimum of ice and snow in the way. Sometimes they used such obstacles, but it wasn't part of today's exercise.

Since Ace hadn't answered Luke's unspoken question and curious expression, Luke waited to see just what the taller man had in mind. There wasn't anything useful to be found unless Ace wanted to pick up a stick or a rock.

A rock seemed to be just what he had in mind, though. Ace kneeled and ran his fingers over the cold surface of a gravelly, snowdressed rock that they had previously cleared off the battlegrounds.

"This should do it. Just about the right size, plenty of oxygen, silicon, aluminium, some iron, calcium, potassium, sodium... and more magnesium than the other rocks."

"I applaud your talents as a geologist, but it's a rock. Just what do you expect to do with it?"

"Not having to create something from thin air would help. Also, just now I could feel something..."

"What was it?"

"Gone now. Kind of familiar, though... I wonder. Well, I still have things to do.", Ace replied and sat down on the ground, apparently unconcerned about the cold and snow. He touched the rock with both hands and closed his eyes. The rock began to shimmer and distort before Luke's eyes, rapidly changing its chemical composition as atoms were ripped out of their molecular bonds and forced to connect with others. The snow on it simply evaporated as the rock changed colour and began to gleam while it shrunk in size - whatever Ace was making was denser than rock. Before long he had a large chunk of shiny metal between his hands.

"Not enough copper. Aluminium should do just fine as a replacement, though."

"I've seen this metal before. It's phrik. I had no idea you could just make it out of the ground, though."

"If you can change the form of one thing, you can change the form of anything", Ace replied. "But let me tell you, it's a lot easier to start with something made out of matter than to make stuff from pure energy."

"Phrik is used for lightsaber hilts at times, if you can afford it. Is that what you have in mind?"

"Not exactly... something simpler and more utilitarian. Like you said, my style has changed and I think I need a different weapon, at least for now."

"Well, go on. It's interesting to say the least."

Ace didn't reply. Cutting distractions away helped when he had to do something as complex as creating something entirely new. The metal bent and formed like liquid beneath his hands, into a cylinder... many cylinders? Each slightly smaller than the other, and there was the gleam of electronics... made from silicon and aluminium. "The power source will take some effort", Ace finally said as he let the curious cylinder rest and began shaping a crystalline form out of a piece of the rock that he hadn't changed to phrik. The process was very similar to shaping a lightsaber crystal with your telekinesis, Luke noted. Except that Ace was making it on the spot rather than finding a natural crystal to harmonize and focus with it. It was a much higher level ability of the same thing, Luke realized as it was taking form. The advantage here was that Ace was able to perfect it to his wish and harmonization was automatically part of the process.

"There we go", Ace proclaimed and held up a shiny, pinkish crystal between his fingers in the gloomy light. Since Luke figured that Ace wasn't about to make a pink lightsabre, it was a curious object. Ace slid it into a socket in the cylinder which fit it perfectly, closed the lid and then held up the cylinder-like not-a-lightsabre which hummed just barely noticeably as Luke could feel that Ace focused energies into the metal.

"You can make anything, then? It's going to get real hard to find you a birthday present."

Ace had to chuckle just a little at that. It was a good thing that he was past the complex part of his creation and was now just charging it up.

"If I know what I'm making... and have enough time, energy and material... more or less. Anyway, at least you know when my birthday is now."

That last comment was a subtle reference to Ace's wondrous rebirth that Luke had witnessed and the Jedi understood the hint.

"Yes, I suppose I do. So, how's glaze cake with pika fruits and one candle?"

"Sounds lovely", Ace replied. He spun the cylinder around using just one hand and activated it.

"Huh. Is it supposed to do that?"

"Sure, why not."

"And you expect to do what with this? Fight Emperor Kane?"

"Yes, quite possibly."

"Don't get me wrong, it's a great weapon for defense. But it lacks much in the ways of killing power."

"In the hands of another, perhaps."

"Interesting. Shall we?"

"Lets."
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