The Next Generation
Time: Two days after "Return to Ord Mantell"
The Young Jedi Knights soon face a new enemy, and are joined by a new ally in their struggle to destroy him and his minions.
Jaina Solo sat perched on a rock in Yavin 4's dense jungle. Tenel Ka completed her ninth lap around an exercise route she'd designed. Raynar was looking at a battle between a piranha beetle and a blue-backed scorpion.
"Eww..." Raynar noted when the beetle tore open the scorpion's eye. The scorpion retaliated with a pin on the beetle by impaling its back on its stinger.
Zekk and Jacen were out practicing with Anja Gallandro for the sixth time in two days. Master Skywalker was out at the landing pad, expecting another trainee.
Jaina felt a pang of jealousy at the new woman who was attracting Zekk and Jacen away from them.
The Rock Dragon was docked ahead of them. Lowie's T-23 sat beside it. Lowbacca and Lusa were out even deeper into the jungle, looking for a mineral needed to repair a broken coolant tank aboard the Shadow Chaser.
The creeping feeling Jaina sometimes experienced crawled back on her. It was unsettling.
Suddenly, a roar of a powerful engine filled the air.
A sleek ship sliced through the sky: silver outlining, quantum armor, and enough weapons, it looked like, to take out an Eclipse-class Star Destroyer. At every angle there was a weapon mounted. At the center was a heavily shielded cockpit. The entire ship looked like a wolf's head. It shot towards the landing pad and docked.
Jaina knew this must be the new trainee for the Academy.
She sighed and started for the landing pad to greet him, followed by Tenel Ka and Raynar.
"Now that is a ship," Raynar noted aloud.
"It does look pretty impressive, doesn't it?" Jaina said.
"Well, let's go and say hello. We've got nothing better to do."
When they arrived, Master Skywalker was shaking hands with a very tall young man. He looked seventeen and had a very large build. His hair was a sharp black and around his waist he wore a blaster, a lightsaber, nasty looking grenades, and a round of ammo clipped on his belt. He was wearing a jet black, full-body battlesuit and grey boots and gloves.
Upon closer inspection, his eyes were a bloody crimson.
Master Skywalker turned to them. "Guys, this is Arc MalacBromad-" he began.
"Please, Master Skywalker, McBride," Arc said.
Luke nodded at his request. "Sorry. This is Arc McBride from Lycoth."
"Lycoth? Where in the name of the Force is that?" Jaina asked.
"It's a planet in the Dagobah system, the second, to be precise," Luke said. "Arc, these are Raynar Thul, my niece Jaina, and-"
"Princess Tenel Ka Chume Ta'Djo, yeah, I know," Arc nodded.
Tenel Ka was shocked. "How did you know my full name and who I am?"
Arc sucked air in nervously. "It's a long story."
"Please tell me sometime," Tenel Ka said.
"Sorry that my brother Jacen and my friends Zekk, Lowie and Lusa aren't here, but they're around somewhere," Jaina said. "In the meantime, we can show you around."
"Sounds great. Let me just put my ship in the docking bay and I'll meet ya in about ten minutes," Arc said.
Arc climbed up the ramp to his ship and took off, heading east.
"His eyes-they look so...sad," Tenel Ka said.
"He has good reason to be. He lost his sister a long time ago and he's led a rough life. He's had to deal with so many matters: assassins, wars, disease, crime-" Luke said.
"Is he royalty?" Jaina asked.
"He's a lord on his planet and heir to the kingdom of Lycoth," Luke said.
Ten minutes later, they all met in the docking bay.
"Hey, Arc, what did you name your ship?" Jaina asked.
"It's the WolvenBlaze, a Corellian/MandalMotors H2-3500 Endurance-class assault starfighter," Arc said. "It can withstand an atomic blast of up to nine standard megatons. It's equipped with two quad laser cannon turrets, four turbolasers, three ion cannons, a taser, concussion missiles, proton torpedoes, five plasma cannons, two laser cannons, and two Crusher-class rockets with enough firepower packed in 'em to take out an asteroid the size of a Death Star. Its armor is the latest in Quantum armor technology, which is very light, but very durable. Its speed goes up to 11 sublight units."
Jaina started to drool at this.
"Um, Jaina?" Raynar said.
"Yes?" Jaina replied, still in a trance.
'The tour?" Raynar continued.
Jaina shook her head clear. "Oh, yeah. Sorry," she said.
Arc seemed to sense she wanted to take his ship out for a try. "You're welcome to try it out anytime," he said. "And you don't need my permission."
Jaina was itching to try this thing out immediately, but she remembered to be polite to newcomers. After the tour, she'd take this thing for a spin.
"Well, let's get started," she said.
They took him to the Grand Audience Chamber first. "This is where Master Skywalker gives his lectures during the day and where Tionne sings her lessons," Tenel Ka stated.
Arc looked around. "Looks like you could fit alot of people in here."
They then went to the feeding grounds, out in the jungle to meet up with Lowie and Lusa, who were introduced to Arc, and then they went to find Jacen, Zekk, and Anja.
"You'll find them very friendly, Arc," Tenel Ka said. But what she wanted was a reason to see Jacen.
Arc smiled to himself behind that comment. A schoolgirl crush, he thought. More than that, Jacen also feels for her.
They found Jacen sparring with Anja, Zekk looking on.
"Zekk! Jacen!" Jaina called to them.
They turned to her.
"This is the new trainee Uncle Luke was talking about," Jaina said.
"A pleasure to meet you," Arc said, extending his hand.
Zekk took his hand. "And you might be?"
"Arc, of Lycoth," Arc said.
"Zekk, of Ennth," Zekk replied.
Arc turned to Jacen and extended his hand. Jacen shook it.
"Jacen Solo, nice to meet you," Jacen said.
"Likewise," Arc said. He turned to Anja, who had a cold look on her face.
"So, you're new here?" she said to Arc. He nodded. "No experience? You must
be pretty weak," she said. "A wimp, like all the others."
Jaina sucked in air. She expected Arc to erupt in rage at any moment.
Instead, Arc simply stood there, unperturbed. "Oh, I'm pretty weak, huh? Excuse me, I have to blow off some steam."
He went over to a large boulder, took a deep breath, and smashed it into a pile of dust with his own fist!
Anja stood there, gawking. Jacen covered his mouth.
Arc turned back. "Does that look like something a weakling would do? Not to me!"
He turned to Jaina. "Sorry for the delay. May we continue the tour?"
Jaina nodded with a grin. "Sure," she said.
Anja turned away, embarrassed by the ordeal. Jacen stood there, dumbfounded by the display. Zekk merely looked away and chuckled under his breath.
Arc turned to Jacen and Zekk. "Sorry about that. See ya later," he said.
When the tour was over, it was a brisk evening on Yavin 4. They had ended at Arc's new quarters.
"Thanks for the tour," Arc said. "I think I know my way around, now."
"You're welcome," Tenel Ka said.
"Our pleasure," Raynar said.
"Well, it's been a long day, and I guess you may wanna get some sleep," Jaina said.
"Are you kidding? On Lycoth, I go to sleep after midnight," Arc said. "I've got some exploring to do! Catcha later!" He walked out of his quarters grinning.
"Midnight? My mom still sends me to bed at 10:00, Yavin time!" Raynar exclaimed.
"On Yavin, now, it's 6:00. You've got four hours," Jaina said teasingly.
Raynar sighed. "I think I'm gonna go see what Lusa's doing."
"What about Lowie?" Jaina asked.
Raynar made a yak-yak-yak motion with his hand.
"Em TeeDee," Jaina and Tenel Ka said in in unison.
Suddenly, Lusa walked in. "Tenel Ka, your mother sent me a holomessage for you," Lusa said, handing Tenel Ka a holoprojector.
Tenel Ka turned it on. An image of her mother, Teneniel Djo, appeared. It began to speak:
"Tenel Ka! How are you, my child? I have some news for you. I'm pregnant with a little girl. You're going to have a sister in two weeks! If you'd like to take a few weeks off, I've already talked to Master Skywalker, and he's okayed it. In fact, your friends might be tired, too. Why don't you ask them if they'd like to come? Let me know if you want to. Talk to you later."
Tenel Ka was astonished. "A-a sister?"
Jaina smiled and gripped Tenel Ka's shoulder. "Congratulations, Tenel Ka," Jaina said.
Tenel Ka snapped out of her trance. "I think I will take a few weeks off. Em...would you like to come?"
"Sure we would! How often do you get to go to Hapes?" Jaina said. "Heck! Maybe Arc would like to go, too."
"Hapes? Uh...ah, sure, why not?!"
That was Arc's response to the question. In three days, Tenel Ka, Jaina, Arc, Lowie, Jacen, Zekk, Raynar, and even Anja were on route to Hapes; Tenel Ka, Anja, and Jacen on Rock Dragon, Raynar, Zekk, and Jaina on the Lightning Rod, and Arc and Lowie took the WolvenBlaze. Lusa had had to deal with a family emergency on Mon Calamari.
They were heading to a rendezvous point where the Hapan Fleet would escort them to Hapes. Tenel Ka's grandmother, Ta'a Chume, was leading the fleet.
Jaina made contact to the others over the comm. "Okay, guys. Pull out of hyperspace here."
Soon the stars materialized, and the shapes of Rock Dragon and WolvenBlaze took form.
But instead of the entire Hapan Fleet, only a small ship awaited them, one of the early Hapan Comet Freighters, a long, rusty light freighter with a very small arsenal, sporting only two laser cannons and four concussion missiles.
"This is the Last Hurrah. I've been instructed to escort you to Hapes from here," a meek voice said over the comm.
At this Lowie saw Arc arm his torpedoes.
Lowie growled to him, telling him blowing a Hapan ship to kingdom come was not good press with the Hapans.
"You never know," Arc said, raising an eyebrow. Lowie growled admittingly.
"Uh, Last Hurrah, wasn't this the rendezvous point?" Jacen asked over the comm.
"Yes, but we heard about the strategy used by the Bornaryn Fleet, and we decided to try it out," the voice replied.
Now Arc set the turbolasers on manual.
"How do you know that? Bornaryn doesn't negotiate with Hapes," Tenel Ka said.
"And Hapes never heard about that," Raynar added.
"Well, uh...um...you see-"
"I certainly hope your ship has an escape pod, buddy, cause you're gonna need it if you don't improve my mood!" Arc snarled over the comm.
"Wait! Don't shoot! Alright, I was trying to mislead you, but it was only under Ta'a Chume's orders!" the voice cried out.
"What? Why would she do that?" Tenel Ka asked.
"Tenel Ka, if it's all right with you, can I please fire my torpedoes at this lunatic?" Arc asked over the comm.
"I'll second that!" Zekk added.
Suddenly, the ship fired its concussion missiles at the Rock Dragon's cockpit.
"Look out!" Jaina cried.
Just then, Arc brought his ship up to meet the missiles. The bombs slammed into WolvenBlaze-
-but there was not one scorch mark nor sign of damage on the ship!
Arc retaliated immediately. He charged the Last Hurrah and fired both his torpedoes at the small freighter.
The impact of both bombs created a subatomic explosion which completely vaporized the enemy ship, leaving only shards of debris and machinery.
"Let's keep going," Arc said, "and hope we don't have any more hitchhikers."
It took them a few minutes to get to the Hapes Cluster.
"Well, here we are," Anja noted. Jacen nodded to this.
Tenel Ka seemed to be in a trance. "I just hope..."
They landed at the Hapan palace docking bay, with a surprised-looking Ta'a Chume to meet them.
"Uh, Tenel Ka! What a surprise! I didn't think you'd come!"
"Hello, grandmother. I'm sure you remember my friends, Jacen, Jaina, Zekk, Lowbacca, and Raynar. These," Tenel Ka gestured to Arc and Anja, "are Arc McBride and Anja Gallandro."
Ta'a Chume smiled nervously, then turned and spoke to one of her informants, who nodded and smiled slyly.
"Greetings. My informant will show you to your rooms," Ta'a Chume said.
"I was hoping to see my mother first," Tenel Ka said.
"Oh, yes, of course. But first, we must eat. Come, you won't miss anything. Your mother is sleeping right now and your father is off-planet at the moment," Ta'a Chume replied.
"Very well," Tenel Ka said, "But will my friends be eating with me?"
"Of course! But they will have to leave their weapons here. I mean, who eats with weapons clipped to their sides?" Ta'a Chume replied with a chuckle.
They nodded and removed their sabers. Anja was a little reluctant, but gave up her weapon as well. Arc, however, gave his without hesitation.
"All right, let's go," Ta'a Chume said, and led them down the corridor.
Unbeknownst to anyone present, Arc had given his weapon for one reason:
A single blaster was tucked deep into his bodysuit.
When they reached the dining room, they took their seats. Before them was a feast of enormous proportions: Hapan spiced dewback meat, Nerf sausage, a salad bar, tender bantha flanks, and some sort of odd but delicious root soda.
"Ah, this looks exceptional. Let's eat," Ta'a Chume said.
They dug in immediately.
"So, how was your trip?" Ta'a Chume asked curiously.
The Jedi looked at each other, with the exception of Arc, who kept eating.
"Grandmother, we were attacked by a ship that claimed to have been sent by you," Tenel Ka announced.
"Me? That's preposterous! How did you get past it?" Ta'a Chume said.
"Arc blew it to cinders. We took the route to Hapes ourselves," Zekk said.
"It said it was trying to mislead us under your orders," Jaina said.
Ta'a Chume grew very quiet. She motioned to her informant. "Bring it out."
The informant nodded. The guards brought in a creature that betrayed the Jedi:
The Jedi at once were powerless.
Ta'a Chume grabbed Tenel Ka and clutched a blaster at her throat, holding her tight. Tenel Ka struggled and squirmed but to no avail.
The Jedi rose from their seats and most would have grabbed their lightsabers, but they forgot they did not possess them. They didn't even have the Force!
This had been a trap!
"Move and I'll kill her, brats!" Ta'a Chume spat. "I can't allow anyone to take the throne after me! Besides, she's a disgrace, just like her mother!"
Jacen flared his nostrils. "You set us up, you traitorous bitch."
Arc stood, his powerful muscles tensing, his eyes narrowed his eyes squarely at Ta'a Chume. He couldn't use his backup weapon, which was a blast he could fire, due to the fact that his eyes lit up in crimson whenever he fired it. His hand slowly moved, unnoticed by the guards or Ta'a Chume, behind his back, towards the blaster.
He gripped it behind his back. He set the switch from STUN to KILL .
He let a smile out. "Sorry, Ta'a Chume, but your term is over."
Faster than anyone would have known, he drew the gun and fired at Ta'a Chume.
It pierced her head, killing her instantly. The bolt had given off two sparks on impact and blown up her brain.
Arc fired at the guards and the ysalamari, then at the informant. The first two bolts struck the guards with full force- one bought it in the mouth and the other went down with a blaster burn that struck his vena cava. The third blaster bolt entered the ysalamari's brain, then the fourth pierced the informant in the chest.
In a moment, the former queen of Hapes was dead. Her corpse slumped in a heap on the floor.
"Now who's a disgrace?" Tenel Ka spat to her grandmother's corpse.
Arc walked over to the ysalamari's carcass and dumped it down a laundry chute in the back.
"No doubt I'm gonna get arrested for this," he said.
"No," Tenel Ka said. "You only killed her in defense."
"And you saved the princess of Hapes. That's commendable, not illegal," Raynar noted. Lowbacca growled an agreement.
Tenel Ka looked at her grandmother's body. "She was too power-hungry. It was her downfall."
Suddenly, the informant lunged at Arc's boot. Arc readied his blaster, preparing to kill her.
She made a gurgling sound, as if sucking in air and blood. "Long....live....Mandaeus!"
Arc looked shocked, then the shock turned to anger, the anger to fury, and instead of blasting the girl, he lit up and fired a ray from his mouth, blowing her head apart.
The informant's decapitated body slumped to the floor, slain.
Arc threw back his head and roared in rage and eons-old pain.
"A-Arc, calm down, man!" Jacen said in a calm voice.
Arc turned to him, eyes flaring crimson. "Mandaeus is alive, and you want me to calm down?"
"Well, for one, who is Mandaeus?" Jaina asked.
"Mandaeus is a demon, a warlock, a creature without mercy or compassion! He's the root of what the Empire, Black Sun, and the Omega stood for!" Arc exclaimed. "I thought I killed him years ago, when I fought him for the first time, but I guess I just knocked him out, or something."
"The 'Omega'? And how many years ago did you fight him?" Zekk asked.
Arc glanced at his chrono. "Well, to be exact, 267 years, four months, two weeks, and 46 minutes ago," Arc reported.
"What in the-"
"What Zekk means to say, Arc," Jaina interrupted, cutting him off, "is how can you be so old and look so young?"
"Well, I'm 320 years old, and to most sentients, that may be a long time. But I'm 17 in Lycothian years. We're humans, but we live longer, due to the atmosphere of our planet. The Omega are a highly trained ring of assassins who I've had to deal with on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, Tenel Ka, your grandmother was one of them. That's how she was able to hold you with such force."
"And that...that...ray? How did you do that?" Raynar asked.
"When I was born, my dad accidently gave me a formula containing an experimental fluid he was trying to perfect. He was going to use it on his soldiers to give them powers like blasts and super strength and speed-"
"And you absorbed all those abilities?" Tenel Ka asked.
"I think you saw a demonstration of that a few days ago. And just now."
"So that's how you defeated this Mandaeus?" Jacen asked.
"It's not the strength that empowered me. It's how I use it that enables me to defeat someone," Arc stated.
"Is Mandaeus human? Is he mortal?" Tenel Ka asked.
"Mandaeus doesn't have one drop of human blood in him. But yes, he's mortal."
"How big is he?" Jaina asked.
"Well, he varies: he can be five feet high to 65 meters tall."
Zekk's mouth dropped. "65 meters high? How could you alone defeat him?"
"Look, if there is one thing I've learned in my 320 years of life in this universe, it's that you don't back down, especially just because the guy is bigger than you. I never backed down, and I kicked his 65-meter ass."
Arc glanced at his chrono. "Well, that matter will arise later. I think we should just do what we came here to do: relax and see Tenel Ka's mother," he said.
"I agree. But we should first tell the authorities what has happened," Tenel Ka said.
An hour later, the authorities arrived. They were escorted by Teneniel Djo and Isolder, who had not been off-planet.
"Oh, my dear, are you all right?" Teneniel said to Tenel Ka.
"I was not harmed, mother. Arc shot Ta'a Chume before she could kill me," Tenel Ka said, acknowledging Arc.
"My boy, we can't begin to tell you how thankful we are for saving our daughter. If there's anything you ever need-" began Isolder.
"Don't think I can, don't think I will," Arc replied.
Jaina walked up to Teneniel. "How soon?"
"It could be any day. The doctors said maybe by the end of-the end...of," she started to gasp and strain.
She sighed and doubled over.
"Mother!" Tenel Ka cried out.
Arc checked Teneniel's pulse. "She's alive, but she's going to give birth pretty soon."
"How soon?" Isolder asked.
"Two, three hours," Arc estimated. "She's just had a contraction. Where's the nearest infirmary?"
"The Ton' Chi Memorial Clinic," Tenel Ka said.
"We'll need to get her there immediately," Arc said. "If she's not there soon, she might as well give birth here."
Then, suddenly, something crashed through the wall.
"What the-" Zekk started, but stopped cold when he saw what had plowed through the palace.
The being was of immense size. It must have been 10 meters tall, but the frightening fact was that the being was human. No human could be so gigantic. The being was incredibly muscular, in a dark suit. Its blond hair and indigo eyes reflected the image of a young man in his teens.
"Arc, what an unpleasant surprise," the thing hissed.
"Likewise, Megator," Arc snarled.
"Arc, do you know this...thing?" Jacen asked.
"I wish I didn't."
"Mandaeus sends his regards. I was here just to kill the queen of Hapes, but seeing as you're here, I think I'll kill you, too," Megator hissed.
"You wanna kill her? Then you'll have to get through me," Arc challenged.
"Ooh, I'm shakin' in my boots," Megator hissed.
"No," Arc said. He launched a kick straight into Megator's jaw, cracking it.
Megator howled in pain, his spine reverbrating.
"Now you're shakin'," Arc retorted.
Megator roared and tried an overhead slam that would have killed anyone too slow.
But Arc was quicker than that.
He lunged out of the way as both of Megator's hammer-like arms slammed into the ground, just beside Tenel Ka and her mother.
Megator, seeing the opportunity, grabbed a transparisteel chair and prepared to smash Teneniel's face in. The guards emptied round after round into Megator, but he took a guard and broke him in two uneven pieces. He fired a ray from his forearm, setting the guards on fire.
Jaina and Raynar grabbed their retrieved lightsabers, as did the other Jedi, and hacked at Megator's tough hide, but were shocked that the lightsabers did not penetrate.
Megator thrusted the chair down with all his might.
Arc threw himself beside Teneniel just in time to catch the object.
Megator threw the chair aside and slugged Arc hard across the jaw. Arc jumped up high in the air and kicked Megator hard in the face. Megator snarled and took Arc by the leg. He swung him into the wall. Arc crumbled into the structure.
Megator grabbed Teneniel's limp form and started a bench-press, slowly trying to crack her unconscious body.
Arc shot through the hole in the wall and tackled Megator to the ground, swinging himself back to catch Teneniel's body.
He quickly turned to Isolder. "Get her out of here! Take her off-planet or get her to the infirmary, your choice. If I were you, I'd get her off-planet-Aaghh!" Megator slammed into him, cutting him off. Arc took his saber, ignited it, and stabbed it into his eye.
Megator roared in pain.
Jaina came up beside Arc. "Come on! We've gotta go!"
Arc ignored her and stabbed Megator's other eye, causing even more pain.
"Come on, Arc!" Zekk said. "Jaina's right! We've gotta get off-planet!"
"And let this thing on the loose? Forget it. You get off-planet, that I'll allow. But I will not let this thing go on a killing rampage."
"So what are you going to do? Kill it?" Zekk asked.
"No. I'm going to knock it out and take it somewhere else, like a Triton moon or some other area that's not populated. But take Teneniel off-planet. I'll catch up to you," Arc said.
Reluctantly, Zekk nodded. "All right. We'll head to Gallinore, their medics are pretty good. Good luck."
"You too," Arc said, and lunged into battle with Megator.
"Come on, let's go," Zekk said, but was cut short when Anja lunged at Arc and Megator!
"Anja, what in the Outer Rim are you doing?" Jaina yelled.
Anja grabbed Arc and punched him hard.
Then Arc snapped.
Arc took Anja and bit his fangs into her shoulder, shaking her screaming form like a rabid nek battle dog.
Arc flung her with his own teeth into a table, knocking her out. He slammed Megator onto her, knocking him out as well.
"Go, now!" Arc said.
Jaina nodded and took Zekk by the hand and dragged him along.
They met the others in the docking bay, by the Lightning Rod and Rock Dragon.
"Where is Anja?" Tenel Ka asked.
"She attacked Arc, but, uh, he expressed very physically that he didn't like it," Jaina said. Lowie chuffed with laughter.
"How's Teneniel?" Zekk asked.
"She's having a contraction, but she's awake now, so she's breathing fine," Tenel Ka stated.
Just then, Arc appeared in the entrance, dragging Megator and Anja with him. "They'll be out a while. I gave them a dose of bantha tranquilizer."
"Bantha tranquilizer? That stuff's potent," Jacen said.
"No kidding. I'm leaving them to the Hapans. They'll imprison Anja, but I asked them to drop off Megator at the nearest uninhabited planet."
"So you'll come with us?" Jacen asked.
"Yeah. I just overheard a Hapan tech report a massive object over Gallinore, measuring eight kilometers in length. I'm hoping it's not what I think it is," Arc said ominously.
He walked up the ramp to the WolvenBlaze, Lowie following behind him, asking a question.
"What could be that big?" Tenel Ka asked.
"An object 8 kilometers in length. I don't have an exact idea in my mind," Jaina said.
The WolvenBlaze took off ahead of them, hitting lightspeed surprisingly fast. Rock Dragon followed close behind, and Lightning Rod came next.
Aboard the Rock Dragon, Teneniel cried out in pain. Isolder and Tenel Ka sat beside her. "Mother, it's another contraction. Breath, breath!" Tenel Ka urged.
The ships cut the lightspeed engines. The planet of Gallinore materialized.
A voice came over the static. "Maybe Gallinore wasn't the right place to come." It was Arc.
Jaina and Jacen looked out the viewports. A moving, massive object loome out ahead.
A Super Star Destroyer.
It turned slowly towards them, firing its lasers towards the small Jedi ships.
WolvenBlaze charged the behemoth ahead of it. Jaina armed the laser cannons aboard the Lightning Rod. Jacen readied the missile tubes on the Rock Dragon.
There was no turning back.
To Be Continued....
*1998 by Arc McBride