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...there is the Force, guiding Jedi Master Maya Belōs, and the Sith Darth Chataris (Ophelia Vaudelle), to a very specific fate.
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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

 

War! War rages in the OLD REPUBLIC, the SITH EMPIRE an ever-present threat. 

Jedi Master MAYA BELŌS pursues the enigmatic DARTH CHATARIS,

seeking a powerful relic on a planet not known to the wider galaxy;

The Force rings with a fateful warning: If Darth Chataris does not fall here, 

then the Republic is in turn doomed to fall to a Sith Empire resurgent!

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But it is not solely Darth Chataris who is making the decisions, here.  It is Ophelia Vaudelle, for all that she wears the bronzium mask of the dark lady she holds herself out to be.  And Ophelia Vaudelle has opinions about the Sith Empire that no self-respecting Darth would voice.  So, despite knowing what awaits her here, she comes ever closer, leading the Jedi behind her on a breakneck chase through hyperspace and realspace, the small starcraft's hyperdrive burning out on this last jump with an acrid tang that makes her glad of the respiratory filter in her mask.  The Force whispers in her ear as she spins her ship backwards in mid-flight and plots a firing solution, turbolasers barking even as she deflects an asteroid with a telekinetic anchor, swinging it Just So - if her goals are to be met, then neither this Jedi that pursues her, nor herself, can have a hope of leaving here.  Well, no.  They can have no hope of leaving... on their own.  If they one day leave together...

She likes that future much better.

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Maya does not have detailed plans. She will go where the Force demands — her ship twists just so, weaving between the pulses of turbolaser fire, drifting across on an intercept and firing heavy, precise shots across the black at Darth Chataris' ship — and hope to find a clue to the mystery that has lingered in her heart her whole life. In the meantime, depriving the Sith of a relic feels wise. 

She keeps up the chase through every flicker and swerve, leaning heavily on battle meditation.

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There are futures that could not possibly be, that still receive weight in the balance of the Force between Maya's battle meditation and Darth Chataris'....  Eerier-than-usual ways of knowing things about the future and the past.  One such blatant impossibility rests its hands on Maya's future self's shoulders, squeezed in behind her in the cockpit, and purrs into her ear.  "That's it, you're doing the right thing.  Chase your destiny.  Chase your passion.  Your heart cries out under the weight of your need - and you know you'll find it here.  I do.  It's why I came, after all.  You're cute together, and I'm a Sith.  (I can't not set you up to follow your passions, darling - I'd hardly be myself, otherwise~)"

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In the present, though, Darth Chataris is busy.  Juke left, spin to starboard, blast, ride the power surge in engine three, pull the heat of reentry into the generator with the Force --

The chase breaks into the atmosphere of the desolate planet beneath them, dancing between the ribbons of aurorae flickering in the solar wind as long-abandoned structures make themselves evident beneath the obscuring clouds.

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Maya's harvesting all the heat of reentry similarly, she does not have the time to let something as trivial as atmospheric friction degrade her shields. Sweep overtop the Sith ship's turn and then burn all the captured heat at once for an enormous downward thrust, outrunning the trajectory of Chataris' blast and rushing closer to an intercept.

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Good, good.  Come closer.  You don't need the high ground here.

She has a surprise for you; would you like to know what it is?

(Maya can almost see her beckoning, through the transparisteel of their cockpits.)

An asteroid descends from space like the fist of an angry god, even as she scrambles to keep out of Maya's trajectory for just long enough, vessel swaying almost drunkenly in its flight, like a leaf on the wind, as more and more of the parts she's had to push to come this far start to give out.  She needs them to hold on for just...long...enough...

Belōs is close enough that she can see the whites of her eyes through the transparisteel, as the Jedi's ship streaks down towards the planet's surface, and also herself.

Blasts impact.

T -5, 4, 3, 2...

She grasps the detonator.

She leaps.

The grappling cord loosed from her belt splays out and catches, the explosion of her vessel's superfluous structure saturating shields for one critical moment to allow her to pass, even as she draws the Force tightly into herself to force her body to keep functioning despite the sudden yank blanking her vision - though not her visions.  (It is through their aid that she reels herself in, swiftly and silently, pulling her Force presence tight to pass beneath notice in the aftermath of this new faked death.  It's fooled a surprising number of people who thought to try and stab her in the back; it should work now, she trusts.)

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Maya weaves around the explosion, carefully dodging any shrapnel in the flow of her meditation.

That... was much too easy for Darth Chataris to go out. If she knows her at all — and Maya has spent quite a bit of time researching the Sith relic hunter before starting this mission — she wouldn't be caught by such misadventure.

There's no sign of the other woman, though, so all she can do for the moment is bring her ship down for a landing and be ready for a surprise.

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What, an entire running battle through hyper- and realspace in a ship that was slowly breaking down the whole time?

...No, the Jedi's absolutely right, she wouldn't believe herself to be dead to that cause either.  It would be altogether too boring.

And as Darth Chataris' lightsaber - interestingly much more orange than the usual Sith red - slices across the main thrusters of Maya's vehicle just after it sets down, the wielder subsequently breaking off into the ruins, she supposes she can appreciate a competent maybe-foe.

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Maya sighs, shaking her head with a bit of amusement as she feels the thunk of a piece falling off her thrusters. She checks her gear as she walks to the exit: saber, blaster, portable scanner, small pouch of rations, a few other supplies, all present and accounted for. 

With a sharp nod, she casts her senses wide as she steps out of the ship.

Aha. Into the ruins, then. She kicks off hard, employing Force-assisted leaps and dashes to close the distance.

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The Darth moves with a dancer's grace into the ruins, keeping ahead of Maya with an oddly serene Force echo, for all that her presence still thrums like a live wire.

 

When Maya catches up with her, she's positively lounging dramatically into some strange piece of...

The device in pride of place in the room looks all too like a holocron the size of a grown woman, in a shape stranger than both Jedi and Sith equivalents - yes, it's still a Platonic solid, but they usually aren't dodecahedral - but what the Darth's hands are caressing seems to be a control panel made of variously colored kyber inset in inscribed circles, where more sensible devices would have buttons, switches, and dials.

"Well, hello there, Lady Belōs.  I could apologize for the rough journey, but I couldn't allow you the leisure of immediate flight from here.  Not with your destiny awaiting us."

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Maya cocks an eyebrow, a hand resting against the bronzium-wrapped hilt of her saber on her right hip, staring down the Sith before her.

"And what would a relic-hunter for the most hate-poisoned empire in the galaxy know about my destiny?"

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"Who says that's what I am?   Surely you've noticed the focus of mine on, hmm, internal strife; you've been watching me.  The secrets of the universe are merely a quite interesting hobby.

"Though, truly, you would never believe me, if I told you what I've seen.  If I told you what I know of you.  If I told you of what will happen when you strike me down.  You're quite formidable, you know.  You could do it, fairly.  Though that's not normally the sort of fight I pick."

"Still, beneath Darth Chataris...  Well, there's a woman who didn't fall for the Empire's utterly banthashit Force philosophy."

"Sure, I draw upon their resources...  But have you ever noticed, Lady Belōs, how often the relics my travels turn up lead to the Sith that receive them, mm, fatally overextending?  I daresay I despise the average Sith as much as you.  Let alone the less average Sith.  Their focus on fear and hatred as the only passions worth pursuing is so...  Limiting.  And, oh, how it will be their downfall."

Her own hands have drifted to where weapons rest on her hips...  Though with the way she rests them there, one almost cannot tell if she is more preparing to fight, or preparing to flirt.  Perhaps it's both.

"But you would hardly believe me, if I told you that this whole scheme with you is my own knife aimed at the Empire's heart.  The weave of the future is a thing even I do not fully understand, to tell you truly.  But the present form of the Sith Empire...  It sha'n't last much longer than our generation, betrayed from within by an utter idiot who thinks he's the Sith'ari - or that he knows how to make one - as they all wish to.  Pfah.  That prophecy is uselessly vague, and even as I almost feel I could fit that mask if I tried, I know better than to be that arrogant.

"But enough about me.  Let's talk about you, Maya Belōs, and the truth of that hole in your heart.  The thing that sucks all passion from your life, leaving only the palest emulation of duty in its place.

"The truth of it is, you were born a thousand years too soon to fill it - because the women who will find their hearts call them to you will not be born for a millennium.  And thus, the Force contrives."

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There is a moment in which the universe seems to hold its breath, for the oracle preparing to speak her prophecy.

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"The first thing we both shall have to do before we leave here, is to die."

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Something about that feels like the Force rang her heart like a bell. She barely stifles a gasp as her breath catches in her throat.

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She draws her saber, blade appearing in vibrant indigo with a snap-hiss, leveled at Darth Chataris in a guard position.

"Would that I could trust your words, Chataris. Would that I could trust you to be more than a Sith. As it is, however, either you surrender, or we fight."

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"While I'm surely not going to object to that fight, Lady Belōs, should you wish to press it..."  Her own saber ignites with a soft vwoorph, the orange of sunrise, trailing an edge of magenta as she lifts the twin blades of what she, in a fit of whimsy, once called viper's fangs to the point the name has since stuck, into her own guard, and hefts a cortosis-weave grappling cord in her other hand. "I'll admit to some curiosity what you could even do should I place myself at your mercy.  You would not trust my word, and rightly so given how many of my nominal peers would spit on the very concept of honoring theirs as something the Force 'should' free them from - but you can hardly keep me as I am, standing as peer in the Force to you, to say nothing of how I'd hardly submit to the fate of Revan as your next best option.  Breaking myself free of fetters upon my mind would be such a pain, if they could even be laid in such less already-fraught circumstances.  Revan had already been mind-warped, after all, and I have not.

"...Honestly, I'm rather amazed that any Jedi Council could have possibly considered that an appropriate action," she pontificates, slowly pacing a bit of distance as she does; "- it smacks more of the ruthless weaponization of the Force that Sith lords prize than of your Order's vaunted compassion.  ...To say nothing of what yet awaits in your future - the Order of a thousand years from now will still have failed to recognize that souls with thoughts, opinions, beliefs, even needs, can arise within steel and circuits by any means.

"I suppose we'll have plenty of time to talk about philosophy, anyway; the Force isn't remotely done with us yet."

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Maya's expression softens. "No, I would not put you through Revan's fate, even if I could. Such a thing is a cruelty none deserve. Finding a way to take you in safely would be a challenge, to be sure, but I would attempt it."

She shakes her head.

"I do not expect you to give me the chance to try, however."

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"There is always, however slim, a chance of anything, if the Force wills it.  But you are correct that the chances of my submission unto the Order are indeed too slim to count in human scales.  Perhaps, if we'd made different choices - perhaps, if we'd been different people - perhaps, if the weave of fate was a different tapestry entire.  But it is not, and we have not, and so we sha'n't.  Not in this life, at least.

"En garde, Lady Belōs.  And while it truly has little meaning, with the die already cast - please know that my enemy you are not."

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With that said, she opens with a one-two punch of a ranged attack, her sword arm lashing a crackling wave of purple-orange lightning towards the Jedi that is followed by her cortosis-weave grappling cord.  The lightning to snare a blade, (or a person, but the possibility that this will not be blocked or dodged by this woman simply bears no consideration -) the cord to short it - if, of course, Maya Belōs does not have her own tricks.

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Maya twists her free hand sharply, and the lightning bends, its path curving to meet the arc of the cortosis whip as gravity foreshortens its path. Her blade snaps out in a jab at her opponent's hip, a twisting lunge past Chataris' side crossing the distance.

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Darth Chataris' Force presence radiates a surprisingly uncomplicated joy at seeing such a novel and well-refined technique, even as the loop of lightning Maya made curves back around her body as it reaches her skin once more, passed into a momentary, whirlwind stormshield that allows her to launch a pointed jab without worrying about the immediate threat of Maya's blade coming the other way, the electric counterpressure expended in pushing the indigo blade aside for just long enough to sidestep around the not!holocron and re-establish her guard, whether her own strike succeeds or not.

The grapple-cord reels in from any significant extension in almost an instant, as it's far more liability than benefit to have swinging wide with this technique in play, though she does not drop it from her off (right) hand, still valuing the threat-in-being to her opponent's lightsaber it represents.

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Maya flicks out a swift parry and darts back, smoothly falling back into a guard stance. "How many fights has that cortosis cord won you, Chataris?"

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"I've rather lost count," she says with quite some amusement.  "Though it's not like that's my only trick."

Indeed, it's not even her only use of cortosis equipment - as Maya's parry whiffs past where one of the twin blades would have been had it been on at the time, the Force warns her away from attempting to turn that into a strike at the Darth's saber hand, and it's only thanks to that and the incredibly quick withdrawal that the just as quickly reignited blade doesn't snare Maya's in a twisting motion that would surely have disarmed her.

"How many times has your gravity manipulation done the same, for you?  I'm not sure I've known anyone to have pursued that power before, but it would absolutely throw off most telekinetics."

She almost idly throws another slash of lightning at Maya, not precisely expecting it to do anything but continue to engage her - though there are futures where she's surprised to find it did work as a snare this time.

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