~Secrets of Mount Tantiss~
With slow, almost reluctant steps, Harry stepped forward towards the bacta tank, his arm raising up involuntarily to touch the dusty surface of the apparently forgotten tank. His hand reached towards the figure's side, where a ring impossibly gleamed in the low light of the medical bay. The women present all looked between Harry and the ring he was staring in disbelief at, unsure what to say or how to react to what was apparently the culmination of a decades long search by their eccentric companion.
After a few moments, when it had finally settled into his mind that the ring that had not been on his finger for two decades was now before him, he dragged his eyes up to stare at the wrinkled face of the absolutely ancient-looking man within.
"Sirius?" he breathed out in a volume less than a whisper.
Ahsoka could feel many things from him at the moment, a swirl of emotions coming more strongly from him than she had yet felt except for maybe the moment before he made the decision to get involved on Kashyyyk.
"Harry," Aayla spoke up, having moved to a nearby terminal. "If these are correct, I think the only things keeping him alive right now is the Bacta. Even in the bacta his life signs are slowly deteriorating. He has months, maybe."
Harry didn't even spare Aayla a glance.
He stepped back slightly, and without a word or gesture, but a small surge of magic they all felt, the glass from the tube simply disappeared. The bacta held its shape for a moment before it seemed to realize that it wasn't being contained anymore and collapsed with a whoosh on the floor.
Harry stepped forward, waving his hand in the air, and various tubes and connections all separated as if sliced with a knife.
The instant he did, a medical droid that had thus far been in a powered down state, next to the bacta tank, whirred to life. "Alert, patient's life signs have term-ZZZK." The droid cut off and sparked mid-sentence as the upper half of its body suddenly vanished.
"Harry," said Aayla tentatively, glancing at the droid whose destruction may have just caused even more security alarms to blare than those that may have after they had confronted the mountain's guardian earlier
Harry showed no sign of even acknowledging the robot beyond a glance at it as he reached out and caught the old man in his arms, pulling him out of the vat and laid him carefully on the ground, kneeling next to him heedless of the wasted bacta that flooded the area. He pulled the mouthpiece off, freeing the man to the air.
The man weakly drew in a breath.
A quick testing wave of his hand over the body, told Harry the man was under the effects of a spell. "Active magic," he murmured, trying to keep the disbelief out of his tone.
"Organ necrosis curse," he grimaced slightly after a few more seconds, unaware of the reactions of the Jedi to his comment. A wave of his hand dispelled the dark magic.
Harry watched as the man's breathing hitched slightly as he lifted the curse. There was no other sign of waking from the man whose breathing was dangerously shallow.
Harry hit him with an ennervate charm and the man took a deeper breath, his eyes fluttering open slowly.
Harry found himself staring into glazed grey eyes that he hadn't looked into for more years than he could count, but that were still eerily familiar.
The glazed eyes slowly gained focus as they peered up at Harry's face.
"J...James…" the weakened ancient voice wheezed out with a trace of disbelief.
Harry's heart froze in that moment, all the little facts and hints that he had only allowed himself to consider in the abstract before this moment coming to the fore, "Sirius..." he said in awe.
However rather than respond, Sirius' eyes glazed over once more and closed with a weak cough.
"Sirius?!" Harry's voice this time was more urgent hitting him with another ennervate charm, this one far more powerful.
The charm didn't seem to have any effect though, save for a slightly deeper breath from the man. That was before the breathing got even shallower and seem to hitch pausing between breaths.
Every person there could tell by the rattle in the man's chest that he was close to breathing his last.
"No, Sirius!" Harry called out shaking the elderly man slightly, his pleading. None there had ever heard that tone to his voice. There was a hint of desperation there.
Ahsoka crouched down next to Harry, putting her hand lightly on his shoulder in comfort, but the same moment she touched his shoulder, his shoulders squared in determination.
He threw his head back and called out, with urgency rather than desperation now, "Dobby!"
The little being popped into existence. "Yes, Master Harr-"
"Dobby, I need you to get me one of my stones. Now." Harry cut off the house elf.
Dobby popped immediately back out without waiting for a response, clearly able to tell how important this was.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Aayla asked quietly, stepping closer and kneeling down as well.
"You're not going to die on me, Sirius." Harry commented, his attention on the old man on the ground, ignoring Aayla's question, "Not today."
The little being popped back in with a dark red stone. One that Ahsoka idly noted was an identical color to the one he had carved down for use in the lightsaber he constructed.
Harry didn't immediately take the stone from the diminutive being who held it out for him. Instead he held out his right hand to the air and as it drew their attention, everyone saw when a knife appeared in his hand with a small pop of magic.
Harry spun the knife in his hand before gripping it facing upward and without hesitation sliced the blade along the palm of his left hand. Everyone there jumped and let out sharp intake of breaths seeing the vicious wound in the man's hand.
"Harry!" Aayla protested, taken aback by the sudden show of brutality.
He didn't so much as flinch, as he continued, grabbing the stone from Dobby's hands with his now wounded hand.
He clenched his bleeding fist around the rock. Everyone in the room could feel the surge of the Force emanate from Harry as he closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. "For this, I freely give my life's blood, and magic," he said quietly as the feel of active magic filled the area.
With his uninjured, and still empty hand he forcefully tilted the elderly head back and with a thumb he opened the unresisting jaw. He held the stone in his clenched fist over the open mouth. The blood welling through his fingers.
However, the liquid that welled from inside his fist where he clenched the stone was no longer the red of blood, but was now a bright golden color, that appeared as if someone had poured out molten gold.
The now changed liquid dripped out of the bottom of Harry's fist and into the man's mouth.
The old man, whose breathing had gotten weaker and slower coughed slightly from the liquid pooling in his throat. Then he stopped breathing entirely.
"No… c'mon Padfoot, not like this." Harry pleaded urgently to the now unmoving form.
As if the old man could hear his plea, there was a surge of magic as the body suddenly took in a deep breath of air arching off the ground as he took a much deeper breath than any before.
The following breath was equally as deep.
Harry smiled weakly taking a breath of his own. One he hadn't realized he was holding.
"Dobby, thank you." He said quietly. "Could you put this back for me please?" He handed the elf the red stone which seemed curiously dry when the house elf took it and disappeared.
Harry stared down at the man on the ground. He reached over with his right hand and casually traced a finger along the slice in his palm, sealing up the flesh as he did with only the smallest whisper of magic.
They watched as Sirius continued to breathe, the sense of magic filling the area diminished but didn't go away entirely.
Abruptly Harry hooked his arms underneath the old man, lifting his small and frail body up bridal style. He walked him over to one of the beds in the medbay, setting him down gently. Once he set down his burden his shoulders seemed to sag.
"Harry," ventured Ahsoka quietly as she moved over to stand next to him. She could feel his emotions swirling far more than she was used to despite his relatively calm posture.
He looked over at her and she was stunned to find there were actually tears in his eyes. "It's really him."
Ahsoka was stunned at the display of emotion, and unlike the times she had seen emotion in Force users before, there was no sense of shame. Ahsoka got over her momentary surprise before she went with her instincts and wrapped her arms around Harry's waist, pressing against his side in a comforting hug.
There was a brief pause before his arms tightened around the Togrutan as he leaned back against another bed, just staring at the old man lying on the bed as if he were going to vanish.
Aayla moved forward, clearly wanting to reassure Harry when she saw the tears in his eyes, but cut off by Ahsoka's position at his side. She hesitated, and when she seemed ready to join the younger Jedi in comforting Harry, the moment was broken by another.
"Um, I know I'm new and all, so I'm sorry to break up this… heartwarming moment," Ventress interjected, her tone indicating that she was anything but apologetic at the moment. "But, shouldn't we all be… you know… on guard against whatever other Force users are here? Whatever the hell you just did… wasn't exactly subtle. Every Force user with an ounce of ability on this entire planet likely felt what you just did."
That jarred everyone there out of their lassitude. Even Harry looked away from the unconscious Sirius to ponder the truth of the former Sith apprentice's words.
"Ventress is correct, but that leads to even more questions. This entire complex is bizarre. There's been no active security, no checkpoints, even automated ones," commented Shaak Ti. "Nor has anyone come to check on what happened to that… Guardian that Harry sent into space," said Fay, a bit of derision in her voice still, letting all know her opinion of the corrupted Force wielder they had encountered earlier.
"And we still have no explanation for the weird buzzing sensation," Aayla said.
"Buzzing sensation?" Harry inquired looking at her sharply.
"Yeah… like… an odd pressure on my mind. Not pushing me to do anything… just there." Aayla explained.
"I'm experiencing it too," Ventress commented.
"Me as well," Fay added, "It is… alien to me and I have never sensed it before. It is akin to air pressure changes on your ear, and the equalization not happening right away. An annoyance, yet almost impossible to simply ignore."
Shaak Ti nodded but didn't comment further, her attention clearly focused around them for threats.
Harry glanced at Ahsoka who looked vaguely uncomfortable, "I'm not feeling pressure… just… that feeling of wrongness I described earlier."
Harry rubbed his jaw, "I'm feeling the same sense of wrongness, but… no buzzing. I wonder if it's what the rest of you are feeling and our perceptions are different." His tone of voice was doubtful.
"Why would your perceptions be different?" Aayla asked with a furrowed brow, "Given how far I've gotten in occlumency, shouldn't I feel that too?"
Harry's eyes cut to the side and glanced at Ahsoka, but deflected the question, "Could be a number of reasons."
"Either way, we should figure out the other Force users we're sensing." Shaak Ti stated with conviction, though her eyes narrowed slightly at Harry's deflection.
"I'll go to cover the entrance," Ventress said abruptly, clearly not wanting anything to do with the emotional moment she saw before her.
Fay had her eyes closed, "I don't sense anyone closing in on us, but I can't be certain." There was a huff of frustration to her tone.
Shaak Ti glanced at Harry, who didn't seem inclined to move away from Sirius' bedside. "Will your droid allow me access to whatever it is pulling from the database?" She asked Harry.
Harry looked up with a furrowed brow, his attention clearly elsewhere, "What? Oh yes, Minnie shouldn't have any problems letting you see anything she has sliced." His attention shifted back to the man in the bed.
"Very well, I shall see if I can determine if any files your droid manages to slice could help us figure out more about what this place is for."
Harry pulled away from Ahsoka, his attention once more on Sirius. After a few moments of debate with himself, he straightened slightly. "Dobby!" he again called out, and the house elf appeared immediately.
"Yes, Master Harry Potter, sir?" Dobby said.
"Keep an eye on this section, let me know if you find anyone heading our way. But I don't want you wandering too far out of the vicinity with all the magic I can feel." Harry said.
Dobby looked briefly perplexed before popping out again.
Harry's eyes focused on Sirius' unconscious body, silently staring at the man he had searched for so long for. Reluctantly, at least to Ahsoka's eyes and perception, he shifted out of the embrace Ahsoka still maintained with him and moved to sit in a chair he casually conjured.
The breaking of the hug caused a brief look of disappointment to cross Ahsoka's face. She found herself enjoying that he let her be tactile and touchy feely around him. She also found that she wanted more chances to support him as he had done for her, and didn't like him pulling away.
Upon seeing Harry sitting in the chair, she cleared her throat. When she had Harry's attention after two more subsequent coughs, Ahsoka gestured at the chair, implying that he needed to make it wider.
Chuckling, he did so with a negligent wave of the hand, and Ahsoka immediately sat down at his side, her arm snaking behind his back and leaning in close while taking his nearest hand into her own.
Harry glanced over at her, and he allowed a faint smile to escape before turning his head to focus once more on Sirius.
Ahsoka's smile was much less faint because she could feel Harry's pleased reaction, however brief it might have been, before his attention returned to the man on the bed in front of him.
Aayla saw the interaction, and her brow raised in surprise briefly. She was surprised at how forward Ahsoka was being. Despite the fact that over the past two months, had it really been that long? Ahsoka had become almost as impossible to sense or get an empathic read from as Harry was. Aayla knew that was a function of the occlumency they had been taught.
Still, she wasn't a fool.
Ahsoka's infatuation was fairly easy to see, even if she hadn't displayed anything overt.
Harry was much harder to read, since his habit of saying whatever came to his mind, or whatever would rile someone up, or whatever would amuse him, was much harder to distinguish from what he was really thinking or feeling. Though Aayla suspected it wasn't completely one-sided, a feeling that left a brief flare of jealousy inside her.
She thought about doing the same thing, to sit by him, but couldn't bring herself to demand he expand his made couch once more, so she satisfied herself with perching on the arm of the couch on Harry's other side, her arm resting atop Harry's back, while she looked between him and the man on the bed.
Into the silence that stretched afterwards, it was Aayla who spoke up, gathering his attention, "Harry, can you tell me about him?"
He glanced over at her, looking briefly puzzled, before a small smile broke on his face.
"Sirius?" He couldn't help but asking. When she nodded, he looked puzzled for a moment as if searching for an answer, "Sirius is… my godfather."
"Yes, but I don't even know what that means," Aayla said while she raised an eyebrow expectantly. "Please explain it."
"A godfather is generally a relative, or very close friend of a family chosen by a child's parents when they are very young, sometimes before birth." Harry explained. "They're supposed to act as an additional moral compass. And many times they are supposed to take a child in if something happens to the parents."
"He raised you?" Aayla asked her eyes going to the man on the bed. She wondered if it were her imagination that the man seemed less… wrinkled than he had a few minutes earlier, or if was just a natural product of him drying off.
Harry huffed out a soft laugh, "Hardly. He spent the first 13 years of my life locked up in prison."
Aayla blinked. Ahsoka had a curious expression on her face as well.
"First time I even heard of him, was after he broke out of said prison. Although before I even knew about him, I had run into him. Only I didn't know he was my godfather," he smirked as his eyes got a faraway look in them, "I didn't even know he was a wizard, or humanoid for that matter."
He didn't miss the blink on either of their faces, and his eyes briefly twinkled and honest amusement shown through. Aayla swallowed, knowing that look usually precipitated a prank of some sort.
"The second time I encountered his actual presence, our entire school went into lockdown because he attacked the entrance to the tower I resided in, trying to gain entrance… which everyone assumed was an attempt to kill me. After that he broke the leg of my best mate." There was humor in Harry's tone as his eyes flicked back toward the man on the bed.
"I assume you eventually got it straightened out?" Aayla asked, trying to avoid walking into whatever prank had flitted into his mind. Her attention was diverted once more to the man on the bed, as the formerly bald man seemed to be slowly growing white hair. Though the white hair was slowly darkening and already was a steel grey.
"In a manner of speaking." Harry allowed.
"What's happening?" Ahsoka interjected, her attention focused on the man on the bed as she noted the now visible changes.
"I gave him the Elixir of Life," Harry answered, "It's kind of funny. It's one of the most advanced alchemical elixirs possible, and yet it's remarkably simple to create once you have the stone. The stone is the hard part. Ultimately, all it takes is one's own magic and blood, the very things that gives life. It's restoring his body."
"Restoring his body to what?" Aayla asked, her tone was fascinated as she attentively watched the process with curious eyes.
"His peak, magically a bit more than physically. In the end, it's anywhere between age 30 to 50 for a wizard. It's supposedly a bit different for everyone."
"According to the original inventor, who contacted me after a time wondering if I had managed his feat, the stone has a variety of interesting quirks."
"It skews younger for females than it does for males. He postulated that was due to ideal fertility ages. But that's not actually something I've tested. In humans, Flamel noted that it changes the blood type of the recipient to that of the donor. But in creatures or animals whose biology and blood is more ectothermic the elixir has a much more varied effect and will change entire portions of their anatomy, sometimes even creating entire organs and rewriting portions of their genetics."
Harry broke off at seeing their looks at him, realizing he was rambling, causing him to chuckle. "Truthfully, the original inventor did far more experimenting with it than I did. He did get somewhat shirty when he found that I accidentally created a better stone than he had despite his centuries of meticulous practice. He grudgingly told me that he thought it had something to do with certain things in my blood."
That allowed silence to hang in the room, while a Jedi Knight and a former Jedi padawan contemplated that information, though their attention also rested on the man who lay still unconscious, and who noticeably appeared younger. His hair darkening further from grey to black, lengthening slowly as it did. HIs skin also was smoothing out, at a rate that seemed to be increasing.
"You have searched for him for a very long time," Aayla commented. "He must have made a very significant impact upon you once the troubles of him being thrown into prison were sorted out."
Ahsoka glanced over at Aayla, unsure if she should comment, after all she had found out the truth was much different from what Aayla, and she herself, assumed before she had brought the subject up with Harry. She didn't have to make a decision as Harry actually laughed and began to speak in an odd tone.
"Not really, on both counts." Harry replied, regret filling his voice, "I didn't actually spend long with him. Probably less than two months all told over the course of two years. A few weeks during a horrible summer when we were kept apart by others as much as possible, and two weeks over a school break. Plus a few chats and letters."
"I… don't understand," Aayla confessed. "If you didn't spend a lot of time with him. Why have you spent so much time and resources trying to track him down?"
"To be honest…until recently I hadn't even considered that he'd still be alive. And I definitely didn't want to get my hopes up." Harry answered, "I was mostly searching for what might have happened to him. And I've only been doing that for about fifteen or so years. Give or take."
"That might be part of it… but that's not all of it," Aayla said slowly, though her tone was persistent, she wasn't going to let this go. "I mean… as you've told us… it's been centuries since you've seen him. There had to have been a reason more than whim or fancy."
Harry glanced over at her, before flicking back to the man in front of him. "Dobby." He called out.
A moment later the house elf had appeared, looking solemn and subdued "Yes, Master Harry Potter sir?"
"Could you get Sirius some actual clothes from The Gryffindor, that might fit him better?" Harry asked. "And don't listen to any suggestions the portraits might make when you do."
Dobby nodded firmly and then popped away.
At Ahsoka's raised brows Harry grinned impishly, "Knowing those two, their suggestions would probably run along the lines of a collar, leash and a muzzle."
Aayla blinked and then her blue skin darkened as she blushed, glancing at the man, covered in only a conjured sheet.
Ahsoka narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the brief flash of amusement she could feel coming from him.
Harry laughed out loud at Aayla's expression, but didn't offer any clarification. He could feel Ahsoka's doubtful gaze on him though.
"As to your question…" Harry directed his words toward Aayla while he returned his focus on Sirius once more, pretending nothing untoward had been said. His tone turned more somber. "Two reasons."
"First, I mentioned stepping into the Veil, a one way ticket to death. Well… my godfather fell through. Because he was saving his stupidly impulsive godson who didn't bother to even check a communicator he had. And because of that, when the friends I'd dragged or who had been too stubborn to let me go alone were outnumbered, surrounded and with our backs to a wall, he had to come pull my ass out of the fire. It cost him his life."
Harry's eyes suddenly flashed as he looked away from Sirius to pin Aayla and Ahsoka both with a stare, a multitude of emotions filling his voice, "It took me several years to realize it. But Sirius… he was the one who really taught me what love and sacrifice was."
"Sirius wasn't there that night to fight some Dark Lord over his differing principles or lack thereof. Nor was he there to fight his minions or settle grudges. Sirius wasn't there that night to fight some battle to save the magical world. He hated the magical world. It had stolen a third of his life, in hell, it had stolen his best friends, robbed him of his family. He had zero love to fight to defend such a corrupt place."
Harry's emotions broke for a moment as a wry smile crossed his face, "He certainly wasn't there that night because it was the 'right' thing to do and he wasn't there to save the one prophesied to defeat the dark lord terrorizing the country."
"Sirius was there because he loved me, just me. And that's just what you do when you love someone," Harry looked up. "He wasn't the first person to sacrifice for me. My parents both did when I was an infant. But he was the first one I really knew that made me actually understand why."
"He did it because he loved me," he said quietly, "And that's what you do when you love someone."
"Oh... Harry," Aayla breathed out, uncertain of what to say.
Ahsoka looked less surprised at the emotion, especially after having conversations with the portraits which had revealed essentially the same thing. She was more surprised at the fact Harry was actually somewhat baring his soul here. And in front of both her and Aayla, no less.
Aayla moved forward to place her hand on his shoulder, when Harry suddenly looked up and grinned, halting the motion, "Of course, he might also have been tipsy or just plain bored when he did. A lot of Sirius' choices apparently included the phrase, 'it seemed like a good idea at the time.'"
"You realize…" Ahsoka offered tentatively, caught between comforting Harry and wanting to raise her eyebrow at seeing Aayla surprisingly mirroring her own response, "That according to you it's been a very long time since he's seen you. You probably aren't the same person he remembers."
"No, definitely not!" Harry looked indignant. "I'm taller for one!"
She was about to retort when, despite seeing the obvious amusement in his expression, she felt his underlying joy and fear that was weighing heavily upon him through their shared apprentice bond. But she could also feel that he was adamantly avoiding discussing something like this further from the sheer determination she felt as well, so she turned her attention back to the man on the bed, who now looked like he might be thirty standard years old. Where he once was bald now rested dark hair, and eyebrows.
His skin which had showed markings that were faded to dull grey with age and time, was now once more covered in tattoos that had darkened on his skin.
"Hmm. Now that's interesting…" Harry murmured quietly, leaning forward to examine the skin on Sirius' chest. "I thought he said he just had these tattoos because it was something muggle that would piss off his family..."
Aayla moved forward to the man who lay unconscious and bare from the waist up, ignoring the overwhelming scent of bacta as she peered closely, "What are they?"
Harry hummed thoughtfully. "More like runic brands… but there's no sign of actual burning. It's under the skin. But normal tattoos would likely have been destroyed by his body healing like it is. Interesting. I'll want to look closer at these when we're someplace else."
He broke off his musing as the man on the bed started to stir slowly, his eyes fluttering as he slowly opened them. It took them a second to focus, as they roamed the room but then they lasered in on Harry.
"James…?" Sirius said in disbelief in seeing Harry.
Harry's expression, which was already intense, didn't shift for a moment. "Yes Padfoot, it's me. They let me out for a bit to see you."
"Let you out?" Sirius echoed in confusion, blinking to try and make sense of things.
"Yes… apparently whenever someone dies and is brought here, someone they know is brought out to deliver the bad news…" Harry said, his voice grim.
"Where are we?" Sirius asked with dread in his voice.
"Well, um. I don't know how to break this to you, but you've joined me in purgatory… to suffer for our sins." Harry responded gravely. "We've been sentenced to an eternity of dullness and boredom. No pranks allowed."
"P...purgatory? We're in bloody... Hell?" His eyes going wide as they fell on Ahsoka and Aayla.
"It gets worse," Harry said grimly.
"What's worse than Hell?" Sirius demanded immediately.
Harry nodded morosely, "We're sharing a cell for eternity… with Snivellus."
Ahsoka, responded first, catching on to Harry's prank, shoved Harry's shoulder with a scowl, "Finish up and then it's back to your cell!"
Sirius blinked a moment as Harry flinched dramatically from the contact. His eyes went from Ahsoka to Aayla and back, eying them slowly before he sat up, shrugging. "Meh, eternity to make Snivellus suffer? Who knew Hell would be better than Azkaban? Besides, the dementors never had a chest like that, or legs like that." He responded pointing at Aayla and then Ahsoka in turn.
Harry couldn't help himself and snorted and then broke into outright laughter.
Sirius turned his attention to him, "I may have been out for a while because you look about ten years older, kiddo. But you're still nowhere near ready to get one over on a Marauder."
Harry grinned wide and then impulsively threw his arms around Sirius and hugged tightly. Sirius hesitated only a second before returning the hug, though he was also the first to break it.
Harry released his grip a few seconds after the other man. Taking a moment to wipe suspiciously wet eyes.
"So… how long have I been out? Where the bloody hell are we? And most importantly what's the deal with the walking sex bombs?" Sirius peppered Harry with questions.
Harry chuckled and ran a hand through his hair sheepishly, ignoring the looks being directed at him from the people in the room.
A smirk slowly made its way onto Harry's face, "Well, um. In order… You've been out about 100 years, or closer to two thousand, it sorta depends on whose perspective we're going with. We're not sure exactly what the deal is here, but it is almost certainly the mysterious fortress of a Dark Lord type asshole who seemed to have found you a little less than hundred years ago from your perspective. And this is Ahsoka and Aayla, you'd consider them aliens, but since we're out in outer space as well, we're aliens too at this point."
Sirius regarded him for several long seconds before sighing and his lips twisted in an expression of disappointment. "Harry, Harry, I thought I taught you better than that."
His tone turned lecturing, "If you're going to try and prank someone, you ought to go with something that's believable. Yes, you need to set it up for the most amusement possible, but when you cross the line into the utterly ridiculous, it ruins any chance your target will believe you."
Sirius' eyes narrowed his eyes after a moment, as he focused on Harry, "However, I am surprised you're willing to play a prank in a dark lord's lair."
"Wait… you don't think you've been out for a long time, and don't believe that we're aliens… but you believe you're in a Dark Lord's base?" Aayla demanded crossing her arms and fixing him with a stare that did not seem to affect him at all.
Sirius stared at her blankly for a moment, "Um. Have you spent any time around Harry at all? That's pretty much how his luck works. That was the only part that was believable."
Sirius turned his attention back to Harry, "So most importantly, what are they? For about a fifth of a second when you mentioned Hell, I was thinking succubus… but none of the telltale signs are there. And you're not the type to go summoning demons just for a prank. So... what is it? Transfigurations? Illusions? Conjurations?"
"I would ask how you know the telltale signs of succubi but I'm not actually sure I want to know." Harry said slowly, glancing back at the Jedi. "But as I said, they're aliens."
"Harry," Sirius sighed tiredly.
"Padfoot," Harry cut him off, his tone serious and looking him dead in the eye. "I solemnly swear, that I am not lying. And it's a bit of a long story, I don't really have time to give you the blow by blow, but can give you the highlights if you like."
That shut the other man up as he regarded Harry intently, his eyes widening slightly as the sincerity behind Harry's words fully hit him, before he nodded slowly without saying anything further.
"Well, I should probably start with the last time I saw you…" Harry said as he considered.
There was silence after Harry had related the picture in broad strokes, telling Sirius up front he was going to skip a lot because well… they were in a Dark Lord's lair, and he would get the full story later. He had told Sirius the highlights. He started with what had seemed to have happened to Sirius in the interim, since he was sent through the Veil. How he seemed to have been found and placed in Bacta. Then brought out and given the elixir of youth from the philosopher's stone created by Harry.
The only thing Sirius had said during the entire story, was that he thought he remembered vaguely being asked questions but everything was vague and hazy. He didn't even seem to be surprised at Harry's mentioning creating a philosopher's stone.
After that, Harry had related the barest minimum on himself. He didn't want to get into his own life. Knowing that would span a ton of questions from his godfather. So he just mentioned the trip through the Veil, his presence in this universe. How he had encountered the three Jedi with him, plus the other two that weren't far. Then a brief explanation that Jedi were magicals but… taught differently.
Throughout the entire telling of his own story, Sirius had remained silent and listening, but also picking up how, during a few of the painful moments of the recollection, both of the alien girls looked worriedly at Harry with concern and support.
When Harry finished he waited expectantly, knowing his godfather would have a multitude of questions.
"You know," Sirius began slowly, "Who would have guessed that aliens could be so hot?"
Harry slapped his forehead. "Of course that would be the first thing you comment on."
"What? I always thought aliens were little green men!" Sirius said defensively before he shrugged, "As to the rest? Well… seems like your luck actually got more ridiculous with me gone."
Harry rolled his eyes, then stood, "We can debate later whether it was because of me, or because you really weren't gone, and thus you've been giving me bad luck ever since."
"As interesting as this is," Ahsoka's voice came in from behind them, causing both men to turn.
Whatever she was about to say was forever lost though, as Shaak Ti stepped through the door, her expression grim, "We have a very serious problem."
"Hey, I haven't so much as gotten out of this cot bed thing since I woke up. Certainly not enough to cause any problems!" Sirius said indignantly.
Harry rolled his eyes, but couldn't keep the smile off his face. A few moments later, he lost some internal battle and actually started to laugh out loud.
The other three Jedi just looked at him blankly for a moment before Aayla turned her attention back to Shaak Ti, as she gestured for her and the group as a whole to follow, her expression never losing its severity.
"Um. I don't suppose the wand I was using was found around here anywhere?" Sirius asked, actually looking around like he expected to see it on the floor.
"Harry James Potter, I promise you. Revenge will be mine." Sirius growled as they exited the turbolift onto a floor. Shaak Ti and Aayla took the lead along with Ventress, followed by Ahsoka and Fay, and a bickering Harry and Sirius, they were all trailed by the droid Minnie.
"Oh come off it Sirius, you can't still be pouting," Harry exclaimed, glancing back at his godfather, the smirk on his face anything but repentant. "It's not like it's that big of a deal."
"I ask if you have a wand, given that we may indeed be some dark lord's turf, and you say 'I think I might have a spare, Padfoot!' And you turn around and drop that wand in my hand!" he huffed.
"What's the big deal?" Harry asked innocently.
"'What's the big deal?' It was Bellatrix wand! It's… it's probably still infested with crazy! I'll have to do more than sanitize my hand! I… I might have to amputate!" Sirius whined. "You had my wand, you could have just given that to start with."
"Yes, well. You're the one who said I couldn't get one over on a Marauder." Harry answered, smugly, though his eyes searched the dimly lit hallway they were in.
"There are some things that should be off limits. Wands are one of them," Sirius replied airily.
"You should just be glad I had yours at all. It was kept at Azkaban because no one got around to throwing it away after your backflop-pirouette into the insta-death portal." Harry sniped back.
"Harry Potter, I am happy that you have been reunited with your friend." Shaak Ti commented, her voice tight, "But could the two of you possibly save the bickering for some other time?"
"You mean, at a more convenient time?" Sirius said brightly.
"Yes. That is precisely what I mean." Shaak Ti answered shortly her eyes flicking to the man.
"And… just to clarify, more convenient is when we're not venturing deeper into the hideout of a dark arse with lots of other bad guys possibly waiting to kill us?" Sirius continued.
"Yes," Shaak Ti responded shortly.
"Huh. Well, I'm going to go with no. The very fact that we're facing our deaths is a perfect reason to get caught up," Sirius responded, "So Harry, you gave me some basic facts. But you didn't tell me any of the fun stuff."
"Fun stuff?" Harry echoed, amusement in his tone.
"Yes!" Sirius responded, "What have you done with your life?"
"Well, you might be happy to know that I followed the example you gave me." Harry commented, a smirk on his face though his eyes were flicking around the room.
"Oh? A real ladies man?" Sirius grinned.
"No, as in I'm the most wanted man in the galaxy at the moment." Harry responded.
"... What." Sirius responded flatly.
"True story." Ahsoka added helpfully with a grin.
"Yup. Every not pleasant person is scouring the galaxy for me." Harry said cheerfully.
"... Okay. I am going to come back to that at some point. But I've already know enough of being hunted. I know that routine. I want to know the important stuff!" His tone had taken on a slight petulance, "Did you ever get married? Have kids? Did you ever score with those twins in your year?"
"By the Force, there are two of them," Aayla groaned loudly. She pointedly ignored the snickering that came from Ahsoka, who was listening fondly, the entire episode of Harry and his godfather was rather forcibly reminding her of happier times with Anakin ribbing Obi-Wan at inopportune moments in the field.
"In order of the questions asked, Lots of things, which I'll tell you later. Yes I got married. Yes I had kids. And no, Padma and Parvati never forgave Ron or I for their disastrous time during the Yule Ball my fourth year," Harry responded easily.
"Please tell me you didn't end up with Ginny?" Sirius asked with dread in his voice.
"What was wrong with Ginny?" Harry asked tilting his head. "She was smart, brave and loyal, not to mention a powerful witch."
"Nothing was wrong… per se. She just had that whole fangirl thing, going for her," Sirius hedged. "And I was always worried she'd grow up into her mother."
Harry snorted, "Hardly, she became a chaser for the Harpies, then actually modeled for a while. She married Colin Creevey, and the two of them were godparents to one of my children."
Aayla huffed in frustration at their interaction as they came to a pair of thick doors at the end of the hallway.
"Give me a moment with this," said Ventress as she strode forward and began navigating the security panel. "This looks similar to the set up that Dooku and his Master have taken in the past. Doesn't seem to be much actual security though."
"If there is so few people maintaining this base, security to secure doors is probably a bit redundant." Fay commented.
A few moments later, the doors began to smoothly slide open revealing multiple layers of meter-thick durasteel that created a combined door that was a full dozen meters thick shifting away in a diagonal pattern and revealing the large chamber beyond.
Each of Force-wielders present eye's widened as what they were seeing slowly registered to them.
It was a multi-story complex, as in, at least a dozen floors, lit by a single strand of lights. It was a series of walkways, with small indentations with small security monitors next to each indentation and a slight shimmering indicating an energy field. There was absolutely no question what this place was in each person's mind who saw it.
It was a prison.
Harry glanced at Sirius, who had stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide.
"You alright, Padfoot?" he asked quietly.
Sirius immediately shook his head. "I've spent enough time in prisons, thank you. Not exactly happy you've apparently lead me even deeper into one."
"The question is," interrupted Fay, barely murmuring her words. Her eyes were half closed and her brow furrowed with thought and concentration. "What is this a prison for?"
"Harry," Ahsoka said, turning to him. "This… this is the place. It feels so… wrong."
But there was no response from the man just behind her. She turned, and found he wasn't even there. A quick glance found him, slowly walking towards the nearest cell on their immediate left. Harry's attention was firmly fixed upon it, and now that she was focusing on the cell itself, she found that it contained a man, although the cell had a nearly opaque energy field over it which obscured the identity of the occupant.
She, and the others who by now had noticed Harry's movements, watched as Harry glanced at the controls next to the cell briefly before manipulating them with a casual wave of his hand. Suddenly, part of the energy field collapsed, revealing an unkempt man pacing unnaturally fast behind a purple tinged energy field which kept him locked inside.
Ahsoka immediately began walking forward to stand beside Harry. Her eyes never left the pacing, and rather feral man, locked inside with his back turned to them, but she did manage to pick up a few details about the cell in which he was imprisoned. The bed inside was affixed to the wall, and the fresher station had no moving parts or means to provide privacy. Everything was open air, and there was nothing inside that was not welded to the ground or walls besides the prison-wear the man was wearing.
It was then, the man turned enough that his full profile came into view, and every Jedi present gasped. With the being now faced towards them, it was easy to identify numerous things about him. Absently, Ahsoka realized he was a Cenean, in advanced age, with only a wisp of hair atop his racially stereotypical cone-shaped head, and a full matted and unkempt beard on his face.
But all of this was secondary in her mind, as well as the Jedi present, because all of the female Jedi recognized the identity of this clone, even as it continued to pace, snarl, and whirl around in its cell.
Jedi Master and Council Member Ki Adi Mundi.
Even as the realization dawned upon them with the identity of this clone, none could help but stare in a morbid state of sick fascination as the figured stared out at them with yellowed eyes, the muscles above his upper lip twitching and vibrating erratically all while setting his unkempt visage into the approximation of a malicious sneer.
Then, the figure actually began to make sounds. To Harry at least, it was something reminiscent of an old muggle zombie movie, the groans the discombobulated thing made offset by the oddly muffled smacks of its head occasionally against the wall. The jarring impacts apparently bothering the being far less than their group's sudden intrusion into its life.
Overall, the noise and actions of the near beast-like man spoke of mindless thoughts and unfettered aggression. The actions were so random, so abrupt that, despite standing there for a minute watching, some of those present still flinched occasionally at the suddenness of the attacks.
All except Harry, that is, who merely stared at the being with increasingly narrowed eyes.
"Is that…" Ahsoka started to say, her tone incredulous, "… that looks… a lot like Master Ki Adi Mundi?"
Aayla stepped forward slowly, and crinkled her nose as the 'thing' on the other side of the wall smashed his head into the energy barrier again in response to her proximity. "It does bear a very strong resemblance…"
Ventress had stepped up to the panel that Harry had manipulated to make the shield shimmer visibly. "Subject: Ki Adi Mundi, Race: Cerean. Current Order Rank: Master. Member of Jedi High Council. Current Military Rank: General. Current status: Alive. Current Clone Duration Post Maturation: 218 cycles. Clone generation: 7th."
"A clone," said Fay slowly as she moved to stand beside Aayla, "I guess that would explain the large amount of cloning infrastructure that Harry's droid identified and accessed files for."
Shaak Ti paced a bit, and winced at the implications that were rapidly joining together in her mind. "Clones of Jedi. Our enemy is making clones of us. But for what purpose?"
"Well, this guy is definitely not whoever you think he looks like," said Harry, who said it in an odd tone that spoke to him not really having listened to anything the Jedi had said.
"We've already established that, Harry," reaffirmed Aayla, not bothering to hide her eye roll, "Pay attention please."
"Oh," said Harry, now fully looking at Aayla, and definitely now looking sheepish. "Sorry, I was distracted."
"Which is always a good idea when trespassing in a prison built by a bad guy," chimed in Sirius with an over the top cheerful voice.
Harry sent a stinging hex towards Sirius, who yelped, and seemed to consider returning fire before deciding against it, and gestured towards the clone, "I've been distracted with trying to figure out how this thing in front of us has no soul."
That comment silenced everyone's next comments and drew their attention like moths to flames from the caricature of a leader of the Order to Harry. "I mean, I know I've seen him exactly… twice. And both times he came off as a dick. But… being an asshole doesn't usually equate to having no soul."
"Accused of that often, are we?" asked Aayla with a smile that quickly fell from her face at the sound of another impact upon the wall from the feral clone before them.
Sirius' brain though had finally caught up with what Harry said and its full implications. His whole body shuddered in revulsion, and he elegantly blurted out, "What?"
"Exactly what I said," said Harry, his eyes on Sirius as he pointed with a finger towards the clone. "This...thing, has no soul! It's like an inferi, only it's not dead."
"Harry," said Sirius in a surprisingly… serious tone. "No jokes about inferi. I'm dead seri-"
"Shut up Padfoot," a smile breaking out, the tone, despite the darkness of the subject matter, hinting at the fondness Harry felt for the man.
"What is this… inferi?" asked Ventress, testing the word out carefully.
It was Sirius who spoke up to answer the question, "I think the best way to describe is that Inferi are corpses that have been… enchanted. I know of roughly a half dozen rather sickening rituals to make the end product, which ultimately creates a corpse that can follow very simple directives."
As a group, the four women seemed absolutely horrified at the thought of desecrating a corpse to create a weapon. Harry glanced at Sirius but the man didn't seemed inclined to add anything more at the moment, only resume his staring at the clone before them.
Aayla was the first non-wizard to speak.
"Why would anyone do that?" Aayla asked disgust and revulsion in her tone. Revulsion that was matched in the faces of every other person present who had never heard of an inferi until that day.
"Any number of reasons," Sirius responded, a part of him quietly pleased to be able to answer someone else rather than pelting the group with non-stop questions like he'd been doing since he had been awoken.
"They're cannon fodder, after the initial magical investment, they need very little maintenance. Don't need food, or sleep or anything. They can be made physically durable, and magically resistant. It's disgusting, but they can be used for any number of functions."
Then Harry's voice cut in, truly driving towards the reason that Sirius had neglected to mention.
"They are more often used as a visceral psychological weapon to a Dark wizard's enemies," Harry added, turning back to meet the crazed man's eyes. Silence fell for several seconds.
"Right," Sirius' gaze moved toward Harry, who seemed unaware of his godfather's gaze on him, focused on studying the being on the other side of the wall intently, so he turned towards Aayla who had the first to ask about them. "You suddenly find yourself facing off against friends or family members whose corpses have been desecrated and raised to attack you can be a bit unnerv-"
Before Sirius could finish his description, and let that even more horrifying use settle into their minds, Harry let out a startled cry as he was suddenly blasted backwards and tumbled ass or end, coming to rest against the railing that prevented them from falling into the expanse of the carved out mountain prison.
At the same time, while everyone was focused upon Harry's sudden blast backwards, the man in the cell lost any semblance of calm and began to leap and jump around the cell, screaming incoherently and tearing at his hair.
"Harry!" called Ahsoka, who was the first to reach him.
She dropped to her knees immediately, and did her best to assure herself he was okay, even as the rest of the group was a split second behind her. All except Ventress, who despite not running over, had walked steadily backwards, her lightsaber out and ready to ignite in case of an attack.
Harry groaned and put his hand on his head, even as Ahsoka braced him from behind as she sat on her knees beside him. He rubbed his forehead and eyes even as she helped him to sit up, aided by Aayla.
"What happened?" demanded Aayla.
"Well… that was only slightly informative," he muttered, then groaned painfully again. "And definitely not one of my brightest ideas."
"What did you do?" demanded Ahsoka and Sirius simultaneously when it appeared that Harry wasn't going to answer Aayla's question.
Harry glanced up at their remarkably similar tones, blinking briefly before he answered, "I tried legilimency."
"On an inferi?" Sirius asked in disbelief. "I know the idea of a living zombie possibly made you think of Snivellus, but seriously, what in Merlin's name is wrong with you?!"
Harry, who was being simultaneously helped to his feet by both Ahsoka and Aayla, tried to elaborate, even if he was only truly capable of muttering at the moment, "They're not… exactly inferi. If anything, they're… more advanced."
Sirius was about to speak up since Harry had blatantly ignored the 'why' aspect of his question, but was beaten by Ahsoka, who nearly whispered, "Is… is that why it feels so… wrong here?"
Sirius though, was still stuck on what Harry had previously said to comment on any feelings these strangers may have.
"How in Merlin's name can someone create an advanced inferi?" he asked in a tone of absolute incredulity. "Actually no… forget that. I'm sure there are some very disturbing answers to that question. What the hell made you want to try using Legilimency on one?"
"Seriously", said Harry, before cringing and cutting off his godfather's upcoming comment, "No, don't even say it."
Then Harry gestured towards the crazy version of Mundi in front of them all, even as Sirius pouted over the denial of a potential pun, "It's like an alive inferi, which is like a total contradiction in terms. The icing on the cake is that the thing is capable of rational thought, though somewhat limited as its mind is fragmented and scattered."
Harry seemed to ignore the reaction to his random bits of trivia and barreled on. "The lack of soul makes it… incredibly unstable. It was like trying to use Legilimency on an animal… only not quite… more like, on someone who has already been lobotomized? The clone can still think somewhat, but it could never think quite right in the first place."
Sirius just stared at him, before repeating, in an even louder tone, "Why the hell would you use Legilimency on anything without a soul?"
"So, someone is… creating Jedi Clones, and ripping their souls out somehow?" Shaak Ti said, ignoring Sirius just as Harry seemed apt to, speaking in a tone that indicated just how sick the subject made her. "Why would someone do this? Better yet, how would someone do that?"
"I don't think they are doing… quite that," said Harry under his breath. He closed his eyes briefly, and when he opened them, they were glowing a vivid green.
Harry had only turned his head slightly in order to look around, when he immediately sucked in a breath of surprise. When he continued to turn his head to look around, whatever he saw actually made him stumble and take a step backwards.
"What is it, Harry?" said Aayla and Ahsoka at the exact same time.
They both looked at each other immediately, questioning the other about their reaction. Reactions that were happening and being noticed by the other more and more lately. Ahsoka could feel a strong mix of emotions through the bond they shared. Aayla on the other hand was surprised, she had felt an intensely strong surge of emotions, and from someone she felt was notable for being difficult, if not impossible to sense, it was more than a little disturbing.
Meanwhile, everyone else, took a defensive position around Harry, as if expecting to be attacked at any moment. Ventress even withdrew and ignited her lightsaber, completely trusting Harry to have identified a threat.
However, the dual reactions of Ahsoka and Aayla, as well as the reactions of their companions, were completely lost upon Harry as he slowly spun in a circle, looking around, ignoring his companions, and apparently growing more and more unnerved the longer he spun.
When he started to spin around for a fifth time, without saying anything to those watching him, Ahsoka finally stepped forward and clapped her hands sharply in front of his face before she raised her voice and shouted, "Harry!"
"What?" said Harry as he jerked away from Ahsoka's attempt to get his attention.
It was only then he suddenly realized everyone's focus was upon him. Even more immediate to him, was that Ahsoka was very close, well within his personal space, while Aayla looked like she was about to join her comrade within a moment or two.
"What happened?" asked Ahsoka as she gestured towards him. "You just gasped suddenly and started spinning in circles. You have to admit that's odd, even for you."
"I'm trying to figure what in Merlin's name I'm actually seeing!" Harry responded as he looked back towards the cavernous room, gesturing around wildly and obviously already being distracted again by what he was seeing. "Activate your mage sight if you want to see what I'm talking about."
Harry's apprentice closed her eyes and took a deep breath, waiting several moments to ensure she was prepared before she gained precise enough control over her powers and directed them towards her eyes. She dutifully ignored Sirius' shocked mutterings of 'Mage Sight!?' and ensured she had properly performed the spell that she had slowly refined under her master's tutelage over the past month in hyperspace.
With nearly six weeks practice under her belt, because she had little to do otherwise while cooped up on the ship coasting at sub-light speeds in comm-silence, the transition to activate the ability came far quicker than it once did, and it was with supreme confidence that she opened her eyes to see what had so shocked her Master.
When she opened her eyes, she had certain preconceptions about what she should expect to see. She knew what Harry looked like. She was aware what Jedi looked like, and even the before and after of what happened to Ventress and what to expect.
What she saw now, surrounded on almost every side, made her take an involuntary step back.
Ahsoka had only experienced mage sight in Harry's home in Kashyyyk and on his ship. Both times, the magic she had seen had flowed smoothly through the area, and the few times a disruption had been witnessed, such as the connection Ventress held to her Master, it was clearly easy to determine that it was something that simply should not be.
Here, in this crazy cavern that was apparently the secret lair of a mad scientist Dark Lord, the Magic was moving around chaotically and it seemed to spasm in the air in a way that Ahsoka could only identify as 'wrong'. It was akin to a light sandstorm, without the instinctive need to protect her eyes, mouth, and nose.
Around her, she could easily identify the outlines of her Jedi friends. Their bodies were filled and outlined with the expected blue aura she had begun to associate with them. Ventress' aura was as atypical as usual, being more akin to a purple than a blue, but aside from the slight shift in color, it was essentially the same as the Jedi.
Sirius' aura was actually more similar to the Jedi's than Harry's when she could actually see it. A faded orange that wildly oscillated within the confines of that color in tune with the man's emotions. Finally, amongst the nearby familiar bursts of color, there was Harry's, which was suppressed as always. At the moment, it was entirely contained, except for two points of light at his eyes which were in active use to aid in him seeing magic.
The only other thing that seemed odd in the immediate vicinity was the nearby Jedi, all of whom seemed fuzzy for lack of a better word. It was like holocom interference like she would see on a battlefield or when the person on the other side's connection had to be rerouted excessively due to distance and the signal cut out. Something nearby was affecting them, and she had no doubt that she herself would likely look odd to someone else's eyes.
Then she took the time to finally firmly focus upon the individual she had activated her eyesight to look at first. The individual before them in the cell looked completely different than anyone else she had previously gazed upon with mage sight.
The energy the man gave off was a solid black. A negative void from which nothing else, not even the ambient energies surrounding them, seemed to affect. Just looking at the man's completely non-existent visible aura put a shudder through her, as if her mind could not help but ascertain that this thing's existence before her was entirely impossible and simply should not exist. Simply looking at it felt wrong, as while the local energies that interacted had no visible effect, the being's aura clearly influenced the area around it, pushing chaotic bursts Force energies outwards with no rhyme or reason.
It was only then that Ahsoka looked further out, beyond the nearby Jedi and the abomination that stood in the cell before them. There were others… many others in the numerous cells that surrounded them that had just the same black void aura that the clone possessed.
Knowing that the Jedi were unable to use mage sight yet without Harry's assistance, she described to them what she was seeing.
"So all of these things are cloned Jedi without souls?" Aayla asked quietly, unable to keep the horror and revulsion out of her voice at the very concept.
"Not… entirely," Harry said slowly as he furrowed his brow in consideration. He looked around slowly and then abruptly walked away from the group at speed, clearly having a specific destination in mind.
Harry walked over a hundred meters before he stopped and walked up to another cell. He touched the panel adjacent to it, and the wall illuminated to allow viewing into this particular enclosure.
Now visible to them all was a human male, who sat in the center of the cell in meditation with his legs crossed and eyes closed. His head was down so his features were obscured, and the only true sign that he was alive was through his shoulders that occasionally shifted slightly with each breath that he took.
The man either wasn't aware that he was no longer alone, or simply didn't care. There was no reaction at all from him.
"Some, like this one, have a soul…" Harry crossed his arms to observe the man, his lips twisting in consideration, and puzzlement. "However his soul is… different..."
"Wait, wait wait!" Sirius blurted out as Harry's words trailed off and didn't continue. "How can some of these… inferi have souls and others don't?"
"I have no idea! That first one has no soul. I guarantee you," Harry said frustration leaking into his voice as he gestured back towards the cell with the Celean they had initially seen. "It's a meat sack. Yet it can somehow still function with some higher level processes despite having what essentially feels like it's had a Dementor's Kiss performed upon it. I have never seen anything like it."
Sirius looked agog at the statement and turned once again to stare with distaste back the way they came before turning his head to look at the cell they were in front of. The shock and horror was plainly visible to the Jedi, who seemed to become more concerned about the situation because of Sirius' reaction and not Harry's words which they had no basis to comprehend.
Fay stepped up to the monitor beside the cell, and tapped it for more information, she read it off, "Subject: Qui-Gon Jinn, Race: Human. Current Order Rank: N/A. Rank at Time of Death: Master. Current Military Rank: N/A. Current status: Deceased- Slain by Darth Maul - Battle of Naboo. Current Clone Duration Post Maturation: 78 cycles. Clone generation: 5th."
"This… this is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn?" Shaak Ti looked at Fay sharply with an expression of disbelief.
At these words, Ahsoka stepped forward to the energy barrier quickly. She didn't miss Harry's puzzled expression at Shaak Ti's statement, and her own reaction, Ahsoka attempted to fill in the blanks for him.
"He was a well-known Jedi… and was my old Master's…" and with the fingers of her hand, she started to count. "Master's… master."
"More importantly, no offense," said Aayla, who glanced at Ahsoka for a moment, "But he also died well before the start of the Clone Wars. A decade ago in fact I believe."
"Closer to twelve years ago, but you are correct, Aayla," said Shaak Ti with a nod of her head. "As the notation said, Qui-Gon Jinn died during the battle of Naboo. It was there the Order became truly aware the Sith had returned. We've learned it was the Sith named Darth Maul who killed him."
"The one with the robot legs that Shaak Ti fought on Nar Shaddaa," Ahsoka clarified, "Obi-Wan... Sky-guy's Master and Qui-Gon's padawan, thought he had killed him after slicing him in half."
Harry only now worked through what Ahsoka had said, and quirked his eyebrow, "So… this guy's kinda like, your great grandfather, or something?"
Ahsoka scrunched up her nose as she considered that, then nodded slowly.
Sirius was looking back and forth from the man sitting with his legs crossed in the cell and Ahsoka. "I can see the family resemblance," he eventually said in a dry voice.
"Obviously not exactly the same, but in a manner of speaking, it has its parallels," Shaak Ti commented, though a faint amused smile ghosted over her face.
"But what does it mean that he's a clone that also has a soul?" asked Ventress in an attempt to get back to the heart of the matter.
Harry glanced back at her and then forward again at the man sitting in the middle of the room. He nodded to himself, as if coming to a sudden decision, "Well, I know one way to find out."
He moved forward and returned to the control panel which had initially revealed the cell's contents. A few seconds of work had the cell door opened so that it zipped downward into the floor, leaving an opening into the room.
Though he did note that it was a relatively thick door too. Easily two meters in depth. Clearly all walls and doors were incredibly thick. The view into the room had been through an energy field, but even that was incredibly structurally sound.
"Harry!" blurted out both Sirius and, surprisingly, Ventress together as they realized what Harry was about to do.
The Jedi who were more used to his antics at this point, Ahsoka, Shaak Ti, and Aayla, all wore similar expressions of resignation and a complete lack of surprise at his actions. Finally, Fay, who was the least exposed to Harry having only known him for a bit under two months, in the relatively calm confines of a ship, quirked an eyebrow in surprise at how reckless he was. She however had patience and enough control to not succumb to an outburst and question him when the Force, as tainted as it was here, seemed to not warn her of any collective danger facing them immediately.
Harry though, as usual, ignored all outbursts and causes for alarm and walked right into the cell.
The man looked up sharply upon the entrance of someone into his place of forced solitude. When his eyes set themselves upon Harry, and vaguely glancing at the multitude of people behind him, the man leaned back slightly in shock. However, after a mere moment, the man calmed, and his tone came out quite gentle.
"And who might you be?" the man asked after a few seconds of silence where the man gazed upon Harry impassively.
"I could ask you the same question," Harry responded as he stopped before the clone.
The man who was supposedly a clone of Qui-Gon, looked like he was in his early 30's. His hair was long, kept in a makeshift braid, and overall gave the appearance that he cared far more for personal hygiene than the first cloned Jedi they had seen.
When Harry didn't respond further to his question, nor follow up with any additional ones, the man looked beyond him to stare at those outside the cell. His brow furrowed slightly in recognition for a microsecond, then smoothed out to return him to a passive countenance.
"This is a new approach," the kneeling man muttered under his breath.
Abruptly, the man then stood up, his attention fixed firmly upon the group behind Harry, "Now you try and use the likeness of former comrades in another futile attempt to break me? It will fail like all the other attempts." His tone was resigned, and tired.
He gazed resolutely upon Harry, "I won't break, and there's nothing you can offer to serve you or your master."
His voice suddenly raised in pitch, clearly not addressing people there but whoever might be listening or watching in remotely. "There is nothing you can threaten me with, as death now holds no secrets. This... is a pitiful attempt-"
"Yeah… I'm going to need you to shut up now," Harry said as he interrupted the man's monologue with a flick of his wrist.
The clone of Qui-Gon flinched slightly as he felt the unknown Force energies wash over him, but that reaction stopped almost immediately as every one of his muscles suddenly froze. The only thing capable of movement now were his eyes, which tracked Harry as he moved forward and faced him.
And, once again, without waiting for comment or objections from the others, Harry dived straight into the man's mind through Legilimency.
There was a few moments silence, and then Sirius smacked his forehead before he rubbed his eyes in frustration, "I swear to Merlin, some things never change."
Ahsoka turned her head to look at him and asked, "What do you mean?" beating Aayla to the question by about half a second.
He glanced at her, then back at Harry before he sighed and crossed his arms across his chest dramatically. "He uses legilimency on some sort of alive inferi and it blasts him across the room. Then, we run into another, and what does he do? Same thing."
But Harry wasn't blasted back. He stood completely still and unmoving for several minutes, minutes that seemed to stretch out to the point where it began to worry those amongst his companions who had never seen something like this previously.
It was then that Ahsoka remembered how much faster time passed inside the mind, and realized that something big was happening if it was taking Harry this long to finish.
"Shouldn't he be out by now?" she wondered aloud.
It was Sirius who answered this time, "If he's doing a full-blown interrogation probe, then this is somewhat normal. Those tend to be slower, and-"
As if on cue, Harry suddenly reeled back and placed his hand to his forehead and groaned, "Owww…"
"And they tend to cause a hell of a headache," Sirius finished dryly as he shook his head at his godson's antics.
Harry was bent over at the waist, still with one hand upon his head, then muttered, "Fuck, I haven't had to do that in a long time."
Suddenly, Harry lifted his head and looked towards the still frozen Qui-Gon and, with a wave of his hand, the man's frozen state was released. The abrupt removal of the petrification curse caused the now almost insensate man to collapse to the ground bonelessly as he too groaned softly.
"Harry?" Aayla questioned, watching the man on the floor groan and shift, her hand having gone to her lightsaber.
Her defensive instincts in play after seeing how the last clone had gone crazy after Harry's mind-dive. She, and the rest of the Jedi, were now, preparing for not just the clone they were facing, but possibly an entire prison to attack any of them without warning. The whole place was slowly getting to her, as the persistent buzzing in the Force was driving her senses more on edge the longer they stayed within this cavern filled with cloned warriors.
In fact, her mind was so distracted and poorly focused, that she barely noticed Harry's approach until there was a sudden hand upon her arm. She looked to the right, surprised to see Harry next to her, his hand gently placed upon her arm, and a look in her eye that spoke of nothing but reassurance and confidence.
"This person is not... a fake?" he spoke again, though the way he phrased it made it obvious he was puzzling through it himself.
"Harry… this cannot be Master Qui-Gon Jinn," Shaak Ti said in a tone of absolute certainty. "I know for a fact he died, and have even spoke to people who were at his funeral pyre."
"Not to mention that Master Jinn would be much older, even before he died," Aayla commented. "This is clearly a clone, as he barely looks older than you, Harry."
Harry waved off what they were saying, shaking his head adamantly. "No, I know this is a clone. Or rather, the body is a clone. He was created less than a year ago. But at the same time, it's also the real thing."
"Harry, you're not making any sense," Ahsoka said, genuine concern in her voice, as she regarded her master. "He's obviously a clone…"
Harry waved his hands, holding them up to get everyone to stop talking, as the rest were about to try and convince him of this fact as well.
"Yes, the body in front of us is a clone. I don't dispute that. But!" Harry kept his hands up for silence. "His soul… has somehow… come back."
"Come back?" echoed a bewildered Fay, speaking for the first time.
"Yes, his soul. His memories, all that he is… is in that body," Harry pointed at the man who slowly was shifting to push himself up, the exploration of the other man's mind obviously having taxed him greatly.
"How is that possible?" asked Fay, her tone wavering, "In all of my years I have never heard of something like that."
Harry rubbed his chin, "Truth be told? Neither have I. And I've seen some pretty messed up people do absolutely unspeakable things to souls in the past."
Harry looked down at the Jedi, who still had his hands on his head to fight off the migraine he'd received, and then continued to explain what he believed happened to the group. "This Master Jinn of yours has died three times, at least by his count."
Harry held up his hand when there was some move to protest this, "Now I have some experience dealing with wizards who take steps to make sure their souls don't cross over. But it always… always leaves a taint. But for this guy, the soul has crossed over, the touch of death on it is obvious... but has no taint of dark magic that shows it has done something it shouldn't have to come back."
"How can you be sure?" Shaak Ti asked, her gaze flicking between Harry and Qui-Gon's clone.
"Because I just used one of the most brutal auror legilimency interrogation techniques in existence, usually reserved for special or urgent cases, and ripped through nearly every memory the man had. His own life. Then his rebirth here in this prison. Three times." Harry's eyes flashed and he met hers grimly, "I've seen what they've subjected him to since then."
"For what purpose?" Ventress finally demanded, in an angry tone.
"Based on what he experienced? Some sort of bastard combination of Sith acolyte and mindless weapon," Harry offered with a shrug. "They've been more focused on bringing out the skills than explaining what they're specifically for."
"They wanted me broken," Qui-Gon spoke up in a voice that was scratchy in a way it hadn't been before. "They wanted a weapon they could use against the Order."
"But if they were creating weapons, why clone people who were good?" Ahsoka asked, her tone confused looking down at the man who peered up at their group with calm eyes.
"Not to point out the obvious, but wouldn't it be better to make clones of… you know?" Ahsoka pointed at Ventress. "No offense."
"None taken," said Asajj with a roll of her eyes.
"Because, they were hoping to create something that had my skills with a lightsaber, as well as an established connection with the Force," Qui-Gon finally said. "But also utterly loyal to whoever the master of the Guardian was."
He stiffened and looked up at Harry sharply, "And based on what I've been able to sense from around me, I know I'm not the only one."
"You're right, there are hundreds of people here." Harry answered, looking away from Qui-Gon, back the way they came. "The question is, why do some of the clones have souls, and some do not?"
"What?" Qui-Gon blurted out as he jerked sharply at these words. Clearly the presence of more Jedi here was news to him. Then his entire countenance changed, as if there were hope in his eyes for the first time he could remember.
"Truly?" he whispered.
"Yeah," said Harry as his attention turned back to Qui-Gon, and then to the cell he was in.
"So why haven't you escaped?" Ventress asked, "I mean, even for a Jedi, opening the doors on this cell shouldn't be that much of a challenge."
"Micro-explosives," A brief look of frustration crossed Qui-Gon's face as he gestured to the back of his head, and to his chest, "I have three bundles inside of me. All the clones here are created with the explosives embedded within them. If I leave this room without permission, actively channel too much of the Force without permission, or if one of the three explosives are deactivated, they will trigger."
"They're set up in a system of three, so that even if I manage to remove one without killing myself in the process, the other two go off." Qui-Gon scowled and glanced around, "Or the warden of this place can trigger them at any time if he chooses. I take it you've managed to get rid of him somehow?"
"Yeah, he's off planet at the moment," Harry made a distracted tsking sound of annoyance and irritation and put his hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder, his eyes narrowing in concentration.
"How long is he gone…?" Qui-Gon managed to ask despite the unknown feeling of the Force that Harry had begun to move through him, which made all of his senses tingle uncomfortably.
"However long it takes for him to make re-entry, I'd wager," Harry answered before he narrowed his eyes as he focused his magic through the man's body, "Not sure how much of him will be left, though. Now be quiet for a second, and take a deep breath… this… is going to be a little bit of a challenge… and might sting a bit."
Qui-Gon's jaw furrowed. But nothing happened as Harry continued to stare at him, though he felt the Force moving differently inside of his body, filling him in a way he hadn't experienced before. He was just about to ask a question when suddenly his entire body jolted as he felt several surges of the Force. He had just begun to relax once more when he suddenly screamed as his entire body was suffused in blue electricity.
"Ahhh!" Qui-Gon cried out as his entire body spasmed and jerked in Harry's grasp before he collapsed to his knees.
"Harry! What are-" Shaak Ti and Fay both jerked forward only to stop themselves as the electricity stopped.
Harry's eyes were fixed on the man, who now breathed as if he had just run a race. The others could feel Harry continue to push the Force into the man for nearly a minute afterward, though no more lightning appeared as the man's breathing slowed.
"Sorry, that was… slightly more complicated than I expected," Harry apologized to the kneeling Jedi master who looked up at him with confused eyes.
"What… what did you do?" Qui Gon asked, after nearly a minute as his breathing slowed. His voice wasn't an accusation, but honest curiosity. "I felt nothing hostile from you, so I know it wasn't intentionally meant to inflict injury..."
"Um. Well I disabled the micro-explosives you were talking about. Although there was actually four of them," Harry explained sheepishly, as he ran a hand through his hair. "I also had to get rid of the rest of the nanobots in your body. Then I had to vanish the entire mess."
"What?" Qui-Gon looked at him, his expression a reflection his befuddlement, as like the fourth bomb inside him, the nanobots were another unknown he was unaware of.
"Yeah, there was a bunch of the little buggers in you, doing slow but methodical damage to your body. If it had continued, you probably would have only lasted another few months at the rate they were going," Harry explained. "Even with them stopped cold the damage has already been done, your body would have failed eventually."
"Harry..." Sirius spoke up from behind them, "When did you become a healer?"
"A while ago," Harry answered dryly.
"Are you any good?" Sirius asked.
Harry looked at him with an amused expression, before he turned back to the clone before them, "I'd like to think I was qualified at it."
"You know, your dad said that exact thing to me once about potions, and then Remus and I ended up taking turns polyjuiced as him while we figured out a way to get him unstuck from his animagus form," Sirius explained, his lips quirked in a smirk. "Later, your mother somehow figured how he screwed the potion up and replicated it. It became her standing threat to use that on me… and lock the form into a female dog somehow."
He tried to play it off as unimportant, but Ahsoka could tell that Harry was interested in the story, wanting to hear more. She was well aware that Harry had been prevented from learning much about his parents, and to have someone with first-hand knowledge of them back in his life was almost certainly the cause of the warmth of happiness that surged inside Harry at the mention of both his long-since-dead parents.
'And speaking of the dead…' thought Ahsoka, returning her attention to rather unusual bit of drama playing itself out before them.
"Well, I appreciate your help, my young friend," Qui-Gon finally said glancing at Sirius with some concern as he seemed to accept Harry's words as the truth. "Even a few months of life free before I pass on is better than imprisonment."
"Yeah, well... I wouldn't go planning any more funeral pyres just yet," Harry said as he rolled his eyes. "That was the easy part of healing you just now."
Qui-Gon opened his mouth to say something but Harry cut him off. "Now, if you excuse me, I really need to figure out what the hell is actually going on here."
He glanced at Shaak Ti, "Can you check him, make sure I didn't miss anything?"
The Togrutan Jedi nodded, reading between the lines of what she was asked, understanding the concern about the man's mental state more than his physical one.
Without waiting for more, Harry turned and left the cell, his stride far more purposeful than it had been. Ahsoka began to walk aside him as he walked away from Qui-Gon's cell, Aayla and Fay right behind him, leaving Shaak Ti with Qui-Gon. Sirius scrambled to catch up with Ventress bringing up the rear.
Harry began to venture further into the prison. Though he was no longer looking in the cells as he ventured deeper.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Ahsoka asked as she quick stepped to keep up.
"Going to the next cell on this level with a soul in it." Harry answered. Ahsoka wasn't sure what to reply to that, but their attention was both diverted as Aayla stumbled behind them.
She stopped walking and put her hand to her head, seeming to sway unsteadily.
"Blue, you okay?" Harry asked, his hand on her arm to steady her, true concern evident in his voice.
"Yeah… I'm…" She trailed off, ignoring Sirius' snort of amusement at Harry's nickname for her as she grimaced, and corrected herself, "No… that buzzing I mentioned feeling is getting worse."
"Worse? In what way?" Harry asked moving closer, his attention on her eyes now.
Aayla put her hands to her head, "It's like…a presence in my head. A familiar one."
"Familiar?" Ahsoka asked quietly,
"Yes…" Aayla answered, "I haven't felt something like this since…" she looked up, with confusion and apprehension in her expression, "My trials."
"Aayla," Harry said quietly, getting her attention "May I?" he tapped the side of his brow meaningfully.
She hesitated only a moment before nodding.
And to the surprise of all, Harry flicked a wand into his hand. It was something they hadn't often seen him do, making use of a wand. Harry ignored it and lifted her chin slightly and made eye contact, holding the wand up and murmuring, "Legilimens."
The rest of the group was silent. However Ventress spoke up, "I'm going to see if I can find a central terminal. If that buzzing is going to get worse I want to see if there's anything in a computer."
"You shouldn't wander off alone," Ahsoka commented.
"I'm a big girl." She answered snarkily.
"We're also in a bad guy's lair." Sirius commented. "I know I'm sorta new at this whole… non-wizarding thing… but wandering off alone doesn't seem like the greatest idea ever."
"You think I'm incapable of handling myself?" asked Ventress, anger visible in her face.
"He is correct, it is unwise to wander off alone." Fay commented, in a neutral tone, in one of the few statements she had made to Ventress.
Ventress glared at the three while Harry and Aayla seemed to be lost in their stare down. "I can handle myself."
She didn't wait for approval, turning and stalking off down the path that seemed to stretch into the darkened distance.
Sirius, Ahsoka and Fay all seemed to look at one another before Sirius huffed, "I'm not going to let her wander around by herself. Tell Harry I'll let him know if we run into any trouble." He took off after Ventress who was power marching away.
Fay exchanged a look with Ahsoka who was watching the two head off. "I get the feeling we're going to regret that." The younger of the two murmured.
Fay was saved from responding when Harry and Aayla suddenly broke apart, both blinking rapidly.
"Sorry, that was slower than I intended, my legilimency control is shaky, going into that soulless Jedi and then using an interrogation dig is a bit rough." He apologized, massaging his forehead and closing his eyes, "I probably should refrain from doing that for a while…"
"Did you at least find what you were looking for?" Aayla asked, rubbing her forehead as well.
"I found something… but… it's very very strange," Harry's voice was confused. "Like someone is deliberately trying to control your thoughts…"
"I thought you said occlumency would help with that!" Aayla said.
'It should, it does!" Harry protested, "However, this reminds me more of possession, and possession is different. Someone who has a direct link to you already, something that would bypass it."
"Could it be an effect of the shroud of the Force trying to get through her defenses?" Fay asked.
"No, I don't think so…" Harry said slowly, "Like I said..." he trailed off as he glanced around and then blinked, when he realized they were short two people.
"Where's Sirius?" he immediately asked, trepidation clear in his voice.
"He and Ventress went to see if they could find any terminal explaining all this," Ahsoka quickly explained.
Harry blinked at the thought of those two together, and gave Ahsoka the gimlet eye that apparently he was the only responsible one here. "When they get into trouble. I blame you." Harry said flatly.
Ahsoka just rolled her eyes, not dignifying it with a verbal response, though she could feel genuine concern there. His emotions had been spiking since they found Sirius, but he had mostly seemed to have compartmentalized them and had his focus on what was happening around them at the moment. Still the concern was there and evident.
"Well, can you trace where whatever this is coming from?" asked Aayla.
"I'm not really certain of a source." Harry said. "I might be able to trace it, but… not without a bit of time to steady my legilimency. I'd prefer not to accidentally shred part of your mind."
That seemed to startle all of them as they stared at him. "What? It takes an extreme amount of control to do well and right, doing it into the chaos of a soulless being was a bad idea. Doing a full blown interrogation probe right after… I'm probably lucky I didn't accidentally lobotomize Qui-Clone."
Aayla narrowed her eyes at him, "And you went into my mind?"
"Your conscious and unconscious mind wasn't fighting me, you allowed me in. I was just doing a surface scan, and even that took about a hundred times longer than it should have." Harry replied. "Besides, as I explained, wands help with control. So I was being cautious."
"Logically, if the effect on Aayla is getting stronger? Would it be possible to trace it to where it is strongest?" Fay asked bringing their attention back
Harry shrugged slightly, "I don't really have any better idea…"
"Yes, getting closer to what's causing problems. This is a great plan." Ahsoka commented.
Harry looked at her and narrowed his eyes, "Hey, I'm the old cynical one here."
Ahsoka just grinned at him in response.
The group moved forward following Aayla as she had a hand to her head, her eyes flicking around. It did take too more than a few dozen more meters before she stopped and stared toward one sides. "I think it's coming from there."
Harry moved forward where she indicated and as he approached the cell, the wall shimmered and he stopped. Standing on the other side of the wall, standing calmly and staring at them seemingly through the energy barrier was a blue twi'lek. Aayla stared in disbelief as she got closer, and the twi'lek's eyes followed her unerringly. No other part of the twi'lek moved.
"Oh, my," said Fay, her normal unflappable self betraying the surprise at seeing the clone on the other side of the barrier.
"It's me…" Aayla whispered in disbelief after being stunned speechless for a few seconds, only to flinch when the clone growled at them. She held her hand to her head, warding off the increasingly uncomfortable sensation of being near the being that was, for all intents and purposes… her.
And it was. The blue twi'lek on the other side of the energy field was almost completely identical to Aayla. Even their outfits were fairly close. Both wearing midriff baring black outfits. Albeit the clone's looked like it had been ripped and torn to achieve it rather than started out that way.
The only major difference is that the Rutian twi'lek on the other side of the shield had angry yellow and orange eyes.
"A soulless you…" Harry said grimly.
"I don't understand." Aayla said quietly.
Fay pressed the button on the monitor at the side of the cell, "Subject: Aayla Secura. Race: Twi'lek. Current Order Rank: Master. Current Military Rank: General. Current status: Alive. Current Clone Duration Post Maturation: 192 cycles. Clone generation: 6th."
"It's a clone of you." Ahsoka said quietly.
"Not that part… that's obvious…" Aayla shot her a look, though her agitation was clear as she fidgeted, "How did it get like that?" She gestured toward the being whose eyes followed the movement of her hand.
"Get like what?" asked Ahsoka. She wasn't trying to be deliberately obtuse, but there was so many things wrong with what she saw before her, that she was having a hard time grasping which specific one Aayla was apparently most upset over
"The eyes!" she nearly shouted. "My clone fell to the dark side!?"
Of course Harry had gone silent at that and their attention was once again drawn as he stared at the clone intently. Only to be smacked by Ahsoka
"Don't you dare try legilimency on that thing." She scolded.
"I wasn't going to," he protested with a shake of the head.
"You got all quiet. You do stupid things when you're quiet." Ahsoka scowled at him.
Harry looked a little sheepish, then gave Ahsoka a tiny glare, "Now is not the time to point out your master's deficiencies."
"Of course not, we don't have a week or two." Ahsoka muttered.
"Can we get back to my apparently fallen clone that's a few meters away from us that's slowly driving a hydrospanner into my head just by me being near it?" Aayla said, the discomfort obvious in her voice.
"And how did it become soulless?" Fay added, her tone grim.
"Still working on that one." Harry muttered.
"We can't go in there," said Ahsoka suddenly.
"Why not?" asked Harry, his tone curious rather than argumentative.
"You heard Mast-... Qui-Gon. It will have bombs in her, just like he did. And this one likely won't hesitate to charge us once the door opens."
Fay nodded in understanding, "If we're unprepared… it could explode."
"Those charges were small but powerful," Harry allowed. "It would definitely create a decent boom we'd need to worry about..."
"Messy boom," added Ahsoka with a curl of her lip.
"Can we not casually discuss a clone of me exploding?" Aayla said testily, her eyes now closed as she had sunk to a knee, her head in her hands. The clone in the room was now sneering, its attention focused entirely upon at Aayla. Its yellow eyed fixed on the crouched twi'lek in glee as it clearly seemed to be enjoying the effect it was having on the girl's mind.
"Right, that's enough of that." Harry moved to the cell. Ignoring the call of "Harry!" from Ahsoka.
The cell door opened and the Aayla clone turned the entrance, her sneer moving to a snarl.
She shifted toward him only to be hit by a bright red bolt and immediately collapsed to the ground.
Aayla let out a groan of relief, "Oh thank the whills it stopped… well… mostly anyway." She slowly stood up to look first at Harry, and then down at the being on the ground, leaning heavily upon Ahsoka as she did so.
"I don't understand." She commented as she looked down at the clone.
"The insanity probably made it easy for the clone to succumb to the dark side," Fay responded.
"It's not that," Aayla responded shaking her head, her voice getting steadier, "How do they have a clone of me here? How did they get the genetic material? Or that of Masters Jinn or Mundi?"
Harry looked over, "I don't know, I have no idea how much genetic material it takes to create a clone…"
"In theory it probably wouldn't take a great deal…" Fay answered calmly.
"No, it doesn't, a very miniscule amount, a few cells actually, but it would take blood." Aayla said, "And according to the Kaminoans, if they are to be believed, if samples aren't preserved immediately or directly from the source, the chances of viability are low. However if a sample is procured and stored, it could be preserved nearly indefinitely for later use."
When Fay and Ahsoka looked at her, "The High Council asked them about how long to find a replacement supply for the sample they use for the clones. The original was killed in the Battle of Geonosis, by Master Windu." Aayla explained, somewhat defensively, "The Council was uncertain if they would have to find another donor. The Kaminoans took blood from the original regularly from him so we are hopefully okay through the end of the war."
She glanced at Harry, well aware of his opinions on clones. But he didn't even seem to be paying attention to the current topic.
"So, the question is, where did they get the blood?" Ahsoka asked.
"That is a question I think we would like an answer to…" Aayla responded.
"This is incredibly disturbing," said Fay quietly as she stepped to the entrance of the cell after giving Aayla an appraising look.
Satisfied that the twi'lek was okay for now, she turned her attention towards the now unconscious clone.
Further conversation was cut off by the sudden appearance of a silver dog that bounded into the air, "Harry, you really need to come see this. Now."
Harry immediately turned to Ahsoka and fixed her with an accusing glare.
Ahsoka just rolled her eyes, "I know. I know. You blame me."
"I'm not sure which surprises me more, that you haven't managed to find any more reality spanning archways to fall through," Harry said dryly as he approached Sirius, Ventress standing a few feet behind him with her head down looking at the console in front of her. "Or that you didn't say something that would make her stab you at the first opportunity."
"Har har." Sirius said dryly as he crossed his arms, wand in his hand. "I thought you said this was some dark lord's base?"
"That's… the general gist of it… yes…" Harry said slowly.
"So what does it say when there's a dark lord type locked up here?" Sirius asked. "And he seems to be given special accommodations?"
"Er… wot?" Harry asked, tilting his head in confusion.
Sirius turned back to the console to stand parallel with Ventress and pointed downward, gesturing for Harry to look down at the small display Ventress was perusing, similar to the ones set next to each cell, only this one wasn't set in a wall. It seemed to just be sprouting up from the floor on a small stand.
"What's special about it?" asked Aayla, her mind much better, although she still looked a bit put out, despite the buzzing now being a far off sensation.
Ventress pressed the button on the monitor rising up from the floor, "Subject: Hego Damask: Darth Plagueis. Race: Muun. Current Clone Duration Post Maturation: 943 cycles. Clone generation: 3rd."
"Yeah, the babe with the buzz cut told me, their evil dark bad guy types call themselves, 'Darth.'" Sirius interjected in a helpful tone,
"Evil bad guy types do like their ostentatious names." Harry said dryly idly stepping between Sirius and Ventress, giving her enough of a look that she didn't actually pull her lightsaber.
"No kidding, a guy with a name that sound a lot like 'Dark' and 'Plague' is bound to be just a barrel of laughs." Sirius groused.
"A base that not only has cloned Jedi… but cloned Sith? Especially if one truly attained the level of Darth," Fay spoke up in disbelief, "Just what is going on here?"
Harry looked puzzled, "It says there's a prisoner… but I don't see a corresponding cell."
Ventress glanced back at him before pressing two places on the monitor.
There was a creaking of machinery as the floor in front of the monitor split and moved to the side, causing each one of the group to step back. Then there was a slight rumble as a block began to rise from the ground below.
It took a couple seconds to get the details. The block seemed to be composed of layers. Not one, but two energy shields around a block of transparisteel. Inside was far less space than the other individual cells had provided. At the same time there was a more comfortable bed, and also a desk with a pair of datapads on it. There was also several clear book shelves that had data cards on them.
At the desk, seemingly unconcerned that his cell was moving, sat a humanoid male though he was obviously not human, his face was far more slender and narrow than a typical human's. He was bald, with small ears in the side of his head and a small nose, he was dressed in a simple outfit matching the other prisoners they had seen. Though a good deal less worn, showing not much activity. It also had a thick collar around his neck.
The prisoner looked up, and then started slightly in surprised as his eyes took in the group outside of his cell.
"He's definitely a Muun," Aayla commented examining the person who had risen from his chair. He moved toward the edge of the cell and stood there, examining them unabashedly, with a curious look and his hands behind his back.
Harry glanced around at the others who seemed uncertain, or waiting for him, so he shrugged and stepped forward. "Hi there."
Aayla and Ahsoka coughed slightly.
Sirius let out a strangled sound. "'Hi there?' Really? Is that how you greet a possible dark type bad guy?" He demanded of Harry.
"We can talk about possible better greetings in this sort of situation later," Harry shot back and then stepped a bit closer.
"Greetings," the Muun replied, in a calm and surprisingly polite voice, detracted only a little bit by the slightly nasally tone it carried, "You'll pardon my initial rudeness, I was more than a little unprepared. I have not ever had a visitor beside the occasional visits of the... warden. This is somewhat of a surprise."
"I'm Harry." Harry said simply by way of reply, his gaze meeting the Muun's.
"Ah, such courtesy. My name is Hego Damask the Second." His tone broke off as he inclined his head and mused thoughtfully, "Or… the fifth I suppose is also accurate."
"Don't you mean Darth Plagueis?" Aayla demanded perhaps a bit precipitously, as she was still a bit unnerved due to her own clone's presence upon her mind.
The Muun fixed his gaze on her and tilted his head forward in acknowledgement, "I was once known as such. However as I've not only been supplanted, but killed… thrice. I am not so certain the title applies."
"You don't deny being a Sith though." Aayla pressed.
"Of course not. I am from the lineage of Darth Bane himself," Plagueis replied, his tone more amused than anything, "And if your judgmental tone and fixation on the Sith portion of my lineage is any sign, I do not doubt that you are Jedi."
His gaze shifted from Aayla to the others in the group. His focus zeroed in on Fay, "You… I recognize you…" He closed his eyes a moment before they opened once more and focused with laser like intensity, "Master Fay. I studied you closely for years."
Fay didn't lose her composure, just raised an eyebrow. "You did?"
"Oh yes, an immortal Jedi… At least, one untouched by age for centuries." the man said with relish, "How could I resist?"
"You clearly achieved remarkable progress on the first step to having true power, possibly greater mastery of the first step than any Jedi in history," Plagueis said, heaping scorn on the word Jedi, "It is unfortunate that like all Jedi you content yourself with stopping at that first step."
"True power?" Ventress demanded.
"Yes… true power." The deposed Sith answered, "You begin by gaining power over yourself; then another; then a group, an order, a world, a species, a group of species…then finally, the galaxy itself."
"And… there's the crazy talk." Sirius said crossing his arms.
"That sounds remarkably like something my former Master used to say." Ventress said through narrowed eyes.
Plagueis' eyes darted from Sirius to Ventress as they spoke. They flickered a second time before remaining on Ventress. "That would make you a Sith. Or at least someone who has been trained by the Sith, a fact I'm more confident on stating given the unique style of the lightsabers at your waist."
"Former Sith." Ahsoka commented. "She's free of their influence."
"Ah, another Jedi." Plagueis said, his focus shifting to Ahsoka, amusement in his tone. "Optimistic, focused on redemption. Disdain for the Sith. You would be surprised at just how… deep the influence of the Sith can run. No one is ever free of their influence."
"You say you had 'influence' over her," commented Harry dryly, speaking up for the first time since the introduction, "I say servitude bindings, compulsions, subdermal implants focused on enhancing adrenal response and rage. But sure, Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to."
"Hm," said Plagueis, looking closely at Harry for the first time. "I was unaware that the Jedi Order had anyone capable of removing the Sith's means to… encourage our less talented trainees."
"Less talented!" Ventress snarled, stepping forward, her hands on her lightsabers. Only Ahsoka's hand on her shoulder seemed to keep her from leaping forward.
"And considering I developed a number of those myself... "Plagueis considered, seemingly unconcerned with his provocation of the girl, "I would have said it was nearly impossible to remove some of them. Unless my former apprentice has gotten incredibly sloppy or medical advances have jumped significantly in the past decade and a half. Not to mention a removal of some of the Force controls, my former apprentice, Darth Sidious developed should not have been able to be disrupted without stripping all connection to the Force, or causing death."
Harry buffed his nails with faux-humility, "Well, one does one's best."
"Most interesting." Plagueis commented his gaze on Harry.
"Harry, can you maybe not taunt the dark lord type bad guy?" Sirius commented. "You know, even imprisoned they can be dangerous."
"Half the fun sometimes, dear godfather." Harry replied before taking an exaggerated look around and wiping some mock-sweat from his brow. "And hey look, I'm doing it with no killing curses flying, and no instant death portals nearby!"
Sirius rolled his eyes, "You have got to let that go."
"Yeah. No. That's gonna linger for a while." Harry responded. "Like the 13 years of birthdays and Christmases you missed."
"Hey, you got the firebolt!" Sirius protested.
"I thought that was just an 'apology for being a bloody moron' gift," Harry responded smirking, "And I'm pretty sure you owe me another one for your back flop through the arch."
"You are not Jedi." Plagueis spoke up, interrupting their banter, his tone intrigued as his gaze flicked between the two.
Sirius looked at the man and shrugged, "Hey, don't look at me. I woke up floating in a tube of gunk like… 30 seconds ago. I pretty much have no idea what's going on."
Plagueis shifted and stepped to the side, his focus on Sirius completely. His gaze looking up and down the man for several seconds, before his gaze fell on Sirius' hands. His eyes widened fractionally and then looked up at Sirius's face, though not quite his eyes,
"It's you!" The Muun's mouth was open and he looked completely astonished. He quickly regained his composure but continued to stare at Sirius with an almost hungry look. "I… studied you for years."
Sirius uncrossed his arms to stare at the alien, with a glare of hostility, "You studied me?"
"Oh yes," Plagueis responded, practically purring. "You came to my attention when a Force sensitive doctor noted he felt odd Force energies on you. Some sort of Force sickness. Bacta could stop and repair the effects. But the instant we brought you out, it would start all over again destroying your body from the inside."
"But your blood. Mm." The Muun closed his eyes for a moment as if relishing the memory, "Your blood…had in it the same things that determine power in Jedi... But they were so different and… so much more."
"Even when it was drawn from your body the Force was not just present, but active in your blood." His eyes locked on Sirius, in delight, "I learned so much about the three aspects of the Force simply studying and experimenting with your blood."
"Three aspects of the Force?" Ventress asked as she tilted her head.
"Yes, the aperion, the anima and the pneuma," Plagueis answered, his voice slipping into the tone of an instructor. Ahsoka noted that he actually sounded similar to Harry did at times when he was lecturing. If Harry was creepier and nasally.
"You would call them the Unifying Force, the Living Force and the conscious will the Force has." Muun allowed a smile to cross his face. "From his blood we learned the Force had so much untapped potential just sitting there. Nothing is impossible with the Force! The manipulation of space, time, matter. A vast frontier to explore, so much possibility to defeat the enemy of us all."
"And that would be what?" Aayla asked, crossing her arms and staring at the man doubtfully
"The one I devoted my life to beating, and before being betrayed by my apprentice pushed scientific knowledge of the Force in directions none before me ever contemplated." Plagueis answered, his chin lifted in pride. "That is what this entire facility and operation is about. Something my apprentice continued after his betrayal, even though he has squandered its potential on trivial pursuits. I'm talking of the defeat of even Death."
There was a brief pause as everyone stared at the Muun. The silence was broken only a moment later by a sigh and a snort of amusement.
"Oh! You're one of those!" Harry rolled his eyes. He dissolved into chuckles as he met the gaze of an irritated Muun. "You're just another dark bad guy types who is afraid and obsessed with avoiding Death, and go to stupidly absurd lengths to do so."
"Ixnay on the auntingtay," Sirius muttered quietly to Harry as he noted the Muun's rising anger.
Harry ignored him, as he met the Muun's gaze "And now, you're just another prisoner trapped here. Without the slightest bit of understanding of what is really going on."
"It is you who has no idea of the accomplishment that surrounds you." Plagueis gestured to the dark cells around them, his voice rising with clear anger, "You stand surrounded by those, including myself who have returned from the dead."
"Being a clone doesn't mean they're back from the dead." Harry commented, with a roll of his eyes.
"Is that all you see around you? Clones?" demanded Plagueis. "You're more a fool than you look. They are not just clones."
"Yes, yes. I'm sure. They're some perfect fantastical weapon for you to destroy your enemies or take over the galaxy, or worship at the altar of your greatness." Harry scoffed, crossing his arms and looking distinctly unimpressed. "Or some other foolishness."
For a brief moment an ugly sneer crossed Plagueis' face before he calmed himself. "I won't deny, in a sense, you're right." He said, "It is all of those things. Weapons, potential devotees, and yes… even foolishness."
"But that's only if you see the surface." he continued, "But if you only see the surface you miss the depths and the genius."
"Gotta tell ya," Harry said, still sounding distinctly unimpressed, "I'm not seeing the genius, just idiocy. And imprisoned idiocy at that."
"You see clones! You do not see what they really are." Plagueis shouted.
"Oh, do enlighten us." Harry said sarcastically.
"I could never actually clone him," Plagueis responded his expression a snarl, as he gestured at Sirius, "I must have had hundreds, thousands of failures. We tried everything with his blood, duplication, replication, nuclear transference, direct cloning! None of it worked. There were no circumstances in which I could exactly duplicate his blood."
"In an effort to recreate what might have been a perfect vessel, I tried everything imaginable. I even attempted to create offspring more viable than him and not confined to a bacta tank. I had partial successes here and there…, but every experiment to duplicate what he was… ended in failure." The Muun sneered at Harry.
"But I could manipulate his blood and experiment with it. I learned, oh yes. I learned so much. So much untapped power that resides in our very blood." Plagueis took a breath. "Discovered, with enough manipulation. The things I learned I applied in my research which is the base for all of this."
"The clones…" He looked around, his anger melting to wistfulness briefly, "Some would see them as only weapons. Or if they could be trained, brought to heel, a disposable army of force wielders."
"But the clones were unstable. Training them with generic flash memories of generalized Sith training, and accelerated growth caused instabilities that grew and grew." Plagueis said, "Even changing the length of growth acceleration didn't prevent the instabilities."
"But then the most amazing thing happened," he looked up, and his expression turned smug when he saw Harry's focused expression. "Certain clones started getting their memories back. Memories of the original they were cloned from. At first I thought it was just more instability. But then a pattern started to emerge."
His tone shifted slightly, "The clones whose original was still alive became unstable. The clones whose original was dead… their memories returned again and again. Like they were connected to their bodies."
"It's some connection through the Force. It's why the clones of Force sensitives who are still alive develop massive instabilities not seen in clones of those who are not Force sensitives." Plagueis explained, his eyes slightly distant as he looked around, "While clones of those who are dead, receive the memories of the original."
"I thought if I could produce a single viable clone of him, then I could dispose of him, and plunder his knowledge." The Muun's eyes narrowed at Sirius, "And I was right, as here he stands before me a picture of youth, decades younger than the last time I laid eyes on him."
Harry had canted his head to the side and seemed to be just letting what the man was saying glide passed him before he snapped his fingers. "It's the blood!"
"Harry?" Ahsoka asked.
Harry cut her off with a gesture as he smirked at the caged Dark Lord impertinently, before turning to Ahsoka, "Another lesson for you. Basic interrogation of Dark evil bad guy types 101. They love to monologue about their accomplishments."
He looked around, "Anyone else have any questions for Mister 'I'm-better-than-you-even-though I'm-locked-in-a-cage like-an-animal-at-the-zoo'?" Harry asked brightly.
There was a pause before Aayla suddenly held up her hand and waved the group over to her. "Harry, please silence us to ensure there's no way he can hear us." She asked, being well familiar with seeing variations of the spell by now.
Harry raised an eyebrow, but Ahsoka had her wand in her hand and looked at him with an expression asking for permission. Harry just nodded. Ahsoka waved her wand and cast a silent muffliato. Harry looked around and gestured with his hand before grinning at her, "Close. A bit too much power there."
Ahsoka looked sheepish but nodded.
Aayla nodded and turned to the group, "This is a once in a lifetime chance we have. We must absolutely find a way to get this Sith to divulge the identity of his apprentice. As well as verify that he's being truthful in his admission."
"Do you really think that he'll tell us who the apprentice is just because the apprentice apparently killed him?" asked Ahsoka skeptically.
"He will not," Fay said with certainty causing the group to look at her. "The loyalty of the Sith has always been to the Sith."
"You know, most Dark Lord types, I know aren't too fond of people who betray them. And you heard him say that his apprentice killed him. Most people tend not to take that philosophically." Harry commented doubtfully.
"No," Fay disagreed. "A central part of Sith philosophy is that they strengthen themselves by the apprentice getting strong enough to kill the master. You heard him, he is very proud of his Sith Lineage. If he is to be believed, going directly back to Darth Bane, he was thought to be a myth, the only survivor of the last Sith war."
"We must at least try," persisted Aayla. "This may be our one chance to find out who is pulling all the strings. If we can do that we can end the war. We can end all of this. ."
Aayla turned to Harry, glancing at his hand which even now was occasionally twitching, "Harry, can you handle another interrogation?"
Harry winced and sighed, "What I wouldn't give for Veritaserum. But I doubt we have a month or more for me to prepare it." He grimaced and then nodded, "Yeah, I can do one… but as I mentioned earlier my control for a probe isn't stellar at the moment. I don't doubt I can get the information you need from him, I just can't promise his brains won't be leaking out of his ears afterward."
Sirius spoke up for the first time, "You know, I was an auror."
Harry glanced at him, "For like five seconds."
"I can still do full auror interrogation legilimency." Sirius narrowed his eyes. "And I'll remind you, that I wasn't dumb enough to mind probe a soulless creature."
"Touché," Harry conceded.
"I may be able to assist. I am fairly adept at getting into the mind of others." Fay spoke up.
Harry glanced over at her and then nodded, "Alright we can try that… But... Sirius, as long as you don't screw around. Treat it like you were probing Snivellus or Malfoy."
Sirius smirked with a smile that was distinctly feral.
Before turning to the Muun who had watched them through narrowed eyes, Harry barely twitched a finger dispelling the muffliato.
"Impressive trick." Plagueis commented, interest filling his voice as his gaze flicked from Ahsoka to Harry, "You are far… far more than you seem."
"Thanks, that's what all the girls say," Harry waved off the comment, "So I have to ask you about this apprentice of yours."
"Ah yes, I will not be discussing my former apprentice." Plagueis said, a sneer crossing his face, "You might like to think that you can get me to say anything. But I have only told you what I wish to. You are not as clever as you think."
"We would like a name," Harry responded.
"Darth Sidious," Plagueis responded in an amused tone.
"Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's not what his parents named him." Sirius said crossing his arms.
"Yeah, Moony's parents still take the award for worst named kid of all time." Harry added.
"Hey!" Sirius protested, slightly distracted.
"What? They named him Remus Lupin, and he became a werewolf" Harry responded with a shrug, "With that name they either had a fondness for wolves or were scarily prophetic."
"... Fair enough," Sirius conceded.
"And we were already aware of his name," interjected Aayla, distracting from Harry and Sirius tangent, "Your apprentice's new apprentice rather boldly told us three years ago that his name was Sidious, and that he was controlling the Republic Senate from behind the scenes."
"Brashness was not limited to my choice in apprentice, but apparently Darth Sidious' choice as well," Plagueis responded thoughtfully. "You are mistaken in thinking I would tell you anything more,"
"Yes, well, your mistake is believing you have a choice in that," Harry responded almost offhandedly. "Your only choice lies in whether we do it the easy or the hard way."
"Your mistake is overconfidence," Plagueis responded with a sneer, "Muun as a whole are one of the worst for Force users to interrogate, and that is just the average Muun. I may be cut off from the Force by this accursed collar, but a Jedi mind probe will yield you nothing. I look forward to watching you fail."
Sirius looked like he was going to swell up in indignation, but a hand on his shoulder from Fay stilled him.
"I have much experience with mind probe interrogations and suggestions. I would like the first chance. I may have a better perspective on what I am looking for." Fay reaffirmed her earlier statement.
"You sure?" asked Harry with a quirk of the brow. Something about the smirk on the Muun's face had him on edge, "In my experience Dark Lord's tend to have some rather nasty defenses."
"It would not be my first one. He may be good at resisting it, but I am very experienced with probing minds." Fay responded evenly.
When Fay persisted, Harry nodded, "Alright, but be careful."
Fay nodded and moved to the small station that controlled the assent of the cage. She pressed two buttons, "If he moves, please restrain him," she said over her shoulder to Harry who nodded before she turned back and pressed the buttons there.
Suddenly, Plagueis seemed to panic, "No, wait, don-"
When she deactivated the shield, there was an explosion that shook the transparisteel of the cage. It took a moment for the flash and sound to clear.
They could see Plagueis, or what remained of him. The top half of Plagueis body was essentially gone. His body from the waist down was still intact, but smoking and blown back against the far side of the cage.
The group stood there in silence for several seconds.
"That is so not my fault." Harry said defensively.
Harry moved back closer to the cell, "That totally didn't happen with the other clones, right?" He said slowly. "I'm definitely not imagining us walking into Clone-Gon Jinn's cell without any problems?"
"Yes, Harry," sighed Aayla. "For once, you aren't at fault."
"Harry does tend to have that effect on Dark wizards." Sirius added helpfully, a smirk on his face. He was doing his best to keep from feeling too out of sorts in this alien world, so taking a shot when he had a chance amused him.
Shaak Ti approached with Qui-Gon in tow, her eyes going from the cell, to the headless body, to the group. "What did we miss?"
"Oh, not much," Ahsoka replied, "Just finding out what's going on here, and making a Sith's head explode."
"I... see." Shaak Ti answered slowly with only a raised brow, "How did Harry manage that?"
"Not my fault!" Harry called out absently.
Fay sighed audibly, "Unfortunately this was my fault. I did not anticipate even further precautions."
"It's not just your fault. None of the rest of us guessed either. Even though the cell itself was different than the rest." Aayla said reassuringly while she looked through the datapad that had survived the damage of the explosive, while Ventress was looking through the books.
Shaak Ti looked at Aayla, then at the scene and then at Harry and she raised a brow in questioning. Aayla just shrugged wordlessly and shook her head.
"For once we can't blame Harry for this one," the Twi'lek said. "We were lax, and the current Sith Lord had additional contingencies to prevent anyone extracting information from his former master's clone."
"We need to plan what we're going to do." Shaak Ti eventually said, "We cannot assume that an alarm hasn't triggered because of this. I am surprised nothing has happened yet just by us being here. We have prisoners here we need to get out and could be interrupted anytime."
Aayla flinched but nodded, "You're probably right."
"Our first priority has to be freeing the Jedi, at least the ones who are genuine articles," Shaak Ti clarified slightly.
"Master Shaak Ti has filled me on a bit of the larger picture as to what is transpiring here." Qui-Gon spoke up, "If there are others who share my circumstances. We must free them. And I would not delay long. I do not know what the response might be to the Warden's death."
"I'd be just as worried about the death of the captured Sith we just blew up," muttered Ahsoka.
"Possibly bombardment from the droid fleets that are all just hanging in system." Fay commented dryly.
"Fleets?" Qui-Gon inquired, with a slight widening of his eyes.
"Yeah. This system has more defenses than probably anything short of Kuat, maybe Corellia." Shaak Ti commented. "But now that we know what we do about what's going on here, that makes a lot more sense. We should start moving."
"Yeah, but if all the ones who aren't insane have those bombs in them, then Harry's the only one who is gonna be able to get them out safely in anything that could remotely be called soon." Aayla responded turning to look at the human pacing and muttering to himself.
"Harry!" Aayla called out, though it took two repetitions to garner his attention.
"What?" He demanded, his brow furrowed in irritation as he finally turned toward her.
Aayla didn't even let his irritated tone bother her, "Harry, this has now become a rescue mission. We have to evacuate the Jedi from here."
Harry hesitated a moment before he gazed around the prison, "We can't evacuate everyone." He muttered, half to himself.
"I understand, how many people is your ship capable of carrying?" Qui Gon spoke up, "If you only have limited space, you'll have to decide who is most important to get off the planet."
Harry glanced over, a brief smirk crossing his face, "Space… isn't really an issue. I spoke poorly, it's not that we can't. It's that we won't be evacuating everyone here."
The conversation had already garnered the attention of the entire group. Before anyone could register objections, he continued. "We can rescue the ones with souls, provided they're not more like that one. He was all kinds of evil bad guy." He gestured over his shoulder at the remains of the Sith in the cell.
"But we're not taking the soulless ones anywhere." He said resolutely.
"What do you propose we should do with those 'without souls'?" Aayla asked, "Just leave them here in their cells?"
"Er… no. Find some way to set their bombs off ourselves, or just flat out kill them," Harry said distractedly, obviously going back to focusing on whatever it was he had his mind upon when Aayla interrupted him.
"Kill them all?" asked Shaak Ti, appalled. "You'd commit cold blooded murder-"
The tone of her voice attracted Harry's attention, and he seemed to just get annoyed at her stance on the issue.
"They have no souls. They're meat suits, whose interests are only themselves. The ones that aren't gibbering and insane have no conscience just self-interest. They have no empathy. And... They're capable of using the Force like you Jedi. I don't care what your perspective. That is what I would call a very bad thing." Harry's voice was harsh, more jarring than most who were used to hearing him. "They are an abomination."
Aayla and Shaak Ti exchanged uncomfortable looks, and Ahsoka looked much the same. Ventress just looked impassive while Sirius just looked thoughtful. Qui-Gon looked dismayed but resigned.
Fay on the other hand nodded slightly in agreement to Harry's statement.
Ahsoka's attention focused entirely on Harry as he squared his shoulders. "You're right though. We have no idea what timeline we're working with here, and while I'd like to take much more to explore right now getting those with souls out and to safety, while making sure we don't leave behind magic using inferi, is the priority here. So we have to clean up and get people out of here."
"Alright. So here's what we're going to do." he said decisively. "We will free any of the prisoners with souls, provided they are not evil or something."
"Ventress…" Harry hesitated and glanced around before steeling himself slightly, "You take Sirius and be on the lookout for anything else of interest. If you find something, let us know, don't go exploring anything that gives you a bad feeling." He said.
Ventress didn't looked bothered but couldn't help herself asking "Why are we the ones that you send to scout?"
"Because you will know what you're looking at, while he won't have a clue whether he is looking at an artifact that will be invaluable in figuring out everything here… or simply a standard doorstop. He can't even read galactic basic at the moment. And while he won't be much help in the searching… he can always apparate you back here out of any danger you may encounter." Harry said simply before he narrowed his eyes and fixed Ventress with his gaze. "And no offense, but you are not exactly the person I'd elect to be ambassador to imprisoned Jedi."
He paused a moment, "Also, I would appreciate it if you would please refrain from giving into the urge to slice my godfather in half."
Harry paused and fixed Sirius with a similar gaze, "Please don't do anything that makes her want to slice you in half."
Sirius who at this point seemed to be shrugging and just going along with the flow, grinned and saluted lazily, "My godson is all grown up and taking charge!"
"Things like that." Harry muttered before turning to the others. "I will clearly have to do the healing and removing of bombs. Hopefully some of the Jedi recognize you guys to make this easier."
Ahsoka watched the Jedi walk out of the mountain. Even the sedate pace of the Jedi, who normally were stoic clearly enjoyed stepping out into the sun. It was late afternoon on this world judging by the way the sun slowly lowered on the horizon.
When they really started moving through the prison they had truly realized how many Jedi clones were kept there, including some that were several copies of the same Jedi. They had freed over a hundred Jedi. Some that had died decades before, some that had been dead as recently as a few months earlier.
It had been quite sobering to see just how they were imprisoned and in different states. Some had been strapped to frames. Others actually had training sabers. It was clear evidence that the mastermind had hoped to train weapons.
Harry had been almost methodical in how he had started going through the cells. She had jumped when he had stepped into the first cell and with a wave of his hand a dark red energy bolt shot out and dropped what was obviously an insane Jedi clone. The clone lay there completely unmoving, and Ahsoka realized with a start that he was dead.
Ahsoka had felt sympathy for the clone, one she vaguely recognized, but clearly wasn't in the right mind. Even without using the mage sight she had trained in, she could tell it was insane. He was rocking in a ball and drooling as he chewed on one of his toes.
Harry hadn't even flinched before moving on. And it had continued, he repeated the same actions on two following clones. The second of which had tried to leap at them. He had hit them with that same dark red spell which dropped the clone like a rock.
"What is that spell?" Ahsoka asked.
Harry looked over at her and his jaw set into a firm line, "It's a spell created for executions. It combines a stunning spell which renders a person unconscious with a medical spell that stops the heart. It effectively kills a person without pain or without requiring the caster to delve into a well of hate like the killing curse."
Then he turned into the cell of another Jedi, this one had required healing rather than killing.
Ahsoka could see the Jedi in their little group following, not certain what to say to Harry's actions. They would be considered brutal if they weren't almost mechanical in their movements. The idea of killing clones was something they were all wrestling with.
However, as he was healing the next Jedi, Fay had pulled Ahsoka aside and asked quietly. "You said you can see the ones without souls, correct?" Ahsoka hadn't been certain what she wanted but had nodded slowly.
"Come," The older Jedi Master had ordered firmly.
Harry was busy healing and hadn't noticed when she followed Fay out of the room.
Fay had Ahsoka guide her to the next cell with a prisoner without a soul. It was easy to do so once she reactivated mage sight. The ones without souls stood out like pits of blackness. Ahsoka had lead Fay to the next soulless Jedi and had opened the cell. Ahsoka watched as she reached out with her abilities and over the course of the next few minutes the clone, who was simply sitting and twitching slowly seemed to fall asleep.
Ahsoka was about to ask what Fay was going to do, when with a focused application of telekinesis, the ancient Jedi Master snapped the neck of the human imprisoned there with a brutal twist and without hesitation.
When Ahsoka had stared at her in disbelief. Fay had met her eyes unflinchingly, though her tone was gentle, even kind, "I have been alive a long time. I have never enjoyed killing, and avoid it where ever possible. However, as distasteful as it is, these are not creatures who can be redeemed or brought back to the light. I have long ago learned that sometimes it is necessity to put down rabid gundarks."
She glanced back in the direction the others were, and where they could all feel the now familiar surge of Harry's healing on a Jedi. "It is no different than when he does it, and as Harry Potter is not a Jedi, this should not be a burden he should be forced to bear alone." Fay said quietly. "You do not have to watch. Simply guide me to the right cells."
After some consideration of the older woman's words, the duo continued. Fay's methods remained the same from clone to clone. Fay spent several minutes using her abilities to try and put the clones to sleep before finishing them in one simple movement. Ahsoka took Fay up on her offer though, she remained outside of a cell when the older woman went in. She didn't watch, but with her sensitive hearing she couldn't avoid hearing the snap of a neck. Hearing that crack had caused her to jerk visibly as she swallowed the bile in her throat more than once.
They didn't do them all. Harry worked his way through a large number too. Fate was not kind in their gruesome task, and the last one was roughest on Ahsoka. It was a clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi. One that was lucid, though his yellowed eyes and angry expression did set him apart from the original.
When Fay once more killed him as she had the others. Ahsoka couldn't help it and promptly bent at her knees and threw up. She had become used to death. But… this cold execution was not easy on her.
Fay hadn't judged her, merely knelt down beside her and put her arms around her shoulders in a not quite hug of support. Ahsoka was pleased that she didn't speak, as she wasn't sure what the ancient Jedi Master could say in this moment. Still, afterward, she had felt better, and a cleaning droid had immediately come by and cleaned the mess up.
Ventress and Sirius hadn't actually managed to find any trouble. They had found the Spaarti Cylinders. Thankfully there didn't seem to be any clones in development there quite yet. Sirius had been all for making them explode as a game. Ventress had chosen the simpler route, shutting them down and noting they required someone alive to be able to start them.
They had explored further and found that while it looked like the complex could be added to, the work hadn't been done yet. There was a section leading downward into the depth of the planet that just stopped abruptly, but clearly was easily set up to be added to. In the end, they waited on Harry as he had been forced to methodically heal and clear each and every clone left alive.
While the final one was being brought up to speed, Harry had walked out to the middle to look around at the prison.
Ahsoka watched him and she could feel his mental fatigue. She knew the immense level of focus that what he had just done required. She could also feel his confusion on something. His mind puzzling over a problem that had him anxious. But that wasn't what struck her most. She didn't need their connection to tell that he was angry.
However, whatever was bothering him wasn't something he was willing to talk and Ahsoka didn't really have the time to press it. She was also distracted by her own feelings on the harsh deaths she had just seen and essentially been party to. Still she had thanked her occlumency lessons by being able to compartmentalize those feelings at the moment to better deal with things in the moment. There was a sense of urgency from the others. A need to get out of this place that rose with every Jedi that they freed.
A wonder as to how long their luck could hold out before someone realized something was wrong and some sort of trap sprung on them all. Or why the trap wasn't already pulling the noose tight around them.
The crowd of Jedi had gotten ever larger, but clearly were patient enough to wait for Shaak Ti's lead. It was only a handful of Jedi, ones who had died decades earlier who did not recognize the Jedi Master, and those that didn't were content to follow the lead of their peers and were willing to wait for Shaak Ti's direction on what to do next.
Once the last member had been freed and seemed to be brought up far enough to the same point of their peers, Harry gestured toward where Aayla and Shaak Ti stood clearly telling them he was done. They took that as Harry's okay to begin to lead them back and head out of the complex.
Ahsoka was one of the last to leave, though behind her walked Harry, and Sirius who seemed to be sticking close to Harry with concern. Aayla fell back, letting Shaak Ti take lead on guiding the group of Jedi toward the ship.
She also flicked her gaze to Harry regularly. He was deeply troubled by something, Ahsoka could feel it, though he wasn't talking. She had asked him if the entire group was going to fit on his ship, more to try and get him talking, than out of real concern on the issue. She had seen him expand things without hesitation, and he had barely seemed to acknowledge the question.
When they had exited the complex, past the mouth of the cave and the field with the large turrets. The entire group seemed to come to a consensus to wait for the last of them as they looked back at what had been their prison. Harry too stopped and looked back at the base. His expression was thoughtful.
Ahsoka stepped up beside him and glanced at his expression. "Considering blowing up the base?" She asked shrewdly.
"Mm. Destroying it, yes." Harry responded absently as he peered up at the mountain. "Then again, it would be nice having more time to explore when not worried about over a hundred relative innocents being victim of whatever traps may be around."
"Or the risk of possible orbital bombardment," Fay interjected dryly from behind them.
"Yes, or that." Harry nodded absently.
"Once we get back to the Republic, they'll need to know about the massive fleets in orbit. If they can figure out a way to neutralize them, eventually they'll come back with enough force and go over the base with a fine tooth comb." Aayla commented. Harry glanced at her sharply, causing her to shrug, "We'll have to explain this to the Council, and a secret base is no longer secret if so many people know about it."
Harry had begun to scowl deeper until Aayla's last comment and his expression grew thoughtful, and genuine amusement sparked in his eye for the first time in quite a while, "Huh, now there's a spell I haven't used in a long time."
"Harry?" Sirius and Ahsoka asked simultaneously.
Harry's thoughtful expression shifted to one of mischief as he winked at Sirius, "Don't worry, I won't ask you to be keeper. You have bad luck even being associated with that spell."
Sirius confusion morphed into skepticism and then into thoughtfulness of his own as he considered, "Can you really cast a fidelius on something so big?"
Harry grinned impishly in response. "There's only one way to find out isn't there?"
The sudden change of moods was caught by all the nearby Jedi, yet their curiosity was not answered by the suddenly upbeat man.
He held his wand in his hand as he worked through something in his head. Clearly fixing the wording of the secret. Then he held his wand out, pointing it toward the mountain, and a few moments later there was a large surge of magic that caught everyone. No buildup, no warning just a sudden blast, as Harry loudly, but calmly incanted, "FIDELIUS!"
Ahsoka watched the magic surged out seeming to outline the cavern and then mountain very briefly and then the magic seemed to flow back into Harry before everything was abruptly back to normal, nothing seemed to be different, and she wasn't sure what she expected, turning the entrance invisible maybe? Hiding the entrance?
Her musing was cut short by the reactions of her compatriots,
"Harry?" Aayla asked, speaking up hesitantly, "What did you do with the base we were just in? Where is it?"
"That's where we just were wasn't it? How did we get here?" Fay added as she looked around.
Harry's expression was even wider, in pure amusement at their reactions.
Sirius snickered softly, "I forgot how that spell can play with the mind and disorient people who have never seen it before."
"It's worse if you're inside when it happens. It can cause quite a panic if you're in someplace that your mind no longer recognizes as existing in a specific space." Harry commented, amusement evident in his tone.
Ahsoka was just confused, she could still see the entrance right where they left it, "What are you talking about?" She asked the Jedi Masters.
"The base we were just in," Aayla clarified, "Where did it go?"
"It's… right there?" Ahsoka responded slowly, pointing at the entrance and the large guns guarding the area they were looking down at.
Every Jedi who had lingered behind, Aayla, Fay, Ventress, as well as the two wizards were all staring at her in a mix of confusion and disbelief.
"What are you talking about? You're just pointing at a mountain…" Ventress demanded scornfully.
Harry however tilted his head and asked cautiously, "You… can see it still?" He asked slowly.
Ahsoka nodded, wondering if the spell to make it invisible hadn't worked as Harry intended.
"And you still know where the base is?" Harry pressed as he pursed his lips.
"Of course… it's in the mountain!" Ahsoka turned and pointed, "It's literally, right there."
"Did you screw up the spell?" Sirius asked, not bothering to follow where Ahsoka was pointing, while the three Jedi looked increasingly confused.
"No…" Harry trailed off.
"Harry, what in the Whills is she talking about?" Aayla demanded.
Harry turned his attention to look at the three Jedi before rolling his eyes, "The Dark Bad Guy type base with the cloning facility and prison is located in the largest mountain on the planet Wayland."
All three Jedi blinked in unison and then spun around, watching as the entrance to the base shimmered into view.
"What did you do?" Aayla whispered, looking back and forth between Harry and the base.
"I simply hid the location of the base. It's a magic spell. The only people that will ever be able to find that base now are the six of us. At least until I let others in on the secret. You won't be able to share the location with anyone." Harry clarified.
"Yes… but why did she still know where it was?" Sirius asked, as he turned his attention to Ahsoka.
Harry's attention shifted to the young Togruta as well and he sighed, "I'm going to guess it probably has to do with me holding the secret and the apprentice bond."
"You're going to guess?" Sirius echoed.
"Damn it," Harry sighed visibly, "I think I have to go have a conversation with a portrait that irritates me to no end."
The Dark Lord of the Sith sat in his office, at the moment he was blessedly alone with his thoughts and seething. So many things he had been working on seemed to be jumbling up. His near meteoric rise of successes, both public and private seem to have stumbled of late.
He personally planned a whole series of sieges along the Outer Rim to have started almost two months ago. Those engagements would have been a major offensive from the Separatists, covering both space lanes and planetary footholds. Another round of attrition warfare that would have tied up Republic resources and continued to whittle down the overall number of Jedi.
It would have forced the Jedi to spread themselves out even further, helping his plans along immensely. Instead, he had to delay the entirety of the planned sieges.
The loss of the fleet above Kashyyyk had been unfortunate, as had the fact that the Wookiees had been reclaiming and salvaging the ships left and right and in the process immensely bolstering the defenses of their world to the point it would take a siege at least twice as big now to break that world. One that would be almost required because of his post-ascendant plans that needed Wookiee labor.
That in particular was a hard stim to swallow, he reflected no small irritation. The Confederacy actually doubled the Wookiees' defensive capabilities at a fraction of the total cost it would've taken the brutes to purchase or build the ships themselves.
But whatever had been done to the Force had shifted things far more and the hidden Dark Lord was still reeling in dealing with it.
Palpatine had been exploring uses as best he could in the months since the massive Force-shattering event had occurred. He was still learning as he went, and sometimes it was slow going, especially keeping up with all his duties as Chancellor, still… this new status was thrilling.
The Jedi, on the other hand, while they were trying to understand what happened to the Force. They were not exploring its uses. Seeing different applications was far more prevalent in the young ones. Children who could not even meditate or find their center ended up doing something bizarre. Changing the shape or color of something. Altering reality itself.
He hadn't even had to hide his initial amusement in a meeting with the Jedi, when Mace Windu had arrived with a full head of bright purple hair. However, Palpatine had been less than pleased at the end of the meeting. The Jedi had made the decision to pull back a majority of their forces, recalling all but a few Masters in various essential positions in the war.
It was a tremendous blow to Palpatine's plans. As now the Jedi would not be so scattered and vulnerable to individual attacks. Surrounded by his own well-placed mass-produced assassins and alone in the wilderness. He had been forced to add some contingencies to Order 66, just in case things continued along that vein, so that he could strike at the mass of Jedi at once rather than piecemeal. He had tried to gently argue that Jedi were a massive reason for their successes thus far, without making it obvious he was pushing, but the Council had dug in rather firmly. They were trying to get a handle on what happened and did not seem to be willing to flex on more than a few inarguably necessary positions.
It also disrupted his plans for a direct assault on Coruscant. He had been planning that for quite some time. An assault where he, in his role as Chancellor, was going to be captured by Separatist forces. It would ratchet fear from Republic worlds to an all-time high, if he were able to be kidnapped, then the senators would be much more worried about their own safety, continuing to push public opinion and paranoia in the direction he desired.
It would have also been an ideal time to force a confrontation between Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku. If Skywalker proved up to the task, Palpatine would rid himself of his older apprentice and his potential apprentice would be ever closer to being ready for that final fall.
But without the sieges on the Outer Rim, defenses at hand and within short range were far more robust than Palpatine thought ideal. Not to mention the large increase in Jedi now available in the area, it made any possibility for a reasonable kidnap of himself far more remote. And it wouldn't necessarily lead to any furthering of his hold over Skywalker, as any number of Jedi could potentially be assigned the rescue mission. So he had to work on other angles for his long-term project, and it was slower going than he liked.
And to top it all off, the enormous bounty upon Potter, which had now ballooned to half a billion credits, thanks to Dooku's vast resources, and Palpatine's hunger to get ahold of the man, remained unclaimed. Not only that but it was causing all sorts of mayhem among the criminal and bounty hunter element. People and businesses who traded in information were searching and either hoarding intelligence, or selling any leads that popped up. Even false leads. Then when hunters followed those leads it inevitably caused skirmishes between multiple groups who received similar tips. Gang-wars were blooming everywhere amongst the small time operators, and the major operators and cartels were nearly there as well.
The fact that the various Hutt Cartels were not at outright war with the Black Sun at this point was a minor miracle. Though Palpatine was sure that it wasn't far off. He hadn't determined whether to discourage it or manipulate it in a way to benefit himself yet either.
All of this and there was not a single legitimate confirmed sighting of the ship, not since it had disappeared from Nar Shaddaa not long after the bounty had gone out.
It was like their group dropped off the galactic plane, and he had no idea where they had gone. The bounty for any verified information alone was now at a million credits. Palpatine was growing intensely frustrated with the lack of progress in that area.
Thus it was a mixed bag with far more negatives than positives.
Palpatine blinked. He suddenly felt something… different. Off. He quickly looked around ensuring that no one was in his presence before cycling through his meditation skills. Something was off, but he couldn't quite figure out what. It was like he knew something was missing but didn't know where or what.
An alert chimed on his chair and interrupted his train of thought. Sidious narrowed his eyes flicking the switch to answer it, "Yes?" his calm voice completely at odds with the snarl present on his face. He had asked not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency.
"Jedi Anakin Skywalker is here Chancellor and wonders if you have time to speak," The voice on the other end of the line inquired politely.
"Ah… of course, send him in." Palpatine answered without a trace of irritation. Even when he asked not to be disturbed, there were a select group of people that could reach him through his secretary at any time. It flattered Anakin immensely to know that he was one of a very few that the Chancellor considered a 'friend' and among the exceptions allowed to see him almost any time. He was the only Jedi to have that one. It was yet another subtle lever Palpatine used.
He had already schooled his face into one of concern as the young man stepped in the door passed his guards who stood outside.
"Hello sir, I hope I'm not interrupting you." Anakin responded, his tone polite. "I was hoping you had time to talk."
"Nonsense, Anakin." Palpatine responded genially, "You know I will always make time for you."
A very brief smile crossed Anakin's face that was quickly lost as he strode into the room. He didn't immediately speak, as always looking around and considering what to say.
Palpatine didn't rush him, instead taking time to observe him. The Jedi looked tense. But more than that there was subtle signs of tiredness on his face, showing a lack of sleep. Not a trace of the glee that Palpatine felt showed up on his face. His efforts to impact the boy's sleep, to bring forth his fears as nightmares, were clearly having an effect.
Of course, Palpatine felt visions of Anakin's secret wife, dying in childbirth, pleading for him while he was helpless was perhaps a trifle dramatic, but it had been something he had pulled from the Force... and the boy wasn't really one that went for subtleties.
"What's on your mind, Anakin?" His tone reflecting only concern for the man, while he reflected on one thing going right.
Author's notes: Yay chapter!
1) YAY! Sirius is here =D His presence was only slightly felt in this chapter as he's sort of in shock given where he's abruptly woken up. Reality will set in at some point. But… those expecting Sirius to be a stabilizing influence… BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
2)So… confession time. I think it may be possible my chapters are too long. *coughs* this one is 25k and I was thinking 'wow. That's really short.' So… maybe it's true I have a problem. Oh wells. Dun care. We haven't even begun to explore who else might have been brought to life. We haven't explored people's reactions to things that occurred in that mountain. But we will. I just figured… that if we wait till then, we'd probably double the length of the chapter at least.
3) Yes! Wayland from Timothy Zahn's 'Heir to the Empire' series. As for what is happening with the clones. I am NOT just making that crap up entirely. If anyone played Star Wars Force Unleashed II. Starkiller is cloned and his clone continually gets back actual memories from the original and essentially replaces the original with everyone mostly just shrugging their shoulders at the difference. And clones of Jedi who are alive canonically are batcrap crazy. (Luuke). So I just took that one step further and extrapolated it from there.
[Plums - Joruus is the outlier, and in our mind, he's one of the later clones, so while batshit crazy, he has a 'slightly' better grasp on his mind']
He's also crazy though. And if Palpatine had Jedi why not his old master under control as well?
Harry hasn't seen a wizard cloned before so he has no idea nor has he considered it. So yeah. Harry just walked out of the mountain with a bunch of resurrected Jedi. Should be a REALLY fun conversation with the Jedi Council when that happens :D
4) Plums Pontificating: Kat: BLAHBLAH plums is awesome
Plums: I know right?
Kat: Ventriloquist he is not.
5) We had a small Emperor scene here so we could get a small view of things that are changing as well as an idea of time passing in the outside galaxy!
"It's a me!" - Aayla pointing at the clone.
"Mario!" - Plums
"They cloned me!" - Aayla
"You have to admire my restraint." -Harry
"Why?" - Aayla
"I did not make one reference to a threesome with twins." - Harry.
"You're an asshole." - Aayla
"Two heads are better than one?" - Harry
"Potter…." - Aayla
"Double the pleasure, double the fun?" - Harry
SNAP-HISS! - Aayla ignites lightsaber
"Okay, I'm done now." -Harry.
"What the hell is going on?" -Sirius
"Wakey wakey! You're in space and surrounded by aliens." - Harry
"You know… that's not even the weirdest thing I've ever been woken up to by a Potter." - Sirius.
"... I would say I don't want to know. But I kinda do." - Ahsoka
"Soulless Force users. Sentient Inferi. All kinds of bad." - Harry
"But you killed them! That is evil!" - Unknown complainer.
"Hey, it's Qui-clone!" - Harry
"Qui-Gon." - Ahsoka.
"But he's no longer gone! BA DUM TISH! " - Harry
SNAP-HISS! - Aayla AND Ahsoka
"No one appreciates a good pun." - Harry
"Bad guys love to monologue." - Harry
"And it's always crazy-talk." Sirius.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" - Plagueis
"Growing up in my family, you learn to recognize crazy talk. Whenever anyone sounds like my relatives really." - Sirius.
"Monologuing is an art! And one much maligned!" - Voldemort
"Go away. You aren't in this story." - Harry
"I know I'm forgetting something." - Palpatine
"It's kinda like forgetting your carkeys. You know they exist theoretically. But you have no idea where they've gone." - Harry
"Dobby not cause chaos this chapter!" - Dobby
"I'm sure you'll make up for it." - Authors