*Fun Fact: A phoenix doesn't have a shadow… you know… because it's on fire. Less a fact and more a musing, really.

A/N: I want to make it very, very clear that this is a standalone piece and everything will be explained as the story progresses. However, it IS set within a universe created by another fanfiction author.

The author rangermike posted two stories on FFnet: "The Children" (Books I and II) and "Descended from Heroes and Villains." In 2010 he allowed me to write a story based in that setting, which is what you're about to read now. Unfortunately, Descended and the Children - Book II were removed from FFnet awhile back. If you are unfamiliar with those stories, feel free to message me. I have copies of all the chapters saved in PDF files. It isn't necessary to read those stories to understand "Shadow of the Phoenix," but it doesn't hurt to read what it was based on. Plus, those stories were AWESOME!

I also want to give a huge shout-out to my Editing Gang. Without them, this story would be utter garbage.

I was asked what I wanted to achieve with this story. What my goals were. How it would be different.

In short, I want to sully the Star Wars universe. Bring its blemishes to the forefront. To bring a little realism to an overly optimistic setting where good and evil are black and white.

What happens to the Jedi when their corrupt leaders shroud themselves in righteousness? What happens to the Galactic Alliance, the successor to the New Republic, when it is allowed to fester and decay? What is the face of evil in a universe where 'good' is just a point of view?

No one's hands are clean.

Shadow of the Phoenix

The din of blaster fire filled the air. A distant shriek echoing down the street. An endless river of silver armor surging through the city. The screaming never ends…

The young dreamer came to with a splitting headache and noticed strange noises all around him. Distorted at first, the sounds slowly cleared until words became recognizable.

"—to be metal fragments embedded between the occipital lobes. It looks like a cranial implant, something he received well before we found him. It burned out and I've removed what I could, the database couldn't identify the fragments, so I think it's a prototype."

"I see. The Admiral wants to meet with the boy after he finishes his mission on Tatooine."

"He's unconscious at the moment, but his vitals seem stable."

"Alright, keep an eye on him; we'll be landing in two hours."

Taral opened his eyes and immediately regretted it as the bright sterile lights of the room burned his vision. His olive-green eyes felt dull and dry as he squinted against the light, blurry and distorted shapes slowly resolving themselves into a pair of humanoid figures and blocky furniture. He reached up to massage his temples in a futile attempt to dull the pain of the emerging migraine, but instead of feeling the soft strands of his hair, he touched the textured fabric of gauze bandages.

As his vision cleared he realized that he was locked in a force cage, wearing nothing more than tattered pants. His cell was a simple, one-person force cage; an energy field descended from the emitter ring in the ceiling in a circular, barrier curtain. Ignoring his injury, he reached out with the Force to dull the pain, but nothing happened.

Sliding a hand to his throat his fingers grasped a silver band and he felt electricity surge across his skin. He grunted in quiet agony as the muscle spasms amplified his headache, drawing the attention of one of his captors. She was an older woman, with salted hair and a white medical uniform.

"You're awake, good. How do you feel?" she asked as she pulled out a datapad and sat on a nearby stool.

"Where am I?" Taral asked, ignoring her question.

"You're aboard the Gayiyli; do you remember how you got here?"

"No," he replied, eying the room.

"You were with a group of trandoshans, raiding artifacts on Felucia. Does that jog your memory at all?"

"Felucia… that's the, uh…" Taral started, struggling to recall what he'd seen on the HoloNet, "the place with the mushrooms, right?"

"It is. You really don't remember?"

"No. A pity, I'd have liked to see the forest," he said before furrowing his brow, "What is the date?"

The doctor checked her datapad, unsure of it offhand. "The 23rd of Tispex, 457 ABY – Coruscant Standard."

Taral was silent as he calculated how long it had been since he last remembered. It came out to just over one year. Then he turned his thoughts to his captors, 'Coruscant Standard,' those glyphs on the wall, the guard's armor… Mandalorians, but which faction?

"Maybe we should start with introductions – I'm Doctor Tiffan'Staddo, and this is Verd Riorr," the doctor offered as she gestured to the armed guard near the door, "What's your name?" The question was met with silence and narrowed eyes, so she moved on. "Are you hungry? I can send for a meal if you wish."

His brows rose at the offer. Could he trust them? 'Verd' was a Mandalorian rank, but if they were Tlon Fett's marauders then this treatment made no sense – they should have been working him over with a serrated knife, not making small talk. In the end, his stomach answered with a low grumble, bringing a soft smile to the doctor's lips.

"I'll take that as a 'yes,' " she said as she pressed the comm button on her desk and signaled the ship's galley, "Please send up a tray of the 'late bird special' with a bottle of water to medical room 43a. No metal."

"Acknowledged. ETA: six minutes."

The woman nodded her head as she killed the link. "It won't be gourmet, I'm afraid. Military rations are an acquired taste."

Taral eyed the woman curiously. He ignored the guard because the man was acting as expected, but the doctor? "Why are you doing this?"

"It wouldn't do for you to starve to death under my care," the doctor said with a smile, "Not used to such treatment?"

"It's just unexpected."

Doctor Staddo made a note on her datapad. "There were metal fragments embedded near your brain stem. Do you remember receiving any cranial implants?"

"I have a pair of aftermarket tizowyrms, but nothing else."

"And those are implanted in the ear, interesting. I wonder if the fragments are related to your recent 'amnesia.' "

The doctor continued probing him with questions – who he was, where he came from, what he remembered – but received silence more often than not. A ding at the door brought an end to the 'interrogation' as a tray of bilerat stew and gihaal paste was delivered. The doctor offered her thanks and inspected the meal, ensuring nothing on the tray could be repurposed into a weapon. Satisfied, she placed the tray into a rolling duct which connected the Force cage to the outside.

Taral eyed the channel as he pulled the tray out, dismissing it as too small to fit through. The smell that filled his space might have been unpleasant, but he didn't even notice. He tore into the faux meat and gritty starches with wild abandon.

She eyed him curiously as he wolfed down what was generously referred to as 'food.' "Are you military? I'm never seen a civilian consume this gruel without vomiting; you almost look happy."

"I'm used to worse," he said with a mouthful of flavored protein substitute.

"I can only imagine," the doctor said, "Enjoy it while you can. Alitt'alor Fett wants to have a word with you once we land."

Taral froze in mid-chew as he heard the name, his brow quivering a moment before relaxing into a disinterested frown as he started chewing again. So they are part of Fett's gang. She must be trying to gain my trust before the torture, he thought as he wiped up the last of the gihaal paste with a sliver of haarshun bread.

"If you're ready, I had some more questions," she said.

The back-and-forth continued for several minutes until he refused to speak anymore. The doctor relented and returned to her desk, leaving the young man to his thoughts.

Last thing I remember I was strapped to a table on Dosuun. How did Fett get ahold of me?

He ran his fingers across the silver ring around his neck, smiling at the contraption that shackled him to the mundane. Force inhibitors were quite effective against Jedi and Sith as both groups literally radiated Force energy. However, there was a unique sect of Force-users throughout history who expressed their gift in the opposite manner – they were 'wounds' in the Force, acting like living siphons.

A tiny nudge with the Force would be immediately absorbed by the siphon, preventing the collar from registering and subsequently neutralizing the energy output. So it was that the collar's locking mechanism snapped and the suppression collar fell into his hand.

The sensation of reopening one's perceptions to the power of the Force was indescribable – like explaining color to the blind. Perceptions would expand and one could taste the galaxy for the first time; senses heightened, colors more pronounced, and sounds perceived at a higher level. The feeling was narcotic. The energy of the medical room had been flowing in a lackadaisical manner, like food coloring in a glass of still water. With the collar removed, the energy gained momentum and slowly began to swirl around him.

He lifted his arms in a mock stretch and used the Force to rip out the emitter's power cables, disabling the barrier curtain. As the curtain dissipated he threw the guard against the wall with a prepared Force push and rushed the soldier, swatting the doctor aside with a weaker throw. He slammed into the guard with his shoulder, wrestling for the blaster rifle even as it loosed several wild shots into the wall.

A quick palm strike to the helmet dazed the guard long enough for Taral to rip the rifle from his hands and shoot him in the stomach. He raised the rifle for the kill shot when the doctor leapt onto his back, scalpel in hand. She reached around to try and slit his throat, only to be blocked by the stolen blaster rifle and his unarmored forearm, cutting a deep furrow into the flesh and muscle.

Taral gave a roar of pain as he backhanded the doctor before smashing her nose with the butt of the rifle. He turned the barrel on her as she fell against a nearby cabinet, clutching her broken, bloody face. As he pulled the trigger he was tackled from behind and the shot went wide.

The guard kneeled over him, forcing a knife down even as he held the Mandalorian back. The blade inched closer as the guard put all of his weight into the push. As the metal made contact with his throat, Taral lashed out with the Force, but the guard was prepared for it and was unmoved.

Taral freed his right hand and pushed it against the guard's wounded stomach, using the Force to squeeze and pull his damaged innards. Even as he was overpowered and the blade bit into his skin, he was able to push it away and into his shoulder as the guard flinched from the internal attack. Doubling down, he shoved two fingers into the wound and ripped the knife out of the guard's hand, slamming the blade into the Mandalorian's throat.

Pushing the body away, Taral rose to his feet and wiped the guard's blood from his eyes, the groan of the doctor drew his attention as she struggled to stand. Grabbing her by the hair, he slammed her face into the cabinet and threw her to the ground, sitting on her chest and wrapping his hands around her throat. She kicked and clawed, but gradually became torpid as spots danced before her eyes and she lost consciousness.

Taral kept the pressure up, knuckles white beneath the blood. Kill or be killed, that was the one lesson of the universe. But as his heart calmed and the adrenaline left his system, his fingers went slack and the doctor gasped for air, coughing as blood from her nose flowed into her mouth. The coughing died down and her breathing steadied as he grabbed a pair of binders from the dead guard and chained the woman to a water pipe in the corner. He cursed his hesitation, but the doctor's kindness was too jarring to simply kill her.

With the doctor secure, he spent the next five minutes cleaning his wounds and sealing them with synthflesh. As the last of the bionetic gel hardened, he looked around the room and realized something was missing. Wait, where's Biala? He let out a frustrated hiss as he wiped the blood from his face and arms with a damp cloth, refocusing on his escape. No point in becoming distracted, not even for her.

The quiet whoosh of flowing air brought his attention to the doctor's desk. Squatting down he could make out the metal grate of a ventilation system pumping out cold air. The screws holding the cover in place began to unscrew themselves and fall to the floor. Taral gave a hard swallow as he eyed the cramped ventilation duct. If he'd had anything other than a scalpel and half-charged blaster rifle he'd have taken his chances with the front door.

Sucking in a deep breath he crawled under the desk and climbed into the claustrophobic opening. The duct was cramped, barely enough room to fit his shoulders which dragged against the freezing metal. Once his feet were inside he managed to close the metal grate and reattach it to the wall with the Force. He gave a few calming breaths before dragging himself through the metal tube.

He crawled for what felt like hours through the endless twists and turns of the labyrinthine ventilation system. His skin rippled with goosebumps and his teeth chattered without pause, it made him wonder if avoiding a fight was really the most prudent choice. Beyond the crippling anxiety of cramped spaces, the greatest threat he'd faced so far was hypothermia and the two maintenance droids he'd crushed, hopefully they wouldn't be missed.

Cold, cold, cold, cold… fucking cold.

Taral crawled through the frigid shaft for several more minutes until he heard a peculiar noise. It came from a secondary shaft that branched off to the right at an intersection. He hissed in pain as a shard of exposed metal near the connection joint sliced through his bicep. Blood poured down his arm, but quickly coagulated in the freezing air. He ignored the discomfort and followed the noise to a vent cover that overlooked a dark room. Using the Force, he forced the hatch open and pulled it into the shaft so as not to make any noise. He looked through the hole and saw nothing but darkness in a vast empty space.

Hmm? Taral looked up and saw a turbolift rushing toward him. There's my ride.

As the lift passed, it blocked out what little light was available and as soon as the light returned he leapt from the vent and landed on the roof as it slowed its descent. He made his way over to the grated maintenance hatch, careful to maintain his balance. Let's see who's riding this thi— What the fuckity-fuck? A lone devaronian Jedi entered the turbolift and pressed one of the higher floors. A Jedi? On a Mandalorian ship?

He pushed the stray thought out of his mind and began to open the hatch as quietly as he could, all the while flooding the Jedi's senses with perceptual 'white noise.' The Jedi remained oblivious even as Taral dropped to the floor behind him and grabbed his horns before wrenching his neck ninety degrees. He then used the Force to throw the body through the maintenance hatch before leaping through himself.

The distant sound of a siren suggested the doctor had been found and his cover blown – best to hide any further victims. He took a moment to examine his mistakes as he picked over the Jedi's body. In his rush to escape, he'd not properly probed the ship through the Force.

Hmm, basic white and brown robes and… Taral's thoughts ground to a halt as he beheld the devaronian's lightsaber, a snap-hiss bathing the lift tube in yellow light. "Wow, this thing's garbage, no wonder they don't focus on the blade arts."

He stripped the body of its clothing and discarded the tattered pants he was wearing, realizing too late that the Jedi's attire was the wrong size. He discarded the bandages on his head and released the long brown waves of his hai—

Taral's eyes went wide as his hands ruffled the buzz cut he now wore, the stubbled scalp reminding him of his time with that pirate gang. He gave a groan at the memory, staying his annoyance before pulling the large hood over his brow. His head had been throbbing since he awoke, and with the bandages now removed he felt utterly wretched; he touched the inflamed tissue beneath the hood and winced in pain. Ignoring his discomfort, he dropped back into the turbolift and closed the hatch with the Force. He walked over to the control panel and pressed the emergency stop button. As the turbolift jolted to a standstill, he pressed the haptic button for the orlop deck and began his descent.

He stood in the center of the lift, contemplating his current situation and wondering how he became a Mandalorian prisoner. His thoughts were brought back to the pain emanating from his skull; what was it from? The cranial implant the doctor mentioned?

And then it hit him.

"If you won't stand beside me as an ally, then you will kneel before me as a slave."

Taral let out a sigh as the memory passed. Oh, Vath, why must you hurt me so?

His thoughts were interrupted as the turbolift ground to a halt and the doors opened up to a small lobby. He tried to appear as nonchalant as possible as he walked past dozens of armed and armored Mandalorians; it seemed to work as none of them paid him any mind as they rushed to their stations. The alarms were still blaring, the sound reverberating in his skull like a hammer to an anvil, but he avoided plugging his ears for fear of drawing attention.

A large holographic map on the wall caught his eye; near the center-left were the Mando'a words for 'Hangar Bay.' It wasn't too far away, only a minute or two. He received several glances along the way, but no one looked too closely. The alarms had finally died down, but everyone was still tense.

The doors to the hangar opened as he approached, revealing an expansive room filled with fighters and support craft. Most of the ships were suspended from the ceiling, held aloft by vertical columns with horizontal struts. Luckily, there was no need for him to climb, as there were several starfighters resting on the floor.

The RP-16E Venom heavy-fighter took the basic design of the RP-16 Venom fighter and extended the body, filling the new space with additional armaments and equipment. Each had the same basic paint scheme as all the other ships in the hangar; the ion engines and its stubby wings were coated in a desert-tan, while the cockpit and most of the hull were painted a light burgundy.

Taral approached the heavy-fighters with an appraising eye, trying to decide which of the identical craft to steal. "Eenie, meenie, miney— Fuck it, this one'll do."

He opened the canopy and jumped in, getting his first view of the controls. Mandalorians used a hybrid analogue/haptic interface, he had to admit it was a clever design – the Alliance and Imperial navies made extensive use of haptic-exclusive technology, leaving them vulnerable to enemy hackers and EMPs. He was also pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the controls, not that it did him any good. With increasing frustration he began pressing buttons and flipping switches, quickly locating the air-conditioning… the exact opposite of the fighter's ignition. The Force remained silent in this time of need and even seemed to mock the young Force-user's ineptitude.

I'm almost happy you're not here to see this, Biala.

After five minutes, during which he activated a radio which played only the Mandalorian national anthem and found he was incapable of turning the damn thing off, Taral found the ignition knob. The fact that it was clearly labeled 'ignition' just made him grumble in annoyance.

As he reached for the knob, there was a rapping on the transparisteel canopy from one of the Mandalorians. "Jetii, we've been over this before, you're authorized to roam the Gayiyli, but you are not cleared to poke around the starfighters. Please get out and return to your quarters."

Taral ignored the man and turned the ignition knob, powering up the ion engines and awkwardly lifting the fighter off the deck, bumping and scraping against anything close by. Alarms went off in the hangar bay as the staff and pilots quickly mobilized. The pilots ran to their fighters as Taral made off with his RP-16E, their only hope was to rush after him and hopefully shoot him down… unless they were actually competent, in which case they could quickly corral the stolen fighter back to the ship without issue.

The hijacked fighter passed through the bay's magnetic field just as the control room switched it from a passive barrier to an active one. The pursuing Mandalorians were delayed for a second or two as the field was again switched to passive.

The RP-16E Venom heavy-fighter had an inferior Class 2 hyperdrive, so his options for escape were fairly limited. There was a nearby planet and he could just make out the lights of a city in its shadow. It was actually part of a binary planet system, orbiting an almost identically-sized world. The slightly larger of the two was a light brown color, suggesting prairie and desert. The smaller planet was an emerald sphere covered in lush, green forests. It was the Onderon-Dxun binary system.

Only one way out, Taral thought as he slowly turned toward the planets, Shit, where's the turbo on this thing? He pressed several buttons and watched as the ship's spotlights activated. "You gotta be fucking kidding me! Where the fuck— 'H-Drive,' perfect!" he whooped as he pushed the lever forward and felt the increased g-forces of the ship's acceleration.

The starlight shifted to blue as the hyperdrive spun up and prepared to leave behind this banal dimension. It was risky jumping so close to a planet's gravity well, but if he could just skim the perimeter of it he could put some distance between him and the crui—

His starfighter gave a hard lurch and his chest strained against the harness. He looked around as the stars returned to pinpoints, desperately trying to discover the issue, only to curse when he realized he was caught in a tractor beam. The projected force-field pulling him back to the ship as a small group of fighter-craft began circling him like a flock of Wayland clawbirds.

Taral began pressing buttons, hoping to find a way to break free of the tractor beam, but nothing worked. One of the knobs tuned into the radio-feed of the other pilots, the ship speakers erupting with various jibes in their native Mando'a, mocking the piloting skills of their target. His eye gave a twitch as he listened to their conversation, desperately trying to keep his composure and ignore the urge to explode with rage and invective into the radio mic.

It didn't last long.

With a growl, he activated the targeting systems and prepped the fighter's missiles. Hearing a soft chime, he opened the mic and punched the launch button. "Suck my torpedoes, motherfu—" Only instead of torpedoes and missiles launching… the windshield wipers activated. "…Goddammit."

He let out a withering sigh as he closed his eyes and slumped in his seat, head lolling back against the headrest. The jeering pilots on the radio faded from his perception as he resigned himself to fate. Should've taken a piloting course.



Master Tokare Venra sat in his hoverchair as the stolen fighter was brought back into the hangar bay. The old Jedi had been meditating on the ship's bridge, reflecting on the state of his mission, and was rather impressed the prisoner had managed to escape, for the most part, undetected.

Yesterday, under orders of the Mandalore, he'd been dispatched to Planet Felucia to recover dozens of hidden artifacts. The data cache was carefully hidden away within the gullet of the Ancient Abyss, a mega-sarlacc pit of titanic proportions. Long ago the holocrons and other artifacts had been sealed away in watertight, armored crates and brought to the pit by one of Mandalore's ancestors. They took the crates into the belly of the beast, cut open the lining of the creature's stomach, and placed the crates within the wounds, protecting them from digestion and later excretion.

After several standard months, the wounds had healed over and there was no trace of the crates. The only way to detect them was through the Force or by using highly sensitive gear. However, they were only detectable from within the Abyss and no one would be crazy enough to actually search through the stomach of a sarlacc.

And yet, that's exactly what happened. Thieves had descended into the belly of the beast, cutting through scar tissue and ripping out the hidden crates. Master Tokare and a team of Mandalorian Supercommandos arrived before they could flee, butchering the thieves to a man – all save one.

A Dark Jedi in matte armor ripped into the group like a dire-cat, red lightsaber slashing to-and-fro. Two of the men he'd brought were left crippled, while he himself brought the young man down. And yet, when felt through the Force, the boy seemed absent, as if he was a stone or a piece of durasteel. It didn't make sense, unless the boy was a wound in the Force. Force wounds were not unheard of; several 'area-wounds' existed throughout the galaxy. Places of unimaginable genocide, when an entire planet's population was wiped out in a single moment. But a Force wound within an individual was almost unheard of outside of the Jedi Exile Dacen Vorsut and the Sith Lord Darth Nihilus.

Tokare had read the accounts of the Sith Civil War and the memoirs of the miraluka Jedi, Visas Marr. Her account of the time spent in servitude to the Lord of Hunger was utterly horrifying. A man who literally sucked the life out of anything he was near, to the point that his very presence in the same room could kill.

He could perceive a small amount of Force energy flowing into the boy, but it did not drain the room. Perhaps this boy was weaker than initially suspected, or perhaps this wound had only recently manifested itself. It was enough to completely mask him within the Force, his escape going unnoticed until Doctor Staddo was recovered. The old Jedi attempted to find the escapee through the Force, but the boy's aura was too weak against the din of the ship's crew.

Tokare watched the boy as he stepped out of the cockpit, discarding his dark brown cloak and activating his stolen lightsaber. The old Jedi frowned as he looked upon the robes the boy wore; he'd feared the worst when he felt Jedi Knight Manu Grahrk's aura fall silent.

His frown became thoughtful as the boy flipped the yellow blade behind his back and assumed the idle stance of the reverse Shien technique. When they'd dueled inside the Ancient Abyss, the young man had relied solely on the Ataru technique. The reverse grip was almost as rare as the Vaapad form – the most recent practitioner of note was an Imperial agent named Starkiller, and he had died over four hundred years ago.

Taral felt the thrum of the lightsaber in his palm as he surveyed his opponents. Mandalorians and… hmm? He thought as he looked upon Master Tokare. It looks like a frog… but feels like a Jedi.

"Much hate in your heart. Turn away from the dark side. Only suffering will it lead to," Tokare pleaded.

Taral counted twenty-three Mandalorians in front of him and dozens more on their way. They were no threat to him, at least not in his mind. No, the only one that gave him pause was the diminutive Jedi sitting in the small hoverchair. He'd never seen such a creature before and it made him curious.

"Surrender, dark one. You need not die here," Tokare said.

"You're pretty chatty for a corpse," Taral said as he walked toward Tokare.

The Mandalorians readied their weapons as Master Tokare stood upon his hoverchair and ignited his lightsaber, the blazing viridian blade bathing the small Jedi in silver-green light, accentuating his natural olive skin. "Enough blood you have spilled. Allow you to kill anyone else, I will not."

The tiny Jedi leapt from his chair toward the Dark Jedi, hoping to catch him off guard. Taral smiled as the Jedi leapt at him, bringing his lightsaber up in a defensive position he caught the viridian blade and pushed back. Tokare landed feet-first on the ground before leaping up and jumping off a nearby fighter plane, landing above Taral on the wing of a Venom fighter.

"Ataru, eh? Reminds me of a teacher back at the Academy. Rat-faced bitch!" Taral said as he fell back on the Soresu technique.

The form kept the blade close to the body and allowed for quick blocks and short-range strikes. The style was pure defense, meant to wear out a foe and then strike when they became fatigued. Taral watched the Jedi's every move, waiting for him to make a mistake and leave an opening. The effort left his mind fatigued; the migraines were still present and the bright lightsaber beams and the crackling noises they made when they touched made the pain more intense.

He did everything he could to keep his face from betraying his inner weakness. Master Tokare seemed to believe the feint and in an attempt to end the duel himself, Tokare used the Force to throw his lightsaber at Taral. The blade spun in a circle as it flew through the air, making it look like a disk of green energy. Taral reached out with the Force, grabbing the lightsaber and tossing it aside, only for Tokare to guide it into the support struts and force Taral to dodge the falling starfighters.

Rolling out of the way he switched to the Djem So technique and actively attacked the Jedi Master. It was his preferred attack style, meshing well with his reverse grip and aggressive personality.

He's definitely a Master, but something's off. Jedi aren't usually this skilled with the blade.

He brought his saber down hoping to kill the helpless Jedi, but instead he was blocked by a beam of silver-green plasma. Rearmed, Tokare managed to hold Taral back with a strength that belied his small frame.

The angles of his blows and the diminutive target he painted were the only advantages he held. For all his strength and skill, Tokare could not sense his opponent's movements and he was a bit out of practice using only visual cues. It was like fighting a droid; the Force remained silent until just before the blade struck.

Tokare leapt from wing to wing trying to disorient the boy and bring him down. But nothing seemed to work, as yellow and viridian blades clashed and met blow for blow.

Realizing there was no advantage to his height, he jumped down to the floor, leaving himself vulnerable for but a fraction of a second. It was all the time his opponent needed. Before his clawed feet touched the floor, he was hit with a massive wave of Force energy, sending him flying into the hangar wall. The Force wave spread out and pushed apart the fighters on either side of him. The cold duracrete wall splintered from the impact, only his connection to the Force saving him. As his body slumped to the floor, he was struck with a powerful surge of Force lightning.

It was at this moment that the Mandalorians opened fire on Taral who nimbly leapt over one of the fallen Venom fighters, using the Force to roll the ship at the soldiers on the other side. The gunfire died down as the Mandalorians scrambled out of the way – two were unsuccessful. Master Tokare struggled to his feet despite his concussion, and was hit with another surge of Force lightning, another minute of this would kill him utterly.

Two dozen Mandalorian troopers swarmed over the wreckage and opened fire. Taral juked back and forth, evading any blaster bolts he couldn't deflect before leaping into their ranks and cleanly decapitating one of the soldiers. Those within striking distance unsheathed their vibroblades as they rolled away, trusting the cortosis-weave to protect them from the swirling yellow beam of death. One bold swordsman struck out with his blade and bit into Taral's side as he was distracted deflecting blaster fire. The combination of blades and blaster bolts succeeded in forcing him to retreat – several burns and cuts marring his skin.

Taral fled behind a pair of heavy-fighters and tripped a swordsman with the Force when he got too close, pulling the man's blaster pistol into his hand as he spun around and swung at the man's neck – only to miss as the soldier rolled free. He cursed as another volley of blaster bolts rained down, one of them breaching his defenses and striking him in the thigh as another burned a hole into his hip. He dove behind a broken starfighter, shooting his blaster as he scrambled behind cover. The shots were glancing and ineffectual, but succeeded in forcing the Mandos into cover.

Taral took a moment to catch his breath, his stamina dwindling and his Force energy reserves nearly tapped. The lightning and throws had consumed too much energy, and now he was left to rely on his blade and blaster – exhaustion kept at bay as his frustration and anger fueled the dark side. He cursed his circumstances before he heard the clatter of debris landing nearby. He turned his head and his eyes went wide as he beheld a dozen fragmentation and flashbang grenades not a meter away. Acting on instinct he hit the pile with a tepid push and shielded himself with his forearms.

The explosion sent him flying into the side of a starfighter. The back of his head smashing into the metal as his ears rang and his skin tingled. He pushed himself off and staggered behind another fighter as his position was swarmed with more grenades. Ignoring the mild concussion and shaking off the last of the flashbangs' effects, he took a page out of Tokare's handbook and flung his lightsaber toward the ceiling.

Captain Ventralez of Clan Fett watched his men with a critical eye, his defection from the Galactic Alliance gave him insights that would be lost on those born and raised in Mandalorian Space – like when to call it quits. Brute force and numbers would win the day eventually, but victory by attrition would carry too great a cost. This became all the more obvious as the hangar struts gave way and starfighters rained down upon his men. The Captain ordered one of his snipers to subdue the Dark Jedi with a tranquilizer dart. The soldier changed out the standard blaster ammunition with a tranq-dart magazine from his utility belt, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

Taral gave a grunt and ripped the dart out of his neck before shooting the Mandalorian who had tried to flank him, the blaster bolt bouncing off the reinforced chestplate. Captain Ventralez cursed as he ordered several more shots fired, but the Dark Jedi was prepared and deflected or dodged the next wave of darts. It was then that he reached out with the Force and strained to drag several starfighters into a defensive wall – only to let out a frustrated curse as the ships refused to budge and even more grenades landed nearby. He stumbled away as the small bombs detonated, not even attempting to push them away.

Ventralez grabbed a tranq-mag and rushed the warrior. The barbs of the darts stuck out the side of the magazine – making it an effective, though crude, delivery system. He leapt around the broken ships strewn in his path, but before he could stab the Dark Jedi, he received a weak bolt of Force lightning to the chest, followed by a blaster bolt to the knee.

"Fucking worthless Mandalorians! You think I'm defenseless?!" Taral spat with unconcealed hatred, "Why won't you just stay down?!"

A swordswoman came up behind Taral, blade held high and prepared to strike, but before she could strike, he spun around and cut off her hands. She screamed out in pain even as the blaster pistol came up to her forehead.

Captain Ventralez regained his footing and rushed Taral, driving the darts into his neck as the blaster bolt passed through the woman's skull. Shock and outrage plastered the young man's pale features as he felt the darts empty their contents into his veins. Captain Ventralez gave a small victorious smile as Taral spun around and brought his lightsaber up in a diagonal backhand strike – the blade cutting through the Captain's abdomen and severing his left arm.

He crumbled to the floor in three pieces as Taral ripped the darts out of his neck and felt their effects. He stumbled and braced himself with his left hand, vision swimming as his eyelids grew heavy. It would take all his strength and concentration to keep this fight going. Have to kill them… freedom before… submission…

Taral kept fighting despite the fatigue he felt, but he knew it was hopeless. One of the Mandalorians saw an opening and hit him in the back of the head as hard as she could with the butt of her rifle. He dropped to his knees, the damaged tissue from his impromptu surgery screaming at him in quiet agony as it was further inflamed. He grit his teeth through the pain and tried to stand, blocking the follow-up strike with his forearm – only to groan as his left ulna shattered under the force. A snap-kick to the face dropped him belly first to the floor. He tried to repel her with a pulse of energy, but it was barely more than a strong breeze. She struck him in the back of the head one final time, rendering him unconscious. She raised her rifle to crush his skull and avenge the lives of everyone he'd just killed—


The soldier froze and turned to see Master Tokare struggling to his feet, having regained consciousness.

"He is not to be killed. In solitary confinement he should be," Tokare said.

The remaining Mandalorians moved to carry out Tokare's orders. The majority of the reinforcements from throughout the ship had arrived near the end of the battle; with the fighting over, most turned their attention to their dead and wounded brethren, while others worked to clear the broken vehicles and scaffolding.

Tokare looked at the boy as two soldiers picked him up and moved him out of the hangar. There were too many questions that needed to be answered and Javen would be very interested in this boy, if they could subdue him. The old Master reasoned that with a suppression collar the boy would be no threat – they must have made a mistake the first time he was caged.

"Make sure the suppression band is working and attached properly," Tokare said, as the Mandalorians dragged the boy away.

A/N: The concept of a Force wound nullifying the effects of a Force suppression collar was brought to my attention after reading the second chapter of "Dark Redemption" by Scythe404 at KotORFanMedia, back when that website was still active. I borrowed the concept and adapted it to my story. I wanted to expand the explanation while simultaneously making no mention of midi-chlorians. Why? Because fuck George Lucas, that's why. AND because after watching Belated Media's "What if Star Wars Episode I/II/III was Good?" videos, I consider them to be proper canon. Some people just do it better.

In the original draft, Taral was an overpowered monster of a Mary Sue. He swatted Tokare aside like nothing and laid waste to the Mandalorians. Ah, memories. It's shameful to think how pitiful my writing ability was at the time, but thankfully it's improved. I remember the message rangermike sent back after I gave him the rough draft. He said it was good, but that I had made Tokare far too weak, and he was right. First-time writers make a lot of mistakes. Main character Mary Sues are one of them.

Another mistake is creating a boring, shallow character. Something the Editing Gang helped me fix. The new and improved Taral is at least 20% less punchable!