Knowing Normal's Hard to Fake

The galactic Republic is currently enjoying a time of relative peace during the centuries following the events of the Mandalorian War and the Jedi Civil War. All is not well however, for Sith lords and ancient threats thought gone and buried long ago have begun to stir. On the outer rim, where the Republic's strength is limited and planets are often left to fend for themselves a conflict is brewing which, if left unchecked, could mean the end of all life in the galaxy.

As the former Jedi, Seras Victoria, struggles to master her new relationship with the Force and regain the power she once had, her master's master is forced to hire a band of mercenaries to bolster her planetary security force, following the unexpected and bloody attack that claimed the lives of more than half her Mandalorian warriors.

Meanwhile, on the surface of a planet housing one of the Jedi's most far-flung training academies, a battle rages...

Chapter 1: Recovering

"Stay together! Don't let them through! Cover your flanks! Sweeping fire, men, sweeping fire!" A scared veteran ordered in a voice tinged with barely controlled panic. What were these silver monstrosities? Where had they come from? And what could they possibly want from a hole-in-the-wall farming community on the hind end of space? Most importantly, where were those Jedi guardians when you really needed them?

"Observation: their center is too tightly packed. A plasma mortar would cause maximum carnage," The synthesized voice of one of the silvery machines of death commented with more than a hint of genuine enthusiasm, its frame shinning with reflected blaster rife.

"Opinionated response: How delightful," an assassin droid beside the first cooed as three droids in the back of their formation stopped, pulled inventory sacks from off their backs and with mechanical precision assembled a plasma mortar in a matter of seconds.

A glowing shell briefly lit up the night sky. It reached the apex of its flight and hung for just a split second before descending like a falling star... a falling star with death trailing in its wake. The center of the human formation exploded in a sea of plasma. Five men were simply dissolved by the wave of energy. They were the lucky ones. The rest of those in the center, those not bearing the brunt of the blast, were assaulted by flying balls of plasma that effortlessly passed through armor, cloth and flesh alike. Those 'fortunate' enough to not have any vital organs melted from them, by the balls of heat, suffered the fate of their clothes and skin catching fire from the impact points, the flames quickly spreading to consume them.

Men screamed and cried as machines looked on in satisfied pleasure. "Amused comment: Maximum carnage indeed."

Then, out of the dying plasma flames, glowing sabers appeared. The men who were left broke off their firing for a split second and cheered as hope returned to their hearts.

The Jedi had arrived.

The machines stood firm as the Jedi charged. The mechanical creations seemed to care nothing for themselves as they were decimated by the enemies' lightsabers. The dozen or so Jedi cut down more than a hundred of the machines in a matter of minutes. Even still, more came.

On a hill overlooking the battlefield an ebony sphere turned to a Wookiee and a heavily tattooed, very 'butch' looking woman. The spherical machine protected a blue hologram from its northern half. "They've finally sent out the Jedi. Good, good. You may now begin your mission," the blue tinted, pudgy man in a business suit instructed as he tapped his fingers lightly together.

"Yes, Sir," the woman answered. "I'll drag those little brats out, and to those who dare to stand in my way... I'll bring their darkest nightmares to life and laugh as they squirm. Then when their minds are broken I'll end their lives and take the last flicker of light from their eyes!"

"Have your fun, Zorin, Just see that the younglings are intact when they reach me," the hologram replied in a warning tone.

The woman suddenly felt a cold chill run down her spin. "Y-yes, Sir. I will not fail."

"See that you don't."

The woman saluted and then turned and headed for the academy in the distance.

The Wookiee said nothing, nor did he give any indication of what he may have been thinking. He simply followed in the woman's wake, silent as the grave.

Seras walked the halls of Integra's mansion, the same mansion which doubled as the planetary defense force's base of operations. The place seemed so... empty. In truth, thanks to the recent addition of a large band of mercenaries, the mansion was nearly as populated as it had been before the sneak attack launched by the Hellsing organization's mysterious enemies. But, though Seras knew that there were nearly as many people present, there was a big difference between knowing... and feeling. And Seras was still having trouble feeling anything.

The surprise attack had changed her, severed her connection to the Force... or at least irrevocably altered it. She could sense the Force in others. In fact she could sense its subtle nuances working more strongly in them than ever before. Thanks to her master's training she was learning how to manipulate those nuances and even draw on them herself. 'You have a choice now, Seras,' Alucard's words echoed in his apprentice's mind.

'You can be either a lens... or a siphon. As a lens the energy of others will pass through you, both allowing you to draw on it temporarily and simultaneously focusing it to enhance the capabilities of those closest to you. This creates a bond between the two of you, a bond not wholly unlike the one we share... but to a much lesser degree. As a siphon you draw energy from those around you and make it a part of yourself. You leech not just strength from those closest to you, but their very essence. You can slowly consume them until all that they are lies within you. And you become all the more powerful from this experience. These techniques are not mutually exclusive either, my apprentice. they can both be learned and utilized for different situations. But as with any journey only one path can be traveled at a time. As for which one you will learn to map first, the choice is yours to make, Seras.'

For Seras the choice had been an easy one. She had no desire to 'consume' anyone. She chose to be a lens, to strengthen those around her as she united them into something more than the sum of their parts. Seras never regretted her decision in this, nor did she question what she would decide if she were given the choice once more, yet she did notice a side effect of this path that she found rather inconvenient. She didn't like to be alone.

No one liked to be alone all the time. Human beings were social creatures after all, but this went beyond innate desire for company. Without the any spark of the Force within her, Seras felt rather like an empty shell when deprived of the company of others. The feeling was more than simple loneliness, though that was a part of it. Hunger was another part; she craved the presence of others the way a starving man craved food. And she was cold - so cold - not physically but somewhere deep within the core of who she was.

Then, suddenly, in the chill of the night, in the midst of the darkness, Seras caught a flicker of warmth and light. And like a moth being drawn to a flame, she followed it, followed it right to the door of Integra Hellsing's office.

Her master's master was within and, from what Seras could sense was, not eager for the company of another. The Mandalorian leader was frustrated, upset, and violent thoughts flashed through her mind. Her organization had been attacked, her men killed, and she still had no idea who was behind the attack or why it had been launched. And then Seras sensed something else from the woman on the other side of the door. It was similar to despair, but not as strong. No, not despair, uselessness.

Seras thought about going into the office and trying to cheer up the other woman - sometimes all one needed to brighten their day was someone to talk to about what was bothering them. But the fledgling Sith apprentice decided against it. Without a rouse, Integra would question why Seras was coming to her, and if the Mandalorian leader discovered the truth, she was not likely to be pleased by the revelation. She was after all a very private person, and she would doubtless view Seras's empathetic connection as an intrusion into that privacy.

So, instead, Seras stayed outside the door and used what she'd learned from her master to try and filter out some of the more negative feelings radiating from his own master. It was a symbiotic action, giving warmth and substances top Seras as it - hopefully - simultaneously comforted Integra.

"I see the boss lady's just as intimidating to you Jedi," A husky voice whispered from somewhere behind Seras, snapping her out of her near trance.

The Sith apprentice then felt the warmth of another presence, one she'd failed to notice growing nearer as she'd been concentrating on Integra. This new presence was lighter, more spontaneous and tinged with a slight aurora of lasciviousness. Seras turned around to find herself face to face with a rather scruffy looking man.

He wore a dingy brown coat. His hair was long, red and constrained into a great braid that wrapped around his neck before trailing down his back. He had a black eye-patch over one eye; and the other was an emerald green that somehow seemed to speak of experiences best left unsaid and new mistakes the man was just waiting to make. He was a man who had seen more of the universe - both good and bad - than most people even suspected existed, a man who routinely got himself into tight spots, who'd won and lost countless times... and yet regretted nothing.

The man lit the cigarette dangling between two fingers and waved the match out with his other hand. He then extended that same hand towards the girl staring at him so intently. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced. I'm Pip, Pip Solo, head of the Wild Geese," the man said leaning in slightly as a roguish grin pulled at his lips.

Seras hesitated for a moment. Something about the man made her feel... strange. But she sensed no maliciousness from him. So, she extended her hand and shook his. "Seras Victoria, pleased to meet you."

Okay, finally, I've managed to post the first chapter of this sequel that I've been promising for like six months. :P Sorry about the long wait, but I hope you all had fun with the chapter. I've entered a 'story swapping deal' with Lion in the Land, where we both post a chapter to our sequel stories every other week, alternating weeks so that we're not posting at the same time. (So... tag, Lila, you're up. ;p) And the next chapter to this should be up in about two weeks. In the mean time, if any of you happen to be Harry Potter fans, you should check out Lion in the Land's new story: "Charity Burbage and the New Prince". If it's anything like her previous Harry Potter fic - "Professor Burbage and the Potions Master" - I think you'll really enjoy it. I did, and I'm not even a HP fan. Well, anyway, hope you had fun and stop back in in two weeks for the next chapter.

Have a good day, and God bless.

Metropolis Kid.

PS. Oh, and if the title of this story sounds familiar to anyone, that's probably because it's taken from the lyrics to Stone Sour song: Socio. Good song, by the way.

PPS. Sorry about the first chapter bouncing around so much. I kinda needed that to kick things off. Future chapters will - hopefully - be a bit more linear.