I can clear up that it was just caedus that saw the fleet, the rest of his fleet thought he was losing his mind.
I wanted to point out in regard to Nyax, that he was boosted WELL beyond his usual powers during that battle because of the well of force energy from the jedi temple,
Also, I would agree that Luke didn't "come into his own" in TUF, but simply let show what he had the ability to do all along. A problem he may have had early on in NJO is that he was fighting Vong, who if you remember posed a problem that the characters of pre-NJO material never faced: the jedi could not feel them in the force. In combat, that made them completely unpredictable, and took away the main advantage that jedi hold in hand to hand combat. We don't know if top tier characters such as mace or yoda could have dealt with Vong as easily as luke was able to, even prior to TUF.
This is a quite innovative thread, and an incredible idea. I'd certainly like to be a part of it, even though my main downfall, or restriction (to me at least) is my lack of sources. I simply haven't had the time and money to get all the books and such that some of the younger participants have, what with a full-time job, going back to school and having 2 kids. But should you see fit, I'd love to be a part of it, Gideon.
Luke ignited his lightsaber and sliced into the gap he'd been peering through, widening it.
Lord Nyax watched as his workers swarmed toward the warriors he could not sense. He did not like the fact that he could not feel them, but he did enjoy seeing his workers kill them-though it was usually at a cost of twenty or thirty workers per warrior.
But he was summoning more workers from all around. No matter how well they hid in the ruined undercity, his call reached them and forced many, most, to climb free of their hiding holes, to stumble and then walk and then race toward the scene of this conflict.
And he could feel the wall weakening. Soon it would give way completely. The woman who had told him of this wonderful machine-he thought she was up at its summit, making it move-had been right.
Then he sensed something and looked up. A bar of en-ergy flashed, and three people fell out of a hole in the ceiling.
They drifted laterally to the top of the slope of the black wall, riding it down, using their power to slow their descent, keep their balance, increasing the friction between the clothes on their feet and the wall's surface.
Lord Nyax moved to be beneath them. He ignited his blades, all of them. He knew they'd be here, knew it from the moment they stopped chasing him. He wished they'd go away instead of tiring him.
The foremost of them, the male, slid down until he was not far above Lord Nyax's reach, then leapt free, somersaulting to land somewhere behind him. Lord Nyax reached out as the male came down; he slid a sharp-edged piece of stone toward the male's landing area, timing it so that the stone would shear through the male's legs. But the male slowed his descent and rotation, landing atop the stone instead of in front of it, and bounded off, toward Lord Nyax. Meanwhile, the women leapt clear of the stone, spinning down toward him, igniting their weapons as they came.
Lord Nyax leapt free of the center of their formation, bounding up over the head of the red-haired female. He hit the stone wall feetfirst, shoved off, and rotated to a landing many steps away from the three pests.
Then he made a thought and drove it into their heads.
It hit Luke like a razorbug fired straight through his forehead. Luke staggered under the pain. His back hit the irregular floor. He waved his lightsaber up and in front of him, a defensive form, but there was no follow-up blow for him to counter.
There was, however, a new priority. He was to switch off his lightsaber and then go attack the Yuuzhan Vong. He leapt to his feet and turned his weapon off. He could see Mara and Tahiri doing the same.
But that would mean dying-and, worse, failing.
No, it's what he had to do.
No, he couldn't do that.
He stood, frozen by the dilemma, straining against the thought that filled his mind, the thought that was slowly driving out every other consideration.
So he did what he had to whenever he was confused. He reached out, touching Mara in the Force. He didn't have to open his mind to her; his mind was as open as it could be, held open by Lord Nyax's thought. He just had to reach for her, and she was there, locked in as much confusion and pain as he.
She had no answer for him. He reached for Tahiri and found her to be identically immobile.
He felt Lord Nyax grow impatient, then angry, and Lord Nyax expressed his anger through pain. Luke felt his fingers and toes, hands and feet, shins and forearms explode. He fell, writhing, then stared in amazement as he realized that his limbs were still attached-the pain was real, but no injury had caused it. He could feel Mara's pain, feel Tahiri's.
There was something different about Tahiri's. He looked over to where she lay.
She was rolling to her stomach, forcing her way to her feet. Off-balance, weaving as she stood, she nevertheless managed to pick up her lightsaber and ignite it. She looked at Nyax, anger blazing in her eyes. "I know something about pain you don't," she said. "Pain drowns other people. I just swim in it." She took a step toward her tormenter.
Luke could feel Nyax's anger, his moment of confusion. And though Luke couldn't move, he could act. He reached out through the Force and grabbed the stone that Nyax had tried to use against him moments earlier. He jerked it toward his enemy.
And though he was weakened by pain, by distraction, it flew those few meters and slammed into Nyax's back, driving him forward, slamming him off his feet.
Tahiri leapt forward, bringing her lightsaber down in an all-out attack. Nyax managed to get one of his arm-blades up to intercept it, then kicked out, shoving off against a pile of rubble. He slid away from Tahiri, and the slide continued well past the point that it should, carrying him clear of her... but he left skin and blood behind on rubble he crossed.
Luke felt Nyax's astonishment, his outrage at having been wounded, however trivially. Then Nyax drove another thought into Luke's brain: Kill Tahiri.
This time, Luke was ready for it. He'd had a moment to center his thoughts and, most important, emotions. He was ready with his memories of Tahiri, all the time's he'd been delighted as she'd made another gain in her study of the Force, all the hopes he'd had for her future and happiness. He could hold up like a shield his memory of her love for his nephew Anakin Solo. All those memories blunted Nyax's attack, shattered its speartip.
Luke reached for Mara again and found her similarly armored, but with logic, not emotion. Running through her mind was a cold calculation of allies and opponents, actions and consequences. Uppermost in it was a realization that Nyax could rule any individual, and out of individuals whole galaxies were made.
But deep beneath the analysis was a stream of emotion, an awareness of their son Ben, of what he would be if Nyax could find him and shape him.
Luke came up on shaky legs, felt Mara doing the same. And though Nyax was not letting up on the pain-energy, it affected Luke less now. He could feel Tahiri's part in that, the way she opened herself to the pain, was not daunted by it, was not shut down by it.
They faced Nyax as a single creature. The part of them that was Mara rejected the false truths Nyax tried to impose upon them. The part of them that was Luke rejected the false hatreds, the lying enmities. The part that was Tahiri made the pain part of what they were, a fuel for their strength.
Nyax looked between them, and a flicker of distress, a childlike expression of fear, crossed his features.
Then all four of them felt the wall break. Whatever was beyond it roared forth to sweep them away.
Above Borleias, on a routine surveillance sweep in her X-wing, Jaina Solo was jolted out of her detachment by a surge in the Force. She could feel Luke and Mara in the surge. She knew they were in danger. And she could see Kyp's X- wing wobble as he, too, was hit by the sensation.
Thousands of light-years away from Borleias, Ganner Rhysode, Jedi Knight, kept a firm hand on the controls of his rickety transport as he closed the last few meters to dock with the space station ahead. But his arms spasmed as the Force seemed to howl at him. His transport jerked forward, hitting the docking bay at a greater velocity than he intended. As he shook his head to clear it, he heard the dockmaster over his comlink: "Idiot."
In an artificial environment dome, part of an evergrowing station hidden away in the Maw, Valin Horn,
Jedi apprentice, jerked awake so violently that he fell from his narrow couch. He sat up, trying to remember what nightmare had caused this reaction, but he couldn't. Then he heard the wailing of the infant Ben Skywalker from two compartments down, the voice of an adult trying to soothe him, the voices of other Jedi trainees as they compared details of what they'd just felt.
Rushing up a flight of emergency stairs, Bhindi ahead of her, Elassar behind, Danni stumbled as the sensation hit her. She crashed down atop the steps, bruising shin and ribs, and lay there gasping.
Elassar knelt beside her. "Don't move. Let me look."
"I'm not hurt." She ignored the Devaronian and heaved herself upright. She knew she had to look as rattled as she felt. "Something happened. Something just...got loose."
Luke swam out of a sea of-not pain, not shock, but something between exultation and complete confusion. His back was against a mound of rubble, and his wife and the girl were beside him. He couldn't remember their names, or his own.
Red fluid dripped down upon his shoulder. He craned his neck to look up and saw a body on the mound above him, that of a human man. Its right arm was missing and blood poured down the rubble below, one stream of it pooling and then dripping onto Luke.
Luke. That was it, Luke. And Mara and Tahiri. And the Yuuzhan Vong, and Nyax. Luke rose, saw his lightsaber a few meters away, and yanked it to him with a casual display of the Force. It struck his palm with far more energy than he'd intended, and he dropped it again.
Then he saw Nyax, standing beneath the hole in the black wall. The hole, one of the construction droid's wrecking claws still within it, was twenty meters up. Nyax danced on the pile of rubble beneath it. His was the uncoordinated, artless, dance of a child. It was a dance of joy.
Mara rose beside him. Luke had known she was unhurt.
"Force energy," she whispered.
This must have been a wellspring of it, he thought. The old Jedi Temple must have been built above because it was here. They were guarding it. And guarding the planet from it.
Nyax finished dancing. He turned to look at the Jedi. His expression was so full of uncomplicated happiness that it seemed impossible that he would ever try to hurt them.
Nor did he attack them now. He simply raised a hand.
Above him, a portion of the ceiling, a plug some ten meters across, shot straight up and out of sight. Debris rained down, but drifted to one side before it could hit Nyax. Tremendous crashing noises emerged from the hole above, and the walls all around them began to shake.
Tahiri joined Luke and Mara, tucking something away in her backpack. "We're in trouble," she said.
One of the advantages of running around in a lawless, ruined city several kilometers deep, Face reflected, was there was always gear to find.
Such as this airtaxi. It had been perhaps the thirtieth one he'd seen since leaving the Jedi, the fourth undamaged one he'd come across-and the first one to start up with a single press of the controls. Now he roared along the tumbled canyons of Coruscant, following a comm beacon, keeping well below rooftop altitude.
It was a necessary precaution. He saw a lot of coral-skippers. All seemed to be heading toward one location.. the same location he'd recently fled.
He reached the vicinity of the beacon, gained until the signal was its strongest. That put him directly opposite the collapsed corner of a building. He could see something shining silver there-a simple antenna, attached so recently that nothing had had time to grow on it; no dust or soot had darkened it. "Face to Kell," he said. "I see your antenna."
"Drop six stories and drift over to the next building. Come in the first big window," Kell answered. "The access to where I am is in the main chamber there."
"On my way." Face lost altitude and sideslipped. He peered in through the shattered viewport of what had once been a luxury apartment, could see the stairwell reaching from the ceiling. He gunned his thruster and crashed through the framework around the viewport, then cut power. His airtaxi dropped half a meter to the floor.
Seconds later, he squeezed in through the access hatch of the vehicle named Ugly Truth.
Kell was above him in the pilot's seat. He didn't turn around. "Did you feel something a couple of minutes ago?" Kell asked.
"Good. Me either, then."
Face looked up through the cockpit viewport at the jumble of rubble overhead. "Do you really have enough explosives to blast through that?"
"Approximately... but that's not what we're going to do."
"A detonation like that might damage this frail little flower of an escape ship." Kell pointed down toward his feet. "But the building wall on that side isn't a support feel their confusion, too. Nyax, his objective accomplished, had released them. As their volition returned, their physical exertions, their outrage at the way they had been violated for so long, overwhelmed them. "I have to get up there," Luke said. "Persuade them to drive that thing out of here before the building comes down."
"No, you don't," Mara said.
He looked at her, surprised at such a merciless, unnecessarily cruel statement. But then he sensed her amusement at his mistake.
"Just tell them," she said.
Luke reached up and found minds-dozens of them, all receptive to the Force. In the wash of Force energy emerging from the crack in the wall, he found he could reach any of them, all of them.
He projected a strong demand for silence, a sense of calm, and could feel them quiet. Then he formed a picture in his head: the building collapsing, the construction droid driving in reverse to get away. He projected that image with all the strength he could muster, bolstered by the Force wellspring.
He felt them react-shock... and then belief. In moments he heard the metal tower's engines roar again, and could feel their intention to crash their way back out through the rubble pile behind them.
Luke thumbed his lightsaber into incandescence and marched toward the creature with Irek Ismaren's face. Let's finish this.
But Nyax, ignoring him, lifted straight up into the air and floated up through the hole his Force powers had made. In a moment he was out of sight. wall. Support comes from the building's metal skeleton. So I've planted shaped charges to blow that wall out."
"And then what?"
"And then I hit the topside nose repulsors. We tilt forward, I hit the thrusters, we punch free, and we rotate for a while, everybody screaming and vomiting, until I regain control."
"Kell, sometimes I hate you."
"Yeah, but I'm still the best pilot you ever saw."
"Where are the others?"
"En route. I got a comm message to them."
"How? There are kilometers of rubble between us and them! A comm message couldn't possibly penetrate."
Exasperated, Kell finally did look down at his leader. "Do you remember something about us putting a sensor package up at rooftop, then running a direct cable down so Danni and Baljos could get a constant sensor feed?"
"Never mind, never mind, I get you now. I'll set up for the others getting here."
The hole above Nyax's head widened. No more rubble poured down upon him. Instead, sunlight did. First it was a tiny shaft; then it broadened into a blue-white column of brilliance. He bathed in the light, held out both hands to capture it, rubbed it into his cheeks.
Luke could feel Tahiri's sense of shock; it matched his own. "Did he drive a hole all the way to the surface?" she asked.
"I think so," Luke said. He turned his attention to the beings at the summit of the construction droid. He could
Danni, Elassar, and Bhindi scrambled in through the access hatch.
"Take the seats forward," Face ordered. "These rear ones are for the Jedi; we don't want people climbing over each other when they board. Copilot's seat is mine. Where's Baljos?"
"He's staying," Bhindi said. "Instead of me."
Face sighed. Once it became likely that resistance cells would be of little use here, he'd told Bhindi to pack up for a return to Borleias. He hadn't anticipated Baljos being so resistant to having his studies cut short. Baljos's choice here might prove to be a scientific boon someday... or it might be a useless way to commit suicide.
But it was Baljos's choice.
Face dogged the hatch shut, then struggled up the makeshift ladder and into the copilot's seat. He strapped himself in, "Ready when you are."
"Boom," Kell said. He thumbed a hand remote.
The Ugly Truth rocked as the wall beneath its keel blew out into the street beyond.
Kell didn't wait to evaluate the situation, the size of the hole. He shoved his control yoke and the transport lurched forward. Face's stomach rose into his throat as the transport leaned out into the open air above the avenue, then leapt free of the building to plummet nose-down toward the ground.
The construction droid's internal turbolift opened and the Jedi stepped out into the machine's topside control chamber.
The scores of people packed into the chamber didn't notice them. Their attention was riveted on the forward viewports. Beyond them, mounds of rubble were falling away.. - and beyond hovered a cloud of coralskippers.
Even as the construction droid burst out into sunlight, the coralskippers opened fire, pouring plasma bursts into the machine's front face. Shocks from impact points dozens of stories down rocked the control chamber. Diagnostics screens lit up; alarms blared. Tatterdemalion workers who had, minutes ago, been mind-controlled slaves now shrieked, possessed again of enough intelligence to realize that their doom was at hand.
"We've got to get them out," Tahiri said. "The weapons-"
Luke shook his head. "This droid's weapons won't do much against coralskippers. We have to use other weapons."
Mara said, "Us."
Luke raised his voice, drawing on the Force to strengthen it. "Everyone out! Down the emergency stairs. Don't take the turbolift; it's evil." He added the mental image of the turbolift snapping open and shut like the mouth of a malevolent carnivore.
The Coruscant survivors continued shrieking, but crushed forward toward the two opposite stairwell exits, leaving the Jedi some room in the middle. The parting of the sea of flesh also gave them a clearer view of the coral-skipper formation and the incoming plasma fire.
"That fountain of Force energy is what made Nyax stronger," Luke said. "It's pure power... and we can use it, too." To demonstrate, he raised a hand like an orchestra conductor... and a mound of rubble against a building a hundred meters ahead rose into the air. Luke clenched his fist and drew it toward him, and the rubble swept toward the construction droid.
The coralskippers to the rear of the formation had no chance. Chunks of duracrete, stone, and ferrocrete plowed into them from behind. Dovin basal singularities snapped into position to swallow some of the improvised missiles, but even that was not enough. Luke's missiles smashed into yorik coral, sweeping coralskippers out of the way.
Eyes wide, Tahiri mimicked Luke's gestures, but with the face of a building to their left, to the right of the coralskippers. Chunks of facing blew forth from the building, hurtling and falling among the coralskippers.
Mara continued to add her voice and her Force presence to the orders Luke had given, spurring the workers to flee more quickly, but most of her attention was on the chamber's controls, its walls and ceiling features. She found what she wanted and reached up to undo a hatch in the ceiling. Bright light spilled in from above and a metal ladder lowered. She went up topside.
Coralskippers rose from the formation in sudden flight, attempting to get away from the stream of crude projectiles, but those who rose first ran into another stream, this one moving much faster; chunks of rock and duracrete pounded into the yorik coral, eroding it like a super-powered sandblaster, destroying those vehicles.
At first Luke thought that Mara had initiated that attack, adding her strength to his and Tahiri's, but he realized after only a moment that it felt wrong. He leapt up through the hatch Mara had opened, landing beside her on the construction droid's roof. Tahiri was only a second behind him.
From here, they had a clearer view of the sky full of coralskippers and of the ziggurat behind them.
From the ziggurat emerged a column of rubble. As it rose, it parted, arcing away from its point of emergence in all directions like a water spray. But this spray was being flung kilometers in every direction, chewing through building tops and coralskippers as it landed.
And above its center, where the rubble no longer rose, floated Nyax. Giant boulders danced in and out through the rubble spray, weaving a lovely spiral through the air.
"Another Jedi academy graduate," Tahiri breathed. "He can lift really big rocks."
"Very funny," Luke said. He gauged the leap from the construction droid's roof to the nearest solid surface on the ziggurat, decided they could make it. "Let's go."
Viqi heard a noise in the distance, a roar as if some dam had finally opened its valves to let countless tons of water through. The floor rumbled under her feet.
She ignored it. She ignored the pain in her wrists, pain caused by her struggles against her bindings; those struggles had gone on until she'd found a jagged piece of metal protruding from a wall, and now she was free again.
She reached the Terson's apartment building and the floor of their chambers. She was trembling with exhaustion and dripping with sweat by the time she stumbled into the living chamber... and then she froze, almost all remaining hope draining from her.
The secret access stairs were down, and, of all things, an airtaxi rested in the middle of the chamber.
She took the stairs up as fast as she could and stared in anguish at the hole in the wall through which the Ugly Truth had left. All her work was undone. She would have to start again, searching, hiding, surviving, until she could find or repair another functional spacecraft.
Well, it was likely that the airtaxi was functional. That was a starting point. She descended to give it a look.
On the front seat was a pile of preserved food from the Ugly Truth, and a note: