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Engines of Heaven: Heathens Among Us

Posted on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 @ 4:24pm by Bomoor Thort & Thane

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Lander departing JSD Great Manifest (Boundary of the Nea Glarist Blockade, Yutani System, High Promise Sector, Mid Rim
Timeline: Shortly after "'Beware the Jedi'", 1,213 ABY


This post takes place in 1,213 ABY, around four years before Thane and Bomoor encountered the Cult of Axion on Nar Shaddaa, during their earliest years as Jedi Knights.

"But False Prophets also arose among Her people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the lords who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the Terrible Glare will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if the Goddess did not spare Renunciates when they sinned, but cast them into the Void and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the final judgment; if She did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Contispex, a herald of righteousness, with seventy others to come, when She brought Her First Glare upon the ill domain of the sacrilegous."


Seripture: Centax Revised Edition

Adinorr 2:1-21





Thane's nose was twitching, bothered by the smell of the cramped hold he and Bomoor were occupying. His disturbed presence in the Force was also quite evidence to his crushed companion, as the Jedi Guardian's claustrophobia - well-known to Bomoor - was growing with each passing second they remained stowed away there.

"Do you think Thurius and Sotah went through this?" The Human asked his friend, trying to shift his shoulder unsuccessfully, prompting a tirade of grumbled curses.

They were only a few minutes into the journey, having departed from the Star Destroyer with a minimal escort, executing Master Dunrar's foolhardy plan to get Thane and Bomoor engaging with the locals of Ord Yutani's capital. As per the scheme, to maintain their cover, they had adorned less-descript robes, being plainer than their usual Jedi fare, and had been instructed to sneak their way from the diplomatic party led by Dunrar just a few minutes after landing. The Neimoidian master had faith that simple mind tricks would get them past any inspections from the 'Glarist' authorities that would examine the Republic lander.

"I am sure they have a whole number of less dignified assignments they don't regularly share with others," Bomoor tempered his voice slightly, knowing the Ithorians' strong vibrations could be unpleasant in close quarters, "In fact, did you ever hear that story about old Master Korigulus when you were a padawan? There was a rumour that he had once packaged himself in a crate of Muja fruit and tried to ship himself all the way to the Outer Rim just to infiltrate some Hutt's stronghold. Problem is, he didn't pay enough tax on the shipping and found himself impounded before he'd even left Coruscant."

That almost prompted a laugh from the disgruntled Human, who was anything but settled in their awkward confinement. Even so, he was pleased for the distraction and concept, as he imagined the extended bulk of Korigulus, a large specimen, even by Amani standards, crushed inside of a crate. Even so, he was not then able to muster up enough control and focus to manage any further conversation, as the rest of his energy was devoted to dealing with the unpleasant feelings threatening to overwhelm him - one of his most embarrassing traits as a Jedi Knight, and one he was thankful for keeping largely concealed.

Eventually, they felt the lander make its way through the planet's atmosphere and adjust his pitch and yaw, bringing itself ever-closer to the designated landing pad for the newest attempt at negotiations, still concealed to enact Muster Dunrar's lofty plan.

When the vessel landed, the jolt felt more obviously from the cargo hold that they inhabited, than if they had been actual passengers, it was not long before the pressure seals could be heard adjusting. Faint voices, well-muffled by the distance and metal separating them from the two hidden Jedi, were just about audible from beyond, as the crew, both security and diplomats, spoke with local authorities and disembarked.

Given the mistrust, not just from being a former Outer Rim Alliance supporter in the recent conflict, but also because of the tenuous situation of the Glarists' control over the system, non-Republic figures could be sensed by both Jedi entering the compartments and examining them, in spite of diplomatic protocol. Whilst it was not a welcome development, it was one that they and Dunrar had anticipated, and they readied themselves for the impending inspection of their cargo hold.

"Care to do the honours?" Thane prompted Bomoor, regarding the upcoming need to bedazzle their soon-to-be foe, using his left hand to wipe away some sweat that had gathered on his forehead.

Whilst he would have liked to have blamed the poor environmental systems for the cargo hold, given it was not designed to transport complex lifeforms, it was most certainly from his own dismay at the journey to the planet.

With a silent nod, Bomoor carefully, but quickly manoeuvred his large frame from his squashed position and shot to a less concealed position beside the door, wincing slightly as his cramped muscles ached from prolonged inactivity.

A few moments later, the door slid open and a man garbed in an unfamiliar red and gold uniform stepped in carrying a thin blaster rifle. His eyebrows raised as he quickly spotted the hulking Ithorian casually lurking by the door.

"Oh, hello," hummed Bomoor, as though it was merely a friendly encounter. He subtly waved his fingers through the air as he continued, "This cargo hold is empty. You can continue inspecting the other rooms."

The man's expression seemed to drop for a moment before relaxing and he parroted back the words, "This cargo hold is empty. I can continue inspecting the other rooms."

He then turned around and left without further comment. The pair could then hear him continuing to walk along the corridor and enter the other rooms. After several more minutes, the sound of boots in the halls subsided and they sensed that the only ones left aboard were the skeletal flight crew, remaining in the cockpit.

"Well, that must have been one of those Neo Glarists Dunrar was talking about," Bomoor speculated, "I guess it's not too hard to manipulate someone who's already open to indoctrination. Shall we slip out and meet some more? I'm quite intrigued as to how they have grasped control of an entire system like this."

"He had a face covered in dirt and hand-me-down armaments and clothing," Thane observed with a bit of subdued confusion, bringing himself round to where Bomoor was now taking himself, the pair of them fully disembarking from the back of their Judicial lander.

A warm evening air had greeted the pair as they fully exposed themselves to the elements of Ord Yutani. The vessel they had stowed away upon had landed on an official government landing pad attached to the ministerial building nearby, where the faux diplomatic overtures would continue to be made by both opposing factions in this peculiar civil disturbance. The system's primary was close to setting in the far distance, causing long shadows to stretch from the two Jedi and their lander, but it offered a picturesque view of both the far-off terrain and the nearby city, which appeared dominated by markets and simplistic residences, in spite of the large government building spearing up from its centre.

Listening to the sounds of civilisation rising up from Marathon's marketplace, which they were afforded a grand view of, in spite of how high up they were and the distance between them, it would be hard for an observer to think there was anything untoward plaguing this humble Mid Rim agriworld - although the scars of the Second Outer Rim Conflict were still somewhat visible. Positioned off-centre from one of the more open areas was a Conflict-era terrain walker of Republic design, which had been pulled apart and adapted into some manner of commercial enterprise.

Whilst that appeared innocuous, there was one alarming element that certainly drew Thane's attention.

"That symbol," he said, gesturing to the inert walker. Next to a large panel that had been cut away to form an improvised window was a broad area of plain metal, on which a shoddily-graffitied symbol was emblazoned in gold paint. "The inverse of the Chancellor's symbol of state."

By the walker's legs and interspersed about the marketplace were also more figures dressed in the same manner of regalia as the man that had approached them at the cargo hold. Some wore mismatched outfits that had been coloured in the same scheme as that man, whilst a select few wore a more-organised variant. If they were the enforcers of this upstart and secessionist religious order, there was a grim number of them policing the populace (even if they did not seem to care or notice, intentionally or otherwise).

Twisting his eye stalks slightly, seemingly trying to imagine it the other way up, Bomoor hummed solemnly, “There’s nothing that cries dissident quite like cannibalising a symbol of authority. Still, there is a difference between mocking a symbol and wearing it with pride.”

As they looked over, the pair of gold and red-garbed individuals began to move in the direction of the Jedi. They did not appear to have noticed them watching, but Thane and Bomoor made sure to subtly move away to avoid any attention from the Glarists and to move further into the marketplace properly.

Pretending to show interest in a woven trinket on the closest market stall, the Jedi continued their discussion, “We should speak to some real locals and see how deep support for this occupation really goes,” Bomoor suggested, “Perhaps the clueless Ithorian act should make a return?”

Thane grinned. "It is a good act," he admitted quietly, coming to faux-inspect the trinket his friend was holding aloft, even though neither of their eyes were really examining the object. The stall owner did not seem to care - there seemed to be no concern about the guests purloining her property in any way.

The younger Jedi then cast his eyes across the marketplace again, trying to get a better assessment of the population they were seeking to blend in with. He shook his head at the trinket, took it from Bomoor, and put it back on its hook, which only earned the pair a brief look of frustration from the stall owner.

"How about these jewels?" The Caanan asked aloud to her, putting on a slightly affected Rim accent, being less upper-Coruscanti than his usual voice, to avoid too much suspicion. "Do you have any others?"

As she went to obtain another tray, Thane spoke quietly to Bomoor again. "Just be careful with it; the clueless Ithorian might be a good trick, but you're also the only Ithorian here." His youthful blue eyes did some more searching. "I think you might be the only non-Human or Near-Human, even. I don't think these Glarists buy into the One Republic ideals of this new Supreme Chancellor of ours."

"Noted," Bomoor hummed solemnly, allowing the casual Xenophobia that still prevailed in the galaxy wash over him, "But hopefully it will help sell the 'clueless' part if they already hold that prejudice."

As the shopkeeper turned a modest interest towards Thane in the light of a potential sale, Bomoor took the opportunity to slip away and towards the repurposed walker where the Glarist enforcers had previously been hovering. As he got closer, he re-aligned his movement into more of a shuffle, allowing the weight of his modest hump to fall upon him so that his head curved slightly down so his eye stalks were now more at an average humanoid height level. It was a posture that was almost apologetic of his hulking form as though he should feel ashamed of his body's natural size.

He could see now that a large rectangular window had been cut out of the base of the fallen vehicle, through which a small kitchen had been crafted. Between the legs, several mismatched tables and chairs had been assembled. Only one table was occupied by a couple of middle aged Human males, who were focussed on their own conversation. They did both, however, spare a quick glance at Bomoor as he approached, looking him up and down before returning to their conversation.

There was another older Human female busying way in the kitchen with her back to the window. A light sizzling could be heard as she swilled something in a pan, sending a pleasant peppery aroma out through the window into the makeshift dining area. Lined along the window were an assortment of ingredients, with vibrant, life-filled colours that sat in stark contrast to the steely grey and rusty orange of the defunct walker.

Bomoor tentatively reached out a hand to one of the bowls, containing a mixture of sprouts and gave it a delicate shake, "Scrubroot," he commented, making sure his voice held the accent of someone less familiar with basic, but still understandable, "Does dis' grow, lo-co-ly?"

The woman turned a grizzled face towards him, revealing she wore a patch over one eye, although she had swept her frizzy greying hair over towards that side, which covered most of the strap. Like the men outside, she used what gaze she had to size up the Ithorian.

Flicking a spatula upwards and using it to gesture in his direction she said, "Put that down leather neck. No free samples, s'pecially not for off-worlders."

Placing her other hand on her hip she frowned, "Where'd you come from, anyway? You ain't with that 'pub craft that just touched down, are ya'?"

A difficult observation to explain, given the timing of his appearance, but one Bomoor would have to deny given that their presence here was by no means official or welcome. Placing back the bowl carefully he answered, "Not Republic. I 'rive two day ago for to trade. Small Herd ship 'Bolchees'."

If the woman had spoken Ithorese, the Ithorian word for 'spatula' would have been a bit surprising but, as expected, did not raise an eyebrow in this instance.

"But lots red and gold man all about," Bomoor continued, "Who are them?"

The pan beside the lady began spitting and she turned back, "Aw kark," she exclaimed, violently scraping the singed contents with her implement for a moment before resuming to talk, her back now to Bomoor once again, "Don't you know anything? Those are the protectors of the faith, like my own son who was just stopped by. The Archprelate asks all able men and women to rise up and serve the faith."

The woman’s general frustration and hostility made it hard for Bomoor to read whether she was sincere in her comments about this faith. Even after all this time with Thane, the complex mixtures of emotion the Human face and body could present were still difficult to read when the Force was less clear to him.

“Your son,” he enquired carefully, “He want to serve this faith?”

“Course,” she bit her lip as she examined what unburned food still remained before her, “We’d all give our right leg an’ more for the faith. Submittin’ to the Goddess has raised us above the others in the Galaxy. Showed us we don’t need to be under no Pub’ heel, no sir!”

Her vigour had risen as she spoke the words, looking up and out the window towards something immaterial so that she once again found herself neglecting her cooking. She looked down after a moment’s silence and pried the sticky mass out onto a bowl.

“You want summa’ this?” she thrust the dish at Bomoor, “S’all greens. Or, at least, it was. Be’ five creds if you want it.”

The dish did not look appealing, but since a refusal would likely mean abandoning the conversation and drawing the woman’s ire, Bomoor fished around in his pouch to find some currency, being careful not to expose his lightsaber concealed on his other hip. He produced the five credits and accepted the dish.

“Thanking you,” he bowed his head, taking a moment when his head was obscured to roll his eyes before bringing them back to the woman’s level, “How long…”

“You know,” the woman already began to speak again as soon as she had checked the credits, “You’d be wise to speak to our local prelate about joinin’ the faith. Ya’ seem like a nice leatherneck but that won’t save ya’ when we’re called to our holy crusade. My boy was tellin’ me the other day that even aliens like yerself’ can convert to the faith. You’d be… what did he call it? A ‘Rimkin’. That was it.”

“Oh?” Bomoor raised an eyebrow with perhaps a bit too much curiosity, “How… geeni-rous. Sounds good. Where would us find the prelate?”

Seeming pleased with herself at having secured a potential convert, the woman leaned out of the window, once again brandishing her spatula to point the way down the dusty road, “There’s the chapel down the street. Got the goddess statue right outside it so ya’ can’t miss it. Why dontcha’ go there now? You can drop the bowl back later.”

Bomoor looked that way and saw some kind of pre-fabricated building with a metallic humanoid statue outside. He turned back, “Much thanks be to you. Good day.”

He shuffled away with his untouched meal and back out into the street. Almost immediately, he felt the presence of Thane sidling up to him as they proceeded in the direction of the chapel.

"A bit of casual racism, but not yet ready to be strung up as an apostate?" The Human Jedi asked somewhat casually, maintaining as much of the offworlder-traveller look as they could maintain between them. He had only caught some of the conversation between the Ithorian and the local, but their new destination was plain to see.

The brief and awkward conversation Bomoor had very publicly maintained with the woman seemed to have dismissed some of the troubled expressions they had been garnering from those closer by, but it would likely be a brief reprieve; the Human-centric populace were clearly eyeing Bomoor warily and, by extension, Thane.

"Their home-grown religious militiamen are everywhere," Thane added in a hushed tone as they passed another poorly-equipped pair of zealots conducting their rounds near the marketplace. They each bore the inverted chancery symbol on their cobbled-together uniforms and were wielding Conflict-era weaponry that should have long been requisitioned by the government and recycled. "And what they lacked in quality," he continued, looking quickly back at the pair as they rounded on a couple of children that had been playing boisterously, "they clearly made up for with enthusiasm."

“A bit too enthusiastic for my liking,” Bomoor cautiously hummed, now back in his usual more-practiced Basic accent he had learned from his father, “The woman mentioned some kind of Holy Crusade. So this Archprelate may have his eye on more than just dusty old trading outposts.”

"If it was just dusty old trading posts," Thane countered, tugging at the collar garments that were beginning to accrue a small amount of sweat from the increasingly-muggy evening, "they wouldn't have dispatched a Jedi Master and a senator out this way. I reckon more than a few in the Senate committee that half-arsed the plan to manage Ord Yutani have heard the name Contispex - and the somewhat genocidal fancies of yestercentury."

“Don’t worry about me though,” Bomoor then quietly chuckled, “I’m to be converted to a ‘Rimkin’, don’t you know? Don’t tell Quellus about my new religion, okay?”

"Oh," Thane began to reply, although his voice began to trail off a little as the din of a nearby crowd began to become apparent to you. "He... he already knows- What is this?"

The young Jedi Guardian's dark eyebrow had arched up at the congregation of people assembling in increasing numbers around a tall and spired building, which was clearly the chapel they had been told of. It was shaped in a style reminiscent of archaic churches as depicted in the fables most Humans were raised on, being the stereotypical view of the outdated ancient chapels; it had stained-glass windows running along its walls, depicting some unknown figures and historic events, and had a steeple reaching up towards the sky, with a brilliant glass depiction of that same inverted chancery symbol.

Long banners stretched down along the bare parts of the exterior walls, akin to those seen in the main town, albeit of a much higher quality, made of silken materials and clearly well cared-for. The stonework was fresh, the building evidently having been built much more recently than the rest of the surrounding areas, with great attention to detail. A large archway formed the entrance to the chapel, where a wooden platform had been erected, which is what the crowd was gathering around, with a central wooden pole erected at its centre. In front of that pole, dressed in ornate and ceremonial robes in the colours of the Glarist patrollers, was a singular figure, his arms held aloft.

This figure - some manner of priest - wore a long, pointed hood. Two holes had been cut into the hood, where his glaring, Human eyes could be seen to peering out from within, and he moved awkwardly about the stage he dominated before the chapel, aggressively addressing the crowd.

"My brothers!" He appealed loudly, facing one side of the crowd. "My sisters!" He continued, moving rapidly over to the other. "Hear me now, for heathens walk amongst us, denouncing Her and spreading deceit amongst Her Chosen! Spawn of the Voidborn poison the minds of our children, praising the ill minds of the Renunciate Republic and its Jedi to avert her Glare and steal from you Her Terrible glory! Strong we must remain; persistent must our vigilance be, to keep the Renunciates from our doors - to keep the Renunciates from our stores, pantries and factories, lest they seize our livelihoods to feed the unclean! The Renunciates beget unholy war; they turn infidel against infidel, at the cost of those in Her Terrible Glare. Never again must we stray from her Sight; never again must we let unbelievers rule our destiny!"

There were some cheers and jeers from the crowd, causing Thane to frown in their direction. As in most areas they had seen, more of the Glarist guards were present at the periphery of the crowd, watching inwards to spy the reactions of the so-called faithful.

"Hyperbolic and meandering," he criticised to his Ithorian friend, even as he noticed the Human-heavy crowd, despite the comments from the store-owner earlier. "It just sounds like anti-Republic rhetoric. Fear-mongering." His eyes washed over the attentive followers. "But they're lapping it up."

“I have yet to see anything all that convincing yet,” Bomoor murmured, “I mean, the Republic is not perfect, but what could possibly convince these people…”

He trailed off and his eyes widened as he spotted what was being wheeled out from behind the supposed-priest; a battered and pale Rodian man in tattered spacer clothes, tied to a sack truck. The crowd began to jeer and boo as he came into sight.

“Here, my brothers and sisters!” the preacher continued, “See the false man and the bringer of lies. One must only look at him to know he is not worthy of Her great Glare. Yet the Renunciate Republic would call him kin and place him as our equal. It is this blasphemous fallacy that has kept us from reaching our true potential all these years. Kept us in the dust and the dirt with this beast and his brethren. Well, I say: no more!”

TBC

 

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