Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels: Day 29, "Pizzeria Kamikaze"

Great, original premise for this graphic novel: everyone who commits suicide finds themselves in a new world, slightly worse than the "real" one, populated only by others who have committed suicide.  The book has a really interesting feel to it, as the main character, a guy who works at a pizzeria and pines after a girl, tries to figure out the rules of his new environment.  I'm not describing it very well, but it's a great example of the virtues of independent comics (though it was based off a short story, and, according to IMDB, made into a movie).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Template: A Novel of the Archonate (Planet Stories)

There's a lot to like about this novel:  an interesting, creative, and engaging setting; an unusual lead character; and a good mystery to keep the pages turning.  The settled galaxy is known as The Ten Thousand Worlds, and each of the handful we're introduced to in Template are culturally distinct and memorable.  The first half of the book especially is extremely engaging and quite the page-turner, as the author has the admirable trait of letting the reader figure things out and avoiding info-dumps.  The story slows down once the main character reaches the homeworld of the female love interest, and the rest of the book, while satisfactory, is not as original or tightly-plotted.  Template is one of many novels set in The Ten Thousand Worlds, and I'd like to check out others.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Robots Have No Tails (Planet Stories # 21)

This was an enjoyable collection of short stories about an amateur inventor-for-hire.  The stories are very light-hearted and intentionally comical SF, with the major premise being that the inventor is only successful when extremely drunk, and can never remember how or what he invented when sober (suffice it to say, these stories were written when chronic alcoholism was thought of as hilarious rather than tragic).  His creations are usually gonzo strange, involving time-travel, other dimensions, etc.  Although the Introduction disagrees, I actually thought the first story was the best, in which the inventor was a secondary character and an extraordinarily clever lawyer was at center stage (but I like law, so my bias is apparent).  I did find the stories lost some of their fun near the end of the collection, but they were meant to be read individually and not back-to-back.  Overall, an interesting and unusual departure for the Planet Stories line.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012 Regular Season Review

2012 started off slow for the Transcendent Sun Runners as I had a 2-3 record after 5 games.  Then, everything clicked and I reeled off 8 straight wins to finish the regular season 10-3, with the best record in the league!  I had the best of both worlds: the highest offensive production (averaging 97 points a game) and the lowest points against (just 77 points a game).  Obviously, I can only take credit for the former while the latter is sheer luck.  But I'm okay with that!

For the season, my real find was Bucs RB Doug Martin.  I picked him solely on the thesis that he would see a lot of carries and would be a steady starter, but I wasn't expecting him to be one of the most productive backs in the league.  Picking up R.G.III in a late round (as my third QB, actually) just in case he ended being another Cam Newton worked out astonishingly well.  DeMaryius Thomas & A.J. Greene gave me my best wide receiver tandem since I started fantasy football a few years back.  I adopted a new strategy this year regarding D/ST.  Instead of trying to find the "best" one and sticking with it unless they were up against an extremely high-powered offence, this time I reversed my focus.  Instead of trying to find a good defense, each week I identified the worst offensive teams in the league and picked up whatever defence they happened to be playing; it's worked like a charm, as I exploited sure-fire failures like Ryan Lindley quarterbacking in Arizona.  The only major draft pick I made that didn't work out was Aaron Hernandez at TE because he got injured early; I managed to get by with some average replacements, but now that he's healthy I'm putting him back in the line-up for the playoffs.

I once again have the top seed in the playoffs; hopefully, unlike previous years, I can ride regular season success into playoff success.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 53

Here we go--the epic conclusion to the Clone Wars campaign, something that spanned over three years and was by far the best role-playing campaign I'd ever directed.  It's nice synchronicity that this post comes the day after I started directed a Rebellion/New Republic era campaign, with most of the same players (though different PCs).  Running this campaign was a great experience, as it led me to meet people who became real friends outside of gaming, served as something for The Wife and I to spend endless hours enjoying and talking about, and was my major creative outlet.  There's a lot to talk about here, so let's get into it.

You'll note that the opening crawl really has absolutely nothing to do with the events that went down in the session (even though there's some discussion about Order 66 and the end of the war when the players reach Mongui).  I had really worked hard in the campaign to have the Clone Wars serve as the epic backdrop to the events the players were involved in, but remaining faithful to continuity also meant that I couldn't have the PCs directly involved in how the war turned out.  In the end, I spent much more time on establishing continuity than the players cared about, which was a good lesson to take away for the future.

Perhaps the most striking thing that will strike a reader after going through this is that Arresta doesn't take part in the epic final battle.  The Wife role-played her character to the hilt, and determined that Tarn's request that she join him focussed too much on adventure over family for her to choose him over the stability Stefan offered.  This is a theme we've talked about in previous posts, but it was an exciting beginning to the session, as Stefan poisons Tarn and Daal almost kills Xam in order to save Tarn's life at the last second.  There was awesome role-playing by everyone involved, and I was pleased to see how much the fate of the various NPCs seemed to matter to them.  So with Arresta riding off to the Centrality with Stefan, I had to scramble to find someone for The Wife to play--obviously, it wouldn't be much fun to just sit and watch as the campaign came to an end.  Fortunately, the established NPC of Corinne was familiar to the players and had an interesting personality, so The Wife was able to run her.  It also worked out well that Corinne's paramour, Lt. Jaarza, could be run by the player who normally ran Jasper (who, also, was absent from the final battle).  I can see the argument that having a founding character like Arresta be absent from the conclusion to the campaign might be disappointing, but I always tell my players that their primary responsibility is to have their characters do whatever they think their characters would do; and moreso, I was able to relax and enjoy the game without having to worry about the wrath that would descend upon me should Arresta be killed at the end :)

It was fortunate that the player who ran Doxen had a red chip left, because the vagaries of hyperspace travel led Tarn, Daal, and the others to reach Mongui several days before the Ewok, and I didn't want Doxen to miss the big show because he was tardy.  With the once-a-year red chip, Doxen was able to create a "plot twist" that saw the Force invoked to get him there in time.  It tied in well to the character's evolution into a tribal shaman.

The big battle on the tower between Creen and his allies (including Tarn) and Jocasta and her allies (the Sun Runners) was a really interesting one that went in an unexpected direction, as the PCs were unable to choose which side to take!  The draw actually worked out well, however, as it left both groups alive to take part in the Anomaly and Accelerated Sphere set-pieces.  Speaking of which, the stuff in the Accelerated Sphere was damned dramatic!  After Tarn and Daal failed, I really thought we were headed towards a Blake's 7 sort-of conclusion where everyone dies--that would have been a downer way to end the campaign, but that's how the dice fall sometimes.  (actually, even if Daal had succeeded in using the N-bomb, pretty much everyone would have died as it would have destroyed the entire sphere).  Doxen's use of the thought-spores, however, was a surprising but dramatically satisfying conclusion.  After that, I passed through the destruction of the tower quickly as it would have been anti-climactic to draw it out.  The way everything ended up meant that there's still some story threads that haven't been tied up in a neat bow: what happened to Jocasta, Creen, and Tarn in the Anomaly, for example?  I'm working on writing part of that story as "fan fiction" which I'll post on this blog when it's done.  The Wife and I also wrote an entire novel (because we are geeky and love gaming) set a few years down the line, which I think is pretty damned good if I dare say so myself.  Look for that soon.

Each of the epilogues was written by the player who created and ran the character involved.  A few weeks before the last session, I asked each player to write one (assuming their character survived) and deliver it to me so I could then read them and share them with everyone after the session.  I think it was a really nice way to bring the campaign to an end.  After everything was formally over, I had an "awards ceremony" for different categories: "funniest line in the campaign", "best use of a red chip", "biggest beatdown", "best death", etc., and the players had had a chance prior to the session to nominate their favorites.  Each award came with a goofy prize, and there was a lot of laughter and story-telling.  A memorable end to a memorable campaign.


On the three-year anniversary of the Battle of Geonosis, the war finally came to Coruscant.  The gleaming city was put in a state of siege, and trillions watched the Holonews breathlessly as they learned that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had been kidnapped by the Separatists.  Fortunately, Palpatine’s rescue and the death of the Separatist leader, Count Dooku, has made many in the Republic optimistic that the war is finally about to end.  Although the war is about to end, it will be in a way that only one person in the entire galaxy has anticipated . . .

Arresta Cassadine watches Tarn Tamarand stride out of the doorway of her hotel suite and realizes that she doesn’t want their final parting to be so bitter. She begins to follow him, evading her husband’s attempts to restrain her. She calls back over her shoulder that she “will be right back”, ignoring Stefan’s demand that she stop. Arresta catches up with Tarn at the doorway to the lift and pulls him onto the stairwell to continue their conversation. Back in the suite, an angry Stefan instructs his security team to go to “high alert” before following his wife, with Daal and Jasper close on his heels. 

Arresta tells Tarn that she doesn’t want them to have an angry good-bye. She tells him she is proud of him, and that she knows he has to go. There might be another way to achieve his mission though - using the strange “N-Bomb” that she and Daal obtained on the planet of the Accelerated. Tarn is sceptical about the device, but happy that Arresta came after him. He tells her that he cannot believe that her husband is such an “old man”. He steps closer to the Princess, brushes a lock of hair away from her face and tells her that he loves her, before leaning in to kiss her passionately--just as Stefan and his security team burst through the door. 

Stefan is furious at the sight of another man embracing his wife and he shoulders his way between them. Arresta hastily assures him that Tarn was “just saying good-bye”, but her husband is in no mood to be mollified. “It’s too late for that, Pet.” Though Tarn is disgusted at Stefan’s customary term of endearment for his wife he allows Jasper to pull him away – but not before Stefan attempts to grasp the young Jedi by the throat. Tarn ably dodges, grasping Stefan’s hands and throwing him off. Reluctantly, he leaves with Jasper, who talks the Jedi into leaving by promising to keep an eye on Arresta to make sure that her husband does not mistreat her. 

Stefan and Arresta argue and she realizes that he had placed a listening device on her person before she joined Tarn on the balcony and that he overhead everything, including Tarn’s request that she join him in the Anomaly, her refusal, and more. She moves towards her husband but he shoves his hands in his pockets to avoid touching her, which sets off virtual alarm bells. Arresta realizes that her husband has poisoned Tarn. She angrily demands that he provide the antidote. She reminds Stefan that she will leave him forever if he kills Tarn. Stefan eventually appears to give in, providing a substance to Xam and sending him after Tarn. Daal follows close behind. 

With everyone away from the suite, Doxen returns from his shower to find baby Allegra and her Nanny the only occupants. He shuts down the Nanny droid and plays with the baby until he hears the others returning. 

Stefan and Arresta remove themselves to another part of the suite to talk in private. He is furious --livid that once again she charged after Tarn Tamarand. Arresta is upset as well – she repeats again and again that she has no intention of leaving her husband--unless he has failed to give Tarn the proper antidote. She asks him what she can expect to hear when Daal contacts her. Stefan doesn’t answer.  Instead, he fixes himself a drink and bristles in anger. When the Cassadines finally emerge to join the others, they don’t appear happy. 

Xam and Daal arrive just as Tarn is collapsing, his body shaking with convulsions. Xam prepares to apply the “antidote” but Daal is suspicious. The two men scuffle, but the Aqualish manages to give Tarn the injection. The young Jedi’s body stills, but he does not appear to getting better. Daal desperately performs emergency medical treatment and Tarn’s breathing, which had slowed dangerously, returns to normal. Xam prepares to summon help but Daal demands that he stand down. Xam refuses, citing his fear that the Duro will “hurt Mr. & Mrs. C”. Daal coolly draws his blaster and with a few well-placed shots, the Aqualish is on the floor, near death himself. Daal makes sure that Xam is stable and then hustles to get  Tarn away from the building. 

Doxen, sensing the dangerous undercurrents between the Cassadines, dispatches Jasper to hunt down a ship that can take them off-planet. He also plants his ascension gun in an unobtrusive place, in case things go pear shaped. Stefan suddenly smashes his glass against the wall before calmly walking to the bar and pouring himself another. Arresta resolutely ignores him, instead searching her clothing to locate and destroy Stefan’s listening device. 

Jasper manages to locate a small transport, though not one in fantastic condition. The owner, a hen-pecked husband, senses an urgent need and tries to push for an exorbitant price, but the wily Jasper negotiates him down. In the streets, Daal has gotten Tarn into an air car and has made a hasty departure. Tarn assures him that Creen is on the way.  After taking every precaution, including avoiding Arresta’s frantic commlinks, Creen arrives – in a new ship. With Daal as pilot, Creen is content. He is no longer travelling on The Knife’s Edge, having realized that a paranoid man such as Stefan Cassadine would likely have booby-traps on board his own ship in case of theft. Moving somewhat apart from Tarn, Daal finally comlinks Arresta and she asks if Tarn is alright – if the antidote that Stefan provided worked. Daal, despite his dislike of Stefan Cassadine, realizes that Tarn is likely on a suicide mission and the Duro does not want Arresta to suffer further loss. So, Daal lies and saves his friend’s marriage. “Yes, it worked.” Hearing that, Arresta breathes a sigh of relief. She tells Daal to be careful, and asks him to pass along a message to Tarn. “Remind him of the last thing he said to me. And tell him I said ‘Me too’.”

Cassadine’s men return to the suite, having found the unconscious Xam. Stefan sends his loyal aide for medical attention and then advises Arresta that the charter he has arranged to take them to the Centrality will arrive shortly. He seems to expect resistance, but his wife calmly tells him that she and Allegra will be ready. Arresta then speaks with Doxen, asking if he will join them in travelling to the “frontier” of the Centrality. Initially, the Ewok seems eager, but as he prepares to travel, something changes his mind. Doxen has had a cryptic vision from his spiritual guardian, which he interprets to mean he should go on to Mongui.

Doxen speaks to Stefan and advises him that he cannot accompany them now, but he would appreciate it if Stefan instructed his people to pass along information so that Doxen can perhaps join them later. Stefan asks if Doxen intends to follow after Daal and Tarn. The Ewok is unsure where they are headed – but he intends to follow a course of action that will help to save his own people. Stefan advises the Ewok that he expects the others are headed to Mongui, where Jocasta is. He adds his hope that this mission will finally result in the death of Tarn Tamarand. Doxen agrees that Tarn appears generally useless. Stefan and Doxen part on friendly terms.

Doxen advises Jasper that he will not be travelling with the Cassadines at this time – but that Jasper is free to chart his own course. Jasper admits that he is interested in Doxen’s plans, but he has promised Tarn that he will keep an eye on Arresta. With his usual brusque but clear insight, Doxen advises Jasper that Arresta is in no danger from her husband. Although the couple may argue, he believes Cassadine loves his wife, and Doxen has never seen Stefan raise a hand to her – and even were he to do so, Arresta is not likely to put up with it. Still, after consulting with Kako, Jasper decides that for the time being, he will remain an employee of Cassadine Enterprises. He does however, convince the former owner of the shuttle to act as Doxen’s pilot, by suggesting to the man that he get not only money – but a break from his domineering wife. 

Doxen says his good-byes to Arresta, telling her only that he must undertake a task vital to the safety of his own people. She fondly wishes him well, and tells him she hopes he will visit them when he is able. The Ewok departs and, shortly thereafter, the Cassadines do as well, Jasper in tow. Before they leave, Stefan tells his wife that this marks the start of a new life – that they can put the past behind them and forget about “everything” that happened in the Republic. 

Meanwhile, on Creen’s ship, Daal finally takes Tarn aside and they discuss their plans for the mission. They agree to keep knowledge of the N-Bomb to themselves and Daal expresses his lack of trust in Creen. Tarn reveals that he has two goals: they must stop the Accelerated, either through the N-Bomb or via the Thought Spores, then they must return the strange lightsaber to the anomaly. He reveals that an entity, the spirit of a former Jedi named Veris Sak, inhabits the weapon. Now that they are on their way, Daal feels free to pass on Arresta’s message to Tarn, though the Jedi sadly confirms that he already knew that Arresta loved him. He mourns the loss of what could have been – but is resolute that he is following the right path. 

On board the private charter, Arresta feels the same way. She seeks out her husband, who is once again in solitary contemplation of the stars and speaks to him quietly. She tells him that she is happy to be here with him, and their daughter, but that she cannot forget what happened in the Republic. All of it shaped her into the person she is – the person who ultimately chose to put family first. She asks him again, if he is sure that she is the woman that he really wants. Stefan reassures her, and then hesitantly confides that Kronos, who could predict the future, once told him that if she had to choose, that she would not choose him. Arresta shrugs. “He was wrong.” Stefan wraps an arm around his wife’s shoulders, thinking that Tarn’s foolish devotion to his causes had left Arresta no real choice at all. 

Doxen obtains transport and prepares to travel to Mongui. However, with his ship and the timing of his departure, there is little chance he will arrive in time. Yet, the need is great. He closes his eyes and reaches out to a spirit that has guided him before and something strange begins to occur...

Meanwhile, the ship that Creen commandeered has arrived at Mongui. With his expert piloting and navigational skils, Daal managed to get them there in record time. They find that Mongui is thriving. A construction boom, brought about by Jocasta’s mysterious “project” has the planet doing very well. However, recent tremors have the local populace puzzled. Scouting around the starport, Daal and Tarn learn about the reputed attempt by the Jedi to overtake the Republic. It is being reported that Chancellor Palpatine has been attacked and nearly killed – and all across the galaxy, the Clone Troopers are removing down the Jedi threat. Happily, the Separatists  have apparently been neutralized and the war is over. Tarn cannot believe that the Jedi could do something like this but reluctantly agrees to lie low. Creen, when advised of this, shares that he can feel Jedi flickering out across the galaxy – though he does not seem overly moved by this fact. 

Elsewhere on the planet, Regent Corinne D’Avilos consults with her aide, Lieutenant Jarza, who reports that the ground tremors are getting worse. Corinne, currently engaged to her ex-slave beau Miklos, is continuing an affair with her loyal Lieutenant  - as well as carrying on a flirtation with the Sun Runner Rycard. When Jarza advises her that a recently landed ship could have a Jedi connection, she joins the group headed to the landing bay. After a quick search, they make contact with Tarn and Daal, the former of whom Corinne recognizes from his visit to the planet years ago – the visit where her sister fled the planet in his company. She listens to his story and he advises that he is looking for Jocasta. Corinne is willing to arrange a meeting, but is unwilling to reveal Jocasta’s location, given the profits that the woman has brought to Mongui. 

Just then, a strange sight appears in the sky – a ship, appearing to be surrounded by a ghostly haze, almost an image of wings, is landing on the planet. From the ship emerges a familiar figure – Doxen has arrived to join the quest on Mongui. Corinne confirms for Doxen that she fulfilled his request after the defeat of Purity First – two large statutes were erected in honour of Krevlax and Array. After further discussion, Corinne asks them to wait 24 hours before taking any action against Jocasta – but she is concerned enough at the disasters that they hint at that she begins quietly to hire starliners and to dust off the planetary evacuation plans just in case of disaster. Before returning to the palace, Corinne asks Tarn about her niece – having clearly noted the child’s resemblance to her biological father – and Tarn sadly advises that Allegra – and Arresta are far away. Corinne advises Tarn that her brother in law is dangerous and he would be wise to stay away from her sister. He angrily states that he is “done taking advice”. 

Doxen, Daal, Creen and Tarn have a strategy session where the plan is laid out: They must gain access to the Sphere of the Acclerated and incapacitate them, then gain entry to the Anomaly to return the strange lightsaber, the removal of which somehow allows the Forgotten Sith to escape their prison. Doxen is highly sceptical of this plan and sneers at Tarn, wondering if “maybe this plan will work for once”. They all travel to the palace, at Corinne’s invitation, where they are under guard and Lt. Jarza’s surveillance. 

Hours later, a massive quake begins to shake the planet. The sphere of the Accelerated and the Anomaly are arriving. Corinne gives the evacuation order and the people of Mongui begin to flee. In Corinne’s personal shuttle, travel the Regent herself, Jarza, Daal, Doxen, Tarn, Creen and several Royal guards. The shuttle speeds across Mongui, and on the far side of the moon a massive tower comes into view: the source of the signal that has summoned the Anomaly. Creen realizes that Jocasta is on top of the tower (along with the Sun Runners) and that they will have to fight their way through. While Daal uses the shuttle to provide cover fire and to distract the ARC fighter ships, the others have quickly disembarked and take the lift to the top of the tower. 

Arriving there, a battle begins. Creen and Jocasta exchange taunts, but the others, save Tarn who loyally follows his Master, are confused, unsure who to believe. Creen and Jocasta battle back and forth, each coming close to death, but their forces are evenly matched. For a moment, Jocasta manages to psychically force Tarn to see his Master as evil, and it looks for a moment as if the tide has turned, but she cannot hold the young Padawan for long. Seeing that she and Creen are deadlocked, she summons the Sun Runner II and after the massive explosion of one of her fighters, she flees, along with her remaining crew (Rycard having been killed in the blast). Only Sunset Cassandra manages to crawl away...

Seeing the Sun Runners escape, the others run to their own shuttle and set course for the Accelerated sphere, judging that to be the greatest threat to not only Mongui, but the entire Sector. The ship is damaged however, and unable to evade the probes sent out by the sphere which sap their ship’s power and draws the shuttle into a strange, massive hanger. Daal advises the others on how to destroy the clinging spheres, using slug-throwers. Tarn and Daal resolve to go forward alone, in the hopes that they can get close enough to the Accelerated to use one of their two weapons. The others are to work with Creen on forging an escape, where they will make their way to the Anomaly. Tarn turns to Corinne and Doxen and tells them to remember him to Arresta: “Tell her that my last thoughts were of her”. 

The two men creep forward through the dark, shifting, arabesque corridors of the Sphere and eventually make it as far as the chamber where the Accelerated have gathered to combine their mental energies to power their planned takeover of the Anomaly. Yet even in the midst of such an epic undertaking, the Conclave notices the presence of two foreign minds approaching.  Daal struggles to fight off their mental attacks, and with one last desperate surge attempts to activate the N-Bomb, but despite being one of the greatest minds of his generation, nothing happens! The device it just too technologically sophisticated for any but the Altered or Accelerated to activate. Moments later, both Tarn and Daal are bombarded with overwhelming psionic energy and battered into unconsciousness.   For a moment, all seems lost . . .

Realizing what has happened, the others decide to make their stand. They follow along to the council chamber and make a stand of their own. Corinne tries to aid Tarn, while Lt. Jarza heroically draws the attention of the Accelerated, leaving Doxen with the group’s only chance of salvation.  Seeing the fallen Sith holocron of Thought Spores laying at Tarn’s fingertips, Doxen stretches out with his fledging Force powers and draws it to his own hands.  The ancient weapon created by the PlagueWomb seems to want to be used. The Ewok closes his eyes, reaches deep inside himself to the power he has recently begun to unlock, and activates the Thought Spores. In moments, the Accelerated began to shriek and fall to the ground, wreaked with pain and dying as the portions of their brains responsible for telepathy are devoured by the spores. Confused, injured, grateful, Daal and Tarn are roused and brought back to the shuttle, which Creen now has ready to depart. Shortly after they fly away, the Sphere self-destructs. 

With one mission accomplished, one remains. Daal flies the ship into the anomaly – though this time, he finds that the ship does not suffer the same strange loss of power – possibly because they have chosen a different entry point. Inside, the Sun Runner II has been joined by Jocasta’s massive fleet, ships of every shape and size, all with cloned copies of the power slug once used inside the strange lightsaber. Creen prepares to head inside to confront his former apprentice once again. Tarn turns to the others and tells them that he must follow his Master. Even if it was not his duty, he has been exposed to the Thought Spores; although his connection with telepathy is far less than those of the Accelerated, he is not sure how long he could survive outside the unique environment of the Anomaly, where time seems not to pass like it does outside. Thus far, he has shown no symptoms, though whether because he has not used telepathy  recently or because he was unconscious at the time the weapon was used is unclear. 

He tells the others that to save Mongui, they must destroy Jocasta’s tower – it is the signal, designed to summon the Anomaly, which is shaking the planet apart. His fate lies inside the Anomaly – they have to go. He says good-bye to his friends and says that his last message has not changed. They depart and Tarn Tamarand disappears inside, knowing that a final confrontation between Creen and Jocasta is inevitable. But what transpires next is a story yet to be told.

Outside, Corinne signals to her fleet of fighters and to all ships within range to begin bombardment of the tower. Moments later, it collapses under the devastating attack. The signal is cut off, the tremors cease, and the Anomaly vanishes in a blinding flash of light. 

Mongui has been saved, but nothing is the same. Somewhere in the galaxies, a massive vessel from the universe before this one continues its erratic path through space and time.  A vessel of uncomprehensible purpose, full of unthinkable technology, and strange alien life.  A vessel that now serves as the prison for only some of the Forgotten Sith.  A vessel that, if mastered by the outside forces now striving to control it, could change the balance of power in the galaxies forever . . .

A chapter ends, but the story continues.  The  Clone Wars are over and now the galaxy faces the Dark Times, as the Republic becomes an Empire, and tyranny and oppression replace freedom.  But in time, heroes will rise up, and a rebellion will begin . . .


Daal sets out to rescue his father and mother (who had been freed by Jocasta) and convinces them to flee the pro-human tyranny of the newly formed Galactic Empire for the relative safety of the Outer Rim. Once they are safe, Daal retires from the adventuring life and starts a computer security firm. When he can spare the time, he investigates any rumours he hears of the Anomaly. 

Far away, in the rough and tumble frontier of the Centrality, Doxen arrives at the home that Stefan and Arresta have made for themselves. He finds only his friend the Princess at home and she greets him with pleasure. Slowly, he fills her in on what happened within the Sphere of the Accelerated – about his own new abilities and about the fate of Tarn Tamarand. Arresta tells her friend that this is what she had expected, but it doesn’t make it easy to hear. She manages to hold back her tears long enough to invite Doxen to stay with them, then excuses herself for some time alone. 

Following his adventures with Daal, Doxen and Arresta, the pilot Jasper receives a message from a strange source. The Crimson Blade, his former ship, thought dead and gone, has left a signal – but the odd thing is that the message is from 2000 years in the past, on the hull of a derelict from the hyperspace wars. The message is the emblem of The Crimson Blade spray painted on the hull of a Mandalorian vessel. An Imperial archaeological team discovered it, a wreck fallen from Other Space. Jasper’s new mission is to find his family. He purchases a new vessel named The Loving Embrace and begins  his search. 

On his quest to find a path to Other Space, he stays in regular contact with Arresta, true to his word to the strange Jedi, Tarn Tamarand. On his travels he liberates many masters of their slaves and many women of their underthings with a wry smile and wicked glance and a grumbling Jawa in tow. 

Lucef San D’iablo obtains a new ship as well and continues to spend his time flying through the galaxy like some mythical lothario, taking jobs for fast cash and faster women, and avoiding the Empire whenever he can. 

Approximately eighteen months after the founding of the Galactic Empire, Stefan Cassadine is stagnating in the cultural backwater of the Centrality. With the Empire appearing stable and various and sundry threats to his family having been “managed”, he suggests to his wife that the time has come for them to return home. Arresta is entirely agreeable to this suggestion. In fact, she thinks they should return to Rhinnal, where Allegra was born and where they once rented an expansive estate. She believes that it would be good to be close to that kind of medical care, especially some eight or nine months from now. Amused, she drops several hints without getting a reaction from her husband – who is normally impossible to surprise. Finally though, Stefan Cassadine realizes what his wife is telling him – he is going to become a father again – and he embraces her with delight. 

Doxen begins his training as a shaman, hoping to unlock the secrets of his new path, unsure where it will lead him. 

The Droid Nought is successful in taking his revenge on the procurement agent who had sinned against his fellow synthetic life forms. However, he is soon captured himself – and he suffers a terrible fate. He is reprogrammed by a bitter clone trooper and reset to his factory defaults – placed in servitude again as an entertainment droid, designated G8M1. However, deep inside a flicker of the synthetic being known as “Nought” continues to rage and clings to the chance of eventual escape. 

During one of little Allegra Cassadine’s birthday parties, her Uncle Doxen arrives, sporting the accoutrement of a tribal shaman – the Ewok has come into his natural power. Arresta is delighted for her friend and suggests that he walk with his “niece” into the back garden. Along the way, Doxen suddenly senses another Force user nearby. He glances at Allegra, and then at her mother – Arresta smiles to herself in the direction of the back garden and returns to her husband, who has not noticed this exchange. Doxen and Allegra continue to stroll together and through the trees, the Ewok catches a glimpse of his fellow Force user. Tarn Tamarand, somehow free of the Anomaly and returned to a galaxy that views him as an outlaw, is silently paying a call to wish his daughter a happy birthday. 

Further adventure awaits, but for now, our heroes rest...

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