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Prologue - Ianmar: "Glimmer of Hope..."

Ianmar Thul

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Ianmar sprang from his bed, the cold sweat clung to his skin as it chilled him, reminding him that he was still alive. Yes. Still alive when everyone else he knew and loved was slaughtered at Exegol. Still, hiding from the Empire on a Core World may have sounded insane to some (okay, to most) but he knew sometimes the easiest way to stay invisible was to simply hide in plain sight.

The lightning crashed outside sending in a white flash across his room that matched the shape of the twenty centimeter tall, one meter wide slit on the wall that made up his window, granting him a grand, dark view of the Corellian slums in all their after hour, neon glory.

He had to get moving, he had a contact to meet with. He rose from his bed, which slid into the wall the moment it didn't have his weight on it. Still not quite aware after the nightmare Ianmar stood there a moment collecting himself for the evening ahead of him. The slight pulsing of repulsors alerted him to the other presence in the room, when a floating sphere, about the size of human head, pulsed up, centering its single photo-receptor lens on Ianmar. "BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!"

"I'm up, Deezle." Ianmar smiled as the droid sphere's receptor stopped pulsing red and it turned off its inter chronometer wake up call programming. He palmed the floating droid, pushing it away so he could go about his routine. "I'm up."

The rain dumped from the sky but it didn't seem to dissuade the throngs of people who moved about the slums all bearing the the strange neon hues of of the reflected lights and speeders hummed past and all manner of alien species went about their lives as best they could under the watchful of oppression of the Sith Empire. He pulled his collar up to the storm and made his way to the meeting place, D3-ZL hovered not far off as shoulder height.

There was a definite chill in the air, not just something that could be traced to the feeling Ianmar felt. Exgol had been so painful. Exgol had been... controversial. For all that Leia Organa-Solo's reputation held prestige and weight, there had been a fair number of those against her proposed assault.

Some of it came from her long disappearance, as those bitter at what they saw as her abandonment of the cause resented her taking the lead. Others were concerned about throwing the dice at an all-but unknown system with unknown defenses, with the bulk of the Resistance's strength. Yet more were fearful, that even victory would not end the Emperor for good, that Sheev Palpatine could keep the Sith Empire running all the same.

In the end, his parents were the voices most in support of Leia's, that carried the day. Perhaps, it was because in the end, she was Leia Organa above all, the former Senator and Princess of Alderaan, and they would have followed her thus to the end of the universe. Ianmar had been of mixed feelings. High risk, high reward.

Now following disaster, Ianmar had to carry on and rebuild over this past year. Various cells had been warned to lay low even as the Resistance fleet departed for Exgol. Ianmar had personally helped weave much of the web, and so while Sith retaliation and Imperial Intelligence had burned many parts, other groups linked to the Resistance had survived.

Stopping briefly at a vendor's outdoor and umbrella-covered stand, Ianmar purchased a small sweet pastry, sugar-covered but with twisting rolls. Hidden on Corellia, Ianmar had set himself the task of finding out what metaphorical folds and layers also remained of the Resistance, and how to reconnect them.

Though much like the Alliance's Sector Forces, acting with flexibility and local knowledge - the Resistance still needed a measure of central direction and coordination. Divided, the Empire would have crushed them.

T'Chelk, the Sullustan he was meeting, was one such intermediary. T'Chelk provided a communication link to Resistance operations on Sullust, and with it, sympathizers within SoroSuub. Nothing to sneer at.

Everything had been carefully confirmed first. Against all the technology and weight of resources the Empire could bring, the Resistance had often relied on the simplest and oldest countermeasures. For example, the messages arranging this meet were encoded with the use of one-time pads, so that sheer chance made attempts at decryption futile. The meet point was in the shadow of a half-functioning public fountain, where the water still had enough gush to create some white noise.

Still, Ianmar (plus D3-ZL) were keeping their eyes open. All the same, as he rounded the corner past some strip club blaring loud music, he felt reasonably sure the Empire wouldn't crash their meeting. Life went on, and so did the Resistance.

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Ianmar casually finished his pastry as a small patrol of stormtroopers passed him. The new ones, the fancy ones with the new armor ever since the Empire officially rebranded themselves as the 'Sith Empire'. Titles like 'The New Order' were common for the Empire and with the The New Order arose The First Order, who, near as he could tell were a sort of fanatical order with the Empire who went beyond loyal. Recently he'd hears whispers and rumors of The Eternal Order that had formed with the Empire but thus far there was nothing to tell him precisely what, or who that might be.

Blending in was easy, if you knew how to do it. Easiest way was to simply look like you belonged, and since no one who was wanted by the Empire would be stupid enough to be out in the open on a Core World... that just made it all the more easier.

"You made it," whispered a voice from over Ianmar's shoulder. It was the voice of T'Chelk, his contact.

Deezle booped and beeped, rolling in midair, announcing T'Chelk's arrival. Ian rolled his eyes. "I see that, thank you."

The Sullustan laughed. "We have much to discuss. Come, a drink, then we'll talk," He wrapped an arm around Ian and ushered him to one of the many bars lining the the boundary of the promenade. "I know it goes without saying, young man, but your family, I am truly sorry."

As a bolt of lightning flashed the sky the roar of trembling thunder rumbles across the night sky as the two men moved to get out of the rain.

"Thank you." Ianmar replied, the hint of a sad smile on his face. "It hurts, but at the same time we've knew the risks. We've been taking them for a long time." There had been the sudden moves, at an age when Ianmar was too young to fully understand or appreciate yet while they had to happen. There had been one time when Evnen had been reported dead, after a convoy raid gone wrong and the squadron he'd been with given up as lost.

Evnen returned a week later, having managed a crash-landing, repaired his damaged X-Wing and came back. But it was one of the most demonstrative examples of potential Thul mortality. Ianmar found himself more than once having to shoot his way clear of Imperial stormtroopers, whom thankfully had less than purported accuracy.

The bar Ianmar and T'Chelk picked was lit a soft light green, one of the smaller ones, with a sign advertising a pub food special in the afternoons, with a couple people in the corner booth. The one holo played a music video of - what was her stage name, Etherlina Blast? A supposed Moff's grand-daughter and definite nauseating teenage pro-Imperial electro-pop star.

"Good evening. I'll have a Corulag brandy." Ianmar told the bartender. "T'Chelk?"

"I'll have the same," T'Chelk replied to the bartender and gave Ianmar his attention after he'd left. "There is big news in the galaxy," he said softly. "Come, he must sit and discuss."

The gentleman took their drinks to a back table, still close enough to the speakers to provide enough background noise so they wouldn't be listened in on. The droid servers made their rounds as the neon lights flickered and flared in rhythm with the electro-pop video playing. The girl had about as much talent as a gungan diplomat, but she was pretty as hell, and in the end, that's all that mattered to most.

"SorroSub has a spy within the Empire." He started, 'smiling' and nodding lie a regular conversation was taking place. The two men toast their glasses and laughed. "They have discovered that the Empire has a new weapon, more powerful than the Death Star and the Starkiller. It doesn't destroy planets, or entire systems, but the transmission was cut before they could deliver the specifics. Also," he spread his hand out on the table and dropped a few gold and silver chits, mingled in with the credits were very hard to see clear crystals, three of them and they seemed dull devoid of any shimmer or shine. Ianmar scooped them up and pocketed them casually.

"Kyber crystals. The Empire is still searching for them. Sources say they have been salvaging the debris from both of the Death Stars and mining the wreckage of Star Killer base in search of the crystals used for the super weapons." T'Chelk shrugged and took a drink. "They only way to know more is to get in touch with our spy, but we've lost contact."

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"Another superweapon." Ianmar flatly stated after a moment of processing it all. He knew the stories of the past all too well. The first Death Star, frightening and powerful, responsible for the end of Alderaan, yet sabotaged from the beginning by Galen Erso and destroyed by Luke Skywalker in an X-Wing with proton torpedoes. Then the Empire went ahead and started building a second one, albeit one which the Emperor attempted to use as a trap for the Alliance.

But the Alliance Fleet and Luke's sacrifice had thwarted it and destroyed the incomplete Second Death Star, taking the Emperor with it. Then, decades later, the Empire built the Starkiller, destroying Hosnian Prime in an act of absurd mass murder against a major Resistance hub, only to be swiftly destroyed by Evnen Thul and Poe Dameron.

Now, even as Imperial fleets bombarded planets the Emperor wanted to make another superweapon. "Does the Emperor have a fetish for superweapons?" The absurd nature of the comment, and thinking of the Emperor in that respect just made the two uproarious in laughter. For a few moments they didn't have to think about reality, and as a bonus, it help sell appearances.

It died off, and Ianmar made a mental note to put some other people on observing and following the kyber flow, getting more information that way. "Do we have reason to think the spy hasn't been compromised and caught?"

"No," said T'Chelk, shaking his head softly. "However, they work through a facilitator. The information passes from our contact," Ianmar noticed his reluctance to use 'spy' as a small cadre of patrons walked past looking for a table to sit at. "To this facilitator. The only way to know for sure is to speak with the contact's facilitator. Which, I was hoping you might be able to do on our behalf. You have more range of motion than I or my brethren do."

"All right, I can do that." Ianmar agreed after a pause. Honestly, it was better that the Empire put their resources into these superweapons than funding an already unbelievable swarm of Star Destroyers, at least so long as the Resistance could destroy them in time. "Where should I go and who should I talk to?"

The sullustan shook his head. "Not here." With a nod and a laugh to play off the charade he continued. "Tomorrow night, meet me at the shipping yards. I keep all the data on a holodisc, so as to not have any information left available on a terminal to be traced back to us or our... friends outside of Imperial doctrine."

His friend looked at him, a pang of worry set into his expression. "Our 'friends' are shattered, Ianmar. Scattered across the whole of the galaxy, licking wounds and searching for hope. Your parents," he rest his hand upon Ianmar's and leaned in like an old man about to pass on knowledge. "Your parents believed when no others would. They brought hope to those who had none. You are all that's left of a very mighty legacy, my friend. A lot of us are counting on you."

"They taught me to never give up hope." Ianmar acknowledged, trying not to show the trepidation he felt at T'Chelk's words. Ianmar never planned to give up the fight against the Empire, but being told flat out how much expectation was being placed on him... Really, given the leading role the Thuls played in the Resistance, it was irrational to expect otherwise, but still...

Did Leia Organa feel this way, when she saw Alderaan destroyed and realize what was left of her people's hopes rested on her? "I'll try to live up to everyone's trust." No, Ianmar remembered a saying, some Jedi proverb that Leia Organa had quoted to his parents at some point. Do or do not. There is no try. "No," he corrected himself with a firm look and voice, "I will live up to everyone's trust. Let's order another round, and toast to a better tomorrow."

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The gentlemen went their separate ways after a couple of drinks and some idle talk to keep their cover intact. Some hours later, as the rain spattered against the small window of his room. The hotel was a pit probably rife with disease and all manner of filth. IF the smell wasn't enough to encourage him to find a reason to leave this place, then the idea of finding more members of the Resistance to join him to fight the good fight against the Empire was motivation enough.

The hours that past from that evening to the next seemed to pass slowly and in the morass of his thoughts between staying in hiding or actively impeding the Empire's plans gave him constant reasons to pace his floor and toss about his bed. The storm hadn't let up the next day. Droids delivered take out food to his room a couple times as he found ways to convert the various things in his room into work out exercises to keep himself fit and ready as much to just keep his self occupied.

He rented a speeder to take him to the shipping yards, a massive operation that took place across several miles of Corellia's outer city rim with numerous floating yards hovering in the skies all about it, all a few miles in size themselves. Loader droids, some massive in size, moved all the cargo too and from the great sky yards, mindlessly organizing and sorting the cargo coming into and out of Corellia. The place was, just as he remembered from the last time he was here, nothing but a mess of massive shipping containers the formed a maze of narrow paths and walkways. It reminded him of the hedge mazes on Alderaan II at the noble estates he grew up visiting except they were lush and green and beautiful and this place was rusted, dead, cold and wet. Ian remembered the old meeting spot well enough. He made his was there among the clamor and hiss of the giant machines and repulsor carriers that moved the various imports and exports around the yards.

He kept to the darkness, moving between the containers and doing his best to remember his route. It wasn't overly confusing, but one thing about meeting here, was that it was never the same path twice. Lightning flashed and lit up the sky along with the immediate area, throwing his shadow on the wall and almost giving him a start as the thunderous boom that followed crept up behind him, shattering the sky. He sighed and pressed on, unsnapping the the holster on his blaster... just in case.

"Ianmar," came a voice from the shadows. It wasn't T'Chelk's but as a blast of lightning lit the sky up again, he could make out a sullustan waving to him from the confines of a small pathway between the containers. "Here." He waved the human boy forward. He recognized the sullustan as Yoob, one of T'Chelk's trusted assistants. He was obviously paranoid and afraid, darting his head about looking for and jumping at every shadow and crash thunder.

"Let's get this done with," he said more tersely than he intended. Yoob was out of his element and possibly only doing this as a favor for T'Chelk. "Were you followed?"

"I made sure I wasn't." Ianmar said calmly, but not brusquely, given Yoob's fragile state. Nor did he add, and if I'm wrong, how would I know? But equally calmly he nodded, despite the booming thunder and rain spattering the metal landscape around them. "I assume you know what to do then." As Yoob wished, he'd complete the transfer and then make his departure.

After that, once he was safe and dry, Ianmar could review the holodisc's contents and make plans to find and meet the facilitator. And get out of this nasty slum-hole, even if it made the perfect hiding place for so long.

Yoob produced a holodisc from the pocket of his jacket. He looked around nervously. "You must be very careful with this. It is the only copy of the coordinates to the spy's location. We have very few contacts within the Empire, you know what is at stake here. Now," his fingers shook and the holodisk rattled in hand as he looked around once again. "When you arrive, simply ask to speak with-" the holodisc fell to the ground, bouncing on its edges as a red blaster bolt tore into Yoob's chest, scoring a molten hole in his flesh.

The shot, Ianmar knew came from somewhere up high, a sniper!

After the shot local authorities flooded the scene, Imperial Police, blasters in hand began moving in all around. He could hear them. Ianmar didn't have much time...

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The shock tangled up with Ianmar's reactions, as he suddenly found himself processing several imperatives at once: getting the holodisc, getting to cover, running, and figuring out how the Imperials had suddenly caught on. As a result, the Resistance leader made a very ungraceful trip and stumble to catch the holodisc, then scramble up and run.

Ianmar didn't know where the sniper was, but he wasn't going to remain to find out. The one benefit of this dismal, dark environment meant that there would be plenty of cover and concealment, and if the converging body of Imperial Police couldn't see him, the odds of them tracking him through this maze would be very low. Especially as Ianmar wasn't taking the same route going out the way he came in.

Ianmar was encased in the high definition optics of the sniper's scope. In the darkness and rain he looked upon the human Resistance operative scrambling for the dropped holodisk as if he were in clear daylight. When Ian stood and ran off the sniper squeezed off on more shot from his rifle and it recoiled as the bolt sped from the barrel.

Ian heard the screech of the blaster shot and was suddenly thrown forward and to the ground as a sweltering sting rose up in his shoulder. He'd been hit! It burned, but he crawled up to his feet using the wall to support himself.

"Squad two pursue the suspect." "He's over here!" "Stay with the body." "Roger that, keep us informed when you have eyes on him." He could hear their chatter and their boots on the slick, black pavement.

He could hear the Imperial authorities closing in. The pain was intense, but he was running out of time.

Ianmar bit down on his lip hard, knowing he was drawing blood, but it was necessary to stifle the dangerous gasps of pain that could give him away. This wasn't going to end here, any more than the Resistance ending after Exgol, or other bad scrapes Ianmar got caught in. Focusing himself, he pushed off the wall and started running.

He started off in the direction ahead, before turning quickly around the corner of a junked speeder and then swiftly lowering his head and sprinting through the narrow tunnel created by the lengths of two outdated yachts leaning together. The pain blurred out with the pumping of his heart overlapping in his senses and Ianmar carefully held his arm while on the run.

The Thuls were never easy targets, and even their last scion would remind flat-footed Imperial police of that.

[Command=??]"Split up! He's trying to lose us in the maze of containers!" He could here whomever was leading the officers shouting either into a commlink or at the quad as a whole. His voice echoed and carried that snooty air of Imperial authority. "Call for assistance! I want this are a flooded with light! He will not get away! Go! Spread out! Find him!"

[Running=12]The officers fanned out and began searching for Ianmar. He could hear their boots moving hurriedly across the black asphalt. They picked up their pace but it was obvious most of them weren't giving it their all.

I wasn't the first time Ianmar had been shot. Didn't hurt any less than the first tome though. Thankfully, the wound was cauterized, a little bacta spray, and a few med packs later and he'd be okay... any blaster shot you can away from and all that... Still, the pain was slowing him down, but managed to find enough strength, or floating luck, to push on and find a temporary place to gather his thoughts and bearings. He knew he didn't have much time, but they were blocking all the exits, no doubt.


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Ianmar had a moment, after catching his breath, to grab his com and message Deezle. "Deezle, I'm getting chased by Imps. Fire up the ship and bring it to..." Ianmar paused again while quickly reviewing the situation. The Imperial Police were covering all the exits, which meant he had to pick a spot along the rim of the scrapyard where they wouldn't automatically expect him to look...

Ianmar rattled off the coordinates of one that came to mind. "Counting on you, buddy." Then he took another breath and started moving, using every bit of cover he could find to hide his passage.

Ianmar bolted out of cover and tore down the avenue as fast as he could. The chase persisted for several minutes as the more he hid and ran, the more officials arrived on the scene. He dashed to rendezvous point and fore he knew it Ian had a small contingent of Imperial Authorities on his tail, streaking blaster bolts past him as he ran to the southern edge of shipping yard's platform.

Blinding white light overwhelmed his senses as a powerful gust from the exhausts of engines blew his jacket back as he covered his eyes. The Imperials did the same, shielding their eyes from the intense light as they ducked and pivoted their feet to get better footing intense gale of the sudden arrival.

"Wwwweeeeeeooooooow!" Blared over the speakers as dazzling bolts of blue blaster fire hailed down upon the shipping yards.

Ianmar slid on the wet, slick platform under hail as it rained down shock and awe. "Damn droid's crazier than I am," he took a moment to mumble before springing to his feet and leaping from the edge of the platform onto the nose of his ship. The ship angled away from the platform, him till hugging the nose as it took off for a higher altitude, away from the blaster fire. He slid up the cockpit glass, thanking his start that droid was helping him get in the seat faster instead of shaking him off and down into the streets below. The canopy slid closed as he strapped himself in and the ship broke atmo. "I didn't say shoot the place up." Several beeps and boops echoed into the canopy. "I'm not nagging! I appreciate the assist." A low hum came from the droid. "Yes. Really."

The starfighter shook violently as a laser blast impacted the shields of the craft. "TIEs. Look like we have someone's attention, get us out of here while I shake these guys." The droid asked a series of questions in rapid fire in its binary speak. "I don't care, someplace we can get lost, and has a cantina!" A couple more blasts rocked the ship. "I'm not picky right now!"

The ship soared into the stars and despite the current predicament he found himself in, his senses still took the microsecond to be lost in the beauty of infinite vastness and freedom of space. The two TIEs spiraled about behind him, angling their shots as he flew right for the massive Star Destroyer. Deezle protested, vehemently with a series of warbles and assorted noises. "They can't tractor us if their shields are up." Deezle argues some more. "Trust me."

He held the triggers down and a volley of blue laser fire set the port hull alight with explosions and a single proton torpedo launched, sending it right into the particle shield generators along side one of the hangar bays, dropping the shield and sucking several Imperials, their gear, and a ship or two, out into space. Green lasers streaked past his modified ARC-170 starfighter and he spiraled past and through them like he was born to do it and thankfully the ship's maneuverability did most of the work for him.

As predicted, the Star Destroyer activated it's shields in response to any further damage and continued to assault the starfighter as best it could. Deezle booped a few times to let Ianmar know they were ready for a the jump to hyperspace. A grin curled on his lips as he pushed the lever to send them on their way. "So long, suckers," the hyperdrive hummed to life and the the ship accelerated slowly to light speed.

The ship rocked as a ill fated blast from a TIE impacted the hull a millisecond before they disappeared into the hyperspace lane.

"I know! I know! I felt it!" Ian shouted at his droid who was spewing all sorts of gibberish. "How far off course?" Deezle replied in a sorrowful whir. "What do you mean you don't know? Fantastic. Could this possibly get any worse?"

The ARC-170 dropped back into realspace a few hours later, its stern sparking and sizzling from the laser blast that shattered the small craft's shields. "No, no, just tell me where are," he said to Deezle as he ran a diagnostic on the ships systems. "Hutt Space? I was wrong, this day just got worse." Deezle conjured up some coordinates and displayed them. "Hyperdrive is shot. That blast hit the coolant reserve,we try and go anywhere else and we're space vapor." One of the planets pinged up and the display honed in on it's moon, highlighting it, zooming in, and giving a readout of its statistics fomr the ship's navigational database.

"Nar Shaddaa? Oh, by the Force, we were almost better off with the tractor beam." He shook his head and looked up the nearest space port, and sure enough it was Nar Shaddaa. "Fine, get us there. We get repairs, we leave. No sight seeing." Deezle let out a disappointed sound that almost sounded like a sigh.

The thrusters kicked on and the ARC-170 headed off to the Smuggler's Moon...


That's a wrap. Your prologue is complete as the main story will begin on Nar Shaddaa. Nice work.
12CPs (minus what you owe me)


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