This Dolivar fellow leads an entertaining life.. even if he is a bit longwinded.
Now that Taris is falling behind and we're enroute to Nar Shaddaa, I can think more about the events of the last couple of weeks. This is another of those times where "logs" can be more of a burden than a relief, but in some ways, maybe this will act as something of an insurance policy. There are just some things that the general public shouldn't know, and then again, there are some that they should. The thing is, what is the difference, and what is the effect?
Really, what is a government other than a way to create a structure for everyone to try to find their way through the world. The reality is, life is not fair. The problem with a government like the Republic is that they preach fairness, but don't really deliver on it. They'll broadcast all these "work together" and "equality for all" but that's just not the case. If you're high in the political structure, you're far more "equal" than the guy who's mucking around the swamp, clearing land for your summer home. And if you have enough credits, that which is "illegal" for that landscaper is a "humanitarian tax shelter" for you.
Look, Taris is a mess. That's no question and it really isn't a surprise on the surface of it. Once, before the Imperial cataclysm, it rivaled Coruscant for grand beauty, technological advancement and civilized achievement. An entire planet, gleaming with glow-globes, technology and vast constructions of sentient habitation. For uncounted hundreds of years, Taris was a shining example of what "civilization" could do. "Nature" happened only in well-cultivated and regulated parks.
I am at a place, though, where I have to wonder. Now, 3 centuries after the fall, was Taris really the jewel history and the records make it out to have been? I've been to Coruscant, and I didn't stay in the upper levels. Some, uhm, “business,” took me down to a few of the "beneath the fog" places and that's an entirely different world altogether. Has anyone really thought about what it takes to keep a city that covers an entire planet functioning? Sentients tend to be pretty filthy creatures and that filth has to go somewhere. Coruscant has no lakes, no forests, no living, breathing soul to keep itself running. The soul of Coruscant now is mechanical. Insistent. Methodical. Burning cold and firey ice. It's unrelenting, unforgiving, and not entirely mindless. After having been down as far as I went, I can't help but wonder about what is down there. And I haven't even been to the greateast depths of Coruscant, I really only scratched that under-depth surface. Even that minimal exposure left me wondering if there isn't some slumbering intelligence, waiting. Waiting for the right moment to stir, and cleanse itself of the infestation of little man-things all over its surface.
What I've seen of Taris has me more convinced than ever that "civilization" isn't necessarily where I want to be. Digging through the ruins of Taris is recalling those nightmare places of Coruscant through all-too-familiar images of ruined mechanical presence, and machines that are functioning long after they should have exhausted their energy supplies. The outer rim is looking better and better by comparison. Like I said, Taris was once a gleaming jewel, or at least that's what we know of it.
Then, "civilization" did what it always seems to do. It imploded on itself. Sure, in this case, the cataclysm was brought about by the Sith. The records of the Holonews all say the same thing; the Sith are an imperialistic, greedy, oppressive regime, bent on galactic domination and Taris was a conquest they decided that they would either own, or wipe from existence. I don't doubt that the Empire is a dangerous place, and that their Regime is based on conquest and brutality. Life to an imperial is a commodity even less valuable than credits. The strong survive, the weak are food for the strong. Yeah yeah.. we all know the propaganda.
But what I am scraping off my skin and trying to wipe from my mind makes me convinced that it was more than a simple philosophical difference that wiped out billions of lives and destroyed an entire planetary civilization. No, destroyed is too soft a word. The Tarisian legacy still lives on, but it is corrupted, twisted and vile, suffering down through the centuries in a torment that no soul deserves to endure.
Look, I'll admit, I'm not the nicest guy in the universe. I'm no bleeding-heart naturehugger. If someone is a threat to me and mine, I'll put him through my engine in less time it takes to light a lho-stick and will sleep well that night. But that's a clean death, over and done. Him or me. Even those that are vile, manipulative and conniving butchers deserve a finish. Sure, space them slow, but when they've suffered a bit, let that soul move on to whatever afterlife awaits them. Put an end to it.
What is happening on Taris is not something I'd wish on anyone.. no Sith.. not even Skavak; and that's saying something.
So, the "what I’m scraping off” is the remnants of dealing with those last few little bits of “business” that still needed to be finished on Taris. The Republic soldiers were worn out and tired, and only the hardest of the spec ops guys had any fight left in them. So, since there were credits to be made by walking into places that Corzo and I could handle, we did. I made those credits and I made quite a few of them. But man, the cost just might be my sanity.
This is the part that I am not sure if I really want to put down here. But, since these datacrystals won't see the light of day, at least, not anywhere that'll cause me grief, what I know shouldn't put me in any danger. Everyone who knows what I know is gone, and ostensibly, so does anyone that is aware that I was a part of the discoveries. Hearing that the Scientific team's shuttle crashed as it left the spaceport sent a shiver up my spine. I could have chalked that up to an accident and ignored it, if that other "accident" hadn't happened. Just as I jumped to hyperspace on the trip to Nar Shaddaa, the other holobroadcast downloaded. Having read that as well, and putting it all together, I am now certain that what I know.. I shouldn't. I have a feeling I'll have to step really carefully for a while.
The other thing? There was an overload at the forward settlement base. I did a little thing for a group that was there. See, there was a doctor trying to find some link to a cure for a rare cancer-like disease that only affected people that are descendants from Tarisian refugees. I did some scans of the ancient dead and found a serum that had survived deep in the rubble of one of the research hospitals deep-storage facilities. Anyway, their nuclear power generator apparently overloaded, and dug a half-mile wide crater in the surface, irradiating the whole place with lethal vertron radiation. Everyone, including the Republic's security force command teams were lost in the accident.
The catch is, when I was there only three days ago, all their systems were running off liq-fuel generators. They hadn't even laid groundwork for a portable nuclear powerstation. Now, I know that a government can get things done, but I have yet to see the Republic build a portable station in less than a month, even a faulty one.
Yeah, I know, all this sounds paranoid, doesn't it? I haven't even started. And this is the part that will either get me killed, or might keep me alive. I need to think about this. I have the holocrons of the little jobs I handled. I double checked my accounts just now and all the credits were handled though my normal blinds, so even the electronic trail of any transfers shouldn't lead to my crew. Man, I am glad I'm paranoid that way. It's one thing to know you have Roghun the Butcher sending bounty hunters after you, but quite another to think that a government might take that kind of interest.
Anyway, I figure I need to handle each of them the same way. To keep Roghun off my back, I make sure he knows that it'll be bad for business to keep after me. For him, it's all about the credits. In short, I motivate him more to leave me alone than he is self-motivated to mess with me. Now, whatever this group is that is behind the issue on Taris.. I suspect the best thing to do is to understand them so I can find the way to motivate them the same way. I have a feeling that credits won't do it, and even if it would, I expect the number would be so astronomical to be irrelevant to me. If I had that number, I'd be living happy on a private planet of my own. So. Who are these folks and why did those "accidents" happen?
Let's just put down the facts. If for no other reason, it'll provide some interesting reading for those who find my corpse. Then again, maybe the documentation itself can provide the motivation I need. Anyway, here are a couple of seemingly unrelated things that appear, now, to not be so unrelated at all.
If you haven't been to Taris, you may not even know what a "rakghoul" is. Cross the body of an ape with the appetite of a termite with the concept of a werewolf. In short, these are big, ugly vicious predators that infest, heavily, the surface of Taris. They are carnivorous, aggressive, territorial, intelligent, and always always hungry. They are so aggressive that the work crews trying to get the reconstruction on Taris are constantly under attack by these things. They have a hierarchy and an organization. Again, think apes with sharp teeth and a powerful taste for flesh. Specifically, sentient flesh.
Ok, so that's bad. Bad but manageable, right? Unfortunately, we're just getting started.
That describes what they look like and how they behave, and it's also pretty much all that anyone offworld knows about rakghouls. What is *not* known about rakghouls offworld, but anyone who is on-world at Taris finds out soon enough is that rakghouls don't always reproduce by breeding. Oh, they do breed, and breed prolifically. But that's not the only way rakghouls reproduce. They also transmit a virus through their bite called the "Rakghoul Plague." It's a viriulent infection that spreads rapidly and inexorably throughout the body of the victim. They lose their grip on their emotions, then their body undergoes a brutal and painful change that drives them mad with agony. The short version of this horrible process is that over a course of a few hours, the victim inevitably and incredibly painfully, morphs into another rakghoul.
I know. That's an unbelievable statement, and hard to comprehend from the comfort of your desk, or chair or wherever you're viewing this datacrystal. But it's true. I've attached to this log one of the medical holos of the actual process. (I'm warning you though, don't view it unless you have a strong stomach. The description that follows doesn't begin to cover it.) I only happened on the holo because the security teams needed someone crazy enough to be motivated by credits to walk into a deathtrap. They had no intel, and no leads. All they knew was that whole medical camps were being wiped out and had no idea what was going on other than there was a terrible mess left behind. It cost them a huge fee, but Corzo and I recovered a security holo that recorded the last hours of one of the camps. A boy, who couldn't have been more than 12 or 13, was brought in, suffering from an infected bite. The transformation didn't take long. The pain and fever from the bite set in and was debilitating almost immediately. Then, over the span of only an hour or so, the boy went into convulsions. His ravaged body twisted and writhed, wracked in obvious pain. His bones broke under the strain of the contractions, and as the virus ran its course, his body took on that misshapen form of a rakghoul. The doctors tried to restrain him but he manifested an incredible strength. The attempts to secure him failed, not shockingly, and he ripped into the people in the medtent, literally eating one of the nurses and a patient, and clawing and biting the doctors and other patients before running off into the wilderness. Just those wounds, even the minor ones, were enough to send the rest of the beings there into the throes of the illness. Within a matter of hours, the entire medical staff was either dead, or worse, leaving behind nothing but a destroyed medical tent soaked in blood and gore.
So, yes. Those some of those rakghouls are the sons, daughters, fathers and mothers of the colonists on Taris. They're the flesh and family of the people there and they have the single, overriding hunger to eat more flesh. You can imagine the effect THAT is having on the morale of the teams on-planet.
Now, *that* is bad. But no, that's still not bad enough.
Rakghouls have been around since before the Imperial cataclysm. They weren't anywhere as plentiful, and by all accounts were treated like the bogeymen of nighttime horror stories to frighten children. But they did exist, deep in the bowels of the great metropolis of Taris, eeking out an existence among the power conduits and energy piles. That led the current scientists to think that the virus was caused by radiation damage. That somehow the exposure turned the antibodies of a natural beast into the plague that it became. The Twilek doctor that sent Corzo and me in for samples was using that theory as a basis for the cancer that seems to follow *every* refugee of Taris. Apparently, the decendants of the original Tarisian refugees suffer a greatly increased instance of a rare form of cancer, and this doctor traced it to a marker in the Tarisian genetic structure. That would jive with the concept of radiation poisoning the population. Radiation does nasty stuff to genes.
Here is where things get scary.
It wasn't radiation sickness. That's clear. Even though the evidence is shaky, but the long and the short of it is that it looks as though the "virus" was some kind of biogenic infection. From the research into an old hospital/medlab and from studying the habits of the rakghouls, it makes sense. Putting together some of the other information I stumbled on while poking around, the rakghoul virus looks like it was being developed as a weapon. I guess the real question is “by whom?” This was a Federal Republic hospital. Yes, that very same Republic that tells us every day how evil and oppressive the Sith Empire is. Is it possible that some branch of some military department was pushing this research? Was it a private Pharmacorp? One thing that is obvious is that this virus was no accident. Not only had they developed the virus, there even was a serum to neutralize it. I got my hands on a sample of it. Of course, at this point, it doesn't work anymore. The same doctor recited some medical mumblejumble about mutation and three hundred years or some such. I know enough med-tech to patch wounds and followed most of the explanation, but the details are irrelevant. The short version is that the “cure,” isn’t. Not anymore. But the Doc had hopes she could come up with a way to make it work.
Yes, this was the same doctor's camp that "accidentally" overloaded their non-existent portable nuclear power generator. I don’t know about you, but I get a cold chill just thinking about it. Whoever was developing that plague has to be long dead by now. That was three hundred years ago!! Yet here we are, three centuries later, and suddenly that very research seems to be at the center of some.. “accidents.” The hairs on the back of my neck really don’t like that line of thinking. There isn't anyone that's going to convince me that it was an *accident* that took out the shuttle and camp all at the same time. Maybe they thought I was on that shuttle.. or rather, the guy they thought I was. All I DO know is the Governor was sure in a hurry to get me out of her office and off her world as quickly as she could; the “reward fee” that was transferred into my blind accounts sure demonstrate that.
I could come up with a hundred different scenarios as to what really happened on Taris, and while I don’t think you can justify annihilating an entire planetary population, there are some bits of this mystery that make me wonder if the Sith don’t have some extenuating circumstances for the extremity of the action. What I have seen up close of this “plague,” scares the hell out of me. If I didn’t need the credits to get Roghun off my back, I would have lifted ship a helluvalot earlier than I did and left that place far far behind. But I did need that funding, and if I don’t find some way to appease that guy, I’m just as dead anyway, so it really doesn’t make much difference. It’s a pretty emboldening feeling, that is; knowing that you’re in someone’s sniper sights. Walking into a building full of heavily armed scavengers doesn’t really scare me off at this point. At least they’re in front of me, and I might come out with enough to get the target off my back. Funny how motivation works.
Yet, even with that, there are still things that just leave me cold. Attachment index 344.72.1.Aleph is the holorecording of what Corzo and I found in that hospital along with the serum. If you’re reading this, then that little tidbit will send a shiver down your spine. Before you watch it, I’ll warn you, you’ll think differently about the “wisdom” of the Jedi order. So, what did we find? Y’know how Jedi can record their “life experiences” into a holomatrix, right? It’s basically how they train the younglings.. an “intelligent recording” that pretty much lives in the datacrystals and interacts with the students. We found one. We did more than just find one, the damn thing was actually teaching rakghouls to use the force. Really. I simply couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing, but there it is on the recording if you don’t believe me. I STILL have a hard time believing it. Teaching these things to use the FORCE? Of COURSE we thought about stopping him. All I had to do was bring that recorder back with me. But he.. (I say “he”.. was it a ‘he’? an ‘it?’.. ) he had some points that seemed valid at the time. His argument was that they were sentient beings, descended of the original Tarisians. As such, even though they were primitive in the development of civilized behavior, they had the same rights to learn their heritage and develop their potential as any other force-sensitives. All they needed was time to develop within their culture the appropriate calmness, control and education. As a Holocron, he had all the time in the world to train them to recover their lost intelligence and he even predicted that they would once again walk the surface of Taris as intelligent sentients, like their ancestors.
Corzo and I agonized over that one. Eventually, we left it as it was. I guess you could say that there was no profit in interfering. Screwing with an underworld thug is one thing. Pissing off the Jedi Order, well.. even I am not that crazy. I think. I still don’t like the idea, though. We’re supposed to trust the Jedi, they are the enforcers of justice and order after all. But still. That whole concept makes me squirrelly. Look, I don't know how long rakghouls live, but I hear that Jedi are darn near immortal. The force keeps them alive far longer than the rest of us mortal beings. I, for one, don't find the thought of a force-using, immortal Jedi-rakghoul as anything that can be good for the rest of us mortals. There are obviously things about that whole business on Taris that just chills me to the bone. Anyway, I scarfed the serum samples and skedaddled back to the camp where the doctors were working on a cure. I got my credits and got the hell out of there.
I picked up one last job before I left. I got a note through one of my lesser-used aliases and it was way too many credits to walk away from. Of course, I’m wondering now if I should have listened to my gut when I heard the number and walked anyway. Sounded simple enough.. land near the wreckage of “The Endar Spire,” and grab the “black box” logs. She was the last of the Republic Evacuation ships to be destroyed during the Sith bombardment and the client wanted something that it supposedly recorded. Yeah, ok. Fine. Whatever. As it is.. apparently I wasn’t the only one with the contract. I had to avoid probably twenty or so other scavenger groups and one of them had a Sith Agent with them. Oh geez. More three-century-old information that suddenly is relevant.
I scored my fare and got while the gettin’ was good. No, you don't have to know how. I ain't givin' away ALL my secrets. I dunno what’s in this file, but there are some serious credits floating around for it. This is where I really need to listen to my guts. There’s way too much attention suddenly being focused on Taris and it all seems to be pointing to the time of the Sith attack and whatever it is the “Endar Spire” recorded. Now, usually when I’m paid to be a courier, I don’t care what’s on the crystal, just as long as my account increases by the appropriate number. But I’m wondering a bit if this time it might not be better to let C8 do a bit of slicing on this stuff and find out what is so valuable.
I’m also starting to get a bit worried about Corzo. He’s a real believer in the ideals of the “noble Republic.” Skavak’s betrayal and the aftermath really shook the kid, and he’s holding on to his belief in the Republic to compensate, I guess. I dunno.. I’m not a psych-med, but I know he needs to have something concrete to hold onto while he rebuilds his ability to have trust. The Republic is a great thing as an ideal, but it’s not a living person. “The Republic” is an idea, it’s not something that *can* be noble, it’s not sentient, not accountable. It’s a conglomeration of people who have their own ideas, own ideals, and own expectations of what the “Republic” should be. And on Taris, he got a good long look at the ugly side of that stuff. The soldiers being thrown uselessly against an implacable enemy. Colonists going hungry while military commanders lived in luxury. Heck, he even saw Jedi teaching what sure seems to us like what can only be an enemy. This is our Republic? This is the ideal of nobility? I think he’s starting to get shaky.
But hey, there *is* right and noble out there. We just have to make it. He’s holding onto this “Republic” ideal like it’ll save him. It won’t.. but that’s ok. I’ll just have to show him the kinds of things a man in our life *can* trust in. He’s on my crew. We take care of our own.
Geez.. now I sound like a nanny, but I do like the kid. He’s got a good heart and he’s great in a firefight. He’s the kind that makes good family. I’d hate to see the spirit that drives that get totally corrupted. The galaxy can use more examples of good folk, cuz there are so damn few of ‘em out there.
I just got a holo that confirmed Beryl got offworld, and I'm happy about that. Doubt our paths will ever cross again, which is too bad; but whether we do or don’t, she doesn’t deserve to get caught up in whatever it is that’s going down there on Taris. Now that I've got that planet in my wake and I'm not going back there for all the credits in the galaxy. For now, I'm going to lock this entry down and file it away on a deadman switch. Maybe that'll buy me a bit of insurance. We’ll see what C8 comes up with from that Endar Spire mess, too.
I think I'm going to prefer Nar Shaddaa. It's a den of gamblers and thieves, but at least I know that world. Even so, I'll be keeping my eye on any of those Jedi I see, just in case. It’s making me rethink about that Strike Guild I’m a part of. We’ve gone on a couple missions for the Republic and Eadoin, Athane and Rosmar all seem to be on the up-and-up. They’ve always been noble and behaved admirably in my presence; my gut tells me that they’re worth trusting.
And this is where my logical brain hits a wall. I have always lived by my gut, even when the logic of it is faulty, and haven’t come out wrong yet. But, they say that Jedi have a way of being, “convincing.” That’s the part that really throws me. Am I trusting them because I’m trusting my gut, or am I because that is how they want me to feel? The more I think about it, the more that part is what makes me uneasy about the Taris mess, and the Jedi in general. If you can’t believe in yourself, if the choices you make of your own free will are subject to manipulation, is that really a better life than living under the constant threat of a Sith frying you with lightning?
It’s going to be a long trip to Nar Shaddaa.. and I need a drink. Good thing I have a good stock. Going to go see about making empty bottles out of full ones.