Saturday, August 06, 2005

Dark Past

The Dark City was always a salve against the light. Where light could not reach, the domain of the restless soul dwelt in tormented agonies of a squandered past.

Vars had lived the Dark City for three days. Three days a silent marauder of the deep dark places of the world, in the bowels of an ecumenepolis spread too high and too far, where oppressive girders squashed down a populace ruined by their own folly. Three days spent chasing a flit of a shadow that might not even be there. For every day spent in the company of the denizens of the Dark City or alone in some dark chamber Vars cursed Demotrova with all the ancient power of the Jedi's righteous retribution.

The Dark City had weathered a thousand tribulations, ignorant of the visscitudes of Galactic politics that were beyond their reach. It was one of the last remaining constants to the ever-rushing tide of urban change in the sunlight realm. Wherever Vars wandered, searching for Demotrova, he witnessed the grim realities of existence of the forgotten wretches that inhabited the Dark City. It was a feudal society. Near amenities like gas ducts or hydroponic outlets, places called districts had formed, walling themselves out of the wanton anarchy that plagued the void between them. Within these islands, marginalized populations had at least a veneer of tolerable existence. Outside, Vars witnessed tragedy on a titanic scale. The insane, the heavily ill, mutants, and gangs of slavering, pathetic bandits roved this terrible realm. It was a brutal world of oppression and death.

In a district named Pilhadis, where men and women eked out a meager existence on hydroponic produce, Vars had met a shabby personage who bore the inappropriate name of Duke Kaa. Kaa was, as he claimed, the descendant of a group of rebels who had plotted to bring down Elhadi Valorum, the popularly known Iron Chancellor. He had lost an eye one way or another; the other was a sickly yellow heavy with cataract. Kaa was known in Pilhadis for his knowledge of the Dark City.

Duke Kaa had been suffering from an ailment, known to the Pilhadis as the Krodos. Vars privately felt that this, perhaps, was one of the by-products of the Krytos virus that had decimated millions of non-human lives in the Bacta War a few years back. Vars had supplied some bactade syrup for Kaa's illness, and even after such a short while Kaa's condition had improved tremendously. His cough had faded somewhat and the cataract seemed to be disappearing. Now that Kaa felt better he was effusive with thanks.

Kaa claimed to have heard rumours of a foreigner slinking here and there through the dilipidated throughfares of the Lower Dark City. Vars hesitated about going so close to the Jungle. Even he had never been there. But for the sake of captuing Demotrova he had to go on. And with Kaa as his guide, what could go wrong?


Kaa was coughing again, wrackingly, and Vars knew that he needed a full vaccine treatment. Mere bactade infused with Krytos vaccine would do nothing to cure Kaa completely, and Vars was running low on his stock of the nanite salve. Who knew, he thought during the dark nights, when Kaa slept and snored like a foghorn, what a cross-species variant would do to a population of humans the size of Coruscant. Was that why the NRI-

His thoughts spiralled, out of control. He, himself, had been nursing a slight cough. He had thought nothing of going near the invalid, sharing space with him. He had prided himself on his endurance, his sympathy, his ability to coexist with such a specimen of the dungeons of this dark world. He had thought that the ability to consort comfortably with wretchedness was an indicator of his altruism. A shared past-

He hadn't thought of the side-effects of such foolish submission to kindness. With growing horror, he thought of the implications of Kaa's death. He did not know the dark corridors that they now walked. This side of Coruscant was alien to him, unknown, deep enough and low enough that even he had never cared to descend to. And if Kaa went, where would he go?


Time seemed to lurch by on crippled struts. As Kaa led Vars stealthily and quietly along little-taken routes untouched by sentient feet, as the empty dreadful vastness of the lesser-known parts of the Dark City began to dissolve his willpower. He knew that this impending trauma was an artifice of something physical.

Later that day, as he and Kaa were resting in a narrow corridor, he asked where they were headed. Kaa only smiled enigmatically as he said, "Down."


Vars was silently bemoaning his fate as he lurched, coughing, behind Kaa. His coughing bouts were not relenting, and he only had perhaps three day's bactade left for himself and Kaa. He was so absorbed in worry, that he almost lurched into Kaa's diminutive form when the other stopped abruptly in front of him.

Vars opened his mouth, questioning - then his eyes refocused, not on Kaa, but on what was in front of them.

A turbolift, glowing faintly in the filthy corridor darkness. Still functional, it seemed. And recently used.

And on the ground, next to this apparition, a recently discarded piece of flimsi, surface-oxidized so that its contents were destroyed forever. Vars picked it up gingerly, examined it with an experienced detective's eye. It was, insofar as he could tell, recently dropped. Making the obvious connection, Demotrova approached the turbolift - only to stop at the clearing of Kaa's throat.

"I feel I should warn you, man," Kaa rasped. "That lift has two stops. One here, the other," and his face pulled back in a mask of a grim grimace, "goes the Jungle."

Vars froze. "You can't be serious. Demotrova would never go to the Jungle. It's suicide."

Kaa sighed. "That's what I'm saying, Vars. Your search might have been in vain." He lowered his voice down to a whisper. He might already... be dead."

The sound of silence plodded on as Vars and Kaa stood there, unmoving, like figures frozen in the ice of a frigid world.


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