The Shrouded Hunter

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The Shrouded Hunter

Post by Emperordmb on Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:57 pm

An assassin crouched atop a building on Coruscant, observing a shuttle on a landing platform below. It wasn’t just any assassin, it was the Shrouded Hunter, the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy. He was clad in a black hooded robe that was open in the front, revealing a highly advanced suit of black armor, constructed from some of the best technology money could buy. His face was also obscured behind an ebony mask, which was connected to the rest of his armor and kept his identity hidden from all except the handful of people who already knew who he was. The building was five stories tall, though relatively tiny compared to the average building on the ecumenopolitan planet, most of which were skyscrapers.

Galactic society now was at a surprising apex after two millennia of war. Two thousand years of war between the Jedi and Sith had ravaged the Galaxy, wreaking ruin through the lives of many, those who lived on planets that served as battlegrounds, those who fought for the Jedi or Sith, and those with too little money to thrive in a galaxy stripped of economic resources by the war effort. Near the end of the conflict, the government the Jedi served was in massive debt to the banking firms it had borrowed money from, the Sith had built themselves up on oppression and slavery of those living beneath them, infrastructure in both societies had all but collapsed, and a large portion of the Galaxy was left with ill feelings towards both the Sith and the Jedi. Regardless of if the war would go on or be concluded in either side’s victory, the future had appeared bleak to those who lived in the Galaxy.

That all changed when Darth Umbravon rose to power however. Darth Umbravon was a Sith, though he worked in the shadows, reaping wealth and influence throughout the galaxy without the knowledge of his master. By the time Umbravon overthrew his master, he was already prepared to seize power and mold use it to mold the Galaxy into something greater. He proposed peace and a convergence of the two societies, with something to offer everyone. Having worked with the same people that had designed the technology in the Shrouded Hunter’s armor, Umbravon had succeeded in cooling down a distant white dwarf, leaving behind a hunk of crystallized carbon. In other words, Umbravon had successfully acquired a diamond the size of Coruscant. With such wealth, he was more than capable of paying off the Republic’s debts to the banking firms, and the citizens of the Republic cared little about him being a Sith so long as he could help repair their almost shattered economy. Among his fellow Sith, Umbravon was quick to seize leadership as the strongest among them with little opposition, none that couldn’t be easily overcome. Unlike his contemporaries, Umbravon did not view those beneath him with contempt and disgust, recognizing that the largest of skyscrapers needed a strong foundation.

Umbravon understood that society around him had to evolve for him to truly build himself up, and thus ended the oppression and slavery of those living under the Sith. The republic citizens were eager to accept his economic solution, the Sith citizens were eager to accept his promise of freedom, and the Sith were so in awe of his power that none dared oppose him. The only who opposed his proposal were the Jedi, the sworn enemies of the order he led. Unlike the past two thousand years of war however, Umbravon had virtually the entire galaxy behind him, and before his new Empire, the Jedi quickly crumbled, the survivors hiding out along the edges of the Galaxy, starting a resistance.

The Shrouded Hunter knew the Emperor personally, and recognized him as a man who truly understood evolution, both on a personal and societal level. He understood that people needed to see themselves as both individuals and as a group to truly evolve. Evolution was cyclical, as Umbravon had explained to the Shrouded Hunter in one of their conversations. As individuals evolved, the society they formed also evolved, and those born into that improved society started out further ahead than those who came before them. As such, people needed to be led and guided, but also allowed to flourish of their own merits. As such, Emperor Umbravon cultivated his new society for the past few decades, allowing a galactic congress to remain in place so the people could make many of their own decisions, though the Emperor still held the power to veto any legislation he disapproved of, and impose any legislation he believed was needed.

As the Shrouded Hunter had heard straight from Umbravon’s mouth, Umbravon had absolute power, but reserved it much of the time so his citizens could retain a large degree of individuality, something personal growth wouldn’t be possible without. Much like in policy, Umbravon held certain elements of the economy in check, but also allowed individuals within the economy to rise on their own and claim the earnings they deserved. In such a time of plenty, where the Emperor had provided the people with a stable economy, advancements in technology, and laws for the greater good of the citizens, there was plenty of opportunity and thus ambition, which Umbravon encouraged and rewarded. This ambition facilitated the growth of the individual, and thus the growth of society. Like a beautiful and vibrant forest growing in the ashes of a terrible inferno, the galaxy had been saved by a man forged and hardened in the very fires of the war that almost consumed it.

It was this ambition, this opportunity, this chance to evolve that brought the Shrouded Hunter where he was today; the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, preparing to assassinate his latest target, a galactic senator. To build up such a reputation, the Shrouded Hunter had killed countless people, some more important than even this senator, but there was something that gave this job special significance. The man who contracted him was none other than the Emperor himself, and when the Emperor wanted a job done, the Shrouded Hunter took that job very seriously. He didn’t fear the Emperor as some did, though this wasn’t do to his elusiveness or his skill in combat, for he knew the Emperor was a warrior greater than he, and he knew there was nowhere in the Galaxy he could hide if the Emperor chased after him, except maybe with the resistance, though such a thought filled him with revulsion. Besides, betrayal would inevitably lead to his death. His lack of fear regarding the Emperor owed to the fact that the Emperor was rather fond of him and had a great deal of personal respect for his abilities.

More than anything else, including the extraordinary large quantities of money the Emperor paid him or his own reputation, the Shrouded Hunter took the Emperor’s requests very seriously out of a sense of respect for him. Once he had been grievously wounded by a Jedi, and it was only thanks to the Emperor that he had survived. It was thanks to the Emperor’s promotion of technological and biological research that the technology to overcome his injuries existed, as well as the technology with which he hunted. It was also thanks to the Emperor’s immesurable knowledge that he had become skilled in various styles and forms of combat. And it was thanks to the society the Emperor had created, the ambition, the opportunity, the circumvention of local authorities in the areas the Shrouded Hunter operated that he was able to pursue his passion with such success. Without the Emperor, he would be nothing. Without the Emperor, he would be dead. It was thanks to the Emperor that he was who he was now. Before he had been a skilled warrior, a skilled sniper, but now, he was unstoppable.

The Shrouded Hunter clutched his sniper rifle, watching the shuttle below as he sifted through his weapon’s six different settings. He settled on setting five, and took aim at the side of the vehicle closest to him. He pulled the trigger several times, peppering the side of the craft with several solid projectiles, with no fear of being discovered yet, for each slug that hit the shuttle’s underside was outfitted with cloaking technology, hiding it from sight and muffling all sound within a two foot radius on impact. His suit of armor was outfitted with similar technology, which is why the four droid guards surrounding the shuttle took no notice of him as they scanned the surrounding area. After the twelfth shot, the Shrouded Hunter observed the shuttle’s hull very carefully before noticing one area where the plating was barely dented. He took note of the heavier armoring and smirked behind his mask. Well now I know where the fuel line is, he thought to himself, I just have to wait.

Sure enough, the senator boarded a few minutes later, and the droids performed another inspection of the shuttle, two on the interior, and two on the exterior. The Shrouded Hunter observed intently as one of them took note of the peculiar dents in the side of the shuttle and called the other one over. Now was his chance. The Shrouded Hunter leapt from the building and watched the world beneath race up to meet him. He felt his feet smack the ground five stories below, and the impact was jarring, though it got the adrenaline coursing through his bloodstream. Unfortunately however, though his armor nullified the sound of his landing, several large cracks formed in the pavement beneath him, catching the photoreceptor of one of the droids, which quickly drew its electrostaff and advanced towards him. One droid advanced towards him as the other inspected the hull, both perfectly positioned between the Shrouded Hunter and his target, just as he had intended. The assassin quickly brought up his sniper rifle, switched it over to setting two, aimed it in the direction of the fuel line, and pulled the trigger. Instantly, a red laser beam burst forth from the tip of his sniper rifle, and tore through the chests of both droids as well as the armor plating of the hull, before striking the fuel line. An explosion engulfed the side of the shuttle and rocked it a few feet in the other direction.

As the now powerless and destroyed droids collapsed to the ground, two more raced out of the shuttle to engage him. No longer cloaked behind a field that muffled sound and made him invisible, the two remaining guards knew exactly where he was, and charged towards him with ignited electrostaffs. The Shrouded Hunter took aim at one of the advancing droids and fired, though with calculations and reflexes faster than human, the droid twirled the staff and caught the beam of energy along the length of its weapon, deflecting it harmlessly to the side. With a simple press of the button, the Shrouded Hunter switched his sniper rifle to setting four, and fired once more at the same droid. This time, rather than a laser beam, the droid’s staff was met with a dense magnetically accelerated projectile encased in a field of hot plasma. There was no blocking, no deflection, the shot shattered the staff and punched a large hole through the center of the droid’s chassis, right where the heart would’ve been, had it been a human target.

As the remaining droid closed in on him, the Shrouded Hunter retracted the scope of his sniper, reverting the weapon to what appeared to be a pistol, and holstered it, drawing a combat knife with the other hand. Though it appeared an ordinary combat knife, it was in fact connected to a pair of generators in the hilt. One was an electrical generator, sending a powerful electric current running through the blade, and the other was a sonic generator, vibrating the blade so quickly it could cut through most materials like butter. When the droid reached him, one end of its staff and the Shrouded Hunter’s blade met in a shower of red and purple sparks as the currents in their weapons converged. For the next five seconds, the droid twirled its staff in a blur, striking at the Shrouded Hunter from various angles, though the assassin stayed just on the edge of the staff’s range, blocking some of the strikes with his knife and dodging others. His advanced armor could’ve easily taken the blow, but the Shrouded Hunter preferred a challenge, or at least as much as the droid was able to provide.

Despite being a two thousand year old design, the magnaguard was still one of the fiercest droid combatants in the galaxy, however it still could not measure up to the excalibur model elite combat droids, which the Shrouded Hunter had fought, sometimes in pairs, to train himself. After about two more seconds, the Shrouded Hunter stepped forward, much to the surprise of his mechanical adversary, and caught the staff closer to where the droid was holding it with his knife. As swift as a shadow, the Shrouded Hunter wrapped his free arm around the length of the staff and wrenched it from the droid’s hands, slamming one end of it into the droid’s side as he did so. The droid was knocked to the ground by the force of the blow and unwilling to let it recover, the Shrouded Hunter sheathed his knife, raced forward, and raised the staff. An instant later he brought one end of it upon the droid’s chest hard, completely shattering the chassis and damaging the droid beyond repair.

It was only the amount of attention that the Shrouded Hunter kept diverted to the shuttle where his true target resided that he was able to recognize a flash of sapphire light in his peripheral vision in time to twirl the staff to the side and stop the blade of a lightsaber from striking him in the side of his head. His armor could’ve stopped that blow as well, though the Shrouded Hunter preferred to not go through the tedium of buying a replacement hood after this mission. Besides, he wanted to make sure his skills stayed sharp. He had underestimated the Jedi once at a very personal cost, he intended not to make the same mistake again.

As the Shrouded Hunter twirled around to face his foe, this human Jedi rained a series of aggressive blows against him with his sapphire blade. Familiar with Ataru, the fourth form of lightsaber combat defined by flamboyant bladework and rapid attack sequences, the Shrouded Hunter stepped back, twirling the staff in front of him to deflect the Jedi Master’s strikes. Though he had enough skill and familiarity with staff weaponry to hold off the Jedi’s assault, he much preferred his combat knife and would’ve been more comfortable wielding that instead, as the electrostaff was too cumbersome for his relatively short stature and the style of close quarters fighting he liked to employ. Nevertheless, improvements made to his body bestowed upon him during his physical recovery, paired with the skill and reflexes that came with countless hours and repetitions of combat training that was both intense and complex allowed him to hold a Master of the Jedi Order off, even without his weapon of choice. Exploiting Ataru’s relative lack of defense, the Shrouded Hunter dashed forward a step and pressed the length of the staff against the Jedi’s blade hard, driving it upward with physical strength the Jedi had not expected. As the Jedi Master staggered back, the Shrouded Hunter kicked him in the abdomen, sending him flying several meters back through the air.

As the Jedi lifted himself up off the ground, the Shrouded Hunter discarded the staff with a casual toss and activated his cloaking technology, rendering him silent and invisible. He grinned behind his mask as he watched the Jedi glance around in confusion for a second before a look of terror flashed across his face. So he can’t sense me even with the Force, the Shrouded Hunter thought victoriously, I guess that taozin nodule works. Gifted to him by the Emperor, the taozin nodule he had on his person prevented him from being sensed through the Force, something that suited his stealthy tactics perfectly. As the Jedi backpedaled towards the entrance to the shuttle with his blade outstretched in front of him, the Shrouded Hunter leaped forward, rolled across the ground to the Jedi’s right side, came up behind him and spun towards the unprotected backside of his foe. In one quick motion, the Shrouded Hunter drew his combat knife with his right and stabbed it through the neck of the Jedi, holding it in place for a few seconds before slicing down, practically bisecting the man’s spine with his blade.

There was an outcry of shock and fury as what appeared to be a Jedi Padawan on the cusp of Knighthood charging out of the shuttle’s entrance towards him. The Padawan swung his blade towards him in a quick and deadly strike that possessed precision despite his emotions. At the last possible second, the Shrouded Hunter twirled around, tossing his knife from his right hand to his left, deflected the strike with his knife and thrust his right fist into the Padawan’s neck. There was a loud snap, and a second the thud of his limp body hitting the ground.

Turning to glance into the shuttle, the Shrouded Hunter saw his prey cowering in the back of the shuttle with a look of fear in his eyes. As was obvious to men like the Shrouded Hunter and the Emperor, power evoked fear. The senator was a human female in her mid thirties with blonde hair and delicate pale skin. She appeared beautiful, yet fragile at the same time. Fragility is a weakness, the Shrouded Hunter thought to himself, a weakness she tried to encourage the galaxy to embrace with the bills she introduced, something that made her the Emperor’s enemy even before she committed high treason. Though she looked just as she had in the holoimages the Emperor had given her, something seemed strangely off about her.

Suddenly, the Shrouded Hunter grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her close to him, her frightened blue eyes meeting the cold expressionless stare of his mask. He held her there for a second until he noticed a flicker in her appearance, and suddenly panic and outrage filled his thoughts. He hoisted her into the air with one hand and flung her through the entrance to the shuttle. Her back hit the ground outside the shuttle with a hard crack, and suddenly her appearance shifted to that of a similar looking but obviously different woman. A holographic disguise matrix! the Shrouded Hunter realized. As he stepped outside, the decoy whimpered in fear for a few second before glancing at something behind him with a hopeful facial expression. Turning to look at what she was observing, the Shrouded Hunter saw a shuttle rising from between the buildings seven or eight blocks away.

The cold grip of panic closed in on the Shrouded Hunter’s heart. Things were not going according to plan, and now the actual senator was on a shuttle that with each passing second brought her closer to the cold void of space; to her escape. The crawl of time brought her further and further out of his reach. As the adrenaline surged through the Shrouded Hunter’s entire body, he felt his panic washed away by pure unadulterated ecstasy. It wasn’t often that he was faced with a true challenge that would push him to the limits of his abilities, but what loomed before him was a near impossible task, and so it had turned from a playful game to a thrill beyond measure. Swiftly, the Shrouded Hunter drew his sniper, now in the form of a pistol, switched it to setting one, and fired upon the decoy. She didn’t even get a chance to scream before a lightning-like bolt of energy struck her and her entire body was liquidated and splattered all over the surrounding area. That setting always left an impression on anyone who saw it in action, which certainly helped build the Shrouded Hunter’s reputation.

Holstering his pistol, the Shrouded Hunter made a mad dash for the air taxi used to transport the decoy senator to the decoy shuttle. Leaping into the pilot seat, the Shrouded Hunter immediately went to work on the controls, quickly getting the taxi airborne and accelerating. Keeping his eye fixed on the rising shuttle, the Shrouded Hunter slammed on the throttle, accelerating the air taxi as fast as it could possibly go and taking it into the sky. The shuttle was rising faster however, and as soon as the Shrouded Hunter had reached an altitude of six kilometers, the shuttle was already a kilometer into the stratosphere. Leveling the air taxi, the Shrouded Hunter leaped to his feet, pulled out his pistol and pressed the button that transformed it into a sniper rifle, and switched it over to setting six. He had to make a seven kilometer shot to bring down a shuttle, and his weapon had both the accuracy and power to do so. Did he have what it takes though? That’s what he was about to find out.

The HUD on his mask zoomed in to see the senator’s shuttle, which was rapidly getting further and further away. He put the scope view of the sniper on his HUD, which was transmitted from microscopic camera scopes surrounding the exterior of the barrel. He had to be quick or else he’d miss his opportunity. The adrenaline was coursing through him and his heart was pounding. His arms were trembling slightly, throwing off his entire line of sight as the slightest shift in movement when making a seven kilometer shot could completely screw up his aim. With an exertion of will he never knew he had, the Shrouded Hunter stilled his arms, focused his mind, and with the most miniscule movements adjusted his aim. For the briefest fraction of a second, the shuttle fell into the crosshairs, and the Shrouded Hunter pulled the trigger in a reflexive act he didn’t know he was capable of. A fiery orange beam exploded from the tip of the barrel at that instant, and the Shrouded Hunter looked back at the HUD tracking view of the shuttle just as that same orange beam tore through the hull of the ship and shot right out of the top of the cockpit. An almost orgasmic wave of relief and ecstasy washed through the Shrouded Hunter’s spirit as he watched the ship break into a nosedive, its entire cockpit engulfed in flame.

After observing in awe for a couple more seconds, the Shrouded Hunter jumped back into his seat and started operating the controls again, flying in the direction of the shuttle’s descent. A minute later, about thirty meters to his air taxi’s right, he watched the shuttle plummet past him, wreathed in fire. Inexplicably, the shuttle began to slow down substantially, likely the result of some back-up system firing the reverse thrusters, but by this point it was already less than two kilometers in the air. As the Shrouded Hunter descended back towards the surface of the planet, he watched the shuttle crash through an empty building before cutting a swath of fiery destruction across the ground next to the building. The shuttle was in terrible shape crushed into half its original size, fires still blazing all along the exterior, and in a three meter deep crevice in the ground. Normally he’d assume his target’s death, but whenever the Jedi got involved, which they clearly had, one could never be too sure of anything.

Surely enough, when he had closed within three hundred meters of the ground, he recognized a green lightsaber blade cutting through the crumpled side of the shuttle. Descending slowly now, the Shrouded Hunter observed as a tall man with long brown hair, a beard, and white robes emerged from the freshly cut hole, clearly a Jedi master based on the way he carried himself. As he watched, four more people emerged from the makeshift exit. First came a Mirialan Jedi Master and a Twi’lek Jedi Knight carrying the senator, and last came another Jedi Knight, this one a Kel Dor with his right arm broken so badly a shard of bone was protruding from his flesh and a pool of blood was welling up beneath him. Aside from the second Knight and the senator, none of the others looked to be injured, though all were still regaining their composure and orientation, save for the first master.

The Shrouded Hunter took notice of the human’s strength, deciding to test himself against him in one on one melee combat after the others fell. Without any more consideration, the Shrouded Hunter aimed his sniper rifle, switched it to setting three, and fired upon the Jedi Master. The projectile was a tranquilizer slug designed to break down beneath the target’s flesh charged with a form of electricity designed to stun a target’s nervous system. Either one of them on their own could instantly knock a large man out, but both together left no chance at consciousness afterwards. Sure enough, the Jedi Master toppled over, and the other three Jedi looked up and raised their blades in defense. Realizing firing upon them from above wouldn’t do him as much good now, the Shrouded Hunter decided to meet his three opponents head on. Now at an altitude of about fifty meters, the Shrouded Hunter leapt from the air taxi and dropped like a stone.

Within seconds, he felt his feet hit the ground, and his gaze fell upon the three Jedi, just as theirs fell upon him. He retracted his sniper into a pistol for faster firing and greater maneuverability and put it on setting one as the three Jedi began to slowly advance. Three Jedi and one man who couldn’t even wield the Force. Those would not be favorable odds for most, but the Shrouded Hunter wasn’t just one of the masses, he had become a shining example of what the Emperor inspired all people to become, and individual, rising from their surroundings to become something greater. The Shrouded Hunter was an apex predator, and these Jedi were between him and his prey.

The Shrouded Hunter fired upon his opponents rapidly as they started to close in on him, each of them deflecting his shots, though with difficulty, as these pseudo-lightning bolts moved at a greater velocity than blasterbolts. Their advance was still too quick however, so the Shrouded Hunter started firing blast after blast at their legs and feet specifically, and as they closed in within seven to ten meters each, the Shrouded Hunter drew his combat knife in his other hand and charged suddenly at the Jedi Master approaching him from the middle. The mirialan was caught off guard and as he caught her blade of plasma with his blade of metal, he also fired at her with his pistol, forcing her to lean back as a surge of deadly energy crackled above her. This did however leave her vulnerable to a leg sweep, which sent her sprawling.

He did not have time to fire upon her prone body however as just then, the two Jedi Knights closed in on him, one from either side. Swiftly he brought his blade around to catch the blade of the Twi’lek while simultaneously switching his pistol over to setting four and aiming it at the Kel Dor. With only one good arm, the Kel Dor’s lightsaber was knocked from his grasp and he toppled over, momentarily dazed by the physical exertion and the loss of blood. The Shrouded Hunter took a step back as the Twi’lek advanced upon him, slashing her emerald blade at his lower leg. The Shrouded Hunter deflected the strike along the edge of his combat knife with blinding speed, and aimed his pistol at the Jedi after switching it back to setting one. His opponent desperately gave ground behind the combined assault of the blade’s stabs and slashes and the pistol’s surges of lightning like energy. After a couple of seconds, the Shrouded Hunter fired at her head, forcing her to bring her blade up high and slicing low with his knife. She was able to bring her blade down in time to block the blade of the knife, but she left herself open to the elbow that hit her in the ribs and sent her hurtling through the air. By this point, the Mirialan Master had returned to her feet and charged at him once more, though with more caution.

The Shrouded Hunter advanced on her in a very similar manner to how he had advanced on the Twi’lek, however this was a Jedi Master, and she was more skilled and far more flexible. She did however fall into a retreat beneath the Shrouded Hunter’s vicious assault, blocking or evading every stab or shot he took at her as she quickly took step after step, maintaining perfect balance as she did so. The Shrouded Hunter had to admire her skill, but it was time for play to end. In two motions so swift they appeared to be a single dark blur through the air, the Shrouded Hunter fired twice in quick succession, and leapt forward as she deflected the shots. She tried to strike at him, but in such close quarters, the Shrouded Hunter had the advantage. He caught her blade near the hilt with his knife, pressed it towards her body with superior strength, and held the tip of his pistol to her chest. A look of horror crossed her face for one brief instant before her entire figure vanished in an explosion of blood and gore.

The Shrouded Hunter could almost feel the surprise of the two Knights as he wheeled around to face him. Both were back on their feet and both slowly began to advance. The Shrouded Hunter holstered his pistol, he would not need it to face the two of them. His opponents picked up their pace, though still proceeded with a certain measure of caution. Admirable, the Shrouded Hunter thought to himself, but it will not save them. Suddenly, the two Knights bursted into blindingly quick motion, closing the distance and simultaneously swinging at him from either side, though each had their blades held close enough to their chest to maintain a defensive coverage. In an even quicker motion however, the Shrouded Hunter threw himself into the air, flipped back, landed on his free hand, performed a back handspring, and landed back on his feet, crouched a few meters away.

As they closed in on him once more however, the Shrouded Hunter stayed crouched, limiting the number of angles from which they could attack him and making it harder for them to effectively coordinate their efforts. They came at him from the same side at first, and he repelled their attacks with little difficulty. Quickly however they adapted and came at him from either flank. Using the potential energy stored in his tensed up muscles however, the Shrouded Hunter leaped up, twisted through the air, and caught the Twi’lek in the chest with his foot before she could strike his leg, sending her skidding across the ground. Before she could recover however, he rolled across the ground to the side of the Kel Dor and came up behind him, and though he turned to meet him, the Shrouded enemy now had his wounded between himself and his other opponent. Not wasting a second, the Shrouded Hunter stepped forward and slashed at his wounded foe, though as his wounded foe slashed to meet his blade, the Shrouded Hunter leaned back and pulled his blade back, forcing the Kel Dor to overextend. Before he could retract his strike however, the Shrouded Hunter lunged, pressing his blade against the blade of his enemy with all of his might. The Shrouded Hunter was the physically stronger of the two, and the Kel Dor was wounded, as a result, the Kel Dor’s blade was easily pushed to the side, and the Shrouded Hunter slashed the Kel Dor’s throat in a blindingly quick blur of motion before he could even scream.

Noticing the Twi’lek approaching from behind the now dead Kel Dor, the Shrouded Hunter sheathed his knife and kicked the corpse in front of him hard, sending it flying towards his opponent. As she deflected the momentum of the body away from her with her arms, the Shrouded Hunter leapt forward and wrapped his hands around her wrists before she could respond. Twisting his arms around hers and pulling his hands towards her neck, the Shrouded Hunter lifted his opponent a couple of feet off of the ground, held her there for a second, and flung her to his side with all of his might. Her body rebounded off of the pavement with a loud crack, and the pavement in turn cracked, as did a third of the bones in her body.

At that moment, the bearded Master returned to his feet and ignited his sapphire blade. Impressive, the Shrouded Hunter thought to himself, most would be out for a few hours, but he gets up after only a couple of minutes! He grinned behind the mask, knowing he had found a challenge. He drew his combat knife once more and held it in an opening stance. Then after a few seconds of tense silence, the two opponents flew at each other in a blur of motion, their blades clashing several times in the span of a second. This Master fought well, his attacks graceful and elegant, matching uncompromising speed with utter precision. For the next two minutes the opponents circled each other, advanced and retreated, leapt and ducked, blocked and struck, the song of their battle reverberating across the landing platform. It was truly a spectacular performance with neither giving into frustration or fatigue. Several times, the Jedi Master tried to press the advantage of his weapon’s superior range, though the Shrouded Hunter was used to fighting opponents with weapons of greater range, and his entire fighting style was based around compensating. At times he stood along the edge of the weapon’s range, easily swatting its tip away as he slowly retreated, and other times he advanced so close that the length of his opponent’s blade was cumbersome rather than helpful, whereas his weapon was right at home. It was in one of these advances that the fight came to a close.

The Shrouded Hunter leaped forward, slashing the Master’s blade to the side and preparing to slice his chest cavity open. His opponent was quick to adapt however, swinging his blade down low at his opponent’s legs. The Shrouded Hunter jumped up and back, backflipping over the blade and making a glancing cut along the Master’s wrist as he did so. The man’s body seized up as the electric current racked his muscles and nerves. He was stunned only for a second, but he couldn’t recover quickly enough to stop the Shrouded Hunter’s blade from cutting open his stomach. The Shrouded Hunter took a step back as the man fell to his knees clutching at his severely bleeding abdomen with his off hand.

“You fought honorably,” the Shrouded Hunter said, the first and only words he had spoken during the entire mission. Then, he moved in for the kill. The Jedi Master made one last admirable effort to block his strike, but with so much of his strength depleted, his blade was turned to the side, and the blade of the Shrouded Hunter pierced his heart, ending his life.

Satisfied with the challenge he had overcome, the Shrouded Hunter spun around to see the senator limping away from him as fast as her wounded legs would carry her. Nonchalantly, the Shrouded Hunter switched his pistol over to setting four and fired, watching the senator’s head practically explode beneath the force of the blast. His target was now dead, his mission accomplished.

What had she done to deserve the Emperor’s wrath? She had stolen the designs for an advanced combat droid, one that would be not only intelligent but sentient as well; the perfect weapon. Clearly, based on the presence of the Jedi, she intended to hand the designs over to their resistance, which would not and had not been tolerated by the Emperor, as evidenced by the outcome of the Shrouded Hunter’s mission.

Even before she committed treason however, the senator had been a thorn in the Emperor’s side. Time after time, the senator proposed ridiculous legislation, advocating for restricting the use of certain words, demanding trigger warnings in all presentations and speeches given by those working for the government, acknowledging microaggressions as a serious problem, and even legislation to raise money for a “Check Your Privilege” program. Worst of all, she advocated for something called safe spaces, rooms at schools and the workplace where an individual could go to close themselves off from the outside world, avoiding the offensive harsh reality of the world and only allowing those in who agree with the opinions of the individual. This advocation also extended to requiring colleges and universities to become safe spaces in their entirety, with free speech entirely restricted. This woman had stood for so many things wrong with society, and her policies would only exacerbate these problems. These policies would make society even more hypersensitive than it already was, forcing people to walk on eggshells to avoid saying anything that had the slightest chance of offending anyone, for fear of being mobbed by individuals like her. They would also encourage people to close themselves off from outside opinions, and they would rob the educational environment of the free speech needed for the free flow and exchange of ideas central to any place of learning.

The idea of a safe space was repugnant to both the Emperor, and to the Shrouded Hunter. Safe spaces promoted emotional weakness and shamelessness, both of which could weaken individuals to the extent to which they’d be incapable of living anywhere except the fantasy world they built inside of their safe space where nobody had any desire to criticise them. Without criticism, without strife, and without being open to ideas, an individual couldn’t grow and they couldn’t evolve. Society would regress and devolve, wallowing in self pity as tensions between two polarizing groups of enemies rose, perhaps to the point of war, and in such a state of weakness, galactic civilization wouldn’t survive another war of such magnitude. Even without the threat of conflict such weakness would be crippling to society, as the weak lack the power and the initiative to enact change. The Emperor recognized this, and this was among the many reasons the Shrouded Hunter respected him. For if the Shrouded Hunter had merely wallowed in the pain and self pity of his injuries, he would’ve vanished as a nobody, but with the strength and initiative to rise, he had lifted himself above the masses to become a truly remarkable being. He had become one of the strong instead of one of the weak. He had become the sniper from the shadows, the man in the mask, the blade in the dark. He had become the Shrouded Hunter.

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Emperordmb
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