Four years after the death of Emperor Palpatine at Endor, Aaris III came to the interest of Moff Kentor Sarne, an Imperial warlord who ruled the Kathol sector following the fragmentation of the Empire. He dispatched a science team to the planet under the command of Doctor Lancer Brunou to investigate the ruins. While on the surface, the team uncovered the Plaque of Victory, and its influence slowly began to manipulate the team, increasing their paranoia and hostility. The team was attacked by descendants of the Aaris, and Doctor Brunou sent out a distress call to Sarne's capital on Kal'Shebbol, hoping for rescue. After a few days, only three members of the team were left.
Brunou's distress signal was intercepted by the FarStar, a New Republic CR90 corvette. During the time that the science team had been on Aaris III, Kal'Shebbol had fallen to the New Republic. The commander of the FarStar, Captain Kaiya Adrimetrum, diverted to Aaris III to investigate the science team's presence on the world and render aid. During rescue operations, the crew of the FarStar came under the influence of the Plaque of Victory after it was brought aboard by one of the survivors. Unlike the science team, however, they soon realized the cause of the negative feelings running through the ship and jettisoned the artifact into space.
Aaris III was a planet located in the Kathol sector of the Outer Rim Territories, and was connected to the worlds Brolsam, Charis, and Kolatill via hyperlanes. It was the homeworld of the Aaris, a race of reptilian humanoids. The Aaris had established an extensive civilization on the planet several thousand years before the Galactic Civil War, but the society had all but destroyed itself in a civil war. By 8 ABY, the primitive descendants of the Aaris survivors inhabited the underground levels of the ruins of their cities.
Covered in heavy jungles and oceans, Aaris III was a lush blue-green planet when viewed from space. Long mountain ranges ran throughout the landscape, punching through the jungle cover and rising to several kilometers in height. Immense ruins, which were remnants of the native Aaris civilization, were located all over the planet, covering hundreds of square kilometers and hidden under the jungle canopies. A vast desert was located in the middle of the planet's equatorial jungle. Fauna was widespread across the planet, and Aaris III played host to an abundance of animal life in both the jungles and oceans. The standard day on Aaris III lasted for nineteen standard hours, and the length of its year was two hundred and ninety-nine local days.
The Aaris civilizationEdit
The Aaris civilization flourished thousands of years prior to the Galactic Civil War, establishing an industrial society and utilizing an oral tradition of communication. They built great cities across the face of the planet, and were an organized society with occupations including scholars and professional soldiers. A relatively peaceful society, they did nevertheless engage in occasional wars between one another. One of their more prominent citizens was the scholar Kastays, who resided in one of the planet's cities.
One night, prior to 3643 BBY, a comet streaked through Aaris III's skies. Several days later, a military legion from an outpost entered the city in which Kastays resided with an artifact, a triangular-shaped metal ingot that they had dubbed the "Plaque of Victory." Unknown to the Aaris was the fact that the artifact was sentient, albeit inanimate, and that it fed off the life-force of organic beings. The Plaque's goal was to destroy those around it, but not by any action of its own. It manipulated the feelings of individuals, causing them to act in paranoid, irrational, and homicidal ways.
Six days after the arrival of the artifact in the city, civil unrest began to blight the population. A rise in violent crimes was reported, with many resulting in the death of the victim. It escalated quickly, with street gangs clashing in bloody battles throughout the city. Eventually, even units of the city guard turned on one another, and even killed innocent civilians, claiming to have been betrayed by them. Each faction had one thing in common—they claimed that the Plaque of Victory had spoken to them, and each claimed to be its guardian.
One faction, who had access to the relic, removed it from its place in the gushaz, and took it to a tower in the city's government buildings, high above the city. It was hoped that it would soothe the population if it was high above the people. To safeguard it, the artifact was given over to Kastays, who hid it in a floor vault. The plan failed, and the Aaris civilization descended into civil war and anarchy, all but destroying itself in the process. Kastays recorded the events using bas-relief pictographs that stored sound, mounting them on the walls of his chamber at the top of the tower where he had secured the relic. Despite the fall of their society, the Aaris continued to live on. As the jungle reclaimed their cities and achievements, the primitive descendants of the survivors made their home in the ruins of their cities.
By 3643 BBY, during the Galactic War between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, many of Aaris III's cities stood abandoned. Scavengers were known to raid the planet's ruined cities for valuables, and had found well-preserved bunkers full of serviceable equipment such as weapons and military supplies. The Sith Empire maintained a presence on Aaris III during the war. The nature of the Empire's work on the planet was tied to Project Chimera, a Science Bureau initiative that was studying the effects that the Nightmare Lands on the planet Voss had on non-native lifeforms.
Shortly after Moff Kentor Sarne assumed control of the Kathol sector in 2 BBY, he sent a scout mission to the system. The team charted Aaris III, deployed a standard Imperial marker beacon, and returned to the sector capital of Kal'Shebbol to report their findings, although they found no evidence that the Aaris species had survived. Shortly after, all members of the team disappeared. Some time between the scout mission and 8 ABY, Sarne established a supply cache on the planet, filled with standard issue Imperial equipment. The Moff intended to use the cache in case Kal'Shebbol ever fell to his enemies and he needed to resupply as his forces either fell back in retreat, or mustered for a counter assault to reclaim the capital.
In 8 ABY, Sarne organized and dispatched a scientific mission to the planet. The team, designated as MS-133, was led by Doctor Lancer Brunou, a respected archaeologist who had taught at the University of Byblos before joining Moff Sarne's forces. Scientists Doctor Theda, Grigor Tansad, and Jelok were also assigned to the team, along with research assistant Solla Deremot, at least three technicians, and ten soldiers commanded by a lieutenant who doubled as the team's shuttle pilot. The mission was kept secret, and their assignment was to excavate the ruins of the planet for artifacts and information, paying particular attention to why the ancient Aaris died out. Setting up a base camp in a field of ruins, the team also deployed a subspace comm transfer satellite in orbit.
Unearthing the Plaque of VictoryEdit
MS-133 spent several months exploring the ruins around their camp and landing site. On the forty-ninth day of the expedition, Tansad discovered an entrance into one of the ruined metallic structures. The structure was the chamber at the top of the tower that Kastays had used thousands of years previously, and the team came upon the pictographs that had been created during the last days of the Aaris civilization. Doctor Brunou authorized the setting up of a second camp nearer to the chamber to further explore the find. Upon studying the pictographs—which emitted sounds when touched—it was discovered that they corresponded to a dating system, and the sounds emitted were a record of events. Tansad and Jelok worked to decipher the alien language, with support from Deremot.
During their work in the chamber, Jelok and Deremot discovered the Plaque of Victory concealed within Kastays's floorsafe, where he had hidden it thousands of years previously. Not knowing exactly what it was, Doctor Brunou took the artifact back to the main base camp and examined it. The results showed that it was constructed of no metal known to Imperial science. The analysis equipment also picked up faint traces of energy emanating from it, and Brunou decided that it should be sent to Kal'Shebbol for further analysis by Sarne's laboratories in case it was a new form of energy that the Moff could use.
A day after the artifact's discovery, it began to spread its influence among the team, causing them to see and hear things. Members of the trooper detachment reported seeing "spies" watching them from the jungle. MS-133 was unaware that the descendants of the Aaris still lived among the ruins of their cities, and believed that the planet was devoid of any intelligent life apart from themselves. The commanding lieutenant led five soldiers into the jungle in search of the beings they believed were watching them. An hour after they had left, the team at the base heard blaster fire in the distance; believing the worst, weapons were issued to all members of the science team. The troopers who had gone into the jungle did not return; believing them to be dead, Brunou began considering the possibility of recalling the expedition to save lives, although cancellation of the mission was against Sarne's standing orders.
That night, the Aaris attacked the base camp, wounding Doctor Theda with blaster fire. The remaining troopers returned fire, although they never got a clear look at their attackers, and were unaware of who their assailants were. As day broke, an investigation of the area found the bodies of several of the troopers who had entered the jungle the day before. Brunou decided it was time to evacuate the planet, and he ordered the secondary base camp to be abandoned after Jelok reported Tansad missing and two technicians with him were shot by Aaris sniper fire from the jungle. Initially, Jelok refused, citing that his research into deciphering the chamber's pictographs was reaching a critical stage, but he was forcibly escorted to the team's shuttle by the remaining troops while the base camp was packed up.
As night fell, a fireball erupted over the jungle as the team's shuttle was blown up using detonite. The remaining team members erected a defensive position at the main base camp, digging into one of the mounds in the ruins and raising makeshift fortifications. An E-Web heavy repeating blaster was mounted on the ramparts and Brunou sent a distress call to Kal'Shebbol, hoping for some form of support or rescue. The following night, the camp was attacked again by the Aaris, prompting the remaining soldiers and technicians to charge over the barricades to confront the enemy. The survivors started to lose hope of rescue, wondering if the team's booster satellite in orbit had been destroyed so that Kal'Shebbol had not heard their distress call.
Brunou's distress signal did not reach Moff Sarne, instead being intercepted by the New Republic CR90 corvette FarStar. Kal'Shebbol had fallen to the New Republic in the months that the team had been on the planet, and the FarStar had been assigned to track down Moff Sarne, who had fled his capital following the New Republic's liberation of the world. While completing a mission in a nearby system, the crew of the vessel became aware of the team's plight. Lieutenant Jessa Dajus—a former Imperial Intelligence agent in Sarne's regime—knew of the expedition and believed that it was connected to the mysterious "DarkStryder", an entity that Moff Sarne was known to be in league with. She recommended that the FarStar divert and answer the distress call to the vessel's commanding officer, Captain Kaiya Adrimetrum, stating that the expedition members may have held information as to Sarne's location.
Adrimetrum agreed and organized a rescue mission led by the FarStar's First Officer, Gorak Khzam. The team—including pilot Brophar Tofarain, scout Kl'aal, and Lieutenant Dajus—descended to the surface in one of the corvette's shuttles. Landing in a clearing on the edge of the jungle, the rescue team had to trek through the foliage to MS-133's base camp. Arriving at the site, the FarStar crew members had to convince Deremot—who was manning the E-Web repeating blaster set up on the makeshift fortifications—that they were there to help the Imperial team. Nervous, tired, and afraid, Deremot initially believed that they were linked to the Aaris who had besieged them previously. The team managed to convince her of their intentions, and proceeded to render medical aid. However, Doctor Theda had died, succumbing to the blaster wounds. Brunou and Deremot were evacuated to the FarStar, although Brunou insisted on taking the Plaque of Victory with them, classing it as a significant archaeological find. On the corvette, the two Imperials were questioned over their activities on the planet, which they answered truthfully. The crew also examined the artifact.
FarStar landing parties salvaged equipment and supplies from the science team's expedition, and investigated exactly what had occurred on the planet. A team scoured the wreckage of the Imperial shuttle, discovering the traces of detonite that had been used to destroy the craft. They also found Tansad's body hidden under rubble in the pictograph chamber of the Place of Kastays, along with evidence that he had been murdered—a fist-sized rock covered in blood that corresponded to a fatal wound on the back of the scientist's skull. Along with the body was a datapad with Tansad's translation of the pictographs, which detailed the last days of the Aaris civilization, and its descent into anarchy following the discovery of the Plaque of Victory.
On the FarStar, the Plaque of Victory was starting to exert its influence over the crew. Paranoia and suspicion began to run rampant through the ship, although the crew soon realized that they could not all be going mad, or be the target of conspiracies and personal grudges. They linked the behavior of the crew to that of the ancient Aaris—as shown from the translation notes discovered on Tansad's body—and realized that they were having similar experiences, albeit on a smaller scale. The artifact brought on board by Brunou matched the description of the Plaque of Victory, and the crew came to the conclusion that it was responsible for their heightened aggressive attitude after observing the doctor's possessive behavior concerning it. Relieving him of the object, they ejected it out of one of the ship's airlocks on a course for the Aaris system's star. Shortly after, the crew's feelings of paranoia and suspicion faded.