Attacking The Clones Cns Runon
“This is shuttle Aeotheran One inbound from Marakith, requesting clearance to dock.”
“Aeotheran One, you have clearance, proceed to bay three.”
The Delta Class shuttle entered the atmosphere of the jungle world of Sepros, its fighter escorts surrounding it as it made its way towards the opening hangar entrance amongst the trees whose tops stretched towards the skyline. Its repulsors activated, slowly descending into the opening, until it came to rest on the deck of the underground hangar.
The ramp lowered, and a few seconds later a party of Sith came down it. In the lead was Sith Warrior Malisane de Ath, Quaestor of Ludo Kressh. Behind him came the figures of Ashia Kagan Keibatsu, his Aedile, and the two Battleteam leaders, Sai Keibatsu and Corin Solander. Malisane regarded the approaching guards, members of the elite DSF forces that guarded the Sadow Palace.
The sergeant saluted. “Greetings Quaestor, with your permission we will lead you to the Conclave chamber.
“We know the way,” Ashia muttered, “we’ve been here before.”
“They have their formalities,” Malisane whispered back, “there’s no harm in going along with them.” He raised his voice, “Thank you Sergeant.”
They followed the soldiers along the heavily guarded metal corridors that made up the inside of the Sadow Palace. Finally they reached a pair of ornate double doors which slid open smoothly. Inside was a large room, with an ornate table surrounded by chairs, more guards stood with blasters ready in alcoves surrounding the table. This was the Conclave chamber, where the Inner Circle of Clan Naga Sadow were summoned to meet with the Consul and occasionally the Overlord to debate issues relevant to the Clan. Some of the chairs were already occupied. The Quaestor of Marka Ragnos and his Summit sat along one side of the table, several of the Sons of Sadow were nearby and at the head of the table Consul Manesh Sadow and his Pro-Consul sat waiting. Malisane was surprised to note a third chair had been placed next to them in which sat Epis Shin’Ichi Keibatsu, who had been missing from Orion for the last few weeks.
Manesh regarded the newcomers. “Take your seats we have much to discuss.” He ordered. He waited until they were sat opposite the Ragnos Summit..
He looked slowly around the assembled Conclave. “I expect you are wondering why I have called this extraordinary meeting?” he asked. No one answered but all sat attentive. “We have an urgent matter to discuss. Unknown to most of you, and in agreement with the Overlord, I have recently commissioned an investigation into the possibility of acquiring a large number of spaarti cylinders for this Clans use in dramatically boosting our military personnel. Our investigation has born fruit and we are ready to make that acquisition.”
Several of the assembled members looked surprised at this and there was a murmur around the table. Finally Malisane spoke up. “It was agreed after much discussion that our current Dlarit Security Forces were more than sufficient for defence of this system and outside commitments. We also decided the cloning route was impractical.”
“That policy has changed, “Manesh replied, “with the Vong and other possible future threats on the horizon and increased demands for military support from the Dark Council, the need has arisen for both a larger force for both ground and space commitments, and faster replacement of casualties with trained and conditioned troops. Cloning would now seem to be the best solution to this.”
“So how do we acquire these spaarti cylinders?” Shikyo asked from opposite his fellow Quaestor.
“As I said we have looked into this matter,” the Consul replied, “they are rare across the galaxy, the technology is hard to obtain and replicate, so we have worked through the historical archives to find a large source of them. Shin’Ichi here has conducted this investigation. Report your findings Epis.”
Shin’ichi nodded. “As our Consul has already made clear these cylinders are rare, and we can not simply buy them from a supplier. However the archives have uncovered something interesting. I assume you are all familiar with the Kamino Uprising?” They all nodded, this was standard history the Shadow Academy taught.. Shin’Ichi reminded them anyway. Shin’ichi pressed a button and a hologram of a galactic map appeared over the table, focusing in on the ocean world.
“Following the Clone Wars some of the Kaminoan Clonemasters decided to rebel against Palpatine by creating their own army of Clones on Kamino loyal to them. This attempt was put down by the Emperors 501st Legion, and the rebel Clonemasters and their forces were eliminated in battle, bringing the world and its production directly under Palpatines authority.”
“So how does this help us?” Ylith demanded.
“Palpatine and his forces were not as successful as the believed,” The Epis continued, “we have discovered recently that before his 501st Legion attacked several of the rogue Clonemasters left Kamino, taking some of their technology with them, to set up a second facility. We have traced them to this world here, Jaginos.” The map shifted and focused on a second more terrestrial world further out into the uncharted regions. “I have just returned from a covert survey of this system. The Kaminoans have a large underground facility on the northern continent, guarded by a brigade of their Clone Troopers. Since the establishment of this second facility they have kept themselves to themselves, selling small numbers of clones to private security and pirate groups to finance themselves. I have traced these clone sales back to Jaginos.”
”A brigade of Clone Troopers,” Shikyo repeated, “that makes it difficult.”
Macron spoke up, “Indeed, a well armed and trained force. In addition Shin’Ichi has brought back images of an impressive defence fleet around the system. It appears the Kaminoans are not welcoming customers to their new home.”
Manesh nodded. “We face difficult odds here, however this is a priority to Clan operations and an attempt must be made to acquire their cloning technology. I am directing my Pro Consul to take a task force lead by the Covenant comprising Sith and DSF Marine forces. We need to occupy Jaginos by force, commandeer the cloning technology and bring it back to establish a cloning facility of our own on Tarthos.”
“Sounds like fun,” Malisane observed, a glint in his eye.
“It will be”, Macron replied, “our first task is to disable their defence fleet to allow landing on Jaginos for the ground assault. We will formulate an attack plan on route. The Covenant and other elements of the fleet, along with our fighter and bomber squadrons and ground forces are being prepared as we speak. I will issue your ship assignments following this meeting. Any questions?”
There was no response. The Consul nodded. “They prepare for departure.”
An hour later Macron sat on the bridge of the VSD Covenant. He glanced at the captain. “Report status.”
“All fighters loaded, all personell have reported in.”
The Pro Consul nodded. He glanced at the display. The Foresight and the Fire of Sepros were in position either side of the Flagship, the Quaestors of Ludo Kressh and Marka Ragnos in command respectively. Above and below the Flagship the two VACs Crimson Angel and Astronicus Reach were also in position. He smiled. They were ready to depart. He glanced at the Rolemaster who sat in the chair to his right.
“You sure on their fleet numbers?” he asked.
Shin'Ichi nodded. “My scouting reported one Acclamator, two of those old republic dreadnaughts, and several gunships and covettes. Old ships. They ought not to be a problem to our fleet.”
Macron nodded. “Unless they're hiding something. We will be on our guard. Signal the departure.”
A few minutes later the task force entered hyperspace, bound for Jaginos.
Draken sat inside the hangar bay, sharpening his sword killing time while they travelled through space
towards the Kaminoan homeworld. Even thought the journey wouldnt take all that long, it still felt
like a long journey to him, and his silent behaviour, though usual to him, was a sign that he felt uneasy.
He never took his eyes eyes of his blade, the bluish flames engulfing his arm every time
he pushed the sharpening stone down over the blade's edge. Memories about the Kaminoans
were also present within him, some even more recently than other knew. He had a personal
vendetta with the Cloners, and this secret would stay his untill the moment was right.
Draken forced a smile, and lifted his blade, he watched as the flames returned into a calm, low
burning state, the bluish tint of light across the hangar floor a calming oasis in the harsh metallic
environment. He placed the sharpening stone in a small container and removed his outer robes.
The Valheru chose to wear a light armor this time, knowing that a robe wouldnt save him in the
heat of a battle. He wore a vest with one long sleve on the left side and no sleve on the right,
allowing free movement for his normal arm, while his mechanical arm was consealed underneath
the longer sleeve. Atop of the thin vest he wore a durasteel chestplate. The Medusa on his
body armor was a symbol to his enemies, a last vision before they died, knowing that they were
dead the moment they gazed upon him.
He wore lightweight trousers and a thick leather belt, on which were smaller grenades, who did
half the damage than regular grenades, yet were handy in tricky situations. His right hand was
gloved and a sheath for his Valheru Sword was strapped onto his back.
Draken's long hair fell aside his face, his lizard eyes gazed into the hangar, where ships and
fighters were ready to be launched in a second. Draken now was ready too, fully equipped.
Arrival in t-minus 30 minutes was said over the intercom system, allerting everyone to
get ready for battle. Draken simply turned around and walked to a boarding shuttle, ready for
Corin stormed down the corridor, his headset com-link hanging loose in his fingers. His attire was that of a clonetrooper himself, but robes covered half of his plate. His robes flowed freely behind him as his quick paces led him around the station. He was on the Fire of Sepros, one of the massive ships CNS owned. The pending battle was upon them, and he was rounding up his troops, calling out their names on his comlink. In order from the top rank, they sounded off. Corin flew past various doorways, heading for the hanger, his long strides carrying him quicker and quicker down the hall. A belt hung loosely across his chest on which he hung various explosives as well as a short knife. At his side hung his saber, clipped to his other belt that ran horizontally at his waist.
As he passed a doorway, one of his Flight Leaders, Davin Olar, appeared, trailing in his wake. An assault rifle hung across his back. “Sir,” he said, “what should I bring along with me?” He was nervous and Corin could tell.
Stopping abruptly and turning to his Flight Leader, Corin put one hand on Davin’s shoulder. He said, “Listen kid, bring whatever you think you need…And leave that rifle behind unless you got room for it in your cockpit…”
Smirking, Corin sped off, leaving Davin to follow the Commander’s orders.
Corin reached the hanger and found Kaelin, his fellow Knight, and a few other members present such as Devani, a new recruit but a hardened Warrior. “Greeting, men,” the Knight said. Looking at Devani, he added, “and women. Everybody get into position, we leave soon.” They all obeyed and began to board their crafts. “And Kaelin,” he said, “if those droids fail, I’ll be sure to bail you out!” He smirked and Kaelin did the same.
Davin suddenly entered the hanger, puffing loudly, clearly out of breath. “Sorry I’m late sir…” he said, clearing his throat. “I’m sorry sir, but I haven’t really been in many invasions like this, I was always usually the one defending…”
“It’s alright, Davin, I’ll cover your six.” The Knight smirked and made his way for his own ship. Once he was there, he undid a clasp that was at his neck. His robe slipped off, falling to the ground. Only a vest remained covering the Commander’s armor. Fitting his headset around his skull, Corin tested it, calling out to his brethren, “Men, we are Sapphire Squadron. We do not know fear, we will conquer our enemy! Let’s give these clone bastards what they deserve!” Climbing into his all-terrain airspeeder, Corin began to flip switch after switch. The ship roared to life, hovering off the ground in seconds. “Any last words, Saph?”
The com-link was quiet for a moment, but that silence was broken by his flight leader Davin. He said to the team, “Sir, lead us to victory!”
“Will do, Davin. Will do!” Corin replied, silently awaiting commands from his superiors.
As the hardened flotilla swam through the swirling, milky miasma that was hyperspace, so did a myriad of thoughts tumble beneath the hardened exterior that was Sai Keibatsu. The battlegroup was making final preparations as it approached Jaginos and its prize, and the Knight walked with purpose down one of the corridors aboard the VAC Astronicus’ Reach. Although Sai was not a-field, per se, he had of late taken to walking around with his hood pulled up and over his eyes, so that the random passerby wouldn’t be taken aback by their appearance.
Even so, the hood couldn’t hide the small grin that made its way to Sai’s face as he thought of the meeting of the Conclave not an hour ago. He wasn’t amused by the proceedings; truth be told, Sai was well aware of the stakes, and he approached his responsibilities with all seriousness. Even then, Sai, knowing full well the vagaries of politics, knew to be silent while the ‘big guns’ plotted and planned. Shin’ichi often complimented the half-Korun and apprentice on his grasp of state affairs; ironic now that it was the Epis who would have to navigate their waters. Indeed, the source of Sai’s amusement rose not from his opinion on the imminent action, but from the thought of his Master, finally laid low, but not by blaster or ‘saber, but by the Epis’ greatest foe: politics.
Shin’ichi was a grizzled veteran of countless battles, but recent days had seen him take on the mantle of Rollmaster, a position that dealt not in blood, but in bookkeeping. To many in the room, it seemed that Shin was tackling the briefing with aplomb, but the bond Sai and he shared screamed with electric annoyance. Sai knew his Master and brother would much rather be with the battle team, but Shin’s position demanded his place at the Proconsul’s side, back aboard the Covenant. Macron was Shin’ichi’s brother, too; mayhap he would see fit to ‘reassign’ Shin to the Serpents still aboard the flagship. However, Shin’s disdain for administrative work was well known among the Keibatsu, and Sai’s grin grew wider as he thought of Mac purposefully preventing the Rollmaster’s return to action in his version of a joke. Still, there was always hope…
“Not bloody likely,” Sai said to himself as he shelved the thoughts for another time. Now, he approached his destination, and he regained his stony demeanor. The business of war was at hand, and Sai mused that business would be very, very good.
The Keibatsu approached a space aboard the Astronicus’ Reach that held his temporary command. The Jade Serpents were still aboard the Covenant, and it had been decided that they would remain there until the flotilla made planetfall on Jaginos. So, Sai would command a squadron of DSF Marine Zero-G spacetroopers in the interim, a fact that was just as reassuring as the feel of his lightsaber hilt as it bounced off of his right thigh in time with his strides.
The Sadow forces would still have to break the Kaminoan blockade, and they would most likely need to breach and board one or more of the enemy capital ships, a notion that was just fine with Sai. As the hatch to the space slid open, the Keibatsu was greeted not with the antics of men who nervously bantered among themselves, trying in lame attempts to bolster their confidence. No, Sai was greeted by the silence that only seasoned veterans would produce, consisting of clicking weaponry being checked and battle armor being adjusted. Then, every eye expectantly turned to the Knight standing in the doorway, seeking to penetrate the darkness beneath the cowl. Sai’s tripartite eyes scanned the room, and he was not disappointed in the slightest.
“Gentlemen,” he intoned, “I am Sai Keibatsu, and it is my pleasure to assume command of this squad. We all know why we are here, so I won’t bore you with a briefing.” The Knight’s pronouncement elicited a few chuckles. “We have less than thirty, so if you’re not ready by then, you never will be. Now, if someone would be so kind as to…”
A ripple in the Force lapped against the Keibatsu’s consciousness, and he snatched an anonymously tossed “StarAnvil” heavy rifle out of midair without looking. Almost on cue, an automated voice clicked off the remaining time to Jaginos, and as he checked his weapon’s power pack, Sai knew that business would be very good, indeed.
The giant feline grinned as he stepped up onto his own ship. It was so new that it hadn’t even been ‘officially’ entered into the Sapphire Squadron’s list of property. He ran his hands along its smooth surface. The engines were powering up, and the two droids built for him by his Commander were going through the preflight checks. The Togorian’s tail twitched in anticipation. He was used to using his raw power to rip an enemy limb from limb, but as a member of the Squadron, he was to play a role in the space battle. Many scoffed at the sight of the new ARC-170 starfighter that he’d acquired, but he just grinned, using all of his teeth. They soon skittered away uncomfortably.
Devani smiled as she passed a pilot who was walking slightly faster than was necessary. It was nearly an all out run. “Still making friends I see, Kaelin. Glad you finally made Dark Jedi Knight.”
“Keep talking, woman. I could rip you to shreds easily,” he growled back. They both laughed and shook hands. “I’ll see you when the battle’s over. Call me if that borrowed ship fails you. I’ve got room to spare and if one of the blasted metal-heads goes out I could use the help.”
“We’ll see if you last that long.” The Sith walked away, heading for another ship and he walked up the ramp to his own.
He settled down in the pilot’s seat and stroked the arm rests. He worried about Malisane. After all, it was his job to protect the man, and now he was stuck as pilot. Well, as soon as they head for the surface, I’ll let Corin know that I’ll be with them. He wondered if he’d even be able to break away from the combat when the drop ships headed for the surface. And this was all assuming De Ath was joining the ground team. Macron was another bother. He’d not been able to kill him before his appointment to Knight, although they’d both left their last confrontation severely wounded. He’s got one of my brothers from the Black Guard to watch his back. He’ll be fine. I’ll just kill him later.
His thoughts led him down the dark labyrinths that had become his mind. Many of his memories had been lost in the sands of time, returning now and again to haunt his sleep. Around him were people who equaled and surpassed his strength and that... rankled. Before the Dark Brotherhood, he’d become used to being one of the biggest and strongest beings around. Hell, he’d fought at least one member of every species known to the galaxy. He’d been a prize fighter, one of the most deadly gladiators of the galaxy, but now... he was not. It was that simple. There were thousands of men and women who could tear his body apart by simply willing it! Oh, it rankled alright. It damn well damaged his pride! He was Togorian! And that counted for nothing in the Brotherhood.
Yet, most of those in power and more powerful than him either trained him or ignored him. Clan Naga Sadow had paid particular attention to his training... or at least particular compared to Arcona. He spat at the thought of them. Then, sheepishly, he cleaned the spittle from the controls in front of him. Rebels of the 501st, eh? This may be fun... if I am allowed on the surface. Oh well, back to work. He double checked all subsystems as the metallic voice came over the intercom. “Thirty minutes remaining until we leave hyperspace....”
All around the hanger was a flurry of movement as the last of the pilots climbed into their ships. Then, the inevitable silence surrounded them all like an impenetrable mist. It was the calm before the storm. Pilots checked and double checked their ship’s systems. Ground troops checked their weapons and emergency kits. Commanders and leaders all mentally went over the battle plan, looking for some flaw or tactic that could turn the battle. Each man and woman of them prayed to any gods they’d ever heard of.
“Leaving hyperspace in twenty-five...”
It seemed that the entire ship took a great breath and let it out slowly. Then, over the intercom came a man’s voice. “Well, lads. After I kill the first one, I’ll let you know how it feels.” Suddenly taunts and promises and boasts flooded the coms. Each person trying to best the last. Silently many of the group leaders thanked whoever it had been. The Dark Jedi each smiled to each other. They’d all felt the immense pressure that such a vast collective of emotion could create in the Dark Side. It was an easing for them in a literal sense. The more powerful had ignored it, but they could breath a little easier this way.
Still, the ships sped onward, the clock counted down, and Death summoned. Many could see her grisly face mirrored in their viewports. Yet for many others the face reflected there was of beauty and shone of glory...
Shikyo spun the hilt of his new saber in his hand, as he overlooked the operations onboard the Fire of Sepros. Everything looked good for the ship itself, yet the Battlemaster seemed more concerned about the situation of his Battleteams. Getting on his commlink and linking it to those of Vladek Solander and Tyren Atema, Shikyo made sure that final preparations were ready for his House.
"Vlad... Ty, how's the situation with the squadrons?"
Vladek was the first to respond, sounding quite amused as he answered.
"Ravana is ready. Looking forward to some fun."
"The Hawks are ready, just waiting to get out of hyperspace."
"Roger that. We've got 15 minutes 'til we arrive."
The commlink signed out and Shikyo was left at the command post, spinning his saber around and listening to the clink of metal on metal, as his gauntlet hand had control of the saber. Looking around the bridge, Rurouni couldn't help but think that he would have to remain on board the Frigate, unable to participate in the fighting. It was a disheartening thought but the Sith knew it wouldn't be long until the "real" fighting began. The thought of tearing through more adversaries began more and more appealing, as the clock clicked down.
Making a final note to everyone aboard, Shikyo got on the commsystem of the Frigate and worked on saying something arousing to get everyone ready for the battle at hand.
"Attention all. This is Quaestor Shikyo 'Rurouni' Keibatsu. We'll be exciting hyperspace in 12 minutes, so strap up, double check systems, and get ready. Expect casualties, expect glory, and expect honor. That is all. May the Force serve you all well."
Catching the smiles and nods of approval from his staff on the bridge, the Keibatsu smirked as the battle approached.
Malisane sat at the command chair of the Foresight. He studied the display quietly, lost in thought. Any minute now, he guessed.
The commander approached him. "Sir, message from the Covenant, departure from hyperspace in two minutes. We are to maintain formation."
Malisane nodded. "Fighters prepared?"
"Yes sir," the commander responded, "they are awaiting orders."
"Good," the Quaestor replied.
A minute later the starlines returned to normal as the taskforce left hyperspace. "On screen." Malisane commanded. He surveyed it. The planet Jaginos lay in the distance, a terrestrial world with grassy plains, forests, snowy polar regions and large rolling oceans.
"Sir we are detecting enemy vessels." the Commander reported.
A tactical display of the system appeared. The taskforce was clear in one sector, the Foresight and the Fire of Sepros still flanked the Covenant along with the two VACs. Ahead between Jaginos and themselves the Acclamator and a lone Dreadnaught were visible, flanked by several corvettes.
"They were waiting for us?" the Commander asked.
Malisane shrugged. "They may have detected us before we left hyperspace, or it might be a standard defence formation."
The communicator crackled. "This is Macron, proceed with plan B1, Fire of Sepros maintain formation, Foresight proceed to sector three and look for that other Dreadnaught."
"You heard him," Malisane said to the Commander.
The officer gave orders to the bridge crew and Malisane watched the display as the Covenant and the other frigate made their way towards the enemy vessels, accompanied by the VACs.
The Foresight moved away from them, to an asteroid heavy sector of the system.
"Keep scanning." Malisane ordered, it might be out here somewhere.
The Foresight moved closer to the asteroids.
"Sir," an ensigh said suddenly, "dreadnaught detected ahead, on the edge of the belt. It's altering course towards us."
"Order gunnery crews to prepare and scramble fighters."
"Yes Sir." the commander acknowledged.
The Foresight's two squadrons launched and flanked the frigate as they made their way towards the dreadnaught.
"Get ready!" Malisane ordered.
Tyren was with his team mates in the hangar aboard the Fire of Sepros readying their ships for the upcoming battle. Tyren checked the outside panels of his fighter while Shimura, Nekura and Imperial did the same with theirs. They were deep in their work when the hyperspace alarm went off.
"All hands prepare to exit hyperspace!"
With a slight shake the ship entered real space. A few seconds in silence passed as the fleet positioned itself in formation near the VSD Covenant.
"All hands, battle stations." the voice of Shikyo Keibatsu said over the com.
"Ok, you heard him men. Let's rock their world." he said getting smiles from his comrades.
"Kryat.." he turned o the droid "...take your position." he ordered and jumped into his fighter, his old loyal heap of junk, his X-Wing. The ships systems were ready and functional, Kryat was in his designated place. Tyren rechecked everything once again just in case.
"Missile command - check, stick configuration - check, blaster alignment, 40 meters - check, hydraulics - check..." he said to himself and after a few "checks" "We're ready." he continued looking around at the others who were, as well, in their fighters.
"Squadron status?" he said over the team channel.
"This is Hawk 2! All systems ready!" said Nekura Manji
"Hawk 4 reporting! Ready and functional!" Imperial replied
"Hawk 3 is ready for orders, sir!" Shimura replied last
"Ok men. Engine start!" the hangar suddenly burst into loud engine roar.
Tyren switched his channel to Shikyo Keibatsu.
"This is Tetrach Tyren Atema reporting in, sir. Night Hawks squadron is a go. Awaiting orders!"
Aboard the VSD Covenant, Jaginos system
“Awaiting orders!” came the comm signal. Macron looked up from the glowing holomap and smiled. It was party time, and the Sith had a plan. The thought of looted Spaarti cylinders made him literally drool.
He flexed an armored fist, imagining the might of the Covenant under his command crushing the enemy mercilessly. He could hardly wait to kick the crap out of the cloners. Of course, he suspected treachery and traps like any wily Sith would.
“Covenant to Command vessels. Move out recon squadrons, and suss out this area. I need a complete and detailed examination of the defenses that await us below before we land. Be on the lookout for bogeys, as this fight is heating up.“
The channel switched as it re-encrypted. The Sadow forces were not stupid like the Imperials- the communications technology was excellent in the group. Sildrin had left them a wonderful legacy with her works.
“Foresight- I suspect a trap in all this. They may be trying to set us up. See if you can lure the dreadnaught into our position, Malisane. We’ll then execute plan B1. Concentrate on their engines and electronics.”
“Copy, Macron, this is Quaestor Malisane. Fighters launched. We are engaging them right now,” came the crackly reply.
“Copy that, Malisane. Fire of Sepros, try to lure in the Corvettes per plan B1. We’ll hammer them a bit, and then ‘run’ away to the pre-set location just outside the system. When they jump to follow, we use the gravity well generators aboard the waiting Crimson Angel to trap them, and then shoot them like fish in a barrel. The minefield should be a perfect set-up. Use ion weapons on heavy settings- we want to disable as much of their electronics as we can, Shikyo. That is all.”
Macron relaxed back into the chair with a creak of leather. Around him, lights lit and sounds crackled across the data grid. He traced them gently with a fingertip, searching in the Force for strands hinting of things to come. The alchemist looked up as the winking lights played across his feral yellow eyes. Shin’Ichi stood beside him tapping his foot impatiently.
“Well, my brother. I’d say you were frowning- if you had a jaw,” giggled the Proconsul
“Real funny, Mac. Har har. Don’t quit your night job, smarty pants.” The Krath fingered his blade. “When to I get to do some wet work?” he asked.
“Soon, my friend. I’ll need you to lead the boarding team when we breach that Acclamator. It may be a tough fight- use the Black Guard and bring the pets along,” chuckled Mononoke. “You’ll get your fill, never fear.”
Shin’s eyes narrowed. “Excellent,” he hissed through his vocabulator as the images of gruesome carnage played in his mind. “The Abomination will walk amongst them soon.”
Being an Acolyte in Naga Sadow is wonderful except that I have to travel to help out the other pilots with their gear and fly my own fighter. I was preparing to get some emergency supplies when I heard the call to battle stations. I rushed back to where I had left my sword, blaster rifle, fragmentation grenades, and some light body armor. My craft that I was flying was the Assault Gunboat. There was a very small chance that I would have to use my emergency supplies but it never hurt to be prepared. I was to go behind enemy lines and secure an area for the landing of our troops. As I left the hanger bay I rubbed my head and shouted, "Give them hell, Boys!"
I felt the ship jerk as the magnetic locks disengaged from my fighter. I heard from the Leader of the group perform his weapons and systems check. All of a sudden I heard and explosion to my right and see two of our fighters explode and then nothing. Apparently we are within range of the minefields, over the channels I hear another squadron leader on the com shout, "who was the blundering idiot who got us too close to those darn minefields."
Soon the battle raged and I had to fend off more than my share of fighters. Over the com system I hear some rookies celebrating because they managed to kill off only three fighters each. I was fighting six to one and I still had a mission to complete. I shocked the two enemies following me by what I did. I start to enter the atmosphere and they follow, I flip around my fighter and fire two concussion rockets at each fighter. The fighters explode and I start to exit the atmosphere, the two rookie hot shots quiet down after they see what I did. I start to sign off with the command ship...
When all I had entered the atmosphere I encountered a huge barrage of laser and missile fire. My Gunboat was badly damaged before I found an area where I could land. After I had retrieved my armor and weapons from the ship and had just set off to find the communication center. I see two clones guarding the entrance to a hanger, next to them was a small fragmentation mine I use one of the fragmentation grenade and take them out. Big mistake, the two troopers were just a holographic image. Three troopers pointed their Blaster Rifles at me, they were less than on meter away. I took my sword and chopped off two of the three trooper's arms with startling quickness they fell to the ground useless. The third had drawn his sword and we began to duel. I had the advantage but he was quick to learn my weak spots. I had been sliced superficially four times in different places. I had sliced him five times, two fairly deep and the other three superficially. The trooper staggering from blood loss tries to call for help but I silence him by taking his head off. The hanger bay is now fully alert that there is someone within their perimeter.
The soft humming of the engines was no more, but a flurry of activity burst from the hanger. They were being dispatched into space, and Corin was to lead his team. “One more thing, Saph…” he said, adjusting his com-link headset, “If they send out fighters get rid of them first. We can’t start an assault with enemies on our tail. Everyone stick with a partner: one at the lead and the other behind to cover their six. Kaelin you’re with me, Devani you lead with Davin at your rear. Everyone else can find their own partner!”
The engines of the surrounding aircrafts burst into full life as his team sounded off. “Let’s make this a day a day that they’ll never forget!”
Onboard the Foresight, Corin’s Quaestor, Warrior Malisane De Ath, commanded the battle teams, instructing them to deploy. “Corin,” he said, useing the Knight’s Personal channel, “this is your first major battle as Battle Team Leader, but I know you will lead your team to victory. Don’t get too cocky out there. Take risks and make this invasion work. I’m counting on you and your team.”
“Yes sir, I’ll bring home the victory,” Replied Corin, adjusting his robes to fit more comfortably. “I’ll make sure I leave some remaining clones for you to destroy, though.”
Switching his channel to the Fire of Sepros, Corin called out for Shikyo Keibatsu, the Quaestor of House Marka Ragnos. “My squadron is ready to deport. Any last words, my friend?”
“Kick some ass!”
“Move out men!” Bellowed the Knight, his fighter, the Nighthawk, carrying him away from the hanger and into the open space.
His Squadron followed suite, and the hanger was left empty as several fighters and gunboats scattered about. Kaelin, as ordered, followed closely behind Corin. The other pilots in his squadron brought up the rear. “Let’s split up men, but stick with your partners,” Ordered the Commander, maneuvering his fighter through some space debris that floated helplessly about in space.
“Quastor…” said Corin, contacting Malisane one more time, “this doesn’t feel right. It seems too easy...”
Malisane answered the Knight, “I don’t know Corin. Be on your guard, and report to me if you see anything that could mean trouble.”
“Yes sir.” Replied Corin, leading his Squadron further into space.
Through a window, the blackness of space was lit in short intervals by explosions and
eruptions of laser fire. The ship shook once in a while, direct hit or not, nobody knew.
"Draken, this is Malisane, I have a job for you." His communicator buzzed and
Draken sighed as he was longing for the spill of blood.
"I want you to use the Crimson Angel to blast a hole into the enemy Dreadnaught, then
take a small squad.. *tzzz* ..nd go into the Dreadnaught to disable it.."
"Understood Malisane, Draken out." The Valheru replied. He turned to meet his squad,
originally designed for ground assault.
"Change of plans men! We'll be boarding the Dreadnaught now and disable it! Lets move!"
The men saluted and moved to the side of the ship, where boarding ports were.
"Get as close to the engines as possible, we'll get a nice chain reaction going from there."
The Battlemaster commanded through the commlink and the captain of the Crimson Angel
steered the smaller vessel close to the engines bay.
Lasers thundered as they all blaster into a pinpointed location on the hull's surface and eventually
slammed a tear in the hull, a weak spot waiting to be exploited.
With a deep thud and crack, the side of the Crimson Angel pushed itself against and eventually
through the enemy hull, The main boarding port was being pushed upen to reveal a small tunner
of rubber like substance, to prevent air from escaping. Draken moved past a small group of men,
to the front of the line.
"Stand Back, when its opened, expect a lot of resistance. - Draken said as he took hold of his
Valheru sword. - I want three men with me to the engine reactor, the other
four will stay here to defend this port, if we lose it, we die."
The men nodded and readied their weapons and Draken gazed upon his Valheru Sword. In
thought he prayed, a small verse that was said by his kind before going into battle while
the odds were against them.
*"Nî ai bôr dan et coth, nî ai maetha na glîrith as ernil. Innas raúl dannen mi et trîwen nothri,
an bo sillivren amlugan nî nor."* Draken said softly and when he was done he mustered his
strength and kicked against the weakened hull.
The plate smashed into two clone troopers, already standing there to welcome the uninvited guests.
Draken pushed himself out of the vessel into the Dreadnaught, slamming his sword and
carving into the flesh of clones who were standing too close.
"Stick to the plan! Move out! We have five minutes!"
Translation: We Who stand against the enemy, We who fight with honour and pride. Will never fall in the final hour, for on silver dragons we ride
sorry for the mishap ^^;
Shinichi Endymiron K
Shin'ichi entered the small room that contained the other three members of his Black Guard Cell. He swiftly removed the robes he wore and replaced them with the tactical battlesuit of an elite commando. As he removed the cowl that covered the lower half of his face he could see the other wince in sympathetic agony. The Epis picked up his helemt and extended a line from his vocabulator to the comm unit within. Placing the helmet over his face he looked out of the tinted visor and saw his team ready to go. Turning his eyes to the right corner of the visor he blinked twice to activate the Heads Up Display. In an instant there was a flurry of activity in his field of vision as the vital statistics of his team synched up and his target retical and threat assessment systems came online.
His comm system came online next and he could hear his team and all the traffic from each of the Sadow ships as well as the starfighters depending on which frequency he chose. He made a motion with his left hand while picking up the blaster in his right and the team moved in unison towards the hanger. Along the way the Keibatsu ran over the plan in his mind one more time.
They would take a small shuttle, barely bigger than a tug and navigate on very low power towards the Acclamator that the Kaminoans used as their flagship. Once in range they would seal their suits and jump out towards the vessel sending their small craft to be destroyed by Kaminoan cannons. Thusly decieved the cloners wouldn't suspect such a small strike force had boarded their flagship.
The Cell entered the hanger and though no one else could hear them the four men exchanged words of luck and portence before boarding the heap that would take to victory or death. The ride was slow and arduous and more than once they had almost been destroyed by stray fire or a missle that had missed its mark. When the proximity sensor flashed briefly in the cabin all four men raised their heads and with a simple click sealed themselves in their suits.
A few moments later the atmosphere was vented and the hatch opened into the cold reaches of space. With a spring the commandos propelled themselves towards the acclamator. Once on the surface they activated the magnetic strips in their boots and were bound to the hull of the mighty warship. Shin'ichi motioned once and one member split off to slice into the external hatch controls. Normally this sort of operation called for explosives. Normally one would take more than four men. As it was stealth and diligence became the watchwords of the day. And as the hatch depressurized and opened Shin'ichi allowed himself a smile, or as near to one as his jawless face would allow. One by one his men slipped inside and when he was alone in the empty space he allowed the Abomination a glimpse of the outside before sliding into the ship and sealing the hatch behind him.
OOC: No problem Ylith
came the voice of the Knight's Quaestor, Malisane De Ath, over his personal channel. "We are boarding the enemy. I need you to provide additional air support while we do our job! I know this adds to your work, but the
Crimson Angel is vulnerable right now. Over and out..."
Corin shook his head and swore, "With all due respect, Quaestor, I have more important things to worry about with my Squadron. To say the least, they aren't accustomed to fighting together.."
As if to prove his point, one of his wingmen broke from his position to chase a off-course enemy bogey that had drifted away from it's fleet.
The Quaestor retorted with aggression, "You will obey my order Corin! Am I understood?"
Swallowing his pride, Corin answered, "Yes sir, of course."
Corin swore once more, but his binding oath to his superiors stayed firm, and he obeyed Malisane, leading his squad through a swarm of enemy craft, taking minimal damage. Along the way Corin ended the life of a couple of pilots as he downed two aircrafts. They were gunboats of medium class, but they had heavy armor.
Swooping in on a lone squad of enemy fighters, Sapphire Squadron fought their way through space, heading for the Crimson Angel
Sapphire Squadorn was now flanking the dreadnaught, the enemy clone ship. Pulling up close to the formidable hull of the massive craft, Corin began his work.
"Devani and Davin," commanded the Knight, ending the lives of three pilots as a burst of laser erupted forth from his ship, engulfing his enemy instantly in flames, "I need you both to stick around here, make sure no fighters get close enough to cause any damage to Crimson Angel
. I'll be circling around with the rest of the team, eliminating what I can of the enemy's fleet. Over and out!"
"Yes sir," answered Devani, "Stay close Davin, and don't wander off!"
"Kaelin, you're with me! Increase the space between us, we don't want a mid-air collision."
"Roger..." Came the reply, as the Knight obeyed the Sith Commander's orders.
"Corin, what are you doing? I told you to stick around here and provide air support! Can't you follow orders?"
It was the voice of the Ludo Kressh Quaestor, Malisane.
The anger in his voice was clear, and Corin replied, "Indeed you did sir, and I
am following your orders. Please, Malisane, I know what I'm doing. You have to trust me"
Corin immediately closed the link between them, concentrating on the task at hand.
His insubordination was clear, but Corin relied upon the friendship between him and the Sith Quaestor. Whether it would save his ass he didn't know, but he was willing to take the chance.
Invisible bugs crawled across Macron’s skin, but he was too engrossed in the scene unfolding before him on the holomap. Plan B1 was proceeding almost to perfection...almost. The Fire of Sepros and the Crimson Angel had succeeded in drawing off all of the Kaminoan corvettes to their gravity well-fed doom, all save one. Stationed on the far side of the Acclamator, that one corvette had the potential to put a really nasty wrinkle in the Sadow plans, and it was moving to intercept Shin’ichi’s shuttle and team...
...and hope in the form of a friendly blip on the holomap shone in the Proconsul’s yellow eyes. That hope was named the Astronicus’ Reach, and the one man aboard who stood the greatest chance of salvaging the situation. Hurriedly, he opened a channel.
Subspace communications travel quickly, but the Force moves at the speed of thought. Sai’s bond with his master shimmered with annoyance; a quick check of the holomap in the DSF Marine staging quarters gave him confirmation of the source.
“Sai, this is Mac. Shin’s in trouble, and I need you to...”
“Already on it, Mac.”
Sai’s mind had already formulated a bold plan, and he swiftly moved into action. Switching his wrist comm from his brother’s command to the bridge of the Reach, the Keibatsu began barking orders.
“Captain, Sai here. I need you to move the ship to the heading I’m sending to you now.” He relayed the coordinates displayed on the holonet.
The captain’s reply was undercut with confusion. “I don’t understand...that heading takes us away from the Acclamator.”
Annoyed, Sai sharply put the Captain back in his place. “Are you in the habit of always questioning superiors? Maybe you belong down in Admin; they could always use another Yeoman.”
The Captain quickly got the gist of the implied demotion threat, and before the channel closed, Sai overheard a resigned order being given to the helmsman. Satisfied, Sai turned to his squad. “Marines, with me!” The Keibatsu tossed his heavy rifle to a following squad member; where he was headed, it would just get in his way.
The ten man squad trotted down the starboard side of the VAC. Sai continued to instruct the men, silently hoping that they would prove competent enough to play their role.
“I’ll need two of you to come with me; the rest of you, to the aft boarding tube. You eight will have three minutes to secure engineering, then find something solid to hold on to. Remember: three minutes. No more, no less. And all of you are not – I repeat – not to remove those suits.”
“Yessir!” came the acknowledgement of the orders issued by the Knight as he and the two Marines came to a halt at the hatch marking the entrance forward boarding tube and the zero-g suits were sealed and pressurized. As the remainder of the squad continued to move down the corridor, Sai turned to his two remaining Marines. “They’ll have the luxury of doing this the old-fashioned way, but we’ll be doing it – forgive the expression – on the ‘fly’. Come with me.” Sai opened the hatch to the boarding tube, and the three stepped into the chamber. The hatch closed behind them and the chamber began to depressurize.
When a VAC makes boarding maneuvers, it typically moves in alongside the target ship and deploys the tube that attaches to the target’s hull, providing both a space for the boarding party to do their cutting and a lifeline back to the VAC. Sai’s and his accompanying duo would have neither of those things.
As the three men stood in the bay, Sai punched in commands on the bulkhead terminal that seemed to do nothing but set off a wide variety of claxons. The captain’s voice rang tinny and weasel-like in Sai’s ear.
“What the hell is going on down there?!”
“Compose yourself, captain. This is the second time we’ve had a discussion; there will not be a third.”
Just then, the outer bay doors opened, and the three men were greeted by the sight of open space, a myriad of distant stars and nearby silent explosions, and Shin’s tiny shuttle making its way toward the Acclamator. Sai cautioned his men to steel themselves as his internal chronometer marked the time to an event only Sai seemingly knew was going to happen.
Suddenly, gun batteries aboard the Kaminoan flagship opened up, trained upon Shin’s shuttle. Sai opened a channel to his men and the bridge, filled himself with the inky fire that is the Dark Side and barked another command. “NOW!” With that, he launched himself from the bay into space’s ebon grasp.
The two Marines exchanged quizzical looks before obediently following the Keibatsu. Just as they left, their view was suddenly filled by the nose section of the Kaminoan corvette, the one that had stayed behind to cover the Acclamator, as the enemy vessel silently cruised between them and the flagship.
As Sai suspected, the Kaminoans registered the shuttle as the most pressing threat, and dutifully ordered the corvette to take a position at its rear; the logic was, with both ships firing broadside at the threat between them, the display of “overkill” would discourage their would-be aggressors. Now, with their attention diverted, they had little warning of the VAC swiftly taking its own position on the corvette’s other side.
The corvette moved steadily along, and Sai’s forward momentum took him exactly where he wanted to be; a position just aft of the bridge. He glanced quickly to his left as he activated the magna-strips on his suit and the two Marines with him reached the unobtrusive access hatch in the hull. The Keibatsu looked down the length of the corvette to see the Reach’s boarding tube extending to the corvette where the engineering access hatch was. Within the confines of his helmet, Sai’s tripartite eyes shone in anticipation of what was to come as the cutting began. Sai and his Marines would soon be open for business.
Warning lights and claxons shone and sounded aboard the Kaminoan corvette’s bridge. Used to moving at a graceful, measured pace, they were proving to be ill-suited for the velocity of war. Dainty heads swiveled on long, swan-like necks as they tried to assess their tactical situation.
“Captain,” the chief Kaminoan tactical officer spoke. “The enemy shuttle inbound for the Acclamator has been destroyed, but we seem to be registering two hull breaches.”
The Kaminoan captain glanced at a tactical read out. “Enemy VAC on the starboard side! All hands, prepare to repel boarders! Tactical squad, to engineering! Acknowledge orders!”
The captain was not answered by his forces, but by the screech-growl of a lightsaber being activated and two heavy rifles barking short bursts of ionized death.
Sai, like his Master, understood the need for politics and its necessary accoutrements, and, like his Master, he loved the field. Now, as he moved at a Force-assisted blur, he was in his element, and was as happy as a Dark Jedi could be. His cerulean blade slashed and thrusted as it cleaved slender necks and chewed through Kaminoan guts, the growl of Adegan-born energy rising and falling with every swing in the crescendo and decrescendo of ancient strife. The Dark Jedi was a whirlwind, moving about the corvette’s bridge, clearing it of the enemy detritus that was the captain and his staff. Two minutes and thirty seconds had passed from the first strike to the last body falling, and Sai deactivated his saber as he reached the ship’s main control panel.
“Now, let’s see who can tell time,” the Keibatsu said off-handedly, toggling two switches, the first of which shut off the corvette’s artificial gravity.
Aboard the Covenant, Macron stood from his command chair, wishing to view the strange sight unfolding outside the main view port with his own eyes. The Proconsul began to softly giggle as he saw the Astronicus’ Reach briefly pull alongside the lone corvette, then break away. He tittered even louder as he saw the corvette crawl to a dead stop. Three minutes later, he guffawed in delight as the corvette seemed to spring gas leaks up and down its entire length. His battle team leader, his clan mate, and brother had opened every single hatch aboard the corvette, causing explosive decompression to violently evacuate the ship’s atmosphere, and, confirmed with greater magnification, its unwary, slender-necked occupants.
As Macron was close to rolling on the floor with maniacal laughter, Sai’s strong voice came across the comm.
“Macron, we have the bridge. The ship is ours. I will be on the first dropship to the surface, pending orders, of course.” The Tetrarch sounded winded, but elated.
“Very well, Sai. How was business?” Macron asked through laughter choked tears.
“Business was good, my brother. Very good.”
The madman laughed hysterically as a frozen, decompressed Kaminoan corpse bounced off the view port. Icy droplets of blue blood glittered like gemstones in the blackness as the Star destroyer’s running lights illuminated the grisly scene. “Sucks for you,” he mumbled to himself as he reached for the commset.
“Excellent, Sai. Corvette neutralized. Shin’Ichi should be breaching the Acclamator right now. Continue with operations, and secure any useful supplies on that vessel.” The Sith smiled, causing his facial tattoos to wrinkle. A deft finger flicked another commsignal switch. “Interrogator to Abomination- status report?”
The tinny crackle of the comm replied in Shin’s oddly modulated voice. “Abomination here. EVA successful, hull breached. Entering enemy vessel now. That was close with the Corvette.“
“Thank Sai for that,” replied Mac with a grin. “Continue. Be prepared for plan Charlie 3. Neutralize their movement capabilities and communications, and then get out via their escape pods. Mac out.” Another toggled dial brought Malisane and Shikyo up on the screen. “Report,” ordered Mononoke.
“Situation hot,” replied Malisane. “The dreadnaught is giving us a good fight, but Sapphire is wearing her down. We’ll have her knocked out shortly, all things considered. She’s effectively out of this fight.” A holoscreen image lit up in a ghostly blue color, showing the fighters and gunboats swarming around the dreadnaught like hornets with color coded battle information.
“Excellent,” giggled the lunatic. “Shikyo?”
“Corvettes destroyed....mines effective. Like shooting womp rats in a keg. We are boarding the remains and ‘requisitioning’ supplies and personnel right now. Some heavy hand to hand, but nothing we can’t handle. We’ll regroup with you in a few minutes. Shikyo out,” spat the voice.
“Things are proceeding according to plan,” snickered the Proconsul as he turned in his command chair. “Captain Rineval, take us in. I want to move under them from their seven o’clock. Use full batteries, ion cannons, everything. Move from aft to fore, crossing under their belly. We’ll open their guts up like a can of Corellian sardines. Have the fighters and bombers make their runs along the top.”
“Sir- won’t that endanger the boarders?” asked the concerned captain. Terr Rineval had originally been in charge of the Wandering Soul, but had been promoted when the VSD became the Clan Flagship. He was an able officer, and genuinely concerned.
“No. They know what is coming, and are suitably ready. I appreciate your concern. Now- you know what the chain of command is?” asked the grinning Sith.
“Yes, the chain you are going to beat me with if I don’t fire. Fire batteries!” yelled the officer sternly at the bridge crew. The Covenant erupted in beams and bursts of light as it passed slowly under the Acclamator, stabbing it with lances of green and red light. Tense minutes passed as the two hammered away at each other.
Turbolasers replied from the enemy ship, causing some damage to the Covenant. However, the Acclamator was severely outclassed, and it began to show as fires erupted into space. With no covering corvettes, the combination of the Star Destroyer’s firepower, boarders, and harrying fighters on the other side soon left the ship darkened and adrift.
“All ships, hear this. Plan Charlie 3 is now in effect. Lock onto the Acclamator with tractor beams, and we’ll tow her to these co-ordinates and release. That is all,” stated the Battlelord firmly.
“I see,” replied Captain Rineval. “We’ll tow her into the planet’s gravity. Without her engines and drives, she’ll be unable to maneuver…” His fingers traced the incipient trajectory on the battle map. “That will cause her to drop right here- on one of their major cities.” He frowned for a second as he calculated. “The speed and mass should be tremendous. It will be like a huge bomb exploding the entire countryside around that place. Nasty, but effective.”
“Thank you, Captain. Don’t forget the environmental damage from the chemicals and reactor materials on that thing. That will keep them busy while we make our assault on their cloning facilities a few hundred kilometers away. Also, we don’t have to deal with a full boarding action that will waste valuable resources.” Macron probed the holomap with a thrusting armored finger as he snickered. Now, he only had to hope that Shin was successful and Malisane finished off that dreadnaught.
“Alright, kid!” Spat Malisane over Corin’s personal channel. “Get your fighters out of there. Ylith and the rest will be escaping in the escape-pods. Stand by, though, for further instructions. Over and out!”
The knight sighed: this phase was over. Now the next….
We gotta take care of these damn fighters! Thought Corin as he relayed the Quaestor’s message to his team. “Devani and Davin, regroup with me and let’s take out these bastards!”
The Knighthawk whizzed past the Crimson Angel as bursts of fire silently spewed from the enemy dreadnaught: the team had done it’s work, and the Covenant had opened fire on the enemies hull. Kaelin closed up the rear as Corin was rejoined by the rest of his team. “Alright pilots, let’s take ‘em out!”
Corin’s specialized craft sped through the debris-ridden space, stars and constellations speeding by him as his air-speeder carried him further and further into the enemy’s ‘territory’.
His ship had taken minimal damage, and in order to keep it that way, Corin let loose a barrage of plasma on the enemy. Immediately, his enemies, engulfed in flames, careened off course, drifting into the endless abyss of space.
“Alright team, the sooner we finish up here, the sooner we can invade this sorry planet!” The team gave a round of excited cheers as Sapphire Squadron’s near-unbeatable fleet ripped through space, cutting down all in their path.
Jaginos Cloning Facility
“Sir, our armada has been breached! The attackers have broken our lines!” The long-neck biped franticly cried as alarms and warning bells rang out through the facility.
“Lieutenant,” yelled one of them who wore lavish jewels and robes (obviously a leader), “Fortify the perimeter! Evacuate the civilians! These attackers will stop at nothing until we are in their grasp!” The leader quickly jumped from his seat, a hovering egg-shell-like pod, and scampered off down the crowded corridor toward his chambers.
Shinichi Endymiron K
By the time Shin’ichi’s boots hit the floor his squad had secured a small conference room for them to plan their next move. The two officers laying dead in the corner told him they now had access keys, their limits were uncertain, but they granted the unit a little more freedom of movement. He motioned for the bodies to be stowed in a supply closet adjacent to the conference room and waited for the return of the two he had sent to take care of it.
“Our mission is simple here.” He began via the secured helmet comlinks. “We are to infiltrate the ship and bring her engines and all nonessential power operations offline. Once we have done so I will signal the Covenant. At that point we will have exactly three minutes to get our asses to the escape pods or we go down with the ship.” The team made acknowledging noises as they began examining a map pulled up into their Heads-up Displays. Plotting the quickest course to engineering from their estimated location took no longer than two minutes.
They were in the corridor making their way steadily to the aft of the ship. Weapons slung the four men walked with their heads up as if they had nothing to hide. In fact everything they had to hide lay beneath the modified Katarn armor they wore. To the rest of the clones about they simply appeared to be a commando unit. Comprised of the same genetic material as the others, but with fewer behavioral modifications and a more intense training regimen they were the elite of what was the Grand Army of the Republic.
Earlier reconnaissance conducted by Shin’ichi confirmed that the Kaminoans trained and employed their own elite units. Acquiring the old Katarn armor was a simple matter for a clan whose entire fleet seemed to be comprised of the leftovers of the galaxy, but Macron in his twisted labs has augmented the commando armor. It was now more resilient, as well as being more efficient in almost every aspect. Even the DC-17m’s that they carried packed almost three times the punch as their original predecessors.
“Everyone remember the plan?” Shin’ichi asked. A chorus of affirmatives followed. “Then let’s go over it as we walk.”
“1…” he said. “BG-1385 and BG-3007 enter the primary reactor and take main power offline causing all but essential systems to shutdown.” responded the two commandos.
“2…” he said. “BG-1271 slices the fire control and targeting systems bringing the guns to bear on any remaining Kaminoan vessels while BG-0160, that’s you sir, infiltrates main engineering and takes the engine systems offline.” Shin’ichi nodded in response.
“3…” he said calmly. “We haul ass to the escape pods and jettison in less than three minutes sir.” They replied in unison.
“Gentlemen you’ve trained your whole short deprived lives for missions like this.” The Epis spoke through the vocabulator. “Remember we are all expendable. The mission comes first.”
Without a word the teams separated.
Shin’ichi monitored the progress of his men through the helmet comlink. Their vital signs were linked to his helmet allowing him to see how they handled the situation. If they were Dark Jedi he wouldn’t have bothered. But they weren’t. No one but he and Macron knew that they were Nihiligenia, grown on Kyataru and trained by Shin’ichi personally. He saw them almost as his own children. He knew that there was something they had that would be invaluable should they be captured, Jango’s face.
The other three members of cell Echo-Seven were grown from the root gene seed of the original primogenitor the Bounty Hunter Jango Fett. If they were questioned they could remove their helmets and be verified as clones like everyone else aboard this ship. Not so with him. Adjusting a knob on his vocabulator the Krath hoped that Macron’s tinkering would give his voice the slight Mandalorian accent that he would need to pass muster if questioned.
Several minutes into it and his men were doing great. The ships lights dimmed before auxiliary power kicked in throwing the crew into a state of confusion. The guns trained themselves on the nearest corvette and released a volley that tore her from fore to aft. All that remained was the engines.
Utilizing the security card he had taken from a dead officer the Keibatsu entered engineering. Technicians were scurrying here and there trying to maintain engine power and momentum. They were so distracted it took several moments before anyone realized the Dark Jedi was in the room.
“What are you doing here?” queried what looked to be the chief of engineering.
“Captain’s orders sir. There’s saboteurs aboard and I’m to secure engineering from infiltration.” He responded firmly. The chief simply nodded and went back to his duties. Everyone was hunched over consoles or monitoring readings, no one faced him. Too bad Thought the Epis absently, I would have enjoyed a fight.
In less than a heartbeat’s time he drew the saber from beneath his armor and ignited the amethyst blade cutting two men down as the blade came to life with a crack and a growl. The other turned their heads in time to see violet flash before their eyes as they fell dead. Moments later he was alone surrounded by the smell of ozone and burnt flesh. The Abomination called out to him, and with a shudder he repressed the beast and set forth to his real task.
Suddenly the whole ship shook as if it had ran aground of something. Reaching out through the force he felt Macron’s glee. The sick bastard’s ordered everyone to open up on the Acclamator. The fool’s going to be the death of me he thought as he raced to the controls.
Hunched over the console Shin’ichi’s fingers worked the keys like a master and he was thankful for the Black Guard training that had been pounded into him. The task was done. Sending a simple signal to Macron aboard the Covenant Shin’ichi bolted for the escape pods. He hoped his boys were doing the same when a blaster bolt to the chest stopped him dead in his tracks. He needed to remember to thank Macron for the armor after he’d knocked him stupid for firing on the ship he was on. Simultaneously thinking fratricidal thought the Epis gunned down the source of the bolt with his DC-17m and continued to make way to the escape pods.
His team was assembled and waiting for him when he arrived.
“What are you doing? I told you to get of as quick as you could.” He scolded them.
“We still have forty-two seconds sir and we’re not leaving without you.” Rarely has any Dark Jedi commanded such respect from the troops at his command. The Empire had taught him the fundamentals of leadership well.
As they jettisoned from the dying vessel into the abyss that was space Shin’ichi caught sight of the tractor beams pulling the Acclamator towards the surface of the planet below. Millions would die in the catastrophe. From the darkest corners of his mind the Abomination smiled.
Burying his scarlet blade into the throat of one of the defending "personel", Rurouni turned around to catch an approaching officer, backhanding him with his metal-covered hand. The humanoid fell to the ground with a tremendous thud. Unsure if it was an explosion or the humanoid itself, Shikyo didn't care as he continued his way towards the Bridge. The screams and battle cires of his fellow Dark Jedi was more than enough encouragement to bring out the violent side of the Battlemaster.
The Bridge was sealed off, as was expected in any kind of siege attempt. Smirking at the situation, the Keibatsu buried his saber deep into the doors, watching the metal around his beam glow a majestic orange before slowly falling down onto the floor. Moving his saber in a wide, sweeping area, the Sith cut open a hole in the doors big enough for his men to enter through. There were a few Kaminoians armed with blaster rifles awaiting the Quaestor, firing away as soon as he entered.
Shikyo held his saber in the form of Djem So, deflecting the bolts back to their sources, ruching out at the defenders, driving his saber through their pale gray flesh. The surrounding personel began to cower back away from what consoles they were stationed at, their commander looking around with fear in his obsidian eyes. Shikyo locked eyes with the commander, creaping up towards him as his fellow Dark Jedi moved in on the remaining members of the crew.
Rurouni extended his saber out towards the Kaminoian, watching him attempt to back away from the Quaestor. The tip of the Battlemaster's crimson blade illuminated the extended neck of the commander, causing his fear to jump dramatically. The Keibatsu basked in the fear of his adversary, smirking like a wolf catching scent of its prey. Shikyo began to turn away, taking a step or two forward before turning sharply on his back heel, severing the commander's head from his shoulders.
The Dark Jedi cried out in excitement, slaughtering the remaining members of the Bridge. After they had their individual fun, the Sith turned back towards them with commands of his own.
"Take what you want, take what we need, then return to the Fire."
Each Disciple of Ragnos nodded and confirmed, taking their leave of the Bridge. Turning on his commlink and attempting to make contact with Macron, the sound of the Battlelord's voice began to come in clear.
"Brother, the ship is ours. We're acquiring supplies, weapons, and 'experiments'. You can begin whatever interrogations you want on them in a second. Please inform Vladek to do clean up work outside and inform Tyren to assist us with clean up work with the Night Hawks. Shikyo out."
Malisane sat in the command chair of the Foresight, Ashia next to him. So far the ship had held off from attacking fully, simply providing covering fire for the fighters that bombarded the dreadnaught and picked off its fighter escorts, and had sustained only moderate damage from the dreadnaughts turbolasers. “How much longer?” he muttered.
Ashia checked her display. “Still no message from Ylith,” she replied, “but if he’s on schedule he ought to have reached the target by now.”
“Assuming nothings gone wrong,” the Battlemaster replied.
“Nothing will,” she said calmly.
They waited a few minutes longer. Then a bridge officer turned around. “Sir message from the strike team, they are on board the Crimson Angel and moving away. Minimum casualties and they report full success.”
Malisane smiled. He looked at the time display on the screen. “Any minute now then, prepare to move in on the target.”
“Yes Sir.” A few seconds passed then the Commander nodded. “Sir we are detecting the reactor on the Dreadnaught has failed, shields have fallen. They are attempting to raise backup power.”
Ashia smiled. “As good as their word.”
Malisane nodded. “Move us in, give them everything we’ve got. All fighter wings to engage that dreadnaught.
The Foresight moved closer to the larger but powerless enemy capital ship, it’s turbolasers scoring hit after hit on the unshielded hull, causing ripples and explosions along its surface. Around them the TIE squadrons launched missiles and mines at the helpless vessel causing it to shudder under the onslaught. A few minutes later the ship began to drift, its stabilisers gone. The Sith and the Krath could sense the emotions on board as the gravitational systems failed and internal fires raged as the emergency systems failed.
Malisane reached for the communicator. “All fighters back off that thing, it’s going to go,” he ordered, “open our own distance from it but keep the turbolasers on it.”
They backed off slowly, still raking the burning hull with their weapons. A huge explosion along one side signalled its end as the vessel finally ruptured before blasting into a thousand pieces. Malisane nodded in satisfaction. “Good job everyone. Now take us in to assist our colleagues.”
Aboard the Kaminoan corvette, Sai and his detachment were wrapping up the last of their intel gathering when their world exploded. Precluded only by the faintest shimmer in the Force, turbolasers from the newly commandeered Acclamator found new homes in the spaces surrounding the corvette’s C.I.C.*, where the Dark Jedi and his DSF Marine detachment were slicing the tactical computers.
The smoke cleared, and Sai rose from under a toppled bank of computers, a long gash in his left bicep and blood thick upon the right side of his face. The ripple in the Force lapped against his consciousness a split-second before the onslaught began, hastening the Keibatsu’s form flattening against the deck. The Marines who witnessed it would call the move lucky; not so lucky for those that didn’t survive the initial blast, as they were not equipped with the Knight’s gifts. Sai plumbed the depths of the Dark Side for a sign of what may have happened, and he got his answer in the form of...amusement permeating his bond with his Master.
“Shin,” he whispered softly, a grin creeping across his face in spite of his predicament. It seemed his Trials, according to his Master, would be never-ending. Then, a bit louder, “Status!” The Marines who lived groggily answered. Sai began to pick among the dead and then found who, or what, he was looking for and bent closer to the inert form on the deck. The nearest Marine to the Dark Jedi began to note how compassionate their leader was, when he noticed that Sai wasn’t checking vital signs, but was removing the datapad still strapped to the Marine’s body. He roughly jerked it free, causing the living Marine to gasp in shock, in spite of his training. “Sir?!” he spat incredulously.
The Marine’s announcement gave Sai pause, and he rose slowly, strange eyes deadening as he drew himself up fully. The Keibatsu locked eyes with the soldier as he held up the datapad for the survivors to see. He began to speak, never taking his eyes off of the one who dared give voice to Doubt.
“Look on this. The information on this datapad could hold the communications and weapons codes for the enemy forces, or it could be nothing more than recipe ideas for Kaminoan cuisine. It matters not; our Proconsul has asked me to retrieve it, and I mean to deliver.” The Marine found it impossible to hold Sai’s tripartite gaze, and instead diverted his eyes to Sai’s wound, which the Keibatsu seemed to ignore. And with good reason, as the blood flow inexplicably staunched itself and scar tissue began to form.
Sai continued to divert the Force to aid his healing as he drew strength from his anger, still addressing the remaining Marines. “If you think that any of our lives are worth more than this mission, you’re sadly mistaken, and you deserve to remain here with your brothers.” As if to punctuate his point, another volley of fire from the Acclamator slammed home, rocking the corvette.
“But, if any of you wish to show our commanders that we were the right choice for this mission, and feel that we deserve the inherent glory that comes with success,” Sai looked off in the distance, perhaps warned by something that no other in the room could see, “then speak no more, and follow me.”
At the last, Sai whirled towards a hatch that was blocked by a massive bank of computers, leading towards a corridor that was the way to the aft escape pods. Seizing the Dark Side, he bade its ebon tendrils to wrap themselves around the warped and sparking metal. Visibly shaking with the effort, Sai was successful in shifting the blockage just enough to let the Marines through, one at a time. After the last of the survivors made it through, Sai followed just as another volley vaporized the C.I.C. and any trace of their passing.
The Keibatsu and the Marines ran at a full-on sprint, heading towards the corvette’s aft escape pods as explosions and shocks followed them close behind. Sai made sure that every soldier made it to a pod and input the rescue rendezvous coordinates himself before he selected his own. His pod cleared the corvette, but not before the Acclamator’s ion batteries hastened the warship to oblivion. The resulting shockwave propelled the tiny pod at speeds it was never designed to travel; only Sai’s command of the Dark Side kept it together long enough for him to send both an electronic and ethereal call to his Proconsul, his Quaestor, and his Master, alerting them to both the mission’s success and his current heading before he passed out from the exertion.
*Combat Information Center
“That is it,” noted Macron as escape pods jettisoned from the Acclamator with puffs of escaping atmosphere. “Captain Rineval, recover those pods. Some will be our own, and some will need… interrogation. Send those to my lab facilities below decks.” The Sith cracked his knuckles and grinned in anticipation as the Captain nodded grimly. “Full ale rations to our men that survived. They deserve it.”
“Aye aye, Sir. Continue firing on the Acclamator?” asked the elite officer.
“Negatory. Recover fighters, and tell the others to do the same. Draw power to the shields to screen debris and stray fighters, and engage tractors. Link with the returning vessels, and let’s drop this rotten egg down into their laps,” rattled the madman. “Here’s a present from Sadow,” chuckled Mononoke as he toggled the switches.
The Acclamator lurched as the Covenant locked on with tractor beams. The Foresight returned to form up with the other vessels as the Astronicus’ Reach and Wandering Soul arrived. The arrival of the Crimson Angel and Fire of Sepros right after added more power, allowing the mighty but crippled vessel to be towed with relative ease. Fighters buzzed about them all, some returning and others being launched on patrol.
The Kaminoan ship was released in orbit, blazing with bright friction fires as it rocketed down into the atmosphere. Less than a minute later, all observers noted a tremendous flash of searing light on the planet’s surface, followed by a rising ruddy dust cloud. Macron smiled. “Mission successful,” he chuckled. “Most effective. They are officially screwed. Enjoy, you long-necked bastards.”
“Prefects Malisane and Shikyo report minimal casualties and successful operations, sir. They are standing by. Sir, I also have a transmission from Knight Sai,” stated a junior communications officer.
“Put it through priority, Sergeant,” responded the Sith curtly as he sensed Sai reaching out through the Force. The man nodded, flipping dials and causing a tinny voice to echo in the bridge area.
“Mission successful. Coordinates follow. damage from Acclamator volley to corvette… need recovery. Data squirt transmission begins.” The voice was weak and tiny, coming from the damaged pod’s systems and Sai’s own injured body.
“Message acknowledged. Captain, dispatch a medical recovery team to collect them. Take them straight to the infirmary, and do not let anyone other than Clan officers talk to them. They may have vital information. Have Shin debrief them as soon as he is collected, assuming he is operational and doesn’t want to fight me. That is all,” said the Battlelord with a giggle as he turned to his maps again.
A quick scan of the data streams scrolling along his readouts confirmed his hopes. “So far, our losses are less than five percent, which is excellent and well within mission tolerances. Now, we begin the ground assault.” Macron picked up his comm. Unit. “All hands, now hear this…”
Prro Consul and Adjutant General Mononuke "Macron" Keibatsu stood on top of the tower looking at the sky as the fleet of small shuttles and landing craft ferried the troops and ordinance down onto the planets surface. He smiled to himself. Now things would get interesting. Around the pre fabricated command centre ground technitions scurried about assembling and preparing the heavy vehicles and equipment ready for the advancement across Jaginos. He turned and looked at the hologramatic map that was projected nearby.
In the centre a large cross marked where the surveilance from space indicated the entrance to the underground Kaminoan facility to be. Surrounding it was a large green circle, the no fly zone, where the enemies surface to air silos and lasers stopped landing until they were disabled. To the north of the cross he had marked where the Acclamator had crashed, which was now a burned ruined area poluted with deady radiation from the exploding reactor. Until it could be cleaned up the area was uninhabitable.
To the east lay a mountain range, tall hostile peaks where crossing would be ardous and impracticle given the time they had. To the west was a large dense forest, miles and miles apart. This was where Quaestor Malisane de Ath had landed his forces, half the marine corps and across here under cover the Ludo Kressh leader would march his forces wiping out any bases that were to be found within. To the south lay empty plains, where many of the clones and their equipment were dug in. Across here the might of Macrons force would move, obliterating anything they found. He smiled, there would be much death and suffering before the next few days were over.
He turned as he heard footsteps on the stairs leading up. Epis Shin'Ichi Keibatsu, Rolemaster of Clan Naga Sadow stood there. "Cousin, our forces are nearly assembled. It is time for my own force to depart."
Macron nodded. "Good luck."
The Epis smiled. "When have I ever needed luck. See you when it's all over." He glanced up at the setting sun in the distance and with a slight bow slipped back down the stairs.
Macron nodded. Soon night would fall, soon they would move out. He licked his lips and smiled. Soon there would be much death, and many prisoners for his entertainment.
Malisane stood watching the men in his battalian prepare themselves amongst the dense woods. Compared with Macrons force his five hundred DSF Marine force seemed less impressive, but in the woods of Jaginos, as in the woods of Sepros and Aeotheran, they would be deadly against much larger forces, even the elite discaplined cloness. He turned as he heard a growling beside him, Gmork the Redoras hound was impatient to be off and hunting in the woods. He scratched and pawed the ground in eagerness.
"Soon my pet," Malisane said stroking his hair. He was watching the skies now as a large ancient transport descended from the twilight sky. They were here perfectly on time. The members of the Clan who had accompanied him watched in interest as the transport manoeved towards their position.
He strode across the clearing as the transport landed in the clearing alongside the shuttles of his battalian. The ramp slowly descended and there was a pause. Then short black shapes began to march from the ship down the ramp, their red eyes glinting in the failing light, their clawed paws hands clutching their staffs and rifles. More and more emerged, until three company sized units stood silently in the darkness, aware of all around them but perfectly still awaiting orders.
Ashia wandered over, the marine Major Grandav at her side. "The marines are prepared to march Mali, we'd better send out the ewok scouts." Malisane nodded and shouted a command in the beasts own language, and a score of them slipped off into the trees.
The Maor looked at the beasts, the usually cool officer slightly nervous at the sight of the ewok silent Sith Ewok ranks. He had seen several in the past on a visit to Kangaras, but only a few. Nearly three hundred of them in one place in the darkness was an awesome sight. "Pardon me Govenor but do we need these beasts?"
Malisane looked at him. Grandav was not usually afraid to speak his mind and the Quaestor approved. Major I doubt there is a finer jungle or woodland fighting force we could hope to have. Along with your marines and our Sith any clone army we meet will not know what has hit them."
"Very well Sir." the Major replied.
Malisane studied the Aedile and the Major. "We will depart, we have much to do."
Macron stood on the windswept plain, about 50 kilometers from the no-fly zone. All seemed in order with the enemy fleet successfully routed. Night time had fallen as the long day of loading and moving supplies, personnel, and material to the surface ended. It was time to get the show started. The large force they faced was a serious concern. He touched his helm and triggered the internal comlink.
“Interrogator to Covenant. Respond.”
“This is the Covenant. We read you clearly, Adjutant. What are your orders?” The voice was crackly from the dust and loose nuclear material floating about in the Jaginoan atmosphere. The area where the Acclamator crashed was a hell of nuclear fires and slagged glass, and it interfered with communications for both forces.
“Target the no-fly zone, and begin orbital bombardment. Captain Rineval, continue your barrage for 12 standard hours until we are within range and ready to begin our own indirect fire. We will keep their heads down until we hit them. Continue clean-up operations in the system, and send the two Vibre cruisers and the Wandering Soul back to CNS space in case they are needed. That is all,” ordered the Sith.
He strode to the assault platform that served as his mobile base for now. Opening the armored hatch, he climbed inside and opened his helm. The close smell of sweaty bodies and hot electronics was refreshing. “Ah. I see you have been promoted, Major Sarthim.”
The gaunt and pale Seprosian merely smiled and nodded. “Yes, milord. In fact, it came shortly after we finished bombing Milmefia. That was quite the party,” he said nonchalantly. He had been the officer in command as the first Violator Gas was dropped on the city during the last Great Jedi War.
“Indeed it was. You performed admirably with me back then. This time, we have bigger fish to fry. Make your course oh-seven-niner, and let’s move out. We have dirty work to do,” giggled the Sith. “Verify that the agent I brought is secure and loaded. Contact Malisane, Shikyo, and Shin’Ichi, and determine their status and readiness.”
“Sir, how will it get through their systems? They are secure underground,” remarked the officer as he began to send encrypted messages.
Macron smiled, and pointed at the image of a Silooth beetle in a cage being loaded onto a transport. “They are excellent diggers, and their non-clone biology is immune. They were already inoculated.”
“I see,” said the officer as he turned to the controls and began to issue orders.
Max looked over into the sky, standing behind the Ludo Kressh Quaestor, Malisane de Ath. Slowly, a transport hovered over the clearing that held five hundred DSF Marines and the clan mates that had followed the Battlemaster. The large transport awkwardly maneuvered down into the clearing, its bulky size taking up a good bit of the clearing that was left. As the transport descended and laid out onto the ground, a group of short, black, armored Ewoks exited the transport - the Sith-Spawned cretins, as Max had called them.
Three large groups of them emerged from the shuttle, further covering the clearing. Each one obediently waited for orders, standing like perfect soldiers. Max stared in awe at their obedience and mutated bodies.
Sith Alchemy… Max thought to himself begrudgingly… Can do amazing things.
Max smirked to himself and walked around Malisane as he saw Ashia heading towards the Quaestor. The Guardian continued to inspect the Ewoks, moving his way among the ranks. All of the sudden, Malisane made a loud sound that resembled the sound Ewoks made. A group near Max rushed away and into the depths of the woods. Max stood stupefied by the retreated Ewoks.
Aranos decided it was enough, the beasts were intriguing, but they weren’t incredible enough to make Max look like a fool. The Guardian marched away, heading towards the area where he had previously stood, next to the house Ludo Kressh summit. Malisane nodded while speaking to Major Grandav and then he heard the words.
“We shall depart; we have much to do.”
Max agreed and resumed position behind the Battlemaster and Quaestor of House Ludo Kressh.
Shinichi Endymiron K
Darkness had fallen and with it came those things that thrived in the absence of light. Motioning silently Shin’ichi sent his apprentice and cousin Sai a signal. The younger Keibatsu in turn made a series of gestures and three warriors of the Jade Serpents fanned out into a scout patrol. The Black Guard acting in conjunction with the Jade Serpents Battleteam were now serving as a Force Reconnaissance unit in advance of the main ground assault force.
Another gesture from the Epis sent several Black Guard in another direction. A hidden entrance into the cave complex that housed the Kaminoan cloning facilities had been found earlier in the day via intense scanner sweeps and it now fell upon Shin’ichi recce the area and assess any enemy defenses. The Abomination would have smiled if his current physiology allowed him to do so; instead he nodded thinking of what else he might do once his team was in the depths of Jaginos.
Stretching out with the force he touched the minds of every one of the scouts that he and Sai had dispatched. So far there was nothing. No sign of enemy patrols or defensive emplacements had been detected. The Epis had his doubts as to the scouts from the Jade Serpents, they were young and untested, and the only members he trusted were Sai and the newly promoted Dark Knight Sanjuro, his own nephew. Shin’ichi continued to feel for the scouts as they advanced. Their demeanor was excited and overconfident, and he felt their nerves invade his mind. Then in an instant one after the other there was simply nothing. The minds had been silenced, and he felt Sanjuro touch his mind. The Knight had felt his comrades demise and the image he sent back to Shin’ichi showed the youngest Keibatsu narrowly avoiding his own death. Even one of the Black Guard scouts was felled by a clone sniper, the other three returning to give their report to the First Prime.
Sai was a bundle of nervous anger. Two of his men were dead and he had nearly gotten the son of the Herald killed. Shin’ichi nodded at his apprentice and sent a soothing thought to the Half-breed Keibatsu. Do not worry cousin. Muz understands the risks of these operations. More importantly Sanjuro understands them. Besides it would be me who would answer to Ashia and the Herald if any harm came to their progeny. Sai nodded calmly understanding the implications, but he still feared for the well being of the younger Keibatsu and for the men under his command. For all his gruff exterior the Korun was an excellent commander.
Conferring quickly with his apprentice Shin’ichi decided that it would be he, Sai, and Sanjuro who found the snipers and neutralized the threat. The remaining Jade Serpents and Black Guard would act as bait as Shin’ichi zeroed in on the enemy positions and directed Sai and Sanjuro to their locations. Calling artillery would have been easier, but their cover would be blown as any survivors of the initial salvo would have sent word of the enemy contact. As it was the Kaminoans had to know that a recon patrol was in the area. Besides these were just clones. For warriors who had fought force users both light and dark in dozens of battles these men were nothing.
The dense forests on this part of Jaginos allowed no light to shine onto the floor from moon or star. The clones would rely on night vision and sensors to find their prey, the Dark Jedi had a more powerful ally in the force. Locking onto the force of will beneath the outdated armor the Keibatsu assassins took their quarry one by one in swift and silent movements. Shin’ichi sent a flash to Macron as the reconnaissance force entered the caves.
“Sir, are you certain?” The Seprosian Major asked his superior in bewilderment. “That’s the last reported position of Lord Endymiron and his ghost force.”
Macron smiled turning his tattooed face into a parody of dark amusement. “I am quite certain Major. Redirect the thirteenth and sixteenth batteries to fire on those coordinates. I want several volleys, and use incendiary rounds…oh and Major, fire for effect.” The officer nodded and gave the command. A few moments later the forest at the edge of the cave entrance was a roaring inferno.
Shin’ichi felt the rumble and impacts of the shells, and even in the cave the heat beat at the Dark Jedi as the forest erupted into flames. Macron’s mental acknowledgment came moments before. Their tracks were now suitably covered as the snipers corpses were reduced to ash. The Kaminoans would think that having lost contact with their scouts the arrogant and vengeful Jedi had sent a retaliatory strike. The swan-necked aliens would never suspect an infiltration force had just breached their backdoor.
A sneeze erupted from the Krath Priestess, a startled look crossing her visage momentarily as she tried to regain her composure.
Max jumped at the sound, but a stern look from the Aedile sent him back to his duties.
Malisane cast a sideways glance at her. “You having allergic reactions to the Ewoks now too?”
“No, I'm fine.” She sniffed as she shrugged it off; going back to her datapad as she helped prepare them for battle.
He said no more to the Nightsister, and went back to getting the Ewoks ready for battle.
The Quaestor's comlink crackled to life as Macron's voice came in, checking to make sure all their preparations were coming a long smoothly. Another sneeze from the Aedile made Mali pause in his conversation with the Proconsul.
“What the frell was that?” Macron's voice crackled over the com.
She looked up at her Quaestor; her azure eyes red and puffy.
“That was Ash.” He looked towards her quietly as she ignored him and continued her work.
“Oh, I see. Really? Hmm...I have something that might help. I'll have one of the Acolytes run it to you.”
The two conferred via com for a few minutes longer then Malisane switched it off and proceeded over to where Ashia stood going over her data pad.
“I need you to do some reconnaissance, just confirming some of the info we have, also see if you can get a line on the Serpents and how things are going with them, ok? Gmork has been rather restless and is looking for a good romp through the trees, would you mind taking him with you? I don't want him jumping at everything once things get started, it will quiet him a bit.”
Malisane's Redoras hound trusted only a few people and listened to far less, Ashia being one of those few. She took care of Gmork when Malisane was otherwise occupied or off somewhere he wasn't able to take the beloved pet. Usually, though, if the hound was with him, they were inseparable, so for Mali to ask this of her, was unusual in it's own right.
She nodded at him as she repressed another sneeze and slipped away quietly, calling to the hound as she made her way out of the camp.
Max moved up alongside the Quaestor.
“She'll never admit she's allergic.”
“I know, but it was the only way to get her away from them right now without trying to force it out of her and having her blow up. Besides, Gmork does need a good romp and I'm always happy to have an intelligence confirmation.”
The battalion moved through the woods in column formation, with their Sith Ewok allies walking in ranks at the rear. Malisane glanced back at them as he walked along, there was no talking or noise from any of them, and not for the first time he wondered what they had done creating these creatures. Back on Kangaras in their villages they acted as normal ewoks, hunting, singing, sharing stories around the camp fire or engaging in mock or often real fights for fun, territory or mates, independent creatures like any other wild sentient. But once summoned they turned into almost automations, utterly obedient to himself, Macron or those designated as leaders. Fearless in the face of any foe, merciless, and silent and deadly and almost emotionless. And then once the mission was over they reverted back to their normal state. What had they created? And what were they capable of?
His thoughts were disturbed by a loud animal howl, a warning signal. He and Max turned as one of the black creatures approached and spoke to the Quaestor. Malisane spoke back to it and it scurried off. “What is happening?” Max asked.
“Lone scout bike approaching from the Southeast,” Malisane replied, “it ought not to be a threat but I’ve ordered them to intercept it and bring the rider to me. Major, halt the column!”
They waited, the troopers and ewoks remaining in formation, and Malisane could make out dark shapes of their scouts amongst the trees. After a few minutes two ewoks carrying their alchemically enhanced pikes moved out of the trees, herding a figure in the grey robes of a journeyman towards them. Malisane waited until they drew close. It was a young woman of mid twenties with markings of the Sith Order, attractive with long wavy black hair down her back and green eyes. She had an empty sword scabbard and holster at her belt, the ewoks having disarmed her, and she was stood nervously looking at the Battlemaster. Malisane didn’t know why but he felt a jolt of recognition, as if her face was familiar from somewhere.
“Well?” Malisane asked. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
She bowed nervously. “Quaestor, I have been sent by the Pro-Consul with a package for you.”
“Ah, Macron’s potion. My Aedile has gone ahead but I am sure she will be pleased on her return.” He studied her, trying to decide where he knew her from. “Well that answers the second question, now what about the first?”
She bowed again subconsciously, “Acolyte Gorbano, Ravana Squadron, House Marka Ragnos.”
“Gorbano?” Malisane repeated, a terrible sense drawing over him. It couldn’t be. “Where are you from Acolyte?”
“Tatooine Quaestor, near Anchorhead.”
It was her, but how? He’d taken steps this wasn’t possible. “Why did the Pro Consul send you?” he demanded. Did Macron know? He would have said surely after the events on Koplar he’d recognise the name a mile off.
“He did not Quaestor, he asked Envoy Solander who sent me.”
Malisane nodded. He would speak to Macron later when this was over. He couldn’t tell anyone else. In the time being he couldn’t let her out of his sight.
“Fall in Acolyte I’ll let them know you’ve joined us.,” he ordered, then, “Major move out!”
The Nightsister loped along at an easy stride through the darkened wood, the Redoras hound known as Gmork easily keeping pace. At a distance, it would be easy for the casual observer to mistake where the woman began and the animal ended, so alike in mien were the two traveling companions, flowing effortlessly in and amongst the surrounding wilderness. Under the pretext of gathering intel and burning off nervous energy, both Ashia and Malisane’s pet were on the hunt.
In truth, the slight diversion was easily welcomed by the Aedile, who had, by this point, breathed in more than her fill of the Ewok’s dander. Besides, other than fulfilling her duty to the Clan, she had her own agenda. In fact, it was her son Sanjuro’s first mission after being raised to the saber, and she was a bit eager to see how he was making out.
Having reached the outside edge of the fire zone, the Nightsister knelt at the ash boundary that marked the Proconsul’s enactment of a “scorched-earth” policy against Jaginos’ newest tenants. Gmork sniffed and rooted around at her side, then looked to Ash expectantly.
“I know, boy…we’ll be back soon.” The words seemed to soothe the hound; at the least, they were enough to divert Gmork back to his random sniffing.
Ashia went to activate Shin’ichi’s channel on her comm unit, then wisely thought better of it. After all, the Kaminoans’ counter intelligence capabilities were still an unknown factor. Delving into the Force, she tapped the one source that was free from corruption or eavesdroppers. The invisible thread that connected her to the Clan Rollmaster vibrated…
…and Shin’ichi, standing at the mouth of the cave, dutifully heeded its call. His bond with House Ludo Kressh's Aedile was unique, and had actually intensified since his disfigurement in a campaign, past. It was as if the two shared the same thoughts at times, and now, their thoughts intermingled concerning the Jade Serpents.
“>Shin, how goes it? Mal wants a report on the team.<” The vestiges of Shin’ichi’s face crinkled in what would’ve been a wry smile; although Ash was the consummate pro in the field and would never compromise that status by openly discussing the ties between her and Sanjuro, he knew that the Keibatsu younger was the cause of the ethereal inquiry. Shin’s propriety, in kind, would not allow him to compromise his sister-in-law, either. Thus was the unspoken relationship between all who served Clan Naga Sadow, faithfully and unerringly.
“>The Serpents are fine, Ash. We’ve breached the backdoor, are securing our exit, and are preparing to infiltrate the cave system.<” Shin purposefully left out the part about the fallen, especially Sanjuro’s brush with a sniper’s sight. It wasn’t a lie of omission, per se; it fell to the Tetrarch of the team to report such things, if it so pleased him, and if Shin was anything, he was respectful of his former apprentice’s duty and right of command.
Ash surprised her brother-in-law by asking, albeit indirectly, about her son. “>How is Sanjuro taking to his assignment?<”
“>Like a krayt to the air, sis; he’s currently with Sai further in the cave.<” The Abomination’s cheeks crinkled again at the Aedile’s display of warmth. The expression never touched his eyes, however, as he caught the running lights of what he presumed to be a cloner AT-TE walker coming in his, and the Serpents’, direction. Machinery meant men, and men, to the Abomination, meant death.
Sai and Sanjuro stood in the cave’s blackness, about a half a click within its depths. The two decided to scout ahead, and were rewarded, in a strange way, by what could best be described as “company”. The two Serpents received a blanket impression in the Force, one that told them of an unseen electronic eye and a small company of clone troopers equipped with night vision, vibroblades, and holdout blasters that were headed their way.
Now, as the Kaminoans’ clones closed on them, Sai whispered to Sanjuro in the dark.
“When it starts, it’ll be fast…I’ll need you to follow my lead.” Sai unclipped his saber hilt from his belt.
Fully aware and respectful of his second-cousin’s station, Sanjuro teased him nonetheless, mimicking the movement. “C’mon, Sai; you’ve been a Knight for about five more minutes than me.”
In the dark, Sai winked at Sanjuro conspiratorially, a grin turning up one corner of his mouth. “Yes, cousin, but it’s been a long five minutes. Now close your eyes.”
The Clan’s newest Knights shut their eyes, both counting silently at the Dark Side’s behest. Then, activation studs and plates on two sabers were thumbed simultaneously, and the birth of cerulean and violet columns burned out the clones’ visual aide technology. Given time, the nightvision goggles would compensate for the sudden influx of light…given time, of course. Sai and Sanjuro would deny them that luxury.
The two warriors stood not a half meter apart, and their eyes remained closed, but they circled around each other as of one mind and body, blades flashing and twirling as extensions of one another. Where Sai would duck, Sanjuro would swing; where Sanjuro would seemingly allow an enemy to live, Sai was there to strike him down. They circled for perhaps twenty seconds, a study of efficiency and grace in action, and not one Kaminoan clone stood thereafter.
The cave stank of ozone and burned replicant flesh; Sai and Sanjuro failed to notice as they deactivated their weapons and began to chuckle softly in the dark at their handiwork.
Sai went to contact Shin’ichi as to the status of their incursion; he sensed there would be no quick answer to his summons, as the Abomination seemed to be erstwhile occupied with Kaminoan forces who had come, like Ash, to inspect the results of Macron’s “terraforming-with-artillery” experiment.
“Sir, the Kaminoans seem to be keeping their heads down,” reported Major Sarthim. “Recon suggests that the no-fly area has been devastated. Perhaps as much as thirty percent of the emplacements have been neutralized, sir. The bombardment has been successful in covering the infiltration unit’s tracks.”
“Perhaps?” asked the Sith with a glower as he turned to the Seprosian. “Sith deal in absolutes.”
“Yes, sir. My sources indicate twenty nine percent is verifiable, and one unit has yet to check in,” stated the artillerist. His fingers raced over the console as he continued to direct the barrage. Macron did not intimidate him- Seprosians are strong-willed and stoic, and he knew he would be dead if the alchemist were truly angry. Or worse.
“I see. Any word from the others, Major?” queried Macron as he stroked his scarred and tattooed chin thoughtfully.
“Prefect Malisane checks in, and they are assembled and moving. Encryption protocols from Sir Shin’Ichi indicate that he has entered the caves, and Knights Sai and Sanjuro are seeing some minor skirmishes. Lady Ashia has sent word from the target zone edge, indicating that the bombardment is effective so far,” reported the alien as he turned back to the console. “Captain Rineval indicates that there are still some minor space skirmishes happening on the system edges, but Prefect Shikyo has them under control.”
The Proconsul frowned. “Hmm. Things are moving along, albeit a bit slower than I would like. Stop the barrage for now, and let’s see if the rabbits peek out of their holes. They will undoubtedly assume we think they are finished. Bring out the Silooths and let them start digging,” ordered the Sith as he gathered his gear. “From here on out, a ground assault is needed to finish this job. I’ll be leading personally,” giggled the madman as he thumbed a remote switch. Far in the rear, Sith battle droids came to life along with a bevy of assassin class droids.
“Yes, Adjutant. I will instruct the Colonel to bring out the tanks and walkers, and assemble the ground troops for the assault,” replied the officer.
Macron smiled and nodded. He popped the hatch of the platform, and climbed out of the dimly lit interior. A mass of troops, armor, and machines lay waiting upon the dusty plain. The Sith surveyed them all, and lifted an arm high. His voice echoed through vocal enhancers as he raised his helm to encase his head in comforting armor.
“Soldiers of Sadow,” he implored. “Today is a good day to die. We go to fight for our Clan, and kick the pudu out of these swan-necked idiots,” he chuckled. “Are you WITH me?” Shouts and cheers echoed from the mass as many fists and limbs pumped in the air.
Macron clenched his fist shut with a creak of armor and leather. “The let’s move out,” he growled as he headed for a walker.
A final blast from his TIE Interceptor disintegrated that old ARC starfighter that Shikyo had been pursuing. They were on clean up duty until the black skies of space were cleared of any threats before they went planet side to begin their attack on the heavy artillery awaiting the troops of Naga Sadow. The Battlemaster opened his commlink to his squadron leaders, making sure there were no mistakes in their sweep.
"Vladek, Tyren, status report."
The Night Hawks Tetrarch answered first.
"All green on my end."
"Clear here, Shikyo."
The Commander of Ravana provided a smirk to the Quaestor's lips, as they were ready to move towards the planet and begin to bring about a new definition of "hellfire". Shikyo watched the Dark Jedi of Marka Ragnos and a handful of Marines made their way through the atmosphere, taking in the view of the earth below them and making their final preparations before the storm of war erupted. Rurouni had one last message to transmit, putting in a link to the Fire of Sepros.
"Fire, this is Sith 1. Give me any updates of activity from the stars. I don't care how mundane. I'm not taking any chances for an ambush. Understood?"
"Roger that, Governor. We'll await your return shortly."
Shikyo took his TIE Interceptor down through the planet's atmosphere, joining up with the rest of his forces, scanning the terrain for anything he could use to his advantage. It was mostly jungles and forests, but it would suffice. Patching his link through to his commanders one more time, the Keibatsu worked to excite everyone for the battle to come.
"Keep away from the No-Fly Zone until confirmation from ProConsul Macron, unless you have a death wish. Just remember though, when their big guns come out, we unleash ours. Give them a proper sendoff."
The sound of cheers, laughter, and additional comments stirred the emotions of everyone within a fighter. Looking down on the forces of his adopted brother, they began to move out towards the base, providing the Quaestor with the signs he needed. It was time to gear up and time to unleash fury.
OOC: Sorry I’m so behind in posting: RL gets to you once and a while. So excuse me if I’m a little unclear to the current plot.
“Sapphire Squadron,” commanded the Knight as his speeder, the Nighthawk sped him further and further toward the planet of Jaginos. “Phase one is complete! Now it’s time for the real invasion! Prepare to enter Jaginos airspace!”
Responses sounded off throughout the team as the Squadron sped past the atmosphere and into the clean air of Jaginos.
The roar of his fleet was deafening as the Knight commanded his fleet onward, heading toward the main invasion front. Small and indistinct creatures below on the planet floor gazed up at the fighters as their skilled pilots assumed a V formation. Whether the creatures were on Corin’s side or not, he could not tell from that altitude.
“Quaestor, awaiting additional orders for my Squadron," said Corin, turning his comlink to Malisane's and his personal channel, "We have all successfully entered Jaginos airspace, and we are advancing toward the battle front. All readings of the planet show a large scale of volcanoes in the area, are you aware of this sir?”
The static that came through the com-link muted Malisane’s voice, but Corin could still make out his words. He said, “I was indeed aware of – static – , but I was not – static – of the scale. Do you think the volcanoes have a chance of erupting?”
“Eruptions occur randomly and without pattern so, so it’s hard to estimate the chance. But with the blasts in the area from the fallen destroyer, I think we have quite a large chance of an eruption. Over…”
“Hmm…” he mused, his silence being filled with static, “I had not counted on this. Keep an eye out for me, and be constantly checking the readings. Over and out!”
“Yes sir,” bellowed Corin, “team, be on the lookout for volcanic gasses seeping from the planet. Over!”
Corin stretched his back and arms, yawning as he did so. It was a breath of fresh air to once again see a lush planet instead of metal metropolis built upon nothing but hovering engines.*
Placing his hands back on the controls, Corin piloted his ship further and further into Jaginos territory, awaiting further orders from his leaders.
*Naga Sadow, along with the clans of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, possessed space stations and space-based ships.
Malisane marched through the woodland, Max at one side and Acolyte Gorbano at the other. So far things were going well. They had met several companies of the Clone troopers, and forewarned by the ewok scouts the combined DSF and ewok force had eliminated the troopers, the ewoks pursuing and massacring any who tried to escape through the creature’s natural habitat. So far casualties amongst the Sadow forces had been minimal. Max had fought well, as had surprisingly the young female acolyte with her sword and blaster. Malisane was trying not to look at her unless necessary and she appeared filled with a nervous excitement at her first mission and hadn’t noticed.
“Still no sign of the Aedile,” he mused, glancing at the redoras hound who had returned alone an hour earlier. Of Ashia there was no sign and the ewoks had reported her trail had disappeared at some caves where it had met a party of others, too mixed in size to be the identical clone troopers. He supposed she’d be alright. It has reassuring to have Gmork back at least.
He stopped for a second, the troopers behind doing likewise. “It’s stopped,” he observed to Max and the Major. He was referring to the sounds of shelling, laser fire and explosions to the east that had been raging the last several hours, his Pro Consul and the bulk of the DSF forces that accompanied him against the clone armies.
“Do you think they’ve taken the base?” Max asked.
Malisane shook his head. “Too soon, likely the clones have pulled back out of range. Those gunships are pretty fast. Macron ought to be in pursuit.”
He looked up as an ewok approached, chittering at him. He nodded grimly.
“What’s wrong?” Max asked.
“Clone troopers approaching from the east, lots of them about two battalions, possibly retreating from Macron. We can’t avoid them.”
“What do we do?”
Clone Commander Garet led his forces through the forest. He was tired. The attacking forces had fought surprisingly well, using deadly artillery and some sort of biological weaponry that had scythed down battalion after battalion of his fellow clones. Intelligence had reported that Jedi had been seen amongst the enemy, fighting with their lightsabers in the close fighting. Garet had been ordered to retreat into the forest and wait in ambush with his two battalions for the enemy to pass and ambush them, so here he was.
A lieutenant approached and saluted. “Sir we are detecting enemy troopers moving from the west through the forest.”
“How many?” he demanded.
“Approximately five hundred Sir.”
Garet considered this. Half his numbers, easy pickings for the trained clones.
“Move to intercept.”
The clone army moved through the forest, in column formation. Reports had it the enemy had stopped and formed a line. Garet's superior numbers would take casualties but ultimately his columns would smash through the line and then it would be over.
He walked at the front of his army, studying the trees. The enemy were perhaps a hundred metres away. “Lieutenant any reports from the scouts?”
“Negative sir.” There was a pause. “Sir the scouts are not responding to communications.”
“Any of them?” Garet demanded. There ought to be several platoons out there.
He looked around at his army. “Send out troopers to discern why.”
The lieutenant was about to when suddenly he was cut down by a laser blast that came from the left. He lay twitching on the floor, his armour burnt through in the chest.
Garet ducked as more blasts began to strike amongst the troopers from the undergrowth either side of them. The troopers were beginning to move, their officers giving them orders to move to a more defensive formation and firing their blasters into the trees. Nothing could be seen, but more shots struck down the Commanders troops. He sensed movement ahead and saw the enemy troops ahead beginning to move forward, also firing. Garet’s forces were caught in a pincer and still he couldn’t see where two thirds of the fire was coming from. Column after column fell twitching to the floor.
Then he saw, as the enemy troops moved in closer from the right he saw dark shapes rise up from the undergrowth, vicious looking polearms in their paws. “Ewoks.” He muttered. These were bigger and darker than anything he had seen on a database, and they charged from either side on his forces as they struggled to respond, some of the creatures falling to clone fire, but many more slicing into his troops, their sharp weapons cutting through armour and flesh alike. From the front the enemy troopers also charged now, lead by a man in red and black armour holding a lightsaber.
Half an hour later it was over. The clones had never recovered their momentum from the initial attack, and the deadly forces on each side had never given them time to do so. For the death of nearly a thousand clone troopers Malisane had lost only a sixty ewoks and two hundred of his marines. He looked around in satisfaction. Max wandered over. “What now Quaestor?” he asked with a grin.
“Now we move on the base. We don’t want Macron to have finished when we get there.
The pounding of the Walker’s footsteps continued to reverberate through the shell of the hulking vehicle as Macron sat in the command seat. The readouts indicated a fierce fight ahead, with the clones entrenched deeply. They were surprisingly tough, and the Naga Sadow forces had only been able to gain minimal ground. However, the shelling had taken a serious toll on their air defenses, as predicted. As well, their flanks had been decimated by Malisane.
“General Mononoke, we have confirmation,” came the rear-area voice from the comlink. “No-fly zone assets have been reduced to forty percent and dropping.”
“Excellent, Major. Begin shelling their rear area while we move in. That will prevent a retreat,” giggled the madman as he switched channels. “Sith One, this is Interrogator,” he called. “Are you receiving?”
“Go ahead, Interrogator. This is Sith One,” spoke Shikyo’s voice.
“Commence bombing runs on the no-fly zone,” ordered the Sith. “Recon data indicates they are weakened enough to begin. That tiger still has a few teeth, but I know you wouldn’t want it any other way,” smirked the Proconsul. “Take out those annoying gunships.” Macron gestured to the walker commander to target a group of approaching clones as he awaited the response.
“Copy that. We are moving in,” crackled the reply. “Expect us overhead in 30 seconds.”
“Copy. I will instruct Sapphire to pair up with you,” replied the alchemist. “Give them hell, Prefect. Macron out.”
He grabbed a pair of electro-binoculars, and focused on the trenches about 500 meters away. Sizzling laser bolts and missiles flew back and forth between the groups as they traded blows. This was taking far too long, and Macron was growing impatient. He knew Manesh had directed him to take the place with all speed, and he intended to deliver. Making the Consul displeased was a bad idea. However, arrogance and haste would also be a mistake.
“Quaestor Malisane, do you copy?” implored the Battlelord.
“Roger, Interrogator. We are moving to join you. The side groups you drove toward us are neutralized,” replied Malisane. “Still no word from Ashia.”
“Excellent news,” smiled Macron. “She will be fine, I am sure. Join us, and we’ll make the last push. I am stalled at the moment, but things should open up soon,” he canted as a whoosh from overhead and multiple sonic booms indicated the arrival of fighters and bombers from the Sadow elite. “I also expect they will be having a nasty surprise right about now,” indicated the Adjutant as he looked down at his chronometer. “The Abomination is most likely striking from within, and the Silooths will be joining him.”
Ashia moved fluidly through the woods, as if she belonged there. She had missed being out in the wilderness, her mind turning back to her time on Dathomir briefly before snapping her attention back to the business at hand.
She had sent Gmork back to Malisane a while ago and was free to move about, unhindered by anyone or anything. The Jade Serpents were completing their mission and would be reporting back shortly. She was glad to hear Sanjuro was wielding his saber without much difficulty. So much like his father, the stubbornness he bore came from her and she recognized it easily.
The Aedile was mostly glad to be away from those dreadful Ewoks. The mold that grew in their fur was unique and always gave her to fits of sneezing.
'Everyone thinks I'm allergic to them but it's the mold.' she mused to herself.
The wind picked up momentarily, carrying with it sounds of movement just beyond the ridge she approached.
Crouching low, she slithered her way up and peered over the edge. Several troopers with an AT-ST were gathered. She stretched out her hearing.
"The enemy is closing in, we'd better get word to the command center."
"I'm on, sir." One of the troopers jumped on a speeder and started to make his way up and out past Ashia.
She quickly jumped up, moving back into the trees and climbed. The speeder whistled as it approached and using her Force sense, she pounced like a large cat on to the back of the bike.
"Hey! What the...?"
His head was dislodged from his body before the sentence could be finished. She grabbed the handles, kicking it into high gear and made her way back to Malisane to report.
The whine of a rapidly approaching speeder bike was heard as DSF marines scrambled an e-web blaster position to cover the area. “Malisane…” echoed the Nightsister’s thoughts as they touched the Prefect’s mind. He gestured to the troops to stand down.
“Let it pass,” ordered the Sith as the Marines shrugged. The clone-issue bike roared up, carrying the Ludo Kressh Aedile. She leapt from the saddle with grace, gracefully dropping to the ground with flapping robes as the bike smashed into a nearby rock and exploded.
“That’s one less piece of equipment for them,” she said with a characteristic look of satisfaction. “I am back. Not much to report back there, only a few loose ends.”
Malisane nodded. “I see that. It seems our beloved insane Proconsul is making the final push on the site,” he said as they walked to their transport. “We are meeting up with him, and then we’ll break their lines and infiltrate the base.”
“That base may be very dangerous,” said the Krath as she contemplated. “Macron may be getting us into more than he bargained for. I bet the thing is crawling with traps and other threats. It’s a good thing Shin’Ichi is already down there. I wonder how he is doing…” she mused aloud. “The traps sound interesting though.”
- - -
From overhead, the air forces of the Clan hammered at the defenders. A few had been lost to anti-aircraft emplacements, but those had been soon overrun of blown to Hades by the Sadow forces. Although they were outnumbered and the clones fought very well, the invaders had better technology and were just as tough. They also had Dark Jedi amongst them, killing clones with a variety of light sabers, ship weapons, bombs, and other hateful things.
The Walker took a shuddering blow as a missile detonated close by. “For frell’s sake, Lieutenant. Watch it,” growled the Sith as he calculated. “There, fire on that AT-MT. Give it everything,” he snarled as he opened the hatch. “I’ll be of more use out there. Continue with plan delta four, and inform Major Sarthim and Captain Rineval to carry on with the plan.”
The Sith activated his internal helm com, boosted by the equipment in the tank. “Shikyo, Malisane, Ashia. We are making the final push right now. Ashia, you take control of the beasts and creatures as they trust you. You’ll find a Sithspawned rancor in the back, made just for you. Malisane, punch a hole in their right flank. When you open it, we’ll pour on the heat from the front. Shikyo, keep up the bombing and air cover, and then we’ll need you down here once we are in close combat. Hit them with all you have, and we’ll win the field this day,” he cheered.
The walker rocked back as it opened up on the enemy tank. The bolts speared the side of the spider-like beast, making it glow red as missiles erupted from the Sadowite walker. They struck the compromised area on the enemy tank, making the hatches pop open with red fire and bits of flaming limbs being tossed out like old laundry. Flames and guttering black smoke boiled from the blown hatches and seams of the vehicle as Macron smiled.
“Got ya,” giggled the madman as he leapt from the top of the walker into the fray. Invisible wings of Force energy wrapped him, gliding him gently to the ground as he drew his light saber. The vile weapon blazed into hungry existence with a slash of orange light, severing the head from a clone trooper as the madman began to dance. His vision became clear as the seductive Dark Side engorged his flesh with power.
Ten Sith battle droids dropped from the hatch of the walker to join him in the unholy fete. A scream of pure madness and hatred ripped from the Battlelord’s lungs as he threw himself into the fray like some demon of old, leaping over the enemy lines and cutting them down from behind.
Shouts and screams echoed from the place as Malisane’s forces met up with the main group. The flankers hit hard on the right flank of the clones, drawing their attention away from the main group and punching a hole in their lines. Hordes of Dlarit marines, Sith Ewoks, Dark Jedi, beasts and droids clambered into the breach, killing the tough and desperate enemies. The sounds of blaster fire and explosions mixed horribly with the groans of the dead and dying as the invaders raped the enemy.
The outcome was inevitable.
Deep inside the bunker main, slender Kaminoan fingers flew across keyboards and heads swiveled furiously on swan-like necks as the battle coordinators fought to maintain control over their clone forces. Yes, their system was nearly flawless, with every clone linked electronically to a central hub, each one nearly alike in demeanor and training, responding instantaneously to the typed commands to perform as a deadly fighting force. Still, they had never seen the brutal efficiency that was the Naga Sadow war machine.
Yet, to their credit, they had succeeded in holding the Dark Jedi incursion to a stalemate thus far. True, they had lost clones to the enemy bombs, lasers, and lightsabers, but they could always make more. And, as long as they held the command bunker, they could coordinate those replacements easily. As the battle’s pace increased, so did the activity of the coordinators as they issued orders and commands to compensate for the Sadow movements.
The Kaminoans took comfort in their shared reliance on their battle system, the promise of endless resources, and the security of their bunker. They were still comforted as they began to feel a slight rumble beneath their feet, the ground gently rippling like waves in a pond.
Shin’ichi stood at the mouth of the cave as the Jade Serpents wiped up the remainder of the clone scout force, the lone walker smoldering in a heap of scorched metal. The young team had matured during their time on Jaginos, and they were beginning to function as an efficient unit, leaving no enemy alive and replenishing their depleted stores with those supplies graciously left by the clones’ passing. Traces of a smile crept across the vestiges of Shin’s face; he’d be glad to report their progress to the Tetrarch.
After he instructed the Serpents and the remaining Black Guard to hold the entrance, he went in after his apprentice and his nephew; Sai and Sanjuro hadn’t made contact since their initial skirmish, and he refused to have the blood of the Clan’s newest Knights on his already soiled hands. Filling himself with the Dark Side, he sprinted into the cave, trusting its ebon flows to warn him of traps and the like along his path.
He ran past the bodies of those clones the Knights were responsible for; there was no need for him to check amongst their number for his clan mates, as their training was thorough.
A durasteel bulkhead loomed in his way; he executed a flawless roll through the opening carved out of it by lightsabers, courtesy of his clan mates, whose skill with the weapons had provided said aperture.
A ten meter wide by ten meter deep hole in the cavern floor filled his awareness; Shin leapt over it with no difficulty, no doubt as his apprentice and nephew had done before, easily clearing the maw and the durasteel spikes within. An easy task, as all of their individual prowess was unparalleled.
Finally, he came to join Sai and Sanjuro at the passage’s terminus, his violet blade belching from his wicked hilt to join amethyst and cerulean; the Knights’ blades were furiously whirling to keep laser fire from the automated defense systems from striking them down and ending their rearward assault.
“How goes it, gentlemen?” asked Shin’ichi, his saber flashing to intercept three blasts from a cannon.
“Well,” huffed Sai, “we think this is the door to their command center, but I don’t think the cloners inside want what we’re selling.” Sweat poured from his brow as his cobalt blade worked, his form being both replenished and depleted by the Dark Side.
Shin received a whisper from the Dark; they would not need to work much longer. “Worry, not, my apprentice,” said Shin. “I believe we’re about to get a little ‘tech support’.”
Just then, the ground beneath the three Dark Jedi rippled, the waves of earth moving from behind them to lap against, then underneath, the durasteel door before them. The automated blasters ceased their barking at the earthen assault, and the three Dark Jedi extinguished their weapons. Sanjuro made to approach the door; he was halted by Sai’s strong hand on his shoulder.
“I think you want to wait a second or three,” cautioned the Tetrarch, as the faint sounds of rumbling earth, and then the louder sounds of Kaminoans screeching in agony, wafted to them from beyond the door.
After a heartbeat or two had passed, Shin approached the door, entering a stolen code into its entry pad. “I think that’s done it.”
The door whooshed open, and the Dark Jedi were greeted by a gaping hole in the floor and the stench of Kaminoan blood thick in the air. They cast their eyes about the room; the view screens were splashed with ichor and varied body parts littered the entirety of the space. Sanjuro hefted an arm that had once belonged to a Kaminoan battle coordinator and inspected the bloody end.
“Ripped off,” he commented.
“More like ‘chewed’,” corrected Sai, as his tripartite eyes espied the rear end of a Silooth beetle’s carapace disappearing into the hole in the floor. “I love that madman!” he exclaimed as his thoughts strayed to the giggling face of the Proconsul.
“Ok, let’s get to work,” said Shin, and three lightsabers flashed to life once more, each blade finding homes again and again in sensitive looking equipment.
Where the Kaminoan forces had once held, unified, to keep the Sadow forces at bay, they had now begun to scatter in uncoordinated movements, falling in waves at a renewed assault by the invaders who had just breached their lines.
“Shin’s done it,” exclaimed Malisane into his comm, putting words to the chaos that erupted before his eyes. “Show no mercy, and retrieve those canisters!”
As a clone dropped at Macron’s feet, the life stolen from it by his orange blade, a wicked smile played across his tattooed face.
“Inevitable,” he whispered.
Malisane sat on a boulder sipping coffee out of a flask and watching Macron, Ashia and several journeymen he'd seen in the lab in Usharak Keep on Kangaras, surrounding a large pile of rocks and doing alchemical things. The battle was over, around them lay dead clone troopers and marines, and burned out husks of walkers and gunships. Several turbolaser cannon emplacements burned merrily away nearby, and a stink of burned flesh filled the air. In a final act of defiance before they were slaughtered the clones had blown up the entrance to the underground complex and then brought down a rockslide onto it.
He took another sip and took a deep breath. "Macron," he called over, "remind me again why we aren't usingships to lift those out of the way?"
The Pro Consul didn't look away from his work as he answered. "Because if we're not careful we'll bring the entire mountain down on it. This way works easier. Now if you don't mind we'll work better without interuptions."
"Right you are." the Quaestor replied.
He glanced at Shin who was sat nearby. "What you think we've got to expect down there?"
The Epis considered this. "We did some basic scans before this all blew up. Theres a ten level complex down there, massive. They must have had a hell of a job hollowing it out then covering it up again safely. Most of the clone living quarters were on the surface, but they're likely to have their most elite troopers down there, likely sophisticated anti personell defence systems, we'll have to see what else."
"Sounds like nothing we can't handle." Malisane replied watching as the Pro Consul stood up and began to move away., followed by Ashia and the journeymen.
"Alright people give it a bit of room that stuffs likely to be nasty.Make sure you stay upwind of it" the Alchemist ordered.
Malisane watched as slowly the rocks began to smoke and bubble, cracks appearing in them and a viscious looking liquid slowly oozing out. They began to crumble, a green cloud slowly drifting over the area. The rocks shifted slightly as more crumbled away,
"Few more minutes." Macron said quietly as he watched the grean cloud began to disperse harmlessly to the north on the breeze.
They watched as the steel of the entrance became slowly visible, and the final few rocks covering it turned to dust that blew away. Macron smiled in satisfaction. "Damn I'm good."
Malisane nodded, standing up and walking over, followed by Shin'Ichi and Shikyo. "So whats the plan Macron?"
"We go in," Macron answered, "the cloning tanks ought to be on the lowest level. The Marines can secure the area while we clear the place out. Then we begin recovery of the tech."
Shikyo grinned. "When you say it like that it sounds so easy."
"Well let us not take any chances," Shin'Ichi replied.
Macron nodded. "I hear that. Once we're in there keep together and be on your guard they might have a few suprises."
He frowned, glancing over at one acolyte who was stood nearby quietly. "Malisane a word in your ear."
The Quaestor followed him a little way away. "You brining her along?"
Malisane nodded. "I can keep an eye on her until I work out what is going on."
Macron sighed. "After what happened on Koplar and what you told me I thought you'd taken care of the situation."
Malisane nodded. "So did I, I diverted the Envoys from finding her and bringing her in. Unfortunatley she found us."
Macron shrugged. "You ought to dispose of her if you think she's a risk."
"I don't know she is," Malisane replied, "besides I made a promise. I keep my promises."
"Well you know best I suppose," the Pro Consul replied quietly, "she's your responsibility."
"Are you guys coming?" Ashia shouted over, stood next to Corin and Sai, "we need to get in there."
Malisane looked past her to Acoltye Gorbano, took a deep breath and nodded.
"We're going in." Macron called back.
Ashia nodded and she pressed a device to the opening, which with a beep slid open revealing an empty lift shaft.
"Here we go." Shikyo said eagerly.
A slight smile appeared on Corin’s lips as the shaft appeared to them. “You expect us all to fit?” questioned Corin, gazing around at the group. Constantly fingering his saber hilt, Corin stepped closer to the lift. “Well,” he said, “what are we all waiting for? Let’s go hunt some long necks!”
With one motion, Corin unclipped his hilt, silently entered the shaft, and beckoned for the rest to follow him. As they did so, Corin leaned over to Malisane and asked, “Who’s the Acolyte?”
Malisane quickly shook his head and muttered, “Long story.”
The lift protested as more and more Jedi piled into it. It was nearing its weight limit, and a few troopers were forced to be left outside to wait for the next lift.
Darkness engulfed the Jedi as the lift slowly ascended down the shaft: the light had apparently been either blown out or burnt.
Loud creaks and moans erupted from the lift as it slowly ascended. All was silent in the lift, with no one speaking a word. Breaking the silence, Corin said, intent to lighten the mood, “We’ve gotten thus far easy enough. Let’s just finish the job!” The group around him murmured with agreement.
The lift slowly came to a halt, a loud bing signaling that they reached the bottom. “Everyone, stay on your guard and take out these bastards quickly,” exclaimed Malisane, the Queastor of Naga Sadow, “We must be first and fast!”
In what little room he had, Corin ignited his saber and held it at his side. A few others followed suit, and a plethora of different colors illuminated the lift. One… counted Corin, the door slowly opening, two…. “CHARGE!” A burst of flurry escaped the lift as a dozen trained Jedi leapt from their spot into the corridor.
With all ignited sabers, the Jedi cut down all that were in their path: two long-neck sentries accompanied by a dozen clones that kept guard near the lift.
As Corin ended the life of another trooper, a sudden swoosh sound indicated approaching enemies. Down the corridor a small squad of clones appeared, brandishing their heavy repeaters. “Don’t move!” the leading officer exclaimed as the group made a motion to attack.
“Obviously you don’t know who you are talking to…” Muttered Corin, a small grin clear on his hooded face. Taking one step closer, Corin held out his hand, immediately, the commanding officer gripped his throat, gasping for breath. The other clones stood by helpless and watched their commander suffer. With his dieing breath, the commander muttered one single word, Fire!
The clones let loose their attack, but was quickly met by death as the group of Jedi slammed into their force and cut them down. “Where to?” Questioned Corin, gazing around at the company.
Brushing past the Knight, Manji glanced around him to locate Shin'ichi and Sai.
"We find the cloning tanks. Now, logically, they're going to be located directly below us."
As he looked around again, ignoring the mutilated corpses of the Kaminoan sentries, his good eye alighted on a wide door which seemed to lead onto a staircase that hugged the walls of a long shaft, going down. Moving towards the door, the Epis stuck his head around it, only to pull back quickly.
"Well, that looks like our way down... but there's a couple of tough-looking Kaminoans down there, and it looks like we'd only be able to get down two abreast, at most."
Stroking his chin, Shin grinned.
"Then we move fast. The quickest of us sprint down there, take out the guards and fend off any anti-personel defence systems while the rest of us follow."
Raising his hand, Shin chuckled as Manji did the same.
"Shall we go?"
As the rest of the Dark Jedi moved up to the door behind them, Manji and Shin dived through it, sprinting down the stairs and quickly closing the distance between them and the first Kaminoan guard. Shocked, it raised a blaster and fired off a bolt that was calmly knocked aside by Shin seconds before the silver sabre of the Epis slashed through it's throat. As the body of the sentry toppled over the side of the stairs, plummeting down through the centre of the stairwell, the sentries further down looked up, long graceful necks swooping towards the source of the noise.
They swiftly began to lay down suppressing fire on the two Dark Jedi as they crouched beneath the edge of the solid fence on the edge of the stairs, the other Dark Jedi sneaking down after them. Signalling to Manji, Shin reached into the Dark Side and felt it contort his body into an almost snake-like shape as he writhed down the stairs, unnoticed by the sentries.
Manji's sabre went up, knocking several bolts back to distract the sentries- then there was a scream as Shin reached his foe, the Kaminoan bisected viciously. Reaching into the Force himself, Manji used the wall behind him as a springboard- forcing telekinetic power out through it, he propelled himself across the gap between the stairs upon which he stood and the stairs on the other side of the shaft, sabre flashing as he deflected blaster bolts away from himself then crouched again, Shin'ichi catching up to him with a grin.
"This is going to take a while. Get the others to fire back!"
Above them, several of the Dark Jedi pulled out blasters and aimed down the shaft, the Force guiding their shots with unerring accuracy. The Kaminoans transferred their attention as Manji and Shin'ichi, followed by the other Dark Jedi not firing blasters, sneaked down the stairs.
Dodging the hail of blasterfire coming from both directions, Sai dove down the stairs in hot pursuit of Manji and Shin, eager to join the fray. He was marginal with a blaster; Force abilities gave him an edge, true, but the Jade Serpents’ Tetrarch was much more at ease dealing cerulean clad death. As he hit the bottom of the landing, the Kaminoans’ fusillade ceased momentarily to allow one of their comrades to reach the front of their formation. The Dark Jedi at the top of the stairs stared in horror as the enemy produced an RPG launcher, and taking expert aim, the Kaminoan launched it at the rolling Sai.
Sai seemed to be unaware of the rapidly approaching missile; Malisane quickly assessed the destructive power of the grenade and sprang to the fore, his hands splayed wide. The Kaminoans’ desperation was more than evident if they were willing to bring down the entire shaft on the Dark Jedi’s heads in order to protect their precious technology.
“He’s not gonna make it!” the Quaestor exclaimed as invisible Force bands shot forth from his fingers to wrap the grenade in mid-air, containing it, and the resulting explosion, within an imperceptible sphere.
That is, the Force bubble would’ve been imperceptible were it not for the roiling fire and shrapnel contained within, making it seem as if a small sun were suddenly born within the narrow passageway. Meanwhile, in a move that seemed well-practiced, Sai continued his roll, his form narrowly missing the fireball hovering above him and came up, his blade coming to life with a screech and a growl to split the Kaminoan grenadier from stem to sternum in one fluid motion.
Malisane, displaying the raw power at his command, clenched his jaw and willed the contained explosion through the roof of the turbolift and up the shaft, only releasing it once it reached the outside, causing the remaining DSF Marines and Dark Ewoks to jump back in astonishment. They had been trained and engineered for battle, yes, but their Masters were truly born to war.
“What the kark?" yelled Macron as a blast of fire and shrapnel blew forth from the turbolift shaft in front of him. He had just finished the cleanup detail with the DSF Marines, sabering and force-choking the wounded clones and Kaminoans. He furrowed his brow in consternation. A hand rose to his cheek, triggering the safety blanket of his helm to slide forth and cover his visage. “I nearly lost my damn eyebrows again on that… I better see what the hell is going on.”
A wave of an outstretched hand wrapped the Sith in lines of Force power, allowing him to drift gently down the ruined turbolift shaft. He just barely caught Sai disemboweling a grenadier, and smiled at the group. A hail of blaster fire erupted from the Kaminoans ahead, some being deflected by the lunatic and some skipping off the battlesuit. One shot in particular ripped into a soft area, scorching his shoulder.
Macron snarled in anger, raising his free hand and sent a wall of smashing telekinetic force to rip into the formation. It scattered clones like bowling pins, crushing bones and limbs. The Dark Jedi gave a collective shout and swept in, angels born of hell. The twelve clones were quite dead in less than sixty seconds as the multi-colored blades swept up and down relentlessly.
The Proconsul waved to everyone as he injected himself with bacta. “Well, hello! Can’t have all the fun to yourselves, now can you? I’ve been slammed with admin duties too long. Let’s kick some butt!”
The others grinned and shook their heads at his rude demeanor. “Feeling jumpy today?” asked Manji. “How’s the shoulder?”
“Pretty much. It will heal, Master,” agreed Mononoke as he peered around. “Glad to have ya onboard. Sai, what the hell was that earlier? A thermal detonator?”
“I am sure it was,” agreed the Knight as he fingered his azure blade. “That was close.”
“I hate to interrupt this little discussion boys, but we do have a job to do here,” reminded Ashia sarcastically as she twirled her blade idly.
“Right,” said Malisane as he punched Shin’Ichi’s stolen data into his datapad. “This looks like a labyrinth to me. Naturally, Clone Control will be in the center.” Shin’Ichi nodded, and took the point with his stealth as the group moved out.
Another explosion rocked the building, shaking the pipes above. The group crouched quietly, weapons in hand as the echoes passed and died out. Malisane glanced at Macron who shrugged without speaking. Shin and Sai had been gone a few minutes, the Rollmaster and his student confident in their mission.
"You think they're alright?" Ashia asked from nearby.
"I hope so," Malisane muttered back, "I wasn't expecting that I assumed they'd quietly go in and take them out."
"They know what they're doing," Macron replied confidently.
Malisane nodded, glancing at the assembled Sith and Krath, all grasping weapons and waiting. He studied the youngest of the group, she crouched quietly, blaster in hand looking pale and a little nervous. He wanted to say something but he wasn't sure what. She saw him looking and their eyes met, before looking away. "Sooner or later we need a long chat Andredi" he muttered under his breath.
"Someone coming." Corin said quietly.
Macron nodded. "Get ready."
They waited, then out of the smoke sauntered the two Krath, grins on their faces."
Malisane stood up. "What was the explosion?"
Shin'ichi shrugged. "That was Clone Control going bye bye."
"You could have warned us," Shikyo added next to Malisane, studying his two relatives.
"I thought you were going to slip in and take them out quietly." The Kressh Quaestor told them.
"There was too much hardware," Shin replied, "You wanted us to spend an hour disembling it all with a hydrospanner?"
"It doesn't matter," Macron interceded, "its dealt with and I don't think the clones will give us much more hassle. Now we move to the cloning chamber and check it out. If all goes well we can secure it and start cracking this place apart so we can start shipping this stuff."
In what was perhaps the wisest move the cloners could’ve made, they situated the cloning room far from the control space, to better confound any potential aggressors. The band of Dark Jedi, however, moved unerringly in the dark of the Kaminoan catacombs; lesser forces would’ve been hopelessly lost within taking the first few steps of the journey, but with the Dark Side as an ally and a singular purpose of mind, they had no such issues.
As predicted, the few scattered bands of clones they did encounter offered no resistance, their brains figuratively blown out by Shin and Sai’s demolitions. After twisting and turning for an interminable amount of time, they reached their destination, marked by a non-descript steel door flush in the underground bedrock.
Macron’s hands wringed together almost uncontrollably, his trademark titter rising at his approach at the door. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our destiny!” he exclaimed, and, slicing the door lock, bade the hatch to slide open.
The Dark Jedi entered the chamber and uttered a collective gasp, which was echoed by their extinguished weapons. Row upon row of backlit plastisteel tubes greeted them, each holding amniotic bacta fluid and clones in varying states of maturity. The life-support machinery beeped a metronomic vigil as the Sadowites gazed upward at the cloner’s work, each one lost in their own thoughts at the sight before them.
Ashia broke the silence by clearing her throat and declaring that they should get to work. The Jedi snapped from their reverie and busied themselves about the chamber, either bodily hauling some equipment back through the catacombs or downloading data onto their datapads.
Shikyo, stationed at a cloning terminal near the rear of the chamber, gave a start at the information being fed into his datapad. He called for the Alchemist, who immediately noted Shikyo’s puzzled expression and the empty plastisteel tube above him as he approached.
“What’s the matter, Shikyo?” he asked, noticing a trail of amniotic bacta trailing away from the station in the unmistakable form of footprints.
“It’s the data...it’s listed under “Omega Strain”. It’s not my forte, but usually if something is marked ‘strain’, it usually means ‘disease’.”
“How right you are!” Macron cackled, and as he read the data, things became clearer to him. It seemed the latest batch of clones were engineered to be carriers of bioweapons, the very breaths they took on a battlefield designed to introduce viruses to the enemy. Luckily, the Sadow invasion had halted production before the batch could be deployed. Nonetheless, visions of Nihilgenia infected with the Violator virus danced in the madman’s mind’s eye, delighting him to the point of distraction as he thought about the ensuing conversation he’d have with Shin’ichi. In fact, both Dark Jedi were so distracted that they failed to hear the wet sloshing of footsteps behind them; they were soon brought back to reality as a clone’s arm wrapped itself around Shikyo’s neck, the veins a stark blue through the transparent skin.
The moistness against his neck enraged Shikyo, who wrenched free from the loosed clone just as Macron thrust an orange blade into the gaping maw of the clone’s face before it could carry out its virulent attack.
Sai rounded the corner to find Macron holding his sides in laughter, and Shikyo wiping his neck furiously, seeking to rid himself of fluids and the cold, phantom sensation of the clone’s limp grasp. The Jade Serpents’ Tetrarch looked at the still twitching clone on the floor, and his mind made the connection. Affecting a teasing mien, Sai said, “If you two are done playing ‘Dolls’, there’s still work to be done.”
Shikyo sent a weak column of Force to collide with Sai’s stomach, causing him to double over. Still, the Tetrarch and the Alchemist laughed, the levity of the moment buoyed by their collective feeling that the mission was nearly completed.