Feud Ro Team 2
This is for the Run-On Team #2 of the CSP vs Arcona Feud.
Standard RO posting, don't repeat yourself, and kick ass.
Team 2: OPM Koskian d'Tana, KAP Timeros C. Entar, KAP Sashar, KP Selene d'Tana, DJK Zandro Savric Erinos, and GRD Kieran
Topic: The CON-man has given you a mission vital to the efforts of the War with CSP. Go accomplish it.
“Pull the other one mate!” Kieran exclaimed to himself as consciousness broke like waves on a beach, pulsing, like the alarm claxon that was sounding, reverberating around every wall and growing steadily louder it seemed, as though to drive any thought of ignoring it from one’s head.
Kieran ignored the aches of fatigue in his bones, still fresh from his slumber and grabbed his sidearm before sprinting out of his quarters and skidded round a corner to head for the briefing room. It came as little surprise to the Mandalorian that general quarters had been issued, hostilities had been growing between the two clans and he had predicted them to boil over sooner rather than later, and his prediction was laced with selfish hope for a conflict. It had been weeks since Kieran had fired a shot at a living breathing target, although the man had no real lust for killing unlike some his Clan mates, he was a soldier, and soldiers, no matter what, always dislike peace on the grounds that its bad for business. His only regret was that the Scholae Palatinae had chosen such an impromptu time for whatever dirty and underhand trick they had played.
Kieran arrived in the briefing hall, flanked by his brother Sashar, both flashing quick grins at each other that would be read as ‘finally’. They slid into seats round a table, with the other members of Soulfire finding their respective places. The last to enter was their Commander, Zandro Savric Erinos, who stood over his seat rather than sat, energetically hammering at a datapad in his hand.
“Be with ye’ in just a second boys and girls,” he muttered without looking up, his fingers almost a blur.
Finally he leaned forward and pressed a button on the holoprojector sat in the centre of the table; all the tense anxiety felt by those in the team ebbed away, confident, that their Commander was about to explain their situation, not that many had to guess what was proceeding. An image erupted into life displaying both clans’ systems, and numerous dots and blinking lights clearing signifying both ours and our enemy’s forces and their subsequent locations. The images span lazily round and Zandro held his breath for a moment, the tension building now into one of annoyance for their Commander’s inability to find words, anticipation almost boiling over to frustration, but the pause served to allow the adroit minds of the battle team to absorb the information.
“Right, the proverbial [Expletive Deleted] has hit the fan here boys and girls, as you might of guessed by this annoying sound, which will disappear in a little while so just grin and bear it for the time being,” their Commander spoke, scarcely able to keep the excitement from his voice. “I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on what has just happened suffice to say that the scheduled meeting between our two clans did not go as planned, which, was what we thought was going to happen in the first place hence the preparation assignments I gave you last week,” their Commander continued.
Kieran nodding to himself remembering the reading he had done, reviewing Scholae Palatinae’s armed forces and tactics had been somewhat tedious for a man of his experience however, he understood that their was nothing better then a well prepared and informed team when on a mission, thinking back to his time on Dxun, he a recalled an instructors words on the subject:
“Preperation is seven tenths of a battle, the rest is down to balls, determination and those willing to die for their beliefs…”
“Now, the exact details are still unknown but Strategos and Koskian are both alright and currently on route to the Dajorra system, as you may have guess they have something for us,” he said with a wry grin. “And typically with all of Soulfire’s missions, it requires a finesse that no one else can deliver, so go get some Caf and some chow, and meet back here in twenty when hopefully I should have a full briefing prepared rather than a silly update, copy?” their commander finished, clapping his hands together and glancing at the faces of his assembled team.
Sashar got up first and stood beside Kieran, watching his apprentice’s face intensely.
“Something wrong?” he asked resting a hand on his shoulder.
“Nah, just thinking, and trying to mentally picture that in my head,” he replied dragging himself to his feet.
“Right, but we can do that on the way to where ever we are going, now, I’m absolutely famished, and besides, they’ve got Rikkit Egg and Gobbo Bacon for brekky,” Sashar grinned at his brother rubbing his stomach.
“Well that settles it then,” Kieran almost shouted, jumping to his feet, driven there by the anticipation of his favourite breakfast, his stomach grumbling instantly as though the organ had ears of its own.
“I still think it's a bad idea Strat.” protested Koskian, shaking his head as they walked towards the bridge of the Abyss.
“They'll be anticipating an attack so soon....” he started, but was cut off by the Consul with a mere gesture and a glare.
“I want to keep him out of commission, permanently if possible. Phoenix is hot headed and unpredictable, but thats more a problem for them then for us. Go to Judecca as you've been instructed. Prolong their dear Consul's stay in the medical facilities.”
Koskian shook his head, still not agreeing with the 'wisdom' of the plan. His face lit up suddenly, and he grinned at the Entar.
“Do I get to take the Thanatos?”
“Okay, how about Soulfire?”
“Your an arse.”
The briefing started an hour later. The Members of Soulfire Strike Team had assembled back in the briefing room; however they were hardly ready for battle. Most were clad in casual clothes, not even bothering with Jedi robes, and those that did were only in training garb. They were the antithesis of a well-trained unit in appearance, yet every last one of the small unit seemed to radiate that presence which could only be defined not as ‘soldier’ but ‘warrior.’
Zandro was standing at the head of the table, his eyes flicking over the assembled members. Kieran and Sashar were, as usual, next to each other, conversing lowly in Mando’a. Their body language spoke volumes of their mood; they were both relaxed, but not unprepared. Timeros, a newcomer to the squad, was seeming to open up, albeit slightly, to one of the Strike-team’s members, Selene d’Tana. The Heragan and the Human were facing each other, both of them chatting quietly about their preferred methods of disarming a Wookiee. It was light-hearted (surprisingly, considering the participants of the conversation), but it was just what was needed to keep the tension and pre-battle nerves at bay. There were a few other faces around the table, some older than others, but each was the same in sentiment – restless excitement.
“Sentients, we’ve got one hell of a job for you.” Erinos began without preamble. The lights in the briefing room dimmed, and in the centre of the table the holoprojector sprang to life, displaying a rough representation of the galaxy. The Dajorra system and the Coctyus system (Arcona and CSP’s respective home systems) highlighted. There was also a green line moving between the two blinking lights, signifying a flotilla or fleet en-route from Coctyus to Dajorra.
“The Meeting of the Clan Leaderships didn’t end well. The Scholae Palatinae Consul was injured during the proceedings, and all of the participants have returned to their home systems to plan their next move. Arcona forces are mobilising, all military assets have been put on alert, and we’re generally preparing for war. It is the belief of the Tactical Analysts that the CSP forces will launch soon, en masse, and try to catch us flat-footed, in reprisal for their Consul’s injury. This, of course means that their own territories will not be defended by the usual compliment of ships and men.” He paused, looking each of his subordinates in the eye, making sure they were taking every bit of information in.
“Soulfire Strike Team has been tasked with disabling a communications facility at the fringe of the Coctyus system, but only after completing a systematic data-dump of the archives there, as well as a transference of any soluble assets they have stored in the mainframe at the facility-yes Sashar?”
The Mandalorian second-in-command’s expression was one of incredulity.
“We’re robbing their bank?”
There was a chuckle around the table, and Zandro smiled in return.
“Pretty much, yes. Once we’ve completed these other two objectives; we’ll disable the communications facility by any means necessary. It is an essential nexus in their individual communications network, as the Coctyus system has some rather unique forms of interference that prohibit normal forms of communication. If we take this satellite out, they’ll be in the dark for upwards of a week. More than enough time for Arcona to launch an attack of their own, one which CSP will be unable to defend against, as they have no way of co-ordinating without the nexus station.”
“How’re we getting there?” One of the younger commandoes asked.
“We’ve recently acquired a…singular transport, through various means. It’s dubbed the Prowler, and can more than adequately deliver us to the station and back undetected. Speaking of which, as we’ve yet to be assigned a permanent pilot to our roster, Sashar has gallantly volunteered to move us from place to place, as well as fix all our toys when we inevitably break them.”
“..Around our opponent’s skulls.” Selene finished for Erinos, winking at him as she said it.
“Let’s hope so. This mission will also be our first field test of the Neo-Crusader Armour Sashar and Kieran have procured and modified for us. We’ve all been trained how to use it, so just remember what you’ve been told, trust in your gear and your squad mates and hopefully we won’t have to lynch the mandos for their shoddy workmanship when we get back.”
Sashar bit his thumb at Erinos – a rather rude gesture of insolence in Mandalorian culture, whereas Kieran laughed at the possibility that their gear was less than perfect.
“Gentle-beings, we’re leaving in 4 hours. Record ay last messages if you want to – as always they’ll be distributed if you are KIA. Get geared up, remember to take all the tools you’ve been assigned for your various roles, and meet in the Hangar half an hour before we’re due to depart for a last minute gear check.”
“Questions?” their Commander asked, surveying the faces in the room for any sign of confusion or discomfort. Zandro’s gaze focused on Kieran’s face; the usual candidate for any questions always eager to inquire about certain aspects, both for his benefit and for team’s; wishing to deal with any problems rather than have them crop up on the battlefield.
“What’s the garrison?” he asked after a moments pause.
“Unclear I’m afraid, but you can expect it to contain a mix of the top echelon of their Army and some more standard units,” he replied. “Maybe a couple of their Jedi chucked in there too, this is a top level facility and rather crucial to their ability to wage war, but the hope is they’ll be planning a major offensive so most of their troops will hopefully be journeying to the front line,” he finished with a apologetic nod in the young a Mandalorian’s direction.
“Fair cop,” Kieran replied; nodding to himself, “and any idea how we’re going to gain entry?”
“Through the hangar bay, we’ll land the ship using false codes and hopefully take them by surprise,” he replied.
“Right, that’s it for me,” Kieran said leaning back in his chair and resting his hands on his lap.
“Anyone else?” Zandro asked, allowing a long pause just in case anyone did have anything else to contribute, “good, you’re dismissed until assembly time.”
The assembled team rose to their feet and went their own ways, many journeying back to their quarters but leaving Kieran sitting facing the holoprojector; his master was dawdling behind his chair. Zandro looked at the Mandalorians with a slightly puzzled look on his face.
“You don’t like it do you?” he asked after a while.
“Not really,” Kieran said with a sigh, “no disrespect intended sir, but they’ll expect this.”
“I know,” Zandro replied with a firm tone, implying that there was little choice in the matter.
“Sir, you know me well, I’m not one to back down from a fight, especially one like this where there’ll be ample opportunity to flex some muscle, but can we not pull a feint, distract them with something?” he asked.
“I have to agree,” Sashar added, now standing behind the seated Mandalorian.
“I’m afraid boys, that this is the way it has to go down, we don’t have the resources to commit to a feint just for this, the clan’s relying on us to do this with speed, hit them so hard and fast that there isn’t time for a reaction,” he explained. “I understand your concern, I did suggest a feint, but the powers that be gave me a simple answer: ‘you’re Soulfire,’ he replied sagely.
Zandro watched a grin spread across the brother’s faces, in true Mandalorian style, recognition for one’s combat skill was high praise, and by appealing to the pair’s egos he was hoping to quash any doubts they had.
“Well then,” Kieran said rising to his feet, “we better not disappoint then eh?”
Kieran ran his hand along the underside of the transport vessel, admiring its elegant curves, the subtle bumps and depressions that gave it a graceful appearance right from the massive engine housing at the rear to the sharp point.
“Nice ship,” Selene d’Tana said from behind Kieran.
“Thanks,” he replied without turning, his gaze still fixed on the vessel.
“Worried it ain’t gonna come back in one piece?” she asked.
“Slightly, its only half mine,” the Mandalorian replied finally turning to face the Priestess, “and my buddy wouldn’t be too happy about it if it got a broke.”
“Well we’ll just have to be extra careful then wont we?” she grinned at him, Kieran returning her gesture with a smile, "anyway we’re wanted aboard,” she finished, turning to make her way up the boarding ramp.
Kieran took one last look at the Dream Prowler and followed her up the ramp inside and into the living area of the transport. Seats were arranged around a central table, with the rest of the strike team occupying them. He moved to stand near Sashar, they were all wearing the new armour they had designed. Its matte black plating seemed to absorb the interior lighting like a black hole, they were perfect.
“Everything ok?” asked Sashar looking up.
“Fine,” he replied simply, too engrossed in his own thoughts for conversation.
“Right, lets get this show on the road then?” their commander said waving Sashar into the cockpit, Kieran following in tow.
The Dream Prowler slipped through hyperspace. It was a long trip, estimated to take just over a day. The rest of the force outside of the ship was currently inaccessible to Sashar; hyperspace had the unfortunate effect of cutting the Mandalorian off from the rest of the galaxy. The ship however, Sashar could feel.
Each of the members of Soulfire were distinct to him; their own personalities shone like stars in the night sky to him, and each of them were connected closely together through the force – a common side effect from working and training and growing in such close proximity.
There were rumours that royal guardsmen formed close partnerships with their ‘cell-mates’, that they were almost as one spirit controlling two bodies. Sashar grinned at the thought; his spirit encompassed a whole Battleteam; Arcona’s elite.
He’d been dozing in the cockpit when some movement stirred him. Kieran sat heavily down into the co-pilot’s seat, running a check on some of the more exotic systems the Dream Prowler possessed.
“You’re sure the infil. will go to plan?” He asked his brother, already knowing the answer.
“No. In fact, I’m fairly certain it won’t. No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”
“Got a contingency?” He asked after a moment’s silence.
“Again, No. If those codes are incorrect, we’re really up the creek. No offence to your ship Kier’ika, but it can’t possibly repel a sustained attack from whatever they’ve got garrisoned there. Stealth is essential.” He said, using the affectionate Mando’a abbreviation of Kieran’s name.
“You think we’d have been better off in the V-38s?” The guardian asked, his voice carrying a hint of challenge.
“The fleet will have a job for the TIE Phantoms.” Sashar replied, dodging the question.
“We’ll be fine.” Kieran said, patting his brother’s armoured shoulder before getting up. “I’m going to check my demo pack.”
“Didn’t you do that already?” Sashar asked, grateful that Kieran hadn’t taken offence to his misgivings on the Prowler.
“Yes. But I want to make sure I can’t cram an extra frags in there. Better living through superior firepower and all that.”
Sashar chuckled, but was stopped from replying by a beeping on the console.
“5 minutes to reversion. Get Zandro up here and tell the others to buckle in; could get bumpy.” Sashar’s voice was suddenly all business. For him, the mission was about to truly start.
Selene sat with her head between her knees, fighting off the nausea that boiled in her stomach. She had already gone over her gear, the blaster, pistol, combat knife, lightsaber and litch blade secure in their respective holsters. Her med pack ready and fully stocked…the grenades all accounted for. The girl had learned from experience - always fully outfitted when the end of the trip was in sight…simply because she never had time to start looking for the items she would inevitably misplace when they had to get out and start shooting at things.
Running a hand through her spiky hair, the girl sighed, she was sweating all over, the stress from the flight really getting to her. Although she was glad to be back in Soulfire, she despised the fact that their first mission was against Scholae. Sure, she hated them as much as the next Arconan, but she still had a friend or two in the Clan they were attacking. Her eyes lifted from the floor and stared at Kieran as he returned from the cockpit…it’s damn good to be back with everyone.
“Soulfire, buckle up, we’ve got one hell of a ride coming up. Oh, and Sarge, Sashar needs you up there.” His thumb rose over his shoulder, pointing in the direction he came from. The Mandalorian settled into his seat, lifting his backpack onto his legs. His gear had been checked, double-checked and checked again, but he was going to make sure he had everything and then some.
Zandro quickly made his way up to the cockpit, a chuckle on his lips as he saw Kieran re-checking his demo pack. Strong arms locked around Sashar’s seat and his deep brown eyes stared off into the expanses of space they were traveling through, for a moment worrying about the codes they had. Moving between the two pilot seats, he pulled himself to the present, facing Kieran’s master.
“Sashar, you wanted me?”
“Yeah, we’re exiting hyperspace in 3, going to be a choppy ride.”
Erinos nodded and turned to face his troopers. His voice commanding as he issued the first of the mission instructions.
“Rho, you have the rear turret. Timeros, front. Selene, take the laser below. Go. Heads up Troopers, we could have possible hostilities the moment we enter their air space.”
The three moved as if controlled, their actions smooth, practiced and well planned. No questions asked, only doing as they were told, each knowing that their part would be monumental in the success of the entire team. This was what they trained for, this is what they spent hours simulating, practicing, discussing…until they had found the perfect system for their team.
The Sergeant buckled himself into the co-pilot seat, mentally revising the mission objectives. He knew Soulfire would get them done, he never doubted their abilities; he just doubted the wisdom of their attack and the manner in which they were asked to do it. There were other ways, better ways to attack the animal lovers…this was, in his honest opinion, by far the worst way to incur the wrath of the Scholae pigs.
Sashar’s voice counted down their last seconds in ‘friendly’ space, the Dream Prowler shuddering to it’s very foundations as they entered the Cocytus system.
Selene felt her stomach lurch, gulping back the panic that rose in her throat. She hated flying, she hated everything that had anything to do with not being with both feet on the ground. But the laser was a welcome distraction…it meant concentrating on something other than wanting to kill Strategos for sending her on a mission that had her stuck inside a ship for more than a day - caged up like an animal. Grimacing to herself, the girl focused pure blue eyes on the radar, watching for unidentified ships or possible missiles. They still had no guarantee that they wouldn’t be identified immediately.
Sitting in the nerf hide chair mounted in the Galerian Fire's modified cargo hold, Koskian surveyed the equipment he had laid out before him. He had to weigh his options lightly, knowing the success of his mission could fall upon his choices here. The disrupter rifle was a definite, the Obelisk knew well the use of sniper tactics, the whittling down of a superior number of enemies. Even if it was the capital world of an enemy Clan. The thought 'suicide mission' flew through his mind again, wondering if Strategos was just trying to get him killed.
The DL-44 was going to be the chosen sidearm, decent range and accuracy with amazing stopping power, he nodded to himself absently. Glancing at the large range of explosives he had stock piled over the years, the Primarch grinned. EMP, Proton, even a few concussion grenades were in the pile, as well as nergon-14, a large stack of bricks of the high powered explosive sat next to a large carry bag. Detonators of various kind, remote, timed, even a few dead switch should his armor monitor his heart as stopped, were with that.
Packing the bag, he tossed in a bandoleer of thermal detonators, high powered and quite illegal in most civilized space. Koskian turned to the rack mounted on the wall, the dark green armor adorning it was unscathed and had a dull gleam about it. Taking a deep breath, he went over the suits functions in his mind, having just received the custom order from the armor manufacturing plant his family had 'acquired' months back in a trade deal with some Hutts.
The chest and upper leggings were mostly just functional armor, thick enough to take a few blaster hits, and protect from shock, the real beauty lay in the arms and everything from the knees down. The arms were more of a powered gauntlet, a single piece of armor running from the shoulder to finger tips, mechanized servos in the joints that could produce incredible strength. Supposedly it had the lifting ability of near a ton, though it would drain the power of the suit and stress the servos immensely. A grapple launcher was built into the top of the right wrist, over two hundred yards of cable on it, atop the left was a retractable vibroblade no less then eight inches in length.
Strapping the chest piece on first, the upper leggings and the arm portions, Koskian marveled at the wookie pelt underlining the armor, and smiled as he reached for the lower leggings. Once again servos able to exert a massive amount of power were here, able to launch the Obelisk into the air if need be, increase his speed, and the boots even had electromagnetic locks on them to let him latch on metal surfaces. Fully suited up, he picked up the helmet which had been painted for much the same purpose, though the only 'gadgets' he had installed on it was a built in zoom and infrared. More importantly it covered most of his face.
Koskian made his way to the bridge of his 720 Freighter, noting R4 as he walked in and took the pilot seat. The false transponders should get him to at least a safe landing, and the droid was going to be responsible for keeping the ship secure on the surface. Dropping out of hyperspace, the navi computer quickly computed their course to Judecca, transmitting his false transponder codes as they went along. Taking a deep breath as the ship was cleared, and moments later landed on the edge of the primary Scholae Palatine base.
This is where everything will go wrong, he thought, as he suppressed his connection with the darkside, collecting his disruptor, DL-44, and carry bag, his lightsaber secured on the back of his belt. Tossing an even darker green cloak over his shoulders, it hid the lightsaber and showed an even more foreboding image of himself. Stepping out the landing hatch, Koskian was immediately greeted by a group of Palatine soldiers and at least two dark Jedi. Freezing in his tracks, the Obelisk made sure he wasn't showing any force sensitivity at all. He began to sweat under the armor.
“Your the Captain of this...vessel?”
“Aye good sir, she be the Coronada Stalker, a good ship she is.”
“Uh-huh....what are you doing here?”
“Understood there'd be fighting, maybe even a war, so I pray. And when there be fighting, and war, there be credits to be made, no?”
“Bounty Hunter sir! Name be Prefect, Zorusk Prefect of Kessel.”
“You were born on Kessel?”
“Nay, but I may as well have died there, so freedom is a second birth...now, ye be needing more capable fighting men?” asked the Obelisk, a grin on his exposed lower face, eyes obscured by the visor.
“We...might be able to arrange something, Prefect, we just might.”
Sashar’s eyes never left the sensor screen as the Dream Prowler exited hyperspace on the fringe of the system. His major concern for the time being was not what ships were in the system; it was whether any of them where near their entry vector, close proximity to an enemy craft would reveal that they were not carrying their supposed cargo of electronic parts and machinery but in fact a crack commando unit. The tactical readout displayed a list of the craft, and as the Mandalorian scanned through it he breathed a steady sigh of relief when it became apparent that the enemy armada was not present. There were still a number of Palatinae craft in orbit around the planets, but thankfully nothing that posed a significant threat to their mission.
The battle meld that was in place between the members of Soulfire was alive with feelings of anticipation, excitement and concern. Sashar reached into the meld, sending a clear calm feeling, informing the team that they were safe on their approach. Gripping the flight yoke, Sashar steered the craft into an approach vector for the facility which hung silently in space. It grew steadily larger in the view port as the ship raced forwards, soon individual view-ports, weapons arrays and the curves and edges became visible. The facility itself was in the shape of a flat oval disc, their stolen schematic indicated it had three main levels to it, with a fourth, much smaller one which rose as a bump on the top of the disc; the command centre.
Sashar’s gaze shot to a flashing light on the display screen to his left, indicating that they were being hailed.
“This is the Ear of Palpatine, Dream Prowler please transmit clearance codes,” a sharp male Kuati accent pierced the silence in the cockpit.
“Copy, transmitting codes now,” Sashar replied whilst reaching forward to press the transmit button.
“Here goes nothing,” Zandro muttered to no one in particular.
Silence descended in the cockpit serving only to increase the feelings of anxiety in the battle meld. Kieran’s presence came through, urging everyone to remain calm and reminding them that there was little that could be done now except concentrate solely on their individual roles.
“Received Prowler, the codes are old, please allow time for us to cross reference them with our records,” the unknown male voice sang out once again.
“Mhi’shaba!” Kieran almost shouted leaping from his seat and racing towards the cockpit, much to the alarm and concern of the rest of the team.
“What? We haven’t screwed up,” Sashar shot at the Mandalorian as he entered the cockpit, translating the phrase for the benefit of the team.
“It’s a feint, they’re stalling,” Kieran said hammering a button on a display screen fixed between the two chairs. The screen displayed the space stations energy readouts for all its systems. Its deflector shields were down and none of its weapon systems had been activated which would indicate that the space station was un-aware.
“Nothings reading,” Zandro said glancing over a similar display screen on his side of the cockpit, “and we’ve got no hostiles inbound either.”
“You wont, they want us in close then they’re gonna hit us. They’ll be scrambling their fighters now, and wont launch them till we’re closer, when we least expect it.”
“For Slice’s sake,” Sashar muttered grabbing the flight yoke and throwing the throttle into full, trusting his brother’s instincts, “hang on, we’re going in hot.”
The ship vibrated, and Kieran felt a slight pull as the ship’s stabilizers adjusted to the acceleration. They rocketed towards the hangar bay, Sashar expertly carving an intercept course which matched the stations slow spin through space.
“See? They haven’t asked us why we’re now starting our approach at ramming speed!” Kieran said turning to his commander.
“Right squad, power up weapon syst- TIEs inbound launching from the hangar bay,” Sashar started but stopped after a far more pressing topic for conversation emerged.
“One scratch Sash and-” Kieran started.
Kieran turned racing back down the central spine of the ship to where the remainder of the team were assembled. His thoughts alive with concern for his ship, his ship that he cared for as though it was his own child, it was a promise made to a man who had on numerous occasions saved Kieran from certain death. The battle meld burned with the intensity of combat, Selene’s presence became clear; excited jolt through the force indicating the first kill of the day. Kieran found his seat and pulled his crash webbing over him just within time as the ship shook violently.
“Sashar!” Kieran exclaimed.
“Not the time!”
“One scratch Sash!”
“Ka’tini! She can take more!”
“Slice’s sake she’s my [Expletive Deleted F-word]ing ship!”
“And she still will be at the end of this!”
“Yes but I still want a whole ship not little bits of one!”
Kieran gritted his teeth as yet another explosion rocked the ship, he looked round at the assembled team.
“Ok, someone hit the shielding system on the hangar, you ever read about what Kenobi and Skywalker did to rescue the old Emperor? That’s us folks.
“On your bike mate!” Kieran exclaimed.
“Kieran not now!”
“You’re not crashing my bloody ship!”
“I’m not, I’m landing it roughly.”
“Roughly? That’s not landing it roughly, I land it roughly when I try to land it normally you’re going to crash the bloody thing!”
“No time Kieran!”
Sashar concentrated hard, sliding the yoke in random directions whilst kicking the pedals to send the ship on an erratic approach for the hangar, dodging the miniature light show that was going on around the craft as the TIEs and the station’s defences attempted to erase the team from the sky. Sashar hauled back on the throttle, and fired the repulsors up in reverse which had the result of dropping the ship roughly onto its landing struts. The Dream Prowler skidded roughly across the hangar bay, crashing into crates and scattering technicians and repair droids that were unlucky to be in the ship’s path.
“You went and bloody crashed it! I don’t [Expletive Deleted F-word]ing believe it,” Kieran said shaking his head in disbelief.
Fierfek, that could have gone better.
Zandro quickly undid his restraints and separated the two men before him.
“Get your gear and head into the hold, I’ve got orders.”
The two split up, grabbed their packs and moved in to join the rest of the team, all looking disgruntled but with the determination still evident. Zandro stepped forward to address them, mentally checking off points as he spoke.
“Well, thanks to that wonderful landing from our pilot you may have guessed that we’ve arrived. They knew we were coming, but for the moment that isn’t our primary issue. We have a job to do people, and at least now we don’t have to worry about keeping our act up. Shoot to kill, we need to get to that command centre. Selene and Kieran, you two take point and I’ll take the rear. Not a word on my sexuality please Sashar. OK, move out.”
He hoped that his speech had given his squad some reassurance as they all headed to the exit, Selene and Kieran at the fore with their weapons trained at the open ramp as they ran out, blasters aiming at people they had already sensed approaching through the force. The rest of the team filed out after them, blasters also raised and ready for any unseen threats that were preparing to reveal themselves. As Zandro had run down the ramp, Kieran turned back and pressed a button on his datapad, closing the ramp behind the squad and sealing it, ready for their exit. The squad spread out slightly, fingers pulling the triggers of their blaster rifles as they slowly whittled down the number of enemy troops assaulting them.
“Kieran, give ‘em something special!”
The Mandalorian grinned beneath his helmet as he hefted one of his thermal detonators in his hand, armed the grenade and hurled it at the largest concentration of enemies. The small grey ball flew through the air, arching past the criss-crossing patterns of blaster fire before bouncing off the wall behind the huddled guards. As it rebounded back towards them, it exploded into a fireball, it’s payload doing it’s job and hurling the three guards off their feet and over the handrail of the catwalk they had been standing on.
That’s why non-Jedi are so very handicapped when it comes to defending against explosives; no way to push them back at the attacker.
Checking the HUD in his helmet, he saw that his squad had received no injuries and that the hangar was, for the moment, empty.
“Squad, seal as many doors as you can except for the main entrance. When you’ve sealed them, meet up at the door which we’ll leave unsealed and then we move on.”
The team split up and Zandro headed to the nearest door to him, grabbing his lightsaber, igniting it and plunging it into the control panel, destroying it’s ability to open. He repeated this for the next door along before heading back to the main entrance, stretching out with the force and probing the area beyond the entrance to the hangar, finding no hostile signs, but a slight niggling in his conscious meant that he wasn’t totally convinced. As the squad came together he raised his head and surveyed them all, hidden behind their armour but as easy to read as a simple letter.
“Sash, get us through these doors. Everyone else, hide around the sides of the door and get ready for an ambush, I have a bad feeling about this, so I’m going in first and I’m going in solo. Be ready to respond to any order I might give you, I’m not entirely sure what is going to happen.”
His troops nodded and filed to stand against the wall either side of the door, with the sole exception of their tech specialist Sashar, who retrieved a datapad from his pack and opened it, slicing into the door controls before nodding at his Sergeant. Zandro nodded back and stepped into the doorway, his blaster rifle raised and pointed towards the door, ready for any threat that may appear as the door opened, rising upwards into the ceiling.
“Drop your weapons and you won’t be har...”
Zandro’s first bolt caught the droid in its faceplate and cut its sentence short. The following flurry of bolts cause further damage to it as they slammed into its body, the crimson bolts a stark contrast with the dull grey sheen of the droids armour. The droid fell back, destroyed as Zandro dropped his blaster and pulled his lightsaber from his belt, diving headfirst at the other droid with his violet blade swinging around into a sideways slash which cut the droid in two before it had a chance to activate it’s shields. He deactivated his lightsaber and returned it to his belt as he retrieved his dropped rifle.
“Move in troops, and lock the door behind you. Seems like they are using droids so that we can’t sense them through the force. That means we have to be more careful, because they are ready for us. Doesn’t mean we’ll lose, just means it’ll be a bit harder than normal. Kieran at point, Sashar at the back. Everyone else, stay vigilant. Move out.”
The strike team marched in quickly, knowing they had little time to waste. Their minds where still connected, the Dark Side forming the links that knitted together thoughts and feelings, reassuring each member and relaxing tensions, keeping at bay any feelings of abandonment so deep within enemy territory. There was no instant of doubt, even on the deepest level, that they were among friends who relied on them, trusted them.
Timeros found the sensation at once exhilarating and deeply intrusive…his thoughts where his own. While Sashar’s battle-meld held its advantages, the sensation of the others, so intensely close and personal, held little appeal to the introvert Heragan. Yet it was undeniably effective, so he would hold his tongue.
The Archpriest was a relative newcomer to Soulfire. Despite having been an Arconan for years he was only now entering with the true elite and, aside from Selene, he knew little of his fellow commandos. Already he was fast becoming used to their professionalism and skill, but it would take some time before he could completely ingrain himself within the tightly-knit strike team.
The group’s minds spread out as they continued to march, searching for a living presence. After all, it would be madness to assume the facility held no Dark Jedi. Not finding any as of yet, they simply went on, doors barred behind them. The occasional security camera proved little distraction as Sashar’s gauntlet datapad slashed through security measures like a knife through butter and brutally ripped out the information, ones and zeroes rearranged. Rather than see a group of Dark Jedi move by, any security personnel would simply observe a patrolling group of droids.
To his surprise, Timeros felt…almost a measure of thrill and enjoyment as they made their way through. While the team barely spoke, he was awash in their combined emotions and added his own to the mix, as if to dive in a pool of strength and morale. A team like this, he felt inwardly, could accomplish anything. Anything at all.
He was going to enjoy this.
Kieran, at the front of the patrol approached the corner with caution, the Force in the corridor reeked of tension and impatience, but the feelings were not coming from the battle-meld. Wary of a trap, the Mandalorian’s thoughts turned to caution. Although his training on Dxun was still fresh in his mind, Kieran had learnt a few lessons in tactics the hard and painful way, and rushing into things was a sure fire way of getting killed.
Ahead of the team was a long corridor and at the end was their target; the turbolift which would give them access to the command centre. Kieran zoomed in using his helmets magnification and observed the plethora of activity that was going on around the doors of the lift. Makeshift defences had been established in the form of several supply crates arranged to give cover to the men charged with defending the crucial access point. He could see several units there; a brief head count let Kieran know that there were at least two patrols forming the defence group. His helmet’s combat program identified their weaponry and began to process the information, assigning threat levels based on firepower. Turning to face the patrol Kieran explained their situation.
“They’ve established a makeshift perimeter around the doors, and it looks like there’s a couple of Commando units stationed there,” he began, “though nothing heavy has been set up.”
“Then looks like we could be in for some fun then,” grinned Selene, bouncing her rifle on her hand enthusiastically.
“Fun is definitely what this is going to be,” Timeros added.
“Quiet,” shot Zandro, concerned that idle chatter would disclose their location and forbid them the advantage of surprise, “suggestions?”
“Frontal assault, judging from what we’ve encountered so far these boys don’t reckon we’re too much of a threat yet, probably think we’re a bunch of pirates after some credits,” the Mandalorian explained.
“We are,” grinned his fellow kinsmen, patting his datapad which contained the crucial codes which would drain the funds from Scholae Palitnae’s accounts, receiving disdained look from Zandro, clearly expecting someone of Sashar’s experience to uphold his request for silence.
“Right, fire pattern Delta One Four Zulu, variation two,” Zandro barked the order out, to anyone else who hadn’t undergone the training Soulfire had, he could very well have been speaking Mando’a, but Soulfire heard the order as ‘double file charge, peal off to reload, with a grenade volley at the start’.
The patrol broke immediately into their two fire teams, Kieran and Zandro heading the teams using the superior rate of fire that their E-15A rifles possessed to suppress returning fire until the grenade lobby scattered their opposition. Each member of the team tapped the man in front shoulder to let them know they were in position.
“Break!” ordered there commander, and Soulfire shot round the corner as one.
Kieran raised the rifle to his shoulder and a crosshair appeared on the horizon in his visor. He singled out a man who had begun to turn after spying motion from the corner of his vision. The array of scarlet bolts peppered his chest and face and sent him crashing backwards with what remained of his facial features sliding down his chest in a sickly red ooze. The cross hair did not augment one’s ability to shoot, it merely made target acquisition that much easier. Soon the two point men where scything their weapons back and forth across the corridor, using the force and the battle meld to identify targets that they themselves could not see but their team-mates could. Bodies hit the floor and screams of terror, pain and fractured orders could be heard echoing down the corridor. A flock of grey orbs sailed over the advancing team, guided by the force and landed; skidding to come to rest to the front of the defences.
Kieran’s visor dimmed momentarily as it filtered the sharp light out, attempting to preserve his vision. Which it did successfully however he lost site of his intended target, relying on his training and memory of their locations, Kieran reacted quickly and held the trigger down his rifle thumping out bolts.
The explosions shook the corridor; splintering the crates and sending fragments flying in different directions. The few pieces of shrapnel that sailed towards the advancing Arconans were of little concern to them, their suits offering ample protection to their razor sharp points. Kieran’s rifle stock vibrated and his helmet’s HUD told him he had only a few shots remaining. Choosing his target carefully, he picked out a human male raising an E-11 to his shoulder, blood cascading down his face from on open wound on his scalp. Kieran was slightly taken aback by the speed of the man’s recovery. These buggers are definitely not green, they’ll have seen some decent combat, too bad for them this is their last sortie, he thought casually to himself before emptying the remainder of his rounds into the man’s chest, burning through skin and bone to boil his internal organs.
“Out!” Kieran shouted dropping to a knee to replace his power pack whilst allowing the man behind him to take his place at the front of the firing line; Sashar stepped up with glee.
Their formation allowed them to provide a near constant rate of fire, whilst still advancing at an incredible rate. The problem with long thin corridors, Kieran remembered, was that there was little room to manoeuvre and with no alcoves to hide in, their only choice was to advance at a tremendous rate with the hope of crossing the ground quickly in order to get in close with the survivors who would then fall victim to Soulfire’s numerous Lightsabers and melee weaponry.
The KX-80 was swung up in one fluid motion. Sashar didn’t bother with an aiming reticule; instead he let the force guide his hands, his arms, his trigger finger. The CSP Commando unit was good, no doubt about it, however, Soulfire had the element of surprise, had superior firepower, and had the force. Put simply, they outclassed the CSP unit.
A moment later, it was all over. The corridor was thick with ozone, Kieran and Selene had picked up a couple of blaster scorch marks from glancing hits, but were otherwise unharmed. Five commandoes had just taken down a unit twice their number.
“Timeros, Kieran, get me a perimeter. Selene, check the bodies for anything interesting. Sashar, I need this turbolift working.” Zandro said, taking up position facing down the corridor they’d just traversed. Kieran and Timeros took aim down the other two at the T-junction. Selene ignored the slightly messy part of her job and got to work rifling through the pockets of the corpses – those that could still be identified as having pockets, at least. Sashar knelt down in front of the lift controls and pried the front off, then started poking at the wiring with what looked like an optic cable and a pair of wire cutters. There was a tense ten seconds whilst Sashar worked, until he grunted in satisfaction and the doors opened-
To reveal two Dark Jedi Knights.
“Fierfek! Sashar! Close ‘em!” Erinos barked as he swung his rifle to bear on the two CSP Knights.
They were faster. One offered a powerful telekinetic jolt that sent Zandro sprawling back, whilst the other advanced on Selene, stepping out of the turbolift. There was a spike of surprise through the Meld, however no fear permeated the collective will of Soulfire; they were well-trained, each fully in control of their emotions. Selene didn’t bother trying to shoot the Knight. Instead, she dropped her rifle and in one liquid motion, had brought her lightsaber to bear on her antagonist.
Sashar’s hand was a blur over his wrist-datapad. The doors to the turbolift slammed shut in the other’s face, sealing him. Kieran and Timeros both turned their rifles inwards and commenced fire on Selene’s attacker. He immediately back-pedalled and sent a myriad of bolts off in all directions – he was a practitioner of Soresu, the most defensive of the three primary forms. A bolt caught Kieran in the shoulder, and he dropped his rifle, shouting out a curse in Mando’a. Selene’s lunge distracted him for a vital second, and a blast from the Squad’s marksman, Timeros, silenced him permanently. Zandro was over by Kieran just after Selene.
“Keep still.” She ordered, running a scanner over the scorch-mark. The armour was charred, but not penetrated, however, there was still smoke rising from it.
“The armour isn’t compromised. You’re fine-ugh, stop squirming!” Selene said, rapping his armoured knuckles against Kieran’s helmet none-too-gently. The gel-pack kicked in, and the armour started regenerating – a fascinating process to those not familiar with the unique properties of the regenerative armour, however, to the members of Soulfire, it was well-tested.
“Don’t take another hit; your armour can’t regenerate indefinitely.” Sashar said without looking up from the Turbolift control. The other Mandalorian was saved a response when a lightsaber blade stabbed through the turbolift doors.
“Sashar…” Zandro began, turning his rifle to face the door. Timeros was by his side in an instant whilst Selene helped Kieran up and out of the lane of fire.
“On it.” He still hadn’t moved from his position by the turbolift controls. He tapped in another series of commands, and abruptly the blade disappeared back into the turbolift. There was a sound of machinery over-exerting itself, and then a loud thud.
“I’ve just locked the turbolift at the top of the shaft and disabled the inertial dampeners. He won’t be protected from the g-forces now.” He said grimly, whilst Kieran managed a dry chuckle an even Zandro smiled behind his helmet. That was nasty, just plain nasty.
He stabbed in a command on the wall panel, and abruptly the turbolift dropped four flights, before slamming down to their level again. There was a muffled scream from inside. Before the echoes had stopped, the turbolift was shooting up again, then down, then up again. Eight times Sashar repeated this, shaking the hapless CSP Knight up thoroughly before locking the turbolift at the top. Another string of commands released the maintenance hatch on the bottom of the turbolift.
Through the meld, each of the commandoes could feel the spark of life in the turbolift move through the hatch, the glimmer of hope still within the being, despite considerable pain and sickness. The Knight dropped the three flights and landed in a crouch. Unfortunately, Sashar had unlocked the turbolift and set it into freefall just after the force-user had departed. There was a distinctly wet-sounding crunch, and then silence.
After a moment’s pause, Zandro was all business again.
“Sashar, open those doors. Kieran, you take point. Timeros, rear guard.”
Koskian lay on his cot, secured to the bulkhead of the Galerian Fire, eyes closed in an effort to sleep, when his comlink began beeping. Picking it up in anger, he answered with a short “What!?”
“Ah, Mr. Prefect, this is Rasilvenaria, Aedile of House Caliburnus, we require your services.”
“I..see, my apologies Lady, who do you want dead?”
“A communications facility on the outskirts of the Coctyus system is being raided, most of our forces are otherwise...engaged, we want you to head there to stop these pirates. Kill them, or capture them, I do not care. You will be paid very well for this.”
Setting the comlink down, Koskian lowered his head into his hands. Soulfire was attacking that comm facility, and he knew that because it was supposed to be a diversion to help him get in. Soulfire didn't know that. They didn't even know he was in the system, much less using them to further his own mission. Sighing, he walked to the cockpit, cycling the engines and lifting off, setting course to the coordinates the Scholae Palatine flight controller gave him, and went back to the cargo hold.
He begun strapping on his armor, thinking about how he had helped train Zandro and Selene, how much he didn't want to hurt the latter. Attachments always got in the way, thats why Koskian had avoided them for so long. Putting his helmet on, the visor flickering to life, he looked over his various close range equipment. Hand hovering over the DL-44, he shook his head, instead picking up a short vibroblade, strapping it to his belt on the left side. Shock gauntlets were placed on his right hip, an almost afterthought.
'Have to look the part....' he thought. The final addition was a personal stealth unit, able to sustain a field of bended light, making the user appear almost invisible when standing still, and barely detectable if they moved. A beep from the cockpit, loud and shrill, could be heard, R4 indicating they were closing on the facility. A brief exchange with the flight control showed that Soulfire hadn't taken the command center quite yet, but he had no doubt they were getting there. Admitted into the central hangar, Koskian surveyed the map he was sent, realizing the other side of the blast doors of the small hangar was the command center itself.
Disembarking, Koskian walked to the blast doors, thumbing the entry button. Men in uniforms scuttled about in a bustle of preparation, fingering side arms as they stared at the turbo lift doors. A small cadre of soldiers were setting up behind one of the console banks, a foolish move in the Primarch's belief, most of the circuitry would blow as soon as hit. He was acknowledged briefly, and asked to go wherever he felt best suited to fight the pirates. Then he was told the pirates were possibly Jedi, as they'd seen lightsabers.
“How long before they probably get up here?”
“There good, Bounty Hunter, I'd say ten minutes at best...they've been knocking down any resistance as if it were nothing.”
“I haven't killed a Jedi in a while....this should be fun.”
The officer just gave him a strange look, before running off once more. Koskian pushed down his signature in the Force, and placed himself near the turbolift, just to the side. Turning his stealth unit on, he shimmered out of existence, and waited.
Koskian flattened his body against the outer shaft wall, his Force signature completely concealed from everyone around him. His stealth unit was activated and by the looks of things, working even better than expected. Two soldiers stormed past him, not even giving him a second look...completely unaware of his presence. He wished he could help the members of Soulfire that had mutilated their way this far, but there was no way he could do that, complete his mission successfully and still survive. If he helped Soulfire now, he could not foresee the possible difficulties in the future, and he needed to get close to Braecen again. Some things were just so much more important than attachments, he didn't have to like it, he just had to do it.
A silent curse flew from his lips as he felt Soulfire approaching in the shaft; he knew them so well...every single one of them unique and easily identifiable to him, even though they were trying to hide themselves. He knew Soulfire, he knew how they worked...things would get hairy really soon.
Hand over hand, the Arconan edged his way upward, making sure there were no unwelcome surprises. The Archpriest scaled the ropes as if he was born to it, his body lithe and quick and supported by small, subtle bursts of the Force. Through their collective awareness they heard his soft whisper, "Okay, doors are closed; get ready cause I'm busting them in." Sashar connected his datapad with the control panel on the inside of the door and seconds later he had them ready to open. He looked down at his Apprentice, waiting for his signal. A nod, coupled with a grin and Kieran was ready to rock.
"Soulfire, door opening!"
Kieran's voice echoed through the confined space, the warning unnecessary as the meld gave them forewarning of what was to come. And this was where being a member of such an elite team was useful. Every member of Soulfire was protected from the blast, flying bits of debris and sharp objects - those that could, shielding themselves and the rest of Soulfire with the aid of the Force. Selene turned her head to the side, a chunk of dead arm falling past her to land with a thud below them.
"Go! Go! Go!"
Their Sergeant's voice screamed at them, kick starting them into action. As one man Soulfire burst through the shaft doors, storming the command center. The moved quickly, with precision. Laying soldier after soldier to waste, they covered each other and gained ground; the momentum of the attack carrying the group of elite soldiers constantly forward. They knew they couldn't stop, no matter what. The resistance they encountered was much less than they expected though, the grenade had taken care of a large majority of the hapless soldiers...body parts and unidentifiable bits lay strewn across the command center. Flames licked at the one of the control panels, the wires cracking and sizzling in protest.
"I'm going for the datadump, before this place catches fire, take care of the rest of them!"
Sashar's voice boomed in their ears and the team went for the kill. Whoever was left alive was quickly disposed of by a myriad of blaster shots that found their targets time and again. Selene was eternally grateful for the aiming reticule, she was good, training had ensured that...but a little extra help never hurt anyone. The corner of her eye caught a lightsaber she wasn't familiar with, and she turned to face the new threat.
Her voice rang true through their connected minds and Timeros was at her side moments later.
"We have a problem..."
Selene pointed towards the advancing Jedi, the look of him leaving her cold.
Right, Selene, you and Timeros keep this one occupied...the rest of us will get rid of the last survivors, then kill those flames. We do not need a fire in here."
Timeros and Selene’s purple blades washed over the green shadow cast by their opponent’s blade as the trio lined up to face each other in the centre of the control room. Looks of fierce concentration adorned the faces of the Arconans as they mentally prepared themselves for the duel. Timeros was first to strike, lunging low at the man’s feet. His blade scythed down to parry whilst he nimbly turned, drawing his blade up high to bring it crashing down onto Selene’s blade sending sparks cascading to the floor. As soon as the blade came to a halt it was in motion again, swinging across towards Timeros with a slash aiming to cleave him in two at the mid-section. The skilled Archpriest hopped backwards, watching the blade slice nothing but molecules of air before he performed another lunge, probing his opponent for any signs of weakness.
The trio danced around the centre of the room fluidly, like a violent fox trot their blades crashed together in what seemed to be a well rehearsed performance, as though they had been practicing for weeks. The pair of Arconans lunged in unison, attempting to skewer the Palatinae Jedi on their blades; he stepped nimbly to the side and reached out with the force, sending a telekinetic shove in Timeros’ direction. This was the opening Selene required. She dropped the floor, rolled and leapt up all in one fluid motion, her blade flying upwards in a vicious uppercut that severed his arm just above the elbow.
A scream rang out, but was silenced as the Priestess span her blade deftly, slicing through his head, the top dropping to the floor followed swiftly by the body. Timeros picked himself up and walked forward to spit at the fallen Jedi’s corpse.
“Sting of pride there Timmy?” grinned Selene, happy with her kill.
“Could easily have been you,” he reminded her, “but a dead CSP dog is a good CSP dog.”
The pair turned away from the smoking corpse to see how the rest of Soulfire had been doing with their preparations. Sashar was sat at a console, wires trailing from numerous datapads and his armour leading to an open panel where a myriad of flashing lights were blinking on and off. Sashar was to download everything from Scholae Palatinae records which would provide Arcona with vital intelligence. He was also to scramble their systems rendering their network useless, so even in the event that the explosives failed, it would be a while before things were operational. Finnally, he was to transfer, using their own security codes now downloaded from the databank, the entire contents of the Palatinae accounts.
Kieran was dancing to and fro, fulfilling his role as the team’s demolition expert. He was carrying packages of Nergon-14, a particularly volatile explosive and was fixing them in concealed locations around the room, working with such speed it warranted a fear that he may make a mistake and end the team’s sortie in what would be a most embarrassing manner.
“Careful Kieran,” called Selene, her voice full of concern.
“Relax guys I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m doing,” Kieran grinned at her and started to juggle a pair of the explosives much to the horror of his team mates.
“Kieran, the task in hand if you please,” Zandro called from where he was observing Sashar’s handiwork.
“Check boss!” the Mandalorian replied before burying his arms into jumble of wiring to conceal the last explosive for the room, “next stop the power station.”
“Right, Sash, an update if you please?” Zandro said.
“Funds are drained, their memory banks wiped, scrambled and fried, and I’ve got something interesting for you as well.”
“They’ve got a refuelling station in the asteroid belt, a pretty big one too. And the beautiful thing is, the Excidium is going to be there and a sitting duck for a while. She’s being re-stocked and repaired in preparation to rejoin the rest of their fleet.”
“Sir, we can’t pass an opportunity up like this, we’ve got to hit her,” Sashar spoke looking up at his commander’s visor as though he could see right through the black tinted glass.
“It’s a Vic, we can’t handle that much firepower or troops and you know that,” he replied gravely, “a nice thought but-”
“That’s it sir she’s only being run by a skeleton crew, its stretching the base to the max just having her there, everyone’s on R&R, its prime time.”
“Sarge, this makes perfect sense, we’ll knock them out Comm. wise, that’ll disable any defences they might have in the belt. Without their Vic our fleet stands a helluva lot better chance,” Kieran said walking towards the pair.
“You’re sure Sash? When are the records dated?”
“Today sir, they’ve only just arrived after dropping everyone off, she’s flying pretty much on auto-pilot,” he grinned.
“Right kids, it looks like we’ve got two games today, Kieran you wrapped it up?” he asked the Mandalorian.
“Tick, tick boom sarge,” Kieran replied.
“Soulfire let’s move,” Zandro said firmly ushering them towards the turbolift.
The battle-meld was alive with excitement, the prospect of Soulfire being single handily responsible for knocking the Excidium out of commission had their hearts boiling.
Koskian watched the first few Soulfire commandos clip back on theirs lines, Sashar and Timeros first, Zandro next. Kieran and Selene moved to the entrance, morale still high from the ease of the raid.
“Gar'shabla huu'tuunla osik,” spoke Koskian, towards the two remaining soldiers. Kieran froze as he heard the Mando'a insult, calling him a coward and more. Turning quickly, he snarled as Koskian's stealth field dropped, his vibro blade unsheathing from his hip. The commando moved quickly, raising the butt of his rifle up to attack the armored bounty hunter.
“Turbolift, NOW Kieran!” shouted Zandro, Selene grabbing the Mandalorian by the shoulder and pushing him back. Koskian's blade came up quickly, stopping the swing of the rifle, and his short blade swung out from the attachment on his left arm. Selene tugged again, this time exerting the Force to help her, and swung and pushed Kieran towards the turbolift, just as Koskian's left arm shot forward in an attempt to stab the Mandalorian. Letting out a gasp of pain, Selene looked down in shock at the blade exiting her chest, and Koskian froze.
Zandro, still watching and yelling at Kieran, froze as well, in shock as blood dripped from the withdrawn blade. Shaking his head, Koskian let lose his abilities finally, knocking Kieran back with the Dark Side into the turbolift, and slammed his vibro blade into the controls, forcing the doors shut. The door disabled, he turned to the fallen soldier. Reaching down, he grabbed the bleeding woman by her neck, and hauled her over his shoulder, heading for the hangar he had docked at. Running through the door, he felt a spike in the Force, and knew the explosions were fast coming.
Back on board the Galerian Fire, he stripped Selene of her armors, trying not to be distracted by the more interesting attributes of the Krath, and put bacta bandages over the two wounds. Digging through the limited medical chest of the ship, he found sedatives, and quickly injected the Prietess, her mind fading in the Force as she was forced to a deeper unconsciousness. Sitting back, he hung his head, wondering how things had come to this. Strategos was going to get more then an earful from the Primarch when he returned to Selen.
Lifting off, the Fire flew swiftly from the hangar bay, and his rear sensors showed the brief flash of an explosion, the command center disintegrating under the assault of Kieran's Nergon-14. Setting course, the freighter sped towards Judecca once more.
The ship settled slowly, and Koskian checked over his 'captive', still under many drugs. Covering her in a bland jumpsuit, he secured her hands with the shock collars, and tossed her over his shoulder once more. Walking down the loading ramp, he was greeted by Rasilvernia, who had a not so happy look on her face.
“The comm center has quit transmitting entirely. And a large amount of our funds have been siphoned by the pirates.”
“Pirates, hah! Next time you send me after Jedi, you better pay me more.” growled the bounty hunter, tossing Selene to the ground. Wincing behind his mask, he turned back to the Aedile.
“So, you caught one, how..how...is that Selene d'Tana?”
“Why, does she have a price on her head?”
“Arcona attacked the facility....alert the Pro Consul!”
“They stole your money, sorry bounty hunter. But Lord Kunar has a job for you anyways. He would like to meet you in person, and discuss a future endeavorer...the assassination of Strategos Entar of Arcona.”
“If I don't get paid soon...”
“You'll get paid soon enough, bounty hunter.”
Selene was hauled off by several droids, headed towards the medical ward of the base, and to be kept under heavy guard. Koskian returned to his ship, awaiting the word that he was to meet Braecen, and began prepping his equipment.
The Battle-meld exploded with pain. First, there was Selene’s injury pouring into the minds of the others. Multiple shouts of surprise echoed down the lift shaft, and Zandro squeezed his eyes shut, bouncing his helmet none-too-gently off the bulkhead, hating himself for losing one of his team. Kieran’s yelling brought him back to reality; he had a job to do. Kieran’s exclamations were becoming more frantic as he hammered at the locked door. Worry and anxiety now poured through the meld as Selene’s mind faded from the group consciousness. The meld had begun to be counter-productive; it was stressing everyone out.
“Sashar! Meld off now. Get up here and sort out Kieran.”
Abruptly, the presence of the others in his peripheral conscious disappeared, ad he was left feeling more calm, but also more alone. The Mandalorian Archpriest scaled the zip line to the small ledge Kieran was standing on and battered his brother’s legs, knocking him temporarily off-balance. Kieran’s instincts kicked in, and he went to lunge for Sashar, but the Krath was ready for him. He raised his right forearm to block the kick swung at his head from the now-horizontal Mandalorian and shouted “Kier’ika! Udesiir! Nu jurkad Mando'ade, burc'ya!”
His words of placation weren’t getting through; Kieran was still in a rage, so he did something he’d hammered into every single one of his apprentices never to do; he took off his helmet during a mission. The Mandalorian placed his hands on Kieran’s and yanked it off too, then threw both objects clattering down the turbolift shaft, where Timeros neatly fielded them. Grabbing Kieran’s head with both of his hands, he held his brother steady until he took the message and looked directly into Sashar’s eyes. When the Mandalorian was sure he had his brother’s attention, he talked, low and quietly.
The conversation was in Mando’a, and Zandro only knew a few phrases in the battle-tongue, most of them curses or orders, but whatever Sashar was saying, it seemed to do the trick. A moment later, Kieran nodded in understanding, and cuffed him roughly around the side of the head. Sashar returned the gesture, and then looked over at Zandro.
“Fit for battle, Sarge. What’re our orders?”
“We have to get away from the command centre now, what with all the high-yield explosives. I want this place to be utterly wrecked by the time we’ve finished with it. We proceed on to whatever passes for engineering in this poorly-constructed wreck, and blow it to high hell.”
“What about Selene?” Asked Timeros.
“You all felt it. She was knocked unconscious, not killed. Chances are they’ll realise this place is a lost cause and evac, taking her with them. Either way, we don’t have the time to find another way into the command centre and get her back and/or track her down. We’ll proceed on with the mission, and pay those hut’uun back for taking one of ours down. Hold nothing back, boys. I want every last man on this station dead or dying in the next fifteen minutes. This just got very, very personal.”
Kieran and Sashar’s expressions were identical; cold, controlled fury. They were as eager as ever to carry out the orders they’d just been given. Zandro and the Mandalorians zip-lined back down the shaft to join Timeros, who handed the brothers their helmets. When they were suited up once again, Erinos looked over at Sashar.
“Meld us, Sashar.”
He got a chopped off nod, and a moment later, the group consciousness was back. It was different, this time. There was no excitement, just a hunger for revenge. They were pissed, and so focused it wasn’t true. Zandro had never felt the battle-meld to be this…driven towards its goal. He was determined not to put it to waste.
“Soulfire, Move out!”
They exploded through the turbolift doors, a mezzay of blaster-fire and black armour moving almost too fast to track. Again Kieran took point down the narrow corridors; with Timeros just behind to offer support and long-range fire. Zandro was just behind them where he could assess the situation and give out orders appropriately. Sashar had the unenviable job of acting as rear guard, and was moving half the time backwards, with his pack facing Zandro’s in case anyone tried to flank them.
Their progress was virtually unhindered by the token resistance offered by the CSP station security forces, who spent their energy and remaining time hurling droids at the squad, hoping that they wouldn’t be able to maximise their force-use against automatons. They were, of course, wrong. It took precisely 3 minutes and 29 seconds to reach the imaginatively-dubbed ‘power room’ and a further 18 seconds to break through the blast door by way of a set of well-placed lines of explosive tape. As soon as the door was blown, Sashar hurled an EMP-grenade into the Power room, and winced as it went of, dropping the various ancient clone-wars era battle droids and shutting off the lights in the room, as well as most of the consoles in the blast radius.
For an awful instant, the CSP forces were frozen in hesitation, their minds adapting to the lack of light. It was all Soulfire needed. Kieran and Zandro moved in, almost mirror images of the other as their powerful rifles strobed red through the darkness, picking off engineers, soldiers and droids alike. Sashar was next in, moving around the perimeter of the room, firing as he went until he reached one of the still-active consoles. Timeros hung back by the door, firing single blasts from his X-45, picking off any CSP’ers on the upper level.
In 20 seconds, it was over. The members of Soulfire turned on their helmet lamps and quickly set about their various tasks. Kieran moved from support strut to support strut, applying Nergon-14 explosive charges to each of them and pressing a remote detonator into the malleable surface, whilst Sashar started his own form of warfare against their electronic security systems. Timeros took cover behind a console just inside the main entrance, aiming back down the long corridor and Zandro moved to all the other entrances into the Power Room, sealing them with a quick stab of the combat vibro-knife into the control panels.
“They moved their command centre to here when we blitzed the old one, Sarge. If this place fell, they were to order a general evacuation, which they’re in the process of doing. We probably won’t meet much resistance along the way back to the ship.” Sashar reported.
“Any news on Selene?”
“There’s reports of a Bounty Hunter arriving on station just before we hit the command centre. My guess is he’s got her. We’ve also got confirmation that he left a few minutes ago.”
“That’ll have to do. Let’s make this place into a small sun. Kieran, report.”
“Just about ready. Once these blow, it’ll destabilise the levels above us, and it’ll also breach reactor containment. The whole facility will go nova. They’re ready to detonate on your order.” He finished grimly.
“let’s move out, gentlemen, I’m most eager to see this Victory Star Destroyer.” Zandro said, half to himself.
“And find Selene.” Kieran added, the resolve in his voice leaving no room for discussion - not that he’d get any disagreement from the others.
The four left the Power Room at a hasty jog, not bothering with formation – anyone that had any sense would’ve already left the doomed station. It was an uneventful trip back to the hangar; however, CSP weren’t ready to let Soulfire win just yet. Between the Dream Prowler and Soulfire Strike Team were three individuals. One was holding a lightsaber, the other held a short, old-fashioned carbine of some sort, and the other held a grenade launcher.
“Break.” The one with the lightsaber said conversationally, and the trio sprung into action. He surged force through himself, augmenting his speed and rushed the Soulfirians, his intent was obviously to take out Zandro as quickly as possible. The grenade launcher made a satisfying plop sound and sent a frag grenade towards the commandoes. Sashar grabbed the explosive through the force and swung it around, sending it back towards the assailant with the launcher, however, he missed his intended target when a powerful force shove from Timeros careened him to the floor. A surging blue blast shot past him, mere inches away from his chest. The concussion beam hit just behind the Mandalorian, sending him rolling across the floor, completely disorientated and dizzy. A lot of the sensitive gear in his pack had started sparking and malfunctioning in protest. The carbine held by the third was sparking with barely contained energy as it was aimed at Timeros, forcing him to dive behind the cover provided by some cargo crates – crates that were scattered by the concussive force of the carbine’s second blast.
Kieran didn’t waste any time. He knelt down, switched the firing mode on his E-15A rifle to the grenade launcher, and sent a projectile in the direction of the CSP trooper armed with his own grenade launcher. The small projectile crashed through the cargo crates he was using as cover, and send both the trooper and his weapon scuttling across the decking. The Mandalorian switched back to the primary fire mode, and dropped the CSP trooper with a pair of bolts to the back of his head, just as he was getting up.
Erinos didn’t bother trying to shoot his antagonist. He let go of his rifle, allowing the weapon to fall almost to the floor before catching the weapon with his foot and kicking it up into the face of the charging antagonist. The opponent’s lightsaber was brought around in a parry, but it wasn’t fast enough for the unexpected move; he received a blow to his chin from the stock of the heavy weapon that sent him stumbling back for almost a second – just enough time for Zandro to draw his own lightsaber and offer a high blow. The blades met.
The Concussion rifle’s aim was swept back towards Sashar, but this time he was ready. He didn’t bother trying to reach for his KX-80 rifle; instead, the Mandalorian sent a shockwave of pure force energy through his nervous system, jolting away the dizziness and disorientation from a glancing blow off the Conc rifle, and bled off the excess energy by collating as much telekinetic energy as he could muster into his left hand. He let the force energy build up for a half-second whilst the Concussion rifle was recharging for its next blast, and then let loose his just as the CSP’er was about to fire. The ‘Force Shunt’ was doubly powerful as opposed to a normal Telekinetic Blast; it sent the man flying a good five meters backwards, before landing on his back and skidding a further three with bone-shattering force.
Sashar jogged over to the downed man and scooped with the carbine, actually an LJ-50 Concussion Rifle – pre clone wars vintage. He held the weapon next to hi head and pointed to it with his free hand whilst regarding the helpless CSP trooper.
“I’m borrowing this.” He remarked, before drawing his DH-17 silenced blaster pistol, and pumping a bolt into the man’s skull. He then holstered the side-arm and swung the Conc rifle around to take aim at the lightsaber wielding antagonist that was giving his Sergeant and former apprentice such a hard time.
Sashar poured warning urges through the battle-meld, and Kieran and Timeros quickly backed up to a safe distance. Zandro didn’t bother trying to back up, instead he just jumped up as high as he could manage, and Sashar fired. Erinos landed amidst chunks of flesh still hitting the round – the unarmoured body had literally exploded on impact.
“Good work boys, let’s get the hell off this di’kulta station.”
Sashar grinned at Zandro’s use of Mandalorian, whilst attaching the LJ-50 rifle to his pack – he obviously intended to keep the weapon. The others gathered up their various possessions, and moved to board the Dream Prowler.
Rage ran through Kieran’s body like a high voltage current, constructive and focused rage. His cells were alive with the force as they stormed through the hallways of the station. The Mandalorian usually took no pleasure in killing, preferring the thrills of successful combat to pleasure of ending sentient beings lives, but the situation in the command centre had altered the young man’s thought pattern. He wanted revenge; he wanted to vent his frustration on some helpless being by snapping every limb off like a child pulls the wings from a fly. He did not let it take control of him as it had done, his training was too ingrained and his pride was stung by his loss of control he had exerted earlier. Instead, he channelled it, focused it into a point in the foreground of his mind and wielded it like a weapon with more energy power than a star going supernova.
Kieran slammed the guard into the wall, his blaster hung at his side, relinquished but not forgotten. He heard an audible crunch as his fist slammed into the man’s sternum, power added to the punch through the force. His victim managed to force a strangled yelp from his mouth as the air rushed from his lungs. The Mandalorian’s right arm shot up wielding his combat knife and slamming the blade into the soft flesh under his chin with a twist. Blood cascaded down the blade, dripping onto his gauntlet and then to the floor. Before the man’s eyes rolled back and his life slipped away Kieran was away moving to his next target, an unarmed Rodian technician attempting to flee from the striketeam thundering up the hallway. Kieran’s blaster was suddenly in his hand and a bolt lanced out catching the fleeing Rodian in the calf and sending him sprawling. Without breaking stride Kieran pumped seven shots into the back of the fallen being’s head, burning right through to the floor, the sweet smell of singed flesh hung mingling with the sharp acrid smell of ozone.
Corpses littered Soulfire’s wake, piled up in doorways and blood dripped from the whitewash walls as though some feral beast had been using the station as its hunting grounds. In a way it was true, Soulfire’s wrath was that feral beast. Their anger tore through life and limb as though they would find comfort and solace inside the men and women they killed, as though that somewhere deep in the squirming bowls and organs they would find their fallen comrade.
I will get her back, Kieran promised to himself, to the striketeam and to Selene.
They arrived at the hangar, blood soaked and weary from their run. The Dream Prowler stood before them, unscathed but with a small pile of corpses littered where the boarding ramp was. The ship’s concealed blasters had done their job of protecting her whilst they had been gone. Kieran found it clear that the Palatinae dogs had learnt that the ship could not be stolen or tampered with the hard way, much to his pleasure. Thumbing a button on his gauntlet the boarding ramp creaked open and the interior lighting flickered on. He turned to kneel at the foot of the ramp, Timeros taking position to his left in a similar manner, guarding the rear of the patrol as they boarded their ship. The pair followed them up and the team shot out of the hangar moments later.
The explosion ripped through the engineering room like a vibro knife through fabric. The coolant tanks punctured, hit by the shockwave first and coolant sprayed out. However, before the first droplet came into contact with any surface, the rolling fireball ignited the stream. Flames tracked back into the tanks; igniting the remaining contents. The explosion lit up the space around it like a solar flare. Great chunks of the station span lazily away, flames erupted as the remaining atmosphere was quickly burnt up and lifeless corpses drifted away to freeze into floating hunks of flesh.
Soulfire had done it’s work well.
“Ni’ganare trattok’o nerr vod,” Kieran spoke after a long silence.
Kieran was seated in the co-pilots chair, Zandro having left the two alone sensing that the master and his apprentice needed some time. Kieran was staring blankly ahead, his face a visage of unreadable calm, but Sashar knew that inside; his head and heart where in turmoil. Kieran admitting his failure served only to put words to the feelings leaking from his kinsmen.
“You did not brother,” Sashar said after a deep breath, a firm belief behind his words, “your failure was not to Selene or to the team, you failed because you lost control, rage is powerful, you know this. Your training with me and with Kodiak must have taught you to channel you rage has it not?” Sashar spoke looking across at Kieran, who merely nodded in response.
“Then take a lesson from this brother, we will get her back I assure you, and our vengeance will be quick, deadly and controlled. But now, we still have a mission, although it pains me to say it and I am sure you are aware of the fact, we must continue to the asteroid field. Many more lives are at stake than Selene’s,” Sashar explained.
“I know brother,” he replied solemnly.
“I’ll call Zandro up here, he understands what happened and is accepting providing it doesn’t repeat itself,” the Archpriest spoke reaching forward and summoning their commander over the comlink.
“So we’re sorted then boys?” the Dark Jedi Knight asked settling his hands on the backs of the seats in the cockpit.
“Yes sir and I’m sorry for losing it,” Kieran spoke, turning to face him.
“Let’s not let it happen again Kieran,” Zandro replied with a stare reminding him that they were in a unit that required control and focus, not the un-controlled rage that so many of the Knights of their persuasion chose to exhibit on the field.
“We’re nearing the edge of the field and I’ve swapped our transponder over to a Scholae Palatinae transport matching our class and we’re transmitting the most up to date clearance codes, it won't stand up to a visual inspection,” their tech specialist informed Zandro.
“Won’t they have changed the codes by now?” he asked.
“Unlikely, as far as they’re concerned we just robbed the bank and blew it up, the data-dump won’t have been recorded, the only way they’re gonna find out about that is if they patch into the communication stations computer, and let’s face it sir, they aren’t about to go piecing together the few molecules that are left of it floating in space are they?” Sashar grinned.
“So we’re stealth?”
“Like a ghost sir.”
“Good, now let’s go turn those pigs into some.”
Pain brought her back to consciousness…blue eyes refusing to focus on the figure drifting in and out of the shadows. Selene could hear a woman’s voice, suddenly soothing, a promise.... a promise to provide the comfort so desperately needed. The Priestess wished she could follow the voice, escaping to whichever haven it was that was offered, but her mind refused to respond. Stubbornly fighting against the drugs in her system, against the pain she had already been subjected to, her very being struggled against the invisible bonds placed upon her. She remembered the voice…a friend’s voice…but she could not place it.
The girl mumbled, her voice heavily drugged…images of Soulfire dancing in front of her eyes…a vague memory of something, doing something...
“You have to tell me what you were doing there.”
Again the girl mumbled, struggling to piece together the fragmented images of what had happened before. She did not know how she knew, but somewhere, deep inside her a rational voice, a warning voice told her to keep quiet.
“I…I don’t remember.”
The woman’s voice was harsh, tired of trying to get the d’Tana to talk. She motioned to the interrogator droid, indicating that it should begin again. Selene screamed once as the droid peeled another thin layer of skin from her arm, the naked bone almost shining through. Careful enough, it was able to stem the flow of blood, cauterizing any open arteries that appeared. Sharp instruments poked and prodded at her, wave after wave of intense pain flooding through her bruised body. The droid moved around, repeating the process. Below the elbows, both arms were now naked, parted from the flesh that was supposed to keep the intimate details of how a human was created, secret.
A new level of pain awaited her, a thin stick like instrument that made the most awful ‘whizzing’ sound. Drug induced sleep refused to come, and the stick entered her ear, buzzing incessantly, driving her already fractured mind even further from rational thought. It was not painful, not yet, but the constant buzzing sound reverberating through her head, and the girl realized that her head was tied in place. She tried to move, to get away from the drone, to escape the continuous barrage of high-pitched noise, but there was no reprieve anywhere.
Again she screamed, the torture instrument finally working its deadly magic. The droid flipped a small switch and activated the vibrating motion…suddenly Selene felt her head about to explode, pain ripping through her mind, the thin stick reaching her ear drum and back off right before it could burst. If nothing, the droid was excellent at what it did. Knowing when to push and when to back off, inflicting more and more pain as the minutes slowly crawled by. Rasilvenaira walked in again, curtly ending the newest session of torture.
“Are you ready to tell me what you were doing there Selene?”
The Arconan’s voice burst from her, her instinct to protect Soulfire far stronger than her instinct to survive. Are you sure Sel? I cannot keep you protected much longer.. The Aedile’s voice sang softly inside Selene’s mind, hoping that she could break through to her and get her to talk before she was subjected to even worse treatment. Yes…I will not betray Soulfire. Silver’s head sank as the reply came at her, knowing that she could no longer help the trapped Arconan, friend or not.
The bonds came loose and Selene looked up in surprise, heavy eyelids preying open to survey her surroundings. The pain lessened considerably, a medical droid ‘tut-tutting’ over her and healing the more dangerous of her wounds. Again, the disconnected voice in her mind told her to stay calm, to prepare for what was to come. The Priestess crawled onto the mattress that lay in the middle of the floor, her almost naked body curling into a fetal position, cradling herself. Selene’s mind tried to process the events that had unfolded and involuntarily she reached up to touch the pink welt of a scar between her breasts.
She remembered yelling at Kieran to enter the lift. She remembered intense pain, blood dripping from her…but she could not yet remember why it had come to be this way. Sleep came and went; pain with it. The only constant was her loyalty to Soulfire and the hope that she would not have to endure this forever. The bounty hunter had done her a great favour, the sedatives he had so kindly injected her with still taking the brunt of the pain.
Losing track of time, of where she was, of what she was doing there, the young girl endured session after session of abuse against her body. It took very little time, truthfully, ten minute sessions of intense pain followed by 15 minutes of sense-depriving darkness and healing from the best medical care Scholae had. They had captured a d’Tana, if nothing else, the Proconsul would have some loyalty towards the human and Rasilvenaira hoped that he would send a rescue team for her, or perhaps even come himself. They would be ready for him, waiting to extend the same hand of greeting they had extended to Selene.
Again the Aedile tried to encourage her friend to talk, her voice ringing clear through the fitful, pain induced sleep. Please…Sel, just talk….
The silence was all the answer she needed and StormRaven turned from her captive, nodding disapprovingly at her Proconsul. He wanted to try something else, and since she was making no headway, there was little choice in the matter. Silver saw a man heading down the corridor and turn away from the holding cell. She wanted no further part in this.
Selene made no sound as the droids took her again, her body too weak from torture too truly fight back. Closing her mind against any further invasion, she focused on what she remembered of Soulfire, the teamwork, the battle-melds that carried so much excitement, commitment and collective responsibility. They were a team, not just in name, but in spirit as well. And Selene held onto that memory as she felt her body tied down to some sort of icy cold durasteel object.
Pain wracked through her body as the man took advantage of her splayed form, yet she made no sound, content to focus on more comforting things.
Hours later, she returned to the present, finding herself on the self-same mattress she had come to know so intimately. The memories of what had transpired burned into her mind. Her body broken, her mind damaged, she alternated between screaming, kicking, shouting at the, for no, non-existent enemy…for she was alone and cowering in a corner of the room, eyes daring to find any sign of moment.
Sweating, panting, and for the first time in years, truly worried, Koskian awoke with wide eyes. Even with closing himself down from the Force to conceal himself, he was picking up the waves from Selene in the interrogation rooms. Leaning back against the bulkhead of his ship, the Priamrch closed his eyes, focusing on the life force that was one of the most important people in his life. Pain. Suffering. Defilement. His fists balled up in rage, but he had nothing to strike at within the ship.
A beep from the cockpit, and the flicker of a holo screen coming to life showed the Aedile he had been conversing with so often as of late approaching his ship. She had a look of disdain and anger on her face, but he wasn't sure it was directed at him. Donning his armor and helm, cloak and sidearm, strapping the DL-44 to his right hip, a vibro sword to his left, and lightsaber secured to the back of his belt. Koskian hesitated, and picked up the magnetically latching pack that contained a large amount of explosives, and hooked it to the back of his armor. Almost an afterthought, he clipped a pair of thermal detonators on to his belt, next to the stealth generator. Hidden by the cloak, he wasn't certain it would be detected, but he did know it was time to meet Kunar.
An incessant knocking could be heard from the loading ramp, obviously Rasilvernia was becoming impatient. The Obelisk went to the cockpit, and sat down next to R4.
“We've never gotten along really, R4, but considering my take on droids in general...the fact that I haven't slagged you says a lot. Your a good...droid, R4, and I have a job for you. If you receive a priority one signal from my comlink...fire up the engines, and home in on my position, loading ramp open and directed towards me, can you do handle that little guy? Oh, and if anybody tries to mess with the Galerian Fire while I'm gone...shoot them, a lot.”
A short, decisive beep was the answer, a confirmatory answer coming across the translation panel on the console. Turning from the droid, he walked to the loading ramp, lowering it. Rasilvernia tapped her foot impatiently, her face slightly pale as she waited on the bounty hunter. Finally making his appearance, Koskian gave her a broad smile under the visor, and a mock bow.
“I take it Lord Kunar needs my services, Lady?”
“He would like to speak to you, yes....you seem strange today, Prefect.”
“Oh? I just get a bit uncomfortable with all the tense emotions around..”
“...Are you sensitive to the Force, Zorusk?”
Cursing inwardly, Koskian thought quickly, already the feelers of a probe to his mind could be felt, and he threw up some of his childhood memories of being able to win fights with ease, or know when the police were showing up.
“I might, Lady, I've thought about it before I have. To old to learn new tricks like that, no point giving up one thing for a new thing.” Koskian patted the DL-44 on his hip, “Suzy here does me well enough, I don't need some fancy, all encompassing Force helping me.”
“Indeed.” she replied dryly, gesturing towards the base. Two guards moved into a flanking position, walking slightly behind and to either side of Koskian. The quartet moved through the halls, and Koskian could feel the pulsing anger, rage, and terror of his Clanmate getting closer as well, but that wasn't his target right now. He had to keep reminding himself of that, and guarding his thoughts from the Aedile before him. Eyes half closed, he tried to force every feeling he had about Selene down into a dark place in his mind, trying not to think about what would happen if she died in Palatine captivity.
He saw Rasilvernia almost stumble briefly, a look of surprise on her face, quickly covered, and pointed towards the door before them. Two guards flanked the door, force pikes in hand, and one opened the door wide to admit the bounty hunter and aedile. Koskian swallowed back the creeping feeling of doom that was crawling up his spine. Every nerve was on hand, and the Obelisk watched the Pro Consul of Scholae Palatine, Phoenix, standing over a bed. In that bed was his target, but with four guards and two other summit members in the same room, this was going to be...difficult. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward.
“Ah...the bounty hunter that brought Phoenix his little play toy, how nice to meet you finally Prefect.”
Under his visor, Koskian gave Phoenix a look that could have skinned a gundark, and struggled to keep his smile on his face.
“Lord Kunar, it's an honor and a pleasure me lordship. I take it you have a target for one of my skills if you be wanting to meet with me.”
An Acolyte rushed into the medical chamber, coming up to Rasilvernia and whispering in her ear. She looked at Braecen, uncertain, and he simply nodded. The Aedile left the room, and Phoenix was now giving Koskian an odd look. The Consul reached up, tugged at the Pro Consul's robes once, and Phoenix gave him a look of anger, before storming out of the room. Braecen turned back to the bounty hunter, a smile on his face.
“Finally alone, Koskian.”
“Yes, Lord....wait, what?”
“Please, I could feel your presence as soon as you landed on Judecca, your a fool for trying this.”
“Honestly, Strategos told me to. I thought it was a bad idea.”
“Your obviously the smarter one, shame your going to die here.”
“Oh, I'm real scared of a guy in a hospital bed.”
“Hah! Rasilvernia is on her way to dispatch the prisoner you so helpfully provided us, and Phoenix and a squad of troopers is headed to take your ship over. Your Clanmate will die, and you will be trapped here, whether you kill me or not. But you won't, because you can't. GUARDS!”
The guards moved in on Koskian, and his left arm shot straight out, the built in vibroblade swinging out to stab through the nearest guard's chest. Right hand grasping the hilt of his vibro sword, he swung it and his own body in a circle, he severed the head from another guard. Turning, he faced the other two, wielding the force pikes. They both smiled, the pikes dropping to the floor with a clang, and lightsabers came from their robes. Koskian groaned, and watched as one of the many Journeyman that seemed to come in and out of the Consul's medical chamber open the door behind the two Palatine Jedi.
Smiling suddenly, Koskian dropped his vibro sword, and lifted his right hand up, firing his grappling hook down the hall, latching on to the far wall. Koskian jumped, letting the servos in his leg armor propel him at incredible speed towards the two Dark Jedi, and the grapple reel kicked in, pulling the nearly flying Arconan past them at high speed. Planting his left armored hand against the wall to stop himself, he tugged the grapple hook out of the wall, palmed a thermal detonator from his belt, pushed the activator and tossed it back into the chamber. A quick move of his hand, and the Force slammed the door shut. A blast blew both doors out moments later, and Koskian began running towards the sensation that was Selene.
R4 twittered to himself pointlessly, jacked into the Fire's computer systems, and domed head spinning about as he processed everything he watched, monitoring the comm and sensor systems. A cadre of a dozen soldiers marched down the walkway towards the 720 Freighter, Phoenix near the rear of the unit. The droid's motions stopped, the ships's sensors quickly identifying the slicing equipment and entry tools used to break in and steal ships all over the galaxy.
The two dorsal twin lasers quickly came to life, the cannons rotating to face the approaching soldiers. Several of them froze, and were verbally lashed, and then shoved with the Force, by Phoenix, eager to claim his rival's ship for himself. R4 let out a whistle that, if anyone had been able to hear it, almost sounded joyous as his targeting programs kicked in. Scarlet bolts began flying out of the twin cannons, raking across the walkway, incinerating three soldiers immediately. The droid's upgraded intelligence quickly designated the troopers with the equipment needed to take over the ship as primary targets.
Troopers screamed in surprise and terror as the ship's lasers quickly tracked and killed them, one by one or by twos, the R4 inside twittering in happiness as he fulfilled his Master's orders. Understanding that trouble was quickly coming, the droid informed the ship to begin a warm up cycle, the Fire's engines quickly warming up. The sensors showed Phoenix behind one of the light posts lining the walk way, a glare on his face, but the ship did not attack him as he made no moves towards it. R4 monitored the communications frequencies closely, waiting for his Master's transmission.
“I'm almost sorry Selene, but you went against my Clan...my home, and I can't forgive that. Lord Braecen has decided your fate shall be the same as your Pro Consul, who was foolish enough to enter our domain in an attempt to assassinate him. I believe Koskian is already dead, dear, I'm so sorry.”
A sensation in the Force made the Aedile turn around in surprise, the shimmering of a stealth field fading to show Koskian's armored form. Rasilvernia backed away in surprise, pulling her lightsaber to her grasp, the Sith Warrior's scarlet blade flashed up to defend herself. Koskian glared at her, and moved his hand, manipulating the Dark Side. Rasilvernia cried out in surprise as she was pinned to the wall, and Koskian swung his right hand up, backslapping the Sith to unconsciousness. The Aedile collapsed to the ground in a heap, blood dripping from her lip.
Selene curled up in the corner, glaring at the bounty hunter that had stabbed her, saved her on the station, and then turned her over to be tortured, and now saved her again. Her mind was confused, emotions in conflict, and the torture had done quite a bit of damage to her psyche. The bounty hunter pulled a comlink out, key it on, and spoke '”Priority One, R4, Priority One.” The Krath felt her mind twitch, recognizing the voice, and knew it was connected to a R4. She watched the bounty hunter pull several Nergon-14 charges from his pack, placing them on the wall, remote detonators in place as well.
Koskian over turned the mattress in the room, and put it behind him as he put his armored form between the charges and Selene. Eyes closed, he pressed the button, and heard the Krath scream from the noise of the explosion. Reaching down carefully, he lifted the tortured and battered Priestess, and walking towards the lowered landing ramp of the Galerian Fire. Ordering R4 to take them to space, and to keep the turrets online to take down any pursuing fighters, he took Selene to what passed as a medical facility.
“I do get tired of patching you up, sweetheart.”
“Who...why...what do you want from me? That Palatine...bastard...did enough...”
Anger boiled across Koskian's mind as he realized what she meant, and he pulled his helmet off. Selene's eyes widened in surprise, as she stared up at her captor and savior.
Sashar’s eyes never left the quad turbo laser turret that adorned the asteroid they were passing. Although the Dream Prowler was transmitting the latest and most up to date codes as well as a transponder signal matching a freighter of their size, he considered the visual observation necessary.
Mainly because it’ll be the first sign we get that they’ve caught on to our ruse.
The Mandalorian banked the ship to the right, sending it sailing round the curvature of the colossal space rock. The pieces had been growing steadily larger as they moved further to the centre of the belt. The pieces tumbled lazily in a silent dance through space, threatening to smash them into oblivion if one wrong move was made.
The force was electrified with tension. The cockpit was silent with only Zandro sitting beside Sashar, he was concentrating on the sensor read-outs scanning for any ships and possible hostiles, now fully aware that Soulfire’s presence in the system was known, and no doubt they would be on high alert. Kieran and Timeros were in the fore and aft laser turrets respectively, sitting quietly meditating and storing energy for what was to come.
“Three klicks out,” reported Zandro over the comm.
Sashar could now see the base looming in front of them, growing steadily larger. It appeared to be a massive, almost moon sized rock that had had its central core blown out. It now hung in two fragments connected and held together by a myriad of shining metal tubing, their target hung silently in between the two pieces. It looked like a wounded soldier on an operating table, numerous docking tubes and clamps extended out and into its hull like intravenous drips you would expect to see.
They slipped into an approach vector, the one that was pre-designated for vessels carrying repair crew and supplies. An almost steady stream of ships were flooding towards the rock and disappearing into various hangars.
“Deriduium you’re cleared to entry, place proceed to Hangar 3 and power down ready for boarding inspection, we are currently operating at level 5 security due to the pirate activity in the system,” a voice came over the comm.
“Copy, we are outbound and ready,” replied Sashar as he steered the ship off.
The hangar bay they were going to was on the far side of the asteroid, one used for the unloading of personnel, and thus it was closer to the living quarters of the base personnel, and naturally their garrison.
The Dream Prowler dropped to the hangar bay floor with a gentle thud, Kieran remarked to himself how soft the landing had been compared to their previous one.
“They’re boarding us so we’re heading straight out, there a detachment of five security personnel waiting for us down there but that’s it, the hangar is pretty much clear,” Sashar reported after scanning through the various feeds coming from cameras placed on the exterior.
“Kieran, with me, we go out and drop the lot,” Zandro ordered him, the pair taking up positions at the top of the boarding ramp.
“Check,” replied Kieran as he felt Zandro reach out in the force to request that Sashar lower the ramp.
The ramp creaked slightly, shaking as the servo-motors did their work, and it eventually slid out and began to drop to the floor.
“Take, take, take!” shouted Zandro as the tops of the security details heads came into view.
Kieran settled his recitle over a man holding a Prax Arms AXM-50. Squeezing the trigger a red bolt lanced out and clipped the man in the top of his head, the others watched the man’s smoking body drop to floor, transfixed in both shock and horror. However before they could react another two bodies dropped, each with a triage of smoking holes in them filling the vicinity around the ship with the sweet smell of burnt flesh.
By this time Kieran was jumping off the ship’s still descending ramp, he swung the butt of his rifle connecting with the detail’s officer’s head, dropping him to the floor with a broken nose. Zandro quickly dispatched the other one with his lightsaber, the head dropping to the floor silently.
“Bodies inside,” Zandro called to Timeros and Sashar, who began to drag the bodies back into the ship in an aid to conceal their entry for as long as possible.
Kieran reached down and hauled the wimpering man to his feet, slamming his back against the hull of his ship.
“You have one chance to answer my questions, you fail and rip your bowels open with the force and leave you here to die,” Kieran spoke, his helmeted face pressed closely against the man. The man nodded silently, his eyes transfixed on Kieran’s face with fear.
“The detachment here, how large is it?” he asked.
“Errm … mostly base personnel; we have a Special Ops platoon and an Infantry platoon stationed on the base with another infantry platoon on the Star Destroyer … please don’t kill me,” hi whimpered, Kieran tilted his head slightly studying his face, he saw dim wisps of stubble on his face.
“Forgot to shave this morning?” he asked, receiving a nod and whimper from his victim, “bad form ner vod.”
Kieran twisted with his gauntlet until he heard an audible snap as the man’s spinal column gave way under the force, his eyes rolled back and the Mandalorian dragged him into their ship.
“You get that Sarge?” he asked Zandro.
“Check, let’s get a move on, Kieran take point,” Zandro replied.
They were only four in number, but they had the confidence, the drive, and the tenacity of an army. This was their chance to pay CSP back for taking one of their elite number. This was Soulfire’s moment, and nothing could slow them down. They moved through the corridors almost silently, sticking to the maintenance routes and access walkways to avoid the base’s personnel, and thus far it’d worked. They were like shadows, each of them clad in near-identical black armour, only the helmets and packs differing slightly in their composition.
It was on one such access gantry that they came to a crossroads – one route heading towards the fuel storage areas, the other leading further towards the VSD’s dry-dock.
“Which objective first, Sarge?” Sashar asked.
“We don’t have much time before the alarm goes up from that missing inspection crew. We’ll have to take both at once. Kieran and I will go down to the fuel storage tanks and stick some Nergon 14. It’ll be our ultimate insurance policy. Sashar, you and Timeros head up to the VSD and see what damage you can cause. They may also have a complete copy of the fleet disposition up on the bridge’s computers up there. Knowing where all the CSP forces are stationed will be invaluable to the war effort.”
“Plus,” Kieran added “We may find a lead on where they’re holding Selene.”
“Agreed. Gentlemen, get to your tasks. Remember to keep com-lines open, we’re operating independently now, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less of a team.”
The four commandoes split up, each intent on completing their task as quickly as possible. The longer they had the momentum of surprise, the longer they could conceivably survive – plus, each of them was under no illusion that this was anything less than a suicide mission – the quicker they moved the more chance they had of completing their objectives before someone gunned them down.
Sashar and Timeros didn’t encounter a single trooper on their way to the support struts linking the asteroid to the bottom of the Vic-Star. They only encountered a pair of technicians, sneaking away from the job to grab an hour or two of quiet fornication, and the pair were dispatched with ease. It was only then that The Heragan and Mandalorian realised that to reach the Destroyer’s superstructure, they’d have to do a space-walk.
“You are, of course, kidding me.” Sashar remarked as Timeros started sealing his suit to be vacuum proof for the few minutes they’d be exposed to the coldness of space.
“Secure your suit, and make sure your pack’s not going to float off either.” His voice was hard and unrelenting – he didn’t have time for pointless debate, but Sashar wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“You sure we can’t just take one of the access chutes and take out whatever they’ve got guarding them.”
“Think about it; they’ll have cameras in the chutes, and it would make them exactly three seconds to type in a command to jettison the chute – we’d never stand a chance of getting to the other side, plus they’d be alerted and that’d probably end up getting Zandro and Kieran killed as well. No, we have to space walk, and you can hack through an airlock or something when we reach the hull.”
Sashar groaned, but inwardly agreed; he’d have come to the same conclusion – he just hated space-walking.
With an air of someone trying valiantly not to be sick in their helmet, he started securing the seals on his Neo-Crusader armour (armour that was vacuum rated for up to half an hour). This was not going to be pleasant.
Despite his protestations, Sashar was quick to secure himself. While Timeros was vaguely aware of the Mandalorian’s feelings on the matter, Soulfire as a whole was far too professional to let personal inhibitions stop them. Thus, while he was unusually silent, his fellow Arconan sealed himself rapidly, along with the oxygen he would need for his survival.
The pair tentatively opened an airlock, taking care not to trigger any of the alarms usually associated with opening up the structure to the vacuum of space. Their magnetic boots activated as the air around them was sucked off…and then the two hastily scrambled out before the secured door could once again close...into the dazzling reaches of space.
Neither of the pair could overcome a sudden feeling of vertigo as they walk across the narrow chute’s outer ends. Different though they might be, they had at least one thing in common: neither of their species had evolved in conditions even remotely similar to the barren naught that was outer space. Its vast spaces, filled with perhaps an atom for every cubic meter, were simply too large and incomprehensible, too empty for comfort.
The pair of Archpriests started their walk through the deadly environment, black suits contrasting oddly with the durasteel strut. While their discomfort had not entirely passed, they had more pressing matters in their minds…such as what could happen if their suits were breached. Their death would be mostly instantaneous as their lungs would explosively decompress, rupturing and sending their guts flying through the Galaxy for the rest of eternity, rotting remainders cooling over a period of hours.
And besides, they were Soulfire…Arcona’s best, looked up to by the rest of the Clan…and with that knowledge came no small amount of pride. Pride was harder to swallow than vertigo.
The two approached the Star Destroyer from a downward angle, and Timeros followed its curvature with his eyes. Continuing their present course would eventually take them past its broadside turbolaser batteries and into the ship’s interior. It would also, for perhaps a minute, expose them to vision from the batteries’ screens. It would only take some technician checking the sensors to see the pair move hastily among the outside. Their black armor would give away the Arconans instantly. With a quick hand gesture, the scout stopped the Mandalorian, telepathically notifying him of his findings.
So…now what? Sashar asked his companion. He agreed with the stoic Heragan that moving on might not be the best idea. While perfectly willing to take risks, the thought of having to fight –and die- in the middle of space was none too pleasant.
Timeros shrugged, best as he was able to in the confining suit. His eyes zoomed over the Victory Star Destroyer’s structure, checking out weapons emplacements, shield mounts, and more…and finally, he found what he was looking for.
There, he said telepathically, letting his satisfaction seep through the mental link. He pointed at a small hatch, perhaps for disposing of smaller trash, no more than fifty meters away from the bridge. Sashar…how would you feel about jumping the rest of the distance?
Madness! the Mandalorian protested. While he understood the plan’s utility, Soulfire’s tech man’s dislike of the inhospitable reaches of outer space was great enough to merit further argueing. If you think we’ll stick out among this strut, how do you think we’ll look when we fly across…oh, yeah. Never mind.
Exactly, Timeros replied with just a hint of impatience. black armor…featureless black background…we’ll do just fine. And we’ll be close to the bridge, meaning we can finish this quickly.
All right then, Sashar sighed. That lock over there.
Yes. Just don’t miss.
Gee, thanks Tim, the Mandalorian retorted with sarcasm as he readied himself to take off.
War erupted around her; blaster fire, grenades, bombs, mines exploding in a brilliant display of dazzling, blinding light… The arm of some unknown soldier flew past her and she caught sight of the mutilated bodies that covered the battlefield, most in some gruesome, decidedly unnatural position.
The armies of both Taldryan and Arcona were being decimated, the wave of destruction flowing through the ranks, nothing short of horrific.
And yet, Soulfire gained ground - against all odds. The Sergeant barking orders, keeping them united and moving forward.
“No, not like that. You have to hit that spot, right there.”
Zandro pointed at Kieran’s solar plexus, indicating that that was where she was supposed to hit. Not below or above as she seemed to have a habit of doing, but right on it.
The training continued, hours and hours of it. Everyone worked on their area of weakness, grinding body and mind to exterminate all flaws.
“You know, you could just shoot him in the head…instead of riddling his body with blaster fire. It’s just a suggestion Sel, but I mean really…‘One bullet, one kill’.”
The girl grumbled as she tried to figure out what she was doing wrong. Sure, her aim was far from the best in the squad, but even this was just pathetic. Again she aimed her rifle at the target, going in for the kill. Selene consciously shut everything from her mind, focusing on nothing but the target. Shot after shot found its mark, the target’s head exploding into nothing but fetters of paper as she found her aim.
“Selene. Wake up.”
Her mind refused to respond to the commands, only wishing to drift further into the dream-filled sleep the medication encouraged.
“Sel, come on. Open your eyes and look at me.”
She mumbled at whoever it was that interrupted her slumber, until a sharp slap across her face brought her to. Rising against the straps, the girl focused ice-blue eyes on her saviour, captor, Proconsul, brother…the same bastard that delivered her to Scholae.
“What the [Expletive Deleted F-word]? YOU!”
Struggling against the bonds that held her down, the young Priestess tried to get at her Proconsul. The man was responsible for a lot of things and even if he wasn’t she was perfectly content to take it out on him anyway. She continued struggling as Koskian slowly backed away, her mouth streaming obscenities at him. The Arconae winced at the more colourful insults, wondering where she had learned all those terms. Not a moment later, he realized that it had probably been from him, and their brother Gavin; she spent way too much time in their more…wayward company. A smile crossed his face for a moment before turning into a scowl. She seemed hell-bent on getting to him, and as much as he’d love to entertain her, her anger was better focused against the Scholae enemies, not her own kind.
“Selene! Stop that. You need to listen and you need to listen carefully.”
“I don’t want to hear what you have to say, d’Tana.”
She spat her own name, as if a curse, and Koskian winced again. Usually it’d be safer to just stay out of her way until she calmed down, but this was different; he had no time to wait for her to get a grip on herself.
“Sel, muffin, think about Soulfire, they are worried about you. You need to calm down so we can get to them and get the hell back to Eldar.”
The Krath bared her teeth at him, a low growl escaping from her throat. Her mouth barely formed the retort while her mind exploded inside his. Do you think I care? Do you really think I give a damn about anything right now?
A bond snapped under her constant struggling and Koskian pushed himself against the wall. He wasn’t afraid of the fragile girl, he just knew how angry she could get. And females were of course the most rational creatures when upset.
The second, third and fourth bonds fell from the newly healed girl, her mind focusing pure energy to rid herself of them. Stumbling to her feet, she lunged at her Proconsul, just to have his arms wrap around her, holding her firmly. She was still weak from the medication, the whole medical side-trip done in a quarter of the time he would have liked, but there was hardly any help for that now. The girl continued struggling, her eyes blazing at him.
The Obelisk calmly lifted his balled fist, holding it threateningly over her head. “You know, you deciding to do this the hard way…?”
Droids flitted and flirred around him, panic at his actions whirring through them, but Koskian issued his commands, cold and detached. His subconscious was already planning a way to get to Soulfire, he knew they needed all the help they could get and at the very least, they needed to know that Selene was alive.
“Now. You will shut up and listen. You will come with me and we will help your battleteam. After this is over we can have a nice long talk about what I did, how and why. For now, it’s enough to know that I am sorry, but I had no choice.”
Selene’s nod indicated her willingness to accept his authority, and Koskian almost laughed as his mind filled with an image of her bristling with anger. Her took her arm and half-pushed, half-dragged her to their ship…they had saving to do.
Kieran’s rifle was in his shoulder almost faster than the eye could read. A single red bolt sizzled through the air like an angry wasp and struck its intended target in the head, sending the lifeless body of the technician crashing backwards.
“Contact,” reported Kieran over the squad’s comlink.
Zandro was a corner behind the Mandalorian, keeping a careful eye on their rear in case they were snuck up on by a security patrol or anyone else that felt the need to raise an alarm. He knelt beside the body, rifle trained on the next corner ahead, waiting for his commander to catch up with him.
Like a shabla rabbit warren in here.
The pair had been tracking their way through the warren of corridors and supply rooms that littered the base, guiding their way using a schematic painted into the horizon, compliments of their helmet's HUD. Their target was a pair of giant fuel tanks that ran almost the entire height of the asteroid; it had numerous access points but to Kieran it didn’t matter where he placed his charges.
No point in discriminating, this place is gonna be a fireball no matter where I put the dets.
Zandro skidded round the corner a few moments later and bound past the crouching Mandalorian to take up position by the next corner leaving Kieran to hide the body. The Guardian opened a storage locker, deciding that the Twi’Lek he had just killed wouldn’t carry much of an opinion as to where he was stored. With a little persuasion, he soon had the body stored and secured in there. He attached to the inside a small strip of the adhesive explosive tape he carried with him with a motion-detonator stuck into the pliable material; leaving a nasty surprise for whoever was unlucky enough to open the locker. He had taken similar precautions with the two other ‘hostiles’ they had encountered earlier.
None of these guys are hostiles really, but then soldiers don’t always wear uniforms and I’m not in the mood to discriminate at the moment either.
“Target half klick,” his Sergeant informed him much to Kieran’s relief who was now growing tired of their sprint through the guts of the station.
“Copy,” Kieran replied as he bounded past the Dark Jedi to take up position, securing the rest of the corridor, kneeling facing the end briefly then turning to guard there rear as Zandro moved past him.
The door slid into it housing revealing two identical grey cylinders standing side by side, a walkway ran around them with numerous consoles and screens showing a plethora of blinking lights; the pair moved inside sealing themselves in.
“There and there Sarge,” Kieran said tossing a pair of explosives to his companion and indicating where they should be placed. The Mandalorian had taken the time to prepare the devices aboard the Dream Prowler realising that the small chance they had of surviving the outing depended upon minimizing TOT-time over target-something that would depend highly on the level of resistance they encountered.
Kieran set to work quickly, removing a panel here and there and filling them with enough Nergon-14 to crack a planet in half, not that they needed that much considering the amount of volatile fuel that was in the monolithic tanks that dominated the room.
P for Plenty never hurt anyone … wait that’s not right.
Kieran shook off his brief lapse in concentration and replaced the panel he was working on.
“Progress?” Zandro asked, now peering at a monitor affixed to wall beside the door.
“1 minute Sarge,” the Mandalorian replied as he hung over the walkway to place another device to underside of the walkway.
“We don’t have one minute,” Zandro replied gravely.
“Patch me,” Kieran replied indicating for his Sergeant to feed what he was seeing through his visor to Kieran’s.
An image painted itself on the horizon and Kieran had to stop what he was doing, both because it detracted him and also because what he saw distracted him. He swore under his breath, three soldiers, of what appeared to be their Special Ops division were slinking their way towards the fuel room.
“Recon Search and Destroy patrol, they know we’re here,” Kieran spoke.
“Sure? No second chances here.”
“We could atomize a Death Star with the amount of ordnance in here, let’s dance.”
Kieran was at the Knight’s side in seconds, rifle stock in his shoulder and ready to move, nodding to indicate he was ready.
“Take, take, take!”
The door slid open before and they surged forward, rifles aimed and firing. The soft popping was almost soothing to them as their silenced blaster bolts lanced out. Kieran’s first shot hit the human leading the group in the chest, dropping him gurgling to the floor, his second missed his other target but he hit with the third, the roughly the same time as Zandro’s bolt hit.
“Hard Contact, Soulfire we are no longer ghost,” Zandro reported, now fully aware that their presence on the base was known. He expected that within five minutes (the amount of time a search and destroy patrol would check into base) for the area to be swarming with Palatinae soldiers. Clicks could be heard over the comlink indicating Sashar had received and understood the message.
“Plan?” asked Kieran.
“Distraction, Sash and Tim aren’t done but they know we’re here, we gotta make them think that we’re the only ones on this rock.”
“Want me to make some noise?”
“Yeah but not here, let’s go play.”
“Hornet's nest you mean.”
“Well we were gonna stir it up sometime.”
The pair sprinted off down the corridor, snaking their way back towards the main living quarters for the base personnel. They rounded the last corner rather too quickly, and found themselves staring at another group of men, this time just regular troopers.
Kieran leaped forward firing; he landed bouncing and skidding on his belly. His blaster bolts scything up at the men, striking limbs chests and faces. Within seconds the hallway was filled with smoke, the smell of ozone and as always the sickly scent of burnt flesh. Kieran got up, slamming his back into the wall beside the doorway, Zandro mirroring his movements on the opposite side.
“Frag,” Kieran announced switching to grenade mode on his rifle.
“Clear and go!” said the Dark Jedi as he slapped the doors control.
It slid open before Kieran exposing two neat rows of beds and an assortment of humanoids, some wearing looks of shock at being greeted by two armour clad soldiers pointing guns at them and others still unaware of their impending doom. Two grenades sailed out of the two barrels and into the room. Kieran and Zandro pulled back, just in time to glimpse fire, shrapnel and body parts came shooting out the door. Kieran’s helmet went black as the visor absorbed the light and a hissing came into his ear pieces as the suit filtered out the sharp noise.
“-take!” Zandro’s voice came back over the comlink, Kieran already knowing what to do was inside the room scanning for targets.
He sighted a Rodian lucky enough to survive the blast looking shocked and stunned on all fours. The Mandalorian fired and the scarlet bolt lanced out, melting the beings head to the bed that had saved him from the blast. The rest of the room was clear, and Kieran unhooked another explosive from his pack, one equipped with a motion-detonator. He applied it above the doorway and then jumped back into the hallway where his Sergeant was waiting.
“Whoever comes looking is gonna paint the walls Sarge.”
“Copy, lets move, plenty more rooms to decorate.”
The armour, whilst protecting them from the elements, wasn’t designed for sustained exposure. The suits were fitted to protect the members should they be briefly caught in an area that was devoid of atmosphere. Sashar had thought the addition of thruster jets to help move them through zero-gravity would be too much extra weight for too little potential gain. He now thoroughly hated himself.
Timeros held back, and motioned for Sashar to jump first. It made sense; the sharp-shooter could cover him whilst he traversed the 500 meter gap, and Sashar could have help with force nudges, making sure he kept the proper trajectory instead of veering off and slamming into the bridge viewscreen or something equally unpleasant. He pushed off and had to bite back a yelp of fright – it was akin to a sensation of falling, only more tedious. He kept his eyes solidly locked onto the hatch that seemed an eternity away and felt the occasional nudge from Timeros. He concentrated on the hatch, drawing on the force to move himself closer and closer to it at a quite sedate pace until, after about three minutes, he bounced off the hatchway, barely finding purchase with his gloves. He immediately set to work on the wiring behind a protective cover by the side of the hatch, after sending a reassuring feeling through the force to the sniper.
The Heragan slung his rifle over his back and pushed off, much more confident, but no more at home with the freedom of space. His helmet was moving from time to time, checking that he’d not been spotted but his first sign of warning would come from the force – which he was currently immersed in. He arrived by Sashar just in time to see the Mandalorian finish splicing together some wires. The hatch’s outer door popped obligingly open.
“I’ve disabled the relays on the door – the rest of the computer won’t register it being opened. Go quickly though, I’m not sure how vacuum-rated my alterations will be.”
Timeros nodded and stepped through, immediately feeling the reassuring embrace of gravity take hold on him once again. There was a thud behind him as Sashar landed a little more heavily, and secured the hatch behind them.
The pair quickly and quietly traversed the eerily silent corridors, picking off anyone unlucky enough to be wandering the deck – they didn’t bother to hide the bodies; in around one minute they’d have the whole ship alerted. They reached the blast-doors to the bridge unscathed.
“What’s the plan?” Timeros asked cautiously.
“I open the doors; you aim for the power relay box just inside the communications foyer. A good solid hit should take out the lights. We move in, I shoot up the viewscreen and then you pick off any stragglers. I’ll lock us in, and we’ll see how much havoc we can wreak before they re-take the bridge.”
“And when they re-take the bridge?”
“We get choppity with sabers.”
“Sound plan. Let’s do it.”
Sashar moved to the door controls, plugged in his wrist-datapad, and grinned as the doors slid obligingly open a moment later. Timeros was already taking aim at the relay box, and fired a single shot into it. There was a bang, far louder than anyone on the bridge was ready for, and the bridge was dropped into near-total darkness. Backlit, the two Soulfirians proceeded inwards, rifles raised. They took positions either side of the blast doors and with one hand held onto something. Sashar then let go of his KX-80 rifle, letting the strap hold it against hid body, and un-slung the LJ-50 rifle from his pack, one handed. He took aim at the viewport at the other end of the bridge, and let loose a blast – one that nearly wrenched his arm out of his socket, even with the added surge of force strength he’d poured into his muscles moments before in preparation for the kick he knew the weapon had.
The neon blue concussion blast tore into the viewscreen, shattering it and opening the bridge up to the elements of space. Muffled shouts of surprise and fear were drowned out from the concussive explosion and the sound of air rushing to escape through the breach. Immediately, the doors in front of Sashar and Timeros started to close, and the Mandalorian sore – however, Timeros was, as ever, ready. One-handed, he took aim with the X-45, and partially letting the force guide his arm, fired a single bolt into the door controls. There was a spark of incandescence, and the blast doors froze in motion – the breach was still tearing air from the ship from behind them, sweeping officers and troopers alike through the hole.
Then the durasteel shutters came down over the breach, sealing the temporary breach. Despite behind encased in a helmet, Sashar was still panting. He let go of the piping he’d been hanging onto for dear life and slung the conc rifle back onto his pack. Timeros moved to the centre of the bridge, his booted feet landing heavily on the runway as he checked the rest of the bridge for any survivors. There were none.
Sashar took up a seat in the communications foyer and immediately shut off the hull-breach and intruder claxons that were deafening despite his sound-modulated helmet, and then slammed the communications jammers onto full pelt. He got up once more and jogged down to the crew pit and jumped over the lip, landing heavily next to the security console. It took him all of thirty seconds to lock the crew pit entrances and a further 45 to start swearing in frustration as he tried to re-seal the blast doors behind him.
“Di’kutla power relay! That nexus we shot to take out the lights also powered those blast doors. We’re locked open.” Sashar announced, thoroughly embarrassed that h hadn’t realised what would happen before. He’d thought it was odd that the doors didn’t close during the hull breach, but had been preoccupied.
“So we’re open to their counter-attack." It was a statement, not a question.
“I’ll hold them off, you do what you can. Timeros said casually, unslinging his X-45 once more and reloading. He took refuge by the side of the Communications Foyer, knelt down, and settled in for a wait. Sashar, meanwhile, slipped between the crew pits, doing whatever he could to mess up the CSP retaliatory efforts. Not surprisingly, his brother and his sergeant had attracted their own attention down in the fuel bays of the asteroid facility, and thus far the CSP forces were having trouble reassigning their forces to deal with the new threat on the VSD due to the jammers being on full whack on all frequencies apart from SF’s own encrypted channel.
“Right, I’ve locked them out from rerouting controls from the bridge. As of now we’re in full control of the ship, and I’ve deactivated fire control, so we they don’t have anything to shoot us with when we exfiltrate.
“Nix the shields as well; then there’ll be nothing to protect this sorry excuse for a destroyer when we blow the fuel tanks.”
“Already done.” Sashar replied grimly. He jumped over a set of consoles and landed next to the engine readouts, smiling behind the helmet in anticipation. He flicked off every single one of the safeties on the board, then slammed the reactor intake to maximum. This wasn’t advised for a cold start on a ship this size – usually the engines bled off the excess energy build up in the power generators, however if the engines were de-activated, then the excess energy would bleed off into the lower portions of the ship in the form of deadly radiation. He pitied the crewmen in the lower decks. He really did.
“Sashar, incoming.” The Heragan’s voice was tight and clipped as he squeezed off a single shot, taking the lead trooper down with a bolt to the head. The Mandalorian moved to the over side of the communication’s foyer, and, with his back to the view-ports, he brought up his KX-80 rifle to open fire.
The Galerian Fire banked around another asteroid, the ship's maneuvering thrusters blasting the vessel sideways. Koskian kept his eyes on the scopes, wondering where all the patrol fighters were, and wondered if Scholae Palatine had stripped all of the system's defenses for the attack on the Dajorra system. Rounding another asteroid, Kosk cursed as the Excidum came into full view, barely half a kilometer, and well within turbolaser range. Shields powered fully forward, Koskian sweated as he stared at the sensors reports on the ship. Cocking his head to the side, he noted several strange things.
Weapons had no power, that was odd, shields were down...the ship was operatically dead in the water. The Primarch heard a short laugh behind him from Selene, who was staring at the ship with a big grin on her face.
“Can't you feel them Kosk? Soulfire is up there, and they've operatically disabled the ship by themselves. Look at the asteroid base...if I know Kieran half as well as I think I do, he's wired it to explode. That means somebody is on the Vic, messing things up as best they can.”
Reaching out, Koskian noted a sense of...confusion, from the Star Destroyer, and grinned widely as well. The Obelisk gunned the throttle, the ship's engine roaring in response as he made a dash for the open hangar of the Excidum. Selene gave him an odd look for one moment, before realizing what he was doing, and then showed a hungry look.
“Suit up, Sel honey, were gonna go have some fun for all the stress we've BOTH been enduring because of these Palatine dogs.”
Selene pushed the last seal on her armor shut, pleased to be back in the black suit and have her weapons by her side again. She was silently thankful that Kosk had the good mind not to turn over the equipment when he 'captured' her, but she wasn't about to let him know that. Gripping KX-80 rifle, she made her way back to the loading ramp of the Fire, to see Koskian waiting for her in his own dark green armor. Coming up from behind, she saw a thick strap slung over his shoulder, and when he turned she had to shake her head in amusement. He had explained to some small extent about his armor's capabilities when it came to strength enhancement, but to see a man carrying an E-web repeater around like a rifle was a little much.
Koskian grinned, the strap holding the weapon up on his shoulders also carried the modified power packs used to run the weapon without a power generator, and looked himself over. DL-44 on his right hip, vibrosword on the left, thermal detonators on his belt, a pack full of various explosives on his back. Tossing his cloak over his shoulders, he grinned as he put his helmet on, clipping an extension from the side of it to his E-web to assist in aiming the long barreled weapon. Almost an afterthought, he clipped his lightsaber to his belt, pleased with not having to hide it anymore.
Hitting a button, the loading ramp lowered, and Koskian could feel the group of soldiers that had surrounded the ship already. No more then a dozen of them, he felt, and slowly descended the ramp. Silence greeted him, no shouts of warning, no demands to lay down weapons, just stunned silence at the imposing Primarch's appearance and weapon. Smiling, Koskian grabbed the trigger assembly he had modified to fit his armored gauntlets better, and depressed the firing stud. Red death began spitting from the weapon at an incredible rate of fire, raking across the dumbfounded soldiers. Seven of them were dead before they began moving, another two dropped before Selene hopped down from the ramp, quickly taking out the last of them.
“Plan?” she asked, personal feelings aside and completely goal oriented.
“Engine room. I don't know what Zandro has planned for this ship, but I plan on leaving another surprise for them when they try to get underway again. We'll try to find any Soulfire commandos after that. Everybody makes it home after this, Sel, I promise.”
The mound of CSP bodies was getting quite high in the communications foyer. Unfortunately, both Timeros and Sashar were running low on ammo and the laminanium gel that re-supplied their armour was getting depleted. Sashar took another bolt to the shoulder, this one spinning him to the ground with a shouted expletive. Lying prone on his back along the command walkway, the Mandalorian drew his DH-17 pistol and fired down the corridor, spiking the unlucky CSP trooper that had tagged him.
“Get up!” Timeros barked as he let loose yet another bolt with the X-45; it made little difference, they were being rushed. Sashar was up in a second, yanking the LJ-50 from his pack. He took aim at the centre of charge and squeezed down on the trigger, hard. The concussion bolt lanced into them, detonating with enough force to literally evaporate the sergeant; the others were thrown against the bulkheads and controls of the communications foyer. Even over the screams and the shouts Sashar could hear the crackle of multiple bones being broken.
The Mandalorian returned to his original position on the opposite side of the bulkhead to Timeros, grimacing at the number of scorch marks that had dug into the wall and floor about it, and appropriated his KX-80 rifle – now depleted.
DH-17, 58 shots. Conc rifle, 8 shots. 3 EMP ‘nades, 1 B ther-det. And a lightsaber. They don’t stand a chance. Sashar ran through a quick mental inventory, then focused on the comm icon in his HUD, blinking at it to bring it up.
“Tim, I think we’ve overstayed our welcome. Shall we?”
“Thought you’d never ask.” The Heragan responded as he slung the X-45 over his shoulder and drew a Silenced E-11, holding it with both hands. Sashar yanked a pair of EMP grenades from the back of his belt and tossed them both into the crew pits, then sprinted after Timeros who was already hopping over the mound of moaning wounded towards the turbolift cluster. It took 6 seconds for the grenades to go off. There was a small pop, a wave of blue arcing electricity playing over most of the consoles, and then the entire command section of the Victory Star Destroyer lost power.
Sashar’s ochre blade sprang from his hand, and three quick slices were all that it took to gain entry to the turbolift shaft. In unison, the equites attached zip-lines to the edge of the ruined doors and climbed inside. They looked down, their night vision not reaching the bottom of the unlit shaft. Counting to three, the pair pushed off.
Zandro frowned. His helmet was malfunctioning – it was giving him statistics on Selene’s health and position. That was impossible; she’d been captured.
He reached out with his feelings, and sure enough, there she was. And she was [pissed. He smirked to himself and opened up his comm with a blink.
“Kieran. Selene’s on station, and she’s fine. In fact, I think she’s currently better off than we are.”
The Mandalorian didn’t even turn around from his crouched position in-between a pair of cargo containers and he let loose a salvo of blaster-fire at some hapless CSP troopers.
“We’re hardly in trouble here, Sarge. I’ve been in a lot worse scrapes than this.”
To punctuate the end of his reply, a trio of lightsabers sprang to lie at the other end of the corridor. Scholae Palatinae had finally mustered an adequate defence.
“You had to open your big mouth, didn’t you?” Erinos muttered as he drew his own saber. He was not going down without a fight.
Sashar and Timeros just inside the hangar bay, when that snap-hiss finally came. A cloaked figure stepped from between some piping in a shadowy corner of the vast area, holding a lightstaff.
“Arcona…” The voice wheezed. It was like running water.
The pair of commandoes didn’t bother with small-talk – they had a job to do. In unison, they slapped their right shoulders, and their packs dropped to the floor with a thud, leaving them able to move more freely. An ochre blade and a magenta blade shot out of the lightsabers the two produced as they squared off against the Palatinae Elder. She drew her hood back, revealing a scraggy mess of black hair, clinging to her pocked face in tangled locks. Her eyes possessed an unyielding hunger that spoke of one that had immersed themselves fully in the dark side... and come out not quite human.
Timeros and Sashar yanked off their helmets, sending them scuttling across the decking and, as one, they attacked.
“Suggestions?” Zandro asked Kieran.
“I dunno you’re the one with the shabla torch mate, sort ‘em out,” he replied firing another set of bolts at an unlucky trooper who peered round the corner.
They were stuck in the middle of a cargo room and had been in the process of rigging another one of Kieran’s distractions when the patrol had caught up with them and interrupted their work, much to the Mandalorian’s dismay. He heard the snap hiss of Lightsaber and looked over his shoulder to see Zandro taking up a guarding stance behind him.
Up the creak and without a paddle springs to mind here, three Jedi to our backs and a whole bunch of CSP wankers to our front, pinned, nicely bloody pinned, how the hell did I get myself into this mess! he almost screamed in his head, thumping the cargo container he was crouching behind with his fist.
“You’ve got to be joking,” he said aloud.
“I’ve been crouched behind a box full of frag grenades this entire time.”
“You have no idea but I’ve got one,” he grinned.
Jumping up he switched to grenade mode and took aim at the doorway where a cluster of CSP troops were laying down fire in an attempt to keep them pinned for their Jedi reinforcements to take care of the hard work. He fired two grenades in quick succession, maximising the spread in the hope to cause as much damage as possible. He had been hoping to save his last three grenades for a decent time and now appeared to be the opportune moment.
The explosions shook the room with a deafening roar; the silence that followed was only punctuated by the sharp screams of pain and the crackle of Lightsaber strikes as Zandro did his best to weave a defence from the onslaught he was facing.
Bollocks, gonna have to be quick, Zandro’s good but three’s too many for him.
“Sarge run, doorway now!” he screamed over the comlink.
He accompanied the order with an image in the force, roughly and hastily outlining his plan, receiving in response what could only be described as an enthusiastic ‘force nod’. Zandro span on his heel, dropped to the floor to role underneath a Lightsaber swing and came up to sprint past Kieran who was back peddling towards the doorway rifle raised.
The Mandalorian squeezed the trigger and his blaster began to belt out hot beams of light. He never intended for any of them to hit home, it was merely a distraction to slow their process and allow his Sergeant to get clear. The Jedi span their blades in an elegant dance, returning the bolts that threatened to cut them down whilst ignoring those that passed by harmlessly. The Mandalorian took a bolt to his thigh, his armour absorbing the blast, then his chest took a succession of two bolts; his armour struggling to repair itself. Kieran realised its self-repair function would no doubt now be depleted. Moving as quickly as he could whilst still trying to maintain a coordinated and constant rate of fire he passed the crate he had been using as cover. Eventually reaching where he judged to be a suitable distance from the crate he dropped to a knee leaving his Sergeant to lay down more volleying fire.
Kieran blinked at his weapon control on his HUD, switching to grenades he took a rough guess and squeezed the trigger. It sailed silently through the air amidst the criss-crossing torrent of blaster fire and landed exactly where he had hoped it would, on the crate full of fragmentation grenades.
The explosion ripped through the cargo room, shrapnel exploded outwards in a sphere, peppering everything that it came into contact with. Other, flimsier crates disintegrated under the rain of hot metal. Whilst a Lightsaber wielded by a Force user was able to deflect and avoid blaster bolts, the same was not true for shrapnel. The shards of metal ripped and tore their way through flesh and bone, spraying arterial blood and body parts around the room.
Kieran, thanks to his armour faired slightly better, although not by much. His helmet eventually regained its clarity and he was greeted by the sight of his Sergeant dragging his limp body back towards the doorway. His body was numb, but he could feel an icy grip in his chest, the spot where he had taken the two blaster wounds. Trying hard to keep his swimming vision steady (a side-effect from the concussive blast), he looked at his HUD's readout of his suit; a red dot flashed over his chest indicating a souvenir from the explosion.
Fierfek, not entirely what I had in mind.
Their styles were vastly different; Sashar’s was as little movement as possible – he planted himself in one position and let his arms move the saber around in a no-nonsense weave that the Elder couldn’t easily penetrate. Timeros initially held back, watching the interplay of the staff against the saber, then, with a burst of impossible speed, he attacked with his specialised Makashi duelling form.
She was ready for the Heragan, and immediately backed off, meeting his assault blow for blow with her own artful mastery of the Juyo staff form. Sashar held his position and watched the interplay. Soulfire had a policy drummed into them at the Mandalorian’s behest; “Don’t let them know you can fight in unison until you have to fight in unison.” Sashar was going to adhere to his own directive. Rigidly.
The interplay continued for around five minutes, Timeros and Sashar taking turns to wear down her defences. It was fairly even. None of the three combatants got the upper hand, and the Elder seemed unwilling to maximise on her advantage over the force, suggesting to the two commandoes that she was either unable to control the force that easily when faced with two adversaries, both of whom were skilled duellists with vastly different styles, or that she was holding back until later.
It was mid-way through an exchange between the Elder and Sashar when pain exploded in the back of the Mandalorian’s mind. He let out a shout and jammed his eyes shut, staggering away – however she hadn’t touched him either with the force or with her staff. Sashar was adept at forming force bonds with those he was close to, such as his apprentices either past or present. It was through this bond with his current apprentice, Kieran, that pain was coursing along, preventing Sashar from doing anything but writhe on the floor, his hands clawing at the armour on his torso, as if trying to dig something out of his chest. Timeros quickly moved in to cover his downed companion; glad that the Force Meld had shut down when Sashar’s higher functions ceased working. He’d felt a stab of pain transferred, and if that was just a splinter of what was going on in both of the Mandalorians right now; he didn’t envy them one bit.
Unfortunately, the Heragan alone couldn’t handle her. Timeros was overstretching himself, trying to protect Sashar’s prone form , but couldn’t defend one spot with his swift, flighty saber form; he was more suited to weaving slashes in and out of contact, so that nothing could hit him; not defending one spot resolutely. She was able to score a strike, a wicked slash across his leg which dropped him to the floor, his cold eyes glistening in silent rage. He wouldn’t scream for her.
There was a snap-hiss from behind, and Sashar’s ochre blade scythed through the air at her from his position on the floor. He was now in a crouch, his face drawn but not contorted in agony any more. He'd obviously shut down his link with Kieran for the moment. She flinched in surprise and batted his weapon away, letting it sail far over her shoulder towards one of the cargo lifts, then had to immediately bring her blade up in a high defence to repel the flurry of blaster bolts Sashar let loose from his DH-17 pistol. She batted several away at obtuse angles, and managed to deflect a fair number back at the Mandalorian. The bolts merely dug into his armour – he paid them no heed.
She wrenched the weapon from his grasp, crumpling it in the air before him before raising her hand up and letting loose an arc of force-lightning, but he was already in motion, diving over a small stack of cargo crates. There was a flicker of pseudo-motion behind her, and she turned around just in time to slash his pack in half as it hurtled in at her head. Sparks flew from the reinforced container as the electrical equipment contained within was obliterated, and fragments of the contents and the pack itself flew in all directions – most notably, a fragment with the LJ-50 conc rifle landed neatly in the Mandalorian’s hands.
He didn’t hesitate. In one liquid motion he brought the rifle around and squeezed the trigger. Knowing that her light-staff wouldn’t be able to take the blast, the CSP Elder leapt high and back, able to escape from the blast radius of the concussion rifle-
Only to land less than two feet from an armed class-B thermal detonator; a piece of unnoticed detritus from the pack. Even a Dark Side Adept couldn’t have escaped its explosion. She was atomised instantly, never even having a chance to scream. Once the blinding white light had faded, there was a perfectly circular indentation in the decking around 5 meters in diameter, and some assorted ash was still dropping to the floor – she was definitely out of the picture.
He defiantly bit his thumb at the faded explosion, and jogged back over to try and help his downed companion.
“Kieran? Kieran? Kieran!” Zandro was shouting, crouched over the Mandalorian’s form, studying his face and peeling back the fragmented edges of his chest plate to get a better look at the wound. A large spike of shrapnel protruded out of the man’s chest, blood was slowly pooling round the wound, soaking into the environmental suits they all wore beneath there armour. Zandro closed his hands around the metal spike, and was preparing to heave it out of his comrade’s chest when Kieran’s gauntlet closed, albeit weakly around his wrist.
“Leave it,” he spoke, his voice faint but still riddled with the hard, grim determination that made Kieran who he was, “it’s stopping the bleeding.”
“Fierfek Kieran, now I’ve got to bloody carry you,” Zandro said attempting to hide his concern.
“I can walk Sarge, just another day in the mixer eh?” he grinned trying to move, but fell back with a muffled groan.
“Where does it hurt?” he asked attempting to feel the wound through the force to judge the extensity of it.
“Right about where the metal things sticking out di’kut,” the Mandalorian replied.
Zandro grabbed the man’s arm and hauled him to his feet in one swift movement, his sense of the living force around him was screaming for them to move; someone was coming.
“We’ve gotta move mate,” Zandro explained to his protesting comrade.
“Sarge, there’s still a charge left in my pack, haul it out and set it up then toss my Proton Grenade in there too,” Kieran spoke quickly, drawing his breathes in gasps, clearly trying with all of his strength to stop from screaming.
Zandro propped the man against the wall and set to work quickly. The device would go off as soon as someone walked by it, hopefully vaporising their pursuers or at least giving them decent warning of where they were. He stood up, and grabbed Kieran roughly hauled him onto his shoulder then set off at a trot using the force to augment his strength. Kieran was doing his very best to stop from yelling in pain with every jolting step Zandro took.
Such a colourful language he has, he thought to himself; Kieran having gone through every profanity in his mother tongue and was now proceeding to explain the finer points of copulation with a demented Hutt’s mother.
“Couple more meters till the Prowler buddy then a nice hot bath and then I’ll get those two strippers you like from Selen, you know the ones…” Zandro was chatting quietly all the while reaching out with the force to attempt to staunch the bleeding and ease the pain. He could feel Kieran trying to do the same, but his limited knowledge was not helping much.
We need a medic … badly.
You’ve got to be joking, look at me, hauled round on Sarge’s shoulder, bollocks Kieran you’re a Mando. Sort it out, you should be able to take more of this, you’re a Guardian and you’re a son of Kodiak.
Kieran was reprimanding himself mentally. He always felt a burden when he got hit, others risking their lives unnecessarily to get him out either because of his stupid mistakes or because they had been unlucky as it was in this case. He’d made a choice and he knew it, either save them both and risk his life or watch Zandro get cut to pieces; it wasn’t a difficult one.
You’re a member of Arcona’s best Kier, but you know for a fact that what he’s doing is just the same as what you did back there. He’s risking his skin just as you did the same, brothers, that’s what we are.
Kieran had great pride in his heritage, he lived his life as a Mandalorian first and a Jedi second. Upon joining the Brotherhood his desire had not been to become the ‘greatest Jedi ever’; a plight which he regarded as selfish. He had come to better himself, to better himself as a soldier and in the process he had become a member of a family, and families always stuck together.
“Vore ner vode.”
Zandro was making swift progress towards the hangar, his human cargo still shining like a beacon through the force despite his obvious pain and discomfort.
Nearly done Kieran, just hold on a little longer.
Zandro ran onwards, his legs burning with the strain but with the force flowing through him and providing the energy he needed to carry on. His boots crashed into the floor in rhythm as he ran with the weight on his back reminding him that time was of the essence. He tried to reach out for Sashar, but the feeling of battle filled his mind and so he stopped trying to reach his old master through the force, instead turning his attention to his lost member. He rounded the next corner and headed down the last long corridor as he reached out for Selene, trying to see how she was. He got feelings of concern for the state of the team as well as her usual determination, but nothing to indicate that she was badly injured, or injured that much at all. Worry fled his mind and relief filled it’s place, a relief that was further intensified as he opened the door at the end of the corridor he had been running down to see the Dream Prowler.
“Lower the ramp Kieran, we need to get gone quickly.”
As the ramp lowered, Zandro headed over and lay his trooper down. He heard a sound behind him and turned to see a single Palatinae member standing in the hangar, lightsaber drawn but dormant in his hand as he watched the Soulfirians. Zandro let a feral grin spread across his face beneath his helmet as he realised that finally he would get to face a challenge worthy of him.
“Get on the ship, get it prepped for launch and sort your wound out as best you can. Time for me to release some anger on that poor sod over there.”
As Kieran made his way into the ship to carry out his Sergeant’s newest orders, Zandro turned towards his new opponent and stood in one swift movement, plucking his lightsaber from his hand but leaving it un-ignited for the moment. He walked in measured steps towards the Jedi, coming to a halt five or so steps from the other man.
He seems pretty muscular, so I’m guessing he relies on strength more than speed. His funeral.
“So, you are the intruder we’ve been chasing? Impressive that you’ve got this far, but you won’t be going further.”
“I’m only one of them, and excuse me if I don’t break down weeping. I don’t think some snivelling little wannabe will be stopping me making my grand exit, sorry to burst your bubble.”
The other man let a snarl flash across his face as he brought his lightsaber up and ignited it, the green blade plunging out from the hilt as he slashed at Zandro, who had already brought his own lightsaber around and ignited it, it’s violet blade parrying the strike. The power of his opponent’s strike nearly pushed the Arconan off-balance, but he pushed back on his blade and began moving into the offensive, his strikes raining down on his opponent as he tried to find a weakness in his enemies guard. Slowly he was wearing his opponent down, his violet blade never stopping as it fluidly slashed and parried with the speed and ferocity of a serpent.
He’s good, but not fast enough. He’ll break soon.
Zandro parried another of his opponent’s strikes and leapt high into the air, somersaulting over his adversary and slashing down as he passed overhead, only for his blade to be blocked once more by the green blade of his enemy. As he landed, his swept his left leg out into a kick that connected with his opponent’s ankles and sent him falling to the floor, his legs no longer beneath him. Zandro rose and stabbed out with his lightsaber in one movement, his purple blade stabbing into his opponent’s shoulder and the tip protruding from the other side of his body. His scream tore through the air and Zandro plucked his lightsaber free before stabbing again, this time making a neat hole in the man’s breastbone, killing him with one blow. Deactivating the lightsaber, Zandro clipped it to his belt as he ran back over to the Prowler, heading up the ramp and closing it behind him as he headed for the cockpit. He sat down next to his Mandalorian comrade and looked over at him as he strapped in, a concerned expression being hidden by his helmet.
“You feeling better?”
“Yeah, the medpack was useful. Time to launch, get us going Sarge.”
“You man the weapons, anything gets close and I want it dead.”
Kieran grinned and pulled off his helmet, the cooler air of the cockpit washing over him as he momentarily closed his eyes.
“By the way, nice work with that Scholae scum.”
“What can I say, I didn’t get this job just for being pretty.”
Zandro plucked his own helmet off and tossed it back to the spare seat before using the ships repulsorlifts and bring the ship up and around to face out of the hangar.
“Make us an exit.”
Kieran pressed down on the trigger and sent red bolts firing from the ships laser cannons, blasting a hole in the hangar door and causing any loose items in the hangar to get sucked out into vacuum as the magcon field failed. Disregarding the impact on the ships hull of several small items including the now dead Palatinae Jedi, Zandro goosed the throttle and sent the Prowler shooting from the hangar before steering the ship around toward the hangar of the nearby Star Destroyer.
“Let’s go pick up our boys. Be ready, we may have a welcoming party in that hangar.”
Bringing the ship around and into the hangar, Zandro felt a pang of danger sense just as he felt numerous impacts as the ship suddenly fell, the repulsorlifts apparently damaged badly as the craft crashed down to the floor of the hangar. He looked over at the damage board, and the sheer amount of red was extremely disconcerting to the Soulfirian. He cursed and looked over at Kieran, who had a look on his face that could have melted a planet.
“Oh, they picked the wrong day to mess with us. Get your gun, this just got much more personal.”
A grin was plastered on the Obelisk's face as his repeater spat out red death down the corridors of the Palatine ship. He could feel a sudden spike of anger somewhere behind him in the Force, one that almost threw him off for a moment before recognizing Kieran's life force. Somebody had done something stupid, and the Mandalorian was probably going to inflict pain on them, and Koskian wished for a moment he could watch. Distracted, he caught a bolt on his shoulder, scorching the paint and leaving a small pit on the hard surface. Selene picked off the shooter, a clean shot through his skull as she kept one eye closed under her dark helmet.
The two Arconans ran down the corridor, coming to a set of blast doors that refused to give when the controls were used. Letting his E-web hang on the shoulder strap, Kosk pulled his lightsaber out and plunged the molten blade into the doors. Selene scanned the area behind them, rifle held in a ready position as Koskian worked his way through the door's locking mechanism. Hissing open, a barrage of blaster fire came flying towards the pair of d'Tana warriors, Koskian's saber working in fast circles to deflect the fire, Selene's KX-80 spatting silenced death out, picking off blaster toting engineers and the occasional soldier.
Koskian glanced over at a group of half a dozen engineers, armed with pistols and terror in their eyes, and simply waved his hand to send them flying with the Force. Screaming in surprise as they fell off the catwalk they had been situated on, Koskian could hear the screams fade as they fell down the reactor shaft. Blaster fire tapered off as the technicians in the room fled, and the final troopers were taken down. Reaching out, the Primarch noted they were clear of living enemies for the moment, and dropped his repeater to the floor, and holstered his lightsaber.
Selene gave him an odd look as he wandered around the room slowly, pulling several bricks of nergon-14 out of his pack and meshing them together. He stopped in front of a power conduit, smiled as he opened the maintenance entry and began pushing wries out of the way. Digging deep, the Obelisk shoved the explosive materials in, and pulled a small multitool from his pack and went to work, redirecting wires from the conduit into a remote detonator.
“What are you doing?”
“Simple...when they power up the engines, the flow will set off the detonator. Theres enough nergon-14 here to blow out a good chunk of their engineering area of the ship. We should be long gone by the time they start moving anyways.”
Mouth open in surprise, the Priestess watched Koskian push the wires back into place, covering his tracks as he closed the unit back up and retrieved his repeater. A sense of urgency was pressuring the Obelisk suddenly, and he couldn't figure out why. Reaching out, he felt a rush of life between he and Selene and the hangar bay, squads of soldiers running towards the docking area. Kosk cursed, turning to his stoic and oddly quiet cousin.
“We might have to fight our way through to get back to the Fire...”
Selene cocked her head to the side, giving him an odd look under her helmet.
Koskian licked his lips nervously, took a step back from the Krath, and nodded, turning back to the corridor that they had already littered with bodies once.
The remnants of Clan Scholae Palatinae’s forces swarmed into the hangar like insects. There were countless numbers of them, coming in from every entrance the Hangar had. Sashar called the lightsaber back to him and prepared to die fighting. However, at that moment there was the sound of engines powering through a mag-con field, and the Mandalorian looked over his shoulder to see the Dream Prowler blast into the Hangar. In the space of six seconds, his heart leapt and sank. The sight of his brothers lifted his spirits – he knew he could make it out – then when the six ‘chips’ – missiles launched from PLX-2m missile launchers, smashed into the underside of the utilitarian ship, demolishing the repulsor-lift engines, Sashar knew he’d die on the decking of the Excidium.
The Dream Prowler crashed down on the other side of the Hangar, barrelling through several stacks of cargo crates and Palatinae troopers before coming to a rest with her landing ramp orientated towards the Mandalorian and the Heragan, barely ten meters away. Sashar didn’t waste any time; he helped up Timeros, and, with his lightsaber held in one hand, pulsed the force through his body and ran for the ship. He felt Timeros’s pain more than hear it when a blaster bolt caught him in the shoulder, and felt sharp spikes of heat from several blaster bolts digging into his back, burning through the armour and fusing into his sin – however the Laminanium did it’s just and took the brunt of the assault.
He arrived at the boarding ramp just in time to see Zandro jog down, lightsaber in hand. The Sergeant deflected a few bolts back, and then ducked as Kieran’s knelt form let loose a series of blaster bolts from his E-15A. Timeros joined him at the base of the ramp, stabbing another blaster pack into his X-45 and taking aim. Sashar and Savric stood shoulder to shoulder, their blades weaving the best defensive pattern they could manage to stop attacks from such a wide variety of angles.
“We’re not going to win this, vode.” Sashar said to his companions, knowing full-well that each of them was thinking the same thing.
“We’re not out of the fight yet, Sashar. Meld us up, and let’s hold out as long as we can.”
He had an ace up his sleeve. Sashar knew him well enough to recognise that tone in his voice, even over the distortion of the com-links. Zandro had one move left to play.
There was a whine of a high=powered blaster in the background, and the Mandalorian braced himself for that inevitable burning that came from being fired at with an anti-personnel cannon, but he belatedly realised that the sound was coming from the rear of the hangar.
Why would they set an E-web up back there? They’d have to shoot through their own men…unless…
He grinned, despite himself. Reaching out with the force, he enveloped the minds of Koskian and Selene into the battle meld, and welcomed them enthusiastically to the battle. They returned the feeling, and as one, Soulfire fought back with renewed energy. The commandoes and the Proconsul could just about manage to survive the next few minutes.
Koskian stood and opened fire. He was not standing to provide himself with a more supportive firing pattern; his suit’s unique abilities took care of any jolting recoil the weapon produced. He was standing to marvel at the carnage that would ensue from firing an anti-personnel cannon at unsuspecting soldiers. The rounds of light pulsed out, searing through flesh and bone and vaporizing bodily fluids in the blink of an eye. Screams of panic and terror erupted as the previously organised troops broke and ran. He spat hot light at them for another thirty seconds before braking into a jog. A volley of grenade rounds were launched by Kieran and Zandro, they sailed high arching over the field of dead bodies before landing behind the crates several of the soldiers had taken refuge behind. Bodies and limbs arched through the air silhouetted on a background of rolling fire.
“Roll it up and break it down Soulfire, let’s bug out,” Zandro’s voice came over the comlink.
There were still a dozen soldiers left putting up random and sporadic blaster fire, the bolts either missing their targets or being deflected by the Lightsaber wielding Jedi.
“One problem, the Prowler is not gonna go up and we don’t really have time to fix it,” Kieran came in.
“Fierfek!” Zandros swore.
“It’s only the Repulsor drives so she’ll fly fine.”
“What do you reckon?”
“Lift her with the Force.”
“It is possible,” Sashar came in.
“Do it, Soulfire load up!” Zandro ordered and the team immediately broke into action.
Kieran sent the last few of his grenades sailing over the hangar to explode behind the soldiers. Sashar and Savric widened their arc and began to pace slowly backwards whilst the remaining group began to edge their way up the boarding ramp. Kieran and Timeros continued to lay down a torrent of blaster fire, allowing Koskian to pace his way towards his ship. His E-Web producing a continuous stream of fire melting chunks out of the hangar wall and floor. He paused for a moment as the boarding ramp descended the disappeared into the darkness of the ship.
Kieran was standing at the top of the ascending ramp, his finger tight on the trigger as he drained another power pack dry, the rest of the team where jumping to the various turrets and Sashar had run to cockpit. The ship began to power up, and through the battle meld Sashar indicated it was time.
Guess this is it. It’s now or never.
It began as a tingling in his skin, Zandro calling as much force energy to himself as he could muster, the energy playing like fire through his veins as his very skin crackled with the power.
I’m not built to channel energy, as little as this is we need to do it now.
Zandro pushed all of the force energy he had into the meld, where it was taken and used to hurl the Prowler off the deck of the hangar and out towards the darkness of space. The sheer power of the force throw sent the occupants of the ship tumbling as the ship swept out through the hangar’s atmosphere and into the cold vacuum of space. Zandro felt physically and mentally drained as he slumped into the seat, barely managing to strap himself in as Sashar got the ship under control and brought it around towards it’s outbound vector. As Zandro sat there, the enjoyment that he felt at a mission fully accomplished was interrupted by a call from their tech specialist.
“We have hostiles. Timeros and Zandro, get to the guns.”
Zandro unbuckled his straps once more and dashed over to one of the gun stations, strapping himself in once more and swinging the gun around and experimentally firing a few shots.
“Hostiles coming in on the port side. Looks like some on starboard too, so be ready.”
My side of the ship, time to rumble.
Letting what little force energy that remained in his body guide his actions, the sergeant brought his turret around and fired, the linked blast converging on a TIE fighter’s wing and sending it careening into it’s wingman.
“2 down on port side.”
“I have 2 kills too Sarge, we are clear. Get us gone now Sash.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, your wish is my command. Say goodbye to that Vic for the time being.”
Zandro let out a sigh of relief, as the starscape outside of his turret turned into the swirling mass of colours that was hyperspace.
“Soulfire, you do me proud once more. Good thing for Arcona that they have us, or they would be up a well-known creek without a paddle. Aliit ori’shya tal’din! I am proud to call you my family.”
As little Mandalorian as most of the team knew, that was one quote which was nearly burned into their very being, simply by being an active member of Soulfire.
Aliit ori’shya tal’din…Family is more than a bloodline. How true that is with us.
Sitting in the cockpit of the Galerian Fire, Koskian stared out at the asteroid station and it's charge, the Excidum. Glancing at the blaze of laser blasts that was the Prowler, he watched it vanish into hyperspace, and caught a small blip on his communications screen of a message being beamed from the transport to the base. The entire left side of the base exploded as charges went off all along it's fueling tanks, incinerating most of the base and sending debris flying into the Victory Destroyer. Whistling at Kieran's handiwork, Koskian turned the Fire about, and made for hyperspace himself.
Koskian walked slowly down the halls of the Dark Citadel of Selen, matching his Consul's pace. The Entar had been mostly silent since his arrival, and Koskian knew the Krath was displeased. Finally he broke his silence.
“I am...disappointed, Koskian, in your attempt on Kunar's life. I expected more from you.”
“Bloody...Strategos, he knew I was there, he even toyed with me. Did my thermal not do anything?”
“Publicily, he's fine, spies tell me you did slow his recovery though. I suppose that is the best I could hope from a d'Tana.'
“You have something to add, Primarch?”
“I almost killed Selene. All for the mission you sent one me. Don't tell me this was a failure due to my lack of commitment, don't even think that for a moment Krath.”
Turning on his heel, Koskian walked away. He knew that his mission had been a failure as soon as he stuck a blade through his cousin's chest. And he knew he wasn't going to be able to forgive himself for it for a long time. One consolation was the thought of what was going to happen when the Scholae Palatine forces tried to repair their precious Destroyer.
“Shields online, fire control online, all systems running at least fifty percent sir!” reported an Ensign.
The Captain nodded, knowing that this was the best he could hope for with the amount of damage they had suffered. They weren't going to be able to join the fleet's attack on the Dajorra system in this condition, but they could move to Judecca for repairs and do what they could to guard the planet should any counter attack come.
“Cycle the engines, Lieutenant, lets get underway.”
Deep in the engineering area, a fuse fired, a capacitor charged, and a flow of current went racing down through a power coupling into an inconspicuous power station. A small, foreign object, no bigger then a man's fist suddenly came to life from the charge, the remote doing it's final task, and detonating the nergon-14 it was wired to.
“What in the Maw was THAT!?” screamed the Captain, regaining his feet after being blown to the deck from the rocking of an explosion.
“Engines non responsive sir! Were...not getting a response from Engineering either.”
“Comb the ship, use detector droids even, I want every inch of this vessel searched for more sabotage. Inform Lord Kunar that we will be...late.”
Selene glared at the Obelisk who had walked into the Galeres base mess hall. He noted this look, and still walked over to her, sitting across from the still bruised looking Priestess.
“I know your not going to forgive me. I'm not even able to forgive myself for this...but your my family, your my Classmate, and your one of the most important people to me in this galaxy, and I am sorry that I hurt you.”
With that, he stood, and walked away, leaving a package on the table. Sighing, the Krath opened it and felt her lips begin to tug towards a grin as she found the bottle of Eriatu rum. She shook her head as she closed the box and put it in her robes, and left the mess hall.
“Well brother, glad to see they patched the hole in your chest.”*
“Hah...your just mad you weren't there to shoot the guy who did it.”*
“As I understand you did it yourself.”*
Kieran grinned at Sashar as he stated the facts, and laid back in his bed, eyes closed as he recuperated. Timeros sat in the corner and grinned as he watched those he had come to think of as brothers himself.
“Excellent job, Seargent Erinos. The attack on the Exicdum was well done, and quite successful.”
“Uhh, wouldn't have ended so well if you and Selene hadn't shown up Lord d'Tana.”
“Perhaps, but you found useful information and acted on it, not thinking about the glory, but thinking about the Clan. I look forward to watching your career, Zandro.”
Koskian nodded absently, and left the briefing room.
The End, eh?
(Note: * is translated from Mando'a, because I really, REALLY don't feel like trying to find all that stuff and translating it. I'm not one of those guys who likes to learn klingon or elvish, sorry Kieran