Nighthawk RO - Strange and Beautiful
Estle City, Lower Ring
Teroch stared out of the viewport of the abandoned warehouse, its office now acting as his apartment, down at the bustling night streets. The Entertainment quarter was loud and almost never slept. 0200 local time was no exception. A horde of off duty military officials staggered and mingled with their civilian counterparts, all intoxicated, whilst local militiamen tried in vain to control the fights that got too out of hand.
Nobody in the upper rings liked to publicly acknowledge just how much damage off-duty soldiers could actually do when drunk and desperately trying to forget the memories they’d garnered on their latest tours, but they also knew that Arcona’s finest deserved a break. Teroch leant on the window’s ledge, a cigarette in one hand, bottle of whisky in the other. The breeze rolled over him, carrying with it the sounds of chaos. It was like watching a very well-organised riot. Behind him, his comlink started chirping, demanding attention. Sighing, the youth took another swig from the bottle and moved over to the desk, activating the comlink and slumping into the high-backed chair simultaneously.
“Captain Eri- ah, is this a bad time?” The Consul’s attaché floated to life before him, taken aback by his lack of attire and sloppy, drunken grin.
“Probably. What does he want?”
“I could’ve told you that.”
“As I was saying, he wants you to report to the Citadel immediately. The Director has finished going over your report from the Hapes expedition, and has some questions.”
Teroch growled and rubbed his fists into his eyes.
“Have a pill, sober up, put some clothes on and get up here. It won’t be that bad.” She said in a motherly voice, her heart obviously going out to the delinquent youth.
Sighing he nodded and absently scratched at his chest, his hand brushing against the necklace he always wore. “I’ll be up in a bit.”
Dusk Station, Berth 12
“No, I don’t care what your schedule looks like. The Captain put in this docket nearly a week ago. The repairs should be done by now, and the modifications won’t take long. It’s a frakking furniture change in one room, and adding a small room to the hangar. This is not rocket science.”
“Actually, ma’am, it is rocket science. We’re literally working on a space-going vessel which, whilst not utilising rocket fuel, is where the etymological beginning of the idiom comes fro-OW!”
The engineer was cut off as Arcia Cortel smacked him upside the head, then grabbed his chin, pulling the beleaguered man’s face close to hers.
“Listen close, you snarky little vrelt. This ship is your top priority. I don’t care if you have those men working triple shifts. The Captain wanted the ship to go inside 5 days. It’s been 6. Have it ready in the next eighteen hours or I’ll find out where you live and kill you in your sleep. Am I being fairly clear?”
The engineer managed a squeak of acquiescence, and he was released. She watched him run off back into the ship, sweat darkening parts of his uniform, and allowed herself a wolfish smile before fishing her comlink from her pocket.
“Cortel to Captain Erinos.”
She waited a few seconds, then a few more, before Teroch picked up. He sounded like he was in a nightclub.
“Yeah?” he sounded distracted, too.
Rolling her eyes, Arcia pressed on. “Captain, the ship will be ready inside a day. I’ll stay here and breathe down their necks until they’re finished.”
“Good work. Send someone down to the surface to pick up that list of stuff I gave you. I’ll give you a shout in a bit. I’ve got a meeting with the Director and the Consul.”
Arcia winced. She was fast beginning to understand that Teroch didn’t exactly get along with Timeros, the Director of the Dajorra Intelligence Agency. Better him than her, though. At least he could hold his own in a fight against Arcona’s Justice.
She cracked her knuckles and proceeded onto the Nighthawk, brooding for a fight with the workshy techs.
AGV Nighthawk, Deck 3, Port Observation Lounge
“Call.” Kalon said, grinning wolfishly.
Sighing, Uji placed down a very weak hand of Sabacc, only totalling minus seven.
“Bluffing? I knew it.” The pilot taunted, moving to grab the hand pot’s worth of cred chips.
They sat around a sabacc table which had only just that day been installed on Teroch’s insistence. It was beautifully done, and tucked away behind a photosensitive glass wall and door, so others couldn’t stare in if the players didn’t want to. The five occupants had varying beverages placed in front of them, and no less than three were smoking. Celahir and Maaks, the dealer, both had cigarettes, and Naradas a cigar.
“Actually, I knew it, which is why you won’t let me play.” Maaks quipped, stopping his hand.
“Miralukas are sabacc cheats. You can see the cards. It’s an unfair advantage.” Celahir observed, briefly looking up from his datapad.
“Idiot’s array.” He added, as if he’d forgotten that he had the winning hand.
Everyone about the table groaned whilst Celahir pretended to ignore them, and tapped away at his pad, barely concealing a superior smirk.
Citadel, Upper Prominence,
Teroch sat down on one side of the conversation circle, ignoring the spectacular view of the distant mountains surrounding Estle and the late night, star filled sky, his eyes focused on the Consul. Both their cythraul flanked the door, one a black shadow with lambent-like eyes, the other a pale breeze which shifted occasionally, trying to get comfortable. In one corner of the room stood Captain Bly, the Consul’s Captain of the Guard. Outside, another two guardsmen would be stood, and outside on the balcony, another three guards.
“She’s looking well.” Teroch said after a prolonged silence.
Marick Arconae glanced over at his cythraul and nodded, the ghost of a smile touching his lips. “She is. I take it Kote has recovered.”
Teroch nodded. Marick already knew the answer.
Timeros entered unannounced. His eyes darted through a checklist of possible ambush locations. He glanced at the corners, the furniture, even the ceiling, before offering a brief perfunctory bow to his Consul. Teroch was ignored.
“My Lord Consul, are we ready to begin?”
Marick nodded and leaned back, watching Teroch carefully.
“Your ship exceeded expectations. The crew performed admirably under duress, considering they hadn’t worked together previously, however, our concern is for your management of the ship. We had hoped that giving you such a responsibility would...encourage you to mature into the role, however, this is clearly not the case. You were reckless, you flaunted discipline, and your crew followed your lead. It can only spell disaster in the long term. Arcona has poured significant resources into the ship, and we do not want to see it wasted.”
Teroch took it all without commenting, though the Hapan did notice Teroch’s knuckles whiten as he tightened his grip on the cushion he leant on.
“That said, we have not given up on you completely. Not yet. You are being sent on a shakedown tour of the Unknown Regions, to ascertain whether or not there are any significant threats to both Arcona and the larger galaxy still hidden in there. You are not to engage such threats, should there be any, merely report back. During this time, you will train with your crew, improve discipline, and hopefully grow up enough to be trusted with the ship.”
Teroch’s eyes flashed, but he still kept his mouth shut.
“To ensure you can train your crew properly, I am assigning an...advisor, to ensure you train them adequately.”
Marick glanced over at Captain Bly, who nodded and spoke quietly into his wrist-mounted comlink. A second later, the doors opened and House Qel-Droma’s Aedile stepped in, his back ramrod straight, his face a mask of professionalism.
“Nikola here had exemplary results in improving the Shadow’s efficiency during the Hapan Incident. We believe he can meet with similar results on the Nighthawk. He will act as your advisor, ensure the Consul’s will is carried out, and hopefully by the time you return, you’ll all be up to scratch.” Marick concluded, waiting for the inevitable explosion.
For a long time, Teroch said nothing. He simply stared at Timeros, contempt curling his mouth into a sneer. “This is osik. I am not having some mir’osik’la di’kut’la hu’tuun-”
“You will do as you are ordered, Captain.” Nikola interjected, his mouth working to almost over-pronounce each syllable.
“Usenye! I will not have some wet-behind-the-ears chakaar steal my ship from me-”
Timeros walked over to Teroch swiftly, picked him up by his shirt, and chucked him none-too-gently at the wall.
Teroch somehow got his feet under him before impacting and in a second his lightsaber was out and lit, Timeros’ only a pico-second behind. They both moved to cross blades as the Cythraul jumped up, their hackles raised. Each of the guardsmen had their weapons out and took at aim at Teroch whilst Bly moved to place himself between Marick and the Hapan-
“Check!” Marick barked, his Force-augmented voice filling the room.
Teroch stopped mid swing, ducked under Tim’s horizontal slash and stayed low on one knee, his head bowed, both hands pressed to the floor in submission, his lightsaber, now un-lit, still in one hand.
Timeros backed up a pace, but still kept his blade lit and ready.
“Teroch, this is exactly what we’re talking about. If you can’t control your emotions, you can’t make objective decisions. You threw yourself into a fight you couldn’t possibly win for no reason other than pride. This has to stop. Go to the Unknown Regions, take Nikola with you, and grow a brain stem before you come back. That’s an order.” Marick intoned, sounding exasperated.
Teroch rose slowly, ignoring Timeros. “As you command, My Lord.” the youth managed eventually, looking like the words physically pained him.
He clipped his lightsaber to his belt, then proceeded out without another word.
“Let him have some space to cool down. Make your own way to Dusk Station.” Marick said to Valtiere after Teroch had left.
When they were alone, Timeros de-activated his own blade and looked at the Consul frankly.
“He knows this is just a way to get rid of him, so he can’t sow so much unrest. He’s also not stupid enough to start a fight over nothing. This was a calculated probe. He wasn’t watching me; he was watching you.” The Entar observed.
Marick nodded. “I noticed that too. I think he’s trying to see if he can strain loyalties again. Why does he constantly have to keep pushing things?”
“Perhaps he’s just a mad dog who doesn’t know what he wants, other than conflict?”
“If he is, then he’s lost to us. He’s fast using up his chances. He’s Sashar’s son, and probably one of the closest things I have to a kid brother, but I can’t have him hurt the Clan.”
“When that day comes, I’ll deal with him. No need for you to.”
“If, Timeros. If that day comes.”
Arcona’s Justice said nothing.
Citadel, Hangar bay
Teroch stormed into the hangar, his mood grim. Kote ambled by alongside, and the personnel gave them a wide berth. He thumbed on his comlink.
“Arcia, cancel all shore leave and have the crew report to the ship. I want us good to go in two hours.”
“We’re still undergoing-”
“I don’t care. Get them to finish up and have the ship ready by the time I get there. I’m sick of this planet.”
“Yes, Captain.” She said quietly.
He instantly regretted snapping, but there was nothing to do about it now. He just wanted to get as far away from the machinations and looming gazes of Arcona’s summit as possible.
Right then folks, this is going to be a nice, leisurely RO during which time we'll have adventures, develop characters, and crank this shit up to 11! So, contrary to the Sojourn RO, we will have no maximum word count, however minimum is 250 words. That said, you should all be writing at the very least 500 words per post. Your prompt for now is to assemble on the Nighthawk. If you want to touch on what your characters did in their free time since the conclusion of Sojourn, go ahead, but we'll be getting underway in short order. Oh, and have fun!
Nath rolled over on the bed, her comm bleeped obnoxiously at the other end of the room demanding her attention. Reluctantly the tall Iridonian crawled from the warmth of the sheets and plucked the device from the table muting a sigh when she activated the damnable machine.
"Yes?" Her voice did nothing to belay her ire at the disturbance.
"You're needed back on Nighthawk." Arcia was brisk, her tone told Nath it was business as usual and the pale female couldn't help but admire that quality in the ex-Imperial. Her black eyes drifted to the digital display of the clock, checking the time as she weighed up her response.
"... I'll be there in a few hours." Nath had allowed the silence to stretch a little longer than had been comfortable, idly the Iridonian wondered if Arcia could tell she had woken her up. Before the Human could say anything else the Zabrak cut off the comm and allowed it to clatter back onto the table.
Behind her she heard the bedsheets shift as the other occupant sat upright. Finally Nath allowed the sigh to pass from her lips, she did not really wish to leave yet, it seemed far too soon.
"Seems I have to go back." Her voice finally broke the silence as she spoke in her native tongue, she hadn't looked at him yet, needing a moment to gather herself before saying her goodbyes.
"Duty before personal wishes." His response was predicted before he spoke. She knew he was gently reminding her but sometimes Nath wanted to be selfish.
"I know." Languidly her fingers traced over the hidden lines tattooed to her scalp thoughtfully. "I will see you in three months." She hadn't heard him move but felt the slight heat as he stood beside her.
"Keep safe." The words elicited a smile from her as her head rested carefully on his shoulder.
"I always am."
Two bags slung over her shoulder she made her way across the Nighthawk's hangar. She eyed the new room curiously and couldn't help but divert towards it ignoring the crew of workers that seemed to be dashing around busily avoiding Arcia who lurked close by.
After a cursory glance which told her nothing she made her way towards the turbo-lift hoping to discard the luggage she carried before having to be mildly sociable. The Iridonian female became very aware of the sounds around her, especially the ones she was making herself, the lift seemed far too slow for her liking but she patiently awaited for it to descend in silence.
The sound of Thorzan’s body slamming against the training mat echoed throughout the room, the short grunt that followed a result from him being winded. Anduriel watched as his opponent picked himself up from the ground, falling back into a crude version of the Hapan combat style.
Between the two Journeymen, standing besides the mat was Kalon, dressed in his armour’s utility suit which he used during sparring sessions.
“Not bad, ner’vod.” Said the Templar, his crimson eyes observing the two Arconans with absolute concentration. “But you failed to keep the weight in your legs spread out evenly, hence the reason why Anduriel was able to knock you down.”
“Whatever you say, Kalon.” Replied Thorzan, lashing out at the waiting Galerian with surprising speed. However, it was not fast enough to catch Anduriel unaware.
The Dark Jedi Knight pushed the Guardian’s fists up with his wrists, leaving his stomach exposed. Thorzan instantly retracted from his attack as he was kneed in abdomen, the devastating attack taking him to the ground once again. From past experiences, Kalon knew that his younger brother was the one of the more stubborn warriors in his family and as a result, he had resolved to teach him on a more physical level than he had with his former student.
“Useless.” He muttered, stalking on to the mat. He forcefully grabbed Thorzan by the collar and threw him to the side where he sulked, watching his Master settle into the same stance he had been attempting to use earlier. “This is how you are expected to fight, Thorzan.”
After a second of hesitation in which the Mandalorian analysed his opponent’s stance, he lunged forward. His extended fist made contact with Anduriel’s chest before the he could react to the attack, the raw power used in the punch causing the Knight to stagger off of the mat.
With a smirk on his lips, Kalon looked back towards his student.
“See what I mean?”
Thorzan grumbled a slur of words to himself in response, the Templar taking it as a form of submission to his example.
Before he could say anything else, Kalon’s comm unit on his wrist went off, flashing and beeping continuously before the Mandalorian decided to answer it.
“What?!” He demanded, slightly annoyed at the interruption of his lesson.
“Report back to the Nighthawk.” Replied Arcia in her usual cold tone, ignoring the aggression in Kalon’s words.
Sighing, Kalon looked over towards Thorzan and Anduriel. The pair had begun sparring again and he noticed that his student had taken his advice and was holding his own against the Dark Jedi Knight, if only for a few seconds longer than before.
“Sure, sure.” Kalon said, ending the call on his comm device. Both of the sparring Arconans had heard the conversation and had finished their fight, watching the Templar look back up at them. “It seems I’m being called back. I’ll catch you both in a few months.”
“Alright. Good luck.” Said Anduriel, a smirk on his lips.
“Yeah, have a blast.” Echoed Thorzan, watching as his brother nodded and turned towards the door, disappearing through it a few seconds later.
Exhaling a cloud of cigar smoke that hung in the air like a thick cloud, Naradas leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees as he stared intently at the game board in front of him. His eyes flicked from one holographic piece to another, noting potential moves and counter-moves of each pawn before dismissing them from his thoughts. Finally he selected a piece and made his choice. The holographic monster piece stomped across a third of the way across the board before crushing the piece that occupied the area, claiming the spot for its own.
“Your move, beast.” Naradas said with a slight smirk as he leaned back into his chair, the cigar now clamped between his lips.
The shimmering Barabel that sat in front of him on the other side of the gaming table gave him an annoyed look before hunching over to examine the board, his ghostly talons tracing the paths of various pieces as Naradas looked down in amusement. Just then, Naradas' comlink gave a beep, indicating an incoming call. Naradas' eyebrows rose slightly as he noted the time on the chronometer. Funny. Leave shouldn't be over yet. He thought idly before thumbing the comlink on, accepting the call.
“This is Naradas.” He said as he continued to watch the Barabel calculate his potential strategies.
“Chief, this is Commander Cortel.” The communicator crackled with the female's voice. “Leave has been rescinded, effective immediately. You're ordered to report back to the Nighthawk ASAP.”
“Understood, Commander.” Naradas paused a second. “Anything you can say over the comm or are we being briefed in person once we arrive at the Nighthawk?”
“Briefing once everyone's assembled at the Nighthawk and the Captain's calmed down.” Even across the communicator, Naradas could tell from the tone that the Executive Officer was grimacing.
“Understood. I should be there within the hour. Anything else?”
“That will be all.” The comlink beeped slightly, indicating that the call had been disconnected.
“Here. To Here.” The Barabel's guttural voice cut through the sudden silence and Naradas blinked before looking at the game board.
Making the wanted move, Naradas' frown deepened as he watched the selected pawn carve a path of holographic destruction through half of his pieces before settling on a key position. His brown eyes flicked up to meet the Barabel's own glowing violet eyes. “Well played, beast. But we'll have to continue this later.”
“Yez, ordered back to the Nighthawk like an obedient dog.” The Barabel's lips curled up into a mocking grin.
“You would have done the same, beast.” Naradas replied coolly as he saved the game and shut down the board. “We'll continue this aboard the Nighthawk.”
The Barabel glowered at the human in silence before fading away into nothingness, leaving Naradas alone. Finally. Naradas thought to himself as he stubbed out his cigar and rose to his feet, twisting his neck to crack it and loosen up the stiffened muscles. Just enough time to take a shower before reporting.
* * *
Just as the turbolift door was about to slide shut, Naradas' hand quickly darted between it and forced it to slide open. Sighing slightly in relief at not having to wait for the next lift, he stepped inside and pressed the button for the command center. Glancing to the side, Naradas paused slightly before nodding in acknowledgment of the Iridonian female.
“Nath.” Naradas greeted, his tone civil. “How are you?”
Three Days Earlier...
With full force, her leg snapped into the base of its neck, a sickening 'crack' resounding. Without hesitation, she quickly retracted her leg and sent a flurry of jabs into the body, each blow softening the target. With a final show of force, she spun to her right and landed a solid kick to the side of its face, causing the neck to break and a buzzer to blare through the air.
Breathing deeply, Arcia hunched over after her training session with the dummy, sweat dripping onto the floor. This was a usual routine for her since she discovered the sparring grounds for the military. She needed to keep herself in fit shape and ready to fight whenever needed, so each day she would return to the sparring grounds and practice on one of the dummies. The Commander moved from her hunch to dropping onto her rear and laid back, taking labored breathes of exhaustion.
A few short pings rang through the air and Arcia looked over to where her packs was at the edge of the grounds. Climbing to her feet, she jogged over and grabbed her communicator before accepting the message.
“Commander Cortel, you've been called back to the Nighthawk to oversee the final efforts at bringing the ship back up to speed. Please report for duty immediately.”
Arcia frowned at the unknown voice, probably someone from Dusk Station relaying Teroch's orders. Her frown turned to a sigh as she collected her belongings and made her way to her temporary housing to get cleaned up.
Now the workers were getting their back sides in gear and working in a timely fashion. All it took was the strong will of a woman and Arcia nearly kicking one of the slacking back-talkers out of the airlock. The rest, including the near example, quickly swung into full swing of things and gave their work their all.
Arcia stood, arms crossed, facing the main airlock and noted as each crew member made their way back on board due to their shortened shore leave. She hated calling it short, but Captain's orders were not to be ignored.
When most of the work being done was to her satisfaction, Arcia made her way to the turbolift and shifted down to deck three. Quickly strolling over to her office, she pinged the doors open and moved to a cabinet full of various bottles. She didn't even need to think before grabbing a clear liquid filled bottle and poured a small glass, then shooting it down with a wince. With a smirk, she put the drink away before anyone entered her office and claimed she was a hypocrite. After all, they weren't on duty just yet.
Sitting at her desk, the Commander sifted through various datapads of reports and ship reconstruction updates. They were all boring, of no interest to her, but she had to read through them at least somewhat in case a meeting were to be called regarding any of the twenty plus issues the datapads outlined. With a sigh, Arcia tossed the pads back onto her desk and leaned back in her chair.
She would usually record a journal entry with the free time that presented itself, but instead she leaned forward and tapped into the hypertransceiver to check if any of her pre-programmed key words were hit. To her disappointment, her queries came up empty. With a sigh, she leaned back in her chair again and closed her eyes.
Three short pings broke the silence.
“Commander Cortel, ship reconstruction will be completed in approximately 6 hours.”
“Excellent, foreman. Keep me posted.”
The communicator pinged out and Arcia stood, straightening her uniform. She hated the newly issued outfits, but it was part of ship life; some things you love, some things you hate. Stepping in front of her floor to ceiling mirror next to her door, she double checked her appearance, made sure her hair was in proper order and shifted her eye color from her typical green to the default grey. She wanted the workers to see she meant business.
Just before she left her office, she turned back to her desk and her cybernetic eyes scanned each datapad, storing their contents for later. Fully leaving the office, Arcia made her way to the turbolift and faltered when trying to put on her best 'don't screw with me' face. Taking an extra moment, she breathed deeply, got herself into character and made her way up to the bridge.
Before reaching Deck 2, she keyed the com systems and announced to the ship.
“All current bridge crew on board, please report to the Command Center within one hour.”
Dusk Station, Berth 12
Though one ship dominated the hangar, a host of other ships buzzed through the cramped airspace, like parasitic cleaner fish about a sea-going predator. Some carried needed supplies for the ship's cook to craft into passable meals, while others took munitions, Nighthawk's teeth and claws, into cavernous ammunition magazines.
A small, jet black ship wove through the throng, expertly moving into empty spaces made by the mad dash of logistics that accompanied the launching of a starship. It slowed, settling on squat landing legs, creaking as its thin hull expanded, heating up from the vacuum of space. The canopy popped open and slid back, allowing a helmeted pilot to clamber out as deck crew swarmed to the vessel, their orders already known. The pilot pulled a hard cylindrical case from the small stow-space, slinging it over his shoulder.
A deck chief stomped over, years of running the world of the non-commissioned causing a swagger as the staff moved about him, ensuring they never got in his glowering path. Without looking up, the pilot held up a dataslate, thumbing the activator. The deck chief snatched it, eyes quickly scanning the words and orders within. He didn't react as he handed the slate back, barking orders to deck crew as they began the delicate task of loading the Stealth-X into the hanger. The pilot clapped the Chief on the shoulder before moving off.
The pilot pulled his helmet off, running a hand through hair that had begun to grow out slightly. Valtiere exhaled, casting his eyes over the frigate. An admirable ship, shame about the crew. He would have to work on that. It would be harder than training the crew of the Shadow. The crew of the Arconan navy were moulded by academy training and experience of working as a crew. Dark Jedi were bands of conflicting egos, a loose assembly of 'lone wolves' out for their own personal gain.
Upon receipt of his orders from the Consul, Valtiere had read up extensively on each crew member, memorising as much as possible about each of them. Each highly competent on their own, but used to being in charge of how they operated, following their own agendas. Put them together, and they couldn't properly perform. It was not helped by their Captain, a man used to getting his own way no matter what.
Damned Arconae, he thought, striding purposefully to the airlock. As the doors slammed shut and the atmosphere cycled, he took a moment to collect his thoughts. It had been a long time since the Savric flight academy in his youth. The training had helped temper the rage that coursed through him then, focussing his mindless fury into a directed weapon, before he finally began to master it during his training with Nadrin in Void Squadron. A smile flickered over his face as he reminded himself one of his old squadmates now piloted this ship. It would be good to catch up. Of course, none of them would be happy to see him. An outsider brought in because they didn't do well enough. The connotation that he was somehow better than them. Of course, in this regard, he was, but they wouldn't see that. Only the meddling politics of a Summit. Not the desire to turn something only adequate into something truly great.
The doorway jerked back, the motion drew Nath's attention immediately. The Iridonian was already aware of whom had dragged her away from her pensive reverie, she had sensed his presence whilst she had been inspecting the new room and pointedly ignored it.
The pale Zabrak watched as Naradas pushed the button for the command centre, her brow furrowed sharply, she concentrated and focused her energy into her senses drawing on the other familiar presence that seemed to swell in the claustrophobic environment.
The Barabel's presence felt amplified, as though he had a physical existence between the pair. If Nath closed her eyes she could almost feel him standing behind her now.
It took her a long moment to realize that Naradas had spoken to her, with a blink of her eyes she turned her attention to her second Master, attempting to wash away the far away expression from her face.
"Naradas." Another long pause dragged between them as she thought uncertainly how to respond to his query.
"Well?" She sounded uncertain. "And yourself?" She tried to not stand so rigidly but it did not work, she was still stiff as she clasped one of the bags she carried close, almost pressing it to her side to reassure herself it was still there.
She inspected Naradas carefully, she could smell he had recently bathed even with the smell of cigar smoke still clinging to him. Something was off with the Human though, he seemed distracted possibly even concerned about something. Nath had to give him credit, he was good at hiding it, but she was good at spotting changes within others.
Portside Observation Deck
Uji sighed and placed his hand over his eyes, relaxing back into the sofa, sighing. After hours of losing money, his irritation levels were higher then usual. The players had all dispersed after a minor brawl when they had realized Celahir had tapped the terminals in the room and had been watching every player's hand throughout the rounds.
While Kalon had apparently left to find his student to let off some aggression, Celahir had retreated barely making it out alive if not for the intervention of Maaks. Kalon and Uji both knew better then to anger the ship’s chief medic: Maaks could make any future “check-up” rather uncomfortable for them both.
Though off-duty, word had already reached him of the call to arms. Every member of the crew had been called in to report and the Templar simply waited, knowing soon enough he would be expected to report to the bridge in time for another of Teroch’s outbursts. Yawning as he relaxed into the comfortably numb sensation of his intoxication, he set the alarm on his comm-link and drifted off to sleep.
“Uji! Uji, come on, wake the kark up!” He felt himself being shaken awake, consciousness coming back slowly as he opened his eyes to find his subordinate staring down at him. The youngest of the three communications officers, Danitta was a resident of the Dajorra system commissioned for her extensive knowledge of xenolinguistics, and currently acted as their third-shift comms officer. She shook him again before yelling, “You were supposed to report to the bridge a half-hour ago! Officer Cortel is furious. Go!”
Kalon had left for the Nighthawk relatively quickly after Arcia had hailed him on the comms. He kept little in his quarters that he would have found useful on the mission they were now undertaking, the fact that most of his gear was still on the ship also a considerable factor towards his speedy response to the call of arms. The only thing he had picked up besides from his newly-pressed uniform was his customised Sabacc deck and holorecordings of various forms of heavy music from the Tapani sector.
At present the Mandalorian sat at his seat upon the Nighthawk’s bridge, leaning back and spinning around in circles as he waited for the rest of the crew to gather with Karth looking on awkwardly. He found it laughable and understandable that several of the crewmembers had failed to check in on time, the strain suffered during Sojourn and now shore leave being cut short had evidently aggravated many aboard the vessel.
“Helmsman!” Said the XO, stalking up the gangway towards the waiting crewmen. “Why have you not begun the pre-flight check?!”
“Look around.” Replied the Mandalorian, stopping his rotating chair and pointing towards the bowels of the vessel. “Several crewmates are missing, our beloved communications officer being but one of them.”
Kalon held back a grin as he noticed Cortel’s glare, a clear warning meant to deter him from any further insubordination.
“The Captain wants the ship ready to leave immediately. If they aren’t here by the time you are finished then they will face a court martial.”
“Yes, Commander.” Said Kalon, over-exaggerating his salute with a sluggish movement.
Now finished speaking but with the glare still in her eyes, Arcia turned on her heel and made her way back to her command station, leaving Karth and Kalon alone once more.
“Sir…” Began Karth, further confused with the Mandalorian’s odd behaviour. He was cut off however, as Kalon hushed him.
“It’s better not to know, Orsai. Just hand the checklist.”
After a moment, Karth pulled the list from under his seat and held it out for the Helmsman, who reached over and snatched it. He read through it briefly before he flicked a switch, the flight boards around the two pilots lighting up.
“Right then.” Mumbled Kalon, activating several more switches. “Let’s hope this thing doesn’t blow up on me.”
“I'm doing well, all things considered.” Naradas replied coolly, his dark eyes narrowing slightly as he noted Nath's stiffened posture. Something's disturbing her. More than usua-
The thought broke off from Naradas' mind as Zakath slowly shimmered into view, his talons extended toward his one-time student, glowing violet eyes fixated on her. Nath stiffened even more as the Barabel's unseen talons passed through her before looking sharply at Naradas, her hands tightening their grip on her luggage. Naradas' eyes merely flicked over her shoulder at the Barabel before returning to her, offering her a thin smile.
Just then, the intercom crackled, pulling Naradas' gaze toward the speaker embedded into the roof of the turbolift.
“All current bridge crew on board, please report to the Command Center within one hour.” Arcia Cortel's voice rang out over the intercom before it switched off again.
As the turbolift arrived at the Command Center, its doors slid open to reveal a bustling atmosphere as officers and crewmembers bustled, hurrying to finish up their preparations before departure. Stepping out, Naradas turned to look back at Nath, offering her a firm nod. “I'll see you at the meeting.”
Nath merely stared at him silently before the doors whisked shut.
“Thiz one will speak with her again. She already senses thiz one's presence, and thiz one is regaining their strength.” The Barabel's guttural voice whispered into his ear, causing Naradas to give him an annoyed glance.
“Well, that'll be an interesting day for all of us then, won't it?” Naradas whispered to himself before smoothing out his uniform tunic and striding off to his bridge station to check in, purposely ignoring the ghostly Barabel trailing behind him.
Reaching his station, Naradas logged into his terminal and began assessing the security layout and tactical feeds. Noting that all the major systems were online, he nodded in satisfaction to himself before logging off. Good. At least they finished the refits to the tactical systems by now.
“I see you made it aboard.” Arcia Cortel's voice spoke quietly from behind him.
Naradas spun on his heels, stiffened into a military posture and saluted. “Yes, Commander.”
“At ease.” The Executive Officer's voice sounded slightly amused. “Make sure your staff is all on board. I'll see you at the meeting.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Naradas replied as he turned to look at his board. “It looks like most of my people are already on board, and the rest will be joining us shortly.”
“Good.” With that, Commander Cortel moved on to the next station, leaving Naradas to continue his work.
I wonder what's prompted this urgent recall of everybody... Naradas mused to himself as he logged himself out of his console and moved toward the turbolift to begin checking in with his staff.
Teroch stepped through the airlock and waved a distracted greeting towards the cockpit, where Kalon and Karth were arguing the merits of a certain boloball tactic. He hurried down the corridor towards the command centre and put a hand up in front of Arcia’s face when she sighted him and began to speak.
“Not now. Make sure everyone’s aboard, make sure the techs are off, and that they did their job properly. I’ll know when we’re ready.”
“No. I need a shower. I’ve got to wash the stink of the summit off me.”
He stepped into the turbolift, hit the control for deck one, and fidgeted until he was deposited at the very top of the craft – his personal cabin being the only chamber in the ‘loft.’
He dropped his bag near the door, clicked his fingers and pointed at the small mound of rumpled blankets that his Cythraul slept on, and Kote obligingly left his side and trotted over, then flopped down heavily on his bed, snuffling and twisting until he got comfortable.
Teroch yanked off his jacket and tank top, throwing both on the bed, then sat down on its edge and pulled off his boots and socks. He stood, removed his gunbelt and slid down his pants and boxers, then walked naked to the small bathroom. He hit the activation stud on the shower’s controls, and turned to stare at himself in the mirror, wondering what in Slice’s name had possessed him to get involved in Summit politics once more. Sashar had been a master at playing the various personalities and cults vying for power in the Shadow clan against one another. Teroch was barely managing to stay afloat in the sea of intrigue.
He didn’t emerge for a while. When he did, the Mandalorian swiftly dressed and rubbed a hand through his hair – a futile attempt to tame his unkempt mane.
“Department heads, meet in the conference room in five minutes.” He said over the intercom, then gathered a few pads together. He knew what his crew expected; a tightly wound teenager throwing a hissy fit because Timeros had given him a booboo on his feelings. They were in for a surprise.
“The Captain ordered the senior staff here. Not the Summit’s lackey.” Arcia stated when Nikola Valtiere stepped into the conference room.
“I am here to observe his command style. It’s necessary for my work here.” The Aedile of Qel-Droma replied evenly, his voice measured and clear.
“I can and will have security remove you if necessary.” She retorted, gesturing for Naradas to be ready.
The Nighthawk’s Security Chief nodded and pulled out his comlink. Before he could, however, Teroch entered, dressed in an orange tank top, casual pants, and a leather jacket.
“Wow, someone’s looking to make an impression.” Kalon murmured to Uji, who looked over quizzically.
“He looks the same as usual.”
“No. Look at the jacket. It’s his best one.” Celahir commented, watching his younger brother sit at the head of the table.
“It’s got the fewest blood stains.” Maaks explained to Uji, who had to suppress a grin.
“Arcia, it’s okay. He’s here on the Consul’s orders. He might as well stay. Now, most importantly, there’s something wrong with this picture. What is it?”
The senior officers of the craft looked amongst one another questioningly as Arcia took her seat.
“Caf! There’s no caf! I can’t do this without something warm and stimulating- Maaks, stop giggling, di’kut.”
Maaks tried to cover his face, but only managed to guffaw behind his fists.
Sighing, Teroch gestured to Uji, who grumbled “I’m not the coffee bitch.”, but nevertheless crossed over to the small kitchenette in the corner and began brewing a batch.
“Okay, here’s the short and curly of it. We’re being sent on a shakedown cruise of the Unknown Regions to ascertain whether or not there are any threats still in there that could be a danger to firstly Arcona, and secondly the wider galaxy. We are not to engage said threats; just catalogue them.”
“Uh, I could be wrong Ter, but the Unknown Regions is an awfully big place. How’re we going to manage to explore all of it?” Kalon asked as Uji started passing out cups.
“We’ll be hitting up several key locations. Checking on the Chiss, the Ssi-Ruuvi, and a few other locales. The journey will be approximately three months long, so I hope you packed a few books, kids, because it’s going to be a long one.”
“Shut up. Kalon, I want you to set course for the Roche Asteroid field. From there, we’ll follow the Perlemian Trade Route coreward and our first point of Investigation will be N’zoth. The Yevethans were supposed to be wiped out by the Vong, but we’re being sent to make sure.”
“And him?” Celahir asked, jerking his thumb at Nikola, who sat at the other end of the table, watching Teroch intently.
“He’s here as an advisor. You’re to afford him every respect. No, he’s not replacing anyone, but he is helping improve...efficiency on the Nighthawk, so be gentle.”
“That’s osik! We just kicked major ass in the Hapan incident! Why are we being ‘improved’?” Kalon exclaimed, offended.
“If I may, Captain, I’d like to answer this.” Nikola interjected, his eyes shifting to the helmsman.
Teroch gestured for him to go ahead and leaned back in his chair, sipping the caf Uji had made.
“The Lord Consul was pleased with the Nighthawk and her crew during less than ideal circumstances. That said, there are areas ripe for improvement, such as discipline, and procedural correctness. I notice that more than half of you are out of uniform. It is areas like these where I intend to turn this craft into a truly dangerous stealth frigate able to fulfill its potential.”
“By making us all look the same?” Nath asked, slamming her cup down on the table.
“That is just one minor point I used for example, Ms Voth. There are other areas, such as how you all communicate with each other-”
“Perhaps this can wait for when we’re underway.” Teroch interjected.
Nikola obligingly nodded, but his eyes flickered to the Captain’s non-regulation attire, and an eyebrow arched inquiringly.
Sighing, the youth nodded. “ That said, he’s right. We should all be in uniform, including me. I’ll be getting changed momentarily. Arcia, what’s the state of the ship?”
The XO cleared her throat, and looked over several datapads splayed out before her. “Repairs are complete. We have sixteen official complaints from the technical crew of Dusk Station, mainly centering around a ‘hostile work environment’, and one relating to crew smoking in areas where they shouldn’t. Apparently it was clogging the filters up in the port observation lounge.”
“Noted. What else?”
“The Starboard lounge has been refitted to act as a gym for the crew and is fully stocked and ready. There has been a series of chambers built into the port side of the Hangar which will be used as the security/marines’ barracks and a small office for Naradas to operate out of. We’ve also received our security complement. We have 10 Heavy Infantry and Sixteen Special Forces officers joining us, all fresh-faced from Torbai Garrison. None have seen action yet.”
“Great. Naradas, I want you and Arcia to come up with a roster for these men to both protect the sensitive areas of the ship in whatever series of shifts you think is best, and also begin drilling them in the Hangar. We need them to be experienced and fast.”
The Security Chief nodded and made a few notes on the pad in front of him.
“On the starboard side of the Hangar is also a small kennel for the three Cythraul kept aboard. We’ve had the food delivered that should keep us going for a few months, though with the number of additional personnel added to the roster, we may last slightly less than three months, in which case we’ll need to resupply. Other than that, we’re good to go.”
Teroch nodded, satisfied. “Good. I want you all at your stations. We leave in fifteen minutes.”
He emerged onto the bridge looking incredibly uncomfortable in his white-and-grey uniform. Looking about, Teroch spotted several of the other crew had gotten changed into theirs, too.
“All stations report ready, Captain.” Arcia commented as he took his post, overlooking the galactic display.
“Good. Helm, secure all airlocks, disengage docking clamps, and take us out.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Kalon replied. There was a shudder underfoot, and once again, the Nighthawk was in motion.
Despite everything, the youth still felt a rush of excitement at the prospect of being away from Arcona, free to fly through the stars. The excitement turned to a dull foreboding when he sighted Nikola Valtiere walking around the perimeter of the bridge, peering at the crew as they worked.
“We are clear of the station. Setting course for the Roche asteriod belt….course laid in.”
Not five minutes after the meeting was adjourned Nath had departed. She did not wish to be followed and certainly was in no mood to socialise after that particular meeting, nothing was required of her and for once she was grateful for that fact.
As she re-entered the turbo-lift her pale thumb jabbed repeatedly on the button for engineering forcing the mechanism to hiss shut before anyone else was able to enter to gain access to the cramped compartment. Finally alone Nath reclined back against the wall panel, idly her hands dug out the small tin she carried in her pocket and without thought or concentration she rolled her t'bac.
By the time she had exhaled her first lungful the dull throb behind her eyes eased fractionally. She watched as the second lungful escaped into the small space, grey wisps of smoke danced before her but she could not recall the pattern it created as the third, fourth and fifth followed it in swift succession.
When the irritating noise announced her arrival upon the correct floor she allowed the stub to fall to the floor, and snubbed out the small embers, extinguishing them under the flat of her boot. The action brought an immense sense of satisfaction, though she’d be damned if she knew why.
With little thought to the meeting that had just transpired Nath stepped out and made her way bellow Engineering hoping that she would not be followed. The white uniform hung from one of the stacked crates and mutely mocked her but for now she ignored it, choosing instead to sit on one of the other crates she had been using for a chair.
The action forced the damnable thing into her view once more, she turned away from it, seeking solace in one of her datapads hoping to ignore the issue and remain undisturbed for at least a while longer, she had no doubt Valtiere would come looking eventually. A slight snarl passed from her lips at the idea of being in the same room as the man once more, she did not wish for it to occur again but knew it as an inevitability.
Frustration only built the longer she remained seated, she could not stand it for long, her arm threw the pad with force, the sound of its collision and drop did nothing to appease her, not even the gleam of light refracting against the shattered glass which normally fascinated her could assist.
...Perhaps something more physically demanding might help...
She couldn’t deny that this was her usual tactic but at least it was effective in calming the storm that often raged as her ire increased. Silently she made her way out of her impromptu quarters hoping to find some peace in the gym.
As soon as the Nighthawk made the jump to hyperspace, Naradas shut down his security console, his work aboard the bridge nominally complete. Glancing around the bustling bridge, Naradas frowned as he saw Nikola Valtiere quietly observing everything from aside, his hands clasped behind him as his eyes flicked to and fro, taking in every detail.
“He looks suspicious about you.” A hissing voice whispered into Naradas' ear, though a slight glance aside revealed nobody there. “I wonder if he knowz about thiz one.”
Naradas' frown deepened as he considered the possibility. Doubtful, nobody knows you exist except possibility for the Iridonian. But if he does... he is a threat. If not now, then he can become one later.
“Then you should kill him.” Zakath's voice whispered again, this time with an undercurrent of sick joy running through it. “Rip out hiz throat and leave him az an example of those who would weaken the Nighthawk.”
Tempting. But one Arconan this year is enough, beast. Naradas' frown turned into a slight smile as he turned to enter the turbolift, chuckling softly to himself as he felt the spectre's displeasure at the implication. Keying in the hangar bay, he growled softly to himself as a hand suddenly stopped the turbolift doors from closing completely and slid open again to reveal Nikola, who quietly stepped inside to stand next to the security officer, his mismatched eyes studying Naradas with open interest.
“Greetings, Naradas, I believe it was?” Nikola asked politely.
“Correct.” The Security Chief said curtly as he stared straight ahead, ignoring the cyborg.
“I'm here to help the Nighthawk, you understand, not hinder you.” Nikola said as the cyborg turned to look at Naradas. “I only want you people to become more efficient for when Arcona goes to war again.
“Of course.” Naradas replied as he turned to gaze calmly at the cyborg's mismatched eyes. “And you will have my cooperation to the extent that the Captain and Executive Officer affords it. But understand, I do not trust you.”
“You don't trust a fellow Arconan?” Nikola smiled slightly. “May I ask why?”
“I killed one of your fellow Arconans to earn my position here.” Naradas' smile turned slightly vicious. “Zakath died at my hand, and I took his possessions, his ungrateful apprentice, and his position here. So just being Arconan does not earn my trust, in fact quite the contrary, I trust Arconans even less. There are very few people I trust. You are not among them.”
“I see.” Nikola replied, his voice only reflecting mild interest. “Well, then this will be an interesting voyage, won't it? I'm assuming you're on your way to prep for the meeting with Executive Officer Cortel to go over the security arrangements?”
“Yes.” Naradas said flatly, his brown eyes hardening.
“Good, I'll be joining you to assist.” Nikola smiled as he turned to face the turbolift just as it arrived at the hangar bay level.
Naradas sighed softly to himself, rolling his eyes skyward as he followed Nikola out of the turbolift and into the bustling hangar bay.
The beast's idea of killing the man is becoming even more appealing by the moment...
Valtiere had affected an amicable demeanour, but in truth he was fuming. Nothing he had seen so far had put any confidence in him that this crew had earned the privilege of crewing this vessel. The briefing had been little more than a chat, no thought applied to rank or priority. There was too much familiarity between crew and command.
The Fact the security officer didn't trust him made no matter. Valtiere himself wasn't a fan of Dark Jedi, and this inspection hadn't allayed his concerns. He strode ahead of the Security Officer to the Executive Officer's office. He nodded to her before taking a seat in the corner, out of the way of the pair as they worked.
The meeting was quick, formal. As a meeting of officers should be. Cortell cut to the heart of the matter and worked with Naradas to work out an efficient crew rotation for the newly requisitioned troops on the Nighthawk. At least something on this vessel wasn't clashing egos and self-centred drivel.
After Naradas left, Valtiere nodded to the woman. "You handled that well. You seem to be the only one here acting like the officer on a vessel, not a child on a cruise. Keep it up, Ms. Cortell." He left before she could reply. She didn't like him, he knew that. He wasn't here to be liked. He was here to turn a band of Dark Jedi into a crew. To remove the canker at the core of this vessel. It had to be done before the crew was irreversibly damaged. They would thank him for it later.
The Arconae captain would not.
Valtiere strode onto the bridge. There he was, stood on the lectern overseeing the map, Lord of his own backward domain. He could practically smell the arrogance from the boy. Well, he would soon deflate that ego. Maybe teach him not to rest on the laurels of his father.
"Captain. A word." It was not phrased as a question, and Valtiere could see the flash of anger at being spoken to in such a way. Before he could respond, Valtiere interjected, voice calm, icelike.
"In your quarters."
A hint of questioning in his eyes. A private word? It grabbed his interest. He would wish it hadn't. They both left the bridge, taking the lift to the Captain's quarters in silence. As the doors opened, and they entered the clutter, Teroch began, wanting to take charge of the conversation.
"What's this all about, lap-"
"You are to be removed from duty as Captain of the Nighthawk." Valtiere cut in, simply, without preamble, or change in the quiet over enunciation of his accent.
As soon as he had finished speaking, Valtiere was thrown against the wall, the slight boy's hand around his throat, crushing. His face was contorted in rage as he spat out his reply.
"How dare you?! Shabuir! You don't have the right to address me in that way!" He spat on the ground to emphasise his point.
Valtiere didn't panic. He knew Teroch would lash out. He was too simple for a verbal confrontation. He kept calm, his voice taking a hard tone like iron through gasps for air. "I have every right to. I was appointed by the Consul to improve this ship. Within hours I have found it wanting. DIscipline doesn't exist, there is no cohesion in your unit, most of you don't even wear the standard uniform. As Captain, you should be enforcing these rules, creating a chain of command, not a club of informal Dark Jedi playing at crew. Instead, you foster a toxic attitude within the ship. You haven't earned the right to command this vessel. You've barely got the right to act as a crewman. You focus on the past, what you were, not what you are, what you can be. It's a problem endemic in the Brotherhood. Too many rest on their past achievements rather than build for the future. Under you, this ship will degrade from a barely adequate warship to a pleasure yacht for whichever ego driven desire you wish to indulge. You may have been a great once, but that does not make you a good choice for this ship."
Impotent rage built in Teroch as Valtiere finished his condemnation of the Arconae. He deactivated his lightsaber, knowing to hurt the Aedile of Qel-Droma and COnsul's representative wouldn't end well for him.
"You will take the First Officer position under Cortel. She will teach you valuable skills in how to command this ship. I dare say she's the only professional Dark Jedi on this crew."
He pushed his thumb against the shipwide intercom, a whistle preceding his announcement.
"Ms. Cortel, you have command of the NIghthawk. Report to the briefing room."
The chatter on the bridge immediately halted the second Valtiere’s words rang through the air. She could feel everyone’s eyes bore into her and she took a slow, deep breath. Ensuring her facial expression remained emotionless, Arcia about faced and near stormed towards the briefing room to meet with the Qel-Droman. The woman could only imagine the amount of rage Teroch was throwing around on Deck 1 right now, but she pushed those thoughts aside and did her best to ignore any outside influence as she entered the briefing room and met with a stern faced Valtiere.
“Reporting as requested, Sir,” Arcia sounded off after entering. “If I may ask, what is the meaning of all this? Why this change in command?”
"You're being put in command because you're the only member of this crew that respects the role," Valtiere spoke with such calm that his heated demeanor confused Arcia.
“I admire your faith in me, Sir, but –“
"Don't take it as praise. I'm still of the opinion no Dark Jedi should command this ship, but you are the best of a bad situation. Do not make me regret demoting Teroch Erinos Arconae."
"You've surely read my dossier, are you seriously comparing me to Dark Jedi with my past? Even the freshest of Knights can control the Force more so than I,” Arcia’s eyes narrowed slightly, her head tilting to put emphasis on her remark of the Force.
"That may be true, Ms. Cortel, but my concern isn't control of the Force. Most Dark Jedi are self-centred, seeking power for their own standing in the long term, working out how to outdo their contemporaries. I have very rarely been proven wrong. I would like for you to prove me wrong, Ms. Cortel.”
With a breath of slight exasperation, the now-Captain of the Nighthawk nodded her understanding and offered a small, yet respectful salute to the veteran Arconan. She retrieved a datapad strapped to her hip and her fingers flew across it as she turned to exit. She quickly halted and turned her head back towards Valtiere, a questioning look strewn upon her face.
"Am I to assume you will still be with us for the duration of the flight, or do you have other plans in mind?"
“Yes, I will be remaining on board for the duration.”
“Understood, thank you.”
Strapping the datapad back to her side, Cortel rolled her shoulders and straightened her uniform before stepping out of the briefing room and back towards the bridge. In the command center, everyone was still quiet until she turned the corner and suddenly an explosion of activity and talking overwhelmed the chamber. With narrowed eyes, the newly appointed Captain made her way to the turbolift and chimed the option for ‘Deck 1.’
The door hissed open and Arcia could feel the hate, the anger, the sense of betrayal. Teroch was pulsing with the Force and the objects around him were reacting in kind; the fish tanks water began to bubble, luckily still not populated with any fish, objects on the desk began to push and pull away and towards the young man and various other personals were thrown across the flooring.
“That dirty, rotten di’kut! How DARE he come aboard MY ship and dictate!?” Teroch was, obviously, not pleased.
“Teroch, calm yourself,” Arcia stated plainly.
The impact of what felt like solid air knocked her back a few steps, her eyes wide open in shock as Teroch stomped childishly towards her in a fret. His teeth were grit tight with rage. He obviously wasn’t thinking straight and his breath reeked of alcohol. Arcia placed a hand forward in an act of resistance towards the young man in attempts to instill and sense of control throughout him.
“Teroch! You’re better than this. Knock off the attitude and think for a moment. It’s not like they removed you from the ship entirely, thank Slice.”
Teroch still trembled with emotions running rampant and furrowed his brow. “You agree with him, don’t you?”
“I never said-” Arcia made an attempt to counter his accusing statement.
“You do! Argh, Arcia! I brought you into this to HELP me, not to take it all away! You’re nothing but a disappointment!”
That set off something in Arcia.
“Now listen here, you poor little excuse for a Mando. Just because your plaything was taken from you by force doesn’t mean it’s heading for the worse. With reactions like what I’m seeing here, I’m surprised they even gave the ship to you in the first place if not for respect to your father,” Arcia growled her statements and kicked a desk chair out of her way as she moved to the other side of the Captain’s quarters. “If you think for one second that I’m going let this ship go down then you don’t even know who I am or why you brought me into this. Now this conversation is finished until you can learn to speak to me properly.”
Arcia threw her all into her statements, but not just her emotions. All of her need went into throwing the Force into and around the Dark Adept in a possibly feeble attempt to migrate him into a state of calm. To her extreme surprise, though, Teroch took a deep breath, still red in the face and stormed out of the Captain’s quarters to sulk in some other part of the ship. As if a weight was lifted from her shoulders, Arcia collapsed into the desk chair she had just previously kicked into a half wall at the center of the chamber, mentally exhausted.
“That...could have gone a lot worse…” She said out loud to the empty room.
After several moments of silence and recuperation, Arcia stood up, straightened her uniform and exited what was to be her new quarters. The turbo-lift took it’s paced descent back down to Deck 2 giving her little time to think about anything other than getting the Nighthawk back in gear towards her mission. The lift slid to a halt as the doors to the CIC hissed open and Captain Cortel exited to the crew still picking away at their designated duties.
Taking a stroll over to the captain’s chair, Arica hesitated. She felt eyes upon her again, questioning and judging. Everyone already had a good understanding of what had happened, especially with her position at the chair; the crew wasn’t stupid, reason being for them to be a part of the ship. With the staring came the slow wind down of voice traffic through the air until just the sounds of the computerized equipment and the vibrations of the ship’s engines were heard.
So she broke the silence.
“Listen up everyone, we have a job to do here and I expect it to be accomplished without fuss,” Arcia stated plainly in an authoritative voice before queueing the ship wide intercom system routed through the captain’s chair. “Attention crew, this is Captain Cortel speaking. As of this moment I have taken command of the Nighthawk. Our missions stands. I want full reports from each station within the hour. Let’s get this bird moving.”
The bridge crew yet again, went right back to work, yet something felt off. She would have to earn their trust even more so now that she was elevated in stature. Hesitantly, Arcia sat down in the rather comfortable chair and smirked. Teroch, of course, made sure his rear was cushioned on their missions. Clearing her throat, she was about to speak with Operations when the communications array lit up like a fireworks show.
“Command--errr Captain Cortel, we’re receiving an incoming message on encrypted frequencies,” Senior Operative Uji stated.
Arcia looked over to Operative Legain at Operations. “IFF confirmed, Captain. It’s one of ours. Looks like the new crewmembers we were informed about a few days ago that were still being brought up to speed when we left port.”
“Understood, gentlemen. Uji, give them the okay. Legain, inform the hangar to expect company and direct the new boots to drop by Medical for review. Make sure our doctor knows they’re coming.”
“Roger that, Captain,” both happened to respond simultaneously, though somewhat strained.
Several minutes went by without word when suddenly Operative Legain bolted up from his seat.
“Captain a Nu shuttle was just launched without authorization as the shuttle with our new boots entered!”
Arcia frowned and glanced down the corridor towards the pilots cockpit; Kalon wasn’t there.
“Locate Specialist Dane.”
“Not onboard, Ma’am…”
Cortel slowly closed her eyes and shook her head. “Leave him be. Relay the proper information to the new boots and get them moving. I want them assigned and to their duty stations at once. Especially Sight. I hear he’s our new Chief Engineer and they need some guidance down there...”
A throat clearing brought Arcia’s attention back to the communications center to which she promptly stood up and made her way to Uji. Glancing around, the man whispered to Arcia so only she would hear.
“While you were being briefed I received word from the FIST office. They require my presence immediately. My transfer may have to be pushed through earlier than expected. There is another shuttle en route to intercept us for my removal from the ship.”
“Understood. I was hoping to keep you till the end of this voyage, but if the big boys need you…” Arcia turned her back to Uji. “Then they need you.”
Once more, Cortel made her way to the captain’s chair and sat down comfortably as Zabrak co-pilot Orsai expertly piloted the ship in Kalon’s absence. The Hawk’s mission was still taking them towards the Roche asteroid belt for a complete sensor sweep, then after that, a full three months mission into glory.
His hands fell from behind his head as he finished tying back his silver hair. The shuttle ride had been boring and he missed the feel of his cloak and it’s hood, the ships uniform felt uncomfortable and exposed to him. His almost translucent white fingers tugged at the collar as the shuttles ramp descended finding rest on the hanger deck with a metallic clang.
“Antar contact me later after you have settled in.” He said over his shoulder to his apprentice. Inhaling deeply he threw the strap of his single small bag over his shoulder and walked down the ramp ahead of the other new crew members.
The Deck Chief strode over to him a swagger in his step and a scowl on his face. Before the man could start spouting his get off my deck speech Sight thrust a datapad into the man’s gut.
“Directions to the turbolift is all I wish to know at this time.” Sights voice was controlled yet carried authority within it. Looking up from the datapad and taking in the yellow on Sights uniform, the lightsaber at his side then the albinos skin and crimson eyes coupled with the two very noticeable scars on his face redirected the deck chiefs preloaded sarcastic comment.
“Chief Nortorshin, Captain Cortel wants you to report to Engineering on the double and have a full report to her within the hour. Turbolift is that way.” The man pointed in the direction of the lift. Snatching his datapad back Sight walked away hurriedly.
The turbolift doors shut closed with a quiet whisk. Sighing he leaned against the wall, all alone at last. He had never been on such a high tech vessel before but he knew all ships functioned on the same principles. He was happy his apprentice was a member of the crew as well, it would mean he wouldn’t have pauses in his training.
Looking up at the deck indicator he smiled, almost to engineering. He always felt at home there, the ships he had served on before engineering was usually the one place non-assigned crew members wouldn’t go, which meant it stayed detached from the ships politics. Adjusting his bag he smiled again, although he had been given a rooming assignment he had no intention to stay there. No he would stay in engineering where his responsibilities lay and where he could curb his murderous tendencies with work. The turbolift came to a smooth stop and the doors whisked open, time to go make first impressions with his crew members.
Walking into engineering he noticed two things initially, it was a mess, and his crew members were just sitting around. His brow furrowed as he watched them silently for a second.
“You there, engineer, who is in charge down here?” He spoke loudly at the engineer closest to him.
“That would be Zeck, he’s over there.” The engineer replied not even bothering to look at whom he was talking to. Nodding Sight walked over to an unoccupied corner with a systems console crammed into it. Replacing the small toolbox on the seat with his pack he took in the area once more as Zeck made his way to him.
“Who are you?” Zeck asked cautiously.
“I’m your new boss, Dark Jedi Knight Sight Nortorshin. But you can call me Chief Nortorshin, or simply Chief.” The albino responded simply to the question. “We have a lot of work to do and barely anytime to do it in. I need a full ships systems report on this console, I also need one of you to bring me the maintenance logs for the entire ship. I will also require you to get my department cleaned and neatly put away instead of torn apart and tossed all over my deck. I need all of this done in thirty minutes.” His voice carried a tone of authority as he spoke to his men. His crimson orbs looked at each of them in turn as they began to perform the tasks assigned to them.
Keying the communications panel on the wall to connect him with Captain Cortel, he tugged on his uniform trying to make it feel comfortable. A few seconds later Arcia’s face appeared on the screen in front of him.
“Captain, this is Chief Nortorshin reporting for duty. I would have done this in person, however I was informed upon boarding that you needed a full department report within the hour.” The albino spoke slowly and loudly as the engineering crew ran around behind him completing their orders.
Arcia raised an eyebrow at the Chief “...and?” Her voice didn’t so much convey a question as make a demand for the report. Swallowing on a suddenly dry throat, the albino looked over at his console briefly seeing that the requested information was already on it.
“I’ll be on the bridge in five minutes ma’am.” He said with a salute and cut the transmission. Grabbing his datapad he quickly synced it with the console, double checking that the information he needed was on it he started for the turbolift calling over his shoulder to his crew.
“This place better be clean when I get back.”
In unison the five engineers responded “Yes Chief!”
The metallic clang of the shuttle door opening woke Antar from his sleep. He stretched his arms and ran his hands through his hair. His time as a Deep Assault Recon Trooper taught him to catch sleep when he could.
“Antar contact me later after you have settled in,” Sight said over his shoulder. Antar noded, grabbed his bag, and slung his rifle over his shoulder. He followed his master down the ramp on to the Hangar deck of the AGV Nighthawk.
Sight was already headed towards the turbolift when the Deck Chief yelled out, “Boots get your asses in gear.”
Antar had dealt with his type before. They are all about the custom. He walked over to him, dropped his bag, and performed a flawless salute. “Permission to come aboard, Chief.”
“Granted,” the Deck Chief returned the salute.
“Good to see at least one boot knows how to report in. The Captain wants you to report to medbay, ASAP.” He handed Antar a datapad and waved him towards the turbolift.
Standing on the turbolift Antar looked at the datapad. The retinal scan confirmed his identity and the datapad displayed his information.
Name: Antar Locke
DIA Rank: Specialist
Serial #: 13883
Assignment: Security and Special Operations
Welcome aboard the AGV Nighthawk. You are assigned to Barracks 2 Bunk 008. You are to report directly to medical bay, after securing personal property in the footlocker provided. After your medical exam report to the Command Center on the bridge and report to Chief Naradas. Familiarize yourself with the ship and your duty stations.
Map of AGV Nighthawk
Antar exited the turbolift and headed to his bunk. He stowed his gear in his footlocker. Wasting no time, he headed to medical. Antar allowed an audible sigh escape his lips. He had always hated doctors. After about 10 minutes of poking and prodding, Antar was given a clean bill of health.
The turbolift doors opened and he stepped onto the command deck. He took a brief moment to take in the atmosphere of the bridge. The bridge officers eyes were locked on their screens.
A Marine walked over, “Can I help you, sir?”
Antar replied, “No just taking it all in, I’m Specialist Locke.”
“Yes, sir. We were told to expect you,” the Marine informed him.
“Thank you, Marine, carry on.”
He looked around and noticed Sight speaking with Arcia. To their right, he saw Naradas at the tactical console. He came to a halt about a 2 meters from the Security Chief.
“Specialist Antar Locke reporting for duty, Chief,” Antar executed a salute and awaited his orders.
Naradas sat within his quarters, his muscles stiff from holding his meditative pose for so long. His face twitched as the headache that raged within his head threatened to spill over into the rest of his body. The headache had come on hours ago and had only grown in intensity to the point where the Security Chief had to retire to his quarters and engage in a meditation, which seemed to help- at first. Now it had returned with a vengenance, and to make matters worse, Zakath's presence had seem to magnify as the headache grew. The beast was constantly present now, staring at him with its violet eyes.
"You made a mistake when you killed me, Naradas." The Barabel apparition spoke at last, having remained silent for the past several hours.
"Apparently so, beast" Naradas gritted out from within clenched teeth, keeping his eyes firmly shut. "If I've known you were going to haunt me, I would've just locked you away for good."
"It was the ritual you gave me." Zakath chuckled harshly. "Did you actually think I wouldn't noticed the flaws within it? I made some changes to it. It was intended to bind me to you should you ever kill me."
That gave Naradas pause, and he opened his eyes to stare at the beast. "I see. You're more perceptive than I thought."
"Indeed." The Barabel agreed. "It weakened me for a time, but now I am rapidly regaining my former strength in the Force."
"Really. What do you exp-" Naradas paused and looked more intently at the Barabel. "And why are you speaking in the first person? Isn't there some sort of Barabel rule against that?"
"Ah, you noticed that?" Zakath seemed pleased at the discovery. "I've been practicing."
"How to speak like a human." Zakath replied, smiling a toothy grin. "It's very interesting the way you make yourself the center of your own language."
"Why would-" Naradas visibly winced as his headache seemed to surge. "Why would you ever want to speak like a human?"
"That is a curious thing for me to do, isn't it?" The Barabel agreed. "How are your headaches? Is it getting stronger?"
Naradas' eyes snapped completely open now, staring venomously at the beast. "You ought to know, you're causing them, aren't you?"
Zakath merely smiled wider before raising his heavy talons. Naradas only had time to blink once before lightning was suddenly pouring into him from the Barabel. The human was blown across the room, slamming into the wall before sliding down. Desperately, Naradas tried to summon a shield to block the lightning, but that was easily slammed aside by Zakath before the Barabel slow steps forward, the energy from his talons increasing.
"You have taken my body away from me." Zakath growled, his lightning seemingly ramping up with his increasing anger. "You took my body, Naradas! Now I shall take yours!
For one of the few times in his existence, Naradas could feel deep fear stirring within him wrapped in cloaks of pain as he watched the Barabel slowly close in, his lightning intensifying with every step. Finally, Zakath stood above Naradas, his violet eyes glowing with power. "Your body is mine, Naradas. You... are no more."
With that, Zakath dove forward to tackle the human- and disappeared.
Naradas could only croak out a slight cry for help before blacking out.
The human groaned softly as he awoke, slowly rising to his feet, one hand propped against the wall to steady him as his muscles trembled. Taking a moment to collect himself, the human proceeded to the refresher to look at himself in the mirror. Gripping the sides of the sink, the human stared intently at himself, noting the features that made up himself, from the short hair to the carefully trimmed goatee that made up Naradas. There was only one difference from the human's normal appearance.
His eyes were now a glowing violet.
Zakath smiled before stepping back to admire his upper torso.
"Back to life." He purred to himself as he twisted and turned, noting the details of his body. "Although we will definitely need to start bulking up this body of yours. It's fine for infiltration purposes, but I am a warrior, not an assassin."
Zakath began cleaning himself up and was soon dressed in a fresh Security Chief's uniform before stepping out of his quarters. "Time to deal with the new Captain, then to find my former apprentice. This should be an interesting reunion."
Having quietly made his way to the bridge without incident, Zakath was at Naradas' usual post at the tactical screen, accessing his files and making note of everything when he heard the slight clicking of boots.
"Specialist Antar Locke reporting for duty, Chief."
Zakath scowled inward before tapping up the Nighthawk's crew roster onto his tactical. "One moment." He growled out as he brought up Antar Locke's profile and studied it.
"Ah. The new transfer." Zakath smiled thinly as he finally looked up from his screen, his glowing violet eyes meeting those of bluish-gray, causing the other human to gulp slightly. "Report to the security office in the hangar bay and get oriented on the security layout of the Nighthawk. Someone will join you shortly to brief you."
"Yes sir!" Antar clicked his heels again before spinning to go to the turbolift.
Off you go, little boot-clicking soldier. Zakath thought with amusement before turning his attention to the Captain, who was just wrapping up with Sight.
"...reports every day until the engineering crew is up to snuff." Captain Cortel was saying as Zakath came into earshot.
"Yes ma'am." Sight nodded slightly before turning on his heels, giving Zakath a curious look before going off to the turbolift.
"Captain, a word?" Zakath asked quietly.
"What is it, Naradas?" Arcia asked before she paused, blinking at the sight of Zakath's glowing eyes. "And what is up with your eyes?"
"I am not Naradas." Zakath replied easily, clasping his hands behind his back. "He is dead. You can call me Zakath. The rest can be explained in private, if you please."
The Sith Battlemaster merely smiled as Arcia's hand dropped to the hilt of her blaster as she blinked, processing the thought. "No need for that, Captain. I was a loyal servant of Arcona before my untimely demise, and that hasn't changed."
"My office." Arcia said flatly. "Now."
"Of course." Zakath inclined his head with a slight smile. "Lead the way."