Gjw9: Unification Run-on
The contrast of the white Star Destroyers against the blackness of the unholy space around Antei made them an auspicious target. Military leaders expected a vast horde of the bio-organic warships to meet them, it was not a horde.
One sickly slim vessel drifted lazily towards the accumulating battlegroup, trying to muster the strength to overwhelm at least one of the heretics vessels charging towards them. Fanaticism was a cruel mistress, always ending in death or humiliation. The Vong destroyer analog spat their molten shots towards the Warspite. The basal weapons smoldered as they bounced off the vessel. The Vong could not muster enough to make a successful defense.
This was clean up duty. The 8th Fleet of the Iron Throne had made the primary assault 2 days prior. Sarin, and his horde of pious followers, wanted to return home; No matter the price. The Victory had been, from the looks of it, a quick one. The ships that hadn’t been destroyed had begun the ground assault.
The Orders of the Imperial Fleet of Clan Scholae Palatinae, which had been passed down from the Grand Master himself, pointed them towards Antei. They would “assist” in the recapture. Thran was disgusted by the whole plan. Antei was a dead world, scorched and abyssal. He didn’t understand the need for a ground assault. With the combined fleets from all of the Clans, they could leave Antei and the Vong who had stolen it glassed, devoid of life, sterile. Instead, the lives of thousands of Dark Jedi, Sith, and soldiers were considered Expendable.
It was politics. The Grand Master expected adherence to the Orders, and Thran was wise enough to not test him. He clipped the helmet, pulling it tight over his fancy flightsuit.
He opened a Communique to his fleet Orchestrator.
“Timbal, Prepare every shuttle we have. The Aces and I will give this Matalok a coup de grace. I expect everyone to be Groundside as soon as it is possible.” The Emperor said.
He stepped into the hatch and climbed down. The Pressure door sealed behind him as he settled into the seat of the TIE Defender, beginning the launch sequence. Thran flipped switches, adjusted toggles, and throttled up as the fighter screamed from the underbelly of the Warspite.
The Hex-winged fighter was a fabulous piece of machinery. It even made the hard coral organic Fighters squeal in fear. The Matalok hiccupped as it spat its final barrage towards the small fleet.
“Tactical Attack Unit, Clear the way for me.” He barked into the communicator.
The vessel screeched and yawned as the pilot rolled into an attack route. The Defender was excellent for this mission. His physics lessons had lead him to choose this vessel. Conservation of momentum.
The Defender was the fastest fighter they had, which meant that the unguided momentum propelled torpedo he was carrying would be the fastest they could launch. The Matalok grew larger in his Heads Up Display, and he felt the end was near. He could see the target, a small crevice along the mid-line of the vessel.
He released the weapon, and it drifted ahead of him as he altered his speed and trajectory. It drifted silently through the void between the Emperor and the Target, guided by the will of the Emperor himself. There was no-one else who could do this with such efficiency.
Before the final wave of biotic interceptors could be mustered, the shadow torpedo slammed into the umbo of the shell like vessel. It split open like an oyster, revealing its gooey and sick interior.
“Nice shot, Thran.” Timbal said over the comm., from the safety of the Bridge of the Warspite.
“Admiral, Spread forces and let’s clear up the skies.” Thran said.
The Defender roared, exploring the empty space. It was eerie. Everyone expected more resistance. Something about this assault told him that the Ground war was going to be one of the most concentrated displays of violence that the Galaxy had ever seen.
Before they could get down to the burned lands of Antei, they had to establish their presence in this sector of the cordoning blockade. Even as he watched the Matalok die and expel its inhabitants into the vacuum, he felt a great unease. Something would not go as they had planned; The Vong would make sure of
Koskian grinned as the ship exploded, sitting in one of the many chairs in the officers lounge on the Warspite. A server was wiping up a pool of blood that was threatening to stain the shiny surface of the deck beside the Primarch's seat. Sipping his drink, the Obelisk watched the two medical droids cart off the off-duty Lieutenant who had felt the need to make fun of his booster seat, and had received some interesting claw wounds for his trouble.
A chuckle across the table got his attention, as a dark haired human waved at the bar tender to bring them more drinks. Grid smiled at his glass of blue colored liquor, sipping at it and waving as the droids carted off the injured officer. Koskian shook his head, taking another pull from his beer, watching as the others in the lounge stayed well away from Grid and his Jedi companion. Rolling the hilt of his new shoto around, shaking his head as he thought of how much reach he'd lost with his sudden shift in size.
“What's the point of us coming along, Kosk, they aren't even gonna send most of us to the ground,” grumbled the former Ensign, now one of Koskian's honor guard.
“Don't know. Don't matter. Got better things to do then worry about the politicians and Vong,” growled the Ewok Obelisk. He did have better things to do, like hunting down his possessed body back on Caina. “We'll do what they tell us, then we'll get the hell off this ship.”
Nodding, Grid smirked as he saw a pair of younger Jedi wander in, looking unsure, an expression the two of them held quite often since they're Master's transformation. Anarya and Karean sat quietly at the table with Koskian, ordering their drinks and sitting back to wait. All four were wondering inside, what they were waiting for.
We’re going back. Antei, the ‘jewel’ of the Brotherhood, had been laid before the ravenous might of the Yuuzhan Vong one long year before. The planet had been ravaged by Yuuzhan Vong biotechnology, stripping the soils and plants of nutrients and life. Their so-called Shapers creating new monstrosities to devour the lands that had once been called home of the Brotherhood’s leading council. And now the fleets were returning.
“Surface Marshal, welcome to the bridge” said the curt and slightly accented voice of the Officer of the Deck. A lieutenant with more than a few years of experience in his eyes, he seemed almost annoyed at the presence of a high-ranking Legions officer on his deck. Had the man’s glare been heated, Brent’s neck would’ve had nothing to support.
“Lieutenant, where might I find the Admiral?” he said, his hands clasped in the small of his back. He was in full duty uniform, something he was unaccustomed to. But in these times, times of war and assault, prominent figures in the military need to step up and show their stripes: be they Jedi or not.
“High Admiral Timbal is standing on the fore deck, sir,” he said, referring to the area of deck designed for the sole purpose of looking out the bridge’s massive viewports. The battle could have been enjoyed from the comfort of a chair or perhaps viewed on a monitor. But to gain a real sense of the battle, one must witness every explosion, every salvo, every death as if he were right in the midst of the fray.
“May I ask what your business is with him?” the lieutenant continued, his prissy accent and arrogant tone only diminishing the Surface Marshal’s opinion of the man. Brent shook his head and smiled, his dreadlocked hair swaying slightly with the motion.
“Actually, Lieutenant, no, you can’t” Brent replied, striding purposefully past him towards the fore deck. The imposing figure of the High Admiral cast shadows down onto the officers down at their consoles. His arms were crossed across his chest, which didn’t seem to be moving all that much. As Brent made his way up to the man, the deck plates shook as another salvo from the Barbette turbolaser cannons tore through a Yuuzhan frigate, spewing its crew and ‘blood’ into the cold vastness of space.
“How fairs the battle, Admiral” Brent said, his eyes scanning the star dotted canvas before him. The lights and flashes of a dogfight in progress could often be as electrifying as they were entrancing.
“It fairs well, Marshal. Good to see your men survived the initial manoeuvres” Timbal replied, a slight touch of humour in his words. Brent nodded at the slight, and smiled.
“My men are made of tough parts than this ship of yours. What’s it called? Rust Bucket, I bet”
“The Warspite is hardly a rust bucket, Victae. We stole it from the Republic virtually brand new. There were areas of the engine room that still smelled of cleaning solvents” the Admiral replied, as a salvo of molten debris colliding with the Warspite’s shields lit up his face for a moment.
“Aye. She’s a good ship. Let’s keep her that way. Good luck, Admiral. I will be down in the Legion CIC if you need anything”
With that said, the Marshal turned on his heels and strode confidently back towards the turbolift, flashing a glance at the Officer of the Deck, along with a toothy grin.
The violet blade of Koryn’s lightsaber arced around his body as blaster fire came in from all angles. The lightsaber deflected the bolts back at his attackers, but still more flooded in towards the Rodian. Sweat dripped from the Krath’s body; it seemed like an age since he had begun fighting. All of a sudden the firing ceased as the image of Timbal appeared on a screen in a corner of the room.
“Thraagus, you’ve had enough training for now.” Stated the Epis. “Get up to the bridge.” Koryn deactivated his lightsaber and made his way through the winding corridors of the ISDII Warspite towards the bridge. Upon arriving, the Knight saluted the Palpatine.
“Admiral.” Greeted Koryn. Timbal turned to face the Rodian.
“Thraagus, I need you on a turret. I know this is out of your comfort zone, but comms aren’t brilliant at the moment and you were one of the few I could contact. The Vong managed to damage our communications array; we have astromech droids en route to repair it and squadrons scrambling to take down the ships.” Koryn nodded and sat down at the nearest turret station.
As he was preparing the console, he was vaguely aware of another Force-user enter the bridge, presumably for the same purpose. The console indicated that there was an incoming squadron of Coralskippers. The Rodian heard a voice over his headset; he couldn’t make out who it belonged to as it was bathed in static.
“We need… location… all sides…” Thraagus tapped the console bringing up the coordinates of the Coralskippers.
“Enemy squadron entering vector 48, 12, -29. Repeat: 48, 12, -29.” Koryn immediately received what he assumed to be a thanks. He rotated the turret to the vector; the ships in the view screen weren’t how he had seen Vong ships before. They were smaller than they had once been and pailer; the biotechnology was dying. Koryn pulled back on the trigger sending ion bolts towards the squadron. Before the bolts reached their target one of the Coralskippers began to break apart. The first round hit the debris causing an explosion. Through the flames, the Rodian saw a squadron of TIE Defenders sweep around to take out the remaining Yuuzhan Vong ships.
“Help…” came the voice again. Koryn was about to send another volley of shots towards the Coralskippers, presuming it to be a distress signal. He began to ease back on the trigger … “Repeat help not necessary…” The voice faded into static and the Rodian breathed a sigh of relief.
Barely making it back to the Clan after a year long exile, Yeldarb sat deep in thought inside of his room. A small six by six cell he could call his own. a small bed off to one side, with a desk sitting in the corner piled high with what intelligence paperwork passed down from higher ups to study. A chest sitting near the foot of his bed filled with all worldly possessions still owned by the young Iridonean. Some prisoners had better comforts, but comfort was not in this Knights life.
"Is this battle worth all the loss?" asked the voices deep inside the Obelisks head. Feeling still very distant from the Clan he used to call home. Confidence was not high with the new leaders, people he barely knew, aside from the occasional ceremony here and there. At least his dearest friend Tra'an had managed to seize some power of his own, still someone he could count on leading his house to a hopeful victory. "Time to start training up on some of those forgotten combat skills." softly spoke the former Battle Team Leader.
pushing back on the hard metal chair, Yeldarb backed away from the desk, stood up and took a deep breathe. Turning to face the exit a wave of uncertainty flooded the Fang of Swords, a feeling he was not accustomed to feeling. Walking over to the hatch hesitantly. this was all that separated him from the unknown, pressing the control panel, it slid open. Quietly Yeldarb stated, "Time to see what I lost."
As Yeldarb exited his cabin on board the Majestic-Class Heavy Cruiser Adenn, he was still lost in the thoughts of his past and present. Maybe if he would talk to someone he knew, he could sort it all out better.
His choice to do that was fellow CSP Marine Voldemort. He had seen him moving in a few cabins down the corridor, not looking all that confident either. That's where his feet were carrying Yeldarb now.
As he approached the door, he was wondering if he should really disturb Voldemort now. After all, he had not seen him in quite a while. No way to predict how the guy would react. Maybe...
A streak of brown and grey raced around the corridor in an amazing speed, radiating a fury he had not felt in a long time. Yeldarb was knocked over, and a sharp pain was moving up from his manly parts through the rest of his body so he was not able to breathe for a moment. When he finally managed a gasp of air and his vision cleared, he stared into the eyes of an Ewok. The little creature, he realized, must have rammed it's head right where it hurt him most.
"Yeldarb," the Ewok snarled, contempt clearly audible. "Always the one to be in all the wrong places in all the wrong times. Get up already. You are clearly not man enough for me to have hurt you significantly."
Yeldarb now noticed he was insulted by a strange Ewok in front of a comrades cabin. That this Ewok knew him somehow and radiated a very dark aura did not register yet. Growling, he pushed himself up. "Been a while since I had some Ewok barbecue," he stated and reached for his saber.
He had no clue how he ended up several meters down the corridor with his feet in the air and his face staring at the ceiling. His neck now hurt like hell, too, and the evil crackle of the Ewok was in his ears. "Again, get up and do something useful, or next time I'll kill you."
When Yeldarb got up this time, the Ewok was gone and Voldemort stared down at him. "Yeldarb? What happened?"
"For the Emperor's sake - I know my name alright." He massaged his neck and his private parts and stared towards the corner where the Ewok had vanished. "I had a weird run in with an Ewok, of all beings."
"You had a run in with my mother?" Voldemort chuckled, shook his dark haired head and patted Yeldarb's back. "She is unbearable since her little accident."
Yeldarb let himself being pushed towards the direction of the mess hall. "Your... mother?? Arania?? An EWOK?"
"Never mind that. We need to be prepared. Did you hear about any orders we might get? I haven't been told anything yet."
"No one ever tells us anything." Yeldarb was not too eager to face the Vong, but after today he would need a lot of battle to make up for this Ewok encounter, he feared. On a ship, gossip was even faster than in the Clan compound.
Clan Fleet High Admiral and Krath Epis Timbal Palpatine stood at the fore deck of his command ship, the Imperial II Class Star Destroyer Warspite, his experienced eye missing none of the ongoing battle, if such a thing could really be called a battle. He had experienced freighter runs that were more harrowing that was occurring right now.
Thus, it had to be a trap or feint of some sort.
Timbal thought back to the beginning of this particular operation. The quiet but almost frantic undertones of training up to this moment had exploded into frenzied action once word had come down from the Dark Council that the operation was to commence. The Fleet really just had to top off their consumables, since Timbal had the Fleet ready for combat operations. Preparations mainly included the loading of the starfighters, various crew associated with them, with combat and support troops following.
Once they departed for the marshaling point, the Clan members settled in, with most of the combat experienced troops grabbing some sleep or settling their nerves with various drinks. Once they arrived at the marshaling point, they received their final orders from Admiral Joss Malin. Timbal really didn’t like him, as he was from the old-school of thought when it came to fleet operations, but Timbal respected him. Any mere mortal that remained alive under direct command of the Grand Masters and not die had his grudging respect.
They had received their orders to penetrate the Shroud conventionally while the 8th Fleet went in via hyperspace, a risky maneuver at best. However, to achieve strategic surprise the Dark Council decided the cost would be worth it. Timbal didn’t care, it wasn’t his orders, so he didn’t care.
His orders though were distasteful, to say the least. Once the enemy fleet had been cleared, he was to assume blockading positions, with the rear station being taken up by Clan Plagueis, but the Clan taking up position in front of them would be Arcona. Although the thoughts of him ordering his Fleet to engage the Arconan fleet from the rear amused him, he knew that the Dark Council would bring down the wrath of the Sith on their own Fleet, and any that somehow made it through alive would be subject to the most extreme forms of torture yet devised by Dark Jedi, which was a truly horrifying thought.
However, upon their arrival, the hard-fought battle they had trained for was rendered eventually nullified. The attacks by the remaining Yuuzhan Vong were so weak and mainly suicidal that Timbal was taken aback, his suspicious mind looking desperately for the drop of the hammer.
But nothing came. Thran had caught sight of a sickly matalok, whooped like some damn schoolboy, and charged off to his personal TIE Defender. Once strapped in, he had given Timbal orders to prepare the shuttles, and let him know that his personal squadron, the Aces, were going to engage the matalok.
Timbal didn’t think that the so-called Emperor caught the subtle slight in having his communications officer acknowledge the order for him, his own way of giving Thran another notice of his disgust with him.
While the so-called battle raged, he caught sight of a shot that Thran had executed against the damn Yuuzhan Vong vessel, splitting it open like a spoiled naranjii fruit, and looking about as disgusting. He opened up a channel to The Usurper, sarcastically telling him that he had done a nice shot.
Apparently he hadn’t caught the sarcasm or didn’t care, and just ordered him to spread the Fleet about.
Timbal started the spread-out maneuvers, watching for anything that the Yuuzhan Vong might try to pull off. About the only thing that was unexpected was the suicide ramming by a half-squadron of coralskippers on his command ship, which had damaged their communications array, but that was quickly being repaired, and the gunnery crew responsible for letting them through to damage his ship were properly reamed out.
Which brought him to the here and now. The Surface Marshal had just departed, after giving him the usual harassment against him and his Fleet, but Timbal ignored it and continued his duty, and saw everything.
He just wondered when the other shoe would drop. Knowing these damn Yuuzhan Vong, he knew they had something up their gruesome sleeves.
“Sir, I have a holo-transmission for you. It’s Admiral Timbal. He seems rather in a hurry to get a hold of you, with language to match.” The Templar chuckled softly and walked over to the communications station, activating the personalized holo receiver. An azure image of the Admiral on his foredeck popped into being. “Why the hell didn’t you take down that matalok long before it reached us?” The image wavered a bit and solidified again, the interference from the Shroud proving itself to be troublesome again.
“Timbal, you know as well as I do that sensor resolution in this mess is extremely poor. If I’d have known that a matalok was passing us, don’t you think I’d have asked Salina to dispatch it? Don’t you think she would have done it on her own? It’s hit and miss out here. The worst we’ve seen is a few coral skippers that the gunnery crews having been picking off rather easily I can slow down if you like, and ask the Adenn and the Fury to do so also. That’ll increase our sensor resolution, but it also puts us three hours late of the planned arrival time.” The hologram fuzzed again, but the expression on the face of his friend and former Quaestor was enough to ensure that his message had gotten across. It was obvious that neither idea appealed to Timbal.
“Don’t cut your speed. We’ll deal with poor sensor resolution and anything that gets through as it comes. We must be there on time. God forbid Phoenix ever hear that I ordered us to be late.” Timbal gave the signal to cut the transmission, and Phoenix walked up onto the foredeck, just before it did so, eliciting another chuckle from the Quaestor of House Acclivis Draco.
The Shi’ido turned to the communications officer, “Well done Bruno. Not many can take a sound thrashing from him and not blanch.” The officer smiled and went back to work. Unlike his other comrades, Tra’an remembered to praise his people. It was perhaps, one of the reasons why they were so fiercely loyal to him. A raised eyebrow from Salina Duval was all it took to make him smile and chuckle. She didn’t mind him being overly nice to her crew members; she was a harsh task mistress after all.
In the wake of having an actual XO, he served the purpose well enough. The crew respected him and what he had gone through after Kapsina. They all remembered the horrible disease that had forced him to spend the better part of six months in a bacta tank. As it was, he was still recovering, and thus had taken to using blasters and eschewing swords until he was stronger. Having mastered the defensive form of Lightsaber combat, strength wasn’t really an issue for him most of the time.
Dark Adept Vail Aquillarum Unteminar stood nearby, his hand on the navigation console as he guided the Basilisk through this mire. The Basilisk and her sister ships were a triangular prow through whose wake the rest of the fleet guided along. “How goes our Progress, Brother?” He received a grunt for his efforts from the normally untalkative friend. It was answer enough for now that things were going well.
“So what news from our illustrious Admiral,” Salina asked. A smile flitted across her lips, and it took very little for him to remember that she was a viper amongst cobras, somehow working her way to a very trusted position of power and respect within the fleet. Her smiles disarming, her behavior coy and coquettish at times, it was very much at odds with the Iron Lady as her troops liked to call her. It was as much a title of respect as one of outright dislike. Having been hardened to life long ago, living amongst the Dark Jedi had not changed her except to make her more ambitious, and smarter about her ambitions.
“Not much more than cursing us. Apparently we let a matalok slip by and the Warspite had to deal with it personally. Or in this case, Emperor Occasus took the first opportunity to return to being a fighter jockey and do it himself.” This brought a smirk to her lips and an answering smile from his own. They each knew of the Emperor’s proclivity to doing things himself, even at the risk of his own life. Then again, most Obelisks were the same way. Few of the Sith ever chose to do things themselves, preferring to delegate and obfuscate.
Tra’an retired to his quarters to meditate on the upcoming conflict, taking time out to continue working on regenerating the muscle tissue he had lost from months in a bacta tank in the corporate sector, getting fixed. He had very much wished to bring his personal ship with the fleet, if only to test his piloting skills, only to be told not to waste his time in bring it along. As such, he hadn’t bothered spending time with Tarentum, learning how to fly the Shroud. Libra Tzo, his XO and lover started a massage, helping to relax him. “Remember,” she told him, “it’s not what happens in orbit that matters, it’s what happens on the ground. You must be ready to lead the troops to victory. This time though, you won’t be susceptible to whatever they hit you with last time.”
Tra’an closed his eyes and let time pass, for now was not his time. Soon however, it would be different.
The young beings who made up the membership of Ebon Cloak huddled around the vid screen in the hanger of the ISD Warspite watching the battle. Their shuttle craft was prepped and ready, waiting only the word from the bridge that the insertion was to commence. The smells of lube and ion exhaust filled the air, and the feelings of fear and excitement diffused through the Force.
Draco Maligo stood off to the side of his team, arms folded across his chest. The black-clad figure also watched the view screen, and reaching out through the Force he confirmed the opinion his eyes gave him – it wasn’t much of a battle. Certainly not the desperate fight that the Vong were well known to give. Something was wrong. It was too easy. The only difficulty of the operation so far was the trip through the shroud, and who would have guessed that galactic geography would become a far worse enemy than the far outsiders?
Maligo glanced over his team and read again their emotions. They exhibited the usual signs of green troops going into action for the first time. Despite the rigorous training he had subjected them to, the Tetrarch couldn’t replicate the stresses of the battlefield. And going into action without their own ground troops, instead with the army of the Iron Throne, made Draco uneasy. Orders were orders, but the likelihood of treachery was high.
Draco reviewed in his mind the preparations he took, the logistics of his team’s part of the invasion, as important to a leader as the tactics involved. The cost in blood and treasure was beyond his ken, but he hoped it wouldn’t be as much of a massacre as the last time he faced the Vong, escaping barely with his life. He could try to look through the Force to see which of his charges would end up broken and lifeless, dead in a pool of their own blood, but that would distract him from his job. The carnage of war would soon engulf them all.
The TIEs buzzed around the delta shaped Destroyer, finding their way back to the hangar one by one. Thran, too, returned his vessel to the Hangar. But not before he had some fun…
“Warspite, Ace One here, Requesting fly-by of tower. Over?” the Emperor said, sure that Timbal would say no.
“Negative Ace One, Return to Hangar for Debriefing.” Replied one of Timbal’s Minions, static hissing with the malfunctioning communications array.
“Come back, Warspite, I didn’t catch that.” Thran said, he had heard the tower controller, but he was the Emperor.
The blade-winged vessel looped and rolled, spinning like the barrels of a chain gun. Thran laughed behind his helmet. Timbal would be furious. Thran was the kind of ostensible asshole that would push the Admiral as far as he could. He was allowed to.
Timbal loved his ship, it was closer to him than his children. He hated to think that he would have to submit to this fighter-jock and his insanity. “Negative, Ace One. Pull off your fly-by!” the man chirped, terror gripping him as the Defender shrieked towards the broad forward view. The distinct sound of the Twin Ion Engines roared through the bridge as the Emperor and his Vessel streaked across the viewport. Thran pulled back on his stick, throwing the vessel into a stomach curling aerobatic display. He was showboating.
“Damnit…He’s going to get himself killed.” Timbal muttered under his breath.
No sooner than the TIE screamed in front of the startled denizens of the Bridge, the shrill sound of the Defender could be heard again. Hugging the hull of the vessel, the fighter exploded forward in a burst of speed. Narrowly missing the barbette Turbolasers, Thran was on his way back towards the nose of the Vessel.
Timbal clenched his fists.
“Occasus!” the Admiral barked. “Return to Warspite for Debrief!”
“Negative, Admiral Grumpy. The Aces and I are going to inspect the other Vessels. We will be flying free with you through the Shroud. And Timbal…If you ever issue me an order again, I will make sure that you are scrubbing every deck of MY ship with a toothbrush, Are we understood?” The Emperor replied.
“Aye, Sir.” Timbal grimaced at his own words. Thran was the Emperor, after all. “A word of caution, Mi’lord…You are the Emperor, you shouldn’t be flying so foolishly, we*cough* need you.”
Thran took a moment to reply, he thought it was humorous that Timbal thought he was flying dangerously. Timbal was clearly not a pilot. Any good pilot would tell you that flying dangerously is the only way to fly.
“Thanks for your Concern, Admiral. What is the status of the operation? Are the landing troops ready?” The Emperor asked.
“Yes, Mi’lord, but don’t you think that was a bit premature? We’ve still got a great deal of travel to do…” Timbal replied.
“No, I don’t. They should be ready, now.” Thran was growing short with the Admiral and his incessant challenges to his authority.
The Admiral foolishly didn’t close the channel as he muttered to himself, “I hope he gets himself killed…”
Thran heard him and grinned. “So glad you feel that way, Admiral. Your command is relinquished. Fleet operations will now be led by Admiral Sommetra aboard the Excidium. Get your toothbrush...and Report to the Navigation terminal. Your undertrained button-pushers will need someone who can actually navigate them through the Shroud.” The Emperor hissed.
Thran smiled to himself, all he need was reason to remove Timbal from command, and Timbal put that reason right in his lap. The Emperor was reckless, uncaring for who was the most entitled to lead this strike. For him, the strike would be won from where he was sitting, behind the controls of the Clan’s premier fighter group. The fleet provided just enough distraction to focus the Vong attention on them while he did the damage. No one ever appreciated the TIE Corps. No one had ever taken the time to realize how many victories they had claimed for the Clan. It was ironic, in some way, that the least humble man this side of Corellia was the hero of the most humble and undermined asset of the Clan. He loved it. He’d prove them all wrong.
“Give me an ETA to Antei, and keep me posted on navigation through the Shroud. The Aces and I will return to the Indomitable for resupply. Any more problems, Admiral?” Thran asked.
“No…Sir.” Timbal grumbled, hanging his head and slogging over to the Navigation Terminal.
Covering her mouth with one hand and using her other to brace herself against the bulkheads of the Warspite, Hawk made her way to the Officers Lounge. Pausing at the door and placing both hands agaisnt either sides of the frame, she let it slide open. The few that patroned the lounge looked up at her and gave her a curious brief glance before returning to their drinks and varying conversations. Hawk closed her eyes and her head fell back a bit. In one swift movement her eyes jarred open and she began to move forward. Robin knew exactly where she was going to sit and as she did she waved to the bartender to bring her a drink. To her left was Anarya who was playing with the little umbrella in her girly drink and a somewhat unfamiliar male human sat on the right. Then she had to take a double take at the furry little creature in front of her and almost forgot who it was. She gave the furry thing a nod but didn't react out of sorts as one would expect. Then it spoke.
“Not feeling well birdie?” the furry creature spoke.
Hawk grabbed a canister from her belt and began to open it. Putting it up to her mouth and tipping it she swallowed the contents. “I'll be alright. I hate frackin space travel.” Grabbing the drink in front of her and taking a long swig.“Who's he?”
“Have you not met Karean my other apprentice?”
“Um, no. Or I wouldn't ask.” Hawk's response was a little disrespectful, but she could care less with the state she was in. “By the way Koskian, I think I was responsible for your current disposition.” The words she sputtered were deffiniately a threat, but Anarya just laughed and Karean was too busy ordering another round of drinks. The Ewok accross from her couldn't care less either. “You were warned not to taunt those caged Ewoks and well I was giving them certain additives in their kibble. I just didn't think it would be transmitted as such.” Robin's mind wandered for a brief moment and her demeanor changed to glee. “You mind if I take a sample of your blood?”
After only a couple of drinks the Dark Paladin bid them farewell, while Hawk left, she passed by her old Quaestor at the door who almost knocked her off her feet as he entered. Ignoring his lack of notice, she continued on her way. Feeling much better since taking her little antidote, the woman made her way towards the bridge of the ship. Twenty minutes later and after many directions needing to be asked she arrived at an area of the ship where the bridge was located. About five steps away from the bridge doors, a man came out rather upset. “Timbal?”
Timbal’s head with his upset-looking face only hung low enough to get out of the field of view of the holocam, and he resumed his usual dignified walk to the technical station. He passed Brigadier General Robin Hawk that had just entered the bridge, and she asked a single question, “Timbal?”
He gave her a quick confident smile that only she could see, and continued on his way.
The officers and crew around him, the vast majority of whom he had trained and personally had selected to be part of his crew on this warship, exchanged hooded glances. They had witnessed their commanding officer humiliated by the Emperor, and everyone was unsure of what was to follow.
The Admiral completed the short walk, and had a few very quiet words with the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant nodded, and ran off, grabbing the senior technical enlisted man.
Timbal turned, and saw his aide standing by. He returned his voice to normal volume, and asked the aide if he could retrieve his toothbrush for him from his quarters. The aide, nervous, nodded immediately and departed post-haste.
Timbal stood by, an oddly confident stance. The crew and officers glanced at each other again, and slowly drew confidence from their commanding officer’s presence.
Timbal kept his eyes glued on the tactical display, but his thoughts were racing ahead. Yes, this would work, he thought to himself. Try and dismiss me, he thought darkly to himself.
His aide returned with the requested toothbrush. The Admiral gave him his thanks, and departed for the hangar deck.
He nodded at the fellow Dark Jedi that was present at the Navigation station as a passing salute, which was returned quietly and confidently.
The Admiral departed with his small team in a small fleet shuttle. It would a short flight to the Indomitable.
Main Starfighter Hangar Deck,
ISD II Indomitable
Antei, Dark Jedi Brotherhood Territories
Battlelord Thran Occasus felt good. Everything was falling into place, and his heart was swelling up with pride over his accomplishments so far. Everything thus he had planned for and was foreseen.
He was berating the techs to hurry up and finish servicing his TIE Defender when the unassuming fleet shuttle arrived. No surprise there, there were plenty of them flying around between the ships of the fleet with various personnel, parts and sensitive information being exchanged every minute. Thran barely noticed, as such things were beneath him, and it only mattered since he had just observed it land.
He was departing for the bridge when he felt it. The underlings that arrived were of no consequence, but the last person to leave the small shuttle was the current object of his contempt.
With an expressionless face, Fleet Admiral Timbal Palpatine also caught sight of his nemesis. The face of fury on the so-called Emperor’s face was priceless, but he stayed where he was. Timbal expected this, and moved to him.
Thran didn’t wait for him to arrive. “YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SLIME, YOU BETTER HAVE ONE DAMN GOOD REASON TO HAVE ABANDONED YOUR POST, YOU EXCUSE FOR A MAN!” he roared, clearly audible to the entire hangar bay and above even the din of machinery.
Timbal waited to reach the proper distance militarily dictated for him to be from his superior, and stopped and saluted crisply. The glare from the Emperor could have melted ferroconcrete, but Timbal had faced far worse before and was un-deterred.
“Fleet Admiral Timbal Palpatine, here to see you about your final orders, sir,” he said, stressing his earned last name, carefully calculated to maximize Thran’s rage. He also crisply presented his toothbrush.
“WHAT THE [Explicative Deleted] DO YOU [Explicative Deleted] THINK YOU ARE [Explicative Deleted] TRYING TO PULL OFF, [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted]?! YOU ARE GOING TO PAY FOR THIS, [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted]!!!”
Timbal weathered the storm quite well. Confidently and clearly enough to be heard by a fairly large amount of people around them, Timbal replied. “Well, sir, I realized that you had asked me to bring my dental hygiene equipment and report to Navigation. However, I realized that Navigation was being ably staffed, and came here to report in to you for further duty of your Fleet Admiral,” he said, sarcastically tossing in his title.
Timbal didn’t give the Emperor a chance to retort. “I also wanted to take this time to see if possibly I was mistaken about your orders. After all, our communications system is as yet still being brought up to full restoration.”
“YOU [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted], YOU DAMN WELL KNOW WHAT I [Explicative Deleted] ORDERED!” Thran’s voice suddenly decreased markedly, but the malice on his face was clear. “In fact, this puts you as being insubordinate, Admiral.” The Emperor was clearly relishing the idea.
“Oh? Clear communications notwithstanding, I would have thought that a leader that places the mission first instead of personal glory would want to ensure that his orders were clearly understood. After all, that is something all of us in the Fleet are aware of. I know this because I signed standing orders as such when I trained this Fleet. They all would follow my orders, sir.”
It was as if the deck lost its’ entire atmosphere and all the air was immediately sucked out to space.
Thran, looking oddly calm, rose an inquiring eyebrow. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying, Admiral?” he asked, with deadly malice hanging over ever word, including the sarcasm over the title.
“I would think so, sir. Oh, sure, some would follow orders from the Emperor. Like I said, I trained them well. But how will the Clan function when the very heart of its’ beloved Fleet is torn apart in internal conflict? Especially in this War?”
Thran’s face was almost looking like he was about to salivate at any moment with glee. “Mutiny has only one punishment. Death by my personal hand.”
Thran pulled out his lightsaber, and Timbal didn’t make a move. “Oh, the good news is that there won’t be such a thing in this Fleet. I love this Fleet more than my own life itself, and wouldn’t put them through such an event. However, I will offer something to you, sir.”
Thran was clearly just about to activate his lightsaber, his thumb caressing its’ activation switch, but he held off just a moment, since he was obviously not reaching for his own lightsaber. He was instead reaching to his left breast and his hand returned back with his Admiral’s insignia.
“I hereby submit my resignation as Fleet Admiral within the Clan Military, claiming nothing in return. I do this to save the lives of my crew and Fleet, but mark my words, Emperor, that they will be watching what you do with their lives in the ultimate crucible of combat. They will judge you worthy.” Timbal then pointed to the small holocam system that was quietly set up by his crew while Timbal had debarked the shuttle. The entire thing was being broadcast over the entire Fleet.
Timbal tossed the insignia to the Emperor, which he in turn sliced in half with his activated lightsaber, and just barely was able to reign in the impulse to slice the Epis in half as well. The maddening smirk on his face disappeared as he saluted, gave a crisp about-face, and departed.
“GET THE [Explicative Deleted] OFF MY SHIP, [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted] KRATH! I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU ANYWHERE NEAR MY SHIPS, GO TO STEERAGE WHERE YOU [Explicative Deleted] BELONG, [Explicative Deleted] [Explicative Deleted]!
Timbal didn’t turn, but waved the concern away and re-boarded the shuttle.
He departed with a satisfied smile on his face.
On board the Fury, Jedi Master Natth a'Niel stood with his hands on his back, watching the broadcast with interest and with worry. He could feel Captain Kaal's eyes on him as she, too, pondered the implications of what they had just witnessed. The rest of the crew made a show of staring at their controls.
This was more than a mere mutiny - because that was still what it was, essentially - of an Admiral and his fleet. It was also a call from Timbal to all Palpatines to deal with the percieved or real issue of Thran's way to rule. Although the Sith was sure that Thran, in his fury, had missed that part of the message, he also knew that after the war Thran would have to deal with the Sons and Daughters of Palpatine. Maybe even before then.
"This changes things," a squaky voice came from behind him.
Natth turned and sighed at the sight of the little female Ewok sitting on a console in the back. The Ralconian-turned-Ewok Arania had been pestering him for the last hour about helping her to find a new body to move into and help her doing the transition. He had spent the whole hour trying to get it into her furry little head that this would not be possible out here during the war. "I know you will be even more eager to return to a body worth the name, but you will still have to wait. You are still lucky, you know, you could have ended up in the body of a male Ewok."
"I should have fixed Kosk's problem, not create one for myself." Arania's fury was barely contained. "At least I know now it was not, as some others seem to think, related to him taunting the creatures. At least not primarily. But be that as it may, I think my little mishap could actually be of advantage now."
"How so?" Natth walked to the middle of the bridge, hands still behind his back, and nodded to the Captain. Kaal took the hint and turned away from him, going about the ship's business. All she needed to know was that he would support Timbal's decisions and protect the fleet as well.
"No one not among the Palpatines or my family takes me completely serious as I am now. Not even Thran. Who knows what this might be good for." Arania slid of the console and smiled. "I'll be ready, though."
Again, Natth sighed. He had never taken Arania for one who would think about going against the ruler of her Clan, unless she saw whoever it was as a total failure. She had already made it clear that she did not think of Thran that way. Yet it seemed her loyalty to Timbal and other old tradition bound members was stronger than her loyalty for any momentary leader. In any case, he couldn't be sure of the Ralconi... the Ewok's true motives. He was never sure of her motives under any circumstances. "We will all be ready," he said. "Now, would you care to do something useful up here? The second science console is currently empty."
The woman walked over to it to take the chance and take her mind of her impediment. Then it was her turn to sigh. The seat was much to high for her so she had to climb up. Just to find her nose barely reached the edge of her console. "I seem to have a problem," she stated the obvious, and there actually was a hint of amusement in her voice.
"We'll fix that." Natth smirked as he waved to an ordonance to go running for a booster seat and then went towards the doors. "I'm going on an inspection. Last minute problems are not on my agenda."
Luciferus had taken a small blow from the news. We’re going back to Antei to fight the Vong . . . he could still hear the voice bellowing from the darkness of his mind. Why? The Vong are of little importance right now, especially to CSP. We just had a rebellion! We can’t go on grandiose missions just because the Grand Master wants to! War has a meaning of some sort. Yes, the Vong took Antei. We didn’t stop them. We had mass casualties, but we got new ships and troops. Now we are just going back?
Luciferus was at a struggle. He is an Obelisk Centurion. He should love the idea of battle. But battle must have reason. That is what makes him different from all the other Centurions. He fought battle with his best ability, but to fight for nothing was to not fight at all. No matter, Luciferus had a job to do. Defeat the Vong. He wasn’t doing it alone. But he had to attach meaning to this War before he could fight.
Meaning. Meaning. Meaning. The Vong . . . what do they mean? The Vong. The Yuuzhan Vong! They mean . . . . *blank*. They mean . . . a threat! A grandiose threat!
Luciferus huddled himself in his mind. Sometimes he wondered if he was actually a Krath in disguise. Decades of minutes passed. Eventually he came to a conclusion.
The Vong . . . the galaxy . . . in my search of something so powerful in the galaxy, I find myself upon the Vong. Beat the Dark Jedi Brotherhood. Beat the galaxy. Beat power. To gain strength, I must fight. To gain power, I must fight the Vong. To gain victory, I must win over the Vong. And I will be set free!
Luciferus immediately left his chamber room and walked around the Warspite. Random Vong incursions occurred everywhere. The yells of troops and navy men left and right could be heard echoing throughout. The Dark Jedi Knight walked the ship. He felt personal. All these bodies flying around the ship, and none of them could feel him, nor could he feel them. He felt refreshed and invigorated to fight those that lay invisible.
Koskian was quiet for a moment as Dante went on about some story, the Pro Consul was already well on his way to being well and drunk when the call came over his comlink. Tiring on the noise, Koskian had picked up his former Quaestor's communication tool and clicked it over to on.
“Hello? Dante is to....well, he's to tanked to answer, can I take a message?” he chittered over the link, annoyed at the pitch of his own voice in this form.
“Wha....Koskian is that you?” shouted the voice, hurting his sensitive ears.
“Umm, yeah hi Thran, err, Emperor,” he replied cautiously, no longer finding the situation amusing.
“Damn't. Dante is drunk? Fine, you'll do.....” Koskian listened intently for a few minutes before nodding and affirming himself to his Consul, and putting the comlink down.
“Grid.....go to the forward hangar bay, be...nonchalant, I need you to keep an eye out for the former Fleet Admiral...Timbal....observe, but do not try anything stupid, understood?”
“Sure boss, lemme just take this bottle with me....,” replied the drunken Honor Guard, snatching up the bottle of whiskey and weaving his way out of the lounge.
“Why would you ask him....were both here, Master,” inquired Karean.
Koskian ignored him, rubbing momentarily at the sore spot on his bottom where RobinHawk had drawn a blood sample. Looking up at a strange noise, he noticed another Dark Jedi, one from a different House then his, running down the corridors with a wild look in his eye, weapon in hand. Several security personnel were chasing him, and Koskian finally managed to dredge up a name, 'Scyrone'.
The guards tackled the man, taking him down as he raved about taking down the 'Vong that were on board already!' One of the guards finally tired of this and stunned the man, having to shoot him several times.
“Ones already broken from the stress, hah, that didn't take long...” muttered the Ewok, sipping his ale.
Voldemort and Yeldarb were at their 15th or 16th drink - none of them had bothered to keep track, really - while staring out of the window into the sickening sight of the shroud.
"I still don't see why we have to go back there. I never liked Antei much to begin with. Broody place, that world." Voldemort's voice was only slightly slurred as he kept detoxing himself, unlike Yeldarb who used the opportunity to get completely wasted. "I'm not the only one to feel like that, either. I'm sure the Grand Master knows what he is doing - what we are doing - but I sure don't."
Yeldarb grunted affirmatively, then took another sip. He opened his mouth, no doubt to sputter out some incredible alcohol induced wisdom. Instead, his jaw dropped and he pointed at the window, starting to giggle madly.
Voldemort thought Yeldarb had lost it, but then the Templar's eyes followed Yeldarb's finger and his jaw almost dropped, too. Everyone else in the mess hall seemed to stare at the sight as well, Voldemort vaguely noticed.
A large Vong ship had appeared in some distance, and judging by the erratic way it was moving, something was not right with them. At least part of the reason for that was the group of Brotherhood fighters at it's tail. There was something wrong about the way the Vong ship moved, too, but Voldemort, not an expert in such matters, could not pinpoint it.
"Those are Arconans" an angry voice behind them growled. "Figures they put on a show just to provoke us."
Indeed, the fighters who were now taking the Vong ship apart were displaying Arconan symbols. "The Emperrrror will sooo not like thishhh," Yeldarb mumbled and then belched loudly.
"We are all in this together, remember, folks?" A calm voice in the choir of angry mutterings spoke up. "All Clans, all Orders. If the Arconans finish what they obviously started, why be upset about it?"
Voldemort turned to look at the speaker. Pontifex Chuchulain stood there in his purple-striped robe, looking all serene and mighty. Voldemort knew that in a bit he would be drinking more than anyone else, going on about old stories and cursing the Arconans as well as anyone. Right now, his comment calmed down the masses. Voldemort was not sure if the man had not used some sort of mind trick to achieve this.
Yeldarb keeled over in his chair and fell right to Cooch's feet. The Krath lifted first one, then both eyebrows. "Looks like someone is way ahead of me. I need to catch up. Waitress!"
As the Krath sat down at the next table, watching the final moments of the Vong ship, Voldemort's face must have carried an expression of concern. Chuchulain laughed silently. "Don't you worry, young one. We'll all be sober and motivated when the time comes to get down to it and reclaim our home. Including you."
For some reason, Voldemort felt more motivated already as he stepped over Yeldarb and left the mess hall. "Definitely some mind trick," he muttered.
On the bridge of the Fury, the sudden appearance of the Vong vessel had caused some stir as well. "Why did we not get any readings on them before?" the captain demanded to know. "Even in the Shroud, we should have noticed them earlier. Especially those Arconans."
The science officer at the main science station was new at this and just shook his head in confusion. Captain Kaal's eyes turned to the secondary science console. "I want answers!" Then she remembered who she was now talking to. "Lady Palpatine," she added more respectfully.
The Ewok on the booster seat seemed not to have noticed the tone of voice of the captain. "Readings did not really match that of a Vong ship this size," she replied calmly. "And the Arconans keep flying through ahead of us so I did not bother to report them anymore. My mistake."
The captain straightened herself and shook her head slightly. "No matter. It seems the Arconans can do the work alone, so as long as we do not get direct orders from..." She coughed, and everyone knew that she had been about to mention Timbal.
There was a moment of silence, then normal talks started up on the bridge again. Arania watched the captain for a moment. She decided that the woman was angry about the fleet situation more than about the sudden appearance and destruction of a Vong ship. All the better. The Ewok pressed the "replacement needed" button on her console. Time to start some plotting and planning, and she couldn't do that here.
“Sir”, the communications officer called to Captain Duval, “the Admiral pays his respects and wishes to come aboard.” Duval sat with her elbows on the console in front of her, fingers latticed and supporting her chin. A quiet “Hmmm” was heard from her officers while she considered whether or not to let him aboard. It was tantamount to declaring herself in line with him, and yet, supporting an Emperor that was likely to get her and her crew killed due to shoddy tactics.
“Bring him aboard, and render full military honors.” The voice came from the hatchway, where Tra’an Reith stood, looking rather annoyed at being dragged from his reprieve in the modified conference room he’d been using for quarters. The transmission of Timbal’s resignation had been pushed through the privacy barrier he left up, as it carried an alpha priority override. Only five people had that in the fleet, now only four with the resignation of Fleet Admiral Palpatine.
Salina looked over at him and then back at the officers. “You heard the XO. Welcome the man aboard.” The officers jumped to work as the Templar nodded his head at her, before running to the shuttle hangar. He arrived just as the shuttle was setting down on the deck, the bay standing by at attention. As the hatch opened, the old Imperial March began to play. Not bothering to wait in line, Tra’an and Libra moved to the foot of the shuttle, greeting Timbal as he stepped off what would be his last ride in the Lambda reserved for the top Admiral. It lifted off as soon as they were clear, already returning to the Warspite.
“Well, it seems clear to me that Thran hasn’t learned anything. Perhaps Phoenix will take it upon himself to ring the Consul’s bells and bring him into the fold. If not, things will get ugly fast.” Timbal answered him with a nod, not bothering to speak yet. They trundled over to the lift that would take them back to the Officer’s deck, where the empty stateroom for the XO was waiting for Timbal. After sealing the door behind them, Timbal vented his frustration.
“Thran will be ‘fixed’, one way or the other. Force knows that the Palpatine family will have something to say about this, and we’ll see what happens then.” Timbal slowly sat down on the bed, considering once again what had transpired. Tra’an handed him some chilled Rylothian Rum and a tumbler with ice. The Palpatine poured it half-full, swirled it around, and drank it all after a few seconds.
“I’ll be in my quarters in the forward conference room. Salina may or may not be happy to have you on board, I pre-empted her decision by bringing you on board. Vail is on the bridge functioning as Shroud Navigator, he hasn’t been in much of a mood to talk since we left.” Timbal nodded, glad for his Quaestor’s actions since it protected the Captain from any official retribution. Tra’an and Libra left him to his contemplations, as such a thing was not something one really wanted to share anyhow. They retired to his converted quarters, where Tra’an attempted to relax again. Still, there was nothing he could do beyond what had transpired. Only time could change things for now.
The rage inside Thran Occasus hadn’t subsided much since the encounter with the treacherous Palpatine. And now that Arconans had stepped foot onto his hunting ground, the fury had been reignited.
“Hurry up,” he barked at the Techs and Engineers working on his TIE Defender. “The Vong are on our doorstep, and I’m just sitting here. And if an Arconan or two get in my way, they will feel my wrath.” The malice dripped off his words and the Engineers redoubled their efforts at working on the TIE.
Timbal would pay for his disloyalty. That was certain. But not yet. First he had to ensure the loyalty of the rest of the Palpatine Family.
Koryn Thraagus made his way back to his quarters aboard the Warspite. Upon approaching, he saw the figure standing outside his assigned quarters. The human, Major Garax Levayne, saluted him.
“At ease, my friend.” The Rodian said. The Executive Officer of the 2nd Antenora Regiment had insisted on being brought aboard the Warspite to protect his friend and Commanding Officer. Koryn had persisted that he would be fine. The Major’s reply had been simple: “You watch my back; I watch yours.” Garax could be stubborn at times, a trait which Koryn admired in the man.
The Knight entered the code on his door and summoned the Officer inside. Koryn poured himself a glass of Necr’ygor Omic Wine; Levayne declined stating that he didn’t like to drink while on duty. Koryn sipped his drink, feeling the liquid slip down his throat.
“What will you do about the schism between the Emperor and the Fleet Admiral, sir?” Asked Garax. Koryn’s brow furrowed as he attempted to comprehend the Officer’s question.
“They’re always fighting about something.” The Rodian eventually said. “What’s so different this time?” Levayne tapped a few buttons on Koryn’s communication console and brought up a recording. Koryn’s mouth dropped open as he witnessed the events on-screen unfold. He had seen people huddled around screens on his way back to his quarters but did not think to stop and look. The recording ended and Koryn sat in silence. This would cause complications.
“Sir…?” Levayne broke the silence. The Krath sighed and looked up at him. Koryn could sense the unease behind his confident stance.
“There’s nothing I can do about this.” The Rodian said, answering Garax’s earlier question. He finished the wine he was drinking before continuing. “But I will follow whichever path profits my Clan the most.”
“Of course, sir.” Replied the human. “I shall leave you to rest, sir. I am sure you need it.” Levayne saluted before turning to leave. As he reached the door of the small room, Koryn called him back.
“Find out an ETA for Antei for me. I can sense you are anxious for battle.” Garax sighed. He never would get used to the Jedi using their mysterious powers around him.
“Yes sir, I am. But I thought only the Army of the Iron Throne and the Jedi would be involved in the assault.” Koryn nodded slowly.
“Yes, but I will find a way, my friend.” The Major saluted again and left. Koryn sat down in the middle of the small room. He closed his eyes and focused on the ebb and flow of the Force, feeling its currents throughout the ship. Something was coming. He could feel it.
Luciferus felt a mass headache come upon him. He was drowned in his pre-thought of what happened. The batch of slick Luciferus had found earlier in the year took its effect. The Ithorian was recovering in the medical station aboard the ship. A kind female doctor looked at him while giving him some medicine. She was Zabrak.
“How the hell does a Zabrak get into the Dark Jedi Brotherhood?” Questioned the moaning Ithorian.
“I have my ways,” she started, “After finding some Dark Jedi on a planet next to dead, and helping to revive their wounds, it became easy for me to be here.”
“Well, at least you’re not human. There are too many of them in this galaxy. They need to die off.”
“You’re pretty violent for an Ithorian.”
Luciferus could only pass on a small meh before he sat up in the small bed. His head was dizzyfying and his heart was pounding like mad. Maybe all he needed was some rest. So he left for his quarters, thanking the slender Zabrak for her help, and then moved on throughout the corridors of the Warspite.
As he arrived at his quarters, he slumped onto his bed and fell to sleep silently. Hopefully by the time he awoke, they would just be preparing for the mass battle at Antei.
His elbows grew red, as he pressed them into the hard ebony desk. The Flight Control Officer had quickly surrendered his office when the Emperor roared for a place to relax while his Defender underwent routine checks. They were stalling for time. Word had already traveled to the bowels of the Indomitable that the Fleet Admiral was planning a coup. This time he had predicted that Timbal would cave; and for once he was wrong. But as every good gambler knew, especially the ones that cheated, you couldn’t win every time. Power had struck the Emperor with the fortitude of a gram of spice. It infected his brain, poisoned him, and twisted him away from himself. He was a junkie for it and his fix was wearing off in the wake of the whispers in the hangar.
Timbal Palpatine had spit in the face of the Emperor, not literally but quite figuratively. Sometime early in his time as Proconsul, Timbal set his eyes on taking down the Sith. It could have been the exorbitant quantity of self-love that he had, it could have been the sense of entitlement that he felt, it could have been the lack of respect that the Sith had shown towards Timbal, or it could have been anything else on a list that was lightyears long that set Timbal’s mind. Timbal had made one grave mistake. For all the trouble that Thran Occasus had caused him, he continued to underestimate the Bakuran.
Timbal thought he could stand against the new Emperor. The Palpatines held the sway of power within the Clan, they had for ages. Thran did not stand for the old ways of the Palpatines. He wanted to usher in an age of Thran-worship, and it was not until now that he realized he had to put in the work before they would praise him. It crushed him. He’d fought for so long to get to where he was and he watched it crumble in his hand. His dream was like sand; The harder he clenched to it, the more of it slipped away.
The Emperor sat in silent meditation, buried in his hands and a glass of his favorite aged cognac. How could he dig himself out? He’d lost his focus, and with it he could feel the swell of the tide drowning him as it moved against him. This would take a stroke of genius. He closed upon himself, and the flow of the Force welled up in the room. It billowed over him, like thunderclouds ready pour their countenance over the land.
For some, the Dark-Side drained the soul. But for the truly evil at heart, it replenished and ended the discord. In the Darkness, you only had yourself.
Koskian d’Tana moved his little furry legs as fast as they would go. He’d been sent on a mission and he was going to fulfill it. For as robust as the little Ewok was, the tubby creature could move. Each step was accompanied with a small grunt, squeak, or otherwise adorable noise.
He was one of the few; The Loyal. The Emperor was a hero, he knew it. The corpulent little Ewok also knew that it was the discord that was making him so unbearable to be around. He’d known Thran Occasus for some time and accordingly he knew his most crippling weakness. Thran was a man that could not live without the love of others. He did not show the love, no, he needed the love. Though the Emperor was growing older, he was still that little boy who was forgotten by his mother, the little boy who so desperately needed someone to love him.
That was why he moved his little legs so fast; he pitied him.
Beyond their immeasurable cuteness, Ewoks held a dangerous card; they were wry, cunning creatures. Koskian, with little trouble, had Timbal trailed. The little Ewok finally ran to the communication port and sent the message to the Emperor.
“Can you believe the audacity…” Timbal spoke to himself.
He was furious with the space slug that they called the Emperor. He took personal insult to the actions of the ‘ruler’. Timbal drank the rum, sloshing about in the tumbler, slowly. It tasted like it was powerful enough to clean a full set of hydrospanners to their shining original states. Timbal, though he would never admit it, was as equally hot headed as Thran was. When the two were brought together, it was a recipe for disaster.
Timbal would use the pull of his Naval Command to force the Emperor out of his drug addled, self indulging, arrogant mind set. If Thran thought he could push the Palpatines around, drag them through the mud, Timbal would prove him wrong. The truth of the matter was, the two men needed the time away.
“Fighter jocks” the former Admiral sighed.
It was the inherent conflict between the origins of the two men that made the foundation of the discord between them. Fleet men never meshed with the Fighter pilots, they were oil and water.
Timbal stewed in his hate. He’d end Occasus. It was personal now.
The calmness of the abyssal darkness set him clear. Black, like an unused chalkboard, Thran began to rebuild himself, rewrite his mind, reorganize the tangled web of pride and prejudice he had built so wide.
It was in the stunning silence, and eerie peace, that the voice came to him. Soft, it started.
“Why so lost, old man?” said the voice of the squirrely little boy.
Thran didn’t flinch. He was manifesting this; It couldn’t be real. He opened his rich green eyes, to see the young boy sitting across from him, feet dangling from the chair made for a full grown man. His mousey hair, was ruffled up and dirty, just how he remembered the boy.
“Don’t worry, Thran. You know the answer…its been in front of you the whole time.” Said the squirrely little boy.
The man looked down. On the desk; a plush Ewok.
Everything clicked. His mind was working once again. The delusion of his power vanished. He realized why he was stuck. The gears no longer seize, everything was free to move again. How had he been so foolish?
He snapped to his feet and rushed to the door. The man quickly turned back to the chair where the mousey haired boy sat. “Thanks Du--” he said, noticing that the mousey haired boy was gone.
Turning away from the site of his hallucination, Thran issued an order to the men posted outside the door. He was calm, focused, different; all thanks to one little boy, one very dead little boy. “Gentlemen, raise a channel to the Fury. I must speak with Arania…please.” The Emperor said, running his hair through his head, still trying to shake the haunting from his mind.
“Aye, Sir. Message for you from…ummm…Koskian d’Tana…I think…” the soldier replied, handing a small device to the monarch.
In the depths of the Fury's science lab, wich was, as far as Arania was concerned, not adequat at all, the grey and brown striped Ewok finally caught up with Chuchulain. Cooch was, to no surprise, destilling his own booze, no doubt having had enough of the limited qualities in the mess hall.
At first, Arania thought the man had not noticed her, focussed as he was. Then she realized he was watching her from the corner of his eyes. "We have a problem," he said all of a sudden, turning away from the destillation process. "I have been expecting you earlier.
"You mean, we have Timbal," the woman sighed and scratched her head. "And we have Occasus."
"Alone, they are fine, together, a desaster waiting to happen." Cooch tried a sip of his homebrew and smiled. "Want a sip?"
The Ewok scratched her back and shook her head. "I found out the hard way that Ewok bodies can have a funny reaction to alcohol. Although Kosk seems to get around it somehow."
"Aww, too bad. Anyway, I haven't been talking to Timbal since we set out towards Antei, if that's what you want to know."
"It's part of what I want to know." Arania jumped up on a chair and then climbed on the table next to Cooch. "I mainly want to know where the Palpatines will stand in all this. And that means I need to know where you stand in all this." Her eyes seemed to pierce the other Krath. "We cannot have this conflict blow up into our faces now."
"Whoa, calm down, little furry lady. Who made you ruler of the Palpatines? Since when do we need to ask each other where our loyalties lie?"Chuchulain seemed vaguely amused.
"That is exactly the point. We all know our loyalty is with the Clan. Not a particular leader. Not a particular Palpatine either. But because it is with the Clan, we tend to support the other Palpatines because we want to believe we would never do anything to harm the Clan."
Cooch thought about that for a moment. "We never harmed the Clan, none of us has. Timbal usually knows what he's doing. Thran has to see some sense at some time. Although I admit this last clash between them came as a surprise and Timbal seemed to be overreacting to me." He took another sip. "Sure you don't want any?"
Arania shook her head, then slid down to the floor and made her way out. At the door, she stopped and turned around again. "If Timbal wants to make Thran see some sense, as you put it, then who will make Timbal see any?" Then she left. Cooch mumbled something inbetween sips, but Arania was already too far away to listen.
Angelo Dante's eyes fixed on the readouts he had been given by several stations as he sat in the conference room all by himself. His latest encounters with alcohol didn't cause him any trouble; he knew he had to be up and sharp from now on. More Vong ships could show at any moment, and Thran had not been happy at all about him drinking while the last one the Arconans had shot down had appeared.
All their Vong encounters until now had been atypical. If all the intel they had been given was true, the Vong were wreaking havoc on the galaxy, but what they were seeing here was like a parody. As if the Vong suddenly didn't know what they were supposed to be doing.
As much as the Proconsul wanted to share his thoughts on the matter with Occasus, he knew the Emperor was trying to contact the Lawakiro Ewok on the Fury and was not to be disturbed. But there was time for that. Something else occupied Dante's mind as well, and that was more worrysome than internal disputes. Soon there would be battle on Antei, and he had heard a rumour before boarding the ships which had hovered in the back of his thoughts until now. Supposedly, the Dark Council intended to use one of the Clans as bait. A sacrifice to make the Vong feel superior, just for the other Clans to smash them. And supposedly, the Clan in question was either CSP or Plagueis.
Of course, Dante knew better than to believe that. Usually, some Arconan or Taldryanite said something along those lines just to annoy the other Clans. However, half an hour ago he had heard the rumour repeated by one of the lower ranked members of CSP. Just that this time, it had been stated as a certainty. He would need to nip this in the butt before more people started believing it. And before Thran would get wind of it. The Proconsul decided to do that right now and touched the display inlaid in the conference table. The leaders could pass his words down to the units while Thran was busy talking to the Ewok lady.
"...so rest assured, if the Dark Council would want to see any Clan destroyed, we can be sure it would be Tarentum or Arcona," Dakari said with a powerful voice, addressing most of the members of his House over the comm system. He could hear some of them laugh in response. "But Grand Master Sarin wants unity in this, so we can be sure no clan will be sacrificed to achieve victory. At least not this time." Again, some people shouted or laughed. "Anyone still spouting such rumours will be dealt with by me personally. Now, you all go back to preparing or drinking or even any real duties you currently are assigned to," the Quaestor ended his short speech and ended the communication. Then he turned his chair around and looked at his Aedile. "Feeling better, I hope?"
The Ithorian behind him made a movement which could as well have been a shaking of his head or a shrugging of his shoulders. Hard to say with his anatomy. "I'll not use strange cheap drugs again just to take my mind off things, that's for sure. And whoever stunned me that often will hear of me."
Dakari grinned drily. "Great. Well, then, let's see who of Caliburnus is able to handle a Brotherhood-assigned team alone, and who needs to be assigned in pairs or even triples." He grabbed a noteblock. "And don't tell me you want to go right into the middle of it first. You are a leader now, my friend. You need to keep yourself alive."
Again, the Ihtorian made that vague movement. "I don't intend to kill myself off. Now let's see..." Grabbing is own notes, he sat next to Dakari and they started evaluating their Jedi.
The holo image of Emperor Occasus flickered in front of Arania's furry face as she sat down on the floor, scratching her ear. It was easier than to climb up on seats all the time, and asides, she was sure Thran wouldn't mind having to look down at her.
"Good to see you, Thran. I was actually about to call you."
"You were?" The Emperor's face now showed a calculating expression. Then he nodded. "Yes, I bet you were." It was like Arania to make sure where everyone was standing and then pick the most effective course of action - either for herself of for the Clan. "Well, here's the thing..." he started before she got another chance to say anything. And he could see he had the woman's full attention.
"Now, this is just silly. I do not usually get space sick." Voldemort bowed down over the sink again, ignoring Yeldarb's chuckle. "And if I do," he gasped, "then I usually can correct it myself."
"You aren't space sick, dude. You are scared of your assignment. Just admit it and use your fear to your advantage." Yeldarb didn't hit the nail on the head in such matters very often, but he was sure he had it right this time.
And he had. Voldemort had been told, even before his Quaestor and Aedile were meeting, that Dakari expected him to lead a larger set of troops this time. This and the memory of what happened the last time he fought the Vong made him more than uneasy, but he would not admit it to Yeldarb. "It's just space sickness," he insisted. "It'll be over soon."
"Yeah sure," Yeldarb replied. "Hurry up getting better, it was your idea to check out some of the female crew members before the action was upon us."
Voldemort stretched his back and told himself he was fine. "Yeah let's go. We are half way to Antei already." He motioned for Yeldarb to leave his quarters first. He tried to ignore the queasy feeling in his stomach, and the equally uncomfortable knowledge that his mother was up to something.
“And so he's watching him, Lord Occasus,” finished Koskian, yawning as the alcohol began taking serious affect.
Thran's face was obviously drawn taut with the stress he was dealing with, evident even through the hologram that represented him. The man had looked less then pleased when the d'Tana Lord explained that he'd sent an underling to do the surveillance. Even less so when he realized which underling, a recently discharged member of the Fleet.
“And you don't think your little friend Grid has loyalties to Timbal? Did your brain shrink when you took on that form my furry little minion?” questioned the Sith, a mocking tone in his voice.
Koskian grinned at the hologram, not sure if the Emperor could even see him with the height he was at, and drunk enough not to care. The only real reason he was helping the man, besides pity, was that in his time with Dorimad Sol, Thran had proved surprisingly apt at leading. They would all need such a leader when they reached Antei.
“His loyalty is not in question, in my mind at least my Lord. Grid is a trustworthy asset of my staff, and more to the point, he's more likely to be unnoticed. He has no aptitude with the Force, he still wears his naval uniform, albeit without patches or insignia. He'll just look like another off duty officer who had far to much to drink,” spoke the Ewok, ale-inspired confidence almost driving him to reveal that the former Ensign probably had had to much to drink.
Thran nodded slowly, obviously more concerned with other matters besides just the small form before him. It struck him as asinine for a brief moment that the next call he'd be placing was to another Ewok in his Clan, and wondered for a moment where they were sprouting from. Shaking it off, he focused on the Primarch, doing his best to inspire either fear or loyalty with his glare and tone, which the small rotund Obelisk drunkenly ignored.
“Send me a report every two hours, and immediately contact me if you believe Timbal is making a move against the Clan leadership. I'm...trusting you with this, d'Tana, don't let me down.”
“You got it boss!” shouted the Ewok, before falling down with a fit of the hiccups, wondering where his drink was.
Secure Communications Room
ISD II Indomitable
The moment would have been incongruously hilarious if he didn’t know the hideous threat that she represented. One did not make fun of a Dark Jedi Master or laugh at them and get away with it. So, Thran instead covered his amusement with a rather natty scowl.
“Well, here’s the thing…,” he continued, trying to stay focused and in command. “Timbal had become a threat. We cannot have rogue elements of Fleet threatening to tear this Fleet apart, not now and present weakness in front of the other Clans. If there is any hint of that, we’ll be torn to shreds, despite the orders from the Council against intra-Clan warfare.”
Arania nodded, knowing instinctively that he was right. She had dealt far too long with their psychopathic ways for decades, and knew that this was bound to happen. “Agreed, Emperor. On the other hand, he indeed also had a point.”
This time there was nothing faked about the scowl on his face. “Either way, I do not tolerate rebellion, and I wasn’t aware that the Palpatines did either. Rebellion will doom us all.”
Arania nodded. “Very well. What do have in mind?”
Thran took a moment to pause dramatically, and for effect. “I want him... detained temporarily. He won’t be harmed, just put out to pasture to keep the Fleet together and out of sight and mind for a short time. Then we can officially retire him and live out his days on his rightly earned estate.”
Arania stood quietly, obviously running all the permutations in her head. Her face betrayed nothing. “Very well, Emperor. We do this to keep this Clan together. Nothing more. We will hold you to your word.”
Thran nodded solemnly, then deactivated the holographic communications device. Her image faded away.
Like so many promises. Thran laughed, and liked it so much he did it again. He called his agents again, and gave orders that he relished.
“Find Timbal. Put him under arrest, and put him in the brig. Immediately, like right the hell now. If he resists, well, we’ll have to put him down for our safety.”
“Confirmed, sir. Consider him arrested.”
Ship Trooper Garrison Area
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
“Confirmed, sir. Consider him arrested.”
The Legion commander aboard the Basilisk closed down the connection, and grimaced as he did so. However, he did have his orders, and he would do them.
He turned to his aide. “You heard the orders from the Emperor. Get a squad moving. In fact, get an entire platoon ready with heavy weapons. We’ll be up for one hell of a fight if he doesn’t agree with the orders from the Emperor.”
“Right away, sir.”
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
The door to the suite effortlessly slid open, and the non-descript former officer walked out, quietly nodded at the troopers standing guard outside. In fact, they were about as non-descript as the former officer was, and looked totally out of place on this war vessel. They were completely slouching against the walls, in civilian clothing. But as the former officer moved off, they reluctantly un-slouched themselves and followed him.
As they moved, those ahead of them also moved, and they knew that their brothers and sisters would be closely watching them.
They also would be watching others. Just in case.
ISD II Warspite
“Ya, I think he’s headed to the galley. Inform the troopers they can find him there. Hic!”
Koskian giggled a bit at the hiccup. He grabbed another drink, and dribbled it down his mouth, completely oblivious to all.
ISD II Warspite
The man left the totally inebriated Ewok behind, and hurried. He checked the charge on his needler rifle, which was unnecessary, as he had checked before. However, he did it just out of habit. He had to; he was trained well, after all.
The Master would be proud, he knew. Soon, they would fear the name of Amaris.
He had to catch a shuttle to put that plan in action, and quickly.
Troop Main Galley
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
The former officer nodded to a few that he knew on site, and wordlessly nodded to others that saluted him out of respect and loyalty. He saw the pride on their faces, and it gave him heart.
A pair of Dark Jedi walked in at virtually the same time from a different direction. They caught sight of the former officer, diverted their path, and walked toward him.
“Hey, we came over as soon as we were able to. We just wanted you to know that we would be willing to help you in any way you want. After all, you’ve helped us out many times in the past. It’s time to pay back at least a tiny bit.” The pair both smiled genuinely.
Timbal Palpatine nodded, and smiled himself. “Thank you, Korvyn and Anarya. I’m glad that I have your loyalty and support, but I don’t want you to get mixed up with this craziness. You should go back and just await orders. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I’ve been through worse.” He grasped each of them on a shoulder each, and gently moved them in the direction of the Basilisk’s small hangar.
They didn’t get far.
Outside the Troop Main Galley
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
“Sir, target confirmed to be in the Galley.”
“Right. Okay, surround all the exits. No one gets out. Tell me when we’re set.”
Down the hall
Troop Main Galley
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
The man adjusted the scope, and his target came into sharp focus. He started to breathe shallow, and waited for the right moment to take the shot. He knew that it would come like a surprise for both him and his target.
Outside the Troop Main Galley
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
“We’re ready, sir.”
“Right. Get ready, I’m going in. Fireteam One, on me.”
Troop Main Galley
Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk
The sudden appearance of fully armed and armored stormtroopers stopped them all cold. The Epis reacted first. “Get out of here, now,” he hissed at the married couple, and shoved them away.
A stormtrooper commander and a fireteam came up to him. “Timbal Palpatine, per orders of the Emperor, you are hereby placed under arrest. I request that you come quietly, sir.”
One of the guys that had followed Timbal stepped forward, and placed his body between them. “I’m sorry, ya’ll, but if the Admiral doesn’t want to go, I don’t think you can do anything about it.” He shifted slightly, and a wicked-looking blaster appeared in his hands, but not pointed at anyone as yet.
His face also changed, and went from non-descript to the face of a man that was supremely confident in his skills to survive any fight. Not only that, but the hunger to kill in his eyes was manifest.
A female that was also wearing civilian clothing that had a high-powered but compact weaponry also came forward. “I suggest we all go away and save this for another day. After all, it’s not a smart thing to up against a full compliment of SpecNavs and live to tell about it.”
At the mention of the name of the elite force, the very air around them seemed to freeze. The stormtrooper commander had seen SpecNavs in action on training once, and he knew their reputation was every bit as they had said.
Before he could say anything, he caught a flash at the corner of his eyepiece.
Timbal felt the danger coming through the Force, of course, but his lightsaber only managed to vaporize a few of the plastic flechettes before the rest of the cloud hit him solidly.
The Epis went down in a bloody mess, triggering an all-out firefight.
Natth a’Niel Palpatine looked at the furry Ewok as if she was mad. “You must be insane! You withdrew the support of the Family from the only one of us to successfully integrate with the Fleet? The only one of us to be liked and not simply feared? You must be mad Arania! That damned body of yours has obviously forced you into a smaller brain, not capable of handling the complex task of intrigue! Mark my words, this will not end well.”
“Even so Natth, I feel that the unity of the Clan is best served by adhering to the will of Occasus, to just lessen the internal conflict by removing a source of contention. Failure to do so could result in him tearing apart the Clan by trying to extricate us from it. We must do what is best for the Clan. After all, Timbal did force the issue by acting as he did. He could have chosen a less public method.” The tiny Dark Master was not easily dealt with by anyone, least of all her family. Still, if even one of the family balked at her decision it could spell trouble. Such was the dynamic of being a Palpatine.
“I will not, and cannot support you in this Arania. You’ve gone too far this time, in speaking for all of us without asking! I believe that hope for this Clan lies in the Palpatines remaining strong, including Timbal. In giving Occasus the go-ahead to remove him from the picture, you’ve doomed us to a possible civil war, far worse than any mere rebellion could ever bring.” Disgusted, Natth a’Niel ended the transmission, the Force crushing the transmitter even as it was hurled into a nearby bulkhead, leaving a sizeable dent. “This is going to be very bad”, he whispered to the empty corridor.
The SpecNavs reacted instantly, their clenched fists merely opening while they dropped something hard to the ground. Tiny spheres fell, and exploded on contact with the deck, engulfing their immediate area with a huge sudden flash that overwhelmed even the electronic visors of the stormtroopers for a few seconds. One of them quickly opened fire, going for the heavy weapons troopers first while the other dropped to cover and help extract the Admiral. Korvyn and Anarya ignited their lightsabers, he going for the person wielding the flechette gun, with his wife going for the nearest troopers. It was over in a matter of seconds. Nearby Dark Jedi had streamed into the corridor, cutting down the troopers, even as the SpecNav had just put down the last of the heavy weapons squad members. Korvyn held the assassin by the scruff of the neck, the flechette gun sliced neatly in half while the scum had been reloading it. Feet came pounding down the corridor as a call repeated over the intercoms.
The commander of the platoon was alive, if only briefly. Reaching for a SpecNav, he gasped out a few words. “We were supposed to arrest him. This wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I wanted,” he coughed, and dragged one more final breath, “for him to live.” The man died, having been shot clean through with a heavy blaster rifle that one moron had been carrying, obviously obiliterating his lung.
“Firefight outside the Mess Hall! All hands report to battle stations! XO Reith and Navigator Unteminar, report to area for combat suppression!” The speakers repeated the message, Tra’an and Vail falling into step as the Quaestor passed the hatch to the bridge moments after the initial call came. It hadn’t occurred to him to get re-dressed. The Templar had been in the middle of performing Verdanian katas, his Lightsaber called to hand as the corridor disappeared under the soft soled boots slipped onto swift feet, matched by Vail’s standard issue combat boots in stride, if not in sound. Vail had ordered an All-Stop as he left the bridge, to prevent any problems while he was away. Navigating through the Shroud was a risky enough business as it was, but to leave the Force-blind to do it was suicide. They had been making good time, and that advantage was being whittled away by the second, something that irritated the Dark Adept.
They arrived quickly enough to find two personnel guarding a badly wounded Timbal Palpatine, and an entire platoon of Stormtroopers dead. Korvyn was down the hall, having caught an unassuming man carrying half of the flechette gun that had so badly wounded his friend and mentor. “Korvyn, take that assassin to the brig, Anarya, go with him. Make sure that the scum doesn’t kill himself or do anything else stupid. I want the Clan to see what their precious Emperor sent to do his bidding in his cowardice.” Spite and venom infused Tra’an’s words, even as Vail knelt beside and stabilized Timbal. The SpecNavs had moved aside for the Dark Adept, knowing his power would help their beloved Admiral. The medics arrived moments later, carrying a portable bacta tank to immerse the Epis in until they could get him to a full tank in the Medical Bay.
“Sir, we’ll call you when we have more news. For right now, he’s stable, though we don’t know if the flechettes were poisoned or not.” The medic was interrupted by the Dark Adept who stepped away and dropped the needles onto the ground. They made a tinkling sound as he crushed them into powder with the Force. Anger suffused his body, the corridor filled with the presence of his dark fury.
“They were. I have neutralized it. It was something small, merely meant to paralyze the victim for about ten minutes, giving him time to bleed to death before it wore off.” The other medics slipped Timbal into the bacta tank, his body reacting almost instantly, the life sign monitors showing a slowing of problems and a stabilizing of his condition. The two Dark Jedi returned to the bridge, both furious with the betrayal heaped upon them by their Emperor. Tra’an was more furious than Vail, if only because he thought that Thran would have understood the simple message of Timbal coming aboard the same ship as his Quaestor. The Sith would pay for violating the sanctity of House Acclivis Draco.
Anyone aboard the bridge could have heard a pin drop, as the Templar and Dark Adept stepped in, stopping next to the trash that hung suspended from the arms of Korvyn and Anarya. He would not have a swift death, as such was not the treatment of assassins. Vail reached out and placed a hand on the miserable scum, using the Force to inflict harm upon it. A scream of pure agony tore from the lips of what in some circles would be called a man. As the pain died, the irate and deadly cool Adept spoke quietly, “Who sent you?” The man’s eyes glazed over, as his mind sought a refuge from the pain. Vail waited thirty seconds before triggering another wave.
Some of the officers began to blanch at this point, not realizing that the torture was being broadcast live throughout the fleet. All ships were watching in rapt attention, as the Adept plied his trade with skill and precision, carefully administering what would be easily fatal if he so deemed it to be. Finally a sound broke from the tortured lips, after the fourth such treatment. “I… am a soldier… of the emp…emp…Emperor! Die Palpatine D..erk!” The sounds died even as the maker of them died from incredible agony. Tra’an turned to the cameras that broadcast the signal into the surrounding space.
“My Brothers and Sisters, even now Timbal Palpatine lays in a bacta tank in the infirmary, fighting for his life. You have heard from the lips of this pathetic slug that he was sent by the Usurper Occasus to kill the only man with the strength of character to give up a life of service, so that this Fleet would not be torn to shreds. Unsatisfied with this final act of devotion to the Clan, the Sith has sent one of his assassins to do what he has not the guts! I call now for his resignation as Emperor. No one that would dare to do such a thing has the right to rule this Clan. As of this moment, House Acclivis Draco hereby demands satisfaction for the blood, shed by his command.”
The cameras ended their transmission with a final image of the Quaestor standing in full fury, obviously enraged, proud, and unbending in will. It was a powerful image, the belied the reality. Korvyn and Anarya left the corpse to be removed by a couple of medics that had followed them for just that purpose. The party left the bridge of the Basilisk, heading towards the medical bay. They were a very somber group, and outraged as well, alternating worry for their friend, and anger at the events that had occurred.
RevengeX Palpatine looked out at the skirmish through the bridge’s wide windows. The former head librarian of the Brotherhood felt more disoriented than usual, when he looked at the distant stars and the vast expanse of space because he had grown accustomed to staring at datapads and plains of books.
The Pontifex had felt his brother, Timbal, fall, but he could feel that the other Krath would recover soon enough. Whether the Clan would as well, however, was an entirely different question. Attempting to analyze the various possibilities was too much for him, and he began to feel queasy.
“Lieutenant,” he motioned to a man busy working at one of the Destroyer’s numerous consoles, “please bring me a chair.”
As a man experienced in politics, especially those of the Brotherhood, he knew that dissention in the masses grew from their leaders’ arrogance. In this time, when the Brotherhood was uniting to retake Antei, when Clan Scholae Palatinae was on the brink of shattering before this epic confrontation, he used the word “please” to sow the seeds of trust within the men and women on the bridge. Through minute acts, he would ensure their loyalty to the House, to the Clan, and to him.
Such was the way of the Krath. Such was the way of House Acclivis Draco.
“Your Excellency, Palpatine,” the Lieutenant dared not look at the hooded figure straight in the eyes as he interrupted the Pontifex’s thoughts, “here is your chair, Your Excellency.” Although the Lieutenant felt some sort of connection with the Pontifex, he knew, through his years as a member of the Scholae Palatinae fleet, that many Dark Jedi were capricious and volatile.
RevengeX turned and, noticing his downcast eyes and feeling his pounding heart, nodded in the direction of the man, who set it down and then quickly scampered away back to his set of flashing buttons, lights, and screens.
He sat and reached with his consciousness into the void of space. It felt like it had been a long time since he had been on the front lines, fighting for his Brotherhood, his Clan, his House, his ambitions. He could feel his muscles tense and relax with excitement, anxiety, experience. It would be a long fight, and the Yuuzhan Vong were an extremely dangerous enemy, and he could feel fear and anger begin to sprout inside his thoughts.
He pushed away these useless notions and imagined himself cutting down the ugly creatures several at a time with his familiar lightsaber, pulsing with energy and bloodlust, in his hands.
As the Fury progressed through the Shroud, Natth a'Niel Palpatine had to focus more and more of his anger about Arania and the matter of how she was handling the situation surrounding Timbal into his flaring Dark Side vision of the ever-shifting navigational hazards. Several highly hazardous gravity wells filled his mind, all within range of a single navigational mistake of one of the Line Beta ships. Natth could not let his feelings corrupt the mental link he had to the other commanding officers and so he closed out everything but the forces outside and put his energy into navigating this highly difficult central section of the Shroud.
As he was sensing each and every one of the ships, he noticed one, then a second plan deviation on the starboard side of the line. Two fighters from Grim Reaper wing had completely lost course and were heading directly towards the Fury - or rather towards instant destruction in a Shroud anomaly between them and Natth's ship. A second later, he spotted something else - a gravitational anomaly behind those fighters. He sent the pilots a mental alert to immediately turn hard to port, then loop and resume the original course again. Then, he turned back to sense the anomaly, but was rudely yanked from his deep concentration by the enemy proximity claxon.
"Status", he yelled at the navigational officer.
"A Yuuzhan Vong warship has pulled up from behind an anomaly, directly into the path of Reaper's Gamma squad. Seven and Ten were almost hit head on, but they seem to have regained course."
"A Vong ship", Natth contemplated for a second, mentally calculating the chances of seeing Line Beta through the Shroud while fighting a Vong battleship, regardless how weakened. He quickly estimated those chances to be zero.
"All Line Beta units full stop and reverse towards approaching vessel marked V-114. Hold position, deploy fighters and wait for my vectors on approach. Fury crew, all hands battle stations. Grim Reaper Gamma Flight one and three, make a run on the rear basal, but keep out of harm's way. Your mission is to distract while we bring in more substantial firepower. Do not risk a ship. Flight two, hold back and ready to send in torpedoes."
In order, the commanders of the ships confirmed the orders and the main screen of the Fury was replaced by a three-dimensional battle grid. The Vong vessel had still not deployed any fighters, not even under the attack of the eight Scimitar Assault bombers. A first wave of torpedoes and lasers from the ships assaulted the Vong ship's skin, only to quickly and harmlessly be drawn into the heavy rear basal.
A volley of shots approached the attacking fighters, but the pilots were excellently trained and none of them suffered any significant damage. Finally, the port hatches of the Vong warship opened and a decimated squadron of five fighters emerged, two of them visibly wounded.
"They are wounded and slowed. Reaper Beta, eliminate the fighters, one flight per ship. Fury, we are going in for a direct attack, Basilisk, you follow on vector seven four mark one six for a flank attack. Prepare to launch torpedoes at my command. We will soften them up for you."
The Fury lurched forward, quickly swinging around the anomaly that was between her and the Vong ship. Natth had the ship stay behind it for as long as possible, then emerge with all cannons firing. A firework of lasers crisscrossed across the surface of the Yuuzhan Vong ship.
"Reaper Beta, retreat from Vong ship. They have a problem", Natth quickly exclaimed, having seen that the port wing of the Vong vessel was starting to show actual laser impact, its Dovin Basal obviously overloading.
"Basilisk, target the port wing and underbelly in six seconds. Give it everything you have", Natth commanded, then opened his mind to the overall battle situation again. Three of the Vong fighters were dead, one was badly injured and drifting and the last prepared to flee into one of the most heavily distorted areas of the Shroud - not even Natth would be able to navigate there. However, there was another thing touching Natth's mind and that was not outside, in the Shroud, but rather directly behind his right shoulder.
Cuchulain was standing right behind him. As soon as the Pontifex realized the Master had noticed him, he immediately began "We need to do something about the situation with Arania, Thran and Tim-"
With an angry gesture and a brief thrust in the Force, Natth cut off Cuchulain's sentence. "Right, we do. Or rather, you, as the currently senior of the Palpatines do. And I would be glad if you did this about now and would allow me to try and win this little skirmish here without losing any of our Clansmen in the process."
A bright white flash of light appeared on the viewscreen as if to underline the Vice Admiral's angry speech. However, as the screen cleared, it became apparent that there would be no further fighting at this place. The Vong warship was cleanly torn open, its port wing and half of its underbelly gone and the remains harmlessly spewing unguided bits of matter into space in the general direction of the Scholae Palatinae ships.
"Finish them", Natth ordered the weapons officer. A single heavy torpedo emerged from the Fury's tubes and impacted the gaping wound of the Yuuzhan Vong vessel. The ensuing explosion ripped the ship into three major parts as well as thousands of smaller fragments.
"Line Beta, resume old headings. We have sixteen hours to Antei and I intend us to be out of the worst of the Shroud in four. All fighters, dock on your motherships, we are going to make up a bit of time in forced march..."
He released the button on his comm control before finishing the sentence for Cuculain's ears:
"...and then we can maybe see what we together can do to make the Palpatines one group again."
However, as he turned around, waiting for a reaction, Cuchulain had already left.
Rayne was alone in her quarters on board the Warspite, glancing at the order from the Grand Master again.
We’re going back to Antei to fight the Vong . . .
It took her a moment, and she smiled slightly, thinking to herself 'It was about damn time'...
She was far too inexperienced to participate in the last Great Jedi War and be of much use. Rayne didn't even have a lightsaber at the time, looking over at her newly constructed lightsaber, filling her with pride at her accomplishment of becoming a Knightess. She was ready to prove herself and to take back what's ours from the loathsome Vong.
Taking a moment to clear her thoughts of anticipation, she thought over the reality of the events to come, reminding herself that this was not a game. Preparing to brace for anything, Rayne pulled her hood of her robes over her and strode out of the room gracefully. She could almost feel the excitement of some of the Clan members on board the ship with her, along with the anxiety of others. Rayne remained calm and collected as she silently made her way down the corridor, on her way towards the CIC.
Holo-communication was almost as effective as face to face talk, with all the technology available. However, You couldn't gain anything by slapping a holo, and slapping someone was foremost on Arania's mind.
Cuchulain had called this meeting of the Palpatines, and had done so with the distinct impression that whoever didn't show would have to deal with his anger later. Of course, this had not bothered Phoenix, who seemed to be busy going over some assignment ideas with Dante. This was an acceptable excuse, though Cooch could not shake the feeling this was more of a safety measure on Phoenix' part.
"So, as I was saying," Cooch repeated above the angry murmours, "Arania tried to de-escalate the situation, but she should have talked to some of us first. Thran didn't exactly lie to her, yet seemed to have had his own ideas of a retirement for Timbal. Timbal, on the other hand, has been out of control for a while. Whatever is going on with him, we need to take it upon us to both protect him from Thran and the Clan from his unwise actions."
A short silence followed. Then Natth, still on the bridge and represented by a holo as well, coughed. "May I suggest we transfer Timbal over here? There are more of us here to keep an eye on him, for both of the reasons you stated."
The others nodded. "Not that he'd be of any use in the next few weeks, no matter what," Revenge X remarked. "They got him pretty bad."
Vail snorted, and his holo image distorted for a moment, as he moved too quick for the system to keep up. Pacing up and down the bridge of his ship, he seemed to be unsure if to mock them or just get angry. "Does it really matter on what ship he will be on while we do some large scale damage control? This is a matter which could have been avoided entirely, if the two mynocks hadn't been so stubborn!" He was referring to Timbal and Thran, of course.
"Asides," remarked Vally from the Adenn, "Thran will probably become unbearable if he sees this as a victory. Timbal will become even more proud if he sees it as a win."
"Timbal cannot win this," Arania interrupted, ignoring the stares she got. Some of the others were angry at her for talking to Thran, she knew, but she didn't care. "He shouldn't win this. Thran is Consul. It is his word that has to count." She took a deep breath, which looked weird in her current body. "No doubt the Justicar will pay us a visit when the worst is over and everyone involved is still alive by then."
"True that. Do we need to vote on this, or can I just ask Thran to transfer Timbal to us?" Cuchulain looked eager to put Timbal somewhere safe.
"Go. Do. Ask." Natth almost snapped at them. "And then let us get back to the real work at hand. Antei. Getting there, and winning a battle." With that, the Sith's holo image flickered out.
Boredom had taken its toll. The members of Ebon Cloak wandered away from the vid screens and the lackluster battle in space and began to wander around the hangar. The Tetrarch wondered at the delay, having felt the fleet slow and defer its impending rendezvous at Antei. Certainly it wasn’t the Vong. The Force indicated strife, but it wasn’t widespread through the fleet.
Draco closed his eyes and felt the myriad tendrils of the Force as they wafted their way through the invisible ether, touching and enveloping all beings and all matter. Echoes throbbed from the point of conflict, and tracing the ripples back toward their origin led to the Basilisk.
Suddenly Maligo felt that his team’s presence was required on the ship holding the rest of House Acclivis Draco. He issued a silent recall to the varied members of his team and pondered how to get clearance for a shuttle to launch from the Warspite this far from their assembly point.
Korroth Karn, the most promising of the young dark Jedi on the battleteam, felt the urgency from the team leader. “What is it, Draco?” he asked earnestly.
The Tetrarch shook his head. “I’m not sure, but we should be leaving, now. Get on the shuttle while I . . .” Two squads of stormtroopers marched into the hangar and fanned out around the milling members of Ebon Cloak. Draco’s hand hovered over the hilt of his lightsaber, clipped to his belt just in front of his left hip. Time slowed appreciably as the soldiers, aware and cautious, surrounded the dark Jedi. Their blaster rifles were held at the ready, not pointed at the battleteam, but a split second away from doing so.
A trio of dark Jedi from House Caliburnus strode through the irising blast doors, stepped in front of the white-shelled soldiers, the hilts of their sabers in hand. The young members of Ebon Cloak, novices to the typical internecine fighting within the Dark Brotherhood, edged nervously to the shelter of the shuttlecraft.
Draco stepped forward, unclipping his lightsaber from his belt but leaving it unlit, and faced the three Caliburnans. “What is happening?”
“Merely a little trouble with one of the members of your house,” said an Obelisk Templar whom Draco never met. “We’re just making sure that you and your team stick to the plan and don’t add to the turmoil that’s developed on the Basilisk. Stay here and don’t do anything foolish,” he added with an aura of command transmitted through the Force.
The room had been darkened to near pitch black levels. Korvyn sat in the middle of the room with his saber sitting in front of him. It helped him to focus if he had something inanimate to look at. He still hadn’t perfected the meditations techniques as well as he had of liked to. He focused on the course of actions over the short trip through the shroud. It had been the second most exciting trip through the shroud he had been on. Of course the last had been with Vong Fighters tearing apart the Star Destroyer he had been aboard with the ship barely able to jump to hyperspace.
At least on that previous trip it was an outside force that was tearing the ships apart. Here and now we were doing it to ourselves. Korvyn knew that if this course continued the forces at Antei would be the least of our worries, we’d probably all be dead by the time we got there anyway.
It was Thran who needed to take control of the situation. He was the Consul after all. His decision was law, no matter how irresponsible it was. But Korvyn had struck down a number of the Clans own guards to try to protect his former Admiral as had his wife, Anarya. No doubt there was a strike team in route to arrest them both for Treason to the Emperor. Hopefully, this wasn’t the case but with the way things had been going he could only guess what was in store.
Koskian growled as he replayed the events from the Basilisk on the data pad in his lap. Grid had managed to supply him with security footage from the mess hall as well as the 'official' transmission of the so-called interrogation. None of this felt right to the diminutive Obelisk, and seeing that his Apprentice and her husband, a man he had grown to respect if not yet quite trust, were involved, he was less certain of how things would end.
“I'm sorry I wasn't able to do anything else, Kosk, but it turned into pure chaos over there...,” said the Honor Guard, repeating himself for the third time since they had boarded the shuttle. Koskian waved it off, knowing that Grid had been far to drunk to intervene, and that had probably saved his Guard's life.
Within minutes they had landed in the primary hangar of the Basilisk, disembarking quickly as they could. Walking down the corridors with Grid's previous knowledge of where his Apprentice was staying, Karean nudged his Master through the Force, quietly conveying that they were being tracked. Koskian had smelled the angry members of Acclivis Draco when they rounded the last corner, their scent being blown by one of the air recyclers. The Primarch was still not used to that heightened sense, but he was thankful for it.
Ignoring them, certain that he would be more then capable of dealing with them if they tried anything stupid, Koskian rounded the last corridor to see a small group of heavily armed soldiers arrayed the door to what he presumed to be Korvyn and Anarya's quarters. Thinking quickly for a moment, he announced himself loudly.
“Ah, excellent!” he shouted, making several of the troopers to jump, “the team my Lord Occasus sent has arrived, very good. No doubt the Emperor told you I was coming to ensure these two whelps didn't cause any undue trouble, hmm?”
“I...what....no, and who the sithspit are you....and WHAT are you?” questioned the Lieutenant who was most likely in charge.
“You weren't informed? Ah radio silence, excellent, didn't want you giving away your position on a ship that could possibly be a death trap for those of us loyal to the Emperor right now, very good! As for who I am...I am Lieutenant General d'Tana, now would you like me to retrieve these two and save you both quite a bit of time?”
The Lieutenant looked confused for a moment, obviously weighing the idea of his troopers going against a pair of armed Dark Jedi, who had proved early to be very capable, or letting someone he had only heard rumors of deal with it. Coming to a decision, he made it known.
“As you wish...General sir, if you have any trouble we'll deal with it quickly.”
“Excellent,” spoke the Ewok cheerfully, ignoring the pounding headache he had from the hangover he still couldn't quite shake. Stepping past the troops, he keyed the door open, and was pleased to find both Anarya and Korvyn sitting stoically, the latter was even mediating, and neither moved for their weapons.
'Should have known they'd know better then to fight with Thran's troops, good,' thought the Obelisk before speaking, “Anarya and Korvyn Elvendar of Dorimad Sol, you are under arrest for assaulting soldiers of the Clan, come along quietly please, I have a headache.”
Korvyn's eyes opened, narrowing in on the Primarch, weighing his chances against the small form, before his wife put a hand on his shoulder and slightly shook her head. A grin spread across the ewok's face, his Apprentice was not a stupid woman, which was something he greatly appreciated after some of his former students. The Obelisk waved a hand, bringing both of their lightsabers to himself and handing them back to Karean, before gesturing for them to follow.
The squad quickly fell in behind them as they marched back to the hangar bay, though the feelings of aggression from those who had followed earlier had grown. Karean was starting to look agitated, obviously torn between loyalty to his Master and his House, but stayed quiet as they moved through in to the hangar bay. Turning suddenly to face the Lieutenant and his men, Koskian held up his hand.
“You can stay here, gentleman, I will not need your assistance in keeping them under control. They know better then to fight me, and they know that compliance is the best course of action, run along and play soldier somewhere,” he said with a smile, sarcasm dripping from his every word. The Lieutenant glared at the small furry figure, but decided not to press the issue. The group boarded the shuttle in silence, Koskian giving orders to the pilot to take them to the Indomitable.
“Why?” asked Korvyn, quietly, staring at the Ewok.
Koskian snorted, “Think about that for a moment, Rollmaster, if you will. Your wife is my Apprentice and my responsibility. If one of my students goes off killing soldiers of the Empire, it looks bad on me. That's one. Two, I'm one of the strongest Dark Jedi in the Clan whose not either a Palpatine, or loyal to the Palpatine family, and they know I support Thran openly from our time in Dorimad Sol. So if Thran had wanted Timbal dead, he wouldn't have sent some group of idiots to do it, he would have sent myself and possibly some back up. I won't say I could have done it, or even would have said yes, but he would have told me to do it before he relied on some group of idiots.”
The Ewok looked winded for a moment before continuing, “And three, your actions stirred up even more chaos, which is something I normally enjoy very very much, but we can't have this when were about to face off with the Vong. Also, I suppose I feel some sense of camaraderie with you for being in the same House. So shut up and don't thank me until we see what the Emperor has to say about all this, enjoy the flight.”
The iridescent clouds of the Shroud encompassed Antei and its system, protecting it from assault and any prying eyes. Unfortunately, it had not stopped the Yuuzhan Vong in their quest for blood and sacrifices to their ‘gods’. Now, the Brotherhood forces had to contend with it, and contend with it they did. With Arconan vessels leading the charge and the ships of Clan Plagueis in their wake, the fleet of Clan Scholae Palatinae slowly made it way through the murk towards their final goal: Antei.
Command Information Centre
Alarms blared throughout the vast room, though they were mostly drowned out by the near-constant chatter of fifty voices. The lines and lines of consoles were manned by men and women dressed in a variety of uniforms, decorated with colourful emblems and the occasional blood splatter or burnt patch.
Brent stood in the middle of it all, his eyes closed, his chest barely rising and falling with his breathing. He was focusing on the events around him, in this room, in the ship outside it, and the space beyond. In his mind, he kept track of enemy movements as well as the incoming calls for an EVA shuttle. In his mind’s eye, he saw the battle, and the crew of the Warspite, and all the crews of the Clan’s vessels. And yet... he was still distracted by the soft touch of a feminine hand on his shoulder. He smiled.
“Nice party we’ve got here” she said, hooking her arm around his, and pressing her body against his side. Her white hair framed her face beautifully; as it cascaded from under a hood she had been hiding under. He finally opened his eyes and allowed the sensory cacophony flood into him. He looked down at her, then up at a Petty Officer trying desperately to contact a pilot in distress.
“If only it were a party” he replied, before gesturing to the poor Petty Officer, her eyes now wide with fear and dread “That one there. Her husband was one of the fighter pilots. She has been trying to contact him for almost twenty minutes, even though the reports that his Interceptor had collided with an enemy cruiser had come in well before that.”
Rayne pressed closer against him and tried to hide a slight whimper. Brent stared on at the Petty Officer before gently touching her mind and calming her, making her forget her husband’s death temporarily and to allow her to return to her job at hand.
“Why do you show this to me, Brent?” Rayne said, her eyes damp with emphatic sadness.
“Because the only way to learn to control and use your emotions is to learn to control others. Not outright control, you understand. Simple tweaks here and there can change a nightmare into a dull state or agony into a quiet stream of bliss. We may use our emotions for battle and conquest, but it is our duty to help others around us do their job well, and serve us to their fullest extent. Anything else would be ludicrous”
His tone was steady and calm, but the emotion and sadness in his voice was evident to even the most oblivious of listeners. He believed deep down in his heart and soul that the mental instabilities of the men and women around him would need to be ironed over or gently nudged aside until the job was done and the grieving could end. But, there is always an ulterior motive...
“You use their grief! You use them to fuel your own hatred and anger!” Rayne half-cried, her eyes glaring up at him as she pushed away from him. His own reply was a nod, his eyes not turning to look at the surprise in hers.
“You must understand that this is our way. The Sith have been in control of lesser beings for centuries, even millennia. Stopping now would cause us to lose a part of our strength. I imagine that you yourself have taken...”
He was suddenly cut off by a shrill chirp from the console before him. His thought lost, he tapped the communications button.
“Marshal Victae, General Victae” the small hologram of a naval lieutenant said up at them, using a voice that should have come from a version much larger and real. The hologram was slightly transparent and Brent always had trouble concentrating on them rather than the things happening beyond.
“Yes, Lieutenant. How can we help you on his fine day?” he asked, putting on his finest impression of an upstanding gentlemen, despite what he had been doing to those around him only moments before. Rayne, who’s look of disgust had waned over the few moments off the topic seemed more interested into the plight of an Arconan Interdictor under assault from a pair of Yuuzhan Vong cruisers.
“Sir... we have no commander!” the lieutenant shouted over what must have been a loud noise near him, though in the CIC the noise was left to the imagination. Brent allowed an eyebrow to rise in a questioning manner.
“Where is Timbal?” he said, his interest peaked.
“Gone, sir. Left for the Indomitable. I’ve been trying to keep up, but... I’m just not cut out for this!” he said, a slight manic tone cutting through his voice. Brent nodded.
“Understood, Lieutenant. I’m on my way to remedy the situation.”
“Thank you, sir! Bridge out”
He turned to his wife and ran his hand along her back. She closed his eyes for a moment before turning to him, looking up into his eyes.
“Duty calls, princess. I need you here, helping the masses.”
“You want me to do what you were doing?!” she yelled, her voice echoing around the already noisy room like a sonic boom. Several of the analysts looked up from their work before quickly returning his gazes to their consoles.
“You will do it because I am tell you to. And because when you come to understand it and embrace it, you will grow stronger than you ever thought possible”
With that said, he embraced her tight against him before departing for the turbolift.
Bridge – Turbolift
The turbolift doors receded and admitted him to the bridge once more. There were a few more broken bulkheads then he remembered from his earlier encounter, and the prissy lieutenant from before had been replaced by a very green Lieutenant Junior Grade.
“Welcome... to the bridge, Marshal. Thank you for arriving so quickly.”
“It’s my duty, Lieutenant. Get me on the horn with the entire ship please, son” he said, striding quickly up the deck to the foredeck. The lieutenant followed in his wake and handed him a communications device.
“This is Marshal Victae. Since there is no designated XO and the CO, Fleet Admiral Timbal, has resigned his commission, I will be taking command of this vessel. Follow my orders, and we might just live through this. Hoo-ah” he said, finishing his address with the standard Legion ending. Suddenly, the sound of over 10,000 voices shouting “Hoo-ah” rang out throughout the ship.
The fury of battle had been on them from one moment to the other. Natth a'Niel had frowned at the sight of Vong ships seemingly trying to escape the shroud, only to notice the Arconans in their wake a second after. He almost lost control over the navigation; there had been no communication from Arcona, no warning at all. Not too surprising after what they had seen until now, but it didn't matter. Thran's orders to engage had been immediate and were followed without question.
The skirmish raged on for almost half an hour now, but the momentary end was in sight. Natth would really like to know what was wrong with the Vong vessels, their capabilities were greatly reduced, and the casualties were minimal. And none of the important Clan members had been lost.
"So, these are the fearsome Vong?" Arania, who had never seen the Vong in action before due to her long absence from the Clan, still didn't believe they presented that much of a challenge, and seeing their ships out there, Natth was not surprised. He had promised her she would soon realize how ferocious they were, just before they had left their homeworlds. But this show out there did not help.
"Something's wrong with them," someone muttered.
"I think something was wrong with you! Tell me how exactly could you lose Antei to these..."
"We've talked about that," the Sith snapped. Then he stared at his consoles. "Cooch sends the signal that the shuttle with Timbal will be on it's way as soon as this is over," he said. "You better get to the hangar."
Sighing, Arania left the bridge. Cooch had insisted that she would be the one to make sure nothing happened with Timbal. Natth turned back to the skirmish and shook his head. "If only we knew... maybe we can retrieve some remains."
“Tra’an Reith to the Hangar Deck, XO Reith to the Hangar Deck.” The summons blared through the comm. system as the Templar had long ago turned off his personal communicator. ‘Something is very wrong about all of this’, he thought to himself. Dressed now, with Libra at his side, the Quaestor departed for the hangar deck in silence. The only sounds to be heard were the swish of his robe and the soft heel-toe snap of his boots. The turbo lift doors opened, ushering him into a quiet environment and a nightmare at the same time.
Vail saw him enter and waved him over to a shuttle that Tra’an knew well. It was ironic, in a sense, that the very shuttle he had commissioned for the departure of Timbal as Quaestor was the one that the assassin had used to get aboard. “That shuttle was stolen three weeks ago, by several members of the Rebel faction. Its presence here can only mean one thing, and if that’s true, I made a rather big fool out of myself earlier.” The sound of his voice echoed around where only the two of them could hear it. A Chief Petty Officer stepped out of the shuttle bearing two things. One was a propaganda sheet for the Rebels in the Cocytus System. The other was something that made his blood run cold. It was a mandate seeking the death of Timbal, with hopes to use it for starting an intra-clan feud.
He reached out and retrieved the items, nodding at the holo-camera crew that was already setting up equipment at Vail’s behest. If there was one thing that Tra’an appreciated most about the Dark Adept, it was that he always knew what had to be done. The camera technicians finished setting up and began the countdown. “You’re live in 3, 2, 1, Now Sir.” Across the fleet, once again, the Templar flashed onto all holo communications equipment not being used for critical communications.
“Clan Scholae Palatinae, earlier this day I declared a blood price due by Emperor Thran Occasus to House Acclivis Draco. That price is now retracted. I have here definitive evidence, that the rebels we left behind were responsible for the assault on Timbal Palpatine, and thus it was not the work of Emperor Occasus as the assassin claimed. I formally apologize in front of you all, for not taking the time to look deeper into this before making an accusation against the Emperor. That is all.” With a sigh of fatigue, the Quaestor made the cut off motion, ending the broadcast.
Technicians swarmed the shuttle making it ready for use and removing all of the propaganda material covering it inside and out. A medical team was nearby with Timbal, loading him onto the transport that had arrived with Cuchulain. The Palpatine walked over to his friend and former trainee. “It’s been too long Tra’an. I’m sorry we had to meet again under these conditions.” They grasped hands, meeting each other’s eyes. Their friendship was still strong, if strained at the moment. Tra’an still believed that Timbal had been in the right, and was having trouble bowing to the will of the Emperor, given that fact. Conflict raged within his soul.
“Arania will be meeting us as we land, and she will be in charge of managing Timbal when he awakens. We will deal with this from here, and I suspect that the Justicar will also when this is all over. I’m sure that you are aware of the Emperor’s declaration that the death of the Storm troopers is on his hands, and thus constitutes Treason. Thran has promised not to pursue the death penalty if we keep Timbal under control, though we cannot say the same of the Justicar.” Cooch paused at this point, pained to speak such words about their friend. Duty was a heavy burden upon them booth, and no further words really needed to be spoken in the matter. A firm handshake and a silent promise later, they parted.
Tra’an stood against the force field as the transport glided into the Shroud, and to the Fury. Such emotions filled him, shame, fury, doubt, betrayal, crashing into each other at a time in which he most needed to be calm. It would be hours yet before they arrived at Antei, and hours more before they departed for the surface. For now, it was time for reflection.
Libra led him back to his quarters in silence, where he sat in front of the viewports and meditated on all that had transpired. Unnoticed in the shadows, two people activated a message drone that was programmed to rendezvous with a nearby shuttle, which would carry word of the failure back to Judecca.
***********WEEK 1: The Return*************
The LAAT/I rumbled as it made contact with the ashy soil in the plains of Adas. Things had changed so quickly. Thran stood, holding the safety rope tightly still confused. He was beginning to respect the Soldier a whole lot more. With every howl of near miss anti-aircraft fire learned a little more about what it was like to be completely expendable. His place was in a fighter, negotiating, or even in a duel. He was really in the [Expletive Deleted].
It took only a few more near misses for him to come to the realization that he very well could die here. The land was evil, empty, and dark. Fear was a powerful thing, when used properly. Flash.
“Touchdown.” squawked the pilot of the landing craft.
Like fish from the can, the troopers and Sith piled out of the vessel. They were left in a second, faintly hearing the whir of the vessel as it carried on. They were alone, ready to destroy. They quickly dispersed across the barren landscape, and pressed forward. They ducked behind what little cover there was. This was the desert. Enemy reinforcements were within meters. The skilled warriors of the Iron Throne’s forces hunkered down, blasting the incoming battle droids. They were old models, but well maintained.
Click. Click. Steps away now.
Silence broke. Hiss. The land was not defensible, flat and empty. There was little light here, save the colorful barrages of fire raining over them. Time to die. The Jedi illuminated the area around him in a warm orange-red, with the light of his lightsaber. He hopped over the rock that partially obscured them from the enemy.
“Forward!” was his only cry.
5 Hours Earlier…
“I understand.” Thran said, calmly. He was unhappy about the orders. His superiors cast them in front of the Death Star, with little regard for their value. Such poor intelligence in the battle had confused him, made him anxious.
What of the Vong? If we were fighting droids, where did those vessels come from? It made him quite uneasy.
Thran stood on the bridge of the Indomitable, calling for the communications officer. “Open channel to the entire fleet. Full broadcast.” He said, pretending to fit in among the plain clothed sailors.
“Aye, Sir.” The projector spun up, and the officer nodded to the so called leader.
Thran paused a second, as if to show that something grim was on his mind.
“Clan Scholae Palatinae. We have received our orders. We are to land on Antei immediately. I differ my command to the Generals of the Iron Throne. We are here to assist their forces in reclaiming the planet, nothing more. My sincerest concerns go out to Timbal Palpatine who was so gravely injured. I hope he recovers soon. Our Naval Intelligence officers continue to gather information on the events that transpired leading to that terrible event. I feel for the Palpatine family. Yet, I have worse news.”
“My brothers and sisters, whatever foes we face this day will regret that they had ever done so. As it happens, all able bodied members of Clan Scholae Palatinae are to report to their assigned Regiments. You have two hours.” Thran said, before taking another substantial pause.
The list of assignments flickered over every screen that received the message. The holonet system was careful to highlight the names of the people who were watching the message. Among the list of 100 or so assignments, here was Thran’s Name. 502nd, 3rd Battalion, Charlie Company.
“For Scholae Palatinae!” he said, confoundedly terrified at seeing his own assignment.
He turned away from the message, signaling its end. Fear gripped him, fear like nothing he’d felt in ages. It made him cautious. It would be good for his reputation.
He was truly sorry for what had happened to Timbal. Part of him said that his hand was forced, but the other part of him felt that Timbal had it coming and he should enjoy it. The Palpatines never liked it when one of their own was not in power. He was Emperor. He wouldn’t fold on the issue, it would make him too malleable in the political future. He preferred knowing he was in charge. All the same, what had happened was of little significance now.
In 2 hours time, he would be marching on to his demise. That prospect humbled him. He knew something was going to happen here. He didn’t expect this. No one did. They clung too tight to whatever illusions they had been fed by the Iron Throne to truly understand what was happening here. Thran made his judgment there, he had no choice. He quickly reported to his post.
Blaster bolts ricocheted in wild directions, aimlessly scorching the ground at the feet of the advancing droids. If anything, Thran was content that the soldiers who accompanied him were fleet of foot. Blasting the ovoid bodies of the Superbattle droids, they rushed forwards among their falling companions. There was no time for philosophy on the battlefield. There was only one objective for everyone there. Move forward.
Clanging heaps of metal bodies began to build. In the distance, they could hear the metallic clang of artillery landing and establishing a forward push. That’s all they could do, push forward. There was nothing here for them to cling onto. It showed the demise of the Vong that had taken the planet. Forward.
Marching behind the Ready-to-Die soldiers, the Emperor of Clan Scholae Palatinae felt for a second the vigor of the Force. It had been ages since he had been to Antei. Not since well before the Vong invasion. He relied on his lightsaber now more than ever. It had never really seen action like this. It was doing well.
The droids cut like butter. The molten orange of the droid’s body glowed for a moment after the kill. It was entrancing and gave the Shadowlands more light than they had seen in eons. He had to remain focused. Let the Pawns go forward first, Use the Knights with wisdom. He could feel something here, something of equal or perhaps greater power than the forces they had launched with. More and more infantry men piled in behind him, rushing past him only to die at his feet. Steady, Thran. Forward.
Luciferus was pumped for this. Orders were to engage the enemy. Dakari and Luciferus had come up with some rough sketches for who should be where. But when the assignments by the Grand Master were brought up, their plans were destroyed.
I could’ve slept longer, sighed the Ithorian to himself.
“1st Battalion, 22nd Armor, Alpha Company.” He repeated these words to himself over and over again. An armor division was slightly more to what Luciferus needed; a stable place of combat, and a destructive place of combat. With a few ATATs, quite a few ATSTs, and some other craft, Luciferus would be able to help defend with some troops from the ground around the tanks and cannons and still be able to cause some mass destruction (possibly helping to progress the battle faster, therefore getting Thran to sleep earlier, ergo the less angry version of the Emperor).
The landing ship was heading into the atmosphere. This was it was all that ran through the Ithorian’s head. This was the move that would either start or stop this attack right now. The Alpha Company in the 22nd Armor Division was close to the ground.
“15 seconds,” called the pilot.
Blood pumped around the Ithorian’s face so tightly that he could’ve sworn he made a Human expression . . . lust. They would be dropped just to the right and back of the line, and they would have 20-30 seconds before the ATATs could start firing. It was up to Luciferus and the other troops and Dark Jedi who had joined this battalion to defend the ATATs while this happened; then it was time to crush the opposition.
“5 seconds,” Luciferus’ heart beat into his throats.
“4 seconds,” Luciferus could hear the blaster fire.
“3 seconds,” voices roared across the battlefield.
“2 seconds,” the Ithorian gripped his Lightsaber.
“1 second,” Luciferus jumped from the back of the transport . . .
. . . THUD!!! . . . SWSHSHSHSHSHSH . . .
The battle had begun! Luciferus saw dust kick up into the air. Rotting metallic corpses lay out in front of them, being stepped on by greater numbers of their battling, droid brethren. Luciferus’ yellow blade arced in the air in the graceful and direct Soresu style, deflecting bolts here and there, ducking and rolling wherever he could. Those thirty seconds it took for the ATATs to unfold felt like a thousand years.
CLANG! Finally they locked into place. And Luciferus guarded the ground below the ATATs as they fired cannons of obliterations at the droids and their tanks. Forward was all he could hear Thran telling him in his head. Luciferus used the force to kick up some dust on the ground in front of him to give him enough time to use the force to climb to the top of one of the ATATs. He grabbed his one hand onto the head of the ATAT, and used his other to deflect blaster bolts back at the droids. He didn’t care which target he hit, as long as they were a mechanical [Expletive Deleted] for brains.
He only had hoped someone had been assigned to the same battalion as him. What fun would it be to be alone in a destructive division such as this one?
Koskian held a piece of black netting as the transport rapidly dropped towards the desert of Antei. He dealt with the drop the way anyone who'd seen as much combat as the little ewok had, he yawned and waited for the ride to end, knowing that if a rocket or laser destroyed the ship, there was nothing he could do to stop it. In the drop shuttle with him were members of the 4th Squadron of the 4th Recon group of the 13th Starborne Division.
He had boarded the shuttle with A group, led up by Captain Namore, who had referred him to his Non-Com officer, First Sergeant Llandon, who had greeted him with a short nod and little in the way of emotion. Koskian understood the attitude the men were showing him, one of careful respect and evaluation. They'd never fought with the Obelisk before, but he had heard mutterings from some that they were glad it wasn't a Krath that had been assigned to them, which made him grin a little.
With a loud thud, the shuttle landed, the pilot doing a rough job of it suggested they were going to be under fire. Grinning more, Koskian pulled his shoto free and pushed his way to the ramp, shoving past the soldiers that would be getting off first. Llandon shook his head at the soldiers who almost tried to get in front of the Jedi, knowing that the Obelisk had to have a reason. The ramp lowered and blaster fire came from outside, red spats of deadly lasers scorching the ramp and outside of the shuttle.
The Primarch met the attack swiftly, using his blade in his preferred Soresu style, deflecting bolts and walking down the ramp almost nonchalantly, allowing the soldiers of A group to array themselves behind him. As the return fire started, picking off droids who had set up around some outcropping of rocks, jutting out from the dark sand. The other shuttles of the 4th Recon were landing nearby, disgorging their own Jedi and soldiers, while the transport with the AT-ST and AT-RTs landed behind the line being established.
Koskian gritted his teeth as he batted a barrage of lasers back, knowing that the Recon squad was severely out gunned and without much in the way of cover. Many of the soldiers were trying to use portions of the drop ships as cover, but the pilots were going to try and get their ships out of danger soon. When the ground around him began to shake, Koskian smiled, knowing what was coming next. A bright flash and loud noises destroyed the rocks the droids had been using as cover as the AT-STs came into the battle, the clanking of their mechanical legs heralding the death of battle droids.
As the armor support moved up and the soldiers left their cover to clean up, the landing zone was quickly secured, the troopers moving fast and with great coordination. Koskian nodded, admiring the ability of the officers in charge of the unit for dealing with a battle as soon as they disembarked. Several of the soldiers of A group started actually talking to the little ewok after having seeing him not rush off for glory, but instead helping defend them until the AT-STs could do their work.
Llandon came up and shook his hand, having to squat to do it. As the clean up of the area continued, Koskian felt very glad to be off the bloody ships and on the ground again. Death was in the air, and the chaos of the battlefield was where he felt most at home. Not any of the politics that he had been dealing with in the fleet, just targets and objectives. And apparently the 4th had been given one, he found out quickly enough, as he and the other Jedi assigned to the unit were pulled in to the circle Lieutenant Colonel Grainer and his subordinates formed.
“The rest of the armor and infantry troops from the 13th are setting up a perimeter around the LZ areas, so far only advance units have landed, when we've secured the area the main army will be coming down. Now Recon was sent down not to defend some circle in the sand, don't worry. We've been given several targets nearby, one for each group, that we think the Jedi are staging attacks from, we hit these, and the landing zone securing will go much faster. The Captains have been given targets, so get your people and get moving, a mobile infantry company is headed down to take over this area and begin reinforcing it.”
The officers saluted and nodded, before breaking back up, the Jedi eying each other suspiciously. Koskian didn't recognize them, and the robes and insignias suggested lower ranks then himself. Moving off to join Captain Namore, he learned of group A's target, a make shift vehicle depot to refuel and rearm the armored units of the droid army. They were to destroy any opposition and try to take it over relativity intact for the Iron Throne's army to use.
Koskian smiled at the idea of such a mission, knowing the chaos surrounding it would be great, and the targets would be plenty.
The LAAT/i was somewhat antiquated and it held only two squads of troopers. With the space in the rear also holding extra gear and two speeder bikes, it made for a tight fit for the twenty three armored and one robed troops.
Ric really missed the spacious interior of the MAAT/SOC craft that he had gotten used to. That was one of the draw backs of using the Iron Thrones forces rather than the clans. He leaned back and closed his eyes enjoying the feeling of flight and felt that it was going to be over too soon to suit him.
Initial reports said that they were going into an area that was relatively undefended. However, after years or dealing with intelligence types, Ric was prepared for the worst. He knew from bitter experience that you had to take what they said and multiply it by a hundred to get an accurate count of the enemy.
A sudden crack resounded through the crowded interior of the LAAT/i as it entered flak range of the Jedi's' battledroids. Ric mused at the fact that his father had told many stories of riding into battle for the Republic in the back of one of these craft, into battle with armies of battledroids. The irony was surely not lost on him now. As he let out a low laugh, the nearest troopers looked at the Sith as if he had lost his mind. They turned back to their own thoughts and put it down to him being a Sith.
As the yellow light came on next to the door, Ric stood up and grabbed the handle. He opened the heavy door and stood looking out at the firestorm that they were flying into. The crew chief had the troopers up and in ready to move the second that the transport hit the ground. It was to be a bump and go so they had to be quick or the last man would be jumping from about three meters.
The LAAT/i began its descent and as neared the ground, a thought went through Rics mind...
"This is going to hurt..." just as a burst of flak blew the portside wing off sending the craft spinning into the ground...
5 hours earlier -
Ric checked the list and his name was next to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry. He had never really been a ground pounder in his life, although he did keep in good shape. Checking the rosters, he found the name of the commander, executive officer and first sergeant and decided to pay them a visit. At least he would know who he was going to go into action with.
Ric boarded a small shuttle that would take him to the ship that the 2/2 was staging from. It was a short ride. He entered the companies billet area and was directed to the commanders office. Ric was met by Captain Jatt Jonzz and his executive officer, Lieutenant Zhar-Khan Koth.
"I guess I am going to be assigned to you for this mission, Captain," Ric said as he extended his hand. He shook hands with both, noting with some surprise that Zhar-Khan was a female Zabrak. It was unusual to find a female as a member of the Army, Navy sure but not the Army.
Captain Jonzz motioned to the chairs in front of his desk and as they sat he pulled up a holo of their objective.
"We will be following the Third Battalion of the Five-Oh-Second in. They are being supported by an artillery unit and should be able to secure us a good landing zone. Intel believes..." he paused with a slight smile, shared by both Ric and Zhar, "we should hit a relatively undefended area. Speed is the key here, we need to get the men out of the birds and on the ground as soon as possible. Once we have the zone secured, then we can reinforce and move on to our primary objectives."
"Has there been any new intel on this Jedi and his followers?" Ric asked, leaning forward. He had been surprised to learn that this particular Jedi was not listed as a graduate of Skywalkers academy on Yavin IV.
"Nothing that we know of. We'll find out soon enough I guess," with that he rose and they all filed out of the room.
Ric was introduced to the men he would be flying down with and they all seemed to be pretty rough and salty men and women. It would be an experience for both sides to remember for sure. As they all gathered and packed their gear, Ric sat on a bunk and closed his eyes for a while. He would be carrying his E-11 blaster, a small satchel of ammo and his lightsaber. It was enough for him. The others smiled an shook their heads when he told them that he wouldn't be wearing armor.
The spinning LAAT/i fell from the sky like a bird with a broken wing, coming to rest in the dark sand...
The landing ship rumbled and shook as it shot down through the atmosphere of Antei, deep inside it locked into his seat the Sith warrior was doing his best to meditate amidst the chaos. A shout from the front of the all terrain armored transports cockpit broke the slight inner calm Tyno had accomplished "Thirty-seconds to ground, General.” Opening his eyes he was unsure which officer the update had come from, the Sith was unfamiliar with the forces he now commanded but here he sat in the command walker of the 13th Starborn Divisions 1st Battalion 22nd Armor Alpha company.
There was a rough bump when the transport hit hard ground seconds later and as the clamps holding the walkers released the ship rose up to return to the fleet in orbit. Unbuckling the restraints Tyno stood up and took his position at the walker commander’s station and examined the battlefield holo-table in front of him, rising to stand next to him was Captain Dian Kaiser.
"General, it appears that droid reinforcements have already overrun parts of the landing zone." the Captain stated.
"By order of the grand master this landing site must be secured, have 1st platoon and our command element walkers take up a defensive line formation behind the front and hold position, have the AT-STs help clean out anything left inside our lines and the issue the same to Luciferus's platoons, I think the general is a little busy at the moment...we will not allow any more droid reinforcements to breach our lines." ordered the Sith
"Right away, General." acknowledged Kaiser as he relayed the command to the other walkers.
Countless pings and flashes of useless small arms fire assaulted Tyno's eyes through the AT-ATs main viewport as his walkers moved into position to support their infantry, the cockpit rumbled slightly underneath him as the steel monsters main cannons fired obliterating dozens of droids per salvo.
The great metal beast lurched to a stop as it reached its position "All walkers reporting there in position, General." confirmed Captain Dian "Excellent." Tyno replied. Turning his attention to the miniature bluish projection of the battlefield in front of him, Antei was a barren world and this desert didn't provide much cover for the infantry struggling to stay alive against the onslaught of droids.
Drawing lines on the tactical map in front of each walker Tyno said "I want each AT-AT to fire for high power continuous burst on the coordinates I'm marking down captain."
Dian replied with a confused "sir?"
"This desert provides little cover for our infantry so were going help them out and make some." explained the Dark Jedi.
A few dozen yards ahead of the iron throne troops green lances of energy from the AT-ATs cut deep gouges in the earth just as good as any shovel and formed a single row of trenches in front of each walker. Tyno watched as their troops eagerly took advantage of the makeshift trenches he had created, and in his mind he knew this battle would be long before Antei was there's again.....and it had only just begun.
The droll of the list seemed to last forever. He heard his name near the end Company B, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry. Well at least it wasn’t a spot in the Navy. He hated ships and would have hated to get thrown into the Brig for insubordination due to refusal to pilot a fighter. Plus he was already in enough trouble as it was. Korvyn was relieved to hear that his wife would not be in the first wave. She had never seen combat like what was going to be unleashed upon the surface of Antei.
It seems that his Quaestor had been assigned to the 2/2 as well but in Company C. he paid little attention to the rest of the formalities. And instead went to meet privately with the XO of Company C.
“You know they are saying they expect minimal contact.” Lieutenant Evvin Sallaros told Korvyn.
“They always say that. I think they believe it helps boost morale so you die a little happier.” Korvyn jested openly.
Apparently he wasn’t amused. Instead he went more into the strategic plan and how the LZ would be clear of enemies. All a bunch of Bantha fodder to Korvyn. Only two things were ever sure in a battle people would die and the intelligence sucked when not performed by spec op troops.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to get prepared.” Korvyn Interrupted the Lieutenant, intentionally showing what he thought of the battle plan. He now had to say goodbye to his wife and get his gear together.
5 Hours later
Korvyn felt a sickening feeling as the LAAT took evasive maneuvers trying to avoid the Flak Canons. He hated not being on solid ground and the numerous drinks he had sucked down to get him prepared for the drop weren’t helping things. He tried to stay focused on the Pilot using the force to help him guide the ship safely. In his state he probably did little more than make him feel a little better about his own abilities but whatever helped the descent.
The shockwave of one of the LAATs taking a direct hit stirred him from his concentrated state. Looking out the open drop door he stared as the LAAT Ric was on was sent spinning to the ground. He rushed up to the Pilot ordering him to land near the crash site. The pilot thought of arguing but realized it would do no good. Korvyn next leaned over to the Commanding officer and said two little words.
A pause in the battle came long enough for the Emperor to survey the HUD display in the visor of his helmet. He didn’t normally wear armor, but it seemed appropriate given the circumstances. He could have opted for the cheap armor, the GI stuff, but instead he opted for something that would have made the chaos of the battlefield look chic based on its pricetag alone. Ornate as it was, the thing that made it gaudy was its color. White. On the battlefield, he stood out against the now standard issue Krayt Skin armor. In a way, it encouraged the men around him. If he was crazy enough to die wearing that, they’d better get to work. “No man” They thought “should die wearing something that terrible.”
Oblivious to the concern for his fashion sense, Occasus slid down into the smoldering trench. His white armor smeared with black ash as he peered over the edge of the crater. In front of him, the droid army was advancing. They were close. His men were in disarray as they all clamored through the collapsing droid soldiers. The names flashed across the screen for only an instant, but he caught it all. Stimulants before the battle made the concept of him dying seem a little less possible. The map quickly showed the new Arrivals from Clan Scholae Palatinae. Tyno. Scyrone. Korvyn. Tra’an. An Ewok. The Old Drunk was MIA. Tanks. Orders. He ducked behind the crater wall the instant he saw the tanks. They were ready to fire.
“Tyno! Snails coming. Blast’em before they tear us apart! Then proceed to Rally point Bravo. Focus on enemy Armor. Over.” A man barked over the command frequency.
“Acknowledged.” Tyno replied calmly.
Alpha 64 continued to press into the Valley. It was rather shocking how fast the AT-AT actually moved when you stood on the ground and watched them, they almost trotted along. Tyno’s mechanical beast opened fire as soon as it had a shot at the incoming single treaded tanks. Swaying its head to aim, the creature unleashed two heavy laser bolts. The shot was not a direct hit but close enough to cause the snail droid to explode, sending its smoldering pieces skywards. A pivot of the head later, another tank vaporized.
He could see why the primary LZ needed to be secured. The enemy army was building. In the distance, the second wave was amassing. Droid artillery crawled towards them, too far off to become involved yet. With those AT-ATs planted near the LZ, nothing was going to pass.
Luciferus got his orders via the Force. He was to take Alpha 62 and Alpha 38, an AT-AT and AT-ST respectively, and push towards Rally point Alpha. The Chicken looking walker was quick on its long legs. It scrambled forward to begin the control of the right flank of the line. The enemy was attempting to pincer the entrenched ground troops. More enemy tanks littered the field before them. If they weren’t there soon, all of the infantrymen would be wiped away.
The long necked Hammerhead clutched onto the head of the AT-AT called Alpha 62, lowering himself inside the hatch of the quadrupedal vessel. Once inside, he issued the orders to the man at the helm. The big bodied vessel turned as it readjusted its course.
Also noting the big enemy guns approaching in the distance, Luciferus grumbled in a low Ithorian growl. The battle was going to go terribly wrong if the flank fell, but the Artillery troubled him.
Alongside the Elephant walker, the AT-ST trotted across the drab desert terrain.
“Alpha 32 Reporting. Moving to engage Enemy Infantry. Watch the gears fly, gents. Some cover from the big guns would be nice.” Came the voice of an excited sounding Officer.
“Roger 32, Big Brother would love to give you a hand.” Replied the pilot of the vessel.
Luciferus smiled. The men seemed eager.
Koskian already received his orders. The men of the 4th Squadron had arrived early to the battle, a fact that their tradition boasted. They’d mopped up some of the first wave, and now were pressing on to their targets.
His fuzzy little body fit snugly in the chair provided for him aboard the AT-ST. Accompanied by one other Scout walker, and a tetrad of AT-RTs, They were to go on to attack the Vulture Droid Dispenser. The multigeometric Droid fighters had been making it difficult to land dropships and LAATs. It was two kilometers to the dispenser. The dispenser was sizable and likely had some light protection. They wouldn’t stop there, though. The group would then proceed Southeast, to investigate a strange beacon another15 kilometers past the Droid Dispenser. After that, they had to try to return to the designated point behind the line.
The Ewok grumbled with excitement. The mission had a certain air about it.
“Onwards!” he said proudly.
With his short arms and short legs, Koskian quickly began operating the AT-ST. The men aboard his ship smiled. The rumors could be true... Ewoks did defeat the Empire!
The group of walkers slipped off, running free across the flat and dead landscape.
“Korvyn! Korvyn! Come in! Form up your company. Protect the LZ! Send word to Fleet Control, hurry those dropships!” he said.
“Negative.” He replied curtly. “Blade is down. Retrieving him. Over.”
“Negative, Negative. The line needs to be held!” the voice screamed over blaster fire.
The Pilot of the LAAT looped around the vessel out of the slow descent. It would be no help to go back for the other vessel now, their orders were in. The line needed to be held. Korvyn ranted, but no one listened. The Vessel hit the ground and the troops evacuated it, only to watch it dust off behind them.
Now at the Primary LZ, Korvyn had to shake the feeling that his comrade Blade was gone. There was fighting to be done. The command came over the radio. It was a familiar voice, too frantic to be cool as it normally was.
AT-ATs filed in behind them, and the droids marched forward. Protecting the LZ meant that he had to be in the middle of it all.
Occasus picked himself up in the trench, forming a line with the men that surrounded him. With the threat of enemy artillery hanging heavy over the field, Thran encouraged the sense of urgency. Tra’an Reith was just entering the field. Though near to Korvyn geographically, Tra’an had his own orders.
“Tra’an, come in. See the hill to the north? That position must be taken. Take your unit and do not surrender the hill. Copy?” commanded the de facto coordinator of the attack.
The Templar reluctantly accepted the mission, he was still uneasy about the man that was issuing his orders. “Roger. Proceeding to Ghoram Hill.” The Obelisk replied, reviewing the battle field map. He gathered his troops, who kneeled around him briefly. They looked to him and he dictated the command.
“Troopers, we are going to take that hill and hold it until the line stabilizes. No resistance has taken residence on the hill, we are to get there before them and allow our forces to back the enemy into our waiting arms. Move out.” He said before leading the charge towards the hill.
As he ran forward, Tra’an could see the Battle unfolding. Enemy troop transports were preparing to unleash more droids. The AT-ATs fired mercilessly upon the wave of tanks crashing towards them, marking the ground with charred pot-holes where the tanks once were. LAATs buzzed in the air, chased by Vulture Droids. And all the while, infantry ran forward to meet the phalanx of Droid Soldiers. The Battle had truly begun.
"God Damn it!" Hawk spat, recalling her brief conversation in the hall with the now ex-Admiral Timbal Palpatine. She was a little miffed that he could not even take the time to explain to her what had just happened. The smile he gave her, she guessed, was just a rouse, covering his true intent of his future actions against the Emperor.
"I was going to support you old man, but your timing could not have been a little more thought out." She turned off the play back for the third time, having not believed it the first two times she played it. "We have Vong to fight and my allegiances lie with Thran."
"What! We aren't fighting the Vong?" The Aedile scrolled through the most recent reports. "Droids, led by an unknown foe, possibly Jedi of some kind,” muttered the Countess. Along with Anarya and some of the other younger members, the Warrior was glad that she was not sent out on the first volley. She did not like the idea of going anywhere at the moment. Her space-sickness had finally eased, but her skills needed to be known. Being head of Science and Research, her initial briefing plans had changed. They were more directed around Vong. Now she would have to modify them to be more concurrent with droids. "Could I use Vong science to infiltrate the droid technology?" She thought to herself. Something she was expecting to study anyway. "If only I could acquire a piece of their organic technology," she mused. She placed a call to the Elvendar's quarters. "I need help."
The LAAT/I descended towards the cold dark planet below. Aboard were the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 41st Infantry Division, Alpha Company of the Army of the Iron Throne and Dark Jedi Knight Koryn Thraagus.
“T3-B Heavy Tank close to the LZ, sir.” Informed the pilot. Like hell, the LZs are always clear thought Captain Kellin Wytho. He wasn’t as young as he once was; this would likely be his last War. His body had begun to show the signs of his age: his hair had begun to grey at the temples, wrinkles had started forming on his forehead, and he wasn’t able to run for as long as he used to. But what he lost in strength and agility, he made up for in wisdom.
“Fire missiles.” He ordered. Two mass-driver missiles shrieked as they left the launcher. Only the pilot saw the impact. The mass of burning metal exploded sending smouldering shrapnel flying in all directions.
“Direct hit, Captain.” Reported the pilot. “Coming in for landing in five seconds.” Promptly on schedule, the transport touched down and the hull doors slid open with a slight hiss. Koryn and the troops piled out of the Transport and were immediately fired on by two droids, who evidentally hadn’t been caught in the blast radius of the missile and had been lucky enough not to be hit by the debris from the T3-B.
“Aww,” complained Lieutenant Caleb Fabiszak. “Is this the welcoming party?” A couple of the infantrymen laughed whilst firing at the droids. The droids were using the flaming skeleton of the tank as cover; the smoke disguised their position, forcing the troops to have to fire blindly in the general direction of blaster fire.
“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” said Koryn, igniting his lightsaber and throwing ghostly shadows across the nearby area. “Give me covering fire.” The High Colonel charged out onto the battlefield. The droids seemed to anticipate the danger and began to concentrate their fire on the Knight. The Rodian deflected a handful of blaster bolts with his violet blade. Channelling the Force through his body, Koryn leaped over the wreckage of the Tank. He emerged from the embers of the fire and, with a near perfectly executed spin, sliced both droids in half. Quickly scanning the immediate area with both the Force and his eyes, Koryn found it to be clear. He signalled the Infantry Division to form up on his position.
Not far from his current position, Koryn could see blaster fire lighting up the sky. It appeared he had arrived slightly late for the battle. It was less than a klick away; five minutes and he would be there to join in the battle alongside his Clan. Unlike the soldiers in the 41st, Koryn only wore a simple Krayt Skin breastplate as opposed to the full armour. He had convinced himself that the full suit slowed him down, somewhat. In actuality, it had probably only slowed him down a fraction.
Koryn and the Alphas came upon the battle sooner than he had anticipated. Already, the Clan had begun to push forward and overrun the droids emplacements.
“Take out any clankers you see, men,” ordered Kellin. “Don’t hesitate, just shoot. This is the first push, and we need to get the upper hand.” The troops saluted him. Kellin turned to Koryn to see if he had anything to add.
“We’ll receive orders shortly. Until then, have fun wiping the droids from this planet.” As one, the Company checked the power cells on their rifles and sidearms, and charged through the makeshift trenches to battle and glory.
What in the name of the Sith happened to the Vong? Draco anticipated swarms of razor bugs and a sea of amphistaffs, not regiments of battle droids and a barrage of blaster bolts. After the anticlimactic trip through the shroud, when everyone’s expectation was that Vong ships would put up a brutal resistance, the general feeling was that the enemy was beaten and the occupation of Antei would be a cake walk.
But the cold dark planet was alive with the mechanical beings, ancient though still deadly, models that Maligo didn’t know were still in production. He’d read of the Clone Wars, as most beings in the galaxy had, and had a firm conviction of the superior abilities of sentients. But the masses of killer droids could destroy countless beings, counting on vastly superior numbers and the relentless crush of attrition.
The Dark Jedi Knight sprang from location to location, relying on his Force-assisted speed and agility to pounce on the droids from within their own lines. Misplaced blaster bolts fired by the droids to hit the seemingly crazed human destroyed the metal monstrosities while Draco’s yellow-orange lightsaber blade sliced through durasteel chassis. And the covering fire from the Iron Throne’s infantry picked off numerous droids whose programming wasn’t sophisticated enough to deal with the Jedi and with conventional military forces.
The orders were simple – secure the landing zone. More troops were coming, and each of the dark Jedi from Clan Scholae Palatinae were assigned to combat units to expand and defend the beachhead from counterattack. Maligo would have felt more comfortable with the military from his clan, but the Dark Council’s plan was that only ground forces from the Iron Throne would set foot on Antei. The six Clans’ fleets and Force-users were required, but not their armies.
Moments after feeling the surge through the Force, Draco yelled, “Cover!” as he leapt back to within the comforting confines of Delta Company. The armor clad troopers dove behind rocks and into culverts moments before the artillery barrage descended nearly on their heads. The crashing ordinance and sounds of rending durasteel echoed through the thin air of the dead planet, and after the brief bombardment Maligo’s ears rang. He didn’t have the luxury of a helmet to either increase or muffle the sounds of battle, but then again, with the Force he didn’t really need it.
The men in the AT-ST with Koskian were getting nervous the more engaged in battle the ewok got. Baring his teeth and screaming out inhuman battle cries, the Primarch tracked the dual lasers under the 'head' of his transport across a line of battle droids, leaving dark pits in the ground where they exploded. Group A had split around the small facility that was supplying fuel to the vulture droids and tanks attacking the landing zone area.
Captain Namore and Sergeant Llandon had taken the 1st and 2nd platoons around to the west, hammering the defenses of the refueling station and drawing most of the present droids in there direction. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant Ennada and Koskian had taken the 3rd platoon to the east, doing their best to stay out of site until combat was joined. When they joined the battle, it was already going well for the Captain's forces, and there approach was nearly undefended troop wise.
Dealing with the automated defenses quickly with the superior fire power of the AT-STs assigned to them, and the AT-RTs moved in to flank what little troop defenses that were there. A particularly vicious group of second generation battle droids, super battle droids as Kosk had heard them be referred to, were putting up a very tough fight near the central area. Droidekas could be seen disgorging from the facility, backing them up and giving them the fire support needed to pin down the recon troopers.
All of this went up in a booming flash as the AT-APs of the 4th Recon squad were fed targeting info by the soldiers of the 2nd platoon, before firing their mass-driver cannons from half a kilometer away. The crater left behind was impressive, and the shock of impact knocked several troopers to the ground. Moving fast and with impressive discipline, the men of the 4th secured the area, wiping out the last bits of resistance before using the facilities for their own ends, refueling the walkers and collecting ammunition for the men's rifles.
Two hours later the men were mounted back up, and several LAAT/i's came flying in with troops from the main army to secure and hold the position. Koskian was informed that the 4th had been given an additional objective before heading back, and that the other two groups were meeting up with them in route to it. Apparently a beacon had appeared several klicks to the south east, and they were the closest, and best equipped, to investigate.
To say morale was high as they moved out was an understatement, and Koskian was swept up in it as he rode with the Lieutenant Ennada in the lead AT-ST of the 3rd platoon. Intelligence was nonexistent as to what they were riding towards, but as groups B and C linked up with them, it only became more apparent that they had little to worry about. The Primarch reached out with the slight ability he had in the Force in his current form and noted that the other two Dark Jedi were still alive.
'Amazing,' he thought with a grin, picking up feelings of annoyance from the soldiers riding with them.
Noticing the look of amusement on his furry face, the Lieutenant spoke up, “Whats funny, Master Jedi?”
“Your fellows who are dealing with my....brethren in the other units aren't so pleased to have them, Lieutenant. And I'm no Master to you. Today, I'm just a soldier, and I'm right where I bloody belong,” he replied with a toothy grin.
“Hah. Captain Leats of C Troop says they ended up with a Krath, they had to baby sit him through the engagement. Good to have a soldier with us,” said Ennada, the last part much quieter.
Koskian smirked, before hearing curses start coming over the comm system. The advanced scouts of the recon unit were reporting back from the area near the beacon, and they didn't sound happy. Only a garbled part of the message had gotten through.
“T......p, it's a tra.....gaaaa......”
“Well that sounds like fun,” muttered the Obelisk, preparing himself for battle mentally.
The AT-TE was making its way over desert territory, shooting at droids left and right and, from time to time, also killed an ally who had the bad luck of standing in the way. Voldemort, who was happly aiming at any larger groups of enemies, did consider it minor damage if one of them died and 20 or more of the enemy. No one inside the vehicle dared to argue his logic.
Yeldarb and Trewbacca, the Wookie, occupied two of the other gunnery stations, Grid and a Sergeant Lilene occupied the other two, while Arania, too small in her Ewok body to sit at the guns, functioned as spotter with the help of an improvised booster seat. Luckily, they had all be trained on this particular vehicle, although the Krath woman had some significant adaption problems due to her new size.
The AT-TE also carried troops from the Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, of course. The idea was to get behind the enemy lines and then drop most of the troops plus themselves to "shuffle the battle up" as Voldemort liked to say. Until now, they had advanced quick because of plenty of Brotherhood troops pressing on. The closer they got to their goal, the more complicated the matter became, though, and not only because they needed to take at least some care not to shoot down their own people. On the contrary, it was expected they would help their troops out. Now they were more or less stuck halfway towards their goal, and going any faster would have meant to trample the rest of the 1st Battalion and several other troops.
Trewbacca howled something, and Voldemort agreed. "Yeah, it's frustrating, but look on the bright side. We didn't take any major hits yet."
"Don't jinx it," Grid mumbled almost inaudible. Of course the Dark Jedi all heard him anyway. Something in his voice made it sound as if he hoped the AT-TE would become unsuable so they could set out on the ground, get into close combat.
Lawakiro grew tired of this herself. Vehicles were interesting to use as long as you could move freely, in her opinion, but this was no longer possible. Maybe they should really leave a base crew and set out on foot.
The vehicle shook slightly, and the woman was about to direct it over to the left, where an AT-AT was just about to go down, when a telepathic call reached her. 'Move right from where you are. The Dorimad Sol Quaestor has gone down with his transport. I cannot reach him but I do not think he is dead. You should see the crash site if you move over the dunes there.'
The other Dark Jedi in the vehicle had heard the orders as well. "So this is a rescue mission now?" Yeldarb asked, disbelieve in his voice. "It is not like we are the only large vehicle close enough to get to the crash site, are we?"
Grid and Lilene stared at them in momentary confusion, then they understood. Grid shrugged and went back to his displays, but the young woman needed some more seconds to get used to the fact that there were ways of communicating she would not pick up on. In fact, she looked as if she could use a drink.
"We are, in fact, the only larger vehicle around here," corrected Voldemort. "Following orders, but it will take some time to steer clear of our troops, and if the enemy happens to notice something strange about our movement, they might single us out."
They would have anyway," Arania speculated. "Just because we are the largest thing around here. I think they have already started. Let them become overconfident thinking we are running."
"Do droids get overconfident?" Yeldarb asked.
"I have no idea. But whatever, we'll keep them at a distance." Voldemort's grin showed a considerable bloodlust.
"Have the exact coordinates on the tactical grid now," Grid announced. "No pun intended." Trewbacca roared a laugh anyway. When in battle, the furry Krath was easily amused.
Getting to their right was easier than they thought. Their own troops gave way freely. Climbing the dune they had been pointed out was not a problem either, as the ground had turned solid over time, having melted and solidified countless times. "There it is," Grid said and put the crash site on the tactical display. "Doesn't look that good."
If there had been a price for the understatement of the week, Grid would have easily won it. There were bodies and parts of bodies everywhere, and the LAAT/i's remains were far apart and smoking. Arania reached out with the Force to see if there was anything there, something to make her think the Quaestor they were looking for was still alive.
A shell hit the ground not far from them, and the vehicle's front legs were lifted off the ground for a moment. "You better hurry up, mom," Voldemort shouted. "I have no idea where that just came from and I don't want to be here when they learn to aim better."
Something was digging into Rics back. He couldn't turn his head far enough around to see what it was but he knew it was there. It had brought him out of what seemed to be another dream filled, heavy slumber. It took him just a second to replay the events of the last little while through his head and realize he was not in his bunk, he was in a twisted mess of metal that used to be a transport. Ric had apparently threw a Force barrier up around him just before the crash, allowing him to survive while so many troopers hadn't.
From what Ric could see, the LAAT/i had come down and rolled over, ripping the remaining wing off and coming to rest upside down. He looked at the ceiling, which used to be the floor, he could make out a couple of troopers suspended from their seats and motionless. He knew that they were dead and it didn't take the Force to figure it out. He twisted his torso just a little and felt a ripping pain shoot through his back. It was enough and he could feel the thing stabbing him in the back. He grasped the pipe and pulled it free. It hadn't penetrated very deep and a pressure dressing would deal with that. Now he had to free himself from this death trap.
There was a speeder bike, that had broken free during the crash laying over his lower legs and he tried to shove it off of him. It refused to budge, it was wedged in there well and it would take a small crew to get it off him. He thought of cutting of him with his lightsaber but it was gone. Figures.
His mind started to race with the panic natural to a trapped animal. Ric tried to use the panic to fuel the Force and push the bike off of him. With a final push, the bike broke free and leapt out of the transport. Ric laid back and felt much better.
Crawling out of the wreck, he crested the top of a small hill around the crash site and saw that his craft had come down somewhere behind the main landing zone and he could barely make out the battle. He silently cursed the bad luck that the crash had taken his equipment and thrown it to the winds. The crash must have taken a bit more out of him than he realized. He felt like he'd been drop kicked by a Rancor. In his dazed state, he felt a powerful mind touch his. It felt familiar yet... different.
Ric could see an AT-TE coming in his general direction. He could almost sense the mind that he felt was aboard. He shook his head to try and clear some more of the cobwebs. Almost instantly, he regretted the small action. He could feel the darkness coming for him again...
"Found him. He is over there. Must have passed out again just now." Arania's squeaky voice sounded triumphant.
Before Voldemort could ask his mother where "over there" exactly was, he saw the image she projected into their minds. All he could recognize was a small unremarkable hill, but he did not have the time to have a good look. Another shell hit somewhere close. Trewbacca's roar, followed by him firing the guns, showed at least one of them had noticed where the attack came from.
"Spider droids at 0100," Grid's voice was heard. "We better hurry up."
Trewbacca had already ordered replacement gunners when Voldemort stood up with his hand on his saber, closing the helmet he wore. The two of them were the strongest, so it made most sense for them to get Blade. Trewbacca grabbed an EMP gun on his way down. He was equally clad in battle armor and a special Wookie-adapted helmet. He looked very ridiculous in it. With a loud growl, he opened the exit.
"I know the fur is annoying in such gear," Voldemort said drily. "It would be even more annoying in flames."
"Yeeeeehhaaaaaa...." Grid's loud voice commented a direct hit he had scored. The two of them didn't hear it anymore, as they were on their way down and the constant winds of this world turned all sounds below the thundering battle close by out.
“Roger, WilCo, TR out.” The orders galled him to a certain degree. He was being ordered to take the toughest obstacle in the area, the most heavily defended hill, and what did he have? The four AT-ST’s that he managed to get his hands on before the armor unit deployed. The rest of his troops were infantry, and with the Field Artillery units not in the field yet, there was no chance for calling in an orbital strike on the objective first. The commanders of each of the platoons looked at him, his own face speaking volumes. “We’ve been ordered to take Ghoram Hill.” The grimaces on their faces said plenty.
“Right, so we split up and attack from three sides. The ‘ST’s will go with the A platoon and C platoon to help clear the sides, while I go with B platoon up the middle. Any questions?” A quick shake of three heads confirmed that everyone was sorted out. The companies split and began the march from hell.
“You will not lead this engagement Tra’an Reith, and I don’t give a bloody hell if you think you can. I’m in charge by order of the Grand Master, and you will do as directed!” The over inflated ego that was sometimes called Lieutenant Boaz Yoan walked away in a huff. The troopers were busily doing everything they could to not look at either officer. What Tra’an had intended to be a quiet discussion about methods and tactics was quickly rebuffed by the line officer that resented the idea that Charlie Company needed an addition before combat.
Needless to say, Tra’an had never met a line officer with more willingness to be disrespectful to a Dark Jedi than Lieutenant Yoan. The fact that he interpreted the prohibition of Clan Forces to set foot on Antei, as putting him in command, irritated the Templar to no end. Patiently, he bided his time, not willing to dispatch the officer before landing, trusting in the Force to see to his retribution.
The Y-85 had dropped them onto the surface with ease, offloading the four AT-ST walkers that Charlie 1-41 had been able to lay its hands on before getting the green light to drop. The LAATs of the first three companies landed in quick order. It was perhaps luck that they encountered no heavy aerial resistance, unlike the other troops that had come before, and soon followed. The AT-ST’s made short work of the ground resistance and helped them clear a landing zone for further troops.
Delta Company had bought the farm from the first barrage of flak in the next wave of anti-aircraft droid fire. This wasn’t too much of a loss because the company commander had been determined to fight this battle the way ever other campaign had ever been fought, and lost for that matter. Discussion over how to best proceed was interrupted by a call from Thran, delegating orders.
‘Droids Droids everywhere, and not a Vong to see.’ Such was the thinking when there was time to think as Charlie Company advanced on Ghoram Hill. So far there had been relatively light resistance from standard droids, and the occasional cluster of super battle droids. The AT-ST’s were cutting a nice swath through them, with the occasional droideka exploding for good measure. Casualties had been light, at least until now. At the base of the hill, the time came for Charlie Company to split.
When the signal was given, everything seemed fine. Lightsaber in hand, Tra’an led the charge up the hill, and stopped almost immediately to deflect the incoming fire from emplaced repeating blasters. Skill and the Force were with him, allowing him to walk the lasers back across the hill and into the improvised pillbox, frying the side casing of the turrets. Each exploded in turn after losing containment. B platoon resumed its advance, more cautiously this time.
“Droidekas!” The call came from behind and was just enough warning before two of the shielded monstrosities rolled forward. Tra’an stepped forward, knowing that this was quickly becoming a very bad day. His Lightsaber flashed in the sun, blast bolts spreading wide over the hill face, the Templar barely keeping up with the blasts. “Fire in the hole!” A grenade flew overhead and landed between the shields of the ball-like machines, and detonated. The unstable ground gave way, causing a small landside. Tra’an seized the moment and leapt for the newly stabilized high ground, taking the fallen droids by surprise and slicing through them.
B platoon rushed forward, carefully stepping over the newly rested soil, and seized the top of the hill from its few defenders. The walkers took up cardinal positions overlooking the approaches to the hill, even as the remainder of Charlie Company began digging new earth works.
“Thran, Mission Accomplished. Ghoram Hill captured and holding, will advise if re-enforcements needed.” And to think, that stupid Lieutenant wanted to leave the walkers behind. The Force was with him, this day.
The brief artillery bombardment ended, and the ambulatory troops shuffled to their feet. Apparently command felt that with a Jedi present in their midst, the troops didn’t need to receive a warning before the ordinance began falling. The Dark Jedi Knight stood up and extinguished his blade, but kept the hilt of his lightsaber in hand. “What I wouldn’t give to have the salvage rights to this place,” he said and heard several snickers from the men close by. The field ahead was a lumpy carpet of blasted durasteel and smashed electronics. Probably several dozen tons of recyclable material.
“Orders from command, sir,” Captain Jenko said while holding an armored hand to the side of his helmet. “3rd battalion is ordered to take that hill,” he pointed off to their right, “and we’re to advance to protect their flank.” The troops didn’t wait for orders, but changed their blaster packs to give themselves full loads.
Maligo nodded. The life of an infantryman was a constant grind. Even when they weren’t fighting for their lives they were trudging through terrain pounded into mulch by the big guns. Artillerymen were seldom in danger, and while armored troops had a higher mortality than a foot soldier, still they got to ride to the fight. “We might as well get going. I don’t think the cocktail waitress will make it up here before we have to leave.”
Draco strode on ahead, leaving the men of the 2nd battalion to fan out in his wake. He stretched out through the Force, sensitive to impending danger, and searching for the minute effects the electrical systems of the droid army had on the Force. Even though they weren’t sentient beings, still a regiment of droids could be found if one had the ability to find them. The hill was a couple of klicks ahead, providing a great vista to observe the whole field. No doubt the enemy had an observation post there, at least, and most likely a dug-in defense force. But that was a problem for the 3rd battalion, and Maligo, at least, was content that his force was only providing support, not the primary assault units.
The battle had changed significantly over the last hour. Search lights from landing craft made bright streaks across the sky, where the dust disrupted the stream of light. The first droid wave had been beaten back. The hill to the north had been captured and the AT-ATs and AT-STs cleared a path for the AT-TEs creeping into the valley. The Landing zone was secured.
A few enemy tanks remained, dawdling around the field too damaged to stay a straight course. The enemy artillery would eventually be hunted down, for now they would dig in. Thran dusted off his white armor, while sitting quietly among the warriors clad in the more practical Kraytskin armor. The AT-ATs made quick work of the well formed formation of droids once they had funneled out of the thin canyon and into the wider valley. The field was pocked with smoldering craters, and piles of bodies. The first teams into the field were grunts, with nothing to do but shoot at the overwhelming and growing droid force.
Before the Walkers got there, the place was a mess. 30 men faced 200 droids, with no cover and nothing but air between them and the enemy. Most of them died. The 8 that remained huddled around their Jedi escort, who had placed in the mix with them.
“Right.” He said, standing up to dust the last bit of ashy deposit from his white armor. “Shall we?”
Two Hours Earlier…
The soldier fell to his knees, struck by the blaster bolt. One hand grabbed him by the armpit and lifted him up. Groggy, he looked at the man in white.
“On your feet, Soldier!” he yelled.
The groggy ring in his head cleared, and the sounds of explosions were no longer muffled and echoing. Everything was sharp, he’d been sharpened like a knife on a stone; primed and ready. He let out a roar as his blaster rifle flashed. The droids were piling into the chasm that had been manufactured for them by the AT-ATs massive guns, bearing down upon them quickly. Over the edge, the silver B2 Super Battledroids would peer, lowering their wrists into the trench, only to be met with a hellfire of blaster bolts fired back at them. This was messy.
The Soldier screamed, encouraging those around him to do the same. In time, the terrifying chorus of roars and wails from there unit encouraged a man to run forward. He’d wasted his all of ammo, and was left to use his sidearm. Screaming profanities at each droid that dared to walk over the edge of the trench, he would blast them several times and keep running forward.
His Squad mates felt inspired by his action and they soon pressed forward too, climbing over the dented chassis of the droids their man had left behind. They climbed the trench wall and kept going, most of them out of ammunition and down only to a combat knife. They slashed at what ever they could, mostly behind the head of the flimsy Battledroids. Over their head, vibrant red beams of light rushed, followed shortly by the glorious sounds of explosions and droid panic.
And when the droids saw his lightsaber, they panicked. “Wah-oh.” echoed tinny voices, causing some to turn and flee. He was too quick for the droids, and he cut them apart decisively.
He smiled, as the AT-ATs smashed whatever droids they could. Their lasers tore the droids apart. The Clankers were out-gunned. The odds had changed in an instant. It was 25 on 600, It was now 115 on 47, much better odds. The Landing craft were beginning to see less resistance too. Kosk must have reached the Vulture Droid dispenser and accomplished his goal. The squad ripped through the last of the droids, and turned to see Ghoram Hill take up the colors of the Iron Throne.
“Two Hours, rest and refuel.” He said. “We make for the Hill next.”
“Tra’an… This is Thran, over.” He said into the communicator.
“Roger, Emperor. This is Tra’an, go ahead.” The Quaestor replied.
“Tra’an, How’s the view up on that hill?” Thran asked.
Puzzled, Tra’an looked out over the field. The droids were nearly gone, a few stragglers and hold outs remained, but for the most part it was a scrapyard.
“Rather nice, Thran…” he replied coyly.
“Good, me and the boys are coming to visit. I want some guns put on that hill. Never know when old Rusty is gonna come back.” The Emperor said, fitting the line like some B-list Holovid Action star.
The Templar paused, wanting to laugh. “Ten four, we’ll keep our eyes on you.”
This meeting was going to be fun, Tra’an thought. It was the first meeting anyone had had since the Timbal debacle. No one was sure how the ‘Emperor’ was going to act. Tensions were high, to say the least. Tra’an could only hope that Thran would keep his cool long enough to think about things. He’d earned a reputation for being reckless and absent-minded, a reputation many hoped the Consul prove false.
Thran looked over his map once more. Koskian had moved on to his second objective, The line was held and the constant humming of LAATs signaled that the landing operation was complete. Now, they needed to move forward and establish a field Headquarters, where the rest of the invasion could be staged from.
Objective Nek was at the foot of the hill, in the middle of the valley. The rows of AT-ATs, AT-TEs and other machinery were impressive. It was so Imperial and graceful, yet it was launched based on intelligence that wasn’t worth a pile of bantha poodoo. Somehow, the troops managed to muster a powerful win against the droids. However, the droids would be back soon and this time in far greater numbers.
ooc: Thran made me do it, I swear
The advanced scouts from the 4th Recon had pulled back quickly, reporting heavy defensive fire from the location of the beacon. Reports from the various groups were being pieced together by the commanding officers, with numbers of troops ranging from a few hundred to several thousand, depending on how hysterical the scout reporting was.
Koskian sat back and waited, knowing that rushing in at this point was suicide. The lull in violence brought on a moment of near sleep in the ewok, causing him to yawn and wiggle about in his seat, trying to become more comfortable. Nodding off, he felt his subconscious taking over, and his less stable side reaching up.
Psyko charged over the crest of the hill, lightsaber flashing as the men of the 4th reconnaissance squadron followed him, screaming cries of war. The enemy was unknown, but the situation was simple. Win, defeat them, kill them, capture them if they really wanted to bother. Psyko didn't care, he'd kill them all if he could. As they came over the crest of the hill, he skidded to a halt, his mind having problems processing what he saw.
Dozens of Jedi were below, wearing pink robes and cuddling with one another, playing with odd shaped lightsaber hilts that made more then a few men in the 4th blush at the sight of. Closer examination showed they were women, and the soldiers and Psyko were uncertain of how to proceed. Taking a moment to consider his options, he watched as the cuddling became a bit more heav-
“...downed carrier! Wake up Jedi, the CO wants your input!” shouted Lieutenant Ennada, shaking the ewok awake.
“Wha...carrier, what carrier?” he asked, yawning and rubbing at his eyes.
“We think the beacon is a distress one for the Jedi, we believe its a downed troop carrier, thats why so many droids are active around it. The Colonel wants your input before we proceed...and watch your tone, he's getting angry with the Sith that got assigned to Troop B whose been trying to order him around,” said the Lieutenant with a slight grin.
“Droids? Not pink robed Jedi women?” asked the Primarch as he climbed out of his seat and headed up the ladder.
“No, not....wait what?” was the last thing he heard from the Lieutenant as he climbed out of the AT-ST, climbing down to the ground to head towards the HQ units.
“...and I said this isn't your decision, Jedi, thank you for your input, but I'm in charge here, not you,” snarled the Lieutenant Colonel, jabbing a finger into the robed figure before him as Koskian shuffled up.
The Sith apparently had a short temper and the usual inferiority complex that seemed to be issued with the robes of his order, snapping his lightsaber to life and raising it as if to attack. Almost two dozen soldiers of the 4th brought their weapons to bear, ready to cut down the Dark Jedi if he attacked. The man seemed to be weighing his options when he heard the snap-hiss of another lightsaber coming to life, and turned to find the Obelisk ewok standing behind him, a cold look of death in his eyes.
“Go away, boy, before you get yourself killed,” growled the Primarch, and was pleased to see that even in his diminutive form, he could command respect from the whelps that seemed to populate the Brotherhood these days. The Sith shut off his weapon and turned, tossing his robes and holding his chin so far up that the Obelisk doubted he could see where he was going. His suspicions were justified a moment later, as he heard a number of soldiers chuckle when the Jedi tripped over a rock and nearly fell on his face.
“Your the one with Troop A? Good, since I've already had to listen to the other two, what do you suggest, command said to ask for you people's input before we did anything major, and then to mostly disregard it,” spoke Grainer with a slight grin.
Koskian looked over the data pad that was passed to him, showing the topographical layout of the area around the downed carrier ship. Shrugging, he held it up and pointed at a ridge line that covered the southern area.
“Honestly, Colonel, I'd send all your AT-APs to this area and have them rain hell down on the droids. And I'd at least send a good two Troops worth of men and AT-STs down into the bowl to keep them occupied till the Attack Pods were in position. And, I'd assume you'd let me go with them, I'm tired of riding, I want to kill something soon,” replied the ewok, showing his teeth as he grinned at the man.
The Colonel looked surprised for a moment, before recalling that several of his officers had said the ewok had been thinking like a soldier since entering combat. Relieved that at least one of the Jedi assigned to him wasn't a power hungry lunatic or an 'artist', as the one with C Troop had referred to himself as, the Colonel began issuing orders.
One hour later Koskian moved along at the head of Troop A's men, their armored forms blending into the desert terrain while his own saber stuck out sorely. The AT-AP units were already moving into position, and the droids were firing on them, meaning that something had to be done before the Attack Pods were disabled or destroyed. Roaring out a challenge, the ewok finally let loose the rage he'd felt building since landing on this miserable rock, and ran full on towards a large group of droids.
Yeldarb had also ordered in a replacement gunner to take over his chair.
Following only a minute or so behind the duo of Voldemort and Trewbacca,
he still managed to almost catch up to them. Pulsing in his thoughts
through the Force were his plans to dash directly towards Ric's
unconscious body, and the Zabraks desire for them to cover his back
while he administered some immediate aid with the force.
Arania had also blanketed the area, in agreement with the Iridoneans
plan. Without needing anymore reassurance, Voldemort, and Trewbacca
immediately started in to close combat with the existing spider droids,
while still having to dodge incoming artillery.
Smoke was pouring heavily from the downed transport that Ric was laying
near, partially coving his position from the enemy. Yeldarb rushed in
and came to a skidding stop by his side. He noticed the bandage that was
put in place to stop the bleeding was soaked through with blood. Placing
his hands on the back of the Battlemaster, Yeldarb calmed his mind, and
began to concentrate on closing up the hole. Slowly the gushing of blood
topped and the skin began to close. Yeldarb decided that any further
healing would need to be accomplished in a safer location.
Picking up and running with this heavy human would not be an easy task.
Managing to get him into a fireman's carry position the Zabrak began to
run as fast as possible back towards the AT-TE, to only be knocked flat
on his face by an artillery shell that landed a bit to close for
comfort. Just has he had managed to get back to his feet, Trewbacca had
arrived next to him and with ease picked up the unconscious Quaestor.
“Lets go.” cried the Wookie, as the indirect fire had started to
intensify, putting everyone in danger.
Command Information Center
Rayne closed her eyes and sighed in frustration at her husband, even though he was already gone. He knew better than to irritate her. She placed a hand on her forehead, rubbing her temples lightly in an effort to calm herself before she reacted rashly. Rayne could have a temper like no other sometimes and she loathed to be disrespected...
The voices in the room were quieter than they were when she arrived, and cautiously, one of the analysts approached.
"Ge-hen-neral?" his voice filled with anxiety.
"What is it?" Rayne said in a composed voice, still a bit irritated.
"We have orders from the Emperor..." he said, holding the datapad outward.
Rayne moved her hand away from her forehead and calmly took the datapad, and nodded, signifying the man could return to his work. She looked over the contents of the datapad. It was our orders to land on Antei immediately.
"Ensign?" she said
One of the Ensigns appeared before her, standing at attention.
"Bring this to Archangel on the Bridge" she said.
The Ensign nodded, only waiting.
Rayne turned the datapad toward him, offering it for him. Then she had an idea, before pulling the datapad back in her hand.
"You know what, I'll deliver it to him myself. Thank you, anyway Ensign."
He nodded again and returned to his designated station he was at before.
"Troops?" she said loudly in a commanding voice, looking around. This was the first time her aqua eyes could be seen underneath her hood. The entire room had heard it, everyone stopping to look at her. "I will be on the Bridge."
In unison, the room chanted "Sir, yes sir!"
Rayne headed for the turbolift, and the room resumed its normal chattering.
The turbolift doors whooshed open, and she walked out onto the Warspite's Bridge. Standing at the command, was Brent. Rayne walked up to him, didn't say a word.
"I thought I told you to stay put" Brent spoke.
Rayne forcibly handed him the datapad, slugging it against his massive chest. "And I'm disobeying orders..."
He easily caught the datapad. Holding it out, he read the contents from Emperor Thran Occasus.
“Clan Scholae Palatinae. We have received our orders. We are to land on Antei immediately...."
Brent looked down at his wife. Rayne stood there, bracing and ready for a reprimand. He didn't. He searched her mind, understanding her frustration. He only gave a nod, his way of apologizing now. Rayne, seeing his realization, eased her mind and stepped aside. Brent turned to address the crewmen of the Bridge.
The securing of the landing zone was complete. With the possession of all the local high points in the area by Scholae Palatinae, as well as the inventiveness of Tyno, the area was well under control and thus undergoing heavy landing traffic. The anti-aircraft fire had been eliminated, the vulture droids had been eliminated, the surrounding regional ground forces had been utterly destroyed, the units involved taking mostly light casualties in the doing so. It was not without suffering though, and certainly not without problems. Even now the forward recon units were busy keeping the droids from massing for a coordinated strike to break the as yet still fragile perimeter.
“Sir, Alpha and Bravo companies have just landed and helped to re-enforce the nearby perimeter. We are free for forward support at your command.” The private reporting the news to him stood by, almost eagerly, for the order to advance. He seemed to have forgotten the bloody carnage that was light casualties to these troops, friends and comrades torn apart by flak and shrapnel, made into some sort of holed cheese by blaster bolts. It was the mindset of someone unready, perhaps unable to face the true reality of the situation.
“Prepare Charlie Company for forward support operations. We’ll leave as soon as the Emperor has arrived and had his words with me.” The private gave a cheer that echoed across the remainder of Charlie Company, all of whom were glad to be led by a warrior and nota by the book clown. It was something they were not used to; something they relished and knew would come to an end all too soon. Apparently the private had been sent to him by the company XO after the men had been given time to rest and restock for the next engagement. They had apparently hoped he would give the order to pursue and aide the other troopers. Somehow, his actions had awakened the dormant warriors within.
The emperor’s ridiculous white armor stood in stark contrast to the black lands surrounding it, despite its smudged and ash-strewn appearance. The helmet was still glaringly bright, and somewhat of an eyesore. As Thran approached, Tra’an suppressed all worry from his body, trusting that his men would do right by him. They were his men, for now at least. The Emperor was allowed up the hill, escorted by a platoon that doubled as an honor guard, even as the rest of Thran’s forces were stopped by Beta company which was serving as the ground guard.
Usurper Occasus came forward at a leisurely stroll, seemingly oblivious to the dead bodies and sparking parts strewn around the hill. Clothed all in black, the whiteness of the man just galled him. It seemed foolish to take such a risk, to make a target of one’s self just to look good. Many of the actions of this man were at odds with how the Shi’ido expected a leader to behave, and the war within for order was not an easy one. With his back to the approaching form, Tra’an stayed immersed in the sensor readings and live reports coming in from Koskian’s 4/4 A troop. After what the Quaestor hoped would be a short conversation, Tra’an planned to be on his way to war again, the politics forgotten for the moment. He was an Obelisk at heart, and war was truly his home.
The Ewok stretched her small body. For the last few minuters she had stood over Ric, making sure Yeldarb hadn't messed up and to fix the remaining injuries the Quaestor had sustained during the crash of his transport.
"I feel fine now, no need to hover over me like that," Ric growled. One didn't need the Force to know he wasn't happy about having missed out on the battle up to now.
"Ma'am?" Grid's voice came from the command center of the AT-TE. "We just got new orders."
"Great!" Ric got to his feet immediately. "Let's see what we can do to win this war for us."
Arania followed him, suppressing a sigh. Technically, Ric was now in command of the AT-TE, as he had a position within the Clan while she did not. Normally, she would still have tried to challenge him on that, but she was a fragging Ewok now. No point in even trying.
"We need to go further north," she heard as she climbed back into the spotter position. "Seemingly, we are losing too many fighters. Our Clan is supposed to take out the anti-aircraft batteries of our unwelcomed guests."
"Now, that I like," Voldemort mumbled.
"Uh, Ma'am, Sir," Grid said, not sure who was in charge now. "I'm reading two Brotherhood units ahead of us, but they are not from CSP."
"What?" Frowning, Ric spun around. "Then who are they?"
Trewbacca growled his discontent. "Yeah Trewie," Yeldarb agreed. "If they think we cannot do things on our own, they can go back home - in a casket."
"They are from Arcona," Grid announced. "This is going to be interesting."
Occasus foamed. Taking out anti-air batteries was a needed task, but one he would have prefered to be left for other, less important Clans. Naga Sadow, for example, or even Plagueis. It didn't matter how well you did such tasks; in the end, it was a supportive role, and you didn't get much glory for it.
"Orders?" Tra'an asked with a straight face.
"We... will go and... destroy everything." Thran's struggle not to blow up at anyone was visible. "And I hope we will find a few Arconans or Tarendumbs on the way to cool my mood on."
Tra'an grinned. Tarendumbs... no doubt, the new nick for ther nemesis would spread quickly. "I think you might get your wish, Milord," he said, relieved because he had not known how to breach the subject with the Emperor. "Arania's group spotted some Arconans seemingly hunting on our grounds."
Thran's face lit up. "Well, then, it might be that we will get something better out of this battle anyway. Who'll notice them missing, in the middle of all this huddle."
Tra'an nodded, but he wasn't too happy. Infightings might hamper the achievement of their ultimate goal. And yet, there was no way to avoid them...
“Attack Pods in position, A Troop pull back NOW!” roared the Executive Officer of the 4th Recon squad, Major Highwind.
The men of Troop A began an orderly fall back, Koskian was amused when he heard Sergeant Llandon call it that over the comms instead of a 'retreat', to get out of the firing area of the AT-APs. When they were sufficiently clear, the order went through to the men crewing the Attack Pods, who had been appraising their targets while waiting. Allowed to unleash, the mass accelerators that made up the main gun of each pod let lose, raining death on the battle droids that were pursuing the soldiers of the reconnaissance unit.
Troops B and C moved in as the last of the salvo hit, beginning mop up operations of the area as the men of Troop A were allowed some respite. Koskian climbed into one of the AT-STs that were near the HQ detachment and crawled up into a seat, where he promptly fell asleep. The men ignored him when he first passed out, knowing that they'd all had had a long day since landing, but couldn't help but grin as the furry little Dark Jedi began twitching in his sleep, leg kicking.
“...orders, acknowledged,” said the gruff voice of Sergeant Llandon, pulling Koskian out of his nap.
Stretching, the ewok looked about, noting that the AT-ST was in movement, and from the noises coming from outside, he guessed the entire Squadron was on the move. Cracking his neck loudly, the Obelisk stood up in his chair and peered over one of the crew members shoulders, noting the holo-map on the console. They were headed north, but other then that, it showed little.
“Alright....where are we headed now, Sergeant?” he asked, still rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Objective Revir,” replied the man, before he realized that the Jedi didn't know what that was, and continued, “apparently theres some heavy anti-air out there. We want air support later, or for that matter, reinforcements....”
“We gotta blow 'em up. Damn flyboys will have to buy us drinks for this,” muttered the ewok.
“Yup. Unfortunately...we're furthest out. Almost two hours behind the forward units, maybe an hour back from the rear guard of the forces being used for the assault. So, looks like we are the mop up,” said Llandon with a grin.
“Yeah. Mop up,” muttered the Primarch, before breaking into a grin, “Or bloody heroes depending on whats happening when we get there.”
The pair marched down the hill, glancing over the flat plain that held Objective Nek. The Landing had been poorly calculated, but the Force had led them to an overwhelming victory. They were to continue inland.
Thran’s gaze crept forward again. The desert was empty. There was nothing to be seen. The targets were to the North. However, their next objective lay to the north-east.
“Magnifier, someone.” The Emperor requested.
A man from his Unit in the 502nd Infantry, dropped the device in his hand. The Emperor dropped to one knee, and in suit so did the remaining members of Charlie Company. He looked through the binocular unit. He cleverly scanned the field; setting the waypoints to his helmet with a few vocal commands.
Tra’an paused beside him, still standing tall on the middle of the hill. He couldn’t help feel that this situation was growing more and more ridiculous. He put his hands on his hips, staring at the Emperor. Thran pulled the goggles down from his eyes.
“Ah, Tra’an...” he said.
“We need to get some more intelligence on these targets. See if you can get someone in the fleet to get us some fresh orbital scans. Or maybe send some Probots. We aren’t going to march through there blind…Its foolish.” The Emperor said.
“I couldn’t agree more.” Tra’an Reith replied, somewhat shocked at a display of reason from the Emperor.
“Kosk has been issued the same orders. He’ll be catching up behind us in some walkers. We should make sure to meet up with him. There is something that not right about this fight, Tra’an. We must be united as a Clan.” The Emperor said.
Tra’an was unsure how to answer. He thought it best to listen for the moment, silent.
“So…We half-time it forward. Give our guys some time to rest and reload. Kosk will catch up with us, we take the Objective, then proceed east-north-east to the dub-A. Once we have that cleared up, we backtrack to the Objective and hold it. Negative on the airlift, we have to hoof it. We might be able to get some of our boys in Kosk’s Transports.” Thran suggested.
Tra’an thought for a moment. It was a good plan. They had no idea what they were up against. The Iron Throne had no concentrated intelligence on the area. They needed some scans of the area. Thran had foreseen everything.
“Yes, Sounds good.” The Obelisk said. “We’ll need their firepower.” He added.
“Yes.” Occasus replied, biting his lip.
“Something on your mind, Thran?” the Obelisk asked.
Sometime Prior to Landing…
“There is no cure for this pestilence!” hissed one of the shapers.
The Priest coughed. “Surely the Gods will save us.”
“This plague has killed the Gods!” the shaper hissed.
“Infidels will come and claim this land for themselves. And we will fight them until they are all dead.” Wheezed the Priest.
“No, Priest…we won’t. We’ll already be dead…” the bioengineer replied.
“No. Just a little tired, that’s all. Feeling a bit cranky. Let's just get this done.” He replied, handing the binoculars back to the soldier who had presented them.
“I see. Well, we’d better get moving.” Tra’an replied.
“Sure.” Thran stood and started walking, while he peeled off his helmet. He tossed it to an awaiting soldier. His gloved hand dug under his grimy white armor, as if scratching his chest.
The glove hand clutched a small vial. He opened the vial and snuffed the contents. Tra’an just stared, was he really following this man? Thran looked back over his shoulder.
“You want some?” he asked.
The darkness was striped with blaster bolts of various colors and sizes, and the normally deathly still air was rent with explosions and screams, zips and hums and electronic whines. Draco crawled forward with the men at his command, glancing at the charred hulk of a walker. The battlefield-gray durasteel chassis was holed from an artillery bolt and wrent open like a tin of sardines. Scorch marks mottled the sides and top, and the stench of burned flesh stunk like a charnel house.
The enemy flak guns were wreaking havoc with the fighters and bombers, and the tanks that were sent in were driven back. Leaving the job to the infantry, as usual. The men that get the least respect and the cheapest toys to play with were always the go-to guys of final resort. Maligo crawled over the rocky terrain toward the dug-in droid army surrounding their gun emplacements. Their positions were pock-marked all over the terrain, like a case of pox on an infected Hutt. They had to be rooted out, one nest at a time.
The Dark Jedi Knight had requested an artillery strike to cover the foot soldiers’ advance, but they were busy. Busy? Doing what, Draco wondered. He didn’t hear the roar of the ordinance or the ground shaking explosions from the heavy weapons. Typical. But he knew enough not to give in to despair. Instead he used his resentment to fuel his Force sense, believing that most problems were capable of solution. Eventually.
He held up a black gloved hand, then gave a series of gestures. They had this down to a science now. The company spread out, covering a hundred-degree arc around the impromptu bunker. The troopers fired at the pit, driving the droids down. Several men tossed plasma grenades at the position while Maligo used the Force to accelerate his sprint towards the chancre. The white-hot explosions kicked up dirt and debris. Draco leapt, ignited his lightsaber, then landed amidst the enemy machines and set to working dismembering them, hacking and slashing like a man possessed. After a few moments nothing moved except the human. Another few meters gained, another handful of droids reduced to scrap.
Back in orbit, Natth was getting a tad nervous. He understood the orders of the Council and the Clan summit that he was to remain aboard the ship as the only one in Scholae Palatinae who had mastered the skill of long-distance telepathic communication and with that ability, he was a unique asset, capable of seeing through the eyes of every Scholae Palatinae Equite and Elder on the ground and in the air.
Yet, in spite of all this, Natth would rather be in a different place - the cockpit of his trusted TIE Defender, leading a wing of fighters and bombers and causing some direct attrition amongst the enemy - or, as it more and more appeared: enemies. Strewn in between the Scholae Palatinae forces were other dark ones, strong in the Force, but they were shielding themselves against the old Master's guidance and coordination efforts. In two of them, he had actually sensed that they were well receiving his mental commands, but not acting on them but rather using the information to hamper the progress of the Royal Clan's Forces.
~Attention all Palatinae Commanders - you have enemy clansmen in your sector. Several equites, possibly up to two elders. I cannot identify most Clans, but I have sensed at least one Arcona and one Tarentum.~, Natth warned everyone in the Clan who could understand his mental transmissions.
A shuffle of feet behind him told him of the presence of another being, weak in the Force and obviously in fear. Natth turned around to face a junior medical officer who was visibly panicked by the Dark Master's presence, fearing for her very life.
"What is it?", Natth demanded.
"The pa... pa... ti... ent... Tit...tititititimmmb...bal. "
Natth impatiently tapped his foot.
Natth raised a hand, as if to apply a Force choke.
"He escaped???", Natth repeated, disbelievingly.
"Yes, he... escaped. Drained the Bacta and walked out while I was not looking."
"Fine. Return to your post. I will deal with that."
As the midshipman ran away, still not quite believing she would escape this alive, Natth closed his eyes and reached out for Timbal.
~Get on the bridge if you want to play it this way~, he mentally commanded, not leaving any doubt that he meant this as a direct order and that the consequences for not following it would be dire, regardless of formal authority.
Not a minute later, Timbal entered, still in quite disheveled robes.
"So you want to escape from the custody of the Palpatines?", Natth asked. "Well, you know as well as I do that this custody is not quite binding, so you are free to go if you have a good reason and the only reason I see right now is to go and fight. Is that what you want?"
Timbal nodded. Anything was better than being stuck on the ship.
"Fine. Pick up your weapons and don a flight suit. You will take my TIE. Lead Grim Reaper wing down to lend air support and take out anything and everything the enemy may be throwing at our troops from above. You will not take orders from anyone but myself. I shall lead you from here and you shall be my eyes and ears in this battle. Now go and fly sharp."
He activated his comm device.
"General Uoya, deploy your wing for bombing and air superiority missions on Antei under the direction of Epis Timbal Palpatine. He will be flying the Tiger's Claw. Ensure he brings it back in one piece."
“Thraagus out.” The Rodian deactivated his commlink and turned to the troops of the 41st Division and relayed the orders. “The Clan’s pushing forward. We’ve got to help establish a beachhead around the AA towers. Walkers will take out the towers themselves.” The orders were met with salutes and agreements of “Sir”.
The company headed north to where the AA towers were located. Emerald bolts of plasma could be seen in the distance flying skyward. Ahead of them, multiple battalions of droids could be seen, already engaged with the Brotherhood forces. Flashes of light could be seen coming from lightsabers as they hacked droids in twain. Captain Kellin’s hand shot to the side of his helmet.
“Incoming distress call, sir.” He reported.
“Patch it through.” Ordered the Rodian, as he activated his commlink once more. Anguished, anxious voices could be heard.
“Require assistance,” came the voice. “Coordinates 62, 105.” There came the sound of a struggle and blaster fire. “Damned droids!” Came the voice before the connection was cut.
“We’re approximately two minutes from that location, sir,” informed Lieutenant Caleb.
The Knight gave a simple order: “Move out.”
The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, Charlie Company were becoming overwhelmed by the droid army. They were huddled down in a makeshift trench caused by blaster fire from an AT-AT. B1 and B2 battledroids were swarming them on all sides. There was no escaping this Hell alive; they would have to hold their position. First Sergeant Hans Zeilr had been wounded badly and a medic was tending to him.
“Lieutenant, send a message over all channels,” ordered Captain Jatt Jonzz. “Request immediate support.” Lieutenant Zhar-Khan Koth saluted and carried out the orders. As he reached the end of his broadcast, a squad of B1 battledroids jumped down into the trench, supported by three B2 Super Battledroids.
“Damned droids!” he yelled before deactivating his commlink. The Lieutenant fell into a bloodlust, drawing his pair of litch-blades and attacking the droids up close. Koth went after one of the B2s, slicing into the metallic skin with relative ease. The first litch-blade sliced diagonally across the droid’s chest. The second blade reached into the cavity and ripped apart cables and wires. The B2 gave a metallic roar as oil spurted from the wound and coated the Lieutenant. Koth spat the vile tasting liquid onto the floor before moving onto the next droid. Behind him, the rest of the company was firing a hail of blaster fire at the incoming adversaries.
“Where’s that support?” asked Jonzz, angrily. “This trench will be our graves if no help arrives soon.” Around him, soldiers fell to the droids’ fire. Crimson bolts rained in, and with no cover, they would easily be picked off one by one.
As the Captain began thinking that all hope was lost, a figure jumped down into the midst of the chaos, violet lightsaber in hand. With his mystical power, he pushed over at least a dozen of the droids. Emerald and sapphire bolts poured in from over the edge of the trench. Looking up, Jonzz saw the company that had been sent to support them. The droids became disorganised, not knowing whether they should focus their fire on the troops in the ditch, or the reinforcements firing down at them.
Zhar-Khan glanced around and saw the new, unfamiliar figure close by, his violet blade slashing at the droids with much more ease than he was. He disengaged himself from the fight, his bloodlust quenched, and pulled his A280 Blaster rifle to his hands. Pulling back the trigger, he let loose a torrent of blaster fire at the mass of droids.
With the assistance of the Dark Jedi and the troops of the 41st Division, it didn’t take long for the 2nd Infantry Division to secure the area. Captain Jonzz approached their Rodian saviour and saluted.
“Sir, thanks for the prompt arrival.”
“What’s your objective Captain?” enquired the Rodian.
“We are to rendezvous with B Company at the AA tower and set up a defensive perimeter.” Koryn nodded in reply, his mind was already formulating a plot.
“Implement your forces with ours.” He instructed. “We’ll get to the AA tower and make the droids and the Jedi wish they’d never landed on this planet.” He gave both his own troops and Jonzz’ a single order; as simple an order as could be given: “Give ‘em Hell, gentlemen!”
Ric looked at the tactical display and noticed that they were closing in on the anti-aircraft batteries. Part of him wanted to charge in an decimate them, to exact some small measure of revenge for the troopers that had died in his crash. Another part of him wanted to leave this cursed place and never return. He looked towards the spotter seat and watched as Arania plotted the course to their target.
The com unit lit up with a distress call. A company of infantry was on the verge of being over run and required assistance. Ric checked the location and saw that they were not far from there. The AT-TE would require time to get there and it was already needed to destroy the flak guns.
Ric looked at the other Dark Jedi in the walker, noting what each had done for him in the last few hours. He always repaid those that both helped and hindered, these clan mates would be remembered. He checked his saber and blaster and looked up at Arania.
"I'm going to go help them out," Ric said, trying to suppress the survivor guilt that he still felt.
"This will not bring them back you know," Arania replied, sensing what he was feeling inside.
"I know, but at least I might be able to keep it from happening to someone else. Beside, I feel like a fifth wheel here. You have your mission and now it seems I have mine. Thanks for all you did for me and I'll see you again before this is over," with that, Ric leapt out of the AT-TE. He landed near a shell hole and took off at a very fast run.
Arriving at the scene, Ric saw that the unit had been relieved and they had moved towards the flak tower. As he scanned the horizon with his binos, something felt odd to him. There was something not right and he had to find out what before it was too late.
"So, what are we doing about the Arconans now?" Voldemort demanded to know.
"Whatever it is, first we need to drop off our troops at these coordinates," Grid announced. "They are getting antsy as it is."
"Very well," Arania nodded. She was not too unhappy about Ric getting himself his own assignment; she just hoped he would make it out of there again. "When we've dropped them, I will take care of this Arconan business myself."
"I want to come with you," Voldemort insisted. Trewbacca barked an agreement.
"Not really." Arania smiled almost warmly. "I want you to check out the Tarentrum intruder Nathh had pointed out. Can't be in two places at the same time."
"There were times when you could," her son said dryly.
A few minutes later they reached a crest behind which a last group of droids was making their final stand against very few Brotherhood troops. The AT-TE's troops debarked and joined the battle quickly. They would not have any trouble finishing the droids off, especially not after Yeldarb blew up half of them with a well aimed blast.
"Towards the other enemy, now," Arania ordered. Immediately, the AT-TE turned, moving to the west towards where Natth had felt the non-Clan Dark Jedi before. She almost hoped he had also mistaken a few enemy Jedi for other Clans, but was aware that this was unlikely.
It was then that she felt another familiar presence. "Timbal! He's back into action. Somewhere above us. With some air support, I think."
"The Dark Council won't like that," Yeldarb mumbled. "Said we should only take their troops."
"Yeah well, save us Clan members. And at least Timbal is justified in being up there."
"Wonder who he brought along?" Voldemort mumbled.
"We'll eventually find out." Arania waved at Yeldarb to take her place. "First I want to find out about those other clans though."
It had been some time since anyone had heard from Koskian and the boys in the Recon outfit. The units sent to dispatch the droid Triple-A had moved far enough away from the base being established at Objective Nek that d’Tana’s team had been lost. Thran didn’t seem too concerned. With Koskian gone, it was one less person who could or would try to kill him. He needed that at this moment, everything was shifting around him. Sooner or later, he’d be shifted so much he’d end up right in someone’s crosshairs.
“Take 5, guys.” Thran said, unclipping his helmet.
The heavy assault units moved forward fast enough that the boys in Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 502nd never really got a chance to get involved in the fight. They were the first men in, and they could use a break. Every man sat on his helmet, Thran thought it would be wise to follow suit. They passed around a canteen and one man even lit up a cigarette.
“Hey, can I get one?” he asked the man.
He didn’t say anything, just offered the soft package to the Bakuran. The man in the bleached white returned a silent nod of gratitude for the small gift. The man tucked the package away in his armor again. They didn’t need to talk. Every one of them was present at battle. They’d learned more about each other there than all the words in the galaxy could have taught them about their companions. War did that to a man.
Thran stood up, inhaling on the rolled cigarette as he held a plasmatorch to it, setting it ablaze. He picked up his helmet and pulled out the ear-piece. He took several steps out into the dark landscape, far enough away from the boys to be safe but still have some privacy. He could use an ally to help him unite the Clan once again…
“Of course we shouldn’t tell him! Are you mad?” Arania said.
“Well, I guess you are right…What about the Arconans? Should we tell him about them?” her offspring asked.
“Do you know what he would do? I certainly don’t…He’ll find out soon enough. We can’t exactly carry him the whole way. He’d stop us too…” The portly ewok said grumbling.
Their wookiee companion growled a throaty rumble of a response.
“Not that kind of carry, Trew. Though, I am sure you could.” Voldemort said with a chuckle.
Thunderous step after thunderous step, The AT-AT slagged on towards their goal. They were ready to hunt some Arconans, with Sarin’s weapons. It was like taking candy from a baby, with someone else’s hands.
“You’ve been a fool.” He said.
Tra’an didn’t dare interject. In fact, he pretended not to hear a word. One mistimed comment, and he’d be in a world of hurt. While he was not much of an actor, Thran seemed too occupied to notice Tra’an Reith anyway. Phoenix at least gave him a nod.
“I know. I didn’t have much choice…Sarin sent me those orders. Have our most capable lead the ships through the Shroud. I had no idea he was going to react like that.” Thran replied.
“You are making excuses. Accept responsibility for what you do.” The sage retorted, still somewhat angry over what had happened in transit to Antei.
“I had nothing to do with Timbal’s injuries.” The Bakuran stated, firmly believing that to be the case.
“He’s escaped, you know…Natth told me he’s coming here, with troops.” The man said, brushing his long white hair behind his ear.
Thran’s heart stopped. Timbal had escaped and was now en route to Antei. He hadn’t spoken to the Palpatine in some time, and everything seemed to be going well until that was revealed. The Dark Side Adept smiled, he loved torturing Occasus with things like this. After all, the budding youngster had tried to overthrow him when he was Emperor. It was payback of sorts, but much more slow and agonizing.
“He’s escaped? Yeah, more like the Palpatines let him go. He’s going to come after me. He’ll think I had him attacked.” Thran replied.
“You didn’t?” Phoenix replied.
“Of course not! If I had, he’d be dead!” Occasus replied, now stepping onto the grated floor of the Low Altitude Assault Transport.
Phoenix followed him, smiling at the notion his compatriot had just presented.
“Hell, if the droids don’t get me…Timbal will hunt me down and the Palpatines will just sit there and watch.” Thran replied, sitting on one of the loose crates as the remaining eight members of his company piled into the craft.
“They won’t defend you, that is for certain. Many think you’ve earned it.” The former Consul replied.
“What should I do? I haven’t been this lost since that one time I got so drunk that I woke up the next morning in a hotel lobby on Doruuma, clutching a potted plant.” The Emperor replied.
“You want to earn their respect…you want this all to stop? Bring them the head of a Jedi. Your troubles with getting the Dark Council to recognize you as a legitimate member of their ‘social club’ will end too. It quite simple…You know what you have to do. Report to Sarin and his Generals on the rat race they have you running, then do what you were born to do…” Phoenix said, gripping the tether as the vessel cleared the ground and jerked into motion.
Thran looked out over the barren plains of Adas. The metallic shells of the All Terrain vehicles stood out from the sooty soil, making them visible if only somewhat so in the darkness of the Shadowlands. It hadn’t hit him until they gained some altitude just how cold it was without a sun to warm you by day. Their craft was headed back to the makeshift base at Objective Nek, and as they flew, he noticed Koskian’s task force. The walkers and attack pods moved quickly. The Ewok had finally caught up to the other forces. Together, the Armor looked like a herd of beasts making a great migration on to the breeding grounds. It was inspiring, really. Thran looked up at Phoenix.
“I will hunt down these Jedi. I will find out what REALLY happened here. I will do it myself…I am destroyer, death incarnate. I am Usurper, damnit. If they only knew what I’ve done to get where I am!” Thran roared with his trademark arrogance and self adulation.
“I’ll do it. I’ll end this war myself…” he added.
Phoenix shook his head. “I don’t think so, champ. I am coming with you.” He said.
Before he could add anything more, Tra’an piped in. “Me Too.”
“It’s settled then. No more of this run-around from the DC. Today, we take back control. I will report to Sarin and his useless Army Brass, then we go.” Thran said.
“You look like you could use some sleep…” Tra’an said, it was the most he’d said in a while and he himself felt that he could use a quick nap.
Thran smiled and shook his head. He pulled out another of his vials, which he held stashed on his persons at all times. A quick snort and it was gone. His eyes lit up and he grinned like the cat that ate the canary.
“No, I think not…” he said. “And Phoenix…Thanks for hearing me out.”
Two hours prior to rendezvous at objective Nek, Koskian and the 4th Recon squad encountered a mobile droid unit, almost two hundred droids strong. It was pure luck that the scouts had spotted them before the droid forces picked them up on their scanners. And it was something that Lieutenant Colonel Grainer quickly saw as an opportunity, having the Attack Pods do a long range bombardment before the AT-STs and other units moved in closer to decimate the forces.
Koskian had been amused by it all, knowing that the droids were likely going to engage the Iron Throne troops from the rear, not realizing that another unit was still coming. Still nearly an hour out, one of the other Jedi called for a halt, demanding a face to face with the Colonel. The d'Tana ewok decided to sit in, watching from nearby as the Sith that had been getting on his nerves, and whose insignia was clearly displayed now as a member of Tarentum, yelled at the officer.
“We would have been there by now if you had just gone by that group of droids, instead of wasting time and ammunition destroying them!” he roared.
“If we had ignored them, they would have noticed us, advanced on our rear, and took us apart. Just like we did with them. We can't leave enemies in our wake to strike at our rear, Jedi,” growled the Colonel, his chest puffed out and obviously trying to keep control of the situation without losing his temper.
“Jedi? JEDI!?” screamed the Sith, his weapon now in hand, the scarlet blade thrumming to live, “You will address me as 'Master' or 'My Lord', plebe! I should strike your head from its resting place on that fat neck of your's for this insult!”
As the Sith continued to rant, Kosk watched, certain of what was about to happen. When he finally lifted the weapon to kill the Colonel, the ewok moved in, his speed and experience showing through with full force as he blocked the blow despite his shorter stature.
“Ah, so finally the Palatine DOG shows himself!” shouted the Sith, a gleeful expression on his face.
“Fool.” was the only response, before Koskian launched into an intricate pattern of attacks, his decades of experience out shining the Sith quickly, whose taunting suddenly ceased as he tried to beat back the orange blade of the Obelisk.
“Only a fool kills a competent commander, but it has always been the way of the Sith to pass the buck when they fail. Vader exemplified that, and you continue the tradition. Touching.” mocked the ewok, as he pushed back the Sith's guard to cut into the man's shoulder, bringing a scream of pain from the young man.
Another twist of his wrists sent the shoto blade into his foe's left kneecap, dropping him to the ground before he spun, knocking the other's saber hilt away with sheer brute force. Holding his blade to the man's neck, he stared with unmerciful eyes. The Sith glared at him, and Koskian could almost see the aura of the Dark Side permeating the man as he drew in on the Force. Weathering the telekinetic assault that followed as he did all things in life, head lowered and body unmoving, he struck as soon as the man was spent, shoving the tip of his blade through his neck and out his spine.
“Your going to get in trouble for this, I take it, Lord d'Tana?” asked the Colonel, looking down at the body.
“I'm sorry, this man left your command days ago didn't he? Chasing after a group of droids, then we didn't see him again. Seems he was turned, hmm?” replied the ewok.
The Colonel smiled, nodding as he turned to relay orders to his subordinates.
Two hours later, they arrived at Objective Nek, and Koskian felt a mental tugging from someone he hadn't gotten to speak to for some time. Looking around, certain he was nearby, the ewok broke into a grin as he noted his cousin talking to the Emperor. Turning back to the men of the 4th, he was informed that the unit was being given some relief time to rest and restock, he responded with a nod and moved towards a nearby LAAT
“So the rumors were true....I can't believe how....cute you are now, Psyko,” said the former Consul, speaking into his cousin's mind.
“Shove it up your exhaust, Pho, where the hell have you been?” replied the ewok.
“Busy, here, there, everywhere,” replied the man, twitching slightly, “temporarily insane, or permanently, not certain...but you know how that is, eh?”
Koskian didn't reply right away, glaring at the craft his cousin was in, before noticing the Emperor and Tra'an were on board it as well. Squaring his shoulders, an amusing sight to Thran, the ewok dropped one hand to his belt, resting near his shoto hilt. The Bakuran looked tired, not angry or in one of his moods, just...tired.
“I'm going with him, Kosk, to hell with this running around with the army, we need to take the fight to our enemy in the way we know how. Armies are for politicians, today, we're all warriors, regardless of Order. I think our esteemed Emperor has a plan to destroy the Jedi, and anyone else who gets in his way...,” stated Phoenix, trailing off at the end, a strange smile spreading across his face.
“Well, where one d'Tana can make a difference, two can win a war. Count me in, Phoenix,” stated the ewok, looking tired but resolute.
The constant grind of war was beginning to wear on the troops of the Iron Throne. Despite the stims, which the beings were popping like after dinner mints, the Force presence of the men was dimming significantly. After all, they had been fighting nearly constantly for nearly three standard galactic weeks. Those that were left, of course.
Draco knelt behind the aperture of the pillbox. It was made of durasteel-reinforced permacrete, and was one of hundreds that made up the outer perimeter of the enemy base. The members of Ebon Cloak stood to their positions, drawing on the Force for sustenance and stamina, and taking shots at the various probe droids that were scouting the Brotherhood positions. The Dark Jedi Knight could feel the somber, if not depressed mood of the men.
Certainly the situation was dire. After having fought so hard for Antei, the entire clan had occupied the enemy base, and were promptly surrounded. If they hadn’t already whittled down the enemy flak batteries they would be completely cut off. But as it stood supply was precarious, at best. Food and water were needed, as well as blaster packs and of course the stims that kept the men functioning past what would be humanly possible.
The beings of Ebon Cloak, only beginning to gain knowledge of and command of the Force, were mired in despair. Draco could feel their thoughts, but wouldn’t do anything to salve their minds. If they wanted to grow as dark Jedi, to live and learn, they would have to pass this test and climb out of the pit of despair on their own. There were, after all, worse situations to be in, and if they were the type to give up they might as well leave their rotting carcasses here on Antei.
This was what war was all about. Bone-numbing fatigue, hunger, terror. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t glorious. Maligo remembered reading tales of ancient knights, wearing polished armor and riding white horses, brightly colored banners wafting overhead in the spring breeze. They never told of gutted and decapitated corpses, dulled armor splashed with blood and gore and dented by mace and sword, and the screams and moans of agony from the wounded and dying. That was what it was all about.
Kalak glared at a Novice from House Caliburnus. She had sunk to the floor weeping about moaning about the futility of it all. If she had been in Acclivis Draco, he would have whipped her into shape or disposed. The Falleen’s gaze wandered from her round to members of his own house and several soldiers. Moral was down and the soldiers didn’t need to see that their Masters were scared. For people that were trained, and indeed practiced in war, they were surprisingly downcast.
He himself had been pleased to return to Antei and he viewed the Jedi as a test, as well as an opportunity to learn more. Would they rather have fought Vong? At least they can eliminate droids without too much effort. True, there were thousands of droids and the danger was in numbers but they had Dark Jedi on their side. One Grand Master would be enough to wipe out half of Skywalker’s measly order. And they had at least three.
He started to return to the top of the compound, having had enough of the Jedi simplicity that was the complex when he heard a pair of soldiers talking.
“Yes, according to the commanders, we’re in exactly the same position they were. We’re going to get attacked pretty soon, certainly within the next twenty four hours. I don’t know how long we can hold this place against those clankers. And if the Jedi come, we’re doomed.”
“You forget about our own Dark Masters.” reminded the other trooper. “We have more Sith that they have Jedi and they’re not afraid of what they can do.”
The first trooper shook his head darkly. “Mark my words, we’re going down. I’ve got a bad feeling in my bones.”
The Falleen walked on, the first soldiers words, echoing in his head. He wandered up to the top of the complex, into the fresh air. Well, one couldn’t really call it fresh, but there was a little bit of gust all the same. He leant over the ferrocarbon wall with a sigh. The building was a far cry from the opulence he was used to at Dragons Citadel and his home planet. He slipped out a pair of light amplification goggles from the pocket of the black robe he’d changed into and stared into the distance, trying to find some sign of attack. He found nothing. All was quite. The calm before the storm.
The Dark Jedi Knight snapped to consciousness from his Force trance, nudged by a strong tremor of impending doom. Refreshed and alert, he cast his green eyes around the permacrete pillbox, soon to be a mausoleum, and suspiciously eyed the beings that were left. Of the troops of the Iron Throne, three weeks ago a full company, now down to a pair of squads. His own battle team, numbering a round dozen before the invasion, now down to a little over half. Of course they were young in the Force, and only partially trained, but Draco wondered if the rest of the invasion force had suffered such high attrition.
“On your feet!” he yelled, sending a shock wave to all through the Force. The young accolyte he had left on watch was asleep at the sensor station, at her post, while the rest of the units were dozing against the walls of the bunker, weapons ready to hand. If he didn’t need a warm body to fight she would already be dead, but her punishment, if she lived, would wait. The various beings scrambled to their feet and charged their blasters. Maligo strode to the forward view slit and peered out through the murk of Antei’s night.
At first he saw nothing, then he sharpened his senses with the Force as the lieutenant in command of the military remnant stepped up beside him with his macrobinoculars. Draco spotted the incoming tide of durasteel hulks slowly washing up to their position, and barely heard the rumble of tens of thousands of metal legs pounding the ground.
“Get a message off to command,” he told the communications sergeant. “The attack’s begun.” If would be mere minutes before the droids were within blaster range. He felt a surge in the Force before hearing the whistling scream of the artillery shells as they began dropping randomly over the base’s forward defense screen. With walls and ceiling over half a meter thick, even a direct hit wouldn’t destroy the pillbox, but several would.
Maligo paced back and forth, a caged animal. He had grown up on a farm, living and working under open sky and bright sunlight. To be stuck here in a permacrete box, immobile, was . . . But no, he wouldn’t give in to selfish pity. Feel the dark side, he whispered to himself. Draco had seen a vision of the future and knew he would live through this. He wasn’t so sure about the rest of the beings hunkered down here, though.
The Dark Side Adept looked over at Thran, frowning with his disdain for the haughty Sith Warlord, as another vial of spice disappeared into his nose. Upon landing planetside, the Consul Emeritus noticed something very disturbing about the current Consul, in all the disarray and chaos of the recent past, he had grown stronger. It was not strength of body, nor even strength of mind that had concerned him, but it was the strength of his connection to the Force which had grown so much stronger that made the Firrerreon uneasy. He could sense it about the man, that aura of pure malevolence, it made Thran even more dangerous.
As the winged vessels raised their noses in the departure cycle only to replaced by another landing craft, Thran watched them laughing like a child at a playground. Phoenix resisted the urge to punch the Consul, noting silently to himself that the Consul wouldn’t feel it anyway. With them, a very confused Tra’an Reith, Quaestor of House Acclivis Draco watched the Consul shriek with the joy of a mad-man. He leaned over to Phoenix. Koskian, meanwhile, with his stout arms reached up to Thran who leant the Endor resident a flask.
“Say, Phoe…” he said, timidly at first. “Do you think he really didn’t try to nick Timbal? Couldn’t he have just been brainsmashed by that spice?” the Obelisk asked.
Phoenix looked over at him with face as straight as the path of a laser bolt. “He did nothing of the sort, Tra’an.” The Elder replied.
“Come on, you can’t just take his word for it…” the Quaestor said.
Thran swung back into the makeshift building they stood outside, smile bending his cheeks upwards. Without missing a step, the Consul walked through their conversation. With a playful hop, he leapt the remaining foot to the canvas tent. He spun around for a moment, peering his head through the flap-like doors, just to glance at Tra’an. The Consul couldn’t contain himself, he laughed at Tra’an, who leaned against the worn metal support. As quickly as he had turned back, he turned away. He walked zig-zaggedly towards the center of the HQ established at Objective Nek, which had been so honorably named “Fort Ashen”.
“Are you sure he hasn’t gone mad?” the Templar asked.
Phoenix sighed, wishing he could do something about the Emperor. He replied calmly. “Gigglestim. It is as he says, however. He didn’t plan anything against Timbal, no matter if you believe it or not. And a word of advice, Tra’an…The next time you offer a price to spill his blood, you’d better be prepared to sacrifice every last drop of yours.” With another sigh, Phoenix added a non sequitur “Wookie balls.”
The pair of them leapt from the vessel, followed by the entourage of survivors from Charlie Company. They followed behind the Usurper and Tra’an tried to continue the dialogue. Phoenix walked quickly, attempting to catch up to the Sith Warlord. Tra’an jogged slightly, keeping pace comfortably. In tow, Koskian clutched the flask in his hand pouring out its contents into his furry little mouth.
“What’s my blood got to do with it?” Reith asked.
Operation Granite Dusk had begun. For some reason, the Military planners liked to put names on every little skirmish they encountered. It gave them a sense of importance; Operation Granit Dusk did sound a lot more important than ‘Some guys fighting over there’. It seemed to the men on the ground that the Military planners were only good for that, as the intelligence they actually received was piss-poor.
They were 300 clicks away from the base, pinned down in a clearly set trap placed by the droids. The Military Intelligence group responsible for this event was clearly not the best that money could buy, then again neither was much of their equipment. The Landing craft they used shook and rumbled more and more with every flight, but what could you expect from hand-me-down craft left over from the Clone War. At least their rifles worked.
The embankments and fortifications at Objective Revir had been taken with ease. There was so little droid resistance in the initial attack that it made many of the men uneasy. Now, they faced hordes of droids of all types. They piled into the shallow valley, too far off for the AT-ATs and AT-TEs to reach them just yet. The Droids were numerous, deposited by the humped MTTs, reminiscent of an early battle in the Clone War. For all their numbers, they were still outmatched.
The rigid droids rushed forward, catching blue and red blaster fire as they closed in on the pill boxes. Over the soft sloping hills rolled in their cavalry, Hailfire droids. The quick wheeled missile droids met their demise as quickly as they had come. In reality, the entire Droid Army was outmatched. The AT-AT was the pinnacle of assault technology. It took a lot of skill and even more firepower to bring down one of the elephantine Walkers.
There they sat, waiting for their prey to come within range. The funneling of the droids into the valley made them easy pickings. In the midst of the fire fight, the pincers closed. A second droid contingent rolled over the soft sloping hills, within range of the Clan’s entrenchment. The tanks opened fire, raining flecks of yellow and red spears of energy towards the rear of the Royal Clan’s phalanx. It would take a miracle to save them now
“I demand to speak to Sarin.” Thran snipped, the giggles leaving his system only minutes before the conference had begun.
“The Grand Master is indisposed at the moment.” Replied the Justicar, ranking official aboard the Nightfall.
“Listen to me carefully, Taldryan swine…I demand to speak to the Grand Master.” The Emperor hissed.
“You’ll check your tone, if you know what is good for you.” Kir said, displeased with the Sith’s attitude.
Thran placed his hands on his hips, scoffing at the notion. He looked at the fuzzy grey-blue image of the Justicar, projected into the middle of the room. It was amazing to him, how the Dark Council witnessed their war, from the comfort of the Nightfall. It made the Warlord furious.
“Well, when Sarin is in…Tell him I have gathered a group of my best. We are going after the droids Generals…” he added.
“No! The Dark Council will handle the Jedi problem.” Kir Taldrya demanded.
“Problem? Jedi Problem?! Oh no…Killing these Jedi will end this war…The problem is clearly on your end.” The Consul of Scholae Palatinae remarked. “I am taking my strike team on to meet these Jedi, and exterminate them.” He added.
“What about Operation Granite Dusk?!” The Justicar roared.
“Airborne is already inbound…That ‘problem’ will be solved soon enough.” The Consul added.
Kir went to say something more. Thran flicked the switch on the holo-projector, and the likeness of the Justicar disappeared. Looking over to the small team he’d gathered, who had joined him in the conference, he scoffed.
“Let’s go.” He said. The three other Dark Jedi followed him out, trailed by the 8 remaining members of Charlie Company. Rested and refreshed, the group set off. Where there are droids, there is a control station nearby. Find the Droid controller, find the General, and end the engagement. The plan was simple in goals, but as many of Thran’s plans did, it neglected any possibility of failure and thus held many many surprises.
The Colonel nodded back to the Emperor, flipping the switch to open the channel to the entire Clan. The Bakuran began to speak.
“Members of Scholae Palatinae, I, Thran Occasus, have volunteered myself to find the Droid Generals and end this conflict. At my side, are Tra’an Reith, Koskian D’tana, and Phoenix Palpatine. Together, our strike team will seek to end the droid assault.
It has come to my attention that many of you have been pinned down under the Droid assault, so let me make my orders perfectly clear. Those of you who would seek to leave the greater party of the Clan assault to begin fights with rival clans are to rejoin our forces. Arania, Voldemort and Yeldarb, that is you. I will not stand for abandonment of duty. Many men will die because of your foolishness. You are to turn around immediately, and move towards Objective Revir, to help with Operation Granite Dusk. There will be no questioning of this, is that understood?” The Consul said, his words dripping with anger.
“Luciferus, Tyno, and Draco Maligo…You three are to as covertly as possible, leave the Clan’s entrenchment. 14 Kilometers to the North, there is the droid staging area. You are to take 2 companies of soldiers to that position. The Objective is now displayed in your helmets HUD. You mission is to prevent any Droid reinforcements from assembling. This is a Mission Critical objective.” Thran ordered.
The people witnessing the communication were shocked. The man they assumed to be so aloof, was not. He was quite keen, and seemed to know what he was doing. He didn’t wait for long, there were more orders to be issued.
“Kalak Ragnose. You and Timbal, who should be arriving shortly, will be leading the Aerial Cavalry. You two are to direct the Air support as they attempt to help our forces at Objective Revir. Timbal, if you should choose to ignore this order…You will be responsible for the deaths of many many men. Kalak, it is your responsibility to ensure that this order is carried out.”
The Emperor paused for a moment, before ending the communiqué
“I have chosen these people to complete these missions, by hand. Your involvement is critical Operation Granite Dusk being successful. Do not fail me or your brethren. Keep me posted on mission critical updates, and I will attempt to keep you updated on your objectives as well. Any Insubordination will be regarded as Treason, and is punishable by death… For Scholae Palatinae!”
The images of the Consul vanished. They had their missions, now they had to choose if they would follow their orders. Thran seemed serious, more so than ever before. This War had changed him.
Trewbacca roared louder than necessary, and Voldemort held his helmet where his ears were, out of reflex. "Trewie, for the 100th time, you do not need to yell when wearing a helmet!"
Trewbacca repeated the request with less volume, and Voldemort chuckled. "No, the Emperor did not mention you. So, technically, you are free to go after the Tarendumbs." He checked the advancing set of three, seemingly not beyond Jedi Hunter, with his binoculars as they made their way down a slope. "But come to think of it, those aren't worth out worry. The droids they are about to run into will kill them anyway. Yes, yes, I know you are disappointed," he said before the Wookie could howl loudly again. "But killing Jedi is so much more fun." Relieved that his adoptive brother didn't argue this, he slowly crawled backwards, sorry that he couldn't watch the almost certain demise of the Tarentum wannabe warriors.
"Now we have a problem," Yeldarb stated the obvious after listening to Thran's orders.
The Ewok at his side nodded and concentrated on their opponents again. Ozone was in the air from ongoing saber fights, and there was the smell of burned hair and clothes, too. Yeldarb's battle suit had some black streaks, and he looked funny fighting with a saber while in it. But he did well.
Two of their foes were already down. The other two from the third walker were still facing them, having stayed in the background due to their lesser fighting skills. Arania had toyed with them all most of the time, but of course they could not know that. None of them knew of the Ewok issue in Clan Scholae Palatinae.
"Can you just kill them quickly?" Yeldarb asked. "I don't want to evoke Thran's wrath at the moment."
"Sure." With a wicked grin, Arania threw the saber at them, guiding it with the Force, and when the two of them had all their attention on the weapon, she stretched out a hand and sent a glowing purple and white sphere against them. The two younglings were engulfed in pure emotion, a hatred so strong it consumed their thoughts and minds almost immediately.
"The question is, how do we cover this up so Thran won't know?" Yeldarb looked around to see if he could probably hide them all under some rocks. "Weird enough he doesn't want us to dispose of them."
Arania's furry forehead showed a frown. Then she chuckled. "Duck," she commanded.
Yeldarb did as asked without wasting time to question, which was good because a second later, the upper torso of a super battle droid flew by where his head had just been, summoned by the woman's powers. Another moment later, the weapons of the droid activated, and he saw the bodies of the Arconans blown to pieces. Then the droid fell out of the air again, burying one of the dead under it. "So, we saw Arconans here and wanted to find out if they needed help. But we came too late an could only avenge them."
"Nice." Yeldarb listened to another communication from Thran and relayed it to Arania like he had done earlier. "They want to know where - I quote - 'in the name of Phoenix' dirty underwear' we are."
Arania called her saber back to her hand; she had lost grip on it while throwing the bolt of hatred at her pitiful enemies. "That's good, means he isn't cussing yet. Tell him we are already on our way after a run in with some droids. And we come with walkers."
"Walkers?" echoed Yeldarb. Then he remembered. "Oh sure, why leave them here, after all? Too bad we can't take all three of them."
Kalak replayed Thran’s orders in his head. They had come an hour ago and Timbal failed to appear. Scowling he pulled out a comlink.
“General Uoya. This is Krath Priest Kalak Ragnose. Timbal Palpatine has failed to arrive, and so I am taking command. Our forces are pinned down in the fortifications at Objective Revir. We need to relieve them. Get a TIE Defender squadron and Skipray Blastboats over there now. I want the Scimitar assault bombers targeting their Hailfires, escorted by one flight of TIE Defenders. The other two flights will escort the Aerial cavalry. Emperor Occasus has asked me to convey his displeasure at your presence here. Clan Starfighters are not supposed to be participating in the battles. However, as you are here, you will make yourself useful. And requisition me a Defender please; I need to have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening
The Lethan Twi’lek acknowledged, though her reply was difficult to hear thanks to the battles that were raging on both ends. “Yes sir. We’re only here because Natth’aNiel and Timbal Palpatine sent us; we didn’t want to go up against the Palpatines. We’ll try attack pattern delta on our initial approach, but set it up in a pincer movement: A flight of Defenders will fly directly towards the Hailfires in single file. Another flight, escorting our bomber squadron will go way above the Hailfires, out of their range and scanners, then flip round and attack them from behind. When the Hailfires have been destroyed, the second flight will return round and join the third flight escorting the Aerial Cavalry. May I ask what you’re intending to do with our Blastboats and the other squadron of Defenders?
“That’s fine General, but our main priority is the destruction of the Hailfire tanks so that our LAAT’s can get through. One hit from them could destroy an AT-TE so you know what they can do to our forces there. As for the Blastboats and the other squadron, I want to keep them in reserve, we’ll land them close to Revir then if the battle turns in the Jedi’s favour, we bring in the Blastboats. I’m not in the habit of throwing everything we’ve got into battle at once. And we don’t want to aggravate the Grand Master any more than we already have. Anyway, hopefully Emperor Occasus will have disabled the droid controller by then and the enemy will be lacking in cohesion. You will remain the official commander in this operation; you’ll be the one giving the orders to the fighters, not me. Think of me as High Command. We have to reinforce our forces there, General, it is imperative.”
“Thank you sir, I appreciate that and I understand the urgency. We’ll begin attack immediately. Your fighter will be with you in a few minutes. General Uoya out.”
Kalak snapped away the comlink, wincing at an explosion that seemed a little too close for his liking.
It was a beautiful sight. Flames licked out of what remained of the AA tower. Burning shrapnel littered the floor near Koryn and the troops of the 41st. The Rodian had allowed them two hours rest; after the battle, they had definitely earned it. Many of their comrades had fallen to the droids and their vehicles of war. What remained of C Company was exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
Koryn had spent the time playing sabacc with Caleb and two other troops. One of the infantrymen, a lowly private, had insisted that they wouldn’t survive this war. Caleb had lost it and screamed at the soldier: “If you don’t change your attitude, private, I will personally ensure you don’t survive.” Koryn could sense the pain and turmoil that the lieutenant was in. Every single soldier that had been slain, Caleb took as a personal failing; Kellin hadn’t taken it any better.
In the distance, the Rodian could hear a thunderous bombardment. Looking out over the vast, barren landscape, Koryn saw the artillery shells raining down in a hailstorm of destruction. The barrage destroyed both droids and troops. Koryn smiled to himself; these Jedi were almost as cold hearted as the Dark Brotherhood. Almost. It was a vicious assault by the Jedi, slaughtering all in their path. Walkers lay in wait, just out of range of the artillery strike and their own cannons. The Knight summoned Caleb over to him.
“We’re going to take out their artillery.” Stated Koryn. Caleb nodded in agreement.
“I’ll get the men ready immediately, sir.” He went to leave but was stopped.
“No, I only want a strike team assembling,” he said. “I want twenty of your best soldiers. Thirty minutes, lieutenant.” Caleb left the Rodian to watch the ensuing assault.
The objective was simple: take out the artillery and allow the walkers to advance. The tactic was simpler: flank around the artillery strike and plant explosive charges on the MPTL-2a’s and AV-7 cannons. Carrying it out, however, would be much more difficult. There was likely to be many battalions of droids guarding the armaments. But a small strike force would have more chance of stealthily infiltrating the ranks. Koryn counted a mere seven MPTL-2a’s and two AV-7’s. When they were close enough, they would split off into nine smaller groups, each taking an objective.
Kellin had insisted on joining, but Thraagus had forbid it.
“If Caleb and I are killed or captured, the soldiers still need a strong leader.” Kellin didn’t like it, but he submitted to the Rodian’s will. “We will join with you at rendezvous point omega. If we aren’t there in one days time… presume the worst.” The captain wished them luck. It would have been a three hour hike as the mynock flies. But flanking around the assault would take at least five hours, providing they encountered no resistance.
The sea of battledroids appeared to stretch on forever. Koryn signalled for the squad to split off into their assigned roles. As the troops split up, Koryn realised there were also hailfire droids dotting the area. How could he have missed them? Unless they had only just been deployed. The Rodian reassured himself that that was the case, although in reality, it probably wasn’t. Thraagus was assigned with two colonels. On the surface, they appeared fearless, ready to die for the Dark Jedi. But Koryn could feel their thoughts; even their base thoughts screamed fear.
They weaved their way through the droid army as stealthily as possible. They arrived promptly and one of the colonels began to plant the charge. Koryn and the other infantryman stood guard.
“Done,” informed the colonel. Koryn’s squad still held another charge and they began to head towards the nearest hailfire droid. The reports began to flood in that the other teams had planted their charges. The Rodian was surprised that they had encountered no resistance from the droids; it was a miracle they hadn’t been discovered. A trap, was Koryn’s initial thought. But he soon realised that if it were a trap, it would have been sprung by now. There was no way the Jedi would risk waiting this long in the hope that the charges would not be detonated. They reached the massive droid and planted the charge on the inner wheel before leaving for the edge of the droid emplacement. The entire infiltration had taken only two hours. It was too easy. Were the Jedi letting this happen, testing the forces of darkness? Or did they genuinely not know of this? Koryn and the colonels rendezvoused with Caleb and the rest of the squad. The Dark Jedi handed Caleb the detonator.
“The honour is yours, lieutenant,” said Koryn. “Avenge your men.” Fabiszak took the remote with a small, almost imperceptible nod.
“May your souls forever rest in peace,” said Caleb under his breath as his finger came down on the button. It was a glorious sight as a dozen artillery and hailfire droids disintegrated into shrapnel. The barrage continued from the hailfire droids that remained. As Koryn began to form a tactic in his mind, a squadron of TIE Defenders flew low over the area, raining down emerald ion bolts on the remaining hailfire droids. One after the other, the huge droids exploded.
Safe in the satisfaction that the Defenders would clear up any mess, the squad left for rendezvous point omega.
Wiping sweat from the brow of his forehead, Yeldarb was still fearing the wrath about to come from the Consul over this side escapade. Yeldarb ran up to one of the remaining walkers, setting himself into the pilots seat. He took a minute or two to familiarize himself with the vessels controls, while Arania had been in conversation with Voldemort and Trewbacca to meet up at our coordinates to take one of the other walkers left standing.
“While we wait, I'm going to run some more system checks on this machine.” Yeldarb proclaimed to the small Ewok perched up in the navigations seat.
“Wise idea, are you sure your an Obelisk, Yeld?” Asked Arania
Running a full systems check up on the walker revealed that it was not in perfect health but still over ninety three percent combat effective. Rushing back up to the radar station the young Zabrak could make out two small bleeps on the screen.
“That must be them.” Shouted Yeldarb
Voldemort responded over the radio, “Arania, Yeldarb, we have you in view. Be about a minute before we reach you.”
Arania ordered, “You better rush that, you still need to take command of the walker right next to us so we can get moving.”
“Arania, I am still am Obelisk” Screamed Yeldarb as he had slid into one of the blaster turrets seat sending one well placed shot to the third walker that was sitting off in the distance. The shot had pierced a weak spot and shatters the hull into pieces.
“Guess that thing is useless now,” commented Trewbacca.
A lone figure in tattered clothes rose from the smoking ruins of more droids, a paltry squad of stormtroopers that were still alive advanced from behind the corpse of a walker, their armor burnt, scarred, and covered in furrows from lasers that had brushed the once flawless armor with red death. Of the entire 1-41, the first squad of Charlie company was all that was left. The battlefield behind and beside them was littered with the bodies and souls of their dead, an entire battalion brought down by an inexhaustible supply of mobile blasters on legs.
First it had been then anti-tank missiles that had cost him three walkers and alpha company. Then the vultures had redeployed to take out the remaining walkers. Taking out the remaining vulture factory had cost him beta company. Delta had bought it in the landing, and that had left him one company with which to dig in and hold the line. Hold the line…
“Hold the line you krayt fearing cowards! You must hold the line!” The phrase echoed up and down the formation as the company had spread out along the ridgeline, scattered in ones and twos. They had managed to pick up a few survivors of the other companies, but it wasn’t enough to make a noticeable difference, just an extra squad. Their armor remained mostly unscathed, having been tasked with doing what they were doing now, although it hadn’t been against such overwhelming odds.
“Sir, you must understand, we don’t have the man power to do this!” A junior NCOM whined from right next to him. Turning his baleful gaze upon the human, the Templar glared in fury and said nothing at first, giving the frail man time to quake in terror.
“If I did not need every man to hold this line, I would have killed you where you stand. You will stand and fight, or you will die by my hand if you flee. See to it that you and your men stay and fight.” The human nodded quickly, fleeing at the dismissal, only to be collared by the Lieutenant. Torkin dragged him aside and began to quietly read him the riot act for daring to suggest cowardice in a time of war. Tra’an moved beyond them, eyeing the bottom of the ridge where the droid army was reforming after the last charge had been turned.
Word had come down that the ends of the line were being pulled in, and most of the army was being funneled towards him. It was his luck of course, that he had no fire support, no heavy support, and the Tie Defenders were busy elsewhere, at least until the artillery droids could be destroyed. It was their job to hold the line, no matter what came to them, and there was a lot coming. “Ready the line! Snipers, take out those supers and magna guards first!” Affirmatives came down the line.
The droids began the march up the ridge, moving slowly as they weren’t designed for anything but open plains and flat surfaces. The sniper picked off the super battle droids, and the occasional magna guard as they easily stood head and shoulders above the beige regulars. “Line aim!” the command brought blaster rifles up to shoulders as targets were locked in. “Fire!” A single volley cut down almost a third of the advancing troops, and tangled others as the bodies rolled down the incline, gravity a willing aid in the battle to hold the ridgeline. “At will!” Single shots rang out free now, no pattern excepting the fall of droids.
Even as he flowed over the ridge like quicksilver, moving among the droids and killing as many as he could, sowing confusion and disarray between the units, it wasn’t enough. Droids dropped and died, from friendly fire and enemy fire, and still, it wasn’t enough, it was never enough. A wrist rocket flared to life and streaked across the small distance, impacting before the troopers could move, the resulting shrapnel cutting through the krayt armor and killing the pair of dedicated men. A lucky shot took the head off another as one of the regular droids managed to aim for a moment.
A few minutes later, the advance faltered and was destroyed as the droids fell back, this charge broken at the cost of three irreplaceable men. Tra’an retreated behind the ridge, settling long enough to focus and heal the burns form blaster bolts that had slid past him, nicking him as they did so.
Again the call came, “Hold the line!”
“Tra’an, come in. Advance through the ruins and meet the walkers in the middle. The perimeter has been expanded. Hurry forward.” The communication from Thran was short, and it irritated the Templar somewhat. He had lost practically every man under his command, and received not even a thanks. He believed in valuing their lives and thanking them for their sacrifice, because it made them more likely to give it again and again.
“Lieutenant, get the squad in formation and let’s move out.” A nod of acknowledgement came, as the men formed a diamond shape, watching carefully as they picked their way through the mounds of rubble and scrap. It would be a while until they caught up with the forward elements that had broken the back of the droid army. Until then, there would be a brief period of peace.
Luciferus looked at his orders. “Luciferus, Tyno, and Draco Maligo . . . leave entrenchment . . . stop reinforcements . . .” It was simple to say, but the covertly part was hard to do. Droids had been beaten back but probably not to the point of no return. Thran was right though. The war was being controlled by the Iron Throne, and that exactly was it. A throne made of iron that was so heavy it stayed in its place while it moved everyone else around the throne. This war had gone on long enough. Tyno, Draco, and Scyrone would all help stop it this way . . . at least that is what Scyrone hoped for.
Scyrone’s allegiances were to Thran; he is the Usurper. He took control of the Consul position without being a Palpatine. He did some drastic and risky measures in order to take hold of the reign of the Emperor. He was mad. Scyrone felt connected to him in some weird way; not a bond of sorts, but a familiarity. Thran was mad in the sense that the situations around him were shed in a different light, or a different reality so to say. And this light/reality is how Thran perceived it. But Scyrone was mad in the sense that his strive for knowledge through conquering drove him into it. Another connection he felt was through defiance. Scyrone was never one for rules. He had a Master at one point, but that Master eventually neglected him. From then on Scyrone took the reigns of his eventual Knighthood and drove himself to gain the rank of Knight. Along the way he gained the help of other trusting people. But without a proper Master, Scyrone never followed specific ways of doing things. Thran was the same. He laughed at the rules of his past authority. Thran, being a Sith (one who leads, not fights), had a lot of fight in him. He led the attack on the droid armies of the light Jedi. He was being an Obelisk while the Sith inside of him still remained in his soul. His defiance of the stereotype was astonishing to see. These connections are why Luciferus “Scyrone” Leviathan listened and followed the orders of Thran. Scyrone felt close to Thran; probably more than Thran could ever think of.
The near future . . .
The anti-air was close to waste across the dark Shadowlands. Transports flew down with bare reinforcements. The entrenchment that Luciferus was in rejected his Ithorian soul. Nobody thought an Ithorian would go into a battle such as this. There is no peace, only passion. Luciferus recognized this. He wasn’t going to stay ignorant in his ways. Luciferus looked for Draco and Tyno. They knew their orders. How they proceeded was yet to come.
Ealier . . .
Splattered platoons of droids had come across the break in battle. Luciferus “Scyrone” Leviathan stood in a trench deflecting blaster bolts back to the minuscule droids that had gone ahead of the rest of the metal-heads. He needed to get back to the AT-ATs close to behind him. As the reinforcements got closer and closer by the second Luciferus finally understood a saying he had never truly grasped before. Time is of the essence. Just as he was heading back, Thran’s voice was heard over the relaxing blaster shots fired every minute or so. The Clan needed guidance, and Luciferus hoped that Thran was about to give it.
The right tool for the right job. Draco reminded himself of that as he took aim and fired off another round from the blaster rifle he shouldered. A lightsaber was an elegant and powerful weapon, but it wasn’t always the right tool for the job. Stuck here in a permacrete box, firing slits all around, and a droid army trying to overrun their position guarding the entrance to the captured Jedi base, firing a blaster from cover was the best option.
The owner of the rifle was dead, a particle beam overwhelming the armored helmet cocooning his head and turning his brain into an undercooked and bloody stew, served up in a leaky bone bowl. Maligo fired off another several rounds and turned the charging super battle droid into a falling metal hunk of Swintonian cheese. A kaleidoscope of blaster fire streaked the darkness, punctuated by yellow-orange explosions and pastel clouds of wafting smoke. Little could be heard over the zinging discharges of the blasters and the sharp bangs of the ordinance bursts.
The pillbox shook and rattled as the ground quaked, and a snowfall of dust and ‘crete pebbles cascaded down on the remnants of Delta company and the battle team. Another direct artillery hit. Draco knew that the bunker wouldn’t stand another one. He looked up at the cracked and buckled ceiling, pushed up his hand, and sent the tons of dangerous rock sailing up and out. Then he dropped the rifle, snatched the tarnished durasteel hilt off his belt, and leapt to the upper wall of the battlement.
Another artillery round came crashing down from the sky, glowing cherry red from friction with the air. Another nudge from the Force, and the tenth of a metric ton projectile took a left turn and slammed into the cresting wave of the droid battalion that was besieging their position. Blaster fire targeted the black clad figure, but he was already on the move. The advantage in a fight is a combination of weapon and distance. At a range of more than a meter, the guy with the blaster has the advantage, but in close a saber, or a vibroblade, is the better tool for the job.
And the newly promoted Priest preferred to work in close. He leapt into the middle of the droids, his yellow bladed saber slashing and cutting before his black booted feet hit the cold rocky ground. The robots turned and fired, not being equipped with bladed weapons, but their misses did the dark Jedi’s job for him. Being surround by a durasteel mob, the blasts from the droids into their own midst thinned their own ranks. Maligo smiled as he cut down droid after droid, reveling in the destruction he wrought.
“Very well…” the Consul said, acknowledging that the orders he was now receiving from Central Command was the plan he’d sent to the Justicar hours before. The communicator clicked off, and the look on the Bakuran’s face told the story without words.
“What’s the word?” Koskian asked, tugging at the Emperor’s cloak.
“Same as before. We find the Jedi. Complications, though…Naga Sadow seems to think that they can get away with some unseen jabs while our back is turned.” The Consul said, outstretching an arm to reveal a small holo-projector.
The map flickered as it zoomed in on their present location. The Emperor studied it for a second, before the plan unfolded in his mind. For all the confusion and pain he doused with alcohol, the man was a brilliant tactician. It was rare that in a time of such great unrest, both civil and foreign, that he would keep his cool. Thran knew the bitter reality of the situation. This attack had been poorly planned, to say the least. Beyond the obvious indications that premise held, The Imperial Throne of Scholae Palatinae teetered on the edge of losing control.
His own people didn’t trust him. Few and far between, allegiances to the Emperor were growing strong. What the people who had yet to believe in the Consul didn’t know, was that he was fully aware of it. The Consul had the biggest problem had was with accusations of his alleged arrogance. Tra’an Reith, Quaestor of Acclivis Draco, even in the presence of Thran, held the strong belief that the man was there for his own agenda. Somewhere, Tra’an had forgotten that the Consul was the first man from the Clan on the ground. In the early bit of the landing, he destroyed so many droids that he had lost count; though he could still number the amount of women he’d slept with, give or take a few he conveniently forgot.
That explained why the Obelisk had been sent back to the front. Thran was ferocious, and his unit had encountered the same losses that the 1-41 had. Only 8 men remained of the 3rd Battalion 502nd. Alpha and Baker companies never made it past the snail tanks at Objective Nek, and the squad of Charlie Company that had survived had only done so because they did what they were told and followed the man in white. Behind his pretentious and haughty exterior was a man of many levels. He was as violent as he was vain, but he let the latter show more. There was no place for vanity on the battlefield, so he resorted to the others. He was tired of being so vastly misunderstood and underestimated. It was for the better, though. It allowed him to be full of surprises. Still, he did hate the hypocrisy. He’d lost more in this barren place than many would care to venture.
“Look. Sadow’s forces are positioned here, cutting into the left flank. I would send an Envoy to Mr. Sadow himself, but the fruits of such a labor will only end up to be bitter. Instead, this is what we do. We send a team of geologists here…” the Consul said pointing to a spot on the hazy blue rendering of the terrain.
“Geologists?” Phoenix asked with a great deal of confusion.
“Yes, Geologists.” The Consul said, his face contorting with anger.
He tapped the spot again, before drawing his finger over the map to reveal a deep chasm where the liquid hot lava of Mt. Ashfire had burned a scar through the land. He reviewed the present forces again. Infantry casualties were high, as one would expect. The ranks of Armor, however, remained nearly entirely intact. He thanked the Galactic Empire’s engineers for that feat; they had made the AT-AT a nearly invincible vehicle. The antiquated droid armies couldn’t match the firepower and armor the 4 legged walkers possessed.
“When the Geologists are in place, we push from the right flank. They will be forced back into the flow plain of Mt. Ashfire. Our numbers are strongest in the center of the line, so we must make sure to divert our forces to the right flank. It will make the droid army think that they are over run. This is assuming that the quality of their intelligence is equal with ours. They don’t know how many men we’ve got, much less our armor formations.” The Emperor said, pointing out the animation of the chevron shaped formation as it morphed into a disorganized sickle.
“I don’t like it.” Phoenix commented.
“He’s right, Thran…It is risky. And…Why Geologists?” Koskian d’Tana grunted, adjusting his tailored fatigues.
“No, there is no problem…” the Quaestor said, retracting into himself.
“I wasn’t aware that they made people out of Transparisteel…I can see right through you.” The Emperor said, holding back the urge to kill the man right there.
The comment he made was benign, something that anyone could have ignored, but not Thran. He flew off the hinges, gnashing his teeth as he spoke. He was curious if any Emperor before him had seen such defiance from his nobles, but curiosity took a backseat to the anger that was now rearing its head. But the truth remained, He could see through Tra’an. And there was a problem.
“That won’t hold up against our Jedi enemy or rival Clans. You have new orders, Mr. Reith. You are to report to the Clan’s primary front. You are to hold the line. Should you fail, and the droids don’t kill you, I surely will. Now get out of my sight.” The Emperor demanded.
Tra’an was loyal to Timbal. He’d placed a price on Thran’s head. It wasn’t the first time the Bakuran had a price put on his head, but it was the first time he felt offended by it. Tra’an would pay for his narrow-minded placement of his allegiance. Thran had been around a lot longer than this equally arrogant man-child, he’d killed more men than the Obelisk fool; only his killing didn’t leave a roaring void in the Force, his killing was silent. He was always being underestimated.
“You kids have a fun day at school!” The pilot of the LAAT yelled as the eleven men jumped from the vessel, followed by a group of nervous looking scientists.
As quickly as it deposited them, the ship was in the air again. The pilots of the archaic troop transports had grown much better as the mission progressed. In reality, they had not seen much combat. In the last war, they ran.
“Alright. Follow me boys.” The Warlord said, unclipping his bloodthirsty weapon from his belt. “Any Jedi we find are mine. You two can have the Sadows.” He added.
“Recon shows a small entrenchment at this position here.” One of Thran’s soldier lackey’s said, pointing it out on a small holomap.
“Look at the position. Nestled there, it would be easy for them to control the entire droid army from there. It’s small, elevated, and protected by its proximity to Codei Prison. That’s where they are, I know it.” The Consul said.
All the men nodded in agreement. As they took off towards the imposing mountain, they all wondered the same thing; Why the Geologists. Phoenix smiled, he knew what the Sith was up to. In his time dodging the attempted murders and coups, he’d learned a great deal about how Thran thought. Though he hated him, the Adept couldn’t help but admit that, on occasion, Thran came up with a plan that was pure genius. He suspected that was the reason that Lucien Kaeth Palpatine had simply vanished, another genius scheme. Koskian had an inkling of what was going on, but he saw it fit not to pry too much.
Phoenix would let the Consul lead them; the integrity of the Empire he had built depended upon him trusting a man that his heart said he shouldn’t. Something told him, however, that he was safe, that the Bakuran’s vendetta was over; Phoenix was not in a seat of power any longer.
The jogged forward: united.
The counter-attack was beaten back, and now the ground-pounders walked toward the rendezvous. The reason they walked was that the Brotherhood forces still didn’t have control of the skies, so the infantry did what they always did – wear out their legs going from battle to battle.
Draco couldn’t tell if the war was going well or not. Certainly advances had been made, but looking back at the remnants of his modest command, the Priest wondered if it was worth it. Certainly the millions of droids that had been destroyed were worth billions of credits, but if you had more credits you could buy a brand new, fully functioning robot. Adult beings capable of thought and action required ten to twenty, and in some species’ cases more, years to develop. So though the rate of attrition favored the Brotherhood, Maligo still wondered if it was worth it.
Like the cycles of day and night, and the seasons of the year, wars had their own ebb and flow. Advance, defend, advance, defend. Like the tides washing in and out on a daily basis. Well, when you were winning, of course. Retreat hadn’t figured into the Brotherhood’s martial equation. This time.
Now the orders were to capture Jedi, high-value targets, and bring them in for questioning. Wasn’t it a little late in the day to work to acquire intelligence? This would have been a project best launched immediately after securing a beachhead. Though the enemy wasn’t beaten, not by any stretch of the imagination, they were being pushed back and bled of their forces. Without total control of space, the Jedi could always rocket off planet and disappear. Whether or not they would ever challenge Brotherhood hegemony in this sector of space again was another matter.
So Draco led his depleted forces forward, looking to rendezvous with a couple of his clan mates, Luciferus and Tyno. Other than knowing one was an Obelisk and the other a Sith, he knew nothing about them. Perhaps command felt that an intra-order triad was the best way to snag opposing Force-users with a minimum of loss. They would see.
“Capture!?” Caleb was furious at the orders. “It’s hard enough to kill the bastards, never mind capture them.” Kellin appeared calm on the outside, but his heart and mind screamed with terror at the aspect of confronting a Jedi. The captain could understand Caleb’s infuriation, though.
“Maybe for us, my friend,” he said calmly. “But not for Dark Jedi like Thraagus.” Caleb lowered his voice to a hushed whisper.
“But Thraagus is little more than a kid. I have no doubt that the Emperor could capture one of these Jedi, but the Rodian has little skill in the Force. He would have trouble killing a Jedi.” Koryn had concealed himself in the shadows close by and was listening to every word of the conversation. It was this moment that he chose to reveal himself.
“Is that a lack of faith in me, or in my abilities, lieutenant?” queried the Rodian. Both Caleb and Kellin spun around in shock. The lieutenant’s jaw quivered as he tried to comprehend a response. Koryn moved close to Caleb so that he could look him straight in the eye. “Trust me,” he hissed. “I’ve killed Jedi before. Detaining is just the next step up.” Neither Caleb and Kellin could believe that the Krath had managed to disguise himself in such an open environment and were still left speechless. “Join the main battle,” ordered the Rodian. “I’m going alone.”
Koryn had been betrayed again. He should have known that he couldn’t trust the troops; there had been very few people in his life that he could trust. There was a droid emplacement about 3 klicks to the north of Koryn’s current position. He figured it would be best to begin his search for a Jedi there.
He would enjoy this confrontation. Although he realised that he would have to restrain himself else he kill the mark. There had been many times as a bounty hunter that Koryn had to show restraint and bring the target in alive. It had been years since he had hunted professionally, but the instinct never left him. Thraagus had always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. He would sometimes track his mark for days or even weeks before striking. But time was not on his side for this hunt; he would have to strike quick and without warning.
He sat alone. Eyes closed; legs crossed. Listening. Feeling. Sensing. The currents of the Force were Dark here. Much darker than he had ever felt them before. It was this place, this planet. They should just destroy it, not inhabit it. A vision came to him and he awakened from his meditative state.
The young man left the relative safety of the makeshift barracks in search of his Master. The winds were growing strong; his robes flapped around him as if trying to fly away to freedom. Dust from Antei’s harsh landscape was swept up by the air stream and thrown into his piercing blue eyes, making it difficult to see clearly. He brought his arm up to shield his eyes and stumbled towards where he sensed his Master’s presence.
He reached the elder Jedi and was forced to shout to be heard over the screaming of the wind.
“They are coming for us Master,” he yelled. “I have seen it.” His Master nodded; he had already foreseen it.
“I know. You must face this... threat head on,” he instructed. “Go out and meet him. May the Force be with you.”
Koryn was not alone. There was a presence nearby growing ever stronger. Ahead through the blinding dust storm, the Rodian could see a silhouette emerging. The shadow became flesh; a young male was approaching him. A young Jedi male. His shoulder-length brown hair blew in the wind along with his robe. Koryn could see in his cyan eyes a hope, an expectation, of everything: his Jedi comrades, the Force, the galaxy. Koryn had learnt a long time ago to take a much more cynical view of things; hopes and expectations were fine, so long as you knew that you could fulfil them yourself if nobody else did.
The Jedi’s lightsaber leapt to his hand and ignited with a snap-hiss; it was a pale blue in colour. Koryn bowed extravagantly to his opponent.
“Ah, it is so nice to see that someone was sent to greet me,” he said, his words laced with mockery and contempt. “I’m Koryn Thraagus and I’ll be your captor for today.” A slight grin played at the edges of his mouth. The Jedi stood motionless in front of him. “What is your name Jedi?”
“Omancor Crask.” He stated; Koryn laughed.
“If you expect me to believe that you’re Crask, then you are indeed deluded young Jedi,” spat the Rodian. “Come now, tell me the name of my prey.” Koryn gently tapped the mind of his adversary with the Force, and he soon revealed his identity.
“Vorlyn Kalthar,” he said. “And the only way you’re taking me is in pieces.” The Jedi Knight charged forwards as Koryn ignited his violet blade.
'Geologists, crazy Sith.....,' thought the Primarch as his short legs pumped to keep up with his cousin and his Emperor. With all the fighting going on below them on the mountain, he was almost surprised when blaster fire came at them, hitting one of the troopers with them in the shoulder, causing the man to stumble and curse before continuing.
Kosk had to admire the remaining men of Charlie company, they had seen some of the worst fighting and kept on ticking. It amazed him that Thran had managed to inspire such loyalty in regular soldiers, but he had kept them alive, so at this point they were in his debt. The soldier in Koskian understood that all to well, glancing over at Phoenix as he pulled the shoto hilt from his belt. Phoenix unleashed his dual sabers, the scarlet blades humming to life and moving in a defensive pattern, his step never faltering.
Blaster fire came sporadically from the rocks at the top of the small rise they were moving to, suggesting that it was not heavily defended. When they crested the ridge, the three Dark Jedi of Palatine fell upon the small detachment of droids with a vengeance, dispatching almost the entire unit before the soldiers could catch up. Koskian felt a tingling in the back of his mind, as if someone was trying to prod at his brain through the Force. The alchemical experiments that had been performed on his ewok body blocked this attempt.
“Some body just tried to read my mind,” growled out Phoenix, glaring up the mountain. Thran nodded as well, suggesting it had happened to him as well.
Koskian climbed atop one of the many rocks sticking out the side of the volcano, getting a better look at where they were headed. A massive structure jutted out of the volcanic rock above them, bone white metal reflecting what little light there was to have through the ashen clouds. The Primarch knew from the maps that Codei prison wasn't far from the structure, and was almost certain that they'd end up there before long.
“Thats a control ship, grounded it looks like, but I swear I've seen holos of those from the Clone Wars,” spoke up the ewok, gripping his saber hilt.
“The Jedi will be there then,” spoke the Emperor.
"What's it now?" Frowning, Voldemort watched Chewbacca banging his fist on the com unit, then he tore out his ear plugs and howled again.
"Seriously? Mom, I mean, Ma'am, did you get those orders, too?" Voldemort wasn't used to fight alongside his mother, and it caused too much confusion for his taste.
An Ewok snort was heard in his own head set. "Indeed. So we can't kill off Arconans or Tarendumbs, but we can help Koryn. What does he need help with, anyway? He seemed to be very capable of handling his own issues."
"He's obviously outgunned, looking at the tactical we are receiving," Yeldarb mumbled. Arania just muttered something to herself. She couldn't see the tactical display from where she was sitting, and she definitely didn't want to try levitating in a amall moving cockpit.
The Wookie shouted so loud Volmemort had trouble keeping his hands on the artillery controls instead on his ears. "Shut up, Trewie. He's just frustrated you got to at least kill your Arconans while we had to turn around before we got to the good part."
"Look at it from this side - Koryn needs help," Yeldarb laughed. "That's our great chance to come in for a rescue. Plus, we don't need to mention all the stops we made in between to fire at suspicious targets not from our Clan."
Another grumble from the Wookie. "Trewbacca wants to remind you that we are two kills ahead."
"Just make sure he wipes the score board clear before Thran happens to inspects our walkers. "
"Sounds like a plan to me." Voldemort ended the conversation and threw a look at his Wookie brother. "Fancy letting me piloti this thing when we're there?" The Wookie snorted, and Voldemort sighed. "That's what I feared. How am i ever supposed to learn how to do it better if I'm always paired up with you and you won't let me. No, I'm not pouting," he interrupted the next comment. "I'm fanning my justified anger into something more productive!" This time Trewbacca only laughed.
Luciferus rang to life at the Orders of the Grand Master. Hunt Jedi down? Valuable targets? Hardly valuable, thought the Ithorian, what knowledge can you soak up from stuck up bantha poodoo like this? They sent DROIDS to kill us for Mother Jungle’s sake! Luciferus had no time to think about this. He remembered the Orders that Thran gave him, Draco, and Tyno. Luciferus contacted them both.
“Tyno . . . come in,” Luciferus held down his commlink.
The commlink spattered to life. “What do you want, Ithorian?”
“We need to discuss an appropriate attack posture in order to…”
The Ithorian was cut-off mid sentence, “…to stop the reinforcements. I’ve already taken small-scale scans of the area and taken a good place of cover from the drop-ships. They aren’t here yet, but they should be arriving very soon. I already have a company of troops with me.”
“You’re already there?”
“Covertly, Ithorian, covertly.”
“Right, I’ll be there soon.”
“Luciferus, I have a few men with me, but nothing to fully support an attack on reinforcements. I have the rendezvous coordinates. Tyno already sent them to me shortly before you commed. I think you should hurry up. Droids are one thing, Jedi are another.”
“Agreed, Draco, I will see you shortly.”
Luciferus hoped that he could get out easily. The small break in the battle made it easier to bring over a company. Luciferus contacted the leader of the company and gave him a message to head out 14 kilometers to the north as fast as possible, but as covertly as possible.
A lone company ran and drove across the dark desert. The Dark Jedi Knight followed closely behind them. Soon the company came up to another company of troops. The area was fairly flat. Tyno had lead Charlie Company of 2/41. Luciferus had led Bravo Company of 3/502. It seemed the droid landing spot hand been perfect. It was surrounded by a small hill the troops and Dark Jedi could fight from. The AT-RTs, AT-PTs, and AT-STs could easily attack the positions too. If light Jedi arrived, Tyno, Draco, and Luciferus would be in for a rough time.
The ramp of the drop-ship came down to a thud at the bottom. Luciferus, Tyno, and Draco had done their best to keep the droids from coming out and landing. A drop ship even lay on the ground because of the fire that was laid upon it. But out of the ramp, a few squads of droids ran out. It was then that Luciferus awed. For the first time since he was a young Ithorian, Luciferus had seen a light Jedi; the Jedi waved his green Lightsaber swiftly through the air at the recognizable Soresu form. She was followed by two other Jedi from the drop ship, not even showing the form they used.
“JEDI!!!” Roared Luciferus with his four Ithorian throats. The men and tanks were charged up and ready to fight. Tyno thought of the honor of battle; Draco thought of the lust of War; and Luciferus thought of the skills he would need to accomplish this goal. He hoped they would not fail Thran and the Grand Master.
A brown eyed, brown haired human female carried a tray filled with samples and walked towards a large dome shaped building situated at the back of her Clan's camp on Adas Antei. She was very good at her job. Her past experience of being a waitress in Cervus City helped with her perfect balancing act. As she walked, although she was married, the soldiers in the camp still turned heads when she walked by and she did not seem to care. Which was relatively odd for a Dark Jedi. Unfortunately, her beauty was diminished as she carried a deep sadness with her. Turning her back to the entryway of the makeshift building, she used the bottom of her foot to push open the door sealing the facility from the harsh winds blowing the dirt around like laundry in the dryer.
If the Force sensitive woman starring intensely down the microscope was paying any attention other then the microbiological sample she was studying, she would have felt or seen the girls obvious pain, but alas the scientist was not.
War can change people. Was this the turning point? Both of them had not experienced such a thing. Nor did anyone working in the facility ever. They both had been asked to depart the safety of the Warspite and help the war effort far from the seclusion of a Warship. But Thran was right to order them there. Why should they be 'safe' in the skies.
Many Days Earlier
Four beings busied themselves in a cleanly kept lab on the Warspite which was assigned to them. Anarya was counting out beakers and vile's containing various samples, splitting them into categories. Amritsu was testing flows of electricity, using run down droids at various settings through a capacitor, RenNi and Reiden were testing out the buoyancy of some experimental armour in a large tank. You never knew when a fully dressed trooper needed to go for a swim. Everything was quiet until a voice was raised in the adjoining office and out from the open door.
“What?!” Everyone looked up from their duties towards the office and a furious woman yelling at a robed blue hologram on her desk.“Impossible, we cannot just pack up and move our research down to the planet.” She placed her hands on her head briefly listening to the robed figure. “Those orders came directly from Thran? He knows the importance of not moving science in the middle of an experiment.” Listening some more, she turned and shut the door. The last thing the group heard is “I do not care what he was smoking I....” Then the annoyed scientist stopped, turned to the look out the window, stared at her assistants and pushed a button on a panel, tinting the window to black.
The others just stopped to look at one another and begun to pack things up.
The melancholic lass walked with a tray of water and glasses, placing it on one of the bedside tables. She sat beside a man who's arm floated in a sealed tank of bacta, a socket from an eye gauzed over and bandages covering his chest. She grabbed the towel from his forehead and wrung it out in a nearby basin. Folding it neatly again, she replaced it on the delirious man's head.
Looking at him reminded her of the man she so worried about. Her lover and the father of her child; then a tear begun to form in one of the Krath's eyes.
The lab-coat wearing Sith called out. “I need my equipment on the Warspite, this will not do.” The equipment on the Warspite was not actually hers, but she referred to it as such. Grabbing the microscope with her hand, she flung it at a wall, angered and almost taking Reiden's head off in the process. Good thing Thran was not around to see. As the thing crashed against one of the temporary fortified walls of the lab around patient overflow, the reminiscent woman was startled. Coming out of her daydreaming, she stood and looked.
Finally Robin Hawk, noticed her. “Anarya? I am sorry to have startled you.“
Reiden just looked at her like if to ask ''What about me?"
“What is wrong?” Hawk made her way towards the Jedi Hunter.
“I am worried about Korvyn, I have not heard from him in a while."
“Well I cannot honestly say I know how you are feeling, but the best thing is to distract yourself.” The Aedile looked down at the ground and back up. “Hell, I am not one for words. I really do not know.”
“Hawk, he is my life. He is everything to me,” Anarya publicized.
The warrior thought about Korvyn and the short days they had had together. Then his desertion and finding out about Anarya and child began to fuel her fire again. “I do not care about him.” The room went silent, for a moment, while all turned heads towards the duo. Just as Anarya was about to open her mouth, a line-up of men came running into the facility with gurneys occupied by injured soldiers.
Vorlyn brought the blue lightsaber down towards Koryn’s head. The Rodian parried the attack and swung for the Jedi’s thigh. Got to make sure I injure him, thought Koryn, don’t kill him. He continued to repeat the last thought over and over in his head. The amethyst lightsaber struck again, this time aiming for Kalthar’s right shoulder. The human jumped backwards, briefly disengaging himself from the battle.
Koryn tugged on the Force, using it like a thread; Vorlyn fell forwards, his lightsaber jumping from his grip. The Jedi, now on his hands and knees, lunged forwards to grab the lightsaber, but it was pulled away from him, leaping into Koryn’s free hand. Vorlyn climbed to his feet; he crouched slightly at the knee, giving himself a lower centre of gravity to dodge the assault that was inevitably approaching. He didn’t need the Force to sense that. Stepping towards his opponent, Thraagus flourished the two blades, spinning them in a windmill motion at his sides. His attack followed on from the flourish without warning: the violet blade struck low at the Jedi’s legs whilst the sapphire sliced at his arm. Vorlyn’s body twisted unnaturally to dodge the attack. Koryn swung the lightsabers in a pincer attack, aiming for the Jedi’s waist. Vorlyn jumped over the blades assisted by the Force and kicked the Rodian in the chest. Koryn was forced backwards, and in that instance the blue lightsaber was pulled from his grasp.
“There,” said Vorlyn, flourishing his blade. “That makes things a bit fairer.” Violet crashed on blue again and again.
With his rifle set to automatic, Caleb shot down wave after wave of droids. The 41st had built a makeshift defensive barrier out of fallen B1, and the occasional B2, battledroids and he ducked behind it. Letting the empty power cell drop to the ground, he slipped another from his belt and replaced it.
“Are these droids ever going to stop coming?” He yelled to Kellin. A stray emerald bolt almost took the Captain’s head off and he ducked behind the cover, blind firing over the wall.
“Don’t ask questions,” he replied. “Just keep firing.”
“Is that the best you can do, Jedi?” Sneered Koryn as he easily sidestepped an attack. Vorlyn swiped horizontally, attempting to decapitate the Krath. The Rodian leaned back to avoid the blade, feeling its heat wash over his neck and jaw. “Step it up a notch, boy,” intimidated Koryn. He could feel the anger flowing through the young Jedi and laughed mirthlessly. “Didn’t your Master ever teach you to keep your emotions under control?” Kalthar launched a flurry of strikes with renewed vigour.
“I am not of Skywalker’s Order, Rodian,” hissed Vorlyn. “I was taught to embrace emotion.” Another mirthless laugh escaped Koryn’s lips as he lunged forward, attempting to impale the Jedi’s thigh on his lightsaber.
“Those are the teachings of the Brotherhood, Jedi. You are not of the Light side.” The Rodian struck again slashing from left to right with enhanced speed from the Force. Vorlyn became infuriated by the statement and fell into a berserker-like rage, launching a vicious flurry of attacks. Calmly, Koryn blocked and dodged the attacks. As he sidestepped an attack, he turned to face Vorlyn and gripped him with the Force. He held his arms outstretched, ensuring the lightsaber would not cause him harm. He pulled the human close to him. Curling his own hand into a fist, Koryn enhanced his strength with the Force. His fist slammed forward into Vorlyn’s nose, breaking it and knocking him unconscious. The Rodian let the limp, lifeless body fall to the floor before picking it up and throwing it over his shoulder.
The 41st continued to rain blaster fire down on the never ending stream of droids. Looking out over the battlefield, Caleb saw the reason the droids didn’t stop coming.
“Captain, droid dispensers,” he shouted. “Cover me. I’ll plant charges.” He heard a beeping in his ear signifying an incoming communication.
“Negative on that Lieutenant.” Came a female’s voice. “Fall back.” Looking back, Caleb could see an AT-ST approaching the battle. Caleb relayed the order to the squad. They retreated, firing as they went. The walker sent a string of ion bolts at the dispensers, eventually blowing them up. The infantry cleaned up any remaining droids before reporting to the Dark Jedi in the walker. The female turned out to be Arania, who leapt down from the AT-ST and turned to Kellin.
“Captain, where’s Koryn?” The Ewok enquired. Kellin saluted before replying.
“He went on alone, ma’am. To capture a Jedi, I believe.” He reported. A figure pushed its way through the ranks of the 41st. He dumped a body at the feet of the Dark Jedi Master.
“One Jedi captured,” informed Koryn. “Where’s the Emperor?” A Wookiee howled down from the walker. Not understanding Shyriiwook, the Rodian asked Arania to interpret.
“Exactly 6 klicks north by northwest of our position.” Koryn picked up the body again and turned to leave before turning back to Caleb.
“Your lack of faith in my abilities has been unjustified, Lieutenant.” He said with a grin. Caleb nodded.
“So I see sir.”
"Continue on ahead, I'll rendezvous when I've given the Emperor his present."
No rest for the wicked. After the capture of the Jedi, the ad-hoc task force turned them over to an intelligence unit from the Iron Throne, where a combination of interrogation droids and very capable Krath sorcerers got the information command wanted. The enemy was on the run, Dark Brotherhood generals knew where their strongholds were, and they had already redeployed the clan to fit in with the general attack plans.
Draco led his infantry unit off the transport and to their jumping-off point while the tanks and artillery were debarking. A squadron of starfighters screamed by overhead, their thread-like blue ion trails scratching across the inky velvet sky. The advances, before across a broad front, were now being focused like a laser on specific targets, which the combined arms of the clan would devour like a hungry nek scarfing down a niblet.
The Jedi and their droid army were nearly destroyed, but now they were hunkered down in the holiest of holies. The Dark Hall and the various temples scattered around were their final stands. That was the major problem with attacking what you had lost – trying not to destroy what you wanted to recapture. The Jedi would be under absolutely no compunction to save the temple the clan was assigned to take, and would, in all probability, seek to destroy it out of pure malice.
So the attack would have to be like a surgeon’s scalpel rather than a swinging mace. Hence the combined arms. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the Temple Boyna was built to stand the test of time. It would be hard to destroy, but the Obelisks who inhabited it had turned it into quite the fortress. A tough nut to crack. And no doubt the Jedi would be using every defensive advantage they could.
When RevengeX had gotten off of the Indomitable and onto terra firma, he had felt a complete wave of relief, for getting through the atmosphere in one piece, and excitement, for the battles that laid ahead. Although his clothes had become damp with sweat only after a few moments of jogging and leading the Bravo Company of the 2nd Special Troops Battalion, he had not felt tired; for the sake of the Brotherhood, he could not feel tired.
He and the Company had been mainly tasked to interrogate prisoners and attempt to extract information from droid brains, but they had been involved in their own fair share of fighting, mostly from a distance. The Pontifex had not had the chance to engage any of the opposing Jedi or any of the Brotherhood’s traitors; cutting down scrap metal did not have the thrill of dueling a living, breathing, enemy. He yearned for combat and even thought of handing down the Company back to its Commanding Officer, Dashara Kantale, but he stopped himself and the insidious, selfish thoughts.
Now, after having some fun with the Jedi prisoner before sending him away to a higher group of commanders, he and Lieutenant Calan Fallwen were working on a signal to override the droids’ original directives. So far, they had not had any luck, but, after both had received slight burns from short circuits, they felt that they were coming a little bit closer to their goal.
“Lieutenant, stand back. I’m going to try something with the Force.”
“Yes, sir.” Calan took a few steps backward, wary of what Dark Jedi could do with their ubiquitous Force.
RevengeX narrowed his eyes and examined the crude device that they had assembled from a variety of droids and the Company’s own toolboxes. A wire there leads to there… That goes there… He wrapped the Force around him and then transferred it into the apparatus, displaying his proficiency with Mechu-Deru.
The device gleamed for a second as energy pulsed through its circuits.
“Yes!” exclaimed Calan as he came to the Krath’s side. “Now all we have to do is -”
A hiss, crackle, and a puff of smoke finished his sentence.
Both men gritted their teeth.
The Jedi from the drop-ship were glamorous in their flowing brown robes, archaic Jedi body art, and swift movements of their lightsabers; a green Lightsaber and two blue Lightsabers. The three Jedi worked perfectly in combat together, as if performing a Mon Cal water dance with shining beams of light. As for the three Dark Jedi on the hill, they had something to overcome now. It wasn’t just droids and dropships; it was now Jedi, droids, and drop-ships.
The soldiers of the two Iron Throne companies quickly charged the droids in order to get the Dark Jedi closer to their targets. If they Jedi were not captured or destroyed, then the reinforcements would easily take a position from behind the Brotherhood forces.
Tyno immediately sprang into action. He jumped right in front of the Jedi and used the force to choke the throat of one of the younger Jedi. Tyno held his hand out towards two droids who were running towards him, and he threw them with the force towards the lead Jedi. She dodged by leaping high into the air. In the air she was met with Draco’s Lightsaber. They clashed above the battle and immediately fell to the ground, landing on opposite sides to where they were. Draco immediately scuffled into the crowds of soldiers, hiding his body from the Jedi, and then rushed to aid Tyno. The choked Jedi held out his hand and pushed Tyno away, stopping the choke. Just as the other blue-sabered Jedi sent a push towards Tyno also, Draco held out his hand to block it with a force barrier. They all activated their sabers, and leaped into combat with each other.
As the lead Jedi landed, she scanned the crowd for Draco, trying to use the force to reach him. The soldiers around her seemed to not notice her as they looked onwards towards the masses of droids heading towards Tyno and Draco. She paused for a moment and sped around in an attack posture. Luciferus was behind her, slightly elevated on the hill, with his Lightsaber ignited in the defensive posture.
“Don’t try it,” spoke Luciferus, “I have the high ground!”
She leapt high into the air over Luciferus and immediately started pounding and hounding him with attacks. Luciferus could only block and tire his opponent. Of course, this relied on her abilities, which he knew nothing about.
Tyno blocked an attack, and sent one spiraling into one of the Jedi’s heads. But the other had blocked the attack, while the first one spun around to stab Draco. Draco dodged the attack and fell on the opposite side of the two blue-sabered Jedi. Tyno and Draco used the force to sense each other’s motions and how to corner them for the kill. Draco suddenly spurt out a stasis field that trapped one of the Jedi, and left the other one to defend for himself and the stasis Jedi. Tyno went for a leg attack, while Draco swiped his saber high over the high of the low-blocked attack, and sliced off the head of the one Jedi.
It would be a good idea not to kill the next two, spoke Tyno through the force.
Out of shock, the left alone blue-sabered Jedi immediately roared at Draco and Tyno. Draco came up behind the teen boy and held his arms down in an embrace, as Tyno took his saber hilt and knocked it bluntly into the head of the young Jedi.
They immediately took the unconscious boy and leaped up to Luciferus.
The attacks were brutal. Luciferus felt as if he was playing with a four year old Yoda on a mass sugar rush. Don’t hit so [Expletive Deleted]ing hard! Luciferus could feel the reverb of each hit on his hands. There was no time to spot a weakness in her fighting style. All Luciferus could do was defend and hope he didn’t miss. She then let out a kick which surprised the Ithorian and it knocked him down onto the ground. He immediately brought his saber up. They locked into a position. It was then that Luciferus let out a four-throated, two mouthed roar as he used all the strength he could to push her back. Then she fell. Behind her stood Tyno and Draco; Draco used obliterate on her rib-cage, and Tyno had punched her in the back of the head with a Shadow Fist punch.
They knew they would win this battle, it was pointless to keep it going any longer. They cleaned up the rest of the droids and planted bombs here if any drop-ships were late.
Scyrone looked at Temple Boyna from far away. What a grand place for the Obelisk! The tower had four floors, each with a specific instruction. The first floor was units and soldiers. The second was full of training centers, and the third was the command center. The first floor would probably be a maze of hallways full of random soldiers along the way. The second floor would probably be laden with traps and training droids and programs gone wild, and the third floor would be full of Jedi, with the fourth floor probably housing the leader of the war effort for the Jedi. Maybe it was even a droid? Luciferus thought too much of this temple. He had never been inside of it. This would be his chance. Hopefully they would not have to destroy the guns that come out of the walls on the outside. He hoped his fellow clan-mates had a good plan for attacking this place.
“Crap,” Timbal muttered to himself. He’d have a lot of explaining to do to the Dark Jedi Master that this TIE Defender belonged to.
Hell, it sucked, but he had no other choice. After the almost-insane surge that had occurred with the droid fighters, the star fighter was just not up to specs anymore. Timbal had constantly been taking it to the edge of his abilities, and then some, and yet they still kept coming. It also didn’t help that Timbal kept diving in and attracting their attention to protect the bombers.
He knew that they had basically wore his fighter down, sheer attrition doing its’ thing. Even though he had pulled off some fancy moves and some downright stupid ones that amazingly enough worked, he just didn’t seem to make a dent in their numbers.
Finally, one of the Vulture droids that he’d blown up had strewn it’s dead carcass right as he had broken left, and had snapped off one of the TIE Defender’s solar panel arrays right off at the pylon with the force of a concussion missile. Unbalanced, the Defender tried to compensate, but with his control board lighting up all over the place, he knew it was time to go. He sat rigid in his control chair, and activated the ejection sequence.
The roar of the atmosphere, combined with the shock of the G forces pulling at him disoriented the Epis, but as his parafoil deployed, he looked about and got a feeling for where he was.
The good news was that he seemed to still have his survival pack floating down with him, and his personal weaponry, including his lightsaber, were still fine.
The bad news was that he was seriously and deeply behind enemy lines.
He sighed. Kalak and Master Natth a’Niel would not be pleased. No they wouldn’t.
Losses were heavy. At the appointed time the forces opened fire, the tanks and artillery firing powered-down blasts so as not to knock down the walls of the temple. Then the dark Jedi and the infantry rushed forward, trading hundreds of lives for the few dozen meters of space to get into the building itself. Broken and blasted bodies scattered around the shrine created oblong polka-dots against the black backdrop of Antei’s dark soil.
The dark Priest led the way forward, his yellow blade flashing through the gloom, throwing off sparks as it sliced through electrical droid components and leaving glowing durasteel edges on the dissected chassis. He saw the glowing pairs of eyes of squads of droids blockading the corridors, the green and red blaster bolts streaking back and forth between the forces of the living and the droid. Draco swatted back innumerable shots meant to kill him, redirecting their lethal packets of energy from whence they came, and following up the return barrage with the close-in saber work he preferred.
The other dark Jedi, the hues of their weapons adding other primary colors to the rainbow of death, similarly cut down swaths of mechanicals as they fought to regain the holy and historical Dark Brotherhood temple. A pair of droidekas rolled down the hall, unfurled their limbs, and began pumping double blasts of laser fire toward the Jedi. Luciferus raised his hand, sent a command through the Force, and the two destroyers flipped over.
Their shield generators, so impervious to light blaster fire and so used to cutting through the thin mass of a planetary atmosphere, tried to burn its way through the dense matter that made up the stone floor of Temple Boyna. The generators couldn’t handle that kind of strain, smoked, sputtered, then blew. The Obelisk smiled at the ersatz bombs and their clouds of shrapnel that showered durasteel shards over the smooth black floor.
The three crept though a porthole, sliding up into the bowels of the Droid control ship. The spherical ship was filled with a web of access tunnels, fit for droids half their size. Koskian moved with ease through the tunnels, laughing as Thran’s and Phoenix’s heads bashed against bulkheads marked with the warning: “Caution: Low Bulkhead”. Every other word from the Consul’s mouth was a curse or foul remark, he was not enjoying himself.
Still they followed him, and he’d since filled them in with his plan. It was brilliant, really; even Phoenix was impressed. They would infiltrate the droid control ship, hack the power grid, cause a fatal error in the reactor, then with the geology team stationed on Mount Ashfire, they would fake an eruption. The droids first reaction would be to draw all units back to the ship. Once everyone was there, the Control Ship would attempt to relocate. When they reached a designated 3100 meters, the reactor would implode upon itself. Then gravity would take over.
If Thran wired it properly, the troops on the ground would be witnesses to one hell of a fireworks display. They were nearing the reactor control now, and Thran was all nerves. The presence they felt outside the ship was now substantially stronger, meaning that it was closer. Phoenix looked Thran dead in the eyes, relaying the message without words.
“You’re right, Pho. He’s yours. We’ll go on to the reactor. You’ll have 20 minutes to get out.” Thran replied aloud.
“He’s going?” Koskian chirped.
Phoenix said nothing, he simply turned and vanished. Koskian was puzzled.
Thran turned to the Ewok and commented.
“That Jedi would save me. Phoenix needs to handle it…He’s too far gone to be saved.” The Emperor replied, biting his tongue as he accepted the fact that Phoenix was actually more useful than he was.
The pair moved on, stumbling into the massive reactor core. Thran jumped to work, removing the thin durasteel skin from the reactor’s panel with his lightsaber. He pulled at wires, furiously ripping them from their connections. His hands skimmed over the metallic wiring, splicing different colored wires together. Koskian was amazed at the Consul’s technical proficiency.
He expected that the man would force someone else to do the work. He was doing it like he knew the ship inside and out. Thran didn’t look like the kind of man who got dirty with such labors. Koskian had always seen him as the prissy looking man who lured women in with his nice clothes and troves of money. War changed perceptions, apparently.
The men rushed through the tunnels and corridors, mopping up the diminishing numbers of droids. Many of their Sith, Krath, and Obelisk escorts had fought valiantly. It spoke words for their masters’ resolve, and it gave them faith that the battle was ending. Inch by inch, they reclaimed the Temple.
They had lost so many men, it crippled their morale. But seeing their masters roaring into battle as they had would have been enough to inspire any man. The Krayt-Skin armor had worked well for most of the men, completing its first true field test. Their Imperial remnant E-11s held up just as well as they had during the height of the Empire.
Heels clicking over the floor, they ignored the sudden change and repositioning of their forces. The Dark Council had executed their plan terribly. Strategically, it was a poor plan. They knew it. Evidence of that lay in all the dead bodies of all the men that had attacked the planet.
This attack was ferocious. They actually had an important target, and it made them want to succeed even more. They had spent the last month fighting nothingness in the empty deserts of Adas, now they had a purpose. Everyone loved it.
Droid Control Ship
“You are not what I expected, Sith. Where are your colleagues?” the woman asked of Phoenix.
“Time to die, Jedi.” Phoenix replied.
“So be it, but if you kill me I will become so much more po-” her speech was cut off by the hiss of Phoenix’s lightsabers.
He leapt at her, swinging his weapon wildly towards her. She extended her hand, sending the Dark Side Adept crashing to the wall. She was far more powerful than he’d ever imagined.
The battle, if you would call it that, consisted of the Jedi mopping the floors with Phoenix, who struggled to remain conscious. He called through the Force to his allies, pleading for reinforcement. Upside down and clinging to a pylon, he saw Thran step into the room.
What happened next left him confused.
She spoke “Derc!? Derc Kast!?! I’d remember that face anywhere…I thought you were dead…”
Phoenix fell to the floor, and scrambled to his feet to watch.
She rushed to him, casting her arms around the tall Emperor.
“My love! Oh, you’ve come back to life! Thank Crask!” she said, nuzzling her head into his shoulder.
Thran was just as confused as Phoenix. Apparently, they had met before…
"This is a nightmare!"
Arania turned to Yeldarb and wanted to comment on the fact that he was stating the obvious - and not for the first time - but another hit from who knew where hit the walker again, and another alarm went off. "We can't stay here any longer. We'll have to abandon." She, too, was stating the obvious, but it did not seem to go through to her Clan mate.
"All we wanted was to help Koryn and his bunch, not getting us killed." Yeldarb sounded really worked up now, and he seemed to do it on purpose. "You had to leave your sons behind though, didn't you Master, not counting that they could have been a great help."
The Ewok grinned weakly. Yeldarb's attempt to make himself more angry, and her with it, too, was easy to see through, but she did not need his help. Right now, her mind was focussed and icy calm, tearing enemy troops apart in different ways. At least one lower Jedi had been caught in a whirlwind she had created and oh so unfortunately had collided with some boulders. The Krath had imagined to hear the sound of his skull cracking open. She was beginning to tire, though, and the Jedi she could feel close by weren't as weak as the one she had already disposed of.
Yeldarb was still muttering angry words when she touched his shoulder and pointed outside. "I do have an idea, but it will require you to capture me and then be captured by those pathetic fools."
"Huh?" Yeldarb was still trying to hit something with the failing machinery. "Why would letting yourself being capt... oh!" With a cruel laughter, he stopped the swaying walker and checked if he had all his weapons. "That's not the worst plan I've ever heard, Master."
"This is a nightmare!"
Trewbacca turned to his adoptive brother and growled a few curses. The human had a talent to state the obvious. he roared back.
"We've lost everyone we went out to war with. Everyone. I had never had this happen before, and I' not sure anyone else in the Brotherhood has." The Obelisk sounded exhausted, and determination begun to fade, the Wookie could feel it in his presence. The droids they had dealt with, but the small group of Jedi spread out around them really was more than they could handle on their own. Especially as one of their foes kept sending stupid telepathic messages, trying to make them see the light or some such. Koryn had mentioned two Jedi, not at least four, when he had sent them this way. They had come to rescue Koryn, which had proven unnecessary, but now it seemed they would need rescue themselves.
Koskian was confused when Thran had started running, before the man told him that Phoenix was calling for help through the Force. Noting that just prior to the Emperor heading off he'd felt an intense flash of...something, in his mind, he realized the modifications made to his current form blocked the mental summons, something he noted for future reference.
Now standing a few feet behind the Bakuran, shoto in hand but disengaged, he was even more confused, watching the female Jedi cozy up to his Lord. At first the d'Tana thought that maybe Thran was using the Dark Side to seduce her, something he believed Occasus was not above doing. More and more he seemed to be falling instead into some sort of malleable state, the longer she was near him.
“I thought you were dead and gone, my love, oh my dear,” she cooed, embracing the Palatine Consul.
Thran blinked, his eyes having problem focusing as the woman pressed herself against him, and he felt his arms wrapping about her. Koskian could see his cousin looking disheveled not far behind her, creeping up with his hands poised to unleash the deadly lightning that was the hallmark of his Elder status. The woman barely moved, gesturing with one hand towards the Adept and sending him flying back towards a metal bulkhead, slamming the Firrerreon against it.
Crouching, the ewok slipped his shoto into his belt, but around the back to hide it from the female Jedi. Standing straighter, he cocked his head to the side and made high pitched noises in gibberish, trying to get Thran's attention. He turned slightly to look at the Primarch, his eyes not really focusing or recognizing the diminutive Obelisk. But she noticed him immediately.
“Oh how cute, Derc! You civilized an Ewok, thats so sweet of you, taking pity on such a little dumb creature!” she shrieked a little, suddenly acting like a fourteen year old. Giving her a once over, Kosk considered that she might not be much older then that, a point he'd have to jab at Phoenix with later. Instead he made the most indignant noise he could concerning the 'dumb' comment and glared at her, feeling a slight tingle across his entire being as she fixed her gaze on him.
Koskian knew what this feeling was about now, to an extent, the woman attempting to use her abilities on him. Failing, she seemed to decide he was just as he seemed, a small, stupid Ewok with little to no talent. She turned back to Thran before speaking again in that wispy voice that seemed to have the man so enthralled.
“You must let me study him, I've never seen one that wore clothes like that, it's so cute, almost like a moving doll! And I've never gotten to dissect an ewok before....,” she trailed off, smiling and fixing a hungry look on Koskian again.
Phoenix was on his feet once again, this time giving up on stealth he engaged both of his scarlet blades and charged at the Jedi and her love-struck captive. Again she easily disposed of him, tossing him against the ceiling and then slamming him into the floor, before pushing his limp form across the room again. Koskian moved up and, putting on his best dumb creature act, pawed at the robes around her legs, trying to find something to get a grip on, succeeding he tried to crawl up immediately.
“Oh my LORD! Your pet is...is...humping me Derc! Get it off NOW!” she screamed, swatting Kosk in the head several times.
Kosk took the blows and kept going, reaching her belt and using the arms Thran had wrapped around her to climb up further. Propping himself with his rear on his Emperor's face, he stared directly into the woman's face, cocking his head sideways to keep the appearance of a dumb animal, while his right hand reached back for his shoto.
“You wanted a better look at me, mmmm little furry one? I admit, I am quite attractive, just look at your Master, he already fell for my charms. No surprise that you did as well. Though I'm uncertain as to why his companion did not....just interested in fighting? Or maybe he has no interest in the fairer of the human species? We can ask him when he wakes up....” she trailed off as she saw the metal cylinder in the ewok's hand.
A burning sensation ran through Kosk's entire body, the woman apparently viewed him as a threat and tried to use the Force to remove him as quickly as possible. The feeling was both painful and interesting, showing to Kosk that he wasn't invulnerable to the Force in his current form, but was still very well protected. Fighting the pain, he brought his arm up, pointing the emitter at the woman's face.
“Yub Yub. Bitch,” he snarled, thumbing the activation switch, the molten orange blade springing to life and passing through her forehead and the back of her skull.
Kellin peered around the doorway of the Temple Boyna.
“There’s at least five battalions of droids in there,” he informed the rest of A company. “Some of our squads are inside as well.” Caleb, who was currently slouched against the Temple wall, his rifle slung over his shoulder, pulled a DetPack from his belt.
“I suggest we flank the clankers, place a charge behind them, and slaughter them.” A few of the troops nodded in agreement.
“We are not damaging this sacred place,” said Koryn. “This temple has stood for over 5,000 years and I will ensure it stands for 5,000 more.” He stared out over the sea of faces. If they damaged the Temple beyond repair, he would cut them down where they stood. The droids and the Jedi had already tainted the place and they would now suffer for it. There were at least two Jedi inside. He sensed experience – likely two Masters. As much as Koryn would have liked to have taken them on, he knew that he would have been killed. Or worse: converted. As much as he would have liked to have believed that the darkness inside his veins ran deep, he had heard tales over the battlefield of the Jedi using powerful forms of conversion.
Koryn led the squad into the Temple, immediately igniting his lightsaber and deflecting numerous blaster bolts away. The infantrymen poured into the Temple, firing at the droids, taking many down in their first wave of blaster fire. The emerald and sapphire bolts slammed into metallic skin, tearing it asunder and rendering the droid useless.
When he had ushered the last trooper inside, the Knight leapt into the centre of the mass of droids and hacked away, forgetting all forms of lightsaber combat and mindlessly slashing at all around him. Koryn sensed comrades from his Clan, but could not make out there identities.
“Push forward!” He called to his company. All squads close to him obeyed his orders and began to push the droids back, edging them closer to their Masters’ lightsabers. The Jedi appeared not to care about their army and sent a wave of Force energy over the battleground. Many droids went soaring through the air, crashing into pillars and into walls. Koryn became buried underneath a metal shell as did all around him, both Dark Jedi and soldiers. The Rodian, assisted by the Force, pulled the surprisingly weighty droids from on top of his body. Around him, he saw many climb out from the robotic rubble. The forces of the Iron Throne present in the Temple were cut down almost by half; many were crushed underneath the weight of the droids, or inadvertently shot with a stray blaster bolt. The droid armies fared just as badly: most of the B1 battledroids had been destroyed, but the number of B2 battledroids appeared to have tripled in an instant.
Despite the losses the Temple was still bustling with activity. Glancing around the area, Koryn picked out Kellin and Caleb from the crowd. The Captain appeared injured and was being tended to by a medic.
“Carry on, son,” gasped Kellin, obviously in pain. “It’s up to you, Caleb, and what little of our company remains. Bring us glory and honour.” Koryn nodded.
“Honour and glory. You deserve it all, my friend.” The Knight dived back into the midst of the battle, vanishing from Kellin’s sight behind a veil of battledroids.
The Jedi was a female Nautolan, dressed on brown and yellow colours and staring down her nose as most of those Jedi did. She caught up with Yeldarb before the others of her group did, just when he thought he had cleared a path and they would not need to try Arania's plan at all.
Arania was making what she hoped would pass as frightened Ewok noises, while Yeldarb pretended to hold her arms behind her back and pushed her in front of her. It was supposed to look as if he was using her as a shield, all the time hoping that the Nautolan wouldn't wonder what an Ewok was doing here. With some luck, she would believe Arania to be a part of some gruesome alchemy experiments - which, essentially, was even true. For some reason, all Yeldarb could think about when he saw the Jedi was that he would rather see Arania keep her Ewok body than picking something like that next time she changed bodies.
"Hiding behind the weak, aren't we? The Dark Side cannot be as powerful as you would have us think if you need to do that." The woman activated her staff, curiously displaying a purple and a yellow blade. As she started swirling it around, Yeldarb immediately noticed the hypnotizing effect it had. Likely the reason for the dual colours.
"You have to kill this Ewok to get to me, Jedi," Yeldarb hissed. "I have no time to fight you, although I could easily take you apart."
"Yeah, I want to see you try that." The tentacles performed a weird dance, and the two Dark Jedi were sure it meant amusement. Good, the more overconfident this one was, the better. Arania ducked as if afraid and shouted "Cho-yaaah." She hoped the woman didn't speak Ralconian by accident and would thus discover she had just been called a [Expletive Deleted].
"This is all your fault." Ducking his head back behind the boulder they were hiding behind, Voldemort looked ready to go mad. "How long have we been stuck here?"
Trewbacca was as annoyed, but at least, like most Krath in such situations, he managed to keep a resemblance of patience.
"You may be right there. I think we only have one chance now." Voldemort pointed to their rear and slightly to the left. "We need to rush to the temple. I know about your problems with it but..." The Wookie's roar drowned everything out, even the enemy fire, but it was, at least, a roar of agreement. Even Wookies could see sense sometimes. "Thanks, man, now they definitely now we're still alive, and where we are hiding." Voldemort sighed and recharged his weapon. A moment later, he was decking the enemy, pointing for Trewbacca to go ahead. "Tell me you just did it for the challenge. Now Go!"
As the Wookie run as fast as he could, which was not that fast even with the help of the Force, Voldemort set up a little trap from the explosives he had been carrying all the time. If they wanted to come after them, they would get a little surprise.
It looked like Koskian had laid the final blow. But time itself slowed, and the Jedi was able to avoid the Ewok's blade. The woman jumped to her feet, her hand flung the furry ball of Obelisk equite into a pile near Phoenix. The kill they had witnessed was an illusion, a grand play on the Force. This Jedi was insanely powerful, she'd manipulated all of them as if they were made of clay; molding and shaping as she may. Her gaze snapped to Thran.
The Ewok had set her off, she knew that she had to control them, lest they get out of hand. It was just like men to think they had the upper-hand.
“Babe? What’s going on here?” she asked.
“Umm…Chh…Teee…Ammm…Frrr….Lee…Ummm…” he asked, scouring his mental black book for her name. He backed away from her, now quite frightened by the power he witnessed.
“Kayna…Kayna Charr…” She replied, flabbergasted.
“From…ummm…” he replied timidly.
“You don’t remember me! Stupid…stupid Kayna…” she said, inverting upon her sorrow and battering herself with disappointment.
Thran looked to Kosk, he thought that the lightsaber strike would have worked. It didn't, and he had to take control now. If there was one thing that worked for the Sith, it was his tongue. He could talk his way out of anything, if he had to. He approached her, lifting her chin with his fingers.
“Now, now, my sweet. I remember the accident. Everything was lost after that…” he said, every word dripping with poisonous quicksilver.
“But…How could you forget what we had?” she said, her eyes welling to tears.
Thran saw the opportunity. He was the key. This Jedi was about to experience a great fall into the darkness. He looked calm, leaning towards the woman. What they had probably lasted a night at most. That was his MO, one girl one night; next night, next girl.
This would be his first conversion to the Dark-Side, and he felt it could happen if he chose it. She began to speak, reminding them of their tale of “love”. She’d met him once, and he said something to her. He captured her heart, she sought him for years, until one night they connected again.
Thran thought to himself. He’d seen this before, at least a dozen times; crazy girl, stalker crazy. It came back to him. He had to fake his own death, in a very elaborate speeder accident hoax. This was the first time that he hoped that Phoenix regained consciousness. Thran need a way out and quick.
Just then, Phoenix rose like the bird of legend that gave him his name. Thran caught Phoenix’s eyes, which were filled with an anger that he’d never ever seen. He led the further into the trap.
He remembered it now. Thyferra. They met on Thyferra. He was doing a Bacta deal, smuggling spice in the medical fluid. This woman was crazy, she was they type of fanatic that fit Omancor Crask’s target audience perfectly.
Thran threw his arms around her, squeezing as tight as he could against her. He spoke softly.
“I remember now…How could I forget the girl in the golden gown?” he said, squeezing his eyes shut with the hope that Phoenix had enough restraint not to stab the Consul while killing the Jedi woman.
Phoenix’s blades seemed to bark as the snapped to life. The cut the woman in half at the waist. She died in Thran’s arm, happy. The Sith Warlord released her body, stepping back to inspect himself.
Phoenix raised his lightsaber as Kosk watched in utter confusion. The Ferrereon stared into his Consul’s eyes. He screamed.
“Explain this…Right now…”
Thran fumbled on his words, that never happened. “Pho…Man…I had no idea. We…I…Phoenix, It was one time…I didn’t know this would happen. She was crazy man. I’m talking stay up all night watching you crazy…You know what I am talking about.”
Phoenix did not know what he was talking about, he’d never had the pleasure of exploiting a legitimate psychopath. A calm came about the Adept, if he stayed and fought Thran, they would all die.
“Let’s leave.” Koskian barked.
“Good idea.” Phoenix replied.
The three rushed off. Thran signaled the scientists, and the plan went off without a hitch. Thumpers caught the droids attention, and they had to relocate the control ship. The Sith and Obelisk ewok were not more than 500 meters clear of the structure when it went skywards.
There was no one around to watch the show. The bulbous ship lifted above the peak of Mt. Ashfire, and the explosion filled the air. A ray of red flame, black smoke, and brilliantly bright light filled the space that the Spherical ship occupied. Thran stopped and looked back, observing the war ending triumph.
He was proud, but still very confused. He needed to be more careful when he considered bed-partners. If it weren’t for his attachment to the woman Jedi, she might have killed all of them. The emotion was too much for her. That made the Sith smile; he was the entire meaning behind another person’s life. That was enough to bolster any ego.
As they trotted away from the falling flotsam and jetsam, they could hear the end of the battle in uproars across the black plains of Adas. The enemy army was defeated. Their mechanical soldiers collapsed as their gyros and servos failed, it was a beautiful thing.
“Insufferable Sith,” muttered the ewok as he boarded the LAAT/i that had been sent to the former control center of the droid army in this region, glaring at the Emperor. After realizing who the Jedi woman was and why she hadn't simply killed them all, primarily because he was him, Thran had become even more arrogant. Kosk hadn't thought that possible.
“Forward command, pilot, quickly, I need to kill something soon or I'll go insane,” growled out the Primarch, poking his head into the cockpit.
“Negative, Master Jedi. Temple Boyna is the LZ I've been ordered to take you to, came from on high, sorry sir,” replied the pilot, nervous tiredness apparent in his voice.
“Boyna? Fine, my Order's temple is to be retaken, I should be there for it,” he spoke, settling back to rest as the craft took to the sky, leaving his cousin and Emperor to their machinations.
Less then a hour later, the LAAT was dropping quickly towards a secured area not far from the massive temple, and emotions of pride and anger filled the ewok. This place was the home of his Order, and the Jedi were perverting it with their presence. He would kill tonight, the Primarch knew, any droid or Jedi that came before him, and he might not even recall it when the sun rose. Koskian could feel Psyko rising up to grab at the controls of his mind, and as he disembarked the landing craft, he let go, allowing his mental state degrade.
Psyko made his way quickly towards the forward entrance of the temple, noting the bodies of both droids and soldiers along the path, framing his own walkway. Barely pausing as he moved past a group of soldiers resting around the door, hastily erected barricades flanking it, they stiffened as if to salute, but he was already past. He heard the mutterings of one suggesting that a 'death dealer' had arrived, a tone of revere almost in the man's voice.
The Obelisk soldier marched into the grand entrance hall of his Order's temple, noting the scarred markings on the floor and the litter of droid parts scattered about. They had defiled this place with their presence, and he was intent on making them pay. Sounds of combat were now reaching his ears, shouts and blaster fire and the occasional explosion were like a beacon to Psyko, making a bee line down the corridors. He had walked this place many years before, when the Brotherhood was divided and two Grandmasters attempted to claim power. This place had been his home for a time, though he never claimed ownership over it.
Passing an injured soldier being tended by a medic, the humming and clashing of lightsabers could be heard now, and Psyko grew eager. The ewok despised his stature at the moment, having no way of picking out where exactly the Jedi might be, and his senses would not allow him to reach out. Psyko knew that this body was stronger then the one he inhabited before, and more resilient, but it still had drawbacks. And the blindness to the Force was unsettling to the disturbed psyche of the Primarch.
'I killed before I could touch it, I can kill with out it again,' he thought, almost laughing in his own head as his teeth were bared. Rushing into the first group of combatants, soldiers using stun batons and vibroblades as the droids pushed to close, the super battle droids using their far more powerful mechanized limbs to try and crush the men. Shoto activated, Psyko tore through metal like it was paper, cutting down droids as he moved forward, the sounds of a duel growing ever closer.
Stepping over another droid, casually shoving his blade out to kill one that was trying to step on him, he found his prey. The Rodian known as Koryn was locked in a vicious battle with another Jedi, while two others directed the droids to assault the infantry trying to take the chamber. Not far beyond them, Psyko could see the lifts that would take them further up in the temple, to the Obelisk command center. Taking it would be an amazing blow for the Iron Throne's army, as the Jedi were likely using the systems to coordinate their war effort.
Screaming out his rage at the two Jedi, both of which looked surprised for a moment at his sudden appearance, 'they can't sense me, delicious' thought the ewok. The two argued for a brief moment, before the younger of the two pulled out an emerald blade and came running at the Primarch.
“One at a time, boy? Fine, you die first,” snarled the ewok.
“I've never fought a talking teddy bear before,” replied the young human, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
The human had reach, but couldn't have been more then two dozen standard years of age. Koskian would have approached him with some amount of caution, holding back until he could gauge the boy's ability. Psyko had no such pretense, ducking the first horizontal strike the man made trying to sever his furry head from his round little body, and leaped at the boy's upper body swinging his saber. The body made a dull thud as it hit the ground, followed shortly by the severed head.
Now the other Jedi was paying attention, blinking in surprise at the ferocity of the small warrior who had just killed his student. Psyko studied him briefly, noting the graying hair and regal baring, the weapon he pulled from his belt had a dull sheen to it, showing that it had been held and used quite a bit. This man might provide a challenge, was the only decision the ewok could make, smiling as he savored the idea.
The fight that followed was a blur to the Primarch, the man he fought was some sort of near human species with pointed ears, and he moved with the grace of an experienced swordsman. Psyko gritted his teeth as he realized that simply unleashing his anger and the undisciplined combat techniques he was using were not gaining headway. His mind began to calm, the psyche withdrew as Koskian forced his way back to the surface, intent on not having his body cut into smaller bits.
“I'm already small enough!” he shouted as he regained control from his more disturbing side.
His opponent stumbled for a moment, trying to grasp the meaning of the words before pressing the attack. But now Koskian was in control, artfully falling into his mastered style of Makashi. Almost rolling his opponent's blade off of his own as he parried, the ewok moved forward with decpetive speed and attacked. The Jedi screamed out in pain as the short blade of the Obelisk stabbed into one of his thighs, dropping him to the floor on one knee. A quick swipe to the side sent the Jedi's weapon, and hand, sliding across the smooth surface.
“Now I can see into your eyes, Jedi,” snarled the ewok.
“And what do you see, beast who speaks like a man?” growled back the man.
“A meal,” replied Koskian, allowing his deranged side take over again, before jumping at the man and burying his teeth into the Jedi's neck, ripping and tearing at the soft flesh.
Draco dashed past and over the remaining battledroids, leaving the remaining members of his company to deal with them. He could sense through the Force the few humans among the enemy, Jedi all, who were on the upper levels controlling the robots. If he could disable the control systems he might be able to shut down the enemy army. The war was nearly won. If the other clans were as successful as Scholae Palatinae, then the Dark Brotherhood would own the planet.
The Priest drew heavily on the Force, fueling his drive. Tired as he was after weeks of incessant combat, the wash of pure energy over every cell of his being made him feel a new man. He could taste victory. A last push and the enemy would be obliterated.
As he entered the lightsaber training hall on the second floor, Maligo realized he had entered another ring of the Jedi’s defenses. The droids were all on the ground level, what was left of them at any rate. Across the wide arena he spotted three beings, a human, a Falleen, and a Skeebo. It appeared that all were adolescents, and though all exhibited a fairly strong Force aura the fear that permeated the group was palpable. The trio of youths ignited their sabers, two blue and a green, and spread out in a loose arc.
The Priest walked slowly forward, twirling his saber in a Makashi wrist-strengthening exercise. It looked like a deadly pattern, and was certain to add to the anxiety of the little group of defenders.
“You younglings should all run along home now,” Draco said. “Your droids are nearly all gone. Do you really want to sacrifice yourselves here for no good purpose?” He felt that their loyalty to Crask would override their instincts for self-preservation. Which was fine. After slicing through mindless droid after mindless droid, Maligo wanted to test himself against a live opponent. Or three.
The human, in the center of the triad, spoke up. “You don’t scare us, Sith. Master Crask will triumph, and we’ll be exalted for our role in destroying your heretical cult.” He pointed his azure blade at the Krath.
Draco laughed. “You don’t know it, junior, but you just demonstrated your ignorance for all to see.”
Maligo stepped into the apex of the arc, then Force-leapt to his left, over the reptilian humanoid. He swatted away a quick thrust from the green blade, landed after turning a cartwheel, and lunged. The other two, slow to react after the surprise move, sped into flanking positions. Draco’s yellow-orange blade slashed and poked, the Falleen backing away from the flurry of strikes. The battle was joined.
Covered completely in medical gowns, four figures hover around a, well lit, medical examination table. The room was mostly quiet except for the occasional beeping from monitors, in the background or the airy suctions of tubes used to seep up any of the blood escaping from open wounds or incisions. Hawk, the one leaning the closest, medical scalpel in hand, was carefully making an incision right down the middle of the subjects chest cavity. The others just watched, prepared to supply the cutter with any other necessary tools or support.
The room kept its awe until suddenly, Reiden bursts through the curtained off area, surprising the others as well as they turned sharply towards his direction. Robin's hand slipped with surprise and made a bigger cut then expected. Blood sprayed up and on the gowned figures, most landing on Hawk herself. Slamming her hand with scalpel down beside the subjects head, against the hard metal table, she took off for the Knight, arm outstretch, grabbing for his throat. Alarmed, Karr managed to grab her arms, his toes just touching the ground, as she held him mostly off the ground.
“Reiden,” Robin hissed. “I should end you.”
One of the gowned figures came up to the Aedile and starred calmly at the Dark Paladin, suggesting she let him go. Her own eyes, had the usual calmness a Krath normally showed when a Sith temper went out of control. Grabbing the surgery vale and pulling it down off her mouth, Anarya spoke.
“Hawk. He obviously has something important to say.” Anarya looks over to Reiden, whose face is beginning to turn a dark shade of red. “Why do not we hear him out first, ” the Hunter said. “Before you kill him.”
Releasing her grip, Reiden collapsed to the ground, panting followed. “It's a good thing that I was only working on a corpse. If it was one of our soldiers, or worse one of us, you would be dead already.” Pulling down her own vale and removing the ugly cap, which had protected her from the spray. Staring at him, she waited for him to catch his breath. “Well, what is it?
Taking two steps back, he announced, sounding a little hoarse. “The war is over.”
Each step into the temple was more triumphant than the one before it. In his mind’s eye, he came as a conquering hero. In some respect it was truth, but not nearly as true as Thran would have envisioned it. That feeling was enough to send Phoenix on a quest of his own, back to the bar on board Excidium II. Thran had fought hard in this war. He hadn’t slept in weeks, his kill count was baffling. The life force that surrounded him had grown substantially as a cause of it. This war had unleashed him. As much as that disturbed everyone around him, they could not help bust sense it to be real.
Around every corner, someone was ready to kill him or worse; steal his throne. As mildly dangerous he had been, he was sure to boast his new found powers now. He walked through the corridors, lifting and crushing every droid that dare walk in his path. Yet it could be seen in his stride, his health was waning.
The Force was sucking the life out of him. The soft green eyes that had warmed his face were fading to an anemic yellow. His beauty had faded, showing only the evil within his a war-torn and heavy heart. The woman Jedi, a Master of her Order, had thrown herself at him, still gripping to the hope of love. She found not an ounce of love in him, all the love there was reserved for himself.
Prior to the engagements on Antei, he was confused but his face held a certain purity about him. That was all but gone now. He was the Force corrupt; a pure personification of the Dark-Side. Now was the perfect time for him to establish himself as the top dog within the Clan. When they returned to Judecca, he still had a rebellion to deal with, the clan must unite. They still had the War at Home. Everyone would return home, to safety, and to their normal lives. But not Thran, Death would stop chasing him just yet.
The proudest day of his life was marked by attempts on his life. When he assumed the role of Emperor, he knew it would come with risks but he never expected threats from his kin. He blamed their dissatisfaction with him on envy, after all it made sense for a man with his brand of inflated self-love to do so.
Now was the time to show what the clan standard was. Loyalty. The fabric of the Clan had grown loose of late; everyone had been focused on political endeavors and forgot about what it truly meant to be in Clan Scholae Palatinae. It meant strong leadership, loyalty to Clan and Country, and the undying desire to make it better; by any means necessary. Now was the time for Unity, under the banner of Scholae Palatinae, and his tyrant reign.
His step into the main chamber of Boyna Temple was shocking to all of the people in the room. Like clockwork, his plan unfolded. The destruction of the beating heart of the droid army took a surprisingly long span of time to take effect. The Lucrehulk Class droid controller was using the power of the geothermal vents around Mt Ashfire to power the massive communication system that controlled the entire metal army. When the vessel was destroyed, the droid armies began tumbling down like a house of cards. First the armies in the North fell, those closest to the Control station.
Then the armies of the East fell. And as if on cue with his insidious plan, the droid army stopped. Still meeting the blades and blasterfire of the Clan’s Lightsabers and the Army’s guns, the army collapsed. The plan had worked exactly as he’d imagined, mirroring his rise to the Throne.
His entourage of eight soldiers stood proudly behind him, hands resting on their dirty E-11 blasters. Thran walked delicately around the deactivated droids. He spoke addressing the nearest officer without making eye contact.
“Report.” He demanded.
“Ummm…The droids, sir…They’ve stopped working.” Said the stuttering officer, to cheers from his company.
“Who’s in charge here?” the Consul asked.
The man didn’t know. The look on his face said that he was just to happy to see the droids deactivated to think straight.
“It appears I am…” he replied answering his own question.
Fanned out behind them, one of the men from Charlie company stepped forward and began to fill in the Sith.
“Sir, the grunts are saying…10 Jedi Max. 2 confirmed dead. Maybe 4 or more dead, they don’t know. Three individuals are here, met by a man called Draco. Others hear, by some furry little bundle of evil. They say Thraagus has defeated one, and that the Dark Jedi Master is containing one of the Jedi.” The man said, pointing out details on a holo-projected map.
“Excellent work Corporal.” Thran remarked, looking as posh as he ever had directed the men about. His orders continued. “Corporal, issue orders, by rule of Dark Councilor to the field commander. Send 3 squads to converge on Draco’s position. We won’t see any more of ours dead this day.”
He started to stroll. Pushing over droids, where he could. His voice continued. “Gentlemen, sweep this building and escort all of Clansmen back to this grand hall…I have a speech to prepare. Rally up 3 squads, and press forward. Merge with all forces you encounter within the temple. And no looting.”
The 8 rushed off, ready to complete their last order. Thran turned to a man with a pauldron, the Imperial sign of command ranking men. “You there, Commander is it? Shoot all of these droids, we don’t want them operational again. Have a detail begin construction of some fortifications immediately. We’ve taken this position. Now, we hold it. Get me reports on casualties, and for Darth’s sakes will someone start thanking me for deactivating the droids?!” he roared.
“One more thing…FIND ME TIMBAL!!!!” he said , grabbing for his lightsaber.
Koryn and the soldiers of the 41st walked through the Temple destroying the remains of the battledroids: Koryn with the Force and his lightsaber, and the infantry with their blasters and brute strength. Koryn sensed a ripple through the Force; Draco and Jedi. They were in an antechamber on the upper level of the Temple. The Priest was outnumbered at least eight to one. Time to even the odds a bit, right?
The Rodian extinguished his amethyst blade and turned to his squad: “Continue your sweep of the area,” he ordered before leaving. Reaching the door to the antechamber, Koryn slid it open with the Force. There was a padawan, a female human, standing in front of him, facing away towards the battle. She was obviously trying to pick up what techniques she could. It was a pity that she wouldn’t have the chance to use any of them. The Rodian grabbed her, his arm wrapping tight around her neck, and pushed his hilt into her back. Not yet trained to hide her emotions, the padawan let out a small scream of fear and surprise. The noise startled the Jedi; one of them, a Knight, briefly dropped his guard giving Draco a clear point of entry. His golden lightsaber stabbed forwards, piercing the Jedi’s chest and rupturing his heart.
Koryn activated his own lightsaber, piercing the girl’s chest with a violet light and sending blood showering to the stone floor. He unsheathed the lightsaber from its fleshy sheath and let the girl fall to the floor.
“Draco!” greeted the Rodian. “Having trouble?” The human parried a flurry of Makashi strikes from one of the six Jedi now surrounding him. In a brief moment of respite, he nodded towards two bodies on the floor with deep lightsaber wounds. Koryn lunged towards one of the remaining Jedi, who sensed the incoming attack and batted it aside with ease.
“No trouble at all,” He informed. “Three left for you, though.” Draco focused his attacks on a young Bothan Knight, whose blade shone a brilliant crystal blue. Koryn pressed his attack against a human, also a Knight. The human was well-trained in the art of lightsaber combat and blocked Thraagus’ flurry of strikes.
Draco dispatched his adversary first, slicing off the Bothan’s hand before stabbing him in his throat. The scarlet life-essence spurted forth, coating Maligo’s robes.
“Five left,” he informed, turning to face his next opponent, a male Twi’lek Master.
“Make that four,” said Koryn, slamming his challenger into the wall with the Force and running him through with the violet blade. Immediately, he went on the defence as a nearby human Knight swung to attack him. Koryn backed away from the Knight’s attacks and bumped into Draco. Sensing the Priest’s attack, Koryn jumped over both the yellow blade and his opponent with assistance from the Force. Draco’s blade bit into the Knight’s midriff before continuing its arc to crash into the Master’s emerald lightsaber. Stabbing backwards, Koryn ensured the human was dead.
“Two,” the pair said together, as they began an assault on the Master together. Briefly glancing over, Koryn saw the remaining Master, another human, stood back watching the ensuing battle. It unnerved him slightly; he seemed so relaxed. A slight air of arrogance radiated from him as if he had foreseen his comrades’ deaths and his own victory.
Draco had been feeling anxious when the reinforcements of Jedi spilled down from the third and fourth levels of the temple, but before great peril descended upon him he felt the familiar presence of Koryn rushing up to join in on the fun. And fun it was. Despite the fact that some of the now dead Jedi were stronger in the Force, they were not killers. Training with the intent to not commit harm, to merely defend oneself, was in fact crippling in war. War wasn’t glory and honor. It was simply killing on a large scale. Organized butchery.
And now, the two dark Jedi circled slowly the Jedi master, wary, watching, the second one standing strangely serene to the side, unhelpful. Straight up against two masters the Rodian and the human stood little chance. But other dark Jedi were on their way, now that the clan was concentrating on Temple Boyna.
“Now we get to meet the vaunted Jedi,” Draco said. “Funny. All the tales I heard about them said they were honorable and noble. Yet you sit up here sending hundreds of thousands of droids to fight for you, and eight of your comrades are taken down in several minutes of combat with only two dark Jedi. Somehow, I’m not impressed with you at all.”
“Surely you know your master Crask is dead. The Great Hall is once again in our hands, and your droids have shut down,” added Koryn. This response drew a reaction of sadness from the Jedi with the green blade, who whipped his head back and forth to keep his eyes on the two foes.
Koryn lunged in first, the strike blocked by the Jedi who pivoted out of the way of Draco’s follow-up, the yellow blade burning through the billowing brown robe. The Rodian used the Force to speed his blade as he threw a flurry of strikes at the master, realizing the best way to take him down was to overwhelm him.
The Jedi, sweat beading on his brow, leapt to the side to keep ahead of the pair of deadly energy blades that their owners willed to slice and dice. But though his sword-handling was superior, still with two against one the battle did not take long. He was slow to switch sides to defend against both opponents at the same time, forced to react from his inner circle of defense. Koryn and Draco both managed to lash the Jedi with strike after strike, until the Rodian slipped past the green blade to drive his purple shaft deep into the Jedi’s chest, Draco’s yellow blade decapitating him a moment after. One Jedi to go.
"So, what now?" Voldemort went past droid remains, scrap parts of their transports and bodies of Brotherood troops. "Seems like the fighting is over, for the most part."
Trewbacca's growl echoed his own feelings about this not very satisfying battle. Voldemort hated not knowing the background of things, especially not battles. Although he now could at least see the wisdom behind not bringing Clan troops to Antei, he still had no idea what the big picture was. He needed to find out what was going on with the Dark Council, this strange Jedi Master he could never remember the name of and, most of all, with his Clan. He was sure some of his comrades had fallen, and although he was unlikely to feel bad about all of the losses, he was knew he would miss some of them.
They passed Brotherhood troops transporting wounded soldiers and bodies, the men making room quickly to allow the two of them to pass. Voldemort remembered that both him and the Wookie looked rather scary at the moment, more so that usual, with blood and dust all over them and messed up hair and fur. Only very little of all that blood was their own. The brothers had been fortunate enough to encounter a group of Jedi - rather Padawans judging their non-existent skills - behind the hills they had just come over. It had been a game slaughtering them, but it had also felt wrong somehow. As if they were just bait to begin with. After it was done, there had been only a bad taste in Voldemort's mouth.
The Emperor was ahead of him, he could feel. Most likely in the temple. He radiated more arrogance than ever. That was just as well. His mother was still behind them, probably still interrogating the Jedi he had felt her engage. The human thought that he should probbaly stop thinking so much and simply join up with Thran, but Trewbacca's complaining growl stopped him from doing that. Why were Wookies always complaining, anyway? Or was it just his brother?
"Voldemort!" Adam Anderson came towards him from a shuttle which had just landed, closely followed by Uzbad. Both did not look like they had seen much of battle, if any at all. With Anderson, that was not a surprise, seeing how he had been taking care of logistic aspects. The Obelisk stopped to wait for the two Krath, but Trewbacca just went on ahead, seeing how he had not been called.
"Voldemort, have you seen your mother?"
The Obelisk sighed. Figured that they were not really interested in him. "She is still busy somewhere behind us. what's up?"
"Uzbad captured a Jedi by accident, and we think he's worth trying to turn, and..."
"By accident?" Voldemort interrupted, slighlty amused. That was something only Uzbad could manage. "Explain." He followed the two of them to the shuttle while Uzbad started on how he had lost control over a speeder bike, going reverse by accident, just where that Jedi was hiding ready for an attack. By the time they reached the shuttle with the prisoner, Voldemort was laughing so hard all the worries were forgotten. At least for now.
"You really want to tell me," Yeldarb said in a low voice, as if to make sure Arania would not hear him. "Because if you do not, and the Ewok comes back, you will regret it forever. Not that forever will last very long for you then."
The tiny human man and the Nautolan woman were what was left from the group of four they had found. The Nautolan had been the hardest to deal with and now was bound and unconscious. This young one, Arania and Yeldarb both felt, could probably give them some answers without a long interrogation session. Right now he was already frightened out of his mind, simply because it had been an Ewok bringing him down. His feeble mind could obviously not understand that not all that was cute and fuzzy was also harmless and cuddly.
"I don't want to ask again." Yeldarb's finger went over the human's cheek, and the smile he displayed turned cold. "And trust me, my little furry companion has no patience at all. Oh, the things she can do..." Yeldarb stretched his back and looked around where the body parts of the other enemies lay scattered. He made as if to avoid a yawn, pretending he did not really care. Just as he turned, he heard the prisoner starting to stutter. With faked surprise, he turned back. "Yes?" he asked.
The Jedi began to talk.
Koskian felt blood drying in the fur covering his neck and chest as he road the lift to the top level of the Temple. A little taken aback by his own behavior against the Jedi he'd torn into, his hands were shaking as the lift ascended. Bracing himself, taking several deep breaths, he pulled his shoto free as the door slid open quietly. Several faces turned towards him, technicians of some kind that did not bear the markings of the Brotherhood's forces.
The first man almost had time to scream before the ewok shoved his blade through his chest and pulling it out sideways, the saber cutting through bone and muscle like it was paper. Death walked the command center of Temple Boyna for a few minutes, before the ewok collapsed into one of the chairs facing the holo display in the center of the room, panting. The room was akin to a bantha butchering plant, blood covered the walls where the Primarch had given in again to the darker side of himself and simply left his weapon in a man's chest, opting for the claws that his current form had.
Looking at the display in the center of the room, he hopped out of the chair and ambled over, the fatigue of weeks of combat showing through. Watching the movements on the screen, mostly units tagged as 'enemy', the Iron Throne's army apparently, were solidifying their positions and forming a defensive ring around the Dark Hall and the Temple.
'So they took the Hall, maybe this is over then?' thought the ewok.
Another screen caught his attention, this one showing various shots of the fleet blockading the planet. He watched, impressed by the display of cooperation in the Clan's fleets as they took on what looked like a Super-class Destroyer. Whistling in appreciation at the thing's size, he watched several Brotherhood vessels venting atmosphere and listing, no doubt getting pulled at by Antei's gravity. The perspective shifted, and Koskian idly wondered where the view was even coming from, perhaps Crask's forces had placed satellites in orbit.
The scene displayed now chilled Koskian for a moment, the Bothan cruiser Exodus was the subject of the shot. Mostly dark, flashes of light could be seen even in the darkness of space, and Koskian had seen that kind of light before, feeling the hair rise on his neck. Reports had come in for morale purposes that Crask had been captured and was being taken to 'see the Grandmaster' which was basically code for 'one hell of an execution'.
Kosk watched in fascination, having been abouts the Brotherhood long enough to know the implications of what he was watching. If the Grandmaster was killed, things would become unstable, a power struggle would likely ensue, and people would be settling old feuds. Power would be available for those who could take it, and death would come to those who weren't worthy of it. In all honesty, Kosk viewed this as the natural order of the Dark Side, and the Brotherhood as a whole, it cleansed them, made them stronger in the end.
The ship was changing colors, parts of it falling away, and the ewok realized it was entering the atmosphere. Looking out one of the windows of the command center, he was greeted with an impressive view, one that he never tired of when he recalled how many Naval personnel treated the 'ground pounders' of the Brotherhood. The sight of a capital ship piercing the sky and falling to the ground always seemed to be happening in slow motion, though it was always over far to soon for his liking.
Bits of the ship were still tearing away as it fell towards the horizon, and the ewok realized he was in a very, very good vantage point for the death of one of the most powerful Force users he'd ever encountered.
The Emperor exited the temple, turning towards where he felt the other Ewok, Arania, was. He was still not sure what to think about her escapade during this battle, but he was sure of something else. She would be able to find Timbal for him, if no one else could. He held his saber for everyone to see, as if it was the scepter of his throne, the one thing granting him power over his Clan; not the Dark Council, or the Palpatines, just his own skill. Although he was aware that skill was not the only thing that mattered, he ignored that fact for now.
He had almost reached Arania’s position when he heard a terrible howl. The sound of a man dying in agony. Arania had fun, it seemed. That was a good thing, it might make her more likely to tell him what he wanted to know. He was going over what he was planning to say, when there was a sound in the air he had heard all too often. The sound of a capital ship breaking up in the atmosphere and crashing on the planet. He lifted his head towards the sky, but all he could make out was a dark shape in flames moving towards the horizon. It looked like a Bothan cruiser, but he wasn’t sure. There was too much dust and smoke in the air. He watched the spectacle, knowing for sure it was none of the Clan’s ships. He would have felt that.
“What the...?” Yeldarb looked up from the Jedi Arania had just torn apart with the Force, and from the shocked face of the Nautolan. A capital ship was about to crash, and rather close by at that. He tried to calculate where it would end up, and was relieved to find that it would be in a safe distance from them or any of the already beaten up sacred sites. For a moment he thought how ironic it would have been if the Exodus would have caused the exitus of the Dark Hall, but then he thought about the loss it would be to the fleet. Acceptable, no doubt, but every capital ship they lost also damaged the moral of the troops. He just hoped the battle up there was going as well as the one down here was.
“It is one of the Council’s ships,” Arania said immeidately, not paying that much attention but instead focusing on the remaining Jedi. She liked the terror the woman displayed in her eyes. A strong one in the Force, too. Maybe...
“What ship is it?” Yeldarb had his hand at his saber, as if he could do anything with it to stop this from happening.
Arania concentrated; her mind’s eye zooming in on the capital ship, through smoke that almost made her recoil even though she was not there physically. “The Exodus,” she said after a moment. She sounded sorry about it, but nothing more. It was a war after all. She was already turning back to the Nautolan, when suddenly an expression of shock came over her. It took Yeldarb a moment to realize it was shock; he had never seen her express this emotion in her current body before. “Sarin,” she whispered, sounding confused. Her eyes followed the downing ship.
“What? The Grand Master is on it? Are you sure?” Yeldarb kept staring at the ship now going over the hills as if in slow motion. It took him a moment to notice that the Ewok did not answer. When he looked around, she was running towards where the ship would crash, and at a rather high speed. Foolishness, he thought. Whatever she wanted there, she would not achieve it. If Sarin was on board, he was either able to help himself or not. If the latter was the case, the woolheaded Ewok would not be able to do anything either. And why should she, anyway? A new Grand Master meant new opportunities, at least to Yeldarb. And to top it off, she had left him alone with a Jedi who was a lot more powerful than he was.
The Exodus’ impact and the subsequent explosion sent angry vibrations through the ground. For a moment Thran felt as if he was standing on a bridge, with the shields under heavy fire, then the vibrations were gone. The death twitches of a proud vessel, now scattered over the planet’s surface. He would make sure to go there shortly, to pay his respects. He believed many would do just that.
And it seemed the Krath he was looking for had the same thought. He could see an Ewok running towards the crash site in a not very straight line. Why was she in such a hurry, and why not wait until the Jedi were all dealt with? Unless... unless Sarin was on board, and this Crask nut as well. Now, that would make sense. Best seats for the duel of a lifetime. No, he corrected himself. It would not make sense. Arania could view such things without being physically there. And she would never let Yeldarb alone with someone he could not handle. Because that was, as he now saw, what she had done. The Nautolan had just freed herself from the binds Yeldarb had put on her earlier, and she seemed not afraid at all to face Yeldarb without a saber.
It was time for him to be the hero again, it seemed.
The last remaining Jedi in Temple Boyna stood there, quiet, smirking, as more than a dozen dark Jedi from the clan rushed into the training hall. A kaleidoscope of colors sprang forth from the hilts of a variety of lightsabers, the glowing pastel hues fanning out in a circle around the master. He raised his hands and sent a ring of Force energy radiating out from his body. The jolt sent many of the clan members flying into walls or skidding across the floor, while the stronger ones either redirected the energy or absorbed it into themselves, to fuel their command.
Those that were able to counter the effects of the Force assault unleashed their own attacks, too many for a single man to defend against. The Jedi was tossed about in a whirlwind and hit with anything loose that decorated the training room; chairs, tables, durasteel blades, and blasters. He was buffeted and battered, and he reached for the lightsaber hilt at his side after he hit the ground, a bloody mess. But a single lightsaber against a dozen eager killers was no contest. The Jedi died from multiple stab wounds, his face contorted into a rictus of pain.
A physical search of the temple confirmed the sense through the Force that it was now undeniably under the complete control of Clan Scholae. Despite the fact that a group of members were chasing after a crashing star destroyer, those that remained followed their orders and secured the temple. Although another counter-attack seemed impossible, the troops of the Iron Throne and the dark Jedi of the clan dug in and prepared the defenses for an attack that would never come.
Many of the dark Jedi, Draco among them, felt that it was finally over. After a month and a half, Antei was theirs. If the other clans did their jobs all the Jedi strongholds were now back in Brotherhood hands for the first time since the Vong ejected them from the planet. Even the soldiers felt the relief brought about by a crushing victory, evidenced by the fact that they lolled at their posts, helmets off, smiling as they chatted with their comrades and chewed ration bars.
All there was to do now was wait for word from the Grand Master releasing the clans from their obligations to the Iron Throne, then for Draco and his comrades it would be back to the Cocytus system, and the rebellion that had broken out before this latest war.
"Soooo we turned another Jedi, lalalalalaaaa, they cannot withstand our Dark Side powaaaah..."
"What in the name of..?" Kosk just left the temple to see the smoke from the crash of the Exodus with his own eyes, and probably find someone who could fill him in on what was going on with the remaining Jedi. The off key song now torturing his ear canal was not what he had expected. It was totally unacceptable.
"...all their Force belong to us, lalalalalaaaa..."
He needed to make it stop. Now! Turning into the direction of the sounds, he noticed Uzbad, Voldemort and Adam Anderson. Only the latter was sober. Uzbad and Voldemort were hugging each other, taking turns drinking from a large bottle. Voldemort was sporting a robe way too large for him. Must be the Jedi's.
The war was not officially dealt with yet, and the two of them were already partying, and all over one turned Jedi? Anger rose in Kosk. Especially because he did not have a bottle. "You, over there!" He pointed at them and walked over as quickly as he could.
"The Jedi he was such a wuss, lalalalala...."
They didn't even hear him. Kosk saw Uzbad was holding the bottle and swiftly kicked Voldemort where it would have hurt him, except that Voldemort was still wearing armor under the robes. With a squaking cry he hopped a few steps back, holding his foot. Voldemort looked down on him and was fighting to get sober. Detoxing was obviously not his strength. "S...sorry," he said. "I'll be bottle ready... err battle ready in a minute."
Growling, Kosk made sure nothing was broken and got ready to lay into them, when Uzbad noticed him for the first time. "Ohhh, an Eeeeeweewewoook," he laughed. "How cuddly."
"Uhm, this is Kosk," Voldemort tried to warn him. Uzbad didn't listen and made as if to pet the Ewok.
Kosk held out a waring hand to stop the Zabrak. "Give Voldemort your bottle."
"Just give him the %$%$§ bottle."
"Ohh, Eeeewokookokok curses, how cute." Uzbad handed the bottle over. "What now?"
Kosk used his other foot and kicked Uzbad where it definitely hurt. The Zabrak stared for a moment, then he went down with mouth wide open. Kosk took the bottle from Voldemort's hands and started drinking himself. "When that one recovers, make sure he stays out of the way," Kosk said. "And no more singing."
The sound of marching feet was heard just then, and a full, if battle worn, company rounded a few boulders. The man at the front of them was Grid. He gave the signal for them to halt and then looked around. "We're back," he stated the obvious. "Minor damage to the walker, no casualties. We got rid of quite a few droids, though. And I am certain I shot a Jedi." The man's eye fell on the bottle and the Zabrak on the ground. "Now I see why we had to do so much work."
Kosk started feeling drunk as he looked up at the man. "Grid," he said.
Koskian was progressively getting more and more intoxicated, the small ewok body's metabolism struggling to keep up with his Obelisk sized appetite.
He was quick to apologize to his Guardsman, Grid, for yelling at him, noting that the man had brought back a full company of soldiers in relatively good shape. No doubt it was the most intact unit in the entire Iron Throne Army that had seen action. Grid never ceased to amaze him, whether he was screwing up or performing miracles like this.
Bar none, the captain of his honor guard was the luckiest person he'd ever met, naturally lucky and with no ability in the Force. Not like the trio behind him, Uzbad, Voldemort, and Adam all had the Force as their ally, and were all falling down drunk. Wondering briefly when Adam had started, or if the man simply had greater poise then the other two and had handled himself better, he turned back to them, stepping up on Uzbad's prone body to gain some height.
“Temple Boyna is ours. Yay us. Security cameras show Draco and Koryn mopping up some Jedi, a whole group of them, so they have a higher kill count then us probably. Bastards,” he muttered the last, taking a pull of the bottle before handing it up to Grid, who eagerly joined his Lord in drinking.
Not certain where the alcohol was coming from, only noticing that the three younger Dark Jedi seemed to be producing them from inside robes, the group got more inebriated, before Kosk noticed a new scene on the monitors inside. Stepping back in from the balcony of the fourth level and command center, he watched as the only other ewok in the army moved across the broken landscape towards the recently crashed Exodus.
Groaning inwardly, he sat down and kept drinking, unsure what Arania was attempting.
Timbal sighed. It really was one of those days. Furthermore, the sigh reminded him that he had still not healed up fully from that assassination attempt, and his lung was telling him as such.
The blaster burns also didn’t help. He had about half a score at various parts of his body, and even with using the Force to accelerate his healing and block the pain, it made him sluggish and eventually started to exhaust him.
That’s pretty much the reason that he used to convince himself, anyway, of having to explain why he had been captured.
The memory of literally a thousand combat droids of various kinds also did much to help in that department, but he knew that he could have all wiped them out, at the expense of his own life.
Funny thing, he really wasn’t into giving up his life just now. He had plenty more plans to fill. Too many things he still wanted to reach and achieve. That’s why when they had given the order to surrender, he shut down his lightsaber and held up his arms.
The droids had taken him captive, none too gently, he’d be willing to say. Whatever was ahead of him, Timbal knew that it couldn’t equate to some of the things he’d seen and experienced in his own lifetime of service to the Brotherhood.
He’d, of course, been right.
They tossed him into a makeshift cell after completely disrobing him and searching him for any sort of weaponry. That sucked krayt genitals because he had some very compact toys stashed about his person dating back from his Intelligence Division days, including the compact micro-laser he’d had surgically implanted just under the skin of his buttocks and the mini-grenades implanted in his arm.
So there he stayed, generally amusing himself by using the Force to heal himself up, including the hasty bits of surgery the droids had clumsily done. There were going to be scars of that, he knew, and annoyed at that fact.
Finally, they had come for him. A pair of Rodian and Kel-Dor males with a human female. Timbal stood where he was, and made no effort to move from his spot, nudity or not. He merely gazed at them, facial expressions revealing nothing.
They apparently had read the same book, and had no expressions themselves, even the human female, which Timbal regretted inwardly.
Finally, the Kel-Dor spoke. “Greetings, Dark Jedi. I hope you are feeling somewhat better. The droids tell me that you are a most… prepared… individual,” he hesitated to say.
The Epis kept his mouth shut.
They stirred a bit, and the Rodian took over. “Yes, well, we apologize for keeping you here in this way, but several other Dark Jedi had used even their clothes to try and escape, which, naturally, we would like to avoid.”
Still no response.
They were about to say something, but the female gestured at them to keep quiet, her unassuming form suddenly bristling with power in the Force.
“We see. Well, Dark Jedi, you needn’t resist any longer. You are home, after all.”
He gave her a skeptical look.
She turned and dismissed the other two.
They were alone.
They didn’t speak for a few minutes, watching each other visually and through the Force. As far as Timbal was concerned, he detected that although she was plain looking, she still had a beauty that he was hard-pressed to pin down. In the Force, she was radiant; as if she were light herself.
That, in turn, suggested that she was far more powerful than her mere physical appearance might suggest. Timbal sighed, various options running through his mind, but in the end, he just didn’t care.
He was tired. He knew that the thought and emotion didn’t come from his visitor, because he had felt this way since being in that bacta tank not too long ago. It wasn’t physical weariness, either. It was the soul-crushing weariness that came from being alone for such a long period of time.
He had felt it coming for a while. Yes, he had friends, but the Dark Side, he was coming to realize, was just empty. It held nothing more than vengeance, murder, hate, and disloyalty.
“Yes, loyalty. How loyal can you be with them? When they have broken you down to a mere nothing?”
Timbal shot her an evil look, but it was more out of reflex than anything. “Stay out of my head, lady,” he growled.
She cast her eyes down, “I’m sorry, but it’s hard to not say anything when you’re shouting. But it’s true; they have been using you and your talents, your loyalty when they offered the mere shadow of it in return. You don’t owe them anything. Take what is rightfully yours, and reclaim your place in the galaxy.”
He sneered, “Oh, really? And just what is place is that? At the bottom of some garbage heap when you toss my body in it?”
She shook her head so emphatically and convinced that he was tempted to shake his head too. “No, you misunderstand. I see clearly the struggle within. Let go of your hate, your anger, your pride, and walk with me.”
Timbal let most of the words flow past him like the mere words that they were, but the word pride stuck. Yes, he knew, he was proud. Of his achievements, of his former status, of so many things.
Yet, it accounted for nothing in the end. Stripped of them all, abandoned and left to fend for himself.
He quickly thought of all those times while on his precious ships where he had swallowed his pride to protect his people from harm, where he subjugated it for the greater good.
“Yes, exactly like that. You can see beyond your limitations, and you have been called for greater things than that,” she continued.
He said nothing, his emotions and thoughts confused, swirling, changing.
Quietly she added, “Yes, I see the struggle. Within you, I see the light. Your heart has not been hardened by service to a dead Emperor. You do care, the light within you guides you to that end.”
Had it? He genuinely cared for the troops under his command, often shielding them from harm using his powers as much as he could to do so. In fact, that whole debacle with Thran came into the forefront because he thought that Thran would discard them casually and uselessly when he was done with them. Timbal would not ever do that to his own people. Maybe Thran wouldn’t, but he couldn’t guarantee that.
That little thing made all the difference.
Things started to fall into place. His entire career with the Brotherhood. His time with the Emperor’s Hammer. His time elsewhere.
He had been a protector, a shield for those he cared for.
Was it possible? Could he truly have been called for service to a greater good? Something far bigger than the Brotherhood?
“Yes, your service to the light will be a great one. I have foreseen it,” she spoke in hushed tones.
Unbidden, a thought crossed his mind that immediately escaped his lips, “Yeah, the Emperor foresaw many things as well. A lot of good that did him.”
However, he really didn’t mean it, and couldn’t put any anger behind it.
He felt hollow. All the anger, the rage, the energy spent cultivating that, all fell to the floor of his soul, empty.
In its’ place, he found something he wouldn’t have thought possible just a few hours ago.
She smiled softly, and deactivated the containment fields.
“You have been redeemed. Welcome to the light, brother.”
With that, and a final thought to those that he left behind on the floor of that cell, he bid them all adieu for all eternity.
He trailed the Ewok until she bounded off towards the wreckage of the Exodus, leaving the Temple Boyna to shrink behind him. The crippled walker was marked with a patchwork of blaster burns, where the vessel had taken small arms fire. Yeldarb, valiant as he was, was matched against an alien that was far more skilled in the art of the lightsaber than he was. Clutched in Thran’s hand, the leather bound lightsaber snapped to life. He roared into battle, injecting himself into the duel with magnificent timing. His blade stopped what would have been a dismembering blow to Yeldarb.
He controlled the duel from the moment he entered it. Yeldarb backed off, allowing the Emperor to seize control of the duel. He was a master with his weapon, a surgeon of combat technique. Thran spoke coolly.
“Be ready, we take her together.” He murmured in mid attack.
The Consul danced as if the duel had been some masterful work of choreography, perfectly arranged to display his prowess. The Duelist’s form was nothing short of art. Yeldarb jumped into the battle, presenting an attack that was nothing less than bothersome to the Jedi. Her flesh dreadlocks waved to and fro as the Jedi deflected the attacks in a characteristically defense stance.
Where he saw an opening, Yeldarb attacked. His randomness alone was enough to draw the Master off, confusing her form as she defended against the two Dark Jedi. Thran sought to end the battle as efficiently as he could. The Nautolan was skilled with a blade, and powerful in the Force.
Occasus lunged at the Nautolan, swiping away with his orange blade. The more and more he attacked, the less involved Yeldarb became. It didn’t take a very perceptive person to sense Thran’s emotion. He was anger incarnate.
The Jedi spoke, in a terribly useless gesture. They had come to save these Sith, without realizing that some were too far gone to be saved. The Consul was one of those cases. He was the kind of man that was so self centered, he wasn’t capable of knowing or displaying the Jedi Code.
“Listen, young man. There is a place in the Light for you still. Lay down your arms and join us.” She said, in broken Basic.
Thran said nothing, and he was certainly not laying down his lightsaber. Yeldarb watched from the sidelines, having let the greater Sith take the enemy single handedly. He lunged at the Jedi, striking with surgical accuracy. She parried, and he continued his rush on the amphibian. Strike for strike, she blocked everything Thran threw at her. His wrist flicked, slicing off the Nautolan’s webbed hand.
The greenish alien fell to her knees. Her blank black eyes stared at him, only a clear nictating membrane obscured her view as it flicked over the black orbs. Yeldarb knew, by the look in his eyes, that Thran was going to do something terrible to this Jedi.
The Sith’s hand rose, lifting the green dreadlocked alien from the ground. She choked and gasped as her windpipe was visibly crushed. He walked towards her, lightsaber in hand. Slowly, and as the last bits of air were consumed in the Jedi’s lungs, Thran began dissecting her. If the Jedi could have screamed, it would have been a terrible sound.
Finally, her body fell lifeless. Still clad in his white armor, he approached her. With his bare hands, he tore her flesh. Like a savage, he painted his pristine armor with her dark oozing blood. Yeldarb felt something in the pit of his stomach, a feeling that he hadn’t felt for some time; terror. Thran Occasus, poster boy and narcissist, was the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen. Smeared with blood, grease and oil, the man couldn’t help but shelter his eyes as the Consul approached him.
“You should be more cautious, Yeldarb. Practice Form II more often. You did well out there, ” Thran said.
Yeldarb bumbled, he was still in shock from what he had witnessed.
“Yeldarb…Where is Arania?” the Bakuran asked directly.
Yeldarb did his best to answer, but he could only point his finger. The wreckage of the Exodus was still on fire, and Arania was definitely there.
“Thank you…” the Consul replied, licking his blood off his fingers.
The main wreckage of the Exodus was still somewhere ahead when Arania found the first parts of wreckage, some of it burning. She could sense a duel ahead, but she had to stop for a moment. Force or no Force, she was exhausted. This little body required far more effort to keep up, at least it felt like that for her. Maybe she would eventually get used to it.
The Ewok did not have time to catch her breath. There was a sensation in the Force she could not really put a name to. Not the well known ripple or quake one would usually feel. It was more as if something was drawn. It was most unsettling. Gathering her remaining strength, Arania waddled along. She had not come far when she felt Sarin losing his battle. Yet he was not the only one. That was what she had felt, the Force hanging in the balance over two of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. Not a sensation she had ever had the chance to experience before. There was another sensation, slightly familiar, but she could not place it right now. Coming over a small hill, her eyes fell on two lifeless bodies still a good walk out in the desert plain.
She knew she was not the only one to come here. The area would be swarming with Jedi who had felt the death of the two masters and would want to be a part of it somehow, a part of history. Yet she had come for a different reason. Sarin had been the one to bring her back to the Brotherhood, and he was the only one who knew she had fallen to the Light Side before. She owed him, more so for keeping her secret, although she was aware that his silence would eventually have had a price. There were many things a Grand Master needed done in hiding, without even the Dark Council knowing anything about it. She had not come to watch, she had come to...
She didn't know, she realized. She had thought she was running out here to help him, probably offering to keep that a secret, too. Yet she knew the only way to make sure to keep a secret was to kill everyone else who knew. And there would have been no way she could have bestet Sarin. Especially not like this. Finding both of them dead solved the problem, in a way. Yet a part of her felt like a failure again, because she had not managed to repay her debt, even being so close to the crash site. Repaying debts, good or bad ones, was something she was by all her Ralconian traditions bound to do. But then, she was not a Ralconian anymore, was she? Maybe with her old body, her old oaths had died as well.
Right into her ponderings something seemed to stab into the back of her head. almost as if one of her family had died, and yet different. The connection was not completely torn, just... twisted. As if one of theirs had switched alignments, unshielded. And it felt as if it was...
"TIMBAAAAAAAL!" Lifting her head to the dark skies, she cried out with all the rage she was capable of feeling. And that was when she saw something totally unexpected.
The roar alerted Thran, who had been trailing Arania for some time now. She was the key to success as a Consul. Being the Matriarch of the Palpatine family made her, in essence, the boss of them. They were his biggest contenders, align with her and he would be unstoppable. He could hear the little ewok bellowing in ahead of him, and the notion came over him like a wave. Timbal Palpatine, after all the trouble he’d caused to the Throne, had defected to the Light.
The Warlord’s pace doubled, he needed to get to Arania; She was now the only person do give him vindication, and more importantly, she was the only one that could bring Timbal to his knees. The Bakuran bounded past the still smoldering fragments of the Exodus. There was Arania, lurched over herself in tears of anger.
He'd arrived as if he'd been called for. For such a prissy man, his timing was amazing. She was not expecting him, but his arrival would determine Timbal's fate.
It was the sort of fury resolved for mothers, an anger so strong it corrupted. For all the evil within the furry little ewok, there was great love and passion for those of her kind. Timbal had turned his back on all of it. When they protected him from Thran’s own raucous revenge, for the disrespect Timbal had shown him, it apparently meant nothing to him.
If he could turn his back on his family, with such ease, Arania would have to turn her back on him. Thran spoke softly, cooing as his words teased the Dark Jedi Master’s sense of revenge. She knew she could not trust his words, yet they seemed so inviting.
“He’s betrayed you, Arania. He’s betrayed the family. He’s betrayed the Clan. You know what must be done…” Thran mused.
“No, I must bring him back home.” Arania said, her wide lips trembling as she spoke.
“You cannot save him. You should not try. He’s been planning this for years. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Timbal is gone. Only we remain. We remain for solidarity, unity, and power. Timbal has turned his back to our world. There is no bringing him back.” The Consul said, his words tugging at the very strings of the force as if to encourage the Dark Jedi Master to follow his advice.
“He can be brought back!” She roared.
“At what cost? He can no longer be trusted, he is no longer the man that you protected. He must die for what he’s done. That is the only way he will be purified.” Thran’s voice oozed, infecting Arania’s rage filled mind. “He must die.”
“He…must…die.” She repeated, believing it now to be true.
Thran was right. Timbal had made the choice. He had turned his back on them. He had betrayed them. He must die for what he did.
Around them, the air grew heavy. It felt like the last breath of wind before a summer storm released its rain, not refreshing but full of certain optimism. They both knew what was happening almost immediately. The Light pierced through the darkened air, like the rain finally falling to ease the humidity. Timbal was with them.
The group of Jedi were looking for a shuttle, some viable route to escape this hell hole before they were all cut down by the blades of the Sith, Krath, and Obelisk warriors that now peppered the surface of Antei. Thran sprung into motion. He envisioned the joy that running Timbal through would give him. The Jedi were somewhat startled by the Sith Warlord, but fear settled in when the Dark Jedi Master waddled up behind him.
Their lightsabers sprung to life, blue and green against Thran’s burning orange. A Kel-Dor, A Rodian, and a woman. They were easy pickings. Thran lunged at the closest one, the Kel-Dor. His lightsaber skewered the Jedi through the heart. Arania did what came naturally to her, her little fingers jutted forward unleashing crackling arcs of blue white electricity. The Rodian screamed in pain, as it curled over and died.
It was just Timbal and the woman. Arania would take Timbal, and hold him. Though he had never expressly said it, the Master knew that Timbal was scrap meat that she must through to the Emperor. Timbal froze, held still by a field of force immobilization.
Thran leapt towards the woman, who could barely muster a parry under his imposing prowess with a blade. She held with him for a moment, but without warning her arm was clipped off midway up her forearm. Thran’s hand clutched her by the face, palming it under his fingers.
The Human skull was not terribly strong. It took some 14 pounds of pressure to fracture the bones of the face. Most Pugilists could deliver hundreds of pounds of pressure in a single blow, so it was no shock what happened next. The crunches were audible, and they made Timbal wince as he witnessed the death of his new friends. Finally, the back of her head popped, flying way from her skull like the cork of a champagne bottle. Blood sprayed, followed by bits of grey matter.
Thran was impressed with himself. He’d never actually blown someone’s head up before. He couldn’t resist the urge to comment on what he’d done.
“COOOOOL!” the Sith said, before turning to the paralyzed convert.
“Timbal Palpatine, you have been found guilty of Treason against the Throne of Judecca, desertion of duty, gross insubordination, and of defection to an enemy force. The penalty for these offenses is Public Beheading. Do you have any last words?” The Consul said, his face marked with a sickening grin.
Timbal couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t do anything as Thran approached. The Consul threw out a small holorecorder, sure to display this message to the entire Clan. The Channel opened, and Thran stood next to Timbal with his lightsaber to his throat.
“Clan Scholae Palatinae, As some of you have become aware, Timbal Palpatine has been nothing but trouble on this engagement. And now, in our final hour…He has turned to the Light, for refuge and peace. Timbal Palpatine is a traitor. The penalty for his offense is death.” Thran said, pulling his lightsaber back for the final coup de grace.
He added one more remark. “I am here with Arania Palpatine, and we have concurred that this punishment is not only fitting for Timbal, but for anyone who would dare turn against our beloved Clan. As Emperor, I execute my right to administer this punishment…”
His wrist snapped towards Timbal, catching him under the chin with the vibrant lightsaber. His head rolled backward, bouncing away from the Emperor. He raised his hand and the head came to his hand, where he gripped it by the hair. He pointed the face at the holorecorder.
“Let this lesson be learned; There is no mercy for traitors. The peace that the Jedi offered him is a lie. There is no peace, only passion. There is only Scholae Palatinae.” He said, shutting off the communication there.
The holo transmission was coming in over all channels. Even the private displays of most members activated. There was a moment of silence everywhere where CSP members were present, then the wildest shouts broke out. Shouts of agreement, and some of discontent. Voldemort was happy the Timbal problem was gone once and for all. He had already doubted his mother's sanity when she had protected the man. It seemed, though, that most of the Clan was just relieved not to have to deal with it any longer, no matter how it had ended. They might have been as happy had Timbal, or Arania for that matter, killed Thran instead. But he wondered why Arania had not done away with Timbal herself. She could have strengthened her own standing, and that of the Palpatines, if she had just done it. If this new development meant his mother would now support Thran fully, all the better. Voldemort had supported Thran from the beginning - he was a ruthless, selfish yet determined guy who would help the Clan because the Clan helped his plans of greatness. If there would later be any trouble, someone could dispose of him and blame it on insanity. And this someone might be his mother, so it was good if she was getting closer to him.
Voldemort shook his head and turned to the landing area, where several Clan members discussed, including Uzbad. He needed to be careful, the Krath thinking of his mother and siblings began to rub off on him. Maybe he needed to pick up another fighting style to focus better. He joined Uzbad, Trewbacca, his sister Aliena, Adam Anderson and others, who were starting to bet if the rest of the Palpatines would accept this or come to kill Thran and Arania both.
In all the trouble, a shuttle landed half an hour later close to the Temple Boyna. To Voldemort's surprise, he saw Natth'a'niel flying the craft, with Vail sitting right beside him. He thought he also saw Revenge X and Chuchulain, but he was not so sure about that. The one who got out of the shuttle was Dakari, and he returned with Phoenix a bit later. Then the shuttle left again.
Voldemort followed it with his eyes and saw it moving towards the Exodus crash. He was sure the crash site was not the destination of the group, though. "I have a bad feeling about this," he muttered.
The wind blew harsh across the blackened landscape as the squad stood huddled, waiting for the Lambda shuttle to come pick them up. Staring at the sky, the Templar wondered how much trouble he was going to be in. He had taken the entire 1/81 into battle, and had come out with a single squad. 11 troopers, one officer, and himself was a horribly low survival rating. He’d be lucky to survive what Thran was going to have to say to him, and if the Grand Master got a hold of him? Shivers of fear caused him to shake at the idea of what that kind of power would reduce him to, and how quickly.
The shuttle swooped in low, settling down easy as they loaded up. A couple of the Super Battle Droid heads, and a single magna guard were brought along for the ride, for the intel geeks. He figured that if he could toss them a bone and give them something to decode, that they might run interference for him. Maybe. Probably not, if he was really in the crosshairs. It depended completely upon whether or not someone else had screwed up worse. It also depended on if Thran had achieved the Clan’s objective. Their radios had all been fried or lost along the way, the shuttle having homed in on their survival beacons.
The shuttle buttoned up as they troopers hit the seats, gear flying off as soon as they were under lift. The shuttle filled up with the stink of dirty, sweaty warrior, the pilots shutting the hatch to the cockpit to keep the smell out. “Lieutenant, you did very well. All of you did to survive that blood bath. You should all see several commendations, along with some respect from other veterans.” They all stared at him, nodding when he finished speaking before turning to care of their gear. They were the best after all. Relaxing could come after they had de-briefed. Another shiver went down his spine, as he rose up to the Majestic Class Heavy Cruiser Basilisk. As much as he was afraid of what would come, he would have a few brief moments in which to focus his thoughts before he was summoned to account for his actions.
If he was lucky, he might get away with imprisonment for his actions in aiding and abetting Timbal. His friend, his ally, was dead, executed for treason by the very person who had wanted to do it to begin with. The whole situation had been wrong from beginning to end. They had expected Vong and they got Droids. They had expected to reclaim Antei with losses, but not on the scale that had been suffered, and not at the hands of Jedi. It was all wrong, and in the wrongness there was a deep and abiding anger fueled by pain. It would probably take him years to come to terms with the events of the preceding days, and certainly things would only get worse as time passed.
The shuttle landed in the hangar deck, pausing only long enough for him to unload before it resumed its trip. He shook hands with the Lieutenant before offloading, getting a salute from the men as a sign of respect. The only thing he saw was the bright smile of Libra Tzo, his XO and lover. She had been with him through most everything for the last few years, and it was the first time they had been separated since his trip to Kapsina a year ago. For a brief moment he was at peace, not bothering to care about the future as he lived in the moment.
Solus dropped his pack on the ground beside him as he sat down on a large stone. As he pulled off his helmet his eyes took in the view before him. Men, women, the debris of battle, all were intermingled evenly over the landscape. The smell of charred flesh and blasted machinery was evident to Solus’s senses even with his helmet on, as if the battle had permeated all things. And in a way, it had.
Armored soldiers milling about amidst blasted droids pulled Solus’s thoughts slowly but surely to his father. He had fought much as his father had all those years ago, the lightsaber Solus carried had almost never left its belt hook. Placing his hand across the blaster rifle that sat across his lap, Solus smiled. The weapon had been crafted and issued decades ago for the purpose of arming men against a droid army, and it had finally returned home so to speak. There were times during the fighting that Solus had almost felt his father’s presence, but he was unsure if it was an echo through the force or something… else.
A trooper dropped to sit beside Solus on his rock, the clatter of armor on stone breaking the Jedi out of his reverie. The other figure pulled off his helmet, revealing close cropped blond hair. He pulled out a canteen and slowly took a drink, taking a long pull from the container. The man proffered the canteen towards Solus, who nodded and pulled off his own headgear. Raising the container to his own lips, he drank for what seemed like the first time in days. Handing the canteen back, he smiled as way of thanks as the trooper himself nodded and placed it in his pack once more.
Solus rose from his position, shouldered his pack, and began to walk across the battlefield. As he walked, he mused on his encounter with the nameless trooper. It was the time after a great struggle where nothing else mattered. There no longer were officers, sergeants, privates, or Jedi. There were simply brothers and sisters in arms, no other distinction was required. The thought brought a slight grin to Solus’s face as he continued to move, his pace almost leisurely, towards the point still klicks away that was designated as his extraction point.
Thran was still holding the head of Timbal by the ears when the shuttle with the Palpatines landed. They got out without a word and surrounded Timbal’s fallen body. Chuchulain ripped the severed head out of Thran’s hand with the Force and placed it on Timbal’s breast. The rest of the Palpatines paid no attention to Thran at all, but formed a circle around the corpse, including the Ewok.
Irritated, Thran stepped back a little. What were they up to now? Did they want him to go, or rather have him stay? He did know they talked telepathically, he could almost hear what they were saying, and that annoyed him. What were they holding back this time?
Before he could get more paranoid about it, the Palpatines all turned around and stared at him with icy glares. Then they moved in on him, forming a wide circle. Thran opened his mouth to ask what was going on when Arania stepped inside, the others closing the gap behind her. “Defend yourself,“ she said coldly and drew her saber. A split second later, the other Palpatines ignited their own weapons, preventing him from moving outide the circle. Irritated, Thran pulled and ignited his orange blade. “What are you doing?” he hissed, but he did not get an answer.
Arania was coming at him with speed and skill, trying to throw him off balance with a Force wave right away. Thran could deal with that, could best her saber skills, but her eyes told him she would not stop there. As she kicked at him, Thran evaded her with a flip, landing about saber length away. His eyes spit fire, but it was not an attempt at intimidation. He was filled Rage ain the light o this new betrayal. Arania’s purple blade clashed with his orange one, pushing the Ewok back a few steps, so she almost reached the edge of the circle, coming dangerously close to the blades of the other Palpatines. But Thran had no doubt they would not harm her.
He landed a blow and the scent of burning Ewok hair was in his nostrils. But that was the only chance he got. Arania raised a hand and lifted him up; held by nothing visible, having trouble to breathe while not completely being cut off from air, he felt helpless. What if he would actually best her against all odds? There were too many others around him, with sabers and staffs ready to slice through him. But he would not give up either. His mind reached out before she could lock eyes with him and probably trick him into panicking. His Force blow did not surprise her at all, she simply absorbed it with this annoying smile she always had when she was superior. In an Ewok, it looked especially annoying. Then Thran felt the fear creeping up inside him, and he knew it was originating from her. “No,” he growled. Again, his mind struck at her, and this time she dropped him. Before she could adjust, Thran kicked her hard, making her lose focus and gasp for air.
Thran had never dropped his saber, and Arania had not taken it from him. The blade was still flaring when he rolled around, lifting his arm in an attempt to decapitate her and at the same time trying to breathe calmly again. He missed the neck of the cursed woman, her speed was astonishing. Instead he burned yet more hair on her back, which wasn’t helpful at all. Just then, the world seemed to get even darker around them; even the blades of their sabers seemed to be taken by darkness. The air grew cold. The Ewok’s blade met his own again, and then he was kicked where it hurts a man most. Once, twice, thrice, each blow delivered with more force. He almost dropped his saber, but managed to land an accidental hit in the woman’s saber arm. The Ewok jumped backwards, and then Thran felt himself being pressed down by unseen hands. Thinking Arania was coming in for the kill, Thran threw his saber and guided it with the Force, not to Arania but to Phoenix who was standing closest to him. He wanted to get at least one more of those traitors. But Phoenix deflected the blade without effort.
The pressure gone from him, he turned to see Arania had moved back into the circle, and Natth was facing him now. Cursing, Thran called his blade back to his hands and got up, surprised about being still alive. Yet another master to face... why were they staring at him like that?
Somehow, he held up. Natth was eventually replaced by Dakari after the Sith Master had almost finished him. Dakari was replaced by Vail, and then Vail by Chuchulain. When Revenge X took over, Thran thought his pumping heart would explode and wondered why they were toying with him. Phoenix was the last one to get a go at him and did not kill him either, although he had made Thran lose his lightsaber. Finally, Thran thought it was over. Bleeding from several wounds, he expected all of them to rush in and kill him. He swayed but refused to fall. Surely Sarin had not died on his knees either. “Bring it on,” he hissed. “If you want me to go down, it will take all of you.”
The Palpatines disengaged their lightsabers all at once. Each of them stepped forward, reaching a hand out to him. “You have killed one of our own today,” Natth said. “One who has left us to follow the path of cowards,” Dakari stated. “You protected the Clan, and you helped protect us,” Phoenix growled. “You settled a score,” Vail added. “And you have proven yourself worthy,” Revenge X said almost lightly. “We honor your presence in this Clan,” Chuchulain agreed.
All of a sudden, a hot flash of all their mind shot through Thran’s body. Arania showed that wicked grin again. “Welcome to the Palpatine family, Thran Occasus.”
His eyes welled with tears. He was so sure that they aligned against him, and we prepared to end him there on the rocky hell that was Antei. He had fought tirelessly, for years. In all of his battles, he sought only approval.
He could barely hold his head up. He was tired, worn from all the fights he started and ended during this war. There before him, the entire family stared at him. He was staggering now, tired and worn from the fatigue of battle. His spice reserves had been used up days before; he was on his last leg.
Thran roared at them. He was confused, worn ragged, and at the end of greatest display of power he’d ever given. “Fight me!” he barked.
Arania could not muster the words. Natthaniel could not muster the words. It took the words of his greatest enemy to make it sink in. Phoenix stepped forward. He hated everything that Thran stood for, but he could not deny the selflessness he had poured into the Clan. He was deserving of this honor, no matter how the adept hated the truth of that fact.
“No, Brother…You are of our blood and that blood runs thicker than water. You have distinguished yourself today. You fought us, with purity of heart. I never thought I would be the one to say it, but you are a great man. The blood that runs through your veins is as pure as the blood that runs through mine.” Phoenix said, swallowing hard.
RevengeX, Vail, Natth, Cooch, and Arania nodded in harmony. They agreed with the verdict. Thran Occasus, discoverer of Caliburnus, Lord of Dorimad Sol, had achieved the greatest victory he could possibly imagine; The Love of the Palpatines. It had not yet set in for the Warlord, but he was beginning to understand. For all the deception that he’d seen in the development of the Great Jedi War, this was the purest moment he’d ever experienced.
Simultaneously, the Palpatines took a knee. They all bowed before the Emperor. The air grew thin in his lungs, making him lightheaded. For all the intimacy with the Force that he had, he had not expected this result. They didn’t dare show their eyes to him, the Emperor. To see the company of people that had tried to end him only moments before made his tears of anger, turn to tears of joy. Surely, this was the greatest moment of his life. The Bakuran could not compare this to his homeworld, he could not compare it to the loss of his virginity, nor could he compare it to being in love.
This feeling was something greater, something that consumed his entire being. He staggered about, like a drunk in the early morning. The Emperor spoke as haggardly as he looked.
“Take us home.” He said.
The dim light of Adas faded to black in his eyes, as Thran lost consciousness. His lightsaber continued to burn brightly even as he fell to the ground. The Sith had worn himself to the bone defending the Clan. Every one of the Palpatines knew that, and that was the very reason they had accepted him. No one, in recent years, had given like he had. Arania saw him as another son and though he did not always act as he had been taught, he loved his people. He would be a marvelous Emperor.
Natthaniel nodded to the others. RevengeX, Phoenix, Vail, and Cuchulain all took a spot on his body. Cautiously they lifted the Emperor into the shuttle, laying their new brother on the bench.
Thran awoke hours later, gasping in shock as he regained his consciousness. The room around him was startling, as he hadn’t expected to see it. To his left, Arania was posed waiting for him to wake. He looked at her, confusedly. It was to be expected, they had dropped a bomb on the unprepared Consul.
“Good morning.” She said, brushing his overgrown hair from his eyes.
He couldn’t respond. He was still not sure that what had happened was reality. His eyes were devoid of the infectious and anemic yellow they had been occupied with. Arania had changed bodies, but he knew who she was by the subtle smile she’d shown him. He couldn’t help but smile, she made him feel comfortable.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“You woke up at the perfect time. We’re home. The People need you now, Emperor.” The matriarch said.
Thran couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew who she was. He could still barely see what she looked like. He sat up on the gurney, rubbing his hair. It had been cut while he was sleeping, to his preferred standard, short and curt. He looked at Arania, with the look of an Emperor; he had orders to give.
She pressed a button with a smile. Arania nodded to the Emperor, cueing him to speak.
“Clan Scholae Palatinae…I don’t have much to say to you right now…Just…Welcome home. Welcome home, Scholae Palatinae, Welcome Home.” The Emperor nodded to his sister, ending the transmission.
This war had boiled down to one thing, and Thran saw it perfectly. Through all the adversity and trouble, the clan had accomplished one thing; Unification. The Clan would no longer doubt their Sovereign, the Emperor. Timbal had brought trouble, the war had brought trouble, but in the end the Clan came out on top. Finally, the Clan was united. The goal was achieved; Unification.
The war was over and for the first time in years, the Empire seemed strong. It was not the Consul that brought the solidarity over the Clan, rather it was fate. Fate had set their victory long before the invasion had ever begun.
But now, the Clan stood united as they looked into promise of success. For the first time in years, they believed it. The pieces fit perfectly. The puzzle was complete. The mystery was solved. For once, everything was right.