Unification Run On
Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Justice
En route to the Antei System
The reasons don’t matter.
There was a good chance he would die this day. There was a good chance his Clan would die, yet all he could focus on was the fact that there was no purpose to this fight. The wounds left in the aftermath of Antei were no longer fresh. The thirst for vengeance was no longer seen in the eyes of every person he passed. Sarin had waited too long, had wasted too much time in plotting his attack for anyone to care about that dead planet and the secrets it held.
They would remain secrets whether Antei was reclaimed or not. A suicidal mission to appease the vain glory of a Grand Master… of a Sith. The Sith were far too proud to be leaders. They placed pride over lives and that was as pathetic as it was impractical, given the current state of the Galaxy. A true warrior would know when the fight is not worth pursuing. Now was one of those times.
"Lieutenant, how long until we revert to real space?" Hel-Pa hissed across the small, dark room. He was calm and composed on the surface, but Shadow could feel the ever-increasing disgust with this mission.
"Less than an hour, my Lord," came the prompt reply. The young officer stood stoically in the opposite corner of the room with his eyes focused on the datapad clutched in his fist. His eyes raced back and forth as new information was sent to him from the Justice’s bridge.
Shadow dismissed the man with a brief wave of his hand. With a curt bow, he spun towards the door and marched briskly from the room. The feeling of relief was almost palpable as the door closed shut behind him. Shadow turned back to the holographic projection depicting the Dark Council’s plan of attack. He could already see flaws in the plan. Relying on only the Council’s armed forces was ridiculous. Obviously, Sarin feared the Clans’ greed, and would rather they all die at Antei then risk the chance of someone usurping his throne.
"This is foolish,"Shadow seethed. "I can't believe they would agree to this." The 'they' he spoke of referred to Lords Cotelin and Katarn – two of Taldryan’s former Consuls, who were supposed to have more sense.
"Perhaps they see something you don’t." Hel-Pa offered. The future was an impenetrable mist to Shadow, but he had good instincts. His instincts told him this was bad.
"Maybe. Or maybe Sarin has infected them with his bloodlust. Who knows?"
Shadow sighed warily and sat himself down, motioning for the Tarasin to join him. With an outstretched hand, he tapped the console for a moment, opening up a comm-link with the rest of the Taldryan Summit. Bright, blue lights flickered into existence around the table as his Summit came online.
"Gentlemen," he began, "we are returning to Antei. The time has come for us to avenge our fallen brothers. We will avenge them by destroying the Yuuzhan Vong forces that drove us from the Brotherhood’s home." Lies. Lies would serve everyone better here. "We must be strong. We must be perfect." We must risk our lives for nothing. "We are less than an hour away from the Shroud. Get your Houses ready for combat."
"The Vong risked travel in the Shroud before, so expect a battle when we come out of hyperspace." Sklib’s raspy voice was neutral, but his movements were becoming excited. "Get all Jedi pilots to their fighters and inform your Commanders that our Elders will be relaying navigation information while we traverse the Shroud."
"I want final confirmation on every member’s location and task before we revert to sub-light speed." If they were to have any chance of success, he knew Taldryan would have to be at its very best. "We can’t trust the lesser Clans for anything, so keep your eyes open.
"Let’s go to war."
Back into hell.
En route to the Antei System
“But this coward would rather crawl into a corner and count his dead.”
Krath Priest Lokasena Corvinus sat alone in his quarters aboard the MJHC Compulsor. He thought back on the fiery discussions that had plagued his House of Ektrosis for the past weeks. Some had accused him of being a coward. Sena was used to this. The Krath were always viewed by the other orders as nothing more than intellectual puppets.
“If we try to reclaim Antei now, all we’ll do is count our dead!” Sena had replied to these statements. He knew his own courage and in his mind, giving up so much for something that was hardly mist by anymore, was a futile action. Perhaps they could reclaim the planet, but how many ships, how many lives would it cost? Victory, bought at such a price, was no victory at all. Even if the planet bore great secrets knowledge, the Vong could be outlasted eventually.
But that is not the reason why you’re here, is it? Sena thought to himself. No, it was not! His reason to reap havoc upon the Yuuzhan Vong, had nothing at all to do with property of star systems, planets or ships. His motives and agenda’s were far more personal.
It had been such a long time, but Corvinus could still see his lover’s face, every time he closed his eyes. The bond he had shared with Komari Vosa had been very strong. There had been many a true and noble Dark Jedi, to find a dark and cold grave in the airless void of space vacuum. This would be the time to stand up to the Vong.
The past weeks, he had seen the faces of his fellow Dark Jedi. Especially the Orders were easy to read. The Sith lusted for power and the expansion of their galactic dominion. The Obelisk craved for battle and had a desperate need to romanticize the deaths of so many loyal people. But Lokasena knew that there was nothing romantic about dying under the Amphistaff of a Yuuzhan Vong warrior. When the screaming and the dying and the fear and ultimate terror began, most people would run. Those were the moments were courage was born. Courage came forth out of a need of survival. Sometimes it meant running away, and sometimes it meant standing and fighting. Only time would tell what part would be his, in this brutal play. For now he would simply meditate, wondering, fearing, doubting.
Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Justice
En route to the Antei System
"Gentlemen, we are returning to Antei. The time has come for us to avenge our fallen brothers. We will avenge them by destroying the Yuuzhan Vong forces that drove us from the Brotherhood’s home."
“And ladies...” Alanna murmured, a small smile playing across her face as Taldryan’s Consul delivered his speech with evident distaste. The orders to return to Antei didn't seem to make tactical sense, but Taldryan had always had close links with the Dark Council (due in no small part to how many of its members ended up populating the Council’s ranks) and would support the decision. Alanna was certain there were reasons beyond simple revenge driving this assault, and she was equally sure that the clan summit hadn’t been given the full details. Such political understanding was common amongst any member of the Brotherhood who had survived within the ranks for any length of time. Such unspoken currents ran through much of the politics of the clans.
Personally, Alanna was glad to be returning. Antei was reassuringly familiar, and the abrupt decision to leave had been unpleasant. It would do the Brotherhood good to reclaim the system, although how many casualties would be suffered in doing so was something the Krath was not best placed to assess.
"I want final confirmation on every member’s location and task before we revert to sub-light speed."
Taking her cue, the Jedi Mistress caught her Consul’s eye.
“With your leave, I’ll organise a small number of my order to assist with navigation and battle meditation.” Shadow nodded agreement. “We’ll use the ante-chamber just off CIC, and I’ll return when we enter battle to coordinate our efforts with your command.” Alanna bowed and took her leave to find some able assistants.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Vindicator-Class Heavy Cruiser Honor
Hyperspace, En route to the Antei system
Andan Taldrya Marshall exited the turbolift to the flight deck of the Vindicator-class heavy cruiser Honor. It was one of Taldryan’s new acquisitions from the Fleet Modernization Project and Andan, a veteran of many years, still missed the old – if outdated – fleet. These ships hadn’t been properly broken in yet; they hadn’t seen the true carnage of war. True, they’d been through minor engagements but they had yet to see a full blown war. Andan could not say the same about himself. He’d been a member of the Dark Brotherhood for nearly two decades and he’d been involved in more wars than he cared to count. Battle was in his blood, it was something that he thrived on.
Before the Fall of Antei, he’d been a relatively unknown element within Clan Taldryan, operating behind the scenes and working directly for whichever Consul was in power at the time. He’d never been given an official position, but he was a sort of Shadow Hand – he was who the Consul sent when important jobs needed to be done quickly and quietly.
Everything had changed when Antei fell. Andan’s closest friend, and one of his few at the time, Taku Matsuki Taldrya had died providing a rear guard for Taldryan after Arcona had turned on their former allies. The rest of the clan had been able to flee to the Shroud and beyond, but Taku was overwhelmed by a large number of Vong. Duga, the Consul at the time, had asked Andan to step in to his friend’s role as Quaestor of House Archanis and Andan accepted, finally moving from a shadow agent to a household name within the clan.
Archanis had been closed following the war; Taldryan had sustained too many casualties to justify keeping three houses open. Andan, however, had been tapped for the position of Taldryan’s Clan Envoy. The position kept him on the Summit – in fact it was a promotion to Clan Summit, rather than House – and allowed him to help Taldryan by focusing on the training and education of its Journeymen. What Andan truly loved about the position was the freedom that it offered him in situations such as these. He essentially had the authority of a Clan Summit member, without being pinned down by a certain set of responsibilities – he was free to go where he was needed and do what was necessary without having to worry about leading a house.
A smile crossed his lips as he crossed the hanger deck and nodded to the Chief Petty Officer who greeted him. He would enjoy the coming battle more than he should; he still held a strong grudge against the Vong for killing his friend.
“My Lord,” The enlisted man said with a bow, “Hyperion Squadron is prepped for flight as you ordered.”
“Thank you,” Andan smiled, the chance to kill Vong had put him in a genuinely good mood. “These are the best fighters in the entire Brotherhood fleet and your crew makes sure that they stay that way.”
“Thank you, m’lord.” The man beamed, praise from a Dark Jedi was a rare thing and the crew took extreme pride when any was given. Usually they were happy enough to keep their lives.
Andan tucked his helmet under his arm and continued to walk toward his fighter, designated Hyperion Lead. He would be commanding the fighter screen that was to launch once they cleared the Shroud. His comm. beeped. Removing the device from a pocket on his flight suit, a blue image of Shadow appeared.
“Gentlemen, we are returning to Antei. The time has come for us to avenge our fallen brothers.” Andan’s smile grew at this remark, Shadow knew very well his feelings on this matter. “We will avenge them by destroying the Yuuzhan Vong forces that drove us from the Brotherhood’s home.”
Andan had his reservations about the tactical soundness of returning to Antei with so little data about their enemy’s condition, but it was not his place to question the Council’s orders, nor those of his Consul.
“I want final confirmation on every member’s location and task before we revert to sub-light speed.” Shadow finished.
Alanna, once the Krath High Priestess before the position became so useless that it was ultimately abandoned, offered to use her battle meditation. She wasn’t much of a fighter so the job was perfect for her, Andan nodded to himself. When she’d finished speaking Andan made his report. “I’m currently on board the Honor and will be launching as Hyperion Lead as soon as we revert. I can fly ahead of the task force and give advanced recon in the Shroud and then coordinate the fighter screen once we’re clear.” It was long, but to the point.
Comm. in hand, Andan climbed into his fighter and began his pre-flight. This was going to be a day to remember.
Enroute to Antei
His thoughts were like the transitory clouds of vapor, dust, and rocks that made up the shroud: impenetrable and scattered. He despised this mindset, it made working on anything nearly impossible. The dirty towel in his hand hung limp, draped over his over sized Light Saber hilt. Even the minor task of cleaning the weapon was too much while he drifted in and out of the realm of reality, into the Dark Side, into the Force, and into the ever changing images that were the future. His powers were not developed enough to the point where these images were ever clear, or accurate, but with patience, and time, he'd found that he could decipher a semblance of what it was he'd witnessed.
The visions came without warning these days, a sign that he was still under trained in the mental discipline it would take to master this art. He saw many things, mostly blurred, or moving too fast to see. His lekku, scarred with dark runes of Krath spells, twitched in aggravation. Show me Antei, show me how this will end! Feirfek! The visions ended, leaving him trained, sitting cross legged on the deck of his private room.
His chest rose and fell deeply as he regained his composure and recovered from the draining ordeal. He'd pushed too hard, and the Dark Side had nudged him away, denying him access to the images of that which was to come. He desperately wished to find see the outcome of this attack, he had a very mortal stake in it. Weeks earlier, when the invasion was but a whisper, he'd experienced a single, very clear vision, of himself dying.
It wasn't the fear of death that drove him now however, but rather, the feeling that his work was not yet finished, that if he were to die, that nothing would have changed, and his entire reason for being, uncompleted. It was that fear that drove him, and pushed him to find out how he could change, or prevent, this from ever happening.
Unlike the majority of the Clan Leadership, and the Clan itself he presumed, Vodo supported the Grand Master's invasion. Whereas many found it to be a cruel diversion, and a pointless waste of time and resources, Vodo recognized the value and importance of the Brotherhood's home and ancestral base of power. History defined the present, and without its history, without the symbol of the Iron Throne, the Clans were nothing more than a loosely conglomerated association of Dark Side magicians. However, with Antei, with the Grand master seated on his royal dais, the Clans became the inheritors of a noble and ancient tradition, moving forward to the day when as a whole, they could strike down the forces of the Light, and bring order to the Galaxy.
It was hard to pound this point through the skulls of military men however. Men like the Quaestor of Dinaari were former Pilots or Officers, and thought in very rigid, defined terms. There was no place for history on a battlefield except for what it could tell you about how to kill your enemy. There existed no such concept as heritage and purpose to these men.
"Quaestor Biask to the Bridge, Biask to the Bridge", the in house PA chimed, rousing him from his thoughts.
"Understood." He rose to his feet and tossed the greasy rag in his hand to the bunk and clipped his weapon to his belt.
BAC Dark Prophet II
En route to the Antei System
Prelate Vladet Xavier adjusted the boxy life support unit attached to the front of his TIE flight suit and ran a systems test. After a few seconds a green light flashed three times indicating nominal operation. If the Rebel pilots had one advantage over us it was this. Unlike their TIE pilot counterparts, Rebel pilots didn't need to be in a fully enclosed flight suit and helmet as their cockpit was sufficient to sustain life. After a while one would get used to wearing such a bulky flight suit and helmet but it was still irritating every time Vladet put one on. It didn't help matters that he was about to engage in what was essentially a suicide mission, something he didn't have to do since his days back in the Imperial Navy. At least my Defender has an ejection seat. Let's hope I don't have to use it ...
Sighing, the young Equite grabbed a DH-17 blaster pistol from the ready room's weapon rack and strapped it into his leg holster. Looking over himself one last time, Vlad grabbed a TIE helmet and started walking towards the Dark Prophet's hangar bay. Normally the Clan's Jedi would not be on-call for emergencies but Vladet figured since the chance of death was high he wanted to be around to improve his survival odds. As he walked towards the hangar several other TIE pilots joined him from other ready rooms.
"Is something wrong, sir?" asked one of the pilots, looking concerned. "Normally you Jedi aren't on on emergency standby."
Vladet sighed and shook his head. "Just being cautious. Besides, I'm better in a cockpit than on the bridge so I may as well make myself useful." Plus I'd rather control my own fate than die doing nothing on the ship. "Besides, I figure you guys would feel a little bit better flying with a Jedi ... not that I can detect Vong through the Force now that I mention it," Vlad said, trying to contain the bitterness in his voice.
Another pilot gestured at the flight wings attached to the Prelate's suit. "Doesn't hurt that you've been doing this for a while, either."
"True," Vlad said, grinning. The flight wings were the only visible connection he still retained to his days in the Imperial Navy. Typically only worn on a dress uniform, he thought they looked sharp on his black TIE flight suit. "Those were the good days, back when this galaxy had some order and we didn't have planet-transforming aliens invading it."
"You sound bitter," said the third pilot bluntly. "Clearly you don't agree with this assault on Antei, sir."
"You won't find many that do around here, Lieutenant." As the pilots walked into the Prophet's hanger they watched winches lower a flight of TIE Defenders from the ceiling. Shields, warheads, and capable of entering hyperspace. Not all change is bad, I guess. "But still, we follow orders regardless of how we feel." Vladet turned towards the pilots and gave them a stern look. "Remember that."
Nodding, each pilot left for their respective Defender. Vlad climbed up his respective ladder and dropped himself into his Defender's cockpit in one swift motion. Flicking some switches, the cockpit sealed itself as Vlad fastened and secured the TIE helmet onto his suit. It would take several minutes for the starfighter to power-up and run through its system safety checks, leaving the Prelate alone with his thoughts.
Such a stupid move, he thought bitterly. Sacrificing so much for an old hall and sentimental memories. We're better off finding a new secret homeworld and letting the Galactic Alliance finish off whatever Vong foolishly choose to remain in the galaxy. The Alliance had just re-taken Coruscant from the Vong and were beginning to stabilize the galaxy from the Vong's campaign of terror. It's only a matter of time before things get back to normal. The Vong had spread themselves too thin to effectively keep their holdings safe. These Vong at Antei should just be left alone ... they'll die off eventually.
Various monitors within the Defender's cockpit began displaying data and green indicator lights began to stay lit instead of blink. Yet the Dark Council sees fit to waste valuable personnel and equipment to re-take this system. What a waste. Even if we do retake Antei with minimal losses I guarantee all this activity will attract some unwanted attention. It's only a matter of time before someone else in the galaxy starts investigating, and when that happens ...
Three short beeps sounded throughout the cockpit indicating that the Defender was fully powered up and ready for flight. Putting the starfighter into standby mode, all Vladet could do was wait to see if anything interesting would happen.
Enroute to Antei
The large Twi’lek strode onto the bridge of the powerful vessel, the corner of his eye catching a glint of emerald. His focus remained forward however, making eye contact with the man who stoold ram-rod straight.
“Commodore”, the Archpriest called out, “you asked to see me?”
“Yes sir, we are about to drop back into realspace”.
On cue there was a slight shudder beneath their feet as they reverted from hyperspace, a swirling mass of energy and darkness filling their view. Looking to his side the Ektrosis Quaestor caught the eyes of the Dark Jedi Master, a nod coming from the human as he moved briskly to the front of the bridge. Leaning against the bulkhead, Halcyon looked out at the view before him, focusing himself as he waited for what was to come.
Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Justice
Outer-edges of The Shroud
“Report”, the commanding voice rang out to his subordinates.
“Sir, we have multiple contacts entering The Shroud. Transponder codes indicate they are Scholae Palatinae vessels, sir.”
“Good, the cannon fodder is in”, Hel-Pa hissed from behind the Vice-Admiral, a small grin appearing on the older human’s lips before resuming his stoic expression. He moved from station to station, confirmations rolling in from the vessels arrayed behind them. Satisfied he turned to face his leader.
“Consul, the Fleet is ready for your orders”.
Let’s get this over with, Shadow muttered to himself, taking a deep breath before nodding at the communications officer to open a channel to all vessels
“Taldryan, we are about to enter The Shroud. You know what is expected of you. Do not let each other down”.
Another nod and the officer stopped communications. Each member of the crew knew their role, the Elder being no different. Hands clenched at his side he peered out the viewport, pushing his revulsion over what they were doing and focusing inwards at what had to be done.
Ever so slightly the vessel moved forward, the rest of the Taldryan fleet arrayed behind its flagship. Shadow could feel the handful of others mirroring his own actions. Only they could truly navigate The Shroud, their own senses crossing with one another, creating an overlapping field of navigation.
Traversing The Shroud
The Archpriest’s arms were crossed, looking at the back of the Elder’s head, trying to visualize what The Shroud was to one with their vision. Surrounding him was the low-level buzz of worker’s keeping themselves busy. The clicks and whirrs of computers hummed along, his eyes flickering to the various screens arrayed around him. All he could do was stare at the view, as his lekku twitched every so slightly.
Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Justice
The sensation of the Brotherhood's Elders all united to guide the Dark Council's fleet was quite overwhelming for the Proconsul. There'd only been one instance where he'd felt so engulfed by the Force and so at one with his Clansmen. Spearheading the Taldryan fleet through the Shroud to Antei, the Justice was truly an imposing vessel. Sklib had no doubt the Taldryan fleet rivalled that of the Council's any day, but now was no time to stage a coup. There was a task at hand and the Battlemaster stood no chance against the Dark Jedi Master leading Taldryan should he disobey is orders.
For what the Consul held in pure combat power and finesse, he clearly lacked in his knowledge of the Force. Always at the bare minimum in terms of knowledge of the Force, if there was one way Shadow could be defeated, it was with that same Force usage. Luckily for Taldryan and the rest of the Brotherhood, the Yuuzhan Vong were not capable of using the Force and Shadow's characteristics matched up perfectly against what the Brotherhood needed. A warrior through and through.
Breaking his moment of thought, the Tarasin shook his head and refocused his attention on the swarm of officers and enlisted alike working frantically to make the minute calculations necessary in navigating the Shroud. A well-oiled machine, the men of the Taldryan military were, and always would be, the finest in the Brotherhood.
Too many had been lost in the Incursion nearly two years ago. The outdated vessels the Clans operated may have had something to do with it, but the complete surprise of the Vong attack had caught everyone off guard. Men like Taku Matsuki gave their life defending the Clan, and it was men like them that would never be forgotten. Lord Sarin ensured they would never die in vain.
“Proconsul Sklib, sir,” a Captain called out, “we're making good progress through the Shroud. No losses as of yet.”
“Very well, good work,” he coolly replied with a voice devoid of emotion or conscious.
The Final Way was once again in sight, and he would ensure he was ready.
“Taldryan, we are about to enter The Shroud. You know what is expected of you. Do not let each other down”.
The Consuls orders rang over the comm and the Captain turned nodded in the direction of Sharad Taldrya Hett and Sidarace Rathden. The two returned the gesture, Sidarace running a hand over the sleek cylinder by his hip, taking a deep breath as he did so. "Put Shields to double front," came the rough voice of the Captain, handing out orders to his subordinates. The low hum of the shields began to override the steady noise of the engine.
The Corellian Gunship's display consoles were erupting with blips from other vessels surrounding The Shroud as the Flamewind followed suit entering the shroud. The two Obelisk stood side by side, each with their arms folded across their chests. The Aedile's eyes flashed from the green blip in the center of the radar panel to the large blue blip labeled the Justice, Sidarace taking note that the Justice was moving, and the Flamewind was not. "How much longer until we begin to proceed into the Shroud, Captain?" Came the low voice of Sidarace, gray eyes looking straight ahead at his display board. "We are awaiting on the Orthanc to enter the Shroud, Sir, I will let you know if anything changes." Sidarace nodded, turning to face his Obelisk Elder, his bald head reflecting the array of lights flashing across the panel in front of them.
The Knight's anxiousness was far from obvious, Sharad made note as he surveyed his counterpart, his red eyes piercing through Sidarace's. "Relax, young Knight, you are with Taldryan. We will not fail." The words came in the form of an order, but Sidarace relished the Elders wisdom.
Sidarace felt a soft lurch from under his feet, immediately turning to the Captain, "Status?" The Captain turned around, his eyes flashed with a glint of excitement as he spoke, "We are moving, Sir. Be prepared to brace yourselves, I am not sure how this will turn out." He ended his speech with a nod to Sidarace, and a even lower nod to Sharad.
The Lieutenant turned back to his console and began to usher out more orders as they began their decent, "Prepare to power up batteries upon my command."
Traversing The Shroud
The blue skies above the ocean of tranquillity that represented Lokasena’s calm mind, were suddenly covered with great rain clouds. A harsh wind rose and the sea which had been perfectly smooth and undisturbed, was now filled with ever growing waves with foamy tips.
Something was disturbing his meditations and he had a good idea what it might be. Opening his eyes, he got up from his seated position on his bunk. He Picked up the sheath that held his Mormegill. Unsheathing the weapon, Sena held its razor sharp edge up to the light.
“Yes, my old friend. To day you will taste blood and feast upon all the sweetbreads our enemy has to offer.”
Corvinus clasped the sheath to his sash, above his left hip and returned the black blade to its resting place. Next he picked up his new Lightsaber. It was certainly a thing of beauty, rewarded to him for joining the ranks of Equites as a Priest. He did not need to check if this weapon was sharp. Attaching the weapon to his sash above his right hip, Sena felt an air of confidence come over him. He grabbed his cloak and wrapped himself init, the hood covering his head far enough to hide his face.
“Time to offer my services to the powers that be, at least on this ship.”
He mused to himself while walking out the door of his quarters. The Compulsor was a magnificent vessel. Just walking around, gave one an idea of the ship’s power. Sena hoped that all these resources would not go lost in the upcoming storm. The crewmen, he passed in the corridors, were all very polite and respectful. Sena hardly acknowledged them. He found outdated military customs, such as saluting, quite meaningless. After all, the broader the smile, the bigger the knife.
As he came to the bridge, Sena’s eyes recognised his two clan mates. Being in the presence of an elder still moved Corvinus to caution, but not as much as it had once done. He was only a Priest, but he had earned his stripes in battle. He knew that Vodo and Halcyon recognised that fact. He could also see the Darkness of the Shroud, which had disrupted his meditations.
Vodo turned around to face Lokasena, as the tall Krath walked towards him. Seeing that the Priest was almost completely covered by his cloak, Vodo smiled.
“I know space is cold, but not so much as to hide you flair for the dramatic, Priest.”
Two large hands came out from under the cloak and threw back the hood, revealing the always calm visage of the Ektrosis Champion.
“I am here to serve, my Lords. I am ready to do your will, though I should caution you, I am a terrible pilot.”
Vodo heard to almost in audible tone of humour in Sena’s voice. The Twi’lek was certain he could find something fitting for Corvinus’ particular talents.
Traversing The Shroud
Keirdagh leaned back and let another sigh slip from his lips. This was not his ship. The Fury was a good ship, to be sure, it wasn't one of the newest designs, nor one of the newest ships in Taldryan's impressive armada, and he could feel the strength in her bones. She was a ship with history, and that history gave her a proud bearing. But she was not his ship. His ship had been destroyed by the freaks, nearly two years past. Despite being offered quarters on the Dark Prophet II, Keirdagh refused. It wasn't his ship either; it just had it's name.
He could feel the concentration of the other members of Taldryan, as they pressed themselves to focus their skills on traversing the Shroud... it wasn't as though he didn't have to try himself, but the years he had spent in the space lanes, the years spent roaming the galaxy since retiring from active service gave him enough confidence to know that leading the Fury's pilot through the Shroud would not tax him as it would some. He felt the invitation of the Battle Meditations reaching out from his friends in Taldryan, could feel their concentration, their misgivings, and their anger at the return to Antei. Some would decry the move as motivated by pride, some would feel that it was greed... they didn't understand as Keirdagh did.
It was home. You don't abandon your home, not while you still have the strength to defend it.
Feeling the Fury slip into formation behind the Justice, Keirdagh sent the impression through the force to Shadow that he and the Fury were ready for the voyage.
Keirdagh sighed again. It wasn't his ship. It wasn't his home.
Traversing the Shroud
In one of its quieter corners, Vardar, having recently arrived, exited his ship and swiftly made his way through the hangar. His mind, racing with antecipation as it was, left him with a disconnected feeling. Something that made him feel that those around him would merely perceive a shadow, or a set of walking black robes.
As the blast doors to the turbolift behind him closed, so did the noise of the ongoing preparations cease and he took a moment to calm himself. He closed his eyes and pulled back his hood, letting his hair flow to his shoulders. He could feel some of his old friends on the bridge drawing ever nearer as the turbolift started slowing down.
The doors opened and the heavy thuds of his boots against the metallic floor as he walked across the room made several people turn and look at the human now joining the other dark jedi.
"I see your punctuality hasn't changed." Vodo Biask said, never looking away from space.
Vardar half-smiled as he looked at Lokasena Corvinus and both ackowledged each other with a slight nod. "I am here, though. We have yet to be informed as to what Battle Team Phoenix's role will be in this battle. I thought it best to ask you directly. Archpriest. Master." he stated calmly, looking at both his superiors in turn.
"Impatience is so like you." Vodo replied, glancing at the Battlemaster, his stare stopping for but a moment on his newly-acquired neck scar.
"I must confess, Archpriest." Lokasena started "I am also curious as to what we will be doing."
"I'm not sure what I can openly discuss with you, perhaps it would be best to ask the Commodore."
Halcyon Rokir, who had, for the good part of their conversation, been staring at space turned around and faced the dark jedi currently present on the bridge. "I will make an announcement shortly. For now, you should prepare your vessels and yourselves for battle. Be sure to tell that to any other clansmen you may encounter on your way to the hangar or your personal quarters as there are quite enough people on this bridge as is. You may dismiss your men, Archpriest." he said with a tone which made it seem more like an order than a permission.
Vodo Biask turned to the portion of Phoenix there present "Make your way to the hangar and prepare yourselves. Make sure you're ready when the final orders come through."
Both soldiers bowed slightly and walked towards the turbolift. As the doors closed and they looked at the bridge, they saw their House leader turn and stand by the present commander.
"Well.. I guess we're all playing with the big boys now. Somehow, it makes me feel.. less old." Vardar said speaking to Lokasena for the first time.
"It's time to take back Antei once and for all. It's understandeable the way they want everything to go exactly according to plan. Whatever that plan is.." Lokasena said with a slight smile.
"You think Vodo was holding out on us just then? Maybe he really couldn't divulge any specifics.." Vardar said once again looking at the lights moving upwards as the lift descended to the hangar.
"I'm really not sure." Lokasena replied. Vardar wasn't certain but just then, he could have sworn the Priest mimicked the sound of a whip.
Traversing the Shroud
Vice-Admiral Raif Slaxton had served Clan Taldryan for many years. He'd been there for nearly all of the various campaigns they had fought, and worked his way up from being the Executive Officer on one of the Clan's smallest Warships, to being the military commander in charge of the Clan's flagship, the Cotelin class Destroyer Justice. He could see some of the younger crewers in the pits around him, looking jittery at the prospect of traversing this mythic shroud. Being the purely military man that he was, he didn't put much stock in the Force, and it's mystical powers, but his experience had taught him not to ignore something, simply because he didn't understand it, and he also knew that getting his Fleet through the spacial anamolies of the Shroud would be impossible, if he didn't have the help of the Jedi he had on board.
He had always held a keen respect for the Jedi that was guiding his pilot through the Shroud now, the warrior known as Shadow. Shadow's gruff, no-nonsense attitude had been something that he found extremely refreshing, from his stand point. There was only so much philosophy and plotting that a lifetime navy man could handle after all. This mission, as had been explained to him by the Brotherhood's Fleet Commander, was one that he didn't understand completely. He had been told that the Brotherhood's fleet expected a terrible amount of loss to return to what was essentially, a barren world devoid of any purpose in the war effort against these Vong interlopers. But then, not many of the orders he recieved in his time with Taldryan had made any tactical sense to him, and those same orders had brought him to view some of the most spectacular victories he'd ever experienced.
The sight of a Lieutenant approaching him from the crew pit made him leave his reverie, and focus on the matters at hand once more. "Sir, we have a communication from the Fury. Captain Plaso is awaiting your convenience." Taking his seat in the Captain's chair on the bridge, he swung the holo-plate in front of him and accepted the transmission. "What can I do for you Captain?"
Plaso, a gruff man with little use for pleasantries jumped straight to the point. "Sir, our formation is all out of keeping with standard deployment orders. You're taking an unnecessary risk leading the fleet through the Shroud."
"Your objections are understood Captain, but we have our reasons." Pulling up a manifest of guests stationed on the Fury, Slaxton began to guess at the source behind the objection. "Inform Master Cantor that once we have cleared the Shroud, we will be assessing the tactical situation. Our fighter screen will be enough to protect us from any initial starfighter threats, and the Lancers will be tasked with keeping our sterns clear."
Deciding he had no desire to deal with yet another Jedi's ego, he decided to end the conversation on that note. "Carry on Captain, Justice out."
Traversing the Shroud
Keirdagh watched as the Captain of the Fury was dismissed summarily from the conversation. Normally Slaxton was much more congenial with his officers than that. Interesting. "Captain?" he inquired.
"I get the impression that the Admiral has had enough questioning of Orders for the day, Master Cantor."
"Yes, so it would seem." replied Keirdagh in an oily voice. "It would appear that the Jedi are not the only one being kept in the dark about the Clans plan on our triumphant return to Antei." Loose lips, it was said, spaced ships. There was something to be said about plans being kept secret, but Keirdagh had never liked being kept out of the loop. "Captain, order my personal X-Wing to be prepared for launch once we've cleared the shroud. I have a Consul to talk to."
BAC Dark Prophet II
Traversing the Shroud
Rear Admiral Shalla Arundel paced the bridge of the Assault Cruiser. The view from the Bridge was staggering. A long time naval officer, she’d seen many stellar formations and phenomena, but the Shroud surrounding Antei never ceased to awe her. Unlike many nebulous clouds, the Shroud was mostly devoid of color, minus rare specks of gold and rust red in the distance.
“Captain Egcers, come about to this new heading, bring us in behind the Compulsor if you would”, She tapped out the information on a nearby console.
“Aye aye, coming about to new heading”, the Dark Prophet II’s Captain relayed the information to the helm.
“Master Arkarso, please relay this information to Compuslor and Justice commands”, Shalla walked past the man, a former Consul of the Clan, “Lieutenant Gammel, launch Stalker Squadron.”
Duga Taldrya Arkarso nodded so slightly it might not have been seen if she hadn’t been paying attention. The Jedi were very powerful, she’s seen first hand the exploits of which others only ever heard stories, and had no doubt in her mind their ability to navigate the Shroud, even when her own ship’s sensors could not. It was not to be said however that she liked the arrangement. They were not subordinate to her command, and existed nebulously in their own vague command structure accountable to men with little to no tactical or strategic experience.
“Rear Admiral, Compulsor and Justice acknowledge”, Duga’s voice was monotone, reflecting his concentration in the Force.
Outside the ship, the relative position of the ship visible ahead of the Bothan Assault Cruiser could be seen shifting to the right as the Dark Prophet II moved left.
Traversing the Shroud
There were few craft Vladet Xavier would rather pilot. The TIE Defender combined the best elements of the Empire’s tactical experience, the Rebellion’s success with shielded craft, and the Chiss’s inventive designs. It was nimble, so unlike the Assault Gunboats he’d frequently flown in his early career. His element of three Defenders circled the bulk of the Dark Prophet II, followed by the three other elements that made up the Squadron of twelve fighters.
Vigilant for surprise enemy attack, his thoughts drifted back to the last time he’d seen this damned mass of Dark Side infused planetary dust. The clan was still reeling from the loss of two long time leaders and dedicated warriors, Crix Matsuki Taldrya and Syn Kaek (later restored to life through a process he could admit he didn’t fully understand). The Yuuzahn Vong surprise attack had caught the Brotherhood with its members assembled for an Award ceremony, and the first Dark Prophet had been destroyed as it protected the retreat of the Brotherhood’s clans. Again, they’d been attacked as they entered the shroud, but not this time.
It came as a complete surprise however when a dark mass materialized from the black of the Shroud over the Compulsor, directly ahead of his position. He could immediately identify the shape as a Yuuzhan Vong Cruiser-Analog. He throttled aggressively and juked hard, bringing himself and his wing mates on an intercept course.
Traversing the Shroud
Sharp pricks traveled down Sithspawn Taldrya’s spine, a familiar sign of the Force alerting his danger senses. He rapidly looked over the small command bridge of the VT-49, but found no heightened stress levels or blaring alarms. Standing next to the forward view plate, his view returned to space, and it quickly became apparent what had caused the warning. His mental concentration was nearly broken, and with it, the meld which linked him to the other Elders of the clan.
The Ship’s CO turned in his command chair and was confronted with the same sight, “Fierfek… All hands, battle stations, ready weapons”
Returning to his composure, Sithspawn returned to the meld.
You seem agitated, what is it? Halcyon Rokir questioned.
Cruiser-Analog, over the Justice, grid 5, anti-planetward of your position, he responded quickly, alerting Shadow who in turn raised the alarm on the Justice.
Keirdagh Taldrya interrupted the sudden slew of tactical information being shared, Its no good Shadow! Brace for impact, its coming down!
Sithspawn opened his eyes to see the Matalok crash down across the Justice’s upper hull plates, the energy mostly redirected through the Drestroyer’s powerful shields. The Yuuzhan Vong ship deflated and cracked in various places, rather than breaking as one would expect the cruiser-strength ship to do. It appeared more spongy than solid.
Shadow? Seraine Tenama inquired carefully.
I’m here, we’re here. Shields holding. What’s going on, anyone got a read on our situation?
You look fine, what’s going on? Betja Jun interjected
Shadow exerted a careful calm through the meld, All ships, battle stations. Launch fighters until we can be certain that there isn’t another cruiser waiting to do the same thing again.
Traversing the Shroud
Nexusmage rested in his quarters awaiting whatever orders the commanding infrastructure might send him. He had been sitting there for days, just watching the spots on the wall of his room expand and contract. It was quite disappointing that he had to leave his exquisite pleasures to come on this boring adventure, but it had to be done. It had to be done just like two years ago…
Two years ago
Taldryan's Pimping Party
The night was growing younger by the second, and the drinks were growing colder by the minute. Way too many clothes were being worn at this point of the night in Taldryan’s hall, but that was bound to change. A grim faced Shadow slowly approached the table where Nex was drinking from a brown bottle. Shadow whispered to the young man “It has to be done…”
A moment of fear passed over the young Priest’s eyes as the realization struck him. “No, never, never!” Then he realized that if he didn’t go it would all be over, his poor life was flashing before his eyes like a strobe light. Then he looked towards the ground and nodded in consent. Shadow arose with elegant majesty and walked towards the back door of the hall. Nexus followed him wearily into the next room, it was completely barren for all except an old wooden table. The door slammed mystically shut.
Traversing the Shroud
He gave a cold, grim smile and ran his hand through his hair as the memory flooded over him. Yes, it is time for war once again. Suddenly sirens sounded all around his head, in the halls. The sirens flooded him with images of glory long past. Nexus had long ago forgotten the sweet nectar of the kill, the splendor that could be gained from trumping over his enemies. He had been lost in the sugary void of lust, that place where all his dark dreams were a reality. Another thought crossed his mind. Maybe after this battle even greater vices could be had. He leisurely dressed in his tunic, his robe as memories of past battles flooded his vision. His Bryar pistol which had served him so well over the years was tucked into its place, beside his lightsaber. Every sense around him was heightened as the feelings before a fight flooded his entire being.
Vindicator Cruiser Honor
Traversing the Shroud
Erinyes rose from the desk in her temporary quarters aboard the Honor. Shadow's warning of an attack concerned her - suicide tactics were nothing new for the Vong, she knew, and the possibility of their enemies using damaged hulks as a trap was uppermost in her mind. Erinyes quickly exited her quarters, pulling a comlink from her belt as she proceeded down the corridors to the bridge.
The CIC aboard the Honor was bustling with activity; the bridge of one of Taldryan's fighter carriers was never a quiet place, and even less so with the alert that had been raised by the Consul. Erinyes soundlessly strode over to the ship's captain. "Commodore, what's our status?"
"Our sensor crews haven't picked up anything out of the ordinary," Commodore Saiff Hessen said, shaking his head slightly. "Of course, the Justice barely picked anything up before they were rammed, so that's not much of a confidence booster. We have Katarn Squadron scouting the area to make sure there aren't any more surprises."
Erinyes nodded. "Thank you, Commodore." After receiving a nod in return, the Dark Adept made her way to a communications console - the Commodore was more than capable, and she saw no reason to hover oer him and interrupt his preparations. Instead, she opened a line to the Justice. "This is Dark Adept Ténama aboard the Honor. Advise Master Alanna that I'll be preparing to begin my battle meditation."
Traversing the Shroud
Sena knew of Vodo’s ability to withhold information from his subordinates. He clearly remembered the Library of Lears incident, where he had directly confronted the man and accused him of lying. Hel-Pa Sklib had witnessed the whole ordeal. That all seemed so long ago, now.
Today, things were much different. Lokasena was certainly aware of special security precautions during war time. But as a matter of trust, it was most definitely an obstacle. Vardar and Lokasena had faith in Vodo’s abilities to lead them through the storm. They were not so sure, however, of the Grand Master’s intentions.
Not having Taldryan’s own forces on this mission was… disconcerting, to say the least. Lokasena was a soldier, but he had fought at Vardar’s side often and he could tell that his friend was not exactly pleased with the situation, either.
“Do you expect trouble?” Sena asked his friend.
“Expect trouble, Sena! And maybe, just maybe, you’ll never be surprised by the enemy.” Vardar had replied.
A wise state of mind. But could one truly expect the unexpected? What if the reached Antei and the planet would be crawling with Yuuzhan Vong. What if they had severely reinforced their position on the planet? What if they had found the secret powers of the planet? What if they had become unstoppable?
Lokasena pressed those thoughts from his mind. Such thoughts were hardly constructive and he needed his wits about him.
As soon as they excited the Shroud, all question would be answered. But Sena’s gut was still churning. A shadow and a threat grew in his mind. Try as he may, he could not imagine how this could possibly end well for Taldryan, or the Brotherhood.
Vindicator Class Heavy Cruiser Honor
Traversing the Shroud
As he passed down the corridor, Gobhainn Sgath didn’t pay any attention to the naval staff that quickly cleared an aisle before him, pressing themselves against the walls to avoid him. He didn’t really see them anyways; they were beneath his notice. But he heard them.
The Sith Warrior had heard the mumbling and the whispers. He had heard the from both the mundane military forces, which was to be expected, and from some of the Jedi of the Brotherhood, which should not be happening.
Sarin waited too long...
Why waste lives and resources?...
Why reclaim that dead rock?...
Gobhainn Sgath couldn’t understand them. Those that whispered should understand that this is about more than revenge.
Yes, revenge was part of it, but only part; the Clans needed a Focii. A place to turn their eyes to for guidance or for aggression. As it was they were scattered, each seeking the goals of their own, weakening each other and making power grabs. That is where the resources were being wasted. Even Taldryan had done so; it had begun with the closing of Archanis to bolster Ektrosis and Dinaari. They needed Antei to focus their strength or else the Brotherhood would shatter and the Clans would destroy each other and themselves.
Oh, Taldryan would survive. We always did, but then It would be just us against the galaxy and in a weakened state. Not the best of situations, not in the least.
Also, their place in the galaxy had been usurped. The Brotherhood was not bothered by the various factions of the galaxy because of their strength. Yet the Yuuzhan Vong had arrived and shattered that strength in one blow. If the Brotherhood did not reclaim that power and smash the interlopers, than they would be perceived as weak and more incursions would follow. The Brotherhood had to demonstrate to the galaxy that no one, NO ONE, stole from them and walked away.
As for Antei being a dead rock, of course it was. It was one of the strongest nexuses of the Dark Side any where in the galaxy. There was power there, power and knowledge; some sources lost, some recently discovered and others yet to be uncovered. If the Brotherhood did not claim that power someone else would whether or not they could actually use it.
Yes, though, revenge was part of it. Crix had died there along with many others and the hulks of many ships that had once been part of a mighty fleet now floated dead in that system and the Vong had yet to pay. Now, they would have to pay, in their blood.
These were Sgath’s thoughts as he passed through the hangar bay hatch. Ahead lay the pilots’ ready room. It was time to change into his flight suit. As he entered the ready room he saw that Ace was there and ready combat helm under his arm.
“Ready for this, Gob?” the young Knight asked.
Gobhainn ground his teeth at the accursed nickname but let it pass. Ace was decent pilot and a good fighter, even if he had not developed his Force sensitivity enough to pilot in the Shroud yet.
“More than” The Warrior replied. “We’ll be taking a TIE/Scimitar out. You’ll be my bombadier. Andan and two others will be leading various type of fighters out to patrol the fleet while we’re in the Shroud and to be ready to engage when we exit. Our task is to stay with the fleet but to be ready if we encounter anything while still in the shroud. You and I have to be ready to strike at anything big that approaches the fleet.”
Ace’s eyes widened and he went slightly pale. During the Incursion, very few of the bombers that had attacked the Vong capital ships ever made it back.
Gobhainn saw the younger mans reaction an clapped his hand on Ace’s shoulder.
“Remember, We been through this before and we know their weaknesses now. We’ll do what we have to and I’ll treat you to a bottle of Tamurian ale when we get back. Now go and make sure the deck crew loads that Scimitar with heavy rockets; since we have to get up close and personal with the Vong, let’s give them something with a kick. I’ll be ready in a few moments.”
Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Justice
Traversing the Shroud
Shadow sank into the nearest chair, glad to be rid of the burden of guiding the Justice through the intricate maze of the Shroud. Clarity was quickly returning to his mind and with it, focus. His thoughts turned towards the unexpected revelation that they had been wholly unprepared for: the Vong were dead. They had encountered numerous vessels in the Shroud, but not a single one had moved to attack. None had shown scars of battle or any obvious damage. They were just dead. What this could mean to the Grand Master’s plans for Antei, he could not fathom, but surely whatever had destroyed the Vong would have captured the planet as well.
“Master Taldrya,” a sharp voiced pierced his reflection, “we’re being hailed by the Nightfall.”
“Put it on screen.” Some answers, perhaps.
“Sir, the message is marked private.”
Shadow growled to himself in annoyance. “I’ll receive it in my quarters. Admiral, I want this entire fleet prepared for anything. Anything.” If something had been powerful enough to wipe out the Vong, it would surely be powerful enough to wipe out the Brotherhood’s fleet.
“At once my Lord,” the Admiral’s fist came up in brief salute before he turned to his who were already scurrying to follow the implied commands. Shadow nodded his head towards Hel-Pa then moved towards the opened blastdoors.
[center]* * *[/center]
He stood alone atop an outcropping of blackened rock, watching the soldiers assigned to Taldryan execute their assigned tasks with ruthless efficiency. Interspersed amongst the rank-and-file where his own soldiers – Dark Jedi ranging from mere Apprentices, to venerable Masters of the Dark Side, all prepared to lay down their lives for Antei. The events following their exit from the Shroud had transpired far too fast for Shadow’s liking. In an instant all the Brotherhood’s well-layed plans, all their training and preparation - completely useless. Sarin’s orders had nonetheless been swift: invade and re-take Antei.
Taldryan had been one of the first to land safely on the planet, and had spent hours defending the landing zone for the other Clans to make their descent. The fighting had been fierce, but relatively mundane compared to their original expectations. The taint of the Vong had been wiped away completely, and in its place a company of Jedi and their droid army. Shadow was glad, in a way, for Jedi provided a much more interesting and entertaining enemy. The Vong had been too single-minded, too obsessed with their religious doctrines. Plus, he thought to himself, sometimes during a fight one needs to hear witty banter. Jedi were perfect for banter.
Now free of guarding the gate, Taldryan and the 2nd Battalion, 2nd infantry division were moving quickly southeast. They had met several pockets of resistance, but so far, nothing more than a mere annoyance to slow them down. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case for long. The scouts were returning to their impromptu camp. He could feel the Major’s mood shift as the intelligence was relayed to him. He’ll send another minion to me, Shadow mused. Major Japla Doorna had delegated the task of reporting to the Consul, and had so far been successful in avoiding any face-to-face confrontations. Shadow was amused. The man obviously did not like working with Jedi. Maybe just Taldryan Jedi.
Shadow’s gaze shifted downwards as a young officer – a Lieutenant according to his rank insignia – timidly approached the bottom of the rock protrusion. Rather than waiting, the Consul jumped over the side, using the Force to slow his fall, and landed with a soft thud next to the startled officer. He had only been twenty feet up.
“Lieutenant, what does the Major have to say?” Shadow nonchalantly brushed some dust from his tunic, observing Doorna as he assembled his men.
“Master Jedi,” the man had quickly overcome his sense of astonishment, “the scouts report that there is a large enemy encampment roughly three kilometres south of our current position.” He paused briefly to assess his datapad. “The outpost has moderate defences, but the Major thinks it’s worth taking.”
“And what does Doorna plan to do?”
“Major Doorna believes your Jedi should strike first and draw their fire, while we move into position. He thought your … men would have little trouble with this,” the Lieutenant looked up questioningly.
Shadow was silent a moment, weighing the possibilities to see if what the Major asked was feasible. They had yet to encounter any Force-sensitive opposition, but a well-defended camp would surely have a few Jedi lurking about. He didn’t like being separated from his own soldiers. He couldn’t trust these to work well enough with his Clan, let alone fight Jedi Knights. They appeared competent, but even now Shadow could feel resentment emanating from most of the men. Soldiers always seemed to have trouble separating the Jedi they had to kill from the Jedi they were serving.
“Well,” he said finally, thinking aloud, “that’s true enough, but I’m not sure such a ploy will work if the encampment has any concentration of enemy Jedi.”
“The Major said they would be no match for the Jedi of Taldryan. Is that not so?” Mockery.
Shadow suppressed the urge to rip the man’s heart out of his chest. Instead, he opted for a fatalistic smile. “Fine. Tell your Commander that we’ll follow his strategy… for now,” he added, the menace dripping from his voice. The Lieutenant blanched slightly, but bowed and turned away, eager to join his comrades.
The Consul quickly spoke to the Jedi, assigning them to small groups and sending them off silently towards the encampment. Stealth was a necessity. His hand rested lightly on the lightsaber at his hip. But so was brute force. When he had informed the last of the Clan, Shadow set off as well, eager to join the fight.
Like a true battlefield commander, Shadow Taldrya assigned and placed into units all of of his available Dark Jedi quickly. Embedded into the operational Platoons of Alpha Company, the Dark Jedi of Clan Taldryan found themselves in a situation that many had not trained for. While a few of the Clan's force using elite had trained alongside the Taldryan Security Service, many of the younger adherents had not yet even met a soldier, let alone experienced combat. The men of the 2/2 Infantry were professionals, experienced in work with Force Users, but they did not trust the Taldryan.
Vodo and his Aedile had found themselves among the men of the 1st Platoon, the 1st and 2nd squads respectively. Here, they found men equipped with weapons that were sometimes forty years old, but still in perfect working order. They were tough, well trained, and respectful, if not wary of the strangers suddenly entrusted to them. Orders were orders, and both groups looked to the same authority, the Grand Master of the Brotherhood.
"Alpha Company, move out, double time!" Captain Kellin Wytho shouted with authority.
His three operational Platoons stood to their feet, clutching their weapons, and began to move out on foot. The headquarters element, driving AT-PTs and AT-RTs, would take up the flanks and provide a heavier fire support than the infantry alone could manage.
Vodo looked over his shoulder at the men walking out of the base camp they'd established after hours of long fighting. Many were smiling and talking low tones, excited to see offensive action. Others were sullen, and weary, fatigued from a night's fighting. He could feel other Dark Jedi, dispersed in the crowd of men. Andan was nearby, at the head of 2nd Platoon's line, and Lokasena Corvinus somewhere behind him. He could see him, but he knew from the Consul's orders that his friend Hel-Pa Sklib, the Proconsul, would be accompanying Charlie Company.
The hard part was knowing that no matter what happened, Vodo had no command over any of these men. He retained his position as Quaestor, giving him pull over Dark Jedi regardless of rank, but the soldiers were there, independent of his, Shadow's, or anyone else's commands except from within their own structure.
The three clicks passed by quickly, and soon they were near enough to the target to warrent caution. The enemy encampment was atop a steep rise, dominating the surrounding wastelands. To battle to the top, it looked as though the company would have to go rock to rock, under fire, to crest the rise, then assault the camp proper. Missiles streaked away from the rise at unseen targets in the distance, signaling the presence of anti-aircraft emplacements.
"1st Platoon, we're first up the rock!", a Sergeant with a particularly large repeating blaster flicked a Deathstick to the ground and waved his hand towards the rise, "1st squad, double time! Move, move, move!"
Followed by ten armored men, Vodo grabbed his saber hilt and began jogging up the first steps of the incline. Ahead of him was nearly a quarter-click of a steep hill. He could feel the danger this presented, but without an airlift, this was the only way to the top. Vodo passed a crucial point a few seconds later, and was suddenly set upon by blaster mounts and droid fired weapons. He entered the Kill Zone, the maximum effective range of the enemy's weapons. Behind him, several of the Squad's men collapsed. One managed an abbreviated scream before he died while the other two merely crumpled in place.
The force guided his steps, showing him the path of least resistance. It was a full fifteen seconds before he ignited his saber and began batting away bolts of energy, redirecting them into the ground and sky. Something exploded a few meters away, sending chunks of rocks and gravel into the air, followed by a series of burst further down the line. To his left, the Twi'lek could see Andan Taldrya Marshall charging up the incline, his saber pointed like a spear, leading his accompanying squad like a crazed knight out of an ancient Corsuscanti fairytale.
Artillery units from atop the rise poured their ballistic warheads nearly straight into the sky, where the charges would arc down nearly on top of the charging men. Inaccurate and ineffective, it served more of a psychological purpose than anything else. Two men, both wearing flowing capes directed the initial deployment of their contingent of B2 Super Battledroids. The automatons clanked heavily as they reached the rise's crest, and began marching down the hill towards the attacking force. The fifty, heavily armored droids absorbed blaster rounds, just as they had been designed to do nearly forty years earlier.
"Jedi Biask!" the 1st Squad's sergeant crouched behind the Quaestor, using the Twi'lek's spinning saber as a moving shield, "We won't last long against those beasts. You need to do something, and do it fast!"
Shadow Taldrya watched as the first Platoon made its way up the hill, followed by the second and third on either side. He placed the macro-binoculars in his lap as he sat back into the saddle of his AT-RT unit and marched forward. The enemy's droids had begun to make their way down the hill, and were going to over run his Jedi. The whole arrangement irked him, frankly.
"Captain Wytho, bring your walker units to the front, my Jedi are going to need some supression fire, if they are going to make it up there alive."
Wytho recognized the seriousness of the Consul's request, and how difficult his job was without the ability to command any assets, "All I can spare is a single Lance, Master Taldrya."
"Good enough, I'll lead them."
Shadow throttled his scout walker up to speed, picking up four more mounted men as he went. They charged up the center, past Quaestor Biask's position. He opened fire on the advancing B2 droids, pouring heavy blaster rounds into the center mass of each unit. He staffed, moving sideways, batting errant bolts from his position with his ignited saber. This fight would be an ugly one, but he would personally see its completion before what passed for a sun in the Shadowlands fully set behind the distant mountains.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Andan Taldrya Marshall smiled as blaster bolts streaked past him. He intercepted most with his lightsabers, at this point keeping the troops he’d been embedded with alive was the best thing for him to be doing. He gave himself over to the Force, letting the Dark Side guide his two lightsabers as they created a silver and orange shield in front of him and the troops who’d fallen in behind him.
His danger sense tingled, giving him barely a moment to shout “Incoming!” as an artillery round landed a few meters from their position. He didn’t have to look back to know that one of the troops didn’t make it out of the blast radius, he the soldier’s death pinged against him in the Force amid the others.
The squad had recovered and begun to move again when Andan’s danger sense started screaming at him. He searched both with his eyes and the Force for the source, and quickly found what he was looking for. A large number of B2 battle droids was quickly advancing on their position.
Andan cursed. Their blasters weren’t doing any damage and their grenades were limited, nobody wanted to use them all before they reached the actual base. Thinking quickly, Andan called on the Force and focused his anger on one of the lead droids. The droid dented in a few places and eventually crumpled, laying motionless on the ground. One down he said to Vodo via a telepathic message. He focused on another droid and it suffered a similar fate to the first. He quickly scanned the battlefield and felt his stomach sink. He was powerful, but there was no way that he could destroy that many droids himself.
As he tried to think of a quick solution he felt a familiar presence approaching quickly. A lance of five AT/RT walkers climbed the hill between Vodo and Andan’s positions and began to lay down a tremendous volume of suppressing fire. The droids that could shrug off blaster rifle fire were not so well equipped to deal with the heavier firepower of the walkers.
I owe you one Andan telepathically said to Shadow.
Vladet looked over his DXR-6 disruptor rifle as 2/2 Bravo Company's 3rd Platoon marched across the wastelands of Antei. His Platoon was one of many under Taldryan command marching on the enemy force's stronghold in the area. Intelligence suggested that this was a major staging ground for the enemy's artillery and infantry and apparently the plan of attack was brute force. Nothing wrong with that unless there's some Jedi commanding their forces. Then things could get awfully tricky ... If he was marching to battle with members of the Taldryan Security Service he wouldn't feel as apprehensive, but instead of loyal soldiers he was leading a group of infantry who were primarily loyal to the Army of the Iron Throne. The Dark Council's thugs. They'll obey my orders grudgingly but I doubt they'll like it or try too hard to save my ass if I need help. What I wouldn't give to be in a TIE Defender.
Reaching out with the Force, the Prelate tried to register any threats nearby, but there was a lot of disturbances in the Force at the moment. Dozens, if not hundreds of battles were taking place on the planet as well as probably the void of space and it made fine-tuning his senses difficult. Still, something doesn't seem quite right. Behind him, Bravo's 3rd Platoon walked fast to keep up with him, the weight of their gear slowing everyone down. As the group approached the edge of the plateau they were on, Vladet signaled for the men to slow down. Dropping down to the ground, the Quaestor crawled to the edge of the cliff to see a handful of enemy units gathered in a small cluster. Seconds later the Platoon's leader, Sergeant Jan Parcks, crawled beside him. Off in the distance the two could see the faint outline of the enemy outpost.
"A lookout post," muttered Parkcs as he surveyed the handful of artillery units and support troops below. "As soon as they see us they'll alert the outpost and any element of surprise will be lost."
The Equite snorted. "There is no surprise here. This staging area is the closest one to our landing zone so they're expecting it to be hit first. I'd wager they're busy packing everything up to get deeper into their own territory."
"Your orders, sir?" the Sergeant asked, barely concealing his impatience.
Vladet felt anger, resentment, and perhaps jealousy from the grizzled veteran next to him. Clearly soldiers of the Iron Throne didn't like taking orders from Jedi outside the Dark Council. Loyalty is fine as long as it doesn't interfere with performance, Sergeant Parcks ...
"I understand your resentment of taking my orders, Sergeant, but you'll take them without pissing and moaning too much," Vlad muttered, looking at the soldier. "I was in the real Imperial military and have been taking and giving orders since I turned seventeen years old. It may have been in starfighters but I'm not bad with a rifle either." He paused. "Having the Force as an amplifier to those skills doesn't hurt."
"Yes sir," said Parcks without emotion.
"I think we need to soften up the target a bit, and since surprise is out of the question ..."
Activating a small unit on his left wrist, Vladet turned a dial until it clicked into position one.
"This is Dinaari One, requesting a strike package near my position and on the primary target."
"You think it's time to begin the assault, Vlad?" replied Shadow, his voice filtered by the weak comm unit.
Vladet shrugged, looking at his Sergeant. "There's artillery and troops between us and the base. It'll take too long to go around and even if they don't get a message off to their base there's little chance the base won't hear something." The Prelate paused, going over his plan one more time.
"Let a flight of Defenders hit this patrol and if the outpost doesn't notice they can be called back until later. If not they go in hot and take out whatever they can with a volley of proton torpedoes. We need to strike hard and make sure none of these reinforcements make it further back into their territory."
A few moments of static was heard followed by a small crackle. "Affirmative."
Switching the unit's dial to position three, Vladet spoke evenly. "Dinaari One is authorized for a Defender strike package at my location; we'll paint the target for you for a more precise hit. Then wait for the word to proceed to primary target. Keep it quiet ..."
"Affirmative, Dinaari One. Strike package rolling in. ETA to target ... eight minutes."
"Over and out, Naval Command."
Pulling a ration bar out of his jacket pocket, Vladet shut off his comm unit and got up to brief the rest of the Platoon.
Alanna looked at the hill. She’d get all sweaty running up that and these robes had only just returned from being dry-cleaned. Drawing on the Force she jumped towards Vodo’s position, catching herself in mid-air in an apparent hover, seemingly denying gravity. Her sudden flight did not go unremarked, and blaster bolts began to wing their way towards her. The Dark Jedi Mistress held one hand out in front of her and the bolts impacted with a Force barrier that could not be seen. Controlling her course through the air, Alanna landed next to her Questor. That the barrage of fire had been relatively low could only be attributed to Shadow’s AT/RTs.
“Good morning boys, lovely day for a stroll,” Alanna’s sudden appearance startled Vodo, although he masked it well. “Why don’t you two go on ahead while I ensure these droids are finished off? I’ll catch you up.”
“Always a pleasure my lady,” Vodo smiled, and then called to his Squad, “Move out!” Andan nodded to her and followed suit.
As the soldiers and jedi pressed forward with their advance, Alanna drew lightly on her power and her innate dexterity to dodge a stray blaster bolt, then tilted her head and gestured sharply towards a droid that had made it through the AT/RTs’ fire. Force ripped through its insides, the Jedi Mistress' telekinetic strike causing catastrophic damage. Without apparent cause it dropped out of the air to crash into the ground. At a second gesture from the diminuative woman, a small group of three droids to one side of the main group were sent flying backwards through the air by a mini Force-created whirlwind. Losing their bearings, one flew itself directly into the ground, and one impacted with a rock; the last recovered only to be taken out by an AT/RT.
Finding a brief pause in the action, Alanna shook out her hair and began to re-plait it; it had become a little untidy during her flight.
"You know, some people would say you have a skewed sense of priorities." The singsong purr emanated from behind the Dark Jedi Mistress, carrying over the shrill of battle.
Alanna quirked an eyebrow as she turned to face the other Taldryan Elder. "This from the woman who creates a shield with the Force to keep stray dirt from landing on her robes?"
"Some people, sister," Erinyes said with a grin. "I never included myself in that. Now, shall we show these rabble the fury of Taldryan's scorned women?" The suggestion received little more than a nod from the Krath Mistress, and the two set off at breakneck speed toward the front lines. Before long, they had passed even the reconnaissance walkers, finding themselves surrounded by a crimson sea of blaster fire.
The assaults of a brigade of droids were little concern to the Taldryan Elders, however. Halos of amethyst and emerald surrounded Alanna and Erinyes as the droids' attacks were batted aside and reflected whence they came. Several of the over-achieving sharpshooter droids found themselves the subjects of their own attacks as Alanna and Erinyes' lightsabers continued their work, and before long, the amount of blaster fire was considerably lessened.
During the briefest of pauses between volleys, Erinyes felt a ripple through the Force, warning her of an assault of a different kind. As the Dark Adept looked up, a black speck fell rapidly through the air - a shell launched from one of the artillery placements. Wasting no time, Erinyes reached out and seized the projectile through the Force, hurtling it back toward its source by force of mental effort. With no propulsion system of its own, the shell had no way of resisting the Elder's direction. A few moments later, an explosion could be seen on the edge of the enemy camp, a glorious fireball quickly expanding as the gun emplacement's ammunition was consumed by it.
Erinyes crouched slightly as she twisted away from another pair of blaster bolts, her lightsaber snapping upward to join Alanna's once more. Idly, she triggered her headset comlink with a gentle telekinetic touch. "Erinyes to Taldryan forces. One gun emplacement is down."
“To think that only a couple of days ago, I was sitting on a beach on Taruma, watching the sunset.” Sena complained as he dispatched another droid with his saber. “What I wouldn’t give to be back there, right now.”
“And miss all the fun…?” Vardar said while wiping some dust off of his brow. “You couldn’t live with yourself if you found out I had won Antei back, all on my lonesome.”
“Are you kidding me, Var? I would give my guarramba’s for a nice cold drink right now.”
“Ha…” Vardar exclaimed with a wide grin. “I bet you would! Too bad you left them in a jar on your desk, like all you Krath.”
“Hey, don’t give me any lip, Sith!” Corvinus grunted while deflecting a few blaster bolts. “I’m here, aren’t I? However abysmal this place may be.”
“I suppose you prefer the clean simplicity of an interrogation chamber?” Vardar called out, doing some heavy fighting as well.
“Well, you have to admit…” Sena bellowed out above all the ruckus. “it’s much more civilised!”
The two Dark Jedi hacked away at any enemy the encountered. Surrounded by enemy and friendly fire, the two men fought side by side. It was a glorious thing to behold, if one would indulge in feelings of comradeship during wartime.
The AT-RT’s were thundering by while super lasers on the droid side were doing their best to pierce their armour. The Dark Jedi and their forces were advancing slowly but steadily toward their goal. Cutting down droids was only a small taste for the power that lay ahead. Lokasena could not wait to face his first Jedi and punishing him for coming between Sena and his revenge on the Yuuzhan Vong! They would soon feel, like those diseased animals would have, the wrath of the Dark Jedi.
As much as Vardar enjoyed a battle, he was getting weary of cutting down droids with no end in sight. He could feel the elders getting ahead of them contributing much more to the battle while he and his mates fell behind. Whilst they were easily successful in driving back the droids down the middle of the battle field, on both left and right-most sides, however, none seemed to give ground. If one were to look up from above, they would see a slowly progressing kind of parabolical shape as the elders got further and further in.
"Right. I think this is about enough." the young battlemaster bellowed over the deafening noise of battle. "Corvinus! It's time to work our way back to the front lines, I've had it back here!"
"You've had what back where?" Lokasena yelled back.
Vardar focused with all his might, tapping into the dark side of the force, to hone his skills in dark rage. As the next wave of droids came flooding towards him, he thrust himself forward with a jolt of the Force and met them in full, leaving behind nothing but the red trail of his saber blade's blood-red glow.
Pushing down the first few adversaries and trampling them he continually switched his saber from hand to hand in an eight-pattern, slashing down the mechanical soldiers left and right, laying down a bloody swath - or rather, an oily swath - across their ranks. In their confusion, and with a hostile right in the middle of the bulk of their assault force on that particular side of the battle, friendly fire had become increasingly prevalent. As the charging battlemaster reached what he calculated was the middle of their offensive, he jumped upwards aided by the Force. As he did so, having left their battalion in disarray, his other dark jedi companions and soldiers pulled through and utterly vanquished the immediate threat as he reached his highest point above the battle.
He fell in a straight line landing and kneeling by Lokasena, who had walked to his position after defeating the last of the droids in the vicinity.
"Let's proceed to the front lines, shall we?" he said extinguishing his saber, getting up and shaking off the dust on his cloak.
"Show off." Corvinus said, sheathing his own blade.
"Let none say those lower than the Elders contributed nothing to the battle." The battlemaster said as they started running towards the leading Taldryan force. "I can sense the rest of Phoenix up ahead. I can also feel the other side of the battle made progress as well. I would not have expected it."
"I can feel it too. They must have a marauder with a god complex over there as well." Lokasena retorted.
The TIE Defenders were still two minutes out, which gave Debric Santhe that much time to get into position. As he sat on his speeder bike, Debric noticed the lightsaber attached to his belt repeatedly bumping against his leg. He had almost forgotten it was there, as he had not yet needed it. Hopefully he wouldn't need it for a while longer.
"Yeah, like that wish is gonna be granted." Debric thought to himself as the wind blew through his hair. He had been able to avoid the enemy forces for the most part by just blowing right by them on the speeder bike. He had one close call, but a quick shot from the bike's tiny mounted laser cannon had taken care of that problem.
Debric pulled back on the throttle as he came closer to his mission objective. He noticed a small rock formation that would be perfect for cover while he did what he came here to do.
Santhe hopped off the bike as it came to a halt behind the rocks. He crouched behind one of the larger rocks and made sure he could see around it. Sure enough, there in the distance was the enemy's main artillery position.
Debric unslung the sniper rifle from his back and set it up so he could lay on his stomach while viewing the artillery from afar.
Using the rifle's data laser beam, Debric was able to mark the artillery positions so that air support knew where the hell to shoot their missiles. Maybe ten seconds had passed after Santhe had marked the targets before he could hear the familiar scream of twin ion engines in the distance, but getting closer to their targets by the second.
Gobhainn led his team in a wide circle around the fire base. While the rest of Taldryan fought the front line, drawing the enemy forces' attention, the Sith Warrior slipped the ten marksmen and two mobile artillery supporting is Mark II repeating cannon around to the left flank of the fire base. Sergeant Zeilr had not been happy when Gobhainn had appropriated the squad, but he saw the value of establishing a perimeter crossfire and had led another squad to establish the right flank.
After choosing a suitable hill that just barely topped the base's palisade, Gobhainn set about organizing his assault.
"Look, you ground pounders, I know you don't consider me to be jack other than another lunatic mystic, but you do recognize the Iron Throne. Well I'm here on Sarin's behest and we're going to take that Throne back for him. Now that artillery down there is slowing our advance and it needs to go. Also while we're at it we'll sow some constructive chaos. “
"Snipers, I want you to spread out and take positions to take out the command droids in one shot. Don't target any organics because they will be most likely be Jedi and they will sense being targeted with the Force."
"Heavy gunners, I want that Mark II together and ready to mount on the ridge. I want you to be in place and ready to fire in ten seconds of my signal. Your targets are the firing mechanisms, power supplies and munitions of the artillery. Worry about the crews only after the emplacements have been neutralized."
"After you all start firing I will charge the base and cut my way through to its core. I will then face any Jedi that appear. I expect a lot of cover fire and if you see me engage anyone armed with a lightsaber, feel free to assist at that time by taking some pot shots. It's unlikely that you'll hit but it will provide enough of a distraction as to make my job easier."
"All right be in position in five minutes; in six minutes at my signal, I want all hell to break loose."
One of the snipers spoke up. " Sir, what is the signal?"
"Soldier, you’ll know it when you see it. Now disperse and find your targets"
Ten "Yes, Sir!" sounded simultaneously.
Gobhainn helped the two heavy gunners build the Mark II and link up its power supply.
All the time he made a slow count to three hundred in his mind. When he reached three hundred, Gobhainn help lift the heavy gun and place it so that the barrel just cleared the ridge.
"Remember, emplacements first, then personnel." Gobhainn said to the gunners.
In his mind, Gobhainn finished the count *358...359... 360!*
With that thought the Warrior used the Force to leap high into the air and ignited his crimson bladed lightsaber. A second later he was joined by a second Sith, his twin, as Gobhainn used the power of the dark side to generate an illusion of himself as he ran down the hill.
Plasma and blaster bolts flew around him creating highly charged ozone that caused his lightsaber to crackle vehemently. After only a couple of seconds Gobhainn heard a loud detonation as the Mark II took out a power supply.
By now some B2 droids on the palisade were starting to return fire. Some sought to neutralize the Mark II while others were seeking out the snipers. A few however were firing at Gobhainn. He easily dodged the bolts as he ran; since he had focused on Makashi in his training, Gobhainn was not that proficient at deflecting fire.
When he reached the palisade, Gobhainn once more leapt; this time to the top of the barricade. There with a modified whirlwind attack from Tu'rek he decapitated the two nearest B2 Droids.
Looking down into the base, Gobhainn saw that two artillery pieces were smoking and seemed neutralized. Sergeant Zeilr's team seemed to be handling the right flank quite well. And from the uniquely colored chest plates, it seemed as if at least eight command droids were down as well.
Feeling a twinge in the Force, Gobhainn looked to his right. There running towards him amongst the chaos was a bothan with a lightsaber in his hand.
Time to Play Gobhainn thought to himself and leapt down from the wall, deliberately giving up the high ground.
As he landed Gobhainn saw the bothan take up a classic Shii-Cho stance, lightsaber held two handed, vertical and to the side of his head, the opposing foot pushed forward with a bent knee.
The bothan spoke as Gobhainn face him. "Surrender and we will spare you."
"Too bad for you, I can't say the same" Gobhainn replied.
Gobhainn sensed a droid taking aim at his back but just as he was about to sidestep a blaster bolt from the hilltop erupted through the droid's chestplate. The snipers were covering him.
In that moment of seeming distraction, the Jedi fleched, throwing himself forward off of his front foot while slashing down with his electric blue saber.
Gobhainn easily deflected the oncoming blade with his own and spun to the right. As the Jedi passed by Gobhainn used the force to push on the bothan's back, making him fall forward.
The bothan recovered by going into a forward roll that brought him back to his feet.
"My master can return you to the Light." The Bothan said as he once more faced the Dark Jedi Warrior. "It will mean a sacrifice but it can be done.
"You cannot return me to something I have never been." Gobhainn replied. "Besides there is no Light or Dark, there is only the Force and how we use it and in turn are used by it.
"Heretic" the bothan cried and charged, attacking in a series of sweeps.
"It's not heresy if I'm not part of your belief system." Gobhainn answered blocking each attack and locking the blades on the last assault.
Looking the bothan straight in the eyes over the crossed blades, Gobhainn whispered "Besides I enjoy the power."
And with this he reached out using a Dun Moch attack; Gobhainn threw a wave of Dark Force energy at the Jedi that left the bothan stumbling backward gagging as fear and nausea induced by the black power threw him off balance.
Gobhainn pressed forward and struck the stumbling Jedi across the faces with a Force-empowered backhand. When the Bothan rose, Gobhainn saw that one of the Jedi's eyes was now red with blood.
"You came a long way just to die, Jedi. This is our world, its power feeds us; it drains you and your kind." Gobhainn stated plainly.
And as if to demonstrate, Gobhainn reached out his empty hand and using the power of the Dark Side grabbed his opponent with an invisible hand around the bothan's throat. Feeling the Jedi reaching out to the Force to break his grasp, the Sith Warrior encased the bothan in pure dark energy, cutting him off from his beloved Light side.
In a last moment of panic and fury the bothan hurled his cerulean bladed lightsaber at the Dark Jedi. Gobhainn deflected it with ease all the while increasing the pressure on the bothan's throat.
"Now see, when you're desperate even you Jedi revert to the Dark Side. Anger, Hatred, the survival instinct, - Don't you always say that these are of the Dark side. But when push comes to shove, you fall back on them as easily as we do. Life is passion and if you forsake passion you forsake life. Yet at the last you all seem to find the passion, but, sadly for most, like you it comes too late."
And with this, Gobhainn gave one final squeeze on the bothan's throat until he heard and saw the Jedi’s windpipe collapse.
Letting loose his Force grip he let the suffocating Jedi fall to the ground. He approached the fallen figure and looked down upon it with dispassion and with a final fluid motion thrust his lightsaber through the Jedi's chest.
Looking up Gobhainn saw that most of the droids were now smoldering heaps of steel and circuitry. The front barrier had been blown away and Taldryan forces were pouring in. Some blaster fire flew sporadically but for the most part the fighting near him seemed finished.
Gobhainn saw a familiar face approaching him. Andan Marshall approached and looked down at the body of the Jedi and then back at Gobhainn.
"How is it that you're always the one who buries himself nose deep in trouble and yet comes out smelling like one of your bloody Yavan orchids."
"Thoughtful and careful planning and a planet's worth of luck, I guess." Gobhainn said with a sarcastic smile.
“Fury reports enemy sortie”
“Dagger and Lightning are on intercept course, Stalker Squadron is on standby.”
Vice Admiral Raif Slaxton looked over to the short male Sullustin CAG, Boryn Durb, “Commander, how many this time?”
“No more than two squadrons. They seem to be probing the Tarentem Naval boundary. It happens to fall within our ARP, so we’re responding”, the man’s facial folds caused his words to sound almost as though they were bubbling through a liquid barrier.
Slaxton returned to his rueful stand at the forward viewport of his flagship. He could see the explosions and bursts associated with a dog fight off the port-bow. The Lancer Frigate Fury moved slowly from its forward operating zone to the battle, its quad batteries opening up on the antiquated, yet nimble Vulture Droid Fighters. He could hear damage reports rolling in behind him as Captain Plaso sustained several suicide hits to the frigate’s port engine block.
“Engine block has vented atmosphere, casualty listings coming in now”, a deck officer announced from his station.
Far too slowly, a TIE Defender Squadron from the Tarentum Navy joined the fray. His face grew far grimmer as imagined the Tarentum Naval Command holding off on the reinforcement action, hoping that more of his men would perish. Subtle jabs like this had occurred nearly every time the Vulture Droids skirmished his lines. Faced with an entire Wing of enemy fighters, Naga Sadow sent a single picket ship towards the end of the engagement, picking up the pieces of the few remaining fighters before requesting a formal show of gratitude.
The sooner his Jedi masters returned from this foolish invasion, and he could jump his forces back to friendly territory, the sooner Raif could relax. It did his aging heart no good to pound so hard for so long. Though healthy, his family predisposition to a weak cardiovascular system had taken its toll on him. Perhaps it was time to request an extended Leave of Absence into his retirement, if the Dark Jedi would grant him that much.
“Contact, enemy fighters detected approaching Clan Scholae Palatinae ARP.”
“Deploy Stalker and Arkarso Squadrons.”
“Belay that order!” Raif turned around, still gripping his hands in classic imperial style behind his back, “Let them fend for themselves.”
Adas Plains, Antei
The roar of Ion engines filled the sky at the Defenders lanced overhead, unleashing their inferno ammunition on the embunkered ridged. Power cores overheated and exploded, pit droids ran from their stations screaming as their internals melted and short-circuited. B1 droids twisted under the explosions, and the cruel heat, while the more heavily armored B2 super droids caught in the attack began to glow cherry red. Their movements slowed, many to a halt, while others escaped and cooled.
Shadow Taldrya saw his moment and spurred his walker unit to charge, waving his Silver Saber over his head. The Dark Jedi and soldiers who saw this cheered with a large battle cry, and charged. With his flank secured by Alanna Taldrya and Seraine Ténama, he led his Clan up to the edge of the Ridge, and over the top. The Air Strike had been more successful than they could ever have imagined, with all but one of the artillery pieces totaled, and many of the remaining Battle Droids in no condition to fight.
Soldiers of the Iron Throne stormed through the burning plateau, shooting anything that moved until there elements of resistance. Over his shoulder, the burning wreckage of a nearby plateau told him that the other half of the attack had been successful as well. With no Jedi to be found atop this ridge, he sincerely hoped that the others hadn’t been so fortunate.
“Master Taldrya, my men have secured the ridge. You have a transmission from DC Actual”, Captain Wytho trotted up along side the Consul on his mount, offering him his forearm mounted holographic transceiver.
A small glowing blue holographic image emerged from the projector, “Consul, I have transmitted your orders concerning Operation: Spanner. You will rendezvous with Naga Sadow and the 2/41st Infantry at FOB Spear.”
Shadow recognized the image of Syn Kaek and bowed his head, “As you order, Master Kaek. We will require medical supplies and give time for the men here to rearm. My Jedi will be ready to move within the hour.”
“Arrangements have already been made. The Dark Council takes care of its own. Oh, and Consul? Play nice with Robert Sadow…”
The image flickered and disappeared as two shuttles descended from high attitude, and landed among the still flaming wreckage. With military precision, crates were offloaded and supplies distributed among the men of the 2/2nd. The wounded and dead were loaded onto the shuttles which took off shortly afterward for the Planetary Beachhead under escort of several TIEs.
Vodo Biask finished cleaning the oil and dust from his Saber hilt with his robe, despising any blemish or fleck of sand that dared mare his perfect weapon. Sidarace Rathden, his Aedile sat on a rock, with his back against the flat so that he was nearly lying down. His chest heaved heavily, a sign of his exertion.
“You will burn yourself out before this is through…” The Quaestor surmised.
Sidarace did not even lift his head to answer, “I’ll be that much better for it.”
Vodo walked away in the direction of where he could feel the Consul brooding. He passed long time Clan mates Lokasena Corvinus and Vardar Ordo as he went, giving them the faintest of acknowledgements. All around lay soldiers resting and joking amongst themselves, trying to live down the relatively brief, but costly battle they’d just fought less than an hour prior. Men of all species, age, and race milled around, checking weapons, kits, armor, and each other.
Several men were tossing partially destroyed Droids and wrecked machinery into a heap, saving those pieces that could be salvaged and used for helpful purposes. Far ahead, he could see a squad returning from a patrol and exchanging stations with another. Just ahead of him was a small group of Taldryan Dark Jedi and higher ranking officers from the 2nd Infantry’s command group.
As he approached, Vodo picked up the conversation part way through one of the officer’s briefing, “…we’ll march from here, North towards FOB Spear and meet up with the 2/41st. Master Taldrya has informed me that his Jedi can make it there much quicker than our mortal feet and will go on ahead of us to reinforce Spear. Questions?”
Shadow’s displeasure at the jab was clearly felt by those in tune with the Force but he put it aside for the sake of professionalism, “From the information I’ve been given, Spear will be the target of a major offensive, and is currently beset by air, land, and Jedi attack. Prepare your men for a long fight, today was nothing but a warm-up.”
Rounds of agreement followed before the meeting broke. Vodo approached the Dark Adept, “Master Taldrya…”
Shadow’s face softened, “Vodo, do me a favor and kill all of them. I’ll even distract the Grand Master’s wrath long enough for you to make it off planet.”
“If only we’d been aloud to bring our men”, veteran warrior and leader Andan Taldrya walked up to the two, “Vice-Admiral Slaxton has sent an update for you Shadow.”
It was merely another issue for his consideration, “I’ll read it a little later. Quaestor Biask, inform your house we will be mobilizing for FOB Spear in 20. Andan, find me Quaestor Xavier and inform him of the same. Anyone left behind is on their own.”
Adas Plains, Antei
In the allotted time, Clan Taldryan’s Dark Jedi assembled, refreshed, and left the ridge heading north on foot and with what available walkers the Infantry had to donate. The 2/2nd would wait and hold the ridge till reinforced and given a lift from the 11th Aerospace Battalion in two days.
They left the ridge behind at a brisk walk, each carrying everything they’d need to make the 30 kilometer march over the harsh terrain of the Shadow Lands. The assembled Dark Jedi reveled in their performance upon the hill earlier that day. Many spoke as though their numbers had not dwindled at all, where in fact, several Journeyman and an Equite had been lost to enemy fire, and several more wounded by an exploding shell.
Bolstered by the Force, their footsteps were rapid, and their strides long and powerful. They traveled as a unit, battle tested and ready to take on the next force that thought it was their duty to remain on this forsaken planet.
Adas Plains, Antei
“Come on, Sena… Rest for a minute! We’ve earned it!” Vardar motioned the Priest to a nearby boulder.
“I am resting.” Sena replied, lifting one eyebrow in a manner that told Vardar he was barely serious.
“I mean really rest. Sit down, lay down, put your feet up. It seems to working wonders for our Aedile, over there.” The Sith said while carefully motioning his head at Sidarace Rathden.
The right corner of Lokasena’s mouth curved upwards. “A Krath would never perform such a revealing display in front of mere soldiers, you just don’t understand us at all.” He said while making a dramatic “hallelujah” gesture to the sky.
“Perhaps not,” Vardar mused. “but I seem to have those Obelisk pegged quite well.”
Both men actually laughed for an instance, while Vardar handed Sena a flask of water. This was good, this was necessary. Relieving the tension, before starting anew. One battle, if fought hard, could take it out of you. Fighting an entire war, could be tasking to both body and mind.
The body would often enough heal on its own, over time. But the mind, that was a whole other matter. Lifting spirits in the middle of such great carnage, seemed not only fun, but also wise.
“So, are you coming along for the rest of the operation?” Vardar asked.
“Of course I’ll come. Facing overwhelming odds to re-capture our castle from a battle hardened enemy, only to plant our flag upon its battlements once again!? Who wouldn’t want to come?”
“That’s the spirit, gentlemen…” Sidarace said, as he walked past them. “Now try to keep up this, this time!”
Vardar and Sena looked at the passing Aedile and then at each other. “It would seem that we don’t have him figured out as much as we’d like.” The Krath said.
“Yes, seems that way…” the Sith replied, almost pouting. Then the men laughed again and began to check their equipment for the next onslaught.
Adas Plains, Antei
A faint smile crept across Bubbles’ face as she watched two of her Tyros bickering playfully between themselves as they made their way across the plains. Today would be a good day, a proud day for Taldryan, and she was just glad that Phoenix was at last back to it’s rightful place in Ektrosis.
It was good that they barely needed her, she thought to herself, good that they worked quite so well together. This was the Phoenix of old, the Phoenix that did not revolve around a single person, but that acted as a whole, without hesitating, each component knowing precisely where and how the others would act. It was a long time since things had been this way, and she as just proud to be back in her old position to see it happen.
Scanning the horizon, her hand flicked instinctively to the hilt of her lightsabre. She paused mid-stride, turning to take in the horizon to her left. Scouring it, and finding no flicker of movement, no sign of anything untoward, she glanced up towards the front of the party, and satisfied that Alanna and Erinyes had made no sign of detecting anything she shrugged, before resuming her place, perhaps she was just out of practice.
The mass of Jedi was relentless in their march to root out the enemies of the Brotherhood. They had been walking for several hours. No one said it, but Vardar knew most of them would give anything for something to happen. Something that would break the monotony of the march.
"You know, Vardar. It's times like these I wouldn't mind being the stereotypical "librarian" that people usually presume to be of the Krath Order." Lokasena said. As powerful a Priest though he was, he had given up his early attempts to continually tap into the Force for physical strength and now nearly dragged his feet across the seemingly endless plains
"I know how you feel." Vardar said with a note of sarcasm as he quickened his own pace. Lokasena, to the Battlemaster's satisfaction, seemed to widen his eyes a bit.
"You know.. sometimes.. you're not as funny as you think, my friend." He said with a now slightly indifferent tone.
"At least it's only sometimes." He retorted.
"Come on, boys." Bubbles interrupted slightly impatient "Stop messing around and focus on keeping up. This march is annoying enough already."
Both elders, equites and journeymen seemed weary of travel. Finally, however, orders spread throughout the ranks that they were to stop and rest where they were. People organized themselves into different groups as they settled down. Some sat on rocks, others just decided to lay down on the ground. Most however, took the opportunity to converse about their mission and whatever it was that they had on their minds at the moment. The land around them was not a pretty one by most people's standards. Vardar, however, found it rugged and beautiful. A land made tough by hardship. It filled him with willingness to go on rather than linger behind. Yonder now resting dark jedi, the walkers came to a stop and their pilots climbed down to solid ground as well.
"My friend." He said getting up and taking off one of his gloves. "I challenge you to a good sparring match." He finished, slapping Corvinus with his glove and putting it back on.
"It is ON!" The Priest said getting up, bathing the surrounding ground in his saber's purple glow.
Somewhere in the resting area's perimeter
"We should probably alert the Consul and Proconsul." A somewhat baffled Sidarace spoke as both him and Vodo looked at something on the ground.
"Yes. Send for them. Summon Phoenix, as well." Vodo Biask replied with a commanding tone.
Resting area: Phoenix location
"No, you clumsy git! Go left when I swing!" Vardar yelled parrying one of Corvinus' attacks.
"Hey!" Seraine interrupted. "We've been called to the front. Come on."
"Good. I'll let you live this time, Fen'Amar." Lokasena stated with a slight bow, unigniting his saber.
The Sith merely grinned as all of Phoenix proceeded to join Vodo Biask, Sidarace, and the rest of the chain of command.
"Where...Where are the others?" Bubbles exclaimed when confronted with the reptilian quaestor.
"They insisted on scouting ahead. We need to discuss our next course of action." He replied as he motioned towards a metallic object on the ground. It seemed like a transmiter of some sort. "We have without a doubt stumbled upon one of the Jedi's surveillance spots."
"I...I think I've seen one of those things before." Vardar said half-squinting at it and moving closer.
"Its shape is not strange to me as well.." Bubbles added.
"It's...It's a dedicated energy receptor, isn't it? Shouldn't we destroy it?" The Sith Battlemaster stated looking back at his peers. He was now kneeling on the ground, barely an inch away from the strangely dented object.
"Well observed, Battlemaster" Hel-Pa stated."And no. If the Jedi have this placed here, they've probably been monitoring our position every time we radio in to the Army of the Iron Throne for quite some time."
Hel-Pa paused for a moment then turned around and spoke with his Quaestor. As they talked among themselves, the members of Phoenix looked at each other.
"Since when are you a sensor expert?" Seraine said, quite impressed.
"Well.. It's.. it's not uncommon practice for Jedi to have such sensors near their outposts.." The Battlemaster replied almost embarrassed at his past allegiances
Their lizard-like leader turned back to them, leaving Vodo Biask in conversation with Bubbles.
"As soon as the elders and the missing summit members return from their scouting mission, we shall take to the march again. Return from whence you came. I shall issue a communiqué as soon as we have defenite data on this."
The few elders that had carried on scouting ahead returned seeming no more pleased than Vodo. Shadow extended an arm, levitating a broken metal device to him, which he grabbed in his hands.
“We found this, we believe it to be a…”
Vodo interrupted, tossing his Consul the droid observer Vardar Fen’Amar had found, “A Jedi electronic surveillance device.”
Shadow was a man made for combat. He enjoyed the frenzy and havoc of the battlefield, the strength he gleaned from the Dark Side filling his veins, powering his every movement; he loved everything about those moments. It was the idea of chasing a ghost that frustrated. Invisible enemies could not be cleaved.
“Mobilize your houses Quaestors. The Forward Operating Base is no more than ten clicks ahead, we should be able to make it by morning’s rise”, He dismissed Vladet Xavier and Vodo Biask curtly and stormed off to his supply pack.
With a professional tone the Sensor station piped up, fatigue drained his voice of any enthusiasm he had at the start of his shift, “Contact, bearing 4-2 12 mark 9”
“Aye, 4-2 12 by mark 9, dispatching Flechette and Katarn Squadrons, ready Hett for immediate sortie.”
“Katarn and Flechette engaging”
“Enemy contact moving away from Taldryan ARP, Naga Sadow engaging.”
“Recall Katarn Squadron.”
Commodore Hessan listened intently, confident his subordinates knew their jobs. He was a tough man, strict in all areas of his command. Discipline is what had netted him such a choice command, had served him through his career, and how he structured his own life. He expected nothing from his loyal crewmen that he did not expect from himself. They recognized this, and begrudgingly accepted his nearly draconian command for the pride it afforded them as the Clan’s tightest run ship.
The nonstop harassment of his forces however was taking its toll on morale and endurance. For days now, the enemy would launch flights of Vulture Droid Fighters, skim across one or more Clans’ Area of Responsibility, forcing the commanders to engage, and then withdraw their forces defensively when it became someone else’s concern. His pilots were wearing thin, his deck officers were gaunt. Many were drawing on the ship’s supply of stimulants to remain attentive.
Hessan did not believe in that practice. He remained alert by sheer force of will, as if he were a Force Sensitive drawing on the mystical Force to sustain himself. He was not of course even remotely Force Sensitive.
“Incoming transmission from Admiral Slaxton, Commodore”
Hessan turned, clasping his hands behind him like every other Imperial Naval Academy graduate had learned, “I’ll take it in my ready room.”
He sat behind his wooden desk in the small but comfortable stateroom as a blue image flickered to life from the projected embedded in the flat, “Commodore, draw the Honor to the rear of the ARP, Dark Prophet II will be taking your place”.
At last, a reprieve, “Thank you Admiral.”
“There is another thing Commodore.”
“Yes Admiral?” Hessan leaned forward, resting his elbows upon the polished surface.
“It appears our transmissions have been decoded and are being tapped. All messages of importance will be sent via courier.”
Someone had cracked their encoded transmission? Jedi were capable of such mathematical and engineering brilliance? “Aye, Sir.”
The Jedi of Taldryan were overstretched. The long hike had taken them less than 30 hours to cover the 24 kilometers of rough terrain. Their reserves were nearly empty, and only the Elders seemed able to stand without a visible sign of wear. Spear was not a quiet retreat at which they would be able rest and regain the strength they would need to fight. Beset by an assault resembling a siege more than an offensive, the Dark Jedi were pressed to the front, parallel their Naga Sadow peers.
Soldiers of the 2/41st were drawn thin. They’d seen constant combat since landing and pushing south from the Planetary Beachhead. With no rest, they fought alongside and behind the relentless Dark Jedi of Clan Naga Sadow who had seemingly endless stores of energy and fury compared to the mere mortals of the Iron Throne’s Army.
From the moment they’d approached the main camp, the distant roar of gunfire still a mere hum, Vardar had felt something strange. The closer they came to the hastily assembled tent city and supply facilities and the Front it anchored, the stronger he felt. It wasn’t a noticeable effect from the stand point of his now groaning muscles, but rather an uplifting state of mind, where those worries no longer concerned him.
That concerned him.
Beside him, Lokasena Corvinus, something of a protégé to the Battlemaster, was feeling the effects as well. Nearly everyone was showing signs of a more optimistic attitude, fewer were dragging their feet as they pulled into the camp, and the only ones unaffected seemed to the strongest of the Elders, who had never shown a sign of weariness in the first place.
Vardar could hear pieces of a low conversation between his Proconsul and Consul, “We must find Robert Sadow”
“I will do that, I can feel his presence.”
“You will take the Clan to the front, I will find our dear colleague”, he could see Shadow dismiss the Tarasin Proconsul who rallied the Taldryan Jedi to him while the Consul walked off in another direction.
They dropped their packs and supplies in a pile and moved to an earthwork defensive line, drawing stares from the soldiers. Vardar passed a familiar Sadowan Jedi in the trench, sneering in his direction as he passed, a mere flicker of the dangerous sparks that exploded between them in the Force. A hand touched his shoulder, Vodo’s, warning him to keep it under control. There would be time for that once the Iron Throne carried the weight of its true master.
“Here they come!”, a Soldier shouted as he ran down the line.
Vardar looked over the earthworks that protected the men and their equipment from direct fire. He could see an advancing line of Droids, both large and dangerous, as well as the smaller and still dangerous.
“Don’t look so sullen Battlemaster…”
He did not have to look to know whom the dulcet voice belonged to, “Mistress Alanna, I have nothing to be sullen about! The enemy is coming to me, I don’t even need to seek him out!”
“Just don’t get lost and find yourself speaking to the pretender”, rumors of kidnapped Dark Jedi had circulated for the past few days.
“I’ll be dead before a Jedi lays a hand on me…”
The ground beneath his feet trembled as a shell landed down the line, exploding. Flesh and meat from those unfortunate enough to have met the attack soared through the air. Blaster fire erupted all around them as the droids came into range. The retort of heavy weapon’s fire was deafening.
Astronicus Aurelius Sadow smiled. His exertions seemed to be coming to fruition. He focused his power, fueling his strength with the Dark Side. Droids could not be demoralized, but the soldiers and Dark Jedi of Spear could be uplifted. It was an ancient practice, long used by Jedi and their counterparts alike to strengthen armies, and bury the enemy. His Battle Meditation was far more effective than many in this Brotherhood, a fact that he kept hidden for purposes all his own.
One day, and one day soon, he would unleash his power, and the Sons of Sadow would find their place atop the Iron Throne, glaring down upon the unworthy mass of dead Dark Jedi. He would find no greater pleasure than personally destroying the lesser clans. Especially Taldryan. For now, they were comrades, but who would notice if four or five were killed in a terrible accident?
Astronicus returned to his meditations, amused.
Prelate Vladet Xavier lightly jogged ahead of House Dinaari's group as he scouted the terrain ahead. By his estimation they were about seven kilometers away from the forward outpost but so far they hadn't come across any resistance. He swore he sensed recon droids nearby with the Force but he couldn't be certain. Normally he wouldn't be off by himself but stealth was in order for this particular exercise and with his disruptor rifle he wasn't terribly worried about being outgunned. Nothing like being able to dissolve enemies ...
About a minute later the Equite heard a slight buzz in the air which caused him to stop and sweep his rifle across the mostly barren wasteland. "Vulture droids," he muttered, trying to ascertain their position through the Force. Gotcha'! Seconds later the first swarm of vulture droids became visible as they closed down on his position. While weak they made up for this with sheer numbers. Vladet guessed that the enemy force was sending out tiny swarms all over the planet for reconnaissance purposes which meant that he only had a few seconds to destroy them before they relayed his position back to base. I'd wager five droids ... one shot should take care of each. Good thing I have a useful tool at my disposal.
Letting out a breath of air he didn't realize he was holding in the Prelate concentrated, focusing on the droids, his rifle, and himself through the Force. Even though the droids were still out of range and probably hadn't detected him yet, Vladet closed his eyes, waited for five seconds, and gently squeezed the trigger of his DXR-6 disruptor rifle. With his eyes still closed he gently shifted his aim and let the Force completely consume him, guide him, be him. Four more shots rang out across the wastelands and each one found home. What little of the droids that weren't dissolved crashed to the ground with a small thud.
Silence reigned the wastelands again until the winds picked up again, blowing Vladet's robes violently back towards the south. Pleased with himself, Vladet sent a quick telepathic message to Tarax, his Aedile, and began jogging again.
Alanna and Vardar met the first wave of smaller droids as they reached the earthworks. Their lightsabres flashed side-by-side and the Jedi Mistress threw up a shield as a barrage of blasts targetted their position.
"Happy enough?" Alanna shouted over the noise.
"Not bad," Vardar replied with a grin. "A bit more hitty and a little less hidey, and we'll be good."
As the Krath dropped her barrier, Vardar pulled on the Force to leap directly upwards and cleave one of the smaller droids in two with his sabre. At the same time Alanna targetted one of the other droids that was doing damage in the line to her right and sucked at its energy with the Force. Temporarily depleted of energy, its movements slowed, and the soldiers took advantage to close with and disable it.
Alanna jumped backwards as a heavy bolt landed just infront of their section of the earthworks, spraying debris around. As Vardar rolled clear of the blast he used telepathy to grab one of the soldier's guns and, with undisguised glee, sprayed the droid with rapid fire; the droid shuddered and abruptly flew off in the wrong direction to impact with the ground some distance away.
As her eyes followed the droid's descent, Alanna saw that a contingent of the larger, slower droids were carving up a section of the line to her left. Concentrating, she focused a wave of Force energy at part of the group, knocking them backwards and off their feet in a sudden, violent motion. As the pressure temporarily eased on the defenders, they started to regroup and pick off the remaining droids.
Erinyes had been one of the Elders who went ahead to scout, and unfortunately, had gotten held up on her return by an encounter with a small cadre of droids. Finally making her way back to the base at FOB Spear, the Dark Adept had taken a long route around to avoid detection. Instead, she found herself at the rear of a column of droids, advancing toward the base with weapons blazing. Suppressing a sigh, Erinyes began charging forward toward the group. It had been a long march and a long day already, but the work was never over in war.
As the Dark Adept came upon the rear of the droids' line, the twin emerald blades of her saber-staff blazed into existence. For a moment, the droids didn't notice her over the heat of the battle, concentrating their fire forward. That changed when a blast of lightning shot from Erinyes' hand, arcing through the air to the line of droids. One of the automatons fell in an instant, exploding in a shower of sparks and molten metal. Several of the droids turned to face Erinyes then, but she was already on top of them, saber-staff cutting swathes through the air. Hopefully, if she could help break a hole in the lines, the Dark Jedi of Taldryan could advance to the droid factory.
At the earthworks, a sentry wore a confused expression as a hole seemed to be forming in the rear of the enemy lines. A pair of flashing emerald blades glowed in his macrobinoculars, highlighted by a shock of crimson hair. The sentry toggled his wrist comlink, sending a message to all the Dark Jedi and Iron Throne in the area. "Incoming, we have a friendly breaking through the centre of the enemy lines."
Alanna's sabre sliced through a droid's leg and she sighed, pushing a strand of hair away from her face. She was hot and sweaty and generally in need of an ice-cold drink, but it didn't look as if that would happen for a while; they'd taken down plenty of droids, but as each one fell more took their place in a seemingly never-ending chain. As she was about to turn her attention to the next threat, a telepathic message from her CON slid into her mind and she took a pace back from the front-line for a moment of respite.
"Listen up everyone. We've received intell that there's a droid factory through that line. CNS will stay here to deal with this lot; our mission is to get to the factory and destroy it. We've got to cut off their supply. Now that Vlad and his crew have finally deigned to join us, we're going to move out.
Erin's cut a hole in their line; we're going to go through it. Move, move, move!"
Alanna glanced quickly at Vardar, who nodded acknowledgement. All along the line Taldryan Jedi started rapidly communicating with the soldiers close to them who appeared to be getting their briefing via Comlink, and CNS stepped forward to take on the brunt of the defense. The advance would be costly, but if they could take out the enemy's effective base it would be worth it in the long-run. Besides, the alternative was to stay here and fight more droids. Her Taldryan colleagues didn't look too upset at the prospect of leaving CNS behind to mop up for them.
The Jedi Mistress turned to ensure the 2/41st infantry around her understood the change in orders, and found that Vardar had already jumped over the earthworks, commencing his own personal advance towards the flash of Erin's emerald blades in the enemy's line.
The charging battlemaster reveled in his dark pride. No sooner had she noticed what had happened, so did Alanna jump upwards and take to the battle field.
Loyalty, service, these are weird things. Even stranger is the way in which a soldier will follow his or her leaders. As Vardar eagerly jumped over the earthworks, so did the soldiers of the 2/41st follow, in turn, charging ferociously. The portion of men who followed Alanna, however, were more likely to mimic her attitude towards a battle. A well thought out offensive both analytical and productive was her strong suit and the soldiers followed pattern.
Vardar Fen'Amar, the charging marauder, a brutal beast, to be sure. Though seemingly undisciplined to most others, he considered each step in his charge. His partiality for showing off whilst getting results was what drove him. The pure adrenalin, speed and anticipation of war was what made him live. He met the first line of resistance. The Jedi had continually been sending out their droid hordes for a good part of the war, now. "Cowards..", he thought. After having nearly joined up with Seraine, who dominated on the other side of the enemy lines, he looked back at Alanna and spoke to her through the Force.
Do not dawdle, mistress. Your kill count will be substantially lower than what I expected of you, if you do.
Vardar got no answer, but he felt her aura change; it was magnified, somehow. He allowed himself a short grin as he continued reflecting and defending himself from his enemies' blaster shots.
"Finally, we get to see some action after all that hiking." He shouted over the swarm of droids that separated him and Erinyes.
"I guess so." She replied hastily between strikes "I won't be completely happy until I sink my blades into Jedi flesh, though."
Their opponent was at a numerical advantage, but no match for the skill of the dark jedi of Taldryan. The sith battlemaster could hear Lokasena Corvinus yelling taunts as he cut down his opponents.
Vardar thrust his arms downwards and jolted the ground with the Force, raising a cloud of dust off the plains. Hopefully, the droids would need a moment to adjust their sensors. A moment was all he needed. Heightening his senses, he had no trouble sabering each of his opponents one at a time. The cover-fire provided by the soldiers of the 2/41st was flawless. He suspected someone from using battle meditation, but recognized the soldiers' value to the battle.
"Alright, men!" He said raising his saber up high "It's time to finish this and head forward!"
He looked at Alanna who replied with a slight nod and signaled her men. No severe casualties were recorded as they made their way closer to the enemy's stronghold.
"Severe" was the key word. For casualties had been taken among the lesser of the Brotherhood forces. But there had yet to be any losses of such a magnitude so as to encumber the mission; the Elders and Equites remained, despite the loss of several Journeymen.
The problem was guarding the rear, and Keidagh and Shadow recognized it immediately. As Erinyes ripped through the back of the droid lines and Alanna and company made steady progress forward, cutting through the droids like weeds in an open field, the gaps left after the advances filled in with a continuous onslaught of droids. The Jedis' rear was exposed after they parted the sea of droids, and the droids took advantage of that, felling several lesser-equipped Jedi quickly.
Seeing one of his more scrumptious Protectors go down to the fiery red hyphens, Shadow knew that something was wrong. Naga Sadow was not doing its job. The droid lines were reforming, and the attack's success depended on a consistent thinning.
Shadow quickly scanned the battlefield with his eyes and senses. In the distance, he saw all he needed; Trevarus Caerick and Xanos Sadow weren't committed to thinning the droid numbers. They were flanking the droids with their Jedi soldiers, looking to make it to the factory before Taldryan could claim the prize and honor.
"I see them too," Yacko commented, the betrayal not phasing him at all. "Their egos will not let them go any other way."
"Cotelin will rape them when this is done." Shadow said with dark delight.
Keirdagh looked at Shadow out of the corner of his eye and returned his focus to the battlefield. "I will enter the fray and keep these lines occupied. We can still beat them to the factory, but our forces must remain in the clear. Send in what reserves we have left upon my signal"
Shadow didn't need to ask. He knew he would see the signal. "I will remain here and wait for reinforcements."
With that, the Elder Taldrya sped into the fray, his golden lightsaber penetrating the air before him. The droids, turned to focus their volleys upon the advancing Jedi with Alanna, could turn only quick enough to see their end. The Prophet danced between them, his blade slicing through metal and wire with every swing. Even as the droids began to turn their attention back to the new attacker, their shots were easily deflected by the effortless swipes of the lightsaber.
When enough had turned, Keirdagh unleashed the full fury of his powers, calling upon the force to send a tidal wave of energy across the landscape. Hundreds of droids flew backwards, projectiles on their own that took down scores more behind them. As they landed, the droids were greeted by blaster fire from the Council reserves. From Cantor himself flew red orbs of destruction and blue cascades of lightning. Within moments of the Elder entering the fray, he had created a gaping hole in the droid lines, leaving Alanna and her crew free to advance.
Alanna felt the presence of her powerful ally behind her and knew that she needed not be concerned with the rear. Pushing forward, she saw the emerald blades of Erin's saber dancing before her. At once, Erin sliced through the top of one droid and Alanna sliced through its midsection. "Took you long enough," teased Erinyes.
Alanna chuckled and looked back at Vardar, Bubbles and the rest. She nodded and charged forward once more towards the factory, Erinyes at her side.
Adas Plains, Antei
Tarax Eosphoros Kor spun his Light Saber on his strong hand playfully before sinking the white-hot blade into the torso of a B2 battle droid. He walked with a purpose, attacking and pushing the war to the droid army with each step. The attack on the artillery emplacement two days earlier followed by the long hike they’d made from there to here physically drained nearly everyone who had made it, but those worries were long forgotten in the heat of battle.
A Templar to his right, a member of his house, fell to a barrage of heavy blaster fire as two Droideka rolled forward and deployed. They turned on their articulated legs to begin firing on Tarax, but found their CPUs severed by flying azure light saber. The weapon arced, decapitating several more droids of various models before it returned to the hand of Sharad Taldrya Hett.
The two angled towards one another, hacking, beating and pushing enemies out of their ways. Meters away another pair of Dark Jedi, both from house Ektrosis, did the same. Force Users began to find themselves partnering up for mutual benefit. With the brunt of the enemy offensive ahead of them, every combatant now had to worry about their rear and those Droids that had not been destroyed and left behind.
Vodo find himself beside a Dark Prophet. A man of immense power whom he knew little about other than that he had at one time been in line to become the next Grand Master after Jac Cotelin. Telaris Cantor wove dual red saber blades as though he could see the battle unfolding moments before the Droids even attack. It was all the Ektrosis Quaestor could do to move along, batting away the odd bolt, deflecting it at another target.
His lekku tingled as Mav drew his hands together and threw them outward, unleashing a massive concussive wave that pulverized several nearby attackers, creating flying shrapnel and missiles that caused much more damage to the surrounding mechanical enemies.
Overhead, the scream of two TIE Bombers filled the sky. The hex-winged craft roared through the air, dropping their payloads ahead of the advancing Dark Jedi. Halcyon Rokir raised his emerald saber high into the air and exerted a single thought to the Taldryan Jedi.
Force users of all rank and ability received the call, and charged. The enemy line, weakened by the bombing run, broke under the sudden pressure, allowing the Dark Jedi free reign to run the gauntlet to the factory with little resistance other than that behind them. The infantry of the Iron Throne’s 2/41st saw the Taldryans’ charge, and were inspired. Many jumped from their trenches and began to charge as well. Droid warriors fell quickly as the soldiers’ cannons and heavy weapons took advantage of the confused attackers shift in position as they transferred from primarily attacking the entrenched forces to their rear, where the Dark Jedi now ran at break neck speeds from the area.
Vice-Admiral Slaxton observed the drifting debris as it passed through the Taldryan cordon. Large meteoroids and interstellar fragments equipped with what appeared to be Droid Fighter drive cores drifted by, trapped by the planet’s gravity well after the attack on the Brotherhood’s flagship, Nightfall. All accounts of the attack were unbelievable at best.
Meteoroids powered by fighter engines had pummeled the Nightfall’s bridge until multiple impacts had broken through the shielding, the point defense systems, and finally the ship’s massive armor. Impacts had even killed the Iron Throne’s supreme naval commanders, though failing the assumed goal of the assassination of the Grand Master himself.
The elder flag officer observed the size and composition of the debris, noting that Quad-laser banks and point defense weaponry, even in tight coordination and focused in specific areas, would have little effect. Even the fastest tracking turbolasers under his command would have had little chance of succeeding in destroying the jury-rigged missiles.
“Message for you Admiral: Iron Throne requests fighter screen around Nightfall.”
The man sighed, wishing the heavy lids over his eyes to give him a few more hours of coherent thought, “Order Lightning squadron to respond, rotate Tyrant to cover their assignment.”
“Aye sir, Lightning Squadron.”
“I’ll be retiring to my quarters Lieutenant, send word to Commodore Takan that the fleet is under his command.”
Unlike so many of the Clan’s crewmen, or even Jedi, the Admiral bedded down, preparing for a sleep that was deserved and much needed. He would awaken refreshed.
Adas Plains, Antei
Keirdagh surveyed the scene in front of him; his brief foray into the combat zone had been sudden, violent, and unrestrained: the type of combat he had become accustomed to. With the threat of droids collapsing on their rear removed, the Taldryan forces, along with the infantry of the Iron Throne had secured the grounds around the droid factory, and were now suppressing small arms fire as demolitions experts went about planting charges to destroy it.
Catching a Sergeant by the arm, Keirdagh pulled him around to face him. “Sergeant, contact your Lieutenant and get him to move up past the factory and start building some cover. The Jedi won’t give up this factory easily.” The man, no more than 30 by the looks of him, started to protest, but apparently thought better of it. Nodding curtly, he keyed his comlink and signaled his men forward. This attempt at dual C2 (Command & Control) was costing the Brotherhood forces time, and time was not in great abundance on the battlefield.
Just as he began to think of ways he might motivate the commanders to be more “receptive” to their place in things, he caught sense of a massive disturbance echoing through the planet, heading in his direction. Looking around, Keirdagh saw the Sergeant he had just spoken to directing his troops into cover positions while others began digging in. Sprinting forward, he sent a mental summons to Alanna and the other Jedi milling around the factory. As they caught up to him, he caught site of the approaching counter attack. “Listen up people: they’re trying to take this bastard back. Let’s get some cover built up and get ready for another push“. Turning to face the NCO directing his troops he bellowed “Sergeant! Get your asses moving we’re going to need some heavy weaponry here now! Relay it through the chain, and back up!”
Focusing his thoughts, Keirdagh began to tear piles of earth from the ground and dropping them into dikes and earth works in front of the soldiers. The other Jedi nearby used their powers to move large pieces of debris, and even deactivated droids to build a hasty fortification. Glancing at the Sergeant he got received a slight shake of the head, and the Dark Jedi Master noted he looked slightly pale. “No dice on the weaponry sir, apparently command has another plan for us.” Growling in frustration, Keirdagh used the force to rip the headset from the man and jammed it onto his own head. “I don’t care who the hell I’m talking to, I need some backup here now! This son of a bitch won’t stay ours long enough to blow it if we don’t get it!”
A deep voice resonated back at him. “Master Cantor, your concerns are noted. However I don’t give a damn about your plans. You'll have to make due with what you have.” Sarin’s voice left little doubt that he expected to be obeyed.
Keirdagh looked troubled as he stared at the ground, and pulled out his comlink. "Shadow, you'd best be talking to our friends from Sadow, it's going to get hairy."
A mortar explosion ripped through the flimsy fortifications and one of the yet-unwired charges placed around the factory exploded in a hail of rubble. The soldiers that were hunkering down behind the hasily erected earthworks close by were thrown through the air; two lay still up on their return to the ground, the third was riddled with fire from an advance droid in the party that sought to reclaim the building.
Alanna surveyed the chaos. The engineers needed just a bit more time. Once the factory was levelled, they would be able to retreat in an orderly fashion. Hopefully CNS had been busy making sure they wouldn't be retreating out of the frying pan and into the fire... but that could be worried about later.
"Keirdagh, Erin, lets push them back long enough for the factory to go down," Alanna's telepathic message met with nods of agreement. Ducking low behind the make-shift earthworks, they made their way around the factory to the front of the line. Another mortar shell exploded to the left, this one missing the explosives but ripping a big hole through their defences. As the noise of the explosion died away, shouts of pain and frustration were left in its place.
Pulling the Force around themselves, the three Jedi formed protective barriers as they stood to see their enemy. More droids than they cared to count were bearing towards them; the smaller ones were those currently harrying their troops. It was clear to all that they would be completely overwhelmed once the larger onces got in range.
Keirdagh shouted at the soldiers around him, "Get those charges exploding, right now!" As the men hurried away from the front line to obey, the pressure on those remaining increased. In response, a wave of Force energy emanated from the three Elders, knocking the droids backwards with such force that some crashed into the ground, shattering on impact. However many survived intact and, in the time it had taken, the forward ranks had been reinforced from behind. As the enemy force came at them once again, the Elders sent a second shock wave across the ground. Readying themselves for the third, increased assault, they knew they wouldn't be able to sustain their effort for long.
"Where's my almighty kaboom?!" Keirdagh shouted just as his Sergeant appeared at his elbow.
"Sir, we're ready."
As Keirdagh released one final wave of energy, he saw Alanna sway a little with the effort.
"Give the order to fall back. Detonation on my command."
“Trooper, damn it, get your people out of there!” Corvinus yelled while motioning to the soldiers nearest to the facility. The men came running towards him. “Now get behind me…” the Priest bellowed, as he could see a large contingent of droids coming at them. “I wonder, if Emperor Palpatine, seeing the Rebels coming towards the Endor Deathstar, truly realised that the Galactic Empire was about to fall…” He had been speaking in his usual calm yet lyrical voice again.
“Sir, I’m not sure I know_” the Trooper replied, obviously confused.
Sena held up a hand. “It hardly matters now, does it? Get your men ready, I will distract them long enough to get close. On my signal, please commence firing.”
“Yes, Priest. You can count on us.”
Corvinus suddenly got a strange feeling. Count on them? Why would he? They were good soldiers, but that was all. He felt no emotion towards them, whatsoever.
Lokasena turned to face the mechanical onslaught. He closed his eyes and summoned all the power, he possibly could, to him. He tried to harvest the power of the Force around him, to fuel his own. When he was satisfied with the might he had collected, he lifted his arms forward and simply released it. It was as if his very life-force went along with the rest of the Force Whirlwind. Corvinus did not even see the destructive effect his attack had on the droids. The Priest fell back to the ground, dazed.
The last thing his conscious mind perceived, was a voice calling out. “That’s the signal! Give’m hell…!” Then, all went dark for Corvinus.
Blaster fire from the advancing droids whistled past Bubbles’ side; more than a little too close for her liking and pulling her attention back to the fight. Summoning her inner strength to push back those droids who were getting a little too close for the troops to handle. Confident they could hold them for at least a minute or two, she turned her efforts to the flicker in the back of her mind that had first drawn her attention. Something was wrong, she felt it Absentmindedly rubbing the tattoo on her shoulder, her thoughts turned to the Phyle.
“Guys? Everything alright out there?” Bubbles’ telepathic message to the rest of Phoenix was met with brief affirmatives from the Phyle, excepting Sena.
“Dammit,” she muttered under her breath. “Lannie,” she reached out again to the person she hoped would be least affected by her intrusion, “something’s up with Sena, the lines are holding here for now, I’m going to check it out.”
“Bubbles wait, you should…” Alanna’s message tailed off as she realised this was Bubbles she was talking to, and that if a member of Phoenix was in trouble it would take orders from Sarin himself to make her think twice; even then Alanna wasn’t convinced that Bubbs would listen.
Extracting herself from the line the troops around her were holding, she nodded to the Sergeant “Good luck,” she paused, “not that I think you’ll need it..” she added, before setting off at a sprint behind the defences.
Adas Plains, Antei
Halcyon Rokir rolled his wrist, twisting the blade of his emerald weapon in the chest unit of the nearest of the Droideka. He wheeled, drawing the blade around his body protectively as the repeating blasters exploded to life from the arms of the next droid. The elder severed those same arms with his next attack, and removed the battle droid’s central processor with a second.
He could feel Alanna Taldrya making her way through what was once a platoon of approaching B1 battle Droids, now a crumpled heap of scrap metal, chasing after her fellow Taldrya, Bubbles. Lokasena Corvinus had unleashed his fury too aggressively and now found himself too far ahead of the defensive line.
Angling towards the Krath Priest, Halcyon found his path aided by support fire from the earthwork defenses. Blaster fire from trained marksmen and standard infantry picked apart the attacking forces with coordinated shots. The flow of the battle moved through him. Allowing his steps to be guided by the Force, Halcyon juked and dived past those shots from either side that would seek to do him harm. Like a nimble dancer, his body moved, his arm a weapon that deflected and redirected blasts, severed heads, and punctured armor.
A sharp sensation warned the former consul of immanent danger. Halcyon brought his emerald saber to bear, hoping to catch the bolt before it caught him, but in that split moment, he could tell that his defense would not make it. At the last moment a violet blade of light intercepted the attack, angling it into a nearby rock. Vodo Biask’s weapon spun like a whirlwind, weaving an intricate pattern to protect his own skin, as well as that of the Elder.
Vodo crouched, touching his off-hand to the ground and drew the Dark Side into his weary legs, letting the pent up energy explode from his muscles like a sling-shot. With preternatural power, the Twi’lek soared into the air, deflecting pot shots from his front and sides. Halcyon Rokir saw the Quaestor’s intent was to reach his stranded Tyro, and gave him the slightest of tugs, redirecting Vodo’s flight path so that he would land on target.
He landed beside Lokasena as the Priest took two blasts to his right legs. The Archpriest threw the man to the ground with a flick of his wrist, saving him from taking several more to his chest. B2 Battle Droids approached from three sides, their repeating weapons firing without cease. With his defense threatening to give, Vodo was relieved to find another amethyst blade at his side. Bubbles Taldrya bared her teeth, giving herself over to the Dark Side as she so rarely did.
The tattoo on her shoulder burned crimson, burning with a fire not of the mortal realm. He grabbed her Tyro by the scruff of his collar and all but threw him back towards the factory where several other Dark Jedi were approaching, coming to the Priest’s aid. Together, Bubbles and Vodo took the offensive. Dual violet light sabers tore into the attacking droids with an unleashed vehemence.
Over head, several vulture droids screamed overhead from the southern sky. They released a salvo of guided explosives which fell to the ground and exploded along the perimeter of the defense around the Factory. Soldiers and Dark Jedi were killed in an instant. Body parts and gore sailed through the air; corpses and the dying were left in the wake.
Alanna Taldrya was hurled to the ground from the force of the Concussion. As she peered through the settling dust, the sight she saw horrified her. Tall, heavily armored droid’s clad in cloth capes approached Bubbles and Quaestor Biask. The B1 and B2 models they had been combating retreated, leaving the two in a near circle of ten of the new type. She’d seen reports of these droids in her studies. Clone War era models that had been the personal guard of the Separatist General, Grievous.
The Magna Guards encircled Vodo and Bubbles, creating a tight cordon from which they could restrain the two Dark Jedi. Three drew stun rifles and fired in quick succession. Bubbles surrendered her arms to the power of the Dark Side, allowing her hands to manipulate her weapon to intercept the stun bolts. At her back, Vodo did the same. Their dynamic defense lasted only a few seconds until the weight of the attacks and their own weariness caused the Twi’lek to slip up. A stun bolt caught him in the neck. He fell backwards into the human woman who took two bolts herself in the back and crumpled to the ground.
Sidarace Rathden pushed aside a command droid as he sprinted towards his Quaestor. His azure weapon severing acted more as a blunt club as he brought it down with great force on a Spider Droid and leapt over the resulting explosion. He was nearly there, ready to save fellow summit members, when he felt something pull at his shoulder. He had no time to react when he was thrown backward to the ground, and began to slide through the dirt.
A dark-haired Jedi swiped his blade once, destroying the Aedile’s weapon at the emitter. Sidarace scrambled to his feet, summoning a surge of Dark Side power to his hands and unleashed the attack at point blank range into the Jedi’s chest. The blow dissipated into the air surrounding the man as his own barrier shrugged offense off. The man reached forward, placing a hand on the Miraluka’s forehead. Rathden’s body seized as the electrical energy poured through his nervous system before he blacked out and fell to the ground.
Chaosrain Taldrya picked himself up from the ground, his ears still ringing from the blasts when the Factory detonated behind him. Again, he was thrown to the ground, this time with the sense to enclose his body in the Force, shielding himself from the debris raining from the sky. Squinting, his eyes refocused in time to see an older shuttle land and three bodies loaded aboard before it took off in a hurry.
In-flight to Dark Hall
Adas Airspace, Antei
The dark-haired Jedi looked over the bodies of his three captives. He noted the matching symbols of a burning bird-of-pray on the shoulders of the elder two, and the matching signs of authority on the two males. He surmised that they were leaders of some sort, a valuable addition to their growing cadre of converts. Master Crask would be well pleased with his performance. With any luck, Rade would return from his rescue mission with the Master’s pet, and Crask would have a field day talking these misguided force users into accepting a new path.
Bureck Torell saw that his Magna Guards clasped restraints to the captives, binding them to the floor of the aging shuttle.
When Corvinus opened his eyes, he found himself alone, surrounded by corpses and broken machines. The troops that had backed him up earlier, were all dead. He tried to get up, but a sharp pain in his left shoulder pinned him to the ground. Literally pinned, since a large shard of scrap metal pierced his flesh and the ground under it. He grabbed the shard with his right hand, cutting his palm as his fingers began to pull. A horrific scream could be heard over the aftermath of the battlefield, as the metal finally came free.
For a minute, Sena thought he would lose consciousness again. But as he grabbed hold of that life-line, known as the Force, he could feel its healing effects flowing through his body. He calmed his mind and accepted the pain and situation for what they were. There was only peace.
Some one must have heard his scream, for he could hear footsteps closing in. He made the effort to crawl to his feet, just in time to look upon the face of Dark Jedi Master Alanna Taldrya.
“Are you well, Priest? Can you fight?” the woman asked with a hint of concern.
“Yes, I’m fine… Don’t worry.” Sena said as his aches began to ebb away.
“I’m glad you’re all right, Sena… But there is still much reason for concern. The entire Ektrosis Summit has been taken prisoner by the enemy.”
Lokasena felt his spirit sink into his feet. “What…? How…?”
“Bubbles and Vodo came to assist you. They were simply overwhelmed. We are not certain what happened to Rathden, but we believe he was taken by a Jedi.”
Lokasena Corvinus experienced a wave of guilt. It was his own foolhardy attack that had brought them all into trouble. Sena wasn’t even sure how much damage his attack had done, but he was certain that it cost more than it was worth.
“Mistress, I…” he began.
“Yes, I know. Now set that nonsense aside and focus on getting them free.”
“Of course… What do you need from me?” the Priest said, his back straight and his mind sharp.
"They should have their tracer beacons on them. Find them and get them back here immediately. We need all the help we can get, plus I'm not going to leave them in the hands of the enemy."
"Yes, ma'am. I'm on it," Loka nodded to the Elder and ran off to implement her orders.
Alanna stood for a moment, bone-crushingly tired. Those Force waves had taken a lot out of her, after an already packed day. She needed some revitalisation. Several vulture droids were inbound towards the soldiers surrounding her. As the two groups began to exchange fire, Alanna wearily wrapped her mind into the tendrils of the Force, willing it to assist her just once more. She rose off the ground towards their attackers. Immediately, bolts began to target her and she opened herself up to their energy. Absorbing them rather than turning them, she felt her strength return to her. Igniting her sabre, the next salvo was directed back to where they had come, and the droids fell to earth one by one.
Spotting Loka in deep conversation with one of the Regimental officers, she directed her flightpath so that she landed next to him.
"Do you have them?" She enquired without preamble.
"Yes, ma'am," Loka looked pleased. "We have their position. I'm moving out with a retrieval squad. Would you like to join us?"
Confinement Chamber, Dark Hall
Southern Adas, Antei
The Miraluka stirred as he lay on his back, his glossy black hair brushing against the floor as he attempted to raise his head. Something cold and hard hit him in the temple of his head, the large MagnaGuard pressing his blaster to Sidarace’s head. The Aedile threw out his force sensitivity, searching for any nearby ally’s. His mind was immediately clouded, the cold restraints on his wrists beginning to vibrate as they retained the Taldryan’ touch on the force, thus blinding the dark Jedi. With all of his might he tried to get on his feet, battering away the blaster with his head he felt the hard steel cut through the skin on his forehead, his body filling with fatigue as he tried so helplessly to free himself.
A familiar voice was audible to Sidarace over the commotion, his thoughts concentrating on what was being said, “Sidarace, you must stop!” The familiar voice of Ektrosis’s Tetrarch rang over Sidarace, his scrambling showed he did not pay any attention to what the Epis had to say. “Aedile… Stop” The words of Ektrosis’s Quaestor rang through the large room, his voice showing his own fatigue and distress as he attempted to calm down his Lieutenant. “Master,” Sidarace began, “What in hell is going on here?” His voice was deep and full of emotion as he tried to put his situation together, each piece seeming to be just beyond his grasp, his lack of the force being the restraint keeping his mind back. It was not in his blood to relay solely on his physical strength alone; from a child he had been taught to see with the force, to control it to be his own.
Sidarace concentrated on what had brought him to where he was now, a bleak image of him knocking down a large droid with his light saber, followed by his advancement on a fellow dark Jedi… Sena. The dark Jedi remembered watching as his fellow clansman fell to his own foolishness in the force, the Krath over exceeding his own power to complete a feat well above his own stamina and knowledge. Sidarace’s brain was recalling more. In front of him stood a tall Jedi, his hair dark in color coming to shoulder length, a lit light saber in his hand, its blue hue coloring the area around it.
It had grown silent again; the only sound audible to the Rathden was his own pulsating heart beat, hammering away in his chest. A sound in the distance told Sidarace more droid soldiers were coming, the heavy clanking of their feet told him they were battle droids, but there was a softer, more human sound to one of the footsteps. A loud voice boomed over the cold room, one Sidarace had heard before on the battlefield. “That one,” he said, and the two droids next to him reached down and picked him up off of the floor. Immediately the Miraluka began to squirm and thrash his body around, his feeble attempt cut short as the familiar snap and his sound of a light saber caressed into sight, Sidarace could feel the skin under his neck beginning to black as the Jedi held his blade close to his captor’s neck.
The group began to move down a large hall, from what Sidarace could tell by the acoustics emanating off the walls. The Jedi’s boots clacked against the floor in front of Rathden, his stride’s showed an amount of pride in each step. He had captured three dark Jedi for his master, such a feat was not a small one. And from the looks of these three dark Jedi, they held an amount of importance to them.
The sound of two large doors rang over the distant clatter of the droids pounding feet as they opened a sound Sidarace had only heard once. He now knew where he was. He was standing directly in the Dark Hall, the sound of the two doors reminding Sidarace upon his promotion to his Knighthood.
“My lord,” Rang the Jedi’s cold voice, “I have brought to you the Miraluka, as you had ordered.” The room grew silent as Sidarace was dragged by the back of his robes by two droids, the Jedi still leading the way, saber drown. The two droids flung the dark Jedi to the ground, stepping back away from Sidarace. In an instant two human hands were placed on his shoulders as he was picked off the ground and shoved into a kneeling position. The Jedi that had captured Rathden stepped away, but kept his light saber still drawn.
The whole room went quiet, and Sidarace could barely make out the sound of shuffling robes just ahead of him. “So foolish, are you and your brother’s, dark Jedi.” A chill ran over Sidarace as the man’s voice rang through the Dark Hall. Rathden froze. The very words of the man in front of him rang with the force. Each word he spoke was carefully woven for a perfect acceptance, and accept them the Aedile did. “You hold some power, do you not, Knight? I have been told by Jedi Master Bureck tha you are some form of leader among you brethren. Is this true?” His voice came to a soft halt as he awaited the Miraluka to reply. Sidarace merely nodded, unable to speak under the immense presence that this Jedi held in the force, even with Sidarace’s force restraints on.
The Jedi in front of him began to speak, “I am Jedi Master Omancor Crask, and this is my dominion. I now rule this ‘Dark Hall’, as your brotherhood calls it, and I will soon rule this planet completely.” His voice emanated a small amount of glee to it, added with his power over the force. A small scent was beginning to form under Sidarace’s tongue. A soft, sweet taste each time the Jedi Master would talk was issued through the Aedile, his thoughts already beginning to betray him. Who was this Jedi Master Omancor? How was his power so strong, even Sarin did not storm the battlefield to come attack him? Was he really greater than the Grand Master?
A small puff of wind and the sound of cloth ensured Sidarace that the Jedi had turned to face him, standing directly in front of him. “Do you want to see, again, Aedile?” At the sound of Sidarace’s position, he flinched. How did he know what I was? Rathden nodded, a task he had not willingly done, but rather something else did for him, as if his own body was betraying him. “First, what is your name?” The Jedi Master’s word bore down on the Aedile, and suddenly the words blurted out of his mouth uncontrollably, “Sidarace… Rathden… Dark Jedi Knight, Sidarace Rathden, Aedile of house Ektrosis, Clan Taldryan.” He ended abruptly as he felt a warm soft hand touch his forehead, sight flooding into Sidarace’s vision. “Very good, Sidarace Rathden. Very good indeed. I need for you to trust me. Can I trust you?” His voice became even warmer upon his question, his facial features exactly as Sidarace had pictured them upon hearing his voice.
Rathden sat for an instant, Crask moving his hand from Sidarace’s forehead, his vision going black once more. “Yes! You can trust me, Jedi Master.” The words blurted out of the Miraluka like a damn breaking under the pressure of a large lake. The Jedi placed his hand once more onto his forehead, restoring the Knight’s vision. “Very good, Sidarace. Already you are beginning to appreciate the gifts the light provides. His words were like a spell coming over Sidarace, his tongue spewing what seemed like the sweet aroma of the force itself. The Jedi Master ushered his free hand forward, and a droid came up behind the Miraluka, the force suppressing binds on his hands falling to the ground behind him with a clank.
Crask kept his hand on the dark Knight’s forhead and spoke, “See what the Light can do for you, Rathden? It can heal your sight completely, not withstanding any ailment.” His words were lies, but Sidarace had already fallen to them even before they left his mouth. Shaking his head wearily, Sidarace agreed with what the Jedi was saying. “I can offer you this power, Sidarace. But you must accept it first. You must embrace it, embrace the light Sidarace. Don’t be like those so called ‘dark Jedi’, don’t throw away your life for a sadistic maniac such as Sarin.” The name of Rathden’s former master burned in his ears; he did not want to hear them.
“Sidarace, join me, join the light, and I promise you, you will live to see another day.” Crask’s words were like water to a man dying in the desert. Sidarace held onto them as if they were his last breath. “Sidarace, come to the light, come to the light!” Rathden felt an air of dizziness as he fell backwards, Crask’s hand removing from his forehead as he hit the ground.
A bright light came over Sidarace as he lay on the floor squirming, his body coming under some form of spell. He began to feel the anger he once had for the Jedi leaving him, disappearing into nothingness, and forming into hate for the darkness. His hate for the darkness grew with each passing second as he heard the distant chant of Jedi surrounding him, Crask leading them with his soft voice booming through the Dark Hall.
Noise was audible over the distant sound of footsteps as Sidarace was brought to his feet, the sound of Crask’s voice ringing throughout the area, “Dark Jedi Knight are you no more, Sidarace. You are a soldier of the light now. Rise, Jedi Knight Sidarace Rathden, and join your new brothers on the battlefield, they are awaiting you with open arms.” The thought of his old master, Vodo Biask rang into mind, hate welding up inside of him upon the very thought of the Twi’Lek.
I will hunt you down, Biask, and I will kill you. His anger for his old master flooding through the force, a smile on his face as he embraced his fellow brothers around him, his new Master putting a hand on his shoulder, “Go now, Knight, you have a personal task to finish.”
Confinement Chamber, Dark Hall
Southern Adas, Antei
Bubbles felt the anger swelling inside her as her Aedile was forced out of the room. This had most certainly not been her plan when she headed to Sena’s aid, and she only had her self to blame for such rash actions resulting in the capture of Vodo and Sidarace. She felt the Rage tickling the edge of her consciousness; and fought it down to the depths of her heart. Now was not the time. Not yet. Those that had done this would pay, she would see to that. But there were things to be dealt with first that needed rational thinking; the ordered thought process that came so naturally most of the time, not the anger and hatred that was boiling inside.
She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. The shackles that bound them were the problem, she remembered Alanna’s long lectures about their effects, and wished she had paid more attention. The teachings had been long and detailed, even by Alanna’s standards, yet Bubbs was sure there had been something in there about a way to counter them. All of these artefacts had a weakness somewhere, it was just a case of knowing what, but Bubbs was damned sure that being caught in them would make it difficult even if she had known the secret.
The depths of her mind giving her no clue as to how to escape them, she opened her eyes and looked to Vodo,
“So, any bright ideas? I’m betting if we wait here long enough we’re either going to end up dead, or worse still under the influence of Crask. There has got to be another way.”
The sound of chanting crept it’s way gently into the chamber, and a chill shot up the Epis’ spine.
“And whatever that way is, we’d better find it quick…”
Shuttle Intruder I
Dark Hall Airspace
Over Adas Plains, Antei
For Lance Corporal Hyler Gage, the mission was nothing more spectacular than anything else this stupid invasion had brought to his life. His Dark Jedi overlords did as they would, and cared nothing for him, save for what his blaster could do, so what did he care? He was paid, and paid well for his work; In a galaxy torn by strife, planets destroyed by conquering aliens and therefore, that was something to hold onto.
The Shuttle buffeted him against the bulkhead behind him, his Kyrat-Skin armor rattling against the cool metal and the pouldron of the trooper beside him. The Taldryan assault shuttle was aging, but well kept. The fresh paint, the polished control surfaces, the obvious pride the crew took in their vessel all made that apparent.
Gage looked about the cramped compartment. Seated were thirty troopers from he 2/41st’s Bravo company, first platoon. Several Taldryan Dark Jedi sat nearest the cockpit filling out the remainder of the seats. The Lance Corporal had no clue how they’d managed it, but the Clan had managed to sneak an assault shuttle from their own forces planetside for this rescue operation. If they succeeded, it was likely someone would lose their head. And it won’t be me, Gage mused.
It was as though someone was burying daggers in the back of his head. With his helmet’s wrap around imaging, he could see a Dark Jedi down the line glaring at him, his bright eyes burning with a fierce intensity. The man was bandaged in several places, having taken blaster fire in a previous encounter with droids. A chill ran down his back as he watched the Krath.
I will see that your head remains firmly attached to that trunk you call a neck so long as my Quaestor is returned alive…, the words formed in his mind, and the meaning was not lost on him.
The noncom nodded and shuffled his kit, checking to make sure it was ready and prepared for the fight ahead. Lokasena Corvinus returned to his quiet meditation, relaxing against the cool metal bulkhead behind him. His wounds, though severe at one time, had seen a tremendous improvement very rapidly from the healing attention of the former Krath High Priestess, Alanna Taldrya, and his own focused efforts.
He would be well enough to be effective in combat, this he promised. Quaestor Biask and Tetrarch Bubbles had fought to save his life, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do to see them returned, or their slayers’ utterly destroyed. Aedile Rathden was known to be with them as well, having been captured it was supposed, by a Jedi. The three of them would return to Taruma…
“Final approach, strap in. AA incoming”, the Co-pilot was calm and assured.
Flak and laser fire lit up the night sky as the shuttle blasted over the terrain, flying low and at high speed. By no means an agile craft, the pilot deftly handled it, weaving in an out of ground features, using it as cover until they came right up upon the Dark Hall itself, resting between the two peaks of Okemi’s Shoulders.
Defensive fire from the fortress was intense. Intruder I’s shields, designed to absorb and shrug off capital-class turbolasers, held their ground until the Shuttle was able to land just outside the Temple’s main entrance. The troopers files out, exchanging covering fire with the emerging defenders, followed closely by the Dark Jedi who’d accompanied them.
Adas Plains, Antei
The sounds grew closer with every heartbeat. Unable to reach the force, Vodo had no clue what was coming for them. Rumors of conversion and forceful brainwashing had filled the ranks of the Dark Jedi on Antei over the past few days. It was even said that the Deputy Grand Master himself had only barely resisted the temptation of Crask. Would they find themselves his prisoners only to throw their allegiance to him?
Down the corridor Sidarace Rathden, Jedi Knight, walked briskly. In on hand, he carried a bright silver light saber carrying a blue adegan crystal, a gift from his Master. Omacron Crask was now off-world, attending to some business of war; Sidarace did not know what. What he did know what that in a few moments, he would slay the Dark Jedi who had so thoroughly corrupted him, and he would truly call himself a creature of the Light. In the other, a familiar weapon of uncommon design, the light saber of Vodo Biask.
Vodo picked himself up as par as the restraints would allow so that while he was on his feel, he was forced to stoop with his arms pulled to the side. He recognized the posture was comparable to a bow, so that anyone standing at the entrance could exert a powerful presence with a simple trick.
“Bubbles, give them nothing.”
The Epis’s eyes gleaned with a fiery hue, “Oh no, I’m going to give this one everything”.
They steeled themselves up for what they imagined would either lead to their deaths or forced conversion. The durasteel partition slid open with a well oiled efficiency, leaving a lone robed figure standing in the light pouring in on the dark chamber. His silhouette shifted before the figure entered and his features became recognizable.
Bubbles was taken off guard, gasping, “Sidarace!?”
The Miraluka’s eyes studied her form before he took in the stooped presence of his Quaestor, “Master Biask, how kind of you to bow for me.”
It became instantly clear what had happened to his Aedile. Vodo’s rage exploded and he began wildly tearing at his restraints, roaring feral screams. Sidarace waved his hands, releasing the Twi’lek. Without the resistance of the shackles, Vodo was taken off guard, lost his balance, and fell to the ground. Beside him, his light saber clattered to the ground.
“Take it. We have unfinished business, Biask…”
Sidarace turned and left the confinement chamber, pacing comfortably away. Vodo glanced to Bubbles, whose concern registered on her face. She moved her head, willing the Quaestor not to do it, not to engage his apprentice. He would not abide it however. If Sidarace was here to kill him, then so be it. He grasped the hilt in his right hand and followed the Miraluka out into the light.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
Rejoined by their Consul, the Dark Jedi of Taldryan led the charge. Elements of the 2nd Battalion’s 41st Infantry and their armored components moved on the heavily defended Library. Halcyon Rokir and Duga Arkarso, both former Consuls in their own right, ran alongside their current leader, hacking and slashing their way to the objective. Sarin wanted this Library back under his control along with the rest of the planet, and it became their job to retrieve it for him.
If the Jedi were fatigued, warn down by the constant fighting and running, then that felt by the troopers of the Iron Throne’s Army was all that much greater without the ability to draw from the Force to replenish themselves. Embunkered droid units unleashed a hailstorm of heavy blaster fire and explosive rounds. Running for cover, a younger sergeant fix a grenade mount to his weapon, took aim and fired, destroying a cannon in the process. Seconds later a flash of light disintegrated the man’s head.
Vladet Xavier and his Aedile batted back bolts, defending themselves as they approached the enemy line. A small group of soldiers plodded along behind them, using the Jedi’s blades as a mobile defense shield. Xavier felt their fear, and bolstered his own strength with it, renewing the drained muscles in his upper arms. Groans and protests from his deltoids and shoulder blades grew louder as he pressed the attack. I’m getting too old for this, he chuckled to himself.
Adas Plains, Antei
“Vodo!” Bubbles screamed after her Quaestor, a glint of panic evident in her voice to all those who knew her, “Don’t be so bloody stupid, you’re doing exactly what Crask wants… Vodo! Godamn you stubborn fool.”
Tearing against the restraints with all her might, she bit her lip as she felt blood trickle down her wrist, grateful of the sharp reality it bought with it; a stark contrast against the fuzziness of her mind. She was not about to let things end like this, not here, and not now. Taldryan was it’s own Brotherhood, it was Bubbs’ family, and she was not about to let some jumped up Light Sider trick her friends into fighting, and potentially killing, each other.
She paused, wrists aching at the effort of trying to pull free. Brute strength had never been the Epis’ strong point, but if it was to be the only way out of this hellhole, then she hoped her determination would see through. Bracing herself for another attempt, she set her mind to the task at hand; afterall, how strong could the walls of the Chamber be?
Adas Plains, Antei
Lokasena Corvinus exited the shuttle hooded and cloaked. His eyes were bloodshot and his face bruised. Both his hands and wrists were wrapped in bandages, but only so far as not to interfere with and knife work that needed doing. This was not the calm and passive man that his clan mates knew him to be. He would be Taldryan’s avenging angel. His mind fabricating all sorts of devastating scenarios were his strength and courage would be tested to their limits, yet he would emerge victoriously. Here came the Champion of Ektrosis, let the puny Jedi beware. Corvinus’ fury would feast upon the light that these frauds were trying to spread. Upon his consciousness seeping into their illuminated world, Corvinus would be the dominant over all. He would see it done.
As he trod that well beaten track into the Dark Hall of the Damned he passed them, hanging from the crosses to which they had been nailed in long procession by the roadside. All those faces of the Brotherhood who had been killed or converted by their enemy. He walked that avenue of broken corpses, whose eyes yet followed him, whose heads turned as they addressed him thus in thin, dead words, “Turn back… turn back… turn back.” For a moment, Sena could see his Aedile’s face amongst them.
Alanna Taldryan almost felt a very human shiver crawl up her spine as she looked upon Lokasena’s face. She thought about shaking the man back into reality, but on the other hand, Let him, let him be our blunt instrument of Darkness. Then I can concentrate on the finer points of this operation.
"Alright, stay in close formation. We're expecting some resistance, but they may not have prepared for a rescue party, so lets get in and out before they know what's hit them," Alanna indicated to their Sergeant that he should distribute the men according to his preference.
Loka nodded to the Jedi Mistress and took up point position. Alanna could see that the young man felt the need to avenge his earlier actions, and she dropped back to rear guard. The Dark Hall sat impassive before them, droid sentries already sounding the alarm in response to the arrival of their shuttle.
Loka, this is extraction only. Don't let your attention wander. If we see Crask, we back off; understood? Alanna send a mental communication to her colleague.
Loka looked over his shoulder and Alanna could see the bloodlust in his eyes. With reluctance he nodded, but the Jedi Mistress knew that he would nonetheless have to be kept on a tight leash.
"Engage!" Loka screamed as he lit his sabre and raced forward towards the building. The contingent of soldiers followed, with Alanna and her purple sabre bringing up the rear. More droid guards appeared from within the building in front of them in the time it took to cross the distance between shuttle and Hall, along with a short human male who exuded the essence of the Force.
He's mine. Loka angled towards him.
Alanna threw up a Force barrier between soldiers and droids as bolts started to rain down upon them, and then they reached firing distance. The soldiers knelt in formation, preparing to fire upon the enemy as Alanna dropped her barrier and sent a Force wave towards the droids. This one was more effective than those in earlier combats had been because the wave impacted with the wall of the building, and the smaller droids were simply smashed into pieces against it. The tut-tut of weapons fire started to pick off the remaining droids, as reinforcements arrived from inside the structure and Loka entered into combat with the enemy Jedi.
Steps of the Dark Hall
A green blade met Sena’s purple one. With a expert twirl and a twist of his wrist, Sena probed the young Jedi’s defences. His technique was stable, but his knowledge of the Force did not match the Priest’s. Dark clouds formed in Lokasena’s mind and with help of the Force he projected them onto his opponent. The young man suddenly yelped with an expression of panic on his face. His mind succumbing to the horror of Sena’s projection.
The Jedi cowered away, letting his saber fall as he knelt down and pulled at his hair with both hands, a look of terror on his visage. Corvinus walked over to the boy and with a quick flourish of his saber, beheaded him. These were hardly the best that these Jedi had to offer. But it was necessary to cut through them, in order to get to the bigger fish.
With Alanna still in the rear with the troops, Corvinus began to look out for his next target. It did not take long for him to find one. A human woman this time. Sena could sense that she possessed a bit more skill with the Force. But how would she fare against a well trained duellist?
Again a green energy blade was greeting him as he walked toward the woman. She seemed to be upset about something.
“You monster, you killed my student!”
Sena paused and looked at the Jedi, eyeing her from her brown boots to her simple hairstyle. “Oh, you mean that…” Corvinus grunted matter-of-factly as he motioned his head to the dead Jedi behind him. “You’re better off, his training was going nowhere.” The Priest said with a sadistic smile on his lips.
The woman let out a cry as she jumped toward him, obviously aided by the Force. She jabbed at Sena who parried in return. She tried again, but the Krath made an effective counter, singeing the woman’s left shoulder. She did not show any pain, which would have been impressive were it not for the obvious hate in the woman’s eyes. Corvinus relished the flow of negative emotion that was aimed at him. The thrumming of his saber as it clashed with the other was very satisfying to him. Sena being much taller that his enemy suddenly engaged with a series of high attacks. The Jedi woman did all she could to block his blows. Then, when Sena was convinced she had overextended her reach, he suddenly knelt down and cut through her legs, just above her knees. The woman screamed in utter agony as gravity pulled her down and she landed on her freshly cauterised stumps.
The site was horrible to behold as Corvinus proceeded to hew the woman with his saber over and over again, every cut precise but not fatal. “Where are the Dark Jedi being held?” he asked in-between slashes. The woman only yelped and screamed. “WHERE…?” the Priest bellowed, but the subject of his torture could not make a sensible response. With his final swing he slashed the woman’s throat. He walked away leaving her lifeless corpse, eyes wide open, looking at the air as if praying for deliverance.
Corvinus would be their deliverer… If all the Jedi were this weak, he would have them roll into the very jaws of death. But he doubted that the fighting would remain this easy. Far greater challenges awaited him further on. He would find his House Summit and then, with their help, lay waste the battalions of the enemy.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
The fighting was brutal. If they'd been here 6 hours ago it would have been an easy mission, but without exception every member of the Taldryan contingent was exhausted. A droid bunker went up in an explosion of fire triggered by Duga and a carefully Force-directed grenade. One of the soldiers under his command had gotten too close to the bunker and was thrown backwards by the explosion, landing badly on his arm and breaking the bone. Duga shook his head imperceptibly - they were getting careless.
Halc slashed his way towards Duga through a surge in the enemy; in all likelihood a counter-attack attempting to reclaim the bunker before Taldryan could get a foot-hold there. The two elders worked steadily, gaining ground painfully slowly. Their soldiers, although far fewer in number than those who had originally landed on Antei, now moved as a well-coordinated unit, comfortable working alongside with the once-unfamiliar FUs.
Further along the line, Vladet felt the press of numbers ease on his right hand side and he pushed forward. His sabre struck droid bolts back towards the enemy as sweat dripped from his forehead. Through the press of metallic bodies, he could see Halcyon's sabre flashing, and guessed that between them they'd found a weak point in the enemy line. Barking out commands, their soldiers fanned out to try and hold the area while the Jedi pressed through to break the enemy line.
Adas Plains, Antei
The azure hue of Sidarace’s new weapon lightly lit the small corridor. He walked backwards, keeping his gaze locked on his former Master. Vodo’s amethyst blade added a contrasting light that caused the already menacing shadows to become fearsome. The two studied the other, fully aware of their capabilities and weaknesses. Sidarace had dedicated himself to the study of the Second Form, Makashi and had taken lessons from Vodo in the Third Form of which he was a master. Vodo had studied Makashi for years now, and had all but perfected his own technique and was a formidable duelist in his own right but it was perhaps the former Aedile’s dedication to the art of warfare that best leveled the playing field.
“You are a traitor to this Brotherhood, my Apprentice”, growled the Archpriest
Sidarace’s face contracted into a sneer, “You are a smear on the good name of the Force. I will cleanse you and return to my new Master well accomplished. I will be rewarded for my work…”
So it would be. Vodo would not speak sweetly to the Miraluka, to tempt him back to the Dark Side. Whatever it was that Crask had done, he had completely convinced Sidarace of his purpose and allegiance. Reading the Templar’s thoughts, he found nothing but purpose and conviction.
Vodo raised his weapon into a salute, a traditional start for practitioners of the Second Form. Sidarace sloppy mimicked the salute less concerned with proper form than he was the destruction of this stain. Power exploded through their legs as they launched at one another, blades crashing. White light flashed every time their weapons met, screeching with a horrific noise with each rebound.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
Seraine unleashed a powerful whirlwind that drew the smaller droids into it’s maw and spat them out once their mangled remains gained the necessary momentum to escape. The Flechette of metallic sharps caused havoc on the enemy lines, damaging comms systems, transmitters, visual sensors, firing mechanisms…
Her mind was empty, devoted to the cause of the moment. She was far too tired to care at this point. Even the anger within her bosom failed to provide the required fuel for the Dark Side. Her flesh could only go so far, and it was nearing that limit. She noted with idle interest how her beautiful emerald light saber reacted with delayed proficiency. She intercepted attacks, but only just, and redirected them to a more suitable target.
Her shoulder exploded with pain as a single bolt managed to slip through her defense. The flesh curled and boiled around the edges, blackened by the heat of dissipating energy. The force of the blow sent her stumbling backwards. Two hands caught and braced her from behind.
Stay with us Erin, we need your strength…, Andryan Queldom, Dark Jedi Knight, helped her regain her balance and took a position on her weak side, protecting the injured shoulder while he did her best to wield the doubled hilt with a single hand.
Down the line, Halcyon Rokir pushed his fist forward, letting loose a devastating force attack that shook an entire bunker, collapsing it on the defenders within. With a chink in their line created, the Droid army rushed to fill the gap but found a coordinated hailstorm of fire from the 41st’s Alpha Company and their armored support. AT-RT and AT-PTs charged through the opening in the Earthworks and began tearing through the trenches at a run. Droid bodies were crushed beneath their metal feet, exploding at their repeating blasters opened fire and raked down the line. Dark Jedi and Soldiers charged through the gap, gaining a foot hold that much closer to the Library.
Tarax Eosphoros jumped over the back of the trench and slid beneath the stampeding feet of a Small Spider Droid. His saber severed the central orb from it’s legs and second the left hemisphere from the right. He scrambled away as it exploded, protecting himself with a force barrier from the shrapnel. Behind him, a young Jedi leapt high into the air and brought his Cyan blade down in a swift plunge.
The Prelate rolled over his shoulder and landed on his feet, parrying a horizontal attack. He recognized the face of a Plagueis Equite, “Eludajae?!”
Her lithe figure exuded explosive energy as she lunged into the air and flipped, presenting an attack at the last moment. The Taldryan parried the blow to the side and attacked the Warrior’s undefended torso as she landed. His blade removed her torso from its base. Confused as he was tired, there was no time to remain and investigate. The troopers had begun to follow him and were making their final charge on the Library’s above ground entrance.
The count of dead Jedi was now three and even though his body was all but completely drained, Corvinus’ hateful spirit had lost none of its potency. He utterly hated the Jedi, they took away his chance for vengeance against the Yuuzhan Vong and now they had taken away his leaders, his friends.
Two young Jedi came at him as he kept advancing into the Dark Hall, Alanna was closing in from behind. There was one human female and a Twi’lek male, holding their sabers as if they were holding on to their very lives. Perhaps, in a way, this was not far from the truth.
“Go back, foul thing…” the children cried to Sena. “lest you come to know the wrath of our Master.”
“Go back?” Lokasena’s voice had become a bitter whisper. “My vengeance will never be sated until all the Jedi lie dead at my feet, their heads severed and hearts cut out! Only your blood can pay for the misery you have brought me and my kin! Look upon your executioner, little ones. I have come to chastise you and your pathetic order will know the fury of the Dark Side.”
The children charged, brave but foolishly. Sena held up his left hand in a claw-like gesture. The human girl stopped and dropped her saber to the floor as she grasped her throat, as painful grimace on her face. The Twi’lek still charged but his saber was intercepted by the tall Priest. Corvinus blocked in one motion and in a flowing counter took off the boy’s left arm. The Twi’lek fell to his knees, crying out. He was quickly silenced by a few well aimed kicks to his face. With a light downward kick, the boy’s chin was slammed to his chest. Then, a harder kick with Sena’s heel against the Jedi’s forehead caused his head to snap back at an unnatural angle. The Boy simply fell back and did not move again.
Corvinus, still holding the girl in his tight grip, walked up to her and deactivated his saber. He clasped the weapon to his sash and while eyeing his target, his fingers sought the familiar warm feel of a red wooden handle. With a loud ring that echoed through the Dark Hall, audible even over the sounds of battle, Mormegill came forth from its sheath. The girl’s eyes grew large as she beheld the great and terrible black blade. It was as if she knew how much blood it had already tasted, and that its thirst could never be quenched.
Lokasena released the girl and she immediately let out a quick gasp and then took a deep breath. She did not relish it for long as the black steel cut through her torso, from pelvis to sternum, spilling her insides out over the cold stone that paved the floor.
Now the count was five and Mormegill had his first taste of blood since the beginning of this whole war. But the blade thirsted for more and its master would provide, the Krath’s eyes mad with the delirium of death.
Unspecified corridor near to the Confinement chamber
A familiar Force presence filtered into Alanna's awareness as she threw up another shield to protect the small group from a fresh assault back the way they had come. Vodo's close. At least we won't have to keep this up for too long, she thought. This whole plan is utter madness. If it was anyone other than Bubbles... They had made for the Confinement Chamber, guessing it would be the most likely place to keep unexpected guests. Avoiding the main corridors, they had hoped to also avoid the bulk of the enemy's resistance. Despite this, the fighting had been intense and wasn't getting any easier. On the other hand, it wasn't getting any more difficult which was some comfort; Alanna had envisioned hordes of reinforcements arriving after their initial assault. Presumably it was taking time to pull troops in from the surrounding area.
A grenade impacted against her shield, and she drew the energy in to revitalise her supplies. The other members of her team didn't have that particular trick to lean on and were starting to run on empty; worse, she was becoming seriously concerned about Loka. She could feel the tendrils of the Force being drawn into the Priest, feeding his anger and his rage. Whilst she couldn't deny his effectiveness at getting them into the Hall, she didn't relish the prospect of carrying him back out.
As Loka reached a corridor junction, he let out a shout. "Vodo!" Sprinting around the corner, he mentally shouted in surprise as he was thrown hard against a corridor wall by the Force. A new Force signature unexpectedly popped into existence and the previously-cloaked Jedi ran out of a side-corridor, shouting his defiance as an orange blade cut the air towards Loka.
Alanna cursed under her breath, unable to see what was happening. Along with the soldiers she formed a slow advance away from the assault on their rear and towards the intersection. The shouts and the sound of sabres clashing resolved into a scene of chaos.
Loka was at full stretch, outmatched by a Jedi whom Alanna could tell had some serious power. Behind them, Vodo was engaging Siderace - his Apprentice, her Aedile - in something that in no way resembled a training match. Bubbles was nowhere to be seen, although a durasteel partition hid the end of the corridor. In the moment she took to absorb it all, a MagnaGuard stepped out of the same side passage from which the Jedi had emerged, in between the two groups of combatants. Ignoring Siderace and Vodo he instead turned to level his weapons towards the Priest.
Alanna waved her hand in the direction of the MagnaGuard and ushered her weight through the force, the droids weapon flipping into the air and crashing to the floor, its head cocked to the side as it surveyed the dark Jedi Master with his beady red eyes. The Krath followed with another wave of her hand, the droid flew into the air and landed hard against a stone pillar just behind it. The droid made to run away from the pillar but was in turn smashed against it again, followed by multiple more times until the once durable and strong durasteel of the droids outer chasse was in pieces, the sound of its voice emulator starting at a high pitched scream to a deep barking noise.
Alanna turned around to look at her fellow Krath, only to find him advancing on the Jedi that stood before him, her orange blade shimmering against Lokasena’s Amethyst. In turn, the Emeritus High Priestess moved forward, her own blade scoffing at the air, it’s hum audible over the distant clashes of the two battles going on around her, followed by the sound of metal clanking on metal as a small squad of B2 battle droids poured through the entrance of the Dark Hall, returning fire in the direction they were coming in.
A yell of rage rang over the Dark Hall, smoke billowing from the hem of the Miraluka’s robe as the Archpriest’s blade cut through thick fabric, just barely missing its target. The former Taldryan spat at his old master bringing his light saber upward to catch his opponents. The duel between the two had endured for at least 15 minutes, both of the combatants had already suffered many lacerations across their bodies from the icy hot blades of their light sabers; not one of them stopping upon each strike, always advancing for another attack.
The two stood with their weapons held across the other, a deep sense of hate flowed through the force on both sides of the duel. Sidarace had one mission and one mission only before his master would truly consider him one of his own; "Kill the alien you used to call your master." The words of Crask ran through the Miraluka’s head as he ducked an oncoming blow, returning with a parry followed by a balled fist to the Twi’Lek’s face.
The Quaestor battered away the white blade and leaped backward with a grunt. Thrusting his free hand forward he motioned to the force to do his bidding, the newly converted Jedi being shoved backwards into the pillar just in back of him as the Archpriest’s attack took its toll; a thud emanating from the stone pillar. The Knight let out another yell of hate and jumped forward into a lateral spin, kicking off the pillar he brought his saber up to bear down upon his former master, this time leaning into his hilt while shoving his foot forward, jabbing at the Twi’Lek’s knee cap. The bone held its position as Vodo prepared for the attack, the force aiding the dark Jedi’s defense.
Rathden continued his attack maneuver with a spin around his opponent, his white saber releasing its grip on the Amethyst, its master training it to a new target. Biask turned in the opposite direction and caught Sidarace’s blade just before his shin. Catching another fist that pelted towards his face, Vodo clenched down upon his enemy’s hand, augumening the force through his muscles a loud crack erupted form the Knight’s hand followed by a yelp of pain. Rathden let go of his light saber and reached upward and grabbed the Krath by the collar bone in the blink of an eye, lifting the Twi’Lek a inch off the ground he lunged his head forward upon Vodo’s with all of his might.
Sidarace thrusted the Taldryan forward onto his feet, the Sorcerer stumbling backward as he put a hand to the bridge of his nose; a small crack adorned the Krath’s nasal passage from where the former Obelisk had struck with his forehead. The Miraluka did not leave a second to spare. With the flutter of his weapon he lunged forward, ramming his shoulder into Vodo’s chest sending him further backwards into the wall. Concentrating on the force Sidarace felt the presence of an old teacher. Turning his head he saw the form of the Dark Mistress of Taldryan standing with her blade held at her side lit, her eyes closed and her arm outstretched with her palm facing outward towards the the Archpriest. “Now!” she yelled.
The swooping sound of a light saber cut through Sidarace’s thought pattern as he stood with a cocked head towards his old teacher, Vodo’s blade slicing through his mind like a fiery dart. A dul heat burned through his right arm as he looked down to see what had caused the noise; the Equite’s blade spilling out of his forearm, Vodo standing with his own hand outstretched two meters away from the Miraluka, the Amethyst beam breaking apart the flesh and bone with its distant hum. Rathden looked in disgust at his own foolishness, the Krath calling back his weapon through the force, it’s gray hilt flying back to its owners hand.
Lunging forward Biask reaped havoc upon his now long gone apprentice and sliced downward, severing his left arm completely at the shoulder, a patch of orange heat spilling form the wound. Sidarace attempted to lift his own weapon upward to block another attack, but the grip on his hilt failed as his forearm reaped with pain as the severed tendons broke into sheer pain, the shiny silver hilt falling to the floor as he lost complete control of his limb.
The Quaestors blade arched downward towards his former friend, thoughts rippling inside of his head: “He can be saved! We can convert him back to our cause!”
A distant voice penetrated the Archpriests thoughts, Alanna’s words cutting through his ramblings like a hot knife cutting through flesh: “He is too far gone, Biask. Should he have the chance once more, he will not give you the same luxury. Strike now or I will strike for you!”
The purple blade cut through the air once more, the Krath taming its hilt horizontally with all of his might, severing the Miraluka at the waist completely, a look of shock written across Sidarace’s face as the life drained out of him in a burst of pain and anguish; a small gurgle erupting from his gaping mouth as his two halves clambered to the floor with a soft thud. The door behind Rathden slid open to reveal the Krath Epis Bubbles behind her former Aedile, her eyes witnessing the tragedy before her. “Sidarace!” She yelled her words only coming to the deaf ears of the Miraluka, his body collapsing limply upon it.
Lokasena tore through the heart of his opponent with his violet blade, her light saber hilt caressing to the floor with a clank. A loud yell filled the hall as he turned around, his face turning from a sneer to an expressionless desert, his Quaestor de-activating his Amethyst blade with the flick of his finger, coming to his full height and taking a deep breath as he stood over his old and now dead friend. An odd silence crept through the Dark Hall as the Jedi of Ektrosis witnessed the destruction of its Lieutenant at the hands of their Captain.
The sounding of blaster fire cut through the deadness as a soldier yellow through his helmet towards the dark Jedi, “We’ve got droids!” Vodo turned towards bubbles and waved his hand, her shackles falling to the floor. “Go! All of you! I will take care of his body!” The group of Krath began to advance with the rest of the soldiers, their blades humming with delight as they battered back bolts of energy swarming towards them. Bubbles began to run towards Alanna and Lokasena as they began to exit the Dark Hall.
As the small squad of Soldiers fought back the small army of droids Vodo knelt down and picked up the hilt of his old friend’s light saber that hung on his belt, the blade he used as a Dark Jedi.
Leaping to his feet at the sound of oncoming light sabers from a nearby corridor, Vodo ignited his Amethyst blade once more. Two Jedi plunged through a door beside the confinement chamber, theirs eyes looked from the group of retreating squad to Vodo, realizing they had to go through the Archpriest to get to the others. “This is for Sidarace Rathden, Dark Jedi Knight and Aedile of Ektrosis.” He said to the Knights before him, marching towards the two oncoming Jedi as their blades readied for the Krath. The Archpriest smiled and ignited the other weapon in his hand, it’s cyan blade relishing the taste of once more Jedi.
Shuttle Intruder I Landing Zone
Dark Hall, Southern Antei
The silhouette of the Twi’Lek tore through the entrance of the Dark Hall, his cloak billowing behind him, the cyan blade in his hand waving towards the shuttle, gesturing for the ship to begin its decent into the air. A swarm of droids followed by a crazed Jedi’ in close pursuit of the fleeing Krath burst through the entrance. The shuttle turned about, bringing its guns to train upon the droids. Large bolts of energy flew past Vodo as he sped towards the air craft, the sound of droids crumpling under the shuttles fire power sending an extra burst of speed to his pace. Leaping into the air, he landed on the open hatch, Bubbles hand reaching out to grab the Taldryan.
The two made eye contact for the fraction of a second, the Tetrarch nodding to her master in a reassuring manner. “Well done, Biask.” came a ripple through the force from the dark Jedi Master, Lokasena adding to it through the force. The shuttle took off, it’s guns bearing on a new target just ahead of them.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
The Adept swung her saber downward in a swooping motion, caching a droid by its metal carapace, smashing the rest of its oddly shaped body with the wave of her hand. The shape of her fellow Taldryan, Tarax Kor, who swung his silvery white blade through the body of another Jedi, her small body mass looking like an ant compared to the mass of the Prelate’s. Her body split in half at the quick attack of Dinaari’s Aedile, his saber clearing the small gap between her rib cage and hips, his face casting a glimmer of pride.
Corvinus was utterly spent. The visions of all the deaths he had caused kept pouring, wave after wave, through his mind. All those faces, all those lives… He wondered who they were, what their names were, if they had families waiting for them. What sort of traitorous words has brought them here, so far from home. Would they not rather have stayed there, in peace. Corvinus was a Dark Jedi, but such mindless killing was unworthy of a Priest from the Krath order. Yet he had done so, killed, no, slaughtered all those people. And for what? Only to see his Aedile being sobered down by his Quastor.
Despite what he had let the others believe, Sena did not agree with Vodo’s decision to kill Rathden. Sid had been his friend, and a good leader. The Archpriest should have known better. The order of the Krath was well equipped when it came to matters of the mind. Sena was certain that they could have helped Sid, to lift the veil that clouded his mind.
The Priest felt something happening in the dark reaches of his own mind. A glass marble rolling over a metal table. It fell over the edge, into a glass jar, on top of five other marbles. The Jar was now half full. As if to remind Sena of its symbolism, the Jar had a large handwritten label on it. It read, “Vodo” and it was slowly filling with those glass marbles…
Bubbles rested her head against the cool side of the shuttle, closing her eyes. The rage that had been building inside her for what seemed like an eternity had blinked out in the fraction of the second it took the doors to swing open. She could not believe there had been any other choice, but she had to, because not to believe would rip her soul in two at a time when she really needed to be getting back in control of things.
The vision of Sidarace slumping to the floor, while she was unable to do anything to help played over in her mind. Despite the fact that the others on the shuttle would not think badly of her for it, she hoped they did not notice the lone tear edging its way down her cheek. Brushing it away, she looked up to meet Alanna’s gaze, who in turn was doing her best not to look concerned as she watched Bubbles.
She rubbed her wrists, the pain of the cuts from the shackles dulling a little, but resisted the instinct to hasten their healing, glad as she was of the reminder that this was all not some horrible dream. Forcing a smile, Bubbs did her best to sound calm, looking from Alanna to Sena “So, looks like I owe you guys. Again. How’s the rest of Tally fairing?”
Triumvirate Library, Antei
A powerful down-stroke of Andan Taldrya Marshall’s blade finished the last of the major resistance outside the venerated Library. Around him the ground was littered with the bodies of flesh and bone beings as well as metal and electronic skeletons. A few walked among the rubble shooting or piecing the remains upon finding a droid that wasn’t quiet dead yet.
The Dark Jedi could feel a small gathering of Dark Jedi near the entrance to the Library, among them his Consul. He approached, drawing on their power to fill even the smallest amount of his strength. Every one was weak. Everyone was feeling the draw of exhaustion, the need to sit down and rest. Only the strongest of the Clan were in any shape for combat at this point. Of the many Journeymen that had made the initial planetary drop with them, only two remained standing among the Clan at this spot, with fewer than ten at previous sites recovering from wounds or dying.
“There’s no other way, we’ve got to blow it”, Vladdet Xavier folded his arms with an air finality.
Shadow’s grim face hardly moved as he spoke, “I agree, but Sarin wants it intact…”
Clan Elder and Krath Betja Jun interjected rapidly, “You cannot be serious! Are we actually considering destroying the Triumvirate Library?”
“Unless you plan on charging through those doors by yourself Master Jun”, Tarax Eosphoros joined the conversation, deactivating his saber as he set it upon his beltline, “This site holds no significance to anyone outside your Order, or even the Dark Council if it suits their fancy. For all we know, there is an entire Droid Army and Jedi Host waiting just behind these blast doors”.
There was a general murmur of agreement among the gathered Dark Jedi. Shadow Taldrya looked each of his gathered Summit Leaders in the eyes and then announced, “We will detonate explosives at the entrance, sealing the Library and all inside. The Dark Council can return at its leisure and reclaim it from the corpses.”
Work was begun shortly after with the help of those explosives specialists among the Troopers to set charges at the entrance to the ancient library. When detonated, the structure would become nothing more than a giant pile of debris, impervious to blaster fire and small explosives, the estimated excavation power of the enemy within.
Shuttle Intruder I
Shadowlands Airspace [contested]
Over Adas Plains, Antei
Alanna Taldrya reached over her shoulder to a control panel and pressed several of the buttons. Before the surviving Troopers and Dark Jedi a hologram of the Du’Sann boundary emerged from the floor. The depiction showed the Clan of Taldryan in complete control of the ground surrounding the Triumvirate Library. With the activity milling around the entrance, all supposed that they were preparing their insertion into the hallowed ground. All were shocked when the small holographic figures representing soldiers and Jedi retreated from the entrance methodically and was followed moments later by a massive explosion.
The Dark Jedi aboard the assault shuttle, made up almost exclusively by Krath, gasped in unison. Had it been deliberate or an accident? The Library represented one of the oldest sites of their Order’s heritage, this was a tragedy.
Bubbles exploded to her feet, unable to control her fury any longer. Her eyes were locked on her Quaestor, a blazing fire burned behind the eyes that usually were such a bastion of calm and restraint. Alanna reacted swiftly pinning the Epis to the bulkhead with the force.
“Release me! I’ll kill him!” the force of her words bent the weaker durasteel struts within the compartment, “He killed Sidarace!”
Lokasena was on his feet as quickly as the Dark Jedi Master, but watched on with horror. He felt every ounce of anger the Epis expressed, the betrayal, the hurt, the longing for his friend. Sidarace didn’t have to die. He looked at the Quaestor, who remained seated, staring into the holographic display.
“Face me you kriffing Bludfly! Get on your feet!”
Vodo’s eyes rose to meet that of Bubbles. His gaze was solid and focused, but there was a hint of vulnerability there. He stood up across the narrow compartment, in full view of all the inhabitants, “Alanna, release her…”
The Dark Jedi Master, incredulously, glared at the Quaestor. She looked into his eyes, to the thoughts behind them, and found the Twi’lek’s steely will still intact. Relenting, she gently released her pressure on the Equite. Without hesitation Bubble’s hands slid to her hilt and activated it. A violet blade of light emerged with a resounded snap-hiss.
She stood there, expecting the Quaestor to raise his own weapon, but only found an unarmed opponent standing easily within striking range. A single swing would remove his torso from his abdomen, just as he had done to his Aedile. A single strike would remove an arm at his shoulder, a second his other appendage. With nearly no effort, she could inflict on this Archpriest everything he’d done to his Apprentice.
“We have inbound contacts, remain seated”, the shipboard PA announced.
The lighting turned red signifying the clear danger the shuttle was in. Bubbles, Alanna, Lokasena, and Vodo remained standing for a moment, frozen until someone made the first move. The Epis deactivated her saber and crashed into her seat, drawing into herself. Lokasena’s eyes glanced to Alanna’s before he too took a seat followed by the Dark Jedi Master and Quaestor.
From the south, three flights of two droid fighters approached the lumbering assault shuttle. Four vulture droids and two tri-droid fighters ripped through the atmosphere, locked on an intercept course with the vessel that had dared enter their combat range. Coming into range, the Vulture droids unleashed a salvo of ranged concussion missiles. Point Defense weapons aboard the Gamma-class Shuttle came to life, tracing the flight paths of the missiles. The slow tracking turbolasers couldn’t quite cut it, but the swifter, more able Ion Cannons managed to disable several of the missiles at range. Five darting warheads still managed to close to within one klick. At pointblank range, the ion cannons continued to fire. The electrical power of the bolts overwhelmed one at 300 meters, another at 125 meters, and as the missiles closed in for the kill, one just outside the boundary of the Shuttle’s shield. The two remaining explosives detonated concussively against the shields, rattling the crew and passengers within.
The droid fighters closed in for their kill, strafing the slower shuttle with laser fire and another barrage of missiles. The shields held for a moment, designed to absorb the fire of Capital-class Turbolasers, but began to waver under the sustained power of the attack. The engineer, seated directly the Pilot did his best to maintain the integrity of the barrier, but it soon failed leaving the vessel open to attack. A tri-droid identified a vital system component behind the engines and angled in to attack it. It juked left to avoid a stream of defensive fire and returned fire with it’s noise-mounted weapon.
Lance Corporal Hyler Gage gripped the restraint harnesses with a dead-grasp. The buffeting and rattling of the transport was only a semblance of what he imagined to be taking place outside its armored hull. Inertial compensators absorbed most of the blows, but could not completely deaden the vibration of the explosions. One in particular was louder than the rest, towards the stern. His head snapped to the left in time to see the rear of the shuttle torn off along with the main drives and half his fire-team. Fire engulfed their faces as they fell away, stealing them from view.
The shuttle plummeted to the ground only fifty meters below. The Droid’s satisfied with a kill flew off to the west, towards the Dark Hall.
Somewhere in the Shadowlands
“Sid, watch out…!” Sena cried as his eyes opened and he sat up quickly. He immediately realised that he had been dreaming and brushed off the panic he had felt just a second ago. Looking around he was surrounded by the torn remains of the battered shuttle. Through the open half of the craft he cold see the harsh terrain of Antei. The Krath had been able to join forces and minimise the descent of the wreckage as it crashed, but the impact had still been devastating. Most of the regular soldiers were dead, all the bones in their bodies shattered. There were a few grunts and moans coming from around him. He wanted to get up but suddenly cried out in pain. As he looked down, he could see a long metal rod impaling his left thigh. “Ah, not again…” he sighed, still remembering his shoulder wound.
A metre to Sena’s left Alanna rose from the rubble. She had a deep gash on her forehead which caused a thin stream of blood to trickle down her royal features. Across from the Dark Jedi Master, another female form got up. Bubbles grunted loudly as she noticed her right shoulder had been dislocated. Closing her eyes, she concentrated. Sena could see how the bone gently slid back until it popped back into its normal position.
“That looks rather painful, Priest.” Alanna said, looking at Sena’s leg.
“I can assure you, it IS rather painful.” He replied. Corvinus took his saber from his sash and activated it, cutting the metal rod into a smaller piece. That relieved some of the pressure and Sena was able to get up. He deactivated his saber and turned his attention to the piece of metal that was still sticking into his leg. He grabbed hold of it and started pulling, gently as not to damage more tissue. He gritted his teeth as the cold metal left a burning gaping wound.
“Want me to fix that for ya?” Bubbles asked matter-of-factly.
“Thank you, but I can manage.” Was his retort.
Covering the wound with his hands he focused for a moment. Already the Force was aiding him knitting bone, muscles, sinew and skin back together. Alanna had already left the wreckage and was reconnoitring the scene. Her eyes were scanning the horizon with great scrutiny.
“Vodo…” she suddenly cried.
Bubbles and Lokasena both looked up and into the direction in which the Mistress was already running. The Epis and Priest quickly followed her, Sena still limping a bit. And there he was, stretched out on the barren plains. To see your Aedile hit the dirt and cry medic was bad enough, but to see him killed by your Queastor was quite another. Yet now, the killer of friend lay unconscious before him.
Alanna crouched over him. “He’s breathing and I have a weak pulse…”
“We should leave him!” Bubbles snapped.
Lokasena shot her a glance. Leave him… That would certainly be an option. He would be a burden to carry, especially when they didn’t have the slightest idea where they were. Then, when the war was over, Alanna, Bubbles and Sena would be the most powerfull and experienced members in House Ektrosis. It would be a golden opportunity to seize power. And if power was something that a Krath wanted, they should probably have left him. The truth of the matter was, Sena was tired. There was still a good chance they would die on this forsaken rock. Then again, they could return to Ektrosis as heroes.
“No one is left behind, Tetrarch.” Alanna said calmly. She turned to Vodo, a hand on his forehead. “Biask, can you hear me?”
The Twi’lek took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “Alanna…? What…?”
“Easy now, you were probably thrown out by the crash. You remember the crash?” she eyed him with concern.
“Yes… Yes, we tried to stabilise… Damn, my head!” he said as he brought a hand up to his face.
“Can you sit up?” Alanna asked, obviously relieved that the man’s brain wasn’t bruised.
Vodo toiled to sit up and look around, his eyes falling on Bubbles and Lokasena. For a moment he could imagine the sort of conversation that had been going on when they had found him laying there. Alanna straightened herself and gave Vodo a hand to help him to his feet. Lokasena viewed the man with nothing but contempt and he wasn’t trying to conceal it anymore.
Vodo clenched his jaw. “If you have something to say, Corvinus, say it!”
“ I do not.” Lokasena replied in a dry tone.
“Good! Then check the shuttle for survivors.”
“I’m not sure we should waste our…” Sena began.
“Oh, I’m sorry. My gentle tone obviously led you to believe that I was asking a favour. Allow me to re-phrase… I want you to check the shuttle for survivors and that is an order, Priest. Do I make myself clear?” his voice had started out normal but had built into a loud crescendo at the end.
“As clear as a jar of glass marbles…” Sena taunted and turned to the shuttle.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
While the explosives were being prepared, Vardar had done nothing more than pace back and forth amidst the mass of Jedi and soldiers that were congregated at the Triumvirate Library's entrance. His inquiries as to the whereabouts of Phoenix were met with nothing but swift dismissals.
"I demand to know what has happened! Where is Phoenix?!" He said with little patience.
"Battlemaster, you are in no position to demand anything. I suggest you remain calm and watch your tongue, lest I be forced to rip it out." Shadow said, also losing patience. His state of mind, however, was due more to the lack of advancement in their current campaign.
"To the void with you! I shall-" He started, having quickly been interrupted by his Proconsul, who tugged him aside by his arm.
"Look, Vardar, you are being unreasonable. They were sent to take care of an important assignment, they'll be here soon. That's all I can tell you, I'm sorry." The Tarasin stated calmly. "Besides, it was your choice to take time off."
"Time off... Time off?! My saber was broken! It was damn nearly split in half! How in the name of Sarin was I supposed to fight? Was I to assault the droids with nothing more than rocks and harsh language?!" He replied outraged. "Your lucky I'm here right now. If the crystals had been damaged it could have been months before I returned to the battle field!"
"Just... go vent your frustration elsewhere." Hel-Pa said, turning away to Shadow and the officers of the iron throne army.
Moments later, Vardar stood on a nearby cliff, throwing Force-sped rocks over it, which disappeared into the distance.
If I'm lucky, I could be hitting someone with each stone.
An explosion sounded near the library. He looked back and saw soldiers shifting as their squads organized under the Jedi.
What in the- I can't believe they started the party without me!
As he ran towards the entrance of the Library, he was caught by Hel-Pa just a few yards away from the moving lines.
"Let me by, Sklib, I want to join the fight." He said moving forward, saber ignited.
"There is no fight. We are moving out. Unignite your saber and stand still. I have something for you to perform." The Tarasin said, stretching out his arm and holding Vardar back at his chest.
"What? What is it this time?" The battlemaster said, switching off his lightsaber. "There'd better be a good reason for not letting me crush things."
"Well... we received a distress signal from the shuttle that was carrying Phoenix and some of the Ektrosis summit." He started.
"...Some of the summit? I haven't seen any Ektrosis leaders around here. Where is the rest?" Vardar interrupted, quickly.
"Look. As much as I'd like you out there in the front lines.. well.. our Consul is not without a sense of irony.. Since you were so eager to be with your battle team, I now have to task you with finding out what happened to them."
"But where is the r-" He started.
"When you find them, they can fill you in on what has happened in your absence. After all.. their experience is first-hand." The tarasin said, turning and walking away.
"Where did they crash??" Vardar yelled.
"Head south! And use the Force." His proconsul yelled back, heading towards the library.
South.. Yeah.. *sigh* At times like these.. I wish Taldryan issued compasses. The Force, then..
He closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He felt the Force currents around him, felt the energy of the planet. Suddenly, a tremor, a difference in the "feel" of the planet. A crash site? He felt it, just barely, in his mind. It was not all, he felt someone... a powerful entity, a Master of the Dark Side. He turned to face the disturbance he felt and opened his eyes. He beheld the mountainous path that awaited him for a moment then set forth. Leaping from rock formation to rock formation with the aid of the Force he began on his path to quickly find his comrades. His friends. And the answers to why his Proconsul was so secretive about the ektrosian summit.
Aboard CSD Cotelin
“Shields failing! We have hull breaches all along the star board side!”
“Bring us about, cover our wounds.”
“Brace for impact”, Deck hands reached for their station’s handle bars and rode out the shudder as a wave of concussion missiles impacted upon the superstructure’s shielding.
Vice-Admiral Slaxton looked out at upon monstrosity of the Super Star Destroyer. Its very mass lent it such a great presence in the battle that of the Great Clans’ combined fire power, only three or four vessels were equipped to deal enough damage. Imperial II’s and the vaunted Cotelin-class belonging to Taldryan had drawn in turn the most damage.
Slaxton jogged over to his sensor officer’s suite, “Sitrep?”
“Naga Sadow’s flagship is pulling back, it’s lost forward shielding and several batteries. Plagueis has moved into position to cover their area of responsibility, but the Instigator is taking heavy fire.”
The bridge rattled again, “And the Super’s engine core?”
The sensor officer looked into the Flag Officer’s eye gauntly, “There has been little to no effect.”
The Scimitar rolled under his gentle pressure so that the undercarriage of the massive Star Dreadnaught became its top. Upside down relative to the fleet norm the bomber pressed on with throttle maxed out. His Bombardier silently affixed his eyes into his targeting sensors, preparing to unleash the craft’s payload of heavy ordinance.
Behind them, the entire squadron was lining up their own runs, escorted by a flight of TIE Interceptors. The TIEs harassed the local defenders and kept the bombers free of the buffeting that would ruin their aim. Flying fast and low to the hull of the Dreadnaught, the pilot was forced to gently swing his craft in and out of rises and turbolaser emplacements.
“Twenty Seconds, steady…”
Flying within the massive ship’s shielding he pulled the craft to a slightly higher altitude relative to the metallic landscape below, giving his man that much better of a shot, “Ten seconds… Five, four, three, two… Payload away! Get us out of here!”
The belly of Turbulance III unleashed a massive salvo of capital ship class Concussion missiles. The Bomber’s wing mate did the same, followed by the remaining bombers. The weapons took flight, racing through the brief distance to their target in a blink of an eye. The base of the engine pylon exploded with angry red fire. Minor internal explosions caused the armored skeleton to warp and bend and the light of the thrust to dim till emergency systems turned the thruster off and redirected the power.
Over the com, Turbulance III cheered as Cotelin Squadron reported another successful kill, two thrusters down.
Aboard LFG Fury
Inner Cordon, Cotelin Command Space
Wave upon wave of enemy fighters swept upon the Star Destroyer below them. His weapons, directed by the impressive defensive array of the Cotelin allowed for the Fury to merely position itself where it took advantage of the larger ship’s shielding and bulk but provide the assistance of its quad-laser banks and exemplary point defense weaponry.
“Captain Plaso, incoming transmission from the Admiral”
“Put it over the PA”
The bridge was filled with the noise of another bridge’s noise and battle damage along with the baritone voice of Vice-Admiral Slaxton, “Prepare to withdraw, you will provide rear cover for my retreat, the Honor will provide your cover. I’m sending the details to your command console now.”
Plaso looked down at the console in his command chair. The Clan forces had been ordered to stage a retreat. With the amount of damage that many of the ship’s were sustaining, there was not much more that could be done.
“Helm, bring us to this new heading, prepare to withdraw. Keep us in the shadow of that Vindicator”, referring to the Honor as it maneuvered to cover the Cotelin’s rear.
With the retreat of the Cotelin-Class and several of the other clans’ ships, the Super Star Destroyer seemed to reprioritize other targets. Smaller ships, which had only taken minimal fire before, became the main target and found themselves under considerable scrutiny by the tremendous firepower of the Dreadnaught.
Taldryan’s Vindicators, easily the match of any Republic-class or Imperial I Destroyer, was outclassed. Lancing Turbolaser shots impacted upon its bare hull as shields rapidly failed. Burning holes quickly appeared across the surface of it’s armored exterior. Escape pods launched in all directions as the spine of the ship gave way under an internal explosion and the entire bulk of the vessel twisted. Secondary explosions emerged across the length of the cruiser until it exploded brilliantly in a cascade of metal debris.
This scene repeated itself across the breadth of the battle as vanguard actions became suicide missions to ensure that at least some of the forces managed to withdraw in time.
Intruder I Crash Site
West of Dark Hall
Adas Plains, Antei
There had been no survivors of the crash other than the Jedi. Without the ability to enshroud themselves in a protective barrier, the soldiers of the Iron Throne merely became a pulpy mess strewn about the crash site. The one recognizable remains of Lance Corporal Hayden Gage stared back at Lokasena from under a sheet of burning metal. His wounds hurt and they were miles from no where. No one was sure if the distress signal had even made it out before they’d been shot down, if anyone was going to come for them or not.
Night had long since fallen over the Shadowlands, taking what little light ever existed, plunging the rough terrain into a nocturnal darkness. Vodo Biask looked into the starry sky and set down the supplies he’d managed to scavenge from the wreckage. Above, brief flashes of red and green signified a major battle taking place in space above him. He could make out the small yellow blossoms of explosions, presumably that of ships.
From the east small points of light approached at a rapid pace. Alanna Taldrya sensed them just before the Twi’lek Archpriest turned towards her. The fighters were returning it seemed.
“Make for cover!”
The first salvo of laser fire landed among the gathered supplies, incinerating the food stuffs and medical kit. Alanna drew her amethyst blade and deflected a trio of bolts, aiming to intercept the attacker’s wing mate. The laser fire rebounded from her blade, knocking her back a few steps, and arced into the hull of the second Tri-Fighter. The fighter spiraled out of control and crashed a ways off.
Thrown off-balance by the sudden droid attack, Vodo lost his grip on Alanna and fell to the ground. She readied herself as the droid ship squadron turned for the second bout and Vodo dragged his body behind a nearby pile of blasted rocks. He cursed himself for his inability to move from the waist down on his own. As far as the Dark Mistress was concerned, a battle against a squadron of droid fighters would be an almost-welcome break from the trials of the past few days.
Somewhere between the Triumvirate Library and the crash site
In the meantime, Vardar sped across the canyons at Force-fueled speed hoping to rejoin his comrades. The increasingly stronger ripples he felt in the Force worried him. Something was happening. He turned his head to the side upon hearing gunship engines. Two LAAT/is approached him from behind.
"Sir, we were sent by Master Shadow. We are to assist you in the recovery of the lost ektrosians. We are beginning our approach." A voice announced over the PA system.
The first gunship pulled down as the bay doors opened and, matching the battlemaster's speed, flew at his right side. Vardar leaped and grabbed hold of the support bar on the ship's ceiling and stood at the open ship's left side. He pointed forward as the movement caused his robe to flutter and his long curls to be blown back.
"Head that way captain. Double your speed and we should arrive at the crash site in a matter of minutes!" He yelled over the roar of the ship's engines as they sped into the distance.
The Dark Mistress dropped her saber and created a shield with her mind, allowing the injured members of Phoenix to take cover in a step on the plane. She quickly pulled her saber towards herself as she undid the shield. For the past hour or so she had been more concerned with deflecting the ship's blaster cannon fire off the relatively exposed quaestor rather than fight back. She had taken down one of the vulture droids successfully, but that was the extent of the battle's evolution.
The three remaining vulture droids pulled away suddenly, as if signaled to do so, leaving the tri-fighter to face the dark mistress alone. Moments later, Vardar appeared, running. The battlemaster swiftly made his way across the site to the injured Twi'Lek.
"Where the hell have you been?" The Archpriest groaned as Vardar took his arm and placed it around his shoulders, helping the quaestor to his feet.
"I was going to ask you the same thing. Until I saw you resting in the middle of a battle area, that is." He replied walking him along to where Lokasena and Bubbles had taken cover.
"Vardar.." Lokasena said looking at his friend and giving Vodo a look that Vardar couldn't understand.
"Corvinus. My lady." He said with a slight bow as he sat Vodo, back to the rocky step. "Where is Sidarace? Our good proconsul led me to believe you would be able to tell me why I have seen little to no news of the ektrosian summit."
"Sidarace is dead." Bubbles said gravely, angrily, looking down at Vodo "He killed him."
"I..." Vardar suspended his words for a second as his mind raced "I... I'm sure he had a reason for doing so..."
"He killed him, Vardar. He murdered him in cold blood!" Lokasena yelled.
"This is war, Corvinus. People die. And people die so others may live. If you can't accept this fact you had best leave the fighting to others! I'm sure that Vodo did what he did for the best of reasons.." As he finished his statement, he looked down into the Twi'Lek's eyes. He hoped his superior would look away, show some hint of shame or remorse, for a moment. Vardar got nothing but the cold hard stare that had continuously shown on his quaestor's face throughout the war. A silent stare, nothing more.
He looked over the step, the battle seemed to be coming to an end. Alanna unignited her saber and placed it on her belt, all the while shielding herself with the Force, absorbing the droid's blaster cannon fire as it passed over her, raining destruction on the already-damaged debris that there lay scattered. As it prepared to make another run, she focused her mind and wove her dark power around the ship's engines. She clasped her hands together and, with a deafening screech, flaming bits of metal flew down from the sky as what remained of the fighter crashed into a nearby rock face.
The dark mistress stepped towards the waiting members of Phoenix. "Good to see you, battlemaster."
"I am pleased too." He replied with a polite bow. "I brought a full squad of men and transports with me as ordered by our Consul. I told them to secure a perimeter to which we could escort any and all wounded. They are just over that ridge over there. I must ask, however, what did you do to the vulture droids?"
"Oh they have just enough for thirty-five minutes of fuel. They must have returned to whatever control ship is closest." She said, arranging her robes and hair.
"But.. I saw them setting down as I made my way here. You.. So, you didn't.."
Just then, a huge explosion from a blaster cannon was heard, followed by a rain of rocks. The band of jedi defended themselves against the falling stones. Alanna and Bubbles had lit their lightsabers in unison. Three vulture droids in walking configuration now clawed forward amidst the debris of the crash site.
"..So that's where they went.." Vardar exclaimed with a note of faked relief and grabbing the comm link. "We have contact."
"We're on our way, Sir."
"Let's get this over with, then, shall we?" Alanna said, stepping forward with her saber raised.
The vulture droids closed in on the Dark Jedi’s position, blasters blazing. Alanna, Vardar and Bubbles were having no trouble with deflecting the bolts as they came in. At one point, Vodo joined in the party while turning his back on Lokasena. And for a moment, he made a very tempting target.
You’d stab a man in the back? Alanna’s voice rang in his mind.
Well, it is the safest way… Sena retorted. But then he realised he couldn’t fight those droids without help.
“Keep them busy!” Sena called out to the others as he was already drawing on the Dark Side to abhor the light which surrounded him. Within moments, Sena’s form could no longer be seen as he moved stealthily around the position of the droids, toward their rear. The machines were so preoccupied with the targets they could see, that they completely missed the Priest that came at them, cloaked in darkness.
Much faster than it had took to build up the darkness, Sena brushed it off to make his offensive move. He activated his saber and with two very accurate twirls, he sliced through the hind legs of two Vulture droids that were standing close to each other. The machines toppled over to the ground were Sena quickly jumped on to them and delivered a destructive blow to their main circuit boards. The third one was still focused on the group of Dark Jedi in front of it, but it was suffering quite some damage from its own blaster bolts being deflected back at it. One such bolt hit it right between the eyes. The droids stood still for a moment, smoke coming out of various seems in its armour. Then, with a loud bang, its head exploded and the machine sank on to the dessert sand.
“Nice work, Sena.” Vodo called out.
Lokasena Corvinus tightened the grip on his saber. Could he take the Twi’lek? Could he win? Would the others come to his aid? Or would they support their leader? With that many uncertainties, Sena knew it would be folly to attack the man now. Besides, maybe there was a better way to manipulate the situation. Something that could work in Sena’s advantage, yet not affect public opinion. Even though the opinions of others meant very little to the Priest, he knew they mattered to others. Plan the work, then work the plan!
There came the cavalry, as always, too late. A squad of troopers came running over the nearest ridge, two transports in their wake.
“Looks like were getting out of here.” Bubbles exclaimed in a heavy sigh.
The transport shuddered into life as the members of Phoenix trusted to their higher powers that this would might finally reunite them with the rest of Ektrosis. And the triumvirate library...
Alanna had pushed the explosion that she'd seen to the back of her mind while she concentrated on more immediate matters, but now that the pressing matter of life or death had passed, she couldn't stop her mind straying back to what had appeared to be her clan deliberately blowing up one of the greatest buildings on Antei. Only its entrance was really apparent above the surface; the main structure expanded out into cool deep chambers below ground. Maybe it was 'only' the entrance that had been demolished. The former Krath High Priestess could hope for that much.
Her battleteam sat quietly, although she knew that tensions seethed below the surface. The loss of Siderace was a real blow to the house. He had once been her assistant and had been extremely promising. This war had cost dearly.
The shuttle banked gently left and right, a motion that Alanna had come to associate with lazily dodged droid bolts. The battle must be lessening in this area; with the intense fighting that had preceded their rescue mission, the shuttle would have been performing wild evasive maneuvers. Perhaps their enemy had been forced into a retreat? It was about time.
As the shuttle started its descent, Alanna knew that there was no point in further speculation. The answers would be revealed soon enough.
Corax had been called over to the Consul. He made is way over to hear what Shadow had to say.
“Corax, now that we’ve dealt with the problem in the library, I’d like for you and the rest of Dark Fire Brigade to scout the area for possible enemy troops moving on our location.”
“No problem Shad, we’re on it” replied Corax.
He turned around and headed back over to his brigade with news of the new assignment. He noticed a high ridge opposite the entrance to the library and felt it would give the best vantage point of the surrounding area.
“Ok guys, that high ridge is our checkpoint. We head there and scout for enemy troops,” explained Corax.
The battleteam didn’t look to thrilled about having to travel to another location, and really neither was Corax. This war had taken it’s toll on him, his brigade, and his fellow brothers and sisters in the clan. They gathered their gear and made for the ridge where they camp out to keep watch.
As Corax and his team left, Shad and quickly began strategically placing the rest of the units around the area. Taldryan held this area, and he planned to keep it that way. No one would get past them.
Sharad Taldrya Hett
Sharad followed Dark Fire brigade to offer some more powerful assistance to the relatively inexperienced group of Jedi. He had a feeling that he just couldn’t shake off and decided it was his duty to protect his fellow Dinaari. Corax turned his head as the Adept trotted to catch the group. A small look of relief crossed his exhausted face. Sharad nodded to the Sergeant.
“Mind if I join you guys?” Sharad queried.
“By all means,” the Dark Jedi Knight replied.
The group moved forward slowly, following their Consul’s orders, but not really expecting any action. They would be just as happy if none presented itself. However, Sharad was thirsty for blood. He had lain in the medical recovery area for far too long due to an unexpected sexual experiment gone wrong. The Adept brushed the thought out of his mind as he shuddered at the memory. No, it was definitely time to move on.
A sudden flash of light and a disturbing ripple in the Force brought Hett back to the situation. There would be battle after all. The flash of light was quickly followed by a myriad of more as blaster fire scattered throughout the area. Sabers snapped back into life again, excited to be back in the fray. Tired Jedi seemed to move effortlessly as bolts of blaster fire were deflected and adrenaline surges peaked. Sharad leaped at the nearest enemy with a vicious slash from his saber, a smile crossing his face as the mechanized head rolled along the ground. His mind probed the surrounding area to ensure they were not falling prey to an ambush, but he sensed no Jedi opposition.
Dark Fire Brigade relished the easy battle, quickly dispatching of the small droid forces. Clearly, it was just a stray patrol that had managed to escape the fate of those still stuck in the library. Sharad idly kicked stray limbs in his path as the group continued toward their rendezvous. As the adrenaline rush wore off, the brigade was even more tired than before and the group’s progress slowed.
The arrival of the Arcanum had surprised everyone. Their staged retreat had allowed the clans to create some distance between their battered hulls and the looming Super Star Destroyer. Fury, one of Taldryan’s two Lancer Frigates, raced backwards, remaining close to the Cotelins shielding, using the bulk of the larger ship to preserve it from the deadly turbolaser batteries of the dagger-like dreadnaught.
Passing through the wreckage of the Honor, several Scimitar Bombers were forced to dive and weave to avoid the freighter-sized hunks of hull and debris. One spun into a fatal barrel roll after it was nicked across a solar panel. Pilots of all models raced back to the safety of their respective home ships, anticipating the Coup de Grace.
The Super-class, seemingly unaware of its fate, closed on the lone Star Destroyer, Arcanum. With guns ablaze Arcanum’s remaining shielding absorbed the blasts with a transparent-blue glow with each attack. Deep within the Shadow Academy’s home of the past two years the hyperdrive began to spool, building up power for its last jump to Light Speed.
In a single moment, the Arcanum existed in a single location at a speed that amounted to nearly nothing. The next moment the destroyer collided with the Dreadnaught. At that speed, the mass of the Arcanum converted to energy and impacted the solid matter of the Super Star Destroyer resulting in an atomic explosion so great the dreadnaught instantly collapsed upon itself and exploded. It appeared to on-lookers that the explosion fell inward after briefly expanding, and again exploded with a visible blue event horizon.
Triumvirate Library, Antei
Shadow looked to the sky. There he saw a blue and yellow blossom expand, the size of a button at arms length. He could feel the death of the few personnel aboard the two ships wink out of existence, followed shortly thereafter by those ships caught in the wake of the explosion too weak to ride the wave.
He could tell from the radio chatter erupting over his ear bud and the squad-to-squad talk that the war was all but over. There was no counter-attack to face out here in this desolate location. With the Jedi below in the Library stuck under hundreds of tons of rock and all droid resistance between here and the Planetary Beachhead squashed, Taldryan was stuck defending a wasteland. There was nothing here.
Naga Sadow, after their attempt undermine the attack on the Factory, had shifted south-west to the vicinity of the Dark Hall. The Consul could see the smug looks on the faces of those kriffing noski. During the fall of Antei only Taldryan had stood by the Grand Master to defend his world while the backstabbing fools of Tarentum, Arcona, Scholae Palatinae, Plageuis, and Naga Sadow had fought amongst themselves for the honor of taking the Iron Throne for themselves. Now, only Taldryan remained in the hinterlands.
“Leuitenant Balk”, the Dark Jedi beckoned a nearby officer
The man looked at the Consul before approaching him, “How may I assist you Master Taldrya?”
“I have a personal favor to ask of you”
The man regarded the force user cautiously, “Continue”.
Intruder I Crash Site
West of Dark Hall
Adas Plains, Antei
Alanna assisted Vardar in carrying the wounded Quaestor to the LAAT. Vodo remained silent, his fiery glare threatened to burn the world around them. Troopers waved them along, trying to get off the ground where the slow heavily armed transports were vulnerable. Unable to move his body from the waist down, Vodo forced his helpers to leave him at the rim of the transport’s bay. Using his own arms and strength the Twi’lek had lifted himself in, making him the last into the gunship.
Alanna spotted the threat before the pilot even noticed. Gritting her teeth, It appears we aren’t done. Ordo, grab the other side of the transport.
The transports turned east. Behind them, the returning droid fighters approached at top speed. Ball turret gunners took aim and fired, searing portions of armor from the fighters. The Vulture Droids fired at their attackers, taking one of the ball turrets out in an explosion of transparasteel.
Alanna deflected several bolts with her light saber and bit her lip as she drew the force into her. The power left as soon as it had gathered, leaving her weakened. Surprised, she searched for the source of her sudden loss. Vardar’s face showed a similar surprised. Across the bay, Troopers and Jedi suddenly seemed sullen.
Vodo Biask’s fury expanded with every ounce of power he absorbed. The loss of the use of his legs meant he was now an invalid, worth nothing in combat, his freedom: gone. All that he’d worked for and achieved suddenly became nothing more than a memory. It made him angry. It made him furious.
The droid fighters continued to make passes, slowly destroying the Gunships’ ability to defend themselves. He would not die here. The Twi’lek’s hazel eyes slowly brightened to a golden yellow as he reached into the Dark Side Vodo could feel its burn slowly consume him from within.
As the droid fighters approached for what they calculated would be the death blow, they found themselves caught in a furious crosswind. The wind took them from their intended target into a tailspin, quickly spinning the fighters out of control. Alanna Taldrya watched in confusion. The Quaestor’s presence in the force began to burn even more brightly with every moment he focused on the Droids.
The wind tightened into a cyclone as it picked up dirt and rock, debris and the fighters. It spun fiercely, battering the opposing fighters into a broken mess.
Dark Hall Airspace
Adas Plains, Antei
Hel-Pa Sklib let the wind pass over him. The short flight had allowed most of the Dark Jedi enough time for shut-eye or to meditate, to regain their strength and composure. The Proconsul had spent that time brooding. He had felt the tremors in the Force, the pure power of the Dark Side as it had erupted from his friend.
“Two minutes to drop”, The Captain’s voice came over the PA as the in house lighting changed to red.
Dark Jedi and Troopers picked themselves up and began to double check their equipment and prepare for what would prove to be the biggest fight of their life. Below, the landscape of Antei passed by at a blur as the transport descended to hug the terrain and avoid anti-aircraft fire.
Let it begin, Shadow Taldrya voice reverberated through the Force.
The Transports flew over the head of the charging forces of Dark Jedi storming the steps of the Dark Hall. Ahead of the other Clan’s Jedi, Taldryan Force Users leapt from the crew bays into the waiting embrace of an embunkered and determined force of defenders.
1KM Intruder I Crash Site
West of Dark Hall
Adas Plains, Antei
Quintan shambled west, pain, fear, and anger were the only things that had kept him going. One arm hung limp at his side, and his once immaculate robes were torn and blood stained, his blood. Nearly all sense of the Force was gone from him. He knew if he were to reach out to it again, it would be his last attempt ever at embracing its sweet nectar. Even this sensation pailed in comparison to his bitterness.
Had his battleteam forgotten him? Was what the jedi said true? Was he nothing more than a pawn for the Brotherhood? Twice now he had seen ships fly over him. Both belonging to the Army of the Iron Throne. The first time was excusable. At that moment it had flown over, even in his weakened state, the destruction of the legendary Triumvirate Library had almost brought him to unconscienceness. He had seen the droid fighters shoot down the first brotherhood transport.
Wearily he made his way in that direction. He heard blaster fire from that direction but his body was in no condition to speed up his interception. Then the other transport flew by, Quin knew that if there were any dark jedi in there, he would barely register, he was hanging on to life and the force by the barest of threads. He was a mere flicker.
Only a few minutes went by when he saw off in the distance the second transport make its way back his way. Determination scattered away the pain and the fear. Desperation fueled by his anger, gave him one last act of desperation. With all his might he screamed at the shuttle, reaching through the force he did the same, hoping at least someone on the transport would hear his pathetic attempts at salvation.
It was the barest flicker through the force. They all might have missed it in the aftermath of the Quaestor’s display of Taldryan's legacy. But it was there, for the briefest of moments. Surprise registered through the transport's cabin as the jedi looked down to see an individual laying on the ground behind them.
"Turn back," yelled Bubbles, as she rose up from her seat. The transport landed, everyone on their guard. Shock registered on everyone's face as Quintan was drug into the ship barely breathing, life force faint.
The transport lifted off and started to head east once more. Its tradjectory heading towards the Dark Hall and not the library. Most of the assembled dark jedi were intent on healing the wounds of the jedi hunter that lay on the floor of the ship. Alanna, sensing they were not heading to the library, stood up and angrily spoke to the pilots. "Why is this transport not taking us to Ektrosis and the library," she demanded.
"Mistress, by orders of Master Shadow, we are to reconviene with the rest of the Taldryan forces at the Dark Hall with the rest of the Clans," responded the pilot, hoping his function and respectful answer would be enough to cool the anger of the woman behind him.
"And what of the library? Are we supposed to do nothing about its destruction," she asked. The Dark hall was the seat of power but the Triumvirate Library was the repository of all the Krath and Brotherhood's knowledge. It must not fall.
The pilot looked nervous, "Mistress..." The pilot paused a moment looking to the co-pilot for help, who remained silent reading instruments on the panel. "We have reports that we blew the entrance to the library to seal it and trap those enemies that were already inside."
Another blow of shock hit Alanna as she heard this news. It was part relief and part frustration in the knowledge that her own clan had caused what she felt. She sat down and numbly stared at the journeyman who lay close to death at their feet. She wondered if all this had been worth the price all of them had paid.
The transport ship sped east, making its way to the Dark Hall.
Dark Hall Airspace
Adas Plains, Antei
Shadow marched up the dark cold steps, his two light sabers brightening up his composed face. He looked to his left to see the Consul of Plagueis scolding the soldiers around him as they sought between the orders from the crazed dark Adept or the Iron Throne. Shadow turned his head back as he felt a disturbance in the force. Bringing his shoto upward he caught a bolt of red energy on the tip of his blade, a scout droid in front of him collapsing to the ground with a clank, a dark Jedi Knight from Naga Sadow whipping past Shadow the hack down the droid as it tumbled in mid air.
Artillery flew past the Taldrya from inside the Dark Hall, screams of pain and awareness erupting from its targets. Shouts of angry dark Jedi fought back the constant clank of droids stomping towards their death. One by one Shadow watched Jedi from the other clans fall to their deaths in a foolish search at destroying at least one droid, their attention bent and focused only on their target, forgetting all else in the battle, only to be picked off by a sniper.
My Jedi will see first blood.
Stomping out of the Dark Halls entrance three squads of mixed droids burst towards the dark Jedi Master, their metal carapace’s envying his white blades in a mimicking fashion. With the whisp of his mind the Taldryan Consul pulled the few soldiers of the Iron throne and dark Jedi that lay at his feet, pilling them into a ball. Extending his hand he called upon the force and let out his anger, the ball of body’s spinning towards the oncoming droids. The battered squad was taken out in a second, their metal chasse’s spinning out empty.
Shadow reached out both hands this time, sabers still drown, each hand pointed at a squad and drew upon himself, searching for that one circuit, that one wire, that one energy cell that would collapse the droid. The Consul lifted one hand up, the squad in front of him copying his hands motion as they rose from the ground. In the blink of an eye and the twitch of Shadow’s hand the droids went limp, their power cells draining into the Consul, his other hand twisting towards the last group of droids before him. “For Taldryan!” He yelled, sending bolts of white hot lightening caressing through his finger tips and the palms of his hands, the droids circuits smoking upon the overload of energy spilling from the dark Jedi Master . The few Jedi caught in-between the barrage of lightening screamed in pain as their body’s became engulfed with the Consuls anger. “Taldryan, move!”
Dark Hall Airspace
Adas Plains, Antei
The shuttle flew as close to the Dark Hall as it could, which turned out to the the cordon of soldiers tasked with ensuring none of the enemy left the area alive. As it landed, soldiers scattered out of the way to avoid being squashed. Similar scenes were being re-enacted all around the Dark Hall as other clans' Jedi arrived to fight. The soldiers were getting grumpy at having to continually change their lines to accommodate the arrival of new shuttles.
As the shuttle bay doors opened, Phoenix could see the status of the operation. The resistence was less than they had expected; most of the fighting appeared to be centred on the entrance to the Dark Hall. Alanna could make out Shadow front and centre, screaming at Taldryan to take the lead in clearing the Hall of it's defilers.
Vardar let out a whoop and leapt from the shuttle to join the fight without a second thought; where he got his energy from she would never know. The rest of Phoenix followed closely behind him, rushing over to join their clan in storming the Hall. Alanna looked at Vodo. He was in pain, mentally and physically. He pulled himself over to the shuttle's open door. The Jedi Mistress signalled to a couple of soldiers forming part of the outer cordon around the Hall.
"You two will be his legs for this combat. You take your orders directly from him, do you understand?"
They looked at each other uncertainly, unwilling to take orders from anyone outside their normal chain of command. Alanna opened her mouth to add a threat to her order when Vodo interjected.
"Alanna, go. I'll deal with them." Alanna hesitated. "That was an order, tyro."
The Jedi Mistress nodded. "Yes, sir." Taking a deep breath, she jumped out of the shuttle and sped over to join what she hoped would be the final fight of the war.
Dark Hall Grounds
Behind the front of the attack force
The Sith Battlemaster extended his arms upwards as he plummeted through the air. He kept his back straight and legs bent as he neared the ground and held his blood-red saber up as he touched down, crushing a droid under his metal-clad black boots. He raised himself to his full height and looked around. Soldiers and Dark Jedi rushed forward past him. A bit farther to the left, Alanna had jumped from the LAAT/i. Vardar lifted his head in a sign of ackowledgment of his ally in the field. The dark mistress nodded back.
The noise of the blasters was deafening and they had to squint just to avoid getting blinded by the dust cloud that each explosion raised. Around them was nothing but death. Vardar felt each spirit become one with the Force, their passing strengthening the already strong dark side aura of the Dark Hall. He revelled in their slaughter and drew more strength from the battle field with each passing second. Both he and Alanna worked their way to the front lines, slashing down whatever stragglers of the enemy's former front line resisted the overwhelming might of Taldryan. As they neared the Dark Hall, Vardar could feel more at touch with the dark side than he had ever been. He prided himself on having a clear and unbiased view of the Force, a grey view. Today however, he was willing to take all the power he could draw from the dark side, and its influence around the Dark Hall was plentiful. He was almost afraid he would drown in the energies that passed through him and filled his body with new strength and stamina. He kept his mind attuned to feel his allies and knew they too felt what he felt.
As they joined the front of the battle, the violence increased. Random explosions occasionally blew bodies in their direction. Vardar's precognitive powers were getting the work-out to end all work-outs. He lowered his head as a body cut from the waist down flew past him and lost itself in the rushing crowd of dark Force users. His body overflowed with dark energy, he had to release it somehow. As a squad of Jedi approached from his right, he spared none of it. He focused as his mind stretched out and touched the incoming blaster cannon fire and controlled their flow. The Jedi raised their sabers as a rain of fire fell towards them, courtesy of the battle master. Shadow caught on and immediately directed the dark jedi to take out the covered squad. The in-battle skirmish ended quickly. Shadow signaled Vardar, who nodded and moved pressing their line forward. Towards the western part of the battle, the dark jedi also made their way through, closing in on the dark hall.
"Storm the Hall! Let these broken Jedi be torn by our strength of will!" Shadow's voice sounded through the Force telepathic field.
The mass of Taldryan's army ran up the steps and broke into the hall, meeting the heart of the Jedi resistance head on in their usurped headquarters. For their sacrilege there could be no forgiveness, no excuse. They had desacrated the Brotherhood's holy world and the First Clan would make them pay the ultimate price. Their main force crumbled under Taldryan's onslaught as with each second the dark jedi strike force in the Dark Hall augmented exponentially.
Adas Plains, Antei
Lokasena Corvinus hacked his way through a young Jedi Apprentice; her flash-congealed blood splattering across the stone beneath his feet. The pain of his injuries provided him the strength to go on, to keep swinging, to deflect that next bolt of energy, to kill the next enemy. His pain was physical and emotional. The betrayal of a trusted leader and peer struck his heart cold. Sena vowed that one day, very soon perhaps, he would kill Vodo Biask.
Bubbles Taldrya felt much the same way. Cold passion poured through her aching muscles as she imposed the Twi’lek’s face onto every droid and Force user her blade attacked. She imagined Sidarace behind her, with every stroke nodding approvingly. White-hot fury perpetrated her every molecule as she dedicated her very being to the destruction of her Quaestor.
Quintain Tylax remained aboard the gunship transport with Vodo, barely conscious. The Crash had seriously affected his brain case, and it was hard for him to see straight. Without medical attention to relieve the growing pressure under his skull, he would die. The Force was very distant to him. Unable to reach out to its comforting embrace, he instead saw darkness begin to close in around his already limited vision.
Hands lifted him from his resting place on the floor of the crew bay. Without being able to sense who it was, or where he was being taken, Quintain imagined floating along gently through a warm breeze, like a leaf on the wind. If this was the afterlife, the being of one with the Force, he would embrace it. He was rocked from his dream however by the high pitched whine of a bone saw as it sought to remove the crown of his head. Without anesthesia he felt every tooth of the circular tool cutting and ripping into his scalp. Medical Troopers quickly removed the skull piece and did their ease the pressure on his swelling brain, saving his life.
Vladet Xavier twirled his light saber to the side, taunting his opponent. He was tired, but so was the dark haired man before him. Vlad could remember seeing glimpsing views of this same Jedi from their attack on the Droid factory only days prior. This man had abducted one of Ektrosis’s leaders.
“I suppose telling you every little detail about how I plan to kill you would have no effect?”
The Jedi’s eyes were defiant and proud, “Only because it will be you who perishes.”
Vlad roared as he swept forward, Bringing his blade down in one powerful blow. The man’s riposte put the Prelate off balance, but he recovered in time to spin around and wildly block the man’s follow up attack. Vlad pressed his advantage and severed the Jedi’s arm. A snap of his wrist brought the cyan light saber through his enemy’s chest, detaching it from his abdomen.
The former pilot savored his kill before looking for his next victim.
Dark Jedi from all the clans swept through the Dark Hall like an unstoppable wave of vehemence. Their power and strength was far too great to be resisted by the few remaining Jedi and Apprentices left in the wake of Crask’s Death and the general defeat of his forces all over the planet.
Occasionally, old feuds and bitter rivalries led to various Clanned Jedi fighting amongst each other, their bloodlust consuming their capacity for rational thought. For the most part however, Taldryan Jedi led the charge, beating back every line of defense presented against them. Shadow Taldrya, Halcyon Rokir, and Duga Arkarso Taldrya were relentless in their drive to see Taldryan secure the Throne room. No other clan would set foot in Sarin’s Grand Hall. They would see the recognition and glory due to Taldryan awarded soon enough.
The looming doors, stories tall, approached quickly at a run. Keeping pace with the Consul and Emeriti, Tarax Kor and members of House Dinaari ran along weapons at the ready. They deflected blaster bolts, decapitated the odd droid, and defended the Elders as they used their combined might to push open the Iron Gates of the Grand Hall.
Within, a group of five master Jedi awaited them, their apprentices standing behind them, fear and doubt rippling through the air. Shadow waved back the Dinaarians, No one enters or leaves, you make sure of this
Tarax nodded and began arranging his Jedi to defend the Doors from both sides. Halcyon’s emerald Light Saber thrummed with murderous intent as he paced forward. Duga straffed sideways, gaining an angle on the circled masters. Gradually, the Three Dark Jedi had the five encapsulated in a triangular net. There were no words traded between the two parties before it exploded into a frenzied melee. Cyan blades of light met sapphire, blocked an emerald attack before falling to an Orange light saber.
Two Masters fell quickly, caught off guard by the explosive gusto with which the Dark Jedi attacked. Another two quickly succumb to the onslaught and vanished into the Force. The one survivor found his knees removed and then his saber arm. Left with only his off-handed arm, the Bith attempted to strike at his foes with green lightning. All three elder Dark Jedi raised their weapons, repelling the attack back at its origin. Charred and smoking, the corpse ceased moving after only a few moments.
Smoke escaped the Dark Hall from various balconies and entrances. Dark Jedi filed out of the temple, victorious and satiated. Only Taldryan remained within, daring risk the wrath of the Grand Master for occupying his Grand Hall. The Iron Throne remained absent in his wake, awaiting the one who would claim it.
Muz Ashen entered the Grand Hall with no flourish, no trumpet fare and no ceremony. He nodded his acknowledgment to the Consul standing beside the Iron Throne. Sarin’s decapitated body had been found only hours prior, along with the corpse of the man who had caused them such hardship for the past days. He was the Grand Master now, the sole embodiment of the Dark Side for this Brotherhood of Dark Jedi.
He climbed the few steps up the dais to his Throne, turned and seated himself. Cold and unforgiving, he could feel the Dark Side flowing through him like a river. Its icy cold grasp at once burned and soothed his woes. Never would he surrender this power willingly. Never would anyone defy his authority here. He would see to it.
“Master Taldrya”, his words were low and forboding.
Shadow kneeled before the Grand Master, “What is thy bidding, My Master.”
The prosthetics moved and operated in every way his flesh and blood limbs had. They even felt and reacted to stimulus the very same way. They were hardwired into his brain, programmed to react and work just as his original pair had, under the same thoughts and stimuli. Something was just not the same about these at all however. His steps were slow, his balance awkward, his movements careful. Vodo had been warned that it was all in his mind, that with time he would come use them just as he had his previous.
The medical ward aboard the Cotelin was somber. Taldryan Jedi, injured at various points during the short war, had been brought here for treatment. Their damage ranged from blaster wounds, to missing limbs, to life support and full bacta treatment. Some would die slowly, others would recover. One thing was for sure however, no-one would remain as they were. Everything had changed.
End Unification: Great Jedi War IX