Team 1 Run-On
Members: Marick Arconae, Tsainetomo Keibatsu, Socorra Erino, Manji Keibatsu Sadow, Dyrra Skye, Mirando Pepoi L'eonheart, Teroch Erinos
* Individuals must have at least 2 posts at 250-words minimum apiece to count as having participated
* Overall each Run-On must have a minimum of 20 posts at 250-words minimum apiece
* Cannot edit a post once someone else has made a follow-up post
* Cannot make consecutive posts; At least one other must have posted after you
All Run-On fiction must follow from weekly fiction posted.
Week 1 Details
* No cure can be found for the Plague
* It is not known how this Plague came to be
* Currently all Journeymen are in Stage 1 of the Plague; Equites and Elders are not yet affected
Stage 1 Details
At Stage 1 the Plague has taken hold, feeding on the Force abilities of infected. As it “feeds” on the infected it transfers some of that energy back into their bodies. At this stage the infected gain +2 to all physical attributes (STR, CON & DEX). Although the ability to summon the Force is fully removed, they do not appear to feel pain in the same way and appear to be channelling the power [CTP] constantly.
Any Force powers used on the Infected seem to reinvigorate them, rather than stop them. The infection takes such usage into itself and adds to its feeding.
The tropical environment of Aeotheran was a dramatic change of pace from the artificial air of spacecraft or even the controlled climate of the Citadel back on Selen. As the two Arconans walked along their designated path, Marick Arconae could feel the sun lightly baking his exposed skin, highlighting the symmetrical, handsome crafting of his youthful face. Clad from head to toe in the black ceremonial Invicta robes, the Proconsul wiped the back of his hand across his brow to clear the beads of sweat that had begun to collect beneath the thin strands of his long, dark hair. The humidity in the air was noticeably thicker than he was used to. The Arconae shifted to adjust the weight of the plated mantle that rested on his shoulders. The material was lightweight, more for form than function, but still added an extra layer to the Hapan’s lean physique. He wasn’t worried about it slowing him down, but he’d much rather prefer the comfort of his everyday robes.
It couldn’t be helped, though. The Invicta robes would speak louder than any words the Proconsul could utter. They had been an award from the Grand Master himself in recognition of Arcona’s rise to power - of their seizing of the title of First Clan after the last Great Jedi War. They were a reminder to all that things had indeed changed, and that Arcona was no longer the fragile unit once exiled to living aboard their own flotilla. The dark folds of the robes also did well to conceal the Arconae’s veritable arsenal of weapons - all save for his lightsaber, of course. The saber’s chromatic hilt (which was purposely displayed on Marick’s belt) caught the sun, reflecting brightly off the three prongs on the emitter. The miniature skulls that accompanied the thin black lace that wrapped the hilt matched the claps on his belt - a proud reminder to all of his roots as former Captain of Arcona’s Black Operations team.
At Marick’s side, Kira padded quietly along, the white wolf-like creature’s shoulders level with the Hapan’s hips. Even fully grown, the female Cythraul was more lean than her brothers and sisters, calm, patient, and focused, despite the plethora of new smells and noises all around. Her younger sister, Akua, was another story, however.
Still growing into her body, Akua’s attention shifted more than a small child on a sugar rush. At first she chased a small creature with colorful wings, snapping her huge jaws in its wake. Her head jerked suddenly at the chittering of another creature chomping away at the shell of a small nut and bolted after it. With one ear perpetually flopped, there was an innocence to her play that Marick almost envied.
Her handler didn’t seem to mind, either. Socorra Erinos merely smiled, watching her Cythraul frolic about. She took in her surroundings and turned her face towards Marick.
“I think this is the nicest place you’ve taken me yet,” she commented with a smirk of her ruby lips, her eyes flicking over to his. The Quaestor, too, had donned her Invicta robes - but hers had been custom tailored to better fit the...curves of her feminine figure. Despite that, she moved with the grace of a soldier, her back straight and chin tilted slightly up. Marick unintentionally glanced sidelong at her and pushed aside thoughts better saved for a later, more private time.
The Hapan returned his gaze forward, his lips remaining a neutral line. “We’re not here for pleasantries. You know how important this meeting will be.”
Socorra nodded and coughed into her hand, then cleared her throat. Marick frowned slightly and turned his head to her.
“Are you alright? I’ve never known you to get sick-”
“I’m fine,” she replied quickly.
“Alright...if you’re not feeling good, I’m sure I could handle this on my own. I need you at your best We can’t show the Sadowans any signs of weakness.” Marick explained.
The Erinos gave Marick a slight shove and then crossed her arms and hmph’d as she started to walk faster, in front of her Proconsul. Akua seemed to sense her master’s displeasure and abandoned her attempts at biting her older sister’s tail.
Marick sighed and wondered what he had said to anger her. For someone who had grown up surrounded by women, the Hapan still could not figure them out. Kira nudged her head against his side, and the Proconsul scratched behind her ear to assure her that she had not done anything wrong.
He had meant what he said, though. Appearances would count for a lot when meeting with the Praetor to the Voice of the Brotherhood. Marick had become friendly with the Miralukan on his last venture into Naga Sadowan space. The Hapan had been “volunteered” by the Summit to represent Clan Arcona in a negotiation over past transgressions, the future open exchange of select intel and data, as well as guidelines for future alliances in terms of disaster or threats to the Brotherhood as a whole. Regardless, the Arconae sorely yearned to be back in battle, far, far away from politics.
Little did Marick know, he would be cursing his wish soon enough.
“Lord Proconsul,” Mirado Pepoi L’eonheart said with a slight bow.
“Mirado,” the Arconan Proconsul replied politely, with a faint smile and a wave of his hand. “Just Marick, please.” His accent was faint, but gave his voice a pinch of sophistication. The two Obelisk shook hands.
“As you say. Thank you for coming. I’m glad it was you that Wuntila decided to send.”
“Yea, he can be a bit...” Marick searched for the proper word.
“Abrupt?” Mirado attempted to fill the blank.
“Something like that,” Marick said with a simple nod.
“And greetings to you, miss Erinos,” the Miraluka said with another slight dip. “I was impressed with your showing in the Championship ladder.”
Socorra grinned as she accepted the Praetor’s extended hand.
“This way, please,” Mirado gestured for them to follow.
The Sadowan led the two Arconan envoys through a set of long corridors that connected the various collection of islands that made up the Keibatsu’s personal retreat. They entered a turbolift that brought them up into the heart of a building of some sort. Another set of hallways led them to a large meeting room. In the center was a large wooden table rounded into an oval shape. Each empty space around the table had a minimalistic data terminal with a floating touch screen holo-display and keypad.
At the far end of the table, two figures came into focus, and Marick almost let his stoic mask reveal his surprise.
Manji Keibatsu Sadow leaned against the wall, nonchalantly studying the new arrivals. At the other side of the table, Dyrra Syke stepped away from the wall and towards the central table, nodding at Mirado, who took up the center position between the two. He extended introductions to all in the room.
Marick had met Manji and Dyrra before, though. It had seemed like ages ago when Marick and Legorii had fought, and lost, against the Sadown duo in the combat center. The defeat had halted the Arconan’s path to the finals, and the Hapan would be lying if he still wasn’t sour about the whole ordeal. Still, Marick had come a long way since then. He was Proconsul now, and had to conduct himself as such.
Manji offered a blunt nod at the two Arconans, his sole eye studying the Hapan from head to toe, mechanically sizing him up. After a moment, he seemed content that the Arconan was no threat and settled into his seat, casually placing his primary lightsaber hilt on the table. Marick watched the action and took note of it, knowing that the Keibatsu still had his shoto clasped to his belt.
Dyrra bowed slightly and took her seat, eyeing Socorra warily. The two women held each other’s eyes until they had settled into their seats.
Akua found a spot under the table and curled up into a ball and dozed off. Kira sat quietly at her master's side, her heterochromatic eyes attentive.
“Thank you all for being here. Let’s not waste any time,” Mirado said as he tapped in a series of commands and a bunch of data flooded the holo-screens in front of each of the assembly.
The best part of being the Master-At-Arms was the travelling. It took him away from Antei, away from his training, and most importantly, the seemingly unending pile of paperwork he was subjected to on a daily basis. However, Korras hadn’t been content to send his Praetor to what was essentially a tourist trap, ostensibly to inspect Clan Naga Sadow’s military assets. Oh no, he wanted to make sure Teroch actually did that, rather than faking the reports and spending a week sunning himself on the beaches of the Erinos-owned estate on Yridia II. To make sure he actually worked, he’d asked the youth’s master, Tsainetomo Keibatsu to accompany him. the Korun-kei was familiar both with Naga Sadow’s territory, and also with the willful nature of the son of Sashar. He was one of perhaps five people in the entire brotherhood the prodigal adolescent would listen to.
He trailed along behind his master, the Erinos’ Cythraul at his heels. The jet black canine’s lambent eyes swept absently from one side of the corridor to the other, as if searching for a meal, but Kote never ventured far from Teroch’s side. The pair were a perfect match: shunned by their peers and recalcitrant to the point of uselessness, they never-the-less both had huge potential in combat, and thus were too useless to throw away.
“Will you stop sulking? We’re here to do a job, and I know if you set your mind to it, this is literally child’s play to you. Sashar used to have you help him with his duties before you took over. You’re just being stubborn.” Tsainetomo admonished, irritated.
Usually, Teroch was more receptive to learning how to better himself militarily, but apparently, the allure of the beach had been too much.
“But this is boring. We know their military is sound. They’re a shab’la Clan.”
“And it never hurts to remind Clans who they work for. Namely, the Iron Throne. We’re here to make sure their military is fit to fight with the Armed Forces of the Iron Throne, and also to remind the leaders of Naga Sadow that the Master-At-Arms is watching them. It’s all about politics.”
At that, Teroch sighed, but was stopped when the Journeyman, who’d been leading a polite distance in front of them leant against the wall, coughing violently.
“You okay?” He asked the man, who couldn’t have been more than three years older than him.
Tsainetomo’s eyes narrowed at the sight, and subconsciously, his hand drifted to the hilt of his saber, displayed prominently on his belt.
The Erinos moved towards him, but was stayed by a strong grip on his arm. Tsainetomo shook his head firmly when Teroch looked back, then nodded towards the Journeyman, who’d straightened up, spittle flecking the corners of his mouth, his eyes speaking pure baleful hate as he regarded the two visiting Force-users. With an inarticulate scream, he launched himself at Teroch, who reacted instinctively; a telekinetic blast right at the kid’s chest. If he felt it, he didn’t show it. If anything, the Journeyman just screamed louder and ran faster.
Teroch’s head tilted to the side quizzically, his eyes narrowing in confusion. “Huh.”
When the Journeyman reached striking distance, he sucker punched him in the throat, causing the screaming Sadowan to reel back, coughing as he struggled to suck air through a collapsed windpipe.
Strangely, instead of collapsing and struggling to breathe, the Sadowan instead gave up trying and charged the pair of visitors once more. Kote snarled and leapt at his master’s assailant, biting him on the arm, dragging him to his knees. He shook his arm violently, not seeming to notice that the Cythraul had clamped down to the bone, and blood was pouring freely from the wound.
Tsainetomo’s saber lit and he turned his back on the scene, watching their rear for a potential flank attack, content that his apprentice could handle the current threat. Teroch, however, didn’t attack. He studied the howling, gargling Journeyman who had just moments before been engaging them in small talk and showing them around the administrative facility. It made no sense. There’d been no hint of deception on him, and from an assassin’s attempt on his life, even in his short life, he’d seen a lot better. If this had been planned by the Sadowans to test him, he was sorely disappointed.
“Teroch, hurry up. We’ve got company.”
“Hitting him with the Force just made him mad. It should’ve collapsed his rib-cage. Likewise, I crushed his windpipe and he’s still struggling to get free. Any rational being would be trying to breathe or begging us for help by now.”
“Is that a kriffing butter-knife you’ve got strapped to your hip? Finish him.”
Sighing, Teroch clicked his fingers, signalling Kote to release the Journeyman’s arm. He sagged as the weight pulling him down abruptly left, and stood up, apparently unconcerned that his face was going purplish-blue from lack of air. He didn’t need to worry that long, though, as Teroch’s lightsaber was ignited and slashing. A second later, his head tumbled to the floor a moment before the rest of his body, and the Praetor was looking over Tsainetomo’s shoulder at the hoarde of berserk Force-users charging down the corridor towards them, howling and screaming in unfathomable rage.
Halfway through the preliminary talks, Mirado’s comlink went off. Frowning, he picked it up and listened intently for a moment, going very, very still. Marick paused mid-sentence, his brow knitting in confusion. Doubtlessly, the Sadowan would’ve left orders not to be disturbed. A knot of worry began to form in the Hapan’s stomach.
“Understood. Send a unit down. I’ll have them ready for extraction.” Mirado finished, then turned to the Arconans.
“My apologies. There’s been a disturbance. For your safety, we will be moving you to the surface and shuttling you up to the Skyhook until it’s dealt with.”
“What sort of disturbance?” Socorra asked, wiping her nose on her sleeve, sniffing.
Mirado spared a glance at Manji, who shrugged, his feet still up on the table, apparently unconcerned.
“We’re not sure at the moment, but a few of our security checkpoints aren’t answering, and the holofeeds are...fuzzy with what happened to them. We have a security detail coming to escort us back up to the surface.”
He wasn’t telling the whole truth. That much was evident without any prompting from the Force. However, were their positions reversed, Marick would’ve done exactly the same thing. Nodding his acquiescence, he gathered up his datapad as Mirado moved over to the door behind the Arconans. He was about to open it, however shouts from the other side, complemented by blaster fire stalled the motion. Howling was heard, accompanied by the screams of the two guards stationed on the other side.
Manji and Dyrra immediately got up, their weapons in hand, and moved to stand beside their Clan-mate. Tentatively, Dyrra put her ear to the door, curious as the noise had abruptly cut off. A heartbeat passed and there was silence. both the Cythraul in the room got up, the fur on their backs and necks raised.
“What’s going-” Socorra was cut off as an inarticulate howl sounded on the other side of the door, followed by several others, then part of the door bent inwards from an impact, mere inches from Dyrra’s face. She recoiled backwards, and Manji hit a switch, closing the blast doors partially, however the dent prevented them from closing completely.
“Mirado. Tell us now. What’s going on out there?” Marick demanded, rounding on the Miraluka.
Another dent appeared in the unshielded part of the door. Mirado ignored them, and tried to get an answer over his comlink without success.
A chorus of hisses filled the room as each of the Dark Jedi drew their weapons, bracing for what ever it was that was strong enough to break down a blast door.
“Gar shab’ika!” A youthful voice called out faintly from the other side of the door. The pounding stopped. The screech of blaster fire echoed out from the hallway. There were grunts and snarls of defiance as the rifle emptied it’s chambers.
“Reloading!” the same voice yelled out mechanically.
“That can’t be...” Marick whispered.
In response, the sound of gunpowder cracking and metal slugs echoed out. The gnashing, growling, and scraping from the other side of the door had stopped. Everything was quiet.
“Open the doors,” Marick demanded, any hint of diplomacy gone from his voice.
When Mirado hesitated, Manji stepped forward, saber humming idly at his side. The Keibatsu typed in a series of numbers on the walls security panel, and the blast doors slid open.
The outline of a magnificent queue of wild hair and a smaller shape became visible. The smoke and haze of blaster fire and gunpowder cleared and two figures stepped through into the light.
“Huh. Fancy seeing you guys here,” Teroch Erinos said, unable to hide a grin from his face. At his side, Tsainetomo Keibatsu gave a blunt nod of his head to his cousin, and former clanmates.
There was an awkward moment where all seven of the Dark Jedi looked each other over.
“You little brat...” Marick growled as he suddenly lurched forward, moving faster than any human had right to. He was on Teroch in the blink of an eye, Echani knife drawn in hand with the point angled for the former Arconae’s stomach.
Teroch moved just as quickly, taking a half step backwards while leveling the muzzle of his blaster against the Proconsul’s neck.
Before the two could kill each other, Sai and Socorra stepped in- Socorra grabbing her brother’s arm, whilst Sai grabbed the Proconsul’s wrist.
“Enough.” Sai’s voice boomed with the authority of a father scolding his children. Manji looked on as his cousin addressed Marick and Teroch. “You’ll not draw one another’s blood in my family’s house.” Then, more sarcastically, his baritone drawing out at the last, “It’d be rude.” Sai’s tripartite gaze met Manji’s singular one and the men stiffened for but the briefest of moments; it was barely discernable, but Teroch saw it, and it just broke the tension.
Marick grit his teeth. Teroch made a Tch. noise and lowered his blaster and stepped back. The Hapan also took a step back and hesitated before sheathing his weapon.
Another silence befell the group, but was presently broken by the Assassin.
“Well, they’re dead. Seems problematic,” Mirado said slowly, gesturing to the heap of dead Naga Sadow journeyman behind Teroch and Sai.
“Oh. Right,” Teroch said, kicking one of the bodies for good measure. “They started it.” He finished weakly, evoking a wry grin from Socorra and earning a sharp cuff from the Primarch.
“I could be wrong, but I’m guessing staying here wouldn’t be the safest of moves.” Tsainetomo suggested, his unique eyes glancing over everyone in the group.
This is trickier than it should be.
The thought flickered across Manji's mind swiftly, as if ashamed. His eye remained locked onto the Korun-Keibatsu for a few more brief moments, before snapping away to peruse the dented and damaged doorway. It had been a good while since the two Keibatsu had been in the same room as each other, and the last time they'd parted the situation had been very different. If all had been right with the world, despite the dire circumstances, Manji would have greeted Sai with a jovial slap on the back and the offer of a celebratory bottle of sake. Instead, he was having trouble containing his disgust at seeing his cousin comfortably bantering with Arconans. Dyrra shot the Pontifex a glance as he deactivated his sabers and returned them to his belt. She knew Manji better than anyone else in the room, and she could tell when he was biting his tongue- rare as those occasions were.
"Mirado. Can you get hold of Locke?" growled the Keibatsu. "He might have a better idea of what's happening out there. Oh, and by the way..."
With viper-like speed the Pontifex was in Teroch's face, his teeth bared. Sai's muscles twitched almost involuntarily as he reacted to the sudden movement, but he had fought alongside Manji long enough to know when his cousin was simply trying to prove a point. His hand dropped from the hilt of his slugthrower as Manji snarled at the shocked Erinos.
"Treat my Clanmates with respect or I'll gut you, you stinking sh?nin."
As Teroch opened his mouth to deliver a retort, Manji turned away from him and strode back towards Mirado and Dyrra. The redhead had a curious smirk on her face, pointedly keeping her eyes on the Arconan contingent.
"I always knew you'd be great at this diplomatic pudu," she hissed at the Krath. Manji's sarcastic retort was overridden by Mirado as he looked up from the commlink.
"No response. If I had to guess, I'd say Skyhook control has been overrun."
His words were greeted with silence from inside the room and the renewed sounds of chaos from outside. The atmosphere prickled with tension- Teroch was glaring daggers at the Pontifex, Marick was giving Teroch an equally unpleasant stare and Manji was pointedly refusing to catch Tsainetomo's eye. As the tension drew out, Mirado stepped forward politely, robes swishing around him as he moved towards the door.
"Negotiations are over," said the Praetor. "Now, you can all stand around glowering at each other like a bunch of spurned lovers, or..."
The blade of his saber slashed into existence, the razor-edged hum cutting through the thick silence. Turning back to face the other Dark Jedi, Mirado smiled disarmingly.
"We can get out of here and find out what's going on," the Prelate finished. Even though he'd put on his mask of arrogance, Mirado was nervous. With the Force sight natural to his people, he was seeing things throughout the building that threatened to ruin an already terrible day. Still, there was no time on the chrono to waste. "I'll even take point. I did design the building, after all..."
The Aeotheran retreat of the Keibatsu was constructed in the same architectural style as the rest of the family's holdings, mirroring the design of their properties on Kyataru- long, open hardwood corridors leading between enclosed square gardens full of gravel, tropical plants and ponds. Every component had been carefully placed and chosen for the most pleasing order- strangely, given the family's penchant for the chaotic ways of the Dark Side. Armed Journeymen of Naga Sadow and some of the Keibatsu family's own retainers had been standing guard in each corridor, surveying the surrounding jungles for any sign of trouble.
Now the retainers lay dead, blood-spattered and brutalised. The hardwood floors and delicate panelled walls of the retreat had been damaged by their desperate struggles against the infected Journeymen, and smoke was rising from various parts of the estate. Manji's face tightened as the group stepped out of the turbolift. Beside him, Sai stopped just short of laying a sympathetic hand on his cousin's shoulder- he knew just how much Manji treasured the traditions and aesthetic of his homeworld, but could also sense the tense fury that Manji was repressing.
"What the hell is this?" snarled the Pontifex, fists tightening around his saber-hilts.
Dyrra found herself wondering idly what Mirado's lit 'saber blade was going to cut first: the tension in the room or someone's throat.
She wouldn't blame the Miralukan if he lost his temper at the assembled Dark Jedi, seen as they all seemed to be more concerned with personal feuds than with a sudden rash of suicidal behaviour on the part of Naga Sadow's journeymen. Still, it wasn't like Dyrra didn't have her own concerns. She remembered vividly the last time the Clan had lost contact with the Skyhook, and more worrying, the enhanced security that had resulted. For someone to get through that... It worried her.
"So, what exactly happened earlier?" Dyrra asked, breaking the silence. "Did those journeymen try to jump you?"
The tense silence stretched out a moment or two longer, before Sai replied. "No. No ambush, nothing." Teroch piped up, "I crushed one guy's throat and he didn't seem to notice."
As they say, if looks could kill...
Marick glared at the Praetor, hushing any elaboration that the former Arconan might have offered. The group continued along, following Mirado, who led them towards the shuttles outside.
The group paused at the final doorway, each Dark Jedi's battle hardened instincts recognising the ideal place for an ambush. The usual noises one heard on Aeotheran providing a backdrop for each individual's paranoia. After a few moments, they spread out, moving towards shuttles and private craft.
"We should meet at Kel Rasha," Mirado called. "Safest place I can think of, and we might be able to get some information about what's happening."
Coughing slightly, Dyrra nodded- acknowledging his words. Glancing at her former master, she noticed Manji stiffen. It was a tell she recognised, and in response, she stretched out with her Force senses, trying to sense what he had already noticed. Glancing around, she saw Tsainetomo turning, preparing for whatever it was, Marick, too, his hand slipping to his lightsaber hilt.
It bothered Dyrra that she couldn't sense a damn thing. She was about to ask what had the other Equites so jumpy when the answer came running round the corner, howling with fury.
Blasterfire screamed as it flew past her face. Sabers lit with a shriek as the Dark Jedi prepared to meet their attackers.
The chuckle that rippled with the mahogany smoothness that was Tsainetomo’s customary baritone was equally galvanizing and chilling, because it came from someone who both looked forward to the coming carnage, and gave voice to their collective elief at having a target upon which to loose their mounting frustrations.
The Infected were ravenous, rabid. Their condition had pushed their minds far beyond the bounds of rationality; elsewise, why else would they rush seven beings who were cut from the most deadly of cloths? Still, they had numbers, and conviction. Those who’d Had were often thusly blessed due to their rampant pillaging of those who Had Not; why should the Force be any different from any other commodity, like credits or land?
In reality, Sai’s laugh was portentious; the Journeymen of Naga Sadow never stood a chance.
Indeed, it was the Apostate himself who’d struck the first blows against those who he might have called brother at another time. He moved as quicksilver, Nenshogeru’s ragged blade erupting into sun-brilliant existence, its throaty growl almost reflecting its master’s glee. His customary queue of hair trailed behind him, its tip a hand’s-breadth ahead of Manji, who rushed forward nearly as fast as Sai did, their nigh-simultaneous reactions the product of their bloodlines’ pedigree for violence. The Pontifex’ fists sprouted argent columns that quartered one unfortunate Protector a heartbeat after Sai’s stroke unzipped the man who’d nearly cored Dyrra’s skull with his blaster from his groin to his windpipe, ruining robe and flesh alike with plasmic finality.
Their nerves already scraped raw by uncertainty and the need to lash out at something - anything - the rest of them fanned out with a frightening swiftness, eagerly plying their tradecraft that had the courtyard filled with the cloyingly sweet smell of charred flesh and the wet, meaty thumps of corpses piling like cordwood.
Socorra moved with a swiftness she never had before, darting among the horde like a wildcat. Some Journeymen only saw a flash of raven hair as she sunk a knife into a belly or pumped one full of plasma. The Erinos assumed that it was adrenaline pushing her beyond her limits, but as a fog rolled in over her mind, it became apparent that it was something else, and that something else was very, very wrong.
She blinked her eyes and stopped in place, a hand going to her head. The woman could no longer sense her companions. Everyone had fanned out and the combat had carried her some distance away from the rest. She couldn’t see them on the battlefield and the Force no longer assisted. Worse, she could no longer sense the enemy, either.
Panic gripped her chest. Socorra had trained for non-Force combat in Soulfire and in Shadow Gate as Gatewarden, had even trained others, but this was different. Her mind was muddled, and now she stood trapped in the middle of the horde, confused and frightened.
Marick lodged his Echani knife into the chest of a puke-colored Rodian and removed it before whipping the blade across its neck. The alien’s lifeblood began pouring out and he gurgled as he fell to the grassy ground with a muffled thud. In normal circumstances the second blow wouldn’t even be necessary, but the Journeymen seemed to be ignoring such mortal wounds and continuing to fight somehow. Surely Sadowan Journeymen were not made of tougher stuff than Arconans...
He spotted Sai, Teroch, and the trio of Sadowans, but Socorra was no longer at his side. He spun around, worry suddenly bursting inside his mind. The Force shot outward from him, his mind creating a map and his senses creating a radar, pinging until finally he found her on the battlefield, about to be engulfed by another wave of nearly-organized enraged Journeymen storming into the courtyard.
“Socorra!” he called out. Hearing the distress in his voice, some of the others looked too.
The woman’s head whipped around as she tried desperately to find where Marick’s voice came from. To him, she appeared lost, dazed, and confused...and, about to be made into mincemeat by the incoming crowd.
Instinct propelled him forward before he even considered his actions, the Force fueling his limbs to supernal speed. Without a single thought for his own life, he plowed into the crowd of diseased Initiates and Knights alike, the thrum of his aquamarine blade singing a song of destruction as he made his way to Socorra.
She remained in the way of the stampede, but surprisingly, they did not attack her. Socorra was pushed around as they moved past, causing her to lash out at them with every skill a mundane soldier had, but only the ones that she struck retaliated. The others simply kept heading right for the rest of the party.
The interesting thing about being who he was, was that Mirado relied far less on his connection to the Force than his peers. Never a prodigy in the arts, he was much more what you might call a physical specimen. A physical specimen that was finding his reaction times coming faster than usual, and the impact of his hits multiplying in a gratifying manner.
As Socorra danced in the garden of the infected’s turbulence, Marick dashed towards her aid, and the Keibatsu did what they were genetically predisposed to do, the Miraluka took the time to do what he did best.
Each movement of his body was a symphony of muscle attunement. Left hand, filled with a crescent shaped razor, slid effortlessly into a blaster wielding Twi’lek. This cued a roll of his shoulders, simultaneously ripping his blade free from the hapless alien, as well as sending the assassin’s other blade into the carotid artery of the Twi’lek’s partner.
Blood gushed like a fountain, bathing the killer in a red shower. In that most primal of moments, it was kill, eat, mate, sleep, repeat. The assassin felt the call acutely, and tossed himself into a sprint, his braided hair flying behind him like a comet’s tail. Each hand filled with a weapon, he dashed towards a small group of shooters.
Mirado’s momentum was cut off, however, as a furious cluster of Ataru sprang forth in the midst of the journeymen. Teroch wasted no time in annihilating them, his rust colored lightsaber creating pinwheels and arcs.
Instead of killing his momentum, Mirado leapt feet first at an angle towards one of the palm trees that had become decoration in the archipelago. Upon contact, he sprung off, spinning his body in a tempest crescent. Below him, Dyrra was executing a smashball slide, her momentum carrying her into a Transdoashan. The impact shattered his ankles, and she was on him in an instant, prison shanking him with a small pocket blade.
Mirado’s target, caught between having a Miraluka sailing at him, and his battle buddy getting knifed, was in a profound moment of hurt. The female Sadowan’s ferocity had taken him momentarily away from the real threat, which left him wide open to a size 16 boot.
The transference of kinetic energy was explosive, shattering jaw, orbital bone, teeth, and skull in one movement. It was, however, something of a swan song for the assassin. His world was growing darker as the seconds ticked by.
“Stang,” he muttered gruffly before using the last of his fading vision to locate Dyrra. Unceremoniously, he took a long sniff of her hair as she rose from her perforated target, burning her scent into his memory. “Don’t let me kill anyone we actually like,” he asked of her, as they dove headlong back into the fray.
Marick Arconae was hard to understand sometimes. In earnest, it was his simplicity that made him so complex. Where most members of the Brotherhood dedicated their lives to personal glory and selfish pursuits, the Proconsul of Clan Arcona had his own motivations. Marick lived only for his family and the few he called ‘friend’. He would, at any given moment, do anything for any member of Clan Arcona, from the lowest Journeyman, to members of his Summit, to his Consul, to his Elders. He had given up everything for Arcona, had forsaken his upbringing and status as a member of Hapan nobility- forfeiting his rights to any of his former family's fortune. He had shed the name Del’Abbot when given the honor of being named worthy of the Arconae title and had never looked back.
He had spent years leading Oblivion Brigade, spearheading all of the Shadow Clan’s “black” operations. He had worked his way, tooth and nail, through the ranks of the Brotherhood, but with every personal victory he tallied it as a victory for Arcona and not himself. He had experienced pain and loss suffered through the Great Wars. He had witnessed turmoil, infighting, betrayal. Everything that had happened to the young Hapan had made him what he was today. Cold, guarded, calculated, precise- a True Shadesworn to his bones, and one of the Galaxy’s best assassins. Proconsul of the First Clan of the Brotherhood, and all the responsibilities that came with it.
It was needless to say that with this, combined with his distaste for the female gender brought on by the struggle of growing up in a matriarchal society, Marick was not the easiest person to love. Sure, he inspired loyalty and the affection of his members, but that was something entirely different. When he had started training Socorra, there had been a connection the two shared. Whether through the Force, or a different energy altogether, the Exarch did not know. All he knew was that she had been the first to look past the stoic mask he wore like a battle helm. She had given part of herself to him, and had given him a gift unlike any he had ever received in his life:
Marick let out a feral battle cry as he charged blindly towards Socorra’s position. His aquamarine blade moved on its own accord, mechanically cutting through the throng of infected who dared stand between him and the one thing that helped keep him human. The Hapan moved faster than any human had a right to. Everything around him seemed to be moving slowly.
A flash of white fur crossed the Hapan peripheral. Kira bound between infected, growling and snapping her fangs and tearing into the legs of the infected. Through their link in the Force, the fastest of the first Cythraul litter worked in harmony with her master, darting back and forth as both a decoy and a weapon.
Socorra growled as she swung her blaster pistol like a club, smashing the face of one of the infected. At her side, Akua mimicked her master’s growl.The younger Cythraul was still being trained for battle, and as such simply swatted at anything that got too close to her with a clawed paw. For the most part, they seemed to be ignoring the two of them.
“Socorra, it’s alright, I’m here now,” he said slowly, his wrist making a few deft twists to cut down an infected Jedi Hunter that tried to interrupt him.
“I...I can’t feel anything, Marick. I don’t know what’s going on...I can’t sense anything in the Force. Why is this happening to me...?” She looked at him, terror welling in her eyes as she erupted into a fit of coughing.
Marick felt a sinking feeling in his gut. As his adrenaline regulated, the calculated part of his mind started to piece things together.
“Sai! I need you, now!” Marick barked as loud as he could. His voice carried over the orchestra of infected grunts, the whirring of lightsabers and the hissing of blaster bolts.
From not too far off, Tsainetomo and Manji Keibatsu effortlessly worked in tandem to clear their share of the infected. It was a terrifying sight. Sai’s blazing, sun-kissed blade contrasted against Manji’s pair of ghostly, cyan blades. When one struck, the other parried, when one ducked, the other lunged. Whatever feud the cousins shared had taken a backseat to their true natures. They were warriors, bred for one thing and one thing alone - destruction.
Stepping out of his executioner mode temporarily, Sai heard his Proconsul’s call and hurled himself bodily through the air with the aid of the Force. He landed with the might of a crashing meteorite into the mess of infected closing in on Marick and Socorra, hair flowing freely in his wake.
“I need you to carry Socorra. She’s infected, and we need to get her somewhere safe until we figure out what’s going on,” The Hapan explained, his saber decapitating another infected Journeyman who got too close for comfort.
Sai nodded, but Socorra’s face turned from fear to sudden anger, her brow furrowing.
“What do you mean, carry?! I can walk perfectly fine on my-” she started to say, but felt the air rush from her lungs as Sai’s fist connected hard with her chest. The woman’s eyes rolled back into her head as she slumped forward, unconscious. Without another word, the Primarch hefted the Erinos onto one shoulder, still gripping his lightsaber in his free hand. Akua whimpered at seeing her master unconscious, but had become familiar with Sai’s scent enough to know that it would be alright to follow at his side.
Marick scanned the area, and saw an elaborately designed house built on the face of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. A shallow but long hill led to the top. It would give them the high ground, and everyone knew the advantages of that.
“Teroch, Manji, Mirado!” Marick called out, pointing with his lightsaber towards the house. They all nodded, and started to move towards one another, creating a back-to-back circular formation.
“Where’s Dyrra?” Marick asked. As the words left his mouth, Manji bolted from the formation with the same determination Marick had exercised earlier.
“They will meet us there - keep moving,” Tsainetomo explained.
Back-to-back with Teroch, the duo fell back into old habits, coordinating their strikes like two sides of the same weapon. Like Sai and Manji, whatever animosity the two held for one another was lost to the battle. Kote, Teroch’s Cythraul, seemed to be enjoying himself.
Reunited with his sister, Kote wasn’t shy about showing off his prowess. Brash, erratic, but extremely efficient and powerful the dark-furred Cythraul tackled an infected to the ground and tore out his neck. blood splattering around his jaws and muzzle. Kira made the wolf-equivalent of a hmph as she darted in and out of an infected’s legs.
As they made their way up the hill, the throng of infected seemed to thin. Finally reaching the wooden deck of the house, Sai set Socorra down into one of the chairs. Akua whimpered and nuzzled her head against her master’s leg and then sat down at her feet ,obediently taking guard over her.
The three Arconans and their Sadowan comrade swept through the house to ensure it was clear of infected. Once content, they picked Socorra back up and pulled her inside, setting her down in one of the restrooms. It was large for a guest bathroom, and had enough room for Akua to curl up next to her master with space to spare.
Without a word, Teroch took up position outside on the deck with his rifle, carefully picking off any infected that foolishly got within the Adept’s range.
Marick panted, his eyes downcast. His mind raced. He had been working on adrenaline and instinct. As he tried to piece everything together, he found it harder and harder to keep his calm. What if he was infected? What if they all were? Were they all doomed here? What was he doing? Why was he fighting so hard?
It was faint, but he heard whispers in the back of his mind. They had been subtle at first, but Marick could slowly feel them getting louder. He coughed into his hand, and sneered. He broke off a part of his mind and dedicated it on focusing inwards to block whatever it was that was trying to slowly take control of it.
“Ahhh!” Mirado cried out, staggering backwards a few steps. Sai and Marick both turned to look at their comrade. There was no infected in sight, though.
“Mir’ what’s wrong?”
“I can’t...I can’t see.”
Marick and Sai glanced at one another, wondering if for a moment if he was trying to add levity to the situation. They both knew that the Sadowan assassin wasn’t much on humor, though, and realisation set in.
Without hesitating, Sai lunged forward, slashing his blade out at Mirado. The Miraluka sneered as he brought his blade up in defense on instinct. His hearing and smell seemed to be enhanced, as well as his reflexes. Just as their blades locked, Marick appeared behind the Miraluka, a stun master gripped in his hand. He pressed the weapon against the back of the Praetor's neck, discharging the weapon entirely. Mirado shook and convulsed before slumping to the floor. Sai grabbed him and similarly shoved him into the bathroom. Once in, he closed the door and used his lightsaber to create a seal. It would at least hold them, hopefully, until they could get extracted out of this paradise turned to hell.
Sai stepped over to Marick, studied him, almost as if asking if he needed to “go to the restroom” as well. Marick shook his head, which seemed to be enough for the Keibatsu. With a simple pat on the shoulder he left the Hapan to join Teroch on watch, knowing that Manji and Dyrra should be returning shortly.
Marick sat down on the floor, cross-legged. He exhaled slowly as he rested his head in one hand, brushing back the strands of his matted hair. Kira padded over to him, nuzzled her face against his cheek and then lowered herself into a sphinx-like position, ears flat, her heterochromatic eyes looking up at him with worry.
The Arconae ran his fingers through the white wolf's fur and pulled her close to him, hugging her tight, fighting internally to stave off the madness that was slowly starting to creep over him.
The grim snarl that bisected Manji's features alone should have been enough to ward off the hordes that beset him. He exuded raging fury, teeth bared, twin blades flashing through battle-hardened form with careless abandon. In some strange way, the crimson tide of his anger mirrored the disposition of the cousin who had carried on up to the house; Tsainetomo fought with a precise and deadly satisfaction that was nevertheless diametrically similar to the blazing hatred that bore down on the infected now. Manji's anger was, however, not borne of compassion or any desire to protect the red-haired woman that had fallen behind the group. It was much simpler than that.
Dyrra had been his apprentice, and the bond was unbreakable to the tradition-minded Keibatsu. Dyrra would answer for her failure to keep up with the others and be corrected- she would not be torn apart by some half-witted, plague-addled Journeymen.
As he descended the hill into the onrushing crowds, Manji's blades swept down those who were foolish enough to come close to him. He hacked and carved through helpless flesh like a whirling death-deity until he saw a small knot of infected clustering around one spot on the hillside. As they boiled around it, the Keibatsu fancied he saw a flash of crimson hair.
The Force gave his legs a second wind, oddly tiring as it was to summon the putrid stench of the Dark Side. A hapless Rodian, part of the group surrounding the fallen Templar, turned at the sound of his approach- only to have his face and body split in two by the downward sweep of two gleaming sabers. In the blink of an eye, Manji ripped his weapons outwards and stepped in towards Dyrra, huddled on the ground covering her head. A complicated whorl of silver whirled through the air, the high-pitched hum of two sabers cutting through the surrounding noise and screams.
Slowly, wearily, Dyrra lifted her head. The infected that had surrounded her were gone, and body parts littered the area around them. She recognised the handiwork, and a grim smile flitted across her face.
"T-took your time, eh?"
Manji did not smile. One blade remained pointed outwards, to keep any opportunistic infected at bay; the other went silent and flew back to his belt as he reached down with his left hand to haul the Templar to her feet. She shook him off with a spirited effort, forcing herself up onto her knees.
"Get off!" she snapped. "I can... get myself up..."
Now the Pontifex smiled, ghost-like. This was what he'd seen in her all those years ago, back on Kyataru- the same bloody stubbornness that he occasionally showed, refusing to accept the obvious, spitting in the face of death. Turning his attention back to his surroundings as the remaining infected stragglers encircled them, he snapped back at her.
"Then get on with it! I'm missing out on sake and card games to come out here and save your sorry hide."
Dyrra pushed herself upright with a snarl, feeling a sudden and strange wave of energy flow through her body. It wasn't the Force, and the realisation sent a chill through her. She was up and standing, but concentrating was... difficult. Her vision seemed foggy, and it was an effort to keep herself from sinking into the abyss. As she shook her head and tried to look around, Manji stared down at her. His face softened ever so slightly as he gestured for her to move past him, up the hill.
"You've earnt this one..." he whispered, the unlit lightsaber hilt willed into his hand by the slightest of mental gestures and raised above his head as Dyrra stepped in front of him.
A thunderous knock on the door of the House jolted Marick and Sai out of the reverie into which they had fallen. Unbidden, the door smashed open to reveal the lanky shape of the Pontifex, a limp form over his shoulder. Behind him, Teroch kept his eyes on the infected advancing up the hill, backing in front of the door to better cover the Keibatsu. Without a word, his expression dark, Manji strode into the house and past the two Arconans, depositing Dyrra's prone form on the floor of a bedroom adjacent to the main lounge then moving back out and closing the solid metal door behind him.
Sai's tripartite eyes burned into his cousin's one orb.
"Is she-" he began, before the Pontifex cut him off curtly.
"Unconscious," Manji growled, clearly unwilling to provide any more information. The quick flicker of his eye towards Marick was all the question that Sai needed, and the barely imperceptible shake of the head that the Primarch offered in return was all the answer that Manji wanted.
Leaning his back against the door, arms crossed, the Dragon let a dark chuckle slip from his lips as he perused the two of them.
"Well, this is fun," he sneered. "Anybody know any guessing games?"
Marick sat cross legged on the floor, his brow furrowed in concentration. Sweat beaded all over his face. Strands of his thin, jet-black hair hung over his face, disheveled and matted. His crystalline eyes focused like they had never focused before, his teeth grinding against one another from his clenched jaw. His youth shone in a new light as desperation replaced the usual calm, stoic mask he wore.
In front of him, his lightsaber floated, suspended in midair through the invisible hand of the Force. What should have been a simple task, hardly worthy of a battle, had turned into a Great Jedi War within the Exarch’s mind.
The lightsaber wobbled. Marick growled as he reached his hand out, using it as a means to help give his mental projection a physical binding. He had to keep the saber a float. If he didn’t, the plague would consume him, and he’d be unable to help his friends, and temporary allies. The thought of being a problem, and not part of the solution terrified the young Hapan.
“Pathetic,” Manji grumbled as he watched, arms crossed lazily across his chest.
Teroch Erinos whipped his head around at the Son of Sadow, his eyes narrowing dangerously. It was clear that the Adept had little patience for the Pontifex. In the blink of an eye, the Praetor cleared the small distance between the two, his face uncomfortably close to the Keibatsu’s, glowering up into his eye. Manji remained calm and still, his hand resting casually on the hilt of his shoto-saber.
“You’re really starting to piss me off with all this negativity, you arrogant little fierfek.” The Adept explained slowly, his voice low and cold. Despite his youthful face, there was power swirling in the depths of his eyes. “He’s done better than your friend at holding it off,” he said next, glancing over at Marick struggling desperately to keep his sanity. He frowned before turning back to regard Manji.
“Make your move, kid. I’ve been waiting all day for a chance to slap you down. I’ll even give you a free first hit.” The one-eyed Keibatsu sneered.
Teroch’s eyes narrowed to slits, a smile devoid of any brevity took over his features. “Yeah, and we both know how that’ll go. Buir kicked your shebs, and I’ve already beaten you once before. Why re-hash what’s already been decided?”
“You got lucky, plain and simple. You’re just a boy playing at adult games, and you’re going to come to realize before I’m done that you should never have left that pathetic excuse for a Clan; it was the only protection you ever had.”
Teroch was saved from responding by Tsainetomo walking in, taking stock of the situation and sighing. “Manji, that kid is my responsibility, and I don’t care how much bluster you’re putting up; he’s stronger than anyone else here, including you. Teroch, that is my friend and family member, however estranged I am. He’s just touchy because we’ve spent the last few hours killing his clan-mates. If we’re going to make it out of this alive, you need to drop the snark. Both of you. Show some respect.” He finished..
Manji didn’t say a word, only watched Teroch’s back. The Adept turned away, his black Cythraul following at his heels. What concerned the Keibatsu more, though, was that he hadn’t been able to sense the Adept’s movement towards him. Could the infection, or whatever it was called, reach even to the upper echelon of Equites?
Kote glanced over at Marick, and the white Cythraul sitting obediently at his side. The two sibling wolves locked eyes, but Kote turned his head away, disregarding his sister. Kira’s ears flattened as she, too, looked away.
Sai watched everything with cold, calculated eyes. He lit up a cigarra, inhaling and then blowing out a thin plume of steam.
Marick continued his battle with maintaining his connection to the Force. He let out a fit of coughs, and the saber wobbled and almost fell. He reached out a second hand.
“More importantly...how are we getting off this rock?” Sai asked aloud to the group.
Teroch scoffed. “It’s your stupid ‘getaway’, you tell me.”
Sai looked over at Manji, who shrugged.
“There is probably an old comlink stored upstairs. Maybe we can use it to flag an emergency distress beacon...” the Son of Sadow mused.
“Fine, I’ll do it.” Teroch said finally, throwing his hands above his head. He muttered something in Mando’a under his breath, and the black Cythraul nodded before taking up a guard position on the porch of the house. The Adept climbed the staircase, glancing ominously over his shoulder at Manji, his gaze shifting to Sai and then on Marick.
Once Teroch cleared the room, another silence fell over the group. It was broken by the sound of metal clanking against wood.
Marick’s saber crashed to the floor.
“Frak,” the Hapan swore loudly as he looked up at Tsainetomo, who’s tripartite gaze never left him.
“I will let you know when I can no longer fight it. Please do not hesitate, though, in doing what needs to be done,” he said as clearly as he could. He coughed up phlegm onto his sleeve and wiped a running nose. The Hapan’s eyes looked distant.
The Apostate Son of Sadow simply nodded his head.
From inside the bathroom, Socorra and Mirado stirred. Their eyes snapped open, the effects of the plague more evident in both of them now.
Socorra awoke to the sound of a mop slopping across the floor...and her face. The soft, wet mop brushed her skin over and over again until her pale eyes popped open. After a moment they finally focused, and the Erinos found herself staring face-to-face with Akua before the Cythraul launched another slobbery assault. With a smile, the woman wrapped her arms around the wolf and hugged her tightly, partially out of joy of seeing her, but mostly to keep Akua from drowning her in slobber. She looked around the small bathroom, noting Mirado and Dyrra tossed in with her in unceremonious piles. She wondered if they were all infected and now quarantined.
The Arconan straightened up, remembering Sai had punched her and tossed her over a shoulder. This was likely where he dumped her, and the others were likely infected as well, all three of them being quarantined.
Walking up to the bathroom door, she started calling out. “Hey! Anyone out there?”
“Yeah,” came a quick reply, somewhere nearby. The young voice was clearly Teroch’s.
“Ter...what’s going on?”
“We’re getting help. Just be patient.”
“Okay.. I’m weirded out a little, but I’m not crazy. Can you.. you know. Lemme out?”
She frowned and looked over her companions. “Well I gotta pee.”
The younger brother paused, and was either considering her request, or was completely dumbfounded by it. “You’re in a bathroom, you di’kut.”
“Yeah, but there’s people in here.”
She heard a snort. “Not like it’s stopped you before.”
She 'harumphed' and crossed her arms, turning to the Sadowans. Mirado was starting to rouse, with Dyrra not far behind him.
This is going to be awkward.
The voices had been soft at first, like annoying tugs at the sleeves from a small child trying to get attention. Slowly, they had begun to amplify, now more akin to a base drum beating incessantly next to the Hapan’s ear.
Part of him, somewhere else in a different land, overheard the conversation from the side of the room. The typically stone-faced assassin let out a rare chuckle as he wrapped his arms around Kira’s neck and pulled her close. It was faint at first, but then slowly got louder. The white wolf’s ears flattened as she obediently allowed her master to hold her, obviously sensing the dementia creeping over his mind.
“What’s so funny?” Teroch called out from the other side of the room.
“Haha,” Marick continued to chuckle. “She said, ‘pee’.”
Teroch didn’t return the laugh and walked slowly over towards his former brethren. Regardless of his feelings towards Arcona, the Arconae, or even Wuntila, there was a part of Teroch that understood how much Sashar had cared for the young Hapan, and why. The two had grown closer after his death, and despite all the drama that seemed to follow the youth, they had still formed the bonds of a friendship that could last through everything. Even if they were at different points in their careers and lives. Even if they were, at time, at odds.
When Teroch got close, Marick looked up at him, a child-like grin on his face. His eyes were a completely different story, somber and serious as they stared up at him.
“Whatever happens to me. Promise me,” he started to say slowly. “PROMISE,” his voice escalated momentarily, but then sank back down as he became self-aware of his tone. “Promise me, you’ll take care of her.”
Marick’s gaze returned to the floor, his hands clutching either side of his head as he started to rock himself slowly, unable to prevent the fits of coughing that made his body shudder.
Teroch simply placed a hand on the Hapan’s shoulder and nodded his head before turning away and looking to Sai.
The Primarch nodded slowly, understanding his duty.
A Force-augmented fist to the back of the head dropped the Hapan before he could harm anyone. Kira, his cythraul, immediately went for Tsainetomo, who hastily backed up a pace, but was tackled mid-air by Kote, Teroch’s own canine companion. The two snarled and snapped in a ball for a few moments before the youth stepped over them, grabbing them both by the collar, heedless of the mass of snapping jaws and bodily pulled them apart.
“Oya! Pack it in.” He snarled, putting his face level with theirs, hammering home the command with the Force, Obediently, they seperated, theirs ears flat, their eyes not leaving one anothers’.
“Best not put him in with the others. We get enough in there and they’ll manage to break down the door.” Tsainetomo observed as Teroch slung the unconscious Proconsul over his shoulder, letting the Force handle some of the weight.
“Mmm. I’ll lock him in that cleaning cupboard.”
As he crossed the room and deposited his cargo, the Adept’s mind ran furiously.
It’s hitting more and more of them, and whilst I have no compunction about killing Sadowan journeymen if they come at me first, what about this party? Socorra’s my sister. No killing her. Marick means something to her, so no killing him either. Mirado...fair game, apart from the fact that Vodo would probably hit the sky if I killed his Praetor. Dyrra, I’d kill her if for no other reason than to piss Manji off, but in doing so would probably annoy Tsai too. Tch.
A small, important part of him also remembered that if his father could see him deciding which unarmed prisoners, prisoners he’d fought with he was going to kill, he’d shake his head in disappointment.
Cringing at the memory, He locked the door behind him and turned back to the two Keibatsu. His last two companions. Manji sniffed.
Now wasn’t the time to worry about who he’d be annoying if he beat the osik out of the dual-wielding Pontifex. He was not going to wait around for Manji Keibatsu to fillet him with his back turned. No, he was going to take him down hard, and probably with a certain amount of satisfaction.
The Force burned through him in an instant, a conflagration which was pushed back inside, barely contained; the quintessential maelstrom in a bottle. Apparently Manji was only experiencing the early signs of the mysterious affliction, as he sensed Teroch’s sudden supernova of preternatural activity and turned to face him, confusion and contempt writ across his features and stance.
“Teroch...” Tsainetomo warned, knowing it was futile, knowing that the youth had set his sights on Manji, and not even the Grand Master could stop him now.
His eyes glittered like chips of black glass, and he shifted.
Manji barely had time to activate his lightsaber before the Mandalorian was all over him, not bothering with a weapon of his own. He tackled the Keibatsu to the floor, grabbed a fistful of hair and bounced the Krath’s head off the solid wooden flooring a few times, then offered a keldabe kiss to the reeling cycloptic Pontifex.
Pushing off him, the Mandalorian danced out of Tsainetomo’s reach quickly (kicking Manji in the kidney as he did so) and grinned as Kote, his cythraul snarled and leapt at his mentor, pulling him to the ground. A half-second later, Kira was there, aiding her brother.
“Believe it or not, this is for your own good.” He taunted as his booted foot came down on Manji’s already dazed head.
“Kote! Kira! Check!” He barked once he was sure that the Pontifex had lost consciousness.
Immediately, the two cythraul backed off, and Tsainetomo checked his arms for bite marks. Thankfully, the canines hadn’t bitten down too hard, sensing the telepathic command for a non-lethal restraint.
“Manji was displaying symptoms too?” his mentor asked, sitting up.
“Symptoms?” Teroch quipped, as if not understanding the question.
The korun-kei sighed, then stifled a sneeze.
It wasn't the first time Dyrra had awoken with her face pressed against a tiled bathroom floor and surely wouldn't be the last, but this particular occasion had to be the most peculiar.
Moving gingerly, she leaned herself against the wall, one hand rubbing the lump that was forming on the back of her skull.
That addle-brained son of a...
Sweet mother of a Hutt, that hurts.
She'd forgotten what it was like when she was younger - when she couldn't control the Force, when she wasn't able to shut off all but the worst of pains with a thought. Dyrra's grasp of that control wasn't exactly the stuff of legend at the best of times, but always, always, better than this.
It was like her head was suddenly empty and half her muscles had stopped working.
A Jedi, if caught in this situation, would fight the urge to panic, sit calmly and try to wait it out, certain that if they could just be calm enough, the Force would return.
Dyrra was no Jedi. She called on the only tool she had ever known to bring the Force thundering into the forefront of her mind, magnificent and terrifying and so loud nothing could drown it out.
Pure blind fury.
It wasn't hard to find the initial spark: hell, Manji had hit her over the head and thrown her in here with the other two! From there, she knew how to nurture her anger, to let it build to the point where it overwhelmed everything and brought the Force back with it.
Nothing. No response.
It was like she'd never been force sensitive in the first place - as though the years in the Brotherhood had been a dream. The Arconan sitting across from her and her still-waking-up Clanmate were proof positive that it hadn't been, though.
"Mirado? You waking up?"
The Miralukan jerked awake suddenly at the sound of her voice and Dyrra remembered what he'd said to her before - without the Force, he couldn't see.
His voice sounded a little nervous as he responded.
"Wh-where are you? The echoes in here.. I can't tell."
"I'm to your right. Socorra is here too, with that... whatever they call it, that pet of hers."
This earned Dyrra a disapproving growl from the creature. She ignored it, though, focussing entirely on her clanmate.
"She's in front of you, on the opposite wall. Want me to describe this place more?"
He shook his head, firmly and Dyrra watched with worried eyes as he got his bearings and slowly, carefully, began to feel his way around the room they were in.
Unconsciousness took all of Marick’s troubles away. It was a rare thing, a rare treat, for him to not be worried or concerned about the well being of the Clan, his relationship with Socorra, or his gripes with Teroch. In his sleep, in his mind, he was free, and at peace.
The Hapan floated through the empty void that was his mind. The plague, or virus, or whatever it had been that overtaken him, became visualized before him. Warped faces of infected Arconan’s flooded his mind. They twisted, swerved, distorted, their body’s pinched into an unnatural pinwheel of light. He saw his brothers, and sisters fall one by one. He saw Socorra being torn into two pieces, her guts and blood spilling out over his face. He saw Wuntila fighting a horde of infected, only to be brought down to his knees. Once down, the bear of a Consul was impaled from each angle with swords and spears. Still he faught on, raging, roaring, stomping, slashing, until all that was left was a heap of bodies around him. At last he fell.
“NO!” Marick yelled as he clutched the sides of his head. “This can’t be real...none of this is real...”
He screamed. He screamed as loud as he could. He was met with nothing. Only silence. His mental projection of himself sat down cross legged in the blackness of his mind. His head bowed and he curled up into a ball, rocking himself back and forth. He was alone.
He had to trust Teroch. Teroch was their only hope.
If the infection was not making Socorra go crazy, being forced to sit in a bathroom for what seemed like hours certainly was. She stood up and grabbed a piece of toilet paper, blowing an endless amount of snot into it before tossing it in the wastebasket. She looked into the mirror to get a good look at herself; tangled hair fell about her face, blood, some hers and most of it others, caked parts of her skin, and dark rims formed under her eyes. Her pale eyes were turning a yellowish hue: the most tell-tale sign of change.
She certainly felt strange, but most of all, she could feel a deep aggravation. Her ability to call on the Force was lost, and she clawed for it like it was a phantom limb. Something in the back of her mind gnawed at her, beckoning her to get it back.
“Are you going to turn on us?” Dyrra asked, breaking the bathroom silence. The question seemed half joke and half real.
Snapping out of her reverie, Socorra slightly turned her head to regard the Sadowan. “I am getting hungry.”
“Great,” Dyrra mumbled in reply. She looked around the room, her eyes finally resting on Akua laying quietly at their feet. “So what is that thing?”
Socorra turned to see what she meant. “Oh, Akua?”
“Yeah. Your dog...thing. What is it?"
Bending down to Akua, the Erinos ran a hand through her long ebony fur, lightly rubbing her one permanently flopped over ear. "She is a Cythraul- a direwolf some call it.”
“How did you get her?”
“A gift from the Arconae,” Socorra replied. “For loyalty and service.”
Mirado looked over in their direction. “Why does Teroch have one then?”
“He earned one. And a master-Cythraul bond is for life. No one would be able to tame Kote except for Teroch, much like the only one able to tame Teroch...is probably Teroch.”
“Not even Sai?”
Socorra smiled wide. “Not even Sai.”
Gamely rising, Sai swiped his bandaged forearm across his nose, the exaggerated motion made even more ridiculous by the Keibatsu’s sudden wan look; a flu-stricken warrior in a tropical paradise.
Teroch and the cythraul warily eyed him as he flexed his fingers, the sinews in his forearms cording, the muscles bunched. In truth, the powerful animals’ jaws did succeed in bruising him and breaking the skin in places; it seemed to the youth that his wounds may just as well had been mosquito bites. Sai locked eyes with the Adept; Teroch saw the familiar restless certainty shining within, but it was muted. Dim. Behind the fire was a leanness. The sense of a rising hunger. His breathing quickened while the Korun-Kei’s was deep and steady.
Teroch’s mind raced as he watched Sai slowly lower his head, rolling his shoulders as he did so. Sai looked more powerful somehow, and the room suddenly seemed very small as the Keibatsu deliberately pulled his lightsaber hilt from his belt.
The Cythraul’s hackles raised, the beasts’ sensing Teroch tensing. A hand stole towards the Arconae’s lightsaber.
“Teroch.” Tsainetomo’s voice was low and rumbling.
The Adept’s hand, moments away from clutching his hilt in preparation for destroying his mentor, flew of its own accord, instinctively snatching Nenshogeru from the space that Sai’d thrown it.
Man and beast alike gaped at Tsainetomo.
The Primarch hadn’t raised his head, yet his low voice carried easily across the space between them. “I don’t know what’s happening. I feel...I...can’t really explain it.” In a rare moment, the Keibatsu’s voice faltered.
It was a moment not lost on Teroch. For once, no quips came as the gravity of the situation finally settled into his mind. If things had gotten to the point of shaking Sai up...
His reverie was broken by his mentor’s voice. “I do know,” Sai continued, his head rising and gaze locking on the Arconae, “that it’s not happening to you. Not yet, anyway.
“And, whatever it is, it’s cut me from the Force. I can’t use my sword.” Teroch knew bits and pieces of what had gone into building Sai’s lightsaber, but he was certain of one thing: Sai used the Force to activate it, the ignition mechanism hidden deep within its workings and connecting them both intimately. If Sai couldn’t use it...
“...I am of unworthy of it.” Sai finished, eerily finishing Teroch’s thought.
Tsainetomo took one staggering step towards the bathroom door, then righted himself, shooting a warning glance at Teroch. “I may be ailing, but I ain’t dead,” he growled, showing the auto-repeater still at his thigh. “Like I was saying, I’m unworthy of it now, but I’ll claim it again. The only way I’ll do that is by getting out of here. Alive, so we can figure out what the kark is happening. As it stands, you’re the only one fit enough for the task.” He stopped, straightening at the door to the space where the others were kept. Manji stirred, clawing his way back to consciousness.
Sai spared a glance at his cousin before looking back to Teroch, the Arconae placing Sai’s lightsaber within his own belt. “There’s a marina on the beach; my family maintains a craft large enough to get us all to Kel Rasha.” The larger city on Aeotheran was bound to have a waiting ship at the spaceport, and answers to what just in the Nine Hells was going on. “I can help you for as long as I can, but you must get us there.” The Keibatsu finished, a racking cough stealing the words from him, looking sick and strong simultaneously, the effects of the plague both bolstering and ravaging him. From an open window drifted the sounds of an approaching crowd, no doubt remnants of the Sadowan garrison that remained alive.
Now,” he said, moving to the side, offering Teroch an unobstructed lane to the sealed door as the sounds grew closer. “Are you gonna grow your punk ass up and do what needs to be done?”
“So, you and Marick, huh?” Dyrra asked with a grin. The red-haired woman was now also petting the Cythraul behind the ears. Akua seemed content with all the attention she was getting. She nuzzled back against the petting.
“I...uh,” Socorra started to say, but then looked down. She remembered suddenly how he had fought his way towards her. He did really care for her, even if he was not very good at showing it. It was possibly the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for her.
“Yes, we are,” she said with another smile. She looked down and studied her scarred hands, memories taking hold of her.
Kira looked around, her heterochromatic eyes - one violet and the other cerulean - took in everything that was going on around her. The white Cythraul padded over to her brother. They looked at each other, staring each other down. A moment passed between them unspoken.
Slowly, Kira stepped close to her brother and gently nuzzled her head against his cheek, then licked the spot she had rubbed against.
Kote stared back at her, and if he could blush, he might have. He simply turned his head away, focusing on anything beside his sister. She waited, and Kote finally turned to look at her. He nodded his head slowly, and they understood each other.
Kira didn’t take offense, and padded over to the room where Marick was and sat down outside his door. She sat in a sphinx position, ready to pounce on anyone or anything that attempted to hurt her master.
A stream of colorful curses flung out of Socorra's mouth as she shouted at the bathroom door, attempting to kick it down with a foot.
“Let us out, you karkin’ Hutts, or I will break this down and come make you beat your own shebs in!”
Her cheeks were flushed with frustration and anger, the infection clearly taking hold as her aggression rose through the roof.
Suddenly, the door slid up, leaving the Erinos with her fist wound back and ready to punch the air.
"You rang?" Teroch grinned, his arms crossed as he stood in front of the entry.
"Ter'ika!" she exclaimed, and then launched herself at him in attempt to tackle him to the ground, letting her fist fly at him anyway.
The younger Erinos was naturally faster, but the infection seemed to boost Socorra’s speed to his own levels, taking him by surprise. She very nearly managed to punch him, and that was impressive.
“Alright, no time for play,” he said, his voice taking a much sterner tone. “Everyone out. We have to run.”
Socorra pouted and reluctantly rolled off of him, saving her assault for what seemed like might be another battle ahead. Teroch stood and offered a hand, helping her up. Before she moved, he held up a hand again, and she saw something odd in his eyes, a definite change about him.
“Socks, listen, try and wake up Marick. He’s in the cupboard where Kira is waiting.”
She nodded and watched him turn to her companions, with Dyrra helping Mirado step out of the bathroom and into the hallway. His expression, his swagger, his tone of voice...it was almost as if Teroch had matured before her very eyes.
With a purposeful bounce in her step, she turned and bounded down the hallway over to Kira. Without a word between them, the white Cythraul moved out of the doorway and allowed Socorra entry. Akua sat on her haunches next to her, both of them keeping watch.
“Marick,” Socorra called softly, reaching his side and placing a hand on his arm. The Hapan stirred, and though she had expected him to take a swing at her, his eyes teared up instead, and he grabbed her in a huge bearhug.
She smiled and embraced him, holding him tight for a moment. “We have to go,” she said, holding up his chin to look into his cerulean eyes. He nodded, sitting up.
They stood and straightened themselves, and turned to one another, locking eyes again. They both opened their mouths to speak, but closed them. The couple didn’t need to speak at all. Marick grabbed her hand in an uncharacteristic move, which she delighted in, and they then hurried out of the room.
Catching up to the Sadowans, the group minus Teroch and Sai rushed out of the back exit, the front quickly becoming swarmed with infected attempting to break in.
Manji, having been roused by Dyrra, barely felt the effects of his forced nap as the plague gained a foothold within his body, and he led the haggard group down the weed-choked path to the marina. Socorra and Marick ran on either side of Mirado, helping the blind assassin find his way. The busy chatter of an auto-repeating slugthrower and the sibilant song of a lightsaber chased them towards the way to Kel Rasha, and safety.
“Running...low!” Sai’s voice, strong yet hoarse, rang out in Teroch’s ear as the youth cleaved an Initiate in two. Sai racked his last magazine into the butt of the heavy weapon, thumbed the fire selector to ‘S’, and began plunking Journeymen one by one. His connection to the Force was gone, but not years of muscle memory.
“How much further?” Teroch called ahead to Manji. The Pontifex peered ahead, his one good eye squinted. “It’s just ahead!”
Sure enough, the group rounded a bend in the path, and the Keibatsu manor’s marina burst into view. Manji rushed to the end of a jetty, where a watercraft awaited. He rushed aboard, his muscles suddenly strong even as his nose flowed like a faucet.
Scrubbing his face with a kimonoed sleeve in annoyance, Manji began cycling up the engine to the craft. Dyrra helped Socorra get Mirado aboard, Marick having bounded onto the deck a moment before, grasping the blindman’s forearm to help, then Dyrra. Then came Socks, and the pair shared a knowing look as he helped her, too.
Teroch and Sai appeared a heartbeat after, killing Journeymen who’d dared stray too close in their desperate pursuit. The Keibatsu pistol-whipped a Guardian, laying his nose wide open to the salty, ocean air. The Sadowan staggered only a pace, then rushed forward again only to be impaled upon Teroch’s lightsaber.
“We’re outta here, with or without you!” Manji warned, revving the engines. The crowd, though diminished, was still too many. They’d soon be overrun. He began to ease the craft away from the jetty.
Sai left one more slug in the eye of an Apprentice before he and Teroch both broke off any defense and ran with all they had down the short pier made of stacked stones. The end of the craft just cleared the end and the running pair both dove with abandon, their flight ending with a crash on the deck.
Manji opened up the throttle and the group sped away into the harbor. Dyrra looked back at the beach, trying to collect her thoughts. It was difficult, seeing as how she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the sight of infected men and women alike plunging headlong into the surf, still trying to get at them.
Sai laid on the deck and Teroch got up, moving towards the helm to stand with Manji, who turned the wheel, causing the craft to veer towards Kel Rasha.
They had barely made it out, their experience and a little bit of luck having saved them. But each one to a man and woman wondered in their own way if the fate they sped towards would truly be better than the one they’d fled.