Team 9 Run-On
Members: Nadrin Erinos Arconae, Nikola Valtiere, Timeros Caesus Entar Arconae, Elleron Morakei, Lambow, Morotheri Mithfaron, Eiko Lanzer, Kal di Plagia Vorrac, Tra'an Reith, Eetherbiail, Evant Taelyan, Koryn Thraagus, Kazmir Natas, Archean, Jason Hunter
* 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.
Tra’an Reith stared out the observation window below, as the world he was entrusted to protect, burned and destroyed itself. The riots had damaged key pieces of critical infrastructure, almost as if targeted from the beginning. All of the members of House Plagueis had been sent to Morroth, to be out of the way, and to isolate them as well. Whatever was happening, it was critical that it be confined. As the Shi’ido pressed his hand to the Transparisteel separating him from the endless void, the hate that was within began to roil and burn anew. He would not allow this to stand.
A quiet woosh revealed Kal di Plagia Vorrac and Eiko. They stepped within, and stopped abruptly, feeling that something was missing.
“She’s infected, Gentlemen. She won’t be joining us until she’s cured, or it kills her. Or if need be, I kill her. She was exposed, I assume from myself, from that fool, Enaias.” His hands clenched into fists before slamming into the transparent metal, rage pouring forth for the briefest of moments, before being contained by sheer force of will. Both nodded, realizing that the missing feeling was Jedi Hunter Libra Tzo, the Quaestor's personal aide and paramour of some years. The lack of her ever present eyes and presence was exceedingly unusual in this personal space.
“We’ll need help. We can’t fight this, or track it, on our own. We need-...,” Eiko was interrupted by Kal.
“And to whom shall we turn?” The defiant di Plagia looked at his rival, the Praetor to the Deputy Grand Master with fire in his eyes, and steel in his voice. “We have always been ignored and underestimated by the vaunted Clans and Houses. We stand. It shall be so once more.”
“Enough,” came Tra’an’s muffled voice from off of the vista before him. “There is no help to be had with this. As much as I would seek to find a cure, if one existed, we’d know of it by now. What we need to locate is the source. We know that Enaias came to us through the Shadow Academy, so we need to pull his records and find the ones who recruited him.”
Kal’s visage darkened further. The ice in his eyes crept into his voice; no scream or shout could have rivalled its venom. “You would abandon Plagueis now, in the midst of a crisis?”
The Shi’ido felt his last nerve snap. Seething, he turned around and sent a blast of Force energy into the Sith, pinning him against the wall.
“You who abandoned Plagueis in the hands of one unfit to lead would accuse me of desertion? You would lecture me for not wasting time to search for the origins of this biohazard?” The rage and fear within fueled the Force, keeping Kal pinned to the bulkhead for a few seconds before Tra'an let him go. The mechanized human lingered for but a moment before landing in a crouch, the lithe grace of a predator evident in his stance.
"We will do this together, because for now, the rest of us will remain on Morroth. We cannot risk letting them loose into the general population. Even we, I suspect, will not be immune, especially if this thing is given time to intensify. For now, we'll take the Nebula Strider."
As Kal stood up and brushed himself off, he nodded. "If that is what you wish, then it will be so." The man’s professional tone showed that the Aedile had recovered his composure, though he lacked his usual eloquence.
Eiko had wisely remained silent throughout the exchange, observing how the dynamic of things had changed since he had last visited Plagueis some time ago. Now, though, he chose to interject.
"Where do we start?" the measured voice asked the question to which he was sure Tra'an would not have an answer.
Tra’an took a breath, glaring out of the viewport. “To start,” he said, “We need some answers.” Turning to his Aedile, he fixed the man with a piercing gaze. “I assume you have some inclination on where to start?”
“Actually,” the Sith replied, “I contacted them five minutes ago. The sane ones, anyway. We’ll have answers soon.
Genesis Combine Hall
Timeros leaned calmly against a wall, watching dispassionately as Nadrin Erinos poured the Dark Side into the air so thickly that the Entar could smell its bitter tang.
In theory, the combat between the youthful Arconae and his new apprentice was just a test, meant to see whether Nikola was ready to become a full-fledged combatant of the Centre. To that effect, the Warlord had taken their rubble-strewn arena and brought it alive, surrounding himself with a halo of debris and pelting the Protector with one projectile after another.
Nikola, for his part, tried to give as good as he got, using his fledgling power with the Dark Side the best he could to remain unhurt. He skipped to a side, letting one crate sail harmlessly past, before raising his blaster rifle and blasting apart the next attack as though he had foreseen the pebble's movement - as of course, he had. Just like his master, however, Valtiere had to realize that he would tire out long before the Warlord did. Eventually, some projectile or another would describe an accurate trajectory and end the Protector's ability to resist. His qualification, then, depended on the tactics and ingenuity he could display before that moment.
The next projectile - a crumpled metal ball that might have been a trash can - shot forward, and Nikola raised his hand, desperately summoning up the energies that would allow him to deflect. He managed just in time, pushing the trash can to a side. The Protector had little moment to reminisce, however, as supernatural senses shouted out as one: Nadrin's earlier crate, now on a return trajectory.
The Protector dived, raising his blaster as he went. As the crate flew past the tall man, he leveled the barrel and fired.
The crate blew up savagely, but Nadrin had no time to adjust, as a second bolt suddenly shot through it - right at him.
Clever, Timeros observed coolly from the sidelines, while the Erinos interposed another pebble to block Nikola's second shot. Zandro's son retaliated immediately, shooting a heavy brick at the prone Protector.
Both men felt Nikola reach out with invisible hands, trying to steer away the pellet...
Only to have the Protector emit a sudden, all-consuming pulse of panic. His power slipped away from him, and before either the observing Operator or Nadrin himself could do anything about it, the heavy brick slammed into his skull with a sickening 'crack'. Nadrin's student spasmed for a few moments, and then lay still.
The Arconae reached out simultaneously by reflex, then relaxed - the Protector was still alive. Nadrin turned towards his colleague, face hidden behind his mask yet somehow seeming questioning.
After a few pensive moments, Timeros shook his head. "No. He fails. He clearly lost control at the end. A mistake like that could kill him if I chose to qualify him."
The boy shrugged. "Fine. I s'pose I'll have to teach him some more discipline before he tries again."
Timeros shrugged. "We should get him to a Bacta Tank."
Nikola convulsed in the tank, the bacta doing its work on his broken body. Slowly, through seething rage, his mind cleared, and the med bay swam into view. With the sight, his memory returned.
The Force had left him. His most prominent tool on the path to power had been stripped. He had been able to defy the forces of the universe itself, and bend them to his will. The most agonising thing was knowing it was there, and he couldn’t get it. He let out a scream again, shaking about in the healing liquid, the noise muffled by his mask. Hands slammed against the tank, trying to get out as his fury deepened, and rational thought left him.
It was their fault! I was too powerful! They took it from me! They took my power!
Medics scurried about as the massive Sith thrashed about, howling. As durasteel legs kicked against the reinforced glass of the tank, spiderwebs of cracks spread, weakness in the material made manifest.
With an almighty smash, the tank shattered, and Bacta poured out, knocking over a few of the medical personnel as they tried to run away. Nikola dropped to the bottom of the tank, no longer suspended in the fluid. He ripped off the mask, yelling as he surged forward, ripping out intravenous lines. The first person he grabbed, a nurse, was thrown into the sharp remains of the tank, the man eviscerated on the glinting shards. He shoved staff out the way, obstacles in his escape.
Nikola barrelled out of the room, leaving the bright fluorescence behind as he thundered into the complex, disappearing from view as he descended into the labyrinthine corridors.
Timeros and Nadrin inspected the aftermath of Nikola’s escape. The place was a mess, equipment and glass strewn everywhere as the Protector had escaped. Already, they were trying to clean up, the ceaseless wheels of bureaucracy ever turning.
“First he fails with the Force, and now this?” Timeros’ lip curled.
“I don’t understand it either. He mentioned feeling ill before the battle, but I brushed it off as weakness.” Nadrin replied, looking at the destruction wrought by his apprentice.
“Well, we had best find him, and get to the bottom of all this, Nadrin. It may be serious. We need to be on our way soon as well.”
Timeros and Nadrin left through the open door, following the wake of destruction as they too went further into the compound, their steps quiet and careful, using the Force to aid their search.
Following Nikola’s path would have been a relatively straightforward procedure even if Nadrin hadn’t been furnished with the Force. Wreckage and destruction followed in the obviously disturbed Protector’s wake as he blazed a trail that Timeros and his younger companion followed quickly and professionally, falling back on old habits as they slowly gained ground on the injured Journeyman that they hunted. The Force seemed to sing in Nadrin’s mind as he walked past a particularly well-bludgeoned cabinet in the non-descript corridor through which they walked and he reached out a hand towards Timeros’ chest and stopped him.
“You feel that? I think he’s stopped.”
Timeros nodded, staring into the middle distance as he mumbled, almost to himself.
“I do. The fool thinks that simply hiding is enough to get the drop on us.”
Nadrin bit down a retort with the knowledge that the Elder was in fact correct; Nikola had obviously planned some sort of ambush to catch his pursuers unawares. His mutterings about losing his powers were worrying the Warlord and he had the feeling that his new apprentice genuinely meant him and the other Arconae harm.
I just don’t understand why.
“I have to ask you, I’m sensing that he has not used the Force in any way since he broke out; is there some reason for this? Did you forbid him from using them as some sort of punishment for his failure?”
Nadrin turned to the other humanoid and shook his head once, firmly.
“I hadn’t spoken to him since the whole ‘brick face’ incident happened, but now that you mention it, I am quite surprised he hasn’t called on the Force once…something isn’t right, this is definitely not his normal behaviour. Let’s take him alive and knock him out, you told me we had other business here."
"Do not lecture me. I was not the one who wanted to take time out letting his apprenticed qualify 'while we were here'."
“Peace Tim, I meant no offence, I’m just a little worried.”
Tim’s face lost some of its tightness as he turned to Nadrin.
“You and me both. Let’s finish this and move on.”
Nodding, Nadrin moved forward to take the lead as they rounded the corner ahead and walked into the ambush that Nikola had planned. Sure enough, the Erinos had barely taken a step around the corner when a screaming mass of humanoid flung itself at him from somewhere out to his left. The Force acting as his guide, the young Warlord raised a hand and attempted to swat his insolent apprentice into the wall and hopefully into unconsciousness, however his attack seemed to have no effect and he was sent crashing into the ground with Nikola landing on top of him, raining blows into his mentor’s torso. Pain sang through the Arconae’s brain as the Protector struck him thrice in the ribcage before being grabbed and bodily thrown down the corridor by Timeros. Nikola landed almost gracefully, skidding on all-fours before leaping up and charging the Adept who almost lazily drew a fist back before stepping forward and striking the on-rushing Journeyman with a blow straight to his sternum. The wind was driven out of Valtiere as he slammed into the ground, unconscious before he had even hit the deck and the Entar stepped back, speaking as he did so.
Timeros turned to look at Nadrin when no reply came and found the teen looking at his hands, bemusement obvious through the Force as it rolled off the Warlord like waves.
“Tim, I hit him with a full strength Force strike to the chest. He should have been knocked out at the very least by that, but it…it didn’t even seem to happen.”
Timeros offered a hand and helped to bring the Erinos to his feet, speaking as he did so.
“I felt the attack, but it seemed to have no effect on him.”
“We should move, we have other business to attend to. Bind his limbs and bring him with us; we should keep a close eye on this one.”
Bridge of the BAC Doomsday
In orbit above Yridia II
Gazing out of the forward viewscreen, Jason Hunter looked down upon the oceanic world of Yridia II. Long had it been a home to him, or at least a location for him to rally to. Longer, the now-defunct Sword’s Sheath, asteroid base of House Gladius, had been his abode. Now that Tarentum was no longer a Clan, reduced to House status once more, and that he was the Aedile the second planet of Yridia had become his place of residence. The hallowed halls of the undersea Castle Tarentum his habitat.
He would still get out and enjoy the freedom of space when his duties would allow. Yes, at the moment he was out of the water and in space, captaining his ship, but enjoyment was not to be had. A veritable plague was sweeping across his House, and the entirety of the Dark Brotherhood for what all the reports were saying.
In Tarentum alone, chaos had broken out within the Castle and across the House's other holdings. Journeymen had turned on their Masters, dropping their lightsabers and taking up blasters and whatever bludgeoning weapons they could get their assorted appendages upon. They were ransacking the corridors, attacking any Tarenti that still possessed the ability to touch the Force.
That was one of the more troubling things of this blight; it seemed to cut off the afflicted from the Force, but not after giving them a great boon to their powers for a short period.
Cruel, Jason thought, still gazing down at Tarentum’s capital, and the newly-ordained Yridian capital. Give the kids what they want most, just to hack their hands off to take it from them.
He could still feel the Force, and he thanked It for that. So long as it remained at his side, he would use it to the extent of his abilities to find the reason his Housemates had fallen with this malady, and get them a cure.
Behind him, his communications officer strode up. The young man was always so nervous in Jason’s presence; seems Dark Jedi had that affect on the mundane.
“What is it, Ensign?” the Krath inquired as the sailor was still a good ten paces aft.
“Um, well, sir. Th-there’s an incoming transmission from Lord Kahn. Sir.”
“Relay it to my ready room; I will take it there.” Jason took one last, long look at Yridia II before turning to the ensign. “And, Dorg?”
“Uh, y-y-yes, sir?” the ensign stammered, the pitch of his voice rising ever so slightly as his eyes searched for that one spot beyond his commander’s shoulder to stare at.
“Relax a little, ok? We’re not all Vader.” With that, he strode past the stiff junior officer, patting him on the shoulder as he made for the ready room.
The ready room was just off the bridge, affording him quick access in the event of an emergency. He kept it sparsely furnished, with just one moderate desk and two simple chairs opposite him. On the walls was a chrono, and just a few mementos of years past on a pair of shelves. Featured most prominently was his old TIE Corps flight helmet on the corner of his desk, which was currently being used as a flimsi-weight.
Darkening the tint of the transparasteel that looked out to the bridge, Jason activated the holoprojector and was greeted with the visages of two Tarentae: Sith Bloodfyre and Anshar Kahn. They both looked a little worn and strained, but the determination most certainly had not left either man’s eyes.
Jason sketched a slight bow to his Elder’s before speaking. “What are your orders, Masters Tarentae?”
A plume of smoke brushed away from the undercarriage of the transporter. Little intricate sounds echoed through the hanger bay. The durasteel door on the transporter pushed out from its resting place as the ramp lowered with a gentle thud. Not even out of the craft, Archean felt a sense of dread and nervousness. He had been away from Tarentum, his Brothers and Sisters for so long yet this was not the homecoming he had hoped for. Things did not feel right for the Battlemaster. The Hanger Bay of Castle Tarentum was oddly scarce for this time of day. Archean, reached out with the Force, to give him a sign of what has happened. Yet, nothing was received.
“Am I out of practice THAT much?” He queried.
He strode toward the silver durasteel doors, the snap of the automatic opening mechanism flung them open. He was greeted by two youngsters garnishing blasters. They spun around and saw the Sith standing in the middle of the doors, like a deer in headlights. The Sith looked at their robes and saw the Tarentum crest. Confused by their behaviour, he saw that they belonged to House Tarentum. He looked back up, Archean saw the rage in their eyes, the hunger for destruction, chaos, death, snarling like ravenous dogs. He could not feel the Force within them. They felt…normal.
“… This can’t be good.” He whispered.
The young Padawan on the left fired a bolt aimed directly at the head of the blind swordmaster. Archean dropped to one knee and Force pushed the young one into the wall behind. In a split second, the house member got up with more vigor then he had previously. It was as if the blow did nothing. Archean rushed him, crashing them both into the wall. The Sith looked to his right and saw the other attacker make his move. Archean dropped the first Padawan and moved to the next. He unclipped his saber and ignited it. The other House member charged, firing wildly, hoping to drill the Dark Jedi. Archean launched forward, dropped his left shoulder, pushed off the ground with his right foot and slid around the attacker. Archean quickly disarmed the Padawan with a flurry of lightsaber strikes then delivered the final blow, dropping the human where he stood. The other attacker slowly got up again. Before he could get to his feet, Archean drove his saber through the back of the assailant, finishing him off.
Archean wiped sweat from under his blindfold as he looked at the bodies strewn on the floor. He quickly remembered that these were his housemates yet something was definetly wrong.
“Hmm… I wonder if the whole Castle is like this. They couldn’t have just wondered in, security is too tight. I need to find a few friendly faces.”
If the Castle is at war, Archean would need to rid the feelings of remorse and sorrow quickly.
Archean paced through the corridors, being cautious as he did. He figured, if the Castle was overrun with blaster wielding maniacs, he would stay away from the more populated areas. He found a secluded area and reached out with the force once more. His grey Force vision ricocheted all around him, sending him signals from every direction. He turned his head quickly. He felt a Force presence, be it a feint one. He couldn’t pin point the location but it felt as though it was on the other side of the Castle.
“It can never be the next room over, can it?” He quipped.
Halls of The Watchmen
Morotheri Mithfaron could only stare in disbelief as New Tython’s once shining example as a facility for the pursuits of knowledge was now reduced to a quarantine zone, heavily defended by the weary soldiers of the K.U.D.F’s Fourth Platoon Rangers. The remainder of the K.U.D.F was spread thin, guarding various key points in and around the city as they sought to contain the infection. Turmoil was widespread as panic set in, citizens now locked themselves away for fear of contracting the infectious plague that now roamed the streets, unaware that only those attuned to the Force had been infected.
Not an hour ago, five of the Praxeum’s most promising students had gone into a wild frenzy, killing staff members and their fellow classmates alike. A gruesome bloodbath quickly ensued, resulting in the deaths of dozens. Oddly enough, detailed reports had led to several discoveries. The most troubling of these to the Aedile’s mind had been the lack of the student’s usage of the Force. Instead, the filed reports indicated the affected students physically ‘throwing’ their targets, along with dozens of large objects that should have been otherwise immovable without the Force.
“It is a terrible sight to behold. All that power, to be taken away on a whim.” Remarked Denath as he let his gaze sweep over the landscape before them. An impenetrable cloud of dust swept by, obscuring his vision of the Praxeum over the horizon.
Lambow appeared in the doorway with a small contingent of the Fourth Platoon Rangers at his heels, his thick brown coat of hair matted and worn from several of the brutal conflicts that had emerged since the discovery of the plague. The Wookiee was still a mystery to most, as he rarely spoke of himself to others. On his back, he carried a bowcaster alongside an exceptionally well-crafted vibrosword. On a thick brown leather belt hung his lightsaber, the elegant hilt of which was massive in comparison to that of the Miralukan’s or the Rollmaster’s to fit comfortably in the wookiee’s large paws.
One of the ranking officers stepped forward, offering a snap-salute before relaying his report to the Jedi before him, “Sir, the Praxeum is contained for now. Although I am afraid that our numbers are wearing thin. With the K.U.D.F spread thin across the city, many of our men have had to be on guard duty for extended shifts. It’s taking a toll on our morale, Sir”
After much consideration between the three jedi, a solution was finally agreed upon, “We will send a small division consisting of a few units from the Legion of Steel and the Melewati.” Growled Lambow, his voice heavily accented through the basic-translating vocator located in his throat.
“Shall I relay the order, Sir?” Asked the officer, once more offering a salute in appreciation.
“Yes,” Confirmed the Rollmaster, “And alert the City Council, these matters should be discussed in further detail.”
“Relaying the order, Master jedi.” The officer informed as he turned on his heel, leading the squad of Fourth Platoon Rangers out the door.
Turning to his fellow Odanites, Mithfaron let out a heavy sigh, “This is worse than I had ever imagined. On my way from the Praxeum, I caught sight of one of the padawans. The Force was within him but faint… distant and dwindling rapidly. I do not know what this means, only that there are few we can trust, and even fewer who can help us.” The High Councillor spoke as he pressed his hand against the railing, looking over the edge of the balcony as he collected his thoughts. In the distance, plumes of smoke rose and fell over the war-torn landscape of New Tython. Settlements and villages were now the site of battlefields and guarded outposts. The most terrifying of sights were the great fires that spiraled upwards, creating huge blackened pockmarks in the landscape.
“If I may,” Offered Denath, who had taken his place along the edge of the balcony, “There are those in the Brotherhood who may have been affected by the blight, although I can’t say which I would trust. Thoughts?”
They each turned as the Wookiee growled an answer, it wasn’t one they were terribly excited to try, but it was a sound idea nonetheless. Throughout his time working with those who served House Revan, the Wookiee had built a small resource of contacts, should he ever find himself in such an unlikely position where he should require that kind of assistance.
“It’s worth a try.” Morotheri conceded, still unsure whether or not the idea would prove a solution to the current crisis. But then again, we don’t have much choice in the matter, do we?
Evant Taelyan watched from a distance as Koryn Thraagus discussed entrance to his own former home, Dragon’s Citadel and Acclivis Draco’s headquarters, with the local populace. He had heard in passing conversation on the way that it was an extremist offshoot of the Hoka Dachu tribe, but despite his proclivity towards trivial facts his mind had been elsewhere on rumors of powerful new recruits coming through the Shadow Academy. Currently without an apprentice, he dwelled on the idea of training one himself. On top of rumors that Acclivis Draco had left a holocron here that was a key to unlocking massive potential power. Almost certainly the same technique used on these recruits would soon be within his grasp.
“Of course it’s sacred ground, if that’s what you want to call it, less than two years ago it was occupied by Dark Jedi. We left in haste, all I want is to send two of my brothers in to collect something of value we left behind and we’ll be on our way,” Koryn protested politely as he and the tribe continued to negotiate entrance to the citadel.
Evant sighed heavily at the delay, normally a patient person, he had been on edge more often as of late. He glanced over and noticed that Eetherbiail was pacing impatiently as well, or seething, he couldn’t be sure with Sith or understand the ways their brains worked. He didn’t have much time to dwell on it before it was time to get to work though.
Koryn walked over with an exhausted look on his face, “Well they’ve agreed to let the two of you enter. Negotiations took longer than I expected, this isn’t a legitimate group of the Hoka Dachu tribe as I originally anticipated, and had no previous relations to build off. You two go in and get the artifact that Xen’Mordin sent us here for, it's a key unlocking a great power. I have some further business to discuss out here.”
The two Dark Jedi Knights entered the Dragon’s Citadel anxiously through the Hall of the Rising Dragon. The Krath side of Evant greatly desired to spend countless hours studying this place, but maybe at a future date when not on such a time crunch. The two went directly to the least interesting door in the entire place and down a dark, dank, stone-lined hallway into the dungeons desperate for this new power.
As the two descended into the dungeons they ignited their sabers for light, to aid the dim torches along the wall. The cyan and purple glow of the sabers filled the corridor as they walked and the hum gathered the attention of the local tribe who were in the area and took notice. Slowly they began to gather in numbers as they followed.
“You think they intend harm?” Eether asked as he took a more offensive grip with his saber and hugged the left wall.
“I don’t care about them, let’s just get what we came for,” Evant quickly replied hoping to put foolish plans of his Sith partner to the back of his mind. Although as they continued… he could feel his own mind deteriorating, as if his thoughts were slowing down. He dwelled on it a moment and stopped to try and calculate his options and decide if maybe he was in some type of danger.
Evant didn't have much of a chance to dwell on it as angry cries came from the room to his left, he quickly looked to find Eether but couldn't see him. Noticing a cyan hue glowing from the room he knew that the Sith would be inside. He quickly rushed inside the room and noticed around a dozen of the Hoka Dachu tribe members huddled around the dais in the middle of the room. Atop it was the holocron that they had been tasked to retrieve.
“Stay away heathens, this is our most holy relic, you must leave immediately,” one of the more ornately dressed of the tribe stood in front of the rest and spoke.
The two Dark Jedi Knight stood in silence turning off their lightsabers and reattaching them to their belts to show they meant no harm, Eether waiting for Evant to speak as his Krath teachings would be most applicable to the current situation. However, his mind had completely clouded, normally miles in the future he could think of nothing but a strong desire to cause pain to those who blocked his way. He struggled to understand why he felt this way, but it grew, and grew as he stood there in the dungeon.
Without hesitation he ran at the Hoka Dachu who had spoken and a strong right hook caught him unaware in the gut.
YCHT Nebula Strider
Passing Sigil 2 Orbit
Eiko glanced up from the display that was slowly pushing information back and forth from Halcyon on Antei. At the door, Tra'an stood firmly, if slightly awkwardly with the tension of the situation mounting on his shoulders. Eiko flexed his arms, trying to keep his body temperature up as the Nebula Strider settled into the long journey and Eiko crawled through his resources.
"Can I help you, Quaestor?" Eiko muttered, distracted by the bubbles of information that he was now drawing from the intelligence network he'd fostered for the Shadow Hand. He dug his fingers int the panic of other Houses and Clans, the sudden isolation of Lyspair, trainers notes and records from the Academy that concerned a very particular human apprentice who'd died in a fierce, Force-starving fever. The medical footage, too, rested on Eiko's datapad as he tried to tease something more from what would have otherwise been an inconsequential death.
Tra'an nodded, his earlier temper now resting below the surface. "Any news?"
Eiko had overheard the heated exchange between the Quaestor and his Aedile in the other room; Vorrac knew everything that he did. What Eiko did know would be of little consequence to a man desperate for medical detail, for a solution to the plague that was creeping throughout the Brotherhood and had already manifested in Libra Tzo. Even when Reith spoke of finding the source of the disease, he hungered for a cure. Eiko saw it rest in his throat as a tightness, a pressure that frayed at a mind that might have been otherwise unstable.
"You already heard your Aedile," Eiko replied.
Tra'an leveled his gaze. He swallowed before he spoke, keeping his chin high. "I need to hear all of what you've found."
"New Tython has seen its share of the disease. It's not limited to one expression of the Force or another--ambivalent, and as deadly there as we've seen within the Brotherhood. They haven't kept their situation as silent as the Brotherhood planets--and with a few ties newly seeded among the Jedi, I've already taken the liberty of opening relations with them."
Tra'an's expression changed less than Eiko would have expected. The Quaestor stared at the corner of the room, his eyes unfocused as he listened. Eiko straightened his back and continued.
"With your permission, I'll share the coordinates for the Temple of Plagueis, if you will authorize their transit into the Jusadih: three Jedi, two formerly your peers in Revan and the Jedi's Councilor--presumably to keep them from returning to the darkness. I don't reactivate my network lightly," Eiko intoned. He waited until Tra'an raised his head before continuing. "Halcyon has no more answers than we do. The Throne is leaning heavily on every part of the Council--I'm sure that Praetor Vorrac has felt some of the same pressures that I have in that regard. Plans are in progress, but we're essentially still on our own. We need to protect our holdings... and trust that the silence of the other Houses and Clans is due to the same nightmare feeding on their young."
"Have you shared much of our situation with the Throne?"
"The riots are common knowledge by now. As is the spread of the disease among Force-sensitives."
"Any more that you've uncovered on that front?"
Then Eiko felt the slight realization strike him as he looked down at his notes. The next words were not mere facts, not words or statistics or hearsay. It was truth, and Eiko had been so frantically engrossed in the search for answers that he'd been able to ignore the threat the next words posed.
"The disease feeds on the Force, as we know. But it has shown a particular trend dependent on the sensitivity and maturity of its hosts. Given that..." The air fell still within Eiko's mask, leaving only the faint rolling of his breath to mark the odd peace. "Given that, I ask that you barricade this room until we reach Morroth. Since we have no guards. Leave my connections, and I'll keep working."
Eetherbiail had been very adamant about his feelings towards this mission when their Emperor Xen'Mordin had approached him that morning. He had started feeling...not sick, but definitely unwell. It had started after he woke up...he was shook with a Spasm.He had woke up writing in pain and had fallen off his bed. It hadn't lasted very long, but he had ignored it. Chalked it up to some random oddity. After cleaning up from being drenched in sweat, and went off to do his normal duties. After stopping into see his apprentice Nawr. They trained for a while using weapons and hand to hand combat and took a break. Eetherbiail had felt exhausted from the training, which was extremely odd...he never got tired from working with his Protector. It felt as though something was eating away at him.
Eetherbiail came out of his memory as his fellow Scholae member Evant rushed forwards to the tribal-men. This was weird for him to do...as a Krath, he was always about studying new knowledge and information, not about heading into battle without a plan. Eetherbiail un-clipped his lightsaber and charged in behind Evant. He cringed as Evant took a kick to his stomach before Eetherbiail cut the man's leg off. Eetherbiail swung around with his saber, switching between offensive forms. Evant got his act together and the two fought back to back. There weren't many tribal-men, but there were enough to break a sweat. One of them jumped for a higher cliff, surprising the duo. Eetherbiail's lightsaber flew from his hand and landed on the other side of the room. Evant turned around and dispatched the last man.
They went to the artifact and looked it over, there was nothing special about it from what they could see, but that was the reason they had come here. "Take it Evant, I'm in no mood." Fights had always given Eetherbiail joy, as a Sith, battle was something to relish in...but this time, only anger remained. Eetherbiail held out his hand, calling his lightsaber back into his hand...and it didn't fly to him. He blank a few times and stared open mouthed. This had never happened before. He knew something was wrong this morning and he had felt off, but this was not what he had expected.
More anger flowed through him, something was wrong. He glared at his lightsaber hilt and went to pick it up as he and Evant went to give the artifact to Koryn. When they found him, Evant handed the artifact over and shuffled away from Eetherbiail, rage was rolling off of his shoulders, his body posture primal. Koryn tilted his head at Eetherbiail and was about to ask him what happened when Eetherbiail turned and punched a wall. Ordinarily...nothing would have happened to the wall without the Force aiding him consciously...but where his fist was, a small crater now lived.
Kazmir’s fingers were rapidly tapping away at the controls of the data-terminal in front of him. He was skewering the vast reaches of the holonet for information. Rian had tasked him with finding reports on manifestations on the Horizon Plague outside of Brotherhood space. His cybernetic eyes darted in all directions as popups and new windows opened at a lightning pace. For anyone else it would’ve been impossible to soak up the mountains of information that were streaming on screen. Yet he found little difficulty with processing vast amounts of data. He had a natural knack for it to begin with, and it was a skill that had been honed during his stint in House Revan. But the biggest leap in this ability came from a neurological implant that allowed him to access the different functions of his synthetic eyes.
Submerged in the holonet world, he failed to notice the incoming transmission on his hypercomm. The device had been playing an uncommon medley in short two minute bursts, with a light blinking away continuously for the past forty five minutes . Whoever was trying to contact him was either very stubborn, or really needed him.
Frustrated that, even after two hours of relentless searching, nothing useful could be found, he broke out of his trance-like state. The hypercomm had been chirping away for an additional fifteen minutes by now. Noticing the transmission, he opened the channel…
A familiar voice rushed into the new gap. "Hello. This is Kirt Feranon from Sun-Manadyne. Do you have a moment to talk?"
"Who is this?"
"Kirt Feranon from Sun-Manadyne Advanced Logisitics Services. I'm calling today because I got a reference that you and your company might benefit from... rebuilding a relationship. We're a Chandrila-based logistics company..."
"I'm not sure what you’re trying to get at”
"Oh, alright, sir. I was told that I should contact a 'Tyre Arvalis'--is this him or do you know where I could reach him?"
The realization hit him like a freighter. ‘Tyre Arvalis’ was his adopted name, and he used it during his time in Revan. There were only a select few who could have access to that information….
Eether had punched the wall, and left a crater in its wake without using the assistance of the Force. This was extremely weird. Koryn simple took a deep breath, "Was that really necessary Eetherbiail?" You didn't need to punch the wall, let alone damage something that I need to repair because YOU are my responsibility!"
Eetherbiail turned and glared at his fellow Housemate, "Don't use that tone of voice on me SIR" he spat. He turned around and stalked away from the pair of Dark Jedi, alone with the holocron. It wasn't his job to find some petty artifact, he was a Sith, it was his job to go and conquer the weak. To climb the ladder, but his Emperor sent him on something so simple. He'd become an errand boy...
Eetherbiail picked up his holocommunicator and dialed his friend Akatsuki, before it went through however, he shut it off and stalked off to find something to do. Being wrestles was never fun for Eetherbiail, he wasn't acting like himself. Eetherbiail flicked his fingers to open the doors in front of him with the Force, acting on habit, he kept walking...straight into the closed doors.
His head smacked against the cold steel, and he stood dumbfounded. He tried flicking his fingers again...nothing. He tried to meditate in the hall, focusing on feeling the Force. But it was gone. He couldn't grasp it and Eetherbiail didn't like that. He turned away from the insolent dorms to go hit something that wouldn't cost Koryn his precious credits.
YCHT Nebula Strider
Tra’an sat in the cockpit of the Nebula Strider, his body itching, the hair on it standing up on end. As the ship hit the atmosphere of Morroth, the Obelisk reached for the Force to help him guide it in. The sure and steady flow of power he was expecting wasn’t there. What remained was a thin trickle of the raging torrent that normally came to his call. Surpressing the panic that threatened to well within himself, the Quaestor pulled as hard as he could upon that connection that had been more than a century in the forging.
The power moved slowly, before releasing and opening to him again, ensuring a smooth and steady landing that alighted on the pad beside the Temple with a simple and easy perfection, before it vanished like mist on a summer day. Tra’an shook for a moment, hands shuddering as his flesh adjusted to the loss of the something else that had changed his life forever. It was as if the reason for his existence had been snatched from him. The anger and hatred swelled, slowly filling to a point of explosion. With practice, he reached to squelch it again, and met with only limited success, which worried him even further.
Without moving he opened a communication channel to a satellite in orbit which would re-broadcast it on a coded military frequency.
“This is Tra’an Reith. Morroth is now under a Quarantine Seal. No ship may leave the surface without my express authorization, and that of Kal di Plagia Vorrac. Any ship, ANY SHIP, attempting to break the Quarantine is to be destroyed without hesitation. End Transmission.” The communication relay bouy confirmed receipt and re-broadcast, even as a new message downloaded and began automated playback.
Dravin Remar, a former New Republic man of some repute appeared upon the holo-unit. “My lord, if you are receiving this, the system has pinpointed your location. An enemy fleet has jumped into our System, and isolated us from the rest of the Universe. They are destroying any ship attempting to escape.” The older man, just a tad under the age of Fifty Standard Years swallowed for a moment, before his training allowed him to resume in the steady voice of competence that was a hallmark of his commands.
“The Kaeth is here, and will be supervising us as we move to defend Kapsina. He is the only Foxtrot Uniform currently off Morroth, and has told us that unfortunately, we will be without any of your services for the foreseeable future.” Braecen’s visage appeared over the man’s shoulder, a face that still to this day brought calm and focus to the former Quaestor of House Acclivis Draco. It reminded him of better days. “We wish you the best as you combat this, disease, that is striking you. Adapt, Ascend, Avail.”
The communication ended without a request for a reply, which was as per protocol. They knew he was running dark, and the quarantine warning would only be broadcast if a ship approached to close to the planet. For now, it was time to go release Eiko, and confront Kal. Something of this felt wrong. It smacked of the Dark Council playing games again. It was time for the Praetor to the Grandmaster to come clean about what he had learned…
Eiko felt the ship settle to the snows as the landing thrusters slowly drew back into an empty silence. He kept himself from staring at the door, barricaded from the inside and the outside as he'd instructed Tra'an.
His lightsaber rested on the ground in front of his kneeling form. Eiko had lost count of the minutes since it had knocked against the durasteel floor, no longer supported by the movements of the Force. Eiko forced himself to sit still, holding the comlink loosely in his fingers. He identified the emotions that boiled inside him one by one.
He hated the fear that crept through his body. Even in the controlled climate of the ship, his muscles spasmed as if trying to recover heat. He stared intently at the comlink as it shook back and forth with the adrenaline coaxed through his body by the possibility of death--at the hands of an irreversible disease--or a languid existence starved of the Force. He felt oddly hungry, like something deeper than his stomach was now empty and clawing for satisfaction.
There is no Force, Eiko's thoughts echoed back to him cruelly, there is death. He felt the words crinkle in his brain, stemming from his own existence and limited to this one room--there were no shifts in the currents of the Universe. Everything, from now, would be driven by mere men.
Eiko turned, his head snapping to face the doorway. The barricade on the other side was being dismantled, lifted away gently and set further down the hallway.
"No!" Eiko yelled, his voice clipped by his mask.
"Don't be a damned idiot. You won't do me any good in there. We have to keep working--even without... it."
Reith's voice. Eiko grabbed his lightsaber and fumbled to clip it back to his belt unaided. He shoved the storage containers and chairs from the door, roughly pushing everything to the side. The door opened and Eiko saw Tra'an.
"What are we working on?" Eiko stared up at the Shi'ido's pained expression. The realization crept through into his mind. "You too?"
Tra'an nodded. "We won't get any more help from Kapsina or the fleet. Morroth is our issue now. And I need answers."
"If you're insinuating that my intelligence didn't reach far enough--"
"No," Tra'an cut Eiko off. "I don't know what game is being played, but it is a game. There are answers that we don't have."
"I wouldn't be asking if I knew," Tra'an replied sharply.
Eiko nodded and unfastened the retention strap that crossed over the grip of his pistol. "I'll follow your lead."
Tra'an turned and started back down the hallway, his shoulders tight and pulled back. Eiko chastised himself for hunting for Tra'an's emotions with the now-dead Force. Flared nostrils, dilated pupils... stress was evident, even if he couldn't probe for it instinctively anymore. It was like stepping back into his roaming life as a spaceport-jumping refugee, only now he knew what he was missing. The absence made him ache, his stomach lurching like he'd missed a step and started falling forward.
"Your Jedi shouldn't come," Tra'an added as he paused outside of Kal's room. "Morroth is ours."
"They had their own issues." Eiko motioned to his blaster. "Let's get this over with."
He stamped out what he could of the nervousness, but his body was still shaking slightly. He rehearsed the motions in his head one more time, the fluid shift from holstered to barrel lined up with his target, then the timed squeezes and readjustments to put the sights back in line for the second, third, fourth, fifth shots. He had leaned so much on instinct once, then the Force, and he feared that it had deteriorated underneath him. and with both Tra'an and himself walking the fine line, doubting which thoughts were their own and which stemmed from the disease...
Eiko pursed his lips and followed Tra'an into the room, trying to keep all emotion away as he grappled with that toxic fear.
Koryn had not always been in contact with the mystical currents of the Force. To slowly be awakened to them was a feeling that was indescribable. To put it as simply as possible, it was like suddenly awaking to the universe; to be at one with nature itself. Now to be silenced to the ebb and flow of its power... the Rodian felt lost, as if his one true place in the galaxy - his meaning for existence - had been denied him. And yet a part of him was glad to be free of the commitments required of him; he could return to a life free of the backstabbing politics of the Brotherhood.
That wasn't who he was anymore though. He was deeply embroiled in events taking place across the Cocytus system, across Brotherhood space. He could not turn his back on this life, whether the Force was his ally or not.
The wind was picking up around Suzel, gathering the sands of the Li Gandor province and building a dust storm. Koryn pulled his cloak tight to his mouth, using it as a makeshift dust filter as his multifaceted eyes provided a protective sheath to his corneas. From the battlements of the Citadel, the Krath cast his gaze over the city. So far the invaders had left Antenora to spin in its orbit. A few scouts had likely conducted fly-bys of the planet, but probably thinking it deserted by any Force Sensitives, had let it be. That attitude wouldn't last forever though. Koryn would not leave these people to die; they had welcomed his rule of the planet and he would not abandon that trust. There were others that Antenora would remember; one in particular was in a position of power and influence. The pieces were falling into place. Taking his commlink, Thraagus radioed down to the two journeymen.
"Eether, Evant, meet me in the office of the Quaestor." Their two voices provided confirmation. Over the past week, the Priest had come to empathise with their point of view. At first, he put it down to stress and a lack of sleep, but deep down he knew the reason: the Horizon plague had taken hold. Now fully fledged within, he knew the anger - the loss - that his comrades felt. Turning away from the skyline of Suzel, Koryn stepped into the turbolift. Hitting the button, it took him down a half dozen floors. With a soft hiss the doors opened revealing an ornate corridor. Sculptures of former Quaestor’s flanked the office, their stony gaze falling upon all who would enter the offices. The banner of Acclivis Draco hung on the wall, the once-proud symbol now in tatters.
The door to the Quaestor’s office was open a crack; peering inside, the Rodian could see figures huddled around a fire. His blood boiled with rage. It was bad enough these savages had taken over the lower levels, but to desecrate this office... His boot slammed into the door sending it slamming against an elegant bookcase, splintering the red-hued wood. Startled, the tribesmen retreated away, grabbing their weapons or - failing that - anything they could use as a weapon. The two Knights appeared at Koryn’s side, their lightsabers drawn. Following suit, Thraagus grabbed his own from his belt and igniting the crimson blade. The Hoka Dachu deserters knew the devastation these weapons wrought and were cowed further back lowering their arms. Koryn no longer cared for their submission, he wanted only their blood. He rushed forwards joined by Evant and Eetherbiail. The three proceeded to slaughter the trespassers in cold blood. As his weapon cleaved through bone and sinew, Koryn felt sick; this wasn’t who he was, this irrational anger and hatred. He controlled his emotions, wielded them as he would a blade or a blaster, not be subject to their whim.
As the final body hit the floor, Koryn deactivated his lightsaber, disgusted by the act he just committed. He quickly turned away from the scene, averting his gaze from the corpses and the Knights. Replacing his lightsaber on his belt, he stepped over to the desk and reached underneath it. Finding the control panel still intact, his fingers worked nimbly as he tapped a few buttons. A tone indicated the old code still worked. A wall panel slid away revealing a cache of blasters, swords, staves and various other weaponry more closely associated with a non-Force Sensitive.
“I figure these will come in useful,” explained the Rodian. “The Cocytus system has been invaded, and if we are attacked by Jedi or anyone still wielding the Force, I don’t want to be facing them with slow reactions.”
“Speak for yourself,” sneered Eether. “I could take any damned Jedi, with the Force or without.”
“Oh really?” retorted Koryn. “Show me Soresu. Or Makashi, or Shii-Cho. Show me anything beyond mindlessly swinging a blade around.” For a fleeting moment, the Krath was certain the Zeltron was about to attack. The muscles tensed involuntarily and his knuckles went white where he gripped his lightsaber. Taking a calmer tact, the Rodian tried to explain the situation. “We cannot wield the lightsaber as we once could. And just last week you would have realised this... It’s getting worse isn’t it? It’s evolving.” Evant nodded solemnly.
“I can feel it eating away at my psyche,” informed Evant. It was clearly a blow, the human had always been proud of his intelligence and for it to so easily be taken away must have been soul crushing. There was some greater evil at work with this plague. “We need help. We can’t survive out here on our own.”
“The Emperor has gone dark. The palace refuses to disclose his whereabouts or any means of reaching him.” Koryn took a custom Westar-34 and attached the holster to his belt. Opening a pack he threw a handful of energy cells inside as well as a few rations and other basic supplies. Grabbing a Sorosuub X-45, he checked its scope was positioned correctly, before slinging it on his back; the bounty hunters life had taught him that there was no such thing as too many guns. “There is one who may help us. You’re going to have to trust me with my decision.” Evant nodded whilst Eether made a motion with his hand to indicate he didn’t care to fight over the matter. Once more tapping the keypad beneath the desk, the Krath patched into the communication system.
“Priority message for Quaestor Reith: code Aurek Aurek Besh One. Tra’an, you reading me?”
Morotheri sat uneasily in the meditation chamber of the YCHT Arthos. The dull thrum of the engines gave a sense of nervousness to the Councillor, who was not at all accustomed to space travel, or leaving the surface of New Tython, for that matter. Nothing remained of what power he had once controlled and drew heavily upon to sustain his sight through the Force. The ebb and flow of the Force seemed to run dry in his veins, leaving him unable to tap into the mystical source of energy that he had built his entire existence around, leaving him feeling like an empty vessel, torn in two between the disease and his sanity.
The ship lurched as the YCHT Arthos approached the atmosphere of Morroth. Reaching up, Morotheri began feeling around the wall for the button that would key the intercom to Morroth’s surface, allowing him to announce their arrival to the Quaestor. In frustration, he rammed the side of his fist into the durasteel wall, leaving a sizable dent. From the cockpit, he could hear the concerned growls of the wookiee as he piloted the ship to drop gently down on Morroth’s surface with Denath in the copilot’s seat. The intercom buzzed as his trembling fingers found their mark, opening the connection.
“This is Tra’an Reith, Quaestor of House Plagueis. Morroth is on lockdown. State your business or you will be fired upon.” Commanded the voice on the other end.
“Quaestor Tra’an Reith, this is Morotheri Mithfaron of House Odan-Urr. We have been given instructions to land at the Temple of Plagueis. Permission to approach the surface?”
The intercom buzzed with activity for a moment before Tra’an replied. From the sounds he was able to hear, Morotheri could tell the Quaestor wasn’t overly pleased about their visit.
“Permission granted. But do know that the quarantine zone is still in effect. You will not have authority to leave without my explicit consent.” Replied the voice.
The Councillor’s apprehension grew as he began to realize the extent to which the Scourge was having an effect on him. Emotions he had once attempted to keep under control now flooded into his mind, projecting themselves and replacing the Force sight with which he was once gifted as acts of violence, rage and hate. It took every ounce of what little will of his own he could muster to push away the images poisoning his mind, and even then that couldn’t contain the sudden outbursts of pure violence he was prone to.
As the YCHT Arthos lurched once more, Morotheri realized that they had finally docked on Morroth’s bleak surface. A panel of the wall slid open as a growling Lambow stepped into the doorway, informing the Miralukan that their journey had ended.
Wearily, the Miralukan rose to his feet, aided by the large wookiee as they made their way out into the frigid ice shelf. Wind whipped passed them as white flakes of snow clung to the wookiee’s disheveled coat of hair. Ahead of them, Elleron could see the faint markings of a doorway behind the curtain of snow that clouded their vision. On either side of the fifteen-foot-wide, twenty-foot-high doorway, Elleron could see the shapes of two blaster cannons buried underneath a mound of snow, probably meant to guard the Temple in earlier days.
“Enter.” Called out a voice from a nearby terminal as the door slid open.
Temple of Plagueis
Tra’an paced the room as his three guests remained seated across from him. His rage at the situation boiled within him, threatening to release itself in an outburst of violence at his guests’ untimely arrival. Regaining control of his thoughts, he let the tension seep out from him as he took his place on the throne, although uncomfortably.
“Why did you bring him here?” He shouted, in glaring reference to the blind Councillor seated to the left of Lambow, well aware of the effects the plague was having on the Aedile. The Miralukan stirred in his seat without saying anything at the comment. His anger once again spiked as he struggled to bring it under control. Denath was the first to speak,
“Those of us from New Tython are seeking refuge for the time being. At least until we can get the plague under control. New Tython is currently in the makings of a civil war, while the K.U.D.F is doing what they can to control the outbreak, but those of us still attuned to the Force are being held responsible for the crisis.” Stated the Rollmaster, the soothing tone of his voice amplified through the Force, “As it stands, there are few of us left with any connection to the Force whatsoever. We will need time to recuperate if we are to overcome the Scourge that has infiltrated the ranks of our journeymen.”
The Quaestor considered for a moment as he spoke in hushed tones with Eiko, “We will consider your offer in due time. But for now, there are more pressing concerns that require immediate attention.” He concluded as he stormed towards the hallway.
Eiko stood up, placing his hands on the table, “I trust your ride in was most uneventful.” Queried the former revanite. Despite the effects the plague was having on him, Eiko seemed more or less sane for the moment as he spoke. With a few nods of acknowledgement, he went on,
“Unfortunately, a recent incident has occurred shortly after you arrived in the system. There is the contingency that we will be able to stave off the assault long enough to send word out for help. Until then, we are completely isolated from the rest of the universe.” He said, his voice heavily augmented by the mask.
“Very well.” Replied the wookiee through the basic-translating vocator in his throat, “We will remain here while the situation is brought under control. Until then, you shall have our assistance if you require it.”
As Koryn rattled on about what to do with Tra'an, Eether zoned them out, catching every word now and again. When they started talking about their Emperor, he turned his head and listened,
"He's completely locked himself away from everyone. I have not heard anything and I've sent transmissions to him asking for aid. If we pooled our resources together, we could come through this." Tra'an said over the intercom.
Eether took a seat down and calmed himself, Xen would never dissapear without good reason, either he had a big lead and was following it. He was tactical, but if they were within transmission for Tra'an, they could keep going, or turn back.
Eether looked over Koryn's shoulder, "How many more are infected..?"
Tra'an sighed over the intercom and Eether could almost picture his face dropping, "Everyone from EQ2 and below are now infected with this...plague" Eether suddenly had an intense pain in his mind, he curled into a ball on his chair and grit his teeth. He looked towards Koryn and narrowed his eyes, "You're planning on giving us over to Tra'an aren't you?!"
Eether started to grab for his lightsaber, angered over some petty paranoid emotion that was not justified in the least, when Koryn surged up from his chair towards Eether. He was so shocked at the movement, that when Koryn grabbed Eether's wrist and flipped him over his shoulder, only to grab his lightsaber, he sat there dumbfounded. All his anger vanished when he hit the floor, it was dispersed and all that was left was confusion. Eether looked up at him "I thought..."
Koryn returned his glare, "I am affected as well, now stand down before I have to kill you. I am not handing you over to Tra'an, we are working TOGETHER"
Their staring contest lasted until sirens started blaring, another ship had entered orbit, Tra'an said over the channel, "That's not one of ours, get out of there."
Yridia II Orbit
The hologram had long since faded from view in the ready room that Jason had likewise long since retreated from. The door to said chamber was barred shut to all but himself, as he made common practice during times of battle. Which, unfortunately, was the situation in which the crew of the BAC Doomsday found themselves in at that moment.
Jason Hunter stood before his command chair, his jaw-length hair tied back in a pony tail so as not to interfere with his peripheral vision. His eyes, though, were focused dead-ahead, for straight out that forward screen was the latest enemy to threaten Tarentum’s sovereignty. And boy, did they come prepared. Staring down the length of the Doomsday’s prow, he was greeted by the sight of a flotilla the likes of which he hadn’t seen since his days as a pilot in the TIE Corps. And back then, he would have been seeing it from the cockpit of a TIE, not the bridge of a capital ship, so the perspective was entirely different as well.
Anshar’s orders had been to hold down the fort. He was off on some damn fool’s errand to Lyspair, in search of answers from the Shadow Academy about the plague. Jason wished his Quaestor the best of luck in his pursuit, but didn’t count on him finding much on the trip. From what he had heard through the grapevine, the Academy had been shut down tighter than a Rancor’s jaws on a snack, and just as likely to not open up again.
And so, here he was, left to lead the House against these new aggressors. There were few things as potentially unnerving as having responsibility and leadership thrust upon you. Jason had been dealt that hand before, and had come out of the flux with the pot in his pocket.
This time was a little different, however. He didn’t have the full backing of Tarentum’s military, as much of it was dispersed to handle with the rioting within the Yridia System. Journeymen and Yridians alike were rising up against the House, the latter in an attempt to overthrow the Tarentum that was now not taking a back seat to ruling the system. Some were taking the change in stride, as it didn’t affect their daily life in any way. Others saw it as a direct affront to their way of living, and were understandably livid. They saw the breakdown of Tarentum’s Jedi as an opportunity to bring their new rulers down, and they were not letting it go to waste.
And this fleet was not helping! Jason was sure he could bring the Yridians to heel, given the time, along with the wayward Journeymen and even the Equites that were now showing the first signs of the disease. He could even now feel a tickling in the back of his own throat, threatening to become a cough.
One thing at a time, Jason, he thought to himself, glancing over at the holographic battle map. It indicated the Doomsday as a green arrow, Tarentum’s other vessels as blue, friendlies in yellow and the large enemy fleet a threatening red.
The Magnus Kaerner was already en route to assist, along with the Corsair. Tarentum’s three leading capital ships would hold the invaders off for as long as they could while the unaffected Equites and Elders attempted to round up as many members as they could and evacuate Castle Tarentum.
“Doomsday to Bloodfyre,” Jason said, keying the com in the arm of his chair as he sat back down.
“Bloodfyre here; make it fast, Jason,” the Tarentae’s response was terse and punctuated by the sound of blaster fire and crashing lightsabers.
“How soon until evac?”
“Subjects are resisting. We’ve managed to knock some of them cold, but many of them we have to kill.” Jason could hear the small touch of sadness in Sith’s voice: every member of Tarentum was like family to him, and it pained him to have to see any of them fall no matter the circumstance.
“Understood. We should be engaging enemy fleet in approximately five minutes. We’ll buy you all the time we can, but I don’t make any promises. Doomsday, out.” Cutting the line, he stood again and strode out to the center of the bridge. There, he looked around at each of the crew, looking them in the eyes.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Doomsday, today we go into battle. Unlike before, this will not simulated. This will not be against a ragtag pirate band. As you can plainly see, this is a much better armed and equipped foe than us.” Jason took a few more steps forward and gestured out the viewscreen.
“Is this something to be frightened of? Is this something to be apprehensive of? Absolutely. But should we run and hide? Tuck tail and run, like some Rebel? I say no! We are Tarentum! We stand and fight! This is our home, and we fight to defend what is ours. These interlopers dare to invade our lands, our sovereignty and think they can get away with it? Not without a fight! “
The crew erupted into cheers and raised fists, before turning back to their stations to resume their last minute preparations.
* * * * * *
Nearly one standard hour had passed since Jason’s rousing speech, and crew morale had dropped since then. All three ships had suffered greatly, but none more so than the Magnus Kaerner. She was currently listing to port, spewing atmosphere and debris from a gaping hole in her starboard hull at midships. One shield generator was missing, blown apart by a proton torpedo, and the rest of her hull was marred by countless carbon marks from laser strikes. She was still being harried by starfighters, who were pumping fire into that hole like a boxer beating on a tender spot.
Corsair and Doomsday were both limping along, their fighter complements depleted but not destroyed. Both ships were concentrating their fire on the Interdictor, trying their damndest to take it out so the system could be evacuated.
As the battle had drug on, Jason could feel the Horizon creeping closer. It started as that tickle in the back of his throat, which became hoarseness as he barked commands. Then a slight cough followed like when he had smoked. And now, the absolutely most disturbing development of them all was his connection to the Force was faltering.
It started as a subtle difficulty sensing the ships beyond the bridge, and then that sphere eventually got smaller and smaller until it only encompassed the bridge itself. Then, it was just his immediate area to about a meter. And now, he couldn't even strain to push his senses out to touch his sensor tech a foot away.
No wonder the journeymen went nuts, he thought as his heart sunk.
At that moment, the Doomsday was rocked violently to starboard. Jason was upturned from his seat and deposited on the deck. He got to his feet quickly, shouting. “Damage report!”
He had lost a few of his crew already, and those that were left were slow to get to their feet. His sensor tech, a petty officer, hauled himself to his chair by his console. “Sir, multiple concussion missile hits! Decks three to twelve, midships. We’re venting atmo, and there’s reports of fire in the engine bay.”
“Kriff,” Jason muttered, digging his prosthetic fingers into the floplast arm of his command chair. “Evacuate those levels, and those adjacent to it. And signal the abandon ship.”
“Do it, petty officer, and get the hell out of here.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Jason didn’t give that order lightly. His first command, and it was going up in flames. Literally. Shortly, the evacuation klaxons began ringing throughout the Doomsday.
Getting his feet underneath him again, Jason walked over to the empty helm. Sitting down, he took hold of the cumbersome yoke and throttle, waiting until all the escape pods were away before he would ram his ship into the bastard Interdictor.
Unbeknownst to him, however, his own head of security had managed to sneak up behind up. Dropping a heavy fist on the back of Jason’s neck, he knocked the Krath out cold.
“I’m sorry, sir, but this is for your own good,” the gruff old sailor said, hefting the unconscious man over his shoulder and carrying him to the ready room.
There, he keyed in his own security override code. The door swished open, permitting him access to the room and the command escape pod within. Punching in another code on the pad on Jason’s desk, the door to the pod slid open next to the mostly-unused shelves.
Shoving Jason inside, Master Chief Calo Prot quickly strapped him in and popped his TIE Corps helmet onto his head that had been sitting on his desk. Entering yet another code, the Chief programmed the pod to travel towards Castle Tarentum. Before stepping out and letting the door shut and seal, Prot snapped his rank insignia off his collar and pinned it to Jason’s hem.
“Don’t forget who saved your ass now, kid,” he said, backing out of the pod. He sketched a quick salute as the door shut and cycled, and the pod launched. “Now, let’s go fly an eight hundred meter long missile into some kriffer’s face.”
Koryn's fingers danced over the keypad. The image that appeared onscreen should have been pure; a panorama of the vast golden desert sweeping out for miles should have been seen. Instead, darkness prevailed. A violent Rodese curse escaped his mouth as the Priest cycled through all channels and finding the same image on each.
"They're jamming the external security feed," he explained, as much to himself as those around him. "Tra'an, transmit your co-ordinates. We'll rendezvous at your location."
"Are you sure that decision is wise?" Interjected the Quaestor over the comm channel.
"At this point, I honestly don't give a damn. We need to get out of the Cocytus system before they decide to land a battalion on Antenora." Tra'an sighed, partly out of anger at being undermined by an inferior, partly out of acceptance.
"You'll receive them shortly." A beeping signalled that the Shi'ido had cut the transmission. Koryn turned to the two Knights in his presence. They were both looking exhausted; the Horizon was clearly taking it out of them. He imagined he didn't much better.
"Take whatever weapons you can carry," he ordered. "You're going to meet our guests." The Rodian turned to leave as he felt a hand grip his forearm. Instinctively, he reached for his lightsaber before controlling himself.
"Where are you going?" Asked Eether, eyeing the Krath coldly. The urge to take his lightsaber redoubled. The Sith had no right to question his motives. Bringing his emotions into check, Koryn took a deep breath.
"I'll provide you with covering fire from the roof." As if to enforce his point, he swung the Sorosuub X-45 into his hands. Eether released his grip and let the Priest go about his business. " I'll let you know what's down there when I'm in position. It's imperative you make it to the transport."He made to leave before turning and adding one final point. "Don't take any unnecessary risks, we'll make it out of this alive."
Koryn stood in the turbolift as it took him to the rooftop. All of a sudden, a sharp pain gripped his head. He cried out in pain as his fingers tried to claw into his skull to ease the sting. The Horizon was burrowing further, making him its own. Out of indecipherable rage, he punched the glass window of the elevator. It shattered easily, and it took the Rodian to look down to realise a large shard was embedded in his hand. No pain was emitted even as he pulled it free of its fleshy sheath. Blood began to trickle down his fingers, pooling in a scarlet lake at his feet. Shredding a strip of material from his robes, Koryn bandaged the wound as best he could.
The doors opened and he was momentarily blinded by the harsh sunlight. Judging from its position, it must have been just after midday. He thrust his hand out in front of his face to guard his eyes as they adjusted to the change in light. Stepping out of the turbolift, Thraagus bathed in the warmth. Warily, he edged towards the precipice of the roof, keeping low in case any of the invaders looked up. Lying prone, he pulled the Sorosuub to his hands and brought the scope to his eye. Increasing the magnification, he panned across the landscape below. The tribesmen had all been wiped out by the invaders; it was of little consequence to the Priest. They were a blight on this once great seat of power anyway. Three Imperial Dropship Transports sat dormant beside the transport the three Dark Jedi had arrived in. Two troops were emerging from the transport, probably conducting a routine sweep. Continuing to pan, Koryn marked their positions to memory. Tapping his commlink, he opened a channel to Evant and Eether.
"I'm in position. I count at least two squads. They're fairly scattered so it doesn't look like they'll be expecting an ambush; we can take them unawares." There was silence for a moment before Evant's voice came over the channel.
"Copy that. We're in position, waiting on your mark." Thraagus pivoted the rifle until he had located the Knights' position; they were crouched behind what appeared to be a tribal tanning rack. The Dragon's Citadel had never been designed as a position with which to launch an offensive from, and as such tactical chokepoints were nonexistent; their position would have to do. Koryn noticed something glisten in the sunlight in Evant’s hand. Increasing the magnification further he could see that the human was wielding a knuckler on each wrist. By his side in a scabbard was sheathed a rapier, likely a LaserHone Duelist. Eether meanwhile was lacking any such subtlety with his weaponry: in his hands was a Sc’rath – a greatsword that looked like it could easily cleave a Wookiee in two – and attached to his back was a void spear. "Once we've got to the ship, we'll pick you up. We might need to make a quick getaway so we'll leave the boarding ramp down."
"Just focus on getting to the transport first," ordered the Rodian. "There are two troops about three metres ahead of you, I'll take out the next closest so you can charge them."
"Copy that," came the hushed response. Koryn took aim at his target, bringing him within his sights, matching his slight movements. His finger rested against the trigger. A deep breath; a measured exhalation. The finger eased back and a magnificent shaft of emerald erupted from the muzzle. The soldier collapsed to the ground, a hole through his helmet, out of which oozed blood and brain matter.
Instantly, the Rodian gave the signal and his two comrades charged. Eether dispatched his target with all the cunning of a Rancor, running him through with the blade; Evant gave a sharp punch to the target’s stomach, crippling him before snapping his neck. The remaining troops instantly went to high alert, rifles at the ready. Two more shots in quick succession took down their numbers further as the Knights took cover.
“They’re attempting to flank you,” reported Koryn, taking note of a number of combatants’ movements. “Move up now.” His finger pulled back the trigger once more, ending another life; the instinct he once had for sniping was returning more swiftly than anticipated. It had to be more than simple muscle memory.
“Are you crazy?” Eether’s frustration was evident in his tone as he sliced the arm off a soldier unlucky enough to wander too close to his cover. “We’ll be blasted into nothingness as soon as we set foot-“
“Dammit, just do as I say!” Three shots to the gut of a target; one to the head of another. Eether sighed. “Go, now.” The two were moving too quickly and too erratically for the troops to target them. They charged from one victim to the next on their path to the transport. Only four grunts stood between the pair and escape; a green bolt meant three. Evant unsheathed the rapier, batting aside the rifle in the process and skewering the man. Eether let loose a cry of bloodlust and slashed one across the chest, almost splitting him in half as he turned on the final guard. A powerful strike soon saw the end of his life.
Evant rushed into the ship to prep the engines for takeoff as Eether stood guard at the bottom of the ramp, moving out only to deal with anyone foolish enough to take aim at him. From Koryn’s vantage point, he could see only a handful of attackers remaining, maybe half a squad at best. The Zeltron retreated inside the Lamda-Class shuttle as it began to rise from the ground, its wings unfurling below it. The shuttle edged its way closer to Koryn’s position and he gathered his gear together, slinging the rifle on his back once more. Fire from the ground rained up at the transport, trying desperately to put an end to its escape. I came to a stop a few metres in front of the Rodian before turning so the boarding ramp was facing him. Behind him a door was kicked open. Apparently the flanking party had been trying to get into the Citadel, not ambush the two Dark Jedi. Amid a torrent of fire, Koryn leapt for the shuttle. Spinning on his heel, he turned grabbed his Westar and returned fire as the ramp closed shut.
“I told you we’d get through this,” the Rodian said with a smile as he entered the cockpit. Accessing the nav-computer, he entered the Plaguian Quaestor’s co-ordinates.
“I wouldn’t be so sure just yet,” Evant warned. Looking out of the forward viewport, endless space lay ahead with only Ugolino and Sereia providing any scenery. Slowly but steadily, the unmistakeable bow of an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer came into view.
The escape pod rocketed through the Yridian atmosphere. It became a ball of fire as it plummeted towards the ocean below, leaving a long, thick trail of smoke behind it as it traveled across the sky.
The pod approached the surface of the water at an oblique angle, and it skipped across the waves instead of plunging into the depths. It was sent into a tumble over the tumultuous surface as its speed was drastically slowed by each impact with the water, until it finally came to imbed itself in the soft soil of a beach. It left a long, deep furrow in the sandy landscape before it came to finally rest nearly one hundred meters inland on one of Yridia II’s archipelago islands. It sat and steamed as the water it had accumulated during its trek over the waves boiled off its heated hull, making soft clicking and pinging noises in the sunlight.
Inside, Jason Hunter hadn’t fared well. The restraints had kept his unconscious form in place, but his limp limbs had been left to flail about in the raucous descent. As he eventually came around, his arms, legs and neck were stiff and sore from the trashing they had received. Fortunately, the flight helmet that Master Chief Prot had placed on his head had protected his cranium from any damage. That, however, didn’t keep his head from swimming.
Reaching up with unsteady hands, Jason removed the old TIE pilot helmet from his head and let it fall to the tilted deck. It rolled away to a corner to his right: apparently the pod wasn’t sitting level. Unsnapping the clasp that held his restraints fast, he stood on wobbling legs and had to steady himself against the bulkhead. His legs didn’t hurt, but he could feel that they were weak. If he could call upon the Force, he would simply channel its energy through the tired and beaten muscles to reinvigorate them. Alas, that was not to be, and he would have to deal with the discomfort and inconvenience like an average human being.
Still holding on to a rung inset to the bulkhead, he reached out and pulled on the recessed handles that set the charges in the door. Once he activated the last one, explosive bolts would simply blast the door away from the pod, giving him easy access to what lay outside the pod.
Doing as such, the charges went through their cycle, blowing the sealed door away from the hinges and dropping it to the sand below. Bright sunlight filtered in through the thin smoke, blinding Jason for a moment. He lifted a hand to shield his eyes until they could adjust.
Before he knew it, perhaps a dozen blaster muzzles were pressing in at him from around the door frame. “No fast moves, Darkie,” someone from beyond the barrels said, out in that bright light that his eyes were gradually growing accustomed to.
“I wouldn’t even think of it. But, are the noise makers really necessary?” Jason said, keeping his hands where they were.
“Step out real slow,” the same voice said, waving with his blaster. Jason was starting to be able to make out faces and they all appeared to be of native Yridians. He did as instructed; what choice did he have? With the Force, dealing with the issue would have been no issue. Without the Force, he would need to use a more tactical approach to resolving the conflict.
As he climbed out of the now-useless escape pod, Jason was briskly grabbed by the arms and a blaster jammed into his back. He was quickly marched away from the pod and down the beach a dozen meters or so to a waiting speeder that was outfitted with a turret on a rear platform. A man in a dirty and tattered uniform stepped out of the speeder, and Jason recognized that he was wearing the trappings of an officer of the Yridian Defense Force. However, it was cut and modified in a fashion more befitting a mercenary or militia.
“I know who you belong to, Tarenti,” the man said, his voice heavy with the native Yridian accent. He idly ran an index finger across the back of the grip of the blaster pistol holstered at his hip.
“And it would appear that you and your friends are deserters,” Jason replied. He met the man’s gaze evenly, even after taking a solid blow from a blaster grip between his shoulder blades. The lack of pain from the strike told him that perhaps that Horizons disease had an unintended positive side effect.
“Oh no, not deserters,” the other man said with a grin and a waggle of his finger as he began to pace before Jason. “We, my Dark Jedi guest, are patriots. We fight for the freedom of the Yridian people against the tyranny that your House Tarentum forces upon us.”
Jason had to shake his head and chuckle at that. “If it wasn’t for ‘your people’ siding with criminals and religious zealots, giving the pirates a safe haven to operate from and putting our own operations in danger, we would have been more than happy to let you do your own thing. But you guys forced our hand, and this is what you get. And just so you know, I was in on the planning. I even gave the order to fire on Varkana.” That last part was a lie; Anshar had actually given that order, but Jason was looking to get a rise out of this militant.
“Oh, so you’re the karker who killed that entire town?” he said, a dangerous edge to his voice as he gripped his blaster.
Here we go. This is the response you were looking for, Jason, the Krath thought as the militia leader began to draw his blaster.
“Yep, I am.” As the weapon cleared the holster, Jason made his move. He jerked his left arm forward, tripping the man who was holding him on that side over his leg that he had surreptitiously placed in the man’s path. As he went down, Jason twisted back the other way and simply broke the other man’s grip by shear force and then drove his prosthetic elbow into the bridge of his nose. Metal met flesh in a most unforgiving way, and he fell to the sand with a crash and never got up again.
By now, the leader’s blaster was fully free of its holster and almost in line. Jason simply rushed him, and the hastily shot bolt missed wide and actually hit one of his comrades in the knee. The man screamed as he fell, dropping his blaster as he did.
Jason rammed the leader bodily, grasping his blaster hand by the wrist and squeezing as hard as he could, trying to crush the bones. With his other arm he lifted the man into the air and slammed him down on the body of the speeder. Vertebrae snapped under the force of the impact, and the man let out a startled gasp as something else popped.
Of course, that might have also been because Jason had sunk his teeth into the side of his neck. Like a crazed animal, he was biting and tearing, seeking the veins and arteries beneath the thin veneer of skin. With a mighty jerk of his head and a volcanic spray of crimson, Jason came away with a chunk of the militia leader’s flesh. He spat it from his mouth and let out a bestial roar as the man slumped to the sand, bleeding and dead. The other men of the militia regiment, seeing the crazed look in Jason’s eyes as he turned to them with his blood-stained face, dropped their weapons and ran.
It took a few minutes of standing there, watching the frightened run, before some part of his mind that was screaming at him could be heard again. Physically shaking himself, Jason was brought back to reality, and the taste of copper in the mouth. He reached up and touched his lips then looked at his fingers.
“What is this disease doing to us?”
The Echani’s eyes took in the vague, blurry world. He could feel his arms being pulled upwards, his body being stretched to its limits. He tried to move, but it quickly became obvious that he was immobilized.
At the edge of his hearing, he could hear muffled voices.
His eyes closed again…
He didn’t know how long he had been in this sorry state. Nor did he know where he was, or how he got there. The pounding headache at the back of his skull made recalling any details an arduous task.
When his vision sharped, he could see that he was suspended in a containment field.
In front of him, dressed in the grey and black uniform of the Taldryan armed forces, stood a woman. Kazmir never spent much time mingling with the basic population in Taldryan’s dominion, so he didn’t bother to ask who she was. He was only interested in why he was contained.
“Woman…what is the meaning of this?” his voice rasped out
“Natas…” the woman’s expression radiated an air of sorrow
“We were ordered by the summit to contain any and all possible afflicted.”
“Even generals Aslar and Shaz’air have been contained for the time being.”
“Who’s currently commanding our fleet then…” His eyes pierced through her.
“I don’t know…word has it that Major Karn is in direct contact with Lord Cotelin…” her expression lightened up just a bit at the mention of Jac’s name.
The shriek of contorting metal and booming alarms interrupted their conversation. An unknown force had penetrated the system and was upon them.
The speeder flitted over the broken landscape of Antei. Three occupied the craft, though one was heavily bound.
The disease had truly grasped Nikola, addling his mind with rage against his captors, his thoughts only on revenge for what they had done to him. As the plague had matured in his bloodstream, Nikola had grown stronger and stronger, threatening to break his bonds. As such, Nadrin and Timeros had resorted to using anything they had to keep him from breaking out and setting upon his seniors. Even medical bandages had been press-ganged as binding.
Nikola howled with rage, straining against the bindings with plagued muscles, made strong by disease. He could see those who had stripped him from his power, from his right. He had to kill them, to destroy their bodies and take their power. His struggles caused him to flap around on the floor of the back of the speeder, an area normally used for cargo. Technically, Nikola was cargo, just more...animated.
“He enjoys his angry shouts, doesn’t he?” Timeros observed, his tone free from caring. He tapped a button, setting the speeder to move under autopilot for the dark hall. He turned around, regarding the protector with a quizzical glance. Over a period of time, the lower-ranking Sith had sunken more and more into his rage, unable to even form words any more.
“The dark hall will likely have someone who knows what to do.” Nadrin replied, arms folded. His tone was curt, and his body language projected annoyance. “You can’t go any faster?” Nadrin asked, an edge of irritability in his voice.
The journey to the Dark Hall was grating on Nadrin as the young Warlord felt an uncommon feeling of irritability wash over him. Slowly but surely he was being immersed in the crankiness and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what exactly it was, but he knew that he needed a distraction. Tapping his considerable Force reserves, the Erinos tried to sense his apprentice in the back section of the land skimmer in which the trio were currently travelling.
A flicker of confusion was blasted away by the white hot bile of betrayal as Nadrin pieced his situation together with a cold fury; Timeros. Timeros had stolen his power, just as he had with Nikola and Timeros was the orchestrator of this giant ploy. After all, it had been the Krath who had proposed this ‘mission’ with Nadrin and his apprentice, and it was Timeros who had been so integral to his family’s gradual rise to power.
Controlling his feelings as best he could, Nadrin tried to put on a voice of unconcern as he turned to face his would-be assassin, his mask hiding the fury that was etched on his face.
“I’m going to check on my apprentice.”
Without waiting for an answer the Sith unstrapped himself and clambered into the back, bringing himself as close to the bucking mass of violence which the Adept had turned Nikola into. His voice was barely a whisper as the Erinos spoke to his older student.
“Listen, this is a plot by the Entar family to kill the Erinos and their allies. That includes you. Timeros has stolen our power and intends to kill us, but we can stop him together. I’m going to pass you a knife; you cut your bindings and break out on to the roof. Timeros will follow, and I will follow him and put a blaster round in his back. Then we can regain our connection to the Force, and grow stronger.”
Slipping a knife from his boot, the Warlord placed it within reach of his apprentice, stood up and walked back towards the man who planned to kill him, trying to hide the anger that was forcing itself into his body language. Slumping into the second chair next to Timeros, Nadrin strapped himself in once more and coughed lightly.
“He’s bound well, you know your ropes. A habit you picked up?”
A guttural raw of pure animalistic aggression rent the air as Nikola cut through enough of his bindings to free himself. The whine of a blaster split the air as the smell of ozone punched its way into the cockpit of their commandeered transport and was swiftly joined by a rush of air as Nadrin’s apprentice leapt through the hole he had shot into the top of the vehicle and jumped up on to the roof.
“Quick, after him!”
Nadrin mimed fumbling at his safety harness as Timeros swept past him and leapt through the hole that Valtiere had created. A grin split the teenager’s lips as he ripped off his harness and clambered up through the hole himself, coming to stand behind the Krath Adept. The Warlord drew his blaster and pointed it at Timeros’ back as he hissed a single word out, stopping the man in his tracks before he could leap to attack Nikola.
Hate filled the word, and Nadrin continued to speak as Timeros turned to look at him.
“A clever ploy, but you have failed. Your family will not wipe out the Erinos, even if you hold us responsible for the actions of our brother Teroch. Who planned this attack, Wuntila? A clever ploy stealing my strength with the Force from me, but it is unsporting and that was something I never thought I would say about you. You make me sick, prepare to die.”
Evant Taelyan tightened his grip on the controls of the Lambda-class shuttle as slowly the outline of an Imperial-II Class Star Destroyer filled the sky. A brief flicker in his mind, wondered if it might be friendly, but his instincts told him it wasn’t. Even without the force as his ally, the Knight had thousands of flight hours in various spacecraft, and while this shuttle was the exact opposite in almost every possible way from his TIE Defender he would have to make the best of it and get to deep space.
Leaning forward he started dumping power into his engines to pick up speed to close on the destroyer. He reviewed his scanners to detect it as the only capital ship in space, as additional targets began to fill his computers, the Krath pilot sighed, “Well I guess they’ve noticed us.”
Eetherbiail peered over his left shoulder, “How many?”
“It’s just one flight of TIE Interceptors, still enough to make me nervous in this slow hunk of metal.”
Koryn completed entering his coordinates into the nav-computer as it chimed in acceptance, “Well our coordinates are set, just get us to hyperspace.”
“That destroyer is over 1,000 km out; at our angle and speed we won’t get close enough for the tractor beams. Those fighters however are a different story, they will catch us before we clear the planets gravity field.”
The Dark Jedi together looked out at deep space as they waited, and reflected on their situation. Normally they would be sensing everything out there, now separated from the Force they relied on only their basic senses, the targeting computer and visually seeing the incoming forces. While this was second nature to Evant who had spent years as a pilot before studying the Force, it still felt uncomfortable, and he was unsure of his Scholae brothers.
As they continued to speed towards a point in space that would allow them escape, the incoming interceptors came within firing range. A scattering of green laser cannon fire came from the starboard side. Too inaccurate from the edge of the firing range to be of any harm as only a few landed harmlessly against the shields.
Evant felt the lumbering shuttle slow as he began to pour energy into the shields to reinforce them as the twelve incoming fighters got closer, “Either of you feel like you might be up for a bit of target practice?”
Without hesitation Eether jumped on the rear mounted blaster cannon control, while Koryn took over control of the steerable forward twin cannons. Evant himself in control of his own forward twin cannons. “Be conservative with your shots, we need all the power we can dumped in the engines, but keep a nice layer of cover to prevent a decent approach on us.”
As they continued to fly through space, so did their attackers and at a much quicker speed. The first two fighers came within range as Evant rolled the shuttle to the port side away from their attack to expose the bottom part of the shuttle to their attack and into new shields as they flew past and broke off, their speed propelling them quite a distance in a wide arc.
The first of the sound of laser cannons filled the cockpit of the shuttle as Eether fired at the arcing pair, a square shot lit up one of the small fighter’s shields at the apex of the turn but as obviously well trained pilots the fighter stayed with its wing man. Evant pulled the shuttle all the way through its roll and continued towards their exit point in the distance as the second pair of fighters made their presence known as laser blasts flew past the forward viewport.
“Oh what I wouldn’t do for my defender right now,” Evant muttered with his teeth grit tightly together as he bobbed the shuttle to the left and right, the first arcing pair of fighters attacking from the rear flank. Laser cannons fire echoed through the ship as rear fire kept the pair from getting clean shots, none of them landing cleanly on the incoming fighters but preventing serious damage to the rear shields on their approach.
The two fighters broke and pulled away from the shuttle to the port side and away, their agility preventing a clean shot from the front, and straight at their fellow pilots. The other two fighters had a direct approach on the left flank of the shuttle as scattered fire came from the port side, several burning away at the shields.
“Get ready to light up the right target Koryn,” Evant shouted against the warning sirens blaring in the cockpit as he poured energy away from engines and slowed the shuttle dumping them into the forward shields, and pulled the shuttle left and directly at the incoming fighters on an attack vector of his own.
He fired his own forward mounted lasers on the right target and pulled the trigger. The twin blasts burning into the shields of the oncoming fighter which slowed a bit on impact. Obviously not expecting a direct attack from a shuttle pilot, the fighter never even reacted as a second blast came from Koryn that tore through the unshielded main transparisteel viewport on the ship and directly into the pilot. The explosion of the twin ion engines in the back of the small fighter tore it to pieces. The solar arrays of the fighter moved away from the blast and into the flight path of the second fighter, bouncing harmlessly off its shields but causing the fighter to break away.
There wasn't a space moment for excitement over the kill as the second set of fighters took the opportunity to attack from the starboard side. Evant evened out the shields to reinforce the approach and cringed as he did so realizing what damage had been done as he slowly rolled the shuttle to keep new shields exposed on the vector as the two agile fighters slowed now to come in behind. The only thing keeping the shuttle from being torn in two was the defensive fire from the rear cannons by Eether.
Evant looked down at their location and laughed, his maniacal laughter filling the entire cockpit as he poured all laser energy into the main drive unit on the shuttle and slowly leeching off the shields as well despite their assault by the fighter.
“Evant, are you trying to get us killed?” Eether screamed back over the alarms as he realized his laser cannons were no longer providing defensive cover as the shuttle left realspace.
The salty spray of the sea wafted off the water and into Jason’s face. It offered a modicum of comfort to his addled mind as the cool mist hit his skin, and then the warm sun evaporated it away. It made his skin feel tight, which made him feel as though he were alive and not living through a nightmare.
A couple of hours before, he had dug a shallow grave in the sandy beach. It had been a taxing endeavor, as the soft soil presented him with greater resistance than he had expected as he dug at it with his hands. It took him nearly thirty minutes to dig deep enough to bury the body of the man he had brutally murdered, whose neck he had ripped apart with his bare teeth. His face was still covered with the man’s blood as he dragged the body away from the speeder, across the sand and dumped it into the hole.
Many, Jason assumed, wouldn’t believe a Dark Jedi would take the time to bury the corpse of someone that they had killed. Normally, he wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to dispose of the remains. In this case, however, he had nowhere else to go. He couldn’t get back to the Castle, and no way to communicate with his fellow Tarenti there. All he had in the escape pod was a distress beacon, which was triggered to activate as soon as it was launched.
No, one of the primary reasons he buried the man, was that he didn’t want to be staring at him for hours. In that moment, when he had seized him by the throat with his teeth, Jason Hunter had ceased to be. Well, at least for a little while. He had lost count of how many times he had gone into the water to wash blood from his face and hands, and it somehow never seemed to come off. And, no matter how often he rinsed his mouth with that salt water, the coppery taste never left.
As it was, Jason was sitting atop the escape pod, staring down at his lightsaber hanging limply in his hands. The hilt was dented and bent, with the emitter shroud practically hanging by a wire. It must have gotten thrashed around the pod during his “landing”, for his prosthesis had similar damage where the hilt snapped into place. Now, the weapon was little more than scrap, and not even for the parts. An hour ago he had taken the focusing crystals out to examine them, and they both had hairline fractures through their crystalline structure. In a defeated frustration, he had hurled them into the sea, cursing his luck and hoping some endangered, shelled, seaborne reptile choked on them.
Now, the Corellian was left with little to do but sit and wait. He contemplated what was occurring beyond the atmosphere of this world and how the naval forces of Tarentum had been faring against the unknown enemy that had arrived to thoroughly thrash them. He wondered what had been transpiring within the hallowed halls of the Castle in his absence, and who had assumed control of the House in the absence of the entire Summit.
Also, he pondered on what was occurring within his own body. He could almost feel the disease eating away at his very psyche, driving cognizant thought further and further away. The longer he sat on the top of the useless pod, baking in the sun, the more hypnotic his slowing twirling lightsaber hilt was. Somewhere in the back of his mind, in a portion not yet ravaged by illness, he could recall when the aurulent blade would shine forth and he would wield it with expert skill in the defense of his House.
Letting his hand go limp, Jason allowed the hilt to fall from his grasp. It bounced down the blackened and scorched hull of the escape pod, clanking off the metal until it vanished from view around the pod’s curving shape. It landed somewhere down below on the beach with a soft thud. With a sigh, Jason then turned his eyes towards the sky where thin trails of smoke were stretching across the sapphire tapestry. Deep down, he knew them to be large chunks of starships burning through the atmosphere, and that they were the pieces of the Corsair, Doomsday and Magnus Kaerner.
A tortured cackle escaped his lips as he watched the spectacle, and he wondered if Tarentum had any prayer of surviving this test.