Ending the Bloodline
NOTE: Dralin and Severon are also participants in this run-on.
This storyline takes place in 32 ABY, shortly after the Rite of Supremacy: Spoils of War.
Eduardo Griffin sat alone in a cramped office overlooking the miserable outskirts of Coruscant. A half-empty glass of Scotch was forming a dark ring on the table beside him, a circular stain on the polished wood. He picked up the glass nonchalantly, drained it, sidled to his desk, and sat on the chair that creaked beneath his bulk.
He had gotten fatter, and he had lost more hair. His head was like polished chrome, the skin glistening with perspiration under the light of the cheap electric ceiling lamps. Griffin opened a small drawer, pulled the Scotch bottle from it, and proceeded to splash the sides of his glass with the stuff, when the door opened and a disgruntled butler stepped into the room.
“You were expecting someone, sir?” the butler asked, though it was more like grumbling than inquiring. Griffin reminded himself to leave the box of snuff by the butler’s chambers to make up for not being capable of raising his paycheck.
“Yes. I was.”
“A young man, sir,” the butler intoned. “Looks like a pilot. Goes by the name of Yaske.”
“Yaske…yes, that’s the one. Bring him in.”
The butler curtly nodded, turned on his heel and left a scuff on the trodden carpet, the crimson blush of the fabric fading into an ugly maroon hue. Griffin left the bottle out on the desk and moved to a shelf to pull out another glass. He went back to that little drawer, popped it open and drew out a box of Shento cigarras, the best he could get. The door opened again as he was setting up everything, and a young, weary looking man entered into the dim lighting of the small office.
He was remarkably tall, dark-haired and tan-skinned, clean-shaven and square-jawed. A decent-looking man – Epicanthix, warrior-like – but he looked as if he had aged too fast. He was a forty-year-old man mentally, having only lived a little over twenty-five years physically. He entered the room in his pilot uniform, his helmet tucked under the crook of his left arm. It was as if he had just landed on Coruscant, unless he was playing some sort of part in a show and was presenting himself as a stale archetype. And Griffin was beginning to hate people who loved their dramatic roles.
Still, the ex-governor of Yridia IX smiled at the former Yridian, beckoning him to pull up a chair. Yaske sat down without a word and propped his helmet on his knee, his whole leg twitching and sending ripples through the carpet. Griffin poured him a glass of Scotch and held out the box of Shento cigarras to him.
“Sure,” Yaske mumbled, his voice thin and dry as if he hadn’t spoken in years. “Why not.”
He proceeded to lift a cigarra from the box and lit it when Griffin offered him a match. Griffin drank and Yaske smoked, letting the gray clouds hover above their heads. Yaske coughed and tilted his head against the splintered backing of his seat. Lost in thought.
“Do you know why I asked you to come here, Yaske?” Griffin asked, prompting the conversation as he was very much used to doing. A politician’s habits did not die in only a few years.
Yaske exhaled, leaving ash and smoke in Griffin’s face. “You told me you needed a good pilot to carry out a business bargain.”
“Well, what’ve you got?”
Griffin smiled gently, professionally. “Information.”
He received a hoarse laugh in reply. Yaske flicked ash on the desk in front of him, gray flakes scattered in a dotted line. “Information? Do I look like the kind of guy who wants information? I’m a pilot, old man, not a washed-up politician.”
“I resent those comments,” Griffin snapped, suddenly feeling rather self-conscious of his appearance, especially his shiny crown. “You might want to learn some manners.”
“Hey, you dragged me all the way from Corellia to rag on me? Tell me exactly what you want, and I’ll see if this ‘information’ is any good.”
“I think you should take a look at the ‘information’ yourself, Yaske,” Griffin replied. “You may find it to be…more substantial than you imagine.”
He pulled himself up from his chair, grunting as his stomach shook against his stained shirt, and went back to that same small drawer, rummaging through it as his large fingers brushed against scraps of old remnants of power. He drew out a small, slick datapad and pushed it across the table to Yaske, who stared at it and sucked at his cigarra as if it were a piece of candy.
“Yeah?” the young man asked, waiting for some form of explanation.
Griffin remained standing, even began to pace, a nervous habit he had picked up since his exile. “This datapad holds every answer you’ve been dying to hear for every question you’ve been asking. You haven’t been to the Yridia system for several years, have you?”
Yaske shook his head. “Not since I was seventeen. They placed me in the Tarentum Navy and – ” He stopped when he saw Griffin shudder, though not out of fear. The ex-governor snatched up his glass and poured the contents down his throat with a harsh chugging sound.
“You would do well, my boy,” he said gruffly, his throat rough from the Scotch, “not to mention that name until the opportune time.”
Yaske smirked, but said nothing.
“And after that?”
“You got away with that?”
“I wasn’t interested in being a drone for some reclusive Dark Jedi cult," Yaske grumbled. “Especially when my father was so into it. Sent my sister off in a package to some far off planet. Haven’t heard from her since.”
“Oh, we’ll get to that,” Griffin muttered, ignoring the quizzical expression on the young man’s face. “So you became a pilot.”
“A rather…business-oriented pilot, if I say so myself.”
“I do favors,” Yaske snapped.
“You smuggle,” Griffin growled in reply. “There’s no other way around it. You parade yourself like a New Republic ally, but you’re a damn mercenary. And you think that makes you better than…what did you call it, a ‘reclusive Dark Jedi cult?’”
“That’s what they are.”
“That ‘cult’ stripped me of my job,” Griffin snarled, his face now close to Yaske’s nose, red versus brown and gray smoke between them. “And, may I add, they were responsible for what happened to your home city…to your birthplace.”
There was a deep silence between them. Yaske rotated his helmet, put his cigarra out in the interior shell, and shook out the ash onto the floor.
“If this is about how my parents died,” he said quietly, “then I’m not interested.”
Griffin sneered. “You will be, when you see this.”
He tapped a few buttons on the datapad, and instantly a dim blue hologram appeared. It seemed to be a blueprint of Eden City itself – District III, to be precise – and Yaske looked on carefully, intensely. As the scope of the visual drew closer to the ground, several ‘workers’ could be seen scurrying about a crash site, but Griffin knew these were allies of Tarentum, and intelligence agents at that.
“When the freighter crashed into Yridia IX’s surface in 31 ABY,” he explained to Yaske, not knowing if the young man was listening, “several surveillance cameras that had been set up for law enforcement purposes were destroyed. However, while much of District III was pulverized, some cameras remained intact since they were centered more around the higher atmosphere to monitor air traffic. Mainly…the one that got this.”
“So?” Yaske grumbled. “What’s the point?” But he was shushed by a plump finger, and a smile that was more like a crease in a wad of dough than an expression on a face.
In the corner of the hologram, a silhouette of a young woman in a dark coat could be seen, approaching a cluster of similarly clothed unnamed individuals watching over the agents’ work. She moved jerkily, almost in a disoriented fashion. She held a blurred silhouette of a lightsaber in her hand. She seemed to confide in the darkly clothed members of what must have been her team, before they disappeared from the scope of the hologram.
Yaske did not need to ask what was next, for several case officers moved quickly away from the camera’s sight, returning with what appeared to be a decapitated body. The body was young, slim and feminine – belonging to a tall girl. Another agent brought out something else, something rounder, a head, a female head. Both body and head were bundled up, tossed aside, hidden for the sake of investigation.
He started to hyperventilate. His helmet dropped from his grip and spun in a lazy half-circle on the floor. Yaske raised a shaking finger at the display, at the body of his sister being carted away by Tarentum agents.
“Turn it off,” he begged, his voice faint. “Turn it off, damn it! Turn it off!”
But the hologram didn’t need to be turned off. It simply died out, as if the camera could not function any longer in its state. Griffin put the datapad aside, pushing it back into that small drawer of his desk. He approached Yaske’s chair and placed a hand on the Epicanthix’s shoulder as it shook almost epileptically.
“You recognized your sister? …Sarit was her name, wasn’t it?”
“I have all the information I need on her,” Griffin replied, smiling. “Comes from her killer, you know.”
Yaske raised his head, lifting his gaze from the floor. His face was growing darker, all the blood rushing to his cheeks and nose and forehead.
“It was her, wasn’t it?” he demanded. “It was her.”
“Who’s her?” Griffin prodded.
“My other sister, damn it!” Yaske pounded a fist on the desk as if for emphasis, then let his stiffened hand drop at his side. He tried to breathe. “So this is how she repays her family…”
Griffin did not reply to this. He merely took Yaske’s glass and shook the icy contents in front of his face. Yaske hesitantly took the drink, sipped it, shuddered, and sipped again. His whole body seemed to relax, the contortion in his facial muscles loosening.
“Now this…is what I would call good information, wouldn’t you agree?” Griffin asked. Yaske could only nod dumbly. “Good. Now, Mister Yaske …I’d like you to meet some colleagues of mine. People who can help you hold up your side of the bargain.”
“Yes. It will involve some travel back to the Yridia system. And you, my friend, are the key to getting me there. That's why I need you. You will take me to Yridia IX…and I will let you take care of the business you so desperately want to do away with."
Yaske locked his eyes on Griffin, two pairs of bloodshot eyes. “You mean Ronovi.”
“Yes,” Griffin hissed, his teeth bared in a hideous grin. “Your sister Ronovi. And all her little friends back in Yridia…”
- Three Months Later
"Three cheers for our Chief! Not only a Knight, but now Rollmaster of the Captain's House!" cheered one of the Engineering Crew as he raised a glass into the air. The surrounding crew members did the same, with Kragok in the middle of them all standing on a central console in the Engineering Bay. For the first time, he was not in his armor which was an oddity for him. He stood there with them in his new Knight Robes
, the first time since the conclusion of the Rite of Supremacy that he has been able to wear them. (Though a much smaller version of them.)
Kragok bowed his head as he placed his left arm behind his back, and took a glass from one of his officers. "Thank you, everyone. These past months have been very eventful; and I am proud to be your Chief. Hopefully things will return to normal now...and I can keep yelling at you, Edward. I did rather miss your constant pestering."
The entire crew laughed, while the officer who handed him the glass smirked and gave a small chuckle as he shook his head for a moment. "I'll make sure to pester you even more then, Chief."
Kragok smiled back before he turned to the entire crew and raised his glass high into the air. "To the Engineering Crew of the Bothan Assault Cruiser Doomsday, to whom without I would most certainly not be as humbled or as honored as I am to be a part of. This celebration is just as much yours as it is mine. Cheers."
Kragok drank the entirety of his glass as the others did the same. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed his Pro-Consul doing the same in the doorway to the Bay. "Alright everyone, back to your stations. Our next patrol begins in 0100 hours." As the crew dispersed, Kragok jumped down from the console and smiled at Ronovi as he walked over to her. He bowed respectfully before her. "Welcome, Pro-Consul Tavisaen. It is an honor to have you here."
Ronovi nodded in return and crossed her arms as she leaned against the doorway. "Please, call me Ronovi. Congratulations on your promotion, Rollmaster."
"Thank you, Ronovi." Kragok replied as he straightened himself up, and looked up at her with his arms crossed behind him under his flowing black cloak. "Continue our conversation in my office?"
"If you don't mind." she casually replied. Kragok looked back at his crew; something that Edward quickly noticed as he jogged his way over to him.
"Edward, prepare the crew for a diagnostic run just before the patrol begins. I want to make sure everything is running at full efficiency." Kragok quietly whispered to him. Edward gave a soft nod as he saluted him in return, and started back where he was. Kragok turned and respectfully walked past Ronovi, who followed closely behind him, as he walked down the hallway a short ways to his office. As he opened the door, the office was quite barren aside from a desk and a few other things.
"Please, excuse the blandness. I have not been on board since the Vendetta began, so things have been chaotic." Kragok apologized as he sat down at his desk. "So what do I owe this honor, Ronovi?"
Ronovi sat down in a chair in front of his desk as she intertwined her hands together. "It's good to know your alive...Aidyn."
Kragok looked at Ronovi curiously, as if she had mistakenly identifed him as someone else. "...whom, Ronovi?"
"Oberst told me what happened after you were taken to Yridia II. For the Grand Master to do what he did, you must have done something to gain his eye."
"Honestly, Ronovi...until that point I still do not understand why he chose to save me out of everyone who could have been saved during that time. But; he did. And for that, I am thankful."
"I must say though, Aid-" Ronovi started to reply, but caught herself. She quickly corrected herself and continued. "I mean, Kragok. I must say, you have fit the persona very well. I had a hard time believing it when Oberst told me. You act nothing like Aidyn did."
"That was part of the requirement that the Grand Master placed before me. I can not discuss what occured during that time, but...it was hard to endure. Now that it is complete; however...I am different entirely. Everything that was Aidyn has all but left me."
Ronovi nodded in reply, looking downward a little. Given that Oberst had become his master, she could only imagine what extreme tortures the Rollmaster would have had to endure to ensure his survival even after his transfer. "But; the reason I am here. I have a mission that requires my close attention, however Oberst has requested that you come with."
Kragok's left ear raised into the air slightly as he raised his eyebrow. "With all due respect...he does know, that I have 'just' returned to my post here does he not?"
"He does, and understands entirely. However he feels that you being there with me on Yridia IX will help ensure the situation does not go out of control." She replied, though both she and Kragok knew she was more than capable of handling it herself.
"Very well then. When do we depart?" Kragok asked as he stood from his desk. He walked over to a cabinet in the corner and typed in several numbers to it's keypad.
"As soon as you are ready." Ronovi replied as Kragok opened the cabinet doors. Inside, was his armor neatly put away on the silver shelves. He reached out and picked up his helmet, which had a rather strong shine to it; probably just polished not long prior; and stared at himself through the reflective visor.
He looked over at Ronovi; his right ear falling over his shoulder and dangling in front of him as he placed it into a large backpack along with the other pieces of his armor. "Let us depart then."
Coruscant - One Week Earlier
"Excellent, Yaske, excellent," Griffin said, marveling at the man's advancements. "These men have taught you well."
Yaske straightened from his finishing stance, a coup d'grace move to the chest of his opponent. He looked very different now than he had looked upon his first visit to the governor - in fact, frightfully different. His dark hair had been almost completely shaved from his head, leaving a light, ashen fuzz on top of his temples. Dark, abstract tattoos embroidered the back of his neck and the sides of his head, moving in curls and spirals from his ears to behind his chiseled jawline. Even more noticeably, the pilot uniform was gone - replaced by a thinly pounded out set of armor, crafted from the finest illegally imported durasteel. A heavy sword of phrik alloy hung from his belt, while his large gloved hand gripped a force pike which Yaske had just used to knock the lights out of his fellow combatants.
And just who were these combatants? Griffin rather loved the idea of how he could just scout out such fine warriors and mercenaries from the dirty bowels of the metropolis. Seven men - all of different species - stood before him and Yaske, wearing the same armor and bearing the same tattoos and hairstyles (if they had hair) and all carrying weapons suited for their fighting techniques and their body builds. The human that Yaske had dealt the blow to recuperated slowly, before standing up and nodding curtly to the Epicanthix before stumbling back into the line-up.
The finest fighters in all of Coruscant had gathered before the ex-governor of Yridia IX, using the supplies from all parts of the black market that Griffin was still affiliated with in order to maintain his mediocre lifestyle. As Yaske slung the pike over his shoulder, he felt Griffin's meaty hand slap him on the shoulder, and he sneered at this.
"You learn fast for only a few months of training from these guys," Griffin muttered to him. "No wonder your family was so in touch with the Dark Jedi. You make quite a strong warrior."
"Yeah," Yaske growled. "Makes me wonder why I decided to become a pilot."
Griffin shrugged. "Well, you know, like father, like son," he said, "but now look at you. You've shown more power as a combatant than these men could probably show to me in a year, and they were your teachers. Have you ever considered the fact that you might be...a Force-sensitive?"
"It's crossed my mind," Yaske replied, remembering the Force potential within his own family. His family, with their bodies decomposing beneath whatever rubble hadn't been cleared in Eden. He shut his mind to the pain. It made him feel weak and inferior.
Griffin gestured for Yaske to join the line-up of men, who he lovingly called the Griffin Elites. And not just because it gave him an ego boost, either, but because it simply had a lovely ring to it. The tattoos had also been a nice touch, recommended by the Zabrak in the group who already had tattoos to rival those of Darth Maul. Griffin began to pace up and down the line of eight warriors, smiling as he felt the persona of a military general creep into his mind. This was fun.
"Gentlemen," he began, "you have heard the plan of ours, the plan that allows a reward for everyone involved. We now have the key to the Yridia system. Your comrade, Tavisaen, will lead us all to Yridia IX, then to Eden City, and then to District I. That is where our mission lies."
"If I may ask, sir," rumbled the only Bothan in the group, "how will we be traveling there?"
"I have been able to loan a freighter from an old friend of mine," Griffin replied, and left the details alone. "With it, we should be able to cross into Yridia space. We will use the facade of travelers bringing back a rogue pilot - that's you, Tavisaen - who left the Tarentum militant forces without permission several years ago. They would surely let us in and even allow us access to the offices of Yridian military enforcement, where we will make our way to the governmental offices."
"Then we will take on the governor himself."
A few of the warriors shuffled nervously at this, but Griffin grinned confidently. The image of Stanson Rend sitting in his office, at his desk, fueled his body with rage, but also with a sheer delight at being able to shoot him down just as Rend had done to him. His knee had been a bitch to mend, and had taken an exorbitant amount of credits from his pocket. Now he'd have his revenge.
He was interrupted in his dreamy thoughts of new glory by Yaske's voice, which had a slight tinge of irritation in it. "And as for my mission?"
"Patience, Tavisaen, patience," Griffin retorted. "You will have your revenge soon enough. For now, this is a step by step process. After all, how can we get to your sister if we first cannot get to the Eden government? Once we - yes, we, men, you heard me - have control over Yridia IX, then we can lure your sister in with visions of compromise...or perhaps massacre, the Dark Jedi love that."
"And then..." Griffin smirked. "Then you'll do the honors to the young lady, Tavisaen. All right, men, time to move out. Eden awaits."
Yridia IX - Present Day
Kragok had not asked too many questions when Ronovi took him on the small shuttle down to the Yridia IX spaceport, and subsequently, he wondered why. The Proconsul had not given much insight on the mission, and now there they were, ascending the steps of the majestic government building within District I, flanked by the governor's security guards. Still, Kragok had never really wandered around Eden before, not even in his former body, and the sights, sounds, and smells intrigued him as his lithe body bounded up the stairs and seemed to lead the way for the others.
Ronovi, however, was taking everything in stride. Being back in Yridia IX brought back memories, and harsh memories at that. She knew as they flew over District III that she could not look at it, regardless of how much of it had been rebuilt and rejuvenated over the last year. All she could imagine was her parents in Oblivion, and her sister's headless body lying at her feet. However, such images did not bring upon the sorrow she had irrationally felt before, but rather a painful, irritating feeling, like a bite or a sore that continued to ache or itch and would not go away.
She was getting better at being a true Dark Jedi.
The guards casually allowed the two Tarenti to enter the governor's chambers, and Ronovi smiled in relief at the idea that she could keep her weapons on her person this time around. The former governor had been a real pain to deal with, and Rend - well, he had his reasons for being such a strong ally to the clan. The head of a criminal family responsible for most of Tarentum's cheaper goods was not easy to forget, and certainly not easy to dislike.
Stanson Rend was already standing at his desk by the time the two Dark Jedi entered, and he bowed elegantly to them, inciting a laugh from Ronovi. She approached the well-dressed governor and the two shook hands rigorously, reiterating their strong ties to one another as what could be considered partners-in-crime.
"Good to see you, Proconsul, and..." Stanson looked at the Kushiban beside Ronovi curiously. "...you as well. Take a seat. We'll go over everything as quickly as possible."
"Always happy to lend a hand when I'm needed, Stanson," Ronovi replied as she sat down. "Oberst told me this was more of an extermination mission than anything."
"That's absolutely what it is," Stanson said before looking again at Kragok and flashing a trademark smile. "I don't believe we've met."
"Raimi Mistwalker," Kragok replied, intrigued by the governor's outward smoothness, from his groomed looks to his gentle, mediator-like voice. "But the Brotherhood calls me Kragok."
"An honor to be in your presence," replied Stanson, who reclined in his chair but did not lose the luster of his debonair aura. "Now, Tavisaen, to your assignment. I've spoken to your Consul concerning a few nuisances that have been hindering reconstruction in the city. Talks of mutiny and uprising and the like."
"Trouble in District VI again?" Ronovi asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
"Exactly. But...a bit more irritating than usual," Stanson said. "See, there are two criminal families amassing numbers - the Grik family and the Worran family. All gaggles of immigrated humans from places such as Corellia and Coruscant where they weren't wanted anymore. You see, they've been having their little rivalry, and it's hindered the police forces around here from completely maintaining the other districts' stability. As a result, crime rates have gone up, and...well...you know how burdensome that becomes on our economy."
"I understand completely," replied Ronovi. "So I'm guessing these guys want the top spot...they want to be the new Rends, if you will."
Stanson grinned. "if there's one thing I like about you, Tavisaen, is that you're not one of the usual bumbling Obelisks I hear about," he said. "You've got yourself some good intuition. And I'm sure you could handle these Grik and Worran pests better than any other mercenaries I could hire."
"All for the stability of the city and the clan, I say," Ronovi said. "We'll handle these guys, Stanson, don't worry. You said they're still mostly in District VI, correct?"
"Yes," Stanson replied. "Though of course some like to mingle around District IV, around the most popular entertainment venues. But District VI would be the best place to start. I've got all their locations from my affiliates and now I know them like the back of my hand. I think this will help you out."
He slid a datapad across the desk toward Ronovi, who gestured for Kragok to pick it up. Sure enough, in green and blue text, all the locations of the Griks and Worrans were there to see, compact and pressed together like products on an assembly line. Kragok passed the datapad to Ronovi, who slid it into one of the pockets of her coat.
"We'll start taking care of these guys pronto," she told Stanson. "And Kragok may not look it, but he's a fine warrior in his own right."
"I wouldn't doubt it," said Stanson, casting a curious eye at the Kushiban. "Well, then, off you go. Have fun."
Ronovi grinned at Kragok as the two left the vicinity of the governor. This would be easy. Mafia and criminal families were always simple to handle, like pesky insects hovering around one's head. And while Ronovi imagined that many other Tarenti who didn't need to hold a higher office in the Tarentum summit could have done the job just as well, she was happy that Oberst gave her the chance to take a few breaks from monitoring Castle Tarentum and spending time in her office or the massive throne room - the Consul knew the assignments that Ronovi was best at, assignments that allowed her to use a saber or a blade. That was when she was most efficient.
And only a few kilometers away from where the two Dark Jedi walked, along the slick bays of the Yridia IX spaceport, a large freighter touched down, its engines hissing as the inhabitants within thought of coups and conquers within this alleged paradise.
As Kragok and Ronovi reached the outskirts of District VI, already they had drawn attention. Several people walked several hundred feet behind them; watching them. Others leaned against buildings and peered from windows, giving the two glares. It was obvious, they knew exactly who they were without even so much as a conversation.
"Kragok...are you certain you want to fight without your armor?" Ronovi quietly asked as she glanced around side to side, watching the people who stood around. Kragok gave a simple nod in reply, watching them as well.
"I am certain. Besides...that is the least of our concerns right now." he replied in just as soft a manner as both of the stopped in the middle of the street, a group of people blocking their path.
"So! What brings you to our wonderful paradise, hm?" a spiked-haired man asked in an upbeat, squeaky voice. "Come to view some of our fine delicacies, or have you come to face an early retirement?"
"We're just looking for the Grik and Worran Families. Resolve some...issues." Ronovi hissed, attempting to match the man's squeaky voice. The man growled and stomped his foot on the ground.
"How DARE you mock me! You want to meet the Griks and Worrans huh? Well, you can meet them in HELL! Kill them!" the man squeaked, though the word Hell came out more like "Squell". Ronovi and Kragok both snickered and laughed a little as several mafia thugs pulled vibroblades from their jackets.
"Allow me?" Kragok asked as he took a dominant step forward, sliding his left foot just ahead of him. Ronovi looked down at him curiously. She did kind of want to know what he could do, so reluctantly she nodded in agreement. Kragok gave a soft smirk as he extended his left arm outward, curling his fingers inward. "Show me what you fools can really do!"
The thugs charged at Kragok yelling; 8 of them in all. He slid his right foot behind him as he took off at a dead run straight at them. As they neared each other, one of the thugs sliced outwards at Kragok; though with a whisk of his tail Kragok fell backwards. He pushed off of the ground with it as he slammed his leg into the thug's arm, the vibroblade flying into the air as his other leg went straight into the thug's crotch. The thug spiraled backwards into three others, all four of them going down to the ground.
Kragok landed gracefully on his feet as another of the thugs sliced outwards at him again; also kicking with his legs. Each and every blow the man threw was blocked and parried, Kragok delivering counter-blows to his limbs. Within not even twenty seconds the man's fatigue was quickly apparent. Kragok extended his arms outward and bent downward as he lept into the air. He curled into a ball as he flips around several times before bringing both of his feet down onto the man's head. The man slammed into the ground, his face buried under several inches of dirt.
The other thugs suddenly stopped their assault and started to back away. "H-How in the hell? He's just a rabbit!"
"A rabbit? It looks more like a Poodle!"
Suddenly; Kragok's black and crimson fur started to change color. As it shifted into a body-wide blood red hue, he raised his head at them and glared with cold angry eyes. "...who...called me...a 'Poodle'?"
"N-No one!" that same thug replied. Before he could utter another word however, Kragok's green lightsaber had already been ignited and taken from his robes as he went into a dead run straight at him. The man gasped for air as if to say something as his eyes widened, but was unable to achieve even that as Kragok lept over his shoulder, and spun around as he landed behind him.
The man's body stood there for a few seconds, before falling into several pieces. The other thugs took off at a dead run...the opposite direction. The squeaky-voiced man tripped and fell while trying to run, and skittered across the ground as Kragok approached him. His fur was still blood colored.
"N-Now wait a second!" the man squeaked. "We can work something ou-"
He never had a chance to finish. Mere seconds into the man's plea, Kragok's lightsaber pierced the man's skull. He stared down at him, an angry emotionless expression on his face. Ronovi stood there, watching quietly. She knew Aidyn...but this. This was different.
For a moment, she actually hesitated and wondered if it really was Aidyn...
Several guards approached the freighter as it disengaged it's engines and began shutting down. They held their weapons tightly at their chest in a slightly intimidating way as the men came down from the freighter.
Corporal Jon Antilles was once a military man, before being shunted off to the Yridian Civilian Defense Force. While he wasn't officer material for the military, he excelled on the force, becoming a senior officer, and finally making his way to corporal rank.
Antilles' task for the day was mostly paperwork, something to keep him at his desk- an AWOL pilot was being brought in by a mercenary group looking to make a name for themselves. First, he had to lead the small group doing the pick-up.
The freighter that the officers were to meet the mercenaries lived up to their idea of a small, new merc group; the hull was dirty, but lacking any of the scars and pockmarks that ships pick up in combat. Obviously a used ship, Antilles thought to himself. The mercs probably saved up their credits from respectable jobs to buy this piece of junk just weeks ago.
A mixed group of seven beings led a tall man, dressed in a long coat and a pilot's helmet, down the freighter's ramp, each sporting identical tattoos and uniform.
"Is the the pilot?" Corporal Antilles questioned gruffly, gesturing with his rifle. Bringing in an AWOL Naval pilot? Looks like I'm earning my bonus with this one. He'd been in the Defense Force as a senior officer for long enough to know what was going to happen here. We'll cut the mercs a check, and the pilot will get jail time. Not like the old days...
One of the mercenaries, a Bothan, nodded, pushing Yaske forward slightly.
Gesturing toward the rogue pilot, Antilles had the other officers form a circle around him, escorting him to their vehicle.
"Hey, what about our reward?" asked the Bothan impatiently, his fur rippling in irritation.
"Choose two other mercs and come with us," Antilles replied curtly. "We've only got that much room, and we have to process your request at the station." Damn greedy mercs, can't just be satisfied with doing the right thing.
As everyone loaded into the transport, Corporal Antilles seated himself across from Yaske. The leather bench seats were situated across from each other, their worn-out padding having served the Defense Force as a means of transportation for decades. The metal floor was scuffed from the boots of countless officers.
"You know, you may have been gone for a while, so you might not know about the old Marshall being Consul now." Antilles leaned forward, staring directly into Yaske's visor. "Rules have changed. You'll be getting jail time, not an execution for desertion."
Sneering, the aging corporal continued, leaning back into the headrest. "The new Marshall is too soft on you guys. If I had my way, I would have you executed as soon as we verified who you were. Desertion is just treason to me."
Yaske sat there, his expressionless flight helmet not betraying the impatience he was feeling.
Keep talking, old man. You'll be the first to die.
Dralin Fortea was not an impatient man. As a former assassin, he learned the virtues of staying hidden for days on end, or being undercover for months at a time. He learned to take the time to enjoy the finer things in life, like learning how many broken limbs a Grik mafioso can take before giving up information.
"P-please!" the middle-aged thug sputtered, blood and spittle flying as he sobbed.
The bodily fluids stopped inches from Dralin's immaculate clothing, held there for a moment by an unseen hand before dropping to the dirty warehouse floor.
"Unless your next words are the location of the bounty hunter, you had better learn to walk with one leg."
"But I don't know where she is!" the thug shrieked. He was strapped down onto a metal table just wide enough to accommodate his torso, his arms and legs pulled taut away from his body, held out with the power of the Force, the centerpiece to Dralin's makeshift base of operations. Several fingers on his left hand were wrenched at odd angles, his bottom lip had burst open, and his right shoulder was developing a deep purple bruise around the socket. So far, he was doing alright.
Dralin moved suddenly, his leg snapping out, the thug's femur cracking like a tree branch with too much weight on it, part of the bone ripping through skin like an easel bursting through the canvas of a flesh-colored painting. His victim let out a blood-curdling screech.
"There's no point in making such loud noises," Dralin explained calmly, as if he was lecturing a well-meaning but slow student. "There's no one around for several blocks, and anyone who might be there certainly wouldn't mention our little meeting. I know that either you or the Worrans have her, and I have need of her."
The former assassin moved closer to the thug, his face inches from his victim's. "You have been taking bribes from the Worrans. You have connections to both sides. Thus, you must know something. If you won't tell me, then I'll just have to take it from you."
Cocking his head slightly, Dralin fully embraced his inner darkness, the coiled snake within that tells him where to strike, that makes him unnaturally fast or strong, that gives him the necessary control over his environment. The Force was a useful tool, especially when the information one needs is within the brain of another.
Exerting his will, his mind glimpsed flashes of insight, disconnected memories and surface thoughts from the thug. Beads of sweat began collecting on Dralin's forehead, like condensation on a cool drink during the summer. While he was no novice to the Force, Dralin was only a Knight, and was only just beginning to progress into the realms of mental manipulation.
"District VI." The words slipped out of the thugs mouth, like the drool he couldn't contain under the mental and physical assault.
Looking up, Dralin caught his breath, the perspiration on his skin already beginning to evaporate. "District VI it is, then."
Calmly, the once-Death Dealer walked around to his victim's head, looking down at him.
"You have been a fine companion these past couple of hours. I hope you feel some sort of elation in knowing that you have brought me one step closer to finding her."
The thug had enough time to open his mouth before he died. What would have been his last words rattled off into expressionless air, a small dagger having blossomed from his throat, like an iron flower waving in the wind, stuck in greasy, sweaty snow. The body would be thrown into the next warehouse, like his underlings before him, all in the name of Dralin's quest.
Yaske Tavisaen stalked into the headquarters of the Yridian Civilian Defense Force, accompanied by several officers and three of Griffin's Elites.
"Alright, sir, if you would just have a seat," began one of the junior officers, gesturing to one of the ubiquitous uncomfortable chairs that all police headquarters housed.
The one word was all Yaske needed to say. The Bothan Elite reached back over his shoulder, gripping his force pike and swinging it forward, using his shoulder as a fulcrum to unhook it and bring it whipping into Yaske's reach. The quick Epicanthix's hand shot out, the force pike rolling around his wrist as he deftly controlled its momentum, pivoting on his right heel as he brought the durasteel shaft of the pike cracking into an officer's chest.
The room was, for a few seconds, as still as a holo as everyone stared, shocked at the sudden display of violence in their stronghold. The force pike, currently resting perpendicular to Yaske's side in a two-handed forward stance, wavered frantically, like a meter-long tuning fork, the struck officer landing on his back, his hands clutching his chest in a vain attempt to stop the pain of several shattered ribs.
"S-stop him!" Corporal Antilles stammered, being the first to regain his wits, as he brought his rifle to bear.
The room exploded into motion as the three Elites drew their swords, immediately seizing upon the first officers they could, the Defense Force officers having drawn their stun batons as they moved to apprehend the mercenaries and the pilot.
"I knew we should have just killed you on the spot, traitor!" Antilles shouted over the din, leveling his blaster at the Epicanthix warrior and squeezing off three shots in quick procession- his old sergeant in the Army would have been proud.
In a blur of frenetic motion, Yaske exploded into action, catching all the blaster bolts with his force pike, the bolts flying in different directions after ricocheting off the pole-arm. I've never done that before... Gritting his teeth, Yaske leaped forward, his force pike swinging in a wide horizontal arc. The Epicanthix felt a tremor travel up his arm as the vibro end of the force pike firmly lodged itself into Corporal Antilles' spinal column, like an axe stuck in an ancient tree on the first swing.
Growling, Yaske kicked out, his heavy boot catching the corporal square in the chest, forcing him off of the warrior's force pike, the sound of durasteel and the scent of lifeblood filling the air as the Epicanthix spun his weapon back into an offensive stance.
In a heartbeat, the other officers were on him, pressing in on all sides. Confusion soon dominated the office that became a battlefield as the police saw that their stun batons had no effect when they hit the warrior. Glancing at his opponents, he nonchalantly shrugged off his leather coat, showing the thin durasteel armor he wore underneath. Silently grinning behind the tinted view of his helmet, Yaske launched into a series of kicks, headbutts, and skilled pike-use, his methodical movements slicing through skin and cloth like paper, breaking ribs and noses, and generally causing utter devastation in their wake. He was a force unto himself, as unstoppable as a hurricane, and just as destructive.
The other Elites, while not as preternaturally gifted as Yaske Tavisaen, were still gruesome warriors in their own right. The Bothan Elite used his phrik-alloyed sword to great effect, hewing limbs and torsos alike. One of the other Elites, a Zabrak, was incapacitated by a chance blow by a stun baton to the face, but was protected by the third Elite, a Wookiee who had seized the fallen Elite's sword, wielding two blades in a skilled display of hirsute ferocity.
In nearly as long as it took for Yaske to kill his first officer, the fight was over. The Elites quickly regrouped, the Wookiee recovering the unconscious Zabrak and slinging him over his shoulder.
"I think we've made our point here," growled Yaske as he stooped to pick up his fallen coat, shouldering it back on. The overall effect was menacing- no one would willingly meet the gaze of the blood-splattered pilot's helmet, much less take on the battle-ready war machine that was the Epicanthix warrior.
Turning on his heel, Yaske led the other three Elites out the door, to lay low until they got the chance they needed.
Nobody needed to ask the Epicanthix what he was thinking, even with the helmet on- vengeance and murder seemed to echo in his every footstep.
Ronovi... She will see this, and she will come meet her death. I swear it...
Ronovi and Kragok left the body to molder quickly, and as quietly as they could. Those civilians who had been unfortunate to see such a display had been done away easily by mind tricks, but it didn't calm the boiling emotions in Kragok's head like water placed too long on a heater. Ronovi could read him easily, the rage dissipating but still simmering on that stove. She smiled thinly; it had been interesting seeing the little Kushiban slam those punks into the pavement, their teeth cracking and splintering like fragments of wood in the sun.
The first building that the data pointed them to was fitting to the atmosphere that the entire district housed. It was in sorry conditions, appearing too stubborn to ever be destroyed even though it looked as if Ronovi could simply use her fingers to tear down the walls in thin, long peels of paint and stone. It sat awkwardly in a dip in the line-up of ramshackle houses and offices, weeds squirming out of the fissures in the pavement and edging their way up the foundation like fingers groping a victim. The windows were covered with nailed planks - the same went with whatever was left of the chimney. Ronovi let her hand rest on her brow in order to cast the sun away, as it seemed to threaten to burn the place down.
"So...this is the first place we have?" Kragok asked, and Ronovi smirked at the tone of disappointment in his words.
"Yep. According to Rend's data, this is Grik territory," replied the Proconsul, scanning the perimeters of the building. There were gashes in the walls of stone, like ugly, open wounds. Two boys were smoking cigarras by the doorway.
She smiled and gestured for Kragok to follow, as she stepped toward the door that was almost unhinged from its bolts. One of the kids raised his head, showing a face riddled with pimples as if he had been struck by pellets. His eyes were watery under a thick thatch of shaggy blonde hair. His friend spat loudly, looking amused at the supposed circus act.
"Boss Grik ain't takin' no visitors," he said, shoving the red bangs away from his browned forehead. "Better turn back while you still can."
Ronovi didn't listen; now it was her turn to have some fun. She sidestepped Kragok, pressed a hand against the adjacent wall and peered into the blonde-haired boy's spotted face. The cigarra noticeably shuddered between his lips. She drew it from his mouth and pinched it between her thumb and forefinger, ash scraping its way into her cuticles.
"You know, smoking's bad for your health," she said, before taking a long drag and flinging the burning stump out into the open road. It landed smoldering in front of a pedestrian, who kicked it aside as if it had burned him.
The blonde boy whimpered as his friend laughed. "Check it out, Ridge. This girl's got spunk." He jabbed a meaty finger into Ronovi's ribcage and suddenly screeched as Ronovi seized his hand and held it as if between pincers. She felt the bone pop out of place as she squeezed.
"I think 'spunky' is a bit of an understatement, don't you?" she whispered, grinning coyly as the kid clenched his teeth as if to mask the pain. "Tell you what. You let me take care of some business with 'Boss Grik', and I'll keep your hand intact so you can still use it properly for your pubescent urges. Got me?"
"You don't have the guts," the boy snarled, and he and Ridge both screamed in unision once they heard the cracking of bone.
"Careful, kiddo...or you're going to be using your fingers as a dust rag for the rest of your life."
There was a shuffling of feet from inside the building, and Kragok bounded up to Ronovi like he was ready to warn her. But Ronovi had already noticed, letting the crumpled hand drop from her grip like she was squeezing a bean bag. Ridge took off at the sound of the footsteps, screaming his head off while urine began to drip from the wet stain in his crotch. A stereotypically gravelly voice scraped its way out from the doorway, as the silhouette of the alleged "Boss Grik" emerged in all his suited pleasure.
"What's going on out here, Ferris?" he demanded, obviously directing his words to the boy who was now cradling his pulverized hand in the crook of his arm. "I'd like to drink with my boys in peace, if you don't mind."
"Sorry, Grik, but you've got a date with me," Ronovi sneered, and before Boss Grik could respond, he felt the clamp of the woman's hand against his throat as she shoved him back into the open mouth of the building and closed the door behind her and Kragok.
"I take it that your first mission was successful?"
There was no denying the utter satisfaction lingering in Griffin's voice; it created a lilt to his tone, like a skip to his step. He had followed the remaining four Elites to a quiet corner of District II, by an abandoned post office that was beginning to grow cobwebs on its outside walls. Yaske had removed his helmet and dropped it uncelebratorily onto the dirty pavement, and the Elites took their turns spitting and coughing blood into its open chamber. The Epicanthix smoothed out the sweaty fuzz on his forehead, the tattoos on his jaw warm as if they threatened to melt away.
"Those police didn't stand a chance," the Bothan growled, punching a fist into the air. "We took care of 'em easily. Won't see any officers patrollin' this place for a while."
The Wookiee Elite rumbled his agreement as Griffin nodded, that same smirk like a crease in his fattened face. He turned to Yaske, who was still wiping the perspiration from his brow. "Well, Yaske, you've done your side of the bargain. I'm back in Eden, and I have work to do. And I assume the same for yourself."
Yaske nodded. "Yes."
"It may be best, then, for you to stick with us," Griffin added. "We'll be heading to District I now, and we'll need all the firepower we can get to topple the Yridian government. Once we seize the building, we make a transmission to Tarentum, and then..."
"She'll come," Yaske finished.
"Yes, Yaske," hissed Griffin. "She'll come." He turned to look at the Yridian skyline, breathed in that generated air that he had missed for so long. The breath of life from his jewel.
He was back in Eden. And that jewel would be in his hands again very soon...
Ronovi and Kragok's eyes both flickered from wall to wall, smiling almost cordially at the well-dressed men whose hands were frozen at their belts, fingers rigid on blaster triggers and cigarras drooping from between their clenched teeth as they set down their glasses of ale. It didn't help that Ronovi was still holding their boss in her grip - whose name, she had heard from a muddled gasp from a younger Grik - was Breandon. He didn't look like much, though, at a second glance - his purpling face was plain, the quivering mustache simple, the raised eyebrows gray. He didn't look like the mafia men she had always read about. Ronovi let the disappointment subside as she released her grip and Breandon toppled with a squeak onto the creaking floor planks.
"I have to say, I didn't expect all you Griks to be in one place," declared the Epicanthix, her hands deep in the pockets of her coat. "Perfect. That makes my mission that much easier."
"Who are you and what do you want?" a red-haired Grik demanded, finally getting the guts to raise his blaster. "Tell me or I shoot!"
Ronovi chuckled at the audacious display, withdrew her hand from her pocket, and flicked her wrist ever so slightly. The blaster was ripped from the Grik's hand like a fruit snapped from a heavy bough, tumbling to the floor and lying uselessly in the corner. Kragok stepped forward, his eyes big in the dimness of the room, and spoke for Ronovi.
"Our names are not important to you," he announced. "Only that we have business with you and the Worrans. You see, a friend of ours is growing a bit tired of your antics here in the district, and he sent us to put an end to it. So as we like to say...play time's over, kids."
"Ridiculous," another Grik snarled. "How do you expect to take on our family? We're the ones making a name for ourselves, so you better stay out of our way."
There was a small sound of scuffling, and a high-pitched squeal from the protester, as Ronovi viciously moved in almost a blur to intercept him and pin him to the wall. She ignored the clicking of blasters, instead moving to retrieve the Sapphire Blade she kept opposite of her lightsaber within her coat. Sliding the weapon from its hidden sheath, she applied just enough pressure on the man's throat so that a trickle of blood purpled the tip of the blue blade.
"Well, first, I'll start with you," Ronovi snarled, "and use this little souvenir of mine to pull the jugular vein straight out of your neck like a rope. And after that, I'll cut open your little friends, one by one. I've had experience with dicing up bodies before, so it should just be another dissection project. Or..." And she intensified the weight of the blade as she spoke, watching the sharp edge of the weapon slightly embed itself in the crimson stained skin. "...You can simply turn yourselves in to the Yridian government while we go take care of your rivals next. We'll say we're doing you a favor."
"You're mad," the bleeding man whimpered, and his eyes pleadingly turned to meet the watering gaze of Breandon. The boss had gotten to his feet only to be forced back down on his knees by Kragok, who had activated his lightsaber and was now brandishing it at the man's chest.
"So what do you say?" Ronovi asked, sneering. "Is it a deal?"
But any "bargain" they would have made was interrupted by a sudden rush of energy, as any and all Griks shuffling toward the door were propelled into the air and collided with one another in a tangled mess of limbs and neckties. Ronovi turned around fiercely, shoving her sapphire blade back into her belt and setting her lightsaber alight in its stead. In the light of the bronze blade, she furrowed her brow when she saw the figure standing in the doorway, feet apread apart as he held his hand up and his lips peeled back in a horrible snarl.
"Have I come to the right place?" he simply asked, and Ronovi could feel the breath escape her as Breandon cursed and moaned and wondered out loud just what was the deal with everyone picking on his family. The new guest stepped into the room, and the light of Kragok and Ronovi's lightsabers cast a strange, discolored hue on his red hair. Those Griks that were not bleeding or bruised shuffled about the room, unsure of which intruder to aim at with their blasters; those that were injured, huddled in the corners, hyperventilating and wiping their watering eyes.
Ronovi couldn't help uttering his name. It had been far too long since she had last seen him.
Striding into the bronze- and red-lit room with the confident swagger of a predator, Dralin took in the scene around him, the stench of the abandoned building and the tang of ozone from the lightsabers assailing his senses.
"Ronovi, I see your ability to make friends has only improved," Dralin began, circling around the two Tarenti as he examined the room and its inhabitants. "One does wonder why you are here, however. A little convenien-"
"Watch your mouth!" Raimi, not knowing the intruder's identity, his fur turning a blood-red shade with rage. "You will not address the Proconsul like that!"
Looking down at the small Kushiban, the assassin narrowed his eyes. "Who is this rabbit, Ronovi? He seems to have developed the curious ability to speak a civilized tong-"
Dralin's scathing retort was interrupted, punctuated by a blaster bolt fired by one of the Griks. Reacting instinctively, Ronovi's bronze blade moved to intercept, deflecting the bolt back at the hand of the offending Grik, drawing a sharp yelp.
Scowling, Dralin advanced to the red-haired Grik who shot at him, a dagger flicking into his hand from his sleeve, his other hand raised as he lifted the Grik bodily with the Force.
"I am tired of being interrupted. Tell me where Harika Krecca is, or everyone in this room will see exactly how drawn-out someone's death can be!" With the last word forcing its way past Dralin's snarl, he flicked his wrist, slamming the Grik against the wall, a small cloud of dust from the crumbling duracrete accompanying the sound of an arm shattering and a broken wail.
"Where have you been, Dralin?" Ronovi's words had a commanding tone to them, something that had been absent before Dralin left Tarenti space. "We could have used your help at Salas V."
Snorting, Dralin ground the thug's shattered elbow into the wall, the Grik helplessly pinned, his feet dangling at head-level to the rest. "Oh, yes, I'm quite sure I would have been some use in another pointless exercise against the rest of the Clans, all for the 'honor' of being chosen as the DC's personal pest control. It's Antei all over again, Ronovi."
Dralin flicked his wrist again, pulling the thug down the wall, scraping the Grik's arm down the rough duracrete, stepping forward and pressing the tip of his dagger against the thug's neck.
"Tell me what happened to her. Now."
Stammering and shaking, the Grik broke into his explanation like a dam spewing filthy water.
"We kidnapped her, put her in carbonite for shipment! Someone stole her from us!"
Nodding sagely, Dralin thought out-loud, "Yes, that makes sense... Freeze her for transportation, no struggle, then take her to whomever set you up... And then the Worrans stole her..." Without looking, Dralin plunged the dagger into the Grik's neck, drawing a fount of blood from the thug and a strangled cry from Boss Grik. "Thank you, you've been most informative."
Taking a step toward the wayward Knight, Ronovi shook her head. "I don't know why you're mixed up with the Griks and Worrans, Dralin, but that's what we're here for. Think of as that 'pest control' you mentioned," she added, smirking.
After wiping off his dagger on the corpse's shirt, Dralin let it drop, the body slapping against the dusty floor with a muted thud.
"My path brought me back to Tarentum. I'll help you, and make my way back to Sword's Sheath, but I find who I'm looking for after that."
The three Dark Jedi looked to each other, and then around the room, the assembled Griks slick with cold sweat, knowing that there was nowhere to run. They were bark rats trapped in a room with three nexu, and they knew it.
A third lightsaber snap-hissed into existence, adding a pale green to the bronze and red glow surrounding the Dark Jedi. The three colors whirled off in different directions, burning a path through the detritus of society, making their mark on District VI. Burn hair, cauterized skin, and ozone filled the nostrils of the Dark Jedi, their victory as assured as it was relished.
Business as usual in District IV, Severon Vercingatorix thought to himself.
Walking the thoroughfares of Eden City's entertainment District, Severon reflected that this marked one of the few occasions he traveled incognito. Unlike his former Rollmaster, Dralin Fortea, Severon was rarely seen dressed in something other than his Dark Jedi robes, which he was rather fond of. Today, however, he needed to blend in; intel doesn't gather itself.
District I at last. Griffin could not have been happier to see it, let alone walk around in it. It looked as prosperous as ever, with all the aristocrats strolling down the walkways with their chins up and their noses pointed in the air. How Griffin had loved this place. He had rarely wandered out of it.
The Zabrak Elite had fully recovered and was now following the rest of the Elites, though seeming a little disoriented. Yaske had removed his coat and slung it over his shoulder; the heat of the generated atmosphere was getting to him, and his durasteel armor was already absorbing the high temperatures. His pilot helmet had been left behind, kicked aside toward a gutter in the street. That part of his life was over.
Griffin stopped the group once the government building was barely in sight. Disappearing into a nearby alleyway, he beckoned for the others to follow, as they gathered in a huddle once more.
"All right, Elites," he commanded. "Now you all know we can't just lay a direct siege on the building. Attempting to breach security at the entrance is suicide. So I have another strategy in mind."
"What other entrances are there?" demanded a human Elite. "We obviously just can't scale the building."
"In case you don't remember," Griffin snapped, "that building used to be my headquarters. Don't think I didn't know every nook and cranny of that place when I lived there. I had to be vigilant of those in case there were any...nuisances attempting to disrupt my work. Of course, that means I know of every side entrance and every hidden entrance in the building."
Reaching into his coat pocket, Griffin pulled out a datapad and pressed a button on it. Instantly a holographic image of the government building popped up in all its blue, grid-like glory, detailing the full exterior of the targetted location.
"You see that entrance on the west side?" he told the Elites. "Cargo entrance. Every shipment ordered by the governor or his cronies - food, booze, technology, ammunition - they're all sent here. It's usually guarded, but only by a couple of grunts. If we can manage entry through there, we can find our way into the basement of the building. Then we ascend the floors and take out anyone who's in our way."
Yaske smirked at all of this. It was strategy after strategy with this guy, map after map. Griffin had obviously been planning this for months. More likely than not, he had been completely obsessed with the idea of revenge since his exile. And given that Yaske was beginning to succumb to the same path, he could relate.
He was actually beginning to respect the ex-governor. Nodding to his fellow Elites, Yaske barked, "Well, let's go, then," before turning to Griffin and handing him his coat.
"Here," he said to Griffin as the man confusedly slipped the coat on and trailed after his hired mercenaries. "You'll need a disguise more than I do now."
"Ah, nothing like a room full of carnage," Ronovi sighed as she deactivated her lightsaber. She stepped over the corpse of a younger Grik and seized a half-empty glass of Corellian ale. She downed it, grimaced, and then practiced her throwing arm, hurling the glass at the wall and watching it shatter into pieces. Dralin watched her do this with an amused expression, weaving through the piles of bodies as the entire Grik family lay in pieces on the floor.
"I'll admit," he said, "I didn't expect you to become Proconsul. Seems only weeks ago that I pulled you away from the muck that was the underground ring."
Ronovi sneered. "And I didn't expect you to come back. You haven't changed much, Dralin. You ought to have a gin more often."
The two began to loosen up after that, even chuckle a bit. Ronovi still believed she owed Dralin something for bringing her to Tarentum. After all, he had been the one to inform her father Zane of her potential, and convinced the leaders of the Brotherhood that she was worthy to be one of their brethren. Ronovi scanned the bloody room again before concentrating on the Knight in front of her.
"Don't worry," she said, sensing Dralin's thoughts. "I'm not going to question you on anything. You've never been someone who talks a lot about his past. But I'll help you find Harika Krecca, if you need me."
"Thanks," Dralin replied, shaking his head, "but this is my mission. You've got your own priorities to think about."
Their brief exchange was cut off when Kragok, having stepped outside once the massacre was complete, came back in dragging a pale-faced Ferris behind him. The boy's expected scream at the gruesome sight was stifled by a large paw, as the Rollmaster looked at Ronovi.
"I found him coming out of another building. Sounds like he alerted the Worrans," he said. "They've left the vicinity. I checked their marked base and it's empty."
"Damn it!" Ronovi snarled, and she turned on Ferris, who whimpered as tears filled his eyes and he still clutched his broken hand. "So you're a bit of a two-timer, huh? A double agent, if you will?"
The boy choked on his own mucus and tears. He barely managed to squeak out the next words. "I'm a hired spy for the Worrans."
"Oh, are you? So that's how Boss Grik knew you, huh?"
"Ridge was a son of one of the Griks. I got their trust through him. I said I was another street urchin, and they pitied me." Dralin smirked at this; it brought back memories of his own childhood.
"Ah," said Ronovi. "Not so cocky with me now. Good." She knelt down by Ferris and lifted his chin with two fingers, raising his eyes to hers. "Well, unfortunately, kiddo, we have business with the Worrans. All three of us. So you may as well tell us where they went."
"Nev -" Ferris cut himself off when Dralin reached for the blaster holster at his side. He swallowed sharply and looked around him, at the Epicanthix, human, and Kushiban all staring at him. "Why do you want to hurt the Worrans? They took me in. I was an orphan, and they treated me like family. What did they do to you?"
Ronovi laughed. "To me? They did nothing to me. I'm just helping Rend out. Governor's orders. As for him..." she jerked a thumb at Dralin. "He seems to have more business with the Worrans than I do. And I don't want to disappoint a friend."
Ferris's lips had frozen shut by now. He did not speak. Dralin sighed and let himself delve into the Force again, straining his powers to loosen Ferris's tongue. They got all that they needed in only a few sentences.
"District IV. Emergency base. It's set up under a liquor store."
The three smiled at this. Ronovi then seized Ferris by the scruff of the neck, holding him like a scraggly cat as his red hair bristled in terror. She then whispered sharply into his ear.
"Take us there."
Severon had stopped to relax at a quieter tavern, shoved beside the popular Flailed Wookiee. He let his fingers trace his trimmed beard as he settled into his chair and perused the information he had punched into his personal datapad. Nothing out of the ordinary. Sure, several regions of District IV were still uninhabitable; radiation continued to hover about the premises like a chronic disease. Intel reports had stated that it wouldn't dissipate for a while, since the levels hadn't gone down much in the past year.
He didn't think much about it. Severon was an Alderaanian; he had a different perspective than the Yridians. They may have lost chunks of their city, but they had never lost an entire home planet. At least that was intact. The Knight raised his head to order a drink but stopped himself when he noticed a familiar face sitting at a corner table, dressed in business attire.
Severon gave the usual signal that agents used in order to identify each other. The agent recognized the gesture, rose from his chair, and went to sit beside his fellow intel worker. They shook hands nonchalantly before speaking in hushed tones.
"I thought you were supposed to be checking on District II," Severon whispered.
"I know," the agent replied. "But I thought I'd stop by here for a bit. Consider it a lunch break."
"Well, what did you find?"
"I don't believe I'm authorized to discuss it."
Severon gazed amusedly at the agent. The younger man was a non-Force sensitive, and normally he was expected to divulge information to the Dark Jedi who worked in his ranks. He tried to sound cordial.
"Sounds like you found something interesting, then," he said. "Nothing too dangerous or threatening, I hope?"
"Well, no," the agent muttered, as if trying to change the subject.
"C'mon. I'll be the judge of that."
The agent nervously looked around the tavern, as if case officers would be around ready to scold him for openly talking about reports. When he found no one, he leaned forward and hissed the words into Severon's ear.
"Well, I saw these men leaving the Yridian Civilian Defense Force headquarters," he said, "and believe me, they didn't look like officers of the law. There were about four of them. One looked like he had been knocked out, he was being carried by a Wookiee. A Wookiee, for Pete's sake. And another guy was wearing a pilot helmet. They all were wearing this weird armor. Had tattoos, too."
Severon raised an eyebrow. "Cultist warriors?"
"I figured they could be mercenaries," the agent replied, "but I'm not sure. They seemed to be heading in the direction of District I. I told the case officer there to keep an eye out. Don't know what they're up to."
Nodding, Severon leaned back in his chair and digested the information. This was very interesting. There were often strange types in the city, but he had never heard of tattoed, armored men marching around the districts, especially the police district. It seemed a bit off even for Eden, and that was saying a lot. Severon moved to shake the agent's hand again when he sensed that something familiar was stalking District Sin.
Feels like Force-sensitives are nearby. I wonder if any Tarenti are hanging around.
"You'll excuse me," Severon told the agent as he pushed himself away from the table, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his civilian jacket. He did not forget the hilt of his lightsaber nestled comfortably against his side, like a new appendage to his body, as he left the tavern and strode back out into the warm Eden air.
Severon walked calmly into the street, his pace measured, but not exaggerated like he did in his robes. His hair whipped loosely about his face, not caught up in his customary hood. After squeezing his way through a crowd, he pulled a cigar from his pocket, and lit it quickly, drawing in a deep draft and then letting out a large puff of rich smoke. His dark brown eyes flitted from face to face, searching quietly.
He had walked a good mile from the cantina, and he hadn't glimpsed anything out of the ordinary. Severon sighed with frustration; for some reason, Eden City was an incredibly busy and crowded place when one was actually looking for something. He shook his mane of hair and then dug his hands deeper into his pockets. As he glanced down the street, he noticed two fights and another about to stop. Shaking his head, he walked casually by the fights, wishing he was in his robes so he could really shake up the combatants. He stopped again, and took another draft of the cigar.
Suddenly, his eyes caught a flash of silver from a nearby alleyway. His eyes narrowed as he caught a quick glimpse of the scene. A red-haired youth, a Kushiban, and two other humanoids; an odd combination, yet not too odd considering where Severon was at the time. But Severon knew there was more to the group, the force power eminated off of them in waves...unnoticeable to ordinary civilians. Severon dug his hands deeper into his pockets, took another draft off the cigar, and turned toward the alleyway.
Ronovi clutched Ferris as the boy dashed down the twisting alleyways, winding his way through District IV. Raimi followed close behind, lightsaber close at hand. Dralin followed at the rear, silently muttering to himself and checking behind them. As their path grew ever more winding, Dralin grew ever more restless. He twitched and glanced anxiously at the path, and back again.
Ronovi noticed Dralin's uncomfortableness, and clenched down harder on Ferris, making the boy jump and halt. "W..wh..what?" the youngster stuttered out.
Ronovi didn't answer, her thoughts instead were on their rear, where a strange yet familiar presence lurked. Someone, or something, sensative in the Force was following them. "Faster," she hissed in the young man's ear.
Severon followed the group at a good distance, keeping awareness of them only through the Force, lest he be spotted. The path they were taking was random, yet calcualatingly precise.
"Hmm..where are you going, and who don't you want to find out?" he muttered under his breath. "What's so secret?"
He began to widen his steps, noting a subtle increase in the gait of his subjects. A small grin spread across his features, and he threw the cigar on the side of the alleyway. "This is getting interesting.."
Ferris grew more and more nervous as he led the Dark Jedi closer to the base. Ronovi's grip had lessened, her mind not fully focused on him, yet there was still no way for him to escape. He knew that if he tried, the results would not be favorable. Then his eyes fell upon the familiar liquor store. He cleared his throat timidly, feeling all of his captors eyes flick to him. "We're here."
Ronovi smiled slightly. "Good, take us in."
Ferris gulped as he led them to the door and inside.
Severon watched the small party disappear into an unassuming liquor shop. "Hmm...strange. What does a liquor store have to do with this, and why all the secrecy?" He breathed. His excitement grew as he waited outside the shop, waiting for more news.
The dingy liquor store was certainly nondescript enough to serve as a hide-out. Ronovi eyed the shopkeeper suspiciously, though his back was turned and he seemed half-dazed in the stifling heat of the small space. Ferris swallowed sharply, jabbing a finger at one of the side doors.
"There. That leads to the basement."
Ronovi tightened her grip on the boy's bicep. "You better be telling the truth, kid," she snarled, "or I'll crush the only good hand you have left."
"I'm not lying! I swear!"
The shopkeeper gurgled an interjection of irritation at the noise, and without a word, Dralin swept toward the counter, whispering something under his breath as he waved a hand over the stubbly face of the store owner. If the Knight was overusing anything today, it was mind tricks. It amused Ronovi greatly as she turned her attention to Kragok, who had scampered over to the side door and pressed his floppy ear against it.
"I hear voices down below," he declared. "Let's get this over with."
"Lead the way, boy," Ronovi ordered, shoving Ferris in front of her with her knuckles. Ferris whimpered, shuddered, and opened the door with a sweaty fist, pushing the panel open and revealing the long rickety staircase leading into the darkness.
Ronovi pushed him again to keep him moving, and he stumbled down the stairs as the others - as well as a somewhat sneaky Severon Vercingetorix - followed after them.
The golden spire of the governmental building piercing the generated sun and directed a shallow ray of light toward the populace below. Around the building's flank, however, the Elites were on the move. To the west, the cargo entrance lay exposed like a yawning mouth drooping open, as several makeshift transports carried in crates one by one. The movement of the vehicles was slow, definite, and there didn't seem to be too many of them. Griffin already had the strategy in mind.
Yaske led the pack toward a halted wagon at the very back of the line-up, seeming to be weighed down with food supplies, the boxes stacked high enough to serve as pillars to hide behind. Gripping the open shaft of the vehicle, Yaske swung himself into the wagon's belly, dropping behind several crates as the other Elites followed suit. As the investigating officers were more scattered toward the front, no one seemed to notice the eight fighters and pudgy ex-governor board the vehicle, hiding behind packaged silhouettes as the inspection process continued.
Time rolled by slowly and arduously as each vehicle was checked. The first vehicle's cargo was brought in quickly without question; the second was heavily inspected. In the end, a total of five vehicles were checked in a matter of nearly an hour. The heat was beginning to intensify as Yridia IX's atmosphere transitioned into the middle of the day, and Yaske felt the sweat begin to run down his arched back as he kneeled in wait. He let out a near audible sigh as the last wagon before the Elites was checked, as their new personal transport rolled to the front.
"What have we got here?" the gruff voice of an inspector grunted.
"Foodstuffs, sir," the dark and heavily tattooed driver replied. "The fancy kind."
"Excellent. Boys, bring it in."
Yaske was ready, slowly drawing his phrik sword as it made a slippery sound escaping his belt. He had done well enough with his Force pike, but this time he was in the mood for spilling a bit more blood. He watched as the shadows of the patrolling officers approached in order to remove the towering heaps of crates, just before the Wookiee Elite wailed loudly and stuck his sword into one official's chest.
"Argh! What the - ?"
The rest of the man's outburst was choked with clogging blood clots as the Elites hoisted themselves out of the wagon, swinging their blades across the necks and torsos of the inspectors. As crimson sprayed Yaske's armor, he watched as Griffin pulled himself with exceeding effort from the vehicle, puffing as he disappeared into the cargo bay without any of the dying men seeming to notice.
Dodging a blaster bolt from an official, Yaske swooped in on the offending soldier, drawing and quartering him with his blade while the Zabrak Elite made up for his concussion by dismembering another inspector. The entrails of the corpses bubbled in the sun as the Elites followed the bulky silhouette of their coordinator, disappearing into the cargo entrance and letting the blood steam from the opened wounds they had left behind.
At the bottom of the stairs lay a single door leading into the basement, but Ronovi was not forgetting her vigilance. The whole time they had gone down the stairs, she still sensed someone following them - something noticeable in the Force. Dralin was acting worse than she was about it, but he focused on the sealed entrance and stared coldly at Ferris.
"You tattled to them," he said. "You get to do the honors of letting us in."
Ferris choked and looked ready to cry. Kragok smirked.
"Aw, look, he's having second thoughts. What should we do, Ronovi?"
"Oh, I wouldn't mind a bit of Vader syndrome," Ronovi replied, smirking. "That is, killing a youngling and breaking down the door myself."
"No!" Ferris squealed, and Ronovi smacked him smartly with the back of her hand to shut him up. In the boy's mind, she could sense that he knew he had little to no choice if he wished to even have a chance at survival. He faced the door, eyes red and bulging, and tapped on it.
"Password, maggot," emerged the voice of a Worran.
Ferris whispered, "Death to the Griks."
"Could've figured out that code myself," Ronovi muttered, extending her arm as the door slowly swung open.
With the flat of his boot, Dralin kicked Ferris into the space, sneering as the boy fell on his belly and received the shocked looks of several Worrans clustered in the room with cigars and blasters. In truth, they didn't look much different than the Griks - did all criminal families look the same, nondescript and insignificant, save the Rends? An older Worran, heavy and bearded, who had opened the door attempted to shut it, but Ronovi slammed her arm into the frame and sent the hinges flying from their hooks, leaving the door more like a piece of timber than anything else.
Again came the obligatory click of blasters. This time, Ronovi didn't take too long on the introduction.
"Hello, Worrans," Ronovi said. "We're here to give you the same honors as we gave the Griks. Let's begin the cutting, shall we?"
"Ferris!" another Worran shouted, and he must have been the group's boss. "You filthy little traitor!"
"Hey. Less talk, more bleeding," Kragok said, as he activated his saber.
"Wait." Dralin stepped forward, lifting the boss Worran up into the air with the Force just as he done with the Grik before. "First, I get answers."
Dralin's eyes blazed with anger and hatred as he faced the being he held suspended in the air. His dagger was instantly in his hand as he walked toward the struggling man, and he gripped it so tightly that his knuckles turned white. When he spoke, his words came in a low predatory growl. "Where is Harika Krecca?"
Before the Worran could answer, Dralin slammed him against the wall with a powerful force blast. The rest of the Worrans murmured worriedly, before being silence by a murderous look from Kragok. Dralin walked slowly toward the Boss, slowly pushing the man into the wall as he did so. "Where is Harika Krecca?" he asked again, his voice even lower now.
The Worran grimaced with pain, and barely managed to stammer, "We sold her to the Black Sun after stealing her from the Griks. It was a good price..." his voice trailed off has Dralin pressed harder.
Dralin looked down at his knife as if pondering the man's words. "Very well, thank you for the information," he muttered, then threw his dagger with expert speed. The sharp blade slammed into the Worrans eye socket, driving deep into the man's brain. Blood spurted from the wound as the Worran slipped down the wall, collapsing in a heap. Dralin's pale green lightsaber flashed to life in his hand as he rounded on the remaining Worrans. "Now you die."
Severon, from his vantage point outside the room, watched intently as the three Dark Jedi advanced on the Worrans, lightsabers blazing. As he bent his mind around it, he came up with a plan where he could inadvertently help the three, and possible end the battle and glean some information as to why they were there. He was still also trying to piece together exactly who they were. Species wise, it was an easy guess, two humanoids and a Kushiban. The Kushiban he immediately noted as Raimi, and one he could definitely recognize as Dralin. The Krath's plain robes gave him away. The third, however, was hard to discern. Definitely female, but rough.
Suddenly it dawned on Severon when the woman turned around. The cybernetic eye-patch gave her away as his Proconsul, Ronovi Tavisaen. That fact made the whole thing all the more interesting. Why was the Proconsul, of all people, here and confronting these gangs?
Lightsabers whirling, the three Dark Jedi advanced on the practically helpless Worrans. The gangsters drew their blasters in a hopeless, yet brave last stand. Ronovi charged first, her bronze blade striking with speed. The first Worran she met up with aimed his blaster, but just as she was about to cut through the gunman's wrist, the man's blaster jerked out of his hand, as if of it's own accord. Not pausing to reflect on the oddity, Ronovi's blade hurtled into the man's neck. The smell of burnt hair and scorched flesh filled her nostrils, as her lightsaber glided effortlessly through the man's neck tendons, muscle and bone. Ronovi had dispatched three more Worrans before the man's headless corpse even hit the ground.
Kragok whirled around in the group like a hurricane. His lightsaber flashed and danced as it decapitated, delimbed, and disemboweled his enemies. The little Kushiban seemed to be enjoying himself, for he counted as he killed, keeping a tally as if he were engaged in a friendly competition with his fellow Dark Jedi. he too, however, noticed that his enemies weapons flew from their hands moments before his attacks. While the gesture was helpful, he wondered why the Worrans would carelessly throw their weapons away in the heat of the battle.
Dralin fought with grim determination. No enjoyment or pleasure radiated from his movements, he simply killed. His green blade cut through his enemy's flesh with deadly accuracy and efficiency.
The battle was over in less than ten minutes. Ronovi, Kragok and Dralin lowered their blades and examined the carnage they had created. Ronovi smiled and Kragok laughed heartily. Dralin remained quiet and impassive.
Ronovi breathed deeply before her eyes slipped in the direction of the door. With the aura of death around her, a pulse of another life was palpable. She listened to Ferris sob, cradling the head of a Worran in his arms, as Raimi stared pitilessly at the boy.
"Face it, kid - your family had it coming."
It only made Ferris bawl louder, just as Ronovi suddenly headed for the door. The man in civilian clothing standing outside the room barely had time to respond as the gloved hand of the Epicanthix seized his collar and dragged him into the blood-stained vicinity. As Dralin turned to view the scene, the intruder's eyes bulged and his beard twitched on his face as Ronovi unceremoniously slammed him into the wall.
"How long have you been standing there?" Ronovi snarled, her face dangerously close to the man's nose.
"Please," the man sputtered, his face turning red. "Please, I can explain..."
"What business do you have spying on our assignment? Answer me! Now!"
"Ronovi!" The man choked. "Just listen to me!"
By this point, both of Ronovi's hands were clenched tightly around the collar of the man's jacket, and although her grip did not slacken, her furious expression did. As the Proconsul let the Force sift through her mind, she could suddenly recognize the perpetrator through his civilian garb. Her brows slowly lifted from their intensely furrowed stance, as she perused the face of who she now knew was a Tarenti.
"Vercingetorix?" she said incredulously. "What the Hell are you doing here?"
"Agent work," Severon spluttered. "You know, intel stuff. Mind putting me down?"
He was more dropped than put down as Ronovi released him, clambering from the floor as his gaze met with Dralin's. As Raimi finally cracked Ferris on the head with the hilt of his saber just to shut him up, Ronovi shook her head as if to clear a cloud of confusion hovering over her.
"I don't get it," she murmured. "How did you find us? Do you even know what we're doing?"
"Not a clue," Severon replied. "I didn't even know it was you until you started killing these guys. What's the deal with them?"
"Extermination. Governor's orders."
"Ah." Severon pursed his lips. "And I missed out."
Ronovi grinned, and she felt Dralin tap her on the shoulder. She turned to look at her friend who seemed ready to leave right away. And she knew why.
"I guess you're ready to take the next step on your mission," she said, as Dralin brushed past her.
"If Harika Krecca's being held by Black Sun," he replied, "then I have some traveling to do. Thanks for helping out, though. Makes the hunt a lot easier."
Ronovi smirked. "Thanks for playing the interrogator both times. Better than I could do."
As she moved to shake Dralin's hand and see him off, she was interrupted by the crackle of static. It appeared that a small radio transmission was playing from a rickety console in the end of the room, as if the room had served as the Worrans' emergency bunker. Ronovi couldn't help listening to what seemed to be an urgent transmission, and a strange one.
"Just in from the Eden government building...it appears that the cargo bay of the governor's office has been attacked and infiltrated by several warrior-like men. Police forces are being deployed to the building promptly. Citizens are advised to remain vigilant while traveling through District I..."
"Attack on the government building?" Ronovi repeated. "What the Hell?"
"Sounds like some ruffians causing trouble," Raimi muttered. "I bet it's not a big deal."
"Well, I think I'm going to investigate," said the Proconsul. "I'm not someone who lets a Tarentum ally deal with more nuisances." She started for the door and looked at the three standing behind her. "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's have some fun."
Severon grinned. "Hey, if it means some action, I'm in. I already missed out on some good fighting."
"And I'm working with you already," Raimi added. "Dralin? How about you?"
Ronovi eyed the assassin tauntingly, as he propped himself against the wall and sighed. "You're going to make me stall again?"
"Do you have any idea how much danger the person I'm looking for is in?" the Knight snapped. "She could already be dead, for all I know. You honestly think I'm going to waste any more time dealing with things that don't concern me?"
"What if I got you a YV freighter for your search if you help us take care of a possible coup?" Ronovi offered.
Dralin sneered. "You drive a hard bargain, Ronovi. Want me to humor you a little while longer?"
"I'd be a very happy little Dark Jedi," Ronovi remarked, grinning. "All right, men. Back to District I!"
Yaske led the pack of Elites as he pried open the door to the basement. The passageways in the lowest level buildings weren't guarded at all, though Yaske had taken out a few cameras with a jab of his force pike. As one of the human Elites guarded Griffin, the ex-governor stepped to the front of the group, beckoning them into the dark chambers of the basement.
"C'mon," he grunted. "There's a stairwell that leads into a conference room on the first floor. Hidden doorway. Like the bookshelf entrance you see in mystery novels, you get my drift?"
"Please don't expect us to read, man," the Bothan Elite grunted, as he shoved his way into the room.
The basement was nearly impossible to navigate through. Yaske had never seen so many strange artifacts, so many antiques. If the cargo bay had the goods, then the basement was the junkyard. He attempted to adjust his eyes to the dim lighting just as a door swung open and light flooded the vicinity.
"Yridian Police! Drop your weapons!"
"Oh, no you don't," Yaske growled, as he leapt over a cluster of furniture and swung his force pike at a blaster bolt. In an instant, the Elites were jumping about the space, shadows leaping around as the deployed officers surged into the room. The Epicanthix knew deep down, as he stuck his weapon into a police officer's back, that this would only be a short interruption until they reached that doorway and made their way up the concealed passage to their next target.
By the time the Dark Jedi made it to the Governor's office, the YDF had it surrounded, a police picket keeping the civilians back, like a bad crime drama on the Holonet. As Ronovi and the other approached, they were even intercepted by an officer.
"Keep back, people," he ordered, his firm voicing attempting to project a feeling of we have the situation under control. "This ain't a Twi'lek show, move along."
"Move along?" Ronovi smirked, one corner of her mouth tilting up toward her cybernetic eye patch. "I didn't even have to tell you that one, you said it yourself. You seem like a smart trooper. Maybe even smart enough to let us though." To emphasize what she was saying, she crossed her arms threateningly, her lightsaber showing easily as her coat shifted.
The officer's eyes widened, taking in the motley group, armed with lightsabers, as well as Ronovi's signature eye replacement.
"Of c-course," the trooper stammered, recognizing the brigadier general. "Right this way."
Two security agents stood outside Stanson Rend's office door, their backup being outside, helping hold the civilian picket. They never stood a chance.
Without warning, eight beings in matching durasteel armor melted from the shadows– a surprising feat, given the lack of subtlety usually evinced by those such as the Wookiee Elite. Each were armed with a phrik-alloy sword and a countenance of grim determination, with the exception of one: His face beheld a look of fury, two black holes in the place of his eyes, it seemed, attempting to draw in the world around him and crush it in the depths of his soul. The force pike on his back seemed to be an afterthought compared to the raw edge of murder that reverberated throughout his being. While the others had the look of capable fighting men, he had the look of a force of nature; Yaske Tavisaen had fulfilled his potential as a Dark Side marauder, a man who used his madness to dominate the battlefield. He would have been a powerful Tarenti, had fate not decided otherwise.
The Bothan Elite surged forward, his sword batting aside the security agent's baton and taking him in the chest. Yaske was the first to reach the other agent; the others merely stared as they watched his work unfold, like a well-choreographed fighting scene on the Holonet. The elder Tavisaen struck out with a boot-clad foot, catching the agent's knee with such force that he was spun up, his feet moving to the left while his body began to level out in the air. By the time he was completely horizontal in front of the enraged Epicanthix, Yaske's fist connected with his sternum, breaking through his armor and throwing him against the doors. The synthwood splintered, the doors buckling open as the hapless agent fell to the floor in front of Rend's desk.
"You sure know how to make an entrance, man." The Zabrak Elite clapped Yaske on the shoulder, but quickly removed it when the taller man glared at him.
"I certainly hope I'm not interrupting anything," a genteel voice cut in from the office.
Taking a deep breath, Eduardo Griffin stepped forward, his face already glowing with the satisfaction of seeing his careful planning finally coming to a head. "Rend, get out of my chair."
Folding his hands in front of him, Stanson Rend regarded Griffin as one might watch an ape who learned to emulate human speech: Amusement, with a hint of disbelief. "Your chair? I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your name isn't on it. In fact..." Rend turned to look at the side of the chair, where a thin metal plaque was affixed.
Griffin's eyes bulged at the pure cheek of the man who just had a security agent thrown through his doors. With a jerk of his hand, he drew a blaster pistol from his side pointing it at Rend to find that his successor was already pointing a hold-out blaster at him.
"Once again, Griffin, you are much too slow," the Governor of Eden said with a smirk.
Static crackled over Rend's comlink before coalescing into a clipped, professional voice. "Dark Jedi forces are entering the facility, governor, and are en route to your position."
Yaske saw his chance. "We'll head them off, Griffin. Just make sure you finish your business here." With a quick signal, he left the room, five other Elites following him out, leaving the Zabrak and Bothan Elites with Griffin and Rend.
The main spiral staircase leading up to the governor's office tempted Ronovi, goading her on to just race up them and take whoever was in there straight on. However, this was one rare time when Ronovi didn't immediately follow her gut. Her last two years of strategic knowledge in the I Corps had straightened her out in that regard, and she beckoned Dralin and Severon over. Raimi had taken the moment to perch on Severon's shoulder, overlooking the lobby of the building.
"Okay, guys," she said. "There's a big chance that the intruders have already taken the office. Meaning Rend could be in a whole lot of danger. Now, there's only four of us, so I don't know how many we can take on at once."
"We're Dark Jedi, Ronovi," said Severon. "I think we can manage."
"Whatever," muttered Ronovi. "Anyway, I believe the best way to manage this is take every stairwell but the main one. Get to Rend's floor from the sides and work around the perimeter."
"What about the YDF?" Dralin demanded. "Why aren't they going in there?"
"Simple. They're treating it like a hostage situation. Most likely they received a transmission demanding something in return for Rend, so they're being cautious to -"
The sudden sound of distant footsteps from above tore the rest of the sentence from Ronovi's mouth. Directing Severon and Dralin to separate, she leapt toward one of the closest hidden stairwells, Raimi clinging to her collarbone. She realized he was still there and looked at the Kushiban, mentally requesting that he jump off.
"You all split up," she said. "Sounds like the enemy's moving."
As her fellow Tarenti disappeared, Ronovi stood for some time by the panel, frozen. She had suddenly sensed a familiar presence she had not felt in a long time. As her hand pressed against the framework, she felt the veins in her palms pulse in synchronization with the source. In her mind, she saw a browned, battered face. Her organic eye widened.
"No...it can't be."
In a burst of movement, she slid the panel that hid the staircase and began the journey upward.
Rend's office was eerily quiet. While the two men had not lowered their weapons, they had begun to move about the space, Griffin flanked by the two remaining Elites and Rend propping himself against the far right wall. The grip on the hold-out blaster was growing damp from his own sweat, though he thanked the stars above that he only perspired profusely from his palms so that he would not be falsely seen as nervous.
"You know, Eduardo," the governor said, finally breaking the silence, "I'm surprised you actually made the trip back. I didn't know you had it in you."
Griffin said nothing at first. He was not ready to talk back to Rend, knowing it was all he wanted.
"I must say, though, you look quite different then when I last saw you," Rend continued. "Little excess weight, loss of hair...I think Coruscant life must not fit you very well."
"I've been adjusting to it," muttered Griffin.
"And your knee looks much better," Rend said. "Tell me, Eduardo, how many credits did it take to get the operation?"
Griffin stepped forward at that remark, and the Bothan and Zabrak immediately brandished their phrik swords. A soft laugh from the governor was what they received in response, as he shifted his weight onto his right leg and ran his hand over the barrel of his blaster.
"You have always been so sensitive, my dear man," he remarked with his token smile.
"And you've always been a dirty bastard," snarled the ex-governor. "Taking my job, removing me from my planet. Stealing what is rightfully mine. Not like it's anything new to you."
"Tough words, coming from a man who decided to play chicken with Tarentum," Rend replied.
"Don't push it, Stanson!" Griffin gestured toward the sealed office. "In a few minutes, your little heroes will be dealt with, and I will make the call to the Yridian people to have me elevated back to governor of Yridia IX. Eden will be mine again, just as it should be."
"Well, then," Rend said. "I guess we have lots of time to catch up while we wait for your men, don't we?"
The six Elites by now had separated, following different sounds and tracks throughout the government building. On a lower floor, Yaske had gone off alone, following footsteps all the way up to a room he had not seen before. The government building was full of surprises - hidden rooms, secret storage units, concealed stairways. It had it all. He kept listening for the sound of breathing as he pressed against what seemed to be an average wall in an ambassador's office and found himself in what appeared to be a large ballroom.
They hold galas here? Yaske thought with an amused grin. Then again, he wouldn't put it past the citizens of Eden. District I had always been the haven for people with bloated pockets and swollen heads. They probably would throw coins at the governor's feet to have a dance or fundraiser for something. As his boots echoed on the floor, he surveyed everything from the lone piano to the overly extravagant chandelier hanging from the arched ceiling.
Suddenly, he felt like he wasn't alone. The room was dim due to the lights being off, and he did not dare to turn anything on. He loosened the Force pike from his shoulder and leveled it in front of his face, holding it almost like a flashlight just past his nose. As his feet shuffled shoulder-width apart, Yaske found himself in a forward offensive stance, not moving forward or backward. His heart raged against the hollow cavern of his rib cage, battering against the bones as if they were bars.
The sudden shrill of sound next to Yaske made him sharply react, and he whipped the pike across his left arm blindly seeking the source. He smelled burning metal as one half of his weapon fell to the floor, smoldering steel on marble. As his eyes adjusted to the sudden light beside him, his pupils felt singed by bronze as the wielder seemed to back away slightly.
"I think we could use some light in here," a familiar voice rang from the dark periphery of Yaske's vision. "Don't you?"
As the switch by the nearest wall loudly moved upward and light showered the two warriors in the room, Yaske found himself staring into the scarred face and blue eyepatch of the very woman he had been searching for since his meeting with Eduardo Griffin. He felt his dry lips threaten to burst open from his sneer.
"I finally found you," he said, the hilt of his phrik sword chilling his hand as he pulled it from his belt.
Kragok ran on all-fours down an abandoned hallway, toward what he hoped was the governor's office. He wouldn't have done this in front of others, but he could certainly cover more ground this way, regardless of the animal jokes. The Kushiban sped along the corridor, but was suddenly stopped by a wall of hair as he rounded a corner at breakneck speed. The dazed dark Jedi fell back on his haunches as he looked up, and both he and the Wookiee Elite stared at each other in surprise. Seconds ticked by as one attempted to figure out what ran into his leg, and the other attempted to grasp the sheer size of the being he ran into. Suddenly, the Wookiee's face contorted into a visage of rage, and he let out a roar that would stun a lesser being. Kragok didn't speak Shyriiwook, but he could certainly guess the intention.
The Knight dodged to the side as the Wookiee stomped down, and the Force lent him a burst of speed as he whipped around behind his adversary and began climbing up the thick fur on the back of his leg. The Tarenti gripped the fur of the comparative colossus as it shook its leg, trying to dislodge the intruder. The Wookiee let out another roar, this time of frustration, as Kragok scurried his way up the Elite's back, drawing his lightsaber as he made progress. Try as he might, the Wookiee couldn't reach the Kushiban on his back; the arboreal creatures were never known to be that flexible. With a murderous glint in his eye, Kragok activated the lightsaber with the emitter pressed against the Wookiee's back, and the Elite's roaring stopped immediately as a crimson blade shot out of its chest. The diminutive Knight held on as he deactivated his blade, and the Wookiee dropped face-first to the floor.
Well, Kragoc thought to himself. That was easier than I had expected...
This is more difficult than I had expected, Dralin thought to himself. His chosen corridor was stacked with crates from a recent shipment, and he had ducked behind one of them after exchanging opening shots with two of the Elites, a Human and a Rodian. The Coruscanti gripped his blaster as he opened himself to the Force, letting it be his guide. A flicker of warning sent him out from cover at the same time as the Rodian, and he squeezed the trigger. The bug-eyed Elite gave out a yelp as the bolt struck his hand, and he dropped the blaster he had clutched. At the same time, the other Elite let loose a flurry of blaster bolts, and only Dralin's preternatural quickness saved him from being riddled with burnt holes.
The Knight ducked back behind his crate, and he heard a rasping noise. The Rodian probably went for his sword, Dralin thought to himself. Holstering his own blaster, he drew the iconic weapon of his kind; if anything were to put an end to this fight, his lightsaber was his best bet. Igniting the emerald blade, Dralin stepped out from behind the crate at the same time the Rodian stepped forward, and the Tarenti caught the incoming attack with his own weapon. Rather than shearing through the metal like Dralin had expected, the lightsaber spit and sparked.
It's either phrik or bes'kar...either way, this could be a problem, he thought to himself. Dralin spun his lightsaber through defensive stances, letting the Force guide him as he wove a wall of energy between himself and the Rodian. Flashes of light punctuated each block and parry, and either luck or skill drove the tip of the Elite's sword past Dralin's defenses, drawing a gash across his shoulder. The Knight let loose a growl, and dove into his anger and pain, letting it wash over him. With his free hand, he threw a punch at the Rodian's throat, putting all his strength- from the Force and his own muscles both- into it. There was a crunch of cartilage, and the green-skinned Elite went down as he futilely gasped for breath. When the Human Elite jumped out behind cover again and let loose a blaster bolt, Dralin's blade was already on an intercept course, deflecting the bolt back to its source. The Elite went down with a strangled cry as his throat burned away.
Ronovi could feel her chest tighten, the air in her lungs compressing into tiny bubbles threatening to burst from her throat. She watched the glistening phrik sword move back and forth in her vision as her older brother brandished it. What remained of his hair appeared to bristle in her saber's hue. The strange tattoos that bedecked his face and neck almost looked like they were coming alive, oozing from his skin and creeping down his black armor for the kill.
He certainly looked different. He was no longer the chubby boy who had played in the cockpit of his father's freighter, pretending to be one of the pilots from the great Imperial era. He was a leaner, tougher Yaske, like someone had stripped the fat from his body and left him as a baked slab of lean meat. And the challenge as a result made Ronovi smile.
In one swift step, she ripped the air in two with her blade, watching as the bronze recoiled from Yaske's sword. She inwardly cursed - phrik was a resistant metal, one that even the higher-ups of the Brotherhood would not allow their members to wield.
"I have to say, Yaske," Ronovi heard herself say, and she had expected such speeches in such a deliciously dramatic scenario, "I didn't expect you to return any time soon."
"I did," snarled Yaske, "for you."
Ronovi blinked, smiled, and tauntingly feigned skepticism. "Me? Me? How could I, such a sweet, innocent young woman, be attacked by my own darling brother?"
The reckless tone in her voice caused Yaske to lunge, the tip of the blade threatening to curve into Ronovi's stomach like a sickle yearning to slice grass. Ronovi easily parried, and Yaske stumbled before regaining his balance to the sound of his sister's laughter.
"Now, now, Yaske. When I ask you a question, you answer it."
"You're not the sister I once knew," wheezed Yaske. "You used to be rough, yes, formidable. But you knew when to keep your mouth shut."
"Things change," retorted Ronovi. "Back then, you think I would have had the guts to do away with that bitch that was our younger sister?"
Not even she had imagined such words would come out of her mouth. For months she had clawed away the residue of regret from her face, the still frames of her dead parents and Sarit's severed head dancing only a little while longer in her mind before the curtain was drawn. Now, at long last, it seemed that the disgusting warmth of remorse was leaving her, to be ended by another failed slash of Yaske's phrik sword, and another growl to emit from his lips.
"You feel nothing?" he demanded. "Nothing for her death? Not even the faintest shred of guilt?"
"I did," Ronovi heard herself replying. "I figured it was simply unproductive anxiety."
She didn't have to say anymore, for at that moment, Yaske roared, "And that is why I'm going to kill you!" before charging toward Ronovi.
It was then that she felt the faint Force sensitivity, the potential attempting to leak from the man's ears. It was too late for it to come into fruition. She lifted her saber like a hot iron and struck it against cold alloy, light flitting in and out as she bent and whirled and her brother threw his weight into the dense choreography. Ronovi bit down hard against the inside of her cheek, though not hard enough to draw blood. She kicked with her boot and struck Yaske's knee, her reactive strike only to be blocked by flailing metal. She dodged one sweep of the sword as her saber lashed out again, this time grazing Yaske's armor and leaving a noticeable gash within the durasteel that became fabric under the teeth of plasma.
Yaske's eyes blazed at the sight of his tunic being burned away, and part of his bare chest now gleamed from the armor's open wound. Ronovi grinned, remembered the sight, and lunged again.
"You ever read any poetry, Griffin?" Rend asked, twirling his hold-out blaster between his fingers before leveling it with the other man's face.
Griffin was growing impatient. His own weapon was becoming warm and wet with perspiration as he tightly grasped it, and he could see the weariness beginning to swell under his warriors' eyes. The uncomfortable conversations had ranged from Eden's future to politics to the value of gems - and it had all been initiated by the smooth bastard in front of him. He had not heard back from any of the other Elites, and he was beginning to wonder what was taking them so long.
He looked back at Rend and realized he was still cheekily awaiting an answer to his question. His teeth dug into his lower lip. "No," he replied, the word muffled against his tensed up jaw.
"Too bad," murmured Rend as if he were being contemplative. "There's a good one, by an anonymous poet. It was found in a crate on a battered freighter heading for Corellia. My old boss picked it up."
"Grisham Tankman." Rend pronounced the name in quiet nostalgia. "Good man. Vicious, though. But he had a soft spot. He read me that stack of nameless poetry they found, all compiled in a cheap datapad, and one poem stuck out to me. Would you like to hear it?"
"Do I look like I want to hear it?" growled Griffin.
"Well, if you say so, I'll recite it."
Bastard! the ex-governor's mind screamed, as the Bothan and Zabrak Elites exchanged incredulous glances behind their swords. Rend cleared his throat and began to recite from memory, his arms swaying as he began to traipse the floor as if in a reverie. But he never lowered his blaster.
"Once under a red moon," he began, "I thought I saw the cosmos light up with blue fire and cool the skies above until there was nothing left but ice. But truly what was happening was the chill of my heart, frost gathering on the major arteries, closing the valves against pity. And I, no fighter nor swordsman, could pick up blades and stick them in the throats of men who could not swallow metal. And I, no trooper nor marksman, could lift a rifle against my shoulder with the barrel seeing home in front of it, behind a pale-faced horizon. And I, no eloquent man, could say in perfect rhyme to the shivering target in front of me: 'I can shoot you in calm, I can shoot you in bliss. I can shoot you like this..."
The sound of a blaster bolt pierced Rend's words, and Griffin realized too late that the governor had quickly yet casually lobbed a shot at the Zabrak Elite's head. In slow motion, he saw the red flesh break open like a blister, burnt blood like pus bursting forward as two of the warrior's vestigial horns flew in different directions in broken chunks. He heard the roar of the Bothan as he charged forward, blade whistling through the air, as Rend continued the poem without breaking rhythm or slowing down.
"...or I can shoot you like this."
The Bothan appeared to swallow the red light like whiskey, eyes bulging as the bolt tore through the back of his neck and severed the veins so that they dangled like broken marionette strings. As he toppled forward onto his face, the floor seemed to shake beneath Griffin, as his own eyes threatened to pop like overly inflated balloons. The bodies of his bodyguards lay like open crevasses, their flesh earthy and eroded and leading to great deathly chasms below, as Rend smiled and twirled the blaster again. Smoke still hissed from its barrel.
"Unfortunately, that particular poem doesn't really have an ending," he continued, as if nothing had happened in the last thirty seconds or so. "But I think it's better that way, don't you?"
Then he pointed the blaster between Griffin's eyes, and Griffin sharply raised his weapon with both hands now, arms constricting yet still shuddering from the sudden cold he felt in the room. He heard Rend's usual laugh, meaning to calm the masses but indeed frosting Griffin in the same way that damn poet's heart apparently underwent.
"Four more shots in this hold-out blaster, Griffin," Rend said, his smile drifting within his beard. "I have all the time in the world."
Griffin then heard a scream from below. He was finally beginning to realize - though he didn't want to admit it - that he was losing this war.