Communication Breakdown Run-on
Make sure you read the discussion page
for information on the Run-On and the planned teams everyone will be assigned to.
The discussion topic can be found here: Discussion Thread
Kids, you know the rules. Play nice, play fair. No godmodding. Continuity is key. I'll post more in-depth rules on the discussion topic. :mejas:
“…Their flotilla is admirably-sized, and from what we’re hearing, they’ve already secured one of outward communication arrays on the Moon of Riquis. We need to act quickly before they begin to move through the system.”
“Thank you commander. That will be all.” The Aedile announced, already hurriedly walking from the room.
“Excellence.” The image of Commander Arsen, the communications commander of the Ereboros array, flickered out of existence from the holographic communication transponder.
The heavyset Aedile marched through the halls of the Citadel, his imposing physique acting to his advantage as he trundled through the commissioned and non-commissioned officers that comprised the majority of the increasing sea of people. This was a terrible revelation and one that could compromise the Arconan position if the House was not careful. Wuntila continued meandering through the decadent corridors of the citadel, his mind, however, was elsewhere. He stopped just short of his personal quarters and grabbed one of the passing officers by the shoulder, spinning him round on his heel to face the steely gaze of the Aedile.
“Get a communication link to Cethgus, Sashar and Marick patched through to my quarters. Alert our guest, Oberst of our news and request that he inform his Tarantae peers as to our position. I want a message sent out to Captain Krox Noctem, Wing Commander Jonathan deLuce and Officer Tyrron Okin telling them to prepare for the worst.”
“Right away, Sir.” The timid Lieutenant replied.
“Oh, and Lieutenant. Make sure the Saracen
is ready for launch at Giletta Spaceport.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Wuntila queried. The Arconan watched as the Lieutenant scurried off into the mayhem of the Citadel. An incomprehensible reply could be heard over the drone of voices as the officer disappeared into the sea of faces.
“What’s the problem, ad’ika
?” Sashar pronounced, seemingly disgruntled at having been disturbed. The Ex-Consul’s arms were crossed against his broad frame; he was flanked each side by the heavily muscled Cethgus Entar and the athletic poise of the Prelate, Marick Del’Abbot.
“We have trouble. An Independent resources company has entered Dajorran space. A distress beacon has been sounded from the Moon of Riquis’ communication array, suggesting that they’ve already started their advance. They have a heavy battle force. We need to construct a plan.” The Aedile spoke succinctly, calmly. It seemed as if his position within the Clan had elongated his fuse and mitigated his aggressive tendencies.
!” Sashar exclaimed to himself, “What’s the situation? Realistically, how much time have we got?”
“Realistically, around twenty four hours before they reach D’eraii, assuming they’ve only just landed on Riquis, if not less; a further twelve hours before they reach Ereboros.” The Aedile retorted.
“What sort of complement do they have, Wun?” Cethgus chimed in.
“The reports suggest they have a Belarus-class medium cruisers and a Bulk Freighter of an unknown model-type. If they’ve managed to take out the communications array at the edge of a system – obviously a well-guarded and strongly reinforced post – then they obviously have a number of contracted troops; whether they are mercenaries or not is yet to be seen.”
“It seems we are going to required the Darkest Night
,” Marick, who had until this point waited tentatively, announced.
“I think you’re right. Sashar, are Soulfire ready to deploy?” the Aedile questioned.
“Always.” A grin emerging from the thin parted lips of the Arconae.
Ceth, you’ll be with me – we’ll take back the communications array and use it as a forward operating base. Marick, you’ll be working with the Taranti when they arrive; you will be infiltrating the Belarus
-class medium cruiser as one task force. Sashar, you and your Soulfire boys will also be doing the same. Your missions are to disable the engines of the ship and take out any important mechanical targets, such as their hyperdrive generators. Oberst is already with us due to the Estle-Eden Axis amendments and he’s already offered to take a bomber squadron and disable the outer shields for ease of entry for both your teams. Marick, alert Talos to the situation and inform him that he, alongside Inarya, Kant and Etah will be meeting on board the Darkest Night
for briefing and you are all expected to be there. Sashar, I expect you to bring the Valour’s Fall
– You’re going to need a boarding craft. Is that clear?”
The Aedile rounded off to a chorus of affirmation. Within seconds the three sapphire-hued men had dissipated in a whirr of static.
The thickset Arconan spun on the ball of his foot and slipped into his combat gear. The heavily modified phase-II clone trooper armour clung to Wuntila’s muscular physique; his body appearing as if it had been sculpted inside the suit.
The Aedile walked through the decorated halls, now somewhat quieter than before toward the shuttleport, his destination – The Giletta Spaceport.
Tyrron Okin, the executive officer on board the Bothan Assault Cruiser paced unsettlingly across the bridge of this ship; his slender appearance silhouetted against the obsidian curtain of space punctuated by white stars made for an ominous sight. He was aware of the current situation, but only the minor details and, as far as he could tell, the longer they waited, the worse it would become. He stroked the dusting of stubble on his chin worriedly as he waited for the arrival of his Commanding Officer and Aedile of House Arcona, Wuntila Zratian Entar.
“Will you stop, vod
?” Sashar said from the doorway, his arms cross against his chest and one foot supporting his body against the adjacent wall. Malidir stood opposite him, stroking his tawny beard; a smirk buried underneath the mottled hair stretching across his chiselled jaw.
“I apologise, Sir. I take it your commando regiment has arrived along with yourselves?”
“You’d be correct in that assumption. Has anyone else emerged, yet?”
“Oberst has taken to the hangar already, as is Andrelious. I’ve already briefed the two, as they’ll be launching their attacks as soon as we come within range. The rest seem to be en-route.” The officer replied, staring into the onyx abyss through the viewport.
As if timed to perfection, Cethgus Entar strolled in, his ebony skin soaking up the brilliance of the room.
“What have I missed?” Cethgus questioned, his attention focused on Sashar with a toothy grin. Sashar replied with a sigh.
.” He announced to his counterpart, whose smirk materialised in a chuckle.
“No Teroch?” Cethgus asked.
“Never you mind, Ceth.” Sashar replied shortly.
“Commander, we have the Saracen
in our sights. The Aedile will be on board shortly.” The communications receiver cut in.
“Fashionably late to his own party. Admirable. It seems as if I’ve taught him well in the art of leadership,” Sashar replied, stepping from the doorway, “Come on, vode
, we’d best make our way to the briefing room.” Without as much as a glance over his shoulder, Sashar exited with Malidir and Cethgus following closely behind.
, Wuntila’s modified G9 Rigger Freighter, touched down on one of the landing platforms of the Darkest Night
. A plethora of maintenance staff rushed to secure the ship in position and begin with docking procedure; Wuntila simply jumped the small distance from the lip of the cargo bay to the deck, his cloak flowing in his wake, following his movement only split-seconds later.
“Felix,” the Arconan barked over his shoulder, “You and your men need to stay fast. We’ll be with you soon.”
“Sir.” The commando replied in his distinctive clone dialect.
Wuntila, followed by a cohort of officers from the cruiser made his way towards the briefing room, every minute seeing his nerves building.
When he arrived, Wuntila saw his counterparts, save the Tarenti who were due imminently and Oberst and Andrelious who were already readied with their squadrons in the hangar, lined in their appropriate seats within the room.
“They had to choose the time Zandro was away.” Wuntila muttered with a sigh, “Right Arconans. We’ve got a problem…”
“So…trap?” Malidir asked conversationally as the pair of Arcona’s best proceeded down the corridors of the Darkest Night towards the briefing room.
“Oh, definitely. One Belarus isn’t a threat to Arcona. Anyone who knows enough about the Dajorra system to land troops at the communications relay knows that we have a sizeable task force who’d eat a Beralus for breakfast. Make sure the squad have half again the gear. We’ll be laden, but means we’ll be able to handle more than one deployment if necessary.” Sashar replied, pulling a pack of smokes from a pocket, offering one to Mal and another to Ceth, both of whom accepted.
“Where’s Zandro, anyway?” The Zabrak asked, lighting up.
“He’s at a Dark Summit meeting on Antei. Should be back any day. Hey there, ad’ika.”
A youth in baggy black jogging pants, a wife-beater, and a nerf-hide fur-lined leather coat appeared before them, his shaggy mane of black hair crowning dark features and an ever-present sarcastic smile. “Hey, buir, we got a job?”
Sashar exchanged a look of bemusement with Mal as he ruffled his son’s hair. “Yeah. We’re going to the briefing now. After that, I’ll need you on the Valour’s Fall as analyst for the squad again.”
The four humanoids arrived moments later, and Cethgus pealed off to sit with the members of Sukhur’s Legion, whilst Malidir, Teroch and Sashar rejoined their infamous squad, sitting apart from the rest of the Arconans and military perssonel.
Wuntila arrived shortly after and took up position in the centre of the room. Conspicuously, the entire summit guard, minus the Guard Captain Bly followed him in and sat down, their visages cloned faces eerie replicas of Kieran Erinos’s.
“All right, settle down. We’ve lost contact with our communication outpost on Riquis and the D’eraii outpost has reported that a task force comprising a Belarus cruiser, the Cataclysm, a Bulk freighter, the KEC Five along with a fighter screen of approximately four squadrons of A-9 Vigilance interceptors are inbound and due to reach the moon in twenty-four hours. Due to the fighters’ presence, we have to assume that the Cataclysm, KEC Five, or both, have been modified to carry fighters. Or, there could be other ships in-system we haven’t detected yet. Our job will be to confront and incapacitate the capital ships, destroy the fighter screen, and re-take the communications array on Riquis, as well as protecting D’eraii. Our Assets are the Darkest Night and the Valour’s Fall, the latter of which will be used as forward reconnaissance – not combat. We will accomplish this with a combination of a bombing run from Dark Rain squadron and an Interceptor fighter screen to disable the shields and sensors of the Cataclysm and KEC Five, after which three infiltration teams will be launched using Soulfire’s Larties. Myself and Cethgus will be sneaking down to Riquis during the confusion to retake the outpost and deny them that asset. The boarding parties as I said will be three parties. The first will be led by Marick and will comprise two guests from Tarentum and two squads of the Summit Guard. The Second will be Soulfire strike team, obviously led by Sashar who will be accompanied by another two squads of the summit guard. Both teams are tasked with the same objectives: disable the engines and cause as many technical problems with the ship as possible without actually destroying it, and, if possible, avoiding detection. They are also required to pull a data-dump, damage its offensive capability and capture the commanding officer and interrogate him. The KEC Five incursion team will simply disable communications as soon as possible and take control of the ship as asset denial. Ah, here are our guests.”
Everyone turned to see Ronovi and Dralin, two prominent figures from Tarentum walk in and take seats near the back.
“As per the Estle-Eden Axis, House Tarentum have agreed to help us and lent their expertise in the form of Ronovi and Dralin, who’ll accompany Marick onto the Cataclysm, and Oberst, who is leading our bomber squadron. Make sure you thank them for their help.”
Sashar and Malidir exchanged a smirk at this, but Wuntila wrapped things up before they could comment. “Any questions?”
Naturally, Marick’s hand was in the air first. “Why aren’t we pounding the Cataclysm into the next universe with one of the Destroyers?”
Wuntila grinned. “I was expecting that. First, we want to know what the hell they’re doing in our space. Second, if we can capture it intact, we’d have a useful addition to our navy. Anyone else? No? Good. Get ready. The bombers leave in half an hour, and the strike teams are expected to be on their way shortly after that.”
As the teams started separating off, Sashar took his son to one side. “Okay, ad’ika. You’re going to be on the Valour’s Fall along with Celevon and Apophis, basically there to complete our mission if we fail. Plus, I don’t want you three there yet; you’re not combat rated. The Fall will be in stealth mode on the far side of D’eraii. Get moving.”
“Yessir. Have fun, buir.” Teroch winked as he headed out. He didn’t wish his father luck; both of them knew he didn’t need it.
“All right, Soulfire. Kit up. Let’s have half again the ordinance we’d usually take; we don’t reckon our job’ll be finished once we’ve got that crate secured, and make no mistakes, there’s a high chance of discovery.” Malidir called out, naturally falling once again into the role of the 2IC.
Sashar pulled out another cigarette, lit up and mulled over why one cruiser was being sent in-system. His only conclusion was that it was a feint.
Bomber Flight Deck
Oberst sat in the cockpit of DR-1, going over his pre-launch checklist. Communications chatter through the headset built into his flight helmet indicated that elements of Black Tide and Breach Squadrons had already launched. The advanced screen of fighters serving to draw out enemy fighters for his own primary assault on the Cataclysm.
Oberst eyed each member of Dark Rain, gathered near the port fuselage of DR-1 as he spoke, “Andrelious with Black Tide and Breach will launch to engage the enemy fighter screen. Once they have engaged the enemy, flight groups one and two of Dark Rain will launch. As we approach the fighter screen, keep shields double forward.” Oberst pointed a finger at each pilot for emphasis, “When we approach the one and one half klick mark, reset shields for full coverage and proceed to SLAM past the enemy fighters. You are not to engage the enemy fighters under any circumstance. Leave them for our fighters.”
Oberst gestured at the ordinance loaded on the hard points of the K-Wing next to him, “Each bomber is loaded with four mag pulse torpedoes, four proton torpedoes, two heavy rockets and eight concussion missiles.” He returned his gaze to the crews, “Bombardiers make your shots count. The mag pulse torpedoes go first. Once the cruisers weapons are disabled, begin an assault approach ventrally and across the cruiser. Your target is the primary coupling between the engines and the rest of the ship. This is what the rockets are for. One pair should be sufficient, but if I miss, DR-2 then three and so on are to take the shot. Gunners, knock out weapon emplacements. If those guns come back online while we make this approach things will get ugly fast.”
“Your first engagement?” Oberst glanced across the center console at his bombardier.
“My first combat engagement, Sir,” the younger officer replied. “Everything else has been patrols.”
The bridge flight officer’s voice came to life in Oberst’s ear, “Dark Rain you are cleared to launch.”
“Copy, flight command,” Oberst responded, “Do you have a name Ensign?”
The K-Wing’s engines whined as the bomber throttled up and over the noise Oberst’s voice carried, “Don’t miss, Ebery and we’ll be fine. If you miss, I’ll kill you.”
Andrelious J. Inahj squeezed the trigger on his TIE Interceptor's flight stick. Four green lasers slammed into an enemy A-9 Interceptor. The opposing ship spun away in a ball of flames, the fuselage seperating from the burning engines. The Sith grinned under his flight helmet. It was his fifth kill, the enemy A-9s already being reduced to thirty-nine in number.
Breach squadron had not yet lost anybody, though a young Twi'lek pilot called Stev'ros had come close after a collision with one of the destroyed Vigilances. Black Tide had not been so fortunate, however, and had lost two ships, both eliminated on the way in by concentrated fire from multiple enemies. Now the battle was in closer quarters, things were a little easier for the Arconan pilots. Inahj, normally a naval officer, was flying with the flight corps as there were no other elite pilots available.
"Two, three, four with me." the Battlelord ordered, reading his sensors quickly. Oberst and his K-Wings had launched. Half a dozen of the A-9s had noticed the K-Wings and had broken off from the dogfight to intercept the bombers. The pilots did as they were told; Inahj had selected his three wingmen before the battle from the pilots of both squadrons, choosing a trio of pilots that he considered to be the most skilled. It was now, as the battle heated up, that he was glad he had taken some time to choose the pilots, as Breach Three, piloted by a human female named Haiza Xiph eliminated one of the Vigilances just seconds after it broke off. The other A-9s realised they were being followed, and began to jink and weave, though this was no trouble for a pilot of Andrel's skill, especially coupled with his prowess as a Sith. Another two of the enemy fell in quick succession to the Battlelord's own craft, with a third falling to Breach Four, ably piloted by an ex-Imperial veteran, Larn Viock. At this point, a scream was heard over the radio - another TIE had been destroyed, and by the sounds of the scream Inahj suspected that the pilot hadn't made it. That was just too bad, he reasoned, remembering the Imperial conditioning that had taught him pilots were expendable. As long as Arcona won, as long as ANDREL won, it didn't matter who fell.
By now the K-Wings were in range of the remaining two 'breakaway' A-9s, but Oberst and his team were ready. A pair of concussion missiles blew one of the two attackers out of the sky, whilst the other, attempting to avoid a similar fate, flew straight in front of the sights of Breach Two, piloted by the Rodian Jeeto. "Back to the main group now, team!" Inahj commanded, yanking his flightstick and turning the TIE Interceptor around.
The modifications that the Arconan TIEs had been given were proving useful, as an A-9 managed to get a shot on Viock's ship as Andrel's elements re-entered the furball. A normal, unshielded Interceptor may well have been destroyed; as it was, Viock simply readjusted his shields, and nudged some laser power over to keep them capable of withstanding enemy fire. The shielding hadn't proven enough for some, however, as the Arconan losses rose to five, three for Black Tide and two for Breach. The numbers were a lot more even, however, with two dozen of the enemy A-9s having been dispatched.
Adding yet again to his kill tally, Andrel watched as more and more of the A-9s were destroyed, ableit with another four Arconan losses. The odds were now in Inahj's favour, with only seven A-9s left compared to fifteen TIE Interceptors. The fighter cover was more or less neutralised...
Ereboros Orbit, Approaching D’eraii
Tyrron Okin looked out of the bridge viewport with restrained angst, his bottom lip under the control of his upper teeth. The Executive Officer’s hands were in a white-knuckled clench as he stared out onto the battle waging before him. The brilliance of the cannon bolts that lit up the onyx void was mesmerising; hues of intense crimson, sapphire and emerald hung seemingly motionless in the emptiness of space. Powerless, he could only hope that his pilots were safe under the command of Andrelious J. Inahj. Before long, this hope had materialised into reality.
The TIE Interceptors seemed to dart around their adversaries; their mechanical advantage obviously holding weight against the simplistic designs of the A-9s. It was as if the Battlelord’s squadrons always had the upper hand, which of course, they did. Clouds of searing ochre framed by a lining of ash lingered as their successors burst through their remains. Bodies and contorted metal floated in the sea of ebon.
“Get me a communication link to Wuntila. If we’re lucky he’ll still be in the hangar bay.” Tyrron ordered, his second in command already scampering into the bowels of the bridge to find an uninterrupted communications channel.
By this point, Maxamillian Von-Oberst Tarantae had initiated his K-Wing bomber run. The two squadrons of six bombers apiece flew seamlessly through the debris and straight toward the Cataclysm. It seemed as if the Belarus-Class Medium Cruiser was under the influence of Arcona and the success of the Arconan forces only heightened moral on the Darkest Night. The space battle was almost won.
The droning chatter that pummelled Tyrron’s eardrums from his earpiece was a clear indication that losses were moderate, but this didn’t faze the experienced officer. His mind was set on one goal and one goal alone – capturing that vessel.
Ereboros Orbit, Approaching D’eraii
“Commander,” Tyrron began, “We’ve received official confirmation of the success of Breach and Black Tide Squadrons. You’re clear to fly.”
“Well done, Captain. Its nice to get some good news. Don’t get sloppy, though. Stay on your toes. This battle isn’t over yet. Myself and Cethgus are ready to depart.” Wuntila replied from the cockpit of the Saracen, already beginning the engine warm-up procedures.
The Aedile glanced over to Cethgus who gazed intently ahead, his stoical, stone-faced expression put the Templar on edge. Wuntila focused his attention back onto the launch procedure. After flicking a couple of switches, the G9 Rigger Freighter shed its coating of stationary docking paraphernalia and sprung up into a hover.
“Right. I’ve got a suggestion, Ceth. By slice why don’t you wipe that horrid expression off your face; you’ve got the look of a diseased Bantha.” Wuntila glanced over to Cethgus, who returned the steely gaze with his own.
“I’ve got an idea, Wun. Why don’t you shut up and fly the damn ship?” Cethgus announced, eye contact remaining unbroken.
With a wink, Wuntila pulled from the docking bay, throwing the two men and the squad of summit guard in the cargo bay back into their seats.
“As you wish.” Wun replied as he shot out into the darkness. The lower stabilising foil extended to create the offset crucifix shape synonymous with the ship; Wuntila wrenched the yoke to the side as the ship emerged from the hangar bay sending the humble freighter into a spin. Regaining control and throwing a sarcastic grin in his brother’s direction, Wuntila set his destination – the ship dashed towards the Moon of Riquis and the communications array on the surface.
“So what’s the plan?” Cethgus inquired as the Saracen approached the landing pad, “They’re obviously well armed. I can see at least eight in just the communications viewport.”
“I was unaware that we needed a plan. We’ve got Felix, Solid, Tinker and Delta in the back. They tend to cause carnage wherever they set foot.” Wuntila said, focusing on landing the ship.
“So, guns blazing?” Cethgus asked, confused.
“Seems pretty standard, don’t you think?” Wuntila replied with a smirk, “We’ve got konk rifles, we’ve got a squad of commandos and then there’s us two.”
“Whatever you say, brother.” Cethgus retorted.
The communications array was heavily guarded. A couple of platoons of soldiers – or mercenaries – at least were stationed on the array. It was obvious they were alerted to the presence of the two Arconans; the ignored landing permission requests and subsequent warnings were a sure indicator to the soldiers in the array as the ship proceeded to set down onto the landing pad.
The cargo bay doors lowered as the entrance on the other side of the walkway belched soldiers. Within seconds a fire fight had illuminated the darkness of the moon and the Arconans were pinned down, intermittently firing over boxes and from behind corners in the cargo bay of the ship.
“No plan, huh?!” Cethgus spat.
“Maybe its time to construct one?” Wuntila replied, sticking his head out to fire another barrage of concussion bolts into the ever-increasing numbers of adversaries, "But don't tell me you're not having fun."
Cethgus let out a sigh.
Sighing, he looked at the blasters going off and shook his head “You know Brother, I always preferred fighting up close and personal, this just doesn’t suit me”
“Don’t you think it’s time you started using a blaster, maybe you won’t come out scared from every fight” as the Aedile spoke, he heard shots hitting the crates.
“You know what, I have come up with a plan” Cethgus drew a smoke out from one of his pockets and light it up, taking a deep breath in “Yea, I’m putting my plan into action right now”
Wun glanced at him and shook his head “You’re just going to sit there and smoke, is that it?”
Grinning, the Zabrak watched as three wraiths began to appear from the Shadows. The first one swelling to its full height, averaging the same size as the Exarch himself. It was wearing a cloak from neck to feet; it showed the features of a normal human with spiked hair unusual for most force wraiths. It stood there waiting for the other two to form their shapes.
Looking at the second one forming, he noticed it beginning to grow taller than the first, its body misshapen. The legs resembled some form of demons, as the torso showed its muscular physique, at the same time the arms producing long talon-like fingers at the ends of them. Finally, the third was half the size of the first, yet the wings made up for that, its long talons taking shape as its beady eyes looked around. The three shadows stood in front of their master, finally ready to make his move the Exarch smiled at his brother. Taking another drag, he watched them moving with speed towards the guards.
“No this was my plan, hold this and be useful” passing his smoke over he charged with his wraths. His saber hissing into ignition as the blade deflected oncoming bolts. He grinned as the lust for blood came back into his body.
The first shooter had no chance of surviving the impact of the wraiths The Human showed its true colours as it simply ripped the man’s spinal column out from his back. The carnage that followed echoed screams around the walkway, as the saber sliced and hacked its way through opponents equally as well as the wraiths did.
As the last guard dropped, he turned and faced Wun, a grin emanating from his face as the lighting showed blood drops soaking the right side of his robes and face. Walking towards the group he meet them half way down the corridor, and took his smoke back off of Wun, taking another drag on it.
“Nice work, I couldn’t have done it without you brother” he grinned and turned to look at the damage he had created, his wraiths above the bodies waiting for their next order.
Moving on the two of them came to two different doors, both shut. They looked old, but to the Exarch this whole place was old and crippled. That didn’t matter, what did was thinking of a new plan at the current moment in time.
“Guess we’re going to have to split up eh?” Wuntila spoke first, cutting the silence quickly.
“It’s ok Wun, I know you’re scared but I won’t hold your hand all the time,” with a grin he looked at the men “fine, I’ll take Tinker, Delta.” The force wraiths were already waiting in front of the door as it opened up showing the communications array.
The Communications Array was a circular structure; concentric rings comprise the main construction of the building with the central, spherical command deck merging with the upper rings into one expansive, dual-levelled bridge. A myriad of different hallways meandered through the structure leading to an eclectic array of rooms and command modules. It was a daunting edifice only exaggerated by the imposing communications dish that revolved ominously over the architecture.
Cethgus let the wraiths continue to lead his way as the two teams split up, aiming to meet half way through the circle. They had to make sure his place was clear of all hostiles and do it quickly and efficiently. Wuntila also walked through his door moving quickly he looked around taking in the view.
The first rooms appeared to Wuntila and Cethgus, they moved quickly preparing themselves before opening the door. The teams moved in time with each other the door opened and the guards inside had no time to react at all. Wuntila’s cleared it out with Blaster fire in a second laying waste to anyone that was inside. While the Exarch merely sent in the wraiths which made short work of the helpless guards that were inside.
Moving down the corridors the rooms were slowly being cleared, it was taking time and sometimes they had some resistance but nothing that the two teams weren’t able to handle on their own. Cethgus and Wuntila were moving quickly and effectively living up to their ranks.
There were only a few rooms left when the teams were nearing their goal of meeting back up and cleansing the last room of these vermin. Cethgus left this room up to Tinker, he was doing a great job and the Exarch belived he could handle it. Things slowed down for a second as the Exarch watched, the door hissed open and shots flew out instantly. Moving, the Exarch shoved Tinker out of the way his blade blocking some of the shots.
“Damn it” Cethgus hissed as he noticed crimson cascading down his robes.
The Wraiths moved into position quickly, walking through the door with speed and precision, they wiped the room out; as the Exarch felt Tinker moving he looked over to the man before realising what had happened. Grabbing the guy before he fell, the Exarch watched as the human formed wraith wandered out like expected.
“Looks like he is injured, I’m counting two shot wounds, nothing fatal I hope” Cethgus spoke to the last man in the group, as the wraith picked him up and carried Tinker. Moving quickly to meet up with his Aedile, Cethgus met up at the last room, Wun instantly looked over at Tinker before glaring back at Cethgus.
“I thought you were going to look after my boys?” Wuntila’s voice had changed into the complaining tone he had mastered.
“He got shot, isn’t my fault he can’t dodge blasters is it?” at this point the door opened as the room showed a total of five guards inside. Wuntila moved first, his saber cutting into the first man as the Exarch followed suit.
“He was in your care Cethgus” Wun continued to slice through what was left of the men, leaving only two of them left.
“Look, just because he is crap at clearing a room it isn’t my fault, besides I don’t think he is dead yet?” Cethgus rammed his saber blade through the man’s throat, pulling the weapon up before watching him drop to the floor.
“Don’t give me that” Wuntila killed the last man leaving the two brothers looking at each other.
“Look, we cleared this place out, let’s just get on with what we have to do shall we Wunny?” Cethgus grinned and looked at Wuntila.
"The squadrons are down! We're clear to fly!" Ronovi called out enthusiastically.
As the LAAT/i she had boarded took off, the Epicanthix settled down with a simpering smile. Beside her, a quiet Dralin stood, while eight Clone commandos. Marick stood near the exit of the main cabin, remaining perfectly still despite the tense vibrations beneath his boots. Immediately several fighters flanked the group's ship, as well as another LAAT/i nearby, as the vessels navigated toward the Cataclysm.
"Looks like Sashar and our escorts are right on time," Marick murmured as he began to move up and down the suitable sized space. His eyes were settled on the overhead lights, waiting for them to turn red. That simple, sinister glow would be the one signal for the team to get ready for boarding, alerting them that they were close to their target.
Ronovi did not attempt to view the carnage through any portals, nor did she attempt to listen to the crackle of laser fire. Not like trying to do the latter was possible, anyway - any eruption of flame like a wild firecracker would be swallowed up in the vacuum of space and would not make a sound. Still, she could sense, without much effort, the rabid movement of the bomber squadrons as they encircled the sealed hangar bay.
"Shields down; Cataclysm neutralized. Stand by." The soft crackle of a pilot's voice over the intercom was all it took to garner everyone's attention before the room was flooded with a harsh crimson shade. As the commandos rose in a steady chorus and synchronized the clicking and shifting of their weapons and armor, Ronovi stole a small mouthful of whiskey from her flask.
Outside, Oberst, Andrelious, and their squads did the work. The cascade of laser fire from Oberst's K-wing squad lit up the space for only a few moments before the doors of the hangar bay were torn open, metal splitting off in sad fragments and drifting off into the cosmos. the Arconan TIE fighters serving as the transports' escorts cleared away the rest of the debris that hovered over the entrance, as Sashar's LAAT/i took the lead and cleared the path for the other squad.
"All clear, boys!" a voice rattled, and the floor of the LAAT/i seemed to breathe loudly as it drifted into the chambers of blackened steel and settled onto the floor.
When the lights above washed the room with a green hue, the exit doors opened loudly to display the first exhibit of massacre on the Cataclysm. Marick led the way, Ronovi and Dralin being flanked by the commandos, and stood over the scorched remains of a ship officer as he surveyed the area. Anything that had been alive now lay in ashes due to the explosion initiated by the bomber squadron, and there seemed to be no sign of retaliation - not yet, anyway.
Marick gestured everyone over to the nearest wall with a finger, pointing toward an entryway that was most likely sealed but could easily be breached. He did not seem to pay attention to Sashar's group, who had already begun their move toward them.
"Okay, men," he said, assuming control and smirking when Ronovi arched an eyebrow at the "men" comment. "What we have to do is simple. We take out the engines and neutralize the ship. If any of you have hacking abilities, great, we'll need them to access the data terminals. If anyone else is a good interrogator, even better, we have a commanding officer to talk to on the bridge."
"Sounds like a job for me," Dralin said.
"Good," Marick replied curtly. "Then we move. Stay quiet, don't get too reckless. I'm looking at you, Tarenti."
Ronovi rolled her eyes, remembering the flask at her side as the group split off from Sashar's after the two commanders of the groups exchanged subtle nods. Sashar remained in the hangar, while Marick and the others disappeared into a nearby corridor.
Sashar’s hand pointed at the eight Summit Guardsmen, and he gestured at the two Larties in the Hangar. His message was simple: stay and guard their method of exfiltration. They immediately took up defensive positions about the hangar.
The Force meld Soulfire erected hummed with energy. The Hangar had been miraculously absent any of the Cataclysm’s crew, presumably they had been re-tasked with emergency maintenance caused from the recent bombing run. Only emergency lights were on, and some were flickering in the dim, hazy corridors, however that wasn’t a problem for the veteran commando squad in their element.
“Five, take point. Let’s move at double time.” Sashar ordered to the medic, who instantly took point. His Miraluka heritage meant that atmospheric interference which would hamper even Soulfire’s visuals didn’t slow him; he viewed the world through the Force, not from refracted light.
As one, the squad set off at a jog. It didn’t take long to come across a maintenance crew trying to put out a fire emanating from one of the power relays which’d blown in the fight. Maaks’s fist shot up, halting the squad. Sashar moved up next to him as the rest of Soulfire stacked up along either side of the corridor walls, the front members crouching so as not to impede their squadmates’ lines of fire.
“Contact. Fifteen meters up ahead, around the bend to the right. Looks like four technicians. They don’t know we’re here.” He said quietly over the squad frequency.
“Copy that. Four, lob a stun grenade down the corridor on my order. Two, Three, follow it down and stun them. Let’s see how many of these di’kutse we can take alive. I’ll bet the DIA would be very interested to hear what they have to say.”
Malidir, Rho and Celahir nodded their understanding.
A small circular grenade was tossed down the corridor, the Force aiding its flight until it landed a few meters from the massed group, rolled amongst them, and detonated. A blinding light of over a million candela and two hundred decibels of concussive noise dropped all four of the technicians writhing to the floor. Rho and Celahir barrelled after it, letting their helmets automatically compensate for the noise and light, and unloaded a hail of stun bolts into the already-disorientated techs. They stopped moving after that.
“Good work. Keep moving. It’s a race, boys, and Marick and his tourists will not beat us to the Engine Room.”
Sashar was right. Two ambushes later and they were near the aft of the four-hundred meter long ship, separated into two groups. The Sergeant, Malidir and Xar Kahn were stacked up by the main entrance to Engineering, whilst Rho, Celahir and Maaks (three of the more slender members of the squad) had clambered through the vents and were positioned at various points, staring through gratings at the occupants below.
“Five, sound it out. What do we have?”
“Three wets by the main reactor. They’re trying to get it going again. Two more over by the main console, and a further three scattered about the gantries, all working. There’s also a few tinnies, but they’re mouse droids and WEDs; no threat.”
“Copy that. We’ll do a standard breach manoeuvre. Four, on Mark One, you blow the door. On Mark Two, Six and I throw in two stun grenades each. Mark Three and we all enter, including the vent boys and drop targets of opportunity. Stun only; I want some of these skidmarks to interrogate. Questions? No? Get ready……Mark One.”
The door blew apart from the directional charge and explosive tape Malidir had expertly placed on the entryway, spraying the room with burning hot shrapnel. Sashar had barely uttered “Mark Two.” Before Xar lobbed in his ‘nades, and the Adept wasn’t going to be left behind. His followed almost immediately afterwards. When he said “Mark Three”, The squad moved.
The vent covers blew and three armoured commandoes dropped from the ceiling, each landing in a crouch. Celahir liberally sprayed the three technicians nearest the reactor with stun bolts, given that he was closest, but didn’t bother with any other antagonists. Instead, he expertly targeted the cameras and droids, systematically blinding anyone else from seeing the interior of the Engine Room. Maaks and Rho started picking off the techs on the gantry, whilst Sashar charged in and tackled the nearest technician to the floor, punching him repeatedly in the face. Xar and Malidir shot over his head and stunned the remaining techs. Only five seconds had passed.
“Report!” Sashar shouted out, pressing his knee down on his captives’ throat as he rose.
His prized squad all reported clear and he could finally breathe. “Okay, Three. Plug in, disable their external communications, shut down the engines and reroute power from the weapons to the reactor. I want it running hot. Two, Five, grab the techs, truss them up and stick ‘em all behind the reactor. Four, get a remote detonated Thermal Det on the reactor, then wire the vent accesses for a surprise. Six, watch the corridor. Drop anyone who comes down there. I’ll be along in a minute.”
Soulfire sprang back to action, and Sashar turned his attention back to his feet, and the captive underfoot. He drew his sidearm, stuck it uncomfortably into the engineer’s eye, and spoke slow and low.
“The only reason you’re alive right now is because I don’t feel like carrying you. Co-operate and I might not kill you. Clear? Good. Was there an alert raised about any boarding parties?” He asked. The terrified technician merely shook his head, mute.
“Good. What’s the captain’s name?”
“C-Canton! Captain Jak Canton!”
“Excellent. You’re doing well. A few more and you can join your friends. Why are you in the Dajorra system?”
“W-we’re here to stake an aggressive claim on some mining facilities. That’s what the Captain always calls it when we invade small independent system territories like this.”
“How many troops are on board?”
“I don’t know! We had around six hundred and fifty, but I think some were dropped off. Might only be about five hundred on board now.”
The Adept looked over at Celahir, who was half listening, half hacking into the central computer of the Cataclysm. He didn’t like the sound of those numbers either.
“Good lad. Last one. What mining company do you work for?”
“Excellent. Two, relay that to the [iFall and dig up what you can on Jak Canton and Krikalla Extraction. Six, take him to the others and watch them. I’ll deal with the door.”
Xar jogged back over and grabbed the hostage roughly before dragging him back to the other semi-conscious technicians, then secured his hands quickly and with practiced ease. The Elder frowned and pulled the cover off the internal door controls, started yanking at wires, then grinned triumpanthly. In less than two minutes, the precautionary blast door had shut and been hard-wired closed. The only way to open it now would be to blast it open.
“I’ve got control of the ship, but they don’t realise it yet. They’re still putting out fires. Literally. No security alert has been posted for either us or Marick and the tourists, and the Hangar’s still quiet. Say the word and I can even lock out the bridge.” Celahir reported, his helmet off, and his sub-dermal cybernetic interface allowing him to run rings around their electronic security measures.
“Kandosii. Start an upload of their entire database to the Fall in case we all get killed.”
“Boss….we can hold this whole ship to ransom. We don’t even need to fight those troops. We just tell ‘em we’ll blow the reactor unless they do everything we say.” Rho pointed out, grinning behind his mask.
“Not yet. We’ll save that as a contingency for if Marick and co don’t manage to take the bridge. If they call our bluff, we’ll have given away our position and we’ll look like di’kutse. Let’s just hole up here and let Two do his work.”
The Nagai was peeved. That much was evident through the Force Meld, however it wasn’t a stretch to imagine Marick being even more peeved if he was rendered superfluous.
PCL 27 Bulk Freighter KEC Five
Ereboros Orbit, approaching D'eraii
Talos Omerta leaped from the idling LAAT/i, letting the Force carry him through the air in a graceful somersault. He landed just as gracefully, his lightsaber and WESTAR-35 blaster pistol held at the ready, prepared to carve and blast through the contingent of Krikalla Extraction security personnel that were sure to be waiting for him and his team of Dark Jedi, commandos, and Army infantry.
Only...there wasn't a single security officer anywhere in sight. Or a deck hand. Or a mechanic. Or anything living, other than the Arconans, for that matter. The entire hangar was deserted.
"I told you that I didn't sense anything, Omerta" growled Obelisk Prelate Etah d'Tana, emerging from the "larty" in a considerably less glamorous fashion. Following in his wake were the two other Dark Jedi of the task force, Krath Priestess Inarya and Jedi Hunter Kant Lavar, as well as the eight black-armored commandos of the Summit Guard and 16 standard infantrymen of the Army Corps.
"Yeah, well it helps to be prepared" Talos shot back, deactivating his lightsaber and returning it to his belt, though he made no similar motion with his pistol. But truth be told, the Firrerreo had known - or at least had had a strong inkling - that there were no hostiles waiting for the KEC Five strike team; both his own Force sense and the thermal detection mode that his prototype Spectre armor boasted had told him so. The reasoning behind his flashy entrance, childish as it was, had more to do with trying to impress the non-Force Sensitives and flexing his new abilities; since being promoted to Sith Warrior, this was Talos' first field assignment.
"It looked good, sir. I wish I could do that" piped up one of the infantrymen, a Corporal by the rank on his fatigues. It was a good thing that Talos' armor's visor was activated and hiding most of his face so that Etah, Kant, and Inarya couldn't see the stupid grin that spread across his face.
The Sith opened his mouth to reply, but Inarya beat him to the punch:
"Corporal, brownosing won't work here. Save that for your off-duty assignments. And Talos, let us focus on the mission, yes?" said Sukhur Legion's Tetrarch, shaking her head.
Behind the visor, Omerta's face turned crimson, similar to the color of his lightsaber's blade, but he quickly composed himself into the officer that he had been trained to be; cold, efficient, and focused.
"Right. This is rather disturbing, there not being any guards whatsoever waiting for us" Talos began, looking around at the three other Dark Jedi and Summit Guardsmen, who had formed a sort of circle around him. The infantry had been excluded from the impromptu war council. "I say we report into Sashar, and tell him what's going on"
Inarya nodded her agreement before adding: "I concur. As cliche as it may sound, I have a bad feeling about this. "
"What, you want to go running to your Erinos masters, Omerta? Most Equites think for themselves, you know" Etah said nastily, flashing the razor sharp teeth native to the Sakiyan race. Talos started to advance on the Prelate, but Inarya calmly stepped between the two, the Priestess glaring at both of them.
"Not in front of the men" she said quietly, her voice full of venom. Etah turned his glare on her, but then seemed to remember that Inarya was a Krath and, despite being one rank lower than his own, probably was mistress over powers of the mind that he could only dream of.
"I agree with Inarya and Talos; this isn't right, there not being any guards. I mean...isn't this Krikalla's exfiltration ship? And probably their secondary capital ship? One hell of a tactical blunder..." Kant added, quickly putting the conversation back on the right course. The former bounty hunter was no stranger to the demoralizing effects that infighting amongst leaders could have on the rank and file.
The fight seemed to drain out of the two Dark Jedi and Talos was the first to take a step back, followed shortly by Etah. There would be a stalemate, for now at least.
"The House deserves this at least" thought the Oblivion Agent, and with that he turned to the Summit Guardsmen, all of whom had watched the brief spat impassively.
"Heat" he barked, perhaps more aggressively than he had intended. At once, a commando detached himself from the group and approached the quartet of Dark Jedi.
"Sir?" the commando said crisply, removing his helmet, causing Omerta to recoil. He was looking into the face of Kieran Kodiak Erinos, former Soulfire Sergeant and famous Arconan who had left the then-Clan to assume duties as the patriarch of the Kodiak Mandalorian clan shortly after Talos had arrived in Arcona. The Warrior knew that the new Summit Guardsmen were clones but he had no idea of who...until now.
"Right..er..Kier--Heat, sorry. Get with the infantry platoon leader and divide the infantry into one squad of eight and one squad of six. Have the two remaining infantrymen stay with the larty. Have one of your commandos stay with them, just to be safe" the Sith ordered.
"Yes, sir!" Heat replied and began to turn back towards his other commandos and infantry, but was stopped by Inarya.
"The rest of the commandos are to do the following; one to reinforce the eight-man squad infantry squad and two to go with the six man squad. Then two a piece to the rest of us. I will take the squad of six infantry and one commando. Etah, will you take the larger squad?" the Tetrarch paused long enough for the d'Tana to nod his assent.
"And the remaining two will go with Warrior Omerta and Hunter Lavar respectively. With how they've been trained, they work better in two-man...cells" Inarya explained, subliminally referencing the fact that Talos Omerta and Kant Lavar were Agents of Oblivion Brigade, the black operations division of House Arcona. She figured that the Summit Guards knew about the Brigade, but she was positive that the rank and file infantry did not. And she planned to keep it that way.
Amongst the eight commandos, three had removed their helmets and Talos was surprised -- and secretly pleased -- to see that even these elite clones shifted uncomfortably at the mention of Oblivion Brigade.
Heat the commando looked at Inarya and when she just remained silent, the de-facto leader of the Guardsmen turned to the non-Force Sensitives.
"Right, listen up! Here's how this is going down. Barr, you're staying with Corporal Davidson and Private Imbol with the larty. The rest of us..."
Talos Omerta and the commando Heat cautiously made their way down one of the corridors of the midship level of the KEC Five. 30 minutes prior, the pair had split off from the other groups of the strike team and had been scouring the freighter's midship level since...and the only things they had seen were two mouse droids that Heat had dealt with, citing "mission integrity". Talos hadn't much cared; despite the break in the Sith stereotype, the Warrior was itching to kill something.
Talos and Heat came to a fork in the corridor, with a holo-display indicating that the bridge was to the right and a turbolift leading down towards the ship's massive storage hold to the left. The Oblivion Agent was about to head towards the bridge when the Force sent a prickle down his spine and a desire to go to the left instead.
"Umm...sir, the bridge is to the right. And isn't that where we should be going?" Heat asked, the commando's voice mechanical due to his helmet's voice filter.
The Firrerreo stopped and turned to look at his partner. He quickly deactivated his Spectre armor's visor and flashed a smile at the Kieran-clone.
"Normally yes. But that bad feeling that Priestess Inarya mentioned? Well I just picked it up and it's originating from somewhere to the left, not to the right. So we go to the left"
"And this bad feeling is probably leading us into danger?" Heat asked, quickly checking his weapons; his E-19b carbine blaster rifle was slung across his back and his SSK-7 heavy blaster pistol snug in its thigh holster. A vicious looking knife was also sheathed on the commando's utility belt.
"Most likely" was Talos' reply. The Sith had already begun to walk towards the lone turbo-lift.
"Typical..." muttered Heat, the commando drawing his E-19b and loading in a new power pak, despite only having used four shots. As the turbo-lift neared the two Arconans, excitement and adrenaline was beginning to course through his veins, something that was being mirrored in the Sith Warrior, though Heat wouldn't know it.
After all, he was the clone of a Mandalorian warrior. And working with a Dark Jedi....
Closing his eyes momentarily, Marick reached out through the force to get a better sense of the ship’s layout. While the images where fuzzy and not all that coherent, he could discern a computer terminal not too far ahead. If they could get to the terminal, he was sure they could hack in and pull up schematics of the ship.
Marick’s crystal blue eyes flicked opened as the Hapan turned his head to regard his squad. He had worked with Ronovi in the past and knew that while their methods tended to vary in approach, he trusted the Quaestor and respected her prowess despite her gender. He was not familiar with the other Tarenti, Dralin Fortea, but knew enough about him to respect his work as head of the YSC INTEL, which was similar to Marick’s Oblivion Brigade. He was more than a little interested in seeing the Courscanti in action.
As for the Commandos, he knew they where loyal to the summit, and had a feeling they knew better than to cross the leader of Arcona’s Black Ops. He did after all have info on each of their dossiers including family, friends, and assets. Still, he was sure he could find a use for them.
“You two, lock up here and secure our exit.” Marick ordered curtly, his voice even and steady.
“Copy.” The Commando’s acknowledged as they moved into position.
“The rest of you on me. Make sure to take out any security camera’s along the way.”
Clad in the Oblivion Spectre armor underneath his white robes, Marick was far from intimidating. Still, his posture and tone commanded respect and his team seemed to appreciate that. Tapping a node on the side of his head, an opaque black visor formed across the the Hapan’s brow, concealing down to just above his mouth. Unlike the rest of his group, he bore no sign of ranged weaponry save for the throwing knives lined along his belt. The only other visible weapon seemed to be the Prelates shoto saber, Raika, resting at his belt.
Up came Marick’s hand as he signaled the team to halt. Glancing around the corner, the Hapan could make out an engineer walking with two armed escorts towards the terminal.
Two armed, one civilian. Go. the Battleteam leaders voice sounded out in the Commando’s minds.
Without hesitation, the commando’s moved into position, a flurry of well aimed bullets taking out the two escorts while a third stun bolt took the engineer right in the chest.
“Clear.” The lead Commando stated.
The rest of the group rounded the corner and approached the terminal. Marick studied the controls and tapped a few buttons but then turned to his squad.
“Anyone here have hacking experience?”
“I do, sir. Tim Dudley at your service.” One of the Commando’s stepped up, moving towards the terminal.
“See if you can pull up a schematic of the ship.”
“Yes sir.” The Commando nodded as his fingers began to dance over the terminals keys. A few seconds later a positive beep sound echoed out. “Alright I’m in. Uploading schematics to your PDA.
“Excellent,” Marick replied as he tapped another button on his visor and saw a blueprint of the ships layout pop up in a two dimensional vector mode. After a few moments analyzing the map, the Prelate turned to his team and nodded his head.
“Alright. their is a barracks up ahead that will surely be packed with resistance. I want one of you to stay here and guard Dudley as he maintains radio with me. Tarenti, and you two stay with me, the rest, I want that barracks distracted then neutralized.”
“Affirmative,” two of the Commando’s, Kingley and Beason, replied as they moved about to their tasks. This left the three Dark Jedi with just two escorts. More than enough to take the bridge, the Hapan figured.
Marick waited for the telltale sound of a grenade detonating to make his move. With his small team in tow the three Dark Jedi and Commando duo navigated their way towards the bridge, neutralizing any resistance or surveillance that got in their way.
It wasn’t long before the doors to the bridge became visible. Two guards where all that stood in the squads way. That didn’t prove to be a problem as Ronovi stepped forward and with a subtle grunt reached and sent out a violent wave of force energy into the first guard’s body. The sound of bones breaking could be heard as his body contorted and collied with the durasteel walls of the ships interior hull. Before the second guard could react, Dralin burst into action, his lightsaber making one quick, elegant cut across the guards neckline. The dismembered head rolled towards Ronovi’s feet. The Quaestor grinned slightly as she called the head to her hand and motioned for them to make their entrance to the bridge.
Marick hesitated for a second, but nodded, and let Ronovi, Dralin, and the two Commando’s take the lead.
The bridge was wide, circular and a bit expansive for a typical ship, with terminals lining the walls manned by technicians. At the center was a captain chair as well as a robed figure.
“Somebody drop this?” Ronovi stated boldly as the squad stepped onto the bridge, flanked by Dralin and the Commandos all with weapons at the ready.
The Captain turned and offered a slight grin as he regarded his guests. “No, but I do believe you will want to drop your weapons.”
The sound of mechanical gears churning echoed throughout the chamber as at least a dozen Droidekas uncurled from their balls and activated their shields, accompanied by each of the technicians bearing blaster pistols.
“A brilliant display against our security messures, I must say. You neglected to account for someone...Force sensitive to be expecting your arrival.” The robed figure explained, lowering his hood to reveal the furry face of a Bothan. His robes where grey and he wore a curved saber hilt proudly at his belt.
Ronovi swore under her breath as she motioned subtly for her companions to stand down. Dralin looked around and surveyed the situation quietly, but noticed that Marick was not among them. With a lofted brow, the Courscanti noticed a slight shimmer in the air.
Marick had a bad feeling they were walking into a trap the second the doors to the bridge had opened. As such, he had activated the static dampening belt on his armor and shrouded his presence within the Force.
The Bothan grinned and took slow steps towards Ronovi. “And what a catch this is. Ronovi Tavisaen Tarentae, what an, honor it is to-”
He never got to finish his sentence as Marick extended the hidden blade in his guantlet that all members of Oblivion brigade bore the right to cary. The stiletto like tip plunged deep into the back of the Bothan’s throat, puncturing right through his open mouth. As he dropped lifelessly to his knees, the droids adjusted their aiming reticules at the now visible Hapan. Before they could register their first series of shots, though, Marick channeled the Force through his body and demonstrated while he had earned the nickname of Arcona’s “Black Flash.”
In what seemed to be all but a blur of light, Marick’s long black hair streaked behind him as he easily stepped behind the Captain and leveled his suddenly ignited shoto saber dangerously close to with his exposed throat.
“Stop stop don’t shoot!!” The Captain exclaimed. “Stand down!” The droids lowered their shields and curled back up into their balls. The Commando’s blinked a few times at each other and began to shoot the decommissioned droids with their rifles until all had been neutralized. The technicians lowered their weapons in surrender.
“All of you that do not wish to die, leave now.” Marick ordered firmly to the technicians.
“Commando’s, round up the technicians as they’re fleeing. You two, create a perimeter at the door to the bridge.”
Glancing over at Ronovi and Dralin, who both looked a bit confused, Marick offered a simple shrug.
Ronovi offered a slight grin and salutation to the Captain before kneeing him hard in the gut. The Captain doubled over and Marick disengaged his saber and relaxed his posture.
“So, Mr. Fortea, I heard you’re pretty adept with extracting information. Mind if I study your methods?” The Hapan inquired with his customary, slightly arrogant grin.
Dralin’s normally stoic and cold face offered the slightest of smiles. “I’d be honored, Mr. Del’Abbot.”
As Dralin withdrew a hold-out blaster from a strap on his left calf, Ronovi had turned to look at the body of the Bothan. Blood continued to bubble from his open mouth, his large teeth coated in broken enamel and plasma. The Epicanthix knelt down beside the body, prying the Force to get answers about the dead Force-sensitive lying before her. She got nothing.
"How did he know who I was?" she demanded to Marick, who looked down at her nonchalantly.
"I wouldn't know."
"Then a fat lot of good it did killing the bastard!" Ronovi snarled. "You'd think that some info on him would be helpful, especially when he's on this ship, wouldn't you?"
A sudden swell in the Force cut off her tirade, as the Coruscanti kneeling down beside the gurgling captain seemed to warn her to shut up without even saying a word. Ronovi let her back molars clamp down on the edges of her tongue, though she was tempted to let her fist continue the dialogue against Marick's cranium. Too bad he was an ally, and a useful fighter to boot.
The blaster glistening in his fist, Dralin used his other hand to seize the captain's wrist in a hard vice. The cold metal pressed viciously against the exposed flesh. "What's your name?"
The captain swallowed and nodded. His tough side had died along with his more powerful ally. "Jenci Garroth."
"Well, Captain Garroth, I'm afraid your ship has been officially seized by the forces of the Estle-Eden axis, so now I get to do the smart talk," Dralin murmured. "You are working for a specific resource company, I assume?"
"The Krikalia Extraction Company," Garroth stammered.
"Ah, good. Already answering questions." Dralin further emphasized his words with more pressure on the man's wrist. "So I assume you were just about ready to take D'erail. You seem to have gotten comfortable on the Moon of Riquis."
Garroth let out a weak, unenthusiastic laugh. "Yeah, until you got in the way."
"Well, then," Dralin said. "In that case, we should be able to make things easy. You know where we can find your commander?"
The captain froze then, and Ronovi rolled her eyes at the hesitancy after such a good start. She was just about ready to bloody the man's nose and get an answer herself, but she knew that Dralin was efficient. He'd have answers before she could move her arm, and he was already talking smoothly with an arched eyebrow.
"My, my...already quiet?"
"Look, man," Garroth whimpered, "if I tell you anything, I'm dead. The commander will kill me. He wanted this mission to go on seamlessly, we didn't expect such a massive response - "
His words were drowned out by his own scream as the smell of smoke and disintegrated bone attacked Ronovi's nostrils. Dralin had shot at the captain's hand point-blank, and what had been Garroth's middle finger now lay in different burned pieces on the floor of the bridge. The Tarenti did not delay in pushing the blaster against the next proximal finger, ignoring his victim's cries of pain.
"Now listen to me," Dralin hissed. "You may be scared of your commander, but you should be more terrified of me. Because I can and will blow away every finger on your hand with every time you refuse to answer a question. Now I'll ask again...where is your commander?"
The resulting silence was brief, but long enough for Dralin to blow away another of Garroth's digits. As the captain screamed, the words tumbled out of him like a bloody waterfall.
"The KEC Five! He's on the KEC Five! He knew it would be bad form to be on the Cataclysm should something like this happen. He means to...he means to stay hidden from you!"
"And what's his name?" Dralin growled. "And don't you dare hesitate, or you lose your whole hand."
"Jak..." Garroth swallowed amidst the burning sensation in the stumps that were his fingers. "Jak Canton."
Ronovi heard Dralin breathe, then stand up as a coy smile appeared momentarily on his face before fading away. "Thank you, Captain Garroth. Your information is appreciated."
"Wait a minute," Ronovi snapped, stepping forward. "Who was your friend, captain? The Bothan?"
Garroth, still whimpering, turned his head to look at the dead robed beast before him. "Him? He didn't say himself. Canton took an interest in him...said he had information regarding the system. Said we could deal with you...oh, man, why did I believe him? Why did I follow along?"
Ronovi sighed bemusedly as the captain wept, though the sobbing was violently ended by a single shot from Dralin. The bolt from the hold-out blaster zipped into Garroth's left eye, burning away the color from the white and leaving a small, black hole directly through the skull. As Dralin placed the weapon back on his side, he turned to look at Marick.
"We better get back into contact with Sashar and the others," he said. "Then we can secure the bridge and take over the ship."
Moon of Riquis
Quietness lingered the room as Wuntila operated one of the numerous control access terminal; the tapping of his fingers against the thin sheet of glass seemed to grow exponentially louder with each passing moment. Only the dull drone of the power generators and computer servers in the basement cut the tension. The reformatted communications systems on the array were pointed beyond where the attack forces were presumed to have entered the system; an obvious attempt to redirect all Arconan transmission further afar. The Templar downloaded all of the relevant information from the terminal onto a datadisk ready for analysis; however, The Aedile knew that, if any explosives were aboard the Cataclysm or the KEC Five, a wrong move with the foreign coding of the operating system could end in catastrophe. It was a risky move, but necessary.
Seconds transcended into hours as he tapped the ‘INITIALISE’ button on the mainframe network.
As quickly as he had initiated the sequence, darkness had consumed them.
“Oh dear slice tell me that’s good,” a distinct voice rang over the eerie silence of the room.
“Well, It’s good in the sense that they’re no longer receiving communications transmissions, Ceth,” Wuntila retorted, “But, to coin an old phrase, we’re stang out of luck on the power front.”
“Fantastic,” Cethgus said; his voice oozed sarcasm, “So what’s the plan?”
“I need to get in contact with the other contingent forces. Luckily my communicator is still working. What’s the status on the rest of the base? Have Felix and Solid reported back yet?”
“Nahh,” Cethgus replied only half attentively. He picked a cigarette from the pack and lit it before continuing, “Its probable they are still scouring the bowels of this dump.” His lips disappeared behind a sheath of smoke as he exhaled.
“Right. Cethgus, Delta; you two are going to have to go down into the server rooms and see what the holdup is. I’ll try and work out the wiring of this archaic terminal.”
Wuntila adjusted the frequency on his communication receiver to that of the other squad leaders.
Belarus-Class Medium Cruiser: Cataclysm
A voice crackled into Sashar’s ear as he watched over his team, a proud father over his accomplished children. It didn’t stop him from maintaining his blunt persona, however.
“Sashar, what the status on the infiltration. How are we doing?” Wuntila’s voice, barely audible and laced with static, rang through the earpiece of the Adept’s headset.
“Engine rooms is ours. Cel has control of the ship. We’ve secured all of the major systems on the vessel: the weapons systems have been redirected to the Reactor and we’ve compromised their external communications systems. A mining company, Krikella Extraction, is supposedly behind this ordeal. Personally, I’m dubious.”
“All right,” Wuntila replied, “Have you heard from Marick, Ronovi and Dralin?”
“No sign,” Sashar continued, frustrated with the incessant chatter, “We’ve done our part, we'll sit tight until we hear anything.”
“Very well, I’ll attempt to get in contact with them shortly. I’ve tried getting through to Talos and Inarya’s team, but to no avail; perhaps there is some electrical interference in the system. Either that or the KEC Five has been decked with jammers. I’ll update you if we hear any different; I expect you to do the same.” Sashar grunted as the voice faded from his ear.
“We’ve got our orders. Sit tight,” The Adept enunciated to his squad, “All we have to do now is wait for the ad’ike to finish mopping up.”
Moon of Riquis
Cethgus and Delta surveyed the room hidden under a sheath of darkness, save for the crimson hues of the servers, running on the emergency power reserves. Scarlet permeated the obsidian and helped to guide the two combatants through the peculiar quiescence.
“Somethings not right here, Sir.”
“Keep your eyes peeled, Delta. Wun should have this outlandish dump back in our hands soon.” Cethgus said, his eyes surveying what he could in the server room. The rhythmic tapping of their polymer boots as they walked across the cold steel floor only added to the tension. The two men could feel something, someone, but they were unsure as to the nature of their intent. More so because, in the initial strike and subsequent acquisition of the array, the Arconans failed to sweep the subsurface decks.
“Cethgus, any sign of them?” A voice crackled though the communication device lodged in Cethgus’ ear.
“No. But it really doesn’t help that you’ve shut the power off. Nice work, ‘Mr. Mechanic’. What’s the status on the other teams?”
“Soulfire are in position. No reply from Talos and Inarya. As for Marick, it seems as if he’s fighting his way through to the bridge of the Cataclysm.” Wuntila replied, ignoring the blatant undertones of cynicism that emanated from Cethgus’ increasing frustration. “In the name of Antei why isn’t Celahir with us? He’d be able to slice this circuit in seconds.” The Aedile pronounced to himself.
The typical cone of luminosity that tended to emanate from the helmet torches of the Summit Guard bobbed forward as Cethgus continued his conversation with the Templar.
“Delta’s now off to check the smaller rooms. I’m going to try and extract what I can from the servers. The likelihood is that, with your pithy little terminal, half the data is still in the system.”
“I think it’s a bit late for that, Ceth,” Wuntila struggled as he pulled his head out of the cramped service hatch of the terminal, sweat beading down his forehead. “I’m now initialising the power-up sequence. Stay with Delta, we don’t know what’s going to be lurking down there. I’ll be down soon… oh and one other thing – open your eyes you Son-of-a-Mynock, two of our men are down there. Make sure you find them.”
As the sentence trailed off in Cethgus’ ear, his attention lapsing as he zoned out of the Aedile’s whinging, he and Delta were sheathed in brightness. The lights of the array sprang back into life and illuminated the server room. The two men stood, speechless as they stared at the server stacks. Horror consumed their faces.
“Ceth, we’ve got a slight problem. A countdown has initialised on the terminal.”
“We know what for…” Ceth replied, already turning to find the nearest service hatch for a quick escape, “Wun, get out of there. The server room is rigged to blow. It’ll take the whole array with it.”
“I’m on my way. I’m patching through the schematics for the array to your personal transponder. Take the North-East service hatches. I’ll get the Saracen and meet you at the service deck. Get your arse into gear!”
Cethgus failed to reply. His attention was fixed on the plans he’d received. “Delta, check the surrounding rooms. The power shortage would’ve also restricted power from the electronic door-locks. Do a quick sweep. I’m not fond of leaving Felix and Solid here.”
“Sir?” Delta stood before Cethgus confused.
“That’s an order. Get yourself moving. I need to make sure the pansy little Templar doesn’t break a heel on his way out of this dump.”
Delta scurried off as Cethgus turned, his eyes locked on the countdown timer that bleeped all too frequently. Shaking off his momentary lapse of concentration, the Exarch set to work on clearing what seemed to be the only obstructed route, and annoyingly the one Wuntila chose.
“Status?!” Cethgus barked into his headset with no specific direction.
“Boosting up the thrusters of the Saracen as we speak.” Wun replied.
“Sir. I’ve found them. They were locked in the server’s ventilation room – trapped when the power was cut. We’re on our way back now.” The guard was obviously out of breath.
Sweat cascaded from the forehead of the Exarch as he resorted to brute force strength to clear the path. Crates of service goods erupted forwards, the Exarch following in quick pursuit.
“Hurry yourselves!” Cethgus bawled, noticing the three guards sprinting behind him, but before he could continue, they were framed by a cloud of vermillion.
“Oh, Slice.” Wuntila, in the cockpit of the Saracen, watched as the substantial communications dish on the top of the array was thrown like a stone before him. It plummeted to the floor only a few metres from where the Templar was steadying the ship. The vessel rocked violently, disturbed by the sheer magnitude of the dish and the explosion. “Move your fat arses. I’m sick of having to drag you out of fodder!”
“Go!” Cethgus bellowed as he, flanked by Delta, Felix and Solid leapt through the air and onto the open cargo platform of the ship.
The vessel clunked into action and shot from the scene. Behind it, the array, which only seconds ago harboured Cethgus, Delta, Solid and Felix, erupted, engulfed by the ground in an silver-lined inferno.
“Nice work there, champ.” Cethgus eyed Wuntila.
“Look. I didn’t know it was rigged. Regardless, at least we know what’s happening.”
“Oh?” Cethgus grunted, unsure of what was to follow.
“They’re uploading all of the data from our servers; everything that could be considered vital, important or necessary in terms of Arconan communication is now in the hands of those ingrates. Its almost inevitable that they’ve taken all of the arrays in the outlying Dajorran systems. Obviously the Riquis array team were given a slightly more advanced warning of their attack. Either way, they’re taking our info, then blowing up the evidence. It’s a simple but effective tactic, and one that will entirely compromise Arconan communication systems.” The Aedile explained, still deducing for himself the scale of the catastrophe.
“A communication breakdown….” Cethgus said, his mind running circles around itself.
“Exactly. We’re going to have to get in contact with the others from the Bridge of the Darkest Night before everything else falls. Setting coordinates now.”
“Sir,” A slender figure appeared on the holographic communicator.
“Talos. How nice of you to join us.”
The meeting on Antei had been relatively enlightening for the Battlelord, but it had taken it's toll on his patience and Zandro was looking forward to getting back to the Citadel and affording himself a few precious minutes of peace and quiet before delving right back into Arcona business.
Upon reversion to realspace, however, it seemed that the peace and quiet he so desperately wanted would be difficult to locate.
“What the hell is going on?”
The scans had lit up in strange and decidedly unwelcome ways and a feeling of unease was already beginning to descend on the Quaestor. His co-pilot and bodyguard Bly went to work in his customary efficient manner, his hands almost a blur as they tapped and prodded across the ships controls.
“Not sure, but initial scans show a fair few 'unknowns' in the system, and several parts of the fleet not where we left them. Plan?”
Zandro swore under his breath but knew that his first priority was to get back to the Citadel as quickly as possible so that he could work out what was going on.
“Grab as much as you can from the sensors in the next ten seconds, then activate the cloak. We need to get back to the Citadel and work out what's going on here and I don't want anyone to know we're incoming, hence the cloak.”
Bly complied without a word, already pulling as much information as he could from the sensors before activating the cloaking device that had made the TIE Phantom such an expensive acquisition.
“Right, take us in and give me the data. I'll go over it and we'll swap over once we get closer to Selen and I'll use the Force to guide us in so we can stay cloaked. Let's see if we can't work out what the hell is going on out there in the meantime.”
Just great, exactly what I needed after that little meeting back on Antei.
Biting back a string of curses, the Erinos instead set to work analysing the data that had been pulled, trying to see if he could piece together what had happened in his absense.
“We need to finish up, and fast. Xar, pick three of the most senior hostages and get ‘em ready for transit. Ghost the rest. Cel, finish up what you’re doing and bring up some ol comm encryptions. These di’kutse have thieved all of our comm data. We’ll need some new ones.”
“Ner’vod, it’s worse than that. If they have our comm encrypt data, it’ll be child’s play to slice into our defence network, shut down long range communications, or even our defence network itself. We’d be wide open to attack.”
Sashar’s gut went cold. He’d been right; it was a prelude, which meant that, job done, the Cataclysm was now completely expendable. They had to get off it before somebody decided that it’d serve more purpose as an impromptu tomb for several powerful Dark Jedi than as a disabled cruiser.
“It’s worse, Sashar. I was skimming through the operation records and saw that the KEC Five’s cargo manifest is listed as ‘confidential’, so I turned the sensors on that crate. Vod, it’s full of explosives. That thing is literally a ramship and could easily take down the Darkest Night if it got in range or hit it.”
Sashar swore. Repeatedly. “Pass that on to Teroch. We need to get our lads off that barge. Now. Are the charges ready? Good. Let’s haul ass.”
“Sarge to Black Flash, you busy?” Sashar said as they ran from the engine room, Maaks taking point once more.
“I read you. They were waiting for us on the bridge. A foxtrot and a load of old-assed droids. The Captain and the Foxtrot are dead. Our Princess is in another castle.”
Sashar swore again. The code-phrase ‘Our Princess is in another castle’ meant the operational chief wasn’t on board.
“Do you know where he is?”
“The KEC Five.”
“What? That makes no sense. The KEC Five has been filled with explosives. It’s essentially a kamikaze vessel.”
“How did you kno-“
“Yeah. Why would the commander station himself on board something he’s intending to blow up when the far more defensible option isn’t rigged to go boom. Well, not by them, anyway.”
“You’ve rigged it to blow?!”
Sashar grinned despite himself. “Ner’vod, it’s me. I rig every ship I land on to blow. K'atini. Anyway, focus. Why would you stash yourself on the bomb ship?”
“Because being on a ship full of bombs is safer than being on a medium cruiser…which means this garbage scow has something worse on it.” Marick confirmed Sashar’s own suspicions.
“My thoughts exactly-“
“You have thoughts? I just thought you moved because of random synaptic pulses that spasmed your limbs into a simulacrum of sentience.”
“One of these days, ner’vod, your mouth’s going to get you in trouble.”
“That’s what your mom-“
“Shut up and get your shebs down to the hangar bay. Whatever it is that’s on this thing, I don’t want to find out. We’re leaving.”
“Roger that. Shouldn’t someone tell the KEC Five team that they’re on a time bomb?”
“I’ll get Teroch to.” The Elder replied.
“Okay. First one to the hangar gets the suicide mission Wun’s bound to be handing out.”
“You’re on, ner’vod.”
As it happened, Soulfire and its trio of hostages reached the Hangar around the same time as Marick and the Tarenti.
“Fancy seeing you here.” Sashar commented mildly as the infiltration teams began loading back onto the transports.
“Can we save the witty banter for when we’re back to the Night?” He replied tersely, calling the Sergeant of the Commandoes over.
“We’ve not seen any activity since you left us, sir. It’s been quiet as a grave.”
“I do not like that.” Marick murmured, glancing instinctively over his shoulder.
“Yeah. Double time, people!” Sashar shouted. Moments later they were all on board and taking off, back into the relative safety.
Malidir sat down heavily next to the BTL and nudged him. “So we walked into the teeth of a trap, but it never sprang. What’s that about?”
“No shabla idea. My only thought is that our elusive mission commander knew that if a commando raid were to occur, we’d send our strongest teams to the highest value target. Maybe he fancied his chances better against the rookies?”
“When you’re having to reach for answers like that, you’re nearly always wrong.” Malidir quoted.
Wuntila arrived back on the Darkest Night shortly before the infiltration teams. He was immediately met by the Captain of the Arcona Navy Corps, Krox Noctem.
“Sir, The Quaestor demands an update on the situation.”
Wuntila swallowed and nodded. “Thank you, Captain . I’ll take it in the pilot’s briefing room.” He left Cethgus and stepped into a briefing room at the edge of the Hangar. A simple gesture dismissed the idle pilots who were waiting for deployment. He knelt before the holonet transceiver, and Zandro’s image shimmered into view.
“Wun, what did I say before I left?”
This is not going to be pretty. The Aedile cleared his throat. “Uhh, you said not to burn down the house while you were away.”
“Why are long range communications down, two ships adrift, and two thirds of our more experienced members out on deployment?”
Wuntila winced. “We were attacked by the ships, which are now both disabled. The members deployed should be back soon, and we have a plan to get our communications back imminently.”
“Oh, good, there’s a plan!” Zandro replied, his voice heavily laden with sarcasm. “With long range communication down, our sensor satellites are down, meaning we have no early warnings of attacks apart from planetary based installations, which are next to useless at seeing anything half the system out. Worse, we can’t engage our defence protocols such as raising the shields around Estle, Torbai, Savric…anywhere, or co-ordinate the flotilla properly. Added to that the electronic defences probably being down as well, we’ll be broadcasting in the clear and be ripe for some opportunistic di’kut of a slicer to hack in and start playing havoc with us. We’re blind, deaf and dumb and you have a plan? Pray tell, what is this plan?”
Wuntila almost felt physically pushed back from the tirade. “We have a backup communications installation atop mount Estle. If we can get Celahir there to re-activate it and install a new set of encryptions, then we’ll be back in business.”
“And where is Celahir now?”
“On his way back with Sashar and the rest of Soulfire. He should be landing shortly.”
“Good. As soon as you’ve got him on board, get the Darkest Night back to Selen and get him down to the surface. Send the |Shadow from Gethsemane to replace you and act as a forward base of operations.”
“Of course, Lord Quaestor.”
“Contact me when you arrive.”
Zandro didn’t wait for Wuntila to respond in the affirmative, he simply disconnected the link.
“Heh, he sounded an-gree!” Cethgus replied from the doorway.
Wuntila responded by picking up a flight helmet and lobbing it at the Zabrak.
As soon as the Larty touched down, Soulfire and the Summit guard hopped out, all virtually unscathed from the operation. Sashar saw Wuntila making a bee-line towards the group and grimaced.
“Shab. Mal, stall him. I need to make a call or two.”
“Something wrong?” The Prelate asked, hefting his heavily modified ‘repeater.’
“I just feel like we need to have more numbers for this.”
“You’re calling them back?” He asked, his eyebrows raising fractionally.
Sashar nodded, patted his 2IC on the shoulder and swiftly walked away from the group.
Wuntila arrived a moment later, glaring after the elder. “I need to debrief you all. Where’s he going?”
“Needed the ‘fresher. When you gotta go, you gotta go…” Malidir trailed off, his voice carefully neutral.
“Fine. C’mon, briefing room.”
Wuntila marched back towards the pilot’s briefing room and Mal sauntered after him, gesturing for Soulfire to follow.
As soon as Sashar found a vacant maintenance store room, he pulled out a specially-modified comlink. It was practically a holonet transceiver on its own, and probably one of the view devices left in the system capable of carrying a signal over interplanetary distances.
He dialled in a frequency and waited for a response. It wasn’t a long wait. “Hey buir, how goes?”
Teroch’s voice was youthful, cheery, and it instantly lifted his father’s mood. “I’m good. We’re all safe. I need you to do a couple of favours for your old man.”
“Okay, first, say to Captain Yamato ‘Override directive AT3. Get to Primus with all due haste and prepare to receive cargo.’ Then, when you’re in orbit of Primus, send a tight-beam transmission to the Venku range. Say ‘Alor ke’k’olar’ Once you’ve got the cargo, return to Estle and get back down to the Citadel.”
“Uhhh, okay. I’ll see you back at the Citadel?”
“Probably. Snap to it, ad’ika.”
Sashar sighed, then tapped in another frequency. A moment later, Zandro answered. “Sash, what the hell happened up there?”
“Absolutely nothing. Two ships entered our space and started spitting out troops on Riquis. Wun and Ceth took care of them, but the base was rigged to blow. We boarded the two ships, took control, met little resistence despite the number of troops on board, found nothing on the Belarus and a load of bombs on the Transport, but there was no trap and the bombs weren’t detonated. They’re still adrift near D’Eraii. This mining company seems to be running the job, but who sends one medium cruiser at Dajorra and expects to survive? It’s wasteful. The only thing they’ve managed to accomplish is shutting down our LR communications, which can be fixed in less than a day. Frankly I’m at a loss, Vod.”
Zandro was silent for a long moment. “Okay, just get back here. If they’re going to hit us, it’ll be anytime now. If you’re all on Selen, it’ll give us either a more defendable position, or a centralised muster point. And be quick, we need Celahir up that di’kutla mountain.”
“Copy that. I’ll see you at the Citadel.”
Sighing once more, he rubbed a gloved hand over his face and went to rejoin his squad.
As soon as the transports touched down in the Citadel Hangar beneath the Citadel proper, all of the Dark Jedi and Summit guard were whisked off to the throne room. Zandro was sat in the Serpentine Throne, Bly everpresent beside him. A fair number of other Dark Jedi were already arrayed before him, as well as several of the more prominent military officials attached to the Arcona Armed Forces.
"Our situation has changed drastically. Reconnaissance flights about the system have spotted a number of new threats, and we’re going to struggle to handle them all. First and foremost, a sizeable Strike force is headed directly for Selen. This force includes an Imperial-II Star Destroyer, three Nebulon B-2 frigates and no less than six Escort Carriers. We presume their fighter screen will be numerous. Second, There are two Belarus-class Cruisers guarding a convoy of mole miners and cargo vessels moving towards Arconae Secundus, and a dozen star galleons have landed on Eldar, disgorging a sizeable amount of troops and armour. All of these attacks seem to be targeting our mining facilities, and even the primary strike force intent on Selen will probably have the ability to remove any resources we have stored in the warehouse caverns beneath Giletta Spaceport. It is imperative that we redeploy the fleet, and our Jedi to combat this threat. Given that a mining company is attacking us, we assume that they’ve hired a mercenary force to act as their muscle. Our main objectives are to eradicate the mercenaries, the miners, and preserve our resources and present an implacable defence. We’re making an example of these bastards to make sure nobody makes their mistake again.”
The massive doors at the back of the throne room opened, and five beings in nondescript black armour slipped to join the crowd listening to the Quaestor’s war speech. There were several murmurs of surprise from several of the older members. The newcomers were all Soulfire veterans; Juda Erinos, the squad’s former Medic, Kieran Erinos, the co-founder of the squad along with Sashar and Zandro, Xayun Erinos, Zandro and Sashar’s brother, and Voden Erinos, who’d been on extended ‘loan’ to House Plagueis. With them was a smaller human, presumably Teroch, Voden and Sashar’s son.
Cethgus’s grip tightened on his lightsaber as he caught sight of Xayun, who merely waved jauntily, ignoring the Quaestor’s glare.
“Wuntila will brief you all on your new assignments and theatres, and be ready. We expect there to be more threats presenting themselves over the next few days.”
Wuntila took the podium, and Ronovi worked her way to the fore of the crowd, gesturing for a quiet moment with Zandro.
“Ronovi, I’m sorry I couldn’t welcome you back myself. When the Iron Throne answers...” He trailed off, sharing a knowing look with the fellow Quaestor.
“With the threat mounting, I’m not sure of how much help we’ll be, but we still intend to honour the Estle-Eden axis.”
Zandro nodded. “Any assistance you can grant us would be appreciated, however we understand if you have other commitments.”
“We’ll see what we can do.” She answered, her voice and expression revealing nothing.
Oblivion Brigade Restricted Level
As Talos Omerta entered his quarters on Oblivion Brigade's Restricted Level of the Arcona Citadel, with nothing but a navy blue towel wrapped around his waist, he looked around the room and reached out with the Force. Less than a second later and his comlink came flying out from under a stack of holo-files on his desk and landed in the Sith Warrior's extended hand. Talos let his towel drop as he typed in a frequency from memory and put the communications device on "speaker" as he walked over to his desk and placed his hand against a depressed square of the durasteel desk.
The middle of the room's floor suddenly retracted and a long glass tube began a steady ascent...just as a soft, feminine voice sounded from the comlink:
"Perfect" thought the Black Operations officer sarcastically as he tried to think of the right words to say.
"Err..hey there" was his debonair reply.
"Who is this?" the female said and even though no one could see, Talos' cheeks flushed with color.
"Um, this is Lieutenant Victor Alum, with the Army Corp. This is Danielle Marison, isn't it?" the Firrerreo lied.
"Ah yes! I remember now! What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" Danielle Marison said, a tone of recognition now in her voice.
"At least she remembers the alter-ego"
"Well, Danielle...I know this may sound awkward and extremely sudden, but...I was wondering, would your work allow you to leave Selen, the Dajorra System actually, for a couple of days?" the puesdo-Victor Alum asked.
Silence enveloped the comm-frequency for a few minutes, which Talos used to slip into a black bodysuit and take the items out of the glass tube that now served as the centerpiece of his room; the items were the pieces of his second set of prototype "Spectre Armor", the trademark attire of Oblivion Brigade, Arcona's Black Operations Unit.
Omerta was in the middle of putting on his right combat boot when Danielle finally replied:
"Are you asking me out, Lieutenant"
Talos' face paled and he slapped his face:
"Err..no, ma'am" he said, without thinking. He immediately realized his mistake, but it was to late:
"Oh dear slice, I apologize! I didn't mean it that way. I'm sure you'd be lovely company on a date" the Arconan spluttered, crimson color fast returning to his cheeks.
"Truth is, I would actually like to take you out. But these Krikella bastards have other plans it seems" Talos' silent narration continued within his skull.
"But that's not why I called" he finished.
"Then may I ask why?"
Talos Omerta took a deep breath and wondered how he could put enough truth in his explanation to accomplish his two goals: 1) get Danielle Marison off planet while 2) not blowing the cover of the Dajorra System's Dark Jedi overlords. Though perhaps not in that order.
"Well, Danielle...it has come to the attention of Army Intelligence that..well...that the Dajorra System, particularly Selen and Eldar, are going to be put in a high-risk situation within the next 12 to 24 hours"
Even though about 1,000 vertical feet and 7 miles separated Talos and Danielle, the Sith could tell that the female didn't believe him.
"And what high-risk situation is this?" she asked, disbelief evident in her voice.
"That's classified" was Talos' curt reply; that much was true at least.
"And why is that? I hope you have a good explanation, Lieutenant" Danielle continued.
Taking a deep breath and calming himself in the Force, Talos Omerta began to explain why, out of the 3,000,000 people that called Selen home, he was only warning Danielle Marison, a simple HoloNews Anchor.
"Well...[Expletive Deleted]" said Talos some time later as he stared at the now-dormant comlink in his hand. The conversation with Danielle Marison had ended exactly opposite of how Talos expected. In other words, very badly. Among other colorful words used, Danielle had called the Dark Jedi a "stuck-up, biased, sex-minded nerf-hound".
"What, cause I can't warn a girl that I happen to like that our home planet is about to be invaded by a natural resources extraction company with a huge private army without obviously wanting to get in her pants?" the intelligence agent muttered as he finished dressing in his Spectre Armor.
Exasperated and more than a little bit pissed, Talos reached under his bed and pulled out his weapons tray, which consisted of his E-19b carbine rifle, Locust Throwing Knives, combat knife, and WESTAR-35 blaster pistol. The Firrerreo roughly shoved the equipment into its proper scabbards and holsters before storming out of his room. It was only as an afterthought that the man opened himself up to the Force and summoned his lightsaber to his hand, just as the door to his room "whooshed" shut.
Throne Room, Arcona Citadel
"Hey there, Talos" said Dralin Fortea, one of the three Tarenti allies who had happened to be on Selen when Krikella attacked. But Fortea's greeting fell on deaf ears and the assassin merely passed him by and fell into one of the plush chairs that ringed the dais of the Serpentine Throne, which was currently vacant but would soon be filled with the Lord Quaestor and his Honor, the Aedile.
Undettered, Tarentum's Intelligence Colonel followed the Firrerreo and took a seat next to him:
"Hey. Everything alright?" the Obelisk Templar asked. He was both concerned for his ally as a semi-friend and also as a fellow military officer; Dralin knew the consequences of not having a clear head when going into battle.
"Yeah, I'm good" Talos lied. But then he turned to look at the brown-haired human, dressed in his casual military uniform.
"Actually, no I'm not. You know how much I hate females right now?"
Fortea raised an eyebrow but nonetheless nodded sagely. "I think I do. But that's the reason why I run the Mirage...well, my alter-ego does. And because of that, I usually don't deal with the same female more than once. Twice at the most" Dralin replied with a wink.
Omerta gave a short laugh and opened his mouth to reply when the massive doors to the Throne Room glided opened and the Lord Quaestor, Zandro Savric Erinos Arconae, and Aedile Wuntila Zratian Entar marched in, flanked by a mixed group of Summit Guardsmen and the commandos of Soulfire Strike Team.
"Alright everyone, listen up!" barked Zandro as he quick-walked up the dais' steps and with little panoply, turned around and sat down on the Serpentine Throne, Wuntila to his right and ARC Captain Bly to his left. Soulfire arrayed themselves on the steps of the dais, with Dark Adept and Soulfire Sergeant Sashar Erinos Arconae closest to his half-brother and twice-former seat.
"Wuntila will give a brief recap on what Krikella's up to and what we're going to do about it. Operation: Excavation begins now. Take it away, Wuntila" Zandro said. The Sith Battlelord then sat back in the Throne as the blue-skinned Aedile took front and center:
"Ok, so here's what is going to happen..." Wuntila Zration Entar began.
The Aedile stood tall in front of the Arconans and the few Tarenti, his brow moist with sweat. It was a daunting situation, worsened by the fact that a very real danger loomed over the Dajorra system and lives could well be lost. It wasn’t a situation that hadn’t presented itself before, but it was his first time at the helm, orchestrating such an attack. The pressure of that, and his evidently agitated Quaestor made for quite the hesitation in the usually composed and stoical Aedile.
Well, The Human-Theelin thought, Here goes.
“Okay, so here’s what is going to happen. As has already been announced,” Wun’s eyes wandered over toward the door Zandro had exited through only moments ago, “We have quite the substantial task force. It seems like a highly concentrated attack and something, or someone, is supporting it. They’re obviously well organised and, at present, they have the strategic edge on us. We’re Arcona, that rarely happens. We need to regain momentum,” another look round the room found the gaze of Sashar, his eyes vacant, as if he’d heard this speech a hundred times before, which, Wuntila was sure, he probably had, “Sukhur’s Legion, you will be taking the Selen attack. They’re by far the largest attack force, so you’ll be aided by Andrelious and Sanguinius. The obvious target is the Imperial Star Destroyer but Andrelious and Sanguinius will focus on the B-2 Frigs, also bombing the shield generators and the bridge. It is your job, along with the fighter squadrons not assigned to the Nebulon B-2 Frigs to take out the escort carriers. They’re bound to be laden with troops and, as far as Selen is concerned, they can’t be dealing with an immediate military operation with Arcona in no position to aid them further. There’s six of ‘em, therein lies your problem.
While your attack continues, myself, Oberst, Ronovi and Dralin will launch an attack on the ISD. I’ll take the T’ad unit of summit guard and launch an attack on the ISD from the inside once the main cannons, the shield generator and the bridge have been sufficiently battered. We’ll have to lure it out of the firing line of the B-2 Frigs and the escorts, though, giving you guys enough space to work your magic. To do this, We’ll have to use the Invicta and perhaps the Night If we run into some heavy resistance. Once you guys are finished mopping up the dregs, you’ll join me in hopefully taking control of the ship.
Oblivion Brigade will be deployed to Arconae Secundus. Your main objective is to destroy the two Belarus Cruisers. You’ll have the Lictor as your back-up, with the Last Light in the wings should to need reinforcing. You are to remove the threat of the Belarus Cruisers by any means you see necessary. That is, by all means blow ‘em out of the sky if you need to. It’ll require some infiltration, so I’m sure you will be fine. You’ll have, readily available to you, the complement of the Lictor and the Last Light, along with three units of the Ara’nov Summit Guard.
Finally, the suicide mission goes to Soulfire,” Sashar’s eyes lit up, “You’re off to Eldar. I don’t need to tell you what to do, just try and keep casualties down to a minimum and wipe the Star Galleons from the face of the planet. What differs in your instance is a bit of ground conflict, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate. You’ll be aided by whatever you feel necessary, you’re big enough and ugly enough to sort yourselves out and you’re usually quite resourceful with your selections.
The Shadow will maintain its position in Ereboros Orbit for the time being, laying down suppressive fire to keep the Cataclysm and the KEC Five out of any advantageous position.”
Wuntila shifted in his spot, gazing round the room, his eyes locking with each individual member of the attack crews. The sweat from his brow cascaded off his forehead and tumbled down the front of his Bonya robes.
“Try not to get yourselves killed. Dismissed.”
Soulfire assembled in their large open plan common area that served as a recreational room, cafeteria and briefing room. Celahir immediately moved over to the kitchen area and started brewing some caf whilst Sashar took up position near the front of the group.
“Okay lads, settle down. First off, welcome to our old-timers. Glad you’re in this shitstorm with us. Now, onto business. We’ll be splitting into four teams for this operation. Team one, Celahir, Xayun, Xar, Maaks, you guys are going to re-activate and hold the Comm Relay station at the top of this mountain. It’ll be cold and a harsh climb, so kit up accordingly. Rho, Celevon, you’ll be our sniper team. We’ll be situating you in the hills above the Eldar theatre so you can give sniper support to the main team, which’ll be myself, Mal, Juda, Kieran, Voden and Teroch. Since our long range comlinks are down, we won’t be using the Analysts in their usual role, and we’ll not be taking support. Any questions?”
Kieran raised his hand. “What theatre on Eldar are we operating in?”
Sashar tapped a few controls on his datapad and brought up a holographic map of the area. “Northern Hemisphere on a large Island called Pagona, approximately five hundred klicks across. It’s the site of the majority of our mining facilities on Eldar and we reckon they’ll try and land in a large set of terraced planes surrounded by rainforest, approximately fifteen klicks from the nearest facility.”
“What equipment do you want us taking?” Kieran asked next, leaning back and accepting a coffee from Celahir.
“The Mountain team need to travel light, or else they won’t make it up the di’kutla thing. The rest of us, we’re going as heavy as we can. Rho, bring the E-MAPL, Mal I want your BFG with you. I’ll be bringing the Conk, and Kieran, I need you to bring out a few….big pieces of ordinance. A large Ion bomb that’ll drop the shields of one or two of those Galleons, and some other stuff that could take down walkers and tanks. Basically, as much as we can carry.”
“When do we leave?” Voden asked.
“In an hour.get showered, packed and ready. We’ll be getting a Larty up to the Valour’s Fall and then insertion across the jungle. Celahir, your team need to set off as soon as they’re ready.”
“Wait, why am I going up a mountain? You don’t need two scouts.” Xayun questioned.
Sashar sighed and looked imploringly at Mal, who rolled his eyes. “He’s split the teams up like this because four people can hold a mountain-top relay station as it’s mostly underground, so if you have any contact, it’ll be in corridors, or in the middle of a blizzard. We, on the other hand, will be in a jungle taking on countless troops and armour without any air support. Go get ready before I slap you.”
Sashar took Celahir to one side as the rest of the squad dispersed. He pulled off his helmet and looked the Kiffar in the eyes. “Ner’vod, without that installation operational, the entire system is screwed. You can’t mess this up or we all die.”
Celahir swallowed, but didn’t look away. “I’ll be fine. I’ll get it done. I was trained by the best, after all.” He cracked a smile, and slapped his older brother on the side of the head, messing up his hair.
“Be safe, Sashar. You’re not invulnerable.”
The Sergeant snorted. “Come on. Eight of Soulfire’s best versus twelve Star Galleons of troops? It’s hardly fair. I’ll comm them and tell them to get another half-dozen ships on the ground. Then it’ll be fair.”
Celahir laughed and walked off, knowing that they were against the clock. Sashar watched him go, then went to make preparations of his own.
Pagona Island was already showing signs of war when the Drexl, in full stealth mode, skimmed over the treetops. Sashar leaned out of the open hatch way and stared at the rising smoke columns in the distance. The rain limited his view somewhat, but it was obvious that the Star Galleons had fired their turbolasers, creating a level area to land, and two were already on the ground and mustering their troops and armour.
“Pilot! Hold here!” Sashar shouted over the roar of the engine and the wind. The Larty circled about and lowered itself carefully to the ground in a small clearing.
“Okay, Two, Eleven, get your gear and set up shop on that ridge over there. It should give you a good overview of the entire theatre. Get ghillied up, as well.” Sashar ordered to Rho and Celevon, who started moving a set of cargo containers off the decking and to the forest floor.
“Good luck, lads. Keep in contact, and don’t reveal your position unless you absolutely have to.” Sashar intoned, then gestured for the pilot to take off once more.
Almost as an afterthought, Sashar brought up the Force Meld, gathering all the members of the squad save Malidir and Teroch (Malidir due to his innate tenacity distracting the other participants of the meld, and Teroch because he wasn’t Force trained yet). There wasn’t any fear, not even from Celevon. He wasn’t surprised; Soulfire were the best.
Teroch joined him at the hatchway, the rain pouring in pelting both their matte-black armour. Neither of them felt it.
“You ready for this, ad’ika? It’s going to be rough. I can send you and Voden over to marshal the forces guarding the mining facilities.”
The teenager continued to stare out of the hatch at the Forest passing below. A mist was beginning to set into the early morning forest. Above the engines of the LAAT/i was the sound of Walkers feet crashing in the distance.
“Yeah. The safest place I can be is next to you. Buir’ika and you both agreed when you took me in that you weren’t going to hide me away and never see me. I’ll be fine. I won’t let you down, either.”
Sashar grinned and cuffed his son around the head. “That was never in question, Ter’ika. Okay lads, gear up, we’re there.”
The rest of the squad stood as the Larty swung around and settled in a smaller clearing.
They jumped down as one, fanning out to check all angles simultaneously.
“Clear!” Kieran shouted out, looking almost comical with the oversized pack on his back.
“Go to the nearest mining facility, land there and be ready to provide air support as necessary.” The Elder ordered the LAAT/I crew. The pilot gave him a thumbs up and lifted the matte-black craft off.
The noises of the forest settled in to their usual routine.
“Spread out. Fifteen meter coverage, moving west towards the enemy landing zone. Two, you got eyes on us?”
The helmet comlinks units crackled as Rho responded. “Negative on that, lead. However, any walkers come by and I can spot them for you. Call out if you need something hulling. We’re going to be using the E-MAPL and the EML for heavy support.”
“Copy that, two. Okay Soulfire, move out.”
"Alright, team, let's take out some Frigates!" Andrelious J. Inahj yelled over his TIE Advanced's radio. Inahj had chosen to fly with Nightshade Squadron for the battle against the frigates. Though Nightshade were usually a superiority squadron, Inahj had had the group's warheads replaced with heavy rockets, due to the large amount of capital class targets they would be going up against. Bombard Squadron, flying Scimitar Assault Bombers under the leadership of Templar Sanguinius, would also join in attacking the Frigates directly, whilst Shade, Shadowstalker and Virtous Strike squadrons would attempt to obtain air supremacy.
The pilots that had accompanied Andrel in the previous mission were needed elsewhere, much to his annoyance, and so he was making do with the pilots that were usually available. He had, however, checked the rosters of the squadrons involved and seemed pleased with the available pilots. Archer Merchant was flying in the role of leader of Shade squadron, so there was additional Dark Jedi support, though the Obelisk was not a skilled pilot. "Keep your squadron tight, Arch. The enemy ships will be launching fighters very soon." Inahj advised his colleague, knowing that there was the distinct possibility of being swamped by fighters; the Escort Carriers could carry up to an Imperial Wing of fighters each, as could the Star Destroyer, and the Frigates, whilst not known for their large fighter capacity, could still be carrying two squadrons each. Nothing had been launched, yet, though, as the Arconan squadrons approached within five miles of the enemy.
Targetting the lead Frigate, apparently called Skull, Inahj switched to his rockets, directing the squadron to do the same. As the twelve TIE Advanced all fired their first rocket, the Battlelord ordered them to target another. "A dozen should be enough to at least cripple it!" he ordered, watching the warheads slam into the Skull's sleek hull. The fact that all twelve got through made him wonder a little; why was there no attempt to deflect them?
There was no time to worry, though, fighters had been launched, mostly appearing to be types of droid fighters, but at least one squadron of Z-95 Headhunters, indicating that there was at least some non-computer driven fighters among the enemy's navy. The Z-95s lead the attack, attempting to concentrate fire on a single fighter at a time. The Arconans weren't at all phazed by this, their much superior craft easily slicing through the Z-95s and their droid allies. Nine of the Headhunters, and three entire squadrons of droid fighters, which appeared to lack shields, were destroyed before even one Arconan was bested. Notably, a twi'lek female called Yuvra'Garr, formerly a bounty hunter, was responsible for six kills, outdoing even Archer, who had managed only three. By now, Inahj had taken the opportunity to fly close to the Skull, and sensed no life forms on it, indicating it was a droid run ship. The other frigates, however, were teeming with life. It was likely that the Skull was either a new acquisition, or had been damaged in previous combat and was used mostly as a dummy ship, given its low rate of fire and poor accuracy for a ship of its class.
Inahj knew Nebulon-B2 Frigates well, having served with the Imperial Navy he had both had to defend and attack that class of ship on a regular basis, and was aware that in the right hands they were a potent vessel indeed. Targetting another Frigate, Inahj again had the squadron fire one rocket each, but this time, only nine rockets made it through the Frigate's elaborate defensive system. This frigate, apparently called Bastion, was putting up a greater fight, and indeed launched its fighters. Inahj realised that these pilots, flying A-Wings, would probably pose a greater threat, and switched his weapons back to the ship's lasers. "We'll take the A-Wings, Archer, you keep on the droids, my sensors show another wing of those soulless bastards coming your way." the Sith instructed as the A-Wings came into range. Three fell immediately to fire from Nightshade. Others scattered, but were quickly picked off, though a human male known to all as 'Ketsu' was killed when his ship was rammed by a desperate enemy. With the A-Wings defeated, the remaining eleven Nightshades closed to cannon range on the Bastion, jinking wildly to avoid its rather powerful defences. A quick strafing operation, followed up by further support from Bombard was able to destroy the Bastion, the fireball and the sense of thousands of death only further motivating Andrel to continue. The last frigate was their target now, again this one, called Soh'earl was crewed by organics, and a further two squadrons of A-Wings launched. These posed more a problem than the inital wave that Nightshade had faced, and three more pilots were lost in defeating them, though the pilots were able to eject in time. As long as they could hold out in their spacesuits, they would be fine.
With his group depleted, Inahj was more careful with his rockets, saving his own for the Star Destroyer's shields. He closed into cannon range, and strafed along the hull while juking wildly, allowing Bombard, with their larger rocket capacity, to cause the real damage. Sixteen rockets proved enough, and the Soh'earl was no more. By now, Archer and his space superiority team were cutting through droid after droid, though the Krath was still well behind the pilots in the number killed stakes. Fourteen Arconans had been lost, many unable to eject in time, due to the sheer number of droids involved.
With the Frigates defeated, Andrelious, Sanguinius and the bombers targeted the Star Destroyer. The hard work was about to begin...
Marick kept quiet as he listened to Wuntila explain the situation. It was dire indeed, and the Hapan was proud to be part of the team that helped unearth the plot. Standing with both hands clasped casually behind his back, the Prelate had taken the time to change his robes to a fresh set, his face recently washed and showing little sign of wear or fatigue.
“Oblivion Brigade will be deployed to Arconae Secundus. Your main objective is to destroy the two Belarus Cruisers...”
The Battleteam Leader lifted his eyebrows ever so slightly. Taking out two cruisers wasn’t a typical job for Oblivion. Regardless, as soon as the Aedile finished his instructions for the Black Ops team, Marick’s mind immediately set into motion. He neglected to hide a grin as he formulated their next course of action.
Standing silently by his side, Talos Omerta looked pleased by their mission. Marick knew his vice-captain had been itching for more “physical” combat. This would be a perfect opportunity for him to get it out of his system.
“Dismissed,” Wuntila’s somber voice echoed out through the chamber. Everyone shuffled into their given teams and started on their tasks. Before taking his leave, however, Marick had one small order of business to attend to.
“Sir,” the Hapan addressed his Aedile. “I would like to make a small request.”
“Speak.” The Theelin hybrid replied.
“I wish for Dralin Fortea to accompany Oblivion on this mission. If it is alright with Lady Ronovi and yourself, of course.”
The two leaders of their respective Houses looked at each other, and then over at the person in question, who lofted a single eyebrow but kept his hands clasped calmly behind his back. Wuntila nodded his head.
“If he’s alright with it, take him, but I’m rerouting a few of the Summit Guards I assigned you to my team.”
“Understood, sir. Thank you.” Marick said with the slight bow of his head. Dralin was staring at the Hapan now with mild curiosity. Marick turned his head and offered his youthful and confident grin in response. The Prelate motioned with his hand for Dralin to follow him.
“I was impressed with your performance back there,” Marick explained as he exited the throne room with Talos on his right and Dralin on his left.
“Thank you.” Fortea replied evenly. Marick detected a hint of caution. He had expected as much. The Courscanti was similar to the Hapan in many ways, but their upbringings were as different as could be.
“I wanted you to get a chance to work with my team... see how we work on a combat mission and get an outside opinion.”
“I’m honored you believe me worthy.” He replied politely, almost on instinct.
The trio turned a corner, their steps unconsciously synchronizing. Marick lifted his wrist to his mouth and tapped a button.
“Oblivion Brigade, assemble in the hangar bay in fifteen. Suit up, details are being sent to your PDAs. Yes Amber, that means you too.”
“I’m assuming you have a plan then, Captain?” Talos inquired.
“Of course I do,” Marick replied with an even wider grin. “Control, have the Silent Blade readied.”
On name alone, the assembled team of Dark Jedi would strike fear into any member of the brotherhood. Etah d’Tana, Kant Lavar, Timeros Caesus Entar Arconae, Legorri Kryotech Entar and Strategos Thanatos Entar Arconae stood side by side in their respective apparels. Marick needed all of them for the task at hand, and was honored to be in command of such a respective group.
Sayar and Dalk were off on a training mission, which left Amber Amnell as the only apprentice of the group. Slender and beautiful, the Hapan female shifted uneasily from foot to foot. She had just completed her first mission on her own, and was feeling slightly more confident in her new found abilities. Still, everything was happening very fast. She took solace as she looked over at her Master, Marick, who also happened to be her fiance.
Marick caught the look and offered her a slight wink in return. Also present were the commander of the Lictor and Last Night as well as the assigned members of the Summit guard.
“Gentlemen, lady,” Marick began, clasping his hands behind his back. At his side, Talos and Dralin had already done the same.
“We’ve got two Belarus Cruisers poached outside of Arconae Secondus. As you know, it’s our job to take them out. The Lictor and Last Night have enough fire power to take out the first frigate, Alpha. Meanwhile, the Oblivion task force will infiltrate the second frigate Bravo , and take it out from the inside.”
“And how is a small cadre of Dark Jedi expecting to take out an entire frigate?” The Commander of the Lictor spoke up. A slight chuckle echoed from the vicinity of one of the three Entars.
“Leave that to us, Commander,” Marick replied calmly. “Dismissed.”
With the two Commanders departing, Marick turned his attention to the Summit Guard
“Summit Guard, you will take a squadron and attack the Bravo frigate’s hangar bay as a distraction. The Oblivion infiltration team will sneak by on a stealth transport.”
“To do this we would need a shuttle with a cloaking drive installed in the cargo bay. Combined with a complete coating of matte black refractive coating this would allow us to slip by unnoticed, assuming someone doesn’t start open firing on Bravo’s hull.” Marick then waited, almost for what seemed like a dramatic pause. Amber rolled her eyes, and was the first to speak up.
“And where would we get one of those, sir?” The Protector inquired bluntly.
Marick’s grin widened. “So glad you asked, love.”
With that, Marick pulled away the tarp that covered some form of ship right next to them. Sure enough, it was a Lambda-class T4a shuttle, painted from head to toe in a matte black finish, just as described.
“I had one of these commissioned for just the case,” Marick concluded, hands moving to his hips. “Any questions?”
“If we die cramped up on a tiny ship, I will hunt you down in the afterlife,” Timeros spoke up in a perfectly even tone. “...sir,” he was quick to add.
Marick nodded at his combat partner. “Duly noted, Tim.” The Prelate took a deep breath before continuing. “I know this isn’t our typical mission. We have some of the most powerful warriors in Arcona, though, and I know that if that crew had any idea what they where about to face, they would wish they where back in the safety of their mothers wombs. Talos!”
“Yes, Captain?” The Feeroian replied, straightening his posture.
“You’re driving. Everyone else, fall in.”
The Aedile replied to the Hapan tersely, “If he’s all right with it, take him, but I’m rerouting a few of the summit guard I assigned you to my team.” Marick bowed elegantly before the Aedile. Nothing less could be expected from a member of the Hapan nobility. Wuntila looked over the Oblivion Brigade Sergeant’s shoulder and noticed a brief exchange of conversation, before the Hapan, flanked by his vice-captain and the Tarenti.
“Wun,” Ronovi caught the Prelate’s attention once more, “What’s the plan?” by now Oberst had sidled up behind his Quaestor; the bull-necked, stalwart Tarantae’s eyes boring into Wuntila’s own.
“Its an Imperial Star Destroyer, we’re going to have to be cautious–” Oberst cut the Aedile off, irritated.
“Why not just kamikaze them? An A-Wing into the bridge would disable the vessel’s main operation. A K-Wing would be better.” Oberst remarked.
“Too much cost for little return. If we can, we want the thing in our hands. We need to learn what we can about them. Personally, I’d like to blow them out of the sky, but as you are most aware, Zandro would end up having me castrated and my manhood would be hung from the Citadel’s balcony for all to see. No, we need to do this strategically.” Wun looked at the hard-to-read Ex-Consul; his pupils dilating as his vehemence simmered to the surface.
Oberst shrugged it off, “Your manhood doesn’t concern me. I just want these rats out of this system so I can get back to Yridia.”
“I understand, Admiral. We’ll rendezvous at Giletta Spaceport in no more than twenty minutes. We’ll be launching to the Night from there and waiting for the Invicta to arrive.” The Aedile nodded to the two Tarenti and walked towards the door. Before he exited, he shouted over his shoulder, “Gear up. You’re in for the long haul.” A growl resonated through the chamber. Oberst was not impressed.
0015 Minutes Before Departure
The Aedile strolled into the room adorned in his Boyna Robes, helmet tucked under his right arm – a picture of authority. The room itself was circular; luxurious armchairs and sofas were usually arranged in small pockets around an abundance of useless coffee tables at which small talk was exchanged between the highest individuals in Arconan society. The men who now inhabited the makeshift briefing room, however, had hurriedly arranged the sofas and chairs around the central holo-projector. The unanimous expression of confusion upon the faces of the men was an unasked questioned. Wun had more than acknowledged it as he stood behind the projector, eyeing up his contingent of the Summit Guard.
“Gentlemen,” the Aedile nodded, tapping on the command console. An emerald-hued static projection of an ISD sprung from the computer, “I notice you’re all somewhat confused. Its simple: we’re in here because our main communications are down. We have no way of contacting any of the forces, any of the contingents or any of our non-orbital forces in the attack. All we have is short-range communications transmitters,” Wun’s eyes settled on a huddled group of logistical pilots sat in the outer-ring of the gathering, “We have requested the presence of our freighter pilots for one purpose. They’re going to be ‘runners’, messengers if you will. I need one individual per assault ship, I.E., the Night, Invicta, and the Dark Artisan. The remaining two are to engage the Squadrons on the Night and the Invicta respectively. We need our forces ready,” with that, the five out-of-their-depth pilots scurried into the bustle of the Spaceport under the gaze of the remaining men. Wun shook his head.
“Now, let’s get to business. The main Ion Engines, the Turbo-Lasers and Concussion-Missle Launchers and the targeting system all need to be destroyed, but before that, we need to disable their shield generators. Oberst, that’s your job. You seem pretty handy with a bomber. You’ve got Dark Rain and Scourge Squadrons at your disposal. Ronovi, you’ll be leading strike team Bravo, your job is to cover Oberst’s bombing runs, regardless of how many sweeps he has to take. You have Black Wind Squadron. I’ll be taking Lightbane Squadron to attack the hangar and clear a path for the forces involved in the ship assault to board,” the Aedile gazed around the room at the T’ad Summit guard. Its leader, Felix, sent a wink back to Wun, “Black Wind and Black Tide Squadrons will cover the lartys as they make the drop off. We will be covered by the Artisan, with support fire coming from the Invicta and the Night.” he paused for a long second, staring at the highlighted attack points on the hologram.
“We’re without communication. This is old-fashioned coordinated attack. You’re all capable.” Wuntila turned to Felix and nodded before he left to prepare the Saracen for takeoff. As he walked out of the room, he heard Felix stand to give a speech and the room erupted in shouting and chants. A smile brushed Wun’s mouth as he walked out into the clearing and towards his ship.
Tyrron Okin, the executive officer upon the Night turned to Wuntila. Only an hour ago the messenger had come to deliver the news; only half an hour ago Wuntila had arrived with his attack force and he was almost ready to leave.
“I am sorry to seem so cynical,” Tyrron stroked the dusting of stubble that clung to his face, “but you cannot surely expect to win with a Gunship, an assault cruiser and backup from the Invicta?”
“Define ‘win’, captain. If by ‘win’ you mean blow it out of the Selen Orbit and expect its cohort of subordinates to follow, then no, we won’t ‘win’. But if we get the upper hand by capturing the ship, gaining a bargaining chip and perhaps getting hold of the mastermind behind this whole operation then I’d say a ‘win’ would be a good way to describe the upper hand.” Wuntila said, matter-of-factly. A smile lit up the Aedile’s face seconds before it was obscured by his helmet. “I wouldn’t worry, captain. Keep the guns pointed at their main attack points and we’ll be just fine.” Wun hopped up into the cargo platform of the Saracen and saluted Tyrron, an air of overconfidence emanating from his strong posture.
The Saracen took an evasive barrel-roll to the left, its starboard engine smoking profusely. Lightbane divided in an uncoordinated disorder as an enemy fighter spiralled out of control and ploughed through the middle of the Squadron. The reformed squadron, with Wuntila in the Saracen at the helm, were down three fighters; a result of the unpreparedness of the initial attack. Now, limping through the battle, the Squadron faced a new challenge as the hangar doors of the Star destroyer opened; a plume of modified and refurbished Vulture droids spewed into the void of space like hornets defending a nest. The Aedile’s face dropped as his viewport filled with rustic hues, the Star Destroyer almost entirely obscured by the hundreds of fighters incoming on his comparatively minute Squadron. In the corner of his eye he could just make out Dark Rain and Scourge being overwhelmed by the sheer number of fighters encroaching on their attack. Behind them, the Darkest Night and Invicta could only watch on as the Dark Artisan initiated a late attack run. The outlook was bleak and everyone involved knew it.
“Commander Leslie, do you copy?” Wun was surprisingly calm over the short-range communicator.
“Loud and clear.” The commander of Lightbane still picked up the breaks in Wun’s voice.
“Jon, I need two volunteers who don’t know what fear is. I’m going to attempt to blow out the Hangar Door shields and hopefully disable the auto-shield dropping. Maybe we can still get our boys in there but I can’t do it on my own.”
“I’m in. So’s my second, Pash. We’re right behind you, boss. Lightbane, return to base.” With that, Jonathan Leslie ended the communication and Wuntila began the descent, under the waves enemy fighters. A few evasive manoeuvres and innate instinct from living pilots enabled the trio of ships to easily dip into the flurry and emerge relatively unharmed. Before them loomed the hangar bay. Pash took point as he’d used his missile stores in the initial attack.
“One shot, Jon. Make it count.” Wuntila said as he swung into a missile trajectory and adjusted his vectors.
“Always, Boss.” Leslie said as he followed suit. The hangar was relatively empty, save for two ion cannons either side of the hatch, which until they came close, hadn’t engaged. That was now under question. The smoking starboard engine of the Saracen worsened on the approach and increased the heat signature of the ship. It was an unfortunate and costly problem.
The ion cannons focused in on the Saracen, completely disregarding the other two TIE Advanced in the trio and unleashed a barrage of fire. Wuntila managed to evade two of the shots before he finally succumbed to the whim of the Star Destroyer. A bolt ricocheted off the tail-fin of the Saracen and struck the port engine, shutting down all main systems completely. Inside the cockpit, Wuntila was veiled in crimson hues as warning lights flashed frantically. Tugging on the rudder, the Human-Theelin attempted to direct it toward the hangar entrance in a plight of basic control. The ship careened toward the one-way shield and the Aedile braced himself for a premature demise.
Yet it did not come. Instead, a huge jolt came from beneath him as the Saracen’s tail-fin was torn from below. Milliseconds later, the ship jolted violently again as it ploughed its way through the middle of the hangar bay. Blackness ensued as the Saracen came to a halt. Wuntila was unconscious in the cockpit.
The Aedile awoke to a blinding haze; he winced as his eyes began to adjust to the clinical lighting of the room. He felt odd, strange in many ways. He could not sense his surroundings, nor the beings in his direct vicinity. It was as if his lifeblood had been drained out of him. And that was exactly what had happened. He could not feel the force. He turned on his shoulder to reveal the rest of the room and, sat beside the bed flanked by two heavily armoured guards was an unassuming man, cross-legged, his face illuminated by a sly smile.
“Good evening,” The man began, “My name is Mr. Lorden.”
Lambda T-4a Silent Blade
Orbit of Arconae Secundus
“Vice-Captain, I need you to prepare an improvised entry point for us” Marick Del’Abbot said simply as he moved into the cockpit and commandeered Legorii's seat with a glance. The rest of the Brigade slowly filed in behind him, barely fitting in the shuttle's cockpit.
Talos Omerta, the Vice-Captain of Oblivion Brigade, looked up at his mentor, friend, and superior:
“An improvised entry point…something that will give us the maximum amount of surprise”
“What’s wrong with the hangar bay?” Talos asked, shaking his head.
Though he admired and respected Marick both professionally and as a friend, his upbringing as a noble, one versed in deception and hidden agendas, often collided with Talos’ own training as an Army soldier…one that valued straightforward approaches.
“Too obvious” Marick said seriously. “Krikella will be expecting some sort of boarding party to arrive, now that their lead frigate has come under attack” he finished.
He pointed out the viewport to where the two Majestic-class Cruisers, the Last Light and the Lichtor, were pounding away at the Belarus-class medium frigate that had been designated “Alpha”. The second frigate, “Bravo”, Oblivion’s target, was already slowly moving into position to attack the Last Light.
Talos muttered under his breath, seeing the logic behind Marick’s statement.
“Where then? There isn’t any place we could land in the Belarus and still remain safe”
The Sith Warrior turned in his chair to the Obelisk Prelate just as a roguish smile crept over the latter’s face.
“Who said anything about landing, Talos?”
Talos Omerta’s already silvery skin paled further as what Marick was suggesting/ordering clicked in his mind.
“Oh no..no, no, no!” the Firrerreo started, throwing his hands up. “I am not crashing this shuttle!”
Dralin Fortea, who stood quietly off to the side, seemed to slowly piece together Marick’s plan. His eyes widened ever so slightly in recognition.
“He doesn’t want you to crash the shuttle, Talos,” the Tarenti interjected calmly. The Hapan turned his head to his new associate and let his grin widen. “I noticed it earlier. Marick also had a Plasma Phoenix Punch installed in place of one of the blasters.”
It all clicked for Talos then too. “So, we punch in right through the hull and in through the hole.”
“That’s what she-” one of the Entar’s started to say, but was cut off by an elbow to the side.
Marick grinned, “Precisely.”
Talos was relieved that they didn’t have to destroy the Silent Blade. Even though he hadn’t flown for years, the Sith Warrior still had an appreciation for ships, and the Blade was one of the, if not the, nicest shuttles he had ever seen, much less had the privilege to fly.
As Oblivion’s Vice-Captain began to initiate the Phoenix Plasma Punch process, he looked up and saw their target, Bravo Frigate, turnto port, her turbolaser batteries coming to bear on the exposed sides of the two Arconan crusiers, the MHJC Lichtor and the Last Light.
“Stang” the Firrerreo muttered and he quickly activated the communication channel:
“Heat, this is Skull VC, over”
Silence filled the air, before a loud “whooping” sound was heard and a cheerful voice came back over the com-channel.
“This is Heat, Skull VC, how can I help you?” came Summit Commando KKE-019 “Heat”’s reply.
In the background, Talos could hear the distinctive “pa-pews” of the cannons of Heat’s snubfighter, a TIE Avenger, wrecking havoc on one (or more) of the Krikella Extraction Company’s assets.
“Heat, I need you to divert half of your Flight to do the following; conduct continuous strafing runs on Bravo Frigate’s hangar bay. Do you copy?”
KKE-019’s reply was immediate and professional. “Heard and understood Skull VC. I will lead half of Ara’nov Flight 1 to do as ordered. Be advised that Staff Sergeant KKE-022 “Lamb” is in command of the rest of the Flight and will continue with general distraction. Copy?”
“Crystal clear, Heat. Thank you. And good luck”
“Anytime, VC. And keep the luck, we have skill instead”
The communication channel went dead then and Talos punched in the final few commands necessary to begin the Phoenix Plasma Punch, as during his conversation with the Summit Guardsman clone, he had brought the Silent Blade up flush with the hull of their target Frigate.
“And here…we…go” Talos Omerta muttered as Oblivion Brigade began to make their “improvised” entry into KEC’s Bravo Frigate.
The actual “entry” had taken less than three minutes, or so Talos Omerta had estimated. It had been five minutes since Oblivion’s shuttle, the T-4a Silent Blade had broken into the Frigate that had been designated as Bravo, and now, the nine Agents of Arcona’s Black Operations Team (BOT) were silently making their way down a low-lit service corridor, each Agent carefully watching the numerous doors that lined the hallway.
Suddenly, one of the doors opened and a stocky figure walked out, some sort of vibro-tool in his hand, making the figure probably a mechanic of some sort.
Due to the darkness of the corridor and the all-black color of the Oblivion Agent’s Spectre Armor, the figure didn’t see the danger he was in and sharply turned to the left and began to walk down the corridor.
Vice-Captain Talos Omerta turned his head to look at the BOT’s Captain, just as the latter’s hand shot up and in the hand-signal language of the Oblivion Silent Code, ordered the mechanic’s elimination.
The order was carried out with perfect precision and practiced efficiency; in less than ten seconds, Talos Omerta had raised his Conscript Carbine, taken a deep breath, let half of it go, and squeezed the trigger.
There was a muted “psum” sound and the Krikella employee pitched forward on the deck, dead.
Unfazed, the Oblivion Agents, with Captain Del’Abbot at point, continued down the corridor, coldly stepping over the body….
THE NEW CHAPTER - A PROLOGUE, FOLLOWED BY PRESENT DAY
The entire Dajorra system is at war. The Krikella Extraction Company has entered Dajorran space and cleared out the outer moon of Ereboros. Under the initial wave of attacks, the Arconan Summit believed it was an assault to requisition natural resources illegally, but on further inspection, it was something far more sinister…
After a primary attack by Arcona’s forces, aided by the Tarenti – Ronovi, Dralin and Maxlmillian Von Oberst – the Krikella Extraction Company was wounded. The first dogfights were headed by Andrelious J. Inahj, who fought fighter-to-fighter in order to clear the space for Maximillian Von Oberst to launch his bomber run on the Cataclysm, the capital ship of the attack. Wuntila Zratian Entar, along with his brother, Cethgus Entar, launched a small infiltration unit to reclaim the Communications Array near D’eraii and met little resistance. However, the attackers’ intentions soon became clear. Sashar, along with Soulfire Strike Team, launched their attack on the KEC Five, the PCL-Bulk Freighter presumed to be the container vessel for stolen goods. As they entered, they found it was deserted, save for a few droids. They battered their way to the engine room and set up detonation points, however, they were rendered obsolete by the very nature of the freighter. It was, in fact, a ramming ship, brimming with plastic explosives in order to launch a full-scale attack on the Arconan fleet when they arrived to defend the system.
At the communications array, Wuntila and Cethgus found that, it too, was fit to burst with explosives and, in a harrowing escape, emerged shaken by the sheer scale of this well-prepared attack. After the successful bombing of the capital ship by Maximillian Von Oberst and the failure of its shields, Marick, along with Ronovi, Inarya and Dralin, set to work in fighting their way into the ship and found that they also met little resistance. Things became eerily quiet in the battlefields of Dajorra.
Marick and his entourage exited the ship after disabling the bridge and soon escaped to the safety of the Darkest Night, along with Sashar and his team. Zandro returned from his meeting in Antei to find chaos erupting from the outer systems. He, along with Captain Bly, quickly returned to the Arcona Citadel in order to regroup and plan.
Wuntila orchestrated the counter-attack. Sukhur’s Legion, aided by Andrelious J. Inahj and Sanguinius Tsucyra Entar, were sent to attack the reinforced armies on Selen, the home of Arcona. Sashar, along with Soulfire Strike team, were deployed to Eldar. A troop-infested wasteland of a planet, once the home of House Qel-Droma. Oblivion Brigade were deployed to Arconae Secundus to quell the assaults by the two Belarus Cruisers who had blockaded the planet, whilst the Shadow remained in orbit of Ereboros, to suppress the wounded KEC Five and Cataclysm and to scout for any further attacks.
Finally, Wuntila, Ronovi, Dralin and Oberst were to launch an attack on the Imperial Star Destroyer that had jumped into the system – the obvious heart of the attack. This attack soon failed. Ronovi, Dralin and Oberst fled, and Wuntila, drawn in by the ships gravitational pull, fell victim to the full onslaught of the attacking force.
He awoke in the captivity of Mr. Lorden. Arcona’s sworn enemy since the time of Mejas Doto. Sapped of his force powers and completely disarmed, the Aedile of House Arcona was helpless against the tirade of his captors.
ONE MONTH ON…
In the period between the failed counter-attacks, the enemy forces have grown stronger, fully capturing Arconae Secundus, Ereboros and its orbiting moons, and Eldar. Now their forces are at their apex and its time for Arcona to strike back from its base of operations and the Eye of the Abyss II.
Arcona has grown considerably. With the movement of influential figures such as Ronovi, Dralin and Invictus to the Arconan ranks and a surge in popularity with the present Arconan roster, the Dark Council, by the appeal of Zandro Savric Erinos Arconae, granted Arcona the full rights to clanship once more.
The now Consul Zandro, issued the order for an attack on the encroaching armies of Lorden and to reclaim his honour by rescuing his new Proconsul, Wuntila, and destroying the remnants of the attack which had left the Dajorra System forever scarred. It is his personal goal to take Lorden as a prisoner and to completely overthrow the Dajorran invaders.
With the help of new Arconans, and an inspired Clan strength, it is anyone’s game.
(Posts may resume herein)
The speeder shot through the undergrowth, its headlights creating eerie shadows along the tree-line. Five kilometres had been blasted into a landing zone for the twelve Star Galleons full of troops almost a month ago. Eight of those Star Galleons had been destroyed in the air, and their wrecks littered the surrounding 100 kilometer forest-land. One even still burned, despite the light rain which seemed everpresent this time of year. A two-meter chain link fence had been erected around the perimeter of the landing zone, and several prefab buildings erected to house what looked like the beginnings of a starport’s staff. Granted, two thirds of the military force which’d landed on Eldar had since moved out and captured the three largest mining installations on the planet, thereby economically crippling the Dajorra system. They now occupied all three and had fortified their positions, but that did not mean by any stretch of the imagination that they’d been unopposed.
Soulfire Strike Team had led a guerrilla operation with the troops which had survived the initial attack. The Second and Third Batallions of the 714th had been hammered heavily and mostly taken captive or killed, however the 482nd Light Infantry regiment had arrived two weeks into the conflict to protect the lesser satellite mines and refineries from being taken. That left precious few troops to assist Soulfire, but then, the squad always prided itself on doing the impossible.
“Lead, we have contact three klicks up the road from your position. Looks like one cargo speeder. Thermal reads two in the front, and two in the back. I think they’re expecting you.” Rho reported, his voice coming from nearly ten kilometres further up the mountain, where he and Celevon were stationed with an excellent view of the various theatres of war Soulfire had been engaging in.
“Copy that, Two. Four tangos and one lifeday present. Six, be ready for a roadkill manoeuvre.” Sashar ordered quietly, staring down the scope of his LJ-50, its night vision easily capturing every detail of the moving speeder. He could even see what brand of candy bar the front passenger was eating.
“In position.” Kieran answered curtly.
Sashar panned his aim over slightly up-road of the speeder and switched to thermal. Although his heat signature was almost gone thanks to the armour’s sensor-repellent coating, a heavy coating of water from the rain and the low body temperature Kieran seemed to operate at whenever he wasn’t killing something, if one knew what to look for, Such as a burly humanoid silhouette holding a strange explosive device, it was possible to pick him out from the surrounding foliage.
Kieran shot out in front of the speeder, nothing more than a black shadow to the driver’s eyes and dropped on his back instantly. His arms jutted up and he adhered the makeshift EMP detonator to the speeder’s undercarriage. It continued on over him, the drivers presumably putting the blur of motion they caught sight of to be some jungle critter; not Soulfire’s former Sergeant.
“Tick tick boom, Sarge.” The Mandalorian muttered as he rolled off the road into a water-filled ditch, so that the speeder’s rear occupants wouldn’t see him.
“Nice work, Six. Nine, Twelve, be ready. We’re playing pass the parcel.”
“Roger that, lead.” Answered Voden and Teroch in unison.
Sashar followed the speeder from his vantage point atop the downed wreckage of what had used to be Soulfire’s LAAT/i, the Drexl, lodged halfway down a massive tree which overlooked a lot of the rainforest. His helmet HUD helpfully marked out the relative positions of the rest of his squad, and that cargo speeder was almost where his husband and son were hiding….
He depressed the detonator command on his wrist datapad, and a blue spark briefly lit up the night. The speeder, bereft of power, slammed down onto the mud track, lifeless. Shouts of surprise chorused out from within and almost immediately the two in the back section hopped out, rifles out. Two precision blasts from Teroch’s EPL ‘shotgun’ reduced their torsos to craters. Before the driver and passenger could think to find cover, Voden had hosed the front windscreen, killing them both.
“Package secured. Unwrapping now.” Voden chimed in as he and teroch climbed into the cargo partition.
“Buir, we’ve hit the jackpot…” Teroch muttered a few minutes later, momentarily forgetting comm. Discipline.
“…We estimate roughly half of the Forces they committed to Eldar have been incapacitated or killed. And whilst we’re relatively sure they simply don’t have the resources to try and take any more mining facilities or refineries, we’re in the same boat. We can’t hold anything else we take. Soulfire’s doing its usual asset denial, but they’re running low on supplies too, and their movement is limited with the loss of the Drexl. Basically, Eldar needs more troops injected if there’s going to be an end to this stale-mate.” Strategos finished, glancing up from the datapad.
The other Arconae in attendance were James Entar and Timeros Entar. Malidir and Sashar were deployed on Eldar, and Mejas didn’t deign to grace the new Consul with his prescence (much to Zandro’s relief). It was a late night briefing and the cycloptic leader of Arcona wanted nothing more than to get a few hours’ sleep, but they were at war…a war they should’ve been winning easily, and yet were frustrated at every turn. Outside the door Xayun and Xar Khan stood immobile, and Captain Bly, with no less than four of the other Summit Guardsmen ringed the perimieter of the small conference room. With the Proconsul captured, they were taking no chances.
The Erinos rubbed his one eye and sighed, glancing at the various tactical displays scattered across the small table. His cup of caf had long since gone cold. “I agree. Fine. Get Celahir, Maaks and Captain Yamato down here, on the double.
“What do they need all this ordinance for? We haven’t got any buildings erected.” Juda commented, staring at row upon row of Thermal Detonators, Proton Charges and wildfire canisters.
“The Thermal Dets and Proton charges are probably for taking out one of the mining facilities Arcona holds… as for the Wildfire…given the right weather conditions, there’s probably enough here to take out a large portion of the forest we occupy. They’ve had no luck finding us, so they’re going to burn us out.” Voden supplied, carelessly juggling one of the Thermal Dets from hand to hand.
“But these nozzles... they’re aerosol. They’re meant for atmospheric dispersal, which is very impractical at ground level. These were designed to release this substance into the atom, so it’d coat a larger area more finely.” Teroch pointed out, fiddling with the top half of one of the canisters.
Sashar snatched it off him. “They’ve probably got some airpseeders left somewhere. Perhaps another, smaller landing field on the other side of the mountain. If I were them, I’d burn from the south side of the mountain and generally dictate its path to come back towards the air strip in a crescent. We’d get caught in the bowl and either burned alive or forced out into their kill zone around the landing strip’s perimeter. Two, how many speeders have you seen heading north in the past few days?”
Rho reported back immediately. “Three. Two went to the Keppler mining station, and the third we picked up tonight.”
“You haven’t got eyes on anything north of Keppler, have you?”
“Negative, Lead. The structure itself obstructs my view, and frankly, it’s too far away to accurately target things, even for us.”
Sashar mulled it over for a moment. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Eleven, I want you tab around to the North face of the mountain and search for any signs of a smaller speeder landing strip. Report back when you’ve covered the entire area.”
“Copy that.” Celevon answered, eager for something important to do.
“The rest of us are going to head back to Rally base and resupply. I reckon we’re going to have to begin our final offensive sooner than we planned.”
“I’m staying on overwatch?”
“That’s affirmative, Two. Enjoy the rain.”
Celahir, Maaks and Xayun Erinos along with Xar Kahn stood to rigid attention before him. Slightly behind them was Captain Yamato, his back ramrod straight.
“Gentlemen, Eldar has become a quagmire of mixed battle lines and skirmishes, none of which are going to win us the planet back. I need you four to take the rest of Soulfire Strike Force down to re-inforce Sashar and the core squad. From there, I want you to take back the planet by any and all means necessary. If we have to lose a few mining plants; fine. Having some mines active is better than none at all. Also, take fresh supplies for Sashar’s lot. They’re bound to be running low by now. You leave in two hours. Celahir, you have command until you meet up with Sashar.”
“Lord Consul, what about your protection?” Celahir asked, frowning slightly.
“I have Bly, the Summit Guard, and the Arconae. I think I’ll be safe as houses.”
“May I make a suggestion, sir?”
Zandro actually looked up from his desk, his one eye meeting with the Kiffar’s bright green ones.
“I request that we take Talos along with us. He’s got training in this kind of warfare and would be of more use re-taking Eldar than sorting papers behind some desk.”
“Fine. Take him. He’s a temporary member of Soulfire for the duration of this operation. Now get going.”
“SIR!” The four answered in perfect synchrony. Yamato smirked slightly, offered an abbreviated salute and left Zandro with Timeros and Strategos, his mind already filled with a myriad of tasks he needed to perform before the Valour’s Fall could depart from Giletta spaceport.
OOC: Soulfire Roster as of Communications Breakdown
1/Lead - Sashar - Tech Specialist - Shadow Lord 3rd Class - Major-General
2 - Rho - Sniper - Shadow Disciple 1st Class - Captain
3 - Celahir - Comm/Slicer - Shadow Warrior 3rd Class - Major
4 - Juda - Medic - Shadow Warrior 3rd Class - Major
5 - Malidir - Demolitions - Shadow Lord 2nd Class - General
6 - Kieran - Advanced Recon - Shadow Disciple 2nd Class - Lieutenant
7 - Xayun - Advanced Recon - Shadow Warrior First Class - Commander
8 - Maaks - Advanced Recon - Initiate 2nd Class - Private First Class
9 - Voden - Analyst - Shadow Disciple 2nd Class - Lieutenant
10 - Xar - Heavy Weapons - Shadow Disciple 3rd class - Lieutenant
11 - Celevon - Spotter/Asst. Sniper - Initiate 3rd Class - Private First Class
12 - Teroch - Asst. Analyst
Acheron sat in his hole quietly. He had left one prison to be placed in a secret ward below the Citadel at the Consul’s orders. Zandro and he had served together before he was taken, before he was trapped within the confines of an unstable system. With a soft growl, Acheron looked around the nine by nine holding cell.
Barely enough room for me to move around…at least the Tomb I could come and go as I pleased, the cyborg thought angrily.
If he had lips, he would have smiled. They hadn’t made sure he wasn’t scanning the entire floor as they brought him to the solitary ward reserved for true dangers to Arcona. He looked towards the door, his voice soft and mechanical, “Play back recorded feed.”
His HUD was given an overlay of the floor he had seen with minor calculations for the other wings. He hadn’t seen many guards, but perhaps it was due to the conflict he was being forced to sit out. The map showed the steps taken from the turbolift that had brought him down nearly one hundred stories below the Citadel’s main floor. As the map continued its playback, Acheron leaned against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.
Long durasteel halls, the walls measuring nearly 4 feet thick for each cell by the level of echo received from the footfalls. These cells were obviously designed with people like Acheron in mind. Persona non grata who could be considered truly dangerous.
The gray walls seemed to honeycomb endlessly in this underground ‘medical center’. Passing by different rooms, his sensors alerted him to the presence of urine, excrement and blood.
Doors on some corridors, guards stood on duty with their weapons still clipped to their belts. Even fewer still had their weapons at the ready like true professionals. As the walk continued down the corridors, Acheron’s sensors began to detect a slowing in the pace as they neared the end of the corridor. A slight gesture told the Prelate that he was supposed to enter the cell.
Upon entering the cell, Acheron’s sensors detected high levels of ammonia and something to dull the overpowering scent that would affect those who still had noses. He initiated a quick scan of the room to determine if there were any structural weak points, and found only the door.
With a soft beep, the play back ended and Acheron shrugged. He had little time to spare as he began to feel trapped once more within the confines of his neural systems. Pushing away from the wall, he reared back his left hand and formed it into a fist.
With a loud crash, the wall shuddered under the sheer force of the blow. Pulling his fist back once more, he repeated the strike. Again, he struck the wall which was beginning to show serious signs of damage. Yelling could be heard near the door as he continued to strike the walls until a semi-circle large enough for him to move through was visible in dents along the wall.
He stepped to the wall farthest from his planned escape route and braced against the wall. With a resolute stance, he hit the back wall with both hands and shoved away from it, vaulting his momentum with the Force. The impact against the wall was thunderous and tore the semi-circle away from the wall to land on the other side of the corridor.
Rising to his full height of nearly 3 meters, he looked down at a nearby guard who was leveling a rifle at him. With an unamused tone, he spoke slowly to the guard, “You are going to bring that bastard Zandro Erinos down here. You had better tell him he has better come up with a damn good reason for treating me this way.”
The guard nodded quickly and fingered his comlink, “I beg your pardon, Consul Erinos. But, we have a situation with Prisoner 86371 d’Tana, Acheron. He requests your presence immediately, my Lord.”
Acheron felt himself smirk inwardly as he reached out to palm the guards rifle in his hand and bend it beyond recognition, “For your sake, he had better hurry.”
Talos Erinos waited for his one aide to leave the Officer’s Lounge, now his commandeered office, and the door to slide closed before slamming his head down on the hardwood surface of the desk. Resting his head against the cool wood while the ringing headache he had caused himself dissipated, the Obelisk Templar groaned to no one in particular:
“I cannot do this!,” he said as he got up from his desk and undid another button on his uniform shirt before shrugging out of the tan garment and tossing it into the corner.
“I mean, really,” Talos continued as he swallowed two pain relief pills, “Usually, I’m the one who does the killing…always in the thick of the action. But now we’re at war and I’m stuck behind a desk, without a clue on how to write a proper letter of condolence. You know, maybe this promotion to Captain was overrated” the Humanoid seethed, venomously eyeing the massive pile of casualty reports on his desk.
As caught up in his rant as he was, Talos didn’t hear the door to his makeshift office “whoosh” open and therefore, didn’t see his brother and superior enter the lounge.
“I don’t have a clue either, if it’s any help” Celahir Erinos said from the doorway.
While Talos would normally be glad to see one of his closest friends, the Equite couldn’t help but notice that the Kiffar was kitted out in a Dar’Verd Combat Environmental Suit, the iconic black armor of Soulfire Strike Team,…meaning he to was going to the frontlines.
“Well it looks like you don’t have to worry about it” Talos snorted, gesturing to the Quaestor’s attire.
Calm and collected as always, Celahir simply nodded and shrugged:
“That’s true, I’ve been ordered to reinforce Sash on Eldar,” he admitted quietly, “But I didn’t come to rub it in your face, Tal.”
Curiosity piqued, the newest Erinos relaxed his posture. “Explain if you’d be so kind”
At this, Celahir’s face broke into a wide smile, something he reserved for family members only.
“My orders have changed, like I said” the Prelate said slowly, purposefully enticing his younger brother, “But so have yours…see if this fits” he finished and suddenly, a limp black form was flying through the air.
Due to his Force-enhanced reflexes, Talos caught the object against his chest and slowly brought it up for proper inspection. When he realized exactly what it was that he was holding, his mouth dropped open.
“Suit up,” Celahir ordered, “And report to the Valour’s Fall, we go skids up in 30”
The door had barely shut behind the departing Quaestor before Talos was stripping out of the rest of his Army uniform and reverently replacing it with the black bodysuit of his own Dar'Verd Combat Environmental Suit.
AGV Valour’s Fall
“We’re nearing the designated entry altitude, Major” Alex Yamato said crisply, approaching the five black armored commandos who were staring at the growing orb that was the planet Eldar…which had been, until the Krikella invasion, the homeworld of House Galeres. For Talos and Celahir, the sight was bitter sweet.
As the Quaestor and Aedile of Galeres, this return to Eldar held double meaning for the pair; first and foremost was reinforcing their brothers in Soulfire and wiping out the KEC invasion force, but the reclaiming of their seats and providing their members with a planet to call its own was a close second.
“Thank you, Alex,” Celahir replied casually when he had finished staring at the besieged planet, “Are the supplies and drop-pod ready?”
The naval officer nodded: “They are, sir. You have a single five-seater drop pod, beacons to call for vehicle drops, and a portable equipment cache waiting for you in the hangar bay,” he explained before trying to switch the conversation, “Major…Celahir, are you sure—“
“I’m quite sure, Captain” the Kiffar said, holding up a hand to silence him. He gave Yamato a genuine look of friendly affection before explaining the plan once again:
“It’s as I explained before we left the capital; we can’t afford to drop the gear into separate places or become separated ourselves. Ostensibly, Krikella Extraction is in control of the planet and they still have a large number of troops alive and action-ready. While it may make more noise, our best bet for making it to the RV with the rest of Soulfire Strike Team is to drop into one location…”
Celahir trailed off as a signal for his lover, Maaks, to continue the explanation:
“And once we hit the ground, we grab all that we can carry, hide the rest, and then get out of the area before Krikella comes a-calling. Once they lose interest in the area, we can lead the rest of Soulfire back and secure the rest of the cache”
Captain Yamato stared dumbly at the five Special Forces commandos, eyeing each of them in turn.
“Guys,” he said in concern, forgoing all modes of proper address, “That’s extremely dangerous. Brave, but dangerous”
The tallest commando present, Xar’Kahn, answered Yamato’s concern with a gruff laugh. “Well yeah…we’re Soulfire, aren’t we? Make the preparations, Captain Yamato”
“Alright, go go go!” Celahir barked the minute that their entry vehicle hit the loamy ground of Eldar. Talos, Xar’Kahn, Maaks, and Xayun scurried to follow their temporary CO’s commands, busting out of the pod and dropping to the ground with practiced precision.
“Vode, grab all the gear you can,” Celahir said to Talos and Xayun, his voice coming out mechanical through his helmet’s vocabulators – and also extremely loud, in the silence of the Eldarian forest – “Xar, help me get this pod into the trees. Maaks, get the support beacons and scout ahead”
The four Soulfirians, and their one honorary member, were like black shadows as they scurried around the clearing, accomplishng their tasks in record time.
In evidence of Soulfire’s elite training, barely five minutes had passed before Talos was hiking through the dense and rainy forest, laden with his own kit as well as three additional SSK-7 blaster pistols, two KX-80s, one EPP-2, and a half dozen of the new Erinos Adhesive Grenades (or EAGs); spare power-paks for each type of weapon he carried were clipped around his waist, and despite the burden, the Obelisk Templar had little trouble keeping up with his squad-mates.
'I’ve waited a long for this,' Talos thought, 'For however long this lasts, I'm Soulfire Thirteen. And I won't blow this'
Therefore, he followed Celahir deeper and deeper into the forest as they neared the location of the last set of coordinates that Sashar had sent out via burst-transmission.
Which, as befit the Strike Team’s MO, was probably somewhere right in the thick of the action.
Zandro looked up from the desk at which he sat, eyeing the two men before him with his remaining eye and knowing that the task he was about to assign to them would probably be dangerous, but could also be the first step in winning the war which Arcona found itself in.
“Marick, Invictus, I have a mission for your house. You are both skilled warriors and extremely able leaders, but in recent times we have found that there is a hole in the Summit where something should be. Your mission is to fill that hole; find our Proconsul and provide his location to me so that we can rescue him. If you find information as to where Lorden is then that'd be a bonus, as would any extra intelligence you can provide or...difficulties you can cause our enemies. I want them hurting, I want Wuntila back and I want to know where Lorden is so we can crush him and plant his head on a spike.”
The two men nodded in understanding and saluted before making their way from the office, silent as they left the Consul alone with his thoughts.
Wuntila had better be alive, I don't know what'll happen if he isn't.
The situation in which Arcona found itself was tenuous to say the best, and it could be argued that they were in fact losing the war which they were waging. A beep from his intercom brought the cycloptic Arconae from his thoughts and he pressed the button which would activate the device.
“Lord Consul, apparently you have been requested by name down in the high security prison.”
With a heavy sigh the human rose, walking brusquely from the room and out past where his assistant sat, along with his bodyguard.
“I'll go now. Bly, with me.”
The Clone Captain rose without a word and fell into step with his charge, silently following the Warlord to the lifts that would take him straight down to the detention facility beneath the Citadel. Into the lift they went, still without a word being uttered and as the doors closed and the lift began it's descent, the usually stoic Bly broke the silence.
“Not every day you visit the prison.”
A smirk split the Arconae's lips.
“Not every day I get requested by name; most of the people down there are too sedated to do more than dribble and dream.”
A grunt was the only reply as the lift pinged at the pair and opened it's doors, allowing them into the prison beyond. Seeing the huge figure looming over an unarmed guard, the Sith cocked an eyebrow as he looked at the d'Tana's eyes.
Acheron looked over his shoulder with an ungracious sound to the large hole in the wall, “For starters, Erinos, you need thicker walls if you want to imprison someone like me. Secondly, what the hell are you doing imprisoning me in the first place?”
Bly moved his rifle up slightly and without turning the large, imposing Obelisk shook his head, “You will have to move a lot faster to catch me unaware.” With a light gesture, he tapped the tip of his ear where a small camera rested.
Zandro shrugged, “You had been without routine maintenance for nearly a decade, Prelate d’Tana. Orv did what he could, but he mentioned that your memories are so fragmented that you are likely unstable.”
Acheron laughed softly, “You can’t keep me down here, Erinos. You and I both know that.” The large cyborg turned to look at Bly, shrugging slightly, “You should have brought more guards if you think I’m dangerous, Zandro.”
A quick scan of the guard revealed many things about the guard. With a quick uplink to the Citadel’s systems, Acheron located the required information he needed. His dry, amused voice came slowly as he measured the guard, “ARC Clone Trooper Bly, Captain. Trained by Sashar Erinos like all guards to the Summit. Interesting…”
Bly seemed completely unperturbed by this and Zandro simply smiled, “One should be all I need if you get out of hand, Acheron. That shouldn’t happen though, right? I’m sure Orv was simply speaking in generalities. You know who your foes are.”
A shrug. Shrugs were good in Acheron’s mind, a very blasé movement. “Who my foes are depends on the will of Arcona and her leaders. I guard and I hunt. You pick which I do, Consul Erinos.”
With slow, deliberate movements, Acheron reached out and placed a finger on Bly’s weapon and gave it a gentle push downward, “There is no need for that, Captain. I assure you, you’ll know if you need it and I have no doubt that you will use it.”
Acheron looked back at Zandro, “So, what do you need me to do? My scanners indicate that you’ve recently come across a problem that may need fairly specialized skills to handle…whatever I can do is at your service. Current protocol is set for protection and general bodyguard duties.”
Rho decided he liked being the minister of death. Eight of the Star Galleons had been brought down by him. Two thirds of the invasion force assigned to subjugate Eldar. It had all been thanks to the Erinos Magnetically Accelerated Projectile Launcher. A prototype weapon which was making its debut, the E-MAPL, (nicknamed Maple) required two people to man, however the projectiles it fired were strong enough to blast through the hull armour of a warship, as Rho had demonstrated by hitting the bridge viewscreens of his felled foes. His kill-count had to be easily higher than the rest of Arcona’s war effort combined. Now, hopefully, the rest of the Clan would stop banging on about how Malidir killed over five thousand Yuuzhan Vong in single combat. He could keep up with his rival. The Nagai knew that Malidir didn’t see it as a rivalry – Rho was in Soulfire, therefore he was Malidir’s ally. If he wasn’t in Soulfire, then he would be treated with anything from cold mistrust to murderous ire. The huge human was just that polarising.
He and Celevon had been laid up in their little hide high up the side of the Mountain for a month now. Their position hadn’t been discovered, despite innumerable flyovers. The camo netting hung above their little camp like a canopy also retarded most sensor pings. It was just as well. If he was discovered, there was no way he’d be able to pack up Maple and get moving in time. The weapon was too big to move on his own, and even if he had Celevon with him, a speedy getaway was out of the question with Maple’s fat ass in tow.
That morning, Rho had spotted a walker incursion into the forest. At first they’d located the speeder, however after that the dozen antiquated AT-STs had spread out in six pairs in an expanding hexagon search pattern. They’d never find Sashar and Soulfire like that. He was almost a dozen kilometres away in the burned out hulk of one of Rho’s victims – the Star Galleon Arethusa. Rho had dutifully informed his Sergeant, former master, and possibly number three on the list of people he devoutly wanted to kill, then settled in to watch the mercenaries stomping through the undergrowth, groping blindly for some trace of the ghost-like squad.
Sashar had promptly set off with Kieran and Malidir on a ‘mech hunt.’ Rho was under orders to assist, however, in combat, mishaps often happened. Today could be the day.
The crash of a pair of AT-STs stomping through the forest mere tens of meters away would be enough to chill the blood of most sentients. Soulfire were not included in that number.
It all happened at once. A concussion blast cut through the undergrowth and slammed into the cockpit module of one walker. From behind the pair of AT-STs, an E-Web cannon opened up and cut the infantry supporting the walkers down in swathes. The first AT-ST lost its balance and crashed down backwards, exploding as the head hit the ground and the second turned to aim its chin cannon in the vicinity of the concussion blast’s origin. Red lances of death burned through the foliage and Sashar ducked below one then swerved around another, aiming his Concussion Rifle one-handed. He pulled the trigger and the recoil snapped the rifle back, but a telekinetic shove at the concussion blast as soon as it left the barrel accelerated the bolt past the sound barrier, drastically increasing its damage potential. The technique wasn’t wasted. Instead of buffeting the armoured head of the walker, the bolt smashed into it and decimated the durasteel construct, leaving the legs intact with just a smoking slagged wreckage perched precariously atop it.
“Lead, incoming. 5’o’clock. We woke the neighbours.” Kieran reported crisply before the whine of the rotating barrel of the E-web to cool down.
“Roger that, Six. Five, circle right. Do not engage – you’ll give away your position. circle around until you have a clear field of fire at their six, and try not to hit Six or I in the process. Six, with me.”
Kieran and Sashar charged from cover and were suddenly amongst a Weequay armour support squad acting as a vanguard for two other Walkers stomping towards them. Alive with the Force Meld, the Mandalorian brothers didn’t need to communicate verbally - they just moved as the same organism. It wasn’t artful or even brutal, it was just labour. There was no challenge or joy taken from hewing down the startled Weequays or dodging the lumbering walkers, especially when Malidir was able to adhere an EAG (Erinos Adhesive Grenade) to each of the Walkers’ undercarriages. They exploded beautifully and toppled to the ground. Perhaps two hundred meters away were the last two walkers, and their infantry support had already broken and had started running into the undergrowth, terrified.
“Two, want to add a couple of walker silhouettes to your fancy new gun?”
Rho answered by firing once. The sound cracked through the atmosphere like some sort of elctronic bell a few seconds later. There was the whisper of a white flash and the Walker dropped to the ground, hulled. The last standing mech turned to face the threat, however Soulfire’s sniper was easily a dozen kilometers away. Moments later, it fired again and the last Walker went down.
“Good shooting, two. Fix, Six, let’s head back.”
Sashar arrived at Soulfire’s makeshift camp already grinning. Five other consciousnesses had joined the meld a couple of hours ago, and they’d finally arrived in the hulled Star Galleon, taking refuge from the rain. Celahir was already plugged into the ship’s computer and trying to repair the comm array, so that he could better monitor the enemies’ transmissions. Maaks was on sentry duty, sitting atop the wreckage under cover of a ghillie suit. Xar Kahn and Xayun were chatting animatedly with Voden, and Talos seemed to be trying his absolute hardest not to check out Teroch, who was in the process of doing his morning exercise regime. Already his bare arms and much of his tank top had been splattered with mud.
“Su’cuy, vode!” He greeted aimiably, pulling off his helmet.
“Copaani gaan?” Celahir asked, smiling back and rising to clasp forearms with his older brother and bump their foreheads none-too-gently together.
“Please say you brought supplies.”
“Yeah. Juda’s going through them in the store-room. Quite a comfy setup you have here, ner’vod. Anyone would think you’re just having a holiday in this lovely weather.”
“A regular home away from home, vod’ika. Have they brought you up to speed yet?”
“We’ve only just got here, and Voden wanted to wait for you.”
Sashar nodded and raised his voice. “Soulfire! form up. Maaks, even you. Get your bony ass down from there!”
The squad assembled hastily, and surprisingly there wasn’t even much grumbling. The only people missing from the get-together were Celevon and Rho.
“Right lads. We’ve just been reinforced, but we’re by no means in a position to take them by force yet. They have a landing strip laid out in the valley floor and it’s impossible to sneak up on there without first taking their power. That in itself would be incredibly risky. They still have more troops and armour than we can shake a stick at, much less take on directly, and they control the three largest mining facilities, located to the south, south east and east respectively. We control the south face of the mountain and most of the valley lowlands apart from their makeshift landing strip. They tried to sneak a transport through last night loaded with Dragon’s piss, so we reckon they’re trying to burn us out. Given that we’ve eliminated all of their airspeeders, the only way they could do this is if they have a small landing strip with some further speeders on the other side of the Valley. Celevon’s gone to check that out. What we need to do is to continue-”
Sashar abruptly halted, his expression growing clouded.
“Out! Get out!”
High above the forest, skirting just below the cloud cover was the Elder’s Bat. It was a Force Wraith of humanoid proportions that acted as an eye-in-the-sky almost wherever Sashar went. When the Mandalorian was staying in or around Estle city on Selen, the locals often spotted the Bat circling and patrolling the skies at night, and various urban legends had arisen to its origin and purpose. Some called it an Angel. Others called it a watchman, there to defend the downtrodden. Right now, the Wraith was a harbinger. A steel girder shot through the cloud mere meters from the ephemeral creature. It was solid durasteel, perhaps fifteen meters long and weighed several tonnes. There was no complex directional thrusters or warheads mounted on it. No, this was a crude way of killing sentients and waging war, but horrifically effective. Often, there were banks of girders deployed over besieged worlds mounted on satellites. They could be targeted over specific regions and simply dropped. Without any thrusters or targeting computers, the durasteel projectiles were very, very hard to detect, and even if one could, electronic countermeasures were useless. The only way to confound them would be energy shields over their intended target, or by shooting them down with torpedoes. Given how cheap they were, and the fact that their mass and acceleration would allow them to easily mulch everything in a hundred-meter radius, they were very, very popular with Private Military Companies and other mercenary groups. One of those girders shot down towards each of the felled Star Galleons, each of them glowing cherry red with friction from passing through the atmosphere.
The Squad scattered without asking why. Panic was writ across the Elder’s face and it bloomed through the Force as he shot through the nearest egress and looked up at the sky. The source of his fear was tearing through the sky at him, a brilliant red comet. There was no time to apply the Force with any finesse. He drew deep into every reserve available to him (a substantial amount) and stabbed a clenched fist up at the sky. Seizing the durasteel lump, he yanked it and altered the trajectory ever so slightly. Spent, Sashar collapsed to the ground and the girder struck a few hundred meters north of the Galleon. He was thrown a good five meters into the air by the initial impact, then the shockwave tore through the forest and the Galleon’s hulk offered little protection as trees and chunks of earth were tossed about like toys.
Rho watched death rain down across the valley, and a twinge of grim satisfaction curled his lip into a sneer. Sashar’s Force presence had vanished after a brief surge of panic in the meld. The others were shaken but okay. Hopefully, the impact would’ve killed him. Not even an Elder could stop that sort of blast.
There was an odd pressure at the back of his head - the kind of buzzing he often felt/heard when danger was impending.
He felt the barest trace of heat, then everything went black.
Malidir coughed and pushed himself into a crouch, yanking his combat knife from his boot. His other weapons had been knocked away in the blast and he was battered, but still alive. Stretching out his feelings, he could feel a few of the others about, but the cloud of dust and muck made it impossible to see anyone. One presence was notably missing: Rho’s. The Sniper’s position must’ve finally been triangulated, and a durasteel girder dropped on him too. The gall of attacking them in such a cowardly manner had the veteran angrier than he’d ever been. They were going to pay, but he had to regroup with the others first.
That is, if they’re alive.
Central Basin Region
2 Hours After Impact
“Talos…wake up. Dammit, Tal’ika, wake up. Please, get up” a voice said, its tone quiet but concerned.
The Obelisk Templar merely groaned.
“Talos! We are in major osik, you need to get up. I need you, or I’m going to die. Meaning you’re going to die too.”
At that, Talos Erinos’ opened his eyes to have the youthful visage of Teroch Erinos looking down on him. While this normally may have been a welcome sight, the fact that the young Mandalorian’s face was bruised and spattered with blood was enough to make the honorary Soulfirian realize that this wasn’t a friendly wake up call.
“Ter’ika…,” Talos grunted, his head pounding, “What happened?”
Teroch was silent for a few moments, something uncharacteristic of the Mando youth. “The camp was hit…by something,” he said finally, “I’m not exactly sure what happened… but it was enough to scare the shebs off of buir. He told us to get out of the camp and then…that’s all I remember”
Talos nodded both in sympathy and thanks, as he remembered even less than that. But as he looked around, the Humanoid realized that they were in a pretty bad state; having not spent any time on Eldar in almost 4 years, Talos had not the slightest clue where they were.
“Blast!” muttered the Templar as he took a quick inventory of his body and gear; from quick presses through his armor, the Humanoid could tell that his chest was badly bruised, with the possibility of a broken rib in addition to a pounding headache.
As for equipment… that was in a far worse state; while Talos’ Dar’Verd armor had come through mostly unscathed he was the only one wearing full armor as Teroch had been shirtless and wearing only fatigue pants and boots when the attack had come. When it came to weaponry, the only things that could be scrounged up were Talos’ SSK-7 with three clips of ammo and a combat knife from his boot.
“Ok, so what now?” Talos asked as he dabbed at the blood on Teroch’s face with a cloth he had pulled from his belt.
“Copaani mirshmure’cye, Tal’ika?” Teroch said angrily, falling into Mando’a as he usually did when angry or stressed. Turning away from the Obelisk’s ministrations, Teroch continued:
“We need to find buir…I can’t feel him in the Force Meld. That’s all that matters.”
Tired and in pain, Talos snapped back without thinking. “No, it’s not. Aka before self, isn’t that what the alor’verde would say?” the Templar said, anger creeping into his tone as Teroch turned his back on him.
“Look into the Meld, Ter’ika…those of us that are there are weak as osik and Sashar’s not the only one missing. Auretii d’Tana’s gone too” he continued.
Faster than he could blink, a fist came hurtling towards Talos’ face but it stopped just inches away from actually making contact. Behind the fist was Teroch, with murder in his eyes…but soon the glare began to melt away as the sense of what Talos was saying worked past his own anger and confusion.
“Lek, you’re right…that’s buir’s primary lesson. But I’m taking point” Teroch Erinos said sullenly and with that, he wrenched the combat knife from the rain-soaked ground and marched off into the forest.
Sighing in exasperation and wincing from the pain of his headache, Talos worked the slide on his pistol and set off after the youth.
Talos and Teroch pushed through the dense foliage of the Eldarian woodland, moving as quickly as their ‘covert’ pace would allow. After an hour of travel, they had nearly reached the clearing where Soulfire had set up their camp, and were just about to push through the last of the surrounding trees when the Force sent a chill up Talos’ spine.
“Ter’ika!,” the Aedile whispered as he grabbed Teroch’s shoulder to keep him from walking into the clearing. “Ba’slan shev’la” he said, pointing up to the trees.
Teroch nodded in the affirmative and carefully, no longer worrying about speed, began to climb up the closest tree, turning around at the top to help his adopted cousin in his own ascent. Once the two Erinos were up in the trees, Talos carefully crept out on a sturdy limb and switched his helmet’s vision mode to infrared/thermal.
“What’ve you got?” Teroch asked in the Soulfire silent hand code when Talos returned to where he was crouched.
“6 tangos; mostly light assaulters and scouts but 1 heavy trooper. Likely trying to confirm our deaths.” the Templar signaled back.
Teroch nodded again and moved past his cousin and towards the clearing, before looking back at Talos.
“Well…ib'tuur jatne tuur ash'ad kyr'amur” he muttered, forgoing the silent code.
Before the older Mandalorian could stop him, Teroch Erinos tiptoed to the end of the branch and leaped down into the clearing.
“Haar’chak!” Talos groaned as he heard the distinctive gurgle of a man who had just had his throat slit.
Then came the whine of several blaster rifles being primed…but by that time, Talos Erinos was already down on the ground, shoulder-to-shoulder with his friend and squadmate, SSK-7 raised.
Facing them were five armored and armed mercenaries, each with deadly intent written across their faces.
“Well, well, well,” one of the mercenaries said, obviously the leader due to the insignia on his armor, “You lot just don’t stay down, do you?”
With that, the semi-circle of KEC mercs began to slowly close around the two Erinos.
Meanwhile, hundreds of klicks of away from any other member of Soulfire Strike Team, Celevon Edraven was sprinting through the thick foliage, moving as fast as his legs, the Force, and his current kit, would allow. Behind him, the roar of several Aratech 74-Z speederbikes could be heard.
“I’m sorry, precious” Celevon muttered as he unhooked his Verpine Sniper Rifle from his back and tossed the expensive, and deadly, weapon behind him.
Somewhat unburdened, Edraven dug his heels into the ground and ran even faster.
‘Gotta find Sashar..or find Rho. Tell them what I know…gotta find..someone’ he thought as he leaped over a tree and continued to run.
But the sounds of Krikella Extraction Company’s pursuit team could be heard getting even closer….
In that moment, despite the exhaustion, despite the danger (or perhaps because of it), a connection formed in the Force. Talos Erinos, trained by the recently deceased Rho d’Tana in its dark mysteries was no sage adept like Teroch’s father or uncles. In fact, he considered himself distinctly average in terms of his Force potential. He wasn’t going to be able to explain it any time soon. Likewise, Whilst Teroch had massive, massive potential locked away, he’d never undergone formal training. He was ignorant of the intimate eddies and flows the Force took seemingly arbitrarily. Nevertheless, there was suddenly, inexplicably and thankfully an indelible chain linking the two Soulfirians. One could tell what the other was feeling down to the slightest change in emotion, they could sense when the other was going to move, and in which direction, they could feel how tired and battered one another were, and what their confidence felt like. It was a myriad of information, but it didn’t end there – no, their confidence was shared through the bond. The apprehensions one another felt vanished under the combined might of their certainty.
Teroch moved. Displaying a dexterity bought from youth, he darted forwards towards a Whipid with a blaster rifle. His knife slashed up as he moved laterally, shifting his bloodied torso out of the muzzle’s line of fire. Shots went off, scorching his shoulder, but the youth didn’t slow. His knife caught an artery in the huge furred being’s neck, and it went down, spraying blood across the floor. Talos moved in the opposite direction, holding his pistol in both hands and snapped off two shots. Both landed in the faces of two scouts, felling them before they could get off a blast. His momentum kept him turning, and the slightly older commando’s back was suddenly pressed against the bole of a tree, protecting him from return fire. Teroch spun around, grasped a rodian’s wrist and twisted violently. The green-skinned being screamed as he wrenched his arm behind him, but that sound only went higher in pitch when Sashar’s son drove his combat knife through the Rodian’s palm and effectively pinned him to a tree stump.
His spin abruptly halted when the heavy trooper, a Mandalorian, grabbed him by the hair, kicked his feet out from under him, and dropped him unceremoniously to the floor.
A filtered voice called through the Rodian’s screaming “Drop your weapon or the kid’s gonna be a lot shorter!”
Talos swore to himself. There wasn’t an option open to him here.
He came out from behind the tree with his hands up, then dropped the SSK-7 on the floor before stepping over it and heading into the clearing. Teroch was on his knees, his hands held behind his head by the Mandalorian, who had a heavily modified EE3 pressed against the youth’s temple. Next to the beige-armoured being was another sour-looking human, who had a flamer trained on Talos.
“Gar di’kut!” Teroch shouted at his ‘cousin’, frustrated that he’d endangered the mission to try and save him, rather than carry on. Talos ignored him.
His attention was caught on the shadow detaching itself from the tree behind the Mandalorian. It crouched down behind the captor and studied him thoughtfully for a second before reaching up and manually activating his jetpack. With a shout, the Mando shot into the air, screaming. His companion shot around, but Teroch was up in a second, his hands slapping either side of his head. Suddenly discombobulated, the merc dropped his weapon and stumbled about, completely missing Talos scooping his pistol up with his foot, flicking it into the air, catching it and taking aim at him.
“Hettir, chakaar.” Talos spat. A single shot lanced out, caught him in the eye, and dropped him to the floor. His aim panned over to the shadow, still crouched behind Teroch, but the youth didn’t seem concerned.
“Su’cuy, buir.” He said amiably, pulling the shadow into a hug.
At the physical contact, the illusion faded, and Voden Erinos was left in its place, battered but uninjured.
“Hey, ad’ika. We need to move fairly quickly. He’ll touch down soon.” Voden said, referring to the Mandalorian, who was presumably still in flight somewhere above the jungle.
“We got a rally point?” Talos asked, checking the charge on his pistol.
“I’ve met up with Celahir and Maaks. They’re trying to find Sashar. C’mon.”
Kieran awoke with a groan. An instant assessment revealed that he’d broken his right wrist, lost his rifle, and been separated from the squad. Further analysis revealed that he was under about two feet of downed foliage, muck and tree branches. With only one hand working, it proved difficult to free himself. When he did, he wished he hadn’t. Lying on the floor a few feet away with Xayun. Kieran groaned louder.
Xayun stirred at the sound, and sat up, his hand instinctively going for the shoulder holster, where one of two beskad were located. When he realised he wasn’t in danger, he relaxed slightly and moved to a crouch, the point of the short, stubby sword digging reflexively into a tree branch.
“Any injuries?” Kieran asked gruffly as he cradled his hand and stood up, his eyes scanning their surroundings for his weapon.
“I never knew you cared.” Xayun replied teasingly, moving to pinch the corner of Kieran’s mask. The larger man swiped his hand away, winced at the pain and glared at Xayun until he answered.
“No, I’m fine. Just lacking my rifle. Got my EPL, though.”
Kieran nodded and closed his eyes, stretching out his feelings, joining his mind to the everpresent Force Meld Soulfire collectively upkept. Not far away, Juda and Xar’kahn were awake and uninjured, but Juda was concentrating on something.
“C’mon. That way. Juda’ika and Xar.”
Xayun paused slightly as he stood up, unholstering his shotgun. “Do you explode if you use more than fifteen words a day? Is there word rationing in effect?”
“Shut up and take point.”
“You’re a point man for the squad, and I reckon you’d make a good meaty blaster bolt absorber. Get moving.”
Sashar woke up screaming. He sat up shouting incoherently, his subconscious calling on the Force, which only made his head throb even more. Juda tried to restrain him, but a telekinetic hand planted itself on his chest and threw the medic across the clearing. He bounced off a tree trunk and fell to the floor, coughing and wheezing. Xar and Kieran were on the Elder in a second and dragged him to the floor, but he was frenzied. A telekinetic wave took them both off their feet, and a singularity began to form above him.
“Oh shab. Juda, tranq him now.” Xayun shouted, diving at Sashar.
A black ethereal tentacle caught him in the face, knocking him over before he could lay a hand on the Obelisk. The Ox, one of Sashar’s more defensive Force Wraiths coalesced above him and snarled protectively at Xayun, but made no further move to attack.
“Wait!” Juda shouted as he got up, watching Sashar, not the Wraith.
Gradually, Sashar’s screaming subsided and both his and the Ox’s expression changed. Released, the Wraith disappeared back into the ether and the Elder sat up once more, looking beaten and bloody, but incredibly serious.
“What’s wrong, ner’vod? Juda asked, kneeling beside his older brother.
“I saw something. A vision in the Force. Not fun. Where is everyone?”
“We’re the only ones who’ve grouped together. Comlinks are down. I think they’re jamming us, but I’d need Celahir to be certain.” Nobody dared ask what vision Sashar had seen which’d obviously got him so rattled and they knew that he’d never spill and risk upsetting the Force meld further.
Sashar stood up and looked around. Growling in frustration, he drew his SSK-7 and gestured for Xayun to take point.
“They’ll have one hell of a time trying to jam the Meld. I can get almost everyone.”
Juda grimaced. “I can get them too…but I can’t feel Rho.”
“Yes. I know. Rho’s dead. They worked out where he was. The rest of the squad is…to the right. About three hundred meters. Mal’s meeting up with them now. Xayun, I need you to go get Celevon. He’s trying to regroup with us, but he’s being pursued. It’ll take you most of the day to reach him. Get moving.”
For once, the squad’s smart mouth was mercifully silent. “Aye, Sarge.”
Malidir, Celahir, Maaks, Talos and Teroch were crouched in a dry ravine bed as another AT-ST stomped past them, its cannons sweeping across the flattened forest about it, searching for survivors. None of them had the armament to take down a walker, so the best they could hope to do would be to escape and evade.
“I can’t believe that five minutes into my first sortie with Soulfire and we get orbitally bombarded, lose most our gear and then have to play hide and seek with chicken walkers. Is it always like this?” Talos remarked sourly.
Celahir snorted in amusement. “No. Usually we strip naked and charge at them unarmed to give them a little more of a chance.”
“Oorah.” Maaks added, evoking sniggers from the group.
“Hang on…do you feel that?” Talos asked the sight’s premiere scout, given his extrasensory abilities were second nature to his species.
“Yeah. Closing fast. Keep your heads down, boys. It’s about to get hot, loud, and explosive.” Maaks replied, covering his head with his arms.
The largest of Sashar’s Force Wraiths, the Drexl, shot into the clearing a moment later and bodily tackled the AT-ST in the side of the head. Buffeted by the impact, the Walker staggered and fell to the ground, exploding on impact. The Wraith landed atop the burning wreckage, screamed territorially, then dissipated back to the ether. The entire attack took less than five seconds.
Sashar, Juda, Kieran and Xar’kahn emerged a moment later and jogged over to the rest of the squad’s position. As one, they hunkered down in the ravine, dragging several broken branches and large leaves over their position to make an impromptu canopy, shielding them from aerial view.
“Okay, report.” Sashar began, glancing at his 2IC, Malidir.
“I’m fine. Still got my BFG. Apparently the rest of your squad can’t handle being shaken up a bit, Sarge. I think they’re going soft. All that man-love, probably. I suggest we intensify the training when we get back.”
“I’m okay, though I lost my rifle and I think I fractured a rib. Nothing major. Maaks patched me up. We’re definitely being jammed. I’ve had to turn off my transceiver to stop hearing blinding white noise. The good news is that it’s a blanket jamming. They probably can’t communicate through it, either. Well, not without hard lines or line of sight transmitters, and we’ve seen neither of those types of equipment on-planet. They must really want to put us at a disadvantage badly.”
“Yeah, about that. If they have another landing strip, it’s possible that they could’ve got more supplies down to counter us with this exact strategy. When our pred-satellite was still up and running, I saw no other military sats in the sky or I’d have taken them out myself. They’re definitely committing more resources to just taking us out. It’s folly.” Voden paused, frowning. He was clearly analysing as he was talking. “, Eldar, whilst economically important to Arcona, isn’t a militarily strong location. There are no strongholds and the terrain just eats up personnel trying to cover it and hold it. The fact that they committed so many troops and armour here suggests a challenge. It’s like they wanted this to be their main theatre…but there’s nothing of import here. Apart from us. This entire theatre was created to take us out. They don’t give a mott’s backside about Eldar. We’re Arcona’s sword and we have the Clan’s hero rocking with us.” He grinned ironically at Sashar, who he knew hated being referred to as such. “, They take us out, and it’s a massive, massive blow to morale. Plus, they take out a good portion of our strongest and most experienced foxtrots. We’re the biggest single concentration of skilled Force users in the Clan and we have a…formidable history. They set aside all of this, just for little old Soulfire.”
The mood of the squad took a dive.
“Okay, ad’ika. Have a think on how to counter this. I’ll come back to you. Juda, status?”
The medic swallowed, but grinned. “I managed to keep hold of my EPP-2 and my med-pack. I’ve patched up everyone that I could, so we can move and fight, but every single member of the squad needs to bed up and rest as soon as possible. It’s going to be a nightmare keeping the cuts and lacerations clean in this environment. Infections will set in, and we’ll know about it when they do. This pack isn’t bottomless.” He pointed out, tapping his medpack almost affectionately.
Sashar grimaced, his hand brushing over the large cut on his cheek. He’d lost his mask in the blast, and probably the only reason he was alive was due to his armour, pitted, dented and cracked as it was. “Okay. Kieran. Please say you have something loud and obnoxious tucked away.”
“I hope you’re not referring to my cock, ner’vod. But no, other than a couple of frags, I’m tapped out.”
“Shab. Anyone else got anything good to tell me?”
“My hand hurts.” Kieran grunted.
“Uhh, we only brought what we could carry from the drop site when we landed, Sarge. We still have a fair bit of supplies a few klicks away, safely stashed. We could probably resupply and be back to fighting order within a day.” Talos pointed out.
“Way’e! How did I forget that? Excellent news! Right, our priority should be to get that gear, resupply, and then launch an all-out offensive. We need this battle sorted overnight. We no longer have the supplies for a pitched resistance fight. Vod’ika, please say you have something in the way of a strategy.”
The younger Mando grinned in response. “We’re dealing with Mercenaries. Sellswords. We don’t need numbers to beat them – we just need to remind these causeless di’kute that they’re not going to win against us. First and foremost, they’ll look out for themselves. There are no old Mercenaries that aren’t cautious. All of them want credits and to live. We can’t promise them either, so we need to make them realise that if they stay on this planet, their lives are forfeit.”
Kieran snorted in contempt. “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not in a position to do that. We’ve only got limited resources, and we’ve taken a battering. They’ll know about it. They’re not going to be scared of us.”
“We don’t need to actually beat them. We just need to show them that they can’t win. We wage a psychological war. Force users historically have a massive impact on the morale of any war. We hit them in a few specific locations, and they’ll buckle.”
“Okay, what locations, Voden?” Sashar asked, leaning forward.
The handsome youth grinned easily. “You know better than most how defenceless you feel when you’re blind. Take out their commanders. Take out their ability to see us, or call for help from off-planet. Hit the barracks exclusively with Force Wraiths as a distraction, then sneak in and destroy whatever food stores they have. Wherever they’re weak, we break them. A series of debilitating attacks which leave the average troop questioning just how long he can last against Arcona’s best will shake their resolve.”
“But we destroyed a lot of their landing craft. If they’re going to break, then they need an out. They need to think there’s a non-lethal way of getting off this planet.” Talos observed.
“True. Which is why my strategy involves hitting their starport’s security and also having a chat with one or two of the captains of the Galleons. Let them know Arcona won’t attack them if they cease hostilities if they take off and leave.”
“I can’t guarantee that. In fact, I’m almost certain of the opposite. Zandro won’t suffer them to live. He’ll vape every last one of them.” Sashar pointed out.
“That’s absolutely fine. Let him vape the aruetiise di’kute. We just need to get them off-planet. If they think they’re gonna be allowed to leave safely, the result is the same.”
“Okay. Let’s use this as a main plan and divide it up. Celahir, what can you do to limit their communications and sensors?”
The Kiffar shook his head, almost glaring in frustration. “Without a direct uplink? Not much. I’d need to be in their communications relay. If I was there, we’d own them. I could do whatever I liked.”
Sashar nodded, as if confirming his own suspicions. “Not a problem, we’ll get you in. Malidir, Xar, you guys haven’t trained with Wraiths, so I want the both of you to cover Celahir tomorrow night. You three are going in during the Wraith attack, and you’re getting him safely to the Communications Relay at their landing strip. Once there, Cel, get in, work your unique brand of magic and take out whatever you can.”
Malidir grinned around one of his everpresent cigars. “With pleasure, Sarge.”
Sashar nodded his assent. “Good. Right, Juda, Maaks Talos and I will lead the Wraith attack on the barracks. We leave nobody alive. It shouldn’t be too difficult, given that the mundanes can’t hurt Wraiths. Who’s left?”
Teroch, Kieran and Voden raised their hands.
“Voden, go have a word with the captain of the Star Galleon. Tell him that we’ll let him leave if they agree to cease hostilities.”
“What about the Leaders?” Kieran asked, already knowing the answer.
Sashar smirked in response. “You and Teroch blow up the administration building. I want a crater where it was, and every last ranking official to be in it.”
“Got it. We’ll see what supplies are left at the drop point and fashion something suitably abrasive.” Kieran replied with a smirk.
“Okay, let’s get moving.”
Celevon sat, embraced by the roots of a tree gasping in breaths. He took a large gulp from his canteen, nearly emptying the remnants, knowing that he’d either soon regroup with his squadmates and thus be able to resupply, or not need the remaining water as he’d be dead. For nearly two days he’d been running, evading the pursuit from no less than four airspeeders overhead. He’d spied another airfield, just as Voden had suspected, but they’d spied him too. There were no less than two dozen airspeeders, all fitted with flame projectors on their undersides, missile launchers, and E-Web cannons landed there, but worse, they were commanded by a pair of foxtrots. Dimly, he remembered them from the Intelligence report Sashar had filed nearly two years before; a togruta and a defel of unknown affiliation, other than that they’d worked with the elusive Mr. Lorden. If they were with Kirkella’s mercenaries, that could only mean that Lorden was involved. He had to get that information back to the rest of his squad. It was more important than his life.
The Assassin placed his canteen on his side and went through a check to see what he had as far as equipment went. He had discarded his Verp. Sniper Rifle over a day before while he was still being pursued by the enemy tangos. Only a few hours prior had he finally evaded the pursuers when he found this large tree. The base of it was so massive that the roots led into a quasi-cave, just high enough that the soil was only moist if he were to dig a hole. The foliage was so dense that he had found this respite by sheer luck.
Three extra clips for my SSK-7, not counting the one already in it, Celevon mused. My VibroCombat Knife, six daggers, armory saber and my sword. A quick check through his pack revealed that he still had a good bit of his standard equipment, minus the bits he had left with Rho at their nest. He knew that his partner had died. The large pieces of red-hot metal had been visible even as far away as he had been from the rest of his squad. The chaotic feelings running throughout the Meld had stunned him momentarily as his Master used most of his Force energy to alter the direction of the girder. Seconds later, Rho’s presence, both within the Meld and out had suddenly winked out not moments after he had lost sight of one of the girders. Even had the man been knocked unconscious, his presence would have still been felt.
The Obelisk offered a silent tribute to his fallen comrade as he sent a pulse through the Meld to show his current location. I still have most of my ordinance. And my ammo for the Verp. Hmm, Celevon looked between his sword and the multiple packs of ammo for several minutes of intense thought. A burst of inspiration struck him as he mentally thanked Kieran for the lesson on improvised munitions in warfare as he pulled every round out of the clips for his Sniper rifle. Once they were arrayed before him, he pulled out his ordinance pack and didn’t bother to conceal the wide feral grin that spread across his visage as he got to work. Maybe that ghillie suit will come in handy after all...
The Sniper finished connecting the last piece of explosive tape and took a look around, satisfied with the trap. The sword was shoved into a mound. The threat attached to it triggered all the explosives he had rigged, including the explosive tape that had rounds attached to it. Whoever pulled up that sword and anyone within 45 meters of the person was going to get shredded by shrapnel and bullets. Celevon even included his explosive rounds in the set. It wasn’t like he would be using them again in this battle with his sniper rifle abandoned roughly a day or two walk towards the enemy.
“Sorry, my friend. It looks like our time together has come to an end,” Celevon whispered towards the rigged sword as he rushed into a good position to further prepare for the enemy. Once he reached it, he slipped on his ghillie suit and crouched near a trail that they were likely to take. His preparations paid off nearly half an hour later when he heard voices approaching his position.
“... I’ll never know,” a male voice said quietly.
A younger male voice piped up, “Hey! It wasn’t my fault that she wrecked the speeder!”
A female voice growled, “If you hadn’t been trying to feel me up, I wouldn’t have gotten clipped by that tree branch and wound up getting flung off of the speeder...”
“Pipe down, you lot!” Celevon could hear the sneer in the woman’s voice. “The last position we spotted that Soulfirian was nearby here. Any louder and the rest of his crew will surely be able to hear us, if they’re still alive. Cease your incessant bickering and I’ll conveniently forget that you wrecked all of our speeders.”
The lead merc received affirmatives from his squad. Celevon watched as the seven person group were passing him by. The youngest merc who had been feeling up the female was lagging behind. The Assassin smirked as he drew his VibroCombat knife, jumped out to grab the merc and pulled him back into the bushes as he sliced deeply into the young man’s throat before he returned the still bleeding cadaver back onto the trail. He quickly moved to a different position when he noticed them splitting up to search. After a moment of thought, Celevon followed their leader.
He stalked the mercenary for several minutes until he was entirely sure that the others were nowhere in sight before he attacked. Not having time to draw a knife, Celevon slammed the man to the ground, gripped at the man’s chin and back of the head and twisted. There was a harsh snap as the man’s neck broke. He drug the body back to the path and closed the eyes to make the man appear to be merely unconscious. At the very edges of his senses, the Assassin detected a large number of the Mercenaries approaching his trap. Celevon smirked before he rapidly walked to a position where he could both get a good vantage point and be outside of the shrapnel’s dangerous path. The Obelisk had just reached the nest he had created earlier up a tree where he would be safe from the shrapnel when the tangos entered the clearing.
He activated the enhanced visual aid within his helmet to zoom in on his targets. From his point-of-view, he could tell which were the more experienced out of the mercenaries as they shifted around searching in vain for him. He grinned in a feral manner as he saw one of the inexperienced ones grab the hilt of the sword and pull just as a loud audible ‘NO!’ rang out from one of the commanding mercenaries. He deactivated the zoom feature as he watched the ‘fireworks show’ begin. He felt a brief moment of mourning as the grenades he had placed all around the perimeter of the sword detonated. Seconds later, hell reigned as the explosive tape detonated, sending hundreds of different style rounds into the gathered mercenaries. The explosive rounds were especially interesting to watch as they struck random targets, some sending more shrapnel as the struck tree branches.
He got out of the ‘nest’ and climbed down the tree before heading near the area where he had left the bodies when he saw some survivors who had managed to move out of the blast area just before their situation became FUBAR. A female shrieked as she discovered her squad leader dead with a broken neck. Celevon grinned, knowing it wouldn’t be long before they discovered... A second scream rang out as he young male was discovered with his throat slashed. The Assassin snuck up on the screaming female (A Zabrak, now that he noticed the horns within the long auburn tresses) and put the blade of his VibroCombat Knife to her throat as he drew his SSK-7 with his right hand. Four shots were quickly fired at the other two tangos: The first got a bullet to the centre of his forehead while the other got two shots to the chest before the final shot splattered grey matter onto the tree trunk behind him.
A twig cracked and Celevon spun around with the Zabrak female in his grasp. Only the quick pulse within the Meld stopped the Obelisk from squeezing the trigger as he recognized Xayun Erinos holding his hands up with a wide grin. The Assassin grinned in return as he whispered in the terrified Zabrak’s ear, “Now you will kindly tell me everything about the airstrip and your plans for the Arconan Forces on Eldar unless you want my friend and I to have some fun with you.”
Celevon tossed one of his daggers at Xayun, who immediately started twirling it with an eerie grin stretching his visage as the Assassin gently ran the tip of his blade down the female’s cheek. He and Xayun sent two simultaneous pulses through the Meld to let Sashar know that they were within feet of one another as the Zabrak started speaking through her sobs and stammers.
As the forums disliked Talos today, I'm posting this post for him. "Written by Talos Erinos"
POST (Rating = PG-13)
Overlooking KEC Barracks
29 hours after regrouping, four of the twelve now well-rested and resupplied Soulfire Commandos (One, Four, Eight, and Thirteen) were laying prone on one of the many high ridges that surrounded the command post of the Krikella Extraction Company, looking down into the valley in which the KEC barracks sat nestled.
‘Tactically, setting up shop here was very unwise,’ Talos thought as he peered through his set of NV electrobinoculars, ‘If Rho was still alive, he could probably elimin—no, screw Rho. He was stupid and careless and deserved what he got’ the Templar chided himself as he thought of his now-deceased former master.
"Up until 5 months ago, Talos and Rho Ozrei d’Tana had been as thick as thieves, until the Nagai had recommended perhaps the most unstable Dark Sister, Battlemistress Robin Hawk, for induction into their family, the d’Tana Crime Consortium, a move that caused Talos to leave the Dark Jedi mafia and after some time on his own, swear allegiance to the Erinos Family.
"Such action had immediately turned the two against each other…indeed the last time Rho d’Tana and Talos Erinos had spoken with each other, their voices were raised and both Dark Jedi had unclipped their lightsabers before Etah d’Tana and Sashar Erinos had intervened on their respective brothers’ behalf.
"Ok, so how are we going to do this, Sarge?” Maaks asked, the Miraluka’s lilting tone snapping Talos from his reverie.
“Right, here’s what’s going to happen,” Sashar said, gathering his brothers in a circle around him and etching a quick diagram in the dirt. “I’m going to summon the Bat and conduct general recon of the entire area. Once I’m done, Talos will bring forth his Tiger and take care of the NonCom lounge, before going to reinforce you, Maaks, and Juda here,” the SF sergeant continued, moving his finger to a large rectangle representing the barracks themselves, “and together you three will eradicate anything living within the barracks. Understand?”
The three other commandos nodded their understanding.
“Ok then, circle up” the Arconae ordered and the Erinos brothers removed their helmets, grasped forearms, and closed their eyes as they let the Force Meld fuse with their very beings.
"Here we go” muttered Juda quietly as the shadows in the center of their circle began to coalesce and writhe…the powers of the Shadesworn were calling forth the horrors of the Abyss.
15 minutes later
KEC NonCom Lounge
“Ooh yeah, this is some vintage stuff” grunted Field Sergeant Rubin Haak of the holo-movie that was being displayed on the plasma screen.
The movie itself was “Effing Ir’ene”, an old pornographic holo that featured, or so rumor had it, one of Emperor Palpatine’s most beloved entertainers.
“Mhmm…good quality. Oh stang, look at that arse” agreed the FSG’s partner, Patrol Corporal Ylit Sadick as he took a glance around before quickly undoing his trousers.
But no sooner had the KEC mercenary reached into his pants, than a low growl resounded around the lounge, causing Ylit to freeze.
“What was that, Ru?” Sadick asked slowly as he got up and scanned the lounge.
Rubin, who was already working on himself and hadn’t properly heard the sound, just grunted “Probably just the holo…I mean, look at the position she’s in”
“Yeah…you’re probably right. Oh that’s nice..real ni--…HOLY SHIT!!!” Ylit screamed as he turned around to go back to his seat and came chest-to-snout with a black tiger…literally as dark as shadow.
That expletive was the last word that Patrol Corporal Ylit Sadick would ever say as from a klick away, Talos Erinos sent a pulse through Soulfire’s Force-Meld, which translated as an order to attack, which the Wraith Tiger did by promptly ripping out the throats of both mercenaries.
Soulfire Vantage Point
From his position in the circle, Talos let a small grin play out across his lips. ‘The lounge is clear, vode,’ he thought into the Meld, ‘they were literally caught with their pants down’.
Switching his concentration back to his Force Wraith, Talos had the Tiger slowly pad around the bodies of its victims, before breaking into a light trot towards the barracks where the first screams of Maaks and Juda’s victims could be heard.
Above Eldar, on approach to Selen
Giletta Spaceport, this is SA Shuttle 0051-Alpha, requesting permission to land and deliver Acolyte Socorra to an appropriate reception party. Please respond” Ensign Favre Reekal said from the co-pilots seat of the Lambda-T4a shuttle that was currently rocketing through Dajorran space.
But the cockpit remained quiet.
“Hmph, that’s odd. Clan Arcona is usually very prompt when it comes to welcoming new members,” the pilot, Lieutenant Junior Grade Sayor Vecc, muttered, “Try again”
Ensign Reekal nodded and repeated his spiel but the Shadow Academy shuttle still did not receive a reply.
“Ok, something’s not right. No Foxtrot Uniform unit is this slow, not even Scholae Palatinae. Give it one more shot and if we don’t get anything, we’ll head back to Lyspair” LTJG Vecc ordered.
“Yes sir,” Reekal said before leaning over the com-link, “I repeat, Giletta Spaceport this is SA Shuttle 0051-Alph—‘
But no sooner had the Ensign finished identifying the shuttle than a blinding white light filled the cockpit, followed by a resounding “BA-THOOM”.
“Fierfek!,” the pilot cursed as he rolled the shuttle, “We’re being fired on!”
“From Selen?” his co-pilot asked in utter disbelief. It was unheard, not to mention treasonable, for a Clan or House to fire on a starcraft carrying Dark Council authorization, as was the case with SA Shuttle 0051-Alpha.
“We’re so out of here” huffed LTJG Vecc…just as another turbo-laser blast ripped through space, this time hitting the T-4a in the rear starboard engine.
“Aw shit, we’re hit!” Reekal said rather unnecessarily.
“Damn straight we are, and it’s critical. I can’t get control of the shuttle, we’re going down.” Sayor added solemnly.
Sayor Vecc turned to Favre Reekal and lifted his hands off the yoke, the Naval sign for ‘defeat’. “Go back and secure our passenger and then get back here and get buckled in. Approximate coordinates show that we’re going to hit the Central Basin Region of Eldar…and hit hard”
Ensign Favre Reekal nodded, saluted, and then dashed back to the troop bay as the blue and green orb that was the planet Eldar filled the cockpit’s viewport.
“Really, masturbation? They had to resort to masturbation to get by…stang, they’d only been on this planet for a few months” spat Soulfire Sergeant Sashar Erinos as he stepped into the Noncommissioned Officer’s Lounge, took a quick inventory of the two bodies (still lacking their pants), and then ducked back out.
“Osik,” he continued, “I never had that problem, and I’ve pulled longer stints away from GALBASE than these two combined.”
“Well ner’vod, you happen to be gay.” Juda piped up, to which he promptly received a swat on the back of his helmet.
“I meant before Voden, you di’kut.”
Talos and Maaks, both having been assigned the role of Advanced Recon, could only laugh with their adopted brothers as they returned from a circuit around the immediate area.
"Ah good, you’re back. We still clear?” asked Sashar, raising a hand in greeting.
“Aye, Sarge. No one for miles to the west and I think our Wraiths sent the native fauna into hiding” Maaks reported.
Sashar nodded and turned to Talos; “And you, Thirteen?”
“Same story as Eight, Lead,” Talos said as he shouldered his KX-60, “Nothing on the east side. In fact, I’d wager that-“
Just then a deafening roar rumbled through the Central Basin Region, sending the elite commandos diving to the ground as a dark gray shuttle, of all things, whooshed over their heads before crashing sharply into the ground about two kilometers away.
“What. The. Hell” said Juda as he picked himself up from the ground and brushed away the dirt from his DV-CES.
Sashar, now fully in ‘Sergeant Erinos’ mode, got up and drew his LJ-50 Concussion Rifle; “Doesn’t matter, Four. Those were Academy sigils on that shuttle’s wings. Soulfire, we’re moving out!”
Acolyte Socorra coughed and waved her hands in front of her face, in an attempt to clear away the smoke and floating debris that made up her world.
“What…the…hell” the Journeyman rasped as she looked around and saw what had been the ventral wing of the shuttle she had boarded some hours ago now directly above her and broken in half.
The crash had happened so fast that the Acolyte could barely distinguish from the time that the co-pilot, Ensign Something or Whatever rushed back, told her to buckle in, and then disappeared again. Less than a minute later, their shuttle had landed on the ground, granted at a horribly sharp angle with the landing skids thrown somewhere deep into the forest during the impact.
“Gotta get out of here” Socorra grunted as she pushed her body through the already weakened crash netting and stumbled out of the shuttle…right into the muzzle of a fierce looking blaster rifle and the helmet of a very professional looking commando.
“I would suggest you that you identify yourself…now. Before my finger gets any closer to the trigger” Talos Erinos said menacingly, his voice sounding half-robotic due to his helmet’s vocabulators.
When Socorra didn’t immediately respond, the Soulfire commando emphasized his point by moving his finger from his rifle’s guard to the trigger itself.
A large measure of surprise played about her pale eyes as the woman literally stumbled out of the wreckage and right into an even more dangerous situation. Smooth move, she thought, blowing a wayward strand of hair from her face.
The Protector peered upwards and observed the rifle and black armor, her analytical mind suddenly going into overdrive. Instantly she understood that the soldier was probably well-trained. The quality of the gear suggested they wouldn’t just hand it to some green scrub, which meant her natural lack of charisma was certainly not going to win over a professional commando. But the second he threatened her, Socorra’s eyes narrowed and a snarl escaped her lips. With an exotic tongue she spit back at him.
“Take your peashooter out of my face and identify yourself, or I will turn it into a corkscrew and shove it so far up your wagyx that your entire family will feel violated.”
As if to back up her claim, he could clearly sense she was drawing the Force to herself in preparation, anxiously anticipating his next move and oblivious to anything else going on.
The rest of the patrol had silently taken up firing positions around the burning shuttle, and everyone grew anxious and concerned for Talos as the strange woman appeared to be challenging him. But Sashar raised a palm. Talos was the newest, greenest, and youngest op in Soulfire, but he had proven himself time and time again and not only could he handle it, but he deserved this one.
Besides...finders, keepers. Behind his helmet, Talos grinned widely. Some days it pays to be on point. He raised his rifle to eye level just to taunt her, and the Journeyman took the bait. With a shriek she wrenched the weapon from his hands with the Force and it dropped to the ground beside them. But instantly, before she could wind up an assault, a gust of invisible energy suddenly picked her up, spun her around like a rag doll and sent her flying backwards back into the broken shuttle where she came from.
With a surprised yelp she hit the ground, dirt and debris kicking up everywhere. Right back in the thick of the smoke and fire she coughed uncontrollably and tried to reorient herself, struggling to stand up, her long, dark mane cascading wildly around her. Socorra watched Talos effortlessly recall his rifle to his hands, her eyes glowering with fury at the realisation of how futile her attempt had been.
“Ohna fulle guth!” she spat in Old Corellian and angrily kicked some dirt at him.