Beyond the Horizon Run-On: TEAM 2
Please use the link above to read the opening fiction above and continue the story.
How does your team meet? Has your team been assigned to defend against the boarding party on one of the Plagueian ships? Has your team been assigned to clear the ground of the forces invading the planets throughout the Jusadih system? There are many possibilities for you to explore, use your imagination.
Please make each post follow on from the previous post. Each post must be at least 250 words to count. Each individual from the group must post TWICE
by the end of week 2 for the team run-on to count.
Placeholders may be used; all you need to do is post saying: "Placeholder" and you will hold that spot for a maximum of four hours. After that time, other people are allowed to follow on from the post prior.
It is up to you all how you organise posts and storyline. We suggest you start an email chain and brainstorm, but you are ultimately the ones posting.
A cacophony of explosions detonated across the Invicta’s viewport. The sounds were dulled by layers of transparisteel that separated the bridge from the dark void of space, but still rang like music to the Commander’s ears. The Proconsul caught the corner of his mouth pulling into a tight smile and quickly erased it, burying his mirth below a layer of stoic calm he wore like armor in the presence of his troops and fellow Arconans. He wanted nothing more than to exchange fist-bumps and other gestures of victory, to join in their excitement. Marick Arconae knew better, though.
The enemy fighters had begun to retreat with their tails between their legs. It would only be a matter of time now before the Arcona Expedition Force hunted down the remnants of the invading fleet. With the infection free from his system, Marick could feel the lifeblood of the Force flowing freely through him. With that freedom came a sense of comfort, a sense that Arcona was stronger than anyone gave them credit for- that together as one they would be able to overcome any obstacles in their path.
“Not bad,” a voice like sharpened steel snapped Marick out of his recollection.
The Hapan felt a shiver run down his spine as he easily recognized the figure that had eluded his senses and stepped up behind him. Marick couldn’t tell if the man had simply masked his presence in the Force, or if he had simply been quietly standing there the entire time, silently watching, studying, calculating. As quiet as a Grand Master could stand of course.
The Proconsul kept his posture straight, his hands remaining clasped casually behind his back. Ever since his arrival in Arcona after the death of Sarin, Pravus had selfishly pursued his own ambitions without thought or care for the consequences or any of his ‘fellow’ Arconan’s. That had changed in light of recent events.
Marick wasn’t sure what had transpired to cause the Grand Master to suddenly feel like cooperating- but he was not about to complain. He also knew better than to probe. The logic he had offered seemed reasonable though.
“Thank you, Lord Pravus,” Marick replied evenly.
Most would have trembled, stuttered, or burst out into a hysterical fit at being addressed directly by a Sith Lord. Marick had spent far too much time in the presence of powerful Dark Jedi and had been personally trained by one of the most feared men in the Brotherhood. Timeros Entar Arconae was well known for the aura of terror that perpetually surrounded him like an ominous shroud of despair. Perhaps that explained the Proconsul’s poise.
Perhaps the former leader of Arcona’s Black Operations was just good at wearing a mask.
“My officers report a fifity-five percent increase in efficiency with your Battle Meditation. Thank you.”
“As I said before, your success is my success,” the Grand Master replied, stepping to stand beside the Proconsul to look out over the viewport. “If Arcona prospers, I, will prosper. It’s simple economics, really.”
Marick simply nodded and turned to regard the Sith Lord. His helmet looked to be Mandalorian in design, but it was the most intimidating piece of Beskar the Proconsul had ever seen. It did well to hide the Grand Master’s features, making him even harder to read.
“As you say,” The Hapan nodded in agreement. For now, he welcomed all the help he could get. “Wuntila is wise beyond his years. I think the deal you struck is more than appropriate.”
The Grand Master nodded before adding, “You should answer that.”
“Answer what-” Marick started to say, before his communicator beeped in his earpiece. He hated when Pravus did that.
“Go for Marick,” the Hapan said curtly. “Understood....yes. Yes. Yes, sir. Yes, I understand sir. It will be done, Lord Consul.”
Marick’s hand lowered as he exhaled slowly. Pravus’ face remained impassive, but he did lift his eyebrows ever so slightly.
“The Lord Consul has struck a truce with House Plagueis. We are to lend aid to the Ascension, and do what we can to help bolster the Plagueian fleet,” Marick explained, returning his hands behind his back.
Pravus touched a hand to his stubble as his eyes looked off to the side, processing the piece of information. if he was surprised, he did not show it, but he nodded once as he seemed to find a train of thought he agreed on.
“Interesting,” the Grand Master said quietly.
Marick tapped a series of buttons on his wrist-pad and began preparations.
Fet'ai'narun fastened the buckles at the waist of her long overcoat, making a quick, mental check-off of her person. Concluding that all was in order, she stepped into the corridor and stalked down its length toward her destination, incognisant of her surroundings, lost in thought.
She had honestly been surprised at the Lord Consul's orders to report to the Invicta to aid Marick. The young Hapan was quite the prodigy and she couldn't see what benefit her presence would lend him other than the satisfaction that she was within his line of sight. At least this way, he could tell Invictus he'd kept his word.
Since Invictus had found her and convinced Marick to take her in, the Proconsul had been nothing short of professional with her, helping Invictus bring her into the Clan and even helping her land the position of Rollmaster within the ranks of Arcona.
Even when she resigned from the position of Rollmaster seemingly without reason, Marick had given her no grief. This time, he had simply asked if she thought she was ready when she had come to him with her decision to return. Her word seemed to be enough.
Fet'ai'narun was unclear on the terms Invictus had set with Marick before his most recent leave and appreciated that such concern had been shown for her interest but still, she felt as if the Exarch had every reason to assume her presence a burden. It felt as if everyone was watching, waiting to see how long it would take her to run.
Invictus had disappeared yet again and even now, the old itch to follow him remained but she couldn't run. Not this time.
Whatever it was that had led Wuntila to send her on this mission was larger than her understanding of the matters at hand. His wisdom in the Force and sense of leadership were unlike anything she'd ever seen and it would be an honor to serve with Marick even if she never performed a task of note.
Having reached her destination, Fet'ai'narun looked around.
She could go wherever she wanted from here. Anywhere.
Stepping into the small shuttle craft, the woman nodded a greeting to the pilot.
"The Invicta, please."
This last stint of absence though had made her realize something: Arcona was all she had. After this, there would be nothing worth believing in. Her receival had been based purely on the honor of Invictus' word that she'd been worth the effort and as she prepared for the jump to hyperspace, Fet'ai'narun felt that she was finally ready to prove it."
One Year Ago
Fields of New Tython
The scream carried across the field as a weightless message. Desperate. Pained. Horrified. Erupting from the mouth of a young woman in Journeyman's robes, her raven hair and crimson blood spilling over and into the muddy ground beneath her. The scourge raked across her back as she clawed for refuge, her movements driving the steely claws at the tips of the weapon further at her own detriment. Slicing as they pulled, the barbs carved through skin and tissue like butter, even as they lodged themselves painfully into her back; no Jedi would wield such a weapon, nor any half-honorable Obelisk warrior. But then she heard her name - Socorra - carried on the wind like leaves. The razor hooks pulled from her flesh and a knee dropped next to her dirt and tear-streaked face.
"I leave you as an example to your friends," the voice sneered. "If you survive the war."
The man's face, contorted as it was in an enraged scowl, displayed a webwork of scars; a tribute to years on the battlefield and combat in the arena. His eyes, stained yellow by the Dark Side of the Force, made him look inhuman and terrifying. Even through her tears, she saw it all clearly. The woman would recognize that face for the rest of her life. It was a face that would pervade her thoughts, that would lurk in the deep recesses of her mind where dread made its dark nest.
The face of Kal Vorrac.
The plague had taken its toll. For the woman with the logical, encyclopedic mind, it was a living nightmare. Chaos and hatred had ravaged the halls of her mind, shattering her thought process and driving her mad at the same time. Socorra had attacked nearly everyone she ever knew in the Brotherhood, some with her bare hands and teeth, clawing for her lost Force ability like it was a phantom limb that the plague told her she could rip back from those that still had it.
She survived the ordeal without killing her peers. The cure destroyed the plague and fortunately her mind was not entirely damaged along with it. She was promoted to Archpriestess. The Grand Master himself awarded her a prestigious Seal of Loyalty. She retained Quaestorship and led House Qel-Droma to assist Arcona in driving out the rest of the enemy forces from Dajorra.
But now they were launching out of system to assist the Plagueians that had lost it all in the war. Marick had commanded her to join him on the Invicta, and she knew why. It wasn’t so he could see his lover. It wasn’t merely for her to assist him in the operation. It was something much more deep, much more personal.
You want me to face him, she thought.
Marick would make her face him, the second in command of Plagueis, the Ascendant Summit's vaunted "Last Son." Kal Vorrac. To face him, to face her hatred and her fears as she had with Timeros.
It made her anxious. Agitated. She looked in the mirror, still foggy from the shower's heat, at the faint scars that remained from the fields of New Tython. The obviously noticeable one next to her left eye made her cringe, constant reminders of the Plagueian that had left her as an "example". Though she was as hard as any Mando'ade on the inside, secretly, she was glad that he'd never had the chance to finish the job.
You're not a little wide-eyed Journeyman anymore, she scolded herself, her pale blue eyes raking up the three-pronged scar that ran the length of her back. You survived two wars. Proudly wear them as if war paint, and wear your hatred for him like a suit of armor.
A suit of armor.
When she was adopted by the Erinos family Socorra had not immediately adopted their uniform - the tell-tale Mandalorian armor. She had had a suit made specifically for her own curves and mountainous peaks, and even then she had only worn it in pieces throughout the year. But her eyes drifted to the armor resting quietly on display in her quarters. Silver and gray polish in the memory of Sashar, but the deep royal purple detailing proudly displaying her relentless defiance as a Krath. It was not quite the bright pink she had threatened them all with, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
Unfortunately, her alor Teroch was gone, and with him the stability of the Erinos family. Some members had taken hiatus, some went back to the homestead, and some became pilots. Socorra was all that was left on the Entar-dominated Arcona Summit. It made her uneasy far more than it had before, but at least now she could no longer be used as a hostage, and she refused to be a pawn. The thoughts ran through her head as she took the armor down from its stand, slipping the body glove over her curves and pulling on the greaves and gauntlets. Cinching the breastplate, the woman looked herself over in the mirror, nodding at the armored visage. As she clipped her saber to her belt, she realized that all of her old inner turmoil was gone; Socorra was a Krath, an Erinos, and an Arconan to the core.
She refused to be a victim, and frankly, there were much bigger foes to face today.
Scelestus' eyes visibly widened as she strode into the room, her innate feral beauty accented by both her facial scar, no longer hidden behind a fringe of wild layered hair, and the battle garb she was dressed in. Socorra imagined it made her look like a warrior woman, the stuff of Mandalorian legends.
With her helmet resting in the crook of her arm she spoke quietly to the Aedile while the Quaestor’s dark-furred Cythraul Akua sniffed around the cargo crates behind them.
"Yes, but..." Scelestus glanced at the Cythraul before his gaze swivelled back to Socorra. "Where will you go?"
"Marick has summoned me," she replied, a fire in her eyes as she quickly boarded her transport, Akua bounding up the ramp with her. "I go to the Invicta; and likely, into the jaws of hell.”
Scelestus just stood and watched as she disappeared inside and the pilot dialed up the controls, punching them out into space.
Socorra never did fancy flying.
The turbolift was quiet as the two Arconan women stood silently inside of it as it transported them across the ship, Akua sitting restlessly behind her master’s right heel. The current and former Qel-Droma Summiters might have shuffled awkwardly at any other time, but Socorra took charge before it could come to that.
"Welcome back," the Quaestor spoke, breaking the silence.
The Chiss smuggler looked up to her leader, her bright crimson eyes locking with Socorra’s striking pale blues. Their skin was also a tale of opposites; Fet'ai'narun’s blue skin in contrast to Socorra’s dark tanned physique born of the scorching heat of the Black Sands of Socorro. But the unlikely pair had one attribute in common - the visible burn scars that lingered across their skin, forged only from the heat of battle.
Together the pair was a song of ice and fire.
The Journeyman blinked quietly for a moment as she registered the words. The other female had been just an Aedile during Fet'ai'narun’s short tenure as Rollmaster under her and Quaestor Invictus. But the Erinos was now the leader of the House and had all rights to distrust her, all rights to send her back home.
As if the Krath Archpriestess had read the Chiss’s mind - which was entirely possible - Socorra spoke again but in Cheunh: "Your efforts are always welcome."
For the expert linguist it was a surprisingly poor translation, but for Cheunh, even poor was extraordinary. Humans were biologically incapable of speaking the Chiss language well, so any translation was an amazing feat.
"I see he taught you well," Etain smirked.
Socorra’s hauntingly pale eyes curiously studied the woman for a moment as she deciphered her short words, expression and tone. There was definitely a hidden message between those words - unfinished business between her and Invictus, Etain’s former husband? A hint of jealousy, even?
"Vic was an excellent mentor," Socorra replied, a slight mischievous smile spreading across her ruby lips. "I learned most of my curses by listening to him admonish his wayward Cythraul...who thought his name was Ktah due to repeated use."
"And it became his name."
The turbolift arrived and the door opened, revealing the sprawling deck before them. Without another word the pair walked out together, their awkwardness now replaced by something else entirely.
NSD Ascendancy - Bridge
"Leave that to me," The Sith replied to his Quaestor, his eyes flashing as he gazed flicked between the Will of Plagueis and the holographic Dragon of Selen. Reith nodded, his own visage that of a younger Vorrac.
His eyes held a deep emerald hue, as they always did before the intensity of combat. Sweeping across the viewpoint, his gaze stretched out with his Force senses, placing his mind outside of the ship and into the maelstrom above. All about, the void was punctuated by blasts of red and green energy, missiles arcing gracefully between floating ships and the husks they'd left behind. They met their destinies as surely as any mortal, impacting the durasteel hulls of their targets in a fiery roar as the shields of the ships involved strained to hold back a tide of baradium death.
The great ships drifted like metallic whales in an ocean of debris and nothingness, trading blasts that could atomize worlds as squadrons of starfighters flashed between, holding back the bombers that would turn the crewmen within into fodder for the vacuum. They would not be the first to drift, frozen and lifeless; bodies tumbled through space from both sides, their frames semi-charred from the flames that had licked at them before vacuum swallowed them up.
Their faces, frozen into macabre screams of horror, echoed the very nature of the acts before them. This wasn't a war. This was an extermination.
Below, the deadened world of Kapsina loomed like a great eye, its cities reduced to nothing but huge black sores against swathes of bombarded hardpan, mountain ranges having burst back into volcanic life as turbolasers ruptured their surfaces. It gave the planet an angry look, as if a great bloodshot orb was watching the war above with unbridled fury. The shapes of the smaller Assassin-class vessels still arced back and forth throughout its skies, their full might directed toward its surface to leave glowing valleys of death and slag in their wake. The Jusadihan and Arconan forces alike left them to their grisly business, wiping out the few survivors left on the world's surface. Plagueis could not afford to spare the ships to chase them off, and the Shadow Clan had only come to assist the living.
Turning his eyes from the viewport, he stumbled as a massive impact collided with the ship, the sounds of shearing durasteel and exploding equipment sounding from only a few decks below. "Fierfek," He quietly cursed, looking to the officers in the pit below as he made for the door. "Report?"
"Shields at sixty-two percent, sir," The officer replied. "Hull integrity-,"
"Save it," Vorrac replied, cutting her off. "Just tell me which deck the boarders hit.
"Deck Aurek-twelve, sir," She replied. "Three turbolifts in the vicinity lead back to the ship's bridge, one passenger and two meant for repairs."
"Seal them off. Have the engineering crews nearest the bridge destroy the lifts themselves on the two repair chutes; if they mean to take the Bridge, the schuttas will have to climb."
"Yes, sir. Not the passenger turbolift, sir?"
"Seal its doors, but nothing more. I must join the fun somehow." The Sith replied, striding through the doors. He kept a regal bearing as he went, showing no sign of fear, but inwardly he felt the crawling unease throughout the ship's crew; they were terrified, holding on for dear life.
The sensation unnerved him almost as much as the hostility he was picking up from the Bridge guards. Of course, He thought. I wouldn't want to die for them, either.
"You're sure of this?" Pravus asked, his tones showing no hint of worry as he walked. The man was a damned enigma, as if he'd wrapped the Shroud itself around his mind and body. It left Marick annoyed, to say the least. "Why is it that you, of all people, should board?"
"I don't ask anything of my men that I myself wouldn't do," The Proconsul asked as he strode toward the shuttle. "Your concern is touching, though."
"It's not concern; your death would be a blow to the Clan's strength. The Clan's strength adds to my power." The beskar of his armor rattled the faintest bit as he moved, but to the Force, he might as well have not been there. "We'll end up in a worse position than Plagueis is now if we let ourselves crumble."
"Noted." Marick replied, stopping midway to his craft. He watched as the Mandalorians of the Erinos Clan formed up, standing tall before their apparent Commander.
Marick's eyes caught a flash of gray and silver. Sashar? No, impossible. Could it be Teroch? But then she turned, and the defiant slices of purple became apparent along with the curves of the figure. "Of course she added purple," Marick said flatly before raising his voice just enough to be heard over those gathered. "Socorra!"
She turned her head, her T-visor settling on him. Instinctively, he felt the same chill that most of the galaxy did, gazing upon the faceless appearance of a Mandalorian. "Proconsul Marick," She said, bowing before him. "I've answered your summons. I was forming up the Erinos for deployment."
"Good," He replied. Looking back, he spotted the Chiss who'd accompanied her. "Fet'ai'narun, with me. We're heading for Ascension's stern, to stop the boarders there from taking out the ship's engines and life support systems."
"As you wish, sir." The Chiss replied, her blue lips getting a smirk as he visibly cringed. He hated honorifics. "And I believe it's called Ascendancy."
Marick blinked once before going quiet for a moment. Letting it pass, he waved his hand in a dismissive manner. "Whatever it's called, you're with us." Looking to the Mandalorian woman before him, he continued. "The latest reports from our interceptors say that a boarding craft hit the hull, just below their Command Bridge. Loaded with mercenaries and cutthroats, no doubt. Probably the closest thing to hell within that ship right now." He lowered his voice, glancing around. "I was going to send the Mandalorians into it anyway, but if you're with them...,"
Socorra stepped a bit closer, her own voice lowered as it issued through her helmet speaker. Subtly, she raised a hand to her Proconsul's cheek, a quiet gesture of comfort. "Don't worry about me. I can handle myself."
Marick nodded, the fear in his eyes replaced by the same stoic calm he always projected around the troops. Hopefully, none had caught the exchange. The Mandalorians probably knew, but they were good about that. Half of the Commandos were married to one another anyway. As he turned for his own ship, he couldn't help but steal another glance at the Archpriestess, her armored form held tall and radiating power to all who looked upon her.
He couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever see her again. Stepping into his transport, he saw Pravus eyeing him, nearly felt the smirk beneath that mask. "Shut up," Marick grumbled, motioning to the pilot. "Pilot, take us up."
Ship Deck Aurek-Twelve
Outside Blast Door Gamma
"Hold them!" The soldier captain shouted, sticking his head up over the impromptu barricade. "Don't let them- Agh!" He shouted, a blaster bolt punching through his breastplate to flash-cook his innards. He twitched for a moment before dying, as his soldiers dragged the corpse back behind cover.
"Take his weapons and ammunition!" Kal shouted over the din. "We can't afford to waste anything!"
"You're not serious, are you?!" Another soldier yelled. "He just died for you...,"
"He did indeed. Now he's dead, and we're alive. Do it!" Kal yelled back, craning his E-19 over their cover to fire another burst into the crowd. He was rewarded with a pained scream.
Coming out of the turbolift had been a brisk walk into hell; without the Force, Kal wouldn't have been able to form a barricade. Some of the soldiers there had grimaced as he'd pulled down part of the ceiling, but they'd quieted down enough as the blaster fire rained down. Now, the thirty black-armored men held fast against a tide of foes behind a mass of durasteel and electronics, trading fire and giving as good as they got.
Even so, Kal knew that they had no real chance. There were at least a hundred and fifty men out there, perhaps more, and armed to the teeth. Even killing at a three-to-one ratio, they'd lose this passage and the lift behind. Perhaps in there, Kal's lightsaber would make the difference.
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud impact and a blast, echoing from down the corridor. For the first time since the fight had begun, the blasts of the foe faltered. Kal snuck a glance between shards of durasteel; what he saw made his eyes widen.
Through the smoke and char that filled the embattled hall, heavy fire issued from behind the enemy's own barricade, this one properly built and prepared; suddenly, the men who'd been a wall of unmarked black leather armor and heavy rifles was falling, breaking apart in cohesion. It wasn't until one of their new foes leapt into the air, her silver-and-purple boot catching an enemy in the chin, that he saw the T-visored faces of the new players.
Mandalorian Supercommandoes. "Target the mercenaries and press the attack! Go!" Kal roared, diving out from behind the barricade alongside a tide of JMR troops.
What had been a badly outmatched group of soldiers was now one row of fangs in the jaws that closed around their foes. The roar of Jusadih's soldiers was met with the dead silence of the Mando'ade as their weapons tore apart their enemies, blaster rifles ripping through heads and body parts as close-quarters weaponry came into play. When a man from Jusadih took a hit, he was shovelled aside, the one behind him gunning down his assailant; when blasters smashed into Mandalorian armor, they failed to punch through, their wearers making short work of their foes. Kal himself fired the last shot as the final mercenary went down, planting a boot on the man's back and letting a round off into his head.
"So," He said, looking to their apparent Commander. Her lithe form essentially shouted her gender, while the lightsaber clipped to her utility belt told her for what she really was. "I was under the impression that the Mandalorians of Arcona had departed."
"Not all of them." She said briskly, shoving past him. "Regroup, Erinos. I assume that any other turbolifts were sealed off?"
"They were. Take the halls on the left, we'll hit the right," Kal replied, his face free of emotion as he sized her up. "Follow the signs on the walls, you can't miss them. The enemy might be climbing them now; if you're fast, you can catch them unawares."
Nodding, she trotted off, her soldiers in tow. A lieutenant - a Captain, now that his was dead - walked up beside Vorrac. "Sir? You look troubled."
"I sense a presence," Kal replied, looking on the Mando'ade warrior woman one final time before she departed. "One I've not felt in quite some time. It's nothing, regroup and move out."
The last of the men who'd taken over the hangar cried out as Marick drove his blade through his chest, kicking him back to the durasteel floor. Against a full Battalion of Army Corps soldiers, the forces here had been unprepared and outgunned. The inclusion of two Dark Jedi and a Sith Lord had made the fight a foregone conclusion.
"Feta," Marick shouted, looking over at the Chiss woman as she knelt beside a computer port. Her handheld datapad displayed readouts from all over the ship. "Situation update?"
"Boarders have fortified positions leading up to the ship's main engineering and its life support systems," She replied. "They've been knocking out minor systems as they go, but the Plagueians are holding them back thus far. I'd say they're trying to destroy the ship and everyone on it."
"Right. We'll divide our troops. Half will come with me to engineering, while the other half-," Pravus cut Marick off with a raised hand.
"I will clear out the life support sector. You should take our forces to clear out engineering; no doubt they'll have heavy opposition and fortifications waiting for you." The Grand Master turned, striding toward the blast doors to the hangar. With a gesture, he tore them loose, the metal shearing with a loud roar. "Try and link up with any Plagueian forces that remain."
Marick's eyes tightened. "As you wish, Lord Pravus. Oh, and try not to kill our future vassals."
The Sith Lord nodded, and again, Marick could feel the smirk. "Don't get yourself killed."
The boarding party moved quickly through the ship, cutting down anyone that crossed their path. At point, Marick Arconae’s aquamarine saber lead the way, batting aside any stray projectiles that threatened either of his teammates. Fet'ai'narun kept pace with her Proconsul, a datapad in her other hand that displayed schematics of the Ascendancy’s layout. A squad of Commandos kept a tight formation on either side of the Dark Jedi. And in the shadows cast by the team, a white Cythraul lurked, ready to strike at anything that her master wished.
As they closed in on Engineering, the Ascendency’s hull trembled, almost causing the sure footed Proconsul to stumble. Somehow he made the slip looked natural, a credit to the Hapan’s innate athleticism. When they came to their destination, Marick raised a hand and made a quick gesture, the Commandos moving into positions against the walls flanking the durasteel doors.
“Feta, override code,” Marick said coolly as he turned to regard the Chiss woman at his side.
“Yes, sir,” She responded curtly, her fingers dancing over the datapad. A pair of red LED lights blinked to green above the door as it hissed and slid open.
Marick’s hand lowered, and like bullets from the chamber of a slugthrower the Commandos burst into the room, rifles cracking as the invading troops cried out in terror. Marick entered the room slowly and looked around, settling his eyes on the enemy’s leader. He wore nondescript grey robes and was waving an emerald lightsaber in circles above his head as he tried to organize his troops. His hair was brown but streaked with grey, and he looked to be at least ten-years Marick’s senior.
The Arconae stalked forward towards the grey Jedi, batting aside stray blaster bolts that threatened him and Fet’ai’narun. The enemy leader finally took note of him, and began his own approach. A pair of soldiers wielding electro-staves encroached on Marick. With a flick of the wrist, the Hapan yanked the first soldier’s weapon from his hands, leaving him defenseless for a moment. That moment was all it took for Feta to spring into action, her knife stabbing into the soldier’s aorta with deft precision. With a grunt she yanked the blade free, blood gushing from the wound as she let the razor edge trail across the rest of his throat upon exit.
The second soldier was about to jab one of the electrically charged ends of his weapon into Marick’s neck when a flash of white fur and gnashing fangs tackled the soldier to the floor. Kira sank her fangs into the man neck as he tried to scream, tearing his neck open with joy. When she pulled back, her white muzzle was stained crimson, her heterochromatic eyes glistening as she licked her chops clean.
The Proconsul continued forward unabated and raised his saber in front of his face in a mock salute. In the next instant he was gone, his black cloak billowing out behind him as he soared through the air towards the enemy leader. Aquamarine and emerald sizzled as the two leader’s lightsabers collided and hissed in protest. The Hapan ricocheted off the grey Jedi’s cross block and circled around him, slashing along his back. To his credit, the older fighter managed to twist his body and deflect the blow. His elbow snapped back into his attackers face - or at least where the face should have been.
The Ataru Master had already doubled back, though, and had a clean shot at the Jedi’s temple. Marick’s aquamarine blade jabbed effortlessly into the man’s skull, impaling it all the way through until the spiked prongs of his lightsaber’s hilt dug into the Jedi’s now lifeless flesh.
The strike happened so quickly that Marick’s saber was already sheathed and at his belt by the time the body hit the floor.
“Sergeant, report,” Marick said as he looked around him, unsurprised to see that the Commandos had taken control of the Engineering room.
“All clear, sir,” the Sergeant snapped a salute. The Proconsul nodded his approval and turned to Feta. Kira padded silently up to his side and nuzzled her head against his hip. He idly scratched the Cythraul’s ears.
“Marick,” Feta said carefully, her datapad back in hand.
“Incoming Transmission from the bridge.”
“Bring it up,” the Hapan nodded.
The small holographic image of the Aedile of House Plagueis appeared out of the base of the datapad.
“Marick Arconae,” Kal’s voice echoed.
“Kal Vorrac,” Marick replied politely in turn.
“My reports show that Engineering is cleared. Good job. I’m also being told that Life Support has been cleared as well. You should see it. Not a single one of our men is down. It looks like a tempest struck down on the entire bay, but only devastated the enemy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” The Aedile explained.
Marick made a tch sound and shook his head ever so slightly. “Show off,” he mumbled under his breath. “As should be expected of a Sith Lord.”
“Ah, so it was as I suspected. Regardless, whoever it may have been, they are gone now. I have a solo ship leaving from the adjacent hangar bay, and that presence is hard to misplace”
Marick processed the information with the stone-faced calm of a seasoned veteran. “Shall I join you at the bridge, then?” He inquired, hoping to avert attention to Pravus’ connection within Arcona.
“Yes, report here-”
Kal’s voice was cut off as a loud explosion detonated from somewhere out in space with enough force to rock the Ascendency’s hull. Marick’s hand instinctively flared to the side to help him keep balance.
“What in Tehlu’s name was that?” Marick snapped over the holo-communicator.
Kal Vorrac’s response was silent.
Fet'ai'narun watched the Cythraul lick her crimson stained chops and shuddered internally. The creature was far too graceful for words, yet terrifying in the same light. She scanned the room- the Commandos had made quite a mess of the small battery that had occupied it.
"Marick." She was careful to use his name. She knew he hated 'sir.' "Incoming transmission from the bridge."
"Bring it up."
Her eyes flicked back to the datapad, her quick fingers responding with quick precision as she executed the command.
She listened in silence, her eyes on Marick, her expression unwavering though she was relieved to hear that Pravus seemed to have chosen to take his leave. She appreciated his help but the Master's presence was downright unsettling.
The woman's thoughts and Kal Vorrac's words were abruptly interrupted by the report of an explosion that nearly knocked them all off their feet.
"What in Tehlu's name was that?" Marick's voice snapped in her ears but no response came through as the image of Kal Vorrac disappeared.
Marick barked orders for the commandos to clear out and move toward the bridge as the Chiss tried to no avail to re-establish communication with Kal.
"Feta" He addressed her specifically, bringing her out of focus.
"Yes si-" She shut her mouth and followed the Hapan, stepping over the legs and severed limbs of fallen soldiers as she made her way at his side toward the door.
Fet'ai'narun's fingers moved nimbly over the datapad as she followed swiftly beside her Procounsul, the company of Commandos that followed them marched in unison, their droning steps a subconscious comfort to the military-trained Chiss.
It had been a long time since Fet'ai'narun had seen the heat of battle. She had been nervous going in but now, she practically shook in her skin. Mal'ari'carun had been quite adept, dual wielding daggers and sabers. He was fast; one of the best she'd ever seen but then again, she'd never seen anything quite like this. Marick moved with an elegant precision she could hardly fathom and she didn't even want to think of what it might have been like to be near Pravus when he'd cleared the areas Kal had spoken of. A smirk and the idle flick of a wrist were terrifying motions to speak of in the presence of the Grand Master. Tehlu forbid he should try.
Feta shuddered at the thought as they moved on through the now silent corridors. She hadn't remembered seeing this many soldiers. It was almost as if they'd grown in number after death. She was scared. She wasn't sure how much of her performance in the engineering room had been instinct and how much had been inspired by Marick. He was an excellent inspiration and a master of battle language. He handled himself so calmly, even now as they prepared to enter a completely unknown situation and she wondered briefly what must be running through his mind. She'd seen the quick exchange between he and Socorra. She knew what it was like to be separated and to wonder for a lover's well-being. Feta shook her head. She knew he sensed her insecurity and her musings, though he said nothing and likely never would.
She caught herself losing pace and hurried along, pushing the thoughts from her mind. She knew better than this and she hated herself for her fear and distraction. She needed to use her fear to her advantage, to bring her strength and quiet her thoughts.
Whatever was happening now was definitely not according to plan. If she was separated from Marick, she had no chance. From the stories Invictus had told her, though, she felt a certain sense of comfort in her Proconsul- when things didn’t go to plan, that was when she was told he truly shined.
As they entered the lift, another explosion threatened to shake them all off their feet. The woman steadied herself and stepped in beside her leader. His calm was comforting as she found her silence and it flooded through her like the rushing of waves in a storm at sea.
She hoped that the scene they found on the bridge would not be as bad as she feared.
"Repeat that?" The voice came over the comms with a note of hesitation. Natural, for one who was not Sith. "It sounded like you said-,"
"-To bomb the crew quarters of deck eight, section Forn, yes." Kal replied, sounding impatient. "The crew has sealed off those quarters and laid a minefield for the mercenaries. The two explosions ought to send the vast majority of our enemies into vacuum."
"Yes, milord," The pilot said. He knew better by now than to call Kal sir; that was a title for the mundane. "What about the crew?"
"Evacuated." Kal replied. The helmeted Erinos at his left snapped her gaze to him at the comment; she was watching the exact same screen he was. Watching, as the crew members dug in and planned to fight it out, incapable of retreat. "The target is clear; anything else your sensors pick up is a lie created by our foes. Fire away."
"Milord, I urge you to-," The pilot began, but Kal cut him off.
"That's an order. Disconnect the feed." Vorrac said. There was no rage to his voice, no demand. Just that icy coldness.
The tactical hologram showed the Ascendancy, engaged on all sides and listing. The red triangle of its form was surrounded by the green of Arconan ships and the blue of enemies. Slowly, a small image of a Scimitar bomber sped toward the ship's underside, highlighted in Plagueian red; no one made a move to stop it. Even as she watched the red line that indicated a proton bomb streaking toward the flagship, she couldn't help but feel a chill run up her spine. A knot had formed in her gut.
This was dirty. This was wrong. The ship shook as the proton bombs detonated the mines - laid, in fact, by the mercenaries to prevent crew retreat - and the viewscreen flashed bright before showing screaming men and women on both sides pulled into the icy embrace of the void.
"They fought for you, they gave it all, and you deceived them." She said, shaking faintly. "You betrayed your own men."
"We are all but pieces on a dejarik board," Kal replied. He didn't show any emotion at all; it was like the cold attitude of an assassin, only worse in some impossible way. "Had I left them alive, that quarters section could have become the basis for a new campaign to capture the ship. Besides, all warfare is based on deception."
"You couldn't have tried to save them?" The Erinos asked, her temper bristling. "You've got a job to do, a system to save. They could have helped."
"The system is lost." Kal replied coolly. "Those biological weapons will have killed everything, or left it in a worse state than before. We couldn't go back now if we tried; I've got word from Morroth that the last vessels are en route to us. It's time to secure the ship and retreat."
"That's it? You're just giving up, letting some group of mercs take your home?" She turned to face him, clearly livid. "Might as well just gift-wrap the damn system. You haven't changed a bit."
"I would call five dead worlds and a floating debris field a niggardly gift at best." Kal said, his gaze meeting her T-visor. "Now, it's time to end the charade. Who are you?"
A loud bang echoed from beyond the bridge doors; the sound was unmistakeable. It had come from within the ship's corridors. "I thought the ship was secure!" Socorra barked, looking to the crew.
"Negative, ma'am!" A crewman called out. His face was adorned with a few days of beard growth, the dark circles deep beneath his eyes. He must've been fighting since the enemy had arrived. "The stragglers that haven't surrendered must've used the service ducts. They're making for the bridge."
"A final stand. How fitting." Kal said, reaching over to the crumpled form of a trooper nearby. The fighting had been so hectic that nobody had been able to collect his shrapnel-riddled body. The E-19 near his hands flipped through the air, coming to rest in Kal's grip. "We'd best get going."
"What about the soldiers?" Socorra asked, genuinely surprised. One minute, he'd been coldly throwing men away; now, he was jumping into the fire himself. What is it with this guy?
"There are none close enough, and we can't afford to lose what firepower we have. It's up to us." He looked at her, eyebrow raised, in a way that seemed to pierce layers of durasteel, flesh, and bone; it made her skin crawl even as it intrigued her. "Let's see if these hired guns can stand against a Mandalorian and a Sith."
Corridor Zerek - Portside
"Got him!" Etain shouted, her blue face twisting into a smile. The blue image of Tra'an Reith snapped to shimmering life on the holocommunicator. "Quaestor Reith? Where's Vorrac?"
"He departed a short time ago with that Mandalorian, the one in the purple armor." The shapeshifter replied. "They're engaging the last real push by mercenary forces to get control of the bridge."
"Are they a threat?" Marick asked, his composure slipping faintly at the mention of Socorra in danger. Feta almost didn't pick up on it. Almost. "Should we assist?"
"Negative." Tra'an replied. "Make for... -angar bay. I've lost contact with Wun, and we need to retreat. Get back to Invic-," The transmission cut off once more.
"Gorram it!" The Proconsul snapped. Etain's glowing red eyes looked on him with a trace of worry, her mouth set in an uncertain line.
"Marick?" She asked, as the party came to a halt. The soldiers around them cast ueasy glances at each other, trading quiet words. A glance from her silenced them, and they snapped to attention. "What's the plan?"
"We..." He began, as if fighting to get the sentence out. "We need to get off of this ship. We need to regroup at Dajorra; we've done all that we can here. Arcona needs us, and Plagueis needs to fend for itself." Tapping his comlink, he watched as the helmeted Celahir appeared in hologram. "Celahir."
"Orders, Proconsul?" The sounds of gunfire echoed through the comlink, alongside a healthy heap of screaming. That was good; Mandalorians were known to deactivate their external helmet speakers when they went into battle. If he was hearing screaming, it wasn't from the Erinos Clan. "We've secured the ship's primary sections; most of the enemies took off, or surrendered. They've been turned over to the Plagueians."
"Full retreat. Get your Mandalorians back to Shadow or Invicta, whichever you can get to with greater ease. We're needed at Dajorra."
"As you command." The Erinos paused before asking, with the barest hint of concern in his voice, "What of Socorra? She's been at the Bridge since she transferred command to me."
Every word of what the Hapan said next pained him; at the crossroads of duty and self, what path was one to take? He and Socorra had shared affection for months now, had become close in secret. He felt the pain of deserting her, but he was the Proconsul of Arcona; he had the strength of Arcona's fleet.
Wuntila needed him more. "She will have to fend for herself. Get moving." Deactivating the holocomm, he looked at his men for but a moment before activating his lightsaber. "You heard me. Let's move!"
Corridor Jenth - Adjacent to Bridge
"Look out!" A mercenary yelled, before the tumbling cargo crate slammed into him and his peers with the force of a landspeeder.
Kal ducked back beneath cover, firing another volley over the toppled-over boxes and crates he'd managed to scrounge. Peeking through a crack in the durasteel, he sized up the foe; mercenary soldiers had formed a veritable wall of opposition, slinking forward and trying to make their way past the two stalwart defenders of the bridge. Thus far, through force of arms and the Force itself, they'd been detained.
Socorra peered her head out, lobbing a grenade out. That was when Kal felt it, that cold prickle up his spine. "Get down!" He roared, even as the Force told him he was too late.
The impact hit her with the force of an asteroid, cratering a planet surface behind her; sound became ringing and sight a blur of black and white spots as her helmet cracked and went dead, a wave of heat issuing through its tight confines. She felt herself thud, not clear enough to process the noise or weight of it as she swam through the abyss of her own mind. The darkness seemed to seep through the edges of her vision, until even the orange emergency light began to fade.
And then, a crimson beam of light, and the world split in two.
Her mind still in a daze, she watched as the dark figure lifted her, his features blurred. Time stopped, and nothing made sense; bolts of emerald and ruby lightning criss-crossed the sky as he looked down on her, his glowing red blade knocking back an errant blast. The black clothing and glittering armor made him seem an angel of darkness to her addled brain, an elegant emissary of death come to carry her from the cruelties around her.
His hand moved, and she felt a piercing impact on her thigh. Adrenal stim, her mind called from beyond the darkness. Her vision cleared, and her savior resolved into the form of Kal.
Reality hit her again like a tide, as she realized he was all but shouting over the din of combat. "Socorra!" He yelled. "Make for the hangar! The Arconans are leaving!"
Forced back to consciousness by the stimulants ripping their way through her blood vessels, she snapped back to life, clutching up her blaster with the shake of a hand shoved back into activity. Firing dully, she backed away as the mercenaries approached, watching as the Sith beside her stood. His left hand held a pistol; in his right, he captured the energy of the enemy's weapons and hurled it away, often back at his foes.
"Go!" He snapped. "I've got these; get back to the Invicta!" His eyes, so soft and emerald in her addled mind, bled through to the sulfuric yellow that had haunted her nightmares. Angel, or demon?
She turned and ran, and with an unearthly howl, he dove headlong into the fray.
She was halfway down the corridor, her head throbbing, just now seeing herself in the mirrored viewports on the sides of the walls when she stopped. Looking at herself, she saw the faint blistering on the side of her face, saw how the hair on the right side of her head was burnt short. Even her eyelashes had been singed. They shot me in the head, She realized, her fingers brushing over her face. She'd been passing out, nearly unconscious; he'd had to cut her helmet off. That meant they'd crippled the breathing apparatus. He'd given her a combat stim; she must've been close to falling into a coma.
He had saved her life. Him, Vorrac, the man who had given her the scars. She looked back, and again questioned as to whether the Sith was entirely human.
Makashi had, in theory, always seemed weak to Socorra; it was a duelist's pasttime, more designed to annoy and distract than to kill. In Kal's hands, the Second Form became the killer's symphony, each strike and stab another note of beautiful discord. The edge of his blade raked alongside the back of a man's leg; he fell back, even as Kal darted up to slash across another merc's windpipe. Spinning, he carved a neat line through the wrist of a foe, making him scream and drop his pistol. Twisting to face his foe, who'd drawn a vibroblade, Kal's free hand clenched - more a knife than a fist - and shattered the man's larynx, before he pierced yet another's chest exactly where the heart sat. He moved like a dancer, struck with a marksman's precision, and delivered the kiss of the viper as he moved.
And he was being overrun. The mercenaries were closing in; Kal was having to resort to his hand-to-hand more and more, his scourge flashing out and biting into a man's cheek. Even as he pulled it free, shredding the now-howling man's face, a newcomer to the fight landed a glancing blow with the stock of his rifle. There was no way the Sith could win.
He tried to kill you, Her thoughts said, hissing through the odd calm of battle. He scarred you, mangled you, left you as an example. Remember Marick. She felt a growing unease within herself. Marick left you. Kal tried to murder you. Etain's with Marick; Kal's a monster; the Proconsul doesn't care; the Sith killed his own men.
The tide of thoughts ended with a single, but decisive, statement. He saved your life. "Oh, gorram it all to hell!"
Kal twisted, carving through another man's chest, only to see a chop kick falling toward his head; he wouldn't be able to stop it. The Coruscanti didn't have time to think of another move before an arc of pink light flashed to life, smoothly removing the man's leg. Snapping his gaze to the woman, Kal's left hand shot out, a wrecking ball of telekinetic power crumpling the chest of the man about to strike her and sending him flying.
"You came back?" The Sith asked, his tone genuinely surprised. He turned to face the rest of the foes.
"Don't get soppy about it," She snapped, her face furious as her rose-colored blade snapped into a defensive pose. "Unlike you, we don't throw away good men."
"So," He said, smirking. "You think I'm good."
"I'm not even going to reply to that." She said. Was that amusement bubbling up inside of her? Burying it beneath a tide of anger, she snapped to. "Here they come!"
The deluge of gunfire and munitions could only be called apocalyptic, overwhelming beyond any reasonable doubt. The gout of hellfire smashed against a wall of glowing plasma and was hurled back, grenades tossed back to their owners with the Force and the very wall and ceiling panels torn free to fly at mercenary faces. Socorra's rose weapon arced and wove as it caught blast after blast, punctuated by the graceful darting and diving of Kal's sanguine blade. Together, they sang a tune far sweeter than any woven by one blademaster, Soresu brilliance making an impenetrable wall as Makashi poise darted in between the intentional gaps. The men firing at them slowly devolved from a disciplined line into a horde as they threw all that they had at the foe, only to watch their clips empty and their explosives run out to no avail.
Kal saw it from years of command; Socorra, from martial training. The enemy was broken. They'd signed on to fight Jedi and claim spoils; they stood now against dark gods.
As one, they turned and ran, even as Kal and the Mando went on the attack, leaping forward. Makashi stabs hamstrung and eviscerated those that straggled, even as Soresu chops took off hand, leg, and even head. The last of the men not to run made for a retreat, but he was too late; a crimson blade pierced his gut, retreating back from it as a coral shaft of light met his groin and carried out through the dome of his skull. He fell to both sides like a macabre pinata, spilling his charred contents out of a half-cauterized frame.
Their shoulders pumping from exertion, the two Dark Jedi retracted their blades, looking about the corridor. Meeting each others' eyes, they nodded; Socorra met the intensity of Kal's gaze with a newfound sense of rapport. The yellow had once been a devil's gaze, set to consume her; now, it was the gold of the rising sun, the dawn that preceded the cavalry charge.
He nodded, and the reverie was broken. "Get back to your ship," He said. "The scum will try for the hangar bay; they'll lay out traps and try to stop your coming." Turning and striding for the bridge, he left it at that, the chill of death once again lacing his words.
"Where are you going?" She asked, clipping her blade to her belt. She ran a hand through her hair, now plastered to her forehead, and cringed inwardly at the shorter strands.
"To my ship," He replied, not stopping. "I'd advise being off of it before we depart, Socorra; you'll want to survive. We still have a score to settle."
Despite herself, she couldn't help but grin; she stifled it as quickly as it came, cursing to herself. Then she turned, and ran toward the very maw of hell.
Socorra's head pounded. Every step she took was becoming agony as the stim finally wore off. Logical arguments were trumped by natural instinct as she made her way to the hangar. Find a ship, was all it told the Erinos and her body reacted accordingly, plowing through mercenary stragglers along the way, not even bothering with kill shots; it would simply waste what energy she had left. Some backed off with warning shots, others with an arm or leg removed. But with a throbbing headache and the ringing coming back to her mind, she was not quite the picture of a seasoned soldier as she was earlier, some taking advantage of her weakened state and scoring hits of their own; what was left of her armor took the brunt of blaster bolts as designed but well-placed and timed knife slashes not so much.
By the time she made it to the hangar she was stumbling against the wall, a blood-caked hand smearing carmine streaks as she went, the other still clutching her blaster pistol in a death grip. Her pale eyes, reluctant to look up, took in the scene of the hangar and widened in surprise. Plagueian crew members scurried from cover to cover around the bay, a last-ditch effort to ward off the rest of the mercenary boarders.
Socorra's addled mind didn't care. Find a ship, it still called to her. Her blue orbs rested upon the last of the transports left, the closest was a Firespray, still sitting quietly off to the side. Something somewhere in the back of her mind still grinned at the irony of the stereotypical Mandalorian ship, and something also pushed her legs to begin stumbling towards it.
A rainbow of colors streaked past the woman as blaster fire pumped from all angles, and yet she hardly noticed. Clutching a side, she trudged up the ramp and somehow settled into the odd ship, though it was more of a clumsy fall than the graceful agility usually exuberated by the Krath.
Socorra stared at the cockpit controls with slow, tired blinks. Her burn-scarred and blood-caked hands wrapped around the yoke and she sighed, a frustrated, angry sigh.
I. hate. flying.
She had apprenticed herself to the best smugglers, but never as a smuggler. Her fingers flipped switches and pulled back on the controls, jerking the ship to life.
Just get to the Invicta.
Blaster fire still continued to streak past the woman's vision as the transport collided into crates and other equipment as it made its way out of the hangar and into space. Her instincts took over, and time seemed to become irrelevant. No time for a safe and slow landing, the Firespray careened into the Invicta's bay, skidding across the surface and slamming into equipment until it finally came to a firey halt.
The last of the stim had finally worn off and the blackness engulfed Socorra's vision again. The orange flames licked at the ship for a moment before the crew doused the fire in a beautiful white display, her pale eyes reflecting back the substance as if winter had fallen upon the viewports. A small smile cracked across Socorra's ruby lips as she slumped backwards into the cushion of the pilot seat, and rode the waves of darkness wherever they took her.