Beyond the Horizon Run-On: TEAM 3
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.
-- Tur'el Sokar
Graus sat in the padded seat, his mind slowly coming to grips with recent events. While his body felt pain once again, pain from many wounds he hadn’t even known he’d gotten, he also felt the surging power of the Force again. In many ways, he was feeling it stronger than before. New abilities he’d read about but never been able to access seemed easily attainable now.
Was this a side effect of the Plague? Graus wondered as he leaned back in the chair and sorted his thoughts. His mind once again under control, he was no longer haunted by the delusions that terrified him. Seeing someone with blue eyes no longer filled him with panic. With time, he knew he’d be able to reconcile what he had done and be able to not only move beyond it, but perhaps even in the future draw strength from it.
Move beyond us? A raspy, gurgling voice whispered in his ear. Oh no my murderous friend, you’ll never be rid of us!
Shutting his eyes tight, using all his resources both with the Force and his own willpower, Graus tried to ignore the voice. The sound of raspy breathing mixed with a thick wet gurgling told Graus that he was not totally alone in the cabin he’d been offered on board the Instigator. Snapping his eyes open, he turned and looked at the ragged torso of the boy he’d killed inside the Shadow Academy. The boy’s shaggy blonde hair was still matted with gore; and his eyes a glowing crystal blue stared daggers at the Arconan.
"Wh… where’s your friend?" Graus asked, fear evident in his cracking voice.
"He'll be here," the specter said cryptically. "He doesn’t get around too easily anymore, after what you did to him." The boy’s face split into a grin that would have been innocent had his face and teeth not be coated in congealing reddish-brown blood. Thick ropy drool oozed from the corners of his mouth, leaving sticky globs of fluid in the seat next to Graus.
Standing up quickly, the Arconan drew his blaster and pointed it directly at the boy’s face, the weapon shaking slightly as Graus fought to maintain his calm. The specter’s response was a croaking, gurgling laugh that sprayed gore-flecked spittle as the boy’s severed torso rocked back and forth in the chair. The flapping sounds of his shredded lung tissue wheezing and blatting as he continued his mocking laughter.
"C’mon now, we’ve been through all this Graus," it said, his eyes gleaming maliciously. "You can’t hurt us, you can’t escape us, and when you fall, we’ll be there!"
Graus was just about to reply when the deck bucked violently beneath his feet, almost spilling him to the floor. The interior lights within the small cabin immediately went from white to red and the alert siren began wailing its distinctive call.
The sound of someone knocking at the door made Graus jump and only his years of training kept him from firing the E-11 at the door in reflex. He quickly looked to the door then back at the chair. The boy’s torso was gone, as was any evidence he’d ever been there. No blood spots or stains, even the temperature seemed to be a little warmer. Holstering his weapon, the Arconan opened the door and came face to face with Arden Karn, a fellow survivor from the Shadow Academy. Standing beside him was another Plaguean that Graus didn’t know. Smoke was wafting through the corridor in lazy swirls and the hallway was awash in red disaster lighting. The fellow Knight had a streak of soot across his cheek and was breathing heavily.
"Grab your weapon Colvin, we’ve been boarded!" Karn said quickly and moved down towards the next door, rapping hard on it with his fist. Across the small hall his companion was doing the same. Stepping into the corridor, the familiar chaos of battle brought Graus to the here and now. This was where he lived, where he truly felt free. Inside him, he felt the Force surge once more and decided to draw his lightsaber instead of his blaster. Aside from the logic of it being the more practical weapon in terms of lessening collateral damage, it just felt right.
It almost seemed that the more Arden wanted to get away from fighting, the more intense the battle
that resulted. After the hell of the Shadow Academy, he could have gone for a nice week on a beach
somewhere or at the very least a couple days where he could get eight restful hours of sleep. And not
on a shuttle, that didn’t count since those bunks did nothing but poke you in the back. He couldn’t get
eight on the shuttle either as the second they had come out of hyperspace, they were being shot at.
How Graus and he had managed to even make it to the Instigator in the first firefight was a story
in itself. However it was a secondary concern at best now since the Enemy, and Arden still wasn’t quite
clear who they were or what their quarrel was, was quite literally at their airlocks. There was one bit
of good news he heard before leaving the bridge, an Arconan task force had entered the system to
reinforce them and was even sending troops to the besieged ships. Arconans on a Plagueian ship ,and
invited ones, what were things coming to.
His first task was to fetch Graus, and that had gone as well as could be expected. Arden could sense the
Arconan was troubled by something, something more than simply the events they had endured at the
Academy. It seemed most of the crazy had gotten out of his system, most but not all. Some must have
been there all along. Then again, what Dark Jedi was what the average person would call sane. Arden
just shook his head as Graus ignited his lightsaber in the middle of an unoccupied hallway.
As Arden adjusted his helmet he looked back at Graus. “Eiko wants us to reinforce the bridge. I expect
we’ll meet resistance in the process of reaching it, up for that?”
Graus’ reply was simply a wry smile and nod.
“Good, I have a squad right behind me. We need to get moving before they cut us…”
Arden’s words were cut off by a blaster bolt impacting the bulkhead behind him. Two more followed
soon after which Graus, who had his lightsaber lit, sent back at the trooper that fired it. As the distinct
sound of the blaster impacting armor filled the hallway, Arden freed one of his SE-14Cs on his hip and
sent a burst of suppressive fire at those who’d fired on them, sending them back down the corridor.
Arden shook his head as he squeezed of another burst as a trooper’s head poked back around the
corner. “So much with waiting for resistance, seems it’s found us.”
Graus shot back a grin. “I’m okay with that, I was waiting for a chance to wade into it.”
Arden ducked a crimson gout of plasma and returned a few emerald bolts in reply. He keyed his comm
and said, “Besh squad, where are you, I got hostiles, Deck 14, section Delta 3.”
“ We’re pinned down in Eta 4, heavy resistance, pushing towards the engineering section.”
Arden nodded, they were reachable. “Acknowledged Besh Leader. Alaris should have the engineering
section secured. Fall back to Delta 4 and we’ll meet you there. Karn out.”
Graus looked to Arden. “I sense 5 in between us and the cross corridor, guns or sabers?”
Arden holstered the green and silver pistol and reached for the curved sliver hilt at his hip. A split second
later an amber glow lit up the corridor next to Graus’ white. “I’ll take the left, you take the right.”
With that Arden sprinted into the corridor and plunged his lightsaber right into the torso of an
unsuspecting trooper. Graus was right behind him, slashing into the ribcage of another. Oddly enough,
it was the first time Arden had actually killed another person with a lightsaber. The feeling was strangely
exhilarating, and empowering. He felt the adrenaline, along with the Force, surging through his body as
he leapt off the seared chest plate of the first trooper he felled and cleanly sliced through the barrels of
two blaster rifles that had just been leveled at him. With a flurry of amber and white, Graus and Arden
made short work of the five troopers that stood in their way. Now Arden understood the bloodlust that
he’d seen in many of his compatriots, a bloodlust he thought unwise.
And he liked it.
Slash, parry, riposte, recover, kick, recover, the familiar steps of the form stilled his mind and let the Warrior focus on the task at hand. Tasked with a small group of Arconans, Scelestus had received orders to board the Instigator and ensure it didn’t fall into enemy hands. Communications with the stricken vessel had been cut off some time ago, so there was no intel available on numbers of friendly troops that survived. This meant that the Aedile was balanced on the knife’s edge between having too few resources to accomplish his task if he didn’t take enough Arconan troops and didn’t find enough surviving Plagueians on the one hand; and having too many if there was a strong contingent of friendlies still fighting on the ship. Of course, he wouldn’t mind having the extra help, but it did mean that another commander somewhere else in the fight would be left with fewer troops for their mission. This type of big picture thinking was the main challenge of being in the House summit. Gone were the days when getting the job done was enough, now he had to make sure everyone else had the supplies to get the job done as well.
Two flurries of strikes brought the martial form to is close, and the Sith deactivated his saber with a flourish. The exercise had accomplished its purpose; his mind was made up. Moving to his desk he activated a comm sitting there and informed the troops to be locked, cocked, and ready to rock in fifteen minutes. Scelestus had chosen only one squad to take with him, the minimum number of troops to retake the vessel in his mind. He hoped that there would be reinforcements from Plagueis, but he couldn’t count on them. Even if there was no friendly combatant left, his hand picked squad of operators from Shadow Gate would be enough to complete the assignment. He trusted these shooters implicitly, having overseen their training personally during his stint as Gatewarden. In fact the Sith would wager a months salary on them against any force twice their number.
With the tough decision out of the way, he turned his attention to making his own preparations. The Warrior always kept his go bag ready and standing by, so all he really needed to do was don his armor and make his way to the hangar bay. Scelestus keyed up his comm to send a quick message to Socorra, en route. “I’m taking a squad of keepers with me. We are boarding now. I’ll keep you abreast of developments.” “Good,” was all that answered him from the speaker. Even when she was curt, the exotic accent she was known for made Socorra sound like she was purring.
Upon arriving at the hangar bay, the Sith took up a position next to the loading ramp so that he could visually inspect each member of his team as they boarded the craft. Not that he needed to do this, his agents knew their business, but it was a time honored tradition that was expected and reassuring to the soldiers. Mental preparation was a major factor in all combat, so Scelestus took the time to make sure that anyone he led into battle was as ready as they could be. He certainly didn’t need any more lives on his conscience.
The squad was loaded in record time, and soon the shuttle crew had received clearance to launch and the small craft lurched off the flight deck and headed out into the chaos of the battlefield. Lurid red lights flashed through the viewports as the ships of the line traded salvos of laser fire and missiles, each seeking to destroy their enemies and emerge victorious. The trip to the Instigator was mercifully brief, and soon the familiar clunk of a landing tube engaged with the airlock reverberated through the shuttle. The boarding party made one last check of gear and weapons and then took their place by the tube. With the precision that can only come through months of intensive training, the airlock was breached in seconds. The boarding party rushed into the Plagueian ship, and immediately set up a defensive perimeter without Scelestus even needing to say a word. Three quick shots rang out through the hall, each eliminating a hostile target, before they could blink, let alone raise the alarm. Once the acrid smoke cleared, the Sith noted that each enemy had been drilled right between the eyes, a testament to his teams’ deadly accuracy.
With the breach point secure, Scelestus checked the map readout on his HUD. Picking out the shortest route to the bridge that was their main objective, he issued a series of hand gestures, signalling his men down the left corridor. As the group broke out into a brisk walk, the human noted that the red emergency lighting made an odd contrast with his violet blade.
The Instigator swam drunkenly, banking to avoid the debris of an Arconan-killed Vindicator. Eiko stared out the viewports impatiently, his back turned to the bridge's blast doors. The Ascendancy glimmered on the other side of the battlefield, painted by volleys that spilled across its fading shields and shrouded the flagship from clear view.
Eiko's mask hung at his belt. Scarred and scowling, the Rollmaster paced the bridge as he digested the reports of won and lost skirmishes in the belly of the Instigator. From consoles around the bridge, officers jabbed erratically at their displays to order squadrons and support craft into place. Antilles called the next target with Eiko's tacit permission as the turbolaser batteries trained on the next quarry.
"Another airlock breach, crew quarters," a voice called out over the faint rumbling. "Arconan craft, but I can't search the serial without a full uplink."
Eiko turned away from the battle ahead of the Instigator, his gloved fingers hooked on his belt as he stepped away from the viewport. "Status on the communication system."
"Internal communications restored. External comms, dead," Captain Antilles replied evenly without hesitation. "It's resolvable."
"Get contact with the new Arconan breach." Eiko unfastened his mask and brought it up to his face. The locks engaged one by one, sealing him into the handcrafted facade. "Captain Antilles, you have the command. Sokar, with me," Eiko nodded to the Kel Dor standing guard at the bridge's yawning doorway.
The feeling of blindness burned underneath Eiko's skin. He undid the restraints on his blaster as he led the way through the command section, dipping his thoughts into the Force just to prove that it would still be there for him. The mask strode passionlessly down the halls even as Eiko gagged at the void that met his thoughts.
And then the current returned.
We’re not making the bridge, Graus thought grimly as his silver blade spun in a circle, creating a glaring shield that deflected three energy bolts, sending the scarlet energy streaking into the bulkheads. Gripping the weapon in both hands, his senses were overwhelmed by the numbers of enemies charging towards him. Arden was to his side, his own lightsaber humming as it sliced through bodies and limbs with wild abandon.
“There’s too many, we need to fall back!” Graus yelled over the chaos, his only reply from Arden was a brief nod of the head. The deck shook violently beneath his feet, accompanied by a muffled THUMP. That was something Graus had experienced once before and in reflex, the trooper ducked and raised his arm over his head as the subconscious memory of the destruction of the Starfall came rushing back. It was the same shudder and sound that Graus had heard right before the durasteel support beams fell in the doomed Star Destroyer’s hangar bay, killing his men and nearly killing him.
Pitching forward into a roll, the armored human jumped up and spun, his blade weaving an almost impenetrable barrier between himself and his foes. The old terror came flooding back, the terror of being trapped in a dying ship with no escape. With a wild cry, the Arconan was no longer onboard the Instigator, he was in the collapsing corridors of the Starfall, only this time, there was no one to rescue him… he was on his own!
His eyes wide with fear, he didn’t see Arden slashing one of the armored enemies with his saber, he saw TX-2293 in pitched battle with one of the Yuuzhan Vong boarders, both beings swinging away with hand held melee weapons. He didn’t see the red disaster lights flashing in the corridors, he saw the flickering orange of uncontrolled fires reflecting off the polished durasteel doors.
“Ninety-Three! We gotta move NOW!” he screamed as another Vong jumped in front of him. Swinging the shining piece of steel piping he held in his hands, he saw the twisted, scarred head of the enemy fly off, blood spraying out of the truncated neck in a fine mist as the wound partially cauterized. “Get to the hangar deck!”
Without waiting to see if Ninety-Three heard him or not, TX-1829 put his shoulder down and barreled into two aliens blocking the corridor, the length of pipe in his hands opening up the two beings easily. Pushing his way past their smoldering, slowly oozing bodies, Twenty-Nine rushed down, towards the hangar deck. The smell of heated metal and burning flesh filled his nostrils as he swung his only weapon at anything that blocked his path. Twenty-Nine ran, leaping over corpses and passing by other troopers in pitched battle. Yelling for them to abandon ship as he passed by, the trooper ran full into an oncoming squad of stormtroopers, their shiny white armor a welcomed sight!
Twenty-Nine skidded to a stop, noticing something was out of place. The commander should have been wearing armor as well, but he stood alone behind troopers that no longer wore white armor, but bore the colors of Clan Arcona. Arcona… Where do I know that from? he thought as the room began to spin. Graus fell back against the wall and slid to the floor, his armor squealing as it slid against the steel. He looked up at Scelectus, the Aedile of Qel-Droma as he barked orders to the Arconan troops, his violet blade glowing oddly in the reddish corridor. Reality slammed home as he realized he wasn’t onboard the Starfall at all. Looking for Ninety-Three, he saw Arden Karn standing there, his chest heaving as he fought to control his breathing. He locked eyes with the Plaguean and Graus saw confusion tinged with apprehension in his companion’s gaze.
“What…huff the Hells… huff was all that?” Arden managed to gasp out between breaths. Turning away, Graus was still too unbalanced to even offer a token reply. Getting to his feet, he approached Scel and was told by his superior that they were going to have to abandon the Instigator and were trying to scuttle the ship with the enemy still on board. Disagreeing with that mission assessment, Arden began to shout at Scel, but Graus didn’t hear their words. Leaving Scel and Arden to their argument, Graus went through the torn bulkhead and took a seat aboard the Arconan shuttle.
Gripping the shiny handle of his deactivated lightsaber, the trooper’s hands began to shake; slowly at first, then becoming more pronounced as his entire body began to quiver with the after-effects of adrenaline. The Templar leaned down and put his head in his hands, feeling the cool metal of the lightsaber against his forehead. Tears formed unbidden to his eyes as Graus tried to reconcile what he’d just experienced. A Dark Jedi Knight should not be totally consumed by fear as he had just been, should not allow oneself to be controlled by panic.
Perhaps it was a lingering after effect of the virus, or the lack of sleep since he’d had almost no rest since escaping the Shadow Academy. Graus sat in the darkness behind his eyelids and knew he’d have to work out not only what he did in the Shadow Academy, but he’d need to confront the Starfall. Until he conquered that, he knew true power would always control him, not the other way around.
Though the fighting had died down somewhat in the area of the Instigator they were in, in no small part thanks to the newly arrived Arconans, Arden could tell the ship was in serious trouble. Explosions on the lower decks could be felt rumbling the durasteel deckplates. Sparks occasionally flew from overloading power relays. Smoke filled the Plagueians lungs as the Arconan leader strode in front of his troopers.
Scelestus , whose name Arden only knew vaguely, locked his gaze with Arden’s. “You have fought well Plagueian. But I think we both know this ship is lost. Best to scuttle her and take the enemy out with it. See to it.”
Narrowing his gaze slightly, Arden did not break the stare down nor did he raise his voice beyond what was necessary to be heard clearly. “You might be of superior rank in your house Arconan, but on this ship I don’t take orders from Arconans. Your counsel is appreciated, but unless I receive orders from Eiko...”
Scelestus cut him off. “For all you know, Eiko and the others are dead already. There’s no time to argue, unless you’re prepared to die on this crate. I know I’m not.”
Arden was unphased. “Then get the hell off my ship if you don’t intend to save her.”
Scelestus shook his head slightly. “Fool. If that’s the way you want it.”
Arden was about to retort when both he and Scelestus, the Arconan a split second sooner, both sensed something coming down the cross hall that their instincts told them was dangerous. Hence they were both already moving, in opposite directions, when the small metal cylinder clanked against the bulkhead.
“Grenade!” He could hear the Arconan shout for the benefit of his men. A second later, BOOM!
The explosion sent shards of metal in all directions as it was designed to, only narrowly missing the seams in Arden’s armor as he dove away. It also managed to penetrate the bulkhead and ceiling with the force of the shockwave. Already weakened, both gave way, sending a shower of debris and sparks down into the corridor proper. As Arden pulled himself up, he could see a that what must of have been a coolant pipe had ruptured and was filling the corridor with a cloud of toxic steam. Between that and the twisted debris in the corridor, Arden quickly concluded he was cut off from the Arconans.
Despite being the typical egotistical Arconan, Scelestus was right about one thing. The Instigator wasn’t going to stay together much longer. Arden quickly evaluated his options. Getting to the hangar bay was going to be near impossible. An escape pod would be shot out of space. That left only one real avenue of escape, an interesting one to be sure.
Sprinting down the corridor to a computer terminal, he started trying to access the heavily damaged system. As he did so he heard Eiko’s voice came through his helmet.
“Karn, you still alive? If so we need to get off this ship, now.”
Arden keyed his com with one hand as the other kept searching for the information he was looking for. “I’m alive. Made contact with the Arconans, got separated by a grenade.”
Eiko answered quickly. “Understood, hangar bay isn’t an option, any other ideas?”
Arden smirked a bit under his helmet as the computer coughed up the information he wanted. “Yes, I got an enemy transport still docked three sections aft of my position. I don’t hear or sense much opposition between me and it. Care to join me?”
“Affirmitive, Eiko out.”
The ringing in his ears was mercifully shorted lived, and soon Scelestus was on his feet again, brushing himself off. Looking around, he quickly took stock of the situation, realizing that the grenade had fortunately put an end to the argument with that stubborn fool of a Plagueian. “Some people just can’t face reality, and don’t want to be confused with the facts,” the Sith mused as he gathered up the remaining forces of his strike team.
Moving to Graus, the Warrior bent over to give the Knight a hand up. “It is time to get off this derelict vessel. Come with me back to the shuttle and we will regroup with the fleet.” Once he had received an affirmative response from the other Arconan, Scelestus took off again, heading for the closest route back to the shuttle that he had arrived on. Enemy resistance was light as he stalked the hallways…it seemed that opposing forces had come to the same conclusion that the space craft was doomed to destruction and their own sense of self perseveration was starting to kick in.
By his calculation, the team had traveled roughly half of the distance to the escape craft when the comlink in the Dark Jedi’s ear began to buzz insistently, refusing to be ignored. With frustration he answered it, only to be brought up short by the exotic tones of his superior. Panic and desperation was evident in her voice, marking the symptoms of someone who has seen something that the mind simply cannot fully comprehend or believe. “The enemy has deployed bioweapons…get your ass back here now.” The clipped tones and few words somehow managed to convey so much more—all of the horror, confusion, uncertainty—all of it came pouring over the lines of communication. The swirling emotions brought Scelestus up short for just a minute as his mind roiled with the challenge of processing the information.
His training eventually took hold, snapping him back to the present, back to action. The pieces crashed into focus in his mind with stunning clarity. The Warrior broke into ground-devouring sprint, leaving his team behind and confused with no explanation for the sudden change in pace. To their credit they didn’t ask for one, simply increasing their pace to match his. Whether Graus was similarly trained or simply still too confused to ask questions, he also increased his speed. Another three minutes brought the group to the shuttle craft, another minute had them loaded and ready for launch.
With a shudder and a shake the craft detached from the hull of the doomed Plagueis vessel and made its somber trek back to the remnants of the Arconan fleet, not for the well deserved rest and relaxation that they all craved, but for refit, resupply, and return to combat with new orders. Scelestus’ mind began to race forward, looking to anticipate the next moves, the reaction to this latest disaster from the enemy and how to support his Quaestor, Socorra.
The connection severed with an unhealthy rasp. Maybe the words got through, maybe not. That he'd been able to catch Arden's open connection meant that this portion of the ship was intact enough to hold a signal, even if the wires a few floors up were burned to hell. The bridge was out of reach now -- and with it, any chance of hailing the Ascendancy, staunching the bleeding, and recovering the ship.
Eiko flourished his saber as the lift doors closed, his body braced against the possibility of a ship-rattling explosion. The layers of the Instigator ticked away on the display.
Eiko felt the insistence of the Force lean in on his mind only half a thought before the shockwave rocked through the ship. The numbers stopped changing, frozen in the middle of two levels even as the lift lost contact with its restraints. Eiko gritted his teeth and threw himself out of the lift, knocking his leg against the door frame even after his accelerated escape.
The heads-up display ticked away the meters between him and the ship Arden had pointed out -- as long as it hadn't already retreated from the hull. Stale information, Eiko groaned internally as he worked down the hallway. What emergency lights hadn't been shot out by the invading forces glowed hot red through the hallway, leaving beams of light in the smoke that accumulated along the ceiling. Eiko craved to know what the explosion had been, if the Instigator had lost a reactor or an engine or a weapons supply, but he resisted. It wouldn't be worth knowing if he didn't get out alive.
Another echo rolled through the hallways -- the reverberation of another ship outside shredding, its shockwave shoving the Instigator rudely to the side. Eiko braced himself against the wall as the ship's relative gravity fought to compensate for the forced movement. With his stumbling steps, the counter on his display began to tick up. Wrong floor. Eiko pulled his saber and plunged it into the durasteel floor panels, recklessly tearing into the corpse of a ship for the hope of his own survival. Steam and smoke rushed up into his face and Eiko instinctively flicked over to infrared and full air filtering on his mask. Slowly, a hole wide enough for him to jump through emerged, choked with fumes and sparks and the trickle of some liquid. Even in infrared, he couldn't see beyond the other edge of the hole.
The smoke rippled as he jumped down through it. He landed unevenly on a mixture of debris knocked loose from the ceiling, odd wires and grenade-warped panels. He kicked some of the junk away so that he could cut another hole.
The next level was taller than most others, with clusters of viewports lined along the outer wall. Eiko barely recovered his footing when he was forced to react to the flash of light that could only come from a lightsaber. The crackling between his own saber and his attacker's blade flickered through the unlit walkway for a second before Arden recognized the Rollmaster's mask. Each saber slipped back.
"We're cutting it close," Arden nodded. "The Arconans didn't wait up for us."
"Good." Eiko started up the boarding ramp into the invader's ship. "I wouldn't wait for anyone either. The explosion..."
"Secondary reactor." Arden replied. Like the Rollmaster, Arden's face was at least partially covered with a mask. The Knight's eyes were expressive and exposed, hinting at a vein of fear under the surface.
Eiko paused for a second on the thought. Death has followed you, the back of his mind chided him, and you brought it right here.
"You've got the guns." Eiko gestured to the narrow passage that led to the rear guns. Arden slapped the controls for the boarding ramp, letting it retreat into the ship as the vacuum began to crawl into the Instigator's beaten frame. A handful of other shuttles were detaching from the hull or swarming from the hangars as the Victory-class Destroyer kept travelling. Engines dead, the ship moved on momentum alone, swimming into the heart of the battle even as its hull puckered with explosions.
Eiko moved with the shuttle's most basic controls, trying his best to keep the shuttle in pace with the fleet of evacuees. Every spare second was spent scouring the panels for the communication relay, emergency signals... anything that would help distinguish a commandeered shuttle from an enemy ship. His fingers finally settled on the open broadcast switch. "Ascendancy, this is Eiko. The Instigator is gone. We need escorts for the survivors. Repeat, this is Eiko. We need escorts."
- - -
"Lock on that signal. Don't let him broadcast like that," one of the communication officers aboard the Ascendancy yelled to the younger man at the console. "Patch him to me."
The officer's expression stiffened as the channel was opened. "This is the Ascendancy. We can't provide escorts, but we'll clear access to hangar Aurek-Seventeen for you." He gestured to one of the other officers, quickly flashing the number '17' and a hand signal for 'incoming.' "Your Excellency," the communication officer did what he could to catch Tra'an Reith's attention as the Quaestor stared, his expression fixed on the planet torn apart by bioweapons.
"Your Excellency!" the officer repeated, recklessly.
Tra'an turned to face him, his eyes glazed.
The battle seemed to run on in slow motion as the Quaestor turned to see the floundering shape of the Instigator wandering unpowered through the sea of lasers and crippled ships.
"... survivors are being directed to hangar seventeen," the officer continued.
"They didn't hold the bridge." The words slipped unevenly from Tra'an's lips before the image of the sick green clouds flooding Kapsina's atmosphere bit again into the Quaestor's consciousness. "It's dead..."
The officer's jaw gaped as the sight of the dying planet filled the Ascendancy's bridge completely. Everything silenced as the realization crept through the ranks.