Chasing Horizons Feud Runon Topic
Thus begins the official topic for the joint feud between Scholae Palatinae and Naga Sadow!
The opening fiction can be found on the feud site, http://cnshsphorizons.wordpress.com/category/fiction/
One note we want to make: If you're writing a post, you may post "Placeholder" and have that spot reserved for three hours, so that others know you are writing a post and do not conflict with yours.
We don't want to force any kind of precise plot aside from the fiction updates themselves, so don't worry about screwing up the plot, just work together and try to keep it realistic!
Let's do it!
The stars were brilliant as the streaks came into focus once more, solidifying into their softly glowing state. It always managed to make you feel small somehow, staring into the black of space and letting the sheer number of stars overwhelm you. However, it was not to stars that the gaze of Naga Sadow’s Proconsul now fell. His cold, grey eyes stared across the emptiness towards the ISD-II Warspite. Atra’s face was blank, showing neither disdain nor excitement.
At his side, Fleet Commander Aramis Nestor was well under way issuing commands to those assembled. It was for that reason that Ventus found himself aboard the Covenant and not their flagship vessel, The Final Way. The Proconsul knew his limits well, and space combat was not his forte. While Fleet Admiral Simonetti was no less skilled, it was the age and experience of Nestor that the half-breed Corellian wished to observe.
For all actions… A consequence…
Since his injury during the Horizons epidemic, Atra has had to become acutely aware of his thoughts, lest a stray one slip into the minds of those capable of hearing. The damage to his larynx was so severe that he had been required to adopt telepathic methods, and being new to the technique he had to stay focused.
Letting out an inaudible sigh, the Proconsul surveyed the damage to the fleet of Scholae Palatinae. While the Dlarit fleet had seen better days, it seemed that their enemies were in a significantly worse state. It was something the fleet would be capitalizing upon as the darkness of space was suddenly interrupted by the scorching fury of battle.
Despite the surprise of their arrival, the enemy fleet responded with impressive speed, a testament to their prowess. Still, Atra could not help feeling like they had been preparing for something else before their arrival. A disturbing thought that did not fall to dismissal. An explosion outside the bridge interrupted the man’s thoughts, forcing him back to the present as he broke from his statuesque stance. Spinning about, Atra proceeded to the waiting turbolift. He wasn't sure exactly which ships Kalia or Kairus had taken up as their own, but the Proconsul assumed they had things well under hand.
Something wasn't right, and it had little to do with the battle lust radiating from the men and women around him. He would let the soldiers play their war games, while focusing on matters of higher pertinence. The fleet would be the metal against metal; it was for the Dark Jedi to be the metaphysical component. The Proconsul’s cloak slid to the side as he raised his left wrist, the communicator located their blinking with activity. He would send word of his suspicions to the others; get their take on it before taking further action. Still, Atra wasn't one for patience and had already begun prepping a transport of his own.
"We've cleared the jump and are on a course to dock with the Covenant," Engineer Zzzclk'ik buzzed. The Verpine touched various points of light in the holographic control display with his chitinous claws. "We dock in 5." The ugly blaster-scarred beetle shaped craft cut it’s power and coasted to stop alongside the Covenant. Soon, the ship had drifted atop them and the grey tritanium-clad transport lifted into the ventral docking bay of the VSD I class Star destroyer.
"Land us. I will be debarking to meet our rendezvous guests." The Alchemist clenched his fists. "Then we will be going to Ohmen to pay a little painful visit personally. Whether we end up killing enemies known or unknown is irrelevant. I long for battle. It’s the only release from the Voices." He tapped the side of his head meaningfully with a grin of flashing metal-clad sharp teeth. “They won’t leave me alone. I almost wish my mind had fried from the Horizon plague like the others. It would have been merciful.”
“I’m not as inclined to agree,” commented Kalia dryly. “It could be important.” The head of Shadow pointed to a particular dot on the holoscreen. “And how do you intend to get us there, Macron?” The warrioress checked several weapons secured to her belt and battle harness almost absentmindedly. It was second nature to her.
“They will let me in. I had the Cure, you see. An entry pass to every system in the Brotherhood’s holdings. I’m on a … follow up visit from the Doctor. A house call checkup. Heh heh.” The tattooed madman chuckled as the hatch opened. “Malik will be joining us. There will surely also be others.” The Sith closed his yellow eyes and became serious in demeanor. “There is much hate for those who attacked us. I can feel it. The air reeks of it, a pleasant sweet stench of impending terror.”
Kalia opened her own eyes. She had looked into the Force as well. “Of course there is. Just be sure not to let your hate blind you, Marshal Commander. The Clan needs you in control.” She touched her bejeweled ring in thought. The finger with the ring pointed at the Adept. “Locke wants this done with as little collateral damage as possible. He specifically mentioned you and your known propensities.”
Macron frowned as the entered the hangar bay with the Sith woman by his side. “Unfortunate. Whether for him and his wishes, or for me I cannot yet say. Certainly it will be for our enemies however.” His armored bootheels clicked as he strode towards the hangar bay debark area. “I can hardly wait.”
RSD Final Way
As the Sadowan fleet turned from it's entry vector and approached Judecca
to meet the enemy fleet that stoically blocked its way, Locke stood on the commandway of the bridge, Fleet Admiral Araic Simonetti beside him. They both listened intently to a report from one of the bridge officers.
"Long-range scan complete. Enemy forces are two Eye-Es-Dee-Twos, one Majestic, support gunships and an escort carrier. They are orienting themselves to face us head on."
"Brave, " Simonetti mumbled.
"It is the way of Dark Jedi, " Locke answered, "to approach a challenge head-on, even in the face of insurmountable odds."
As Simonetti nodded, the Consul thought for a moment. He mentally counted off ships in his head. "Admiral, if I recall right, this is only about half of their fleet. The rest may be destroyed...but we should be careful."
Simonetti laughed a bit. "Some Dark Jedi you are; far too cautious, but I agree."
The Krath chuckled himself. Any other Dark Jedi may have strangled the Admiral for such a comment, but Locke and him held a mutual respect for one another, perhaps even one of friendly familiarity as a result of the conflicts they had faced together and the discussions they had shared on the art of warfare. "What is your intended approach here, Admiral?" Locke asked.
The Admiral spared no fluff for his words. "Lord Goura has docked with the [i]Covenant[/i]
, I imagine he plans a direct ground assault. I'll have the [i]Reaper's Call[/i]
and [i]Tarthos Invictus[/i]
provide support for the Covenant
as it approaches Judecca itself to offload our assault party and their support troops. The [i]Immolator[/i]
will also support the invasion forces, I'll have their command linked to Lord Goura's communicator. Then those capital ships come in from our starboard axis, while the [i]Final Way[/i]
and her support approaches on the port axis. The [i]Harbinger[/i]
, and [i]Orian Legacy[/i]
will move up the middle. In this way, we will encircle the enemy fleet-and prevent them from running."
"Makes sense, " Locke agreed. "You don't need my permission, execute."
After a nod of acknowledgement, Simonetti signalled to open a channel to the fleet and began barking orders in his crisp, clear Imperial military accent. "Scourge
, focus fire on the enemy's gunship screen so your fighters have a clear shot at the enemy's. Laffs
will engage enemy superiority fighters and protect X-Wings as they approach the enemy destroyers. Interceptors
, focus fire on enemy bombers, [i]Heretic Sun[/i]
, make sure none of them escape..."
Listening to the Admiral in the background, Locke approached the main view glass, watching smaller elements of the fleet move up to flank the Final Way
as it's fighter squadrons zoomed by. Then the datapad he always carried buzzed and a message scrolled across it's screen. Something's not right.
Locke still wasn't used to Atra not speaking vocally. The Consul closed his eyes, letting it's currents carry his mind for a moment, drowning out the physical world as he poured over available knowledge of the current situation. He sent one simple message back in return. Careful.
After a moment, Admiral Simonetti approached the glass. "Something wrong, Consul?"
"Just contemplating, " Locke said. He added confidence to his voice, raising it so the bridge crew could hear. "Let's teach these bastards that the Heirs of Sadow are not to be trifled with!"
The Sith eyed the Mad Alchemist carefully as they made their way towards the debark area. For once, she felt a title perfectly suited the man that held it. Still, she could not afford to gain tunnel vision here. "Go meet with whomever is awaiting, I trust you can contain yourself here." Kalia's words were sharp and clear, cutting the conversation short before it began. Macron said nothing as he continued forward on his way, leaving the Red Rose to watch patiently until she felt safe enough to put her back to his armoured form. As safe as one could feel around such insanity.
"Sir." A soldier at her side cut into the Quaestor's thoughts, bringing her attention to the object in his hand. The holopad needed no explaining, her operatives knew better than that.
Kalia began to sift through the limited information given to her. She was unhappy. The sound of her heels clicking against the metal floor echoed as she paced back and forth.
“I want eyes on the ground. Slice into their communications, I want SHADOW operatives in everything. This is unacceptable” she said firmly. “you have 1 hour. I want intel before Macron returns” Kalia closed the communicator.
SHADOW should have been on the ground prior to her landing. It was unlike her unit to be one step behind her. Kalia would have to get to the bottom of it and soon. She needed to talk to Methyas. Kalia signaled the soldier over and instructed him to get a message to Methyas.
Dlarit Destroyer Covenant
Heavy footfalls rattled through the warship’s tight corridors.
Men and women, tentacled Twi’leks and blue-skinned Saraii, all were mobilising in response to the President’s orders. The call to war had been issued. The Dlarit Corporation was not one to forget its shaming at the hands of the remnants of Palpatine’s fallen Empire. In the hangar bays, assorted X-wings, TIEs and Corellian fighters rolled out and soldiers loaded onto their shuttles.
In one busy ward of an engineering deck, however, a short brown-skinned Gand ambled along slowly, his head down in his hands as he analysed a datastream on his wrist-mounted datalink.
“Gand do as master instructs,” Hirett’us trilled in his broken Basic.
Before Hirett’us could continue, a large object collided with him at some speed from behind and knocked the Gand sidewards into a neighbouring doorway. A heavily modulated, metallic voice issued a sharp response, demanding the Gand move out of the way.
“Well, I say,” the droid that had struck him muttered to itself and it picked up the proton warheads that it had been transporting before it carried on up the corridor. “How rude.”
Hirett’us picked himself back up onto his feet. Being run into was a common occurrence for the diminutive little Gand; people, droids especially, were always in too much of a hurry to bother to take the time to look down to check so that they did not run into him. Hirett’us sighed. He was used to being ignored. He didn’t matter to people. He was just a nobody.
But his master was different, yes. Unlike the others, his master had always taken care of him. It had been so lonely during those years back when his master had wrongly been believed dead.
“Other agents have already made contact with the rebels,” the recorded message said.
“Gand understand,” Hirett’us said, apparently unbothered, or perhaps just unaware, of the fact he was talking to himself. “Gand make contact with others and help master’s master’s plan.”
His grasp of Basic may have been inelegant, but coming from Hirett’us his words were a solemn vow: he would do as his master’s master desired. Not that Hirett’us knew who his master’s master was, but he knew his master’s master -- maybe ‘grand master’ for short -- would help bring the Gand the recognition he had long been denied.
And then, maybe, Hirett’us could finally become an individual.
For now, though, the Gand headed on down the same corridor where the droid had disappeared. He had work to be done.
Roxas stood in the hangar bay with a look of frustration on his brow and a cigar in his mouth. With each puff some of the frustration waned. He raised his head to watch the Nachzerer land. He watched as the armored alchemist and the Quaestor of Marka Ragnos stepped out. He let out a puff of smoke as he watched Kalia’s hips sway, ever so lady like, away from Macron while speaking with a soldier. The Alchemist headed straight toward the Obelisk. The Mandalorian pulled his flask from his belt and held it out to the Sith.
“Want some Whiskey?”
The Madman’s metal teeth showed a slight grin before replying “Thank you, snowball.”
Roxas’s eyes widened as he inquired with an astonished tone “Snowball…?”
Macron took a long swig and returned the flask “Your name, my experiment. Why aren’t you on the bridge or in the armory? That seems more a suiting place for you. This is the place for a Sith.”
Roxas removed the cigar from his mouth to tap off some ashes “This is the only place where I’m not nagged at for smoke and why snowball? If anything how about the name I already have.”
“You don’t like it?”
The Obelisk shook his head.
Macron was silent for a moment before continuing “In the mood to smash someone’s face in?”
A smile crossed the Mandalorian’s face as he spoke “Whatever you’re planning I’m in. I could use a good fight, this cigar isn’t helping as much as I would like.”
“Drink the whiskey then. It should do better.”
The Mandalorian almost cringed at the thought, “I can’t stand sock whiskey. I mostly use it as backup fuel for my flamethrower.”
“Hehehe, I thought it tasted pretty good.”
Pensively, the Horansi stared at the flurry of incoming messages. Her comlink had taken on a life of its own with beeps and buzzes. The monitor that was connected to her other Summit members and various Palpatines was alight with communications.
Akatsuki read each message carefully, reading between the lines. The things that aren't mentioned are often what are most critical. Pressing the red button on the communicator, the Rollmaster did what was assigned--ensure the safety and positioning of the Journeymen.
"Attention Scholae, it would seem there is an impending attack...The Sadows seem to..."
The door burst open with Mijumaru and Ulfsark barraging the feline with questions. Akatsuki held up one claw as to say "wait."
Clearing her throat she resumed the announcement. "I am not sure who is still planetside, and who has taken to the air with the fleets. Your House needs you right now. Many members of the Scholae Imperial Guard are in the city, this is for protection and the well being of our capitol city. Please report as soon as possible to my office, I will see that everyone is assigned a task. Whatever the Sadows are plotting, it's high time they remember who the Royal Clan is. For the Empire! Now get here like...yesterday!"
As the beast released the button, she looked at her two apprentices. The questioning began. "First that...that...plague! Now this?" Ulfsark was in a tizzy, unsure of what he should be doing to help.
Mijumaru waved about wildly, "Ohacraao oarawh ah waoo aooo acwoanak?" (Which translated loosely to how may I be of help?)
The Krath Priestess informed her two apprentices that they'd be kept nearby, perhaps as a meat shield of sorts, to assist, defend and fight whatever was incoming. The comlink buzzed wildly again. This time from Xen'Mordin.
"Tamalar. There will soon be Guard members surrounding the building. Get those that are still within the barracks to the..." Xen's order was cut off.
"Done. I'm rounding them up and those that are of use in battle, those ready to fight will be redirected to do so. However, I'm keeping my apprentices with me. I will get the rest of the House members to appropriate stations." Akatsuki responsed.
"See that it's so. Also...." the communication ended in static.
Looking at the two Journeymen, Akatsuki ordered, "Go get your blasters. They may be needed." Mijumaru looked at Ulfsark in shock. She hates blasters! "Just do it furball." She returned to the incoming messages from the troops and House members as her two apprentices sought out their weaponry.
Malik kept to the shadows, trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible from the crew of the Covenant, as far as most were aware his species was nothing more than a myth and he had no problem with letting it stay that way. He looked over to where the Madman stood talking to the Mandalorian, he could still remember when a younger Macron had joined Naga Sadow fresh out of the Shadow Academy, much had changed in the Alchemist since then it seemed.
As Macron began walking again the Neti approached him. “Your alchemy experiments appear to go well, you’ve become more powerful since last I saw you. I received your invitation.”
The Alchemist studied the Warlord for a moment and seemed very serious for a moment. “Welcome aboard, the Nachzerer awaits.” He said almost with a giggle.
Malik paid the giggle no notice, he was used to the antics of the Madman. “It will be good to get a chance to stretch my branches. I will wait in the Nachzerer.” He said as he left Macron and headed towards the ship.
He inspected the ship as he got closer, it appeared to be covered in scorch marks and blaster scars from several space battles it didn’t look like Macron had ever bothered with trying to patch it up. Malik shrugged, “As long as it flies.” he thought to himself as he boarded it. He had forgotten how small it was inside as he found a corner where he could meditate and prepare himself for what was to come.
The turbolift doors opened silently, the quiet wooshing of new air the only signal Atra needed as he began walking once more. His eyes never left the communicator upon his wrist. The Proconsul's dark robes billowed out behind him as he walked, a new feature for the newly appointed man. The half-breed had been confused at first, when word of Teu's defection had reached him, but it had not been wholey unexpected. He was the one who had helped hide her son after all.
A sudden jolt shot through his senses, the subtle vibrations from a miriad of strands upon the silky web of the Force. Atra's grey eyes glanced up, scanning the hangar bay as he matched faces to the sensations he felt. An interesting array of Sadowans stood within the confines of the bay. Looks like I don't need to prep a transport after all, Atra's inner voice chuckled quietly as his footsteps echoed through the cavernous hangar.
Macron, ever the sane one, had his head tilted to the side as his eyes scanned the room. Clearly the man saw something that amused him as the Alchemist giggled and grinned wide. Malik was a more welcoming sight. Experience was something this man, if you could call a tree a man, possessed in vast quantities. The Proconsul came to a stop before Macron just as the Neti entered the Nachzerer.
“Room for one more in there?” The question whispered into Macron’s thoughts, Atra’s stoic voice chilling in presence.
“Locke’s new lap dog wants to come,” the man’s yellow eyes seemed to dilate as he turned from side to side, listening to voices only he could hear. “Perhaps you’re right, he is too tall… Hm, I suppose we could cut off a few bits… No, no, there is more than enough room.”
The half-breed Corellian merely watched, impassive, as he got the distinct impression he was only hearing one side of a heated debate. Finally, the Mad Alchemist’s eyes focused with deadly glee, merely nodding before spinning about.
“Unfortunate for our enemies indeed.”
Macron’s voice trailed off as his heavy footfalls announced his departure. Atra’s arms slipped once more into the darkness of his robes, his sleeves hanging low as the Proconsul followed in his ex-tormentor’s wake. His intelligent mind worked quickly, measuring the ever changing vectors before him. While there was no love lost between the Alchemist and his failed experiment, there were still opportunities to be had. The half-breed’s grey eyes turned to the shapely figure of Marka Ragnos’ Quaestor. The gold starburst at his pupil seemed to pulse for a moment as recognition set in. Another opportunity, though that was a discussion for another day.
Through contact with Methyas, SHADOW operatives had been dispatched to isolate Atra’s Firrerreon ancestry. It was a faint hope that any still lived, especially after the misfortunes that had befallen them. Still, Atra would take any chance to gather information, as knowledge had become an obsession for the Obelisk. So much so that the Proconsul had shed all pretense of open Dlarit ties and worked behind a figurehead so that he could remain anonymous. Instead, he spent his times sifting through archives, old and new, for all he could find.
Atra was aboard the Nachzerer in short order, coming to a rest in the far corner as his emotionless features settled into thought once more.
- Temple of Sorrow
- Orian System
- One week before the Invasion
Locke, consul of Clan Naga Sadow, sat rooting through logistics, troop dispositions, mission reports, and a whole host of sundry annoyance. Planning the invasion was a hassle, to say the least, and half-cocked as it might have come off, there was a heavenly host of terrors to manage to make it happen. It was so terrible, in fact, that had he not developed ulcers already, this kind of work would have given them to him.
Out of nowhere, a grumbling baritone spoke up. “You wanted to see me?” the voice said, causing the Krath to jump. He’d worked with the Assassin for some time, had worked for him, in fact, for a while, but he had the feeling he’d never get used to the silent comings and goings of the Obelisk killer. Locke took a moment to look at the animal he was about to let off the leash. Tall and muscular, dressed in the Ferran cut robes, and a pair of expensive sunglasses on his face.
“You’re going to Judecca,” Locke began, offering Mirado a seat. “I presume you’ve heard of the pending invasion?” When the Obelisk nodded, Locke continued. “You’ll be going in early. You’ll be eliminating some key members of the Legion, specifically persons in charge of Logistics, Supply, Finance, and Operations. We’ve got a clean freighter that’ll be taking you there. Full holo mission briefing will be waiting on you, detailing targets and secondary objectives. Space that tech before you put down.”
Mirado rose at that statement. He’d worked with Locke long enough to know when talking was finished. “Send the families gift baskets, those people are already dead.”
- Low Orbit
- Cocytus System
- Five Days before the Invasion
Mirado held onto the ladder of the lower access hatch of the YT-2000, his feet on the bottom rung. This close to the exit, he could feel the friction of the atmosphere just beginning to rattle and heat the freighter’s hull. Over the commlink in Mirado’s protective suit, the freighter pilot’s voice cut in over the static. “We’re 30 seconds from upper mesosphere. You’re clear when the door opens.”
“Roger,” Mirado replied, and focused his mind. He’d done this kind of jump once before. Called LOLO, a slight misnomer which stood for Low Orbital, Low Opening, it was suicide for most people, and highly risky for even those powerful in the Force. Mirado’s strength in that regard, as well as his own instinct for self-preservation, were both highly suspect. Even for someone as reckless as the younger of the two L’eonhearts, this kind of jump took nerve, especially since the last time he’d tried it, it had nearly killed him.
Suddenly, the bottom hatch dropped open. It was go time, so Mirado went. Activating his personal shield and letting go, he fell out the bottom of the ship, plummeting the several miles to the surface of the planet. For a moment, he lamented that he lacked standard eyesight, as the sight of a planet rushing to meet him at terminal velocity had to have been something.
Five minutes into his descent, the Miraluka spared a quick moment of tapping the Force, reaching his senses below him. Jungle and river, just like he’d planned. It was a quick peek. This planet crawled with the scions of Palpatine, a group of people he wasn’t inclined to have aware of his presence on their home planet. Satisfied, he rolled himself out of his spread-eagled fall into a headfirst dive.
Falling at around 90 meters per second meant he had almost fifteen minutes of free fall, more than enough time to suss out his plans. Locke had given him a task that, to the ears of the inexperienced, would have seemed a gross underutilization of his skills. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. By eliminating the people that made the entirety of the Palpatine’s military function with any kind of efficiency, their ability to mount an effective defense against Sadow’s invasion would be greatly diminished. By eliminating these people with the kind of skill and discretion that Mirado possessed, the Palpatines wouldn’t know what was happening until it was too late.
No, Locke had sent his surgeon first. Following on his trail, the instruments became more and more blunt.
- Ohmen City
- Cocytus System
- The day of the invasion
It had been an exciting few days of travel, through uninhabited jungle, to the smaller towns, which led to hitchhiking and sneaking into cargo skiff containers all the way to the mountainous capital city. In turn, travel turned to some resource acquisition, including several pay-as-you-go commlinks which would attach to small gunnery targeting beacons, serving as remote activation devices. These party favors, provided by Macron himself, would allow the gunners aboard Naga Sadow’s fleet to turn this magnificent mountain fortress into so much slag and debris in a matter of seconds.
Of course, he was here for killing, and had done so with distinct pleasure, tracking his targets throughout their day, remaining unobtrusive and generally never truly touching the Force. Some were poisoned, others finished their last day alive with broken necks or severed arteries, more than one found themselves in fatal speeder accidents. One specifically, a dour human male of middle age, learned all too late to never trust the people who deliver your food while you watch the ball game on the holoscreen.
It was a killer’s carnival, and Mirado was the ringmaster, setting the stage. Soon, the rest of the show would arrive, Mesmerists and Strong Men, Acrobats and Knife Throwers, and all their carnival games were rigged. The Palpatines stood no chance.
Conference Room 2B
The familiar sound of lightsaber combat and rampant force use made it incredibly easy to avoid the invading Dark Jedi. Evant Taelyan now found himself pinned down in a small ornate conference room where he had given mission briefings to Caliburnus earlier. Unfortunately those same missions were taking place all over the city, and the palace was being overrun.
The human Dark Jedi’s head still pounded from the mental beating from the plague brought on by the same attackers who now roamed the halls of his home. The Krath pulled a few pills from his robes and quickly swallowed them. Something to help take the edge off, one thing at a time.
The Knight had no idea how powerful the invaders were but gaining entrance to the palace in its current state fortunately, or unfortunately, didn’t mean much. Hunkered down behind the dais at the front of the room he scanned messages coming across his comlink trying to orient himself with whom besides Akatsuki and her apprentices might still be in the palace. The Battleteam Leader of Caliburnus already had standing priority orders from the Quaestor to protect the Imperial Palace at all costs above all else when necessary.
He held his head tight in his hands, straining, nervous his mind might fail him again as it had in recent memory. The Krath’s mind reeled with thoughts, names, maps, weapons, skills, tools. His deep blue eyes rapidly scanned the room, while he mentally scanned the entire facility. Finally, the worst of the ideas that could have crossed his mind stuck, and he pulled himself to his feet and glanced over at a technical closet on the edge of the conference room.
The Dark Jedi Knight pulled the most powerful sound amplification equipment he could find, fashioned it to a strap and pulled it over his back. He approached the door slowly and scanned the hall to see no enemies, pulling out his comlink as he moved quickly out into the hallway, “Akatsuki, got your message, my guess is since our new guests are of the palace occupying Dark Jedi persuasion, they are in the throne room?”
Halls of the Office Building
Mijumaru went quickly to her room. Her master had ordered to round up the weaponry she had. An old blaster had been passed through Akatsuki to the Wookiee via Valkas Tamalar. Being a Horansi, her master had found the blaster distasteful, so it became her first weapon.
Making her way to her quarters, she saw strange happenings about the city. There were members of the Scholae Imperial Guard walking about as well as other members of Scholae. No one seemed to be concerned. Mijumaru was confused as Akatsuki seemed to be thinking an invasion was at hand.
Grabbing the blaster as well as a staff, Mijumaru began to head back to Akatsuki's office. She spotted another Wookiee, Nawhynn, having a bit of a fit at an Imperial Guardsman. In a brief conversation with Nawrhynn through Shryiiwook, it was determined the Guardsman was admiring his weaponry. Mijurmaru informed Nawrhynn who the Guardsman was. After getting his weapon back from the Guard, Nawrhynn tagged along with Mijumaru.
The two Wookiees came to the door of the Rollmaster. Upon entry they saw many of the Journeymen had gathered. "We are going to have to hold our ground here. Many of our members have taken to the skies. We, however, are going to be responsible for Ohmen. We're responsible for keeping Judecca safe!" the Horansi was in rare form, rallying the troops as only she could.
The two Wookiees whooped and growled to show their agreement. The feline sent the group to various locations around the city. Mijumaru was posted at one end of the complex, and Nawrhynn at the other with the orders: If they aren't Palatinean, shoot to kill.
While I know I should be helping more with the invasion....as the "Den Mother" of Scholae I feel obligated to watch over the new members of our house as well as give those new to conflict some responsibilities within their abilities....Besides, I hate space flight!
Akatsuki responded to the Dark Jedi Knight's sarcasm with that of her own. "Ya think? Proceed with caution Evant. I don't know where everyone else has disappeared to, however...it should go without saying...trust no one." The feline smirked as she released the comlink button. I hope that Knight doesn't get himself killed! He might lead his whole team to their death...
An officer from the Guard walked in without knocking. "Ma'am, we have reports of military troops succumbing to what is believed to be Sadowans..."
The Krath Priestess peered over the datapad she was reviewing. "Sitrep. We've no time for small talk, what is happening out there?"
"Well, ma'am." the officer cleared his throat in nervousness. "There are strange things happening...unexplained accidents, random murder...but, there's no Force usage involved. In fact, one of our men...Briack, to be precise, is believed to be poisoned from the delivery boy!"
"What? Poisoned? Delivery boy? You've been out in the field too long! Get back to me when you have some facts and not some fairy tale nonsense!" The beast pointed to her door.
The atmosphere in Ohmen was ripe with tension, sounds of blaster fire and lightsabers igniting was heard throughout the capital.
Our military is spread thin, our members are tired. I'm not sure that the cure has been all that effective. I mean who is here to even stop me if I wanted to claim the city? The Emperor isn't around...Hell I think he wants me to die here planetside! That new Aedile, he's probably out there all renegade like....blasted Obelisk....hmmmm...I can't believe I'm here alone...glad some of the Guard are around.
Akatsuki took a moment to muse at the daydream of Empress Tamalar. Recognizing that was the remnants of the plague talking, she set about doing what she knew she should do, versus what she wanted to do. She also had to wonder....What does Thran know? I mean...normally he lets me in on the inside juicy details of the Brotherhood, he always knows things he shouldn't...but this time...this time I don't know where he is, much less what he's up to.
Akatsuki considered Occasus to be like a brother, he'd saved her ass on more than one occasion during her climb through the Journeyman ranks. Something about this time was different though. Thran's only allegiance is to himself...that could be potentially detrimental to us all.....
Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
Cocytus System – Near Judecca and Dynasty II Space Station
He said it calmly, quietly and in a tone which bordered on boredom. The ensign at his side nodded curtly and moved over to the communications display at his terminal, keying in the command to the fighter control center. With the order conveyed, the ensign’s head rose to look at his commanding officer.
“Fighter Command reports all fighters ready and accounted for. Launching is commencing” he reported, his accent tinged with strands of Coruscanti and Kuati. He seemed a model officer, a prime example for the rest of the bridge crew to follow. The mundane beings in the Empire were necessary for its administration and running, and it was an ungrateful man who scoffs at their sacrifice, or their usefulness.
“Very good, Ensign Kaplani. Your father was from Kuat, was he not? KDY shareholder perhaps?” he asked, his voice warm, clear and quiet. He was not an outspoken man, and rarely raised his voice without provocation. His alabaster eyes looked up at the Ensign, studying him. The ensign looked startled for a moment before nodding briskly.
“An entire sixteenth of a share, sir” he said, with not a small amount of pride seeping into his voice. He was well bred, and of a caste few in the galaxy could dare to dream of. He has had a truly blessed life.
“Remember, Ensign Kaplani, the wealthy and the poor both die in the same agony in war. Death does not play favorites, nor can it be bribed. Understand your own mortality, then, perhaps, you will surpass your… mundane toils”
The ensign bristled for a moment, his mind running through the dozens of replies he could offer to this cryptic and insulting statement. But he held his tongue, preferring to accept the slight and the lesson as it was meant, instead of speaking up and offering his head up on a platter to his commanding officer. Most Imperial officers had a superiority complex rivaling the Grand Moffs, but few could boast this commander’s litany of military victories, nor his volatile physical presence.
“Fighters have launched, sir” he replied instead, with only a slight quiver in his voice. Was it fear or anger which accounted for his vocal distortion?
“Very good” the commander replied, waving his hand at a sector of space on the tactical display, the one in which the entire Scholae force resided, “Have them maintain superiority and point defense in this sector alone, unless authorized. Have the bombers launch, but remain in our lee”
The ensign’s fingers were already tapping away. The tactical map started to change slowly, both with the movements of the fighters and bombers of his flotilla and of the enemy formations, as they slowly drifted apart into what looked like three different units. An amateur move, my dear opponent, the commander though, as his finger nail scratched at the stubble on his chin, the rasping sound barely audible over the din of the bridge.
“Comms, patch me through to the flotilla” he ordered, his voice betraying the surge of adrenaline he felt as he watched the battle slowly unfold.
“Link established” the communications officer replied. A female of dour demeanor and looks to match, she was a classic example of Imperial officer material, though none that you might see in the recruitment vids. The bridge crew of the Imperial-II Class Star Destroyer Warspite was indeed a stellar unit.
“Scholae Home Fleet, this is Marshal Archangel” the commander spoke, his voice echoing around the bridges of the assembled flotilla. Only the two Imperial II-Class Star Destroyers had made it back so far, with a single heavy cruiser, a pair of Corellian Gunships and an Escort Carrier besides. Not a weak force, to be sure, but outnumbered and outgunned, it would be sorely pressed to defend its home system.
“Warspite and Indomitable will align themselves with the Dynasty II, and will provide converging arcs of fire. The Renown will focus fire on their landing force from range, and the Gunships Defiant and Daring will run interference between the Carrier Subjugator and the rest of the fleet. All fighters will maintain defensive posture on the fleet and space station. Bomber strikes will be ordered as needed and required. Please reply with acceptance of battle orders.”
The speech had been carefully laid out, and planned, taking into account the enemy’s order of battle and his own. He didn’t expect much help from the planet, nor from other elements of the Scholae fleet. But the Dynasty Space station, which was situated on the prime lane through the system, would act as a roadblock, feeding the enemy to the Star Destroyers which flanked it. The long ranged capability of the Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser would be more than a match for the landing party, a mere pair of Marauder corvettes and an ailing Victory-class Star Destroyer.
The plan, while not perfect, would do for the moment, as Archangel listened to the commanders replying to the orders. Each approved them with grim determination or trained optimism, the voices betraying little fear or anger. These were highly-trained and experienced individuals, with crews more than ready to meet the challenge and the possibility of their deaths.
“Very well. Execute orders”
The commander stood from his chair, stretching the muscles in his legs. He’d taken a lot of punishment in the recent confusion called a war, and did not wish to dive straight back into battle. A voice from the dark recesses of the bridge crew pit piped up over the murmurs of his colleagues.
“Marshal, we have reports from the surface that the PG is intact and awaiting command”
“Have them send scouts into Ohmen, and try to make contact with any of our brethren on planet. Akatsuki or Evant may still be alive” he said, his eyes darting down to the man whose voice had broken into his thoughts, “And signal Dante and his 90th to prepare for landing. If any of their men make landfall, I want them to be buried there”
Vuhm Kehs, Antenora
The stench of death hung heavy in the air. Bodies lined the floors of the Scholars' Keep; blood stained the ancient sandstone walls in the wake of those seeking to reclaim the planet. Intelligence reports indicated the last remnants of Zoraan's forces posted on Cocytus' desert planet were holed up in the Keep. The past few weeks had all been leading to this point. Many had perished in defence of the planet: soldiers, civilians, and tribesmen alike. At last the invaders would be struck from the planet without mercy.
Koryn gave a nod; no orders were necessary, everyone knew their objectives. There were few members of Acclivis Draco present to see the reclamation of Antenora through to its end. Some were posted to Judecca to aid in defence of key positions, while others had taken up duty aboard the fleet. No matter, their contributions had been noted and they would receive glory in battle nonetheless. The Antenoran Guard fanned out through the facility, with contingents led by Vithril and Seider, whilst Zabitha stayed by her Master's side. The sounds of blaster fire broke out to the east: Vithril's platoon had encountered resistance. Koryn made his way towards the Grand Hall flanked by his apprentice and his platoon. A wave of Force energy blew open the intricately detailed door to the northern antechamber. Crashing back against its hinges startled the squad of guards posted there, making them slow to react. They were dispatched with ease. No sooner were the guards dealt with than Seider's voice reported over the comm channel.
"Western facility is clear. In position awaiting your order." Letting his eyes close, the Priest listened to the ebb and flow of the currents of the Force. The current was fighting against itself like a fish trying to swim upstream or a bird flying against a hurricane. It could mean only one thing: the Cocytus system was under attack once more. The Rodian motioned for a sergeant to step forward.
"Send word to prep a transport for Ohmen," he ordered, his mind still discerning the rivers Force. "I leave when we recapture the Keep." The sergeant turned on his heel and left for the command post erected a short distance from the facility. The Krath’s mind focused in on the here-and-now; beyond the door in the Grand Hall he could feel the enemy repositioning in response to the commotion around them. Cut off from reinforcements and with numbers dwindling fast, this would be the invaders’ final stand. They would probably be damn near suicidal. Better to die in battle than be at the mercy of one’s enemy. Koryn broke from his reverie as Vithril reported in. Giving the order, breach charges were attached at each entry point. A momentary disorientation could provide the Antenoran Guard even more of an edge in battle. Counting down from five, the Rodian focused his thoughts, channelling his resentment of the invaders. He gripped the hilt of his lightsaber tightly, his thumb hovering over the activation button. Upon detonation, the four Dark Jedi were the first into the Grand Hall. Zoraan’s remnant army would not make it out of Vuhm Kehs.
The four Draconians exited the Scholars’ Keep into the orange glow of Antenora’s dusk followed by the handpicked squad that was the Tetrarch’s honour guard. In front of them, sat a Lambda-class shuttle waiting to transport the Lord of Antenora to Ohmen. Turning to Seider and Vithril, the Rodian gave orders for them to conduct a sweep of the city.
“When it’s done, rendezvous on Judecca; I sense your presence will be required.” The pair bowed their heads in recognition. Motioning for his apprentice to follow, Koryn approached Major Rett Verises standing to attention at the foot of the boarding ramp. As the Krath approached, the Major turned and fell in step.
“My Lord, congratulations are in order, but I must inform you that Rollmaster Tamalar has been trying to contact you,” he reported. “I believe she means to update you on the situation in system: reports confirm that a Sadowan invasion force dropped out of hyperspace not an hour ago. A fighter escort is waiting in orbit to escort you to Judecca.” As Verises finished his report, the hydraulics in the landing ramp gave a hiss as it rose up and sealed the passengers inside. The honour guard had begun talking amongst themselves on a private channel; the only indication they were talking at all was a slight movement of their helmets. Entering the cockpit, Koryn and Rett took a seat behind the pilot followed by Zabitha who sat opposite them.
“Patch me through to Akatsuki, priority code Aurek two-dash-one-one.” The pilot confirmed the Tetrarch’s order and within a matter of seconds, the Horansi’s hologram appeared before them. Before he could greet the Rollmaster, the ensuing space battle came into view. Emerald and crimson cannon fire streaked across the forward viewport in the distance as Scholae’s navy attempted to repel the Sadowan assailants.
“Don’t think for a second it’s any more of a holiday on the planet,” informed Akatsuki. “They’re seeking revenge for Sepros.”
M-CRV Reaper’s Call
The Templar stared silently into the vastness of space, contemplating his current assignment and finding it to be favorable. Aboard the Reaper’s Call providing cover for the VSDI Covenant seemed like a dream job compared to his last mission. He began to let images of the sabotage mission flood his mind, but quickly shook his head and regained his composure. He needed no reminders of what that mission had cost both him and his brethren.
A smile skirted across his face as Kairus reached for his holopad, chirping to get his attention. He read the communique and discovered that Lord Macron had succeeded in assembling his ground forces. He was not surprised to see half of Naga Sadow’s summit signed up, and even his newly appointed Battleteam leader. “They’re all as mad as the alchemist”, Kairus said to himself as he stowed the datapad away. “Then again”, he thought to himself as he counted off the members, “Atra, Kalia, Macron, and Roxas…perhaps a little madness is what we need. The enemy has one hell of a fight coming to them.”
The silence was broken by a strong, military voice, “My Lord, initial battle plans have been transmitted and relayed.” Kairus turned to face Lieutenant Wellon, “Thank you, Lieutenant, but you may spare me all further reports; you’re still in charge of your ship.” The CO stood taut as if he did not fully believe the dark jedi. Kairus gestured kindly to the officer’s seat, “allow me to reiterate. My presence aboard your vessel is for strategic application. While providing cover for the Covenant, if the space battle starts to get out of control I can easily assist in one of the headhunters in your hanger. Similarly if the ground forces call for help, I trust you can maneuver the Reaper’s Call out far enough for me to slip away relatively unnoticed. Aside from either of those scenarios, I’m just here for the ride.” Kairus finished his thought and returned his gaze to space, trying to focus on how this battle would end.
VSDII Orian Legacy
The bridge of the Orian Legacy was frantic as officers quickly relayed reports to the various stations, each cooperating and co-mingling as their tasks required and each swifting standing at attention with a crisp salute snapped to the Jedi who crossed the walkway now to the head of the bridge. His robes fluttered behind him as he moved at a brisk pace, his sightless gaze set upon the ship's XO as he moved to stand beside the young man, the XO's voice rising gruffly, "Reports are green across the board, sir. The bridge is yours."
"Of course it is," Methyas thought as he felt a wave of concern wash over him through the Force, a bad feeling others would call it. Something all too common lately as Methyas pondered how he had gotten himself here, the Legacy's true CO presently home in Orian recovering from injuries sustained during the Horizon uprisings, yet his XO wasn't brave enough to take his place when a Marshal Commander was present. Were it not for his training under Simonetti during times of peace, the Miraluka might have begrudged that he had formerly been Consul. Now, however, he needed to focus on Logistics and ensure that his command of the Victory-II would keep the Dlarit fleet safe.
"Bring forward deflectors to full and start calculating for full flak coverage with our batteries. I want all available fighters ready to deploy for a full fighter screen until we close distance with the Palatinaean defenders. Get us into a position to provide Harbinger with the greatest support." The commands came from the Jedi, his voice authoritative yet still with that gentle grace he always seemed to hold. Without missing a beat, the moment the first command left Methyas' lips, the officers began to mill about. Silent calls to engineering were made to distribute power, weapons officers discussed the best approach for their screen and flight officers had already began to broadcast the ready condition to the waiting pilots below.
Other reports had already began to come to the Rollmaster now, both in the form of various officers approaching him and others through his little droid companion, Zero. Methyas preferred the term "AI" for Zero, since the intelligence was a small device nestled on the Miraluka's belt instead of a full-fledged mobility platform; still Zero had been useful to the Jedi since his Consularship, allowing the Miraluka to work with Dlarit's extensive databases despite not being able to see them. Better still, he had retained his access through Zero's various manipulations and had been able to establish the massive SHADOW network with Kalia. As Methyas stood with his focus upon the Force around him, with Zero chattering in his ear through the piece resting there, another figure silently stepped up beside him.
The man approached with an air of confidence, his Bonya armour gleaming for a moment in the light of Imperius as he neared the large viewing area. Were it not for the familial ties or the Miraluka's skill with the Force, he would've succeeded in sneaking up upon the Jedi. In a moment, Methyas spoke, an almost lilting note to his voice, "Commander, the bridge is yours for the moment. Its nice to see you back, Araxis. Have you spoken with your apprentice lately?"
"I doubt you've been "seeing" much lately, Methyas. Need a hand?" Araxis responded, that same joking tone in his voice as he gestured towards the Miraluka's right side with the neatly pinned and folded sleeve just beneath his shoulder.
"You know, I hear that one quite often lately. Though I suspect you're here to lend just that, what is it old friend?" The Jedi responded quickly, carefully avoiding to refer to his cousin as such.
"My apprentice sent an Operative to find you, I decided to fill in for them. Apparently we're missing agents on the ground before the invasion."
"So I have heard."
"I've arranged for some of our best operatives to be the first feet on the ground, it may not be too much ahead of herself but its the best I can manage from within SHADOW on such short notice with agents still in Orian performing clean-up."
"Sound like you've got more planned."
"I do, I've been in contact with some contacts on Judecca who are willing to help fill our gaps in information, a veritable font of knowledge I might add. In exchange for certain, liberties...I should say."
"Or spies, take your pick. Though you should really be bringing this all to Kalia's attention, I'll forward her the dossiers."
As the Miraluka finished speaking, the presence of a journeymen at their side could be felt, the young man about to speak when Methyas continued, "I was hoping to see you, Khaldrago. The reports I've received from the Headmaster have been quite impressive, enough so that we've decided to rightfully promote you to Acolyte."
The Miraluka paused long enough to hand the Journeyman a datapad with all the information provided, "This is Araxis Farron, the Commander of your new Battleteam. He will be introducing you to your new master, though I suspect you've spoken to Kalia already."
Araxis seemed to look at Methyas for a second, almost wondering how much the Miraluka knew about the inner workings of the Clan before he shrugged it off; better not to know for now. Khaldrago seemed stunned for a moment, preparing to respond when Araxis motioned slightly as he started moving down the walkway silently in his light armour before Methyas' sightless gaze seemed to fall upon the new Acolyte, "I'll be watching your progress, Acolyte; make us proud out there."
As the pair left the bridge, Methyas started back on his tasks; coordinating the logistics of the Disciples of Sadow themselves while commanding Orian Legacy as it prepared for the pending assault, "Commander, bring me up to speed."
VSD I Covenant
“That’s it then. Kalia, Atra, Roxas….” A large, twisted tree like humanoid walked up. “And Malik, my Neti friend. Proof that even a tree can follow the Sith teachings.” Macron chuckled. “We won’t be taking the Nachzerer. My… sources below indicate they are expecting it. Engineer Zzzclk’ik and my apprentice Noktar will fly it in the defense of the Covenant.” The Verpine nodded and strode towards the other side of the hangar bay. “Atra has a better idea.”
“Instead, we will take a disguised drop pod.” Atra gestured at a small pod that was covered in riveted-on debris. “I’m convinced it will work.”
Kalia winced. “That’s a rather large drop, don’t you think? In…that?”
Atra looked thoughtful. “It can be done. We use the Force. If we can minimize our presence, we’ll just be debris falling in from the battle and remnants of junked ships. Once we land, we’ll deploy and link up with Mirado. Kalia has information from operatives already on the ground. We will land in the blast zone around the hospital destroyed during the Horizons revolt.”
“Or we splatter. Either way it’s a grand voyage,” giggled the Alchemist. “Let’s do it.”
“I’m in,” agreed Roxas. “Verd ori'shya beskar'gam.” The warrior donned his helm. “The honor of battle.”
“A warrior is more than his armor,” translated Macron from the Man’doa as he closed his own faceplate with a hiss. His voice echoed ghoulishly from a vocoder within as he flexed the Armor Fist and checked his sabers. “Very true.” The dropship pod hatch yawned. “I say we kill as many of them as possible. Make a statement.”
“Zoraan’s remnant? Or the Palatinae forces?” asked Kalia. ”Both will be near the Palace.”
“Yes,” replied the Adept with a serious demeanor. “Exactly. A plethora of victims. Stealth is not my forte- or my job. Causing mass destruction as a diversion is, while the rest of you do your thing.”
Destroyed Hospital Zone
Piles of debris occasionally dropped from the sky all around the walled Ohmen City. Trooper Geynd kept watch on this area of the blast zone. Ever since the rebels under the influence of the Horizon plague had blown the hospital in the zone to bits, work had been underway to remove the debris. In the skies above, a large battle was just underway between Palatinae naval forces and the invading Sadowans. On the ground Zoraan’s remnants had overrun the Palace and were holding it.
“Gorram. That was a big one, Command.” commented Geynd as a loud crash reverberated from just over the hill of piled duracrete debris. “Doesn’t appear to have hit anyone, over.” He touched the earpiece of his blast helm. “Roger that, I’ll check it out.”
As the trooper peered over the edge of the hill, an unmistakable sight met his eyes. The side of the fallen house-sized debris chunk dropped open, and the unmistakable snap-hiss of igniting lightsabers met his gaze. His scream echoed briefly across the comlink before a blazing pinwheel of orange light cut him down and returned buzzing towards the crater. Figures jumped from the debris, some in armor and others cloaking themselves from sight with the aid of the Force.
RSD Final Way
Standing silently on the Final Way's bridge, Locke watched as the battle began to unfold. With his hands clasped at his back, one of his fingers began to slightly twitch. The Krath longed to be in battle. His place wasn't here, idle, doing nothing but serving as a figurehead. It was on the ground, or in a starfighter, aiding his cause first-hand.
With a measured, controlled sigh, the Consul turned his gaze from the battle, walking back along the commandway, watching the crew hard at work at their stations. Even they had a purpose, a job to do, an active part in this battle. He approached Admiral Simonetti, waiting patiently for a moment as the Admiral gave new orders, directing his subordinates as the battle developed. The Corellian knew battle, and had made a career of commanding ships. In contrast, Locke was a pilot and foot soldier; if perhaps, a successful leader as well. Regardless, the Admiral did not need the Consul's assistance with this battle.
"How goes it?" Locke asked, once Simonetti had finished speaking and turned his eyes back toward the view glass at the bow end of the bridge, indicating he was finished for the moment.
The Admiral gave Locke a brief report on the enemy's positioning and the current situation, as well as his intentions to counter it. "They're going to be a tough nut to crack, but we can do it. They know that if they run we can pick them off like mynocks. Now we bring the fleet together and hit them hard. It won't be clean, nor easy, but it will be done. We've also had reports that our Foxtrot Uniforms are on the ground."
"Already?" Locke was surprised; he didn't expect them to get there that quickly.
"Indeed, " Simonetti said. "They used a drop pod usually intended for putting armor on the battlefield, disguised as falling debris. The rest of our landing forces are right behind them."
"Clever, " the Krath replied.
Simonetti nodded. "Yes, but we won't be able to keep the Covenant on station very long. Even with additional support it is a prime target for our enemies, and we need those ships to crack the proverbial shell of our enemies."
Locke pondered this for a moment. The Sadowan Dark Jedi on the ground could still do a lot of damage, and would still do well without direct support from space. "And the bombers?"
"They made it through with minimal losses, but the city's air defenses will keep them from making bombing runs. Unless, of course, they are cleared."
"Ah, " Locke said, "That eventuality wouldn't surprise me at all. One last question, is my X-Wing still prepped and ready in the hangar, just in case?" He barely added that last part. Locke knew that, as Consul, it was part of his responsibility not to put himself at too much risk on the battlefield, but a part of him didn't care about that. He wondered what backlash he would suffer if it was discovered he had joined the battle personally, if any at all.
"Yes, " Simonetti smiled, "just in case."
"Good, " Locke said. "I will let you get back to your duties; keep me informed." He turned and began making a slow walk around the periphery of the bridge, as if monitoring each station.
Destroyed Hospital Zone
“That shouldn’t have worked.”
Atra’s grey eyes surveyed the area, taking in as much information as he could while the gears began working in his mind. His statement was correct, for countless reasons. The city’s anti-air defenses alone should have vaporized them before impact. It was through a combination of luck and the Force that any of them had landed unscathed given that the drop pod had been designed for vehicles and not organics.
“But it did work.” The sound of Roxas’ voice was distorted by the modulator in his helmet, but still recognizable.
The Proconsul shook his head, his voice seeming to come from every direction, yet none as it rang out in their minds. “No, they let us land. More than likely they hope we will be both destroy and be destroyed by Zoraan’s remaining forces here.”
Macron’s twisted grin spread wide, recognition shining in his yellow, corrupt eyes. “We’ll just crush them all.”
“You might, some of us are more suited to more surgical approaches.” Kalia shook her head quickly, clearing the golden strands from her line of sight. “I trust you’ll stay with the main forces and do what you do best.”
The Mad Alchemist’s giggle was the only answer any of them required. Even Malik remained quiet as he shifted behind them. The Neti Dark Jedi was more suited to battles of the mind, not the flesh; a sage in his own right. “I’ll coordinate with the landing forces; ensure everyone is where they need to be.”
The tree’s decision wasn’t unexpected, given his species’ affinity to anonymity. The galaxy had all but forgotten them, and that was how they liked it. Striding forward, the Mandalorian experiment that was Roxas readied his weapons. Even behind his mask, Atra knew he was grinning. The warrior had no need to announce his plans, they all were well aware of them. The Mando would go to war.
Kalia rushed forward, tapping into the Force to accelerate into a blur. Atra stood for a moment, watching as the flurry of ruby armour and pale skin accented by golden hair strode into the warzone. As debris and explosions cascaded about her he had the sudden mental image of her body, battered and broken upon the ground. A stab of pain cut through him for a single instant before his mind snapped back to the present.
The hell was that?
The half-breed shook it off, taking a long breath before reaching into the dark reservoir at his core. The icy depths were calm in their embrace, patient like a long lost lover. As he took hold the power rushed over him like cold fire, igniting his every muscle. Launching forward, the Proconsul moved into stride behind the Quaestor of Marka Ragnos. Their aim was to knock out what defenses they could, though it wasn’t necessary to take them all out. If they could take down a single grid, the opening would be enough to allow a strategic strike.
Naga Sadow would have its revenge.
RSD Final Way
Admiral Simonetti watched the updates on the screen in front of him. A grin appeared on his face. Everything was going as planned. Constantly people rushed in and out, reporting to him about the ongoing operations. The bridge was busy like an Ant Hive on Kubindi.
A sound behind him - someone clearing their throat - made him turn around. His head turned to discover the huge dark unblinking eyes of a female Woostoid.
“Fleet Admiral Araic Simonetti, Captain of the Final Way, loyal member of the Special Operations. I, Jeido, fourth child of the family Arkida, approach you ....”, Jeido began.
“Yes, yes.. what is it.. Woostoid?”, Simonetti waved his hand impatiently - Woostoids were commonly known for their lengthy conversations.
A short impression of nuisance crossed the Woostoid’s face as she was cut off by the Admiral. She cleared again her throat: “Admiral Simonetti, I calculated the chances of a successful operation to aid Clan Naga Sadow, named after the great Sith Lord Naga Sadow, created by Astronicus Sad....”.
Simonetti snorted, his voice stern. This was not what he needed now - a silly conversation with a Woostoid.“Yes?”
Jeido’s unblinking black eyes stared back: “Based on the current situation - with Clan Naga Sadow and House Scholae Palatinae, which was based on the foundations of the Great Empire - our chances are increased by 14.56% if we use a special... “
Simonetti’s attention began to drift off during the endless prattling of this Woostoid. Finally he made an attempt to stop the apparently neverendless flow of words from Jeido: “I don’t have the time for this!”
A short break and Jeido opened her mouth again: “But Admiral Simonetti! This is a high importance of about 80%. We have...”
“Admiral Simonetti!” a solider demanded his attention, a new report about the fleet’s current situation in the soldier’s hands. Simonetti sighed with welcome relief, more than happy for this chance to be able to avoid the conversation with this annoying creature.
The Woostoid started again: “Admiral Simonetti, Captain of the...”
Simonetti burst out, interrupting Jeido: “Talk to my adjutant! I have no time for you! I first need to take care of this ASAP,” and he turned to the soldier.
A Communication room
RSD Final Way
Jeido sighed. This Admiral had been very rude to interrupt her - on top he even used an abbreviation. The Woostoid shook her head in disdain. Her black eyes stared at the datapad in her hands. The Adjutant was very helpful - though like the Admiral, even he too seemed to be unwilling to have a conversation with her, which she found very odd. This had been now the 743th humanoid being that did not appreciate a decent conversation with her.
The tall Woostoid bent over the computer panel, beginning her work. Her natural affinity for computers were very helpful as she sliced into the computer’s system. Her mind was already calculating the chances for a success of this operation. The code was uploaded and sent to the Gand that cooperated with her.
Jeido tilted her head, knowing there was a 1.02% chance for her secret message being uncovered. Finally a confirmation from the computer - the message had been received.
Republic-class Star Destroyer Final Way
Flagship of the Dlarit Navy
The steady drone of the Star Destroyer’s reactor core was temporarily forgotten as the thick durasteel blast door rumbled open and announced the Gand’s entry to those on the other side. Inside, a lone Kubaz wearing its species’ obligatory goggles to shield their eyes from infrared wavelengths glanced back, took note of the Gand’s maintenance uniform, then quickly turned back again to continue his monitoring of the targeting systems. Other than the masked Kubaz, only a lone Verpine technician stood next to him, its chitinous mandibles never ceasing to race across the input panels to the towering computer systems that dominated the room.
Evidently the battle was more important than a misplaced electrician. Hirett’us did not attract any further attention when he slipped inside before the doors closed again. And to think, he had found it easy to sneak onto the communications deck to transmit that message to his contacts on the ground about the Nachzerer. It was really true how little anyone paid the Gand any notice.
But that would change. Soon, they would all remember his name.
Behind the two technicians, the floor gave way to a void, at the middle of which hovered a violent red sphere, which pulsed every time the ship shook from an impact from the battle outside. The Kubaz jerked a little each time, but the Verpine simply clicked its mandibles and carried on unperturbed. Hirett’us never had liked the new Verpine; even to the Gand, the insectoids behaved very differently to most species -- or perhaps Hirett’us simply envied them their hive collective.
While the Kubaz and Verpine continued punching into their terminals, Hirett’us fiddgeted around inside a toolbag attached to his belt for the data cylinder that he had been provided with by Jeido. Hirett’us didn’t like the Woostoid that much either, but she was one of them, working directly for his master and his master’s other allies, so that had to count for something. If it meant the success of his master’s and his master’s master’s plan, then that was all that mattered.
His master’s instructions to do as the Woostoid directed echoed through the Gand’s mind, as if his master were speaking to him right there, but of course lightyears separated Hirett’us and his master, whose location now not even the Gand could be certain of. Not that his master’s orders made the Woostoid’s obsession with logical thinking any less awkward to work with. “My calculations estimate a ninety-three-point-four-six percent probability of success,” Jeido had told him, as if a simple “It’ll work” wasn’t good enough. Why didn’t Woostoids just think normally?
Shrugging, Hirett’us started toward a vacant terminal opposite the Kubaz and Verpine—
And a yellow security shield wrapped around the terminal.
“Hold there!” the Kubaz called, finally taking notice of Hirett’us’s presence. “This level is for certified engineering personnel only, what is you—” Before the Kubaz could finish, a small hold-out blaster had dropped down from inside Hirett’us’s sleeve into his hand. “Wait, what are you—!?”
The laser bolt struck the Kubaz directly between its goggles and its long snout crashed down into the terminal in front of it. The Verpine who had been standing alongside the Kubaz in silence dived sidewards for cover behind its own input terminal. But Hirett’us had already turned his blaster toward the insect and fired off another shot, which caught the technician in the middle of its thin chitinous back. The technician barked in pain, but a second later the insectoid was back on its feet, its hardened carapace having absorbed much of the glancing bolt as it rushed toward the nearest alarm at the end of the terminal bank.
“How did a Palatinaean get in here!?” growled the Verpine as one of its pincers depressed the alarm switch. “Or if you’re loyal to Zoraan you’ll soon be joining the ones we cleared out of Orian!” The Verpine briefly clacked its cranial mandibles in what Hirett’us understood to be amusement, but the next moment the technician stopped and looked down at the alarm again.
Hirett’us lifted his blaster back up toward the Verpine. “Did think Gand not disable switch power first?” Hirett’us chuckled. His broken grasp of Basic may have made others dismiss him as a simpleton, but the Gand was as sharp as any Bith; he had already disabled the alarm several shift changes ago, back during the travel through hyperspace from Orian to Cocytus. Admittedly, Jeido had been the one to identify the nineteenth-point-six-second window, but in this instance Hirett’us was grateful for the Woostoid’s pedanticness. “Gand not fool Dlarit take Gand for.”
Before the Verpine could do anything further, the Gand fired his blaster again and the insectoid joined the Kubaz on the cold metal floor.
“Time Gand see what Woostoid work do,” Hirett’us mouthed to himself as he inserted the data cylinder into the terminal behind him and uploaded the code that Jeido had provided. The red energy sphere down in the void in front of the two dead technicians pulsed erratically for a few seconds, dulling and brightening, then it finally blinked out. It was all done. All around Hirett’us, the towering LeGrange targeting computers began to shut down and the room’s annoying drone finally stopped.
Smiling inside his breathing mask with success, Hirett'us retrieved the data cylinder and put it back into his pouch.
Now he just had to find a way off the ship before its own warheads tracked back around into it.
Destroyed Hospital Zone
“Regardless of the why,” rasped Macron’s vocoder. “We made it.” The Alchemist’s helm looked impassively at Atra. One hand extended holding a red vial. “Orbalisk venom. You wish to study Alchemy- then do so. First hand as it empowers your body. Only use it as a last resort. Hehe.” The armored Sith turned his gaze back towards the rubble piles. Around them the fog common to the mountain heights around Ohmen rolled in unsettled waves. “Things are uncertain here.”
“I can only assume Kalia has moved to link with our SHADOW operatives and the Neti has made his own way forward. Macron, Roxas, are you with me?”, remarked Atra cooly with a mental push. “We should make our way to the main force as planned. We have to clear a landing zone by disabling the air-to-air batteries.” The Proconsul peered about with senses enhanced by the Force. “No monsters this time Macron? Like you used back in our system?”
The Adept remained impassive to the taunt as the armor that kept his mind in check encased him. “There was no time Proconsul. All my efforts were devoted to the Plague. Now that we are here… the cure will spread to them as well. As will our collective wrath.”
“What’s left of them,” commented Roxas dryly from inside his own Beskar helm. “Surface scans showed them pretty depleted after Zorro’s bombardment. They had some portable anti-air, but the bulk was unavailable from what I saw. And I’d imagine their fighters are above.”
“That doesn’t rule out airspeeders, droids, surface fire and the like Roxas. I have to agree, they let us land. For purposes of their own as yet unplumbed.” Macron removed his unlit lightsaber from his belt. “Besides which, I feel Force users nearing. Yessss… And not Dark Jedi either…. It feels like the Matukai I fought in the Dark Hall when Zoraan invaded. Not as strong though, but there are more than one.” The Adept crouched, making for a pile of debris. “Ready yourselves my friends. Zoraan’s dogs have found us first.” The Sith's red armored visage shimmered and melted, becoming unseen amongst the piles of blasted duracrete and debris as his fading form blurred and vanished.
“Copy that,” Roxas remarked. The Mandalorian warrior threw a handful of small marble-sized orbs across the perimeter areas nearest to them. “Miniature baradium mines. They’ll enjoy that- not a huge blast, but it’s hard to fight with no feet or legs.” He hunkered down beside a large slab of duracrete and plasteel and began to set up a heavy repeating blaster. Twin redundant powerpacks and a small but potent portable Verpine powershield connected together in his dugout. “Bring it on, you cork-knarkers. Hettiir aru’e.”
Atra focused and squeezed the painful thoughts of Kalia that had come unbidden to his normally serene mind deep into his core to fuel his anger later. He was proof that the Dark Side could be served with the same cold demeanor that a Jedi used. The Corellian’s frosty, calculating demeanor served him well here. He palmed a canister of his own from his belt. It flew away, thrown with the Force out beyond the rim of the crater they were in. “Ablative gas. My own first concoction, it should screen us from long range blaster fire for the most part.” Tattoo like marks began to writhe and squirm on his skin. His fingers tapped a quick code on his wrist gauntlet, activating the armed Dark Eye droids that remained hidden behind the fallen beams and rubble around the fake drop pod. “Here they come.”
Auxiliary communications room
RSD Final Way
The Woostoid’s slender finger were flying quickly over the computer’s input device. Minute after minute passed, each thirty seconds the Woostoid calculated the chances for her activities to be detected and interrupted by SHADOW.
The system was suddenly shut down - SHADOW had seized control.
Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
Cocytus System – Near Judecca and Dynasty II Space Station
Marshal Archangel stared at the computer panel in front of him. His mouth slightly opened, not believing what his eyes was picking up on the screen. Tactical data of Clan Naga Sadow scrolled down his screen. Numbers, coordinates, ships, weaponry and more. “What.. is this...?”
His communication officer leaned closer: “Sir, it looks like there is a spy working for us from within Naga Sadow...”
Archangel frowned: “Or it may be a trap...”
Suddenly the flow of data was interrupted.
“What happened?... “ The officer raised his brows.
Archangel shook his head: “I don’t know. Maybe the spy has been caught... or they just didn’t have more fake data to be sent to us....” He rubbed his chin, lost in thoughts. “This has to be immediately reported. Check the data! See if they are of any value for us! Squeeze out what you can!”
The communication system saluted: “Aye Sir!”
RSD Final Way
An officer rushed to Locke: “Consul Sonjie, Sir! There was an attempt to send data to Scholae Palatinae Headquarter!”
Locke turned around on his heels: “What?!"
Destroyed Hospital Zone
Atra's gaze conveyed the fatigue he was now feeling as he deactivated his communicator. Having to rely on an automated interpreter made holocalls cumbersome beasts. Still, they were necessary evils for the sake of communication. The Proconsul turned and surveyed his surroundings as he wiped his eyebrow clean off the blood that sought to creep into his vision. The crater that marked their arrival was now littered with debris and corpses. The Dark Eye droids had been quintessential to their success in fending off Ohmen City's defenders, the Sadowan's use of alchemy requiring the enemy forces to come into their trap.
Still, it was not without great effort that they had survived the encounter, and Atra was not above allowing himself to feel the weight of that effort. Roxas sat nearby, propped against a nearly obliterated shard of durasteel panelling. A remnant of the hospital that once stood here. As one could have expected from the Mandalorian, he was in the process of inspecting and cleaning his weaponry. His emotionless, armoured face turned to face the Corellian half-breed, energy scorching disrupting the features.
"What's the word, vod?"
The edge of the Proconsul's lip twitched, a subtle reaction before he could mask his features once more. Atra hadn't expected to hear such a moniker from Roxas, but standing side by side in combat tended to alter people's viewpoints from time to time.
"We've got bigger problems, and I'm to go meet one of them." Atra's mental sigh could almost be heard in the whispers behind his thoughts. Turning his gaze skyward, the experiment's now gold eyes took in the sheer number of drop ships making their way planetside. "Not just yet though, Thran's fleet will take time to get into place."
"So we still get to have our fun here, eh?" Macron's insane giggle marked his presence as the Elder casually approached the others. The unabated glee of still unsatisfied blood lust sparkled in his corrupted eyes. Atra merely nodded in acknowledgement.
"Despite the cease fire, I doubt they'll be happy to let us approach their base. I vote we need a ba'slan shev'la." Roxas had risen to his full height, apparently at ease with the state of his guns.
"As enjoyable as the alternative is, I'm inclined to agree."
Atra watched with sober eyes as Macron spoke, the Alchemist's head tilting ever so slightly to the side as he finished, a grin spreading on his lips. The Proconsul knew better than to ask. Some things, no matter how much you think you want to know, you really do not want to. Taking a quiet breath, Atra centered himself once more. As if alive, the tattoos on his flesh squirmed and disappeared, chased out of existence. His gold eyes seemed to bleed out, the colour shrinking away until it became a star burst once more in the center of his natural, cold grey. The half-breed cracked his neck calmly before taking a step forward. He was stiff, and it was a stiffness born from exertion. The Proconsul would welcome what little rest the approach to the castle would bring him.
RSD Final Way
"How many destroyers?" Locke asked.
"At least ten, in addition to the super, " Simonetti replied. The bridge was silent as the two spoke quietly, careful to keep their words from reaching too many of the bridge crew.
The Consul sighed quietly. "No chance of escape?"
Simonetti shook his head. "They're already too close. They can cut down any who try to escape. We have to-"
"-keep them away from Judecca, " Locke finished, nodding in agreement. "If they get in range, they'll destroy the surface, and half our Clan will die."
The Admiral merely nodded in return.
"Emperor's black bones, " Locke whispered. Anger seethed inside him. At anyone he could direct it at: the Clan's elders for pushing for this assault, Locke himself for listening to them, the Palatinaeans for attacking them in the first place and being here to witness that the Sadowans were so close to their revenge, only to have it pulled from their grasp. He closed his eyes for one long moment. There was no time for remorse of what could have been-only the here and now and what was done with it.. Eyes opening, the Consul spoke loudly. "Communications! Contact the commander in charge of the Palatinaean fleet, get them in touch with Admiral Simonetti, we have to coordinate, or we will lose this even if we aren't fighting each other!"
A moment later, there was a proximity alarm. "What is it this time?" Locke growled.
"Something is tampering with the systems again, " Simonetti replied.
"First our warheads target us, then that data leak, and now this?" The Krath managed a slight grin. "The name of this ship must be cursed."
"I wouldn't say that sort of thing too much, if I were you, " the Admiral said, smiling slightly himself. "Status report!" he demanded loudly.
"Bridge shields down Sir! One of our missiles is changing trajectory again, it's coming straight for us!" The bridge officer was clearly agitated.
"What?" Locke asked. "Lasers?"
"Not responsive, Sir."
"I thought our repair teams and those verpine had fixed this, " Simonetti said. "Have them isolate the problem, quickly!"
"That won't stop this one-officer, give me your headset!" Locke knelt down, taking the officer's headset from him and turning away, toward the front of the bridge. A mad plan was already developing inside the Consul's mind.
"What?" Simonetti began, but the Krath held up a hand to silence him.
"Time to impact?" Locke said.
"40 seconds Sir!"
"Get me the nearest fighter, direct link, quickly!"
A moment later, the officer nodded. "Pilot Z-934 on comm!"
Locke nodded as he began speaking. "Pilot Z-934, listen to me. This is Consul Locke Sonjie aboard the Final Way. There is a rogue warhead heading for our bridge. I need you to destroy that warhead."
As the bridge crew watched in silence, a hesitant reply crackled in Locke's ear. "Sir? I don't know if'-"
"You can make it, " Locke said. "I know you can. Take the shot!"
"Yes Sir, " came the reply. Painfully long seconds passed. Come on Locke thought. Outside, the Bakuran thought he could see the shape of a warhead growing in the distance. The bridge officer began to count down to the moment of impact; the moment when they would all die. Take it!
Then a flurry of green starfire crossed the front of the bridge, lighting up a brief explosion directly ahead of it. A TIE Interceptor flashed by a moment later.
"Warhead destroyed!" the officer said in disbelief.
Locke heard a quiet sigh throughout the bridge as he let out a long breath. "What's your name, pilot?"
"Auroc, Sir. Auroc Sen."
"Auroc, you did a great deed today. Naga Sadow is proud of you, as I am proud of you. Now there's a lot of battle left to fight; get to it."
As the pilot replied with a final 'yes sir', Locke pulled the headset off and handed it back to it's owner. He sighed. "Shields?"
There was a pause before an officer replied. "Back up, Sir. Weapons control is as well. We've isolated the problem."
"Good, see to it that it stays that way, " Simonetti said. Then he noticed the look on Locke's face. "What now?"
"I'm joining the fight." Without sparing a moment, Locke hurried off the bridge. Once past the blast door, he broke into a Force-assisted run.
As the transport passed through the cloud cover, the city of Ohmen slowly came into view. Pillars of smoke reached up to the sky like tendrils grasping to reach the edge of space. The pilot transmitted a code through his comm channel, and the two TIE Interceptors escorting the craft screamed passed as they banked upwards to return to the space battle. The shimmering blue hologram of a Krath Archpriest stood beside that of Akatsuki. Vithril bowed his head before reporting the status of the desert planet.
“My apologies for the interruption,” he began. “We have conducted our sweep: all remnant forces have been routed from the city. The planet is ours once more.” A sly smile crept onto his face.
“Very good. Excellent news indeed,” praised Koryn. “When this is over, I will see you rewarded for your efforts. For now though, I need you and Seider on Judecca. Bring a contingent of troops; the situation is bleaker than I anticipated.”
“It will be done,” replied the Krath as the hologram faded away. The Horansi then continued her intelligence briefing, detailing where resistance was heaviest within the palace. Most of the palace was overrun, with only a small number of reclaimed sectors. Currently the Summit offices were being used as a staging area from which to launch offensive strikes and the palace was slowly being taken back. As for the city itself, it was difficult to say: remnant forces had been reduced to guerrilla tactics, employing bombed out buildings as makeshift command posts. While the city was officially under Scholae control, currently there didn’t appear to be any way to permanently deal with the remnant. It was like fighting a hydra: when one command post was overrun, two more would appear in another district.
“We’re making our final approach, my lord,” reported the pilot. Akatsuki’s hologram faded to nothingness. The Imperial palace loomed tall overhead out of the forward viewport. At some point in the recent battles, it had received heavy structural damage; huge chunks of stone were missing from its facade. Reaching out from the structure was the landing platform connecting to the Summit offices. Two Imperial guards stood sentry beside the doorway, which slid open revealing the Horansi. The transport turned on its axis, changing the scene out of the viewport to one of dreadful grandeur. Up close, the city looked to be in a worse state. Once magnificent buildings were now nothing more than piles of rubble; fires raged across the landscape threatening to turn more manors and villas into debris. In the distance, a bright scarlet flare arced into the sky. There was a squad in trouble: Scholae or remnant, it was impossible to say without listening to the comms chatter. Overhead, storm clouds were beginning to draw in ominously.
Paying no more attention to the scene before them, Koryn, Zabitha, and Rett turned away and made towards the boarding ramp. The transport gave a slight lurch as it landed followed by a hiss of hydraulics and decompression as the boarding ramp descended. The Tetrarch left the transport followed closely by his Apprentice and the Major and greeted the Horansi.
“It’s good to see you in person again, Akat,” he said with a slight bow of his head.
“And you,” she replied. “I just wish it was under better circumstances.” The four entered the palace as the soldiers began to disembark the shuttle. The interior was not how Koryn remembered it: what was once a luxurious entry hall was now wall-to-wall with military hardware, and a few offices – the Aedile’s among them – had been turned into makeshift armouries. “I think you got here just in time,” continued the Horansi as they entered her office. Major Verises took his leave to organise the Tetrarch's honour guard. “Evant still hasn't checked in, and last I heard from him, he was pinned down in conference room 2B. His intel confirmed that the remnant are using the throne room as their base of operations within the palace." The information circled around Koryn's mind as a plan began to formulate.
"Bring up a map of the throne room and the surrounding area," requested the Rodian. Akatsuki tapped away at a keyboard and the lights dimmed slightly as a holographic map was beamed into the centre of the room. A red dot blinked one floor below the throne room indicating Evant's position. "Is there anywhere else nearby that they are launching attacks from?" The Priestess shook her head. The map shrunk as the invisible camera zoomed out revealing more of the facility.
"This is closest enemy position to the throne," she said indicating a room some six floors below. "What are you thinking?" A wry smile spread across Koryn's face.
"I draw their forces out with a daring rescue, while you retake our seat of power," he stated. "You may need to do some... destructive remodelling though."
VSDII Orian Legacy
"Bring us along the Harbinger's starboard, all hands are to remain on station; we are at a full condition one with new hostile forces, the Palatinaean fleet has been degraded to condition two. Scramble any squadrons still on the deck, we've just entered the thick of it." Methyas' voice sounded firmly across the bridge, the klaxon sounding swiftly as the ship's XO relayed the status change to those aboard though the dim red light still drenched the entire bridge. Not that the Miraluka noticed as he muttered to his droid companion, "If we survive this, I want a full background check on all Dlarit personnel under the usual authorization and I mean full check on everyone."
His last words were emphasized though the AI wouldn't need it as he was sure that Kalia would not be amused that SHADOW had not detected the potential saboteurs earlier, he wasn't all that pleased himself though that was beside the point right now. Now, his own well being and his part to play in the Dlarit fleet was far more pressing.
"Helm, co-ordinate with the Harbinger and Scourge, we need to create a corridor for Covenant and its escort to evacuate the system with any equipment it still carries, we cannot afford to lose any of our military hardware, do you understand?" The Jedi's voice was stern, though everyone aboard understood why as the senior officer responded their understanding.
Moments passed as the Legacy began to angle itself for the coming attack, trying to align itself with the already hammered Palatinaean home fleet. Through the viewport the two Brotherhood fleets could be seen cooperating, trying to harass the opposing fleet and literally force them towards the outer planets of the Cocytus system. Yet as soon as this vision of hope had been seen, the silhouette of the enemy Super Star Destroyer could be seen as well. A hail of nearly crystalline bolts tore through the void of space, a few glinting metallic forms of warheads amongst them before the shields of the assembled ships rippled and shimmered from the collective impact. Even as the first impact shook across the shields, the drone of the projectors compensating dully below, a second wave crashed upon them; the bombers of Zoraan's fleet screaming in the wake of the volley, their fighter escort swiftly taking flight after any of the Brotherhood pilots willing to get near enough.
In seconds the chaos had filled the bridge and the Miraluka's sight, colours and sounds surrounding him as officers collaborated in their return volleys, starfighter command and other various essentials to keep the ship running smoothly.
"Shields are holding, sir. Though we're heavily outnumbered here without the rest of the Palatinaean fleet on the edge of Cocytus." Legacy's XO spoke candidly, ensuring his commander was ready to respond.
Gritting his teeth, Methyas could feel the fear and concern upon the bridge; an emotion even the Jedi possessed as he knew what he was about to ask, "Hold position alongside Harbinger until we're certain Covenant and her escort are clear. See if we can get more of our Corvettes on station to clear this mess of fighters and try to raise Simonetti, we'll need to heavily coordinate with our rivals here."
Little else was spoken from the Jedi as he considered the situation, "We're heavily outnumbered and definitely outgunned, it took the help of the Council to rebuff the assault in Orian, how do they expect us to do it here?"
The sounds of another volley crashing upon their shields shook him from his thoughts, his attention turning towards the battle as another wave of bombers shrieked past; his voice immediately barking a command, "Divert some of the guns, get us a damn flak screen up or those bombers will tear us apart."
Immediately the weapons officers began to respond, working to provide what the commander had requested as the XO spoke up, "Covenant has cleared the immediate combat area, they report limited damage and are preparing to jump to Orian to raise appropriate defenses. Reaper's Call and Tarthos Invictus are en route to provide additional support."
Methyas nodded, his gaze turned towards the enemy flagship for a moment as he spoke, his voice a whisper barely audible as the Legacy's cannons returned fire, "May the Force be with us all."
"Atention Ohmen Flight Control, this is Rayne with Tempest Squad. I'm incoming on vector 158 mark 72 Bantha-class shuttle. Repeat. Incoming friendlies," the Firrerreo said as she glared out of the viewport, her golden face occasionally lit up by flashes of turbolaser fire. The Victory-class Star Destroyer in orbit had decided she was a likely target. Rayne stood in the cockpit in her robes of black and gold. Her ice-white hair braided loosely down her right shoulder.
Her second-in-command Ulzurak chuckled in that raspy Noghri manner.
"You think that will work?" his voice deadpan and completely devoid of interest. The Noghri rarely display any kind of emotion, apart from the moment of the kill. Rayne found them both unnerving and in a way comforting. Their stoic predictability made them easy subordinates and unlikely usurpers.
"No, but it was worth a shot. Plus, I gave them the wrong vector. Any Sadow ships on that frequency will be heading about 100 klicks north of our position," Rayne said with a hint of mischief in her voice, still facing the viewport.
The Noghri gave another raspy chuckle and returned to his seat, strapping himself in with the rest of the unit. The twelve Noghri were some of the best trained fighters in all of the Scholae Palatinae military but they had yet to be used in combat of this magnitude before. Neither had the four battle droids, which now lined the starboard bulkhead as unmoving statues of death.
Rayne tapped the pilot on the shoulder, who nodded back at her and dipped the vessel groundward, zooming in at break neck speed towards the Ohmen City spaceport. He dodged around incoming fire like an Ace, with only a slightly-singed wing to show for it. All this time, Rayne simply held onto the bulkhead with ease, watching the movements of the vehicle and the quickly approaching space port.
“Set us down, Captain, and return to the Warspite. We'll need more troops if we're going to win this one,” she said, as the shuttle neared an empty berth, and began to descend. The Captain nodded his reply as he set the shuttle down carefully, barely a whisper of pressure as the shuttle's landing pads took its weight. She turned around to the squad of Noghri under her command. All obsidian eyes were on her.
“Let's move,” Rayne said just louder than a whisper.
The Noghri, silent as death, stalked out of the shuttle. The Bugcrunchers, true to their name, were a little less quiet. The droids and Noghri alike had their orders and were trained to kill. She need only speak who to fire at or not.
It seemed the Mad Alchemist and his experiment were enjoying themselves. Atra's cold stare panned the streets of Ohmen City, surveying the sheer number of troop movements in this section. It was as if war had been reborn right there, and the chaos of blaster fire was its infant cries. Clad in full armor, now battle worn and blood splattered, Macron and Roxas were making quick work of any of Zoraan's remaining forces that were unfortunate enough to meet them.
On the other hand, Atra felt a strange sensation. As he stood there, taking in the chaos, through the calmness of the Force he felt a tug. It was something he could not quite describe, but it was like someone calling from far away. You weren't sure what they were saying, but curiosity always made you go closer to find out. So it was that the Proconsul of Naga Sadow temporarily parted ways with the others. During a temporary lull in combat, the Templar had slipped into the shadows and disappeared, intent on exploring the nagging feeling.
The streets became darker and more barren as he approached the Spaceport, looming in the distance. Somehow, he had expected it to be busier. One would think it the perfect approach for enemies. The civilians were playing it smart, keeping in doors. Crouching low, the pale flesh of his fingertips was placed lightly on the ground. Halting his breathing, he listened with his sense of touch for any form of vibrations. It didn't take long before he felt the first warnings of foot falls.
Slipping back into an alley, Atra waited. He waited and was rewarded as the first of the Noghri began to pass. He willed himself to be silent as the darkness with which he was shrouded, unsure of the purpose of those here. Something told me this was the place, but seeing those obsidian eyes... Well, he just wasn't so sure.
The sudden voice was surprising, a feminine touch amongst a band of killers. For but a moment, Atra felt as if even his heart had stopped beating, lest he be discovered.
All eyes were suddenly on his hiding spot, weapons coming to bear. In a blur of motion, the Proconsul was revealed. His robes billowed out as his cyan blade hissed to life, moving in more a warning fashion than with actual intent to kill. It was this lack of committal that caused him to halt. All too quickly, he found himself locked down by a silver blade and various Noghri's. As Atra's cold, grey eyes turned he came face to face with the ice-blue eyes and glacial white hair of Rayne Victae. In a rare show of emotion, his lip curled ever so slightly to reveal his fang-like canine teeth as his two-toned red and brown hair fell forward like a shroud.
"All systems green Captain, preparing co-ordinates for the jump to Orian." The voice spoke succinctly, the young XO was more than willing to prove himself to his Captain as they had started towards a more empty region of space.
"Belay that, Lieutenant. I want all capable pilots, including our special operatives who failed to deploy on the surface, ready yesterday. Helm, bring us about and get us alongside our comrades. Weapons, prepare all batteries and missile tubes, we're going to show these bastards they don't mess with Dlarit or its masters. Comms, get the message out, we're entering condition one." Captain Terr Rineval barked confidently, his brow furrowing as he stared down his subordinate.
"But...but sir, our orders."
"Forget the karking orders, the Consul and his followers; our employers and rightful commanders, are in the thick of this mess and already facing unseemly odds. You've been given your orders Lieutenant, now I expect you follow them."
"Aye, aye. All hands, we have entered condition one and are about to re-engage the enemy fleet. All pilots are to report to the flight deck for immediate deployment and flight support."
"Engineering, bring our reactor up to 110% if you can. I want us back in this fight with our weapons and shielding hot, and I wanted it five minutes ago. Comms, get me a channel to Simonetti. I want new orders on where our guns will give him an edge." Rineval added as his XO quickly ensured the orders were swiftly passed through the appropiate deck hands.
"Grek and Herf squadrons are deploying now, sir. They'll provide local support until we're engaged or further orders have been arranged."
Captain Rineval allowed himself a small smile as a spark flashed in his eyes, "Come on then, let's show them the might of Dlarit; this is for Orian and the proud soldiers we lost."
The Mandalorian removed his helmet and took a swig from his canteen during a break in the combat. He was getting bored, the entire day had been hack and slash. The old him would have been enjoying himself, but something weighed on the back of his mind. The Alchemist at his side hadn’t stop giggling for an hour. At some point Roxas got tired of hearing it, so he turned on his helmet’s hearing protection system to block out the sound. Macron kept pacing, waiting for more people to kill.
“This is getting annoying”the Obelisk stated flatly.
“What is? I thought you were having fun...” The Mad Alchemist responded.
“This endless swinging is. I need something more…large scale to end my boredom.” The Mandalorian replied.
The Sith was silent in contemplation for a moment before inquiring “Did you feel that?”
Roxas almost laughed at the question “You know the answer to that, but I’ll refresh your memory. My Force senses are weak thanks to your alchemy.”
“Good for me then.” A strange voice replied from behind them.
“You got your wish Mandalorian hehe.” The mad man quipped “I’ll let you have your fun. He’s no challenge for me.”
Roxas leaned his neck to each side and an audible crack indicated the stiffness leaving his neck. He then disengaged his cyan saber and clipped it to his belt. The man approached with a grin on his face.
“Good, smile while you can.” The Alchemy enhanced Mandalorian’s vocoder almost vibrated the hint of joy out of the words.
The man reached for his belt and charged into a Force assisted run. A crimson saber sprang to life and began a deathly arch toward the Obelisk. Roxas bent his knees in preparation. As the enemy swung his saber, the Mandalorian stepped forward and grabbed the man’s wrist. He then turned his whole body and flipped the attacker over his shoulder and to the ground with a loud thud. The man coughed as he slammed into the dirt, but rushed back to his feet.
“So you train in using the Force to…” The attacker began to speak, but Roxas cut him off “I haven’t used the Force yet moron. You should be able to sense that. You are atleast of Equite level strength.”
“My name is…” Roxas again interrupted “Don’t care.” As he pulled his slugthrower from its leather holster and fired.
Instead of heading toward Roxas the fool ran straight for Macron. The Alchemist laughed loudly as he pointed his hand and let large spectacular arcs of electricity fly wildly at the man. The attacker cringed and twitched while crying out in pain. The Mad Alchemist stopped for a moment to let the man get a breath before releasing more lightning.
“Never rush a Sith fool HAHAHA!” The Mad man laughed with his craziness bouncing off of every word. The only thing missing to make the words seem scarier would be a straight jacket.
“Well I’m happy now.” The Obelisk said while patting the Alchemist’s shoulder after the man was barbequed to perfection.
The Rodian stalked the once exquisite halls of the palace, his cloak billowing in the wind as he passed a demolished wall. As the fabric swirled around him, he unclasped it and let the breeze carry it down into the city below; he wouldn't need it soon anyway, it would only be a hindrance. By now Akatsuki and Zabitha should have been in position. Koryn was close to the conference room now; he could feel Evant's presence nearby, surrounded by others. Stealthily, he rounded the corner, ducking behind a stone pillar clad in a standard depicting the crest of Scholae Palatinae.
Beyond the pillar, members of the remnant stood sentry over conference room 2B, their rifles trained on the entrance. They appeared to have reached a stalemate with the Krath within; bodies littered the doorway, but if Evant were to attempt an escape, the soldiers would open fire in an instant.
“Rett, what’s the status of our forces?” whispered Koryn into his commlink. Back at the command post, the Major looked over the map. The red dots depicting the teams’ locations told him that all were in position and he relayed the information to the Priest. Patching through to his honour guard, Koryn gave the order to engage. Canisters flew in from the opposite side of the room; explosions took out small groups of soldiers clustered together. The remnant began firing where the frag grenades had been thrown from.
The Tetrarch gripped the hilt of lightsaber and leapt into the fray from where he had been concealed. The crimson blade flashed alight, arcing through the troopers’ armour with ease. All attention was now on the Priest. His blade became a blur as he fought to keep the torrent of fire at bay while taking to what little cover he could. The honour guard charged in, rifles firing their emerald bolts across the field of battle. Now he could return to the offensive. As he slashed at the midriff of a remnant soldier, his eyes spotted a man speaking into his commlink. Even above the din of the fire fight, his hypersensitive hearing could make out the words: “Send back up”. A grin spread across Thraagus’ face; his plan was coming together as anticipated. He darted towards the man who had called for help, running him through with his blade.
Listening to the Force’s guidance, Koryn took a step to his right, narrowly avoiding being shot in the back. Pulling his Westar-34 from its holster at his waist with his off-hand, he pivoted on his heel, sighted his mark in a fraction of a second, and pulled the trigger. Keeping his guard up, he backed towards the conference room taking pot shots as he went. His back collided with something solid. Glancing around, he slid the door open with a slight wave of his hand and ducked inside. Evant was sat in the centre of the room with his eyes closed. His lightsaber, commlink, and datapad were in front of him, all hovering a few inches off the floor.
“Ain’t that just like a Caliburnan? Always need rescuing by a Draconian,” taunted Koryn. A mirthless laugh escaped the Knight as he held out his hands allowing his equipment to fall into them.
“You realise reinforcements are on their way, right?” he asked. Peering around the doorway, Koryn continued to fire at the enemy.
“I didn’t only realise, I anticipated,” he replied somewhat cryptically as a scarlet bolt collided with the head of a remnant soldier. Evant looked at the Rodian quizzically, and as he did an explosion echoed through the corridors of the palace; another soon followed. “I hope you’re ready for a fight. We’ve just broken into the throne room.”
“You have to be forking kidding me,” grumbled Macron as he touched the side of his helm. “Double doodle-a-dianoga sideways. Roxas, we’re ordered to support the Palatinae in re-taking the Palace.” The madman tapped the side of his head with a thunk against the armor. “We’re to rendezvous with the forces led by Korvyn Thraagus. Maybe they are the ones who are nuts.” Macron laughed hard. “Heh.”
“Sjab’ir shabla.” Under his own helm Roxas grimaced. “Under whose bleeding orders?” the Mandalorian cast about with his sensor set built into every Mandalorian’s head gear. “Most of these echuttas are not Palatinae. Zoraan’s troops, rather.” The corpses did not bear the characteristic markings of the Palatinae troopers or Dark Jedi. “I haven’t killed a single traitorous Palatinae yet.”
“Tell me about it. Orders from the Consul. And other directives from another higher channel…” Macron chuckled. “At the very highest levels. It appears that we are very – strongly encouraged- by agents of the Dark Council to cooperate with the Palatinae, for now.” The Alchemist peered about. “Apparently Zorro’s remnant forces just pudu-stormed this system and planet with a huge navy. The crap is hitting the proverbial fan above. They’re dropping landing groups like flies.” The Sith madman clipped his lightsaber to his belt.
“Copy that. Let’s move out then,” the Battleteam leader agreed. “From the com traffic I’m overhearing they’ll need some help. We’ll need a fast ride though.” He scooped up a few powerpacks and grenades from the fallen enemy. “Resources should never be wasted. I would think they would send their best to the Palace to hold it against the Palatinae.”
“Agreed.” Macron kicked a lightning-burned corpse off of a nearby speeder bike. The headless body tumbled like a sack of rotten still-smoking meat from the saddle where it had slumped in death. “I was at Antei in the Great Hall when the kark went down. I know what that infected bastard had with him, and you can bet all the Darksiders were not slain there. He had a whole gorram hentai piIe of weird cultists of every flavor of Force user. Probably they are gonna try and loot the place of any artifacts. Or maybe just kill everybody they can.”
The Adept sat on the bike and yanked a few wires out from under the cowling. A fiddle with a small tool from his toolbelt produced sparks and the hum of an ignited engine. “Hop on.” Old skills were like riding a bicycle. The street thief still lived inside the synthetic human.
“I heard you were a gangster of sorts, a long time ago on Coruscant.” Roxas sat behind the madman as the bike screamed off. “Rumor has it you beat a guy to death in a swoop gang to get entry when you were thirteen. Is that true?”
“Indeed it is, my friend. Hehe, good times. Trust me. I’ve flown a hundred of these damn things.” The speederbike roared with maximum speed as it careened across the blasted cityscape towards the palace. “This one blows, but it’ll get us there. Not much more, I shorted the powerplant for more gain.”
The comlink crackled open as Macron keyed it from within the helm. “Proconsul, I’m sure you heard the orders. I have an extra set of reinforcing ones from the one I serve. If you can, meet us at the Palace to fend off the worst of Zoraan’s remaining filth.”
“Copy.” Came the quick and crackling translated reply.
“Locke here,” another voice cut in on the encrypted Naga Sadow channel. It sounded harsh and popped with the crackle of energy blasts modulating the beam from orbit. “I’m joining the fight. Things are looking pretty grim up here. Macron, do not kill any of our… allies. Xen’Mordin and I have reached an accord. That is an order. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the saying goes. Zoraan’s forces will kill us all if we don’t consolidate our forces.”
The Sith Elder sighed. “You have a point, my calculating friend as usual. Spoil all my fun. Oh well! Roger. I’m on my way to reinforce, and Gods help any of Zorro’s punks in our way. Death becomes them. See you at the Harrowing Halls. Mad Macron-out.”
Dante and his troopers checked their gear as they prepared for the upcoming jump. Matte black in color, the MAAT was cruising high above the ground action that was becoming bloodier by the second. Brotherhood forces from both Scholae and Sadow were launching a final strike against the troops of Zoraan. Just one of a number of forces that were converging on the Winter Palace, Kell and Kael’s group of troopers from the 90th were going to do a vertical insertion directly into the throne room on the spire. It gave new meaning to the term of direct action.
“So… Do you think this is a great idea or what?” the Field Marshal said with a huge grin as the rear hatch opened.
The Obelisk shook his head. “This just seems like something your father would cook up” he retorted. “Hopefully, it will go just as well as most of his always seemed to go.”
Dante looked back and said “Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. JUMPERS! ON YOUR FEET AND HOOK UP!” yelled the special forces trooper.
The 20 troopers in the bay prepared for their long journey down to the spire that contained the throne room that was their target for this mission. Each soldier was dressed in the Nightstalker armor that was the standard issue for the 90th, and they were armed to the teeth with blaster rifles, various types of grenades, DL-44’s as the standard sidearm, and combat knives. The two Jedi were armed with their lightsabers as well and wore a modified type of the standard armor.
“Let’s go!” yelled the large Obelisk as he dove out the door to begin the miles long trip.
“We’re on it,” crackled Roxas’ helm comm. “I got this one.” The Mandalorian shouldered his heavy repeater rifle and blew one of Zoraan’s snipers from the heights as the pair sped across the lines. “Gotcha.” The body fell to impact the broken ground below. Roxas blasted enemies from range and threw baradium grenades. The actinic explosions of baradium from the Last Breath mine served as scintillating punctuations, illuminating the scene in perfect actinic flashes. “We’re almost at Korvyn’s location.”
“Atra will be joining us shortly,” Macron quipped. “Almost there. Uplink chatter says that SHADOW has neutralized the ground command communications array that Zorro’s punks were using.” Around them the smoke of fighting drifted. “We’re in.” They passed through the broken wall and vaulted off the bike as it impacted rubble and exploded. “Dinner’s served.”
There were only two Naga Sadow Dark Jedi traveling on the now defunct bike. Nonetheless, they were two of Sadow’s finest. There was a long history of Mandalorians working with Sith and it showed. They worked in perfect tandem. Roxas grabbed cover and began to hammer the enemy ranged weapons positions. Against a Dark Jedi the Remnant mercenary troopers had no chance. Shots blew out eyepieces, helms, and drove into their guts to fry their organs.
Macron on the other hand attacked the enemy Dark Jedi that stood at the gaping hole that led to the rendezvous point. Two fallen Jedi faced him. Both clasped blades that burned with green light. “You’ll die here, pig.” The two Nautolans made fierce faces and stood in a guard position typical of Shii Cho.
The Alchemist regarded them with his yellow eyes. His tattooed face contorted as he licked his lips quickly. There was business to be done here, and an alliance to cement. The orders had come both from the heads of Clan Naga Sadow and the Palatinae whom he came to support, and from the Shadow Hand. It was time for the bickering that weakened the Brotherhood to cease. It was time to become one power. One Brotherhood. This was but a tiny step in the unifying whole. It was time to lay the Hurt on the Brotherhood’s foes.
“I don’t think so,” the Adept giggled. “No, not at all. You are dreck. You have nothing….” The Dun Moch dripped from his lips as he clasped an unlit lightsaber hilt. “You ARE nothing. Your Master is dead. You are weak. I feel the fear within you.” Waves of fear and horror rolled out from his body to wash over them. Macron tensed as the Dark Side flowed within him. His body rippled with the power borne of experience underneath the alchemical armor. “I’ve killed many, many before you including Vong.”
Both of the Nautolans hesitated. They were strong with the Force. They were Knights, bred to the blade and tempered in the fires of Zoraan’s invading army. Yet they doubted themselves. A gnawing sense of weakness and horror grew within them. Could they face this man down? Face down this mad stranger with the ridiculous grin and clown-face paint? They could. They should face their fear!
Unfortunately the delay was Death.
As they vacillated and questioned their connection to the Force the Alchemist struck like a thunderbolt. The first Invader raised his saber to strike and found himself already on the receiving end of a strike. The mad man had leapt almost ten meters in one swift jump. An orange saber snapped on and off strobe-like to push upwards against the Nautolan’s verdant blade as the madman collapsed to the ground in a spider-like liquescent heap. A red-armored leg shot out from the Alchemist to crush the Knight’s knee with a brutal Broken Gate kick powered by the Force. As the aquatic alien groaned and buckled, the tangerine colored blade snapped on again from beneath him to skewer his frontal lobes as the madman rose in serpentine fashion against his falling body. The stinking smell of smoking brains and voided bowels filled the air.
Roxas then directed his fire against the second. Heavy repeater bolts crashed against the backpedaling Knight’s green blade as he staggered. To his credit he held them off with Soresu moves. One! Two! The Naga Sadow warrior kept his fire clean and tight. Focus. Breathe. Squeeze. Repeat. Target weak areas.
Blue bolts of electricity then caressed the remaining defender and he screamed in agony as the nearby Elder fried him viciously with Force Lightning. Pain wracked his every cell. He could not defend against the Adept and the heavy blaster together. His hands dropped, and the blaster blew his sizzling brains all over the wall behind him with a nauseating splat.
“Copy. Target one and two down.” The Mandalorian Equite touched his helm. “The rendezvous is just beyond the breach.” He gathered the rucksack of gear he had collected from the dead. “Got enough e-clips and grenades here to help shore them up. Let’s go reinforce them.”
The madman laughed as he watched the twin dead Nautolan Dark Jedi corpses twitch and squirm like dying cockroaches. “Indeed. I hear our… allies have dropped troops from orbit and they are landing to reinforce the zone now.” He touched his helm. “Alchemist and Battleteam Leader moving to reinforce Korvyn’s position as directed. Perimeter forces breached. Will offer medical and supply support as able. Strike team Theta out.”
Rayne smiled coldly at the unusual man across the way, as she flexed her grip on her lightsaber hilt. Her aqua eyes locked onto his steel gray eyes.
“Proconsul Ventus, I presume. Nice to finally make you acquaintance. Are you enjoying your little vacation to our lovely planet?” she said, her lips still curled in that cold smile. Her tone had a slight air of mockery in it, an attitude born of inter-house rivalries.
“I quite like it here, I may invest in a summer property, but right now I'm more interested in you.” he spoke telepathically through the Force. Rayne's eyebrow arched slightly her gaze steeling slightly. She had heard of the Proconsul's disfigurement but had not expected him to be so pointed in his communication.
“In me?” she asked her eyes narrowing. The Noghri around her tensed, their blades and rifles rising slightly as if to menace the Proconsul. Rayne turned her head to the side for a moment and spat out a few phrases of Noghri. Ulzurak glared at her for a long moment as if contemplating ignoring her order, but instead bowed his head acknowledging his superiors order to leave this one to her.
Ulzurak barked a set of orders to those around him and the assembled Noghri faded into the shadows leaving the two Dark Jedi to their own devices. Rayne stared at the man for a few long moments, sizing the man up. She decided that if they came to combat, they were atleast evenly matched.
“You are Firrerreon,” she said, a statement not a question, and as she extinguished her lightsaber. She didn't have a desire to fight him, not yet anyway. Atra bowed his head and a smile grew on his face.
In his X-Wing, Locke barely listened to the comm chatter, as most of it didn't pertain to him. He had lost his wingman long ago, and now fought on alone, engaging the enemy where the fighting was thickest. Having joined the battle late, the Consul had not joined up with any of the squadrons, but he knew at some point Simonetti's officers had assigned him to the Fire Heralds, just so no one would wonder who the rogue X-Wing was. If any of the Dark Jedi close to him found out he had decided to leave the relative safety of the command vessel's bridge and venture out into the massive space battle on his own, they would probably be furious.
For the moment, their orders were to cover the Final Way, engaging any enemy fighter or bomber that came remotely close. In the true fashion of an Imperial-style fleet, Zoraan's star destroyers had disgorged hundreds of TIE Fighters, Interceptors, and Bombers. The enemy wasn't creative; they simply came on in wave after wave; swarming the forces of the Dark Brotherhood.
The Sadow command ship itself was on fire in multiple places. It had always seemed like an invincible symbol of the Clan's power, but now it's shields were weak, it's weapons mostly destroyed, and flames gushed from multiple holes on its surface. It had fought bravely, plunging into the heart of the battle, but at this stage Locke didn't even want to think about whether the star destroyer would survive or not. He had no time to think anyway; Zoraan's forces saw to that.
With a whole flight of of TIE Interceptors on his tail, Locke dived away from open space, sliding side to side, up to down, trusting the Force to keep him alive as it always had. Even as a Force attuned pilot, Locke wouldn't risk engaging these odds himself, so he led the suicidal TIE jockeys on a run along the length of one of Scholae Palatinae's gunships. He smiled as it's lasers sweeped the space behind him, destroying all four interceptors. By now the two Dark Brotherhood fleets had all but merged together, realizing that if they were to have any hope of survival they had to put aside their sibling rivalry and fiercely defend the family they claimed allegiance to.
Unhindered for the moment, Locke spotted a trio of Interceptors chasing down another Interceptor. He could tell by his HUD and its markings that the lone fighter was in the service of the Royal House. Accelerating, the Krath slipped in behind the unsuspecting enemy Interceptors. He waited until the Palatinaen fighter began a turn before firing off a proton torpedo. It zoomed straight toward the trio of enemy ships, exploding right in the middle and completely destroying two of them, while the third tumbled away in a fireball.
A moment later Locke's astromech whined shrilly, indicating he had been targeted himself. Just as he was about to dodge, a flash indicated an explosion behind the Consul's X-Wing, and a dagger-shaped TIE appeared to Locke's starboard. The strange craft tipped it's wings once, revealing the emblem of the Royal House, before turning away to engage other targets.
Perhaps there was honor among these Dark Jedi and their followers.
Then Locke turned over the flaming Final Way again, and his heart sunk. Hundreds of tiny thrusters ignited around it's hull as escape pods launched. Keying in a password and flipping his comm over to the command ship's bridge frequency, Locke listened as Simonetti barked orders: "...comm, prepare for ramming speed! All personnel, abandon ship! All units stay clear!"
Ramming speed? Locke wondered. His eyes searched the battle. What could Simonetti be planning to ram? Then he saw a trio of enemy star destroyers; tightly packed in the center of the battle, creating a no-fly zone for any capital ship that went near them. If that formation could be broken up, it would significantly slow down the enemy.
"Astromech, time until the Final Way impacts enemy destroyer 09 on present course?"
As a series of text scrolled across Locke's HUD, he switched his comm over to Simonetti's channel again. There wasn't much time. "Admiral, " Locke said. "You're not planning to stay on that ship, are you?"
"Have to get in position. No time. ….Sadow!" There was a lot of static on the channel, the star destroyers communications were failing.
"Dammit Simon, don't be a hero!" Locke mumbled. He pulled his X-Wing hard around and dived under the command ship. Admiral Simonetti was a fine commander. The Consul wasn't willing to lose him. He would not lose him.
The hangar was a mess; there was fire and rubble everywhere. It looked like it had survived more than one direct hit. Briefly, Locke wondered how he was going to get the Admiral off the ship alive, before he saw one craft still together: the Starwind yacht Violator.
With no room to land, Locke gently crashed the X-wing into a pile of rubble, holding the pilot yoke with a white knuckle grip until the ship came to a stop. He quickly popped the canopy and ejected the astromech. The droid was on the ground by the time Locke jumped down. "Get onboard the Violator and make sure it's spaceworthy, " the Bakuran ordered. He really didn't trust the droid, but he needed it right now. He hoped there were still escape pods, but if not, that ship was their only hope.
As Locke rushed into the ship, it began to rumble as sustained turbolaser fire hit it. There wasn't much time.
RSD Final Way
It's blast doors jammed open, Locke arrived on the bridge to find it almost totally empty except for one lone man. That lone man stood before a cracked view window, watching as a cluster of enemy ships became ever closer and patiently waiting for Oblivion to take him. "Admiral!" Locke said. "It's time to leave!" He panted; the run up here had exhausted the Dark Jedi, but he knew it was far from over. "Come on!"
"Can't, " Simonetti said. He turned to Locke, his expression grim. "Escape pods are all gone; hangar is smashed." To his credit, the Corellian managed a grin. "Should have known you would be foolhardy enough to personally come back here."
Locke looked over at the computer. The course was plotted, there was nothing more to do now. "There's a yacht in the main hangar. We can make it!"
Simonetti laughed hollowly. "Even if we could, we would never escape the blast radius. The ship's entire remaining baradium missile store is clustered around our reactor, all armed."
For a moment, the Consul's blood ran cold. He wasn't that familiar with baradium, but knew it would probably create a massive explosion. "We still have to try, " he growled. "Come on, that's an order!"
"Alright, " Simonetti said, "but I'm not as fast as I used to be." He started toward the exit of the bridge, with Locke close behind. The Admiral took one last look at it, gazing over the sparking terminals and fallen support beams. "I'm going to miss this ship, " he whispered.
It was slow going through the ship. The turbolifts were without power, their shafts empty, so the two men had to use service tunnels. When they got to the hangar level, the rumbling was almost constant. "The ship isn't going to last much longer, " Locke said. As if to make his point, an explosion ripped through the corridor behind them. It was big, but if it was the core, they would already be dead. Suddenly, the ship's artificial gravity failed and the two men floated up. "Run!" Locke shouted. He called the Force, grabbing Simonetti with one hand and pushing him on ahead, while raising the other toward the oncoming fireball. By the will of the Force, the flames stopped against the Krath's defense.
Next, the Consul thumbed his comlink. "Where's that ship?!" He shouted. Locke wasn't even sure if the astromech could turn it on by itself, but he saw that the ramp was still down. As the men floated toward it, Locke grabbed Simonetti's arm and kicked off pieces of floating debris, pushing them toward the lowered boarding ramp until they hit it's atmospheric bubble and landed on it with a thud. "Hurry!" he said, running up into the ship.
As they reached the cockpit and found the controls already lit up, Locke mumbled a thanks to the astromech droid plugged into a wall socket and dropped into the pilot's chair. Simonetti collapsed into the chair next to him. "Sure you know how to fly this thing?"
"Sure, " Locke said. He closed his eyes for a moment, hands gliding over the controls, praying the Force would not fail him now. "It's just like any other ship, except...bigger. Hold on." He set the ship to maximum acceleration, angled straight out of the hangar. As it began to rocket out, pushing the two men into their seats, the astromech began to shriek. For a split-second, Locke was going to berate it, but then he knew why: it was a warning. The ship whipped out of the hangar and flew straight away from the Final Way. "Come on, " Locke whispered. His hands pressed against the controls, the Krath surged with the Force, hoping against all odds that he could coax more speed out of the craft somehow.
Then, suddenly, everything went white. The ship lurched and tumbled end over end, the two men having barely had time to buckle themselves in. The astromech flew across the small bridge and slammed into a wall; hundreds of tiny fragments flying off it. When the craft finally stopped rolling and it's inertial compensators regained control, the remaining hulk of the astromech dropped with a thud behind them.
"Success?" Locke breathed.
Shaken, Simonetti turned to the terminal next to him. "It's gone, but so are those ships, and the fighters around them."
"All of them?" Locke asked.
"Nothing left but a couple of flaming hulks. There's effectively a void in the middle of the battlezone."
Locke nodded, letting out a long sigh. "And we're still alive."
"Yes...thank you, " the Admiral said. "But what now?"
"We pick up survivors and help any way we can."