Gjw 7: Clan Run On
Kieran stood alongside Juda peering at the floating image suspended in the air above them. Coloured lights danced back and forth from hulking behemoths as tiny insects buzzed around their outsides flaring out of existence as streams of what appeared to be dark rocks descended upon them like an angry swarm. It was a massacre. He could feel the engines thrum as the Arconan fleet manoeuvred against the unstoppable tide of invaders, their salvos of energy vanishing into space allowing scarcely but a scattered shower of blasters to strike against their hulls.
They stood in the Special Forces briefing room aboard the Thanatos, from here they had watched the ceremony their prescience not required before the Grand Master. Kieran had been in a jovial mood prior to the attack, his confidence boosted by his recent promotion to Soulfire Sergeant. Upon accepting the command he had immediately asked his ner’vode Juda to be his second in command and upon accepting the two had decided to remain behind to discuss their new roles and plan for the future. However, it was now seeming the preliminary blueprints of a training exercise would have to wait and if the holo feed they were watching was anything to go by, they will be waiting for a great deal of time.
The image zoomed in closer to the battle, focusing on the Arconan fleet and they watched in silent awe as wave upon wave of the organic craft hammered away at their shields. The deck beneath their feet shook with each salvo. A Corvette standing off the Thanatos’ prow vanished under a hail of fire, its shields battered away in seconds to leave the molten plasma to burn away at the craft's hull.
“Osik,” Juda muttered his voice harsh and cracked.
Kieran had nothing more to add. He was powerless for the time being, a foot soldier not a starfighter pilot he felt strangely vulnerable. His head sank momentarily as he looked out into the force. The attackers were gaping black holes, he could read nothing from them, no thought, no emotion just a cold black nothingness he could not grasp or comprehend.
The signature the combined Jedi force was emitting was something different, something that Kieran had never witnessed before. The force rocked ceaselessly with jolts as beings, Jedi and non force users alike vanished from existence. Anguish and pain flooded his senses in a red tide as he attempted to filter the torrent of information, to try to understand what was going on. However, the surprise attack had sowed confusion, the Brotherhood fleet stood buckling against the continuous onslaught, backed into a corner and reeling like a wounded beast.
“What are our casualties?” Kieran asked after another moment’s concentration, he was stil unable to fathom their losses.
“Unknown as of yet, reports are coming in thick and fast … too fast to process,” he replied glumly, his pale face devoid of expression but Kieran could feel his brother’s emotions.
“We ought to assemble the squadron,” Kieran replied assuming his role after the initial shock of the attack had worn off.
“I’ll dispatch the message,” Juda replied, his hands diving to the terminal before him to type the message out.
COME ABOUT MARK TWO-OH-FOUR-SEVEN! FOCUS FORWARD BATTERIES ON THAT CRUISER!" Callus called from the bridge of the corvette on which he had assumed command. The standing bridge crew of the Torment had been wiped out on the first attack from the invaders. Callus had watched as a corvette near the Thanatos was torn apart after a constant barrage from the attackers ships.
The deck beneath him rocked as he looked through the gaping hole in the bridge now oriented toward the attackers, the MagCon field the only thing keeping the remaining crew men from the depths of space.
"Keel about to starboard, give them our strong side. Damage report." Callus said as his orders were followed and the nose of the Corvette now viewed the Thanatos.
"We've lost our port side engines, shields are down to 30% all to starboard. Two of our turbolaser batteries are gone. The aft deck and the hyperdrive are nonexistent. We've lost at least half the crew, comm system is severely damaged, we're limited to tight beam transmissions."
"Sithspawn who are these guys? Right then we need to get out of the heat of things. Can we get a report on the Eye of the Abyss?" Callus asked the crewman.
"We're getting no readings on the Eye of the Abyss sir. It's presumed missing."
The bridge was silent as another blast rocked the ship. "Alright then we've got to move toward the Thanatos try and get behind some of their firepower."
"That's going to be difficult sir. We've lost 80% of our sublight engines we're not going anywhere."
Sitting Ducks Callus thought to himself as he rested his elbow on the armrest on his chair. The lives of the crew were in his hands he had to do something. He was rocked from his thoughts with a call over the comlink.
"Master! It's Xar! I'm down in the comm array with Dorn and Jaxion we've gotten a relayed transmission from Thantos. The Grand Master has ordered a full retreat!"
"A retreat? Where? They've blocked us in." Callus spoke into the comlink.
"Into the shroud." Xar said as the comm crackled. Callus' throat went dry and his palms we're sweaty. Not only was going into the shroud suicide, but his ship wasn't going to move, and the shroud would tell his vessel apart.
"Xar, I need you to get a tight beam transmission through to the Bloodfang and tell them we need a a tractor beam lock to get us out of the frying pan. Then you three go see what you can do with Blaster Turret number 2."
"Yes master." The hunter said as the comlink crackled. Calls was thrown to the deck with a thud.
"Shields down to 10% we've got a hull breach on the starboard side, venting atmosphere, sublight engines are completely inactive."
"Wait, is that blaster turret blister 2?" Callus said getting to his feet wiping blood from his nose.
"Yes, sir." Callus got to his feet and let the realization sink in. Xar and the rest of his team knew the risks. Callus had to get his ship moving, to somehow get his corvette out of the line of fire.
"Right, you Lieutennant take the con. You two come with me we're getting those engines back up." Callus pointed to two Protectors trying to repair a console and they fell in behind him. He left the bridge and ran off towards the engine works.
Debric d’Tana simply stared at the screen of his terminal. The bridge of the ACC Thanatos was more chaotic than it had ever been in its entire history. The loudness of the klaxons coupled with the sounds of barked commands and chatter would have been deafening if Debric had actually been listening. Instead, he was focused on the completed diagnostic of the starfighter, if you could even call something that was so organic a starfighter.
At first contact, the Deputy Grand Master had sent an entire wing of fighters to engage the enemy before they hit the ships on the defensive line. Communications chatter indicated that these ships simply “swallowed” most of the lasers that the defending fighters shot at them.
As soon as this news had reached his ears, Debric immediately got to running diagnostics on these new ships. It wasn’t because he particularly wanted to, but rather because he was Arconan Intelligence’s only analyst on-board the Acclamator Assault Ship, and he was sure that Cabal Cronal and all of Arcona would need this information if this was truly an all-out invasion, which it most likely was.
Making sure he was not hallucinating, Debric ran through the information once more before taking it to the ship’s captain.
“Sir, I have something you might want to see.”
The captain nodded, and the Knight continued.
“As you know, the enemy’s fighters have been ‘swallowing’ whatever lasers are thrown at them. Apparently, these ships are capable of creating their own black holes which act as their shields.”
The captain stared at Debric.
“Do you have any ideas how we can counter these defenses, or are our starfighter forces simply going to die out there?”
The analyst took a deep breath before answering.
“Well, it’s impossible for these ships to have an unlimited power source. If we can find some way of making them focus their black holes in one place, another fighter could probably take the fighter out.”
The captain paused for a moment, mulling over the information. He then reached for his comlink.
“All fighter squadron commanders, separate your squadrons into flights and have each flight go after individual enemy fighters. Have three of the fighters in each flight fire at the same location on the enemy fighter and have the fourth attack a different area only after the others have begun their sustained attack. Good luck, gentlemen.”
The captain looked at Debric.
“Thank you, Mr. d’Tana. Now, send this information to the rest of the fleet. They need this information if we’re to have a hope of mounting a defense.”
Debric looked at the captain, confused.
“Even Clan Scholae Palatine?”
The captain laughed for a full ten seconds before looking at the Knight.
“Of course not!”
Orv Dessrx d’Tana was improperly aboard the Thanatos. He, like many other Cabal Cronal members, had been assigned to the bridge of key Arconan capital ships to aid in analysis and information gathering on the actions of the other Clan’s ships – eavesdropping on comm chatter, deciphering ‘code’ messages, and general interpretation of fleet movements.
Of particular interest was Clan Scholae Palatinae, the reason for Orv’s absence from his post. He had intercepted a suspect message that he felt would require Timeros’ eyes for confirmation. As such, the Consul asked Orv to make the short trip from the Eye of the Abyss to the Thanatos to deliver the concerns in person.
The Teltior had been walking towards the hanger, towards the shuttle that was to bring him back to his station on the Eye when the battle station alarm claxons had begun to sound. His shuttle’s hanger began to fill with engineers and mechanics prepping the launch of a number of Arconan fighters…and it became readily obvious his shuttle would not be leaving any time soon.
’Bastard, Scholae Palatinae…it has got to be them’ the Teltior thought to himself as he began to pick up his pace towards the nearest turbolift, dodging the rush of men and women heading towards the hanger and battery control rooms. As he stepped inside a lift, his cursory glance out the transparisteel allowed him to see the beginning of cross fire well in the distance. ’Bloody feng.’
Disembarking from the lift, Orv Dessrx made a b-line towards the bridge. As he ran, dodging passed crew members, his heart fell as he realized the gravity of the situation. That wasn’t CSP…it was something….else. He squinted, but couldn’t recognize the make of the ships the entire Brotherhood was combating.
He picked up his pace.
Bolting through the blast door of the bridge, the cacophony of battle orders, swears, and frantic assessments on friendlies hit him like a ton of bricks. ’This is bad.’ He gave the captain a nod as he headed towards Debric d’Tana’s station. The Cabal member was speaking into a comm as Orv approached.
“…course I know what I’m talking about. Just bombard the fighters from one side to overload their…their…gravity wells. Then fire on them from another angle.”
“Roger that, Thanatos.”
Debric switched off the comm and looked up blank faced at Orv.
“Sir. I thought you were supposed to be on the Eye? She’s not doing so hot.”
The Teltior waved the question away and slipped into the vacant seat beside the Dark Jedi Knight. “Now…what’s going on?”
As Debric quickly relayed the events that had transpired since the battle began, Orv’s face clenched with worry. The only light in the darkness was the data Debric d’Tana had analyzed from the mysterious fighters’ gravity wells. With no way to return to the Eye of the Abyss, Orv Dessrx would try his best to be their analytical eye from aboard the Thanatos.
’Bloody feng,’ he thought to himself as he opened a comm channel with the flagship.
“How many did we lose so far?” Timeros’ voice did not betray the anxiety the Heragan felt, even as he watched the plot of buzzing fighter movements on his new flaship’s bridge.
“Twelve in the last pass, sir.” Menzes replied. The Thanatos’ captain regarded his lord and master with a cold professionalism that left nothing unattended. “The Interceptors are getting mauled, though. It seems that Cronal’s plan is working…”
“Yes, but it’s not working well enough,” Timeros said at once. “And the spread of fighters is hurting their unit cohesion.”
In the outer edges of his mind, he felt another flash, another deathscream spreading through the stars…and he Epis did not need the check to know that another starfighter had perished under the Yuuzhan Vong’s relentless attack.
He was watching the plan unfold, developed by the techs on board the Thanatos and now executed by their starfighters, bound together through the strands of the Dark Side by every Equite who did not have something else to do, all their might now fully at the service of Arcona.
And indeed, the plan was working, one Vong fighter dying after another in a shower of gore that was the Yorik battlecraft. But their foes were too many, too pervasive and all-encompassing to keep fully at bay.
The Consul concentrated, sweat glistening on his brow as he called out further, filling the soldiers with his own stoic professionalism, Dark Side beckoning them and readying the warriors for the kill.
It was not enough to defeat the massed aliens…but maybe, maybe it was enough to think of another plan.
He’d met the damaged fighter in the Hangar – it was a wreck. The Interceptor had half landed, half crashed down onto the burnished hangar floor and techs had moved to cut the injured pilot from the ball-shaped cockpit. Sashar had pushed them aside and done it himself, letting his own lightsaber – a far more efficient means of peeling away the protective layer of metal. He’d not left the pilot’s side as the dark-haired youth was whisked off to the infirmary. All the while death was pouring through the force – it was impossible to concentrate enough to help his former apprentice’s healing along – Sashar was once again helpless. The droids and harried medical staff had made the Quaestor wait outside. About his shoulders crumbled the entire Dark Brotherhood – his clan faced extermination and all he could do was pace outside closed doors. His men needed a leader, but he could not bring himself to separate from the medical bay, not with Zandro Savric Erinos’s fate left undecided.
He’d turned his comlink off. Timeros had been trying to reach him and get him to the bridge, Soulfire had been requesting orders and there had been other myriad Arcona Military personnel trying to reach him – he’d be worse than useless in the state he was in. He was not fit to lead his brothers, his friends, his subordinates and his comrades into battle, not with this looming over him.
Dimly, he was aware of someone approaching him. He looked up, his face a mask of concern and spotted his former apprentice, his former Quaestor, his former Squad mate and one of Arcona’s most deadly combatants, known for his endurance, his tenacity and his skill on a mezzay of different battlefields. Malidir ‘Dinistr’ Erinos. He grabbed Sashar’s hair and without preamble smashed the Quaestor’s face up against the bulkhead, bouncing his forehead heavily off the cold durasteel three times before letting go.
“Suck it up, Sashar. You’re not doing any good here and we’re circling the drain. Get to the bridge, Timeros wants you.”
It was as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over him. Sashar was stunned by the sheer audacity his Vode Erinos had taken by literally knocking some sense into him, but by slice was he pleased that Malidir had done so. He shakily nodded his thanks, and set off at a jog towards the nearest turbolift cluster. There was a battle waiting to be lost.
“I’ve sent a call out to rally the troops, Sarge.” Juda said shakily, his gaze turning from the terminal to the newly appointed Sergeant of Soulfire. Kieran stood strong, clad from the neck down in his Battleteam’s infamous sleek, jet-black armour. His eyes burned with angst and his arms locked behind his back whilst he looked on at the holoprojector depicting the ensuing massacre.
Juda’s attire matched that of his superior, giving a distinct contrast between his ashen-coloured skin and crimson hair. “Orders?” Juda asked glancing at the holo.
“What good are ground forces in space?” Kieran said lethargically, looking at his Mandalorian brethren through the corner of his eye.
“Do you think it’s Scholae?” Juda asked, answering his superior’s question with another.
“It’s highly doubtful.” Kieran said, his lips barely moving as he pointed to the holo, showing Clan Scholae’s losses.
Juda was lost for words. He began reorganising his medical belt out of habit, making sure all supplies were in their appropriate pouches and bactapatches and salves were stacked neatly. He took a moment to glace at the holo only to catch Kieran’s eye and receive a raised eyebrow.
“Come on, I’ve had enough of waiting.” Kieran retorted, scooping his helmet from the briefing table.
The first thing Zandro noticed was the pain in his left arm, as well as in other areas of his body. It wasn’t as bad as he suspected it was before when he had crash-landed on the Thanatos. He could feel the vibrations of the ship, meaning it was probably still fighting, although he suspected that the Consul would be ordering a withdrawal soon.
I’m not in as bad a state as I could have been. Force healing and luck are wonderful things.
Zandro propped himself up gingerly on one arm, looking around the med bay that had become far too familiar a sight for the new Aedile of Galeres. One of the droids noticed that he was awake and came bustling over, attempting to push him back into the bed but failing miserably as the Erinos swung his legs around and stood up, stretching his aching muscles and almost appreciating the pain. When you come close to death on a regular basis, pain is sometimes the only way you know that you are still living.
“It’s ok, I’m well enough to do my duty.”
The droid bustled and seemed flustered as it tried to block his exit.
“But sir, you are still injured. You aren’t at 100% yet, so I cannot discharge you!”
“There’s a war going on, and I will discharge myself.”
Walking past the droid and out into the corridor, he attempted to invigorate his aching muscles with Force power as he ran towards the turbolift that would take him to the bridge, the only clothes covering him up were some medical trousers and some bandaging over his torso. He slipped into the turbolift and pressed the button that would take him to the bridge, so that he could make himself useful.
Come on Zandro, let’s go save Arcona again.
As Mayda walked down the halls of the Soulfire Strike Team Headquarters, her mind wandered to dream about the new life that lay ahead of her. Her old comrades were most likely disappointed in her departure, and it was unlikely she would have the chance to keep in touch with any of them. Emerald eyes looked distant as she wondered how they took the news. But, alas, she was too disappointed in the actions, attitudes and accusations toward her to endure Judecca any longer. One positive point: she noticed a familiar name on the Soulfire roster - Garik Burren. It would be wonderful to see a fellow ex-Plagueian that had escaped the turmoil there. She looked forward to the inevitable conversation with him.
The newly-appointed Knight paused abruptly, sensing a life-force inside of her quarters. Odd… she had not expected anyone, and most of her Soulfire and Arconan brethren were busy with the Rite of Supremacy ceremonies and clan awards. Having been a part of another clan during that conflict, Mayda was not invited to be part of the festivities, which was a great relief to her. It would merely have made her feel even more of an outsider than she already felt. Though Malidir had taken her in, and Soulfire welcomed her with open arms, the young woman still considered herself to be a stranger in a strange land.
Not one who delighted in surprises, her posture stiffened and she braced for a confrontation. Her wrist turned the knob slowly, then flung the door open quickly, to reveal a husky outline sitting quietly on her couch. She would have recognized his scraggly brown locks and aroma of musk anywhere.
“Well, well, well”, the phrase was drawn out as if to admit there was no surprise. She knew he would return eventually. “Look who crawled out from under his rock and decided to grace me with his presence. What happened? The vast, dark loneliness of Outer Rim space drive you back to civilization?”
Moloch would have been content to sit in the dark alone for quite a while longer, even though he had brought himself back within the brotherhood he still had much to think on. He was lucky to be able to track down the location of his one ally and friend still remaining within the organisation. Having fled Plagueis before Mayda did and with little word on the matter, none in fact really, he was definitely unsure on how she would react. He knew betrayal was one of the things she hated most and his leaving might have been seen as such.
When she opened the door to find him Moloch wasn’t surprised at her reaction and her preparedness for battle, she was always cautious or at least seemed that way to him. Turning his head towards her he slightly smirked before saying “Something like that,” in a raspy voice. Between the way he looked and sounded one would expect to see a deathstick hanging out his mouth; however he detested the things with a passion.
“I tell you those Plagueian bastards aren’t exactly the type to just let things go,” he said, “though I’m sure since you are here you would have seen that too.” Scratching his chin through his beard he added, “don’t know what they tried on you but they killed my father, good riddance I say. Though I had to see to my sister’s safety as well as the business I had out there, but those tales can be told later if you want to hear them.”
He then got to his feet, the two were friends and hopefully that still stayed true but she was also his superior. He then bowed to her slightly saying, “Congratulations on the promotions you gained while I was away.” If it were possible the bow might almost seem sarcastic in nature. Not out of disrespect for Mayda or the power she earned as he had the upmost respect for her but more so to the irrelevance of such things to the true power and potential the both of them had.
With the gruff voice and apathetic attitude, Moloch sounded like he was worse for the wear, but not as much as Mayda. Not surprisingly, he launched right into some complaints about himself, no "Hiya May, missed ya, how ya doin'?" No, it was all Moloch, Moloch, Moloch and his problems. About to interrupt him, she stopped short upon hearing the phrase "killed my father".
"What?", she blurted out as soon as he finished the sentence, attempting to mentally catch up with what he was saying, as that had caught her for a loop. If ever there was reason for concern, some vengeful ex-comrades was one of them, and Mayda could not believe what she was hearing. No wonder he had been gone on his own, though it would have allayed her fears if he at least sent a quick message of his status.
Before she could launch into a diatribe of questions, he bowed and gave his respect to her. Caught off-guard, her defenses now completely down, she shut the door and went over to him. Enthusiastic arms embraced his torso, her head pressed to his neck.
"Happy to see me?", he asked even though well aware of the answer.
"Yeah, to see you alive," she smartly retorted, and pulled back to face him. With a whistle, the room light was turned on, dimly. She was worried he would be hiding an injury or two. "Yes, I want to hear the stories later. And thanks for that, though I must say that it was a long and hard road to Knighthood, and I am not the same as when you left. Though it sounds as if you are not the same also." Hesitantly, she confessed, "I am a Sith now, inside and out."
The comforting reunion was rudely interrupted by a sudden alarm, ringing out over the Soulfire speakers. Mayda's expression quickly changed to worry, brows furrowed at him as if to ask if he knew what was going on. He shrugged and looked as puzzled as her. She activated her commlink, flashing red, and put it on speaker to hear the general announcement. Just her luck... the message was hindered by static and hard to discern.
"bzzt... fleet was attacked... bzz bzz bzzt... after the ceremonies ... pbzz pzz bzz... repeat, take whatever precautions are necessary....pzzzzt".
Enlarged eyes pleaded to Moloch to make sense of this.
Mayda’s embrace was a well welcome surprise; it seemed she was just as glad to see him as he was to see her even if he didn’t show it so well. He allowed his arms to find their place around his friend, though the practice was quite alien to him. Her reactions to his telling of his father’s murder was no shock to Moloch especially considering her own father’s disappearance, though unlike him she did love her father.
They both had definitely changed in some ways since they were last together as partners in a battleteam but in their core they were the same or at least where it mattered. But Sith, now that was a surprise that Moloch would never have expected although it did make sense, as well as Mayda worked from the shadows and with her smarts she also had a born leader quality and that is one of the things Sith did best.
She was right to worry about him hiding injuries. While most of what he suffered had healed and left no traces, under his trench coat there was some obvious scarring from the worst of it.
Before things could continue alarms started to sound and a message came through on Mayda’s comm. Her beautiful emerald eyes stared at him for help, quite the antithesis of the red his own were, he couldn’t not try. Although he was more so confused than Mayda herself by the goings on Moloch tried to do his best to help find out just what was going on. “Still not so good with the tech I see,” he joked trying to lighten the obviously frightening situation, “toss it here and I’ll see what I can do.”
The comm. came tumbling through the air a second later along with a “just don’t break it on me. I know how you can get with your toys.” Catching the device Moloch quickly opened it up with some tools he always had handy in his coat. Then taking apart a datapad he carried he took some components and connected them into the comm. “This should clear some of the static at least, best I can do without getting at the main communications array.
Then more messages came over the device, “heavy casualties bzz bzz bzzt... Scholae Palatine...” it wasn’t quite working as well as Moloch hoped so he did what anyone would, he hit the thing a few times. Surprisingly it worked, “the entire brotherhood is suffering heavy casualties, our enemies ships are of no known kind. The Eye of the Abyss is missing, it is assumed lost and all aboard dead. The Grandmaster has ordered a full retreat into the shroud, take whatever precautions necessary to ensure the safety of our home worlds should they come under attack.”
Moloch was dumbfounded; an enemy existed which even the Grandmaster along with most of the Dark Jedi in the Brotherhood together could not stand against, strong enough to send them running away tail between their legs. He looked over towards Mayda and noticed the same look of dread he imagined would be on his face, he wouldn’t be surprised if it were on the face of every member of the Brotherhood.
Last thing he heard come through before the transmissions ended was a description of the enemy’s capital ship, “Their ship is an ovoid shape comparable in size to s Star Destroyer. It is white with black stripes and some strange red coral looking formations extending from its body.”
Could it be? He had heard rumours while away, plenty of stories about an invading force from nobody knew where. He had even managed to see a peek of some of the supposed damage they had done, but he never believed it to be true. Fringers did often spread tall tales for some reason.
“May... seems we have a bit of a situation. We might need to wait to finish this some other time...” he said, not exactly revealing his fears to her yet. It would come in due time, after all perhaps he was wrong or perhaps she knew more.
Her only reply to his comments was a somewhat sarcastic, “ya think?” and a slight of her head before turning for the door, knowing he would be right behind her.
Moloch smirked and said, “wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for on my new day in my new home is all... Master” He knew not if she knew it yet but she would be the one to see him into the ranks of the Dark Jedi Knights, at least if he had any say in the matter, now that she was qualified. Hearing the word Master she stopped, at least momentarily, as he had suspected she would.
As the ship headed to the Shroud Dorn continued with Jaxion and Xar on the turret. Still witnessing deaths all around he was surprised at the fact that noone knew what the enemy was, at least not anyone that would've told him. He noticed another ship leave the hangar of another's capital ship and then get shot down by the enemy.
"Um, I think we may be in a dangerous position," Dorn said with worry.
"Why?" both asked.
"They aren't aiming for the our fighters. They're aiming for us," Dorn told them.
"What do you mean?" Xar asked.
"Every ship I have seen shot down was in the path of a shot coming towards us. Maybe a mere coincidence but I doubt it," Dorn answered. The other two nodded and got started to climb out. A shot started flying towards them in a hurry and the Rodian hurried to help them before himself. They were out and he barely got out of the turret when the shot made contact.
"You were right," Jaxion said.
"Suprisingly I was," the Guardian said noticing that he actually was, by accident. "I just thought that getting out would've been safer than dying."
"Battleteam Bas-Tyra report to the bridge. I repeat Battleteam Bas-Tyra report to the bridge," a voice said over the ship's intercom system.
As the three approached the bridge they didn't see Callus. They saw the rest of Bas-Tyra but that was all.
"Most of you are probably wondering why Callus isn't here. He went to fight with our squadrons and got shot down," a captain of the ship said, noticing the looks on the Bas-Tyrians faces. "Khobai is your new leader and has changed the name to Apocalypse. He will be giving you your Battleteam orders."
"Sorry that I had to become the leader like this but we knew deaths would come," Khobai started. "I would like to say that from what I've been told you twelve are really good in ground combat. I hope I can improve your space flight as well seeing as this is mostly space combat right now."
"Any orders for them yet, Khob?" the captain asked.
"Yeah, you three go use turrets around where Callus had you and the rest find turrets elsewhere and try to hold these guys off," Khob pointed to Jax, Dorn, and Xar as the three.
They rushed down there but every turret had been hit, they then felt a shake and then went back to the bridge but the doors were shut and smoke emitting from the cracks. They looked at each other and knew what might happen to them if a whole is vacuuming the bridge room. They pried the doors open enough for them o go in one by one. They decided to keep opening though in case they needed to get people out.
Khob was sitting in the commander's seat and was unconscious. The three got him and carried him out of the bridge and called on a couple of the others and when they arrived one stayed with Khob while the four went to get others to see if they were alive.
After getting all the ones still alive out they forced the doors closed again and contacted the Thanatos for a transport big enough for around fifty men. THey got no answer so Dorn pulled out his comlink and contacted Timeros.
"Yes?" Timeros responded.
"Master we need a transport over here. The bridge was hit and we need to get 50 people off this ship," Dorn told Timeros.
"Okay, you're lucky we have two transports left intact sending one now," Timeros reponded. "You know the risk of getting shot down. Right?"
"Yes, but with Callus gone and now Khobai being knocked unconscious we may ne..." Dorn wasn't able to finish as the corvette got hit again and he lost his comlink.
"Hold on guys. Transport is on it's way," Timeros said, coming through Dorn's comlink loud and clear.
Problem was that noone heard him because they all got knocked unconscious by the last hit.
The doors beeped at Zandro as they opened, the Warrior dashing out of the confined space and into the familiar chaos of a ship’s bridge during combat. He limped over towards the tactical display and looked at it, his brow furrowed as he ignored the sly glances thrown his way by the surrounding crew.
Yeah, I’m not in full uniform. How about you keep concentrating so we make it out of this mess?
Deciding against voicing his feelings openly, the Aedile looked at the display and barely kept the dismay from his face. The Brotherhood forces were not faring well against the enemy and even as he watched the screen several small craft winked out of existence, their deaths sharp spikes in the Force as Zandro swept his mind outwards, attempting to feel the mood of the surrounding crew. He could feel the touch of his Consul’s attempt at instilling some sort of positive feeling in the crew, but underneath the stoic exteriors of their minds, he could sense the fear. It seemed to be bubbling under the surface, barely constrained by the efforts of the Consul and other Eldars of the clan. Turning away from the display, he raised his voice and spoke aloud to the surrounding people.
“Anyone want a quick hand from a Dark Jedi at their station?”
“Sir, we could use some help with the targeting station.”
Trotting over to the station that had been mentioned, he came up behind the young lieutenant who was manning the console and put a hand on the man’s shoulder, his face leaning over the shoulder and at the station ahead of him.
“How can I help then?”
The lieutenant looked up with panic stricken eyes and Zandro felt a pang of anger at the young man’s weakness, a feeling he quashed for the moment.
“We can’t seem to hit the enemy sir. They suck up our blasts somehow and come out of it unscathed.”
“Okay, here’s a plan that might work. Tell the pilots and all other ships to fire on different vectors. We need to try to overwhelm the defences, and that may be the best way.”
Zandro patted the man on the shoulder and stood up, looking for another console where he could do his best to help.
The hangar was bustling with the drone of Dark Jedi scrambling to their desired craft. Juda was entranced, his gaze stared out of the Magcon at the ensuing carnage, he was baffled by the irregular starfighter’s and cruisers-- The attackers definitely weren’t Clan Scholae.
The members of Soufire that were aboard the Thanatos had gathered in the ship’s hangar, awaiting orders from their newly appointed Sergeant. Kieran could sense the tension and nerves from his troops, although they didn’t show it physically.
“Sarge, I have a proposition” Juda said, averting his gaze from the force-field to his Ner’vode. “With there being only two Soulfire members onboard with piloting skills, I request Bendak and myself serve Arcona by going into space combat”
Kieran stood still for a moment, his expression never changing until he nodded his reply. “I want an update from the pair of you every twenty minutes.”
Juda gave a salute, by way of slamming his clenched fist against his breastplate before raising his helmet above his head and letting the black armour engulf his ashen-coloured skin.
“Don’t get yourselves killed, Judika” Kieran said as he zestfully slapped Bendak’s protected head as he followed Juda to the line of TIE Interceptors.
Juda climbed up his selected starfighter’s ladder and hopped into the cockpit before his hands ran over the console, flicking a variety of switches.
‘Hukaat'kama’ Bendak’s voice buzzed through the commlink,
“Don’t I always?” Juda replied with a grin before his grasp tightened around his steering helm and his thrusters roared to life before the adolescent nudged the throttle, causing the TIE Interceptor to glide forward eerily from it’s immobile state.
With a moment’s positioning, Juda thrust his throttle forward, swiftly sending the starfighter soaring through the Magcon and out of the Assault Ship, closely followed by Bendak.
It was a few minutes before Sashar noticed his brother on the bridge – he was engulfed at the engineering station, trying to help regulate the shields to provide an adequate defence – it wasn’t working well. He spotted Zandro and overlooked the fact that his Aedile was naked save for a pair of medical trousers and swiftly moved across the bridge, grabbing his little brother in a none-too-gentle hug.
Zandro chuckled and winced at the same time as his Quaestor held him close but returned the embrace, then pushed them apart with a murmured “we’ve got work to do.”
Sashar nodded his assent and turned back to the larger problem of a losing battle being fought. Outside the bridge of the ancient carrier, hell raced on, the invaders implacable in their defence, indomitable in their offence, all moving with the unwavering co-ordination Sashar had only previously associated with the force. Yet when he stretched out, there was emptiness – not an active repulsion of the force he’d felt when in the proximity of a ysalamiri, merely…absence.
It was unnerving.
All across the bridge, damage reports were being hollered at a harried command staff – Timeros had now joined Mejas and the pair were talking quietly, able to converse even over the din of the bridge. Astoundingly, the troop carrier hadn’t taken that much damage thus far, however it didn’t make that much of a threat index, being primarly a giant carrier with only a token number of heavy batteries – batteries that were furiously unloading tremendous amounts of energy into the enemy fleet, but were all without exception absorbed into those strange localised black holes that sprung fourth like an umbrella, preventing the Thanatos from landing a hit.
There was a flash from outside the viewports, and Sashar looked up in time to see the specially treated chemicals in the transparisteel react to the bright light. They dimmed a moment later, and the spectacle of a dying Victory Star Destroyer greeted him. The Dark Prophet, Clan Taldryan’s flag.
Timeros looked over his shoulder and spotted the Quaestor standing with his mouth hanging numbly open in awe. He sympathised, but gestured for the Mandalorian to join him.
“Sashar. The Vae Victus is holding the line whilst the remaining Brotherhood forces conduct an orderly retreat into the Shroud. Needless to say, the Deputy Grand Master is necessary for the survival of the Brotherhood – if the Grand Master dies, then the DGM is next in line. I need you to go over to the Vae Victus and make sure he survives.” The Consul said gravely.
“I’ll need Kieran and Zandro.”
“You can have Kieran, but is Zandro fit to fight?”
“He’s just been shot out of the sky. You try and tell him he’s not allowed to get the di’kutla back.”
“Conceeded. Very well, I assume you’re going to take some of Soulfire as air escort?”
“I know just the two pilots, Consul.” Sashar replied, a glint in his eye. Finally, he had a direction, a purpose – even if it was to board a dying ship and ensure the survival of perhaps the greatest swordsman in the Brotherhood.
Dorn woke up in the Hangar Bay of the corvette.
"Ugh. We need to get all these people on this ship? Good thing we brought two," one man said, when turning to get another loaded he noticed Dorn. "Well don't just sit there and rot, help us."
"Yessir," Dorn replied. "Are y'all from the Thanatos?"
"Yes, we are," the man told him. Another ship came into the hangar. "What in blazing hell is going on we don't need another ship."
"I was told to pick up a Rodian specifically," the pilot said.
"That'd be me," Dorn said with a look that said, what the f***, he doesn't look friendly to me.
"Don't worry mate. You'll be fine," the pilot said, responding to the look on his face. He knew that he was discovered by the teen Rodian.
"No, I will stay and help these guys," Dorn said. He looked at all of his comrades lying there. The rest of the team was coming to. Good.
The pilot pulled out a strange weapon and pointed it at them. "Come with me or die!"
Dorn looked at the others as they got up. He was curious if this was their enemy. He looked back at the man and tried to throw him using the Force. Nothing. He couldn't feel anything around the man. He was the enemy.
"You can't use the Force on him," Xar said. "I tried too. We need to be able to delay us from going."
Dorn nodded. Khobai got up wiped his robes of dust and then turned to the enemy. "Let us finish loading the injured before you take us."
"Okay, Jeedai," the guy said back, now out of his ship and halfway across the hangar.
Dorn picked up a body and noticed the man was dead. He was told the dead go on the other transport. He put him there and then used the Force to throw a small piece of debris at the mysterious man. Apparently Khob knew he was a hostile because he had acted right as Xar finished.
Once all the bodies were loaded the Battleteam told the ship with the dead to wait for a few minutes. They walked to the enemy and told him they were ready. All at once they took out their weapons and had him surrounded. Not being able to detect if he was surprised they moved in slowly. He pulled out a weapon of some sort and started attacking them.
Khob blocked a blow with his saber and half expected the weird weapon to be cut in half but it seemed unharmed. He communicated silently for the others to attack the guy all at once so he wouldn't come out unscathed.
The plan worked because as he pushed Khobai back to block the other attacks he only got a few blocked before being hit enough to knock him out. They then put braces on him and took him as a prisoner and boarded the ship with the dead on it and told the pilot man thy were ready.
The doors closed so that they wouldn't get vacuumed and they took off to the Thanatos.
‘A VSD has just been wasted to my portside!’ Bendak’s static voice buzzed through Juda’s commlink.
“Excidium?” Juda asked, rocking in his seat to check his harnesses,
‘Negative, Dark Prophet’ Bendak replied, ‘Unknown fighter’s coming in thick and fast on your starboard, Judika”
“Ke’pare, I see them” The newly appointed Dark Jedi Knight thrust his steering helm forward, sending his TIE Interceptor into a plummet, “Stay on my tail”
The scene was chaotic, debris from destroyed craft spread for miles, explosions rippled throughout on a regular basis causing the darkness of space to momentarily light up into a wash of vibrancy as the two Soulfire troops weaved their way through the destruction. Suddenly two unknown starfighters came into Juda’s view, his visor glistened under the dim lights of his cockpit as he stared in disbelief, all the while tickling the throttle.
“Tion‘ad--” No sooner had Juda mumbled the word, the leading enemy-craft fired what looked like a flaming magma rock from it’s bow. Flames licked the boulder as the rock soared through space, snapping the Arconan out of his day dream. “Fall back!”
Juda fired his thrusters to maximum and drove his throttle forward while pulling back on his steering helm, causing his Interceptor to ascend into a half-loop. The enemy kept up their pursuit, firing another rally of fireballs from their wedge-shaped craft.
* * * *
Bendak watched as the two unknown craft position themselves between himself and Juda, and looked on as his Mandalorian brethren barrel-rolled, avoiding another attempt to destroy his Interceptor. The Soulfire Pilot flicked a few switches, setting his laser cannons to full power before his thumbs etched the trigger buttons on his helm.
As soon as he caught the enemy in the crosshair on his HUD, Bendak pressed forcefully on his triggers, sending a volley of emerald lasers toward the angular craft, the emerald streaks collided with the stern of one vehicle, although it seemed to do little damage.
“Balls to this” Bendak thought aloud while steering off to his right, a plan formulating in his mind. The two enemy starfighters followed Juda like a Glowfly to a lightsaber, matching his every move as they weaved through debris.
Bendak’s eyes slanted causing his features to crease as he spotted a damaged TIE Fighter hurtle through space to his north-starboard, he knew he had to time this just right and after picking the perfect moment, Bendak fired off a flurry of shots toward the TIE.
The emerald lasers ripped through the damaged TIE, sending it into an uncontrollable barrel-roll, Bendak cut his thrusters to get the perfect view of the flaming wreckage as it broke between Juda and his attacker’s, buying him enough time to escape for the moment.
‘Bendak, Juda, get back to the Thanatos ASAP’ Sashar’s voice boomed through the commlink, followed by Juda’s reply;
Zandro stalked after his brother as the pair headed down towards the hangar, questions firing from his lips in an intermittent stream.
“Sash, what the hell is going here? Where are we going and why are we leaving the bridge?”
The leader of House Galeres didn’t slow down at all as he sped into the turbolift, closing the doors just as Zandro had entered the small car and hitting a button that sent them shooting downwards into the bowels of the ship. Finally, the Erinos brother turned to face is new Aedile with a grim look on his face.
“We have to go to the Vae Victus and try to rescue a prominent member of the Brotherhood from an unknown and extremely larger and better prepared force. Any other questions or can we get to the hangar to meet the rest of our team and stop you pestering me for unnecessary details. Wait for the briefing.”
Zandro’s eyes flashed with anger at the tone his half-brother was taking with him. Grabbing his brother by the shoulder and shunting him around, he stared him right in the eyes.
“Ner’vod, remember that some of us have been out there and done something in this battle so far. Show some patience, or have your leadership skills dimmed since I last spoke to you?”
The angry looks that both had on their face seemed to slip from their face as Zandro looked embarrassed and Sashar looked regretful. Without a word the pair hugged, just as the doors to the turbolift opened to reveal the Sergeant of Soulfire waiting for them.
“Did I interrupt something gentlemen, or can we finally get some fighting done around here?”
An attack? On the Brotherhood? Inconceivable! Casualties? Anyone in Arcona? They would not know until they heard from someone in the mess, directly.
As Mayda went to the panel behind the bedroom door, she stopped short of opening it. Her eyes targeted his, honing in with a look of ice, though he would tell she was being overdramatic about it.
“That’s Mistress”, she corrected sternly, accepting his offer to follow under her tutelage. Following her wink, he bowed his head slightly in reverence.
Back to the urgent matter at hand, “Frag! This is NOT what I need to hear when I am the highest-ranking member still on the planet. … Think!” she ordered herself, trying to plan and organize the thoughts bouncing around in her head. Pressing the hidden button, the panel opened up to reveal her secret stash of weapons and credits, which she emptied. After a slam of the panel, she threw the goodies on her bed.
“And what’s worse,” the Knight began to pace while she thought aloud, “I TOLD them this would happen, but nooooo, they didn’t want to believe a young Journeyman. And what do they care? They have the safety of the Shroud to protect them, at least for a time.”
“And when the enemy find they cannot hurt us near Antei … they will search for our vulnerable spots, like … our home systems,” the concentration was now broken as a dangerous possibility took hold. “Moloch,” she snapped at him, ready to go into action-mode, “the first thing we need to do is gather our supplies, and get to a communications center, to contact both the Arcona fleet, and the other planets. Surely, someone else with authority higher than mine should be on Arcona Secondae or somewhere. Then, we need to give some orders and emergency plans to the non-Jedi members that Soulfire Strike Team employs.”
Grabbing her overnight bag, she scavenged for any type of weapons, communicators and her datapad. Her bulky friend picked up his own bag, understanding that the next few days would be spent on the go.
“Follow me, let’s get to the Soulfire Command Center, my Apprentice,” her eyes flashed the spark of excitement and determination as she led him out, locking her quarters behind them.
Moloch knew the place was quite deserted but Mayda being the highest ranking member of the Brotherhood around, that was something unexpected though not unprecedented for her to say the least. He wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he was the second highest though he was only a protector. Despite the current situation he was please to find that she accepted his proposition and he knew he wouldn’t let her down.
This is the sort of thing which happens when sheep flock together, they are ripe for the slaughter, he thought to himself. While he stayed silent as his Mistress thought out loud he quickly came to much the same conclusions as she did. If the shroud offers those inside protection from their new enemy then they’ll come for us not hidden away, it was a given they would eventually in any case too. Having relied highly on guile for most of his life, he knew that it did not always work; he knew the shadows could not always protect.
Being a minimalist in nature Moloch already had everything he needed, everything that he owned in fact, in his bag. Not having settled into his new home yet he hadn’t even removed a single item and the few weapons he carried as always were hidden on him and quarterstaff quickly in hand. It almost seemed odd to him to see Mayda gathering weapons for herself, not in that she wouldn’t fight but in the past it might not have come as readily to her but even now it didn’t seem much of a chosen preference.
Following behind Mayda as he did not know where he was going Moloch continued to listen as Mayda talked, perhaps only partly to him and partly to help with her own thoughts. He quickly came to pick up a few names and positions they held within the house, clan and the Soulfire Strike Team.
They had their force using squad, the one which most would only concern themselves with, of which his friend was a member. Then there were more under their command, not usual to what he understood of the brotherhood, sure it was normal to have an army under their command but not to affiliate them with the elite, the Dark Jedi. Two squads of men and teams for their transport, this idea intrigued Moloch.
It was no time before they found themselves in the communications room, thinking it best to allow Mayda to keep with her thoughts Moloch volunteered to operate the communications array saying “I’ll find someone out there that’ll be able to tell us more with just what the hell is going on and what to do.” Considering his technical aptitude and natural affinity with technology he was the natural choice in this situation where speed was of the essence.
“Good Moloch, I hope you can … because I certainly don’t know what is going on or what to do, for that matter,” the panic in her voice conveyed. Usually, she would never admit ignorance on such matters, but she trusted Moloch, and wanted him to be warned.
“I’ll try my best, … Mistress,” he purposefully addressed her as such, knowing that his success with communications could possibly be vital to their survival, and the fate of the planet.
When she and Moloch approached the controls in a rush, there were several Soulfire crew at their stations. All eyes immediately turned to the pair, the same look of fear and worry in their eyes that she had when she first heard. Obviously, the speakers in this room had transmitted the full message to them. At the command controls, she threw down her bag and cloak.
“Miss Ferium,” Sergeant Maku called out in greeting. “No doubt you’ve heard the news.”
“I had faulty equipment and missed some of it. Did you get any details? About who attacked or why? Is it the Vong?” though she addressed him, she could not look directly at him, eyes frantically searching the foreign buttons. Feeling horribly guilty for not being cross-trained in technical subjects, she vowed to take more courses at the Shadow Academy, … if she ever got to visit Lyspair again.
The common human cleared his throat and continued, “They believe so, as the vessels appear to be biological. They were ordered to retreat into the Shroud, though several will not make it, including some of Arcona’s, Miss.” He knew how the commanders were upon hearing bad news, so he kept his distance from her.
“I am not surprised, Sergeant. So, we need to simply do what we can here, it might not be long before there is a knock on our doors, and I want to be prepared for that, do you understand?” Her breathing was deep now, as she took command and concentrated on keeping it together.
“Yes, Miss. I have already ordered all Commando Units to prepare for battle, and the ship crews are on their way to the hangar bays.”
She nodded, relieved to have his assistance. “Excellent, then I can trust for you to run things from this headquarters on Eldar, while I travel on the Dream Prowler. Sli'Rui will command the Drexl LAAT. It appears that communications will be difficult, and we might have to personally visit each of Arcona’s planets. But let’s get some emergency plans and contingencies set up here on Eldar first.”
“Getting right on it, Miss”, and he turned back to his station, to program instructions into the computer terminals.
When it came to the different ways of the Dark Jedi, Krath fit Moloch down to his favourite colour. Intellect, Wisdom and his connection to the force is what got him through most things, and when the powers of the mind could not do it then speed, accuracy and guile. He was a true watcher in the shadows.
But now... now all that was practically coming up for nought, nada, zilch, nothing... each and every attempt he made at communications achieved nothing. All the ships were either in the Shroud, too close to it for communications to work from such a distance or they were destroyed already and there was no way for him to find out which ones had which fate...
“Frack,” he cursed, “Mistress, the ships cannot be contacted and their fates are not clear. For all we know there may be no survivors or they could all be in that Shroud. Unless there is someone on one of the Arcona’s planets it seems we are stuck with pulling everything together on the home front.” He assumed that by saying it aloud he was not going too far taking equal responsibility for the leadership, as it was her that it fell to and not him as her subordinate. As friends however he felt they would share the load.
“Then get to it, contact Selen, Boral... Arconae Primus... everyone,” ordered Mayda.
“Right away Mistress,” answered Moloch getting back to the task at hand. He started to attempt contact with each planet; Selen... no response, Boral... no response... one after the other he could not make contact. For one reason or another there was a total communications blackout.
They were under threat by a great enemy and now they couldn’t contact anyone... if anyone doubted their situation they could no longer. After all, a communications disruption could mean only one thing: invasion.
Although not wanting to be the bearer of bad news Moloch turned towards his friend once more and said, “The other planets, I could not make contact with them either. Perhaps with some more time which we have precious little of, but I doubt it.”
“Keep trying,” answered the Knight, “the preparations here will take some time before we can leave.” Countless hours had already past and many more would as they continued, their efforts carrying them into the next day, unfortunately without any success on Moloch’s behalf.
The sound of his steps echoed in the corridor. The Neo-Crusader armor was surprisingly comfortable during long operations. Garik reached the hangar doors and stopped. He performed a quick check of his equipment and became lost in thought.
New squad assignments? He looked over the data pad, Scout: Garik Burren. Sniper: Mayda Ferium.
Garik was ecstatic to see a familiar face join the ranks of Soul fire. It had been some months since he had heard anything from his old friend and fate had crossed their paths again. She had left Clan Plagueis a few weeks prior to his departure on personal business.
Garik felt a sudden wave of anxiety come over him. He closed his eyes and focused on the inevitable battle. He reached for his lightsaber and smirked. He stepped through the hangar doors and approached the Team Sergeant. “Dark Jedi Knight Burren reporting for duty, Sergeant!”
“Dakness fades when the light comes but shadows prevail, the shadows will always prevail, in darkness they are hidden but when the light shines they are the only place to not get burnt,” said Moloch to nobody in particular, perhaps only himself.
He was no longer in the communications room but somewhere else, somewhere very familiar, yet it was warped. It took him a while figure it out but he was back on Bakura, back in the shadows of the streets, watching from the darkness. “The sheep will flock together for the slaughter and nothing will stop those who bring change,” he continued, “only the worthy will survive and the Republic shall perish.”
It was one of his usual spiels however this time at least it felt like a foreboding fate instead of a portent of his own ambitions. He began to steal his way home through the shadows, to the habitat of his greatest enemy, back to where his father slept. This was when he noticed people gathering in a square looking to the skies, “You fools!” he tried to call out to them finding no voice, “Gathering or hiding will bring your doom.”
Then, as if by his very words, the skies suddenly turned red, fires burnt the city, screams filled the air and Moloch looked to where the people were gazing before to see countless ships of a kind he could not recognise. Then he heard a faint beeping, it was out of place and grew louder and louder.
Jolting forward from his position laid back in his chair Moloch almost banged his face against the console he was at. He had fallen asleep, which he did not intend to do. The sound was the signal that the crew of the Dream Prowler was ready.
“All personnel must evacuate immediately!” the new Knight continually repeated, like a mantra that was implanted into her subconscious. The throbbing in her head was only outdone by the throbbing of her heartbeat as she jogged through never ending corridors, each one identical to the last. Maybe she was running in circles, for all she knew. Her voice, scratchy from continuous screaming, was barely audible during the majority of the time, as air strikes screamed and rubble fell down from the blurry walls. Lost and confused, and unable to find the exit to the Hangar Bay, she instinctively kept running, turning, running, and turning, determined to leave the planet before the invaders landed. Finally exhausted, her knee buckled and she fell to the ground.
The grayness turned to black, only pierced by a single laser of red light, focused on her face. Seconds seemed like stretched-out pauses, as there was barely a movement, until a warm breath whispered onto her forehead, the repulsive stench reaching down to her nostrils. A sharp sting penetrated her skin, straining its cruel grasp into her wrist. The light now seared as a white hotness, burning every fiber of her being.
Mayda awoke with a start and lifted her head from her arm on the table, dazed for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the light. Within seconds, she remembered where she was, and realized that she was no longer dreaming – this was reality. Shifting in the chair, her eyes found Moloch (who had woken up an hour before), and gave him a stare that seemed to scold him for letting her fall asleep, though she now felt slightly renewed.
“Is the Dream Prowler ready? Have we reached anyone yet?” a parched throat asked him, still hopeful.
Moloch continued to work at his task again until Mayda awoke and questioned him on their progress. He was not fazed by her stare, both as her apprentice and her friend he believed letting her sleep was the best thing. Even his tactical mind believed it to be true from a battle sense, she was the more powerful of the two of them now by far and her strength would be needed not only to fight but to lead also. For a moment he wondered how different things would have been if he didn’t leave when he did, if perhaps their roles would have been reversed or if they would have stood as equals in this fight.
“Preparations are complete, yes,” he answered turning to face Mayda, “The crew of the Dream Prowler have prepared for our departure and now only await us.” That was the traditional good half of the news, next would be the bad.
“Contacting anyone at all however still remains unsuccessful. An impossible task I believe,” answered Moloch to the second question. As per usual he had several technical possibilities why which he proceeded to begin telling as if they would really mean anything to Mayda.
“Make it easy for me,” interrupted the Knight.
“Ok to put it simply, I think the Vong have busted our communications network,” answered Moloch, “That or everyone else is already dead.” The last part was perhaps not the smartest thing for him to say but everyone must have been thinking it already.
Not knowing what the next step Mayda wanted he asked, “What are your orders, Mistress?”
Ugh. Not the answer she had hoped to hear, but the one she expected. Yup, this was the new reality, and she was thrown back into it. Knuckles rubbed at her crusty, dry eyes.
Several of the Soulfire commandos had gathered around, having heard his question to her, and hoping for an answer as well. Mayda realized that now was not the time to show fear or doubt, as she was in the unfamiliar position of being looked to for strength. Now was her time to lead her team mates, … to shine. With renewed vigor, she jumped up from her comfy chair, standing before them.
“Team,” she addressed them confidently. “We can only hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I know you all will be diligent in your duties. I trust your small squad to take care of Eldar. I shall lead the other squad to go in search of our brethren, and assess the situation for all of Arcona. I’d like to see what we have planned, and then we’ll be off.”
Maku stepped up, and went over the plans and procedures with her. She gave her approval and told him to start them immediately. Some of the people could evacuate in ships, and those who stayed behind could fight and then flee to underground bunkers. Grabbing her bag, she nodded to Moloch to do the same.
“Sergeant Maku, you have command of this center. Should you not hear from us – you have full authority here to do what you must. I’ll be on the Prowler, with the crew and we’ll stay in contact as much as we are able.” He gave a respectful bow, and she and Moloch exited the room and made their way to the Hangar Bay, and into the Prowler.
Another dull week, thought Brigan. He had felt that he was on top of the world when first he passed through the Academy on Lyspair and arrived at Arcona’s doorstep, but nothing exciting had truly captivated him ever since his arrival, and all he did day in and day out was go through military drills, not exactly the life he imagined when he decided to leave his comfort zone of freedom and piracy.
Brigan took a slow walk around the inner walls of the Galeres base. The ground was solid. It was not a completely unfamiliar feel to him, but not a welcome feeling either. The ground was mocking him, taunting his presence here whilst others were gunning down unlucky souls who dare stand against the might of the Brotherhood and the Dark Side. The young Sith was eager to return to the comfort of a pilot’s seat, but no chance was offered to him when the others left for their training mission.
He had heard the rumors of a surprise attack by some unknown enemy. He desperately wished he was there to assist in the defense and prove his worth to those in power. If he were there, he was sure that he could have taken down ships of the mysterious enemy and therefore gain prestige and ultimately power from it. He let his mind drift to previous times of space combat, the sweet memories of death washing over his mind when he managed to strike killing blows upon the escorts to freighters. Well, it may not have gone down quite like that, he thought to contradict his arrogant thought process, I should probably refrain from overconfidence in battle if I am to survive.
Brigan cut his walk short and returned to his living quarters, where he fumbled around through his belongings to find his datapad computer. He quickly ran over his notes, letting himself some small hope for a personal report to a commander. Nothing. With a sigh, he moved onto a project with a slightly higher chance for success. He punched in his dossier and password and looked at the limited view of the arrivals for the Galeres docks. The records just stopped after a certain point in time, strangely enough. The last few times he had checked the docking protocol it was constantly being updated with an incoming or departing ship, even if he had limited access over his view.
Hmm, I can assume that something is going on a little closer to home, what do I do next? I could stay here and wait for orders along with all the other nobodies who are too low of rank to know what is going on even if I asked them, or I could take a proactive stance. Hmm, if nothing is happening here, perhaps something will happen at the star port. It is my best bet, should someone come looking for assistance for battle, they would probably go there first.
After strategizing out his next course of action, Brigan proceeded to the base’s hangar bay where he took a shuttle to the military star port.
The Dream Prowler shot out into the atmosphere, leaving the secret headquarters of Soulfire Strike Team behind them. Mayda piloted the ship, with Moloch in the co-pilot seat, though she did not have much confidence in his navigation skills, based on previous experiences.
"Oh, I had a thought," she piped up. "Before we search other planets, we really should start at other locations here on Eldar, with both Houses having their bases here. I suppose it is also possible that some people could be on ships. But first, we'll go to the Military Star Port. Maybe wrangle up some other ship captains, and have a small fleet."
He nodded, once again impressed by her plethora of good ideas.
The Prowler entered the main Hangar Bay of the Star Port. Mayda was a bit wary, as she still could not contact that station's control room from her ship, but the landing went smoothly. Any Arcona member that was there, was welcome to board the ship. Mayda decided that they would wait half a day before taking off from the Star Port, to allow time for members to find them. She had Moloch send out a signal, just in case anyone could pick it up.
"Mr. Willan, in the event someone does come to the Main Hangar, make sure they are greeted by the crew of the Prowler and given a seat in the back with you, as I will be working on some battle plans here in the cockpit," she instructed one of the gunners of the ship.
After plenty of time spent in the Galeres base, it was nice to finally see the open sky. The droid piloted shuttle zipped quickly over the seemingly endless water mass for the quickest route to the military star port, and Brigan felt reassured for his success as he noticed the beauty in the water that appeared to be utterly seamless due to the speed at which he was going. If it was not for the waves that the transport was kicking up behind him, he would have tried going for a walk.
Suddenly, he heard a chirping coming from his datapad. He reached in and noticed a message for a gathering of Arconae forces in the star port he was heading towards at the very moment. He was no master in the ways of the Force, but even he could tell that it could not be a mere coincidence. The ship could go no faster than it already was, but even the speeds it attains did not seem fast enough for the ambitious Sith.
The blue of the water quickly shifted to green as the shuttle flew over land. Brigan was close; soon he would have his chance to prove his worth to the Brotherhood. It was not long before the military structure came into view. The shuttle landed, let off its sole passenger, and then left for its route.
Brigan looked around curiously, desperately seeking out someone who might guide him to where he could be used. Eventually, he saw a man who appeared to be a little stressed but occupied with some sort of reading material. Brigan approached him slowly. After clearing his throat to gain the man’s attention, Brigan saluted and said, “Sith Acolyte Brigan reporting for duty.” The man eyed him over as if he were judging a piece of bantha steak; suddenly Brigan was not so sure of himself.
“You’ll do. I’m Mr. Willan, and welcome to the crew of the Dream Prowler. Report to the ship and wait for further instructions.”
With a sigh of small relief and the butterflies of anticipation flying around in his stomach, Brigan quickly did what he was told, giving silent, slightly nervous nods to the people who were eyeing him curiously as he found a seat in the back.
Eldar Star Port
Her feet propped up on a console, the Knight leaned back in her chair, snacking on some fresh fruit. She had sent some of the crew to go scour the Port in search of as many rations, weapons and supplies as they could find in the supply rooms.
The reluctant commander also realized that not too many more passengers would fit on the Dream Prowler. The Drexl LAAT would be needed, as well as TIE Interceptors, and any larger ships that other Arcona Battle Teams had in their possession, if they were docked in Arcona space. Yes, if any of those could be found, with other Arconans in charge of them, then Mayda would be thrilled, and their chances of survival would be tenfold.
And still looming over her like a dark cloud was the decision to fight or flee. She would prepare for both scenarios, and wait longer before taking any action. It was possible, after all, that the Vong would overlook their system, so busy with the battles going on near Antei. Her thoughts drifted back to what her leaders were probably going through at this very minute. Having studied the Vong for the debates, Mayda was more aware of their treatment of prisoners than most. Should she warn her people? Perhaps it was better that they did not know what could lie ahead for them. "Let them still believe they were invincible; do not take away their confidence", she thought.
The responsibility weighed down on her like a ton of bricks. It was torture to merely sit and wait, plan for what will come … knowing that something will indeed come, and that she might be powerless to defeat it. But evacuating Eldar was first priority, and the Prowler would wait for others to arrive, or be in contact. She began to nod off, too comfortable in the chair.
Moloch sat in his co-pilot seat tinkering away with something he was trying to make which would help boost and refine their transmission signals, some vain hope that it would allow them to contact others; it at least took his mind off the long wait for the unknown.
“Now just to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow,” he muttered to himself, as if that really meant something and was possible… well it was in theory kinda but what would be the point? He usually just said it to mean, 'now to do something that is quite hard and near impossible to do' and it sounded technical enough for anyone who would question what he was doing but had no knowledge on the topic.
He looked over to where Mayda sat, in the pilot’s seat, nodding off, thinking he now knew why she had him where he was. Though he lacked any proper skills as a pilot or navigator, something kinda odd considering his technical aptitude, it was the trust and partnership they had formed. That or she didn’t want to leave him out back with the others and all the ‘toys’ he could tinker with… either way it was good.
Ever since they met back in Plagueis by chance, though Moloch knew there was no such thing, he had suspected the master-student situation they were entering was bound to happen. Even when they were just sparring partners he saw her breaking away ahead of him, then as their friendship progress so did her leadership over him. She became his battle team leader, he served as her executive officer. To Moloch at least, considering how their bond had grown as well as their strengths, it was natural progression that she would become his Mistress, his guide to higher power and understanding. Then one day they would fight side by side as equals again, brother and sister, champions of the shadows.
Yellow eyes, and the stench of rot, were all she could see and smell. At least the scorching light was off, but the glare of hate burned just as brightly. Zooming out, the full face came into view, tattooed and wrinkled, and with thick dark hair branching out of the sides. Was it – a female? The muffled alien commands yelled to each other ceased, replaced by a buzzing, until the female spoke.
“Make a move, and my whip-stings will go deeper into your wrist,” she threatened. Mayda did not fear the pain, but the loss of her left hand would make it more difficult to fight back or escape, and so, she complied, lying still. “Let’s take this one to the ship, to the Embrace of Pain”, she ordered the warriors next to her, not letting go of her grip.
Her foggy mind strained to remember what that was – some type of torture device. To lose a hand was one thing, but to lose her mind was inconceivable. Changing her mind about complying, she struggled a bit, as the tips of the female’s hand dug deeper. Before Mayda could squirm away, a strong-muscled snake squeezed her arms to her torso, locking her in its dangerous embrace.
“Gah! Don’t let me fall asleep again!” she commanded her new Apprentice without hesitation, then feeling slightly unnerved by her sudden outburst. She realized it did not come off as very leader-like, and would likely just inspire him to ask questions about why she would say such a thing. The nightmare seemed too real, too detailed, to merely be imagination. Mayda hoped it was not a vision of the future through the force, but that was the likeliest explanation. She shook it off.
Quickly, she used diversion. “So, what’s the status on communications? Any Arconans come aboard yet? Any other ships in the area?” A thousand questions ran through her mind, curious and anxious for some good news.
Don’t let her fall asleep? Moloch wondered why she requested that. Did she think it would make her look like a weak leader? This was not normal behaviour from Mayda, or at least it wasn’t to how he knew her before, but she did say she was no longer the same in many ways. He wanted to know more but before he could ask the knight asked for another update and he would have to respond promptly and without distraction. Perhaps it was best he did not ask or know of her reasons.
“Communications are as they have been for the most part, dead. However, we have had a few more soldiers join our numbers including at least one Dark Jedi, I believe he is an Acolyte by what I’ve been told by our team. I haven’t bothered to go meet him personally, concentrating more on trying to get in contact with as many people as possible somehow,” answered Moloch.
“That’s why I’ve been tinkering with this,” he said holding up the device he was working on before, “it should potentially concentrate all the wasted energy in our signal which is sent out on unused levels into where it should be headed. As well as boosting the power of the signal it should become more refined and clear, in theory… I’ve never actually done this before, not on this scale at least. Only with small level personal communicators which I used with my sister back when I was little…” his voice trailed off and his mind began to wander off, up until now he had not though of the potential danger his sister was in and this was greater than any Dark Jedi assassin.
Kieran had left the hangar and headed straight for the quarters he shared with Juda, the rank of Sergeant did not grant you your own room on a crowded Acclamator Cruiser. He had been of little use in the hangar, he couldn’t fly and didn’t know much about flying ships; Kieran’s knowledge was rather limited, he knew how to shoot, kill and blow things up, the typical Mandalorian. He wasn’t retreating to his birth for solitude, to mourn the losses he could feel echoeing through the force, he was returning to collect a parcel, something which followed him wherever he would go across the Galaxy; his Mandalorian armor. He was the Sergeant of Soulfire, but they were dispersed, assigned to other duties and for the time being not his to command and thus he felt slightly out of place in his matte black garb. He rounded the final corner and hammered his on the activation panel.
‘But not for long,’ he thought as squeezed through the opening doors and dove underneath his bed.
‘I suppose they don’t see this very often,’ Kieran thought as he tore down the corridors on his way back to the Hangar, now in full battle armor. He was getting odd looks from people as he passed, from Ensign to Captain they all had a mixed look for terror and curiosity, sure they feared their force wielding masters but to them this was something different.
He ignored the rest of them and his thoughts returned to the mission. He had taken a call from Sashar in his quarters who had explained the gist of the task they faced; needless to say Kieran had mixed feelings. He looked at it as something that would either make them heroes or die pointless deaths, but his spirits were held high with the chance of facing the enemy face to face. His thoughts turned to the ‘battleground’ as he reached the turbolift to the hangar. He had heard the scattered reports filtering through from the Vae Victus and he couldn’t help the cold feeling that had begun to spread through his gut. His father had told him fear was fine, so long as you rose above it and used it, it paralleled somewhat the teachings of the Dark Jedi.
As the doors opened before him to display the Hangar he noted it had changed somewhat since he had last left it. There were quite a few new additions of damaged fighter craft, several pilots were being taken away on stretchers giving the overwhelming impression that the brotherhood was not fairing well. He turned to look for his brothers when the doors to the adjacent left chimed open. He could almost palate the tension between the pair; ‘great just what we need, family squabbling at a time like this.’
“Did I interrupt something gentleman, or can we finally get some fighting done around here?” he asked, trying to imitate the stern voice Sashar’s and his father would take when dressing the pair down.
“Nope,” Sashar lied, “let’s get our Mando on.”
“Speaking of which,” Kieran said un-shouldering the satchel bag he had been carrying, “your new armor Zandr’ika.”
“You can give us a fashion show on the way in the mean time we’ve got to get going,” Sashar said firmly, pushing his way through the pair to head towards a ship nestled in the corner of the hangar.
“In that?” Kieran asked in disbelief gesturing towards the Clan’s Yacht Serenity, he doubted the craft’s combat capabilities were anywhere near up to the task.
“Well it’s better than a laaty,” Zandro chimed.
“True, I guess its going to be a rough ride,” Kieran replied.
“Well,” Sashar said as his hand dropped from his ear, “Juda’s in position with Bendak and another squadron to provide us some cover, well the squadrons more like the handful of remaining ships left.”
“That bad?” Zandro asked.
“And getting worse,” his half-brother replied gravely.
“Then get a move on, all I ever do is wait around for you,” Kieran piped up giving Sashar’s a friendly shove to get him started into a trot towards their craft.
The ramp lowered before them and the group climbed aboard, Zandro heading for the cockpit to leave his Sashar and Kieran to occupy the dorsal and belly turrets respectively.
“Comfy Kieran?” Sashar asked, his smaller frame fitting snuggly into the small confines of the pod.
“Shut up,” he shot back in mock anger, 'of course I'm not shabla comfy you osik'ika.'
Kieran closed his eyes as the ship began to thrum beneath him, the vibrations working their way from the hard leather seats into the core of his bones, but he was not concentrating on that feeling. His mind sought ought his kinsmen through the force and he found each one, grabbing hold of them they began to share their feelings. The meld they shared was strong, stronger than many currently being used around the battle zone, they were brothers, family and many had fought together the majority of their life.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw floor of the Thanatos’ hangar blur past and the nothing but a canapé of empty black space.
Snapping back into reality Moloch dove back into the task at hand, “I’ll need to make my way to the planet’s main communications array. There it will be able to do its job the best, though just how good that will be I don’t know. Especially considering most of our people are in the shroud, which makes things that much more difficult, at best I think it might just get inside it… one possible side effect of this though is the communications may become irreversibly damaged, at least as far as we are concerned without the time or people to make full scale repairs.”
“You better get going then,” answered Mayda in response, “I’ll need you back before we take off tomorrow. Good luck.”
Moloch smirked and answered, “Mistress, you know I don’t believe in luck. I do however believe in my skill and the strength of my allies, namely you, so I think we have nothing to worry about.” His words flowed with such an air of confidence that it would be hard to think he was speaking anything other than fact, on some level it was pure while another so falsified. He then quickly exited the ship thinking, if there really is such thing as luck I hope ours turns good soon.
After some time on foot Moloch found himself at the communications array and several more hours passed as he installed his enhancer and properly configured it, improper installation could have been disastrous. Everything seemed in place, all signs pointed towards success, all that would be left is getting Mayda to test it out proper. Finally something was going right, for now.
“Mistress, everything is complete and seems to as far as I can tell from here working,” he radioed back to Mayda, "give it a shot from your side of things. If there are no problems I’ll be back in time for supper.”
Mayda answered Moloch's call eagerly. During his absence, she had kept herself busy and awake by greeting others on the Dream Prowler and brainstorming on plans of action, getting a sense for what the seasoned members would recommend. After all, it was their lives at stake as well, though they would willingly follow her orders no matter what.
"Whew," she sighed with relief, "finally some good news. I'll try it out now, Mo."
This was just the type of break they needed. Not that things could not get worse. After all, there was no sign of alien ships incoming yet, though she would not be surprised if they showed up at any moment. But communicating with all of Eldar would be essential to mobilize the troops, gather other Dark Jedi, and spare as many lives as possible. Being able to reach the Thanatos, or anyone in the middle of the action, would be even better.
Running back to the cockpit, she resent the planet-wide message, to let everyone left behind know that the Star Port would be the central meeting place, and to prepare for emergency military situation, with the codes to call the Soulfire Headquarters, who would coordinate ground troops. Immediately after, she tried to establish an open channel to the Thanatos, praying for any kind of word on their situation.
The only downside was that now she would have to wait on Eldar a few more hours, to see if anyone, or any ships, showed up to fight or flee together. After that, they could call her in Arcona space, now that signals could be sent out. Once again, Mayda sat, waiting.
Juda could feel his brothers shining through the force like a torch in a darkened room they glowed before his eyes which made the timing of his maneuver all the easier. The hull of the Thanatos race by beneath him as he wove his Interceptor around the incoming and outgoing torrents of weapons fire. All around him the battle raged but for the time being the Erinos’ sole focus was the area surrounding him, fully absorbed in the living force he was aware of everything.
The grey armor plating eventually gave way to the black backdrop of space punctuated by a small yacht racing out from the hangar and climbing into a corkscrew. He could sense Kieran’s displeasure with the erratic maneuver, he was not one for a dog fight but Juda feared that that would be all they’d get. The motley collection of fighters on his tail had been hanging onto their lives with their finger nails, many of them flying badly damaged fighter craft that made him doubt they would last long.
Serenity leveled out and the Interceptors herded round her like Banthas protecting their young. Juda knew they presented an attractive target to any passing squadron of the nightmarish craft he and Bendak had faced thus far but for now, there seemed to be a brief lull in their attack and he couldn’t help himself think that perhaps luck would be on their side.
“You boys keep nice and tight, not only has she got blunt claws she’s got one hell of a limp too,” Zandro’s voice came over the channel.
“Not to worry,” Juda replied back, his eyes never leaving the sensor display for a moment, ‘force blind, but at least our electronics still work.’
“How we hanging Soulfire Group?” Juda asked the pilots he had recruited for their mission.
“Fire three here, I’m getting a lot of wobble from the stick sir,” a voice came over the channel and Juda reached out sensing the man’s discomfort. Juda began to reassure him, telling him telepathically that he could handle it, that he was good enough. The Mandalorian knew it wasn’t true, but he had to do something to increase their odds.
“Juda, three of ‘em coming in on our tail,” interrupted Bendak.
“Copy, break and intercept, Soulfire group remain with the Serenity, break off in pairs to engage incoming fighters,” his orders were snapped out before Juda realized, ‘running on adrenaline and gut feeling, just like Jant’buir used to say’ he thought, squashing the nostalgic memory of his father in an instant fearing the distraction it would cause.
Bendak and Juda peeled into a loop in perfect unison from there positions flanking the yacht’s cockpit. He could pick the incoming craft up on his sensors and swung his targeting recital over the lead craft using the force to steady his aim.
“Lead boy Bendak,” Juda informed his wingman and received a click in reply.
Their twin lines of fire made easy work of the craft’s defense mechanism and yorrik coral melted away under the superheated light. The craft dove into an erratic corkscrew leaving Juda enough time for a couple of passing shots at the remaining craft before the flashed passed him, all of which disappeared into a void. He pulled back on his flight yoke and slammed the throttle forward to sweep back onto their tails.
“I’ve got two for you boys, if you spray their fronts me and Bendak’ll hit them from behind,” Juda explained on a channel directly to his brothers in the turrets, they'd work out the alien craft's defenses from previous encounters.
“Sounds alluring,” Sashar replied and the two turrets began to spit light at the incoming fighter craft. The bolts never reached and rocky surfaces and as predicted they disappeared into a void several feet in front of the ship.
“Now!” Juda exclaimed and they began to fire a steady stream of emerald bolts into the rear of the Coral Skippers. Shards of rock sparked against his forward deflector and soon thereafter the two fighters tumbled away into space.
“Starting our approach,” Zandro called from the cockpit and Juda began to take stock of the situation the Vae Victus was in.
The Star Destroyer was belching atmosphere where the front point of her dagger profile had been sheared off, beside hung what appeared to be the head of a giant worm, he’d seen an Exogorth before but this was something different. It had rows of razor sharp teeth and flaps of skin that looked capable of creating a vacuum. The thing’s head had been shorn off somehow, Juda suspected through concentrated turbolaser fire but it was merely idle speculation. The true object of his eye was the sole remaining worm like appendage coming out from an adjacent warship; its jaws were firmly clamped around the bridge of the Vae Victus.
“We’re going up against that?” Kieran asked.
“What, it looks like that thing you came home with last Friday night,” Sashar chimed in, hoping to lift the dampened spirits that were shining through the meld.
‘They’ll do it, I know they will…’ Juda thought.
Brigan had been walking up and down the halls of the Prowler for some time now, taking in its details and imagining how it flew. He made himself helpful where he could; taking on board supplies, making sure he left no messes, and meeting the other members in short meaningless dialogue before what they were needing to do moved them on or if the awkwardness grew to high. Everything seemed to be becoming rather redundant, what should have been a few hours had become a full day and Brigan’s desire to fight was being pushed to the background. Perhaps the planning simply is not complete, he told himself. After all, any enemy that would focus an organization of Dark Jedi must be formidable and luck and brute strength would not be an adequate battle plan.
Brigan’s mind began to drift to the people he had met. Most of them were very kind in their words, pointless as they were, which surprised the young Sith. Kindness was not something he was expecting in the arms of Darkness, but not unwelcome. One sentient stood out from the memories, though. Not by the words that were involved in the conversation, but the person, herself, her command, the way she walked, and her power. What was her name again? Ah, Mayda, that’s right. Her expressions showed that she was thinking of something else as he recalled the dialogue, of what Brigan could not decipher. He had not yet been taught in the ways of probing the mind, and even if he had been, it was doubtful that he could have found anything out. There was power emanating from her, even in her polite small talk he could feel the power of the Force and the focus she had over it. At his current state, Brigan would be very unlikely to cut through her aura. In any case, it would be a safe enough guess to think she would be the one to talk to for what he should be doing and what they were doing for that matter. Come to think of it, I don’t even know what I signed up for other than an Arcona rendezvous, heh, silly of me.
Brigan aimed his walk towards the cockpit, drawing in the darkness the base planet of the Arcona was filled with as he strode, enjoying every bit of its awesome power. The intoxication the Force gave him was unparalleled and he didn’t notice he had arrived at his destination until he saw the inquisitive face of his objective. It took him aback at first; he had not paid any attention to her physical features the first time they spoke. Brigan cracked a smile at how many men must have gotten themselves into trouble trying to claim that one.
“Excuse me, ma’am, you probably don’t remember me, Brigan Dekov, but may I be so bold as to ask what all is going on? We have been sitting here for quite some time.”
Lost in thought, her muscular arms shook at the sudden interruption and pushed the pilot’s chair to swivel so that she could face the guest. His respectful manner and the fact that she could sense he was a Dark Jedi kept her from reacting as she would normally. A lean brow was arched though, with skeptical disdain at his curiosity and preponderance of familiarity.
“Who the hell are you?”, she retorted instinctively, her skeptical nature answering before his words had time to sink in. Narrowed, mocha lashes focused in on his clothing, as the man lost his confidence, stuttering to begin an answer, flustered since he had already told her his name, though that was not what she sought to know. Ah, a Brotherhood Journeyman – the red shirt and faded black vest revealed to her.
“Oh! Arconan?”, she curtly cut off his attempt to answer the previous question. At this one, he merely nodded, and she continued.
“Brigand, huh?”, she looked up into his face this time. “Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell.” He was most likely a relative newcomer to the Clan.
Continuing before he could correct her, “Yes, we’ve been sitting here, and now, looks like we’ll continue to sit here. Would you like to sit next to me until my co-pilot returns?” Keeping her gaze fixed on his, an open palm pointed to the seat next to her. Another Arconan might prove useful in the coming days, and might even prove to be relaxing company.
To sate him, she explained the situation, her tone now softer and businesslike. “We were about to depart, but we had a stroke of luck, and communications are now enabled again, so I’m allowing a few more hours for Dark Jedi to assemble here, and to coordinate planning.”
Brigan could hardly keep up with all the directional changes that woman brought up in the conversation. First frustration, then superior, arrogant, friendly, and now she gets to the purpose? Well, the end justifies the means, I suppose. The torrent of emotion had shaken up Brigan’s thought process, he was tempted to back away from the unpredictable pilot, but Brigan did not know many as it was, and knowing people stronger than he could aid him down the road. Hesitating long enough, he sat down in the seat, staring at his inviter cautiously in his descent.
“And if no one comes?” he asked in all seriousness.
She thought it an odd question, but the more she pondered an answer, it did seem a valid one - one she had no good answer for. The boredom and tension led her rare humorous side to take over. "Well then ... I suppose it would just be you and I in this cramped cockpit, alone, for hours," with an arched brow.
Is she crazy or just teasing me? “Heh, I– I don’t follow.” Brigan was a little surprised at the attitude of the Dark Jedi who sat before him. What? Is she some kind slut trying to get into the pants of every new guy on the ship? Wait, no, I see, avoiding the question and making fun of me while she’s at it. Then again, this might prove as an amusing diversion. After presenting a rather confused look, he let out a short laugh and gave a mischievous smile to her. He sat and waited for whatever this one would do next. These Dark Jedi are sure strange.
His nervous laughter and the ensuing awkward moments of silence indicated to her that he was uncomfortable with her insinuation. The Knight chose not tell him that she had no intention of pursuing him, it would be more amusing to let him wonder. Besides, a bit of intimidation with newcomers was always good fun, though this was hardly a time for fun. However, seeing as it could be their last days alive, her moods and emotions would naturally fluctuate.
"What? You think I enjoy sitting here waiting? In the calm before the storm? Not being a part of the horror and the glory that most of the Arcona leaders are experiencing right now, as their limbs are torn apart, the Force useless against these predators? Are you even familiar with the Vong, boy? Are you haunted at night with visions and flashbacks of what they are capable of?" She did not expect an answer from him, though she watched his reaction intently.
He looked down, not knowing quite how to answer her.
"Look, I know that all this inaction is probably frustrating for you - thus why you came in here to ask me about it. It is frustrating for all of us. And the thing is - we might have a larger battle ahead of us then what our clansmen are going through now. Sometimes the waiting is tougher than the battle." She had softened to him again, perhaps subconsciously needing to explain this to someone, for her own benefit.
"And here I've been put in the position of leader, for now, although I'm not unaccustomed to making these types of decisions. I have to do what is best for the survival of our members, and continued prosperity of our planets. I just wish," the exasperated voice admitted, as she brushed a stray hair strand from her eyes, "that a more experienced Arconan will be in contact with us, and advise us, or provide additional military support. I don't like this position we have been put in."
"Then again, this could all be for naught, if we escape the attention of the Vong. Then, its just a rescue mission once it is clear to enter Antei again."
Moloch seethed with anger as he made his way back to the Dream Prowler, without a task to focus on his mind was free to once again wander to unhelpful thoughts. As far as he knew these Vong could have wiped out the rest of the galaxy already, his sister could already be dead. It was bad enough when his father was killed by Plagueian assassins, an act he had reserved for himself to accomplish after demeaning his father as was done to him for so many years. But if his sister was lost, that would be something else, it would cause a chain of events nobody would want to see occur.
While he had tried to keep at least some level of a calm demeanour around Mayda, for her sake and the sake of success, now alone his pent up rage could have some release. He however would not allow it all to escape him for he knew it made him stronger and in the possible upcoming battle he would need it.
A large tree stood in his path, the perfect thing for a little rage release and target practice. With a single action several shuriken flew through the air towards their target, each embedding deep within the wood of the tree. Following this up Moloch a series of slashing attacks with the daggers he carries. Usually that would be enough for him to be able to end a battle, with an ordinary foe, but not against others with the Force and he doubted it would work on these Vong. It was however a relief to see that his skills did not diminish too much from sleep deprivation and his worsening mental state. He pulled the projectiles from the tree and continued on his way.
Upon reaching the ship and stepping back inside the cockpit he noticed someone unfamiliar in his seat. With a grunt he asked Mayda, “Who is this whelp?” He had no intention of addressing Brigan himself and had however guessed he was the other Dark Jedi he was informed of joining the crew. By what he could tell the Acolyte was just that, an Acolyte, so although it was unlikely that Moloch was older by much if at all he still considered him whelp, wet behind the ears.
Mayda walked out to the part of the hanger where the Dream Prowler was located, to investigate a commotion. Apparently there were dozens of people entering the hanger. The Dark Jedi Knight noticed many personnel from the Clan Headquarters there on Elder, and the Soulfire personnel she left behind at the command center. A puzzled looked crossed her face as she tried to figure out what was going on.
Toward the rear of the group stood a man in the unmistakable armor of the Grand Masters Royal Guard. His dark skin and his slow, aggressive swagger betrayed him as Etah d’Tana who had been Aedile of the house Galeres until very recently. Mayda’s Dark Jedi Knight peer immediately moved toward her direction. Reaching her position he gingerly presented his hand to her and introduced himself.
“Who’s in charge here?” the Sakiyan asked Mayda. “I am” she responded simply “Good, I have called for a general evacuation of all Arconan facilities and instituted a class four lockdown. I have instructed all clusters of Arconan personnel in the Dajorra system, to head for these coordinates”. He Handed her an information cylinder. “What are these coordinates to ?” She asked.
“To the site of our collective last stand” he explained “A planet most of you don‘t know about, a place called Sukhur“.
Normally she would not have been worried, but Mayda breathed a slight sigh of relief to see Moloch return safely.
Answering him, "Oh, this is my new pet". She reached over to gently brush his jawline with the back of her hand. A purr emitted from his throat. Then pulling away the hand and standing up, she added, "A new Arconan."
Thankfully, before any limbs were ripped off, noises of visitors were heard and she ran out of the ship. Noticing that her communications had reached others, the Knight was pleased, and anxious to make preparations to depart soon. However, she wondered why they all arrived at the same time, almost ... organized. Then, a strange-looking male approached, dressed in the Dark Jedi Knight garb, though his look was unfamiliar to her.
Though skeptical, she accepted his hand and immediately recognized the name. Etah - the previous Aedile of her House - was a welcome sight indeed. Giving a small bow, she heartily nodded her head as he told her of his instructions.
"Delightful Etah! It's a relief to see you here, and share your knowledge of this arcana. I had thought myself one of the few Arconans left around here. I had the Soulfire troops preparing for evacuation and military contingencies, so they will have a head start already. I agree that evacuation is our best course, unless we hear any news from the ships near Antei", hurried words poured out. Then a thought occured, "Wait. You haven't heard anything from the Thanatos, have you?". A glimmer of hope shone in her eyes.
"Unfortunately no," he replied solemnly.
"Well now that communications are back on, at least in this system, we could still hear from them." A small disappointment, but it was better than bad news. "I'll give these to the Dream Prowler. I hope you can accommodate everyone here on your ships."
Moloch instinctively followed Mayda out of the ship. While most apprentices might be afraid, angry or any other mix of emotions at the sight of a ‘new pet’, Moloch on the other hand cared very little. He had nothing to be afraid of, people often for one reason or another didn’t last long around these parts and being one of Mayda’s pets could mean one of many things. It was something Moloch never was really called, something for which he was grateful.
As the other, senior, knight spoke of a last stand on a planet they did not know of Moloch stood behind Mayda, though no heed would be paid of him. That’s the thing about shadows, which Moloch was proudly; they are rarely noticed except by an alert eye, someone filled with paranoia or until their secrets were revealed. Of course the caster of a shadow always knows it is there and usually takes some comfort in that knowing, it would have been much the same for Mayda knowing Moloch was right there behind her.
Suhker, or sucker? Moloch thought to himself, the grim possibilities of their fate at a last stand weighing deeply on his mind. Of course as usual he was overly sceptical of anyone he did not know well, meaning this Knight was just another listened to only due to position and power. Being new to the clan Moloch knew only the woman standing in front of him, his Mistress, to whom, by the nature of their student master relationship and the close bond they had earlier formed, he owed total loyalty to. He was no mere pet.
There are times when a shadows needs to do more than follow and hide its secrets, this was one of them. A black gloved hand reached out and put itself on Mayda’s shoulder after she had finished with her own words as if to say I’m still here, I’m ready, whatever you need. Although there was now someone else to lead or at least help with such, there was much more than just Moloch’s hand still on those shoulders of Mayda. Perhaps there was a strength in the truth their bond that most Dark Jedi would never achieve due to their treacherous nature, perhaps not, but there was a difference and that could make all the difference.
Though thankful for Moloch's hand on her shoulder, she could not show any appreciation publicly. It was unspoken and understood. Her Right Hand would be able to read her emotion, and they would have a debriefing session on the journey to this unknown planet.
Knight Etah gave her a nod to indicate the affirmative, so she trusted that he would continue on his own, doing the final evacuation of personnel. She reiterated, "I shall go ahead now, scout the area, and will meet you on Sukhur", with a final bow. Impatient to actually do something, she turned on her heels and headed up the ramp, disappearing into the Dream Prowler.
Well, the time had finally come. Mayda Ferium had been waiting for five long days, and now, finally, she could leave Eldar and enact some type of escape plan, hopefully a temporary one. But all the time spent in waiting was not in vain. Along the way, she had found old friends and new friends, and proven her dedication, loyalty and worth to her new Clan. Yes, now she truly felt like a full-fledged Arconan.
And yet, at their new location, they would still mostly spend their time resting and waiting. It almost seems like the majority of what she had done since returning was to worry over things, taking care to handle new personnel and keep spirits uplifted as best she could. It was disheartening - this whole conflict. An all-powerful enemy comes out of nowhere and destroys the webbed fabric of the Brotherhood. Leaders are out of touch with their members and busy in the midst of the fighting. Journeymen are not being looked after. Those left behind lose their verve and zest, as they struggle with questions of their own mortality and chosen career path.
There was still no communication with her Arcona brethren - the silence was deafening. One could only have faith that they were all alive and well. As she reached through the Force, she felt no recent disturbances, so she had to trust in that. No doubt, Etah would be the first that Arcona Summit would contact, and he would let everyone else know their status. So, no use worrying right now. Now was the time for rest and retreat. Safety was ahead. Perhaps she would prolong her time at this sanctuary before returning to active duty.
Smiling at Moloch and Brigan, Mayda sat in the pilot's chair and set course for Sukhur, relieved to be out of the orb of tension that enveloped them all.
Though Moloch personally avoided glory like a plague, only aiming for certain key people’s approval, he couldn’t help but wonder what would happen after all this was over. He wondered if his Mistress would get the recognition she deserved or some pompous ass would steal it all away as was all too common. Perhaps she wouldn’t want great fanfare, not a fan of hot air herself, but some sort of recognition at least was in order for the both of them; however in Moloch’s cynical mind at least it wasn’t going to happen.
It was amazing how much a crisis could stretch things out, it might have only been five days but felt more like five weeks and if it was five weeks it was five months. At least now the constant cycle of relative helplessness was broken, they now had a new place to be and there would be plenty more to do; at least if things went as they should.
Still silent, watching every single movement he could, Moloch followed Mayda back into the Dream Prowler. The ship had somehow become quite the familiar home in those five days; it would be odd to not be inside once again after everything was over.
He had taken no offence to his Mistress’ lack of overt communication of her gratitude towards him; it was not the time or the place for such. There was a purposeful difference between the Mayda he knew when no other was around and the one that most saw in times of seriousness, even perhaps to that they saw when relaxed, though she was always the same person if you could look deep enough. He too was different around others, albeit not quite as obvious perhaps. It was all a necessity of being a living being, even more so for a Dark Jedi.
If anything Moloch was prepared to fight and to kill. It was not something that was particularly common in his actions but everything had a time and a place and the time for him to battle drew near. He needed not only to protect his interests, his few friends and future but also to release the anger growing inside him lest he be absorbed by it. He was glad to at least be moving on once more with everything and everyone he needed still intact.