Eye of the Abyss II
On Approach to the Shroud
The Proconsul of Arcona stared thoughtfully out of the viewport, his reflection glimmering darkly in the pristine transparisteel pane. The bridge was nearly silent, as well-oiled and efficient a machine as the very vessel of war upon which they toiled. Commander Jaal was in a terse and muted exchange with several technicians that had been order up from the lower decks. Vorion could only assume they were making last minute preparations for the perilous journey that lay ahead. The Priest pondered mutely the similarities between the Maw and the Shroud of Antei.
"Your Honor." The smooth and carefully moderated baritone of Lieutenant Niles, the Abyss's navigation officer, broke Vorion's reverie as the he approached, offering his superior a courteous bow. Vorion turned, blinking rapidly as he surveyed the Eldarian officer with his usual stoicism.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" Vorion intoned, one eyebrow arching under the shadows of the hooded cowl of his sable cloak. Niles had that indecisive look of a man who was uncertain as to how to proceed for fear of martial reprisal. Vorion suspected that this had something to do with the bloodthirsty appetites of a certain former Consul who even now was preparing with Arcona's other Elders for entry of the sinister, undulating miasma that veiled the mighty star of Ante.
At last Niles mastered himself, and spoke without halting or stumbling, his eyes fixed squarely on the Proconsul's. "Sensor sweeps have located a Vong warship analog six hundred kilometers dead ahead."
Vorion hissed, his mind whirling. A fight was NOT part of what they had bargained for out here. "Inform the Consul at once and immediately engage stealth protocols and halt the fleet's advance. We may have already lost the element of surprise!" Vorion turned smoothly on his heel, striding towards the turbolift.
The door opened, and Quaestor Taigikori Aybara swept onto the bridge, his flight suit flapping behind him as he strode up to Vorion. The Coruscanti's voice was strained as he leaned close and whispered urgently into the Ubese's ear.
"I just scouted up ahead with Black Malice Squadron-"
"I know." Vorion cut him off smoothly, nodding as he watched the crew snap into action, the bridge lights dimming as the stealth protocols initiated. The distant roar of the massive vessel's engines began to subside audibly.
"You know that the cruiser up ahead is dead?" Taigikori inquired, staring hard and long at the dreadlocked Priest. There was a moment of silence between the two as Vorion's returned the stare curiously. "Dead?"
"Dead. As in. Not moving. Coralskippers, too. Floating dead in space. No signs of engagement, Vorion. No laser-scorched coral. Many of the vessels we saw are in perfect condition. Just....dead." Taigikori replied solemnly, his gaze unwavering.
Vorion's response was immediate as his face set into a grim mask of rancor. "A trap," he hissed, stalking again towards the turbolift with Taigikori on his heels.
"I suppose you know the Vong tactics better than I do.." Taigikori trailed off, his tone dubious as they entered the turbolift. Vorion shook his head ominously as he flicked his fingertips at the keypad, depressing a button telekinetically and sending the lift whooshing downwards.
"No. Not a Vong trap. A Sith trap."
The verbal silence was absolute. The Quaestor simply gaped for a moment before he recovered enough to incredulously hiss at his friend and overlord. "Lord Sarin?!"
Vorion nodded grimly, staring straight off into space. "My suspicion, at least. This is not a tactic the Yuuzhan Vong would employ. They would not maroon their sacred vessels in the void of space to float lifelessly. Something is amiss."
"That's insane!' Taigikori spit, staring aghast at the towering Krath.
"Is it?" Vorion shot back, his teeth baring in irritation. "Let us review; we've been ordered to go planetside on Antei, to fight an enemy that's apparently dead and broken, and our Dark Jedi cannot lead our own troops to assist us? We're covering the Iron Throne's forces?"
Taigikori turned to face the Proconsul head on, all but challenging him directly, his chin proud and high as he sneered at Vorion. "Listen to yourself. You're not making any sense. At all. One derelict warship analog equates a massive conspiracy to accomplish what?"
The turbolift hissed to a halt, and the two Dark Jedi strode slowly across the floor of the massive, bustling hangar bay. The usual bright florescent glare from overhead was dimmed, but despite stealth protocol, the frenzied preparations continued ceaselessly, and as mechanics, engineers, and pilots raced about at a whirlwind pace, Taigikori and Vorion were swept up on all sides by the machinations of war.
Raising his voice to make himself heard above the din, Vorion spoke again, his voice calmer now, more collected. "That cruiser may be the largest derelict we have discovered out here; it is not, however, the first. Same suspicious circumstances..." Vorion trailed off ominously, his eyes narrowing before he continued.
"He may well intend to dispose of any inconvenient Dark Jedi amongst us as he sees fit. We'd be down there alone and isolated amongst the Grand Master's own soldiers - whom, I might add, are known to be quite effective in combat against Dark Jedi. This is more than just a safeguard to ensure that the Clans do not take an ungainly opportunity to prey upon one another - or indeed, upon the possessions of the Iron Throne. This is quite possibly the Dark Lord of the Sith preparing to exact his vengeance for the misdeeds of the past."
Taigikori fell silent as they continued their inspections circuit in the hangar, finally reentering the lift and proceeding towards the level housing the Consul's quarters. His mind was reeling with the implications of the Ubese's theory. Finally he spoke into the relative silence of the turbolift, his tone flat and grim.
"Supposing you're right. Then we rebel against the Grand Master himself? We dare to strike at him before he strikes at us?"
Vorion shot a glance of utter disbelief at the Quaestor. "Absolutely not. We are loyal to the Iron Throne - eternally. Until we have evidence that we are targets of Lord Sarin's ire, we will do nothing more than be vigilant and watchful." he spoke with finality. "And if we are...well. We shall have a very interesting ultimatum. Assuming we survive."
Vorion laughed, a rare humorless snicker as they stepped out of the lift and began trudging down the long, dim hallway on approach to the Consul's chambers. "Until we know either way. We remain vigilant."
Eye of the Abyss II
On Approach to the Shroud
The Quaestor followed closely behind Vorion, their boots clicking on the metallic surface coming up to the Consul’s chambers. Vorion outstretched his arms, pushing both doors open and letting both of them inside. Sashar Arconae stood at the head of an oval table, looking at Vorion and Taigikori with pride as they strode in.
“M’liege...” Taigikori bowed to Sashar, his cloak displayed on the floor. “Sir, we have a situation.”
Vorion nodded in response to the Quaestor of House Qel-Droma, turning to his direct superior. Opening his mouth, he was cut short as three figures came in behind them. Xathia of Galeres, Legorii Entar, Aedile of Qel-Droma, and Strategos Entar, Aedile of Galeres. Each bowed their heads in respect and took their places around the room. Sashar ignored all of them save Strategos, turning to him.
“Begin the ritual. We move into the Shroud.” the Consul spat out to Strategos before turning back to the rest of his summit. “Now, what is this Vorion?”
“Sashar, the cruiser at our front is dead. Non responsive to communications, and there is no sign of confrontation by any weapons of war.” Vorion shot back to Sashar, looking him dead in his eyes.
“And you expect this to be the works of Lord Sarin, no doubt.” Sashar returning in kind as if by premonition. Vorion and Taigikori stood there for a moment with their mouths half way open before cloaking their outer expressions.
“That is…exactly what we were led to believe. Regardless, it will prove folly to act against the Iron Throne if this was indeed a Sith attack. We must proceed with the recapture of Antei as planned.” Taigikori exhaled loudly with every word, putting his point across the board.
Both House summit members looked at each other, each throwing each other looks of who would move first. Quietly in the back of the room, a low chanting was being murmured by Strategos. His hands flew into the air, cycling ancient Krath runes into the air and illuminating the surrounding space around him with a pale pink aura.
“The ritual is nearly complete. Return to your respected ships and await the command for light speed.” Sashar spat to all of his commanding summit members. He turned and closely watched Strategos, the reflection of the mist caught in the iris of his eyes. Blood will be spilled before we know it Sashar thought as the summit members left his chambers aboard the Eye of the Abyss II.
Coordinates for the Shroud Entered
At the left of the Eye of the Aybss II, the BAC Shadow steadily made it’s preparations for the final light speed. Taigikori looked out at the vast space that would soon be consumed in mere seconds, distanced traveled having equaled to be distance covered.
“Sir, we have the go to engage” an Ensign reported to the Quaestor, looking up at him from several ports of communications and navi-computers.
“On my mark…now.” Taigikori pointed at the window ahead of him, the stars turning into a maelstrom of lightning shards. He embraced the quake of moving through space and closed his eyes, holding in the moment. He let his hunger of the dark side feed on the bliss.
In-route to Antei
The Sakiyan paced around the small quarters he had been given for the duration of this trip. He was not traveling with his Rangers which was strange for him, but they were on a well deserved vacation and he did not begrudge them of that. Fresh from Arcona’s triumph in Dajorra they were relaxing and the Obelisk Templar lusted for more combat. It was not yet his time to lay arms, only to lay down anyone who stood in his clan’s path the glory.
The old mercenary felt nigh invincible having struck down so many of his enemies on Selen, enemies who Etah had thought were invincible. The Vong were defeated in Dajorra as they would be defeated on Antei. Brief flashes of combat entered his mind. He saw feet stomping ahead of him, he saw his own men fall. Etah got brief flashes of all the near misses that could have scarred him horribly or taken his life, but they didn’t upset him. He was elated to survive and to help bring victory to his clan.
But recapturing Dajorra was also a very tiring experience and now his eye-lids hung heavy. Like many in the Clan he was weary. He had his bumps and scrapes, his limbs felt heavy from extortion. His heart pumped hard to circulate the blood and the oxygen brought with it to the various parts of his body, because his heart and lungs felt as taxed and tired as the rest of his body. He would need a renewed vigor for the coming fight on the Brotherhood’s Throne world.
Etah sat back down onto his rack, laid back and closed his eyes. He loved the feeling of a vessel at hyper speed; it was like a full body message. He felt the vibrations all the way through his body. He often times took the opportunity to enter a very relaxing meditative trance, but now he just wanted to rest his eyes. He figured he would need it for the trials ahead. Recalling his recent victories, the Sakiyan drifted off into a comfortable nap with an overly satisfied grin on his face.
BAC Shadow, In Hyperspace
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
Jeric sat in the middle of his tiny chamber aboard the BAC Shadow. He had been meditating for the past hour, un-aware that ship was already en-route to the Shroud. For most young Journeymen having to fight in a war against an almost unbeatable foe knowing full well their life may be lost was nerve-racking. However for Jeric he was nothing new to war. He had fought before for his home planet’s Security Force and later as line officer for the Imperial Remnant. If anything Jeric was excited, this would be his first war as a trained user of the force. He was still unaware of the details surrounding the orders given by Lord Sarin, he only knew what his Quaestor would tell him, and his Quaestor only knew what the Counsel told him. In only a days time Jeric would be on the Surface of Antei fighting side-by-side with the Grand Master’s personal army.
“Jedi Hunter report to my chambers immediately!” the voice of Warrior Taigikori Aybara broke the deep meditation the Sith Journeymen was in.
He Jumped up from his meditation pad and head over to his computer terminal. “As you wish, Master.”
He threw on his cloak and headed out of his personal chambers. The halls of the BAC Shadow where filled with commotion, fellow Dark Jedi & military officers alike where hurrying about, coming in and out of various rooms and corridors. Jeric reached the nearest turbolift and called for it. As it arrive the doors open and he stepped inside. After punching in a few keys the lift was off to deck 3 section A3, where the Clan Summit’s Quarters where. A few seconds later the doors swang open and has Jeric rounded the corner he bumped into Priest Legorii Entar, Aedile for Qel-Droma.
“My apologies Priest Entar.”
“Don’t worry about it. And Good Luck, my friend.” he said with a pat on the shoulder & continued off down the hallway.
Good Luck, what did he mean by that? Jeric thought. The Jedi Hunter arrive at the chamber door of Warrior Aybara. He gave four loud knocks, and the door swung open a few seconds later. The Chamber was pitch black no doubt his Quaestor was using the power of blackness. Jeric walked a few meters into the dark chamber, then heard the doors slam shut behind him. He stood there for a few seconds until a voice broke the dead silence of the chamber.
“Strong in the force you are, but you are not a true Dark Jedi yet.”
“I should be my master.”
“And the fact that you aren’t makes you angry?”
“And your anger leads to hate, correct?”
“Yes and my hatred fuels my power!”
“THEN LETS SEE YOUR POWER!”
From out of no where the Sith Warrior jumped at Jeric light saber drawn the red blade stabbing right at his heart. Jeric just manage to roll out of the way. He regained his stance and activated his saber. But the Quaestor had disappeared into the darkness again.
“You lack true hatred. You are weak!”
“I am not!”
“Then show me!”
Again the Warrior jumped out of the shadows striking fast with complex combos at the very defensive position of Jeric. The Quaestor managed a hit the Sith Journeymen’s arm with a his last stroke. There was no taking this time only silence, but after 5 minutes the Sith jumped out again lashing at the helpless JedI Hunter. Why is he doing this, is this my trial or is he mad at me? Jeric thought as he tried his best to fend off the slashes from his Quaestor’s red blade. Then back into the shadows he went, only this time he return within second giving Jeric no time to situate himself. The Sith Warrior stab his blade into the Jedi Hunter’s leg and cut a deep gash down his right arm. Jeric fell to the ground in pain. He couldn’t believe what was happening, his master, his leader, was killing him.
Taigikori step from the shadows light saber still active. Jeric didn’t even bother to look up, he knew it was the end. “I wont beg for my life, strike me down and leave me with what honor I still have.”
The humming sound of the red blade drew closer to Jeric’s head. He could almost feel the heat of the blade burning the left side of his face. “Your progress has been slow, and your choices to purse your own power has made you weak in some eyes. But times have changed, and the dark side is now your ally.”
Sith Warrior Taigikori Aybara, Quaestor of House Qel-Droma raised his blade from Jeric’s left side and moved it over to his right shoulder and back again. “You may raise Knight Cyrin of the Brotherhood.”
Jeric couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His path to Knighthood was complete. He was a Dark Jedi Knight finally.
“Now return to your chambers. Construct a new lightsaber and prepare for war my good friend.”
With that Jeric turned and left the chamber, and returned to his. He now had a new drive and a new sense of pride and honor to guide him through this war safely.
Eye of the Abyss II
Transition to the Shroud
The door slid open and Timeros entered the room, face impassive as always.
While Strategos had only just moved into the Aedile’s quarters, the changes were already remarkable. The room had been given an extra lick of paint here and there, and Strategos had also –somehow- successfully moved nearly all of his considerable amount of memorabilia into the room. As a result, the room was now no longer Spartan, more closely resembling a tasteful penthouse than any ship’s quarters had any right to.
The cold Epis smiled as he dodged something small and fast-moving –he recognized the thing as an espionage droid –and came upon a clearing in the room’s center, where Strategos sat, mumbling arcane words as he steered the ship through the Shroud. Many adepts would have sat in Lotus position or a similar meditative pose. Strategos, instead, lay on his back, music playing in the background and an empty ashtray on a crystal glass table beside him.
“Morning, Tim,” he greeted his guest without watching. “Will you ever learn how to knock?”
The Epis shrugged, face still showing no emotion whatsoever. “You sensed me coming.”
“True,” the Aedile acknowledged. “But it’s considered polite to knock. And yes.”
Timeros raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, I really would like a drink from that wine bottle you’ve oh-so-cleverly hidden in the folds of your robes,” Strategos continued. “There’s glasses in the table’s drawers.”
Timeros nodded, reaching into the Force and opening one transparent drawer, pulling out a pair of wineglasses. He poured in two glasses of the rich, red liquid and set one down on the table beside Strategos, keeping the other to himself.
“Thanks, Tim. Would you, er, mind?” answered the Elder, glancing at the other side of the room. “I forgot to take one with me before I lay down here and it really wouldn’t do to break concentration right now.”
Timeros shrugged, reached out again. On the far end of the room, a box suddenly opened itself and a long, brown object flew out. In one fluid movement, Timeros ignited his lightsaber, simultaneously skewering the object and setting it alight as it zipped past him, settling into Strategos’ mouth.
“Ah…much better,” the former Consul nodded as he puffed on the expensive cigar. “Sure you don’t want one?”
Timeros shrugged, evidently meaning to say ‘If I’d wanted one, I would have taken one right now’.
“Oh well,” Strategos replied, taking the cigar from his mouth. “Health freak.” He reached for the wine and took a careful sip. The glass trembled slightly as he did. “Hmmm…this is good, but I don’t know why you bothered. I do have a liquor cabinet, you know.”
Timeros snorted, in his first outwardly display of emotion towards his old friend. “This stuff is pre-Ruusan. I had to steal it from a museum. That sip you just took is worth more than some people’s monthly salary. Are you all right?”
Strategos set down the glass. “I’m weary, Tim. I’m currently navigating the entire fleet through the Shroud.”
The Epis nodded as he pulled up a chair at the other side of the table, and reached for his own glass. “Of course. You are, by far the strongest man in the Summit since Sashar became Consul. They’re going to lean on your power disproportionally if they are going to pull through.”
Strategos nodded again. “Of course. So tell me…why are you here?”
Timeros watched his fellow Entar sharply. He could not tell the real reason, of course. If those dead warships are Sarin’s work, it’s not unlikely that he’ll have someone ready to disrupt our transfer, either. Strategos is one of the Arconae and our most politically active Elder. If anyone is a target for assassination, it’s him, and this provides the perfect opportunity to kill one of our strongest and maroon our fleet at the same time.
Of course, he did not tell Strategos his most paranoid thoughts. Nor did he need to. So, instead, he lied, “I figured you would enjoy some company. I know how bored you get during these rituals.”
Strategos sighed. He knew what Timeros was thinking, but there was no real reason to pull it out of him, either. Instead, he settled back again. “Like what I’ve done with the place?”
Timeros shrugged as he looked through the room again. “Bulkheads and chandeliers don’t match, Strat.”
“Hmmm…” puffed Strategos. “They don’t, at that.”
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
The quarters of a Tetrarch were marginally smaller of the Qel-Droma Quaestor, however Arcturus always found them uncomfortable. He had no room to move or explore; the monotony of the ship meant that he was acutely aware of every passage, corridor and tunnel. Prophecy Phyle had only recently retaken Estle City, and with it, Selen. Yet, the Summit saw fit to move out and continue forth towards Antei. Arcturus had been to Antei many times, though never with the purpose of reclaiming it from the hideous Yuuzhan Vong. The Archpriest's mind was cloaked in meditation, his frame sat squarely in the middle of the quarter, legs crossed and hands joined in a steeple. His thoughts lingered on his pose, if only for a moment, before drifting idly towards the past. He saw himself, Cyris Oscura and Mejas Doto, almost ten years ago - aboard an unmarked Lambda-Class shuttle. The Arcona fleet, as it was then, in orbit over Antei. Arcturus recalled Doto's tone; wonderment and, at the same time, dismay. Was it that he had left the Minos Cluster and all he knew? Was it that he would never again see New Imperial City, and Eos? Or perhaps, it was something entirely different. Mejas, was at the time, a Dark Side Adept. It was entirely possible he foresaw this grim day. When Antei would no longer be under the thumb of the Brotherhood, instead being subject to an alien race. Arcturus could not know. He focused on himself at that time; noting his youthful appearance, his unmarked and flawless body and the look in his eye. It seemed so earnest, perhaps even naive. If only he could warn himself, then, of what was to come.
The Tetrarch's mind gently glided to four years after their arrival on Antei. He saw Estle City at night, bathed in spotlights and fire. The Arcona Civil War - he and Demosthenes, locked in battle with Vassan Rokir for the soul of Clan Arcona. A single AT-AT behemoth working it's way through the city, blast bolts sizzling past himself as he and several young Jedi Hunters hurried through a network of streets towards their escape shuttle. It was coming... yes..., Arcturus remembered. The glass building that was to their left exploded, raining glass and debris down on top of them as the AT-AT continued it's dread march of victory. Two of the young Jedi were killed instantly in the blast, two more were left writhing in agony as their wounds disabled them entirely. The then-Quaestor could do nothing except run. Run for his very life. Arcturus focused on that emotion, allowing himself to be filled entirely with it. It was like despair, only greater. Sheer anguish at being forced from security and out into the void.
The Force guided Arcturus' meditation towards his last day in Estle City. It was a balmy, bright day. Dressed in the uncomfortable robes of Knight Envoy; so ornate and impractical - he hated them. His personal ship, a heavily-modified A9 Interceptor, idling in preparation for launch. Yes, Arcturus thought, I know this day. He saw himself crossing the landing platform, briskly walking towards his ship. Mejas Doto had forced he and Demosthenes to turn over their entire military force to the Clan Summit. The filthy Zabrak had ended their campaign to rid Arcona of Rokir's leadership. Instead, Demosthenes was forced into leaving for Satal Keto and Arcturus was stripped of his title and estates, save for Knight Envoy. He was ruined, but could still move to destroy Vassan politically. He saw himself stopping at the A9 Interceptor to swat away some annoying droid. The Archpriest felt a presence behind him, at the far end of the landing platform. Turning slowly, he saw Vassan Rokir, flanked by two MagnaGuards. The Human inclined his head slowly, his hood masking an evil smirk. The entire platform transformed into a bright orange flower of fire and smoke, the A9 Interceptor exploding in a huge cloud, Arcturus sent flying from the platform and into the fuel pits below, flames licking his entire body as his bones creaked and crushed from the impact.
He winced as the memory glided out of view, only to be replaced by himself at a medical centre on Antei, receiving his prosthetic leg. The cybernetic implant resembled a design borrowed from the famous Kaleesh warrior, General Grievous. Of course, it had been modified to look more human, but the apparatus was the same. His missing index and middle finger were replaced by implants also, these resembling claws more than fingers. The Archpriest took pride in his appearance; he had no need for implants or modifications to improve his physique. He detested the likes of Oberst for wilfully altering themselves for improvement. Now, it seemed, he was just like them. A sickening hybrid of organic and cybernetic. The anger swelled in him like a great vortex; he saw himself gripping the neck of some droid, lifting the head-unit clean off the shoulders, a spray of sparks lifting up from it as he cursed Vassan Rokir.
Just then, he felt a comm-link ping beside him. Slowly opening his eyes, Arcturus lowered his mind to interact with that which was around him, his meditation coming to a somewhat abrupt end.
"Yes?" he asked quietly, thumbing the comm-link. It was his apprentice.
"Sir, reporting as ordered." Marick answered.
"Good, good. Prepare yourself for landing. We'll be out of hyperspace fairly soon."
Arcturus replaced the comm-link on the ground, meditating for a moment on his final memory. The allegory, it seemed, was clear enough. Out of dismay and anguish, comes great vengeance. Arcona's victory over the Yuuzhan Vong was evidence enough. Prophecy Phyle had wiped the disgusting aliens from the face of Selen; they would not trouble them again. Now, however, it seemed as though they were called on again. But was it in the Clan's interest to help the Iron Throne? What benefit was there in doing so? Arcona was always more insular and withdrawn from the politics of the Brotherhood; it cared little for the machinations of the Dark Council, except only to heed it's commands. Perhaps, something was to be gleaned from his meditations earlier. Involvement with matters outside of his remit caused hardship; this may be true of Arcona's aid to the Grand Master. Interesting, he thought, as he stood to his full height. His body was stiff from his pose, however a few quick stretches and he would feel himself again. Calling his datapad to his outstretched hand, Arcturus quickly keyed in a message for the rest of Prophecy Phyle. They were to begin preparations for landing on Antei.
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
Kant Lavar lay in the bed in the room - cell, really - that he'd been assigned. He'd tried meditation, but somehow he was too keyed up. Plain sleep had proved equally elusive, and sedatives had held no appeal.
It wasn't hard to figure out what was bothering him. Part of it was that he hated to leave a job undone; while Lavar was certain that the mundane Arconan troops could finish the job of pacifying the Dajorra System without the Clan itself leaning over their shoulders (and probably would be happier doing it, for that matter), it still slightly bothered Lavar's sense of... professionalism, he supposed, to leave in the middle of a job.
But that wasn't the only thing. While Lavar wasn't some honor-bound type, especially not in a war situation, some things still went beyond the line for him. One of those was the use of bioweapons. Granted, it was probably the easiest way to get rid of the damn Vong and all the crap they had on Selen - and possibly to give Brotherhood science types the chance to poke around inside a few intact coralskippers, and whatever else was down there - but still...
Lavar tried to remind himself it was simple arithmetic; it would have cost a significant portion of the Arconan ground forces to eliminate every Vong soldier just in Estle City, let alone the rest of the system. Using bioweapons allowed the Clan to take their city with a minimum amount of friendly losses, and little risk of a Vong suicide squad in ooglith masquers hiding out in the city, waiting for a chance to eliminate the "dark jeedai."
Lavar rolled over and sat up, almost catching his head - again - on the small shelf over his bed. Damn this tiny room, anyway. Lavar picked up his camoflauge jacket and put it on, and slipped his tactical vest - replenished with fresh power packs and other expendables - on, but didn't seal it. He tied off the thigh holster for his DL-44, letting the belt hang open as well, and picked up his rifle and pack in either hand. Maybe a change of scenery was just what the EmDee droid ordered...
The earbug tied to his comlink bleeped, and an emotionless, synthesized voice came on. "Prophecy Phyle, report to landing bay and prepare for drop."
Well. A change of scenery was, apparently, what the Tetrarch ordered. Lavar slung his rifle over his shoulder, closed and sealed his vest, and attached the pack to the quick-release clips on his vest's back. For the second time in as many days, Kant Lavar was heading for war with his Clan, and woe betide the Vong who got in their way.
That is, assuming the Dark Lord and his council didn't have other plans for them... or that another clan wasn't laying a trap... Lavar shook his head. Politics in the Brotherhood were as convoluted and lethal as some he'd ever seen. Though the Guild, on it's bad days... Lavar idly patted his hand on his rifle. Well, let's just say that bounty hunters could be just as inventive in bad ends for their enemies as any Dark Lord of the Sith.
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
You're going to die, you know.
Zakath sat motionless in a meditative trance, his legs crossed with his thick tail curled around it on the expensive plush carpet that lined the floor in his small personal quarters on board the Shadow. Every once in a while, the tail gave a small twitch as he continued in his meditation, even as the voices continued to crawl within his skull, whispering promises and premonitions of death. It was something that he had grown used to over the years as he grew in power. At times in the beginning of it all, it was difficult for him to differentiate the voices from the Force premonitions, since he perceived both experiences in exactly the same way. But now he could tell the subtle differences that identified the voices as a separate entity from the warnings of the Dark Side. But even when they were discovered, they never ceased. And at times, he didn't want them to. They inspired dread and anger within him, and that proved to be useful tools to advance himself, even as it sometimes hindered him.
You will die by your own blade...
He could see it too; in a split-second vision that seared his eyes, he saw himself holding his favorite dagger at his throat. With one swift motion, he slashed himself, sending rivers of black blood bubbling out of his throat and mouth before the vision faded away. Opening his eyes, he took a deep breath, exhaling what seemed to be a thunderstorm to his ears. Clearly he wasn't gong to get any rest at this point. His eyes flickered to his desk, and the precious datapad that carried another piece of the puzzle that he hoped to solve within his lifetime. Reaching out with the Force, he sent the datapad flying into his hand. With a simple push of a button, he activated it and read the 3 lines of text for the nth time.
Your request for retrieval of this object has been completed.
Your payment has been noted, and your package is awaiting pickup at the usual location.
As always, my lord, it is a pleasure to serve you.
He smiled as he switched off the datapad. His agents has served him well in his quest, and they have been amply rewarded for each success. But this particular agent was well worth the astronomical prices he demanded for his services. Every item requested, he had never failed to obtain, and every assassination that he had been requested to perform, had been successfully carried out. And now, another piece of the puzzle was within his grasp.
His smile turned into a scowl as his eyes flared into a deep violet glow. The piece of the puzzle was within grasp, but not yet in his possession, because of the accursed Iron Throne. He cast a baleful glare at the wall, and beyond it, into the depths of space, trying to penetrate into Antei itself. He didn't know what the Grand Master's motivations were in wanting to retake the Antei system, and he didn't much care either. The various clans that made up the fragile alliance of the Brotherhood had responded to its lord's call, and now they were all bound for Antei.
The Barabel's scowl deepened as he glanced around his small quarters. He had not been pleased to have been recalled back to the Shadow so soon after their victory at Dajorra, having tired of being cooped up in the ship for so long. And now, because of a whim from the Grand Master, he was here again. He sighed deeply, feeling the air whistle through his razor sharp teeth as it flowed through it.
Antei will be your grave.
He hissed as the voices crawled within his skull. That, he refused to accept. He doubted that the Vong could even prevail against the entire might of the rejuvenated Dark Brotherhood Fleet. The only question that remained, as far as Zakath was concerned, was how long could the Grand Master maintain this fragile alliance before the clans inevitably turned on each other...
But before the Barabel could continue that line of thought, the communications terminal beeped, indicating a message incoming. Rising from his meditative pose, the Barabel reached his desk with one swift step, and switched on the terminal. A message from his Tetrarch, Arcturus. His lips twisted in contempt as he read the message. He would respond to his Tetrarch's bidding, and put up with him as he had done for the last few weeks.
But only for now.
En-route to the Shroud
The careful pattern of his footfalls was even failing to comfort him today. His chin was raised, but the air of confidence he projected was certainly not felt on the inside. Legorii took each step with exact precision, one foot in each block, toes pointed exactly thirty degrees outward. He had perfected this, mostly to combat the subconscious swagger that those individuals highly-placed in society sometimes develop. And Legorii had been given two hundred years atop Anzati society before being plunged into hell in Clan Arcona. The Cruiser was only now starting to fill with whispers of the derelict Yuuzhan Vong analog and its mysterious dead warriors. Legorii’s thoughts were still feverish with the reasons for this journey, the memories still fresh in his mind from Dajorra. Legorii was just an Acolyte when he had first encountered the Yuuzhan Vong, over three years ago…he had hated them. Hated them with all his heart. He simply could not wait to get his hands on one, given all that he had learned.
During the Incursion, as the loss of Antei had come to be called, Legorii had lingered on the fleet, doing what he could. He’d managed to escape the destruction of one of Arcona’s capital ships in an escape pod with a handful of other Journeymen, but the pod had crashed on the surface of Eldar. Together, with the few Journeymen that had survived that crash, a interstellar yacht was hijacked and able to run the meager blockade placed by the Vong. The horrors of the planet and naval combat had left Legorii tormented for months. He had felt waves of the same feeling back in the Dajorra System, and thought he had come to terms with it all. But now, about to be plunged once more into chaos at the bidding of the Grand Master, he was not sure he could handle it. He had to, for the sake of the Clan and House Qel-Droma. There were people counting on him, this time…
Legorii moved a hand to the touchpad next to the door of his quarters, his fingers a blur. He entered as the door slid back crisply, dropping a datapad on the desk positioned against the wall. His quarters were the most barren of all the Summit members, because he preferred to have no distractions. These quarters were not meant to be a place of solace, of comfort, for him. Whether he was here to sleep or attend to his duties, it would be without distraction or needless contemplation. Slumping onto the cot, Legorii rolled across it to get to the small table on the other side. He retrieved his lightsaber, Soulflayer, and clipped it to his black leather belt. He then decided against grabbing the few credits that were there, and moved on to the katana resting against the corner of the wall. He slid that into the sheath at his right hip. His BlasTech A280 had not left his side since he woke up, so he was now fully armed.
“Master.” The two syllables were uttered quietly, but the speaker knew his audience would hear them. Legorii turned, eyebrows raised, as he appraised his apprentice. Arador was standing with a bit of a cocky stance, but he would expect no less of a Jedi Hunter he had trained personally.
“Yes, Arador? Are you ready for what lies ahead? We are confronted by the unknown, yet I suspect the unknown harbors death and destruction at every turn.” The Priest was perfectly clear with the man who probably knew him the best, and he would be frank with him until the very end, be that in a few hours or a few decades.
Arador phrased his response careful, letting his eyes fall to the armory saber at his own hip. “I am ready, Master. This is what I have trained for, to serve the Grand Master and the Clan in destroying our most hated enemy, the Yuuzhan Vong.” Legorii nodded curtly in acknowledgement, retrieving the datapad he had put down and making it disappear into the folds of his Krath robes.
“Let us go to the bridge. Not much longer now…” The two strode side by side through the halls, all pattern and structure to walking forgotten. Legorii faintly wondered where his own Master was, then he recalled that he would be doing his duty as Elder, most likely guiding the fleet that Legorii took for granted. This really was a Clan effort.
The doors to the bridge hissed back as the two Dark Jedi moved to join the officers there. Dal Hodezan, Executive Officer of the BAC Shadow, stood at the forefront of the bridge, gazing out at the stars flashing by. Quaestor Taigikori was curiously absent, though Legorii guessed he was in his personal chambers attending to something. Surely that promotion he had mentioned would not take this long, though…
“Officer Hodezan, what news? Have any transmissions from the Abyss been received that I should be aware of?” Legorii crossed his arms over his chest and stood adjacent to the Executive Officer, scowling. He noticed Peter Ruddle, commander of Dark Sight Squadron’s bombers, standing off to the side listening.
“No, sir. Quaestor Taigikori has issued the final hyperspace jump, as you can obviously see, but that was the final go-ahead we received from the vessel. We have officers monitoring the arrays as we speak, of course. All squadrons are prepped in the hangar, and commanders are here on the bridge ready to be briefed.” Hodezan locked eyes with the Aedile, obviously not at all intimidated by the Anzat, who stood a fifth of a meter taller.
“I see. Well, I shall await the Quaestor, then.” Legorii turned to gaze emptily into the void, envisioning the conflict that lay ahead…
BAC Shadow, Hangar
En-route to the Shroud
A thin line of smoke rose into the air from the cockpit of the custom Ashira class fighter. Tyren, feet on the hud, smoked his cigarette with much delight. He came here to chill out for a time, after Selen he needed the rest. He could have done the same in his quarters, of course, but he preferred the hangar, much more illuminated than his quarters and he liked it, for a change.
Energetic footsteps echoed through the hangar, not unlike any other that did, the hangar was after all a lively place. They stopped, seemingly, in front of the ship.
"Sir!" a strong, deep bass said.
Tyren peeked out of the cockpit, a confused expression on his face. "Huh?!"
"I was ordered to tell you, we will be reaching the Shroud soon."
"Shroud?! What "shroud"?
"Well...the...Shroud of Antei...sir." the man replied with a somewhat puzzled expression.
"Oh...right, right...I knew that." Tyren encouraged himself. "Thank you. Dismissed."
Guess it makes sense. I always learn of big plans in the last moment.
He jumped down, cigarette still in his mouth. He stretched his back and strolled off toward the ships bridge to see what all the commotion was about.
Lieutenant Niles had a glassy look in his eyes. Decks below, Strategos Entar was reclining in his quarters, the minds of every Navigation and Helm officer in the Arconan Flotilla little more than extensions of his own. It was a dangerous undertaking. If the Adept even let his concentration wander for a second, their minds would be irreparably damaged.
“We’re approaching the Shroud proper now, Milord.” Commander Jaal reported quietly. It had changed to the besh shift just over an hour ago so that the aurek shift would be well rested when they arrived at Antei.
It had been risky approaching the shroud at lightspeed, yet the summit had agreed upon hearing Sarin’s orders that they would try their hardest to be the first clan to Ante – Strategos’s approval for this course of action had come by alluding to something about birds and worms. However, they could push it no further.
“Bring us out.” Sashar called over his shoulder, not turning from the viewport.
The swirling kaleidoscope of cyan and lavender abruptly faltered and formed itself into a diffuse brown smear filling the entire forward viewport array of the Eye of the Abyss. The shroud was getting thicker as the flotilla ventured further and further in.
“Oh look, more beige.” The Consul murmured to himself, already growing restless of the vista.
“Vorion, you got things handled up here?” Sashar asked his Proconsul, cracking his neck slightly.
The Ubese stirred slightly. “Of course.”
Sashar grinned and patted his right hand man on the shoulder as he passed him on the catwalk. “I’m going to check on Strategos.”
The Aediles’ quarters were awash with a thick haze emanating from the cigar being smoked by the Entar. The Mandalorian’s first impulse was to reach for his rebreather, but he quelled the urge. Barely.
“It smells like a power droid raped a jawa.” He commented, sitting heavily down on the one free chair.
“Are you sure you didn’t rape the jawa?” Timeros retorted, sipping from a glass cut from quarren crystal.
“Or the power droid?” Strategos added.
“How’s the ritual going? You ok?” Sashar ignored the barbs and turned straight to business.
“Oh I’m doing splendidly.” Strategos drawled, that everpresent sardonic smile not faltering under the strain he had to be feeling.
“You’re a di’kutla liar.” The Consul stated flatly, grabbing a cigar for himself.
“Undoubtedly. If I do reach such a state of inebriation that I can’t think my way through the shroud, I’ll of course make sure you’re the first to know.” He replied, patronisingly smug.
“It’s all very noble and vassal-like, you running to the Grand Master’s heel when he whistles after leaving us without support for these past three years.” Timeros commented.
“I see it as being part and parcel of the Brotherhood. There’ll come a point when the clans are rewarded for their loyalty. I imagine it’ll be good, and wouldn’t want to miss out just because we’re sulking.” Sashar reasoned, almost to himself.
“Oh we few, we happy few...” The Adept intoned, mock formality in his voice.
“We band of buggered.” Timeros finished, taking another swig from his glass.
“We’ll be fine. We’ve got shiny new fleets, and there’s a shabla LOT of us-“
“[Bridge to the Consul. We’ve spotted another Vong destroyer directly in our path].” Commander Jaal’s voice reported over the intercom.
“I’ll be right up.” He answered shortly and rose to leave.
“I hate to say I told you so-” Timeros began, but was cut off by the Consul.
“Okay, sound out. What’ve we got?” The Consul called out as he swept out of the turbolift into the communications foyer.
“One Miid ro’ik. It’s listing badly, but is still manoeuvring. She’s turning to face her, however we can’t detect any living coralskippers in the vicinity.” Jaal answered promptly.
“What do you think?” the Mandalorian asked his Proconsul.
“It’ll slow us down...” he cautioned.
“We owe them for Dajorra.” Sashar retorted, and Vorion nodded, sighing.
“Raise shields. Slow to one quarter. Launch The Avengers and order them to strafe the destroyer. Targeting, I want you to keep an eye on where their functional hardpoints and dovin basal emplacements are. We’ll be picking them off when we pass.” He called out and the bridge became a riot of activity.
Barely two minutes later 36 TIE Avengers swarmed from underneath the matte black destroyer and cut through the space separating the two capital ships. A feeble gout of plasma came from one of the yaret kors, and only three dovin-basals sprang up to soak the fire doled out by the Avengers.
“You get that?” Vorion asked the sensor officer, who nodded and relayed the data to the tactical network shared by all of the capital ships in the Arconan flotilla.
“Captain Tenzo, concentrate fire on the dovin basal emplacements. We’ll deal with the plasma emplacement.” Sashar called over the fleet-wide tactical feed to the Last Light’s Captain, who’s armament could easily rival the Abyss’s.
An affirmative came back, and a moment later a torrent of green fire poured out from behind the Star Destroyer, pummelling the Miid ro’ik’s dovin basals. It quickly overloaded the black holes thrown up desperately to protect the ailing ship, and the precision gunners set to work taking apart the dovin basal emplacements themselves. In twenty seconds it was over.
“Okay, move us into range and fire. Concentrate on the yaret kor, then target the structural weakpoints.” Vorion ordered, almost feeling disappointed that they hadn’t put up more of a fight.
In less than five minutes the Arconan flotilla had gutted the once-mighty ship and were moving through the flotsam, back on their way.
“That wasn’t a fight.” Sashar sounded vaguely disgusted.
“Let’s hope the rest of the operation’s that easy. We’ll be done overnight and can get back to getting Dajorra into order.” Vorion replied, forcing optimisim into his voice. It definitely didn’t suit him.
BAC Darkest Night – Blue Mist Barracks
In the Shroud
Tirano was wrestling in the training room with Rusty, both of the young warriors were performing drill after drill in perfect harmony. They had to be in perfect shape, for when they arrived, they could not afford to be sloppy or inaccurate. This was one of the last opportunities they would have to train and not fight to death. After all, failure meant death against the Vong.
Suddenly the commlink buzzed and Rusty lost his concentration for a mere second, in which Tirano continued with his drill and made his partner stumble backwards.
“War has many distractions brother, you must pay attention to your battle and enemies, failing to do so will result in your destruction."
Tirano moved towards his robes and checked the commlink. A new message had arrived, his commander had ordered all Blue Mist members to be ready in 30 minutes to listen to the battle plan. The young Krath Priest picked up his belongings and parted from the training room next to his companion Rusty, who was shaken by the punch Tirano placed in his chest.
Later, Tirano was in his barracks fixing his fresh robe to look formidable for the meeting, a memorable occasion, because the Vong would fall if he played his role and the battle plan would define that. Tirano picked up his saber and placed it at his right side, a formidable weapon, matching with his robes and order. A purple claw lightsaber, he would make sure the Vong feared that color, the last thing the Vong would see before they fell at his feet. “Enough idling here, though, let’s go." Tirano left the barracks at a quick but confident pace to meet JS and the rest of Blue Mist in the conference room.
BAC Darkest Night-Mess Hall
En-route to Antei System
Archer sat at one of the tables in the mess hall, his eyes fixed on the tray of what he’d like to have assumed was a nutritious meal. In one hand he held a small utensil, bringing it to his lips as he forced down a bite. His hunger escaped him, his mind racing everywhere and nowhere as his other hand tapped anxiously on the table. Surely there could have been a dozen things to do, but he just couldn’t think of any. Instead, he convinced himself that this might be one of the only chances to get a decent meal in. Maybe even his last meal.
This was the first war, what he was told would be a war anyway, that he'd ever been involved in and he didn’t have a clue as to what to expect. In fact, the expression on his face shined with an obvious lack of experience. He was used to being told where to go, what to do. He was certain once they arrived at the system that would all change. There would be orders to follow, objectives to achieve. He sighed at the thought before taking another bite. It was better then doing nothing.
ACO Archer Merchant (Krath)/Galeres of Arcona [ACC: INI]
ISD Eye of the Abyss II
En-route to Antei.
Not, mind, because of any actual emergency. After encountering the Vong ship, the rest of the day had been entirely uneventful. However, when a passing Journeyman had commented on the pungency of Strategos’ cigar, the Adept had cleverly retaliated by extinguishing the thing into the corridor’s fire alarm. They both ignored the sprinklers, mostly by telekinetically preventing the drops of water from touching them.
“That blue-skinned freak!” Strategos swore. “That irascible, intolerable, disagreeable, venal, venomous, senile, crotchety, viciously virulent baleful irritable unstable psychopath of a Zabrak!” To his credit, and despite his advanced state of inebriation, his voice wasn’t even slightly slurred.
“Oh well,” Timeros commented as he strolled along the corridor with Strat, not entirely certain of their direction. He was sure they had intended to visit the Mess Hall, but neither Entar had much of an inclination to try and confirm their heading. “At least you don’t have to guide the fleet anymore.”
“And now I’m without my apartment!” Strategos protested. “Where do I sleep?”
The Zabrak had come into Strategos’ apartment unannounced half an hour ago, seemingly appearing out of nowhere –as the Jedi Master was apt to do. He had complained, loudly, about the shoddiness of Strategos’ guidance, claiming that the Adept’s inebriation ‘is giving me the worst headache since I last visited the Amicus club!’. Without further comment, he had all but literally kicked the pair out of Strategos’ quarters and taken over the guidance himself, all the while mumbling about ‘irresponsible leadership’ and ‘criminal negligence of duty’.
Timeros shrugged. “Were you planning to sleep in the first place?”
“No…but it’s the principle of the thing, dammit! I should be allowed to sleep in my own quarters!”
An idea flourished in the Epis. “Just wait,” he said, looking at one of the doors. The letters were dancing in front of him, so he could not accurately see who owned the quarters…but from its meager size he was pretty certain it belonged to some Journeyman or something. “You want to go to bed?” he asked, just to be certain.
“Uh…sure,” Strategos replied, now somewhat curious.
The Epis reached into the Force, mind touching the complex lock of the door…and then, when he found the mechanism, he yanked on it hard. With a mechanical crunch, the door slid open. “Voila. Your bedroom.”
Strategos peered inside the darkened thing. “No one there,” he said, after confirming his guess through the Force. “But whose is this, anyway?”
“Dunno,” Timeros replied. “Probably some Journeyman. If they get inside I’m sure you can take them.”
“…Fine,” Strategos commented. “It’s a little small but it’ll have to do.” With a quick twist of the Force, he slammed the door behind him, fusing shut the mechanism to prevent from being disturbed.
Timeros sighed, and then reached into the Force himself, attempting to detoxify the alcohol in his bloodstream. As always, when his sobriety returned, his expressionless face reasserted itself, and he felt a momentary surge of shame at having gotten drunk in the first place.
Then, with quick steps, he moved to his own room, ready to get a good night’s sleep.
BAC Darkest Night
En-route to Antei
Glints of patterned light danced across the cabin ceiling, reflecting off the writing tool being thoughtfully twirled between the fingers of the white-haired Krath, her violet-gray eyes lost in thought as she stared toward the roof, laid back on the small cot that was her bed in the tiny cargo vessel Silver Flight. One knee was bent, her booted foot resting casually on the simple covers, the other leg half hanging off the side of the mattress, her journal splayed open across her torso as she ran her fingers through her short locks, blowing a heavy sigh from between her lips. A half written journal entry was scrawled across the unlined pages, her script neat and graceful from years of refinement and practice, as tiny and precise as she was.
Something about the whole set up felt wrong to the Jedi Hunter. Her self preservation instincts alone were enough to make her grimace at the knowledge that the only back up she would have would be a Clan of people with which she was entirely unfamiliar with.
Sitting up and setting the journal momentarily aside, Tirna swung her feet down to the floor, leaning forward to cup her chin in her palms, her brow furrowing even as she reached up to massage her temples, meditating lightly.
She had felt disturbances in the Force before. They were something that was simply a matter of course that one came to accept as they matured in the Force. But since she had returned to the Dark Brotherhood -- and more notably Arcona -- their frequency and intensity had increased exponentially. It did not sit well with the Krath.
Not well at all.
Her visions had been just as confusing. Perhaps it was her more recent efforts to find herself within the Abyss. Like a moth to the flame she had found herself inexorably drawn toward this strange entity -- if the Abyss could be termed such a thing -- and seeking to learn more from her precious tomes of lore that might guide her further in her quest for enlightenment and direction.
Her visions had only become more disturbing as time went on, causing the then Galeres Aedile to seek further and deeper seclusion as she tried to ascertain the meaning of these bizarre portents as they grew stranger and more abstract as time went by. In the end she found herself unable to focus on the mundane duties of Aedile and tendered her resignation. She hadn't been terribly happy about the decision, but it seemed that the Force was -- no pun intended -- forcing her hand in this regard.
So now here she was sitting, with few answers, more questions, and even less direction.
Her hands dropping from her temples she finger herself twirling the pen absently as her thoughts wandered, trying to make connections where she could, feeling the familiar depression creeping in on her awareness as she probed within herself. It had become her near-constant companion in these past few years, but in what would surely be a battle for her life it had no place -- or use -- to her now.
She brushed it aside.
Picking up her journal, the dark Jedi returned to her reclined position, contemplative as she chewed on the end of her writing tool. Chuckling suddenly, she sat up, leaning over her journal as she began to write again.
Is it better to live in ignorance, or face death in the pursuit of knowledge?
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
It was now Arcturus' twenty-seventh hour without sleeping. In that time, he'd meditated, killed about ten Yuuzhan Vong warriors personally and countless others indiscriminately, considered making some alteration to his living quarters and decided that once all this was over, he was going to have a long, well-earned sleep. The hum and noise of the starship in travel was keeping him awake; the constant throb of the engines and turbines whirring meant he couldn't relax. Slowly turning over in his cot, he looked across the quarters that had been assigned to him and sighed. Such was his transient existence, the Archpriest didn't really have a place he specifically called home. After all, he was born on an Imperial-I Star Destroyer in high orbit over some remote planet called Bortras. He'd yet to see the planet again, but it was named in almost all dossiers pertaining to him as his homeworld. In his fourty-five years, he had lived on Mantessa, Eos, Berchest, Coruscant, Averam, Nal Hutta and a few others he couldn't remember. This, he decided, was the longest he had spent since childhood living on a capital ship.
Throwing his legs over and lowering his head down to force himself awake, he stood up briskly and dressed himself. There wasn't any point in lounging around here. The Tetrarch had sent orders to Prophecy about an hour ago to ready for landing on Antei. At the moment, he couldn't place how far along the ship was on it's course. Inhaling sharply, his mind felt out through the stars to his location. Hyperspace. Naturally, he thought. It seemed Sashar's intent was to block anyone from knowing how they planned to enter the Antei System. Only precautionary, he considered. Rolling his shoulder quickly to unknot a muscle, the Archpriest keyed for door release and entered the plain-grey corridor with it's low-lighting fixtures. The XO, Dal Hodezan, was nowhere to be seen. Most likely on the bridge, Arcturus thought. Just then, he felt a twinge. Somebody was close. Instinctively, he checked for his lightsaber and readied himself. The presence felt like hydraulic oil; thick, black - and something alien to it. It could only be Zakath.
"My Tetrarch..." the Barabel hissed.
Arcturus' back was facing him, letting out a small curse under his breath as he turned.
"I have begun my preparations." he continued, his tail whipping lightly as the Barabel spoke.
"Very good, Zakath. Very good." Arcturus replied, his eyes searching Zakath's impassive stare.
The Barabel seemed... disturbed. He's always like that, Arcturus considered. This time, however, it was different. As if something was beginning to move within him outside of his control. The Archpriest knew better than to probe his mind. As a Jedi Knight, the Barabel was no doubt aware of the various methods that could be used to block such enquiries, and it was something of a gentleman's agreement in Arcona that it be curtailed amongst their own.
"Visions, Xyler. I have visions." Zakath said, speaking into the momentary silence between them.
Arcturus let out a low response, nodding his head in agreement.
"You have them, too, I take it." the Barabel added.
"I see the past." Arcturus added, softly.
"I see the future."
"But is the future we want? Or the future we have if don't get what we want?" the Tetrarch asked, thoughtfully.
"My meditations are such that I do not focus on time as a relative matter."
"No?" Arcturus said, his eyebrows raised in suprise.
"I focus on destruction. Of the Force, itself."
Arcturus said nothing for a moment, studying the Barabel intently. He was quite the paradox, this one. In order to destroy the Force, he used it for meditative purposes and to enrich himself and his being.
"One might think that's cross purposes." Arcturus challenged.
"Not at all. You study your quarry for deeper knowledge of it. I study the Force for deeper knowledge, and how to end it."
"You'll fail. Many have tried."
The Barabel smiled, those hideous scars of his stretching up across his cheeks. "The Jedi say that one should do or do not, for there is nothing in trying. I intend to do it, not to try."
With that, Zakath continued on on his way down the corridor. Arcturus watched as the Barabel rounded the corridor, his tail licking up and following along. What a hideous creature, Arcturus thought.
Marick sat on his bed, his portable computer opened and resting on his lap. The Protector wore a white sleeve-less shirt and loose fitting pants, seeming very relaxed in his small quarters. Surprisingly, the downsize from his bedroom at his mothers estate was a pleasure to him. He felt independent, like it was his space and no one else. There was less empty space for junk to accumulate. It was new to him, which probably made it all the more enjoyable.
"You killed one of them?" A female voice echoed from the computer. On the screen, the face of a beautiful woman leaned forward, brushing strands of her flowing auburn-red hair from her face to reveal a pair of sparkling blue eyes.
Marick just grinned confidently, looking back into his computer screen. He had grown up around woman, all of which where quite pleasing to look at, but there was just something special about Amber that bypassed any of the Hapan noble's defenses. He had to pinch himself occasionally to remind himself that he wasn't dreaming, and that this actually was his fiancee.
"Three and a half actually," he said, absently glancing down to examine his finger nails.
"I took out this really ugly one's knee-caps and was about to finish him off, but one of my squad-mates decided to take it's head off with a bolt from his Assault Rifle..." The Protector replied, silently making a note to repay the favor to Kant on their next mission.
Amber bit her lip. "You're not hurt, are you?
Marick's smile remained bold as he lifted up the bottom of his shirt, showing off an unscathed physique. Amber just shook her head, letting out a faint laugh. "Show off..." Marick's smile faded slowly, his eyes averting to the side.
"We lost a few good soldiers...but I guess I just proved to be too good for those ugly Vong. Modesty aside, I am lucky to fight alongside experienced and talented warriors. I thought that the Dark Jedi would be self centered, but there really is a reason it's called the Brotherhood."
"So you like it there?"
"I didn't at first, but I think that they except me as a fighter now, and I got a medal for my mission in getting the power back on during an fake-internal attack on our base." He added with a sigh, "I doubt the teasing of my background will ever cease though."
Amber just giggled, shaking her head. "And what of this 'Master' of yours you mentioned?"
"Oh, Arcturus Xyler?" Marick rolled his eyes, coughing into his hand. "He's good. Efficient, cold, feared, and well respected. Real good."
"So why are you rolling your eyes...?"
"...He's not exactly the most nurturing mentor. He's yet to give me one compliment, is always yelling at me and messing with my head. I know it's all for my own good...but sometimes he can be a real prick, and I just want to rip his-"
Marick's voice cut off as his senses detected an ironic presence standing in the doorway to his quarters. His eyes looked up and his face whitened a shade.
"Rip his what, Mari'?" Amber's voice questioned.
A slight flush crossed the Hapan Noble's cheeks as he angrily whispered, "I told you not to call me that here...I have to go now I'll talk to you later." He paused, and through in a quick, "I love you," before slamming his computer shut and springing to his feet to salute the figure standing in his doorway.
"M-Master!" The Protector sputtered, standing at attention.
Arcturus Xyler stepped into the dim light of the room, his face passive, eyes bloodshot, though he seemed to be at full alertness.
"At ease." The Archpriest said calmly. "If you didn't want to rip my head off, I wouldn't be a very good teacher."
Marick looked down at the ground. "Yes, sir."
Arcturus studied his pupil, and wasn't sure exactly why he had come. Perhaps his encounter with Zakath, the lack of sleep, and the restlessness of being cramped up on a ship where all wearing at him. Regardless, he felt a need to address his apprentice.
"I'm not going to hold your hand and pamper you like a child, and I'm certainly not going to pat you on the back every time you mange not to mess something up, " the Tetrarch explained. "But I promise you," he continued, "everything I do has a purpose, and I will shape you into the finest warrior you can be. You just need to want it bad enough."
Marick looked up, his face determined. "Ready and willing, sir." he replied evenly, confidence ringing in his tone.
Arcturus remained quiet and nodded his head, turning on his heel to leave. "Glad to hear it," The Archpriest called over his shoulder. "Get your gear ready. You're going to get a chance to repay Kant for that kill he "stole"."
Marick bowed slightly but then stiffened quickly. "Wait...you where listening the whole-"
"Standby for orders, Mari'" The Tetrarch replied, the door to Marick's quarters sliding closed at the wave of a hand. The hapan stood there for a moment, fist balled. He sighed helplessly, shaking his head, praying that his fiance's pet name for him wouldn't become widespread knowledge.
The Galeres Quaestor sat back in a seat, picking at a bowl of cherries as the woman read over something that had been landed on her desk, no doubt by a crew member who sought her approval for something or other. Sighing, her pale hand grasped at a now empty bowl. Xathia muttered under her breath as the Priestess went back to reading the thick document, drowning out the usual sounds of the ship in the room as she started to sink into the seat a little.
A knock at the door disrupted the atmosphere like a sharp knife. Grumbling, the human opened the door, and leant against it, silently inviting an immediate explanation from the quivering Novice who was stood before the Krath Equite. Her arms were folded as the male Twi'lek stuttered out something inaudible.
Feeling her patience lessen, the tired Quaestor snapped. "Spit it out, I have enough to be doing without standing in doorways waiting for an explanation as to an interruption."
"There's someone in my bed!" he squawked, before cowering a little, his shoulders slumping forwards and his arms crossed in front of his torso as though afraid the human would physically attack.
"Ugh, where's your bed, and why didn't you find the Aedile or someone lower in the chain to deal with this?" Her com-link went off, suddenly. "Yes?"
"Xath, Timeros and Strat have been stalking the corridors apparently after they've been having a get together of theirs-"
"Ok, I'll find them and take their alcohol or something once I've tipped out someone from this bedroom." The Priestess answered, feeling drained and a little annoyed. Despite the lack of major movements, there seemed to be enough going off to keep her continually busy.
Stalking down the damp corridor, the Equite was faced with the Novice's door. Why the sprinklers had been going off seemed a bit odd, but she had some feeling it was to do with the old pairing of Timeros and Strat. Forcing the door open, the Twi'lek had kept his distance, and was leant against the opposite wall. Stepping through into the cramped room, Xathia smirked broadly at the sight of a passed out Aedile. Shooing the Journeyman away, and telling him to find another room to sleep, the human kept the door ajar before turning back to the sight that was Strategos.
"Might as well have some fun whilst we're here." She murmured before sitting on top of the Adept, and waiting for him to come back to consciousness.
En-route to the Shroud, Antei System
Zakath’s mind was replaying the encounter with his Tetrarch, wondering at the significance of Arcturus’ latest words. Ever since their first encounter prior to the retaking of the Dajorra system, he had regarded Arcturus as a deadly enemy and mentally treated him as such. The Tetrarch was an Archpriest in the Krath Order, and therefore was accorded a measure of grudging respect that Zakath otherwise would not have granted to enemies that scarred his scales.
He grimaced as he stroked the fresh scars that extended from the corners of his lips upward onto his cheeks. He had not expected such a violent reaction out of himself from merely meeting his new master. But there was something significant about Arcturus that his mind had yet to decipher. And so he kept watch, observing and analyzing the Tetrarch’s movements and words.
Apart from the obvious disgust that Arcturus exuded whenever the two met, there was another reaction from him that he had found exceedingly odd. Zakath could not immediately pinpoint the exact reaction that his presence was provoking and had spent considerable time in meditation, pouring over their previous encounters within his mind before he realized what he was bringing out in the Tetrarch; a extreme sense of wariness.
The discovery had produced a sense of amused confusion in him, something that the Barabel scholar was not used to feeling. Of course the discovery of a feeling close to actual fear brought amusement to the Barabel, after all, who in the Brotherhood didn’t like being feared? But to provoke such a reaction in an Archpriest of the Krath Order, that was something else entirely. And he wasn’t sure precisely why he was provoking such a sense of wariness in someone as powerful as Arcturus. He was, after all, only a Dark Jedi Knight, not yet fully initiated into the mysteries of his Order. And even his stated goal of bringing the Force down, that had only brought derision from the Tetrarch.
So, Zakath wondered, what was so fearsome about himself as to bring out a sense of wariness on Arcturus’ part? The human was well versed in the Krath arts to crush him like a bug should he feel like it. Something was definitely not adding up, and he wasn’t happy about it.
He blinked as he suddenly noticed Arcturus emerging from a side door, stalking off with an amused look on his face. He looked around and realized that during his musings, he had ended up in the journeymen’s quarters. Curious as to what brought amusement to the Tetrarch, he strode over to the door that Arcturus emerged from and took note of the nameplate attached to it. Ah, the Tetrarch’s new apprentice, the Hapan nobleman. He knocked heavily on the door, and within a few seconds, the door slid open, revealing a young human male with what appeared to be an irritated expression on his face.
“Can I help…” The man’s face whitened as he took stock of his new visitor and craned his head up to look at Zakath’s face. “…you?” He finished lamely as he took a step backwards, his hands looking as if it was itching for a blaster to hold.
“Do you know who I am?” Zakath asked, letting his face twist into something resembling a smile, a look that most people considered demonic.
“You’re the Barabel that Master Xyler doesn’t like.” The Protector replied before a horrifed look crossed his face. “Um… I meant that-”
“No, you’re quite right.” Zakath said, amusement dripping from his tone. “Your master doesn’t like me. Nor do I, him, although I’m still trying to figure out precisely why.”
GET AWAY FROM HIM!
The Barabel reeled suddenly from the chorus of voices that had suddenly erupted from within his head.
GET AWAY FROM HIM! HE WILL KILL YOU! MURDER YOU AND DEFILE YOUR BODY! KILL HIM! KILL HIM NOW!
With every ounce of willpower that he possessed, Zakath forced the Voices into a mental closet and slammed the door shut. He was surprised at this latest outburst. He had never heard such fear from the Voices before. This was something to look into. Meanwhile the Protector was staring at him, a confused and frightened look crawling onto his face as he stepped even more backwards from the mentally unbalanced Barabel.
“Well now…” Zakath hissed finally as he regained his composure. “That was unexpected. Your name is Marick, isn’t it?”
“Y-yes.” The Protector stuttered, his eyes wide.
“Well, Marick, my name is Zakath,” The Barabel introduced himself before continuing on. “And you have just acquired my immediate and undivided attention.”
"Hello." Marick replied slowly. "I would say it is nice to meet you, but I don't think we both would believe that."
"Very courteous of you to tell the truth." Zakath smiled. "Truth is a rarity in this... Brotherhood... of ours."
"I would imagine so." The Hapan replied slowly. "Not to be offensive, but is there anything you want?"
"I was going to ask what you did to amuse our dour little Tetrarch..." Zakath said, his arm muscles rippling with tension at the mention of Arcturus' title. "But there's about you that has an impact on the Voices..."
"The... Voices?" Marick asked, a confused look on his face. "What Voices?"
"The ones in my head, of course." Zakath hissed quietly. "The ones that never go away. You just provoked a very interesting reaction that I have never seen in them before. They want you dead. And I want to know why."
Before Marick could even begin to compose a reply, both his and Zakath's communicators beeped. When they opened them, an automatic message played out, informing them to assemble in the briefing room immediately.
"We will talk more about this later." Zakath hissed. "Whatever impact you have on the Voices, it interests me."
With that, he left, whisking himself away as quickly as he arrived.
BAC Darkest Night
On Approach to Antei
The young Krath Priest was standing around the table with all of Blue Mist next to him. The table was displaying a holographic map of Antei. Tirano could distinguish the Hall of Immortals from the map. He could remember how long ago he had visited the holy grounds in order to expand his knowledge. This was going to be hard for Blue Mist, from what he could tell there were many unknown factors in the map, including the fact that he couldn’t even see the exact numbers of the enemy. This was bad, very bad. Tirano never liked fighting unknown odds, and he liked it even less when they were Vong. The retreat had left scars on all the Dark Jedi, everyone could remember how the army had fled in chaos. Now, they were back to reclaim what was theirs, but they did not know how many Vong they were going to face. This was slightly unsettling, but the Force would guide them in this dangerous mission.
Blue Mist, being an aerial squadron, focused on the air defense of their transport troops, a mission he wasn’t looking forward. Tirano remembered some volcano-like weapons from the previous war, weapons that had taken many fighters down, many good soldiers. Now, it would be different. The A-9 fighters were fast and the pilots were properly trained. The roles had changed now, the Dark Jedi where going to attack the Vong, and hopefully the surprise attack would gain them an advantage that would win the war.
The other Blue Mist members were clearly nervous, because for most of them it was their first war. The first time they would actually fight the Vong, the first time that they would be outnumbered by the enemy. Tirano knew JS had trained them well, and he knew that the Dark Jedi would give the Vong a heck of a fight before they went down. It was a shame, however, that they didn’t have better equipped fighters. He wished he could use a B-Wing or a heavier fighter instead of the pitiful A-9. One hit would mean death, a slight mistake would take the life of his companions. However, the ships would not win the war, it would be the pilots sending the Vong to their graves.
‑“Well, boys, the time has come. This is what is we are going to do….” JS began to point at the map while he gave the different instructions with a holographic representation of their forces.
“We’re facing what?” Incredulity was rife in the Consul’s voice. The Fleet dispatch officer on the other end of the holonet transmission merely shrugged in helplessness.
“Lord Consul, I’m merely relaying orders. The Vong are gone and there are Battle Droids on the ground – a lot of them. Arcona’s orders are to escort the Army of the Iron Throne into battle. Specifically, Operation Veermok.” He repeated himself, patience clearly strained.
The Consul sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose – a very non-mandalorian mannerism. “Very well, I take it exact co-ordinates will be transmitted. Thanks.”
“So, despite Strat being drunk at the helm, we made it safely, ready to lay a ton of hurt on the scarheads...and they’re not even here?” Vorion surmised.
“Pretty much. Relay orders to the troops once the Nightfall transmits them and get ready to go down with the first wave.” Sashar ordered.
“You’re not leading the charge? How very...Oberst of you.” The Ubese replied as he tapped into his datapad.
“I need to address the clan and tell them we’ve been vong-blocked.”
“Well, whaling on antique hardware beats whaling on pointy fanatics with curious ideas about social genetics.” Vorion murmured, not looking up from the datapad.
“By the way, where IS Strat?” Sashar asked as he headed down the catwalk towards the communications foyer.
“Last I heard he was commandeering some kid’s quarters, as Mejas decided to uproot him. Xath said she was on top of things, though.” Vorion called after him.
A few moments later, the Consul’s voice reverberated throughout the corridors and compartments of every ship in the flotilla.
“My friends, We’ve arrived...only to find ourselves faced with a different foe. The Yuuzhan Vong are gone, so our orders have been modified. We will still be leading the Iron Throne’s Ground forces along with the other clans, however Operation Veermok, as it has been dubbed, will involve us launching an all-out offensive on an entrenched site just north-east of the DB landing zone. Our main antagonists in this conflict will not be the Yuuzhan Vong, but rather legions of antique B1 battle droids. The numbers involved lead us to suggest ground-based control units, which we will aim to eliminate early on. Blue Mist will be running air support for the drop ships getting us on the ground via the LAAT/i’s, and from there will transfer to speeders and act as our cavalry. Soulfire will accompany the Proconsul in the first wave, and Prophecy will be my honour guard. We launch within the hour. Arcona Invicta.”
It was short, succinct, and to the point, but with time of the essence, he didn’t wish to indulge in theatrics and try to re-bolster his clan’s spirits after finding out that their revenge on the Vong would not be in this fight. They’d have to save that for later.
Orbit of Antei
"You have got to be kidding me?!" Tyren's yaw opened so wide the Advozse Commander swore he'd swallow him whole.
"B1 droids!? What is this, the Clone Wars?"
"I wouldn't know, Atema. Still, lord Consul gave us an order, we are to follow it, no?" said Hodezan even as he himself felt the aggravation over the matter. The revenge over the Vong replaced by a bunch of antique droids isn't exactly what he expected.
"True! So we shall." Tyren said looking out the viewport at the famed planet. He never had any kind of feelings for the place, sure he served on Antei as Magistrate and Praetor to three Heralds but he couldn't care less for the barren, lifeless rock the Brotherhood calls home. Even so, he decided the partake in this ordeal, if anything, for his clan's sake.
Orbit of Antei
Etah sat in a common area twiddling with his rifle for no apparent reason. The news had already spread across the ship but Sashar had yet to address the issue. They were no longer fighting the Vong, they were fighting droids instead. The Sakiyan cocked his head to the side and momentarily wondered which would have been better. The Vong were an unstoppable force of mutant warriors, but they were biological and because of that the Brotherhood had also found them to be eminently stoppable. Now droids were a quick fight if you had ion weapons, something in short supply considering they had planned to assault a force of beings that eschew technology.
The old mercenary rose and began traveling down a corridor. In the past the Obelisk Templar had served with his Ranger’s and stuck with the Army, away from the politics and power games of his fellow Dark Jedi. But this engagement had the clanned Dark Jedi serving amongst the Iron Throne, so he and his House Summit felt it best that he join the Prophesy Phyle. With this in mind, he turned right into suites that had been claimed for the use of Prophesy. There were five people in the room, including Arc himself and Kant whom he had known before and he knew the Barabel by reputation, but the other two were unknown to him.
“And here comes our newest member” said the raspy voice of the dark skinned Tetrarch, Etah nodded in reply.
The Sakiyan looked at the Barabel who seemed to be staring him down, the glib Equate smiled back at the creature, his sharp teeth forming a grimace and reminding the creature that he was not human either. Etah noticed a young human with a peculiar tattoo on his shoulder. Marick was extremely happy someone else was coming into the battleteam hoping they would become the butts of the jokes and ridicule that he had been over the last weeks. With but a glance Templar let the young Hapan know that this was not to be. The former Aedile and Battle Team leader was as at home in Prophesy as anywhere else among the clan of Shadows.
The Sakiyan regarded the scarred face of Jeric and nodded politely before turning to Kant whom he had regarded as a comrade every since they shared the defense of the Temple of Qel-Droma. Grabbing the old bounty hunters closest hand in his right fist, the old mercenary slapped Kants shoulder causing him to groan just a bit. “So droids” Etah said looking at Arc and Kant.
“Droids indeed” the Tetrarch replied.
“When the metal skin of the automatons deflects the rays of our death machines, we’ll wish for the days when we faced gods of flesh.” Etah said conversationally the group except for those who knew the Sakiyan looking confused. “One that note, what is our ion weapon capacity?” the Mad Obelisk switching from ranting to coherent questions.
“Very little I’m afraid” Arc responded his voice low, betraying a similar level of concern.
“We just weren’t preparing to fight droids” Kant answered, the question of what to do now inherent in his voice.
“Now the brave mice test their prowess against unforgivable metal” Etah said, as if in reply.
“Um, I guess so” Kant replied only half understanding.
“Little does the metal know, the mice control the fire!” Etah said excitedly, “Now we must find the heat necessary to melt the metal!” the Obelisk finished.
“Um hmmmm” the Hapan said, confused.
‘The Dark Skinned one will take the group some getting used too’ Arc thought as the Sakiyan continued to speak in riddles.
Zandro leapt from the LAAT/i and landed on the ground of Antei with a barely audible thud, his squad mates and proconsul following his lead swiftly and quickly exiting the vehicle, allowing it to return to space to ferry yet more troops to the ground. Zandro grinned beneath his helmet, his rifle held ready as he moved towards Vorion and nodded at the Priest.
“Looks like it’s time to go killing, orders?”
Vorion looked around the battlefield, surveying the situation with his lightsaber still dormant in his hand by his side.
“Killing is on the menu, and I intend to get my money’s worth. Let’s move out and do what we came here to do.”
Zandro nodded again and turned back to his squad, signalling them forwards and moving out himself, rifle trained and ready for any unfortunate droid or Jedi that showed their face.
“We shouldn’t be deployed like this; didn’t the Battle of Geonosis teach anyone about sending commando squads out as regular infantry?”
“Well, let’s make sure history doesn’t repeat itself in terms of casualty rates, and see if we can’t copy the Clones example and create a lot of scrap metal to use when we’ve won this.”
One of the members snorted over the link but said nothing further as the group moved forwards, darting from cover to cover as they made slow but steady progress. Several droids crossed their path, but the main battle was ahead of the team as they wasted the few solitary droids they ran across before reaching the edge of the conflict.
“Rho, take Vorion, Kieran and Juda and flank the enemy on their left. The rest of the team will stay here with me and pin them down as much as possible, move.”
Zandro popped up from behind the debris he was using as cover and sprayed bolts towards the clustered droids. He saw his first few shots slam home but had to quickly dart his head back behind the cover to avoid a flurry of blaster bolts that came zinging his way. He moved out of the cover once more to fire on the droids once more; a single solitary thought slipping into the normally clear mind he had during battle.
And so it begins...
Archer leaned out from behind the cover of an outcropping, his rifle at the ready as he took aim and squeezed off a few shots. Up until this point it had been easy, most of his time spent catching a meal or two or the occasional training spar en route to the system. But now it was different, now he wasn’t just responsible for himself but was a member of a team; a collective unit. In a quest to make himself useful to the war effort he had sought out a group to join and found one: Soulfire. It was different, but not an altogether unwelcome feeling. It gave him a sense of purpose.
As he ducked back behind cover he checked the reading on his rifle. This weapon, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. He preferred a straight fight; a face to face fight where he could use his hands or even a sword. It made sense seeing as most of his training up until this point had centered on hand to hand combat. But his hands would do him no good against the body of a droid and he accepted that. Instead he ducked back from his cover and opened fire. It would have to do.
PRT Archer Merchant (Krath)/Galeres of Arcona [ACC: INI]
Lavar propped his rifle against the wall for the nth time as the battle droids again tried to push back the Brotherhood forces. A few other Force-sensitives too junior to carry lightsabers also manned the line with the Iron Throne troopers, and at a signal transmitted from the FOB's TOC, the line erupted with blaster fire, with a bare handful of ion weapons joining the barrage. The B1 and B2 battle droids actually used basic infantry tactics like suppressive fire and military cover. A few were even carrying flechette rifles, sonic rifles, and other weapons that were harder to deflect with a lightsaber. But, Lavar reflected as he serviced his targets, nothing makes them more proof against blaster rifles and good old high explosives. Suiting action to his thoughts, Lavar adjusted his rifle, aiming a ballistic path. Right about there, he judged. "Grenade out!" he shouted, giving fair warning before pulling the secondary trigger on his rifle. The 30 millimeter grenade launcher attached to his rifle coughed, and the shell spiraled out, going well down-range before the gravity of Antei reasserted control and brought the grenade back down, specifically amongst the approaching droids. More specifically, between a squad of B2 super battle droids. The grenade, fused to detonate when it was three feet from the ground, followed its programming, sending a concussion wave out to knock the SBDs down, and sending hot shards of durasteel shrapnel out in a 50-foot sphere. The fragments weren't as effective against droids as they would have been against organic targets, but arms fell limp and droids started leaking various fluids, so it did its job. Lavar reloaded the launcher and brought the rifle back down, sighted in, and sent a trio of blaster bolts through the head of one of the SBDs before it could stand back up.
Finally, the droids started to retreat, and the Dark Jedi forces let their fire slack off. Some mortars and a few heavier blaster cannon kept encouraging the droids to continue their withdrawal, and Lavar lifted his blaster rifle off the wall and slung it back across his chest. He walked out of the defensive trench and back towards where Arcturus and a few other members of Prophecy stood around. The couple of Prophecy members that had been on the line with him followed him over there, and Marick, Arcturus' apprentice, shot a glance at the former bounty hunter as he passed. Lavar knew that the Hapan Jedi was angry with him about something, and had been since Dajorra. Probably something stupid, but he wished that instead of brooding on it, he'd just say something.
Lavar shook his head mentally. Whatever it was, if it was really that important, Marick would say something. If he didn't he wouldn't worry about it. He looked up at Arcturus. "I don't suppose the Grand Master has decided to listen to reason about bombing the ground control stations?"
The Tetrarch shook his head. "No. Since a lot of them are set up right next to our own structures, the Grand Master feels there's too much risk of collateral damage from an orbital strike." Lavar grimaced, but Arcturus continued. "Besides, it's not like we don't already have our hands full. Recon shows a formation of dwarf spider droids, backed by B1 and B2 infantry droids, maneuvering here - at least two brigades in strength." On the holomap, a red diamond icon for the two units appeared, and an arrow stretched from the droids' location, just north of Objective Wrix, through the line created by FOB Spear and FOB Anvil, and directly towards the Central Command. "Higher isn't certain if the droids are just trying to cut our lines, or if they're making a bid for that command post, but we're getting tapped to at least force them to maneuver against us, instead of cutting by, or force them to retreat. And no, Kant," he said, seeing the newly minted Guardian about to open his mouth, "we can't just turn the Abyss's guns against them."
Lavar snorted. "Nothing's ever easy."
A few of the Jedi chuckled. "Our fearless leader is talking to the mundane CO right now, getting the exact plan of attack, but you can bet we Foxtrot-Uniforms are going to be right in the middle of things." The Tetrarch used the mundane troopers' term for a Force user with no small amount of irony. "There's a lot of moving metal between here and the Dark Hall, people. Stay sharp, and by the Force if you screw this one up it'll be a race to see who kills you first; me, the Consul, or the droids."
Lavar snorted as he went over to the ammo staging area to grab fresh blaster charge packs and more grenades. The mundane military liked to throw the Dark Jedi out at the pointy end, but it was an effective use of them, he supposed. Still, he thought to himself, I almost feel like I'm in a bad Clone Wars holodrama...
Blue Mist – A-9 Interceptor - Shadow
Somewhere on top of Antei
“Sir, I got a problem!”
“Tir, try to get them off your tail! We have no support right now, the troops are on the ground and Blue Mist is all that is left in the air for now.”
“I shall try.”
Tirano jerked the A-9 ship towards the ground, forcing his pursuers to follow his maneuver. However, his pursuers' ships were not as agile. After a few seconds of a full speed rush to the ground, Tirano forced his ship up, the g-forces making his body tingle, for it had been quite some time since he had felt so much pressure on his body. His enemies tried to follow, but their ships could not hold the aggressive maneuver and they fell straight to the ground.
“Two ships down sir, let’s get the others out of our air space!”
The A-9 ships moved at full speed to meet up with Blue Mist’s bulk of forces in order to mount a strong attack against the incoming droid ships. Blue Mist was slightly overwhelmed by a vast amount of metal heads that were in a suicide mission. The Krath Priest had already seen five non-sensitive Blue Mist soldiers collide with droid ships that flew without blasters.
Ducking back down against the fortification he had taken cover behind, Marick quickly loaded a new charge pack into his DL-44. Once done, he peeked his eyes over the ledge, narrowing them to focus in on a troop of B2's approaching the base. His white, sleeveless robes lay still at his feet, open at the chest to reveal a light-armor vest supported by a blast dampening undershirt. Over the left breast and above his heart a small, all-white emblem of his family was stitched into the black material; a crescent moon with a knife through it. He had the emblem tattooed on his shoulder blade, so it was rarely actually seen.
Shifting into a firing stance, the Hapan popped up from behind his cover, just enough so that only his shoulders up where exposed, his elbow resting against the edge of the fortification. He closed one eye as the other looked down the barrel of the pistol's scope, his finger depressing the trigger multiple times. The shots flew true to where he had aimed...for the most part. The first struck one droids shoulder, the second its chin, and then the final one right in the center of it's optic sensors. The Hapan quickly ducked back into cover, only to see Kant Lavar crouched beside him, slamming a fresh battery pack into his rifle.
"Your shot isn't bad at all, but you don't need three bolts for a head shot, only one. Also...you are too tense when firing, and can't just rely on your scope. You are a Foxtrot, use the force to aid you and you won't have to rely so heavy on the scope."
Marick nodded mentally, thinking it was very good advice. Unfortunately, his unconscious arrogance surfaced as he shrugged off the friendly advice. "Yea, I know that..."
Lavar just shook his head and popped up from cover, exhaling slowly as his finger squeezed the trigger of his rifle three times. By the time Marick poked his head back out, he saw three B2 Battle droids smoldering on the ground, all hit directly in their oblong heads.
Like I'll let you show ME up, Marick scoffed to himself. Holstering his pistol at his hip, the Protector called his armory-stock lightsaber to his hand, his veins coursing with nervous excitement. This would be the first time he'd get to use an actual lightsaber in combat. Adrenaline pumping, the Obelisk stood fully, his body now exposed from the waist up. Calling upon the force he whipped his wrist across and away from his body, sending his azure saber hurtling through the air. The saber turned head-over-heals in what appeared to be slow motion, it's flight pattern coming to a half only as the metallic hilt crashed right into the face of an unsuspecting B2 battle droid. The droid halted it's forward progress, but just shook it's head, beeping angrily.
Marick's grin quickly evaporated as his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He covered it up quickly by gritting his teeth, attempting to call the saber back to his hand. It didn't budge. His cheeks reddened as his anger flowed. His normally collective, tactical mind seemed to vanish as he boldly hurdled over the fortification, making a dash for his lost saber. He could hear Lavar yelling, "Don't you id--." He wasn't listening, though.
A B1 crossed the Protector's path, but Marick extended his palm in front of him and with a yell sent a strong enough force push to topple the droid backwards. Quickly closing in on the saber, he showed off his athleticism by sliding feet first past the metallic hilt, scooping it up in his hand and activating it to deflect an incoming blaster bolt. It looked cool to any watching, but did not change the fact that a trio of B2's now stood around him. He was now surrounded, and exposed without cover. His body was feeling the effects of calling on the force, sweat trickling down the back of his neck, beading on his forehead.
A flurry of familiar bolts echoed around him suddenly, the three droids all crumbling in place, smoldering. Marick whip-panned his head in the direction to which the bolts had come, instantly noting Kant Lavar in firing stance, one eyes shut tight.
Duck, and get back under cover. A voice echoed through Marick's mind. Before he could question who's voice and where it came from, his instincts screamed for him to hit the floor, a crimson bolt whizzing past where his head would have been half a second earlier. Pushing off his toes, the Hapan made a sprint for the fortification, hurdling back over it, quickly pressing his back against it, panting.
"Do that again," Lavar said in an even, steadfast tone, "and your fate will be determined not by my hand, but your enemies."
"I never asked-" Marick started to exclaim, but quickly clamped his mouth shut while still trying to catch his breath. He was not on Hapan anymore. This was the real world. "Thank you...brother," he corrected himself.
“I hate this shabla crusty osik.” Kieran commented idly as he pulled a vicious-looking combat knife from his boot and started scraping dust from his rifle.
Juda grunted in acknowledgement as he went through his pack, making sure all of his medical supplies were in the correct order. The ground constantly rumbled as the 62nd Field Infantry’s rained down on the entrenched droid formations due north of their position. FOB Spear was little more than a breathing point amongst the craggy rocks of Antei , and hundreds of troops from the 2nd Infantry and 8th Mech rested in the dust. Amongst them were the ‘foxtrots’ of Clan Arcona.
“Don’t get too comfortable. We’ll be on the move again soon.” Vorion reminded them, staring over the ridge at the lightshow currently underway.
“We’re going out with the cannon fodder again? We’re not di’kutla Infantry.” Malidir stated.
Zandro nudged him. “Uh, sir.” Malidir finished, grinning behind his das’verd mask.
“ You have a problem with that, Sergeant?” Vorion questioned, turning his full attention on the Prelate.
Malidir Erinos, di Tenebrous Arconae was nobody to square up to at the best of the time. Whilst only a mid-level equite in rank, he was still arguably the most experienced fighter in the clan, having gained the most Vong Kills of the war. Not many would choose to openly challenge him. Zandro’s hand on his shoulder subdued the issue before it could become a problem.
“We’re just eager to get back to the fighting, Sir.” Zandro said for his squad, suppressing a grimace.
“Good.” Vorion decided wisely not to push the issue. War was stressful, afterall.
There was a flicker of recognition, and in unison every single member of Soulfire perked up, glancing in the same direction. Vorion blinked in confusion, as he’d opted not to link his consciousness with the commando team, but felt it a second later: Sashar was coming.
“You reckon it’d secure the approach on the north-western front?” He asked his companion – Arcturus Xyler.
“We’ve had some isolated reports of other foxtrots moving in the area, and since we have no Arconans in the area it might be a good idea to send Prophecy down there to remind the other clans that this is our operating theatre.” The Xyler explained, his voice carrying over the distant barrage of explosions.
“Very well. Take Prophecy and some men out from the 2nd Infantry, but be sure to steer clear of the bombardment corridor due north. Stick North-west and make sure there’s no other foxtrots fishing around our theatre without authorisation. “ The Consul ordered.
Arcturus nodded in acknowledgement and trotted back towards the more active north-eastern front, where his men were currently stationed, holding down an advancing line of droids about half a klick away.
“Vorion, I need you to grab some men from the 8th Mech and reinforce the North-Eastern front so Prophecy can go on this little recce.”
“But I was under the impression that you wanted me with Soulfire-“
“I’ll be joining Soulfire on a reconnaissance trip due north.”
“Through The bombardment corridor? Sashar, you’ll be blasted apart!”
“I’ve already spoken with the Trident commanders. They’ve programmed a narrow clearance corridor into the bombing pattern that will allow us to slip through, but we have to get going soon. Go get those troops for the Eastern front.”
Vorion glared behind his helmet, but nodded. He didn’t like the idea of his Consul not discussing decisions with him, or with him gallivanting off playing soldier with his old war buddies, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Yet.
Grudingly, he strode off to the 8th Mech’s temporary encampment.
Arcturus made his way back towards his battleteam. Looking over his shoulder, the Tetrarch could see Vorion and Sashar surveying the battlefield. While he was an Archpriest, Arcturus always felt there was something perverse in reading the thoughts of a fellow Clansmen. He made a point of avoiding it whenever possible, but the Proconsul's emotions were hard to avoid. He seemed... pensive, almost reticent to be at war. Arcturus had only returned to active service a few months ago; this would mark the second time he'd gone into battle with Vorion. With the reclamation of Selen, Vorion directed the battle from the ISD-II Eye of the Abyss II. Now, he was on the frontlines. Perhaps, Arcturus considered, he preferred to view these things from afar. In any case, it was unimportant. His duties were clear and they required his attention. Peering ahead, he could see the advancing droids beginning to bear down on Prophecy. Arcturus quickly bolted forward and hunkered himself behind a large boulder. Beside him, Marick and Lavar were firing their weapons with relative ease. The Archpriest noticed Marick's expression, contorted in concentration. His student was progressing well in his studies, that much Arcturus was certain of. The Tetrarch promised, or rather, informed Marick that he would shape him into a brilliant tactician and duellist; worthy of bearing arms for Arcona.
"Marick, get your head down!" Arcturus barked, as a blaster bolt whisked over them.
"Sir, we're starting to push them back..." Marick replied, panting heavily.
Almost ignoring his student's remark, the Archpriest nodded in greeting to Lavar.
"He's right - if we can get more backup, we'll have them pushed back or wiped out within the next hour." Lavar added, squeezing out a few shots between his words.
"Not to be, unfortunately. Orders from Sashar. We've got intel that some Foxtrot-Uniforms have wandered into our patch. We've got to take Prophecy and a few bodies from 2nd Infantry and sort them out. Lavar, round up the rest of Prophecy and have them meet me at heading 0.201.334 or thereabouts. Marick, get me four men from 2nd Infantry - I want their best recce troopers, or whatever they can spare."
Lavar nodded and slapped another powercell into his rifle, shouldering it as he opened his datapad to confirm the heading.
"0.201.334.. that's North-West of here. Fairly close to that bombardment corridor. And you've got mech-units to the North-East." Lavar announced, as the map scrolled in front of him.
"I know, that's why I'm going out first to see what we're up against." Arcturus replied, smiling broadly as he checked his plastoid armour.
Marick looked at the Tetrarch, trying to understand why he seemed so gleeful about charging into a warzone - alone.
"He moves quicker alone." Lavar replied, incredulously. He hated it when Kant did that.
"I thought I told you to knock that off, Lavar. Plus, airlock that 'sir' nonsense. It's starting to annoy me." Arcturus said, fumbling with his armour moreso. "Anyone got macrobinoculars?"
The shine on the Tetrarch's armour had faded by the time he'd reached Sashar's location. Behind him, he could see the various mech-units and artillery firing from above and below. Arcturus squinted as he looked further on, trying to make out the shapes and sizes of the artillery rounds. It seemed, to him at least, that all of the Brotherhood was at war. Doubtless there were those that felt the reclamation of Antei was beneath them. He certainly felt the same, noting in fact, that the Dark Council had done little if anything to help Arcona. But that was the Clan's way and they paid for it. They were always the most insular, the most closed-off, the most secretive of the Clans. Arcona's way was one of secrecy and shadow. Whenever they raised their fist to strike, it was devastating. Estle City was proof of that. The entire city was almost completely levelled, barely recognisable from it's previous form.
Arcturus knelt down and unhooked the macrobinoculars from his belt, peering through them carefully. He always preferred to using marcobinoculars to the Force, for the simple reason that using the Force around other Foxtrot-Uniforms meant they would become aware of it's presence. Using mundane items like these, Arcturus considered, robbed them of that advantage. The area he was looking on seemed like any other in Antei. The burnt, grey ground was littered in rocks and boulders, jagged in every sense of the word. In fact, the topography of this particular area meant that any kind of drop would have to be made hovering. With that, he concluded, he could assume there would be no droids in this area. So far, nothing. The Tetrarch suddenly felt a cloud descend over his mind. Something was near... something elusive, icy - a Jedi.
“So Tim,” Strat remarked, as the Aedile walked throug the corridor with his Quaestor, and Timeros himself, by his side. “Why do my ribs feel like someone's been trying to crush them?”
Timeros glanced to the side, at Xathia. Perhaps it was better if the Adept not be to- “Strat,” Xathia told him with a glint from her eyes, “you crashed in some poor kid's apartment.
“...I did?” Strategos frowned. “I was wondering why the surroundings seemed so tasteless. So anyway...” he smiled slightly, “I'm just lucky that apparently hangovers count as poisons I can get rid off.”
“...they do?” Timeros asked, raising an eyebrow curiously.
“Yes, of course. Haven't you ever have to get rid of a -” Strategos stopped, suddenly, as he noticed Timeros' blank stare. “You really haven't, have you?”
Continuing, then, “so, I still haven't any answer on why my ribs hurt.”
“I, uhm...sort of sat on you until Timeros came running in telling us to wake up,” said Xathia. “I haven't followed the news...Sashar thought it was very important that you wake up, first. He really needs you.”
“So...what's going on?” Two pairs of eyes stared at Timeros, who sighed and began his explanation as they neared the main hangar bay.
“The Yuuzhan Vong are gone. Instead, we're now fighting droids and some group of Jedi. Their leader's name is Crack, or something.”
“...say what?” Strategos asked, now curious.
Timeros told them the full story -or all he knew of it, anyway- before they reached one of their LAATi's.
“So,” the Aedile rolled his eyes. “The biker gang is gone, but now there's an annoying group of hippies squatting in our home, instead.”
“That...seems to be the gist of it,” Timeros sighed, then beckoned at the soldier. “I want you to drop down to the surface and present us to Consul Sashar immediately before ascending again. Clear?”
“...yes sir,” said the Arconan soldier, knowing that Dark Jedi were not to be disobeyed. Especially not a group as exalted as this.
“Oh,” Strategos said, voice dripping with genteel sarcasm, “and tell him that Quaestor Xathia, and Their Excellencies Tim and Strat are about to take the field, and would like something fun to do once they're down. I'm sure he'll find something.”
Blue Mist - A-9 Interceptor – Shadow
Somewhere on top of Antei
“Sir, we are almost done here, our tactics have worked and we have caused havoc between the droids. They are still trying to regroup.”
“Well done I will transmit this to our Quaestor, the troop attack shall be coming soon. Let’s if we can get another round with our interceptors, try to get the heavy droids this time.” JS disappeared from the commlink's screen as a squad of droid fighters appeared.
“Eclipse, move, there is a pair of bastards on your tail!”
“I can see them! I need your HELP!”
Tirano moved his ship with a very hard maneuver to try and catch Eclipse, who was flying desperately for his life. Two of the droid ships were trying to take him down, but at this point he was alone as no other ships were near him; only Tirano could save him, if he got there in time. Tirano could already see a flurry of lasers around Eclipse’s Interceptor as he was dodging the canons. However, it was clear that time was running out, and the A-9 was losing ground each time a laser bolt passed next to it; Eclipse was closer to death.
“Tirano, come back, we need you in the formation to do the last round. The ground forces are already approaching our location!” JS screamed into the commlinks.
“Sir, I've got a small problem over here, give me a second to catch up.”
Tirano began to fire upon one of the droid ships that jerked quickly and got behind him. This allowed the Krath Priest to alleviate Eclipse, who was clearly panicking by the way he maneuvered his ship. Tirano flew off with one the fighters that he destroyed after flying it though the droid base. Now it was up to Eclipse to save his own ass, because he had to re-join Blue Mist in the attack.
“Eclipse, that’s all what I can do for you.”
The Shadow's Interceptor re-joined the other fighters that were doing one final round in the base, trying to take down all of the heavy droids and supply armories. The radar was already detecting the ground forces breaching the outer perimeter of the droid base.
“Blue Mist, return to base, you have new orders.” Sashar disappeared from the commlinks as Blue Mist began to turn around to receive their new orders. Everything had gone as planned.
0.5 KM SW of RV Point
Kant Lavar, now loaded out in full kit to include an Arconan-issue helmet and Krayt Skin armor vest, felt a little bigger as he ran out in front of the rest of Prophecy battleteam. As he did so, he was grateful for the torture he'd inflicted upon himself over the last few months, getting in enough exercise so that if he wasn't as fast or as strong physically as he had been ten years ago, he wasn't far from it. Strength in the Force, well... he was working on it. For now, he had his armor, his helmet, his rifle, and the beings on his sides to rely on, and he was confident in what he had.
He saw Marick stiffen to the side of him, and was about to ask the Hapan what was wrong when he stopped. Lavar hissed a curse in Rodian - something about the chemical makeup of a mother's amniotic fluid, which lost a lot in translation - as he felt the Jedi's presence. He didn't bother with his comlink - he was certain the rest of the group behind them had either frozen because their scouts had, or had sensed the Jedi's presence themselves. Lavar checked his datapad, taking the risk to tie it into the blue force tracking network used by the mundane commanders. He downloaded the latest information available, then cut his connection again. The artillery bombardment was continuing - though with plasma shells constantly landing a scant few hundred meters away, Lavar didn't really need confirmation to know that. Two infantry battalions, including the 2nd, which Arcona was embedded with, plus an armored battalion were strung along a line, trying to herd the droid forces heading for the Brotherhood's main command post. Right now most of the forces seemed to simply be skirmishing, with their artillery doing most of the damage.
Lavar slipped the datapad back into its pouch, and scanned with his macrobinoculars. Zooming out as far as he could, he spotted a lone figure in dull white armor moving along slowly. Lavar raised and waved a hand back at the rest of Prophecy, as he returned his macrobinoculars to their pouch before unlimbering his rifle and taking off again. I just hope we get there before someone does something stupid, he thought to himself.
The Tetrarch's fingers curled into the palm of his hand as he began to slow his breath. Slowly, with the greatest of care, Arcturus pulled off the combat helmet that each of them had been issued. Holding it in his hands, he looked at his reflection. The lines of age had been more prominent lately; his forehead was creased with lines, his blue eyes now seemed to carry a faint shade of grey and his hands were scarred and marked from the innumerable battles he had fought over the years. A gentle breeze whipped up and flicked his greying hair off his shoulders as he dropped the helmet to his feet. As soon as it the cold ground, Arcturus could hear a lightsaber crackle to life behind him. His lightsaber quickly whipped out from his belt as the yellow blade coalesced in his right hand. His blade shattered against a bright-green lightsaber before quickly parrying with a vicious slice from left to right. The Jedi was a Human male, young but with harsh features. Arcturus' lightsaber pulled back, forming himself into Makashi.
"You will not leave this planet alive." the Jedi growled, his bright-green lightsaber moving into the First Form.
The Archpriest twirled on his foot, his lightsaber wrapping around him as he moved. The blades crackled and spluttered as they met, the Jedi defending with deliberate ease. A most intriguing challenge, Arcturus noted. His use of such an ancient lightsaber form meant that his master must have been trained in such methods, also. Perhaps there was more at work here than he let on. Indeed, the B1 droids they had encountered were practically antiques. They hadn't been seen in the Core, let alone in their part of space, for nearly a hundred years. Their lightsabers slammed against one another, Arcturus' broad shoulders forcing forward to push the Jedi back. Quickly moving his feet to loosen Arcturus' stance, the Jedi leaped backwards onto an outcropping of rock before hurling himself over the Archpriest. His movements were graceful and with purpose - too methodical and rigid to be a Dark Jedi, too skilled in the martial arts of the Jedi. This enemy was something of an abberation, Arcturus considered. The Jedi landed on his feet, balancing himself quickly. His torso twisted away from Arcturus, his hands opening slightly as he called upon the Force.
A massive wave of telekinetic energy surged forward from his hands, the air around it rippling as it raced towards Arcturus. The Archpriest smiled thinly and lifted his left arm and opened his hands. The blast of energy washed over him, the waves coarsing through his body and shattering the outcropping of rocks behind him. The ground beneath the two warriors rumbled loudly as the rocks behind them began to shudder and move from the velocity of the Jedi's attacks. Rolling his neck, Arcturus took in deep breath. His studies in the Dark Side meant that he was privy to some methods of absorbing Force attacks. Luckily, the Jedi's skill was such that Arctuus was able to take in a large amount of it whilst the rest was simply pushed around his frame towards the outcropping of rock.
"Your skills in the Force are... adequate for one of your stature, Jedi. Rest assured, should you choose to join hands with the Brotherhood, we will make sure you learn far more than you can possibly imagine." Arcturus said, as if answering the Jedi's attack. "There is more power for you to wield, more enemies for you to defeat - we will give you the power to crush all those who dare oppose you."
The Jedi lowered his lightsber as he unclenched his grip on it, keeping his eyes fixed on the Archpriest. His face was entirely expressionless, no hint of emotion or turmoil that Arcturus could see or exploit. There was nothing Arcturus could use to turn against him.
"Perhaps you are not as strong as I once thought." Arcturus continued.
"I assure you, I--"
Behind him, Kant Lavar's rifle winked out several bolts, the energy lancing through the Jedi's back. Croaking in anguish, he fell to his knees, his lightsaber disappearing into his hilt as his body slumped forward, the sound of the Jedi's nose breaking with the impact. Lavar and Marick marched up the slight gradient to where Arcturus was standing, the Archpriest also deactivating his lightsaber. Kant and Marick's armour glinted magnificently in the sunshine that escaped through the various clouds that rolled overhead. Marick's white-plastoid armour rolled the Jedi over, his face a mixture of suprise and agony.
"Interesting. He showed great skill, yet he couldn't sense either of you coming." Arcturus said, thinking aloud.
Lavar and Marick looked at one another, their helmets masking their nonchalant expressions. The Tetrarch thumbed his chin and turned his back, waving for Lavar and Marick to finish off the Jedi. Walking away, the Archpriest could hear Lavar and Marick's rifles empty out their power cells on the Jedi. As Arcturus began to meditate on his short duel with the Jedi, he felt that same presence again, the icy fingers of it wrapping themselves around his mind. He could feel several other beings come nearer, their minds shadowed from him. Droids...
"Arcturus? We've got company - lots of company."
Location: Somewhere on the surface
Shadow Stalker crawled his way out of the crater, after being hit by that ion blast his suit was a mess, targeting systems were off line, tracking sensors were failing, he had no idea where he was or where the others were. He reached the rim of the crater and took a look around, nothing but smoke a dead bodies, dam this armour was heavy when it was off line. He managed to drag himself onto his back and there he lay, trying to get his armour to work, most of the ionization had dissipated but his main system computer was still off, time for a cold start.
In the distance he could hear shouting but couldn't see or make out who it was, he just lay there very still trying to reboot his armour, hoping it wasn't the enemy coming to finish the job.
After what seemed like an eternity he managed to reboot his suit systems, he still had no sensors, but he could at least move now, the sensors would have to wait and be fixed on the move. He climbed to his feet and began to make his way across the rough terrain ahead of him, he could still here noises of battle, the sound of blaster fire and the hum of lightsabers, he checked his weapons, good; his rifle and sword and lightsaber were still there, hi armour weapons were fine, thankfully they were well protected, unfortunately his favourite krath bow was a total loss, "shame, I liked that weapon" he muttered to himself, he threw the melted and now charred weapon to the floor, no sense carrying a broken weapon around.
Quickly he made his way towards the noise of battle in the hopes of finding some of his companions............
From beneath his combat helmet, Marick furrowed his brow in confusion. He understood the signal Arcturus was giving as some form of execution. He couldn't mean the Jedi that Lavar had gunned down, could he?
Glancing over at his companion, The Hapan's eyes widened slightly as he watched Lavar empty an entire round into the fallen Jedi. The Protector stood still, his blaster-arm shaking slightly. Droids where one thing; they where just pieces of metal. And the Vong where genuinely evil creatures that hated his very existence. This Jedi, though, was a human. Just like him. Just like Lavar.
Even though his face was shrouded behind his helmets visor, Marick had a strong feeling Lavar hadn't even flinched. Slamming a fresh energy pack into his rifle, the Corellian tilted his head slightly, as if to say, "What?" before turning his attention elsewhere.
There is no time for hesitation, Marick. He heard a familiar voice echo through his head. Turning his head towards the direction he assumed the telepathic voice to originate, the Hapan watched Arcturus Xyler engage his yellow saber.
"We've got company. Lot's of company"
The Tetrarch nodded and leaped into the air, saber spinning as he came down hard on the first poor B1 battle droid to cross his path. Lavar swiveled his rifle and began to fire while running sidelong, looking to take cover behind a nearby bolder. Marick looked around and started firing as well, making for the same boulder. Blaster bolts where zipping towards him from both their flanks and in desperation, the Protector slid boot-first behind the same boulder. Quickly shifting to one knee, he raised his scoped DL-44 and took aim, calling on the force to help steady his hand as he began firing at any droids that entered his field of vision. The two Arconan's covered each others blind sides, but blaster combat wasn't exactly Marick's strong suit. He needed to get into melee range if he was to really make an impact.
"Lavar, grenade at my '11!" Marick yelled.
Lavar's rifle cracked a few more times before the Protector heard a pin click, followed by a, "Grenade out!" As the explosive struck, dust and debris flew into the air, taking one poor droid with it. Using the distraction as a cover, Marick called upon the force to mimic his master, leaping into the center of a confused platoon of droids, azure saber igniting with a hiss. His DL-44 now holstered safely at his hip, Marick flicked his wrist forward, a vibroknife springing into his hand from within his bracer.
The first arch of the Hapan nobles vrooming saber severed one of the B1's oblong heads clean from its body. With his other hand, the ambidextrous Dark Jedi thrust his vibroknife into another droids optic sensor, an electric buzz crackling as he quickly retracted it. Calling upon the Force to fuel his adrenaline, Marick displayed his natural athleticism and fluidity by creating a dance with his mechanic partners, severing, dodging, and stabbing as he saw fit. It was only a matter of time before the immediate circle he had infiltrated was dispatched, only to be replaced by another platoon coming over the hill.
"Meh," was all that the Protector could manage to mutter, his adrenaline rush slowly slipping away. His mind raced to find a tactical solution, but he wasn't used to thinking in live action yet. This was only his second mission. Hopefully help was on the way...
Lavar took a kneeling stance, and his rifle chattered, sending a barrage of ruby blaster fire into the swarm of droids. But there was more than just the platoon. A whole battalion, at least, was coming towards the Brotherhood position, with standard battle droids, A half-dozen B1s fell, as Marick set himself, before the reassuring sound of several pairs of booted feet came up behind them. Blasters whirred as their capacitors charged, and the four troopers from the 2nd Battalion that had come with Prophecy lined up next to Lavar. Three A280 blaster rifles and one Mark II repeating blaser cannon thundered, and the five streams of blaster fire melted away at the droids, but more and more took their place. And then three lightsabers came to life among the droid formation, and Lavar hissed as he shifted fire and saw it effortlessly deflected away.
Fortunately, along with the troops, seven more pairs of boots were charging along with them, and six lightsabers came to their hands. The saber-wielding Dark Jedi leapt over the shooters' line, and Lavar waved the troops to follow him.
Leading the charge, surprisingly, was Zakath and Etah. Zakath's red-bladed lightsaber whirled through the elegant attacks of Makashi as he waded into the droids, his facial tentacles twisted up in the Barabel equivalent of a shark's smile. Etah's curved lightsaber hilt rested in his hand, his purple blade performed similar maneuvers as he carved another path towards the Jedi. A third cloaked form, Andrelious Inahj, could be seen as he carved a red-bladed path through the droids using Shii-Cho and Soresu towards the third Jedi. Two more red bladed lightsabers, belonging to Jeric Cyrin and Xithox Anaxtelos, and two blue sabers in the hands of Celahir Erinos and Jendan Morgana, stood their ground, along with Xyler and Marick. Lavar and the mundane troopers flanked out to the side and set up again, sending thousands of joules of concentrated energy into the mass of droids.
Lavar lost track of the rest of Prophecy repeatedly, only able to see them occasionally when a lightsaber's blade shone through the mass of metal. Okay, let's change the rules. He dropped to the ground, trusting the four troopers to cover him, and pulled out his datapad, connecting again to the Brotherhood's military network. "Gun Four, this is Prophecy Seven. This is a call for fire, Target coordinates..." Lavar consulted his datapad and rattled off a string of numbers. "Target is droids in the open. Single round, smoke, danger close. At my command... fire mission!"
Several kilometers away, an All Terrain Attack Pod elevated its main gun, and the mass driver spoke. The shell arced away, and landed amongst the back end of the droid formation. Almost... Lavar thought, even as he pocketed his datapad and picked his rifle back up. "Gun Four, this is Prophecy Seven, adjust fire plus two hundred, droids in the open, six cluster rounds rapid, danger close, fire for effect!" Lavar started picking off droids again even as the shells whistled towards the battlefield. Six AT-APs each fired six cluster shells, and each shell detonated a scant few dozen meters over the battlefield, scattering hundreds of smaller explosives over the droids. They proved no less lethal as each bomblet was more than sufficient to kill a battle droid. At a command from Lavar, more shells went into the air, and Lavar started to pick off the closer droids with his own rifle as the second volley slaughtered more. Now, Lavar reflected, he knew why the "gun bunnies," as the artillery troopers were derisively called by some troops, called themselves "king of the battlefield." Shaking off the thought, Lavar put eye to scope and went back to work, servicing droid targets as fast as he could.
Etah waded through the metallic defenders; strike after strike, after strike the chrome domes of the enemy droids rolled across the ground. It was constant motion, constantly causing his enemies to fall and causing him to fall tired. Normally he wouldn’t have gone to his saber first, being an old soldier. But the rifle he brought with him was designed for biological targets, not metal and electrons. The Saber was much more effective at destroying the constructs and fighting this close in the Droids antiquated programming found it harder to target him, much like a martial artist “stuffs” his opponent by moving inside their reach.
The Obelisk Templar felt exposed and venerable fighting up front but was secure in the knowledge that Kant was directing a base of suppressive fire that was keeping the enemy from flanking them both. Meanwhile the neon light of the saber’s, accompanies by the constant buzz and hum for which they were known, continued to strike against and spark off the metal hides of the frail metallic drones. It seemed to the Sakiyan that this tactic was doomed to failure unless they managed to pull half of the saber fighters back to rest. Fighting in shifts seemed to be the only clear path to victory.
The Sakiyan heard a warning and some coordinates in his headset realizing it was Kant calling for fire from local artillery. He moved safely from the blast area, picking off the few droids that followed him. Taking a few minutes to catch his breath he reached out for his water tube and took a few gulps of the refreshing and energizing liquid. The Arconan began realizing how fatigued he was, as the sweat from his brow stung his eyes. All of the sudden there was a loud and unmistakable ‘Bang!’ and the Equate watched with glee as many of the metallic constructs were blasted to pieces.
As Kant reentered the fight, the Sakiyan leaped back into his exposed position in the front lopping off droid heads.
Shadow Stalker saw his comrades in front of him, they were making a desperate attack on the enemy HQ, it seemed that the Jedi and there droids were putting up a good fight, shadow decided a stealthier ranged attack would be the best way to help his friends, he began to advance on there position from the side, luckily there were no troops defending the flanks, perhaps they felt it too rocky and awkward for the enemy to mount an assault, he would soon show then what a mistake they had made.
He managed to get close enough to get more details on the enemy he faced, his sensors were fully working now, his Armour's weapons were primed and ready, he prepared several cryoban grenades and loaded them into his launcher "plunk, clang, plunk, clang" the grenades fell in a nice pattern amongst the attacking droids and activated on impact, the area around the droids suddenly dropping to freezing temperatures, the droids froze as did some of those enemy troops unfortunate to be in the blast radius, he watched as shards of ice shredded the area around the grenades like shrapnel, the gig was up now, the enemy would know that he was there with that thought he charged up the side of the rocky mound and prepared to attack.
As he was running he heard a fuzz on his com "Stalker is that you, where the hell have you been", "sorry Marick, ion cannons tend to have that effect on me, you part of that group ahead of me", "ye, stop throwing those grenades so close to us", "stop complaining” I replied to the whining Hapan “I am on my way in”
Shadow made his way the ridge, levelled his rifle at the enemy forces and opened fire, ruby red bolts of high energy blasted trooper, Jedi and droid alike dropped, the reply was fast, Shadow dived towards the enemy his blades in his hand, bolts of energy whizzing past him, he landed in the face of a droid and crushed it into the dirt, his blades swung in a smooth pattern cutting anything in his way to pieces, he managed to fall back to where his friends were attacking from and continued his attack from there.
Archer paced hurriedly down what could only be described as a small trench, his rifle held firmly at the ready. He had followed a battle droid, more importantly a lone battle droid, which said to him possible recon. Maybe even an ambush, but he’d deal with that if it came to it. These things traveled in squads and it was possible that it was making its way back to one right now.
Talk of a big operation soon had made its way into the camp; more importantly that Soulfire would have a specific role in it. But in war there was rarely just one. He was sure that if this one wasn’t the finishing blow, there’d be assurances that the next one would be. But that was for another time, a time when he wasn’t occupied with his prey. As he rounded the corner his senses jolted alive, telling him to dive for cover.
There were five of them, including the one he had followed, and they were closing in as bolts of energy led their way. Archer readied his rifle and leaned out, triggering a hail of laser fire before steadying behind cover once more. He didn’t have time to be precise; the trench was too narrow and he’d only get a couple chances before they were on top of him.
He looked back again, his helmet peeking out briefly before a blast almost struck it, the rock wall directly behind him singed with a black mark and accompanying plume of smoke. The glimpse was just enough to assess the situation. He had gotten three, but the other two had adapted, one laying down suppressing fire while the other closed the distance, bidding its time.
He grew anxious as he angled his rifle around the corner, firing blindly before leaning out. His hand extended toward the closest battle droid, his mind pulling it to him as it raced forward. He didn’t take any chances, his hand pressing against the torso the moment it was close enough to touch, the battle droid powering down as its very power generator was siphoned of all its energy. Unconventional, Archer thought to himself, but acceptable. Using the lifeless battle droid as a makeshift shield Archer aimed beyond, squeezing off a shot that tore through the remaining enemy.
He sighed, both embarrassed at the ambush and glad it turned out as well as it did. Conflicting thoughts raced through his mind before he pushed them away entirely, turning back toward the camp. Maybe his orders had arrived.
PRT Archer Merchant (Krath)/Galeres of Arcona [ACC: INI]
Melee Specialist, Soulfire Strike Team
One hour later
Seated on a small boulder with a flattened top, Arcturus Xyler looked out across the battefield and sighed. The casualty list had just been handed to him by a runner from one of the mundane troopers; it made for grim reading. Of course, he didn't need to read the file. He simply had to look behind and see how the effects. The Archpriest wasn't a squeamish person, far from it. But it was their expressions that grated against him, that ate at his veneer. It wasn't that they seemed crushed, or even defeated. It was as if someone had taken their very soul. Arcturus took in a deep breath and stood up. His back ached with the stiffness of his plastoid armour, his posture being forced into an upright position. Beside him, the Archpriest could see the members of Prophecy enjoying a brief respite from the fighting. They'd fought well, he thought, and did Arcona proud. Kant and Marick were engaged in discussion over something to do with droidekas, Andrelious, Celahir and Etah seemed to be either meditating or simply resting. Across from him, Sashar and Vorion were wrapped up in debate. The Jedi of Arcona, or "Foxtrot-Uniforms" as the mundane troopers had taken to calling them, were on a small plateau nestled slightly above the gathered troopers. Sashar nodded, at last, to Vorion and motioned for the Summit to pull together. Vorion folded his arms and greeted Arcturus with a nod as he entered the horseshoe forming around the Consul and Proconsul. Unclipping an imagecaster and clipping to a comm-link, Vorion held it out as an image of Jafits Skrumm coalesced into life.
"OK, let's get started," Sashar began, glancing quickly around the gathered Summit.
"So far, we've been doing pretty well. Vorion and I want you all to know that. You're doing Arcona proud. We've been given new orders by the Dark Council. Vorion, if you would.."
Vorion nodded and placed the imagecaster on a small boulder and stood forward.
"Our orders are to take out a droid control facility located about thirty klicks away. Unfortunately, some of you may have seen the casualty list. It's not looking good. Therefore, we've come up with a solution. The facility's completely shielded, so a frontal assault would be both futile and cost us more casualties. Casualties we can't afford right now. We've managed to procure a portable shield disruptor. Unfortunately, it's only usable for a short period of time and the diameter of it is such that it'd be nigh on impossible trying to fit a substantial force through it."
Sashar nodded and gestured to Jafits' hologram and continued from where Vorion left off.
"Prophecy is going to use Aratech speeder bikes to head to 83.22.741 - we're calling that Waypoint Vision. That'll put you within five klicks of the facility. Blue Mist is going to give you aerial support up to there, but only fighter-to-fighter cover. The more covert your entry, the better chance you'll have at affecting it. You'll need to disable those speeders once you hit the five-klick mark and make your way on foot the rest of the way. Once you're at the facility, use the portable disruptor to gain entry and lower the shield."
Vorion chimed in once Sashar had completed Prophecy's orders.
"We're going to place our artillery and troopers at a distance where they can provide distraction for Prophecy to make entry. As I said earlier, we can't afford more casualties - this is purely to give the enemy something to fire at while Prophecy moves into position. We'll have plenty of barriers to minimise the threat. Once they've got the shield down, we'll shift position out of cover and level the place. Prophecy, you're being set a three-hour timeframe to complete your objective. You'll need to carry out this with complete radio silence and with minimum offensive action. Scans from high-orbit says there's approximately four full battalions of B1 & B2 droids in the general area. Not to mention who knows how many Jedi. If you can't disable within the timeframe, you'll need to destroy the entire complex on your own using detonation charges."
Arcturus' brow furrowed. The task he was being set wasn't an easy one. Prophecy had trained in covert operations, just not under his command. To the Archpriest, it seemed as though he was going to have trust them all and their abilities. Beside him, Kieran Kodiak Erinos shifted on his boots and spoke.
"Where's Soulfire during all of this?" he asked, affecting nonchalance.
The Archpriest could sense something along the lines of professional dismay at Soulfire's exclusion from the proceedings.
"You'll be with the troopers and artillery. Remember, the goal for you is to divert attention so Prophecy can breach the complex and disable the shield. Once down, move to destroy. Same goes for you, Jafits. Keep as close as you can to Prophecy without attracting attention on them." Vorion answered, folding his arms.
Jafits' hologram shimmered as he nodded in approval. There was a brief silence, the Consul and Proconsul allowing the gathered Arcona Jedi to take a moment to let the plan sink in and digest. For Arcturus' part, he was glad that their efforts were finally beginning to bear results. Arcona had managed to push further out than the rest of the Clans, but this meant that they were now, more than ever, in harm's way. The Archpriest's thoughts drifted away as Sashar went over the schematics of the battle with Kieran and the mundane artillery commanders. It was going to be a dangerous day, he considered. The first of many, undoubtedly. Sashar dismissed the rest of the Arcona Jedi with a wave as one of the troopers opened up a paper-map and placed it across the boulder where Jafits' hologram beamed from. The Consul and Proconsul were fawning over the map, arguing lively with the mundane commanders and laughing raucously. Spirits, it seemed, were high. Ahead in the distance, Arcturus could see the LAAT/i ships coming into view to carry them closer to the droid control facility.
"Objective Graul..." Arcturus murmured, as he passed Marick and Kant.
"Master?" Marick offered, coming up behind the Archpriest.
The Tetrarch's eyes squinted as he attempted to count the number of transports that were beginning to scoop up the mundane troopers. The heavy artillery began to lurch off towards their assigned positions. The march had begun.
"You said something... Graul?" his student continued, standing directly beside Arcturus.
"It's a creature - you'd find them on Dantooine sometimes. That's the codename for our objective." Arcturus replied, his attention fixed on a particular LAAT/i.
"I see." Marick replied, thoughtfully.
"You obviously don't. Grauls are completely expendable. They regenerate constantly. The irony's lost on you, Marick." Arcturus countered, derisively.
Marick's teeth gritted as the Archpriest moved away, the noise of his cybernetic leg clanking against some loose pebbles. The Hapan looked over his shoulder at it. It was a gruesome fixture to an already intimidating man. He knew he'd seen a similiar design before, he simply couldn't place where exactly it was. It was a holoprojection...
"General Grievous. The design's identical to General Grievous' leg. Well, it's been modified to fit him, but the principle's the same." Kant's voice called from afar.
Marick wished he wouldn't do that.
Sat on a high ridge overlooking the field of battle, Shadow Stalker watched and waited, he had received the orders form Arc and was looking forward to taking on the droids, his job was simple sally forward and position himself so that he could do a surprise attack on the flank while the main attack was underway, Arc knew this was where his skills lay, years of bounty hunting had taught him that it was better to get a job done alone.
The time came and Shadow headed towards his nav point, there were droids all over here but luckily Arc had given him a sensor masking system that should allow him to get where he was needed. It had been some time since he had been engaged in such an event, it was thrilling to find he hadn't lost his edge, this was fun, killing Jedi and droids just made it even better, the irony that he was now fighting against one of his fathers most trusted friends was not lost on him, it was sad but war was war.
It took him several hours to reach the point on his map, it was a small outcropping that over looked the area the target was in, there was still a good few hundred yards between him and the target, far enough for him to remain undetected but close enough for him to monitor events, and there he waited, he would be there several hours if not a day or so before the main attack happened but it would be worth the wait for the show he had planned "the Jedi would not soon forget the day coming" he thought to himself as he patted the package next to him, it had been something his father had left him, one of the finest weapons in the galaxy, Shadow opened the case and there was a shiny Xerol Nightstinger, a lethal but extraordinarily expensive weapon, the gas for this mission alone had cost him several thousand credits, he had plenty but he hated wasting such good money on Jedi, ah well, he thought, this would be the best way to support his friends.
He set the weapon up in front of him, it had been some time since he had used this weapon, it felt good to be holding it once more, he adjusted the bi-pod and got the scope settled, using the combined abilities of the scope, his armour and the force he would be able to see targets at the weapons maximum range, this would give the enemy no warning to his attacks, that coupled with the fact that each shot was invisible would make it interesting.
Archer listened intently as the briefing had passed by, the new objective for Soulfire received. His helmet rested beneath his arm to give his eyes an adjustment from the narrower view he was still getting used to. But he'd take a slightly impeded vision over no protection at all in a war like this. The lightsaber resting at his waist didn't give him that much comfort either; he was still getting used to it, and this war was the only reason they had even issued it to him with only basic training in the first place.
But he pushed those thoughts aside, a new objective should be his focus. A game of cat and mouse so to speak, more a game played by a pack; a squad. One distracts and lures while the other swoops in from the side. Simple enough in principle, deadly if executed properly. He put his helmet back on as the troops began to mobilize, moving to join the rest of his team. They'd know soon enough that this would be anything but simple.
PRT Archer Merchant (Krath)/Galeres of Arcona [ACC: INI]
Melee Specialist, Soulfire Strike Team
Marick felt his eyes twitch slightly as he calmed his breathing. The Hapan noble was prouder than he'd admit to and was genuinely upset he hadn't gotten the irony of the Gaul reference. That's what he got for not paying attention in "Creatures of the Universe" class and instead spent his time redrawing the combat stratagems of famous battles from his own tactical hindsight.
As a voice echoed out over the encampment, the Protector glanced once over his shoulder at Kant Lavar, offering him an exaggerated wave.
"Thank you for the clarification, Lavar!" Marick called out, a little bit of venom hidden in his otherwise vibrant tone.
A gust of wind blew across the surface of Antei, the Hapan's long black hair blowing behind him, random thin strands whisking across his handsome face. Looking out over the encampment, he saw soldiers and Dark Jedi alike receiving medical treatment, some much worse than others. Marick had read all about battles and warfare in his studies, but never before would he have imagined that this was what a real battlefield was like. It made his stomach churn more than he'd show or admit to.
Heading over to the portable armory that had been set up, the Protector ran a diagnostic on his equipment. His glossy, black plastoid breast plate had been dulled significantly after absorbing a few more bolts than he would have liked. Removing it, he set it down on the table for repair, revealing his armorweave under shirt. He studied his battle armor and frowned slightly. It would never again return to it's once pristine, black shine.
His fingers ran over the white embedded emblem of his family and he took a moment to think back to the peaceful rivers and meadows of his home world. He remember the smell of the flowers, and the smell of his fiance's perfume as the two sat watching the stream, throwing stones into it.
Vibrant blue eyes determined and focused, Marick set the plastoid aside and instead grabbed a similar looking breastplate. The reinforced fiber-armor was crafted from jung-ju tree fibers bound together with synthetic materials. The armor offered good, flexible protection, working on the premise of channeling energy-weapon attacks away from the body. He much preferred it to the heavier plastoid battle armor.
Sliding the armor over his head and fitting it place, the Protector slipped into a new white, sleeve-less robe, rolling his arms experimentally and stretching, making sure he would be able to move comfortably.
Moving on, he disassembled his DL-44 and cleaned it, checking over the major components. Once content, he slid the scoped pistol back into it's holster. Next he double-checked the mechanism in his gauntlet, making sure the built in vibroknife came out properly. He looked around and grabbed two sets of throwing knives and lined them around his belt. Sure, they wouldn't be much use against droids, but they could definitely help against any pesky Jedi that got in the way.
The thought brought back the image of Kant Lavar emptying his blaster rifle into the fallen Jedi back in the heat of battle. He wasn't sure why it bothered him so much. After all, it was the reason he had been shipped away from his home and into the Brotherhood in the first place. He was there to become a weapon against the Jedi his mother and her colleagues so distrusted. The same Jedi that he was fighting
"Ready to go, rook?" The all too familiar voice of Kant Lavar rung out from off the side. Marick turned to face him and nodded slowly.
"Naturally." The Hapan replied curtly.
He did well to hide any insecurities that where floating around in his head.
Sashar winced in thought; he'd been pacing for the last twenty minutes, trying to pinpoint the location where he could place the artillery and troopers without putting them directly in the line of fire. The Mandalorian Consul had not only read the casualties report, he'd seen them first hand. His mind was filled with the ghastly images of dead troopers being heaped and piled into newly-formed craters. Shaking his head, the Exarch folded his arms and began pacing again. All around, the Jedi of Arcona were beginning preparations for the latest offensive. So far, he could sense their grim determination, even eagerness in some of them. It was a good sign, he thought. They weren't afraid. But was he? Wringing his head again, Sashar walked past some seated troopers and nodded at Arcturus in greeting.
"How are things progressing?" the Consul asked.
"Reasonably well. Those speeder bikes should get us in fairly quick. I've had them all fitted with a simple charge, we'll set them for twenty seconds and that'll disable them. I've asked Zakath to check over the portable shield disruptor, see how it'll figure for our escape run."
The Mandalorian nodded in silence, gesturing to the gathered Phyle.
"Think they're ready for this?" Sashar murmured, reading Arcturus' unspoken hesitations.
For a moment, the Archpriest said nothing. "If they aren't, they've fooled me." he replied, at last.
The Consul smirked and patted Arcturus on the shoulder as he walked away. The deafening roar of LAAT/i ships landing filled his eardrums as Sashar moved into the crowd of troopers. He could see Prophecy begin to load up their equipment, the transport already fitted with their speeder bikes. Marick and Kant clambered aboard, the two men seating themselves on the edge of the opening, rifles at hand. Zakath and Andrelious followed afterwards, the Barabel's tail flicking with excitement as he checked his personal armoury. Then, finally, came Arcturus. Sashar examined the Archpriest's frame. He was a fairly tall man, by human standards. His body, though human in appearance, was covered in a grey-cocoa colour. Blue-green eyes sat inside wrinkled pockets, his face was a few steps below pruned with wrinkles - but not far off. Then, of course, was his leg. The Consul had heard the mundane troopers refer to it simply as "The Boot". Its design was directly copied from the infamous Kaleesh warlord, General Grievous. As were the implants he'd fitted to replace two of the fingers on his hand. Sashar knew the story - a former Consul had planted a bomb on his personal craft that nearly killed him. In fact, small pieces of shrapnel from the ship were lodged in his back and chest.
He wondered if Arcturus gave the incident a second thought. Sashar had dealt with usurpers before, never giving those who attempted a chance to try it again. The previous Consul who'd dealt with Arcturus probably didn't see the irony in the idea of him being one of the more trusted members of the Arcona Summit. In any case, Sashar didn't care at the past. The present was more important. The LAAT/i roared to life again, slowly rising in a cloud of dust as it set off on it's course. Marick and Kant were uneasily silent, the whole transport was silent, in fact. The trooper piloting the ship was thankful for it. Too often, the troopers attempted to mask their fears by being overly boisterous and comical. Perhaps, he thought, people take it in different ways. The Jedi had their own way of dealing with fear - if they even felt it. The trip was mercifully short, only about five to ten minutes. They'd yet to experience anything in the way of resistance. Pulling the LAAT/i over a large rock formation, the complex came into view. It wasn't nearly as big as Arcturus had originally thought. He hadn't thought to ask for a description of it, but judging by the view, it didn't really matter. As the LAAT/i moved closer to it, Blue Mist began to gently form up around it. The pilots were all Foxtrot-Uniforms, and were completely aware of their objectives. The droid control facility looked like a Lucrehulk-class Core Ship. In fact, Arcturus thought, it was one. The Archpriest scoffed. He hadn't seen one of them in reality before. He, like many of his age, had only seen them on HoloNet recordings that were transmitted every so often. As the clouds slowly parted above them, the gentle glow of its shields became clear.
The engines whined loudly as the LAAT/i began to descend. The Tetrarch moved out of the cockpit to where Prophecy was gathered.
"OK, everybody switch your comm-links off! We need complete radio silence from here on out!" Arcturus ordered, shouting over the din.
"How do we signal for reinforcements?!" Lavar replied, his voice barely carrying over the incredible noise.
"We don't have any! It's just what you saw back at Waypoint Clarity! Remember, we need to make it in and out within three hours of breaching the place!"
The Phyle nodded in agreement, all of them placing their helmets on as they readied themselves for the touchdown.
Kant let his legs dangle like a little kid's at the dining room table as he watched the landscape underneath him roll past, almost close enough for his boots to brush the dirt. The pilot was good, and kept a bare few feet off the ground, which would supposedly keep them lost in the ground clutter on the Jedi forces' sensors.
An LAAT/c followed behind Prophecy's LAAT/i, the clamps on its belly holding the Aratech Z-47 speeder bikes that the team would be using to cover most of the distance to the facility. A few hundred meters above the two transports, Blue Mist's A-9s rode shotgun for the larties. A few had peeled off - a handful of Vulture droids had decided to play tag with them - but Lavar was unconcerned about their safety, or even the entry plan. He'd used shield disruptors a time or two himself, and they were useful tools. What was really bothering him was their actual mission inside the facility. The droid control facility's shields were blocking sensor emissions, and likely comm channels as well, save only the droid control channels themselves. And that signal, according to the communications guys that Lavar had talked to, was on some frequency-hopping quantum encryption signal that made it almost impossible to jam without making it impossible for the Dark Brotherhood forces to communicate with each other.
This complicated matters, as Prophecy would have no idea exactly where they were going in the facility to shut down the shields protecting it, nor where they could place demo charges to blow the place if they had to go that route. Lavar figured that the first thing they'd do once they got in would be to find a terminal and download a schematic of the place. If they couldn't, for whatever reason... Lavar shrugged. Sweep and clear always worked.
The LAAT/i accelerated, and a red indicator light started blinking – they were about five minutes from their drop zone. Lavar stood as the side doors closed – standard procedure to protect the personnel inside in case they were heading for a “hot” LZ. A few other red lights came on automatically, which were supposed to preserve the night vision of anyone inside the craft, though the helmet Lavar wore automatically kicked over to low-light mode to compensate. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, necessary, as they were supposed to abort the drop and head for an alternate if there were enemies at their primary LZ – this was just SOP, or standard operating procedures, and soldiers lived by them. Literally and figuratively.
The blinking red light became alternating red and green lights as the larty got closer to the LZ, and the pilot’s voice came in over the intercom. “Looks clear. I’m taking us in.” While the man sounded confident, Lavar could feel the man’s nervousness at having to transport a whole squad of Foxtrot –Uniforms on his transport. Honestly, he could understand – the one time he’d worked with a Dark Jedi before he’d joined the Brotherhood, what felt like centuries ago, he’d been on edge the whole time. Dark Jedi had a habit of capriciously killing those who failed them, those who insulted them, those who looked at them the wrong way, and for no discernable reason at all. So naturally one was a bit more cautious than normal when dealing with them.
The larty set down and the light flickered to steady green even as the doors opened, and Prophecy jumped out as a unit, lightsabers and blaster rifles in hand. Nobody moved as the larty pilot confirmed that his living cargo had unloaded itself, and shot off again. The LAAT/c’s pilot let the speeder bikes drop, their already activated repulsorlifts catching them as they settled to the ground, before the second transport left as well. During this, each person on the ground surveyed the scene before them, then, satisfied that there were no droids or Jedi to detect their landing, the phyle – as well as a handful of special ops troopers providing support – mounted up on their speeder bikes and headed off.
As they sped quickly towards the next waypoint, Lavar looked to the north and saw blue and red flashes against the darkening sky – the droids and the Iron Throne forces were trading blaster cannon shots at range, mostly to keep each other occupied while they attempted to maneuver into better tactical locations. The end result was usually one side moved a bit, then the other side hammered away at them while they moved a bit, and back and forth in that manner and eventually even the lightest unit’s movement was slowed to a crawl. But that, according to the operations plan Lavar had read, wasn’t a bad thing – the major point for the slow, grinding battle was to keep the attention of the droids and their Jedi masters occupied while Prophecy slipped into the facility, like a dagger to the back.
The speeder bikes, in a loose group, sped along as the skies around them got even darker. Lavar’s helmet changed modes automatically, casting everything in a flat green tone. It was dangerous to drive the speeder bikes so fast in such poor visibility, but the Dark Jedi pressed on, confident that the Force would warn them should danger appear, and the special ops troops simply confident in their experience.
Finally, the group reached Waypoint VISION – a point five kilometers away from the droid control facility. At a hand gesture from Arcturus, the group dismounted from the speeder bikes. Lavar pulled his equipment pack and blaster rifle from underneath the cargo netting, slung the weapon over his chest and clipped the pack to his back, then took off his helmet and walked up to Arcturus. “So now we hike it in?”
The Tetrarch nodded, checking his own armor, painted a mottled grey and black pattern for this mission. “That’s right. It’s only five klicks, so barring any enemy contact, we should be there inside of an hour.”
Lavar frowned. Five kilometers an hour wasn’t a hard pace for most beings – but when you started including weapons, armor, equipment, and the need for some modicum of stealth, it became a bit more of a tall order. “And avoiding enemy contact will be the issue, especially the closer we get to the facility.”
Arcturus smiled. “Of course. And guess who just volunteered himself to walk point for us?”
“Oh, I’m certain Marick will make an excellent point-man.”
“Meh. It was worth a try. Too bad he wasn’t close enough to hear it, though…”
Sat on his view point, Shadow Stalker watched the ships fly in, drop off there cargo and fly out, then his comrades sped away on speeder bikes; it was time to sort out his gear. From the package he had been given by Arcturus, he removed a very nice and shiny laser designator, it had been specifically designed to mark key points and positions in the enemy base, Arcturus wanted him to mark points on the droid control ship for demolitions, also he wanted week points in there defences marking. He had just finished setting up the designator when his visor picked up the bikes reaching Waypoint VISION, using his knowledge of Droid control ships he began marking points on the target, the infrared markers should be invisible to anyone except those in the unit that had the specific filters, the laser had to be modified to prevent the droids from picking up normal infrared markers. He successfully found and marked the droid ship, he also managed to mark a route to the target that would allow the team the easiest attack.
It would be some time before the rest of the group arrived, he began to make notes on where his targets were, there patrol patterns and there view points, sentry's would be first, then he would have to support the attack itself, picking off targets when they presented themselves, it would be along wait but the end result would be good, he decided it was time for something to eat.
Whether he heard the quip or not, Marick still caught a sidelong glance in his direction from his Master after the brief exchange with Lavar. More than likely the joke was at his expense. The proud Hapan grit his teeth, but quickly reminded himself that it was just a jest, and not to take it too seriously.
Dismounting his speeder, the Protector flattened out the folds of his robes, forming up with the rest of Prophecy Phyle and their additional forces. Arcturus Xyler turned to face the rest of his Phyle.
"Prophecy, we're on foot from here. We've got about 5 Kilometers to cover. Foxtrot's mask your presence as best as possible. Stay alert, avoid enemy engagement at all costs. Lavar is taking point. Prophecy Phyle, move out!" The Tetrarch's voice echoed out. Marick nodded his head and fell in behind his master, focusing inward in an attempt to hide his force energy.
Despite his armor and apparel Marick felt rather light on his toes. The finely tuned muscles in his legs stretched and contracted repeatedly in a fluid motion, his stride's allowing him to easily keep pace with the rest of the phyle. He couldn't help from glancing down at Arcturus' mechanical leg, pointedly reminding the Protector that there was much about the Archpriest that lay mystery to him. He made a note to do some research before there next deployment.
Looking around him, the Hapan noble could sense the tenseness around him. They all knew that they had a lot of ground to cover in so little time. They knew that this mission was high-risk, high-reward. They knew some of them might not make it home, or in one piece at that. Yet, there was not a single look of doubt or fear among any of the Dark Jedi. Adrenaline pumping through his veins, a small smirk crept across Marick's face he turned his attention forward, squinting into the distance to see their target grow from a tiny spec into a somewhat recognizable shape. While he still had a long way to go, he knew this was where he had belonged all along.
In route to Waypoint Vision
Etah dismounted his swoop, grabbing his gear mounted on the side and the charges strapped to the undercarriage in quick succession. Pausing for but a moment he looked Arcturus, Kant, Zakath and Marick in the eye. They looked weary but ready, as Etah felt himself. Marick most of all had the exhilaration of combat pumping through his veins, like a virgin on his wedding night he was experiencing new sensations and realizing the thrill of rising above his limitations.
Standing in a staggered, semi-circle they all looked toward at each other. This was generally the time for posturing and speeches, words of encouragement and reassurances that everything would be fine once the mission was complete. But something passed silently between them and no words need be said. Maybe it was the silent knowing that they may all fail or die, maybe it was the silent understanding that all were prepared to die, but it was definitely something.
Arcturus silently pointed off in the distance, toward the Objective Graul. Kant jogged up to the front with Etah falling behind him, Arcturus falling in behind him, the Barabel behind and the Hapan kid taking the rear with five meters in between each of them. They marched in file sometimes called a Storm Commando file with Kant keeping an eye out on the front, Etah the left, Arc the right and Marick the rear. All of the soldiers automatically adopted overlapping fields of fire as they moved expeditiously towards their goal.
It was called a road march but practically was a jog. It wasn’t the most tactical way to move, but they didn’t have time to bound in groups or as individuals. They had less than an hour to reach their destination, complete their objective and di di mau. Failure was not an option, for Prophesy, for Arcona or for the Iron Throne, practically because failure would be punished, pragmatically because success would lead to promotions and awards and less tangibly, because they were soldiers and could not stand to gain a legacy of failure.
As they jogged forth toward Graul, shots were fired in their direction off in the distance. Arcturus spotted their origin and returned fire, all members of the file instinctively turned right and converged on the origin of fire. As they approached they spotted three droids, opening fire they moved forward, what the mundane soldiers would call ‘attacking through’. As the three were riddled with blaster bolts and clanked to the ground, Etah spotted a forth running off into the darkness of the early morning and took its head clean off with a single shot.
All five now spooked fell into a three hundred and sixty degree defensive position, looking for more enemies. After about eighty seconds Arcturus determined that there were no more enemy droids in the immediate vicinity. Looking around on last time Arc motioned the small group to form into a file and head out again. Sweat began pouring down their brows as they fought on; moving their limbs long after their limbs begged them to stop. Zakath, his species being more creature than human was the only one that looked comfortable with the continued exertion.
The imposing droid control complex grew before them, until it loomed over their heads. The same color as the ground it was no wonder it hadn’t been located until recently. As they reached the fifty five minute mark from the time they dismounted their speeders, they came to a halt. Etah nodded at Arcturus and the shield disputer was produced. They had reached their Release Point and combat operations would take over as soon as they breached the shields.
The time had arrived, he watched the team begin to breach the shields, his scope swung towards the position of target alpha, the cross hairs settled on the head of his first victim, the guard watching from the sentry point saw the team but he never got chance to call it in, his head became a charred mass of flesh. Shadow moved onto target Beta, the shot took him through the right eye and the man slumped to the floor.
He heard chatter over the com, it was Marik asking if Shadow Stalker was ready, the young Hapan clearly had no faith in the older merc, Arcturus merely pointed towards Mariks chest, on which the red dot from Shadows Sniper rifle was dancing around, Marik jumped 2 feet into the air, Arcturus just laughed.
His fun over shadow returned to his mission, he would have to eliminate targets as they became a threat, if he took them out too soon the game would be up, too late and trouble would arrive, he settled in on his next set of targets and awaited the advance of the team, he watched as the team began to fan out into the route he had designated earlier, everything so far was going to plan.
From his position beside Soulfire Strike Team, Timeros could not help but sigh at the Droid Control Complex in the distance, its looming quiescence belying the deadliness of the forces it commanded. So far, the Arconans, with the Iron Throne's army, had met with some success in advancing, but taking out the complex would be absolutely imperative.
When Strategos, Xathia, and he had arrived, the Consul had assigned Timeros to the Strike because “I hope that this way, you'll finally stick around and do something useful”. It suited the Epis well enough: He had been a part of, even led, the legendary commando team. If nothing else, this would help him.
Afar, a Vulture droid fighter blew to smithereens. Even from this distance, the Entar sensed one of Blue Mist's boys as its killer. Behind him, Xathia and Sashar exchanged hushed words: with Strategos having been assigned his own mission, she was the only person left in charge of the operation.
Once again, Timeros felt the urge to sigh. “Hurry up, you bastards,” he murmured at Prophecy. “I haven't got all day.” The Equite chuckled for a moment. “Oh, wait...I do.”
Arturus' head snapped, snake-like, to the side as the last of Prophecy's men entered the droid control complex. As he identified the sophisticated, sonorous voice, the Tetrarch's composure first relaxed, and then stiffened again as he realized who that voice belonged to.
“Strategos?” His voice was filled with sudden disbelief.
The air shimmered for a moment as the Elder snapped into existence, light untwisting as the Elder's grip on the Dark Side waned.
“Indeed,” said the Adept, reaching inside his pocket and taking out a cigar.
“Why are you here? Actually, never mind that, [i[how?”
Strategos shrugged, obviously more preoccupied with lighting his cigar than answering any questions. Finally, he just took out one of his lightsabers and, in a green flash, brough the thing to cackling flame.
“Well,” he said between puffs, “You didn't think Sashar was going to tell you everything, did you? He has his own plans...and he wanted me to go in as well, try to see if I could do this alone. As to how I got in...” the former Consul gave a shrug that meant as much as 'I'm an Elder. I can do that'.
“So...why isn't the shield down yet?” Arcturus asked again, suspicion tinging his voice.
“Oh, you know,” the Entar answered, as he raised his arm to show what was obviously a lightsaber wound. “Besides, I had a hangover. A guy can't be blamed for a being a little slow, can he?”
Legorii watched, arms crossed, as a small band of soldiers charging across the pockmarked terrain towards the Droid Control Complex, where he stood. The ground was being torn to shreds by cannon fire from above, and Blue Mist's fighters screamed through the air in streaks as they pursued the enemy Vulture droids. The Aedile was displeased with the progress, for the discipline of the Iron Throne troopers had degraded. They were tired, for sure, but they were making easy pickings for the enemy's rain of death. The scattered Dark Jedi that advanced towards the command center were beacons of hope to the troops. Most were Journeymen, as the majority of the Equites were positioned to oversee the overall progress of the objective. There were a few down with the men, though, and their feats thus far in the battle had been awe-inspiring.
The Anzat turned away, looking up at the looming building. He had moved in with Prophecy, on the Quaestor's orders, to help secure the building. However, he had decided to coordinate and oversee the movement of the majority of the Iron Throne troops to the complex, leaving Arcturus in charge of eliminating the enemies inside. It was a strategy that was working well enough, provided Prophecy succeeded in their aspect of the mission.
Walking grimly forward, Legorii snapped his lightsaber hilt from his belt, igniting the crisp emerald blade in one fluid motion. There were still enemies inside, to be sure; he was quite lucky to have found a place outside the fortress away from the blasterfire that echoed across the planet. With a glimmer of the Force he threw open the main entrance, surprised to find his Master leaning casually against the wall, nursing an injured arm.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Legorii asked, surprised. The Elder gazed blankly at him, taking a puff of his ridiculous cigar before answering.
"Well, I just finished explaining to Prophecy why the shields aren't down," he remarked coolly, his nonchalance confusing the Equite. A small cloud of smoke hovered around his head, and it was apparent that he had no intention of moving from this very spot. Legorii sighed, irritation flashing in his eyes.
"Whatever. I'm gonna go help Prophecy. Wait here and help command the troops," Legorii started jogging down a side corridor, sensing his fellow Dark Jedi, and hearing them, in a room down the hall. His emerald lightsaber, which he affectionately called Soulflayer, was ignited and held firmly at his side as he jogged.
Bursting into the room where Prophecy was engaging a small group of droids, the Aedile threw himself forward with gusto to help hack down the remaining droids. A team of Dark Jedi was formidable indeed...but would they be enough to take the whole complex?
Boots padded quickly against the metallic floors of the droid complex.
The sound of buttons beeped and tweeted as an electronic door slid open.
Prophecy Phyle has split into two teams. Led by Arcturus Xyler Alpha Team consisted of only Marick and Lavar, while Celahir, Andrelious and Zakath made up Bravo Team with Etah designated at point. Leaving the Elder to his cigar, Alpha team sprinted off down one corridor while Bravo took the other.
Everything was moving fast. Even the quick-witted Marick was stretching to fathom the sudden changes in plans and put it all into perspective. However, he found himself surprisingly comfortable in letting his master process everything that was going on, and trusted solely in his command. There was no need for advanced tactics. Their mission was clear and simple. Infiltrate the droid complex and disengage the shield generator. Extract. Nonetheless, the Hapan couldn't help but notice a certain distance to the Arch Priest. With his experience, this was just another day at the office. His actions seemed automated almost; cold and efficient like a well oiled machine. Shrugging, he fell into his rookie motto; stay quiet and not.
The electronic door slid open, revealing a room with a series of computers and a platoon of B-1's milling about. Lavar's rifle crackled as the first droid fell, Arcturus and Marick twirling their sabers and calling upon to force to aid them as they leaped into the air. Sabers hummed as metal crackled, singed, and toppled to the floor. Marick smelt burning hair as a blaster bolt barely took his head off. This seemed to only heighten the handsome Dark Jedi.
From the other side of the room, a door slid open, dramatically entered by a particular looking Anzat with long black hair and crimson eyes. His saber howled angrily as he cut down the remaining battle droids.
"Boss?" Marick blurted out, seemingly shocked by the appearance of the Aedile.
"Legorii." Arcturus and Lavar both acknowledged curtly.
"We need to hurry," came the Aedile.
"Right...well, this conveniently placed map of the complex says that the main control room is just down that corridor you came from." The Hapan noted, pointing his with finger.
"Let's move then," Legorii ordered, spinning on his heel. Marick glanced once at his Master, who simply looked back at him and offered a helpless shrug and fell in behind the Anzat.
The central control room was well guarded from all sides. Pairs of droids each patrolled the perimeter. A pair of snipers marched back and forth along the catwalks suspended high above. Two Jedi Knights sat in chairs overseeing the circular enclosure of terminals, operated by droids.
A metal door suddenly exploded into the room. The clinking sound of grenades echoed out as a precursor to the multiple Bang's that soon reverberated. A second door burst open from above by the catwalks. A blaster rifle cackled as one of the B-1 snipers toppled over the edge.
"Sniper One Eliminated" Lavar noted stoically into his comm. Marick grit his teeth and leveled his DL-44, calmed his breathing, and let the force aid him in unleashing a flurry of well-placed ruby-red bolts at the second B-1 Sniper. It crackled and short-circuited, dropping to the ground a useless piece of scrap metal.
"Sniper Two Eliminated" Marick echoe'd into his comm.
"Not bad, kid," came Lavar's response.
From the first door that had exploded, Bravo team stormed in, sabers and rifles poised.
"The Brotherhood!" Adonis, the first of the Jedi Knights exclaimed. The human ignited his saber and threw his hand out, force pushing the closest Dark Jedi. Etah instinctively rolled out of the way, giving Zakath a clear path to ignite his crimson saber, launching himself into the air with a manic laugh.
The second Jedi, a Twi'Lek, ignited both a green and blue saber, twirling them deftly in his hands. From the catwalk Marick, Legorii, and Arcturus descended, surrounding him.
Legorii attacked first, his saber clashing against the Twi'lek's green saber, while Arcturus came in on an angle poised for the Jedi's legs. The Twi'lek parried with his blue blade and riposted, slashing for the Tetrarch's head. Arcturus swiveled out of the way as he and Legorii circle the Twi'lek, trying to find an opening in his defensive saber arc's.
Marick grit his teeth and charged forward, figuring the Twi'lek wouldn't be able to parry a third saber. He didn't need to, for his boot swiftly came up, watching Marick right under the chin. He felt a bit of the force accompany the kick as he flew backwards, his saber escaping his grip.
Arcturus and Legorii continued their dance, locking sabers with each of the Twi'lek's. A single blaster bolt echoed from above as the Twi'lek's head was there one second, and simply gone the next. It sounded like a melon fruit filled with a head of lettuce exploding.
"Boom, Headshot." Lavar crackled over the Comm.
Recovering his saber, Marick bit down on his molars as he saw the headless Jedi's sabers disengage as he dropped helplessly to the floor. Another kill stolen by Kant.
Looking around, he saw that Bravo team had done a good job clearing out the rest of the room. With the resistance shattered Legorii sat down at the terminal, looking around. Arcturus appeared next to him then.
"Never underestimate your opponent Marick." The Tetrarch chided softly. Marick looked down at the ground.
"I'm sorry Master," he said in an uncharacteristically solemn voice. Arcturus lofted a brow and turned to leave, but then stopped as he heard his apprentice continue. With his head down, his hair tumbled in front of his face.
"I will train and get stronger. I never again will be embarrassed as such. I am a warrior of Arcona."
He wasn't sure if his hair had been obstructing his view, but he could have sworn that he saw a smirk cross the Tetrarch's lips as he turned and left the Hapan by himself.
The control center was officially under Clan Arcona’s control, according to the read-out on Legorii’s datapad. That meant that the Dark Council was aware of it, and would likely be plunging them into some hellish new objective in mere moments. In the mean time, however, the complex had to be totally destroyed. And that meant getting the troops regrouped and out away from the perimeter for Blue Mist’s boys to drop their payloads.
After typing feverishly into his datapad for a few moments, the Aedile looked up to see Strategos watching him. “Hey, Strat, mind helping me alert the field commanders that they need to get their men out 250 meters from here, so Blue Mist can bomb the complex and we can move on?”
The Elder puffed on his cigar before answering. “Already been done. However, I will help alert you that if you don’t do the same in a minute or two, you’ll be going up in smoke too,” the Dark Adept spoke calmly. He was a conniving bastard, and one of the most memorable characters Legorii had ever had the fortune to come across.
They made it out just in time, as the whole complex exploded at their backs.
The reinforcements were a nice surprise. As Sashar and Vorion oversaw the integration of the new troops, they drove the men onwards toward the Temple Tiamat. The barren ground between the destroyed complex and Temple was small, and they covered it quickly.
The Temple Tiamat had been stripped of most of its defenses. It seemed as though the other theatres of combat were going badly for the Jedi. Taig and Legorii were side by side when the men they led crashed against the line of battle droids, both Dark Jedi happy to not see a Jedi.
The outer line collapsed quickly, but the interior took a few hours more. Nearly half of the Arconan forces died at the hands of the droid masses before the Temple fell completely. Legorii was exhausted, and found a quiet place to catch a wink of sleep while he awaited the Grand Master’s next orders. He expected his fellow leaders to take care of defending the place, now that they had it.
Six hours later
Kant Lavar ran along the halls of Temple Tiamat, blaster rifle in hand, cursing in a steady stream underneath his helmet.
It had been hours since the Clan and the IV Legion had taken Temple Tiamat. The assault had been straightforward, at least in the plan if not in the execution. The mundane troopers – with some help from the newer Journeymen – had been putting in fortifications around the temple. Gun nests, pre-set mortar firing positions, and even old-fashioned foxholes and trenches. It wasn't pretty, and it was backbreaking labor in the hard soil of Antei, but there was no time for more modern fortifications like energy shields, anti-air and anti-missile defense systems, and the like. The heavy armor of the legion had been dispersed out, and a few minutes ago, a call had come in from a scout walker team – droids and Jedi, all of the enemy forces in the area, were marching for Tiamat.
Lavar skidded out into the sunlight and ran down the steps toward the first rank of trenches, slamming himself into a firing position. He waited a few moments, and finally saw something, just at the edge of his vision – blaster fire. Two AT-RTs were coming at a trot, and behind them came walls of droids. Lavar let out a breath, and sighted in. The problem was that only a fraction of the IV Legion's strength was on the line, and there were at least a couple thousand droids coming in.
Moments later, the mortars spoke, sending concussion grenades arcing out into the wall of droids. Blaster fire came up, and so did a few loose arcs of spinning light – lightsabers thrown by Jedi. A few grenades exploded harmlessly in midair, but more landed in the formation. More mortar fire followed, and finally the troops and those Jedi that carried blasters opened fire. Heavy emplaced gun positions – E-webs, mostly – belched plasma, and the sheer mass of fire slaughtered dozens of droids. At a command from Sashar, the first line of troops, augmented by the Jedi of Clan Arcona, stood and, still firing, charged the droids. The elder Jedi ignited their lightsabers, and Lavar did something he hadn't done in years, literally – he stood, dropped his rifle, and unclipped a slender metal tube from his belt. Touching the stud on the handle, a blue lightsaber blade sprang to life, and Lavar ran into the wall of droids.
He was limited to Banlath's simple slashes and cuts, as well as a few half-remembered movements from Soresu, which he'd been studying in the little spare time he'd had, but against non-saber wielding opponents, the more complex maneuvers of a full saber form weren't necessary. Lavar and the rest of the Clan sliced through the droids. The mundane troopers held pockets of resistance in the mass of droids, as the Dark Jedi danced around them. Lavar spotted Legorii engaged with a human Jedi Knight, and another Jedi – this one a Mon Calamari – coming up behind him, unnoticed. Lavar jumped, and landed behind the Mon Cal, and stabbed his blue blade into the alien's neck. That was the major flaw in using Force powers during a grand melee like this – if you concentrated on one target too much, even a Master could be killed by a threat that normally wouldn't have been a problem.
Lavar didn't pause to reflect – he was already adressing his next target, a squad of B2 battle droids. The mortar crews had stopped firing, a corner of his mind noted – likely not wanting to fire into their own positions. Lavar sliced one B2 in half, then proceeded to disarm a second before Force-pushing it into its fellows, then moving on to send a wild slice through the last standing one.
The slice left him wide open, and he couldn't get his saber back around in time before another Jedi appeared out of nowhere, and Lavar knew what had happened – he'd fallen victim to the same mistake as the Mon Cal Jedi, and he was about to pay for it. The young Twi'lek woman he faced – a pretty one at that, he noticed, his mind focusing on the inconsequential even as the woman's green blade pierced his side. It wasn't a killing stroke, but the Force push she used to slam him to the ground knocked the wind out of him. The Twi'lek girl walked over, and looked down at him, raising her saber for the killing stroke -
The world erupted in fire. The Twi'lek was knocked away even as a massive blast sent Lavar tumbling. He stood, dazed, and heard a roaring in his ears – no, cheering, he realized, as he saw IV Legion's walkers coming towards Tiamat, and Lavar knew what that meant – the Jedi had lost.