Team Ghost: Clan Naga Sadow
This thread if for Team Ghost of Clan Naga Sadow, the roster is as follows:
OE Methyas Pepoi L'eonheart - 10901
KAP Locke Sonjie - 10311
OP Araxis Farron - 10883
OT Tyren Atema - 6463
DJK Mayda Ferium - 8430
Khar Delba – those two words alone would instill excitement in any Sadowan. The sacred world of the Ancient Sith Empire had been the base of Sith Lord Naga Sadow some five thousand years ago. Though it had subsequently been controlled by other Sith and empires, their dominions over it had crumbled and the world was forgotten as of late. Steeped in the power of the dark side, the secrets to power that it held was unfathomable and its significance to Clan Naga Sadow was unparalleled. Every new initiate into the Clan had been taught about its lore within their first week of training. To reclaim Lord Sadow’s Citadel was the elusive dream of every disciple of Sadow, for it was their birthright - their destiny.
Indeed, when the Clan summit and Sons of Sadow heard of the One Sith’s attempts to claim the legendary planet, they dropped everything to pursue this target. Even elders whom had not been seen for some time were coming out of the woodwork to aid the Clan. Whispers spread around the Sadow Palace that Xanos Zorrixor had taken a great personal interest in it and would help plan the attack.
The Dark Council had tasked Clan Naga Sadow on this before anyone else, since they had such success on the Avenger II mission. Darth Ashen had a vested interested in the clan’s success and, being a former Sadowan, discretely hoped they would gain control of the planet. No invasion had ever been so pivotal, so vital to the future of Clan Naga Sadow.
Orders were given to Consul Locke Sonjie to deploy a team to the planet ahead of the invasion to gather intelligence on it in order to devise a strategy and threat assessment. He was personally leading the initial reconnaissance team and had chosen a well-rounded mixture of talents, keeping it to a small group so that they would not attract too much attention to their presence there.
Dark Jedi Knight Mayda Ferium fidgeted in the co-pilot’s seat, checked the navigation console and worried that she did not yet deserve to be on such a vital mission as this. Having been away for so many years, the scarlet-haired Krath scholar was not yet trained for a special operation, but she was intimately familiar with defending herself against evil forces and willing to risk her life for those whom she cared for.
Templar Tyren Atema stood behind the co-pilot's seat reading the briefing on his wrist-holo for the third time, trying to learn as much information as possible. His keen senses could discern the dark side emanating from the planet. His task was distracted by his thoughts on how it would affect him and his companions, especially one. Her words from the night before echoed in his mind, “No matter what happens or what fate brings, I want to meet it with you by my side."
Exarch Methyas L’eonheart sat in meditation: calm, serene and focused on the mission. The Miraluka was proud of this privilege to be on the team and wanted to prove himself again after his success taking the Avenger II. Bulky winter pants concealed his new cybernetic leg; the parka was custom-made to suit his lack of an arm. Tarthos’ weather had thickened his blood, so the wintery cold of Khar Delba would not be an impediment. Reflecting upon the discovery of shared beliefs with his newly-found brethren brought him an unusual sense of comfort; it was the calm before the coming storm.
Prelate Araxis Farron stood near the back of the ship, preparing himself for the drop by reading tactical data on the layout of the landing zone from his datapad. His mind was in tactical mode, but his body shifted its stance often, getting used to his new body parts and armor. This mission was what he lived for and he hoped that his new enhancements were up to the challenge.
Locke began to program the shuttle’s approach from the orbit to the atmosphere. Khar Delba hung like a shimmering diamond pendant against the velvety blackness of space, enlarging as they got closer. The hardened leader realized the value of the prize, yet he did not want to lose any of his members in its quest. Clan Naga Sadow had much to gain, yet much to lose on this mission and the impending invasion.
It would be their greatest victory, or their greatest failure.
The Lambda-class shuttle screamed towards the coordinates Locke had programmed, the vessel itself had been selected for its maneuverability against that of the Bantha’s that Sadow’s Clan possessed, Locke had never been one to be comfortable in something that could be shot down at a moment’s notice. In the hold the two Sadowans were focused on their own tasks, each had overcome their own horrors aboard the Avenger II and now each had pledged their service to their Consul in this reconnaissance mission. Yet Methyas felt uneasy, focused on listening to the ebb and flow of the Force as it coursed through and around him. This feeling had risen since they had boarded the small transport, a subtle nagging feeling that against his wisdom, he ignored and continued upon their mission.
Panels vibrated as the shuttle pushed through atmosphere, not unusual as the vessel rocked against the typical turbulence. But treachery had a way of rearing its ugly head once more as the vessel jolted roughly and veered off course, a not-so-subtle sigh escaping the Miraluka as he did not move but simply spoke, “Araxis, you may want to strap yourself in.”
The Prelate nodded, not wasting any time against his companion’s suggestion as he found the nearest seat to buckle down in. Immediately cursing could be heard from the cockpit as Locke and Mayda jerked the yokes against the now listing craft, urging it to respond to their input before the vessel leapt again this time feeling as though it had been slammed into by a speeding hovertram. That had been the tipping point, the dull hum of electronics stopping at a moment’s notice before Mayda’s voice rose up quietly, “Everything’s gone dead.”
“What about auxiliary power?” Locke’s response came quickly, a hint of stress in his voice.
“Removed, it seems.” Came the response from Methyas in the hold, an eerie calm despite knowing their situation.
Panic gripped at them all as they realized what that meant, Locke and Mayda swiftly strapping themselves in as Tyren quickly found a nearby seat and followed suit. Finally Methyas rose from the deck, moving to a seat near Araxis and following his own suggestion as though he had all the time in the world. In the cockpit, Locke and Mayda gripped at the yokes, pulling them back as they hoped the flaps aboard the vessel would still respond without power.
“When we get back to Sepros, I’m going to go through the engineers one by one and...”
“Focus on the present, Locke. The ground is coming up quickly.” Methyas chastised from the hold, the Jedi’s natural sight giving him a far more reaching grasp of their environment as the falling snow enveloped the cockpit’s main viewport.
“What did you have in mind then? Its not like we can will the ship back to life.” Frustration filled every word, not just from their predicament but from Methyas’ calm and collected behaviour as well.
Almost in response, the Force seemed to envelop them all as the Force meld wound them into a cohesive group, Methyas’ voice echoing within each of their head’s, “Close your eyes and focus on giving me as much of your power as you can; we’ve only got one shot at this.”
The finality of the statement sent chills up a few of their spines, but none were willing to dispute the truth of it; each seeming to do their best to focus on the the meld itself and sharing their strength with the Sage amongst them. The wind seemed to scream about the crippled Lambda as the ground closed closer and closer, each second heralding death’s sweet embrace in a ball of flame. Finally the Force seemed to bloom outwards from the vessel, a few seconds later the entire vessel jolted roughly as though it had bounced like a deflated ball, a grunt escaping Methyas as he ground his teeth and grit his jaw. A barrier around the vessel shimmered for a moment longer as the vessel adjusted from its awkward jolt before it vanished, the Lambda listing haphazardly through the air mere meters from the ground until it too finally met its fate.
The vessel slammed into the ground hard, a bulk of its momentum lost as the barrier had protected them but hadn’t brought them to a stop; dirt and stone whipped across the vessel’s hull as it tore through the surface of Khar Delba, steel ripping from its hull and its wings tearing off as though they were simply paper. A large boulder caught the careening transport causing it to spin and tumble as it continued to lose momentum, each of its passengers who were still conscious hoping that the vessel would stop any moment now, but it continued. A few more seconds passed, each feeling like an hour before the Lambda reached its final resting place with a groan.
A wicked scar marked the surface of Khar Delba from the little transport’s impromptu landing, and it was a few minutes longer before any of its passengers moved. Araxis was the first to stir, his new enhancements allowing him a little bit more resistance than the others as he undid his restraints. Immediately he reached out through the Force, verifying that all his companions had survived the terrifying crash. A heartbeat passed, then another, and he could breath easily as he could feel the other four signatures strongly. A few more clicks could be heard from the cockpit as the trio there unfastened their restraints and found the floor a little uneasily.
“Everyone alright?” Locke asked weakly, a little disoriented from the tumbling of the Lambda.
Each responded in turn, but a single voice still had not responded.
“Methyas? You still with us?” Araxis asked, shaking the Miraluka as he stepped in closer.
Another sigh escaped Methyas before he responded, his brow furrowed deeply, “That’s not something I would want to do again. The Force is strong here, I can’t even feel Mirado through our chain...”
The ship leaned forward, nose down, on its belly causing the passengers to have a hard time walking around or even standing straight. As Araxis helped Methyas out of his seat, Locke tried contacting the nearest allied forces. Tyren hurried over to the woman in the co-pilot's seat.
"Are you alright, love?" He asked with a soft and worried voice barely audible through his helmet.
"I'm alright. I’ve been through worse,” she answered breathily with a smirk. As she unbuckled and rose from the seat, his gloved hand brushed away the hair over her left cheek, revealing her scars.
Privately, he sent the thought, “Are you sure? This crash...well, it was similar to...” Ever so lightly he touched the scars with his index finger.
With a nod of her head, she sent back, “Yes.” It warmed her to know he was worried, so she gave the assurance quickly in order to let him focus on the mission again.
"The kriffing comm is offline and beyond repair. We can't contact anyone, “ Locke declared to his crew.
"I'm not sure we could even if we had the means." Tyren said as he opened a nearby storage locker. He threw each of his companions an earpiece. "For short range communications. They usually work at ten miles but under the circumstances we'll be lucky if we get two or three. Even that is optimistic."
"What do you mean?" Mayda asked as she attached her earpiece and let her long hair cover it again.
"The long range transceiver in my suit is blocked by some kind of interference. I can't figure out what exactly so don't drift too far apart." Tyren replied as he took an additional medpac and some protein bars, just in case.
"Well we won't go out this way." Araxis pointed towards the entrance ramp, now firmly stuck against the icy ground, its hydraulics useless. "Any ideas?"
"There's an escape hatch right here." Locke said as he toggled the hatch, standing beneath the now opened, round metal door that lead to the surface.
"Alright, Araxis and myself will go first and check the conditions outside." Tyren said nodding to the Prelate, "We seem to be in the best condition considering our environmentally sealed armors."
A moment later Araxis was the first out of the downed shuttle, followed closely by the Templar. The shuttle's wreckage burned a trail in the ground, melting the permafrost that gripped the hard soil. Pieces of metal were scattered all around and the craft, half buried in the snow and ice, was crippled beyond repair. He sighed and did an environmental scan of his surroundings as Araxis surveyed the distance for any life with his electrobinoculars.
"It's twenty-seven standard degrees below zero out here and the wind's blowing hard." Tyren yelled into his comm link. The wind blew so fiercely that he could hear it roaring through his helmet. "I would suggest you guys wear respirators, just in case. Also, the Khar Delba tourist agency recommends warm clothing and knee-high boots for this trip." A collective chuckle came through his earpiece and under the circumstances it was a welcome tension breaker. They had a long way to go through a desolate and frozen wasteland and the uncertainty of not knowing where to go was not exactly good for morale.
One by one the rest of the team climbed out of the wreckage, all dressed in warm winter clothing, tough parkas and deep winter boots. Locke had his blaster in hand as soon as he could stand, another of a different model still in it's holster at his belt. Tyren raised an eyebrow at that, thinking it unnecessary. Mayda swung on a backpack that held her small weapons and devices, latched her saber, and pulled down her goggles. Methyas, in his standard fashion, only carried his saber and lightsword, neatly strapped to his belt. They all stood there for a minute, looking around through the snowfall, trying to get some sense of direction. It was eerily quiet except for the howling of the winds.
"No points of interest in the distance. Can't even see more than a few miles through all this snow." Araxis reported from his position on the tail of the shuttle. "It's all...white. No orientation possible."
"Maybe not through your binoculars. But the Force provides where technology fails," Methyas replied calmly. He stretched out his arm and concentrated on the ever flowing currents in the Force around him. They were distorted here, darker and twisted, influenced by something. Expanding his senses further he could feel a strong attraction to the west of the shuttle but far, far away. It was strong, stronger than any location on Orian. Instinctively his hand moved in that direction. "There. I sense a strong dark side presence in that direction."
"Good. Now we know where to go. Hopefully we'll find what we need - information and a ship to get off of this frozen ice ball." Locke kicked the shuttle in frustration "Move out." He said, waving his hand westward, toward their destination.
It had been the better part of an hour since the group had left their crashed shuttle. As he trudged through the snow, Locke turned his head slightly to mentally check that the others were all present. The howling gales kept up a constant flurry of snow, making it difficult to see very far with natural eyesight or to talk quietly.
Suddenly, Locke heard a voice over the wind. He turned around, to where Tyren had stopped in the snow. The other Dark Jedi was waving one arm. As Locke approached, he was able to make out words. "...anyone else hear that?"
"Hear what?" Locke shouted, struggling to be heard over the gales. Why did it have to be an ice world and have terrible weather?
"Listen," Tyren said. Next to him, Mayda looked at the Templar with her head tilted slightly. It was impossible to tell whether she was listening herself or thinking he was going mad.
Then Locke heard it: a deep, long horn-like sound over the wind. "That's not like any signal I know of," Locke said.
"Reports mentioned Sith Behemoths," Araxis said, approaching the small gathering. "The sound fits."
Locke cursed quietly before gesturing to the ridge behind them. "Crawl up there and take a look, if you can see anything."
The Prelate merely nodded and drifted off, disappearing in the blizzard like a ghost.
After he left, Locke looked over the other members of the team and noted Methyas' prosthetics. The Exarch could prove a liability, if there were too many of these beasts, but Locke wasn't about to abandon him - not after all he had learned from the Obelisk. He had so much more he could learn, as well.
His gaze fell on Tyren and Mayda next. It seemed that there was something between them. Locke had made a mental note of that earlier. That could become a problem later. Still; this team was well-rounded and suited to an advance scouting mission. As long as they were careful, they would survive.
And as long as there were not too many of these behemoths.
As they waited in silence, Locke closed his eyes. The Force here felt...wrong. He thought he had grown accustomed to the foreboding presence of the dark side after spending so much time on Antei and Sepros, but this was a bit different. It almost felt like an infection, except this one crawled up the Krath's spine, seeming to cause an unnatural chill even in this weather.
For a moment, Tyren seemed to stare beyond Locke. The Consul turned, looking in the same direction. "What did you see?" he asked.
The Obelisk stopped and turned his head slightly. "Nothing, just the wind playing tricks on my eyes."
"Ah, " Locke said absent-mindedly. It had almost been like Tyren was watching something for a few seconds. Mayda was giving him a concerned look. Had she noticed it too? Was Tyren involved in the sabotage that had caused the ship to crash? Was he expecting friends? The Obelisk had not been in the Clan that long. Perhaps he had been a spy all along and here, in Sadow's finest hour, he had decided to betray his true intent.
No, Locke couldn't assume that. The other Dark Jedi wouldn't sabotage the ship he was flying on, would he? What had he been doing during their trip?
Stop it, Locke told himself. These are not your thoughts.
Yet perhaps they were. He had had enough of sabotage and deceit. When Locke had found the Dark Brotherhood, he had thought it would be a place the Bakuran could fit in, but instead he had found betrayal at every turn. He would almost prefer the Jedi and their inability to use the Force properly.
"Tyren," Locke started, intending to put his ill thoughts at ease.
"Yes?" the other Dark Jedi replied.
"What-" Locke began, but stopped as Araxis emerged from the storm like an apparition. He seemed unfazed by the ice that covered his thick clothing. Locke scowled briefly, but quickly composed himself.
"What did you find?" the Consul asked.
"I couldn't get a visual, " Araxis said, scraping snow off his arms, "but I heard the calls more. Louder. There's definitely a few of them out there, possibly more, and they're slowly coming closer."
Locke cursed. They had been walking for an hour, nightfall was almost upon them, Tyren was seeing things, and Locke could feel his own patience slipping.
"Regardless, we should seek shelter for the night. Perhaps we can find a location out of sight of the behemoths," Methyas said.
You only want to stop because you know you can't outrun them like the rest of us, Locke thought. Methyas did have a point. The behemoths could probably catch up easily and run longer than any of their party.
"Right, let's dig in for the night. Maybe they won't see us, but even if they do we should have a place that's easy to defend. Araxis, take point."
As the party trudged off again, Locke heard the cries of the behemoths growing louder in the distance.
"I don't think we have much time, " Araxis said.
The words spoken couldn't have been any more true, stranded as they were upon the mountainous snow covered world of their namesake's legacy; its beasts were far less adverse to these conditions. A few kilometers away behemoths stomped unseen towards their targets in a rapid trot, their steady breathing visible in small huffs of cloudy vapor as their brisk pace was faster than what they would typically keep. A few of the beasts within the herd had riders upon their backs, about a quarter of their number. At its heart, a man cloaked within his heavy winter garb said nothing, his menacing figure simply gesturing as his acolytes and aspirants spurred their beasts on faster.
The mixed group of Sadowans had only barely spotted a nearby cave when Methyas stopped, the fallen snow heavy in his beard as he turned to look towards the horizon they had just come from. Hands instinctively reached for weapons as the wizened Jedi seemed almost fixated on something, anything. The Force itself was troubling, a torrent of dark side energies feeding through the Jedi as he was a light amongst them. He had learned long ago to grasp the Force in any form it came to him, this “darkness” simply being used for less violent or twisted purposes.
Finally Methyas spoke, his voice heard by all of them against the howling winds, but still only barely more than a whisper, "We've found the Citadel's ruins, but we've got company."
What they had thought was a cave was an entrance into the a structure that had survived the bombardment all those millennia ago, a few amongst them considered bolting for the doorway and escaping their pursuers while others knew what was to come. The familiar snap-hiss of a saber could be heard from Araxis, Mayda and Tyren before wicked streaks of red energy punctuated the heart of the storm moments before the behemoths with their riders roared forth into the quintet. Each dodged the creatures in their own way, Methyas and Locke rolling aside as the Consul rolled his shoulder to bring the muzzle of his AXM-50 rifle to bear, firing a few controlled bursts at the nearby creatures. Methyas didn't miss a beat, stepping forward with his saber flashing to life as he created a living barrier between his Consul and their opponents, lancing energy flashing between the riders and the Jedi's saber as he deflected them away.
The sounds of a saber clashing with something could be heard before Araxis' shouting voice rose up over the howling wind, "They're lightsaber resistant!"
"Alright then," the words passed from Methyas' lips quickly, though only Locke had heard them standing so near to the Miraluka. In an instant the Force responded to the Jedi's call, his body still moving to deflect the hazardous bolts from their opponent while the behemoth carrying its rider bellowed in terror as its front legs swept out from under it and it came crashing to the ground. The acolyte aboard it screamed in response as he tumbled to the ground, coming face to face with Araxis.
As their duel started swiftly, Methyas' attention turned to the three behemoths nearby. The closest and its rider were still harassing him and Locke as another seemed to focus upon Mayda and Tyren. The third simply patrolled to separate the groups of combatants with the occasional volley of rounds from his mounted cannon at any of those who grew too close.
Gritting his teeth, Methyas reached into the Force again, trying to weave another Force meld between those present before another volley caused him to leap aside. The ever bearing presence of other behemoths closing upon them as they fought this battle reminded the Jedi to not rush things and make a costly mistake. Reaching deep again, Methyas breathed deeply as he wove their meld once more. This time a dull "pop" seemed to keep him safe before a splintering explosion echoed throughout the storm around them, a grenade from the under-mounted launcher on Locke's weapon catching the nearby behemoth and causing it to stumble for a moment. That was all he needed to finish the meld, each of their minds working to assist the others however possible.
"There are more on the way, I suggest we finish this quickly!" Methyas' voice echoed across the meld, his calm demeanor hopefully keeping the others focused as they fought with all their might.
"Less talk, more action," came an almost whispered response from Araxis. Despite their strength and relative proximity, the ghosts of Khar Delba and its dark side nexus had a detrimental effect on their communications. It was this effect alone which the behemoths and their riders were counting on, each seeming to focus on pushing the quintet further and further apart from each other, the strain on Methyas in maintaining the meld growing with each minute that passed for them.
Anger, frustration, a thirst for blood - such chaos flowed through the Force to the Jedi that even amongst his calm, his own frustration was building. Skilled as he was, the Miraluka felt himself on the backfoot, his allies who trusted him or even saw him as a mentor were slowly losing their connection to him. He needed to do something or risk their lives at the hands of these creatures and their masters.
Turmoil and concern built up within the Miraluka, bubbling up violently until they demanded to be released. Thrusting forth a half-opened palm, fingers curled about his saber's hilt, a wicked flash crossed the snow-covered field before it collided with the side of the nearby behemoth. The beam of energy, a signature of Naga Sadow's Force Blast, was a harrowing assault from the Jedi causing the creature's ribs to crack beneath the weight of the blow as it started to tumble upon its side. Breathing deeply, a smirk crossed Methyas' face as he felt his peace once more.
"Feeling better?" Locke asked with a chuckle.
The illumination of Methyas' Force Blast sent a shadow across the face of the Acolyte standing before Araxis. Knowing that Methyas was using a darker side of himself in the midst of combat was most pleasing, and eased Araxis' mind which now had to focus on the duel before him and not on trying to protect others as much. The world around him drowned out, and only the screams of the Acolyte charging remained, a clash of crimson sabers collided and locked as both duelists vied for supremacy. Araxis held his own for what seemed an eternity, but doubts filled his mind, visions of his last engagement and how he failed to protect a brother, and in a mere instant his opponent took the advantage and ran with it. A quick thrust of the Acolytes body forward broke the lock of sabers, a vicious backhand followed with an immediate pulse from the force. Araxis' body bent and flew like paper in a storm, crashing with a sickening sound into the structure the group of Sadowans were slowly being collapsed against.
The hulking beast and its rider pressed in on Tyren and Mayda, the closest pair to the temple. Tyren placed himself between the beast and Mayda, standing his ground the Templar readied himself for whatever the beast would throw at him. As it charged in both Sadowans rolled in opposite directions, the beast reared its ugly head focused only on the emerald glow of Tyren's lightsaber.
Another blast of the now familiar horn sounded, a signal that more riders approached, perhaps even the one leading them. It was an odd feeling, one Araxis could not shake as he lifted himself from the wall he had collided with, this Acolyte seemed almost unified with purpose, all of the riders had to this point. Raising his crimson saber, a shake slowly crawled over his right hand. Damn it, why is this happening... Why now?! The thoughts of the Avenger II crept once more into his mind, and the Acolyte again got the upper hand from it. Araxis found himself able to dodge and parry a few of the attacks, but his enemy landed a few hits, scars of molten armor now glowed and sizzled in the winds of the snowy battlefield. Coo ya maya stupa! Snap out of it, this is below you! Araxis reminded himself. He had once made a promise, to never doubt himself, to never give up, and to always fight the battles that needed to be fought. This was one such battle. Removing the now shredded winter gear, he would have full range of his motions, his armor would keep him protected for the short duration he'd need to rip this Acolyte apart. Tossing his lightsaber to the ground, he reached for his lightsword, but held off on igniting it. "Come now Acolyte, The Stormreaver is waiting" Araxis gestured, a demonic stare of anger and bloodlust in his eyes, lowering himself into one of many dueling stances.
Locke and Methyas quickly dispatched the rider who had been the unfortunate recipient of the crippling Force Blast to his mount. With the meld slowly collapsing, it took a moment before both noticed what had happen around them, but with more enemies approaching they would soon have much more to deal with, leaving them absent of ability to help their comrades. Two more riders entered visual range, and a third who looked much different. A very imposing figure, a dark aura bled from him into the others at his side. "Oh, this is going to be good fun," Locke quipped readying himself. As the three riders charged forward, the imposing Sith broke away seeing an exposed target.
"Mayda, think fast!" Methyas shouted out, as he unleashed another wave of force energy towards this Sith, but to no avail as it was deflected away.
Mayda, hearing Methyas' words, instinctively pulled her blaster and let loose. The rider defended himself once more as bolts flew in many different directions and he kept moving forward. She looked around with only moments to decide on a course of action. The structure... A brief thought that lead to an idea, one she acted on. She began a sprint toward the main entrance to the citadel, a snarling beast and it's imposing Sith rider following in pursuit.
The Sith hissed upon hearing Methyas call her by her name, “Mayyyyyyda.”
Immediately dismounting from the beast, he began to glide like a ghost over the icy tundra. Looking back while still running, she noticed his speed; she knew this was no mere acolyte.
Sensing danger, she tried telepathy to Tyren, to warn him of her plight. “Tyren! One of them is coming for me.” She was unsure if he heard it, but could not wait for a reply. Panic was controlling her heartbeat now, as she fled into the citadel’s open door.
The concerned lover called out in his mind, “Mayda!” When he got no reply, he yelled out, “Mayda!!!” But by then the beast was in front of him and he had to deal with it. It wailed and lifted a massive leg over his body. The lithe Templar dodged to the side, losing sight of her as he was kept busy with his own battle, but sensing her safely reaching the door.
Inside, the antechamber had a door on each stone wall, each looking no more special than the next. The air was cold and stank of rot, as if the whole ruin was one giant crypt. She chose the door straight ahead, which led to a long hallway, as expected, and shut the door behind her. It was now pitch black, as the nervous woman ran forward, using her power of seeing through the Force, which led her to the next room. Then another door, to another hall, and another to a smaller room, and another, and another. There were no signs of light nor fresh air.
A tingling on her neck indicated that she sensed a strong force signature behind her. The hallway ended at a door, which opened up to a large room with a high ceiling, littered with some broken tables and chairs, covered in cobwebs. Running to each wall, she desperately searched for an exit door, but it was in vain.
The Sith had the beauty cornered in the hallowed dining hall. Her mind raced on options of what she could do. Her logic surmised that if she pulled out her saber, he would do the same, and faster, so it directed her to rely on her charisma, as usual. Using his power of Twilight, a softened glow lit the area near him, as he approached her to get a better look at the special woman.
“Mayda, eh?” he began with a sneer, soon letting his indigo lips’ edges turn up into a grin.
With a swish of his hand, her goggles and hood were pushed back, freeing the scarlet tendrils around her weathered face.
“I’ve got a message for you. How fortunate that I should find you here.”
Deception was second nature to her so she spat back, “I don’t know who you mean, but…”
Her defiance was ready to emit the next lie, but it was prevented by a wave of his gloved hand. She attempted to force push him back, but he did not move. She had never felt the Dark Side so potently as in this place. Surely it only increased his power over the mere Knight. At once, both seduced and repelled by it, her will was but a mushy batter that he could stir with merely a finger.
“Oh, is that how we are going to play, my dear?”, he reveled in joy, as a bigger grin bared the yellowed teeth, for a mental challenge such as this was most welcome to him.
Physical power over her was too easy but he still employed it. Gripping both her wrists with one of his large hands and swooping around to her back, he then pressed her body against his torso. There would be no escape for her this time.
“Then let us dance,” his raspy baritone joyfully reverberated in the abandoned dining hall. “And after our waltz has ended, I shall take you back to Var`zhul,” his tepid breath sang right into her cochlea so that the magnitude of the name would make her whole body quake. And it did.
Var`zhul – the word terrified her, unbeknownst why to her. Tense brows furrowed and curious eyes looked beyond the darkness for answers to a mystery. After opening myriad doors to her mind, the form of a face morphed from blurry to clear – etching a gothic portrait in her mind that would not depart her, no matter what she would try. Instinctively she tried to bolster her defenses, but it was no match for his power - he must be an elder, she reckoned. The face blazed in front of her, unwrapping its secrets.
As part of her soul began to remember it, she repeatedly whimpered, “No..., no..., no..., no,” as her eyes froze in disbelief.
The villain kept his mouth to her ear, softly, slowly promising such sweetly poisoned tortures as only a repressed memory could bake. Concurrently, his power of Stasis kept her body paralyzed while her mind was pliant to his will. Achingly desperate waves of “no” continued in an endless echo down the wretched corridors and through the fabric of time itself, as quickly forgotten as all of the other secrets buried in this ruin, never heard, evermore.
Her defenses now disabled, the Sith Lord wrapped his free arm around her stomach, preparing to carry off his prize. Lifting her torso off the ground, tightly pressed against him, his hand pulsed in the Force, felt even through the bulk of her snowsuit. A new revelation startled the hardened being and gave him pause. Sienna orbs brightened as their lids narrowed, savoring another slice of sugary surprise that tasted so delectable to his dark heart.
“He will be quite pleased to receive your … present,” he proclaimed as her heart skipped a beat.
In a flurry, he scooped her up and hastened to the corridor, like an energy spider carrying its prey.
As the group struggled to hold their ground, Locke felt and heard a massive rumbling. He looked up, eyes widening as a full on stampede of behemoths emerged from the blizzard, riders shouting and spurring them on.
"Back!" Locke yelled. He couldn't look to find the others in this blizzard; there was no time. They had to retreat now. "Into the citadel!" The Consul fired his rifle into the air a few times, hoping to get attention. "Retreat!" He hated nothing more than to give the order to retreat, but knew it could mean victory in the end. After all, it often was a precursor to ultimate victory in the Vong war.
He'd learned so damn much from fighting those blasted cretins.
Backing away slowly, Locke watched the oncoming horde until it was almost upon him. As he did so, the Krath continued to fire his rifle, hoping to keep the stampede's focus on himself. Before the stampede could trample him, the Sorcerer called on the Force and ran toward the citadel entrance, hurling himself inside.
Rolling, Locke came up and flipped the rifle over, steadying it's butt against his shoulder. He aimed the weapon at the entrance, finger resting softly on it's trigger. For a moment, all was silent save for the howling of wind as it swirled into the ruined citadel. Then he felt a presence about to enter the structure and pulled the trigger.
There was a series of pops, followed by bright flashes as the micro-grenades exploded. Locke noted at least one scream that was cut off by an echoing gurgle. As he smiled in satisfaction, the Krath moved backward, firing more. He could feel the others behind him, but something seemed odd about them. There was no time to think about that; more SIth were entering the ruins.
"Spread out!" Locke called. "Divide them!" He backed toward the group, vaguely feeling them disperse. Soon the Consul himself faded into the darkness, his weapon silent. He let out long, slow breaths, feeling his mind stretch and then snap back as the part that represented his allies pulled away. They were too far away for the meld to hold. Now he was on his own.
That was just as well. Locke had always ended up alone in the past. He just hoped his allies would be ok. If anything happened to them...well, that's their problem now.
A thought quickly crossed Locke's mind. He could escape if the others posed enough of a distraction. These corridors were tight; there wasn't much room to maneuver. Some of the Sith would inevitably search out his allies. Well, Locke wasn't going to hide forever, but his allies definitely served as a useful distraction. Especially that traitor, Tyren. Methyas' injuries would make him an easier target as well.
Indeed, Locke could escape this if he played his cards right.
The Bakuran could vaguely feel someone moving toward his hiding place. He knew it wasn't one of his allies, but it was someone of decent power in the Force, perhaps near his own. It was so hard to tell in this murky effect the dark side had. It almost physically hurtnow. It would just be a little longer, and then he could escape.
"I know you're here, Jedi, " a voice said suddenly. It pierced the air like a cold breeze from outside given life. "There's no use hiding."
True. "Oh, I'm not, " Locke said. He discarded the Prax-Arms rifle and thumbed his lightsaber to life as the rifle clattered to stone in the darkness. The sunfire blade pierced the darkness like a rod of light, though it's color left it vague whether it's wielder was of the dark or light.
Locke wasted no time in revealing which it was.
"I am your destroyer. I have no need to hide. The treasures of this place will be mine."
As the slightest of smiles began to form on the Acolyte's face, Locke raised his free hand and let the Force ripple forward from it, condencing into a blast of pure energy. The Acolyte braced himself, coughing as he took the attack.
"That was a nice trick, " The man rasped, voice clearly weakened. "A legacy of Sadow, is it?"
How did he know? As Locke raised an eyebrow, the Acolyte attacked, seeming stronger than he had been a moment earlier. He came at Locke with strong, direct strikes: first overhead, and then head on at a slashing angle. The Consul deflected the assaults, stepping back into the darkness.
"Oh, you're wondering how I know that?" The man said, continuing his relentless assault. "We have had time to study this world, and it is ours. The stain of your presence will be wiped clean."
"Oh, " Locke replied through gritted teeth. The words angered him, perhaps more than they normally would have. Stain?
All thought of the others left the Consul's mind as he roared a wordless warcry and put all of his energy into attacking the Acolyte.
Knowing Araxis would never retreat from a fight willingly, even less so in this state, Methyas sprinted with the aid of the Force towards his friend. As the nameless Acolyte charged Araxis full bore, the Prelate shifted his body weight, ducking towards the ground on his right side, which allowed him to grasp his opponent’s striking arm. Araxis then grunted as he thrust himself shoulder first into the arm he had just clinched, a loud popping sound followed by screams of pain echoed across the battlefield. The smallest of smirks crept over the blood lusting Prelate’s face, placing his lightsword flush against the Acolyte’s chest.
Araxis whispered softly, "Pathetic...," so that only his opponent would hear. A snap-hiss and crimson energy streaked clean through the now lifeless body.
"Retreat!" the word was followed by blaster fire to get attention, but Araxis paid no mention. He would not run from this fight, many more had to die before him to satisfy this craving. As another rider and hulking beast came in his direction, Araxis readied himself into another dueling stance. Before he could act however, Methyas rushed in like a flash and grappled Araxis, now caught off balance, into the structure. A quick action and the entrance they had used collapsed in behind them. Getting to his feet, unaware that it was Methyas who had pulled him into the temple, Araxis grabbed the man by his neck, pressing him against the wall and lifting up slightly, and brought his weapon to bear just inches from his head.
"I mean you no harm brother, let me down," Methyas muttered, gasping for air as he stared down the crimson blade of his ally and friend.
Araxis realized who he was holding and immediately lowered Methyas to the ground, before taking a few steps back. His mind slowly regained sense, and he took in his surroundings. "Forgive me, Methyas. I was acting on instinct...," he said taking pause to replay the events that had just transpired. "Why did you pull me away from battle? What reason could you possibly have?!" Anger gripped his tone, but he knew Methyas was well aware that he could never raise his blade against him, not after what they had been through on so many different occasions.
As air returned to his body, and colour to his face, Methyas took a moment and steadied himself. "I did what I did to keep you ALIVE. You heard the order, too many enemies would have crashed onto you. Not even you are able to handle numbers like that yet. You know this, see the reason."
Araxis did not like to admit it, but Methyas spoke the truth. It was undeniable. Damn him and his calmness, always with the clarity, Araxis whispered to himself. "I suppose we'll need to track through this place to find the others... Can you sense anyone?"
Launching his sense outward, Methyas' face made subtle twitches. His focus was everywhere it could possibly reach, and suddenly he was back to their small little area. "Faintly some, but others not at all. Impossible to tell who is which."
"I guess we move out then. Lead on, brother," Araxis said as he moved aside to let the Exarch through. "It'll be just like old times... except no flying tanks regrettably." Both had a good chuckle before taking in the silence and concealing themselves as much as possible within the force.
Blade met blade in the dark, damp corridor of the now ruined and desolate citadel. Green and red mixed and formed different colors of the spectrum as sparks flew from the two combatants. The Acolyte, in his full height of almost seven feet, looked imposing and intimidating even without the light of his crimson weapon lighting every deformed feature he had. It only enhanced his ghastly, surreal look.
The Acolyte grunted in frustration as every attack he made was met with a well timed parry or dodge from his opponent. "Why won't you just die," he yelled slamming his blade down on Tyren's saber. Held in a deadlock with a much stronger opponent, he was forced down on one knee as his opponent gave a wicked smirk of satisfaction. Only a silent grunt came behind the helmet as the Templar enhanced his physical might through the Force. Slowly he pushed his opponent back several inches, giving himself some space. The Force was strong in Tyren's family and his next action would prove it. His head flew forward, forehead connecting with his opponents chin. The blow from the hit cracked the visor on the helmet he wore and sent the seven foot tall giant tumbling back, blood gushing from his mouth and jaw. With a swift twirl of the right hand, the Templar deflected his opponents blade and drew his own sapphire sword with the left. The blue crystal blade, so sharp it could cut through bone like a hot knife through butter, connected with the Acolyte's armed wrist severing it from his arm, permanently.
A scream of agony pierced the darkness of the abandoned and ruined citadel as the Acolyte dragged himself across the floor, all the while holding his bloodied stump. Tyren's saber cut his opponents hilt, which lay on the floor, in two. In a swift and elegant move the tip of his emerald weapon rested at the man's throat.
"Get up, Sith," Tyren growled. Still grunting from the pain, with hatred in his eyes, the Acolyte slowly obliged. Unarmed and wounded as he was, he was no match for the Templar. "Now we will find the others and talk about your master."
* * *
Several minutes later, in the same junction where they split up, the four Sadowans met up again. All battered but fine. Tyren pushed his adversary to his knees and looked to the rest.
"Everyone alright?" he asked, concerned for the most part as he looked them over. As mere nods or grunts met his question, he noticed something was amiss.
The four men looked around as if she would appear from some side corridor or a nook somewhere. "Where is she!" he said again, this time it seemed like less of a question and more like an order to find her. The Sith Acolyte laughed at the Templar as a feeling of icy dread crept through Tyren's spine. His eyes widened as the realization hit him like a comet. Cold sweat dripped down his forehead as the Acolyte's laugh became louder. He had lost sight of her for a mere instant and now...
"You have misplaced something of yours, I see," the Sith prisoner uttered through his laugh. A feeling of pure dread radiated from Tyren as the Force around him suddenly turned icy and bitter. His anger and frustration were so palpable in the air you could cut it with a knife.
"Where is she?" an almost inaudible grunt came pouring out of Tyren's clenched teeth. The Acolyte just continued laughing like a maniac on spice overdose.
Tyren slowly removed his helmet and, in another burst of rage, smashed it against the man's head with force. An audible crack could be heard as the helmet cracked a bit more and flew over the dark room.
"Where is she!" came another command this time fueled by the Templar's frustration and rage. The disorientated man could not utter a breath before Tyren grabbed him by the throat, lightsaber hilt in hand. Atema placed the blade end of the hilt on the man's shoulder.
"Where, you son of a bitch?" this time he yelled the question to the Acolyte's face. As another smirk showed up on his face the emerald blade pierced flesh and bone. Pain washed over the Acolyte and a scream of pure agony echoed through the ruins.
A hand touched Tyren's shoulder - Methyas' hand. "Calm yourself, Tyren."
"Go to hell, Methyas." the Templar spat back. “What would you do if it was your wife?”
"Stop!" Methyas said in a commanding voice. "You will kill him, and we won't find anything out."
Tyren seemed to pause for a few seconds, pondering what his mentor had told him. He stepped back, letting Methyas do it his way. "You interrogate him then," he told the Miraluka.
"There is always a better way," Methyas said and concentrated, deepening his connection to the Force. He saw the Force weaving around their prisoner, entering and exiting every inch of his body. Methyas' spectral hand pulled and poked at several strands before he spoke out loud.
"You will tell me where the woman is!" he said in a commanding voice, waving his hand in front of him.
"I-I will tell you...nothing, fool," he laughed again, louder this time, mocking Methyas' attempt at persuasion. "You will never find them here, Sadowan bastards." Tyren's saber flashed to life once again with a wicked screech as the blade came down on the man's throat, severing his head from his body. It tumbled several feet away as the other Sadowans moved a step back from the enraged Templar.
"He said we would never find them, here," Tyren spoke, sheathing the emerald blade onto his belt. "They must be near or in this citadel. It's time we moved on." He checked his helmet for damage and put it back onto his head as the four men continued further down the halls of Sadow's citadel.
Mayda Ferium's vision swam in black dots and clouds as she regained consciousness. Her body coiled and sprang in an involuntary response to unfamiliar surroundings, but multiple restraints held her firmly in place.
"Welcome back," an oily voice called from outside of the woman's field of vision before a firm grasp embraced her ankle. The hand slid gently up her calf before stopping just above her knee.
Mayda's gasped as a needle punctured the muscle of her upper thigh.
"That will burn," the voice stated without malice.
"Krath Witch, your team has been betrayed and you are now the bait for an even greater betrayal. With each small burst of pain you experience your Force presence beckons your mate to your side. Your love sickens us...."
Where am I? Signals from her brain told her head to turn, but the leather strap across her forehead prevented it. “Who? … What?” she murmured, not realizing that it was aloud.
The needle’s insertion had surprised her but she could handle quick pain. There had been no anesthesia, so that she could still hear what her captor was saying. No, taunting. He delighted in telling her that she was now the bait for her team. The green-skinned Duros allowed a grin after his words, then watched her intently to make sure that the formula would produce the desired results. His eye was covered by one of those magnifying spectacles which refracted the light; she figured he was a doctor or Sith alchemist. When the liquid hit her bloodstream, it was like a spark had ignited trails of gasoline.
He wants me to feel pain. She knew this would be a battle of willpower. I’m not going to let him see it, well, as much as I can control it. The burning began, slowly. Ugh.
It’s a trap!, she realized. But if Var`zhul had only wanted me, then why are the others being hunted? Will they recognize the Consul?
Perhaps the One Sith had other plans for them, she figured, especially with the Consul among them. Her blood felt as if it was about to reach a boil.
It’s all my fault for getting caught and putting them in danger.
The Duros had mentioned a first betrayal, so she could only imagine this was his meaning. Legs and torso now felt as if they were being held over a pit fire, her whole body tied to a stake, being turned slowly to cook evenly.
And they are... sickened by our love? Do they know about Tyren? How do they know? And where is he right now? The urge came to call out to him; she felt worried for him. But then, she remembered the mission and the captor’s word “bait”.
I’ve got to concentrate. I can’t think of him. I can’t call out to him. I can take this. I’ve been through it before.
In her near-delirious state, her mind believed that there was an actual flame under the table she was laying upon. When the burn reached her arms, the scars seemed to glow, welcoming back the sensation like an old enemy that had been thought vanquished.
You will not hurt me again! A maniacal laugh spurt from her roughened lips, in defiance, for her tormentor did not know her past.
Ow! It hurt to laugh.
The doctor regarded her with curiosity, admiring her sass, but knowing full well that it was due to a madness that was coursing through her veins now. “Think it funny? I will give you more, if you enjoy it so,” he offered curtly, then immediately injected another dose, with the same indifference, as if she were a lab animal to experiment on.
Frag! As much as she wanted to keep challenging him, she worried that if she yelled, her beloved would sense it. Perhaps he already has felt me going through this, the thought crossed her mind. The bright idea came to tell Tyren her location, but darkened when she remembered that she did not know it. There was a warm, amber glow of candles in the corner, lighting the Duros from behind. But that was all she saw.
Ugh! The skin was starting to bubble now, just as it did last time, those many years ago. I am an adult now. I can take this. Closing her eyes, the damaged co-pilot’s console was aflame. The pilot was slumped over, dead. The window looked out onto barren ground. She tried the button to open the cockpit, then the ejection button - nothing worked. The teen girl bravely stretched out her arms to push on the window as the flames passed over them. It would not open. She was trapped. She began to panic.
"Argh!", the drawn-out cry was finally released from the pain and tension of seventeen years’ worth of memories. Her muscles relaxed again and lids closed, as her mind succumbed to the flames consuming her useless body.
“Esalacha!” he exclaimed in Durese from the end of the table. Turning to the figure in the shadows, he asked, “May I remove the embryo now?” The figure nodded in reply.
She caught onto this dangerous question in her peaceful state of reverie. Embryo? What embryo? Mine? Tyren’s? By the Force! NO! She tried desperately to hold onto consciousness and clarity, but the fire’s smoke was starting to create a fog.
The clanking of metal implements made a din. She had to think fast. What can I do? What reason would they have to not take it out of my womb? She had to save it. In her delusion, a large, red face appeared, begging her to remember why she was here, why she was going through this, and why he wanted her to return to him.
A whimper escaped her mouth with the name, “Var`zhul’s”... followed by some indiscernible mumbles.
The shocked Duros turned his head to the Sith Lord, who answered the unspoken question with a disappointed tone, “Yes, it is possible. Do not take further action, but allow her to keep suffering until we have the rest of them.”
The quartet pushed onward, deeper into the Citadel’s ruins while Tyren’s pace seemed almost frantic as he trudged to find his lover. The Force itself seemed to grow even thicker as they trudged further underground, into the catacombs and chambers which had once housed the scholars and power of Naga Sadow’s empire. At their midst, Methyas felt the weight of it all and perceived the swirling energies which comprised the Force around them. At its core the Force itself held no allegiance and chose no side in the ever turning war between light and darkness. The taint they felt now had been from the raw emotion of those who came before, relying so much on their own terrible power that they had been corrupted by it and in turn the energies of the Force had been twisted.
It was these twisted energies that now whispered promises of untold power to the Sadowans, telling them precisely what they wanted to hear to restore their Empire. Doubt clouded faith and the belief in oneself, the twisted words they heard now promising power and as always power, in any form, corrupted absolutely. Methyas could feel it, the weight of it all as he could hear the silvery tongue of false promises in his ears. He had felt and seen the connection between Tyren and Mayda, maybe more than either of them had known themselves. This raw emotion now twisting Tyren as he pushed forward like an angered Nexu. Even Locke and Araxis were not their usual selves, the Force itself swirling about them as a vortex of darkness, he was certain they were drawing upon the lies of this corrupted power to strengthen their resolve, but at what cost?
Finally Methyas spoke, his serene voice breaking the silence that had engulfed them, “Tyren, when I said to calm yourself it was not to abandon emotion.”
The statement itself seemed rather odd, but the Jedi continued without waiting for a response, “The Jedi order had it wrong, we are not meant to be emotionless husks simply serving the call of the Force without question; but the Sith too have it wrong.
“We shouldn’t wholly lose ourselves to our emotions and let them consume us, to let them control us. We should embrace these emotions and allow them to strengthen us but we must be masters of them, not the other way.”
The tension amongst them didn’t seem to dissipate in the least, the silence beyond their hurried footfalls returning for a moment before Tyren spoke gruffly, “Seems hypocritical to say this of me when I felt your anger however briefly in that battle.”
A smirk crossed the Jedi’s face as a small laugh escaped him, “Not in the least. I was angry and frustrated, this is true. But like any sensible being, I released that emotion and remained the one in control. My anger did not make me any more powerful than the bliss I share with my wife.
You asked what I would do if they had taken Naomi, and rightly I would be scared, angry and determined to do anything possible to save her. But those emotions would not consume me, if they did I would dive head first to my own death; something which wouldn’t help her in the least. Instead I’d embrace those emotions, understanding that they make me no-less human than anyone else and draw strength from them.
“I can feel your emotion now, and I have felt it too. Grasp it, draw upon it, but know at the core of it all it does not control you and it does not define you. Even your love for Mayda can fuel your strength, if you focus purely on the happiness and bliss within your heart you could strike as hard as you could with your anger.”
Tyren seemed to stop at that, almost pondering everything that Methyas had said as Locke and Araxis stopped with him; only Methyas continuing forward as though he had missed the actions of the rest of them. Every word he had spoken was a truth, he wasn’t the Jedi he was today if he hadn’t embraced the ways of the Unifying Force, understanding that his emotions were useful in their own way as long as he did not let them master him.
After another meter or two of walking ahead of the group, Methyas stopped with his focus still on the ever darkening horizon ahead of him, “Shall we continue, gentlemen?”
“What about our objective, we know nothing about this planet,” Locke responded grimly, the Consul’s own mind obviously distant.
“We need to find Mayda,” Tyren retorted quickly, nearly a growl before Araxis continued.
“We can’t leave her behind, but what if she’s bait for a trap?”
“Oh, its most definitely a trap. They could have killed her and instead took her, they want to weaken the Brotherhood’s invasion efforts,” Methyas replied simply, as he turned to face the trio.
“So what what’s the plan then?” Araxis responded seeing a smile creeping across the Miraluka’s face.
“Spring the trap, if they know this area so well they’ll have had a cartographer record it. We simply liberate this information for our own purposes.”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” came the uneasy response from their Consul.
His mind rushed through all the possible outcomes. Success, defeat, escape - death. He visualized it in his mind, the merciless enemy wrapping his bony fingers around her throat, squeezing every last drop of life from his beloved. It felt as if he could sense it happening right now. His mind was in overdrive, not sure whether to panic, calm down or just stand there and break down like an overused droid. Instead, he just pushed on, fueled by his urge to gut the bastard who took her from him.
They walked for half an hour, mostly evading cave-ins or navigating treacherous, destroyed rooms whose floors and ceilings have long since been destroyed. As they came upon a rustic, marble stairway leading both up and down, deeper into the ruins, the quartet stopped.
"Where to now?" Araxis asked, turning to Locke and Methyas.
“Not sure. I sense...” Methyas spoke but his voice seemed to fade as, suddenly, Tyren felt a sharp pain in his leg, like a burning sensation. He stumbled down on one knee.
"What's wrong, Tyren?" Methyas grabbed his arm, helping his comrade back on his feet.
"I felt...pain. She's in pain, sharp, burning pain." Tyren spoke, concentrating on his link with Mayda. He closed his eyes and seemed to meditate, searching the Force for her. Her thoughts reached out to him, agony gripping her fragile frame, tears flowing down her cheeks. He could sense her emotions, her fears although they seemed diminished, weaker. He dared not think what kind of pain she was really in. “T-Tyren.” She managed a word through the tears.
"She's being tortured. We have to find her, now!" Tyren said, snapping out of his trance-like state.
"No!" Locke stopped him as he went for the stairs "We finish the mission. That's what we came here to do, and this is obviously a trick to herd us in." he continued with a sharp, commanding tone as Tyren took off his helmet, a silent growl of annoyance audible from his mouth. Araxis stood aside and watched the scene unfold, ready to jump in if sabers were drawn.
"We go get Mayda, now." Tyren replied, not giving half a damn about the Consul's orders.
"I said, no." Locke straightened to his full height as he stared the Templar down. Tyren replied in a similar fashion, a grimace of disgust for the Consul over his face. "I'm sorry to say it but she is a liability and she is...expendable."
Methyas' body tensed as he felt the Templar move for the punch. He saw Tyren's fist clench and reacted instinctively, grabbing the infuriated man's arm as it flew through the air, preventing an incident Tyren would easily regret. Tyren's focus was still on Locke, eyes burning with rage.
"Enough! The both of you," Methyas commanded. "Calm yourself and stop this childish bickering, otherwise our enemy has already won." After a few moments, he slowly let go of Tyren’s arm.
Tyren turned his focus to his new mentor and heard the Miraluka's voice in his head. "Calm yourself, my friend. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony. Remember."
Finally, it took Methyas' calm suggestion to open Tyren’s eyes. The Dark Side was affecting them all, making them more aggressive, more wicked. All the teachings of Master Xilaren seemed to evaporate in this place, but he would remember them, he would not fall so low. Not again. He let out a long sigh of relief and stretched his neck as if to relieve the stress a bit.
As they both took a step back and calmed down, Methyas continued. "Mayda..." he addressed Tyren and then turned to Locke, "...and the mission may be in the same place. Have either of you considered that?"
A few grunts and nods came from the duo. "Well then, I suggest we proceed into the chambers below. Assuming they are below.”
“I feel a faint presence there,” Araxis said calmly. “Unlike in the rest of this dump.”
Methyas nodded in agreement and continued. “That is where they would take her anyway, assuming your vision of her is correct?" he asked Tyren and received only a firm nod as an answer.
"I suggest we move forward, then." he finished and moved down the stairway, further into the ruins.
"Come on, ladies." Araxis joked as he slapped both Locke and Tyren on the back. The two looked at each other, a flicker of anger still boiling inside them. This argument was done for now, though it was clear it was not their last one.
After Araxis slapped Locke on his shoulder, the Consul offered a slight grin and turned away. He walked with the group, but internally his spine was stiff. The mission was the most important thing, but he had always cared for those serving with him before. Each Dark Jedi, regardless of their chosen avenues of study, could be useful. Mayda could as well. Besides, she had not done anything to directly offend Locke, so why should he leave her to die?
What had come over him? Methyas' words echoed in Locke's mind. He had listened to the exchange between the wiser Jedi and Tyren. It had slowly nicked away at Locke's own resolve. The mission was more important. In his mind's eye Locke could picture the end of it: superior power for whoever completed their mission.
True, it was only reconnaissance for the main forces, but what they discovered could be useful, and if it was, he could seize it. He wasn't about to let a traitor like Tyren share that, or the wench he loved. If they were in love, she was more than likely in on his plans as well.
Stop, Locke told himself, remember Methyas' words. That's right, he had spoken of the dark side aura of this place. It was tainted somehow. Was this affecting him? It couldn't be, and yet, he had seen the influence of the dark power he sought to control in the other Dark Jedi of the Clan. The longer they used it, the more twisted they became. Locke had always worried about that, and now it was happening to him.
I won't let myself become a twisted madman like them. Locke Sonjie, you have principles!
That he did, or had. He had to keep those. He had chosen the dark side for the power it gave him to protect those who could not protect themselves. Locke had no true evidence against Tyren - in fact, the Obelisk had served the Clan in the battle against Plagueis and Palatinae in the Orian Incursion before. He was just an easy target.
If there was no evidence against him, there was none against Mayda. That made her innocent, and - if he didn't do something - a casualty under the Consul's responsibility. That could not happen. It would not happen.
A quiet growl escaped Locke's throat.
"Easy," Methyas whispered.
"I'm fine," the Krath said. "I've just come to a realization."
The other Jedi nodded in what might have been satisfaction.
The Duros alchemist Cal Isen watched as the chemical's effects continued to take effect on the Krath invader they had captured. It would only be a matter of time now. Her lover would sense her distress in the Force and come to her rescue, only to find far more than he had bargained for.
Cal's master would be pleased.
For a moment Cal''s eyes met the girl's. "I see you are still with us." He would have to note that in his files later.
At a groan from the girl, Cal sat in a chair next to her. "Perhaps you are wondering what is going to happen. When your pain inevitably leads your friend here, he and his friends will find themselves surrounded. His love for you - a weakness that a true Sith would ignore - will be the undoing of your entire mission.
"As such, your frailty and your lover's connection to you will betray this mission." He spat the word 'lover' almost like a curse. True agents of the dark side had no need for such concepts.
"Who knows," he said, smiling as he leaned forward to inject another dose of chemical directly into the girl's bloodstream. "Perhaps you'll even be awake when they get here.”
"And then you can witness the fruits of your suffering."
The corridor moved from a narrow passageway into what appeared to be a very large chamber, multiple levels of travel, and quite clearly the perfect place for a trap to be sprung. Araxis halted the group behind him as he crouched low, utilizing his new cybernetic eye to locate any potential threats. Methyas did the same through his own unique vision, the Force his aid. Something about this deeply bothered Araxis, considering what had been fought outside this place, to walk around so freely, there must have been a watchful eye on them.
"I don't like it, too simple. Clearly a trap," he murmured, still scanning the low light area ahead.
"Indeed, something is amiss. I can sense something out there, multiple things in fact, but no exact reads on any at the same time," the Jedi followed up.
Tyren and Locke grew impatient, still not past what had transpired between them. Araxis could sense it, and he knew Methyas would be sensing it too. Part of him had wished they had just settled it and knocked each other senseless, been done with it then and there, as it would only serve as a distraction further on and potentially compromise the mission. The Prelate stood, and discarded what he did not need from his person. The others looked at him as if he was mad, ammunition and grenades now lay on the floor, discarded.
Araxis caught their glances, "What? I'll move more swiftly without them, and alone. Stick with Methyas, he'll be able to offer you greater protection than I".
Locke stepped forward, grasping Araxis on the shoulder, "What do you mean alone? We are not splitting up, that is an order," his voice filled with authority.
Araxis turned his head slightly, the one good eye he had left fixated on the Consul, "Order?" he said brushing the Krath's hand off his shoulder and backing him against a wall, "Your orders will see us killed on the battlefield; you lack the proper vision. No My Consul, you will follow my order here and now and see yourself past the obvious trap."
“Touch me again like this, and it will be the last thing you do” Locke stated, the tone of his voice clearly very serious. The Archpriest pushed his weight forward to dislodge Araxis’ hand from shoulder.
“You’re more then welcome to try little Krath,” Moving away from the Krath, and towards the chamber ahead, "Methyas, once I pass through here, block any explosive force that erupts, then enter behind me. Pick your targets carefully."
Taking a deep breath, Araxis imbued himself with the energies of the Force, and shot out of the corridor. Sure enough, thermal charges were set to go off, and Methyas was able to shield the other three in the corridor from their harmful effects. Once the explosions subsided, the rest of the Sadowans charged forth whilst the enemy came out of the shadows. They were distracted trying to pin down a dexterous and agile Araxis. Clashes of lightsabers and deflecting blaster bolts flew and rang out across the room, and moments later screams of pain and death.
Tyren seemed especially steeped in the anger of Mayda's capture, using it to fuel his strikes against enemies who were not truly prepared. Slash after slash, Tyren cut them down, wild and unrefined but truly effective. Methyas pulled his usual supporting self to the forefront providing aid where needed, but having some fun with flinging people from one side of the room to another. Locke had taken up a perched position, picking off targets as they appeared. The enemy could have been nothing more than ill informed students, not true warriors.
When the last body had fallen, the Sadowans regrouped at the strongest point of force energies exiting the room. Clearly Locke would not forgive what Araxis had said and done, but it mattered little to the Obelisk. He had long moved past taking orders, as they had only led down a path of betrayal and suffering. One thing would always be a constant for him though, to do his best to protect those that mattered to him.
"Now that we've sprung their trap," Araxis said in a lighter tone fully aimed at Methyas, "would you be so kind as to illuminate forward path brother?"
Not long after their initial fight with the overconfident attackers, the group came upon a hallway leading into an antechamber filled with retrofitted machinery, consoles and portable power generators. It seemed more like a makeshift laboratory than a command centre. The One Sith had clearly used several chambers for their research.
As Araxis stepped inside he could sense several of their opponents around the room. He let the rest of his team through as the One Sith came into view, revealing themselves from their hiding places. There were five in total, all human and all covered in red and black tattoos. Tyren was looking past them, deeper into the room where he saw a table and Mayda spread-eagle upon it. An ugly Duros stood near her, reading some kind of notes. As she looked over to them a smile seemed to cover her face. Tyren's lightsaber came to life as dark thoughts clouded his mind again. Only Methyas' silent message stopped him from charging at the enemy. "Easy, brother."
One of the Sith, who seemed to be the leader, spoke to the quartet as they readied themselves for what was to be a long battle.
"Where our apprentices failed, we will not, scum. Kill them!" he barked an order as four crimson blades illuminated the walls. They jumped right on top of the Sadowans, instantly breaking their coherency and drawing them apart.
Araxis jumped away from his attacker onto more level ground, evading the rubble as best he could. Locke seemed to fare better against his opponent, catching him exactly where Araxis was a moment ago, on loose rubble. A swift uppercut to the chin sent his opponent tumbling back with the Consul in pursuit. Methyas drew his saber to block an upward slash from his own opponent only to push him into a nearby wall. The Miraluka's attunement with the Force proved too much for the Sith.
Tyren seemed to fare worse than the others as his opponent, light on his feet and quicker, kicked him in the abdomen. The blow put the Templar off balance, causing him to gasp for air. He stumbled back, shaken but standing firm as the Sith's second attack came from above. Their blades connected mere inches from Tyren's face. They held their lock, neither giving in or pushing out, equally matched.
Araxis seemed to have his adversary on his toes, attacking fiercely. Another well timed kick into his opponent's groin and a well placed slash from his saber saw his opponent in agony, his arm severed and on the floor. A stab through the heart stopped the screaming. Methyas had his opponent pinned to a wall, holding him in place with the Force as he moved closer. A quick, graceful stab silenced the Sith forever. Locke was still fighting his own opponent, slowly gaining the upper hand, as was Tyren who by now had his adversary on the defensive.
As Methyas and Araxis both turned to attack the leader, the large, tattooed monstrosity charged them, full sprint even over the loose rubble and damaged floor. Swiftly they were put on the defensive, the Sith an even match for the both of them. Araxis stumbled backwards as Methyas received a strong blow to his saber which lowered him to one knee. Araxis jumped the man in an effort to end the fight swiftly. As his saber came down on the Sith's back, another crimson blade ignited blocking its path.
The Sith fighting with Tyren led him further away from the others - a trick to try and get him off balance. It gave Tyren an idea. As the Obelisk moved another step forward he feigned an unbalanced posture, making it seem as though he tripped. Tricked by Tyren's own ruse, the Sith raised his saber to deliver a killing blow. As the Templar’s saber came around on his back to block the incoming blade, he pulled out his Sapphire sword and slashed a deep cut over his opponent's belly, leaving a wound so deep his guts came falling out. Shocked and in disbelief, the Sith let go of his weapon, both hands on his stomach. A swift slash from the Sadowan's emerald blade saw half of the man's head tumble on the floor, exposing his charred brain to the cold air. The Templar looked over to his team and saw the lieutenant had both Methyas and Araxis preoccupied. Locke had just finished his own fight and joined the two. He stood there for a second, considering either helping them or going to free Mayda. He chose the latter.
As he stepped onto the metal floor of the makeshift candle lit laboratory and torture chamber, Tyren found the Sith alchemist standing over Mayda, a syringe in his hand.
"This is a liquefied version of the Synox poison. One more step, runt, and she dies."
Tyren knew the poison very well since his own men from Synergy tried to kill him with it. "Are you strong enough to attack?" his thoughts echoed in Mayda's mind.
"Y-Yes. What are you...?" she asked, puzzled.
"Alright, just... just don't hurt her, ok?" Tyren feigned a fearful, uncertain voice. His mind focused on Mayda's bound left hand, invisible fingers grasping the leather belt. The restraint came undone as Tyren pulled his saber to his hand.
"Now!" he shouted through their link as Mayda, almost immediately, grabbed the Alchemist's syringe with her own free hand and stabbed him in the leg. Tyren pushed him into the nearby wall with a Force blast as the deadly liquid entered his bloodstream and swiftly traveled to all of the Duros' organs. Jerking in agony with foam dripping from his mouth, the Alchemist slumped on the floor, dead by his own work. Tyren unstrapped his lover’s remaining restraints and kissed her.
"I thought you'd only punch him, but that worked as well." He laughed and helped her to sit up.
“Tyren!” she exclaimed, never so happy to see him, and to see how well he could handle himself in a conflict. She was impressed but there was no time to celebrate or even tell him so.
“My saber?” was her first worry, as her head spun in circles, trying to recover from being drugged and having been in so much mental anguish for so long. As her lover scanned the room, she pointed down to the Duros’ body, as a suggestion, though she was not certain. He knelt down and began searching it immediately. Her second worry was the fight still going on in the front of the room. It was taking three of them to occupy the Hulk, as she named him when she saw him before. Clearly, he had been one of the doctor’s most successful experiments. Oddly, there was no sign of the Sith Lord, which was her biggest worry. She kept a watch for him as her other half rummaged through pockets.
Tyren stood triumphantly, slapping the saber’s hilt in her hand and holding a ring of keycards. Noticing her backpack on a shelf, he pulled it with the Force to the table and opened up the pack to check the items as quickly as he could. Mayda was glad to have her gear and weapons back, for she knew what lay ahead for the team.
“We need to go, now,” she beckoned, with no time to explain why.
“Locke will want to know what’s in these computers.” He was itching for more revenge, but he knew that finding out information on this group would help them to leave this place alive, and that was his highest priority.
“Won’t matter if we’re dead,” the hurried tone showed her concern as she extracted her dagger, stored it in her pants pocket, and then slung on the backpack.
“The big guy? They can handle him.”
“No, not him....,” she began but Tyren was already standing at the console a few meters away, inserting the keycard. His nimble fingers and technical mind were quick to type commands, extract data and download it onto a datapad he had found in her bag. Emerald eyes darted between him, her teammates’ melee with the Hulk, and the entrances to the chamber room. Keeping watch was the most she could do to be useful as she was not sure she could stand or keep her balance yet. She rubbed her numb legs, meditating for a few moments to heal them a bit with the Force. Lids opened again to see the Hulk lying on his back, still defying the trio with his saber.
Tyren scanned the files with his keen eyes, narrating to her as he saw each download. “There are maps of this citadel and the planet, notes for the Alchemist’s experiments and weapons diagrams, communications channels, ship access codes, current operations and deployment plans...” He glanced over to check on the team and then to Mayda. Seeing her furrowed brows, he explained, “I’m finding our path out of here!”
The scarlet tendrils bounced as she nodded in agreement, understanding the need. “I just think this is too easy for us. And he’s not here yet,” she worried aloud.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it all now,” he assured, trotting to her side and stowing away her datapad and the keycards in a pocket of her jacket. “We can go,” he offered, putting her arm around his neck to support her. He tried to walk with her, but she limped too slowly. So, in one swift swoop, he scooped her up and carried her forward.
Their heads turned upon hearing the Hulk howling in pain, just in time to see him decapitated by Araxis’ glowing red Stormreaver. “See?” Tyren bragged through his charming grin.
As they hurried through the chamber exit, he called to the team, “Come on, I know the way to the hangar bay.” Locke gave him a nod that indicated an unspoken “good job”.
Methyas took the lead, being the best to sense the Sith or other dangers. The hallways and stairways up were more curvy and winding than the others, as this was not the main pathway. Mayda tried hard to meditate, to heal her arms and control her pain. The only one to speak as they ran was Locke, to ask Tyren what he had found at the computer terminal. The wizened man still suspected that there could be more for them to discover in these ruins, but accepted that it would have to wait until another visit.
Approaching the last hallway, Araxis insisted on entering the room first again, to spring any surprise attacks. However, they found the hangar was empty, serene, and quiet - a bit too quiet. Each of them knew it was too good to be true. A group of small one-person fighters were along the left side, with a few larger freighters in the center.
Mayda’s arms tingled, the small hairs on them standing straight up and causing her heart to palpitate. Of course there was no way that he would let them escape. Perhaps this was the real trap. Her head frantically whipped about, searching for him.
She called out to the team, “He’s here!”
Mayda’s statement evoked the sound of pattering feet as the group came to a halt, a sound which was met with a slow, steady clapping. From behind their nearest source of escape the imposing figure of the Sith Lord appeared, almost as though his form bled out from the transport itself. At the man’s appearance, Methyas stepped forward, placing himself squarely between the Lord and his party as he could feel Araxis at his flank. The Miraluka’s boldness didn’t even seem to faze the Lord as he began to speak, a low guttural laugh a precursor to his speech, “So you’re the troupe causing us so much trouble, I’m afraid I can’t let you take Var’zhul’s prize however, especially not after you killed my apprentice.”
The Lords words were velvety slick, a silvertongue masking the cruel intent behind them; his movements were so subtle that were it not for the Force screaming warnings of danger, none of them would have known his saber was already in hand. In a blur of motion the Lord cleared the space between them, Methyas’ blade leaping to life in the nick of time to deflect the man’s otherwise killing blow before the Miraluka pivoted on his heel and brought the pommel of his saber’s hilt down like a hammer upon the back of the Lord’s skull. The exchange had taken less than a minute as the group dispersed with weapons being drawn rapidly and the Lord stumbling into the midst of them. Once more the calm and familiar feeling crossed the quintet as Methyas immersed them within a Meld, his voice echoing in Tyren’s head as the command was issued, “Get her to the shuttle now, we’ll keep him busy!”
Tyren felt conflicted for only a moment before he started to skirt the edge of the group, trying not to draw attention to himself as Araxis dove in with his saber crashing against his opponent’s. The trio of Sadowans seemed to take turns keeping the Lord busy, strikes from his vicious saber liberating sections of armour or cloth from his opponents as the heat from the blade drew uncomfortably close to skin each time they dodged a strike. Araxis and Methyas were deeply focused as they played this deadly game. They knew the odds from their encounter with Darth Necar and while this man seemed far less powerful, he still easily dwarfed all of their skills.
Methyas was the first to feel his wrath, the Miraluka’s counter earlier had earned him instant karma as the Lord deflected an exploratory blow, the Lord immediately stepping into the opening and slamming his fist into the Jedi’s gut. The air left Methyas’ lungs in a single grunted heave before another blow crossed his jaw and sent him tumbling to the floor. If it had been a simple duel, that would have been the end of him; instead, Araxis interfered. His precise Makashi thrust would certainly have been a killing blow, if not for the Force assisting the Sith as well. Blades screamed as each man’s strength fought against the other, still the assault had made its point and had proven he could be injured; a small patch of seared flesh on his side.
The Force seemed to blossom outwards, warnings and displays of power all at once as Locke’s sunfire blade thirsted to meet its mark, instead finding a saber blade as Araxis found himself violently tossed across the hangar floor. Even outmatched, the Consul was not willing to give ground, his arms tensing as he pushed against his opponent’s strength. He needed to do something if he was going to hold against the Lord and that was when the thought hit him.
Taking a deliberate tumble backwards, Locke fell firmly upon his ass, letting the momentum carry him and the Lord backwards as he coiled his feet in towards his body before kicking them outwards like a rocket into the man’s gut. The move worked, tossing the Lord away from him and towards the waiting Methyas as he completed his tumble, landing deftly upon his feet. The dexterous Bakuran turned quickly to engage to see Araxis already sweeping low with his saber as Methyas struck out towards the man’s chest. Even winded as he was the Sith Lord narrowly avoided the pincer attack, his own weapon leaping out like a viper towards the Sadowan pair to keep them on edge. Without another moment wasted, Locke joined in and the tripartite assault began, each a co-ordinated move as their meld allowed them to act as a single consciousness.
While the Lord could move fast enough to evade or deflect the attacks, it was far too much at once for him to comfortably contend with them. With a fearsome roar the Force exploded outwards from his core, pushing the Sadowan assault backwards as their feet slid upon the stone floor. Panting not from exhaustion but pure, unbridled rage, the Sith Lord began moving towards Methyas, but not without their own assault.
“Now!” Bellowed Locke as the trio extended a hand each with open, or half-opened, palms facing the Lord. The energy built quickly as their emotions poured into the assault and a concentrated beam of energy erupted forth towards their target. Even if he had wanted to, he couldn’t stop the focused assault. Shields would be broken, cloth torn from his body as he screamed out in agony. As their attack finished the man still stood there, visibly broken from the strength of the energy which had bruised and broken skin and bones. Still breathing deeply, heavy heaves of his shoulders, the man just started to laugh. It started low, almost foreboding before it escalated to a near maniacal chortle.
“Well that escalated quickly.” Araxis mumbled across their meld before the man seemed to rise to his full stature.
“You pitiful fools! No wonder your Brotherhood will fall, this pain means nothing. My emotion fuels me and now you. Will. Feel. True. Pain!”
The ravaged Sith Lord's maniacal chortle continued for a few moments, it was almost as if he'd lost his mind. Clearly he was nowhere near as deranged as the Darth that Araxis and Methyas had faced aboard the Avenger II, but there was something almost similar.
"Now you will feel true pain!" His words rang out through their mental link; everyone was on the same page. For some, it peaked curiosity; others took it more literal by readying themselves. "You are not prepared!" With a vicious change in the air around the group of Sadowans the Sith Lord shot forth aided by the Force. His speed enhanced tenfold as he slammed directly into Methyas' chest before the Miraluka had a chance to brace himself. The result was a one way flight to the other side of the hangar. Turning himself to the other two Sadowans not aboard the freighter, his eyes crazed with deadly intent. "Which one of you will be next? Oh my the choices..."
"We need to draw him away from the ship, and get Methyas onto it at the same time. We won't be able to take him at these speeds," Araxis suggested to the Krath.
"Agreed, get Methyas while I draw him over to that massive shuttle," spoke Locke. The shuttle he had in mind was perfectly out of the flight path for their escape. "Come at me Sith!" he shouted, clipping his saber to his belt and switching to fire off shots from his DH-17, using the Force to push himself as fast as he could muster. The Sith Lord merely laughed more and proceeded to hunt his victim down.
Methyas lay on the ground, a indent of the man on the wall behind. He struggled to get on solid footing. Araxis arrived to notice that Methyas' new leg had blown apart from either the collision or the landing.
"Limbs are just not my strong suit it would seem," the Exarch joked, coughing through most of the words.
"No, no they are not, brother," Araxis joked back.
"Help me up, we've got a Sith Lord to deal with." Araxis took care to not further harm Methyas , who would clearly have some form of internal damage if he was struggling to vocalize.
"You're going to the shuttle. We are in no shape to fight another crazed Sith right now."
"You've grown Araxis, to suggest such a thing." Methyas spoke correctly. This was a first for Araxis to turn from a fight, but it was true. The fight with Necar took both the Exarch and Prelate to the limit, and a great deal of luck played into their victory. However that same luck would not be found here today.
* * *
Three round bursts fired every couple of moments, and thermal detonators tossed off in randomized locations. It was not pretty, but it was keeping Locke alive. His opponent getting angry was probably not the best idea, but it kept a shroud over all else that was happening. The Sith Lord cut through objects in his way, set on looking over the Krath's body before making the final blow. He was relentless, already ravaged by three Force Blasts, yet he continued on... a walking tank by all accounts.
"Run as you might, you will never escape my reach," he touted.
And you’re walking right where I want you, nut bar, Locke's thoughts only echoed in his own mind and the metal box he was occupying, waiting for the perfect time to light the explosives he had been placing. As the Sith Lord got within reach of the kill box, Locke lit it up. Jamming his finger down on the handheld switch, explosions filled the area around him.
* * *
Getting Methyas to the shuttle was fairly easy, as Locke was doing a damn good job of keeping his opponent in check and out of their collective hair.
"Tyren, Mayda, someone, open the rear hatch now." A click and a hiss later the hatch opened with the landing ramp extending, Tyren coming out to meet them.
"What happened? Where's Locke?" Tyren questioned.
"No time for that now, tell Mayda to keep the engines hot, and get him situated for dust off," Araxis laid out very clearly, handing over Methyas carefully. "I'm going back for Locke". And explosions lit up from the other side of the hangar. You better not be dead Locke.
* * *
No sign of him, the Archpriest remarked internally, "Guess that's that then..." The micro-explosions and shifting parts of the shuttle made listening for this enemy difficult.
A cold chill filled the air despite the flames raging around him, a single snap-hiss and a crimson saber raised with tip pointing directly towards Locke. "A nice trick Krath, but not good enough I'm afraid." Locke spun only to find his enemy still alive, somehow, "Now let me have some fun with you." An instant later and the Force had crept around Locke's neck, lifting him into the air. He fired off three more shots from his rifle still in hand in a panic, hitting his target all three times. But nothing would slow this monster down. "You... will... DIE!"
A crashing blow of crimson approached Locke, suspended in mid air and saber out of reach, he had no way to properly defend himself. Araxis sped out of the flames and put himself between the blade and his Consul, unleashing the last of his force energy on another concentrated blast to the monster’s midsection. The Sith Lord flew backwards, losing his grip on Locke who dropped to the ground. A deep scar of molten armor and flesh intertwined on the body of Araxis who lay before him.
"Shuttle is ready Little Krath, let's get the hell out of here before he gets up," Araxis said. “I hope you left him a little something,” were his final words before slipping out of consciousness.
For a moment, Locke just breathed and looked down at Araxis' form. The thought to leave him here briefly crossed the Consul's mind, but he pushed it away. The Obelisk had saved Locke's life, so he would be damned if he was going to let the man die now.
Channeling what was left of his Force reserves, Locke greatly enhanced his strength. He lifted Araxis up, huffing even with the Force assisting. He had no idea how long the Sith Lord would stay incapacitated.
"Little Krath indeed, " Locke breathed, quickly stomping to the shuttle, Araxis seeming to get heavier with each step. As he did so, the Krath felt a heat wave and heard an explosion rock the hangar behind him, followed by another, and then another. In his current state, he couldn't move more than a crawl. Upon reaching the shuttle's ramp, Locke slowed to a stop.
"A little help here!" He yelled hoarsely, dumping Araxis on the ramp. While Tyren arrived to help drag the other Obelisk up the ramp, Locke risked a brief glance to see what had happened. The hangar was now on fire where he had been fighting the Sith Lord, lines of fuel-spawned flames crisscrossing it. There were other fuel tanks in the distance.
The flames slowly crept toward them.
We have to get out of here! Locke's message was like beacon in the Force. When Araxis was halfway up the boarding ramp, the Consul reached over and slammed the ramp's lift control with his palm.
Tyren let go of Araxis and fell to the floor. "Obviously, " he managed wryly.
After the boarding ramp sealed closed, Locke slowly lifted himself, stumbling through the ship to the cockpit. There he found Methyas and Mayda, but the pilot's seat was empty.
"Ok, " Locke said, taking a moment to breathe. "Who is flying this thing? We have to go!"
The two other Jedi traded a look, and then Mayda tilted her head. "We thought you were going to."
Locke contemplated a curse, but that look she gave him made the Consul want to push himself further than he should have. For once he didn't mind the effect her appearance had on him. The extra bit of adrenaline might actually help in this situation.
"What's so funny?" Mayda said, noticing Locke's laughter.
The Krath unceremoniously dropped into the pilot's seat, eliciting a creak from the old chair. "Oh, nothing." He studied the controls for a moment, silently thanking Tyren for having used the access codes he stole to ready the ship beforehand.
"Let's get out of here," he huffed, feathering the throttle as the ship lifted off. "Everyone strap in." When he was facing the hangar's exit, Locke lifted one hand off the throttle and cycled through the ship's weapons: just two blaster cannons.
"No kriffin' turrets?" He muttered.
"At least it will fly, " Methyas said.
"Hah, " Locke said, putting the ship to full throttle. He could feel it shudder as the remaining fuel tanks in the hangar exploded almost all at once.
"I hope there's a citadel left for us to explore!" Mayda said. She had that "this-is-all-your-fault" tone.
"Just be happy you're alive. Does this thing even have a hyperdrive?" Locke asked.
"Yes," Methyas said evenly.
As they ascended through the atmosphere, an alarm suddenly blared.
"What's that?" Mayda asked.
"Looks like the One Sith brought some fighters."
"Oh some Methyas? Just some fighters? They don't have a fleet too? Great, we're fine then." It made sense; when the team had caused such a commotion at the citadel and a lone shuttle left an exploding hangar and broke for space, it probably wasn't a friendly.
"Settle down, " Methyas said.
"Right, " Locke muttered. "Alright, this is going to be fun. Methyas, see if you can't signal our own forces before they start jamming communications."
"Alright aaaaand, there they go."
"They jammed us?"
"Yep," Methyas said, " but we got a bit of a distress call off beforehand, standard Sadow code."
"Great," Locke said. As they exited the atmosphere, a second alarm began.
"What's that one?" Mayda said, leaning forward.
"Weren't you drugged like ten minutes ago? Sit down!" Locke ordered. That earned him a look, but she complied when Methyas gently tugged her back. If they survived this mess she could give Locke all the earful she wanted.
"Missiles? Really?", the Krath mumbled. He was vaguely aware of Methyas using the ship's intercom to make sure Tyren and Araxis were alright.
That left him free for the task of avoiding fighters in a dilapidated shuttle.
If I try to fight, those fighters will destroy me. He really hoped this shuttle had some kind of illegal modification.
"Methyas, put all shield power to engines."
"What?!" Mayda exclaimed, but Methyas did so.
"Are you trying to get us killed?" Mayda said.
"Don't start. We need the speed. We're probably dead from a single missile in this thing anyway. Also, you may want to close your eyes."
As Mayda harrumphed, Locke sent the shuttle into a barrelroll, the planet's horizon spinning outside. It was just enough to overcome the inertial compensators for a moment.
There was a loud crash behind them before the cockpit door opened. "Why are you running away? I wanted to hit them with my sword."
Oh, Tyren. "Everyone's a comedian, " Locke mumbled.
He continued juking and diving side to side, barely evading the One Sith fighters. They were in space now, and the planet was falling away behind.
"I sure hope our fleet gets here soon," Locke said aloud to nobody in particular.
"I have a spacesuit," Tyren said. "It would be easy..."
"Shuttup!!" Locke said between gritted teeth. "Have you noticed me trying to keep us from dying?"
Before Tyren could reply, Methyas broke in. "New contacts. Firefox carrier, Majestic cruisers, star destroyers - looks like the Brotherhood is here."
The invasion of Khar Delba had begun.
The moment the shuttle had landed aboard the Sadowan flagship chaos had engulfed it as security personnel, support staff and medical teams dove upon the older vessel. That had been over a half-hour ago now and Locke had, as expected, had his earful from Mayda about the events on the surface. Even so, she had already volunteered to be amongst the first team of scholars to the surface ruins and promptly found herself torn at the prospect of joining the team which would explore Sadow’s true Citadel on Khar Shian. Locke stood at the head of the bridge, discussing their tactical options and strategy to ensure that vital territories and points of interest would be secured in their name. The information garnered from that terminal had given the Disciples of Sadow a major advantage in their invasion efforts or at least until they surrendered it to the Council.
Araxis had been immediately transferred to the the medical bay aboard the Final Way; his wounds would be tended to by the best of staff. Taking only a crutch and stating he would return later, Methyas left for the bridge despite their best efforts. As the Miraluka stood there now upon the bridge, he could see Tyren and Mayda discussing their plans for the impending invasion efforts. After the scare on the surface Mayda could count herself blessed or cursed by the insistence of Tyren’s presence as security detail wherever she went. With a crutch supporting his weight, Methyas approached Tyren and extended his hand, receiving the datapad Tyren had downloaded the data upon. The Templar’s voice rose up quickly, “The contents have been copied to our network as you suggested, let’s hope it gives us an edge.”
A simple nod passed from the Miraluka before he turned and moved towards the nearby holoprojector, connecting the datapad to its interface before signaling the nearby officer to start the transmission. It took longer than usual, the multiple layers of encryption and proxies taking their toll before the figures of an assembled Council appeared before him. Imposing figures, powerful figures, those not actively present with the Grand Master himself appearing separately yet still present. The Jedi gave a simple bow as he began, “Esteemed Councillors.”
A nod was the only response he needed before he continued, “I’m transmitting vital information we recovered on the surface, our mission was...complicated, but I trust our results are worth it.”
Methyas simply waited, not one for unnecessary chatter in this time, Locke appearing at his side as he finished speaking with his retinue, himself bowing slightly in turn before he spoke, “My lords, with your blessing we are establishing a forward base in Sadow’s Citadel on Khar Shian. I trust that is not an issue?”
A glance passed between the Lion of Tarthos, his Fist and Herald before he spoke, “I would expect not.”
Finally the Seneschal spoke up, glancing over the data that had been transmitted, “My lord, it appears they’ve recovered deployment locations, the names of a few high-profile targets, access codes for Holonet channels. We’ll know more once my team has finished decrypting it.”
Again Methyas bowed slightly as he spoke, “A gift, my Lords. May the Force guide us to victory.”
With that, the Miraluka turned and hobbled away, leaving Locke to continue the debriefing with the Council. While the Sadowans had arrived in the system far before they had been ordered to deploy, there was no discounting that their reconnaissance team had far surpassed the efforts others could have afforded. Their arrival here was no mistake, it was the will of the Force and while the invasion of Khar Delba would be a success for the Brotherhood, it would soon be the Disciples of Sadow’s greatest victory.