Run-on: The Enemy Within
Duga Taldrya Arkarso
(Post by Freshjive Taldrya)
"So does that mean we've been infiltrated then?" asked Duga.
"I wouldn't rush to say so, but these don't seem to be isolated
incidents, something is going on, either purposefully or extremely
coincidentially," said Benevolent.
Ektrosis Quaestor Chaosrain chimed in, "Who's targeting us? Arcona
wouldn't dare, we just handed their asses to them. Tarentum? Naga Sadow?"
"Those pussies don't have the balls to do anything this blatant,
although, if they are working together, that's a troubling development,"
came the answer from Ektrosis Aedile, Crix.
The Taldryan Summit was once again gathered on Karufr just weeks after
the hostilities against Arcona had died down. A new wave of accidents
and incidents had plagued the Clans of the Brotherhood, Taldryan no
less. The meeting had just began and the leaders of Taldryan were trying
to comprehend the series of events that had drawn such an urgent call
from Duga to meet. The Clan was still in the process of repairing some
of the damage to its fleet and forces from the recent conflict with
Arcona and hadn't been expecting something to stir the other clans to
agression so soon, but as freshjive, the Quaestor of Dinaari sat
pondering the conversation that was going on, he remembered one of the
maxims from his days of special operations selection course "expect
"It may just be a big manipulation by the Dark Council, seeing how high
we'll jump if they dangle a piece of meat," added Kraval.
"Possibly, but we risk more doing nothing than we do if we take action,"
"Well, lets examine whats happened and try to pick it apart,"
interjected freshjive, "we can write off the incident with Plagueis, it
happens, regardless if we were provoked or not, who really cares? We
kill the [Expletive Deleted] out of Plagueis all the time. Sure we may have to beat
those involved a little more than we usually do, but thats not a big
deal; the EMP problems with CSP might seem troublesome, but no other
clan, including Taldryan, has been affected by it, answer there is CSP's
outdated equipment, which we cannot be faulted for, nor can we be
faulted if they send out inexperienced pilots who cannot fly using
"Alanna's participation in a joint ritual with Korras and Xanos is
coincidental," continued freshjive, "Marka Ragnos' surveillence systems
may have been targeted, but unless Duga is running some covert operation
against them that we don't know about, we can rule out our involvement
in that as well. The Force eruption may have been enough to cause a
malfunction, but do we really want to investigate it? That would be
Korras' perogative and we have no reason to assist unless in our
interests to do so."
"What about Welshman's claims about being shortchanged for supplies and
the incident with the Arcona TIEs?" asked Crix.
"I've been looking into Welshman's accusation," interrupted Duga, "and
they seem to be baseless, he committed an error in his calculations
somewhere, I haven't gone over everything, but I'm sure thats the
"And the TIEs?" asked Ben.
"Could have been an overzelous Journeyman, thinking he could score
brownie points with the Summit if he got rid of some of our old
enemies," added Chaos, "but that doesn't mean it was us, it could have
just as easily been Arcona sabatoging their own ship to implicate us in
"It could have been a leprechaun taking a whizz in the gas tank too,"
said Kraval, "lets put that one in the 'Investigate' category since it
seems to be one of the more malevolent incidents lately."
"So what about the incidents that have been committed AGAINST us?" said
"Those are more troubling than the ones we've supposedly committed,"
replied freshjive, "Plagueis has information on our Clan Force powers?
Tarentum can leave things lying around the Seraphim? A former
member of Arcona blasting out of the Prophet? Naga Sadow
daring to attack us? This is a little too blatant to be these
clans doing it individually, and it's a little too coincidental for me,
someone is pulling the strings on this one, big time."
Duga sat heavily in his chair, the thumb and index finger of his right
hand rubbing the bridge of his nose. The events of the past few weeks
had taken a toll on everyone, especially Duga, he had a lot on his plate
to begin with, and now everything seemed to be stacking up again.
Finally he looked up.
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't like someone
[Expletive Deleted F-word]ing with Taldryan or me," he said, "Chaos, Crix, get your people to
look into the incidents involving Arcona, you people are the diplomats
and since we're techincally at peace with them, an investigation
wouldn't be out of the question. Find out what you can about the
exploding TIEs and the Apprentice that found his way into the bay of the
Prophet, report back as soon as you or your people find
something, also, get a team to investigate that Y-Wing that went down,
tell them to be careful, don't want to lose anyone from leftover
explosives. Jive, Kraval, get some of your people to check out Tarentum,
make sure they're not doing anything they'd regret, and send for a few
squads of Dinaari to come and reinforce the HQ here."
With that Kraval, Chaos and Crix got up to leave. freshjive remained in
his seat and when Kraval noticed he hadn't moved to join them gave him a
look. freshjive just closed his eyes and gave a slight shake of his
head. Kraval understood and continued out the door of the conference room.
When the others had left, Duga looked at freshjive.
"Getting a little cocky are we?" Ben said with a smirk.
"What do you need me to do?" replied freshjive.
"Plagueis knowing our Clan secrets is disturbing, probably the most out
of all the others, that information could have come from only the Summit
or someone on the Dark Council. I know it wasn't me, and I'm positive
that it wasn't anyone present here today, but somehow that information
got out and if that could get out, more sensitive material could," said
"So what do you want me to do?" asked freshjive.
"Get to the bottom of it, find out where it was leaked from, who leaked
it and why. Report back."
freshjive got up to leave and was at the door when Duga called out to him.
"Jive, zero body count on this one, things are starting to boil up and
we don't need to cause an incident that erupts into full blown war, you
find someone that can answer for the leak, you let me know and I'll give
you further instructions."
freshjive turned and left, leaving Duga and Ben to discuss further
possible courses of action. Things were indeed heating up in the
Brotherhood and some of the intelligence coming in showed various
incidents occuring to all the clans. There was a lot to do, so freshjive
hurried to catch up with the others and get started.
Duga Taldrya Arkarso
(Post by Chaosrain)
Everything seemed to be a buzz on Karufr as more information was
released about some of the strange events that had occurred in the
recent weeks. Many Journeymen were running about trying to focus on
their day to day activities, but the events of the past few weeks had
everyone distracted. The previous weeks were full of strange
occurrences, most of which were unknown to the general populous of the
clan. The few event that were known by all were often the topic of
discussions between the clans elder members, and the source of many
questions from the younger members.
The door to the conference room swung wide as the Ektrosian summit
exited. As the duo started their walk to the clan's main hangar, it
became evident that many of the clan's younger members were gathered
near the conference room hoping to learn something about the
happenings of the past few weeks. Chaos and Crix motioned to the
members of their house to follow them to the hangar to go back to
Taruma. As they all walked back to the Leviathan Chaos asked Crix
through the force, "Any idea of how we should go about investigating
"First of all we should have a couple of people investigate the
wreckage on Kaltace, Taruma, and here on Karufr to see if they can
find anything. After that we should ask Halc, and Strat to what they
know, or at least what they are willing to tell us." projected the
"Any ideas why CSP would send that Y-Wing to Taruma instead of
Karufr?" asked the Quaestor.
"Maybe a distraction?"
"If it was a distraction what were they diverting attention from?"
"I haven't a clue." thought the Aedile.
"Well then who should we send to investigate the wrecks?"
"We have three Tetrarchs and three crashes. We should probably send
Raist to Kaltace because he has the most experience and can deal with
the harsh climate better than the Menace and Baron."
"Sounds good. So who gets to investigate here and who gets to stay on Taruma?"
"I was thinking that one of us should pick a number and which ever of
the two gets closest gets to stay on Taruma."
"Good enough for me" thought the Quaestor.
After a few more minutes of walking the group finally arrived in the
hangar and all were aboard the Leviathan.
As the Leviathan made its way toward Taruma a young Acolyte, Hel-Pa
Sklib, asked the summit a question.
"Quaestor. Aedile. If I may be so bold to ask wha…"
"It is nothing that concerns you." Both the Templar and Battlemaster
"But I might be willing to share a little information if you were to
gather the house in the main chamber after we land."
"Will do, Sir!" and with that the Acolyte had returned to his seat and
was pondering how to gather everybody in the main chamber.
"Why are getting his hopes up like that?" asked Crix.
"Well, it's easier than me gathering everyone." answered Chaos.
"No, that's you just being lazy."
"What do you take me for, some non-lazy person?" the Templar replied
with a smirk.
The two of them grinned as the Leviathan came upon Turama.
"As many of you know there have been some strange occurrences
recently. One of which happened right near this very base. As advised
by Consul Duga Arkarso we are hereby starting an investigation into
the events here on Taruma, the crash landing on Kaltace, and the
exploding TIE's on Karufr. We will have three groups to investigate
the wreckage further led by Raistline, Menace, and Baron Zarco. Anyone
who wishes to volunteer should come see Crix and myself after this."
boomed Chaosrain. "If anyone has any questions they should be directed
toward Crix or myself. We will be in here for the remainder for the
day finishing the preparations for the investigations."
As the speech ended a line began to form next to the podium.
"Menace, Raist, Zarco. Come here for a moment." asked the Aedile. The
three Tetrarchs stood in front of Crix waiting for the news he was
about to give them. "As you know you three will each head an
investigation into these accidents. Raist, you will be heading the
investigation on Kaltace. Menace, Zarco, pick any number one through
"What?" asked both Jedi Hunters.
"Just do it." said Crix.
"Seven" said Menace.
"Twelve" stated Zarco.
"Menace you will be heading the team on Karufr. Baron you will be
leading the team here on Taruma." said Crix.
"What were the numbers for?" asked Menace.
"My number was 15, Zarco's number was closer. Therefore he is leading
the team here. You three should get ready and come back here when you
are finished for further instructions."
And with that the three Tetrarchs left to prepare for the investigations.
Shaithis stood in his chambers, silent and unmoving, like a statue in a pose. His hands, the left cupping the right at waist level, twitched. Blood red eyes came open with a start, a foul smell entered his nostrils for just a moment then vanished, the sounds of battle echoed in his ears briefly. Since the end of the conflict with Arcona, Shaithis had been experiencing odd sensations, smells and sounds noone else noticed. Shaithis was never good at seeing the future through the force, instead his 'visions' came as smells, odd tastes, sounds echoing through an empty hallway, things he was more comfortable with in interpreting their meanings. However, this smell was puzzling, but he was sure it was familiar, he had smelled it before...but where? Frustration mounted to the point that the giant barabel overturned the only table in his modest chamber, a deep rumble of thunder echoed throughout the small room as Shaithis attempted to control himself.
"GGGGRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAGH!" A mighty roar issued forth from his cavernous maw. "Vizionssss are for the Krath, not warriorss. How doesss one interperet a bloody ssmell?" Shaithis asked towards his ceiling, as if the force would answer back.
Dropping his gaze to the floor, Shaithis slowly wagged his head back and forth in silent denial. Rage sped its way through his veins, his heart pounding as it swam in it. Shaithis felt as though he could take on an entire legion of the brotherhoods best troopers and come out on top. Without hesitation, the mighty barabel left his chamber and headed for Dinaari's training facility. Shaithis overheard several of the younger members of Dinaari whispering to each other as he passed.
"I wonder what the summits have decided."
"I hope we are going to war, the battle with Arcona wasn't a true test of our might."
"I can't believe someone would attack us so soon after we slaughtered Arcona."
One conversation interested the black scaled demon as he walked past. "Our house summit is on its way back from HQ, I hear things are going to get hectic around here real quick. There's talk that someone might have leaked secrets to another clan, but I've heard nothing substantial myself....."
The rest of the conversation trailed off into nothing as Shaithis walked further down the hallway. The thought of somone sharing Taldryan secrets with another clan was unthinkable to Shaithis, it just wasn't done. But there always was some kind of betrayal going on in the brotherhood, someone stabbing someone else in the back. It is the way of things Shaithis decided as he hit several buttons on the computer, calling up the training program he used. A tingle in the back of his neck, a familiar sensation in the force, Jives transport must have just hit the planets atmosphere.
"If he needss me, he knowz where to look." Shaithis muttered aloud as he pulled his weapon from his belt and the blade hissed as it sprang forth from the hilt.
Alanna was quietly seething. Standing quietly at the back of the hall, she showed none of her emotion, simply appeared to be ensuring that all the young jedi under her care 'volunteered' to take part in the missions. Those who hung back would later come to regret their hesitation.
As the Crix and the Tetrarchs sorted the Ektrosians into some sort of order, Alanna made her way over towards her Quaestor. He saw her approach, and gave a small nod of acknowledgement. Alanna stood silently beside him for a moment, seeming to consider her words.
"Alanna, something troubles you."
"Something more than troubles me."
Chaos nodded. "None of us believe you had anything to do with the Markos Ragnos surveillance system... unless you were under orders, of course. In which case I congratulate you on a successful operation." Chaos smiled and Alanna was forced to return a tense smile of her own.
"It's not the sabotage... it's that people actually believe one of my rites could misfire! I was conducting it with Korras and Xanos for goodness sake. How incompetant would I have to be..." Alanna's voice was rising, and Chaos interrupted her with a small hand gesture.
"Shh! This has really upset you, hasn't it? It's rare to see that composure slipping." Alanna glared at him and took a deep breath to speak, but Chaos got there first again.
"For now, we have decided not to investigate that particular incident. Now... maintain that dignity... I first have need of your diplomacy elsewhere. Our house has been tasked with investigating the problems with those Arconan ships; the house summit will be speaking with Halc and Strat, and we need you to turn your charm on them. Once that's concluded, you may investigate your rite."
Alanna's expression had smoothed from anger to an entire lack of emotion. Chaos knew from long aquaintance that that meant fury. But she would conduct herself with absolute professionalism. Rather than arguing further with her Quaestor, she turned to glare at a Novice who had been inching closer in an attempt to overhear their conversation.
The Jedi Mistress took a deep breath, as if to subdue any further arguments; she nodded to Chaos and took her leave. As he watched her walk away, the Quaestor spared an unusually sympathetic thought for any of her charges who had been too slow to volunteer for the missions....
Incoming Transmission from Baron Zarco to Tiberius Serpentium, the mech droid announced over the intercom system. Tiberius was meditating in his chambers when his portable personal transmitter beeped into life, the message replayed itself summoning the Knight to one of Ektrosis' primary communication transmitters. Tiberius keyed in the acknowledgment sequence and the transmitter ceased to emit its periodic reminder.
Tiberius exited his chambers, fully endowed with the robes of his order, and made his way to the closest planetary communication holonet. The Knight approached the consol and keyed in his security access code, and the once empty diode resonated to life with the holographic image of Baron Zarco.
"Greetings Milord, may I be of service?" remarked Tiberius, his voice a testament to calmness. The image did nothing but nod.
1 Hour later....
The air was thick with anticipation; one standard hour had passed since last Tiberius had received a transmission from his Tetrarch. Baron Zarco had updated the Dark Jedi on the perimeters of the upcoming investigation, outlining the details and any other relevant information that might have been useful. Further Instructing the Knight to meet him in the main complex building within two hours.
Tiberius had spent the time wisely, researching all relevant data contained in the Temple of Pomojema, with regards to CSP’s battle tactics and wartime precedence. The former Tetrarch of Hex was taking no chances, and had extended his research to include all known explosive patterns left by CSP weapons and the relevant local trace elements that were indigenous to CSP planets. Each system contained different atmospheric properties, the explosion radius and the trace elements left in its wake would be unique to each planets individual atmosphere. Examining the wreckage and the remnants of certain compounds would clearly identify the origins of the explosives.
Thus far the only evidence pointing to CSP detonators was the location of the explosives itself. For all intent and purpose, another clan could have planted those explosives on the ship, exasperating the idea that Taldryan was under attack by possible CSP aggression. Tiberius made it a point to inform his Tetrarch of his theory, at the conclusion of his research.
Another hour had passed, and time crawled ever more slowly. Until finally, Tiberius keyed the data pad; its mechanical beeps assured the safety of the material being viewed.
With one quick side glance, the Dark Jedi encased his pad into the folds of his dark robes. Preparing himself, the Knight strolled out of the temple, his research complete. Tiberius knew Zarco would want to get the investigation started as soon as possible now that the preliminaries were dealt with, and the Knight was not going to keep his Tetrarch waiting.
Duga Taldrya Arkarso
The Press Room in the Clan Headquarters was full of people waiting for the arrival of the Consul of Taldryan, Planetary Viceroy of Karufr. Duga Taldrya Arkarso made a quick entrance followed by his Proconsul and several assistants. It was apparent he was ready to make a brief, to the point statement regarding all the recent happenings and high activity in the system over the last month or more.
“Greetings everyone, I’m just going to address a few things for you now. Earlier today I had a meeting with the Taldryan Summit to talk about the many rumors and actions that have been going around. We discussed them and are now investigating many of the incidents; certain Summit members are heading different investigations. Right now I’m not going to get into saying what are just rumors and what are actual facts as I’m sure you want to ask me, there are just too many uncertainties right now. I will say that normal Clan activities have been interrupted and things are going to be a little off for awhile while we deal with these events happening throughout the Brotherhood. To the members of Clan Taldryan, look to your immediate leaders to inform you as to what your new assignments are if they even have any for you. Otherwise, just keep your guard up as there are a great deal of unknowns that we are dealing with. To the populous of the Kr’Tal system, so far all the incidents have only dealt with the Clan directly, so just rest assured we are looking into things and business in the system should carry on as normal. If we have any updates, they will go out over the holonet as normal. Thank you for your time.”
The briefing was short and sweet. Duga made his way back out of the room taking no questions from the large group of on-lookers, including many media reporters representing various organizations. Outside the room was the Great Hall. It was usually pretty quiet, but with the recent Feud more Taldryan members were on Karufr than normal. With all the incidents around the system and the Brotherhood recently, the entire headquarters was full of activity, more than the Consul liked. Walking back to his office, Duga was feeling someone following him, something he felt in the meeting as well.
“Ben, do you sense that?” he asked his Proconsul.
“No, what’s wrong?”
“I feel someone trying to get to us, someone nearby.”
“With all these people here, it makes it very hard to keep a good lookout for anything.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Duga replied as they were only steps away from his office. With the crowds of people around, security in the palace wasn’t as it should be, making the situation worse.
“Duga, watch out!” Ben yelled while pushing the Consul behind him and his assistants. Ben ignited his lightsaber blocking an attack from an unidentifiable assailant who was running towards the Consul. Back and forth they went for a minute before Ben’s saber sliced across his opponent’s chest. Security Officers had made there way to the Summit by this time and were pushing everyone away making a good sized perimeter around the body. Ben moved back towards the wall where Duga was standing, they made there way into the office from there.
“He was experienced, but probably just a highly skilled Journeyman of some sort. No identifying markings that I can tell just from that, we’ll need to examine him further down in the labs. This could be part of that Naga Sadow situation, then again, just too much uncertainty right now.” Ben said.
“That’s it; we need to clear the headquarters of all these non-Clan members, and even some of them. Get security on its highest alert here, contact the House Summits and have them do the same around their locations.” Duga replied obviously very angry over what happened. He sat in his chair throwing papers off his desk.
“I’m going to go ahead and contact all our forces positioned across the Brotherhood systems to pull out and head for our nearest safe houses or just return here. You know as well as I do that something big is in motion with all the strange and disturbing events happening with the various Clans. We need to start preparing for the inevitable.”
“Are we publicizing that yet?” Ben asked.
“Not yet Ben, I want to give our forces some time to move before we announce it fully. When I announce it, I’ll make sure we shut down all Clan Embassies we have here as well. I want this system clean of anyone we don’t know fully until these situations are resolved.” Duga spoke as he starting writing the notice to their forces.
“Wait, we are going to shut all those down? Some may see that as an even worse sign from us, that we are ready for major action.” Ben asked hesitantly, but with concern in his voice.
“Probably, but I sense that’s coming soon anyways and we don’t have any other way around it. Now go get that security setup as it should be. I’ll get back with you soon on looking into my attacker, once this is all set in motion.”
“Oh, what about our agreement with Arcona? We want to kick them out too?”
“I’ll allow some of their people to stay at the current time, very limited though. Right now the only people we can really trust are our own.”
As Ben made his way out Duga could only think that something very bad was soon to happen. With things as they were, there was just too much unknown, too many things clouded. The lines between enemies and friends were running thin.
Epis Dark Sabre Taldrya stalked towards the hangar on Taruma, thoughts bouncing incoherently in his head. Nobody had expected anything as obviously aggressive as an attack on his clan’s Consul and it bothered him that he had not foreseen it. The Shadow Pact had been renewed and everything should have been fine; no one should even consider attacking the two most powerful Clans in the Brotherhood when they had banded together. Still, the tension was palpable in the base that he had so painstakingly planned and prepared for any instance. When the fighter loaded with explosives had been discovered after the mysterious detonation, he had raged for days and had lodged multiple “unofficial” and forceful complaints.
Although he no longer held any official power in the Clan, his influence was well-known by the general populace and he had an obvious advantage over most other Jedi in diplomatic situations. Which is why he was slightly miffed that he was only the pilot on the dispatch to Arcona despite reassurances from his Quaestor that he would see plenty of action. His shuttle was located in Bay A-71 and he arrived to see his former superior waiting impatiently, the Dark Jedi Mistress Alanna.
She turned her cold glare towards him as he entered although she had probably sensed his presence long before he had entered. Her visage normally would have softened visibly when she saw it was the Magistrate that had served her during her reign as Krath High Priestess, but instead she remained hardened and unreadable. She’s the diplomat? he practically gasped in surprise; it made sense, but it almost seemed like a waste of her considerable talents. Unless there was something Chaos hadn’t told him… which was quite likely given the need for confidentiality.
“I’ve been assigned to make sure you arrive in Arconan space safely,” the Equite spoke, tucking away that thought for the moment.
“In this old tub?” She made a disrespectful motion towards the aged Lambda-class shuttle emblazoned with the Ektrosis crescent on its three wings. Although she would freely admit that she knew little about starships, it was obvious even to her that this would be destroyed in seconds in a firefight.
“Don’t worry it has plenty of special modifications,” he returned, ignoring the insult. He climbed up the ramp without breaking stride and was followed by the still dubious Alanna. He powered up and spoke into the microphone as his passenger took a seat behind him in the cockpit. “Razor’s Point to Taruma control: requesting clearance, exit vector for the Dajorra system calculated.”
The Elder looked at him quizzically, “You haven’t even touched the navicomputer; how could you possibly have a route already made up?”
“Who needs technology?” he asked as he slammed the acceleration button and they shot out of the atmosphere at a speed well beyond that of any more conventional shuttle.
Stepping off the transport behind his QUA, Kraval stretched his back and took a deep breath. “Well boss,” he said to Fresh, “I’m going to go see about rounding up some folks for the Tarentum search to begin.”
“Fine, I’ll check and see what squads we can send to Karfur like Duga asked for and see about getting a few old timers to help with the search” Fresh replied heading towards the Dinaari HQ. Instead of following Kraval decided to wander around outside for a bit taking in the sunshine and fresh air. Hearing the sounds of shuttle engines Kraval gazed out to the horizon to see ships landing and taking off in an organized frenzy. Ever since the fighter incident things have been far more busy around here.
Oh well, Kraval thought, at least its making life a bit more interesting.
Allowing his body to fall down onto the soft dirt Kraval lay on his back watching as clouds rolled by, moving wherever the wind told them to go and not a care in the world. Letting the broken sunlight shine down onto his face Kraval felt relaxed in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. With the warm comfortable ground underneath him and the nice breeze around him Kraval drifted into a peaceful sleep.
As his mind returned to consciousness Kraval could feel a sense of urgency emanating from the HQ. Lifting himself up to his rear he shook his head and allowed his brain and senses to focus again. Hearing even more ship traffic than even the increased activity before Kraval stood straight up, looked around, and wasn’t pleased with what he saw. People were running back and forth from buildings, ships were taking off without any sort of cohesion and guards at the HQ were keeping anyone and everyone out it seemed.
Dusting himself off Kraval jogged to the doorway for the HQ and was halted by the guards. Slightly annoyed at their audacity Kraval announced himself to the men and they immediately moved out of his way. Walking down the hall at a brisk pace Kraval brushed past all sorts of Journeymen who were involved in one task or another. The hallway was flooded with activity, making Kraval wonder what in the world could have happened to cause all this trouble.
Reaching the turbolift that would send him up to the private level for the house summit offices Kraval submitted his finger to the scanner as well as allowing the retinal ID confirm who he was. The door slid shut without a sound and the lift moved upward as Kraval pulled out his lightsaber and fiddled around with it. In no time the doors slid open and Kraval stalked down towards Jive’s office. Before he even reached the door it flew open, slamming against the sides of the wall as Kraval saw Fresh standing behind his desk looking furious.
“Where have you been? Have you gotten those search teams together yet?!?!” Fresh roared.
“I took a nap outside on the grass,” Kraval answered looking puzzled.
“What happened to cause this entire ruckus?” The AED asked.
“Someone tried to assassinate Duga earlier. Forget sending a fighter squad to Karufr, I’m ordering that the Renegade be dispatched immediately along with fifty of our OOM combat droids to be stationed at the Tal HQ,” Fresh stated as he glared at his AED.
A little shocked himself Kraval took a moment to process this information. “Sounds like a good idea to me, want me to go along with the group and stay near Duga to insure his safety?”
“No that’s something Ben can and has done plus what do you think I’m sending some of our droids for? I’ll need you to assemble those teams so we can get started right away,” the QUA answered picking up a datapad.
“News of this has spread pretty far very fast, I want you to go to the lower levels and start rounding up folks. I need to talk to Shaithis,” Fresh answered.
“I’m on it boss,” Kraval said heading for the lift doors. Now, he wondered, who can I start selecting for this?
When the Consul addressed the clan, Vodo was standing in one of the first rows. Duga stood in his Clan robes, emanating a sense of authority to calm the younger Journeymen and members. It seemed to help. His voice carried through the grand hall and was most likely amplified through the force. The Speech was short and sweet, detailing plans to find out about the crash sites, and ways members could get involved to save the clan from any possible threat.
The Effect was not surprising, noting the complete blind loyalty most of the membership awarded their leaders. Vodo was not one of these mindless fools however. He was the kind of Journeymen that leader’s loved and hated so much. Loved for his ability to create, improvise and think independently, hated for his ambition and leadership potential. In his years with the Clan of Taldryan, Vodo had seen many events lead to larger scenes; mostly conflicts and what seemed to be an annual war. This aspect was always hushed, and not regarded with much open discussion.
What did surprise the Jedi Hunter however was the attack in the open on the Clan Consul. Duga, more than able to subdue this attacker was merely taken aback by the audacity of the attempt on his life, leaving his more alert Proconsul to take action in his defense. The attacker, a Journeymen it seemed, held off the elder Dark Jedi for a few lucky moments before falling in combat, victim of Benevolent Whiner’s light saber.
Nothing was said by the summit just there, which by all accounts was the worse decision they could have made. Rumors began flying from all directions, interfering with the process of disseminating proper information and intelligence to the membership of the two houses and ultimately the clan itself. The Twi’lek did not allow himself however to listen or heed any of these, knowing that it only lead to ignorance.
Vodo set out, with his pack at hand, filled with provisions and his combat equipment, towards his Quaestor’s offices. Here, he found a long line of Ektrosis staff waiting to see the house leader. The line diminished at an astonishing pace however, showing the extreme ironic efficiency by which Chaos ran his command. Vodo was admitted to the room, flanked by an Obelisk Trooper. The disdain was evident upon Chaos’s face at having to discuss matters of importance in the presence of a brute.
Taking a seat after having filed a few documents from the previous staff member, the Quaestor took his seat in the ivory chair of power that Ektrosis Leader’s had called their own for many years, “How may I help you Jedi Hunter?”
Vodo’s natural wicked grin diminished to a serious visage, “I was present at the Consul’s speech, and took to heart his words about approaching him if interested in helping any of the investigations”
The Quaestor leaned back in his chair, visibly relaxed, “Do you know what a relief this is to me? All day, since that pathetic attack, and since I’ve arrived here, all I’ve received are punitive Journeymen trying to get information out of me, and my staff asking me to sign off on schedules, reports, and supply shipments. Not once this day have I received a request to aid in this effort. How is it that you wish to help our investigations?”
“I would like to accompany my Tetrarch to Kaltace. I have much experience with many types of harsh climates”
The Quaestor took a deep breath, thinking deeply about this decision, “I sense an ulterior motive in this move Vodo Biask…”
“I could not keep myself from hiding it from you my lord. It seemed trivial at the time”, the Twi’lek’s wicked grin returned, the menacing sharp yellow teeth in full display, “I wish to prove my worth in the coming events”
Chaos grinned in return, “Your worth… Very well then, I will send you to the Consul’s office on Krufur for final confirmation. You go with my blessings however. You may leave; I must return to my ‘work’ before the attendants outside become irate.”
Without another word, the Jedi Hunter bowed, and left the room, trailed by the Obelisk Trooper. Once out of the office, another Dark Jedi was admitted, and the Quaestor was left to his duties. It was then Vodo realized his transport to Krufur had not been specified. He was about to turn and inquire, when he noticed his pack was slightly heavier than when he’d packed it. Inside was a datapad with instructions and clearances to make it to Krufur and meet with the Consul. The Quaestor must have used a mind trick on him while talking, making him pay no attention to the fact that he was placing this within the pack. The lesson was obvious…
Vodo had showed not only in his request, but in his mind, an endless well of ambition, a drive to reach the top. The trick was to remind the Twi’lek that he still had a ways to go, and that there were still those above him who could best the Journeyman. The Hangar was ahead, and beyond that, his trip would begin.
Ricco Vao sat on the edge of a bench beside his friend Trivium, anxiety taking over his whole body. They both knew they were going to have a tough time in this war and they would have to do it without each other. Ricco was going with the Horsemen battle team and Trivium was preparing to leave with Dinaari. The two exchanged empty and lonely glances just as Avenged walked in
“Are you ready Ricco? Phoenix and the Horsemen are leaving in half an hour”
“Yeh I’m just saying goodbye to Triv”
Trivium left the room sulking but feeling confident about the journey he was about to take. Avenged sat next to Ricco, his dark presence shadowing her.
“Get your things you won’t give a good impression if you are late”
Ricco walked over to his belongings, only a rucksack with food and water lay before him with his Fira hanging on the wall. He took it down and swung it in the air.
“It feels good doesn’t it, battle is near are you ready for this Ricco”
“I am not sure I feel uneasy, like the war is not going to go the way it should”
“You need to cheer up and be more optimistic you’ll put the whole team down”
Ricco started walking without her, grumbling to himself, how could he feel optimistic when he was going face people whose strength he didn’t know? He just had to be confident. Avenged sighed and started the short walk to the shuttle hanger bay.
“I hope he knows what he is doing” she said doubtfully and headed to her own team.
The guardian approached the shuttle trembling, not just with fear but with excitement, dread and the cold air brushing his bare arms. He could see the rest of the team assembling at the ramp. He slowly walked over to face this new test life was giving him not knowing what was to come.
Shadow's training sabre made contact along Fire-Knights shin sending a smarting pain up his leg and bringing him to his knee. Another hit followed closely behind knocking the Knight on his face.
"Ok, im good for now." Fire-knight muffled to Shadow from his vantage point on the ground.
"Heh, come on get up, one more...." A beeping sound from the corner of the room cut Shadow off in mid sentence. Striding quickly over to where he had left his outer robes, Shadow pulled a holopad out of the folds. Pressing a button caused an image of Benevolent Whiner, the clans most recent Proconsul, appeared in front of him.
"Shadow, their has been an assassination attempt on Duga. Gather somebody you can trust and come to Karufr, were stepping up our Cohors Praetoria for awhile." With that the image blinked out and began dressing.
"Fire-Knight, you heard that?" Shadow asked
"Hope you didn't have plans, because your coming with me." Shadow stated with a smirk.
"Heh, when do i ever have plans... I'll go prep a ship"
An hour later, the two Dinaari Warriors were touched down on Karufr and making their way towards the main entrance.
"He'll be in his quarters." Shadow said suddenly, breaking the silence.
"Do we still have clearance?"
"If not, it will have been programmed so we did before we got here."
Fire-Knight stretched his hand out and placed it on the security pad. Half a second later, a few beeps were heard and the turbolift opened.
"Let's see what Ben and Duga have for us" Fire-Knight said as he entered the Lift.
Duga Taldrya Arkarso
A message went down the holonet to all Clan members from the Consul...
“Greetings all, an assassination attempt on my life occurred after a press meeting here on Karufr. Thanks to my Proconsul he was taken down quickly. The identity of the assailant hasn’t been discovered yet, but I’m looking into that as we speak.
As a result of the abnormal incidents over the past months, especially this last month, and with the attack on me, I have called all our forces across the galaxy to return home or go to the nearest safe houses. We are also shutting down all Clan Embassies here on Karufr at this very moment. With all that’s happening we need to be prepared for something major to come up in the near future. These are key steps to being ready.
The Kr’Tal system is on high alert and security at all Clan facilities should be at their highest levels. Clan members should continue on with the work at hand until anything further arises. Continue all investigations, normal activities, and whatever your leaders assign you to do. Keep your guard up at all times. I sense that my attacker was not the only enemy in our mitts. I will inform you all of any major changes as they happen. Thank you.
Obelisk Exarch Duga Taldrya Arkarso
Consul and Son of Clan Taldryan
Planetary Viceroy of Karufr”
Darne switched his holonet off. He turned a pale face towards Kwade Heer, standing next to him.
“An assassination attempt? That’s insane! Why would someone try something that dangerous?” Darne asked in disbelief.
“I don’t know,” Kwade responded, his jaw still hanging open. “But I guess this means that the tension between the Clans is about to blow up in all our faces.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
They both sat down on their beds and stared into space. The thoughts of all out war, assassinations, death, and their own friendship ran through their heads. What if it was gone the next moment? They both shuddered. At that moment, the door to their room slid open and Grincheux walked in, with his usual suave step.
“So, looks like it’s time for war, huh?” His grin widened as his tail swished around behind him.
“Yeah. Are the battle teams still being deployed, or are we staying here?” Kwade asked.
“I’m not sure, but I think I’m going to talk to Menace. He should have some idea of what’s going on around here,” the Protector stated.
“Ok, but make sure you come back and tell us what’s happening,” Kwade added.
“Sure. I’ll be right back then.”
Darne walked slowly down the hall. He looked around and noticed everyone rushing to go places. Everyone appeared to have something incredibly important to do at that very moment. Suddenly, the Obelisk felt a pain of worthlessness. He felt as though he was left out of what was going on. He wanted to know the details, and have something important to do. He wanted to have responsibility. With a shake of his head, the thoughts and pains were gone, and he found himself standing outside the office of Menace.
Darne knocked on the cold metal door, and from within he heard a calm voice say, “Come in.” The door slid open and the Protector stepped inside. The Sergeant was sitting at his desk. A mound of papers lay disheveled on one side, and a datapad lay on the other side. He appeared calm and serene, but with a slight aura of weariness about him.
“Yes, Darne. What can I help you with?”
“Well, Sergeant. My friends and I were just wondering what is going to happen now? What are the battle teams going to do? What’s going to happen to Clan Taldryan?” The Obelisk’s questions came fast.
“Calm, Darne. One at a time,” the comforting voice of the Jedi Hunter sounded strong. “Now, I’m sorry, but I do not know very much at this time. Also, what I do know, I am not allowed to disclose to you. However, I will tell you to be patient, and remain calm. Everything will be fine. Now, return to your dormitory, and stay there. It will be safer for now. Tell your friends everything is going to be ok. So, is there anything else?”
“Um…no. No, that’s it. Thank you very much, Menace,” Darne bowed as he said goodbye to his leader. He remembered the feelings of worthlessness, but pushed them to the back of his head. “Goodbye.”
As Darne walked back down the hall to report the news to his friends, he heard a beeping coming from his robes. He quickly removed the holonet screen from his robes and turned it on. A figure appeared before him, and from his expressions, the Protector instantly knew more bad news was on its way.
The recent attack on Duga’s life left Hel-Pa speechless, who was the imposter and why was he trying to assassinate the great leader Duga? The Acolyte did not know what to do, or who to ask, and look around him for some hint of a way to help, or perhaps even hinder, as long as he was noticed and not left in the dark in the current situation. He spotted Chaos, and being that Chaos had given Hel orders before, he decided it would be a good idea to start with him again. Hel had been standing in line earlier, as he volunteered himself to join an investigation group, but he did not know what group he was going with, so he asked Chaos. “Um, sir, which group should I uh… go with for the erm… investigations involving the other clans? I was thinking I could go with Raistline, because he’s my Battleteam leader and I’ve been around with him for a little while.”
“Sounds OK to me, why don’t you go talk to him about it and see if he has room for you.” Replied Chaos.
“Yes sir” Replied the Acolyte, eager to begin his first major assignment for Clan Taldryan. Hel stood on his toes, searching around for the figure of Raist, not seeing him anywhere. He knew he was in Clan headquarters somewhere, so Hel-Pa frantically began searching around for him. After quite a bit of running, Hel finally thought he saw the Tetrarch and shouted in shortened breaths, “I’ve… been looking for you… Chaos told me… to talk to you… about the investigation you are leading… where exactly are we going… and when is out departure?”
freshjive had remained in his office for a few hours, dimming the lights and leaning back in his chair. He faced the wall and was throwing a soft rubber ball against it, catching it on the rebound. It was a bit of personal time in the midst of all the madness that had occured recently. Already since the hasty Summit meeting yesterday on Karufr most of Dinaari's resources had been assigned to various posts. Shadow and Fire Knight had gone to the Clan HQ to assist in protecting Duga and a contingent of battle droids was there as well, standing by in case of a full scale attack.
A knock at the door caught freshjive's attention, he knew who it was.
"Come in Kraval; Shaithis, no drooling in here."
A soft growl was heard through the door before it opened. Kraval and Shaithis stepped in.
"I only drool when I'm hungry, and right now you're looking pretty tasty," replied Shaithis.
freshjive continued to throw the ball against the wall, catching it deftly in his right hand each time.
"Bit dark in here eh boss?" asked Kraval.
"I've been doing some thinking," replied freshjive, "Kraval, I'm going to need you to supervise for awhile, Duga needs me to go on a mission."
"Any idea of when you'll be back?"
"When I'm done with the mission, the less you know the better, but just in case, keep the emergency frequency open and clear if I have to contact you for extraction."
"What about me?" asked Shaithis.
"Someone is trying to manipulate Taldryan into thinking another clan is after us, what they don't realize is that the other clans have ALWAYS been after us. Whoever the puppetmaster is, they're attempting to implicate EVERY clan. Thats just impossible, even if they were all working together, which we know they're not. Do some digging into the incident on the Seraphim, find out what you can, hopefully there's some security video showing who planted that scrap of fabric with the Tarentum logo. Do an analysis on the fabric itself also, find out what poison was on it, where its from and who uses it. Report to Kraval. Also, try and rouse some of the other guys and get them back here, I have a feeling that I'm not going to be bringing back good news."
"You need a ride somewhere?" asked Kraval.
"No, I'm going to Antei."
"You realize that whoever is running this is going to expect that right?" said Kraval.
"Yeah, probably, but I don't think I'll have a problem going unseen."
"Sure, you're only the Quaestor of the most powerful House of the most powerful Clan in the Brotherhood, you wont have any problem slipping in and out," replied Kraval sarcastically.
freshjive stopped throwing the ball against the wall and turned his chair so he was facing the two Dark Jedi.
"Look, just run things here for awhile, if anything goes south on me, Pyralis is on Antei, I'll link up with him when I get there. Get the Dinaari fleet ready for action, I don't want us caught with our pants around our ankles."
"I smell something foreboding in the air," said Shaithis.
"I know, I'll be leaving tomorrow night, if you have anything before then I'll be here, dismissed."
With that, Kraval and Shaithis turned and left the office, closing the door behind them. Through the door the sound of the ball hitting the wall resumed.
"Lets get going then my giant monkey friend," said Kraval to Shaithis.
"Barbarel, I'm a freaking Barbarel!"
Shuttle rides were long. They were always long. This one was no exception. Vodo had been under the impression that the transport he’d been assigned, a modified Imperial-era shuttle nicknamed the Bolt, would have been a faster ship. It appeared however that the name referred not to the vessel’s speed, but to the mechanisms that barely held the wreck together. One thing the Twi’Lek Jedi Hunter could be forgiving of was however the hyperdrive’s amazing rating of 4.5. That was not amazing in that it was fast in any sense of the word, but rather that the shuttle was holding together despite it’s speed, or lack thereof.
Unless you were in a leadership position, or were on of the lucky few to enter the Brotherhood and be allowed to keep your personal vessel, then you were regulated to use one of the organizations many transports. One of the many slow transports. The ride from the Kr’Tal system to Ksrufr had always been a journey for Vodo, being that it usually took most of a day in real space. Today however, having special orders from the Ektrosis Quaestor, it was a mere hour in hyperspace.
The shuttle set down on Karufr’s main spaceport on a priority docking space. The Relief in Vodo’s mind at finally being off that vessel; was nothing compared to the pilot and co-pilots moods at finally being allowed to park somewhere decent in their beloved shuttle. A small gangway led from the landing towards the terminal. The Jedi Hunter took this into the main building, and found transport to the Clan’s Headquarters. Obelisk guards stood in abundance around the center of Taldryan’s power.
Presenting his identification at the first post, and his orders from Chaos, Vodo was let through the first few checkpoints unbattered except by the piercing gazes of bored Obelisk. It was at the final checkpoint however that his Identification was called into question, and his orders from the Ektrosis Quaestor scrutinized. He supposed it was that he was Krath and a journeyman. It had been enemy journeyman that had been causing most of the trouble around the brotherhood and Taldryan as of late.
As he was about to be denied entrance to the inner sanctum of the head quarters, an average sized Human male made his way to the station, asked several guards what was going on, and determined that Vodo was to accompany him. The Jedi Hunter, slightly taller than the Sith that led him away from the disgruntled Obelisk Troopers said nothing, but escorted the Twi’lek to the Consul’s office where a similar scene to Chao’s office was playing out, in a louder manner.
Attendants ran about, carrying documents and reports here to there, and back again. A durasteel door at the end of the lobby was marked with a blood red circle with a stylized A in the center, signifying the Consul’s inner chambers.
“Wait here to be called in” the Sith told him before leaving.
Vodo waited to be called forth to a personal audience with the clan Consul. Hopefully, Chaos had sent word ahead of him so he wouldn’t be sitting for too long, but by the look of the work going on around him, it would be awhile.
Shadow opened the door and entered the Consul’s chamber. Sitting behind the large desk bent over what seemed like thousands of documents was Duga Arkarso looking frustrated and tired as he sifted through looking for something. Behind him to his left stood Benevolent, Proconsul of Taldryan watching as the two Jedi entered the room. Ben lightly tapped Duga’s shoulder causing the Consul to look up.
“Ah Shadow, Fire-Knight good.”
“You guys alright? Ben said you were attacked.”
The Consul wiped a hand across his face. “Fine thanks to Ben. But the [Expletive Deleted] is hitting the fan hard. We need to secure all of Kr’Tal. I don’t want to take any chances right now..”
“We want you two to take a security detail, two squads, and escort the remaining ambassadors to their shuttles. The Clan Embassies are closed until further notice.”
Fire-Knight stepped forward before voicing his concern. “Are you sure that’s wise with tensions as they are? This could make things worse with the other Clans.”
“Our job right now is to keep this clan safe. I don’t care if a few people get butthurt about it. They can take it up with me when I’m not being attacked.”
“Those ambassadors will be off planet within the hour,” Shadow bowed followed by Fire-Knight then walked out the door.
* * *
Shadow walked quickly through the turmoil of young Jedi securing the clans headquarters. Behind him were twenty well-trained and loyal military men. The Adept led the security detail and his fellow clan mate Fire-Knight through the massive facility towards the Clan Embassy buildings. Guards were already posted outside the walls along with members of Dinaari to keep the ambassadors secure. A Jedi Hunter noticed Shadow coming and came forward.
The young man bowed his head. “Sir. We’re under orders to not let anyone pass.” The hunter was clearly nervous about enforcing such orders in the presence of a Dark Adept and former Consul of Taldryan.
“You have new orders now,” Shadow passed him Duga’s note. “We’re escorting these… ambassadors to their shuttles. Duga wants them out of this system immediately.” The Hunter quickly read the letter before nodding.
“We’ll round them up for you, sir. There’s only a dozen or so still here.”
“Any unaccounted for?”
“No, sir. All ambassadors are accounted for.”
“At least the one’s who went through our checkpoints,” Fire-Knight muttered.
Shadow waved the Hunter to his task. Armed guards entered each of the embassies and emerged with a few Clan dignitaries. The young Hunter lined them up in front of Shadow’s security force then returned to his post.
“Gentlemen, sorry for the inconvenience-“
“What is going on here? We demand an explanation for this!”
Shadow glared at the Tarentum ambassador an old man with the rank of a mere Priest. The man gulped nervously and took a step back. “As I was saying.” Shadow turned his gaze to the rest of the group. “Due to some… recent events, Consul Duga Taldrya Arkarso has decided that all Clan Embassies on Karfur shall be closed until further notice. I’m here to escort you all to your shuttles.”
“As the ambassador of Naga Sadow I say we will not go. No Clan can refuse another’s dignitaries unless they are at war.”
“We agree with the delegates from Naga Sadow. Your Consul would like to start war with Clan Plagueis? He will find he won’t like that.”
All twelve of the ambassadors started shouting and screaming. Shadow pulled his lightsaber from his belt and igniting it. The sight of the blade caused everyone to fall silent. “We don’t wish to start any wars. But I will not listen to your bantering. I find these embassies a useless waste of our resources, you’re lucky we’re not killing you.” Shadow put his weapon away. “Now, if you’ll kindly follow us you can return to your shuttles.
“The Dark Council will hear of this.”
“So be it.” Shadow nodded to his security detachment. The ambassadors were circled and forced to march towards the spaceport.
Shaithis growled through an evil grin at his companion as they walked down the hall. Kraval knew it was all bluster, Shaithis would never intentionally harm a fellow clanmate, but it didn't soften his vicious looks any.
"Next time you call me a damn monkey, pink ssskin, I'm going to rip your sspine out your assss." The cold comment left Kraval standing still as Shaithis continued walking down the hall.
Snapping back from the morbid images of his spine being ripped out, Kraval heard his giant companion laughing and quietly muttering something about all the soft bellies he was surrounded by.
"That wasn't funny!" Kraval shouted back, though his voice was a bit shaky. Who wouldn't be after having a giant lizard tell you he was going to do bad things to you, Kraval told himself.
Running to catch up to Shaithis, Kraval rounded the corner, but the Prelate wasn't there any longer. Shrugging, Kraval continued on with his oppointed task. Shaithis had ducked into one of the comm rooms dotted around Dinaari HQ and was in the process of contacting the Seraphim.
"We read you, sir." The voice came through with a bit of static.
"Thiss iz Prelate Ssshaithiss Var'rek, I will be asssuming command of the invesstigation upon my arrival. You will have all evidence and pertinent data at my dissposal. I have a feeling that I will be sstaying aboard for a while, I will need quarterss and a quiet place to conduct a full invesstigation of the matter. Alsso, I will need ssstaff asssigned to me. Am I clear?" Shaithis spoke his orders into the comlink with calmness, but the undercurrents in his voice spoke of a painfull death if they weren't carried out to the letter.
"Good, I will arrive in two hourss time." Shaithis switched off the com unit and headed for the nearest shuttle bay to "requisition" a shuttle.
As the circle tightened and began its march towards the spaceport, Fire-Knight noticed a Priest begin to inch towards Shadow. Fire-Knight closed swiftly so that he was walking silently behind the priest allowing the man to make move before he acted. The Priest did not notice Fire-Knight and began to reach for his Lightsaber as he closed within striking distance of Shadow. Raising his wrist the Priest ignited his saber and began a downwards stroke attempting to cleave Shadow from shoulder to waist. Having anticipated the strike, Fire-Knight grabbed the Priest by the shoulder and flung him to the ground like a rag doll.
Hear the sudden commotion Shadow whirled around to see Fire-Knight standing over the Priest who had dropped his saber.
"What just happend." Shadow asked.
"This worm tried to strike you from behind Adept." Fire-Knight said knowing to address Shadow by rank in front of the scum of other clans.
Shadow quickly moved towards the fallen priest with a look of violent intent.
"If you don't mind Adept, I would like to educate this scum in a matter of honour." Fire-Knight said before Shadow striked.
Smiling Shadow stepped back "Go ahead, but show no quarter."
Instantly the guards pushed the other embassadors back forming a ring around the Knight and Priest.
"Get up filth!" Fire-Knight said as he drew himself up to his full 7 feet and ignited his Lightsaber.
The Priest slowly rose obviously stunned from having been thrown to the ground and lifted his own Lightsaber before him. Fire-Knight charged in and began crossing blades with his opponent, circling him and testing his defense for weaknesses. Suddenly he saw one. Bringing his saber in on a far right arc, the Knight made sure the priest could block it, but at the same time Fire-knight threw his full strength into a left hook, knocking the old man to the ground. As the Priests saber rolled away, Fire-Knight replaced his on his side and sautered up to the small human struggling to rise. Picking him up with his left hand, Fire-Knight placed him on his feet then pinned his arms to his sides with his left arm and using his right to push back the mans head, exposing the tender flesh of his neck. In one bite Fire-Knight ripped out over half the mans throat and spit it to the ground. Dropping the corpse, the assembled crowd watched as it twitched for several seconds then stopped.
"Let that be a lesson to the rest of....." Fire-Knight began but did not get a chance to finish as another three Embassadors suddenly ignited their sabers and cleaved through the guards in front of them charging towards Fire-Knight.
'Aww crap' Fire-Knight thought as he prepared to defend himself.
Shadow saw his enourmous Nelvaanian clanmate was about to be in big trouble and suddenly jumped into action. Dashing between the three dark jedi and their pray, Shadow began expertly weaving his blade, killing one of the men in seconds. A second slipped by him and engaged with Fire-Knight leaving Shadow to fight the last. Shadow continued his battle moving deftly around his opponent, an low ranked Obelisk, and quickly analyzing his defense.
Fire-Knight was having a rough time with his opponent and had already taken several burns along his arms and legs from his enemies saber. The guards couldn't help him because they were too busy detaining the remaining embassadors. Fire-Knight suddenly realized we was fighting a losing battle agaisnt a Prelate of better skill then him. Fire-Knight instantly switched to Defense only and knew he had to hold out until Shadow finished with his opponent.
Shadow ducked quickly, avoiding a blow which would have severed his head, and dived under his opponents defense launchin his blade up and into the chest of his opponent, who quickly fell to the ground.
Fire-Knight had been backed into a corner and was beginning to experience extreme fatigue when suddenly his opponets torso slid to the ground to reveal Shadow behind him.
"Oh thank god, and thank you Dark Adept." Fire-Knight said between deep pants.
Nodding to the Knight, Shadow turned on his heel and addressed the remaining embassadors and guards. "Guards, transport the corpses to the respective ships and tell the pilots to report they attacked us without warning. As for the rest of you follow us without a word or you will experience a similar fate."
With that the remaining embassadors fell into a line and quickly approached the Spaceport.
Heading back to his office Kraval was somewhat disapointed that he would be stuck on Altur dealing with the administration of the house. He had hoped to go out on a mission himself but that didn't look like it was gonna happen. Walking down the corridor and stepping into a turbolift again Kraval allowed the scanner to read his prints and eyes to take him back up to the house summit level.
Stepping out of the lift Kraval strode over to his door and unlocked it using the force. Going inside he found that everything was in its proper place so he went over to his desk and pulled out a small scanner. Turning it on and running a sweep over the entire room revealed that no hidden spy devices were planted. Some may think that doing a scan like that isn't necessary but during times like these one can never be too careful.
Sitting down in his chair Kraval grabbed a datapad and began pulling up the list of forces under Dinaari command. The Interdictor Orthanc and the Dreadnaught Dark Seraphim are powerhouses unto themselves, very few ships in the Dark Brotherhood would be able to match their firepower. The Outcast and Renegade would be useful for hit and run attacks and to be a general annoyance. Since the Sinister is used for capture operations Kraval wasn't too sure about what to use that one for if a battle arrived at his doorstop. Mulling this over Kraval heard a beep on his comm system and upon hitting the appropriate button the face of a space control officer appeared.
"Sir, have you authorized any shuttles to depart?" He asked looking a little worried.
"No I haven't but I know what's going on. Allow the shuttle to go on it's way," Kraval replied.
"Yes sir," the controller answered and signed off.
Opening another comm channel Kraval ordered that the top ranking fleet and ground commanders meet him in his office in the Dinaari HQ. Before heading down to the lower levels to escort the commanders to his office Kraval issued a general alert that the HQ is to be on lockdown and that all non-essential personel are to leave. Standing up Kraval headed back towards to the turbolift wishing that there was a faster way to get all those commanders to his office level.
As Ricco sat beside his battle teammates in the shuttle, talking about what missions they could go on, he heard his name being called by Baron Zarco. He stood up and went over to the Krath Tetrarch “ Yes sir.” He said his anticipation bubbling up inside him.
“You are to leave on a mission immediately. You are to follow and report back on an Arcona Protector by the name of Xar'Kahn. You should in no way approach the Sith and you should refrain from attacking him.”
Ricco, dumbfounded, looked at Zarco “ You want me to spy on one of our allies?”
“Yes now no more questions, why we are doing this is classified. Take what equipment you need and head to hanger bay 159 your shuttle shall leave in 15 minutes.” The Jedi Hunter looked serious and Ricco did not want to harass him any more.
He left the shuttle and headed out through the large door. “I am going on a mission which I know nothing about” he pondered on this all the way down the corridor whilst many of his friends shrugged past him too busy to say “hi”. He knew one thing though this mission was not going to be easy.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Battlemaster Taku Matsuki Taldrya, known more commonly as Crix to his friends, sat behind his desk reviewing paperwork and orders that were going out to the various members of House Ektrosis when he came across a fresh stack of papers. On the top was a set of orders for Guardian Ricco Vao to collect intel on a specific member of Arcona. Crix's jaw dropped as he read the orders. This was something that could start open war between the clans if Ricco was found out. Crix reached out into the Force and quickly scanned the compound for any sign of the Guardian. He found him sitting in his shuttle, about to depart. Latching onto Ricco through the Force, Crix shouted a simple message to him STOP. He felt the Guardian jump in his seat. Crix smiled and fed more words into the Guardian's mind through the Force This is your Aedile, you are to abort your mission at once and come to my office with Jedi Hunter Baron Zarco. Ricco couldn't send very complex messages through the force, but what he was able to send told Crix that he understood and was coming with all possible haste. The fact that the message was so jumbled may have also been partly due to the fact that Ricco had been rather scared while sending it. It didn't matter to Crix though, he'd averted a potentially serious disaster.
A few minutes later there was a sharp knock on the door. The knock was mearly a formality, Crix had known that someone was coming for at least 30 seconds and he knew who was standing outside his door. Never the less, one does not simply enter the office of a summit member without permission and the knock was a simple way of asking for it. "Enter" Crix said and the door swung open.
The two Journymen stepped into the room timidly and closed the door behind them. Crix's office was nothing compared to Duga's or Ben's, but his status as a former Quaestor and a Son of Taldryan afforded him a slightly more regal office then what most Aediles were allowed. The walls were covered in various knick knacks that Crix had collected during his years in the Brotherhood, which ranged from trinkets that he'd gotten on various assignments to a desplay case full of lightsabers which were wielded by Jedi, both dark and light, who had died at Crix's hand. Crix's Sapphire Blade also hung on the wall as well as his Warbanner, which was hung directly behind his desk.
Crix pointed to the two chairs in front of his desk and simply said "Sit." He waited until the two had stopped moving and then said "Jedi Hunter Zarco, I understand that you ordered Guardian Ricco Vao to spy on a Protector from Arcona by the name of Xar'Kahn. Is this correct?"
"Yes, I did give the order." Zarco said with a hint of fear in his voice. Crix was usually lighthearted and liked to joke around but at the moment he was completely serious. That wasn't a good sign.
"Do you know what would have happened if Ricco had been discovered by Arcona?" Crix asked, an edge creeping into his voice.
"N...no sir, I don't." Zarco replied, his voice shaking now.
Crix's reply was short: "Open war with Arcona." He let the words sink in for a moment before he kept going. "As much as Taldryan doesn't shy away from spilling blood, we are trying to find out who's blood needs to be spilled at the moment. We don't need to go rushing in to provoke another clan. Further more, had this mission been carried out it would be in direct violation of Taldryan's non-aggression pact with Arcona. Even if we don't especially like Arcona, we don't want to fight them at the moment; breaking that pact right now will do nothing besides get the entire summit rather pissed at the both of you." Crix paused again and sighed. "Zarco, your team is supposed to be on Taruma looking into the ship there. You'll need the entire team to help you out with that. The next time you disobay direct orders it will be much more unpleasent." As he said this, Crix reached out and sent a slight amount of pain through Zarco's nerves as a reminder of what he could do to the Jedi Hunter.
"Get your team ready, you leave for your investigation in an hour." Crix said, using the Force to open the door to his waiting room.
“DIE TALDRYAN SCUM!” the dark figure shouted, spit flying from the shadowed face. From below the figure’s waist, a bright green blade extended. The glow from the lightsaber cast a little light onto the shape’s face, but all that was visible were his crooked teeth, and thin, mangy lips. The wicked smile sent shivers down Darne’s spine, and he fell backward onto the black marble floor. For the life of him, he could not place where he was or how he had gotten there. The dark character before him quickly leapt in the air and came down on him with a high shriek and a swing of his weapon. “NOO!” the Protector shouted as his arms flew up to cover his face. As he knew the last breath he took might be his last, he closed his eyes tight. As the blade was about to burn through his body, Darne’s eyes shot open and he saw the ceiling of his own room.
He sprang up in his bed and glanced around the room. The cold sweat on his face dripped onto his blankets, and Novice Kwade Heer turned around in his chair across the room where he was bent over an old book, reading the worn pages rather intently.
“What’s up with you? Have a bad dream?” the Novice asked.
“Um…yeah, I guess so. But, dang. It was so real. I could have sworn…Oh well. What are you doing?” Darne questioned.
“I’ve got a test tomorrow at the Shadow Academy. What was so bad about this dream?”
“Well, I was in a dark room. The only light was from a skylight overhead where the night sky shone in. And, there was a black marble floor, and a dark figure. He…he…well, I guess he tried to kill me. But that’s when I woke up.” The Obelisk’s voice was shaky, and his wet palms gripped his blankets as he retold the chilling event. “But, it seemed so real. I don’t know.”
“Wow. Sometimes you worry me, Darne,” the Sith replied, with a small grin.
“Any news from the Dark Summit?” Darne asked. He made sure he was on top of the events. The Protector knew that at any moment, his battle team could be deployed and he would be sent away. He intended to be ready for that moment.
“No, nothing so far.” As Kwade replied, the holonet on his desk began to beep. He turned his head to Darne and raised an eyebrow. “Weird…” he laughed.
Kwade hit the button to the holonet and the face of Halcyon Rokir Arconae appeared on the screen. His voice was stern, and he meant serious business. However, at the same time, they could tell he was deeply disturbed by the news he was delivering.
“Let it be known that on this day, the Consuls of the great Clans of the Dark Brotherhood have put the Dark Council on notice. In meeting, we have agreed that the reported incidents have been perpetrated by a force, or forces, outside of the Clans. None of these incidents were approved by the Clan leadership.
Our investigations have determined that there are forces on the Dark Council conspiring to pit each Clan against one another, and force us into open conflict. Such actions will not be tolerated any longer.
We, the Consuls, are demanding answers from the Dark Council. Our fleets are prepared. Our forces are ready. We do not take such actions lightly, but we have been left little choice. Either answers are provided, or there shall be war.”
“W…w…war?” Darne could barely form the words. His jaw hung open and his eyes darted around, searching the small room for answers, comfort, anything that could explain what was happening in his life.
“Wow, this is crazy,” Kwade added. “An all out war? That would be the end of the Dark Brotherhood. This is stupid.”
Darne still searched the room. His head was spinning, and his face began to sweat again. He had often dreamed of being in a war, and the excitement of fighting beside great people like his fellow members. But an all out war? He knew that could possibly mean death for him and his friends. His heart beat faster, and his hands began to twitch. Suddenly, in his panicky state, his eyes landed on the old lightsaber hilt he had taken from his master when he had been killed. He panic stopped, and he calmed instantly.
If war it was going to be, then he would be there, fighting as valiantly and bravely as the most powerful Grandmaster in the Dark Brotherhood. Darne Seign was ready for whatever they had waiting for him.
The Consul’s office was bustling with activity. It was just like Chaos’ office, yet larger in scale, size, and intensity. The Taldryan Head Quarters were on complete lock down with only the highest ranking officials, and specially ordered Dark Jedi moving about through checkpoint to checkpoint. Vodo had been intercepted at the last check point luckily by an envoy of the Consul who at this time seemed incapacitated by the work load.
Vodo laughed inwardly, pushing the thought from his mind. If the Consul or any one here detected that he had doubt their leader, then his chances of success would be diminished. The Fever took about a half hour of sitting to settle down initially, and the envoy returned. Unlike before, the Sith was not wearing his cape, and seemed more ready for office work than he had before.
The Jedi hunter bowed his head and rose to his feet, trailing behind the imposing Sith until they reached the emblazoned entry to the Consul’s inner chambers. The Consul would already know of their presence outside his door, but the Sith followed an archaic tradition of knocking and waiting for admittance.
From within the chamber rose the deep powerful voice of Duga Arkarso, “Enter”
Vodo smiled, enjoying the almost theatrical mood of this meeting. The Consul was trying to intimidate the young Journeyman using shadows and low droning voices. Once he entered the chambers however, he felt the room was filled with this man’s anger, presence and power in the Dark Side. It was not like other leader’s personal offices he’d visited. Those had felt almost warm and inviting. This was completely different.
The temperature was acceptable, but the power emanating from the large decorative throne behind the cherry wood colored desk caused the room to feel frigid and darker than it really was. It dawned on him this was not a theatrical show to put him in place but rather the Consul’s own brooding mood.
“Please, sit” The Consul droned, turning around to face the Jedi Hunter entering the room.
“Thank you my Lord”, Vodo bowed his head towards the Consul. His nervousness showed through his calm demeanor however when one of his head tails twitched subtly, causing it to become uncoiled from it’s resting spot at his neck, and fell towards the floor to hang loosely. Upon rising to and sitting he hastily re-wrapped it around his neck and placed his hands on his thighs.
Amusement was now in the Consul’s voice, “I gather your Quaestor did not send you here to cheer me up. If he did it won’t just be your head that the Clan see’s outside my window tomorrow morning”
“No my Lord. I asked Master Rain if I may be present in the investigation of the Kaltace crash. I was present at the attempt on your life and I find it unacceptable that anyone would violate Taldryan in such a way.”
Duga folded his fingers together, resting his elbows on the desk. He closed his eyes in deep thought, “That’s all good and well. But what do you hope to accomplish out there that your Tetrarch cannot?”
“You misunderstand me Lord Arkarso. I wish to accompany Arch Priest Majere.”
Taldryan’s consul glanced at his watch, and looked outside of the room, “So be it.”, he reached into his desk, brought out a datapad, keyed in some information and levitated it across the desk where Vodo grabbed it, “Your transport will leave soon. It remains to be seen however if Raistline will be joining you. You are dismissed”
The Sith appeared in the chamber, and escorted Vodo out of the Office entirely.
Ricco Vao was manipulating his fira to ease the tension of the wait when he saw his Tetrarch and Dark Jedi Knight Tiberius Serpentium, recently decorated in the Arcona feud, striding towards him. Both were dressed in black and carried bags. They were speaking to one another as they strolled across the hangar bay towards a parked Imperial shuttle.
Zarco said to the Knight, “Your grasp of the Force and ability with the lightsaber are far beyond mine. I ask that you communicate freely with me in order that we may make full use of your talents. You have been a Tetrarch. I value your opinion.”
“Understood,” was the only word that Serpentium had fro his Tetrarch before they came upon the shuttle. Zarco motion to Ricco Vao and he eagerly scooped up his pack and double-timed to join the two.
“We have been tasked to a mission that I have not been briefed upon yet. We are to board the shuttle Ultra Vires and await further instruction. The other members of our team should already be aboard.” Without further word Zarco strode up the ramp into the shuttle and made his way to the cockpit area.
Ricco Vao took a look at Tiberius Serpentium. He saw the lightsaber hanging prominently from his waist, the mark of a Dark Jedi. Serpentium nodded as if to sense the respect of the industrious Ricco Vao and turned to enter the shuttle himself. As Ricco took his first step onto the ramp the shuttle vibrated with life and the ramp began to retract. Ricco skipped up the ramp and into the closing portal as the team Horsemen of the Apocalypse was sealed inside.
Zarco was retracting the data disc from the back of the droid pilot’s head. He knew not what the disc contained but knew that he had a series of them to be unlocked at specified times. Zarco turned and stumbled slightly as the shuttle changed direction and began to pick up speed. He saw his fellow team members strapped in and waiting. Zarco took a seat facing them.
All were quiet as the shuttle vibrated more violently than before and then became eerily calm. They had made the jump to hyperspace. The team members began to relax and extract themselves from their restraining belts. Zarco spoke to all.
“I have no idea where we are going so I suggest you ready yourselves now. It could be soon…or not. I have been told that this mission will require discretion. I understand that, at this stage, we are not functioning as a strike team. However, one should always be ready to strike…especially Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Zarco opened the long bag that lay between his feet and retrieved a Prax Arms heavy blaster with under-slung flamethrower. He tested the pilot light and heard the gas hiss into the mechanism. Everyone but Serpentium and Nexus Mage flinched.
Zarco extinguished the flame that could unleash Hell and placed the weapon back into the bag only to retrieve his trademark slug throwers. He pulled the slide to the rear allowing a round to chamber and holstered the weapon only to retrieve another.
Zarco mentioned casually, “I seem to remember being told that it is impolite to fail to bring enough for everyone.”
The junior members of the team watched as he continued to rummage in what seemed like a grab-bag of death.
Zarco thought to himself. “The first seal announcing the apocalypse has been broken. This is my … our destiny.”
Zarco noticed Tiberius Serpentium looking at him as if to share his thought.
Chaos walked down to the main hall of his house, which was now being used as a temporary planning area, searching for his Tetrarchs. To his dismay only two of them had been spotted.
“Menace, Raist have you seen Zarco anywhere?”, asked Chaos.
“Nope”, replied Menace.
“Damn it! Where the [Expletive Deleted F-word] is he? This is no time to be wondering around not doing anything.” Chaos said angrily.
With a touch of a button Crix was on his comm. and waiting for Chaos to speak.
“Crix, where is Baron Zarco?” asked Chaos.
“I have already had him in my office once today for disobeying orders”
“Well he has disappeared again”
“Oh he better [Expletive Deleted F-word]ing hope I don’t find him.”
“Zarco... where the [Expletive Deleted F-word] are you?” asked Crix through the force.
“You better get your ass back to Taruma now and find out what the [Expletive Deleted F-word] was up with that ship, or else I’m going to pull your rectum out your mouth.” exclaimed Crix interupitng Zarco’s thought.
“Yes sir!” exclaimed Zarco outload.
“What the hell?” asked NexusMage.
“Pilot, turn this ship around we are heading back to Taruma” yelled Zarco.
“Why sir?” asked the pilot.
“Just do it. That is a direct order.”
“All taken care of Chaos.” Said the Battlemaster
“Good. We don’t need [Expletive Deleted] like this happening right now.” said Chaos into his comm. unit.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Crix sighed and sat back in the chair behind his desk. This is not starting off well he thought to himself. He turned to his comm unit and punched a few buttons and within moments four faces appeared on his screen. The conferance call consisted of himself, Raistline, Menace, Zarco and Chaos.
When everyone had exchanged greetings, Crix turned the conversation to the reason why he'd called. "Alright everyone, we've had some issues coming up when we were trying to deal with these investigations. I think we can pin the cause on two things: miscommunication and over-zealousness. The communication issue is what we're going to fix right now. Here are your orders for yourselves and your Battleteams: Raist, you're going to take Hex to Kaltace and investigate the TIE that blased out of the Prophet's hanger and crashed on the planet. Phoenix will be going to Karufr to investigate CSP's crashed Y-Wing and Zarco will be sending the Horsmen to investigate the Tarentum robes that were found on the Seraphim."
Crix paused for a moment and waited for acknowledgments from his staff. When they came her continued "To deal with the problem of over-zealous members th solution is quite simple; you have your orders and you make sure that everyone sticks to them. You have full authority to use whatever you feel is needed to encourage everyone to stay on track and to reprimand them if they don't." Crix flashed a sinister grin on his face and everyone who heard those words knew what he really meant. "If anyone feels that their supposed talents would be better used elsewhere they can pass a request up the chain of command. They ask you for permission and if you think that it's a valid request then you send it to Chaos and myself. If the request is denied by any of you or Chaos and myself then it is over, no resubmitting. We need to figure out what the hell is going on here so we know who we need to go kill. Does everyone understand?" Crix asked.
The Battleteam leaders agreed and Crix closed the comm down, glad that the issue had been dealt with.
Shaithis stood on the boarding ramp as it lowered, the musty smell of the hangar bay wafted into the small craft. Walking down the ramp, Shaithis tossed his bag of meager belongings, mainly extra attire and cleaning equipment for his weapon, at the officer that was appointed to meet him. The young officer caught the bag and fumbled with it for a second before he had it firmly in grip and attempted to salute the giant barabel staring at him.
"Second L.." Was all the man could say before Shaithis cut him off.
"If I wissh to know your name I'll asssk for it. Make ssure my belongingsss find their way to my room. I can find the bridge on my own." Shaithis growled his commands quickly and began walking off.
"Uh, sir. I have a communique that the Captain thought you might like to see." The officer handed the thin sheet of paper over and dissappeared through doorway into the ship proper.
Shaithis growled and shook his head as he walked to the nearest comm console. Punching a few buttons, a secure band was selected, but it wasn't answered fast enough for Shaithis.
"Crix, I'm not babysssitting them." Shaithis growled into the monitor shaking the piece of paper forcefully.
Crix looked stunned for a moment then a smile crept across his face. "Your on the Seraphim aren't you?"
"Jive assked me to sssee what I could dig up on thiss particular incident. Your underlingss better prove usssefull, or I'll make a meal out of their heartss and ssend the ressst back to Taruma in a jar." Shaithis could feel his anger seething inside, he didn't have the patience for inexperienced journeyman and wasn't about to hold their hands.
"They will be fine Shaithis. I've set them straight, just do me a little favor and make sure they follow orders. Oh, and Shaithis, please don't kill any of them, you know how hard it is to train good help these days." Crix said laughing as he switched off the comm unit in his office.
Shaithis slammed his fist into the console, sparks flew and the screen went blank, but he certainly did feel better. The few techs in the hangar bay scrambled to get out of the angry giants way, lest they find themselves missing a limb. Shaithis stormed his way towards the bridge, god help the next person who couldn't get out of his way fast enough.
Alanna shifted again in her seat, glaring at the side of Sabre's head. She couldn't quite decide whether his sharp turns were designed to show off, or were just incompetence, but she would be very surprised if they reached Arconan space in one piece. Flying was such a simple skill to master - she'd never had the time to bother with it - but the Sith seemed to make such a fuss over their 'talents' that she was always pleased when a Krath showed them up. Not that Sabre was doing much of that at the moment.
The Epis leaned back in his seat, stretching his arms, and grinned at her.
"Be there in no time, Mistress. Why don't you relax?"
And leave you at the controls to kill us both? Yeah, right. Alanna thought. "No, I'm just fine here, thank you," she smiled ingratiatingly. It seemed to work. Sabre nodded and turned back to the view screen.
"So, how come they sent you to deal with the Arconans?" he asked.
It wasn't really any of his business, but she had a soft spot for her former Magistrate. He'd done a good job as Quaestor of Ektrosis in his time, so she often discussed matters with him that she wouldn't with others... as long as he proved he could multitask without getting distracted and flying them into an asteroid.
"Ever since that ritual went wrong, I seem to have been needed for all manner of mundane tasks. Just because I couldn't stop Korr or Xanos screwing up doesn't mean I need to be sent to carry out tasks that could easily be handed by an Epis... no offence, Sabre."
"Although in this case, I suspect it isn't just that they want to 'keep me out of trouble', but that they think the Arconans will be impressed by the gesture of sending a Jedi Mistress in person to discuss our alliance. If Crix and Chaos spoke to them from afar, they could potentially take umbrage... and with everything that's going on at the moment, it would be nice to have one less clan to worry about. Added to which, I've dealt with Halc for years. He's really quite the cuddly teddy bear once you get to know him." Alanna smiled.
"How about you? Why do you think you pulled this mission?"
It was not hard to get lost within Taldryan’s Clan head quarters. The winding passages, the confusing network of junctions, and the towering hallways decorated with edifices of great personalities from the Clan’s history. Vodo had been to the Karufr enough to know his way from the better known paths to vital areas such as the space port and hangars. He’d never visited this deeply into the great temple however. He was complete lost, and with no idea how to get undone from this plight.
The Twi’lek’s left shin began to moan under the stress of the day’s walking and adventuring. Having been born into a life of slavery, Vodo had endured many pains, the worst being a broken shin that never quiet healed right. Constant use of this injured leg irritated it and made even simple walks or journey’s into long painful ordeals. A particularly experience master however, who also lived with pain, had taught Vodo to use that pain to empower himself, and use to increase his anger, and therefore his power.
Vodo made his way forward, suppressing the urge to limp, using the pain emanating from his wound as a source of meditation, and calmed himself. With a few more minutes of walking passed, the pain became a numbing sensation, signaling the meditative effect was working, and the journey to find a path to the hangars was renewed. He knew he possessed a datapad capable of interacting with a terminal; so that if he found one, he could download a map of the temple and find his way, but in this area deep within the head quarters, there didn’t seem to be any sophisticated electronics or computers.
The hallway took two left turns and ended abruptly. There was only a non-marked door at the end. His first instinct was to turn around and leave, but the academic portion of the Jedi Hunter wished to seek what was on the other side of that door. He did not feel it at first, but slowly, then more gradually, he could feel a dark source of power behind the door. Approaching slowly, Vodo found the door to be unlocked, but would not open to the presence or touch of anyone standing outside. Searching through the force, Vodo found a weight on the other side of the stone wall, which he pulled down, activating the door.
There was pure darkness with in. As the door retreated into the ceiling as it rose, the cold damp air within the chamber sank out into the hallway, washing over Vodo. A slight whistling and moaning whispered past his ears sending a shiver down his spine, but pressed forward into the dark anyways. This would delay his trip to a small degree, but the Darkness called to him, and he answered.
"Sorry, it took so long." The black and white Zabrak stood in front of his Aedile, Kraval Novir, declaring, "That Correllian ale at the Lounge is just too good." Odium chuckled slightly, not yet bothering to sense the seriousness of the situation, and when Kraval only lifted the left corner of his mouth in amusement, he asked soberly, "So what happened? All your message said was that Duga was attacked."
Kraval explained the situation, as well as what had been decided by the Summit concerning the strange occurences and their investigations. Everything seemed to be taking care of in that respect. Still, the Dinaari Envoy inquired, "Where do you and Jive want me? Are should I just go ask him directly?"
Apollyon was more than eager to prove himself(just as most Journeymen are), as well as recover as dignity much as possible from his capture during the Selen Incident. It still boggled his mind how Arcona had discovered his presence along with then Aedile, Werdna Elbee. But that was history now and all Odium could do is try to prove that he was capable of anything he was assigned, and more. Whatever was needed would be done, and done well.
Dark Sabre shrugged and sat back in his seat as he hit a button and the autopilot blinked on. Although very dangerous it was still possible to navigate a ship while in hyperspace and he had just done so, cutting hours off of their time. He could sense the uneasiness and frustration that bled from Lannie’s aura, but it amused him so he didn’t address it. “I’m not too sure; I’m inclined to think luck of the draw, especially since I haven’t been around recently. I don’t have any official power in the Clan or the Brotherhood at the moment. I could pull some strings here and there, collect on some favors, but beyond that I’m fairly useless.
“Of course I could probably kick any Arconan’s ass in a fight and out-talk most of the ones we'll negotiate with.” Confident, but not cocky, he sipped a bottle of vodka in a classy manner. Although it made the Dark Jedi Mistress a bit uncomfortable, that her pilot was slightly intoxicated, she was glad that at least some of Ektrosis’s traditions were kept alive in this enigmatic man. “There’s ice cream in the freezer in the lounge area; I’m going to meditate. Call me if an interdictor pulls us out of hyperspace.” She glanced up at him and smiled a bit, relaxing now that the computer was in charge.
It was somewhat unlikely that he would only sit and levitate over his bed; he would probably start laying out a plan for when they reached their destination.
The Dark figure stepped off the shuttle arriving at Taruma. It had been a long time since he had been here, years it seemed.
Dark Jedi Knight Malevolent Blade had come home.
Blade headed towards the Quaestors office to let him know he had returned. It came as a suprise to find that Chaosrain had taken control of the house, but it really hadn't suprised him at all. As he appraoched the exit from the landing field, he was approached by two men in uniforms.
"Sir, we need to see your pass," the taller one said. They looked to be fresh from the Shadow Academy and had no idea about who they confronted.
Blade pulled the sleeve up on his travel robes to show the Phoenix Tattoo that he wore. It was the best sign that he had as he had no pass to speak of. Any other time clan members, whether past or present could come and go as you please. Something had to be happening, something huge.
"Sorry sir, but we need your pass. Tattoos can be forged," the taller one went for his comlink, to summon reinforcements Blade suspected.
Blade reached down into the force and focussed on the two men.
"You will take me to the Quaestor, you will take me now," Blade used mind trick on them and they obeyed.
"We will take you to the Quaestor now."
They led Blade to the office to find it empty. Chaosrain was somewhere else at the moment and Blade really needed to find out what was going on.
He left the two guards wandering back towards the landing pads. Blade knew that the best place to find anyone that knew anything was usually in the Taldryan kitchens...
"You won't be able to get ahold of Fresh anytime soon. He's gone off to take care of something himself and has left me in charge," Kraval said rubbing his eyes again. The meeting with the fleet and ground commanders had gone smoothly but Kraval was tired and ready to call it a day.
"So what do you want me to do then?" Odium asked.
Kraval held up a datacard and tossed it to Odium. "I received that information from Chaos just a little while ago. Seems that one of his kids found out that a probe from CNS came into our system. Since most of Ekky is busy doing other things I want you to look into this personally."
"Sure thing boss," Odium said taking the disk and heading out the office door.
"Hold on, I need to go with you to let you out remember?" Kraval said once more cursing the security system setup.
Walking down the hall both men kept their silence, Odium browsing the data and Kraval just wishing that the day would end.
Activating the lift Odium stepped inside and Kraval sent it down to the main floor. Turning around Kraval headed back to his office to send a call to Kr'Tal in the hopes that he would be able to reach Duga or Ben. He was getting bored of sitting around not having much to do. He heard that there were rummored attacks on his CON by bounty hunters. Maybe he would get a chance to look into that himself since it would be more fun that what he was doing now.
Sat in the kitchens waiting for Menace to come and find her, Bubbs started, dropping ice-cream down her front. It can’t be. She thought to herself, turning slowly to look into the red eyes staring at her from the door.
“Blade!! Dammit it’s been too long!” Bubbs managed to get out in the second or two it took her to cross the kitchen and give the Knight a hug. Releasing him from her grip, she looked him up and down. “You haven’t been looking after yourself young man. What on earth have you been doing? And I bet it’s been days since you last had any ice-cream. Here, sit. Have a spoon.”
Guiding the slightly bewildered Blade to a chair, Bubbs pushed a tub of ice-cream in front of him, carrying on talking before he could get a word in “Eat. You’re going to need it. Your timing, as ever, is impeccable. All hell’s breaking loose, and Betj has decided to desert us for Hex for his sins. And Lannie…”
A worried look crossed Bubbs’ face, as she busied herself with trying to get the ice-cream out of her robes “She won’t even talk to me at the moment Blade, when she finds out who’s behind this…there isn’t going to be anyone who can help them.” Bubbles paused, looking uncharacteristically worried. “You have heard what’s going on, right? And I hope you’re ready to move out…soon as Menace gives the word…”
She paused again, looking up at Blade, a slight twinkle returning to her eye, “You are coming back to Phoenix, right?”
Blade sat back for a second. He had not really thought about where he would go once he came home. For some reason the question had taken him off guard, more so than the trouble that Bubbs had told him of.
"Honestly, I hadn't thought about it. I just had this urge that I needed to come home," Blade took another spoonful of ice cream.
She smiled at him, knowing that all he needed to do was talk to the new Consul about which team to be placed in. Phoenix had been his first home and Bubbs had been his first master. She had taught him so much about the art of cloning as well as the finer points of the Darkside that he had advanced up the ladder quickly, finally landing a Tetrarch job in Horsemen of the Apocolypse.
"I'm sure that you'll make the right choice," she smiled once more, the same smile that had always told Blade that he had better make the right choice.
"Anyways, I'm a little behind at the moment. I was out in the outterrim looking for something when I started to feel this urge that I had to return. Once I get a sec, I'll go and read thru all that I can to get up to date with the entire thing," Blade leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling for a moment. It had been so long since he had been groundside for more than a day or two. Grvaity was a weird feeling now.
Blade looked back at his former Master with his own twinkle in his gleaming red eyes,"By the way, I think I need to get a pass to let me get in and out of here, And there are these two apprentices wandering around the landing area..."
The Jedi Hunter stepped through the door into the darkness beyond. The door did not close behind him, and allowed what torchlight was present outside in the corridor to spill in. The air was dank and had the sweet smell of decay on its tendrils. The light was still very minimal, and Vodo’s eyes had not adjusted to the dark yet, but reaching out into the force, the Twi’lek could detect several sources of Dark Side energy ahead of him. He took a step forward, taking his time.
Something went flying away into a wall, clattering about and echoing. Vodo’s reflexes put him into a low defensive crouch before he could think. His eyes were now more adjusted to see into the darkness, and saw he’d kicked a femur in his blind stepping. He laughed under his breath for jumping so, but was more astounded by what he saw against the walls. The room was a thirty foot deep room with a plain floor, plain ceiling, and a rounded wall with chains and shackles lining the wall.
In several of the shackles were humans and aliens of various varieties, number ten in all. Their torn and mangled robes signaled hey weren’t from Taldryan, or any of it’s Houses. Vodo stood there for a few seconds, not sure what to make of the dungeon he’d stumbled across. In all likelihood, this was a chamber for those who were caught within Taldryan’s territory and were from portions of the Brotherhood.
This might aid him in his investigation, one of these prisoners might be useful to gain knowledge later on. Vodo turned to leave, but as he turned around, he noticed next to the door was a skeleton, missing a femur, and its entire right leg strewn about the floor as if it had been kicked. He grinned, knowing he had caused the damage. The Twi’lek left the room, using telekinesis to drop the door with a thud, and good effect.
Vodo’s first task now was to find a terminal so that he could find out where he was and escape this confounded temple. Kaltace awaited his arrival, and after that, hopefully a promotion of some sort. His grin returned after disappearing in that room. Sitting in the center of a well lit, high ceilinged hallway was a kiosk containing two terminals. Vodo plugged his datapad into the computer, and downloaded a map with directions to his transport.
His walk from here on his aggravated leg was easy once he’d identified the shortest route on his datapad. Entering the large hangar on the first sub-level of the Temple, Vodo found his Consul appointed transport. It appeared to be in good repair and better care. The mechanics running about beneath it wore the Consul’s crest, signaling they serviced his personal vessels. This ship was a heavily modified Lambda-class shuttle, with extensive modifications going into the drive systems and sublight engines.
This Ride would not be like his last one. Definitely not slow.
Shaithis made a quick detour into the mess hall on the hangar deck, a quick meal just might subdue his anger for the time being. Stepping into the kitchen, all action stopped and someone let a stack of plates drop to the floor. A quick scan with his practiced eyes, Shaithis noted all those on duty where initiates, most likely as a punishment. Thunder rumbled within his massive chest as he walked further into the kitchen, not saying a word, Shaithis projected images of pain into the minds of each initiate, showing them what would happen if they did not return to their duty. A musty smell, carried on the air currents pulled by the scrubbers in the galley, worked its way towards the giant barabel. A quick sniff, Shaithis turned in the direction it came from and noticed a young man standing in a puddle of yellow liquid. The man began to visibly shake as the dark scaled demon walked slowly towards him.
"I sssuggezt growing a ssspine, pink sskin. The horrorz I could vizit upon you are nothing compared to what you will sssee the farther you walk down the dark path." Shaithis hissed his warning, a look of disgust crossed his face.
The thought of striking the young man crossed his sadistic mind, several times in fact, but doing so would serve no purpose Shaithis decided. Turning away, his stomach echoed the rumble in his throat, the giant barabel renewed his search for food. Opening one of the smaller fridge units, Shaithis spotted a plate of raw meat, marinating in some kind of sauce. It smelled better than it tasted, but the hungry lizard devoured it with gusto. Shaithis grabbed a jug of juma juice and sucked it dry trying to get rid of the taste, succeeding to a small degree. A moment later, Shaithis was stepping into the lift for the bridge.
"Where the hell are those damn krath, they should have reported in by now." Shaithis thought to himself, his ire begining to rise again.
Bubbs’ eyebrow arched slightly “Back two minutes and you’re already causing me trouble eh young Jedi? I can..”
“Can see you’re going to have to keep an eye on me” Blade finished for her around his mouthful of ice-cream, “Too damn right.”
She grinned, pushing a datapad towards Blade, “Here, catch up, I’ll go sort out your mess for you. If Menace turns up, give me a shout? Shouldn’t take me too long.” Blade nodded, already engrossed in the datapad.
* * * * *
Hurrying towards Crix’s office, Bubbs wished Lannie was still around, maybe catching up with an old friend would cheer her up a little. Lost in her thoughts, only parts of the conversations going on around her registered, just enough to hear the words ‘Consol’ ‘bounty hunters’ and ‘assassination’. Snapping out of her daydream, she broke into a run towards the Aedile’s office.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Crix sat behind his desk with a large tub of ice cream, enjoying one of very few chances he'd had since this psudo war broke out to put his work down, when the door to his office flew open. Crix was about to yell at the person for barging into his office, but as he opened his mouth he realized that it was Bubbles who had done it.
"CRIX!" Bubbles yelled, spying his scoop and tub of ice cream. "YOU'RE HOLDING OUT ON ME!"
Crix shrugged and took another bite. "Aediles get some extra benefits...including personal ice cream and cookie stashes." He said, pulling out another spoon and handing it to the bubbly krath.
"You have cookies too?! That's not fair." She said, pouting slightly. Just then she remembered the real reason for her visit. "Oh, Blade it back." She said between bites of ice cream.
Crix hadn't expected to hear this and almost choaked on his ice cream. "That's supprising. He hasn't been around for a good while, I didn't expect him to show up now." Then he shrugged and said "Taldryan members have a habit of coming back when something big goes down so I probably shouldn't be too supprised. Oh well...it's all good cause I have ice cream." He said, taking another large bite.
"I really like that philosophy...and ice cream." Bubbles said. "Oh, Blade wants to be put in a battle team again."
"Hex is a little low on members at the moment, Raist could use some extra help; an extra saber too, he's the only one who has one in the phyle. Raist is getting his people ready to head out to Kaltace, they're investigating some TIEs that an Arconan stole from the Dark Prophet and ended up crashing on the planet. If he hurries he should be able to make it to the shuttle before they leave." Crix punctuated his sentence with another bite of ice cream, then remembered something else that Blade would need.
He tapped a few keys on his computer and asked "His full name is Melevolent Blade, right?" Bubbles nodded and Crix printed out Blade's papers that certified him as a member of Ektrosis and Hex and gave him clearence to leave for Keltace with the rest of the battle team. Spinning around he stamped the papers with his personal seal and handed them to Bubbles. "He'll need these papers to get anywhere in Taldryan space. If he has a problem with being assigned to Hex let me know and we can work something out.
Bubbles looked sad as the meeting drew to a close, knowing that she'd have to leave the big tub-o-ice cream behind. Crix reached into a cabnet behind his desk and pulled out a hand full of cookies, which Bubbles quickly swiped up and bounced out of the room, forgetting to shut the door behind her.
Crix laughed and slid the door closed with the Force, then went back to his ice cream only to discover that it was all gone.
Blade looked at the papers once more. He had been assigned to Hex... again. The last time he had been a member of that phyle was as its Tetrarch. It had been a dark time since it was just prior to the schism that had sent a large part of the Brotherhood looking for greener pastures.
He glance at Bubbs and could see the dribble of ice cream on her robes. Same old Bubbs after all.
"So, any idea when Hex is splitting or is it secret?" Blade asked.
"You'll have to talk to Raist. I'm sure it won't be too long though," Bubbs said her goodbye and headed off, probalby to look for some more ice cream.
Blade headed down to where Hex phlye was loading onto the shuttle. From what he had read they were going to look at a crashed starfighter. Ooooh Ahhhh... seen one seen them all Blade thought to himself.
As he entered the hanger section, he was silently amused that the two apprentices that had greeted him were still wandering around as if looking for mynocks. He walked past them and saw that most of the phyle had already loaded their gear onto the ship.
"I'm not late, am I?" he asked the Jedi Hunter that seemed to have a limp.
"Not if you're ready to go right now," The Jedi Hunter replied. Blade began to walk up the ramp when he stopped him. "I don't know you. You can't just get on this shuttle."
Blade pulled back the outer robe, revealing his lightsaber as he pulled his papers out. The Jedi Hunter seemed a bit suprised, this total stranger was boarding his shuttle and also wearing a lightsaber.
"My name is Malevolent Blade. I go by either Mal or Blade or whatever. I am also the newest old member of Hex," Blade replied with a grin. "Where is the Tetrarch?"
Darne walked calmly down the empty hallway. The building was strangely empty considering the recent events taht had happened in the Brotherhood. His steps were soft and quick. He took a quick left turn and after a short walk, arrived at the shining metal door that read "Menace: Battle Team Phoenix Sergeant."
"Hey! Am I late?" a familiar voice roared down the hall. Darne turned and saw the dripping face of Protector Joshman running towards him. The huge form of the wookie thumped down the hall, completely erasing the silent footsteps that had carried Darne to this place. He smiled as the wookie ran to him.
"I hope not, cause that means I am too," Darne laughed. The heavily breathing Obelisk bent over and put his hands on his knees as he stopped in beside Darne. Joshman had fairly recently joined the Dark Brotherhood, but had quickly risen in rank. Darne had taken a liking to him. He smiled and put his arm around the worn Protector's shoulders. Joshman took a deep breath, and the two walked into the shadowed room together. The door shut with a hiss behind them.
"And now everyone is here. We are ready to begin," the Sergeant sitting at the head of the long table said. The room instantly fell into silence as the two Protectors sat down. Menace began to speak again. "Now, as you all may or may not know, there have been many incidents going on with Taldryan and the other clans. Also, Phoenix Battle Team has been assigned to investigate one of these happenings. On Karufr, some Clan Arcona TIE's stopped for refueling. Up until that point, we had had no problems with refueling or other clans at that station at all. However, this time, the TIE's that were refueled were damaged. Two of them suffered a burned out drive, and the third exploded, killing the pilot. We have been assigned to investigate this incident and find the truth. Are there any questions?"
"When will we be leaving?" Epis Bubbles asked.
"There are shuttles in hangars 12 and 14 waiting for us now. They are prepared to leave in one hour. So please, pack quick, and be at the hangars in no more than 45 minutes. I personally would like to get this mission over with as soon as possible so we can get back here and keep up with the happenings that are going on in the Brotherhood."
Another voice spoke up. "Any special items we should take?" the voice of Pontifex Seraine "Erinyes" Ténama rose above the silence.
Again, Sergeant Menace answered the question. "Nothing special. Just bring normal things like a weapon, a datapad, and your robes, of course." The room echoed with a chuckle from the members of the Battle Team.
Menace waited for more questions. When none came, he ended the meeting. "Well, thank you all for coming. Please go and get ready as quickly as possible. Remember, the shuttles will leave from bays 12 and 14 in ONE hour. Now go."
With this, the members sitting aroudn rose and left the room. Darne and Joshman walked down the hall together.
"You ready for this mission?" Darne asked Joshman.
"Yeah, definately. How about you? You ready for another great adventure?" The question had a hint of sarcasm at the end, referring to the importance of this mission. The large wookie had always been more of the action type, rather than some "stupid detective job."
Darne's wide smile drooped slightly as he thought about the question. Was he ready? It didn't matter. He needed to be ready. His smile widened again and he replied to the Protector's question. "Yeah, I'm ready. Let's go solve a mystery."
The Consul’s personal transport was well kept, especially in contrast to the previous ship he’d been given, the Bolt. The Consul’s ship, the aptly named Mare Gens, My Clan, was quick in sublight speed, clearing the thick atmosphere of Karufr just shy of a minute, and then quickly into Hyperspace. He was told that since Kaltace was the last planet in the Kr’Tal system, the jump would be no longer than an hour. It humored Vodo, this jump to a planet three times more distant than the trip from Taruma to Karufr, would take the same amount of time.
The wonder of a .5 Hyperdrive!
The Hour passed quickly, finding out that the Captain of the shuttle was not Sith, but actually a very adept Krath who’d proven his worth through piloting. This made conversation easy for Vodo, who did not befriend others easily. When set down, the shuttle bay opened, the ramp leading down to the frozen surface of the planet. The Twi’lek had long since donned his cold weather robes, tying them tightly to his body, wrapping a special shawl over his head to protect his lekku, then finally securing his hood in place, paced down the ramp onto the snow.
The Captain shouted his parting words as the shuttle ascended, and the ramp closed, leaving Vodo alone on the frozen world. On his back he carried a backpack containing the items necessary to survive in this weather, including a single person survival tent, a heating apparatus that doubled as a stove, packaged food stores, and a thermal sheet for sleeping in. He also carried supplies for his investigation as well as a transponder so that the rest of Battle Team Hex would be able to locate him when they landed. Finally, he carried a single collapsible vibro-shovel.
The Captain had been told by several higher ranking officials to land a quarter-mile from the crash site as to not disturb or ruin the scene. This is what he had done, and this was what Vodo had to do. With hands covered, he began his trek towards a bluff, which upon cresting, he would come upon the partially snow covered crash site. Wind howled, sending small now particles to sting and nip at the exposed skin around his goggled eyes. His robes, though meant for cold weather, had not been intended for this sort of event, and allowed the harsh air to slowly move through.
Vodo took it as a trial, to test his ability to meditate on pain, or the loss of it in that case, while still moving forward, and using the Force to sustain himself. Survival of this investigation, would impress himself, if not his superiors. The bluff was easily surmounted, despite the snow sometimes giving under his feet and having to reclimb a section of the steep hill and snow drifts. Once atop it however, the scenery visible was breath taking. The cold, crisp air was untouched by almost all smog, and therefore allowed visibility in all directions for miles, only impeded by a distant line of peaks and ridges.
Before the Jedi Hunter however was the crashed TIE Interceptor which had broken free somehow of the Dark Prophet’s fighter bay. The dagger wings were scattered to the winds in all directions, the fragments partially buried under the milky snow. The ball cockpit however somehow survived almost intact, and laying motionless next to it was the body of the deceased pilot. As mentioned in a previous report, the pilot was wearing robes identifying him as an Apprentice from Arcona. The investigations would begin.
Alanna had relaxed when Dark Sabre flipped on the auto-pilot, but it only lasted a few seconds. Just as she let down her guard, Sabre left her in charge of flying the ship! A Krath Jedi Mistress, doing a Sith's job, while her former Magistrate went to lie down... with the ice-cream no less.
This would never do.
"Uhh, Sabre. There's a light blinking here."
There was some scuffling, then Sabre reappeared at the front of the ship.
"Oh, that's just the autopilot recalibrating the flight path. Ignore it," he went back to his bunk.
Alanna poured herself a glass of wine and waited a few minutes.
"Uhh, Sabre. There's a green light just appeared on the consol."
There was a low groan, some scuffling, and Sabre reappeared.
"That's the proximity sensor. It's fine - relax. Green just means we passed by something, but at a safe distance. Look, these lights here, here and here - they're all fine unless they turn red. These ones here and here are ok unless they start blinking. This one will blink from time to time; just ignore it, and this one is supposed to be red. Ok?"
"You know what, I think I have a bit of a headache coming on. I'm going to lie down. We're probably getting close to Arconan space anyway. Just call me if an interdictor pulls us out of hyperspace? There's a good boy."
Alanna smiled and winked. Then she hastily pushed out of her seat and went to investigate the ice-cream, leaving a rather frustrated Sabre back at the controls.
Blade looked over the ball cockpit of the broken fighter. He could feel the confusion from its pilot in the moments before the small ships fiery plunge to the surface of the planet.
He climbed inside, taking a seat in the pilots chair and scanned the controls as well as their settings. Blade had been a TIE Pilot in another life and he hoped to get a feel for what had happened. Reaching out, he took the control yoke and felt it slam into the side of the cockpit. Whether that was real or just part of the vision, he could not tell.
Learning all that he could, he exited the craft and let the others gather around it. The snow had a cleansing effect on him as he wandered to one of the twisted wings and sat on it.
The cold twisted metal of the wing also had its own clues to gove up. Blade happened to glance down and saw some sort of residue wedged into one of the grooves for the sloar panels. He pulled the short dagger he always wore and scraped some of it away. Taking a small portion of it, he ignited it with the small ignitor he also carried.
With a brief flash, the residue flamed up like a fire from perdition. He took the sample and decided to take it back to the labs for anaylsis. It was then that he noticed that the rest of the team was staring at him.
"What?", he said with a shrug...
Moving quickly, Shadow and Fire-Knight quickly ushered the remaining emmbassadors into their ships. Within minutes the planet was clear of alien presence, aside from the remaining arconians.
"You have to know were going to catch grief about that fight." Shadow said as the last craft left.
Fire-Knight simply nodded
"Well, we might as well see what else Duga has cooking for us."
Fire-Knight nodded again. "Yup. By the way thanks again for saving my arse."
"Don't mention it."
"I would have been toast."
"No seriously, dont mention it. Don't need word going around that I'm into that whole 'Helping people' buisness." Shadow remarked as he strode towards the hanger bay exit. Fire-Knight simply laughed as he jogged to catch up.
Arriving at the turbolift, they climed quickly in and headed to Duga's office. As the zooming of the Lift halted, Fire-Knight headed out slightly ahead of Shadow and they approached Duga's office. His Secretary was no where to be seen, so Shadow simply knocked on the door.
"Your explaining." Shadow said and began opening the door before Fire-Knight could get a word in edgewise.
Bubbles arrived at the docking bays more than a little out of breath, dumping her bag next to the console and leaning against it whilst she got her breath back. Why did she always seem to have a million and one things to do, and no time to do them in? She glanced at her datapad, 61 minutes since leaving Meance's office. A fleeting look at the display told her the shuttles were still empty. Glancing around the room, she pulled her robes straight and ran her fingers through her hair, doing her best to lean nonchalantly against the console. Hearing a babbling coming along the corridor, her gaze flicked once more to the datapad. 62 minutes. Time to give them hell about their timekeeping…
Once Blade had gotten all that he could from the wreck, he headed back to the small ship that had carried him to the fridig planet. Kaltace was still such a joy to see, as it was the first time when Taldryan had first come to this system.
There had been reports of ships landing on the surface but they had never been confirmed by Kir while he was Consul. It seemed that the subject had been dropped in the years that Blade had been away. At least he still had the shortcut in his files, since he had helped to chart the new home for the clan.
Blade looked at the control panel in his small scout craft and set course for his return trip. If he timed it right, they would never even have missed him. He had to come by himself to get an undiluted read from the emotions of the pilot. With too many Dark Jedi around, it would be diluted by thier prescence.
It had been a long time since the times that he had to answer to anyone and maybe he was too set into his ways to start now. Kir had always given him alot of leeway in how he operated, but now there was a new Consul, one who Blade had never met.
A voice crackled through the control rooms monitors, “Lambda 1-1 to Tal Control, we are inbound, will be setting down on pad 1B in approximately one minute.”
The members of the night shift were not expecting any shuttles that night, and the tower operator keyed the comm. unit, “Tal Control to Lambda 1-1, we do not have you on our schedule, please stay in safe zone until verified.”
Without pause, the shuttle responded, “Landing code Echo-Bravo-Delta-Alpha.”
The operator looked around to see if anyone else knew what code that was when the door behind him slid open, revealing the shift supervisor who hurried to the comm. unit, “Code Confirmed, we are prepared for your immediate landing.” The supervisor then hurried off, leaving the tower operators clueless.
Four Taldryan House Guards and the officer on watch rushed out to pad 1B as a space-black Lambda shuttle set down. The ramp opened and two hooded figures exited as the officer approached and bowed, “Good evening m’Lord. May I be of any assistance?”
“No, Captain.” The figure waved his hand, “And you don’t know who landed tonight, you should be on your way.”
The dazed guard repeated, “I don’t know who landed tonight, I should be on my way.” The two dark figures waited for the guards to depart, then continued their journey into the Clan Headquarters, accessing a restricted Turbolift and taking it to the Consuls quarters on the uppermost level. The man’s memory ached as he followed the hallowed path he had walked for years, his past decisions echoing in his mind. Even his sabbatical could not calm his inner storm.
The Consul’s assistants had returned to their quarters, so the outer office was completely empty as the two entered the room. The taller figure motioned to the other, and the latter made a quick, violent motion towards the Consul’s door. Suddenly two Cohors Praetoria appeared from their hidden alcoves, only to be struck unconscious by the slightest motion of the taller figure’s arm.
Both figures then entered the Consul’s quarters to find it mostly darkened, and the taller spoke aloud, “Duga, there is no need to fear me.” Slowly the Taldryan Consul emerged from the shadowy corner beside the two, until he was face-to-face with the taller man, who removed his hood.
Duga gave a slight bow, “Master Katarn, my apologizes, I wasn’t informed of your arrival.”
“No need, Duga, I didn’t want my presence known, which is why I hid it from even you until this moment. I left my villa because I have felt several great disturbances in the force, originating from my old friend and master.”
Duga nodded, “We have conflicting reports concerning the Grand Master.”
Kir looked Duga in the eyes, “This crisis must be met aggressively, the Clans will use any excuse to war upon each other, and my spies tell me that already others form up against us. I wish to aid you, Consul. My vast resources and network can be a great help, and any advice I can give will of course be yours.”
Duga shook his friends hand, “We would honor any help you can give, let us combine our knowledge.”
Kir nodded, "And you must be careful with your men on Kaltace, that planet holds many dark secrets beneath its frozen exterior."
The shuttle sat motionless in the hangar. Sergeant Menace, Epis Bubbles, Protector Darne, Protector Lokasena, and Protector Joshman sat in separate seats waiting for the pilot to finally get the signal to leave. The other half of the team was in a shuttle in bay 14. Darne sat with his head down, gripping the handle of his Sith Sword. His mind was racing, and the thoughts of the war going on around him were almost enough to drive him mad, something he desperately tried to avoid.
“So, Darne. How have you been doing recently?” The comforting words coming from Menace surprised Darne. Apparently his confusion and fear was more obvious than he thought.
“I’m…fine.” Darne replied timidly. “Just, kinda confused.”
“About what?” Bubbles joined in the conversation.
“This is just so big, and I am caught in the middle of it. I’ve never been involved in something this serious. That’s all.”
“No way. Don’t be nervous. Just go out and kick some enemy ass!” the wookiee next to Darne roared.
“Yeah, we’ll probably be doing that, too,” Menace laughed. The members of the battle team laughed together.
Finally, the Pilot turned the shuttle’s engines on, and the ship began to shake. It rose off the metal floor and flew out the open bay. At last, Phoenix was on its way to Karufr. The windows showed the planet being left behind, and finally, Darne felt like he was leaving all the troubles of his life behind. He was among friends here, and he had nothing to worry about. With the stars shining into the shuttle, the battle team sat in silence, each member thinking of the recent events, and what part they might play in them. Darne finally let go of the Sith Sword, and slipped it under his seat.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was about an hour later when Karufr became visible through the front window. The shuttle glided into the planet’s atmosphere, and landed in a hangar bay outside a city. Darne recognized his Clan’s planet. He often visited here to speak with officials and learn from them. The shuttle jerked to a stop, and Menace rose first.
“Well, here we are. Welcome to Karufr, Phoenix.” The Sergeant led the group out of the shuttle to meet with the other half of the battle team. Once they were all together, Menace briefly explained the mission again. He then led the group further into the hangar complex, in search of placed for his battle team to stay during the investigation.
They found the Taldryan Headquarters and met Consul Duga. He directed them to their rooms and left the battle team to settle in. Once again, Darne gripped the handle of the Sith Sword. With the reentering of the planet’s atmosphere, all of his worries and troubles had come, too. He gripped the sword tighter, and then slipped it under the bed. He hoped he wouldn’t need it. But somehow, he knew he would.
Odium headed for the mess hall. Though he expected nothing to happen, he still did not feel comfortable investigating this mysterious probe by himself, and the mess hall seemed like the quickest way to find someone to accompany him, as well as grab a quick bite.
As he opened the doors, however, he saw only one person. A headstrong and slightly mischevious new Apprentice named Illian Syn. Though Odium had wanted someone with a lightsaber, this would be a perfect little mission on which this new member could accompany him. The Envoy grabbed a plate and told Illian what they were going to go do. After finishing their quick meal, the Apprentice, not really having a choice in the matter, rose and followed Apollyon to the hangar where they boarded a small shuttle and left for Taruma.
When they landed, the Zabrak exited first and followed a Lieutenant to a small room with a pile of crushed and broken metal laying on a table in the middle. "Just as long as you let Chaos and Crix know we're here, then that is all, Lieutenant." The Dark Jedi bowed as the officer nodded to them both and left the room.
"Okay, Illian," Apollyon said to his new apprentice,"What we have here is a CNS probe that has obviously been around the block a few times, and...." Odium paused as he tried the last possible way to learn the launch date of such a droid. Having failed to determine the date, he continued, "...no way to tell when it was launched, just like Krav's info said. What now?"
"We could try and find out when it was launched from the source." Illian replied, obviously annoyed that his "superior" hadn't thought of that solution. Odium simply shook his head and said, "We aren't exactly on good terms with CNS." The Zabrak nearly spat at the mention of a clan with which he had had several encounters that nearly turned violent. Putting the memories behind him again, he continued, "Unless, of course, you A) can convince Kraval or freshjive to let us break into CNS headquarters and 2) have a very deep background of sneaking into to high security facalities like a Dark Brotherhood Clan HQ, and trust me, they're not a walk in the park." refering, of course, to the intelligence gathering fiasco of the Selen Incident.
The Hunter activated his comlink and hailed Taku Matsuki Taldrya. Before too long the small blue figure of Crix appeared on the small disk, and he asked, "What do you need, Odium?"
"Well," the Zabrak started in a simple slightly sarcastic tone, "we'd kinda like to know where exactly you guys found this probe. You wouldn't happen to know...would you?"
Blade stepped off the small ship that he had used to travel to Kaltace,he could feel resentment coming to him from somewhere. It was an unsettling feeling that was out of place at the only location that he had ever considered as home.
'Maybe this isn't home anymore,' Blade thought to himself. He decided to not unpack too much in his quarters until he decided if he was going to stay or not.
Walking inside, he decided that it was time to wait with the rest of the Phyle, something that he hated to do...
The crash site was immense, with wreckage strewn in all directions. For a simple TIE design, the amount of charred and mangled metal was amazing. It didn’t all quiet add up. As Vodo crested the butte, he had studied from afar the crash site, taking in the burn patterns on the ground the pattern in which the burning wreckage exploded. It all led him to believe the TIE entered the Atmosphere from the west, descended rapidly, and upon hitting the ground, exploded in an easterly shower of shrapnel and fireworks.
Now that he was within the large perimeter of the crash site, the force was all over him, crash like waves onto a rocky shore. There was much emotion trapped within the shells of the TIE Interceptor and the resulting debris. Vodo was immersed in the Dark Side, reading, interpreting, and understand what it was telling him. He did notice however that over a small hill to the south the force presence of his Battle Team.
Vodo unpacked his materials in the large backpack, taking out several more important sensors he would use to first scan the wreckage, creating a 3-Dimensional view for the high and base all further inquires. The Jedi Hunter started with the remains of the main body of the TIE. With the wings and drive system flung in all directions, it seemed amazing that the ball was still recognizable, let alone, still together.
He walked around him, waving the wand portion of the sensor up and down all the way around the cockpit, then moved in close to gather information on the interior. Placing a hand on a blackened support beam, he lowered his upper body into the ball. Vodo was instantly hit with a typhoon of memories, all them full of pain, anger, and fear. He saw a black sky degrade into a white planet scape, atmospheric friction causing a cherry red glow to appear around the cockpit view plate.
Vodo removed his hand, and the memory faded. His heart raced and adrenaline pumped in his veins as though he had actually been experiencing the pilot’s fate. It was too much for him to handle for now, so he backed away and began studying the other larger pieces of wreckage, shaking off the chills he knew were not caused by the cold.
Alone in his chambers, Werdna Elbee allowed himself a moment to smile at recent events.
Having been “retired” from Dinaari’s House Summit, Werdna Elbee had a lot to be bitter about and had been seen by his clan to have retreated into his own company. This was hardly unexpected but unknown to his comrades, Werdna was not simply sulking at what could have been but planning for the future, allowing the bitterness to build inside, to feed his soul and step up the march towards his return to power.
The recent escalation of tensions between the Dark Jedi clans offered the Krath Priest an opportunity to enact a few of the recent incidents for his own benefit. The clan members had to be shown that the current summit was not up to the task of leading and protecting Taldryan’s interests. Werdna’s rationale was that this was not to harm Taldryan but to save it by giving the disposed of ex-Aedile a new opportunity of a seat of power once tensions reigned or there were losses in a great war.
The former Arconian apprentice, who decided to leave due to being bullied out for not being strong enough with the Force, was quietly taken under Werdna’s wing away from the eyes of Taldryan. A few reassuring words for the apprentice, claiming that he had a lot of potential that Arcona tried to hide to protect themselves, quickly got him ready for a mission that would show the poor security onboard the Dark Prophet. Werdna was the one who forged the apprentice’s papers to show he was a Starfighter Engineer Third Class and that smuggled him on board to steal a TIE Intercepter, shoot up the hanger bay and flee to a rendezvous on the planet below. Even with little power in the Force, the regular pilots of the ship could not lay a finger on the apprentice as his TIE Interceptor made it to the planet Kaltace, only for the inexperienced pilot to mysteriously suffer an electronic glitch while breaking through the atmosphere.
Always unwilling to throw things away in case they ever became useful, Werdna had kept a transponder that identified as a Clan Scholae Palatinae Y-Wing. Stealing a Y-Wing from a local trader on Kafurr, who was of course disposed so the theft could be not reported, would also allow Werdna to get the craft to Ektrosis’s homeworld of Taruma by pretending to be the late previous owner with a delivery. Parking the craft in the middle of nowhere it was a simple task to switch the transponders, change the serial numbers of Y-Wing and set it off on an automated trajectory towards the Ektrosis HQ laden with high explosives for a suicide run. 13 miles out the now CSP Y-Wing was detonated by a remote, the trigger deep within the cargo so it would look like the craft had exploded by accident rather than design. It went wonderfully wrong, only blowing up half the cargo, but it allowed the Ektrosis investigators to quickly point the fingers of blame.
It was also Werdna who had placed a bounty on Consul Duga’s life. There was no doubt that they would never succeed as Duga is a very powerful Jedi with even more powerful friends around him, but it did show the poor security around the powerful man and meant Werdna would never have to pay up any money. Yet Werdna had to ponder about the 5 other people who had placed a similar contract. Did they show the same faith in the man or did they want Duga dead?
War is a time for heroes and leaders. War is the time to step up and do your part. Werdna let the self-congratulatory moment pass, put the manipulations behind him to bring his patriotism and duty to the fore, and committed himself to go forth and follow his orders for the future of Taldryan.
Zarco stood inside the open-topped but armoured hovercraft with his riot gun and underslung flame thrower cradled in one arm. His vest and robes carried and concealed the Force only knew what. Supposedly, this mission to merely investigate the wreckage of the Y-Wing that cracked up over Taruma, was supposed to be investigatory only.
Earlier, after being dressed down by his superiors for taking the initiative in an unwelcome direction, Zarco, after returning to Taruma, had informed his team that they were, for the most part not well armed enough for a mission in the “bush,” no matter how well intentioned. He was not being critical, and a couple of members were formidable enough in their own right, but he liked to be prepared with plenty of firepower. He remembered being told years ago in school that he should always strive to bring enough for everyone.
His own choice of weapon, the riot gun and the flamethrower, were specifically deigned for close-quarters use. Both would remain effective, though at limited ranges, despite the claustrophobic environment of the jungle on Taruma. The Tetrarch felt the blast of the heat and humidity of the jungle as the blast doors opened to allow the hover craft to leave.
The craft hugged the tree tops and zoomed towards the site of the wreckage. The craft had apparently exploded before entering the jungle as its remains were strewn over a wide area. Had it impacted the jungle before exploding the dense foliage would have contained the debris to a small area.
Zarco stood and surveyed the other members of his team. All were present though all but two had not said a word. Different beings reacted different ways to the prospect of conflict. All that mattered was that they perform. Zarco knew that he would rely the most upon the steady Tiberius and the eager Ricco, though he knew that anyone of the other members could rise to the occasion anytime any of them wanted.
The ride ended soon, owing more to the speed of the craft that to the proximity of the wreckage. The craft dropped thick ‘ropes’ from both sides and the team members, except for Tiberius and Nexus Mage quickly descended these ‘fast ropes’ as Zarco had taught them. Tiberius and Nexus mage instead levitated through the jungle canopy to the ground below.
The team heard the hum of the craft’s engines as it accelerated away and then banked to ‘buzz’ over where they had been left as a customary salute. As the craft boomeranged back to make its departure, something went terribly wrong. The sound of missles being released echoed through the jungle though ascertaining their point of release was all but impossible given the endless plants, large and small, that could mask or divert the sounds. What was clear, however, was their target as the party heard a loud explosion and the results cracking of massive trees when the hovercraft carshed and burned hundreds of meters away.
Each member of the Horsemen crouched and looked at their Tetrarch. His pointed finger circled signaling all to rally upon his point. Once clustered, the Tetrarch spoke.
“This is a trap. It makes no sense to lure us here to kill us. That could have been accomplished before we disembarked in any event. I suspect whoever it is wants one or more of us as prisoners. Do not be taken alive.” Even the younger members received this well. Zarco was proud.
“Ricco you take point. Tiberius, you are second. I am third. Everyone else follow, single file, five meter spread. Use the silent voicebox communicators I issued you. Speak without audible noise. The communicators will translate the vibrations in your throat to the other members by wireless device. Keep it to a minimum, even at that, our communication may be monitored.”
“The wreckage is between us and the base we left. Though we will still investigate the wreckage, our primary mission is now to survive and return to the base on Taruma. This planet has been infiltrated and we must alert our superiors. I have already attempted communication and we are being jammed. Thus, we will no doubt face our enemy…soon.”
“Stay sharp. Play it like a game. Enjoy it but above all, relish in the kills we will make today. If, and only if you can be sure, take a prisoner. Ricco, lead us on heading three point seven five. Let’s move.”
The sun was a few degrees above the horizon by the time Vodo finished scanning the larger pieces of the wreckage into his datapad. Returning to his backpack, which lay haplessly against the remains of the cockpit ball, he was careful to avoid contact with the metal. Inside his bag was a prefab shelter, which upon the release of a cord, rapidly expanded into a two man all weather shelter. Vodo climbed inside with his bag, sealing the entrance behind him.
He further removed a small stove which served the dual purpose of heating and cooking. As he was setting up, the first heavy winds picked up. The planet was covered in Ice, and as such, when any minor climate or temperature occurred throughout the day, massive winds picked up almost immediately. Vodo took this as a sign that the sun’s ‘warming’ influence was now beyond the horizon. Outside, the air quickly froze, leaving the Jedi Hunter to huddle inside his radiation blanket, warming up to the stove in front of him, which was slowly boiling a mush that contained many fatty acids needed for his body to produce copious amounts of warmth.
The small shelter was amazingly warm, and the Twi’lek did not find himself shivering despite the extreme nocturnal temperature outside. He reviewed the days work on his datapad, which layed out a 3D digital image of the primary crash site, marking the locations, sizes, and shapes the pieces he’d managed to scan. From the layout of the crash site, and being able to view it in several different angels, Vodo was able to determine that the TIE had entered the sky, and hit the ground heading primarily east. The crash had occurred at a relatively shallow angel, judging by the forward spread of the wreckage, as opposed to a near circular pattern if the approach had been steep.
Tomorrow’s work would begin the analysis of the electronics that had survived the wreck, and hopefully with the arrival of the Hex, the surveillance of the crash site from above could commence.
OOC: Zarco, you really should read Crix's second post on page two. Here, I'll help you out as this is the part you should pay attention to.
"The communication issue is what we're going to fix right now. Here are your orders for yourselves and your Battleteams: Raist, you're going to take Hex to Kaltace and investigate the TIE that blased out of the Prophet's hanger and crashed on the planet. Phoenix will be going to Karufr to investigate CSP's crashed Y-Wing and Zarco will be sending the Horsmen to investigate the Tarentum robes that were found on the Seraphim."
"Captian." Shaithis greeted the officer with a simple nod.
"Sir. You will have access to all materials pertaining to your investigation. We've been having trouble neutralizing the contact poison on the robe fragment, you will need to wear protective gloves to handle it safely. The security office on this deck is yours as well as the staff in it, everything you need has been sent there. One last thing my lord, the team from House Ektrosis have failed to make contact in any way, nor have they been seen on the scanners. I've taken the liberty of contacting the office of their summit leaders, you may take the call in my ready room." The captain gave his report with precision, snapping a quick salute at the end.
Shaithis stepped foward to where only he and the captain could hear what was said. "You ever call me "my lord" again, I'll ssstuff your sstill beating heart down your throat. I hold no pozition warranting sssuch a title, a ssimple sssir will do."
The man nodded his head slightly without blinking, Shaithis smiled at that. The door to the captains ready room opened with a slight groan, showing the age of the ship. The conference line was on hold, the light blinking on the console flashed every few seconds. Sitting down in the chair, Shaithis pushed the button, a second later an image of Chaos came into focus on one half of the screen. A moment later the other half focused in on Crix, both wearing a look of anger.
"So, I hear the Horseman haven't shown up yet. Dammit, that is the third time Zarco has disobeyed a direct order. How hard is it to follow one simple order." Chaos stated shaking his head slightly, his lips pursed in rage at the inability of his battleteam to follow simple orders.
"With or without them, thiss inveztigation will continue. I can offer a few sssuggestionz on torture if you need them, I'll even sssupply the toolz. I only assk that I be there to watch their facess when you dizcipline them." Shaithis laughed into the screen.
Crix said nothing, just shook his head, his eyes burned with rage as his screen went blank.
"Shaithis, should they show up, something tells me they won't, but lets pretend. Please redirect them back here, tell them I wish to speak to them....immediately." Chaos spoke through a forced smile, his image blurred then dissappeared as the screen went black.
Shaithis leaned back in the chair, he certainly didn't envy being in the leader of the Horseman's position. Maybe, Shaithis thought to himself, something could be salvaged from this. That was if the whereabouts of the missing team were discovered. Shaking his head, the giant lizard got up and headed towards the security office.
Shadow and Fire-Knight entered the spacious Consul quarters to discover Duga was in a meeting with Benevolent and a mysterious figure with his back turned away from the door. Shadow looked at the man puzzled for a moment before realizing who it was.
“Kir? Kir you’re back?” The robed man turned and smiled slightly.
“Shadow, good to see you.” The former Deputy Grand Master didn’t even leave his seat. Shadow felt an undercurrent of worry in the room. Something had obviously transpired since Fire-Knight and him had left to escort the Clan Ambassadors off planet.
“Duga. What’s wrong?”
The Consul paused for a moment is glance flickering to the Dark Jedi Knight standing in the back. “Fire-Knight.”
“You are excused. Return to your quarters and prepare yourself for battle.” The young member looked around at the faces watching him. He bowed awkwardly and took his leave. “Please sit, Shadow.”
The Obelisk took his seat in between Kir and Benevolent. Duga returned to the seat behind his desk and clasped his hands. “Gentlemen. We’ve been receiving conflicting reports about the Grand Master. Much of it doesn’t make sense… from all accounts there are now two Jacs.”
“Two Jac’s?” Shadow asked incredulously. “How does something like that happen?”
Kir glanced over saying, “we’re not quite sure. But it goes with what I was sensing. Something doesn’t feel quite right about this whole situation.”
“There’s more.” Duga announced. “Before you both arrived we received two transmissions. One came from Lyspair, from the Shadow Academy. The other, it seems, came from right here on Karufr. Both transmissions are authentic as far as we can tell… and both are from the Grand Master himself. Each is demanding our loyalty.”
“Jac is on Karufr?”
“Apparently with Xanos and Rak.”
“So who do we believe is the true Jac?” Ben asked.
The room fell into silence. The four Taldryan Jedi reflected on the problem trying to come up with some possible solution. Shadow was still trying to wrap is head around the improbability of two Jac’s appearing just after the amount of incidents between the clans had risen.
“Jac… If Jac were in trouble on Antei it would make sense for him to return to Karufr. Taldryan is still his home clan. He’d fall back here to regroup knowing he’d have our support.” Kir offered breaking the silence.
“That makes sense.” Duga replied. “I’ll respond to the Jac on Karufr and offer him our help.” The Consul got up from his chair and moved to a desk at the side of the room.
“What about our investigations?” Shadow inquired knowing a great deal of the Clan was spread throughout the system in a vain search for answers to the random incidents that had plagued the Clan for the past few weeks.
“We need to recall them. We’ve moved beyond the why. Things are moving too quickly and we might need the full power of Taldryan to help Jac take back the Iron Throne.” Duga finished setting up his communication system.
“Members of Taldryan, this is Consul Duga Arkarso. Abort your current missions and return to Karufr. Immediately. You will be debriefed on arrival and assigned new missions. That is all.” Duga flicked a switch cutting off the broadcast and fiddled with a dial retuning it to a less broad signal.
“This is Duga Arkarso, Consul of Taldryan. I pledge the support of Taldryan and all it’s resources to the true Grand Master.” Transmissions completed Duga turned off the transceiver and returned to his chair.
Shadow looked into each ominous face and broke out in a smile. “So, I guess we’re entering the second chapter of this conflict now…”
*** We're ending the first chapter of the RO. The investigations stuff no longer flows with the current GJW plot... not that the current GJW plot flows at all.
Anyways. We're moving on to the next chapter where everyone finds out about two Jac's and chooses sides. Follow the cues that your House Summits give you.
Over the next day or two while we figure some stuff out just keep your posts somewhat nonchalant. You're on Karufr with your fellow Dark Jedi. Write about what you're doing to prepare, right about how you're dealing with the two Jacs issue and the splitting of the Dark Council.
More stuff will develop soon and hopefully on Sunday we'll have more GJW plot involving clan vs clan warfare.
Thanks to everyone that's been participating so far!
Many members of the clan were still returning from there missions, but the Exarch still felt it was important to make the announcement quickly, as to keep the confusion and suspicion to a minimum. The members that could not attend the conference were viewing it via holograph.
“You have all been recalled from your missions because something has gone wrong in the Brotherhood,” the Consul said, pausing to add to the dramatic affect. “It has come to my attention that there are now two Grandmasters in the Brotherhood, and two Jac Cotelins.”
The hush that was over the crowd, however small it had become, was broken instantly. Confusion ran through out the membership, from the lowest of Journeymen to the highest elders.
“Two Jac Cotelin’s?” one member yelled exasperatedly.
“That can’t be!” a Journeyman shouted.
The murmur of confusion that came from the crowd was squelched when Duga spoke again.
“Now matter what you think, the fact is there are two Jac Cotelin’s and two Grandmasters. They have given us an ultimatum of whom to follow. But that chose was a simple one, because we have been visited be the true ruler of the Brotherhood. His imposter has taken to Lyspair to. The Shadow Academy is now off limits; no one comes from or goes to Lyspair. Be prepared for war, because it will soon be at hand.”
The crowd again erupted into a frenzy of confusion, but this time the Consul turned around and left his members to themselves.
"Can they not make up their blasssted mindz! Ssshaithiz go here, Sshaithiz go there, Ssshaithiz do thiz, Sshaithiz do that. Damn pinkssskinz." Shaithis muttered to himself as he walked out of the security office towards the lift to take him back to his still warm shuttle.
Several corridors and several crew members being tossed out of the way later, the giant lizard was back in the hangar, still grumbling. Slamming the buttons without care, the shuttle took off rather shakily. One of the comm techs onboard the Seraphim could swear he heard grumbling in a language he didn't know coming through on one of the channels, it grew fainter the farther the shuttle went.
Odium glanced briefly at Illian as he powered the shuttle down. It had been a short trip, but a quiet one none-the-less. Both Dark Jedi contemplating the possibility of two Jac's. It seemed impossible and both shivered at the thought of a battle between the two, neither knowing what had already happened on Antei.
As they debarked, the Envoy turned to his newest member and said, "Well, thanks for your help, however little of it was required. I'm sure you have preparations to make as have I. If you'll excuse me." With that the Zabrak turned and walked out of the hangar.
Fifteen minutes later Odium walked into the Quaestor office decked out in his bounty hunter armor, having recently painted it pitch black to go better with his robes, as well as carrying his trusty katana, lacking a lightsaber to replace it. Bowing slightly to Quaestor and Aedile, Odium took his seat and awaited what freshjive had to say.
The mission to Kaltace had yielded much information on the disaster that befell the pilot. They had deduced through reverse engineering the accident, and slightly repairing pieces of the nav-computer that the TIE had been rendered unusable while still in air due to an electric surge that wiped out most of the flight systems. Fighters had protection and shielding against surges like this, so that they were able to maintain flight control, so Battleteam Hex’s conclusion was that the crash was either an act of sabotage to keep the fighter from being captured by anyone, or it was self inflicted for the same reason.
Using his datapad, the item where the investigation’s complete records were stored, Vodo and his superior Raistline relaid this information in a small conference room to the Clan Summit. Several key members of the clan were also present, including past Consul, and former Deputy Grand Master, Kir Katarn. Once their presentation ended, Vodo bowed and took his leave from the room. He sensed that Raistline stayed either out of curiosity or request.
Like all members of his house and Taldryan at large, Vodo had heard Chaos’s announcement of the two Jacs. He understood before many others of his rank what it meant that Taldryan was to call itself home to one of the two. If there were two, already calling themselves the real Jac, then there must have been a massive fight already, prompting the departure of both from Antei. This would mean there would be more conflicts, this time on a brotherhood wide scale.
The once place easy to find on Karufr was the Clan Library. This depository of knowledge was so massive Vodo had only been to the other side a couple times, and that was when he was ignoring the tomes and collections of manuscripts on his way through. He found his way here to access a high bandwidth terminal to see what the Clan and Brotherhood news was. Spending a week on a remote ever winter planet had messed with his sense of what was going on.
“Brotherhood Holo-Service is Temporarily Restricted”
The Jedi Hunter sat back in his chair, mouth agas in disbelief. Despite previous conflicts, and wars, the Brotherhood had always maintained a steady flow of incoming and outgoing bandwidth to the Clans. Either this was a way to keep Taldryan in the dark, isolating them for allying with the ‘real’ Jac, or it was in effect over the entire Brotherhood. He was sure the Summit was already briefed on this situation and was discussing it as he sat there.
Kir had taken one of the upper level quarters in the Taldryan Headquarters as his own, but this night he had returned to his villa on the western side of Karufr for a meeting. Throughout his time in the Imperial service and that of the Brotherhood, Kir had built a vast network of informants throughout the organization and the galaxy as a whole. Many had served in various prestigious intelligence organizations, but tonight’s meeting was with a much more rural source.
The Dark Adept remained seated behind his desk as a small man entered the room. “Mr. Gilhos, please be seated. I understand you have some information for me.” The man, a local trader, was visibly terrified despite the fact this was not his first time in Kir’s presence.
Finally the man spoke, “Yes m’Lord, I do. My brother-in-law, we used to be business partners, he disappeared last week.”
“I see, why is it you think this requires my attention?” Kir asked.
Sweating now, the man continued, “Sir, my brother had an old Y-Wing he used for cargo runs. It disappeared with him last week, and then I heard of a Y-Wing crashing on Taruma…”
“…and you wanted to know if your brother-in-law was aboard?” Kir finished,
The man nodded, “Yes m’Lord, my sister, she is very anxious, she wants her husband to return.”
Kir sat for a moment, and then stood, “Mr. Gilhos I am sorry, but the Y-Wing on Taruma was not that of your brother-in-law, it was stolen from one of our hangars by a malcontent. Your sister will have to keep waiting.” The lie slipped off Kir’s tongue easily, and the naïve trader took it for the truth.
“I am sorry for wasting your time m’Lord, I will return to the village” the man bowed and then left the office.
A moment later the door reopened, and Kir’s bodyguard and advisor, Cassis, entered, “The village security holos show the Y-Wing being stolen and Mr. Gilhos’ brother being killed” he said.
“You have identified the assailant?” Kir asked.
Cassis nodded, “Yes m’Lord – the same man we connected with the Prophet incident and the attempt on Duga.
Kir paused in contemplation, then spoke, “Ready my shuttle, I will deal with this personally.”
The Krath Priest pulled his lightsaber down quickly in a low guard to block the uppercut slash then, using his opponents saber as a guide, he quickly slid his saber up the blade and hilt, then sliced his enemy in two. Quickly rolling to avoid the attack from his rear, the Priest spun with his blade in a high guard only to be met with a metal fist making contact with his face, knocking him to the floor and pulling his lightsaber from his hand. Glaring up he met his attackers gazes, seeing the two battle droids intent on killing him, knowing he only had seconds to react before he would die.
Then the droids paused and a moment later sparks shot from their chassis and the fell lifelessly to the ground. “What the…?”
A dark figure emerged from the dark entrance of the training room, “Krath Priest Werdna, you play a foolish game.”
Werdna slowly stood, “Three droids is within my means, and they were only programmed to attack with level six proficiency.” The Priest could not see the face of the man who approached him, but he could feel his power echo through the force. The figure made a motion with his hand, and Werdna’s lightsaber rose from the ground and settled in its owners hand.
With a snap-hiss, a crimson blade emerged from the dark figure’s hand, “Prove it.”
Still not comprehending the situation, but immediately recognizing a threat, Werdna ignited his purple blade and charged the man. The man simply moved his saber to a middle guard and deflected the Priest’s attack, hard enough Werdna stumbled backwards. The figure took a step forward and then parried the Priest’s next attack, again driving him back.
This continued for several minutes when Werdna, crazed by frustration and soaked in his own sweat, screamed, “WHO ARE YOU!?!” and charged the figure. He made it two meters before he was struck in the chest by a vicious blast of force lightning stripping him of his lightsaber, and throwing him into the duracrete wall, breaking three rips and his arm. The Priest made a feeble attempt to stand as the figure slowly approached, but the dark man sent lightning through his body again, searing his nerve endings until Werdna begged for death.
Finally he stopped and bent down next to the ragged Priest, then pulled back his hood. Werdna’s eyes registered the response his badly injured body could not muster, his lips slowly opened, “Master… Katarn?”
“Yes, Werdna. The foolish game you play was not the battle with the droids; it is your actions against Clan Taldryan. Did you think you could escape our vision?”
The Priest attempted to sit up, but the pain was too great, “Master, I didn’t…”
Kir raised his hand, “Silence Priest, I know what you have conspired to do. The Interceptor from the Prophet, the Y-Wing on Taruma, and the attempt on Duga’s life.” A new fear arose in Werdna’s eyes as he realized his previous pain could be only the beginning if the Dark Adept wished for more. “Taldryan will not be defeated by any enemy, from outside or within; your pathetic actions have accomplished nothing.”
The Dark Adept stood and pulled his hood over his face, “You will not die this day Priest, but know that your thoughts are not beyond my sight. From this moment on you will show Taldryan nothing but absolute loyalty, or you will again be visited by this specter from the past.”
Jedi Hunter Vodo Biask sat in his quarters reviewing the data he had collected on Kaltace and had presented to the Clan summit. The cause of the crash was obviously an electric surge, but Vodo could not determine why someone would cause that type of accident knowing it would leave such visible evidence. Just as he was about to surrender to the sleep that begged him to rest, the door to his quarters slid open.
The Hunter quickly spun, no one was to enter a Taldryan member’s quarters unannounced, “Who dares…” he stopped when he recognized the man stepping inside. “Master Katarn, I apologize I did not know…” he said, bowing.
Kir motioned for Vodo to rise, “No apologizes Vodo, I must speak with you. Your findings on Kaltace were impressive; you delivered an excellent presentation of the facts.”
Vodo was thankful for the praise, but curious as to why the former Consul would come to him privately.
Kir continued, “However, your findings were not altogether….unexpected.”
Now the confusion was really mounting in Vodo, “m’Lord?”
Kir looked Vodo directly in the eyes with an intense gaze, “You are not to share your findings or the details of your trip with anyone. If you are asked, you never even landed on the planet, do you understand?”
Vodo responded immediately as trained, “Yes, m’Lord.”
Kir nodded, “Good. I may call on you to assist me further in this manner in the near future, be ready for my call.” The Dark Adept then turned and left, leaving Vodo in a more confused state than which he had found him.
With the Dark Adept’s disappearance, Vodo put down the information, and placed a password on the datapad it was contained on. While he was not a technologist, Vodo did have some knowledge of programs used to defeat security measures on electronics. He had ensured his datapad was protected against the most of these, but was sure if an expert slicer were to get a hold of it, it would fail.
He did not understand what Kir was after, but obeyed the former Deputy Grand Master. He found it amusing, but he had more loyalty to the former Consul than the current one. Maybe everyone did, he mused, Kir was that sort of man. He inspired those around him to follow him into the dark.
Vodo had some time on his hands, as he was now free of any responsibilities. This left him time to devise a story that would allow him to explain his three day vanishing act while he “wasn’t on kaltace”. He could not act for Hex as a whole, as they’d been there as well, but he imagined the Dark Adept had already visited them as well.
It was obvious that something large was going. The brotherhood as a whole could feel it. There were now two Grandmasters, one called Taldryan home, and the other was occupying the Lord Hegemon’s throne. When it did happen, there would be those who would act immediately, taking matters into their own hands, shaping and molding it into something for their own benefit, and for that of their Clan’s. There would also be those who sat and watched while this happened, merely allowing the first group to manage their fate. Vodo imagine however that there would be a third group, neither fighting or sitting. They would be the true shapers of destiny. Those who sat behind the scenes, controlling everyone.
“I should have been a Sith”, he hissed through his wicked grin
After hearing the annoucement that there were two Grand Masters Kraval knew there would be trouble. Sitting in the QUA's office Kraval brought up the Holonet transmitter and made a call to Karufr. While he was waiting for someone on the other end to reply Odium came through the door dressed for battle.
"Have a seat," the AED said.
"Where's Fresh?" he asked looking around the room.
"He's off on his own journey and I'm in command. I'll be recalling our memebers to begin preparing our ships and ground troops for battle," he replied as a face appeared next to him holographically.
"Shadow I'm recalling both you and Fire-Knight to Altur," the AED stated as he picked up a datapad.
"I'm staying here on Karufr," the Adept said bluntly.
The two men traded stares for a moment before Kraval replied "Fine, but I expect FK to arrive within the next few days."
With that Kraval ended the Holonet transmision to Karufr and activated another comm line to the Seraphim.
"Yes sir?" a commander answered. "I need to speak with Prelate Shaithis now," Kraval said.
"He's left the ship sir, he took a shuttle and departed the bays a few minutes ago." the man replied.
Frowning slightly Kraval cut off communication with the ship and instead brought up the scanners from the orbital satelites. Finding a lone shuttle quickly Kraval opened a hailing channel to it.
"Prelate Shaithis you are to report to me for further orders," the AED said as Shaithis let out a growl. "No arguments either, I expect you to be here in fifteen minutes." With that he shut down the communcation line again and brought up a list of those he would want to command his forces.
"We'll wait until the others get here then I'll start giving out orders of command," Kraval told Odium as he scrolled through the datapad.
Zarco and his team emerged from the dense jungle to walk into the Ektrosian facility from which phyle Horsemen of the Apocalypse had journeyed earlier that very day. The team had been led into an ambush they had dealt with handily. The team had been bloodied now and was ready to dish out even more if the opportunity arose.
As the team made their way to the temple a lone warrior ran out to greet them. He ran up to the Tetrarch Baron Zarco and announced, almost gleefully, “You are in a lot of trouble. The summit has been…”
Zarco interrupted and kept walking, riot gun-flamer comb-weapon on his shoulder, “I have information that the Summit will be glad to see.”
“No they are really upset with you. You did not maintain contact. You will pay…”
Zarco interrupted again. “Our long range communications equipment, “Zarco eyed the man, “that supplied by you, was sabotaged. We were led away from base by the ‘crash’ of the Y-Wing. As it turns out the Y-Wing was also sabotaged. It detonated before hitting the jungle. The transport that brought us was destroyed by surface to air missiles. We were ambushed by forces bearing the mark of...”
The warrior rolled his eyes and inhaled as if to interrupt the Judge.
“Phissssssssssss..Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” Purple bladed death cut up and from under the impolite messenger’s right arm into his chest. The blade did not stop until it emerged from his left shoulder. His right arm, shoulder, head and neck sloughed from his torso and hit the ground with a plop. The blade had vanished just as soon as it had appeared.
Zarco stepped back and took the weapon from his shoulder. He pumped two rounds from the riot gun into the separated corpse, eyes still rolled into its head. A gout of flame spurt from the under-slung flamethrower and set the two pieces aflame. The sound of the lightsaber had brought spectators from the motor pool in time to see Zarco pumping the two rounds into the deceased and then setting the pieces aflame. Zarco then shouldered his weapon again and raised the flaming pieces from the ground with telekinesis hurtling them towards the spectators.
The Dark Knight had surprised even himself but was tired of being disrespected.
The team followed silently. Tiberius put his hand upon the Tetrarch;s shoulder and patted. Ricco muttered, “I am behind you all the way.” Without looking, Zarco knew that the rest of the team nodded silently in agreement.
The team boarded a shuttle. All knew the drill by now. They sorted their weapons, cleaned them and readied them for more. They all eyed the box of “evidence” they had taken from the jungle.
“We are headed for Karufr. We have been summoned there. That is just as well for, as you know, the evidence we have needs to be handled in person. Thanks for a great job today. On the way there I suggest you review the film of our battle taken by our audio-video drones. I have taken to utilizing them to de-brief after each encounter. Talk among yourselves on the way.”
Zarco turned to go back to the front of the shuttle but then turned and spoke one more time. “Guys, about the…”
He was interrupted by a chorus, “He had it coming.”
The Tetrarch smiled and decided to sit with his team and pass the time to Karufr.
Fire-Knight had returned to his room immediatly after being told and packed his bags. Within Minutes Fire-Knight had packed his bags and returned to the hanger bay, Glad he had brought his personal ship. It was moments later the message he had been expecting came over his ships communicator.
"FK, seeing how your in your ship i guess you saw this coming, Kraval wants you back at HQ."
"Thanks Shad, see you later."
Punching in the appropriate coordinates Fire-Knight signaled his launch codes to the tower, and lifted off. In moments was laying back in his chair as the autopilot propelled him to his home.
Sudden beeping woke Fire-Knight from an odd sleep involving a wookie, and a paper bag. Looking at his console The Knight was glad to see he had arrived in Dinaari space, and was only minutes away from Altur.
"Incoming ship, This is Dinaari Headquarters. Please state your codes."
"This is FK3609, access code, Papa whisky november zulu"
"Sorry sir, your ship is not currently expected. Says your coming in a day or two."
"I'm touching down now, or God help me i will blast the doors of the HQ and land in the hall. AM I UNDERSTOOD."
"I'd much appreciate you not doing that FK." Kravals voice suddenly crackled over the intercom. " Touch down in the hanger and meet me at the turbolifts, we have a few things to disscuss."
Controlling his anger, Fire-Knight slowed his ship and aimed for the hanger bay doors.
'Now too see whats been happening back home.' The Giant Nelvaanian thought.
This game of hide and seek was not to the liking of the giant barabel. He prefered to see his enemy, to face him head on, then dismember him slowly sustaining him with the force till not even that could keep his heart beating. Shaithis growled silently as he turned off the comm and punched in the coordinates for Altur. The last time Shaithis experienced something like this he was the High Commander of the Obelisk order and Lord Firefox still occupied the iron throne, even then fighting an enemy that will not show itself just boiled his blood.
A minute later, Altur came into view as space snapped back into a still picture of darkness with pinholes of light everywhere. The comm crackled to life, a voice asked for authorization codes. Shaithis just growled into the mic and smiled when authorization was given. The "help" as Shaithis called them, knew the giant lizard well, his temper was something of a legend among the staff of Dinaari HQ.
Shaithis noted another ship landing just infront of his own, the shuttle set down right beside it in the docking bay. Stepping off the ramp, Shaithis nodded towards Fireknight, both headed towards the turbo lift where Kraval was waiting.
Bubbles stared in disbelief at the freezer. Empty. Sure, Phoenix was now in residence on Karufr, but even so, to have run out of ice-cream so quickly…glancing over her shoulder she shrugged at the empty pile of ice-cream tubs on the table. Perhaps it wasn’t so strange they had run out. Muttering she searched the cupboards, and finding nothing worth eating she gave the bin a well aimed kick before stalking out of the kitchen, her glower almost pinning a passing Apprentice to the wall of the corridor.
If she couldn’t eat anything, someone had better have something she could do. Arriving outside Menace’s quarters she banged loudly on the door and waited. After a minute or two she banged even harder, and waited again, rubbing her hand. “Damn doors, someone really should figure out a way to make them softer” she muttered to herself. “Bubbles go here, Bubbles wait there, Bubbles sit around and do nothing while everyone else runs around like headless chickens.” She glared at the door “And why is no-one ever in their quarters?” She sat down, leaning against the walls of the corridor. “Two Jacs. One real, one imposter. Or two halves of the same? But Duga seems to know who to back, so that means one imposter. But one damn good duplicate from the sounds of things. Sounds almost like…” she paused and smiled to herself “Like something Ektrosis used to experiment with.” Thinking it over for a minute she made up her mind. Sure, it was unlikely, but if no-one else had anything for her to do, she was going to do what Krath did best out of all the Orders. “Hell, those damn Obelisk probably wouldn’t know a book if it hit them in the face.” Pushing herself off the floor, she brushed down her robes and headed for the library.
Having nothing else to do, Vodo returned to Taruma and his favorite pass time. When he was not attending classes to further his prowess, he could easily be found in the Ektrosis Library. Vara, the Krath Librarian who took care of the library was something of a friend to Vodo, though neither would admit it to each other or the world at large. They had a simple understanding: Vodo would help clean the library every week, and in return he had limited access to forbidden tomes and holocrons.
Though many times he did not have sufficient prowess within the force as of yet to complete some of the knowledge he tore fro these records, his meticulous brain carefully stored each touch of the Dark Side lore, spells, and history, for future use. He had learned many things those of his rank did not have access to for another couple years, and knew things learned in these tomes that even Elders did not know.
Upon arriving and settling in, a few brief words of greeting were spoken with Vara. He took of his over robe, preferring his lighter under robe as he scanned the shelves of the library. He went to a terminal to search out a particular area of interest. Entering the keyword ‘Aing-Tii’, he quickly located a holocron containing his most recent hobby. The small dark pyramid shone brightly in the dark library with a mystic energy. Vodo sat with it, grasping it with two hands.
He had never been taught the proper procedure for activating a holocron, but had his own ritual substituted. The Twi’lek closed his eyes, took a deep breath, clearing his mind of all distractions, then opened his eyes once more. Sitting in a padded chair, looking very comfortable was a Falleen Sith lord. She declare herself to be Lord Dis Ease, former apprentice of Lord Bane. Vodo had researched this and found no record of her being Bane’s apprentice, but continued to learn from her nonetheless.
Vodo sat in the darkness, his mind completely wrapped up in the Holocron he had at his disposal. The young Jedi Hunter was obsessed with the hidden knowledge the Lords of the holocrons could offer, and his arrangement with the librarian Vara was the perfect way to feed his hunger. Just as the Falleen Lord Dis Ease was about to tell a tale of training under Lord Bane, the holocron fell silent and slipped from his hands, “What the..?”
The dark pyramid floated up into the hands of Kir, who was standing above the Jedi Hunter, “Holocrons are mysterious artifacts, but their knowledge is granted with certain restrictions.”
As the object settled in the Dark Adepts hand it again shone brightly as Kir activated it, and the image of Lord Dis Ease appeared, “Master of Darkness, what knowledge do you seek?”
“That which is known only you and I” Kir replied.
The image bowed to Kir, “Yes, Master, as you wish.”
Vodo was shocked, “But how could she call you Master? You were never her master, she lived so long ago!”
Kir smirked, “Holocrons are mysterious artifacts, but not so mysterious as to make them impossible to replicate…if you have the right understanding and abilities.”
“That holocron is a fake?” Vodo asked.
“The holocron itself is real enough,” Kir said, “but its Master never existed. Lord Dis Ease serves as my personal gatekeeper. She dispenses route knowledge in mystical verse to those who seek her secrets, but when she senses my presence her true abilities are activated.”
Vodo understood, “She hides information for you, in the least likely place someone would look. But what does she hide?”
Kir looked at the holocron, “Display the target.” Instantly an image of a planet filled the air between the two Dark Jedi.
Vodo recognized it at once, “Kaltace.”
“You have a good mind. Your being pulled to this particular holocron was no accident, nor was your being assigned to investigate the Kaltace crash.” Kir said, “Your destiny is playing itself out, the Dark Side has deemed you capable of assisting me in this task.”
Vodo stood, “What would you have me do, Master?”
“Prepare your things, you and I depart for Kaltace tomorrow. Tell no one of this” Kir said.
Vodo turned to leave, then stopped and looked back, “What will we find on Kaltace?”
Kir’s eyes lifted under the edge of his hood, “Taldryan’s salvation.”
"Lord Duga, Master Shadow!" the breathless messenger slid to a halt in front of the two Dark Jedi gasping for breath, a look of terror twisting his young features.
“What is it, Protector?” Duga’s voice contained a hint of anger. The journeyman had interrupted a conference call between the Clan and House summits.
“Sir, I’m sorry to intrude, but I have an urgent message from the squad leader on the long-range orbital sensors.” The young man handed over what looked like a large datapad displaying the outer most reaches of the Kr’Tal system.
Shadow stepped to Duga’s side and picked up the datapad. “Damn. They’re here sooner than expected, and with a lot more fire power.” He handed the datapad back to Duga.
“It seems we’ll have to move forward with our plans.” He turned his back on the Protector and moved towards the communications array. “Dismissed, Protector Darne.” The young man bowed and exited quickly – most likely to relay what he had learned to his fellow journeymen, though Shadow.
“Freshjive, Chaos, you still there?”
“Of course,” they two replied almost in unison.
“Good. What you just heard us talking about was a transmission from the orbital sensor alpha. A large part of the Tarentum fleet has entered the fringes of Taldryan space. We must do what we can to repel and destroy them.”
Shadow held his hand up to stop Duga. He continued with the orders, “Jive. You and Kraval take control of the fleet. Take every ship available with the exception of the Suppressor and a squad of TIE’s. Take the fight to them.”
“Will do, Shad. Jive out.”
“Chaos. Prepare your House for defense. Today seems like a good day to deploy those MPDSL’s we won in the Rite of Supremacy. We can use that kind of firepower today. Get everyone armed and ready for a full out ground assault. We need the Walkers manned - activate the droid units. We’re going to need everything we got for this one.”
“Right. Crix and I will see to the defense of the system. Chaos out.”
Shadow sighed and looked towards Duga. “Sorry about that. Old habits die hard I guess.”
The Consul grinned. “If you and Kir want to keep running the show I could use the vacation…”
The Adept laughed and shook his head. “No way. You’re the one who has to answer to Jac after we wipe Tarentum out.”
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Crix sat in Chaos' office after the talk between the summit shaking his head. "This isn't going to be easy..."
"Nothing ever is." Chaos replied as he pulled up data on the troops and weapons that Ektrosis had at its desposal. "These MPDSLs are going to be very useful."
Crix nodded. "How much do you want to bet they skip the rest of the planets and go straight for Karufr?"
Chaos thought for a moment then said "Ya...if they get through our fleet they're gonna be more then a little pissed off. They'll go straight for the HQ."
"All three of the MPDSLs should go on Karufr then. One should be stationed at the HQ, the other two around the planet so we can cover as much of space as possible." Crix said, looking over the data on the screen.
"We'll need the walkers and droids too..." Chaos said, as an idea hit him. "Shadow wanted to keep the Suppressor out of this battle...assuming Tar somehow manages to make it through the entire fleet it'll be nice to have one more line of defence before they hit the planet."
Crix's eyes lit up as he figured out where Chaos was going with this thought. "I'll keep the Suppressor on the other side of Karufr and if they manage to get through the rest of the fleet I can hit them with a little supprise while you break in those MPDSLs. The Suppressor doesn't have the most guns in the fleet but she can put a major hurting on most ships."
"Especially with two fresh squads of TIEs and three MPDSLs taking shots at already damaged ships." Chaos agreed. "You're more at home on a capital ship and the Suppressor is your command anyway, you take that part of the defence; but have a shuttle ready to come back to the surface if things get out of hand."
Crix nodded and stood up. "It's time to get everyone ready. You're the Quaestor, the announcment should come from on high. I'll be getting the Suppressor ready for a fight." Crix said as he walked out of the office.
The shuttle was a bleak haze unrecognisable his team-mates blurry outlines
beside him, the noises from the battle came back as he remembered the fight.
The vision of Zarco’s disconcertingly predatory looks as they were suddenly ambushed near the Y-Wing. Tiberious and the rest of the team were in front of Ricco as Zarco shouted orders to the Horsemen. He drew is Fira out of instinct as attacks came from every direction. He awoke from this memory shivering to
find Anik Koran trying to hold him still. This had been Ricco’s first encounter with battle since he had been in exile. Now that he was with his friends he calmed down, the jungle was a formidable place, humid and dense and Ricco had been full of anticipation. He felt for the young Novice this must be much worse for him. His encounter with this band of force users had stirred something inside of the Hunter he had felt something through the force, the split of the brotherhood was drawing near and he had not chosen sides would he follow his Clan, House, Battleteam or would he chose his own path. He pondered on this for a long while until that memory came back to him.
The screams, the clashes of cold metal, the whirr of sabres, the illuminated lights were all too much for him. He heard his heart pounding but felt nothing as if he had left his body. He turned to see the taciturn expression of Tiberious as he thrust his blade into one of the assassins. The battle was gory and long but the team had held together all had survived although some with minor infliction. The flashbacks continued for hours.
This was supposed to be a happy day, one to celebrate but none of them
looked that way. Ricco glanced around the ship gloom, dour faced, and all
wished to be back on Karufr as the Summit had summoned. Ricco had now
decided that he would pick the side of the “blue” Jac as he was now known. He
did not trust this “red” one with his new aesthetically pleasing robes and
more tactful moves which could lead to the deaths of his friends “was this the right choice?” the rhetorical question would in fact be answered soon. He glanced at Zarco who looked back with a blank expression "would he be able to confide in him, was he on the other side or was he staying neutral?" so many questions raced around in his head as the shuttle jerked and woke him to reality once again.
Kraval was walking down a hallway when he felt a strange feeling brush his neck. He turned his head and saw nothing, noticing one of the overhead lights was dark and another flickering. The lights had seemed to be working properly as he had passed them moments before and their sudden malfunction made him tense. He looked closely at the flickering light and decided it was just his imagination playing tricks on him.
He turned quickly and ran smack into freshjive, it was like hitting a brick wall and he stumbled backwards to keep himself from falling to the floor.
"Ass, where the hell have you been?" Kraval asked.
"Sorry to have kept you guys waiting, but I was delayed for a bit on Antei."
"Things are starting to heat up around here."
"I know, walk with me, I have some important things to discuss with you about my trip."
The two resumed walking down the hallway, Kraval noticed freshjive was moving at a quick clip and adjusted his stride to keep up, whatever had him moving this quickly must be important and he didn't want to miss anything.
"So I assume you know there are two Jacs now right?" Kraval asked.
"Affirmative, although I don't know which one we should trust right about now," replied freshjive.
"What do you mean? One is on Karufr right now!"
"I know, Duga told me on the way in, that doesn't matter now, what matters is securing our position among the Clans, we can deal with the Jacs later."
"Someone going to make a move against us?"
"Possibly, Antei was strange man, I saw the whole thing go down between the Jacs, it was like they were the same person, I couldn't tell the difference, even when probing with the Force. They are virtually the same aside from personality traits. I don't know if its something Jac did purposefully or accidentially, but like I said, thats not the important thing right now."
"What else did you find out?"
"Well, I went snooping around one night in my usual manner, I was able to, uhh, let myself into, Anshar's office. Tarentum has been laundering large amounts of currency through the Shadow Academy, ostentatiously as donations for expansion of research and improvement of facilities but the money earmarked never went toward the funding of those programs."
"Where did it go then?"
"Thats the big mystery, I couldn't find out where, Anshar's records show the transfer of large sums, and then a transfer to another account, but no details."
"So, what do YOU think is happening then?"
"Tarentum wants to hide money, well, what for? I think they're trying to build up their offensive forces secretly and are channeling money through the SA to cover their tracks."
"Why go to all that trouble though?"
"When you have a source of secret reinforcements, you have an advantage the enemy doesn't know about, you can position it anywhere at anytime."
"What about our attack though? We're set to head out soon."
"I don't think it will be a problem, just don't overextend and you'll do fine."
Kraval suddenly stopped walking alongside freshjive and remained standing in the hallway. freshjive noticed after a couple of paces and turned to face him.
"Wait, you're not going to be there? You have some other mission?"
"Not particularly, I'll be taking my place among the troops, its your show now Kraval."
"Wait, I've never done something this huge before!"
"You'll do fine, Shad and Kir and whoever else is around, including me, will help out as much as possible, but you're calling the shots from now on."
"Well, if you think so."
"Don't worry, for now, I'll be wrapping a few things up here and when we're underway, you'll be in charge, none too soon too, I'm too old for this [Expletive Deleted]."
The two exchanged a laugh and continued along the corridor to their offices.
"He's WHAT?!?!?" Odium exclaimed as Kraval informed him of the situation, "So...does that put you in charge? Totally?"
The human nodded in response and continued, "Don't worry, we have plenty of help and advice. Kir and Shadow will still be around as well as freshjive himself. All we have to do is show off what we can do and show Tarentum how big of a mistake they're making. Now go get the youngsters ready. Oh, and you'd better pack this along with your other weapons." Kraval handed over the lightsaber that he had been holding for Odium while he began training with a live saber, since the Envoy hadn't been allowed to carry it personally.
"Thanks, I have a feeling I'll need it." the new Knight declared as he retracted the crimson blade and hooked it to his belt.
"Now hurry up and get your Journeymen ready, I'll have your assignment when you're done."
However calm the Zabrak had acted when he recieved the saber at long last, his thoughts were buzzing with excitement, and shock at freshjive's announcement, as he strolled away to rally the troops. It was time for war.
Vodo found himself in his personal quarter’s, lucky enough to be one of the few Journeymen in the House of Ektrosis to have a room to himself. HE had always fancied as being the Brotherhood’s way of welcoming him into their embrace after so many years of slavery and servitude. The only advantage it offered him however was a private meditation space and storage locker. This is where only an hour and a half earlier he had stowed his luggage and effects from the Kaltace investigation.
He was now reloading the same Gearbag he’d used before with the two man shelter he’d used his first night on the planet, a stove, rations, and his cold weather robes. He figured that because he would be traveling with the ex-Deputy Grand Master, ex-Taldryan Consul, and an Elder, he’d be traveling in a semblance of comfort, but took no chances. With his bag stuffed, he placed two more items in the mesh netting around the exterior. His Practice Saber, not wanting to possibly pass up a chance training with one of Taldryan’s premier duelists, and his long, wickedly curved Zahbrak Sword.
The Jedi Hunter placed the bag on his back, and turned to leave. The computer screen on his desk was blinking with an alert, and was obliged to answer it. It was a text only message with instructions on where to meet Kir and at which bay. The Shuttle they were scheduled to use was registered as the Dark Adept’s personal craft, so would not be hard to distinguish. Vodo grinned, his maw full sharp yellow teeth.
Once more, he set out of his quarters with the intent of heading to Kaltace, the planet of mysteries, the planet of ice and snow, and the planet of Taldryan’s Salvation...
The navigator came from the front and whispered in Zarco’s ear. The Tetrarch smiled and said aloud, “Bring us out of hyperspace on my mark.”
“But that will delay our arrival at Karufr,” replied the navigator.
The Horseman’s look changed the demeanor of the man.
Zarco addressed the phyle. “We have to retrieve an old friend.”
The Judge looked at his datapad and yelled to the front, “Now!!!”
The ship lurched as it drifted into real space. All eyes were upon Zarco. Was he going to get them all in trouble again. “Probably,” came the collective thoughts of all present.
Zarco entered a code in his datapad.
A different voice, this time the pilot, came panicked from the front, “Sir! A vessel has appeared suddenly before us. It was not on sensors! Powering weapons…”
Zarco yelled to belay the order. “Stand down the vessel is Chiss. It was cloaked. Remain stationary and open the airlock.”
The sound of the outer door to the airlock was the only response. As all waited in anticipation the scraping of metal on metal then the sound of the airlock equalizing pressure was heard. Anik Koran raised his rifle towards the portal and Zarco firmly but gently pushed the barrel down.
The inner door opened to reveal a blue-skinned woman with crimson eyes dressed in black. Her face was a combination of fine features and strength. Her posture was perfect. As she stepped through Zarco spoke.
“I have been waiting for you Fet’ai’narun.” The unblinking stare between the two made all uneasy. As the tension became almost unbearable the two burst out laughing.
“Resume our course to Karufr,” Zarco hollered to the front.
Walking into the turbolift Kraval pressed the button down and he was on his way to the first floor. Leaning back against the wall he closed his eyes for a moment gathering his thoughts. “So Fresh is no longer in charge officially and it’s my show to run huh?” he thought to himself. As the lift slowed to a halt he stood up and straightened his robe. The lift doors opened to reveal two other Dark Jedi waiting for him.
With a glint of murder in his eye and a growl from his throat Shaithis stepped into the elevator and turned his back to Kraval. Fire-Knight stepped in and smiled, “Hey how’s it going?” “It’s been a very interesting day, Fresh has decided to step down permanently leaving me the official boss of the house again” Kraval replied as he pressed the button to send them back up to his office.
“Really? That’s cool,” FK said, “So I guess you’ll need a new AED huh?”
“Yep, but right now isn’t the time to discuss it. Once we get to my office I’ll explain more,” Kraval answered. The moment the lift doors opened Kraval strolled to his office and opened the doors using the Force. As his two guests followed him in he sat down behind his desk and picked up a datapad.
“Tarentum has decided to attack us. Some of their ships have shown up at the edge of our system. I’ve been given command of all our ships with the exception of the Suppressor and a squad of TIE’s.” Kraval stated plainly.
“They dare to attack ussssss?” Shaithis hissed in anger.
“Yes they do and we need to move quickly. Shaithis, I’m giving you command of the Orthanc. FK you get to command the Praetorian. Here’s the authorization you’ll need,” Kraval said as he threw small computer chips at the two Dark Jedi.
“What about you? Won’t you be joining in on the fun?” FK asked with a grin.
“Of course I will be, I’ll take charge of the Dark Prophet.” Kraval answered as he stood up to stretch.
Both men looked at him blankly. “Only the Duga or Ben can command that sssship,” Shaithis said. Looking over at the Barabel for a moment the new QUA shrugged.
“They gave me command of EVERY available ship and I intend to take the DP out, we’ll need her. Now get going, we don’t have a lot of time to waste. Gives those chips to the ship commander and they won’t give you any trouble. I went over battle plans and tactics with them earlier today so listen to what advice they may offer.”
Shaithis let out a small laugh, “I don’t need a chip to take command of a ship.”
Rolling his eyes Kraval replied “I know I know but I’d rather not have to replace a commander. Those chips also have squadrons assigned to you. Shaithis, you get the Hyperion squadron with the Telaris squadron. FK, you get the Cotelin squadron and the Keirdagh squad.”
Both Dark Jedi nodded their head and left the office. Sitting back down Kraval pulled out his lightsaber and began playing with it in his hand, throwing it up in the air and catching it. Reaching over on his desk he turned on his comm unit and called Odium.
Seeing the Zabrak’s face Kraval gave him his orders. “You’ll be taking charge of the Leviathan plus the Valyorm and Spectre squads are assigned to you. I’ve already made the necessary arrangements so once you’re ready head out.” Without waiting for a reply he cut off the signal and opened another channel to the Dark Prophet.
“Commander,” he said as a face appeared on screen, “Prepare the Katarn squad for combat and deploy the Hett squadron. Have them meet up with the Suppressor and stay with it. I’ll be up to take command soon.” With a nod the commander’s face faded away.
Standing up the Warrior went over to his closet and took off his Dark Jedi robes. Slipping into a Naval uniform Kraval looked himself over in a mirror and nodded in satisfaction. Hooking his lightsaber on his belt he headed for the turbolifts and the hangar bay.
Fire-Knight ran to the fighter bay after his orders were given and his boarding craft was off the ground only minutes later. As he entered the upper atmosphere, Fire-Knight looked out and saw the Praetorian in the near distance. As they approached, The pilot guided the small craft onto one of the tentacle like docking ports. As the connection sealed, Fire-Knight quickly used the force to open the door and made his way to the bridge, walking now, with determination in his stride.
Enterting the main bridge, the commanders eyes instantly flashed with recognition as Fire-Knight walked in. He had been in the Command crew a year earlier when Fire-Knight had command over the Orthanc for a house mission.
"Good to see you Dark Knight, how may I be of assisstance?"
"Nice to see you again commander, congratulations on the promotion. I will be taking command of the vessel. Set a course for these coordinates, the Orthanc should be right behind us." Fire-Knight quickly said as he handed the commander the computer chip to the commander.
"Aye sir. Plotting course... Course engaged."
"Go into hyperdrive, I want to be their yesterday."
The Cruiser suddenly jolted as it jumped and minutes later they arrived at their destination, the Orthanc arriving only moments after.
"Transmission from the Orthanc sir."
"FK are thezzze not the coordinatezzz Kraval gave ussss?"
"Patience Shai, any second now. Knowing Tarentum they'll send a small diplomatic group first... If that fails the whole fleet will jump us and we'll have to hold until Kraval and our fleet arrives. Dont attack the diplomatic group unless were provoked, but the moment the Anubis arrives we need to destroy its hangers. Tarentum is dumb enough to keep all their fighters on one ship and if we can wipe them out we'll have a huge upper hand."
"That sssoundzzz sssoundzzz sssuprizzingly like an order FK."
"Not trying to boss you around Shai, your my senior, just trying to stay alive."
"Good, keep it that way."
Suddenly three bright lights flared into view before the Dinaari advance team. Tarentum arrived just as predicted, The Cerberus, Doomsday, and Creeping Death came into view. Seconds later an all bands message went off from the Cerberus. "Ships of Taldryan stand down and you will not be destroyed. The time of your reckoning has arrived, prepare to be boarded."
The Transmission hadn't even ended before shots rang out from the Orthanc.
'Dammit Shai' Fk thought throwing caution to the wind
"Take out the Doomsday's offensive capabilities, we dont need those cannons taking us out of the fight now. Keirdagh Squadron, Keep the Cerebus busy, its a light ship but I dont want it blasting us just yet, Cotelin Squadron, bomb the hell out the Deaths hangers, dont need those defenders on us."
The Knights voice of authority caused instant obedience and already the fight was looking to Taldryans favour. Looking through the display, Fire-Knight watched as Shai also targeted the Doomsday, and in moments the craft was defenseless.
"Take their energy source, we can replace it later when we take the ship. Good, begin firing on the Cerberus Let the Orthanc handle the Death. Both Squadrons pull back and wait for my command."
As the words left his mouth sudden flashes of light began to burst everywhere. The entire Tarentum fleet had come.
"Shai, remember what i said." Fk said sending a quick transmission.
"Commander target the Anubis with all you got, I dont want a single ship coming out of their... oh and prepare for the beating of a life time. Both Squadrons take out those hangers."
It was then the strike hit the Praetorian, and dozens quickly followed.
"Sir were losing weapons fast what do we do?"
'Ok Krav, You turn man....' Fk thought as he braced himself for more hits.......
Shaithis was not as eager as his companion was about commanding a space vessel. Flying had long been a personal weakness, the scaled warrior prefered to keep his feet on the ground. But an order is an order when given by a superior, and Shaithis has always been loyal to those in command of Taldryan and its houses. Boarding the "borrowed" shuttle he had used earlier in his little trip to and from the Leviathan, Shaithis watched as the craft next to him exited the hangar and left a vapor trail straight up into the atmosphere.
The shuttle rumbled as engines kicked in, the boarding ramp whined as it closed shut with a slight hissing sound as the seal was completed. Shaithis let a hot blast of air burst forth from his snout as he sighed one last time, prefering to have this battle on the ground but accepting his task with a grain of salt. A moment later the dagger like ship was in full view, its hull gleaming in the sun as it exited the planets shadow. Once again Shaithis just growled into the mic when asked for docking codes, access was promptly given.
"Worksss every time." Shaithis said, smiling through scythe like teeth.
Realizing that procrastination would likely leave the Praetorian without backup, Shaithis quickly made his way to the bridge. Accustomed to the wide mouth stares of those who have never seen a barabel before, Shaithis ignored them as he stepped onto the bridge. Grabbing the captain by the shoulder as he stood up from his command chair, Shaithis roughly pushed him aside.
"Bring thiz sship up to full battle readinesss. Keep uz cloze with the Praetorian, we are to meet the Tarentum forcez at theze coordinatesss." Shaithis tossed the chip Kraval had given him earlier towards the captain.
The mans eyes shown that he knew what was happening and made no move to protest the rough treatment, instead walking briskly to the nearest command console and placed the chip into the recepticle. The Praetorian had just leapt into hyperspace a moment before the stars surrounding the Orthanc slipped into elongated versions of themselves. Minutes passed, but they felt like an eternity, the rush of an impending battle had taken hold of the ship and crew. Suddenly the stars reverted back to pinholes in the fabric of space, outlining the shape of the Praetorian.
"Open a channel to the Praetorian." Shaithis barked his order, which was followed without hesitation.
"FK are thezzze not the coordinatezzz Kraval gave ussss?"
"Patience Shai, any second now. Knowing Tarentum they'll send a small diplomatic group first... If that fails the whole fleet will jump us and we'll have to hold until Kraval and our fleet arrives. Dont attack the diplomatic group unless were provoked, but the moment the Anubis arrives we need to destroy its hangers. Tarentum is dumb enough to keep all their fighters on one ship and if we can wipe them out we'll have a huge upper hand."
"That sssoundzzz sssuprizzingly like an order FK."
"Not trying to boss you around Shai, your my senior, just trying to stay alive."
"Good, keep it that way."
Shaithis closed the open channel with a wave of his massive hand. "Captain, the only way we have a chance of keeping Tarentum at bay iz to fire the moment they arrive. The young dark jedi iz right though, a small delegation will jump ahead of the fleet, no more than 4 shipss I would think. The moment they arrive open fire on the mozt dangerousss one. Power up the gravity well generatorss, I will be damned if even one of thoze bassstardz leave alive."
A humming began throughout the ship as the generators were brought online, Shaithis tensed in his seat, still prefering to keep combat on the ground than in the cold confines of space. The battle hardened prelate snarled aloud as the first ship blasted out of hyperspace, followed by two more, straight into the gravity well.
"Ships of Taldryan stand down and you will not be destroyed. The time of your reckoning has arrived, prepare to be boarded."
The transmission hadn't even ended before the Orthanc opened fire. The modified interceptor shuddered as its turbolaser batteries fired in rapid succession with intermitent bursts from its ion cannons. Gouts of flame burst from the Creeping Death's hull as the volley landed squarely.
"Target their weapon systems with the ion cannons, I don't want those heavy turbolasers returning fire." The captain shouted his order.
Shaithis flipped his com unit to Hyperion's encrypted channel. "Keep the Creeping Death buzy. I want hit and run tacticsss targeting their vital ssyztemz."
The acknowledgment came through, the channel closed. Shaithis watched as the Praetorian opened fire on the Dooms Day, its massive firepower was amazing to behold.
"Concentrate fire on the Dooms Day." Shaithis growled.
The captain opened his mouth as though he was going to object, the Creeping Death's weaponry was still operational, though barely. A quick glance of his murderous eyes silenced the objection before it even formed on the mans lips. The Dooms Day whithered quickly under the combined firepower of the two ships. The Dooms Day fell silent, unable to move, a large portion of its major systems had been either destroyed or disabled. The three ships had been taken by surprise and where paying for it dearly.
"You may rezume fire on the Creeping Death." Shaithis stated with a cold glance towards the captain.
"Sir. We have more ships inbound. Looks like the bulk of the Tarentum fleet." One of the bridge crew shouted out from his post.
Shaithis cursed in his native tounge. He had hoped to have at least two of the ships down and out before the rest arrived. A transmission came through on the secure channel, it was full of static and garbled, but the voice was unmistakingly that of Fireknight.
"Replay that last transmission." The captain ordered.
"Lisssten to it later if you muzt. Target the Anubis with everything we've got, I want thoze hangar baysss in flamez." Shaithis barked his order with a commanding glance over the bridge. "Telaris squadron engage all enemy fighterz the moment they launch, we muzt keep them disstracted long enough for reinforcementsss to arrive."
A flash of light and a thunderous echo resounded throughout the ship. It took Shaithis a moment to realize they had just been struck with a returned volley from the Creeping Death. The stubborn ship refused to go away, as Hyperion buzzed around it.
"Keep power to the gravity well generatorz, we muzt keep them here. The resst of the fleet better arrive sssoon, or they will find nothing but our wreakage sscattered about." The last part Shaithis muttered under his breath, unsure of the outcome of this battle.
Illian was thrown against a bulkhead as another blast ripped through Orthanc’s hull. Recovering quickly, he ran down the corridor towards the fighter bay, thinking as he went that this was one of his worst ideas to date. After he an Apollyon had arrived back from their previous mission, his envoy had dismissed him in order to report to clan Taldryan command for the next mission. Illian had been waiting to see what minor task he had been assigned when he overheard word that Orthanc would be leaving with Praetoria as an advance force against Tarentum insurgents that had appeared at the edge of Taldryan space. Bored of waiting he had jumped aboard a supply shuttle going to the Interdictor Cruiser. War was a great way to make further his own power within the clan.
And a great way to die, he thought now as he was once again knocked around by a blast from the Tarentum fleet. Arriving at the bay, he quickly grabbed one of the flight suits hanging on the walls, pulling it on as he ran towards the assembled pilots of Telaris Squadron. After all it was better to be as small a target as possible, rather than wait to get blown apart piece by piece on this giant cruiser.
“You! You’re not a regular member of Telaris! Name and rank pilot, now!” the squadron commander barked at Illian as he arrived at the group.
“Novice Illian Syn of the Obelisk Order, loyalist to clan Taldryan and house Dinaari.”
“Novice? I wasn’t informed of any Novice joining the ranks. Where’s your transferal slip?”
“Don’t have one commander. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time and thought you could use a spare pilot.” Illian nearly smiled as he thought of what his envoy would do to him when he found out about this.
“Well as it happens we are a man short. You ever pilot a TIE before?” Illian could see the thoughts running through the commander’s mind. An Obelisk in a TIE? The Novice straightened up and adopted an arrogant expression as he listed off his flight qualifications.
“I grew up on board an Alliance frigate and spent much of my youth learning how to pilot X-Wings and light craft. Interceptors were a common simulation used in training runs, so I am fully aware of their capabilities and limitations. I can handle it.”
“Very well, welcome aboard Telaris. We just got word from the captain that we are to engage any support fighters launched from Anubis. I won’t lie to you gentlemen, its nasty out there. Just remember you’re training, fly true, and if you gotta die, make sure you take out as many of those Tarentum sons’a’bitches as you can. Dismissed.” Illian ran to the nearest Interceptor and jumped in the cockpit. What in the hells was he doing? Shaking his head to clear his mind, he focused on remembering his training. He quickly adjusted to the unfamiliar controls, and set the fighter to an auto-launch sequence.
“Black Leader to black 4, stay on my six. Only break formation once we get within Anubis’ guns.”
“Roger that Black Leader.” Illian replied. This was insane, he thought as his ship rose slowly, following Black Lead towards the launch bay. He wasn’t a god damn pilot; he wasn’t even a fully trained Jedi. Fear crept slowly into his heart as he drifted towards the star-speckled blackness beyond the bay, lit up now with turbo laser fire and small explosions. His ship accelerated and launched, followed by the rest of the Interceptors in his strike group.
“Black 3 standing by.”
“Black 7 standing by.”
“Black 2 standing by.”
“Black 5 standing by.” The other pilots indicated their readiness, 2 through 12, until it was Illian’s turn.
“Black 4 ready…err … standing by.” He cursed inwardly at his mistake, always hating appear foolish in others’ eyes.
“Black Leader standing by. Accelerate to attack speed and watch that laser fire.” Hitting the throttle for his Interceptor Illian allowed himself to take in the scene before him for the first time.
“Sweet Lords of Darkness” he swore to himself as the full gravity of his situation panned out before him. The majority of the Tarentum fleet had appeared to have jumped in and was engaging the two beleaguered Taldryan ships. Closing his mind of any thoughts or emotions, just as Apollyon had taught him, he focused on his goal. The command to break formation came and he streaked across the expanse of space to the swarming dots that were Anubis’ fighter escorts. Adrenaline rushed through his body as he targeted the closest and fired. “For Orthanc! For Taldryan!” He roared over the comm, hearing his shout echoed a dozen times, before the battle engulfed him. They would take out those fighter bays, or they would die trying.
Odium watched the streams of light flying by the command deck as the bulk of the Taldryan fleet raced towards the coordinates. However, excited he was to finally have command of a ship, anxiety about what was about to happen, or already was happening, began to fill his mind. Odium was slightly worried about FK and Shaithis. Something told him that the rest of the fleet had waited too long to leave for the coordinates, and he didn't want that to be true.
The Zabrak shook his head. I am a Sith. I am a Zabrak. I am a member of Taldryan. I shall not be beaten, he told himself as he felt the handle of his new saber, and went over the possible manuvers that he would be employing. Looking out the window again, he took comfort in the presence of the Dark Prophet and its current commander. Odium knew that if he could trust anyone, he could trust his new Quaestor and former Envoy and more recently Aedile, Kraval Novir.
Suddenly, the streams of light returned to their normal shiny dots, and the bridge came alive with activity. The Leviathan had come out of lightspeed just before they had reached the coordinates and Odium knew immediately that the Orthanc had activated its gravity well projectors and that it and the Praetorian were in the fray, just as he feared.
The image of Warrior Novir suddenly appeared in front of Odium and said, "Well, looks like Shaithis managed to do it again. You know what to do. Now lets go teach Tarentum a lesson!" The Envoy nodded and his normal quiet voice began barking out orders with stunning confidence and clarity. As per those orders the Leviathan immediately turned and headed towards the right side of the battle. In moments the lumbering behemoth was in range of the Cerebus and Odium opened a channel to the Praetorian.
"Need a little help?" Odium asked sarcastically as the batteries of the Leviathan opened fire and the Bulk Cruiser flew directly above the bridge of the Assault Frigate. "Whatever you do lets try and fire and the same ship," the Sith continued, remembering how many times he'd won in simulations by concentrating all fire on one thing at a time. "Just let me know when you think the Cerebus is dead enough and we'll move on to the next one. Oh and good job holding 'em off 'till we got here."
"Finally!" came the reply. Fire-Knight was relieved, however, annoyed at being told what to do by such a recently promoted knight. "Watch that Zabraki over-confidence, Odium. It's gonna get you into trouble some day." The Envoy merely laughed and closed the channel, and continued his onslaught of orders to the crew.
Meanwhile things were looking grim for Telaris Squadron. Half their number was gone and still the enemy fighters were showing no signs of lessening. Illian targeted his next kill, firing lasers into the hapless Tarentum fighter until it exploded in a shower of fire and debris. He didn’t even stop to savor his kill as another fighter swept into his targeting reticule.
“Black 4 here. Black Leader this isn’t looking good! I haven’t even had a clear shot at those fighter bays yet, and these bastards just keep coming!”
“Roger that Black 4, just keep firing. Help will come soo…” His transmission was cut short as turbo laser fire disintegrated his ship.
“This is Black 5, break off the attack, repeat break off the attack. There’s too manaarrrggg…” Illian swore as another wing mate was blown apart. Four left, he thought to himself. That’s all we got, and they are still hitting us hard.
“Black 4, this is Black 10. Head back to the Orthanc. We are going to attempt a suicide dive at that fighter bay. Report to the captain, tell him we tried…Good luck Black 4.” Helplessness and rage flooded through him as he watched the other three Interceptors alter their course straight for the hanger entrance of the Tarentum cruiser.
“Dark speed Telaris, and may the Force be with you.” He swung his fighter around and powered back towards the Orthanc and the rest of the newly arrived Taldryan fleet. On his radar he saw from the corner of his eye three friendly blips disappear. Hitting a button for the rear view screen, he let out a pained victory call as he saw Anubis’ fighter bay ripped apart by fiery explosions. It wasn’t worth those pilots’ lives, but damn if he wasn’t going to live to make the Tarentum scum pay for every lost pilot from Telaris. “Black 4 to Orthanc, returning to bay. Inform the captain that the rest of the squad just sacrificed their lives to take out that bay. And someone get me on a boarding party roster. Tarentum blood is going to darken my hands this day.” Docking his ship, he jumped out and headed straight towards the nearest armament station to get arms and amour and prepare for the boarding combat that would inevitably begin.
Ending his conversation with the envoy Kraval decided to broadcast a transmission on an open channel. Standing up he adjusted his tunic and flattened his back straight as he began to speak.
“Attention Tarentum fleet, you are violating Taldryan space. We take this to be a declaration of war on your part and as such we are prepared to defend ourselves. As the commander of our fleet I am offering you one chance to surrender,” the QUA stated.
Waiting for a moment with nothing but silence to fill the channel he motioned to the communications crewmen to end the signal and start up another one on an encrypted channel to the Tal fleet.
“Dark Seraphim move to engage the Anubis. Her hanger is down so it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. Outcast, Renegade, and Darkstorm form on us. We’ll move to engage their Vic, the Corsair.”
As the ships moved into formation the ships commander spoke out. “Sir the Havoc and Cerberus are forming on the Corsair.”
“No surprise there,” Kraval replied. “When we reach firing range I want the Renegade and Darkstorm to attack the Cerberus and for the Outcast to engage the Havoc.”
“Sir it also appears that the Argos is making a break for the edge of the gravity well. It’s more than likely they’re carrying ground troops,” a lieutenant shouted out.
“No ships are to pursue the Argos. If it is carrying soldiers we’ll leave them for Chaos and Crix to deal with. What about the Necrosis, where is she?” the QUA asked looking out the view screen trying to spot the enemy VAC.
“Nothing on the Necrosis for now sir, though her hull design is made for stealth” the commander stated.
“I know, we have two VACs ourselves remember? Alert all ships to be on the lookout for the Necrosis, I don’t want one of ours being captured by it.” Kraval said as he sat back down in the command chair.
“Open a channel to the Orthanc and Praetorian. Tell them to form up with the Leviathan and prepare to be a secondary attack group. We’ll make one pass at the Corsair and swing wide. I want them to follow up behind us to keep the pressure on.”
“Sir, the marauder corvette Creeping Death is still firing at the Orthanc. They won’t be able to break away and form up easily,” the commander said.
“Have the Outcast fire twelve proton torpedoes at Creeping Death. That should be enough to quiet her,” Kraval ordered.
As the corvettes formed around the Dark Prophet Kraval surveyed the tactical screen. So far things were looking good for the Taldryan fleet. Two of Tarentum’s support ships were heavily damaged while the Escort Carrier lost its hangar, crippling their starfighter support. At the thought of starfighters Kraval looked over to the captain in charge of the Katarn squadron.
“Captain, prepare your men for launch. I’ll want your squad to stick close to us incase Tarentum tries anything funny.”
With a nod the captain headed for the lift and was on his way to the hangar. Looking back out the view screen Kraval nodded. “So now we find out who is superior force,” he murmured quietly.
Blade had all of his gear packed. He had returned from Kaltace to a sense of unease that he had never felt. Deep down in his clone heart, he knew that the only family he had ever known was here, yet he felt something was wrong.
Taking one last look around his quarters, he slowly closed the door and headed towards the hanger. He felt the need to go back into the cold depths of space, at least it would clear his head. Since it had been announced that there were two Jacs, everyone had seemed to on edge. Blade could feel the difference but he wasn't certain on who was the real one.
Blade wondered if they were somehow working on a transporter device and Jac had been split into two halves that way...
Nah, that seemed such a retarded explanation and the only place he had ever heard of such a thing was on Shatneria, out past the Rishe Maze.
Blade could feel the pull to launch into space. It was very strong and he knew that was where the force was pulling him to.
Back at the edge of Taldryan space, things seemed to be finally looking up for the defenders. With the arrival of the rest of the Taldryan fleet and the crippling of the Anubis, the Tarentum attack force seemed to be losing their former momentum.
Illian sat in the holding bay of a troop transport configured for boarding actions and waited, blaster resting between his knees. Underneath his journeyman robes he wore a suit of standard issue storm trooper armor, casting aside the helmet for better vision. He was in a foul mood again, and the constant rocking of the Orthanc under the Creeping Death’s renewed firepower wasn’t helping at all. Without warning, proximity alarms went off all over the holding area and crewmen began rushing around frantically. Grabbing a gunner as he run by, Illian slammed him into a nearby bulkhead.
“What in the name of Sith is going on here?” The gunner looked at him wide-eyed.
“It’s the Necrosis, sir! She’s just appeared at boarding range starboard of the Orthanc!” Illian dropped the man to the floor.
“What’s the ETA on boarders? Quickly dammit!” He shouted as the poor crewman faltered under Illian’s glowing stare.
“F-five minutes sir! Please, I need to get to my station!” He got up and run off down towards the starboard laser batteries. Illian hitched his blaster across his shoulder and set off at a run towards the most likely breach point, close enough to the bridge that a well armed party could take the ship within minutes. Illian wished he had his lightsabre already. Still, he would have to rely on his wits and speed for this battle.
Arriving at the barricades hastily erected around the breach point, he checked his gear. Blaster ammunition, knife, armour secured and amulets safely tucked away within his chest plate. A few small blasts rippled through the hull as the last exchange of turbo-fire was laid out, before a resounding boom echoed through the Orthanc as a boarding ship was launched. From the sound, they hadn’t reached this point yet, but it was only a matter of time. Gripping his blaster tightly, Illian waited. Sure enough moments later his station was hit, the noise blasted through the barricade like an explosion. Soon the sound of breaching-torches could be heard, and then seen as sparks flew from the wall. As the glowing line reached its original point, creating the portal to the Tarentum attackers, silence fell. No sound but the breathing of the defenders could be heard, and then an impact sent the piece of wall crashing forward and blaster fire erupted from the smoky hole. Illian joined the rest as they returned fire, letting his force sense seek out the life energies of his enemies and hit them with devastating accuracy. Soon, however, the boarding party had gotten through enough troops to secure a holding position, and steadily the defenders were pushed backwards.
“We need reinforcements! Where the hell is the rest of the auxiliary ground support?” Illian screamed at the ranking officer at the blockade.
“This is the auxiliary support! We came light on ground forces in the rush to get out of dock!” Illian cursed. Firing off four rounds at a Tarentum soldier who got too close to the retreating defense, Illian wracked his mind for a way to hold the invaders.
“Taldryan split into two forces! Try and draw them towards the armories! We can hold there till reinforcements arrive! MOVE!!” attaching himself to one of the groups, he ran down towards the nearest armory. It wasn’t the best idea, but at least they would have plenty of ammunition. Up ahead they saw another group of defenders being chased by a large squad of Tarentum troopers. Stretching his mind out towards the aggressors he gently implanted a suggestion to keep after their current targets and not turn around, as Illian and his group moved in behind them. Releasing the compulsion at the last minute, he drew his dagger and charged into the rear, letting his rage guide his actions. Briefly in caught a glimpse of two more Tarentum groups heading towards the combat, cutting them off from both the armory and any other Taldryan forces. Gritting his teeth, he cut two more attackers down, using his knowledge of shadow fist and augmenting it with the small blade. This whole outnumbered thing was beginning to really irritate him. Letting out a savage war cry he dived into the fray once more, praying at the back of his mind for help to come soon.
The Orthanc rocked again from the firepower the Creeping Death was sending her way. Shaithis cursed as the helmsman tried his best to maneuver the ship into formation behind the Leviathan and the Praetorian while taking fire. A warning claxon sounded, the proximity alarm flashed on the bridge. Just as the alarm sounded the rocking of the Orthanc stopped, the firing from the Creeping Death had ceased.
"Give me a view of that damn ssship, and find out why the proximity alarmz have ssounded!" Shaithis ordered.
The view screen next to the command chair switched to a shot of the Creeping Death just as several small pinpoints of light collided with its hull. A bright bloom of light burst from within the ship, the ship buckled as the torpedos ripped through its hull. The Creeping Death tilted slightly as its engines flared once then died, the ship drifted silently, the fires inside consumed by the vacuum of space.
"Sir. We have reports coming in from throughout the ship that a breach has occured. It's the Necrosis." The com tech shouted out in response. "The breach is one deck down, right below us, sir. They will have several access points to the bridge from where they are now. Reports are coming in that a small repelling party has formed at the breach point, but they are being pushed back, the call for reinforcements are coming from several points on that deck. Internal sensors show a multitude of Tarentum forces massing near the armory section."
"Seal off that deck, lock down the weapon bays in the armory. We can't risk them having access to more weapons." The captain called out the order knowing it would severly limit the defenders options but knew he had no choice.
"Where iz the nearessst maintence hatch to that level?" Shaithis asked as he anxiously flexed his claws in and out.
"Right down the corridor, sir. It will be locked behind you." The captain stated as he pointed towards the end of the corridor.
"That will do. Sssend all available perzonel to help repel and sseal the breach. The bridge iz yourz captain." Shaithis growled his last command as he ran down the corridor.
Within seconds the hatch was in view, the heavy hydraulic lid was open. Not even bothering to slow his quick jog, Shaithis jumped into the hole with a tooth filled grin.
Illian wiped the sweat and blood from his forehead, they had managed to retreat to one of the mess halls on that deck. The sounds of bulkheads sealing echoed above the screams of the dying, the young acolyte clenched his jaw in rage, it meant no reinforcements would be able to reach them. They had managed to seal the door into the mess hall, but not for long, the sound of the breaching torch once again reached the ears of the defenders. Then silence....a roar of rage that echoed what Illian was feeling within.....sounds of battle, the screams of the dying, blaster fire impacting on the walls........silence.... Illian walked up to the door and pressed his ear against it. A moment later a violet blade burst forth from the door not an inch from his face. Snapping his head back, Illian overbalanced himself and fell backwards. All in the room watched as the blade worked its way around the frame of the door then dissappeared. The heavy piece of durasteel door slid back and to the side with ease, Shaithis stepped through the opening as he clipped his saber to his belt.
"The enemy sstill livez, we have work to do. Thiz deck hasss been ssealed off and the armory haz been locked down, that meanz we have them contained on thiz deck. Tarentumz blood will run thick on this ship." Shaithis helped Illian up as he scanned what was left of this particular group of defenders.
"Where are the reinforcements?" Illian asked as he stood up, his hand dwarfed by the scaled paw.
"I am the reinforcementz." Shaithis spoke with a coldness in his voice and eyes that showed Illian many would die this day by his taloned hands. "Gather your weaponz, we head for the armory firsst. There are reportsss of clanmatesss in that area sstill."
Shaithis pulled his saber from his belt, a murderous lust filled his eyes as he stepped through the hole in the door, his grin now crimson stained, the blood of Tarentum invaders dripped down his jaw.
The Dark Adept had the shuttle running and warmed up by the time Vodo arrived. He had not been wrong, this shuttle was the personal vessel of Kir Taldrya Katarn. He did not admire it at length, as he sensed the Dark Adept’s mood was darker than usual. The loading ramp was found on the port side, extending down from the hull to act as a temporary walk way to the ground, or in this case, the obsidian plated floor of the hangar they were in, higher up on the House’s main building.
The ship was in sharp contrast to the imperial decor of the hangar’s floor and wall mounted lights, and dark grey steel super structures. It was rounded, and long. The ship was longer than it was wide, but it was obvious to the Jedi hunter that the interior was deceptively large. He placed his gear bag and weapons on a couch in the main cabin, and made his way to the front, placing himself in the co-pilot’s seat next to Master Katarn.
“May I ask Master what we wish to find on Kaltace?”
Vodo was merely a Jedi Hunter, but he was also a member of three years of the Brotherhood and Taldryan. This often times gave him an advantage over his peers. Around the Dark Adept however his experience was worth practically nothing. His only saving grace, he surmised, would be his vast knowledge of Krath Spells and intelligence. Why else would Kir have chosen him over someone like Shadow or Benevolent Whiner?
Vodo was loyal. It was a remnant of his slave life; Loyalty to one’s Master is of the utmost importance.
“You are eager to learn, but be wary. Such thirst for knowledge will someday lead you to a place you do not wish to be.”
The Twi’lek bowed his head in understanding while folding his hands into his robed arms. The words were a perfect example of the wise Elders handed out. It avoided giving a direct order so that they could tell those around them to drop the discussion, but it also retained enough vagueness that it could be applied to unforseen events in the future and be called wisdom.
"Get me the Dark Prophet!" Odium screamed as reports came through and the image appeared on the viewscreen. The Orthanc hung in the air,seemingly unable to move and there, right below her bridge, was the Necrosis. The black ship was unmistakable against the pale grey of the Orthanc's hull.
"I can't mount a respectable pass on the Corsair without them!" the Zabrak protested in advance, "not to mention I'm not going to lose the House's 'home ship' to this scum!"
"Look! We can't do anything about it right now, and yes you CAN mount a sizable assault. You and the Praetorian have plenty of firepower. It's up to Shaithis to defend the Orthanc now." Kraval scolded.
"Aye, sir." Odium said reluctantly. The channel was closed and Odium turned to the ship's captain. With a stern look on his already stern face, the Knight ordered, "Prepare for assault!"
The Dark Prophet and Seraphim made their pass flawlessly, delivering almost 100% direct hits to the Corsair, polishing of its sheilds. The Leviathan and Praetorian split around its bridge unloading a dizziing, and slightly suprising, display of firepower. Holes began to appear in the Corsair's hull, however all four Taldryan ships had also taken damage.
The two groups reformed and made another pass, this time as one. As the Leviathan came in range of the Corsair, the young Zabrak's eyes flared into new brilliant shades of red and yellow as he screamed to the crew, "Give them Hell!"
When they had completed the pass Odium gave the order to spin the ship around, before heading back into the fray. Every ounce of manueverability was squeezed out of that behemoth, and as the Corsair came into view, the Envoy smiled. It had worked. There on the hull of the Corsair, within breathing distance of the bridge, were the Ravager and Sinister, completing their grappling operations and preparing to board.
Moments later Kraval's image appeard in front of Odium. "Okay, now you can go. Just don't miss and the Orthanc yourself." Smiling, the Envoy bowed and redirected the Leviathan towards the Interdictor. Hopefully they weren't to late to lend a hand from the outside.
Back on the Orthanc, even with the mighty Shaithis leading the counter attack, Illian was beginning to lose hope of surviving the encounter with the Necrosis. Tarentum forces were now swarming throughout the Orthanc making their way slowly but surely towards the bridge, and with the armories locked down, ammunition was running thin for the beleaguered defenders.
“Lord Shaithis, this deck is lost, we need to retreat to the bridge and hope to the darkness that reinforcements come soon!” Illian cried out over the din of the battle he and the powerful Barabel were currently engaged in. With bestial ferocity, Shaithis backhanded Illian before tearing out a hapless soldier’s entrails with his claws.
“We will not retreat before thisss Tarentum ssscum!” he roared, cutting through their aggressors with his lightsabre. Illian stumbled back against a bulkhead, cursing his luck at ending up on the only fleet ship captained by a maddened Barabel. Recovering from the blow and shattering the nose of a Tarentum Infantryman, he shot a harsh glare at the Prelate’s back.
“If you want to die here, then fine. But I’m getting the hell out of here!” He yelled, darting sideways down a corridor leading to one of the bridge entry hatches. Shaithis barely spared a moment for the retreating Acolyte before returning to the battle at hand.
Sprinting towards the hatch, Illian cursed his luck. First the doomed Telaris squadron, then the lost barricade team, now this. Suddenly four dark shapes materialized from the bulkheads at the far end of the corridor. Illian shifted into Shadow Fist, still running full pelt towards the hatch, when his aggressors leveled blasters at his chest and opened fire. Searing pain raced through his body as three of the shots hit their mark. Falling to the floor, Illian could feel nothing but agony as white hot energy burnt through the left side of his chest.Tapping into the rage lurking below the surface of his subconscious, Illian rolled into a standing position, using his momentum to fling himself at his attackers. Flailing with his fists he was distantly aware of his opponents crumpling to the ground, skulls crushed by the force of his attack, before the pain and severity of his wounds caught up to him. Landing hard against the deck floor, he fell into a crumpled heap against the wall. Even breathing was a struggle as he attempted to ascertain the extent of his injuries. Everything seemed to be an effort as he struggled to retain consciousness, fighting the inevitability of his own death. As darkness descended on him, he reached out through the force with his last remaining strength, calling to the only two beings who could possible save him and the Orthanc, his envoy Apollyon Dinaarius and his mistress Lena Gaiton.
“Help me…” he projected towards them before the darkness fell and Illian’s prone form slumped to the floor, blood leaking steadily from his mouth.
As Blade left the atmosphere of the planet behind, he could see the Suppressor hanging there in orbit. The Modified Frigate was poised to be the last line of defense if the battle reached Karfur. Blade knew that Crix had taken command of the mighty ship; he could think of no one who would be better suited for such a chore.
"Suppressor, this is Taldryan two seven, requesting clearance to dock," he called. It only took a moment but the bay shield was lowered and Blade guided the small ship inside. As he set it down on the deck, he saw the flurry of activity that was going on around him. The ship was getting ready to fight.
"Where's Crix?" he asked a passing tech.
"Where else do you think he would be? He's on the bridge," the annoyed tech went on about his business.
Blade headed for the turbolift doors and to the command deck. He had to find his Aedile and tell him of the feeling that he had to be here.
Blade had looked in vain for his new Tetrarch on the planet surface. When he couldn't find him, he decided to let the force be his guide and go on his own. There was something wrong, he could feel it. The only problem was that he couldn't pin it down to any one thing.
The doors to the turbolift closed and he was on his way to the bridge...
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Crix looked out of the viewport of his shuttle on the ride from the surface to the Suppressor, taking in the view of TIEs buzzing the ship. He didn't have much to work with, but by the time he would see any action the Tar fleet would have already taken quite a beating. He shifted his focus to the Suppressor herself, smiling to himself. This would be the ship's first combat under Taldryan's flag. Although it wasn't the most heavily armed ship in the fleet it was no slouch in terms of firepower and boasted well above average armor and shields. The ship had a lot of staying power and that's what counted right now.
Crix's battle plan was very simple: keep the Suppressor operational and keep whatever Tar ships made it past the main part of the fleet from launching landing ships. If Shaithis and his crew did their job then Crix would be pretty bored today, but he didn't mind too much.
The shuttle docked with the Suppressor and the ramp lowered. Crix stood and covered his head with his robe's hood. "Keep the engines warm, we may have to leave quickly if things go sour planet side." He said to the pilot as he exited the shuttle. On the docking bay floor there were a handful of officers waiting for him with reports on the ship's status and combat readiness. He listened to them all, taking in the information. Everything seemed to be ready.
Crix and the officers made their way aft to the bridge, stopping to check up on a few weapons stations along the way. Pleased that all was in order Crix stepped onto the turbolift and selected the command deck. When the doors opened again a junior officer looked back and shouted "Admiral on deck."
Sighing, Crix stepped out of the lift and looked at the bridge crew, frozed at attention. "As you were, and don't call me Admiral. My lord will do."
He was replied by a chorus of "Aye" as the crew went back to their work.
"How many fighters do we have in space now?" He asked the flight officer.
"All of them, m'Lord."
Crix shook his head "No, only send one flight out at a time. Rotate them every 10 min. When a flight comes back in refuel them and have the pilots stand by. When Tar comes for us I want to have as many fighters with full tanks as possible."
"Yes m'Lord." The flight officer said, then relayed the orders to the flight deck. Crix took a quick tour of the bridge, giving out a few pats on the back and some encouraging words to the crew, many of whome weren't very used to the ship yet. Returning to the command post Crix stood and selected a ship-wide comm channel. A tone sounded throughout the ship, announcing a message from the bridge. "Brothers and sisters, we are the last line of defence against whatever Tarentum ships make it past the rest of our fleet. With any luck today will be extremely uneventful for us and we will see no combat, but you can't always count on luck. Taldryan is, was and will be the top clan of the Brotherhood. Nobody can beat us and anyone who attacks us will die a death worthy of only a fool. Everyone to battle stations, ready yourselves for a fight and remember that the Dark Side favors us always. We will not loose."
Crix ended the transmission as he noticed another presence on the bridge. It was one he'd recently become reaquainted with and he smiled, not turning around. "Blade, now nice of you to join me." He said, taking a seat in the command chair and turning to face the Knight.
The smell of blood had driven Shaithis into a frenzy that would make a raging wookie take a step back. Shaithis had lost his saber somewhere in the fray, somewhere between the gutted trooper and the one he beheaded, it all blurred together. Tearing through Tarentum forces with his bare hands, he was drenched in crimson. In the confines of the small corridors it was quite easy for Shaithis to reach out and snag a new victim and show them what it was like to stare death in the face. The desertion of Illian had worked its way to the back of the black scaled warriors mind, burried under the battle for survival that now had engulfed the entire ship. The few surviving defenders that followed Shaithis were doing their best to keep up, the enraged barabel was almost sprinting down the open corridors throwing himself headlong into the invading forces. Several smoking holes now spotted the clothing Shaithis wore, his tough hide still unmarked by the blaster fire, but not even that would last if the battle didn't end soon. Another corridor cleared, more blood to stain the scales, more spent clips for the defending crew. Cutting across the corridor next to the armory, Shaithis spotted his hilt protruding from the throat of some poor sap who must have gotten in his way. A sick sucking sound was heard as the hilt was pulled free, Shaithis checked it for damage. Satisfied that all was well, Shaithis grinned again, it was nice to have his favorite weapon back in hand.
Punching the button on the comm unit mounted on the wall, Shaithis growled into the speaker as his heavy chest groaned for air. "Captain, I think it iz sssafe now to unlock the armory near my pozition. We have cleared thiz area but we will need more firepower to dig the ressst of them out."
"I can no..." Cutting the Captain off, Shaithis hissed his next order. "That wasss not a ssssugeztion, Captain."
The door to the armory slid open, behind it stood a large party of crewman from the Orthanc, weapons at the ready. "We were in here arming ourselves when the door shut and sealed itself." One of the crewman spoke out.
"I want two three man teamss manning the portable E-Webz at each end of thiz corridor, we cannot losse thiz weaponsss locker to the enemy. The resst of you break off into fire teamz, I want heavy repeaterz flanked by blasster rifless...thoze E-11z will do jussst fine. You will ssweep thiz deck clean of any Tarentum forcez sstill alive. Get to it." Shaithis barked his orders with practiced precision.
Punching the button again for the bridge, Shaithis was much calmer this time. "Captain, I suggezt you sseal the bridge and activate the auto defenssez. They have breached thiz deck I am certain. I will be heading down to engineering, we can't rissk them comprimizing the enginesss. Have Hyperion ssscrape that damn ssship off our hull."
"Sir, the Leviathan has requested permission to "deal" with the problem." The captain stated.
"Tell her not to missss." was all Shaithis said before turning off the comm.
“Sir the Orthanc’s captain reports they’ve taken substantial damage and now have to chose between keeping the gravity generators on or defensive systems running,” the Commander told Kraval.
Having barely given it a second thought Kraval nodded and said, “Have the Captain shut down the generators and put any energy he can into weapons and shields. Order the Praetorian and Dark Seraphim to continue to hammer away at the Anubis. Commander, maneuver us so that we’ll be in the way of the Corsair when she tries to angle away for a jump out.”
Turning around the Commander went to carry out the Warrior’s orders. On the view screen Kraval watched as the Anubis was overwhelmed by the two Taldryan ships and the Corsair continued to fire on his ship. The smaller corvettes and gunship were still fighting it out on the edge of the battle as the Orthanc deactivated the gravity generators. The moment that containment field went down the Tarentum ships began to pull away and attempt to flee just as the QUA predicted.
“Let them go, we don’t know if they’re going to some fall back point where they have a trap ready for anyone who follows,” Kraval said as he continued to watch the fight end and the enemy ships scatter. The Corsair reversed engines and swung the bow forty-five degrees and made a jump out of the system. “What do you think sir, were they ready for that or was it a blind jump?” The Commander asked.
“That was their flag ship and one of the few that could rival ours. They were definitely ready for it,” Kraval said as he stood up and turned to the comm officer. “Call our ships and get into formation. We’ll all head towards the Orthanc and see what sort of assistance we can offer,” he said.
As the Dreadnaught pulled along side the Vic Kraval noted that it had taken its fair share of hits while the Praetorian looked like it hadn’t sustained too much damage and the corvettes seemed to be in decent shape. “Contact the Captain of the Orthanc again and ask him about the status of the intruders,” Kraval said.
After a few moments the Commander came back with a reply. “It seems that they’re still dealing with the boarders sir,” he said as he stood up straight in front of the QUA. Smiling to himself Kraval looked up to the Commander and stated, “Then tell the Captain to tell Shaithis and Illian to hurry up and that we don’t have all day for them to play.” The Commander smirked at this and went to the comm station to relay the message.
Shaithis made his way quietly down several decks to engineering. Passing several skirmishes between crew and invader, Shaithis gritted his teeth as he skirted the battles, the need to kill something weighing heavily in his mind. The need to keep the engines running and power to the ship outweighed the need to spill blood, so the giant lizard crept on. Back up in the armory, Shaithis had snagged a personal comm unit, which was now silently blinking at his hip.
"Go ahead." Shaithis spoke softly into the headpiece.
"Sir, Lord Kraval has asked that you speed up the efforts to end this matter." The captain relayed.
"You can tell m'lord that the problem will be dealt with when it iz dealt with. Whatz the statuz on the hull breach?" Shaithis whispered as he snuck past another skirmish, the defenders well outnumbered the Tarentum forces.
"We've managed to take back that deck. The Necrosis is being dealt with as we speak. Though we have sustained many casualties, I believe we are still battle capable, sir." The captain's transmission was filled with static as Shaithis neared one of the engine rooms.
"Captain, did you manage to find a young acolyte from my houze. Illian Syn. Lasst I ssaw of him, the young pup wass running ssscared back towardss the bridge." Shaithis asked quietly. "Blasssted pink ssskinz." Shaithis hissed low enough that the headset didn't register it.
A few moments passed before the reply came. "Yes sir, one of the fire teams found him criticaly wounded. He has been sent to med bay 6, I believe they have him in a bacta tank as we speak, sir."
"One moment captain, I sssmell ssomething odd." Shaithis said as he sniffed the air.
Following the scent, Shaithis found a small charge on the back of one the coolant tanks. Shaithis laughed to himself as he looked at the rather shoddy job, it was obviously hastily prepaired and set. With little difficulty Shaithis disarmed the charge and began sniffing for more.
"I guess training in explosives wasn't a complete waste of time." Shaithis thought to himself.
"Captain, I need a team down in engineering now! I've found explosssive packagez on sseveral of the main cooling tankz. I need more people for a proper sssweep of thiz deck. I..." Shaithis looked quickly to the left and right, a strange feeling crept into his skull. "..believe that a dark jedi lead the asssault on thiz sship. I can feel him. Be sssure to notify Lord Kraval of my progresss. I will contact the bridge when I am finissshed down here." Pulling the headset loose, Shaithis placed it on a crate along with his outer robe still soaked with blood.
Shaithis was on the hunt now, the Orthanc his hunting grounds. His training in close quarters battle helped tremendously as he listened for every odd noise echoing throughout the cavernous engine rooms. The stink of Tarentum forces filled his nostrils everytime he breathed, he couldn't help but find his way towards them. In the second to last engine room, Shaithis spotted several troopers, still setting one of their charges. As silent as death, Shaithis made his way towards the three troopers, absorbed in their work they didn't notice the shadow as it crept around the edge of the bay. The first one died without knowing why as his heart was cleft in two. The second one barely looked up as his head left his shoulders, and the third managed to lift his blaster rifle partially out of its holster before slumping to the floor. Disarming the device, Shaithis tossed it onto the body of one of the fallen troopers before creeping into the next room. Three more troopers near the back of the bay worked diligently to set up the last explosvie, a cloaked figure stood nearby watching silently.
Stridding boldy into the room, Shaithis spoke. "I sssuggezt that you sstop and ssurrender immediately or I will add your life to thoze of your brotherz."
All three troopers never even lifted their helmets to see who it was that gave the order, instead the cloaked figure advanced, tossing his cloak to the side. Underneath stood a vaguely humanoid figure, clad in armor with the Tarentae symbol on the chest.
"Cannabisssia, I thought I sssmelled you. Know that a sson of Tarentum will die thiz day." Shaithis growled as he ignited his saber.
A smirk crossed the humanoids face. "We shall see." A crimson blade rose to meet the challenge.
Confident in his skill with a blade, Shaithis advanced with three quick lunges. The green human back peddled to keep out of reach, his own blade parrying the advance. Quickly reversing his momentum, Cannabisia brought his last parry around into an attack leveled at Shaithis' throat. Ducking, Shaithis brought his own blade in right behind the attack, ready to block the predictable backswing. The second attack stopped in its tracks, Shaithis hit Cannabisia with a vicious right cross which sent blood and two teeth skittering to the deck plates. Stunned by the blow, the son of Tarentum stumbled backwards cradling his mouth. Shaithis could feel the force building up within his enemy and mirrored the attack. Several feet seperated the jedi, within that space the force began to manifest itself as a blue haze as the attacks collided. Sweat dripped down both combatants faces as they mentally pushed with all their might, trying to force their enemy into submission. A defeaning explosion and a blast wave knocked both jedi to the ground as their attacks repelled one another.
Shaithis was the first to his feet, running towards his downed opponent, blade held high. Cannabisia accepted the blow against his own blade as he parried the attack, the violet blade slid off its counterpart with a screeching sound. Both combatants stood now, circling one another slowly. Shaithis was the first to attack, his blade cutting a path towards his opponents chest. The crimson blade of his enemy caught the attack, and the two blades locked. Shaithis held back, his strength was more than a match for the humanoid, but he was setting him up for a quick kill. Shifting his weight to his back foot, Shaithis let Cannabisia think he had the advantage. Quicker than the impetuous green skinned human could follow, Shaithis dropped his saber and left the son of Tarentum overbalanced. A mistake that the black scaled Prelate capitalized on. Two halves of the same humanoid fell to the floor, death spasms made the feet kick a few times and the arms twitch. Seeing their leader killed, two of the troopers made to draw their weapons when red bolts peppered them both. Shaithis looked over his shoulder as several fire teams from the Orthanc came rushing into the engine bay.
"Contact the brige, have them broadcassst the image of thiz Sson of Tarentum over the shipss holonet. Perhapss that will galvanize them into a quick sssurrender. Inform Lord Kraval that this situation is in hand." Shaithis gave his order to the fire team leader as the others captured the third trooper.
The deck of the Orthanc’s lower level felt cool on Illian’s face as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Blood had pooled around his head, both from his own grievous wounds and the corpses of the four Tarentum Clan soldiers that had attacked him, drying in clots through his hair. The pain of the wounds in his side had faded long ago, leaving only a distant awareness of his current situation. Delirium was flooding gently through his mind, lapping at his sanity like waves on a beach. As he slipped away again, images sprang to life in his mind. Memories became reality as he sunk wistfully into his past, dreaming of his time at the Jedi Academy.
Groaning as the searing pain in his side snapped him back to reality; Illian opened his eyes once more. In the distance he could still hear the fighting going on in the bowels of the Orthanc, the screams of the dying getting farther and farther away as Shaithis led the defenders on a savage cleanse of the ship. Reaching for the bulkhead, he slowly levered himself up to his knees then his feet. He staggered a few paces before collapsing again, blood and bile working their way up to his mouth. Pushing himself up again, Illian moved dreamily towards the alcove his attackers had come from, just below the bridge deck of the cruiser. Hidden in the shadows was a door, and Illian struggled to reach it as he felt his mind slipping under again. Hands outstretched he fell, reaching for a door that became a vine in a temple courtyard as he hit the ground. If he could only grab that vine, he could pull himself up and finish the test. Then he could take a rest, and Luke had said something about a prize…
A resounding boom awoke Illian again, as vibrations shook the floor of the hulking cruiser. The door lay just beyond him, cruelly out of reach of the injured Acolyte. Bracing his body for the spasms of pain that would follow any kind of movement, he stood up and lurched for the door, throwing the weight of the good side of his body against the pressure switch. The door opened with a hiss of air, and Illian stumbled inside. All wanted was a nice warm place, away from the battle or the dead, where he could lay down and rest. He was in a dark room, probably a storage area, lit only by an eerie glow emanating from the corner. Dazed, he took a few faltering steps towards the warm glow before falling to his knees. Two yellow lights danced in front of him, lighting up a console, slowly counting down in Tarentum coded script. He was dimly aware of warning bells going off in his mind but he couldn’t think for the life of him what was wrong. It was warm here, and those lights were so pretty. They reminded him of something, no someone, from a long time ago. They reminded him of her, with her beautiful golden eyes. He dropped forward, unconscious, his hand resting mere centimeters from the Tarentum fusion bomb that was slowly counting down the total annihilation of the Orthanc and her crew. Dreams came again, of pretty eyes and pale skin. Nareid, her name was Nareid. The memory of his lost lover came back to him through his delirium and Illian came to, with tears streaming down his face, leaving clear tracks through the dirt and blood. The pain of his loss seemed to revive him temporarily, and he realized for the first time that the object in front of him was a highly explosive Tarentum device. His lack of courage earlier had brought him here, and it was time he redeemed himself. He knew he had no skill with electronics, but he had to warn the captain and Shaithis.
He climbed painfully and unsteadily to his feet, swaying dangerously. He limped as quickly as he could out into the corridor, crying for help.
“Someone, help me! Taldryan to me! To me!” He cried groggily, lurching through the corridors aware of how fast his small burst of energy was dissipating. Ahead he caught sight of a Taldryan fire-team making a sweep down the hall. Choking back his pain he limped faster and faster, yelling as he went. One of the soldiers turned around and gave a cry, and soon the squad was heading back towards him. Just as the first reached him, Illian tripped and fell into the surprised man’s arms, screaming deliriously about a bomb on the ship. They all surrounded him, and the squad medic scanned him quickly.
“He’s lost a lot of blood and those laser burns have pierced critical locations. We need to get him to a med bay and into Bacta.” Illian tried desperately to talk, bile filling his mouth and making him choke on his words. He grabbed the medic, coughing out a garbled warning.
“Room…lights…fusion…” He tried desperately to fight as the medic put a shot of chems into his neck, before loading him into a stretcher. Finally, desperately he tried his envoy once more, reaching out with every ounce of strength he could muster.
“Apollyon! Fusion Bomb…Orthanc…Shaithis warned, HURRY!” His mind screamed before hi finally fell unconscious. The soldiers took him to Med Bay 6, and he was submerged into a Bacta tank, his life nothing compared to those that were held in the balance unless his envoy heard his call.
A little while later, Illian heard his friend's reply. It was faint, very faint, but Illian responded quickly and loudly. He called out, "Apollyon! There's a bomb on the Orthanc! Odium!!! Odium!!! Odiuuuuuum!!!"
"Illian..." repeated the voice again seeming slightly closer and with each call it grew louder and more distinct. Finally, it seemed like Odium was right in front of the Protector's face. Illian repeated his warning desperately trying to get the Knight to understand the danger. Odium finally changed his reply stating calmly, "Yes, we know...now stop yelling."
Suddenly Illian became aware of all of the other noises filling his ears, and at last he opened his eyes. The room was filled with the usual hospital equipment, and Illian lost his bearings at the shock of not being where he thought he was. "Where am I?" the younster asked. "How long have I been out?"
The Zabrak chuckled a little and responded,"The deck of the Dark Seraphim, and you've been out for a couple of days." Illian opened his mouth, but Odium beat him to the punch, "...and before you say anything else about the Orthanc. She's fine(aside from the battle damage she sustained during the battle.)"
Satisfied that his message had been delivered the human stood and looked out the window. There right off the starboard bow was the Dark Prophet in all its majesty and just next to it the Leviathan, Orthanc, and Suppressor. It appeared that the whole Taldryan fleet was present, and thats where everything stopped making sense. A little to the left of the Dark Prophet was another group of vessels that Illian did not recognize. At that moment, the human also realized that they were no longer on the edge of Taldryan space. In fact, he only barely recognized the planet having only been there in the initial days of his membership in the Brotherhood.
Seeing his confusion, Odium began to explain everything that had happened in the past three days. He started with the defeat of the Tarentum fleet, explaining how Shathis had found and killed a Son of Tarentum while disabling the bombs. The Knight continued with his appointment to Aedile much to his friend's delight. Finally, he explained to Illian that Taldryan, Arcona, and Scholae Palatinae were the clans that had chosen to back the Blue Jac and were all now poised to take on the Imposter and his allies for control of the planet they now orbited. "Welcome to Antei." The Aedile concluded with a smile on his colorless face.
Fire-Knight was striding the halls of the Orthanc, He and Shaithas had been left in command while Kraval and Odium were off meeting the rest of the Summit on board the Dark Prophet.
"Attention!" Fire-Knight called out as Shaithis entered the Hanger where the House Guard was assembled in neat ranks prepared for inspection.
"Do you beleive thizzz truly necezzary FK?" Shaithis hissed as he approached the Knight. "You know how much I hate the smell of thezze Pink skinzzz."
"Krav's and Odiums orders, 'Get the forces ready'." Fire-Knight quickly replied. " Besides, just be happy you don't have a nose as sensitive as mine, your own smell would kill you." The knight said as he smiled at Shaithis eliciting a hiss from the only slightly smaller Barabel
"Mind your tongue before I rip it out." Shaithis growled "Now let's get this inspection over with."
"Aye sir, right this way." Fire-Knight said as he began leading Shaithis through the ranks of mean spread through the hanger, taking the time to check each ones uniform and weapons as they went through.
At one point both Knights stopped before a private and noticed a puddle of urine forming at his feet.
"If your scared of uzzz, One can only guezzz what will happen when we hit the ground." Shaithis said, barely trying to mask the disgust in his voice.
When they finally finished their strole through the ranks an hour later, Shaithis suddenly recieved a message on his small holocron. Both Knights stepped behind a ship for relative privacy.
"Good I was hoping to reach both of you." Odium's voice said as his face appeared above the pad.
"Do you have our orderzz?" Shaithis asked.
"Yes as a matter of fact I do, Both of you will be leading strike teams composed of Dinaari's elite house guard, once we hit ground, and we've decided to give you the leisure of choosing a few journeymen to accompany you as well."
"Not for the time being, other members of the clan will be relayed their orders individually, and I believe Duga will be addressing the clan, hopefully before the red fleet arrives. All you can do for now is get your men together, get your journeymen chosen, and wait. Is that understood?"
"Yes Sir." Both Dark jedi replied in unison.
"Good, For Taldryan. Odium out."
As the meeting ended Kraval, Chaos, and Duga moved towards the turbolift that would take them to the bridge. As the doors opened the bridge staff snapped to attention when the leaders of Taldryan stepped off the lift and headed for the holonet transmitters.
Duga stepped forward into the holonet field and activated the projector. Fleet wide his cloaked image was being sent to broadcast his message.
“Clan Taldrayn will take hold of the city where the Dark Hall sits. Ground forces will take control of the rooftops and place snipers all over while a group of our most skilled warriors will escort Jac back to the Iron Throne. Dinaari forces are to deploy first, land at the edge of the city, and begin to take control. Ektrosis troops are to follow up behind and set up snipers and aid Dinaari where possible.”
With a simple hand gesture the transmission shut off and Duga stepped off the transmitter. Turning around and facing the summit he smiled, “So it begins. Chaos, inform Lady Alanna that I want her to go back to Kr’Tal and take the Orthanc with her. We won’t be needing it for the upcoming fight and it’s a good enough ship for minimal defense. Kraval, prepare Dinaari for the fight; I expect the city to be taken within six hours. As for the rest I leave up to you two to do as you please. I’ll be using the Obtene Crystal Sword and escorting Jac to the Dark Hall.”
At the mention of the powerful weapon both Quaestors gave him a surprised look. “Are you sure about that? We haven’t seen how good that thing is in a fight,” Chaos stated. Merely giving a nod the Consul moved away and headed for the hangar.
“Hold up, I’m coming with you.” Chaos shouted as he jogged along to get aside Duga. “You have orders to relay to your house first,” the Consul said. “No problem, I can do that on the way down.” Chaos replied.
Looking over at his Proconsul Kraval raised an eyebrow and asked, “So where are you going to be during all this?” “In the city of course, shooting people,” was his reply. Smiling to himself Ben walked away as Kraval activated his communications unit and brought up Odium on one screen and Fire-Knight on the other. Looking at both men in turn Kraval gave out his orders.
“Odium you are to take a group of Journeymen and lead the first attack wave to take the city. I don’t care what you have to do or blow up, but I want that city taken fast. Fire-Knight, you and Shaithis are to go with Duga to escort Jac to the Dark Hall. Make sure that no one stands in his way. That is all.” Shutting the unit off he keyed in a new comm sequence and the face of Shadow appeared on the screen.
Nodding to him he relayed his request that the Dark Adept assist in escorting Jac but not being one of those that follows directly. Kraval preferred that Shadow stay hidden, as a wild card incase things got out of hand when protecting the Grand Master.
Strolling over to the command deck on the Dark Prophet Kraval motioned to the Commander. Nodding as he approached the man had a datapad in his hands. “Sir I have preliminary plans made up for the battle,” he stated as the Warrior waved his hand.
“I’m sure you have everything in order Commander. When the shuttle for the Grand Master heads down for the planet I want Hyperion Squad to escort him. They’re only concern should be to insure that the shuttle reaches the ground safely. After that they’re free to engage whatever forces they come into contact with.”
With that said Kraval strolled out of the bridge and to his quarters. Finding his battle tunic he slid that on and walked over to his storage locker. Opening it he pulled out his Tenloss sniper rifle and activated it. Putting the gun against his cheek he sighted down the scope and saw that everything was in working order. Picking up a few power packs the Warrior left his room and went down to the bay. Picking out a shuttle for himself he hopped in and set a course for the city below.
Alanna nodded to herself as Chaos sent her brief mental orders, and then she transmitted a message throughout the ship.
"Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this is Dark Jedi Mistress Alanna Taldryan. Meet me in the hanger deck with the Orthanc in 15 minutes ready to move out. You will be accompanying me to Kr'tal."
Alanna gathered the few objects she would need for the mission and set out down the corridor, readying herself to face a group of unhappy jedi. Being selected to guard the Taldryan system with only a handful of men could be seen as an honour... but she doubted the Horsemen would appreciate that given that only moments ago they had been preparing to enter a combat destined to seat the rightful Grand Master on the throne.
The Jedi Mistress sighed. She'd also have to try and grab a couple of Sith from somewhere... they'd be invaluable in leading the Orthanc's crew and the Horsemen's predominantly Krath members if fighter combat were required.
Suddenly Alanna stopped dead, and a smile crept across her face. Grabbing her communciator from her bag, she punched in a message to a certain pair of Cantors that she knew, and crossed her fingers that they weren't too busy causing trouble somewhere to meet her back home. They'd be just the Sith she needed to keep her and the others entertained if trouble didn't materialise, or to lead the defence of the Taldryan system if it did... and as a bonus, their turning up at Kr'tal might just be some consolation for missing the big fight. It wasn't often young jedi got to meet a Prophet, or the self-styled 'Pimp Master' himself!
Hurrying along the corridors now, Alanna wondered whether it would just be the Horsemen awaiting her in the hanger, or if others would decide to add themselves to the Orthanc's group...
The Jedi Hunter stood silently with his fellow horsemen, contemplating the happenings around him, he looked calm but inside he was tense. Alanna walked round the corner of the bay door this gave him some enthusiasm as she had helped him alot in his time at the DB. His thoughts turned to the disappointment of missing the great fight on Antei. Although Ricco was a Krath he liked the open battle and the adrenaline rush.
As Alanna came over he put away his custom Fira, which had been with him since he was able to fight. He had been twirling it in an agonizing anticipation. Alanna started to speak and everyone listened intently to the Jedi Master “We are going to be traveling to Kr’tal where we will meet up with Mav and Keirdragh and we will either man our TIE fighters or use the guns on the Ship. Expect some resistance so be ready!”
Ricco liked the sound of action to come; he had never flown a TIE into battle before this would be a great journey and experience for him. But as he looked round at his friends he knew he may never see some of them again and he went back to being in a dismal mood.
Zarco was proud to have been asked to accompany the master in the defense of Taldryan's home system. Since the loss of Baroness Zarco he had drifted. Though he still maintained the physical residence where they had lived he felt as though he had lost his home when she died. He missed his home and wanted desperately to die from the pain of his loss. Now, he had been given the opportunity to defend the closest thing he had to a home and the chance to die. It was, in his twisted universe, the best of both worlds.
It had been some fifteen years since he had regularly piloted a TIE fighter against other ships. At one point in his career had achieved many medals and risen to be one of the the Emperor's Hands. He rolled up his sleeve and examined the skin where the tattoos had been before he had removed them after the fall of the Emperor. He and Baroness Zarco had flown just like they had done everything else...together.
The abrasion of loss and upset ground at his psyche. Its daily grinding honed him into an instrument of death, an instrument of...purification. Truth be known, he had little use for the machinations of those above him back on Antei. They would play their games and he would play his.
Master Alanna's voice brought him back from his reverie. It would soon be show time.
With the Horsemen gathered around the ship, Alanna rounded them up and shepherded them on board. As they all took their seats, she looked around at the eager young faces and smiled. Nodding to the officer on the bridge, she indicated that he could maintain control of his crew, and that they were ready to leave for the Kr'tal system.
Closing her eyes as the ship's engines fired up and the Orthanc exited the hangar bay, she intended to grab a short rest before they arrived.
Ricco sat in the awkward silence no one seemed to want to talk. He tried to start conversing with the team “So how are we all feeling about this mission?” only grumbles came from the Jedi who sat there although Zarco seemed not to even hear, he was focused and looked quite happy in a world of his own it seemed. He tried to be optimistic but failed. What now, sit in silence? They did.
They were all half-asleep when the ship came out of hyperspace, a quick flash of light and everyone startled and awoke to the sight of Kr’tal all except Alanna who was peacefully sleeping. She looked so innocent lying there but then Ricco prodded her and she awoke grumpily with her hair jet-black sticking up at one side. They all laughed for it might be the funniest thing they would see for a while.
Zarco motioned for the Horsemen to follow him. Without a word they exited the area where they had slept on the ride to Kr'Tal and entered a lift. Though some of the junior Horsemen shifted as the lift dropped quickly to the lowest sections of the Interdictor Cruiser no one broke the silence that the Tetrarch seemed to impose, no simply coax, out of his tyro.
The lift opened and the party walked down ahall and took the first door to the left. As the portal swished upward two rows of open-faced lockers containing flight suits was seen. Zarco said three words, "Flight suits everyone."
Hearts raced inside heaving chests, some scared, some excited, some eager, all passionate - as it should be - as each stood before the familiar jet black suits and the ominous twin-hosed TIE helment. Though none of them were clones, at least so far as Baron Zarco was aware, soon, to the casual observer, they would all look the same, like cherry blossoms, beautiful, fundamentally fragile and ready to fly wherever the wind would take them.
Once each member was properly adorned Zarco walked to each of the members junior to him to inspect their preparations. Tugging this and pulling at that, he ensured each was ready. Some of his ritual was less practical in terms of seeing that the suit was properly fitted than it was to see that each was duly and truly prepared.
Satisfied, Zarco spoke again. "We know not when or where, or even if, our particular brand of armageddon will be unleashed upon our poor enemies. Yet, we are prepared to fight in the cold vacuum of space, on the surface of any planet or aboard this ship or others. We are simply...prepared. I will leave each of you to his and her own devices as to choice of weapons but I urge you to choose a personal sidearm, preferably an ELG-3A in a chest rig or drop holster with a backup B-22 blaster in an ankle holster. If you have a lightsaber, of course you will carry it. Leave your training sabers at home. They are useless now. This is not training. Take a small close combat weapon, or two, that you can carry with you at all times. If you are comfortable with grenades and thermal detonators, load up on them. Take an E-11 carbine for they are small and, at practical ranges, have the punch of a rifle. Bring plenty of extra magazines. For those not so prepared I have packed several flight bags containing an ELG-3A, a B-22, an E-11, a short sword, extra magazines and the gear to pack them comfortably. You will also find water in each bag along with medpacs. I mean no disrespect to those that have combat experience or eschew the use of blasters but I want this team to overwhelm any and all foes we encounter. The honor is in killing the enemy. Destroy them with hellfire and steel. That is all."
Zarco turned to leave the locker room and all followed.
As the shuttle touched down in a clearing, Sithspawn grabbed his gear and quickly vacated the craft.
"Best to not be around in the event someone comes to investigate the landing," the Zabrak thought.
He quickly scanned the surrounding area for immediate threats, and finding none, motioned the for the Jedi Hunter crouched at the shuttle's ramp to advance. The Hunter rose swiftly and traversed the distance in a matter of seconds. Sithspawn continued using hand signals to explain his intentions to the younger member. Satisfied that he had impressed upon the young Dark Jedi his plan, Sithspawn turned and began advancing towards a nearby building.
As he advanced, the Jedi Hunter remained crouched, scanning for threats with an E-11 tucked tightly into his shoulder. Once Sithspawn reached the cover provided by the building, he shouldered the sniper rifle and quickly scanned the streets. Finding nothing, he motioned the Jedi Hunter to advance. They continued leap-frogging positions until they reached the large tower that Sithspawn had sighted on the flight in.
Pointing upwards, Sithspawn nodded to the Jedi Hunter. Together, they entered the tower's base and began their ascent.
From his perch near the center of the east side of the city, Odium watched as signal after signal came to him indicating all sniper teams were in position. He could see every one of them, though only because he knew exactly where they were supposed to be.
Satisfied with the situation, Odium decended from the belfry of the tower and floated invisibly back towards the camp where Duga and Blue Jac's guard were waiting for the right moment. When he was within earshot of the camp, the Zabrak's call rang out blending perfectly with nature, only audible to those listening for it. Moments later the call was returned indicating that his message had been recieved. Odium turned and stalked back into the city following the route that Jac would be taking, and making sure that every possible scenario was prepared for.
The enemy would come. The enemy would perish. The Impostor would attempt to take the Throne. The Same would fall before setting foot in the Dark Hall. At least, that was the plan, and executed it would be as long as Odium had anything to say about it.
The Aedile rounded a corner back near the edge of the city and greeted an invisible Journeyman who then stepped out from deep within the shadows. "Illian," the Zabrak whispered with the same intensity that he had shown on the deck of the Leviathan days before, "We'll be preceding the Saber-guard AND His Excellency by approximately twenty yards. Stay in the shadows, wherever they may be, and kill anything that moves. There is NO way that Lord Cotelin is going to be ambushed on my watch." Illian could sense that this was no time for games. This was to be the ultimate battle, a defining moment in both Taldryan and Brotherhood history. The losing side would either be totally wiped from existence or would forever serve the winning clans. Taldryan was to be among the winners. It had never been otherwise. Nor would it ever be.
Just then, the first rays of the Star of Antei peirced the night as did the sound TIE engines. It was about to begin. Odium turned once again to Illian and whispered triumphantly, "For Taldryan!" before taking his place at the opposite side of the boulevard and dissapearing into the darkness that still lingered there.
It was Odium's scent that Fire-Knight noticed first, but the Nelvaanian waited instead for the call they had agreed upon. Seconds after the scent had reached his noise, the slightly altered sound of a local bird came from a distance, signalling it was time to enter the city. Used to hunting on his native planet, Fire-Knight replied with a similar call to let Odium know he had heard.
Returning to the small group of assembled Knights Fire-Knight coughed slightly to announce his arrival. Complete silence followed.
"Go ahead Knight" The Grandmaster spoke.
"Odium has signaled it is time to move, if you are prepared Grandmaster."
"When am I not? You and Shaithis assemble your Sqauds and then we will move out."
"Already done M'lord."
"Good, we move then."
Fire-Knight walked quickly over to Shaithis to plan last minute troop placement.
"30 men each, what do you say we form a hollow diamond around the GM and ourselves, my men can take the front chevron, yours the rear?"
"Thizz izz agreeable to me Knight."
Fire-Knight nodded then turned around and signaled his men into place and then took up a place directly to the left of the Grandmaster, to his right stood Shaithis and in front was Duga with the Obtene Crystal sword drawn.
"Where is Ben?" Duga suddenly asked
"Right here" Ben said moving suddenly from a group of soldiers and journeymen and taking his place directly behind the Grandmaster. "Lets move."
With that the Escort begain to move towards the city not to far in the distance. The walk to the city gates was uneventful and they were met by two Dinaari Guards when they reached the gate.
"M'lord Jac, M'lord Duga."
"Go ahead Lieutenant." the Grandmaster said noticing the Rank of the soldier.
"Our allied fleets have arrived and are sending troop shuttles as we speak to help secure the city. But The Enemy fleets followed closely behind. Already a fierce battle rages above the planet. Also the fleet was unable to stop a large contingent of enemy troop transports from entering the atmosphere. One ship was shot down by a well aimed shot by Lord Sithspawn, but Dozens of others have touched down throughout the city and are engaging out forces. Arcona is currently holding the courtyard several blocks ahead and Lord Halcyon said he would meet you their with more men to fortify the escort, as well as the Remainder of your Council M'lord."
"Good job Lieutenant, return to your post." The Grandmaster replied.
With that the Soldier saluted and wheeled away. In silence the Escort continues down the street their step quickening without anyone noticing. A sudden foul smell filled Fire-Knights nose and he tried to act normal.
"Something is wrong." Fire-Knight whispered trying not to draw attention.
"An ambush a block away." Jac replied " I sensed them a minute ago."
"Will we walk into it Grandmaster?"
"Yes, Our men shadow us, and I have sent a message to Odium telepahtically, he will kill their snipers before we arrive."
Their stepped slowed trying to buy Odium some precious time. Whether or not he has been sucessful, No one knew, as they were now entering the courtyard Jac had pointed out.
"Halt!" the Grandmasters voice suddenly burst out. "Show Yourself Welshman!"
"Ha! It seems you are just as powerful as your Rightful counterpart Clone." The Tarentum Consul said as he stepped from the shadows of a nearby building. "Surrender now and your death will be painless, and instead of Destroying Taldryan, we will simply dissassemble it."
"Thank you for the offer, but I hope you'll understand if I tell you to shove it." The Grandmaster replied, growing obviously angry.
"Snipers destroy this fake!" Welshman suddenly screamed.
"You'll find your snipers are currently... occupied." Odium's voice came from the shadows across the street from the Tarentum Consul.
"Troops Engage!" Welshman screamed as he realized his plan had failed.
With the command Dozens of Tarentum Journeymen and Soldiers poured from the building and began to attack the formation. The five central Knights suddenly jumped into the fray with their Sabers, and swords out. In a tight Chevron, the group created a wave of death, and soldiers quickly fell in beind them realzing how they could survive.
"Duga i can't afford to waste my precious energy on this scum, you and Ben destroy him."
Wordlessly, Ben and Duga Broke off, moving towards Welshman, and left Fire-Knight and Shiathis to defend Jac.
The Consul and Proconsul of Taldryan were an unmatchable force and quickly cut their way to Welshman leaving a trail of corpses.
"I'll handle this." Duga quickly said to Ben.
Raising his sword, Duga charged in and met Welshman head on, the fight had begun. Around the two Consuls, the fighting stopped as Soldiers watched the Duel in front of them. Although stronger physically and with the Force, Welshman was still at a disadvantage. For everytime Duga made even the slightest contact with Welshman with the crystal sword, a large amount of the Force was drained from him, and it was obvious his stamina was failing fast. Suddenly Welsmans stokes slowed, and Duga stepped in stabbing the sword through the other mans chest. As the Corpse slid from his sword Duga quickly assessed the situation.
Although outnumbered, Duga new with as many powerful knights the escorts had, they would not lose to this many soldiers. Deciding not to waste time The Consul decided on a slight mercy. "Tarentum Soldiers, drop your weapons, take your consuls Body and bring it to a bacta tank. We may have need of him later. If you do this, we will grant you safe passage to your ship."
Immediatly the Tarentum Soldiers dropped their weapons and ran away with the corps being cradled among them. When all had cleared out Fire-Knights voice suddenly asked "Now what?"
"Now we continue to the courtyard. How many men left?" Duga replied
"Not including us, fifteen. 6 from my squad and 9 from Shaithis's"
"Alright, Lets go find Halc. Bye the way, good job Odium."
Alanna had remained on the bridge as Zarco led his battleteam off to prepare for any eventuality. She wouldn't be joining them - TIE fighters really weren't her thing. And anyway, the Jedi Mistress was rather hoping it would all prove unecessary... but no sooner had she processed the thoughts than one of the crew called out:
"We have a contact!"
The captain rushed over to look at his crewman's small screen, while Alanna followed more sedately.
"It's a small transport ship, sir. Wait, we're getting a signal... it's a security clearance... and a high one." Alanna smiled.
"Let it dock. I know who this is."
"As you say, Ma'am."
Alanna waited for the shuttle's occupant in one of the hanger bays. As the door to the craft opened, she saw that Keirdagh Taldrya Cantor had responded to her communication sooner than she could have hoped.
"My darling! It has been far too long. You were lucky - I was passing this way anyway," Yacks presented Alanna with a delicate bunch of flowers. "Unfortunately, Mav has been detained elsewhere, and will not be able to join us. However, I'm sure I will be sufficient!"
"The flowers are lovely. You'll be more than sufficient... and I actually hope we shan't need you at all. But in that case I'm sure you'll find plenty to occupy your time..."
"With you my dear, the time won't be anywhere near enough!"
Alanna laughed - Yacks was one of the few she knew who could actually pull off lines like that, but she became serious as the Jedi Master continued speaking.
"However, I fear we shall have to relax later. As I rushed to your side, I picked up the signature of a rather large ship heading in this direction. Of course I was faster, but I doubt it's far behind."
As if to compliment Keirdagh's words, the sirens chose that precise moment to begin to wailing. "ENEMY CONTACT. WE HAVE ENEMY CONTACT. ALL CREW TO YOUR STATIONS."
The chatter on the bridge was being piped into Zarco’s earpiece as he and his phyle were on the way to the hangar bay. He heard of the ships coming out of hyperspace to raid Taldrya. Clan Tarentum had sent a force consisting of Battle Cruiser Doomsday and a modified corvette, undoubtedly carrying Tarentum's favorite - TIE Defenders.
Zarco spoke to Master Alanna through his communicator, “I have read their order of battle. The modified corvette will move in ahead of the others in order to deploy its TIE Defenders. The Doomsday will then move into formation to attack this ship with their heavy weapons after the TIE Defenders have weakened our shields. We have to stop the Defenders from deploying.”
“Too late, they just left the bay of the corvette,” was Alanna’s only reply.
The Orthanc had two fighter squadrons to deploy, Spectre Squadron and Cotelin Squadron. Spectre consisted of six RZ-1 A-wings and Cotelin consisted of six Scimitar Class Bombers. Those were not ordinary bombers for their speed, at least according to Taldryan records, slightly exceeded that of the A-wing.
“We’re going against TIE Defenders?” Anik Koran questioned aloud.
Zarco met his query with but a stare.
Anik Koran’s expression changed in an instant. He replied enthusiastically, “Cool!”
Zarco spoke as everyone got into their craft. “I am taking a Scimitar Bomber. Tiberius will take an A-Wing and lead Spectre Squadron. The Scimitar Squadron will lead an attack on the Battle Cruiser Doomsday. Our plan is to break their nose and the entire strike force will depart. When we inflict major damage on that ship, the others will retreat with it. They are here as an attack of opportunity. They will doubtless leave if their primary ship suffers major damage.”
Regular pilots took the craft that were left over after the able members of the Horsemen had boarded. All put on their helmets.
Zarco continued though his voice was different over the network provided by the flight helmets. “The bombers are loaded with sixteen bombs each. No one comes home without an empty bomb bay. It all goes on the Doomsday or on our secondary target the corvette if we get lucky early with Doomsday. Tiberius, do what you can to keep those TIE Defenders off the Orthanc. If they pursue us, please keep them off our attack run on the Doomsday. Just harass them until their utility is negated. Their bomb bays will probably be fitted with torpedoes instead of missles so you likely will not have that to worry about.”
The ships dropped into the freedom of space. Zarco’s Cotelin Squadron raced for the Doomsday and Tiberius’ Spectre Squadron sped for the incoming contingent of twelve TIE Defenders. “All in a day’s work,” thought Zarco.
“Master Alanna,” called Zarco. “May I suggest a plan of action?”
“Yes,” replied the Master.
“Use the Orthanc’s massive Interdictor tractor beam projectors to snatch a knot in those TIE Defenders before they get mixed up with our A-Wings. They will spread out once they see that happen but you will probably take out at least one or two. Once they get mixed in with our A-wings that will do more harm than good. At that point, focus on the Doomsday to hold it still while we pound it. See if the tractor beams properly focused can be used to draw the Doomsday's shields into a weak configuration through which we can leave our mark all the better.”
It was “on,” to use the vernacular.
Proudly taking his place back amongst the shadows, Odium deactivated his lightsaber and began giving the signal for the snipers to move to their secondary positions. One by one he contacted the force-senstives of each team letting them know that it was time to move on. At last it was Illian's turn. The confident Zabrak let the Protector know when and where to meet his Aedile for further instructions and then joined up with the escorts to enter the courtyard and meet Halc along with them.
As they strolled into the open area, Odium began to recognize several faces. Most of them he'd never seen except from the otherside of jail cell, but a few stood out from interactions he'd had outside of the battlefield. There, behind a few other regal looking Arconan figures stood Devani Maharet. As respects were payed and the leaders discussed their next moves, Odium greeted Dev with a heartfelt embrace, "Its nice to see you on the same side as I." Odium said jovely. The Arconan laughed and nodded replying sarcastically, "Yes, be greatful I'm not out to kill you right now. You wouldn't last very long." Odium smiled and, remembering his appointment, kissed the human's hand and said, "I'll see you in the Lounge after Jac is crowned." He then scurried off into the buildings on the edge of the courtyard.
"Well done, Syn." the Knight whispered, "couldn't have done it without you. Now lets scout out the other side of the courtyard. They may try it again, but they won't succeed this time either." After a quick look at the map to choose the paths that they'd both take, Odium smiled and said, " Once again, For Taldryan." With a determined nod, the Protector turned and floated away in the ever decreasing shadows of the morning.
Alanna nodded as she listened to Zarco's suggestion, and said a quick goodbye to Yacks who was already responding to the Battleteam leader's instructions with one of his own - to pilot back to the ship so he could use its A-wing .
Alanna hurried back to the bridge of the Orthanc where there was rather more chaos than she expected to see on one of Taldryan's flag ships. Catching the captain's eye she briefly outlined Zarco's plan, and suggested in a not-so-subtle manner that he should take control of his crew, or she would do it for him.
The captain, obviously used to dealing with Dark Jedi, recognised her suggestion for the order it was, and within half a minute had his crew settled and the tractor beam powering up.
Alanna moved to the viewscreen, where she could see the tiny black shapes that were the TIE Defenders, and the larger Taldryan A-wings, heading towards them.
"Lets wait until they get a little closer, it would be nice to shake them up right before the fight," she smiled. "Suddenly a much larger A-wing appeared at the bottom of the viewscreen, chasing after the others. Alanna pressed a button on the console to communicate it.
"Good luck, Yacks"
"No sweat, babe!"
"Hey, Alanna - you ready with that tractor beam?" Zarco cut in.
Alanna looked at the captain, who nodded. She relayed to Zarco "All set here. We'll activate on your word."
Alanna nodded to the captain, who fired the massive beam directly into the TIEs. The Jedi Mistress couldn't see much at her distance, but Zarco's controlled voice came over the radio, along with a few more excited shouts from the others.
"Excellent. They're scattering as predicted; there looks like two... no, three explosions! That worked better than we'd hoped."
One of the crew members was nodding as Zarco spoke. "That's confirmed, ma'am - three enemy TIE have been destroyed."
"Good, now turn that beam on the Doomsday so our boys can do their work," Alanna commanded.
Ricco took a few minutes to get used to flying he was still unsure about it. Being surrounded by only a thin layer of metal then nothing but space. The adrenaline would soon take over when battle began. He tried to calm himself as the others checked in with their leader.
His training in the simulators came back to him as he looked at all the flashing buttons. Then as he just got the hang of it there is an immense explosion as the TIE defenders are blown away. The beam did its job and his mind is racing it is a new and exciting experience for him mainly living under water or near it he feels out of place in the middle of space.
The massive tractor beams locked onto the Doomsday and all aboard both the Tarentum Battle Cruiser and the Taldryan Interdictor Cruiser could feel the tug of war on the invisible rope between them. Zarco checked his instrumentation and could see that the shields of the Doomsday, despite best efforts on the part of its crew to the contrary, were being pulled to its port and forward angle.
The six A-wings of Spectre squadron had already moved to engage the nine remaining TIE Defenders. The TIE Defender pilots knew that they had to handle the A-wings before they could pursue the bombers or the A-wings would double team the Defenders and pick them off. Only three of the TIE Defenders, therefore, had the luxury of pursuing Cotelin squadron’s six Scimitar Bombers.
“Bombers, vector to the dorsal starboard side of the Doomsday, attack the shield generators on the Battle Cruiser’s starboard side where the Orthanc’s tractor beams have pulled the shields away.” As Zarco continued, a burst of static announced a casualty. The heads-up display showed a bomber, Cotelin Five, had fallen prey to the combined attacks of the now pursuing three TIE Defenders. Zarco also noticed that the modified corvette was moving past them on its way to engage the Orthanc, presumably in an attempt to free its larger sister the Doomsday from the Orthanc’s silent grip.
“Change of plans gentlemen. Cotelin Four and Six break off and engage the modified cruiser. Everyone else, stay on me to the Doomsday.” Though Zarco expected that at least one of the three remaining TIE Defenders pursuing Cotelin squadron would break off and follow the two bombers headed for the modified corvette, they did not. They knew well the danger posed to the Doomsday held fast by the Orthanc.
“How are you doing Spectre?” asked Zarco.
“We’re giving then a merry chase,” came Tiberius’ terse reply.
“Keep up the good work!” Zarco saw the Defenders closing on them again and heard another burst of static announcing another bomber’s, this time Cotelin Three’s, demise. There were only two left to tackle the Doomsday. Zarco considered calling the two headed for the modified corvette back but knew he could not jeopardize the Orthanc and the hold it had on the Doomsday.
Baron Zarco and Fet’ai’narun, the remaining bomber at his side, jinked and dodged every way possible without unduly delaying their engagement on the Doomsday. The TIE Defenders were sure to destroy one or both of them at any time. He watched as the rear shields suffered hit after hit. He had diverted all energy weapon power to the shields in an effort to fend off the relentless TIE Defenders. He could not divert energy from the forward shield for they would soon face the batteries aboard the Doomsday. Their mission appeared doomed to failure.
An explosion rocked the space near Zarco’s craft. “Fet…” questioned Zarco.
“Yee hooo!” screamed a voice unfamiliar to Zarco over the Taldryan channel. A lone A-wing swept through the scattering debris of the wasted TIE Defender and the two missles that sundered it. “That left two thought Zarco.” As he checked his battle schematics he saw that the six A-wings and six TIE Defenders were still engaged in their stellar stalemate.
The A-wing swept back around to engage on of the remaining TIE Defenders harassing Zarco’s bombing run. It was Dark Jedi Master Yacks. “Nice shot Master Taldrya!” called Zarco. The two TIE Defenders, more out of self-preservation than out of orders surely given by the captain of the Doomsday, broke off to deal with the master’s A-Wing. Their nerve in pursuing the bombers had been broken by the skill of the master.
“Fet, transfer all power except engines to the shields. Once we are up against the Doomsday’s hull, transfer all power, even engines, to the shields. That will allow us to get off more bombs. Once dropped, transfer power back to the engines, shields full aft and let’s boogie to circle around for another attack run.”
“Check,” came the Chiss’ only reply.
“The Doomsday is fixin’ to meet the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It would be poetic if it were not so cliché,” mused Zarco.
The bombers’ shields weathered the Doomsday’s defensive batteries. Once under the effective scope of the batteries, the two bombers coasted up along the hull lengthwise, away from the Orthanc’s mighty grip, and the sweet release of torpedoes dropping away in pairs was music to Zarco’s ears.
Both bombers dropped all but four bombs each and rushed to exit aft of the Doomsday, still keeping its mass between them and the Orthanc. Zarco wondered how the others were doing but was too intent upon getting away from the Doomsday in order to swing around and drop his remaining ordnance.
Alanna watched the small ships dancing around each other, lit by the occassional explosion and accompanied by the usual radio chatter that narrates every space battle. Unusued to being so far outside the main combat, the Jedi Mistress could only watch and wait, reliant on Ektrosis' battleteam, and a solitary Jedi Master. She was unusually nervous, much preferring to get in there and sort things out herself, rather than having to trust in other people's compenacies... however even she had to admit that her side were doing pretty well given the circumstances...
The Orthanc's tractor beam was still locked onto the Doomsday, causing a unstabling shudder beneath her feet, as the two great bodies conducted their own battle against each other. Slowly, the Orthanc was winning. The Doomsday's shields were being drawn forwards long her length, and as that happened so the shields at her back weakened.
With the explosions dotting the Doomsday, Alanna knew Ektrosis' bombers must by now be running short of munitions. This was a worry - should they spend their load without penetrating her shields, the tide of the battle would change... and in situations such as these, Alanna preferred to be on the winning side from start to finish. Those shields had to come down... and they had to come down now.
"Captain, divert all power to the tractor beam."
The Captain looked around startled. "Ma'am, the ship's barely holding together as it..." he cut off as Alanna turned one of her stares on him - the sort of stare she reserved for young Apprentices who really should know better.
Looking flustered, and trying desperately to think of some reason not to give the order, he turned back to his crew. "Divert all power to the tracter beam," he said with a less than confident stammer. Alanna nodded, and hastily found something to hold onto. She was none too soon. As her hand closed on the back of a chair, the ground underneath her gave an almighty lurch, and the shuddering became an earthquake.
"SIR! It's too strong, it's going to tear us apart!" one of the crew shouted. Alanna mentally seized him by the throat and threw him across the room.
"LEAVE IT" she commanded, and none other of the crew dared to question her. Turning her concentration to the tractor beam itself, she mentally seized hold of the Force energy in the room around her, and pushed it into the beam with the aim of enhancing it's strength and effect.
"Report!" she shouted at one of the minions looking after a read-out screen.
"Uhh...umm.. hey!" He exhaled in what was probably a relieved laugh, "It's working!" he turned back to her with a grin plastered across his face. "Their shields are giving way!"
Alanna smiled, and waited for the inevitable announcement. It came swiftly.
"Ma'am! Their shields are gone! The Doomsday's shields are down."
Zarco saw his own instrumentation confirm that the Doomsday’s shields had faltered just as he and Fet’ai’narun were again speeding towards the aft shield generators of the Tarentum Battle Cruiser. Like before, they would run on quarter shields, all forward and three quarter engines until they got within the ships defensive batteries. They had that luxury since Master Taldrya had seen that they would be free from harassment by the TIE Defenders.
Once alongside the hull of the Doomsday they would cut engines and transfer all power to replenish their shields while the remaining bombs were dropped. Once all bombs were away they would go quarter shield and three quarter engines once again, this time shields to the rear, and make their escape.
“Swish…swish,” the dual torpedo racks let fly the four remaining bombs of each bomber. Though space would transfer no such heraldry, the simulated sounds of the mechanisms were carried through the ship’s sound system and into Zarco’s helmet so as to provide a kinesthetically pleasing stimulation to human ears.
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…….” Cackled the Dark Jedi Knight, in part out of true happiness and in part out of sadness for the time he remembered flying with Baroness Zarco years ago. As the flashes of the detonating explosives backlit the cockpit of his escaping craft he realized that he had not flown a craft into battle since she had died.
“Doomsday reporting sublight stabilizer damage, shield generator damage and casualties on three decks,” spoke a member of Orthanc’s crew, barely hiding his excitement.
Zarco looked over his shoulder to see the Battle Cruiser list to one side and noticed Fat’ai’narun flying beside him. “We did it,” came her voice over the comm.
“Doomsday indeed,” was Zarco’s only response.
Jedi Master Keirdagh Cantor Taldrya hmmed to himself as he swung his A-wing around for another pass. Adding a quick dip of the wings in courtesy to the TIE defender infront of him, he blaster it into the ether.
It felt good to be back in a fight, and even better to be blowing a hole in some Tarentums. Hmm... steak, he thought - a nice juicy steak would make an excellent dinner this evening. He might even open that bottle of corellian brandy he'd had sat in his quarters for the last few years.
An explosion to his right indicated that Taldryan's bombers were finally making a mark on the Tarentum battleship, whilst Taldryan's still sat undamaged... except for whatever that tug o' war he'd heard over the radio had shaken loose...
"Well, what do you expect from the lesser clans?" he chuckled, and then his attention was caught by Alanna's voice coming over the radio.
"Yacks! What are you doing out there? We have a TIE coming right at us."
"What? Damn! I wondered where that last one had got to. Alright, sweetpea - don't get yer knickers in a twist. Papa's coming."
Guiding his A-wing into a tight loop, he craned his neck around until he sighted the TIE some distance away. Too far, too far... racing off after it, he lined up a nice clean shot, and loosed a barrage of fire. Concentrating on the blast, he pushed it through space, translocating it across the distance, so that it reappeared right on the defender's tail. An explosion followed shortly thereafter.
"Oh yeah! Who's yer daddy?!" Yacks smiled to himself.
Spectre squadron arced and hummed like so many angry bees in the void of space. Their TIE Defender counterparts did likewise. The battle was a stalemate. Both varieties of ships were of similar speed so acquiring a missle lock was little more than a hope. The TIEs had no missles having been armed with slower torpedoes expecting to hunt for capital ships.
On each pass the ships could not inflict enough damage on the others before a chance to recharge. Though effort was made at destruction from the rear, the similarities again precluded dominance, but dominance was what Tarentum needed. Taldrya only needed these TIE Defenders occupied. The A-wings had done their job in neutralizing half of the fighter contingent brought by the Tarentum raiding force.
Then without announcement, the TIEs broke off and headed for the Doomsday. They had apparently been recalled upon the Doomsday’s falter under the Cotelin squadron’s barrage. “This is our big chance,” spoke Tiberius into the comm., “take them out…all of them.” As the TIE Defenders sped for the Doomsday, Spectre squadron lined up behind them and waited for a missle lock.
Meanwhile, the modified corvette once bent on harassing the Orthanc’s grip from its big sister, the Doomsday, now moved to interpose itself between the Orthanc and the Doomsday. Its mass was caught in the tractor beam and gravitational generators of the Orthanc thus releasing the Orthanc’s grip on the Doomsday. Zarco noticed this on his course back to the Orthanc and decided to add insult to injury.
“Cotelin Four and Six, drop your remaining ordnance into the modified cruiser on the side facing away from the Orthnac. Take care to avoid getting caught up in the Orthanc’s projected grip. Cotelin Two, we had better charge our lasers, the fleeing TIEs are coming right through us on the way back to the Doomsday.”
As the TIE Defenders loomed closer Zarco saw the TIE defenders begin to explode. They were caught in the crossfire of Spectre squadrons’ missles, Cantor’s missles from above, and the lesser blaster fire from Cotelin One and Two. Only two survived and invoked apparently pre-programmed hyperdrive coordinates, or perhaps instinctively astrogated ones, to disappear in tandem.
“Rascally Jedi,” muttered Zarco.
The modified corvette rocked under the limited torpedo barrage but held its own with its laser batteries. Cotelin Six exploded before loosing its barrage and Cotelin Four’s remaining bombs were not enough. It was, however, still caught in the Orthanc’s indelicate embrace.
Back on the bridge of the Orthanc Alanna gripped her lightsaber hilt before her and commanded, “Hold the modified Corvette. Prepare a boarding party. I will lead it.”
The Doomsday turned its massive frame to face away from the Taldryan forces and was undoubtedly recalculating hyperdrive coordinates to compensate for the damage it had taken at the hands of Taldrya.
"Sorry Ma'am, we're just about out of power. There's no way we can hold that ship for long."
"I won't need long...."
"Sir, the Doomsday looks to be moving away."
"What? No, I want to destroy them! Zarco, get your men to..." There was a blur on the viewscreen, and Alanna knew it was too late.
"Sir, the Doomsday has jumped away," a crew member reported.
"Damn cowards! Alright, how long do we have the Corvette for?"
"Five minutes, at the most," the Captain replied, trying to shush an insistent crew member by his shoulder.
"Fine, that's more than enough. Take us closer." Alanna turned to exit the bridge.
"Ma'am!" the Captain called after her, and Alanna turned back in exasperation.
"I've just been informed that we're reading power fluctuations from the remaining ship. That can't mean many things. With your permission, I'll move us a short distance away."
Alanna took a deep breath to swallow her anger, and for a moment it looks as if she might chance the boarding party anyway, but in the end she nodded.
"Zarco, Yacks, did you hear that?" she called resignedly. "Get your people away from that ship."
The Orthanc's engines powered up, and it glided slowly backwards, as the small shapes orbiting the Corvette also radiated away from her. Suddenly, the viewscreen was lit up in a blaze of fire, and the enemy was defeated.
"That's just like Tarentum - always putting on a show," Alanna shook her head. "All fighters, return to base. Game's over."
Out of the edge of the fireball a Lambda class shuttle, propelled by the blast and its own sublight engines, moved with dizzying speed for any craft, much less such a shuttle. Before the Tetrarch of the remaining Horsemen could even speak a word, the craft jumped away. “It must have been making the jump straight out the hangar bay of the modified cruiser, a move impossible without a firm grasp of…the Force,” thought Zarco.
Zarco downloaded the sensor information from his onboard computer to a removable disc. He would make use of a larger computer later to calculate the probable jump point for the shuttle. He had sensed a presence on the craft that piqued his interest and that, for some reason unknown to him, at least on a cognitive level, would be of use to him perhaps even in solving his problem with the Mun-Ro.
He removed the disc containing the basic information to be interpreted later and placed the disc in one of the pockets on his flight suit.
Zarco then sent a preloaded message informing Al-Meda of his safety.
He turned his ship towards the Orthanc. He and the remaining members of Cotelin squadron waited their turn to land aboard the Orthanc following Spectre squadron.
Duga Taldrya Arkarso
"Heads up!" shouted the Taldryan Consul to his men as another wave of soldiers joined the turmoil around the Dark Hall itself. The conflict had reached its boiling point; all the Clans were locked in intense battle both in and outside of the Hall. Explosions still rocked the sky, the city in turmoil, but the entire conflict focused around the Hall itself.
"More Sadow troops moving in." Jedi Master Halcyon Rokir Arconae said as the new wave of opposing forces moved within his sight. The Arconans and Taldryan Jedi brought them down one by one, yet more just keep coming. If something didn't happen soon they would be overtaken.
"Duga, the fighting inside stopped. One of the Jacs is coming out!" screamed Battlemaster Taku Matsuki Taldrya, from where he was fighting right in the entrance of the Hall. Sensing the presence of his Grand Master, Taku quickly dispatched the Plagueis Knight he was fighting and took up a honor guard position behind and to the right of the Grand Master. Within a minute the Grand Master emerged and all the fighting stopped in the area. The war was over he proclaimed; the Grand Master called all current Council members on both sides of the conflict to come meet with him, as well as the Consuls of the Great Clans. The leaders on both sides had their forces stand by, ready to resume the fight on a moment's notice.
After an hour or so meeting, a message was sent down from the Throne to all Brotherhood members.
The war is over, and it's time to re-unite our Brotherhood. I was not cloned, rather my essence was split into two bodies, but I have been united once again. It's apparent that everyone has been loyal to the Brotherhood in one way or another, and now we must move on. I have reinstated the original Dark Council and thanked those who served during the conflict for their service. Further, in an attempt to help re-establish the unity of the Brotherhood the Clan's will be getting the representation they deserve; the Consuls are now added to the body of the Dark Council, allowing a true voice for all the many sides of the Brotherhood. Rebuilding from this hardship will take time, but together we can do it. All for the Brotherhood!
Lord Jac Ae-Sequiera Cotelin Taldrya-Cantor
Grand Master of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood"
With that rebuilding was started. The Clan's returned to their systems and repairs on Antei were underway. This conflict wouldn't be forgotten or fixed as easily as it was ended. Only time would tell how the Brotherhood would do.
The crowd of people around the Taldryan Headquarters was astonishing. All the Clan forces had returned home and celebrations were in happening across Kr'Tal. The Summit congratulated the Clan on a job well done. Taldryan showed unity in the end through tough times, taking low amounts of damage overall. The brotherhood within a brotherhood once again stood strong and proud ready to rebuild and look to the future, whatever it might hold for them.