Arcona SF Runon - Svolten
Troutrooper walked into the Lord Consul's office aboard the Darkest Night and blinked. “I'd say this was a Summit meeting, but I'm here.”
“Maybe it is,” Atyiru grinned. “Maybe someone else got a DC position in the last couple of hours and you're the backfill.”
Teroch shook his head. “Probably not. More likely we're here because of Svolten.”
Montresor chuckled. “Svolten. More like 'Revolten'.”
Cethgus high-fived him. “Agreed. It was bad before. Now those idiot One Sithies added brain bugs to the air.”
“'Visit Svolten!'” Legorii chimed in. “'Come for the scenery. Stay because the planet killed you!'”
“'Visit Svolten! Once you're here, you'll never want to leave! You'll never want for anything else cause you'll be dead, so enjoy this fatal paradise while you can!'”
“'Visit Svolten! What have you got to lose! Besides your life, of course.'”
'Visit Svolten! Because that's your next objective.'” Lord Consul Wuntila strode into the room and joined the conversation. Clad in his Aegis armor and flanked by his Proconsul, the head of Arcona made quite the entrance, enough of an entrance to quiet even Legorii. “I assume all of you have surmised why you are here. I did not request the presence of Arcona's elite to devise prepubescent humor related to a very toxic situation, but rather devise a plan of attack to conquer House Odan-Urr and planet Svolten.”
The Proconsul nodded. “Normally, we would maintain the units instead of removing you from them. Given the nastiness of the planet and the delicateness of some of the targets, the Lord Consul and I thought it best to put our best together.”
Legorii grinned. “Coalesce the greatness. I'm with ya.”
Troutrooper did not. “Or perhaps, things are going to be very, very ugly down there, and our Clan Summit doesn't want to risk losing its prized assets unnecessarily or accidentally.”
Wuntila nodded. “You both are correct. Fighting on Svolten will be the closest our ground forces come to dogfighting in a TIE Fighter. One slip, one slight suit malfunction, one errant pebble will kill you. This planet gives no margin for error. None. Throw in the lightsiders, and the upcoming fight promises to be one of the messiest engagements we've ever had. We don't want to lose our greatest to the arbitrary whims of war.”
“That said,” the Hapan continued for his Consul, “you are needed for these assignments. Regular and special military units cannot accomplish what needs to be done. And assigning too many Dark Jedi would leave us vulnerable to the lightsiders. We need Arcona's best. And to that end, both Wuntila and I will join you in the field.”
“Do you think it wise to send both of you into combat?” Teroch asked. “Shouldn't one stay behind in case one slips? Every Summit member is present here. Who will command Arcona if everyone in this room dies?"
“We have planned for that eventuality; this isn't our first battle. Suffice it to say, Arcona will suffer, but not perish.”
Atyiru raised a hand. “You still haven't told us what our missions are?”
“Good catch,” Wuntila smiled. “Once our final member arrives—the shuttle is docking—we will discuss.”
The hot shower seared the deep welts and scars that now stretched across Socorra's back, sending jolts of pain through her nervous system; and yet they were welcome sensations compared to what had been felt on Rhelg.
An "extracurricular activity" he would have called it, if Lord Raken spoke at all. Hauling precious cargo across the frozen tundra and snowy mountains of the blizzard planet, with a dense rucksack grinding jaggedly into her flesh, the woman had trudged inch by agonizing inch, her cries of agony unheard in the howling, unforgiving winds.
Forbidden from using the Force, it hadn't been an activity at all. The apprentice had been left there to die.
The scars left behind had formed a peculiar network of marks - the beginning of a lattice of Sith symbols, though crude and unrefined, not unlike her own Force skills had been. But by the end of her journey she had felt empowered rather than exhausted. Socorra had survived rather than died. And as a result, she had found the upper ranks of the Equites.
But her time away had cost her much; she also found herself no longer the Quaestor of House Qel-Droma. The reality of this knowledge burned far worse than realizing her rucksack of precious cargo had been filled with ordinary rocks.
The hard sole of combat boots struck the grating of the ship's deck, swiftly carrying the wearer into the Consul's office. A heavy gear bag struck the deck, snatching the attention of the small gathering of the Clan's elite.
The black-clad figure in unmarked fatigues turned sharply to the towering Human-Theelin and struck her breast with a fist before taking a knee.
"Reporting as commanded, Lord Consul."
Nearby, Teroch caught a brief glance of his sister's eye - a sudden, quick wink to him. His eyebrow raised before a smirk lit his youthful face.
“Thank you, Socorra,” Wuntila nodded to the former Quaestor as she took up a position next to Teroch. It had not been an easy thing to have her step away from her position on the Summit, but with her ties to the Shadow Hand and the Dark Council, it had been the only logical course of action. It seemed to be working out so far. Only time would tell.
Teroch nudged his sister with an elbow and she nudged him back without turning. Coughing into his hand, he let his attention wander back and forth between Socorra and his Proconsul. To his credit, the Adept held his tongue and for once did not say anything.
Marick’s focus was elsewhere though as he busied himself with his datapad, occasionally sneaking glances up at his Consul to make sure he didn’t miss a beat. The Hapan’s handsome face was as impassive as a gargoyle. He wore a black bodysuit that clung tightly to his slender frame, making him seem small and almost fragile next to the hulking frame of the Dragon of Selen. Everyone standing in the room, however, knew better than to write-off their Proconsul.
Wuntila tapped a button on his gauntlet, and the table in front of them lit up with a holographic display of the Svolten’s terrain.The Consul made a gesture with his hand and the map reacted accordingly.
“We will be splitting into two shuttles but will be targeting the same drop-zone--here. After certain...complications that arrived on Bhargebba with our LAAT/i’s, this gives us the best chance of landing successfully on the planet’s surface. Teroch, Socorra, and Cethgus will fly with me. Troutrooper, Legorii, Atyiru, and Montresor will fly with Marick.”
The Arconans traded glances and nodded as they mentally paired themselves up with their team.
“Our main forces will draw out the bulk of the enemy forces while they attack the mining rigs. We are going to cut right through the enemy lines and hit their command center. Cut off the head of the serpent. Our primary target is their leader, Drand Powern.”
The holo-render of a rugged looking man with short-cropped blond hair, narrow eyes, and an assortment of scars rotated slowly in a circle for all to see.
“Former Imperial Special Forces. He has also made quite the name for himself as a Bounty Hunter and Military contractor. It is fairly evident why the One Sith recruited him to their cause, and as far as our Intel’ shows, he has been gathering strength from all over the galaxy. Spec Ops, spooks, demolition experts, and even members from the Storm Commandos. On top of that, he is apparently the only reason we have not completely obliterated the One Sith troops and been able to find this ‘Darth Krayt’. If Powern falls, we strike our heaviest blow against the One Sith to date.”
Teroch studied Powern’s features and could not help but smirk. “I’d show him a heavy ‘blow’...” The Adept whispered to Socorra, who just rolled her eyes.
Wuntila at first seemed to ignore the comment, but shifted his icy stare from the holo-display to the Erinos.
“Intel’ also reports that Drand is an Elder level tactician. That means he’s just as powerful as Darth Necar.” Wuntila’s voice was unfaltering and laced with ice. “And need I remind you of our failure to even reach him on the Bridge? Powern isn’t some mad scientist wallowing in grief of his lost master. He is a Thrawn-type strategist that could easily turn each of us--”
Troutrooper gave a subtle, watery cough.
“--almost each of us into Bantha food,” the Consul continued. “Drand Powern presents the most dangerous One Sith we’ve yet to face. He knows the terrain of the planet better than us, and will no doubt have countermeasures in store for us. ”
As the Consul spoke, he felt the familiar dull pressure of doubt pushing against the back of his mind to remind him of the risk he was taking. After their failures on the Avenger II and their teams mixed-success on Rhelg, he had no other options. This was it, the A-team.
“You all know what’s at stake here, and what needs to be done,” Wuntila finished. “Suit up, and meet me in the hangar bay in ‘fifteen. Dismissed.”
The holographic terrain fizzled out as the Consul strode out of the room, his Proconsul close on his heels.
Cethgus sighed to himself as Wuntila and Marick left the room. Looking around at the others, it was easy to say that this team would be well equipped for the mission that had been given to them. As he went to move, his eyes traced over to Atyiru, and as he went towards the door he stopped slightly and turned to her.
“Atyiru, walk with me for a second.” He commanded, his voice still as cold as ever, letting it ring out in the chamber as he continued to walk towards the door.
Hearing the sound of the boots tapping quickly after him, Cethgus soon found himself walking down the corridor of the ship with Atyiru. The newest addition to the Galeres Summit had settled in quickly, and the two of them strode at a casual pace.
“Looks like you will be on your own from here. Do you think you are ready for it?” Cethgus asked as he allowed himself to keep a slow pace between the two of them. His eyes continued to watch as crew members moved around the ship, hurrying off towards their assigned posts.
"I will do my best for Arcona, sir. Of that you can be sure." Atyiru flashed a small cheeky grin before she continued her words. "You’re not...worried about me now, are you?"
Though the task before them was dire, the Quaestor found himself grumbling, “I’m not worried about you so much as the rest of your team.”
“Oh, come on, you’re not still sore over a little Force-lightning, are you?” Atyiru’s grin never waned.
Cethgus grunted, picking up his pace. “If you die now, you are just another failure that was bound to be destroyed from our ranks. Remember that.” He told her unfalteringly. It was clear that this reply was not so much a joke as she had made.
She replied: “Oh, we'll all be destroyed eventually, dearie. But I don’t plan to die today, or tomorrow at that. Besides, you'd be far too grumpy without me." Cethgus briefly wondered what he did wrong to end up with someone as intentionally irritating as Atyiru for his Aedile. Without slowing, he left the woman’s side as he turned into his small, personal storage room on the ship.
“I'll meet you at the hangar when we are ready. And Atyiru? Never ‘dearie’ me again.” His voice showed some signs of annoyance at not being addressed correctly by his rank and title, but he shrugged it off.
He saw the Miraluka snap a quick salute, her voice trailing out, “Yes, Sir!” before she turned and started to walk away from the Quaestor. Stopping short of leaving his eyesight, she turned around and waved towards him cheerily. “Good luck, sweetie! Play nice with the others now!”
As she walked off, he grumbled inaudibly to himself and made a note to reprimand his new Aedile after this mission was completed. He stretched his hand out and started to grab the equipment that he’d decided to take. It was taking time for him to adjust to his new role, but as soon as he felt settled, it seemed something always came up. This time, it was once more of the pest that was the One Sith. The Zabrak finished grabbing his gear and headed to the hangar, his mind shifting from one concern to another as he reviewed their mission parameters.
Once in the hangar, Cethgus allowed himself to look around, noticing the faces of a few that had been at the meeting. As he stood there, he allowed himself to nod his greeting towards Legorii. It seemed his brother had been the first to show. Still thinking heavily about the mission, he felt a sudden hand on his shoulder that caused him to instinctively snap his head and shoulders around. He relaxed when he realised who it was and his dark skin did well to hide a flush of anger.
“Jumpy, are we? By the Force you’re tense. Try to loosen up a bit! Optimism is good for troop morale,” Atyiru taunted, half-jokingly, her own stance prepared to dodge had he struck out. She withdrew her hand, nodding to him. Jerking his shoulder out of her reach, he moved off towards the two shuttles that waited for the groups. It wouldn't be long before they were on their way and the mission and the decision of what would happen on this planet. Turning to Atyiru, he kept his voice down.
“Just don’t die on me too soon, Knight.” He muttered before he walked off coolly to go speak with Legorii.
“I don’t like the fish.” Teroch commented mildly as he and Socorra proceeded directly to the hangar.
“Ter’ika, you don’t like anyone.”
“Granted, but I don’t know him. He just sort of appeared and started taking names and kicking ass. What’s he after? He’s already a Master.”
Socorra rolled her eyes at her brother’s paranoia. “You’re being a di’kut. Focus on the task at hand. We gotta take out that Powern guy.”
“Shab that. We can take him in our sleep. He’s an Elder, yeah, but even Elders have a fair aversion to large-scale bombs. Let’s see him tactic his way past a thermo-nuclear blast.”
Socorra stopped and turned to face the Sergeant of Soulfire. “You are of course joking. You want us to nuke him? We need to survive this too, you know!”
“No, you misunderstand. I don’t wanna blow us up too,” he avoided her eyes, looking slightly guilty. “Just the command centre. I’ve been working on something I want to try out.”
Socorra sighed and threw her arms in the air. “You mean like that thing you were cooking up with those egg-heads at Zratian Arms? ‘The Dragon’ or something ridiculous? It took you a month to grow your eyebrows back.”
Teroch winced but hurried in front of her and slowed her down. “No, this time it’s different. I swear. It’s a one-shot wonder. I’ve been able to fit most of the delivery mechanism into a vaguely carbine shape, and whilst it’s heavy, it’s basically a very, very small reactor fired in the form of a projectile. When the projectile hits a target, the chamber implodes, causing a small but incredibly destructive explosion. Small buildings, tanks, speeders, walkers, it levels them all. I’m still thinking up a name, but if we just point it at the command centre...”
“No, Ter. Wuntila will pitch a fit if he finds you with untested tech on a mission of this importance. Just spam the Wraiths like you normally do.”
Teroch grinned and shoved her with his shoulder playfully. “Usenye. That was Dad’s trick. I like to get all up in their grill and stab ‘em with something hot and dangerous-”
“Then you kill them with your lightsaber, got it.” Socorra finished, grinning.
They arrived at the Hangar well within Wuntila’s deadline and Teroch gestured at one of the passing techs.
“Load the crates into that AIC, please.” He said, gesturing at one of the two shuttles running through a series of pre-flight checks.
“Crates?” Socorra asked dubiously.
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how much foresight I had, bringing a spare Das’verd suit for you. Soulfire’s own. I’m not going to play hide-and-kill with some spook in the jungle without Soulfire’s best gear at my disposal. It’ll give you more protection than a standard E-suit, and you’re already trained with it. C’mon, it’ll be just like old times.”
Socorra sighed, seeing straight through the youth’s plan; he was trying to tempt her back into Soulfire Strike Team. “Just get on board, di’kut.”
The Anzat kept his eyes on the metallic floor of the transport. He felt alone. It was strange for him, because he often was alone but did not feel like it. This time, he was surrounded by Arcona’s finest, and all he wanted was to be back with his own team. He understood why he’d been chosen, and he was proud of it. But he still longed to be back at Qel-Droma’s helm, surrounded by his own men.
“Legorii.” A voice said. The tone was grim. The Epis looked up.
His eyes met the Proconsul’s, and a characteristic grin spread across his worn features. “Marick, good to see you made it from the briefing in one piece.”
The Hapan almost smiled. “Just because I have to spend more of my time commanding from afar and less time on the frontlines doesn’t mean I’ve lost a step.”
Legorii gave him a look, as if he doubted that claim, and stretched his legs with a yawn. “Yeah, yeah. Well, for your sake, I hope you haven’t. Sounds like this Powern guy is pretty serious.”
The Proconsul gave a brisk nod. He made as if to reply, but was interrupted by the others clamoring into the transport. Atyiru and Montresor, the two new Aediles, were in the middle of some conversation that ground to a halt when they joined Legorii and Marick. Troutrooper was a half-step behind them.
Marick stood up and exchanged a few words with the transport pilot while the rest of them strapped in. Legorii sighed as he finished donning his suit, eying his Aedile has he did the same. The young man evidently felt the weight of his stare, and flashed him a cocky grin not unlike the expression that often graced the Quaestor’s own visage. He’s too much like me for his own good.
The transport lurched slightly as it lifted off of the hangar floor, tailing an identical craft that Legorii knew contained their four companions. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.
It sounded like a wailing banshee, or two pieces of metal sliding against one another. It was a grating sound, and it set the Entar’s teeth on edge. His crimson eyes flicked open, and in an instant he was fully alert. He tried to stand, but remembered he was strapped in. His head whipped to the side, and he noticed confused looks on the faces of his fellow elite.
“What in the...” Montresor began, before being drowned out by a groaning of metal.
The Hapan Proconsul winced as he raised a hand in response, and waited until the noise had faded before speaking. “It’s alright, nothing to be concerned about. We’ll be touching down in a few moments, and then you’re all welcome to be as concerned as you like.”
“Nothing to be concerned about,” Montresor mumbled under his breath.
“I suppose the noxious gas of Svolten is nothing to worry about either,” he chuckled to himself briefly, ever mindful that his sense of humor may not be well received among the newly formed team of Arcona’s finest. Legorii caught the personal aside and gave his Aedile a look before blinking his crimson eyes once and then turning to look elsewhere.
On any other day, perhaps, a bout of perceived weakness could be nothing to worry about. Considering the magnitude of the situation it was a hard sell; especially now that his actions had put him in the hotseat of Aedile.
As was his nature, Montresor had done his homework on his new leader and was vaguely familiar with the momentary lapses in the Anzat’s will to fight when he was still a young Dark Jedi Knight. Legorii had been in and out of leadership, and the stories told of him were a mixture of praise and swearing. Monty could see the prominent scar on the Entar’s face, and knew there was much more to his new boss than met the eye.
Nevertheless, the young Aedile knew this was no time for doubt. The combat prowess of the newly anointed Quaestor of House Qel-Droma, evident by his innumerable accolades, spoke for itself. Oddly enough, the Sith Warrior found comfort and solace in the nonchalant attitude of his Proconsul with regards to the matter.
“Sure thing boss, nothing to worry about…”
Shifting his focus to his dimly lit datapad, his mind was quickly inundated with the operation order, enemy order of battle, intelligence reporting, terrain analysis, and infrastructure schematics. He was a student of war, which undoubtedly led to his inclusion on this mission. He believed that pre-planning always prevented piss-poor performance. The Aedile had done just that, immersing himself in the mission details in the weeks leading up to the mission. He knew he had much to prove as a relative rookie amongst the group and the methodical and comprehensive manner by which he prepared for this mission would hopefully pay dividends for the team in the future.
Without warning Monty was jolted from his thoughts as the transport endured relentless turbulence entering Svolten’s atmosphere. Through the relative darkness, partially illuminated only by the decent induced flickering lights, his eyes met the solemn gaze of his Quaestor. The warrior’s focus of the Anzat projected a competent and confident leader. Fiercely loyal, Montresor knew at that moment he would, without question, work tirelessly to support this consummate professional.
“Nothing to worry about…” Monty repeated to himself.
“Nothing at all.” Atyiru murmured cheerfully to her fellow Aedile, speaking quietly enough so as not to disturb their superiors. “It’s not as if this entire shuttle could tear open or fall out of the sky or get shot down and send us all to a fiery, likely painful death. Or, if we survived the crash, there’s always drowning in the noxious ocean, or being mutilated but not killed by the debris from the wreckage and surviving only to live on as crippled amputees...Nope, nothing wrong at all.”
The joking was not entirely appropriate, but Montresor seemed to be the humorous type, and she could do with a laugh or two. It was all she could do, as every time the shuttle trembled the Miraluka found herself clinging to her harness. She really did not get on well with airborne vehicles.
To her delight, the Human chuckled. “Oh, yeah. Noxious gas and fire. Nothing to worry about,” he replied.
“Of course not. After all, we’re Summiters now. We don’t worry. We’re calm, collected, in control, and completely incapable of joy. Even smiling is worthy of capital punishment, I hear,” she said with a grin of her own, gesturing not-so-inconspicuously at their Proconsul.
Marick turned his head to look at the Miraluka, his face just that; a stoic, unreadable mask. The Hapan blinked once and then shook his head before turning his attention elsewhere, keeping his thoughts to himself.
Atty heard Monty smother a laugh, and snickered herself as she continued. “See? Zen and devoid of humor. It’s like, an art form.” Despite her quip, Marick’s outward calm was almost soothing.
“Fear not, young ones,” Troutrooper’s voice easily filled the transport. When the Dark Jedi Master spoke, he had a way of being heard without needing to truly project. “At the very least...there is also the option of our shuttle landing in a sinkhole and swallowing us into a shadowy oblivion the likes of which we’d never escape...”
Marick groaned, Monty and Legorii chuckled, and Atyiru somehow managed to tighten her grip on her seat restraints.
I really hate flying...
"So what is it that you actually do for the Dark Council?" Teroch asked as Socorra fiddled with the spare Das'verd suit. She wiggled a bit in it, trying to get more comfortable as they sat in the passenger seats of their idling shuttle.
"I pleasure them, obviously," she answered without skipping a beat or bothering to look up.
“Does that include choke rape?”
“Sometimes,” she replied nonchalantly.
"Huh..." Teroch cocked his head to the side in thought.
The older sibling’s jaw dropped in disbelief. "Oh my god, you're actually picturing that!"
"Wha? Picture you? Ew, gross. I was picturing.. well, you know.."
"...You are so gay."
"Duh and-or hello. "
“Seriously, I can't believe this,” she replied, staring down at her chest. “It actually fits this time. Your father used to make me wear the most uncomfortable one he could find that flattened me like a board. How the frak did you find a spare suit with boob support?"
"Oh.. a custom, just for me. You karkin' liar." She swatted him in the back of his head just as he went to tip it again.
“Gotta watch those mitts, sis. They're big enough to be considered deadly weapons.”
Socorra’s pale eyes narrowed and the Dark Adept could sense she was seriously debating tackling him, but unmistakable, heavy thumps could clearly be heard coming up the ramp. Wuntila entered and took a seat across from Teroch, the two Arconae locking eyes. Cethgus followed right on the Consul's heels, plopping himself down with a grunt. The new Quaestor of Galeres, home of Soulfire, nodded to the pair, though his eyes lingered far longer on the female’s suit, a grin forming on his lips.
Socorra’s head tilted to the side and she stared back in return, an eyebrow raised.
“My eyes are up here, di’kut.”
Cethgus looked up, puzzled for a second. “Wha? Oh.. oh! No I wasn’t... I swear! It’s just odd seeing you in a Soulfire suit, that’s all. But I mean, you do look nice in it, er, I mean, it’s nice to see you in it...” he trailed off as Wuntila raised a hand.
Teroch leaned over and whispered loudly in her ear. “See? Just like old times.”
She rolled her eyes again for what felt like the hundredth time that day.
Mining Rig 37
The attack had been planned carefully from all angles. Timeros had fallen into old habits, coordinating Shadow Gate to doing what they had been designed: infiltration. Valtiere and Nadrin ruled the skies, providing air cover while S'nar and Dark Forge began to rope down onto the rig alongside Arconan Army troopers. Meanwhile, Soulfire infiltrated from below, using underwater crafts to get beneath the rig.
It was the perfect distraction.
Special Forces LZ: Central Island
The pair of shuttles broke through Svolten’s atmosphere. The pilots were two of Arcona’s best, personally vetted by Oblivion Brigade and renown for their loyalty and service to Arcona.
The shuttles swerved and descended towards the serene looking shores of Svolten; which, of course, was nothing more than an illusion. In the distance, the sound of battle engaging was muffled by the ocean crashing up against the beach. To the pilots, the central landmass looked to be surrounded by a plethora of smaller islands. Their orders were clear, and their focus was to land inland without being detected.
“Going in quiet, Shuttle-Two. You know what to do.” The first pilot said calmly.
“Copy that, Shuttle-One.” The second pilot confirmed over the private comm, banking his shuttle into a wide turn. He tapped a series of buttons and switched the shuttle into a reduced-energy power mode, sacrificing some of its thrusters but gaining more fluid mobility. Shuttle-Two dipped low, the bottom of the shuttle almost skimming the water and subsequently the sand it washed up against. Almost.
The pilot knew his craft and smoothly adjusted his throttle, floating forward gracefully towards his destination. The sandy beach of the Central Island gave way to smooth grasslands that tumbled into a wide-spanning forest that stretched out in all directions. Shuttle-Two spotted an appropriate Landing Zone and took his craft in, hovering smoothly over the ground.
“Shuttle One, touched down.” The first pilot’s voice rang out over the comm.
“Shuttle Two, touched down.” The second pilot confirmed.
The doors to the shuttles slid open, each team piling out and using the Force to guide them gracefully towards the ground.
Wuntila Arconae’s boots made a ripple in the grass beneath his feet as his armored frame touched down with a dull thud.Without skipping a beat, the Consul raised two fingers to the side of his helmet.
“Shuttle-One, Shuttle-Two,” he spoke calmly in a deep baritone. “Rendezvous with the Main Forces but keep out of the fight. Once our mission is complete, we’ll launch a beacon and will be counting on you to get us out.”
“Copy that, Lord Consul.” Both pilots replied in unison.
Teroch and Socorra drew their blasters and instinctively surveyed their surroundings. No threats presented themselves. Cethgus held his lightsaber in hand, but for once displayed patience in not activating it. Wuntila had been very adamant about not announcing their presence, and Cethgus knew better than to wake the Dragon.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad.” Teroch quipped, lowering his rifle.
“Indeed.” Wuntila said, looking out over the grass towards the other landing zone. He watched as the second shuttle took off, leaving behind a cadre of small figures that the optics in his visor highlighted as friendly. The Consul raised a hand in the air and made a gesture with two fingers that said, Clear.
Marick tapped a button on his helmet’s optics and read the signal. He mimicked the gesture back, Clear.
Wuntila nodded but then felt something tickling the hairs on the back of his neck. Something wasn’t right. Everything was going smoothly. Too smoothly.
“GET DOWN!” Teroch yelled as he grabbed a hold of Socorra and leap away with her in tow.
A split-second later the ground that the Erinos had previously occupied detonated from the impact of a rocket-propelled grenade. Grass and dirt flew out in all directions, splattering against Wuntila’s armor as the Consul braced for the impact. He cemented himself in place with help from the Force and somehow managed to stay on his feet after staggering a step or two. Cethgus had been farthest from the point of impact and was already on the move.
“Can I use my saber now?” The Zabrak called out.
“YES!” Wuntila, Socorra, and Teroch all yelled in tandem.
Troutrooper started to yell, “It’s a tra-” but was cut off by the sound of a second RPG detonating off to the side of their landing zone.
“TRAP!” Montresor yelled, trying desperately to avoid the rocket’s detonation. He found solace in the form of a not-so-gentle push through the Force, courtesy of one Dark Jedi Master. The added boost was enough to propel Montressor safely away from the ground that exploded into clods of earth.
Legorii was already moving, dodging the blast while searching the treeline for signs of the enemy with his Blaster-Rifle.
“Atyiru, on me.” Marick’s saber was in his hand and ignited quicker than blinking. Atyiru moved almost automatically at her Proconsul’s command, staying close on his heels.
“Reach out through the Force and find out where that Rocketeer is hiding,” The Hapan added as he lead the newly appointed Aedile to cover behind a large tree.
“Searching.” The Miraluka replied. Her unique vision was less of a burden in this situation, which gave the woman a warm confidence that she could help her team. Nothing mattered more to her in the world. She knew that this was her first true action with the Arcona Summit, and that her entire service to the Shadow Clan was pending here. Many had questioned her selection as Aedile, and she knew that she had to work twice as hard to impress her Proconsul due to her gender. She would not let him down.
“What do we do?” The first pilot keyed in.
“The Shadow Lord was clear on our orders, One.” The second replied.
“They didn’t say anything about detonations. We just dropped them into an ambush.”
“Orders are orders. Fall in and link back up with the main fleet.”
“We can’t do that! I’m going to go back. They need our help.”
Jansos Florent, codenamed Two, sighed. Clearly, One was not going to listen. His loyalty to Clan Arcona was thicker than anyone else’s that he had ever met. Jansos had hoped to spare his friend’s life. His mission parameters were clear, however.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered to no one in particular as he swerved right to follow Shuttle-One’s trajectory. His aiming reticle lit up and he depressed the trigger on his throttle, open-firing on his comrade’s shuttle.
“Hm,” The Proconsul murmured as he tapped a series of buttons on his wrist-computer. “Well, at least my suspicions were confirmed.”
“What?” Atyiru asked as she continued to scan for the tree-line for threats.
The sound of blaster fire filled the forest as Legorii fired blindly into the trees from behind cover. Troutrooper and Montresor wove their sabers defensively at any stray blaster bolts that headed towards them, limited by their range.
“What do you mean, 'hm'? How can you be so blasé?” Araave hissed in a loud whisper, as if worried that someone would hear her. Keeping calm in a crisis was one thing. Being absolutely stoic, however, boggled her.
Marick blinked once and turned to look at the Miraluka. “If you’d prefer me to flail around and scream, I could. However, I don’t think that would help our situation much, would it?” The Hapan’s voice never faltered or escalated above a normal conversational tone.
“No, but--wait, was that sarcasm? Now you’re making a joke? In the middle of a battle? Dammit man, I wanted to record this.”
He completely ignored her commentary. “I was confirming what I feared to be true. One of our pilots has been working for One Sith. I wasn’t able to prove anything...but now, it’s unmistakable.”
“Great, so we walked right into a trap.”
“Not necessarily,” Marick said as he poked his head around their tree-trunk cover. “Do not underestimate your comrades, and most importantly me. I have already formulated a p--”
The Proconsul never got to finish his statement. Time seemed to slow as it often does in times of peril in combat. Atyiru saw it through her unique way of seeing things: a bolt of energy typically invisible to the naked eye. Or perhaps it was part of the vision she had seen earlier when sparring with her Proconsul that was showing her the way.
“'Arcona is in danger and so are you.'”
The Xerrol-Nightstinger was rare but known for its lethal bullets. It was a model even snipers like herself were wary of. For all of his training and ability, even Marick Arconae had no way of detecting the invisible bullet. There was no time to think. No time to speak. There was only action.
Atyiru channeled the Force inward and shoved her Proconsul out of the way. The bullet continued on its path, however, and tore through the Miraluka’s shoulder. Her lithe figure, even wrapped in the E-suit, spun about before she crashed into the floor.
Marick recovered from the initial shove, his mind working quickly in tandem with his body as he drew his flare gun into his free hand and fired off a blast in a direction he calculated the shot to have come from.
“Legorii, mark!” The Hapan’s voice jolted into the Anzat’s headset, drawing his attention towards the fluorescent flare of orange light.
“Sniper, Nightstinger!” Marick yelled as he simultaneously dropped to one knee and pulled Atyiru’s body back behind cover.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” The Proconsul growled as he pulled out an emergency kit. He found the can of bio-foam and quickly sprayed it over the wound that had opened her E-suit. His brow furrowed as he worked, concern and frustration peaking through the cracks in his stoic visage.
Atty smiled at his concern. She knew he was not the stone-faced assassin he wore like a suit of armor, and even that smidgen of expression fueled her resolve. “I didn’t see any other choice. It’s what you would have done.”
Marick started to mouth a reply but instead moved a hand over the now-sealed wound. Concentrating, he let the dark tendrils of the Force flow out from his body, attempting to mend close the gash in the Miraluka’s shoulder.
“Fair point,” The Proconsul conceded. “I closed the wound, but you’ll have to take it from there. Don’t do anything like that again though. You’re our only true medic.”
“Yes, sir.” She murmured.
Alright, let’s do this.
Cethgus thumbed the activator on his lightsaber hilt. Being his normal, brutish self, the Primarch advanced forward from the group on his own. Though he was unsure where the shot came from, he wasn't willing to sit still and be a huge target for the next one.
“That di’kut is going to get himself killed.” Teroch grumbled, watching the Entar go.
The Dragon of Selen raised his head, letting out a sigh inside his helmet as he shook his head and snapped Dragonsbreath to life. Socorra stuck close to his side, blasters trained on the treeline as the two took cover.
Another whooshing screech sounded as another rocket flew free from its housing and towards Cethgus. The Zabrak was already moving, but wouldn’t have been able to change direction at the speed he was going. The One Sith adjusted his aim accordingly.
“Oh, for Slice’s sake...” Teroch grumbled as he shouldered his rifle.
Teroch was ready this time, however, and stepped into the RPG’s trajectory. He threw his hands out in front of him, reaching into the streams of the Force to stop the projectile in its track. With a grunt, he made a twisting gesture with his hands and then punched outward. The rocket, mimicking his motion, shot back in the direction from which it came. The explosive crashed into a far off tree and detonated, the body of a One Sith Rocketeer screaming as his robes caught flame and he fell to his death.
“Booyakasha!” Teroch yelled out as he re-brandished his rifle.
Despite the small victory,the bushes the team were using for a firing position offered very little protection from what was about to come.The forest suddenly came alive as a cadre of Bounty Hunters sprung from their cover or jet-packed down from the trees. Their weapons and armor were a hodge-podge assortment from all over the galaxy: blasters, flamethrowers, shoulder-rockets, gaderffii, stokhil spray sticks, and elecro-darts.
“Well, there’s the welcoming party. Arconans, form up on m-”
Cethgus never heard his Consul speak. He launched himself through the air with the Force and arced into one of the approaching Bounty Hunters, tackling him to the ground.
The group let out a collective sigh before focusing on the task now at hand.
Treoch moved swiftly through the trees, his Concussion rifle firing multiple bolts towards the ambushing Bounty Hunters, knowing that he needed to make quick work of them. His shots found their mark as the bolts penetrated through a mismatched helmet and dropped one of the fighters in a split second.
Socorra was quick on the heels of the behemoth that was the Consul of Arcona, his azure saber slicing down the nearest man without hesitation. His combat prowess was always an inspiration to those around him. Socorra allowed her finger to squeeze her own triggers, spraying bolts into the nearest Hunter and forcing the man to drop in front of her from the damage she managed to inflict.
Cethgus was still grappling on the floor, finding it hard to move his saber with the man grabbing at his wrist. Cethgus found that he had managed to tackle the only guy that matched his own strength, but managed to get the upper hand and roll him over. A grunt escaped the Primarch as he felt a few of his ribs crack under the mass of Zabrak that was now on top of him. The Entar got a grip on his lightsaber, pointed the tip at the hunters chin, and activated the blade right into his skull.
With surprise no longer working against them, the Arconan’s made quick work of the remaining Bounty Hunters. One of them, valuing his own life, took off and Cethgus went to make chase. He was stopped as his armour met with Wuntila’s outstretched arm.
“Not yet Cethgus,” Wuntila’s voice commanded. His eyes shot to Soccs for a brief second.
Is she infected? Troutrooper stopped two shots with one arc of his saber as he sent his Proconsul a mental message.
Marick shrugged. Unsure. Her suit wasn’t open for long.
But it was perforated and she was exposed. If she catc--
The Hapan whipped his saber around and deflected an incoming shot toward the Mon Cal. Not now. We’ve got--
The Mon Cal returned the deflection, the twice-redirected bolt boring a small divot in front of the Hapan. If you won’t do what’s necessary, I will. He deflected another shot across Atyiru’s helmet, the laser ionizing the air she took in with her next breath.
“Montresor, shall we switch out of Soresu and bring the fight to our attackers? Legorii, inform the Eye of the Abyss that we have discerned the identity of the...no, a traitor. Tell them to capture him alive.” The Warrior cheered and pushed forward; the Epis nodded and started to open a comm line to Arcona’s flagship.
“Do not inform them of anything,” Marick countered, his voice cold as ice.
“If there is a traitor--”
“It will be taken care of. Focus on the task at hand,” Marick snapped back, his voice never raising despite the frustration boiling under his skin.
Marick fumed inside his helmet. Does he not understand the chain of command? He’s a waddling bulk freighter, senselessly plowing through everything in his path. Thankfully he’s on our side, but I wish he would remember his place...
“Everything else, do as Troutrooper suggested. Atyiru, stick to my side. TT and Monty, blaze a trail. Legorii, you’re on rearguard”
The Miraluka took her position next to her Proconsul. She nudged Marick, then nodded at Troutrooper. Marick sighed as he dismissed the innuendo.
“Blaze a trail…Message sent…message received Boss,” the newly minted Aedile responded stoically into his helmet-comm.
Marick’s guidance and subsequent intent was crystal clear and a welcome pause in the madness that had just ensued. The Warrior’s mind raced as he quickly assessed the situation and worked a feasible course of action.
“Sir, as it stands our objective is approximately one click due north. Based on the varying terrain, dense foliage and likelihood of enemy contact I recommend we maneuver utilizing a traveling overwatch formation.”
“Monty , Monty, Monty, I have been overwatching you since the shuttle touched down,” Atty snickered from the concealment of Marick’s shadow, only to be met with a fierce glare from the group.
“Sounds like a solid plan. Lets cut the small talk and get moving,” Legorii bellowed from the back of the formation.
No sooner than the last word had fallen from the Quaestor’s lips than Montresor had had given the signal and the formation was in line, moving out swiftly. The Warrior made eye contact briefly with Troutrooper as if seeking a non-verbal confirmation that he would not be overstepping his boundaries taking point. He was keenly aware that trust and mutual respect is inherent to successful units and the young Aedile took no liberties with either.
Trouty simply blinked his fishy eyelids once, and Montresor took the silence as consent.
Knowing full well an ambush was likely; the lead element was relying heavily on those in overwatch of their movement for security.
The Warrior’s eyes were intently focused on any anomaly that presented itself along their narrow movement corridor. Although this was the first time he had fought with this collaborative unit he found solace in knowing they had his back and he was able to focus more on the trail that would otherwise be advised.
Maybe I was wr….
Montresor’s sentence was cut short by a barrage of bullets raining down on the lead element from the surrounding high ground. Clutching his chest, bright red blood gushed from the wound painting the forest floor canvas with his life force.
Excruciating pain cut through every ember of his being as the distinct sounds of lightsabers awakening in tandem and Blaster fire being returned with deadly precision filled the air.
The sounds were quickly an afterthought. Pain was complemented by a suffocating darkness as Montresor drifted from consciousness.
The Epis barked a grating laugh. It was all so perfect, so fitting. Everything had gone straight to hell, and they were grasping at nothingness. The best Arcona had to offer, bumbling around on some noxious planet in some noxious system. Just about everything that could have gone wrong with the mission had done precisely that.
Or so he’d thought, before he’d seen Montresor go down.
Legorii swung his blaster rifle in an arc around his body with his right hand, and with his left he motioned frantically at his Aedile. He did not know if anyone was watching, and he would have been surprised if they were. He was last in line, shoring up the rear. Who would be watching?
Many of them had fought together for years, but never like this. Many of them scarcely knew the strengths and styles of the others. Teroch and Socorra were inseparable, Atyiru seemed to have taken to Marick, and Legorii at least had a cursory knowledge of his fellow Entar’s skills, but it was not enough. There were too many moving parts. There was no cohesion.
“Trout!” the shout was shrill, but the Quaestor would have known it anywhere. His crimson eyes shifted from the fallen silhouette of Montresor to Marick Arconae. The Hapan cut a fine figure, despite the suit, framed against the forest backdrop with his blade humming. For a moment, their eyes met. Maybe others would have nodded at one another, or smiled, or made some other sign that they understood what the other was thinking.
But Legorii and Marick did not need to do even that.
The Mon Calamari, toward the front of the group, finished driving the point of his saber through the throat of a fallen One Sith assailant and turned to face his Proconsul. He did not look like a warrior, at least not in the traditional sense, but he was ferocious. Not for the first time, the Anzat thanked the Force for Troutrooper.
“Get Montresor and Atyiru to the extraction point! They’re both hurt, and Montresor’s unconscious. Can you manage them?”
The Dark Jedi Master seemed to shrug a bit, but Legorii could not quite tell from the distance. He had his hands full returning fire, grasping his BlasTech rifle with both hands and squeezing off rapid bursts of fire into the foliage around them. They were strung out, now, and their enemies were all around them. They needed to get to the command center, and soon. They needed to finish this.
The fire seemed to be thinning a bit, but the Epis did not let up. He pressed ahead, covering Troutrooper as he bent and shouldered Montresor, tossing him over a shoulder with the Dark Side as his aide. The Qel-Droman ducked beneath shot after shot, and more than once he thought he moved too slow. When he was not three paces from the the beleaguered Primarch, Legorii tossed aside his blaster rifle and ignited his lightsaber.
Ahead of them, the Galerans and their Consul had rejoined forces, and were moving steadily, albeit slowly, in the direction of the command center. They noticed Troutrooper moving toward the extraction point, with Montresor over his shoulder and Atyiru staggering alongside him, and did what they could to draw One Sith attention away from them.
Legorii turned his attention away from the trio, and hoped that when the command center fell they would be waiting with a shuttle to get them far, far away. He needed to focus on the task at hand, deflecting and dodging the relentless enemy barrage that seemed to come from everywhere at once. He marvelled at his Proconsul’s speed, and wished he was as sure-footed. Fortunately, Soulflayer more than made up for his shortcomings, and with each roll and snap of his wrist, he moved a step closer toward dying of old age.
The minutes ticked by, sweat beading on the brows of the Arconan pair. Their muscles ached and strained, feebly protesting the punishment they were enduring. The other four showed no sign of waiting, and did not even seem to notice that they were trying to catch up. Legorii’s lip curled, and he thought about how satisfying it would be to pummel his Zabrak counterpart when this was all over. It was not the first time he had thought it.
When Legorii and Marick finally reached the others, the command center loomed before them. As one -- one force, one Clan -- the six Arconans pressed onward.
“How could one of our pilots been a traitor?!” Wuntila snapped the moment he was close enough to stare down into the eyes of his Proconsul.
Teroch, Socorra, and Cethgus exchanged a quick greeting with Legorii, happy to be free of the forest and able to see their target plainly. Teroch unslung his backpack, and began to tinker with his new toy he had been saving for just such an occasion. The remaining three set up a defensive perimeter.
Marick exhaled slowly, looking right back up at his Consul. There were few people that could remain calm when the Dragon had awoken, and the Proconsul was one of them.
“He was vetted-”
“By Oblivion Brigade, yes, your little pet project. And yet somehow despite its existence, we keep finding ourselves knee deep in moles!” Wuntila’s anger flowed freely, yet was still controlled by his indomitable will.
“Sir,” Marick said simply. “He drew a red flag that was brought to my attention. Instead of acting on it, I purposely let him go about his plans. I had no concrete proof, but now we have it, as well as a possible link to any other moles that might be placed within the Brotherhood.”
“You put your entire team in danger for the sake of a hunch?!”
“No. I put the future of the Clan at stake on information I trusted.”
Wuntila sneered behind his helmet. “Do you have any idea-”
“-Whatever necessary, and by any means,” Marick recited, as if reading from a book.
Wuntila started to speak but found his words caught in his throat. Quick as it came, his anger mellowed before slowly fading into the ether.
“Whatever necessary, and by any means to keep the Clan safe...” he repeated slowly.
They were the words of Zandro Erinos, the last thing the late Consul had said before leaving command with Wuntila back on New Tython at the end of the War. Hearing those words seemed to hit a cord. The Consul looked a this Proconsul with a new light. For the first time, instead of seeing the young Hapan simply as his aide, he saw what he truly was. He was the heir to the Serpentine Throne. Arconae. Brother. Mentor. Leader.
“I assume you’ve already taken the necessary action then?” The Consul asked calmly.
Marick nodded. “When he gets back to the Invicta, he’ll have-”
“Uh, I hate to ruin the moment, Chiefs, but we don’t have all day,” Teroch yelled as he finished preparations with his bomb. It was scrappy looking, but both leaders knew that the young Adepts skill with explosives ranked top in the Clan.
“Alright,” Wuntila said, taking three smooth strides to put himself at the head of his team. “Form up on me, guard Teroch with your lives. We need to plant that bomb, get out, and rendezvous with the others at the extraction point.”
“Right, we got this, sir,” Cethgus said with confidence as he started to charge forward.
“Wait-” Wuntila started to say, but the Zabrak was already moving. “Goddamit, move move move!”
The remaining Special Forces team moved with purpose towards the enemy Command Center. Socorra and Legorii’s blasters sang as they drew beads on their targets, picking them off with mechanical purpose. Wuntila and Marick twirled their lightsabers in defensive arcs, keeping their marksman as safe as they could. Cethgus dodged his way through his own follies, slowly separating himself from the group as he pushed forward.
The Arconan cadre made its way to the base of the Command Center, pressing up against the metallic plating. No words were needed as Teroch planted the bomb, his nimble fingers dancing over the tiny set of keys that would arm the explosive. He added a few more sets of triangular, metallic looking devices around the bomb for added flare.
“3, 2...and 1...got it. Let’s get the hell out of here,” Teroch shouted, now bringing out his lightsaber in his free hand.
The team darted and weaved as they fled from the Command Center. Cethgus again managed to pull ahead, eager to make it back. In his gusto, and perhaps his fatigue, he failed to sense the encroaching danger.
Wuntila saw it at the same time he felt it through the Force. The Consul grit his teeth as he accelerated and broke off his run at angle to ram right into Cethgus’s shoulder. The weight of the Dragon’s shoulder blindsided the Entar, sending him staggering off-balance sideways a good few meters away.
The explosion detonated just as Wuntila took Cethgus’ place. The Consul’s armor lit up like a lantern as he hurled through the air, landing some distance away with a loud thunk.
Marick’s eyes widened as emotion cracked through his impassive mask. “No!”
Teroch traced the rocket's trajectory. The Adept fell into the Force, focused his aim, and fired off a trio of perfectly aimed bolts. Some distance away, a cry echoed out as the bullets hit their mark.
They were all tired. Their muscles ached with fatigue. This whole mission, the biohazard hellhole of a planet, the Crusade, and everything that had transpired in the last year was taking its toll. For the Arcona Special Forces team, they had been through it all. For all of that, this was the heaviest blow of them all.
It took Cethgus, Teroch, Legorii and Marick working together to drag the Consul away and safely to the evac shuttle while Socorra did her best to cover their retreat.
The LAAT/i shuttle hissed as it made its final docking with the ISD Eye Of The Abyss II. The ramp to the shuttle opened slowly, and a lone pilot stepped off. Janos removed his helmet to reveal a set of crimson eyes and cerulean skin characteristic to the Chiss. His lean face sported a single scar across his right eye.
Now all that’s left is to steal the rest of those codes while everyone is occupied. The entire strength of Arcona is preoccupied with the invasion, so there shouldn’t be anything to get in my way....
Just as he finished the thought, the Chiss-traitor heard a chorus of growls roll throughout the Hangar bay. When he looked up, he was surrounded by a pack of giant wolf-like creatures of varying size and color. The creatures paced in a circle around him, their leader sitting casually on his hind legs. Kilvin’s steel blue eyes bore into the Chiss’ soul. When he showed his fangs, the full size of the Cythraul really became apparent.
Janos reached for his blaster, but a blur of white fur flashed across his vision. Like her master, Kira’s speed was prime amongst the Cythraul. She tackled the traitor to the floor and took a bite out of his shoulder. Janos shrieked in terror as the rest of the wolves descended upon him, hoping for his end to come soon.
The Cythraul were no ordinary beasts, however. He would live, of course. All traitors needed to be held accountable for their crimes.
Kilvin felt a ripple through the Force that caused his ears to flatten. It was a rare sing for the Alpha to show any sign of weakness, but the weight of knowing something was wrong with his master was just too much. He craned his powerful neck back and let out a howl that engulfed the entire Hangar bay.