Dark Crusade: Prologue Team 4
Welcome to the Dark Crusade Prologue. The following rules are in effect:
1. 250 word minimum per post.
2. 1 post per player, per phase (this will be a three phase run-on separated conducted in 7 day intervals). If a member fails to post during a phase, the team will lose points.
3. Edits may occur on a post until a follow on post has been made (follow on posts include "reserving" a space).
4. Members may reserve post, but no posts can occur until after the reserved post is written.
5. The event will be graded by Raken, Sarin, and Muz using a rubric that focuses on creativity, plot development, realism, and grammar.
1. 1-7 January - Signups, Set up starting posts on 7th
2. 8-14 January - Phase 1 posts, 15th = Sarin post, start new phase.
3. 16-22 January - Phase 2 posts, 23rd = Sarin post, start new phase.
4. 24-31 January - Phase 3 posts, and the joys of grading.
You will find the details for phase one here: http://wiki.darkjedibrotherhood.com/view/Dark_Crusade_-_Prologue
The Temple Boyna
Cold. Callous. Captivating. It was no place for the meek. To walk through its heavy dark stone doors demanded a steely determination, and an assuredness that could not be taught. It fed on fear; arteries of dark energy pulsated underfoot just waiting for a victim, waiting for prey. But the temple was more than a predator, it was an institution. A relic in its own right, it paid homage to the Obelisk discipline warfare. And, once inside, it became evident what purpose the temple truly served.
Wide hallways and tall ceilings stretched out further than the eye could see. Weaponry in all its twisted forms adorned alcoves interspersed by dark marble pillars. Candlelight flickered with an ephemeral breeze throwing dancing shadows across a polished onyx floor. And Teroch didn’t see any of it.
The Adept stalked through the now-comforting passageways with the easy familiarity of a man at home in his surroundings (never mind the fact that the Temple Boyna was a millenia-old mausoleum of cackling self-congratulation to the Obelisk Order). He’d been given his orders: to prevent Wuntila and Marick Arconae from seizing control of the SSD Avenger II for Arcona, rather than the Dark Council. He was the Iron Throne’s envoy, enforcer, and most importantly of all, it’s insurance, ostensibly assigned to assist in the Arconan contingent’s efforts to capture the goliath Destroyer.
Nobody bought that for a second, of course, but pretenses had to be observed, and everyone had their part to play. Teroch more so than most. The worst of it was that he had to rely on his former comrades for transport. Thus, he made his way further and further up the innards of the Temple until he emerged on the roof of the highest tower, his eyes scanning the sky-line for the tell-tale engine lights of Pendragon I.
YCHT Pendragon I
En route to rendezvous
ETA: 1 hour
Commissioned upon the Dragon’s ascension to the Serpentine Throne, the Starwind class- pleasure yacht had been re-fitted for the sole use of the Consul of Clan Arcona. A mobile bunker designed to protect and shelter the Shadow Lord, the pleasure yacht’s more luxurious adornments had been stripped in favour of more utilitarian design. The result was a sophisticated and highly-modern command hub, complete with a designated outfit of the Arconan summit guard.
Wuntila Entar Arconae held his helmet at his hip as he gazed out of the transparisteel viewport. Clad in his Aegis armour - a gift from the Dark Lord himself - the Consul struck quite a figure against the starscape ahead. The armour was a magnificent example of craftsmanships; bristling with horns, teeth, and heavy durasteel scales that rumbled as he moved. The helmet, made of the same durasteel, was fashioned into the head of a dragon, and the visor was a glistening sheet of tinted amber, cast in the image of a dragon’s breath ablaze. The accompanying lightsaber - Dragonsbreath - dangled from his belt. Another gift from Lord Ashen for his aptitude in handling Arcona in light of Zorran’s assault.
The Consul contemplated Arcona’s future. The clan was stable, strong. It was in a prime position. They had claimed New Tython in their victory over the Jedi; fought off the plague, and aided Plagueis with their invaders. The only sensible thing would be to capitalise on this momentum, and the Arconae had already formulated a plan.
The assignment was simple: get in and secure the hangar bay. The Consul had been given his choice of team. That was, save for one. Teroch Erinos, the man responsible for numerous attempts on the Dragon’s life, would be accompanying them.
“Are you sure about this?” A voice from behind pulled the Dragon from his thoughts.
“Are you questioning my judgment, Marick?” Wuntila didn’t blink, or even turn his head. His tone was calm and steady.
“Of course not, your Excellence,” The Proconsul replied, seemingly unaffected by his Consul’s response.
“Then I’m sure you have preparations to make?”
“As you wish,” Marick replied curtly, turning to leave. If not for the Force, Wuntila wouldn’t have noticed the Hapan at all. Despite any of their differences, if there was one person the always wary Consul trusted above any, it was his Proconsul, and the closest thing he shared to a brother.
Rare were the times when both the Consul and Proconsul worked together on a given mission. In the past it had always been one or the other - one leading from the trenches while the other stayed behind and coordinated the Arconan war effort. If one should fall, the other would stand to fill the void, but in all of their history serving the Shadow Clan, Wuntila and Marick had never shared a combat mission. The stakes had been set high, however, and after much debate amongst the Arconae it was decided that only Arcona’s best would suffice in the completion of the task at hand. Timeros would stay at Arcona’s helm; the Dragon and the Flash would go out to claim an Arconan victory. It was only fitting for a group of such calibre.
The Hapan glided with wraith-like silence towards the bridge’s exit, knowing his Consul would be moments behind him, his steps barely audible above the quiet din of the crew. The Arconans aboard the yacht were to a man and woman known and respected by the Summit members present. Now, in the face of Marick’s laser-like focus on the tasks that lie ahead, they were mostly faceless, excepting a pair who’d been called for very specific reasons - at the Dragon’s own request, no less - aboard the vessel.
One face belonged to a relative newcomer to the Shadow Clan’s ranks. Tsainetomo Keibatsu. The Kyataran half-breed’s tripartite eye caught the Proconsul’s for the briefest of moments; a slight nod of the head the only exchange required between the two. The Primarch cocked an eyebrow at Wuntila’s back in the best way the Keibatsu knew how in order to show deference, wordlessly falling into step a few paces behind Marick. The Proconsul motioned curtly to the other Arconan standing by.
Quaestor of House Qel Droma, Socorra Erinos had more than earned her stripes and position, and Tsainetomo watched as she fell in beside Marick, the pair’s hushed exchange hurried yet concise as the Proconsul made inquiries and his subordinate read from a datapad. Tsainetomo had observed the two’s unique relationship closely since coming to Arcona, and could tell even without the Force something was wrong. There was an unspoken chill drifting between the two. The Korun-Kei trusted in his Proconsul, though, and kept his thoughts to himself.
The crew’s Deck Officer’s crisp soprano rang out just before the hatch slid closed behind the trio. “Excellency, reversion in three...two...” The rest was lost to Sai behind a foot of durasteel, and he felt a slight shudder as the Pendragon slid from the miasmic blanket of hyperspace to the pinpricked curtain of the void.
A thought traced itself along the Keibatsu’s lobe, the man pondering the strange circumstance that had spirited them all away from the protective bulwark of Selen.
A lifetime ago, the Apostate of Sadow would have relished the thought of being placed on a ship with the fruits of Arcona’s power structure just begging to be plucked. Now, the Korun-Kyataran knew that, despite his might, words still ruled his world. It was by the Summit members aboard’s words and theirs alone that still kept him alive in a Clan that still largely mistrusted him.
Sai intended to keep it that way, his jaw set in silent resolve, the trio moving with surety towards their destination just as the yacht knifed towards its own.
Teroch didn’t have to wait long. The star fell from the sky and as it came closer and closer to the lone tower in the wastes of Adas, grew in shape and size until he was able to pick out the aurebesh letters marking it as the Pendragon I on the underside of its hull. Its pilot shifted until the boarding ramp was just a few meters from the lip of the tower, but didn’t set down (they were in a hurry, after all). Shouldering his bag, the Obelisk made the short jump easily, and didn’t spare a look back as the Yacht pulled away from the Temple, its boarding ramp still raising as the craft gained altitude. He was met by Tsainetomo, who smirked at the youth, briefly grasping forearms, helping him onto the reassuring flat surface of the lower deck proper.
“Su’cuy, Sai. How’re things?”
Tsainetomo Keibatsu ruffled his charge’s hair, a rare smile belaying the force of the shove he gave the youth; Teroch shuffled back a step as Sai responded. “Oh, me? I can’t complain-”
“But you do anyway.” Teroch finished, dropping his bag carelessly on the ground by his feet.
“I suppose we’d better get this out of the way. I’ve not seen He-who-must-be-obeyed since...”
“Since you leaked intel to Plagueis about Operation Rolling Thunder, only weeks after trying to kill the Consul?”
The former Arconae merely grinned and shrugged, offering no explanation for his actions.
The pair proceeded towards the main conference room, where the rest of the hastily-assembled team were waiting. Marick was sat at the large table with Socorra, whilst Wuntila had his back to the room and was staring intently at a technical readout of the SSD Avenger II. He didn’t turn around when the hatch hissed open.
Tsainetomo stood at the door’s jamb, gesturing for Teroch to walk through before crossing his arms and leaning against the bulkhead.
“You’re not coming?”
“Phrasing; also, no,” the Primarch responded. He looked down, suddenly interested in a grimy fingernail. “This ain’t my lane, bud.” It was Sai’s way of saying he was minding his business on this one. He didn’t have to be present at the aforementioned events to know that the sting was still there. Besides, the Force was simmering, such was the mood of Dragon. Teroch rolled his eyes before striding through the still open doorway.
“Su’cuy, ner’vod. Teroch said amiably, addressing Socorra, who got up, leaving Marick staring behind her and, smiling, gently butted heads with her younger ‘brother’.
“Be nice.” she warned him quietly.
Predictably, he was not.
“Marick. I hear you’ve been a naughty boy.” he chided, rounding on the Hapan, who bristled and shot a look at Socorra, who had the grace to blush.
Marick didn’t say a word, but his eyes narrowed dangerously and his jaw locked as he bit down on his molars. Teroch knew he’d have better luck goading a gargoyle to reaction, but had still gotten what he’d wanted out of the simple exchange.
“Whatever. Just, if you’re going to bed the interns, make sure the Plagueians don’t shoot them in the face. It doesn’t work out so hot for morale. Might find your bed cold at night if you keep up that sort of-”
“Teroch. Enough.” Socorra said firmly, placing a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“Slice, sis! You nearly crushed me with those rancor-mitts! Careful!”
Breath hissed through the Quaestor’s teeth in disgust, Socorra cuffed him around the ear, but he was saved from rebutting by Wuntila turning to face the others.
“Teroch, we have a job to do. Why the Dark Council forced you upon us is beyond me, however, whilst you are on this mission, you will do as you’re told. Clear?”
The youth burst out laughing, pretending to lean on the table to stop himself from falling over. “Do as I’m told? Elder, aruetii. I outrank you. Oh, and as to why I’m here, it’s simple if you stopped for a half-second, which I know is a big ask: I’m here to stop you and your skinny little yes-man from taking the Avenger for yourselves. Consider me the Dark Council’s envoy.”
Wuntila’s eyes widened slightly, but other than that, he kept his composure.. “I was assigned this mission by the Iron Throne. You will defer to me on this-”
“I’d like to see you try and make me, gar di’kut’la chakaar.”
“Basic, Ter. He doesn’t speak Mando’a.” Socorra murmured beside him.
Wuntila’s massive gauntleted hand twitched towards the saber hanging at his belt, but he made a fist, exhaled and speared Teroch with a glare which would've melted bulkheads.
“My ship. My rules. You’ll do as you say, or risk killing us all. The Avenger is packed with Dark Jedi, we have to work as a team. It’s just that simple.”
“Hmm, must’ve landed pretty close to the mark with the whole ‘Stealing the Avenger’ thing to get you this riled up, huh? mir’osik..”
Wuntila didn’t need to speak the Mandalorian’s savage tongue to know what that meant. With a snarl, his hand went for his lightsaber-
Marick was faster. He was at the Consul’s side in a second, seizing his wrist with both his hands, leaning in close. “Don’t. I can’t imagine it’d look that great to the Dark Council if we killed their...envoy minutes into the mission.”
Teroch merely smirked across the room, satisfied that he’d made his point. “Whatever. I’ll be a good little drone and do as I’m told for now. Call me when something interesting happens.”
He didn’t wait for a response, but slunk out of the Conference room, hands in pockets.
Sighing, Wuntila shrugged Marick off him and leant on the table, as if exhausted. “I really hate that boy.”
YCHT Pendragon I
The din of hushed voices came to an abrupt halt as Wuntila walked into the briefing room, bringing with him his usual overbearing presence. Walking with a grace not taught but learned, he had his shoulders set back to accentuate his bullish build. To his right was Captain Bly; to his left was a thick-necked, dark-skinned Selenian, adorned in an understated black turtleneck and dark grey uniform pants. Despite a lack of any insignia, the Arconans had no doubts as to his identity: Captain Conway Stern, commanding officer of the Pendragon I.
The accompaniment of the Consul by the ship’s commanding officer was usually a formality - the officer would leave as the meeting commenced - however, Captain Stern’s service in the Dajorra Intelligence Agency combined with his wealth of knowledge of all things spaceworthy made him a worthy informant when considering the rudimentary plans of the Avenger II provided by the Dark Council.
“I believe it is time to begin our preparations.” Wuntila walked up, placed his helmet on the lip of the holoprojector and loaded up the diagram of the Avenger II. A scaled-down wire-framed projection of the Super-class Star Destroyer materialised in front of the quorum. The projection cut-away to a cross-section of an auxiliary hangar. “This is where we’re headed. Auxiliary Hangar 113-B. Other strike teams have been assigned along the B-level hangars; we’re one of many-”
“Don’t forget your ulterior motive, mighty ori'jagyc.” Teroch interjected. Socorra snapped a glare at the former Arconan.
Wuntila responded the boy with a glance. He calculated him for a moment. Contrary to popular belief, Wuntila did understand a small amount of Mando'a, but he would not rise to the Erinos' taunts. “As I was saying, we’re one of many units who have been assigned to board the Avenger. I don’t intend to fail our mission, but don’t expect us to follow the edicts of the powers-that-be to the letter. Captain Stern will inform you of the infiltration specifics.”
“Captain Stern?” Teroch quipped. “I have to ask, is that turtleneck official uniform? Oh, and is it restricted to black, or is there a slightly darker black?”
“I have five in black, five in darker black. They’re in my quarters. And no, they’re not official uniform. Although that garish jacket does not become you.” The Captain winked.
“A little like your complexion, eh di’kut?”
Captain Stern clasped his hands in the small of his back; a smile teased at the corners of his mouth. “Are you quite finished?”
Teroch rolled his eyes and molded his fist into the shape of a holocommunicator.“Uh, hello?” He paused, nodded, and let his hand drop to his side. ”Yeah, the Clone Wars called. They want their clothes back. Teroch Erinos... out.” with that, he left.
Conway Stern followed Teroch with his gaze as he left. “Any more interruptions before we begin?” Silence followed. “Good. The little information we have received will see us dropped into hangar 113-B,” The Captain gestured to the enlarged wire-framed cross-section. “The Shroud will work in our favour; their cannons will be next to useless and it gives us the aspect of surprise. There’s no telling what could be in there troop-wise - I’ll leave that in all of your capable hands - but I can say, given the high-risk nature of this drop, we’re going to need a quick infil.”
The Captain stopped for a short while. He caught Wuntila’s gaze and then recomposed himself in front of the Arconans. “Are you all familiar with the concept of live-jumping?” ...
Teroch was found only minutes after the briefing by Tsainetomo. The Erinos was pulling on a black body suit with a lot of clasps. The Keibatsu watched in silence as he attached various plates to the garment before finally clipping on a number of harnesses and belts.
“Seriously? You’re going to wear that? Didn’t Arcona pay for it?” Tsainetomo finally spoke.
Teroch looked up and grinned mischievously whilst slipping some grenades into a pouch. “I lifted it when I jumped ship. It’s good tech!”
“It’s Soulfire Strike Team’s Das’verd armour, reserved for the Force-sensitive squad, which was disbanded by Wuntila after you left. Wearing that will just rub salt in the wound.”
“Exactly! I want to stick it to Wun-”
SSD Avenger II
Auxiliary Hangar 113-B
Zoraan’s fleet had come to the Antei system willingly, swayed by silver-tongued promises of glory behind a breath of pestilence. They’d thought to break the unbreakable. To destroy the immutable.
To do the impossible.
Instead, they had been delivered unto death by one who was now himself, dead. Now, they fled in their last bastion, hoping against hope that they could, somehow, navigate the Shroud and escape the Brotherhood who, even now, dogged them relentlessly.
The feeling that they’d soon join their ill-chosen Master in oblivion haunted every man on board, electrified every woman’s nerve. The crew went about securing the SSD for impacts - they were, after all, attempting to plow their way through a nightmare of rocks and space detritus - and their every movement was furtive. Hurried.
Even down to the smallest spaces aboard ship, the air was thick with tension. Indeed, in the tiny (by relative measures) hangar, the cadre of troopers were moving faster than they’d had in months. It was easy, considering the Dark Jedi whips at their backs and teeth at their heels.
A squadron of men struggled to secure a rack of battle-droids. They were sloppy in their nervousness, and their exertions made sweat roll down their faces within the tight confines of their battle-helms.
One trooper, noticing his Force-using taskmaster otherwise occupied, straightened and stretched his back. He removed his helmet to wipe his eyes and stopped, transfixed on the ray-shielded bay opening, the edges glowing ethereally.
He didn’t even have time to piss his trousers as the prow of the Pendragon slid through the bay, the sleek yacht wheeling about with her engines roaring. Just as when the Arconans had picked up Teroch, the ramp was again open; this time, the ship vomited five beings who had no business being aboard.
Worse, they had no intentions of leaving, as evidenced by the Pendragon’s completion of its turn and exiting the hangar as quickly as it had come.
SSD Avenger II
Auxiliary Hangar 113-B
Blasters erupted in a wild flurry. Torrents of white-hot plasma, slugs and concussive rounds tore through spacecraft, machinery and men. Debris erupted in impressive displays as confusion combined with anxiety. The troopers fired blindly, most still disoriented from the assailing vessel’s surprise attack, and the orders barked by the coterie of Force-using taskmasters were drowned out by the frenzied cries of men struggling in vain against their destruction.
Lights flickered. Sparks flew. Only one source of solid light broke the lapsing darkness: a mass of hissing blades at the hangar’s opening.
However lax, the troopers had finally coordinated their attack. Sporadic waves of blaster fire assaulted the collection of moving blades as they widened their circle. One, two, three, four attackers became more defined as a veil of emerald emergency lighting enveloped the hangar.
The Arconan cadre hit the ground running, sabers hissing and blasters barking in time with the merry chatter of an auto-repeater as they broke off on their respective paths, each one a finely tuned cog in a well-oiled war machine.
And then there was the fifth member. Teroch strode calmly into the center of the hangar bay, drawing as much attention to himself as possible. His cocksure grin stretched from ear to ear as he deflected away the initial volley of blaster bolts that came his way, one ricocheting off into a trooper's face. The Adept darted behind him, using him as a shield against the next set of blaster bolts aimed his way. As the soldier's body convulsed and absorbed the flurry of sizzling hyphens, Teroch hurled the smoking mass into the other troopers before leaping through the air and carving his way through the rest.
By the time Tsainetomo had made it to the Adept’s side, the platoon lie in a heap of severed limbs and cauterized flesh.
“Did you see that?! Totally ninja,” Teroch boasted as he thumbed his nose with his free hand.
Sai would have rolled his eyes, but instead focused on the group of battle-droids that replaced the fallen troopers and sparing an analytic thought for the youth. 'Left nothing behind when he left Arcona...still has everything to prove.' His body tensed slightly, filled with the Dark Side's oily fire just as his fist found his hilt. The sunburst blade of Nenshogeru blazed hungrily as the Primarch burst into action, his locks streaming freely against an unseen wind. Circuits sizzled and sparked, mechanical appendages flying through the air like so much trash before the tempest that was the Keibatsu.
On the other side of the hangar, Marick Arconae opened his senses to the Force, stretching out to get a better idea of what they were facing. The bulk of the opposition was closing in on Teroch and Sai, but if anything the Hapan worried more for the enemy troops than his teammates. The initial panic was starting to fade, however, and troopers were scattering along the far corners of the hangar bay and scrambling to get the defense turrets operational.
“Take out those gunners before they can get those turrets up!” Marick snapped a command over his shoulder as he deflected a series of stray blaster bolts.
“No shit,” Socorra snapped back through gritted teeth, taking cover behind disarrayed cargo and settling into a sniper’s position. The Quaestor channeled her frustrations inward and augmented her line of sight through the Force, and with practiced ease, depressed the trigger of her rifle.
Marick looked back over his shoulder, clearly not pleased with his subordinate’s response. His face was an impassive mask, but his eyes smacked of displeasure.
“I don’t care for your tone,” Marick turned half-way towards the only woman for which the Hapan had ever truly cared.
“Deal with it,” she spat back, unblinking and leading another target in the scope.
In a rare display of emotion, the Proconsul sneered and turned away, his mind snapping back to the more pertinent task at hand.
Apparently, one of the enemy squad-leaders had organized his men and directed their attention towards the boarding parties' marksman. Brave soldiers hooted and hollered as they charged in, their confidence bolstered by the rogue Force-users scattered amongst their ranks.
Their charge was met by a lone, silent figure who stood at least a head taller than their largest. Clad from head to toe in obsidian-scaled armor, he stood against the oncoming wave like the rock face of an island in defiance of a tempest.
The figure’s lightsaber sprung to life, azure flame spitting from the dragon-head emitter and condensing into a concentrated blade.
The Shadow Lord and Consul of Clan Arcona raised Dragonsbreath above his head and lunged forward.
The Dragon of Selen had woken.
Etiquette and poise, red-tape and politics, endless amounts of paperwork and reports. Every choice weighed heavily and judged, every decision quantified into the black and white world of right and wrong. The consequences for even the slightest of actions spawned infinite webs of variables far beyond the limits of plausible introspection. Sleepless nights were spent planning, coordinating, and debating. Paranoia loomed in the shadows like a specter in the night.
Such were the burdens of leadership.
All of it was lost to Wuntila as his focus honed in to the chaos around him. Any doubts in the Consul’s mind were reduced to dull whispers, drowned by a warriors resolve and fueled by his dedication to his Clan and his namesake. Failure to complete his mission was not an option. It was not fear that gripped him, though. Just a heightened sense of his surroundings..
The Arconae gave in to his more primal nature, feeding on the hunger he kept shackled and locked inside him like a caged animal. The excitement of battle made his muscles teem with fiery adrenaline. The chains that kept the beast inside at bay had snapped.
The Dragon of Selen let out a fearsome battle cry as he surged forward, faster than any creature his size had a right to. It instilled a moment of doubt in the soldiers making up the tip (and just that) of the enemy formation. The first trooper shrieked as he felt his visor shatter into shards that shredded his face as it connected solidly with Wuntila’s plated elbow. The troopers body sailed backwards and into another soldier, who in turn tripped up a third. Wuntila continued forward, unabated, dipping low and sweeping the next closest soldier’s legs out from under him with his lightsaber.
A dark skinned Zabrak in white flowing robes threw himself at the Consul, crimson saber igniting along the way. Everything around Wuntila slowed to a crawl as he cocked his head, dipped his shoulder and took a step purposefully into the Dark Jedi’s trajectory. Bones crunched as the Zabrak’s sternum collided with the Dragon’s armored pauldron. With a mighty shrug, the Human-Theelin launched the stunned Dark Jedi over his shoulder and into one of his companions, toppling them both to the floor.
Blaster fire sprayed towards him, and one or two bolts managed to graze either side of Wuntila’s Aegis armor. Not so much as a dent appeared in the scaled plating, nor did it seem to register as anything more than a simple scratch. Wuntila impaled another trooper through the chest with a one handed thrust, pulling free, and slashing across the chest of the next soldier in line, a guttural roar resonating from beneath his helmet.
Lead by a woman with emerald robes and golden hair, a complement of security droids attempted to flank the Consul. Powerful as the Dragon was, he was but one warrior amongst a sea of foes, and the female Dark Jedi thought to make a name for herself by taking out the enemy’s largest threat.
Her plan was cut short as a pair of her faithful battle droids crashed into one another by an unseen force. She felt the ripple through the Force and turned to where she expected to see her attacker, violet lightsaber snapping to life. All she caught was a streak of motion; long raven hair and a dark cloak blurring like a black flash over the hangar bay's flat lighting.
Marick Arconae weaved his way through the throng of battle droids, never stopping or staying in the same place for more than a heartbeat. The female Dark Jedi sneered and urged her droids forward, ordering them to focus their fire on their new target. Sensing the shift in attention, the Hapan instinctively launched himself through the air and into a somersault, neatly avoiding the volley of blaster fire. As his boots touched down gracefully on the durasteel floor, he planted and swiveled into a tight spin. His lightsaber licked out around him like a pinwheel of fluorescent death, carving the droids into nothing but scrap metal.
An invisible fist slammed into the Arconan Proconsul, staggering him backwards. The female Dark Jedi was on him in an instant, swinging her lightsaber angrily with both hands. Her emerald blade seared right through the black fabric of Marick’s cloak, which had somehow detached itself from his person. Instinct alone saved the rogue Knight from losing her head as Marick circled around her and raked his saber against her neck. The woman ducked the Hapan’s strike and countered with a flurry of two-handed swings. She hit nothing but air as the Ataru Master deftly leapt, inverted his body so that his toes pointed towards the ceiling, and slashed downwards with his lightsaber across the top of her skull to split it in two.
As his momentum carried his feet back to the ground, Marick landed in a perfect crouch with his saber hand thrust out to the side for balance. Rising and turning, he looked out over the hangar bay and caught a glimpse of Wuntila finishing off the last of his prey.
The unfortunate rogue Knight wore the violet robes of a Krath, and had the pleasure of being the last of her squadron to be left standing. Wuntila hacked the Krath’s saber hand away at the forearm, causing him to screech in agony. In the same motion, the Human-Theelin palmed the poor man’s skull, tightened his grip and tore it free from the rest of his body, blood spraying out like a fountain and spattering against his obsidian armor.
Marick winced, reminded again of why it was never best to awaken the Dragon.
The din of combat was muted in her mind as Socorra drew a bead on a runner, leading him slightly with the rifle. Two heartbeats went by, and an inhale. On the exhale, the Mandalorian woman delicately pulled the trigger back with her experienced finger, dropping the enemy like a rock, a mess of gore splattering over the deck like a hammered melon.
The emotionless cold of a sniper coursed through her veins as she panned over to find another live target. Sweeping over a commotion, she immediately spied Wuntila through the scope, his massive frame nearly completely filling it out. A roar emitted from behind his visor with all the fierceness of a rancor as the Consul alone destroyed much of a full platoon. Another black-clad figure entered the fray with energetic steps, his raven hair cascading around him as his teal lightsaber blade gracefully sliced the air and into their foes. Wuntila was a force to be reckoned with all himself, but with Marick at his side, they were unstoppable.
The scope hovered dangerously on the pair for a long moment, until irritation finally filtered up into Socorra's consciousness and her cold, pale eyes narrowed. Marick had abandoned her at Jusadih to aid Wuntila back in Dajorra, and she had to fight her way out of a hot combat zone alone, resulting in a blast to the face. Kal Vorrac, her would-be murderer in the Great Jedi War, had barely brought her back from the brink of death. Numerous bacta baths and burn scars later, the former desert nomad was finally fit for combat again, her raven tresses singed short and temperament changed as well.
Teroch had hit the nail on the proverbial head with his biting words. 'Just, if you’re going to bed the interns, make sure the Plagueians don’t shoot them in the face.'
The woman growled as she recalled it, angrily panning away from the couple and back into the hangar at large. 'And just where are you, little brother?'
Long black dreadlocks tipped with electrum cuffs caught her attention, whipping wildly in the fray as much as Sai's weapon did. It was clear that the Primarch was happiest in battle, as was his comrade and student next to him; both men seemingly reckless in their actions and choosing to revel in the moment, each man’s wide smile situationally inappropriate and mirrors of each other.
“No, no, kid; you’re swinging too wild. See? Ya gotta rotate your arm at the elbow. S’all about the ‘follow-through’ and how you grip the shaft. Is my cousin teaching you anything?”
Sai’s pointer and Teroch’s response sounded more like athletes discussing how best to hit a ball rather than warriors refining the best way to dismember an opponent; a friendly conversation in the midst of a deadly whirlwind.
Point of fact, Teroch’s blade did just that to the remaining three troopers that faced them while Sai stopped for a moment, gulping great lungfuls of air, his chest rising and falling while he rested. His tripartite eyes scanned the area, finding Wuntila and Marick mopping up the remainder of the droids and sentients that faced them, then Socorra from her overwatch perch. The Primarch’s ear caught a whirring, and he furtively cast his gaze about. He knew the tan-skinned Quaestor was watching him...but not the manned turret that was inexorably turning to aim at her.
Too far to shout a warning and too slow (compared to Marick) to get to her, the Korun-Kei instead drew upon an obscene amount of the Dark Side, then released it from his free hand, the fingers hooked into claws. A purplish-white column of energy erupted from his palm, smashing machinery and pulping the flesh of the holdout inside.
The Battlemaster’s trained eye instinctively followed the path of Sai’s Force Blast, blinking to clear the ghost-like after-image away. Craning her rifle and scope along the track of his attack, she saw the ragged remains of what promised to be her Death by Perforation.
Sighing in relief, Socorra moved the rifle back to Tsainetomo, who filled her scope. She flashed a quick hand-sign, signifying thanks, but Sai didn’t move. He simply...stared back.
And winked. Slowly.
Socorra felt her pulse quicken, and it wasn’t from the adrenaline coursing through her system because of the fight.
With that, the massacre within the hangar was over as quickly as it had begun. The hull of the SSD resounded with the dull thumps of the Shroud’s debris striking the skin of the ship, while from within came the muffled explosions from the other strike teams’ efforts and the warning claxons blaring in their ears. The space was bathed in the intermittent flashing of the emergency lighting, and the scene was cast alternatively in both darkness and an ominous amber.
The foursome began to regroup and Socorra finally bent away from the scope, taking in the cadre of formidable Obelisks with a naked, pale eye.
'Even if I were an Obelisk, I'd still not be among them.'
The Consul’s gauntleted fist released the remains of a droid’s head and it clattered to the deck, joining the rest of its body where Dragonsbreath had dispatched it in a scorched heap a second earlier. His strides were sure as he approached Marick, Teroch and Sai. The synchronous sibilance of extinguished lightsabers punctuated the finality of their act.
It was brazen. Lethal.
And, it was only the beginning.
“Status?” Wuntila’s voice echoed out over the significantly less crowded hangar bay.
“Clear,” Marick replied curtly, brushing the folds of his white sleeveless robes.
“Yup,” Tsainetomo said in a relaxed baritone.
“Peachy,” Teroch replied lightly, pausing for a moment and then frowning. “Wait, I had something for this...”
“Socorra?!” The Consul bellowed out, preemptively cutting the youth off.
“Clear,” the Quaestor yelled back.
While the sounds of battle had drowned out, the incessant shrill of warning alarms still rang out across the hangar bay.
“Right,” Wuntila’s voice reverted to its typical, authoritative tone. His fist clenched around a dismembered droid arm that was still in hand, crushing it into scraps like a stress-ball. “We need to-” he started to explain before gritting his teeth and spiking the droid arm to the ground and shattering it pieces.
“Socorra!” The Consul barked. “Get those alarms turned off or so help me, I will get Old Republic on something.” The cadence of the Dragon’s voice was laced with anger, yet somehow never escalated beyond his normal speaking level.
Socorra wordlessly leapt from her perch to the deck, her deft hands delving within her slicer’s kit, as she trotted towards the hatch to obey Wuntila’s order. Likewise, without being asked, Marick moved quietly to a bulkhead, prying it open to access the panel in hopes of shutting down the flashing lights.
Sai deliberately turned away. He didn’t need to look at the woman to envision her movements. He thought of a time before he discovered his birthright, his kinship to the Brotherhood’s Grandmaster himself... to when a desert sun relentlessly baked resolve into a younger version of himself, as surely as the wind-whipped sands scoured away his initial weaknesses.
And in Socorra, who’d been birthed on a similar arid world, he knew there was a kinship there. She must have known the hardship, the loneliness, of a life carved by unforgiving harshness of both the land and the people who inhabited it. He knew what it took to truly break free of such a land, and such a people, and it required much, much more than passage off-world.
Sai was of the mind to approach her about that, and would be more overt about watching her were it not for two things: chiefly, Marick, their mutual respect and friendship forged in blood and battle, his affinity for well-tanned, well-built women being the other.
And if something happened to change his view of one thing, he’d be likely to indulge his taste for the other.
Instead, the Keibatsu distracted himself with thoughts of witnessing, even briefly, the Consul in battle. ‘I’ll give Zratian this: he can hold his own in a scrap.’ Sai smiled inwardly as he counted the credits Wuntila had just earned with him in proving that he was more than just a admin leader; the Consul was definitely not afraid to get his hands filthy. Still, he couldn’t help but feel for the man. Sai, too, had been Consul, had known the pressures and self-imposed sacrifices the office required. And was equally familiar with the need for an outlet. Sai nodded his head appreciatively.
As if reading his thoughts, Teroch sidled up beside him, looking at Wuntila. “Osik, that guy needs a friend...or a hug...or something!”
Sai replied absently, thinking that Teroch was trying a little too hard to get under the Consul’s skin. And of making a point to show that he was. Wuntila, for his part, seemed to be a little too tolerant of the youth, especially given his ferocious reputation.
A matter to be tabled, but not forgotten. “Subtle, kid. I hope you can still laugh when you’re our age and seen what we’ve seen.”
“You think this stuff bothers me? Sai, I’ll be laughing even when I go to join the manda,” Teroch’s confidence was almost - almost - lost amidst the petulant arrogance of his tone; a mere consequence of his youth. “Can’t help it: too pretty.”
“We agree. He is pretty.”
Before the unknown voice spoke, Socorra had been smiling at her brother’s antics, and as such was distracted from her opening of the door. Wuntila was glowering from behind his helm, his Proconsul’s hand on his shoulder preventing him from voicing his distaste for the idle banter.
A moment as fleeting as any other, they were all still distracted enough that they failed to notice the hatch opening before the Quaestor’s efforts should’ve been successful, their ears barely registering the silken voice lilting from the other side. They immediately failed to notice the lithe, sinuous form of the young woman, wrapped in a form-fitting, krayt-skin bodysuit, shocks of dark hair severely framing her ruby-lipped, porcelain toned face...or the already lit lightsabers that matched them that the door revealed as if in some burlesque review. Had they been diligent, they would’ve thought the woman radiated the promise of excruciatingly delightful punishments to come.
Instead, they were introduced to her by Socorra’s smiling form being lifted bodily by an unseen force and slammed abruptly, violently, to the deck. The slicer’s kit skittered away from the Battlemaster’s hands, coming to rest at Wuntila’s feet.
The remaining four Obelisk snapped into action, the sudden brutality of the attack serving as a cattle-prod. Sai drew his auto-repeater, the weapon jackhammering just as it cleared its worn-leather holster.
The woman at the hatch smiled - smiled - even in the face of Sai’s fusillade, and at the approach of Marick, who was a full two steps ahead of Wuntila and Teroch. But, as they had not disabled the flashing of the lighting, the group was suddenly bathed in brief darkness that was shattered by the muzzle-flash of Sai’s slugthrower.
They took a second to clear their vision with the Force, but a second was all it took. The woman at the hatch was gone.
Their nerves were a collective mass of live wire, causing the briefest hesitation as they contemplated both the woman and the moaning Socorra. Marick took a solitary step towards the Battlemaster.
“Oh, we think this one’s pretty, too!”
Marick, the Force screaming a warning in his ear, was suddenly clutched within an invisible fist, momentarily halting his steps. Still, the shock of it was enough to keep him from warning Tsainetomo, who was floored by a kick to the head a second later. Wuntila made to turn to face whatever attacked his Gatewarden when he was forced to bring his lightsaber up in a hasty defense, the blade spitting as two opposing beams beat a stacatto rhythm against it. The Dragon engaged in a furtive bit of swordplay before his attacker inexplicably broke off, the lightsabers winking out in the dark.
The Keibatsu’s hand went to his face as he got to one knee. “Man...didn’t see that coming.” He glared at Marick, who had broken free of whatever had held him and joined Teroch and Wuntila in activating his lightsaber. “No warning? No heads-up? No, ‘hey, watch out for the fast, face-kickin’ dungeon bitch!’? I thought we were better than that, Marick.”
Marick didn’t reply, and instead hurried over to check on Socorra. The corners of the woman's eyes tightened as she waved her Proconsul’s offered hand away and rose by her own accord. The Hapan bit down on his molars and turned back towards his team.
“You’re just mad ‘cause she got the drop on you,” chided Teroch, ever eager to watch Sai eat his share of humble pie...no matter how rare the serving.
Wuntila’s voice was low as he crouched, his blade held horizontally across his waist and carving a constant becon in the intermittent lighting. “No, Teroch. I don’t think that ‘she’ did.”
“Zratian’s right,” Sai said, getting to his feet. “Anyone fast enough to pull off that bit of ass-kickery is sure to be somewhere else, not an auxiliary hangar. Plus, that last voice was deeper.”
“Now that you mention it,” began Teroch, “she was talking in the third person. I mean, who does that?!”
The Dragon stepped forward and commanded, “Show yourselves.” There was no mistaking his intent to be obeyed. Yet, the only response was a laugh some way behind them from within a toppled mound of crates.
Darkness returned. “We like the pretty one...” The voice was close now. A silken chorus from the ethereal. Teroch felt a wisp of warm breath on his neck and turned, his lightsaber bursting back into life. A shadow slinked off into the distance, veiled by the amber glow emanating from the Erinos’ lightsaber. “We want him...” Teroch felt the breath again and spun on the ball of his foot. Another hourglass shadow slinked off into the blackness.
“I think she’s missing the point...” Teroch jibed as the light returned. “I don’t play well with hookers. Especially female ones.”
“The correct term is ‘consort’,” Socorra corrected, scanning the hangar bay. “They’re only hookers when they’re dead.”
“Enough.” Wuntila barked.
“Ah, well, we suppose we’ve toyed with you enough. Reaper?” The woman stepped out from behind the still smouldering remains of a blaster-riddled crate. Her easy manner and mischievous grin were offset by the chromed cylinders in her hands and the searing blades of white and red they erupted.
At their backs came the aforementioned slightly deeper voice. “Yes, Frost, you’re right.” A similar - no, identical - woman at the group’s backs stepped into a shaft of light, her garments and weapons the same as the first. Her lip curled seductively. “Let’s get serious.”
“Twins, Marick. Twins!” Teroch whispered loudly into the Hapan’s ear.
“Nice read, Thrawn,” Marick replied coldly without missing a beat. His cerulean eyes never left their opponent.
Teroch didn’t seem overly concerned with the present situation and was much more intrigued with the retort he had managed to elicit from of the Proconsul.
They were two parts of a whole, one entity divided. High cheekbones, slender necks, pale complexions; a picture of seduction. Raven black hair flowed like a river of silk down narrow shoulders, settling in the smalls of their backs. Voluptuous forms were exaggerated by tight-fitting body suits. They were succubi appearing from the intermittent darkness; forms from the ethereal meant to mystify and stupefy. The spectre of their being was only accentuated by the flashing light and the deafening klaxons. But one thing was clear: the twins were hunting. And for the moment, they were playing with their prey.
“We like him.” Reaper hissed, appearing and disappearing with the sporadic lighting. “So young...so tender! We want to-”
“-Have him.” Frost whispered in Marick’s ear, hair tickling his skin as she stole off back into the darkness.
The Proconsul twitched, instinctively turning and slashing out blindly with his lightsaber, as if to both ward off the seductress and illuminate his surroundings. It did little to help.
Tsainetomo strained, attempting to reconnect with the Force. It had petered out when the twins arrived; before a tidal wave of energy, now a rivulet seeping into an unfillable reservoir. They had to be working together, numbing the cohort’s connection to the Force. And for the moment, they were succeeding. Any attempt to use the Force was quashed, any attempt to channel their sight failed. They were blind.
“Shall we?” The voices lilted in stereo.
“I think it’s-” The deeper voice trailed off...
The softer voice picked up where the other left off, “-time to have a little... fun!”
A chorus of giggles filled the air, broken only by the klaxons and Wuntila’s roar.
The Dragon had already engaged the light sensors in his helmet’s visor, and now careened straight toward the deeper voice. He was a freight train, and she was a rat on the track. But Reaper had been watching him, and the cantankerous Consul was no match for her speed. She simply flipped into the air, avoiding the charging bull, and dropped elegantly to her feet behind him. Wuntila came to a stop and spun round, Dragonsbreath spitting azure fire into the dark. One lightsaber, then another. He deflected the two strikes with relative ease; a crimson-white smudge in the inky black. The lights returned for but a brief moment, giving him ample warning of Reaper’s sideways swipe. He met one of her lightsabers with his own, throwing it from her grasp.
“Socorra!” the Consul shouted, looking towards the distant pillars of teal, violet and fire, “Lights! Alarms!”
“On it!” The Quaestor shouted, falling in behind Tsainetomo. She dropped to one knee and waited. The light had returned for a brief moment, and in the distance she saw Wuntila, with Marick in tow, staving off his foe; to her rear, Teroch had engaged the one Reaper had called ‘Frost’. He dipped and dived, almost nonchalantly, blocking and parrying as she twirled and twisted.
Socorra unshouldered her sniper rifle and adjusted her sight to that of night vision, aiming it toward the hatch with which the twins had been meddling not moments earlier. She timed the flashing lights with the sirens, so as to avoid blinding herself through the scope. One quick shot across the hangar saw the alarms wane, and the hangar was veiled in emerald as the emergency lighting replaced the rhythmic darkness.
Frost and Reaper broke from their attackers, slipping off into the debris and wreckage of the hangar. As they rescinded from view, the large cargo door clanked and hummed. As it opened, it revealed another, larger contingent of troopers, along with their harem of Force-using taskmasters.
“Oh, for f-” Teroch began.
“-Form up!” Wuntila ordered, breaking Teroch off mid-exclamation.
Overhead, TIE Fighters hung in storage above the main bay. And, as the twins slinked off, they took with them, at least in part, their restriction on the Force. The troupe felt a kick like an adrenaline shot to the heart; Teroch could only smile. He reached out, his incredible affinity causing shockwaves in the Force. Sai amalgamated his own connection with that of Teroch’s - a true master-student bond brought to life. They were as the twins: one entity divided. Wuntila and Marick could only look on in awe. The pair reached out in tandem, gripping the rack of fighters, and tore it from its mount. The second contingent barely had time to react.
As they burst into the hangar, blasters erupting in a volley of fire, Sai and Teroch threw the racking down upon them, TIE Fighters and all. A cacophony of screams, explosions and hissing fire filled the cavernous expanse. Flames and fire licked and burned. The few stragglers that avoided the plummeting TIE Fighters were either swallowed by the expanding flame, or cut down by the Force-imbued cohort.
Marick sprinted forward at breakneck speed, a blur of black hair and white robes. He skated forward on the balls of his feet, sinking effortlessly below wayward bolts before reaching his targets and eviscerating them with two, well-timed strikes. Socorra sat back, her sniper rifle perched atop an upturned crate, and picked off one straggler after another. The few she missed, Wuntila and Sai accounted for, their concussion rifle and slugthrower righting the books. Teroch, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen.
The Dark Council’s envoy had disappeared into the rafters, hanging from part of the twisted frame he had not only moments ago torn from the ceiling. He watched and waited. He could feel them. He knew they were there. And while the rest of his party were busy clearing out the few remaining vagabonds, the twins were stalking.
The Erinos patriarch had not been so affected by their Force trickery; his connection was immutable, unbreakable. He merely enjoyed the charade.
He watched as the duo scurried and moved between boxes and weaved between cargo stores not twenty feet from the group.
“Keep your eyes open,” Socorra warned, firing a shot into a writhing mass of flame and limbs. “Those whores are still out there.”
Marick brushed the dust and soot from his white, sleeveless robe with his free hand. He turned back to face the sniper rifle tucked away in the distance. “We are well aware, Socorra,” the Proconsul said, a little sharper than he might have intended.
“Play nice, you two,” Tsainetomo interjected, leaping up onto a stationary cargo shuttle and scanning the hangar.
“Where’s the boy?” Wuntila’s voice boomed with all the harshness of a splintering boulder as he and Marick approached Socorra. But before she could even contemplate a response, the Force sang a song of warning.
She ducked, ripping her lightsaber from her belt, and met the crimson blade of her assailant with her own. The Force throbbed through the two women, and across the blinding cataclysm of plasma, Socorra was trapped within a dark, mysterious, seductive stare.
“Sweet dreams.” The Arconan heard it before she felt it. A celestial whisper kissed her ears, followed by a resonant whump. The air leapt from her lungs as she soared across the hangar.
Wuntila watched as his Quaestor for the second time slammed violently into the polished metal floor more than thirty feet from her assailants. He did not bother to think. He let instinct take over. He charged. Dragonsbreath flickered, licking and lusting for death as he dipped low, a squat mass of motoring muscle. Frost raised her lightsabers like crimson-white talons, welcoming the Consul. To her left, Reaper batted back the flurry of fire erupting from Tsainetomo, leaping through the air at the duo.
Wuntila, his rage driving him forward, ate up the space between he and Frost. As if keying in on some unheard signal, the woman suddenly sprang backwards and corkscrewed, her lightsabers tracing a plasmic helix in the air with the sliver of her body at the center. Her path took her directly below her sister and she rolled once and came up, Reaper alighting just at her back. Wuntila dashed through the space the woman had only seconds ago occupied, his momentum carrying him through the melee as he turned, sliding on the balls of his feet, and outstretched a hand to slow his glide across the smooth floor.
It was a gorgeously coordinated move, leaving the Consul splayed in a three-point stance sliding away from them. But it was also ill-conceived, as Frost found herself face to face with Tsainetomo, who loomed above her, the pair as close as patrons at a bar looking to share the night after last call, complete with the recovering Socorra playing the part of Frost’s incapacitated wing-man.
However, this was no bar, Sai was far from drunk, and Frost was less than equipped to stave off the man’s advances. As quick as she was to recover from her initial shock, the Keibatsu was quicker. Her hasty dual swipes of her lightsabers were expertly intercepted. Frost’s left ‘saber was destroyed by a deft flick of Nenshogeru; her right, immobilized by Sai’s strong hand gripping her wrist in a vice-like clutch.
“You’re a nimble minx, ain’tcha?” Sai chuckled against Frost’s futile struggles. “Feisty, too! In another life...” The Primarch sucked his teeth. He looked up and away to his right as if pondering the possibilities and then down and to the left, spying Socorra.
The Keibatsu turned back to Frost then devoured her ruby mouth with his own, kissing her fully, hungrily, and releasing her. His response to her shocked and indignant look was simple:
“A kiss before dying.”
Sloppily, Frost swung her remaining blade at Sai, who backhanded her away with his own one-handed lightsaber strike with enough strength to knock the woman backward a few paces. Whatever lust that might’ve coloured Sai’s already sun-bronzed face was replaced with contempt as he turned away to regard Socorra.
Frost moved to run Tsainetomo through when an amorphous shape dropped soundlessly behind her. A tangerine column punched its way through her stomach, and her mouth worked wordlessly as her hands instinctively moved to remove the offending object.
Frost’s fingers fell away, dainty stumps that plipped on the deck in comic syncopation even as Teroch’s grinning face appeared at her shoulder, his eyes lidded in ecstasy. His lightsaber growled as the youth dragged it upwards and out of the top of her skull, the irresistible heat of the blade ruining her beauty forever as it savagely rendered her to smoking meat.
Reaper, having bought herself the briefest of respites, felt her sister wink out in the Force. Such was her madness that, although she visibly stiffened, she did not cry out in anguish.
Tossing a shock of hair that had fallen across her face away, Reaper revealed a crazed visage. Her eyes wide with a sudden, sharp insanity, she spoke. “Now, I get to have the pretties all to myself! Who’s first... or, do I get to take you two at a time?”
“Phrasing!” Marick shouted, arched in a mid-air two-handed overhead strike. Reaper dipped out of the way effortlessly, and the Hapan’s teal blade hit nothing but the floor, leaving a molten score that ran the length of his trajectory. He coiled up as he landed, absorbing some of his momentum, and flipped to face the twin.
Reaper stood back up to her full height, and pouted her full, rouge lips at Marick. “Come on. I expected something much more spectacular.”
“How’s this?” Wuntila said almost too calmly as he used a thick, heavy gauntlet to bat her across the hangar. He had regained his footing, charging back into the action as quick as his wide, heavily-muscled legs would carry him. Reaper flew weightlessly into a heavy metallic cargo container, and hit the floor with a guttural grunt. Still, she bounced to her feet, using the Force to pick up a momentarily overconfident and inattentive Teroch and slam him hard into the floor. She quickly dove over the top of the cargo container and slinked into the shadows.
“Where did she go?” Wuntila growled, Dragonsbreath humming ominously beside him.
“If we knew that,” Teroch grunted as he hopped nimbly back to his feet, “she’d be dead, di’kut. Anyway, you were the one who knocked her out of the way.” He was seemingly unabated by the attack. But he was young, talented, and battle-hardened.
“Marick?” Tsainetomo’s gritty voice carried with it an uncustomary uncertainty, attracting Teroch and Wuntila’s attention. He was obviously concerned.
The Proconsul did not respond. Instead, his cheeks flushed in pure, inundated anger.
While the Hapan had learned to keep his pride in check long ago, he was still the same bastard boy who had been mentally and physically beaten by his own sister, mother, and the other sadistic matriarchs of her court. He had been used as a plaything, a toy, an outlet for punishment. On top of that, the mysterious woman had done harm to Socorra - the one person who kept him feeling human, and not just an instrument of death to be used as a tool for Arcona. He had had enough.
Pulling a throwing knife free from his belt, the Hapan drew the edge across his palm, soiling the blade with his own blood. Years of training in the shows as an assassin took control then as he closed his eyes to heighten his other senses. He listened for the eerie laughter, waiting for subtle vibrations that shifted the air ever so slightly.
Reaper’s remaining lightsaber materialized from the darkness. A crimson beacon from the black. She jabbed low into the Hapan’s kidney with her fist, while she swung her lightsaber for his neck. At the last possible moment, Marick reached his lightsaber behind his back to parry the high lightsaber strike while simultaneously sidestepping the low thrust, pivoting, and wheeling around. In the same flowing motion, the Hapan slashed out with the painted throwing knife gripped in his off hand. Reaper somehow managed to slip away, but the satisfying chink as it ricocheted off her combat attire brought a rare grin to Marick’s face.
The Arconae broke off a piece of his mind and drew a link between the small amount of blood that now stained Reaper’s armour and blood that flowed through his own veins as a source. Bound together now through blood, the Hapan channeled the Force inward, the outline of his opponent illuminating with a pale crimson glow. She appeared through the Force clear as day.
Wuntila saw only the Proconsul’s slender silhouette slip into the darkness, jumping and jostling over and through strewn debris.
“Sai! Check Socorra! Teroch, with me.” Wuntila sprang into a run, tapping into his connection to the Force. His vision erupted, brilliant veins of pulsating sapphire guided him towards his Proconsul. Marick had engaged the woman by one of the service elevators; an escape plan gone awry.
“Marick!” Wuntila roared, lumbering towards their position. “Now!”
With that, Marick leaned back, avoiding a swipe of Reaper’s blade, and rolled around behind her. As she turned to face the Proconsul, Wuntila slammed into her, his bulky gauntlet connecting with the back of her neck. At the same time, Marick, having backed off, used his speed to achieve a similar effect in front. They both rolled round, avoiding each other and turned, her limp body falling between them. She lay on the floor, sucking in air in short, shallow breaths.
Teroch, meanwhile, had been watching from a nearby perch. He jumped down silently and padded over to the woman. Using his foot to roll her onto her back, he stared down into a wide, alluring gaze.
“I want this one. We want that one...” Teroch mocked, lowering his lightsaber, its tip tantalisingly close to her slender, pale neck. “Why didn’t you just shut your whorish mouths when you had the chance?”
Her face twitched spasmodically as he dissected her head from her neck with a small flick of the wrist.
“Hey, Wun,” Teroch turned to the Consul with a glint in his eye. “She’s still warm if you want to... well, you know.”
“Enough.” Wuntila barked, thumbing the ignition switch on his lightsaber.
“What?” Teroch protested innocently, “I just figured you needed a little... release.”
“Gents!” Tsainetomo’s voice rumbled, piercing Wuntila and Teroch’s awkward exchange. “You may want to get back here if you’re finished! Socorra’s... in a bad way.”
But before they could move, the communicator hanging from Teroch’s utility belt flickered to life.
It was the only line to their handlers, the Dark Council. With the hangar secured, they likely had a little more planned...
Tsainetomo was first up. Despite the ringing, the disorientation, and the shock from having a flash-bang going off less than five feet from him, years of training and an abundance of Force potential lent celerity to his movements. he hopped up, saber out, his dreadlocks swaying like a dark scythe swinging as he stretched out fully into the Dark Side for situational awareness, given that his eyes and ears would be near useless for the ensuing few seconds.
A blaster bolt tore at him, and his saber ate at it, redirecting the argent bolt away into the roof of the turbolift. He stepped sideways, the frozen image of the inside of the lift car still burned across his vision, giving space for Marick to be next out. Arcona’s Black Flash was similarly affected, but that didn’t stop him from crouching down, then throwing himself up the lift tube to the open door of the floor above them, a few meters elevated from where the turbolift had stopped. A chorus of surprised shouts echoed from the armoured beings peering down, followed by a saber swinging fast and lazy through them, as if the Hapan were hewing wheat.
No surprises as to what’s got him so pissed. The Keibatsu kept his musings to himself. Privately, Tsainetomo wanted to know what was on the datapad currently in Teroch’s possession. It had to be a big deal if the Deputy Grand Master and the de-facto Herald had dropped it off. A black shadow passed over-through the durasteel beneath his feet, and he had the brief sensation of having a bucket of freezing water dumped over his head before it was gone, as quickly as it appeared. He stared around, confused, then sighted the cause of his discomfort.
Something borne from nightmares clung to the blast door which had closed several meters above them, sealing the infiltration team to the one floor. It was hard to stare directly at, such was the shifting, swirling texture of its skin. However, the Korun-kei was able to tell it was humanoid in shape, female in sex, and deadly in nature. From the thing’s head hung innumerable thick dreadlocks, each tipped with heavy golden rings. The locks shot out like the tentacles of an octopus, and a chorus of screams erupted from the already chaotic corridor above. A few wriggling, twisting beings in armour were pulled down into the shaft, where they hung above Tsainetomo for a moment, writhing in a vain effort to get free of the Force Wraith’s hold. It was no use. Several quick jerks from the dreadlocks snapped bones and necks effortlessly, and the cadavers were dropped unceremoniously around the Keibatsu. The Force Wraith then leapt into the corridor, apparently to support Marick.
Wuntila clambered from the turbolift with Socorra over his shoulder. She looked marginally better, however she still needed medical attention if the team hoped to make use of her again during their mission.
“Who’s our next-best slicer?” Tsainetomo shouted to Wuntila as the Consul looked around at the corpses, checking to see if any still lived.
“Probably Teroch or Marick.” Wuntila shouted back, both still struggling to get over the effects of the flash bang.
“Get one of them onto a console ASAP, then. We need to find a med-bay.”
Teroch hopped out nimbly and uttered a nonsensical “Mop.”, opening his mouth wide, as if trying to pop his ears.
Shaking his head in disgust, Wuntila turned back to Tsainetomo. “You first. Take the boy with you. I’ll bring up the rear-”
“-And carry her until we find an infirmary.”
Nodding, Tsainetomo looked over to Teroch, waving his hand before the Mandalorian’s face to get his attention.
Not bothering to try and communicate with him, the Korun-Kei simply pointed at his chest, then prodded Teroch, before pointing up at the doorway. Nodding his understanding, Teroch shot through the breach, Tsainetomo hot on his heels.
The Primarch came up into the corridor, still trying to will away the effects of the grenade. He blinked furiously to clear his vision and thanks to judicious use of the Force, the Korun’s eyes became used to the customary antiseptic shine of a Super Star Destroyer’s passageways, the other members of the strike-team similarly recovering.
The immediate threats neutralized, Marick helped Wuntila pull Socorra’s limp body through the open turbolift doors. Teroch’s Wraith returned to the ether, the boy concentrating on the panel nearby.
“Status,” Wuntila demanded more than asked, Sorcorra draped around the broad expanse of the Consul’s shoulders in a ‘first-responders carry’. Marick extinguished his ‘saber and stepped over a body to join the rest. The corridor to the team’s right was, for the moment empty, and the short corridor ahead terminated in a ‘T’.
Tsainetomo spoke up. “Med-bay’s ahead, and to the right.” The team looked at Sai incredulously; he explained, “there’s a sign on the bulkhead.” Sure enough, the aurebesh lettering at the corridor’s terminus indicated the same. They moved as fast as the Dragon could carry Socorra, Marick watching their backs as Sai and Teroch took point.
The sounds of tromping boots followed close behind. “We’re about to have company”, the Hapan warned. They reached the sign and turned right. The med-bay’s doors were closed and Wuntila grunted. “Teroch, open: NOW!”
“A ‘please’ would be nice”, Teroch said, not even bothering with the slicer’s kit as he called upon the Darkside; the youth’s vast power crumpled the middle of the sturdy durasteel, the thick metal falling inwards with a loud crash.
“Brilliant,” seethed the Dragon. “If they didn’t know where we were before...”
Teroch cut the Consul off, Tsainetomo shouldering his way past the Adept. “Hey, you said ‘open’. Door’s open.” Teroch trailed off and tried to smile it away, but his jibe lacked its usual sting. There was something in the way Sai that moved with battle-hardened certainty that struck the Mandalorian. He watched him, and realized that Sai was beyond the mission, in the by-rote sense.
The man he’d come to admire was in his element. There was no time to defer, no time to deliberate.
It was time to act. It was time to live.
Tsainetomo stood upon the door, quickly scanning the medical space. There were all the usual accoutrements including a small staff. He saw a group of five interns, cowering in a corner, their eyes wide in shock in horror. “Who’s in charge?” he barked, coaxing a collective start from the group. They all pointed at the ruined door at Sai’s feet; rather, they pointed to the gore-spattered bottom of a labcoat - a medchief’s labcoat - and two motionless legs that peeked out from beneath the floor.
Sai’s eyes rolled upwards to the ceiling and he spread his hands in disgust. The one trained person who could help Socorra quickly was flattened, smashed in the throes of a petty - and to Sai, transparent - feud. “That’s it.” His baritone was grave as he slammed a full magazine into his slugthrower’s stock. “Teroch, you can’t be entirely useless; talk to me.”
For his part, Teroch, Brat Prince and Dark Side Adept, had no petulant resistance in the face of his friend, mentor, and closest thing to a Master he’d ever know. The Adept was strong, and he was proud, but there was a reason known only to him why he followed the Keibatsu’s guidance. His response was evidence of that now.
“Short span, blast door ahead. Few meters, ingress to the left, medium-sized central hub, egress to the right. Unfortunately, everything’s sealed shut.” Even Marick had to marvel at Teroch’s attitude, or lack thereof, as he rattled off the information he was able to process from the panel earlier. The Proconsul helped Socorra off of Wuntila’s shoulders and the pair hoisted her bodily onto a mag-lev table.
Sai, his back now at the bulkhead next to the open hatch, peeked out and around, then snatched his head back. “Two Foxtrot-Uniforms ahead, unknown mundanes to the left.” The Primarch pulled his slugthrower and sent a curtain of stinging metal towards the aforementioned crimson-blade wielding Sith, what slugs didn’t ping and ricochet harmlessly around them and off the bulkheads hissed away in small plumes of steam rising from their lightsabers. One of the Sith - a remainder of Zoraan’s dwindling Force using cronies - spoke into a communicator. “Invaders in Medbay Twelve; all units, respond!” They moved as one to rush the medbay.
The Keibatsu spoke, his lip curling into a sneer. “Oh, so you’ve got some skill.” His tone was as one who was surprised to see his favorite dish on a menu. Smiling, he called over his shoulder, but his tone held none of the supposed mirth of the expression. “Pup, since this is your fault, you get to come with me. Zratian, you need to get Socorra on her feet; she’s the only one who can get that door open.”
There was no presumption in Sai’s voice as he addressed the Consul; only the urgency to act. For all of them to act. Wuntila shared the sentiment, taking no offense to Tsainetomo’s directness but instead moving to minister to Socorra. The Keibatsu holstered his sidearm and drew Nenshogeru. It roared, the unique blade wavering as he stepped through the hatchway. The Gatewarden almost blurred as he shot forward towards the Dark Jedi, Teroch equally swift in joining Sai in the corridor in a desperate stand to buy them some time.
“Marick, go work on slicing into the system and disabling the security, I’ll start with-”
The Proconsul shouldered past his Consul, bluntly ignoring him. It was the single most defiant act that Marick had ever committed in their time leading together. Anger flooded through Wuntila as he reached out to grab a hold of Marick’s robes and hurl him into the wall. The Hapan was quicker, though, and moved like a being possessed. The Proconsul effortlessly sidestepped the Consul’s grip and took a step toward him. His eyes went cold as ice as he stared directly into Wuntila’s visor, face to face, unblinking.
It was hard to place, but if Wuntila hadn’t known better, there was an uncanny resemblance of Timeros in his Proconsul’s visage. Marick always kept to himself, kept a level head. He had never snapped like that.
As quickly as it came, through, the chilly aura melted into the calm resolve
“You know my training and affinity with the Force is different than yours,” Marick explained, his voice sinking to it’s usual steadiness. “It would be logical, if one of us was unable fight, for it to be me.”
The Dragon didn’t move, his expression unreadable beneath his visor. He nodded once and let out a grunt. “Very well, I’ll cover you. Be quick about it, though. We’re running out of time.”
Marick turned wordlessly from his Consul and moved over to Socorra’s side. “Soco,” He said softly so that only she could hear him. “I need you to listen to me. I’m going to help you, I promise, but it’s going to hurt.” He extended his hands over her body, and opened himself to the Force, letting it flow freely through his body. Invisible tendrils of dark energy descended over the Quaestor’s body, searching for the areas that needed the most attention, the most healing.
Marick’s brow furrowed as he concentrated, and was more gratuitous with how much of his Force reservoir he tapped into. He felt a bit light headed, grit his teeth and regained his focus. His only thoughts were of Socorra, and getting her better. He silently berated himself for letting this happen to her. He had failed her, again.
“...Marick...” Socorra whispered before letting out a gasp of pain as a hairline crack in one of her ribs mended back together; It almost felt like being stabbed with a serrated knife.”Why?”
The Proconsul tilted his head slightly. “Why what?”
“Why did you leave me. With Kal...the ship... the feud?” She spat out in a mixture of pain and fatigue. Her fists balled as she fought against the pain that came with using the Dark Side as agent of healing.
Marick didn’t answer, his eyes looking away. He continued to focus on healing her wounds, but couldn’t bring himself to answer. After a few moments had passed, he looked down at her, his stoic veil breaking as he frowned. It was a genuine frown, a sign of emotion he rarely displayed. His eyes were as honest as ever, welling with regret and pain.
“I did what needed to be done. Do you have any idea how it feels making that decision? It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. If I had to go back and do it again, I would do it again though. The Clan comes before you, or me, or even Wuntila. I had to pull us out-”
“Phrasing,” Socorra choked as her body relaxed, and her eyes slowly opened to stare up into his.
Marick didn’t know how to react. He wasn’t sure if the joke meant that she agreed or disagreed with what he had said. He wasn’t sure if she understood, truly, how hard it had been for him to leave her behind. Perhaps he never would understand how the minds of women worked. Regardless, a sense of relief washed over him. He couldn’t help but smile ever so slightly.
The Hapan pulled his hands away from her, and had to drop to one knee as a sudden vertigo almost brought him crashing to the ground. Wuntila was at his side and helped him back to his feet.
Teroch poked his head back into the med bay.
“Oya, sis. This is no time to be taking a nap, we’ve got work to do!” He called out before disappearing again. A cacophony of screeching blaster fire and searing lightsabers mixed with cries of agony from outside the medical bay.
Sai sprinted past the entrance to the adjoining hallway, his locks streaming behind him and just barely avoiding a fusillade of blasterfire from the incoming squad’s weapons. ’Close,’ he thought, noting it took a trained eye indeed to be able to track him at his current speed. He rushed towards the two approaching Sith Warriors, each one twirling their blades in bloodshine arcs in anticipation of the Primarch’s onslaught. Sai, as focused on his upcoming fight as he was, still was glad to see that as the stakes got higher Teroch was taking things seriously.
To wit: sheet of infinite depthlessness carved its way into existence behind the Adept, shimmering in roiling ebon for a moment before anthropomorphizing into a familiar, albeit much bigger, female shape. Teroch rounded the corner, willing the Force Wraith’s ringed locks to shoot forward into the oncoming mass of soldiers, seeking to entwine them just as it had in the turbolift shaft. Incredibly, most of the strikes missed as the men, far better trained than the fodder in the hanger, rolled or twisted out of the way, forcing Teroch to introduce his orange blade into the fray.
Meanwhile, Sai joyfully sparred with both Warriors, the Force flowing through him as waves on a shore. With every movement forward, every clash of weapons, the Keibatsu got stronger, moved faster. The Sith tried to flank him, attack him from differing sides; he batted away one attack, knowing it’d be successful, not even looking as he pitched forward between them, now placing the Sith between he and Teroch.
The cadre of Brotherhood infiltrators had been fighting for a long time, and rests were spotty and short-lived. Tsainetomo was good, arguably the best, but he was tiring, and given enough time the Sith would’ve destroyed him. As if to underscore the point, a crimson blade lunged forward, missing the Korun’s eye by scant centimeters as he contorted out of the way, the heat of the blade scarring his cheek with a thin line.
But time was something the Sith didn’t have.
Sai and Teroch had been fighting together for a long time, and had succeeded where Zoraan’s Sith had failed by flanking them. Such was Teroch’s talent that he, engaged as he was, had enough command of the Darkside to bid his Wraith wrap two sinuous coils of undulating hair around one of the warriors; they snaked around his neck and ‘saber arm, exposing his side to Sai, and the Korun-Kei’s outstretched free hand.
The other Sith looked on, momentarily frozen as Sai loosed a horrific Force Blast into the entrapped man’s body. Any doubts to his chances of survival were satisfied by the visible crumpling of his side, his ribs and flesh alike ruined and pulped.
Sai wasted no time, rushing the remaining warrior, his lightsaber searing a horizontal path towards the Sith’s midsection. The warrior brought his blade up at an awkward angle to block, staving off death for a few precious moments as his guard held, trembling.
But the Keibatsu would not be denied. He powered through the warrior’ guard with a roar, and the Sith stumbled backward. Sai leapt at him, driving a knee into his stomach and then floored him with a vicious snap-kick that dislocated the hapless Force-user’s jaw.
No sooner had the man hit the deck than he was pinned to it, Tsainetomo’s blade driving with savage ease through his throat and into the floor. Sai did not relish his victory, instead rising just as Teroch’s Wraith dropped its own victim, leaving the corpse beside his mate and drawing its tendrils back to better deal with the soldiers that pressed to get to the med-bay. The Gatewarden trotted back towards the corridor, shouting in a ragged voice to Teroch.
“How’s it goin’?
“Just about...done here.” Teroch’s Wraith continued to break men, and now new to the mix, droids alike. Sai drew his auto-repeater and fired as he passed behind the Adept, helping to thin the herd that Teroch contained. He cupped a sun-bronzed hand to his mouth as he projected his voice.
“Way’s clear, but I’m not sure for how much longer. We really need that door open!” His baritone was earnest but strong as it carried into the med-bay.
Face contorted in pain, Socorra grunted and attempted to slide off of the mag-lev table, waving Marick’s hand away. A flash of white hot pain crossed her vision as her shattered ribs moved about. A cry escaped her ruby lips, growing even louder as the ribs contracted with her doubling over.
“I’m sorry,” Marick frowned again, the uncharacteristic emotion sweeping across his features. “We brought you here hoping to get a doctor, but your “brother” had to go and, well, be himself. Regardless, I’ve done what I could, I’m sorry.”
The woman grunted again, her face flushing. Socorra felt like a wompa had sat on her chest. Stars exploded in her vision and nausea threatened to take over. She gripped the sled railing, knuckles turning white as she attempted to deal with the pain.
“Thank...you. Did you...kill the bitch?!” she coughed, pale eyes flicking to Marick as she wiped a string of crimson from her chin.
“Of course. She is now a “hooker”, as you would say.”
“Good.” She scanned the bay, clouded eyes hovering over the quivering staff huddled in the corner. “You!” The female lifted a finger and pointed to all of them. “Get me painkillers, bacta, and a crapton of combat stims. Gogogo!” One of the aides scrambled to his feet and ran across the room, digging into drawers and cabinets frantically searching for the items.
“Socorra. We need you to disable security and get us through the blast door,” Wuntila said from the doorway, his broad blue form taking up most of the entry. “We are trapped on this floor and need to get to the bridge. Sai and Teroch have cleared you a path but we have to hurry.”
The Quaestor nodded, though Wuntila’s back was turned to her with his attention clearly on the hallway. “Understood,” she replied, eyes squinting as she attempted to remain alert. Turning to Marick, she gestured to her robes and the shattered breastplate. “Quickly, help me get this off.”
Marick moved swiftly to reach the woman’s side, prying off the armor as gently as he could. The aide rushed to her, unceremoniously dumping the supplies on the sled and loading up the hypospray.
“All set, uh, ma’am.”
“Here,” Socorra gestured to Marick, pointing to the side of her outstretched neck. The Hapan grabbed the hypospray from the aide and applied it right away, pressing the device up against her warm skin. Almost immediately she sighed in relief as the anesthetic coursed through her body, temporarily nullifying most of the pain that flared throughout it. The aide scurried away and she yanked the last piece of the battered armor off, exposing a bruised and bloody chest over the top of her shredded, black tanktop. It was clear that some of the jagged pieces had been buried at some point, no doubt from the multiple Force slams, though Marick’s laying of hands must have helped pushed out the foreign bodies.
Together they applied a couple bacta patches before the Socorran gripped the cap to the combat stim in her teeth and yanked it off. Twisting her wrist and slightly bending to the side, her arm came down and slammed the stim into her thigh with a grimace before spitting out the cap.
The Erinos took two deep breaths, and the device clattered to the floor. She looked up to Marick, her sight clearing slightly, and pale blue eyes focusing on him much more than before.
“Oya, lead the way.”
“Console over here - hurry,” Wuntila gestured to the wall in the hallway, watching as Marick led the woman out of the medbay, his saber flared and ready to block any wayward blasterfire. Socorra had regained much of her sun-bronzed color and alertness, nearly walking on her own.
“Lord Consul,” she said, formally addressing the man even in a hurry. “Do you have my slicer kit?”
“I do,” he replied, his voice rumbling low as he handed the devices to her from his belt.
Skipping any further pleasantries, she moved right to the terminal and got to work. Deft fingers flung across the virtual keyboard, slicing inside the security mainframe and diving straight to corridor 1-2B. The first attempt was successful, bringing a smirk to Socorra’s ruby lips.
“It’s open,” she announced to her companions. The near-human and Hapan next to him nodded, and turned to join the others holding down the fort.
“If you’d like, I can remain here and work on disabling security entirely, especially those turrets beyond the door.”
“Good idea,” Wuntila called back, breaking into a run. Marick clearly hesitated at leaving the woman alone, but blinked in surprised as she turned to him and winked, a smirk lifting the corner of her mouth. She raised her hand and flicked her fingers forward, as if to coyly say, "Shoo."
Marick stared at her for a moment unblinkingly before nodding his head and turning to bolt off, his agile gait quickly catching up to Wuntila.
Socorra turned back to the console and interlocked her fingers, flexing them in preparation of a typing workout.
"Alright. Let's play."
Time was a predator, and Socorra was its prey.
She struggled, sweat beading from her forehead, fingers tapping wildly at the diminutive keyboard on the slicing kit. Behind her, her comrades battled against the incoming tides of adversaries. Thunderclaps of clashing lightsabers punctuated a consistent torrent of incoming blaster fire as they barely held their own. An impressive cadre they may have been, but even the Shadesworn succumbed to fatigue.
The Dragon was a force unto himself. The armoured mercenaries fought with a tenacious ability reserved for the truly elite, yet they seemed to only grow in strength and courage with every one of their number Wuntila cut down.
“Who are these people?!” The Consul roared over the clamour.
“They’re the Ailon Nova Guard. Vicious little bastards, if a little fatalistic. Fought for the Empire back in the day. Clearly, your rogue Grand Master kept them around for a rainy day.” Sai’s voice had the cadence of a man discussing the weather, but the strain was quickly becoming more and more evident. Sith after glory-hunting Sith were breaking against his blade like waves on cliffs. Even a man of his talent could only endure for so long. Thankfully, the last of the Sith in sight had just been cut down. That still left the Mercenaries and the Droids, though.
“Where are they all coming from? What is this level? The murder floor?” Teroch shouted out with forced levity.
Socorra could hear the strain in his voice. Come to think of it, even for what she’d just undergone, the weight of her eyelids seemed unnaturally heavy.
The Erinos tried to shout out a warning, but it was too late. Her body fell out from under her, and the blissful embrace of darkness removed any further worries from Socorra’s mind.
Teroch looked over his shoulder as Socorra slumped to the floor, clearly unconscious. “You’re kidding me. We just got her back into the fight!”
A kick into the chest of a Mercenary staggered him backwards, and Teroch’s blade flashed like a comet, separating the head from the torso at the neck. Already forgotten, the Adept listened for the inevitable reply telling him to focus on the task at hand, but none came. He spared a further look behind and realised that both Marick and Tsainetomo were lagging. Only he and Wuntila were still fighting. Thankfully, the Proconsul had the temerity to fall back, taking the Keibatsu with him. Arcona’s Consul moved up to cover them both from the Ailon Nova Guard’s mercenaries.
“Gas!” Wuntila shouted, his voice muffled by his helmet.
Teroch, who was also wearing full Das’verd armour, complete with a respirator, only nodded in response.
There was no way to win in this environment. Not with conventional warfare, and not even with the Force to fall back on. But, Teroch didn’t plan to win with conventional warfare. He was going to cheat and roll three sixes. Closing his eyes, allowing the Force to completely guide his saber, he took direct control of his Force Wraith and called her back. Mid-attack, the beautiful courtesan flung herself from harm’s way, past Teroch and Wuntila, and landed amongst the corpses of the fallen. Almost daintily the Courtesan picked up Socorra, then her dreadlocks shot out, snared Tsainetomo and Marick, and she yanked them from the corridor and back into the Med-bay.
“Go! Sort them out! I’ll hold back these di’kute.” Teroch shouted to the Dragon of Selen, who nodded his assent.
The Ailon Guard seemed to have given him a moment’s reprieve to regroup. They were pulling their injured back in pairs, whilst no less than eight covered him with blaster rifles, but made no move to attack.
“What’s the matter? Scared?” he taunted, rotoscoping his saber in front of him.
Simultaneously, four different parts of the ceiling rolled back, and from them emerged four more double-barreled auto-turrets.
With eerie coordination, the turrets and Guardsmen opened up on Teroch, throwing a veritable wall of deadly light at him.
The med-bay was cramped, and all of the attendants had apparently sucumbed to the knock-out gas; their forms dotted the floor. Wuntila paid them no heed and glanced back at the contorted metal, his mind working furiously. He needed to clear the room of the gas before he could hope to wake up his subordinates, but the door had been blown off by the idiot child. Taking a few deep gulps of air, he pulled off his helmet, then pushed it onto Marick’s head. The in-built breath mask started filtering air, and whilst there was no secure hermetic seal, it was still pumping relatively clean air at the Hapan’s face. He hoped it’d be enough. Sighing, Wuntila slammed his fist into Marick’s groin. He awoke with a yelp, but the Consul held him down, hopefully where the cleaner air would reside.
“Marick. Focus. Detoxify your system and breathe as little as you can.”
He was no idiot. Years of training gave him the discipline to follow the instructions. In a few moments, he nodded. Wuntila could already feel the effects of the poison creeping onto him.
“Go find e-suits. Bring them back. Socorra is priority. Need her to shut off the gas. Go.”
Wuntila forced his eyes shut and ran the Dark Side through him, purging the toxins once more, then put back on the helmet, inhaled hastily until he felt lightheaded, then moved onto the Erinos woman. Marick was already out the door, shaky but fighting fit.
Kneeling over Socorra, Wuntila caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Tsainetomo sat up, a hand to his head and eyes shut tight against the light. A grave moan escaped the Keibatsu’s throat.
“Damn...that’s the second time something’s snuck up on me and laid me low on this boat. I hate sneaky fightin’.” He scuttled backwards until his back hit a bulkhead. “I hope they at least kissed me before they tried to f...”
Wuntila interrupted. “I need you on your feet, and now, Keibatsu. Marick’s getting some e-suits.” The Consul, having somewhat roused Socorra, helped her back to her seat at the console, and stood with his hands just to the sides of her shoulders as she swayed unsteadily before righting herself. He did, however, have to physically place her hands on the keyboard in the correct position after she began typing in the empty air before her.
Satisfied, Wuntila whirled to see Sai still laying back against the bulkhead, his eyes closed as if in meditation. “You going to be alright?” the Dragon barked, his tone laced with slight impatience. It was like being the only sober person in a bar. Sai didn’t open his eyes, instead lazily waving him off. In truth, the effects of the poison were still coursing through his veins, but less so by the moment, his instinctual command of the Darkside purging it from his system even as his body threatened to shut down to allow it the time to heal properly. “How...did I get back in here?” The Korun’s voice was thick. He’d be in a bit of a fugue state until Socorra could get clean air flowing once more.
Wuntila answered simply. “The Courtesan.”
Sai’s face contorted into a rictus of disgust. “I told that boy...keep that bitch away from me.” The Keibatsu’s contempt for the Wraiths - the Shadesworn’s speciality - was legendary. He knew, even as he flirted with consciousness, that Teroch must’ve had a good laugh at his expense - yet another in a series of them since they’d set foot on the SSD.
Teroch pulled off his helmet, now damaged beyond repair. Tossing it to the floor, he willed himself not to suck in a breath and glanced about, staggering slightly. The turrets were down, the vents now clogged with their sparking remains, but still the poison lingered in the air. Only three of the Ailon Guardsmen were left standing, and they were reluctant to open fire again. The Erinos had moved like a flame in the wind, slicing through their numbers, nimbly avoiding the majority of return fire and was still standing after they’d thrown their best at him, but he was hurting. His armour was all but scuttled, and in numerous places his blistered skin showed through. The laminanium ingots had depleted themselves, and the remaining plates were pitted and eaten away. He wouldn’t be able to survive any more near misses.
“Oya. Time to meet your maker, lads.” he smiled lazily through the ozone and smoke, tilting his saber in a beckoning gesture.
The Ailon Guardsmen stopped, tilted their heads as if listening to comlinks, then wordlessly backed up, their rifles still trained on Teroch.
“Pussies.” He hissed through clenched teeth, willing the Force to allay some of the pain.
From the murk shifted an ethereal, almost wraith-like form. She was bald, wearing a large, feathered cloak which covered her from neck to feet, and her skin was an eerie mottled blue and grey; an Umbaran. Beside her was what looked like a maintenance droid, however the blasters attached to it were anything but standard issue.
“I am Dantella Novae, boy. You have tread upon my web, and now you will be devo-”
Teroch quick-drew his T-6 Thunderer from the low-slung hip holster and opened fire on the Umbaran.
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise and a lightsaber sprung from somewhere beneath her cloak, batting away the angry red lances of energy.
With a discipline of body only an Obelisk could match, Teroch threw everything he had left in his Force reserves into the next few moments and launched himself at her like a rabid vrelt, swearing all the way. The droid spat return fire at him, but his saber gyroscoped, burning air, knocking the bolts aside and then he was there, using the droid to kick off and spin backwards, avoiding the opening slash from the Umbaran, cutting at her face-
A giant’s fist of telekinesis seized him, pinning him upside down, mid flip. He yelped out in surprise, his sweat-and-blood-matted hair hanging below him. Teroch was too preoccupied to notice the datapad - Raken’s datapad - slip from one of the pouches and land beneath him. Dantella cupped his cheek almost affectionately.
“You should know better than to interrupt your betters, boy.” She chided, patting his face.
With a scream of pure, feral rage, Teroch broke free of her grasp and exploded pure light, blinding both her and the droid. Released from the Sith’s hold, he tumbled to the floor, but somehow managed to turn it into a roll. His saber was called back to hand, his arm came around fast as winking, and was surprised to find his blade rebound off Dantella’s.
“Revlo, go kill the others whilst they’re incapacitated. I’ll take care of this one myself.”
Teroch didn’t attempt to stop the droid as it slid past him; he’d met his match, and was fighting mad.
His eyes blazed not with the arrogance of youth, but with a certainty so fierce it bordered on prescience. “Bring it on, you gutless chakaar. I’m going to go old-school on you. Up until now I’ve played nice. From now on, it’s plagues of insects falling from the sky. It’s killing of the First-Born. It’s pillars of shab’la salt!”
Marick returned laden with the e-suits. Miraculously, the rest of the floor was notably absent - presumably, whatever Teroch was doing had their attention. He returned to find Wuntila pacing irritably, his eyes shifting between a semi-conscious Tsainetomo and a gasping, struggling Socorra. The Hapan tossed one suit to Sai as he passed, then helped Socorra get into hers. She gratefully accepted the assistance, and once clean air was once again inside her, had the focus necessary to rid herself of the toxins. the Korun-Kei also seemed to have little problems (apart from fitting his hair into the helmet).
“Socorra. Shut off those damn vents, and get us some clean air to breathe. Sai, Marick, let’s go assist that glory-hunting moron.”
The youth pulled off his chest-plate, letting the wrecked metal ring off the floor, a poisoned dagger still embedded in its centre. The tip had managed to pierce the already-damaged laminanium and had nicked his chest. Teroch didn’t notice. Instead, he laughed high and loud, a manic lilt tainting the joyful exuberance he usually displayed.
“C’mon, di’kut. I know you’ve got some Lightning in you. Let’s see it.” he taunted.
Around him like a burning corona was an ephemeral purplish fire, and in its centre, wrapping him protectively, was the translucent approximation of a rib-cage; presumably, a half-formed apparition of one of his Wraiths.
The Umbaran merely hissed at him, her free hand clutching at the stump of what had once been her left forearm. Steaming on the floor next to her tattered Shadowcloak was her severed hand still clutching one of those damned daggers.
“You’re no real Sith! You don’t even embrace the Dark Side! You are but an ant crawling on the floor, ignorant of the higher machinations of your betters! An insect with no-”
“Look, I’m in a hurry. That cutlery of yours carries a bit of a sting. Let’s fast-forward past the ‘hell-shall-smite-thee’ osik and finish this like proper sword-fighters, lek?”
She glared pure venom at him, but nevertheless still caught up her saber, screaming inarticulately at him all the while, her tattered robe streaming behind her like ribbons. Teroch grinned, rotoscoped the blade, wavered slightly and prepared to meet the onslaught-
A telekinetic blast caught her in the side of the head, knocking her off balance. She stumbled, slipped and fell, skidding across the debris-strewn floor. Wuntila stomped over and kicked her in the ribs, lifting her off the deck. Somehow, Dantella managed to get her footing back and swung with her saber at the Dragon of Selen, who merely watched impassively as Marick grabbed her wrist, twisted it around, snapping the limb, then took the lightsaber from her hand. He forced her arm behind her, bending the non-human double. the Sith hissed and spat and sneered and threatened, but everything in her arsenal fell to deaf ears. Tsainetomo finished the execution by slicing his saber through her exposed neck, like she’d been thrown over a chopping block, and he were a headsman.
“Kill steal! I totally had that! Unfair!” Teroch exclaimed, despite looking as if he’d been beaten half to death.
“Well, that’s what you get for forgetting everything I taught you - months of work, mind - in the face of some smoke and a couple of butter knives.” Sai’s irritation at Teroch’s prolonging the fight was genuine.
“Besides, she was about to fillet you, boy.” Wuntila growled.
“No way! I had her right where I wanted her.”
“Shut up, vod’ika. We’ve got to move.” Socorra said from behind the group, pulling the mask off her e-suit.
“It’s safe to breathe now?” Marick asked, moving towards the Quaestor, his eyes checking for any sign of injury.
“Yeah. I had some walking vacuum cleaner pull a blaster on me, but I put it down.” She slightly favored her left leg, the infinitesimal limp noticeable to both Marick’s and Sai’s appraising eye. Her encounter with the droid was not as easy as she wanted the rest to think. Socorra continued. “I think it had been waiting for us to split up. Creepy little thing. The security overrides are down, we’re breathing clean air, and they’ve pulled forces off this level. Apparently they expected...whatever that was to deal with us. If not, then they’re saving resources and will be shortly sending in even bigger guns to take us down. I say we make ourselves scarce.”
“Agreed. Which way to a turbolift?” Wuntila rumbled, looking over Teroch. Despite his bravado, the youth had had seven shades of crap beaten out of him, and was barely standing. If he were to be of any use, he’d need to rest and heal himself, which wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“This way. Uh, boss, a moment?”
Wuntila gestured for the others to go on ahead, then turned his full attention to Qel-Droma’s leader.
“I found this on the droid. It was a very simple encryption, so I quickly decoded it, but figured you‘d want to see this.”
“ ‘There is a traitor amongst you.’ So these Sith have the usual Sith power struggles? What does that matter?”
Socorra shook her head, clearly nervous. “No, you don’t understand. The droid found it. I recognise it. Raken’s stooge gave it to Teroch just before we got in the turbolift. He must’ve dropped it. It means there’s a traitor in our group.”
Wuntila nodded curtly and pocketed the datapad.
“And the traitor?”
“I’ll handle that. Keep this to yourself. Let’s start moving toward the Bridge.”
Marick poked the Adepts body experimentally with the toe of his boot.
“She’s dead, Marick,” Wuntila spoke through his helmet.
The Hapan nodded, and kicked the ‘hooker’ one last time for good measure. His eyes noticed the remaining dagger on her belt. Kneeling, the Assassin studied the blade for a moment before fastening it into a comfortable position on his hip.
“Trying to ninja loot?” Socorra asked softly, lifting a brow at her Proconsul..
“What?” Marick stared at the Quaestor blankly, the only motion on his face the blinking of his eyes. No matter how close he was with the woman, he still had problems keeping up with techno-jargon.
“Looting the hooker’s body without asking anyone else?”
“I didn’t realise there was a protocol for that.”
Socorra nodded her head sagely. Marick continued to stare at her for a moment before unclipping the knife from his belt and holding it out, hilt first, towards her
“Mmm...no thanks,” she said with a tight smile, her pale blue eyes alight.
“Okay...” Marick held the knife around in a circle towards the other team members. Teroch scoffed and coughed up something dark and red onto the floor. Sai shook his head, and Wuntila dismissed the notion with a slight wave of his gauntleted hand.
“That’s settled then,” Socorra’s grin widened. “Thank you, sir.”
Marick nodded and reattached the knife to his belt. Socorra took a step towards him, but stumbled as she put too much weight down onto her injured leg. Quicker than blinking, Marick closed the small gap between them and caught her. They embraced awkwardly for a moment before the Hapan felt her arms move around his waist, her body pressing tightly against his.
The Proconsul froze in place, suddenly very self conscious of everyone watching. He moved his hands behind her back, and patted between her shoulder blades lightly.
“A pat? ...Di’kut,” the woman growled as she pushed Marick away.
Marick cast a glance helplessly at Tsainetomo, but the Korun-Kei gave him a helpless shrug.
“It’s those hulk-hands, I tell you...” Teroch managed to interject before wincing and spitting again.
“‘Pup, you need to do something about that cough,” Sai commented.
“Yea, yea. Go on ahead without me. I’ll meet up with you guys in a bit,” the Adept replied.
“Oh no, you’re not going anywhere,” Marick said coldly, moving towards the former Arconae.
Wuntila held up a hand to stop him.
“Make it quick, kid. I have a bad feeling about what we’re going to find on that bridge.” The Dragon said gravely.
Wuntila’s words hung ominously within the space, the cadre trying desperately to steel their minds and rest their bodies, if only for a moment, for the encounter to come. The Arconans and Council Envoy alike all felt the air thicken with menace as they approached the hatch leading to the bridge, and each one found reason to pause while they regarded the being waiting on the other side. Something within each of their most primal and basest of instincts had reacted to the wildly fluctuating and obscenely powerful Force Aura emanating from the bridge, warning them:
Go. No. Further.
Indeed, they all had been in the presence of such power before, as they all had one reason or another to hold court with either Cotelin, Sarin, or Musashi: Grand Masters of the Brotherhood, all. Sai was even related to one, for Ferran’s sake. But the Lion, like the others before him, had always had a razor sharp focus with his power, his own Aura, though spiced with malice, colored with unmistakable intent.
But not so, the tempest brewing on the bridge. A dangerous and reckless thing, Shroud-embraced as the SSD was. Whomever was aboard - on the bridge - was powerful enough to navigate the massive capital ship through the trillions of tonnes of space-detritus, but the Force did not ring with the customary focus necessary for such a task. Instead, the Darkside carried a heart-wrenching ache within.
And a particular brand of madness that typically could only be cured by a cerebral coring courtesy of a lightsaber.
Such was the true reason for Marick’s impromptu embrace of Socorra. For her sudden forgiveness of the Proconsul. For Wuntila’s tolerant tone regarding Teroch. Even Tsainetomo, who feared no being, wore a cautious look on his bronzed face when he faced the door.
Knowing what faced the quintet just past a foot and a half of durasteel, no man or woman alive could begrudge the group their seeming changes of heart. When - when - the hatch to the bridge opened and they broke the threshold, there was a good chance that more than one of them wouldn’t walk back through.
They had earned their chances to make peace.
Still facing the door, Tsainetomo took a cleansing breath and spun, moving in the direction that Teroch had gone a moment before. Socorra was silently handing out combat-stims she’d purloined from the med-bay. Sai refused his own, instead remarking that he’d “see to Teroch” before he rounded the same corner that had swallowed the shuffling form of the Adept.
‘It used to be a seat of power’, thought Darth Necar without the slightest trace of irony, languidly lounging in the command chair while his fingers lovingly traced the command chair’s right armrest as if to feel his Master’s own arm there, ready to guide him as he had always done.
Alas, it was not to be. Zoraan was gone, his flame unceremoniously snuffed out by the brutish louts that were the Brotherhood.
Even when he felt the Usurper wink out in the Force, he’d stayed aboard the Avenger II, instead carrying out Zoraan’s standing - and final - order to move the SSD out of the system, through the Shroud and to plan to fight another day. It was argued that Necar was almost as powerful as Zoraan himself; a worthy successor, and nearly unbeatable contingency to counter the failure that was the Invasion.
But what the would-be-conqueror of Antei didn’t count on was just how much his hand had kept Necar in check. In fact, no sooner had the SSD come about that Zoraan’s complete erasure from the Dark Side had hit Necar fully...and his grief and shock had manifested itself by means of a mini-maelstrom that had left the crew pulped, dismembered and smeared across nearly every flat surface of the bridge. They didn’t suffer.
Thankfully for the strike-teams aboard, the machinery itself was left largely untouched. Necar, however, was beyond caring, and his throat had gone raw from his pained and anguished screams, his heart torn out and his soul left almost as empty as the Shroud.
That was just an hour ago.
Now, the only noise coming from his throat was a high-pitched keening, ceasing only when Necar drew breath to begin his mourning anew. Strangely, the Sith Sword Vengeance spun on its tip beside him, impelled by the Force. The weapon’s rotation had caused the finely crafted metal to ring out, the resonant tone harmonizing with the Elder’s wails.
Both man and sword were weapons forged in pain, blood and death. And they were singing to one another.
Abruptly, Necar stopped, craning his head strangely to the side as if listening to some yet un-whispered conversation. Vengeance stopped spinning and clattered to the deck.
Zoraan’s apprentice sat bolt upright, a discarded electro-staff floating obediently to his outstretched hand. The madman needed council...
...and found it in the form of the former Deck Officer’s blonde, blood-matted head perched atop the staff, eyes rolled up lifelessly towards the overhead and jaw hanging slack.
Necar’s voice was raspy as he queried the head expectantly, the madness within him making sing-song conversation. “Is someone knocking at the door?”
The head’s jaw worked up and down with a wet squelch, a marionette upon the Dark Side’s stage. “Somebody’s ringing the bell.” Necar’s voice took a higher pitch as he parroted the former officer’s own voice.
“Do me a favor? Open the door. And, let ‘em in!” Necar discarded both staff and head as rheumy eyes swollen with grief cast about the gore-spattered viewports, finally locking onto a particularly large asteroid tumbling lazily in the distance.
Unseen hands manipulated the SSD’s controls and the vessel slowly and inexorably veered to starboard towards the planetoid.
Sai rounded the corner to see Teroch, slumped in a chair at a small console, struggling to remove the last bit of his ruined Das’verd armor. The tattered bodysuit hung loosely around the adolescent, and the Kyataran noted in a distant part of his mind how truly young Teroch was. Which made the next step in his recovery all the more dangerous.
Teroch looked up with tired eyes and saw his mentor. He had bare foot on the deck plating. “Osik that’s cold.” There was no mirth in the Envoy’s voice. Still, Sai had to grin at his young charge’s attempt to keep up appearances. His baritone was soft as he tossed him replacement clothing, taken from one of the bodies in haste. The Primarch knew what was coming, and he had to be Teroch’s lifeline and keep him focused on the task at hand. “Well, when you’re done, you can put these on.”
Teroch stood painfully, another racking cough filling his mouth with dark blood. He spat. “Sai, are these women’s clothes?” He tossed them on his pile of weapons and utility belts he’d placed to the side.
“Yes. Yes they are.” Sai said, though he couldn’t really tell the difference, excepting in the outfit’s size. “Get your weight up, you can shop where you want.” This was something they’d done before, and their banter took the edge off of a ridiculously dangerous situation.
Teroch merely sniffed as he placed one hand against the cool metal of the bulkhead and watched Sai tear open a nearby junction box with the Force. The Keibatsu reached within, grabbing a wrist-thick length of cable and yanked it free, its end arcing with the live current that still ran through it. “You remember how to do this?” Tsainetomo asked as he turned towards the Adept, the electrum clips at the end of his locks reflecting the blue-white sparks spitting from the end of the exposed cable.
Teroch’s breaths came rapidly as he prepared himself as best he could, his bare skin touching the deck plating and the bulkhead, effectively making him a junction point in a soon to be made electrical connection. “Sure. It’s been a while, but you don’t forget: it’s just like riding a speeder-bike.”
Sai’s smile was sardonic as he replied. “No. No, it isn't."
The Keibatsu jammed the live and angry end of the cable into Teroch’s awaiting palm.
Strangely, the adolescent didn’t cry out in pain, or show any reaction to being electrocuted, save for a small furrow of his brow as he focused deeply on the Force. He only needed a slight amount. A ship the size of the Avenger II had a reactor that could power most large cities, and the Erinos needed only a tiny, tiny fraction of that for his purposes. a filament, barely even noticeable on the power grid, and such microscopic control wasn’t easy to come by. Often, Force users, the more they developed their powers, developed certain affinities for certain skills. Just like most mundanes had a field where they were more comfortable, for example, with arithmetic or with languages. A linguist who was gifted at picking up alien tongues could learn eight or ten without too much hassle (so long as they started relatively young), however, ask them to do complex sums in their head and they’d struggle. Similarly, a talented accountant could handle mountains of numbers in their head with enough practice, but they’d never be able to learn more than one or two other languages - they simply aren't wired that way, usually.
The same was true with the Force. Teroch’s father had discovered early on that the youth was...gifted when it came to the manipulation of power, and the Erinos’s prodigy had worked tirelessly with his affinity to prove Sashar right. That said, trying to ‘charge up’ from a ship’s reactor was massively dangerous. He’d only managed it once before, on the dying abyss station, the former home of the Antei Combat Centre, during the final match of the Fifth Championship Ladder. There, he’d pulled a sliver of energy from the reactor and nearly killed himself in the process, but still managed to recharge his Force reserves enough to continue the fight. Halcyon had called it brilliant, if suicidal, and despite not winning the match against Timeros, he’d still proved something to himself; it was indeed possible to siphon off power from an artificial source. It was just, in Teroch’s words ‘fiddly.’
The electric currents were stopped as soon as they came into contact with his skin. Most of the energy was dissipated away into the decking beneath his bare feet; it’d sting for a few days, but he was saved any overly large currents going through internal organs. Maintaining such a network of helixing, sparking arcs of what was effectively miniature lightning was difficult, but the harder part was absorbing the right amount of power from the cable. He took it into his body, visualising it collecting in his stomach, and groaned at the sensation. The lights in the corridor flickered dangerously, and several sparks fell from a blown power converter. It was too much. He couldn’t hold it in. Dropping to one knee, Teroch released the power cable (which Tsainetomo neatly fielded) and sucked in a breath, his shoulders working like bellows. It was light fire life swirling into him, and it had nowhere to go. His head down, his eyes scrunched shut, Teroch forced the excess of energy inwards using the most unique of Obelisk Force abilities which allowed him to recharge his Force pool from the energy of his body, and slumped down onto his stomach, breathing heavily.
“That... was a lot harder than last time.” He managed eventually.
“I’d remind you about your phrasing, but I’m guessing you’d miss the pun. What happened?”
He managed to work himself back to his feet and flashed a smile, snatching up the attire Tsainetomo had managed to source. “The reactor on Abyss station was smaller, and I got it directly from the source. Less interference.” He pulled on the pants, then shrugged on the too-small tunic, not bothering to fasten it up, as it clearly was too small and wouldn’t reach across his chest, then turned back to Tsai, holding his arms out as if he were a model. “How do I look?”
“Gay. Come on, we’ve got trade.”
The lights dimmed and flickered in the corridor, and Socorra knew why her little brother had gone off alone. She’d been in a bacta tank during Teroch’s final match with Timeros, the man that had caused her to be put in there, but she had heard the stories later; the youth had been rather proud of himself after performing such an advanced Force feat.
As they waited in the corridor, her nimble fingers danced across the keyboard at a terminal, having sliced back into the security mainframe. The Inquisitor wasn’t researching the bridge though. Her brows furrowed as her search came up empty for Raken or even his aide. Both his arrival and his memo had put a slight dent in her plans here.
What are you playing at? she thought. Where are you?
Socorra turned to look at her companions for a moment: Wuntila, the big blue beast that had taught her leadership. And Marick, whom had mentored her since a little Journeyman. Bonds that had been forged in blood and sweat for the Clan.
The woman growled as she thought of the memo. It's a test. Testing them, and testing me.
“How close are you to getting the bridge open?” Wuntila called out.
“Almost there,” the Quaestor replied, her fingers working more furiously, determination pouring through her. Socorra’s leg still throbbed, but she had done her best to mend the wound through the Force.
Footfalls echoed down the hallway as the outlines of Teroch and Sai came back into view.
“Oya,” Teroch said with an impish grin, wearing a ridiculous outfit that was clearly a size too small. Despite that, his step had regained its youthful bounce, and he looked much better than he had after their previous skirmish. A small smile tugged at the corner of Socorra’s lip, glad that her brother was alright.
SSD Avenger II
The low whirr of the ship’s reactor rose to a roar as lights began to flicker and blow. Consoles blinked erratically and wailing alarms were reduced to nothing more than a mottled groan. Darkness ensued, if only for a moment, allowing light through gore-painted viewports, illuminating the bridge in a muted, eerie veil of crimson.
Amongst it all, Darth Necar stood with outstretched arms atop the Captain’s console. He bathed in chaos.
“Our visitors are close!” He mused, jumping from his perch and sauntering down the central hallway. His Sith Sword - Vengeance - followed, floating weightlessly behind him. On either side of the walkway were two alcoves; the hub for the navigation and heavy weapons officers, amongst many others. But in the place of these officers - now nothing more than a gory paste - there stood something decidedly more menacing.
Darth Necar had spent a lifetime on his craft. To him, alchemy was not a discipline, it was a lifestyle. That, coupled with his passion of biology, manifested itself in his two prized possessions. Two three-and-a-half-meter-tall hunkering masses of knotted muscle, equipped with razor-sharp teeth and a lust for destruction.
“My darlings!” Darth Necar twirled, his arms still outstretched, “We are close to victory.”
His comments were met by hisses and growls.
“Now, now.” Necar reached out with the Force, gripping one of the chains he had used to secure the beasts to the bridge, and tugged it violently. The creature lurched backwards, guttural splutters resonating from its thick, spined neck.
Light returned to the bridge, and the Grand Master’s Apprentice lurched over toward the other alcove at the larger of the two beasts. This one was clearly older. With one hewn tusk and heavily-scarred sapphire skin, the Terentatek had obviously been one of Necar’s weapons for some time. One mottled, pale eye stared blankly back at him.
He looked at the creature for an extended moment, dwelling on the link between creature and creator, before focusing his attention toward the viewport. Through the drying blood and pulp he could see the planetoid growing closer. It would not be long before the ship, and the Brotherhood forces on board, were nothing more than an expensive failure.
“Don’t worry,” He smiled, turning back to the Terentatek. “It will all be over soon.”
“All’s I’m saying is that you’ve been a bit of a liability.” Teroch said, pulling the too-small waistcoat tightly around him, partially covering the marred di Tenebrous Arconae tattoo on his naval - a present from Timeros, no less.
“Excuse me, Vod, but who’s the one who got a little too ballsy and got their ass kicked?” Socorra retorted with a smile, tapping furiously on her slicing console. “This way.” She said, taking a right turn without warning.
“I think you’ll find I didn’t get my ass kicked,” Teroch retorted, catching up to his sister. “She’s dead, I’m alive.”
Socorra looked up at her brother, catching his piercing blue stare, and smiled. She did not need to respond. The Dark Council’s Envoy simply scoffed and slowed his pace, waiting for Sai to catch him up.
After a few moments, Socorra stopped at a junction and turned to face the approaching quartet.
“We’re a few hundred meters away, but I’ve got some quite... large readings on my proximity scanner.”
“How large?” Wuntila jostled his way through to the front of the cadre, not that he really needed to, given his size.
“Large enough to make me worry. Look.”
Wuntila snatched the console from the Qel-Droman Quaestor; it looked significantly smaller in the Dragon’s grasp.
Before Wuntila could pass judgement, though, Teroch jostled in and peered at the screen. “Looks like there’s something seriously painful in there.”
The Adept smiled sarcastically, before focusing his concentration inwards. He tapped into the Force, drawing upon the raw energy flowing through the ship. Most intersected at one point: above them on the bridge. He blinked his eyes into a new world of rough outlines and vivid colours. He could see the ethereal tendrils of the Force binding themselves to whatever lay beyond, their wispy tails flowing freely in the preternatural wind. Below, deep within the bowels of the Avenger II, a lake of pure Force energy seemed to ebb and flow like water, lapping against the walls of the ship. One thing was clear: whatever lay up above them was clearly very powerful in the Force.
Teroch shook himself from his momentary stasis and turned his gaze up to the Consul; Wuntila could see the playfulness leaving the Adept’s face, along with the colour.
“Well?” the Dragon furrowed his thick brow.
“Not good. Really not good.” Teroch could feel his cadre’s eyes burning a hole in him. Concern loomed heavy in the air. “Whatever it is, it’s powerful. There also seems to be more than one.”
“Who’s up for a fight?” Marick interjected, his usually stoic mask cracking as he let out an exasperated sigh.
Anything that was not bolted to the floor swirled wildly around the crazed Grand Master. Consoles, weapons, even the crew’s dismembered body parts consumed him in a vortex as he hovered, suspended above the Captain’s chair, staring out of the viewports. In the center of the walkway, Vengeance once again spun on its tip, a constant, high-pitched ringing rising above the clattering din of tumbling haberdashery. Necar sung his single tone, harmonising with the sword, building to a crescendo that never came.
The Terentateks had become even more restless, tugging and wrenching at the chains securing them in their makeshift pens. The clinking of the chains only added to Darth Necar’s deafening orchestra.
It was nothing short of terrifying when the doors of the turbolift opened.
The quintet had not known what to expect behind the doors to the bridge, but they thought they were prepared for anything.
In truth, nothing could prepare them for what lay ahead. A bridge painted in pulp and gore and grime and bile.
“Oh my...” Socorra’s jaw dropped as they spilled from the turbolift.
“At least he’s painted,” Teroch chided, but he wasted no time with his jokes. Beside him, three specks of the ethereal began to grow. Orbs of energy grew, coalescing from nothing, unravelling from the fabric of space and time itself. The first orb filled out into the hunkering form of a hellhound, larger than a speeder, with dark mottled fur and horns protruding from its back. The second orb filled out into a perfect female form, about the same height as Teroch, with almost sickeningly perfect features. The cadre had seen her before; she had helped them from the turbolift when things went awry on the maximum security floor. Then there was the third. A stout, bull-necked creature shrouded in a writhing cloak, with a large, conical hat and a broadsword from the other realms. Whilst the first two Wraiths jumped to action, the third stuck close to Teroch, obviously more a defensive conjuration.
But there was a fourth orb. Materialising behind the walls, unseen. The spectre stepped into the room; It was a skeleton at first, before meating out with muscle. Two hollow eyesockets filled with eyes Wuntila had not seen in over a year... eyes that sent fear shuddering through his very being. Tri-pointed pupils focused on him, perused his soul... Ayumarka eyes. Sashar’s eyes.
Sashar the Force Wraith turned his head and jumped into a sprint, following the first two into battle. Teroch smiled as he saw Wuntila freeze; the Dragon’s unofficial tutor, the closest thing he could call a father...
He shook his head and focused.
Teroch’s Wraiths raked and clawed at the smaller Terentatek, and their adversary - a pallid man with a shaven head, but for the ponytail flowing down his back - paid no heed. He continued to harmonise with his spinning sword, seemingly oblivious to shrills of his Terentatek. The other alchemical beast looked on, its single, pale eye narrowed to slit.
“Oh for Ferran’s sake!” The Arconae barked. He held out a hand, and Dragonsbreath jumped from his belt into his grip. He spun the lightsaber into ignition as the Krite - his own Wraith - flew into the room. In much the same way that Teroch had allowed the ‘Sashar Wraith’ to form outside, Wuntila had done the same with his own.
The Krite was a dark void, a tear in time. Two pointed, skeletal wings, with an elongated snout, spanned at least three meters and two sapphire pearls seemed to glow from a fierce head comprised entirely of dark energy.
The Krite swooped down, vomiting ethereal fire down upon Darth Necar, melting away his shielding vortex, and running like liquid death over him. Blue flames billowed from his skin, but he remained unharmed.
At least we’ve got his attention... Wuntila thought.
“Come on kiddo; like I said before, we got trade.” Sai said, ducking a low-flying, hawk-like Force Wraith - Marick’s own - just before it slammed into the side of one of the Terentateks. Its ebon talons raked and slashed as it flailed about.
“This guy looks like he could absolutely beat your ass, Sai!” Teroch, ever confident in his burgeoning skills and powers, once again found an opportunity - inappropriately timed, as ever - to send a jibe at the older warrior.
“Well, let’s go see.” Sai’s tone was unusually light given the situation, as if inquiring if a good friend had made it home after a long journey away.
Both Mando and Keibatsu hands simultaneously filled with the tools of that trade and they turned away from the melee, tangerine and sunset columns punching their way into existence: one weapon a birthright, the other a wavering reminder of the storm ever brewing within its wielder.
Amidst the chaotic symphony that was the unearthly choir of man, beast and Wraith, Tsainetomo and Teroch took quiet, measured steps towards Zoraan’s crazed partner.
There were no words, no witty rejoinders or promises of destruction. Teroch spared a glance towards his mentor, saw a sort of resigned happiness lighting the features of the Primarch, and instantly knew the cause.
Sai knew that he was going to die.
In the months made up of endless weeks comprised of countless days, Teroch had often heard his mentor speak of giving oneself over fully to a fight; a truly worthy opponent, Sai maintained, would make you reach further within yourself than you ever had, in in that moment you would find something most Dark Jedi feared.
You would find, Tsainetomo had taught him, peace. Not the peace that came with weakness; no, it would be the kind that came with being ‘at one’ with the moment... that precious instant just before a trigger was squeezed or when a blade engaged another. When your full measure would be tested by another...and you would either prevail, or be found wanting.
Understanding washed over the Adept in a microsecond. This moment, on the bridge of the SSD Avenger II, was why the Keibatsu never used honorifics or titles. Why he never cowed to anyone, regardless of rank or perceived power. This was the moment that Sai was moving towards for as long as he’d known the Keibatsu. Sai had found an opponent in Necar that would bring him to the very brink of his reason for being.
’And most likely hurl him bodily over the precipice’, thought Teroch in horror. He couldn’t allow it. There was so much he’d learned, and had yet to learn, from his buir’s friend, the one man who’d been able to turn Teroch’s destructive nature towards the glory his blood promised.
He decided then that he would not let Sai be killed. Not by this... thing that played at being a man. Sai deserved better than that.
Suddenly, a laugh - full-throated and genuine - ripped its way gleefully from Tsainetomo’s smiling mouth. There was a gust of wind where there shouldn’t have been and Teroch watched, even as he himself launched his body and blade towards Necar, who wielded Vengeance with a weathered and blanched hand, expertly carving mercurial infinities in space. Sai closed the distance almost effortlessly, Nenshogeru’s customary growl rising in pitch as if anticipating its Master’s date with destiny.
Sweat trickled down his forehead and stung his eyes. Marick blinked furiously and winced, but the moment of discomfort faded instantly against the sea of adrenaline urging him on.
To most, Shadowcrafting was just a myth, something that Arconans bragged about to make themselves look more mysterious. For the members of Arcona, it was simply a part of life - a natural progression for a member of the Shadesworn. To achieve a single Force Wraith was a right of passage, yet some Arconans went their entire careers without the mastery of Shadowcrafting. Marick Arconae had come late to the game, and for a time had only been able to maintain one Wraith, the Hawk-Bat “Watson”. He had spent what little free time he had to train on being able to reach the next level, but until today he had never summoned his second or third Wraith. The second pair of Wraiths were larger than Marick’s first, and he knew that he’d be able to control them while also focusing on the task at hand.
Their plan was clockwork at best, but, it might have been just crazy enough to work.
Marick’s trio of winged Force Wraiths darted through the air like starfighters in the heat of battle. They twisted and turned as they circled the larger of the two Terentateks. The genetically altered creature sneered and roared as it swatted and chomped at the Wraiths, narrowly missing each time. The Proconsul played his part as well, waving his aquamarine blade like a beacon to try and keep the beast’s attention.
In a strange twist of fate, this hadn’t been the first time Arconans had faced a Terentatek. After the invasion of New Tython during the Tenth Great Jedi War, they had managed to capture one of their own - the shebeast known as Drogon. Socorra Erinos had been but a Journeyman at the time, and now she faced the creature again with all the wisdom and power she had accumulated.
The larger of the two Terentatek twisted and writhed as it received blow after blow from its otherworldly assailants. As it did, it wrenched free of its restraints and turned its attention towards those it could hurt.
“Sithspit-sithspit-sithspit!” The Quaestor yelled as she bolted away from the charging bull with Nexu-like agility.
Hearing her curses, Marick motioned Watson to temporarily distract the charging Terentatek for a moment... And a moment was all Socorra needed to summon her own mythical creatures.
Out of pure shadow, the reptilian creatures coalesced into being; two legs and two leathery wings, long necks and tails with spiny crests running down their backs. They were like hatchlings, no bigger than the size of a house pet, but with fearsome claws and teeth like curved daggers of black diamond. The dragon Wraiths looked like glittering onyx as they fully formed on the woman’s shoulders. Beasts taken right from the Black Sands of Socorro, her childhood playground, they appeared naturally on Socorra’s hand and shoulder before launching themselves at the thundering Terentatek.
Wuntila did not run. He simply moved out of the Terentatek’s reach. He knew that attempting to attack the creatures armored skin would be akin to denting a star fighter’s hull with a pebble. Instead, the Consul broke off a piece of his mind and reached out through the Force. He linked the first part of his mind to the Terentatek and formed a connection.
The Consul had been trained in beast control, and was forced to use it with his Cythraul, Kilvin. Now, he just had to apply it to the alchemical monstrosity.
One-hundred and twenty seconds. A mere sliver of time in the grand scheme of things, especially in the Brotherhood. Machinations to ascend to even the lowliest of offices sometimes took decades to come to fruition.
However, as with many things, the passage of time is a relative thing. Now, the aforementioned two minutes felt like an eternity in the middle of a fight...
...and it was the happiest that Tsainetomo had been for many, many years.
The duel, if it really could be called that, was thankfully free of the testing probes and wary circling; all three men had no illusions of the other’s skill. So, when Sai had reached Necar and viciously threw a killing swipe at the Apprentice’s midsection, there was a satisfying shower of plasmic sparks that truly spoke to the skill and powers brought to bear.
The Keibatsu’s footwork was flawless; his strikes, surgical. Sai would’ve cleaved lesser men in twain with his initial blow, and slaughtered a host of others with his following katas. The Primarch swung with seeming abandon, but that was the beauty of Shii-Cho: the Way of the Sarlaac was dogged and determined. Sai’s strength and inherent skill gave it life seen by few others in the Brotherhood. He would’ve hewn through Necar many, many times within the short span of the duel, but the Grand Master’s Apprentice was too skilled, his affinity for the Sith-Sword staving off the Primarch time and time again.
Teroch darted this way and that, as if he were a child or a pest nipping at a greater foe’s flanks; he was just able to duck and dodge out of the way of Sai’s kill-zone, and those ignorant to the Blade would’ve assumed him a nuisance.
They would make that mistake to their peril. Such was Sai and Teroch’s bond that the whole, seeming disjointed mess of lightsaber strikes and swipes was a carefully orchestrated morass of death. Teroch knew where Sai’s blade would travel, and he moved in and out of his mentor’s range while incessantly trying to strike Necar down. Normally, the tactic would work as the enemy would be assaulted on multiple fronts, either falling from being overcome or outwitted.
Necar was far from normal. There was none aboard the SSD who could rival the power of a true Grand Master. Unfortunately for Tsainetomo and Teroch, Necar was closer - much closer - to cresting that power curve than they. Vengeance etched silver parabolas around Necar’s form, batting away Sai and Teroch’s strikes with ease, even when they came at him simultaneously.
Suddenly, Sai lurched forward, and his lightsaber scorched Necar’s cheek just below his eye, matching the wound that the Novae’s Sith Warrior had given the Keibatsu earlier. Necar seemed to snap from a dream, snarling as he used the Dark Side to both immobilize Teroch in his tracks, his lightsaber wavering in his overhand grip and bodily hoist Sai into the air before him.
Sai smiled a knowing smile and dropped Nenshogeru; it clattered impotently on the deck, the unstable blade slurping back within its housing. Necar regarded him momentarily, then squeezed with his mind.
Tsainetomo’s left forearm snapped, the sound like dried kindling being trod upon in the forest. Sai inhaled sharply, but did not cry out. “No fun,” Necar spat petulantly, then hurled Sai the length of the bridge. The Keibatsu crashed with a thud into the Weapons Officer’s alcove, his body hitting the unforgiving metal with a wet thud.
That was two minutes and seven seconds from Sai’s first lightsaber swipe.
”Sai!” Teroch’s anger was blood-curdling as it manifested via his anguished scream.
Terentatek were known for their Force-resistant hide, an armor capable of withstanding lightsaber and conventional assaults. The Force was a part of all life, however, and connected organic beings together in a manner that even the most powerful of Jedi Masters would never be able to fully comprehend. At the core of the universe, the Force thrived, and the primal connection between man and beast still existed despite the evolution of technology.
Wuntila braced himself and disengaged his lightsaber. The Dragon held out both hands and and bent at the knees, standing his ground in the face of the charging beast.
He pushed aside all fear and lowered himself into a state of deep concentration. He let all of his emotions, all the turmoil in his heart and in his spirit fade away. He let his mind go blank as fresh paper, reaching out with his senses, tapping into a primal part of his sleeping mind.
The Terentatek skidded to a halt right in front of the Consul. The creature let out a feral roar, a torrent of hot air and spittle splattering across Wuntila’s visor and armor. The Dragon stood his ground.
Their minds became one through the Force. A storm of color flooded Wuntila’s vision, angry streaks of crimson mixing with blacks and indigo. He could hear the Terentatek shrieking in agony. He could see them chained down on their stomachs, bound by a countless supply of tethered chains. He could feel their pain as the chains sparked with Force-enduced electricity. He could smell their leathery, reinforced skin sizzling in defiance against the web of superheated energy. He tasted blood in his mouth, the odd taste of metal apparent. Flashes of Grand Master Zorran crossed his vision, combined with images of the mad Alchemist and Apprentice. Wuntila understood the creatures' rage.
With understanding came acceptance. Wuntila Arconae repaid the favor by opening his mind to the Terentatek. He let all of his emotion flood out from him. A tempest of anger, hatred, and frustration crashed over the creature's conscious.
Both man and beast remained still as stones, their minds joining through the sympathy in the Force.
With acceptance came control. Wuntila felt every muscle in his body tense and tighten as he let out a guttural roar. It was a silent roar to the common ear, but his cry rang out through the streams of the Force like tremors from the epicenter of an earthquake. Silent to any but those connected with the Force.
The Dragon of Selen lowered his hands and felt his body relax. From behind his visor, his dark eyes opened slowly. Before him, the Terentatek let out a subdued grunt and lowered itself into a crouch. Without hesitating, Wuntila leapt onto the creature’s back.
On the opposite side of the bridge, Marick hurled himself into a sidelong roll to narrowly avoid having his head removed by the Terentatek’s claws. His cadre of winged Force Wraiths squawked as they buzzed around the creature’s head, scratching and slashing with ethereal talons. They were no more than flies to the massive beast, but they were enough to help keep the nimble Hapan one step ahead of it.
The Proconsul heard the roar first. Then he turned his head. Then his eyes widened and his jaw slackened.
Riding the second Terentatek like a speeder-bike, was the Consul of Clan Arcona. The mounted beast roared as Wuntila steered its massive frame into its fellow creature. The Terentatek pursuing Marick went flying into a nearby console, sparks and scraps of metal splintering in each direction. Wuntila’s Terentatek didn’t hesitate, and stormed after its fellow creature. They were on the fallen beast before Marick had even processed the whole thing.
The Hapan shifted his attention towards the head of the bridge. He felt a chill run down his spine as he saw Sai sprawled against the floor halfway across the room. Socorra was next to him and trying to help him up, but it did not look good. His cerulean eyes settled back on the Grand Master’s mad apprentice. Teroch was holding nothing back, fighting with everything he had. Even with the youth’s gift for battle, Marick knew he had to act fast.
The three winged Force Wraiths that circled overhead shimmered and began to fade. The Hapan felt a slight release of pressure in the back of his mind as they winked back into the ether. Without another moment's hesitation, he went to join his former partner, prepared to give his life for the sake of completing their mission.
The Force ripped through the bridge like a firestorm. Teroch’s hand sparked arctic white with lightning, the sound eerily similar to thousands upon thousands of birds chirping, and he jutted his arm out, screaming in fury. The bolt of lightning shot at the Apprentice with enough power to hull a starfighter-
And met the Sith’s lightsaber. He squealed in delight at the spectacle, letting Teroch yell himself raw, then gestured almost dismissively. Teroch should have been thrown back and dashed against the viewport, powdering his insides. He should have been out of the fight then and there. He’d always been disobedient. Sashar’s vestige, a Wraith created in part from the indomitable Mandalorian’s ever-living spirit intercepted the Force Wave bodily, dissipating under the telekinetic pressure. It was enough to stop his son from being taken off his feet...just.
Teroch’s eyes opened, his expression feral, and he lunged in again, pouring everything he had left into alacrity, strength and speed. A steady flow of Mandalorian expletives ran as if the youth were talking a mantra under his breath as he hacked, danced and weaved a pattern of death around the Grand Master’s apprentice, who simply giggled as if enjoying the show. It didn’t seem to take much effort for him to rebuff the strikes.
He was running out of tricks and it was quickly growing apparent. Teroch was in over his head, and they both knew it. He tried to make sense of the situation, work out any angle of attack he hadn’t attempted, some trickery which would allow him to live through the next few seconds and somehow turn the situation in his favour, but nothing was apparent; he was unequivocally outmatched. In sheer desperation, the Adept called back his Wraiths from attacking the Terentatek, focusing all of his offensive arsenal against the maniac before him.The Hellhound bounded in, leapt over Teroch as he crouched in perfect synchrony with his summon and swiped a massive clawed paw at the Grand Master’s Apprentice. Vengeance was there, stabbing into the beast’s muzzle, piercing its skull with dismissive arrogance that bordered on providence. The Courtesan’s dreadlocks swarmed about Darth Necar from behind in an attempt to force him to his knees. A telekinetic flexing burst them apart like damp tissue. A further blast of the Force sent her to oblivion. The Swordsman’s massive claymore swung in a haymaker which would’ve taken down a sentry tower. It rang against the Sith Sword, chiming out a perfect C above high C. A riposte, and the Wraith was felled by an excellent jab which took it in the eye.
It hadn’t killed him, but the futile attack had bought Teroch a precious few seconds to catch his breath, and most importantly, think.
There was absolutely no way he’d be able to take down this man alone. He’d faced down Kane Vader and survived. He’d sparred with Muz innumerable times. Neither came close to this. Neither were insane, one was an old man, and the other hadn’t been trying to kill him. Necar was simply too unpredictable, too powerful, and the combination made him nigh on insurmountable as an opponent.
“Marick....help!” Teroch yelped, hastily backing up, his saber kept between him and the manic, withered monster before him.
As if on cue, a streak of black hair and white robes blurred across his peripheral. Marick landed in a crouch beside him, his face an impassive mask. The Adept stretched his consciousness out, linking them both in a Force Meld, then, as one, they moved.
It was a rare sight to see an Ataru Master in his element. Rarer still were two working in harmony. This was nothing like it. They didn’t move with the ease of an old partnership, like Teroch and Sai had. No, this was on another level. They were extensions of each other. Both knew that nobody was coming out of the battle alive if they held anything back. It was intensely personal, but it was a case of win or die. Any bad blood was burned from them in that instant. Any recriminations for the arrogant youth’s apparent abandonment of his Clan, any blame left at Marick’s feet for Sashar’s death was blasted to dust. It was perfect, true synchrony. Their blades sang.
Wuntila’s Terentatek let out a feral cry, blood dripping from his maw of razor sharp teeth. The neck of its fellow creature lay in a heap on the ground, unmoving. Dark red fluid (so dark it was practically black as oil) pooled around it. The Consul could feel the beast’s pain at killing its kin, but its will belonged to him.
I know it hurts, but it needed to be done. Use that hatred, and unleash it on the one who did this to you, and your brother, Wuntila spoke into the Terentatek’s mind. He wasn’t sure if the beast understood his exact words, but the emotion that accompanied them seemed to get through.
The Terentatek roared and charged into the fray, ready to turn its former tormentor into a Dark Jedi filet.
Marick and Teroch, both panting and heaving with fatigue, instinctively darted out of the charging beast’s way.
Darth Necar shrieked when he saw the beast charging, and the armor-clad Primarch riding on its back. “No, no, no you fool! You are supposed to kill them, not make friends!”
The tortured beast’s only reply was a guttural snarl as it slashed out for its captor. Necar was able to dodge the first clawed fist, but let out a scream as the second tore into his side.
“Insufferable, insubordinate beast! I created you!” the mad Alchemist cried out. He reached into his robes and pulled out a poultice of dark liquid and hurled it into the face of the beast. The fluid exploded into the creature’s eyes, causing it to rear back and let out a shrill cry.
His own eyes were bloodshot and to the point of nearly bulging out of his skull. Darth Necar snapped his fingers and shot his hand forward, a storm of Force Lightning assaulting the Terentatek’s face. The liquid ignited and spread like wildfire, causing the beast to thrash and whimper and groan as it fell to the ground in agony. Wuntila leapt off the dying Terentatek and landed in a crouch, his meld with the creature shattering like a stone through glass.
Necar turned to face the three Arconans standing before him. Panting and heaving, hair disheveled, he looked more monster than man. He pointed a finger at Wuntila.
“You....do you have any idea what you’ve done? Years....YEARS of research and hard work...calculations...resources. We were developing perfection!”
The Dragon answered by removing his helmet, and tossing it aside. His brow furrowed as his eyes tightened at the corners. His jaw set firm, he cracked his neck from side to side, enjoying the feeling of the rooms air against his skin.
“Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn,” The Consul of Arcona said in his natural baritone. “This ends here.”
It was an odd sight, truth be told. The Consul and Proconsul of Clan Arcona standing side by side, sabers drawn. Beside the youth who was the living legacy of the man who had trained both. They were all supposed to lead Arcona in Sashar’s wake. Teroch had chosen his path, though, and apparently, he chose to turn his back on the Clan.
None of that mattered anymore.
Wuntila, Marick, and Teroch darted forward, one from each side.
Darth Necor brought his Sith-Sword forward to parry a cross-cut from Wuntila’s lightsaber. The twin cylindrical hilts at his belt moved free of their own accord and floated to each side of him. They ignited in tandem with crimson blades, both controlled by Necar’s will.
Marick engaged one of the floating sabers while Teroch took the other. The floating weapons cut and weaved in a way that neither fighter had ever experienced before. There was no footwork to watch, no delay to any of the strikes. It was like fighting a machine that never tired and never made a mistake. Both Ataru masters found themselves falling back into their Soresu roots.
Wuntila held his ground against the Alchemist. His azure blade slammed relentlessly against Necar’s Sith-Sword, like a blacksmith hammering away at raw steel on an anvil. The Dragon of Selen held nothing back. Everything he had he poured into his strikes. Necar danced wildly around what ever blow he chose not to parry, laughing all the while. Tears began to roll down his cheeks as he thrust his hand forward and sent a telekinetic blast into Wuntila’s chest, staggering the Consul and halting his bull rush.
Marick dipped and spun and flipped away from the possessed lightsaber. Aquamarine clashed against crimson as the Hapan felt his arms becoming heavier yet with fatigue. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep up. It was only a matter of time before he slipped, and even the slightest of mistakes would spell doom against the mechanical precision of the animated saber.
A single, powerful blaster bolt collided into the floating lightsaber’s hilt. The lightsaber shattered into pieces as a second bolt hit it in the exact same spot, splintering it into tiny metal shards.
Marick looked over and saw Socorra looking down the barrel of her rifle. She gave him a slight wink as she adjusted her sights on the floating saber Teroch was battling.
Wuntila pressed back in on Darth Necar, Marick joining him. Teroch’s blade swung from the side, now free to focus on their opponent. The Alchemist laughed even louder as he fell into the Force, his movements becoming a barely registrable blurr. None of the Arconans had ever seen anything quite like it.
“He’s too fast!” Marick called out, a sense of embarrassment in his tone. They were words that did not come lightly to the agile Hapan.
Wuntila grit his teeth and swung for Necar’s head but missed. The lunatic ducked under a slash from Teroch, stepped around a thrust from Marick, and then darted forward unexpectedly into Wuntila. The Consul froze in place as the Sith-Sword drove through his plated armor, just to the side of his gut.
Pain flooded through the Theelin-Human hybrid as he felt his muscles begin to tingle with numbness. He did not back down, or give up, though. Instead, Wuntila grabbed a hold of the mad Alchemist by the robes and pulled him towards his chest. The blade plunged in deeper, lodging itself in. The Dragon sputtered blood, but ground his teeth and growled, mustering every ounce of strength in his body to stay on his feet, and to hold Darth Necar in place.
“Off ‘me blade!” Necar screeched, trying desperately to pull it free. He reeled back, and in his bloodlust and madness did not think to simply let go of the blade.
Marick and Teroch needed no words to know what needed to be done. In tandem, two of the Brotherhood’s best assassins closed in on the mad Alchemist.
Necar pulled his sword free from the now paralyzed Consul.
Both of their lightsabers slashed at the exact same line along Necar’s neck.
Had he been a second earlier, Necar may have been able to dodge one, or the other, but not both.
Blood splattered as the mad Alchemist’s severed head flew through the air, landing on the durasteel floor and rolling lifelessly away.
The bridge went silent.
The Keibatsu was going into shock from his injuries, that much was evident by Tsainetomo's cold and clammy skin alone. Socorra's encyclopedic bank of knowledge rushed to the forefront, procedures and statistics sweeping across her brain as she went into action.
One third of injury deaths are due to shock from blood loss. Preventing shock in people with uncontrolled bleeding is therefore vital. Treatment aims to maintain blood pressure, so that tissue damage is minimized.
Socorra wrapped up Sai's most serious injuries using his robes to stop the bleeding and keep him warm, but it wasn’t enough to keep him stable until they could get out of there and back to a medbay, and her patience was running thin. Laying a blood-caked hand on his chest she concentrated on sending the vital healing tendrils of the Force from herself into his body, the Force weaving through his system and mending his internal injuries. The Keibatsu's eyes flung open, looking up into Socorra's pale blue orbs from her lap, and they stared at one another for a silent, awkward moment. A smile crept across his sun-bronzed face as he looked up, which caught on like a contagion, causing a smirk and slight blush on her own tanned cheeks. The Erinos playfully flicked his nose and offered a hand to help him up.
Sai got shakily to his feet, clutching his arm to his stomach protectively. Socorra held him steady as they took in the scene. Blood was congealing across the floor, the scuff-marks from numerous sets of combat boots and Teroch’s bare feet cutting eerie patterns into the macabre theatre. The three combatants left standing were stood staring at the headless corpse of what had once been Darth Necar. His head had rolled somewhere into the starboard crew pit, now just meat and bone, not the broken mind of a madman.
Wuntila dropped to his knees, his lightsaber rolling from his fingers. Marick held him steady, but the Dragon of Selen was indomitable. He shrugged off his Proconsul, opened his body to the Force and poured healing energy through himself. Moments later, Teroch and Marick lent their help, sewing up the puncture wound to his side. It would require immersion in bacta to heal fully, but somewhat miraculously, Necar had missed hitting a vital organ. He’d live, just not comfortably - the wound in his side would be a constant source of pain for the Dragon of Selen; such was the curse of being bitten by a Sith Blade.
“We’re not finished.” Socorra stated, steeling herself. She moved away from Tsainetomo, her fist clenching on the hilt of her saber, her thumb moving to rest heavily on the activation stud.
For her, this was the time to force the issue. Teroch and Marick were exhausted from the battle, and Wuntila and Sai were in no position to fight, heavily injured as they were. She could take any one of them at that moment.
“Teroch, I read the datapad Raken’s lapdog gave you. Why did you hide it?”
His expression, far from being fearful, was actually more irritated than anything. Turning to face her, he pulled off the too-short tunic and wiped his face free of sweat before replying. “Not the time or place, ner’vod. Besides, there was a lot of complicated math on there - man-math. You’d not understand it.”
She glared daggers at him, but the Mandalorian missed it, as he glanced sidelong at Wuntila, who’d gotten to his feet.
“Teroch. Don’t give me that osik. It said there was a traitor among us. The fact that you kept it from me means that either you know who it is...or it’s you.”
Tsainetomo shot a worried look at his apprentice, and Marick sighed inwardly. He’d just got over Teroch’s abandonment of the Shadow Clan, and was now discovering that the youth had betrayed them. Again.
“If you think that’s the case, come at me.” He snarled, throwing the jacket aside, lighting his saber.
The Quaestor, resigned to the fact that her little brother hadn’t even spared her in his selfish desires, stabbed the activation stud on her own weapon and steeled herself for the inevitable onslaught, but a resounding bark of command lashed them both to immobility.
“Stop!” Wuntila stepped between them and pulled his helmet off, staring Socorra down.
In the silence that followed, the two humming sabers lent a melanchony, if mechanic undertone to the ongoings.
“Teroch is the traitor the message is talking about.” He stated simply, turning his back on the Adept.
“You knew?” she hissed, disbelieving.
Wuntila nodded, his expression heavy. “I asked of him a sacrifice I couldn’t ask anyone else. I asked him to forsake his heritage, his birthright, and his rightful place for Arcona. And he did.”
Socorra’s head spun at the gravity of the statement. For well over a year since Teroch’s exodus, Arcona had been on orders to kill the Adept on sight. Timeros had very nearly succeeded in doing so during the Championship Ladder. It was widely known that he’d leaked vital intelligence to House Plagueis which had resulted in a very, very public diplomatic incident that had nearly brought all out war to the Brotherhood. It was treason, and no other House or Clan would’ve touched the young Adept because of his involvement in it. He was anathema, as far as Arcona was concerned.
“I...I don’t understand.”
“Nobody save for myself and the boy knew. Not even Marick.”
“Actually, I had my suspicions,” Marick interjected, his expression thoughtful.
Wuntila gave his Proconsul an evaluating look before continuing. “What I’m about to say doesn’t leave this room. If you breathe a word of it to anyone, I will kill you. Dead. I mean it.”
The calm, unwavering stare from the Consul made Socorra’s skin crawl, but she nodded nonetheless.
“After the Family Feud, Teroch and I realised that Arcona was fast losing support amongst the other Clans and Houses. Furthermore, the Dark Council were all but endorsing it. Competition breeds the best fighters, after all. They wanted to weed out the weakest through the strife created by Arcona’s rise and Taldryan’s fall. This would result in Arcona being under near-constant attack, both overt and otherwise, from the lesser units. I couldn’t allow that. Given our history, Teroch was the perfect candidate, as he already had existing ties outside the Clan in both the Combat Centre and the Master-At-Arm’s office. So, we staged his vendetta against Arcona and me. He fled to Antei, safe under the illusion that he bore no allegiance to our Clan. He then worked steadily feeding us intelligence on the Dark Council’s machinations, on the movements of the other Houses, and most importantly of all, removed threats on the Dark Council to Arcona through numerous means. He’s one of the major contributing reasons to at least one Councilor leaving their station... and of promising Arconan's taking of the role.
“But...but if he’s a double agent, then how does Raken know about it?”
Wuntila’s expression darkened. “That is unexpected, and worrying. It means he worked out what was going on, and was not-so-subtly letting us know, which in turn means Teroch’s exile is fast outliving its usefulness. If Raken knows, Muz will also be aware. He’ll be in considerable danger from this point on. I imagine the only reason he’s still alive is that Muz was wanting rid of the members himself. Also, we’re a Brotherhood of Dark Jedi. Betrayal is implied in our very name.”
“I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself, and still accomplish my secondary objectives. It’s not like the rest of the Houses don’t have their own little birds feeding their homes information from the Dark Summit.” Teroch said, sighing, no longer keeping up the arrogant teenager persona. Socorra was stunned by how much he reminded her of his father.
“So, what do we do now?” Tsainetomo asked, apparently unruffled to discover his apprentice being a double agent.
“We could try and stop this piece of osik from crashing into that dirty great asteroid, I guess.” Teroch remarked flippantly.
Everyone’s heads turned to where he was pointing. Outside of the viewport, easily the size of a small moon was a vaguely egg-shaped asteroid spinning lazily closer and closer to the Avenger II’s nose.
They sprang into action. Marick darted to the helm controls, desperately trying to force the ship to change course, but hissed in vexation. “That lunatic locked the controls. Socorra?”
“On it.” She said, not looking up from the operations console, where her datapad was plugged in, her fingers dancing a whirlwind across the controls. A tense minute ensued whilst the Quaestor muttered to herself, bit her lip nervously as she watched algorithm after algorithm bounce harmlessly against the firewall Darth Necar had erected. Finally, she managed to circumvent them. Consoles spattered with blood lit up as one, and Marick immediately tapped in a course change. The Avenger lurched downwards, but it wouldn’t be enough. There were bare hundreds of meters between the nose and the rock.
“It’s not going to be enough...” Sai murmured.
“Marick. Accelerate.” Wuntila ordered sharply.
The engines roared to full burn and the decking vibrated under their feet. The Avenger II lumbered forwards faster, its nose missing the asteroid...just. However, the ship was a behemoth, and whilst the nose had been saved, they were not out of danger.
“It’s going to hit the command tower!” Teroch exclaimed, making a move for the door.
“No it’s not..” Marick hissed through clenched teeth as he tapped nervously on the console.
Collision alarms blared and a chorus of automated warnings sounded over the cacophony. The contingent stood immobilised as it soared closer and closer, blocking out everything from the viewports, casting a threatening shadow over the ship’s superstructure. It passed over the bridge, then the ship shook. Alarms sounded even more urgently, and an explosion sounded from somewhere above them.
“We’ve lost shields!” Socorra yelped, staring at her console, reading the damage reports which started pouring in.
“It must’ve caught the principle deflector dome.” Tsainetomo remarked, staring at the tactical readout.
“Whatever, it’s passed. We’re safe. Want to call it in, boss? That is, of course, unless you want to try and steal it for yourself.” Teroch quipped, trying to look behind the command tower from one of the viewports and sight the huge asteroid.
Wuntila pulled his helmet back on, his face once-more hidden behind the burnished golden face-plate. “Yes. I suppose I should.”