Dark Crusade: Prologue Team 13
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
Am I really ready for this?
Arden couldn’t help ponder this as the shuttle was on it’s final approach. The fighting wasn’t the worry. He’d done plenty of that in his life, both before he’d ever heard of the Brotherhood and during his short time with them. This was a much more massive operation than he’d ever been a part of before, but that wasn’t a concern either since he was a sniper and all that mattered was the man in the scope in front of you. No, his worry was something else altogether, something he hadn’t done in a good while.
It had been ages since he’d been in command of anything.
True in the past year he’d led small teams of lesser soldiers. Men who respected and near worshiped him for the power he had, that and a healthy fear for those above him. This group was different. Each of them at least equaled him their skill in the Force, most exceeded it. He’d just met most of them and some were, until recently, members of another clan.Given his experience with the Dark Jedi ego there was a real question whether they’d follow anyone’s orders, much less those of someone they could probably kill without much difficulty. It was a rather awkward situation to be sure. However, there was no time for that at the moment. In a matter of moments they would be rushing into the fire once again.
Arden studied the group carefully from his position at the rear of the shuttle. It was an eclectic group despite being all human, but that was good. They had a diverse skill set, which would be a benefit to be sure. There was no telling what they’d have to face, so a group like this was quite useful. All four of them were also capable of moving in the shadows should the situation arise, though it appeared there was going to be no way of making an initial entry that was anything but loud. Loud had it’s uses sometimes too.
As the shuttle heaved back and forth, likely swerving to avoid incoming fire on it’s approach to their targeted landing bay aboard the Super Star Destroyer, Arden got the attention of his fellows.
“Listen up. By now you all know the mission. The Grandmaster wants this vessel and we’re going to get it for him. For the moment, our mission is to lay the groundwork for this assault by securing one of the aft docking bays. What resistance there will be is not clear at the moment, but I don’t expect it to be anything but fierce.”
Kant was quick to interrupt. “What makes you think that sir?”
Celevon stepped in before Arden responded. “Given what we’ve dealt with to date when it comes to Zoraan’s forces, would you expect anything other than fierce resistance? They’ve already rendered an entire system uninhabitable.”
Arden nodded, his mask and helmet obscuring any obvious emotional reaction. “For which we will have appropriate vengeance when the time comes. We can’t let revenge cloud our judgment though. Accomplishing our goals comes first, vengeance for Jusadith comes later. Is that clear?”
They all nodded understandingly to this though it didn’t require the ability to read minds to tell that some still had revenge in their thoughts. Arden did as well. However he’d seen how a thirst for vengeance could distract even the best soldier. Distraction was something they could ill afford. They had to be focused on taking this ship.
A moment later Arden could hear the voice of the pilot crackling in his ear indicating that they were about to land. As he started to undo his straps, he said to the group. “Naturally the enemy is going to expect us to storm down the ramp and wade into what’s likely going to be a sea of plasma. I’ve always found doing what the enemy expects to be a good way to get dead. Therefore, I want this compartment to be empty by the time that ramp drops.”
Once his straps were undone, Arden grabbed his A-280 and moved towards the emergency hatch in the shuttle’s roof. Not only would it be a way the enemy wouldn’t expect one to make egress from a shuttle, it would also present an idea vantage point to survey the landing bay. As he felt the distinct thump of the shuttle’s landing struts contacting with the landing bay’s deck, Arden shouted as he triggered the hatch release.
The Archpriestess glanced as Lavar jumped first followed shortly by Celevon before the spritely woman leapt out of the hatch. The ship itself was brimming with activity, clearly prepared for the onslaught that was awaiting them. Arden was quick in catching up with the trio as they huddled together, watching the hangar before them. Xathia knew that they were expecting resistance, but the sheer amount of stormtroopers around the hangars seemed excessive, especially with several Dark Knights visible amongst the masses.
Luckily, there were enough large crates to keep their presence concealed for the time being, though the three males had to stoop a little to make sure that their heads were not showing at the tips of the boxes.
A cough sharply brought all of their attention to two members of the GMRG before Kal Vorrac. “Lord Ashen sends his regards and the final member of your team,” one of the shady, masked figures stated coldly before quickly making their own departure. The Sith Equite looked displeased at being there, as though he believed himself above such menial tasks.
After staring at the late arrival, the Battleteam Leader turned his attention back to their target rich environment. While the sheer number of Stormtroopers had been unexpected, the outdated variety of Battle Droids from the Clone Wars was almost a relief compared to the Dark Knights throughout the hangar. The Defense Turrets, on the other hand, were so common that it would have taken a complete imbecile to not prepare for them.
“To state the obvious, they’re hoping to wear us down by sheer numbers,” the Omwati said, turning back to face the group. “More they throw at us, more tired we get, more mistakes we make... you get the idea,” she gestured and craned her neck backwards to look at the males around her.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Arden agreed, still keeping his head on a swivel to make sure none of the enemy patrols discovered them. “I admit to not being prepared for our excessive welcoming committee. Any suggestions, Cel?” The Sith Knight turned to his chosen second, the inquisitively raised brow the only change in his neutral visage.
Xathia kept her mouth shut, quickly analysing the droids and turrets. “Keep a distraction for long enough and I can probably try to disable the turrets, there’s got to be a panel around here somewhere.”
“Her idea of a distraction is a good one. What about having Kal and Kant go and start having some fun. Kal can use illusions and get the stormtroopers fighting amongst themselves. I think the best place for you would be somewhere our enemies won’t look or expect someone to be lying in wait,” the Templar glanced pointedly at the sniper rifle before meeting the younger man’s eyes. “I’ll keep Xath covered. While she may be an excellent duelist, you can only dodge blaster bolts for so long.”
“I’m perfectly capable of keeping my own back,” the Krath snorted, “Oh the joys, the panel’s behind an active turret. Design of being disabled was not in the designer’s intentions,” she sarcastically quipped, double checking that her belt and pockets held all the grenades she’d need.
“While I don’t doubt that you can handle yourself, I think your husband’s idea is a good one. Never go into enemy territory without a partner if you’re planning on hacking into systems. And I’m not seeing it taking long for the droids’ sensors to discover you, no matter how well cloaked you are,” the Soldier pointed out calmly. “That plan works for me. I’ll find a good position. Think you can handle that, Kal?”
“It will be simplicity in itself to get these feeble-minded warriors fighting amongst themselves,” the Battlelord sniffed disdainfully.
“Well, maybe you’ll find someone worthy of your skills,” the Archpriestess shortly replied. “But for now it’s clearing out cannon fodder, and I don’t do waiting well.”
“Right. Let’s move out,” the Battleteam Leader ordered, falling back into the comfortable role of leading a squad, ignoring that most of them were more powerful than he was. Arden quickly ducked out of the way, moving to the sniper’s nest he had chosen on silent feet.
The Obelisk Knight and Kal stayed in position, already working as shouts erupted on the far side of the hangar. A group of stormtroopers were openly fighting, their fellows going off in that direction.
“Enough of a gap to make it easier for this dash,” the Omwati muttered, her body leaning backwards whilst her emerald eyes actively sought out any cover between the current crates and the panel at the back of the hangar.
“You see that stack of ammo crates covered by a tarp? There’s enough of a gap that we can duck under the tarp until we’ve picked a next cover to dash over to,” the Onderonian pointed out, following the same line of thought as his wife.
“Loser does the pile of dishes from the past week in the sink?” She smirked.
“Dai’Lec already cleaned it,” Celevon muttered absently as he looked for another place where they could take cover. “We’re going to have to go straight from behind the ammo crates to the control panel. That will be long enough for the distractions to stop and the fighting to start. You go first and I’ll follow. Ready whenever you are.”
The Krath grinned and used her naturally blinding speed to dash, her brightly coloured eyes catching the sight of one of the Knights scattered around the hangar. The Twi’lek immediately unleashed a squad of Stormtroopers and covering the pair in a shower of blaster fire.
Xathia’s argent blade swiftly twirled around in her left hand, the Equite’s feet dancing swiftly to avoid the unending attack. She bit her lip to focus before mentally wincing as two bolts grazed her right shoulder. The woman instantly sped up in her defence, able to get under the cover of the crates and the tarp with the assistance of the Force. Though she knew that the plastic would do little to stop any attack from above, it would merely obscure the view.
‘Once I get close, try to get one of your frag grenades into the middle of their ranks,’ the Templar spoke directly into his wife’s mind, using the bond that grown between the two over the years, his dark blue blade flashing as he jogged, redirecting the blaster bolts at the squad with precision. Seconds later, the Assassin slid under the tarp, his lightsaber extinguished as he grinned cheekily at the Krath.
Xathia pulled the pin and threw the grenade in a clumsy arch, though it served its purpose, rolling to a stop to the side between three of the stormtroopers. After mentally counting down, the Onderonian pulled his wife towards the ground, covering her with his own body as the frag grenade exploded. It sent a torrent of shrapnel into their enemies and the concussive blast killed the nearest masked human figure instantly.
“Dracu'!” The Krath swore violently in Omwatese, groaning slightly as she covered her battered ears. “Why the fute didn’t you tell me that blestemat thing would be so loud in a Hangar?!”
“I didn’t know the de pul?rie thing would be so loud in a Hangar because I don’t use grenades,” the Assassin replied just loud enough to where his wife would hear him, after he ignited his lightsaber as they ripped the tarpoleon off of their bodies. ‘They were so close that they are all likely have concussions, if not burst ear drums outright. Just kill them. I’ll handle the Dark Knight, honey,’ Celevon instructed, falling into the old habit of leading.
The Twi’lek glared hatefully, a long oozing gash along his cheek from where one of the fragments of the grenade had gouged out a trench of flesh, the long green lekku twitching uncontrollably in response to the Knight’s rage. A blood-red sprang to life from the chromium plated hilt as the man leapt at the Templar.
Celevon quickly stepped aside, channeling the Force throughout his limbs to increase his speed. He seemed to blur for a split second as he stepped aside, the crimson blade slashed harmlessly into the durasteel floor which further enraged his opponent.
As the Twi’lek growled and rushed forward, he unleashed a furious flurry of attacks. The Assassin fell deep into the pyre within his mind, burning away any thought or emotion. The motions of the Knight were so rapid that they appeared to be almost a blur of hazed energy. The Templar relied on honed instinct and muscle memory and quickly brought his cobalt blade into a high, angled block before he pushed the crimson beam of energy off to the side. The maneuver would have sliced clean through from his neck to just under his ribs on the opposite side if it had connected.
Spinning into a more devastatingly kinetic attack, the Knight slashed in a diagonal manner as Celevon jumped back and avoided the attack completely. His adversary was already making mistakes due to his growing hatred for the Plagueian. The Knight gripped the haft of his weapon in a vice, his knuckles white against the smooth metal of the surface. The Twi’lek clenched his jaw firmly before he launched forward again in a renewed attack. It seemed more out of desperation than strategy to the Obelisk as he used his strength to block the thrusting weapon.
‘Keep making him angry and flustered, it keeps him distracted and I can make more of an indent towards that sablat panel,’ the Archpriestess muttered directly into her husband’s mind, her eyes focused on the prize as she ignored the haze that emblazoned his mind.
The Onderonian spun, turning his wrist to where the tip of his cobalt blade pointed at the floor, whilst he used a defensive arc to swat aside the approaching slice directed at his upper thighs. The Twi’lek lost his footing, stumbling forward from the momentum. Only an accidental wide slash stopped the majority of his shoulder from being seared through. Celevon’s eyes appeared to be swirling, molten pits of silver as he met the furious sulphuric ones of the Knight.
His opponent attempted to struggle on, as he charged furiously towards his foe in a brave, if futile, gesture. With his weapon raised, the Twi’lek barrelled down upon the Assassin, grunting as he swung the blade in a powerful, albeit awkwardly slow chop towards the Onderonian’s neck. Celevon avoided the blow entirely, which taunted the Twi’lek forward with a slight flick of the Obelisk Equite’s lightsaber in the non-human’s direction.
Growling, the alien fell for the bait, and surged forward yet again. This time with a series of slashes meant to overwhelm the Amnesiac’s defenses and hopefully drive into the man himself. Unfortunately, the only result was that the Assassin was moved back further, losing ground but not strength nor limbs. For which he was silently grateful. The Twi’lek forced himself onward. The gleeful realization that the Onderonian appeared to be backing himself into a corner powered him on.
As soon as the Templar was almost out of room, he pulled a risky maneuver that he had learned by watching his wife fight. Driving an elbow into his opponent’s sternum, Celevon used the Force energy he had been building up for the last critical second, sending it to his legs as he sprang backwards, twice the normal height he could jump, and braced his feet against the wall for a split second. Then the Onderonian used the momentum plus the hard surface to spring forward, somersaulting over the Twi’lek’s head, the blue lightsaber blade spinning a little wide from his body.
The Assassin landed in a crouch, the wet, sickening sound of the Knight’s head hitting the floor echoed slightly in the midst of battle. It bounced as what remained of the man’s body breathed its last. It had seemed to drop in slow motion, the hands still clenched uselessly on the hilt of the crimson lightsaber.
The Krath smirked and bolted from her hiding hole before a platoon of B1 battle droids and B2 Super Battle Droids started marching out from several previously closed hatches all around the hangar just before the defence turrets activated. They locked themselves onto all four of the visible Dark Jedi. The mechanics started to whir loudly and caused a dark, sweeping chill throughout every member of the group.
“Oh rahat,” Xathia swore softly.
“Indeed,” the Onderonian replied faintly, staring at the number of droids.
A chill swept through the room. It was not the first time any of them had faced droids, but the small size of the hangar made the Krath feel claustrophobic. Several of the droids fell after the sound of a single bolt ripped through the air, but it had no effect on the imposing nature of the enclosing atmosphere.
'Honey, we've practiced for this. Stay behind me and watch my back until we get in close so you can attack with your lightsaber. Offensive Force attacks until then,' her husband's quick thinking and soothing tone had made the claustrophobic feel of the hangar less intense. 'I'm going to quickly give Kal and Kant instructions on how to close in on them.'
After what seemed like minutes later, the two Dark Jedi that were nearly on the other side of the hangar could be seen as they adopted the same stance as the married couple, though they were not stood as close together. Another blaster bolt tore through the enclosed area, just as the droids were given the order to attack. Chaos reigned for a moment as a final bullet ripped itself free of the sniper rifle, the cascade of red blaster bolts focused solely on the two groups of the separated team.
“We need to get moving,” the Archpriestess muttered. Her eyes were locked onto the defense turrets which were loudly powering up, the sound of cogs and winches heightening the metal objects before they ripped open fire.
All around the five of them was the sound of destruction. Bolts tore through heavy metal in search of the enemy as they gave no indication of affecting the Battle Droids and Dark Knights. They had also taken cover, albeit behind the active turrets instead of in the path of attack.
The Assassin and the Krath left their hiding point at nearly the same time as the other three. The Battlelord had clipped his lightsaber to his belt and drawn a pair of blaster pistols. Kal’s hatred of the machines could be seen in his eyes, even from the distance, as the Coruscanti unloaded green bolts into their ranks. The Corellian’s orange blade quickly reflecting and batting aside the crimson bolts.
Arden’s yellow saber flashed and flared as numerous plasma bullets connected with the blade, the Battleteam Leader’s eyes revealed the disappointment that he had to use his lightsaber as the metal blades attached to the hilt were completely useless against droids.
Even the enemies’ trained Dark Knights are taking cover from this onslaught. The Soldier’s thoughts came unbidden in the back of his mind, though they did not distract him. Snipers were trained to be able to think and combat enemies for every second rather than the honed instinct of a mundane to fire at anyone that did not look like an ally. The yellow blade whirred and reflected a bolt back at a B1 Battle Droid whilst the entire team closed in on the Battle Droids. The turrets had been programmed not to fire at anyone belonging on the Avenger II.
A miniscule smile curved the Commander’s lips as Xathia leapt forwards, her silver lightsaber paired with one of her renown litch blades and gallivanted closer to the control panel. She was destroying the droids nearly as quickly as they could turn their heads before grasping at the bolts which held it shut.
‘Time to even the odds,’ Arden thought.
I am seriously getting too old for this kind of thing...
That thought went through Lavar’s head as he used Soresu’s quick, efficient swipes to swat aside the blaster bolts that the turrets spat at them while Kal used his blaster pistols to reply to their attacks, while Arden set himself up in cover to use his heavy rifle to cover the two teams’ approach. Even through the focus Lavar had to maintain to keep from missing a dangerous bit of hot light - and avoid cutting the Battlelord in two, or himself, for that matter - the former bounty hunter had to admit to being rather impressed. The Sith Battlelord was very, very good with his pistols, making shots that Lavar would have been hard-pressed to match with a full-length rifle and a prepared firing position. And speaking of... Lavar heard the A280 behind them open fire, adding some actual aimed shots to the turret bolts that Lavar and Celevon were deflecting at their enemies to keep them under cover
Finally, they were close enough for the plan Celevon had come up with. Kal holstered a pistol and reached into a pouch on Lavar’s vest, grabbing one of the former bounty hunter’s grenades, one that would produce a devastating electromagnetic pulse large enough to just barely enough to cover all four turrets. The downside was the pulse wasn't powerful enough to completely short them out, just enough to keep them offline long enough for the Plaugeian team to get to the next part of their plan. Kal hit the button on the grenade, arming it, then tossed it in a casual-seeming underhand to the middle of the enemy formation. The grenade went off on impact, sending a barely-visible coruscating blue energy bubble slashing out. As the energy pulse washed over them, the turrets all whined and slumped in their housings, sparks flying from their casings. The battle droids did the same thing, a few of them toppling onto their fellows or their organic allies.
The Dark Jedi commanders hesitated for just a second too long, as Kal and Kant rushed into their formation. While Kal focused on the enemy Dark Jedi, Kant kept the mundane troopers off their back, while the husband-and-wife team on the other side of the group sliced their way through to the hangar security panel. Xathia reached for the bolts holding the security panel’s cover in place. The Krath stopped for a second, shrugged lightly, and then ripped the whole aluminum plate off. Tapping an override code into the panel, Xathia quickly cut power to the security turrets, then turned and spun. Her lightsaber sprang to life again as she quickly slipped into and supplemented the movements of her husband’s energy blade.
On the other side of the hangar, Arden Karn’s metronome-steady rifle shots had ceased, as the Sith Knight had lit his yellow blade and started charging to link up with Kant and Kal. Lavar caught a glimpse of Kal taking the fight to the enemy Dark Jedi, using both the fencing moves of Makashi as well as Dun Moch’s Force-enhanced styles. The momentary glimpse was cut off as a super battle droid loomed into the gap, whereupon Lavar promptly used his orange blade to cut off the droid’s blaster arms, returning his focus to the flow of battle around him, Arden, and the swiftly diminishing ranks of stormtroopers and battle droids that had recovered from the EMP grenade’s effects.
I am going to be so kriffing sore in the morning...
Ah, war, the Sith thought to himself. You were right, Master. It never changes.
Time seemed to slow down as Vorrac pivoted, spotting yet another Dark Knight's blade curving down toward his head. It retained its original speed in the eyes of Kant as he watched the old Sith fall into a crouch, tipping the man's blade ever so slightly and shoving his shoulder into the younger man's midriff. With a grunt of exertion, he rolled the man over him like a ragdoll, drawing his pistol in his left hand without missing a beat and unloading a bolt into the youth's head.
"Nice move," the former bounty hunter quipped, shifting back to a defensive stance as enemy reinforcements took position. "Where'd you learn to do that?"
"From a mad little Jawa that kicked my rear end," Kal replied, cracking his neck. At the smirk Lavar got, he spoke again. "No, seriously."
"Right," Kant said, before their seconds-wide window of opportunity slammed shut and the blaster bolts rained out anew.
Kal's eyes, stained a sulfuric yellow, took in the group of Dark Knights that steadily advanced. He felt his heart pounding, the blessed adrenaline that kept him moving with speed and lethality - but also the creaking of the muscles beneath. Old bones popped and cracked as they shifted, wrapped by tendon and muscle abused by the years and held by cartilage far less thick than it had been even a few years ago. The Dark Side was Vorrac's ally, as much as a Hutt was the ally of those he protected. Even a Sith had to pay his due.
If anything, what the years had robbed of him in strength and speed, he'd made up for in experience. Every vicious blow he could no longer deliver had yielded another ten stratagems, another fifty insights. Such is the cost, and the reward, of power.
The Sith assumed a relaxed, balanced stance as six enemies circled him, their red blades thrumming angrily alongside his own. They all came at him at once, as he'd anticipated; his leap took them by surprise as he sprang straight up, flipping and unleashing an emerald hell of bolts at them. As they sprang back, battering away his torrent of energy, the Sith landed not two feet from his departure point and sprang at the first of his foes, his blade flashing beyond the unprepared man's guard to open his throat. He didn't stop there, using the dying man's chest as a springboard to launch himself at the next. An inhuman roar left his throat as he flew toward the foe, his blade darting and diving toward a zabraki woman before piercing through the forearm of her blade hand. She screamed, dropping her weapon, and Kal did not hesitate; his last pistol round punched a neat hole in her head before he dropped the weapon.
"A lesson for you, Knight," He said to Kant, as the man darted and wove between cover and saber defense. "There is only one effective way to engage this many enemies at once."
"What's that?" The bounty hunter barked back, before pulling his own pistol and firing a shot. The intended stormtrooper went down with a scream. He nodded at Arden as the man drew closer, closing down his lightsaber and dropping the A-280 into his hands. With the Dark Jedi on their side sufficiently engaged, the enemy was shrinking faster than ever, their survivors forced to adapt to new tactics.
"Simple," The Sith replied, eyeing each of his foes. They had backed off, sizing up their enemy anew; where six had stood, four remained. "Kill them as fast as you can." With that, he dove back into the fray.
* * *
The deep azure of Celevon's blade carved through the torso of the trooper he faced, bisecting him at the waist; the droid behind him fired, and his wife's silver blade caught it, sending it back through the chestplate of its owner. Xathia twisted away as the man in her life flowed around her, each of their blades cutting down a new droid or hurling back the shots fired at them. To the uninitiated, it looked like a lightning-fast dance within a tornado of plasma, a fact that had the enemy's soldiers backing away for more open positions.
"They're retreating!" Cel shouted, as a blaster bolt's wake singed his hair. Even with their bond, the two were only barely holding back the onslaught, and the proximity of the near misses was shrinking. "We can't hold them off like this forever!"
"If we retreat, they retake the turrets," Xath cried back, their voices almost lost amongst the song of war. The stink of ozone was heavy on the air, dancing an ephemeral waltz with the acrid stink of charred flesh; the combination made her eyes water. "We can't let them reactivate them!"
"If we die here, they'll turn them back on anyway!" Cel barked back. "I'm destroying them!"
"Negative!" Arden's voice rang through the comlinks of every teammate at once. "The Throne wants them intact. I repeat, turrets must stay operational!"
"It's too bad we can't make them fire at the enemy!" The Onderonian growled. Then, he saw the look on Xathia's face and mentally kicked himself. "Xathia, no. It's too risky."
"I have to try!" She snapped. "Back to the turrets!"
Celevon growled before complying, helping her as she fought her way back over the men they'd left dead in their wake. He dropped to a crouch just behind the console as she dropped down, her hands flashing to the controls while her husband's blade held back the tide.
* * *
"Damn it!" They heard Xathia's voice bark through the comlinks. "Clever bastards - there's no port for a datapad uplink. I can't access the programming!"
"Try hacking in wirelessly," Karn replied, the soldier's calm upon him as he ducked and reloaded. "Any chance of that?"
"Not in the Shroud. Haven't you noticed the static, even on these?" She replied. "Besides, I have no idea what their codes would be."
"Hold on. You need a datapad uplink?" Kant asked, looking up to Arden. "I've got one!"
"Where's a terminal?" The Commander asked, popping up to shoot another pair of soldiers. The two searched all around them, trying to find a jack that an R2 unit might plug into.
It didn't take them long. The problem was that the space was occupied by Kal and the remaining three Knights.
Lavar looked at Arden. "There'll be more reinforcements if they get to those turrets, Sir."
"Go," Arden replied, an odd cold slipping into his tone. It was one the former bounty hunter knew well; here was a man who had accepted the possibility of death. "I'll hold these off for as long as I can."
Nodding, the bounty hunter unshouldered his carbine, sliding it over to his Commander before running and leaping up to the platform. Bringing his blade down as he flew by, he carved through the back of an unsuspecting man's skull before rolling out. Coming up, he engaged one of the two remaining foes - the first ugly zeltron he'd ever seen - as Kal took the last one with renewed vigour. Kant's blade met the woman's time and again, all the fury of a speedy Shii-cho smashing against the walls hurled up by a Soresu defense. Flashing and crackling, their blades bit against one another in a snarling cacophony, ceased only as the woman's boot flashed up into Lavar's gut. Stumbling backward, he caught her downward strike in a lock, holding it back as she roared with exultation.
The roar became a scream as a crimson blade punched through her back and midriff, nearly singing the end of Kant's nose. The weapon retreated, and the former bounty hunter pushed his dying enemy away before rising and planting his blade in her chest. Looking up at the Sith before him, he spat. "I had it under control."
"Of that, I have no doubt," Kal said, "But you've also got a job to do." His tone surprised Kant; without those emotionless eyes, it almost would have come across as fatherly, without any patronization.
"Right." Kant said, running toward the port as he pulled free a datapad and connector cable. Plugging it in, he ran through a few security-defeating measures before pulling up the schematics for the hangar bay on the touch screen. "Just a second, and... there!"
"You can do it?" Xath asked over comlink, her voice sounding stressed. "Hurry, Kant!"
"Going as fast as I can!" He replied. "There we go. I'm going to rig the turrets for a programming swap - right now, they only target foreign intruders. If I can get it right, they'll only target crew and personnel." Cursing, he watched as an intrusion blocker popped up before slipping a security spike into the datapad, crushing it under garbage data. "There are safeguards, but I should be able to program in a loophole. I just need-... Kal, look out!"
The Sith's eyes widened as he turned, his blade coming up. Two identical men dropped from above, landing in a crouch; their hands came up as one, lifting the Battlelord and slamming him to the ground. He rolled away with a groan as they stood, smirking.
"Well, Reaper, what have we here?" The one twin asked, smiling. He drew a pair of blades, one red and a second white. "Looks like this Knight's up to no good on our ship."
"It seems you're right, Frost. It's too bad." The second chuckled, drawing an identical pair of weapons and assuming a battle stance. "If they'd sent someone younger, they may have done the job corr-... ugh!"
Reaper seemed to snap back, rolling as the impact of Kal's Force blast smashed into his unsuspecting sternum. Grunting faintly, the old Battlelord stood once more, drawing his weapon. "If we were your age, we'd have the same flaw as you two - not knowing when to shut the kriff up." Glancing at Kant, he spoke quickly. "Get it done. I'll hold these two."
Lavar nodded, typing away as Kal paced forward. Reaper sprang back up, his blades ready as the pair circled the much older Coruscanti. The three eyed one another intensely for but a moment, each thinking on the other's course of action; it was like the calm before the storm. Fittingly, it ended with a hurricane, as the twins advanced and Kal became a whirling mass of black robes and plasma to hold them at bay.
* * *
Xathia stood up, having done all that she could do to help Kant mechanically, and drew her saber again. "Hurry, Kant!"
"I'm trying!" The Knight barked back.
Darting from cover, Xathia batted back a hail of blaster bolts that Celevon almost missed; the foes had become a tide of white armor and durasteel, blasting away at them from all sides. As they rounded the corner, the two began to carve through their foes, protected only by the choke point that was rapidly being overrun; even as they killed a score, the rest poured through the hole, knowing the end was near for their foes as soon as they were overwhelmed. Cel couldn't help but look back at Xathia as he defended her, his focus pulled away by a grazing blaster bolt searing through the armor on his shoulder. He swore, planting his weapon into another man's chest before pulling it free.
As he drew free his Katana and took it up in his off hand, he couldn't help but feel regret; if they failed, this was the end. He flipped up his comlink microphone. "I love you," He said to her, in between strikes.
He heard her through the comlink more than through the din of war. "I know."
"Got it!" Kant's voice broke through the reverie, and hope rushed through like a tide. "Xathia, activate the turrets!"
"On it," She chirped back, darting behind the console. Typing in a few commands, she shut down the control override before slamming a hand down on the button.
At first, the turrets whirred to face their original targets, firing a few rounds at the Brotherhood forces. Then, slowly, they turned toward their masters.
What followed could only be called strategically beautiful; high-intensity blaster cannons shredded through the backs of unsuspecting droid and human forces, punching like a blade through the masses. Panicking, the soldiers held for moments before they broke, each fighting to get away from the combat and toward the doors to the hangar. The married couple took advantage of the retreat, bursting from cover and carving down the few droids that maintained ferocity, alongside any foes they could. Splitting to fight on two fronts, the assailed became the assailants, their weapons a masterwork of fury and precision as they brutally hacked through the foes too stupid or slow to get away. Soon, the crunch around them was gone, those few who remained dropping to hidden positions.
For a few seconds, the pair was silent, panting in exertion. Then, as one, they cried out with exultation, whooping as Celevon pulled his wife in for a kiss. "Come on," She said, looking back. "The battle's not done, and Arden needs us."
* * *
Kant's blade lit up as he darted toward the back of one of the twins, roaring; Frost span to meet him, catching his weapons in a double-parry before booting him in the chest. Before he could close, Kal disengaged Reaper, spinning to lash out at Lavar's attacker with all of the fury Makashi could muster. The twin span, meeting his foe and battering him back with ease as his brother rejoined the assault. The sight made Kant's heart freeze over with fear; Vorrac was, by one rank over Xathia, the strongest member of their ensemble.
Under the onslaught of the twins, he was losing. "Kant!" Arden's voice shouted out as he climbed over the nearby railing. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," the bounty hunter replied, climbing to his feet. "Status?"
"My enemies turned and ran. That turret trick worked like a charm." Looking up to the trio, Arden weighed his options, remembering the words of his Master and Summit. Kal could not be trusted; he was treacherous and deadly, not to be underestimated. "Should we save him?"
"Well," Kant replied, looking equally torn, "Do you think we can afford to lose him?"
The soldier mulled it over for only a moment before spitting. "Alright, then. Let's go."
Kal span, his blade meeting Frost's strike for strike before he span, holding off Reaper's red weapon with a growl. The white blade of the younger twin raked his side, eliciting a snarl as he span again, moving with all of the speed he had within him. It was a fight of the sort that Kal had not had in years; all trained Dark Jedi were fierce combatants, but Vorrac was a Battlelord, an Equite of the Third Tier. Normally, it was all a foe could do to hold him back; this time, with the ease that these two displayed in handling him, he didn't know for sure if he could stop them. The role reversal did not amuse him.
The sight of a pair of blades, orange and yellow, springing to life on his peripherals took his attention; Kant and Arden slammed into Frost as one, the man meeting their blades with simultaneous blocks. The pressure lifted from his front, Kal turned, facing down Reaper. "And now, it becomes an even fight."
"Only until Frost kills those two," The man said, smiling. "You look tired, grandpa. How long do you think they'll last?"
"Long enough for me to kill you," Kal growled, darting at his enemy with a flurry of strikes.
Kant's blade held off dual strikes time and again, barely keeping up to the twin Battlelord before him; as he threw off the foe's strike, he leaned aside as Arden dove in, holding off the foe and prodding at any weaknesses he could find. Even with a pair of Soresu adherents, they only just held off their insane assailant, whose Force skills and bladework were impeccable. Fighting with all of their might, they kept Frost at a distance, barely managing to circle in behind him. The Battlelord's response was swift and brutal, smashing aside Arden's defense to kick him backward before spinning and knocking back Kant, scoring a skin-deep slash across his back.
"Hey!" A woman's voice cried out, causing Frost to look up.
He barely got his weapons up before Xathia and Celevon struck in mid-landing, their blades smashing against his with new techniques and skill beyond his previous foes. As Celevon focused on the attack, Xathia turned, checking on the other two. "Orders, Commander?"
"Help Kal!" Arden said, standing. "We've got Cel's back." As she nodded, turning to the fight, the two dashed toward Frost anew.
Reaper's left blade slid off of Kal's saber on just the right angle, the Sith's left hand flicking as a hold-out pistol slid into his hand from a secret sleeve compartment; it was knocked aside by the twin's elbow as he smashed it into the older man's shoulder, bringing his blades about to strike at Kal. They were stopped by a line of glowing silver as the Archpriestess joined in on the fight, holding back the onslaught and darting in alongside the Darth's Praetor. United, the two battered back Reaper, who reacted to his fates being reversed with a snarl as he slunk backward with each strike. Xathia flanked, curving him toward the corner of the room and cutting off his retreat; life became a maelstrom, blades crashing against one another in a fight too fast for the untrained eye. Kal and Xathia were ice flowing atop a river, his cold precision complementing her fluid perfection. The twin's eyes held terror, and both Sith and Krath knew why. His time had come.
Instantly, as if a dam had broken, the moment of truth came.
Silently, murderously, Xathia knocked aside Reaper's left blade before lopping off his right forearm. He screamed, incapable of holding his foes back as they both rammed their blades into his chest. Xathia grabbed his remaining arm, twisting with a Force-enhanced strength to snap it; Kal's telekinetics caught his saber before it hit the ground, snapping it into his left hand and reigniting it before ramming it through his forehead.
"Thanks," Kal said. Xathia nodded, and they both turned away from the dead man. "Where'd everyone go?"
Arden dashed in, striking furiously as Frost curved and wove to hold back the onslaught. The blue blade of Celevon nearly pierced through the defenses, only to be denied as the Battlelord before them smacked it aside. Before he could mount an assault, Lavar's orange blade carved down toward his face, forcing him to defend once more. The strikes came in a span of microseconds as the enemy danced and wove, his clearly superior skills pushed to the brink by having to fight in three directions. Barely able to hold them back, he roared, pushing Celevon back before blasting Arden away with the Force.
"Enough!" He screamed. The soldier's back smashed into the wall behind him before he fell to the ground, his head bouncing off of the durasteel below.
Slowly, painfully, he looked up to see Kant and Celevon engage the enemy again. Xathia and Kal were close behind, but the troopers in cover were taking potshots at them, slowing their progress. As his vision cleared, Arden knew that there was no way they'd make it in time. Either Celevon or Kant, or both, was going to die.
Unless... A mad little voice sprang to life in Arden's mind, and with a grunt he dragged himself to his feet.
"Get my rifle!" He cried out to the Dark Jedi below, taking off toward his overwhelmed compatriots at a dead sprint.
Kal glanced down at it from below, ensnaring it with the Dark Side and hurling it toward the Commander. Arden caught it with a grunt, hopping onto the railing and launching off of it, his Force abilities aiding his takeoff. Xathia bolstered it further, her own free hand lashing out with a push that lifted him higher still as he passed. Sailing through the air, he lined up the shot, a thousand voices telling him that this was impossible, that it was stupid, and that a good soldier never took these risks.
You are no longer a soldier, said another voice; that of his Master, Solus Gar. You are a Dark Jedi. He took another microsecond to adjust the angle of his shot, compensating for descent, and squeezed.
The bolt sailed through the air straight and true, leaping across impossible distances with lethal speed, but all of those below followed its path as if it were a crawl. It carved through the air, toward where Frost disarmed and kicked aside Kant, to where he battered back Celevon and forced him to a crouch. His white blade hurled aside the blue saber, his red rising for a triumphant arc, a split second away from the neck of the Onderonian.
Arden hit the ground and clumsily rolled, just as he heard the distinctive smack of a blaster bolt hitting its target. Snapping up to a combat stance, he watched as Frost's strike never fell; strength left his legs as he tumbled backward, his blades falling from his grasp to slurp back into their casings. He landed, a look of fury still frozen on his face as it rolled toward Arden.
Fury, alongside a smoking hole between his eyes. "Boom. Headshot." Arden muttered, smirking as he stood. He keyed in the Dark Council's emergency frequency, relaying to all other teams. "Hangar is secure. Ready for reinforcements."
Arden looked a bit confused as he silently accepted the datapad from the Krath accompanying Raken. What was so sensitive that it couldn’t be transmitted over an open frequency. Didn’t matter, there must have been a method to Raken’s decision to do so. And Arden did know one thing, the motivations of people as powerful as Raken were not his concern, yet. His sole concern now was to get to the command level and start securing it. Slipping a chip that contained a decryption protocol into the datapad, he returned to his waiting team.
Celevon looked at his CO with a raised eyebrow, the argent depths still swirling with an inner fire. “Orders?”
Arden’s reply came as he shifted his rifle. “Command deck, quick and dirty. I want to be there before they regroup.”
Celevon nodded and motioned the others towards the lift. As they jogged over themselves, the Onderonian looked at Arden again. “What’s on the datapad? The one that lady gave you.”
Arden shook his head. “Not sure, still decrypting. Lets just worry about getting the job done.”
The Assassin nodded slightly and proceeded to the lift. Arden was still figuring out whether or not he trusted him yet. He had come to Plagueis at an interesting time and, well, he had been Arconan. In fact, Arden didn’t really know any of his team that well with the possible exception of Kal, and his recent actions had given the Ettian reason to question where his loyalties lied. Would the Throne have sent him if they suspected disloyalty?
Or were they worried about Arden’s loyalties? No, that couldn’t be. What happened in the Academy should be proof enough of his loyalty. Then again, he could see how it could be interpreted in a negative light, especially since he didn’t seem to degrade as much as some of the others. The thought was too distracting to harbor at the moment. If there was any question as to Arden’s loyalty he’d settle it today and for all time.
As he boarded the lift behind the rest of the team, he heard the barely audible tone of the datapad informing him that the decryption protocol had finished running. Arden glanced down at it as the doors closed. Silently putting it into his pocket he keyed the lift for the command deck and then stepped back with a huff as the lift shot upwards.
Kal looked over to Arden, probably sensing something unsettling in the former Espo. “What was that about?”
Arden didn’t react and merely checked the remaining charge in his rifle’s powerpack. “Threat assessment, nothing to concern you.”
It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wouldn’t take a Force user to detect deception, though Arden’s mask made it much more difficult. If they did pick something up, nothing was said. Still, it was obvious that Arden was unsettled. And that was before the lift violently shook to a halt.
Kant was the first to react. “Idiots, they can’t even maintain a lift!”
Xathia calmly shook her head and moved over to the control panel without Arden even having to say anything. “No, it’s not a malfunction. Security override, I’m almost certain of it.”
Arden’s look to the woman and then to the console said everything he needed to say. Xath shook her head. “You know the answer to that already, maybe, but not quickly. Those aren’t the sort of systems you can access remotely.”
Arden took a deep breath and nodded as he reached for the hilt on his belt. “We don’t want to be here when they come and hurl in a grenade or something of that ilk. Kal, get the door if you would.”
A crimson blade flared to life and was creating sparks in the door within seconds. As Kal did so, Arden motioned for everyone to get to the corners of the lift. Within a minute Kal had made a sufficiently sized hole in the door allow for egress. However, they fast realized it was too late.
“Grenade!” several of them shouted in unison as a silver sphere rolled into the lift. Celevon reacted first and tried to shove the device back out the door. It wasn’t enough though as the grenade detonated in a violent flash of super bright light. As a bar of white was all that his eyes could see, he unclipped a grenade from his own belt and, using the Force as a guide, hurled it back where the flashbang had come from. Though he still couldn’t see the result, he could hear the sound of disciplined shouts and then the satisfying thud of the concussion grenade detonating. A moment later when his vision cleared he saw the bodies of several dead and wounded troopers through the hole.
Arden immediately recognized the armor of the troopers, or rather the insignia on it. “Alion Nova Guard, damn bastards didn’t think I was a good enough shot for them. This is going to be fun. Xath, we have schematics? Where are we?”
The reply came quickly as the others exited the hole in the door. “Deck 21, aft, Section 10-Besh. Security level.”
Arden nodded. “Should be able to access security controls from somewhere on this deck.”
Xath punched a couple keys. “Hang a right, first corridor on the right.”
A golden lance of plasma let loose from Arden’s own hilt and he jumped through the hole. “You heard the lady. Kal, point. Cel, rear guard. Rest of you on me. Go.”
Kal immediately moved to the head of the group, his crimson saber humming in an almost menacing manner as Celevon took the rear. The Templar’s deep azure blade burned through the artificial atmosphere of the Avenger II. Xathia and her husband passed a series of silent gestures and glances at each other, not needing words to express their thoughts to the other.
“The corridor we need should be coming up in the next twenty meters,” the Krath reported quietly to the Commander.
“Kal, keep your eyes peeled! I don’t like this silence... we’re walking into a trap,” Arden murmured to himself after ordering the Battlelord, seeming to forget that everyone nearby could hear him.
Kant glanced around suspiciously, extending his senses in search of any possible opponents. One never knew if their enemies were just shrouded beneath the energies of a stealth generator, after all.
“The best possibility of a trap is when we reach the ‘cross’ at the corridor we need,” Xathia pointed out after glancing over the schematics. The Onderonian glanced around, frowning at one of the bulkheads not far behind them.
‘Tango spotted. Seven meters behind us. Stealth units. Force User,’ Celevon reported to Arden, keeping the message simple for the Knight.
In return, the Battleteam Leader sent back a mental impression of instructions, though the message was clear to the Assassin:
Don’t pay too much attention to the target. Let them spring the trap, then eliminate the tango.
The team continued moving forward, too drawn into the looming battle to notice that their Commander continued glancing suspiciously at each member of his team, especially towards the three Equites. He hadn’t separated them without good reason. The worry of a traitor in their midst only adding to the adrenaline coursing through the Soldier’s veins.
As they reached the corridor, the Omwati’s eyes were drawn to the Sith Warrior that had yelled a war-cry, rushing towards her husband. Cobalt and crimson clashed as Xathia positioned herself to keep others from attacking Celevon whilst he was focused on the other Dark Jedi.
Several of the now visible attackers bore the insignia of the Ailon Nova Guard.
The Assassin spun, knocking away the Warrior’s lightsaber as their blades flared with a combined amethyst light. Celevon had spent enough time around his former Master, though it had been years before, to recognize Djem So. This opponent was nowhere near as skilled with that form as the deceased Patriarch of the Erinos Clan had been.
The duel was almost too quick for their mundane enemies to keep track of, even if they were not focused on attacking the two Knights. Growing tired of the game he was playing with the Miraluka, the Onderonian dropped into a crouch to duck under one of the wide swings, pulling his boot knife clear of the sheath. Before the Warrior could notice it, Celevon had locked their lightsabers and sunk the seven inch blade through the sternum and pierced the heart of his enemy.
Just as Sashar had taught him. Fair play and being honourable in a duel was only a death wish.
The former Arconan could almost hear the voice of his deceased friend and mentor: “Strike hard, strike fast and leave chaos in your wake, kiddo.”
As the Warrior’s eyes widened, keeping his gaze locked with the Templar’s argent eyes, Celevon twisted the blade, making the wound even bigger before he stepped back. The Miraluka only had a matter of seconds before death.
There was no chance of the enemy healing himself as the Amnesiac wiped the VibroCombat knife clean and returned it to his sheath. The cobalt lightsaber was deactivated and clipped to his belt as the Assassin plucked the weapon from the dying man’s grasp, placing it on a clip at his back.
Three of the Nova Guards were closing in on Xathia and the Onderonian. The Templar reacted as instinct shoved Force energy into his limbs as he leapt towards his wife, drawing the katana from the sheath on his back as he reached his destination. Celevon finished the draw by slicing through the minimal armor that the Guards wore, his folded durasteel blade buried halfway towards severing the dominant arm, nearly back-to-back with the Archpriestess.
The Assassin pulled his blade free, knowing that enemy was down one arm. Slicing through the joint had rendered it useless and not severing it would make that enemy’s motions more clumsy with the dead weight. The odds were now in the married couple’s favour.
Celevon's eyes watched with ferocity as the crippled guard fell back, howling as blood poured from his brutalized appendage. His comrades paid him little mind as they encircled the spouses, one drawing a combat knife as the other fired up a stun baton. A feral light glinted in their eyes as they measured each step, watching their foes with renewed caution; these two were a cut above their comrades. For another moment, they sized one another up.
Then, they charged, and all hell broke loose.
As he moved to assist the pair, Kant's attention was taken by a missile whizzing past his head, crashing into the turbolift behind them with a loud blast. Turning, he focused on the source, darting toward a pair of advancing B2 droids as they brought their wrist cannons to bear on the former bounty hunter. His defense was joined by Battlelord and soldier alike as his enemies multiplied, more and more guns brought to bear as battle droids poured into the corridor.
"Slag!" Arden shouted, glancing at Kal. "What do we do?"
"Cover me!" He barked back, ducking and darting away from the combat. Reaching toward the durasteel panels that lined the walls, his hands twisted like claws, exertion appearing on his face for a few moments. The steel groaned, buckling and twisting before tearing off to land in a makeshift barricade. "Get down!"
Ducking behind the barricade, Arden pulled free a frag grenade and primed it, hurling it over the pile of rapidly superheating metal. The bang that followed diminished the onslaught, but only for a moment. "Kant, where are we?"
"Hold on," The grizzled hunter replied, pulling his trusty datapad and cord out once more. "I need a battle droid. A live one."
"On it," Kal replied, standing and making a pulling motion. The form of a B2 crashed into the wall nearby, its legs and arms removed by the Commander before it could take aim.
Fumbling with a panel on the droid's back, Kant pulled it loose, yanking a few wires out and pulling the connector prong from his cord. He began twining the loose wires together before typing in some instructions. "Droid control signal's coming from... there! Four bulkheads up," Looking at Arden, he got an uncertain look on his face. "Can we make it?"
"I think so," He said, pulling the rest of his grenades from his belt. Handing them to the others, two apiece, he spoke quickly. "We've only got one shot at this. Prime them and throw on my mark, then make for the bulkhead. No defense; strike down anyone in front of you and move on."
Xathia's blade came about, going for the man's neck; he darted forward, his elbow meeting her chin. She responded quickly, ducking and sweep kicking him to the floor; before her blade could come down, he seemed to spring up on instinct, knocking her arm aside with his stun baton. The electricity crackled against her arm, making her snarl and respond with a spinning kick to the chest. Before he could recover, she dove forward, her blade punching up through his ribs. Looking back, she spotted Celevon grappling with the other, grabbing his arm and giving it a sharp twist. As the man's wrist broke, he screamed, only to be spun about and used as a human shield against the onslaught.
"What now?" Xath shouted to him, doing her best to cover her husband as he dove for his fallen saber.
"I don't know," Edraven replied, his blade coming to life once more. "Where's-,"
"Now!" Arden's voice shouted, and the blast that followed knocked the pair of them back.
Looking up, they watched as Arden, Kant, and Vorrac made for the crowd ahead, dodging and striking out at any enemy that moved. Nodding to his wife, the former Arconan made to follow, his blade batting aside the few bolts that came his way. Xathia was soon to follow, her silver weapon carving through a B2's face before coming around to swipe off half a guardsman's head. Their rush was like the onslaught of a supernova, consuming anything in its path as they made their way to the bulkhead and carving their way through it. Pouring in, they eyed their surroundings, spotting the mass of technological equipment all around them.
"Kant, Cel, wreck it." Arden snapped. "Kal, Xath, scout out the room. I'll get the door, and-..." His words were lost as a blast of blue-white voltage smashed into his chest, hurling him backward into the mess of cables.
The four still standing turned slowly, their blades raised as they noticed the hooded figure in the corner. "Well, well," A chilling voice said slowly, her tone almost amused as she paced forward. "It seems I've got a few guests."
Celevon sighed in relief, watching as Arden helped up the other Dark Jedi Knight. The Elder had been a difficult opponent, especially with three Equites who weren’t used to working together. The Onderonian brushed his wife’s hair out of her face with a gentle finger.
“Remind me not to piss off any Elders anytime soon,” Xathia smirked ruefully as she caught her breath.
“This isn’t over yet,” Kal muttered, glancing around suspiciously.
“It’s not like it can get any worse,” Kant grumbled. Seconds later, red lights began flashing as a klaxon alarm blared out.
Arden glared at the Corellian. “Will you stop saying that?!”
“I think that they know where we are,” the Krath said, her head craned backwards as her emerald eyes immediately sought out the detection system.
“I can only sense three other beings alive on this vessel that are not Brotherhood forces. Two are quite large. One is a nexus of Force energy...” the Templar reported, his eyes shut as he glanced around. “There has been a large amount of death on the bridge...”
“Well they’ve got our location narrowed down enough for concern, I suggest we keep moving forward before they trap us into a wire cage,” Xathia replied. “In that case, the bridge is the best target to head for anyway... we kind of need to capture it,” she wryly added.
“Agreed, love. Everyone: Be on your guard. I have a bad feeling about this,” Celevon muttered the final part just loud enough for the Archpriestess to hear it.
The two Knights were still reeling from the effects of the Adept’s mind control from not long before. The Commander and Kant appeared out of sorts, likely from where the Onderonian had struck each of them on the side of the head. Both Dark Jedi Knights had been forcefully turned on the Equites and a blow to the temple with the pommel of Celevon’s lightsaber had been a very primitive, yet effective, sedative.
So, this is what it’s like to be Second-In-Command. Looks like I get to take the reins... Joy.
Note to self: Celevon is buying the first round when we get the hell off this boat. Kant reached into a pouch on his vest where he had a small first aid kit and pulled out a couple of small analgesic caplets - nothing too powerful or fancy, just something to take the edge off. Slipping one into his mouth and tossing the other to Arden, Kant clipped his lightsaber back to his belt and took stock of his gear. His electrobinoculars had been smashed, which was a bit annoying but no great loss aboard ship. His datapad’s casing had been dented but the device still seemed operational. A stun grenade, a glop grenade, and two command-detonated shaped charges. Vibroblade still working, but for Lavar it was less a weapon and more a tool. Blaster carbine and pistol both running low on charge. Lightsaber still functional. Knees and ankles both sore, bruised ribs (possibly minor cracks, or worse, but “worse” didn't bear thinking on for now), and a head still recovering from being smacked around by an ally.
All in all, Lavar reflected, he’d much rather be in a hotel room on, say, Zeltros, trying to decide exactly how he wanted to entertain himself for the day.
The team made their way to the bridge, electing to take service crawlways whenever possible to try and avoid the security forces undoubtedly assigned to protect it. It wasn’t always possible, and the team had enough contacts with mundane security patrols and not a few (if less powerful) Zorranite Force adepts that the security officers on the bridge would have to have been in a coma to not realize that there was a Brotherhood strike force closing on the command center. Probably more than one, Lavar reasoned - one of the first principles in military planning is convergent assaults on a target - but all five Plagueians were making good time.
And then, quite suddenly, the team was through to the bridge antechamber. The doors were closed, but the green light overhead indicated the security locks were not engaged. No turrets popped out of wall panels to oppose their approach. There were no entrenched security teams, no improvised heavy blaster nests, no droids, no Zorranite Dark Jedi with lightsabers ablaze.
Just a door. But beyond it...
A black hole. That was how Lavar envisioned it. Every Force user quantified their feelings in the Force different ways. Threads, auras, sounds, smells... what Lavar “saw” through the Force reminded him more of stellar phenomena - stars, nebulae, and so on. But this... it was unlike almost anything he had ever seen before. “Almost” being the key word; years before, during a Great Jedi War, he’d felt the presence of Grand Master Muz Ashen on the battlefield. That was the closest he’d felt to this. But this was different, more... unstable?
Nobody on the team said anything. They all knew what was coming, what they had to do. Lavar, personally, wasn’t looking forward to it. Pragmatically, the best way to defeat an enemy that could overpower you as easily as this was to not give them the chance. But there wasn’t any options here. There was no security access outside the bridge to give the team the chance to, say, dump the atmosphere on the bridge or pump in gas of some sort, even if they had any. This would require significant skill, and not a small amount of luck. Yeah, a portion of Lavar’s mind snarked, about enough luck to have the entire Dark Council teleport themselves onto the bridge in front of you would be just about right. Lavar squashed that thought even as he reached for the Force to wrap it around himself like a second suit of armor. Almost at once, all five Dark Jedi lit their lightsabers and stepped forward into the bridge.
The overpowering Force impression that had come from the man standing at the front of the bridge had kept Lavar from noting a couple of details on the bridge. First, the fact that the bridge crew were all dead from varying means. Some simply had lightsaber wounds, others had no obvious signs of trauma. Others looked like they’d been mauled by something. Something big. Very, very big.
An alarm from the navigation pit caught Lavar’s attention and he noticed that the ship looked like it was on a collision course with... something. Which meant that the team had only a bare handful of minutes to lock in a course change - sensor range was so restricted in the Shroud that you were practically on top of something by the time you saw it.
The other things that Lavar hadn’t noticed through the Force were a couple of hulking masses of claws, teeth, tusks and, judging from the blood dripping from said claws, teeth, and tusks, lots of physical power. The red-robed man between them turned around to look at the five Dark Jedi, lifting a bloodstained sword from where it had been impaled in the deckplates. His eyes burned yellow from the power of the Dark Side and his mouth twisted into a crazed parody of a grin as he pointed his sword at the Brotherhood team, which seemed to be the command for the terentateks, as Lavar’s mind belatedly identified the creatures, to charge with a bone-rattling roar.
Faster than any ordinary being would have believed, the Terentateks charged, their massive hulks akin to an encroaching storm as they approached. It was with equal swiftness that the Dark Jedi they faced moved, the Knights snapping to focus and darting forward; restraining hands on their shoulders stopped them, pulling them out of the way of the assault.
"Damnit, Vorrac!" Arden belted, whirling around. "Do that again and I promise you, I'll flay your traitorous hide!"
"If you plan to do that, you'd best survive," The Sith replied; his words were edged with ice and steel, devoid of fear. "A direct assault is futile!"
"Then what do you-..." The Knight began, cutting off as the beast beyond wheeled back. "Move!"
The two had barely escaped before the Sithspawn's claws ripped through durasteel and circuitry alike, the walls and systems that had sheltered the two Force users reduced to rubble in an instant. Vorrac's disruptor was in his hand as he stood, firing off shots at the beast; even as they smacked into its dense hide, they formed only pockmarks, the heavily Force-tainted molecules resisting deeper disintegration. Arden took advantage of the distraction, sprinting around the Battlelord and free-running along the ruination that the beast had left behind. Leaping onto its back he slashed at it with his saber, eliciting an angry howl.
"Die!" He roared, planting his blade into the beast's back; as it howled in pain, his own voice became a similar sound, black claws reaching back and curling around the Knight before hurling him away.
Across the hangar, Xathia dropped to slide between the second monstrosity's legs, her silvery blade flashing back and forth as she went. The blade bit deep, but only so far, a grinding crackle sounding as the plasma fought through supernaturally tough flesh. The terentatek whirled with a howl, its fist crushing a deep dent into the durasteel floor as Xathia barely rolled away in time, her cloak tearing beneath the monster's claws as she went. Celevon took advantage of the moment of distraction, stabbing his weapon into the monster's flesh and dragging toward the spine. Groaning with the effort, the blade pushed through the metal like a knife through a block of hard cheese, slower than anything he'd fought through before.
His weapon was yanked free as the beast span, its forearm smashing into Cel's belly and hurling him several feet into a railing. "Ugh!"
"Celevon!" Xathia called. Turning to Kant, she spoke quickly. "Get moving! We need to keep this one busy; change the course while we have that one's attention!"
"On it," Lavar replied, his blade slurping back into its hilt as the Archpriestess leapt toward the fiend anew.
Between the blows to the head and the shock he had gotten Arden’s focus had been seriously impaired. And this was the time he needed it the most. So far the beasts, and their master for that matter, had largely ignored the Ettian which was a bit of a shock considering the wound he had placed in the one. While it was good in one sense that it allowed Arden to get his bearings, that could only mean one thing in Arden’s mind. The Dark Master had something sinister he was waiting to pull. That or he figured that this pets had the situation well in hand and all he needed to do was throw in the occasional maniacal cackle for effect.
For the moment he was right about the second one.
While both beasts had been wounded they were still plenty effective. As he watched Celevon and Xathia dodge and weave around the one beast, Arden focused in on the other one, the one he’d put a hole in. As the beast swung a massive claw, narrowly missing Kant in the process, Arden noticed the wound again. It hadn't been deep enough to deal any serious damage since the thing’s hide was unusually resistant to a lightsaber. It was nonetheless a chink in it’s armor, one that could be exploited. Nodding and grinning, he devised a thought.
“Kal!” The commander shouted as he pulled one of his SE-14 pistols , “I need you to turn it’s back to me. I’m only going to have one shot at this. “
The Praetor nodded in response and did as directed. Rolling to his right, Kal enticed the creature to take a wide swipe that turned the massive beast’s back in Arden’s direction. Sensing his chance, Arden sprinted with the aid of the Force directly at the creature, vaulting off a console in the process. In mid-air, the Sith launched a volley of emerald bolts from the rapid-fire pistol directly into the wound he had made earlier in the creature’s hide. The creature yelped in pain and threw his head back in response, placing one of it’s head spines dangerously near the now descending Arden’s chest. Arden sensed this, but still only had a split second to react. In what was probably not the best decision, Arden used his free hand to catch himself on the spine. Not what he had in mind, but his idea was still viable.
Holding on desperately as the creature thrashed about, Arden dropped the pistol and reached for last remaining grenade on his belt. As the creature snapped him back one last time, Arden armed the device and hurled it into the recently widened hole in the terentatek’s hide. As the creature bucked one last time, Arden released his grip and for his trouble got hurled across the bridge a good six meters before impacting a chair and later a console. As he felt his ribs explode in pain he took some small comfort in the muffled thud of the grenade quite literally blowing the sithspawn’s head clean off.
Arden barely had time to pull himself to his feet when he saw another figure charging at him, howling much like the terentatek, just not as loudly and a lot less massive. It appeared the master had come to avenge his pet. Arden narrowly dodged the first downward slash of the master’s blade. Despite the Force deadening the pain from the impact, Arden’s muscles in protest as he jumped back from the next strike.
As Arden fumbled for his lightsaber, the master advanced and sneered. “Though we’re all going to die soon, your death is going to be first, and the most painful.”
Arden managed to get his saber up and ignited in the nick of time to parry the next slash. “I would tell you to give it up and admit your defeat, or something equally cliche. But you’re too nuts for that, so lets just get it on.”
The Master shrugged. “If that’s how you want it.”
Without another thought, he struck forth with a flurry of strikes the likes of which Arden, nor anyone else present had ever seen. Though Arden’s enhanced reflexes allowed him to hold off the onslaught for a moment, it wasn't long before he felt the distinct feeling of the Sith blade slicing into the seam in his armor between his lower torso. While it only barely cut the skin, it was enough to cause Arden’s muscles to seize up. He still could feel the wave of force that emanated from the Master’s free hand throw him back in the direction of the downed terentatek twice his hard as the creature had hurled him.
As he fell limp on the deck, Arden saw the master advance, an ear to ear grin on his face. “Enjoy you last seconds weakling...”