Dark Crusade: Prologue Team 16
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
SSD Avenger II
Shirai Ryu had to still himself from all the excitement that was going on all around him as the shuttle came to a stop in the hangar of the enemy. There were many things to take into account, first of them was that Shirai had never been this close to a Super Star Destroyer before. Its sheer size was something out of a horror story. But that's what it was, a horror story. Wherever a Super Star Destroyer went, it left horror in its wake. He wanted to command such a vessel. Probably not now when he was so weak, but this was the type of power he wanted. It also helped him push this belief in his head for the coming battle, that the group he was with to take the hangar was nothing short of an all-star cast.
As he jumped off the ship, his armor ruffled in response to his movement. The Sith armor did him justice. But he failed in comparison to his comrades around him, but that mattered not. The objective was to capture the Avenger II with the aid of other teams making path for them. This was a secure capital ship, so they expected it to be highly guarded, by man and machine. He could feel the mass numbers of their presence before they even got there. But as the rest of his group departed from the shuttle. He knew the Brotherhood had responded in turn by sending some of their finest to get the job done.
It did make him uneasy to feel such raw Dark Side at first but he made a mental note to never pry his conscious anywhere near the Dark Prophet. Darth Vexatus had taken to the battlefield. Shirai had also never met a Darth before this day either, having met an elder before but a Darth was certainly a first. Sildrin whom he had fought with before was also in the fold. The other two Macron and Jeric he had only knew on legend alone. The Sith Warrior had never been afraid to die.
But he looked at his chances and saw that those chances were very low, just the way he liked it. "I'll take the front to provide cover. I'm sure you guy's can deal with Reaper and Frost when we get to them." Shirai said to his comrades. Making sure not to overstep his authority. But in the midst of battle, it was probably dust in the wind. The Dupar held his right hand out to the side, a saber floated into his hand and ignited. A light red hue sprang to life, he twirled the blade in a kata fashion.
The battle in front of them was unavoidable as the defenses of the Avenger II were noticing their arrival. Troops and Dark Jedi of the One Sith ran to intercept them. A brave act, but a foolish mistake. He could see Frost and Reaper down the hangar, it was obvious who they were. The twins were causing destruction as well. Shirai met the troops so that they could finish the commanders quickly, his blade went intercept a Dark Jedi Knights blade. Another one joined his ally as they were taking no chances with Shirai and double-teamed him. Switching to Shii-Cho he was instantly swept in the Dark Side. He gave the other Knight a strong parry leaving him stunned for a second. The other Knight which turned out to be a Zabrak came back with a strong overhead strike. To which Shirai roared and plunged his saber in the chest of the Zabrak. The other Knight made a move to take advantage of the temporary laps in time.
But the Dark Side was within him, it made him more aware of the dangers his enemy wanted to impose on him. Those ill intentions were ill placed. For Shirai anticipated the horizontal slash, which gave him the opportunity to duck under the deadly swing of the Knights lightsaber. And as his hand swung by Shirai's own deadly blade rose upward in a strong swing, and in the same moment he swung it down just as hard. In two strokes he had disarmed the man by cutting his hands off, and also managing to bring a downward slash in the mans chest. Killing him instantly. The lifeless bodies crumpled to the floor. The deaths always got him excited for some reason.
He could feel the Dark Side tempting him to take more. He looked back at his group as they also prepared for the charge. It looked as if the Sith Warrior Shirai, was in for a show.
Inside the Hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
Claxons thundered through the former flagship of the late Archibald Zoraan as strike teams flooded out into the Star Destroyer’s many hangar bays. Explosions already flashed in the hangar where the shuttle had brought the Dark Prophet and the others in the team with whom he had chosen to accompany—of course, the Falleen and his new apprentice had their own reasons for being there.
Bodies already littered the floor underneath the assorted starfighters and shuttles that remained clamped overhead in their allotted landing bays like dark rows of sleeping bats. Blood ran down the rivets in the durasteel sheets that made up the walkway where the strike team that had arrived prior to the Dark Prophet’s had been struck down. The twin henchmen responsible now strut back and forward at the opposite end of the hangar, brandishing their lightsabers above their heads and showing off the stolen trophies they had snatched from the still warm hands of their dead victims.
An amused chortle of air hissed from the vocabulator in the base of Macron’s helmet. “Tehehe,” the newly elevated Dark Adept giggled as he slowly but powerfully strode down the ramp of the shuttle with the, by comparison, much more reserved Jeric Cyrin by his side. “Shirai, make sure you leave some for me!” the new Elder called toward the white haired warrior, who had already launched himself into the blood brawl, before Macron and Jeric both entered the fray themselves as well.
Jeric’s crimson and the mad alchemist’s tangerine blades both snap-hissed to life as a squad of armoured stormtroopers assembled in an inevitably futile attempt to block the two Sith warriors.
For now, Xanos remained at the top of their shuttle’s boarding ramp, Sildrin calmly at his side, as the pair surveyed the battle scene. Reaper and Frost—their names having been relayed by the strike team whose lives they had snuffed out—stared back at the Dark Prophet and his new apprentice. The twin on the left, whichever of the two that was, bared his broken and uneven yellow teeth as he sneered across the hangar bay full of chaos. The two Battlelords were clearly gloating. Mocking.
The formerly blind sorceress inclined her head to the side a little and spoke only as loud as needed for her master alone to hear. Not that the Falleen needed to hear the words aloud, as the woman surely knew. Her thoughts had already betrayed her displeasure at the scene that greeted them.
“They think you afraid, Master,” Sildrin said dryly.
Somewhere far away, another chess piece moved across an unseen board.
For a moment, the Falleen’s mind drifted away and neither Master nor apprentice spoke as the two sorcerers simply stood and watched as the three Sadowan warriors down below continued to batter their way through the droids and guards that rallied to impede their landing. Fire and murder snaked around the three marauders like a whirlwind. Shirai’s arms were already smeared with blood, and Macron brushed away a fresh smudge of ash that had become lodged across his helmet’s main visor.
The glaze dissolved from Xanos’s eyes and the Falleen’s focus returned to the present.
“Then Zoraan’s minions have learnt nothing in twenty years,” the Dark Prophet finally replied.
Xanos had been there back then. At the time, he had being serving aboard the original Avenger, the price he had paid for survival after his indiscretions with Faethor Dejarc. Zoraan had been a fool then, and he had been a fool now. Both times he had paid for his lack of vision with his life.
A blaster bolt from one of the stormtrooper squad whistled past the Falleen’s ear as his mind drifted back in thought, but Sildrin had reached out and quite literally gripped the next shot in her hand. The energy dissipated, but the woman’s hand smoked a little and her lips curled back into a tight sneer, as her weakened grip of the Force’s recovery remained incomplete. Even so, the stormtrooper appeared to hesitate, uncertain of what had happened; but then one of the twins in the distance waved their arm, goading the soldier on, and the stormtrooper’s body jerked before he fired again.
Like before, Zoraan’s armies were nothing more than droids that bled.
Fire crackled around Xanos’s left hand and the next moment the stormtrooper that had shot at them collapsed to the ground, writhing as the icy tendrils of the dark side wrapped around his throat and the man came face to face with a living death. As the Dark Prophet finally descended the steps, the stormtrooper continued to jolt back and forth, his body jinking left and right, as his armoured hands clawed at his helmeted face, scratching at something only the man trapped inside knew was there.
Some things were worse than death.
A gunshot rang out behind the Falleen as his apprentice silenced the stormtrooper’s screams.
Inside the Hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II?
"We should keep in mind the fog of war," commented Xia Long as she let the heavy blaster pistol she had blown the woman trooper’s brains out with slide into a holster . The stormtrooper's body hit the ground with a twitchy thud. A quick flick of the wrist snapped blood from her gloved hand as she studied it with mis-matched eyes. "My sight is improving. Yet my connection to the Force... remains clouded."
"Anything can happen along the journey to the Final Way, my Apprentice." The Dark Prophet strode coldly forward as his skin rippled. The Falleen did not look well. His lifeless stare stare peered into the hangar. "The obvious way is a trap. Look within."
"I see the floor grating," replied the Krath. Her twin colored eyes scanned the hangar. "It could be a kill zone. I'd bet on gas." Her hands swept a rebreather from her belt. “Still, I would expect more from them .”
"It will not affect me." Xanos remained impassive. "I do not respire much these days. Base students learn detoxification early in their studies. I’d be surprised if it was something so droll.” His mind reached out to the rest of team to alert them to the trap.
Ahead of them battle had been engaged fully. To the left, a transport stood at dock. The assaulting Brotherhood minions were in the middle, and to the right a TIE Defender loomed on it’s rack. The obvious path was straight ahead across the vents in the floor. A few corpses lay about, all of them wearing the equipment of the mercenaries.
“We’re driving them back,” remarked Shirai. His dark skin shone with blood that trickled down across short white hair. His crimson blade was held before him as the two dead Knights lay on either side. His breath came heavy. Such an exertion of Force by the Equite was taxing. “I got them.” The hunger for mayhem surged within him. The Dark Side spoke, urging the Sith Warrior toward greater destruction. “We should move forward.” A battle droid fired on him repeatedly as he closed on it.
“Not until we have secured this area,” replied Jeric dryly as he gracefully deflected a few sizzling blaster bolts. He efficiently cut down a stormtrooper with an odd-angled Vaapad strike. The ruthless Tapani was calculating. “They obviously assume we’ll charge right down the middle.” His alertness caught the hiss of opening ports in the side walls of the hangar. “Turrets!,” he yelled forcefully. “Defend yourselves!”
A hail of blaster fire pelted the intruders. It caught and tore down the stormtroopers and droids in front of them. It was obvious the commanders of this ship were completely fine with killing their own troops to stop an enemy. The fire was exactly targeted across the main walk. The blaster fire was more than a lightsaber could bear. But it was stopped, nonetheless.
Xanos held his hands high in supplication of the Dark Sideas the bolts splashed uselessly on an invisible wall of Force. The barrier was strong. “Macron. Destroy them.”
“Yes, my Master,” giggled the madman as he considered the situation. Solutions vied with each other within his twisted mind in a moment of insane insight . The red-armored Sith leapt towards one turret and glided the ten meters through the air with ease. As the repeater fired at his companions, the madman sliced the end from it with a burst of sparks from a hot-tuned orange lightsaber. His crushgaunt clad left hand squeezed the lip of the turret creche and crushed it with a whine of servos as he held on and dangled from the wall.
A wave of potent telekinesis turned the turret on the other front side of the hangar towards it’s friend across the way. The other turret then targeted the madman as the nearest enemy within line of site and blew the damaged turret to hell as Macron dropped down to the floor. Smoke and fire gushed from the blown recess. A force-pitched Thermal Detonator slagged the remainder turret with actinic light and a blast of baradium fire as Macron laughed insanely.
Jeric and Shirai moved forward cautiously, skirting the edge of the grating as they donned rebreather masks. More droids and Dark Jedi gushed into the gap to defend as the Twins gloated over their previous kills, taunting the invaders to move forward.
Inside the Hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II?
Sildrin watched the scenery - for a moment overwhelmed by the visual input. For years she had been blind; but in the absence of the Force, her eyes had recovered. It emerged she had been the one to blind herself with the Force; and had always denied it. Her hands tightly gripped her two heavy blasters, sending salves of laser beams into the thick smoke.
Her eyes teared up from the smoke and with a gloved hand she wiped them clean; her vision was no longer supported by her ever familair Force Sight. Despite Macron’s cure, her connection to the Force recovered slowly, for reasons unknown to her or the mad alchemist. Naturally, she had refused the madman’s request to carry out an ‘operation’ to find out more. Anyway, if she was to choose, she had prefered to stay this way; unburdened by that curse of existence, the cancer of the universe - the Force. But for now there was no time to lament.
Maniacal laughter made her turn her head, her eyes, red and green, widened at the sight of the madman - Macron was sitting on top of one of the turrets firing at them, having gripped its head. He now twisted and directed it at his will, making it fire at their opponents. He’s riding the turret like a mechanical bantha in a cantina, she thought as she holstered her blaster and grabbed for her sabers instead. Her skills at using a blaster were close to zero with her hindered sight.
Several troopers engaged her and the Lord Prophet; she readied her sabers.
At once the bodies of the troopers began to twitch, spasm, dropping their weapons. Armored hands grabbed at helmets or tried ripping off armor. Screams escaped their lips at the illusion of melting metal encasing their bodies. One of the soldiers had managed to rip off his helmet; he digged his fingernails into his eyes, trying to rip off that which only existed in his imagination.
The Falleen watched impassively, playing the orchestra of Force illusions with a mastery seeking its kind. With a couple of quick strikes, Sildrin ended the misery of the troopers. “There are so many of them,” she whispered, her voice lost to the roar of battle. Her Master did not need to hear her words - he had known her thoughts before they were even spoken aloud.
She turned her head to the right as she listened to the whisper in her head: “The Bomber?” she muttered. She nodded. She understood. For now she delayed the fright of her Master’s constant lingering presence in the back of her mind. For now.
Hastily she made her way to the TIE Bomber. Her sorcerous powers were crippled, and the sabers were not any better than swords without the guidance of the Force, but she had still her skills to slice into computer systems. And these TIE Bombers’ weapons should be very handy.
Inside the Hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
Jeric look over his shoulder to see Sildrin climbing towards the Bombers hanging over head. Shirai deflected a few blasts as the two continued to skirt the grating. Up ahead a mess of Droids and Dark Jedi blocked the path to the Twins. “You wanted more blood young Warrior here is your chance.” Jeric said to Shirai as the Tapani jumped thru the smoke screen caused by the destroyed turrets. Shirai followed slicing a droid in half as he landed.
Macron was dealing with a group of stormtroopers on the opposite side of the Hanger. The madman’s orange blade took off one of the troopers arms, while his red blade finished off the helpless troopers coming up behind him. Xanos continued to watch over the battle from his vantage point. The Sith Lord’s control of the force impressed even Jeric.
Sildrin had made it to the TIE bomber overhead, Jeric lost sight of her as she jumped into the cockpit. Jeric’s concentration return to the battle at hand as a Dark Jedi attempted to strike down the Battlelord. Switching to his off hand Jeric cut down the Dark Jedi with a few awkward angle strikes. Shirai was a few meters to Jeric’s right dealing with a squad of droids. The Tapani’s alertness allowed him to avoid a stray bolt from a trooper. Thrusting his hands forward Jeric’s control of the force crushed the trooper against a shipping container. The two Sith spent the next couple of minutes slaughtering every trooper and droid in their way. A Dark Jedi jumped in front of a pair and brandished a double-bladed. The two engaged with grace, striking at the Dark Jedi and parrying every blow the would-be Sith attempted. It didn't take long for the Dark Jedi to tire. Jeric seized to opportunity to grip his opponent with the Force. With the Dark Jedi’s defense open, Shirai stabbed straight into his heart. The lifeless body dropped to the ground just meters in front of the Twins.
Their mocking laughter stopped as the two Battlelord drew their sabers and ignited them. The red and white hues lit up their corner of the hanger. Jeric could sense that all attention had been drawn to him and the Sith Warrior that stood at his side. The Falleen Sith Lord let out a final burst of lightning frying the last of the droid currently in the hanger. The sounds of battle faded as Macron’s blade cut down the last three stromtroopers.
“So you think you can just come in here and take our Star Destroyer?” Reaper said as he slowly twirled the white saber. Frost stepped in front of his brother spinning both sabers as if showing off. “Don’t worry Reaper, with our combine powers they don’t stand a chance.” The two began their mocking laughter once more. Shirai stepped forward pointing his lightsaber as if to challenge the twins. A more reserve but calculating Jeric lowered the Sith Warrior’s arm and stepped in front of him. “We don’t think my friends, we know.” A smirk formed on the former noble’s face. “But if you so choose to stop up then by all mean, make your move.” Jeric said as if to taunt the two. The hope is that one would fall right into the trap Jeric knew Sildrin had planned.
Inside the hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The ship’s sirens still echoed off the walls, deafening all sound of battle.
An assortment of battle droids were climbing the docking scaffolding toward the TIE Bomber that loomed high overhead the pocketed and blood smeared floor of the hangar bay.
The droids hailed from no particular source. From Baktoid combat droids to refitted protocol units and even a quartet of DUM-series labour droids whose role was normatively simply to refuel the other haulier units and those ships which had docked. Right then, however, every droid that was not already engaged in the melee with the two twins had downtooled and uprooted from their usual stations and begun toward the bomber that Sildrin had taken control of.
The witch may have withdrawn from the battle proper and taken cover inside the starfighter’s cockpit, but her absence of the Force was unimportant at that moment: there, her prowess as one of the foremost slicers and computer hackers to have graced Antei’s halls was the skill that the droids feared. It was fitting for the cybernetic to fear the organic who knew them all too well.
Directly underneath the scaffolding, Xanos raised his hand and another cluster of the droids short-circuited, their armour plating sparking from electrical overload, then they crashed back to the ground with a loud tinny clang, like something had struck a large metal gong with a hammer. Across the other side of the hangar, Jeric and Shirai had already engaged the twins, and Macron had now moved to join them. Reaper and Frost would be finished shortly.
But that did not mean that this battle was over.
The Dark Prophet had already seen how this fight would end.
“You can’t beat us!” one of the twins’ voice cried over the top of the clash of lightsabers as another of the battle droids climbing toward Sildrin’s TIE Bomber crashed back to the ground.
“The Master will return!” laughed the second twin. “He is immortal! Lord Zoraan cannot die!”
Despite all the twins hollering, the words merely went in one ear and out the other. The Dark Prophet’s mind was elsewhere. Adrift. What mattered there was presently housed inside the cockpit of that TIE Bomber. Her thoughts would usher the conclusion to this fight.
And usher the end Sildrin did.
Now, my Master.
Xanos took a step back. Overhead, a compartment in the base of the TIE Bomber slid open, exposing the racks of proton warheads that were loaded within. A second clatter, the clasp holding the lowermost warhead clicked open. And the rocket fell.
But it would not end this way. Xanos’s eyes flicked toward the melee across the hangar.
Amidst the whirlwind of flashing lightsabers, one of the two dark haired twins’ heads lifted to take in what had just happened above the Dark Prophet. Reaper--his name echoed inside the Force--snarled, barking a curse, and snapped his head round toward his brother.
The bomb was already halfway to the floor now. But the Twins were not powerless.
Frost moved so quickly it was as if the two twins shared the same mind. Disengaging from his saber lock with Shirai, the pale human rapidly pulled back outside the Sadowan’s reach before the twin leapt. Reaper’s reaction was just as instinctive, for as Frost narrowly passed above an overhead swipe from Jeric, Reaper pushed his own Force energy into his brother’s spring, melding their strengths together, so that Frost fired toward the warhead like a cannonball.
The bomb may have had gravity on its side, but Frost had the momentum of the Force.
The Battlelord reached the warhead when it was no more than nine feet above the ground. It was too late to stop it. Even with the twins’ joint power, the bomb’s collision vector could not now be changed. But deflect the warhead was not what Frost did. The twin’s pale hand punched inside the rocket’s nose cone, into its guidance and control systems.
It was all over before Frost had pulled his hand clear.
The warhead thundered as it crashed into the surface of the hangar bay and the twin was hurled chaotically off to one side into a pile of the overloaded droids beneath the TIE Bomber. But the bomb did not go off. Frost swirled from the hole where the twin of the same name had withdrawn his fist. The heat had been ripped from inside, crystallising it, deactivating the control matrix.
Behind Frost and the bomb, Reaper howled with victorious laughter.
“Did you fools think you could stop us so easily!” the twin jeered. “We were Zoraan’s chosen!”
The three Sadowans did not care, but Reaper’s annoying chatter continued unabated.
Back underneath the TIE Bomber, Frost reached for one of the legs of the piled battle droids to pull himself to his feet. He grimaced as he stood up. Frost rolled his left shoulder and clenched his teeth. His shoulder had been dislocated in the crash. The twin let go of his white lightsaber.
Turning toward Xanos, the twin sneered. “Bet you think you’re real clever.” He swirled his remaining red lightsaber back and forth in front of him in a kata. “But we saw your stupid trick.”
As the twin tried to goad the Dark Prophet into making the first move, Sildrin dropped down from ship above and landed behind Xanos. Her appearance earned another sneer from the Battlelord. The twin snorted with derision. “You brought a mere woman to take over the Master’s flagship?” Frost looked as if the idea was absurd in its hilarity. “She’s not even strong in the Force!” His sneer began to take on a hungry, predatory look. “But I can see what you brought her for.”
Xanos felt a spark kindle in the Force behind him, but its heat died away again just as quickly. Sildrin was too reserved to rise to the Battlelord’s baiting. The Falleen silently signalled her to depart with a flick of his left hand. He did not need the witch’s blasters to deal with this creature, and he knew that her purpose in this fight would be fulfilled elsewhere.
Frost grunted. “Yes, send your bitch away like the loyal dog she is.” He snorted another laugh, then ran his tongue along his lips and smirked with forbidden lust. “I can deal with her later.”
Sildrin had already vanished behind the scaffolding so gave no reaction. The twin was on Xanos the next second. Springing over the pile of droids, Frost dropped down on top of the Falleen, his rotten teeth snarling and hissing the whole way. The twin’s rage seethed through the dark side like a furnace, whose vapours had been bottled up inside for far too long.
“Now get over here and die!”
The Dark Prophet had seen the blow coming long before Frost’s attack had reached its target. At the last moment, the unarmed Elder sidestepped and reached out to grab the twin’s injured arm as Frost landed. Turning the man’s own momentum back against him, Xanos twisted Frost back around and slammed him back into the pile of droid parts that the man had just vaulted over. The twin yowled from the combination of his damaged shoulder and the unexpected pain of having broken durasteel arms and legs shoved up into his chest and into his lungs.
But Frost did not stand still. He shoved right back off the droid pile. His furnace burned hotter still. For a man who had drained the energy from a proton torpedo a few breaths earlier, the Battlelord was far more filled with fire than his name would suggest. But his rage fanned the flames of his anger and the twin’s earlier discarded lightsaber sprung through the air back into his empty hand.
Frost snarled again.
“Pain won’t stop me that easily.”
As someone howled in their own agony from the battle at the other end of the hangar, the twin sprung at the Falleen. Frost would not be beaten. Not by his father. Not by his brother. And most definitely not by this worthless excuse for an Elder, who had a mere mundane for an apprentice.
Xanos read the man’s thoughts as Frost struck. The attack came as fast as lightning, fuelled by Frost’s renewed pain from wielding his white lightsaber using his broken arm. The pain was the man’s strength. It drove him forward. It gave him speed. Frost slammed the lightsaber down, as if he was slamming someone else into the ground, but in this instance it was his own weapon.
“Die!” the Battlelord hissed, laughing as he surged forward, and Xanos raised his right arm, as if to shield himself from the incoming blow. But the attack did not go the way Frost had expected. Instead of severing the Dark Prophet’s arm, the white lightsaber stopped after passing through the fabric of the Elder’s robes. The sudden impulse jolted back up through Frost’s wounded arm and the lightsaber clattered back onto the floor once more. A wisp of smoke rose from where the Battlelord’s strike had failed to land and the twin caught a faint whiff of cauterised flesh.
Frost simply stared at the Dark Prophet in front of him as the rage drained from the twin’s face.
“This cannot be,” Frost whispered, his voice having gone quiet. In the background, the continued thrum and snap-hiss of lightsabers across the hangar echoed through the suddenly still scene.
Frost’s twice discarded lightsaber flew into Xanos’s hand. The Falleen simply crushed it and threw it on top of the pile of disabled battle droids. Releasing his hold on the twin’s pneuma, Xanos’s own thoughts floated back to the surface of his mind. The veins down Xanos’s arm bulged, as his blood surged through his body, protesting at the dark energy that now flooded it.
“No weapon is stronger than will,” the Elder said cryptically.
The two stood there in silence as Frost continued just to look at him, confused. In the back of his mind, Xanos could feel Sildrin moving into position. Her hands now raced across the terminal buried behind the piles of droid parts and stormtroopers that had been killed earlier by the others.
This opera had entered its final act.
Having apparently noticed the continuing convulsions along the Dark Prophet’s arm, Frost’s expression hardened again, his rage returning. The man’s eyes filled with dark fire once more. The Falleen did not respond in kind, but just continued to stand there, expressionless.
“There are more ways than fire,” Xanos said. “Submit, and your life can be spared.”
Only those who embraced the end could escape their fate.
Frost’s eyes narrowed in confusion again. Across the hangar, for a second the clash of lightsabers broke and an identical voice to Frost’s answered instead. “There is no surrender!” the twin called Reaper growled at the top of his voice. “Like the Master, we are eternal!”
The second twin’s words were all that Frost had needed to recharge his confidence. Frost lifted his crimson lightsaber blade and readied the final strike. The Dark Prophet’s sorcery may have shielded a simple arm, but this time the twin would not hold back; this time he would go straight for the source. But Xanos just continued to stand there as Frost pulled back to stab at the Elder’s heart. However the Dark Prophet’s resignation only served to fan Frost’s rage even further.
“This time there will be no escape!”
And there wasn’t.
From the floor in between Frost and the Falleen, a blue energy shield projected into the space between them. It was too late for Frost to halt his attack though. The hangar containment shield rose through the Battlelord as if in a chess pattern, starting from his feet, before proceeding up through his legs, his waist, and his torso, leaving tiles of bones and flesh that slowly slid apart on either side of the force field as the emergency magnetic shield enlarged straight through the twin’s middle. There was no time for Frost to scream. Like the Falleen who just stood there on the other side of the shield without a movement, the Battlelord’s death came in silence.
A moment later, the security shield closed down again, and what remained of Frost fell apart.
Reaper’s scream shook the remains littering the hangar bay, flinging them into the actual magnetic field that remained active just inside from the void of space. The surviving twin’s shock filled the Force, and Xanos latched onto it, drinking it, sucking his fill as Reaper stormed and wailed. But Macron, Jeric and Shirai held their ground. They would not be flung airborne by the twin’s death cries on behalf of his defeated brother.
Sildrin reappeared as the three Sadowans took advantage of Reaper’s distraction. Her face carried a rare look of satisfaction when she glanced down at the bloody pool that was all that now remained of Frost. The woman spat down into the pool of blood. “Good riddance to you too.”
Sildrin’s connection to the Force may have been weakened, but she was no mundane.
Xanos’s eyes drifted away from the others’ battle with Reaper. Like the twins’ dead master, the two Dread Councillors’ objective remained elusive. But their true target could not escape them forever. Sildrin was still a master slicer; there was no where on this ship their mark could hide.
Inside the Hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The word that Reaper had screamed still echoed in Macron's mind as he moved to engage the Battlelord. "Pathetic," grumbled the madman as he holstered his red saber and continued to clutch the orange hilted one. His now-free left hand slid into the Armor Fist hanging from a belt clip. The madman flexed it with a menacing giggle. Reaper was a silly name for such a pussy. It appeared that Xanos and Sildrin had taken care of the other twin and the mass of droids that remained. Only the clean-up was left. Taking out the trash would be interesting at least.
Shirai and Jeric held the remaining twin at bay with tandem saber work. Jeric was the more skilled of the two Sadowans engaging Reaper. His crimson blade reflected the styles of the early Sith Lords of old with focusing tines. Although he preferred the shadows Jeric was talented with a blade. Vaapad was where he shone. Shirai cut down a battle droid that menaced him with a vibro-axe as Jeric dueled the enemy Dark Jedi.
Reaper dropped his guard slightly and threw Shirai into a bulkhead wall with a Force Slam. His fury at seeing his twin brother chopped into mincemeat was making him reckless. "You'll all die!" snarled the young man as blabbered on about his combat prowess. Reaper snapped a booted Force-powered kick at Jeric and caught him in the stomach just as the Sadowan turned for an off-angle strike. The strike beheaded the storm trooper who had run up beside Reaper but missed its primary target. Jeric groaned and pressed a free hand to his stomach but did not drop his guard. The man's fortitude was impressive.
Reaper vaulted over Jeric with a Force-assisted jump and leapt towards Shirai with a slamming x-blow blow from his white and red blades that would slice Shirai in half. In midair he was caught by potent telekinetic blast that ripped one of the blades from his hand and broke his arm cleanly. It threw him to the side of the bulkhead where Shirai was regaining his footing. The red lightsaber fell from the fingers of the broken arm while he still retained the white.
Insane laughter echoed from his new assailant.
The Alchemist was on Reaper in a flash, a red-armored blur moving with blistering speed. Makashi blows arced in, stabs, lunges, wrist spins. Reaper held them off with one arm as Macron toyed with him. "You disappoint me blabbermouth," giggled the Adept as he taunted the Equite. "Jeric, Shirai, I can take care of this weakling. See if you can secure the exit hatch."
"Weakling?" Reaper yelled in defiance. "You're nothing, clown! Lord Zoraan..."
"Is dead," replied Macron replied viciously as he laid into the Battlelord. He saber locked Reaper's remaining white blade. An armored knee slammed into Reaper's groin with the power of a jackhammer, completely crushing his manhood and pelvic bone. The force of the blow lifted him off his feet as Macron shut his own lightsaber down. A rocketing hard punch from the Armor Fist smeared Reaper’s nose and facial features into a gelid sanguine mess before he hit the ground. The orange blade snapped back on and severed Reaper's good arm at the shoulder as a follow-up. "Now so are you."
The man burbled, snot and blood gushing from his ruined face as the pain washed over him. "We can't lose!" His mindless prattle still continued even at the end. “Buh buh buh”.
"Shut up," snarled Macron as the Armor Fist closed over Reaper's face and squeezed. The man’s head popped like an over-ripe cantaloupe under the grinding plates of Beskar inside the crushgaunt. Brains and gore squirted under pressure from the back of his head in a small patch across the bulkhead wall like an enormous bloody pimple as the corpse began to kick. "I can't stand jabber. Done here. Shirai, Jeric you okay?”
As they nodded assent and regrouped, Xanos and Sildrin moved to join them.
“Let’s move forward,” giggled Macron excitedly. “More fun awaits us I am sure.”
Inside the hangar
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
Events had moved quickly after the hangar bay had been secured.
While the strike team were still dressing their own wounds and looting what ammunition they could from the bodies that now littered the burning hangar, doors had simultaneously opened at both the starboard and port ends, on the opposite side from the turbolifts that Frost and Reaper had failed to defend, and then faceless armoured troopers from the Army of the Iron Throne had spilled into the hangar and formed a perimeter around Macron and the rest of his team.
The sudden arrival had been unexpected, but any unspoken questions were quickly answered the moment a new shuttle swept through the magnetic field and up into the hangar bay from the void of space outside. The familiar markings on the side identified its source instantly. If any had sensed the Dark Council’s shuttle, they had not shown any sign of it during the frantic battle a few minutes earlier, and the Shroud was likely to have masked the ship’s passage anyway.
When the boarding ramp lowered, its passengers needed no introductions.
Like a shadow, the Deputy Grand Master moved down the ramp without a sound, the huge, red tower of muscle saying more than any words could. Behind the hornless Elomin, the hooded woman that followed was practically dwarfed into insignificance, looking much shorter than she actually was in reality. Raken remained where he was while Ekeia Iclo signalled the troopers to allow Macron’s team through the cordon that they had formed around the shuttle.
Xanos and Sildrin watched from a distance as the three Sadowans welcomed Ekeia and the Shadow Hand aboard before the Pontifex handed the Elomin’s praetor a datapad that Macron quickly decrypted. The mad alchemist, who had removed his helmet to breathe in the thick smell of death after the fighting had finished, frowned a little when he read whatever the transmission said, then turned his head slightly, studying the two who had remained near the turbolifts.
“What’s going on?” Sildrin said quietly to her new master. Ordinarily, the woman’s own control of the Force would have provided her the answer, but right then with her weakened grip on it she remained in the dark, still blind despite finally being able to see again with her own eyes.
Xanos did not answer but merely looked up from Ekeia and Macron toward Raken himself. The Elomin was looking directly back at the Falleen. For a moment, the pair held each others’ gaze, but then Raken turned back to Ekeia, raising a hand to wordlessly signal her and the rest of his assault team that it was time that they moved on and continued with their own objectives.
As quickly as they had arrived, the hangar emptied again and the soldiers of the Army of the Iron Throne were gone, Raken and Ekeia leaving with them to carry out their own mission elsewhere.
Like the Red Tower, no words passed between the five members of the strike team as they all rendezvoused at the turbolift past the by now cold bodies of the two twins. Whatever message Ekeia had passed to Macron, the new Elder was for the moment keeping to himself. Jeric and Shirai lingered behind their team leader, seeming to have picked up on the tension, even if neither of the two Sadowans voiced their feelings aloud.
Sildrin narrowed her newly restored eyes at Xanos’s earlier apprentice. “New orders?”
Macron put his helmet back on before he answered. “Orders?” The alchemist sounded like he hadn’t heard her, or else hadn’t fully registered the question. “Oh, new orders. Yes, yes.” It was obvious that he was lying, but Sildrin gave no sign that she had noticed. Macron spun back to the other two Sadowans, his energy suddenly buzzing in the dark side again. “All going up?!”
And with the madman’s unnecessarily energetic question, the alchemist hit the controls for the turbolift and all five shot upwards through the Star Destroyer’s superstructure toward the bridge.
Enroute to Bridge
“We’re on the way.” Shirai looked nonplussed. “What in the nine hells was that all about?” The Sith Warrior tapped the wall of the turbolift impatiently as he checked his gear. “I can’t imagine it will be this easy. They’re fragging with us.”
“More of the Dark Council’s skullduggery no doubt,” replied Jeric with a frown as he adjusted his vision visor. Rumors he had heard came to his mind from his time spent in the shadows. “They swim in it. And from what I hear, Macron here has been swimming in it for years.”
“Ho hum, hee hee, doodly doo,” whistled the madman as he absentmindedly wiped some gore from the faceplate of his helm. “Wait. Excuse me?” He turned and looked at Jeric pointedly. His yellow eyes narrowed. “You know too much Jeric.” The atmosphere in the tiny turbolift chamber instantly became very tense. Xanos smiled while Shirai and Sildrin backed away as best they could from the unstable madman. Macron had quite the reputation for explosive acts of vicious cruelty.
The alchemist grinned as the sounds of the turbolift vied with released breath. “Hehehe. Just kidding. Of course you do, you’re a Sith. And we’re all allies here, right?” The Adept looked at Sildrin and Xanos with this utterance. “Right?”
“You do not trust us,” commented Sildrin succinctly. The Pontifex regarded him coldly as her newfound eyes watered slowly. “Nor we, you.”
“I trusted you once Sildrin. Truly, nor should you. Of course not. I am Sith. I trust no one now,” replied Macron with a chuckle. He pointed at the Falleen Sith Lord. “Blame Him. Even Death betrayed him. We have a target to collect. I’ll give you more data as we close on her.”
Around him, Jeric and Shirai regarded the others in the assault group with questions reflecting in their gazes.
Xanos remained impassive. He seldom spoke these days unless it was to weave some cruel illusion on a hapless victim. His smile, however, remained. Macron’s words were true in a fashion. Either way it did not matter. The Final Way would come regardless of any of their visions. The Prophet was happy to be an avatar of the solution.
As the tense crowded scene played out the turbolift came to a jarring stop. The lights flickered and went out. The tube chamber was immediately illuminated by igniting lightsabers held in the grips of the paranoid Dark Jedi. This was no mean feat considering the cramped space. Sildrin quickly checked the console on the turbolift. Her fingers fairly flew as she hacked the security terminal. “We’re at least a hundred meters from our destination.”
From without the sounds of blaring klaxons and shouted commands came faintly through the duraplas walls of the turbolift module. “Sonofabitch,” remarked Shirai. “Karkers have got our number. I’m loyal and have your backs. I hope you have mine.” He readied himself and crouched next to the wall of the tube.
“I do,” replied Macron. “Unlike many Sith I understand loyalty. Some call it a fault.” He replaced his helm on his head and activated the internal environmental systems. “Our struggle here will benefit the Brotherhood as a whole. I’m all for it.”
“We’re going to have to cut our way out,” Jeric stated as he contemplated an area of the tube to cut through. “And fight. Ready yourselves, this tactical situation is about to get intense.”
"Indeed," replied Xanos quietly.
Max Security Level
Sparks began to light up the cramped turbolift as Jeric’s crimson saber began to cut thru the duraplas wall. Just outside more of the Star Destroyer’s defenses were arriving, the team could hear movement. The orders being shouted were getting louder and more frantic. They knew just as well as the five Dark Jedi that things were about to get hectic.
“Almost thru.” Jeric announced as his saber was coming up on its entry point of the makeshift door. The former noble removed his saber with just a sliver of duraplas holding it together. Looking around Macron gave a nod to his fellow Sith. Shirai look ready as ever, standing by her master Sildrin also gave Jeric a nod, her master on the other hand stood there. Assuming all were ready Jeric took a step back. “Here we go,” Shirai said as Jeric gave the makeshift door a swift kick breaking it down onto the metal floor below. Before any of them could even move a small metal tube rolled right in front of Shirai’s feet.
“Flashba...” The Sith Warrior attempted to scream before he was cut off by the deafening and blinding explosion of the flash bang. As the Dark Jedi began to stumble and fall out of the turbolift, Jeric’s EVE mask had already adjusted to the flash of light. Raising his saber he cut down the trooper who had made the poor discussion to throw the flash bang. “Idoit” the Tapani said as he spun to block a barrage of fire from one of the defense turrets. To his surprise Jeric could see Macron out of the corner of his eye cutting down a group of troopers. The madmen came up on his left to help block the laser fire. Apparently his helmet had help him avoid being stun by the flash bang as well. As Jeric blocked the last few blots Macron reach out, crushing the turret with the force.
“You three ready to join us now?” the Sith Elder said to his companions with a giggle.
Shirai rubbed his eyes one last time before looking up at the two Sith standing in front of him. “Well that suck.”
“Had worse.” Said Sildrin said as she came up behind the Sith Warrior. The Falleen Sith Lord was still at the edge of the turbolift’s makeshift door. He looked as if he had been ineffective this entire time as well, though made no action to let the other know.
“It would seem we are on a high level security floor.” Jeric said looking down one of the hallways as multiple groups of troopers, droids, and a few Dark Jedi came running down it.
“I would agree.” Said Macron as he noticed multiple Defense Turrets appearing from down another hall.
Enroute to Bridge
Max Security Level
SSD Avenger II
The Dark Side was strong with them. Even stronger then usual for some reason. Shirai had taken the initiative and created a Force Meld between him and his dark companions, though reluctant at first to include Macron and the Prophet but it was a minor reluctance before he included them as well. The Force became much more tense for them, in the best possible way. They were feeding off the Dark Side without really drawing to much from it, but from each other.
Each of their own might augmenting their fellow Sith. They would not be hindered, not this easily. Shirai noticed a large amount of troops heading their way after Macron and Jeric made mincemeat of the ones that littered the floor around them. Sildrin though not complaining was obviously effected by the flashbang as well. Her eyes must be bit more sensitive because of her unique situation. Shirai looked at her and expressed great anger on her behalf in Sildrin's mind through the meld. He turned back around quickly, not wanting to make eye contact with her as soon as her strained sight returned.
Jeric scowled as the Dark Jedi and defense personnel came to defend their doomed ship. "More are walking to their slaughter."
Macron as delighted as usual chipped in, "Well damnit let's oblige their request!"
"Fragging bastards blinded me. I want revenge!" Shirai was truly angry. He fed off of that anger, and so did the rest of his group melding the meld. Macron fully enveloped in the Dark Side dashed forward with unnerving speed to meet the squad. The droids and troopers started shooting past the already advancing Sith Warriors, but Macron was weaving past the shots with ease, his saber deflecting incoming fire back to its original shooter. As soon as the Sith Warriors came close enough, Macron stopped all of sudden.
His hand held out to the coming forces. Shirai could feel it before it happened. A ripple in the air could be seen just slightly as wave of powerful Force pressure made the walls shake as it tore its way through the air at the unlucky One Sith troops. Some of the lucky ones were slammed into each other and maybe some broken bones, the other unlucky ones died when their bodies ricochet off the walls headfirst. But Macron was able to send such a powerful Force wave, that it stunned the entire force. Jeric giving the droids and troopers still kicking no time to recover, also dove into the fray using the Force to speed himself. Shirai following in unison with the Sith Battlelord had his saber out ready to kill, and ready to die.
Unknown max security level
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The fighting in the hallway outside the turbolift had been intense.
On either side of the corridor, sparks flickered from the ends of broken wires that now protruded where the white plasteel panels that had previously been covering the walls had been wrenched off both sides of the hallway by Macron’s Force blast. Overhead, a quartet of anti-personnel turrets now hung down from the ceiling limpy, like the heads of four wounded dewbacks. Pieces of droid debris littered the floor and smoke rose from the holes that Jeric and Shirai had left in the response unit that had sprung their trap on whichever floor the strike team had now ended up on.
By all accounts, the surprise attack would normally have done its job, but something was off, and it wasn’t just the unholy pull of the grave that being linked in a mind meld with the twisted Falleen was causing the other four members of the strike team.
The corridor floor radiated more sparks when Macron brushed his tangerine lightsaber across the ground in thought as Jeric and Shirai ran on ahead to scout the corridors that branched off to each side for any sign of a way to lower the ship’s security and unlock passage to the bridge.
When Jeric and Shirai returned, the three Sadowans kept their voices low enough that they would not be overheard by another response team in a room somewhere deeper down the main hallway. It also meant that the Dark Prophet and his new apprentice could not hear them from where they still remained back at the turbolift doors, but words were unnecessary to sense the tension.
“I didn’t realise Lord Vexatus was your master,” Shirai was saying to Macron as the three turned to look at the two figures standing by the doorway, who had seemed determined to remain separate since the group’s arrival on the late Zoraan’s flagship. The three seemed to be taking the brief lull in the fighting to gather their thoughts, but the Dark Prophet could sense something troubled his old apprentice and the others.
Xanos did not need to be a mind reader to imagine what it was, however.
“There are traitors amongst us,” Macron said, unusually matter-of-factly, as he approached.
Shirai and Jeric looked toward their team leader, their silent expressions speaking volumes.
“That’s what the message said,” Macron stated dryly. “There are traitors amongst us.”
Sildrin stared back at him, but for the moment she said nothing.
“It seems strange you two were by the turbolift when no one was looking,” the alchemist began, “and then that same turbolift suddenly jerks to a complete stop halfway to our destination.” The Dark Adept rocked on his feet and waved his tangerine lightsaber back and forth. “Strange, no?”
Behind the alchemist, the other two Sadowans exchanged a look as the two elder Sadows stood their ground, facing each other. Jeric shook his head at Shirai discretely, silently signalling to the other that it was better to stay out of this particular argument. Shirai looked slightly disappointed, but Jeric had known both Sadows long enough to know that both were as stubborn as the other.
And then there were the rumours...
For months, tales had abounded about a conspiracy to overthrow the Iron Throne. Throughout Brotherhood space, there had been stories of a secret cabal of Elders plotting to bring down the Grand Master, and of masked figures who had allegedly been sighted during the recent plague, from Yridia to Dajorra, Orian to Kr’Tal, even inside the Dark Hall on Antei itself. Reports had initially even claimed that members of the Dark Council had been assassinated, although these were quickly quashed by Antei after the main incident with Zoraan had been brought under control.
Nobody knew who the culprits were, with numerous Elders being suspected, some even openly accused, but none of the allegations had been proven. Trevarus Caerick had disappeared shortly after the Horizon Incident, but if he had been behind it none knew where he had fled now. Others had suggested that Darth Vires, or Halcyon Rokir as he was better known, was the ringleader and had tried to stage his own death to cover up an attempted coup against the Grand Master, but Halcyon’s return to House Taldryan had since put an end to those claims.
Whoever was behind it, distrust had infected the Brotherhood. No Elder was above suspicion.
But the rumours were just that: rumours.
Indeed, following Raken’s arrival on Antei, the Red Tower had moved to put an end to idle speculation and few were now prepared to openly accuse anyone under threat of a visit by either the Shadow Hand himself or the Grand Master’s new Voice.
Raken and Darth Pravus had made sure of that.
But the fear had not gone away, and the message Macron had been given by Ekeia had only rekindled the uncertainty. Something about their mission to capture the Avenger did not add up.
“Do you have anything to say?” Macron said, still waiting.
This time, the woman bit back.
“Yes, we are traitors,” Sildrin said dryly, “if by traitors, you mean that we are all here for our own reasons.” The woman smiled thinly back at Macron. “One could say the same thing of you,” Sildrin added. “A recently promoted Elder, filled with ambition? And now the right hand man to the second most powerful figure in the entire Dark Brotherhood?” Sildrin let her words sink in for a moment. “Just the place for someone who might want to launch a secret power grab.”
Jeric’s eyes drifted from Sildrin’s toward Macron.
Someone was going to snap, and the mad alchemist was not known for his inhibitions.
But the Lord Prophet had seen enough. “Enough,” Xanos said, his voice remaining just as even as it ever did, although a dark green vein throbbed to the left of the tattoo on the Elder’s forehead. “This is not the place to discuss rumours, my two apprentices.” Despite the Falleen’s typically absent sounding voice, a slight sense of pressure nevertheless was projected into the Force.
The corridor shook as the Star Destroyer rocked from explosions somewhere else.
For several moments, the tension continued to fill the hallway, then Macron finally shut down his lightsaber. “Agreed,” Macron said and giggled. “Let us continue the slaughter!” And as quickly as that, the madman’s characteristically erratic attention seemed to switch back to the reason they were there, and Ekeia’s message had been forgotten again--for now.
Unknown Maximum Security Deck
SSD Avenger II
They were lost. The maze-like max security level was confusing. High security panels held each control point. Two had involved a trip down a side corridor to the left of their original entry. Neither terminal worked. The fighting had been brutal. Groups of battle droids aided by Nova Guard warriors had attacked ruthlessly. Both groups had been slaughtered although the fighting was taking a toll. Each of them had taken some damage to their equipment if not themselves. They were beginning to tire. Even the madman’s enthusiasm was beginning to wane.
Macron unlocked his blaster-scarred helm and threw it to the ground. “Gorram it. Ruined,” he chuckled as he and Jeric watched one side of the hall. Shirai and the cold hearted Prophet watched the other.
Sildrin worked carefully at the one panel with instruments that folded out from a comlink-sized case. “Almost there.”
“Here they come,” quipped Jeric. “Not droids this time. “
From across the room crackled the unquestionable hiss of igniting lightsabers. Two robed and hooded Twilek figures wearing black cloaks and dark leather boot brandished coral- bladed lightsabers. Behind them, a third human clad in dark flex-armor brandished a weapon of the same hue. All three had yellow eyes. They appeared to be some sort of Sith.
“I’ve got to have a hypo shot,” Macron grimaced as he pulled a vial from his belt kit. “You guys will have to take them. I’ll protect Sildrin,” the Alchemist said with a sidelong glance at the Krath. He jabbed the hypospray into his neck and grunted. Without the drugs his body began to slowly poison itself. There were well-known disadvantages to being synthetic. The more he exerted himself in the Force, the faster the effect seemed to occur. It had worsened since he became the original vector for the Horizon Plague cure. The Adept placed his palms on his knees and bent over with a cough.
Jeric and Shirai balanced each other well. Shirai’s red lightsaber was of a more elegant design, while Jeric’s hilt was pointed and sere. Both of their red blades rose in unison as the two enemy Sith launched themselves with rage at them. It was the raw power of Shirai’s Shii-Cho and Jeric’s Vaapad against two unknowns.
The first fighter matched Shirai evenly with what appeared to be Soresu. Shirai's smashing blows were deflected by the swing of his foe’s weapon. However, neither could the enemy advance against the assault that the Sadowan Warrior hammered him with. Sparks blew and spat as their blades cut shallow gouges in the hardened bulkhead walls. Shirai managed to bounce his bade from the magnetically charged security wall and it arced in behind the deflections of his robed assailant. The crimson blade split the enemy’s lightsaber hilt. Shirai shouted as it severed the fingers from the other Warrior's sword hand with a blast of fire and smoke. A sweeping throw slammed him into the wall as an overhanded two-fisted strike split the Twilek’s head and lekku asunder.
Jeric fought the second with a more careful duel. Vaapad was difficult for someone using Soresu to anticipate. Jeric stood arms wide and let his open posture dare the enemy Sith to attack him. As the raging enemy swept in with a horizontal sweep, Jeric’s hand raised and a burst of brilliant light flashed directly in the Twilek’s eyes. It overpowered his lesser skills in the Force and he could not see for a few seconds. As the Twilek reached for his eyes Jeric’s sanguine blade severed both his arms at the elbows. Smoke rose from the Twilek’s stumps as he groaned in agony. His agony was cut short as he was struck down by a quick reverse passé. Jeric turned to regard the leader of the three and stopped.
Behind the both of them, the armored human Battlemaster had made the mistake of staring into Xano’s eyes in an effort to intimidate the Falleen. Neither had moved or spoken as Jeric and Shirai dispatched the twin Sith Warriors between them. A battle of wills had ensued with each attempting to use the Dark Side against the mind of the other. The human was helplessly overmatched.
Suddenly the human raised his hand to his temples and dropped his lightsaber. He screamed with agony and horror and clutched at the air in spasms. The ululating shriek echoed loudly in the chamber as blood trickled from his eyes and nose. It appeared as if he saw every horror in hell by the look on face. Then the Sith dropped to the floor with a look of terror permanently frozen on his face. The body thudded to a halt. Xanos gestured at it in some obscure ritual as t he Elder appeared to be draining energy from the Equite’s heaving corpse. A wave of his hand smashed the body into the bulkhead and snapped it’s neck.
“Damn,” chuckled Macron respectfully as he stood erect. “Nice trick.”
“Got it,” said Xia Long quietly. We have to disarm the next in 5 less than 5 minutes.” The Krath regarded the cooling battle scene. Her sight was slowly improving. And the Force… she could at least feel the life leaving these cadavers in some small way.
The five strode forward. Ahead of them, the lights were dim. Most of the energy panels seemed to have been shut off. “It’s obviously a trap,” Sildrin remarked offhandedly. “The master override has to be beyond this next panel.”
“I love traps,” giggled the mad Alchemist as Jeric and Shirai looked right and left. Around them glass panels in the durasteel walls showed a nasty tableau in side rooms off of the main walkway. Pickled fetuses of strange abominations floated in tanks of oozing brine. Bubbles flicked upwards and percolated across stands of vile-looking red strands entangling some sort of Gungan. The amphibian’s eyes were open in terror but his mouth was stapled shut with huge plasteel hooks. There were other less identifiable liquescent horrors, each entombed in some sort of viewable storage device.
“My kind of place,” commented Macron casually. “It appeared the owner of this area is interested in mutations. Not bad work actually. Can you get that terminal online?” he asked as he prodded the glass in front of one gurgling wall fountain. “That’s a Nexu embryo. Usually they degrade quickly. This one looks to be dead unfortunately. ”
“Of course,” replied Sildrin as she regarded the flesh-dreg. She returned to the terminal and began to scan it with the probes that extended from her security kit. “It’s a challenging code. Keep me covered.”
Xanos closed his eyes and sought enemies in the Force. A powerful presence lay ahead. An experienced Elder waited to attack them behind the door her presence was well hidden in the Force. Still the method was crude compared to that of a true Master. His voice rasped in the stale recycled ship air. “She is beyond. And her will is powerful,” the Prophet said with a slow hiss of exhalation.
Unknown Maximum Security Deck
SSD Avenger II
Sildrin’s twin colored eyes followed cascades of letters and numbers, raining down the screen of the terminal in front of her. She leaned in as the flickering lighting didn’t provide her with enough illumination for this coding job. But she didn’t mourn about the loss of most her Force Powers - if she had the choice, she would immediately abandon even the last spark of it.
Macron walked along the tanks, inspecting them, occasionally cackling with glee: “Muz will enjoy seeing the results of these researches here. This will be a great boon!” Shirai leaned closer to Sildrin, saying quietly: “I don’t like this. This has got to be a trap.” He looked a bit nervously around. His and Macron’s attitude contrasted Jeric’s calm presence who checked his armour and weapons with military precision. For a moment her unmatching eyes looked at him with a spark of humour: “Don’t worry. We have our personal bodyguard with us....,” her smile faded quickly though as she looked at Xanos, adding: “at least I think so...”
The door slid open. Shirai grabbed for his saber and with care he entered, followed by Jeric and Sildrin while Macron howled in triumph: “Finally! You have the talent to pick the best apprentices, Master. Now we need to find the great mind behind these experiments. He must be a genius - like me!” He was just able to finish his sentence as a force shield separated Macron and Xanos from Sildrin, Shirai and Jeric. Jeric turned around as Macron screamed out his rage. Xanos - as usual - stood emotionless like an ever-watching statue.
“DROP THE SHIELD! HACK IT!”, Macron yelled. Sildrin rushed already to the next terminal, as blaster shots hit nearby. Shirai and Jeric readied their sabers, facing an odd looking maintenance droid that was pointing two heavy blaster pistols in their direction.
“What have you found me here, Revlo? Ahhh.. more test subjects?”, an enticing voice was heard. A woman, clad in a Shadowcloak, slowly approached from the depth of the laboratory they had broken in. “And what fine specimen you have found.” Her voice caused Sildrin to shiver.
The droid Revlo aimed its pistols at the group: “Statement. Organics are requested to drop their weapons and submit to Elder Dantella Novae.” Shirai gritted his teeth: “The hell we do!” Jeric nodded in silent disagreement. Dantella pointed at the group: “Get them.”, her voice dropped down to an icy tone, leaving her voice stripped by the once enthralling music.
Shirai and Jeric leaped at the droid, their sabers prepared. A flick of Dantella’s hand let them fly back into a wall. Macron meanwhile raged on the other side of the force field, shouting at Sildrin - at his master, but to no avail. The shield didn’t drop, neither did Xanos move. Frustrated Macron started working with his fists on the field, absorbing the energy, but the shield wouldn’t collapse.
Sildrin continued her work on the terminal, but it wasn’t about the shield. Her priorities were of a different kind. Research data scrolled across the display screen. Dantella's genetic research would be useful for the Dread Council. Suddenly her mind started clouding... wouldn't it be better to join Dantella? Yes... Dantella could be trusted far more than Darth Pravus. Sildrin raised a hand at her temple. She felt a presence - different ... cold.
The Elder woman cackled, but soon her face showed utter confusion as she drifted through the fragmented mind of the red-haired woman. No matter which way she turned in the mind of the Krath Witch, there was never a point to attack, no right angle to push her powers. More than once Dantella faced herself in the mirror shards of Sildrin’s fragmented mind. This one is mine. A cold voice resounded in the aether of Sildrin’s mind and the Elder woman was pushed out.
Dantella grabbed for her daggers, deciding to make a quick ending to this fight. Sildrin knew this fight would be lost if she didn’t react quick. She removed the data crystal, slipped it into a pocket. Shirai and Jeric were barely able to keep up. Macron snorted, he started to run at the force field, his intentions clear... he would RAM it. He yelled. “I want that bitch alive!!” Jeric added: “The Grand Master will value her knowledge.“
Sildrin fingers danced over the keys of the terminal and after a few seconds the force field collapsed.
Unknown maximum security deck
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
Macron was just about to slam his head into the security shield when the translucent energy field finally dissolved and rather than crashing into it the mad alchemist went stumbling head first into the room. Macron narrowly avoided tripping over one of the broken pieces of the assassin droid and instead redirected his momentum to charge into the mechanical bodyguard as if the Sith Adept’s mind had suddenly been overtaken by the spirit of a wild Ylesian reek.
The collision took all those in the laboratory by complete surprise and for a moment all eyes turned toward the madman whose head and upper body had now become embedded right through the main body of Dantella’s modified SCr-114 droid, in between its two upper limbs. Hydraulic fluid hissed out of Revlo’s damaged gyros and the droid’s optical sensor unit drooped.
“Statement: Organic is requested to remove its cranium from this unit’s central motivator.”
Macron exhaled sharply and grunted. Snarling through clenched teeth, the madman managed to sound both angry and entertained at his present situation: “Rebuttal: This organic requests droid shuts its metal mouth.” When Macron finished, he punched himself free of the droid, stretching Revlo’s framework apart as he spread his arms. The pieces of the SCr-114 droid fell to the floor.
The sensor in the middle of Revlo’s optical unit rolled across the screen to look up at Macron.
Dantella, Jeric and Shirai all stared at Macron as the mad alchemist shook the remaining pieces of the assassin droid off him. Despite the fact Macron no longer was wearing his helmet, the Son of Sadow didn’t appear to be bothered that he’d just impaled his head through a block of metal.
“You’ll regret that,” the Umbaran woman hissed before she sprung at Macron with her two daggers.
But even as battle was joined once more, Xanos remained idle in the lobby just outside the main research laboratory. The Dark Prophet seemed completely oblivious to what was going on.
Jeric hissed something at Macron, and when the madman next got an opening, his head spun in the direction of his old master. “What are you doing!?” Macron yelled as he dodged another one of Dantella’s poisoned blades. “You could crush her mind with a single thought!”
But the Falleen did not seem to be listening and simply continued studying one of the animal specimens that Dantella had collected in the tanks along the wall where they had entered. A pickled nexu floated inside the glass tank; the feline was a long way from Cholganna. Macron cursed loudly, but the three Sadowans simply continued the fight, with Sildrin helping from behind a computer terminal by firing off the odd blaster shot to keep Dantella on her feet.
Xanos’s mind, however, seemed to be elsewhere. “The outcome of this battle cannot be changed,” the Dark Prophet said distantly, “you will fail in your objective, either way.”
The Falleen’s seeming defeatism earned a slight frown even from his new apprentice as she popped her head above the parapet of the terminal to fire another shot. Macron, in contrast, snarled and hurled himself toward Dantella with renewed vigour, his resolve being provoked by his former master’s certainty that they were not going to succeed in taking the woman alive.
As Macron thundered into Dantella, knocking one of her poison blades from her hands, Shirai came at her from the opposite side and brought his lightsaber down through the empty hand, severing her fingers halfway down. The Umbaran screamed, unleashing a wave of energy that threw both the Sadowans off her as she tossed her other blade aside and at last unclipped her lightsaber. Dantella still had one working hand, and she wasn’t going to be bested that easily.
Xanos inspected the vials alongside the nexu tank. Extracts of distilled nexu venom. The felines may not have been well known for their poison, but who knew what Dantella had experimented on her biological test subjects with. The Falleen held his hand out to one side and a jet injector floated over into it from another shelf further down the wall.
“Master?” It was Sildrin.
Macron apparently had spotted that the Dark Prophet appeared to have finally decided to do something as well. “Have your visions finally said you’re allowed to help now?” The raw condescension was more than obvious. “You’re even worse than Trevarus,” Macron hissed, though his voice was drowned out by another screaming crash of fluorescent lightsaber blades.
The Falleen didn’t answer but just took one of the vials from the racks directly in front of him and loaded it into the empty injection syringe. A light flashed on the side of the gun to warn that it was dangerous to load anymore of the toxin, but the Elder ignored it, and charged the full vial.
Dantella was an Elder.
And the Falleen had his own reasons.
At long last, Xanos turned toward the battle. Sildrin was still firing from cover, and Shirai and Jeric were both dancing in tandem with Dantella as Macron repeatedly pounded her like a demon possessed. The recently christened Elder seemed more interested in making her hurt than simply running her through with his lightsaber. But it was clear that Dantella would not go willingly, no matter how much punishment the three Sadowans and Sildrin exacted on her.
Macron glanced at his former master again.
“Knock her out,” the Dark Adept called.
Not because of his apprentice’s instruction, Xanos nudged on the Umbaran’s mind out of sheer curiosity. Her will was strong, that much was sure. Ordinarily, she probably would not have sucuumbed to his psychic violation; but right then, caught between four assailants, her attention was focused elsewhere. Her knowledge would indeed be a boon to the Grand Master’s cause.
Xanos pulled back from Dantella’s mind. The strike team’s victory here would see them rewarded for certain. Macron, in particular, would surely enjoy studying what they could learn from the bio-scientist and her research. But Darth Pravus’s instructions had been clear.
The Falleen turned away from Dantella toward Macron.
“Here.” Xanos flung the jet injector to his old apprentice, who disengaged from the fight for a second to catch it while Jeric, Shirai and Sildrin kept Dantella occupied. Macron inspected the injection gun after he caught it. “Nexu venom,” the Dark Prophet stated.
The mad alchemist needed no further explanation. “A potent tranquiliser,” Macron replied with a characteristic giggle. The Elder’s mind may have been more than just a little unhinged, but the Dark Adept was nevertheless as much an expert in the field of biological research as Novae herself. “Let’s see how the bitch likes a taste of her own medicine!”
Dantella was trying to block both Jeric and Shirai at the same time with her lone lightsaber when her fellow alchemist surged toward her. Macron threw himself into the Umbaran bodily, grasping her weapon arm in his armour fist as he brought the injection gun up under her ribs with his other hand. Then Macron pulled the trigger, and the gas powered gun plunged up into the woman’s chest, shooting the nexu extract right up into the arteries around her heart. The attack came so fast Dantella at first didn’t even seem to notice, but a second later after Macron withdrew again, when she brushed the cauterised, bloody stumps of her severed fingers against her chest, she realised that there was now a tiny hole where the injection syringe had pierced her skin.
Dantella’s eyes fell to the now empty injection gun as Macron tossed it aside. The Umbaran looked back up at Macron, her eyes already going slightly cloudy. “Do... do you think... I don’t vaccinate myself against... my own toxins?” Despite the woman’s slurred claims, the poison was evidently already taking effect. Dantella staggered slightly on her feet, but kept her lightsaber blade raised in an attack position. “You... won’t take me alive.”
Unknown Maximum Security Deck
SSD Avenger II
Dark Side Adept Dantella was out-manned and outmatched. She must of now known her predicament was a dire one. But clearly she did not want to be taken without a fight to the death. So she had one last oorrah of defiance in the face of much more powerful Brotherhood. "You won't take me alive." She spat, holding her saber in her only good hand and pointed it at Shirai. "You little shit! I challenge you!" She must have still been mad when Shirai had cut off her fingers.
"Hey! Let's not go pointing fingers here. Oh wait. You can't." Shirai mused as he knew he was still at an disadvantage with a much more experienced Elder. But she was weakened enormously, and he was within the meld with some of the most powerful minds in existence. Their raw dark side power enveloped all senses and made him an embodiment of dark side energy. Haha, my Dark Pride is showing again.
Behind him Macron could hardly stop himself from laughing, "This guy has jokes, even in the face of danger."
Dantella however was not laughing and she was seething with Dark Side energy. But you could feel it still waning as the poison was taking its effect. Blind rage was now etched into the face of the defeated Dark Side Adept. She dove forward and tried to catch Shirai with sweeping slash towards his head, trying to decapitate him. Even with her weakness, he would try to not fight her for long.
Shirai brought his own blade up, a master of Shii-Cho himself, blocked the blade completely but the attack was hard and almost threw him off so he Force leaped backwards, still a couple of yards away. He could feel the Dark Side in him as Dantella jumped right after him with a battle cry.
All of a sudden, it came out of nowhere. But in a second of pure madness, nothing was understood. Shirai opened his mouth wide, and the air shook with anger as he sent a Force Scream directly at the Elder. Normally being able to bat such a scream aside, this was however difficult to do with her injuries and the poison now taking an increasingly taxing toll on her.
She took it head on. The Scream was a terrible sound, the pain and anger and frustration of a Dark Jedi who wanted everything and achieved nothing. His failures was his strength, his anger the reason he lived.
The sonic blast caught her in mid-leap and sent her reeling backwards. She hit the floor hard, and bounced twice. Thinking the fight was indeed over, Shirai was about to gloat, when he saw Dantella arch her back attempting to get back up. Her face seething with insanity. But just then her eyes rolled to the back of her head as the poison did its damage with all the access movement, and she fell backwards unconscious. He breathed a sigh of relief.
"Mind telling us next time you decide to destroy my hearing as well." Sildrin jibed at Shirai as she went to detain Dantella.
"Your missing the bigger picture though. I took out an Elder!" Shirai retorted.
"Nice try Shirai, you more like "helped" take her out." And the madman could no longer hold his laugh, and his maddening laugh rang in the now silent room. Seeming as if it would echo forever.
Maximum security deck
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
With the security lockdown finally addressed, the strike team had dragged the unconscious Umbaran back to the turbolifts and Macron had used the datapad Ekeia had given him to send a message to the Deputy Grand Master that extraction was needed for their unexpected prisoner. By the time one of Raken’s faceless black-clad armoured troopers had arrived, Dantella’s vital signs had been weak, but Macron had assured the soldier that she had only been tranquilised.
“She’ll survive the trip to Antei,” the Dark Adept had stated firmly.
Unsurprisingly, the trooper did not question the mad alchemist further, even if he--or she, it was always unclear who was really behind the mask--was a member of the Army of the Iron Throne. “Of course, my lord,” Raken’s trooper had said, and disappeared into the lift with the Umbaran.
The ship shook again from explosions somewhere else and the leader of the strike team turned back to his old master. “And you didn’t think she’d make it.” Macron chuckled. When Xanos did not rise to his apprentice’s baiting, Macorn added: “Like Trevarus, always so sure you know it all, my Master, hehe.” Although the man had said it in jest, there had been a challenge buried behind the words, but then was not the place for open rivalry. They still had a mission to finish.
And there were things Xanos’s former apprentice did not realise.
The Dark Prophet ignored the man’s goading and lifted his head toward the bridge above them. A presence raged through the Force like an inferno, blazing, crackling, seething with dark unstable energy. Their true target had felt Dantella’s defeat. And unlike Macron and his fellow Sadowans, the Super Star Destroyer’s master likely knew that the Umbaran would not survive the trip.
The Falleen was not the only one of the strike team to sense the disturbance.
“I feel great power above us,” Shirai said, turning his own head toward the ceiling.
A new quake rocked the ship and several plasteel tiles fell off of the ceiling. Behind Xanos, Sildrin nearly stumbled into her new master from the tremor. “That didn’t seem good,” the woman said.
Jeric stroked his chin in thought. “That felt more like an impact collision than another explosion.”
Macron nodded. “We need to get to the bridge. Something isn’t right.”
With the research deck’s alarm klaxons still waiting behind them, the group entered one of the reactivated turbolifts and headed on to their final destination.
En-route to the Bridge
SSD Avenger II
The door slid shut behind Jeric as he entered the turbolift last. The group stood there in silence for a few moments. Each one could feel the uncontrolled rage of the dark side emitting from the bridge. The wailing klaxons slowly faded as the lift approached the top level of the Avenger II.
“It got quiet all of a sudden.” Shirai finally broke the uneasy silence of the group. The turbolift slammed to a stop and the door slid open. From what the group could see the bridge was empty and silent. The only light was the dim red glow from the emergency lights.
“Indeed, it’s a little too quiet,” Jeric said as he stepped out of the turbolift followed by Macron and the rest of the group. Being this close to the power they all felt Jeric knew their mission was far from over. Xanos took a few steps away from the group to observe his surroundings. Suddenly the floor shifted below the Sadowans' feet. Jeric and Macron both glanced at each other. “That was no explosion,” said the madman.
“Nor was it a collision this time,” Jeric said as he turn to look out a small view port. “The ship just turned around, we are heading out of the Shroud.” The group stood there all thinking why the Avenger II would be heading back towards Antei. Sildrin noticed that her master had disappeared around the corner and herself ventured away from the team.
“Why would the ship have turned around?” Shirai asked.
“Well if I felt that my ship would fall into enemy hands then I would destroy it and take everyone on it with me,” the Privateer of the Dlarit Corporation said.
“Spoken like a pirate. I agree though, whoever is in charge is most likely planing on crashing this behemoth,” Macron commented as he just noticed the two missing from the team. Macron signaled for Jeric and Shirai to follow him. The three rounded the corner only to see the Falleen Sith Lord standing still, his new apprentice just a few feet behind him. A looming figure stood at the front of the bridge, his back turned to the group. The dark side was radiating off the figure like pure energy. Bodies of the dead crew littered the bridge whatever happened it had been a bloodbath.
“You will fail Sadowans.” The figure finally spoke as he began to turn around. “My Master may be dead, but his legacy lives on through me. I will finish what Lord Zoraan couldn’t.” Zoraan’s apprentice was the last thing standing in the teams way.
Darth Vexatus and Darth Necar locked eyes. The two Sith Lords knew how this would end and it didn’t look well for anyone.
SSD Avenger II
As Vexatus, Xia Long, and the literally glowing Darth Necar locked eyes to the left, the three Dark Jedi from Sadow regarded the odd scene from the entranceway. To their right came snarls and growls from horrid reptilian looking beasts. The creatures resembled Rancors, except they were covered with nasty spikes. The horrid creatures scrabbled toward the three Sadow operatives on clacking clawed feet.
“Sonofabitch,” yelled Macron as he recognized the shambling forms. “Terentateks!” The Alchemist had encountered descriptions of the creatures in the Holocrons of the Brotherhood Library during his research into the Horizon Plague. There were differing theories on their origin. Some claimed they originated with the Sith on Korriban and were Rancors twisted by the Dark Side. Other older sources indicated they came from Tython, or had been exiled to the Bogan moon. It was even reported that Exar Kun had been their maker. They had a taste for the flesh of Force Users. “They’re resistant to the Force! Use weapons!” The Alchemist ignited his orange lightsaber as Jeric and Shirai stood next to him. “The Jedi of old killed them with lightsabers and teamwork!”
Without further ado the strange creatures charged the three Sadow Dark Jedi. The twin fearsome creatures were wasting no time. They stomped forward intent on rending the Dark Jedi limb from limb. The frail humanoids that had dared to bother their Master were rife with the Force and would be delicious. The beasts were strong. Their foes were weak. Soon the weaklings from outside would be lunch.
“See if we can capture one! The Iron Throne will want to see this!” Macron shouted as he struck one of the creatures with his orange lightsaber, fully expecting to see the spiked hand severed from its reptilian wrist. Instead the beam rebounded and sparks flew. The beast swept the surprised madman aside with a powerful blow. Macron impacted the bulkhead wall with his now uncovered head and was knocked out cold. Hard as it was, the durasteel was harder. His armored form slumped bonelessly as he slid down the bulkhead wall with a squeak of flesh on polished steel.
“His blade did not appear to hurt it,” remarked Jeric as he shut down his own weapon and clipped it to his belt quickly. He touched the partial mask that covered half of his scarred face. His other hand quick-drew a modified heavy blaster pistol and ripped off an azure colored shot at the Terentatek looming over him. “Gird yourself with the Dark Side. If the Force is useless, we must quicken our bodies and strengthen our arms.” The bolt slammed into the creature and gave it pause. It howled in anger as the other one turned to face Shirai.
The Sith Warrior stood his ground as he placed gloves with vibro-spikes on his hands. Besides the lightsaber Shirai used few weapons other than his body. “Got it. We’re going to need teamwork if it knocked Macron out that quickly.” He took a fighting stance as he and Jeric entered the Force Meld. Shirai stood beside Jeric as the monstrosities closed on them. “Let’s hope he rises soon.”
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The transparisteel viewport behind Darth Necar was marked by countless dents and scratches from minor collisions. The planet Antei swelled ever larger in the depths of cold vacuum beyond.
“Warning. Please adjust course. Warning.”
Zoraan’s final apprentice did not seem to notice the automated voice of the Avenger’s navigation computer. The ship’s astrogator still sat in his chair to the Sith Lord’s left, hunched over in his terminal, not moving. Like the bodies that littered the rest of the command deck, the lowly officer was smothered in blood, just like Darth Necar himself. In his hand, the masked warrior gripped a blood drenched sword, which had been painted crimson like the floor underneath him.
A spark flashed from one of the broken consoles behind the Sith Lord.
“The Master is eternal.” Necar’s voice was distorted by the filtration mask he had over his mouth, but his absolute conviction in his statement was without question. The Sith Lord’s breaths were also noticeably audible because of the rebreather. “Lord Zoraan’s body may be slain, but he cannot be defeated.” Necar’s eyes drifted off to one side. “Yes, my Master, I shall show them the truth, Master.” Necar’s gaze returned to the Falleen standing opposite him, who so far had remained silent. “See? The Dark Lord speaks to me even now. He is always with me.”
A stray asteroid struck the viewport behind Necar, adding yet one more mark to its surface.
It was clear that Necar was insane and he continued muttering to himself about the glories he would bring his dead master. For now, though, Xanos remained at the entrance to the command deck, waiting for the other Sith Lord to take the first move. Behind the Dark Prophet, Sildrin swapped the ammo clips in her blasters, and then primed a pair of thermal detonators in anticipation for the duel that needed no insight from the Force to know was inevitable. Both remained where they were, neither willing to make the first move, nor interested in dialogue.
The same could not be said for Zoraan’s apprentice.
Darth Necar’s attention drifted away again, this time to the snarls and war cries that were going on in the main bridge deck. “Ah, my pretties,” the Sith Lord said fondly, tilting his head to one side in appreciative thought. “Do you like them? They have devoured whole worlds.” The claim was of course an exaggeration, but judging by Necar’s voice it was unclear whether or not he realised so himself. The Sith Lord gestured down at one of the bodies beneath him. “Commander Kieran did not think so.” Necar gave a chuckle that was distinctly reminiscent of one of Macron’s. “I fed Tyûk, my eldest, one of the late commander’s hands to teach him a lesson.”
Behind the Dark Prophet, Sildrin shifted a little closer so that she could whisper into his ear.
“When we’re done with this, I want a sample from one of his beasts,” the woman said. Although the rest of her sentence went unspoken, Xanos could read her thought about how the Dread Council would have better uses than as another pet for the Grand Master’s wife’s menagerie.
Necar finally seemed to register the sorceress’s presence. “Ah, another woman,” the Sith Lord observed, as if Sildrin was one of the first he had encountered. “Dantella was too precious for a research subject. But you... you could prove most fascinating a specimen.” Necar’s voice drifted off again and his eyes seemed to focus on something invisible to either of the two figures standing facing him. “Yes, Master. Her blood will prove different to the males, Master.”
In the room beyond, Shirai had leaped on top of one of the terentateks and was trying to ride it as if it was some kind of bantha. The Sadowan Warrior cast a glance down at the Sith Lord and snorted loudly enough so that Darth Necar would hear it at the front of the bridge. “Hate to break it to you,” the Sadowan said, “but your boss is already dead.”
That seemed to finally get the Sith Lord’s attention.
“No!” Necar raged, throwing a fist into the air in Shirai’s direction, and with it hurling one of the dismembered corpses at the Sith Lord’s feet toward the Sadowan. “Lord Zoraan cannot die!” The body flew through the air like a rocket, soaring over Xanos and Sildrin and into the next room, collecting broken pieces of glass and other debris from the damaged computer consoles. But rather than following himself to deal with Shirai personally, Darth Necar’s attention suddenly shifted toward the Falleen in between, who remained blankly looking back at the Sith Lord.
“You... you remind me of the Master,” Darth Necar said to the Dark Prophet. “Like him, I feel the touch of death on you too.” The Sith Lord tilted his head slightly to one side, and leaned forward to take in the Falleen closer for a moment. “You must know where the Master is now. Tell me.” When the Dark Prophet did not reply, Necar’s eyes tightened. “I know you know! Answer!”
Lightning crackled around one of Darth Necar’s fists and flew toward his two attackers.
While Sildrin rolled to one side to dodge the blast, her Master simply caught the attack in his hands, the Falleen’s skin glowing slightly as he absorbed the energy into him. The veins visible along Xanos’s skin bulged briefly, as if something within him was fighting back, but then they subsided once again as the Elder brought his body’s resistance to the dark energy under control.
Necar snarled. “You cannot hide the truth from me!”
Overcome with rage by his certainty that Xanos could tell him where to find Zoraan, Necar kicked the body directly in front of him aside and sprung at the unarmed Falleen with his sword. But at the last moment, a silver lightsaber snapped to life from somewhere to intercept the blade. It was unclear where it had come from, or if it had always been there, but the lightsaber now in Xanos’s hand pressed back against Necar’s sword, forcing Zoraan’s apprentice to backfoot a few steps.
Although Necar was physically stronger than the Falleen, his attention was divided when Sildrin fired from cover behind one of the damaged terminals, and her Master pressed the Sith Lord back in the direction of the viewport. While the Dark Prophet did not draw a lightsaber often, it was he and Darth Ashen who had unearthed the mysteries of Tulak Hord all those years ago, and right then her Master’s detailed knowledge of the Jedi arts showed. A master of Trakata, Xanos’s lightsaber snapped back on and off repeatedly as the Falleen moved into a lock, then broke off, then stepped back into range, before pulling back again.
Ordinarily, most attackers would have been put off by such an unorthodox style, with the Falleen’s constant feints as he repeatedly deactivated his weapon luring most opponents into making the wrong move; but Necar’s own training was just as apparent, albeit like his Master, Zoraan’s apprentice did not seem to have as firm a grasp of foresight and the future as the Dark Prophet, for Darth Necar had yet to land a successful blow on his opponent. But Necar’s own constitution was as impenetrable as the twice slain Grand Master, and despite the shots that Sildrin had successfully landed in his back or that Xanos had glanced on the Sith Lord’s shoulders, the masked warrior was so wrapped in his rage that his attack did not abate.
“Antei will be destroyed!” Necar cried as once again failed to break through the Dark Prophet’s defences. “You can think yourselves strong, but the Master has fallen before! He will return!”
Sildrin landed another blow in Necar’s back, this time in a spot where his armour had already been weakened. The Sith Lord grunted, staggering forward a step, and nearly right into the Falleen’s silver blade, but Necar recovered in time. The Sith Lord threw his free hand in the woman’s direction and clobbered her with a telekinetic strike, hammering her back into one of the terminal banks behind her. Xanos was just as quick to react, however, and unleashed his own blast of dark energy while Necar was momentarily distracted by Sildrin. The attack threw the Sith Lord back up the command deck into the astrogation controls beside the dead astrogator.
“Warning. Please adjust course. Warning.”
The ship’s automated guidance system continued to repeat its never ending instructions as another rock struck the viewport directly behind Necar. Not expecting the collision, the Sith Lord jerked forward, and Sildrin shot at him again from the console where she herself had been hurled moments earlier. Necar, however, had grown tired of the sorceress’s constant harassment.
“You will not keep the Master from me!”
Lightning crackled around Necar’s sword and he hurled it toward her like a spear. But before the weapon could reach her, the Falleen had moved in between them and, instead of striking Sildrin, the profane blade pierced Xanos right through the middle of his abdomen. The Falleen crashed backwards, falling over the bottom half of a broken computer terminal and down onto his back, the dark blade still sticking up into the air from the Falleen’s waist like a flagpole.
The Dark Prophet tried to reach forward to remove the blade, but his movements had gone stiff and instead his hand dropped to the hole in his waist, which was already bleeding profusely.
“Don’t resist,” Necar said. “The paralysis takes a few minutes to take hold, but you won’t stop it.”
Now back on her feet, Sildrin fired again, but this time the Sith Lord simply battered her blasts aside with his hands. The masked marauder’s gloves smoked from the impacts, but Necar did not appear to care as he stepped over the fallen corpses of the bridge crew to where Xanos lay. When Necar pulled his lightsaber out of Xanos’s waist, the muscles in the Falleen’s face recoiled automatically, making the tattoo of an eye in the middle of his forehead look like it was blinking, but the Dark Prophet made no audible comment.
Sildrin, on the other hand, shouted for her master to get up. But Xanos did not move.
In the chamber behind, Jeric and Shirai could still be heard struggling against the two giant terentateks, and Macron continued to groan where he too had been knocked unconscious.
“You see?” Darth Necar said triumphantly. “I am never alone. The Master lends me strength.”
As Necar loomed over his fallen victim, the Dark Prophet’s hand fumbled around his wound, but the Falleen appeared unable to make any more substantial movements than that. Whatever profane rites Zoraan’s apprentice had performed on his blade, they bore all the marks of the dark magicks of the Star Chamber.
A door unlocked at the back of Xanos’s mind at that realisation.
The Falleen’s voice was hoarse, but his meaning projected into Necar’s mind as clearly as if it had been spoken. Like the Dark Prophet ten years ago, Darth Necar had reached too far, too quickly, and his mind left broken as a result. But Xanos had already walked that path and returned from it. He knew the mistakes, the errors that Necar was now first walking. There was more to the dark side than raw power alone, and it had taken death for the Falleen to learn that.
Like a marionette that was being controlled by invisible strings, the Falleen’s body suddenly lifted up into the air. Though his arms and legs remained locked where they were, and his movements were awkward and ungainly, one of the Dark Prophet’s hands jerked for the hole in his chest and into the gash where Necar’s sword had been impaled, seeming as if his entire arm had been pulled by an invisible hand, despite his muscles’ paralysis. The same hand and arm then jerked into air toward Necar, the sudden motion flinging the Falleen’s green blood into the other’s face.
The Dark Prophet’s body continued to loom there like a statue, held up purely by the Falleen’s own will. Necar looked over at Sildrin as if thinking the currently Forceless woman was doing something. But the Sith Lord’s unspoken question was answered when Xanos’s voice filled his ears, spoken as clearly as if it had been with the Falleen’s own mouth, when the Dark Prophet chanted in the tongue of the ancients directly into Zoraan’s apprentices mind.
Necar staggered on his feet and dropped his poisoned blade.
“Get out of my head!” Necar shouted.
With Necar now distracted, Sildrin fired again as Macron gave another groan and mumbled something about hating the palace’s cooking.
SSD Avenger II
“Fragging chow stinks in the palace,” groaned Macron as he sat up against the wall. “The power plant is full of eels.” He rubbed his temples as his vision resolved from being doubled. Blood showed on his fingers and he felt a gigantic knot on the right side of his head. The scene that greeted his yellow eyes was madness. That made perfect sense. Across the bridge the fight with Necar continued as Xanos levitated and Xia Long sniped at the enemy.
Shirai continued to ride the Terentatek he was mounted upon. The Sith Warrior held on by driving the bloody vibroblades attached to his punch-gauntlets into the creature’s neck, eliciting a howl of pain each time. The Terentatek had limited shoulder maneuverability. The mutation’s forward-leaning posture made reaching foes behind it very difficult. Shirai was certainly occupying it’s attention although the damage was not yet incapacitating. The Terentatek howled in frustration and anger as it tried to remove the offending human from it’s back.
Jeric continued to blast away at the second beast with his heavy blaster pistol. The nobleman turned pirate evaded the Terentatek’s blows with deft movement and jumps powered by the Force. As the power pack ran out on his weapon he dropped it. With one powerful leap he vaulted over the creature. The Sith landed on a communications instrument bank and drew a short rod from his belt. The ends extended on each side. The weapon was an extendable staff that operated in a similar fashion as a blast-sword. As the Terentatek swung at him the Battlelord connected with the creature’s left arm. His staff discharged a powerful blaster bolt directly at the point of impact which blew a hole completely through the Terentatek’s forearm. It screamed in pain and broke the staff with a powerful swing from it’s good arm.
Macron yelled as he palmed a self-modified thermal detonator. Baradium was plentiful in the Orian System. “Shirai! Jump!” Although the Force was nearly useless against the beasts they could be fought with other means. Macron was a veteran of the Vong Wars. Fierce as the Terentateks were, they were not nearly as awful as scores of Vong warriors. The trick lay in self-enhancement and manipulating the environment.
The Warrior leapt backwards with a deft flip as Macron threw the detonator at the Terentatek. The Force guided it directly into the creature’s open howling mouth. The beast almost looked surprised as it gagged on the hard durasteel ball now lodged in its craw. As the beast scrabbled at it’s face and backpedaled the detonator exploded in a flash of actinic light and searing heat. The blast tore the jaw off of the Terentatek and vaporized most of it’s lower face. It dropped to the ground with a gurgled whimper and kicked. Shirai wiped his face as his singed hair and face belied just how close the blast had been.
“Damn near fried me Macron!” yelled Shirai as he turned towards the still moving Terentatek. “Bastard!”
“Amazing,” commented Macron dryly. “Gorram thing still lives. Shirai, you and Jeric got the other one?”
“We’re working on it,” replied Jeric as he evaded the enraged Terentatek. “With Shirai’s help I’m sure we can take it.” The creature growled in anger as Shirai and Jeric flanked it on both sides.
“Copy that,” stated Macron as he turned towards the battle on the other side of the bridge. “I’m going to help those two.” I’m running out of strength, thought the Adept as he leapt over the walkway and glided a few meters to the other side of the bridge. Xanos, Sildrin, I cannot last if I engage him directly but I am here to help. Perhaps a distraction would serve.
SSD Avenger II
Shirai did not expect a battle like the one he encountered trying to take the Avenger II. So far they had run into some of the most secure forces and trained Dark Jedi. But a challenge it was, but how big can a challenge get before it becomes impossible to complete. They had triumphed over the resilient Dantella, only to run into Darth Necar himself. These were situations that needed to be treated with utmost certainty. For the only other alternative besides victory, is death.
The only way to win was to overcome the face of death himself. A walking a plague of destruction with the power to destroy worlds. But no power was enough to resolve the strength of the power of the combined Naga Sadowan might. No feat was too impossible, no creature created from the very depths of myth was to be their end. Not even an insane Sith Lord with the power to ravage all that stands in his way.
The Sith Warrior used this sudden epiphany of euphoric knowledge to process new information. Darth Vexatus had now tangled with Darth Necar and the battle had gotten very dangerous within a matter of minutes. Xanos now suspended in mid-air by pure will was still to close for comfort to a now raging Sith Lord. A plan sprang in the mind of the Warrior. It was a gamble but they were in a bind the moment they stepped on the bridge. Especially with these Terentatek high on their heels resistant to all the attacks Jeric threw at it.
"Jeric I got a plan! Get it to follow me!" This plan required Jeric to cover him, as he was the stronger of the two. Jeric skidded back a few steps as Shirai swung his lightsaber down on top of the creatures head, only to annoy it as it glanced off. Shirai anticipated that would happen but the attack was to bait the Terentatek to attack him, trusting the Force he knew the creature would throw a powerful sluggish swipe at his head. He ducked as fast as he could, dropping immediately to the floor. Before the creature could swipe down on him again he kicked off the creature, pushing him some few feet away. More than enough time for Shirai to get back on his feet. But the Terentatek was already mounting the charge on him.
But Jeric was already ahead of Shirai, such is the importance of the Force Meld, the Battlelord had used the Force to grab the body that Darth Necar had wildly threw at Shirai in his fit of rage. The body soared through the air intercepting the creatures path, stopping it only for a few seconds. This gave Shirai the chance to make a beeline. Straight towards Darth Necar. He could feel Darth Vexatus's wrath in the Force Meld as he relentlessly attacked the Sith Lords mind. Obvious to the fact that Necar was bellowing, "You cannot take my mind! For it already belongs to my master!"
So the Sadowan Warrior used the Force to augment his speed, for the creature was gaining on him second by second. Shirai made a curve so that the Terentatek was on same direct line of sight that he was on. Which was a raging Sith Lord. Darth Necar's connection to the Force was immense and almighty. Although being attacked directly in the mind by Vexatus and the relentless attacks from Sildrin who was going for the kill with each shot. He still managed to to block the shots with his lightsaber's and anticipate that Shirai was leading his creature towards him.
Something snapped in his eyes as he locked them in with the Warriors. His hand snapped forward yet again. But this attack was something he had never seen before, and it made him fearful. So the moment Darth Necar held out a hand towards him, he leaped as far as the Force and his legs could manage to do. Which sent him crashing towards the wall opposite of Dark Side Adept Macron. The blast that was sent towards where Shirai was just at, obliterated the entire area around it. However the raging Terentatek was not effected by the blast in the slightest and kept charging on. Darth Necar realizing his mistake a second early used his mastery of the Force to dodge creature as it stumbled to avoid its master.
As the Sith Master became irritated and tried to end a defenseless Shirai. Macron now seized the opportunity he was waiting for. Darth Necar was now legitimately distracted, and the Madman was going to wreak havoc. Macron threw his hands out towards the Sith Lord, lightning began to cascade slowly off his fingers, they arched off like plasma snakes in the bowels of molten hot lava. The lightning tore through the air racing like firecrackers at Necar. Almost immediately he threw his hands up in defense. The Madman laughed maniacally screaming, "UNLIMITED POWER!" as the the Force Lightning danced off his hands. He drew on the power of the Dark Side to feed his destructive attack.
The shield of Force was somehow melded out of it and was blocking the lightning barrage. But it was obvious it was taking a lot of concentration. One Shirai hoped the Prophet could now capitalize one. But his little actions caused him more danger then expected. Tired after his little almost suicide run, he was attempting to get back up when he was caught by surprise by the raging Terentatek that had not forgotten about him. The beast caught him completely off guard as it rammed its giant claws into Shirai's armor, scratching it completely and tore through his chest. The Force of hit even propelled him at an awkward angle and he hit the wall behind him and fell to the floor.
He had never been hit that hard before in his life. His vision blurred as he tried to use the Force control the pain. But it was to much for him. The raging Terentatek realizing that his prey was done for charged yet again. As the creature neared the Sith Warrior heard a battle war cry like no other, " HAAAAAHHH!" His vision cleared just in time to see Jeric soar through the air towards them. As he reached the very pinnacle of his jump he used the Force to summon the dropped Sith Sword to his hand.
The Force leap sent him on the trajectory path of the Sith creation. He landed directly on top of the Terentatek and sent the Sith Sword with two hands driving directly into the skull. It seemed that the beasts were not exempt from Darth Necar's sorcery. "That's how you get it done." Jeric said as he wrenched the blade from the head. "We gotta turn this ship around."
Shirai took one look at the epic battle before him and already knew that this was a battle for the greats, "Yea I'm definitely not getting into that." And the duo rushed to undo the damage the Sith Lord had done in his insane rampage.
SSD Avenger II
A Super Star Destroyer was going to hit Antei; a raging Darth along with a Sith Lightning shooting Alchemist and a silent levitating immobilized Prophet. If this wasn’t madness....
The alarm on the bridge continued its warning. “Warning. Please adjust course. Warning.” Sildrin pressed the hands against her ears to shut out the noise, having put her useless blasters on the ground. Her new vision made her more susceptible to such sensations. Why am I here, she muttered. Why am I here? She inhaled deeply; regaining her composure.
She looked at her Master; a hint of worry nagged in the back of her head. He had taken the blow that was meant for her. But his battle was now far beyond her capabilities. It was time to fulfill a part of her mission. Her gaze settled down onto the remaining living beast lying on the ground - its jaw and tusks were nearly completely gone by Macron’s thermal detonator. But still it clung to life; its chest heaving slowly. Sildrin carefully made her way towards it; attention from Darth Necar was the last thing she sought.
The air was filled with ozone; Macron charged his next blast of electrical energy. Crackling lightning wandered across Macron’s armor; and if it wasn’t the fact that his hair didn’t already stand up in all directions, it would do so now. Electricity discharged partially from his hair spikes, and Macron giggled with delight from the ‘tickling’ sensation on the scalp atop his head. The Alchemist pointed at the Darth that seemed to have reached a new height of madness close to his own. Necar screamed out, thrashed, gibbering unintelligible words. The lightning that had been wrapped around Macron’s body then followed the Alchemist’s direction, finding their target.
Darth Necar’s scream made Sildrin twitch. Nervously her gaze wandered between the gigantic beast and the mad Darth. She unsheathed a dagger from a holster on her belt - she needed a few tissue samples. It took a while to cut through the almost armour plated flesh, and the beast only jerked once. She took a deep breath as just then the beast snarled, snapping at her ankle. The former Krath Priestess howled as the teeth pierced her skin, down to her bone. She started jabbing at the beast’s eye with her dagger repeatedly.
A moment of clairvoyance filled Darth Necar and he took a deep breath: “Yes Master. I can smell it. Her blood is … different. Her genetic code... her... Master! MASTER. I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Get out. GET OUT! No! Yes! The BLOOD!”. He is mad, Sildrin thought as she wildly jabbed her blade into the beast’s eye. Finally the resistance was overcome and she pushed - her hand with the blade vanished deep into the eye socket. The Terentatek’s other eye twitched; its remaining spark of life faded and the jaws opened. Trembling Sildrin pulled out her hand with the dagger; all covered with an oozing black liquid. An expression of disgust appeared on her face. “Ewwww.”
She carefully stored the two tissue samples in a pocket after having made sure Macron’s sample was rendered useless by a small drop of poison from a vial she had made sure to collect when they were back down on the research deck. “Sorry Macron - but Darth Pravus will make better use of these DNA samples than you and.... “ Her thought was interrupted - Sildrin! We could use your help! - she heard a faint voice within her head. She looked around, seeing Jeric and Shirai at the last working computer terminal on the bridge. Sildrin nodded, she quickly used a med-patch on her wounded leg, hissing as the pain subsided with help of the drugs from the patch. She made her way over to Jeric and Shirai - only to watch as Jeric collapsed onto the ground, clutching at his waist in agony.
Shirai cried out Jeric’s name as he catched his comrade. Sildrin increased her speed as much as her bad leg would allow. Jeric started thrashing out, his arms flailing. Incoherent words of a different tongue rolled from his lips, sounding like a voice not the Sadowan’s own. Shirai tried to hold him still and suddenly his gaze wandered down to the Sith Sword Jeric’s hand was still holding onto. “The sword is cursed!” Sildrin and Shirai exclaimed at the same time.
Shirai acted quickly and slammed Jeric’s hand several times into the wall until he would drop the cursed Sith Sword: “Forgive me.” With a boot Sildrin shoved away the blade; even with her limited Force Vision she could still see a hint of the cold dark shadows that moved within the blade. Jeric’s body relaxed, turning back to normal, but his eyes stared blankly at the ceiling, not reacting. Sildrin and Shirai exchanged a look as they laid Jeric safely down on the ground. “The ship...,” Shirai started. Sildrin nodded and both of them worked to change the ship’s course.
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The warmth had drained from the bridge when the voices filled Darth Necar’s mind. With it, the colour had seemed to drain from the Sith Lord’s face, first from his skin, then his hair, and finally his clothes all turning grey and ashen, as all imagery dulled. Even underfoot, the cold durasteel panels of the walkway across the command bridge between the crew terminals had greyed, as if everything had been captured in a black and white photo negative, devoid of its richness and of its light.
Only the Sith Lord’s eyes had retained any substance, filled with a subtle, but fiery indigo radiance.
The bodies amassed at Darth Necar’s feet had vanished entirely, and the sounds of battle and the tiresome ticking of the Star Destroyer’s automated consoles had softened to little more than a whisper in the back of his mind. For although his conscious self continued to fight on in the bridge, in the cold heart of the Sith Lord’s mind, there was no noise, no colour... only darkness.
Without sound or voice, all that remained was sheer will, and when the unconscious of Zoraan’s last apprentice looked toward at the trespasser who had violated his psyche’s inner sanctum, his desire projected through the Force directly into the intruder’s mind:
But Darth Vexatus simply stared back.
As much as the Falleen might have worn the olive green face of Xanos Zorrixor in the world of the living, here in the realm beyond the shadows and lies of reality, with the veil cast aside there was no hiding from the truth of existence. With the illusions wrapping around the Dark Prophet pulled back, all that remained was the scarred and tortured visage of a Sith Lord who once had challenged the Star Chamber and paid the price just like Necar’s Master. The Falleen’s face was blistered and wizened from unholy flames, and his left hand frail like a skeleton. But despite the damage that looked back at Zoraan’s student, the grey and white wraith that now floated inside Darth Necar’s mind needed no weapon to strike back. Here, all that mattered was will and the strength to use it.
Darth Necar’s voice once again bellowed through the sanctum of his own thoughts. The floor beneath Zoraan’s apprentice shook and a crack spread across its durasteel surface. Like a fractured mirror, the rift then spread out, expanding like a starburst, first across the walkway separating Necar from Vexatus, then up the walls, the viewports, and then the ceiling above. A spiderweb of openings, some no larger than a hairline, others broader than a fully clenched fist, wrapped around the two dark lords, enclosing them in a cage of bottomless tears and fissures.
For a brief second, the indigo in the depths of Necar’s eyes flashed more vibrantly.
And then everything collapsed.
The spiderweb shattered into a sea of shards. The bridge of the Avenger II fell apart and thousands of tiny fragments were tossed aside into the empty void that lurked beyond the psychic photogram of the Star Destroyer that existed within Necar’s thoughts. Flashes of the battle between the Sadowans and the Sith Lord’s monstrous terentateks reflected from the reverse sides of the psychic shards, joined by images from Necar’s memory of the original crew officers as they met their final fates at the point of his blood soaked sword.
“My lord, what are you doing!”
Necar’s consciousness continued to fight back, but his actions remained divided.
"Jeric, let go of the sword!"
As past and present intertwined, the reflections on the broken shards circled Necar and his mind’s intruder, who were now left lingering in the empty nothingness that remained. But for the shadow of the trespassing Dark Prophet, Necar was now alone, adrift amongst only his own memories.
In the mind, language and grammar ceased to function, and instead was distilled into its raw essence. Darth Necar’s demand for an explanation repeated again. And then again. What was going on? What are you? What have you done with the Master?!
Every question summed up in that one word.
Darth Vexatus’s scarred and blighted face throbbed, like something under the phantom Falleen’s skin was trying to burst free. Like Necar’s question, Vexatus’s explanation was but one thought:
The past and the present. The stars and the heavens. Time and space. Everything and nothing intertwined as one and the same. Flashes of possible futures filled the fragments orbiting the two beings at the centre of Necar’s mind. Necar’s death at Xanos’s hand. Xanos’s death at Necar’s. The terentateks imprisonment and vivisection by Macron under the watchful eye of the wrongful Dark Lord, together with the mad alchemist’s own devouring by one of those very same beasts.
Every future was possible. Every fate undetermined. Everything simultaneously knowable and unknowable.
Rage filled the Sith Lord’s mind as he set upon an image of the Master, surrounded by the horde of vile assassins that had taken his life. The image disappeared, replaced by that other heretic who had taken the Master’s life so long ago. The Master’s eyes had burned with the unholy fires of the dark side as his life had drained away. But the Master would return. The past was nothing.
The indigo light in Necar’s eyes flickered, blinking like a soon-to-be defunct lamp. The Sith Lord’s damaged mouth parted slightly as his eyes gently drifted from image to image, widening a little more with every new shot. Nowhere did Necar find the future that he longed for. The fate he sought. Everywhere brought with it everything, and with everything he found himself back nowhere.
For all the apprentice of Archibald Zoraan’s skill with the Force, for all his pursuing the hidden mysteries of the Star Chamber and its teachings, he had never learned the way of visions, never studied the art of the seer. Faced with infinite impossibilities, Necar’s mind was beginning to crack like the memories that circled him as his conscious and unconscious drifted further apart.
The broken body of Darth Vexatus lifted his one good arm and pointed.
The fragment the Dark Prophet had chosen showed Darth Necar back on the bridge with the familiar form of Dantella Novae on her knees in front of the Master as she pledged her service, in life and death. Like Necar himself, Novae had forever remained loyal to the true Dark Lord, and she had vowed that as Zoraan’s acolyte she would see to the Dark Brotherhood’s destruction.
Necar frowned, confused, this was the past, not the present, nor the future.
It made no difference.
But then the trespasser gestured to a new image and Necar saw the restrained body of the Umbaran who was now tied down to a gurney in the narrow hold a small shuttle that was now on its way to Antei to the false Grand Master whose wrongful claim to the Iron Throne the Master had sought to bring to an end. At first, Necar did not understand, this was not his memory, nor could it possibly have been Novae’s herself. But then the answer floated to the top of his mind, like something that he had always known, but which really had been planted there, against his will:
And as Darth Vexatus’s final thought filled Darth Necar’s, the Umbaran’s drugged body began to spasm, writhing unconscious within the cortosis shackles with which she was restrained. Foam frothed around her lips and she began to bleed from her nose and her eyes and her ears. In the final moments of her life, her eyes opened wide, to stare straight back into Necar’s. Then her eyes went dull, clouding, and she fell limp, lifeless and forgotten in the back of a prison ship.
Necar understood. The Falleen had done this. Betrayed them all.
Like a reverse flood, the fragments of Necar’s mind reassembled, coalescing back together in a Big Crunch to correct the Big Bang that had been forced upon his consciousness. The clash of lightsabers once more filled his ears as colour returned and his conscious and unconscious minds rejoined. But like anything put together in a hurry, such rapid reconstruction was imperfect, things were inevitably misplaced, but right then Darth Necar did not care. The Dark Prophet's paralised body still hung in front of him, suspended by phantom strings, and he felt the fire of the dark lightning that the leader of the assassins was continuing to pour into his flesh, burning him, charring him, trying to drain his life essence and slay him like the Master. But in that particular moment, he did not care, he did not notice. His mind had only one focus.
He was Darth Necar, the final apprentice of Grand Master Archibald Zoraan. He would not allow the Master’s legacy to die. The dark side began to wrap around the Sith Lord, sheathing him in a cocoon of pure uncontrolled energy as the storm inside his mind began to take physical form. The Master was always with him. He was never alone! The Master could not be defeated!
“BEHOLD THE MASTER’S POWER!”
The fabric of time and space tore asunder and the destructive light of creation and destruction surged free like a solar flare.
SSD Avenger II
Jeric’s consciousness was lost inside his own mind, wedged between reality and memory. A vast emptiness covered in dense fog was the only way to describe this void within his own mind. The Sith Battlelord stumbled thru the fog trying to follow faint voices.
“Warning, please adjust course, warning.” Jeric could hear the Ship’s computer wail. He continued to walk deeper into the fog, then another voice was heard.
“Forgive me.” It said followed by, “The ship....”
Shirai’s voice. Forgive him for what? Jeric thought as he still aimlessly wandered. The ship must still be in danger, Jeric felt as if he had been trapped in his mind for only minutes but who knows how much time had past outside.
“Warning, please adjust course, warning.” This time it sounded louder. Jeric stopped - he felt something, pain first in his stomach then a burning sensation on his hand. Looking at his hand Jeric could make out the handle of Darth Necar’s Sword.
“The sword!” Jeric yelled as suddenly he was thrown out of the void and back to reality.
As the Tapani’s EVE Mask stabilized he could see the ceiling of the SSD’s Bridge. Compared to what laid around him the ceiling seems calm.
“Shit! This thing isn’t just going to crash into the planet.” Jeric could hear Shirai say.
The Sith Pirate slowly rolled over and got up on one knee.
“What are you talking about?” The female apprentice of Xanos asked.
Slowly standing up Jeric could see Antei looming ever closer.
“The coordinates, its going to crash right into the Dark Hall!” The Sadowan Warrior yelled.
Jeric still slow to move, turned only to see Darth Necar a few meters to his right standing as if frozen in time. The Sith Lord twitched and incoherent words spewed from his mouth. Jeric could see Naga Sadow’s own Sith Lord suspended in the air he to twitch. The former Aristocrat knew the two were locked in a battle of the minds. The question was who was winning.
“I love power.” The maniacally voice of Macron was heard to Jeric’s left as a blast of Force lightning soared past the Sith Battlelord straight for Darth Necar. It seemed to have little effect though was keeping him torn between the battle outside and the one raging in his mind. The Sith Madman made his way over to Jeric.
“How was your taste of true power my friend.”
Jeric blankly stared at the madman. “My head hurts.”
“And you feel weak don’t you?” Macron asked the Sith Pirate. “Don’t worry it will pass in a few. You are lucky it didn’t kill you.” The Sith Elder said with a laugh.
Suddenly the durasteel floor beneath them began to violently vibrate. The air began to grow thicker. The walls of the bridge began to twist and crack. This dosn’t look good, Jeric thought to himself.
“Sildrin you might wanna hurry up!” Macron yelled over to the Krath.
“We almost got it.” Shirai said back. “At least I hope we do.” He said to Sildrin who was working hard to disengage the autopilot.
“Warning, please adjust...Course adjusted. Please insert new heading.” The two Sith heard the Star Destroyer’s message.
“Good, now get over here you two.” Jeric said with a mild sigh of relief. As Shirai and Sildrin meet up with the two others they began to move back towards the entrance of the bridge.
“NEVER!” Darth Necar’s voice pierced the thick air of the bridge. This time his words weren’t incoherent. The four Sadowan’s froze in place. The Sith Lord’s body began to shake uncontrollably. The pure energy of the dark side began to shroud the Sith Lord’s body. Sparks of lightning began to shoot out of his body as it seemed his mind began to return to the real world. Sildrin looked around at her master and saw his body fall back to the ground. It would have seemed that the Falleen had lost the psychic battle.
“BEHOLD THE MASTER’S POWER!” A storm of force lightning flew out of Darth Necar’s body and engulfed the entire ceiling. Lightning began to strike all around the bridge. Destroyed computer terminals combusted into flames, dead bodies vaporized, the walls cracked more and more.
“He is destroying the bridge. We need to get out.” Jeric said.
Sildrin nodded and ran over to grab her master’s body. Shirai began to run towards the turbo lift. Chunks of durasteel fell from the ceiling above. Jeric began to move towards the entrance to the bridge when he noticed something. Macron was not following the group.
“The bridge is coming down!” The Tapani yelled.
“Not on my watch, GO!” The Sith Madman yelled back to Jeric.
“Lunatic” Jeric said as he turn and headed towards the turbolift where Sildrin, holding her Master, and Shirai were already waiting.
Macron looked behind him and saw Necar’s sword. The madman looked back towards the crazed Sith Lord who appeared to be bloated by all the energy surging thru his body. The final apprentice of Grand Master Zoraan looked as if he could explode.
“I’m the only one that’s allowed to be mad around here.” Macron said as he used the force to summon the Sith Sword into his hand.
SSD Avenger II
The Force Storm continued to grow slowly. It was apparent that Necar was going to destroy the bridge along with himself and everyone else. He was obviously mad. The lightning and nimbus of power around him changed colors to a scintillating red. Sparks shot from ruined cables in the ceiling that hung like charred snakes from a blackened den. Acrid smoke spewed from ruined computer banks and consoles to foul the rank air further. The raging Darth Necar laughed insanely as bodies smoked and crumbled to dust around him. “Antei will die! My Master will be revenged!” He was completely consumed with the brewing Storm. Behind the Sith Master a view screen showed the mass of Antei looming rapidly.
The fleeing Dark Jedi watched Macron through the view-hatch in the bridge door. They stopped briefly to glance from behind the safety of the shielded portal. Shirai, Jeric and Sildrin hustled around the comatose Dark Prophet as they made for the ship's interior. Behind them troopers of the Red Tower dashed into the hall with weapons drawn. Across the ship scored of Dark Jedi and servants of the Iron Throne assaulted other areas.
Macron hefted the Sith Sword. It pulsed in his hand like a living creature. Watching Darth Ashen defeat Zoraan’s ancient blade had given the madman an insane insight. The metal almost seemed to glisten and crawl slowly as the arcane blade seemed to relish the carnage around it. Swordplay was not his forte, nor could the Adept control it for long. “No matter,” grunted the Elder as it urged him to action subconsciously. His hand swept forward in a javelin throw. The Sword left Macron's hand with all the remaining power that he could muster. A telekinetic wave pushed it with unseen hands like a comet.
It was a longshot but he had to try. Never give up. For Antei. For the Brotherhood.
Darth Necar laughed and casually stepped aside. Swift as the throw had been it was a simple matter to dodge the throw. The weapon passed to his right and lodged in the viewport edge power cable directly behind him. “You missed,” cackled the Sith Lord. “You are too weak to fight now, youngling. Now you will die!” The intensity of the Storm increased rapidly on his right side. Arcs began to form between the Sword and Necar’s Force Storm. “Feel the Master’s Power!”
“Not exactly,” whispered Macron as he knelt next to a navigation console. It was amazing that the Alchemist had lasted this long. His fingers tapped across the keys quickly like scrabbling bugs. Piloting capital ships was not new to him. The course set by Shirai and Xia Long would need to be manually actuated as the ship's autopilot began to fail. If Necar was successful though none of them would live much longer. The environmental devastation that would ensue on Antei would be a hammer blow to the Brotherhood. If the vessel impacted the Dark Hall directly it might end what Zoraan had begun. The ship simply had to be turned. There were no other options. It was far too massive to try and land. “Come on baby. Turn your big behind. Come on.” One more tap on his gauntlet activated Macron’s mag-boots. They mag-clamps clicked as they clung to the durasteel floor of the bridge.
Necar screamed as the Sword pulsed hungrily in resonance with him. The weapon’s passage through his uncontrolled Force Storm had created instability in his energy field. Sputtering bolts crawled across his skin as his own power began to overload and consume him. His eyes bulged frog-like and smoke issued from his ears. He had intended to shape the explosion at his leisure and now this was impossible. The Sith Lord screamed soundlessly as his mouth opened impossibly wide.
The viewport ruptured behind him as the aura of power exploded in that direction. The entire front wall viewport and all was instantly sucked into the blackness of space. The atmosphere blew out as the humidity in the ship’s air crystallized in the stygian cold. Necar went with it, a nimbus of power still coruscating around his body. He looked like a star plucked from it’s rightful place in Antei’s night sky.
Even the emptiness and cold of hard vacuum did not kill Zoraan’s raging disciple. His subsequent immolation in his own Force Storm gone awry did however. Like many Darksiders before him, Necar exploded in a blast of blue energy at the instant of his death. The burst of Force energy lit the dusty emptiness as a psychic wind howled forth. The blast mimicked that of many planets and asteroids that had collided in the Shroud for millennia before him. Necar became more dust in the Shroud. His essence almost seemed to be eaten by blackness outside. There was a reason the Shroud held so many legends of death and fear. The Dark Side was powerful here. Now it was just a little more powerful.
The huge ship groaned as it turned and swept past Lyspair. Macron collapsed across the navigational bank and force-shields snapped shut across the blown out viewport window. Blood dripped from his eyes and nose. He could barely move. His lungs burned with agony as the nitrogen in his artificial blood began to boil. Every last ounce of remaining strength went into one final set of quivering taps on the control panel that remained. The Alchemist’s hand dropped numbly onto the panel and lay where it fell.
Metal complained and creaked on every deck as the gigantic Super Star Destroyer fired its engines. It was on a slingshot maneuver. There was no time to slow the massive vessel- only to accelerate it fully and miss Antei by mere tens of kilometers. The enormous dagger shape clove through Antei’s ionosphere. Far below many could see the glittering shape sweep between Lyspair and Antei and pass beyond the planet’s atmosphere. Their lives rode on the fate of the starship far above.
Rumor had it that Darksiders were incapable of putting others ahead of themselves. The rumors were wrong. The Brotherhood would live even if it meant sacrificing it’s own. One Dark Jedi was nothing lost to save the many. True Brotherhood required such things. A Praetor was always willing to pay the highest price for the good of those he served, and those who served him. Macron Goura Sadow stopped breathing and blacked out.
Auxiliary Control Room
Super Star Destroyer Avenger II
The four members of the strike team who had deserted the command deck before Macron could strike the final blow all felt it as Darth Necar’s life did not so much as blink out but detonate with the full force of a thermonuclear baradium bomb. Jeric and Sildrin literally fell to the floor as the shockwave tore through the Force and for a moment it almost seemed like the Avenger might have somehow crashed into Antei after all. But a few moments later, almost as quickly as the tsunami of dark energy had struck, the dying rage of Zoraan’s last apprentice faded away again, this time forever.
Shirai gathered his breath where he had ended up, propping himself up with one hand clasping in a vice around the backrest of one of the seats in the auxiliary control room where the four had ended up after fleeing the main bridge itself when Necar had tried to summon his Force Storm.
In the chair next to where Sildrin had collapsed, her new master’s hand moved slightly as the paralysis from the wound that had been made in his chest by the late Sith Lord’s sword at last started to subside. Xanos slowly opened his fingers before closing them again.
“Macron did it,” Shirai said as Sildrin pulled herself back up onto her feet.
Shirai and Jeric both tended to their own injuries while the woman knelt down again to check to make sure that her master was not at risk of further blood loss. Before she could do anything, however, the Falleen’s arm jerked and his cold hand closed around her wrist to stop her.
“Do not concern yourself with the flesh,” the Dark Prophet croaked. “I do not die here.”
Before the woman could argue, the doors to the turbolift that led back up to the main bridge tower opened. Looking entirely spent, Macron staggered out into the room and fell to the floor. His skin looked nearly blue and ice droplets clung to the red exoskeleton of his body armour.
Jeric was at the strike team leader’s side first. “I know what this is,” said the pirate, feeling for the Dark Adept’s pulse on his throat. “He’s oxygen starved. Someone hand me a spare bacta patch!”
Shirai fumbled through his pockets. “I’m out!”
“So am I...” Sildrin said a moment later.
Her master’s hand gripped hold of hers again, causing the woman the flinch in surprise. Xanos lowered her own hand to a pouch on his belt. With no instructions necessary, Sildrin unclipped the leather bag and laid it out on the floor. A pair of small black crystals caught her eye, as did the strange viscous orange liquid that clung to the glass inside a small injection syringe, but her attention quickly focused on what she was after: “Here! I’ve got one!”
Sildrin hurried with the bacta strip over to Jeric and Shirai and, between the three of them, they quickly unfastened the chest plate of Macron’s armour to directly apply the bacta patch over his lungs. The mad alchemist gasped the instant Jeric pressed the patch down onto his skin.
“Fracker... took out... the window... hehe,” Macron struggled to say between heavy breaths.
A new groan from inside the turbolift caught everyone else’s attention.
Sildrin’s hand was on her blaster instantly.
“Eas... easy,” Macron said, raising his armoured fist to calm the others. “Just... just something... I grabbed while I could.” The Elder coughed as he tried to laugh again.
Shirai looked into the turbolift first. “Frack,” the Sadowan Warrior said. “You dragged that damn monster hedgehog with you!” Inside the turbolift, the surviving terentatek wheezed as it struggled to cling onto the last embers of life. With a loud grunt, Shirai heaved the crippled alchemical experiment into the room and dumped it a safe distance away in front of a bank of terminals.
Jeric shook his head. “You’re crazy, Macron.”
The door to the turbolift that Macron had just minutes earlier emerged from chimed open again. Shirai’s lightsaber had already filled the auxiliary bridge before Sildrin had time to unclip her blaster and turn round from her new master to face whoever it was that had followed them.
But the sight that greeted them was not the one they had expected.
Four stormtroopers, covered from head to toe in non-reflective obsidian-coloured plates, spread out in front of the open turbolift hatch to form a defensive perimeter. Their escort needed no introduction and Jeric, Shirai and Sildrin all automatically dropped onto one knee, while Macron suppressed a grimace as he forced himself off the floor a little and made his best effort to give a bow of his head. Behind them, Darth Vexatus just turned his head in the direction of the new arrivals.
The Red Tower had entered.
Raken’s eyes studied each of the strike team in turn for a moment before settling on the bloodied and bruised face of his Praetor, who in spite of his present condition was still the strike team’s appointed leader. Raken held Macron’s gaze as one of the Shadow Hand’s escort stepped forward.
“The Deputy Grand Master wishes to congratulate your team on their success.”
Still recovering from the oxygen deprivation, it took Macron a moment to reply. “It was... our pleasure.” Macron put a hand on his ribcage to steady his breath. “All live... to serve the Iron Throne.”
Next to Macron, Jeric and Shirai both bowed their heads further in agreement.
“Regrettably your prisoner died during transit to Antei,” the trooper continued and then his helmet lifted in the direction of the injured terentatek that was whimpering further inside the bridge. The trooper turned back to Macron, who answered before needing to be asked for an explanation.
“A... gift,” Macron said, still sounding slightly hoarse. “With luck, it may survive the trip better.” The strike team leader coughed as he tried to giggle then he looked back up at Raken. For his next words, Macron ensured that he kept his voice clear: “I apologise that our captive did not reach the Grand Master intact.”
The Deputy Grand Master studied the alchemical monster before he looked back at his Praetor.
“Darth Ashen will understand,” the usually silent Elomin growled without any further explanation, then the Shadow Hand turned back to his escort, nodded sharply, and strode back into the turbolift. The Deputy Grand Master had not sounded particularly concerned, but instead almost the opposite and a thin smile crossed the corner of Sildrin’s lips unnoticed.
The trooper who had first spoken remained where he was while the rest of Raken’s escort squad reassembled inside the tight transport compartment. With one last glance at the groaning mass of the bloodied terentatek, the trooper looked back at the five members of the strike team.
“Antei is secure thanks to all of you,” the trooper said, turning to leave. “But while Zoraan and his disciples may be gone, never forget that there are always more traitors amongst us.” And with that final cryptic warning, the trooper rejoined Raken in the turbolift, and the Shadow Hand and his team disappeared back into the bowels of the Dark Brotherhood’s newest command ship.
TO BE CONTINUED... IN THE DARK CRUSADE!