Arcona: Team 6
Arcia Cortel (3463)
Nath Voth (13425)
Kalon Tsucyra Entar (12247)
Maaks Erinos (10566)
Kordath Bleu d'Tana (13593)
IC: You are a member of an elite task force assigned to conduct a rapid entry raid in Xlopora City. Your team is tasked with recovering the the lost blade of Ferran, known as Revelation. Intelligence reporting indicates four distinct opposition Forces operating within Xlopora City.
1. One Sith Forces: The Sith Lord Esoteric has been identified by Taldyran reconnaissance teams. Esoteric is an unpredictable Sith Lord and has been connected to the death of multiple members of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood.
2. Unknown Imperial Forces: Arconan agents have reported multiple engagements with Storm Commandos and unidentified Imperial Storm Troopers. These unknown Imperial Forces appear to be coordinating their operation with the One Sith.
3. Sith Revenants and Ancient Sith Magic: Xlopora City is the seat of ancient Sith powers and is protected by unknown quantities of arcane wards and traps. Sith Zombies have been identified within the catacombs underneath the towered palace located in the center of the city. Shadow Academy Scholars have reported multiple deaths resulting from failed attempts to breach warded doorways and structures.
4. The Dark Brotherhood: The Dark Brotherhood is a fragmented organization designed to reward those who excel. Infighting, backstabbing, and treachery are acceptable tactics to achieve results. Dark Council reports indicate at least three skirmishes have occurred between opposition Clans and Houses.
The Sith Medium, Dantella Novae, has provided the Dark Council with a rough sketch of the chamber housing Revelation. She believes that a ritual, of some sort, will be required to gain access to the weapon. This ritual will require a significant cost from the team who discovers it.
This is a time sensitive operation that will conclude in 96 hours (16 real life days!) with the commencement of an orbital bombardment. Due to the short nature of the operation, your team will be limited to light infantry operations (no mechanized forces are to be deployed in Xlopora City). You may use any other equipment from your organization's order of battle.
OOC: The following links provide additional information.
Plot Update Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cZ1VFYjY3SElrMU0/edit?usp=sharing
Bosthirda Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cbmNOMURTM3R0R3M/edit?usp=sharing
Dantella Novae Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cY1piSHZJOHhlMEU/edit?usp=sharing
Welcome to the Dark Crusade Epilogue: Bosthirda, a Run-On Event.
The following rules are in effect:
This is a run-on event based on the most recent Dark Brotherhood Plot Update, Bosthirda Planet Document, and event hook placed at the beginning of each run on.
Sign-ups for the event will begin on 22 February 2014 and end at 2359 EST on 27 February 2014.
The Team Captain from each team will email their team name and team roster to Muz, Raken, and Sarin.
Teams will consist of no less than 5 members and no more than 7 members. Units may submit as many teams as they can field.
250 word minimum per post. No maximum word limit. A post under 250 words will not be considered in a participant’s 3 post total. If a player writes five entries, 3 over 250 words and 2 under, they will still be given credit for reaching the minimum post limit.
Each team member must post at least three times during the event. There is no maximum post limit, but members cannot post consecutively. A single member failing to post three times will result in their teams DQ and elimination from the top 3.
Edits may occur on a post until a follow on post has been made (follow on posts include "reserving" a space). Edits may only be made by the posts original author (as in, if you have Forum Administration Rights, you cannot edit another member’s work).
Members may reserve post, but no posts can occur until after the reserved post is written.
The event will be graded by Raken, Sarin, and Muz using a rubric that focuses on creativity, plot development, realism, and grammar.
The winning team will win the Run-On for their unit. A single Independent Unit can finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in this event. This is a nova producing event.
22-27 February Sign-Ups
28 February: Event Hook Published on all Team Threads (You can read the plot update and potentially divine your mission!)
28 February to 16 March: Members Post on the Forums! This event will be plugged into the Database, but will not conclude on the forums until 2359 EST on 16 March 2014!!!!!!!
Somewhere in Bosthirda’s atmosphere
“Shuttle requesting permission to depart,” acting helmsman Karth stated to the Bridge.
“Shuttle, permission granted to depart upon decloak of vessel. Good luck out there…” Karth relayed to the shuttle pilot.
A Nu-Class shuttle was primed and ready to launch once their main transport was in position. Within it was five passengers with gear packs, waiting impatiently. After just a few minutes, a ping was received through the shuttles communications systems allowing the Commander to give the order.
Arcia’s shout was professionally accepted by the shuttle pilot as the engines throttled up and the small transport rocketed out of the AGV Nighthawk. Within a matter of mere seconds, the modified picket decloaked as the shuttle departed, allowing the Nighthawk to cloak once again and disappear from all sensors.
Besides the pilot, gunner and the Nighthawk’s XO, there were four others strapped into their seats; Kalon, the Nighthawk’s primary pilot; Nath, the ships information retrieval specialist; Maaks, the ships medic; and Kordath, the former BTL of Dark Forge.
“Alright, people. We have our mission, we have our intel...however choppy it is and we have a good team going for us. We’re going to be dropped on the outermost perimeter with the least Imperial opposition. These Imperials are unpredictable, so don’t let your guard down. Keep your eyes open for anything and everything. If we can avoid it, we’re going to avoid it.” Arcia spoke clearly over the roaring of the shuttle engines as the ship shuddered and the rear hatch opened slowly.
She could already see in Kalon and Nath’s eyes, they didn’t prefer their XO leading them into this mess, but she cared not to bring it up. Maaks and Kordath, however, showed perfect attention to her words and nodded their understanding when she was finished speaking; like soldiers she could count on. Arcia just hopped the issues with the other Nighthawk crewmembers wouldn’t become detrimental to the teams mission…
Outskirts of Xlopora City
As the shuttle came to a swooping halt, Arcia soundlessly ushered the others out of the ship and followed quickly after, blaster drawn and other hand on her saber. They took cover behind some rubble as their transport lifted off and disappeared into the distance without a word. Arcia quickly rose her head over the cover and scanned the area; she didn’t see anything.
Pointing to Kordath and Kalon, she motioned to the right. They nodded and silently made their way around the rubble and took position at the corner of a decaying structure. A short ping on their comms signified they were in position as Arcia took Maaks and Nath with her to the left.
“Intelligence reports state there is a series of corridors or a labyrinth or something beneath the city...best bet is trying to locate an entrance,” Nath stated quietly over the comms to the rest of the team.
“Agreed,” Arcia stated with a sigh and motioned for both groups to move forward, toward a large structure in the center of the city.
“Well Arconans...let’s see what this place is hiding; keep your eyes peeled…”
Nath did as instructed and ducked behind cover, carefully she tried to sense if there was any enemies nearby but there was not a soul close enough to spot them, it seemed that Cortel had enough sense to have the team dropped far enough away that none would notice their arrival.
The Iridonian sheathed her daggers, seeing little point in keeping them in her hands for the moment. The scrape of metal was slight, however, it was a comforting sound no matter the number of times she heard it.
When Arcia gestured to the large structure Nath followed the Human's hand, she hesitated for a second, allowing Maaks to move before her knowing full well if there was trouble coming from living enemies the Miraluka would be able to see the glow of colour possibly before herself.
"Do you believe it wise to head to the epicentre? We may be able to find another route into the labyrinth..." Nath spoke primarily to Cortel but saw little point in not involving the others in the discussion so kept her comm open allowing the others to also hear.
As she spoke she climbed carefully over the small wall and made her way to the next. The Iridonian did not miss Arcia's grin at the question she had asked. The Human turned her full attention to Nath before responding.
"Good thinking, take point if you have a different direction in mind." She seemed to mean her words as the Iridonian's obsidian eyes inspected Arcia blankly for a minute.
"...As you wish." Nath replied after she had decided Cortel was not trying to insult her.
Nath's pack hit the floor with a slight squelch, the flooding had made the ground overly moist and viscous in texture. Maaks and Cortel could clearly see Nath extract a datapad from one of the pockets. Kalon and Kordath could not see, but could easily guess what she had removed from her bag; both knew her well enough to make an educated assumption.
Leaning the weight of her back against the wall Nath began to inspect the scans that Arcona had made of the planet surface. It took no time at all for the Iridonian to mark their current position and began searching for a suitable entrance.
"Hmm... If we go through here." She pointed at a darkened section of the map. "We could potentially avoid the majority of the enemy forces, however, with the flooding that has occurred it means we may be swimming some of the way." Nath looked up to Cortel once more to gauge the Human's reaction to the idea.
"Our packs are water resistant, all of us better know how to swim." Arcia shot a glance to each member of the team just in case one of them did not before returning her attention back to Nath. "Unless anyone has a better idea, I'm for it." She added once their eyes met.
Kordath Bleu was miserable, which was okay, he was used to that these days. He was a scholar, of a sort, these days and was not all that comfortable slogging through the ankle deep water that obscured the ground in the dark tunnel that Nath had located. The Ryn wasn't sure how he'd been shoved into this group, the Nighthawk team was a bit more...professional than what he was used too. Maybe his recent resignation in Dark Forge had lead some bureaucrat to the thinking of 'let's stick him with somebody else for this mission, so everybody gets along better'. It would scan, he knew, bureaucrats made stupid decisions everyday, like sending people off to die on a Sith-cursed world for a bloody sword that some 'high and mighty' warrior had abandoned here.
'Couldn't have been that good of a damn sword if he left it behind,' thought the Krath, glancing at his companions, all of whom looked alert, eyes scanning the darkened recesses of the tunnel.
The team had settled on the plan put forth by Nath, after some short discussion that more or less boiled down to 'which path are we likely to survive, at least the most likely.' Heading through the city itself was ruled out quickly, the idea of skirting Imperial patrols, while exciting, would likely lead to them being noticed by other parties. The labyrinth, that would be quieter, they just had to keep alert.....
Kord shifted his pack to a slightly less uncomfortable position, and practiced his sensing techniques, letting his focus move away from the cold, damp tunnel, and towards...well further down the dark, wet tunnel. If he let go of his care of the here and now a bit more, the Krath knew he'd pick up bits of emotion and possibly surface 'sensations', not quite thoughts, from his fellow teammates, but he'd also likely trip and make a very short and ungraceful dive into the water.
Instead he kept vaguely alert, keeping his ear open for the orders that this Cortel woman seemed to enjoy giving, and habit forced him to watch Nath. She'd been his Master for a while, scolding him all the way through to his trials, without her, he'd likely have been dead months ago. A shiver ran down his spine, causing his tail to twitch a few times before he got a hold on himself, thinking about the cannibalistic Death Walkers that had very nearly killed the both of them on Eldar. The Ryn knew he'd been lucky then, he just hoped his luck wouldn't run out, Arcia seemed to have a plan, and Nath seemed to have a path, so all he had to do was not get them all killed.
He sighed internally, knowing that this would be the hardest part of the mission, not screwing up and getting everybody else wasted. Something on the edge of his senses, up ahead, started to move, and the Ryn sighed again, reaching to the knives in his belt.
Kalon had remained generally quite, not so much as speaking a word since the team touched down some ten minutes ago. The tunnel was disturbingly dark; the Mandalorian’s helmet lights piercing through it like a knife to butter.
Kalon’s head pricked up, aware of the former-Sergeant’s sudden tension.
“Relax Kordath.” Grumbled the Entar, watching as an oversized rat began to run down the tunnel, most likely spooked by the lights. “Only rodents. The harmless kind that is, anyway.”
He turned to see the Ryn nod at him in understanding, and returned the gesture before facing forward once again.
Kalon had instinctively volunteered to take point, leaving Arcia a couple of metres behind him. Despite his lighting equipment the visibility of the tunnel was poor, the team having to tread through the water lightly in order to retain the element of surprise against the One Sith forces and whatever else lurked down there with them.
“Wouldn’t it be grand if we all had lighting equipment?” Mumbled Kalon, briefly looking down in order to step over a small pile of rubble from the partially collapsed tunnel.
“We want to remain hidden. Besides, not all of us go on a mission decked to the teeth.” Replied Nath. The Iridonian gestured to Kalon’s armour as she spoke, as well as the variety of weapons he carried.
Before the Mandalorian could respond, he noticed an object by his feet. Raising his right hand up, the team instantly stopped and crouched down.
“What is it?” Asked Arcia, her voice as sharp and serious as ever.
“Tripwire.” Replied Kalon, his eyes running across the thin silver wire. “Looks like it was set up fairly recently.”
“Which means that there are hostiles up ahead, and likely more traps too.” Maaks finished off, his head facing towards the blackened tunnel that awaited them.
Each member of the team carefully made their way over the tripwire, eyes darting around on the walls, the ground, and the ceiling for anymore surprises that the One Sith had in store for them.
“But this is amateurish at best, the tripwire isn’t even hidden.”
“Then maybe they weren’t meant for us. Not meant for sentient enemies...”
The thought was chilling and the wind howled a reply, the calmness of the labyrinth suddenly dangerous. Arcia shook her head, all eyes on her. She gestured for them to move and they did so in silence.
They stepped over a few other tripwires, making their way down the wide sewage canal. It was relatively clean, with water slowly trickling to the ankle as the small pools of precipitation washed away any traces of life. The tunnel drained the warmth from them greedily as they descended, the light from the entrance almost imperceptible but the sounds flourished. Each step became a sluggish splash, every breath a whisper. It was difficult to keep from imagining horrors at every shadow.
Suddenly, Kalon swiped his hand up, holding everyone in position. From where Maaks stood, he could see Kalon peering through the gloom up ahead, where the tunnels came to a crossroads. the Force alerted him to nothing, a light bristle of panic sending his heart to beat faster.
“The rats are moving.” Kalons voice over the comm was not pleased. The light from his helmet showed a steady stream of rats, causing ripples and tiny splashes as they swam hurriedly from the left. Gradually, the stream of rodents thinned. There was but a moment of silence before they heard their first footstep. Kalon lifted his hand, fingers slowly counting down until he began to move quietly, Arcia and Nath behind him followed by Kordath and Maaks.
The beams of the Mandalorians helmet lights reached the corner of the crossroads and almost immediately, the figure of a stormtrooper stepped out into full view, shuffling against the water. Everyones immediate reaction was to fire, arms raised in defense. But they didn’t. They merely watched as it turned its head, a pulsing growth writhing on its head, one arm too large to be contained by its armor and made from a puffy muscle.
Maaks reacted first, four thin fibres formed between himself and his squad through the Force as he willed them not to move. The creature suddenly noticed something else, wandering in the direction of the rats. Disgustedly, they realised it was probably hungry.
A few moments passed and Maaks released the bond. Arcia touched his shoulder and nodded and made her way to the edge of the crossroads.
“Well”, her train of thought was immediately shared by the others, “it seems the reports were correct. Nath, how far are we in?”
She didn’t even need to check her equipment to be sure, “Not far at all, and if the infection is this close to the surface, then…”
Kordath turned to the rear of the group, a puzzled look on his face, “It seems the traps were laid out for these...things. Not too bright, barely responsive to sound or scent, almost entirely using some other sense to detect movement…”
Cautious to make sound, Nath spoke under her breath, “They aren’t all like that. Mostly they’re just like another species, all long arms and claws, faces that don’t resemble anything remotely of what they were-”
“This isn’t important and we’re wasting time. I need to know where they are and how difficult they are to kill.” Arcia’s tone was irritable at best.
Kordath raised his hands in an unsure gesture, “If we take into account that they are some form of Sith mutation, then surely that would mean they would mean they are as easy to kill as their former selves.”
Arcia nodded and mulled it over, but Maaks caught her eye. “Anything to add, Maaks?”
He didn’t answer her immediately, only looked about as if the walls didn’t exist. His brows furrowed, “He was alone. Not in a literal sense, but if I think about it now...he was disconnected from something. A group, or a family of sorts or-”
“A nest.”, the group exchanged looks with each other before Nath checked her mapping equipment, “The plan is to head straight down the tunnel opposite us and into a chamber that leads up and directly in front of the palace. Maaks, did you get a read on where the ‘group’ was-”
He immediately pointed to in front of them with a grim expression.
Arcia rubbed the bridge of her nose between two fingers and sighed, “Let’s not waste time. Keep your senses sharp. Kalon, take the lead.”
He nodded, rifle at the ready as the squad moved cautiously down into a darkened abyss.
Xlopora City Sewer System
The group of Arconans had been slowly slushing their way through the sewers for nearly an hour, their pace hampered by the limited light from their Mandalorian’s helmet. Arcia shuddered at the thought of what could be in the water they stepped through, but kept any fears in the back of her mind to allow the rest of the tunnel network to be laid out for her by whispering her need to the Force. There was plenty of life down there with them: hostile Imperial troops, opposing Brotherhood forces, even additional Arconans. She wondered if she could convince them to work as one if they were encountered…
“Commander....” It was Nath.
Arcia snapped out of her immersion and squinted to see into the dark in the direction the woman was pointing, cursing internally that she never had her cybernetics set with night vision. Echoing through the dim light, radio chatter eased its way into the team’s ears: Imperials. Arcia quickly moved forwards and tapped Kalon’s shoulder, signalling him to take cover...wherever. Turning to the rest, she motioned for them to also drop, into the water if need be, and crouched down.
Light bounced across the water, reflecting onto pieces of metal and onto the tunnel ceiling. These ones weren’t like the sole trooper they had seen passing previously. Their chatter consisted of patrol routes, status reports and how they could be doing one of a great many other things than making sure the tunnels were clear of intruders. Arcia smirked, somewhat agreeing with their concerns. After the troopers passed and their faint echoing subsided, Arcia motioned for the group to recollect and tapped Kalon’s shoulder to edge him forth again.
“Commander, we’re approaching one of the cross sections. Orders?” Kalon chimed through the comms.
She thought for a moment before sighing audibly into her mic. “Continue as planned. We need to push forward.”
Four clicks were heard, signifying the rest of the group understood, and Kalon continued to lead the group forwards toward a larger chamber. Before them was a solid-looking durasteel door that looked to have been beat on and shot at; blaster marks and dents looked fresh along its frame. With a twitch of the mouth, Arcia stepped up to the doorway after signalling the others to watch their surroundings and placed her hand up on it. She slowed her breathing and pushed her sense outwards and past the door before gasping quietly and immediately retracting her hand.
“What is it?” Maaks questioned.
“You know damn well what it is…” Arcia responded plainly.
The Commander quickly routed her communications frequency to that of the Nighthawk and pinged Operative Fin Legain, the Operations officer maintaining a positive sensor lock on the group.
“Legain, I need you to perform a full sensor sweep of the tunnels we are in and upload the feedback to my cybernetic frequency.”
“Confirmed, Commander. Performing sweep and uploading to designated frequency.”
A chilling moment later, Arcia’s eyes shifted from their dull gray to a bright green then faded to a dull orange grid-like visual. To her, there was an accurate representation of the surrounding area covered in a computerized grid showing the tunnel halls, chambers and lifeforms walking or grounded throughout. With this uplink, she was connected to the Nighthawk’s sensor grid and could see further into the room than she could with only her connection to the Force.
Kordath looked promptly over his shoulder and frowned. “Oh dear?”
The Nighthawk’s Executive Officer cleared her throat and touched her temple, putting a hold on the sensor sweep uplink. “We have a problem. There seems to be at least fifty three warm bodies in the next chamber and nearly the same with no accurate life signs. That creates a potential one hundred plus bodies that we are about to encounter and by the looks of the one we stumbled across earlier…”
She left her statement cut off as the others already knew what she was referring to…
Three hours prior to mission launch
“Alright, ladies. Our mission details are simple: we are to infiltrate the city of Xlopora on Bosthirda. Intel states there is a weapon of significant power being held at the city center and we are being tasked to acquire this weapon at all costs.”
Arcia spoke loud and clear to the others sitting in the briefing room next to the Hypertransceiver off the bridge of the ship. She had passed out several datapads listing the details of the planet, city and any opposition they may encounter when planetside. Each datapad contained sensor logs from the Nighthawk herself as well as first hand experience with opposition on the ground.
None of it was pretty.
“We can expect heavy resistance in the form of an unidentified sect of Imperials, both commandos and troopers. Force readings have also been off the charts which lead us to believe that there are various traps and falsities strewn about within a series of large antechambers. There is also inconclusive evidence of a very powerful Sith conducting their own business upon the planet, to which we are not to engage at any point for any reason. That is the primary order for this mission.” Arcia scanned the room, ensuring each member of her team acknowledged the direness of her statements.
“Finally, there have been reports of fallen Sith that have been reanimated due to some sort of ‘ancient’ magics. These can be classified as the laughable ‘walking dead.’ No further data on these creatures has been discerned, but all caution should be taken if these things are encountered.”
When no one spoke up, Arcia nodded and dismissed the group to review the information before they moved onto staging for their shuttle drop. Looking out through the viewport at the lights flashing by signifying faster than light travel, she took a deep breath and nodded to herself; this would be a tough mission indeed…
Xlopora City Sewer System
The team looked concerned about going through the next chamber, but it was the only route viable with their timeframe. Shaking off her chills, Arcia kicked the actuation panel for the door and started manipulating the wiring within. A few seconds passed and the locking mechanism clanked free causing the door to crack slightly, a puff of what looked to be smoke emitted from the chamber. Looking to the others behind her, Arcia nodded to Kalon who brought his rifle to the ready and cracked his neck.
“We are going in silent,” Arcia whispered. “We make it through the chamber and out the other side. Keep your eyes open for anything else. Hand motions only. Understood?”
Arcia nodded and moved her hand down to her side, motioning forwards slowly signalling the group to move up.
Kalon entered the chamber immediately after Arcia pulled the rest of the door open and nearly froze in place. Scattered all across the floor of the room were bodies. Deformed masses of skin, bone and armor writhing and crawling over one another attempting to get a few feet closer to what looked to be a generator giving off high levels of heat. Moans and gurgles polluted the open space and pierced the team’s ears as each member slowly followed Kalon into the chamber, eyes open in confusion and horror.
“Wha-” Kord started but was quickly silenced by Arcia’s quick reflexes; her hand covering his mouth.
The slight sound ‘woke’ one of the nearby creatures as it looked into the empty space above it, sniffing at the air and it quickly became apparent that its eyes had rotted out. Reaching a mangled hand towards Kordath and Arcia, it swiped at the nothingness before it, finally giving up and slumping back onto the pile of bodies it had been resting upon.
Taking a deep, quiet breath, Arcia motioned for the rest of the team to move, slowly, around the creatures as quickly and quietly as possible. The Nighthawk Commander gripped the hilt of her lightsaber tightly, not normally calling for it in battle...but this situation would quickly change her mind if things went ‘south.’ When her knuckles turned white and pain in her palm shot into and up her arm, she relaxed her grip and looked towards the generator, then to Maaks.
The Miraluka was studying it from afar, what he saw from or within it was but a guess for Arcia, but something seemed to interest him. With his sudden intrigue, he was still able to follow the rest of the groups foot placements and avoid the masses strewn out before them just as Kalon reached the door opposite to where they entered. Breathing a sigh of relief, the group slowly cracked and opened the durasteel construction and quickly exited the chamber.
Closing the door behind them, Kordath spun around and shook his head. “What in...what were those things?”
Maaks responded first. “I do not know, but I am surely interested in the machine they were huddled around,” he spoke then looking to Arcia. “I feel it is worth a look.”
“Alright...Kalon, cover our backs. Kordath? Check for any additional traps or tripwires that we can use. Collect as many as you can. Nath, update your maps and figure out how close we are to getting out of these tunnels. Maaks and I are going back in to see what is with that machine…”
Before Arcia could depart back into the last chamber Nath grabbed her by the arm, her long fingers tightened into an almost bruising grip as she carefully pulled the woman closer to share a few brief hushed words with her.
“Do not switch that generator off, it is the only thing keeping them from mobbing us.” Cortel could hear her hiss slightly as Nath's more aggressive side came to the fore. “If you do anything to endanger us have no doubts in your mind that I will put a blaster bolt through your skull myself.” She allowed the threat to hang for a moment, her void like eyes glared down at the older woman eerily showing the Imperial her own reflection as she looked up to meet Nath's gaze.
By the time the pale Iridonian had finished speaking she was keenly aware of the barrel of her Executive Officer's blaster under her chin but did nothing to acknowledge its presence just yet since Arcia had already begun to respond.
“Do not forget the chain of command. I respect you, but even foolish actions can diminish respect, and lastly don't take me for a fool.” Cortel's words were also hushed but the rest of the group shifted uneasily as they tried to observe unobtrusively.
Nath smirked downward to Arcia finding her words coupled with her actions highly amusing. The reaction was the most that the Imperial had ever seen the Interrogations Officer react to anything. She did not know why the Iridonian found this amusing; she certainly did not.
“I am only ensuring we are on the same page.” As she spoke her free hand gently pushed the barrel of the pistol away from her chin. “The next time you point that at me though, you better be pulling the trigger.” Without a care she allowed her grip on Cortel's arm to leave, dropping her hands once more at her sides. The smirk had vanished as swiftly as it arrived, Nath's mood descended back to unreadable once more.
With nothing further to say on the matter Arcia holstered the pistol, and allowed her gaze to scan her Iridonian team mate up and down carefully before stepping away in silence. As she did so Cortel could not help but feel a little disappointed by Nath's actions; she had read her file, and knew she was paranoid but even so she had not expected such a violent reaction from her.
Nath stepped close to the doorway once more, taking up a position behind it as Kalon readied himself to provide covering fire if needed. As she crouched down Nath's gaze lingered on Kordath for a moment. When she was certain the Ryn was not looking she gave him a small smile allowing it to go unnoticed.
The Iridonian couldn't help but inch herself closer to her brother as the cold began to leach through her skin and stiffen her joints as she remained still. Kalon glanced down at her for a second allowing Maaks enough time to slide through the small gap after the others.
“Ner'vod.” The acknowledgement drew a smile from Nath as she extracted the datapad once more to begin the download knowing full well that he had heard every word of the exchange as had the rest of the team.
“I'll make sure nothing bites your backside, ori'vod.” She easily slipped into Mando'a when she spoke with her brother, preferring to keep their conversations as private as possible.
Kordath crouched in the dim tunnel, scanning the submerged floor for more tell tale signs of traps. He was good at finding things, and he was very good at ignoring the little altercation between his former Master and the woman giving orders. What the Ryn knew he didn't know about at all, despite his time in the battle team that specialized in explosives, Dark Forge, was how to really disarm other people's bombs.
So far this trip had been boring, with short punctuations of terror. He wondered why all of his outings with his fellow Arconans ended up like this, with somebody trying to kill or eat him. Noises behind him resolved to be Maaks and Cortel going back into the room full of abominations that wanted to kill them all.
'Good for them,' thought the Krath, 'maybe if they get eaten, they'll leave the rest of us alone. The hells do I know about traps…? Okay, I know that if you push the wire down, something will arm, when it releases, something very bad will happen. And probably something loud. Loud is bad right now.'
Wondering why he didn't have any glow rods in his pack, the Krath instead focused his will, letting the Force sharpen his vision. The shadows of the cave-like chamber receded somewhat, what little light there was intensified to an almost uncomfortable level, and the tripwire a meter ahead of the Knight gleamed. Taking a deep breath, the Ryn quietly shuffled over to it, the water sloshing in a manner that seemed far louder than it was. His adrenaline was starting to flow, he noted, detaching himself from the situation.
'Check the tension, don't engage it, follow the line and find the explosive, disengage the wire from the chargeohpoodoowhatwasthatnoise-.'
Nath was beside him suddenly, and the Ryn wondered idly for a moment if he'd blacked out for a few seconds. She was crouching next to him, with the closest expression to concern he'd ever seen on her face when she knew he could see her.
“The others aren't as familiar with you, Bleu, but you just threw off a spike of emotions that make me wonder if you didn't just soil your robes,” she hissed, keeping her voice low.
“Heard a noise.”
“What? A loud noise?”
“Sort of loud. But not loud.”
“You're going to have to explain that a bit more clearly,” she growled out.
“It was quiet, but loud. Like...like...like the sound of a round getting chambered into a slugthrower that's pressed against the base of your skull. Quiet, but when you catch it, it sort of becomes everything in the world. I heard a noise like that. From the wall to our right. When I checked the tension on the tripwire that I'm trying not to move now.”
It was quiet, but not very subtle. The machine itself appeared to be some kind of incinerator or archaic thermal vent. Cylindrical, the shaft erupted from the ground in a bell shape with many fine vents circumventing the base. A strange orange light, powered by the low thrum of a generator, spilled out gently as the only source of light in the large room. Upon closer inspection, the mangled corpses seemed to be captivated by it, forming a loose circle at a certain distance. Without any other stimulation, they crawled, sat and writhed in an entranced state.
It was not the worshippers that was the most interesting, however, it was the machine.
Arcia and Maaks made their way through the orgy of bodies strewn about with as much care as they could. Occasionally, an arm or a head lolled in their path, gurgling at the disturbance. Eventually, they reached the machine itself and froze. There was a constant feeling of dread within the room, not only caused by the horrors within it but an atmosphere that was difficult to grasp. It intensified as soon as they stepped past the invisible boundaries that the creatures kept to.
Maaks did not reply, but was enthralled by something only revealed to him by the Force. A series of web like wards, each connected by a strange thread-like energy littered the inside of the machine. Each ward seemed to lend its power to the next and it flowed continuously in a steady stream. Within the centre was an urn-shaped core, vividly red and abundant with the Force. Almost immediately, Maaks began to pace around it, staring at each small ward so perfectly formed he hardly believed it was possible.
“Maaks? Maaks.” Arcia began to follow him.
“What is it?” Kalons stern voice barked into the comm.
“The machine at the center of the room is making Maaks react strangely. He isn’t responding.”
“Then make him react.”
Careful to make as little sound as possible, she caught up to the pacing miraluka and grabbed his arm, “Maaks, what is it? What does it do? We don’t have time-”
“It’s perfect. All the people are...I-I didn’t think…”
Taking a wary glance at the machine she pulled him close to her face and whispered hoarsely, “What. Does. It. Do?”
Shaking his head slightly, he looked at her. “It’s a container. Of people. All of those”, he gestured to the creatures, “This thing contains their souls, or something like that. It keeps them on a leash of some kind, so they can be commanded.”
Arcia released her grip on him, her mind racing for a moment, “So, say we discovered how it worked, do you think we could give them commands?”
The Krath twisted his face, “Theoretically. But I’d have to connect my mind to it directly. I’d need an anchor of some kind to be able to get out-”
“That’s fine, I can manage that. Kalon, we have an idea to flush out the stormtroopers. Report.”
A few moments of comm silence passed before, “Ermm...we have a problem.”
Arcia sucked in a harsh breath, “Explain.”
“Well, Kordath managed to trip one of the traps. We’re attempting to disarm it now. How the di’kut managed to do it-”
Naths sober voice joined the fray, “Officer Cortel, I can disable it without much difficulty. there is no need to worry.”
“Good. Inform me as soon as you are able”, as she turned off the comm Maaks shared a look with her, “Do what you can. This shortcut has been more of a problem than a benefit, we may have lost our lead on the sword.”
Maaks nodded, a grim expression on his face as he tentatively touched the machine with his hands. Arcia immediately felt a pull in the Force and her consciousness was linked with his in an instant.
Taking a breath, Maaks entered the surface of the wards with his mind, gently surveying it for weak areas. It was old, possibly millenias old but he marvelled at its strength. Reaching out to a ward he pushed it lightly, expecting the worst. It moved to the touch of his mind but gently swayed back into place. He pushed it again, this time firmer and as it moved back he moved through an opening.
The energy hit him immediately. Thoughts, emotions, screams - whorling together in a vortex of pain, confusion and darkness. The dark side of the Force ran rampant, washing over the souls of thousands of people, curdling them into a powerful movement of energy. In a moment he was overwhelmed, drawn into the nexus.
A tug pulled him back to his body. He was shaking and a cold sweat washed over him.
“I did it.”
Arcia didn’t look much better, but the corners of her mouth turned up as she activated her comm.
The room shook as a distant rumbling echoed through the opening, sending a cloud of smoke through the chamber. Immediately, the pair made to rush to the entrance but three figures came out of the blast, bending double and panting. Maaks heaved a sigh of relief, but Officer Cortel was not as forgiving. She whistled harshly and pointed to the ground in front of her. They each gave her a dark look but complied.
Nath inspected the trip line carefully as Kordath remained frozen in place, much like the Ryn had done she channelled the Force into her eyes, enhancing them to better inspect the situation.
Dimly she could hear her comm activate, Kalon's voice didn't distract her in the least as she took in the predicament her old student had managed to get himself into.
"You don't know a damn thing about explosives, ner'vod." His voice was low as he continued to speak in Mando'a, she knew he was using a private channel to keep the discussion out of the ears of the others.
Her eye travelled along the wire and off into the darkness as she contemplated her response, now she could see exactly how much Kordath had karked up.
"No." Her voice seemed almost serene as she looked up to the ceiling. "However, you cannot leave your post, and there seemed little point in distracting the others who are in a precarious situation...especially when this line is connected to a central pillar which is supporting the whole structure of this room."
Kordath could hear Nath speaking but did not understand what she was saying, panic began to rise in his chest making his breathing hasten.
"W-what are you saying?" Nath looked upon her student with something akin to pity as she heard his tone.
"Kalon is aware I have no experience with explosives." The Ryn felt as though his heart was about to explode out of his chest it was beating so fast.
"But you just said..."
"I am aware what I have said." Nath cut in swiftly, her tone becoming more authoritarian now. "The others have enough to be worrying about, they must not be distracted now." Her voice softened once more as she continued to speak.
Kordath gave a meek nod of his head, seeing the logic of her words. He watched as Nath crouched next to him careful to not disturb the trap. He remained silent, uncertain of what he could say next.
"So what do you intend to do?" Kalon enquired, taking advantage of the moment of silence between Nath and Kordath.
"He will have to guide me through what needs to be done." Her response ensured the Mandalorian understood it was the most simple option available.
"Kordath." His gaze turned to her, his breathing hastened once again. "You will guide me through this, you must be calm and you must focus." He had never heard her use a calming tone before, it almost scared him more than when she was shouting at him.
"G-grab the pliers from my belt." She nodded and did as he asked, waiting for further instruction. "Um, there should be explosives around that support structure. I need to know what the wires look like."
Nath vanished off into the gloom, it took her five minutes to return, when she did she knelt down and drew a crude image of the wiring in the dust on the old floor. Kordath inspected it for a long moment before speaking.
"The central one." Nath pointed at the dust drawing section he referred to. "Yeah, that one." She nodded and vanished off once more. Kordath was left to sweat, his arm had begun to ache holding it in the same position for too long.
"You can let go now." He hadn't noticed Nath had been standing there a good five minutes watching him. Reluctantly he moved himself away relieved that he hadn't blown them up.
The Iridonian had already made her way back to Kalon by the time he had turned, she plucked the datapad from the floor next to Kalon's feet and inspected the screen. Kalon did not react, recognising his sister's presence with ease. Her hand rested on his shoulder, standing on the tips of her toes she glanced at the others in the adjoined room before letting him go and turning her attention back to the screen to calculate their passage through the maze like temple.
"You feel that?" Kalon asked after another moment, Nath paused suddenly becoming aware of the fact the stone beneath their feet was trembling. Kordath had made his way over to them now.
"Nath re-..." Cortel's voice was drowned out by the sudden loud noise of explosives and breaking rubble.
Kalon had already moved his hand grabbing Nath by the front of her clothes to drag her through the doorway. Nath in turn grabbed Kordath hauling him bodily before her through the doorway and kicking him out of the way so that a large part of the ceiling did not crush her.
With an irritated sigh she straightened her clothes and lowered her gaze to recalculate their route, rubbing her palm over her hair to dislodge the majority of the dust. Kalon's elbow nudged her attention away once more, she looked up to see a displeased Arcia and couldn't help but give the woman a withering look of ire at the way she had been summoned.
All three stepped forward, Nath and Kalon stared her directly into her glare whilst Kordath inspected his feet.
“What happened?” Cortel’s voice did nothing to hide her displeasure, Nath already bored of the discussion turned her attention back to her previous task.
“Nath.” She barked. “I asked a question.”
"Indeed." The Iridonian didn't look up. "A pointless one. I am trying to find a route out, you are wasting my time. Needless to say we are not alone down here, someone must have activated a trap on the other end of the room." Arcia had no time to form another response before Nath spoke again.
"We only have one option left open to us at this juncture." Her hand gestured to a small grate embedded into the corner of the wall. "They're used for ventilation but should be big enough to crawl through. We can reach the surface or continue to the sword this way."
Kalon instantly raised his blaster, aiming it at the nearest Sith monstrosity in sight. He was partially surprised that neither Maaks or Arcia were giving the creatures any attention despite their presumed dangerousness .
“Wait, Kalon.” Urged the Miraluka, his head turning towards the alert Mandalorian. “I have assumed control of these beings. They will not harm us, for now.”
The Templar nodded, turning to watch as Nath suggested using the grates to get to the sword.
“But that doesn’t work with our strengths.” Said Kalon, waiting until the team’s attention had shifted to him before he continued. “I suggest we use the explosives Kordath brought with him to puncture through the ceiling. From the intel we gathered earlier we know that the sword we are looking for is located in the direction of the castle half a kilometre to the east.”
“Not a bad plan.” Admitted Cortel, pacing back and forth, locked in thought. “But it’s exposed ground above us. How can we get to the fortifications without being blown apart?”
For several seconds the assembled Arconans stood silently, each thinking of a solution. Everyone was well aware that every moment they spent doing nothing, they lost time to successfully recover the artifact of Ferran.
Eventually, the answer came in the form of Kordath, whom stepped forward to address the distracted squad.
“We can make use of these undead creatures, using them as cover whilst we advance.”
“That sounds like our only choice then.” Surmised Cortel, gesturing for the Ryn to go ahead and plant the explosives against the stone ceiling.
Whilst the former-Sergeant began preparing the combustible devices, Kalon kept his firearm drawn and pointed at the undead abominations that lay all around them. He naturally felt very uncomfortable around them, a frown carved into his hidden face as his eyes darted about the spooky expanse of the room.
They waited quietly, controlled their breathing and listened to the sounds of flickering fire as they hugged the walls of a specific tunnel. Kalon, Kordath and Arcia on one side and Nath and Maaks on the other. Sweat rolled off the Miraluka’s body as he shook with concentrated effort.
Then they awoke. At first the sound was low and rhythmic accompanied by the occasional groan and scratching sound. The sounds got louder and suddenly the sounds of sluggish footsteps filled the cavernous passages.
Arcia nudged Kalon and he nudged Kordath in turn. Looking a little flushed, he flicked the safety clip over the detonator and paused for a moment to gulp. Holding up a hand he looked to Arcia. She nodded and looked to Nath, who immediately began to whisper something in Maaks’ ear. He hissed a response.
Kordath let each finger slowly curl back into a fist and pushed the button. For a brief moment the world shook and light birthed from the gaping hole that opened in the ceiling. It was quickly eclipsed by the billowing smoke that followed and the ringing of the concussive force. There was no time to ensure the explosion had performed its task as the sounds of screaming deafened the group. Maaks’ face was contorted as his lungs struggled to keep up with unifying scream.
The bodies rushed past them and up into the light. Nath watched Arcias face over the torrent of creatures spilling into the bright void, trying to discern her attempts to communicate. Finally she understood.
And pulled Maaks into the fray.
As light spilled into the eerie tunnel, Kalon watched as the zombified beings spilled into the outside world, Maaks and Esca in quick pursuit. The Mandalorian broke into a run before the rest of the squad could respond, following the Miraluka and the Commander. Kalon manually turned off his helmet lights as the natural sun rays hit him, the special material of his visor automatically dampening the sudden brightness and saving him from becoming disorientated as his eyes adjusted.
The Templar could easily spot the ruined silhouette of the castle half a kilometre in front of him, the space between him and the building being quite barren besides from dots of building rubble, there being little cover for the team to protect themselves from the inevitable blaster fire that would intensify as they drifted closer towards the fortifications.
“Nath, keep up.” Yelled Kalon, turning his head to face the Iridonian. As he did so he spotted a red light flash in the corner of his eye, kicking up a cloud of dirt as it impacted with the ground besides him.
The castle defenders had begun firing on the shrieking horde advancing towards them, most of their fire had been concentrated towards its front, a stray shot being what almost hit Kalon. He swore as he instinctively lowered himself as he sprinted, trying to reduce his target profile so the enemy riflemen had a harder time taking him down. The Mandalorian watched as Arcia and Maaks did the same, the familiarity of combat not lost amongst his peers.
“Veer right. Try and get away from the distraction.” Ordered Commander Cortel, her breath coming in slightly heavy over the comm channel as she sprinted.
“Affirmative.” Responded Kalon, listening in as his teammates did the same. They had barely covered two hundred metres and yet they faced a realistic threat of being gunned down before they got to the castle walls, splitting from the Sith abominations their only chance of making it in one piece.
The blaster fire flew over their heads with pure intensity as the group darted away from the horde and out of sight. Kalon pointed them towards a ventilation port that allowed them access into the monstrous structure before them and Arcia quickly shot the bolts off, watching it drop to the ground with a loud clang. There was no time for subtlety now.
As the others made their way into the shaft, Kordath muttered to himself about being stuck in another cramped space before Arcia pushed him further in and followed quickly after. Breathing heavily into her open comm, the Commander informed her team of the dire situation.
“We don't have much time so we need to get in and get out. Kordath? Get on the Nighthawk's frequency and tell them to stand by for our arrival at rendezvous point Besh. They'll do the rest.”
With four clicks and a nod from each, the team moved their way further into the structure, hoping to quickly find a central chamber that held the prize they sought. Fighting, screaming and other sounds of death could be heard through the walls, signifying other teams were also within the chambers they passed over and under. Keeping hidden would be their best bet, but remaining quiet wasn't a directive any longer.
Arcia heard Koradath's chatter to the acting Comms officer aboard the ship and smiled. It sounded as if their ship would be ready when they needed it, but the question was...would they be ready?