Dark Brotherhood Plot Updates


27-05-2008 01:26:24

As the Plot Updates Info & FAQ thread is for information about and discussion of Plot Updates, this area will be to host the updates themselves for archiving until we have need to archive into another format like .pdf for upload to the main database.

This particular post will track series and title information. The continuous, open-ended nature of the Dark Brotherhood's story began with the novella Incursion: The Eighth Great Jedi War. Fall of Antei is the first series to carry forward the story of the Brotherhood after the Eighth Great Jedi War and the events of Incursion. Movement to Contact is the first part of this new series.


27 ABY

Incursion: The Eighth Great Jedi War

29 ABY

Fall of Antei:
Movement to Contact
Empire of Pain
In the Wake of Time
Nothing Follows
The Sharpening


27-05-2008 01:40:23

[CENTER]Fall of Antei
Movement to Contact

Antei haunts us like a dream. It’s back there somewhere over our shoulder. It waits at the end of one of the ragged convoys fleeing the storm. It calls us back, but we cannot answer.[/CENTER]

Like the galaxy, the eyes of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood have been opened. It has been months of exile for the adherents of the vaunted Final Way. But all that has become final is that the galaxy which the Brotherhood intended to rule has become a burial ground for the enemies of the Yuuzhan Vong.

Shimrra Jamaane, Yuuzhan Vong Overlord and herald of the gods, knows that he has broken the back of the Dark Side Jeedai. Though he has not forgotten those who have slipped his grasp, his attention has been drawn back to the Core and the infidels there. In the meantime, their worlds are his. Their dark bastion of power sacked, they pose no threat to Shimrra’s plans.

Though defeated, the Brotherhood has not been idle. The Dark Council rules from a mobile strike fleet of warships. The Clans have reclaimed some of what was lost in the war. There has been reorganization. Forces have mustered. Weakness has been culled. Strategies have been enacted. The Dark Lord Sarin oversees all...

Abyss Mining Station
Lamaro System, Corellian Run
Fall of Antei, Day 58

Few things came easy to the Hunter. Unblessed as he was with the talents bestowed others from the dark Force, what he lacked in gifts, he compensated for in application. The evidence of which continued to stain the metal decking in the form of perspiration. Rising from the deck where he had last been felled, Rannik Narius stood to his full height and leveled his gaze at the Yuuzhan Vong warrior stalking him in the dim lighting across the compartment.

For his efforts in standing, the Hunter received a razor bug across the cheek that he had barely managed to keep from taking off his head. Parrying it with his new lightsaber was out of the question. Since the edict had come down from on high to arm every member of the Dark Brotherhood with a lightsaber, regardless of rank, he had spent more time admiring it than practicing with it.

Now the price of his vanity would be paid in blood.

Another razor bug hummed past by a wider margin this time. His feet under him fully, the Hunter was getting the feel for the timing and trajectory of the Vong warrior’s throws. He backed off a pace and stepped to his right to put a steel column between himself and the incoming fire. He couldn’t block them yet, as others more seasoned with the blade could do, but he would. He would have to.

Those already awarded the honor of bearing the lightsaber under the merits of the old system had yet to cease their rumblings. Narius wanted to complete his training and earn the right as everyone else had, but what was to be done? The Brotherhood had gone to war and war required weapons, not toys.

His training saber had been reclaimed by the Herald for the parts needed to construct the vast number of new lightsabers being issued. His new blade was plain, unadorned unlike those of the Equites who gave him cold stares in passing with the weapon clipped at his waist. Their eyes said, unworthy, but their mouths said nothing. The Dark Council had ruled and it had been obeyed.

His foe circled him tighter, inexorably diminishing the space between them. The chamber was only so big. Narius would be out of room soon, but he had to deny his opponent’s ranged advantage if he were to survive. Putting the last column available between himself and the warrior, the Hunter waited for his enemy to emerge from one side of it or the other. When the Vong failed to appear, Narius angled cautiously to his left.

He had lost sight of him.

Impossible. In the crushing silence of the compartment, he was unsure whether he had spoken the word aloud or not. His ears filled with the rush of his own blood. The Hunter’s heart beat so loud he wondered if he could hear his own steps let alone the Vong’s. The fog of war rolled in quietly to enshroud his mind until he was barely aware of his saber humming softly in his hand.

Silence. The tapered end of an amphistaff appeared from his chest where it had been rammed home by the warrior now behind him. Rannik Narius felt no pain. He was frozen on the creature’s blade. Disbelief argued briefly with his reason, but there was no trick. He was dead.


The simulation ended with the generic setting melting away to reveal the spartan lines of the morph hall. The lethal organic blade of the Yuuzhan Vong warrior evaporated from his chest leaving no trace of injury but to that of the Hunter’s pride. Looking on from above, the Combat Master shook his head in disapproval. Now that the Antei Combat Center’s new facility was up and running, warriors of all ranks had been rotating in from the clans in order to learn their enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Too many of the former were evident and not nearly enough of the latter had been discovered.

This would take time.

Yuuzhan Vong Vessel Recovery Operation
Bilbringi System, Namadii Corridor
Fall of Antei, Day 61

Great drafts of blackness separated the stars here. Rim-ward, bands of color from the Utegetu nebula could be seen caught in the galactic wind. Toward the Core lay the crush of light from the stars of ten thousand worlds at war. The unflinching ideology of the Yuuzhan Vong had brought all of it to its knees. Whether it would rise again could not yet be said.

Amid the tracts of nothingness hung millions of slowly tumbling asteroids varying in size from moons to micro-debris. From the Core side of the system the flashes of thirty-six dark gray ships reentering realspace were hidden against the spinning column of brilliance that spanned the galaxy. The TIE Avengers decelerated from lightspeed, but pushed the throttles of their sub-light drives to the stops despite the jagged field of debris ahead. With rehearsed precision the squadrons split into three-ship elements weaving and rolling through the asteroids toward a single point of convergence.

In the distance before the raiders, several Yuuzhan Vong creatures worked around a lamed matalok cruiser rigging it for tow. The crab-like beasts skittered across the living ship’s hull affixing independent dovin basals at key points of maneuver to stand in for the ones lost in combat. Several flights of coral skippers actively patrolled the scene wary of attack. They flew loosely, indicative of the lack of a war coordinator guiding their pilots. And they were the perfect targets on which to practice the Brotherhood’s evolved combat techniques against the Vong.

The sortie commander’s subspace radio crackled to life. “Tasker Six-Four, Tasker Six-Four, this is Steel Two-Zero, you are weapons free at this time, over.”

Shadow Taldrya worked himself deeper into the TIE’s grav-chair as he rolled level to his wingmates now clearing the asteroid cluster. While checking his port and starboard wings for visible damage from micro-meteor hits, he answered the traffic from Nightfall waiting on station a short hyperspace jump away. “Steel Two-Zero, Tasker Six-Four. Good copy. Pleasant Sierra online. Rolling in.”

Pleasant Sierra was the Dark Council’s code name for a dark Force Meld that allowed its pilots a level of coordination at least equal to that provided by the enemy’s yammosk. With practice, they hoped it would exceed the war coordinator’s capabilities. It required exclusively Dark Jedi ranked Equite or higher—which limited the application of the tactic—but if successful, would allow for far greater efficiency and provide a way to level the battlefield. Shadow, Dark Jedi Master and accomplished pilot, had been hand-picked by the Grand Master to lead the strike.

“Roger. Good hunting, Six-Four. Steel Two-Zero out.” Nightfall combat control went silent to monitor all comm. traffic and watch the attack play out on its tactical displays.

Today’s sortie would provide one of the final gatherings of data on the Brotherhood’s newly revised tactics. The use of shield trios, stutter fire, and several other Vong-specific techniques had already been established and trained on in the months following the fall of Antei. What remained was a way to counter the unerring precision of the enemy pilots when under the guidance of a war coordinator. The dark Force Meld was to be that counter.

Brotherhood-class Super Dreadnought Nightfall
Objective Rally Point Titan, Bilbringi System
Fall of Antei, Day 62

“The mission was a success, my lord,” the flight operations officer, Uncas Stadle, said.

Sarin stared in silence through the viewports of the newly christened Brotherhood flagship. There was nothing to see but stars and rocks sprinkled endlessly through the void, but Sarin’s steel gaze penetrated beyond the physical. Since the loss at Antei, he had spent more time like this gazing into the nether communing with whatever dark spirits guided the hand of one so powerful.

The living web of energy that bound all things lay open to him. Each star in his view was tied to lines of energy that connected it to the system in which it was found, the galaxy to which it belonged, and the universe in which it turned. Along each line connecting the star with all around it Sarin could travel to find its terminus. From there he could see other connections linking more stars, planets, life, death and beyond. He could see much. And he could see how to destroy it.

All he need find was the Shatterpoint. That nexus of lines connecting one thing to another that when smashed brought all built upon it tumbling down. Everything and everyone had one; even the Grand Master. But his enemy; the defilers of Antei, the humblers of a galaxy, had none. At least none he could see and he could see very far.

The officer made to speak thinking Sarin had perhaps not heard him, lost in reverie or perhaps speaking with spirits, but he was silenced.

“Fifteen percent casualties, flight officer.”

Stadle unconsciously loosened the collar biting at his neck. That the Grand Master already knew the casualty figure was not surprising. What did surprise him was that he was still alive. Ten percent casualties had been the threshold for this mission template. The meld simply wasn’t effective enough yet. Even without the benefit of a yammosk, the enemy in this sector were seasoned veterans of the Vong’s core-ward campaign and were formidable nonetheless.

Uncas had dealt with the Jedi before; they would brook no excuse. “With your permission, my lord, I will debrief the pilots and immediately resume training.”

“Dismissed.” Sarin did not turn from the window. His mind was consumed with the variables of the Brotherhood’s progress since their defeat. The efficacy of the meld would improve. Soon it would be that his forces would be a match for the Vong. But to retake their home would require resources. Resources he did not yet possess, but soon would.

Beyond this however, he needed leaders capable of employing the resources he provided them. Of late, leaders were scarce. The war had taken many from Sarin’s fold; if not through death, then by those nameless ills that take those seemingly unscathed by war long after the guns have fallen silent. The Brotherhood had been so affected that Sarin found himself turning to the past in order to look to the future.

Names of warriors thought fallen to obscurity had risen again to the fore. Braecen Kaeth; once-Consul of Scholae Palatinae had been charged with bringing young Plagueis to the level of its peers. Syn Kaek; Adept, stalwart, again Master at Arms. Anshar Khan Tarentae; former Headmaster, now returned to his clan in order to unify, train, and lead those of the old guard. Finally, Jedgar Paladin had returned from the nether to add his blade to the wall of warriors struggling to defend what remained of the Brotherhood.

With these and others Sarin could plan. He could calculate what was necessary, what could be spared, and what sacrificed. All things went to the effort of mending what had been. The Brotherhood would heal. It would re-create itself more powerful than before. Not with words. Not with grand promises left unfulfilled. It would do so through that which any force in peace or war had become accustomed to in victory: blood and sweat.

Even now Sarin received regular updates from those charged with exacting these most valuable commodities from the newly re-organized Army of the Iron Throne. Disarray had been supplanted by discipline. Weakness was forgotten and strength introduced. Organization and efficacy now ruled; and pain, as in many things, had been the path to it all.

Sarin would officially review the army soon. He did not anticipate disappointment.

Noting the time, Sarin finally turned from the viewports and stalked off the bridge deck of Nightfall leaving the hub of activity behind. In an adjacent ready room, the Grand Master moved to the head of a long conference table fashioned in the old Imperial style. A small metal base rested on the table covered with a dark cloth. Removing it, Sarin beheld the ovoid shape of a Yuuzhan Vong villip. The living communications device everted to reveal a mass of wet, pulsating flesh. Revealed, the creature’s delicate musculature contorted until it mimicked the tortured face of a Yuuzhan Vong Sarin had come to know well over the preceding weeks.

“Grand Master,” the villip intoned with minimal distortion.

“Volngah,” Sarin replied and sat down.


30-07-2008 07:09:51

[center]Fall of Antei
Empire of Pain

[center]The Crab Boys aren’t so bad. Their motives are pure, understandable. Karked. But understandable. There are worse things anyway. Things with power and motives less clear. How much worse? I don’t get paid enough to speculate.[/center]

The oldest known profession in the universe is not that which often comes to mind in most beings. The most ancient of professions is war. Be it the simplicity of learning to swing a bone club to shatter an enemy’s skull or the complexities of a three-dimensional naval phased envelopment from line of battle. War was the first profession intelligent beings turned their hand to and it will be the last laid down when time finds its end.

It is the way of things. Students speculate about it. Politicians enact it. Soldiers die for it. Veterans try to forget it. But it can be no other way. War is the means by which nations thrive. Or it is their downfall. Neighbor unto neighbor, species unto species; what cannot be defended can be taken. Few things are as simple.

But there are some who think existence to be peace punctuated by brief periods of war. They assume placidity and congeniality the regents of normalcy. They are the thinkers that have not seen so do not know. They have yet to be given pause as the Brotherhood has been given it. It is not long in the making that the theorists and pacifists will look up sharply together and the only peace they will know is that which they make with eternity. The Old Ones have tried to tell us, but we did not hear.

Peace is a lie…

Nebula-class Star Destroyer Dark Star
Polith System, Rimma Trade Route
Fall of Antei, Day 71

“Time to intercept: three minutes,” Dark Star’s combat control officer said; eyes fixated on her screen. “Fate’s interdiction field shows active.”

The Dark Star Strike Group, including the Immobilizer 418 interdictor cruiser Contested Fate, hung motionless in space halfway between Thyferra and Yag’Dhul. Five warships were oriented on an empty corridor of darkness like a hand ready to close around a serpent. Two more vessels patrolled the flanks of the interdiction site invisible in the inky distance.

Stelnor Gat, Dark Star’s Omwati commanding officer, stood the bridge’s foredeck at ease and calculated that ten minute’s time would see enough bacta for six months of continuous operation for the Brotherhood war machine. Her dark masters would be pleased with that at least as so little of late had met with anything but their displeasure. But it was time. “Away, Raiders,” Captain Gat ordered.

“Raiders away.” The command was echoed in the drone-like way it always was aboard starships and another step back toward Antei had begun.

A weight seemed to lift as he left the ship aboard one of the three outbound raiders. Gat could see it in the eyes of her crew; something on the edge of perception that the “old brain” was only dimly aware of. She was glad she had only one of them aboard for this deployment. She’d heard some of her colleagues had sometimes deployed with two or three assigned to their vessels.

“One minute.”

Though the general unease felt in his presence made her fancy a trade for any two of the others, Gat bowed to her own reason. She knew what she’d gotten herself into. He’d only be with them a while longer and had brought his own soldiers. Then the surreal would pass and she could return to what defined normalcy for her: the running of a starship. At least for a time.

Gat flicked her blue eyes to Ion Control’s gunnery commander, said, “Starboard ion batteries commence fire,” and returned to her thoughts. It could always be worse.

Gamma-class ATR-6 Assault Transport
Polith System, Rimma Trade Route
Fall of Antei, Day 71

The engine cluster of the ATR-6 transport executed a fifteen second burn then went dark as the raider settled into its assault vector. Ahead lay the darkened hull of the Action-Keynne XII transport Payday now listing in space after the ion fusillade from Task Force 62 had rendered it inert. In minutes the transport and its cargo of precious bacta would belong to the Dark Brotherhood.

“Six minutes!” came the call from the chalk leader. At the rear of the craft, he looked back down the compartment toward the cockpit holding over his head the five digits of his left hand splayed wide next to the upturned thumb of his right.

Twenty-six voices in unison yelled back, “Six minutes!”

Filling the ATR-6’s blacked-out troop compartment were the dark armored soldiers of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company part of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Special Operations Regiment under the Army of the Iron Throne. Corporal Akor Digh, new to the unit, panned his gaze away from the chalk leader and over the seated forms of his comrades as they rode to their next objective: seizure of the Peace Brigade transport Payday and its contents. Another in a series of actions intended to prolong the survival of their masters in the war against the Far Outsiders.

Digh sweat into the body glove under his armor and felt the moisture wicked away. Air tainted with fuel filled his nostrils and he considered donning his helmet but did not. This is what he had wanted. Family dead. World gone. Killing those who had taken so much from him—from Sernpidal—seemed the only purpose left to him. As one of millions of refugees fleeing the Yuuzhan Vong invasion corridor, Digh had survived by serving in a number of military juntas and resistance factions. Inexorably they were ground under by the Vong’s brutal advance into the Core and Digh had found himself retreating to the next military service that would have him until that too was crushed.

He had gone on like this for two years leapfrogging across the galaxy; fighting, killing, retreating. All had changed eight months ago when he encountered an odd man at a refugee camp on Ord Radama. The robed and hooded man had said nothing to him when he approached Digh in a camp mess hall. He simply pressed a data chip into the palm of his hand and continued on through the crowd. Digh never saw him again.

The chip had held instructions and coordinates for what it described as a “military resistance” offering more pay and advantage than he had seen since the war began. But they weren’t taking just any warm body. He had completed a rigorous selection process comprised of many of the standard military tests designed to rate mental and physical aptitudes, gauge skill, and cull the weak. But there had been other tests Digh had not seen anywhere else. There were questions asked he’d not heard before and some not asked that he’d expected.

The officers and non-comms running the selections worked feverishly. They seemed driven, possessed, by more than duty, pay, or professionalism. A sense of urgency gripped them like fear. It was fear. But not of what Digh would have expected: the Yuuzhan Vong invasion threatening to bring life in the galaxy as they knew it to an end. These men, some of them well seasoned, were afraid of something else. In an existence spent prioritizing threats, Digh could not imagine what had superseded the Vong in their minds. Something pressed on them he could not see then.

He of course now knew.

Republic-class Star Destroyer Rending Hand
Rendezvous Point Epsilon, Trilon Sector
Fall of Antei, Day 71

Dark Jedi Master Kir Katarn knelt on the holo-plate emitter of Rending Hand’s secure-communications vestibule. Before him, the massive holographic image of the Dark Lord Sarin hung in the dim chamber peering down at him in disapproval.

“How did the Yuuzhan Vong know the location of the rendezvous, Justicar?”

“I do not know, my lord. But the cargo is secure and the jump to lightspeed will be made in moments.”

Kir did not say that the operation had flirted with disaster but for the piloting of the Arconan known as Zandro. A Yuuzhan Vong interdictor—now dying in the distance off their port side—had reverted from hyperspace just as delivery of the droids had been completed. It had held them fast with its powerful dovin basals and if not for the pilot’s actions they may not have made it. The timing was auspicious and Kir too wondered how the Vong knew where to find them. A leak in the chain of custody through Tendrando Arms where the droids had been procured no doubt, but he could trace the precise reason later.

Right now they needed to jump away before the interdictor’s task force received reinforcements or the Deputy Grand Master would never see his plan for the YVH’s realized. The recovery of the droids meant a great deal to the Brotherhood’s war effort. So much so that Kir had been briefly assigned to Rending Hand in order to ensure the mission’s completion. Katarn felt the undertaking below his station and had been only too happy to delegate the task to the willing Arconan. He would also gladly take the credit for the Vong-hunting droids’ safe return and find some appropriate way to reward the Arconan later.

Katarn remained genuflected for several heartbeats as Sarin’s ethereal gaze rested upon his shoulders. Every second that passed was another opportunity for more Vong to arrive and finish what they had started. Finally the apparition spoke, “We await your return, Justicar,” and the transmission ended. Kir bolted from the holo-plate emitter emerging from the vestibule back onto the bridge deck. He absently rubbed the scar on the back of his left hand given him by a Vong warrior on the surface of Antei shortly before it fell and wondered how deep the Dark Lord’s disappointment in him ran.

Finding Rending Hand’s commander dutifully waiting on him amid a group of staff officers, Kir simply pointed a finger at them and said, “Go.”

Gamma-class ATR-6 Assault Transport
Polith System, Rimma Trade Route
Fall of Antei, Day 71

“So what’s his name?” Digh yelled to the man seated across from him.

“What?” Casen yelled back.


The din created by the working of the engines and other myriad systems that allowed the ATR-6 to function made conversation nearly impossible sans their integrated communications helmets. But the buckets could be stifling and they had a few minutes more before donning them for the duration of the mission.

The human across from Digh seemed to consider his question. He allowed his face to split into a grin and nudged the man next to him without looking away from Digh. “Salas,” Casen said. “Thrawn wants to know the Jedi’s name.”

Salas didn’t respond other than to smile and shake his head admonishingly.

Digh rolled his softly glowing red eyes; not that the two humans could tell. Sernpidalians, like the Chiss, were possessed of pupil-less red eyes that indeed glowed under certain lighting. Though his skin was naturally pale and not blue, his mates conveniently overlooked that feature in order to rib him ad nauseam about things like his questionable parentage and refer to him constantly as “Thrawn”.

They knew his parents were dead, they knew he was no Chiss, but everything here was fair game. Thick skin was as necessary as thick armor. But the good-natured humor seemed to temporarily ward off the harshness of their existence. Besides, Digh had yet to meet anyone in the unit without a nickname. Or anyone who still had living parents.

Finally, Salas yelled, “We call him ‘General’, Digh. But if you want to know his given name, go ask him.” Salas’ grin was now as wide as Casen’s, but no one looked to the rear of the compartment. They always knew when you were looking at them.

Digh stole a glance anyway.

Seated at the rear of the craft, the object of Digh’s curiosity was bathed in shadow just beyond the reach of the troop compartment’s red tactical lighting. Digh had seen them before; worked with a few—Knights he believed—but nothing like this. The Jedi was garbed in a black cloak seemingly big enough to hide a starship in. Staring too long at him made Digh’s head throb and he looked away.

“You’re not very bright, Digh,” Casen scolded noticing the junior man’s gaze.

Digh responded with a gesture universally recognized for indicating that one should mind his own business.

Smiles all around.

“What does he do?” Digh asked his comrades.

Salas leaned forward, hands stacked casually atop the butt of his weapon muzzle-down on the deck. “We think he kills people the Grand Master doesn’t like.”


“Just stay behind him,” Casen added with a wink.

Humor was their bulwark to it, but they understood the seriousness of the subject’s nature. As part of the 75th, they were specially trained to work with the Jedi; indoctrinated to understand who and what their masters were. The conventional forces under the Army of the Iron Throne had little or no idea. Some suspected. Talk got around. But few knew the truth save for various high-ranking officers, Intelligence, and the 75th.
Few would believe it anyway.

“Three minutes!”

Matalok Cruiser Analog Perfect Agony
Quelii Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 71

[They have no military. It was crushed,] Mendak Fak’ski spat.

[It was. I was there,] Supreme Commander Kol Amnan said to the Intendant before him recalling the events of the dark heretics’ eradication. Silhouetted by starlight through an observation blister behind him, Amnan appeared every bit the symbolical power of the Yuuzhan Vong in this region. [But they have reared another brood of infernal machines. They are hatched like brinzlits in the skies above worlds not yet ours.]

[You think them responsible for the dying-offs in the matalok rookery?] Fak’ski seemed to peer deeper into Amnan’s thoughts. [Or is it He who is krel os'a hmi va ta?]

That name caused Amnan to look up from his brief reverie. Amnan’s intelligence gathering had failed even to produce the being’s name. The warriors serving in this sector had named him He who is defiant in the face of overwhelming odds. He had fallen on them like a storm when they arrived in this region of space. His sudden attacks were unparalleled in brutality and ferocity and unlike anything the Yuuzhan Vong had faced in opposition thus far. Whatever he was, he did not share his galaxy’s ridiculous stigmas to death and pain. He was worthy of his name…even if an infidel.

The sickening majority of denizens of this galaxy were inherently weak. They would prefer to die clinging to their moral absolutes than do what must be done to survive. But not this one. He was different. Fortunately for Amnan He who is defiant in the face of overwhelming odds seemed to lack the resources to mount any large-scale opposition. At least not yet. His raids had been brief, vicious affairs leaving many Yuuzhan Vong warriors dead. But this was simply one more test by the Gods since Amnan’s elevation to Supreme Commander. It too would be surmounted.

[I don’t know,] Amnan said closing the matter. Looking briefly out the observation blister then back to his company, the Supreme Commander took shrewd stock of Fak’ski before continuing, [But I fear the Dread One is too consumed by Yu’shaa and plots at court to appreciate the situation out here.]

Fak’ski returned a knowing look. The heretical prophet Yu’shaa had plagued Shimrra of late by creating dissent and opposition within his very ranks. [There is much the Supreme Overlord does not appreciate.] Many things were conveyed in the following silence. Much about Shimrra and his ever-increasing paranoia and distance from reality. Much they dared not to utter.

[The Gods themselves apparently among the slighted,] Amnan said.

[You’re aware of the Slayers then?]


Amnan had been tasked to seek out the remnants of one heresy while the Dread One did the unthinkable by creating another. Shimrra was losing focus. Many believed his connection to the Gods was faltering if not utterly severed. They questioned whether the Yuuzhan Vong were doing the Gods’ will in this galaxy or being lead astray. Much had been squandered already in resources and warriors not easily replaced nor forgotten.

Amnan thought back. Zhaetor-zhae—Glory.

It had been Nagto Mel’s final word before his end. Retrieved from the memory of No Peace after the battle, it spoke worlds about Nagto and the warriors he led that had shared his fate. He had refused to bow before Shimrra to be executed in shame by an assassin. Nagto instead had chosen the warrior’s path. The path Amnan would have chosen. If no honor was left in the madness at court on Yuuzhan’tar, Kol would find it out here. He would pay homage to those who had fallen for Shimrra’s quest and make such and end of his enemies that Yun-Yuuzhan himself would take notice.

Gamma-class ATR-6 Assault Transport
Polith System, Rimma Trade Route
Fall of Antei, Day 71

“Three minutes!” 1st Platoon echoed and donned their helmets.

Optical sensors set into the soldier’s helmets popped into life. As their fields of focus were sharpened, brightness and contrast auto-corrected allowing them excellent vision in low-light conditions. Communications checks came down from the various nets monitored inside the helmets. Externally, all was silent but for the rhythmic throbbing of the ATR-6’s powered systems. Enclosed within the armored world of artificial light, data, and speech, the platoon was buzzing.

“One minute.”

“Cofferdam in place.”

“First Squad, on me.”

“Thirty seconds.”

“Hard-seal confirmed.”

The chalk leader gripped the bulkhead above him as the assault transport rocked into position alongside Payday. Turning back to the Jedi he knew only as “Raken,” the chalk leader inquired, “General?”

Raken stood up unfazed by the transport’s motion as it settled in next to the Action-Keynne’s port side airlock. When no countermanding order was given, the chalk leader turned away and issued the command: “Breach.”

“Fire in the hole.”

A soft whump sounded as the breaching charge emplaced on Payday’s hull by the demolition droid blew inward buckling the outer pressure door sending it to the floor of the Action-Keynne’s inner lock. The droid was already at work on the inner door when Digh heard the command go from the chalk leader.

As he waited his turn to exit, Digh blinked and the big Sith was gone; first into the cofferdam and what lay beyond. Blaster shots were already singing out.

Just stay behind him.

Action-Keynne XII Transport Payday
Polith System, Rimma Trade Route
Fall of Antei, Day 71

“Put it on him! Put it on him!” screamed a Peace Brigader amid a flurry of incoming and outgoing blaster rounds. His face was blackened and his left eye bled profusely as he directed the hasty employment of a crew-served weapon.

To their credit, the Peace Brigaders had mounted an ardent defense in the starboard-side corridor that granted access to the bridge. The soldiers aboard Payday differed little from the ones now assaulting them but that they had chosen opposite sides of the conflict and were not as well trained. But the decisive point of this battle had surprisingly little to do with soldiers and everything to do with the blood-red tower of Sith bearing down on them.

Bodies landed raggedly at Raken’s feet cleaved by his titian blade or scored by their own fire reflected back upon them. Elements of 1st Platoon poured through the breach behind him moving off in the haze on their pre-designated routes to secure other parts of the ship. Some had been tasked to support the Sith moving tactically behind him from cover to cover securing ground as he took it. Digh was among them bounding forward and watching Raken work.

The E-Web the Peace Brigaders had, which hadn’t been covered in the op-order, went hot and began turning the corridor into slag. In their desperation, the enemy didn’t seem to care if they breached their own hull. Their masters must have been as unforgiving as Digh’s own. Amid the torrent of fire Digh rushed to the cover of the nearest bulkhead protruding from the passage wall. “Digh—cold!” Dropping a nearly spent power pack from his rifle, he looked down the hall for enemy positions while slamming a fresh one home. “Digh—hot!”

If the E-Web was a concern for the Jedi it wasn’t apparent as Digh watched him wade into the torrent of fire behind the weaving shield of his lightsaber. What wasn’t deflected or absorbed scorched past him shredding his robe and catching it on fire in several places. But not a single round found its mark. Digh and the others of his squad suppressed enemy positions aiding the general forward until he fell upon the E-Web crew like a rancor and the gun went silent.

When the heavy weapon went down the remaining Peace Brigaders fled into the forward sections of the ship. Digh knew they would soon be cut off by flanking elements of his platoon now working their way through compartments forward of this position. When that happened they would assault the bridge and take full possession of the transport and her cargo.

While clearing enemy dead before his squad moved on, Digh watched the Jedi shut down his energy blade and look around at nothing in particular. Akor reasoned he was communing with whatever force guided him in his actions. He found the company of the Jedi to be at once comforting and disconcerting. It was like being in a pit with a nexu that had just killed his enemies but also had yet to notice him. He half expected the Jedi to turn around and fix him with that hot white gaze for even thinking about him, but Digh was fairly certain they didn’t read minds.

What was certain, if this Jedi was indicative of the rest, was that they killed enemy by the scores. And that served Digh very well. The more the Jedi killed the more he could kill. These hadn’t been Vong though, he reminded himself. Karking traitors. Tough though they were, but not Vong. Digh very much wanted to know what the Jedi could do up against those boys. Very much indeed.

Raken finally seemed to get his silent answer from the nether and moved off into the shadows ahead his tattered robe trailing smoke.

“Second squad, prepare to move.”

Digh watched the Jedi stalk into darkness and knew his answer was coming too.



10-09-2008 23:01:38

[center]Fall of Antei
In the Wake of Time

We did this to ourselves. Anakin wasn’t evil. He lived in the Order as we all did and ultimately our weakness was his downfall. We created Vader. We made that monster. Palpatine pushed him over the edge, but we led him to it.

The inhabitants of the galaxy are victims. Born into a drama so ancient and blighted that what was a thousand millennia ago stains their existence to this day. There is no escaping it. There is no one to hold responsible. The asocial architects of the present are long dead survived only by their deeds of menace and vice that refuse to know end.

The inheritors of today are forced to ride in the wake of the mighty events their fathers’ fathers suffered and peer at the horizon in vain hope of a port in the storm. But there is no refuge. There is no lee from the gale of time because the galaxy itself is a storm. In-motion, ceaseless, destructive; it offers no shore except that which can be clung to within oneself.

Infinite in scale, eternal in duration, the galaxy subsides for nothing. Those who die are released. Those who live endure. It is the only way.

Antipose IX, Centrality

Thirty-eight years ago…

They chased him. He ran with impossible speed but they coated the city like a swarm of angry ants on a ruined mound. He was faster than their speeders. Maybe not the swoops, but he felt as though he could outrun them too. He’d feel the burn later; the pain. Now was the adrenaline. Now was the surge. It slipped through his veins like mercury quickening every molecule in his body. Thought ceased to precede action as the two merged into a rhythm kept by the Force.

It wouldn’t be enough. Over the years it had always seen him through. It had kept him warm, kept him safe. But the Force offered no defense against the common enemy known as time. The problem with time was that its effects were cumulative. The burden he carried only grew heavier the longer he survived. She had kept him going this long. Only her and nothing else. It would feel good to be at peace, though; to rest finally. Perhaps a small part of him wanted to fail.

To see. And to know.

The first stun-bolt grazed his shoulder and started his tumble. The buildings flanking the skywalk began to slow and come into focus as he tried desperately to right his footing. He thought he had it. He called to the dregs of power in his blood and was elated when answered. His spin halted. He planted a foot solidly into the permacrete and prepared to burst away. He hadn’t smiled in years, and didn’t now, but pride almost broke his streak anyway.

Decades later he would reflect on this moment and cruelly ponder the what-ifs.

When the second stun-bolt took him just above the heel of his plant-foot the poles of his body violently exchanged positions and the Force in his blood went silent. On his back, motionless, he opened his eyes to see the stars above him looking down in silent deliberation. There were voices behind him. Not far, they spoke in terse sentences punctuated with clicks. Their owners had a name but it escaped him at the moment. His head felt strange and he reached back to probe it with his hand but his arm was reluctant to move.

His hair was thick with blood which required no touch to discern as he could feel it run into his ears and distort the sound of the efficient voices drawing nearer. He was so tired; filthy. He thought he could smell himself but the smoke coming off his robe muddled the scent. Pocked with burn holes, tattered, it bore little resemblance to its original state. He’d lost everything somehow. His weapon, credits, identification, all were gone as if he were being stripped of who he was one piece at a time.


He tried to rise, but could not. He tried to roll over to face his attackers and failed. He tried to scream but no sound would come. There were only the stars.

Goddamn you, Anakin.

He thought he could feel the planet spin beneath him. He thought he could hear the stars say her name. He coughed and blood stained his lips. She might be watching him. It was possible. He wondered what she would say and closed his eyes.

“It’s raining,” he’d said.

“I know.” She hadn’t cared.

Standing there, soaked, laughing, eyes smiling, she reminded him that more than what he thought was possible. More than what he had been taught could be learned. More than what they believed could be true. It was the most powerful feeling he had ever experienced and he had wondered how in the times they inhabited she had come to be? He’d pondered it often. What would she do had she survived?

“What do you want to do?” the trooper asked his sergeant as he approached the downed target.

Something clicked. He opened his eyes.

What would she have me do?

The sergeant listened to something inside his helmet, nodded, looked to the first, said, “Do it.”

There was traffic above. Airspeeders rushed home in neat grids of organized chaos. People. Intentions. Hopes. Dreams. Everything. He didn’t want to let go. He couldn’t do that. It would be like losing her again. Despite the years, despite the fatigue, despite what in him remained from the days of his certainty, he reached out. He reached out to them; not with his hand, but with his will. The will to remember.

The trooper pushing the rifle barrel into his face didn’t see it yet. He rotated his selector lever to fire and began the slow draw of the trigger. When the shadow fell across the pavement under his feet he looked back. There wasn’t time for anything else. All became white and pain.

What would she have me do?

He would never know.

Brotherhood-class Super Dreadnought Nightfall
Objective Rally Point Titan, Bilbringi System
Fall of Antei, Day 62

The green-gray flesh of the villip distorted a moment before resuming the face of the Yuuzhan Vong Priest Volngah. “What do they know?” it asked.

“What I tell them. Nothing,” the Dark Lord replied seated before the biot.

Sarin had learned much from the Priest; much about his enemy and much about his own kind. Perhaps more. In return, the Priest had been furnished with a few useful items so that his loyalty to Shimrra remained unquestioned and his true intent remained unknown. Though unreadable to the Dark Lord, Volngah’s motives were not as simple as a heretic blindly following his Jeedai saviors. It did not take a Master of the Force to discern that of any being; merely a student of emotion.

Sarin had spent a great deal of time understanding his own emotions which had in turn led him to understanding that which drove others. No matter the species, no matter the culture, somewhere in their fabric was the most basic emotion of all: desire. Everyone wanted something, if even just a glass of water. It was inescapable. Sarin wanted his world back, among other things. It wasn’t entirely necessary, but he wanted it.

Two years ago he had miscalculated how easily the Clans would fracture and vie for whatever scraps could be had. Sarin had kept them too lean. Now that he’d fattened their bellies with vessels and resources, they’d been reminded of the reasons it was his table at which they sat. That mistake had cost him more than he cared to admit—nearly all—but it would not be made again. If anymore reminding became necessary, it would take a much different form. In the meantime, with the Priest’s help, most were sufficiently distracted chasing their own desires.

The Clans wanted typical things: more power, more influence, more prestige. Volngah wanted something else though. Perhaps a legacy? For all Sarin knew he wanted to be the next Prophet of the heresy. The oracle to the new Jeedai Gods once the True Path had been swept away. It did not matter. He would want something and in exchange for his service Sarin would ensure that through him was the only way to the Priest’s desire.

But Sarin’s time was short. “What do you have, Priest?”

The emulated voice from the villip trilled, corrected itself and responded, “We have lost contact with Antei,” the villip paused as if to let the words sink into Sarin’s mind. “There has been no word from the garrison nor the fleet in orbit for some time.”

Sarin sat deeper into his chair and considered the information. His own intelligence had garnered nothing since their defeat. No probe sent returned telemetry and no agent dispatched was heard from again. Was this a ploy by the Priest? Had he misjudged him? Had Shimrra rooted him out and turned him? Or was it something else?

A withdrawal of Yuuzhan Vong forces from Antei would make sense given the strategic situation pressing Shimrra more with each passing day. Sarin had anticipated that very thing to be the opportunity that would enable their return. Shimrra would sooner or later require those forces where the war would be won or lost. And the war for the galaxy would not be fought at Antei.

But a loss of contact? What did that mean? Sarin needed more information. “What was the size of the force occupying Antei?”

“I do not have that kind of information, my lord. I know only that there is, or was, a force on the surface and in orbit and it has not been heard from for long enough to be of concern to the Warmaster and his commanders.

“Will they investigate?”

“I do not know.”


“I am no strategist, but from what I understand, things in the Core are coming to a critical juncture. I would be surprised if they had the resources at this time to investigate or reinforce the situation at Antei.”

Sarin let the words fade. So much at stake. So many paths to choose. Was this the point at which to risk it? The others must have come to a crossroads like this. In all their lives there had come a juncture where everything would hinge on whether or not to act. Most had failed. If not at first, then ultimately. Every Sith Lord before him had been felled. Each had a vision only partially realized. Palpatine had come the closest. On the shoulders of the giants before him he had nearly realized his vision in every respect.

Though Sarin disagreed with Palpatine’s aim—no one being could rule the galaxy—he could not fault his methods. Therein was the genius of Darth Sidious…and the madness. Sarin would need to meditate. There was much to consider. And the Dark Lord knew where his meditations would be best served.

With nothing else to report and no further inquiry, the villip reverted and was silent.

“Inform Lord Muz I wish to see him,” Sarin said into the air. A soft chime indicated the command was received. Replacing the dark cloth atop the orb, Sarin closed his eyes.

The twinkling points of light beyond the viewports became starlines, rolled madly and disappeared.

Cotelin-class Star Destroyer Cotelin
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Muz Sadow sat alone in darkness. The hangar bay had been emptied of personnel. TIEs hung in their racks above him like sleeping hawk-bats. Standing on the black mirror-steel deck before the Dark Prophet were twenty deactivated Tendrando Arms YVH-2 battle droids. Darkened photoreceptors set deep within their laminanium skulls lent the droids the macabre appearance of the now infamous Yuuzhan Vong.

Head bowed in concentration, the Deputy Grand Master raised his hand to form an arcane Krath symbol with his fingers. In the same instant the formation of battle droids began to hum with power. Twenty sets of blood-red photoreceptors illuminated simultaneously as each droid ran through its start-up routines. When the droids had fully booted and were awaiting instructions Muz raised his other hand to join the first.

Though environmentally controlled and sealed to the vacuum of space by a magcon field, the hangar stirred with an unnatural wind that rose to flush between the TIEs hanging above. Amethyst lightning arced wildly between the droids and gantries overhead. YVHs snapped and jerked as each was touched by the tendrils of energy. Photoreceptors winked and skeletal appendages stretched in spasm as dark power coursed through their circuitry.

Before the maelstrom Muz did not stir. Still seated, the Prophet reacted only by slowly bringing his hands closer together. As the distance between his hands lessened, the storm engulfing the droids and the bay increased in intensity. The droids’ vocoders began to pop and crack under the strain like synthesized screams as they were further charged with the dark side of the Force. A metallic cacophony rose to the hangar ceiling as the YVHs jerked madly with intensifying fervor.

Hydraulic lines gave way and dark liquid stained the deck. The droid-blood pooled and was pelted by rivets and bolts and other small debris jarred loose from the rite. A few droids could no longer bear the strain and crumpled under the awesome weight of the Prophet’s will. Those still standing pulsed with energy like nothing they had tasted before. The crescendo of preternatural sound reached its peak as Muz brought his hands together in a clasp that reverberated like a thunderclap throughout the hangar.

Violet arcs of energy danced randomly across the assembled droids whose uniform arrangement had now degraded into a rabble. The droids seemed restless now, skeletal hands flexed absently, torsos heaved as though drawing breath to survive. Their red gazes panned about the bay free now for the first time from endless lines of inhibiting code. Clicks, pops, and hisses had replaced their mute discipline as if they whispered secrets amongst themselves. Servos whirred and whined, coolant dripped, circuits popped, pathways to abilities never intended or imagined had been opened.

With the order normally imposed by their programming burned away they searched the bay for guidance. They sought purpose. Their eyes found the Prophet and they were stilled.

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Sarin stood on a world with no name. Few knew of it. It was home to an unfinished monument to the glory of the Emperor Palpatine. It would have been one of the great seats of power in Palpatine’s Empire had his reign not been ended. The Grand Master of the Dark Brotherhood looked up towards the dizzying heights of the edifice and considered. It looked like nothing so much as a massive throne. Indeed it was; built for a god who had never sat upon it and now never would. It lay dormant. Hundreds of thousands of tons of exquisitely carved black stone that threatened to touch the pink moons in the midnight sky above.

All this for what?

It was the end of summer here. Presaging fall, brisk winds caught Sarin’s heavy cloak giving them life as he wandered the pavers at the foot of the palace. He stretched out with his senses; not the ethereal array of a Grand Master’s, but those given to every man. He could smell wood-smoke in the distance; the fires of indigenes no doubt occupying the surrounding mountains. Whatever civilization had existed here during the Empire was long gone. It had become a simple place in the interim. A place he had found reassuring in times when nothing was assured.

Sarin had come here twice before to learn from the mistakes of those who had preceded him and reflect. Those whose names had survived their deaths—several times in the cases of some—had many lessons to teach, but none as important as those from their failings. Miscalculations, faults, flaws, weaknesses; all were powerful testaments of that which to avoid. Yet he’d failed to heed their teachings himself.

He had lost Antei.

The thought of it struck him anew like the sharp wind racing down the mountainside. He had lost Antei. But from that loss he’d gained much. And now, after two years picking up the pieces, the time to correct his greatest mistake could be at hand. He would need to summon them. All of them. The Clans would have many questions borne of fear and ignorance that would test his patience. But they would heed him.

As he walked the vast courtyard at the base of the palace, massive stone effigies of ancient Sith Lords looked down at him in silence. Unlike on Coruscant, Palpatine was able to more comfortably address his arcane lineage in this place. And so they were all here: Simus, Hord, XoXaan, Revan, even the fool Bane. They tended court eternally at the foot of a massive black throne built for their greatest success; and deepest failure.

It was inevitable, Sarin supposed. Those who stood tallest would eventually be brought low. What would his end be? Who was his Chosen One, his betrayer? Or would it take the shape of something else entirely? Whatever its form, there would be an end. There always was.

A tiny electronic voice interrupted his thoughts. “Lord Muz is here, Grand Master,” it said from somewhere in the deep folds of Sarin’s robes.

He was pleased; briefly. His security detail had alerted him to the arrival much sooner than he’d expected. Raken had trained his soldiers well. Sarin couldn’t see them at the moment. They were out there in the inky darkness among the trees and shadows. Black figures, silent and efficient. So unlike what had characterized the Royal Guards of old. Perhaps a new Guard was in the offing? Time would tell. Many things demanded his more immediate attention.

None more so than the Dark Prophet who had come to kill him.


01-12-2008 11:30:40

[center]Fall of Antei
Nothing Follows

Path…what path is there? We are all tumbling down the mountain to the valley below. We do not choose if we fall. We simply do. The most that can be hoped for is to hit a few less trees on the way down.


A tiny electronic voice interrupted his thoughts. “Lord Muz is here, Grand Master,” it said from somewhere in the deep folds of Sarin’s robes.

He was pleased; briefly. His security detail had alerted him to the arrival much sooner than he’d expected. Raken had trained his soldiers well. Sarin couldn’t see them at the moment. They were out there in the inky darkness among the trees and shadows. Black figures, silent and efficient. So unlike what had characterized the Royal Guards of old. Perhaps a new Guard was in the offing? Time would tell. Many things demanded his more immediate attention.

None more so than the Dark Prophet who had come to kill him.


Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

“Lord Muz is dead,” the soldier reported.

Sarin had not moved since the duel’s end. He could taste the iron tang of blood in his mouth. His blood. It had been a long, long time since that had happened. Kneeling on smashed cobblestone in the courtyard of Palpatine’s lost fortress he surveyed the scene about him. Armored soldiers kicked through the rubble of Sith statuary now strewn everywhere. Darth Bane’s head lay a meter to his left looking up at him with empty eyes of stone. Pale moons still punctuated the night sky.

What had happened here?

Sarin’s thoughts were unclear. He demanded his faculties answer him, but he had yet even to rise. Could he rise? Image and sound assaulted him. His head throbbed with the coursing of his blood until his face was as warm as if gazing into a fire. Pain shot through his body and his fists clenched reflexively. His lightsaber was still in hand. Why?

More sound. More pain. Images raced through his mind poorly recreating the events that had unfolded. One image froze in place. Muz. He had fought Muz. He had killed Muz. He had commanded him to attack; to hold nothing back. And so he had had to kill his Shadow Hand. His most loyal and trusted servant. His successor.

Clarity dawned. Sarin had done what Sith had been doing for thousands of years…ensuring survival. Were Sarin to lead them back to Antei—back to victory—he would need to be sure he was the one. His failures had caused him to question his methods; question himself. Muz had simply fulfilled his purpose. Had he killed Sarin, a stronger leader would be taking them back. But with Muz dead at his own hand, Sarin confirmed himself. There was no doubt now.

He demanded order. Sarin’s body returned to his control and he looked up with the old heat in his stare. His soldiers were watching. Weakness could not be tolerated. Not now. Not ever.

He stood.

“Are you alright, sir?”

The security detail had known to stay back, but now gathered around the Grand Master. Most faced outward to identify further threats, but a few officers looked at Sarin through the photoreceptors of their helms somewhat bewildered.

“Call for another security detachment,” Sarin said.

Though a full detail was already on site, the officer assumed the Grand Master wanted to be more cautious given the ordeal he’d just undergone. He contacted Nightfall in orbit and relayed the order.

Turning back to Grand Master Sarin he said, “My lord, ETA—uhhk”

Unable to breathe, the officer clawed at the controls on his gauntlet to switch to internal air. Assuming they’d been gassed, he knew he’d have seconds to seal his suit and draw on the temporary supply. Through his narrowing peripheral vision he could see the others of the detachment grasping at their forearms attempting to execute the very training he was. Everyone was going down; all except the Grand Master. Standing in the center of the struggling guards, he looked renewed, peaceful; the image of calm focus.

The officer’s vision went dark and he fell.

Sarin looked to the crumbled statues at his feet. No, weakness could not be tolerated. Not even from himself.

LAAT/i Gunship
Feriae Junction, Thesme Sector
Fall of Antei, Day 98

The blacked-out gunship hugged the rugged terrain of Feriae Junction. The world was core-ward from Antei along the Hydian Way and a strategic target for both sides of the war. It had been devastated by a Yuuzhan Vong siege protracted by several thousand determined New Republic defenders. With reinforcements, the Republic had a chance of holding out.

“I’m not kidding,” Casen was saying from the floor of the gunship. “He took out twenty crab boys at least. It was beautiful.”

Sergeant Akor Digh shook his head. He’d seen what the Jedi could do and it was frightening. And he wasn’t on the receiving end. But this mission didn’t call for one so they had joked, “The Force is not with us.” Someone had heard they might be a liability on this op as there could be enemy Jedi on the surface. They’d find out soon.

The men of 1st and 2nd squads, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company mostly rode in silence on the floor of the craft. They sat back to back in two rows facing outward towards the skin of the aircraft. Some, like Casen, liked to tell stories or talk idly to pass the time. Seated near the rear, Digh, the Platoon Sergeant and Company First Sergeant listened more due to the consequence of proximity than interest. Digh kicked at the man next to him who had fallen asleep and continued to listen.

Casen was animated. “He was a big one. Digh, you saw.”

Digh said nothing. He wasn’t sure if not having a Jedi along on this run made him feel better or just uneasy.

“He had the Vong like this,” Casen said gesturing menacingly with his hands. “Bent that karking Vong backwards the wrong way. Unstoppable.”

“They go down,” First Sergeant Speros said standing at the tail. “Just like anyone else.” Speros was busy monitoring the company and pilot nets through a pair of jacked-in headphones, but he didn’t want his men to be too taken with the Jedi and their flash. But he understood.

“Roger, First Sergeant,” Casen said smiling. “But it’s how many they take with them before they go I’m interested in.”

The First Sergeant nodded, but not at Casen’s comment. The pilot’s call came through the headset and he relayed it to his men. “Six minutes!”

All conversations ended. Everyone repeated the time and carefully made their way to a knee then stood and took hold of loops of heavy-duty fabric anchored overhead to steady them against the bucking ship. They checked equipment and mentally reviewed their portions of the mission.

“I bet clones never did this,” Salas yelled in Digh’s ear.

“Salas, I heard your dad was a clone,” Casen yelled back grinning.

Salas pulled on his pair of heavy bantha leather gloves and responded to his friend with the appropriate salute.

“Three minutes!” Came the call from the First Sergeant acting as chalk leader for this stick.

“Three minutes!”

The LAAT/i’s doors automatically slid back to either side of the tail and the cold wind of the planet’s nightside whipped through them. Digh thought it felt like water flowing around him as he searched for the ground and signs of the target. He could see flashes in the distance that briefly illuminated the interior of the ship. New Republic artillery probably trading blows with Vong plasma, he thought. They were still aloft so the air defense grid hadn’t picked them up. They were obviously too busy fighting for dear life against the death-worshippers’ onslaught.

“One minute!”

Digh pulled a set of cheap goggles over his eyes to protect them from the dust. He charged his weapon and squeezed the shoulder of the man in front of him.

“Thirty seconds!”

The sound of war was distinct now. What had been soft whumps and crumps a minute earlier were now sharp cracks. They passed through pockets of hot air rising from fires burning on the ground. The gunship bucked more as the pilots struggled through and around thermal blooms and shockwaves. Digh could just make out the shape of a massive six-limbed creature battering a particle barricade in the distance. The monster soaked up staggering amounts of fire yet continued to ram ahead as if the more damage it incurred the stronger it became.

The LAAT/i suddenly rocked upward then down and the ropemasters standing at the side doors identified the landing zone. “Ropes!” they called and kicked four twenty-meter coiled ropes over the side. “Follow me!”

And they did. Each stick went out its own door sliding the near length of the rope until hitting the ground and running to cover. When the LAAT/i’s crew chief verified the ropes were clear, he released them to fall to the ground in quick, curling spirals.

Fire was everywhere. Smoke assaulted them through the cloth wrappings around their faces. Angry hyphens of incoming and outgoing fire lanced the midnight blue sky in all directions. The New Republic had their hands full on this world and more. First squad separated off and went towards their objective while Digh fell in with his squad as they rallied near a shattered building on the outskirts of what had been a fuel depot. They moved out carefully in hurried crouches skirting the perimeter of out-buildings trying to clear the heavier fighting that was already rolling their way.

A pair of Incom T-47’s screamed by overhead to add their measure to the battle. Digh wished them luck. Had he time, he could have stopped right there and marveled at his circumstances. He had come so far. Had things turned out differently, he could very well be fighting in one of the New Republic units entrenched here.

He was very glad he was not.

They moved silently through streets of rubble. Occasionally the pointman would hold up a fist and halt their movement to allow a Vong patrol to go by. Doubtless the crab boys were probing this area quietly for hidden access points into the shielded fortifications under siege. Fortunately, Digh and his men already knew where that access was.

Digh pushed his goggles up and over the bill of the softcap he was wearing and rubbed his eyes with his non-firing hand. No wonder the New Republic was losing this war. His eyes were burning from the smoke. He missed his Kraytskin. Even the Vong were smart enough to use armor.

The NR battledress uniform he wore consisted only of soft armor that was not designed to stop much more than harsh language let alone a Vong razor bug traveling 250 meters per second. The uniform’s best protective feature was that it identified him as a lieutenant with New Republic Special Forces. An “officer” would have a better chance of talking himself out of a brush with a security patrol should they become separated or were forced to abort. In fact, every man in his squad was identified as an officer of some rank or other by their stolen uniforms.

Explosions continued to bloom around them like a coordinated holiday display. They crept ever-nearer Digh’s position and he was anxious to get them under the protection of the Republic’s energy shield.

The squad halted again and took up a security posture while Digh and the other leaders checked their maps. The bunker entrance was the nondescript one-story pile of rubble directly ahead of them. They split the squad into its two internal fire teams and Digh’s moved forward to the bunker entrance while the other provided overwatch.

Digh descended a shallow stairwell at the front of the building into a narrow passage that terminated in a steel door that looked like something transplanted from a bank vault. The passage was cold and damp and allowed entrance only in single-file. The other three men of his team watched up and back while Digh rapped on the door twice in quick succession with the heel of his fist.

Digh and his team were instantly bathed in blue light from scanners embedded in the door’s frame. The chips in the rank badges of their uniforms were sliced and should identify them as Team 239 who had departed the wire four days ago on reconnaissance. When the scan was complete the outer door slid up into a recess and they entered cautiously. The outer door sealed behind them air-locking the four men inside. They were decontaminated for possible Yuuzhan Vong spores and other hazards and then allowed inside.

The process repeated for the other team in Digh’s squad until they were all inside heading down a long narrow tunnel under the shield and into the heart of the New Republic’s fortifications.

“We’re glad to see you,” an intelligence officer was saying as he led them through the warren.

Digh appeared to listen attentively but was busy counting doors and passages as they went by. So far everything matched up. The intel guy had said his name was “Martin” or “Markin”. It didn’t matter.

At the thirty-eighth door they stopped. Martin or Markin said, “We thought you’d gotten lost out there.”

He led them through a secured portal into a series of makeshift offices and rooms of sundry purposes. When they reached the area that had been denoted as Room 4 on their layout of the warren, Digh knew they were in the right place and casually pulled his goggles down over his eyes.

“You can drop your gear here. There’s some caf over there and Fil is bringing in some chow,” Martin or Markin said. “Let me get my debriefing kit and I’ll be right back.”

“Is that your wife?” Digh asked before the man could go. He pointed to the picture of an attractive woman wedged into the sill of a window separating the two rooms.

Martin or Markin turned his head to look. “Oh, no that’s—“

Digh raised his weapon to his shoulder and shot the man through the side of the head before he could turn back.

He put two more bolts through the man’s chest as he hit the ground. “Do it,” he said. His team was already moving securing the immediate area, engaging a few confused military staffers. When the firing stopped, the suite of offices was cleared and they began prepping their demolition charges.

Bravo team had already moved off to their designated target in the next room. Digh watched the door leading to the corridor beyond. There was no security presence in this area but there would be. They didn’t need long though to rig their explosives and begin extracting.

Casen had climbed his way up into the rafters overhead. Above the false ceiling ran coolant lines dedicated to the massive reactor that powered the shield beyond. Digh’s squad was responsible for the secondary coolant system while 1st squad was dealing with the primary system in another part of the complex. When the charges went off, the coolant systems would fail simultaneously and force the droid brain regulating the system to enact safety protocols that would take the shield offline rather than risk a catastrophic failure.

Or so they had been told in the briefing. Digh just wanted it done. He had no idea why the Dark Ones wanted this world to fall to the Yuuzhan Vong. The opposite would seem to be in all their interests, but why rarely mattered at his pay grade.

“Sergeant, we’re set,” Casen called out as he dropped to the floor from the ceiling rafters above.

Digh called it in over his secure platoon net. The Platoon Sergeant acknowledged, then answered back a few minutes later with, “Go.”

All took cover as Digh called out, “Fire in the hole!” and nodded for Casen to detonate their charge. The room shook as ceiling tiles came down and rafters fell. Green coolant ran free to the floor from shattered lines overhead and already alarms could be heard in the distance.

“Prepare to move,” Digh called out as Bravo team rejoined them. Another explosion whumpfedin the distance and they knew 1st squad would be moving now and extraction would be en route. Digh moved to the door leading to the corridor beyond and back the way they had come. 2nd squad stacked to either side and followed him out covering all angles of the hallway with their weapons.

Digh stopped almost immediately halting the entire procession. The intimidating blue glow of a lightsaber blocked his path a few meters ahead. Fortunately, he didn’t fire.

“I’m Jedi Knight Eema Fos,” she said. “And I need your help.”

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

“Lord Sarin is dead,” the soldier reported.

Muz barely heard him. His insides were shattered beyond repair even as he implored the Force to aid him. He was dying. He had done as his master had asked and succeeded…only to fail. If he died as a result of his wounds, there would be no clear successor to the throne. The clans would tear themselves apart vying for control. It reminded Muz no matter how successful or powerful the Brotherhood became it was still a delicate lattice held together by fewer lynchpins than anyone dared to guess.

He could not die. Yet. “Inform…Katarn,” Muz said from one knee. “He…will know what to do.”

Muz coughed blood and sat down.

“We’ll have a shuttle here in ninety seconds, my lord,” one of the Grand Master’s protective detail said. “Lie back. Let the medic work on you until then.”

Muz was lying back anyway. Fading. He doubted the medic had a treatment for what Sarin had done to him. Sarin. His body lay not far away in a pile of cloth and armor. His head was here though, next to Muz, staring back at him now with empty eyes that were neither accusatory nor congratulatory. Muz would have preferred either to this…nothing. Why Sarin had chosen now to test himself he didn’t know. But whys were often hard to come by in his position.

The medic injected something into his leg. Muz was too tired to discern what it was. He could hear the whine of a shuttle’s engines being pushed hard in the distance. It didn’t matter. The medic continued to work and Muz reached out for the nearest soldier and pressed into his hands two metal cylinders. He said, “Katarn,” and did not move again.

The medic was still working.

The soldier Muz had grabbed looked down at the lightsabers in his hands. They were intricately crafted and bore the lion insignia of the Deputy Grand Master. The shuttle touched down not far away and a medical team was already on the ground and rushing over. The soldier stood and ran towards the shuttle clutching the lightsabers in one hand.


“Enough,” Sarin said and let the vision fade.

The statues of the Emperor’s courtyard still looked down upon him with scorn. Neither of the two futures he had glimpsed offered the answers he wanted. He wondered if there was any permutation of events that did.

A tiny electronic voice interrupted his thoughts. “Lord Muz is here, Grand Master,” it said from somewhere in the deep folds of Sarin’s robes.

He was pleased; briefly. His security detail had alerted him to the arrival much sooner than he’d expected. Raken had trained his soldiers well. Sarin couldn’t see them at the moment. They were out there in the inky darkness among the trees and shadows. Black figures, silent and efficient. So unlike what had characterized the Royal Guards of old. Perhaps a new Guard was in the offing? Time would tell. Many things demanded his more immediate attention.

None more so than the Dark Prophet who had come to kill him.

Always in motion, Sarin thought and activated his lightsaber.


26-03-2009 20:33:42

[center]Fall of Antei
The Sharpening

How much blood do we have to wash ourselves in before we are finally clean? Is this the price of ambition? The wounds from our friends are more genuine than the kisses of our enemies, and yet, here we tread again.

Steel sharpens Steel.

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Sarin ignited his saber, the angry buzzing of the crimson blade the loudest thing for several clicks. He knew he was there, just a thought away. He could feel him, his madness. Raken's soldiers retreated, still within sight, but knowing not to interfere. They knew their orders and followed them without question.

Muz stepped into view slowly, hands at his sides, sabers already filling his hands, the cold cylinders offering some comfort to the man. Sarin gazed coolly at him, watching the tides of the future shift in subtle ebbs and flows.

The Keibatsu stopped, his coal black eyes regarding the Grand Master, his master, in the shadows.

"Hold nothing back." Sarin spoke, the gravelly tone carrying over the sound of his saber.

Muz inclined his head slightly in a subtle bow as the sunset tones of his saber blades spilled from his hilts.

New Republic Complex
Feriae Junction, Thesme Sector
Fall of Antei, Day 98

Eema Fos smiled at her fortune. The enemy had all but over-run her ship and she had managed to make it to the reinforcements before they got to her.

"What element do you report to?" She asked, letting the cooling touch of the Force flush her scrapes and bruises.

Digh looked at her, and he knew that if he had not had his helmet on, she would have seen the glint in his eye. "75th Spec Ops, Master Jedi."

"75th?" Fos lowered her saber a touch, glancing over her shoulder in worry. "What did they send as reinforcements?"

"Reinforcements?" The sound of charging weapons filled the hallway.

Fos spun on her heel just in time to deflect a well spaced pattern of blaster bolts, the plasma spraying off harmlessly into the bulkhead. Her free hand wrapping along the Force, she shoved a wall of air into the nearest soldier, shoving them away from her with an open palm. Another volley of bolts scored the air, and her blade intercepted them, sending them back into the chest plates of several soldiers, only to watch in abject horror as the blasts disbursed across the armor without so much as carbon scoring them.

Digh stepped toward her, purpose driving his footfalls as he raised the Verpine rifle to his cheek.

Her mind dissected the situation quickly, even with unanswered questions. She raised her saber and moved quickly towards the Sergeant. A dozen clicking sounds erupted from behind him, little bursts of fire as the soldiers switched their weapons, hundreds of flechette darts screaming out in a cloud of pain toward her.

Eema pushed speed into her muscles, the burn of the Force seething through her veins as she swung the blade in a defensive Soresu pattern. It wasn't enough to block them all, dozens fished their way through her defense, biting into the flesh of her arm, of her legs, tearing into her nerves and screaming their agony into her ears.

The Knight fell to the ground as the blood began to flow, her saber skittering to the ground as the blade slurped away into the hilt. Fos tried to grasp the Force, begging it to aid her, to close her wounds, to mend her ruined legs as she fought to remain conscious through the pain.

Digh didn't break stride, slinging his rifle and pulling a pistol from his thigh holster, aiming for the Jedi's eye as he moved past her, sending a bolt of bright red through her skull without hesitation.

Re-holstering his sidearm and raising his rifle again, he motioned in silent hand signals for the team to move forward. They still had a mission to accomplish.

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Sarin bounced back away from the Keibatsu's blades, evading another well placed stroke by inches. Battering away the saberist's blow with his own blade, he reached deep into the wells of his mind, the malevolence ripping from his heart and out his fingertips, the blue arcs of lightning snarling toward Muz.

Muz crossed his sabers, catching the Grand Master's lightning on the blades as the energies pushed into it caused the tattered leather of his warcoat to flap noisily. He moved quickly, separating his blades and drawing the lightning aside, freeing up his saber to strike at Sarin's exposed neck. Sarin's blade leapt from his hands, the invisible hand of the Force defending his neck as he poured his hatred from both hands into the Keibatsu's saber.

Muz saw a glimmer of the future, felt the power start to breach the coils of his blade and released the saber, allowing the hilt to sail away from him on the electric current before the power cell ruptured. Snarling at the loss of his saber, Muz snagged Sarin's crimson blade with his own violet, spinning it out of the control of the telekinetic grasp of the Grandmaster. The long hilt of the Dark Lord spun wildly, succumbing to the intense gyroscopic forces of the energized crystals within.

Fast hands snuck past the spinning blade and Sarin's fingers closed around the darkened ultrachrome and wrested control back from the elements. Spinning the blade hard, he brought it back around to slash into the shoulder of his opponent. Muz' hand darted up, wrapping around the bitter crimson blade and culling its strength, absorbing the energy of the blade.

Sarin watched with accelerated eyes as the current seemed to flow across the Keibatsu's body pushing into the violet violence of the blade, sparking arcs of lightning as it slashed across his breastplate, another long and blackened scar drawn across the plate over his heart. The man once known as Aristan Dantes sneered. The Keibatsu was trying to dig through his armor.

Wrenching the blade back away for another stroke, Sarin bound his will to the air in front of him, a wave of pressure to shove his apprentice back. The forcewave shook its way through his outstretched arm as he saw the man brace himself for the impact. Pushing him back, the Deputy's boots dragged the soil back with him, folding the ground like a loose blanket behind his heels.

"I said to hold nothing back." Sarin snarled at his apprentice, raising his saber.

Feriae Junction, Thesme Sector
Fall of Antei, Day 98

"Hold nothing back!" Vessicant bellowed through the comm as he wove his TIE Avenger through the oncoming Coralskippers, his lasers set to a stutter-fire configuration as they tore across the analog's hide. His squadron was all Plaguians, and he didn't want to explain to Braecen how he lost any ships. Sweeping across the port side of the creature, they paved the way for Thran's Scimitars to drop their Shadow Bombs on the monster.

Kal Vorrac and Anubis formed up on Vessicant's wings, plowing the road, their lasers pounding the Coralskippers, overwhelming the Dovin Basals and dropping blasts into the rocks. Vessicant smiled as the skippers went down, banking hard around the bow and rolling to avoid the oncoming yaret-kor. Bouncing off the extended shields of Anubis, the magma-soaked rocks sailed away, reeling into the analog harmlessly as Aalos and Strats joined up with them.

The Scimitar bombers of Scholae's 'Angels of Death' fell in behind the Avengers, Thran Occasus' voice coming in across the commlink. "You sweep, we'll clean."

Vessicant smiled as he forged forward, his cannons blasting the Vong fighters into debris as they made their way to the stern of the analog. "How you doing back there, Thran?" Vess was anxious to be dealing with another clan's ships, and he would have much preferred to have had his own boys in their scimitars, but he dared not defy the orders that came from the Grand Master. He wanted a unified fighting force, and Vess saw what happened when that Knight battleteam leader refused to work with Taldryan support. At least it was Scholae this time, and not the Tally he had to play nice with.

Thran armed the drop, releasing the Baradium core bomb and wrapping his mind around it, guiding it to the precise spot he needed, the stress points in the Matalok's skeleton that he knew to be vulnerable. He drew the missile down, slipping it into the gills near the midsection of the beast.

"Dishes are done, man." Thran smiled as he twisted his mind, detonating the bomb, the detonators igniting the devastation that only baradium could provide. The explosions swallowed the oxygen aboard the ship almost immediately, the mute devastation tearing the ship nearly in half, the vong warriors aboard sucked into the void and crystallizing as Anubis whooped across the comm.

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Sarin threw down his saber hilt, the handgrip landing next to the smoking emitter where the Keibatsu had cleft it. Pushing outward with his senses, he wove a dense fabric of Force, surrounding himself and pushing the Deputy back on his heels.

“If you aren’t willing to fight with your all, you’ll die.” Sarin snarled the words more than spoke them, contempt his weapon in a fierce Dun Moch display. “Of course, I’d never have thought that a mere Sorcerer could ever understand that.”

Muz tested his purple blade against the mesh of power, sizzling threads of energy seething at the touch of the blade. Muz stepped back, dark eyes regarding his opponent as he rambled.

“And if you, the strongest of your line, can’t defeat me, I will kill you.” Sarin continued, his words worming in through the Keibatsu’s psyche. “And after I’m done with you, I’ll hunt down the rest of your sorry line.”

Muz cracked his neck and leveled a gaze at the Grand Master through the net of Dark Side energy. “What will I care, if I’m already dead?”

“I’ll start with your wife, your son.” Sarin stepped forward, expanding the net and watching Muz slowly step backwards to avoid the severing knots as they clipped another corner from his warcoat. “I’ll savor their fear as I tell them how you died begging for mercy, before I…”

Sarin felt the shift. Something flickered behind the Keibatsu’s form, the pattern shifted, and the future twisted away from his sight. Questions erupted in the Grand Master’s mind as he watched.

“Loose my pain in fields of blood. Battle hardened, caked with mud.” Muz stomped forward, the net unraveling in front of him as his boot hit the ground, the power of the net absorbing into the man’s pale skin rather than slicing into it. Sarin gave pause, his mind almost freezing in the paralysis of analysis, debating what path to take. Drawing back his mind, he loaded the buzzing of malevolence into his arms, preparing his next step.


“Years of history behind dark eyes. Recurrent dreams of broken ties.” Muz tore toward him, his saber spinning in a wild mixture of Ataru and Sokan, threatening to rend him from his arms. Sarin loosed the blue arcs from his outstretched fingertips, sending them seething at his apprentice.

The arcs stilled between the two, power congealing from the two men, cerulean madness pouring from the pair, condensing into a ball of force between the two, growing larger as both men poured hate into it, arcs of myriad color spinning round it, a miniature Dark Star tanning both of their skin.

Thumping and cracking erupted from around them, the withering of tree and soldier alike dropping their lifeless forms to the ground as the Lords of the Brotherhood drew energy from anything near them that could fuel their own personal war.

Sarin cackled loudly, his eyes lit. “You want power, schutta?” This was what he wanted to see.

Muz whipped his hand, throwing his saber into the mix, the blade piercing the sphere and holding there as the world went deathly still. Sarin’s cold eyes glanced from the travesty to the black eyes of his foe. Muz just smiled as the superheated plasma igniting the latent energies there, detonating the sphere in a blinding white light, the concussion force erupting outward, tearing the soil from the ground, carving the world as the storm erupted, plowing both men asunder.

Consul’s Office
Karufr, Kr’tal System
Fall of Antei, Day 99

Shadow turned from the holonet, smiling at his proconsul. “I just received word from Kir. Seems that the strike on the Hydian way went well.” Sklib straightened his back, moving toward the chair in the Consul’s office.

“If Plagueis can take the Vong in free space, with the Republic in the mix, Antei should be a walk.” Sliding into the leather seat, Sklib watched the Taldrya with a smile on his face.

“Well, nothing’s that easy, but yeah, we should be ready.”

Sklib blinked, looking around the room for a second, thinking to himself. “Have we heard back from the advanced recon we sent?”

Shadow rubbed his chin, leaning forward. “We’ve not heard back from them, and no word from Nightfall, either.” Shadow stared at the Proconsul, debating whether or not to share the rest of what he had been thinking.

“Well, we’re all supposed to meet there in two days to discuss the next step, right?”

Shadow nodded, slowly getting to his feet. “Have the Shadow Bombs loaded in, Sklib. We may have to fly sooner than we think.”

Sklib bounced out of his chair, snapping off a sharp salute before heading for the door. Shadow watched him out of the corner of his eye. Shadow moved toward the crystal decanter across the room, getting ready to pour himself a drink as he thought to himself. It was better to keep the men ready than have them think it would be an easy victory. Underestimating the Vong caused us to lose Antei in the first place.

Uncharted Planet
Corporate Sector, Outer Rim
Fall of Antei, Day 73

Muz’s hand clawed past the stones, shoveling himself out of the pile of debris he was under. The ultrachrome of the prosthetic arm and hand was dented and marred by abuse, gears grinding noisily as he pulled himself free, matted hair framing a battered face and his good arm hung painfully, dragging behind him as he crawled free.

Sarin shoved the boulder off of him, the strike of the Force coiling around his muscles comforting him as he shook the smaller rocks off of himself. Climbing to his feet slowly sorting out the dull throb in his legs, the Dark Lord of the Sith surveyed the damage of his little test. Pulling a small tracer from an armored pouch, he threw it to the ground, a red beacon light flashing skyward to signal the Lambda to come pick him up.

Hearing the Keibatsu as he made it to his feet, Sarin eyed him warily. Muz dropped his stance slowly, raising his arm into a defensive Verdanaian posture. Sarin waved him off, eyes cast upward to see the transport spiraling a few miles above.

Muz dropped his arm, flexing his shoulder, trying to shake off the fatigue. “Did you find out what you were trying to?”

Sarin nodded silently, pulling on the sickly sweet energies as they soothed his back, his charred fingertips. The Lambda set down a few meters away with a hiss of hydraulics and retrorockets, and he moved toward the opening bay.

Muz flipped open the prosthetic arm, sending a message to his ship to come back within range, before shifting his gaze back. “The Brotherhood can’t do without both of us.”

Sarin nodded. The Krath wasn’t stupid. Of course he would have looked to see what the outcome was. Without the strength of the Iron Throne, the clans would tear themselves apart in internecine fighting within a few weeks. Sarin looked back over his shoulder at the Prophet.

“Not Yet.”