Plagueis Fictional Updates!
Here is where you will be able to see the fictional updates for House Plagueis.
Forward Battery Hallway - Below Forward Hangar
In Combat Over Kapsina
The explosion shook the lower hull section below the forward hangar bay. Celahir Erinos and Valhavoc were locked down in the hallway leading to the last forward section still inhabited by the forces of Zoraan. The Kiffar and his slightly taller Human counterpart were currently working door by door to advance, the Prelate's excellent lightsaber work serving to defend his blaster wielding compatriot as they cleared the way. With every pull of the trigger of the Blastech A-280, yet another piece of scum would fall dead, never to rise again.
With precision and efficiency, they had worked with the rest of Soulfire Strike Team, and a few members of Plagueis, to clear the Ascendancy of all but this one pocket of foes. The fools had embedded themselves in a few of the forward gun rooms, thinking that they could use the guns to shoot the Ascendancy's own fighters right out of the sky, and had not reckoned on being cornered so swiftly. The firing sound of Turbolasers was strangely absent in the gun room, or it would have been strange were it not for the Kiffar's knowledge that the systems had been remotely disabled from the bridge.
Having advanced to the last holding position before a direct assault, Celahir held up his fist, bringing the entire team to a halt. Keying his mic, the battle team leader called out for a friend and teammate.
"Etah, where are you?"
A small explosion shook the ceiling above the rest of Soulfire Strike Team. The sound of screams and blaster fire could be heard from the room before them, and yet it seemed to be coming from above. The door opened and a ragtag group of battered mercenaries poured out into the hallway. Despite the fear in their eyes, they stopped for a moment to stare at the forces arrayed against them. As one, the battle team unleashed hell upon those who stood before them, decimating the group to a man, before they could gather their wits.
Moments later, Etah d'Tana appeared from within the forward battery. His Dar'Verd Combat Environment Suit seemed perfectly fine, with just a few scuff marks on it.
"You called? I was busy finishing off these scum so we could leave. I told you I'd meet up with you once I got free."
Everyone slowly broke out into grins over something so typically Etah. The man wasn't cocky without reason after all. Today was yet again proof that he was not to be messed with.
Tra'an Reith stood in the remains of the main hangar of the Plagueian Flagship. Debris was strewn everywhere. Maintenance techs and marines worked hard to clear it off the deck, either by pushing it out the main section to drift into space or, if it was small enough, into one of the trash chutes. Either way, the only vessel in the hangar looking even remotely pristine was the boarding shuttle used by Soulfire Strike Team. The three Arconans who had been directly involved in the primary effort to retake the Destroyer stood before him, ready to leave.
"I appreciate everything you've done for us,” Tra’an announced. “We've managed to restore our point defense clusters to prevent any further boarding attempts. Please accept my thanks, and pass this token along to Wuntila."
The Shi'ido handed an encoded communication chip to the Kiffar, who nodded before whistling as he turned to leave. The commando component of the Strike Team loaded up quickly and, just as silently as they'd appeared in Plagueis’s hour of need, Arcona's Finest were gone again.
The other Arconan shuttles followed the lead of their premier members. Having cleared off the lowest levels of the ship where they'd been boarded, a couple of crafty engineers from the Shadow Clan had managed to work hand in hand with the Ascendant forces to re-activate the point defense systems that had gone down in the early fighting due to a well placed bomb. As such, the Ascendancy was again secure.
ISD II Instigator
"What do you mean you want us to shield the Arconan Withdrawal?"
Alaris Jinn di Plagia's voice could be heard clear across the bridge, engendering immediate silence. The small blue hologram in his hand was clearly that of Quaestor Tra'an Reith.
"You heard me,” Tra’an replied calmly. “We cannot win this fight. You and all other Plagueians left afield are to evacuate with the Arconans back to their fleet. With communications being interrupted, they will need all the help they can get securing the Dajorra system. Jusadih is lost. Get yourselves and the Arconans off that ship and to the Invicta. The crew can stay behind to finish the job, and use the life support pods to get out before they destroy it."
The already disbelieving eyebrows of the Twi’lek rose almost through the top of his skull. The words coming from the hologram were so far outside what he was expecting that the shock was palpable.
"If you think we can win this fight, you are wrong,” Tra’an cut in as if reading Alaris’s mind. “I've already had reports of a Star Weird in system. Braecen is convinced that it was released with Chi-Long's death and that if we stay, it will take us out one by one. The planets have been decimated by a bio-weapon we cannot defeat. We've lost most of our fleet. It's time to leave."
Eiko placed his hand upon Alaris's shoulder, bringing the former Consul out of shock. As those feelings quickly turned to rage, the masked Human responded in the only reasonable way.
"As you wish, so it will be done. By your Will, Quaestor."
The oddly distorted mechanical voice sent a shiver down the spine of the Left Hand of Justice. After all, the memory of how that voice came to be was something that still disturbed the Obelisk. Eiko walked over to the Captain of the Instigator.
"You have your orders,” he said. “Carry them out. We will need your crew and yourself again. Don't perish."
The middle-aged veteran nodded, his face weary from the stress of fighting against a superior foe, and knowing that he was going to lose. The weariness vanished as he steeled himself and returned to the business at hand.
"You heard them,” he barked. “Get to it. I want every non-essential person off this ship now! Have the Arconans seal the bulkheads in their sections. By the time those fools who are trapped there figure out what's going on, it'll be too late."
With that, the bridge turned from a tomb into a flurry of activity. Transports and starfighters began to migrate over to the Invicta, even as Tra'an opened a channel to the Arconan destroyer.
"Marick, I need a favor. I need you to take my people to safety. The fighting around us over here is too much to get them to us. Once they've loaded up, get clear. We'll finish this the right way."
The image of the Arconan Proconsul resolved into his handsome figure, face creased by worry. "What exactly is it that you intend to do about that Allegiance-Class? Not to mention its support ships?"
A dark chuckle escaped from the throat of the shapeshifter on the other side of the communication. His scarred face contrasted from that of the unblemished Arconan's.
"I'll do what one does best in these situations,” he murmured. “I'll make it explode and take them with it. The Perdition is nearly empty, its fighters all but depleted. It's time to make one last good use of it."
The Hapan's face remained an impassive mask, but his eyes betrayed him. Tra'an could see the shock of realisation flashing through the Hapan's mind. It seemed drastic even to him, and yet, the logistical part of his mind ruled it as the only reasonable suggestion that didn't put the Arconan forces at continued risk.
"Very well. We'll get them to safety until you can come claim them. I assume you'll be coming with us?" the Arconae asked.
"We shouldn't be that far behind you, situation permitting," Tra'an replied.
"See you on the other side then, brother."
Tra'an nodded, and his image vanished as Marick began to give the orders to receive the the Plagueian units.
Kal di Plagia Vorrac looked at his Quaestor with those cool eyes of his that seemed to always be one step ahead of the universe. When the shapeshifter beckoned, he approached with trepidation and understanding. Having heard the entirety of the last conversation, there could only be one reason for him to be called on now.
"Kal, I need the hyperspace com you keep in your left arm."
The Sith reached for his normal com unit.
"Not that one, the other one,” corrected Tra’an. “The one that you've hoped never to use, that was passed to you by Alaris, and Braecen before him."
Kal stopped for a moment before turning to face the man defined as the Will of Plagueis.
"You would destroy everything? You would remove all trace of our existence?"
The sentence was flat and cold. Tra'an couldn't help but wonder if there were flames held at bay, waiting for an excuse to burst forth. He was more afraid of there being none. The di Plagia knew the answer before the question was even out of his mouth. The set of Tra'an's jaw and the look in his eyes indicated that this was not a joke and was not a question.
"It's time for Clan Plagueis to die like the planets that it inhabited. Our Temple is now the home to a bio-weapon so virulent that we couldn't go back if we wanted to. Our home planet has been infested so long that the mutations are now visible. The best thing we can do is make it seem like it's just an unfortunate event. We needn't leave anything to point to something else."
Kal nodded thoughtfully, still thinking about the abandonment and destruction of everything he'd ever known to be of Plagueis. With a twisting motion, the unusual metal arm relinquished its hidden item, one that no Plagueian leader had ever seriously considered, until now. Kal handed it over to his Quaestor, inner turmoil clearly visible. It felt like failure to them both, and yet, there was something else, something they had both been suffering with for some time.
"As the visions have foretold, it has come. May Chi Long forgive us." Tra'an's words echoed across the bridge, resounding almost as if they were words of import and prophecy, despite the fact that the Grand Master and founder of Plagueis lay dead and destroyed upon the blasted and tainted surface of Kapsina, far below.
With a twist, the hidden button emerged from its hidden crevice, a plain burnished steel color as the rest of the device, giving no sign that it would bring about the destruction of edifices that had long stood as testament to Darkness and Power. As it was depressed, the communications array of the Ascendancy sent forth bursts of coded transmissions to Kapsina, Morroth, and all the dark places where the Plagueis hand of Plagueis had fallen and could be felt.
It started with a low rumble, as the foundations were disintegrated in the first wave of explosions. The gigantic obsidian colored stones simply ceased to exist as the explosive charges within exploded as one, turning the solid stone into powder that blew away with the wind. As the Tower began to fall, each level suffered for disintegration as carefully emplaced explosives further detonated like gigantic red snakes writhing all over and within the tower.
The Tower of Plagueis, built by Braecen, embraced by Chi Long, last home of Clan Plagueis, ceased to exist in a matter of minutes. The shifting sand from around the tower, stirred up by the precision destruction, began to pour into the empty cavity as the wind howled into a sandstorm as at last it blew over the places it had been denied for so long.
Temple of Plagueis
The floors of the Temple lay littered with the dead. Even now, the corpses of Journeymen lay upon the floors without regard to their former status as members of the Ascendant House. Every so often, the corpse of an unlucky Equite could be spotted, surrounded by a mass of those who had been enthralled in the madness of the Horizon Virus. In the Ante-Chamber, there lay only a few who had been attended to with care.
They had been those who unlike the many faceless and nameless, had been special. A headstone carved with a lightsaber represented Unus Domus, former General of the Directorate. Upon a stone slab lay the composed features and closed eyes of Libra Tzo, Tra'an Reith's long time companion and aide. Beside her were the corpses of several others that had been worth more than the many who lay strewn about.
A beeping began underneath them as the carefully emplaced reactor began to slowly override its containment and security protocols. The Temple began to rumble as each of the four others did the same. With the timing only a droid managed power network could produce each reactor overloaded and breached in unison. The seat of lore and dark learning that had been the hallmark of Plagueis was obliterated, the House's last link to the long dead Sith whose name they had taken was gone.
The blinding flash could be seen clear from orbit, a massive white fireball that consumed not only the temple, but nearly a mile of surrounding ice, leaving what resembled an impact crater. As the snow and ice surrounding it began to melt from the heat, it re-froze almost immediately, leaving behind an odd look of rivers and streams frozen in time. The atmosphere swirled from the turmoil, the storms being pushed clear across the planet. For the first time in millennia, Morroth sat quiet, without storms to obscure the view of the universe from its perpetual darkness.
In the Boneyard, the wyrms stirred. Perhaps in time the planet would return to being covered by them, leaving it the way it was before the Sith had discovered it. For now, they roared their triumph of survival and began to tunnel free from their prison, ready to return to exploring the world of ice that once again belonged to them.
"Sir, there's something strange happening with the Ascendancy. It's broadcasting something...different," the communications officer reported back to his Proconsul.
Marick's brow furrowed as he considered that if the experienced ex-Imperial thought that it was weird, then chances were that it was of arcane origin, and not normal by any stretch.
"Call the Ascendancy. I want to speak to Quaestor Reith immediately."
Marick's voice was steady and firm, but no one missed the stress he placed on the timeframe in which he wished the task accomplished. It was but a few moments later when a shaky blue hologram appeared before him. Something seemed different about him this time, even though it had been hardly minutes since they had spoken last.
"Reith, what just happened?" he demanded.
The hologram blurred for a moment while the hands of the communications officer danced and it snapped into perfect clarity at last.
"-- some unfinished business, Marick. Nothing with which you need to worry. It was time to return unto the Universe that which no longer needed to exist. All things must come to an end. You know this better than most."
Tra'an's voice came through crisp and clear. Despite having missed what seemed to be but a few words, the rest made enough sense to the Obelisk that he asked no questions for now, certain that it would come out in time.
"As it is, you should be leaving shortly. This is about to get messy. Reith Out."
With that, the shapeshifting Quaestor disappeared. The blue hologram collapsed and the bustling sound of the bridge returned to the Exarch's awareness.
"Sir, we've almost completed loading of the non-essential's from the Instigator. It'll be ready to...! It's taking heavy direct fire, sir!"
As the tactical officer immediately began to order in the Arconan ships for renewed cover, when Marick finally understood what this was about. He understood, and it made him feel like he was back home in the Hapes Cluster, watching as yet another male was brought to heel, and helpless to stop it. Not if he wanted to survive, anyhow.
"Belay that last order," he commanded.
The shock that rippled through the bridge brought it to a stop. Everyone looked at him in shock.
"We were asked to leave. They were ordered into this for a reason. One I cannot explain to you at this time. You will simply need to trust in me. Bring everyone home. Prepare for Lightspeed. We have a home to return to, and friends to escort to safety."
With what seemed to be glacial slowness, everyone returned to their jobs, retrieving and recalling the elements of the Arconan fleet sent to aid Plagueis. As Marick clasped his hands behind him and watched the destruction of yet another piece of Plagueis, it became clear that this was not a rescue operation.
"If anything," he thought, "it was at least part salvage. The Ascendant House will be lucky to survive this intact, much less retaining the capability of being the war machine equal of the other Houses and Clans of the Brotherhood."
As the last fighters and transports returned to the Invicta, lifepods ejected from the Instigator.
"Too late," whispered the Hapan.
Indeed it turned out to be the truth, as the reactors went critical and exploded only moments later. The superstructure of the Star Destroyer seemed to bend and flex as the hull tore itself to shreds. Durasteel, armor plating, and chunks of ship exploded outwards from the decompression of the weakened hull, overcoming and instantly devouring the escapees in a debris field that would leave nothing alive.
The remaining fighters screamed through the cloud of rapidly expanding material towards the Arconans, only to be met with engines and trailing turbolaser fire. With the Arconan fleet fleeing, they veered off to return to assaulting the Ascendancy and the Perdition. With the latter almost out of star-fighters, it was only a matter of time before it vanished in a ball of destruction, much as the Star Destroyer had just died.
"Captain, contact the Perdition. Tell them that we appreciate their services, but I have one last order for them to execute. Have Perdition set a collision course with the enemy flagship. The ensuing detonation should clear out most of our attackers. In the meantime, make for the other side of the horde. They'll focus on the carrier as it will appear to be vulnerable."
Reith's formerly strident tones were flat and even now. Secure in the knowledge that at last there would be no more premonitions, and that it was time to bring to an end that which had been foretold. With a flat face and no betrayal of the emotional rollercoaster he was undergoing, the Chiss continued to direct the ship with precision, keeping it moving and under minimal stress, over exposing their doomed sister.
The Hapan female appeared on the holocom panel before them. She was disheveled, bearing a long gash down her right cheek where it appeared that at some point she'd run afoul of some debris.
"Sir! What should we do? We're overrun and almost out of fighters. We won't escape without some help, and the Arconans are leaving."
As the captain spoke, her composure gave way just the tiniest bit. Shoulders dropping, it seemed that Elistra had come to the conclusion that she and her crew were not escaping. With a nod, the Quaestor confirmed her worst fear. The almost-human's face blanched before quickly assuming a disciplined pose.
"It's time, unfortunately, for me to ask of you and your crew that which you always knew and hoped would never come,” he announced. “I need you to accelerate at maximum speed, right into that Allegiance cruiser, with preference being to drive straight through the heart of it. I need it to die spectacularly, taking out the swarm of fighters and the other enemy ships that will harry you unto death."
As he spoke, her shoulders straightened. A task given unto only those of the most strident faith, to be asked to do something they knew would result in their death. A purpose placed in trust that she and her crew would not fail.
With a smart salute and snap of the arm, the Hapan, one of the longest serving members of Plagueis' military forces, made the preparations to execute her orders with alacrity, even more aware now than ever before, that time was of the essence. The sensors reported a sudden change of course and thrust behind the Firefox Class Carrier, as it accelerated at one hundred and five percent of maximum rated speed. It was a spectacle to see such a ship barreling down upon another nearly three times its mass without fear.
Turbolaser fire and torpedo blasts began to tear chunks off armor off the ship, leaving behind streaks of ionized gas and misshapen pieces of durasteel and armor plating. The ships harrying the Ascendancy immediately turned and flew to aid their Flagship as it worked to heel and run from the incoming suicidal threat.
Even as they screamed towards the Perdition, it was painfully obvious that there wasn't time to escape the threat. It was even more obvious as the first major hull breach occured, and instead of explosive decompression, there was…nothing. The interior of the Carrier seemed to have been decompressed entirely, preventing explosions that would have weakened the ship and hastened its end.
Kilometer by kilometer, the two ships moved closer to impact, even as the Ascendancy finally broke free of the last of its most dogged pursuers. The Arconans had almost made it to the hyper limit on the other side of the battle, their telemetry showing the Perdition on its suicide run, and the Ascendancy seemingly moving around to finish off the Allegiance Class after its bombardment. As the enemy battlecruiser completed its turn and began to accelerate away, the Perdition closed the gap and slammed home.
The initial impact seemed almost anti-climactic, as the twin pronged bow drove deep into the enemy flagship amidship, durasteel twisting with the force of the impact. It was a heartbeat later, as the reactors of both ships went critical, that the massive explosion of energy vaporized the most of both hulls, and Tra'an played his last card.
Strengthened by Braecen Kaeth and Kal di Plagia Vorrac, Tra'an closed his eyes, laid his hands on the helm of the Ascendancy, and jumped them away, following the last command of the Force.
As the massive energy signature of the explosion faded, it became clear that the compounded force had been substantial. The supporting Victory and Imperial class Star Destroyers had been caught in the wave of explosive force and heat, compressing and melting their superstructure exteriors to such a degree that they tore themselves apart from lack of structural integrity. The resulting explosions were small enough to make out individually.
From the bridge of the Invicta before it jumped, it appeared that the Ascendancy too had been obliterated in the blast.
The remaining enemy ships, bereft of the support of their heavier firepower, turned for the outer system at full speed, to separate and vanish among the many other thieving pirates of the stars. The last of the Arconan forces made their jumps moments later. Jusadih was now free of the living, belonging only to the dead.
The reversion to realspace was not smooth. In fact, it was perhaps the most difficult one that any of them had ever experienced. Their blind leap of faith in the Force had left all of them, including their Quaestor, at a total loss for where they were going. It seemed like it had taken days, though when at lightspeed, time become something almost relative in nature. The only thing that they knew for certain, was that the Ascendancy was in bad shape, and that they themselves weren't much better off.
"Where have you taken us, Tra'an?" Kal asked as he looked out the viewports.
Tra'an ordered the sensor officers to begin what scans their damaged systems were capable of. The first thing that they noted was that they were surrounded by the dark gases and dust of a nebula. Then the proximity alarm sounded signaling the detection of something massive not that far off their starboard bow. The closer they got, the more massive it seemed to appear. Finally, just a few hundred klicks out, the sensor image that had been distorted by the nebula finally cleared. The shape of a space station began to form from the scans, revealing a derelict of unknown age. Beyond the age, it was apparent that what was left was in poor condition.
"It doesn't look like much, but it is something. A place for us to hide and lick our wounds. After all, it's not like we have the strength to remain in the open for now." The subtle tones of the tenor-like voice belonging to the Dark Adept were causing heads to nod around the room.
"Send out a call to the Saraask'ar. We will need them to bring materials." Tra'an's voice brought the communications officer out of his trance, returning him to the duties that were entrusted to him. "And send out the Longest Night beacon. Our allies should come home to us, now that they've managed to be free of the threat of impending death." With a nod and a wave, the officer finished the initial communication, before activating a hidden code within the relay network.
Based loosely upon the Raken Protocol from Revan, it sent out messages to specific datapads and terminals, requiring verification to open and a secondary to decode. It would be enough that the right members would get it and know where to go. They would gather the rest. Soon enough, Plagueis would be whole again. As damage reports began to roll in, the former Revanite stepped aside to look out through the transparisteel upon the looming figure of the largest spacedock he'd ever seen. It looked as if it had been designed to service a fleet. One of enormous size and and variety.
"Perhaps, this might serve as more than just a waystation. Perhaps, it might serve as a place to rebuild. Perhaps many things. For now, it is enough that it is a beginning," Tra'an thought to himself.
The musings of the Obelisk were broken only by the confirmation that the Trandoshans had received and recognized their orders.
"Sir, they say that they will come. It will take a few days to gather the resources, but they will come. They will also pick up our packages along the way. Everything will be delivered in the first shipment. They are wondering though, how we ended up so far from where we were..." The Lieutenant trailed off as the deep green eyes of his Leader turned to look upon him. It seemed as if time stopped before they looked away.
It took the Captain coughing to shake him from the reverie, before he returned to his task, aware that creative communications were sometimes called for, especially with bloodthirsty lizards.
Braecen and Vorrac walked over to stand beside their leader, joining him in examining the derelict. It was the Aedile who spoke first.
"We should explore it while we can. Who knows what it might hold. We were brought here for a reason after all," he said. The smooth and steady tones of the Human left no doubt that the discovery excited him and his passion for all things old and ancient. The hope that this might contain even some shred of something useful filled him with the thoughts of what it might be, even as Braecen acted to temper that enthusiasm.
"Soon. For now, we have to finish stabilization repairs on the Ascendancy. Then we can work on sending a team over to determine what it will take to make even a small portion of it habitable again. After a long time in space, and this looks like it's been drifting for some time, it will need quite a bit of work."
The Kaeth's words belied the influence he pushed for caution and care. Having come so close to destruction, it would not do to die now from an overzealous wish to chase what might be.
"We wait, then. Until we've made sure that our Flagship won't destroy itself. Soon enough though, we'll embark upon finding out what drew us here, and why." They all nodded together, heeding the decision that had been made before turning to embrace their tasks on beginning the long road to recovery. After all, they had to Adapt to being almost nothing again, before they could Avail themselves of their resources, to return Ascendant to the universe.
Orbit of Abregado-Rae
T-Plus 12 Hours Post Emergence At Spacedock
"Why must we wait upon these pesky beings as if they owned us? Have not we built one of the mightiest of slaving and raiding clans in the known Galaxy? Have we not made vast fortunes by selling creatures such as them into slavery in the mines of Kessel and the arms of the Tilanda Til?"
The roars of outrage were stifled as Gharm's presence became known to Tress'kar, the leader of the slaving guild. The glare he gave the crippled former Jedi was enough to impart the moderate amount of fear that he retained of the Force sensitivity the older Trandoshan still possessed, even as he knew that it remained just that, sensitivity.
"Well, I see that you've finally decided to join us. Care to impart some wisdom upon our predicament?"
The flat look he received in return was enough to make even the mightiest warrior flinch on the inside, as it implied non-violent threat. Such as it was, the Clan leader turned to his communications officer.
"Any word on those others?" he hissed. The snarl was met with an answering hiss.
"If they had, I would have told you. I've only been doing this longer than you've been off the homeworld!"
The resounding blow to the head which followed only seemed to stun the sitting reptile., earning yet another hiss of expletives that was interrupted by a droning whine. Hitting the button, the lackey entered some commands and was greeted by a few lines of text, which erased themselves shortly thereafter.
Sighing, the olive-skinned male turned to his superior and shook his head from the ringing still in his ears. "It's a good thing I can still see, or you would have missed that message." The growl coming from Tress'kar was enough for the older spacer to continue. "They are almost here, and we are instructed to open our port bay for them to dock. After which they will come to the bridge and provide us with nav coordinates."
The corresponding growl continued to grow until the snake-like being regained his self control. Beginning to pace, thoughts filled his head, plans and ideas spun wildly before he decided on the simplest course of action: do nothing.
"Then we shall do so for now, and wait to see what fate brings us."
The communications officer turned back to the blank console before him as the XO communicated the orders to the rest of the ship, and the waiting continued.
The Starwind class pleasure yacht settled gingerly into the hold of the old transport. As the hatch opened, the first thing that could be heard was a voice complaining about the smell.
"You'd think that they could at least bother to clean the hold after they have slaves in here. It stinks like Telum after Kal's had at him." The fair skinned human could be seen wrinkling his nose in disgust at the smell of offal and blood. Tee stains could be easily seen, almost as if they'd been left there to make a point, even if the Knight suspected it was only from laziness.
The synthesized voice of the Plagueian Rollmaster could be heard from within as the sniping specialist fingered the blaster pistol holstered on his hip.
"They're reptiles. Those smells you despise are the very ones that they adore. It's not stink to them, it's a smell that riles the blood and inflames the..." Eiko paused before continuing, "...whatever it is that they have for loins. Just keep an eye on everything while we finishing setting this thing to return to the Invicta."
A few minutes later, the silver-masked human and the cerulean skinned Twi'lek disembarked as the ship's autopilot recalculated the route to go home. The ramp closed and they all moved away as it lifted and vanished out of the hold.
The two Equites stared at each other for a moment, seeming to communicate, before Alaris stepped away, with Arden and Eiko forming up on his flanks. Each of them fingered weapons, hands ready and nerves twitching. The alliance between the reptilian slavers had never been an easy one, and the twitching of Arden's fingers on his holsters were proof of that.
As they approached the doors of the hangar, the dividers slid open to reveal a pair of Trandoshan guards with sneering teeth and blaster rifles waiting for them. With a hiss and a barely understandable accent, one of them spoke.
"You're late. You were supposed to be here yesterday. The Chieftain is waiting for youuuu."
As he ceased speaking and the last vowel trailed off, the Twi'lek seemed to just move and the sneer froze before turning into a drooping, drooling slack jaw. The gaping hole in its head from the momentary ignition of a lightsaber was telltale as to the reason of death, matching to the grim look upon his face.
The swallowing sound from the other green-skinned fool led them to believe that such remarks would not be surfacing again any time soon. As it was, fear served to tighten the tongue and shake the muscles. With a look and a head tilt, the shortest of the Dark Jedi had his answer to the unspoken question. With alacrity, they were led straight to the bridge, where they were dumped as soon as the doors open and the pudgy feet could carry their guide away as quickly as was possibly.
With grace and belied anger, the triangle of powerful men strode onto the bridge, their gaze revealing that if nothing else, at least the command part of the ship was clean and proper. A dirty bridge would leave some doubt as to the seriousness of those in command, and their want to be able to conduct the business of piracy and slavery effectively.
As Tress'kar stepped forward, the former Consul silenced him with a gesture. "All you need to know, is that we've suffered a few, setbacks, due to some unforeseen circumstances. This," Alaris tossed him an encoded chip, "will get us where we need to go. Suffice it to say there's been a change of venue. Also, we'll need you to bring along one of the repair ships that you stole in that last raid upon the Imperial Remnant. The Ascendancy will need her, no doubt."
The look of surprise upon the face of the acknowledged leader of the Saraask'ar was priceless. The mask slid back into place exceedingly quickly, any other reaction lost in the swirl of activity that commenced with the departure of the Bloodsport from orbit. The three Dark Jedi settled into a corner to watch the activity, and to observe the communications officer to make sure that nothing untoward happened.
The bustling activity belied the look of the tramp freighter, showing the truth of the menacing teeth hidden behind the facade. Officers that had been asleep or off duty filled the bridge in short order, activating screens that emerged from hidden consoles, allowing the more combat oriented nature of the vessel to come to the forefront. During all of it, Tress'kar barked orders in short guttural commands.
When the being spoke, it was obeyed without question, the hallmark of the fear he had instilled in his troops, that delay meant danger, and that danger meant death.
"That," thought Alaris, "is something that we can use.to our advantage. If he ever steps out of line, we have but to bring him to heel, and they will follow."
It didn't take long for the skilled crew to get the freighter boosting out of orbit and well on its way to lightspeed. The transition was as jarring as ever on such a ship, making the three Force users wish they'd not had the unenviable task of retrieving the remaining vassals of House Plagueis. The last remnants of a might House, now down to a battered Nebula Class and her attendants. One might think to scoff at it, if it weren't for the fact that already Alaris' contingency plans, formed from the foresight of Tra'an Reith, were bearing fruit.
FIrst though, would be bringing the Ascendancy back up to fighting specifications. After that, anything could happen.
"It can't possibly be true. If it is, then fortune has smiled upon us again, and now is the time that we can add a real capital ship to our ranks. Such a prize would make us much more effective. After all, what merchant fleet is armored against a Nebula-Class Star Destroyer?" The crow of triumph and joy was dampened only by the anti-listening device activate in the corner of the room. It would not do, after all, for anyone to listen in on the plotting within the humble quarters.
Tress'kar's words were not falling upon deaf ears. A discrete relay had activated the communications array remotely, allowing the conversation to occur without alerting the Dark Jedi that were mere feet away.
"Even if this is the case, and they are truly alone, you have no idea how many of those things remain. If you do this, you risk everything. If there are enough of them, we are doomed." Harrsh'ka, captain of one of the groups looked back at Tress'kar. "You've done well in growing us without being greedy. Choose wisely before falling into your father's footsteps." As her voice fell silent, other clamored for attention, some in denial, others in eagerness.
"This is a great hunt, one in which we will score many Jagganath points. It is unlikely that very many of them live, if all they have left is one capital ship. I lead this Clan, and I say we attack! The coordinates are attached. Arrange to be there as we arrive, so that we can do it quickly and with minimal damage." The Trandoshan leaders command was acknowledged by all as they left, except Harrsh'ka. She narrowed her eyes, teeth flashing in disapproval.
"You'll get us all killed, or worse. If we end up actually enslaved as a result of this, I will kill you. Slowly, and with much pain, if they do not. Mark my words, no good can come of this betrayal." With that, she signed off, leaving the proud, arrogant Trandoshan alone with his thoughts, as the ship made the transition to Lightspeed.
Tethered to Un-Identified Derelict Spacedock
"Captain!" The lieutenant's voice, strained from all of the talking and shouting they'd been doing as repairs were made, was still enough to get a hold of the master of the ship. "You should come quick. I'm reading multiple emergences, all of them appear to be transport class, but they're not broadcasting IFF's.".The cursing of the captain could be heard clear down the corridor as the alarm sounded. The battle damaged ship was still in poor condition, and it appeared that it might be about to get worse.
"Hail them. If they don't respond, let me know. With the turbolasers off line while we re-wire the control runs that were damaged in the escape, none of the batteries can be fired, even manually they won't work without the telemetry data provided for basic aiming. We'll have to let them come to us." The captain's calm words, while loud enough for everyone to hear, also helped instill confidence and routine order into something that was anything but. The crew picked up like it was normal, changing the battle condition alert as the incoming ships failed to respond for the call to identify themselves.
Looking at the plot, it was painfully obvious what was coming.
"Sound the Boarding Alarm. It's time to prepare for some nasty fighting." The groans of frustration from the crew at the captain's words were belied by the grins on the faces of Furios and Kuro as they rushed from the bridge. They spread the word to every other member of Plagueis they passed and took up position near one of the hatches that usually got hit. Death and Destruction was something they had been hungering for since they had to flee Jusadih, and it had come to them in spades.
The three Dark Jedi had moved away from their corner, eyes on the forward viewport as the approached what appeared to be a massive, derelict space dock. What drew their attention even more was the massive damage the Ascendancy had sustained. Along her flank were gaping holes, some tears running the length of several compartments. It was a miracle she had survived the transitions to and from Lightspeed. The only thing that they could guess at was that her superstructure was still intact. As long as the spine and the main structure were in good shape, the hull could be rebuilt and the ship recertified for combat. It would just take time, that they didn't have.
Even with the moment's warning provided by the Force, none of them were fast enough to absorb or deflect the blue waves of stun energy that came from three of the nearby crew. As Alaris, Eiko, and Arden all collapsed to the floor, the last thing they heard was, "Strip them and throw them in the brig. Make sure to take those fancy weapons of theirs, we don't want them cutting themselves free." The sneer could be heard, as it twisted the words with contempt and laced them in derision.
The crew of the Bloodsport went about their work with precision, carefully finding and removing all of the weapons, tools, and other implements. One of them was foolish enough to reach for Eiko's mask, only to receive a severe shock as his fingers brushed it. The carefully grounded defense mechanism did its job, forcing the foolish Trandoshan back, his hand shaking even as it began to welt.
Laughing at the expense of their comrade, the crew carried the three unconscious Plagueians were away to the brig even as the first of the ships made good contact with the hull of the Ascendancy.
Tethered to Un-Identified Derelict Spacedock
"Now is the time to prepare for war." The image of Tra'an Reith spoke not with fear, or trepidation, but with focus and power. "They are coming to take this, the last piece of our home from us. They are coming to destroy or enslave us, because they think us weak. They think us vulnerable. They are fools." All aboard the ship, both Dark Jedi and mundane, watched and listened, hearing from their leader for the first time since their arrival at the mysterious derelict. They'd been waiting for something, and now, that something had arrived.
"Now is the time to show them that the Dark Side is far more than they've ever heard. Let its power be made manifest. Let them be split asunder and reformed underneath our will. May they renew our ship, ourselves, and our purpose, in blood." As the Quaestor finished his speech, a wave of power seemed to well from within them all, as if the Dark Side itself rose to remind them of their connection to something greater and fiercer than anything those who'd never felt it could ever know.
"Split into pairs or trios. When you've matched up, Solus will give you a location to hold. You must not fail." With his final words, the members of Plagueis moved into position, teaming up to work together to bring to a halt the threat of the Trandoshans.In some places, it was old teammates working together such as Kuro and Telum defending the secondary boarding access. In others, new acquaintances such as Shadowkind, Celevon, and Xathia worked back to back in the confined spaces near Turret Access 1 They all knew their role, they all knew what they had to do. New bonds forged in blood would come to redefine the coming future. At the moment of battle though, all that any were concerned about was survival and retribution for betrayal.
As the members cleared from the Bridge, Braecen approached Tra'an from behind, tapping him on the shoulder.
"You should come with me. I think that now is the time to revive an old friend who has long slumbered after taking a near fatal wound a long time ago." Braecen's words were sharp and focused as Tra'an nodded quizzically and followed. They took a few twists and turns to an unused door that the Quaestor had never thought much about, only to see the Dark Adept unwind the Force from it, revealing it as something more.
A hidden medical bay, customized for emergency stabilization, containing only one med pod, probably originally meant for the Admiral who had never taken quarters upon the Starship they now owned. As Braecen moved forward, the various instrument panels lit up, showing that within floated a being strong in the Force, as strong as the Kaeth himself.
There was something more to it though, as Reith noticed something that no other humanoid would, looking at the form.
"He's one of my kind, another Shi'ido!" Tra'an exclaimed. Braecen nodded as he worked the consoles, listening as the Primarch talked. "He's much older than I am, but I wasn't aware that any other of our kind had ever developed the Force as I have. It will make for some interesting conversation if he doesn't try to take my place." The bitter remark reinforced the concern of reviving someone that was almost certainly an Elder. After all, everything they knew was gone in every way. At least Braecen remained as a stable point of reference.
"As you know," remarked the busy Adept. "Force wounds can take much longer to heal, especially when they reach into the very core of who we are. Khan is no exception, despite being my equal in connection to the Force." The reddish fluid began to drain slowly out of the tank, leaving the shape-changer within clothed in only a modest cloth, his form that of the last appearance he'd worn before his injury.
Eyelids opened, revealing red eyes of intelligent power, locking on to the form of Braecen, seeing only his back. The surge of anger that swelled forth was palpable to the Exarch, as he watched his bretheren awaken from the sleep of near death.
"Calm yourself Khan Imperius Kunar!" Tra'an brought attention to himself, standing in front of the tank, the insignia of Plagueis plain upon his belt.
"I will explain everything, but if you attempt to break your way free now, you'll likely die in the attempt. After all, you've been in a tank for how many years?" The sneering words cut straight to the core of Imperius' being. Even as his anger rose, the snap-hiss of a copper colored lightsaber shocked his mind into awakening fully.
"I am the Quaestor of House Plagueis, and I am your Lord until such time as you awaken enough to be more than weak limbs and a fragile body." The arrogant tone served only to reinforce that this was not some weakling standing before him. Power, albeit less than what nestled within the core of Imperius, served to remind the newly awakened Dark Adept, that now was not the time to fight.
The fluid finished draining, the glass of the tube receding into the floor, metal bars sliding out of the wall for the Kunar to catch himself on as he attempted to move out of his cage.
Braecen moved over to the former Master at Arms and provided him with a replica of the clothing he'd last worn.
"I trust that you are strong enough to at least get dressed?" remarked the Exarch.
It was enough to send a surge of anger and power through the Elder, strengthening his limbs and clearing his mind completely at last.
The grin upon the Shi'ido's face when Kunar glared at him showed that it was a calculated effort, designed to accelerate the pace of recovery until the Elder could be of use.
"Braecen will show you to my quarters where you may rest. At the same time, while letting your body finish waking up, I'll need you to coordinate the will and spirit of our Forces. Apparently you're some sort of great commander...?" With a raised eyebrow, the challenge was issued.
With a nod of his head, the Elder accepted the charge, even as his erstwhile leader turned and left, coat trailing behind him.
Imperius turned to Braecen.
"Why do you allow him to lead this place? What happened to being the Leader of a mighty Clan? That you have allowed my former home to be reduced to less than nothing aggravates me greatly Braecen Kunar. Exar Kun was left in your charge, and you will pay for it."
The other Elder didn't bother to reply as he led his former Clanmate to the safest place on the ship, where his powers might be of the most use.
Eyes that changed color, in a body that rippled as it yearned to change, followed the Krath to safety, even as they yearned for the delicious combat that was soon to come. Blood, and only blood, would satisfy the awakened Sith. Then again, there was always time for blood.
Tress'kar's tooth-filled grin was enough to instill confidence and anticipation into his crew. After all, such a large, obnoxious grin could only be a good thing.
"Let the boarding commence!" Garbed in his war armor, the holographic figure of the imposing leader was re-broadcast across their fleet, his words stirring a war cry of yells and roars as if to let the Dark Jedi know they were coming. Not that it mattered, as already the members of House Plagueis were preparing to defend what was left of their home. Pairs and groups moved to defend key locations, even as Khan Imperius Kunar moved to the quiet Admiral's quarters, to be watched over by his fellow Dark Adept, Braecen Kaeth.
As the Bloodsport attached itself to the command deck, the will and power of Plagueis began to be felt. Deep in meditation, Khan summoned the Force and used it to look upon the battle that was brewing, to stoke the vigor in the hearts of his House, and to began to add trepidation into that of the Trandoshans waiting to engage them. The Force responded to his will, aiding friendlies and impairing foes, the effect growing slowly in ebbs and flows of power. As Braecen watched the Sith work, he could begin to feel the Force pull at him, tugging him slowly away from what was left of his home into the Outer Rim. Focusing on the moment, the feelings faded, but it was the beginning of something that the Elder knew could only end one way.
The hatches opened without fanfare, Trandoshans rushing forth into the places where they'd bored through the armor to make contact. In most cases, they found only two or three people waiting for them. Two or three vastly different people, all of whom seemed to be in robes of some sort or another, with one occasionally in armor. As the grins formed and the green-skinned humanoids rushed in to begin combat, their visceral sense of victory faded quickly, as each person brought to life a weapon known throughout the galaxy, and dashed forward to begin to wash the decks of the Ascendancy anew in blood.
All but one hatch was greeted this way, with the crews of the ships bottlenecked at their entry points, unable to get more than two through at a time, always subject to the effortless killing of the Dark Jedi awaiting them. The lone exception belonged to the Bloodsport, which was unmolested. The raiding party emerged to nothing, silence greeting them like a lover who'd been away for so long, clinging to everything and everyone.
It was almost eerie, and yet none of the blood thirsty, loot mongering reptiles even bothered to pause, so consumed with the idea of taking the great ship for their own. The tall, lanky beings moved forward in a hurry, loping strides quickly moving them along the deck as they approached the shuttered blast doors leading to the bridge.
Tress'kar’s men, emboldened by their unopposed approach to the bridge, started cutting into the durasteel doors with reckless abandon. They thought themselves invincible, stronger than all others. They thought they were attacking a weak foe, one they would easily overcome and bend to their will. They all knew what was about to occur would be a slaughter. There was only one thing they hadn’t counted on.
That their sheep were wolves, covered in the fleece of eaten sheep.
As the blast doors were sliced open and the first reptilians attempted to rush through, they were met by the sickly glow of violet and orange from the lightsabers of the Plagueis’ leaders. The first wave charged the two and shortened their lifespans considerably as the pair of Dark Jedi quickly cut them down in a flurry of light. The second wave was a bit more cautious, moving to split the Plagueians up. They managed to accomplish this by the sheer force of their numbers, forcing Solus back towards the crew pit while Tra’an held his ground. The Shi’ido expended little effort as he dodged the blades and vibroaxes of the bloodthirsty reptilians, slicing one in the gut and spilling its plasma charred innards all over the bridge. As he launched the last of this wave back out the blast door with a telekinetically enhanced kick, a new opponent strode onto the bridge.
“Time to end this.” Tress'kar hissed at the Shi’ido as he raised his Vibroaxe.
Bringing his lightsaber into parrying position, Tra’an turned to face the Trandoshan. “Indeed, it is.”
Tra’an’s air of focused calm was in stark contrast to the unbridled rage of the reptilian chieftain. With a guttural snarl the reptilian charged the Shi’ido Exarch, raising his oversized vibroaxe over his head. The Obelisk easily sidestepped the undisciplined strike as the hulking reptilian whirled back around, the axe swung in a wide arc. Tra’an snapped his blade up, slicing through the haft of the weapon. Unbalanced by momentum of the swing being thrown off, the reptilian stumbled forward and grasped for the sword at his hip. Before he could get it out, and while he was still unbalanced, the Shi’ido’s boot landed in Tress'kar’s back, sending him tumbling to the deck. Using the force, Tra’an launched himself into the air and came down hard on the reptilian, both feet landing square on the beast's shoulders.
Holding the Trandoshan down with the strength of his legs, Tra’an growled at him.
“Sumbit, now. Or I will break you.” The reptilian snarled and struggled, but was still held firmly to the deckplate.
“You were supposed to be weak!” he cried. Tra’an used the Force to push his boot further into the Trandoshan’s back.
“You were wrong. And for that, you will pay a hefty price.” Solus, by this time, had managed to kill or render unconscious the remaining Trandoshan hunters and casually made his way over to Tra’an. Glaring down at the still struggling Tress'kar, he reinforced Tra’an’s threat.
“We could make it hurt more if you’d prefer.”
After several more unsuccessful attempts to stand, Tress'kar went limp and growled submissively. Tra’an seemed satisfied and looked to Solus.
“Activate the comm system and transmit to the attacking ships. I want them all to hear this.”
The Aedile nodded, gesturing to the communications technician that had emerged from one of the covered crew pits. The Lieutenant flipped a few switches and nodded.
"To all Trandoshan Ships, hear this. I am Tra'an Reith, Quaestor of House Plagueis, and I am your Dread Lord. You will submit to me and mine, as your leader already has. If you do not, your death will be slower, and more painful than any you could hope for. After serving as slaves, you will be recycled into food for the our new army."
During his speech, the Exarch dug the toe of his boot into the shoulder blade of the Trandoshan Clan Chief.
"I said I submit! Release me!" As Tress'kar whined plaintively, the Shi'ido stepped back, before delivering a swift kick to the snout of the green skinned reptile.
"Get on your knees and swear your fealty to me. Know that in doing so, all of yours will be bound to me. If you betray me, your entire clan will perish." Tra'an's tone took a darker edge as he continued. "I will personally extinguish every last one from this universe, after ensuring that they know the utmost in pain and humiliation, before being recycled to feed my army. You and yours will have lost all Jagganath points. In the eyes of your goddess, what I do to you will be as a kindness, rather than leaving you to live without your honor."
The foolish Clan Chief locked eyes with his opponent, before turning away and shuddering in horror at the ideas presented before him. Tra'an smiled, teeth flashing before he waived to two of the Plagueis troopers that had come rushing into the bridge near the end.
"Take him to the brig for now, ensure that all the other ships stand down." The saluted and grabbed the beast by his arms, taking him away. Turning to Solus, the Quaestor signaled the comms Leiutenant who flipped off the switch, returning everything to normal.
"Take Braecen, Alex, and a few others we can trust. Get the rest of the leaders bound to us, repeat the swearing of fealty on each ship. Then coordinate and plan for the resupply of our ship. We need armor, weapons, and other supplies before we move forward." Solus nodded, dashing off quick messages to those he knew could be trusted, and were powerful enough, to not only follow orders, but make them stick.
As the Quaestor turned away, he stopped for a moment and looked back.
"Get Alaris, Eiko, and Arden off that ship. Once Alaris is awake, find out which ship yard he stored our new fleet at. It's time that we got back into fighting shape." With a grin, Tra'an walked off the bridge, leaving Solus nodding and thinking, ideas already forming about the new day that was dawning for Plagueis.
Near Ancient Spacedock
Two Days After Trandoshan Incident
"What do you mean I can't come? This is MY SHIP!"
The voice of the Jedi Hunter was loud in the echoing confines of the near empty hangar, still scarred from its recent fight with the forces of the returned-from-the-grave Grand Master Zoraan. The braid from one side of his skull seemed to be moving about frantically as the Human shook in anger.
"I should be the only one piloting the Chaser! I've spent more than a year making her perfect!"
Tra'an Reith's eyes flashed in anger as he pulled upon the Force and used it to smack his apprentice across the face. "You don't understand because you don't listen,” he snarled. “Perhaps if you stop to remember what we just lost, you'll realize that there's more to this than depriving you of your precious ship."
As Zuser stood in shock, anger started to boil to the surface before the icy cold of an arm that radiated power clamped down on his shoulder.
"You have to remember, young one,” said Braecen Kaeth, “he just lost an entire dominion, and the second woman to ever love him, in the space of a few days. Right now, his hate and his anger are boiling below the surface. In time, he may very well find himself lost to the madness, or it may be that confronting the very darkness that threatens to consume his soul will give him a reason to find a balance. Either way, you aren't yet strong enough in the Force. When you find your way to Knighthood, then we can see about showing you some of the ways to defend against the evil that lurks within."
The former Consul moved on without another word, the impression of his power staying with the Jedi Hunter as the Adept moved aboard the Firespray, with Alaris Jinn right behind him. Solus Gar and Eiko finished up the last of the boarding members as Vessicant began the pre-flight on the modified ship. As the hatch closed, the Dark Jedi settling within could feel the engines rumble as they came to life.
Almost immediately afterwards, cursing in multiple languages filtered out of the cockpit. "What in the name of all sith-spawn did that nutjob do to the controls of this ship?" The blue coloring of the commentary was cause for a few grins. "I thought we had a pilot, not someone who could talk the color of their skin?" The acerbic comment by Alaris was enough to bring it down to a low grumble as the Wroonian focused on understanding the controls.
A soft, "A-HA!" was quickly followed by the ship lifting smoothly, and gliding forward to clear the hangar, before flipping and diving towards the derelict nearby. The maneuver was visible from the hangar deck as Zuser was forced to watch his beloved ship dart away without him, taking his Master with it, into the dark.
Somewhere, there was an expulsion of energy. Were it given a sound, it would almost be like a crackling, like paper being crinkled into a vicious ball within an aggressive fist. But it was all quiet, a silent belch as the nebulae within the Stygian Caldera seemed to pull apart like an opening eggshell.
Out of the stream of yolk cosmos burst a Starwind-class pleasure yacht, swiveling around dangerously like a toy without a controller. Within its cockpit was a stunned Epicanthix, head dropped against the console, the whiskey still pooling from the tipped bottle still clutched in her frozen fingers. Her organic amber eye drifted upward only momentarily, the Force simmering within her like Whyren’s still bubbling around in her innards.
Ronovi Tavisaen did not know where she was, nor how she had gotten there. Granted, had she been sober, she could have remembered. She would have remembered the holocrons, the showdown with Benevolent, the venomous but minimal words of the Grand Master as he had ordered her departure.
“Your capabilities as Headmaster have been compromised.”
Compromised. Compromised. Ronovi Tavisaen, once a glorious scholarly warrior, was compromised in every way. Stripped of her stewardship. Robbed of her reputation. Nothing but a drunken fool in space. Lamenting her lost power. Ruing the names of those who had ousted her from her academic throne.
Now, as the glass bottle slipped from her hand, she slumped forward in her seat, the now pilotless vessel bobbing along through the dense region of space, a perilous and unguided voyage. The uncontrolled emergence had been too harsh on the ship, the sheer velocity undertaken proving to be too strenuous on the machinery. As such, the yacht cried out as if in anguish. It cried out for comfort. It cried out for mercy.
And that cry would be heard very soon, but people that not even the former Headmaster herself knew were here and traveling.
“Captain. We’re receiving a distress call.”
The captain swerved feverishly to face the communications officer, who hovered over the console. She pushed her cap away from her forehead to wipe the sweat off her bangs.
“Of what nature?”
“An IFF, ma’am, and a strange one at that,” reported the officer. “It’s using Brotherhood code, but I can’t make sense of it. I don’t know how to identify the ship.”
“Hold back,” the captain ordered. “Anyone out there who can take a look at it?”
“We have the Relentless in the bay, Captain.”
“Deploy men and women to board. We’ll send them out. Make sure they’re well-seasoned.”
The officer knew exactly what the captain meant by that statement.
The group was prepared. The ship as well. Zuser Whuloc, Arden Karn, Celevon Edraven, and Xathia Edraven Erinos. A pilot reluctant to take on a vessel that wasn’t his. A reserved soldier with green, unblinking eyes that never faltered in their gaze. An ink-haired assassin loaded with enough blades to shave a victim into edible slices. And a woman who first appeared small and meek but was not one to ever be denied her power.
They all silently boarded the Firespray, only nodding to one another as they assembled themselves into seats. Whoever was on that yacht was either dead or comatose. They had not been able to make contact with the pilot. In the end, were that person still alive, he or she would be of the Brotherhood, and hinging on the edge of life or death.
Zuser, puffing out his chest, attempted to rev up the Relentless. When it would not give, he cursed loudly.
“Right,” he growled. “I forgot. It ain’t my damn ship!”
He managed to get the thing flying, and it flew well, though he was shaky initially. The makeshift Dark Jedi crew prepared for the worst. Keeping their hands on their belts, their lips drawn into slits, their eyes forward, their minds open, they prepared for the ride from Hell. Celevon fingered the ornate hilt of his katana with a furrowed brow and narrowed silver eyes. Arden Karn gripped his rifle with such ferocity that he was almost hugging it. Xathia was nearly motionless save the hand sliding along the folds of her cloth belt..
The Stygian Caldera was not to be misjudged, for the very mass and scope of it was disorienting. But the yacht was in sight. It dipped and twirled like a forgotten skeleton, stuck in space, yielding to the gravitational pulls all around it. Throwing his body forward, Zuser pushed the nose of the Firespray further toward the ship, attempting to open up a link between them.
“Relentless to unidentified craft. We are approaching your vessel. Make contact now or we will be forced to board.”
Of course, they didn’t get a response. Thus the Firespray pressed onward, its docking tube snaking out to catch the yacht and hold it fast. Arden moved to lead the way, torch and gear carefully packed as he shimmied down the tube. His rifle shouldered, it only bumped the tube once, before Arden was able to free himself. Beckoning behind himself with one hand, Celevon and Xathia tailed him, never shedding their rigid exteriors as they slithered their way into the intercepted ship.
Arden searched for and found a manual override panel at the hatch, only to find that it had shorted out. He cursed in Huttese, ignited a low power torch, and used it to cut away the exterior facing of the panel. Extracting the wiring, he connected a device that Xathia handed to Celevon, that was then passed forward, after replacing the fuses in the box.
Once the decoder turned on, it was a matter of seconds before the hatch slid open and revealed the entrance to the yacht. The interior was cold. Too cold. Almost like a freezer. Arden wiped his mouth and stared into the dim pit that was meant to hold its pilot. He was more than a bit confused when he saw an enormous cabinet of what looked like bottles of dark amber whiskey crammed into the corner. However, he was more amused than perplexed when he recognized who was nestled in the seat beside it.
Ronovi Tavisaen, Headmaster of the Shadow Academy. Or was she still Lyspair’s steward? Her condition said otherwise. She had always been a heavy drinker, but she had never been one to impulsively go on a vacation. And either way, she looked far worse for wear than usual. Her hair, freed from its tie, hung limply in oily curls around the collar of her wrinkled coat. Her chin lay between two controls, her eyepatch illuminated in the thin lighting of the cockpit. Everything else was just slack and crumpled, her arms splayed at her sides and her organic eye half-closed. A half-empty bottle lay leaking on the floor.
Whatever the reason was for her appearance, it was imperative that she, recognized Dark Councillor that she was, be removed from the yacht. And Arden intended to do just that. With the combined strength of his compatriots, he lifted the two meters-tall, ninety-two kilogram woman from her chair and propped her head against his shoulder. Celevon had his arms firmly wrapped around her torso, while Xathia took care of her legs. They would have to work like an awkward, mutated centipede, wiggling their way back to the Relentless.
Obviously, this was not the type of rescue that they had had in mind. Sure, the subject of said rescue was important, but the manner of it was odd and somewhat mysterious. Ultimately, the only concern Arden really had now was how Ronovi would react upon hearing that her precious cargo, one hundred percent alcohol, would be lost in that yacht forever.
The three Plagueians traveled through the tube with difficulty, but their exertions and their occasional Force maneuvers did wonders for propelling them ever upward back into the Firespray. It was almost as if they were primitive hunters, carrying back the carcass of a mammoth. A mammoth that had allegedly gotten so drunk, it had keeled over with its legs in the air. Reaching the final yard of tube nearly sucked all the energy out of them, but they certainly managed, dragging Ronovi’s sluggish body onto the floor of the Relentless and signaling to Zuser.
Zuser took one look down at the recovered Primarch and blinked. Then turned to look at the stars ahead of him. Then blinked again. Then managed two words.
He shrugged and turned back to the controls, making sure that the disconnect went smoothly for them, even as the depressurization of the Starwind sent it into a spin, bottles of whiskey and spouts of loose alcohol spraying out of the loose boarding tube.
Ronovi awoke with the worst headache ever and a terrible dryness in her mouth. She attempted to gulp down saliva, but there didn’t seem to be any left, and the back of her throat convulsed violently, leaving her to cough wildly and uncontrollably. A blurred silhouette of a droid wheeled toward her with a tray, very clear liquid swishing about in a tall glass, the bot’s unblinking eyes hiding a crazed mass of circuits and wires.
The Epicanthix wheezed, rubbed her eye, tried to sit up, and wheezed again. Her vision was returning, but slowly. She recognized the offered beverage as water regardless.
“That’s not whiskey,” Ronovi managed to croak out, her lips feeling swollen as her tongue struggled against the back of her bottom teeth.
If the droid had had any programmed feelings, then they would be set to “Not amused in the slightest.” With an assertive arm, it shoved the tray forward, just in time for a foreign hand to pick up the glass and hold it out. Ronovi rubbed her eye again, and her organic vision, coupled with the awakening cybernetic implanted below her left eyebrow, finally seemed to work properly. She immediately recognized the dark-haired, green-eyed human standing above her, as well as the woman and the man with the silver eyes. Arden, Xathia, and Celevon. The first she knew from Lyspair, the other two from Arcona. But she did not know the other human who stood next to them, his hazel eyes shifting quickly to and fro as he observed the space almost warily.
Arden grinned. “Hello, Headmaster. Feeling better?”
Ronovi could have asked any question. Any question at all. Perhaps a question of great importance. Perhaps one inquiring her present location, which seemed to be in a medical bay. Maybe a retelling of how she got to said medical bay. A pinpointed demand for information about her health. Her station. Her reputation. Anything that bore some shade of significance as she stretched her tall, shaken frame against her provided bed.
Instead, she asked a different question entirely:
“Where’s my Whyren’s Reserve?”
Arden didn’t react, but Zuser certainly did. He guffawed and threw up his hands.
“ ‘Where’s my Whyren’s Reserve,’” he snorted. “The great Headmaster gets saved by yours truly, and all she cares about is her damn whiskey, which just happens to be floating aimlessly in space with her long lost ship.”
“W-wait.” Ronovi stuttered for just a moment before sitting up and raising an index finger, her voice laced with aggression. “Floating...in space?”
Zuser stopped dead. The cautious look from Arden did not help his mood. He was now staring motionlessly at a force to be reckoned with - a knotted up mass of bone and muscle and dark side knowledge-influenced brain matter, holed up behind teeth that were slowly being bared and an eye that was growing colder and colder with each word that its owner drew out from between her lips.
“Y...” He shrugged. “Yes?”
“My whiskey is floating...aimlessly...in space?”
“Th...that would be the...um...” Zuser looked for an escape. Any escape. He smiled weakly, bracing himself for the worst. “S...sorry?”
His next words were lost on him as a roaring Ronovi Tavisaen leapt from her bed as if she had never ever been incapacitated, her fingers making creases in the human’s neck as she sent him sprawling on his back, strangling every last puff of air out of his lungs. Her strength drained quickly, the alcohol in her system impairing her ability to summon energy from the Force, and her body slumped against the sleek floor, allowing Zuser to gasp out a breath just before he would have passed out.
The coloring in his face slowly improved as he was able to breathe again, his gasps met with snickers and snorts from the three assembled members.
"When your Master hears about this, he's probably going to thump you good," chuckled Xathia.
Zuser turned his neck to face the human, groaning at the bruised tendons. "He may thump me good, but he's going to skin you alive for leaving behind that cache of whiskey. Because now? He's going to have to share his with her."
With a painful grin, Zuser passed out. The medical bot moved efficiently to replace Ronovi upon her bed, picked up Zuser, and placed him upon another cot.
The look upon Arden's face, however, was now more grim than bemused, as he realized how right Zuser was. As the Battleteam Leader swallowed, it engendered a nervous laugh from his friends and teammates. As they turned to leave, Xathia voiced aloud,
"I wonder how it is that she ended up here of all places..."
"It doesn't matter,” replied Celevon. "Without that Whyren’s, everyone's in for a foul mood between Tra'an and Ronovi, as if things weren't bad enough."
Arden swallowed with an audible gulp as the doors slid shut.
36 ABY, Post-Khar Delba
The Epicanthix was belligerent, and she was merciless. She took no time polishing the words that sliced the air after they cut past her gums. She refused to pace, instead planting herself flat-footed against the slick floor of the bridge, daringly staring at the Dread Lord, deadlocked, while the Wrath stood stiffly beside her.
Ronovi would not forgive. She would not forget. No amount of electricity, heart halting, or disgusting kindness could sway her in her end goal.
“You asked for a full report, Tra’an,” she spat. “And this is it.”
The Shi’ido rose from his seat slowly. His boots made a sick, slithering sound as he shuffled forward.
“And you stand by this report?” he asked. “That the enemy, Xander Drax, survived, because my second allowed him to escape due to his instinct to protect you?”
“I will not succumb to gratitude,” snarled Ronovi. “The mission, at that point, was simple: Take Khar Shian and kill all those who challenged Plagueis. Xander Drax was a prized target - a Lord of the One Sith. He now has become a sworn enemy of the Ascendant House. And mark my words, due to Solus Gar’s weakness, he will return, and he will cause more than just a few minor issues.”
Tra'an's eyes hardened at this news, his head turning to take in the form of his Wrath.
“Do you confirm or deny this?” he demanded, the fury oozing from his throat..
Solus’s face was stone. His lips were creased, but his eyes did not yield emotion. “I confirm it.”
“You allowed a powerful foe of Plagueis,” growled Tra’an, “to flee, because you considered Ronovi’s life to be of more value than an enemy’s death?”
“You may call me foolish or compromised. I can only confirm your statement.”
"That you would choose to save Ronovi is admirable, Solus...”
Solus did not blink at the next part.
“...among Jedi. We are not Jedi. We understand that threats must be eliminated. Your failure..." Tra'an grit his teeth, resisting the urge to strike out at the Sith. “Your failure is inexcusable. Your title and position are forfeit. Leave my presence, now."
After such a terse and speedy declaration, Ronovi half-expected a fight. Solus did not instigate one. He simply nodded, turned on his heel, and departed from the bridge. No words, no noises. Not even a venomous glance. Turning to the Epicanthix, the Dread Lord examined her carefully.
"The weak are meat, and the strong do eat,” he recited. “You are selected as my Wrath. Do my bidding and eliminate all who stand in our way."
“Am I unclear?” asked Tra’an.
“No,” snapped Ronovi. “But you know I have no interest in dealing with the petty hierarchy of any Brotherhood stronghold.”
“Your experiences in the Shadow Academy could not and should not dissuade you from your end goal of power,” the Quaestor retorted. “To allow anyone to drag you from the road to perfection, as an Obelisk, is a homicide of strength.”
“I will seek out my power elsewhere, without a throne or scepter, and without anyone to do ‘bidding’ for. The Dark Council...”
“...will not strive for any petty retribution against you if I have my say in the matter,” interrupted Tra’an. “Think, Ronovi. I don’t have to be capable of reading your mind to understand your emotional stability. You desire to ascend, and you desire to overcome. You cannot expect the ones who wronged you to fall if you do not play the appropriate games to topple them.”
“If you become my Wrath,” Tra’an cut in with a harsh whisper, “you will be viewed as trustworthy. Perhaps our superiors will build the false assumption that you are apologetic for your past behavior. In truth, you and I would be working to strengthen Plagueis, and when my time is up, you will assume my place. Imagine it. First, Quaestor. Next, perhaps even Consul. The esteemed Dread Lord of Plagueis. That would place you back in the presence of Antei, bringing you ever closer to your wishes.”
Ronovi lowered her head. She bit her tongue, hard.
“I know who you want to hurt. I know who you want to kill.” Tra’an’s lips parted in a sneer. “You give yourself away, Ronovi. You are very obvious to me, with or without Force intervention. And look, if my words don’t yet persuade you - maybe this will.”
Turning to one of the Subjugates, he clapped his hands. The helmeted soldier of Plagueis slipped away from the bridge without a word, and the two Dark Jedi stood there waiting - one of them patiently, one of them not. Ronovi kept her brow plainly furrowed, glaring at Tra’an, but the Dread Lord would offer no clarification. Not until the doors hissed open and the Subjugate wheeled in a rather large crate.
Ronovi looked at the crate, then at Tra’an. She pointed at it skeptically.
Tra’an still smirked. “A gift.”
He silently gestured for the Subjugate to crack open the lid. The dim light of the bridge reflected upon the crystalline surface of the box’s contents, flashing amber upward. Ronovi’s organic eye widened. She strode purposely toward the crate, staring down upon hundreds and hundreds of bottles of Whyren’s Reserve. Chilled, vibrant whiskey, most likely perfectly aged. And it was right in front of her.
“I know that when we recovered you from your yacht, several months back,” the Quaestor explained, “you lost your entire stash of alcohol. You’re not the only one with friends in the black market. I have Whyren’s shipped to me regularly, by the dozen each day. And I will gladly give half of my storage to you, should you maintain the presence of Wrath on the Predominant..”
Ronovi laughed. “You treat me like I’m an incessant drunkard.”
“Ronovi,” sighed Tra’an. “That’s because you are an incessant drunkard.”
He instructed the Subjugate to close the lid of the crate and wheel it away from the bridge. He walked toward Ronovi. He looked her up and down.
“I have given you two distinct privileges,” he murmured, “though I’m sure the whiskey is only an added bonus. I do not give this title to you because I’m kind - I give it because I would have no other second. I know you...”
“I do,” Ronovi growled, teeth clenched. “And I’ll answer your offer with another request.”
Her breath was hot. “I will be your Wrath...if you will see to the improvement of my perceived character among those of the Dark Council. You want me to succeed in my objective to kill those who not only stand in my way, but also yours? You assist me with my tasks.”
“Done,” Tra’an smiled. “I’ll speak with Lord Ashen promptly.”
Ronovi did not bow. She held out a bare hand to shake, her gauntlets having been tucked away in her quarters on the Predominant, the ship that was now under her command. Tra’an shook her hand, not vigorously, but still determinedly, as the light bled downward onto their exposed crowns.
“As I said earlier...do my bidding. And eliminate all those who stand in your way.”
The door to Ronovi’s new quarters harshly squeaked open, exposing the bare-boned necessities. She slowly maneuvered to the sitting room before she suddenly realized that every single belonging of hers lay either in piles or clusters around the tables and chairs. The shine of her saberstaff called to her, and she retrieved it from its resting place atop a chair cushion, shifting the metal cylinder back and forth from her left to her right hand.
The transition had gone very smoothly since Tra’an’s declaration. Whether or not the rest of the summit had qualms was not relevant; the decision had been made. All Ronovi had to do was wait for things to settle, so she could gather her breath and contemplate her next strategy. She sidled toward a chair before hearing a trickle of liquid beside her.
Turning to find the culprit of the sound, she stared wordlessly as Solus straightened up from where he was pouring himself a drink. Ronovi could tell what the beverage was by the smell - Lomin ale, thick and frothy, creating a pearly cloud on top of the human’s glass. He was noticeably bitter, matter-of-factly drinking his ale and moving toward her.
“So.” His voice was flat, but sharp. “I’m assuming it worked?”
Despite the tension, Ronovi could not help a small, sly smile.
“Yes,” she replied. “And I couldn’t have done it without your weakness.”
“I must say,” Tra’an mused as he stood over the console, his glass of whiskey in hand, “the campaign for Ch’hodos went far better than expected. We earned more praise than Taldryan did from both Darth Ashen and Lord Raken. You have to admit that it’s worth something.”
Ronovi did not look at the Shi’ido. She let her eyes drift to the almost empty glass of murky Whyren’s, not quite the glowing amber liquid that she was accustomed to. Perhaps the light of the bridge was playing tricks on her, to perturb her and dissuade her from her next move. All along the periphery, Subjugates and crew silently toiled away at their stations. They all waited for her command.
“And besides,” the Quaestor of Plagueis continued, “the wake of Eiko was to die for. To see our men kneel at the sight of the bloodied mask - it truly reinvigorated them. Exactly what we both needed, to see our house grow stronger.”
“You disgust me,” scowled Ronovi as she swigged down the rest of her brew.
Tra’an’s eyes burned deeply into her forehead, but she did not care. She could hear his breathing, as well as the rustling of his robes as he took a step toward her.
“Why? Because I lied?” he asked. “Or because I came up with the idea first?”
The Epicanthix lurched sharply at that remark, her right arm flailing as she drove her empty chalice straight into the nearest wall like a loose pitch. The glass exploded into shrapnel, denting the steel, and created a muffled echoing before the shards dropped sadly to the floor. No one working stirred or reacted - at least, not outwardly. Ronovi straightened herself out, tore her gaze away from the scarred wall, and wiped her brow.
“You are an idiot,” she hissed, “because you couldn't sense the true vibes coming from the ranks. They are skeptical, Tra’an. They know you are double-crossing them! And that is your weakness. Were it up to me to boost their morale, I would have done it the proper way - glorify the cause, and allow the consequences of death and insignificance to drive our house toward said glory. Not make them pity a ‘comrade’! Treachery only goes so far - it’s flimsy, and it tears easily like an old robe.”
“I don’t see how - ”
“The Plagueians do not believe that Eiko is dead!” snarled Ronovi. “A chunk believe he evaded death and wanted nothing to do with us anymore. That’s nearly as bad as the thoughts from the other chunk, who believes you are tricking them. Your ways do not work if they can see through it. You are not fit to lead if the way you do so makes our house question why you’re still here!”
“You do not speak to me like that.”
“Don’t make me laugh!”
Tra’an took another step toward her, aggressively, his hand slipping toward his waist. Ronovi did not flinch. She knew that the Dread Lord would not strike her, and even if he tried, the crew was already responding. The chorus of clicks and shuffles as boots slid across the floor and blasters were ripped from their holsters only signified the authority that Ronovi had secretly labored to obtain. She reveled in the sound.
The Quaestor did not appear surprised, however, to see the men and women of the Ascendancy rise against him, firearms at their sides, eyes focused on the Wrath. He did not blink as Ronovi laughed. She smiled apologetically, her arms outstretched as she gestured at the display.
“You see, Tra’an?” she smirked. “They stand for me now. They flock to me when I am threatened. If I were to come to you, with my saber, and cut your heart right out of your chest - slowly and methodically, like a surgeon’s scalpel - they would not budge. But if you were to even slap me across the nose with the tip of your thumb, your hide would be skinned and hung up in the main corridor leading to the bridge as an example. You see, they trust me, my friend. They see me as the Dread Lord of Plagueis. Which is exactly the way it should be.”
Tra’an snorted, though not out of defiance. Ronovi’s countenance nearly wavered at the sight of his shrug. His reaction was disorienting, unexpected. He did not claw at her or verbally bite at her words. He appeared resolute, rather than neutered. As if he knew this would happen.
“So?” the Epicanthix spat, still sneering. “Do you accept your fate, and back down from the helm of the Ascendant House?”
Then, to her horror, Tra’an chuckled.
“I already have,” he said.
Ronovi stiffened. Somewhere, perhaps in her own head, she thought she heard a cry of frustration.
“I have already spoken with Lord Ashen, as well as sealed your progression to Dread Lord,” the Shi’ido explained. “It was easier than I thought, in fact, to have you succeed me. I was sure that the Dark Lord would show reluctance to have you in leadership again. But perhaps he pities you more than you and I both imagine.”
“You mock me?”
“I speak the truth,” Tra’an replied. “And I know that, for a while now, I have not desired to maintain the throne of Plagueis. People grow...tired, you see. They feel exhaustion in their bones after holding power for so long. It drains you, makes you age faster. So I break free of said power. And I remain your advisor.”
“Laugh all you want,” the former Quaestor insisted, shuffling past Ronovi and not even wincing as the crew eyed him. “But I will be here. Plagueis is yours, Tavisaen. Let it do whatever bidding you believe is best.”
And that was that. No extra clarification. No taunting. Simply the matter-of-fact reassurance that Ronovi had gotten exactly what she wanted. Perhaps, however, what she wanted bore more consequences that she ever imagined. But as Tra’an disappeared from the bridge, shedding off his Dread Lord status once and for all, Ronovi realized that she was one step closer to her end goal - she now had the recognition, once again, of the Dark Council. The respect part she would work on later.
Turning to the crew of the Ascendancy, who saluted her before returning to their stations, Ronovi waltzed toward an open console and keyed in a transmission code. She intended to send a message to Antei, laced with just the right amount of malice.
“Stay tuned, boys. Ronnie’s coming back.”
Alaris Jinn had never been happier with himself for commissioning a ship with an open bar, because at this point, he had never needed, nor desired, a drink more. The droid who had served him his glass was now busy cleaning chalices, and he kept the wine very close to him, breathing in the fumes of the alcohol and attempting to relax.
Prior to this day, the situation in Plagueis had been precisely the way he had wanted it. He had had an Aedile and Quaestor who he could manipulate or nudge in the direction appropriate to his needs. All had been exactly the way the Twi’lek had desired it. Then, without so much as a warning, it fell apart.
Part of it had been Alaris’s fault. He had remained in the hangar bay in Naga Sadow’s citadel while Ronovi and Solus had chased after Xander Drax as the Sith Lord had attempted to depart from Khar Shian. A fool’s errand, he had thought of it at the time. Had he joined them, this entire mess wouldn’t have even occurred. Instead, Solus had succumbed to complete, and nearly uncharacteristic, incompetency. He had allowed Drax to escape. Had he taken the truly Sith course of action, both Drax and Ronovi would now be dead, and Alaris could have continued being perfectly content.
As a result, Solus had been summarily dismissed of his duties and replaced by the very person whose life he so courageously saved. Within seconds, Ronovi Tavisaen had been named Wrath; the outsider who was nearly responsible for the death of hundreds of Dark Jedi and the destruction of the Shadow Academy when she greatly overreacted in the face of the Horizons Plague. Tra’an now placed his trust in her, and the Right Hand of Justice simply could not fathom why.
Alaris exhaled audibly. He swirled the deep, red wine around in its glass and inhaled the aroma through his nose. Reckless drunk.
"Where's your powdered wig?"
And speak of the devil. His lekku jerking, Alaris turned to see that the Epicanthix herself had popped up almost magically on a stool beside him. Her familiar coat and chestplate were gone, replaced with a casual tunic and open vest, as she propped her elbows against the bar. A lopsided grin glinted on her lips, and her eye, swimming amber, glowed beside an obnoxious screen of blue. Ronovi seemed to patiently await an answer from the Twi’lek, though he was reticent to participate in conversation with her. He forced himself to smirk.
"I don't wear one,” he replied. “The lekku get in the way."
Ronovi clicked her tongue. "Shame. Figured the Chamber of Justice had a dress code. Waiter, Whyren's."
She snapped her fingers and sighed as the droid whirred toward her, clamping down upon an obvious bottle of whiskey and lifting it from the top shelf of the liquor cabinet. It popped open the top and proceeded to splash the golden innards into a glass, dropping a single ice cube into the booze. The Epicanthix appeared more than pleased, lifting up the glass and taking a long drink.
"How many is that today?"
The woman set down her now half-empty glass slowly. The expression smeared across her face was more than skeptical. “Pardon?”
Alaris pointed at her whiskey. “How many drinks?”
“Oh.” Ronovi shrugged. "Eh, I can still count them on one hand. Why? You impressed?"
"Curious, more than anything."
The sound of hot air billowing from Ronovi’s lips was a discomforting noise, one that Alaris wished to halt by a simple swipe of a blade, cutting out the Epicanthix’s tongue. However, seeing as now he was her subordinate, and not the other way around, he resisted temptation. Instead, all he did was gaze at his new Aedile, waiting for her attempt to knock him down.
"You're not very subtle, Jinn,” she finally declared, as if she had only just discovered it. “With your disdain, that is."
"Ha!” Alaris shook his head and laughed. “Very astute. I cannot afford to be. Sympathy is not a trait wanting in my profession."
"I don't ask for sympathy,” snapped Ronovi. “I ask for respect. Which you seem to be a wee bit stingy with."
"Respect? I would be a pile of ash, forgotten deep inside the Academy, if you had your way."
"Ah.” Ronovi sighed again. “ I see. Clinging to the past a bit. It's a shame, really."
"I cling to nothing,” growled Alaris, his tone becoming more aggressive. “I just have a tendency to remember recklessness."
"Funny, when that ‘reckless’ person is Wrath, and you're not."
Alaris glowered. His voice oozed out, hungry and hot. "I have other priorities."
“Oh!” Ronovi suddenly beamed. “You mean like cleaning up your tunic?"
Alaris raised an eyebrow. He glanced down at his robes. They were hardly pristine, but he always made sure they were before any official business in the Chamber. Confusion smudged itself across his face. He looked back up at the Epicanthix across from him. She had picked up his glass of wine and was holding the stem with a clenched fist. Alaris didn’t even have time to cringe at the way she was holding the glass before the woman threw her hand forward, splashing the aged liquid onto the Twi’lek.
Alaris closed his eyes just in time to feel the alcohol hit his face and run down his nose and cheeks, knowing it probably was staining his robes. He cocked his head slightly to the side. He slowly wiped the wine from his chin, then opened his eyes. They flashed amber for a moment before returning to their natural green.
"Oh.” Ronovi laughed and leaned back, admiring her handiwork. “Oh, dear. Better head to the washroom for that."
The Twi’lek stood so abruptly that the stool he was sitting on fell backward, making a dull sound on the slick floor beneath his boots. He could feel the eyes of every patron in the bar on him. He turned and took a few steps away from the scene, but he stopped when Ronovi interrupted his retreat.
"Oh, don't go so quickly!” She stood and raised her glass, talking loudly enough for the entire bar to hear. "A toast, to those who ascend! Oh, that's right. I sort of dumped your drink all over you. Maybe you can get another, preferably a beverage that helps you grow more of a spine."
The Twi’lek turned back toward the Epicanthix and stepped deliberately back to the bar. He placed both hands on the surface and leaned close enough for her to hear.
"The reason you remain alive,” he snarled, “has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the Dread Lord. Count your blessings, Wrath, lest you misplace them.”
He maintained eye contact with Ronovi as he spoke to the droid.
“Waiter. Put her drink on my tab."
"Oh, thank you kindly,” Ronovi warbled, placing her drink on the bar and mirroring Alaris exactly. The two Primarchs glared at each other from inches apart. “You know, you're so cute when you try to be threatening. Especially when you're nothing but a speck compared to the countless adversaries I've faced."
Alaris allowed a grin to encompass his face, then pushed himself up from the bar and began to walk away. When he reached the door, he turned once again and called out to the new Aedile.
"Ronovi, I am less upset about the tunic as I am about the wine,” he announced for all to hear. “That was a fifteen year old Corusca. Such things should never be put to waste."
The words simmering in the air, he at long last disappeared from the space, his lekku bristling against his back. He did not look at Ronovi as she waved at him, nor pay heed to her as she bade him a so-called farewell.
"Have a nice night, Jinn!"
She sat back down in her chair, picked up the Whyren’s in the glass and then waved the waiter over.
"Get me a whole bottle of the Corusca.”
The droid beeped in acknowledgment and scurried off to retrieve it. Ronovi put her feet up on the bar, right crossed over left.
It looked exactly the same as it ever did. The bustle of junior officers attempting to catch the attention of their superiors; a handful of grunts in oversight. One difference was the few enslaved Subjugates who had shown promise during their painful initiation. And, of course, the Dread Lord standing in the middle of it all. Arms folded behind her back, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, facing the viewport.
She should not be here.
This bridge had been under his command; his rightful rule. He had rebuilt Plagueis from the ashes left behind by Aristan Dantes and Aabsdu Dupar. He had destroyed the Dupar dynasty. He had destroyed the Kaeth dynasty. He had brought order to the chaos that was the remnant of Satal Keto and Exar Kun. He had dragged Plagueis through the mud of war and carnage that had defined the struggles and goals of the Brotherhood, as its ally and its Consul. He had left Plagueis and then returned to see it in a pitiful wreckage again. And once more, it had been him who rebuilt it.
Then the devolution. The picking up of the pieces. The destruction of Kapsina. The retreat to the ships. The growing strength of the Ascendant Fleets. The alliance of Reith and Gar. The victories. All reaped from the strewn bodies of the One Sith. Alaris had been there. He had thrived from the success. He had gained from it, because he had a hand in every pot offered.
Now it was as if his hand had been slapped away by a disciplinary stave, his fingers scalded by the cauldron’s contents as he withdrew them. Contents that he could never imbibe or enjoy again.
Because of this woman.
She was only one of two he could not manipulate to his liking. But at least the first he had coped with. With Ronovi Tavisaen as Dread Lord - and with the selection of Ka’Hava’Ve as an obvious peon Wrath for her to puppeteer - Alaris Jinn had at last begun to understand the definition of the word “emasculation.”
He waited for her to turn around - to see him in his fresh robes, his lekku brushing against his back as they dangled past his shoulders. The Twi’lek, despite all the proclamations to the contrary regarding Dark Jedi, could be patient. He would not budge until Ronovi noticed his entrance. And she did.
“Alaris Jinn di Plagia,” she murmured.
The way she said his name was not an exclamation of mockery - not yet, anyway. Not a whisper of contempt, either. Simply an utterance, a matter-of-fact “Ah, there you are,” like welcoming an expected dinner guest. But the Twi’lek, biting back an aggressive smirk, was having none of the subtle patronization.
“Ronovi Tavisaen Tarentae,” he replied to her statement, knowing full well of the negative connotation of using her former clan honorific.
Ronovi did not flinch; she never seemed to anymore. The cronies of Plagueis resumed work at their appropriate stations, none of them daring to even remotely observe the exchange. There was no sign of the Dread Lord’s Wrath, nor the Overseer, nor even any advisors (if she had any). This had clearly been set up to be a one-on-one confrontation. Just the way Ronovi appeared to like it.
“Funny that you should mention Tarentum,” she mused, taking a step toward Alaris and speaking as if she were conversing with another patron at a tavern. “I have spoken with Scion Altera as of late. An old comrade of mine. He’s taken the reins of the beleaguered house, and I actually have a shred of faith in the old Firebird. Your thoughts?”
“I didn’t think you cared.”
“You’re right. I don’t.” Ronovi let out a scathing, nearly cartoonish bubble of laughter. The fingers on her right hand twitched somewhat, but not enough to display exaggerated intoxication. She had been drinking, though. That was for sure. “But sometimes, it’s entertaining to hear you speak. Your fluency in Basic is most impressive. Especially when using it to communicate with Reith. Alone. Without other ears.”
Alaris blinked once, slowly, and inhaled. The Epicanthix was obviously referring to his latest conspiracy to boost the resolve of Plagueis - the disappearance of Eiko, and his created martyrdom. It was indeed the reality that he and Tra’an had worked together, and in solitude, to fake the former Rollmaster’s death in order to stir up the blood of Plagueians who had perhaps succumbed to ennui. And given Ronovi’s blatant disregard for the authority of her former Dread Lord, they had left her out of the conversation.
Yet another mistake. The Twi’lek had made too many of them as of late. He had underestimated the drunkard, as he always seemed to do. She had inebriated the ranks of Plagueis with skepticism and doubt, even before they had begun to question Tra’an’s motives as Quaestor or the alleged sacrifice of Eiko to the cause. Even with the success on Ch’hodos, a success Alaris still considered to be petty compared to the conquests of both Nfolgai and Khar Delba, nothing seemed to sate their uncertainty.
Until Ronovi usurped the helm of the Ascendant Fleet. Fools.
“Did you summon me here simply to mock me,” he demanded, “or is there something I can do to serve you, Dread Lord?”
Alaris’s prodding wasn’t working the way it usually did. There would be no wine stained robes today, no physical shaming on the top deck of the Ascendancy. Ronovi had something else in mind for him, but for the life of him, he could not ascertain as to what.
“Have you taken a look at Athiss, Jinn?”
He raised his head sharply, eyes on the viewing portal and not the Quaestor. Athiss at first seemed frivolous enough, but he had done his research on it and was well aware of the tomb and ruins that it held. The remains of Vodal Kressh and his allies awaited the house’s arrival.
Ronovi smiled. “You will be serving me on the frontlines. Following our naval maneuvers, of course - I expect you on the Terminus for that, while we pinpoint our enemy's fleets. But on Athiss's surface, it’ll be a lot of scavenging. Reconnaissance. I figured you wouldn’t mind.”
“And if I do?”
The woman sneered agonizingly, revealing teeth as amber as her one organic eye. Her blue eyepatch, for the first time to Alaris, actually appeared intimidating.
Alaris felt his own eyes blaze. Gold was creeping into his own irises.
“This is what you expect of me?” he intoned, rather than snapped. “To act as your attack dog? No, not even that. I’m your personal Subjugate.”
He wrenched his saber out of his belt with his left hand. He did it without ceremony, without warning, and without grandeur. The viridian blade burst from the dark durasteel hilt and was pointed, accusingly, at Ronovi. He sneered. It would be too easy to slice her into two rough halves. But he would relish in it all the same.
But the clicking and cocking of firearms - the rotation of metal snouts all turned toward him, simultaneously, in an eerie chorus of unison military resolve, the movement completed almost exactly at the same time as Alaris had drawn his weapon - told him otherwise. And now, without his adversary even pausing to retrieve her own saberstaff, he was facing down the glistening, and faceless, visors of three dozen officers and Subjugates as they aimed their blasters directly at all parts of his anatomy.
Alaris was completely frozen. The adrenaline pumping through his blood thumped loudly in his ears. His breath synchronized with Ronovi’s rhythmic respirations. The realization burned into him slowly, but steadily. He allowed his gaze to scan the room. Officers he had served with for years, officers he had commanded in battle, promoted, demoted, respected, and honored. Rachelle Morian, his first officer for the past decade, staring back at him, eyes cold as she pointed a DL-15 at the left side of the di Plagia’s chest where his heart should be.
It was at that exact moment that Alaris truly came to understand the level to which he had completely and utterly failed. The men and women who had once served him were now programmed to eliminate him, like a pest. Their minds had been poisoned with loyalty to their Dread Lord. Stripped of their prior allegiance. And it only demonstrated how far Alaris had fallen.
No. Not fallen. The Twi’lek never fell. He had simply been compromised.
“You see, Jinn?” Ronovi called out from where she stood, for she hadn’t moved since Alaris had pulled out his lightsaber. “Your days gripping the armrest of the throne - the throne you carved for those who became figureheads more than sovereigns under the influence of your advice - they’re over. Nothing you can do now will change your imminent fate in Plagueis, or with me looming over you. Literally and figuratively.”
She paused from her monologue to laugh at her own joke. Liquid fury seeped into Alaris’s visage. He feared that he would pop a major artery.
“What do you offer these servants of Plagueis, my dear sir, that I don’t offer tenfold?” Ronovi continued, holding out her hands as if pleading for a detailed answer. “What further machinations to warp the minds of the house can you devise that I cannot see through, or thwart, or bend to my own advantage? Your formulas for power are tired, Jinn. They lack the sting or sharpened talon necessary for the honors of a respected di Plagia. I would use the phrase ‘washed up’ for you, but it would seem too kind and give you the wrong idea. You are, as I consider it now, rendered irrelevant to anything but the bidding you do for me. You no longer threaten me or anyone else with a twisted scepter or a plasma sword. You will no longer see others bow to you or your senseless whims. You will bow to your Dread Lord, as all others in the Ascendant House are obligated to do. Because you have lost at your own game, Alaris Jinn di Plagia. Because I play it better.”
The emerald haze that surrounded the Twi’lek evaporated with the slippery sound of plasma disappearing back into a metal hilt. Alaris returned his weapon to the belt at his waist. He closed his eyes and exhaled audibly. When he opened his eyes, Ronovi had turned her back on him again, apparently confident in her knowledge that the former Consul would do nothing against her will.
“Now.” She spoke as if the past ten minutes hadn’t even occurred, or they had been snipped out of her memory. “The ruins of Vodal Kressh. According to reports, we’ve got pesky spirits floating about, and we’ll need both Karness Muur and Ajunta Pall to offer manpower and enough mental stability to evade foolish mind tricks and illusions. I would recommend deploying some of our Wraiths as well. Should we approach Naga Sadow forces en route to Athiss, we will work with them to destroy or board enemy One Sith ships. We'll engage both the Harrower and the Terminus...”
“Do not expect me back on the Terminus or on Athiss, Tavisaen.”
He let the words linger in the air, hot and heavy, and waited for Ronovi’s reaction. She pivoted on her heel to face him, the cosmos beaming behind her, and arched a quizzical eyebrow at him.
Alaris felt his teeth dance across his lower lip, but not enough to draw blood. “I will not repeat myself. I forfeit my di Plagia title and my position as Ajunta Pall commander, and I withdraw from House Plagueis.”
“Are you trying to threaten me?”
“Oh, don’t think I won’t return, Tavisaen,” retorted the Twi’lek, folding his arms across his chest. “I’m not quite done with you yet. And as far as I’m concerned, neither are you.”
“Astute,” simpered Ronovi, “to borrow a word from you.”
The bridge officers holstered their weapons and returned to their stations. The humming of consoles brought a consistent underlying sound back to the bridge. The two Primarchs stared at each other, akin to their confrontation in the ship's bar months prior. Alaris braced himself for the predictable outcome: Ronovi’s temper would finally consume her, and she would move to kill him. He had been hoping for this. He knew he could outlast her in any duel regardless of her own endurance and prowess. When it was over, Ronovi would be in pieces on the bridge of the Twi’lek’s ship. His ship. Alaris would be Dread Lord and Plagueis would, once again, be his.
But Ronovi did not stir. In fact, she seemed to ignore him, perusing the work of her subordinates as they set coordinates and relayed transmissions. The now ex-di Plagia eyed her cautiously before she turned her attention back to him, reacting as if she had forgotten he was still on the bridge.
“Oh!” She clucked her tongue. “You’re still here.”
Alaris blinked. “You were expecting me to leave?”
She smiled. “That’s what you said you were going to do.”
Instantly, he understood.
“Well played, Tavisaen,” he uttered. “Very, very well played.”
He departed from the bridge with his head up. His reputation with Plagueis, battered and scarred, would be left behind as he headed for the hangar bay. No one would stop him. No one would question him. The Terminus would no longer have him as commander. Athiss would not feel his boots touch its earth. They were the boots that belonged to who Ronovi would claim was a traitor, a coward, a detractor of the Ascendant House’s purpose. The Twi'lek would be used as an example of treason, corruption, and disloyalty. None of that bothered him.
Alaris Jinn was not done with Ronovi Tavisaen.
And she was not done with him.