Run-On Rules & Guidelines
- Although there are separate teams, this is one story and should be a cohesive whole
- Your team/character is not the main-start. It is a collaborative effort and all aspects are equally important
- Writing (spelling, grammar, structure, etc…), Realism (Use the CS, no god-moding, play each character as written) and Continuity (Read previous posts and don’t contradict each other) are key factors in a quality post
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- Run-On ends on August 15th. No posts are to be made after that date
Awards & Judging
- Clusters of Ice are being awarded if you have at least 2 posts and each post is at least 250 words long
- 1st Level Crescents to the top posts; Must have at least 4 posts of 250 words each to quality for placement
- Posts are based on writing, realism and continuity…the best posts that truly help in building a cohesive story will earn a Crescent
“Stran, when are you going to see that lady friend of yours again?”
“I’m on leave in about a week. We’re meeting up on Corellia. She has some family there, apparently”.
“Family? Wow, so when’s the marriage then?”
Stran glared at his partner, laughter bursting from the other man’s face. Both men were part of the security force assigned to the Shadow Academy. Although much of the duties were done by advanced droids, they were charged with overseeing much of the security. It was the flicker of their screen that caught Stran’s eye.
“Tav, can you check number nine for me?”
“Yeah, sure. You see anything?”
Stran didn’t answer his partner immediately, his fingers flying over the console that seemed to be fighting him. “See anything yet?”
Tav’s eyes narrowed slightly, the flicker of the screen worsening. With a few deft touches he managed to clear the image for a few heartbeats, a small army of droids appearing on screen before devolving into a shower of static.
“Stran, we have incoming. Hit the alert!”
“Already tried and nothing. The system’s fighting me every step of the way and the sensors should have picked them up a long time ago!”
“Get a message to Antei then! Send everything we have.”
“Done, but don’t know if it managed to get…”
His words were cut off as the sound of metallic movement could be heard just behind them, both men turning slowly to see blasters pointed at their foreheads by the same droids who should be their protectors.
<< - o - >>
Office of the Grand Master
“You now know everything we know”.
There were just the slightest of murmur from the four beings sitting around the ornate desk of the Grand Master. Muz was leaning back in his chair, watching the four before him as he allowed the man standing to his right to do the talking. It was a role that was becoming increasingly comfortable with this man, the Voice of the Brotherhood effectively the mouthpiece of the Grand Master.
Leaning over, Halcyon Taldrya punched in a few codes into the desk’s console, the lights in the already darkened room dimming further as a holographic image of the Shadow Academy appeared before them.
“Five hours ago the Shadow Academy came under attack from unknown forces, although our best determination is that these forces were a part of Crask’s army”. Everyone in the room was familiar with the wayward Jedi Master and the havoc he had caused during their re-taking of Antei. “From what we’ve gleaned, these droids have been imbued with a powerful form of Mechu-Deru. They have also managed to infect the Academy’s systems with some form of virus and even taken over the droid security that is located there”.
“Where’s the Headmaster in all this?” former Arconan Consul Sashar brusquely asked.
“I can take this one”, came the voice from the other the opposite end, the least imposing man in the room speaking to those gathered. “The Headmaster and much of the staff had just left for some advanced training exercises with the Academy fleet. I was just about to take a shuttle down to look after things while he was gone before the attack happened and was diverted here instead”.
“So basically a skeleton crew of live beings down there?” the Twi’lek next to him asked, Aabsdu nodding at the Taldryan Cosul. “There are a number of Initiates as well, but non-droid staff is very limited right now. A little too convenient, really”.
“Agreed”, Halcyon announced, bringing everyone’s attention back to the image. “As your briefing packets have already told you we’ve gathered all of the dark jedi currently on Antei to lead the mission to re-take the Academy. We cannot let it stay in enemy hands for any extended period of time”.
Another few taps on the console, and the image zoomed out every so slightly and taking in more of the Lyspair landscape.
“Aabsdu, you know this place like the back of your hand. I know there are a number of hanger entrances into the facility. Use your best judgement as to the one you’ll take. You team should stay under the radar at all times. Sashar, the tower in the middle of the courtyard is your target. You’ll be dropping in from the air using specialized gliders for your entire squad. Your jump should time with Vodo’s team, who will be coming in on foot. They two weapon’s squads will provide cover for your team while distracting from the aerial drop. Ronovi, your team will be the first one in. We’ve discovered where these droids originated from.”
Again the image moved, focusing on a large crater that didn’t appear to be natural. “See what you and your team can determine, and if sage, call in the rest of Alpha Company and then join Vodo’s team to get into the Academy.”
“What are our exact mission parameters, sir?” Ronovi asked, her long form shifting in it’s seat.
“The Academy must be taken back, and in one piece. We’ve done too much re-building as of late. Each of you has a slicer who will be working to solve the virus problem. Get in, get our own systems back under control and secure the Academy. Once done, get rid of the enemy completely”.
Rising from his seat the Grand Master walked slowly to a window, speaking as he moved, “Halcyon will be based on the Cotelin and in overall charge of this mission. The Fist is currently looking at Antei to ensure no such surprised can be found here while the Master-at-Arms is away on other assignments. The Dark Vault is of utmost importance and must be kept intact”.
“Your transports leave in an hour”, the Voice continued, “and your teams are assembled in the armoury. Take what you need and get to the hanger”.
No further questions were asked as the four dark jedi rose from their seats and filed out quickly from the office along with the Voice, leaving Muz to his thoughts.
The armory on Antei was the most impressive Ronovi had ever seen, as the gleam of the weapons within the Brotherhood arsenal greeted her when she stepped into the chambers behind the other squad leaders. Being the most junior member of the quartet, she was careful not to overstep her boundary of command. After all, Aabsdu, Sashar, and Vodo served or had already served in her latest position of power, and if anything, they were people to pay attention to, not to squabble with.
The four commanders were met with forty pairs of eyes, belonging to twenty Dark Jedi sitting around the lockers and displays of the armory. Ronovi scanned the clusters of men and found some familiar faces - Balia Donos, one of her own, sitting alongside members of Arcona, Naga Sadow, and Plagueis. In other group of five sat three Arconans - Ruluk Okoth, Marick Del'Abbot, and Sanguinius Tsucyra Entar - talking amongst themselves beside Revanite Tra'an Reith and a green-looking Protector from Scholae Palatinae by the name of Xantros. As Aabsdu, Vodo, and Sashar all took their places in front of their groups, Ronovi grinned at the idea that the majority of her group was Arconan, an ally clan, with absolutely no fellow Tarenti to boss around.
As he was the superior rank and most familar with the Shadow Academy, Aabsdu was the first to speak.
"I take it you all have been briefed on your mission, correct?" he asked, his slender physique still imposing in the dim light of the room.
Several of the more veteran members, mostly the Equites, nodded their heads. Those Dark Jedi Knights or lower still seemed rather disoriented by it all.
"Those of you who still have questions about the mission, do not hesitate to ask your teammates or your leader, but be sure not to heckle us until after we have boarded our transports," Aabsdu remarked, smiling thinly. "Obviously, you have been told to equip yourself with the best of your weapon arsenal - if you've got a lightsaber, use it. Nothing wrong with a good blaster, either. These droids can pack a punch, but we can still reduce them to bolts when we want to."
"Just what kind of droids are we expecting here?" asked Shaz'air Taldrya Rathden, the curious expression on his face making up for his lack of eyes.
"According to the data we've received, we can assume there will mostly be battle droid variants," Aabsdu replied. "To my knowledge, those include droidekas, spider droids, assassin droids, and YH-1s. However, we cannot safely say how many there are, or how they got to Lyspair, or even when they arrived. We only know that they came from a crater only five kilometers away from our initial objective - the academy itself."
As Aabsdu talked, Ronovi shut her one organic eye, remembering the technicalities of the facility and planet they would arrive on. She remembered that Lyspair was mostly wasteland, with a thin atmosphere - and being such, her team could be vulnerable to the temperatures and possible fatigue once they traveled the surface to get to the crater. As for the crater itself, there was no saying if any more droids would be emerging from that abyss - but it was never safe to assume they were all in the academy now. Returning her glance to the former Headmaster, Ronovi waited for him to finish the details of the enemy they were setting out to fight.
"All right, those on my team, be sure to recheck your equipment before we head to our transport. I will inform you of the secret entrance we will take into the facility once we are onboard. The rest of you may refer to your squad leaders for now. Should any of our squads combine on this mission, refer to the most senior member of us four present."
The Dark Jedi nodded or bowed before shuffling around the armory, checking the saber hilts on their belts and the rifles slung over their shoulders. Aabsdu beckoned Vodo, Sashar, and Ronovi over, whispering to them in a rush of words and energy.
"You are to alert me of any and all advancements you make on your mission," he said. "Vodo, since you're basically on 'distraction duty', be sure to contact me regarding any movement of droid forces toward Sashar's or my squadrons. We clear?"
Vodo nodded, though the Twi'lek seemed somewhat annoyed by the notion of his squad being considered as having "distraction duty." Aabsdu averted his glance to Ronovi, who returned the gaze and saw the blue tint of her cybernetic eyepatch in his pupils.
"Ronovi, as soon as you secure that crater, you are to let me know immediately so we can deploy our reserve forces. The Alpha Company of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Special Operations is a damn good unit. Best not to let them go to waste."
"I'll let you know when we secure and when we find out just what the Hell's going on with these droids in the first place," Ronovi replied, grinning and saluting. "Consider us your detectives, Aabsdu."
"Good, you better keep to that." Aabsdu straightened himself up. "Your code slicers will be waiting by your appropriate transports. Let any of them be killed, and you'll be next. Good luck, all of you."
With that, the quartet separated, each moving to their own squad, as Ronovi glanced at the group of five men awaiting her. She noticed how some of them wore the simplest of armor or the heaviest of robes. The Tarentum Consul smirked at the latter, half-expecting to keel over from the weight or heat of the fabric.
"All right, boys," she said. "Before we do anything else, do away with the excess cloaks and robes, all right? Unless you want to collapse once we reach Lyspair, you may want to dress light."
The men conceded silently, discarding their capes and letting them drop into a pile onto the floor of the armory. Ronovi saw the glints of sabers and blasters in holsters, smiled, and cleared her throat.
"Good, glad to see you won't have heat stroke. Now, given our mission, I expect you all to have at least one canteen on you. Armor should be light and maneuverable, and boots should be good for trekking. Now, I know I sound like a camp supervisor, but hear me out. If we want to secure that crater, we gotta do it practically."
"But of course, madame," Sanguinius teased, swooping himself into a deep bow as Ronovi rolled her eyes. Leave it to her Arconan allies to direct the barbs.
"If you're finished with your display, we have a transport to catch. Like I said, canteens and light armor. We will be responsible for securing the alleged droid site and moving in with the rest of the squads once that's done. So if you want to get in on the action, you better commit."
With that, Ronovi turned on her heel, but not before casting a glance at the newest member, Xantros. "By the way, Protector...distruptor rifle's no good on droids unless you want to snipe them one at a time. Take my advice - go for a T-21 repeating rifle. Works well when you've got hordes rushing toward you."
She pointed out a range of repeating rifles to Xantros before heading toward the exit of the armory, in the direction of the hangar bay, watching as her fellow squads strolled ahead of her while her gang followed hot on her heels.
"The Grand Master gave me an abridged version of what is... or, well... what they think is happening," replied the hologram of Headmaster Taigikori Aybara Dupar after being apprised of the situation, "He told me that you were handling it, and that our current... training operations are of the utmost important and not to be interrupted by a few droids."
Looking at his old Praetor and apprentice and, in some ways, current boss, Aabsdu took in what the hologram had said. He was briskly walking down the hallways towards the hangar bay, where the rest of his squad was preparing to move, "I would agree with his decision. Chances are it's just a few droids going haywire for no valid reason. The only reason we're needed is because the entire damn facility is run by them, and Force help us should they start going berserk within the Dark Vault. This is a strong group, we'll take them down quickly.... Headmaster," he added as an afterthought.
"Keep them out of my office and quarters as well, if at all possible," Taigikori said.
"I'll see if I can make time to check the liquor cabinet," Aabsdu said with a short grin. The holographic image of the Headmaster shimmered into nothingness just as the Dark Adept came around a corner into the hangar bay. His team was already in the drop ship, waiting for their directions to one of several hidden entrances used exclusively by the Headmaster. For obvious reasons, the Shadow Academy was filled with them. Being built into the side of a massive cliff, there were several extra hangar bays built into it for members of the Dark Council. The small manhole they were heading towards was actually an escape route for situations like this one. He had never walked it during his four and a half years as Headmaster. Hopefully it would still be navigable.
He jumped into the hold with the rest of his squad, confident in the speed and efficiency with which they would complete their mission. They were due to exit hyperspace within the hour, and were to immediately drop into their designated locations. Aabsdu looked around at everyone, "Quadrant 11-38 is where we're heading. Now, let's talk logistics..."
Aesir looked around the hold, not recognizing anyone on his team except the former headmaster. Aesir had been wondering why a knight had been put on a team to help reclaim something as important as one of the pillars of the brotherhood, the Shadow Academy. Perhaps it was as he had been told, that he was one of the few dark jedi on Antei at the time; or maybe Dark Summit didn’t think the threat was that great, the reason didn’t really matter to the young Zabrak.
Aesir thumbed his saber as Aabsdu leapt into the hold and the ship took off. The knight was anxious, half from excitement and half nerves, as he always was before a mission; and, as usual, he masked it with a confident, almost cocky, smile, but it didn’t take a group of powerful jedi to sense his true feelings.
“I suppose this would fall under logistics,” Aesir said, “It’s a question that’s been bugging me. We’re supposed to infiltrate the Academy through a secret passage only a few select brethren know, right?”
“Right,” Aabsdu replied.
“So, is this passage completely hidden from notice, or is it possible the droids have found it, and, of so, how many would we be facing,” Aesir asked?
“However slight the chance is, we should assume that they have and expect resistance. However, droids aren’t the smartest things in creation, so we should only run into minor patrols away from the main horde,” the Dark Adept explained, “Moreover, the exact number of enemy droids is unknown, so be sure to keep on your toes. Any other questions?"
Sanguinius smiled at the back of the Tarenti as the Alpha Two One followed her. Whoever organised the teams had a sick sense of humour. Not a single Tarenti under Ronovi's command. How amusing, the Templar thought. Back in the armoury the team had introduced themselves. Sang knew two of his fellow Arconans anywhere. The Qel-Droman Knights who Sanguinius had kept an eye on when he was Aedile of Qel Droma, Marick and Ruluk. He could trust them, well, trust them more than the other two men accompanying them. A Revanite and a Palatinae, the Anaxsi didn't know what to think of it. Well, he knew something, and that something was that Ronovi was going to have a hard time trying to lord it over the Arconans. The Entar would make sure of that. Allied Clan or not, she was an outsider.
But he supposed things would have to work properly if he wanted to get through this unscathed. The Equite couldn't care less about the others, all he cared about was himself. Back when he was a fresh-faced Apprentice, he was idealistic, but now? Now he was more of a realist. A dour, yet sarcastic man who hated himself more than he hated his ex-Clan. At least that was something, Sang thought to himself. I don't have to put up with any idiots from that Clan.
Someone nudged the Obelisk out of his reverie, looking to his side, he caught the sight of one of his fellow Arconans. Marick was an excellent warrior, someone the Templar could rely on to keep his skin intact, despite the rivalry between the two Houses. Something that Sanguinius had tried to work on, the Battleteam Leader knew his stuff. Not to mention he bossed around some of the more senior members of the Entar family on a daily basis.
"What?" Sanguinius grunted.
"You don't look very happy about this assignment Sang." Marick spoke softly, the Hapan accent affecting his speech.
"That's because we should've been lead by Sashar, even if I can't stand the bloody Mandalorian." Sanguinius muttered in reply.
"Cut the chatter gentlemen." Ronovi interupted the pair. "We've got better things to do, like completing the mission. I'm in charge whether you like it or not you fairies."
"Wh-what was that?" Sanguinius blustered. "What did you call us?"
"She called you fairies, and quite rightly too." A new voice interjecting upon the conversation. Sanguinius turned his head to see a sneer etched upon Tra'an's face.
The Protector chuckled as he traipsed alongside the group. but was quickly silenced with a harsh glare from the Consul of Tarentum. "Enough!" the Tarentae snapped. "You're happy enough to insult others Arconan, yet not receive them in return." Ronovi knew that she'd have to impose her authority upon the group now before they left for Lyspair. "Now we're allies in this, so respect me, follow my orders and maybe we can survive this mission."
Sanguinius kept quiet as he grudgingly nodded in agreement. "Whatever you say ma'am." the Templar replied. "We're locked and loaded and raring to go. Just say the word."
The group emerged into a cavernous Hanger Bay, where Aabsdu's group had already boarded a shuttle. Seeing an unused craft awaiting them, Team Alpha Two One approached it.
The transport’s engines vibrated under his boots as Sashar stalked up the boarding ramp, his LJ-50 Rifle slung over one shoulder. At his other, Juda was walking, busy calibrating the gauntlet datapad that assisted him so ably with his duties as squad medic.
“You’d think they’d be able to stop this place from being messed up to haran at least once.” Sashar muttered to his brother, who grunted his assent.
It was common for the soldiers of the line to complain about those above – one luxury they always allowed themselves to share, given their expectations to give their lives for people they’d never meet. It was very rare for them to do more than moan; they all knew what they’d signed up for.
“Who’ve we got dropping down with us?” The red haired medic asked.
Sashar pulled the list up onto his helmet HUD. “You, me, Voden, Talos, that Raaba kid…and Sai.” To anyone else, they’d have just assumed the pair of armoured mandalorians were walking in silence – the former Consul loved in-helmet comlinks.
“Sai…as in the guy you beat on in the Equite ladder? Oh great. We’re going into hostile territory. He probably hates you. He can blow you apart with his mind. C’mon, ner’vod, you know where this story ends.”
Sashar grinned. “That’s what makes things interesting, Jud’ika. Get everyone together in the main compartment. I wanna make sure they all know how we’re getting down there.”
It didn’t take long for the Dark Jedi, special forces troops and the token slicer to assemble. Voden, the other Mandalorian in the squad briefly touched helmets with Sashar as he passed him before taking a seat next to Juda.
“You’ve all been briefed, and I hate speeches, so I’ll make this short. We’ll be dropped from low orbit, basically. 14000 meters above ground. That way, we’ll beat most of the Shadow Academy’s surveillance systems, avoid their SAM sites, and hopefully slip in without any casualties. We’ll be using gliders to slow our descent once we hit the minimum safe height, however we’ll be travelling at terminal velocity for a while. This has its own set of problems – namely the bends. Anyone ever been airdropped?” He asked, glancing about.
All of the Special Operations squad raised their arm, and the majority of Dark Jedi did too – only the slicer (a diminutive Bith male with wide, terrified eyes) didn’t.
“Great. We’ll be breathing pure oxygen for about fifteen minutes beforehand, hopefully to rid the Nitrogen from our systems. We’ll also be breathing canned air during the descent. Once we land on the tower, it’s every man for themselves to secure the immediate surroundings, then we’ll get inside and get him” Sashar gestured at the slicer “to a secure location to try and find out what the hell’s happened.”
He paused for a moment, then rounded on the Bith. “What’s your name?” he asked, aware that having a fully armoured mandalorian staring down at him would be the stuff of nightmares for this slicer.
“People just call me flicker, usually.” He stammered, his delicate hands playing nervously over his datapad.
“Right then Flicker, the one in red and grey armour is Juda. He is your new best friend. He will be at your side at all times. He says drop, you drop to the floor. He says run, you keep going until he says stop. He pisses, you help. Clear?”
“Good. Any questions?”
Oh, Sashar. The level of bad-assery he exemplified in his speeches had not been deflated by his resignation from Consul. In fact, he seemed even more invigorated than before. He was a trooper through and through, just like the rest of the Mandalorians in this flying tin can. He preferred the throngs of battle and comradery, not filling out paper work and dealing with inept leaders. What Mandalorian didn't prefer the adrenaline of being shot at while returning fire in a confined corridor? It was pretty kriffing exhilirating.
Voden quickly pulled himself from his attention deficit inspired day dream and watched the exchange between the squad leader and the slicer. The name, Flicker... so cliche. Did slicers choose those muppet names, or what? Presumably not, or else they'd probably choose a cooler identity, like Maverick, Tank or even Beefcake. Instead, they had Flicker. Now it just seemed like they were going to be stuck with baby sitting, which would just be a thorn in Voden's side, a thought never ceasing to remind him that they weren't just going to be having fun - they would have to be responsible too.
The Mandalorian boy stroked the blade of the sword he so fondly named Vengeance. It was strapped firmly against his armour, ensuring it didn't have the opportunity to get in his way. It probably never would have gotten that opportunity regardless. As soon as any form of combat initiated, it would immediately be swept up into his grasp, arched in a way intended to sever flesh, remove limbs, and break bones. Tonight, however, it would be impaling archaic-design droids.
He was one who preferred fighting organics, individuals that could think and adapt and in return, be read much more easily. Voden was unfamiliar with fighting droids. He imagined that they wouldn't be too difficult, as their programming was much more linear, and would be easier to analyze and deduce, but that was only a hypothesis. It hadn't been put to the test... yet.
He raised his hand while simultaneously questioning, "Any tips on how to take down these hut'uun droids, cyar'ika?"
Once every Dark Jedi in the Alpha Two squad had settled into the hold of the transport, Ronovi boarded last. It appeared that a cluster of men from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Battalion were already waiting for the rest of their team, WESTAR-M5s and "Thunderers" propped beside them like an extra large, metallic appendage. It was at the sight of the Consul that the six soldiers of the battalion stood up, sending a rigorous salute to the young woman. Not wanting to fight the general persona already harvested in her, Ronovi saluted back.
"Good to see we have strong men helping us on our mission," she said, before turning to the corner where someone very different in appearance was standing. "And I'm guessing you must be our hacker."
The slicer was a lanky, youthful-looking woman, short hair crimson and spiked as if in defiance of all forms of gravity. She seemed to present the slicer look quite well - the open padded vest with the datapad stuffed into the pocket, the shirt with the V-neck, the slacks tucked into tall boots, the simple pistol that could pass off as a wannabe EE-3 carbine. The voice of the pilot crackled over everyone's head as Ronovi took her seat, in between the soldiers and the sulky-faced hacker, as her Dark Jedi companions continued their usual bickering and chatting much to her amusement.
"Departing from bay in approximately 30 minutes. Destination: Lyspair."
"So," Ronovi muttered, directing her attention to the slicer, "tell me what theories you've got about this particular case."
The slicer blinked. "Pardon?" she asked, her voice deep and husky as if she had a bad cold.
"Well, you must have had time to think about it, right, kid? Actually, can I call you 'Kid?' You look like you could pass as a juvenile. 'Cept for the voice, of course."
"Whatever you say, Lieutenant," "Kid" said, her eyebrow arched in some implication of mild bemusement.
"Okay, well, Kid, I'm asking you what experience you've had with this kind of stuff. Now clearly you can hack into a computer no problem, but have you ever had any hands-on experience with actual viruses?"
"Haven't had much of an opportunity, ma'am," said Kid. "But I do know my list of computer viruses from history."
"Oh, a historian, aren't you?" Ronovi let her gaze fall directly onto Kid's watery eyes. "So what do you know?"
"Well, the main virus I was told about was one released by some guy who wanted to keep something called...what was it? Oh, right, the savorium herb. He wanted to keep it a secret. You know, he had a lot of people hooked and he didn't want the rest of the galaxy to know about it because he wanted to infect everyone with it really easily. So he created this virus called the Caretaker virus. Nasty little bug, got right into the droids' systems. Forced them to protect any Smiler they saw in danger."
"Whoa, whoa, wait. Smilers?"
"Yeah, addicts," Kid answered. "You could tell they were on the herb because they had these weird grins on their faces. Anyway, the virus would basically re-program the droids to have one goal, and that was to protect the Smiler. That way, they wouldn't get exploited, the guy could get everyone in the galaxy hooked, and he could take over as its supreme overlord."
"Sounds like an honest-to-god mad scientist to me," Ronovi said, grinning. "So what happened?"
Kid shrugged. "Bloke died before his dream came true. Unexpected, apparently. But my point is, he was able to create a virus that directed each droid toward one common goal. And considering the taking over of the Shadow Academy is one, single common goal...maybe that's something to think about."
"So a virus similar to the scope of something like the Caretaker virus," murmured Ronovi, leaning against the wall of the hold before a smile danced on her lips. "See, I already like you, Kid. Just stick with our soldiers and don't get hurt, all right?"
"Hey, be thankful you've got me and not Flicker," Kid said, smirking. "I heard the guy screamed like a girl when he tried to fire a pistol. Slicers gotta be quick to defend themselves, you know."
"Well, don't go too far. These guys here will keep you company," Ronovi remarked, pointing at the uniformed men who simply stared off as if already monitoring the area. The Epicanthix heard a throat being cleared and turned to see her team staring back at her.
"Hate to break up the intimacy you've got there, Ronovi, but how about paying a little attention to us once in a while?" Sanguinius called from the other side of the hold, grinning.
"Oh, sorry. I figured you could cuddle with Marick and Ruluk or something," Ronovi said, laughing and enjoying the look on Sang's face as the pilot's voice could be heard again.
"Fifteen minutes before departure."
Good, Ronovi thought to herself. Only a bit more waiting time before we have ourselves some old-fashioned fun.
Vodo remained still and quiet, occupying a small section of the crew bay to himself. He had no need to introduce himself to acquaint himself with his team. Unlike the second and fourth teams, he and master Dupar alone had chosen their Dark Jedi with the Dark Council's supervision due to the nature of their missions. The members of his team represented four Clans beside his own, but he was well informed on their capabilities and achievements through his agents in TalSec’s Intelligence Division. His quiet, forceful demeanor could visibly be seen to be putting the lone Dark Jedi Knight on edge. The Equites were at least accustomed enough to the over-bearing manner of a long-time leader, or at the very least, with the reputation of the Taldryan Consul. They’d taken all the time they’d needed to load up and board the drop-craft, each team occupying their own, and had been underway longer than the Twi’lek cared for.
Vodo surveyed the portion of his operation that he had not assembled himself. He had on various occasions trained with and fought alongside the 2/75th, but that had been with nearly every company besides Alpha. Alpha One-Three seemed to be a competent enough group. The highly trained operators checked and rechecked their weapons with a focus and precision he admired. The lone misfit was a human male wearing nothing more than a light-armor chest-plate and token pauldrons and shin guards. He sat with his back straight up and rested his head against the metal bulkhead. The man clutched a small hold-out pistol, strapped to his leg, with patience and what seemed to be familiarity. The Consul studied this man, reaching into the Force to discern what made him so different. He was not an awkward, ineffectual computer slicer. If anything, the man’s mental resilience and confidence suggested he was something more.
“Yoong is it?” Vodo’s deep voice quietly filled the crew compartment.
“I take it you’ll be able to take care of yourself down there?” It was a statement rather than a question. Yoong did not respond.
Vodo returned to his quiet contemplation but was interrupted by the in-cabin ComSystem, “Fifteen to touch down.”
The cabin lights dimmed to a crimson red. The soldiers donned their helms while the Jedi fit whatever it was that they had appropriated for themselves. For Vodo, that meant nothing more than his Taldryan Robes and his saber. He would distract the droids, but he wouldn’t require the use of anything more than his own skills to do so. It was Kano Verda that make up for any equipment that the Epis lacked. The Mando Dark Jedi appeared ready to take the galaxy by storm, just as his kind had tried millennia earlier.
Vodo waited till the clamor of armor and weapons quieted once more, “We’ll be setting down 10km from our objective. The pilots have been instructed to come in hot and loud. We are the main event in this operation, as far as the enemy is concerned, so we want them to know we are here. We’ll proceed on foot to the Shadow Academy’s front gate and secure that location till I receive confirmation from Master Dupar that we can advance.
"You all represent something that this mission requires for completion, but that does not make you indispensable. You are not my responsibility any farther than I need you to be. I will see this mission through to completion, but I am not concerned about how you personally fare. If you die here, you were felled in combat and will be remembered by your Clansmen and Brothers. If you survive and see tomorrow, then you have done your duty.”
Turning his attention to the troopers Vodo continued, “Sergeant, I want you to deploy the two speeder bikes first thing and raconteur the surrounding area. Establish a 30m perimeter while we wait on the reconnaissance.”
“Yes Sir. Jervis, Gooze, you’re on the bikes. Mount up.”
Again the pilot announced their ETA, “Ten minutes to touch down.”
“Moreover, the exact number of enemy droids is unknown, so be sure to keep on your toes. Any other questions?" the Dark Adept asked.
Lambow spoke up, voice coming clear through his vocator despite the engine and transit noises of the transport. “Yes, more a practical matter.” The big Wookie waved a paw in the general direction of the slicer they had aboard for the mission. “How are we going to keep the slicer alive?”
Aabs thought, “I’ll let two of you volunteer for the duty. If I don’t get any right before we hit the target zone, I’ll assign guards.”
“I’ll take one spot,” the Wookie volunteered. “I’ve got to pack the heavy stuff anyway,” which everyone could see that he was indeed packing their Mark II medium repeating blaster cannon across his back. As a backup the Wookie also had picked a WESTAR M-5, and of course the usual assortments of ion and regular plasma grenades for the M-5’s grenade launcher attachment, a backup blaster pistol, and of course his dual lightsabers. Most of the other troopers were carrying spare power packs for the blaster cannon as well as additional grenades for the grenade launcher.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll need another before we hit. Anything else?”
The Pontifex spoke again. “Command authority?”
“You’re senior in rank. Barring any contrary commands or barring any of the other squad leaders joining up, you’ve got it Lambow. If he goes down, Shaz’air, you’re up, and so on.” They all nodded in assent.
Aabsdu knew the Wookie wasn’t testing him or his command authority. He had worked with the Wookie before, and he knew him to be extremely thorough and to the point, especially in combat actions. That professionalism spoke well of him.
“As soon as we hit, we break up into dual gun teams, per SOP for the 2nd/75th. I’ll take point squad along with two Jedi, with the other troopers filling out the ranks.” The troopers nodded, well versed in Jedi-led operations. “Lambow, since you’ll be concentrating on packing the punch, I’m going to have someone else lead the second gun team, with you providing that heavy firepower when needed and covering the special asset.” The Wookie nodded easily, although the slicer seemed to bristle a bit.
“Good to go, sir,” the Wookie intoned, nodding at his fellow Revenites, and after a moment’s pause, at the other Jedi and troopers.
“Very well. Anything else?” the Adept said, checking his chrono.
Compared to the two Mandalorians that he was following, Talos d'Tana did not strike that impressive of a figure; instead of a fully enclosed and imposing suit of beskar'gam, the young humanoid was clad in black tactical fatigues with light durasteel armor covering his shoulders, forearms, chest, groin, and shins (that covered his combat boots as well). Hitting the boarding ramp, Talos trailed his two fellow Mandalorians inside.
"For a situation that only came up today, the Lord Voice seemed pretty well prepared" the Aedile thought as he remebered how quickly and efficiently the Dark Jedi were divided up into teams and then those teams put into spec ops squads.
Squads that had already received precise orders, had an established chain of command, and had operators from the 2/75th Special Operations as well as a slicer waiting for them in their pre-assigned transports. It was all very disciplined and even though the Voice had the power of the Force on his side, the d'Tana couldn't help but wonder if the situation at the Shadow Academy was really as "sudden" as it seemed. Quickly shaking off his train of thought, Talos realized yet again how lucky he was that his overactive imagination hadn't gotten him killed by now.
Looking around the dropship, Talos took a seat next to two fellow Arconans; on his left was Juda Kodiak Erinos and on his right was Raaba. He nodded politely to Krath Epis Tsainetomo Keibatsu, one of the Sons of Sadow, and the new Quaestor of House Dinaari, Voden Arjin, before tuning into what Sashar Erinos Arconae was saying:
“You’ve all been briefed, and I hate speeches, so I’ll make this short. We’ll be dropped from low orbit, basically. 14000 meters above ground. That way, we’ll beat most of the Shadow Academy’s surveillance systems, avoid their SAM sites, and hopefully slip in without any casualties. We’ll be using gliders to slow our descent once we hit the minimum safe height, however we’ll be travelling at terminal velocity for a while. This has its own set of problems – namely the bends. Anyone ever been airdropped?”
Talos perked up at the sound of airdropping and smiled broadely as most of his fellow Dark Jedi raised their hands as well as all of the Special Forces operators. Having had previous experience with Special Forces operations, Talos had been trained in airborne insertions. For reasons he didn't fully understand, the humanoid preferred them over any other type of military insertion.
"It'll be a little bit of a change from breaking down the front door, eh Talos?" came the jovial voice of Juda Kodiak Erinos, an Obelisk Prelate and Talos' former Battleteam Leader. The Mandalorian had just returned from talking with "Flincher", Alpha One-Two's Bith slicer, and sat back down on his subordinate's left.
Raising his eyebrows at Juda, the Knight leaned his head back against the shuttle's bulkhead and laughed.
"Yes, sir. I imagine it will be" he replied.
Xantros raised his eyebrows, but followed Ronovi's advice. Despite his battle experience, he was curious what was going to happen down below. Army of droids was not something he had fought against before. Singular droids, of course, but not whole army. It would require him to do his best, or even more than his best, as he was still on the trial period and he was not allowed to use Force powers of the Krath Priest.
Due to lack of a lightsaber, and no right to use even a training one, Xantros was limited to blasters. However, he took several additional thermal grenades, hoping that they would be enough to cause some mess in the army of droids. "I'm going to survive the battle, so I can expand my knowledge and power. It would be foolish to get killed by a droid." he fought.
Indeed, Xantros considered the battle as an opportunity to learn something new. He was in rank of the Protector, lined with more experienced and more powerful Dark Jedi. He knew he could learn much from them. Thus, he was going to observe them and learn on their example as much as possible. He hoped it would allow him to boost his career and rank advancement in the Dark Brotherhood.
Waiting in the shuttle for the departure was boring. Xantros wished to prove himself to be skilled and brave warrior, but waiting in the shuttle prevented him from doing anything. However, he waited patiently. He was aware of the importance of patience and of the fact that rampaging all over the shuttle would definitely not help him. On the contrary, he concentrated, so his mind remained sharp and body reacting properly.
Kano Tor Pepoi
Kano sat silently on the floor of the transport at it grew closer to their destination. Thoughts of the mission and several recent events flooded the masked Mandalorian’s mind. During the briefing he had seen the men clad in full Mandalorian armor. A single word flashed through Kano’s mind as he watched them, aruetiise. Kano reached up and raised the mask from his face so that it was resting on top of his head and glanced around at the others on the transport. He knew nothing about any of them except Teu Peopi. She was his former master’s wife and also a good friend. The last mission the two were on together Kano blew an entire city generator building up as a distraction for an escape after rescuing her. It had landed him in a lot of hot water but his friend was safe.
The Templar checked over his regular weapons quickly to ensure they were in top shape, a faulty weapon would ruin any mission and he wasn’t the type to ruin missions. The Westar-34 was in pristine condition and it was slid back into its holster. His lightsaber hilt was clean and with a quick pressing of the activation button it was noted as functioning. Now Kano moved on to what he had snagged from the armory back on Antei.
The first weapon the Sodowan pulled from his back was a Repeater 3Z Rifle. Kano quickly checked over the weapon one section at a time until it was deemed satisfactory. That weapon was set aside and the other one was pulled from his back. It was an ACP Array Gun. Kano checked over the weapons features and cleared it. He knew it was a close quarters weapon but he also knew that there is never a time when his mission didn’t become close quarters. After all, they were on distraction detail. What better way to distract than to meet eye to eye, or optical input device in this case.
“Lev'I clankers. Dar'yaim is coming to you.”
"Two minutes to touch down."
The barren landscape of Lyspair seemed to glare up at Ronovi as her team's transport finally descended through the atmosphere of the planet. From Antei to the remote moon, it was a brief journey, one that did not require hyperspace, and the Consul could sense relief from all the members of her team. She smiled when she sensed it especially from Xantros, who noticeably fidgeted with his blaster and grenades where he sat.
Looks like a firecracker waiting to go off, Ronovi thought. Just don't go off yet, all right?
From the hold, Ronovi could feel the air concentration of the planet intensifying around them - lighter than that of normal inhabitable planets, but just enough to make the pilot adjust the cabin pressure. Had she been the highest authority, namely as Consul back in the Yridia system, she would be on the crew bay, giving orders to the pilot. However, she was a squad leader, and a subordinate, and in a smaller unit such as this, she was not someone who paraded around acting like the silent, tough commander. Well, though, maybe - but certainly not silent.
By the time the pilot announced that the Shadow Academy was in sight, Ronovi perceived a surge of curiosity from all members of her team. It was as if they wondered if the academy was a living ball of fire now that it was being overtaken by the droids - that it was going down in flames and being reduced to rubble. Ronovi, however, sensed a certain stillness coming from below the transport - as if the take-over was going slowly, calmly, as if not to damage anything.
It made her wonder even more just what the purpose of the take-over was.
Ronovi was snapped out of her thoughts when the pilot's voice crackled a final time. "We have been given the OK to land. Destination: five kilometers from target."
"Perfect," Ronovi said, rising and remembering her equipment - her lightsaber and sapphire blade hung simply on her belt, her SSK-7 locked deep in a side holster. "Lock and load, men."
All of Alpha Two One Squad rose at this remark, shouldering their weapons and awaiting orders. If Halcyon was correct, then their transport was the first to land, a good distance between the Academy and the crater. Ronovi felt the rattle of the shuttle floor beneath her as it touched ground, a shaky but well coordinated landing. Immediately she turned to the 2nd Battalion soldiers.
"Prepare those speeders you've brought with you - we'll make our trek timely but not hasty, to save energy," Ronovi said, nodding to Kid the slicer and to her Dark Jedi forces. "All right, team - we've got a hole in the ground to secure."
With those words, the door to the shuttle hissed open, and the team walked into a swollen wave of heat that greeted them on Lyspair.
1st Platoon, Alpha One Two Shuttle
Tsainetomo shifted in his seat, keeping a silent vigil over the proceedings within the craft as time’s inexorable march sped them towards their destiny. As Sashar continued his briefing, the Epis allowed his mind, usually tasked with the planning of ops like this, to drift. This once, he was grateful not to have to bear the burden of making sure everything was accounted for; every contingency, thought of. Finally, he could simply destroy. The notion gave him comfort as he lidded his eyes, a smile beginning to crease his sun-darkened features.
The Son of Sadow’s thoughts had touched upon his fellow Clanmates, Kano and Teu. He spared a silent wish of good fortune for them when he picked up on the one called Voden’s voice.
“Any tips on how to take down these hut'uun droids, cyar'ika?”
Tsainetomo’s mind shut once again, the presumption of Sashar’s ready answer preempted by his own sarcastic thought.
'Yeah…that sword you’re carrying? Put the pointy end into them.'
His self-amusement elicited an involuntary chuckle from within his throat, and Sashar stopped mid sentence.
“Something you want to add, Sadowan?” The Arconan’s tone caused the Korun-Keibatsu to look up, and his tripartite gaze was met by not one, but two T-shaped visors and a Knight’s glare.
The Mandos. Arconan to a man, and all three wondering if Tsainetomo would need to be dealt with before things got…interesting. He drew himself up fully in his chair, the grin still present.
“Gentlemen,” he began, the rich baritone of his voice barely audible above the whine of the shuttle’s engines. “Rest assured; this is not my first rodeo. Sashar and I have reached a mutual…understanding of one another. That business in the ACC? It has been concluded. The better man won, and I told him so. In fact, we’ve a standing engagement to do it again. Now, unless either one of you” – at this, he nodded at both Juda and Talos – “wants to finish the conversation Sashar and I started, I will be more than happy to oblige you…but not until we’ve done here. Times and places, after all.”
He once again relaxed in his chair, allowing his eyes to close once more. “No one needs to look for my ‘saber in their back; I’d expect the same respect.”
Though by no means Mandalorian, the Keibatsu came from a similar warrior culture, one that valued strength, honor and confidence. With his utterance, Tsainetomo hoped that his squad mates were satisfied as to the nature of his motives.
He’d also hoped that he wouldn’t have to kill one of them after all was said and done.
The briefing was to the point and yet still a little vague. Korvyn hated rushing into a battle without knowing the enemies strength. Still he loaded out as best he could thankfully his duties on Antei had allowed him to bring his Night stalker armor. It offered little protection from blaster and the like but was a little extra cushion against melee attacks. Unlike his fellow Revanite Lambow, Korvyn was loaded out light with just a Vibroknife Bryar pistol and his lightsaber.
“I’ll team up with Lambow to keep the noncom alive.” Korvyn said.
The Wookie gave Korvyn a quick look of approval. The two made a good team, Lambow providing the brute force and Korvyn the finesse. It made for an odd looking duo but nevertheless it was a deadly one.
“Well at least that is settled,” Aabsdu said and then glared at the two as he pointed to the slicer and added, “He dies you die!”
Both new this was no idle threat and commenced to strategizing how best to keep their slicer alive. The rest of the transport was flushed with the sounds of people preparing for battle. Troopers were checking gear and then rechecking it. While failing aabsdu was one thing being responsible for failing to secure the shadow Academy would not make for a happy Grandmaster. It made the teams goal easier though, take the Shadow Academy or die trying because you sure didn’t want to live through this and fail. Droids just kill you; Dark lords were not so merciful.
It was colder than the dead of space, and yet hotter than if standing on the surface of a star. There was a massive energy soaring through him, and he had no idea how to grab hold of it and utilize it. Everything was a blur. Aabsdu could make out nothing except the spiraling feelings within and a distant, whisper of a voice. Knowledge is power.... Knowledge is power... Knowledge is to touchdown... Knowledge is-nds to touch.... Knowl-seconds to touchdown...
"... Twenty seconds to touchdown," came the voice of their pilot as Dark Adept Aabsdu Dupar snapped back to reality, "Fifteen seconds."
He wasn't completely sure what had just happened. He had no doubt that it had been a message through the Force, trying to tell him something as he and his team soared mere meters above the surface of Lyspair, getting ever nearer to the entrance they would be using to reach the Shadow Academy. If there was one thing he would never second guess, it was that a message from the Force was not to be ignored. When they returned to Antei, he would have to take time to ponder its meaning, but for now there were more pressing matters to focus on. The place he had called home for near five years was in trouble, and it was up to him and nineteen other Dark Jedi, along with a grouping of soldiers, to figure out what was going on.
It was ironic on numerous levels. As Headmaster he had had the utmost of security clearance, surpassed only by the Grand Master and his Right Hand. Yet now, only a few months after stepping down to allow more time for his own personal journey with the Dark Side, he was having to use a backdoor entrance to break in. While he had spent time studying the layout of the Academy, he had certainly never practiced breaking into it.
Two years ago, this job would have been a piece of cake. After finally reclaiming the Antei System, Aabsdu and his then-Praetor Taigikori had led a compliment of forces to its moon Lyspair to retake control of the Shadow Academy from the Yuuzhan Vong. As it turned out, the Vong had mostly died out, replaced by Omancor Crask's droid and pseudo-Jedi warriors. The battle had been won, and the ransacked Academy had been rebuilt. Now, two years later, its defenses were not to be underestimated, both outside and within. After all, they had designed it specifically to repel the type of intrusion they were currently enacting.
"Five seconds," called the pilot.
With a slight jolt, the drop ship touched down on the barren surface of Lyspair. Aabsdu stepped out first, followed by his squad's five Dark Jedi, the slicer, and several brutes there merely for firepower. This far out from the Academy, the landscape was nothing but desert, though the atmosphere was strangely tolerable. Neither hot or cold, certainly better than the dream-world he had been in mere seconds earlier.
Forming into a tight circle, Aabsdu addressed the group, "Enter as planned. Clear the initial area before moving forward."
Aabsdu flicked his hand, and with a creak a large steel door flew off the ground several meters away. A cloud of dust and dirt formed briefly before disappearing. It was obvious that this entrance had not been used in a long time. As far as he knew, it had existed since the original Academy, and no one had ever bothered to check this far out when reconnecting the tunnels.
"What is your name," Aabsdu asked the Bothan slicer.
"Ereb," he replied curtly, clearing knowing his life hung in a balance around such powerful Force-users. He would follow orders to the letter, Aabsdu had no question about that.
"You know your orders, Ereb. Until then, do not die. That would be... unfortunate."
Aesir spoke up, "Shouldn't be too hard. We'll bust in, take them down, bust out."
"I don't know," said Mograine, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Well I don't," Aabsdu said, ending the debate, "So let's get going."
“I hate killing droids. Always have.”
Zandro's voice was, as usual before a battle, a lazy drawl that the Sith had been effecting in such situations for as long as he could remember. He knew why he did it too; to try and hide the fear. Even he felt fear before a battle, no one was invincible and the Erinos was more than aware of that fact. As such, he usually spoke aloud to no one in particular simply as a way of ignoring the butterflies that seemed extremely active within his gut.
Eye patch feels weird, need to readjust.
“Why is that? They die just the same.”
“Ah, you see that is where you're wrong.”
Zandro spoke as he untied the scrap of fabric that served as a makeshift eyepatch, revealing the injury that he had refused treatment for from the previous Rite of Supremecy. He had kept the wound as a reminder of what would happen when he let his confidence rise too high, and he had yet to find either a replacement or the proof that he had finally learnt that lesson.
“You see, if you're fighting another person, you can psyche them out. They have so many vulnerabilities to exploit and if you want to fight dirty, you're more than able to do so. Now droids...droids are too uncanny-valley for my tastes. They mimic soldiers, but they are not them. They are basic mobile rifles, and they are boring to kill.”
Boring to kill, but more than capable or filling me with bolts and ending my life way too soon for my liking.
Pulling the fabric over his eye, Zandro tied it in a sharp knot at the back of his head and leaned back. Drumming his fingers on his armoured thighs, the Sith decided to be quiet for a while after his diatribe and examine some of the other members in his makeshift squad.
Right, we have the leader Vodo. Heard of him, never met him before but he seems pretty straightforward as long as I don't mess him around. Tattoo lady, she just looks like she's been through the wars if that arm of hers is anything to go by. Chuckles the Mandalorian, he's gonna hate me if my track record with non-family Mando'a is anything to go by. Plus he's got a lot of weapons, hope he enjoys carrying them all. Another woman, if I remember rightly she's Teu, and I think she dueled Juda during the Rite and rounding out the group is someone who seems completely non-descript. Why am I always the one to be stuck with a load of people I don't know?
Almost as an afterthought, Zandro pulled his Westar-34 pistol from the holster on his right thigh and checked the power gauge, nodding when he saw that it was full before putting the weapon back where it was meant to go. Boredom nagged at him and so he leaned back and spoke aloud to no one in particular, seeing who would take the bait.
“So, tell me something interesting about yourself, might as well get to know each other while we're here.”
"Alright, soldiers! Get moving!" Sergeant Bron Hazon shouted. And, as commanded, nine Privates, all of them wrapped in their black Kraytskin armors, walked out of the transport in pairs, carrying between them a train of teal-colored Zephyr-G swoop bikes. All of the vehicles were able to carry two passengers, and there were nine swoops in total; it was enough to let the six Dark Jedi, ten infantry soldiers and a single slicer travel across the steppes and dunes of Lyspair. From the current position of Alpha Two One squad, only hills and valleys could be spotted, only dunes and slacks. Advancing through the uneven terrain would be odd, but clearly much easier with the help of the bikes.
Dark Jedi Knight Ruluk Okoth, one of the three Arconans under Lieutenant Ronovi's command, passed by the soldiers, accomodating his lightsaber in his belt and by the single rapid taps over every pocket and holster, he ensured being ready. His trusty DeathHammer pistol was in place, widely exposed at his left side, shining below the bright sun. Ruluk had just cleaned it up. His pack of ion grenades was hanging from the back of his belt. His spear seemed to be in place as well, safe on his back. He was ready.
Due to the odd number of members of the squad, Ronovi had the honor of driving without a passenger. She swiftly rode the swoop of her preference. All engines started to roam in chorus with the sound of the strong, merciless wind. Most Dark Jedi coupled with one Private as passenger. Kid went passenger of the sergeant. Once Ronovi started moving, everyone else booted to follow her away from the shuttle, which was left guarded only by its pilots. The wind did its greatest resistance against the squad, but that was no reason to stop advancing.
Every swoop had its own integrate communicator, already linked among the vehicles. "We must be less than one mile away from the crater," Ronovi spoke through the commlink. "Get yourselves ready. There could be remaining droids around, if not still pouring out of it."
Ruluk, with one Private behind him, heard the message clearly. Then, being less than half a mile away from the crater, with several rocky hills in-between, blocking the sight, the Lieutenant stopped. Everyone stopped next to her. Ten to twelve slacks ahead, the top of an SD-10 battle droid could be seen in all its might and size. It was backfacing the squad, so the team was still undetected.
"Should we avoid it or face it, Ma'am?" Sergeant Hazon asked. Ronovi simply glanced forward, thinking.
The cadre of Dark Jedi moved in a tight formation, Ronovi taking point with the trio of Arconan’s fanned out to her right while Tra'an Reith and Xantros kept stride to her left. Behind the v-shaped wedge, “Kid” kept pace while the additional soldiers hovered in a protective, circle-like barrier at the ground teams two, five, seven, and eleven-o’clocks.
Destination, five kilometers from target.
Marick Del’Abbot quickly converted the distance in his head to something a bit more tangible--miles. From his own personal training he estimated that on foot he could trek the approximate three or so miles in under fifteen minutes. With the group, though, he figured it to be closer to twenty. The added soldiers actually bothered the young Battleteam leader. As captain of Arcona’s Black Ops, which operated in small, two-man splinter cells, Marick saw them as more of a hindrance to what should have been a 13-man team only. He also didn’t remember extra four men being assigned to the group during the briefing, making him al the more annoyed wondering just which part of the shuttle they were loitering in if not the hold. Perhaps they had been drinking with the pilot on the crew bay, Marick smirked at the thought.
Clad in the prototype Oblivion Spectre Armor, Marick was easily able to follow Ronovi’s recommendation to travel light. Although the skin-tight armorweave fabric clung tight to his body and covered all exposed parts of the skin, not a single drop of sweat perspired on the Hapan’s body. The micro-processing servos in the material monitored the Hapan’s body temperature and keeping it regulated. The all black suit wasn’t designed for full frontal assaults, but it easily allowed the dexterous Hapan full flexibility all of in his movements. The folds of his flapped lightly behind him. None of the Knights weapons could be seen in plain sight, but Marick was far from unarmed.
Hidden away in one of his boots and one of his bracers rested a slender vibro shiv, his shoto lightsaber clipped to the small of his back and tucked beneath his white, sleeveless and hoodless robe that flapped lightly behind him.
Glancing from side to side, Marick studied the Dark Jedi around him. While everyone had their own pre-mission rituals on the transport over, Marick carefully observed each of his new teammates as he waited for their dossiers to pull up on his portable data pad. He knew enough about his brothers to avoid digging up their information. Tra'an Reith was a Prelate, which meant that he could probably handle his own and wouldn’t slow the group down in anyway. Xantros. on the other hand, was only a Guardian, and while the Hapan didn’t know much about Duros physiology, he wondered how the Guardian would hold. Finally, there was his team leader, Ronovi Tavisaen Tarentae, Consul of Clan Tarentum.
While the Tarenti were indeed allies of Clan Arcona, and the Epicanthix had more than earned her share of a respect in the Brotherhood, it tore the proud male Hapan to be taking orders from a woman. Ronovi had done nothing in anyway to deserve Marick’s ire, but due to his upbringing on his homeworld he always felt contempt toward warriors of the opposite gender. He held his tongue, though, his experience teaching him better than to let his personal feelings effect a mission.
Glancing over his shoulder at the slicer, Marick knew that it was imperative to keep her safe. He figured that Ronovi would take that matter personally, which meant that he could focus on doing what he did best, investigate, hunt, and exterminate.
The group came to a sudden halt, drawing the Hapan from his private recollections. Ahead of the group over a slight dip in the terrain was visible the top of an SD-10 battle droid. It’s back faced the squad, and didn’t appear to detect them.
"Should we avoid it or face it, Ma'am?" Sergeant Hazon asked from one of the speeders. Ronovi simply glanced forward, thinking. Before she could come to a decision, the battle droid turned to face them, hesitating only a second before unleashing a pair of concussion missiles at the closest speeder. The bike exploded in a ball of flame, killing the two soldiers riding aboard it. The droids second arm raised as its head swiveled, firing a flurry of plasma canon blasts at a second speeder which met the same end as the first.
Hazon grit his teeth as he watched his men fall, whipping his speeder into evasive maneuvers as the battle droid unleashed it’s repeating blasters. Another pair of speeders where unable to keep pace though and the respective pilots ejected just before detonation of their vehicles. Hazon and the remaining 4 speeders opened fired on the droid with their blasters. The laser reflective armor stood strong, however, and even after a few shots from a concussion rifle the droids armored plating began to automatically repair itself. Another set of concussion missiles fired, and another speeders went up in flames. And then there were four.
“Tra’an, don’t let it lock onto you and hit it with some force shock." Ronovi didn’t skip a beat as she, the general that she was, continued. “Sang, try and flank it and do the same, but aim for the optics. Slicer, Xantos, Ruluk open fire and try and draw its attention. Marick, wait for my move and finish it off.”
Ronovi called her saber to her hand, but the Hapan was already in motion and moving with unnatural speed towards one of the remaining speeders. In one quick leap the Knight kicked the soldier free of his seat and took control of the vehicle. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Marick noted that he was doing the private a favor.
The Equites flanked to the sides and unleashed their force energy at the droid, which shields sputtered and shorted. Ruluk batted aside blaster bolts with his saber as Kid and Xantros returned fire. Revving the throttle on his speeder, Marick boldly darted forward when he saw an opening, cranking the speeder up to full speed before ejecting at the last moment, letting the vehicles momentum propel and barrel itself directly into the battle droids torso. The resulting explosion crippled the droid, and Marick landed safely like a cat on the moon's surface.
Ronovi, thoroughly agitated by Marick's clear defiance, saw her chance, leaped forward, and with an Amazonian yell descended on the battle droid and sliced once with her saber to lob off it’s head before nimbly switching her grip and stabbing it down into its exposed circuitry.
With the droid “disabled”, the squad regrouped. Marick dusted off his robes and faced a somewhat cross Ronovi.
“Let’s get this straight, Arconan. I don’t care who you think you are, but this is my team, and you’ll follow my orders. I told you to wait for my move.”
“I’m sorry, but I had already calculated our best course of action and took initiative.” The Hapan retorted, calm as can be, which only unnerved the Consul even more. His voice had an aristocratic twang that even if he didn’t mean for it to, made him sound somewhat arrogant. From off to the side, Marick was sure Sang had a giant grin on his face as he seemed to enjoy the exchange.
They now where left with the original two speeders they where assigned, and the Sergeant and five privates, including the one Marick had knocked off. The Hapan noble made no effort to apologize for his actions, remembering the note he had made earlier.
Xantros looked at Marick. The Dark Jedi Knight was so arrogant. His action allowed Ronovi to deal with the droid, but the cost was extremely high. There was definitely another way to achieve the same effect with lesser loses. Xantros shook his head. "Marick, I am only a Guardian and you are a Dark Jedi Knight. With all due respect, you have much to learn. If we continue to take such loses in every single fight with the droids, there will be no one to achieve our mission goals before we even get to the crater close enough to investigate."
Xantros grinned, when he looked at Ronovi. "I am sorry, but I could not stand Marick's speech." Ronovi kept being serious. "Marick, this time Xantros is right. We must be careful. Let's continue our mission, shall we?"
All alive members of the squad moved slowly towards the crater. They used any possible natural obstacle as a cover from the droids. They were extremely cautious, observing surroundings for any sign of droids that might threaten their mission. If they encountered any of them, they would be ready to strike it down with cold precision, instead of brutal force or trick that would cost them more casualties.
Xantros could only hope that Marick would behave in the way that was not going to put lives of his comrades at unnecessary risk. With his experience, the Dark Jedi Knight should be aware of the importance of reason. In Xantros' opinion, not only success was important, but also a way to achieve it. What would be the benefit of a single victorious battle, if whole war was lost, because of too heavy casualties in that battle?
Death in a battle was not bad, but Xantros hoped that he would not be a casualty of stupidity...
The crew compartment was dark except for the occasional emergency light that filled the area. The eerie gloom that seemed to pick and choose who to cover seemed to add to the coming battle that was soon to be upon them. Teu relaxed slightly in the shuttle, her eyes moved along each member in the group casually. They stopped for a moment on Kano, who was armed to the teeth. She shrugged before looking at the one that spoke. Her blue eyes were critical as she spoke.
"Something interesting about me?" Teu frowned slightly as if contemplating what to say, her blue eyes narrowed. "Well...hmmm...Does partially blowing up an island count as interesting?"
Beside her Kano snorted, trying to hide a laugh, before going back to what he was doing. His various weapons on his person made him seem like a walking armory, which he was. Since he redid his armor it gave him a more ominous look. More crazy Teu thought
Teu ignored him, she gazed at Zandro, and she then opened her mouth to speak. "I blew up part of an island. I am a mother of 2. I bake cookies in my free time when I'm not drinking" She chuckled softly; it was filled with apprehension and fear.
A pilot shouted back into the compartment. "Five minutes to touch down"
The compartment filled with movement as people were double and triple checking their weapon. Teu checked the weapons, strapped to her back was a sword. She was alert now. You never knew what could happen on final decent.
Alpha One One
Secret Tunnel Entrance, 10 klicks from the Objective
Stepping down the dusty stairs leading the group out from the searing heat of the orange desert into the cooler, yet warm air of the Headmaster’s secret tunnel, Mograine sighed at the realization that he once again was being dragged down into the trouble of others. His short visit to Antei to meditate close to the force nexus, of which was the Iron Throne, was supposedly going to be a short leave from the stress back in the Plagueian System. However, within short time after arriving the Brotherhood’s capital planet, Mograine had been called in to support the team sent to liberate the Shadow Academy, which supposedly had been conquered by the remainers of Omancor Crask –or something like that. The order of being deployed to Lyspair hadn’t been all “bad-news” as he had catched the glimpse of an old friend of his, Sanguinius Tsucyra, although he hadn’t been able to talk with his former clan-mate as of yet. Perhaps after the operation, that if they survived of course, they had some time before being shipped back to their respective clan systems. Currently tension was rising between Plagueis and Arcona, making it harder and harder to communicate with friends abroad.
The Dark Jedi Knight let Aabstu take lead, as he was the only person known in the surroundings, but he kept close to the designated-Platoon Leader, holding a glowrod high above his head to illuminate the tunnel ahead. The immediate surroundings of the tunnel seemed quite unfinished and not frequently used, as it seemed more like a cave than an escape tunnel from a Brotherhood installation, which often was built with dark marble and impressive architecture. However, as the group progressed, the tunnel slightly turned from its cave-like appearance to Brotherhood-like appearance with a mix of dark marble and modern technology. Alongside the tunnel walls were frequent wooden crates and marble blocks, which Mograine assumed was supposed to finish the unfinished parts of the tunnels.
Not knowing anyone of the group beside Aabstu, who he at best could call only an acquaintance, Mograine had volunteered to be in Aabstu’s group. This left Aesir to be “babysitting” Ereb, the Bothan slicer, alongside with Lambow and Korvyn, making two relatively equal teams. As suggested to, Mograine had chose to travel light and flexible, wearing only dark armorweaved combat garments and a dark-brown cloak, which served as camouflage both in desert and dark-lit terrains, of which they were currently walking. Alongside him, he had brought his lightsaber, of course, along with a DC-19 “Stealth” Carbine and a DC-17 hand blaster that he’d found in the armory. Coming behind him was the other dark jedi knight of the group, Aesir. Being probably less experienced and more arrogant, as well as younger than Mograine, his outburst to just storm in and complete their objective had startled the older knight. On the flight to the moon of Lyspair, Mograine had experienced a disturbance in the Force. Something was not as it should be. Not saying that he was the most powerful in meditation and foresight or anything, but he believed his senses to be superior to his palatinian counterpart.
Throwing away the thoughts of having to compete to prove the better in front of their superior team members, Mograine motioned forward a couple of commandos with his hand. His past experience in the New Republic Special Forces during the Vong War would probably prove useful as they were operating alongside the celebrated 2/75. The pair of black-clad men moved forward in their matte-black kraytskin armorsystem, coming to a halt about fifteen meters ahead, barely out of range to be seen in the illuminating light of the glowrod, as they appeared only as dark silhouettes. Mograine trotted forward, kneeling down beside the pair to see what they’ve found. On the dark marble floor, Mograine could see tracks in the dust-filled floor of something that had been dragging –or rolling down the hallway. Droidekas. Realizing the same, one of the soldiers turned to alert the rest of the group by hand signal. As he turned around, Mograine felt the prickling sense of danger go up his spine. Without hesitation, he threw himself into the turning soldier, making him fall down on his back. At the same time, he’d heard a zap-zap sound from down the corridor, and he could see red light fly above him, to where the soldier’s head had supposed to be. Mograine and the soldier he’d saved rolled out of the way behind a block of marble as another burst of laser hit the floor. Meanwhile the second soldier had found a nearby crate to use as cover, while the rest of the group had found cover of their own.
Alpha Two One
Ronovi could sense what Xantros was thinking, and somehow it was hard for her to restrain laughter. Naivety in newer members sometimes was amusing. The vibe of skepticism Xantros had toward Marick and his ability to reason was to die for - Ronovi knew why Marick had done what he had done. The guy was a Hapan - noble, proud, and incredibly full of himself. But as an ally of Arcona and therefore a woman familiar with its members, the Tarentum Consul knew he was a good warrior, and a skilled combatant and strategist. She knew that the action he had taken had not been reckless, nor had it put the team in any danger. It had simply been defiance of Ronovi's orders, something that the Guardian was now blowing up into a terrible, irrational move. If he so believed that a way to achieve success was equally important as success itself, then he'd have to put his ego aside and understand that it was most likely what Marick had in mind. The Hapan had not been stupid - he had only ignored orders and taken matters into his own hands.
Ronovi admired that in a weird way, though she didn't know if Marick sensed it from her. She had let the Guardian mouth off to the Dark Jedi Knight once - she wouldn't let him do it again. Only I can run my mouth around here for now, she thought to herself, grinning as she kept walking.
The remaining two speeders had been given to a pair of soldiers, who drove them at a slow pace. Clinging to one soldier's shoulders on the vehicle was Kid, who clutched her pistol that was still warm from her part in the fight. On the second speeder, Ruluk sat behind the soldier as the latter steered - as one of his legs was a heavy cybernetic, maneuvering during the skirmish had drained some of his energy, and he was recuperating by sitting on the vehicle, drinking from his canteen.
Just ahead of Sang and Marick, Tra'an trekked in front of the cluster of Dark Jedi, his skin much browner than normal as if it would better handle the sun. It seemed as a much younger Shi'ido than most of his species, he could still manipulate his pigmentation, and now as he seemed to blur with the dunes of the sand Ronovi could hear a strange whirring from nearby. As if gears were grinding together in an effort to maintain a pulse.
The speeders screeched to a half on the edge of what looked like a gaping mouth to the abyss. Yet as Ronovi approached them and stared into the cavity, she knew that they had found what they had been looking for. She beckoned the other Dark Jedi over, watching as they lined up along the borders of something beyond what they expected.
The crater spanned about a mile in length, probably equally as much in width. It was a near perfect circle, just as Ronovi had seen from the hologram in the Grand Master's office. However, the thing about the crater that startled Ronovi the most was what was built within its shallow depths. The glimmer of metal from below said more than just a bottomless pit of earth and sand.
Carved into the crater like an obsidian shard was a sealed facility - small and pyramidal in shape. It was not open-ended in any way; it didn't even seem to have viewing portals. Whoever had thrown this together had been hasty in doing so, as if in a great hurry. If anything, the thing had been built as a storage unit. And that was exactly what Ronovi said to the team.
"Unbelievable," she muttered. "Someone was able to store droids down here, enough to initiate an entire take-over of the Academy. But why and when did they do this? And how were the droids suddenly activated and deployed to the rest of Lyspair?"
"Perhaps a little less talk, a little more investigating, lieutenant," Marick replied, a bitterness lingering on the last word as he pointed at what looked like an entrance to the building, almost like a cut-out hatch. Xantros cast a glare at the Knight and Ronovi gritted her teeth - the Guardian was going to preach to him again.
"Marick, you really have to stop talking down to Ronovi. She's your leader, and -"
But this time Ronovi cut him off. She was not going to take more insubordination, not from anyone. "Xantros, cool it. First of all, I let you talk down to Marick last time because I was a bit too exhausted to deal with an argument. You better be thankful Marick didn't verbally barrage you, he's good at it. Second of all, you can lecture Marick as soon as you're his actual superior. But for now, I would advise you to keep your thoughts to yourself, especially the inaccurate ones about Marick's motives."
Xantros's eyes widened as if shocked that his mind had been opened and practically analyzed, but Ronovi only grinned - how she loved her skills in the Force sometimes. She pointed to both Tra'an and Sang, the highest ranked of the group.
"You two. Find a path down to the facility. If the droids got out, we can get in." Tra'an and Sang nodded. "Use your commlinks to contact me about any activity or findings. For all we know, there could still be droids patrolling the borders."
Ronovi then turned to Xantros. "Xantros, I want you to keep cover over this part of the crater with the soldiers and Ruluk. You'll be our watchmen for now. If we need back-up, we'll contact you, and the rest of the men we have will pick up the slack. For now, you both answer to me or Sergeant Hazon."
Finally, Ronovi turned to Marick, but the look on his face already told her he wasn't willing to hear her bark orders at him. She thought quickly, then whistled to Sergeant Hazon, beckoning him over.
"Hazon," she said, "why don't you tell Marick to head down to the facility once Tra'an and Sang report back to us? Tell him to take Kid with him. If it's booby-trapped, Tra'an and Sang are there. But if it's locked by a computer - well, that's when our slicer comes in handy."
Hazon saluted before approaching Marick, who had watched the whole exchange with an arched eyebrow. However, his demeanor changed when the sergeant repeated the orders, his voice low and calm. Ronovi smiled when Marick bowed curtly in reply, gesturing to Kid for him to follow.
"Always happy to take orders," the Hapan said as he swept past Ronovi, a low chuckle escaping from his lips.
"Oh, I'm sure you are," Ronovi murmured before swiping her commlink and setting the transmission to the other squads. "Squads Alpha One One, One Two, and One Three - the droid site has been reached. Process of securing begins now."
Kano’s chuckles elicited a a spike of interedt from Teu. Vodo watched the verbal exchange disinterestedly, to busy to taky any real interest while he was going through his own pre-battle ritual.
“One minute to touchdown”
Almost as though they were cued, the weapon’s operators began sighting and shooting at targets of opportunity. This far out from the Shadow Academy, the targets were scarce but every combusted droid was sure to be reported to the others. The crimson cabin lights turned amber signaling that the gunship was now making its final approach. The LAAT/I dropped lower until the crew compartment’s bay doors slid open on each side revealing the dark, barren landscape rushing by beneath.
Once, in what seemed a life-time ago, Vodo had trekked across that very landscape as an initiate. Back then, Initiate were dropped out here, much further from the Academy of course, with only two directions: Make it to the Academy alive, and don’t get killed. He had killed three other Initiates on that journey, and he supposed this barren site would see more before the day was through.
The gunship dropped lower, barely dropping speed until it was only three meters from the ground. The Cabin lights turned green and without a moment’s hesitation, the Troopers began disgorging from the ship. The Dark Jedi followed shortly after them. Vodo’s metallic feet hit the dirt just as the roar of the speeder bikes fled into the distance. The troopers broke off in teams and began running in all directions, establishing the perimeter as they’d been directed.
Sergeant Lipsoosk, a shorter Bothan male, sauntered up to Vodo, “Sir, fireteams report all-clear. Your orders?”
“The gunships will be making several more passes to draw attention. We will begin our march to the north-east. I’ll assign each of my Dark Jedi to your fireteams.”
“Yes sir. I’ll direct the speeder bikes accordingly.”
Vodo turned to the assembled force users, “Donos, Erinos: You’ll accompany fireteam B. Starfire and Pepoi, you’re with fireteam C. Verda, you’re with me and fireteam A. We need to cover at least half our distance to the Academy by the time sun makes it Apex. Your troopers have standing orders to shoot on sight, and you should consider those orders to be your own as well. We’re here to make a big noise.”
Verda clenched his gloved fists menacingly, “My pleasure.”
“You would derive derive far too much pleasure from this, wouldn’t you Kano”, Teu pushed her clanmate roughly.
He recovered quickly, “I’m surprised you haven’t. I know how you get.”
Vodo interrupted the Templars before they could get any friendlier, “Be prepared to get underway in fifteen minutes.”
As the Dark Jedi wandered off Vodo noticed the slicer, Yoong, standing atop a rock nearby. The man seemed to be surveying the west, looking for something in particular that he couldn’t quite locate, “Yoong, you’ll remain with me in fireteam A.”
The man gave him nothing more than a disdainful glance over his shoulder. The Consul resisted the strong urge to restrict his breathing.
Alpha One One
“It’s truly amazing. Even two years after his death, Omancor Crask’s impact can still be felt. Even now, the Jedi Master is still a threat to brotherhood. It’s truly amazing how one person, even a jed-“
The unmistakable sound of blaster fire dragged Aesir from his contemplation. Lambow and Korvyn immediately leapt in front of Ereb, igniting their lightsabers, to deflect the bolts that rocketed down the corridor, and pushed the bothan slicer behind a crate before finding cover of their own. Aesir slid into a small crevice in the wall, while Shaz’air took the crevice on the opposite side of the hall.
“Okay, so the hall is about ten to fifteen feet wide, and with the droideka’s shielding, that would allow about four to stand side by side, with maybe more behind,” Aesir muttered to himself quickly, playing a game in his head, “But with the amount of shots being fired, I wouldn’t guess more than four.” The Iridonian reached out with the Force, sensing the power sources of the droids.
“Two, three, four. Ha.” Aesir muttered.
“Aesir! Attend to reality!” Aabsdu, ordered, passing Aesir a glance that would turn durasteel to ash, “Mograine, attack the right flank. Aesir, left flank. Shaz’air, with me to the middle. Soldiers, cover fire. Lambow and Korvyn, protect Ereb.” The Dark Adept barked short orders, and the team went to work. Aesir channeled the Force to his feet, allowing him to speed up to superhuman velocity, and slashed twice, one to deactivate the droid’s shields, and one to cut the droideka in half. Mograine leapt at his target, stabbing the shields to deactivate them, and then picked up the metal monster through the Force and rammed into the wall. Shaz’air ran towards his target, easily deflecting blaster bolts. The prelate slashed at the shields, and shoved his sapphire blade through the droideka’s “head”. With one sift motion, Aabsdu, picked up the lone remaining droideka, and crushed it into scrap.
“Regroup.” Aabsdu said authoritatively. His team reassembled quickly. “Back into formation,” The platoon leader said. Aabs, once again, took the lead with Shaz’air and Mograine trailing behind him. Lambow and Korvyn returned the their positions on either side of Ereb, with Aesir in the middle back to supply support on the very slim chance a Templar and a Pontifex got overwhelmed.
Xantros raised his eyebrows, hearing Ronovi's comment on his behaviour. According to her knowledge, Xantros was only a Guardian. In addition, a rude one. He supressed a comment, he was going to express. She did not know all about his past. She had not done any additional research about Dark Jedi, who were her subordinates during the mission. "Well, what could I expect from an Obelisk from the outside of my House and Clan" he thought. "They ignore the knowledge, they think they do not need."
It was not widely known that he was previously a Krath Priest in the Emperor's Hammer Dark Brotherhood. In fact, Xantros doubted if more than three or four people in the Dark Brotherhood was aware of that fact. Though he had agreed to get through formal probationary period before he would be allowed to use the powers of a Krath Priest, his experience and knowledge remained intact and were far greater than most of people suspected.
Still, he had to obey the orders of Ronovi. He understood that any attempt to ignore or disobey them without good reason would make it harder for her to lead the team. Also, Marick was a problem himself and Ronovi did not another problem in the unit. Though Xantros did not like standing in one place, he understood the need of being a watchman. Any threat from the outside of the crater could be deadly for the Dark Jedi investigating the area. He was aware that it was extremely important to prevent such situation from happening.
The dry, thin air of Lyspair felt tight around Ronovi's tunic as she propped herself on one of the remaining speeders that had come to rest in the sand with its repulsor lifts powered down. She watched as the soldiers spread out along the southern part of the crater, boots shuffling around its open jaw as they kept their rifles cocked. Ruluk had moved toward the east, his eyes open for any movement or shimmer of metal from a distance. Xantros, however, stayed where he was, in a kneeling position with his blaster at the ready and only a few yards away from where Ronovi was sitting.
Ronovi smiled and glanced over at her. "So. Former member of the Hammer, huh?"
Xantros didn't turn to look at her. The Tarentum Consul retrieved a flask from his side and unscrewed the cap.
"I thought I sensed some sort of skepticism from you when I reprimanded you. You've got experience. Got a ways to go before you get your old rank back, though, am I right?" she asked. She savored a mouthful of Corellian whiskey, clearing her throat after she swallowed. "You know, I was never a member of the Hammer. So I wouldn't know much about it. Should've done my research with you, though. Everyone else on the team I'm pretty familiar with.:"
"Shouldn't you be supervising, lieutenant?" Xantros asked dryly.
"Hey, I'm just trying to clear the air a bit," Ronovi said, leaning forward on the settled speeder. "Marick's a good guy. He just doesn't like taking orders from someone with...well, you know." Xantros didn't answer. "You're from Scholae Palatinae, right?"
"Well, according to Tarentum, it's tradition to despise anyone from that clan," Ronovi said, standing up when she heard the crackle of her commlink. "But I can assure you, Xan, that I don't dislike you. Especially if you do your job, don't bicker with the others, and take my retorts as best as you can. Hello, Ronovi here."
"Lieutenant," buzzed Tra'an on the other end. "We've found an incline we can start down to get to the facility. It's steep, but manageable."
"Excellent," said Ronovi. "Marick will come down with Kid to see if we can gain entry. Any surveillance you can see?"
"None yet," Tra'an replied, and Ronovi could hear some heavy breathing from him - he must have already started scaling the slope of the crater with Sang. "It looks pretty vacant as far as we can tell. Inside, however, we're not sure."
"How big's the facility?"
"Bigger than it looks, that's for sure. Still, if we can find a way in - it's looking more and more like it's locked with a passcode. The slicer will come in handy if we - "
There was a sudden burst of static and a long string of cussing from the other side. Ronovi jumped up and moved to the edge of the crater, seeing the two dark silhouettes of the Arconan and Revanite below.
"What's going on?" she barked into her commlink. "Respond!"
"Sounds like we've triggered something in the alarm system," Sang's voice crackled on the transmission. "Entry's opening now...and it's not looking good."
Ronovi could see it all from a bird's eye view, watching as Sanguinius and Tra'an's lightsabers lit up like tiny colored specks in her vision. From below, she could see several silver silhouettes emerging from the pyramidal structure - tall, humanoid, and from the looks of it, red-eyed.
"We've got about eight A-series assassin droids down here, Ronovi," Sang said on the commlink. "Mind if we could have some back-up?"
"Oh, I'd be honored," Ronovi growled, ripping the hilt of her lightsaber from her belt and gesturing to Marick, Ruluk, and Xantros. "C'mon, boys - we've got scrap metal to take care of!"
While chatting with Ronovi, Xantros thought for a while about Marick. "Maybe I have really misjudged the Dark Jedi Knight? I should have thought about the cluture background and personal character of Marick. Though I consider his way of fighting too risky and casualty pron, it might be just a matter of me, following the example of Grand Admiral Thrawn beyond reason. I will definitely need to speak with Marick, when I have a chance and to explain myself. Though my experience is important, my former rank in the Emperor's Hammer Dark Brotherhood has no meaning right now." It was not his intention to transgress the rules related with his position nor to offend anyone. Even though he was a person, who was usually straight to the point, as a Krath, he should more subtle.
When Ronovi received an alert message from Sang and Tra'an, they urged down to the position of the two Dark Jedi, in order to help them fight the assassin droids. Xantros instinctively reached for the lightsaber, but in the middle of the move he realised that he was not yet granted the right to carry his own one. Cursing himself for not remembering about that, he followed Ronovi and others, ready to use the T-21 light repeating blaster.
It seemed that the fight was going to be hot. Xantros promised himself not talk too much...unless he would have something reasonable to say. Also, he would say that in more kind way that he had done it before. It would not be wise to cause unnecessary dissensions in the squad.
Sanguinius swore as he ducked under the blaster fire, before pivoting on his left foot to smash his fists into the torso of one of the assassin droids, his blows strengthened as the Templar drew upon what reserves of power he could. The metal covering crumpled slightly as the droid was thrown off its feet, but the droid simply struggled back up and back into the fight. Another droid came at the Templar, but was swiftly dissuaded from attacking the Anaxsi as Tra'an's lightsaber sliced its head off.
Sure, he could use a lightsaber, but the Arconan thought that would be cheating, he had ignited it when the droids had attacked, but the brash Equite thought he'd have a bit of fun with his fists. This was the first proper fight Sang had been in since he had been elevated to the Equites and the trooper thought he'd find out his limits as soon as possible. How better than to go fist to gun and blade of an assassin droid. Deadly contraptions, fast too. Sanguinius had found that out when he had only just sidestepped down and to the left under an attack that had threatened to impale the Obelisk in the shoulder. Thanking his luck, and the Force that he had avoided harm, the jubilance was short-lived as the remaining seven droids rushed them.
Well, that just wasn't fair play, the Templar thought as his lightsaber hilt leapt into his hand with but a gesture. The aquamarine blade ignited into life as Tra'an and Sanguinius met the onrushing assassins, determined to kill off these two intruders.
Blaster fire smashed into the charging droids, casting three to the ground, buckled and molten metal smoking as the soldiers accompanying Alpha Two One unleashed their firearms. Xantros was with them, pouring controlled bursts of fire upon the droids, causing them to scatter. Their complicated programming making them more than an equal against an unwary Jedi. Ronovi, Ruluk and Marick leapt into the fray, bright lightsabers flashing through the air as they summarily dispatched the now outnumbered and outgunned droids.
“Two minutes to drop, sir.” The pilot reported and Sashar turned to the others in his little cadre, gesturing for them to stand.
“Okay, line up. Our objective is the tower in the middle of the Courtyard. This tower is the administration building for the entire Academy – it’s also very new, so expect state-of-the-art defences in addition to the di’kutla droids. We will land on the balcony that runs around the perimeter of the tower – it’ll probably have snipers on. Once we’ve taken the balcony, we enter the tower proper and clear it out floor by floor until we’ve secured it. As soon as we hit one of the nexus points, we’ll leave half the team back to defend Flicker while he does his thing. Right, I want to make something clear. This whole job is a pile of osik. It isn’t worth our time, so it definitely isn’t worth our shabla lives. Do not be a hero. Do not try to show off. They’re droids. Shock and Awe won’t work on them, and it sure as hell won’t work on me. Do as you’re told, protect yourselves, don’t be a di’kut, and you might just live through it. Clear?”
A chorus of affirmative shouts replied, and Sashar nodded in satisfaction. He then took his place half-way up the line. The doors to the shuttle opened, and wind whipped through the interior, stirring up a mess of debris. All of the squad not already wearing them secured their breath masks, and then the green light flicked on.
“Go! Go! Go!”
They poured out of the shuttle and dropped like rocks.
The wind took them. Each a dark smear in the sky, they fell with their glider packs’ wings tucked behind them, perfectly mimicking a bird’s. Over the comlink, someone let out a whoop of pure joy and the Primarch had to grin himself – there was little else in the galaxy as exhilarating as throwing oneself out of a moving vehicle, reaching terminal velocity, and putting ones’ fate entirely in a flimsy set of gliding wings. All too soon, though, it was time to focus on the task at hand. He closed his eyes and called upon the dark energies inside him. Three distinct fragments of his personality immediately presented themselves; his focus, his unique way of tackling a situation, and his wrath. For this particular task, he only needed one – focus.
A rent appeared in the sky above him, growing more and more distant the further he plummeted to the surface. It morphed, warped and coalesced into a vaguely humanoid shape. It was nearly half again as tall as Sashar, gruesomely emaciated, and had leathery flaps connecting its arms to its legs. Instead of the usual skull shape, it instead adopted one of some type of prehistoric reptilian avian, but its skin was impossible to focus on – instead there was simply a shifting miasma of…black, interspersed with coruscating veins of violet. The only part that bore a shred of familiarity were the eyes; exact replicas of Sashar’s. The Bat. It shot past the dropping squad, letting out an eerie call as it went.
“What the hell was that?” One of the troops exclaimed, his rifle tracking the dark blur.
“Udesii, Private. That’s just our scout.” Juda chided, grinning behind his helmet. He’d seen firsthand how lethal Sashar’s Force Wraiths could be.
The Bat fell like a rock, opening its wings far below when it reached the Shadow Academy. It soared about, circling above the tower once, scanning the rooftop for threats. The Battery remained dormant, so it ignored the huge dual cannon and instead focused on the snipers based around the balcony. With blistering speed, it came about and knocked one of the droids from its perch, then swept around for another pass, taking another droid before it could register the threat.
“Deploy wings!” Sashar ordered, suiting actions to words, extending his own glider’s wings. His descent dramatically slowed, shaking him with bone-jarring force. With practiced ease, he guided his own glider down, confident that the others could mimmick him and landed on the balcony, slapping the quick-release button on the glider pack with one hand, raising his SSK-7 with the other. The Bat had dispatched no less than four of the droids by the time the squad set down, and then, as one, they waded in.
8km to Objective
A cacophony of blaster fire suddenly erupted to Vodo’s flank. The rocks and boulders here had presented them with an unwanted surprise. Their long, slow uphill climb was hindered all the way by loose footing, large criss-crossing boulders. It appeared they’d also walked into an ambush. With so many vectors to cover, and short hollows to trap the unaware in, Vodo surmised he too would have selected this location.
“Man down. Cover right.”
The distant thrum of a lightsaber was interrupted by the high pitched squeal of superheated metal cleaving in two. Vodo’s own blade rose to deflect a rope of angry red bolts. He deflected them deftly into the sand, instantly glassing the loose material. Reaching through the force, Vodo ascertained the location of his assailant, kneeling behind a particularly large rock before him. He selected a suitably sized fragment and used the force to remove it from its resting location and dropped it onto the droid’s mass.
Kano Verda leapt through the air gracefully, as though his weighty load did not exist, and rained a hail fire of blue and green bolts. Vodo could not see the Mando’s target from his vantage, but assumed that whatever had been there was no longer an issue as the armored man landed and chuckled to himself.
Sgt. Lipsoosk, taking cover behind a waist-high pillar called over to the senior Dark Jedi, “Master Biask, we really need to get to higher ground. This place is a death trap.”
Vodo nodded and called the Dark Side into his prosthetic legs. The joints groaned under the new-found power as he sprung deftly and landed atop a high stone precipice. His maneuver drew some fire away from the soldiers not already behind cover. He could see most of the platoon from his vantage as he batted attacks back at their origins with the skill of a master.
Teu, bring your fireteam around that scorched mound. You’ll find several B-2 models awaiting you. Use this position to cover Erinos and Donos. Zandro, move your team straight up the middle. Move fast and hard once Teu gives you the signal. You’re trying to make it to the top of this rise as fast as you can. Fireteam A and I will advance parallel to you on your left. We get to the top of this, and we bunker down. The Force was a powerful ally in sending his thoughts to the other Dark Jedi.
Balia Donos, the least experienced among them may not have caught the entire message, but understood the jist of it. Vodo could feel his understanding through the Force as though he were trying to communicate as well.
Teu narrowed her eyes slightly as she heard the message, instantly she turned on her heel her voice was quick, loud and clear with instruction. "Okay we are to move around that mound there, and cover Erinos and Donos. There are several B-2 droids ahead so get ready."
The troopers nodded, silently. There was a slight rustle as they prepped their weapons. Teu turned back looking forward again towards their new objective. Her hand wrapped around the curved hilt of her lightsaber. With a sharp snap-hiss the blue blade ignited into the air as she led the group forward.
As she rounded the corner, the droids where waiting, 5 B-2 were standing there, once the group was in their photoreceptors they started to fire, several were grapple style droids. As the troopers turned the corner their blasters fired, Teu ran forward towards one of the grapple style droids, she watched as the other Dark Jedi on her team worked against another one of the grapple style droids. The one attacking Teu kept trying to wrap its metal arms around the Templar; its efforts were in vain for the most part.
Throwing her hand out Teu sent a wave of force energy at the hunk of metal causing it to fly back allowing her lightsaber to slice its one arm, leaving the droid with only one arm it was unable to grapple her but now it had a giant pointy arm that it was trying to impale the Templar with. Quickly Teu cut the second arm off before shoving the blade of her weapon through its chest.
Around her droids fell quickly, she looked around slowly she moved through the droids cutting through the small force that was there with the help of Kyra. Soon the area quieted down allowing them to do the rest of the task assigned to them.
Alpha One One
Secret Tunnel Entrance, 10 klicks from the Objective
The former Headmaster swore softly, the sound carrying far in the sudden silence after the ambush. Lambow knew why, of course. The bad news about droids was their built-in communication links. Although they were wiped out fairly easily, there was a good chance that the facility was now alerted to some sort of threat penetrating them close-in. However, these tunnels were notorious for shielding wireless communications, so perhaps they had a chance.
“We need to move faster,” the Wookie urged. “We need to clear the datum point.” The spec ops troopers didn’t move, but the all the Jedi felt their moods in the Force agree with his observation. Droids would start pouring into the last known position of the lost squad, and from there it would be easy to track down the intruders. They needed to move.
The former Headmaster nodded. “Right. Double-time. Make sure the special package isn’t left behind,” of course referring to the slicer.
Most in the group were professionals and didn’t complain, despite the grueling pace. Most of them had been through similar training before, so it wasn’t new to them. Those that hadn’t didn’t speak, as they were too busy trying to keep pace. The resulting silence was deafening, minus occasional scrapes of boots against rocks or the faint metallic clink of metal against metal.
However, the ill feeling within the Force grew stronger the more they penetrated, and it started to get heavier with each step. Giving the proper hand signals, the former Headmaster signed to slow down back to normal marching speeds, not wanting to blunder into anything. The soldiers saw the Jedi getting twitchy, and they were fingering their own weapons, getting ready for anything.
Then the danger sense in the Force came, and they all opened up.
All around them, hanging on the walls, on the ceiling, at all sorts of angles, they were there suddenly, all of them dropping their stealth field generators. They then opened fire.
It seemed as if the entire tunnel had opened fire almost at once. Lightsabers everywhere sizzled to life, angrily batting away incoming bolts as fast as they came in. The air immediately started to stink of ozone, and the battle was on.
“Sabotage droids!” called out a trooper, which suddenly took a blaster bolt to his shoulder and going down.
The Wookie roared, “Aesir! Step in, protect the package!” The Knight responded immediately, taking up the position of the Pontifex.
“Clear us a path!” shouted Korvyn, gritting his teeth against the assault. The Wookie didn’t reply, but with much practiced ease and experience, set his weapon up, connected the power source, and fired.
The heavy bolts from the cannon easily punched through the light armor of the droids, and the Wookie scythed through his path of destruction, clearing a path.
“TEAM ONE, PULL OUT THE SPECIAL PACKAGE!” yelled Aabsdu, the team instantly reconfiguring to provide a safe path for the slicer and his protectors to dash through with minimal fire coming their way. However, Korvyn didn’t hesitate, grabbed the slicer, put him up and over on his shoulder, and poured the Force into his leg muscles, a Force powered dash out of the combat area. The Knight followed him.
“Let’s go, Lambow!” the former Headmaster ordered, the volume of fire only down slightly as a backdrop. The Wookie quickly just grabbed the cannon, removed it from the tripod assembly, and slung it across his back, not minding the intense heat coming from the barrel. He grabbed the tripod assembly and the power supply, and ran, the rest of his team close on his heels, with Team One executing a perfect fighting withdrawal after them…
Alpha One Two
Uppermost Access Tunnels
Tsainetomo took up his position at the rear of the squad as they moved into an access tunnel, the antiseptic smell of durasteel mixing with the odor of dusty tomes wafting all around them. The Son of Sadow surmised that they were in the H/VAC systems; the tunnels were huge in comparison to normal-sized structures.
‘Of course they would be’, Sai thought as the memory of the sheer magnitude of the structure beneath their feet flooded back to him. The Shadow Academy was massive; it had to be, housing the most comprehensive body of knowledge known to the Brotherhood, and the ventilation systems had to be state of the art – and equally massive – in order to be able to protect the most ancient documents many, many meters below.
The Epis looked ahead, his eyes adjusting to the gloom. He allowed himself to feel a small measure of admiration for the Arconans in his squad. They moved almost as one, their training evident in their well-practiced maneuvers as they made their way down. Only the slicer was out of his element; he clutched his satchel full of equipment to his chest as if it alone held the lifeline out of there, staggering as he struggled to keep up with his Dark protector.
‘No, my friend; that honor belongs to us.’ Sai’s thoughts were laced with sarcasm. The slicer had no idea that he’d probably die once his job was done. Until then, they had to keep him alive.
Providing he didn’t get the rest of them slagged first.
Periodically, the Son of Sadow plumbed the depths of the Force, seeking out any incoming droids that might’ve been alerted to their presence. He knew the others were doing the same, each one having been taught the rudimentary exercise very early in their careers. He’d noted they came to a particularly long tunnel, and Sashar motioned for the squad to move on. Halfway down the tunnel was the proverbial ‘point of no return’, the spot where they would have to be committed to their path.
They all stalked in relative silence down the corridor, their senses electric with the Dark Side. If there was any moment for an ambush…
The slicer sneezed. A shocking and abrupt noise, it caused the squad to pull up immediately, the reverberations echoing around them. When nothing immediately emerged from the darkness in front of them, they began to relax. Sai’s ears perked at the scraping of metal on metal behind them, and as he whirled, two photoreceptors the size of dinner plates suddenly illuminated the corridor, a baleful red glow washing over the squad.
“Spider droid!” Tsainetomo exclaimed, simultaneously marshalling an obscene amount of the Force within him. His subsequent Force Blast, though not as powerful as it would’ve been given sufficient time to prepare, was still enough to knock the droid off-target; good thing, as the sizzling red hyphen leapt from its central cannon a nanosecond later.
“Down!” ordered Sashar, the squad dropping to the deck as one, the slicer slightly behind as Juda was forced to drag him down.
The bolt lanced into the ceiling, and harmless debris rained down on them. Sashar squinted through the dust to see the spider droid, now having corrected itself, lumbering towards them.
Uppermost Access Tunnels
In the aftermath of Epis Tsainetomo’s Force Blast, the rest of Alpha-One-Two scrambled into action; Juda and Voden hustled Flicker the slicer to cover, while Tsainetomo ignited his lightsaber and Sashar primed his LJ-50 Concussion Rifle. Talos and the rest of the squad, composed of just the 2/75th operators, took up positions along the H/VAC tunnel.
“Lieutenant! Permission to open fire?” asked Sergeant First Class Amhor Antihavik. The Sergeant’s answer came in the form of Sashar raising his Concussion Rifle and firing, the beskar’gam diffusing any recoil from the weapon.
“There’s your answer, Sergeant” laughed Talos as he rolled from his position and laced the corridor with emerald-green blaster fire, most of the bolts going wide but some making contact with the DSD 1…or more appropriately, the shields that covered it.
“Stang, its shielded! Sashar, we need something heavier!” the Dark Jedi Knight tossed over his shoulder, to where the Obelisk Primarch was preparing to fire another blue charge from his rifle.
Tsainetomo, upon hearing the Arconan Knight’s declaration, quickly tapped into the Force and used his skills in telepathy to suggest a change in battle strategy.
“Sergeant Antihavik, have your men switch to flash grenades. Aim right for the spider droid.” the Korun-Keibatsu said, eliciting many confused reactions from the soldiers as they heard Sai speak, but did not see his mouth move.
“What good will that do, sir?” shouted the NCO over the sound of his upgraded A280 blaster rifle spewing crimson bolts.
“It’ll blind the photoreceptors, Sergeant! Now do it!” bellowed Sashar, the Mandalorian ignoring the destruction that the DSD 1 was subjecting the H/VAC tunnel to and going faceplate-to-faceplate with Amhor.
“Ye—yes, Lieutenant!” stammered the operator and he and his men sent a barrage of 03x-FB grenades flying towards the droid from the tubes on the underside of their rifles.
“COVER!” yelled the Sergeant First Class and all of Alpha One-Two, even the two high level Equites, hit the deck once more as the detonation of the grenades bathed the tunnel in a white light. Talos could tell that the Son of Sadow’s plan had worked as the dwarf spider droid’s firing pattern had gone from frighteningly accurate to completely erratic, though which was safer the Knight couldn’t decide.
As Talos got up, he ignited his lightsaber and sprinted towards the blinded spider droid, letting the Force guide him around its potshots. As the d’Tana was about to try and impale the droid with his bronze-colored blade, a dark blur streaked in front of him and a second snap-hiss resounded throughout the tunnel. Epis Tsainetomo Keibatsu Sadow brought his sunset orange blade up for just a second before gracefully twirling it an arc of pure light.
“Good strategy, Arconan” the Krath said as he walked away from the now inoperable DSD 1 Dwarf Spider Droid, a white-hot molten line cut deep into it's droid brain.
Talos was about to retort rather nastily but he stopped short as he sensed no sarcasm or animosity from the Keibatsu in the Force. Merely nodding, the d’Tana extinguished his blade and clipped the hilt back to his utility belt before turning and following Sashar’s order to re-group on his position.
“Right, very nicely done, squad; you guys obviously know what you’re doing. Now, we’re going to proceed east for another half a klick until we come to a T-section” the Mandalorian patriarch explained, gesturing to the Shadow Academy holo-map he was projecting from his left gauntlet.
Wordlessly, Alpha One-Two formed up in their same positions as before; Sashar and Tsainetomo led the way, with Sergeant Antihavik and another 2/75th operator flanking them. The rest of the squad formed a sort of box around Juda Erinos and the slicer, Flicker. In less than thirty seconds, they were ready to get moving.
Alas, before they could take a step, the ground began to reverberate. Seeing Juda's helmeted head cock to the side in confusion and then snap forward as he recognized what was about to happen, Talos threw his arms in front of his face and bent his knees as the floor underneath their feet gave out.
“You’ve got to be kidding me” muttered the Dark Jedi Knight as he, along with the rest of Alpha One-Two, plummeted down into the newly-opened abyss.
Donos in his armour thats from the Reckoners, looks up at his fellow sith and the two nodded at each other and both of them took off at a sprint following Teu and her team. While running the two sith's ignited there lightsabers and within a second there was two blades. One red and the other purple. The two deflecting random blastor bolts coming from all directions.
Fire team B tryed to keep up with there Dark jedi but there armour slowed them down a bit. The sith saw this and saw something else, There over there shoulders was some more droids coming at them reader to fire at them. With some help from the force the two sith went in and got to the fire team in time to deflect the Blaster bolts away from them and there team.
"Distraction!! do they call this a distraction? It's more like a suicide mission to me." Stated the young Knight
" Calm down Donos we will make it, besides are you doubting my powers?" Erinos replied
"Corporal you and your team will move in the front and watch out for more droids while Donos and I will watch our backs and deflect any bolts that try to come our way." The Battlelord started to say to the Battle Teams leader.
The Battle team and the Dark jedi started to move in a tactical cloumn. This formation was used to be able to protect all of your sides while also to be able to provide quick fire power to which side needed it the most.
Kano Tor Pepoi
As the team made their way further up the rocky hillside more droids began to come from almost nowhere. All the vivid colors of the other Dark Jedi’s sabers flicked and waved about as they fought off oncoming blaster bolts from the metallic death bringers that had hidden themselves so well in the rough terrain. Kano had yet to remove the hilt from his belt and instead insisted on making as much noise as possible by blasting away at the droids with his Repeater 3Z Rifle.
As the bolts left the end of the weapon the masked Mandalorian imagined his past battles and the images of the bolts tearing through flesh and ending a real life. Fighting droids didn’t give the demented Templar the pleasures of battle that he longed for, blood, screams, and the smell of burnt flesh; Kano didn’t get this with the droids.
The Templar turned to see two B2’s, wrist blasters ready, looking straight at him. Kano dropped the 3Z Rifle and yanked the hilt from his belt while also grabbing the Westar-34 in his left hand. The sapphire blade sprang to life and instantly went upward into the closer of the two droids arms. Kano pulled the blade and split the arm from the elbow joint to the hand, sparks shot out as the blaster components backfired and then erupted into a shower of flames. A quick roll and the Westar was pointed upward towards the damaged droids hip. The Templar let bolts fly from the blaster and into the droid until it lost its balance and began to fall. As it fell Kano’s blade tore through the B2, completely severing it in two.
The second B2 fired its blasters. Another roll and Kano was on his feet and moving quickly towards the droid, saber ready. A bolt hit the Templar’s chest plate and caused a slight slip on the rocky terrain. As he regained his footing Kano sent an invisible blast at the droids feet. As it hit the droid began to topple over and fired its wrist rocket randomly. One of the shots exploded just behind the masked Mandalorian as he leapt into the air and brought his saber down into the chest of the B2.
As the droid stopped moving Kano looked up to check where he was in accordance with the others. He was still in line and more droids were beginning to show themselves.
“So when exactly do we get to cause a distraction? I wanna blow something up.”
Secret Entrance Tunnel, Four Klicks From Objective
They had been running for what seemed like hours, but Aabsdu knew that with the help of the Force their speed had been increased so much it had been nowhere near that. Regardless of how long they had been running, the strain of Alpha One-One's Dark Jedi having to extend their enhancement of speed to not only themselves but also the foot soldiers was starting to wear upon the younger members. No doubt the soldiers were envying Ereb, who still sat upon the shoulder of Korvyn. Even as a Dark Adept, Aabsdu was not immune to fatigue. He knew all too well that, although he was high ranking and experienced, his knowledge was limited to that of a man not even thirty years old. He had much to learn, and looked forward to learning it.
Since the team's meeting with the group of patrolling droids at the entrance to the tunnel, they had been traversing the remaining distance as quickly as they could. No more droid patrols had seen them, or if they had they chose to remain silent. The entire mission was a strange one. The last trick played upon the Brotherhood by Omancor Crask all these months after his death. At the surface, it seemed completely random. It was only ill will that led Taigikori and his forces off-world at the time of the droids' activation, but anyone trained in the Force knew otherwise. He could only hope that the crater was shedding light upon the situation.
The former Headmaster's vision had been clear as the day above since they had entered the tunnels. No voices or sudden visions had impaired his ability to lead these men towards completing their objective. The excitement of battle and adventure had washed away the nagging thoughts of his subconscious, but still, as they grew nearer to the inner sanctum of the Academy, a welt in his gut told him that something was going to happen here, on this mission. The Force would not tell him anything else; not about the path his team was on or his own path towards whatever future awaited him, and it was frustrating. He was young, but had trained as a Sith to call upon the Force and use it as he desired. It answered to his call, not the other way around. How dare it deny him the answers he sought.
But those things would be confronted later on, once the Academy was placed back under the control of its rightful owners, and the true mission of these droids revealed. He started to slow, gradually until the others caught on, and then came to a complete stop, "Halt."
Everyone was panting, though the Dark Jedi were certainly doing a better job at hiding it. Aabsdu could feel the muscles in his legs screaming, but he pushed away the pain with the Force. At least it would still answer him to that.
Shaz'air approached the platoon leader, "How much longer you think, boss?"
"Blueprints say about three klicks," Dupar replied, "But I'm starting to think our map may be wrong."
"What makes you say that," asked Mograine.
This time Lambow spoke up, "The air is different. It's starting to freshen. It wouldn't surprise me, you said yourself that no one has been in this tunnel in years."
Aabsdu took a few steps forward into the darkness. There was no light in the tunnel save the few glow-rods they had lit, as well as the sight provided them by the Force. He couldn't quite make it out, but he knew that they were near their objective. He had called the Shadow Academy home for over four years. He knew the feel of every part of the structure, even after it had been renovated and rebuilt.
One of the foot soldiers came towards the Adept, careful to make himself known, "Sir, my men are ready to infiltrate and take down the enemy at any time, but if we keep on like this we won't be able to hit the broadside of a bantha, let alone bullseye womprats."
Looking down at the weak man, Aabsdu could make out in the dimming glow the sparkling red paint of his armor, "What is your name again?"
The man hesitated, "It's ... um..."
Suddenly, he was cut short as a bright blast from down the hallway slammed into his chest, knocking him onto the ground, dead. Immediately, lightsabers ignited from the group, including one of Aabsdu's own silver blades. A barrage of blaster fire streaked down the hallway at them, most of it ricocheting off the walls while the rest was deflected. Korvyn and Lambow moved Ereb to the back, shielding him, while the remaining nine squad soldiers ran forward, rifles firing. Aabsdu deflected several bolts, knowing now that they had to be close to have met this much resistance. He put away his lightsaber and, raising both arms, took in a deep breath, both physically and in the Force. Several large streaks of electricity shot out from his flesh down the hallway, illuminating the remaining distance and showing a heavy door not a hundred meters away. It also showed the overloading metal frames of battle droids and a single Super Battle Droid. The machines' weapons continued to fire wildly for a few seconds before stopping as they collapsed to the ground.
The lightning fading away, the hallway fell again into darkness. Even their glow-rods had died, leaving only the low hum of multicolored lightsabers to show the way. For a moment, they all stood there, waiting to move.
"Guess it was closer after all," said Mograine, speaking up.
Aabsdu was taking in as heavy a breath as he could without showing his fatigue to the others. He was already tiring from sprinting the ways of the tunnel, but he had not expected to make such a heavy display of energy. Never before had he sent forth so much power from him own flesh and blood body. Something was definitely different about this mission, and he needed to find out what it was.
"Enter the Academy," he said, "secure the area. You are first to gather all survivors and escort them here, Force-sensitives first. Do not waste time. Get them out and then come back so we can reclaim what's ours."
Everybody nodded, the sudden thrill of battle refreshing them. They were ready for the mission to continue, "Master Lambow, you and the slicer will come with me towards the Headmaster's offices. There's something we need to find out."
Corridors leading to Academy Library
Having decided that the most logical place for the survivors to retreat to in order to stay safe would be somewhere close to the dormitories and the kitchen area, as well as somewhere to defend themselves, Alpha One-One minus Aabsdu, Lambow and Ereb the slicer split up into two smaller groups. The first group, consisting Mograine and Korvyn, alongside half of the special ops accompanying them, headed for the personnel quarters, which both housed dormitories and kitchens. The second group, with Shaz’air and Aesir at its head, left for the Department of Combat Tactics, where Obelisks usually were trained in the ways of combat, and would most likely house weapons that survivors may defend themselves with.
Taking the lead in their group, Korvyn kept his pace up while leading the team down the long hallway, which led from wherever they had come from to the dormitories. Not being particularly familiar with the place himself, Mograine rushed up to Korvyn, asking: “Know the way? I got the schematics of this place memorized, but since the entrance to the tunnel’s classified, it doesn’t help knowing the place by a map”. Korvyn grinned, clearly amused by Mograine’s comment.
“Not really, but Aabs told me to just follow the hallways until reaching the main library, and then take a left after exiting the library hall” Korvyn replied, still having an amused tone to his voice.
Standing at least half a head taller than Mograine, having an athletic body and hair cut military-short, Korvyn looked as much that Mograine would have expected from a former Emperor’s Hammer operative. Good, then most of us should have the dicipline to no do drastic maneuvers that will get someone killed. Reaching the end of the corridor without obstacles, the two dark jedi walked up toward a large marble gate, which was at least four meters high, almost reaching the ceiling.
“This has to be the entrance to the library…” Mograine said calmly, while examining the engraved doors, which were currently shut.
At the same time, Korvyn had raised his non-prosthetic arm toward the door and closed his eyes. Seeing through the Force what lurked behind the gate in the immediate vicinity of the library entrance, and finding neither survivors nor droids, he said: “No contacts within close proximity, it’s clear to enter”.
Mograine nodded, feeling the same as his revanite counterpart, and waved a knife-fist at the large door, signaling the men to stack up and prepare for entry. He holstered his small carbine weapon in a holster on his leg before unclipping the hilt of his lightsaber, and ordered: “Go!”. While two of the soldiers dragged both of the large doors up from either side, the rest of the team ran in, lightsaber and blaster rifles at the ready. Not being met by anything but a large darkened hall and vast numbers of bookshelves, the team moved on into the library. The silence crept upon them, and there were none of present members that didn’t felt anxiousness in the Force. All that could be heard was the echoes of their boots as they stepped through the maze of shelves, still a couple hundred meters of books keeping them apart from the other side.
Suddenly, the rhythmic sounds of footsteps where interrupted by a distant metallic clank, followed by another, then another and another. The team came to a halt, listening in silence, while scouting in all direction. The echoes of the clanking sounds were slightly increasing by seconds, and then stopped when sounded to be within ten meters. Narrowing his eyes, peering through the small open rooms on the bookshelf to the group’s right, Mograine spotted a dark silhouette standing behind the shelf. His eyes widened, and he had to restrain himself to gasp or let out any sound that might alert the droid. It was an YVH-1 – a Yuuzhan Vong Hunterdroid, manufactured by Tendrando Arms during the height of the Yuuzhan Vong War. These droids packed quite a punch, and they were designed to fight Yuuzhan Vong, but were about evenly matched against a fairly experienced jedi. He nudged the men, alerting them of the danger not many meters away. Slowly, all of them dropped to a prone, and crept forward very quietly, hoping not to alert the droid.
Alpha Two One
Ronovi loved the smell of scorched scrap metal in the afternoon. As she cut into another nearby assassin droid like she was dissecting a corpse, she watched as Marick leapt gracefully into the fight as he swung his lightsaber in quick, brilliant arcs in a brutal Makashi fashion. What Marick did not have in brute strength, he had in dexterity, and each bolt or strike aimed at him seemed to barely gloss his armor as he moved as fluidly as if he were water.
Ruluk's fighting style, in many ways, was similar to Marick's save for some slight contrasts. While his accuracy and dexterity was nearly equal with the Hapans, he had brilliantly mastered Makashi at a much lower rank than Ronovi imagined. The light of Lyspair glinted off Ruluk's metal limbs as he unleashed quick staccato blows on a droid's flank, his lightsaber never slipping from the grip of his left hand. Beside him, an assassin droid that still maintained all four of its appendages advanced on the Arconan, only to be taken down by a Soresu lunge from Tra'an, the bright blue of his saber slicing into the metal like a flame in a blacksmith's shop.
By the time Xantros had caught up with his fellow Dark Jedi, rifle shouldered, there were only three droids left. Ronovi, Sang, and Tra'an quickly confronted the "survivors," being the highest ranked of the team. Ronovi launched herself into an all-out Djem So attack, her blade spinning like a bronze whirlwind as she intercepted a droid. As a blaster bolt erupted from its shoulder holster, Ronovi abruptly switched to a Shii Cho defense, deflecting the sizzling beam and watching it whistle into oblivion over her head. From behind her, Xantros let fly a spray of precisely aimed shots, crippling the legs of the A-series droid as it fell to the ground and was swiftly decapitated by its opponent.
Tra'an had finished the job quicker than Ronovi had, swiveling his saber in a vicious downward curve against his targeted droid's chest. The metal separated beautifully, the black line left by the Shi'ido's weapon still glowing with a red tinge as sparks began to dance along the wound. Sang, of course, felt the need to end his side of the fight beautifully, dismembering a droid and leaving it armless before slamming his strong hand straight into its sensors. As the head reeled back from the Templar's punch, Sang slammed the butt of his saber into its chest, before activating his saber again and letting the blade penetrate the metal and impale the droid like it were a hunk of rusted meat.
With the smoldering wreckage before them, the Dark Jedi still remained vigilant. Their back-up men began to patrol the vicinity, as Tra'an eyed the still open entrance to the facility before looking at Ronovi.
"Your next orders, lieutenant?"
Ronovi smirked as she turned her attention to Kid, who had served as a kind of artillery support with the rest of the soldiers. The Epicanthix beckoned the slicer over before casting a glance at the now open building.
"Tra'an, I want you and Sang to lead the way. Next will be Marick and Kid, then Ruluk and Xantros. Soldiers, I want you to remain here and secure the area. Alert me of any movement through my commlink."
"Better hurry, Ronovi," Sang hissed as the door to the facility began to close. "The entrance is going to be sealed off again!"
In a burst of energy, the Entar and Tra'an zipped into the facility, lightsabers still ablaze as if to take on any more droids remaining. Ronovi knew charging in would be dangerous, even if the entrance, as she now knew, was not booby-trapped. She watched as Marick, Xantros, Kid, and Ruluk raced after Sang and Tra'an, before the Tarenti took up the rear and slipped into the facility just before the door shut again with a cruel hiss.
The group was met with dim lighting and a narrow corridor, which almost immediately dipped into a stairwell. Ronovi exchanged glances and nods with her team before they began to slowly walk down the hallway, passing sealed doors as the outside world was closed off behind them. There seemed to be no more droids waiting to attack in the corridor particularly, and Ronovi sensed the relief seeping from the younger members of the team. However, from the looks of the place, the Consul thought, it was time to go underground.
The blaster shot scorched through the torso of the battle droid, slamming it backwards against the wall. Thirty-seconds earlier, Aabsdu Dupar had snuck up behind a second battle droid watching the hallway. Ripping the weapon from its hands, he'd torn its head off before spinning and letting off one shot across the room to its partner. Turning, he signaled the all-clear to Lambow and Ereb.
The Wookiee was growling, "Seems like you could have done that less flashy."
"Perhaps," Aabsdu replied, grinning, "But sometimes one indulges themselves."
He was also still recovering from the increased power he had unleashed back in the tunnel, and thought it best to do things manually before he knew what exactly was happening to him, and how best to keep stable his newfound state. Of course, he would never tell any of that to Lambow.
Taking the second droid's blaster rifle, he tossed it to the Bothan slicer, keeping the other for himself, "Don't die."
"Dying wouldn't do me any good," Ereb replied.
Aabsdu watched the non-Force sensitive Bothan for a moment before turning and continuing down the hallway, "The turbolift is right down here."
"Where exactly are we heading," asked Lambow.
"Office of the Headmaster. There's a central access terminal there that will be the best way to get to whatever we need."
"Wouldn't there have been a similar terminal in the library?"
"Perhaps, but there are a few things in Taig's office we need to check before the Shadow Academy is fully secure."
It was obvious to all three of them that Aabsdu had his own reasons for heading to the Headmaster's office, but Lambow was smart enough to let it go. Reaching the turbolift, Lambow opened it with a wave of his hand, and the trio headed up the tower.
It was one of the nameless foot soldiers who gave them away. Slowly creeping towards the hunter droid, he had clicked off the safety of his weapon. Hearing the noise, the droid spun around, heaving blasters in both hands as it homed in on the group of intruders and started to fire. Lightsabers ignited in a wave of deflected bolts as two of the soldiers collapsed in a heap. So much for highly training operatives.
Acting as a single cohesive unit, their minds linked through the Force, Aesir and Mograine moved forward, deflecting the droid's attack and drawing its attention while Korvyn and Shaz'air slipped off to the side. With a quick tuck and roll, the two Equites came up on either side of the droid. Sensing the attack, the droid stepped backwards just as their sabers came down to slice it in three. It kicked out with its hard laminanium leg, hitting Korvyn in the side and knocking him off balance. With a flash, it raised its left arm and shot out a small missile just before Shaz'air sliced off all four appendages.
The missile soared towards the Dark Jedi Knights and soldiers, but they were unable to throw it off course with the Force, jumping out of the way as it slammed straight into one of the men and exploded in a ball of flame. Two men were engulfed and fell to the floor immediately, another was thrown back against the wall, his armor cracking with his bones.
Picking themselves up from the floor, Aesir and Mograine looked around at the damage. Only three of their non-Dark Jedi reinforcements remained, but they would have to do. The bad part was that the explosion had probably alerted nearby units to their presence in the library. Keeping their lightsabers active, the group continued through the rows of books and datapads, knowing themselves in hostile territory.
But they couldn't be prepared for what awaited them within these halls of learning.
Entrance to the Shadow Academy
Vodo and his squad ran towards the large front entrance of the Shadow Academy. It loomed over them all, casting a dark shadow in its direct vicinity and giving off exactly the impression it was meant to give off. For the most part, that was "if you are using the front door, you are not supposed to be here."
Their journey here had taken longer than it should have. The droids had just kept pouring towards them, as if they had known they were coming and already massed their army. Still, there could only be so many of them left. It wasn't like they were putting themselves back together after being sliced into so many pieces by Vodo, Zandro, and the others.
Finally, though, they were at their objective, but Vodo feared the other teams were already inside and encountering resistance that should have been drawn to their own location. It didn't matter now. All they could do was enter the courtyard and start causing mayhem. Personally, he thought it was probably the best job of all the units. He and his men didn't have to trudge through secret tunnels or try to investigate the cause of everything going on. They simply had to enter the Academy and destroy as many targets as they could find. What more could a guy ask for?
"This door leads into the main courtyard," he said, knowing that security cameras had probably already alerted the enemy to their presence. The majority of the Shadow Academy was underground, but on the surface lay a vast courtyard with five towers. Each corner tower served its own purpose, and the largest, central tower housed the Headmaster's office and similar rooms.
With a creak, the door slowly started to open, accessible only to those who could harness the power of the Force. Before it had made a gap a foot wide, Vodo slid through. Dark Jedi Knight Balia Donos followed with the others, and was met with a sight that conjured many emotions.
First, it was impressive. The size of the courtyard was large, to say the least, and it was anything but bare. Plant life throughout, there were also numerous sculptures and statues of a variety of subject matter. It was the front yard of the Sith, through and through.
Second, it was terrifying, because within that courtyard stood near fifty enemy droids, the bodies of an uncountable number of staff and initiates lying at their metal feet. There were droidekas, battle droids, super battle droids, assassin droids, spider droids, and Balia thought he even spotted what looked like several old YVH-1s. They were everything, and they were all looking at the front door.
Third, he thought as they brought out their weapons and launched forward into the party, it was looking to be an extremely enjoyable place.
As the Consul lunged forward, he all but willed the troopers to open fire. Having scaled the side of the building, the operators had positioned themselves around the lip of the Courtyard. As if acting on a cue, the soldiers’ firearms came to life, pouring crimson light into the droids from above and all directions. Kano Verda’s jet-pack roared to life, rocketing him into the air in the center of the clearing. He laughed maniacally as he one handed his repeating blaster and grasped the pistol in the other and rained red death on the unarmored droids scattered about the courtyard.
His sudden flight caught enough attention that by the time Vodo met the battle himself, a large number of the droids were aiming skyward or at the concealed troopers on the rooftops. Simultaneously, four lightsabers, powered by four very angry and fatigued Dark Jedi, dug into various bodies of hardened durasteel, screeching as the white-hot blades passed through the carcasses of their droid enemies. The Twi’leki Epis swung left, deflecting three blaster bolts aimed for Zandro’s neck, and poured his rage into his finger tips. His hand shot forward and disappeared into the chest-unit of a nearby B2 Grappler Droid. His hand passed through the metal like wind passes through a screen. There, directly pressed up against the Droid’s processor, he delivered a powerful electrical shock.
The Droideka had balled up and formed up on one another in the center of the courtyard, their energy shields standing back to back. Looking like a bristling, laser-throwing brier bush, no one could get close enough to attack the Destroyer Droids. Their automatic fire raked the rooftops and courtyard, creating a deadly 360 degree arc of fire. Vodo dived behind one of the pillars ringing the clearing, hoping the ancient stone would hold long enough for him to catch his breath. He looked to his right to see Teu taking cover as well. The look on her face told a story all in its own, This isn’t going to get any better.
Alpha One One
This is where the two groups would part; a fork in the road which lead to their separate destinations. Mograine and Korvyn darted down the right corridor to the dormitories and kitchens to find and rescue any initiates trapped there. Shaz’air and Aesir sprinted left, to the department of combat tactics, which held the armories of the Shadow Academy. It also was likely to have other force sensitives there due to it being a highly defensible area.
It was decided that Korvyn’s group should take two of the three remaining non-jedi troops. After all, they were heading to the dorms, and Shaz and Aesir were heading to a place with loads of weapons and armor. Surely they wouldn’t need the extra fire power.
Department of Combat Tactics
After only five minutes of running, Aesir spotted small beams of light ahead, probably from blaster fire, along with the undeniable sound of battle. The two jedi and the lone trooper raced forth to join the fray. Bodies of young brotherhood initiates and droids littered the floor. The droids apparently didn’t notice the approaching reinforcements, and Aesir, brazen as always, took the opportunity to smash straight into their flank. Shaz’air sighed at the Knight’s recklessness, but couldn’t help feeling ever so slightly impressed by the stubborn bravery and ridiculous lack of personal safety. Since their presence was already announced, the other dark jedi decided to attack as well, with the trusty trooper providing cover fire.
After an hour of non-stop slaughter, the battle was over and Aesir’s hunger for conflict satisfied. Shaz’air was already taking inventory of the remaining jedi taking refuge in the armory.
“Yo. Trooper, you should restock on ammo in you need to,” Aesir said. Aesir himself stumbled over to the weapons rack and picked up two blaster pistols. Having only brought his lightsaber, the Zabrak needed some extra bang.
“Alright, force sensitives are our main goal. So all initiates follow us,” Shaz announced. “All of you,” he said, pointing to the poultry sum of Academy militia, “ You can tag along as long as you don’t hinder our progress. Aesir, you take Xyn , our trooper, and go check the next armory, and the training rooms as well. Let’s go!” Shaz and the rescues raced down the hall back to the tunnel as Aesir and Xyn ran in the opposite direction.
“HA! ALRIGHT! MORE ACTION!” Aesir yelped, excitement oozing off of him.
Alpha Two One
The team moved slowly through the corridor towards the stairwell. Caution was the watchword of the team, the dim lighting just sufficient enough for the Jedi to see their way. Ronovi gestured to Sang and Tra'an, the two senior members of the team besides her. "Take point, and try not to get us killed."
Sanguinius stared at the Tarenti, a look of false shock on his face. "As if we would do such a thing."
The two men started off ahead of the group down the stairs. The tight widing staircase would impede any firefights on it. It was narrow enough for Sang to put his arms and legs on the rails and slide down the metal rails. Anyone waiting for them at the bottom would be in for a surprise, the speed that the Templar was going would be more than enough to knock anyone off their feet if he collided with them.
Tra'an followed behind, choosing to take the steps, not the rails. The Prelate was more prudent in his movements, less taken by flights of fancy. Sang reached the end of the rails and landed on his feet, his lightsaber ignited. It cast the corridor he had landed in, in a blue tinge. The Anaxsi sensed the presence of the Revanite behind him and moved forward, the pair passing closed doors. A faint noise interupted the silence of the structure. "It's too damn quiet," the Entar muttered. The two men reached the end of the corridor, where a vent lay opened.
Tra'an opened his com-link to Ronovi. "All clear." The Consul acknowledged the message, sending the rest of the team down the stairs. Soon all of them were gathered around the air vent. "Looks like a way in." Xanthros nodded towards the open vent.
"More like they want us to go that way," Marick retorted.
"It's a trap?" Ruluk asked.
"Most likely," the Hapan replied.
Ronovi listened to the three of them before looking at a map that had been provided for the team. "We'll take the risk. Marick, you're on point."
"Why me?" the noble complained.
"You're the expert on sneaking around in the dark from what your esteemed colleague told me." nodding towards the Entar. A knowing smile was on the Templar's face, the sly Obelisk having planned to keep out of harm's way. Besides, it was time for someone else to be shot at first for once.
Sang gestured with his right hand towards the vent. It was large enough for them all to fit through one by one. "After you Marick." he grinned.
The Hapan scowled before clambering through the vent. "This should take us closer to where we want to go." Tavisaen muttered as she scanned the holomap. "Actually, Sang, I've got another job for you."
A groan answered the Tarentae. "What now?"
Ronovi grabbed the Arconan by his collar to get his attention. "Stop whining for once." she growled, before pointing at the holomap. "When we're through the vent, I want you to take Ruluk and Xanthros and check out these rooms." the Consul marked the rooms. "Something doesn't smell right around here and I want to be safe."
"Okay, okay," the Entar replied. "I'll reconnoiter the place."
"Just seems strange that we encountered those assassin droids outside and there was nothing waiting for us in here."
"I get the picture Tavisaen, for crying out loud." the Obelisk groaned. "I'm the last person who wants to get his arse shot off here, alright?"
"Good. So do this for me alright pretty boy?" the Tarenti grinned.
"Pretty boy? You been talking to Celahir again?" Sang looked suspiciously at Ronovi.
"Maybe..." was all the Consul allowed.
Alpha Two One
The Hapan groaned audibly as he worked his way through the vent, his knees scraping against the steel with soft squeaks. This would have been humiliating back on his homeworld, but at least his teammates would be doing the same thing. Heaving himself out of the open shaft, Marick tumbled his way down to the floor, finding himself in a dim chamber.
He couldn't sense any movement, but the room before him was astounding to say the least. He activated his commlink.
"Marick here. I've stumbled upon some sort of laboratory. No movement, though."
"Roger. We're heading over."
Marick activated his lightsaber and held it in front of him, letting the blue blade light up the space as various consoles and computers reflected the hue. Bordering the walls were various tables covered in tubes and bottles, while datapads, broken or intact, lay scattered in all directions. The Hapan heard grunts from behind him as Tra'an, Kid, and Ronovi both lifted themselves out of the vent and dropped to the floor.
"Next time, I'm using the door," Tra'an muttered as Ronovi stepped toward Marick.
"Well, how about that," she said. "Looks like we got ourselves a scientist."
"Maybe. Maybe not," Marick said. "Any Dark Jedi or Jedi can screw with alchemy. The question is how and why."
"Well, I believe our slicer can come in handy for this," Ronovi said, looking at Kid. "All right, Kid, here's your candy store. Have fun."
"Oh, gladly," Kid said, smirking as she stepped to the nearest console and cracked her knuckles.
"No use, Sang," Xantros griped. "These doors won't budge."
"Are you a Dark Jedi or not?" Sang groaned, pointing at the Guardian's rifle.
Xantros shrugged his T-21 repeater off his shoulder and aimed it straight for the hinges. The sound of blaster bolts ricocheted off the walls as the door burst open in a flurry of red and white flame, its bolts breaking apart as it fell like a tree to the floor. Ruluk stared at Sang as Xantros shouldered the smoking rifle back on.
"You know, for reconnoitering...we're not being very subtle," he said as Sang stepped into the room.
"Hey, I'm not someone who's subtle about what I do," the superior Arconan smirked.
"Well, what have we got?"
"Computers," Sang said. "Lots of 'em. We'll get that hacker of ours to break into them later."
One by one, each door of each room in the corridor gave way to Xantros' shots, and Sang and Ruluk inspected each time. One room simply held boxes of scrap metal and bolts. Another appeared to hold foodstuffs and supplies. The third, however, was interesting. The three walked in to see that the space had been set up like a person's quarters, complete with bed, desk, and furniture.
"Whoa, whoa, wait," Ruluk said, frowning. "Someone lives here?"
"Check everything," Sang ordered. "See if there's anything you can find on who would be staying in this room."
The three scoured the room, but there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. No weapons could be found, or datapads. No trace of any inhabitant's identity at all. However, as Ruluk looked up and down the walls, he couldn't help hearing a faint buzzing from the corridor. Sang and Xantros continued their investigating, but Ruluk stepped back out into the corridor - and was almost bowled over by a flying object.
Backing against the wall, Ruluk saw a small floating metal body stopping in its track, then revolving as if in scanning him. In a flash of movement, the Arconan ignited his saber and lashed out at the thing, catching its side and letting it drop to the floor smoldering. But by the time he had destroyed it, he began to hear hollow footsteps as several doors they had not blown apart began to hiss open up and down the long corridor.
"Crap! It was a hovercam droid! We've been found out!" he yelled just as Sang and Xantros ran out of the room and large silhouettes began to march out of three newly opened rooms.
Aabsdu poured himself a small drink from the Headmaster's personal cabinet and let it slide down his throat. He was standing in the Headmaster's office, the place he had called his own only a few months earlier, but now belonged to Taigikori Aybara. He was still here often, when not performing duties for House Revan. Still, it was an odd feeling, being alone in the office once again.
In the room over, Ereb was jacked into the computer, searching through countless records and files to try to uncover some new piece of information on what had caused the takeover of the Shadow Academy. Lambow, likewise, was casually moving around the room. Hopefully by now the other teams were nearing the finish of their respective goals. Survivors should have been evacuated, most of the hostile droids were probably taken care of, and Ronovi had discovered who knew what. Things were slowly reaching a head, and yet their all knew that the worst was still to come.
Walking over to the Headmaster's secure transmission feed, he punched in a security code and waited for the response. Within seconds, the small hologram image of Taigikori appeared before him, flickering slightly.
"How are things on Lyspair," the Headmaster asked.
"Oh," Aabsdu replied, "you know, the usual."
"The investigation into the droids goes well, most of them should be taken care of by now. We're searching the databases to try to uncover the cause. If anything, though, the Academy will at least be back in our hands and secure by nightfall."
Taigikori nodded, "That's good news, because I am heading back shortly with the fleet. Our exercise is complete. Don't wait up."
Aabsdu chuckled, "I'll try not to."
The transmission faded away just as Ereb called out from the other room, "Master Dupar, I found something you'll want to take a look at."
The Dark Adept turned and walked into the adjourning room. Things certainly were drawing to a head, but Aabsdu had no clue what he should expect when things finally came crashing down around them. Thus far, things had gone fairly smoothly, which was the problem. All of this had gone down too quickly, too easily. Something was still waiting in the wings, holding until that moment when their guards would be down. So be it, Aabsdu accepted the challenge.
Sanguinius swore as a burst of laser fire punctuated the air around him. "Supression fire!" he shouted to Xanthros, the Protector grinned as he hefted the rifle and unleashed a barrage of shots towards the marching droids. They were outnumbered and outgunned. The three of them had only gone and sprung the trap that had been planned for the whole of Alpha Two One. Three Dark Jedi against 20 droids. Sure, most of them were B1's, but that wasn't the point.
The Templar sliced his way through a pair of B1s, his aquamarine blade then continuing on to assault a SBD that had decided to target the Obelisk Equite. Sang darted through the air, his footwork swift as he ducked beneath a clumsy swipe of the B2's arm before slicing off that offending limb. A grim smile appeared on the Anaxsi's face as he pivoted around behind the droid, taking the other arm, rendering the pile of scrap harmless. The Entar then slammed his fist into the back of the Battle Droid, crumpling the metal as he powered his strike with the hatred he felt towards whoever had set this trap up.
Ruluk stood close to Xanthros, protecting him from incoming fire, fighting defensively, carving up anything that got too close. "We can't hold them here, too much cover for them," the Arconan looked back towards where the others had gone to when they had split up. "We should head back to the others." Ruluk shouted over the din of battle. Sang grunted, an acknowledgement and an opinion of that suggestion. "Alright," he shouted back to the two Journeymen. "Best retreat to a better position, Xanthros, contact the others and tell them we've got company."
The Palatinae fiddled with his comlink, before hissing in disappointment. "The buggers are jamming us."
"Screw it, retreat now." Sang shouted, he had told Ronovi he had no intention of getting shot, and he had meant it. The trio took rapid steps backwards, deflecting and dodging the vivid orange bolts of fire.
Alpha Two One
"Kid, what've you got?" Ronovi asked as the slicer hunched over one of the consoles. It was the fourth console she was hacking into, as the other three so far hadn't had much information at all.
"Still working on it..." Kid punched in a few more codes before a whirring sound could be heard and the screen was suddenly flashing with bright text. "This one's acting up a bit."
"Maybe that's a good thing. Could be the computer we want to bust into," Tra'an said.
Grids and other outlined images were beginning to emerge on the screen, as Kid scanned each one curiously. With a twist of her wrist, she removed a datapad from her pocket and activated it, comparing the computer's images to holograms that popped up from the small device's screen. She gritted her teeth, her tongue sneaking its way out between the gaps in her molars, before nodding.
"Well, this is interesting."
"What do you mean?" Marick asked.
"I mean according to the computer, the images are very similar to that of the information I have here on personality viruses," Kid replied. "You know the name Yperio Baobab?"
"Yeah," Ronovi said. "He's the one who created Bab-Prime, the first step in droid-speak."
"According to the data I have here, an employee of the Baobab Merchant Fleet created a personality virus that infected the entire galaxy's droids. He did this when attempting to create a Bab-Prime algorithm, instead using the concept of droid-speak to give droids certain mindsets."
"So what's it got to do with these droids?"
Kid pursed her lips. "From what I can tell from the computer, this is another virus keyed in using the tendency for Bab-Prime to grant droids personalities. But in this case, the virus very specifically coerces a certain allegiance to a certain someone. And that someone is..."
Ronovi didn't even let Kid finish, instead rushing to the computer and staring at the text. She did not recognize one of the first names, but she would have guessed that it belonged to a member of the Shadow Academy, maybe even a youngling. And while that was just a vague theory, it was further exacerbated by the fact that in blazing blue text it read, "OBJECTIVE: OBEDIENCE TO CRASK."
"That son of a bitch," Ronovi snarled. "Crask got someone to plug in the droids for him. Programming their personalities so that he was their psychological lord and master."
"How can you be so sure Crask did this?" Marick demanded. "The guy pretty much settled on Antei, and I highly doubt he would've made his way to Lyspair just to make a few droids cranky."
"Maybe it wasn't something Crask planned initially, before the Reclamation," Tra'an interrupted, and his lieutenant and his team mate both turned to look at him. "After all, if holocrons can maintain the spirit of Crask...perhaps something else here, in the Academy, triggered something."
"So...perhaps the someone responsible was encouraged by a shade pf Crask?" Marick said, the tinge of skepticism still in his voice.
Before anyone could respond, Ronovi heard the echoing of blaster fire from above. She spun immediately toward the still open vent, craning her neck and listening.
"Sounds like the rest of our team's got company!" she said, and she hoisted herself through the vent with the others following in a puzzled but excited mass.
Sang swore loudly as Xantros, Ruluk, and he found themselves pressed against the sealed entrance of the facility. It appeared that with the droids' awareness of the three, security had been reinforced, and the heavy door would not open. Sang cast a glance angrily at the number pad by the door, wishing he knew the override code as the B1s and B2s intercepted them.
"Where's the damn slicer when you need her?" he snarled, as Xantros launched another volley of blaster fire, taking down one more B2.
Ruluk let his saber rip through a battle droid in a whirl of Makashi fire, before a blaster shot struck him soundly in one of his cybernetic legs. As sparks flew from the metal, the Arconan stumbled, attempting to keep his balance, as another B1 marched rigidly up to him with its blaster pointed at his skull. Sang roared and out swooped his fist, crashing into the battle droid's head and sending it ripping from its neck.
There were ten droids left. The exhaustion was beginning to set in, and there didn't seem to be a way out. The three had backed themselves into a corner. Sang almost had half a mind to take his saber and begin the arduous cutting into the framework of the door so that he could make a hole big enough for the three to crawl through. However, he didn't have to.
"Surprise!" he heard Ronovi shout as her bronze saber moved in a flurry of violent waves, dismembering three droids from behind.
Tra'an and Marick both ascended to meet the droids from the stairwell, sabers blazing as they cut into the steel and bolts of each aggressive mass they confronted. Xantros precisely aimed his blaster fire toward any droid that came too close to his teammates, while Sang moved away from the door to deliver the final blow on a near crippled droid. The Dark Jedi's dance came to an end when Kid, of all people, delivered a sharp bolt to the last droid's head, watching it crumple to the ground in a pitiful lump of metallic flesh.
When it was all over, Ronovi without a word ripped her commlink from her belt and spoke sharply into it.
"Hey, for those of you still dawdling outside, we could use some help getting out."
Ten seconds later, the door burst open, riddled with the gaping holes of WESTARs and other heavy duty rifles. The Sergeant bowed curtly to Ronovi as the team stepped out, Ruluk being supported by Tra'an.
"Ma'am, the mission?"
"I'm going to connect with Aabsdu and his team now," Ronovi said as she stepped into the thin, hot atmosphere of Lyspair and reached for her flask of whiskey. "I think he'll find this discovery to be interesting, to say the very least."