The islands of Yridia II were noted to belong to the Yridians themselves, those descendants of Old Republic and Imperial dissidents who had initially been sent to the Yridia system as a penal colony, and later, as a mining source for raw materials. The Imperials had eventually forgotten Yridia, and left the colonists to their own fates, in preference of other "correctional facilities." And so, when Tarentum had initially come to Yridia and founded their own House, the land had been left to the Yridian Theocracy that had developed, and the seas had been claimed for the Dark Side.
As had happened in the near-past, the Dark Side seemed to spill over onto the Yridian islands, and it seemed as though the conflict was going to push events into the open. The Yridians had been infected with the Rakghoul plague, and it was spreading throughout the system. It seemed as though the islands of Yridia II may have been the focal point for the infection, and the combined forces of Naga Sadow, Taldryan, and Tarentum herself had been amassed to seek out whomever had initiated the plague, and to discover their purposes behind it. While Tarentum's own resources were being dedicated almost exclusively within system to seek out the reasons behind the plague, and the attacks on her sister Houses, Naga Sadow and Taldryan had not brought the entirety of their own forces away from their home systems. The great bulk of the work seemed to be done by Tarentum, but such an assumption would be incorrect. Great leaps and efforts had been made in behalf of Tarentum by her sister Houses, and it was a debt that could not be forgotten.
Some of Tarentum's own had desired to stand on their own. The Quaestors had dictated that all members of each House would work in unison with those of the respect sister Houses, perhaps because the Quaestors wanted it known that each House desired to share the full answers, and perhaps the full reward for discovering the culprit's identity and reasons behind the assault. And yet, there were many who saw it entirely unnecessary to slow their own progress through cooperation.
Sith Bloodfyre was entirely familiar with the Yridia system, particularly with Yridia II, on a level that few others beyond the veterans of Tarentum enjoyed. He had spent more years here than most others who now occupied Tarentum's realm of control, the domain of the Sith King. And while he was certainly an expert on most of Tarentum's history, or practices, or projects, the Rakghouls lay beyond his intimate expertise. Unlike some of the rest of Tarentum, Bloodfyre had chosen to remain out of the practice of summoning Rakghouls, or the so-called "Smoke Demons" that had come into practice within Tarentum. The reigning Grand Master, Muz Ashen, had gifted Tarentum with the holocrons detailing those practices, supposedly under the pretenses that Tarentum's practice with the undead and Necromantic arts may have prepared them for utilizing these new arts on a level that the other Houses would not have been prepared for.
The fact remained, while most of Tarentum publicly made a stand against Necromancy and the Keepers who had brought the arts to Tarentum--after the Keepers had apparently betrayed Tarentum's trust and efforts of alliance--Bloodfyre continued to practice the darkest of arts. While it was generally unknown publicly, Sith Bloodfyre, Master of the Sith Order, last of the High Warriors, was still a practicing Necromancer. He was not a summoner of Rakghouls, nor one who created beasts of smoke. Within the darkest levels of the Mystics' Asylum, wherein the so-called Rite of Sin practiced their arts, or gathered together to enhance each others' practices of Sith magic, the undead still dwelled, were created or brought forth from Oblivion, and the Restless and Risen were still as much a part of Tarentum as they had been for years. It was something the Sith Master understood, the practice of raising corpses, calling forth to Force spirits, and manipulating the currents of life and death. It was familiar, it was second nature, and it was a part of who he was.
So, while his curiosity was not piqued by the practice of Rakghouls and Smoke Demons, though, the Sith Master understood why chaotic practice and unobserved inception of these creations could cause so much havoc. In times past, unattended creation of Draugr and Aptrgangr by those newly-initiated, or less-capable in the arts had caused great destruction and chaos among the Yridians, or Tarentum's own. The Rakghoul and the Smoke Demon was just as capable of being a menace to his House, to his kin, and to the system he called home. It was incredibly necessary that Bloodfyre come forth and do what he could to help resolve the conflict.
"Is there any reason for me not to strike you down where you stand?"
Sith turned towards the voice; he had been so lost in thought, the Sith Master had not felt the presence of another. Or, perhaps the person had been doing what they could to mask themselves away from him, to discover Bloodfyre's own identity before being identified themselves.
"Only a fool comes into a man's home and threatens to destroy him," Sith countered. "And from your garb, I would suggest that you are no fool, Macron Goura. Next time, you ought to use all of your resources to discover a man's identity before assuming you are sufficient to strike him down without the benefit of surprise."
"I could have struck without warning," Goura answered, "but something about you is familiar to me."
The two stood in an clearing upon their specific island. Ship rubble was strewn about them, as though a wreckage had happened here, and perhaps recently. Charred remains of the ship mixed with the devastation that was now the landscape, churned up in the dying ship's passing, and the small fires that had singed the plant life.
"I'm certain I ought to be familiar, as we've met before," Sith stated flatly. "I'm very familiar with most of the veterans of Naga Sadow, though my camaraderie with my brother, Trevarus Caerick."
"You are not a Caerick."
"No, but I am one of the Dragons," Sith's hood perhaps hid a small smirk caressing the left corner of his lips.
"The Ghost Dragon, Sith Bloodfyre," Macron surmised correctly. "Yes, I figured you to be Tarentae."
"At your service, Macron Goura," Sith nodded slightly. "Now, I'm sure it would be pleasant to reacquaint ourselves, but given the current circumstances for your House and mine to be allied in this Rakghoul endeavor, I'll take my leave from you."
Sith turned to leave, but noticed within short seconds that Macron was following him about the site of the wreckage. To be certain, Macron was inspecting the site himself, taking mental notes of everything as he'd viewed it, but he seemed to also be taking notes as to Bloodfyre's actions, where he seemed to take particular interest, and whatever else the Sith Master was doing.
"Is there something more I can assist you with?" Sith turned his attention completely to the Alchemist.
"Wouldn't it seem to make more sense if we combined our energies and efforts, as has been suggested by the Quaestors of both our own Houses, as well as Taldryan?" Macron squatted down near a bit of the wreckage, took a piece of the now-cooled material in his hands, and examined it much as the quintessential researcher might. "It seems that we might come to more conclusive answers, or perhaps simply come to whatever results we'd both naturally arrive at much faster."
Macron squinted at the wreckage from underneath his armored helm. Ghostly readouts scrolled across the inside of the faceplate as the internal mini-computer meshed with the sensors in the fingertips of his gauntlet. The wreckage was contaminated with many teeming bio-organisms. None of the were of the especially virulent sort. It was likely the fires had extinguished them if indeed they propagated thusly. “Disgusting,” chuckled the alchemist. “But no loose Rakghoul bio-agents that I can spot. Apologies for my earlier crass statement. I am a Sith, after all as you yourself are.”
Bloodfyre contemplated the scene. Perhaps the Sadow had a point. His expertise in the alchemical arts could be useful, for now. Macron was well-known across the entire Brotherhood as one of the more able alchemists. And Sith Masters were known for using resources masterfully to achieve their aims. “You might be onto something.” The Sith Master peered about the scene of the wreckage. He could feel the pressure of the many souls which had been liberated from their mortal shells. “This place has seen much death, and recently.”
“Necromancy is not my forte respectfully,” remarked the madman. “Interesting, nonetheless. So you mean to say these Rakghouls are not truly the beings they once were?” Macron stood with a rasp of red ceramic armor and a whine of servos. The Warlord seldom if ever entered a “hot” combat area without his Sith battlesuit. It was a security blanket of sorts for the madman’s loathing of insects and the unclean. At least this was a scene from a civilized Hell, and not a loathed jungle clime.
“They are not truly living anymore, that is a fact. Although their bodies transform, the soul within is liberated and dies as they reach the terminal stages of infection.” The wise Tarentae was hesitant to reveal too much of the secret lore, especially to one who could just as easily be an enemy in the future. Best to keep your friends close- and your enemies closer. "I suspect this may be one of the focal points for the pandemic."
“I see,” nodded the Sadow. “Makes sense. Biogenic transformation causing termination with the subject’s biomass utilized as a self-propelled and self-propagating weapon. Karness Muur was truly a genius to blend bio-warfare and necromancy so cunningly.” He closed his eyes, feeling for the taint of the Rakghoul plague nearby via the Mark. “A Long I may not be,” giggled the lunatic. “But Master Caerick did impart me somewhat with his legacy.” His hand raised to point towards a shattered bunker. "There."
Bloodfyre smiled cruelly. “You sound like you approve of Muur’s questionable follies. Too bad Dreypa's oubliette was opened." He gestured towards the shattered military bunker. "I was wondering if you would sense that. That was where I was heading.” Wind swept the area, blowing the stench of the dead and of spilled fuel around the scene of tragedy and wreckage. The mouth of the ruined edifice leaked wisps of smoke, as if from the gaping maw of a rotten corpse. It was a colossal boil desperately begging to be lanced from the surface of Yridia II.
“I can’t say I approve,” frowned the mad Sith under his faceplate as his vocoder-modulated voice echoed in the fetid air. “It is fascinating, nonetheless. Maybe I can get a viable tissue sample for my research. So, Master Sith. I say we go and cleanse this place of the filth that infests it- with swords of fire and the Fury of the Sith.” Macron’s hand palmed his lightsaber, gesturing towards the nest of unknown horrors. “What say ye?”
A smirk alighted itself upon the left corner of the Sith Master's mouth. The destruction of the Rakghouls infesting the system was assured. There would be none left out of Tarentum's control to continue the rampant infestation. The Yridians were to be protected, and indeed, Tarentum's control over the Rakghouls and Smoke Demons had to be assured, as well. While Bloodfyre was not a practitioner of those arts, they were held by Tarentum, gifted to the House by the Grand Master himself. The arts had to be protected, lest the Grand Master decree Tarentum unfit, and strip them of the holocrons and authorization to practice them. It would be quite detrimental to Tarentum if the Grand Master had to pay more attention to them than they wished to have.
The trek to the bunker was quiet. There was no need for discussion, and though the two were ostensibly allies under the present state of affairs, and members of the same Order, this did not dictate friendly and open communication. There were no hostilities between the two, but that did little to dictate actual relations and alliance.
If the bunker was anything, it was a rather squat, nondescript building that would do little to attract the attention as a military installation. It was one of Tarentum's own bases, disguised to look as though a local constabulary, or perhaps of garrison of the Yridian Civil Defense Force. It had been populated by the Yridians, those who served under obligation within the YCDF as part of the laws that bound Yridian society with Tarentum in mutual growth and protection. And yet, while it was an outpost for the YCDF, it was still one of Tarentum's bases. Deep beneath the surface, the House that had been the Clan of Life and Death utilized the base to keep tabs on the local population, as well as to draw off potential insight and intelligence from the YCDF's own efforts. Tarentum kept its fingers in everything within the confines of Yridia.
The two entered the installation with minor effort. The destruction caused in the area hadn't left the bunker without its own scars. No one was on duty; the place looked abandoned. The outer blast doors were partially opened, but only from damage suffered from bits of the wrecked shuttle beating against the outer doors. The hands of the Force plucked the doors from their moorings, and ripped them away from the building as the Sith Master's own hands mimicked the action of flinging them from marring his path. Macron's gaze flicked to one side and the other, as the screen within his helmet traced readings of everything for him to peruse, as well as to store as information and intelligence for his own House, should it ever be needed at a future date.
It wasn't a secret that Goura would be gathering intelligence; Bloodfyre recognized the potential, but the risk of losing any intelligence regarding this particular installation, and tracking down intelligence regarding the Rakghouls had been weighed and a solution reached. Whatever Macron could discern that might be used against Tarentum would be of little value. This installation would likely be razed, and if rebuilt in the same location, would not be rebuilt with the same layout and design. Whatever benefit Naga Sadow might have, if not nullified by further alliance, would be negated through destruction.
"What you see here is merely a holding area," Bloodfyre suddenly spoke up, breaking the silence. "This room has no real intent, except as a means to stage persons seeking admittance to lower levels, or as a possible means to slow up any intruders who may assault the installation."
"I had assumed as much," Macron replied.
"Further down the corridor ahead of us is a preliminary turbolift that will take us to a central access point," Sith continued. "From there, we have access to a series of turbolifts that take us to different areas of the compound. The benefit to that is, each area of the compound is almost entirely isolated from the rest. If there was an outbreak of Rakghouls across the installation, each area should remain contained, which may minimize our potential contact with the infected."
"Where was the busiest area of this compound?" Macron continued alongside the Sith Master. "It's highly likely that whatever infection occurred here may have struck there the hardest. Do we need to spend any time investigating that area?"
"The busiest areas will be of no concern, I imagine," Bloodfyre shook his head slightly in the negative. The two continued to walk, and within short seconds, approached the primary turbolift towards the central access area. "If my suspicions are correct, the infection here may have been initiated with the--"
"Rakghouls!" Macron leaped out of the way as nearly a dozen of the creatures burst forth from the turbolift as the doors whisked open to allow the two Sith entrance. The snap-hiss of a lightsaber rang out throughout the abandoned complex, as Macron Goura readied himself for the assault of the infected wretches. But the assault never came. Macron watched as the Rakghouls all landed at the feet of the Sith Master, whose hands were raised out in front of him, palms open and out, his eyes focused on the number of Rakghouls before him. Each of the pathetic creatures seemed to be caught and enthralled by his powers, whatever they were. Macron could only watch as the creatures writhed in apparent agony, their unintelligible groans and gurgles preceding what could only be described as the drawn-out, laborious process of their bodies melting while they still lived.
Pools of viscera escaped from their quickly-emptying eye sockets, tongues bubbled and burst, skin withered into a moist and rancid mess of what had once been flesh. The life of the Rakghouls faded, but not before each and every infected creature had likely underwent every conceivable agony that a Sith, especially a Sith Master, could inflict upon them. Their liquid remains oozed across the floor, but not a single drop seemed to come within a few inches of the Sith Master's person. Macron deactivated his lightsaber, and glanced curiously at the visceral mess at the Shaevalian's feet.
"This one is quite powerful, as powerful as I had previously believed," Macron said, seemingly to himself. "Yes, quite impressive. No, I don't quite know exactly what was done to them. I think I must get a sample, however. Yes, definitely a sample. Good gods, I would love to see that again, in some depth and detail. No, no, another time. We have much work yet still to do."
Bloodfyre watched as the Sadow collected whatever samples he desired, and then focused himself on the turbolift. If the Rakghouls had been in this lift, and the lifts themselves were not entirely shut down as he had supposed, it was very likely that the Rakghouls had wandered throughout the entire installation. It was not likely to be as potentially "easy" as the Shaevalian had first hoped.
"Finish quickly if you will, Macron Goura," Sith said softly, "and be prepared. My suspicions may not have been correct after all."
"What suspicions were they, Tarentae?" Macron finished and moved quickly to the Sith Master's side, and both Sadow and Tarentae were aboard the now-vacant turbolift, heading for the levels below.
"It no longer matters," Sith responded softly, "because as stated, they were apparently incorrect."
Crash Site bunker
“I see,” commented the alchemist dryly. “Incorrect. That's lovely. Going... down. Bottom floor, chips, dips, chains, whips, lingerie... hehehe.” One fist clenched an unlit lightsaber hilt, and the other flexed open and closed within the Armor Fist. Combat was near, and the Sadow lived for it like many of his brethren. Hurting people- or creatures- was one of the few things that gave him peace of mind for a time.
The Shaevalian eyed the Warlord with curiosity. “So the rumors are true,” he queried “You are truly crazed. I heard you were so even before you began to study the traditions of the Sith.”
“Yes,” replied the Equite simply. “I am. You know who my Sith Master was, right?” Macron tapped the fingers of his crush-gaunt on the capsule wall, idly counting a formless rhythm. The anticipation was driving him mad. “That explains it even more.”
“I do,” commented the Tarentae as the turbolift lurched to a stop. “It was Darth Vexatus. I knew him a long time ago...” the Elder seemed to drift in thought as he reminisced. “When I was still the High Warrior. No matter, we have reached our target area.”
The doors hissed open jerkily as the dim red emergency lights filtered into the now-open turbolift capsule. The sanguine light coming from the floor made the place look eerie in the otherwise unlit hall. Shapes moved forward with a growl. Disgusting three-eyed hairy beats with elongated arms shambled into view. They were obviously feral rakghouls, former Yridians that had been transformed in death into hideous monstrosities.
No words passed between the twin Sith as they moved into combat. None were needed. The will of the Dark Side moved them in perfect tandem like the Sith of old in battle. It was a beautiful sight to behold if you were a stone-cold killer.
Bloodfyre’s left hand shot bolts of seething lightning to slam into the pack. As three burned, they stank of ozone and hot infection-ridden flesh. His right drew a double-bladed lightsaber hilt that snapped to life with twin crimson blades. Two of the closest ones still standing met their instant deaths with a Shien whipping cut from the Master’s weapon to the right and a Djem So lunge and twist before him.
Macron threw his tangerine colored weapon with a scream of rage to the left, bisecting two of the rakghouls with the spinning orange disc. The armored lunatic leapt into the fray with a Force-assisted jump. He caught the returning lightsaber in his right hand while punching in the skull of another rakghoul with the Armor Fist. Bloated rotten brains spewed forth like a burst giant pimple, spraying the area with pus. The battlesuit was hermetically sealed and Macron thus did not care about flying remains. A knee strike driven with jackhammering power by the Force met a rakghoul crotch, driving it off it’s feet to be instantly met with an elbow smash and a Trakata lightsaber stab between the eyes from the other direction.
A wave of power ripped forth from Bloodfyre to smash the remaining four rakghouls. The Force-wave picked them up and hammered them against the duracrete walls which crushed their bones like twigs. A follow up charge of azure Dark Side lightning ensured that any remaining corpses were fully sterilized. Their bodies hopped and twitched like frogs in a junior high biology class under electric current do until they began to smoke and stop moving.
Macron sprayed the area as well as his own sullied armor with an aerosol canister from his pack. “Deodorant,” he giggled. “And some disinfectant. Nasty bastards.”