Methyas, Locke, Roxas
If things had only gone right from the start. First the shoulder-fired missile had forced them down on less-than-friendly terms. Then they’d picked the survivors, and there weren’t many, from the wreckage. Lastly, night fell. That’s when it got bad. Had they not been heavily armed and equipped, chances were they likely would have lost a few more. Luck, or the Force, had it that they’d been assembled for one purpose.
The Brotherhood was not the only rival of the reestablished Jedi Order. Among those that dealt in Force Cults, Dark Side religions, or in cultural uses of the Force, the Brotherhood was known well. Envy of the Brotherhood’s martial might, organization, territorial situation, and numbers were common among anyone who would have otherwise been their allies. For this reason, the Grand Master found it useful at times to flex his muscle, to demonstrate to his would-be competitors that there was good reason the Brotherhood was top dog.
From his lips, to the hands of the VOICE, directives were given to small strike teams. Infiltrate the Almas System, cause enough of a stir among the Believers Cult to show them the reach of the Brotherhood’s saber, and return home.
12.8km Outside Farard
As the eerie haze of morning sunlight began to peek over the horizon, Locke surveyed the crash site. "It doesn't look like they've been back since last night," he mumbled. The previous night the strike team's shuttle had been blown out of the sky, forcing them to crash early. In the ensuing chaos the Believers had closed in, attempting to kill off any survivors. The fighting was fierce through the night, and it had looked like they might fall to overwhelming numbers when the sudden explosion of the shuttle's fuel tanks had distracted the enemy, allowing the three Dark Jedi to pull away in the night. Amazingly, the Believers had pulled back, no doubt believing all of the survivors of the crash to have perished in the blast.
Locke shimmied back down the sand dune he had been looking over, flinching as a cloud of brittle dust stung at his face as it blew by him. A little way down the dune, Roxas was resting, his armor blackened in many places, his helmet off. He held himself up on one knee, looking the opposite direction Locke had. Roxas had refused to sleep through the night, even when Locke or Methyas offered to watch the camp site. Locke could feel the anger coming from him – anger at being caught off guard by an inferior enemy and being forced to hide from them.
Methyas lay on the ground next to him, his robes in tatters, the equipment bags the trio had managed to scavenge from the wreck lying around him. He had miraculously escaped unscathed, despite the many holes that now riddled his robe. Locke himself had tied what was left of his own robe over his eyes to protect against the sun, as he remembered doing on some battlefield during the 'Vong War long ago.
"Looks like they left, " he said.
A low growl escaped from Roxas. "I still can't believe those bastards caught us by surprise like that. If the pilot was still alive, I'd strangle him!"
"It's not his fault, " Locke replied. He felt for the pilot and knew that type of situation well. The missile warning, the brief seconds to decide how to maneuver, the sudden awareness of the sluggish controls of an assault shuttle with no rear turret against a guided missile… "It was the shuttle's design; I doubt any pilot would have been able to dodge that. Either way, this isn't the time to debate it; we have work to do my friends. " Locke finished his statement firmly, cutting off any chance for a lengthy and pointless argument. They could still salvage this operation - and they would - if everyone kept their cool.
Methyas sat up. "I don't sense any of them nearby. Is this place as barren as it seems?"
Locke looked around at the blasted wasteland around them, only broken by the slight incline of dunes and the shattered megalith of the enemy's fortress in the distance and the city of Forard sprawled around it. "Yeah."
"Great, " Methyas replied.
"Anyway, we have no time to waste, " Locke continued, " we're all that's left, and we have a job to do. There's a fortress over there celebrating our obliteration right now. The Force has given us a second chance on this operation, and I intend to make the most of it.
" Now, our intel indicates there's a small town encircling the academy ruins themselves. This town, called Forard, should allow us to get reasonably close to the academy. I propose we approach the city, disguise ourselves as vagrants looking for work, and attempt to infiltrate the Believers Cult that way. Any objections?"
Methyas shook his head. "Does this end with lots of killing?" Roxas asked.
"Oh, there'll be killing, " Locke replied with a grin. "Let's head out, Roxas, you take point for now. Locke pulled his tattered robe off his head and tossed it to the other Dark Jedi. "You may want to cover your armor with this and carry your helmet in your bag, I think you might draw too much attention otherwise."
Roxas stared down at the black and purple mess in his hands. "But…it's purple…"
"Just wear it!" Locke snapped, "it'll be an improvement, if anything."
Grumbling, Roxas pulled it over his armor and sealed his helmet up inside the bag that also carried his spare weaponry. He slung the bag over his shoulder. Locke and Methyas followed suit, and the three began their trek toward Forard.
Roxas stayed a few steps ahead of Methyas and Locke, so that he could give ample warning of any sentries. The purple lining on the tattered robe was taxing his nerves, but he would hold out as the promise of battle was on the horizon. He just imagined the color being the combination of the Mandalorian meanings for red (honor) and blue (reliability).
He took a knee and reached to his belt. He pulled his binoculars and looked to the town just a few dunes ahead of them.
“How far? I’m thirsty.” Methyas asked, his voice full of annoyance with the sand that had seeped into one of his boots.
“A couple hundred meters…” Roxas said while holding his canteen for Methyas to take “Have a drink.”
“And how far is that?” Methyas took the container, but stopped before opening “Is it alcohol?”
Roxas sighed “It’s a ways and no sorry, just water, besides alcohol will dehydrate you more.”
Methyas let out an annoyed sigh as he opened the canteen. He took a long gulp before tossing it back.
“Ready to go?” the Proconsul asked anxious to get to the town.
“I’m looking for a pattern in the crowd, too see if they are patrolling.”
Locke didn’t complain, he knew it was Roxas’ training and he was glad that the Templar took the precaution. He knew that it would help them be prepared to infiltrate the town.
“I don’t see a pattern, so that means they either patrol at random or don’t patrol at all.” the Templar finished as he clipped the binoculars back to his belt.
The trio were once again on the move, all the while the sun was moving higher in the sky. The temperature was increasing, but soon they would be out of the heat. They climbed up one side of a dune and then slid down the other, creating small clouds of sand as they slid. After a few dunes they reached the outer walls of Farard. The three dark jedi walked into the town with their heads down, so as not to attract attention from wandering eyes. Methyas could hear the sound of running water and quickly headed toward it. Locke and Roxas rushed to keep up.
Methyas came to a fountain and dunked his head in to drink all he could. He lifted his head and exhaled with satisfaction. Roxas and Locke took to filling the canteens in case they would be traveling through the barren sands again.
“I feel an angst in the people of this town. As if they are afraid of something.” Methyas informed as he read the aura of the people.
Roxas smiled slightly “They should fear something. Us. We are going to do some major redecorating soon.”
Locke looked around and watched the people, they all seemed weak and beaten. He turned to the other dark jedi “Let’s get going. Roxas take point, but don’t go too far ahead.”
The Mandalorian nodded and the trio began to work their way further into the town. The crowds were thick of people shopping the many street markets. The occasional person would look at Roxas and see his red eyes. They would stare as if he was a freak or as if they were afraid. He ignored it, but did enjoy the intimidation that they caused on many people, some would even rush our of his way as he walked.
Roxas casually glanced back at Locke before whispering…
“Locke, can I take this purple thing off now?”
A man bumped into Roxas and started screaming at him. The Mandalorian grabbed the man by the throat and threw him down an alley.
“Roxas look he’s wearing the clothes of the cult members.” Locke lightly hollered down the alley.
The Templar grabbed his knife and charged the man before he could get away. The man punched, but Roxas using Jakelian ducked quickly and brought his left hand up and grabbed the man’s shoulder. Roxas quickly kicked the man’s feet out from under him and slammed him to the ground before putting the blade to the man’s neck.
“Don’t move, or the God or deity you pray to will be seeing you soon.”
The man had fear in his eyes and struggled to speak “What do you want?”
“Your clothes and ID.”
The man’s eyes widened and then he began pleading “Please don’t rape me. PLEASE!”
Roxas stomped the man’s neck to knock him out. He quickly took the man’s clothes and ID.
“Why did you take his clothes and ID?” Methyas inquired “And why did he think you were going to rape him.” Methyas laughed slightly
“I don’t know what his problem is, but one of us can use these clothes and ID to sneak past the guards and let the others in.” The Mandalorian said casually.
Locke stepped forward “And who do you have in mind for this?”
“Well I don’t think I can get it over my armor and Methyas is blind, so…”
Locke sighed and then snatched the clothes “Fine.”
Locke quickly pulled the outfit over his own clothing, noting that it barely fit. “This isn’t going to work, “ he said, checking to make sure his blaster would be easily accessible under it. “They probably have some secret pass code or something beyond the ID.”
“Don’t worry, “ Methyas replied in a level voice, “I don’t think you will have any issues.” Locke gave him a skeptical look.
“Yeah, these guys are stupid!” Roxas added, gesturing at the man on the ground.
“Sure guys.” Locke made sure the disguise fit well, and then palmed the ID card. “Doesn’t even look like me.”
“Do your convincing, ‘I’m a nice Dark Jedi’ routine,” Roxas joked.
“Hey, if you didn’t kill your followers, they’d like you too, “ Locke shot back.
“Sure, sure, “ Roxas said.
Methyas cleared his throat. “Right, “ Locke said, “here goes nothing.” He turned and walked away from the others, finding his way through the streets while he slowly worked his way closer to the ruined academy at the center of the town. He noted that the town’s people stared at him with a distinct feeling of fear and loathing. It was saddening, but Locke focused ahead, still trying to figure out how he was going to get inside the Believer’s perimeter. He had always been a soldier; stealth just wasn’t his thing. This was a job for someone like Mirado, he would know what to do. Unfortunately, Mirado was somewhere back in the Orian System, or only the Grandmaster knows where.
So they chose me, Locke thought. Well, he was technically the team’s leader, despite Methyas’s experience. Locke was still trying to get used to the fact that he was in charge here. He had always been a follower: good at taking orders, not so much at executing them. Still, his superiors must have seen something in him, and he wasn’t about to let them down. Locke had to find a way into the academy - for all of them. He had to see this mission through. He would command the respect of those around him, and prove his worthiness through his actions.
His resolve strengthend, Locke finally found one of the checkpoints separating the town of Farard from the academy. The guards posted at it gave Locke an odd look as he approached, one of them half raising an old blaster. “Whos are you?” he asked. “You dun’ look familiar.”
“I’m Ran Darv, how could you forget?” Locke asked.
“You sure you’re Ran, you dun’ look right to me.”
“Of course I am, “ Locke replied. He would have to find a way out of this soon. Blasters were too loud, his lightsaber too flashy. “How dare you doubt who I am?” Maybe being confrontational would work. These guys were just the right type of low-life.
“Hey hey, “ the other guard piped up, waving his hands, “we’re all friends here. Look, you’ve got your ID, so there’s got to be an explanation, why do you look like you’ve been out in the wastes for a day?”
Idiot, Locke thought. “I was out in the town, and I had some trouble with a couple of the citizens. Got real aggressive, so I roughed them up a bit. I ended up in the dirt before it was over though.”
“That’s not good, “ the guard answered, “I”d better call it in, we’ll send a party out, you get some rest.” The other guard grunted and stared warily at Locke, but lowered his weapon.
“Thanks, “ Locke answered, before walking past the checkpoint and into the academy’s ruins. If they were sending a party out, then that would cause trouble in the city, or they might find Methyas and Roxas. Locke would have to act fast. There had to be a weak point he could let the others in by where the enemy wouldn’t expect.
He began to wonder the ruins, sticking to the outside. Much of it seemed to be enclosed, but there was a large area littered with old, twisted durasteel frames, storage boxes, and other debris surrounding what was left of the central structure. Beyond that, there were checkpoints at various exits out into the city, and a wall running around the perimeter aside from that. Locke decided to focus on that wall, weaving around stone columns and ancient durasteel fragments taller than his head.
Then something caught his eye: a small gate, secluded at one corner, protected by two other guards. Locke approached them. “I need to get through, “ he said confidently.
One - a twi’lek - laughed. “Why would you need to get out the garbage disposal, I don’t see any trash.”
The other was human, with one eye missing. “I don’t see any trash either, unless you’re the trash.” They both laughed.
“I just want to get out to the town for a bit...discreetly, “ Locke added.
“Well, sorry, no one is allowed in or out this gate.” Dammit, Locke thought, this is a waste of time and the others will have trouble real soon!
“Look, I have special orders from the higher-ups, so let me through, or else.”
“Or else what?” The twi’lek said, grinning.
That was it, Locke was out of options. There was no way anyone could see them here. “Or else this, “ he said, calling on the Force to quicken his movements, drawing his lightsaber in the blink of an eye, and driving the blade through the twi’lek’s chest. He pulled it out, spinning, and cut the other guard’s head off, quickly deactivating the weapon and standing there silently. For a long moment he panted, listening, but no one came.
He found the control to open the gate, hoping that there was no security system tied to it, and fished his comlink from beneath the disguise. “Guys, they have patrols, there’s a gate down an alleyway to the east. Find it, meet me there, it’s our way in. Be quick.” He waited for a quick reply from Methyas before tucking the comlink away and looking around. Outside the gate there was a large garbage bin, so Locke occupied his time with dragging the guard’s corpses through the small gate and out by it. It was difficult for him alone, but hopefully it would prevent their bodies from being found for awhile.
As Locke's directions finished passing through the Comlink, Methyas responded with a quick little click as he switched the transmit switch on and off swiftly; it was an older method of acknowledging an order via radio, something he had learned from the Arcturi during their time as Republic Commandoes, but it was something he was certain Locke would understand.
Without missing a beat, the Prelate reached into the Force, reaching out to try and get a feeling for where his Proconsul was or had advised them to go; all the while, Roxas shifted impatiently in his armour as the Miraluka once again "lost himself" in the Force. Despite the young Mandalorian's cocky attitude, he was a well suited member of the team, instinctively running a series of small checks and patrols as Methyas divined their next location; even the young man's movements were surprisingly quiet in his bulky armour. There was one thing that the Mandalorian had never gotten used to: whenever Methyas opened himself to the Force in these ways, there always seemed to be an invisible weight placed upon his shoulders, almost as though the Miraluka's connection to the Force bled off and threatened to suffocate him.
Roxas shifted his weight again, trying to shake that weighy feeling as he peered around another corner before everything seemed to return to normal. Quickly cupping a hand above his eyes to shade them from the sun as he glanced skywards, the young man joked, "Jeeze, Methyas...if you take any longer, Locke's going to be sleeping when we reach him."
"Patience, can sometimes be a blessing. This way." Methyas quickly retorted as he began to move his way through the sand-blown alleyways.
The back-streets and corridors between the stone buildings of this city were surprisingly well shaded for how high the sun rest in the sky, a welcome turn of events for the two Sadowans who now navigated them. Discussion wasn't really necessary between the pair; they had been raised as warriors, as Mando'ad. Yet they both behaved so differently; many times Roxas had forgotten that his companion had once worn armour similar to his own, but had cast it off for the life of a sorcerer, what equated to the life of a dar'manda. Yet all that seemed to fade away in moments like this, when Methyas moved through these streets as a warrior, signalling his ally when the way was clear to move forward or keeping him from stepping into the line of sight of a patrol.
A quiet sigh escaped Methyas as he stopped at another corner, his body moving instinctively as his mind remained immersed within the flow of the Force itself; he could feel the patrols coming towards them, their methodical plodding feet stirring up small clouds of sand as they moved along the cobblestones. He could also feel Locke's presences a few meters away around another few bends, opening the gate for them silently as a pair of bodies behind him had their essence slowly bleeding away into the ever flowing current around them. Taking a deep breath, Methyas let the dispair wash over him for only a moment as he quietly reminded himself of the final tennant of the code: "Death, yet the Force."
His focus shot back to the more pressing matter of the two approaching patrols; one would appear from a corner ahead of them as another would catch them if they hesitated too long in the small corridor they were about to enter. Motioning for Roxas to enter the corridor ahead of him, the young Mandalorian responded swiftly and moved closer to the end of the alleyway before reaching for his blaster; hesitating as Methyas still stood at the opposite end near the corner.
Voices rose up from the end of the corridor near the Miraluka, questioning if they had heard something and moving to check what it was as Methyas moved swiftly towards his companion in a low crouch. The older man swiftly held his hand up in caution, warning his ally to wait as he seemed to gesture oddly towards the wall near them. Nearly instantaneously the sound of another set of voices rose up, again questioning what a sound he had never heard was, the sound of their feet scraping against the cobblestones nearby bringing his combat instincts to attention. He never had a chance to close his hand upon his blaster's grip as Methyas nearly yanked him off his feet, the unexpectedness of the Miraluka's sudden movement would have toppled him had he not instinctively moved with the oddly calming hand around his arm.
As quickly as they had moved, they found themselves in a small dark room; the door sliding quietly shut before a light wordlessly came on, Methyas' sightless gaze fixed upon the doorway itself as Roxas felt his adrenaline and anger return to him once more. The Mandalorian paused, only for a moment to glance from his arm where Methyas had just touched to the Miraluka himself, before his voice rose up quietly, "What did you just do?"
"Drained your will to fight, we're better off reaching Locke without alerting a patrol and I have yet to see you miss an opportunity to draw that blaster of yours."
"And the patrols? Another trick of yours?"
"Of course, what better way to make the enemy miss your movements than to make them believe that someone else is running through the streets near them?"
Roxas nodded in agreement, his dissatisfaction with being manipulated by his companion's sorcery causing him to pace about the room with the quiet sound of his durasteel plating shifting as he moved slowly about the room. He shook his head for a moment, trying to piece together how to explain how upset he was at Methyas' trick when the man spoke again, "Focus your anger, Roxas. Use it to your advantage, harness it and focus on using that feeling. Use that emotion to reach into the current of the Force, to focus on the muscles in your legs."
In a moment of uncertainty, he felt his eyebrows shift quizzingly as his head nearly cocked to one side, his question escaping without a moment's thought, "Why my legs?"
In a level tone, Methyas responded, "Because we have a small window and need to run."
Before Roxas could even reply, the events were set in motion; the light vanished as the door flung open quietly, a weight falling upon his shoulders for a mere moment before Methyas vanished from sight, his heart sinking for a moment as he realized he had no clue where to go. Fear consumed him, if only for a moment, before anger at being left out of the loop (again); he felt his hands shake for a moment as he almost felt his face darken in fury to match the colour of his eyes. And then, he embraced it all. Listening to what Methyas had said, he reached out. Seconds passed, what felt like minutes as Roxas felt the awkward embrace of the Force; he felt a sudden clarity and realized that Methyas had woven a battlemeld with him, to guide him to Locke. He started moving, feeling his muscles answering his call as the Force enveloped them too and allowed him to move faster than an ordinary being could ever move. In moments he had caught up with the Miraluka, and in moments it all came to a grinding halt as he suddenly felt the cruel heat of the desert sun upon him again and felt as though his lungs were gasping for air.
He had ran his resources nearly to their limit in the five minutes it had taken to run from their hiding place to Locke's gate, the Priest closing the gate as Roxas moved to lean against a wall in an attempt to recover whatever energy he had lost. With a small chuckle, Methyas patted Roxas on the shoulder as he spoke, "You have these gifts within you; just like the rest of us. You just need to nurture them, let them grow; then you can truly honour you Clan, ner vod."
Moving away quietly, Methyas turned his sightless gaze to Locke and continued, "We'll need to give him a few moments to recover, let's plan out our next moves."
Roxas leaned against the wall catching his breath from the run. Even now, he still hadn’t fully recovered from the alchemy used to save his life. The alchemy had greatly reduced his ability to use the Force and the only positive outcome of such treatment other than the fact that he was still alive is that he is now slightly faster and stronger. Methyas was right, it would take training to get fully accustomed to the Force again. The Proconsul and former Consul discussed possible plans to enter the building unseen. Roxas looked to Methyas, he could see the Mandalorian training in his movements even though he had given up the tenants of the culture. Even though Methyas was technically dar’manda, Roxas didn’t see him that way. He held high regards for Methyas because the Prelate was wise and fought for what he believed in. To Roxas that was something to be respected.
The Mandalorian took a deep breath as he turned and looked up the walls of the building. The other two of the group still deciding what their next action should be. The Templar’s mind raced with infiltration techniques that he had been taught. Lowering his head he turned to his allies and spoke with confidence “What if one of us goes in through the roof? That way we hold the element of surprise and can take them from both sides.”
Methyas and Locke stopped talking and turned to Roxas and in unison said “Splitting up wouldn’t be a good idea.”
Roxas shrugged then replied “So, we’re sneaking in and raising hell without being seen then?”
“Basically” Methyas retorted.
“Ok, so stealth which means no blaster. Glad I have a knife.” said Roxas adjusting his belt, so he can get to his knife quickly and then smiled as he said “Things are gonna get messy.”
Locke jokingly cautioned Roxas “Be careful not to slip on the guts.”
Roxas giggled “Thanks for the warning, I’ll be sure to watch my step.”
The three stalked to a door on the side of the building and Roxas knocked.
“The frak are you doing?!” Locke whispered with a surprised tone.
The door opened and Roxas said “I’m coming in.” as rushed in the door and quickly slit the guard’s throat before gently laying the corpse on the floor.
The group began working their way through the building, silently killing guards as needed.
As the three Dark Jedi got deeper into the building, Locke kept abreast of Roxas. The young man’s brash actions could cause their discovery at any moment. “Hold up, Roxas, “ Methyas whispered suddenly.
Roxas stopped moving and turned, Locke just stopped and looked each way in the hall they were currently in Long cracks ran along the plain stone walls, indicating that this academy was a very hold place. Locke hoped it would remain structurally sound at least as long as they were there. “What is it, Methyas?” Roxas asked.
“Do you know where we’re going? “ Methyas asked plainly. Locke was slightly confused, but then it hit him. Why didn’t I think of that? Idiot Locke!
“Into the facility...to kill...people?” Roxas asked slowly.
“Remember our briefing. We want to make a disturbance, put them in their place, and leave.”
“Oh, “ Roxas said, “so we’re not going to kill all of them?”
“No, “ Methyas replied firmly.
Roxas had a dejected look on his face. “Who do we get to kill then?”
Methyas looked at Locke. Oh, right, I’m in command. “I’d say if we took out a high-ranking officer or authority figure, that would send them a message, “ Locke said.
Methyas just nodded. “Can I do it?” Roxas asked.
“We’ll see, “ Locke said. “It depends on how we do it. First, we need to figure out where their leaders would be. I assume one would be at the center of this place, but it might be difficult to get out once we get there.”
“How are we going to find them then?” Roxas asked.
Locke thought for a moment. Their briefing said some of these cultists were Force sensitive. He closed his eyes, thought for a moment, but couldn’t feel anything aside from the normal dark aura that surrounded the academy. “Methyas, can you sense anything? Maybe you could locate one of their Force sensitive leaders.”
“I could try, “ Methyas answered, “but you would have to protect me while I do, as it takes quite a bit of concentration to sort out a single Force signature from this ambient darkness.”
“Please do, Methyas, but first let’s find a slightly more out of the way location.”
“Someone’s coming!” Roxas whispered, eagerness in his voice. The three crouched down in the dimly-lit hallway, pressing themselves next to the wall. Locke hoped Roxas didn’t do anything rash.
Before they ever saw anyone, they heard a voice. “...yeah, I don’t know what happened to Dron. I’m sure he’s just out drinking or something. Oh, he was guarding the garbage gate? I’m on my way to check it out now. It seems Blod hasn’t checked in for awhile either, not sure what’s going on there, I’ll contact you again when I reach the gate.” There was a click, and then the source of the voice came into view.
Roxas leaped from his hiding place, his knife slicing the man’s throat while he covered his mouth with one hand and dragged him down.
“Nice, “ Locke said. “Let’s hurry, because when that guy doesn’t check in they’re definitely going to be suspicious. Roxas, bring the corpse, try to keep blood from spilling all over the ground.”
In response, Roxas tore a bit of the remains of Locke’s borrowed cloak off and tied it around the man’s neck, stopping more of the blood from leaking and becoming a visible stain. “Krath attire has so many uses Locke, don’t you agree?”
“Very funny, “ Locke replied. “Let’s go.” The group continued down the halls, moving a little more quickly now, but still being careful to be silent. Fortunately, Roxas was able to carry the guard with them fairly easily. Eventually the hall passed by a wooden door off to one side. By it’s construction, it appeared to have been added after the stone around it, possibly to section off the room beyond.
Locke looked at it for a moment. He expanded his Force impression of the area around him, his eyes still open, but his mind wandering, attempting to imitate something he had seen Methyas do long before. He felt through the door, but it was as if he could see the other side. There was nothing there. “I think this is a storage closet, “ he said.
“Hmm, “ Methyas answered, “good observation.”
Roxas just gave Locke a quizzical look as Locke pushed the door open and looked inside. “Need a glow lamp.”
Methyas fished one from his bag and passed it up to Locke. He flipped it on and moved the light around. “Looks like it’s just some boxes and stuff, not too big, but it should work. Come in and close the door.”
Methyas and Roxas entered the room, shutting the door behind them. The door fit the opening surprisingly well for being a later addition. “Anything in particular you need, Methyas?” Locke asked.
“Just some quiet, “ Methyas replied. “You can talk, just not to me.” He seated himself in one corner of the room and closed his eyes, beginning to think.
“How did you know there was nothing in here?” Roxas asked.
“Oh, you know, Krath stuff.”
“Sure, “ Roxas replied sarcastically.
Locke pointed to Methyas. “Alright Roxas, while he does that, let’s see what we have left in the bags, “ Locke said, pointing to the bags they had managed to haul this far.
Roxas unzipped one and rummaged through it. “Let’s see, ammo, rations, medical supplies, oh!” He looked up, smiling. “How about explosives?”
“Awesome, “ Locke said. “I think we can put those to good use.”
Storage Room, Alamas Academy
Forard, Almas, Cularin System
As Methyas began to settle into a meditative state, he could feel a chill run up his spine; cool licks of the Dark Side nipping at him from the nexus that consumed the former Sith fortress upon the planet. He was truly an outcast this deep within the Academy, Locke and Roxas would thrive in this environment as he would stand out as a beacon of hope and light as he began his search. The Jedi had been able to maintain his facade as a "grey" aligned member for many months now, a facade that may swiftly fail before his two companions and potentially costing him his life if they were to understand its implications. Far too late for him to consider now, as his mind began to transend his being and search out their targets; the last thing he thought he heard was a discussion about explosives.
As Methyas felt himself becoming immersed within the cold stream of the Force, the nexus around him, he began to see the Academy about him with more vivid clarity. The structure itself was rather impressive, appearing very much like the Jedi Temple upon Coruscant; memories of his past dripping into his mind as little droplets before he focused upon his task. Various buildings, chambers and courtyards could be felt around him; each with their own purpose and individuals within them. Sealed walkways connected the various buildings from where they waited now in towards the central tower and structure, the courtyards between the buildings covered in a strange dark moat within the Miraluka's sight, the dull glow from the tainted Kaluthin which helped maintain the planet's atmosphere. Methyas paused to muse upon the uses of the plant within the Orian system, a potentially vital ally in the terraforming of Tarthos or even the allied Taldryan's Rybanloth system.
The thought was placed aside for the moment being, his focus once more placed upon his mission of locating the leaders of this academy. Sparring chambers, dorms, classrooms, armouries, kitchens and various other places of learning or trial passed through his sight as he could feel sweat forming upon his brow from the mixture of the strain in searching so far out from his core and fighting the dark energies of the planet. A deep breath inwards steadied the Prelate as he began to search the center of the structure, focusing more upon the individuals than a wide sweep. Emotions began to bleed in; envy, dispair, anger, greed; all emotions which disciples of the dark side fed upon and thrived with. "Emotion, yet peace. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony." Methyas reminded himself of select tenants as he pushed onwards, deeper into the academy.
Different degrees of strength flashed past him; some simple learners, others weathered disciples and a select few masters. But none seemed to cry out as who he sought; even the apparent "Council Chamber" seemed devoid of life as he scoured past it. His brow furrowed as he took another deep breath, feeling small droplets of sweat slide down his face and body as strained himself. Different locations jumped to mind as he hurriedly began to think of where these beings could be, where would their own Elders spend their time? Then it clicked, perhaps they could be found in a library or some other place of learning. His focus moving just far enough back from the complex of buildings to locate what he had been looking for before he moved in close to confirm what he sought was lurking within. A small congregation of figures, all with a connection to the Force far superior to anyone else within the academy; he quickly did what was necessary, drifting his thoughts past them as he mentally memorized their individual signatures, subconsciously tying a small thread of his own power to their own.
In an instant it all snapped back, his work completed he quickly drew himself from his meditative state to allow himself to recover strength. Breathing deeply but steadily, Locke and Roxas would only know that he had finished his task by the fact the small room no longer remained burried under the thick fog of his Force signature, the fountain receeding to a small defensive flow about the young Jedi. A few moments passed, Locke's eyes watching Methyas calmly before the Miraluka spoke, "I've found them. Three of them; if that. They're located within a library or study near the center of the complex; shouldn't take long for us to reach them and if they move I've 'tagged' them so that we can follow."
Roxas spoke up next, interrupting before Locke had a chance to speak, "What do you mean, 'tagged'?"
"I mean, I've grasped onto their signature; it will take a portion of my focus and power to remain tied to it but it's not that troubling with two capable warriors at my side."
Locke spoke next, "Could you guide us to them? If you're focused on their location you could walk headlong into another patrol."
Methyas simply nodded, understanding the Priest's question and concern, "I could indeed; what are you thinking?"
Forard, Almas, Cularin System
“Explosives.” Roxas said with an eager toothy grin “We’ll use them to cover our retreat and to shake things up. I’ll set them around as we go through the building.”
“You’ll set them?” Methyas said, concerned with the Mandalorian’s ability to handle the task.
“Yes I’ll set them. I was the Fist’s apprentice.” The Templar interjected.
Locke replied “Methyas you lead us, slowly and we’ll watch your back. Roxas will set the explosives as we go; though it would help if we had a map, so we could hit better strategic areas.”
Roxas replied confidently “Don’t worry I’ll make it look like Sithmas.”
“Sounds good. I’ll try not to lead us into any patrols.” Methyas said as he opened the door.
Roxas lifted his bag full of explosives and held it over his shoulder, so it would lay across his back.
Methyas began to lead them through the corridors of the building toward the leaders of the academy. They passed a door and Roxas said “Hold on. Let’s see what’s in here, might be a good place to unload a present or two.”
Locke used the Force to see into the room and then signaled to Roxas that it was empty. Roxas opened the door and went inside. He set his bag down and pulled out some of the explosives. He wired them together and connected the detonators. He opened a vent cover and tossed them inside before closing the vent back and picking the bag up again. They left the room and continued down the expanse of hallways. After around fifty meters Roxas stopped and opened a small panel on the wall and set explosives inside. He continued to set explosives at random intervals as they walked.
Roxas opened one door slightly, so that he could peek inside and a man was laying on a cot sleeping. The Mandalorian quietly entered the room. He set the bag down and rummaged for some explosives. Hearing the noise the man awoke.
“Who the frak are you?!”
Roxas jumped up and covered the man’s mouth saying sternly “Shut up. Say your prayers in silence as I close the book of your life.”
With one hand still on the man’s mouth Roxas turned the man over and stuck his knife in the back of his neck to sever his spinal cord. Roxas covered the man as if he was still sleeping, to keep guards from getting suspicious. He then slid some explosives under the man’s cot and left the room with his bag slung over his shoulder.
“We don’t have too much further to go and then we’ll be on them.” Methyas relayed to his allies.
Locke turned to Roxas “How many explosives do you have left?”
“Like a third of the bag. I figured it would be nice to have a nice big boom to take out the center of the complex.” The Obelisk replied.
“Good, let’s hurry.” Locke replied.
Forard, Almas, Cularin System
“One of them is breaking off, “ Methyas said suddenly. “He’s heading for a different room.”
“Then we’ll hunt them down like the rat he is, “ Roxas said.
Locke thought for a moment about their mission. “Methyas, any idea how strong they are?”
Methyas stopped for a moment and Locke felt a pulse in the Force as his presence expanded briefly. “It’s difficult to say, but they could be tough. This one separating from the group might be to our advantage.”
“We take out the one before the others can react?” Locke asked.
“Yes, “ Methyas answered, “but we won’t have much time. I imagine our target will put out a cry for help as soon as we get there, or the others will feel the battle.”
“Got it, “ Locke said. “How close are we?”
“I think, “ Methyas said, pointing to a door to his left, “our quarry is not very far in this direction.”
Locke nodded. He needed to come up with a plan, quickly. He could sense the impending squeeze of their window of opportunity narrowing. “Alright, here’s our plan. We get in, kill this guy, and get out.”
“But...” Roxas began.
“No buts Roxas, we have to remember the mission, “ Locke added quickly. “One will be enough. We don’t need to take unnecessary risks.”
“He’s right, “ Methyas said.
“Darn...” Roxas mumbled.
“Hey, cheer up, you still get to blow half this place sky high, “ Locke said. “Now, on to the plan. Methyas, I want you to take our last bag of explosives and sit this one out. When we get to the room, hang back and watch the entrances. You’ll be our lookout.
“Roxas, you and I will take our target down. Remember, we need to work together so we don’t get killed. As soon as he’s dead, we pull out, blow this place up, find a ship, and get back home. Any questions?”
“How will they know it was us?” Methyas asked.
“Good point!” Locke said. “How indeed?”
“We could leave a page of flimsi with the Lion of Tarthos and the ‘Brotherhood’s emblem on it, “ Methyas said.
“You have something like that?” Roxas asked.
“A few were included in our kit for the mission, just in case, “ answered Methyas.
Roxas nodded. “That’s good, we’ll leave one next to our victim, and another outside the facility, in case the first is destroyed somehow before they see it. “ Locke said. “Methyas, I want you to carry the detonator, remember to ditch the remainder of our explosives before activating it.”
Methyas gave Locke a look. “Do I look like Roxas?”
“Hey-” Roxas began.
“Just making sure, everyone ready?”
Roxas held his lightsaber up. “Ready!” he said. Methyas only nodded.
“Let’s do this, then, “Locke said. Lightsaber in hand, he led the others through the door Methyas had indicated. It led into a short hallway, and on the other side was a somewhat large room. Locke vaguely noticed large cages along the sides of the room and what appeared to be alchemical equipment on the opposite end of it, but he focused on the being standing over a table in the center. It was a human man, tall and thin. Locke sensed the Force in him; and surmised he was more of a Force-based fighter than a physical one.
“Ah, so you are the ones who created that ruckus earlier, “ he said, turning, revealing a scarred face marked by a grey goatee and head topped with matching hair, carefully combed to the side.
Locke vaguely sensed human and other living presences in a few of the cages. They reeked of fear and pain, but he forced himself to ignore that for now, focusing solely on the enemy in front of him. Roxas took one quick look around, then seemed to take Locke’s lead. Methyas made a disgusted sound behind them, and Locke could almost feel him trying to keep his cool. We all saw things like this in the ‘Vong War, Locke thought, keep yourselves together.
“What is this?” Roxas said angrily, igniting his silver lightsaber.
Locke ignited his own pale yellow blade a moment later. “Patience,“ he whispered. He briefly considered the Makashi salute, but decided it wasn’t worth it for the degenerate they now faced.
The man ignited an orange lightsaber, holding it to his side and chuckling casually. “Oh, come now. I do want you in one piece.”
Snarling, Roxas charged forward, beating at the man with hard, direct strikes, each one fueled by his fury. Dammit, Roxas! Locke moved to the side of the two, looking for a good way to enter the fight. He noticed another door in the room, and made a mental note, thinking it could be an escape route. As the enemy pressed Roxas back, Locke saw an opening and abruptly entered the fray, adding his own defense to slow down their attacker. It worked to moderate effect, but Locke had never fought side-by-side with Roxas before.
Suddenly the man struck Roxas through the Force, causing him to reel back in pain, his lightsaber flying from his grip. “You’re nothing, “ the man said. “All muscle and no brains, a useful tool.” Temporarily alone against their enemy, Locke struggled to keep up, his lightsaber a blur of motion as he redirected his enemy’s strikes away. Distantly, Locke noted the enemy used a form of Makashi as well, and was pretty good at it. I’ll just have to be better.
Calling the Force to his aid, Locke willed his arms and legs to move faster. He was perspiring now, but he was also on the attack, slowly pushing the enemy back with each strike. As they circled around the room; once or twice Locke’s blade singed through the bars of a cage, slowing him just a little. He became dimly aware of Methyas moving around the room, quickly cutting the locks on the cages, hushing a whimper here or there. Methyas, watch that door! Locke tried to send to his fellow Jedi, but Locke only managed to convey the vague feeling.
He wasn’t sure if Methyas had noticed or paid attention or not, but Locke tried to watch that and fight at the same time. That was a mistake; suddenly he found his blade knocked aside and a shoulder slamming into his face, pushing his nose in. He reeled back, raising his free hand to taste blood. The enemy laughed. “How pitiful, “ he said, “maybe I can...make you better.”
Locke growled in his throat, intending to fight to the end. He vaguely felt Methyas turn, about to enter the battle himself. They certainly weren’t out of this yet. Then Roxas was there, out of nowhere, grabbing the man’s sword arm. He twisted it and Locke winced at a cracking sound, causing their enemy to drop his lightsaber. Roxas let go and grabbed the man by the neck of his tunic, pulling him close. “How’s this muscle for you?” He growled, pulling his free fist back and punching the man squarely in the jaw, causing him to spin and fall on his stomach. As he struggled to crawl away, Roxas kicked him down, picked up the man’s dropped lightsaber, and removed his head. “Scum, “ he muttered, tossing the weapon aside and going to retrieve his own.
Locke breathed deeply, but he had no time to look around. “They’re coming!” Methyas said urgently.
Forard, Almas, Cularin System
He could feel the pull of their strands upon his own, it wasn't a deliberate motion upon their own account, but the fact that they had grasped upon the disturbance of their own being slain within their temple. There was a moment of panic upon the twin strands of fate he had latched onto, just as there was a moment of panic upon the twin strands woven around his own in this moment. Time seemed to have almost slowed as Methyas began to swiftly reach out, analysing their best route for escape as he felt the frail, weak and frightened captives fleeing the scene of the slain Master before them.
He focused upon the man lifeless upon the floor, his essence draining away into the ever flowing current of the Force. No emotion could be read from the Miraluka's face as he silently perceived one of the Masters of this "Believer's" cult; the man had been slain in haste by a member of the Brotherhood's Obelisk order, but a large part of him believed there would have been no other recourse. They had been sent here by the Council for a purpose, and Methyas couldn't let his own beliefs or feelings interfere with that for fear of his own cover being blown. He took a deep breath before exhaling, his mind settling back upon his task with his Sadowan brethren as a single thought passed through his mind; he wouldn't let his Master's death be in vain.
His gaze set upon Locke, then Roxas, before glancing towards the doorway they had come through. Without turning to look, the Prelate simply pointed towards the only other exit to the chamber as he spoke, his attention quickly focusing upon the doorway they had passed through, "Run! I'll catch up in a moment."
Roxas took the hint, running towards the other doorway and stopping within it before looking back to find Locke hesitating as the two remaining Elders of the Believer's cult were standing just outside the other doorway pointing at Methyas as they bellowed, "You! You will pay for this transgression against us!"
A smirk crossed Methyas' face as he began to move deliberately; the Force at his back to aid his movements. A small piece of Flimsi, the emblem of the Brotherhood and Dark Council upon it, flanked by the personal emblem of the Lion of Tarthos fluttered quietly through the air as two more slipped from the pack in the Miraluka's hands. As the Flimsi settled down upon the prone form of the slain Believer, another disappeared into the Prelate's robes as another found itself firmly attached to the pack of explosives. Spinning on his heel, Methyas tossed the pack as hard as he could at the two figures before him as the doorway itself began to sound as though it were cracking.
The pack slammed into the chest of one of the Elders, the man feeling the wind knocked out of him as the pile of loose explosives rattled about, the other looked upwards towards the top of the doorframe and watched as a series of cracks and fractures began to form in the ancient stone. The Miraluka's features had shifted, his face as unmoving as the stone around him, his body just as fixated as his face as all his attention had now shifted towards the task he had originally only placed a quarter of his focus upon: bringing down the doorway.
As the one Elder began to recover his breath, the other screamed out in rage as he quickly drew and lit his saber in a fluid movement; he would have begun a daring charge down the hall had Locke not stepped out in front of Methyas and unleashed a beam of pure darkside energy at the man's chest; the Sadowan Force Blast knocking the man flatly upon his rump as the other Elder took a closer look at his Flimsi bearing the same emblems as the other. Before either of the pair could move again, a solid crack could be heard reverberating through the halls around them, the stone giving out in a single motion as the doorway caved in around itself, the floor above beginning to fracture and crack as its integrity gave out.
The sound of robes fluttering could be heard amongst a gasp for air as flesh firmly slapped upon the marble floor; Methyas upon his knees and braced on one arm as he focused on recovering the rather large amount of energy he had lost in effectively bringing down the roof. Locke quickly extended a hand to his companion, waiting as Methyas took it and rose to his feet as he spoke, "I told you to run."
"You wouldn't be here if I hadn't stepped in, can you keep up?"
"I'll be fine, my reserves recover quickly. Just don't expect anything big in the next few minutes."
The sound of someone clearing their throat from the other doorway brought the pair back to attention as Roxas motioned for them to start running; the time for subterfuge and stealth had passed; now they simply had to escape with their lives. Without another moment wasted, the group began to move as quickly through the corridors as they could. A run at full tilt would leave them at a disadvantage if they encountered any resistance and they were all of varying physiques making the point moot.
The sounds of panic could be heard all throughout the Academy's halls as more and more of the Believer's cult began to realize that they had been infiltrated; calls through the praxeum's security systems asking for security teams to lock down the facility, the level of panic seeming to rise with every minute that brought the Brotherhood's strike team towards their exit. After a few moments, the sounds from the corridor behind them had indicated that the Believers had found their fallen master, another reason for the trio of Jedi to vacate the premise as soon as possible.
Rounding another corner, the main entrance could be seen through the courtyard ahead, just through another door. The courtyard hadn't been an option before, full of guards and ready to check any new initiate to their cult. But now, now it should reasonably be vacant with their attention drawn elsewhere.
Those thoughts were wrong. Stepping out into the open, the Force screamed out to the trio as their battle precognition kicked into action; each diving for cover in their own way as a series of blaster bolts struck the ground where they had stood just moments before. A sound of utter frustration escaped Locke as a diabolical grin crossed Roxas' face; Methyas hidden behind cover as a small object slid out from his robes and into his hand. The Miraluka simply glanced over at his Proconsul, a silent nod passing between them as Locke tapped Roxas on the shoulder, telling the Templar to reach out and grasp the blaster of his closest adversary with the Force.
A moment passed, then another and a third; the sound of the wind sweeping through the courtyard could be heard as panic and terror overtook the academy the three had just left. Locke simply nodded to Methyas once more and the Miraluka's finger struck the detonator. A few seconds passed without a single sound, eyes slowly moving to look at Roxas who simply held a finger up asking the pair to wait.
No sooner had the pair turned to look at each other than the sound of numerous dull thuds could be heard throughout the academy followed by the sound of thunder cracking and a bulbous pillar of flame and smoke erupted from near the center of the complex. The ground around the three Jedi shook as large slabs of stone and marble began to crumble to the ground and the force of the large explosions began to compromise the structure of the complex; more than enough of a distraction for the trio to secure themselves a weapon.
Again the Force answered their calls, blaster rifles being torn from the grip of unsuspecting guards and flying towards the Jedi who summoned them. Without missing a beat amongst the distraction, Methyas rose to his feet and moved towards the massive doorways into the complex, drawing the last piece of Flimsi from his robes along with a knife he slammed into the top of the sheet and the door to secure it. Turning to grab the floating weapon, Methyas moved to cover alongside his companions as he spoke up candidly, "Wasn't this supposed to be an easy mission?"
Forard, Almas, Cularin System
Blaster bolts hit the wall being used for cover by the three Sadowans. Methyas counted the Force signatures gathered against them. There were twenty men on their way out of the doors of the complex. Roxas took a sip from his canteen as Methyas turned to his comrades.
“They have the advantage in numbers.” The Miraluka relayed to his allies.
Roxas put his canteen away as he replied “I have the advantage in weapons. I‘ll just unleash a little mando hell on them.”
Suddenly commando style troops began filing out of the building
“Looks like they have the advantage in that now, Rox.” Locke said almost giggling.
The Mandalorian frustratingly retorted “Frak!” then after a moment of thought while taking a quick look behind them he continued “The gate‘s open. How about we bug out through there and use the civilians for cover while looking for a ship?”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Methyas said after some thought.
Locke nodded in agreement and Roxas leaned around the corner to provide covering fire, so his comrades could head for the gate. Locke and Methyas ignited their lightsabers to deflect as many shots away from themselves as they could while they ran. The enemy blaster that the Templar had taken up ran out of ammo and he ducked for cover. Methyas noticing this called out “Catch!” as he tossed the Mandalorian a fresh blaster. As soon as he caught it, he spun around the corner and fired wildly to cause his foes to duck for cover. Methyas and Locke hacked through troops that got in their way as the three rushed through the gate and into the city streets. Roxas picked up a rock and jammed it in the trigger guard of the blaster and tossed it at the enemies as he made it around the corner of the gate.
The three ran as fast their bodies would let them, without the aid of the Force. The three slowed as they reached a large number of civilians gathered in the town square. The hustle and bustle would make a great cover for escape if the three could hide their Force signatures and their weapons. The three passed glances as they slid their weapons from wandering eyes and focused on hiding their presence. They slowly entered the crowd, but staying close wasn’t easy with random people bumping them accidentally. It wasn’t easy going, but the three were able to get a few meters into the gathering before troops from the academy showed up. The troops ran about wildly, looking for the Sadowans.
Locke did his best to keep sight of the others as they spread out through the crowd. Their only hope was to elude detection or face being attacked again immediately. While he watched for the others, Locke kept a lookout for any sign of a starport. A town like this wouldn’t have much of one, but their briefing had indicated that it it did possess the only one on the planet. Locke searched frantically; he had to find a way to get his team safely off this planet before the Believers could catch up to them. They were exhausted and vastly outnumbered, and he expected no help from the locals if they were forced to draw their lightsabers.
Far behind them, over the din of the crowd, Locke could hear commotion as the Believers entered the square and began pushing through it. No doubt the townsfolk suspected this entire conflict as being internal to the Believers, if they had noticed the lightsabers of Locke and his companions. He looked back toward the sound, and then turned again and found he had lost track of both Methyas and Roxas.
Suddenly, Locke felt something in the Force. Left. He looked left. Methyas was waving an arm. Locke pushed through the crowd as nonchalantly as he could and met up with Methyas. “Did you find anything?” He asked.
Methyas shook his head. Then Roxas came running up through the crowd. “I found a ship!” he shouted. Methyas hushed him at the same time Locke said, “where?”
“It’s over here, “ Roxas began, only a little more quietly. “Just parked in a patch of cleared grass with some crates near it.”
“That must be what passes for a starport in this town. What type is it?”
Roxas was about to answer as a shout cut him off. “There they are!”. They all three turned as the sound of a blaster firing ringed through the square. The crowd began to scatter, one civilian falling in the middle of the group, his chest sizzling from a blaster wound. On the opposite side, several of the Believer’s personnel stood, blasters pointed toward the three Dark Jedi.
“It’ll have to work, let’s go!” Locke said. He waited for the others to move before running himself, firing the blaster rifle that he had slung over his shoulder to use his lightsaber earlier. He only managed to hit one of the enemy, but their firing seemed a little slower. Locke ran backward, firing wildly, trying his best not to hit the civilians who had now scattered to the sides of the street. He snapped his head around to look over his shoulder, seeing Roxas lead Methyas down an alley. Locke fired a couple more times and ducked down the alley himself, running with the rifle in both hands. “Hurry, “ he said.
As Roxas sped up, Locke felt Methyas using the Force to keep up. Locke did not do the same, instead ducking as blaster fire whizzed by his head. He turned, lowered the rifle, and sprayed fire down the alley, forcing his pursuit to dive for cover.
“Come on Locke!” Methyas said. He was standing at the end of the alley. Locke fired a couple of more shots before running down the alley and into the clearing. The ship Roxas had found was an aging Starlight-Class light freighter. Though possessing a distinct curved wing shape, it was also distinct as a severely out-dated craft.
Locke stopped for a moment, blinking. “What a piece of-”
“Junk?” Roxas said. “Can you fly it?”
“Of course, “ Locke said, not wanting to appear incompetent to Roxas. You can fly it, don’t worry. a part of him said. He echoed himself aloud. “Don’t worry. Here.” He tossed his blaster rifle to Roxas. “Get on the ramp, give us some cover. Locke ran inside and found himself face to face with a Trandoshan. “Dammit, Roxas.” Locke muttered, before the Trandoshan slammed it’s arm into his chest and tossed him into a bulkhead.
Fortunately, Methyas was right behind him and Locke heard the other Jedi ignite his lightsaber. “We don’t want any trouble, “ he said, even as Locke could hear Roxas and the Believers trading fire outside. “Leave and you won’t get hurt.”
“Methyas, really...” Locke groaned. They didn’t have time for this.
“This is my ship, “ the Trandoshan growled, “you get off it, Believer scum.”
“Honestly...” Locke began. The Trandoshan pulled a vibroblade from his belt and made a swing at Methyas. That was his last mistake, as Methyas removed the arm with his lightsaber and then gave the Trandoshan a cut across his midsection that ended his life. “Was that so hard?” Locke said.
Methyas glared at him, just briefly. “Can you walk?”
“Yeah, “ Locke replied, getting to his feet. He felt a rib crack and winced, dropping to a knee. “Well, maybe not, but I can fly.”
“Any time now!” Roxas yelled from the ramp.
“Here, “ Methyas helped Locke up, and together they hobbled toward the cockpit.
“No Force?” Locke asked. He instantly regretted the question; as he noticed Methyas appeared very tired. Locke would have to rely on the other Jedi’s Force abilities less on future missions. “Nevermind, sorry”.
When they got to the cockpit, Methyas let go and Locke dropped into the pilot’s chair. “Let’s see, “ he said, holding his hands over the console. “Starter should be there, control yoke...no security lock up - thank the Force - we’re good.”
“Roxas!” Methyas yelled, as Locke began to lift the ship off the ground and slowly close the ramp. They could still hear blaster fire right up until the point where the console indicated the ramp was fully closed.
Roxas came running into the cockpit. “Finally!” He said. “For a minute there I thought you wanted to stay.”
“Ran into trouble, “ Methyas said. “Notice the corpse in the main hold?”
“Yeah, “ Roxas said, “gives the cabin a nice smell.”
Tuning out their conversation, Locke focused on the controls as he pushed the engines to maximum and throttled up and through the atmosphere.
“Glad that’s over, “ Methyas said. Not a moment later there was a whine from the console.
“What’s that?” Roxas asked.
“Enemy warning, two Z-95s coming up to engage us, “ Locke answered levelly.
“Can we outrun them?” Methyas asked.
“We’ll have to, “ was all Locke said, most of his focus on piloting. “Looks like this thing has a turret, someone-”
“I call it!” Roxas said, disappearing back into the ship.
Methyas laughed a bit to himself. “Hope the hyperdrive works.”
“Don’t joke, “ Locke said. They were out of the atmosphere now. He could feel lasers hitting their shields. Then loud, rapid beeping began. “Damn, “ Locke said, followed by a more severe Bakuran curse that he guessed Methyas didn’t recognize.
“Yeah, brace yourself!” He yelled, just as the ship rumbled and spun wildly on it’s axis as the inertial compensators struggled to keep up. Lights flickered and Locke heard crashing sounds from the main hold, hoping none of them were Roxas falling.
“Tough little ship, “ Locke said as they leveled off, “but I don’t think we should see how many more of those it can take. Almost there.“ They were in space now. Another minute and it would be safe to make the jump to hyperspace. Behind him, Methyas was putting coordinates into the nav computer. Suddenly they heard another missile warning. Without thinking, Locke initiated the jump. He held his breath, and didn’t release it until they were safely in hyperspace. He sat back, shoulders slumping. Methyas sank into the seat next to him.
“Always nice to meet new people and make new enemies, “ Locke mumbled.
“Huh?” Methyas asked.
“Oh, “ Locke said, “just a phrase I heard once. Seems appropriate.”
Roxas appeared in the cockpit a moment later. “Hah, success!” He said, as energetically as ever. “Do you think we can keep the ship?”
“No, we’ll have to turn it over to the Dark Council, “ Locke answered.
“Darn, “ Roxas said.
Methyas cleared his throat. “Roxas, why don’t you go see how the ‘refresher looks and get cleaned up? We need to prepare a report for our superiors.”
“Right, “ Roxas turned and left.
“Good job, “ Methyas said quietly, before leaning back to meditate. Locke relaxed. Their mission had been successful after all, despite their initial losses. Hearing such a statement from one of Clan Naga Sadow’s former leaders meant a lot to Locke. Maybe I can be a good leader after all, he pondered, staring out at the surreal vortex of hyperspace.