Rasilvenaria, Akatsuki, Xan
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.
Groans from severely wounded survivors punctuated the more constant noise of various sparking and sizzling sounds coming from the wrecked transport. The noise and the anger at their ship being shot down brought a string of curses to the Sith’s mind. Rasilvenaira dusted herself off and growled at the rips in her cloak as she glanced around. Her dark eyes lingered for a moment on the mangled body of the pilot who had failed to successfully evade the missile that so abruptly grounded the strike team. Despite having repeatedly earned the nick name of Heartless Swamp Witch, Rasilvenaira resisted the urge to kick the dead pilot for his incompetence.
The Battlelord exhaled sharply. While the atmosphere on Almas was technically considered breathable, it was far from pleasant, even on a good day. Now the added stench of the smoke and dust from the wreck only made it worse. The already small strike team had now dwindled to three dark Jedi, and four troopers who were still unharmed enough to fight. Rasilvenaira glanced over at the Horansi, Akatsuki and assumed from the wrinkled nose and slight frown, that the Krath was forming a similar opinion of the situation.
Rasilvenaira muttered more curses under her breath as she gathered up her pack and took a quick check to ensure that nothing had been too badly damaged. Satisfied that most of her belongings had escaped destruction, she looked up as Xan approached. The Obelisk noticed the annoyed expression on her face and smirked. She shook her head and tossed her pack over one shoulder.
“Do remind me to thank our travel agents for sending us on such marvelous vacations.”
“You could have stayed home, Ras.”
She arched one eyebrow upward, “What, and let you guys have all the fun? I don’t have any outside contracts lined up. So, I have nothing else to do besides teaching Tiska how to play pazaak.”
Xan frowned, “That’s entirely unfair, Ras. Tiska doesn’t stand a chance of winning. You cheat. Besides that, I thought you retired.”
“Hmph, me, retire? Never, I just get a bit pickier about what jobs I consider accepting, but I still work. I’d die of boredom otherwise. Also, I do not cheat at pazaak.”
He laughed, “Ras, I’ve played you. You do cheat.” His expression grew serious again and he nodded over his shoulder at the troopers. “I told them to just move away from the wreckage and find a place they can defend and hold out till we’re done.”
She nodded, “Good plan. With as many that are wounded, those that aren’t will have their hands full. Besides, it’s not like we actually needed them. Just the three of us is probably overkill as it is.”
Xan grinned, “True, whoever shot is down is probably on their way, if they’re smart they’d want to take out any survivors.”
“Wrong, if they were smart, they wouldn’t have shot us down. A Sith is dangerous enough, an angry Sith is even worse.” She flashed a sadistic smirk and nodded to Akatsuki as she joined them.
“There is someone coming this way. Can’t be certain how far off they are still though, something about this place is off. What’s the plan?”
Rasilvenaira nodded, “Can’t stand terraformed planets, and this one definitely feels all wrong. We need information and I’d bet whoever shot us down will have something useful to share.”
The Horansi smiled, “Well I can catch them, but I doubt they’ll be wanting to share anything with us.”
A cold, sadistic smirk spread across the Battlelord’s lips. “Oh I actually prefer it when they try to resist, it makes it even more fun. However, I can be very persuasive when I want. They’ll talk.”
Xan suppressed a shudder as he glanced over at the Sith. He was well aware of his former apprentice’s sadistic streak and what she was capable of doing to the unfortunate soul.
“Aka, catch them and bring them back here. Just be careful, they may not be alone.”
Akatsuki nodded, “Alright.”
The Horansi silently observed the elder members of her house. Not as thoroughly trained nor as experienced as her two counterparts; Akatsuki mused to herself, ‘Stalking at night, at least it would appear these two need my talents on some level.’ Doubt gave way to the knowledge that at least there was a perfect triumvirate here; an Obelisk, a Sith and a Krath.
The Dark Jedi Knight removed her cloak, equipment belt and lightsaber. “This wont be needed for this mission” she said, placing her garments, weaponry and equipment at the Equites’ feet.
“Here mousie mousie….” Akatsuki growled lowly with a chortle. Dropping to all fours, she glanced over her shoulder at the pair. She then disappeared from view as she stalked off under the black-cloaked night.
Honing in on the direction from where the shot had likely originated, Akatsuki ran swiftly in a bee line towards the perceived mark. Removing her equipment belt was a brilliant idea; she swept through the grasslands silently without as much as a rattle.
Finally, under the moonlight she made out clearly who’d fired the shot. The target was wearing an odd cross of Jedi and Sith cloak but still had the shoulder rocket perched on his shoulder looking at the sky through the scope.
“That’s right mousie, stay focused on the heavens, makes the pounce so much easier…” and with that the Horansi bounded into a full sprint towards the target, connecting with his knees and knocking what appeared now to be Sith to his back.
Placing one paw with her claws unsheathed on the throat of her prey she said, “I don’t appreciate your welcome wagon! You should display better manners when you have visitors.” Digging her claws in a little more, the Horansi radiated her true character: predator. “I have some friends I’d like you to meet. Won’t you be so kind as to accompany me?”
With a gasp as the only response, the Horansi rolled the lone shooter onto his stomach with her huge paw. Biting down into the garments of the prey, the Horansi opted to speak through her gripped jaw, “Fight me and you’ll be nothing more than an appetizer!” Biting a little harder, she pierced his flesh picking up his full weight in her massive jaw. Flinging the shoulder rocket onto her back with one swipe she crept back swiftly to her counterparts waiting to see the trophy and rewards of the hunt.
Dropping the stunned male face down at Rasilvenaira’s feet she showed the blood on her fangs as she grinned, “He’s alive…for now.”
Returning to her bi-pedal stance she took the shoulder rocket off of her back and handed it to Xan. “Here you go; I brought you a present too.”
Wiping the blood and dirt from her jowls with the back of her left paw, Akatsuki bent over to reclaim her cloak which she promptly donned as well as her belt which held her lightsaber and other weaponry she’d acquired.
Looking at the shooter, then back at Ras’ icy stare, she almost felt sorry for what was to come for the one who chose to try to defend his planet.
Glancing at the two other members of the team, she realized she’d been trained in a much more ‘grey’ if not ‘light’ way. The words ruthless, destructive, violent, merciless and heartless were synonymous with the pair. Akatsuki knew a long night and tough plan lie ahead.
Xan smiled at the Horansi and placed the shoulder rocket on his right shoulder. He peered through the scope and grinned to himself.
"This could potentially be used for lots of fun things." He nodded to Akatsuki once more.
"Thank you kindly for the present, I'd imagine I could cause some great ruckus in the camps with this." He smiled to her once again.
Xan had always been fond of the Horansi, always spending time with her every chance he got. The fact that she supplied the Obelisk with propelled explosives only helped the cause of liking her even more.
Akatsuki smiled back with a row of teeth. "You're absolutely welcome, I couldn't help but think of you when encountering explosives."
Xan laughed at the response. "You know me oh so well, don't you."
"Yes, yes I do."
Xan smiled once again and sighed. "I can probably use this as a distraction, drawing the attention to me as you two slip past them, infiltrating further into the camps. Of course I'll catch up with you later, but the whole idea of me blowing up some of the main structures..which will cause initial panic..should give you two the opportunity to do what you need to do. Once the initial panic subsides, they'll look for a trajectory origin, see me standing there with a smoking launcher on my shoulder should grab some attention."
Xan nods and smiles, clearly happy with the proposed plan of action.
Akatsuki laughs and says "So, what will you do once they find you, all brave with the rocket on your shoulder hmm?"
Xan then looked at her with a spark in his eye "Kill them all, my dear."
Akasuki smiled a very special smile, then stretched out on the few softer packs of supplies we had.
"I hope this doesn't take too long, I don't think I like terraformed planets that much at all."
"I don't blame you, this is one of the less…desirable ones I've encountered."
The Horansi and Obelisk both jumped as they heard a loud shriek of pain coming from the poor soul Rasilvenaira was torturing.
Xan then sighed. "She's always loved the torturing arts. Not something I personally taught her, but I know exactly what she's doing over there, and trust me, you don't want to know."
Akatsuki grins and nods. "Yeah, hence why I opted to stay back here and talk to you instead. Plus, talking to you is always a favorite activity of mine."
Xan smiles and blushes a bit. "Same here Akatsuki, same here."
The Obelisk shifted a bit in his heavy armor of black and gold trim, adjusting his cloak to a more comfortable lay. Rasilvenaira then pops up from the torture and grins that wicked grin.
Xan laughed and smiled at the Sith. "Having fun over there?"
"Yes, yes I am." Then went back to work.
The unfortunate soul who’d shot down their transport was stripped of his armor and tied securely to a sizable chunk of the wreckage. As Xan and Akatsuki moved off, Rasilvenaira eyed her victim. The Sith’s dark eyes glittered with malice and sadistic delight as she grabbed her pack to get out what she would need to make his last hours as painful as possible. The first thing she pulled out was a small polished black orb which revealed its true nature as she pressed a hidden button. Probes and other instruments of torture extended from the smooth surface and the miniature IT droid’s repulsors hummed to life as it hovered near her.
The malevolent little droid beeped and followed her as Rasilvenaira walked over and knelt down to get a better look at the prisoner. In response to an almost imperceptible nod from its mistress, the droid floated lower and jabbed a hypodermic needle full of some unknown toxin into his exposed arm. The man’s jaws clinched as the injected liquid slowly burned its way through his veins.
“I see you’ve already given up the answer to my first question.” She pointed at the tattoo on his forearm.
“You won’t get anything from me.” He spat through clinched teeth.
Rasilvenaira’s sadistic grin grew, “Oh, that’s what they all say. They’re always wrong.”
She stood up and pulled the Arashi-Kumori from its sheath. The wicked dark metal of the infamous double bladed dagger seemed to absorb the light around it. As Rasilvenaira knelt down again she pressed the leading point of the Arashi to his throat, just hard enough for him to feel it.
“You see, the first assumption, that I even want anything from you, is your first mistake. Yes, it would be nice if you give up information that would help me and my friends, but I honestly don’t care if you do or not. I just enjoy my work.”
The poison the droid had injected was beginning to do its job. She could see the sweat beading on his skin which had taken on a much paler cast. His breathing was growing rapid and she could see the faint quiver of muscles attempting to resist the pain as it grew more intense. It wasn’t lethal, but it didn’t need to be. She had no intentions of killing him quickly.
He took a ragged breath and coughed, “If you don’t want anything, why are you here?”
“Tsk tsk, you’re not in any position to be asking the questions. Besides, I already told you. I enjoy what I do. The choice is entirely up to you, you can be cooperative, and die quicker, or you can continue resisting and I will have fun.”
He turned his head and looked away from her as much as he could. The Sith smiled and let the sharp point of her blade slide down his chest. It sliced through the fabric of his shirt effortlessly and left a bright crimson trail in its wake.
“Well then, I won’t keep you waiting. How about we start off simple? It’s quite interesting just how much punishment a person’s body can take before they actually die. Shall we start with removing the unnecessary bits?”
She tilted her head, flashed a wicked smile, and moved the blade even lower. He paled considerably but remained silent.
Several hours later, the Sith stood up and stretched, easing the stiffness in her back. She glanced one last time at the now scattered remains of the prisoner, and gave a disappointed sigh. Rasilvenaira wiped the blood from her weapon and put it away, and headed to where her companions waited. The small IT droid whirred and beeped as it followed her.
She gathered up her pack and dropped into her native language as she questioned the droid further. Rasilvenaira discussed the interrogation with the droid as she walked over to where Xan and Akatsuki waited. The two looked up and Xan just smiled in quiet understanding of the pleased expression on her face.
“Well? What’d you find out?”
Rasilvenaira chuckled and deactivated the droid and put it back in her pack. “We head east. From what I got we’re about a good three, maybe four hour walk from their outer perimeter. Also, there seems to be a leak somewhere, because they were expecting something which is why we got shot down. We’ll have to see about plugging that leak, permanently.”
The Obelisk frowned, “A leak on the Brotherhood side?”
The Battlelord nodded, expression becoming more serious. “That or someone close enough to the Brotherhood to know something was coming, though they didn’t have any real details, so we still have some advantage of surprise. Anyway, I suggest we get moving while it’s still dark, might as well make use of every advantage we have, and the darkness will cover our approach, since our friend over there won’t be returning to enlighten them on who and how many we are.”
Akatsuki nodded, “Guess we should get going then.”
The remaining three members of the Scholae Palatinae strike team set out towards the East. All gifted with excellent night vision, the group moved swiftly and silently through the grasslands. Using the Force made it easy to move quite quickly and without detection. Akatsuki, weaker in the Force than her two equite companions, compensated for her shortcomings by running on all fours.
Pausing when they reached a tree about an hour out, Akatsuki noticed a well nearby. “Look! There is a watering hole! I knew that the water system here is underground with lakes, connecting rivers and such, but at least it’s a fresh source.” she said with an interest. “Maybe there are worse things than terraformed planets…” Looking down into the hole she noticed something moving. Swiping her right paw down into the water she came up with a trout. She tossed the first catch to Ras who immediately beheaded the morsel and seemed to delight in consuming its visage. She swiped down in the water again this time coming up with a decent sized salmon, and though a tempting treat, she knew her human teammates weren’t capable of catching food so she tossed the salmon at Xan. Finally stopping to fish for herself, Akatsuki came up with a catfish which she devoured immediately.
“Staying nourished is important, and especially since our landing was less than perfect,” Akatsuki said while chewing the last of the fish. “Please, both of you, drink some water….now, where could a leak…especially relating to Almas come from in the Brotherhood?” Akatsuki knew she’d asked the million credit question. “Do you think it has something to do with the Believers? Could they have infiltrated the Brotherhood while we were at war?” She looked at her two comrades, both of which seemed to be hatching plans of their own.
“Fine. Well…I mean I know I just reached Dark Knighthood…and really this is my first mission out in the field but damn you two, acting like I’m just some untrained kid and disregarding my ideas….” Akatsuki trailed off as she watched Ras pull her Arashi-Kumori from its sheath and thought ‘Great, she’s going to kill me.’
“Look, Horansi, no one thinks that here.” Ras spat at her then cleaned her pinky nail (which had a large amount of blood under it with the tip of her blade.) The Sith then replaced her weapon in its sheath.
Akatsuki looked to Xan for some reassurance but was met with primal chomping and grunting.
“Ok, I’ll go….we need a plan….where are we heading to?” Akatsuki said as she knelt to drink from the watering hole. It might be the last sustenance they had for a while. It'd be needed for the battle ahead.
It was around an hour and a half from the outer perimeter as the trio approached what seemed to be a communications outpost. All hunkered down, the three remaining members of the Scholae Palatinae strike team hatched a plan..
Xan grinned to himself and patted the shoulder rocket. "So, can I use this now? I'm really aching to blow something to bits and bits and even smaller bits."
Akatsuki laughed quietly to herself. "Again, that's why I think of you when I encounter anything explosive, you always somehow make me smile when it comes to describing what you're going to do with said explosives."
Xan smiled and winked at the Horansi. "I do what I can, thank you."
Rasilvenaira then snapped at the two's shenanigans. "We don't have time for this, we need a solid plan to take out these..well..what seems to be eight enemies in the perimeter."
Xan and Akatsuki both nodded at the same time..then smiled at one another for it.
Xan then exhaled. "Alright, time for serious business. There are eight targets in this station, and around it's perimeter. There seem to be four inside the communications room, and four more on various patrol routes around the inside and outside areas. I can make a distraction to gather the guards on the outer perimeters to me, while you two get inside and take out the four who remains. It's crucial that we take these targets out as soon as possible, and as quickly and quietly as possible. The distraction won't be explosive..as much as I want it to be..but it'll be enough to draw the attention it's intended to do."
Rasilvenaira and Akatsuki pondered the proposition.
"Alright, that'll work. Akatsuki and I will slip inside and neutralize the targets. Then we can possibly trace where there might be other communication outposts in the area, and mark them for later extermination."
Akatsuki smiled with teeth. "This sounds like fun. Great plan Xan, always impressed with your plans."
Xan smiled proudly at his plan. "Sounds good? Ok, so..here I go. Be ready you two."
Xan then slowly stood up. Pondered for a second what kind of distraction he might cause..but then laughed and decided a forward approach would be appropriate. He moved a good thirty paces away from his team, and crouched in cover. He then yelled something or another about "Your mothers are Nerfherders" then waited…
…….The effect was immediate. The four outside patrolmen ran towards the noise and were met by a black and gold, heavily armored, Obelisk killing machine who..at the first sight of the four pursuers..impaled the closest one with his yellow blade. The others were very shocked by the sudden slaughter, and were slow to react…which was the death of them all. Xan quickly grabbed the other by the throat, slicing him clean in half, then reversed the grip on his saber, and decapitated the third assailant. The fourth tried to run, which Xan laughed about. He immediately jumped in front of the last victim, smiled, then with ease…diagonally slashed from the right to left, then once more at the torso..left to right. This blur of strikes were met with the..disassemble of said victim..falling into cauterized, yet, smoking pieces in front of Xan.
"Well..that was too easy.."
Xan then looked over as Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira crept inside the communications depot to face whatever challenges may lie inside…
Rasilvenaira led the way, motioning for the Horansi to stay close. Stopping only a few meters from the small communications depot, the Sith crouched down and studied the building. The array of antennae and other devices on the rooftop brought a mischievous smile to her lips as she thought of the havoc she could cause. She glanced sideways at the young Krath. In some situations the pale colored fur might have been a disadvantage, however, Rasilvenaira noted with satisfaction that Akatsuki was doing a good job of keeping herself hidden.
The Sith stretched her senses outward, looking for any ripples in the Force that might suggest they miscounted or that relief was on its way. Things appeared clear, so she whispered.
“Alright. When we get in, you take two, try to keep one alive though. I’ll deal with the other two.”
Akatsuki nodded, “Are you…?”
She was cut off by a stern look and a raised finger from the Sith. She just nodded again, and Rasilvenaira turned back toward the building. The ebon clad assassin had earned many colorful nicknames across the galaxy over the years. Foremost, was her infamous call sign, StormRaven- however, there were many others, among them- the Walking Shadow.
As she slunk forward, creeping toward the door of the depot, she gave the Horansi a glimpse of how she earned that nickname. She faded into the shadows, virtually disappearing right in front of Akatsuki’s eyes. The Horansi blinked, but followed the plan and kept moving. Nothing about Rasilvenaira offered even the slightest reflection of light to betray her presence. With long practiced ease she drifted through the shadows until she reached the door. Waiting just long enough for her partner to join her at the door, she hit the controls to open it and slide inside as soon as the space was wide enough.
The body of the first unfortunate soul hit the floor before the others even realized the door had opened. Rasilvenaira seemingly materialized out of thin air, the vicious blade of the Arashi-Kumori glistening with freshly shed blood. The second of her targets managed only a strangled yelp before he also joined his companion on the floor.
She absently wiped the blood off the weapon and returned it to its sheath at her side while she glanced around the room. Rasilvenaira trusted the Horansi’s abilities to handle her two targets well enough. She was more interested in getting as much out of the depot as possible. She sat her pack down and pulled out two small mouse droids and activated them. With a few short commands, she sat them down and watched as they squeaked and whirred into action. One promptly began cracking into the computer terminal and downloading any information it found. The other set about starting a wide spread disruption in the communications networks. Soon the compound would be in utter chaos as systems began to fail.
While the droids worked, the Battlelord also keyed in a few things on the one terminal not affected, and began sifting through files herself looking for anything that might prove vital to their mission. Suddenly she let out a short curse, and looked over at Akatsuki.
The Horansi walked over, half dragging the prisoner. His hands were bound behind his back with strips form his own shirt, while what looked like the remainder of said shirt was stuffed in his mouth.
“What’d you find?”
Rasilvenaira pointed to the document file on the screen, the all too familiar seal of the Brotherhood plainly showing at the top.
Akatsuki’s eyes widened. The file was irrefutable evidence of a leak within the Brotherhood. Rasilvenaira nodded silently, and made certain to transfer that file and others she found to a small datapad. When the droids finished their work and returned, she deactivated them and put them back in her pack. The datapad, along with another she’d copied the information from the droids to, were tucked into one of her pockets.
Stepping back from the terminal, Rasilvenaira ignited her lightsaber. The molten silver blade hissed angrily as she sliced through the computer. They retreated quickly to rendezvous back with Xan.
Akatsuki and Raslilvenaira made haste in getting to the rendezvous point. Both a bit shocked at the findings, but pleased overall with the first strike; they met Xan who was sitting in a quite relaxed position chuckling to himself, “Went well I presume?”
Akatuski lugged her catch, still bound by his shirt bits and dropped him in the center of the trio. Glancing at the Obelisk, Akatsuki mused, “The first catch was for Ras, you want this one?” as she gestured at the bound captive.
“No, no…my apprentice has more than mastered the art of obtaining secrets by torture,” Xan responded with a cool smile.
Akatsuki’s eyes darted to the Sith who was already setting in with probing the mind of the captive. He seemed to be writhing in pain and the Horansi could only imagine what was happening underneath the surface.
“Oh and we…we found that the Brotherhood is in on this! On the computer there was a thingy and it had the letterhead of the Dark…” Akatsuki said a little too loudly and excitedly; only to be hushed by Ras lifting up one finger as to say “quiet.”
“No Surprise,” scoffed Xan. “For the most part, the Brotherhood isn’t known for having the most loyal of members and everyone can be purchased for a price. The question is what is the motivation here?” He glanced at his former apprentice; they seemed to communicate without using words.
Akatsuki wiped her muddied paws off on the grass nearby. “Well I’ll have you know; my first official kill with my lightsaber can be noted! The two came right at me and….”
Xan grunted at her, “Get to the kill, no long winded tales please, we don’t have time.”
“Well it ends with a clean decapitation!” Akatsuki nodded. “Oh! And my kill was carrying this.” Akatsuki said as she handed the datapad to Xan who examined it then handed it to Rasilvenaira.
“You didn’t mention this, Horansi!” Ras’ eyes looked right through the Dark Jedi Knight.
“Well you had your droids, and you were making bits and bits of computer so…so I had to have some bit of mission accomplished to my job outside of bringing him back alive,” Akatsuki gestured to her bound capture.
“Besides, what is on that datapad? Technology and I are not friends…and what are we going to do with him? And, what’s next?” Akatsuki questioned in rapid fire.
“Kill everything.” Xan responded.
“Make bits and bits, then hydrospan the bits and bits,” the Sith responded.
As the trio walked through the terraformed expanse, they all seemed to pause for a second..seeing in the distance some buildings surrounded by what seemed to be the ruins of the Almas Academy. Xan seemed pleased with the latest discovery, very much ready to finally use his explosives in the distraction of all distractions. Much more cautious now, Rasilvenaira, Akatsuki, and Xan moved very quickly but quietly towards the outer perimeter of the Almas Academy. All hunkered down, the three Dark Jedi watched in amusement at the routines the Cultists performed..trying to learn when and where a distraction might be best placed.
"I'm seeing a barracks over there, a central training facility here, and a central headquarters over there. I can hit the barracks and training areas hard with my rockets, which will cause them to come to us here. I'm thinking I can hold the attention of the main bulk as you two perform quick hit and run attacks on the more disorganized bunches. That way we can be attacking from both sides, which will essentially bottleneck them. no way out." Xan exhaled after the big explanation.
Akatsuki was all jumpy with anticipation. "I'm good at hit and run tactics; I get to be all sneaky sneak then pounce!"
Rasilvenaira grinned and nodded at Xan. "Yes, that sounds like a sound plan. That way we can slaughter everyone outside, then go in the HQ together."
Xan nodded. "Exactly, and I also figured you two would like some killing action as well, yeah?"
Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira both nodded in agreement.
"Good then, we're set to go. I'll set up position to the left of us, at around twenty five paces, shoot the rockets, cause a big ruckus..then as I’m fighting them..move my way back to you two. Once I get back here, start your attacks. They won't know what's going on, or who's attacking them."
With that, Xan then crouched down and ran to his position. He knelt down and gently placed the shoulder rocket in between the contours of his armor and shoulder armor. Aiming through the sight..Xan exhaled..pausing for a second to line the shot just right…then he pushed the release. A single high velocity rocket shot forward..veering between two smaller tents, then impacting hard on the broad side of the barracks. The explosion was astounding…flames and debris flying in all directions..and the state of panic was immediate. Xan then exhaled once more as he readied the shoulder rocket..aiming directly at the Central Training Center..and pushed the release. A second rocket shot directly at the heart of the building..effectively leveling it in one single explosion.
Xan grinned at the devastation he wrought, knowing full well that there were to be little to no survivors in the Training Center. He then took a note of the smoke trajectories the rockets left, and knew they had already spotted him. Xan then smiled..gently placed the shoulder rocket in its pack, and ignited his yellow blade.
"Come get some."
Xan didn't even flinch as the first attackers started their attempts to kill him. He easily parried and destroyed…knocking away one attack and killing another, then going back to the original attacker and effectively turning them into thirds. This continued as he fought off five to eight attackers at once, beautifully displaying the deadly dance of battle the Obelisk Prelate knew so well. Xan took steps back to his original position where Rasilvenaira and Akatsuki lie in wait..ready to join the fray. Xan was now ten paces away from his two comrades…and the trail of bodies he left was astounding. Xan then mentally signaled Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira to attack as he cut another assailant in half…using the force then to pull two more onto his impaling yellow blade. Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira were now in position…eagerly waiting to join Xan in the slaughter…
As Xan led the angry mob toward her, Rasilvenaira crouched low and waited. The Arashi-Kumori vibrated slightly in her hand, just as eager for bloodshed as she was. Despite having long ago mastered the lightsaber clipped to her belt, her preferred weapon of choice was still the dark double bladed dagger. Imbued with dark side energies and alchemically altered, the Arashi was silent, fast, and deadly- a perfect match for the assassin who wielded it.
Springing into action as the attackers drew close enough, Rasilvenaira gutted one and slit the throat of a second before they even saw her. Twisting around, she dropped under Xan’s upward stroke as the glowing yellow blade of is saber sliced through the air she’d just occupied to behead an assailant behind her. No words needed to be spoken as they moved past one another in a familiar dance, leaving destruction and death in their wake. The cries and groans of the dying and the stench of singed flesh and spilled blood clung heavily to the slight breeze.
Off to the other side, she could hear the Horansi’s low growls as Akatsuki made short work of any enemy careless enough to get within claws reach. More alarms sounded in the distance and the compound seemed to empty itself of cultists and others. It was a foolish mistake that amused the Sith greatly. By rushing to meet the three dark Jedi head on would only lead to more carnage and death for those unfortunate, misguided souls.
The tell-tale tattoos visible on a large majority of those attacking them convinced Rasilvenaira that they were right about this being a Believer camp. Slowly the rush of battle calmed, and the three stood amid a sea of corpses. Above them, the sky was beginning to brighten, as what passed for dawn on Almas approached. Dawn indeed, the Sith thought, death and destruction, a great way to start the day.
“Come on, I want to see what they’ve got hiding in their headquarters. I’m betting we can find more on whoever the leak is in the Brotherhood, and who knows what else they might have that’d be useful.”
Rasilvenaira wiped the blood from her weapon and put it away as she turned toward the compound. Xan nodded and clipped his saber back in place at his side.
“That was fun.” Akatsuki grinned. “Let’s go!”
Rasilvenaira chuckled to herself at the Krath’s enthusiasm. The more cynical side of her mind said they’d not seen the worst of it yet. Glancing at the bodies around her, she couldn’t believe that this was all the Believers had to offer. Their best and strongest were either elsewhere entirely, or waiting inside the main headquarters of the compound. Either way, the Battlelord knew they were in for a long day ahead. They still needed to find some way off Almas, as well as retrieving the rest of their strike team that had been left behind caring for those wounded in the crash.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Rasilvenaira straightened her clothing and retrieved her pack from where she’d left it before the fighting broke out. With a wicked grin, she went down her mental checklist of what was in that pack. Most of it was likely to come in very handy, depending on what awaited them inside the headquarters.
The trio moved out and crossed the open ground as quickly as possible. The Sith’s senses were keen and her dark eyes kept scanning for any sign or trace of snipers or concealed weapons or traps that could hinder their plans. She smiled at the amount of rubble that littered the once neatly arranged compound, leftovers from Xan’s destruction earlier.
They reached the door and her smile grew as she saw the complex security measures in place. The Horansi tilted her head and blinked.
“You can get us in right?”
“Shh, of course.” Rasilvenaira cast a sideways glance at Akatsuki and then sent a more meaningful look at Xan. “And no, I don’t need you to blow anything up, yet.”
The Obelisk sighed. “Fine.”
Rasilvenaira set her pack down and dug out a small container and another small square devise. She hooked the square up to the control panel for the door, and then flipped the activation button. Within minutes the correct pass code sequence had been discovered and entered.
“Retinal scan verification necessary.” The automated voice chirped.
The Battlelord opened the container and fished out one squishy eyeball and placed it in the proper position for the scanner and waited. The system scanned the eyeball and seconds later the panel beeped and the door slid open. She put the eye back in the container and pulled the other device off the panel and returned both to her pack.
“Stay sharp, let’s go.”
“Stay sharp?” Akatsuki questioned while wrinkling her nose at the Sith, “Ohmybagod! Was that an eyeball?!”
“Shh Horansi! Let’s go!” Rasilvenaira barked at her lowly.
The two ducked into the doorway staying low as Xan watched their six, sniper scope looking outward towards any potential threat.
Once inside, Rasilvenaira headed directly for the main computer. “I’m certain we will be able to glean any information we need from this baby,” she said as she patted the monitor, beginning to hack in. “I see the layout of the whole compound. Oh, there are indeed DB contacts…what a tangled web we weave,” the Sith hissed as she continued to acquire data and information.
Xan popped his head over Ras’ shoulder, “Where is the armory? Hmm?”
“Shh you bomberman! It’s there,” the Sith said and pointed on the map. “We’ll get there, hang on.”
Xan wandered over to a doorway, opened it to find one of the Believers hiding. There was no chance to interrogate the cult member as the Obelisk ignited his yellow light saber and turned him into mincemeat. Walking into the next room he belted out a guffaw as he found a stash of weapons as well as more rockets for the shoulder launcher.
“He sounds like he’s happy.” Akatsuki said as she started to rifle through the cupboards and desks.
“Mhmm, he’s easy to please…anything that blows up, explodes or acts as a good projectile…he’ll enjoy it,” Ras said as she set her smaller droids out to tap into the rest of the electronics. “Oh, this is good! That’s right, computer, give me your secrets…” She connected a data pad to the system and began a large download.
Akatsuki opened some of the cupboards in the supply closet, finding a few locked. She ignited her Krath Rune lightsaber and cut her way into the locked ones. Disengaging her lightsaber she screeched, “Oooooh! Synth crystals!” the Horansi raked all of the focusing crystals into her pack.
The snooping Dark Jedi Knight then spotted a heavy stone box labeled “Blaise”.
Remembering the information she’d received in the briefing; she knew Blaise to be a member of the Believers who’d been accused of stealing or assisting in stealing Mandolorian iron. She also knew he was hunted for what he had been accused of and killed. Opening the heavy box, she found a pendant with a Gallinorean rainbow gem as well as directions to where the mission iron could be found. “Ooooh I found a shiny, I found a shiny,” as she rejoined her two strike team members nearly done in the clearing of the headquarters.
“What did you find Aka?” asked Xan.
“Well this,” and she handed the Obelisk the directions to the Mandolorian iron. “Annnnnd this!” she proclaimed as she danced a little jig with her rainbow gem pendant.
“Nice shiny fuzz face, but dress up time is later,” the Sith glowered in her direction. “I’ve found a great deal of information about the layout of the compound. This was the easy part. It’s time to get serious as we’ll be outnumbered and out gunned.” She shot a quick glance at Xan, “No offense.”
“I doubt it. Well, phase two?” Xan said with a chuckle.
Akatsuki put her pendant shiny in her pack and proceeded to quickly explain the Synthetic Crystals she’d discovered in the storage.
“Great…” Xan said sarcastically.
“What?” Akatsuki asked blinking in confusion.
“That’s like what I taught you about, the synthetic crystals….Sith…and by the collection you’ve got there they are all going to be armed.” Xan continued, “It’s time to take over the rest of the compound.”
Akatsuki looked at her two teammates, the mood in the room had changed. Ras had confirmed that the Brotherhood had a leak, they had obtained critical data and they now knew the layout of the compound.
“Whatever you do Akatsuki, stay focused. I don’t want you to die here on Almas, not today,” Xan said with sincerity in his eyes.
“Um good plan?” Akatsuki said leaning against a bookshelf that slid slightly under her weight. “What the…” the Horansi pushed the bookshelf sideways, it was a door.
The door slid aside to reveal a room that contained a couple dozen members and leaders of the Believers, as well as some Sith lizards that were tied to fixed posts. “Guys, um…guys…” Akatsuki started to freeze in a panic as the group of cult members immediately stood and began igniting lightsabers and blaster fire began raining down.
The Horansi had inadvertently found the leaders of the cult. Those leaders were not happy to learn of the intrusion and began closing in fast. “Release the lizards!” was bellowed.
As the hail of blaster fire impacted the wall where Akatsuki had been seconds before, Xan slowly got off the floor after tackling her out of the way.
"Aka, please, please be more careful. Remember what I told you earlier…I refuse to let you die on this planet, or die at all." Xan then smiled at the recovering Horansi.
"I didn't mean to…"
"I know, it's ok. Let's deal with these pests."
Xan leapt to his feet and ignited his yellow blade. Rasilvenaira nodded at Xan and ignited her silver blade, knowing the lightsaber would be essential in taking down these foes. Once Akatsuki regained her composure, she also ignited her Krath Rune Saber, the yellow blade casting it's glow beside Xan's. They all stood ready against the incoming wave of saber wielding Royal Guard and Sith Lizards, knowing this fight won't be an easy one. Xan grinned and ran towards them, yellow blade ready to strike at the nearest opponent. His blade crashed against his attacker's…the dance of death had begun in full swing. He gathered two additional assailants, hoping they could overpower him with relentless attacks. He parried one blow, swept under another, crashed his saber against the third, and had to evade the near swing right at his throat. He was slightly challenged at this point, mostly blocking and evading everything thrown at him, but his main concern was the Lizards going for his two comrades. Xan wanted to dispatch of these pests as soon as possible, but where he saw an opening and wanted to take it, he would have to dodge or parry an additional attack. He also noticed the circle of Royal Guard surrounding the attacking group…which meant once he destroyed these…he had even more to deal with. Xan grinned and liked the challenge. He overpowered the first assailant, knocking him back a few feet, which gave him the opportunity to block another attack, then immediately counter attacked…which effectively severed the guardsman in two smoking pieces. Xan then used the force to throw a half at the guardsman to his left. Using the opportunity that came from the impact, he then swung high…decapitating the guardsman. Xan then glanced over to his comrades who were dealing with the lizards and a few guardsmen who opted not to fight the Obelisk.
Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira were fighting hard against the vicious attacks of the lizards and guardsman. Akatsuki blocked one attack from a guardsman's lightsaber, and ducked under a wide swipe from the Sith Lizard's claws. She jumped backwards in a crouching stance and squared away her opponents. There were two Royal Guardsmen with lightsabers on her right, and a Sith Lizard on her left. Not the most ideal situation, but she was glad that Xan was holding off the majority of attackers, so that she and Rasilvenaira could effectively take care of the ones who went past him, then eventually close in and help against the mob he was dealing with. The two guardsmen simultaneously closed in on Akatsuki, hoping to overpower her in a flurry of light but fast attacks. She was fending off the attacks with skill and determination, but didn't count on the Lizard sneaking up behind her. As Akatsuki parried a low strike from the guardsman, the Lizard swiped in a wide arc across her rear flank, effectively slashing the Horansi, wounding her back and shoulders. Akatsuki roared in anger and pain at the sneak attack, turned on her heels and slew the lizard in two precise strikes to the throat. Her strength draining, she desperately parried the oncoming attacks from the remaining guardsman…
Xan heard the scream of pain from Akatsuki. His blood immediately boiled, his senses heightened, his rage overflowing, and entered into a complete state of bloodlust. He instantly overpowered the attacker on his right, slashing down hard on his frontal defense, then swiped low and wide, disemboweling his assailant instantly. He roared in anger as he blocked another attack, spinning on his heels to catch the attacker off guard…then cut him in half. Xan then force pulled two more assailants onto his yellow blade, impaling them as he roared in their faces with intense rage. He then pushed them off, running towards Akatsuki's attackers in such a rage of a thousand burning suns. Akatsuki was now on the ground, backed up against the wall in a desperate attempt to stay alive…until she saw Xan running towards her. Xan grabbed the back of the left assailant's head and slammed his face into the wall, impaling his lightsaber through his neck, and severing his head clean from his body. The remaining assailant lunged towards Xan in a desperate wave of attacks, but Xan wanted none of it. Xan wanted him to suffer. Xan immediately overpowered his opponent, severing his weapon hand. He then picked the guardsman up by the throat, looked straight into his eyes and said… "You. Will. Not. Harm. Her." Xan then roared and cut his saber from the top right shoulder, down to the left thigh, slicing the guardsman into smoking diagonal pieces. Xan tossed the smoking carcass away and helped Akatsuki to her feet.
"Akatsuki, are you ok? Where are you hurt? You must hold on, you must not die…not here, not now."
"Gah, I got slashed on my back by that damn lizard. I'm losing strength pretty quickly…I'll need some medical attention when we're done with this."
"Ok, I'll make sure Rasilvenaira gets you healed up. I'm glad you're still alive; don't change that any time soon, ok?"
"Ha! I'll try my best. By the way…thanks for the help Xan…it means a lot to me"
Akatsuki smiled at her Xan and motioned him to go finish up the assault.
Xan smiled and nodded, heading towards where Rasilvenaira was fighting her own share of guardsman and a lizard. Xan then snuck behind the lizard, jamming his lightsaber into the back of it's skull in a blaze of now melted brain and shattered skull. Rasilvenaira then took the opportunity to fend off another wave of attacks, signaling to Xan that she was honestly done with this whole fiasco and decapitated one, while spinning around on her heels to sever the legs of another. The screaming guardsman didn't last long as Rasilvenaira kicked him in the face…then using her silver blade to decapitate the noisy assailant. Rasilvenaira then sighed and disengaged her lightsaber.
"You know, I was handling it. I simply didn't kill them because I was having too much fun tormenting their minds while making specific strikes to cause the most pain…"
Xan laughed and sighed. "Yes, yes I know, but we're pressed for time, and Akatsuki is hurt. I need you to go help her while I round up the leaders inside."
Rasilvenaira nodded and made her way to the Horansi, opening her pack of various supplies to heal just about any battle wound. Xan didn't disengage his saber yet, he knew he'd need his weapon to influence the leaders inside to do his bidding. He casually walked over the still smoking chunks of the Royal Guard who had attacked him earlier, and stood in front of the group of quite terrified leaders.
"All of you come with me. You are now prisoners of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, and you will do as I say, or you will die…horribly I might add." Xan then pointed to one of the leaders. "You, where can I procure a ship?" The trembling leader began to explain the whereabouts of a ship in the area…Xan smiled at the prisoner. "Thank you, now, lead us to it. Again, if there's even a hint of deception, or any funny business, you will die."
The gathered Cult Leaders, Xan, Rasilvenaira, and Akatsuki made their way to the waiting ship….the ship that Rasilvenaira would fly to pick up our remaining troops, as well as our wounded from the initial crash. Once aboard the ship, Rasilvenaira sat behind the flight controls and motioned Xan to go do something else. Xan laughed and made his way to Akatsuki, who sat in a somewhat comfy seat close to the back of the ship. Xan huddled down beside her and waited for them all to arrive at the crash site.
(edited to remove accidental double post)
The stolen transport ship screamed out of the Believers’ hangar as the Sith pushed the vessel to the limits of its maneuverability. Rasilvenaira chuckled to herself at the string of curses and other exclamations from the passengers as she turned the ship towards their initial crash site. She glanced over her shoulder to meet Xan’s scowl and suppressed a mischievous grin knowing how much the Obelisk disliked normal flying, much less her crazy stunts.
“Just hold on to something, we’ll be there soon, though this bucket of bolts isn’t exactly in its prime, it’ll do well enough for what we need. Aka, how you doing?”
The Horansi still seemed pale even beneath her light colored fur. “I’m alright, if we don’t crash again.”
The Sith laughed, “I don’t crash ships.”
Xan winked at Akatsuki as their eyes met, “Oh really, Ras? Why do you go through so many then?”
“Hmph, having ships shot to bits around me is not the same as crashing them. Not my fault.”
The four prisoners huddled together looking utterly miserable as Xan returned his attention to them, keeping one hand on the hilt of his saber.
“So Ras, what do you plan on doing with these spineless gizkas?”
“Oh, you really want to know?”
Xan grinned at the particular emphasis in her words and shook his head, “No, come to think of it, I probably don’t. I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.”
By the time they reached a clearing near where the rest of their strike team had made camp, Akatsuki’s weariness was beginning to show. She’d been healed enough after the fight to keep her alive and more or less stable, but her body’s reserves of energy were quickly being depleted now that the adrenaline was wearing off.
Rasilvenaira landed the transport and flipped the controls into standby mode. “Xan, go fetch the rest of our team, and don’t worry, I’ll see to Aka now that we’re in a better position.”
He cast a worried glance at the Horansi, and then met the Sith’s dark eyes, “Alright. What about them though?” he nodded toward the prisoners.
Rasilvenaira pulled two round objects from her pack and activated them. “I can handle them. These will keep them from attempting anything foolish. First one to move wrong gets obliterated.”
The wicked looking droids hovered overhead, their red photoreceptors glowing crimson against glossy black durasteel bodies. The prisoners seemed to take the Sith at her word and none of them dared to move even an inch.
Rasilvenaira pulled a few things out of the transport’s med supplies and knelt down beside the Horansi. “Next time remind me to spray you down good with Lizard repellant.” She joked as she worked on doing a more thorough job of fixing up the Krath’s injuries.
“Sure thing. They weren’t very nice beasties.”
Rasilvenaira shrugged, “They’d probably make a nice pair of boots, maybe even a half decent stew with the right ingredients.”
Akatsuki looked up at the Sith, “You really are a strange human.”
Rasilvenaira gave a wry grin, “You have no idea. Xan should be back soon with the rest of our team. Will you be up for helping with the other wounded? At least this ship has some decent supplies, which will make things easier.”
She nodded, “Yeah, I can do that.”
Rasilvenaira turned her attention to rummaging through her pack again, picking a few items out and setting them to one side. The Sith settled down on the floor and started tinkering with the stuff she’d pulled out. The Horansi looked on curiously while the prisoners remained petrified in place by fear.
Moments later, the Obelisk and the rest of the surviving team members entered the ship. Akatsuki moved to help check on the wounded troopers, and Xan eyed the hovering droids and then the Sith. Rasilvenaira was lost in thought as she worked on building whatever it was she was putting together. Xan looked over at Akatsuki and arched one eyebrow in question. The Horansi nodded, and then shrugged as she looked back over at the Sith.
Finally after several moments of silence, Rasilvenaira stood up and turned to look over the group. She nodded to the lead trooper.
“Ready to start having some fun?”
He grinned, “From what I hear, we already missed a great party.”
A sadistic grin crept across her lips. “Oh, that was just a warm up. The real party’s just getting started.”
“Well hopefully some of us will get a chance to join the action this time.”
She nodded, “You will. I’ll need one to stay behind to keep an eye on the ship and those who are still too injured to fight, but the rest will get to come along for the fun.” She turned her attention to the prisoners. “Now, speaking of fun…”
Rasilvenaira glanced sideways with a smile at Xan and Aka, then walked over to stand next to the prisoners as they cringed and tried to back away from her.
“The simple truth of the matter is that we only need one of you alive. The rest of you are expendable. However, I might be persuaded to change my mind about that, if one of you gives me a good enough reason.”
She sat the device she’d built down on the floor near them and flipped the activation switch. The device started humming and the two sentry droids beeped in response.
“You have five minutes to convince me why I should let more than one of you live. After that, the droids will start using you all for target practice. On average it takes eight to ten of their darts to actually kill a healthy human, but you will be extremely miserable in the mean time. Last one left alive will be treated for the poison before it kills you.”
With that she walked back over, pulled a bottle out of her pack and took a drink before settling into a seat to watch prisoners sweat. Xan chuckled as he looked up from inspecting the stash of armaments he’d found on board.
“Only you would consider a bottle of liquor ‘essential combat equipment’.”
Rasilvenaira smirked and took another drink, “You’d be surprised just how many uses I can find for this bottle.”
The Obelisk shook his head, “Knowing you, Ras, nothing surprises me anymore.”
The Battlelord turned her mind elsewhere, letting her thoughts drift while she kept an eye on the prisoners. A moment later, slowly and very carefully, one of the prisoners stood up. He looked around at the group and swallowed hard. Even if the droids didn’t kill them, he had apparently reached the conclusion that there was no fighting droids, troopers, and the dark Jedi with any hope of survival. Rasilvenaira sat the liquor bottle down and arched one eyebrow upward as her obsidian hued gaze met his.
“I…” He took a deep breath, glancing at his companions, “I… can tell you anything you want to know, if you’d be willing to spare our lives, though I know our lives mean nothing to you.”
Rasilvenaira walked over them, and stopped the timer on her device. “I thought you’d see it my way.” She motioned him forward and he took a shaky step towards her. “Let’s have a little chat, shall we?” She reached out and took hold of his arm and dragged him over to a seat and pulled a small data pad out of her pocket. “I know you are not the only Believers here, I want to know where the others are. I want to know numbers, defenses, locations, and anything else you think might be irrelevant.”
He swallowed hard again and began keying in the data the Sith wanted.
Akatsuki watched in horror as bit by bit Rasilvenaira managed to obtain all of the information that the strike team would need to plan their attack. The Horansi observed the Sith glean critical insider knowledge of defenses, troops, and even the firepower that the Believers had access to. Anytime the prisoner would hesitate, the droid would come closer, encouraging the spilling of information. Akatsuki wondered if the droids could do everything Ras claimed, but wasn’t ever going to ask. Watching the Sith terrorize information out of the prisoner was like watching a master of their craft.
Xan continued to paw through the stash of explosives and weaponry, mumbling under his breath about “We must stop at the armory. Need much more explosives and firepower…” Akatsuki looked over at the Obelisk and shook her head then went about tending to the wounded.
As Akatsuki turned her attentions to the rest of the wounded team, one of the wounded members looked at the Dark Jedi Knight with an empathetic look. “You are Krath, correct Horansi?”
Akatsuki nodded as she tended to the wounds the housemate had acquired during the crash. “I don’t think we’ve met, I’m Akatsuki.”
The wounded one nodded, “I know. I joined because of you. It’s Zabitha.”
“Zaby!” Akatsuki exclaimed, “Well you’ll be fine to proceed along with the crew. But why did you ask if I’m a Krath?”
“Well I know you were injured in the first onslaught. I also remember that your mentor is a Sith Lord. I was thinking that between you and me, we could get your strength back up so you’ll be ready for the next round,” Zabitha smiled as she explained.
“Very well, and you are right. I did learn how to interact with different knowledge and energy due to who my mentor was. Are you well enough to assist me?” Akatsuki questioned.
“Yes.” Zabitha said with conviction and held out her hands to take the Horansi’s paws into hers.
Together the two went into a meditation and found the spots in the Horansi which needed healing as well as helped raise her strength. Once they were complete Akatsuki opened her eyes to see the Zabrak looking at her wide eyed. “Better?” Zabitha asked.
“Indeed.” Akatsuki responded. “Will you help me attend to the rest?” Zabitha nodded and the two healed and mended the remaining three members of the team.
One member, Lightning Kuma, an Obelisk member of Scholae was weakened by the injuries and stepped up to guard the ship as the crew proceeded on their mission. “I can stay behind with the ship as you proceed,” he directed his comments towards Ras who’d laid out the strategy.
The Sith paused from tormenting information from her captive to meet his eyes as he spoke. “Aye, that would be beneficial,” she said with a slight nod then proceeded to finish the job of intel gathering.
As Ras finished the interrogation, Akatsuki tried to plead for the life of the prisoner, “Shall I tie him up? Secure him in the hold? I mean he might prove useful later…”
The Sith’s eyes darkened. “He’s of no use, but he certainly gave us some valuable information.” She directed the squealer to go sit next to Xan who was still pawing through the ammunitions.
Xan sneered at the prisoner as he quietly sat down next to him muttering about “Lack of honor…”
Ras reached into her pack pulling out a small device that looked like a remote control. She also unclipped her lightsaber from her belt. In one swift and graceful dance of demise; the Sith flipped the switch causing the droids to rain fire upon the remaining three prisoners and her silver blazing lightsaber began slicing the corpses into small pieces.
Akatsuki felt some vomit rise in her throat, she thought certainly since they’d given up some knowledge that there’d be at least a little mercy…
The thought was cut short by the protests of the prisoner who’d leaked information, “But….I told you what you needed to know. I thought you were going to spare us! This isn’t fair! You…you made me think we’d be spared if I told you…”
Rasilvenaira’s eyes darkened and she walked towards the prisoner. “Let’s go for a walk.” She grabbed the prisoner by his hair yanking him to his feet and walked him outside. There was a brief scream of anguish. Xan and Akatsuki glanced at eachother wincing.
Ras re-entered the ship with some fingers and an eyeball which she put into containers in her pack like it was everyday business. “If I’ve said it once…I’ve said it a thousand times…never trust a Sith.”
The Horansi shuddered at how effectively and efficiently the Sith made use of the body parts. Cold. Cunning. Slightly disgusting. Akatsuki shrugged and wondered to herself if she’d ever be a true Krath.
Ras, Xan and Akatsuki began gathering weaponry, supplies and nourishment for the battle plan ahead. The three remaining members that were coming along began preparing for the mission as well. Ras used a data pad as well as the system that was useable albeit archaic. “First move will be to get to the armory.” She used her pointer to show the coordinates of the armory.
“Huzzah!” Xan belted out.
Ras glared at the Obelisk, clearing her throat, “Then we will quickly and as stealthy as possible take out the defenses…located here, here and here.” The members of the higher-numbered strike team nodded in confirmation. “Once the defenses are down, we will proceed to infiltrate the fortress. Akatsuki, we will need you to reach out so we can pick up on the mental warfare that may be directed towards us.”
Akatsuki nodded quietly. She knew with this being her first time out on a mission as a Dark Jedi Knight that her reputation, training and skills in general would be tested. She wasn’t worried about judgment from her team, they knew she was a newer member; but rather afraid of failing them. She remembered the words of Vivi, the first teacher she had, “See it happening, view it as if it already is…and it will be. Chaos Theory lil’ one.” Akatsuki smiled subtly to herself envisioning the triumvirate bringing back victory, information and accomplishment to Scholae.
“Are we ready?” Ras asked a more or less rhetorical question.
“Aye!” seemed to rise from the whole group. They all headed for the door of the ship.
As night fell, the group moved silently over the expanse of land towards the fortress. It was quite desolate, especially due to the fact that nothing grew in the area, so there was no chance of cover, or any type of hiding within or behind natural vegetation. Xan, Aka, and Ras led the other members of the strike team towards the armory, very silently yet quickly...hidden as best as they could by the darkness of night. Xan motioned everyone to stop, and knelt down. "It seems that...hmm...I hear some vehicles up ahead. I'm betting they're scouts, or at least perimeter guards." Xan then looked at the rest of the team and nodded. "If they spot us, or if we encounter opposition at all...it'll give our position away, as well as the whole sneak factor we currently have going on. We need to be careful, but, if worst comes to worst...and the vehicles spot us...I’ll be forced to use the rest of my rockets to take care of them...which will especially give our position away." Xan then looked at Akatsuki and Rasilvenaira. "I want you two to lead the rest away from me, and keep heading towards the armory. This is going to be another one of my famous explosive distractions, but I won't be sticking around for the backlash that might be coming this time. So, once I blow away the scout vehicles, I'll run hard to catch up to you because we all know there's a much higher concentration of troops and vehicles in this location."
Akatsuki smiled at Xan and nodded. "Okay, sounds like a plan...and Xan, please..don't get yourself blown to bits. I need you in one piece after this is all over with."
Xan smiled at the Horansi and winked. "My dear, I shall try my best to blow up others before myself...but you have to do the same, one piece please and thank you."
Rasilvenaira snorted and sighed. "If we don't move this along soon, I'm going to get bored...and you know what happens when I get bored. Sharp, dangerous things come out to play, and I don't have any spineless gikzas to entertain myself with. And honestly...I swear you two...it's like a bowl of sugar in my mouth...can we please get this going? You'll have plenty of time to babble incoherently to each other in some type of hazed love shenanigans later."
Xan smiled. "Good, glad we're clear and set to go. Ready? I see the vehicles in the distance; I'll be exploding them shortly, and then running my tail off to the armory."
Akatsuki raised her hand. "But Xan..you don't have a tail..."
"A figure of speech my dear. You're the only one here with a tail, lucky you huh?" Xan smiled at the Horansi and winked once more.
With that, the Krath and Sith led the rest of the team towards the armory...quickly and quietly, keeping low to avoid detection by the looming scout vehicles. Xan sighed and pulled the shoulder rocket from his pack, and placed scope to his right eye. He could see the two vehicles by their headlights, but as to what they were exactly he wasn't sure. Xan then decided he needed to move closer so his shots would have no chance to miss its marks. Xan then slung the rocket launcher behind his back and made his way to a closer position, being very careful to not be caught in any sort of light. Xan was in a good position now, he once again looked through the scope and lines up his shots...but the vehicles kept moving. Clearly annoyed at the possibility of a miss, he ignited his yellow saber and waved it in the air a few times. The effect was immediate, the vehicles stopped in their tracks to observe what had caught their eye. Xan then quickly disengaged his saber, knelt down on one knee, lined up his shot and fired. The first rocket screamed towards the closest vehicle and impacted on the front side...knocking it backwards in an explosive volley of flipping fire and debris going in all directions. The second vehicle gunned its engine towards the Obelisk, clearly not aware of the dangers they faced. Xan grinned and slipped a few steps to the right, lining up the shot as the vehicle sped past him...then stopped. The crew inside were severely confused...just seeing a rocket being fired from that exact spot just seconds before. Xan whistled over to them. "Hey, looking for me?" With that, he fired the second rocket. The impact completely demolished the vehicle in a fiery explosion of parts, tires, and organic material. Xan smirked and immediately placed the shoulder rocket back in its pack, stood up and started running towards the armory. As he was running, he looked over his shoulder at the massing amounts of vehicles and personnel gathering at the smoldering wreckage of the two scout vehicles trying to figure out who and what destroyed them. So far Xan's plan had worked beautifully, creating a distraction to move a massive amount of attention away from the armory and his waiting team. Xan smiled to himself as he sat down beside the Horansi...but then frowned as he felt his rocket ammunition packs were empty.
Akatsuki scooted closer to the Obelisk and smiled. "That was quite a show, nicely done...but why the frown?"
"I'm all out of rockets...even though they were well spent."
"Silly Xan, we're at an ARMORY, you'll get plenty more inside yeah? I'm also glad to see you made it back in one piece."
Xan smiled at Akatsuki and winked once more. "That's incredibly true isn’t it, then I have no reason to be frowning. Also, you're very welcome. I'm glad you made it safely too, don't know what I'd do without you."
Akatsuki blushed at the Obelisk, clearly lost for words.
Rasilvenaira poked the pair. "Hey, you do realize if you two don't get up and stop drooling on each other I'm going to leave you behind, right?"
Xan nodded at the Sith. "Absolutely. Everyone good to go? I'm not sure what opposition we'll find inside, but I'd imagine it wont be a cake walk...it's an armory after all."
The strike team then stood up, got into attack/defense positions and signaled they were ready. Xan nodded. "Here goes nothing..." and slowly opened the door....
The team slipped into the Armory, and Rasilvenaira slipped past the armored Obelisk and waved a hand as several sentry droids activated and began to move towards them. The droids all froze in place and powered back down. Xan glanced over at the Sith, quirking one eyebrow in question.
“What? Even the best droids have off switches, just need to know where to look for them.”
He just shook his head and moved further into the room as the rest of the team moved around him. He motioned the group to be still for a moment. Trusting the Sith’s uncanny ability to detect traps he watched Rasilvenaira closely but let her move into the lead. The Battlelord’s eyes seemed to change slightly as she scanned the room, her senses stretching out to probe every corner of the room. Nodding that it was clear she moved on, approaching the thick door that was at the opposite end.
Behind her she heard the sounds of the team gathering what they could to restock armaments from crates and cabinets around the room. The soft padding of the Horansi’s footsteps brought Rasilvenaira’s attention back to the immediate moment and she tilted her head to look over at the Krath.
“That’s an awfully big door, what do you think’s on the other side?”
Rasilvenaira’s brows furrowed slightly as she considered for a moment and then she shrugged, “Only one way to find out.”
She pulled her pack around and took a small object out. Activating the tiny spider droid, she sat it down and grinned as the little droid scurried across the floor and up to the control mechanism for the heavy blast doors. Whatever was on the other side, she was convinced that the Believers should not be allowed to keep it.
A moment later the control panel for the door beeped and the heavy door slid open with a low hiss. The drastic change in temperature caught the Sith’s attention as her eyes narrowed. Silently she signaled Xan who moved to stand beside her and the Horansi.
“What in the…?”
“Yeah, my thoughts exactly.” Rasilvenaira kept her voice low as she took in the sight that met them. Two massive creatures seemed suspended in a form of cryo-stasis and the Sith wrinkled her nose as the stench of various chemicals wafted out of the open door.
“I’d wager a guess that’s some sort of lab for making war beasts of one variety or another. It makes me very interested to see where they got the ideas for it.”
Xan nodded, “What do you suggest? They seem frozen.”
“They have to be eliminated, we have no idea what plans the Believers might have for them, and we certainly don’t want to leave them with any advantages.”
Rasilvenaira took a step forward, “Take the rest of the team, head for the main fortress.” She pulled the spider droid off the door’s control panel and handed it to him. “This should get you through all but the toughest security locks.”
Xan eyed the small droid and shrugged, “Alright.”
As he turned to gather up the team, she caught his attention once more, “Oh, and Xan? Try not to break it.”
He chuckled, “I’ll try. Just do what you’re going to do and quickly.”
She nodded, “Understood. Go.”
Rasilvenaira slipped further into the shadowy depths of the lab as she focused on using the Force to quell the almost overpowering scents assaulting her senses. Having spent a great deal of time studying the various aspects of Sith Alchemy, she did have to admire the amount of effort that went into creating such monstrosities. However, they were pressed for time and the small transport ship made even considering the attempt to salvage one of the beasts for later study back home impractical. However, the datapads, crystals and one small holocron she found did make their way into her pack.
With a final glance around the room again to make certain that she’d not missed anything important, Rasilvenaira keyed in the commands on the stasis chambers that would shut them down, and injected highly lethal poisons into the life support lines for both creatures.
Moving quickly, she headed back out of the lab and hit the controls to close the door again behind herself. Pausing on her way out of the armory, she scavenged a few bits and pieces that only she would have considered useful, and added her new treasures to the pack. Crouching low as she slipped out of the Armory, she scanned the landscape. She spotted the faint trail left by her companions in the dead soil surrounding the Fortress. Wrapping the darkness of shadows around herself, the assassin sprinted across the open ground to catch up with her teammates.
As Xan lead Akatsuki and the rest of the team away from the armory and along the planned out path towards the Fortress, Akatsuki glanced back over her shoulder towards the Sith. She always liked Rasilvenaira, but there was just something bone-chilling scary about her.
Focusing on the march and battle ahead, Akatsuki started digging in her pack for some nourishment. She’d brought along dried fruit and dried fish; supplies she’d found on the ship as well as bottled up water from the watering hole. ‘A well fed Horansi is a well prepared Horansi’ as her mother would say.
She began slurping and chomping a fig she’d found in her treasure stash when she was met by the glare of Xan. “What are you doing?” he growled at her.
“Eating?” she smacked her lips, big eyed at the tone of his voice.
“You could share.” The glare turned into a smile as he ate the rest of the fig from her hand, purposely licking her paw.
The Horansi giggled and the rest of the group sighed at the display. Akatsuki didn’t care. She’d loved and watched that love dissipate into the blackness of death. So she savored every moment, even if she was in peril. “So what’s the game plan?” she asked of Xan.
“Kill all the things?” Xan smiled.
The group all laughed, but realized that the closer they got to the Fortress, the fiercer the battle would become. The group was moving swiftly and quietly, cloaked in the Force. Once the group was 100m outside of the Fortress Xan gave the signal for the group to stop. They’d gone to hand signals and communication through the Force as to remain unannounced and as silent as possible.
There were three solid targets that would need immediate removal. There were guard towers built up that were on the perimeter that had sensitive laser blasters as well as some guard rooms attached to the Fortress. There was a small walker going about the perimeter and then over in the corner, there was an iron gate holding back a multitude of Dark lizards.
Xan gave the cue and two other members aimed their shoulder rockets at the first guard tower; total destruction was the goal. Akatsuki and Zaby stood armed as well; Akatsuki with her lightsaber ablaze in yellow and Zabitha had her blaster ready to fire.
KABOOM the rockets fired in unison, cleanly destroying the first guard tower.
Xan gave the signal for the second guard tower and KABOOM, they fired together again.
A group of twenty Believers ran straight towards the group that was hunkered down behind a sandy dune. Akatsuki yelled, “Incoming!” to alert the rest of the group.
“Number?” Xan barked at her.
“A couple dozen?! One o’clock and coming fast.” Akatsuki answered quickly, frightened that she might not survive this onslaught.
Xan and the other two gunners sat their rocket launchers down and pulled a variety of weaponry out. Lightsabers and blasters were quickly drawn from their hilts and holsters.
Xan ignited his yellow glowing saber and skewered one of the Believers right through the heart. Zabitha was hit by blaster fire to her right shoulder and fell over, though even while on her stomach fired her blaster repeatedly. The other members of the strike team wielded their lightsabers and returned blaster fire towards the incoming Believers.
The battle was chaotic. Akatsuki sliced one of the Believers cleanly through the body, nearly halving him. However, one of the cult-members caught her off guard and knocked her lightsaber from her right hand, knocking it some meters away. The Horansi quickly drew her Krath War Blade and continued in the battle. Slicing and severing limbs as well as gutting the Believers as if they were dinner.
Xan saw the Believer knock Akatsuki’s lightsaber from her paw. He didn’t like her being unarmed, so he yelled “Aka! To your right!” as he used the force to fling her lightsaber back into her waiting grip.
The remaining five members of the Believers beat a hasty retreat back to the Fortress. “Well lick a giska, they are going to announce our arrival!” Xan glowered. He grabbed his 50 cal. Sniper rifle and quickly picked off three of them. The other two disappeared from sight.
Akatsuki knelt down to tend to Zabitha’s shoulder wound, pulling bandaging and bacta from her pack and treated her team and housemate as swiftly as she could asking Zabitha to meditate as she did so.
Rasilvenaira finally came walking up with the head of one of the runaway Believers and the helmet of another. She tossed the trophies at the feet of the Obelisk. “Xan! Son of a bantha! What did you do? Did you guys have to make such a ruckus? They heard you back on Judecca with all that noise!”
Xan glared at his former apprentice, “Look here, your royal Sithness, you asked me to lead them in…”
“I didn’t ask you to get the strike team killed! Never send in an Obbie to do a Sith’s job…” Rasilvenaira began digging in her bag again. She took a hearty swig from the bottle and offered some to Xan.
“No thanks.” He said holding a hand up declining.
“It’d probably help you fight better or at least have the right disposition to lead better. Group, quickly, get your silly academy drop out selves together. We’re going in NOW!” She glared at the whole group muttering under her breath about using the lot of them as a meat shield.
Xan muttered under his breath, “Thran was right…heartless swamp witch…”
“I heard that!” The Sith hissed over her shoulder watching the group gather their wits about them as well as reassembling their supplies.
As Xan went over to help Zabitha to her feet. He examined the group, they were battle weary and so much more was ahead.
“Xan?” Akatsuki said softly to the Obelisk.
“Yes, my little Dark Jedi Knight?” Xan responded.
“Is this going to work, are we going to be ok? I mean I think Ras hates us all. What if she leaves us for dead? I don’t want to die here.” Akatsuki said, nearly pleading through sniffles.
“Enough of that talk, Ras doesn’t hate anyone here, she’s just a bit…off. You or any of the rest of the group is not dying here on Almas. Not today. Now get your stuff together, we’re going.” He said in a consoling tone.
“Horansi, come here!” Rasilvenaira commanded.
Akatsuki walked over, a little scared of what the Sith might do.
The Sith spat rum all over the Dark Jedi Knight while cackling like she’d lost her mind, “Lizard be gone spray! Keeps all lizards away from fuzz faces!”
“Now, let’s go!” the Sith took the lead again.
Xan sighed at the Sith and looked at Akatsuki's rum sprayed face. "Well...I hope it works, if not, I would advise a bath when we get back? I'm sure you don't want rum and Ras all over you, yeah?"
Akatsuki shivered in displeasure. "Yeah..a bath sounds fantastic right now, or at least a body of water to jump in for a minute."
Xan grinned. "Imagine that, my kitty likes to be all wet."
Akatsuki blushed and smiled, clearly lost for words.
Xan winked at the Horansi then sighed. "Alright, back to business. I'm seeing that walker over there by the outer walls, walking back and forth. I'm sure I can run over there quickly and quietly, get the driver to play catch with a thermal detonator, then be back before you know it. After that, we'll force cloak and sneak in the main door when it opens. I know there are lizards over there, but they're caged, so if they don't see us, we don't have to fight the beasts. Once inside, we'll regroup and plan out our tactical attacks. Basically, I'd like to completely obliterate this whole damn fortress." Xan grinned with satisfaction at the plan he came up with, then motioned everyone to stay put. Xan took a deep breath and sped off towards the walker in the distance, keeping low and silent...trying to stay hidden in the cloak of night. Once he came to a safe, but close distance, Xan observed the walker's pilot arrangements and smiled at the fact that it was open air...which meant he could toss a thermal detonator between the legs of the pilot with ease. Xan then reached into his pack, primed a thermal detonator...and bellowed at the pilot "HEY! catch!" The walker spun around abruptly, facing Xan, but stopped in its tracks as the thermal detonator landed in the pilot's lap...and exploded. Xan laughed heartily at his work, clearly pleased at the collapsing, flaming, smoking, crumbling wreckage of the walker he was leaving behind as he made his way silently back to his team.
"Hey, did you guys see that? It was brilliant!" Xan laughed as he pointed towards the heap of flaming wreckage.
Akatsuki smiled and nodded. "Yes Xan, it was a spectacular show, and you did it perfectly."
Xan smiled back at the Horansi. "Thank you my little Dark Jedi Knight, your input is always special to me."
Xan nodded to the rest of the team. "Alright, it's time to move, Ras, Aka, and I will be force cloaking us all so we can move in silently and unseen by the enemy. Don't go ahead and don't fall behind, stay in a group and we'll make it inside the fortress with no casualties. We'll all approach the door, and wait for the opportunity to head inside, follow my lead."
With that, Xan lead the group to the exterior of the main gate. The Sith lizards lay in cages just across the courtyard...which made the team a bit uneasy, but didn't cause any unwanted attention. Xan sighed as he waited...clearly wanting this operation to hurry up, but was glad to have Akatsuki right behind him, as well as Rasilvenaira keeping an eye on their rear flank. Then suddenly, Xan's ears perked up as he heard the rumbling of an engine approaching the gate. "Everyone, get ready, we only have one shot at this." The group nodded in unison and motioned they were ready. The gates started to slowly open as the vehicle pulled out into the courtyard. Xan motioned to move as soon as the vehicle's rear left the door, and the team silently slipped inside the fortress. The team found a somewhat safe spot in the shadows to start planning the final attacks...
Xan sighed and started counting his explosive arsenal. "I hope I have enough to do the job as thoroughly as I want to, but I suppose whatever I come up with will have to do."
Rasilvenaira nodded at Xan. "Aye, I'm sure you have enough...you ARE an Obelisk after all, which means you probably keep them like candy in your pockets. Especially you, I'm sure you'd have them stuffed in your socks if you could, so I don't want to hear your nonsense about not having enough explosives because I'd sooner kiss a gikza before believing that."
Xan raised an eyebrow at the Sith. "Well then...fair enough."
Akatsuki giggled at the banter and went back to healing the team.
Rasilvenaira pulled the datapad from her pack that contained the schematics of the fortress. The team huddled around the Sith and slowly started coming up with a plan on how to simultaneously destroy the fortress...as well as eliminate the leaders hiding inside.
Rasilvenaira scowled as she glanced around the alcove that hid their small team, for now. The whole Fortress reeked of the dark side, and her twisted imagination had little difficulty thinking of the various atrocities that might have been committed within its walls over the years. From the information she had extracted, the Believers were only using a small portion of the original Fortress. The hard part facing the team would be to not fall prey to any lingering traps along the way to the areas they’d need to deal with. Keeping her senses alert as she pointed out things for the group, she tried to prepare them for what they might encounter.
“I think the only way to do this effectively is for us to split up.” The Sith could tell that some members of the team weren’t happy with the idea but no one interrupted her. “Xan, you take Aka, and…” She pointed to the tech specialist and one other trooper. “Those two with you. Oh, do you still have the spider I gave you?”
Xan nodded, and handed over the small droid. Rasilvenaira added a few new commands and then handed the droid to the tech specialist, “Here, this should be able to slice any security locks you encounter, and it can scramble computers if you let it. Just don’t let anyone break it.” She eyed the Obelisk who just sighed and shook his head.
The tech nodded, “Yes ma’am.”
“Xan I know you’d love to level this whole place, but keep in mind we don’t have a full schematic layout, only partials. There are areas of this place even the Believers are afraid to go.”
He nodded. “Alright.”
Rasilvenaira pulled up another image on the datapad in her hand, “The key points seem to be here, here, and here.” She tapped the indicated locations. “The spider has a copy of this information, so just activate the small silver button by its front legs, and it’ll show you again if you need it.” She frowned, “The one I’d extracted the information from indicated that there was a small area of holding cells, where they were keeping captives for various projects. It’d be located here, if you can get to it, would be a nice distraction to have their prisoners running loose, even if most won’t make it out.”
Xan chuckled, “Don’t tell me you’re going soft, Ras.”
The Sith glared at him, “Hardly, I could care less about the captives, other than the fact they can distract the attention from us.”
“Fair enough, so what are you going to be doing while we try to take the place apart?”
“I need to get to their central information systems; they have data I want to get my hands on.”
“Alright, just be careful.”
She arched one eyebrow, “You too. Oh, one last thing- given the construction of this building and its history, there may be areas where your Force connections might be affected. Be prepared for it and don’t rely entirely on the Force.”
She pocketed the datapad, and pointed to the lead trooper, “Sergeant, you two are with me.”
“Aye, ready to go Com...” He hesitated, and then just nodded, “Ready.”
Rasilvenaira nodded absently near usage of a former title. He’d been part of the Scholae Palatinae forces for a long time and had once served under her command on Ptolomea. How times have changed… Exhaling sharply and forcing her mind back in more useful directions, she began moving toward the heart of the Believer’s portion of the Fortress.
Of course, the Sith’s ambitious streak presented a second reason why she wanted to go the direction she was heading. Deep in the core of the Fortress were a lot of secrets. Secrets learned became knowledge, and knowledge was power. Eventually, she would find what she sought, and the more knowledge she had to use, the more easily she’d accomplish her goals. However, going over the information about the Fortress again in her mind, she knew that a place like this guarded those secrets very well.
Behind her, the two troopers stayed watchful, the Sergeant was experienced enough to keep his nerves under control and the other was learning quickly and had sense enough to follow his superior’s lead. They kept their weapons ready for whatever they might encounter. Rasilvenaira had one hand resting on the hilt of her lightsaber.
Suddenly she motioned to her team and they flattened themselves against the dark metallic wall. Four cultists were approaching, two visibly armed with light sabers. Silently, Rasilvenaira nodded to her companions, and the Sergeant understood. The Sith would handle the two with sabers, while he and the other trooper took out the others as quickly as possible.
Rasilvenaira moved away from the wall drawing the attention of the cultists as they drew within easy range. Her silver saber ignited with an angry hiss, the pale blade casting an eerie glow against the dark walls of the Fortress. Twin crimson blades crackled to life in response as the pair sought to eliminate the intruder. The Battlelord twisted and ducked under one slash and blocked the second. Moving with deadly grace she pulled the two cultists a bit farther from their companions who were quickly dropped by the waiting troopers once they had clear shots.
Distracted by the sudden appearance of more intruders and their companions’ bodies falling to the floor, the two saber wielding Believers were quick to follow as the Sith removed one’s head from his shoulders and sliced the second in half in one smooth motion.
Muttering curses under her breath, Rasilvenaira nodded and headed for her destination again, at a quicker pace, knowing it wouldn’t be long before the bodies were discovered.
The Horansi set out with Xan and two other teammates. The objective was to move along as swiftly as possible to the holding cells. As the group moved single file along the cold stone walls they went to hand gestures and kept the use of the Force to a minimum. It was a wild card and unknown as to what kinds of systems to sense sentients or other beings were in place for defenses.
Proceeding towards the cells, the dirt floor took them on a slight downhill slope. Akatsuki was walking upright, and not being used to her new Dark Jedi Knight Robes caught her back right paw on her cloak. She began to become unstable in her stance and stumble.
What happened in the next minute is something storybooks are written about. The Horansi tripped, stumbling into Zabitha. She ended up falling over into a bit of a ball and rolling and tumbling down the slope. She connected with some of Xan’s armor leg armor creating a loud clang. There had to have been some form of trap set to pick up the slightest noise in the perimeter. As soon as the clatter of Horansi against armor occurred, three immediate blasts came at them from the hind wall, with blaster bolts screaming towards them. The Obelisk had reflexes that were lightning quick, deflecting the bolts with his sun blazing lightsaber. The remainder of the group breathed a sigh of relief when it occurred to all of them that Akatsuki was missing.
“Nerfherding light side lickers!” the Dark Jedi Knight grumbled. “Guys?” she whispered. “I’m down here.” The Horansi had slid down into a bit of crevice towards the bottom of the slope. She used her acute night vision to feel about and start to pull herself from where she’d become wedged in the crevice. There was a faux stone wall in place and so Akatsuki began to paw at the stones, moving them aside.
The rest of the group caught up just in time to see the Horansi’s tail disappear into a smallish hole created by moving the stones away. “Akatsuki!” Xan spoke to her through the force. “Come back here immediately!”
“Keep your armor on Emperor of explosives, I’ll be right back. I think I found something!” She spoke back through the Force. Times like this a bond with your team was of the highest importance so Akatsuki was thankful it was one of the first things she’d learned from her Master.
She found a very small, steep and narrow stair case that spiraled upward. She began climbing quickly. “I believe I found the tower where they used to conduct tests on the Sith Battlelords.” She spoke back to Xan silently through the Force. She got up to the top of the tower and it seemed to look at bit like a torture chamber. There were weapons and tools as well as vials and remnants of potions. ‘Creepy,’ the Horansi mused to herself. She quickly gathered as much of the loot as possible. She found a satchel that contained notebooks and datapads will all sorts of test results, observations and traditional Sith Religion and Alchemy. Akatsuki then found a book of pure Alchemy and a book that contained mental warfare infiltration tactics. She put those in her own pack and decided that no one needed to know she’d found those.
She scrambled back down the stairs and out through the hole to find a glaring Obelisk and the rest of her team staring at her. “What were you doing? You could’ve gotten killed up there!” Xan boomed.
“But, I didn’t!” She handed him the satchel she’d found with all of the test results and some remnants of observations and procedures that were solidly some of the rituals of the Sith.
“You found the tower?” Xan asked the rhetorical question with a wicked grin. “Good girl!”
Akatsuki blushed a bit, glad she’d pleased him; but at the same notion was slightly embarrassed as to how the whole windfall had occurred.
“So, to the cells now yes?” Akatsuki began to reach out gently to see if she could find any prisoners that were still able to use the Force. She picked up a very small voice that was so frail she could barely understand it.
“Many.” “Help.” “Pain.” “Force cuffs. Force collars.” Was coming through with what Akatsuki was gleaning from reaching out. She wondered what they'd find when they reached the containment cells.
“Xan are we going to let all of these Force users die? There’s one pleading for help! We cannot let those so similar to us suffer can we? I mean I heard many and the voice was so small and weak like a….” Akatsuki plead her case to the Obelisk knowing he had more soul than Rasilvenaira did.
“We’re simply supposed to let them loose, perhaps they’ll live….” Xan said lowly as they began moving towards the holding cells. “Silence now.”
As Xan lead the team into the darkness towards the holding cells, he scowled at the cramped spaces the team had to endure…especially due to the fact that it was almost pitch black in the corridor, which meant detecting traps would be even harder than before…not that it’d been easy in the first place. Xan sighed and moved forward at a quiet but brisk pace, keeping his senses open for any sign of traps or unexpected opposition. So far there didn’t seem to be anyone else in the corridor besides the team of four, which made Xan a little more at ease than he’d normally be.
Zabitha grew weary of the darkness and sighed. “I don’t like this…” She then reached into her pack and pulled out a small illuminator pack. She fiddled with it, and ignited the light. The piercing glow caught everyone off guard…as well as set off a trap right in front of Xan and Akatsuki’s path. A massive slit opened in the ceiling and a very large, ornate, sharp blade of obsidian swung violently towards the two dark Jedi. Xan’s eyes caught the reflection of the light on the blade and immediately force pushed everyone behind him to the ground as he flung himself flat to the floor…narrowly evading the blade’s deadly attack. Xan then heard a second slit open from the floor behind the group, revealing a second blade of obsidian. This one was the same size as the other, long enough to fill the corridor’s width. Xan immediately yelled to the group “GET UP NOW! RUN WITH ME!” and started sprinting towards the end of the corridor. The remaining members of the group followed Xan closely, trying their hardest to outrun this oncoming blade of destruction. It was then that Xan noticed more slits opening towards the end of the hallway, revealing even more obsidian blades of death. These blades started speeding towards the group, on the left and right sides…it would take some severely accurate choreography to avoid certain death in this tunnel. Xan would not let his team die, he refused to let Akatsuki perish in this place, and he knew what he had to do.
“Listen to me! When I say right, go right! When I say left, go left!”
The group yelled in unison at the Obelisk “Aye!”
“Left!” and Xan moved to the left, as did his group behind him. They all ran in unison, single file line behind the Obelisk, completely trusting him to get them out of this alive. The massive obsidian blade flew past them on the right side, narrowly missing the group as they felt the passing breeze of the blades cutting the air.
“Right!” and Xan moved to the right. The other three immediately obeyed and felt the breeze of the blade moving past them on the left. They were almost to the end of the corridor when Xan cursed under his breath as he saw more blades incoming.
“Stay on the right!”
As the last blade flew by them Xan smiled as he saw no more incoming blades, but his eyes widened as he saw one last incoming blade, but this time it was four blades fixated into one. There were two blades horizontally parallel, attached to two more vertically parallel. Honestly, there was no way to avoid it…so Xan hatched an idea.
“Akatsuki my dear, come up here with me, I need you!”
Akatsuki ran a little faster to catch up with the Obelisk. “Yeah? Whatcha need? I’m trying not to get diced into bits, you know?”
Xan laughed. “You and I both, but I need you to ignite your saber and help me cut through the right side of the horizontal blades so we can hug the wall to get past it.”
Akatsuki nodded and ignited her saber as Xan did the same. The yellow blades burned brightly in the darkness of the corridor as Akatsuki and Xan got as close as possible to the right wall, getting their blades ready for the impact of saber against obsidian blades.
“Everyone! Hug the right wall, but keep moving! Don’t fall behind!”
The blades approached the group with deadly force, occasionally kicking up sparks when clipping the wall of the corridor. Xan looked at his Horansi. “Ready my Aka?”
Akatsuki nodded. “Yes my Xan.” Both Akatsuki and Xan’s yellow blades impacted hard against the obsidian blades. The force was astounding, almost knocking the pair off their feet, but the lightsabers did the trick and cut straight through the blades on the right side. Xan immediately caught the severed blades with a force push, knocking them to the ceiling, which caused a ricochet effect to bounce the blades behind the group…saving themselves and the two behind them from the possibility of a blade hitting them as they ran.
Xan laughed and kept running. The threat of the incoming blade from the rear was still a threat, but luckily the group was now in the clear. The four-man team quickly ran through the exit doorway and immediately heard a very loud impact against the frame of the door…clearly indicating the blade was a lot closer than they had liked to believe. Xan collapsed in a corner of the small room adjacent to the holding cells and smiled as Akatsuki did the same…leaning herself against Xan in a very resting position.
Xan exhaled as some of the adrenaline was starting to fade. “That. Was. Insane. I’m glad we all made it out of there alive though…yeesh…”
Akatsuki laughed and patted Xan over her shoulder. “You did amazingly in there, we’d have been sliced to bits if it weren’t for you and your quick thinking. I don’t know what I…I mean we’d do without you.” She then blushed and smiled.
Xan smiled once more and looked at Zabitha, who was clearly shaken by the whole experience. “Zaby, no more lamp packs for you.” Xan then laughed as the Sith shifted uncomfortably where she was. “I’m sorry…I just…I was tired of not being able to see where I was going…I didn’t mean to…I…” she trailed off and sat back down.
Xan nodded at the Sith. “I know you didn’t mean to, but next time ask before you do something like that. We can’t detect these traps, so…as you’ve experienced now…they can be sprung with just about anything.”
Zabitha nodded and closed her eyes, trying to release the adrenaline built up inside her. Xan then got to his feet and helped Akatsuki to her’s. “Alright, time to move into the cell holding area. Be alert, we don’t know what we’ll find in there. We’re to release the prisoners and let them do their thing, then we move on to our next objective.”
Xan then slowly walked into the cell holding area, observing the various cages and holding areas the Believers had used. He also noted the various torture tables and devices strewn about on a bloody table. Xan motioned to the team to start opening the cell doors. The array of prisoners seemed very grateful to their rescuers, but quickly became serious as we told them they were to be free, but we did not come to rescue them, so they must find their own way out, or at least commit some vengeance against their captors. Xan also noticed Akatsuki talking to the one who she had heard before, examining the collar and shackles…but clearly noting they couldn’t be removed. The prisoners then spread out in various directions, trying to find some way out of the fortress alive…although many won’t, but they served the distraction that was intended. Xan smiled at his team and motioned they were moving on to the next objective, unknowing what challenges may lie ahead.
A sharp click within the silent hallway caused Rasilvenaira to curse under her breath as she grabbed her companions and pulled them flat against the wall beside her. Within seconds the section of floor they’d just been standing on gave way to a gaping hole. The Sith scowled and had no desire to find the bottom, or whatever might be there. She glanced sideways at the younger trooper with her.
“You’re lucky I have excellent hearing.”
He turned red under the unblinking dark gaze of the Battlelord. “Understood, Ma’am.”
She nodded, “Since we don’t know what other lovely surprises this place might have waiting for us, stick very close, and if I move, you best move with me, without hesitation.”
He took a deep breath and nodded.
Rasilvenaira pulled out another of her small spider droids and set it on the floor. Keeping one eye on the droid, she led the way again as they continued on down the corridor. Three times along the way the droid stopped sharply and beeped, and they skirted close to the wall to avoid more traps. Soon they came to a cross way, and the Sith paused to check the information she’d gotten.
Her primary objective was to get to the main computers and get as much data as possible, and then disable them. However, something the prisoner she’d extracted the information from had mentioned kept tugging at the ambitious part of her mind. There was a vault that was supposed to be near the same area, but the Believers had been unable to find the trick to getting into it.
The closer they got to the core of the Fortress, the more its construction began to interfere in her connection to the Force. She growled under her breath as she took the left hand corridor which, according to her information, should lead them to the central computers. Rasilvenaira was increasingly glad that she’d always worked on training her other senses, rather than strictly relying on the Force as many other Dark Jedi did.
A door ahead of them slid open and a trio of Believers, accompanied by some form of altered Lizard entered the hallway. Rasilvenaira motioned her companions to flatten themselves against the wall and stay quiet. The Sith focused her mind on the Lizard, drawing on her natural affinity for animals. It was weaker with her connection to the Force being dimmed by the building around her, but a faint grin crossed her lips as she felt the Lizard’s mind.
Tapping into the darkness within herself, the Sith poured anger and hatred into the Lizard’s mind, attempting to stir it into a blind rage. For a moment that seemed to stretch out for a small eternity, Rasilvenaira felt no change in the Lizard. Then suddenly, the beast reared back on its haunches, hissing loudly as the floodgates broke loose. Once its primal emotions were inflamed, the Lizard reacted just as Rasilvenaira had hoped.
The raging Lizard lashed out at its keepers, who were ill equipped to handle the unexpected fury. One died quickly, being slashed to bits by the razor sharp claws. The other two fled down the hall, right past the Sith and her companions, with the angry beast right behind them. Rasilvenaira smiled as she imagined the chaos the uncontrolled Lizard would cause. With a quick nod to her companions, she began moving again. She quickened her pace, taking full advantage of the distraction.
Three more turns in their path, and the team finally reached the first of their destinations. The heavy door to the core stood before them. Rasilvenaira’s little spider droid scurried up to the control panel and began working to bypass the security measures. After a moment, the door slid open slowly. Rasilvenaira grabbed the spider droid and the team slipped inside as the door started to close again.
Four cultists looked up as the team moved into the room, momentarily stunned by the unexpected appearance of intruders. Their hesitation proved fatal as the troopers took action, dropping two with well aimed shots. Rasilvenaira’s lightsaber sprang to life as she closed in on the remaining two Believers. The Battlelord twisted and ducked under the crimson blade of the first’s saber. She spun into a graceful riposte that removed the arm wielding the offending weapon. The cultist fell, writhing in pain and his cries were quickly silenced by the Sergeant. The final cultist dropped his weapon and backed up begging for his life. The Sith’s obsidian eyes studied him as she closed in on him.
Grabbing him by the front of his robes, she brought the glowing silver blade dangerously close to his face. Sweat beaded on his face from the heat from the weapon’s blade and the utter terror apparent in his wide eyes.
“I suggest you stay very quiet, unless you want me to remove your head. If you so much as squeak or move a single muscle, my friends will enjoy the pleasure of blasting you to bits. Understood?”
He swallowed hard and nodded fervently. Rasilvenaira let go of him, and turned her attention to the computers. She pulled out her mouse droids and set them and the spider droid to work while she focused on her own searches. Moments later she’d cracked through the files she needed and was downloading the data, everything the Believers had discovered about the vault and its defenses. She also found several more files with Brotherhood seals, which she pulled as well. Scanning through them, she recognized several names but all the Brotherhood members named were Rogue, or so she’d thought.
Shaking her head, she put that puzzle aside for later, and focused on finishing up as quickly as possible before any more cultists showed up. When she and her droids were finished, she put the droids back in her pack and destroyed the computers. Rasilvenaira turned to look at the cultist who wisely had remained very still and quiet. Coldly, she calculated his possible worth against the trouble he could cause if he remained alive. Coming to a simple conclusion, the Sith nodded to the Sergeant who returned the gesture and permanently ended the Believer’s suffering.
Her eyes narrowed as she eyed the seemingly solid wall at the rear of the room. Finally she spotted what she’d been searching for. Walking forward she ran her fingers over one section of the wall, and was rewarded by the faintly discernible feel of a door’s outline. Following the outline she found the equally well concealed button that opened the door. As the door opened, the other door behind them opened and several cultists rushed into the room. Rasilvenaira hurried through the hidden door with the two troopers close on her heels.
They kept moving, but apparently the Believers decided to let the dangers ahead handle the intruders, as none dared to follow. Rasilvenaira smirked as she led the way down a dark, twisting stairway. She was confident that she could find what the cultists had overlooked and get into the ancient vault.
As the prisoners began to run in every direction, bedlam ensued. Everyone went in different directions. Xan sat the small spider droid that Rasilvenaira had given him on the dirt floor and flipped the switch, “This should lead us to the barracks, as well as alert us of any other traps.”
The spider droid skittered along the floor. Akatsuki eyed it suspiciously and went over and took one little swipe at it. “Aka! Stop that!” Xan scolded the Horansi. “Fifty one years old and you act like a kitten! Stay alert and quit with the foolishness!”
Akatsuki frowned at being scolded, but she’d never seen a critter like this spider droid. She just wanted to play with it.
The spider droid began walking up the hallway gingerly. Akatsuki walked along with the human that she’d encountered first through the Force, then when they freed him. “So you are a…?” Akatsuki asked with a growl.
“A Jedi, yes…I am.” The man was old, frail, weak and he’d had his Jedi abilities as well as his connection to the Force incapacitated by the collar and cuffs. A cross between a disruptor and a slave set; it made it to where the Jedi was not only “just human” but weak and dying.
“I could just kill you. In fact, I should just kill you…You serve no purpose to us and now we’re responsible for you!” Akatsuki spoke lowly and sternly.
Xan looked over his shoulder at the Horansi a bit shocked to hear such a threat come from one that typically is quite “grey.”
“Please, I beg of you. Spare my life. I am Tomtorish, but most people just call me Tom. I have been here longer than I can remember. They’ve conducted experiments on me, they’ve tortured me for information and they’ve stolen my life.” The old Jedi pleaded his case in a small voice. Akatsuki reached out with the Force, but with the disruptor on the Jedi, she couldn’t determine if he spoke truth or not.
The Jedi pulled a small stack of bits and scraps of paper (which had his experience and knowledge documented) and handed it to the Dark Jedi Knight. “Please, this will give you all of the information you need. It tells of all I’ve been through as well as why they kidnapped me from Oda…”
Akatsuki glared at the Jedi. “Odan Urr?” she hissed through gritted fangs. She heard Xan cock the gun he was toting and realized a head shot may be coming shortly. “You were from Odan Urr?!”
The old Jedi sighed. “I’ve said too much. Please, spare me and I’ll tell you all you need to know and much more. I will gladly give up what I’ve known and work for the Empire…anything, just please don’t leave me to suffer.”
The spider droid beeped loudly and pointed one of its sensitive legs upward. “Duck!” Xan yelled. The group hit the floor only to watch a war glaive burst through the stone and glide over head with what would’ve surely decapitated the lot of them. There was a low buzz and whoosh as it rotated slowly and flew past. “Spider droid for the win!” Xan declared.
After returning to their feet, Akatsuki sensed a group of people approaching quickly from the rear. She secured the old Jedi in the middle of the group. Xan reached into his bag and pulled out two trip mines putting it at the T at the end of the hall where the presumed incoming was to occur.
The group stood at the ready.
“Kaboom!” The blast was violent. Akatsuki shuddered as bits of a Believer were sprayed all over her from the mine’s detonation. “Gross! Xan!” Three more Believers stormed around the corner as well as two of the Sith Lizards that the Horansi had grown to hate.
Akatsuki ignited her lightsaber focusing on all she’d learned in Makashi. She’d learned from Xan to wait for the opening. The attack came hard and fast from the Believers and Akatsuki and Xan became a blaze of yellow as the Believers tried their best to attack with full force. The moment of Contentious Opportunity came and Akatsuki finished with a clean cut across the torso of the Believer. She looked up only to see Xan do the very same thing only to finish off the remaining two Believers. “Openings…” Xan muttered.
The Sith Lizards became enraged at the Battle and picking up that their keepers were killed before their eyes and began growling and hissing running quickly towards the group. Akatsuki focused on the minds of the Sith Lizards and they stopped, obviously quite confused and disoriented. One of the lizards was clearly stricken with pain and doubled over yowling.
Xan raised an eyebrow looking at the Dark Jedi Knight. He knew she had a great empathy for all of the beasts. He was surprised to see her cause such torment in them. “Akatsuki? Aka? Are you…”
“Shoot them.” Akatsuki demanded. “For dark lords sake somebody shoot the damn things!”
Zabitha pulled her laser blaster at the same time Xan did and they sprayed the lizards in a hail of fire. The beasts died immediately. Akatsuki looked solemnly at the creatures, “They were misled.”
The spider droid continued on turning right down a narrow hallway. The barracks were directly ahead and the group knew this would lead to a huge battle. Pausing to reload and refresh, Xan grabbed Akatsuki’s canteen and gulped, “Everyone ready, this is going to be rough.”
The spider droid walked quietly into the opening of the barracks, the group waited for reports on what they would soon be facing.
Xan sighed as he waited for the spider droid to return, wondering what his team might face inside the doors…and he hoped it wasn’t going to be too heinous. Soldiers and force users were easy prey to the Obelisk; he just worried about the others and how they might fare against such insurmountable odds. Xan knew he could take on multiple enemies at once, easily executing his prey as he battled against multiple angles of attacks and parries. Xan sighed once more as his tactical mind was racing, trying to go through the strategies he knew would work against certain foes, but there’s always the real possibility of a surprise lurking about.
Xan then looked at his Akatsuki and smiled. “You better be careful in there. I’ll be close to you, but if someone gets away from me and goes after you…just remember what I showed you to do. Openings and counter attacks. Always. If I see that you’re getting overwhelmed…I’ll be right beside you as fast as I can, ok?”
Akatsuki’s wide eyes looked at Xan. “Yes…I’ll be as careful as possible, but that doesn’t excuse you to be all reckless and all those sorts of shenanigans. I’d strongly prefer you not die, as you strongly prefer I don’t either, yeah?”
Xan laughed and placed his right hand on hers. “I’ll be careful, for you.”
Akatsuki blushed and smiled…lost for words once again.
The spider droid returned with its very soft clicks on the floor. Xan picked it up and inspected the reports.
“Well, it seems the lot of them are soldiers and force users as I expected. I see a few heavy weapons teams strewn about, but I honestly don’t see anything in here worth freaking out over…although I do see some large bay doors…which could produce some vehicles if the word got out. So, if I see any sort of vehicle come through those doors, I’ll be hitting it hard with rockets, but if for some reason I’m too busy to do so, Trooper, you’re going to be responsible in taking it out. The rest of you, just try to stay alive, stay close to me, and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed or let your guards down.”
“Aye!” said the group in unison.
Xan smiled. “Good, now…let’s make sure we all survive this. Let’s get it done.”
With that, Xan tucked the spider droid in his pack, pulled out his sniper rifle and hunkered down for the time being. He motioned his team to wait, and lined up his scope. Xan knew where the heavy weapons teams were and wanted to take them out first since they seemed to be the biggest threat so far. Xan inhaled and lined up a headshot on the armored soldiers…then a series of four shots cracked out of his sniper rifle, striking every target in the head. Xan exhaled and observed the panic inside the barracks; nobody saw the shots, but saw the result. In the state of higher alert, the remaining heavy weapons team started gathering the components they needed to set up a perimeter, mostly a heavy weapons bunker of sorts. Xan scowled and inhaled, lining up his shots on the busy team…he then took his shots. Three of the four shots hit their targets, killing them instantly as the rounds impacted their heads, but one shot went a little low and struck the enemy in the neck…which effectively ended any life that was there seconds before. Xan exhaled and slipped back behind the door, slipping his sniper rifle back into his pack with a scowl on his face.
Akatsuki looked curiously at Xan and poked him. “Hey, what happened? Why are you so upset?”
Xan turned and looked at the Horansi, softening his glare and sighed. “I missed a shot…it went a little lower than I wanted it to and struck the neck instead.”
Akatsuki facepalmed. “You’re such a perfectionist. You killed him didn’t you? Isn’t that the point? Silly Xan.”
Xan smiled and motioned for the team to get ready.
“I killed the heavy weapons teams. We won’t have to worry about them chewing us up as we’re fighting off the remaining soldiers and force users. Again, remember what I said and we’ll be fine. Let’s go!”
Xan immediately pulled out five thermal detonators and activated them. He very quickly ran towards the center of the room and tossed all of them in the various concentrations of enemy soldiers…usually groups of ten to twenty in various locations inside the barracks. The plan was very well conceived by Xan…knowing the exact “cook-time” the thermal detonators had, so he knew exactly how much time he needed to throw them, then once they landed…an instant explosion. The five thermals Xan threw exploded almost at the same time, atomizing every soldier in the blast radius. Xan then motioned for Zaby and the Trooper to set up a strong line of blaster fire at the oncoming group of soldiers, cutting multitudes down as they ran towards Xan. Akatsuki then joined Xan’s side as they both ignited their yellow blades, charging towards the incoming line of enemy force users wielding red blades. Xan roared as his blade slammed against his opponents, strongly knocking them off their feet…and gave Xan a very clean opening and severed his head. He then deflected another blow from a second opponent and force pushed him against the wall and cut another assailant in half. Xan grinned and threw his saber towards the recovering Believer and impaled him to the wall, then pulling it back just in time to deflect another red blade. Xan made quick work of his final attacker and looked over to Akatsuki. The Horansi was doing very well in defending herself against her opponents, clearly using any and all openings to strike killing blows. Xan thought about helping her, but saw she had everything under control, and decided to search around for supplies, and any survivors he needed to quell. Xan stood in the middle of the room and tried to tally his kill count…after counting how many he vaporized with his five thermals, and then adding to the dead Believers on the floor…he counted around 83.
“Not bad, not bad.”
Xan then smiled as Akatsuki rejoined his side, clearly unscathed from her battles.
“You did very well out there Aka, I’m quite proud of you.”
“Thanks, though I didn’t get nearly as many kills as you, I still did a damn good job.”
Xan smiled and nodded at the Horansi. He then motioned his team to continue searching for supplies they might need, especially some ammunition and anything that would be considered explosive. Once the team rejoined, they set out towards Communications. Xan wondered what might lay ahead…what enemies they might encounter, and what they might uncover once they arrive.
A silent signal passed between the Sith and Sergeant. He nodded his understanding and the two troopers took up a position to hold off the incoming cultists. Rasilvenaira slipped through the narrow opening. Behind her the troopers opened fire on the group of Believers who were apparently unhappy that the Sith had succeeded in getting past the vault’s outer defenses where they had failed.
As Rasilvenaira moved in further, the sound of blaster fire fell silent. She continued on without hesitation. Whether the troopers had been killed or captured was of no concern to her until she’d accomplished what she was after. They were pieces in a dejarik game, moved according to her plans. Her plans ultimately counted on the Believers wanting to take the troopers alive so they could be questioned. However, her plans were also flexible. While she might regret them being killed, she would not let the sentiment slow her down.
Finally she reached the inner chamber of the vault and smiled as she glanced around. She could feel the dark side energy pulsing through the Force here. Working quickly, she pulled out her mouse droids who zoomed around the chamber scanning and recording the various inscriptions on the walls around the chamber. The Sith turned her attention to the collection of artifacts spread over a heavy stone table at the rear of the room.
Carefully she reached out to touch the first item. The hair at the nape of her neck stood on end and she felt the temperature drop. She took a deep breath and continued to slowly lift the large crystal. She was no longer alone, but that did not matter now.
“It has been a very long time since anyone’s come here.”
Rasilvenaira replied without more than a sideways glance at the ghostly apparition. “Yes, I imagine it has been.”
“You are not like the others.”
“No, no I’m not.”
“I should destroy you. You are not supposed to be here.”
The Sith nodded absently as she placed another item in her pack. “Yes, you probably should.”
The ghost paused to consider, “Do you want to be destroyed?”
“No, of course not. But if you are going to do so, then you should probably get on with it.”
“You are not afraid of me?”
Rasilvenaira chuckled, “There are a few things I might fear, but death is not one of them.”
“You did not come alone.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“The others have two of your friends.”
She nodded, “Yes.”
“They are going to ambush your other friends.”
“Yes, that’s to be expected. They’re not really happy that we came to visit.”
“You are not concerned for your companions?”
“Yes, but I am here, not there. Therefore, fretting over their safety would be unproductive. I also trust in their abilities to handle the situation.”
“I see. Rather cold logic.”
She shrugged, “Well, I am Sith after all.”
“I have seen many who called themselves Sith. You are different.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Will you kill the others?”
“That would be part of the plan, at least most of them.”
The apparition faded and Rasilvenaira quickly finished gathering up the last few interesting looking artifacts and her droids once they’d finished their task and tucked everything back into her pack.
The two troopers sat with their backs against the wall of the holding cell they’d been put in. The younger one fidgeted and his frustration was evident in his expression.
“I can’t believe she just left us behind like that. I guess what I’ve heard said about her is true.”
The Sergeant hissed, “Quiet, soldier.” He shook his head, “You’re forgetting your place. She had to be able to get away to achieve her objective. It was our job to ensure her safety, not the other way around.”
The younger trooper sighed and nodded, “I suppose you’re right, but…”
“But nothing. You do your job, follow orders, and keep quiet. Besides, I’ve served under Rasilvenaira’s command before. No matter how much people call her heartless, she does not like losing people. We weren’t left behind. They did come back for the rest of us when they could. So you can bet, we won’t be left behind this time. Just keep your head clear and be ready to move.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m sorry I was out of line.”
The Sergeant shook his head, “It’s alright. Stay alive in this line of work long enough, you learn to deal with your nerves.”
The sound of an explosion drew the Sergeant to his feet. The door to the room they were in crumbled to bits, getting the attention of the four cultists standing guard. The other trooper also stood up and they watched as the Sith stepped into the room through the haze of dust from the explosion.
Rasilvenaira brushed bits of dust and debris from her clothing and muttered under her breath. “Frag mines, really? These people seriously need a lesson from Xan on the proper use and placement of things that go BOOM.”
The Battlelord cast a dark glance at the four Believers as they started to close in around her.
“Now, if you were sensible people I’d strongly suggest you rethink your course of action. However, it seems there’s not a single person among your lot that’s smarter than a decomposing mushroom. So, shall we get this over with then? I’m on a schedule.”
As she drew the attention of all four guards, Rasilvenaira deliberately made certain that their backs were to the temporary cell holding her companions. The Sergeant heard the beep as one of the Sith’s droids unlocked the cell door. He smiled and motioned to the other trooper and they both grabbed the first weapons they found and joined the fight.
The last cultist’s body hit the floor, head rolling in the opposite direction and Rasilvenaira extinguished her lightsaber and clipped it back to her belt. She nodded to the Sergeant.
“Ready to check out of these lovely accommodations?”
“Get your stuff and let’s move. From what I’ve picked up from our not so friendly hosts, our friends might be walking into an ambush.”
He scowled as he gathered up his weapons. “What’s the plan?”
“I believe Xan and Aka’s group should be getting close to the communications center, from what I found out. So, we need to get moving so we’re not late for the party. When we get there, kill everyone that’s not one of us.”
The cold grin from the Sith would have sent chills down anyone else’s spine, but the Sergeant had grown used to it. “Ready to go.”
Rasilvenaira picked up the little droid as it returned to her and then turned to lead the way back through the ruined doorway. She was growing tired of the Fortress and was ready to finish up what needed to be done so they could all leave.
The group was hearing activity throughout the Fortress. The element of surprise had been lost and the Believers were on high alert. There was a loud explosion that didn’t feel like it was that far away. “Who set off such an explosion?” Akatsuki asked in a hushed tone.
“I don’t know, but it was a frag mine,” Xan whispered back, “not a very subtle choice if you ask me.”
Xan took the spider droid out of his pack and sat it down in the ground. The group moved along at a swifter pace, the old Jedi was sandwiched in the middle. “I’ll help you however I can, I owe you my life.” Tom said.
“Yes, yes you do.” Akatsuki said back. “I’d picked up a few trophies along the way. Blasters, which I find distasteful and a couple of lightsabers as well; take your pick old timer you know your training.”
Tom quickly whispered back, “One of each? I may have a hard time using the lightsaber though as my ability to connect to the Force is lost.”
Akatsuki shrugged and handed the old man some weaponry.
The spider droid continued down the path that led to the Communications Center. The Communications Center was underground and at the end of a long passage way. The center had only one main entrance and some natural light was let in through skylights. The center was fairly large and the perimeter was surrounded with laser scanners.
There seemed to be no activity going on in the Communications Center and it seemed quiet. “I don’t like it,” Xan whispered back to the team, “There should be much more activity going on there. I suspect they know we’re coming. The question is: where are they?” Xan always had the uncanny strategic side to him and had been accused more than once of being a Sith in Obelisk clothing.
The group stayed tight. Akatsuki kept her hand on her lightsaber hilt, and began reaching out with the Force. “Noisy. Wait. Xan, they are setting up an ambush…I can see their plan. They cannot quiet their minds and with my infiltration abilities I can see what they have in store for us. They are going to be overhead once we get in there. They intend on leaving none of us alive. Or, if they fail they intend on conducting their evil testing procedures on us.”
“I’m glad you can see this Akatsuki, where is the other half of the team. Can you see Ras?” he spoke quite succinctly and chose his words wisely.
“Hang on.” Akatsuki took a moment to focus, reaching out to Rasilvenaira. It wasn’t long before the two made a connection of communication. “She is aware of the ambush and was cautioning me. She will be arriving very shortly after we do. Hey, besides…I thought Ras hated me. Why would she bother with cautioning us against the plan?”
“That’s the funny thing about her, you never know if she likes you or not until the bantha slobber hits the fan.” Xan stifled a chortle.
Xan motioned for the group to stay low and began to proceed towards the console that controlled the laser perimeter. “Wait!” Tom spoke up “The lasers seem to be able to pick up sentient beings. Let me go disable it.”
Xan glared at the old man then at Akatsuki.
Akatsuki knew that Xan trusted no one, but truly not lightsiders. Akatsuki nodded at him silently as if to say “Trust the old Jedi.”
Tomtorish slunk off quite stealthily, considering his age and health. He did some aerials over some beams and rolled under others until he got to the console. He couldn’t get the box to open so he ignited an emerald green lightsaber and cut his way in. He flipped the lasers off and disengaged the lightsaber. He quickly returned to the group.
“Well done, we’ll have to see that you are given some sort of Shiny or a cookie or something.” Xan quipped at the old Jedi.
“All in a Jed…I mean, it was the least I could do.” Tom nodded.
The group got to the doorway; the spider droid scampered up and accessed the entry system. It scampered back to report “no one visible inside.” Xan raised one eyebrow,
“Poppycock! They have to be somewhere.”
The Strike Team swiftly entered the Communications Center. They were all on high alert, weapons drawn or nearby. Once inside Akatsuki spoke softly, “Why is there no one in here? You know they know we’re here….” There was a sound of cracking plaster and stone breaking and from a false ceiling above ten Believers dropped down, lightsabers engaged and blazing.
There was a flurry of battle as Xan, Akatsuki and Tom all lit their lightsabers and began a killing spree. Zabitha began firing towards the door as she noticed many more Believers were incoming. There was only one way into this secured building. “It’s a trap!” Zabitha yelled “There is like twenty Believers incoming.”
The battle raged on. The body count was climbing and even Tom got a kill or two. Two of the leaders of the Believers came in with four Sith Lizards. Troops numbering twenty strong--all cult-members--piled into the room. Chaos ensued. There was blaster fire going across the floor. Lightsaber clashed against lightsaber and even hand to hand combat began as the battle raged.
The leader of the Believers group barked the command, “No one left alive.” Then paused, saying, “I pick up a very dark presence, they have a Sith Lord with them…somewhere…pure darkness, soulless like a harvester of bodies and souls.”
The door was Force pushed down nearly exploding with Force and Rasilvenaira entered, followed by her half of the battle team, “Sorry I’m late, I had an appointment to keep with some Unbelievable company!” she said boldly with a guffaw and ignited her silver lightsaber.
The other Believer used his communicator to let headquarters know that the ambush wasn’t going as planned and that “the intruders” seemed determined to destroy the Fortress. Rasilvenaira sliced the leader cleanly in half. The top part of the torso hit the floor with a dull thud and the legs kept walking. “I hate when that happens,” Rasilvenaira said as she kicked the lower half over, “So unsavory….”
The mayhem continued and the battle raged on. Akatsuki was faced with a Sith lizard. She used Knight Combustion and exploded the computer right next to the lizard. It screeched a horrific yowl and Akatsuki diced the beast into four pieces with one swift kata of her lightsaber. “Akatsuki, we need all of the information we can get! No destroying evidence or communication devices until we’re clear!” Rasilvenaira commanded.
Xan made quick work of two of the Sith lizards, stabbing them and gutting them in one swift move. “I shall name you boots!” He belted out as the lizards died on the floor.
One after the other, the Believers faced what they thought was to be an easy foe to defeat. Three of the Believers saw the no win situation and ran out of the door.
“Headquarters will know we’re coming!” The Sith said.
“Should I set demolition for this building?” Xan asked a little too excitedly.
“No.” Ras said, “We are going to glean all of the information, take all of the books and journals then destroy the computers. We will also have Mousie and Squeeks set off a virus so that all communications will be severely hampered.” The dark Sith set her droids loose and they went about like mechanical soldiers that knew just what to do.
Once the building was cleared they destroyed the computers and communication droids. The reunited group then confidently headed towards Headquarters knowing their time on Almas was drawing to a close.
The now reunited group headed towards the final destination within the fortress they had fought so hard to overcome. Xan lead the group back down the hallway from Communications, knowing full well that there would be heavy opposition on the way to the Headquarters. Xan knew they would be ready for anything, and could take down everything the Believers threw at them, but time was a factor…especially if they want to capture the Believer leaders. Xan sighed and kept the group moving, me motioned everyone to stay close…there's no telling what they might encounter in the next few minutes.
As Xan rounded the corner of the corridor to enter another he stopped in his tracks…almost getting knocked over by Akatsuki who was right behind him.
"Everyone get down…quiet…look."
Xan discreetly pointed down the hallway towards the fortification the Believers had made, completely blocking the hallway. They had set up one heavy ion cannon, and on the opposite side a heavy turbolaser. On top of that, there were around fifteen Believers settled in with guns ready.
Xan sighed heavily and sat down for a minute. He then rummaged through his pack while grumbling about the lack of explosives he now had. Xan pulled out his last two thermal detonators, as well as armed his shoulder rocket with his last supply of rockets.
"I knew we should've grabbed more from the armory…alright, everyone stay put. I'm going to essentially blow the whole thing up. I mean…that's what you do to gun placements right?" Xan smiled quite mischievously. "If my initial attack doesn't kill them all, I'll just jump in there and carve up the rest. So, everyone take five."
The group nodded in agreement and Xan smiled at the response. The Obelisk knew exactly how to take down these types of fortifications as he's destroyed hundreds before. Being a Centurion has its benefits, especially in the aspect of combat experience and being a "walking tank". Xan grinned and armed the two thermal detonators. He then dashed very quickly from cover and lobbed the two explosives right in the middle of the Believer's fortification. There were two loud "clinks" as they hit the floor, then one very large explosion…which essentially vaporized the fifteen Believers who were dug in. The blast also somewhat damaged the guns, but did not destroy them…which Xan clearly found out as they fired directly at him, leaving very deep wounds in the wall where he had been seconds before.
"So…they seem to be automated targeting systems…fantastic."
Xan grinned and knew exactly what to do. He peeked around the corner once more, saw exactly where the two heavy turrets were set up, then put his shoulder rocket in position. He blindly aimed his shot, remembering exactly where to aim…then fired one shot. The rocket screamed towards the ion cannon and impacted, causing a super heated novae from the exploding power cores…melting everything around it. The Obelisk Centurion then blindly aimed at the second turret and fired. the rocket propelled itself towards its target, and impacted…causing a second very large explosion, effectively ending the threat this Believer fortification posed.
Xan laughed and casually walked back over to the group.
"Told ya I could handle this little roadblock." as he pointed towards the flaming debris and melting metals.
Akatsuki smiled and leapt up to hug Xan tightly, effectively squeezing the breath from the Obelisk.
"Well, I missed you too Aka." Xan gasped.
The Horansi then put Xan down. "I was worried those guns would get you, they came close to riddling you with super heated holes!"
"Yes, yes they did, but I'm always careful…I'm no good to you dead now am I?"
Akatsuki smiled. "No…so keep it that way, ok?"
"Absolutely my Aka, for you."
The Centurion then led the group over the melting wreckage of the Believer's fortification, and made their way towards the Headquarters area of the Fortress. Xan stopped at near the entrance and sat the spider droid on the ground. He then instructed it to survey the enemy opposition we will encounter inside, then to report back to me with whatever it discovers.
Rasilvenaira grunted from the back of the group. "I'll be ready to kill these worthless bootlickers and go home…especially since I've grabbed some goodies to examine."
Everyone looked back at the Sith with puzzlement.
Rasilvenaira looked up. "What?"
Xan and Akatuski stifled a few laughs then went serious when the spider droid returned with its report.
Xan examined the data then looked at the team.
"Looks like they have a full arsenal of Believer Honor Guard, and it seems they are welding lightsabers, as well as a few heavy repeater cannons. Aka, Ras, and I will deal with the bulk of the Honor Guard, especially the ones with the lightsabers…Tom, are you able to hold your own? We could definitely use an extra blade in the fray."
Tom nodded. "Yes, I'll do what I can to help the fight."
"Good. Zaby and the troopers will take care of the auto cannons, and help secure our rear flank. Everyone clear as to what we're doing?"
The group nodded in agreement, clearly battle worn and ready to go home.
Xan then ignited his saber and rushed into the middle of the massed group of Honor Guard. The entire group ignited their sabers and attacked the Obelisk Centurion, but Xan was no normal foe. He started his deadly dance of battle, carving his foes in half, impaling others and he quickly deflected other attacks. As he was distracting the main group, Rasilvenaira and Akatsuki effectively assassinated multiple targets, killing them from behind as they had the element of surprise, but once that was lost…they had their own groups of enemies to fight off. Tom strode in quietly, looking at the battle unfolding in front of him, strategically looking for a few stragglers he could quickly eliminate. Zaby and the troopers set up a firing position, and obliterated the heavy repeater cannons before they could truly do any harm. Satisfied they had done their part, they then secured the rear flank…trusting the Dark Jedi to finish the fight. Xan carved his opponents into pieces then looked over to his two comrades. Rasilvenaira had just finished killing her last foe, disengaging her silver blade before kicking over another pair of walking legs. Akatsuki had one remaining enemy to eliminate. She ducked under a long sweep from her opponent's blade, impaled him, then force pushed him into what seemed to be a solid wall…but it wasn't. The corpse of the Believer crashed through a fake wall, falling onto what seemed to be a turbolift.
Xan looked curiously at the turbolift, then looked at his group.
"Good work everyone, that was a rough fight…and Aka, thank you for discovering this lovely turbolift, I wonder where it goes…"
Rasilvenaira stood up after checking the bodies.
"The leaders aren't here, they must be somewhere else…probably escaping."
Xan looked at the turbolift. "I suppose we can try seeing where the lift goes. You never know, it might be where the leaders are hiding."
The Obelisk Centurion lead the group onto the turbolift, then hit the controls. They descended at a very rapid rate…going further and further underground to what seemed to be a secret entrance to the fortress. The group went on high alert as they heard talking…talking from the Believer leaders to someone else.
Xan pointed at the cloaked figure. "They bear the Dark Jedi Brotherhood seal…it's the traitor!"
Rasilvenaira had been using the Force to conceal the sounds of their arrival to the underground area. When they stepped out of the lift, she was glad she had done so. They moved quickly to cover behind a stack of crates near the turbolift. She glared at Xan, reminding him of the need for silence. He just nodded and pointed at the cloaked figure again. Rasilvenaira nodded and set one of her small spider droids down. It quickly scurried over near the two who were talking, and Rasilvenaira soon picked up their conversation that the droid transmitted to the small receiver in one ear.
“This is ridiculous. I supplied you with enough weaponry to wipe out half a planet, and you have a whole Fortress of what you called your best people. Yet you still failed to stop a simple, small group of dark Jedi? He will not be happy to hear they survived, and even less so when he learns they now have all the information they were able to steal because of your incompetence.”
“Don’t try to blame this on me. You’re the one betraying your own here, because you couldn’t handle them yourself elsewhere. They are far from a simple strike team, or have you really been paying attention? Those are not ordinary dark Jedi.”
“It doesn’t matter now; you’re on your own. If they make it off Almas, you better pray you don’t.”
The cloaked figure turned away and headed through what turned out to be the door leading out into the wasteland around the Fortress. The sound of a ship’s engines engaging echoed through the chamber and the spider droid hurried back to its mistress. The Sith put the little droid back in her pack and looked over at the rest of the team.
Keeping her voice just barely above a whisper, “We were set up. Someone behind this mission did not count on us succeeding and making it out alive.”
Akatsuki frowned, “What do we do?”
Rasilvenaira grinned, “Kill everything that’s left and get off this rock.”
Xan brightened at the idea and nodded. “Let’s go then.”
The team broke cover and rushed the Believers. Rasilvenaira’s attention was focused on the ones she recognized as leaders from profiles she’d found during her raid on the computers. Her silver lightsaber blazed as she leapt over another row of crates to cut off two who were heading for the door. Across the room, Akatsuki and Xan were engaged with several more while the troopers lent support by shooting adversaries when they saw openings.
Finally the last bodies fell, and the Sith glanced around the room. Her dark eyes narrowed and a low growl escaped her lips as she noticed at least three whose bodies were not present. Aka noticed the Battlelord’s expression and tilted her head.
“What’s wrong Ras? We killed everything.”
Rasilvenaira shook her head, “There’s three missing. I’d found the files that had profiles on all their leaders when I hit the computer center. They got away during the fight, running like frightened gizkas.”
The Krath nodded, “Should we try to find them?”
Xan walked over to the pair, “I vote we just call it a day and get back to the ship and go. I’ve about had enough of this vacation on Almas.”
Rasilvenaira cracked a mischievous smile, “Why? Run out of things that go boom?”
The Obelisk frowned, “Almost.”
“Well, I have to agree. I’ve grown rather tired of this miserable rock. Let’s go home.”
The underground entrance turned out much closer to where they had left their stolen transport ship. As the last person filed on board, Rasilvenaira settled into the pilot’s seat and fired up the engines.
“Everyone settle in and hold on.”
Xan sighed as everyone followed the Sith’s advice and strapped themselves in. “You can’t just fly a ship normally, can you?”
She laughed, “Since when have I ever played by the rules?”
The transport ship’s engines screamed as the Sith pushed the vessel to the edge of its abilities. Soon they broke free of Almas’ atmosphere and she leveled it out.
“Does this tub even have a hyperdrive?”
“Of course not, it’s only designed for short trips.”
The Obelisk scowled, “So how are we going to make it back to Judecca?”
Rasilvenaira smirked, “Trust me.”
Xan and Aka glanced at each other, both arching one eyebrow upward and shrugging.
“Ras, you always tell people they shouldn’t trust a Sith.”
Rasilvenaira glanced over her shoulder at the Horansi. “I only mean that for people I want to kill.”
The transport drifted into the orbit of Dorumaa and Rasilvenaira leaned back in her seat. The rest of the team just looked at each other in bewilderment, wondering what was going to happen. As soon as the transport crossed over to the dark side of the moon, a large capital ship came into view.
The comm. buzzed and Rasilvenaira chuckled to herself as she flipped it on. “If you aren’t who you’re supposed to be, we’ll be blowing that transport to bits.” Came a thickly accented voice.
“You blow my ship to bits you good for nothing space slug, and I’ll have your hide for a trophy on my wall.”
The other laughed heartily, “You are crazy, StormRaven. Bring her in.”
She nodded and turned the comm. off. Rasilvenaira caught the questioning looks from Xan and Aka. “That’s our ride home. I told you I had a plan.”
The transport settled in the frigate’s docking bay and as the team exited the small ship they were greeted by a motley assortment of beings. The apparent leader, a rather heavily built Bothan, strode forward and grabbed the Sith in a hug.
She muttered curses and pushed him off, “You’re lucky I like you, Kry’th.”
He made a face at her and poked one clawed finger lightly at her shoulder, “You’re just as lucky I still like you, blasted rogue.”
She grinned, “Fair enough. Thank you for coming.”
He chuckled, “Purely business of course. Never hurts to have you owing me one.”
The Bothan and his crew began going back to their respective duties, leaving the team to find their own way around the ship.
“Friend of yours?” Xan eyed the departing Bothan.
“Business associate. There are no friends in business.” She winked.
“Ah, guess it’s a good thing you’re not retired then, hmm?”
“Exactly. Come on, we’ve got a while before we get home, might as well relax.”