Ambitions - Old Folks' Home
The following Run-On, designated "Ambitions", is restricted to the members listed in the topic title. No other member is allowed to participate in the Run-On. No members may be swapped out for others - the teams are final.
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Create your story. Kick ass.
OFH versus The Council of Newb
It is a period of lethargy.
Old Folks' Home members, sleeping
in their hidden base, have at last
managed to elude responsibility
and ditch the stupid Dark Council.
By evading the dreaded Taldryan Quaestor,
Shaz'air, the decrepit old
folk, "led" by Benevolent Whiner,
established a secret
mercenary business for fun
Aware of this devious enterprise,
the biased lord Halcyon (of the Halcyon Halcyons),
seeks to make use
of the legendary old folk,
if he can convince them
to do anything....
"See, that’s why I prefer twi’leks. Everything is nice and smooth from top to bottom."
"Heh. Bottom. Of course you prefer twi’leks. Everyone does. They’re so-so vanilla—basically just normal humans."
"Apparently you've never received a "lekku job" before. That ain't 'normal human'. You wouldn't be so quick to mock me then. Just because I prefer humanoids—"
The debate was an old one. Always pro-twi'lek, or really pro-any blue-skinned creature, Shadow Taldrya was spending a laid back evening in the Home with fellow old-timer, Tarax Kor, debating the finer points of alien fetishes. Tall, broad-shouldered, and always emitting powerful male pheromones, Shadow was the pinnacle of old school Taldryan-ness. His dark hair was swept back off his face revealing brown, glassy eyes that attested to his current state of intoxication.
The more deviant of the two (though not by much), Tarax Kor, was the physical opposite of the Dark Jedi Master. Though heavily built, Tarax was enhanced with several cybernetics whereas Shadow was all flesh and a lot of bone. With his prematurely white hair and cold, blue eyes, Tarax was as much a head-turner as any of the old folk, but he was an avid proponent of pornography and making others suffer. In fact, he often used the former to bring about the latter… it was his gift.
Since the return of Kir Katarn from the Dark Council some weeks ago, the Old Folks' Home had remained relatively peaceful… tranquil… and boring. Most of their members were scattered, trying to find different ways to keep themselves amused during these simple times. That was why Shadow and Tarax had decided to get drunk and talk smut in the Home's Sub-Basement, in the most restricted of areas. There was little else going on.
"Ugh, so boring," Tarax continued, pounding back another glass. "You've just never tried a big, triangular blue head and glowing yellow eyes… now that makes a good money shot."
Shadow paused to consider for a moment, weighing the merits against the aesthetics before shaking his head. It could be possible if he were drunk enough, but the connotations between the alien race and the Clan were a little too much to stomach, although he could think of several Arconans that were rumored to enjoy a good facial…
"Anyways. Next you're going to tell me how soft and velvety wookiee fur is."
"Gross. I would never fuck a wookiee... unless it was strategically shaven." With languid, exaggerated movements, the Exarch groped first his chest, then his crotch, then his ass; perfectly illustrating what his mind deemed "strategic". Silently, Shadow pondered the idea of a strategically shaved wookiee.
As the two Obelisk bickered in the off-limit quarters of their esteemed "leader", neither deigned to notice the insistent blinking of an ominous red light nearby. In truth, Benevolent's stuff—his quarters, his lab, his toys, and (to Shad's disgust) his women were not to be touched, fondled or otherwise molested in any way whatsoever. Unfortunately for the currently absent Adept, the rest of the team chose to view such orders more as suggestions than actual rules. In fact, it was because of this uncalled for list of demands that they reveled in hanging out in what was collectively referred to as "Ben's Lair".
In the tech lab adjacent to the Sergeant's room, Shadow and Tarax lounged carelessly on work benches, sharing a vintage bottle of Corellian Brandy. It was expensive stuff that both would have been too cheap to acquire had Tarax not pilfered a couple bottles from Kir's "welcome home" party a couple of weeks ago. Sitting precariously atop some sensitive-looking equipment were numerous pizza boxes from one of the Karufr vendors: Jac's Pizza. It was easily the best of all the local pizza joints—Papa Jac's, Famous Jac's, Famous Papa Jac's, and Famous Original Famous Papa Jac's…
"Okay, damn. That light is starting to give me a headache," Tarax suddenly blurted out no longer able to pretend he couldn't see it.
Shadow swiveled around to see what he was referring to. That's when he noticed, finally, that a priority transmission was waiting. Now, this was Benevolent's private lair and he generally handled the contacts for any "special" missions to keep some distance between the team members and the "outside world". But this was an opportunity Shadow couldn't resist. He turned back and smiled towards Tarax.
"That's a direct line to the Dark Council," his grin was starting to turn a little maniacal. "Think we should answer it?"
Without replying, Tarax drunkenly leapt to his feet and stumbled over to the blinking light. The device was odd looking for a communicator. Rather than being a small, hand-held device, it was a square-ish block of plastic painted bright red with a small red light source blinking from the center. Cradled on one end of the device was a cumbersome looking audio receiver/microphone relay combo connected by a long, thick cord. Against one side in bold letters were the words "Batphone". It seemed as fitting name as any Benevolent had come up with in his less than lucid moments.
After clearing his throat, Tarax picked up the receiver. "Hello and welcome to Hutt Butt Slut Communications," he cooed in a sultry, falsetto. "If you know the size of the Hutt you'd like to talk dirty with, press one now. Using your embarrassingly small erection, please enter the number of folds you wish to penetrate on your touchpad now." Tarax, unable to maintain the façade, abruptly broke out in fits of laughter as he passed the receiver to Shadow. "I think he wants to talk to you instead."
Still giggling, Shadow pressed the receiver to his ear. "Yello…?" he asked with insincere nonchalance. He immediately ripped the device from his ear as a painfully loud string of curses screeched through the small speaker. It was a couple minutes before he dared risk his eardrums again. "So, that was graphic," he complained to the person on the other end. "Halc?" he asked, looking down at Tarax who shrugged innocently, not quite laughing anymore but struggling to contain his grin.
Shadow listened for a few moments, the words and his Force abilities quickly purging the alcohol's effects from his mind. He gestured sharply to Tarax, who was also forcibly sobering up, and motioned him closer. Keeping one ear on the receiver he leaned forward and spoke one single command:
"Assemble the team."
In 26 ABY, a crack unit of venerable Dark Jedi were AWOLed by their anal retentive Clan leaders. These men promptly escaped from the Rogues to House Dinaari, in the Karufr underground. Today, inactive and cranky, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can actually convince them to be active, maybe you can hire... The Old Folks' Home.
Meanwhile in the Champagne Suite of Spanky’s Public House & Brothel...
Music, as much as Bothan Techno-pop could be called music, flooded the darkened room. The small apartment was lit only by soft neon lighting and the reflections glistening bodies and glitter, there was little doubt that this could only be the residence of a depraved, and extremely dirty old man. But to that old lecher, it was home, and what a wonderful home it was. The cloying scent of smoke, both legal and illicit permeated everything, and hid the countless dancers and entourage in a dim haze. At the centre of it all, was the man who owned Spanky’s, sitting between two gorgeous women, who could only be grudgingly judged to be wearing any clothes at all. Here, surrounded by the most notable and noteworthy of Karufr’s society, he stood out as a King among men, a true leader, and obviously the most important and powerful man in the room.
This was a man who was clearly enjoying his later years, his rich brown hair only just beginning to show the signs of his age with a light dusting of white mixed in at the temples. Despite his otherwise relaxed posture, one could tell that he was a warrior, with well-defined muscles showing through the exceptionally tailored clothes he wore. All of this and more was taken in as an afterthought however, as what really captured your attention was his piercing, sea green eyes, and a full and luxurious beard.
As the song changed to a more seductive Devaronian mating ballad, a large man in a spiffy three piece suit with a bowtie walked over to Keirdagh, and whispered something in his ear. A flash of a frown crossed his face, only truly touching his eyes before he covered it up with a rakish smile and a hearty laugh. Running a finger down the side of the brunette’s face, Keirdagh excused himself from his escorts and walked to his private bedroom in the back corner of the suite. Closing the doors behind himself, he activated the security seals, and went to sit at his desk, typing in his password to accept the incoming transmission that was waiting for him.
As the hologram coalesced into an image, Keirdagh felt his frown return. "Yacks, we need..."
Keirdagh bellowed at the person floating in front of him, "KOR! What the hell are you doing calling me at work?"
Tarax tried to interject with "Yacks! It’s an emer..." but never really had a chance.
"You can tell Shadow that I’ll get him the credits I owe him in all due time", Keirdagh’s alcohol addled mind plodded along, trying to think of reasons that Tarax would be bothering him, "and tell Ben that it is NOT my fault that his holo-dancers keep disappearing. Spanky’s is a reputable establishment!"
"Go fuck yourself, old man! That’s not what this is about!"
"FINE! Then we can talk about it tomorrow!" Whatever Tarax said next was lost, as Keirdagh cut off the transmission mid stammer. "Bloody stupid Pole…" grumbled Keirdagh. It took a moment of concentration before he could reset his expression to that of the calm and cool ladies’ man persona that he wore while at work, and returned to the party. Taking a moment to speak to the bouncer, reminding him that Tarax was not on the list of the people who were allowed to disturb him, he looked back over to where he’d been sitting with Ambrosia and Brigitte. Apparently, he hadn’t closed the door to his bedroom when he left, and the two enterprising ladies had taken it as an invitation to start without him. "Bless their young souls" Keirdagh mused to himself, as he hurried to join the ladies for what was sure to be a long, hard night. Stopping briefly at the threshold, Keirdagh looked skyward and whispered "its great being me."
Tarax sat staring at the empty holopad in front of him, a steady stream of invectives rolling out of his mouth under his breath. "Fucking old, impossible bastard!" he finished, finally.
"Guess that didn’t go well?" asked Shadow over his shoulder, his body convulsing with barely repressed laughter.
"You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you? He still hasn’t gotten over that Colicoid dancer I suggested try to sleep with him for a job, has he?" With that recollection, Shadow lost all remaining composure and started howling with laughter. "Fine, screw you too then, you figure out how to get that old asshole into work."
Four Hours Later…
The doors to Keirdagh’s bedchamber inched open silently, and a dark clothed man crept in, moving with swift, sure, and completely silent footsteps. As he looked into the room, the bed was a tangle of Dramassian silk sheets, and supple naked flesh. Keirdagh was sleeping on the near side of the bed, with the brunette’s head resting on his chest, and the blonde at a much lower, and more pleasing region. A questioning look crossed the voyeur's face as he noticed a paddle shaped bruise forming on the blonde woman's buttocks. When the figure had crept close enough to reach out a hand to nudge him, Keirdagh’s hand shot out and closed around the intruder’s neck, all without opening an eye. "Kir, if there isn’t a world ending, galaxy tilting, threesome-interrupting-worthy reason for you being here, I’m going to murder you."
The movement and speech startled Ambrosia into wakefulness. As she lifted her sleep besotted eyes, and her brain registered the intruder in the room, she let out a sharp squeal startling Brigitte awake. What followed could have been taken straight out of a comedy reel, with the women scrambling to preserve their modesty with scraps of clothing and sheets. Kir remained still, staring at Keirdagh, not even taking notice that the older man trying to squeeze the life out of him. "Shad says there’s a mission."
Keirdagh sighed and looked over at the girls and muttered, "Oh calm down ladies; he’s not interested in what you’re hiding anyways." Keirdagh released his hold on Kir’s neck and began to scan the room, clearly still a little drunk and confused.
"Where the hell are my pants?"
Meanwhile, in the Chancellor's hovel on Eos…?
The smell of musty papers and ink filled the air of the dimly lit room, with a black-robed man hunched over a wobbly three-legged table, with two of its legs slightly longer than the third. The Chancellor, with his greying muttonchops and top hat, is still pouring over the seemingly unending medal requests.
Snow was falling from the sky, and had begun to cake the windows of the dark office. The walls inside were dark and dreary, many years removed from their last paint job. The floors were wooden and creaked when walked on, yet also covered in a thick layer of soot and ash from the constant fires. In the corner of the room was a rough-hewn stool where the Boy - whomever the unlucky soul to occupy the position as the Chancellor’s Praetor - sat.
"A Bronze Scroll for Arania?” the Chancellor scoffed, "Bosh! Flimshaw! Denied!" The old man attempted to use his favourite DENIED stamp to no avail – as it was finally out of ink. Howlader sighed, and scanned the room for his Praetor. Upon realizing that his assistant was nowhere to be found, he worked up his strength to shout:
“BOY! FETCH ME ANOTHER STAMP! THIS ONE IS DONE FOR!”
Howlader began to grope around for his cane, then came to a realization – and drew it closer with the Force. Upon grasping the cane, he banged upon the wall while screaming:
"Yes, Chancellor?" the Praetor weakly replied from the shadows of the office.
"This stamp is dried – fetch me another. And while you’re at it, find more candles – it is far too dark in here."
"Yes, Chancellor," replied the Praetor. "Sir, might I ask why you insist on using candles and these scraps?" asked the Praetor, gesturing to the stacks of wilted paper strewn about the office. "After all, sir, this office is fully capable of interfacing with the rest of the Dark Hall’s communication and internal lighting systems…"
The Praetor could barely finish his sentence when the Chancellor’s cane struck his left side.
"If I wanted your opinion, boy, I would ask!" bellowed Howlader, "now! Go fetch what I asked! And find out what that beeping sound is."
"Beeping...?" the Praetor mouthed the question, afraid to contradict the old miser and risk another swat. Besides, he had decided to press his luck already with his next question. "Um, Chancellor, sir... about tomorrow?" The Chancellor grumbled. "What about it?"
"Well, sir. That is to say that, um… it's Sithmas Day, sir."
"Sithmas?! Bah, humbug. We have work to do, boy… no time for your foolish Sithmases."
"Oh," the crestfallen lad muttered, "of course sir."
"Howie?" said some disembodied voice. The voice and the increscent beeping grew louder. "Howie! Wake up!"
"Howie. Get your ass up."
Howlader awoke with a sudden, violent snort. "JESUS CHRIST WHAT?" His eyes darted about as he struggled back into reality, the last vestiges of the wonderful dream fading. Eventually his eyes fell upon the comely figure of Telaris Cantor, who looked as though he'd been trying shake the old Chancellor awake for some time.
"Come on, Howie. Time to go."
Howlader rubbed his eyes, and ran his hands through his thick, black hair, scratched his beard and groaned. "I’m too old for this shit."
"Maintenance Corridor Below the Fake Tile Under the Mop and Bucket in the Janitor's Closet Next to the Main Floor Kitchen"
There wasn't enough room to keep everything here; not that keeping a treasure trove anywhere would be a good idea anyway. The sociopathic team that some genius had put Ben in charge of had some kind supernatural ability to seek and destroy all his material possessions - it was truly only a matter of time before this spot was discovered too. The best thing for it was to keep only the most precious things, then take extreme measures to protect everything else from their inevitable abuse and destruction. On the plus side, a reading lamp and one of the comfier chairs from the lounge made it surprisingly homey. A datapad was propped against a hot water pipe of some sort, its screen casting a cool blue glow that fought against the warmer yellow of the lamp.
The video on the screen was fighting a similar battle to destroy the calm atmosphere of the room. Two clumsy jackasses were putting greasy boxes of pizza on top of delicate equipment and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Across, half-asleep in the comfy chair, an Adept dreamed...
It was always raining when work had to be done. Doubly so when a stakeout and cold, leftover pizza was on the menu for an evening out. The only thing that kept me warm that night was the .44 Magnum next to my heart. You didn't become the best private investigator in this town without making a few enemies, and these days the criminals practically ran the whole kit and kaboodle - what politicians weren't in their back pockets were either soon to be, or soon to find themselves out of the job, permanently.
These two weren't in the big time yet, but that didn't stop them from setting their sights high. I had earlier determined that they were responsible for the downright ungentlemanly letter received by Miss Bergman threatening to go to her new husband with incriminating photos of her younger years. I suppose it's Missus Bee-ask or something like that now. Their courtship had been, for all I knew, a whirlwind of emotion to be quickly replaced by the pretty little thing left to tend to his house while he went away on business. It was just the start of another tragic tale, but I suppose I'm still a romantic at heart and offered to help prolong this...whatever it was.
From my vantage point I could see the two hulking men as they sat and gambled on cards. The one was their mouth and had rugged good looks, while the other was clearly the muscle and could probably turn a man inside-out with his bare hands. I've had dealings with their type before, and was glad to be on the good end of the upcoming surprise. But barging in there now would gain me nothing; they wouldn't be so stupid as to have the photographs on them right now.
Suddenly, the bigger one went to answer the phone. He came back shortly to get his partner. Both looked concerned; obviously the man on the other end of the line was their boss and wasn't happy with the lack of progress. My suspicions were confirmed when, after the phone was put away both men started arguing loudly. Well, if it was going to come down to a fight, maybe I'd better get over there for a closer peek. Maybe even catch some interesting tidbits of arguments...
Karufr, Kr'Tal System
Chaosrain sat in a shuttle waiting to arrive on a planet he knew well, Karufr. He had been summoned by Taldryan’s current leader, Shaz'air Taldrya. He had a hunch that the young Quaestor would be in need of information that Chaos shouldn’t share. To put it simply, it was believed that he had a special knack for “accomplishing” things that weren’t necessarily in his, or anyone else’s best interests. This made him the perfect target to manipulate for intel, provided you could avoid being affected by his failure.
His brown, wavy hair fluttered in the sudden breeze as the shuttle doors in front of him began to part. Warm, fresh air greeted him as Chaosrain strode down the exit ramp, scanning the area in search of his Quaestor. Finding nothing; he half-turned to the shuttle and gave to it a small wave. The shuttle responded by shuddering and crashing into the ground.
“That was odd," he muttered to himself.
“Seemed pretty expected to me,” the voice of Shaz'air suddenly reached out to him.
“Maintenance problems?” Chaosrain inquired as he turned to greet the man with a stiff handshake.
A long-suffering sigh followed. "Something like that."
The two Exarchs proceeded to converse and leave the hangar for the sunny courtyard. The courtyard was always one of Chaosrain’s favorite parts to the Taldryan compound. It was a beautiful place where people could train with the Force or their lightsabers, hold assemblies, or just have a nice conversation as the current case may be.
Many minutes passed as the two chatted about recent goings on in the House. Chaosrain was pleased with the conversation so far. He felt that he had avoided sharing anything sensitive and he had only tripped once. As if on cue, the conversation opened up as if to allow him to conversationally fall on his face, and there was a mean looking set off stairs coming up as well.
“You know what I find odd?" Shaz'air asked in a questioning tone. "Your tendency to disappear for weeks at a time.” He gave Chaosrain a searching look. “In fact, many of our older members share this tendency.”
“Is that a fact?” Chaos asked as innocently as he could, though his suddenly shifty eyes betrayed him.
“It’s probably nothing more than a coincidence," Shaz'air continued. "Though what's strange is the fact that none of you drop off the radar alone. It’s always in groups. Very odd, if you ask me.” The Quaestor’s tone was quickly becoming more accusatory.
“Oh… oh that," Chaos quickly tried to think of a believable excuse as Shaz'air waited with a single eyebrow raised. "I know what it is! We’ve gone out to Fort Kickass,” he said with a smile, pleased with his quick thinking.
“Fort Kickass?” the young Quaestor asked in a confused tone. “I’ve never heard of such a place. Why can’t any of you reply to your leaders while there?”
“Because it’s Fort Kickass. Your authority isn’t recognized there,” Chaos explained flatly.
The Quaestor shot the man an irritated glance. “I know Old Folks Home is up to something,” Shaz'air stated, no longer trying to beat around the bush.
Chaos tried to stay stone faced, but his hazel eyes shot a glance to Shaz'air that were filled with guilt. Fortunately for him, and not so much for those involved, Fate had decided to save him.
“How the fuck did he catch on fire?!” Shaz'air suddenly exclaimed as he rushed over to a training area toward a smoking Journeyman.
“Well that was convenient,” Chaos thought to himself.
He ambled over to his Quaestor while the unlucky Journeyman was being returned to his previous, un-ignited state.
“Weird things like this only happen when you’re around,” Shaz'air shouted accusingly.
“Now that's uncalled for. It's just bad luck, I'm sure it is…” replied Chaos, convincing himself that the many, many, many mishaps that happen near and around him were simply coincidences.
The now crispy Journeyman was being taken away to see a medic and the pair of Exarchs walked off to continue their conversation.
“I will find out what all of you are up to,” the Quaestor said trying to keep a pleasant tone. "HOLY HELL," he shouted before Chaos could respond to this new attack.
They had both heard the crash at the same time. Turning to this new commotion, they saw that a large tree had accidentally been struck by an errant lightsaber blade and had fallen on top of a communications dish. Below was a confused mass of crushed and fleeing students trying to get away before the entire array fell. Shaz'air stared bemused for a moment, then shook off his stupor and radioed for emergency services… they always seemed close by when Chaos visited the Headquarters. Satisfied this latest mishap would be taken care of, he decided to continue the attack as they walked around the debris and fallen plant life.
“It seems your failure is spreading. I’ll bet they keep you out of the loop and away from the rest of the group.”
Chaos knew he was being goaded by his fellow Exarch, and he knew exactly how to react. “I prefer to think of it as chaos, if only to justify this terrible name of mine,” he replied in lackadaisical manner trying to change the subject.
“You aren’t going to change the subject, Chaos. I bet Fort Kickass isn’t even real. I mean that name is just bullshit,” Shaz'air barked sharply.
Chaos was stuck. Shaz'air was adamantly pressing the issue and Chaos had no idea how to get around it. At this moment, Taldryan’s Aedile, made her presence known.
“What the hell is going on? I was in the middle of a very important conference!” shouted the angry Aedile.
“With whom?” Chaos asked.
“It’s private,” she growled.
He turned back to Shaz'air and asked, “can I use that excuse?”
“No,” the Quaestor responded flatly.
“You should probably give her a hand,” recommended Chaos, “or at the very least help that guy put his back on.”
Shaz'air had a puzzled look on his face until he registered the screaming. One of the students who had knocked the tree over was now clutching a stump where his hand once sat. Without a second thought, both Quaestor and Aedile ran off to assist the pitiful student.
“Stay there, I’m not done with you!” Shaz'air yelled.
Chaos was wincing at the sight, but was wholly happy to get a small reprieve from the inquisitive Quaestor. “Come on, think! I need a believable lie,” he thought, wracking his brain for an excuse to ditch Shaz'air and Ashia.
That's when Fate intervened once more. At first, confused by the sudden gawking of the crowd, Chaos looked up in the sky to see a the dark silhouette of a large "F" visible high about the Taldryan HQ. It was the sign. He was needed. Chaos turned and started to run off toward the hangar. Shaz'air noticed and yelled for him to stay put.
"Sorry, but I have to go. I'm needed elsewhere!" With that, Chaos accelerated to inhuman speed and was gone. He wasn't entirely sure why the signal was a giant "F", but he knew it was important to answer the call.
Back at the Home
"I've broadcasted the 'Failsignal'… Chaos should be on his way soon," Tarax yawned and stretched. His had not been an easy task, but Shadow technically had seniority. Plus, Tarax had been closer to the console.
Shadow nodded in confirmation. Everyone had been called in and Kir and Telaris had been sent out to gather the more unruly members just in case. There was little else for them to do now except sit and play the waiting game. Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't have a bit of fun in the mean time.
"Tell the client we'll contact him when the team is gathered then just relax, I guess. Let me know when everyone shows up, I'm going to see about a girl."
Shadow pushed himself to his feet and began the arduous journey back through the maze of anti-Howie security measures to the turbolifts leaving Tarax to finish up and find his own method of time wasting. Already his thoughts were turning towards the luxuries of the main floor, where waited a bevy of exceptionally hot and promiscuous nurses. Reaching out with the Force, Shadow sent ahead a request to his favorite—a red-headed number with pale, white skin and an ass that just wouldn't quit. He could waste a few hours with her while waiting for the team to assemble. His message was simple and succinct:
"It's bending time."
13 hours later…
The War Room was one of the most technologically advanced rooms in the Home, with a full suite of equipment needed to plan the teams' sublimely complex stratagems. In each corner of the room was a heap of consoles and monitors pulling and displaying information directly from the Dark Council networks that Benevolent had sliced in his spare time. Then there were the essentials: a full bar with droid waiter, a walk-in humidor filled with the Galaxy's finest cigars, and a large armoire sporting a tailored smoking jacket for each member. Essentials.
The walls were splashed the colors of the Sith and Obelisk Orders, equally divided into two distinct halves separated by a thick, white line. The Old Folks' Home was a rare alliance of the two Orders, but it was good to keep some boundaries between the two. There was a noticeable lack of purplish-pink in the room… for obvious reasons.
In the center of the room was a massive, oval-shaped table large enough for twelve. Sure, to the untrained eye it appeared to be a simple Sabaac table (which is what it was often used for), but hidden within this table was the equipment to display impeccable holographic images—planets, layouts of enemy facilities, strippers, etc. It also had individual beverage holders to prevent water rings and unnecessary spilling. Truly, the table was the treasure of the OFH.
Nine individuals were currently seated around the table, all in various states of relaxation. Shadow, as the de facto head of operations for the second Wednesday of each month, stood at the unofficial "head" of the table. The most noticeable unoccupied seat, a throne-like affair of ebony and gold, belonged to the absent Grand Master, Jac Cotelin. Fortunately, it didn't seem like he would be needed this time around.
"Well, seems just about everyone made it back after receiving the call," Shadow began somewhat briskly. He'd made excellent use of the wait. "I think thirteen hours is a new record for us. Good work, gentlemen." It might have sounded like sarcastic praise, but the fact that anyone had even bothered showing up was a massive achievement on par with the Galaxy's defeat of the Yuuzhan Vong some years before.
"Shad, the rest of us got here three hours ago… what the hell were you doing?" Kir demanded in aggravation.
"I think Kir means 'who the hell were you doing'," Sithspawn offered, swirling his glass of scotch.
"This broad must be a real piece of work," Benevolent, the other absent seat at the table, muttered as if speaking to himself. He surreptitiously tipped his stylish felt hat in Shadow's direction. His eyes were a little clouded, as if he wasn't fully in the same world as the rest of them. Taking in his unusual style of dress—the hat, the pinstriped suit, and the odd inflection in his voice—it was clear to Shadow and the rest of the group that Benevolent was in his "special state". It was a peculiar, though accepted, eccentricity of the Sergeant's.
Shadow took note of Benevolent hovering behind some equipment, a makeshift listening device aimed at the table. When he felt eyes on him, Benevolent started whistling casually like he wasn't doing anything weird. Shadow wasn't quite sure why Benevolent was pretending to hide and spy on them, but he felt it was best to just leave the man alone.
"So," Chaos jumped in, still eager about receiving the call. "What's the emergency?"
Shadow turned towards him to answer but he held his tongue knowing that the "bitching round" was about to begin. It was another honored OFH tradition. Although the team enjoyed the work they were contracted to do, each member invariably found some reason to complain (loudly) about being called in from their various leisure activities. This time would be no exception .
Howlader pounded another cup of Irish coffee and tried to dispel the sleepiness in his eyes. "Yeah, I was having the most wonderful dream … Except you were there, and you and you..." he growled, pointing a finger accusingly around the table.
"Dammit, Howie. I told you not to dream about me anymore." Telaris Cantor, recently returned from the Rogues, was still adjusting to the unique personalities that inhabited the Home.
Shadow laughed along with the others before retaking control of the room. "I'll let our client explain." With a few deft clicks on the console before him, the table's holographic projector groaned to life, displaying a solitary figure. The green of his wardrobe was unmistakable even with the blue tint of the hologram. Armored robes of green and black with a long, flowing cloak. The cowl was uncharacteristically up and masking his features. On his belt opposite his lightsaber was his tell-tale connection to the OFH—a custom Bryar pistol.
"What? It's just Halc," Keirdagh blurted indignantly. "I was BUSY." He tossed back his drink and slammed the glass on the table. This outburst was quickly followed with another round of bitching. In the background Benevolent could be heard shouting "Marquise Hilary!" in a flabbergasted voice.
The projection of Halcyon Taldrya waited calmly for the bickering to die down, it was to be expected when one contracted with the Old Folks' Home. Though they were insufferable to deal with, the team was the best at what they did… and they pretty much did anything with the right motivation and incentive.
"I have a job for you," he finally cut in. He only had so much patience.
"What sort of job?"
Now that he had their attention, Halcyon began to outline his concerns. "As you all may," he frowned at the vacant stares, "or probably don't know, the Grand Master's Royal Guard was reinstated a couple of years ago at Lord Ashen's command." Shadow and a few of the others nodded, the rest remained bored. "Well, there have been some incidents with how this new Guard is being handled that I want investigated.
"They accept members based on a Shadow Academy course. There are dozens of initiate members, but only a handful in the upper ranks. And, only a few Councilors have Guardsmen assigned to them." Exasperation tainted Halcyon's voice with rage that he quickly suppressed. "I want the Old Folks' Home to infiltrate the Royal Guard and uncover any suspicious activity."
"You want us to investigate to find out why the Royal Guard sucks?" Telaris asked, incredulous.
"Sounds like fun. Count me in," Shadow agreed happily.
"What's with you and the Guard anyways, Shad?" Shadow scowled at Tarax, but didn't answer.
Kir did for him. "He was the Commander, years ago."
"Yeah, for like a day," Keirdagh added.
Shadow slammed his hands against the table. "Shut up, bastards. That was back when Mairin was the Deputy Grand Master." Shadow was on his feet, pacing back and forth in the "Obelisk Zone". "Those were… they were dark times. She—she expected… things." A violent shudder shook Shadow to his core as the memories he repressed tried to push their way back into his thoughts. The entire room fell into awkward silence at these new revelations. The older members digested the unpleasant mental imagery, while the younger were quietly blissful in their ignorance.
Halcyon gave them all a few minutes to have a drink and refocus. "I don't care how you go about it, but get me the information," he ordered. "I guarantee you'll have fun and it'll be well worth the team's while.
''Well, there we have it, I guess?'' Shadow muttered probingly to the team members.
''Still seems pointless to me, but whatever..'' Keirdagh replied dismissively.
Howlader yawned and scratched at his beard. Planning was so tedious, he thought, and this meeting came right in the middle of his napping hours.
Accepting unappealing or unworthy tasks was an unfortunate part of the mercenary gig. Ever since Halcyon had discovered their illicit business, he had made use of the Old Folks on several occasions. The team accepted their fate, though not without some tired grumbling and grunting. All had served in leadership positions in the past, ranging from Battleteam to Dark Council, and dealing with huge pains in the ass was something you either got used to or you went apeshit, destroyed as much of everything as possible, then disappeared with assloads of information in a big "screw you" to everyone who pissed you off.
"First off—our infiltration team. Mav, Chaos, you two are going in undercover."
"Me?" Chaos asked in surprise. "That seems like a lot of responsibility… maybe Ben would be a better idea?"
"Undercover work? Not really my forte, though I am a master of disguise."
Howlader glanced warily at him along with everyone else. After learning the job came from "Marquise Hilary," Benevolent had ditched his hiding place and joined them at the table. It seemed he believed he had been working for Halcyon the entire time and was now part of a larger crew. It was probably best not to put him on any sensitive missions just in case.
"No… no, I think Chaos will work just fine," Shadow decided. "Mav will be with you, so things should be fine." Telaris nodded reassuringly at Chaos. "The extraction team will be made up of Yacks, Tarax, Ben, and myself."
Howlader watched these goings on with little interest. He knew what his job was—the same as it always was: fly the ship, save the day, be the hero. He sat smugly in his chair, stifling a yawn and pretending to pay attention. Once everything was planned out and ready to go it would be his turn to shine.
Shadow, trying to keep things moving while he still had their attentions, turned towards the former Justicar—er, the most recently former Justicar. ''Kir, you'd better prepare some kind of savvy legal defense in case this thing goes all Chaos-y on us.''
''Well I don’t know about…'' Kir began.
''Hey!'' Chaos shouted indignantly, but the team members brushed the Exarch’s remarks off as mere background noise.
''You can pull it off Kir—don't worry about it,'' Shadow prodded. "Now, I figure we don’t need the rest of the team sitting around waiting—what we do need is some intel. The best man for the job is someone who can crush a man's spirit and make him cry.''
Without missing a beat, Sithspawn and Telaris responded with a dry: ''Vlad.''
''Vlad," added Chaos in agreement.
''Wait. What? Yeah, Vlad," Howlader responded with disinterest.
Vladet Xavier was notorious for being a cold-hearted asshole. Howlader had been enjoying retirement at that time, but he had heard things. During Vladet's tenure as Quaestor of Dinaari he managed to destroy the hopes and dreams of dozens of young apprentices, sending them fleeing from Taldryan within a month of transferring out of the Shadow Academy. It was an impressive record, and one he was most definitely proud of.
''Fair enough, '' Shadow nodded in agreement. ''Vlad and Sharad will gather the intel on the Royal Guard.'' Shadow turned towards Sharad and added, ''Shar, I want you to work our contacts in the Council, see if you can dig up anything on this new Royal Guard. Anything related to funding or political squabbles amongst the Councilors.'' Turning towards Vladet, Shadow continued, ''Vlad, you go pick off a few of the auxiliary Royal Guard administrators... see if you can't get 'em to open up to you.''
''Done,'' Sharad responded decisively.
''Sure thing, it sounds right in my wheelhouse,'' Vladet responded with a hint of sadistic glee.
''As for our beloved Grand Master," Shadow frowned, "many of you have noticed that Jac is not with us today." Whether they noticed or not, most of the team appeared surprised at this news. In their downtime, few of them were every as sharp as they were when on the field. "Apparently he’s been on this flow-walking kick…traveling backwards in time a few thousand years. Something about a Republic and Sith War? Maybe it was for some rare liquor—I'm not sure, I'm a whoremonger not a physicist. He wasn’t really clear on the details. Suffice it to say, he’ll be sitting this one out."
''Finally,'' Shadow concluded, ''Ziggy - since you won the last 'rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock' tournament you get to sleep this one off.''
''So long, asshats!'' Ziggy shouted, already stepping out the door with a bottle of liquor in each hand.
''Where did he get those…?'' Kir questioned.
''Now,'' Shadow continued, ignoring the question, ''let’s plan this bitch.''
On Approach to the Spike
Orbit above Antei
Seat of the Dark Brotherhood
"Just for the record," Chaos muttered for the hundredth time "this plan sucks." He was dressed in multiple layers of heavy cloth, all variations of white and grey—the traditional robes of a manservant. The plan was a simple one; Telaris had requested a tour of the new Royal Guard training facility -- the Spike -- on Antei. As a former Commander of the Guard, recently returned to active duty within the Brotherhood, the cover was a solid one, and with his rank and reputation, nobody would refuse him the chance. Chaos, without so valid of an excuse had to be explained away in another, more believable way.
"Oh get over it; you should have seen the crap Yacks used to make me do back in the day." Telaris’ eyes grew distant, and a slight shudder shook him before he regained his composure. "Just be glad we’re not ‘infiltrating’ a Twi’lek pleasure cruise." A light flashed into existence above the comm unit, alerting them to the fact that they had come in range of the Spike’s sensors. "Just remember, wait for my signal before you make some excuse to slip away from the tour, and get into character." Chaosrain heaved yet another very put upon sigh, and smoothed his features into a fawning obsequiousness that was expected of servants of powerful Dark Lords. With a nod, Telaris flipped the switch to answer the incoming call.
"Approaching shuttle, this is Antei Aerospace Control," spat out the speaker "stay your course and transmit clearance. Any deviation or aggressive maneuvers will be dealt with most harshly." In a culture of Dark side warriors, and constant power games, this actually counted as a friendly greeting.
Keying the transmission button, Telaris put on his most haughty voice and responded in kind. "This is Dark Prophet Telaris Cantor, aboard the shuttle Incontinence en route to the Spike training facility", he bit out with just the hint of an edge in his voice. "I am expected." A cloying silence filled the cockpit as the bombshell that was Telaris’ return to Antei spread throughout the command structure.
"Affirmative Incontinence, you are cleared for approach, and may I say my Lord… welcome back." Mav looked over at Chaos and smiled faintly, before closing down the transmission. Chaos in turn, sniffed and looked away from the older man.
"I’m not talking to you."
Royal Guard Training Facility
With a blast of maneuvering jets, Telaris settled the shuttle down on the landing pad with only the slightest of jostles. He tossed an apologetic glance at Chaos, and the Exarch continued to take the last few moments to be objectionable before he had to act like a complete sop. Sighing one last time, he extended the egress ramp, and preceded his "Master" out of the vessel, waiting respectfully at the bottom for Telaris to join him. The greeting party for the Dark Prophet’s inspection approached slowly using the Force to deflect the worst of the dust kicked up by the dying maneuvering jets of the shuttle craft.
The leader of the greeting party was a man of roughly six feet, a muscular build and a hodgepodge of darkly coloured robes and Mandalorian armour. "Greetings my Lord, I am Araxis Pepoi Farron, Praetor to the Fist of the Grand Master, and second in Command of His Majesty’s Royal guard." The man bowed briefly, and introduced the less prestigious members of his retinue in turn. "Allow me to welcome you to the Spike, the most effective training facility within all of the Brotherhood." The man fairly glowed with pride at this statement, and Telaris was hard pressed to keep from rolling his eyes.
"Well met, Prelate." Araxis’ eyebrows rose slightly, and Telaris could tell that the man was highly complimented by his immediate knowledge of his rank. "May I in turn present my valet and personal assistant, Evelyn Wudhaus?" Chaos bowed his head in a sufficiently subservient manner, and kept his eyes on the ground. "Very nice Evelyn, now please fetch my luggage and follow behind us. I have quite a lot of questions for the good Prelate."
The group of Dark Jedi walked from the landing pad toward the Spire, the main complex of the Royal Guard’s compound. As they walked in, Araxis kept up a steady and officious stream of commentary, noting how the entire Iron Throne’s army was trained on the grounds, as well as the more secretive Royal Guard training facilities below the surface. As they entered into the cafeteria that dominated the main floor, Telaris and Chaos took in a veritable sea of enlisted men and women enjoying some relaxation out of their grueling daily lives. "As you can see, we keep the cafeteria centralized, so that the men from the barracks outside can get in and get their chow quickly," Araxis continued on to make a rather clichéd joke about armies and their stomachs, but Telaris was no longer listening.
Taking the initiative, Telaris looked around "Very impressive Prelate but where would the barracks and crew quarters be located? Surely there isn’t enough room in the Spire itself." Deciding to pander to his earlier joke, Mav continued, "You do after all, have quite the army here."
"No of course not, most of the enlisted men are afforded quarters in the outbuildings you passed on the way here. You’ll be given guest quarters on the Third floor, the Command Level." Smiling inwardly, Telaris jumped on the opportunity he had created for himself.
"Ahh… excellent, you have my thanks." Glancing backward at Chaos, Telaris gave Chaos a knowing look. "Perhaps you should take my effects up to my quarters and get me situated now, Wudhaus. I am sure I will be well cared for."
"Oh, but I was hoping to continue the tour myself sir. Perhaps the Praetor could assign someone to take your luggage up? I’m sure I’ll have time while you’d dining to prepare your suite." Mav could barely believe his ears. Somehow, despite the supremely smooth way he’d engineered an escape for Chaos to continue on with the mission, and the man had completely missed it. The entire plan they had designed was to use Mav as a flashy distraction which would allow Chaos the freedom to bypass security for the rest of the team. Grinding his teeth imperceptibly, Telaris nodded his consent, but watched his partner carefully for the next few seconds. No more than five paces later, Chaos nearly stumbled, and his presense in the Force felt like he’d just stubbed a toe as he realized what just happened. Shaking his head, Telaris followed in Araxis’ wake, hoping that another opportunity would present itself.
Royal Guard Training Facility
Araxis continued the tour with the grace of a retiree and the standard fifteen minutes worth of knowledge guiding a museum tour. Soon, the group had finished the tour of the cafeteria and began descending. The first sublevel passed with out incident and the group descended again into the second sublevel. Now the group began passing groups of Guardsmen training with both lightsabers and blasters. Both of the Old Folks had long since tuned out the young Prelate when a conversation between them began.
“Umm, Mav?” The words echoed inside of Telaris’ mind.
“What?” Telaris replied gruffly.
“I think I may have missed...”
“May have?!” Telaris interjected.
“Ok, did. I did miss the signal. But it’s ok. I have a plan.” Chaos replied with an air of confidence.
“Good, what is it?” Telaris said with a bit of skepticism. Telaris’ skepticism fell on a deaf mind and was met with loud screams.
“Yuuzhan Vong! Yuuzhan Vong!” screamed the would-be Wudhaus.
The group turned to look at Chaosrain, and found him diving to the ground coving his ears. “Boom” shouted Chaos. The man glared at the tour group, reached for an imaginary blaster and started shooting it into the stunned people he was once walking with.
Telaris’ mouth dropped open having realized what Chaos’s “plan” was. After a brief period of thought, Telaris pointed his hands towards Chaos and began to shut his eyes.
“Die you sons of bitches!” Chaos yelled, “I’ll fetch rugs for the lot of you!”
The latest outburst confused all but the two Taldrya, and seemed to unnerve one man enough to feign being shot. “Count to three and slowly start acting normal.” Telaris’ voice boomed into Chaos’s mind. Chaosrain complied and began to slow his imaginary blaster motions. Within moments Chaos was lifted in the air, and his arms and legs felt as if they had been bound together.
“What just happened?” asked Araxis.
“The Vong are gone Evelyn.” Telaris said in a calming manner. Telaris put Chaos back on the ground and turned towards Araxis and said “I met him at the end of the Vong war while looking for an assistant. He does fantastic work, but sometimes has PTSD induced flashbacks.”
“Oh” Araxis replied softly.
“It might be best if Wudhaus rested in the med lab for the rest of the tour.” Telaris suggested.
“I agree.” replied Araxis. “Stop being an idiot, and take him to the med lab, Guardsman.”
The unnerved Guardsman shot to his feet and cautiously escorted Chaos away to the med lab.
A sense of calm fell over the group as the two men walked out of sight. The group, again, began to walk. As the tour began to continue, Araxis asked, “Isn’t Evelyn a girls name?”
“I’m not sure.” replied Telaris. “He’s kind of sensitive about it.”
Royal Guard Training Facility ~ med lab
“Manservant, my ass.” Chaos muttered to himself. “I’m a Dark Jedi, damn it.” Chaos complained to no one in particular. He had waited a good 10 minutes before removing all of the heavy robes. He had stripped down keeping only his sneaking suit: a very black turtleneck that he had insisted heavily upon, and simple set of black robes.
Chaos had been escorted to one of the private med labs on the third floor of the Spire. These were reserved for Council members and the rare guests that were allowed up here. Now that he was dressed for the occasion, Chaos crouched next to the exit and probed the surrounding areas for security. Two sets of guards were within his vicinity, and one had a direct line of sight to the labs exit.
Chaosrain reached out into the force until he could touch the minds of the guards. He began to coerce them lightly; convincing them it was time to do a patrol. Soon, the guards passed by the entry way of the med lab; having been convinced that nothing was in there, the two guards passed by as if the door did not exist.
Upon entering the hallway, Chaos noted how ornate this floor was for a training facility. He turned to his left to head to intersection the guards had been monitoring. As he came to the cross-roads, he kneeled at the edge of the design inlayed into the opening. Probing his surroundings again, he found a hallway that appeared to wrap around the exterior of the floor and another set of guards; these blocking entry onto the floor.
Calming his mind, Chaos focused so that he could compress a ball of air down to half its original volume. Quickly changing his focus, a small booming sound coupled with a small burst of air came into being in the newly discover hallway; alerting only the guards at the exit. Tapping the Force for the last time on this floor, Chaos began to run toward the exit while dampening the noise his feet made on the ground. He continued this mental action while he descended the stairwell.
Now safely at the bottom of the stairwell, Chaos allowed himself a brief rest while he formulated a plan. A minute of rest had just become two when the golden silence he was enjoying had shattered. The door he was next to creaked into motion. Thankfully, he was on the hinged side of the door; giving him an extra split second to react.
Two men entered the stairwell and were frozen in place by the Force. Chaosrain quietly shut the door and then pulled his robes over his head; things were about to get fun. Soon, the lack of breathe knocked one man unconscious and he was laid, quietly, on the floor. The remaining guard man was blinded and gagged with the robe, but again allowed to breathe. Thanks to the door providing cover, Chaos still remained hidden and was thankful for this fact.
The Dark Jedi tapped into the guards mind. Rifling through useless bits of information, he searched for the Spikes security room and the commands needed to allow his fellow Old Folks into the facility. After a dozen or so minutes, the conscious guard began carrying his partner to the closest medical facility. Their minds had been coaxed into believing the unconscious man had gotten sick and passed out and that they did not actually entered the stairwell.
Chaosrain, having gathered the information he needed; and erased any trace of his existence from the minds of the guards, put his robe back on and exited the stairwell half a minute after his victims. With his path known, the lone Jedi snuck through the corridors. His path snaked through the floor, allowing him to avoid areas with security personnel and allowed him to reach D2, the Intelligence and Security Division, his destination without conflict.
With a few seconds to focus, Chaosrain scouted the Security room. It was large and only had a man sitting in a large chair. “Excellent.” he Chaos thought with a smile, “He’s asleep.” Chaos tip-toed up to the older, high-ranking military man and began to slowly move a ring of keys out of his pocket. Chaos took the keys and placed them in one his pockets, quietly. Glancing around the room, Chaos’s eyes found the securities departments’ schedule. Apparently it was time for dinner; Chaos smiled to himself thinking about how lucky he had been.
His movements were now slow and cautious so as not to make a sound. Arriving at a console, he sat down and found many labeled keyholes. With a glance up at the monitor hovering above the console, he found corresponding labels in the corner of the monitor. After a bit of searching, Chaos found the visual that matched the door Shadow had told him to unlock. After another moment of searching, Chaos silently circled through the keys until he arrived at the one with the same label, B2, as on the monitor. With nothing more than a twist of the wrist the door was now unlocked and his mission was complete. Chaos pushed himself up out of the chair using the console and was ready to leave.
And that’s when the alarms went off.
Ten minutes earlier…
Security Room 3-B
"Hey… hey, Lloyd. Come take a look at this."
"What the hell is that? Why is he doing that?"
Sergeant Lloyd Sithmas and Private Harry Dunne were currently on duty in the auxillary guardpost of Sector 3 (the third floor in fancy talk), staring at the closed-circuit monitors in bewilderment. On a small screen displaying the med lab was the mentally ill manservant Evelyn, muttering to himself and stripping down to a uniform of black and slightly darker black robes.
Though this behavior was certainly odd, it was not quite cause for alarm. The two continued to watch as the unstable man escaped from the med bay, but hid quickly when he saw patrolling guards. On screen it appeared that the delusional man was waving his hands maniacally in the guards' direction as if he were trying to communicate something. However, the guards paid no heed and began walking their usual patrol route without noticing anything out of the ordinary.
"Wh-what do you think he's up to?" Harry asked his superior officer. His voice was low, almost a whisper, as if he was worried the strange man on the screen would hear him if he spoke too loud. Lloyd merely shook his head, perplexed, and continued to watch the unfolding drama.
The manservant was quickly making his way through the various corridors of the third floor, but the way he went about it was… unusual. At random intervals he would stick to walls and shuffle along as though his back was glued to them. Then he would roll from seemingly arbitrary locations, always hiding behind equipment or refuse bins and looking like he was very sneaky. It was easily the weirdest thing the two guards had ever witnessed.
It wasn't until the man slipped into the primary security room that they began to worry. The guard on duty there was apparently asleep at his post, allowing the manservant access to the security consoles. His eyes flashed with maniac glee as he fiddled with various controls.
It was only by sheer luck that Harry noticed something with his peripheral vision, so focused were the two on the manservant and his bizarre actions. From the corner of his eye he caught movement on one of the other monitors and turned to see a motley crew of decrepit old men in robes and tunics crawl through a window that was supposed to be locked.
"L-l-lloyd!" Harry suddenly shouted, tugging frantically at his superiors uniform. "Look!"
Annoyed, Lloyd turned towards his high-strung partner to see what the problem was now. Harry was frantically pointing at the monitor suddenly filled with Dark Jedi. Lloyd's face blanched when he realized what he was looking at.
"There's been a breach?!" he shouted in surprise. He immediately opened the small, transparent "break in case of emergency" case that protected the all-important "panic" button and slammed his hand down on it.
Access Hatch B2
"Oh come on," Shadow yelled in annoyance. He had been the first to struggle through the window Chaos had unlocked. It was the door that was supposed to have been open for them, not a tiny-ass window five feet off the ground. It took some time, but eventually the entire group managed to struggle through and catch their breath. Of course, that was when the alarms started blaring.
"It's like he wants us to fail," Keirdagh muttered to himself, dusting himself off.
"They'll be coming to put the screws to us for sure," Benevolent added with a steely glint in his eyes.
Shadow just shook his head in resignation. Though they had deftly planned out a covert infiltration of the Royal Guard's training facility, he and the others knew that there had been an 83% chance of failure… especially with Chaos involved.
Basically, the universe kept the awesomeness of the Old Folks' Home in check by gifting Chaosrain with an unimaginable affinity for failure. It was like a powerful fail-field was emitted by him, increasing the odds of failure of anyone around him in spite of their talent or abilities. (For some reason, the only one not affected was Jac Cotelin.) Though it was often aggravating to the other members, it did tend to make things a little bit more interesting. And, of course, Chaos himself had no idea, nor was he aware that Benevolent (during his lucid phase) defined the nature of Chaos' Law.
Amidst the blaring of alarms and the sound of rushing footsteps, Shadow's commlink crackled to life. "Wah… Shad? So noisy," Howlader moaned into his ear. Obviously, their surprisingly gifted pilot had not-so-surprisingly fallen asleep while waiting for them to return. Apparently he had left the comm speakers active and the sudden alarms had woken him up.
"Things went Chaos-ey on us, Howie. Looks like things will be a little more overt than we initially thought," Shadow replied as the first foot soldiers of the Royal Guard entered the scene. These were not Dark Jedi or even Guardsmen-in-training, just the regular foot soldiers of the Army of the Iron Throne. To the Old Folks, widely recognized (by themselves at least) for their amazing combat prowess, these men were merely walking targets.
"Howie, you know what we need?" Shadow asked as he turned towards the oncoming wave of patheticness. "We need some fightin' music."
"On it," came Howlader's crisp reply. Again he forgot to turn off his mic and the ground crew could hear him rifling around in the cockpit of Senility grunting and groaning with his struggles. "Here we go." There was a loud click then the music began:
"Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows
everything that's the wonderful is what I feel
when we're together."
"Er," Howlader's voice interrupted as the music suddenly disappeared. "Wrong tape," he explained over the groans of the rest. Shadow looked around at the others taking note of their equally freaked out faces.
Shadow nodded as the music began, slipping into offensive stance. His lightsabers remained sheathed at his side—he had no need of them to take on this trash.
Beside him, he could see the others getting ready for a brawl, even as the guards unslung their blaster rifles and pistols. Keirdagh nonchalantly cracked his neck, the small glimmer of a smile splitting his bearded face. Even Benevolent was in the proper mood, though his stance was something Shadow had never seen before. It was definitely not taught in the Brotherhood. The sound of rushing footsteps suddenly stopped as the security force formed up a short distance away. It was time…
[i]"Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting…"[/i]
Ten kilometers above (and slightly to the left of) the Spike
Those kids were fast as lightning…
Ka-Pow! Bap! Whack! Zap! The sounds of battle echoed through the Senility’s speakers, as the Old Folks began the process of dispatching the soldiers.
Howlader sat in the pilot’s chair, awaiting the outcome of the battle his teammates were engaged in on the ground; though to say he was eager would be an overstatement. This is not to say that the sounds of battle were uninteresting, but this reflected more on the old man himself – few things other than sleep or yelling at young people interested him these days. As such, he struggled to keep his eyes open.
"You guys need any help down there?" Howlader wearily asked into the communications systems.
"Naw, we’re..." Splatt – the noise of another soldier hitting the deck "...good down here, Howie. Keep the engines running," replied Shadow.
"Maybe put some beers on ice?" Keirdagh mocked.
"You’re an ass," Howlader replied curtly.
This is how it always was for Howlader. Join the Old Folks Home they said. Fly the ship they said. Sleep most of the time they said. It’s what he wanted…right? Howlader’s thoughts began to wander…
"BOY! MORE CANDLES..."
Howlader’s hand slipped from it’s comfortable spot on the arm rest of the pilot’s seat and dropped onto the console, hitting a button...
"BOY! MORE STAMPS..."
The Old Man awoke with a grunt and shook himself further awake. It was oddly quiet in the cockpit. Where was the team? Where were the sounds of battle? Panic. The Old Folks were in trouble, and it was up to Howlader to save them!
"Now is my chance! I will save you all!" Howlader shouted to no one in particular. With that, he spun up the Senility’s engines and powered up her weapons. While the old freighter may not have the weapon systems of the latest Imperial Cruiser, it was more than enough for ground bombardment. Howlader guided the Senility towards the Spike, banking and dodging against the nonexistent enemy fire, as was his style.
"COVERING FIRE!!!" Screamed the aged Dark Jedi with glee, as the Senility’s weapon systems fired a volley at the section of the Spike roughly corresponding to the Old Folks’ location – which then promptly exploded – sending shock waves throughout the 1000 meter structure.
Satisfied, Howlader spoke into Senility’s communications systems, "How about that rescue guys? All the bad guys dead down there?"
Suddenly, the commlink attached to Howlader’s robes by a string (as he was prone to lose things) began to flash and buzz.
"Ahoy?" Howlader spoke into the device.
"What in the hell was that, Howie?!" Keirdagh shouted into the comm systems. "We’ve been done here for ten minutes, and you just start shooting? What were you thinking?"
"That you guys needed rescuing," Howlader replied nonplussed. "After all, there was no communication from the ground..." then the old man noticed that the light for the Senility’s cockpit speakers was not flashing, indicating they were off.
"Oh. I must have turned it off, " Howlader admitted meekly...
"Oh, Howie" replied an exasperated Shadow.
Eastern Base Of Operations
I had learned the very, very hard way a long time ago that you did not cross Marquis Hilary. She was the de facto leader of the toughest gang of lowlifes this city had to offer. Technically her husband, that poor squirrelly fellow, was the head of the family. And technically, her claim to be descended from a great and powerful noble family was shaky at best. That said, a woman that plots the assassination of the two eldest brothers in the Murphey crime family before marrying the youngest could call herself the Queen if it kept her off my back.
That's how I found myself working with what could generously be called the least forward thinking group of hired thugs you could find. Here's the perfect example of what I mean; take the large bear-like man. His whole job here is to keep the getaway car running for when we find whatever it is here that we need. As soon as he thinks we're out of sight, he takes a nap. Then I can only assume he woke up from his slumber, panicked, and started doing donuts in the parking lot attracting all sorts of attention. And don't let me forget about the walking bad luck charm with the innocent face. We wouldn't be in this predicament if he could wear high heels and a long skirt without screwing everything up. Honestly, it was amateur hour up here.
Inside the warehouse proper, there were couple of mobsters smoking and gambling on an overturned fruit crate, a rusted shipping container, and inside the container a state of the art safe with the photo negatives the Marquis was after. Apparently one of her flunkies was trying to move up in the world and had started collecting blackmail material on his boss. Normally I wouldn't give a rat's ass about scum taking out other scum, but Hilary had proposed a trade - one recovered incriminating roll of negatives of her in exchange for a whole set of Miss Bergman in her younger years. I'll tell you, women will be the death of me; one way or the other.
There was one good thing about working with some hired muscle. For once it wasn't going to be my head throbbing in the morning. I had barely broken the lock off the door before being nearly trampled by the rush of thugs trying to be the first one to knock out one of the very surprised looking gamblers. Cards and poker chips flew everywhere. I politely excused myself from the party to investigate the shipping container and its precious cargo. Sometimes things go right, and right there in the center was the expected safe. Now, I know what you're thinking. Surely a man that handsome and daring didn't have time to learn how to crack a safe too. Ordinarily, you'd be right, but having forgotten the code for my own personal safe in the office on more than one occasion has led me to believe the talent was worth picking up. That's right ladies, he's self-employed, adventurous, and can crack open your safe in 5 minutes or less.
With the sounds of the brawl slowing down, it really didn't take all that long to open the safe. Four times counter clockwise to 02, three clockwise to 49, twice back to 27, and forward to 06. One quick turn of the handle, and behold! A...scrap of paper with a note on it. No roll of negatives, and just as the lead thug came in to check on me.
"Shit. The Marquis isn't going to be happy with this turn of events."
Royal Guard Training Facility
Shadow leaped forward in a thrusting knee kick, and dropped the last of the attackers. "What they lack in skill, they seem to make up for in numbers" he thought silently as he glanced around taking another survey of the storage bay. He could see Keirdagh, covering the other entrance with the various members of the team spread out around the two doorways. "Ben!" he yelled out, "how’s it coming?!"
Benevolent Whiner, in all his glory, was not in a good mood. He was walking around the console that he’d been slicing for the past five minutes, muttering only random bits of numbers, a string of prosaic curses, and anachronistic jargon, all while hammering his way past multiple layers of the Royal Guard’s advanced encryption logarithms. Finally, he stood up and looked directly at Shadow, before tipping a non-existent hat to him. "Got it chaps, let’s blow this joint!" He immediately hopped back up into the Access Hatch, and started working his way back to the improvised exit. Shadow and Keirdagh looked at each other pleadingly for a moment, before sighing.
"Guys, keep an eye on him." Shadow ordered, and the team leapt into the service tunnels after Ben, to escape and to make sure he didn’t cause himself any harm. Keying his comm-link, Shadow sent out the general evac for the other members of the team strung throughout the facility. "Yacks get Howie on the horn and have him ready to pick us up, and then blasting into space!"
And just this once, shockingly, the exfiltration actually went smoothly.
Aboard the Senility
Hyperspace course set to "anywhere but here"
As the team sat gathered around the table in the cramped conference room, they slowly took stock of what they’d managed to achieve in infiltrating the GMRG training facility. Ben was off brooding in the corner, not quite ready to reveal what he’d managed to pull out of the system quite yet, but everyone here knew that when he was in one of his moods, they just had to run on his time – his very, extremely, sometimes excruciatingly odd time. So they did what they always did when they were forced to wait: they complained, and they bragged. Surprisingly though, it was Shadow who was complaining the loudest. "When I ran the bloody Guard, no way would a bunch of rag tag idiots have run rampant like that!" His characterization of the Old Folks’, while sadly quite accurate, brought a chorus of objections. "We ran a tight ship, all these fools managed to do was send a bunch of half trained nitwits to clog the hallways!" He took a deep breath to start into his next vitriol laced attack on the GMRG, but the pause let everyone else get a chance to get their complaints in.
"Tore my tactical turtleneck...!" "Twins, Shadow... TWINS...!" "YOU WOKE ME UP FROM MY NAP!" The cacophony was deafening, but it was apparently enough to jar Ben into action.
He slammed his fist on the table and shouted out with great conviction "YELLOW BELLIED TURNCOAT!" The exclamation quieted everyone immediately. With querying looks, everyone turned to Shadow, who usually understood Ben in his moods better than anyone, in this case though, Shadow was as confused as everyone.
"Why don’t you walk us through it Ben?" he prompted gently, and Ben nodded smartly.
"It’s simple my dear fellows, we’ve been sucked into the jaws of a plot; a plot both dastardly and devious; a plot, that if we don’t help Marquis Hilary stop, could very well mean the end of our city." At this point, it seemed clear that Ben was about to really get going, so Shadow began to perform a running translation for him.
"Thanks to you boys, I managed to crack the safe in the warehouse in record time. I had been hoping to pull some negatives out, but all I found was a note with a phone number on it." (He sliced into the files, couldn’t find any video evidence, but found a communications frequency.) Ben shot Shadow a disgusted look, clearly unimpressed to have him talking over him. "While, a phone number itself isn’t conclusive, the Marquis hinted at what he wanted us to look for, even if some of you numb skulls didn’t hear it. What we needed, was a link! We just ran rough shod over a bunch of the Marquis’ men, even if they were in Marquess Murphey’s pocketbook, and they were none too pleased to give up this little bit of information." (Comm frequency doesn’t mean much, but GMRG is paid by Muz, and they’re not happy to lose it.)
"Now, I did some quick legwork, and I found out that the number goes to one of those pinko community centers on the south side... the kind that like to talk about feelings and have everyone share their malts with their fellow commies.. So the question is boys, what are a bunch of Murphey’s thugs doing with a direct line to the Communists?" (He traced the comm frequency and... uh... I think he means Odan-Urr.) Shadow gave up his running translation and addressed Ben directly.
"Ben, do you mean that the Guard has some sort of shady business with House Odan-Urr?"
"Clean out your ears, sonny, that’s what I just said!"
"Good enough... Howie are you still listening in? Good. Get us headed to their home planet, whatever the hell that is."
"You got it boss... next stop, Pandora or something like that..."
Aboard the Senility
Outer reaches of the Yhi System
"Wire taps have come good boys; we’ve got ourselves a target". That was Ben, slicing away at the communications console, trying to figure out a way to dig more Intel for the next step of the mission. Infiltrating New Tython wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as it had been largely demolished in the most recent of the Brotherhood’s wars. The problem was of course, finding a link between what was happening in the Royal Guard, and the Jedi. Thankfully, despite his current condition, Ben was still a master of all things technological, and the Force was on the team’s side. "Apparently Marquess Murphey’s mistress is meeting with the Communists at their community center, today." A murmur of surprise spread throughout the ship.
"Ashia’s meeting with the Jedi? She’s supposed to be a Tally... We have to check this out. Whatever she’s into, you know Muz is into as well" commented Kir.
Ben held up a hand to forestall further comment, "hold on... apparently there’s a Sergeant Chip Windsor escorting her... apparently he’s some sort of upper level enforcer with the local law, and in Murphey’s books to boot." Nobody was quite sure who this Chip Windsor was, but if he was tasked with escorting Muz’s wife, he would have to be formidable. Keirdagh and Kir shared an ominous look between them, and both looked like they were trying to contain a thunderstorm behind their eyebrows.
"Uh... Yacks, Kir... what is it?" asked Tarax, for once not trying to poke the bear too hard.
"Taig," Keirdagh said shortly.
"It has to be," confirmed Kir.
The team let forth a collective whistle... the new Justicar of the Brotherhood, the successor of Kir and to a lesser extent Keirdagh. Supposed High Protector of the Brotherhood, and he was cavorting in possible treason with the Jedi of Odan-Urr. "Now hold on guys," protested Telaris, "let’s not jump to any conclusions... maybe it's official business, it could be anything. What we need is more info, and we need to get it quietly."
Shadow nodded in agreement. "That’s right, we need to get in there and have a look at what’s going on for ourselves. Looks like we’re doing some more spy work, gentlemen." At the prospect of getting to slink around some more, Chaos brightened noticeably. He was still under the impression he’d done a marvelous job back at the Spike. "There’s just one problem with that though..." As one, the team looked at Howlader, sitting innocently and in a half daze at his navigation console.
Aboard the Senility
Orbit above New Tython
"Guys, this is completely unnecessary," Howlader protested for the umpteenth time. "Let me fly the ship, I promise to be good. Nothing bad will happen, I’ll fly casual!" The team, knowing that Howlader chafes at doing anything in the "normal" fashion while flying the ship, knew that he couldn’t be allowed to pilot them into the system stealthily. While quite brilliant at crazy, death defying maneuvers, Howlader was what one would call a... unconventional pilot. Orbital holding patterns, customs inspections, landing on landing pads and not buildings... these things were not in Howlader’s playbook.
"Shad, muffle him or something, I got to make the call" snapped Keirdagh. Shadow stepped up in front of Howlader gathering himself to convince the old man to stay quiet, when a hauntingly beautiful falsetto stole through the bridge in a classical Coruscanti lullaby. Howlader growled slightly, but with his well-known penchant for napping, he soon dropped off into a deep slumber, only muttering "more stamps!" before he went under. Everyone was staring at Vlad, the source of the singing with a wide eyed look of disbelief.
"What?!" he protested. "I don’t tell you guys everything."
Shrugging, and trying to get his mind off Vlad’s hidden talents, Keirdagh keyed up the comm unit. "This is freighter Avatar carrying a load of Unobtanium to Menat Ombo, requesting landing clearance." A couple of sniggers sounded behind him, but Keirdagh ignored it.
New Tython control responded almost immediately, proving that Ben’s slicing of the ships identity information had been a success. "Roger that Avatar. You may proceed to landing platform Besh One Two." As soon as he signed off, the suppressed chuckles from behind him burst into a roar of laughter. Turning angrily, Keirdagh yelled "WHAT?!"
Only Chaos could actually form sentences at that point and simply said... "Who would believe someone would name a product UNOBTANIUM?!" before he doubled over into laughter again.
Tarax and Vlad followed behind Ashia and Taig at a surreptitious distance, to ensure they would not be spotted. To make sure they looked casual, they kept up a steady stream of conversation. At least, that’s what they would tell the other later. In reality, they were actually just bitching at one another non-stop. The pair had always been one of the most volatile within the home, but when forced together, despite the mental and emotional damage left behind, they got results. But they were also two of the more capable spies, and so far had a track record of causing less property damage than the older members of the team. All in all, it made them the ideal infiltrators for this mission.
Following Ashia and Taig didn’t prove to be overly hard, the pair seemed rather over confident in themselves, and it apparently didn’t even cross their mind that someone might be spying on them. All it took for Tarax and Vlad to follow them right into the Garden of Happy Feelings and Lollipops was a pair of light brown robes, it all went quite smoothly.
Aboard the Senility
Menat Ombo Landing Pad
The elders of the team were seated near the bottom of the exit ramp, making sure nobody bothered them about unloading their fake metal with gentle nudges in the Force. Keirdagh, who had come up with the idea of loading the ship with some ridiculous metal, was in charge of babysitting Howlader on the bridge, and was muttering to himself in a much put upon way. "I certainly didn’t hear any of them coming up with ideas. Some geniuses they are, letting me come up with a story on the fly and then sticking me with babysitting duty." So it went, on and on, with Keirdagh occasionally shooting angry glances at the peaceful, still sleeping Howlader. Eventually though, grumbles weren’t enough.
"Screw this! I need a drink!" Keirdagh declared suddenly, and prepared himself to sneak away from the Senility without the others knowing he’d abandoned his post.
Howlader kept on snoring softly in his sleep, not even stirring as the other man left.
Garden of Happy Feelings and Lollipops
Tarax was getting a bit nervous, something major was happening in the meditative gardens. Ashia and Taig were gathered around one of the fountains, chatting quietly with the other Jedi. It didn’t seem too threatening, but more and more acolytes of the Jedi order were filtering in around them, and it was growing apparent that there was some sort of meeting, or ceremony about to begin. Shooting a glance at Vlad confirmed his suspicions: this was going to get weird.
Nobody really understood why Muz had allowed a House devoted to following the light side shelter and protection within Brotherhood space. It was the single oddest decision any Grand Master of the Brotherhood had undertaken, and that included Zoraan and his... episode. One thing Tarax did know though was that these Light Jedi were a stain on the galaxy, and it should be the Brotherhood’s job to wipe them out, not protect them. That was when the tall blue fellow walked into the garden. He was flanked by a Gand, and both worse the robes that typified the Jedi orders. Apparently this was a ceremony that required one of the weird natives of the planet, as well as the leader of this Jedi sect.
Alarm bells started to go off in the back of Vlad’s mind, and he nodded to Tarax, and both drew their lightsabers, keeping them hidden within the folds of their cloaks.
Aboard the Senility
Menat Ombo Landing Pad
Howlader jerked awake as though he’d been burned by a hot coal. "OUT OF STAMPS?!" he roared, leaping to his feet. "NOT ON MY WATCH!" Jumping forward, he began hitting the switches that would start the pre-flight launch sequence on the Senility. The quiet whine of the repulsor lifts warming up alerted the others on the ship to the fact that Howlader was awake.
"Yacks?! What the hell is going on?" Telaris shouted over the comm to the bridge.
"Don’t put baby in the corner," yelled Howlader back, "that’s what!"
"C'mon Howie, be reasonable. Just stay quiet, Tarax and Vlad will be back soon!" they pleaded with him.
"Don’t worry, don’t worry... I’m just going to fly above them so they know I can pick them up whenever."
"No Howie, don’t!" "Turn off that automobile, sonny!" "Howlader, no!" "Oh Howie..."
It didn’t matter what anyone said, Howlader was on his way. The team members were left with just one choice. They had to leap back aboard, or get left behind.
The Lighter Side Pub & Grill
Keirdagh grimaced as he took a pull of the local ale on tap, and spat it out. "Disgusting." Looking around he spotted a sign that read "all of our drinks are made with only the finest ingredients, and remain alcohol free. May the Lighter Side be with you always!" The horror of his decision to try to find a stiff drink on a goody-two-shoes world had just started to descend upon him, when another emotion took over. Shooting across the sky above him, clearly on a collision course with something, was the Senility. "That son of a bitch..."
Garden of Happy Feelings and Lollipops
The ceremony was really starting to take off now, and it was getting more and more awkward for the two Dark Jedi at the fringes of it. Hearing this ridiculous chanting was enough to boil the blood of any servant of the Dark Side. The two in the middle of it though... Tarax had to do a double take to be sure of what he was seeing. When he did, and still couldn’t believe it, he had to ask Vlad to confirm. "Vlad, are Muz’s wife and the Justicar..."
"Chanting Jedi proverbs and participating in the big orgy of happy feelings? Yeah Tarax, they are."
"OK... we got to get back and tell the guys. Like now." That was when the wall on the northern side of the garden burst apart, and the Senility crashed through it. To his credit, Taig still had the instincts of a Sith Warrior. He immediately drew his saber and leapt to defend his Master’s wife from the danger approaching. Unfortunately, both Vlad’s and Tarax’s reflexes were even sharper, and while Taig was sweeping the room trying to assess threats, he saw two Obelisk warriors unmasked, with sabers drawn. Two Obelisk who should not have been there in the first place.
Tarax saw the move coming, and sighed audibly. "Have to give him credit for something at least... more guts than brains," and then Taig was bounding with the power of the Force to give combat. Despite the fact that this was a Sith Warlord charging them, despite the fact that he bore the mantle of High Protector of the Brotherhood, neither Tarax or Vlad showed an ounce of fear as he charged them. They noted, in the back of their minds that the Gand was dragging Ashia out of harm’s way along with the large blue fellow, but this was a secondary concern.
It was over quickly. Clearly confident in his own abilities, having earned something of a reputation for combat, Taig attacked the two Exarchs with reckless abandon. These were no ordinary Dark Jedi though, despite being the lowest in rank within the vaunted Old Folks' home, they were in fact, still members of the Old Folks' Home, and fought with every bit of skill they had. In a flurry of Bryar blasts, lightsabers and fists, the Justicar of the Brotherhood was laid out beneath the two in a heap. Vlad kneeled next to the crumpled body and took his pulse; it was weak, but steady. "Damn it Tarax, he was knocked out after I kicked him, you didn’t have to beat him into a coma."
Tarax, already sauntering over to the Senility just shrugged. "Maybe I didn’t have to, doesn’t mean I didn’t want to." The two loaded into the freighter, and it started making trails for space immediately.
Aboard the Senility
En route for Antei
Once Howlader had evaded the token pursuit, and was safely in hyperspace, the team reassembled in the conference room. Tarax and Vlad were about halfway through their report before anyone noticed.
"Wait," Telaris said. "Where’s Yacks?" The intercom picked up Howlader whistling innocently over the speakers. "Howie... what happened to Yacks?"
"He was being mean, and he flew MY SHIP, without my permission. He had to go."
"You LEFT him there? After what we just did?" shouted Vlad. Tarax just started laughing maniacally.
"It serves him right! Way to go Howie!"
"Bah, whatever, Yacks can take care of himself. What did you guys figure out Tarax, just skip to the end" interjected Shadow.
"Well, bottom line... it looks like Ashia and Taig have converted to the Light Side. They were full on beatific and shit" responded Vlad.
"Really turned my stomach," commented Tarax. The rest of the team however was taken aback, as they knew there was no way that Muz’s wife and his Justicar could have converted without his knowledge, which meant...
"Murphey’s turned state’s evidence!" gasped Ben. "We have to tell the Marquis!" Slapping the intercom, Ben started yelling instructions at Howlader. "Driver! Stop this damned contraption at once and find me a telephone, I have to get in touch with Marquis Hilary, quick snap!" ("Muz converted to the Light Side! We have to tell Halc! Pilot, drop out of hyperspace and open a Hypercom signal to Halcyon immediately!")
"Hey Ben... how about you let me take this call, eh?" prompted Shadow. Ben’s words were getting a bit more florid and confusing the longer this mission went on. It was a tense few minutes, but the team managed to raise Halc on his private frequency. "Halc, we’ve got some news... some news that we can’t share on the air. Clear us a path, we have to get down to your office ASAP. We’ve got a Code Rainbow Brite on our hands!" Halc just stared through the screen at the members of the Home for a minute, trying to remember the insanely convoluted Code system the Team had given him. When it hit, it was like an ion bomb had blown up in his face. A big, wet, messy ion bomb.
"OK guys, I’ll try to get you a window, but apparently someone just beat the stuffing out of the Justicar, and Muz is trying to lock down the system. He thinks the Dark Council may be under attack." Vlad just stared daggers at Tarax.
Tarax half shrugged and replied "Meh. I should have gotten that job."
"Just get it done Halc, we have to get underway." Shadow cut off the transmission before Halcyon could say something annoying about who hired who. He did it just in time for the team to hear a proximity warning over Howlader’s intercom feed. "Uh Howie... everything ok up there?"
"Yep, it’s fine. No problem. None at all. We should be going soon right? Back to Antei? Yea Antei seems safe." Howlader was acting stranger than usual, and Ben picked up on it. Hitting in a few override commands, he pulled up auxiliary controls for the bridge on the conference room screen. There was an incoming transmission alert flashing on the comm console.
"Hrm, looks like the bear like fellow up front has a call, let’s see who that could be..."
"HOWIE YOU PIECE OF SHIT, YOU LEFT ME BEHIND!" bellowed Keirdagh over the speakers. Just then a couple of laser impacts on the shields dimmed the ships lights. Apparently, Keirdagh had hijacked an old X-Wing, and was now trying to exact his punishment on Howlader.
Flipping the comm switch, Telaris tried to talk some sense into his enraged friend. "Yacks, cmon, calm down, it’s just Howie."
"Oops, sorry Yacks, gotta go, really busy here!" quipped Howlader, as he through the Senility back into hyperspace.
Skies above the Dark Hall
Electronics screamed. People cursed. Couplings broke free of their housings. Sparks flew everywhere. And the Senility lurched back into real space, already in the inner atmosphere of the planet Antei. Scientists will tell you it’s impossible. Modern hyper drives are built with fail safes to cut out when they enter a gravity well above a certain strength. It’s a safety mechanism, because flying too close to a gravity well while in hyperspace can tear your ship apart. They’re fail safes that aren’t supposed to be overridden. It’s not even supposed to be possible to override them. Not possible that is, unless you have a sociopathic adrenaline junky as your ships sole pilot, who tinkers with whatever he feels appropriate, and knows how to pilot the ship better than how to breathe.
The net result of this is though, a ship that still nearly tears itself apart, a completely surprised and angry air traffic controller, and a Team full of extremely jostled, tossed, and irate team members; and one pilot who is over the moon with joy at what he managed to pull off. As the team picked themselves up off the floor, the amount of cursing flying through the ships intercom at Howlader reached a decibel level equivalent to that of a nuclear explosion. Howlader just kept grinning ear to ear. As the team rushed into the bridge behind him, Ben let out a whimper of distress, he hated when Howie broke his stuff. Telaris and Kir immediately jumped onto the Communications consoles, trying to sort out the chaos, and the rest of the team just stood there, completely aghast, yet impressed despite themselves. "We’re going to need to write that one down..." whispered Shadow in awe, as he stared out of the viewport and took in the sights of sub-atmosphere Antei.
A Less Insane Hyperspace Egress Point
Keirdagh’s old T-65 X-Wing dropped out of hyperspace in pursuit of the Senility. When he’d ambushed the Senility in the middle of nowhere, he just wanted to spook Howlader a bit, maybe put a couple dents in his precious Senility, but not actually hurt him. When the freighter took off again, and left him behind again though... well, he lost it.
That crazy bastard had to learn his lesson; and he had to learn it today. Hitting his comm switch, Keirdagh put on his most menacing voice. "Ready or not Howie... here I come!" Vaguely he noted the scrambling of fighters from the Brotherhood’s home fleet, but they were of no consequence.
Bridge of the Senility
Above the Dark Hall
Telaris was trying to talk sense into Keirdagh who was still pursuing them, Shadow was taking notes on whatever the hell Howlader had just done to almost kill them. Ben had everyone else trying to fix the ship, so it wouldn’t just explode out of sheer abuse. Somehow, even though he’d retired from Justicar, Kir still had to keep cleaning up the Home’s messes. Life just wasn’t fair.
Finally though, he managed to convince the authorities on Antei that they weren’t an invading force, or a hostile force of any kind. But they couldn’t land, nobody was allowed to land. They also apparently had to leave the system immediately or risk being shot out of the air. Typical.
Halc was useless, he hadn’t been able to lift the travel restrictions Muz put on the system. So it was up to Kir. Suddenly, an idea struck him. "TARAX! Stop helping Ben and fetch me my legal pad, I have an argument to write!" The absurdity of the request leant him an air of validity, that only a member of the Home could understand. Within moments, Tarax handed him a bright yellow pad of flimsi, and went back to Ben. It took him a few minutes, but Kir was finally finished with his rough draft, which from the looks of the fighter craft converging on the ship would have to do.
Hitting the comm, Kir opened a channel back up to Antei air traffic control. "I must insist Senility, any further maneuvering in Antei’s atmosphere, and we will be forced to treat you as hostile, withdraw from the system at once!"
Taking a deep breath, Kir began his defense. "If it please the court... I mean controller, I must formally request asylum for the crew and passengers of the Senility. We are fleeing from one Keirdagh Cantor, former Justicar to the Brotherhood, and an all-around unpleasant man." With a brief pause for breath, Kir continued, not letting the controller get a word in edge-wise. "As you know, asylum can only be granted under the laws of the Dark Covenant to a person or persons from another galactic power. I propose, that a man as powerful and unstable as Keirdagh currently is, can be recognized as a galactic power under the following amendments to the..."
Kir rattled off numerous references and requests to support his latest spark of legal brilliance, and it appeared as though the controller was convinced.
"Very well Senility, we grant you temporary asylum." Kir breathed a sigh of relief. "We inform you however, that we must now treat the X-Wing in which Master Cantor is terrorizing you as an enemy agent, and advise you to land, unless you get caught in operations to neutralize this so-called hostile foreign power." With that, the controller signed off, and the military frequencies that the Senility monitored burst to life.
"Uh... oops" said Kir quietly.
Telaris, sitting next to Kir looked at Kir in amazement. "Kir, did you just have Yacks declared an enemy of the Brotherhood?"
"Uh... I think... maybe?"
In Pursuit of Freighter Senility
In concert, the Brotherhood ships and fighter craft who had been holding station above the Senility and his X-Wing turned toward Keirdagh’s X-Wing and accelerated. Suddenly, the need to punish Howlader didn’t seem quite as important. "Holy shit," he whispered. "What the hell did you idiots do now?" He didn’t have time to ask though, suddenly the fighters opened up in what appeared to be a solid wall of fire. Dropping the fighter into a drop-kick maneuver, Keirdagh jetted away from the enemy forces, weaving through seemingly endless laser blasts. "I am so fucked" he thought to himself.
Above the Dark Hall
Howlader watched the fleet turn on Keirdagh’s X-Wing. "OK guys, it’s your favourite time of year... go get in the escape pod!"
"Howie, leave it alone, we’ve got to get to Halc, this is officially bigger than us. Yacks will be fine." The words were obviously a strain coming from Telaris, but he was speaking the truth.
"Let me put it this way, if you want to stay here with me, while I help Yacks, then don’t get in the escape pod." The others, who knew the crazed look in Howlader’s eye, simply shook their heads and got moving. Once the seals on the pod went green, and he confirmed that the team was safely ensconced within it, Howlader set a collision course for the Dark Hall, near Halcyon’s office.
"Oh by the way guys... you may want to put on your crash harnesses."
"Wait, Howlader what are you planning?"
"You guys wanted to go see Halc; I’m sending you to Halc." The massive building that was the Dark Hall had completely engulfed his view screen at this point. Ignoring the collision warnings and howled protests from Antei control, he kept going until it looked like there’d be no chance to avoid a crash. Suddenly, just in time, Howlader spun the Senility on its side, and launched the escape pod. As the pod went flying away, Howlader waved cheerfully with a manic grin on his face. "Bye guys! Have a safe trip!"
Now, in space, that little maneuver wouldn’t have done much to the escape pod. In full atmosphere, where gravity and aerodynamics affected the flight of an object, the little escape pods thrusters couldn’t bring it under control before its ballistic course crashed it right through the building. Conveniently, the battered—but still intact—pod rolled to a stop in the same hallway that Halcyon kept his offices.
Package delivered, Howlader turned his focus to the more pressing problem at hand. "Hang on Yux, I’m a coming!!!"
In Deep Deep Shit
Keirdagh was no rookie at space combat. Having logged countless hours behind the controls of a fighter, in some of the worst space battles imaginable, with the Force guiding his hand, he’d come out of every battle on top. This might finally be the time where the account came due. He maneuvered the craft in a dizzying array of loops, spirals, drop kick reversals, anything he could think of; but it wasn’t nearly enough. Already his shield indicator was glowing an ominous shade of red, and the paint on the hull was nearly black with scorch marks from lasers that had burned through his shields. Just as he was about to pack it in, he heard a manic bear-like war cry cut through the hissing of near misses. "Hang on Yux, I’m a coming!"
Sure enough, streaking from atmosphere like Kir at a Bachelorette party was the Senility, cutting between Keirdagh and the capital ships that were hemming the beleaguered X-Wing into the system. The Senility might not have the sheer maneuverability of an X-Wing, but Ben had personally upgraded its shielding systems, so it could take a beating and keep on flying. "Get clear Yacks, we’re toast if we stay much longer!"
Suddenly, not having to divide his attention between the swarming fighters, and the overbearing presence of the capital ships raining fire down upon him, Keirdagh was able to squirm his way into an exit point, and begin the run up to hyperspace, Howlader close on his heels.
Just as the range counter was ticking down, Keirdagh had to make a sudden dodge, as a rogue TIE fighter nearly swatted him from the sky.
With the pull of a lever, Keirdagh shot off into the safety of Hyperspace, having forgiven Howlader his earlier transgressions in full.
The team burst into Halc’s office and immediately dove for cover, as he brought his custom Bryar pistol to bear, sending a spattering of green bolts at the door frame. "Halc it’s us!" Shadow yelled. Just to be sure, Halc fired a few more bolts. "Damn it, stop firing!"
"Oh I’m sorry, did I scare the people who just crashed a god damned space ship into the building just down the hall from my office?" Halcyon snapped sarcastically. "I should have known it was just you idiots, and not a real attack. What the hell is this all about? I don’t know if I can explain this one away for you guys."
Everyone rose to their feet gingerly, still smarting from the rough treatment of Howlader’s drop-off. "You said something about Rainbow Brite, what the hell is going on?" Apparently he hadn’t figured out the code after all.
"It’s Muz, Halc... he’s converted to the Jedi," said Shadow simply.
"It’s why he’s weakening the Guard," continued Kir, "he’s making sure they can’t oppose him when he turns on the rest of the Brotherhood."
"Oh come on, that’s ridiculous!" spat Halcyon, though everyone could tell he was shaken by just the accusation.
"We saw it Halc," picked up Tarax, "we saw Ashia and Taig, and they were chanting that ridiculous Jedi code, spewing peace and tranquility and all that bull." Vlad just nodded in agreement.
"..With our own eyes Halc. There’s no way Ashia and Taig would convert, if Muz wasn’t in on it too. No way in hell."
The gravity of the news took a few more minutes to sink in to Halc’s skull. He was never this indecisive when he was in Tal, mused Shadow. "Fine, let’s deal with it." Nodding grimly, the team checked its weapons and then fell in behind Halc as they marched down the corridors of the Dark Hall, headed for the throne room.
"We’re off to kill a Wizard... a wonderful wizard of Jedi..."
"SHUT UP, VLAD!"
The team burst in, prepared for the battle of their lives. Three Dark Prophets, a Master, an Adept, and three Exarchs; all trained to be some of the most efficient and deadly soldiers of the Dark Side in the history of the galaxy. All knowing that today, they might die anyways.
Killing a Grand Master was not an easy proposition, even if he had gone over to the ways of the Light Side of the Force. The Team spread out, sending a hail of covering fire to pin Muz down while Halc, Kir and Shadow rushed forward to engage him in melee combat.
"What’s up guys?" said a happy voice from the Iron Throne.
Everyone stopped in their tracks, and finally looked around to take in the scene that was laid out before them: the ruins of a TIE fighter were lodged in the mostly caved in ceiling behind the dais. Muz lay dead next to the foot of the throne, and lounging upon it, was Jac, fiddling with a strange device that looked somewhat familiar to every member of the team.
Suddenly, Ben burst forward. "Jac, I told you not to touch anything in my lab!"