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A Glimpse Behind the Veil: Halcyon & Vodo




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  • Feel free to talk as much, or as little about the team of NPCs you bring with you, or any One Sith enemies you encounter.

A Glimpse Behind the Veil

It has been decided that you and a small team will embark on a stealth mission to Nicht Ka. Accompanying you are various members of Taldryan’s Elite Army Unit: the Darkfire Battalion. Your mission is to track down the so called spymaster that is orchestrating the One Sith’s efforts against Taldryan from Nicht Ka, and to find out details on the trap that they were planning to lay for us.

Take your team, infiltrate the planet, and return to Karufr with the intelligence we need to finally finish this war against the One Sith.


Jerjal Fina Plains
Nicht Ka
0900hrs Planet Time

“Sergeant Tarrens, its time to move.” The words came from Halcyon, who was already in motion as his loose robes flowed over the light body armor that clung to his muscular form.

The Master Sergeant snapped up, grabbed his weapons and yelled out, “Up and at `em, you layabouts!”

Jackal 2, Master Sergeant Jek Tarrens, made sure his section of three was following before he began following the Dark Jedi Master who strode on ahead. He trotted after the man and when he was in lockstep with him he called up his HUD map.

“Did you sense them?”

The Taldryan Jedi clenched his teeth and nodded, “Yes. You were right, I think. I feel them in the direction of the plateau and I suspect they made their first objective.”

“With that view, we should be able to line-of-sight comms with them. What gives? Are we being jammed?”

“I wouldn’t doubt it. I can sense that my Apprentice is angry. He’s in combat, fighting someone or something”, Halcyon stated as he scanned the early morning terrain as they went.

Jackal Squad’s second fireteam fanned out behind and around the Dark Jedi and their team lead. They screened the rocks and barren landscape for hidden targets and traps, but in a place as inhospitable as this, one stone looked just like another. Continual ammonia storms and rainfall had bleached the soil a pale milky yellow and left crusty white calcifications in dark recesses where the poisonous liquid had built up over the millennia. The air was breathable here, on Nicht Ka, but no one was in a hurry to remove their armored helmets for any great period of time. Staff Sergeant Alaine Feware had already contracted a slight headache from the few minutes she’d removed her own when they’d made camp for the night. Halcyon didn’t seem to be bothered much by the noxious fumes, but Jek figured that his Dark Jedi sorcery probably protected him somehow.

“Combat? The Contact was prepared to intercept intruders then. Okay, two-two and two-four, we’re headed to the plateau. You’re on point, and two-three, you’ve got our rear”. Jackal 2-2 was the call-sign of Sergeant Yureff Slytt, 2-3 of Feware, and 2-4 of Corporal Tekke Jansan.

They covered the first several kilometers in record time with no sighting of an enemy contact. The rise of the land peaked in a narrow, flat-topped plateau ahead of them. They were three klicks out and they could already begin to see the flashes of light and hear the retort of weapons fire. Jackal 1 was encamped atop that feature, already under siege. Jek needed to get his team there quickly, before it was too late.

Pre-mission Breifing
Darkfire Battalion Barracks
Taldryan Expeditionary Force Karufr
1030hrs (Two days earlier)

Jackal Squad filed into the briefing room. Balko Chet, the Bothan leader of Jackal Squad, was greeted by Major Garin Smith, the Battalion S3 and Colonel Fiera Foll the Battalion Commander. Standing beside them were two Dark Jedi, with whom she was already acquainted with. Halcyon Rokir Taldrya was a tall man, lean and fit. Vodo Biask Taldrya was half-Twi’lek, half-machine from the waist down and all fury. She and her team, and others like them she supposed, had trained with Dark Jedi from Taldryan on a regular basis and she knew these two from some of their more recent drills.

“Lieutenant, Jackal Squad, good morning”, Smith began as he bid them to surround the holo-table so that everyone could have an unobstructed view of the briefing.

Chet folded her beret in half and tucked it under her arm before snapping a crisp salute to the Colonel, “Good morning, sir. Masters Taldrya, good to see you as well.”

Halcyon smiled and inclined his head by way of returning the greeting while the other Dark Jedi, Vodo Biask, merely nodded curtly. Chet was never comfortable around Biask, but from scuttlebutt, few others did were well. The man knew his business, however, and that was all that mattered in this line of work. Rokir on the other hand could be genial, professional, and reserved all at once. If only he had a little more fur, the Bothan mused to herself.

“Now that we’re all assembled, I’d like to get started”, Foll began as he cleared his throat, “Taldryan Command has directed this Battalion to begin operations to counter the effect of an enemy spy-ring. Forces are, as we speak, moving to uncover the identity of a traitor working from within the ranks of the Dark Jedi.”

Foll didn’t even bat an eye at the two present when he laid the facts bare, “Our mission has been to identify where this traitor has been sending their intelligence and to neutralize that source. Our intent is to cut the middle out of this operation, paralyzing any operational effectiveness it has after the capture or death of the traitor.”

Operators around the table were jotting notes and taking time to analyze the screens and windows that the holo-emitter buried in the table presented to them. Mission specific details, known intelligence, weather reports, and other essential data.

Smith turned to Balko and leaned in close, “The Grey Paladin informant has provided us with a transponder code to get planetside, but I need you to call in a favor with that smuggler Captain-- Noy, was his name?”

Chet nearly groaned. Danol Noy had been a lover, once upon a time, and now was a part-time contract pilot for the Special Operations Command. It wasn’t that his ship was any great piece of work or that his piloting was spectacular, but as best she could tell, it was because he was so unspectacular and unobtrusive. That, and when she called he came running.

“Yes sir.”

Loronar Medium Transport Seven Hells
In-Transit to Nicht Ka
0800hrs Ship Time

“I have to know, Chet-- Where did you find this bucket?”

Chet was polishing the viewplate of her helmet as she looked up and met her XO’s curiosity with a cool look, “A woman must have her secrets, Tarrens. I wouldn’t expect you to know that however, with the sort of girls I see you associating with.”

A chorus of hoots and laughter responded to the jibe as various team members let Master Sergeant Jek Tarrens know they agreed with their leader. Darkfire Battalion’s Quick Response Team comprised of eight men and women of four different species, though most of the human members were a sub-species of some sort. They sat in the cramped ship checking weapons, going through their individual pre-mission routines. Each operator’s routine was different and superstition held that it was those routines that had brought each man and woman out of previous fights. To change the ritual up would be damaging to the team’s morale and luck.

The QRT, or Jackal, their assigned call-sign, represented some of Taldryan’s best non-Force sensitive soldiers and warriors. They trained regularly in a variety of mission types, operation specialities, and alongside other Dark Jedi. The two Dark Jedi participating in this mission were both familiar faces to the rest of the squad. Halcyon cand Vodo each carried the special title of Taldrya, and were both highly experienced leaders and warriors. The operators of Jackal Squad didn’t concern themselves much with the affairs of the organization called the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, of which Taldryan was a part of. They had their orders and focused on their attention on carrying them out.

Chet was a career soldier, having spent fifteen years of her life pursuing the trade. Generally an officer would be pushing a desk after fifteen years, but she’d started out as a grunt; an enlisted woman. It had been five years ago, as a Staff Sergeant, that she’d been selected for Officer Candidate Training and had joined the ranks of the Commissioned.

“L.T.”, Corporal Tekke Jansan called out, “the Cap wants a word with you”.

The Bothan lowered her helmet to the bench and proceeded forward to the cockpit. The Freighter Captain, her former lover and a Bothan as well, turned from his station to look at her, “Balko, we’ve decanted from Hyperspace. This is the planet?”

From behind her a voice answered before she could, “This is Nicht Ka. Set us down at these coordinates, Captain. We want to avoid detection, but try appearing casual.”

Noy looked at the green-haired man, with his green goatee, and shot a careful look at his friend. Danol did not know who or what the Dark Jedi were. He didn’t even know who Chet worked for or why she rolled with seven heavily armed and armored men and women, but he knew to keep his head down and follow orders. Credits came easy to people who knew what questions to ask, and which were better kept quiet. He nodded and returned to his seat. Chet followed Halcyon back to the passenger compartment. The man was pushing two metres and 60 years of age, but still struck an impressive figure.

“Master Taldrya, good luck and happy hunting”.

He gave her an easy smile and returned the sentiment before attending to his peer in the corner. The two Dark Jedi kept their council to themselves, but she trusted the men to feed her team the information they required to succeed. Tools like Jackal Squad weren’t discardable, but were a considerable investment in time, money, and training. Even so, she wished she knew what they were saying to one-another.

“Tarrens! Get them lined up. We insert in five mikes.”

“Aye, Lieutenant! Okay boys and girls, up at `em! Five mikes, that means final checks and load up! Look lively Team Two, don’t let Team One see you slacking!” Tarrens personally inspected the loadouts and kits of each member of Team Two while Chet walked through her Team One operators doing the same. Each team member donned their exo-armor, the seals checked by the nearest squadmate down the line.

Halcyon strapped a light harness to his shoulders with basic survival gear, and aided Vodo in the same manner. The two joined Jackal squad by the exterior hatch, their lightsaber hilts in hand, but thankfully disengaged. The Dark Jedi Master looked at each of the Operators carefully, but evenly, his decades of military service showing. “You know the mission, you’ve seen the intelligence, and you know your roles. Stay alert, stay quiet, and stay alive. Do your jobs out there and we all come back home.”

Everyone nodded. You could see the casual pre-mission jitters worked out at someone rolled their shoulders, popped their neck, and took a deep breath. Someone else would whistle a gentle tune to themselves off the comm in their helmet, while still others merely shifted their weight back and forth while tittering with their equipment.

“Two minutes to touchdown folks. Good luck out there and I’ll be waiting for that drink you promised me, Balko,” Captain Noy said over the P.A.

The announcement was met with grins half-seen through tinted viewplates and chuckles over the squad-comm. Chet hit Sergeant Darren Wilkac over the back of his head in a friendly manner, reprimanding his joviality. Shortly thereafter Noy announced that they were within a minutes of touchdown. At ten seconds Tarrens lowered the hatch which finished its cycle as the ship set down on the planet. The Operators disgorged and took up positions facing different directions, spreading out to establish a defensive perimeter. The Seven Hells took off and disappeared into the clouds leaving Jackal Squad and their Dark Jedi alone on Nicht Ka.


Jerjal Fina Plains
Nicht Ka
2030hrs Planet Time

Chet cursed silently to herself. She hated these types of planets most of all; no moons and a long night cycle. The dark provided them great cover as they traced a route through the rocky, barren landscape, but for all the benefit it gave them their enemy enjoyed the same. Their advantage was that they were unexpected, presumably. There might be sentries, there may be security perimeters, but whatever security there was wouldn’t be expecting them this night anymore than they did on any other.

The going was slow, necessarily. Without established routes to follow Team 1 was forced to blaze its own trail. Vodo was helpful in this regard. Chet figured the Force or something gave him helpful hints, and so far they’d only had to backtrack two or three times. Even with their most up-to-date map readouts, displayed in their helmet HUDs, the topography was difficult to decipher. Hidden gullies, dry washbeds, and rocks littered the landscape. It was like some vision of one the Corellian Hells, which ironically Noy’s ship was named after.

“Lieutenant, I’ve got lights on the horizon at two o’clock”, said Sergeant Ully Val Pol, her Recon woman. A Cerean, her helmet was extended to accommodate her oversized skull, but had additional sensor cams for increased visual acuity. Her blaster rifle was leveled in the direction of her sighting, and as Chet came alongside her a HUD alert popped up highlighting the visual. True enough, in the distance there were three lights, moving slowly east to west.

“I see them. Distance?”

Val Pol was silent for several seconds before she answered, “Range finder fluctuates between one-point-five and two-point-five kilcks. I can’t get a solid read”.

“Okay, we move on. Everyone be advised: three sources of light within three klicks of us in grid-square Aurek-Cresh niner-niner-four two-five-six. We will not engage and continue enroute.”

She received acknowledgements to her orders, except from the Dark Jedi whose dark gaze never left. her. They continued onward, picking their way through the terrain. With no moon in the sky their HUD had ratcheted the contrast up on their sensors giving everything a silvery patina and slightly surreal quality. Every now and then distant flashes of thunder would provide just enough light that her sensors would overcompensate and desaturate the image making her night vision temporarily impotent. There was no regularity to the ammonia storm’s thunder and the system in her helmet couldn’t develop an algorithm for dampening the effect.

“Lieutenant Chet, I sense danger. Have your Operators hold position,” Vodo said suddenly, as he stood right beside her. For a two-metre tall, half-cyborg, half-Twi’lek Dark Jedi, he moved like a shadow. It sent a chill down her spine, and under her armor she could feel her fur fighting to stand on end.

“Team, hold position.” She changed the channel to a private link to the Dark Jedi’s comm, “What is it?”

Vodo wore no helmet, but rather an earpiece so that he could patch into the Squad’s comlinks at need. “I’m unsure. It permeates the land around us as though the dark side of the Force is imbued in it. I’ve only felt this in ancient places; tombs and the like.”

She knew that Nicht Ka had been part of an ancient Empire ruled by the Sith species, and so it made sense to assume that there could have been some tombs. “You said danger, though. The dead concern me little, Master Taldrya”.

He glanced at her sideways with a look of withering disdain, “You’d be surprised. There is danger. It lingers, hiding in the shadows. It’s below us.”

She instinctively looked at her feet and kicked the dirt there, “Wilkac, are you getting any EM readings? Radio or otherwise?”

“No Ma’am. We barely have comms with Team Two at this point. Something in that storm is playing havoc with my systems”, Wilkac responded as he attempted to tap out a few commands on his wrist-mounted datapad, and failing that took his weapon back from Kelso Gi who stood beside him.

She didn’t like it. Comm death was the first sign of a mission about to go sour, or so her superstitions said. There was no official reason to call off the mission as of yet though. One Dark Jedi’s bad feeling and spotty comms meant her team was still capable of carrying out their recon objective, “Ok, we have two hours to summit that ridge and make camp. Team Two is counting on us to be in position by sun-up. Master Taldrya, keep me informed if you get a more defined sensing.”

The Dark Jedi was silent as she hefted her weapon and waved the team to move on. Nominally, the Force User shared her rank and command authority, but they would defer to the will of the military commander in most situations. It maintained a solid and cohesive chain of command, reduced confusion, and prevented resentment from the soldiers. The Dark Jedi operated in concert with the team, in situations like this, but independent of the commanding officer. They choose which orders they would follow and which they would not. This is where the joint training came in handy.

The Operators got to know and trust their Dark Jedi companions and Chet hoped that feeling was reciprocated on their end as well. If it wasn’t, the Force User wouldn’t be invited back. There were more than a few Taldryan Dark Jedi who had not made good impressions upon the special operators of Darkfire Battalion and command had informed their superiors that these Force Users were not permitted to deploy with their teams. It spoke of the respect the Dark Jedi leaders had for their non-force sensitive underlings that those marked had not been reintroduced or forced upon the Battalion.

Several kilometers in the distance was a large rise in the land that topped out in a near vertical ridge. Their stage-one mission was to summit it, establish an overwatch, and beginning scouting the surrounding area for foot patrols, radio signals, and ship traffic. Thus far it had been quiet and did not promise much, but what good was a secret base if it was easy to find. Two hours later they had reached their objective and the first hint of dawn lit the sky to the east where the thunderstorm had been earlier that morning. The ridge commanded a view that stretched to the horizon in all directions and made for a very defensible location should they be backed into a corner.

“Darrens, you have first watch. Wake me at oh-six-thirty.”

Wilkac took up a position overlooking their small encampment and the ledge over the plains below. Vodo stalked off a ways and disappeared from sight without a word. He could be relieving himself, she mused, but then again-- how would he without his lower half? From the navel down it all was metal and machine. Did he even have that need? Surely he would, she’d seen him eat nutrient packs and guzzle water like the rest of them. With those thoughts she gently slipped into the easy embrace of a light sleep.

A pat on her shoulder awoke her. It seemed like she’d only just closed her eyes. She glanced at the time displayed in her HUD and saw that it read 0559. She woke up immediately, fully alert, seeing gestures from Ully telling her to remain low and quiet ─ something was wrong. Every operator was prone and still as Wilkac told them over securecom his sitrep, “Two droids, Bug Crushers by the look of them, climbing the south slope.”

“Where is Biask? Has he returned?” She had IFF icons on her map for each team member, except for the Dark Jedi, who did not wear the same armoured suit.

“I’m here, Lieutenant, to your six.”

“Roger”, she confirmed as she crept forward with her belly on the ground until she was even with Darrens. “Do they know we’re here, or is this just a patrol?”

“The krelling things are following our path exactly. One has stopped and prodded the dirt a few times with something in its arm. Pheromone tracer or something?”

She bit her lip and cursed the Dark Jedi. She’d argued with command that they be made to wear the same armour, but had been told to mind her team and not the Force Users, “Val Pol, get eyes on those droids. Wilakc, try and get ahold of Team Two. Inform them that things are going to get hot soon.”

Darrens shook his head, “I’ve been regularly trying to raise Jackal Two with no success”.

“Try it again. Gi Kal, check our six. Take Biask with you.”

“Aye, Aye Lieutenant,” Gi Kal replied as he climbed to his knees, gave the Dark Jedi a gesture to follow, and fell to the rear.

“Two more Bug Crushers at ten o’clock,” Ully announced, taking up a position near the ledge and scanned the ground with her rifle. It was a mean piece of work and designed for a true marksman.

“I’ve three more dead ahead. They’re here in force L.T.” Darrens voice was calm and cool, but strained as though he was trying to contain his emotions.

“Lieutenant, this is Tal-Two,” Vodo said through the comms. His callsign designated him as the subordinate to Halcyon, who carried the callsign of Tal-One. “They know we’re here. There are three Hunter-Killer Droids ascending the north side.”

Frek, “Copy that Tal-Two. Okay team, we’re in for it.”

Pre-mission Breifing
Darkfire Battalion Barracks
Taldryan Expeditionary Force Karufr
1210hrs (Two days earlier)

“As best we can tell, the Traitor has various means of getting intelligence out of system,” Smith stated as he circled around to one of the control panels on the holodisplay table. “With the Grey Paladin’s tip offs, the Signals Intelligence Division has stumbled across three.”

Various windows popped up over the table showing the technical specifications of a radio transmitter device that had been cleverly hidden as some poor drunk’s leg. The man has been walking around with the implant for more than a year. To the best of his knowledge he had broken his leg after a night of drinking, stumbling and getting knocked out. He woke up in a Medcenter, his leg all patched up. Regular check-ups in a seedy neighbourhood never found anything wrong.

“It was free, and my leg felt great,” he had told his interrogators when they asked him why he’d never been suspicious.

Other windows on the table showed dead-drop locations, long since abandoned as far as forensics could tell, and tightbeam transmissions that had been encoded and sent on public access systems towards Sith Space. Foll took an interest in examining the latter, though he’d been through the files many times already.

“Do you have any leads on the identity of the traitor as of yet?” Halcyon asked, standing beside the Colonel.

Foll shook his head and swiped several of the lesser windows out of view, “No, we’ve got another team working on that. We took the Consul’s advice and have teamed up with Director Edo’s boys over in SIS and others working with SEC. If this guy is still on Karufr, we’ll find him soon.”

The Dark Jedi Master nodded sagely and returned his attention to the Major. Smith took this as his cue to continue, “We managed to trace the trajectory of one of the signals beamed off-world to the vicinity of the old Sith Worlds. It took some work but Signals Intelligence thinks the recipient was on the Nicht Ka system.”

“Nicht Ka?” The question came from Vodo, who was normally quiet during mission briefings, but suddenly leaning forward. “That world is all but uninhabitable.”

Chet smiled knowingly, “Where better to hide?”

The operators of Jackal Squad murmured their agreements, but the Major cut in, “Settle down. We pulled up everything we knew on Nicht Ka and turns out we might have a hit. Brotherhood sources reported shipment manifests detailing flights to and from nearby worlds as well as several missing ships that had various connections to businesses that had dealings on Nicht Ka. In Intelligence, we sometimes say what isn’t spoken speaks loudest. We have good reason to believe the Traitor’s cutout, or contact, is there.”

“There’s an awful lot of world there, Major,” Tarrens piped in.

“What, you aren’t looking for any over-time this week, Sergeant?”

“I’m always looking for that bonus, but I’m not sure Taldryan can afford to pay my grade for the next twenty years as we scour the surface for traces of this-- this informant.”

Colonel Foll cut the chuckles short, “Lucky for us then that we’ve narrowed the target area down to a mere twenty-five square klicks”.

Chet thumbed through several displays herself before she felt it was the proper time to ask, “Do we know what we’re up against? Who, what, and how much?”

Major Smith chewed on the inside of his mouth momentarily before slowly shaking his head, “I’m afraid not. Consul Aslar has impressed upon the Colonel and I the importance of speed in this matter and Master Halcyon assures me that with two Dark Jedi your team should be well equipped to face down just about any threat short of–”

“Short of three Dark Jedi or an Army. Is that what you were about to say?” Chet wouldn’t acquiesce to throwing her men and women into a fight blind without damn good reason. She knew these Dark Jedi, Biask and Rokir, and trusted them a far bit further than she would most of their kind, but even her trust had its limits. Her people had families, futures, and dreams. Hell, Tarrens just had his first kid.

“We understand your concern, Lieutenant, but frankly these orders cannot be countermanded.” She could tell the Major was angry with her and probably embarrassed that his subordinate was putting her foot down like this in front of the two Jedi.

“Understood, Major. I want heavy load outs then. I want to be absolutely prepared for anything that could possibly be thrown at us.”

“I’m afraid that’s going to be a negative as well” This time it was the Colo


Loronar Medium Transport Seven Hells
In-Transit to Nicht Ka
0400hrs Ship Time

The ship was quiet with most everyone sleeping. Chet used this time to go over her maps and documents one last time before they made planet-fall. There was a lot to process here. She wasn’t pleased with the way command had rushed the preparations, but in the end she wasn’t paid to approve of or disapprove of her CO’s orders. She was a professional, a soldier, and a warrior who followed her orders. It would be her job, the one she was paid to do, to get eyes on the enemy operation here and get her men and women out in one piece. She knew Jackal Squad could do it.

With the cabin lights dimmed it was difficult to see who was talking, but she could hear their hushed tones from where she sat atop her rucksack and harness. Her pointed ears twitched on their own accord, honing in on the voices. It was most likely Wilkac and Tarrens and she allowed their noise to distract her momentarily as she listened in.

“Yeah, I’m pumped. I got the notice just before we shoved off.”

“Let me see it. Woah, unreal Brother. You gonna do it and leave us behind?”

“Heh, its not all about you Tarrens.”

“It sure is and if you haven’t learned that yet Sergeant, maybe it’s about time you got your L.T. on.”

Balko knew the topic well. She’d sent the papers and request to Captain Dondarit herself. Darren was a capable soldier and had proven himself several times over. He deserved to attend the Academy more than anyone and she knew he’d make a fine leader in a few years.

“Maybe I will, Master Sergeant. Its a big step though.”

“No bigger than some. Linda and I just had our first kid.”

“You’re kidding me! You didn’t think to let anyone here know? Hells, Sarge… Why the frek are you humping all the way out to gods forsaken Nicht Ka with this bunch when you could be at home with the kid?”

That got a chuckle from both men, “That was a big decision as well. Everything in me says I shouldn’t be here, that I should be back on Karufr holding him, holding my wife, and spending all my time doting and cooing and-- Gah! I’m a Jackal though, Darren. You guys are my boys, even the girls. I have just as much of an obligation to you bunch as I do to the wife and kid. Who’s gonna wipe the L.T.’s ass if I wasn’t here?”

Chet smiled. Tarrens was a long-time friend, and was one of the few who could survive a comment like that. “There are plenty more people interested in my ass, Tarrens.”

“Yes, Ma’am!” She could hear the embarrassment in his voice, causing her to chuckle quietly to herself.

The men continued chatting quietly for a bit before the conversation died. One, or both, probably drifted off to sleep. In the life of a soldier only two things were as precious as gold was to a Toydarian: sleep and caf. One learned to steal both whenever possible in the military for you could never be certain when the next chance would come around. Indeed, every member of her team seemed to be doing now, but sleep eluded her still. Her eyes must have been red and she could no longer focus on the datapad in front of her.

The Lieutenant stood and stretched her legs before deciding to quietly pace the small freighter. Her friend, the Captain, had remarked that there wouldn’t be much space with eight fully armed men and women as well as two Dark Jedi, but there was still room enough for her to go to the fresher, walk the corridor to the cockpit and poke her head inside.

There was no one inside and the door to the Captain’s stateroom, directly behind the cockpit, was closed up. The door to stateroom opposite it was open a sliver. She knew this was where the Dark Jedi had made themselves at home. She hesitated at the sliding door, preparing to knock when the door opened without a noise. Halcyon and Vodo sat opposite one another, rather relaxed.

“I thought I sensed you out there, Lieutenant. Please, come on in.” Rokir had an easy familiarity to him. Chet always saw the focus and determination in him during missions and maneuvers, but every so often he’d show his softer side. She found it perplexing, as it seemed at odds with what she knew of the Dark Jedi and their ethos.

Above my pay-grade, she thought, pushing it from her mind.

Vodo had a disconcerting grin. If it wasn’t his yellow, sharpened teeth, then it was the piercing glare he directed upon those he considered lesser than himself, she surmised. “She finds our presence uncomfortable, Master.”

Halcyon poked his cheek with his tongue, probing for something, “No, Biask, it’s just you. Please, have a seat, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, Master Taldrya.” She entered and found a seat which happened to be as far from the two in the small room as she could get. “I noticed that your door was open and was curious if you two were up, yet.”

Vodo nodded, “We don’t require much sleep. The Force sustains us.”

Like most beings with no connection to the Force she always found the claims users made somewhat dubious, but then again, she had seen the Dark Jedi of Taldryan perform prenatural feats of speed and strength and agility. She’d seen objects lift into the air, guided by some unseen hand; seen bolts of blue lightning arc from the very fingers of the Dark Prophet sitting mere feet from her. There was no denying that they could tap into some power that was unknown to her.

“What keeps you awake, however is the real question I believe. I sense unease in you, Lieutenant,” Halcyon said as he glanced over his shoulder to her and smiled.

The man reached into a recess behind where he sat, fumbling for a few moments before drawing out two cups. Both were steaming and filled the room with the aroma with fresh caf. He levitated one of the mugs to her waiting hands. “I never go off to war without this stuff. I don’t know if you know this, Lieutenant, but I was a fighter pilot for a number of years and I don’t know if I would have made it past my first year without a steady stream of hot caf. Vodo, he can’t stand the stuff.”

The Twi’lek scowled, but that just meant his face changed only slightly, “I prefer other indulgences.”

“Indeed,” Halcyon said, nodding slowly before taking a measured sip of the hot liquid.

It was always hard to read the relationship between these two, Chet felt. It was obvious that Vodo was the subordinate of the two, but there were many equalizing factors between them. She’d heard that both had served as Consul of Taldryan, had held high offices in the secretive Brotherhood, and both carried the name of their Clan. Were they friends? Brothers in arms? Master and Student?

The Dark Prophet stood and rested a hand on the ship’s bulkhead, so that he could peer out the viewplate to the hyperspace tunnel, “I know you have your reservations about this mission, Lieutenant. You must understand though, our enemies are not waiting around for us to make our move. Their plans are ever evolving and changing.”

“Master Taldrya, may I speak frankly?”

“In this cabin, please.”

She took a large swallow of the drink in her hand, ignoring the fact it was just past too hot to do so comfortably, “This whole mission stinks. From top to bottom it feels like it was thrown together by amateurs and the mistakes made by command will be born by my people.”

Command was a gentle way of say the whole command apparatus of Darkfire Battalion, the Taldryan Expeditionary Force, and the Jedi that commanded them.

The room began to grow cold. It seemed as though the lights began to dim though she could see the emitters were just as bright as they’d ever been. It was as though something was sucking the photons from the room and hiding them away. At the same time, the two Dark Jedi began to grow in size. Though they never moved, and proportionally to the room they never changed, they just seemed more immense to her. Her hands quivered.

Vodo spoke quietly, but with an icy edge, “Lieutenant, we do not care who or what you think you are. Taldryan does not care about your qualms. You will carry out your mission and you will accomplish your goals.”

“Enough, Biask,” Halcyon ordered, steel in his voice as he looked at the Twi’lek.

The room, and the Dark Jedi, suddenly returned to normal. She blinked and cleared her eyes. An illusion? Had she imagined all that? Her heart was racing and her hands were still weak, “I–”

Rokir stood and waved at the air slowly, opening the sliding door to the corridor. “We’ve got a few hours before we make planetfall. Take that time and prepare yourself.”

Jerjal Fina Plains
Nicht Ka
1200hrs Planet Time

“I count four YVH-Three combat droids, two robed figures, and a lot of wreckage. Jackal-One put up a hell of a fight, Sarge,” Feware said, glancing over her shoulder and away from her Marksman Rifle.

Tarrens cursed. He had expected this report, but had held out hope Chet’s people had some how managed to hold the enemy off, “Survivors?”

Through the darkened visor of her helmet it was hard to determine the face she made, but Tarrens suspected it was a tight-lipped grimace, “Hard to tell from here. There are five bodies, laid out beside one another; No idea if they are ours, theirs, alive, or dead.”

Tarrens cued his comm to ping Halcyon, “Master Taldrya, what’s your reading?”

“Biask is alive. I can sense him, but I don’t think he’s conscious. As for your men I can’t be certain from here. There are more than a few living Force signatures over there, but I have no idea who, or what, they are.”

It appeared there were limits to what Force magic could do. That astounded Tarrens, who’d grown up hearing stories from his grandfather on Coruscant of the Jedi of old and their feats of strength and heroism. That he’d wound up working for an avowed ‘Dark’ Jedi would have rankled the old man’s sense of justice, but someone had to pay the bills and Taldryan just happened to pay more than most.

“Sarge!” Alaine’s voice filled his ears, “The droids are on the move and they’re taking the bodies with them.”

He climbed up the boulder to lay prone beside her and with his own shorter range scope followed the scene. One droid carried a body, cradled in its massive,; weapons-laden arms while the other two dragged two bodies each by the legs. Their going was slow and his very being wanted to order a headlong charge to rescue his Lieutenant and teammates, but he knew that was folly. There would be no way to make it that far in time.

“Feware, follow their progress from here. Jackal-Two, prepare to move out. We’re going to shadow those droids. We have a mission to complete.”

Jansan and Slytt climbed to their feet, their groans muffled by their helmets, and hefted their weapons, “Aye, Sarge.”

Under Jackal 2-3’s eagle eye the rest of the team, along with their Dark Jedi adjunct, carefully shadowed the droids who moved slowly to the south-west. Unencumbered by supply packs and miscellania the four of them made good time and quickly closed the distance. The difficulty was in maintaining their cover and stealth while remaining as close to their marks as possible. When the droids threatened to move from her view, Feware abandoned her overwatch and double-timed it to catch the team up. She caught up to them just as the droids disappeared into a yawning cave mouth set into the base of a rocky ridgeline.

“This place is very old”, Halcyon announced as he saddled up alongside Tarrens.

They laid prone, hidden in a deep shadow under a rock that overlooked the approach to the cave mouth. About a half-klick to the north a wide, flat area had been cleared of debris and bore evidence of carbon scoring. It was clearly a landing pad for ships and shuttles. A path wound through the rocks from the pad to the cave entrance, invisible to anyone scanning the landscape until you were practically already on top of it, as they were. It was well worn, having been traveled regularly for some time now. Tarrens couldn’t determine if that meant a large enemy presence here for a short time or a small presence here for a long time.

“Old, Master?”

“I can feel the Dark Side here. It’s in the rocks and soil. The taint is old, like a stale musk. Look there, by the cave. You see that fallen pillar?”

Jek trained his scope on the rock the Dark Prophet pointed to and examined it. Sure enough, it looked to have been carved into a fluted cylinder and had once stood upright beside the mouth of the cave. “So, what does that mean to us?”

“Possibly nothing. I suspect this place was once a tomb of some Sith Lord of the Old Empire. No, not Palpatine’s, but maybe someone like Marka Ragnos’”.

Tarrens had no idea who that was. Halcyon sensed the confusion and frustration in the team leader and clarified, “Long story short, the Sith were a species before they were an Order. This planet was once of their domain. Ragnos was one of their greatest Kings and Emperors. This place must have been a tomb or a temple at some point. I suspect our Informant made his home here to camouflage himself from detection by Force Users.”

“The taint of the dark side here, masks his presence?” His grandfather had described his theory once on the location of the lost Master Yoda, who had disappeared after Order 66.

The old man had once told him how places could emit strong feelings in the Force and individuals could hide themselves in these places from other users. Halcyon nodded, “Just so. There’s probably more than just droids down there. Get your team ready for the worst. We have to go in.”


Nicht Ka

Balko Chet’s world was black and red. Her everything hurt. A grenade, the type unknown, had come soaring over her cover and landed between her and Val Pol. Val Pol had wasted no time in throwing herself on top of it. A large concussion had racked the air and had sent both of them flying. Chet had sailed into a nearby rock, the impact knocking the breath out of her lungs and jarring all of her senses before sending her into a black void.

She’d never been knocked unconscious before, but had always figured it was the brains means of rebooting without subjecting one’s self to all the senses screaming to be heard at once. She couldn’t have been more wrong. As she climbed out of the black and fell back into consciousness, she felt as though she’d experienced every minute of pain since she’d gone out. Her head thrummed and pounded while her right leg felt as though someone had pulled on it for hours, making her knee worthless to stand on.

Her surroundings were dark.; dark and made of stone. It wasn’t a pitch black, as her fitful coma had been, but the dark of a room with the lights out. She groped about with her hands, defining the boundary of her confines. She was alive, and captive, and it was possible members of her team could be as well. Ully could have survived the blast; her Kraytskin armor was tough and may have absorbed a decent portion of the blast. At worst, Ully probably lost an arm or leg where the armor was weakest, Chet told herself, trying not to fear the worst… If-- no when-- she got out of this, she’d put Sergeant Val Pol in for the highest commendation she could find.

A door somewhere opened and the tread of metal feet upon stone marched toward her. No lights came on to herald their arrival, only the steady climb in volume of mechanical parts as it approached her cell. When it stood before her all she could see was the red light emitting from its view sensors before a metal hand clasped her upper arm harshly and pulled her along behind it. She half-stumbled behind the droid and was half-dragged down a lengthy corridor. Passing a door that shut behind her, Balko was bathed in light. It was blinding and exacerbated her migraine. The droid lifted her into a chair and strapped her there using the restraints bolted to it.

She was unable to move, but as her eyes accustomed to the light she was able to look around and take stock. She didn’t like what she saw and wished she was back in the cell. There were shelves of tools, cabinets of clamps and vises, and the walls of stone were splashed with dried and flaking liquid that looked suspiciously like blood. The room was a torture-chamber. As the droid departed the room, leaving her alone, her fate slowly began to settle upon her. She allowed herself a small tremble. Only an idiot would pretend that they weren’t terrified of what was going to come next.

Minutes, or hours, passed before the door opened again. A small, crooked man entered. He was Human, and wore a cap over his bald head that had visual adaptors, light emitters, and exposed wiring that tapped into the back of his skull. The man took little note of her as he entered and began to organize various items throughout the room.

When the man was ready, he took a small pick and mirror while opening her mouth with a vise that opened in reverse. He poked around in her mouth for several terrifying minutes. She kept imagining how he was going pull a tooth, maul her gums or perform some other sadistic act. Her heart raced until he finished his examination and removed the vise. He then combed through her fur in various places, took some samples by plucking a strand or two, then left. Thoroughly confused and exhausted, Chet took a deep breath and collapsed into the chair.

As soon as she had, the horror began. The man returned, this time he looked in her eyes and she didn’t like what she saw.

The Droid dragged her back to the cell and dumped her there before locking the durasteel grate behind her. Not that it had needed to, as she was too weak to lift herself, let alone walk out. Her gun hand, the right one, burned with pain where two finger had once been. Her right jowl as well howled in pain, even though he’d cauterized the seams where he’d cut out a piece and sown the remains together. A bald patch on her abdomen held a cauterized scar where he’d cut into her and removed several things. She must not have needed them, for she was still alive. He hadn’t used any anaesthetic, but had instead given her regular doses of some chemical he had mentioned that would keep her awake. It had.

He hadn’t asked her anything. He’d barely spoken the whole time.

Eventually Balko managed to drift off into a light sleep. The pain never really left her but at least in the release of sleep it drifted to the back for a while. She awoke to the sound of the distant door opening against the metal tread of the droid’s steps. Her eyes snapped open and terror filled her. No! Not again! Not Again!

The droid was back, unlocking her cell before the metal-grip grabbed her and picked her up, carrying her down the corridor once more. They went through a door, and as they stepped into the light Chet shook in relief as it wasn’t the same room with the chair. The droid dragged her through a tall stone corridor, well lit, until he brought her to a circular chamber. A rectangular sarcophagus filled the center of the chamber, its cracked lid rested in several pieces in and around it. Databanks, com-stations, and holo-screens dotted the circumference of the room and humanoids of various species sat at work there.

The chamber was well lit as well, an odd choice for such a place. The walls were painted with faded inscriptions in arcane runes and murals. Carvings of long dead warriors and ages dotted the pillars supporting the vaulted arches that met at the center of the ceiling. A place like this deserved torches burning blue flame, sitting in rusted iron sconces along the walls, bathing the scene in an eerie wash of mystery and doom. Instead, the room was filled with bright, clean yellow-white light that left no shadows and washed the chamber of its gloom.

The droid dumped her unceremoniously against the tomb. She found Wilkac and Gi Kal there already. They looked to be in sorry shape as well. When Kelso looked at her, he cradled the left side of his face with a hand that was missing several digits like her own. Beneath his hand she could see a sunken pit of raw flesh where an eye should have been. Her breath caught in her throat. Gi Kal tried to say something to her, but when he opened his mouth only a clacking noise and moan escaped. Without a tongue, he couldn’t say much of anything.

“My Lord, four unknowns entering the courtyard”, one of the men at a databank announced.

A robed figure, tall and gaunt, lifted its head and strode to the officer and examined whatever was on the screen there. They conferred quietly for a moment before the robed figure stood erect and turned to face the three Operators laying strewn up against the sarcophagus. Its piercing gaze burrowed into her, leaving her unable to break away from it. She could imagine thin, pale lips curling into a smile behind the mask it wore.

“Yes, your friends are on their way to rescue you. Four brave men and a powerful Dark Jedi are racing headlong into my lair to save you. Fear not! We will give them a welcome as befitting their courage.”

The form, she didn’t know if it was male or female, shouted out several commands and his men jumped into activity. It was hard to follow the flurry of activity, but it was easy enough to deduce that they were preparing a defence of their facility.

“Who are you?” Wilkac rasped. He seemed to have made out with the fewest physical scars though something about his demeanor suggested to Chet that his scars ran far deeper than her own.

“I am Lord Esoteric,” he answered, Chet fully expecting it to go into a lengthy explanation on the futility of their resistance and that of their comrades. Instead, they turned on their heel and strode off to confer with one of their underlings.

Chet leaned into Wilkac, “Where’s Ully? Vodo?”

Darren shook his head, “This is the first I’ve seen or heard of you two since we were taken. Vodo was with Kelso.”

Chet gave Kelso a sorrowful glance before turning her attention back to Darren, “Ully landed on a grenade for me.”

“Frek. That girl never had much by way of brains. Her Kraytskin–”

“I really don’t know. It should have saved her, but where is she then?”

The chamber shook as though a deep tremor had disturbed the ancient rock. Dust rained down on the databanks and Operators. Esoteric closely monitored the progress of the rescue party one one or two screens, issuing orders at irregular intervals. Several minutes passed before another tremor shook them, followed by a second and a third.

“Sithspawn, are they trying to bring this place down on us?” Balko said to no one in particular.

Esoteric glanced over its shoulder at her, but said nothing. The Sith grabbed one of his adjuncts and sent him running off on an errand. Several minutes later the man returned with a hover-trolley bearing the form of Vodo. The Dark Jedi was bound from head to foot, gagged, and restrained. The pure malice in his eyes made his casual scowl look like a jolly smile.

“Good. Place him there, next to the others,” Esoteric commanded, gesturing carelessly at the sarcophagus as though the other prisoners were of little consequence.

“My Lord, I recommend we begin preparations to leave. The Dark Jedi and his team are making quicker progress than we had anticipated.” The adjunct stood at attention, his jackboots shining the in the light.

“Just so. Have my shuttle prepped and all essential personnel put aboard. Task the droids with a blocking action to this chamber. Wipe the databanks.”

“As you command,” the man saluted and trotted off to do the Lord’s bidding.

The sounds of blasterfire and the thrum of a lightsaber in action could be heard, echoing down the corridor that opened into the chamber. Their rescue was proceeding down, dispatching foes as they came across them. Her hopes began to rise the louder that noise became. Esoteric paced slowly. They looked calm, and the suit it wore gave nothing for Chet to identify.

From across the room a meter long scepter floated into Esoterics hand. It was silver, polished and inlaid with runes and carvings painted black. It was Vodo’s unique lightsaber. She watched as the One Sith fondled it and examined it. “This is an interesting weapon. We have several in our Order who specialize in combat with sabers such as this. Two or three maybe.”

Vodo’s face, unable to make a noise, was the image of pure fury. Esoteric chuckled and tossed the weapon unceremoniously over his shoulder. It clattered as it hit the stone floor and rustled up against the foot of a comm-station. The Sith Lord then pulled his own saber from his belt, under his robes, and brandished it for all to see. It was just long enough for one hand to grasp fully and when he pressed the activator a deep crimson blade rose from its shroud.

“This is the tool of a true Sith. I will use it to kill your Master,” he said, speaking directly to Vodo as he advanced slowly on the restrained Dark Jedi. “You will return with me and we will see about getting you training with a true Sith’s weapon.”

The thrum of a lightsaber filled the room, but it wasn’t Esoteric’s. A flash of green spiralled by as Halcyon’s saber twirled through the air at the Sith Lord, followed by the retort of blaster weapons. Esoteric whirled, his crimson blade meeting the flying saber a mere foot from his face. The green blade stopped and flew across the room into the outstretched hand of the Dark Prophet in his green robes. Halcyon was already in motion, leaping across the divide between him and his target when the saber returned to his hand. He brought it down vertically on the robed figure, who deflected the blow deftly.

The rest of Jackal 2 poured into the room and opened fire on Esoteric’s men. Many of them tried to get out of their seats, but they were quickly put down before having a chance to defend themselves. Tarrens ran forward with a vibroblade in hand, working on freeing Vodo from his restraints, while Halcyon kept Esoteric occupied. The bonds quickly gave under the blade, freeing the Dark Jedi, who all but exploded from his captivity. His lightsaber flew to his hand and ignited as he charged at the Sith Lord to join his brother-in-arms. Jek then turned his attention on the surviving members of Jackal 1. She could see the concern in his eyes when he saw the extent of their wounds, but kept his tongue in his mouth and helped Kelso to his feet, half-carrying him in a retreat back to the corridor, followed closely by Darren and Balko. The rest of Jackal 2 covered their retreat, taking choice shots at the Sith Lord while he engaged the two Dark Jedi.

Esoteric attempted to level a blast of lightning at the retreating Operators, but the arc was intercepted by Rokir’s green saber and directed into the stone floor at the Sith’s feet. The ancient floor exploded in a shower of rock and dust, but the fight wore on. That was the last Chet saw of the fight as they withdrew from the chamber. She looked down and saw someone had pressed a blaster pistol into her left hand and as they moved and saw wrecked Hunter Droids strewn about where they’d been destroyed. Some were sliced open, presumably by a lightsaber, while others bore the scoring of dozens of blaster hits and explosive rounds.

The ground beneath her feet trembled once more, but with far greater vigor than it had previously. A rush of cold, dusty air chased after them shortly after. They did not stop however until they had exited the complex and returned to the surface of Nicht Ka. The distant sound of a rocket faded into the distance, though out of sight, and they were soon joined by their two Dark Jedi.

“Esoteric escaped. He collapsed the roof on-top of us. I’m afraid the databanks are trashed”, Halcyon briefed her quickly, his face haggard from exertion.

Vodo drew deep breaths as he paced back and forth on his mechanical legs. Halcyon walked over to the Twi’lek and laid a hand on his shoulder in what appeared to be some form of comfort. Vodo let his silvery blade withdraw back into the hilt and his demeanor backed down to a manageable furor. Halcyon returned to Chet, who was now joined by Tarrens, while the rest of the able-bodied Operators scanned the rocks and nooks with their weapons, providing security.

“Where’s Sergeant Val Pol?” Halcyon asked.

“MIA. She jumped on a grenade back on the ridge,” Chet said in a voice devoid of emotion, the adrenaline beginning to wear off and reality slowly setting in.

“Frek. Ok, we’ll send a team to look for her when our extraction arrives. Sergeant Tarrens, establish a perimeter. I don’t want to be surprised while we treat the wounded. Biask, you help them. Lieutenant, you come with me.”

Halcyon took her aside, away from the others, “Gods, what happened to your team in there?”

She took a long swallow, “I-- there were… I can’t put it into words right now, Master Taldrya. I think I told him everything. Everything I knew and he never said a thing to me.”

Halcyon stared into her eyes for a long time. She fully expected him to take her head off in a rage, but instead he started nodding slowly, “I see. We’ll handle this. Grab a seat so we can treat you. Our extraction will be here in a few hours. Oh, and Lieutenant?”

Yes, Master?”

“It’s over now.”

It didn’t feel like it. There was no surgery that would give her back her fingers, her organs, or fully repair her face. Poor Gi Kal would never been the same. There were cybernetic implants and cyborg prosthetics for just about every part of any given alien, but somethings just couldn’t be repaired. Her career with Darkfire was likely over as well. A failed mission; half a team MIA or maimed beyond recognition and nothing to show for it.