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[ARC-COU] The Consul Bride


The Consul Bride

An Arconan–Odanite Tale of True Love and High Adventure

Chapter I

A group of people, some shimmering holoprojections themselves, sat in a dim room around a miniature holoprojector in the center of a rectangular table. On one side of the table sat the Odan-Urr delegation, which consisted of a longtime Chiss agent named Len Iode flanked by two holographic colleagues that had aided in his investigation. On his left was a Zabrak male and skilled Arcanist, Akaarn Tayl’cor, and on his right was an elderly Human Jedi who had lent his considerable talents in peering into the Force. On the other side of the table sat the Arconan delegation lead by a redheaded Human Sith named Lucine Vasano, flanked by two minions of her own; a half-Sephi Sith, Rulvak, and half-Selonian female named Eilen Jath who had piloted the other two to the particular location. Both Clans had sent representatives from what remained uncompromised of their respective intelligence branches, the Sentinel Network and the Dajorra Intelligence Agency, to the rare Lotus meeting, and the stakes had never been higher.

“As you can see, the interference in our affairs was subtle and indirect, yet nonetheless potentially has long-term consequences. They tried to attack us through pre-existing local enemies and even through a rogue Inquisitorius cell. Both have been dealt with, but they are still winning the war. Simply put, the Collective has successfully been building its assets and we have reason to believe that they are mounting for another attack,” explained Len.

“And why should that bother us at this juncture? We have been able to coordinate proper responses where needed thus far and kept you well-supplied with information from sources closer to, hmm, home. What is so urgent here?” asked Lucine smoothly, her polite visage impeccable.

“We believe that these smaller attacks may be symptoms of a more serious leak. We think they are going after you again,” replied Liam Torun matter-of-factly.

“We already drove them away. Why would they come back for more?” asked Rulvak.

“All evidence points towards a long-term game that won’t favor either of us. I can walk you through the data again,” offered Akaarn.

“No, darling, we understand the data perfectly well. What eludes me is how it is you believe it can benefit us to engage now. Are you quite sure of this intel? Your ranks were a bit more…ruffled than ours,” replied Lucine while Eilen shuffled and shifted uncomfortably next to her, large ears pressed flat to her head. “The DIA supports your hypothesis, of course, even if it is a bit academic.”

“We are very sure. And as you say, your investigations also support it,” Akaarn replied through gritted teeth. Rulvak was pensive, his usual silent self, as Akaarn and Lucine debated the finer points of just what exactly was ‘academic’ about the argument. Len simply watched his Arconan counterpart as she swiped through the report again, ready to answer her questions. Finally, the Jedi intervened in what was becoming a pointed discussion between the two as to the credit of one another’s agencies; tensions were still high following the defections before and after Nancora.

“Remember, we are all on the same side here. The Collective wants us to fight. Peace, my friends,” reminded Liam.

“…um," spoke up Eilen, her tail tucked tight and fingers jittering. “Forgive me if I’m not understanding, but, these Collective folk you’re talking about, you all beat them, right? Last time? That’s what I was told…”

“Yes, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping them,” stated the Chiss.

“We only cut off one head. A piece of one, even. We still must destroy the rest,” commented Rulvak quietly. He waved a hand, and more data appeared to scrawl over the holoscreens. “Our summit has been digging into the heads of each of the three pillars and their lieutenants. A few key assassinations would buy us much time to dismantle them while they regrouped.”

“Jedi do not assassinate their opponents,” Liam intoned gravely, surely speaking on behalf of the more moral-minded of the Light Clan’s legions.

The half-Sephi twitched his ears, his microexpression disdainful before it went back to smoothness. “Perhaps then Jedi should simply provide support for those of us intelligent enough to do our work, and not protest when it is done. Your hands can stay ‘clean.’”

“We don’t need your coddling,” snapped Akaarn, and before Len could focus the group again, Lucine waved her hand.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen…now now. We all have what we are best suited for, let us not argue about it when we could make each other richer simply by applying our skills most effectively. And, speaking of…Len, dear, you mentioned some additional reports off of that tip I sent you, no?”

“Indeed,” responded the Chiss. He pulled out his datapad, scrolling for a moment, before sending along more files. “Your contact returned favorably. We were able to access some of Capital Enterprise’s expense reports. The banking guilds respond rather more nicely to inquiries from a representative of the Vatali Empire.”

“As I said, roles that we are each best suited for.” Lucine’s smile put a pouncing nexu to shame.

The new data was put up on the holoscreens, temporarily quieting the room while everyone digested the additional information. After a moment passed, everyone simply stared at one another, the uncomfortable truth lingering in the air. Finally, both sides spoke out in unison, indistinguishable from each other.

“We have to do something—"

“An intervention is necessary—”

Len and Lucine both paused. The Chiss waited until the awkward silence passed between them, running through one of the many battle plans in his head. It had the best shot.

“An army marches on its stomach. We need to hit them where it hurts and get rid of their supply lines,” suggested the Chiss.

“Like I said before, a couple key assassinations would do the trick,” replied Rulvak, making a point to look towards the Jedi.

“That won’t solve anything,” rebuked Liam, staring sternly back at the Sephi.

“I mean, speaking literally, it will…” Eilen muttered.

“Besides," interrupted Akaarn, "that’s too obvious. The Collective will see it coming. Ideally, our hands stay clean in this and they are none the wiser until it’s too late.”

“Just a thought, if you guys like it — what about the credits? That’s what makes the galaxy turn, no?” chimed Eilen again, tapping her fingers against her hands.

Lucine grinned, unnerving the rest of the group. “Darlings, it is time to for a soiree.” Most of the room exclaimed in confusion, but the Sith woman simply continued speaking, “Yes. It is time for us to take a lighter touch. We mingle, we woo. Make them happy, and we make us happy. Business, you see? All of you are correct, of course, but the venue is what pulls it all together. I know many influential individuals in many circles, and little is more popular right now than the casino scene on Canto Bight. Well over half the customers there are weapons dealers that made their fortunes in war, in supplying the First Order…don’t doubt for a second they aren’t likely selling to the Collective too through Capital Enterprises,” she said as she brought up images of the city in question with a fan of her manicured nails.

“Huh, that’s not how I remember Canto Bight. When did they start wearing the funny hats?” asked the old Jedi, genuinely concerned at the overindulgence rampantly on display.

Various sounds of discontent were made as most people in the room thought of the ludicrous getup they’d have to don for the occasion. Each looked toward the other and tried to imagine them walking amongst the city’s denizens.

“Now, now, we must keep up appearances, darlings,” reminded Lucine with a smile before a comlink interrupted them.

“Loth cat in the fish bowl. I repeat. Loth cat in the fish bowl.”

It was as if a switch had been thrown. The holoprojections cut. Lucine leapt from her seat while Eilen ran to ready the ship and Rulvak and Len went about grabbing the databanks in the equipment and frying them with Force-born lightning or plasma shots. Everyone physically in the grabbed what they had brought and scattered in opposite directions, knowing their routes to get to the spaceport for extraction.

As they made for home, they couldn’t help but wonder who had tried to join them.


The place sure was fancy.

Domes and spires of gold glittered under the starlight, practically giving off their own glow from the spotlights that reflected off of them. Pristine white marble was kept in perfect condition despite the proximity to the oceanside and its salty air, and carpets of the finest material covered every surface that gleaming, priceless stone did not. Every single accent was made of precious metal, every surface as sleek as could be, clear glass free of smudges or liquid black obsidian. There wasn’t one piece of furniture that wouldn’t surely be worth more than a hundred humanoid lives, and there wasn’t one guest that wasn’t just as richly dressed.

Turel Sorenn, Councillor of Urr, smoothed down the long skirt of his crimson dress as the breeze off the ocean ruffled its Lashaa silk.

“Do I really have to do this?” he sighed, looking to his companion.

“If I have to, you have to,” said Satsi Tameike with a dangerous smirk and a sultry look. Her chin-length, dark hair was pulled back into a small curl of a tail, bangs fluttering messily about her scarred face. The exceptionally tight black trousers, boots, and sash did little to hide her figure, and while her shirt was loosely cut to billow at the chest and sleeves, it still showed off a fair amount of skin with its sharp-V collar dipping to her navel.

"Well, at least I look good," signed the Odanite again, perking as he smoothed back his hair and scratched at his freshly smooth jawline, highlighted by delicate cosmetics. When Satsi rolled her charcoal-ringed eyes, he slid his hands down his chest and hips for emphasis. “Excuse you, psycho, no one is wearing this better than me, and that definitely includes you. Really, I’m doing everyone a service here.”

"Real Jedi of you, being so generous. I’m in awe. In fact, if you listen real closely, you’ll hear the sound of nobody caring." Her gaze cut aside. “And you would not look better than me, preacher. That’d require you to know how to move those hips for something other than sitting around with your eyes closed.”

“It’s okay, sweetie, one day someone outside your family will tell you you’re pretty.”

Despite the barbed words, both former Consuls were grinning happily at each other, cheeks stretched and tones warm, nearly to cooing. Satsi elbowed him.

“C’mon, a bet’s a bet. Let’s get in there.”

“You’re gonna pay for my drinks, right?”

“I should throw you off this frakking cliff.”

“Uh-huh, and then who’d be the Starblossom to your Void Smuggler Yrwe’stl’eyan?”

They were dressed as some of their favorite characters from one of their holonovela dramas, a pirate and a princess. The bet that had lead to the ensemble wasn’t one either was proud of, but it at least provided some amusement to watch the other casino-goers who weren’t in their party stare at them. The two liked to take turns muttering to each other and mocking what the nobles and merchants glaring over their twenty-thousand cred wine glasses might be saying about them, narrating their lives.

“Anyone would be better than you.”

“Keep telling yourself that, sister. And find me some food while you’re at it, I forgot to eat on the way over.”

Satsi’s fond expression turned into a glare that promised pain, but she still looped her arm with his and muttered the show’s iconic quote, “‘As you wish.’ Motherfrakker.”

And with that they swept into the golden building, headed for the ballroom and attached areas where their two clans were being hosted. On a balcony level above the main casino floor of the particular building, two hypnotizing women in lavish gowns observed the other pair’s entrance.

“Who let them dress themselves?” hissed Alethia through ruby lips, her chill eyes fluttering only briefly in a grimace before she controlled herself, gripping her glass of toniray, the teal liquid bubbling.

Aura sighed in suffering next to her. “It is terrible. They’re not even trying.”

“Worse. They are trying. To test my patience.” The High Councillor’s immaculate fingernails tapped out a staccato dirge against the railing, hailing the soon to come death of her previous superiors.

But, by some miracle, the visitors of Canto Bight didn’t seem perturbed by the strange and ridiculous dress; if anything, they barely acknowledged it, as if the costumery fit right in. And well, perhaps, looking at the rest of the room…a bit of overdone costumery did. Sorenn and Tameike looked little out of place among the outrageous clothing; they were drab.

Alethia found herself debating a ostentatiously tall hat like one of the famous Coruscanti duchesses down below had, and made a mental note to shop later. She was working, and nothing would distract her. Her crystalline eyes flickered about the enormous room from game table to game table, checking that all their agents, Arconan and Odanite, were in their positions at designated areas of cover.

Tisto Kingang, Ka Tarvitz, Talis, and Grot were all escorting various others, acting as bodyguards or retainers to those such as Korroth, Chrome, Ozosi Vym, and Zul Zorrander. Ethan Martes and Bon Rivera circled a sabacc table, while newly-returned Rrogan Skar stayed close at hand as Qyriea Arronen’s escort. Zujenia, Lucine Vasano, Celevon Edraven, and Maximus Alvinus mingled about the room, showing off charms, while, tall and small, Eilen Jath and Leeadra Halcyon made their own rounds as a posed couple. Others were scattered about the casino and its nearby buildings, standing guard around the two clans’ ships at the spaceport or patrolling for guards while their fellows tried to suss out what they could. Exotic, beautiful, strange, and wealthy were all welcome on Cantonica; they all just had to pretend for long enough.

Satisfied with her survey, Alethia began making her way down to the main floor, signalling her Proconsul to follow at her own pace; if there was ever a time to employ every advantage they had, from pheromones to mind manipulation, it was instances such as these, and the High Councillor wasn’t about to waste a single opportunity.

The hours passed with the quicksilver slowness particular only to playing a dangerous game; every moment held potential for danger, but every one that passed without gaining what they’d come for seemed to crawl. As the night wore on, the current and former leaders of each clan made their way to one of the bars, all in various states of leisure and several with men or women on their arms, chatting over drinks and flowing credits. One by one, though, they were left to themselves or seated nearby each other, almost as if by sheer coincidence and not by an entire evening of subtle maneuvering.

“Hey there, handsome. Can I buy you a drink?” Satsi Tameike murmured slyly, winking as she slid onto an elegantly carved seat of white Jerba leather and chromium next to her twin brother. Uji Tameike flicked his gaze over to her, repressing a snort.

“Water will do,” he responded, rolling his eyes at the way Turel chortled at his right elbow, clutching his own glass of amber liquid. It was only juice — none of them were the slightest bit inebriated, only playing at it — but the least they could do was try to keep up appearances.

“He’ll take a syrspirit tonic,” Sorenn said smoothly to the bartender, who sniffed but complied. Archenksova lounged in her chair, while Aura moved to sit beside the boys. Satsi immediately stood up, however, thrusting herself between the Zeltron and her twin and Sorenn without even looking at the pink-skinned woman, continuing her sentence and not missing a beat.

“…nd I had a lovely conversation with her Lady Sedulla,” the Arconan went on while Ta’var frowned and took the recently vacated spot next to Alethia instead, the Zeltron already wistfully looking towards a boisterous table nearby.

“How lovely?” asked the High Councillor, controlling her expression and resisting the urge to snap at her fellows.

“I may have a standing invitation to join her in her rooms this evening.”

“You’ll be gracious, I hope.”

“Of course. I would not turn down such a woman or leave her without a parting gift.”

“Worst code ever,” Turel muttered, and someone — no one could say who tried first or whose leg actually reached — kicked him under the bartop.

“Are we all having fun at this shindig?” asked Terran Koul as he sidled over, his favored, sturdy dun duster for once abandoned for more formal attire, dark cloth that made his sharp cheekbones stand out as if carved. Of all of them, he nearly fit Canto Bight best, as long as he didn’t talk too long. The man put an arm casually over Alethia’s shoulders, and the Consul didn’t shrug him off or incapacitate him as she normally would have, merely twirling a glittering earring. “Don’t care much for fancy parties. Too rough.”

“This hasn’t been a disaster so far, don’t make it one,” Alethia replied too sweetly.

“Madame, I would never,” replied the Proconsul.

Kordath Bleu, the current Arconan Consul, wandered over from wherever he’d gone and joined the small group slumping against the bar. He shook his head as he hopped up onto a stool.

“Ya’d think these folk never seen a Ryn before. Tha lady with tha bloody loony hat at tha cards table called me a ‘rodent of unusual size.’ she did.” He half-snarled, half-snorted into his drink, “Bunch o’ racists.”

Satsi put a hand on his arm in solidarity. "Nobles. Lying cowards," she rejoined with equal derision.

“Traitors,” Alethia spoke up, quirking one perfectly manicured brow when the pair glanced at her. “What, are we not naming things we despise?”

“Sith,” Aura added after a pause, curling a strand of crystal blue hair around her finger. “Murderers.”

“Pravus,” Turel swore, to which Uji gave an agreeable grunt.

“People who talk at the theater,” Terran said firmly over his bottle, and then blinked when five pairs of eyes turned to him incredulously. “What? I was going to say slavers, but the former is objectively worse.”

“Mmm, yeah,” the lot of them muttered, nodding in agreement.

“To the frakking scum of the Galaxy,” Satsi proclaimed, lifting her glass. “May they all burn, and may we have a chance to hold the match.”

The clink of six chiming glasses was a pretty sound amidst all the noisy chatter.

Turel turned to Uji. “Hey, wanna see which of us can get more comm codes before the night’s out?”

“This qualifies as investigating?” Uji scathed, quirking his brow. Turel elbowed him.

“It’s making contacts, c’mon! Don’t be afraid to take a bet, Tameike…”

“Fine,” the Arconan conceded, dark eyes cutting aside to his companion with something fond and amused and cruel all at once. He gestured at the man’s crimson dress. “But you cannot use any illusions to masquerade as a woman.”

Turel gaped at him. “But what’s even the point then?! Not fair, this should be no holds barred.”

“We are undercover, or have you forgotten?”

“Honey, if you think I can’t pull off undercover with a couple costume changes included, you really don’t know me or what I can do.”

“I know much of what you can do.”

Uji’s smirk was pointed. The two continued to banter as the rest of the group broke again and drifted in various directions, attempting to mingle and appear casual. Kordath grunted and took a full bottle of whiskey from behind the counter with a sleight of hand before he moved away, Satsi glancing after him.

She followed quickly, taking the Ryn by the arm and yanking him back around in a move that could have been construed as a dance move. Kordath wobbled. Perhaps they weren’t all sober. Satsi pulled the drink out of his hands, sloshing it as she set it back on the other side of the bar.

“Shouldn’t you be off wooing Spots?” she asked through a smile that was perfectly seductive and lazy in appearance but belied by her vicious tone spat past clenched teeth. “Or, say, doing your damned job?”

“Dinnae know why ya brought me along fer this,” the Ryn growled back, pushing away from her. “I can nae work a crowd if they won’t even look at me.”

“Oh, come on. What else are your frakking sparky powers for? Go crawl into their heads for once.”

“It do naet work so easy as that.”

“Sithspit. Shadows, l’ll go. What did I leave you in charge for?”

“Because yer a bleedin’ harpy bent on karkin’ up everything in me life.”

For a second, Satsi looked ashamed. Then she looked angry. Just as quickly, it was gone, hidden behind her glamorous mask again. She leaned in to whisper in his ear.

“Listen, Shadow Lord, how about you go purge your system all sparky like then hit the floor and actually keep your word for once in your life and pull your weight on this op like the rest of us. The padawans are outclassing you right now. Maybe if you pull yourself together, Zujenia will stop looking at you like something she stepped in.”

Then she turned on one tall ebony heel and sashayed away, fluidly inserting herself into a dejarik table. The other patrons were putty in her hands in minutes. Kordath growled and went to find a refresher, muttering an apology to Aura when he bumped into her on his way. The Jedi scowled at him again, but for once didn’t lecture as she moved to giggle with a short man nearly bogged down by the credits he was carrying.

And while the moon climbed higher and higher into the dark sky, not a soul in Canto Bight slept.


“No! Ryn is innocent of this crime, Ryn has done nothing wrong!” shouted Kordath as Canto Bight security forces dressed in platisteel breastplates dragged his drunken form away from the games floor. Many patrons dressed in pure white finery stared after the absurd scene. Alethia put a hand to her forehead and started to follow from a safe distance, wondering what fresh hell this was going to bring.

“Arconans…” she muttered.


Archenksova glanced to her left, where a small plump creature was going through her purse. The… whatever it was turned its massive black eyes up at her and fluttered its wings. Someone had knotted a bow tie around its neck for reasons Alethia couldn’t fathom.

Prreeah! Prreeah!

“As much as I like birds, I’d rather not have you eating my makeup,” the High Councillor said as she shooed the thing away. “Where did you come from?”

The porg’s glassy eyes stared back at her.

The Human leaned forward, taking a closer look at the ridiculous bowtie. “Is that… is that a camera?”

Prreeeeeaaah! the porg screeched, flapping its wings as it launched itself up and over the heads of a number of startled gamblers. Its small form disappeared into the crowd, and the Odanite could only assume that someone had been indolent enough to bring it along as a pet in their purse or some such. Perhaps the Tradoshan from Arcona would eat it.

Grimacing, Alethia checked her chrono, then took out her compact and expertly livened up her foundation and blush, peering into the mirror as she angled it for the nearest lift. The golden doors opened, and Satsi stepped out, readjusting her sash and trousers. Her gaze flickered around the room as she did so, landing on Archenskova, and then she casually fanned three fingers when she finished tying her shirt closed again.

One target down, many to go, the High Councillor thought, allowing a small spark of satisfaction as she snapped her makeup closed and tucked her things back away. A look at her fellow Consul indicated that throwing him out might take longer than the staff had though, and so she decided on discretion, moving deeper into the room so as to disassociate herself with the ongoing disturbance at the entrance. She watched her step carefully as she went — no porg droppings would ruin her shoes.

Satsi, meanwhile, glared as the three cursing security guards struggled to get the squirming Ryn out the door and onto the street where he belonged. The kriffin’ hell did that sleemo do this time? she fumed to herself before storming back over to her brother’s perch at the bar.

“You want to tell me what happened here—”

Uji stiffened. The Force shouted in his mind.


The man spun, grabbed his sister, and dove behind the bar, dragging her with him. He imagined a shield around them, trying to focus his will on it. Between one heartbeat and the next, there was a quiet sound. Then—

Brightness. The world was falling and there was a sharp noise too hot and quick to hear.

A maelstrom of heat, sound, light and rubble filled the room, fire roiling forth in a ferocious, roaring riptide. It rolled towards them, over them, and then the protective bubble they huddled in shattered. Hot air singed their skin and tossed them like ragdolls into a wall of bottles, and their bodies broke apart in a shower of glass. White bursts danced across Satsi’s vision, and se smelled burning flesh heard muffled screams through her blown-out ears. Heartbeats crashed and stretched on.

Then it was over.

For a long while, there wasn’t any sense. Just pain and confusion. Then slowly, adrenaline woke her, made her shake. She staggered to her knees, ears ringing, dusting at her smoldering clothes with bleeding hands and disregarding the stinging of seared skin as she squinted through the smoke at warped metal walls and char. Her arm crawled with agony, likely burned, but she ignored it too.

She coughed, tried to inhale, and tasted dust. The air was dense, but the shouting was palpable. She struggled upright, looked around, searching desperately for another body. There were several, not moving, but none were her brother. She scrambled out from the rubble of the bar and several tables, emerging into a casino floor thrown into chaos. Bits of twisted wood and metal and broken glass were everywhere, along with lots of people looking a lot more blown up than richer than gods. Satsi spotted a head of blue hair and kept them moving towards it, dogged. Where was Uji? Kord, Turel? The others?

Blurry faces passed her, mostly casino patrons fleeing or shrieking. She tried to focus on them, tried to recognize an Odanite or Arconan she’d only seen in passing. There were other people too, other bodies, not dressed like the rest of them. She didn’t recognize any of them, but they wore weapons and armor. They weren’t the Black Sun or Exchange or the Desilijic or the Besadii; they weren’t even some of the local color ballsy or stupid enough for something like this. But those Jedi-hunter cloaks…those were familiar.


Satsi was trembling so hard that she actually fell against Aurora, who was herself coiled so tightly with rage that she shook too. Her glare would have killed, had the corpse of a Collective agent she stared at not already been massacred.

“What…w-what…” the Human tried, while Ta’var shrugged her off and knelt next to the corpse of some Odanite trainee in a waistcoat. So many dead. “What happened? Where’s Uji? Turel? Who’s alive?! ANSWER ME, TA’VAR!”

But the former headmistress wasn’t listening, too focused in her rage and grief for her students. “Go with the Force,” the Zeltron whispered,closing the sightless eyes of the girl she held.

Satsi almost asked her if she was going to do that for every murdered Padawan in whatever battle had gone on while she was unconscious. Instead, motion caught her eye, and she half-crumpled in relief to see Kordath.

The Arconan Consul was wide-eyed and distressed-looking, mouth grim. As he approached, Satsi surged towards him, dragging one leg behind her. There was a red ribbon tied around her wrist, and she tore it off, slamming it down onto the Ryn’s chest hard enough to bruise.

"He wore that this morning. Find him," she snarled, knotting fistfuls of the man’s jacket, her hands shaking. Her voice cracked. “P-please. Sober the frak up right this frakking second and find him, Kord.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Alethia said as she came upon the scene, herself soot-stained but unharmed, her eyes darting from one Shadow Lord to the next.

“Uji.” The fear and rage entwined in Satsi’s tone spoke volumes.

“I take it you’ve tried Turel?” Alethia asked. The other woman shook her head. “Drachen all over again,” the High Councillor muttered, reaching for her comlink. “Aurora, take a headcount. I think we may have a problem.” When the Zeltron didn’t respond, the silver-haired woman snapped again, this time sharp as a whip crack. "Aurora. Take a headcount. Now."

“They can’t get away with this,” the Odanite Proconsul swore, but she stood anyway. The Jedi began her tally, calling out for others as more members of each summit and clan gathered, all secrecy forgotten — other guests were already blaming a terrorist attack and similarly searching for their friends. For the moment, they didn’t stand out from any other bystander. The police would be on this place soon like a kicked killik nest.

They had to attend to the injured. They had to regroup. They had to find the others that had been taken, before—

Before they were killed. Or, worse, broken. Kiast’s location would be in danger. All of the Lotus was in danger.

They had a new mission.


Golden fixtures sparkled in bloody light. Two figures, one short and stocky, one tall and thin, lounged on couches of the richest velvet, their countenances lit by the burnished shine of the brightly shining glowbanks and the reflections cast by the gold and platinum accents on nearly every piece of furniture. It was the single most luxurious suite on Canto Bight, with its own guard station, kitchens, racetrack, and servant’s wing, more a mansion than a hotel.

And while the two figures lounged comfortably, only one seemed to fit. The waif-like, sculpted form of the Sakiyan woman was bedecked in fine jewels and rich cloth of the highest fashion, and she sipped elegantly at a drink as her silver eyes, shining against her blackish skin, fixed on a screen before her. Her companion, a thick-limbed and wide-mawed Aleena, wore leathers and stray clusters of feathers, constantly running his hand over his scaled scalp as if to slick back hair he did not have. Despite their disparate appearances, though, they both closely watched the closed circuit holodisplay as their fellow Capital Enterprises employee, a six-tailed Nautolan, tortured their new prisoners. The display was muted for the moment, but the screams were evident from the male Humans’ expressions as they hung from the ceiling, their faces rictuses of pain.

All had gone to plan.

“Hmm," hummed the Sakiyan woman as she unfurled elegantly from her seat and rose to her full height to move across the room, her skirts swishing. "Siceeni. While your execution was much too elaborate, I cannot argue with results. We now have a high ranking member from each Clan of the Lotus Alliance. I am appeased,” stated the noblewoman.

“Of course it worked! I planned it. The black-haired one is the Arconan Proconsul and the one in a dress is the Odanite Consul,” replied Siceeni before he started to mutter under his breath. “The one called Tameike refuses to talk, but one of my poisons might do the trick if Ru’g would just use it rather than playing with his food. The one called Sorenn is an annoyance, but at least he is talking. Eventually his babble will turn to something more useful. Pah. The Nautolan should let me handle one of them. I have so many games the two of them could play in that cell. Maybe, Tissflorin—”

The Sakiyan cleared her throat and stared the diminutive Aleena down.

“I mean, her Ladyship, of course,” apologized Sici before he reminded himself of the Lady’s superior hearing abilities and went quiet.

“That is what I thought,” said Tissflorin coldy, one hand cradling her head. “And we have been over this before, Siceeni. Ru’g En will interrogate them, as is his speciality. Your task was to get them here, and you have done a commendable job of it. Now, let my lieutenant earn his keep. If he needs your assistance, he will call for you. That is the end of it. No more discussion.”

The Aleena went stiff with indignation. “We also caught some spares from both Clans. Can’t I play with them?”

“No. The Count may need them. For now, you are to keep the situation contained and keep on the lookout for trouble. Your diversion cost us any bit of discretion, so you can make Canto Bight feel at ease again. I want that casino focused on gambling and not on us or any so-called ‘terrorists,’” ordered Tiss with clear distaste, her derision thick when she mentioned the explosions. Siceeni had fed some of his many creatures small bombs and sent the creatures flocking all throughout the casino, roosting in vents and around the main room floor. He had also nearly lost his temper when some Arconan Trandoshan had eaten one of the porgs whole like a tiny appetizer.

“I— How dare you?! Do you know how—”

Tissflorin cut off Sici with a vicious verbal swipe. “I do not want your excuses. I want results. If you can only provide one and not the other, then I will see to it that you are given the treatment of any traitor and put before the firing squads. Is that clear?" She didn’t wait for an answer, going on, "And I thought I asked you to bath. You reek of your pests. Go, before your stench makes me vomit all over you.”

The Aleena scowled menacingly as he displayed his many teeth, but he backed out of the room, already muttering plans of his revenge under his breath. The Sakiyan shook her head at the mention of ‘droppings’ and pulled out her commlink. On the holodisplay, the Nautolan torturer paused in his ministrations and reached for his own device.

“Ru’g En, have they broken yet?”

“No, m’Lady. But I’ll get what you want eventually,” replied the interrogator.


“Sorry, m’Lady. I’ll step out to a quieter room,” said Ru’g. A few seconds later he continued, this time uninterrupted, “Apologies for the loud one. He likes to argue, and I like to hear him scream. I have only started my interrogation though. I fully expect to get the path to Odan-Urr from him without loss of life,” assured the Nautolan, pleasure apparent in his tone.

"I take it that the one giving me a headache is the Odanite known as Turel Sorenn?” asked Tiss.

“Yes, he is quite fun. Can I keep him for later?” requested Ru’g, trying not to sound too desperate.

“I do not care what you do to either of them once we have intel on both their Clans. Our next operation won’t work unless we have access to the Jedi’s system and the defense codes for Arcona’s Golan station.”

“Consider it done, my Lady. I’ll report in later today,” replied the Nautolan before he went back to business.

Tissflorin set her communicator back aside with a tired sigh. Her count’s business was always so terribly noisy and putrid, and Siceeni was just like that all on his own. It caused her no end of migraines, even if they were useful to her.

Rubbing at her bare head, she went to the refresher suite on this floor and found a hypospray to take; the service here, at least, was acceptable. The rooms were so well soundproofed that she hadn’t been able to hear the bombs going off just a little ways away, only felt the rumble.

Relief pending, the Sakiyan returned to the main room, glancing at the holodisplay again briefly. Tissflorin sniffed at the sight, then pulled out her portable holoprojector and studied her various notes and diagrams, from all the information she had on Arcona and Odan-Urr from the Collective’s reports, to their budgets for the operation, to their fleet forces. Ghafa Ordam had granted her permission to command not only her own vessel, the Saffron, for the mission, but also several other ships from Battle Group Vodrania as well, including Tille, Nalle, Kilaeon and Gravesend. The cruisers, frigate, and carrier would surely be enough to deal with the couple of disgusting clans.

Long, thin fingers flickered, reducing some displays while enlarging others. She cycled through her notes until she had read them all again, as she did every day, staring at the totality of her current work.

Staring back at her from the center of all those readouts and diagrams were two unbearably aggravating blank spaces. The two last pieces she needed. Siceeni and his little pets had gathered much of the information at hand, but she doubted they really understood the bigger picture. The Lotus Alliance had been a thorn in the Collective’s side for some time. If they couldn’t convince them to divorce, then she would simply force them apart. It would all start with their homeworlds, though.

“One way or another, I will hurt you where you will feel it most,” she promised, her thoughts lingering to her own situation with the family business. She closed the files with a curl of her fist, as if crushing something in her grip. “And when you sit in the ashes of your homes, you will know to whom your lives belong.”


The door shut briefly behind their Nautolan captor, and both men sagged in semi-relief. For a few moments, they merely panted, but there wasn’t time for rest.

“…can…can you pick these?”

“Don’t…don’t have my kit.”

“How is it that you do not have any tools on you?” growled Uji, shifting in discomfort as the stuncuffs shackling their arms above them rubbed at his wrists.

“Hey, you’re the one with pockets, you were the one that was all ‘carry your own purse, Turel, I am not a pack animal, Turel,’” snapped the Odanite, throwing his voice to make it gruff and grumpy.

Tameike lightly beat his head against the metal behind them.

The bit of humor was all they had at the moment, the both of their voices strained from shouting, the both of them almost too tired to breathe. Their positions put undue pressure on their diaphragms, no doubt intentional, and the many wounds in their skin bled freely but slowly. Eventually, the combination of the blood loss, the burns, and their general mistreatment would win out even to the Force.

Turel licked his dry lips with his dry tongue and struggled not to cough; it would only hurt.

“Okay, I’ve got a plan,” the Odanite began. “I can illusion up an electrical fire in that equipment over there. Guy’s aquatic, bound to hate fire, he probably won’t even look that hard. When he freaks, you grab him with your legs and go all Shadicar, and—”

“Turel, I cannot.”

“He hasn’t put your ankle clasps back on yet, can’t you feel—”

“Turel,” interrupted Tameike again, forcing the Odanite to glance at the Arconan.

The once proud warrior, now a proud cripple, gave a wane, small smile to his recently retired friend. He looked deathly pale, the reddish splotches of his rimmed eyes and dark hollows of his cheekbones stark against his normally tan flesh.

“Turel,” he spoke softly, hardly above a whisper. It would not matter if their enemies heard this. “I am already terribly drained from our fight here, brother. If they elect to continue torturing us, which they shall, I will not be able to withstand it. My heart will give out. Perhaps immediately, should they choose electroshock treatments. Turel, I am going to die.” His brown eyes were steady. “I need you to ensure that you survive, so that you may ensure Satsugai and Samantha survive. You know her, and you know what she will do when I pass. I need you to prevent that, no matter her wishes.”

“Too damn bad,” spat the Odanite. “I’m not doing it so you’re not allowed to die here. We’re both going home. I didn’t go through all this crap to get tortured to death on Canto freaking Bight, and neither did you.”

“Do not be stubborn.”

“Don’t be you, you sourpuss. How about helping me instead of trying to be a martyr?”

“If either of us is a martyr, it is you,” grumbled Uji, but he sighed again. Then, a slow, raspy chuckle came from the man. Turel merely stared at him for a moment before laughing too.

That was how the Nautolan found them when he came back from his call, laughing together. They kept laughing even as he started cutting into them again, joking at the interrogator.

“Are you trying to tickle me or turn me on? 'Cause, buddy, my wife does better than this,” Turel snarked.

“Mine would call your methods 'being a schutta,’ I do believe,” Uji commented with a perfectly straight face.

The Nautolan merely growled at them and brought in his droid assistant, demanding again to have their consular codes and information on their systems. Neither of them was about to correct their captors on their outdated misinformation. It was the only thing making them valuable and thus keeping them alive; neither was stupid enough to enlighten them as to the fact that they had four much more suited candidates out there, somewhere back at the party. And, the longer they kept the attention on them, the longer the others who had also been captured went without the same treatment, and the better the likelihood of rescue before anything was lost.

And so for every time their captor demanded to know something, they just spouted more jibes, until they had no breath left except for screaming, or until they had no breath left at all.


An Arconan–Odanite Tale of Danger and Revenge

Chapter II

The sound of blaster fire popped and seared through the air as four people ran around a corner, their footfalls echoing against the suspiciously empty corridors of a sub-basement in one of Canto Bight casino’s guest lodgings, the largest complex at the edge of the commercialized city. Empty storage crates were stacked neatly along the walls to either side, narrowing the hallway considerably. Eilen Jath and Mauro Wynter lead the way while Luna Okami and Grot defended the rear with guns in hand.

“Team Alpha, the boxes! Give us some space,” ordered Luna as she and Grot laid down covering fire.

“Where are the pathetic authorities?” yelled the Trandoshan.

Eilen and Mauro slowed down as they reached out to the Force and, grabbing the durasteel boxes nearby, promptly chucked them into a large pile on the ground. Once the two Force-users had made a sufficient blockade, the Arconans and Odanites turned tail, heading towards a room in the far right corner of the building. It had taken precious time, but they had finally found the lost Padawans and servicefolk. Getting to them had required a little more work than expected. They were behind schedule.

Grot saw two guards up ahead and burst forward to surprise them, confidently firing his slugthrowers. Luna was close behind, already firing her bo-rifle. The two Collective soldiers fell to the floor, unable to get off a good shot. The Trandoshan started to go down a side corridor, but the Mandalorian pulled him back.

“We need to secure the area. Stay with the pack,” ordered Luna.

“But they are on the run. Now is the time to strike. Let me go,” hissed Grot.

“Secure the area and then you can secure our escape route. Stick to the plan or you’ll meet my boot,” threatened Luna as she stared him down with all the displeasure she could muster. Lives were at risk.

The Mandalorian let him go, carefully watching him as the armed pair verified it was all clear, checking the neighboring rooms and passageways. They rejoined Eilen and Mauro, the former already working on slicing the door lock. It disengaged with a quiet series of clicks. Eilen nodded to the rest of them and pulled open the door, Grot and Luna sweeping the room with their guns. There was nobody there, save a plethora of crates. The four of them fanned out and inspected the room more closely, still finding nothing save the boxes.

“I thought you said they were in here,” remarked the Mandalorian as she looked at the Force-users.

“They are,” said the hybrid and male Human, both of whom were looking down at the nondescript storage crates around them.

Mauro opened the nearest one, revealing an unconscious, cramped Padawan with a shock collar clasped around her throat, a bright red number engraved into the side of it. The inside of the makeshift cell had a card attached to it, identifying this particular prisoner as ‘Subject 008 - Testing group A’. The Odanite man’s hands squeezed into fists, torn between relief that it was not as bad as what his comrades had reported on Nancora and anger that they were even in such a state.

Eilen watched Mauro’s reactions first, the Force flush with anger and sadness. The hybrid opened the box nearest to her with trepidation, finding a similar scenario. Half-healed bruises covered the young man’s face. She shook her head and then got a closer look at the shock collars themselves.

“I can get these off but this is a lot of people to bring back with us. I suggest we transport them in the crates. We’ll need to clear a path though,” she suggested.

“You got it,” offered Mauro and Grot as they both took a step towards the door.

“I should go on,” said the Trandoshan dismissively. “And capture the cowards responsible.”

“That isn’t our first priority. Grot, secure us a way out and we will meet you up ahead with the convoy of supply crates. Wynter, you’re with me. I saw some droids in the other room. One was a combat class. We’ll need an extra gun. Once you’re done with that, help us with the Padawans,” swiftly ordered the Mandalorian. “Jath, you’d best be ready to reprogram the bot. Those collars won’t trigger if they’re moved?”

“I don’t see any mechanisms here that could be explosive,” Eilen replied confidently, though her tone was nonetheless uneasy at such a prospect. “I’m pretty sure they’re just your standard remote-activated shocking collar.”

“‘Pretty sure?’”

“Uh. Very sure, ma’am. I’m sure.”

“Then let’s move. We’re still behind to our rendezvous.”


It had been a short handful of hours since Qyriea Arronen and Sariel Dhejeuti had dumped the vicious little Aleena out of a sack and onto the hotel room floor. A short handful that felt like an eternity. Between the screeching of the porgs—it didn’t matter how many they tossed out the window, somehow there were always more—and the high-pitched ranting about Siceeni’s indomitable brilliance, the pair were at the last thread of their patience.

Thankfully, reinforcements had arrived in the form of Lucine Vasano and Tamashi Delat, who diverted some of the Aleena’s attention briefly.

Less thankfully, even with their soft tones and persuasive promises and the gentle touch of the Force in their excellent grasps, the damned reptile was still gabbering. And not about what they wanted him to.

“Darling, why don’t you tell us where our friends are, hmm?” Lucine purred through teeth clenched into a smile, sitting half in the Aleena’s lap. She wove a thread of power into her question, a silken cord to accompany the plush of her ruby lips close to his ear-holes.

“Tell you were your friends are? Ah, ah, perhaps they are somewhere on Cantonica!” replied Siceeni cheerfully with a wiggle of his snout. “Or perhaps they have traveled elsewhere! Into space! Or for a walk. Why, who’s to say what they’d do? They are not me, and of course wouldn’t know the most foolproof, guaranteed course of action for speedy success!”

“Mister Viz,” Tamashi attempted, “you want to tell us all that you know. You want to help us.”

“I want to help you,” the Aleena echoed. “Inconceivable, of course. No one, not even I, can make you as great as me.”

“Ask the little mynock something he can’t talk his way around before I start shooting for the choobs,” Qyreia growled.

“Oh, were we not being specific enough, darling? I’m terribly sorry. You’ll have to forgive us. We’ve just been so busy, with other critical things, it has us a bit stretched thin. I’m sure you’ve had such an experience at least once before.”

Lucine’s green gaze was cutting over her smile as she turned her attention back to the Collective saboteur.

“Now, now, Siceeni, dear…we don’t have to do this any longer, now do we? You and I could retire to some nicer accommodations. You could bring your… delightful, erm, pets. All I need from you is a bit of information, and you have much of that, do you not? You are brilliant.”

“I am!” agreed the Aleena. “Frightening, I know. I know many things! Many, many. More than you can imagine. You may say—”

“Oh, no.”

“No to you, wanton woman! You cannot break me!” the Aleena crowed for the umpteenth time. “As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.”

“You keep using that word,” Sariel said in between deep, meditative breaths. “I do not think—”

“For the love of krif both of you shut the hell up for five seconds!” The outburst brought Qyreia approximately ten seconds of surprised silence. It didn’t last. Just as Sici resumed squirming, the sound of a fist pounding on the door had him simpering back into his bonds.

Viz’s beady little eyes took a moment to adjust to the change in light as the door opened and three silhouettes materialized in front of him. Two women, a bit pretty for engorged mammals, and then the third… the third was… large.

“Did the little schutta squeal yet?” Satsi asked, her breath carrying a cloud of cigarra smoke into the Aleena’s face.

“Not unless you count his normal voice as squealing,” Qyreia answered. “And you really should.”

“Kark. We don’t have time for this druk. Skar!”

Siceeni’s eyes widened as the massive, hulking Kaleesh stomped his way closer. However, he quickly regained his obnoxious bravado. “Ha! You bring in this colossus, this great legendary thing, and yet he cannot break me!”

Without a word, Skar loyally took the Aleena’s head in his great, clawed, bionic hands and locked eyes with Viz. Siceeni began to squint, then squirm, and finally unleashed an agonized scream.

“This is crossing a line,” Aura hissed lowly, crystalline blue eyes fiery with passion as she realized what was happening.

“Oh, yeah? How so? You do this sithspit every damn day, you and most other sparkies. Your little mind tricks ain’t no different than this.”

“Yes, they are! To overtake a man’s mind, take away his will, force him, that’s different. It is wrong and we must be better. It’s… It’s like…”

“What?” Satsi turned on her, brown eyes cold. “Like rape? Yeah, it is. And so is everything else you do every time you use your powers to twist somebody’s thoughts or make 'em think what you want them to.”


“Is it not rape,” Satsi interrupted her, "if I do it to you? I’m a woman, but I’m attacking you. If I use my fingers? Is it not rape if there isn’t a gun to your head? Oh, sure, you’re beat so bad that your face is too swollen for you to even breathe, but hey, you still have a choice, right? It’s different, right?" Her fist slammed onto the table. "No. It’s not. It’s exactly frakking the same. And so is this. You violate folks all the time with your tricks, so you don’t get to balk now, you don’t get to protest now and expect any of us to give a damn. This is how we get information to save our people, and if it hurts the frakkers who took them doing it, then good."

“They are not equivalent,” Tamashi spoke up, the room still crowded, and got a sneer in return.

“No,” the Zeltron Jedi answered, more forcefully this time, matching the mercenary’s glare. “Master Tamashi is right, there are other ways, kinder ways, to do this. It is different — just suggestion, not brute assault. We can find truth and justice without being overly invasive. That’s what he taught me.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” the Arconan snarled, nodding to her companion, who loomed over the Aleena and took the cue to continue. “I let Turel talk me out of the smart thing last time we dealt with these guys and look where it got him. We did Nancora your way. We’re doing this our way.”

Siceeni gave a growling yelp, and then burst into yet another scream, as if Skar’s claws were ripping into his skull and tearing out gray matter chunks; and maybe in a sense, they were. The Kaleesh’s voice, conveyed by the modulator built into his scarred throat, was flat and emotionless as he demanded, “Tell us where our clanmates are being held.”

The Aleena’s beady eyes shone as if with tears, and he worked his jaw, clearly trying to choke back words, but to no avail. His gaze went pearly and flat, and the sentences ground out of him like some mangled recording, any life behind them smothered.

“The prisoners are being held at the compound rented by Tissflorin,” he said tonelessly, followed by rattling off both a street address and planetary coordinates. It was strange, to hear him speak with none of his earlier gusto or grandeur.

“Who is Tissflorin?” Rrogon pressed, the Force twisting to his will and twisting Siceeni with it.

“Her Ladyship Tissflorin, commander of the Straden, current commander of this mission and the Saffron. Skilled in command and computing, specializing in droid programming and mechanics. Highly intelligent. Highly wealthy. Descended from the Haperick lineage of Sakiya, daughter of a manufacturing mogul, lieutenant under Chancellor Varryn Antillus of Capital Enterprises—”

“Enough,” Satsi interrupted, she, Alethia, Aura, Lucine, Qyreia, Sariel, and Tamashi all moving closer. “Ask him what their plan is.”

The hulking Sith resumed his focus, glowing red eyes meeting Siceeni’s devoid ones.

“What is your plan for the prisoners?”

“Feed them to my porgs—”

“What is Tissflorin’s plan for the prisoners?” Skar tried again.

“Interrogation…obtain course to…through Kiast system…codes for Arconan defense…stations…not…mmm, no, heh, no…”

“What’s happening?”

“He is resisting.” The Kaleesh gave a robotic grunt of effort. “This is not so easy to do, with such complicated commands.”

“We should stop,” Tamashi spoke up from his chair. “Let the man’s mind rest, and rest yourself, then—”

Skar growled, and Siceeni gasped. Then, just as quickly, the Aleena heaved his little self up in his chair and headbutted the Kaleesh, winding the enormous alien only slightly; the hit was hardly high enough to reach Rrogon’s ribs, and by the small crunch that came from Siceeni, hurt him more than it did his captor.

“What was that even—” Aura began, when the Collective agent gave a cry of triumph and delight as something began spewing from the edges of his maw.

“Ha ha, you fools!" he crowed, his voice normal again, his smile so wide and predatory that it showed off the false tooth he had cracked open with his maneuver. "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war on Jakku,’ but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against an Aleena when death is on the line!”

Gas was billowing from his wide-opened jaws, whitish-green. The Arconans and Odanites cried out, stumbling back, covering mouths and noses. The Aleena only kept laughing as the poisonous cloud spread, sending his enemies cursing and stumbling and rolling from the tiny room as the neurotoxin seized in their airways. He kept cackling as he wriggled from his bindings and scurried into the nearest air duct, following the chirping of his beloved pets, calling to him. It wasn’t long before he and his friends were spilling out elsewhere into the casino and escaping into the immense crowds, hopelessly lost to any pursuers.

Siceeni spat out the remains of his false tooth, picked up a glass of something red and bubbly, and laughed again as he made for the exit.

He would have his revenge on these fools, and on Tiss for abandoning him to them, and soon. But for now, he had a shuttle to catch.


His blasters practically sang.

If there was one thing Terran Koul was accomplished at, it was seeing. He noticed things, perhaps too much, at times, since all the kark he noticed meant a lot he couldn’t ignore his nagging conscious over. Trying to help always seemed to land him in trouble, but it just wasn’t something he could totally turn his back on, and the clan — his comrades here, his responsibilities, Atyiru’s influence, and now the trust of Proconsul — had only exacerbated the trait.

And so here they were.

“Well look at this,” Koul commented as he lowered one of his two Westars, watching the group he was heading dispatch the last of the Collective grunts and Canto Bight police force from the hall they were in with the ruthless application of guns or lightsabers. “Looks like we got here just in time. What’s that make us, Sawyer?”

“Big damn heroes, sir,” answered Maaz, his scarlet skin, eyes, and armor doing surprisingly little to hide the shine of wet blood spattered over him. The Devorarian’s image was made no less menacing when he gave a wide, lazy grin that showed off all his canines, a compliment to his horns.

“Not sure anyone’s ever called me a hero,” snorted the Kiffar with a thick mess of red dreadlocks and gang patches on his jacket. Tisto Kingang began reloading his weapons while Janus Stormwind and Rulvak Qurroc advanced into the room whose entrance they’d just cleared.

“Congrats,” the half-Sephi assassin muttered sarcastically, while Janus, the oldest and most serious of the group, ignored his more boisterous or braggart companions and stomped into the basement lounge-turned-holding cell.

“They’re here,” called the Human Odanite, and the rest of the strike team quickly streamed in, watching their flanks and keeping weapons primed. Indeed, inside the room were several slumped bodies in various states of trauma, seemingly having been abandoned to rot once the rest of the complex had started evacuating.

It had been a real pain in the exhaust port to track down all their people, even after another team had discovered the Padawans and even with intel so generously extracted from their enemies. Still, as far as they could tell, this was the last of them.

Terran holstered his blasters and let his lightsaber spring from its wrist-sheath, waving at the entrance. “Anything moves, shoot it, yeah? Let’s get you poor sods down…”

Even durasteel chains couldn’t stand up to plasma.

“Anything moves, it’ll be in pieces,” Maaz replied with a casual shrug and a heft of the grenade in his palm.

“Try not to bury us alive,” Rulvak scathed at his teammate.

“Big damn heroes, alright,” Tisto snorted, cracking his knuckles.

Their banter was soon joined by groans and noises of relief from their tormented clanmates, and everyone seemed to sober just a bit, even the more mercenary of them.

“Hold fast,” Janus assured one bloodied Odanite man. “We will have you home soon.”

It was a promise.


As the Saffron’s hyperdrives hummed their completion and the thousand-blue-green-gray hues of Cantonica’s too-dazzling surface disappeared into streaks of starlight, Tissflorin repressed a grimace. She detested spaceflight. The jump into lightspeed always left a taste similar to burning ozone and the distinct flavor of her own mouth at the back of her tongue, always made her skin and ears prickle, when no one else ever seemed to experience as much.

Truly, her beauty was pain, a’times.

Swallowing and resisting the urge to blink her silver eyes overmuch, the Sakiyan turned her sharp gaze from the viewscreen to face the main door to the bridge. She’d heard the turbolift’s arrival and its doors opening, and now as tiny, furious, plodding footsteps grew louder and closer, she could also hear an endless stream of insufferable chattering.

With a too-loud, too-sharp swish, the Aleena entered the chamber, his scaly face mottled by bruises, cuts, and some sort of refuse. Only pride alone kept Tissflorin from falling over at the stench.

Instead, she schooled her fine features into a mask of mild surprise.

“You are alive,” the woman stated plainly by way of greeting her henchman.

Siceeni purpled to what was surely an unhealthy shade for a reptilian in his fury.


“It is not, really.” Tiss examined her razor-sharp, decorative nails, then flickered her gaze back to him. “You outlived your usefulness to me and had become only a liability. I do not treat in useless things.”


“Do be quiet, Siceeni.”

“Would you like me to sew his lips shut, your Ladyship?” purred Rug En from her right, the six-tailed Nautolan smirking with all his filed teeth. He was all scum under splendor, Tiss knew, but he was damned effective, and they tended to find the same…individuals annoying.

“No. You have cargo to see to.” The Sakiyan’s sharp smile was cold. “And see to it you shall.”

“Yes, your Ladyship.” The torturer bowed, and then strode off, eager to begin his work on the remaining Brotherhood captives. Blessedly, he grabbed Siceeni and tugged the snapping, raving little lunatic along while he was at it, and soon her command center was as quiet as it could ever get again, merely the trill of machinery and slight breathing and sniffling of technicians.

Tissflorin didn’t hold her grin, but her lips did twitch in anticipation. She and Capital Enterprises would have what they wanted yet. It was only a matter of time.


The night was stretching out to its last, dying gasps, sky starting to lighten to an opalescent pearl that heralded sunrise, but the party hadn’t stopped for a second in Canto Bight. Even bombings and a couple of Force-using clans trying and half-failing to discreetly manage a hostage situation barely made the revelry blink. The sheer carelessness of the debauchery was astounding, almost impressive.

At the very least, it left plenty to do for the Arconans and Odanites alike who weren’t otherwise actively engaged in rescue or counterattack operations. There were still elbows to grease and contacts to make, and it had to be done, no matter what else was happening. The alliance and the Lotus, much like Canto Bight and its party, simply couldn’t rest; their entire reason for being was to exact the change they needed to, to protect and defend and liberate by any means necessary, even when the galaxy kept throwing threat after threat in their faces.

Satsi, who was doing her best to play up the role of a patron who had been injured in the
“gas leak” and milking the casino employees for all they were worth, paused when she spotted a very distinct group coming up the coastline. Her grievous limp turned into a dead sprint in an instant, and she went jumping over a balcony railing and barreling down the beach, kicking up sprays of sand all the while. One of the figures in the group broke away, having been carried, and stumbled to meet her. They crashed together like waves and Satsi spun the man about before they both toppled to the ground in a tangle of limbs and pained breaths.

It was a few moments before the Tameike twins could be disentangled and helped upright, sand and grit plastered to their respective wounds and eyelashes. When she was righted, though, Satsi began scanning the entire crowd of faces as other Arconans and Odanites approached, trickling or rushing down from the casino floors, looking for their comrades and loved ones.

Slowly, her giddy smile crumpled, and she looked to her brother with wide eyes.

“Where’s Turel?” she asked.

Uji grimaced. “I…I tried to convince him that he ought to go for help, that he ought to escape and return with reinforcements for the rest of us, but he would not listen. We were separated when the compound was attacked. Turel…he is gone, shimai. They took him. Him, and others.”

As the words sunk in, more and more of their fellow clan members began to look like Satsi did. Their faces bore initial worry and elation that slowly dissolved into shock, confusion, anger. Slowly, more and more of the alliance searched for their brothers and sisters in arms, and found no one. For some of them, they did spot who they were looking for. They were alright. They were going home.

But not everyone.

The End…for now