The din of crackling fire mirrored the silent seething of the Shadow Lord’s anger. But just as the wall of indigo flames were locked in their perpetual dance, Marick Arconae’s emotions remained locked away behind the wall of his stoic visage.
The Consul stood in front of the Serpentine Throne, hands folded calmly behind his back. His body showed no signs of tension, muscles relaxed but posture straight. His too-blue eyes, however, swept across the chamber at the gathered Arconans with a glacial edge that could have cut steel.
“Well?” he asked simply, his voice carrying effortlessly through the chamber.
No one spoke up, so Marick descended from the dias to stand on level with the remnant of the Arcona Summit. Turel Sorren, Celevon Edraven, Adam Bolera, and Ernordeth stood with Strategos Entar Arconae, concern painted across their weary faces. Across from them stood Cethgus Entar Arconae, alone.
Legorii soundlessly moved to stand beside his Consul in a show of solidarity. Without turning to acknowledge his Proconsul, Marick locked his eyes on Cethgus. The two Arconae stared at one another, tension bleeding into a palpable cloud.
“Well?” Marick repeated, his tone so flat that it could have been mechanical.
“We’re working on it,” Cethgus replied carefully.
“Working on it?”
“Yes. Dark Forge is already on site moving the survivors into the shelters we had set up in the event of an invasion. We’ve–”
“–Do we have anymore information on how the attacks were carried out?”
“Sir,” Captain Bly said curtly as he cleared his throat. The Captain of the Summit Guard melted out of the shadows to the other side of the Consul. “The…enemy, as it were, was able to place unique explosive devices in strategic places around the city. These explosions used a two-part trigger system, however. The components that were actually placed in the building are no more detectable than a poisoned can of soup on a full shelf. The components by themselves are not harmful, but when mixed with a reactive agent they can mimic the explosive powers of C-4. The agent can be transmitted as a gas, which is how we believe they carried out the attack without us having…any logical countermeasure.”
Silence rang out as all eyes went to Marick. His stoic mask held. Bly had more experience giving bad news to powerful Dark Jedi leaders than most, so his voice never wavered as he continued.
“They targeted buildings not because they had the most bystanders, but so that when the buildings went down they would effectively block our relief efforts from easily making rounds. Whoever did this had to have a working understanding of the city’s infrastructure.”
“And the Citadel?”
Bly actually smiled. “Secured,” the Captain said simply. Marick believed him. Anyone trying to attack the Citadel while Bly was present might as well navigate a rancor den without any light or weaponry. With that small detail taken care of, the Consul turned his attention back to Cethgus, who went on.
“Atyiru will be here shortly,” he explained quickly. “They are bringing her over from the medbay. Timeros is escorting.”
Marick nodded once, and the mention of the injured Aedile managed to cause the corners of his eyes to crease ever so slightly.
“Quaestor. I have to wonder how we not only explain the death of one of our most promising young leaders, but the absence of the other two leaders and their respective teams?”
Cethgus’s lean muscles tensed as he bit down on his molars to prevent from snapping back a retort. Restraint wrapped around him like chains and he growled more at himself than anyone in particular.
“We lost contact with the Nighthawk forty-eight hours ago,” he said stiffly. “Soulfire’s last communication was a distress beacon, but we’re stretched thin as it is…” Guilt was heavy in the Quaestor’s cold voice. He was putting everything on his shoulders. Cethgus was known for his prowess in war and battle, and a proud warrior, but his loyalty as a leader was often overlooked. He was helpless, and that small piece of knowledge was eating away at him slowly.
“So, my Rollmaster, the ship I had specifically commissioned for these types of scenarios, and my combat operation expert team are all missing in action.”
“Yes. Kordath is also MIA, though Ood was able to hunt down the assassin. He said that you had sanctioned it…”
Marick mentally pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. His face somehow remained blank. After a moment, he nodded once in affirmation. He was processing everything behind the veil of his dispassion, but his calculating mind was working double-time to consider every possible course of action. He turned his attention to the second group, and nodded at Turel Sorenn.
“Lord Consul,” the scarred human said curtly. “We’ve managed to get the plague under control, but Valtiere and Kooki are still on Ol’val coordinating those efforts. Beside that, our supplies are still thinning. We won’t be able to hold on much longer, with treating for the plague…”
Marick exhaled slowly. His mind did cartwheels. Strategos’ cough interrupted him before the silence could stretch too far. The Consul turned his head, and waited.
“Oh, right,” Strategos said. “I guess I should also mention that Gethsemane was hit by a rogue fleet. We believe they have stolen vital information on the family, as well as other pertinent history kept in the libraries there on Arcona.”
Marick blinked once. After a few beats, he nodded his head at his fellow Arconae. “Do what you need to do, then. Get that information back, I’ll send you what we can spare.”
“Right,” the Adept said, offering a half-bow and then walking towards the exit.
The doors to the Throne Room groaned open.
The servos of a hover-chair echoed out as a slender woman wrapped in blankets floated towards the dais. At her side, Timeros Entar Arconae walked with purpose, one hand on the hilt of a Westar and the other on the hilt of one of his lightsabers. Marick had no doubt his former Master would kill the first thing that even breathed wrongly at his adopted sister.
“Hey boys,” Atyiru said meekly, sounding just as small and fragile as she looked. It was unnerving to hear her speak without her youthful, perpetual energy. As she drew closer to the group, Marick felt something tighten in his chest. He had lost count of how many lives he’d taken or had taken from him–how many injuries and blood and sweat and tears had been shed in the course of his time in the Brotherhood. This? Seeing one of his own, what Marick viewed as part of the future of the Shadow Clan, in this position, hit home.
An attack on one is an attack on us all, Marick had said when explaining the decision to go on the controversial sojourn to the Hapes Cluster. He had never felt his own words so heavily.
“Hey girl,” Celevon replied amicably enough, nodding to his fellow godparent. “We’ve been discussing our next move, and how this all happened.”
“About thaaat,” the Miraluka began, dragging out the word. She sighed heavily. “I know how it happened.”
Timeros’s ice eyes snapped sharply downward, and Marick’s eyes narrowed.
“His name is Ethran,” Atyiru went on quietly. “Ethran Sayre, and he’s…he’s the one behind all this. The attacks, Faust, the One Sith. But it’s not his fault!” Her voice changed abruptly, protesting. “Whatever happens, we can’t–we can’t just hurt him for it. He’s not in control of himself. Sort of. It…it’s complicated.”
“Slow down and report,” her fellow Aedile stated firmly.
“And start with how you know any of this,” Strategos added from behind her, giving his younger sibling a shrew look.
Atyiru bowed her head. “He and I are Force-bonded. He’d been reaching out to me, while I was comatose. He…Ashla and Bogan, he knows everything I do, to a certain extent. That’s the key. It’s my fault,” her voice cracked.
“What?!” Cethgus growled, advancing, but her reply stopped him before anyone else could.
“I said it’s my fault!” she snarled back. “All of it. That’s how they got here, it’s how they know our defenses, our movements, how the infiltrators got in…all of it. And I can’t do anything about it. I didn’t think it would ever be a problem…”
A beat passed.
“Well if he knows us, then you know him, right?” Adam suggested hopefully.
“Yeah…he’s extremely powerful, and intelligent. I’ll put together a dossier for you. Just…please promise me he won’t be harmed.”
No one said any such thing. Atyiru’s shoulders hunched and she nodded into the silence.
Marick took it all in and turned his back on the gathered group. His eyes closed as his breathing became an audible metronome. He lowered himself deeper into Deadheart, and felt his emotional attachment to the trials at hand sever away to give birth to pure, cold-hearted logic. When he spoke, his voice was resonant with authority and confidence. When his eyes opened they were no longer chill and sharp, but hard and mechanical.
“Captain Bly, you will help coordinate the efforts here in the city with Dark Forge. I’m leaving you personally responsible for any more damages that the city incurs and I will not hesitate to take them from your paycheck.”
“What paycheck…?” Bly grumbled.
“Cethgus. This mess happened on your watch. I am putting you in charge of the recovery of our members. You will take the Invicta, and both the Creeping Darkness and the Shadow and whatever other ships we can spare.”
“Sir, if the Shadow is–” Turel interjected.
“Yes, Aedile,” Marick said smoothly. “I want Qel-Droma moving to answer this dilemma as well. This Ethran is not pulling any punches, and neither will we. We will show them what happens when you wake the rancor.”
Turel snapped a salute with a fist to the chest. “We’ll make them pay, boss.”
Marick turned back to Cethgus. “I also want Ood recalled immediately to work on solutions to countering the Rakghoul contagion. Tell him if he succeeds in fighting it, I will have a fresh batch of subjects delivered to his lab in Bulkhead.”
“Understood,” the Quaestor nodded, his seasoning as a warrior hiding the shudder at the subtext of the offered reward.
“What of the supplies, though?” Celevon added, arms folded across his chest.
Marick raised a hand. “I will handle that matter…personally. In the meantime, Legorii, I’m leaving command of this operation in your hands.”
“Understood, Lord Consul,” Legorii said with a bow.
“Dismissed,” Marick said simply. Everyone filtered out save for Legorii, Timeros, and Atyiru.
“Do not leave her side,” Marick said.
The other Arconae shrugged a shoulder, as if he’d already planned on doing so whether Marick had instructed it or not.
“Sir,” the Entar said by way of acknowledgment. He turned to go, but Atyiru stayed for a moment longer and weakly reached her hand towards Marick.
The Shadow Lord froze in place, his perfect air of control faltering for just a second. Only
Timeros and Legorii could have seen it. He swallowed, steeled his nerves, took an easy step forward, took her hand, and squeezed it gently.
“You focus on getting better. We will need you once I’ve sorted all of this out. Consider your clinic hours doubled.”
He let go of the hand. She frowned up at him. “I was frakking shot, you 'nerf.”
“Details,” he replied calmly, slipping out of Deadheart. She gave him a smile as Timeros took a hold of her chair and turned her to leave.
The doors closed and Legorii and Marick stood alone in the throne room with the crackling of fire. Marick moved effortlessly back to the top of the dias and settled into the Serpentine Throne. It felt odd to be seated in the thing, but its usefulness for communicating with his members was unparalleled.
There was work to do, and so little time. War was coming. Things were going to change, and Arcona needed to be ready if they were going to survive them.
-= Operation: Resurgence =-