Between the Teeth: A Keibatsu Runon

VT-49 Decimator
Qirool System

She watched patiently as the ships darted out of orbit, vanishing into the ether of Hyperspace, miniscule from her position, hiding between asteroids and the wreckage of older ships, the remnant of a battle lost even to history now. She waited, her breath caught in her throat even as the captain cleared his.

“Ma’am?” The man was former imperial, his Coruscanti accent sharp. She did not shift her view, staring out into the depths. She could feel him there, out in the dark. Smiling at her. She pushed the hood back from her head, exposing the crown of short horns atop her head, her eyes still locked on everything and yet nothing near that planet. She reached out, feeling the energy rise from her chest, through her head, into her eyes.

And felt the crack of Hyperspace.

She let the breath out sharply, turning to look at the Coruscanti. The Lion and his people had been on her tail for more than a year now, and they kept getting closer and closer, the misses getting narrower by the iteration. She hadn’t even had the time to pack her prizes up before the Sadowans had landed on Qirool VI. One of the statuettes had broken in the rush to get off world, and she needed those credits. She sighed before clearing her throat. “Nar Shaddaa.”

The Coruscanti nodded, fingers flying across controls of the navcomputer, engaging the engines to get them clear of the debris. She frowned as she watched the stars elongate, giving way to the blue-grey miasma of Hyperspace.

2 days later
Kuroshin Castle
Kyataru

Ashia smiled as the doors slid closed behind her pupil as he followed, her boots gliding on the rich purple carpet that led to the thrones at the end of the hall. He turned from his brother, his black eyes somehow brightening when he saw her. He moved toward them, even as they made their own approach. Takagari dropped to his knee, knuckling the floor in obeisance. The man was formal, lifetime of brutal training regimens giving him few other options. Muz nodded at him, bidding him to rise without a spoken word.

Ashia smiled as she got close to him, a cruel and predatory glint in her eye as she locked with his. We found her.

Muz’s eyebrow went up, a smile creeping up the side of his face.

“We captured one of her trading partners on Nar Shaddaa, my Lord.” Takagari restrained his excitement as best he could. “She will be there for the next two days until she can finish finding purchasers for her other pieces.”

Muz bowed his head a degree. “Well done, KogaRyu. You have executed your mission well. We will take it from here.” He rose, bowed his head, then spun around to leave, his steps measured and precise.

Shikyo chuckled as he stepped forward from where he had been standing when they arrived. Darth Ira, the last of their pathetic cult?

Muz let his head tilt slightly, his mind flowing through the patterns, the possibilities of how the universe would unfold next. She was more than just another sith. She was unfinished business, and what she carried with her was something he needed, something he wanted. He thought of what the old tome had shown him, the intricate markings on old obsidian from Moraband necessary to prove his theory, to execute his plan.

Almost.

He clasped his hands behind his back as he turned, the flaring hem of his warcoat moving dramatically. Ashia, contact Shimura. I will alert Macron and Raikou. We leave at dusk.

Detention Block 19
Cenota Facility
Gamuslag
Orian System

The turbolift rose from the deep levels below and stopped at the level 19 Block egress. The door cycled open with a hiss and an armored figure stepped out. Beside the red and black-clad human walked a blacked-out HK series assassin droid.

The droid spoke. “Master are we going to terminate the subject? I would be happy to…”

The droid’s chatter was cut off. “No. No, we are going to offer this offender a deal.” Macron grinned evilly.

“But is the subject not condemned to termination?”

“Yes.” The Sith stopped before one of the doors and keyed the viewscreen beside it. “Convict 473, you have been condemned to death for your crimes.” A series of text markings scrolled across the screen. “Impressive. It’s a real shame you were unable to turn your penchant for murder and larceny to something more employable.”

“Screw you, cultist.” The muscular human turned towards the screen. “Get it over with.”

“Do you understand how you are to be executed?” Macron chuckled as he keyed a sequence into the keypad. “You’ll be exposed on the surface of this moon. It won’t be quick or easy. In fact, it will be agonizing. It might take days to die. Or perhaps you will be experimented upon.” More scenery scrolled by, awful scenes of the levels deep below where the laboratories were. “In which case, your agony could be prolonged for a very long time indeed.” The hardened convict blanched noticeably.

“I see you are amenable. I have a deal for you. Beat me in single combat, and you walk free. I will see to it that you get a ticket on the next freighter out of the system.”

“I hear you cultists use tricks. And what if I win?”

“No tricks. No armor, weapons, drugs, or the Force. Just raw, pure single combat. Man to man. If you win, I will be dead.”

The convict laughed. “Stupid little man. And if you win, not that it will happen?”

“You won’t need to worry about a thing 473, you will be well taken care of.” The Adept smirked.

“Deal”.


Later….

An Interrogator droid drifted into the combat area. Macron was dropping down from a jump, his arm pointed towards the ceiling in a spade-hand formation and the other coming down in a knife-hand motion on the nearby collar-bone. The point of his elbow impacted the crown of the thug’s head with a sickening crunch. The battered convict hit the floor and began to convulse from massive brain damage and internal hemorrhaging.

The droid emitted a holobeam with a familiar figure outlined in it’s flickering blue projection.
Macron wiped the blood from his bruised face, wincing as one eyesocket began to swell. He knelt to one knee with a wince and a crinkle of the skinsuit he wore. “Lord Ashen.”

“Practicing I see. I’ve got a mission coming that may interest you. There will be an artifact involved. Your skillset would be useful and there will be combat.”

“Count me in.” The connection closed as the madman stood. He motioned to the droid which injected him with some unknown fluid. “Get one of the labor droids in here to clean up that mess,” here he gestured at the quivering cadaver, “and take the remains downstairs to the biomass vats. Ready my armor and gear. Tell the astromech droid to fire up my ship. I’m leaving.”

“Master, would you have actually freed the convict?” asked the HK droid as it walked beside him to the turbolift.

The Sith appeared annoyed. “Of course I would honor my word. But he had no hope of survival, droid.”

Kuroshin Castle
Kyataru

Nimble fingers flew across a holopad. KogaRyu stood by silently, his eyes flicking here and there in awe of the castle. The Nightsister had felt her student’s pulse quicken when they landed and he saw Kuroshin for the first time.

Ashia finished getting word to Shimura and turned her attention to Dark Hawk.

“Your training is complete.” Her words were emotionless.

A state of disquietude surrounded the Battlemaster, yet he remained silent and just nodded at her.

“I will arrange for a ship to get you back to Tarthos.” She turned to leave.

“Miss Ash?” His voice held steady yet she picked up on the very slight wavering.

The Keibatsu turned to him. Her warcoat slide gently along her legs with the motion. Crossing her arms she raised an eyebrow at him.

“I’m sorry, but I…” He trailed off.

“KogaRyu, you asked that I train you in how to use the energy bow. I have done that. You have proved yourself in battle with it. You’re training in that is complete.”

He nodded at her, “Yes Miss Ash. I understand.”

“Once this business is done, I will return to Tarthos. Then we will begin your new training. Your foot work is a little sloppy.” She turned on her heel and left.

Dark Hawk’s head lifted. He suppressed the smile that wanted to engulf his visage.

“Yes, ma’am!”

En Route to Kuroshin Castle
Kom’rk-class Fighter “Ragnarok
Kyataru

Katsuhide didn’t like his assignment but his duty was to the protection of Misahide Castle and his men. Musashi’s pursuit would certainly place the Nihilgenia in more danger than Shikyo preferred. The Elder felt more comfortable knowing he’d have a home to return to once the task was complete. As he contemplated the task his brother provided, the Keibatsu’s mind seemed to wander away from the task of making sure the ship stayed airborne. Elysia took the helm from her betrothed as the Kyataran went to the cargo bay of his fighter, trying to shake his lack of focus.

As he looked over the equipment on board, Sasuke began to feel… lethargic? Bored? Nothing seemed to be a challenge anymore. There were not many forces in the galaxy that could give the Dark Jedi Master a true fight and most were wise enough to avoid the Keibatsu. If Shikyo could not bring their destruction, he knew his eldest brother would see that revenge was swift and relentless. However, this thought brought little comfort to the Elder. He wanted to bask in the glory of triumphing against overwhelming odds. Darth Ira, don’t disappoint.

“Dearest, we’re approaching Kuroshin.”

Shikyo returned to the cockpit and could see a couple of troopers loading up provisions before the sun set on the horizon. As the Gauntlet Fighter prepared to land, the Krath Elder could feel the presence of Lord Ashen before he noticed the war coat adorned figure awaiting them by the Fallen Spear. You’re distracted, ‘ototo’. Shikyo placed a hand on Moxla’s shoulder gently before returning to the cargo bay.

The Dark Jedi sighed as he entered, picking up and examining the helmet of his combat armor. Darth Ira is elusive but she’s not really a threat. We haven’t had a true threat since the Crusade, brother.

A rush of wind entered the bay as the off-ramp pressed into the soil. Muz’s obsidian eyes pierced through the Elder and Sasuke felt as if he were caught in some wrong doing.

“Be careful what you wish for, Shikyo. There are greater forces moving than Ira. She’s merely a pawn.”

Sasuke knew the meaning within those words. He’d seen too many pawns in so many conflicts between gods among men that the Dark Jedi Master almost wished he hadn’t been so eager. The fate of each pawn was more gruesome than the next. Muz turned on his heel and moved toward the castle with Shikyo following closely behind. As the faces of each tragic soul flashed through the mind of the former Herald, Shikyo was comforted by a single thought: at least we’re not pawns to Lord Ashen.

Raikou’s Private Chambers
Tarthos
Orion System

“I’m not entirely comfortable with this arrangement anymore,” the newest Keibatsu muttered at the holoscreen before him. “This isn’t what I signed up for. I mean to ensure CNS stayed on the correct path and report back. I’ve done that, I never agreed to spy on the family.”

The figure glancing up at him from the holo wore a mask and it irked the man that he had no idea what or who he was dealing with. Though own Inquisitorius armour covered his own visage he knew the man on the other side knew exactly who he was.

“You will do this job, and you will do so with the highest success rate. Failure is not an option, after all, how would dear Frey’jah react to the knowledge you simply gave up on bringing justice to her killers or their kind?” The man stopped, Rai was certain a smile had crept on the man’s lips but the words had already had their effect. “Find out what the elder Keibatsu are up to, especially Ashen, and report back. You aren’t betraying them by simply letting us know. Plus if nothing is going on then you have nothing to fear. Now get to it, or I may accidentally leak previous communications with your name attached.”

The threat was clear as the holoterminal died and the Nihilgenia muttered a curse before turning away and stalking from the room. The nexu cub bounded up to him and nearly bowled him over as he approached his bed and stripping the uniform from him he flung it to one corner before faceplanting into the soft sheets. A thick, rough tongue lapped at his hanging hand and he gently swatted the creature away. His annoyance was clear but the small thing either didn’t recognise it or didn’t care.The clone stopped swatting, sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the cub up into his lap where it curled and near instantly fell asleep.

“Bloody pest, lucky you’re so damn cute eh,” he looked to his datapad as it beeped. Reaching over, with some effort, he managed to grab it without dislodging the cub and raised an eyebrow as he read through the message. “Well looks like we have work to do little one, well I do. Muz has me beckoned.” Shifting the Nexu to the side he stood and headed towards the refresher. This already felt like it was going to be one of those days.

Docking Bay
ADS Fallen Spear
Kyataru Orbit

The shuttle slipped through the energy field that kept the void outside, the hiss of landing gears and warming metals filling their ears as it set down. The alchemist looked up from his crates, the deliveries from the surface a little more delayed than his own arrival long enough to see the former Nihilgenia disembark. “Macron.” Raikou tilted his head in the elder’s direction.

“Aedile now, I hear?” Macron chuffed. “Congratulations.” Don’t screw it up. The clatter drew his attention, as his HK droid dropped the lid from the next crate he was inspecting. Macron launched into a tirade as Raikou made his way past them, heading for the turbolifts. He was more than passingly familiar with the ship, having served with the 9th Nihilgenia for a time. Punching in for the command deck, he breathed a sigh of relief. All of the palace intrigues of the Brotherhood were exhausting, and he had more than once fantasized about ending their politicking with a well placed bolt. He didn’t initially understand why the Lion had left the Iron Throne behind, but he was starting to understand. He smiled, the grin reaching to the corners of his eyes as he imagined the thrill of the hunt, the scent of blood and superheated tibanna gas thick in his nostrils, the symphonic sounds of mayhem and destruction.

The door slid open, and Blackwind sneered at him.

“Back for more, I see.” The Officer’s accent varied, warbling between thick and thin, depending on the word.

Raikou leaned in closely, a toothy grin splayed across his maw. “Your ship…I am in her.”

The look of disgust and disdain that spread across the officer’s face quickly evaporated into mirth as he held out his hand in friendship. “Good to have you back onboard.”

“Well, it is the only way anyone would ever come visit you, you old dog.” Raikou thought for a moment. “Do you even ever get off of this boat?”

“Not a chance. Pretty sure I am just a holographic projection that VASIC made up at this point.” Blackwind snorted, turning to walk with the Quaestor to the Bridge. “Besides, not like you get much off time. I heard they promoted you to something among the cultists.”

“Someone has to keep them reigned in, and all of the Sons of the Dragon seem content to let them to their own devices.” Raikou paused as the doors to the Bridge slid open. “Speaking of, where are they?”

“The Lord is in his quarters with his queen, I am sure. His herald was to drop off his kit in the guest quarters by the Port turbolifts, then said something about going to the dojo. You’d have had to walk past the…” Blackwind’s nose crunched up as he tried to find the right word without disgust.

“Yes, I did.” Raikou spared him. “Who else is to arrive?”

“The Lion’s alien apprentice is due any moment now. And there was another one, dressed in red and black, arrived shortly after the Herald, but I forget the name. Related, they say, but you know how those things go…”

Raikou narrowed his eyes. “Intimately.”

Darius cleared his throat. “He is up in the Dojo already, and I think we are just waiting on the last fireteam from Kuroshin.” Raikou nodded, stepping forward to look out through the viewscreen.

“Nar Shaddaa, I hear.” Raikou laughed. “It’s been a while.”

“Still the same sort of rough city it always has been.” She said, turning from the back console. Long black hair framed a petite face, black Kiffar lines across the left side of her face.

“You are no Nihilgenia.” Raikou crossed his arms.

Darius stepped between the two. “Raikou, this is Nisha Kenvon, Intel Division.”

She reached a hand out to shake his, Raikou looking at it for a moment before shaking it. “Raikou Amahara…Keibatsu” he added after a beat. “Sorry, but I haven’t seen many natural…”

“They are starting to cycle a lot more natives into the forces now.” Blackwind offered, stepping back as an ensign handed him a datapad.

“So, I assume that the Lion…the Lord… requested your presence?”

“My experience is apparently of some use to him on this endeavor. I had a…prolonged encounter with a Tang’va after the Suukou sacked…”

Raikou raised a hand and made a pained expression. We lost a lot of good men that campaign." He softened a moment. “But I am glad that you made it out.” He turned from her, looking for the Autochthonian, who looked up at him and nodded.

“The apprentice just docked.” Blackwind gestured at the helmsman. “Raise cloaks and prepare for the jump.” He sat into the captain’s chair as the stars smeared together and blued into hyperspace. “At least I’ll be able to get some good cigars there.”

“I think I am going to drop my bag, then go get my head in the game.” Raikou stretched his back, his chest swelling as much as it could in the armor. “You said that a few were to be in the dojo?”

“Aye.” Blackwind nodded. “Kyataru to Nar Shaddaa is a pretty long jump. You have plenty of time.” He laughed for a moment. “Don’t get yourself killed up there.”

Raikou chuckled back. “You know that the Keibatsu are [demons], Blackwind.” He smiled wide again. “And I’m one of them now.”

Demons. Is that what they were? Rai had always seen the Keibatsu as dragons, but since arriving in the Brotherhood he had seen many claim that name. Dragons of this, Dragons of that. It amused and greatly annoyed him. The originality of the many was severely lacking, but he had found it an honour to be elevated, to be made a dragon…and yet perhaps that was incorrect. Perhaps, as his mind wandered to those within the family, they really were demons.

A smile crept to his lips as he left the bridge, raising his hand in a quick farewell to Darius and the woman, making his way up the corridors and towards the location of the onboard Dojos. As the clone walked his mind began to wander to his purpose once more. The Inquisition was interested in what the Keibatsu were doing, and the young man had signed up to the organization to assist where he could but now…now he felt like he was stabbing his new family in the back.

A sigh escaped his lips as his feet pounded against the floor. Rai was beginning to wonder what the point in it all was. His honour dictated he defend his family, but it also dictated he follows the orders given to him by his superiors, who in this case was the Iron Throne and the Inquisitorius. So where did he stand, who was he to follow and what exactly was he meant to do?

“Bah, this is nonsense. I’m a Keibatsu, aren’t I?” Another sigh escaped his lips and he walked in silence once more. As the Nihilgenia approached the dojos the sound of exertion broke the silence. Raikou moved to the door and stopped, cleared his mind once more and slammed his fist into the door control. The door opened and the newest Keibatsu walked into the room as he did so his eyes took in the mid gloom and ran over the figure training in the corner. A figure he recognised but at the time he had no intention of talking too.

Instead, the Keibatsu moved over to his own corner, disrobed down to his trousers and picked up one of the training swords, hefting it in his hands and turning to a nearby dummy. His mind filled with thoughts once more as he set to work honing his skills and pushing himself past his limits.

Entertainment District
Nar Shaddaa

It had been a long time since she’d been back here. Not since her smuggling days. Ashia looked around. Not much had changed. It was still the same dark dank hole it had always been.

The Keibatsu moved through the streets cautiously. Slinking in and out of the shadows was pure habit for the Zabrak now, as she sought her target. She found the bar she was looking for and slipped inside quietly.

Smoke hung in the air like a heavy smog. A low din rumbled through the small place as patrons discussed myriad things in hushed tones. The slight klink of glasses echoed from the behind the bar.

Ashia slipped to the back and sat down at a table that gave her the best possible view of the whole establishment. A waitress started to approach the table but she waved her away.

‘Now we wait.’ Her thoughts reached out to her family who were waiting outside. Shikyo had positioned himself across the street in the shadows, Raikou was watching the back door of the establishment.

A Kiffar sat at the bar with his back to the Keibatsu. Every so often, he’d look up at the door. No doubt he had seen her come in but she was not on his radar.

She watched intently. On occasion, his eyes swept around the room and before settling back on the drink in front of him.

After an indeterminate amount of time, an Iktotchi entered and moved towards the bar. He exchanged a few words with the Kiffar before turning to leave.

‘That’s him. He’s leaving out the front now. The Iktotchi.’ Her thoughts reached out to her brother-in-law and the clone.

Ashia moved as if to stand up when a large Falleen moved into view.

“Zorax. You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here.” The Falleen sat down across from her, a blaster trained on her as he smiled broadly.

“Kar Drul. Long time. How’ve ya been? You’re looking good.” Ashia smiled sweetly at the Falleen as she settled back in her seat.

“Don’t sweet talk me. There’s still that little matter of paying for the rest of that shipment.”

The Nightsister leaned back, her arm draped casually over the back of the seat. “It’s not that I didn’t want to pay for it. I ran into some trouble. Tell Garuk I have the money…”

“Garuk isn’t interested in your excuses, little girl. There’s a price on your head now.” He gestured slightly with the blaster as he spoke, but kept it trained on her none the less.

Ashia reached out through the Force, seeking out Shikyo and Raikou who were in the midst of tracking her Iktochi friend. ‘I’ve been…delayed. Keep track of the Iktochi, he’ll lead you to Darth Ira. I’ll join you as soon as I can.’

The Falleen in front of her stood up, gesturing with the blaster that she stand as well. She put her hands up and went along with it…for now.

Outside the Wobbly Wookiee
Entertainment District
Nar Shaddaa

The scoundrel shrugged into his jacket as he stepped out into the night air. It was still warm, but the Iktochi somehow felt exposed. Tilting the collars up around his ears and horns, he darted off to the side of the building, fingers slipping through his pockets, looking for a deathstick. Leaning against the wall, he flipped the slightly luminescent yellow tube into his mouth as his eyes darted around. The Hutts didn’t care what he enjoyed, so long as he was buying it from them, but addicts were a slippery bunch, and he didn’t feel like sharing. He checked his chronometer, debating if he had time for a meal or not before he was due back at the docks. There was a high priority client coming through with some expensive baubles that Gardulla wanted moved to the other side of the city, away from the prying eyes of her own boss. The Iktochi chuckled at the thought of Hutt intrigues, but secrecy allowed him to charge a premium.

Shikyo held his breath a moment, an arm raised in silent handspeak to the Nihilgenia as he approached the exit across the street. Do not advance. He felt along the edges of the Force, tasting the Iktochi’s paranoia. It was a common sentiment in that sort of person, but all the same, he would rather not have to chase him through the crowds. He tilted his hat down further, hiding his eyes behind the wide brim of the gunslinger’s headgear, tiny capsules of Tibanna gas held in the leather strap around the crown that could serve as an emergency recharge for the blasters at his hip. Shikyo played off the pause, rifling through the inside of his duster for something he was sure he didn’t have, biding his time and trying to appear nonchalant.

Raikou stood on the other side of the threshold, his eyes fixed through the bouncer’s stand, his soldier’s stare burning through the Devaronian security guard and the underage Rodian he was flirting with. He suprressed a chuckle as he watched the former herald raise his hand up, fingers drawing across the side of the brim of his hat in a modified hand signal that he understood quickly. Stepping through, he let the artifical light of a thousand electrochem lights bathe him, advertising nightclubs and brothels, casinos and dark markets. It had been a long time, but Nar Shaddaa hadn’t changed much at all.

He let his eyes adjust, sweeping across the crowded lane as he feigned indecision, watching as Shikyo pushed himself up off the wall and started to follow their prey. Raikou started to walk the opposite direction, then spun his head at several of the adverts, pausing and turning sloppily to go the other way. He hadn’t had a drink in a long while, but nobody needed to know that. He metered his steps carefully, giving the impression that he was relaxed, but not so relaxed as to encourage the pickpockets. Shikyo slowed down his pace, lingering at a holographic ad for one of the newer swoop speeders, holding his position as Raikou advanced, listening to the announcer chirp about the advanced power plant systems and gyroscopic stabilization.

“Looks cool, doesn’t it?” Raikou stopped, staring at the same holo.

“Seems like we are headed for one of the spaceports over outside the industrial sector.” Shikyo mumbled, half the words almost lost in the loud street. He paused, his eyes flashing shut for a moment as the words flew across their minds, sinking into the familiar menace of the Lion.

“Makes sense.” Raikou replied. The regular spaceports would have entirely too many records, even on Nar Shaddaa. One of the loading bays in the industrial sector would be far easier for staying off the grid, and that would be exactly what Ira would have wanted. “What about the Queen?”

Shikyo smiled, pointing at the swoop as it spun in front of them in translucent greens and blues. “She’s pretty, but deadly. Take one turn the wrong way, and she’ll kill you and everything you love.” He paused, watching as a group of drunks wobble out of hearing distance. “She’ll be just fine.”

Redacted
Nar Shaddaa

“So, you want to tell me why you brought me here, instead of Gardulla’s brig?” Ashia smiled as they closed the gates behind her, her eyes darting to the Falleen’s waist and her own pistol. “Does Gardulla know that you are even operating here, or are you…” She leaned in, a cruel smile twisting the corner of her mouth as she continued, “Here on Black Sun business?”

The Falleen slammed the back of his hand across the bars in front of her face, the knuckle plate clanging loudly against the durasteel and rattling her eardrums. She backed up, her hands up at shoulder height, the cruel grin shifting into a coy smile. “Touchy, touchy. I didn’t mean anything by it, sweetheart.”

Material Unloading Bay 56
**Atrium Industries **
Industrial Sector
Nar Shaddaa

The Decimator spun, repulsorlift jets kicking on as the VT-49 maneuvered into landing position. It was a larger space, meant for the big freighters to bring in raw metals and other materials for what the Company needed for their particularly dirty machinery, but it didn’t matter to him as he walked up. The toughs at his side were specially chosen, loyal to Gardulla and not any of the other splinters of the Desilijic Kajidic, just as the Iktochi had expected. He uncrossed his arms, watching as the ramp lowered and the captain stepped out, a wiry looking Zabrak, his vest sporting freshish carbon scoring that he hadn’t bothered to clean up. It took the Iktochi a moment, but recognition bloomed in his eyes.

“Bull!” He stepped forward, a smile cracking his face. “Bull Farway? I haven’t seen you in…”

“About five cycles, Verku.” The Zabrak managed a weak smile, stepping forward with his hand outstretched.

Verku grabbed it, pulling the man in for a quick embrace, then letting him go. “I didn’t know that you were still making runs like this… How did you get tangled up in this life again?”

Bull shook his head. “It’s a long story, maybe one for over a round of drinks.” He nodded his head back at the ship. “My…sister’s the dealer.” He eyed the Hutt’s hired muscle, armed well, armored better. They looked professional, uniformed. Bull wondered if a dozen would be enough, given the events of the last few weeks, but decided it wasn’t really his problem.

Verku lifted his head, looking back at the ship. “Nice ship. She yours?”

“Depends on how well this deal goes, but yeah.” He turned around, looking at it. “Still haven’t picked out a name for her yet.”

“That’s bad luck, you know.”

Bull snorted, pivoting to look at the Iktochi. “If it wasn’t for bad luck, it seems like I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.” Her voice rang out as she stepped down the ramp, an electronically locked case under her arm. She smiled at the pair as they turned to look at her, pausing a few feet away from the pair. “Going to introduce me, Farway?”

“Oh, I’m sorry…” Bull stammered for a moment. “Ira, this is Verku Hel, Gardulla’s specialist.” Bull paused, looking at the open door behind the hired muscle, watching as a man with long dark hair moved up behind them, a man in a wide brimmed hat and another with a grungy tunic stepping from the shadow into view behind him. Bull paused, eyes darting between the newcomer and the Iktochi. “And that is…”

Ira hissed the name.

“Ashen.”

Redacted
Nar Shaddaa

Darkness…

There wasn’t a single light nearby. Even a sliver would have been nice. She sat there in the dark. She’d been in a holding cell for hours. No one had come to say anything to her since she was brought in.

She let a long sigh as she lay on the floor mat and allowed herself to drift off into a light sleep.


The room exploded into brilliance accompanied by the deafening clatter of the cell doors opening ferociously.

Arms lifted her angrily up off the floor as the sleep fell from her eyes. She tried to allow her eyes a minute to adjust to the sudden onslaught of intense illumination that was thrust upon her.

“Take it easy! I’m up!” Ashia didn’t like the rude awakening.

They dragged her out of the cell and threw something over her head and tied her arms.

“Hey! What the frell?” She protested but they said nothing.


‘Speeder’ She thought. That’s all she really knew. Her keen sense of direction gave her an idea of where they were going, but there was something unfamiliar she couldn’t put her finger on.

When they finally stopped, they marched her into a building down long corridors and threw her into another cell. This one wasn’t empty though.

“So when do I see Gardulla?” Still no response as they left and disappeared.

She turned to take in the new place. This cell at least had a long bench instead of a floor mat. On it though sat this very large Lasat. He looked her up and down and rubbed his head.

“Karabast!” he grumbled. He looked like he’d been there awhile and didn’t seem all too keen on having a roommate.

“Well, karabast to you too.” She scoffed as she looked around at things, her mind trying to sort out an escape.

“Where are we anyway? This isn’t Gardulla’s brig.” She looked through the cell door window as best she could; it was a little high.

“Who is this Gardulla?” The gruff voice sounded annoyed.

“He’s the Hutt that runs these parts. Or at least he was.” She examined the door.

“I don’t know anything about a Hutt. This here is Bracir Draaqon’s holding cells, where we wait to be sold off to the spice mines or some such.”

“Sold off! Well, I’m nobody’s slave.” She continued to examine the door. “What’s the rotation like?”

“Rotation?” He looked at her sideways. “What do’ya mean, rotation?”

“Guard rotation? How often do they come by?” She glanced back at him incredulously.

“No clue, haven’t paid that much attention to it.” He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and rubbed his head.

“Well you aren’t very helpful, now are ya?” She fiddled with the door some.

“What’dya want, lady? I’ve been here for some time now.” He looked up at her; his eyes a dull green looked very haggard.

A flick of her wrist and the door slid open with an audible hiss.

The Lasat jumped to his feet, his eyes wide. “Karabast! How did you do that?”

Ashia shrugged. “We gettin’ outta here or what?” She turned on her heel and left the cell, not waiting for an answer.


The corridor was clear. The two made their way stealthily, the Zabrak stopping to listen every so often. They found a turbolift and made their way up to what looked like a hangar bay. They slid in behind some crates; watching carefully.

Several men were loading boxes onto a ship. A few others were standing guard.

“What now?” The Lasat hunkered down as best he could; his large frame making it tough.

Ashia watched intently for a moment before moving around the crates to the other side. Staying to the shadows she watched two of the guards standing a few feet away from her.

“You slept with his wife.” The words left her lips quietly and drifted towards one of the men. A second later he uttered the same words.

“I slept with your wife.”

The other guard turned towards him. “You what!?”

The second the words had fallen from his lips, the Nightsister pulled them back out of his thoughts. He looked incredulously at the other man as he drew his blaster on him.

“What the frell are you doing?” Shock fell across his face as he lifted his own blaster towards him in defense.

“How dare you!” The first man screamed. “You were my best friend!”

The detonation of the two blasters erupting simultaneously was deafening in the small area. Ashia ducked down even further, pulling the Lasat with her as she did.

“What the…? How did you…?!” He sat in awe next to her.

“Come on.” She bolted forward a few steps before noticing he wasn’t behind her. She turned to see the Lasat crouching down over the bodies. Thick fingers rifled through the dead guard’s pockets for a moment only to come up empty. He picked up both Bryar pistols, spinning them in his hands for a moment as a smile split his wide face. “Now this is more like it!”

They moved quietly up behind some more crates and other random objects. Ashia peered cautiously around taking it all in and plotting her next move. That’s when she saw him. A cocky little Bothan was bossing around some pretty big Trandoshans.

His back was to her. She watched intently for a moment then reached out as she quieted her mind.

Slowly the blaster that was at his side, lifted out of its holster and just as she had cleared it, he noticed and turned.

“What the frell…?” he started as his blaster began to float away from him. Suddenly he looked up, his eyes fastening on hers.

He reached out to retrieve his weapon in mid air. Ashia pulled the DL-44 quickly to her own hand and squeezed the trigger. The Bothan fell back with an audible thump.

The men he had been directing dropped what they were carrying and started to draw their own weapons. The Lasat stepped in, firing the Bryars he had picked up. More men moved to their position when they heard the commotion.

Without a word the two went back to back, each firing as they moved out of hiding and around towards one of the ships.

“Hey! Stop them!” a voice cried out. The hangar bay was alive with the concussive roar of the fire fight that ensued.

‘Move towards that ship!’ Ashia’s thoughts permeated the mind of the Lasat at her back. They moved as one; the large frame of the Lasat dwarfing her lithe one. His Bryars erupted as they discharged their solid white heat upon the men that stood to stop them.

A few more shots and they had eliminated the rest of the men that were firing upon them.

“Let’s go!” She moved toward the gangplank and up into the ship; the Lasat right behind her.

Ashia entered the cockpit and started flipping switches. It was an old YT-1300 freighter.

“Do you know how to fly one of these things?” The Lasat stood behind her watching her with some concern.

“Why? You think you can do better?” She ignored him as she continued to flip switches getting her ready to take off.

“Move over!” The Lasat said abruptly. She moved out of the seat and he flipped a couple more then set things into motion.

The ship moved out of the hangar bay and suddenly the com system crackled to life.

“You know I’ll find that ssssship and along with it the two of you. Your effortsssss are fruitlessssss.” The voice belonged to Bracir Draaqon.

“I’d say our efforts are working in our favor.” Ashia responded with a smirk on her lips. The Lasat flew the ship effortlessly as they glided over Naa Shaddaa. He let out a chuckle.

“You don’t want to anger me further. I’ll put a bounty on both your headsssss so high, you won’t be able to go anywhere! Now bring back my ssssship!” he raged over the com system.

She switched off the com system as they left Naa Shaddaa behind.

Once in orbit, the Lasat relaxed. A sigh of relief fell from his lips.

“You’re one of them, aren’t you? One of those…uh…Jedi’s? Right?”

She looked at him sideways; a slight scowl crossing her brow.

“What do I call you, anyway?” She changed the subject.

“Lucius Sulla.” He grinned at her.

Ashia blinked. “You’re gonna need a nickname. She flipped the com system back on, punched in a new frequency and a code.

A moment later it crackled to life. “This is Colonel Blackwind. Lady Ashia, is that you?”

Sully’s eyebrow went up at the mention of her being a ‘Lady’.

“Yes, Blackwind. It’s me. Have you heard from Muz?”

“Yes, they have retrieved the package and are waiting for you. ”

“Excellent. Please let him know I have my own ride. I’ll rendezvous with him at Stheno.”

“I will let him know. Is everything alright?”

“Please don’t worry, Blackwind. Not for me.” She switched off the com system and started plugging in the coordinates for Stheno.

Material Unloading Bay 56
Atrium Industries
Industrial Sector
Nar Shaddaa

He inclined his head a degree, measured steps taking him closer to them all.

“Wait…” Bull stammered, eyes darting back to Ira. “That…”

Ira nodded, baring her teeth as her hand found her saber, igniting the flame colored blade in a singular motion. “Don’t just stand there…”

Bull’s eyes widened, his blaster clearing leather at his hip, sending off a volley of shots as he raised it. He fell backwards, watching in horror as every shot bounced harmlessly away, as if they impacted some sort of invisible shield, a barrier he could not see. The Zabrak’s lips mouthed silent atrocities as he pulled on Verku’s jacket, pulling him back with him, toward cover.

“What the frell is…” The Iktochi cursed, watching the bolts dissipate in almost slow motion, the flare of the man’s long jacket opening up as he drew his own weapons, polished throwbacks to the old legends of the Jedi. “I thought all of them…”

Ira sneered, stepping back carefully. “You.” She brought the weapon to bear in front of her, the defensive velocities of Soresu building an aegis in front of her. She let the hate burn through her, images of people lost reaching her mind’s eye. Her master’s face looking up at her, eyes wide on a severed head at Moriband. The bisected body of her apprentice in her safehouse on Correllia. Her brother’s mangled corpse on Ziost. Finding her credit account drained on Coruscant, leaving her cornered without any money for a room or a meal. The small steel card she found on her desk at home, the Lion’s head engraved in it as a message that even home wasn’t safe for her any more. She set her teeth, watching his ruby and amethyst blades ignite. “It ends here, today.”

Muz only nodded.

Shikyo opened his coat wide, holsters exposed at his waist, fingers drawing the blades as they had a million times before, the blades spilling from the hilt to snare blaster bolts and send them careening safely off to the side, leaving nothing but carbon scoring against the bay’s walls for their effort. Raikou bounded forward, shedding his tunic and sprouting firearms, glad to be free from the ruse. He sprayed down the security detail, peppering the area with suppressive fire, bolting side to side to avoid their percussive response before sliding behind a set of heavy crates, a smile burning through his lips. The dull thud of bodies dropping and magazines recharging filled his ears, and Raikou winked at Shikyo. Shikyo’s eyebrow rose at the brashness of the clone, letting out a small chuckle as he moved along with his brother.

Ira pressed forward, a burst of raw hatred erupting from her fingertips, crackling and cerulean as the smell of ozone filtered through their nostrils. Caught in the grasp of a lightsaber, Muz kept moving forward, his pace unchanged by the onslaught. She spun her saber idly, lowering her head a degree, making sure nothing was creeping up alongside her. Shikyo turned, his blades catching blaster bolts as the lightning kept his brother’s blade busy. A thought passed between the two, and Shikyo moved, his blades whirling as he carved his way through the mercenaries, the hammer to Raikou’s anvil.

The crackling energy of her rage turned bitter in her mouth, the hatred giving way to terror, watching as her assault didn’t even slow the man. At every turn, he was there, every plan she had, he was there. Every ally she had, he had killed. everything she had owned, he had taken from her. She let the power evaporate, dropping her other hand to her hilt, watching him through the glow of her blade. “What?”

He kept stepping forward.

“What do you want?” She screamed, feeling her eyes burn, the crimson and gold taking her eyes over from the inside, like in the old days, before their order decided to challenge him. His brotherhood. Before they had to run and hide, when they were proud. He moved forward in silence, his blades held almost casually. “Tell me!” The words started to come coarser, through a raw throat.

Raikou shot a quick look over his cover, watching Shikyo keep them pinned down from the other direction, a whirlwind of cauterizing mayhem that sent them reeling back toward the side of the bay and himself. Fingers found one of the grenades at his belt easily, then thought better of it. As fun as they were, there was too much at risk here. He shrugged it off, drawing his blaster again, and vaulting over the crates, fingers caressing the triggers like a lover. His appearance twisted the mercenaries, their eyes darting between the different forms of death, by blade or by blast.

Those heartbeats were all they needed, Raikou launching himself into the first, driving his knee into the brute’s chest as he drove a dozen blasts into his chest and head, riding the man to the ground as he adjusted fire, blasts erupting from him in a wide arc, catching the closest two in their chests, the blasts not quite enough to penetrate the thick armor, but enough to send them scrambling backwards from the impact. He dove from one to the other, changing a blaster for a vibroknife in the process, the edge of the blade finding the gap between the side plates and the cuirass, carving into lungs and other savory bits as he landed. Rolling off of his prey, he panted, flipping the blade in his hand and throwing it at the other one. The man had moved too quickly though, the pommel instead of the blade of the weapon catching him square in the forehead, crossing his eyes for the moment before Shikyo’s blade burned through his throat.

“Who gets credit for that one?” Raikou chuckled as Shikyo laughed.

“We’ll sort it out later.” Shikyo nodded, tilting his head back toward the ship to see the Zabrak man all but dragging their Iktochi up the ramp of the Decimator. He looked back at Raikou, shaking a fist three times as Raikou did the same before they made different hand signals. “Lizard beats snake, they’re mine.” Shikyo smiled as he turned, breaking into a run as Raikou jumped atop one of the crates, letting loose a wealth of suppressive fire that sent the pair scrambling for cover.

Ira had trained among the best, the deftness of her blades renowned among her order. Speed over strength, her blade sought holes in even the best defenses. She had racked up several dozen kills to her name in their war with the brotherhood, taking her from apprentice to Darth after the first few incursions. She heard the whisper of the Force, tales of fate, unhinged and burning in the darkness of forever. It sang to her, a dirge of unmaking. Her mind raced, trying to decipher it, the meaning.

The claws of the Lion found their way around her weapon, tearing into her heart. The warmth was almost comforting as shock kept the pain confused with adrenaline. Her saber fell, fingers releasing reflexively, her hilt caught by an invisible hand, drawing it away from her. She shuddered, a ragged cough spurting forward, blood staining her teeth as she watched the color drain from the edges of her vision.

The blade twisted, the fire seething through her, drawing a line of ruin to her other heart, a tear forming at the corner of her eye as her lips worked. Muz leaned in, black eyes watching her fade, listening to her last words.

“My chains are broken…”

As Raikou laid down a line of suppressive fire towards the retreating henchman, with Shik giving chase up the ramp, something thrummed and exploded right where the other Kei had stood. Where Shik had stood was nothing, the Master had left his fleet and involuntarily flown back into a stack of packing crates. The blast of the concussion grenade was too much even for the Master to react to, but not quick enough for him to be caused any major harm.

The Nihilgenia jumped down to the deck and rocketed across the floor space towards the elder Kei.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. Get on and get them!” Shikyo roared at Rai. Not needing to be told again the Nihilgenia’s direction changed almost instantly and he raced towards the decimators boarding ramp, which to his horror had begun to rise.

“Damn you, damn you da…” something sparked and the boarding ramp screeched, shuddered and stopped. It held lazily in place before it plummeted to the ground with a clank. A laugh escaped the soldier’s lips as he mounted the ramp and cautiously made his way into the ship.

“What the kriff do you mean you can’t close the ramp?” a voice somewhere above could be heard yelling.

“That damn grenade you tossed has damaged the system you fool!”

The lines of speech melted off into a series of profanities and Raikou moved through the opening leading into the ship’s primary hall. The ladder to the upper area was to his right but he knew that would be the worst idea possible with those two above. Instead, before he moved away from the ladder he quickly ducked down, rummaged on his belt and withdrew a magnetic anti-personnel mine, quickly attaching it to the base of the ladder just out of sight.

The sound of footsteps moved up behind him and he looked over his shoulder to take in Shikyo joining him. Both moved down the hallway like trained professionals, each checking a room on different sides of the corridor. It was all clear until they opened the door into the ship’s ready room.

“You are not authorized to be here, stand down or…open fire.”

“Roger, Roger.”

A pair of B2 Battle droids had been waiting and activated the moment the door was slid open. A heavy stream of heavy fire rushed to meet the pair of Keibatsu as they moved back and into side rooms as quickly as they could.

“Looks like you found some new friends, “ Shikyo laughed. “But unsure about their attitudes.”

“Kinda remind me of Shimura, to be honest,” Rai snapped back as he peered around the corner and loosed a salvo at the leading droid.

“How so?”

“Starts a conversation, gets confused mid-sentence and starts smashing things up!”

The laugh of the elder Kei met his ears as the closest B2 closed upon the door. The sound was accompanied by Shikyo’s sabers igniting and piercing through the wall and into the side of the battle droid. A weird metallic scream hit their ears and Rai spun out of his room again and launched a brutal salvo into the face of the second droid. Both dropped and the ship went quiet once again.

“Ya hear that? Think those droids got em?” A voice from above queried.

“Who knows, the number of credits we poured into them I hope so. Go have a look.”

“Eh…sure.”

Shikyo was about to move to engage as the door to the upper areas slid open and a foot hit the top rung of the ladder. Rai held up his hand to indicate for him not to move. A second step, a third then the telltale beep beep beeeeeep.

A scream went up alongside the explosion and Raikou indicated for the elder Kei to move. Shikyo moved like the wind, utilised the now dead thug as a springboard, due to the ladder being crippled, and swept up into the bridge of the ship. A startled cry and then silence once more, Raikou moved to the ladder, put a quick bolt into the body on the floor to ensure he was dead and as he looked up he spotted the smiling face of Shikyo.

“Wondered why there was a shot, seems you were just being thorough.”

“Always am, always will be.” Rai retorted as he moved out of the way for his brethren to slide down to join him. They left the ship together and spotted the form of the Lion waiting for them. “All clear made a bit of a mess though. Was all Shik’s fault though.”

He felt a slap to the back of the head as Shikyo walked past him and they both moved up to the side of Muz.

“So what now?”

“Stheno, we leave soon,” was the only reply the pair received. Muz moved away and as he did Rai kneeled next to the body of the fallen Darth. Something caught his eye and he reached out to move aside Darth’s robes and as he did so the woman’s lightsaber rolled free and against the toe of his boot. It was rather beautiful and without hesitation, he picked it up and clipped it onto his belt.

As he rose again to his feet he caught the odd look Shikyo was giving him. “Robbing the dead aye?”

“Seems a waste to leave it, call it a souvenir of our day out.” Raikou retorted with mirth in his voice. “Plus, never know when something can come in handy.”

With that, the pair said very little else as they awaited the Lions next orders.