Clan Arcona - Pre-War Fiction Update [2017]: Scars

Scars


The Citadel, Selen
35 ABY

“…if someone has to step up, I’m willing,” was the resigned but resolute proclamation of the sharp-jawed Quaestor. He didn’t look pleased at the prospect, but his stance was firm, ready to do what was right as the ranking officer.

"Who cares? I’m tired of standing around and not doing anything. We should be going after those sleemos."

“We will hardly accomplish anything without a proper structure of organization, Qyreia,” spoke the redheaded Battleteam leader smoothly. Her smile was perfunctory and just plain enough to be appropriate for a setting of mourning. “And I am, of course, willing to do everything in my power to aid in that endeavor.”

“That’s appreciated, Lucine, but Terran is still our superior,” Zujenia chided, more harshly than the normally calm half-Ryn typically would. She was still covered in bandages and shallow scrapes from the battle. “And there is also Lord Arconae.”

“It is merely a suggestion, darling. I would not assume myself the best candidate, but I assure you, I would do quite well in such a role at this dire time.”

“You can still help,” Terran offered, fingering one of the many pockets inside his coat. “Don’t worry.”

“Hold on, now, who’s to say either of you is the best for this? No offense, but I’m still right here,” snapped the Zeltron. “I’ve been working with our troops for months, I know this stuff, and we need to be ready to fight right now a lot more than we need to be worrying about making creds.”

“Darling, are you saying all we are good for is credit? Because, I assure you—”

“I’ve heard one too many assurances that haven’t been for kark, recently, so sorry, but—”

“Hush!” cried Zujenia. “No one is saying anyone is unfit. We need to be considering what’s best, here. What would Atyiru have done? Perhaps we should reach out to one of the former Proconsuls, or one of the other Arconae, if not Terran…”

The doors sliding open with a bang cut her argument off. Heads turned, gazes swiveling. The familiar faces of Uji and Kordath flanked a Human woman with a cold, feral smirk.

“Hello, nerfherders,” she said, striding in and popping her hip, a hand settling there above numerous knife holsters.

“Who the frack let you in?” Qyreia scoffed.

“Me. Just now. Pay attention, Pinky. Your kind aren’t the blind ones.”

“More importantly,” Terran asked, looking unimpressed, sharp features pinched. "Who are you?’

“Your new boss,” declared the woman with a wine-red smirk.

The Quaestor continued to stare levelly, nonplussed, while the Zeltron mercenary gave a disbelieving cry and Lucine paled.

“Now’s not the time for your, your joking, Satsi,” growled Zujenia, her short tail lashing, the hair on her arms standing upright. “Atty…Atty is—”

“—the reason I’m here, Spots,” interrupted the newcomer, approaching the table. Uji’s cane rapped against the floor as he stopped just behind her, close enough that the backs of their hands brushed where they hung at their sides, while Kordath rounded the room and squeezed the Qel-Droman Aedile’s shoulder. Another man, Constantine, his blond hair pulled into a tail and blue eyes bright, took up position behind Uji.

“It’s true, luv,” the Ryn murmured, his mustaches twitching. “Blinky done left us a note, named 'er the new big guy and such, if…if anything did happen.”

“Back up, here,” snapped Terran, his cool gaze cutting. “Who are you, and what are you on about?”

“If you would allow us to explain, Koul, you would have your answer,” the former Scion replied with equal coolness. “We have come to rectify the Summit’s arrangement, as per Atyiru’s wishes.”

The Jensaarai’s fingers dug into the sleeve around a limb that, not long before, had been broken trying to save the Nighthawk crew during the Hutts’ attack. “You left. You’re not striding back in here and pulling a coup, Tameike.”

“No, he’s not.” The woman, ‘Satsi’ apparently, rolled her eyes. “I am. And it’s not a coup. I’ve been…” her voice curdled around the word, “appointed.”

“Oh, hell no,” exclaimed Qyriea, her jaw tight and hands curling and uncurling next to her belted pistols. “How would that even happen? No way did Atty leave you in charge, schutta. We don’t have time for this druk, get out of here.”

“Pardon, my lords and ladies,” came the voice of Captain Bly from the side, making a few more heads turn; the guard captain’s entrance had gone mostly unnoticed. “But the Consul is not lying. Lady Arconae bequeathed charge of her position unto Lady Tameike.”

“Don’t call me that,” grumbled Satsi, but she went ignored.

“That can’t be,” protested Zuji, growing more agitated. She shrugged away from her fiancee. “She doesn’t— she’s not suited for this, surely! Not leading…”

“Says who?” snapped the woman in question, switching her glare to the half-Ryn. “You? What do you really know about me, kid, huh?”

“You…” growled the hybrid again, but quieted her protest, grief mixing back into her furious expression. Kordath frowned. Terran had grown quiet, his eyes watching intently, waiting.

“Shall we return to business?” Uji urged, ever calm despite his obviously dissatisfied exterior.

"Kark that, I’m not sticking around to put up with this choobfest. No way am I working with you," spat Qyreia, evidently still angry about their previous encounter.

“Suits me just fine, Pinky. Less trouble to deal with without your pheromones around. Go make yourself useful how you like, just don’t frak anything up while you’re at it.”

Satsi jerked her chin at the exit. The Zeltron’s locked jaw and bared teeth accompanied her lovely glare as she stalked off, shouldering past Kordath, who only half-heartedly reached after her. He dropped his hand with a shrug.

There was a pause, before the supposed new Consul spread her hands and scathed, “Anyone else want to make a show? Or do I have your attention now?”

“Start talking,” Terran said, shrugging one shoulder as he settled back in his seat.

“Finally,” Satsi growled. “Now, I—”

The scarred woman choked off as a wave of dread boiled up and rolled across the small space, making everyone present shudder or hitch their breath. Timeros took a single, pristine stride forward from where he had stood at the head of the table as if carved there by a sculptor’s hand. His icy stare swept over to the Tameikes, fine features completely devoid of anything but clockwork calculation.

“Explain,” he ordered shortly, with the curtness that dictated every action he took.

Satsi’s cybernetic spine straightened, her chin lifting, showing every proud scar. She tasted anger on her tongue.

“You know who I am?” she asked the mannequin of the man, thin almond eyes meeting his unflinchingly even as her fingertips trembled under the force of the fearful aura that leaked from him like a miasma. He nodded infinitesimally. “Good. Means all your shadow friends know me too. For the rest of you, here’s the rundown. I’m his sister,” she jerked her chin at Uji, who stared back at anyone who met the former Proconsul’s gaze. “If one of us knows or did something, the other was in on it. Anything and everything. Everything,” this she stressed looking again at the Arconae challengingly. “Name’s Satsi. I was second in command to a Black Sun Vigo most of my time, been here with you idiots what…three? Four years now? Was my brother’s Fade, helped run the ‘Hawk and Gal back under Kaeth and Cortel. Spent the last year on Kiast with our Jedi friends makin’ good with them and working some angles at the Dark Council. Let’s…just say I’ve been going hard at it for a long time. I didn’t steal this.” Her hand went to her belt, drawing a familiar blade out of a sheath and stabbing it into the table. A Grand Inquisitor’s dagger. “I was given it. How many of you can say you’ve been in the same room as Pravus in the last year? Hmm? I’m good for this, and I just put up some gorram curtains over my bedroom windows in the house we got down on the beach here, so I got a real vested interest in not seeing this place burn to the ground.”

The sarcasm in her voice was heavy. She glared around her. “Now if all that isn’t good enough for any of you because I’m not one of you sparkfingers like your other Consuls, then here’s your deal: for some frakking reason, your Shadow Lady decided I would be a good appointee if anything happened to her. So here I am. You either honor her, or you listen to me, or you listen to my karking pistol, but either way, you fall in so we can figure this out or you get out of my way.”

Timeros blinked once at the lengthy speech. Satsi’s gaze didn’t waver. Slowly, like a layer of dead skin peeling back inch by inch, the permeation of terror receded.

“…as you say,” intoned the man. “Lord Consul.”

“No, nope, none of that. No one calls me Shadow Lady, you got that? That’s Atty. Not Lord either. If you have to call me something, you can say Commander or Chief or Tameike, something like that. Nobody on my side calls me Lady. We’re not playing frakking kingdom here. This is a war. Treat it like one.”

The myrmidon Arconae merely folded his arms behind his back and tipped his chin, ever dutiful — at least where the good of the clan was concerned. His interrogation seemed to have given the others pause, whether because no one in the room was immune to his unpleasantness, or because his acquiescence was telling.

“Great. Now, few other points of order. I don’t give a kark about all your hierarchy and systems. That’s not useful to us now. Look at each other, yeah? We’re all we’ve got, us and our people, and there’s a whole lot more out there that we don’t know anything about coming to kill us or take our land or something. Forget your Houses, forget your teams, forget the Throne or whatever else you feel like being loyal to, and think about your own skins. This, right here, this is what we have to fight with. It’s just us. So suck it up and start thinking of each other real nice, because at this table, we’re all knee deep in the rancor piss together and we all have to get out. This isn’t about your Clan crap anymore. This is war. We’re a war council, and nothing else, got it? I don’t care if you go back and you organize yourselves however you like, but when you walk in here, you leave the rest at the door, you sit your ass down, and you get ready to fight. Can we agree on that?”

Kordath was nodding along, mouthing something that might have been ‘do what she says, dinnae piss her off’.

The more mercenary leader of Port Ol’Val appeared rather at ease with such a proposal, though he did add, “Sure…but whoever these people are, they’re not our biggest problem. If it wasn’t for Pravus and his kark, we wouldn’t have been there and Princess Sunshine wouldn’t be…”

“Are you trying to suggest we shouldn’t worry about them? They used suicide bombers. They’re the reason Atyiru—” Zujenia’s voice cracked, and her fists knotted, tail lashing. “Pravus has to be stopped but we can’t just ignore this! What if they’re slavers? What if they’re actually from another clan? What if they’re just more of Pravus’ agents trying to fool us?”

“I’m not saying we don’t investigate,” replied Terran, kicking up his boots. “Just that we let them bloody each others’ noses a bit. Then, we take out Pravus and worry about these other guys if and when it becomes necessary later.”

“We do not have the time to conduct such investigations with the way events are currently moving,” Uji said grimly. “We must make our priority preparing for what is to come. Repairs, recruitment, and operations to defend and fortify our borders. If Pravus and his ilk do not deign to coordinate a return strike for the fall of the Suffering, then it is likely these new arrivals or one of the other clans will seize what they see as an opportunity. We will be ready for them to realize how grave that mistake is.”

“And what, we just sit here and wait for someone to come after us? What about everyone else?” Zuji demanded, ever the champion for others. “Everyone Pravus has hunted—”

“—frankly, no longer our concern.”

“You can’t just say that! We have to defend these people! We have to help! We should take the offensive now while we’ve got a chance.”

Uji went on, “You are allowing your upset over Atyiru to cloud your judgement. I desire retribution as well, but striking out is not the wisest course of action—”

“Shove it, Tameike,” Terran growled in his Aedile’s defense, glaring. “We get it, you don’t want to run out fighting. We should still try to exploit any window they make. More useful than burying our heads in the sand.”

“Look,” Satsi said, “I hate Pravus as much as the next guy but he didn’t attack this time, somebody else did, and I’m not so inclined to assume they won’t do it again. Whoever they are, they’re gunning for us, for the Tarenti and Odanites and Sadowans and whoever else and for the damned Council, if that holofeed from the battle is anything to go by. So, you take your grief if you got any and you deal with it. Swallow it ‘til you choke, and then keep choking. Choke on it and do your jobs. We’ve got too many bigger guns pointed at us right now. When you’re pinned on all sides in a street shoot-out, you don’t run out into the open, you hunker down, give a few of the other guys a chance to kill each other, and take an opening when you got one. We have to deal with what’s in front of us so we don’t get shot in the back before we can deal with putting Pravus’ head and dangling bits on a pike to burn. Okay?” She glanced at the half-Ryn. “And I promise, Zujenia, he’ll burn. Just not today. Too much going on today.”

Eyes widening slightly at the use of her name, the Aedile begrudgingly nodded.

“Okay?” she asked of the room again, and Lucine and Constantine both nodded as Terran tipped his chin. Uji was quiet, supporting his twin, and Kordath comforted his partner with a brush of his tail. Timeros was still, and Bly stood at parade rest.

“Alright then. You,” she pointed at Terran and Zujenia, her finger lingering on Lucine as the redhead flinched slightly, making Satsi’s lips twitch. “You know your people on your rock, handle them how you see fit while you’re investigating our ‘new friends.’ You lot,” her gaze swiveled to her twin and his newly appointed Captain. “You take the military arm, maybe see if you can’t get Red to cool her thrusters and fly with us. Constantine, right? Welcome to the madness.”

The Grey Jedi saluted proudly, and Uji gave his grave nod. Satsi turned to Timeros. “And you…Are the other Arconae gonna go along quiet with this?”

“We are convening a meeting on Gethsemane shortly.”

It wasn’t an answer, but the woman grimaced and took it. “…right. Kordy!”

The Ryn perked up, flicking his tail. “Yeah, luv?”

“Be ready to hold my jacket when I go beat the frak out of these people.”

Kordath grinned. “Does that mean I get ta stay home this bloody time?”

“And babysit.”

“Heh. Be me pleasure.”

“Alright.” Satsi took a deep breath, then exhaled. She ticked at her fingers. “Alright. That’s introductions and dramatics out of the way…couple more things I wanna talk about up front. Like Atty…”

“…alright, alright. Any more now and we’ll all shoot ourselves. Everybody shove off and get moving unless you got questions. Take a few hours. Sleep. Eat something. Love yourselves real nice. Whatever. Just keep your comms handy and don’t get stupid.”

The new War Consul rubbed at her tired eyes as she said it, flapping a hand to wave them all off. There were a couple mutters, a bit of side conversation. Terran loped off, already calling his Fades, and Timeros had disappeared. Satsi spoke quietly to Kord for a minute before he and Zuji left, but mostly, the ex-Fade just watched from the corner of her eye as Lucine made the quickest and most dignified escape she could at a lady’s leisurely stride and tried not to laugh. Her twin, reading the direction of her thoughts, shook his head.

“Kyodai,” she said simply.

“Shimai,” he replied, and that was it. Their minds swirled briefly, he squeezed her hand, and then departed, his Battleteam Leader in tow., to see to his new duties in managing an entire bloody navy.

Only once the room had cleared did she allow herself to slump and buckle, heaving an unsteady breath. Uji’s retreating mind brushed hers, strength and comfort radiating from that seam where they were always connected, and she returned the feeling gratefully before it faded. Her arms and legs tremored finely, like her bones had gone to gelatin, and she clutched at the tabletop, dropping her forehead against its surface and letting out a breath that shook the whole way.

Satsi sucked in and out, trying to count a few seconds for each breath, but she couldn’t hold it. Instead, she thought of her baby girl back at home, how they’d left her with the nanny droid before coming to the Citadel: Sammy sitting on her green blanket with her stuffed Tythonian ferret toy and her little blocks that she liked to throw and gnaw on. Her pretty, squinchy eyes and her bread-roll arms and the way she liked climbing furniture more than trying to walk, like it was for amateurs.

These people are not making an orphan of my daughter.

Curling her fists and squeezing her eyes shut tight, Satsi drew in a deep breath through her teeth, ignoring the hitch of air hiccuping in her chest. Then, she exhaled. Relaxed. Shut everything away. Everything but cold-beskar hate and a furnace of wrathful purpose.

She fixed her gaze on the hologram in front of her, frozen in a blur of explosions and laserfire.

“Whoever you are,” she snarled, “I’m coming for you.”

Pivoting on her heel, the Human strode out into the hall, her lip curling when she found two Summit Guardsmen flanking the door. Great. Was she supposed to have escorts now?

“You two,” she snapped. They saluted, half-bowed. Satsi rolled her eyes. “None of that. Where’d your captain go?”

“The Captain is awaiting you in the Consul’s office, my La—”

"For the love of— " the woman growled.

“Ma’am?”

“Yeah, yeah, go on. Atyiru’s office?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well comm him and tell him to meet me in the throne room. And don’t follow me.”

They bowed, to her pleasant surprise. She’d give that much to Atyiru, the Miraluka had accustomed her staff to more ludicrous demands. There were probably plans for her own funeral party somewhere.

Satsi ran to the throne room just because she could, and the burn in her muscles made the anger pumping in her veins simmer hot and sweet. It wasn’t a long stretch, but it was something, and she enjoyed watching the guards standing outside the grand doors tense up at her approach.

She thought she recognized one of them. He eyed her warily. Maybe she’d decked him at the cantina once.

“Consul,” they greeted as she brushed past.

The throne room was empty, as empty as it ever got, and the dark was deep. Each of her booted steps echoed eerily. The flowers and vines that Atty had usually had tended were starting to wilt in their vases and brown around the pillars. Satsi made a mental note to have them cleared out.

The empty throne loomed ahead of her, the fires all but out, and she ignored it, pacing along the aisle instead until the doors opened again and her new lackey entered. She and the captain exchanged the brief, professional glare of people who’d tried to break each others’ noses.

“Bly. Where’s that gorram little secret room office thing? I know she had one. Not her study.”

“This way,” the guard captain said tersely, leading her past the throne’s dias where the low white embers seemed to be mourning and around to a short, concealed hallway.

Frigid stone walls gave way to a single durasteel door with a biometric lock, which Bly nodded towards. Satsi eyed it, sighed, then pressed her thumb to the sensor. There was a sharp little prick of pain, a whir, and then the thing beeped and the panel unlatched.

The room she was ushered into was modest but noticeably fortified, the illumination banks warming to a subdued glow as she entered. The walls were dark, and she hazarded to guess whether they were also durasteel or carved out of the mountain itself. A single pennant bearing the Arcona symbol hung behind a large suite of machinery and the desk-like structure attached to it. It appeared to be a long holomap projector, comm array, and workspace all rolled into one. Some pieces looked dusty, while others were obviously recently used, as clean as if fingers had just graced them — Atyiru’s likely had just before the battle.

Satsi stopped in the middle of the space and glanced over her shoulder at Bly, realizing he hadn’t followed her. She wondered if it was because of some stick up his exhaust port, or because there was some sort of security system in place she couldn’t see that would fill anyone but the Consul full of plasma bolts.

That’d be good to know.

“Problem?” the woman asked of her guard captain, and he shook his head.

“No, your Excellency. I merely await orders. Is there anything else you need, my Lord?”

“Tameike is fine, Bly. Or Chief. Whatever.”

“It is to be Lord Tameike and Lord Tameike, then?”

Satsi paused, realizing what the sly man meant and wondering if he was actually joking at her family’s expense. Her glance turned appraising, eyebrow lifting, and she half-smirked.

“…alright, frakker, I’ll give you that one. What about whatever it was that you thought of me as before, under Atty?”

Bly’s usually smooth expression cracked with something like wry amusement. “Usually ‘that menace,’ ‘her again,’ or, on occasion, simply, ‘oh, sithspit.’”

“Why, Bly, I didn’t know you had it in you. Hah! Fine. Whatever you like then, just don’t go spreadin’ the Ladyship thing around.”

“As you say, Consul.”

Satsi turned back to the equipment, eyeing the databanks. “Everything is here?”

“Everything. The Shadow Lord has many archives, including such that are not for the eyes of he rest of the Summit.”

“Even the Arconae?”

“In some cases.”

“Hmm…right. Alright, that’s good for now, you go do…Shadows, what did you even do normally?”

“I hold command of the Summit Guard, Consul, and attend to security and personnel matters of the Citadel and the Summiteers, whether they wish me to or not, as well as any other tasks the Consul may deem suitable to me. Under Lady Arconae, I held many additional duties, including those of strategist, confidant…”

“And party planner.”

“It is my hope that you will have different priorities, Consul.”

“Very,” snorted Satsi. “Okay. Go do whatever it is you gotta do getting this kark…settled, or whatever. I’m assumin’ your comm code is in here, so I’ll call you when I need you. You ever sleep?”

“When I can, Consul.”

“Ain’t that the truth. We’ll talk schedules later. Get gone.”

The man saluted, bowed, and departed without so much as another word. Military types.

Shaking her head, the scarred woman moved around to the only available chair and took a seat, reclining back experimentally. It was comfortable enough, nothing fancy. There was a tiny potted tree sitting on the desk with a tiny yellow ribbon tied around it. She could immediately imagine Atyiru talking to the thing while the Miraluka worked. It probably had a name and an entire backstory with its sixteen cousins, or something. The thought made her chest throb with a hollow spike.

Ignoring the feeling, she poked around until she found datapads and the controls from the holocommunicator. Pulling up the directory, she scrolled through an immense list of codes until she found an address that made her eyes well up.

Queueing the call, she waited briefly for the connection to merge between swathes of stars, and a moment later a heart-achingly familiar figure appeared on the three-dimensional display in front of her. Turel was dressed in his usual casual fashion, not in the Jedi General regalia he’d worn in their naval engagement. He was busy pulling a towel off of his damp, loose hair, obviously having rushed to answer.

“Sist— oh. Sats? Is that you? Where’s Atty? What are you doing on her line?”

“One at a time, sugah. Yeah, it’s me. And it’s not Atty’s line, it’s the frakkin’ Consul’s.”

“Yeah, yeah, but what—” Turel’s tiny digital eyes widened. “Oh. Oh. Oh, no way, no way.

“Yup.”

"No way."

“Yup.”

“I don’t know whether to be glad or horrified,” Turel commented, and Satsi laughed.

“Yeah, me either. The frak is this right now, huh? This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. It’s frakking insane.”

The little holographic miniature of Turel cupped its cheek. “The Force help us. Well, I know one thing, and that’s that there’s nobody I’d rather have at my back, psycho.”

“Same to you, churchmouse. We’re war wives. We got this.”

“War wives,” Turel rejoined, a tired smile coming to his pale blue, stricken features. He stepped briefly out of view, then came back, his ponytail neatly in place, smoothing a palm over the shaved sides of his head. “So, come on, details. Why? Did Atty need a break? Is she hurt? What happened to you guys after the retreat? We got an all-clear relay back, but not much else. Sista was supposed to drop me a call, that’s why I was waiting. She’s okay, right?”

His voice had grown high with worry for his friend. Satsi gnawed on her lip, feeling a weight so heavy on her neck and shoulders, it seemed like she should be hearing her cybernetics short out.

The new Consul sighed, dropping her head into her hand. “Shadows, if it were anybody other than you, I’d be having some peon do this,” she groaned to her feet. Pushing her hair back, she lifted her head again, grit her teeth, and said, “Turel, Atyiru is dead.”

The holographic Jedi stilled with shock, his image flickering. “…don’t screw with me, Satsi, that’s not funny.”

“I’m not! I wouldn’t joke about that kark, hon, I’m serious. I swear it on Sammy and Nayru’s lives.”

Even at the mention of their daughters, the man shook his head, sticking out a hand to brace himself on something that wasn’t conveyed in the transmission. “No, no…do you…she…no, Atty’s got to be fine, I would have felt… you guys weren’t that badly hit, I was watching before we jumped! We got confirmation that your fleet made it back fine. She’s fine—”

“No, honey, she’s… She’s… You remember that episode of For Love of Miys Starrunner, when their ship got attacked by the smugglers and Kara got spaced when the cargo bay blew?” she referenced one of the holonovelas the two had watched together. “It’s, it’s like that, sugah. We mostly made it back, yeah, but…Atyiru is dead, T. She’s dead. I’m sorry.”

She knew it wasn’t possible — the holo wouldn’t display such things — but she could have sworn he paled as she watched. The other Consul put a hand over his eyes, shoulders slumping, shaking slightly. Satsi bit the inside of her cheek so hard she tasted blood, wishing she could reach out and wrap her arms around the projection. Wishing she could tear open the throat of anyone that made him look like that. Wishing it wasn’t her doing it.

“…okay,” Turel said eventually, drawing himself back up. Even in transmission, he looked older. Resigned. “I…so you’re taking over? It’s not just temporary?”

“However long this lasts, yeah.”

“Okay. You know I have your back, if you need anything.”

“Yeah. Thanks, sugah.”

They lapsed into silence again. Turel was briefly pulled away by a voice she recognized — his Padawan — and in the intervening time, Satsi rummaged around in the desk drawers until she found what she was looking for: a somewhat dusty bottle of Vasarian brandy. Trust Pigtails, she thought with grim satisfaction.

When the High Councillor returned awhile later, they discussed other things, reviewing what they knew of their losses and exchanging information on their mysterious attackers, but it was all clipped. He poured himself something when he saw her sipping at her bottle, and their conversation eased slightly then, more focused on long pauses and mutually supportive silence than anything else.

At length, after Turel was pulled away a second time, Satsi commented, “Ya know, some idiots have been saying the Lotus is dead, that it’s all over and done now.”

“That’s what they think. We won’t forget.”

“No we frakking won’t. Family remembers, and Pravus will get his,” replied the woman, raising her drink to the man’s avatar. He lifted his back, and they took solemn swallows.

“I’ve got to go. Meetings to have. Troops. You know.”

“Yeah, hon…I know.” Satsi sighed. “Give Vorsa and Nay my love, and give Cor a hug for me too.”

“Same to you guys.”

“I got a holo of Sammy walking the first time…I’ll send it later.”

“I’d love that.”

They were quiet again.

“Hey…can you get me anything you got on the other clans and this Arx place? I already got a lot of studyin’ to do from Atty’s archives here, but knowin’ the nest I’m walkin’ into would be good. Shadows even know when the Council comes calling.”

“Of course. If they give you trouble, we’ll be with you.”

“Same to you.”

They shared tired, tiny smiles, and then the call disconnected. The new Consul leaned back in her chair in the dark and sighed again, taking another drink.

Then she sat up, grabbed her datapad, and began to read.

Daylight had died and the sun sunken low. The skyline was a seamless pall of no particular hue or depth, the air still and dry and frigid as a mountaintop autumn was wont to turn it. Hundreds of bodies that had once gathered in the courtyard to hear every word Atyiru Caesura Entar Arconae had said now stood to grieve her. Their clothes were dark. Their lips blued with the cold. The wind moaned a sad, weak croon that rattled the smooth black boughs of dying trees like bones, barely strong enough to make the few brown, shriveled leaves that still clung to them shiver. Cloaks and rotted grass rustled. The brightest spot of color in the whole space seemed to be the beautiful set of robes and jewels and the long rope of silver hair smoldering in the flames of the large pyre, their tribute to their iridescent late Consul and the best measure of comfort they could scrape together.

The wreckage had been horrific. When crew had finally gotten to the bottom of the turbolift shaft and the surrounding areas, they had found hull breaches in some compartments; others sealed off by emergency doors had contained the fires that turned their insides to slag and char. Wiring and tortured sheet of metal, shrapnel and debris had abounded. Many dead were found. Many others weren’t.

The recovered corpses had been set to each side of the grand bonfire and rows of guards marched between them, taking their lady to her final rest. Normally, a lilting voice would have been whispering warm prayers over them all, her words soft and and sad and bright.

“Hear our prayers, Ashla, Bogan,” she would have said. “My friends,” she would have said, and bowed her silver head, hands crossed against her breast, over her heart.

There was no one to pray for them now.

It started to snow.

Straight down, no fury, no tempest, just dry, crystalline cold. The flakes could have been stardust in the sable sky for the way they settled on black-draped shoulders and hoods and veils. They watched the flames billow on regardless, watched the smoke rise and the logs and wreaths blacken and crumble. Still, no one spoke. It was as if their voices had been stolen along with their comrades’ lights. It was quiet enough to hear every cough and sniffle clearly and, as they broke, every sob.

The shadows stretched deep and long. It was all but too dark to see by the time the flames started to smolder low, but no one lit the lamps.

There was some shuffling. From the head of the crowd parted a pair of plainly-dressed figures. One was more recognizable than the other, their former Scion and a woman who mirrored him. A short man, tail lashing, took his arm from around the taller, spotted hybrid he held and joined them. A pale figure in a dun duster stepped up in his place, resting a hand lightly on the half-Ryn’s shoulder. The tightly drawn or devastated visages of several others stood slightly back.

The woman, tan and dark of hair and slanted eye, with more scars than unblemished skin, took another pace forward and turned in a slow circle to gaze out over the congregation, catching their attention. She looked tired in the perpetual fashion, with creases under her eyes, yet the steel to her step and the way she stood with focused stillness implied the capacity for instant violence.

Quite abruptly, she yelled, “She didn’t have to die! But they took her from us. They murdered her!”

There was no direction to the nebulous accusation except for its certainty, and a ripple went through the crowd, a rustling, rumbling, groaning shift, like a beast stirring from sleep. The air tasted of anger, and the Force tensed with it. Them. Us. They had taken from us.

The woman was going on, flinging both arms out to gesture around.

"She loved you! She loved you like no one else ever has, like no one else ever damn will. She was good. And now she’s gone. Because of them." A pause. She pivoted again, meeting burning gazes. “Because of them,” she repeated.

The gathered press of sorcerers and warriors and soldiers, cooks and mechanics and pilots, men and women from the lowest of servants to the masters of the Citadel, masters of the Force, stirred again. Murmurs and curses rippled through them. Fists tightened on sabers, by sides. Teeth flashed, bared by snarls.

“They took that from you. Hurts, doesn’t it? Frakking hurts. Well who are they to put you in pain? Who are they to take away what’s ours? Who are they, to think they can frakking dare to attack us? To steal from us? To murder our people? THEY KILLED HER! ATYIRU IS DEAD, AND THEY KILLED HER!” She was screaming now, and the shouts and growls of agreement were growing. It would boil over, soon; of that there was no doubt. “AND WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THEM PAY FOR IT!”

Her fist thrust up into the air, and in a wave, with a thousand-throated roar, the others followed, beating at the clouds above. A million promises of torture and vengeance danced in that gesture, giving voice to the unnameable anger inside them, like a caged Sith beast let loose.

The current and former Proconsul both stepped forward then, each giving the woman a hand as she climbed up onto the small altar before the pyre. She plucked something from it, then held it high. The short horn cylinder was cracked with gold, the burnt tatters of a cerulean ribbon hanging limply from around golden wings that had melted into lumps. The Shadow Lady’s lightsaber. With a flick of the new Consul’s thumb, a blade of blue plasma sputtered, flickered, and speared the sky.

“FOR OUR LADY!” she roared.

And the clan roared with her.