Beyond the doorway, the Ryn was grunting with apparent discomfort while Qyreia worked through her medical supplies. “Could nae be a bit gentler, luv?”
“The bacta patch isn’t sticking well to your fur, hair, or whatever it is, so I need to make sure this bandage is tight so it’ll stay on there.”
“Your bedside manner is crap too,” he joked.
That got a grin from the merc. “I just know enough to patch you up. Be happy you don’t need surgery or anything.”
I am, he thought as his eyes spied Lucine returning to their patch of floor. “What’s the situation, lass?”
“Uji requires something to light a fire.”
The Zeltron’s knot-tying punctuated harshly at that. “Why?”
“He means ta destroy tha thing,” Kordath said more stoically than any of them were used to. He fumbled briefly through his jacket and tossed a lighter to the redhead. “There. Make sure I get it back.” Lucine offered a quick nod before returning to the older Force user, leaving the two alone again. “May not have the Force on hand, Red, but I can tell somethin’s botherin’ ya.”
“Thought the mission was to bring these artifacts back with us.”
“Plans change,” he sighed. “If Uji’s thinking they need to be destroyed, ‘m pretty sure it’s for good reason. I honestly dinnae care one way or another.”
Qyreia’s tongue clicked, clearly trying to figure out how she felt about the situation. So long as it’s not in Collective hands, I guess it’s mission complete regardless. With a little motivation, and some mild painkillers, she got the Proconsul back on his feet and helped him along into the next room where Uji was already applying the flame to the scrolls and books. The old, dried papers caught quickly and brightly, bringing a yellow-orange glow to the already lit room, the warm light dancing across the shadows of their downturned faces.
“What a waste,” Lucine said to no one in particular.
The other two Force users kept a silent watch as the other Plagueian articles were consumed in the growing pile of ash. The Zeltron however, looking back at the bodies, found her blood was up just a little bit. Moving off to the side, the group initially ignored her actions. That was, until she threw on some ancient wooden totem and an armful of other artifacts.
“The hell’re ya doin’, Q?”
“Frack these choob-lickers,” she said somewhat angrily. “Burn it all.”
“We do not have that sort of time,” Uji replied tiredly, as though the antics of his teammates were wearing on him. “The documents we came to destroy are nearly all consumed. We should leave before reinforcements arrive.”
Qyreia threw more priceless items into the conflagration though, tearing books apart and letting the flames spread further across the floor to items too heavy for her to move. They say they’re fighting for a cause… How many damn credits did they spend on this crap? Some cause. It’s all about power. It’s always about power and wealth and who has the bigger pocket rocket. She was about to throw on an armful of some partially worm-eaten series of treatises down when Uji grabbed her arm.
“That’s enough.” His voice was calm, neither pleading nor commanding. The red woman was halfway to conceding when they heard a noise back in the direction they’d come from. “What was…” but Qyreia had already dropped the books — landing conveniently in the fire — and turned to face the threat. Of course.
The Zeltron was already in cover, the others moving at their own paces to take positions against the wall. Peering out carefully revealed a squad of Technocrats combing the wreckage of the quartet’s earlier battle. They did not seem pleased by the results. Kordath was halfway to whispering something about proceeding with caution, but the mercenary next to him stiffened on hearing the phrase “call this up” from the Collective troops. In a heartbeat, she leaned out from the door and went to work.
The ones keying the comms were the first targets. They needed to be silenced before anything could reach their superiors. One down, then a second, before the enemy could fully process they were under attack. A third fell in quick succession.
Lucine, opposite the Zeltron against the door, leaned out and joined the fray. The combat felt foreign to her, and it likely looked a bit strange for the other Force users present. They all felt that need to strike out with that familiar arm that had so conveniently detached itself from them, and it was more than a little frustrating that they didn’t know how to counter it, or what the source even was.
“You go left,” Qyreia barked over the cacophony of fire, “and I’ll go right! Move!”
Elsewhere in the Compound…
“What is happening, Chief Oligard?” Kerwin Drake watched the subterranean battle on the surveillance feeds alongside Guild Master Mouk. It was a marvel that these creatures had managed to make their way inside the compound. It was somewhat troublesome that Avitus Oligard, Chief Counsel to the unifying Rath, had come on a surprise visit. The Ithorian at his side seemed less perturbed, but Mouk had a way of making everything seem like it was part of his plan all along, though he had slumped somewhat at seeing his artifacts so recklessly destroyed.
“Perhaps you should tell me,” Avitus replied curtly. “I see a handful of Brotherhood spies that have made their way inside your perimeter. Do you not have countermeasures for this?”
“We do,” Mouk injected, “though perhaps you might provide us with some insight.” His eyes narrowed at the screen. “I want them alive.”
Oligard didn’t need the Force to tell him what was going to happen — what he called a “gut feeling” around others within the Collective. The intruders would have to come back the way they came. There were very few alternatives on that regard. What would help his comrades-in-arms was his ability to keep the interlopers from calling upon the Force for their own ends. Some of the more prideful warriors within the organization might call it an unfair fight, but that was not the point. The point was to win, and he aimed to do just that.
Besides, none of them had complained when he had a gut feeling that there was danger on Nancora, or that he felt the need to visit Mouk’s compound. No, they’ll just add this to the list of things that I’ve gotten right, and they’ll watch over their shoulders all the more.
Returning to our “heroes”…
“Holy brackballs, that was a rough one. Shoulda saved that grenade.”
“Aye, probably shoulda done that.”
“At any rate,” Uji said with apparent concern, “the alarm is clearly raised. We need to leave.”
There wasn’t much room to argue. With a final check to make sure they didn’t have any new holes to their anatomy, the Arconans made quick pace up the ramp, Qyreia and Lucine leading the way against ever-increasing patrols. The close confines made any numerical superiority useless. However, the Collective wasn’t without a few tricks.
“An electro-fence?!” Qyreia yelled in anger, shooting through the gaps to fend off an incoming band of Technocrats. “Are you kriffing serious?!”
Uji shrugged in his adopted meditative stance. “Intelligence did suggest…”
“Frack intel! Shoulda saved ourselves some trouble and blown this schutta from orbit!” She looked over her shoulder while Lucine picked up the slack. “Kord, you got anything up your sleeve? I know these other two don’t have jack.”
“How do you know that?” Lucine yelled between shots.
“Have you seen your dress?”
Lucine paused her barrage. “…Fair enough.”
“What’re you thinkin’, Red?”
“There’s a terminal just past the barrier.” She pointed to the wall-mounted interface. “Need a way to hack it. Dunno if blowing it up will work, but the angle is just outside of what I can manage.”
He grinned. “Been saving this,” he mumbled, opening up his jacket to reveal the little ID9 droid he called Skitters. “Wake up buddy.” The droid jolted to life and eyed the Ryn carefully. “Don’ look at me like that. I did nae want tha ladies seein’ ya about.”
That seemed to appease the droid and it hopped down from its master’s side, skittering forward to receive its mission from the Zeltron. The little droid seemed fearless, if only because it might not have had very good self-preservation coding. In either case, amidst the fury of traded blaster bolts, Skitters leapt up from the floor onto the console where it attached its probe module and went to work. The seconds passed by agonizingly slow as the little droid struggled to get by the sophisticated security protocols, but it managed eventually.
“Good boy, Skitters!” Kordath cheered as the energy field deactivated.
No time to celebrate. In quick order, they surged up and up, narrowly avoiding injury as they killed their Collective opponents. As much training as they received in fighting Force users, they were les efficient in a traditional battle. The engagements were by no means easy, and it became very apparent that these were delaying actions. For what, though, was anyone’s guess.
That is, until they reached ground level.
Collective troops surrounded the door in carefully arrayed, if hasty, battle positions. Among their number were some of the bigger names of the organization that even had their own intelligence dossiers. Clearly, they’d walked into a trap.
“How’re we getting out?” Kord looked at Qyreia. “And no, still no Force to help.”
“Thanks.” She looked around carefully. Their leaders were saying something, but between the wind and her level of give-a-frack, she couldn’t hear what it was about. “Okay. Gonna run-and-gun at the right side of this group.” She pointed out the direction for clarity. “Gonna be a mad dash, but I think we can make it. Should surprise them well enough.”
“This is madness,” Uji intoned. “We should surrender and come up with a different strategy for escape.”
“I’d rather escape now, thanks.”
“Myself as well,” Lucine added, smiling at the Zeltron.
Here goes nothing. Laying down a withering fire between herself and the pistoleer Sith, Qyreia ran full-tilt at the concentrated formation she had indicated. More than a few fell in the onslaught, albeit amidst a furious return of fire. The distance was short though, and the two fleet footed women managed to breach the gap with a handful of scratches and grazing marks from the Technocrat weapons. Kordath, however, had paused to help the struggling Uji. Unfortunately, this left them exposed and… rather captured.
“Kord! Uji!” The merc turned about entirely once she realized what was happening, but Lucine pulled her back, blaster fire raging through the air all around them. “I’m not leaving without them!”
“We have no choice! You cannot shoot that fast! Come on!”
The Ryn and human both could see their friend’s troubled face as she turned for their escape route, back through the vent through which they’d come. Q will be makin’ Lucine sweat, Kord thought with a chuckle. Surrounded, both he and Uji put their hands up in surrender.
Even with all of their training to face Force users, the enemy troops remained largely in place. Several long minutes were spent just listening to the howling wind. Messengers and comms were going wild as the fugitive pair were gradually lost amidst the winding structures and paths of the compound.
Avitus was confused. “What are you waiting for, Guild Master? You’ve already lost two of them, clearly.”
Mouk felt the slight, but remained outwardly stoic. “Not yet. I am awaiting reports of their friends.”
“If I may,” Drake said, a little impatient by this point, “I will go and take these two into custody myself.”
“Please do,” the Oligard cousin said, bypassing the Technocrat leader’s authority.
I won’t forget that, Chief Counsel. Still, he assented with a superficial nod as his Field Commander began making his way through the assemblage of troops. Densely packed as they were, even the well-trained troops had difficulty getting out of his way, to say nothing for the bodyguard that followed him. For his part, Avitus was doing everything he could to suppress the Force users’ abilities. All his focus was on achieving this goal. The irony that he was also a Force user, amidst the oppressive Collective, was not lost on him, and it wrenched his insides like a lifelong flu; always fighting it, but never rid of the discomfort.
“Throw down your weapons,” Drake called out as he reached the formation’s edge.
“I’ve got a droid. Nae any harm, but he’s kinda attached.”
Drake nodded and Skitters came slowly down from Kordath’s back, followed closely by the equipment the two men carried with them, landing in the dust with a dull thud.
“Well lad,” the Proconsul said to his compatriot, “seems we’re goin’ back into a cell, eh?”
“It would seem like that.” He shook his head. “I will admit, I did not see that last maneuver coming. At least I was partly wrong.”
With the two Force users disarmed, Drake motioned for his troops to secure them. Four stepped forward — two to shackle, two for security — and made their way across the hard-packed dust of the open space. The wind roared with an exceptional violence, almost with a whistling quality to it, and it made at least a few people pause.
“Yes, but the wind speed has not increased.”
The whistling roar grew louder, but the troops decided to ignore it and continued walking toward their prisoners. A shadow appeared in the dust-filled sky, faint against the cloudy grit, but it grew rapidly along with the sound that clearly was that of ship engines; the whistle that of the wind raging around the frame of the Bleusmobile. Kordath’s smile couldn’t have been bigger as the ship careened mere meters over the perimeter wall and made the hardest landing he’d ever seen, the struts tearing through the perimeter troops and crushing the arresting party entirely.
On the ramp, Lucine was seen panting and screaming at them. “Get on! Now!”
“Well,” the Ryn quipped, “when a pretty lady says something like that.” He grinned, grabbing his and Uji’s effects. “Let’s go!”
Engines roared, thrusters heating the already unbearably hot air, as the active stealth system fought to stay that way. It was the only way Qyreia had managed to take the ship through the storm-crippled defenses. As soon as her redheaded compatriot called over the internal comms, she set the fragile ship on a course away from the structure as fast as she could. Keeping it low, she followed the wind, letting it add speed to the slow vessel’s stealth-inhibited velocity.
Once free of the guns, it was back to normal flight. Back out of the atmosphere. And no one left behind. Eat it, Uji’s predictions.