Clan Naga Sadow - Team Keibatsu
New Sadow Palace
A closed fist smashed into the desk, the slight impression into the wood encouraging a repeat double tap before he stepped back, breathing deeply. Bentre’s eyebrow raised, watching the consul as he stared at his fist, shaking off the thoughts that swirled in his head. “I thought you had expected him to…”
Sanguinius raised his hand to hush his proconsul. He stepped back again, letting his eyes lose focus for a moment, his mind retreating into itself for a moment. “The corvette was a complete loss?”
Bentre tossed the datapad on the table, the tablet sliding toward him and stopping with a slight spin. “All hands, I am afraid.” Sang barely looked at it, pinching the bridge of his nose. “This is too much.”
“Preliminary reports suggest that the Arconans lost a carrier, as was the Suffering.”
Sang merely nodded, staring through everything as he weighed options.
“Pravus was dangerous before, can you even imagine how…” Bentre’s voice trailed off as he recognized the fact that his thoughts were flowing from his mouth. “Ahem. What is the next move?”
“Open a channel to him.” Sang stood up straight, clarity coming back into his eyes, his spine straightening with purpose. He didn’t need to say who he was talking about, Bentre knew what the sort of situation they were in.
He stared into the holoprojector, watching the fine lines resolve into the image he was expecting, shifting from blue static to something more tangible, despite the space between. He cleared his throat and squared to look the man in the eyes.
“It seems that war has found us, Lord.”
ADS Fallen Spear
The doors slid closed behind her as she stepped next to her husband, eyes darting from the display to Blackwind’s face. “I thought I felt us come out of Hyperspace.”
“We got pinged from Sepros, and had to drop out to receive it clearly. We have been redirected.” Blackwind’s accent rolled across his tongue.
“Redirected?” Ashia turned to look at Muz. “I take it we aren’t going to Canto Bight, then?”
Muz looked at her, shaking his head and tucking his thumbs behind his sabers. She groaned. What did they do now?
The images flashed quickly into her head, ships on fire, suicide bombers, crew crystallizing in the frozen void of space. None of them were unfamiliar sights, but the ship…
Was that their flagship?
Muz nodded his head once.
We don’t have to go. You did what you could, you pushed them as far as they were capable of…
“Naga Sadow calls…” Muz let a smile creep up the corners of his lips. She knew that look, knew how it would play from here. This wasn’t about loyalty, about love for Clan. This was about bloodlust, the primal itch in his palms that only was sated by tearing flesh. This was just a reason.
“And we answer.” She felt the words pass her lips as her mind started to slide into the old familiar patterns. It had been too long since they had the opportunity. Everything since had been clandestine, precise, slow and calculated. She preferred the open field, the simplicity of warfare.
“Kojiro had moved to support the throne, against implicit orders from the Consul.” Blackwind mentioned, gesturing at the grey miasma of hyperspace.
“The Consul wants him out of his way.” Muz chuckled at the thought. “Send a broadwave to my Herald. We rendezvous at Tarthos.”
ADS Fallen Spear
He grunted, setting down the traditional drinking gourd on the table before shrugging his arms back into the sleeves of his kimono. Fast hands tied back the overly long sleeves, using a long braided cord, the knots crossing his back. The training dummy stared at him, or it would have, had it possessed eyes. Stepping forward, he let out a half-laugh that shifted pitch into a battle cry as he galloped forward, hands flying to his weapons, a symphony with the scream of energizing saber blades.
He held the strike back at the last moment, the angry hum of his weapons a silvery menace as he drew them back, blades spinning in defensive velocities as he bounded back to his starting position.
“It’s been too long.”
The One-Eyed Dragon didn’t even look up, his body twisting back into another attack, freezing at the last possible moment, a bead of sweat forming at his brow, muscles straining at his control. “It has.”
“Glad to have you back, brother.” Muz bowed his head a degree, a smile creasing his face. He was glad to hear that Manji had come aboard when they had left Kuroshin, gladder yet to hear he had the same taste in his mouth for violence.
“Time to remind these pups what we do.” Manji snorted as he flipped the Shoto in his off hand, saluting with the other, an unspoken challenge. Muz smiled, the crimson and amethyst blades erupting from his hilts as they filled his hands, the smile on his face broadening as he dropped his weight.
ADS Fallen Spear
A slow exhale escaped her lips. She shifted in her seat as she resettled to finish reading the briefing report. It would seem that someone had pissed off the wrong underling.
Ashia reached up and rubbed the bridge of her nose, then looked up towards Blackwind.
“What do we know of this planet…Nancora?” She asked the Commodore.
“The planet is a desert wasteland. There are ruins of an older civilization but for the most part it’s dry and barren. Especially the Badlands.” Blackwind passed her a datapad with the intel on it. She looked it over briefly.
“Navigating this will be tough.” Her eyes darted about the data pad as she scrolled through the intel.
“Make sure you take plenty of water, Lady Keibatsu.”
A crew member approached the Colonel and handed him a data pad. Blackwind looked it over quickly, nodded and and handed it back.
“You’ll be pleased to know that Master Nekura has boarded.”
Ashia looked up from her datapad at Blackwind. A slight smile creased her lips.
ADS Fallen Spear
The hum of their sabers filled the air as she approached the room. Cries of exertion echoed along the corridor. The Zabrak pulled the Force around her like a cloak and approached the dojo on silent heels.
Muz’s back was towards her; his blades locked with Manji’s for but a moment before they both pushed off. Muz flipped one of his sabers into a backwards grip, as Manji came flying at him yet again. The Dokugan-Ryu swung around, aiming for his brother’s head, only to have his attack stopped by the Lion’s crimson blade as it came singing towards his own.
Ashia moved into the room quietly coming up behind her husband. Just before she lit her blades, Muz moved his other saber behind him as she attacked, catching her blade and maneuvering it around so both blades were stopping the other’s.
A malevolent grin creased the Lion’s visage as he pushed them both backwards.
The blood sang in Manji’s veins as he hurled himself at Muz again, silver sabers screaming through the noisome air of the dojo. He’d missed this – even though none of them were fighting to their full capacity (Muz in particular), an errant saber strike could still mean death or dismemberment. The Force boiled and seethed at the edge of his grasp, urging him to drink deeply, to surrender himself to the waters.
Choking it back, Manji felt his wrists tense as his blades smashed against Muz’s crimson saber, the Lion’s violet blade similarly engaged against Ashia’s amethyst and silver weapons. With a flourish, the Grand Master span in a tight circle, his prodigious skill with the blade on show as he broke saber contact and forced the other two Keibatsu back onto their heels. Their feet paced around the dojo floor as they circled him like jackals.
Silently, Manji and Ashia formed a plan, the old battle patterns and strategies coming back with ease. As Muz eyed them both warily, the Dokugan-ryu felt the sharp tang of the Force in his throat as he let out a battle-cry and surged forwards, both blades sweeping down on Muz’s waiting guard like hammers. Both the Lion’s blades rose to the challenge, flashing to meet each violent, off-kilter stroke as Ashia launched herself at him from the side, seeking the opening that Manji’s onslaught had created.
Quicker than thought, Muz reacted; Manji’s twin sabers were caught up in a diamond-shaped tangle before Ashen hurled his guard to one side, spinning in close to deliver a stinging elbow that crashed into the lankier Keibatsu’s jaw. As Manji reeled backwards from the force of the blow, Muz turned and caught Ashia’s sweeping strike with one blade. His off-hand saber thrummed round and screamed to a halt inches from her throat as she froze in place.
“Damn,” Manji muttered, powering off his sabers. With practised ease, both wrapped hilts went through the wide belt of the kimono before the Dragon reached up to try and massage some life back into his jaw. “I’d almost forgotten how hard you can hit, brother…”
Muz and Ashia relaxed as well, their own sabers snapping off. Straightening up, Muz let a wry smile play across his face. “You’re in rare company. Most aren’t given a chance to forget.”
“You’re not wrong there,” Manji snorted, striding across to the table where his drinking gourd rested. As he picked it up, he turned back to Muz and Ashia with a wide grin. “Now that I’m suitably warmed up, tell me… who are we killing today?”
Private Chambers of the Quaestor
Her breathing reached his ears as he rolled onto his side facing away from the woman beside him. Thoughts flooded his mind and even the previous night’s exertions hadn’t eased them. Mumbles floated from his sleeping partner before he felt the accidental slap of a arm crack him across the head, followed by a rough snore that drifted back into the soft breathing it had been before. Kojiro sighed and pushed himself out of bed, with some difficulty as Selvaria had managed to lay upon his hair again. The clone made his way across the room and into the bathroom. The light flickered on, then off before finally deciding to stay lit. Harsh light punctured his vision and he had to blink a few times to adjust before moving across to the shower unit and turning it on.
It had been the question that plagued his mind since he’d given the order. Why had he turned his back on his clan and Consul? Why had he dragged Marka Ragnos down a different path? He sighed as he sat with his back against the wall, head down and hair drooping in front of his face as the water poured down from above. Selvaria thought it was fun, the Ulfhednar looked forward to the challenge, the Nihilgenia stood ready and he had the support of the Fleet and officer commanders but why was he doing it?
He’d told them to defend the Legacy of Ragnos, what it stood for. To defend the House and Clan from the influences of the light and that of the Jedi. The seeping corruption of an idealistic group of fanatics hell bent on destroying everything they valued in the name of their light. To him they were no different to the Sith. Both followed ridiculous ideas of purity and absolutes. It bound them and few dared to differ from the paths. Kojiro had also made mention of loyalty but it sounded hollow as the words left his mouth. For what kind of loyalty had he shown? His loyalty to the Iron Throne as well as the Grandmaster was obvious. However, he still wondered what drove him to follow the man others wished to destroy. A soldier must follow orders but he was no longer a soldier. Why then? An end to Chaos perhaps. The extinction of rebellious elements that seeded the way for chaos.
“Well you look miserable this morning,” the voice sounded from above and he looked up and through his drenched hair to view the naked and lithe figure of his lady. Selvaria had her head tilted and was looking at him cautiously before she squeezed into the unit and sat down next to him. “Can’t be all bad really. I bet you’re asking yourself the same question over and over again eh?” She nuzzled in and lay her head upon his arm. “You need to relax. The path you’ve chosen has already begun. All we can do now is react and plan. Now stop worrying and get out of here before you prune or rust!” The Umbaran Mandalorian playfully punched him on the chest and stood, making her way from the shower not before giving a playful wiggle. Some sense of foreboding passed and the Nihilgenia pushed himself from the showers floor before grabbing a towel and leaving again into the bedroom.
Some time later
“Are you sure this is a good idea? You have no idea how he’ll react given you know everything?” The armoured female beside him whispered as Kojiro read over the message for the second time that Muz had sent. “You could just stay here and you know be safe. What with the new enemies and the traitor house and Consul. You’d be safe.”
Kojiro looked at her skeptically and shrugged. “It’s nothing I can’t handle. Plus for some reason I don’t think Muz is too bothered I rebelled against Sanguinius and his Jedi led Lotus. Anyway, I’ll forward my reply to him and ask him to pick us up here. Now go pack your bags. We have a hunt to do.”
Someone was changing up the tactics of the Suukou Bodai in the absence of the Wolf. Shikyo and Katsuhide stood around the holotable to study the movements and targets of this new cell of terrorists. They were using minor attacks to spread Nihilgenia forces out thin in order to slip past and either steal something of value or destroy something in an effort to hinder their enemy. The people were growing restless of the attacks and the former Herald saw these strikes as the last efforts of a dying organization, clinging to false hope.
“Their pattern is simplistic and mirrors that of the rebel cell that assaulted Scarif,” Shikyo said, gently rubbing his bearded chin.
“I thought it was a full scale assault, Sir.” Katsuhide spoke that was straight to the point but without the undertone of questioning his comrade.
The Keibatsu smirked. “The rebels only launched a full scale assault when they knew they had a team active in the area. Otherwise, do you truly believe they would risk so much for an attack nowhere near the Emperor or Lord Vader?”
The Nihilgenia commander grunted slightly to signify his comprehension. Hard, rubber heels clicked rhythmically down the stairway that lead into the Elder’s command room before the image of Elysia Keibatsu came into view. Immediately behind her, a fully armored Nihilgenia trooper stood at attention with a datapad in his hands. Shikyo beckoned his wife to join him while Katsuhide signaled for the trooper to approach. The soldier surrendered the datapad before immediately leaving the room.
Kyohei reviewed the datapad for a moment. “Fenrir Task Force is reporting an interesting find in Moraband, in addition to a possible HVO on Dromund Kaas. Specter Squad has reported that ‘Heretic’ has relocated to their stronghold.”
“Lord Keibatsu is summoning you to report to the Spear.”
Shikyo’s eyes went cold for a moment as he stared at his brother in arms.
“Why wasn’t this placed as a priority?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll find out imme-”
“If you don’t mind, Katsu, I’ll take care of this lack of focus on your behalf. No doubt my husband will need you to help prep the Ragnarok.” Elysia’s words left with a silky softness that, nonetheless, promised to bring punishment for some unfortunate soul. The Nihilgenia commander nodded and moved sharply out of the room. As the former Herald leaned against the wall, the Kiffar woman picked up the datapad and looked over its contents.
“I understand my brother’s desire but it does get taxing after a while.” The Keibatsu Elder’s voice left as if it were a secret. “Search for this, investigate here, and don’t let anyone catch on to your intentions. I’m starting to hate this sneaking around business.”
Elysia’s lips curled into a playful smile before her eyes met those of her husband’s.
“Then perhaps this will interest you. ‘The Dragon’ has awoken.”
Shikyo looked at his wife and smiled with a devilish glee.
“Well, this changes everything.”
ADS Fallen Spear
Muz smiled at the question. His brother always was direct, something that Muz missed sorely compared to the endless intrigues of the Dark Council. “There are too many to name.” He let the images flow into his mind, the destruction from the holofeed sent by the Consul.
Manji’s eye widened almost imperceptibly. “They really kicked the Gundark’s nest this time, eh?” He shrugged, his arm snaking back to untie the knots that kept his sleeves back and his forearms bare. “Tarthos to pick up Shikyo?”
Muz nodded. “And Kojiro.”
“He picked that name?” Manji’s face tightened. The Nihilgenia bled for them, served honorably, but this one was a first, getting outright adopted into their line for exceptional valor. Yet still, taking the name of their father seemed a bit bold, presumptuous.
He kinda liked it.
Muz stepped off the mat, his boot striking the hardwood with a resonant thud. “The Consul will brief us when we get in-system.”
Manji made a gutteral and questioning sound, his eyebrow raising. Not at the prediction, but at the reason. He had long since given up questioning the man’s foresight.
Ashia let out a soft chuckle. “Well, wouldn’t you if you were Consul? Hard to not play your best cards, after all.” She idly flipped her saber in her hand before slipping it back into the holster at her side.
Manji thought about it for a second before raising the gourd to his lips with a curt nod. She wasn’t wrong. It was what he would have done.
Muz’s arm chirped, the three-tone alert letting him know that there was a holocomm paging him. He raised it, the miniaturized image of Blackwind appearing before them. “We just cleared Sadow Control, Lord.”
“My Herald?” Muz asked. The image of Blackwind looked away for a moment before turning back to the holocam.
“Control shows Master Shikyo as expected within a few minutes.”
Muz nodded. “Open a link to the Palace.” Blackwind nodded, his form vanishing, leaving behind a ghost of pixelation as the frequency shifted, reforming into the image of the Consul.
“Lord Keibatsu,” Sanguinius started. “I am very glad to have you fighting at our side this time.”
Muz winked at Manji and Ashia before letting all of the emotion drain out of his face, turning back to the camera. “We’re getting the band back together again…”
“I’m glad to hear it.” The Consul’s voice had a twinge to it. Was that relief…or. Ashia cast a sidelong glance towards Manji. He nodded his head, a sly smile gracing his lips. He had caught that too.
“We’ve received reports that Dago Mouk, the Guildmaster of the Technocratic Guild recently made a billion credit purchase of Sith Antiquities. From what we know these antiquities were brought to their compound in the Badlands of Nancora Prime. I thought you’d want to know since…” Entar trailed off with the thought.
“Thank you, Consul. We’ll look into it.” An expressionless Grandmaster stood with his hands clasped behind his back and said nothing further.
The Consul nodded. “Yeah, or course. No problem. Uh, Lord? Thank you for your…commitment to Naga Sadow.”
Sanguinius fumbled momentarily as Muz ended the transmission.
Muz turned on his heel, regarding his brother and bride silently.
“You saw it too.” A smirk crossed Manji as he folded his arms within his robes.
Muz’s arm chirped again. He raised it as Blackwind’s form appeared once more.
“The Herald has boarded, Lord.”
“And what of Kojiro?”
“He is enroute.”
They exchanged a quick nod before ending the communique.
“Looks like the band is indeed back together.” The Nightsister grinned slightly.
ADS Fallen Spear
The holoprojector hummed quietly as the Grandmaster stood in front of it.
‘There’s a blockade in orbit above the planet. We’re better off going in quietly and getting to ground. They have too many for the ‘Spear to take on.’ His thoughts permeated the rest of the Keibatsu.
‘What’s our objective?’ Shikyo’s internal voice cut in.
‘Get in, get the artifacts and get out as quickly as possible.’ Ashia motioned towards the holo of the planet. ‘The Badlands are where we’re headed. ‘Make sure you’re kitted up for desert conditions’
‘So where do we go down?’ Kojiro’s voice added to the internal conversation.
‘Arcona and Odun Urr have a pretty strong alliance. Their fleets will pose a pretty big threat. We have a better chance of sneaking in unnoticed between the two.’ Shikyo’s phrenic words invaded their minds.
A gruff sound suddenly killed the audible silence as Manji’s feet scraped the table they were on. He stood up and dusted off his hands.
“Well let’s get to it, then.” Manji gave them a sardonic grin.
ADS Fallen Spear
The gentle thrum and blue lights of hyperspace reverberated around the Fallen Spear as she sliced through the void en-route to Nancora. In the cockpit, Muz leaned over the pilot’s chair as Blackwind deftly manipulated the controls, firing up the stealth field in preparation for their drop out of hyperspace.
“Stand by in 3… 2… 1…” the commodore muttered, before slowly pulling back on a lever nestled amongst the maze of controls. The points of light that blurred around them screeched to a halt, and with a sound like a muted thunderclap, the 'Spear dropped out of hyperspace- into the chaos and cacophony of a ferocious space battle.
Without missing a beat, Blackwind rolled the 'Spear around the drifting, shattered carcass of a Brotherhood ship that had been torn asunder by a Collective suicide bomber. Clouds of debris clattered off the invisible hull of Ashen’s craft, while a furious fusillade of red and green cannon blasts flashed all around Nancora as Brotherhood fighters and capital ships sought to break through the Collective blockade. Gazing out of the viewscreen, Manji let out a low whistle.
“Man, they were prepared for us, weren’t they?” he muttered, almost to himself. Muz didn’t respond, his eyes surveying the scene. Behind them, their younger brother rolled his neck to stretch out his muscles, clearly savouring the prospect of combat.
“It’ll be that much sweeter when we punch them in the mouth,” Shikyo grinned. Manji let out a snort of laughter in response as Blackwind continued to glide the 'Spear down towards Nancora, steering a path through the debris. Before them, a large group of Collective freighters drifted in orbit, clearly being held back from the main battle in case any Brotherhood forces broke away and needed pursuing. The cockpit fell silent as Blackwind eased them towards the freighters, looking for a gap between two of the largest ships, his touch light as a feather on the controls and his every nerve tensed as he held them on course. If they were spotted, if the stealth fields somehow failed, the 'Spear would be space dust in seconds, despite all of her advanced countermeasures.
They all held their breath as the ship slowly eased its way past the bridge of the largest freighter. They were so close that they could almost see through the viewscreens of the ship to the Collective crewmen beyond, for what seemed like an age too long - then they were through, an agonising few seconds passed and Nancora spreading out before them. Behind, the Collective ships drifted on, never knowing how close they’d been.
Every person in the cockpit exhaled loudly as Blackwind opened up the 'Spear’s engines to propel them away from the danger. Muz clapped the pilot on the shoulder warmly, eliciting a wry smile.
“Everybody get geared up,” the Grand Master said, turning to face the rest of his family. “We’ll be hitting the ground running.”
ADS Fallen Spear
Approaching Nancora Prime
The Fallen Spear had broken through the planet’s atmosphere to the projected LZ, as the sound of the wind resistance took a different tone. Katsuhide waited for his commander at the entrance to the Bridge, moving in tandem with the family he’d served for so long. Shikyo could feel a slight bit of tension from his friend, unsettling the Elder. He had never known the soldier to feel tense in combat or at the start of an operation. Slowing his pace enough to hold the two of them towards the back, the younger Keibatsu whispered just low enough to keep the surrounding crew from overhearing them.
It took a moment for Katsuhide to recognize the name he had earned due to exceptional service.
“I don’t trust him.”
Kyohei jerked his head abruptly toward the direction of Kojiro, causing the Elder to cock his eyebrows in a gesture of confusion.
“A Nihilgenia’s purpose is to serve, commander. Not to try and sit at the seat of power.” Katsuhide’s voice was firm but noted a hint of worry in its underlying tone.
‘My brother has found a use for him. You don’t have to trust Kojiro. Trust me. Have I ever given you a reason to doubt me?’ Sasuke’s voice echoed through the soldier’s mind, keeping their conversation between themselves. An armored head shook in the negative as they entered the hangar bay.
Shikyo began to feel a pang of regret for not having his personal ship nearby. It was not that he doubted the capabilities of the Spear but he had gotten more accustomed to the hum and the feel of the Ragnarok. HK-39 stood next to two speeder bikes with equipment already stowed away.
<Declarative Statement: I have prepared the speeder bikes for yourself and Katsuhide, Master. Inquiry: Shall I be accompanying you to the planet’s surface?>
“That won’t be necessary. If the intel we gathered on this cult is accurate, you would be more at risk than we would. Stay here and prepare for our arrival.” Shikyo spoke in an informative yet commanding tone. “If space-side is any indication, this may be a hot extraction.”
<Objection: Master, are you trying to say that my skill set make me ineffective for this mission?>
“Can you survive EMP charges and ion blasts?”
<Answer: In my current form, my circuits and hardware would be fried immediately. Unless provided with an upgr->
“My point. Better to have you here, shooting at potential threats, than to risk losing you to garbage. Understood?”
HK simply nodded his head and made his way towards a corner of the bay, picking up his rifle and facing the blast doors. All around them, Shikyo’s family were firing up the engines to their speeder bikes, preparing for the initial blast of air into the compartment. The Elder wasted no time and starting his own machine up and adjusting its position towards the exit. An abrupt jerk of the ship told Shikyo that they were preparing to touch down.
Nekura twisted on the throttle to rev his speeder playfully. Sasuke smirked and joined him with a rev from his own beast. The doors jerked open at first before the pneumatic pistons lowered the doors down to the earth below. Each Keibatsu shot out into the dusty environment, kicking up whirling trails in their wake. Katsuhide and Shikyo looked at one another, nodded, and shot out of the Fallen Spear, accompanying their brethren for the impending hunt.
The environment whipped past the youngest dragon as they cascaded across the environment, dancing amidst the scenery on their collective vehicles as they made their way to their destination. The Questor had noticed the peculiar looks Shikyo’s companion had thrown him earlier but had made no real effort to be interested. Other things danced across his mind and he’d been locked in silent communication with his partner in crime. A smile creased his face as he thought back to the final night him and Selvaria had shared before the ship had reached its destination. In a way, it had been bittersweet but well earned.They rarely spoke since the incident given Koji seemed stuck in his own thoughts more than ever. He sighed into his helmet and adjusted his trajectory to weave around an outcropping that came upon him from the left.
The order was curt and Koji recognised it as that of his sister who trailed slightly behind him to the right.
“Sorry,” came the likewise short response through the comm unit. She knew what he was but he still liked to play the part he was hiding behind. “Was thinking of Sel, I’ll keep my mind on the now.”
No response, he just felt a nudge of something in the back of his mind and it brought a slight smile to his lips once again. This was where he belonged, amongst family despite what others thought. He had asked the Ulfhednar to stay back on the spear in case they needed emergency air support. Though she had protested greatly he’d finally been able to persuade her to stay on the promise she could annoy Blackwind as much as she liked. Selvaria had been thrilled, Darius less so. But both were amazing pilots so Kojiro was positive they’d find something to talk about.
The Nihilgenia’s eyes darted to his datapad affixed to the speeder. According to the map, there should be a drop coming up just ahead of them which in theory would cut twenty minutes from their journey time.
“We taking the drop or do you want to skirt?” The clone queried down the comm channel. He was fully aware that Shikyo and Manji had little piloting experience so the drop may seem too much for the pair but he was confident the rest could do it without much hassle. However, the choice was not his.
Looks doable. I say we take it.
Ashia responded. Muz followed up his confirmation a second later but Shikyo and Manji remained oddly silent on the matter as the group’s speeders moved towards the vista that would take them into the open air and down into the valley beyond.
Hold tight. It’s incoming.
Was the only thing that entered his mind before the world before them gave way to the abyss.
A muffled curse escaped from Manji’s lips as they shot over the vista. He wasn’t particularly good on these machines - a tauntaun was much more his style, and much more his pace. Nevertheless, he wasn’t about to embarrass himself in front of his family, so had raised not a word of complaint about the upcoming drop.
The valley opened up before them into a large plain, dotted with rocky outcroppings and cast in bleak desert tones. The battle in orbit was visible through the clouds, flashes of red and green occasionally diffusing across the sky. As the bikes descended with high-pitched whines, they saw a group of run-down buildings nestled together beneath two rocky spurs- unmistakably the remains of an ancient temple or place of worship. A thought flashed from Muz to the rest of the group, his eyes as ever perceiving much more than theirs.
Then the ground came up towards them. Manji punched at the speeder’s controls frantically and a set of downward thrusters fired to life to cushion his landing, the bike whining fitfully as it wobbled and then levelled out, still surging forwards across the plain. Shikyo had similarly struggled with his landing, and his face was set in a scowl as a result. Kojiro would have some explaining to do when they were back on the 'Spear.
As they neared the temple ruins, on an unspoken signal, they throttled back their bikes - no sense in charging headlong into battle. A squat overhang provided an excellent cover for the speeders as they made their way towards the gaping maw at the front of the building, where time and erosion had pulled down the grand doorway and left a pile of rubble and junk in its place. Muz and Manji led the group up to the entrance, all their senses probing outwards to search for opposition.
I sense them, Muz communicated. Technocrats. Five of them. No other lifeforms.
One each, then. Manji grinned wordlessly.
After you, brother… Ashia chimed in, gesturing at the entrance with a smirk.
The One-Eyed Dragon needed no further encouragement. Drawing both sabers from his belt, he span the hilts in his hands with polished ease and strode up the pile towards the great hall beyond.
The remains of tall pillars dotted the room in a uniform pattern, and piles of junk and technology filled the hall; the Technocrats had set up a base of sorts here, bringing a semblance of life back to this abandoned place. Leaping down to the floor of the hall, Manji raised his voice into a bellow, his bloodlust surging.
“Who wants to die first?!” he roared as the other Keibatsu leapt down to join him, their own weapons thrumming violently.
The Technocrats snapped round in shock at the sound, almost frozen in horror. Then one of their number turned and scrambled away towards the far end of the hall where a large tarpaulin had been loosely pegged over what looked like a mound of rubbish. Before the Keibatsu could react, his hand smacked down onto a control panel next to the mound and there was a sudden loud sparking noise, a thrum of electricity to challenge the sound of ignited lightsabers.
“Uh, guys?” Kojiro said, sounding uncertain. “What did he just do?”
Suddenly the tarpaulin was hurled aside as a monstrous machine rose from the floor of the hall; a mighty golem, crafted of junk and starship detritus. Around the room, several smaller machines also sparked into life, pulling themselves out of what the Keibatsu had assumed were just piles of rubbish. The Technocrats scattered to the back of the room, taking shelter behind their creations as they advanced on the Sadowan group.
“Ah, kark.” Manji muttered.
“Well this is just lovely,” the youngest Dragon called out across the room as he skidded to a halt behind a nearby pillar. Streams of energy punctured the wall to the right and his hiding place. The noise was deafening and even with his helmet on Kojiro could hear little. “Next time we should just paint a big freaking target on our faces and be done with it,” the Clone muttered into the comm link which was still holding an open line.
“Concentrate on what you’re doing Soldier,” the voice of Shikyo’s companion emanated into his ear.
Kojiro leant around the pillar and squeezed off a handful of shots. The crimson energy collided with one of the oncoming droids and dropped it but the rest forced the clone back into his safety. Somewhere to his left, the hum of multiple lightsabers left ruin in their wake.
“Eh, what?” Kojiro’s voice ripped back across the comm unit as he snapped off another two shots, dropping another two units in his annoyance. “I’m fine, I’m fine. Just trying to lighten the mood as they say.”
“Enough talking,” the words of Shikyo cut across the channel and both Kojiro and Katsuhide fell silent and returned to killing the foe. Kojiro snorted before he peered around the corner and noticed a ledge halfway up the wall which would provide him with some extra protection and a better line of sight.
The jetpack on his back ignited and sent him upwards and forwards. Landing smoothly he rolled and came up short behind the ledges wall. Fire raked where he had been moments before and part of the pillar he had hidden behind began to crumble under the onslaught. As the Quaestor peered over the ledge and took a few shots into the fray before he began to notice something weird.
“Why hasn’t that big thing moved yet?” He queried to no one in particular. As if on cue the huge droid turned its weapons on his new hidey hole and unleashed a punishing salvo. The ledge never stood a chance and both it and its occupant descended to the earth below.
Time seemed to stand still as Kojiro attempted to dislodge himself from the rubble. The Ulfhednar fired his blaster into the mass dropping them as they came and then they blocked out the light. Fire raked his position and the droid-things began dropping around him. A break in the formation saw Katsuhide providing fire as Manji mowed his way towards him.
“Move, move!” Katsuhide snapped as he provided covering fire.
“Damn these things,” Kojiro snarled as let anger wash over him. Tugging his foot free with a pained snarl he let the anger collect and dropped the cloak that hid what he was from the senses of others. Lightning crackled from his outstretched hand and danced across the remaining droids. It slithered between the joints and acted as an EMP to the machines, stopping them in their tracks and giving him enough time to rise. Several blaster shots dropped the stunned things and once content he moved to another nearby pillar and hunkered down. Observing the chaos around him.
The hum of sabers filled the air. A smirk crossed Ashia’s lips as she leapt up, somersaulting out of the way of one of the massive…droids? Their construction was an amassed assortment of parts from various machines, ships and the like. Their appearance was ghastly.
Shikyo threw force lighting towards one of them haphazardly as he sought to get out of its path. It didn’t hit home like he had wanted but forced it to shudder momentarily and slump forward. He moved towards it, sabers throbbing, to take it out completely. Suddenly though, It convulsed and started shooting again. The Keibatsu bounced out of the way quickly.
‘Frell!’ His thoughts echoed through their minds as he deflected the shots being fired at him.
Manji took off, light feet barely touching the ground and maneuvered around behind the thing. He bounded up the side of several crates and launched himself on top of the thing while it was busy firing at Shikyo. He drove his sabers into the top of it, metal began to melt and sparks flew as he pushed in deeper. The One-Eyed Dragon leapt off somersaulting backwards and landed on nimble feet just as the massive machine careened forward and landed with a loud thud.
“See little brother? That’s how you do it!” Manji cackled sarcastically as he moved back into the fray.
Ashia’s own sabers flew in defense as one of the machines bore down on her. She started being pushed backwards when suddenly several sabers flew past her. A brilliant light show erupting before her as they sliced through the machine, taking out it’s guns first then carving pieces out bit by bit. They just as quickly returned to Muz’s hands as the machine dissolved into the pile of rubbish it had once been.
Shikyo could hear the Technocrats scurrying like rats trying to avoid the rising tide. It was hopeless. They had incurred the wrath of individuals more powerful than they believed any sentient being was capable of. As he basked in this notion, it sparked an idea in Shikyo’s mind.
“Brother, could you provide some ‘shock and awe’ for our hosts?”
Musashi looked at the Elder, eyebrows curling in a slightly confused gesture before peering into the mind of his youngest brother. The Grand Master could see the clouds darkening, the jagged bolts of energy hurling towards the ground, and the panicked cries of those within the temple. For a group of people who relied so heavily on technology, a Force Storm was the perfect cover to deter them from any further automatons.
‘You have five minutes.’ Darth Ashen’s voice remained stern yet calm in the mind of the Dark Jedi Master.
Sasuke nodded and swiftly made his way towards the entrance, the family close on his heels.
“What’s the plan, little brother?” Manji’s voice was calm and focused but the look on his face deceived his words. There was an expression of excitement spreading from the Dokugan Ryu’s lips all the way to his eyes.
“Use the Storm as cover, deter any further large surprises, and make their final moments hell.”
Ashia kept her lightsaber in hand, twirling the hilt around playfully.
“Electronic interference. I like it.”
Dark clouds began to draw in from the surrounding horizons, forming just over the temple the Technocrats dared to make a hideout. As the Keibatsu and Nihilgenia approached the entrance, they could already see the remaining forces panic and attempt some form of resistance.
“It’s too easy,” said Kojiro with a smile on his face.
“Half of everything is luck, Kojiro.” Shikyo’s eyes never deviated from the scene before him.
Kojiro drew his pistols slowly, as if taunting the survivors. “And the other half?”
As soon as the words left the Seer’s lips, two makeshift Droidekas rolled towards the bottom of the stair that led into the giant temple. The droids popped to attention, releasing a faint blue hue around them as bright red sensors focused on the family preparing to unleash havoc. A peel of thunder drew in from the heavens before an arc of lightning penetrated through the stone ceiling and hurtled into the two sentinels. Metal shrapnel flew in every direction, colliding into the shields of the Keibatsu while the Technocrats dove for cover, some of their machinations taking the full blow of the explosion.
Katsuhide’s face hid behind the helmet of an ARC trooper but Shikyo could tell that the soldier was smiling.
Blaster fire erupted from both sides as the Nihilgenia brought their weapons down on their targets. Ashia wasted no time launching towards a Technocrat sprinting towards an E-Web heavy repeater. It only took three swings of her amethyst blade to take out the threat. Two arcs destroyed the weapon from becoming anything more than scrap metal. The third swing drew across what appeared to be the cyborg’s eyes before the upper half of his head flew further into the temple.
Two more individuals popped up from behind the cover of plasteel crates haphazardly forming a barricade from the intruders. As their weapons came up, twin beams of silver light spun inwardly and into the blaster rifles, severing the barrels instantly. The human female and Duros grabbed frantically at the pistols on their hips when Nekura spun on the ball of his left foot. His shorter blade seared through the young woman’s neck, leaving her with a surprised look on her face. However, the Duros at attempted to shield himself from the attack, watching his cauterized arms lay at his feet. The Technocrat never bothered to pay attention when Manji flicked his wrist and swiftly ended the alien’s life.
The remaining two Technocrats stood towards the back with a small squad of improvised Magnaguards around them. Their blasters, already drawn, unleashed a small barrage of energy bolts towards the Dark Jedi Master. It took the Elder a moment to focus before the barrier came up. Energy impacted into a transparent wall between the assailants and the Keibatsu. Between the blaster fire and the surging storm, the sounds of battle made focusing difficult for Shikyo. Kojiro and Katsuhide sprinted to the sides to increase their attack on the remaining enemies. As soon as he saw the two move for cover, the Elder began to draw from the power of the Force around him, extending his hands towards the five opponents and pulling them closer.
Fear spread across the faces of the Technocrats as they struggled to find something to hold onto. The two Nihilgenia ripped off multiple shots towards the five, removing the arm and lower leg of one of the Magnaguards while a second received two shots to the chest and lost part of their face. Thunder began to rumble much closer to the temple than before as the Master held his prey towards the center of entrance, slowly walking towards them. He snarled at them before he whispered a single word.
A bright cerulean beam of energy collided into remaining forces, knocking the Elder back towards the temple’s stairway. Shikyo could feel a sharp pain in his ribs and could see his robes smoke very lightly from the explosion of the energy. Focusing his will on relieving the pain surging through his body, the Dark Jedi Master tried to heal what damage he could while dulling the pain coursing through his body. Ashia came to the side of her youngest brother and gave him a look of inquiry. He nodded and sat up slowly as the former Nightsister looked in the direction of her beloved.
‘Okay, my love. People are dead.’
He let a smile creep up the corners of his mouth as he stepped forward, sweeping his head left and right. Fan out, the shipment should be in here somewhere.
It is, I can all but taste it. Shikyo’s response flooded their heads as they moved among the rubble and ruin. Crates of weapons, tools, imperial ration bars, there was even most of the parts for a moisture evaporation rig among the junk, covered by ragged tarps and bits that were once droids. Manji punted one aside, the clang of metal striking old bulkhead echoing in their ears.
“This feels right.” Manji called out, leaning forward to get a better look. The lock was still engaged, although the power on it seemed to be running low. He tapped out a few combinations, watching as the pad flashed red before letting him try again. He grunted, stepping back, his saber igniting as he drew it down across the seam with a static crash. The metal groaned before snapping open, his fingers finding the edges of the lid to push back and look inside.
The smell of old paper was unmistakable. Hand drawn letters, lab notes, volumes of leather bound journals and a pile of scrolls lay nestled in precision cut foam packing, protecting the antiques from whatever entropy may compromise them. Manji twisted his mouth in a chuckle. “Found it.”
Muz stepped to him quickly, eyes lighting upon the cache of personal effects, the long dead Sith Lord’s thoughts and experiments detailed in the pages. They radiated slightly, just due to how much time and effort the old Lord had spent working on them. Muz nodded once, sliding the lid back down and looking around quickly for a antigrav jack. It would not fit on any of their speeders, it was too big. He scratched his chin for a moment before flipping open the panel on his arm.
“Blackwind, prepare for dustoff, get a lock on my position, we need a pickup.” Muz waited for a response before closing the panel. Raising his eyes, he saw Manji leaning back against one of the other crates, feet kicked up, gourd in hand again. Muz chuckled, wondering where his brother hid that old thing.
“What, nothing else to do for a few minutes.” Shikyo laughed, reaching his hand out toward his brother, who looked at him like he had lost his mind.
Manji took a heavy draft from the gourd, then handed it over reluctantly to his brother, nodding. “I figure we get that aboard, maybe take some of these pretty crates of goodies as trophies. Stealth the Spear to sneak back out, then back to Sadow space?”
Muz just smiled at him.
Muz watched the inquisitorious carefully, standing with his arms crossed at the edge of his ship as they wheeled the crate carefully onto a jack. Ashia walked up next to him, Kojiro following shortly behind.
I can’t believe you are giving them the originals. Koji groused. They had already imaged avery page on the journey from Nancora, stored the files in several archives, and beamed a copy through the encrypted channels to the Cathedral at Tarthos. The artisans there would be able to reproduce the works easily enough, but still it seemed unlike the Lion to let such artifacts out of his grasp.
These are not artifacts, though. Muz interrupted the Quaestor’s thoughts. This is just knowledge, and we already have what we want from this.
The rest is just dust and fading substrate. Ashia pushed her own voice into their heads. Inconsequential.
Koji thought about it for a moment, rubbing the bridge of his nose, then slowly looking up. It made sense, after a fashion. But what you wanted, what we were after?
Muz nodded at him as the beacon on his arm chirped. He looked down, activating the link. The miniaturized projection of the Commodore appeared. “Lord, there is a priority transmission from the Consul.”
Koji chuckled a bit. Sanguinius certainly would have expected them to bring the prize to him directly, not that Muz would take it to the Throne himself. Him doing so would have thrown off countless of the man’s plans, much like his arrival with the Ragnos fleet. He would have an awful lot of twisting to do to make it seem that he was behind everything. He’s going to be confused, angry even.
That’s his own problem. Muz winked before turning toward the turbolift.