Clan Naga Sadow - Team Late
Outer Rim Territories
On board the Gemini Alpha
Flak fire filled the air around the vessel as it rocked and shook its way through the turbulent airspace. Other shuttles and assault craft nearby found similar difficulties although a few found themselves overly full of oxygen as their crafts took direct hits from the anti-air fire from below. Locke gripped the controls tightly as he fought against the harsh winds of the upper Nancoran atmosphere, a robotic sigh was the only response from the seat beside him as Wrex spoke to no one in particular, “It’s almost as though he forgets he has a pilot droid sometimes for situations such as these.”
The mood amongst the rest of the occupants was was sombre despite the Droid’s sarcasm, each seemed to have their thoughts elsewhere be it on the fleet battle they had just barely squeaked out of or the impending landing on a hostile world, or maybe something more. Regardless it didn’t matter, they had a job to do. Methyas shifted uncomfortable in his armour, the plates moving silently thanks to their modifications, but it wasn’t only the Miraluka who seemed uncomfortable as Sanguinius shifted as well. Syn seemed to toss a glance between the two before Locke cried out, “Shit!”
A quick jerk of the controls caused the Gemini Alpha to dart to the side before a large burst of energy lanced from the surface of Nancora, the Collective’s ion cannon firing on the fleet above. After a moment for Locke to settle the ship, Methyas spoke up, “How many times has that things fired?”
“I’m not sure now, lost count. We’ve got a lot of ships up there though,” Locke responded
Slowly, a feeling of dread crept over the group before Wrex began to chime in with some unexpected news. “Well this seems fortunate, the Damnation appears to be on approach. Perhaps it will be clearing a landing zone?”
“What? Simonetti would never…” Locke started before trying to bring up the Clan channels on the Gemini’s systems
Syn was a step ahead as her Inquisitor comlink started to blare some of chaos from above. “…Damnation has taken the brunt of that last assault, we’re getting reports that she’s lost most control. Anyone nearby is advised to pick up escaping survivors if possible, it looks like the Damnation entering atmosphere. All ground assault teams on this channel, be advised, falling debris and a downed Clan vessel will be making landfall on the surface of Nancora…”
The channel continued to drone on, but Syn turned it down as she turned to look at the others. Methyas was impossible to read, more so than usual for the Miraluka as he wore the helmet of his armour. Sang seemed to be focused elsewhere as he reached out into the Force, but Locke was all but fuming. The others could feel Locke’s rage building up, boiling as his concern for one of his oldest friends and allies came to the surface. Yet just as things were beginning to look grim, a sudden sense of clarity washed over them all with an innervation that the Collective can be defeated despite this setback.
Sang simply smiled as Locke muttered under his breath about that “damned tree” and focused once more about getting the group safely to the planet surface as flak and other anti-air still continued to fill the airspace around them, and surely not too long after they were going to be hounded by the limping form of the Damnation. More ships began to drop like flies around them as their numbers grew thinner closer to the surface and the closer they grew to the planet’s surface, but the seemed to matter less as the sky around them grew dark and the Gemini itself seemed to vibrate not from the turbulence of the enemy fire anymore but from the sheer mass of the larger vessel plummeting rapidly to the ground beside them. Proximity alarms and other alerts had sounded as the massive Destroyer had threatened to simply pancake their little assault craft between itself and the surface of the planet, not to mention the Force had been nagging at each of them since the news of the Damnation’s fate. Locke’s piloting, assisted by Wrex, had been more than enough to get the little craft just out of the range of the Damnation before it was able to squish them like the insignificant bugs they were in this grand scheme, but the sheer magnitude of the air being forced aside by the Damnation was enough to push the Gemini off course and for Locke to change his plans.
“We’ve been pushed off course, I don’t want to risk getting in range of those guns again to get out to one of the cities. I’m going to set down near one of the transit stations, hopefully that’ll help us get where we need to,” Locke announced as he banked the ship down and away towards its new destination. They each knew that the Collective was fully aware they were coming and would be waiting for them, this wasn’t going to be a great landing even if other Brotherhood ships were to follow their lead and disembark their teams. A thunderous boom and the screech of metal crunching in upon itself could be heard among a series of explosions as the Damnation struck the surface of Nancora, colliding with various experiments and wreckage left scattered across the Badlands.
Once more Locke gripped at the controls and fought against them as a shock wave emanated outwards from the impact of the fallen Star Destroyer, the rest of the occupants jostling around as they fought against yet more turbulence that the ship had to endure. With a fluid motion, the Gemini dipped towards the ground and set itself about for the party about to disembark. Sang rose to his feet first, working his way towards the ramp with Syn following closely as Locke handed controls over to his droid. Methyas took one final moment to prepare himself before rising to his feet and following suit with the others, jumping out the ramp and landing next to the waiting party into the waiting sandstorm only moments before Locke arrived next to him, “Wrex will keep the Gemini on station somewhere out of combat, I hope. We just need to figure out what we’re doing next.”
Sang nodded before gesturing towards the station, “Information concerning this information was need to know, the artifacts are sure to be well guarded and the facility’s location wasn’t disclosed last we checked.”
“Maybe we’ll have some luck here then, or we’ll find someone willing to share that information with us,” Methyas said flatly as he gestured towards the station and the obvious garrison within.
Nancora. Of all the planets to choose from why this, a planet on which Syntari would be little more than pale and blind and no help to anyone? Why Nancora, a desert planet whose sun required the use of polarized goggles lest she lose her sight?
“It’s doubtful that we would find allies here,” she tossed carelessly over her shoulder. Syntari sensed Methyas’ eyeless gaze following her as she disembarked the ship that had brought the four of them to this inhospitable deathtrap of a planet. Her skin hissed in the sunlight despite the cloth covering her scarred body; disgusted she drew the hood over her head and glowered at the Miraluka from its depths.
“You don’t think we would, eh, Syntari?” This was Sang, she could tell by the delicate pitch to his tone as if he walked on eggshells even with the words he spoke. The Force betrayed nothing about this Jedi who had become Consul of her Clan, murmuring to her only of his dedication to the success of this mission, and not to the fear lurking behind those eyes. Was that fear, she wondered, or a distrust of her that manifested in such polite speech?
“Nothing so far suggests that we wouldn’t find allies here,” Methyas added.
The Umbaran’s eyes narrowed behind her polarized goggles. She hadn’t even gotten a chance to say anything or explain that more than likely no one would be willing to help them, not when other members of Clan Naga Sadow wandered the des–
“A Tarentum ship should be in the area, as a matter of fact,” Sang said.
“Our alliance with them should be strong enough that–”
“Given a strong enough connection we could reach out to them and–”
“Have reliable back up if we run into trouble,” Sang concluded.
Syntari’s face split into a sneer as her Consul and Methyas nodded at each other in a display of solidarity superior to any she had ever shared with anyone in the Brotherhood. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Locke smother a snort of derision and her investment in this whole charade dissipated like water in Nancora’s sun. “Fine, look for your allies,” she snapped, pulling her cloak tighter about her narrow shoulders, “Never mind the lack of Council ships in the area, or any sightings of Brotherhood forces, mind you.”
“It’s a warzone, Syn,” Locke said. It was all he needed to say. No longer interested, the Umbaran turned away and scanned the sun-scorched wastelands. Sweat pooled between her white skin and the goggles she despised, the lenses fogging as the wind swept sand against the corners of her eyes. Her hand dashed uselessly against her face.
The Force whispered to her in a voice she could barely understand, the wind and sand dragging its words towards the middle of the Badlands far beyond what she could see.
If only I had gotten taught how to listen to the Force…
“Well, Syn, what do you think?”
I think we are all going to die here.
“Have some hope, Syn,” Methyas advised.
Hope brought me to the Brotherhood in the first place.
“I think we’re all going to die here, and I would prefer not to die in front of a train station. Somebody needs to get moving, and it isn’t going to be me.” Syntari locked her eyes on the former Consul and glowered at Sonjie until he shifted uncomfortably. Guilt flashed briefly in his eyes, leaking into his stance and the way he held his head. “We need allies, don’t we? Then let’s move. I’m sick of being a target.”
If we do all die, I don’t want to do be the one to live with it.
Thousands had died as the Damnation impacted upon the surface of Nancora. Warhost, Jedi and innocents who had trusted in Oligard to protect them, all had perished thanks to the grasp of the planet’s gravity.
The devastation and confusion had allowed the group of Sadowans to infiltrate the small settlement they had identified while under fire from the planetary defences. Stragglers were continually making their way in from the sparse settlements in the region that the Damnation had collided with, the mass of the vessel had caused an earthquake, the tectonic plates were still unleashing small aftershocks as they settled down.
Sanguinius pulled his robes closer to hide his face as the group passed a couple of local law officers situated around the station. The local law enforcement were on high alert, what with a war going on above their heads. Thankfully, the dust storms caused by the crash had hidden their impromptu landing from the locals. A speeder lay idle nearby, clearly marked with a logo, obviously belonging to the officers.
The Consul could hear snippets of information coming from pict screens situated on the walls of the buildings, as some random newsperson warned the citizens of Nancora to be on alert for strangers.
Syntari continued to mutter under her breath at the ludicrosity of their situation. The thought of what were three well known Brotherhood individuals, having all served as Consuls, trying to sneak past well trained security officers was hilarious. The Knight was waiting for the moment one of them was recognised and their whole plan was ruined. Then they would have to settle for an ignominious death from these mundanes.
The group paused to wait in the queue to get tickets for the next passenger transport to the nearest city, which wasn’t due for another 40 minutes if the timetable and the chronometer in the transit station were to be believed. Simply hanging around the transit station without buying tickets would have made the group look even more suspicious.
Locke approached the booth and passed the transit employee a large denomination credit chip. “Four tickets please,” he held his hand up with four fingers raised and his thumb tucked in. The transit employee didn’t look twice at the Augur and handed over four tickets for the next train.
“You there,” the voice piped up, “the man buying the tickets.” One of the law enforcement officers posted at the transit station, had come in from outside and was pointing at Locke.
“Feth,” swore the Entar quietly as the other officer entered in after the first. Locke turned to face the officers with a questioning face. “Yes…officer?” the Corellian paused as he tried to guess what the local law enforcement ranks were.
Clearly something had caught their eye to alert them. “You a local? I’ve not seen you around here before.” the officer enquired.
Locke nodded, “Yes?”
Methyas and Syntari both slowly moved, Methyas to blend in with some of the locals that were trying to escape the area and Syntari to a location that would allow her to move quickly to handle the pair.
“ID please.” ordered the officer, holding his arm outstretched to receive it.
Locke could only bluff for so long before the ruse was up and simply shrugged. “I’m afraid I lost it in the confusion,” his quick wittedness came to the rescue.
The lead officer wasn’t perturbed and refused to take that as an answer. “Come with me, please.” He gestured at the Sadowan. “We can check the records, we can’t be too careful. There are crazy fanatics up there trying to kill us all.”
Knowing that they were going to have to deal with the pair of officers eventually regardless, Syntari pulled her hidden lightsaber from her belt and activated it. The impetuous Knight had turned to violence easily, showing her headstrong nature which was bound to be her downfall one day, thought the Entar. Of course, he was biased in that he felt violence was not always the answer to one’s problems.
The appearance of the lightsaber set the crowd aflame with activity as the locals fled and the officers fumbled with their blasters. The lead officer was able to draw his and level it at the young woman before he lost it, along with his hand and most of his arm.
“Come on!” shouted Syntari, “No point hiding much more. We should just use their karkin’ speeder. We’ll get there quicker than waiting for a train.”
The settlement erupted in chaos. Beings raced in every direction, the crowd seeming to disappear as citizens entered buildings or alleys wherever they could. Even here, it seemed that a lightsaber blade was recognized. Everyone decided they had no business with anyone who wielded such a weapon.
Unfortunately, the local authorities had a much different reaction.
Locke watched them as their eyes swiveled from him to Syn. One touched a metallic-looking thing that was clipped to his ear. “We need backup, they’re Je-”
His words ended up in a gargle as a blaster bolt made contact with his throat. Locke aimed at the other officer, quickly dispatching him with a shot to the chest.
“We should go,” he said. Syn was already in the police speeder with Methyas, who had settled in the driver’s seat.
Sang had his lightsaber ignited, his head looking side to side for trouble. He didn’t have to look long, as blaster bolts began firing in their direction. Locke returned fire, backing behind Sang’s defensive arc, as the Consul deflected each shot that came near them back toward where it had come from.
Together, they quickly jumped into the speeder, each taking the remaining seats. Methyas wasted no time in getting it moving, while Locke continued to fire on their pursuers.
“Where are we going?” Syn asked.
“Into the desert,” Methyas answered.
“Why?” she continued.
“To escape pursuit. Our scouts said it was very inhospitable,” Sang added.
Syn muttered something that might have been an insult. “We have no idea where the scrolls are?” she exclaimed, part in question.
“That’s a good point,” someone said. Locke had stopped paying attention. He focused with the Force, aiming his blaster pistol at their closest pursuers. Another police speeder was pursuing them now, and loud sirens made it seem like more were on the way.
“I guess they’re not okay with us getting away,” Sang said. He had a blaster pistol in one hand, while using the other to steady himself. Together, the two fired at the pursuers.
“Here we go,” Syn said. She raised a datachip. “Did anyone bring a datapad? Maybe its a map.”
“No,” Locke and Sang said, almost at the same time. “Maybe this speeder has a droid brain we could talk to? Some sort of navigation system?” Sang added.
“Figure it out soon,” Locke shouted. “Those police are gaining on us, and they really do not look happy.”
He cursed as the lead police speeder moved aside, revealing the one hidden behind it, along with the large mounted turret on its front. He only had time to shout “watch out!” before it began firing in their direction.
“Methyas! Answer me this!”
The wind snatched Syntari’s words from her lips as she fumbled for her Inquisitorius gear. Through the Force’s grace he heard her despite the screams of blaster fire and dying security officers.
A streak of red reflected off her polarized goggles as she ducked out of harm’s way. Thank the Force for poor marksman firing at moving targets.
“Why are you driving? You’re blind aren’t you?”
With wind-numb fingers Syntari finally succeeded in freeing her comm. A moment of desperation brought a prayer to her lips that she had not dropped the datachip in the chaos; whatever it contained would be the difference between life and death for her precious inner circle.
“Trust in the Force,” came the cryptic reply.
The Umbaran’s lip curled in distaste. While she valued Methyas like a…a what? A brother? Family meant nothing to Syntari, these days. While value him she did, Syntari despised cryptic answers more than she despised those in power.
“What are you planning?”
She pulled her hood tighter to her face and bent over her the comm. “I–”
“Are you going to use your comm on that chip?”
Her ears rang with Sanguinius’ voice; Methyas’ driving skills were less than practiced, and a sudden lurch of their vehicle and brought Sang closer to the Umbaran than he had anticipated. If her hearing remained intact it would be a miracle.
“I intend to.”
“Will it work?”
Locke’s shooting had improved, she noted. Or perhaps it was Methyas’ steering. Silence descended upon them. Syntari’s gut tightened, yet she refused to take her eyes from the comm as she scanned its functions. An idea had sprung to mind, an idea so nefarious and full of risk that she wondered if it was worth the attempt. Would downloading the information on that chip, encoding it, and sending it to Methyas’ comm–thereby making it official business–be possible?
“We are going to have company.”
Methyas’ calm conversation starter was all the warning they had. Out of the storm of dust rose a hoard of the enemy Syntari had nearly forgotten about.
Sang grabbed Syntari’s wrist. The chaos of the moment sharpened her focus, her hatred of touch forgotten in the face of imminent death. “Whatever plan you have do it now!” He shouted.
“Do it fast!” This was Locke, whose redundancy made Syntari’s lips curl.
“I didn’t bring a datapad,” she snapped, “I don’t even think this comm has a port for–”
The Collective rose around them, bearing on the speeder on all sides. The police cruisers peeled away in a scream of exploding sand. Syn fumbled for the datachip and forced it into the first open slot her fingers encountered on the side of the comm.
“You’ll be buying me a new comm if this doesn’t work, Sang!”
Pain lanced up her arm resonating from the lucky blaster bolt that had found the gap between skin and armor and penetrated her nerves. The Force sang with chaos, distracting her from healing; her scream of outrage was lost beneath the roar of enemy ships.
“Karking hell, Sang, I’ve been shot! You do it!”
Syntari thrust the comm into Sang’s hands and clutched her shoulder. Let the Consul take the lead. Isn’t that what they’re here for?
The Entar fumbled with the comlink as it was thrust unceremoniously into his hands. The weaving of the speeder constantly causing him to collide with Locke. Sanguinius activated the comlink, “Orian Actual, this is the Professor. We need air support on our position immediately.”
The silence in response was agonising to the group as more shots hurtled at the lurching vehicle. Despair was rising as they realised they were potentially alone.
“Cone in Professor, this is Orian Actual,” the voice of one of the techs assigned to the Venator Harbinger finally responded. The signal from the Inquisitorius chip had allowed the signal to piggyback off the different wavelengths used by the Clans until it reached the intended recipient.
Joy at the successful contact soon turned to frustration as the tech continued, “We cannot provide air support until further notice. All squadrons are engaged.”
“Feth!” swore the Consul as he slammed his fist against the side of the speeder in annoyance, inadvertently destroying the commlink as he did so. “Double feth!” came the curse as the realisation of what he had done dawned on the Anaxsi.
“Uhh, guys?” Sang asked.
“WHAT?!” they all responded.
“Bad news, we’re not getting any air support.”
“Well, any good news?” Methyas asked as the blind man continued to pilot the speeder. His control of the Force aiding him in doing so.
“Nope, more bad news.” Sang replied, ducking as a blaster bolt came dangerously close to taking the top of his head off.
Syn rolled her eyes in disgust at comment. “What could possibly be worse?” she asked.
Sang held out his outstretched hand, the remains of the comlink lay there. “I may have had an accident.”
“Oh for karkin’ out loud, Sang!” Syn exploded, “I get shot and you go and destroy something that was getting past the comm blocks.”
“I couldn’t help it,” Sang shrugged and grinned, “I felt like it was an unfair advantage to us.” he joked.
The chase continued as the laser turret on the Collective speeders carried on firing at them. Methyas swerved around a rocky outcrop, refusing to risk the repulsor engines. The manoeuvre lowered the speed of the craft, allowing one of the speeders to catch up.
The soldiers contained within flourished blasters and a stream of plasma bolts impacted on the side of the speeder, damaging vital connections between the power source and the repulsor engines.
Controls became unresponsive as Methyas struggled to keep the speeder under control as it dropped to the floor. The weight of the craft kept it from flipping until it collided with a medium sized boulder and flipped, sending the four Sadowans flying.
Focus, observe your surroundings, prepare for the worst. Determine priority targets, we’re outnumbered, we need to rob them of their advantages. The Miraluka’s thoughts were calm as the heavy sound of his breathing filled his helmet and his ears. The sandstorm had closed in quickly helping conceal some of their location, but the remaining landspeeders had been able to spin about to close around where the four Sadowans had landed rather ungracefully, allowing a few of the Collective grunts to pile out quickly to try and enclose their gathering. There was a general feeling of pain throughout the assembled group as the had each landed roughly, but none had taken for granted the fact they were outnumbered at least three to one. How many cannons were trained on them? Looked like four speeders with cannons mounted on them, those would have to be dealt with first.
I can take the speeder on my left, that should deal with the cannon there, Locke’s voice rang throughout their assembled heads. A subtle nod was enough, each seemed to have their eye trained on the assembled enemies.
I guess that means I’ll take the one on my right then, Sang stated in their assembled thoughts as he stood to Locke’s left, Syn and Methyas standing at their backs.
Syn, keep them busy. I’ll take out the last two, Methyas stated flatly, his tone less than amused. He could feel their unease, their glances over their shoulders at his statement before he began to move slowly but deliberately. His hands removed two devices from his waist and gripped them comfortably in his hands as he slid into a low defensive stance. Around him the others began to get into their combat zones quickly, the officers starting to close in slowly as the assembled Jedi. Syn was focused but a mischievous smile on her face steadily broken into cackling laughter as the grunts began to feel the terror seeping in.
NOW! With a flick of his wrists, the two curved hilts flew from the Miraluka’s grip and ignited with a wicked snap crackling hiss as the blue blades nearly exploded to life, their energy overflowing as they flew through the air guided by the Jedi’s mind in separate directions towards two different canons. Sang followed suit, one blade in hand to maintain his defensive stance while another guided his blade towards the cannon to his right. Locke went for a more aggressive tactic as he simply extended his hand as watched as the electrical arcs leapt from his fingers towards the landspeeder, overloading any components on board and causing the soldier onboard to scream in agony as he was electrified with the vehicle.
Another pair of screams signalled the Miraluka’s sabers finding their marks, the Jedi’s brows furrowing slightly as he took to heart the lives he just claimed. Without a hesitation, Methyas returned the sabers to his hands, sinking into his low defensive stance looking at the two grunts who now were warily looking at the helmed Jedi. Pained screams to his right indicated that Syn had successfully eliminated at least one of the grunts she was toying with, the others seemed to be faring equally well against their remaining combatants as well. The pair quickly withdrew their electro-batons and glanced at each other before attacking the Jedi together.
Methyas moved quickly, his unstable blades hissing furiously as they sliced through the air and collided with the Collective batons with his practiced Soresu. The two grunts were both younger and simply more agile than the Miraluka, small mistakes starting to show in his form and posture as baton strikes began to evade his carefully placed guard and take swipes closer and closer to his body. One wrong step brought Methyas close in to one of the pair where he was met with an elbow to his gut and the butt of a baton crashing against the visor of his helmet. The Jedi stumbled backwards quickly, the Force screaming out in warning as his assailant continued pursuit, only to be met with the Miraluka’s prepared Telekinetic strike crashing upwards into his jaw. Cracking of bones accompanied the man’s body falling in a heap to the ground as Methyas started to breath deeply and collect himself.
The sound of an electro-baton clattering to the ground beside him and a gut-wrenching scream of pain as a saber gutted the stalking grunt reminded the Miraluka that he still had a remaining opponent, one he shouldn’t have forgotten so easily even despite the sandstorm. Syn’s voice had a slight jesting tone, “You getting old, Methyas? Were the two of them too much for you?”
“Perhaps…” came the Miraluka’s only reply as he felt their two companions approaching, he continued as they were within earshot, “We’re deep within the Badlands now, they’re going to be sending patrols after us and unless we can get one of these landspeeders moving we’ve got no transportation.”
Locke seemed to be looking about for something in particular when Sang noticed him, “What is it?”
“Too quiet, what happened to all the others? We can’t possibly have lost them in the storm.”
“You’re paranoid,” Syn replied flatly before being cut off, the ground beneath them suddenly giving way. Locke was closest to the epicenter, his focus having been elsewhere and his pack on his suddenly throwing off his balance causing him to tumble backwards into the unknown awaiting them. Sang instinctively reached out to grab for Locke’s hand to steady him, only to be pulled in by the other man’s momentum. Syn cursed like freighter pilot as she reached for the Miraluka beside her and grabbed his hand, the Jedi all too calm as the world around them seemed to be falling apart. For everyone else, the world went dark as they fell into the unknown, for Methyas, he knew all too well their fate.
Locke woke up to a pounding feeling in his head. He thought briefly that maybe the night before he had had too much to drink, but then he coughed, dust flittering around his eyes as he opened them and looked around.
He saw his three allies; looking the worse for wear. They were all seated and surrounded by individuals Locke had not seen before. Judging by their gait and the way they held themselves, they were soldiers. They looked normal on the surface, but as his head cleared and he looked more closely, he could see distinct differences: One had a cybernetic eye here, another a mechanical arm there.
Collective soldiers. So, they were captured.
“This one’s awake,” one said. Half his face was concealed in some sort of odd cybernetics that looked like part of a mask.
“Good,” another voice said, this one more calm. Locke looked up at him, the horns of a Devaronian distinct on top of the man’s head as he bent down to be eye level with Locke.
“I suggest you don’t try anything. We have dozens of weapons trained on you and your friends. The moment that you try anything - even with the Force - your body will be reduced to unrecognizable meat.”
Locke just glanced at the others and then nodded. He would have liked to have fight his way out, but he was not sure they could. It would be best to assess the situation first, then plan to escape.
“Who are you?” he croaked, more than growled. His throat felt like he had swallowed a bag of sand.
The Devaronian stood, drawing himself up. “I am Kerwin Drake,” he said. “And if it were up to me, I would just kill you now. So please, give me a reason.”
Locke looked up at the man, just staring at him. He wasn’t going to give a reason.
Kerwin frowned for a moment, then turned to some other Collective member. “Get them up,” he shouted. “We’re taking them in and they’re wanted alive. And keep them separated.”
Frowning, Locke let himself be dragged up to his feet and marched into a nearby speeder. Then, as far as he could tell, it began moving into the desert.
“Where are we going?” Locke asked to the Collective soldiers who had blaster rifles pointed at his gut.
His only reply was silence.
He thought about reaching out to the others with the Force, but Locke had never been good at that. He had merely studied enough to send a thought to someone in front of him, but had never learned the nuances that went with complex messages, or how to do so with someone he couldn’t visually see.
Still, if his frame of reference was correct, they were moving further out into the desert.
Well, he thought this is one way to get to the enemy stronghold.
They just had to figure out how to escape before they were killed, or worse.
Locke liked a challenge. He just hoped the others were feeling up to it.
The group had travelled for several hours before they had arrived at their location, a vast fortress that utilised the mountains that it was situated in. A veritable display of power, it was here that the Collective soldiers had bustled the 4 Sadowans out of the speeders and shoved them onto the ground.
While none of them wore shock collars to prevent them from utilising the Force, any attempt to do so would have been foolish due to the large number of blasters pointed their way. The patrol had been met by what seemed a parade ground turn out to see them, as a couple of regiments were stationed there.
The intel provided to the Clans before the jump to Nancora had not been completely accurate, as while the base was where the Consul was told, he hadn’t been told about the number of troops stationed at the base, nor of its defences. Any attempt to have made a landing there would have met with failure, as there were several laser batteries and point defence missile launchers placed at key points.
Sanguinius was glad that he hadn’t ordered a full assault by the Warhost on the base, however the loss of the Damnation was terrible. Their capture had brought them into the belly of the beast, allowing them to get one step closer to their goal. The only problem was how to get out of this current predicament.
The group were dragged up off the ground and frogmarched into one of the buildings. A soldier walked behind them, holding their lightsabers. Insults were hurled at the prisoners as they were herded. Syn was stubborn and refused to move. She got hit by the butt of a rifle for her troubles, making her stumble.
“This is your fault, Sang.” she muttered and shot him a vicious glance.
The quartet of Sadowans were led steadily past the armies of Collective until they were brought to an offshoot of corridors, the Devaronian grumbling the entire way as he guided the prisoners towards their new destination. Moving from the main structures to a detention area, the guards shuffled the assembled group towards separate cells, shoving each roughly and abruptly into their room after checking to verify that they had nothing on them that could be used to their advantage.
“Boss wants to make an example of these ones, confirm their identities in the database, let Drask know who we’ve got, and then get the final prep completed for the execution. I want guards posted and watching these cells as though their lives depend on it, and if they do get out, make sure they regret that decision,” Kerwin growled before he left the detention center to deal with more important tasks.
Methyas had folded himself into a calm meditative state, focusing his mind as he recalled the steps they had taken to here, what possible options could be at their disposal to potentially escape. The Collective had ships, they had communications, it was a matter of getting to one of them or both in order get out or alert the Brotherhood - one was a guaranteed suicide mission, the other…well, maybe some would survive. One by one, Methyas reached out to everyone else’s thoughts through the Force, relaying the possible options to them. Each seemed hesitant, but knew that options were limited as they were, they needed an opening however to get their weapons back if they stood a chance.
As if on cue, Kerwin came back in and started barking out orders, “Open that cell, we need to see who we’ve got here. Apparently a whole bunch of you like to wear helmets, so we need a more positive identification.”
The door to Methyas’ cell opened quickly, a pair of Collective soldiers coming in quickly with Kerwin and roughly up the seated Jedi simply because they got some gratification out of it. A quick baton strike in the struggle cracking the front of the visor before they pried the helmet off, “Ah, so we’ve got a blind man. I’ll take a quick picture here and we’ll run it through the database.”
Locke listened as best he could as Methyas was examined. He heard them move on to one of the others and assumed they would getting to him soon. He quickly considered his options.
The Augur had no idea what had happened to his lightsaber, or his other equipment. He didn’t know how many guards would be coming, or how skilled this Kerwin Drake guy was. He didn’t know what lay beyond the prison cell, either.
It was probably instant death.
Why couldn’t they be stupid enough to keep our weapons in the next room over? he thought ruefully. This was going to be messy, one way or another.
Finally, the door to Locke’s cell opened. He decided that he would try negotiation first. That had worked fairly well in the past.
“I have a lot of information you want to know,” Locke said. He was met with no reply, except his goggles being ripped off.
“The others do, as well. The tactical knowledge in their heads is-”
“Unneeded,” Kerwin said, cutting him off. “You’re just another human, it seems, but we’ll run your credentials.”
As Kerwin turned away, Locke opened his mouth again, his voice cool ice. “I’m Locke Sonjie, Son of Sadow and former Consul of Clan Naga Sadow.”
Kerwin stopped. There was only one way to go this time. Diplomacy could be used to pacify, or…"
“You may be familiar with the Warhost - Sadow’s military. Do you know how many times I directed it in battle, or how much chaos I caused?”
The other man still hadn’t moved. Locke assumed that - like many of these Collective people - the man had lost someone, or had some reason to hate the Brotherhood. It was such a common theme.
“I sent so many to their deaths, and caused such destruction, and it was glorious.” It wasn’t, actually, but Locke wanted to anger the man. An angry opponent did not think clearly, unless they used the dark side.
Something snapped within Kerwin, then. The man turned and, in the blink of an eye, had Locke held by the throat.
“I could kill you now, Sith.”
Locke ignored the threat and controlled his body, breathing through the little bit of space left in his windpipe. “Oh, you did lose something,” he croaked.
“Someone,” Kerin spat. “Someone!” He punched the wall beside Locke’s head, leaving a noticeable dent in it, and then let Locke go, turning away quickly. Perhaps he wanted to follow his orders, but feared what he would do if he remained.
“Yeah, leave me alone with your goons,” Locke muttered. As soon as Kerwin disappeared around the corner, Locke dived into the dark side, letting the power fill him. This was their only chance.
He reached out with the Force, yanking at the cell door, dragging it out, slamming one of the guards between it and the wall, and then flinging it open again.
A moment later, the guard’s fallen blaster was in Locke’s hand, and a second guard was dead. The Force enveloped Locke, amplifying his movements, and filled his throat. He let it all out in a display of anger that he would have never released under normal circumstances.
The roar of battle fury that came from his throat was alien to Locke, but he let it go. It seemed to surprise the third guard, who stopped momentarily, allowing Locke to raise his hand and blast the man’s face with a burst of lightning. Cybernetics sizzles and crackled as the man cried out and fell.
“Kerwin!” Locke roared.
The man turned, but he was just far enough away. Locke raised the blaster and fired, hitting him in the thigh. Then, using the Force, he flung open a second cell door.
“Methyas,” Locke said. His voice was cold; emotionless. He glanced at Kerwin’s body. The man was getting up, electrostaff in his hand.
“Help me out here.”
He did not know what the other Sadow would do, but Locke trusted him to hold Kerwin off long enough while Locke freed the others.
He desperately flung open the next cell door.
“This one…no use…filthy Umbaran…glow in the dark rats…”
The room spun. A pair of colorless eyes opened then shut at once as harsh light bore upon sensitive retina.
“Oh, good, it’s awake.”
Syntari sensed the presence of the enemy to her left and tried to move her head, but found herself strapped beyond movement. Instead of replying she choked back the words and contented herself with sensing her surroundings through the Force, but no more than that.
“Which one is this? Really? This one is Syntari Bastiayn?”
The thunk of booted feet sounded to her right as her captor paced around her. Not knowing her surroundings was the worst kind of torment. The hard surface of a table pressed against her back, straps for her head, ankles, and wrists digging into her skin. Her body ached from who knew what damage had already been wrought. Had she spoken? Had she betrayed those with whom she had arrived on the planet? To prevent the possibility she instinctively Syntari closed her mind of all thoughts, refusing to think of her te–
“…no further use for us.”
Hearing her fate so casually discussed would have made a lesser woman cringe. The Sadowan herself was used to being considered unimportant.
“Prepare for an execution. I have no need for a drowned rat.”
A flurry of movement distracted her captors.
“Sir–sir, the prisoners–the others–”
The sound of people desperately running filled her ears, and then silence. With undying patience she counted first to ten, then to twenty as the footsteps retreated. When the count reached twenty five she reached out to the Force and her bonds tore loose, burning over her skin like a lash.
I need to get out of here.
She turned at the sound of her name. In the corridor beyond the sound of blaster fire echoed, along with raised voices and cries of pain. Framed in the doorway, Locke Sonjie twirled a blaster on one finger and grinned.
“Your freedom awa–”
Blaster fire. Locke staggered and dropped his gun, the weapon clattering to the floor as he tilted his head down to stare at the gaping wound in his chest. “–awaits,” he whispered. His body crumpled over her boots; Syntari stepped back in disgust, horror at her friends’ death a distant, fleeting thing in her mind. Time enough for that later. The Force plucked his weapon from the floor and deposited it in her hand. The heavy blaster felt alien in a hand accustomed to holding a lightsaber. In her hands it was more useful as a club than a blaster, and for a moment Syntari regretted her refusal to practice with the weapon prior to Nancora.
The act of stepping over Locke’s body was easier than it should have been. At the end of the day it was just a body and its resemblance to Locke was just a coincidence.
She moved out into the hallway and scanned for enemies. Damn the Force for her sensitivity to light! She could barely distinguish between shadows and people; at this rate she was going to end up lost as well as blind. Vaguely she recalled the map of this facility. Somewhere to the left there should be a hangar…perhaps there would be a ship. Gather the rest of her team and–
The Force flashed a warning. She turned just in time before the enemy hand could clamp on her shoulder, and an instinctual fear guided her hand. In her mind she imagined her self-defense as an elegant repost followed by a swift bash to an enemy face. The reality was different. Her injured shoulder spasmed and she fired an accidental shot that pierced the soldier’s foot. While his screams echoed the length of the hallway she heard her name and pivoted to see none other than Sang standing triumphantly at the end of the corridor.
Relief flooded her stiff, weary muscles and so she found it the easiest thing in the world to leap lightly over bodies that littered the hall towards her Consul. In the back of her mind she heard the Force whisper a warning not meant for her.
“Watch out!” She shouted.
Too little, too late.
A throng of faceless, masked Collective Soldiers poured out of the hallways on either side of Sang. Blaster fire sprayed upon the Entar and his body hit the floor like a tree in the forest.
If a Consul falls, and there’s only one Sadowan to hear it, does he make a sound?
She did not have time to grieve. A hand grabbed hers and vaguely she recognized Methyas. Her head ached with loss and the flare of harsh light on her unprotected eyes.
“Meth–the Collective, they–”
“Sang is…Locke, he–”
“Hush, Syntari, I know. We have precious time.”
An explosion rocked their surroundings with a snarl of flame and the smell of sulfer. Methyas covered his face with one arm and guided Syntari with the other; together the blind pair stumbled to the freedom of the desert. Somewhere in the chaos of their capture and their escape night had fallen. Syntari would think later on the beauty of this night and how ironic it was in the face of all the death and destruction that preceded it.
“Company,” she breathed.
Collective agents spilled out of the compound. The Umbaran recognized soldiers and several featureless Huntresses outlined against a backdrop of fire and for the first time felt despair. At her side Methyas paused and she sensed conviction settle over his shoulders like a mantle. One long fingered hand grasped the lightsaber hanging on his belt; she wondered how he managed to keep track of it.
“Syntari, this is where our paths diverge.”
“You aren’t thinking of facing them? You can’t be serious!”
“As serious as the Inquisitorius. I need you to listen to me, very carefully. There are no scrolls; the Brotherhood was wrong. We were all wrong.”
Syntari clutched at his robe, fingers stiff with fear at the words coming from his mouth. She could neither speak nor move as his words wound themselves through her mind on a never-ending loop. The idea that Methyas would throw his life away seemed unfathomable to her. Nevermind his Jedi ways. Nevermind his nature or his views of right and wrong.
“Hush! There’s no time. A ship is coming from Naga Sadow, Sang called it in. You need to get as far away from here as you can and repirt everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve heard. Do you understand?”
“Syn! Please–you must. Please.”
She looked away. Dropped her hand to hang limply at her side. “Yes,” she whispered. Doom hung in the air between them.
“Goodbye, Syntari. May we meet again.”
Methyas turned towards the thronging enemy, who overtook him like a tidal wave. Syntari turned, unable to see his final stand, and fled into the desert.
In a dimly lit room in an undisclosed location, a circle of black-robed Sadowans surrounded a lone figure standing in the center of the council room. Compared to the darkness her skin glowed like the moon as she stared stubbornly at the ground as if committing its ornate pattern to memory. Those around her remained cloaked with hoods drawn; she recognized neither voice nor face as they stared her down.
The Force remained as it had since Nancora: silent and mercifully at peace.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
Slowly Syntari Bastiayn raised her head, tears gleaming on her moonlit face. “This is all Sang’s fault,” she whispered.