A read-only archive of discourse.darkjedibrotherhood.com as of Sunday May 01, 2022.

Clan Plagueis: Manifest Destiny


Plagueis RO - Instructions

With the recent acquisition of a new planet to call our own, it is time for the forces of Clan Plagueis to begin the occupation of The Pinnacle and the surrounding areas. This run-on is an entirely new storyline, and will chronicle the Clan’s efforts to occupy and establish our base on Aliso.

As this is an official, non-competitive Run-On (meaning that no
Crescents will be awarded, but we will reward posters with Clusters of
Ice) for all members of Clan Plagueis, you must follow all the general rules for Run Ons [available here] (https://wiki.darkjedibrotherhood.com/view/Official_Competition_RunOn_Guidelines).

The Rules

  1. Reserve your post. You will need to reserve your
    posting spot before you start working on your post, so that others will
    know that you’re next in line and won’t write over you. If there is no
    reservation, simply put up a post that says "#User reserves this post,"
    then begin working on your post.

  2. Once you make a reservation, you have 24 hours to replace your reservation with your post (min. 300 words). If you don’t replace your reservation with a post within 24 hours,
    your spot will be forfeited – removed and opened up to the next
    reservation. We have to keep things flowing, and that means letting
    people get their posts onto Discourse in a timely fashion.

  3. Keep it consistent. This is about following the
    story, and keeping things formatted as much like other user’s posts as
    possible. We can handle some side-quips, and even a couple of
    side-stories, but if you’d like to take some of this Run On and make it
    into the basis of your own, smaller story, please make a new private
    run-on so that everyone is able to participate in this larger Clan-wide

  4. Disable your signatures so that we can keep the Run On clean and legible.

Periodically, Abadeer and Kul’tak will be reserving posts to keep the plot
moving forward. We would love for this to work without oversight, but
that’s entirely impossible – so, respect our reservations so that you
can continue to have a good time. The plot updates will be larger and
tailored so that they’ll better mesh with the story so far, so that
takes a little bit more time and effort.

Thanks for your attention!

Run-On Details

Open to all members of Clan Plagueis and its sub-units.
Running from July 2016 (34 ABY) until completion, with breaks for major Clan events.
Non-Competitive Run-On for Activity and Entertainment


Lambda-Class Shuttle Florrum’s Bane
The Anchorage
Aliso System
Unknown Regions
34 ABY

“Open a channel to the Pinnacle.” Dracaryis barked to the shuttle’s pilot. For the past three days, the Overseer of Clan Plagueis had spent his time split between organizing troops and equipment and inspecting the Anchorage after its movement from the Stygian Caldera to its new position hidden in the gaseous upper atmosphere of the planet Tonus. He was eager to report his status to the Dread Lord and return to the surface.

“Pinnacle Command, go ahead my lord.” The comms officer’s voice crackled over the link.

Dracaryis raised his head and watched as the holoprojector displayed an image of Teylas Ramar di Plagia, Dread Lord of Clan Plagueis.

“My Lord,” Dracaryis began, “the Anchorage is in good shape. I’m surprised the station survived the hypersled movement. There was minimal damage to the outer hull,
and I have repair teams assessing and repairing the affected areas. All weapon systems installed by Drax are still in full working order, so we have a decent line of defense should anyone—undesireable—enter the system. I’m leaving a skeleton crew aboard until we have completed the occupation and upgrades to the Pinnacle.”

“Excellent. Kalon’s efforts in constructing farms and other agricultural infrastructure is going well. The Anzat’s image sputtered as he spoke, "before long, we will be completely self-sustaining.”

“Yes, my Lord. I am enroute back to the Pinnacle now. With
operations split between the Anchorage and the surface, I need to begin preparations for training exercises and recruitment. Abadeer and Kul’tak are about to have their work cut out for them. I have a feeling Clan Plagueis will see a good share of new Dark Jedi joining our ranks once they realize the strategic advantage we hold with our new home and military capability.”

“I’ll see you when you get here. I’m not sure if you are aware, but we have a new guest in our midst.”

Dracaryis shifted his weight. “You mean the Inquisitorious?”

“Yes. He has taken up residence in the Pinnacle. We’ll speak more when you arrive.”

With that, Teylas ended the transmission.

Dracaryis stared out the main viewing port towards the great ball of blue, brown, and green before him. Aliso was by all definition a beautiful planet. Unlike most Sith, and after growing up on a desert world and spending a majority of his adult life in space, Dracaryis had an appreciation for all things green and growing. There as something akin to peace in the agrarian nature of this world, and in that peace Dracaryis found he could focus more on his duties to the Clan. He hated living in the cramped quarters on the Anchorage, and went stir crazy when trapped on one of the clan’s capital ships.

“It’s a great view, isn’t it sir?” The pilot mused.

“It is,” Dracaryis stated mindlessly, “it is, indeed.”

The Pinnacle
Unknown Regions
3 Hours Later

“I don’t trust him.” Selika Roh di Plagia slammed her fists on the table in the conference
room in an uncharacteristic show of frustration. “There is something off about him.”

“I won’t disagree with you there, but the fact remains that he was sent here by the Grand Master. And while I expect us to remain suspicious, we must allow him to conduct his duties unhindered.” Teylas stated matter-of-factly.

Dracaryis inclined his head. “It will be as you say, my lord. But I will keep an eye on him. You and Selika have enough to do.”

“We all have plenty to do,” Teylas replied, “which reminds me, what is the status of our forces?”

“The battle teams are conducting individual skill training out on the plains. Abadeer and Kul’tak are overseeing the drills.”

“And the construction efforts?”

Dracaryis pulled out a datapad and handed it to the Dread Lord. “Moving along well enough. We have begun to receive some shipments of livestock, six farms are nearing completion, with another ten in the works. I have teams constructing housing
for the military and slaves, and a water purification plant in one of the nearby lakes.”

“Excellent. Keep me posted on our progress. You are dismissed, Overseer.”

Dracaryis inclined his head in respect, and then turned to leave the room. As the door closed, he heard Selika whisper something to Teylas, but was unable to make out what she said. He found it odd that there was something discussed amongst the Consul and Proconsul he was not privy to, but he had other concerns at the moment.

The Sith moved down a crowded corridor where construction teams were renovating the command floor of the old CIS base. The Pinnacle was a marvel of architectural innovation. Over 600 meters tall, with 28 levels, and built withstand an assault from outside via shield generator, and from within with a vast array of internal defenses.
Even for its age, the main command center was a technological marvel. Computers lined the walls and the workstations, a three meter holo-map dominated the center of the room, and a communications suite allowed for immediate hyperspace communications across the galaxy.

Dracaryis approached the holo-map and punched in a series of coordinates. Almost immediately, an image displaying Plagueis military forces running through shooting drills materialized in front of him. He saw Kul’tak Drol standing near the back of the formation, observing his team’s training.

Dracaryis punched up a comms panel. “Pinnacle to Kul’tak. This is Dracaryis, over.”

He watched as Kul lifted his communicator, “Drol here. Go ahead, sir.”

“How goes the training, Knight?”


Plains of Aliso, A few Kilometers from the Pinnacle
Unknown Regions
34 ABY

Kul gave a short huff at The Overseer’s choice of words.

“If this is training then I’m the Dread Lord.” When the joke garnered no response he quickly continued, “I’m given chaff and told to make steel.”

“You’ll rectify that?” His tone clearly relayed that it was not a question in any sense.

“Of course, Overseer. Plagueis shall have steel, even if I have to shape it with my bare fists.”

“Don’t give me words, Drol, give me results. The Dread Lord is counting on you and Taasii.”

At the mention of his battleteam counterpart, Kul stiffened slightly. He still hadn’t grown completely used to the fact he’d been forced to switch houses. Dracaryis was aware, as well. Even from a bird’s eye he could see the Zabrak’s jaw clench.

“I know how you feel about the decision, Drol, but remember that the Dread Lord wishes to quell this fanatical House loyalty that existed in the past. Plagueis has pieces like a body has hands, but the hands still serve the body. The Summit is expecting the battleteams to ensure that persists.”

A commotion began to stir up among the riflemen as they practiced their sharpshooting. It appeared some wanted to be lazy today. Kul growled.

“Understood, Overseer. If you’ll excuse me, it looks like I’ll get to have some fun today after all.” They parted ways with a solitary click as the comm retracted its connection and the armored Zabrak turned to face his team. The Dark Jedi stood off to the side, having slowly segregated themselves from the slaves and Willing, where they attempted to work on sparring.

As he marched towards the firing lanes, Kul could not help but notice the plains around him. The wind softly brushed the tall grass and in turn it shimmered like pools of viridescence. The plains seemed to extend to the very horizon, but Kul knew eventually one would encounter the newly developed farmland and construction sites thrown up after Plagueis’ settlement of the planet. It was a welcome change of scenery to the constant blur of grey aboard the Anchorage.

One of the groups of riflemen had gathered around an equipment station, a few of them lounging while one erratically waved his arms and tried to shout above their attempts to drown him out. Kul’s approach brought him behind the majority of the group and he waited with hands behind his back.

“–I’m ordering you to stand up, Slave! There are no breaks until the Lord Drol commands it,” the squad leader supplied, hoping to get them moving again. The man turned and saw Kul, quickly snapping into a salute,

“Lord Drol–” he emphasized the title, clearly trying to send a message to his subordinates, “–the men were resting for a bit. I was just getting them back on their feet.”

The Zabrak eyed the men lying prone on the soft grass.

“I can see that.”

A particularly brave (or ignorant) slave spoke up.

“We were tired, so we thought we’d have a break. Can only go for so long in this infernal armor before wanting to drop.”

The comment drew the immediate attention of Kul’s red and orange eyes. He held the man’s gaze as he placed one boot and then the next, bringing himself before the slave. He bent his knees until he came eye to eye with him. His hood cast a shadow over the man’s face, but the fear in his eyes was clear as the midday sun that crossed overhead. Waiting long enough to have silenced the entire group, and drawing the gaze of his Force sensitives, Kul reached out and grabbed the man by his throat. The Zabrak stood to full height and held the man out before him with one arm, feeding an influx of power into the limb through his connection with the Force. With a series of sickening crunches the man’s neck was squeezed until the spinal cord finally snapped in two. Kul dropped the body at the feet of the sergeant and watched as the group quickly jumped to their feet. Satisfied, he spoke to the group as a whole.

“Any more concerns?” When none replied he somberly headed back towards the Dark Jedi. He didn’t bother looking back to see if the riflemen were getting back to training. The sound of blaster fire spoke for itself. He resisted the urge to rub the back of his head.

I wonder if Taasii is having this much trouble.

The group of Dark Jedi had stopped sparring, but continued after the commotion had ended. The newest Knight of the bunch, the sister of Kul’s own Master no-less, Vanessa Rhode was guiding the newer members through their stances. She stepped aside as he strode amongst them, giving a salute. There was an action he would need to get used to still. He’d always been a follower, never a leader. Such etiquette towards him was unnerving from a fellow Dark Jedi. He merely responded with his own acknowledgement of the salute.

He was about to call them to him when his comm began to signal an incoming query. He tapped it, annoyed at another interruption.

“If this is about earlier, Overseer, I promise you that my–”


The unfamiliar sound stunned Kul for a second as he tried to register the vocal pattern. It wasn’t Dracaryis, or any of the other Summit members for that matter. No, this was a new voice.

“This is Drol. Who are you and how did you connect to this secure channel?”

The voice chuckled. “The Inquisitorious has its ways. What I want to know is if an Inquisitor like yourself is ready to serve his Grand Inquisitor?”

There was no hesitation in his voice when Kul replied. His service to the Inquisitorious was not something he exactly bragged about in public, but he rewarded their constant support with severe loyalty. If they were contacting him on his new home, the mission must be dire. Usually he received a sign that he would be called upon soon to prepare him. The suddenness of the call made him curious.

“Where’s the mission pick up site?”

“Eager. Good. There is no pick up site, this time. I want you to meet me in person.”

Kul’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You’re on Aliso?”

The man’s tone outlined the smile on his lips. “Indeed, I am. A few more kilometers south you’ll find yourself approaching a site where some of the tectonic shifts occurred during Aliso’s ecological disaster. We’ll talk more there.”

“Just who are you?”

“Just think of me as ‘CL’ for now. Look for the cliff cave.” The comm died with a burst of static.

Cliff cave? There’s no cliffs around here that I’m aware of. Guess south it is, though.

The Zabrak turned his head, his hood flapping in the growing breeze.

“Rhode, tell the sergeant to pack up, we’re moving south.”

“What’s south, my lord?”

Kul peered south and squinted, trying to picture the tectonic shifts in that direction. He got the sense that something big was coming. The Force revealed to him nothing, but he just knew that this next mission would be decisive for him.

“Fate, Rhode. Fate.”


Unknown Regions
34 ABY

Abadeer put a hand on his neck as he cracked it to the left. The past several weeks had been very strenuous and busy. Taasii had been assigned several platoons of Dark Jedi in the recent weeks. He’d performed well in the recent raid on the CIS base, had subsequently had been recognized for his efforts. That recognition was turning out to be a lot of work, several more training groups were added to his care, along with several other duties.

Taasii looked on at the trainees in various combat forms. There were various purposes to the training he’d set. He searched for Jedi that showed promise, but the ones before him were not promising. Their connection to the force was weak, and their combat skills were minimal. Still they could be utilized as shock troops at the very least. Lightsabers in the hands of a group of novices had the potential of destroying enemy forces.

Along with being in charge of training new Force sensitive recruits, Abadeer was also overseeing the transfer of the Apostles of Syn’s base of operations. He’d spent hours strolling through the Pinnacle to locate the best place for their new home. He’d found several suitable floors that would be adequate for their needs. They needed space for sparring, training in the ways of the Force and it’s various uses, and living quarters. There was much more space to be utilized here than aboard the Preeminence, and Abadeer planned to utilize it to the maximum capacity.

The 13th level was suitable for his needs, and he’d put in the requisition forms for it’s space. He wasn’t sure if he’d be allowed the space, but from his scoping out of the area, it had all the space he needed. Construction would be done rather than bringing down all of the old equipment. It was time for a change and Abadeer decided to keep it all new. The only things being transferred were the Apostles torture devices. Currently the Apostles of Syn were still one of Plagueis’ primary spy networks, and they had only the most sophisticated torture technology. When the Dread Lord needed information from captured enemies the were turned over to the Apostles for their well established and practiced methods.

Abadeer’s wrist communicator sounded off alerting him of an incoming call. It was the Overseer, Dracaryis. “How goes the training Abadeer?” the electronic voice came through as soon as Taasii had answered the call.

“Everything is going about as well as expected. The recruits are learning about as quickly as would be expected, but there’s no person of any particular note. Again I’ll be weeding through to see if any will be apt to be taken into the Apostles. We could use a few new bloods.”

“Affirmative, keep me updated on their progress. We’re planning on putting together some battle simulations between your and Kultak’s trainees. We’ve located a suitable location several miles past our southern most farms. You’ve two weeks to finish training your recruits before you start running them through some war games. Maybe then we’ll see if there are any worthy candidates.” Dracaryis paused for a moment and Taasii took the opportunity to jump in.

“Lord Overseer, is there any further news on my request for the utilization of the 13th floor of the Pinnacle for the Apostles new base of operations? I’m anxious to begin construction as soon as possible, the Apostles need to be put through their training exercises as well.”

“Patience Knight. The Dread Lord and his Wrath have been working on the allotments for all of Plagueis. You’ll be given yours in time. Is there anything more to report?” The Overseer’s voice made it clear that the conversation was over, and he had no more patience for Abadeer’s requests.

“No, of course not sir. Taasii over and out.” The Knight hung up his communicator and turned back to his trainees. He sighed to as he saw that a fight had broken out between two of them, and the others had gathered around to goad them on. Taasii grew up on Shili, and there the alpha male was in charge, he just had to assert his dominance to put them in line. He strode over, while calling upon his connection to the Force to channel a wave of fear and terror before him. As he approached the gang of raucous fighters, a dread silence fell over the group. Slowly each of them peered over their shoulders to see the imposing figure that was their Master, only enhanced with the terrifying presence of the Force.

“What in the bloody hell do you think you’re doing!” Abadeer roared with all of his might. Most looked down sheepishly, avoiding his gaze. He looked at the two men who were on the ground, the two who had started the whole commotion. He grabbed each in one hand and dragged them out of the circle of onlookers. He tossed them easily onto the ground in front of him and glared at them both.

“You belong to Plagueis now! I will not have infighting in my ranks. You’re going to learn to work together, or I’ll kill you. Your choice.” Abadeer drew and ignited his saber in one blindingly fast motion. Both men looked like they were going to wet themselves, even though Abadeer had let the wave of terror subside.

“Draw your weapons and fight if you’re going to fight. That or be ready to be struck down now!” Abadeer began a slow approach towards the two Jedi, performing the customary Makashi salute.

“But sir! We can’t… we couldn’t stand a chance…” the man stuttered his protest as he picked himself up off the ground. Abadeer did not respond but continued his approach raising his saber for an obvious strike towards the man’s head. He screamed and covered his face, but it was for not, a crimson saber had stopped the strike before it could connect. Taasii looked to the side with a raised eyebrow to the second man. He had a mixed look on his face, determination in his face but a deep fear in his eyes.

“At least not all of you are useless. Now lets see what you’re all made of,” Taasii turned so that the rest of the group would be able to hear his voice, “We’ve got two weeks to finish your training. At that point we’ll be separating you into two groups combined with Commander Drol’s forces. We’ll be pitting you all in some training war games. I only want to see the best from each of you. My reputation, which means your life is on the line.” Taasii turned back to the recruit with his lightsaber still drawn, crouched down in a defensive stance. “Let’s begin again properly shall we?”


The Pinnacle, Command Centre


34 ABY

The large control room was infested with blinking lights and audio signals, the slaves working their stations answering the beckoned calls of the automated systems. Partial power had been restored to the complex as scores of technicians continued to unlock the intricate secrets of the large facility, under the watchful eye of various Plagueian acolytes. The Pantoran bounty hunter known as Laren stood with his hands clasped behind his back, observing the mundane work happening around him, and attempting to look focused and calm. But with each klaxon that emanated from the computers, his mood worsened considerably. He was not used to supervision on this scale, especially of such drab work. But his bosses had requested it, mainly Lady Rhode and Teylas, and so he answered. He was still being paid for his services, after all, even if said service was menacingly boring.

A unique noise he knew all too well emanated from his communicator. Taking the circular device off of his belt, he activated the holocommunicator in his left hand. A miniature version of Taranae Rhode appeared in a familiar blue hue, her arms crossed beneath her bosom, and her face a mask of – was it frustration? All the Pantoran knew she wasn’t happy, and for what he did not know.

“What can I do for you this fine day?” Laren said dryly.

“You have yet to fulfill the responsibility with which I entrusted to you, bounty hunter,” Rhode responded with an icy tone. “You sit there in the command centre watching the sheep graze, and yet when your Quaestor commands that you find a suitable location for our House’s new base, you simply forget?”

“Well first off, my lady, I’m standing here. And second off, you expect me to have found a suitable location for hundreds upon hundreds of people and pounds of equipment in mere days? This is an entire planet we’re talking about.”

“I will not play games with you, Laren,” Taranae said, her voice low, though it was clear there was rage bubbling beneath her stone-faced expression. However, Laren knew her senses were honed in on Laren’s slight amusement, as well as his fear.

“I have narrowed our list down to three possible locations, Lady Rhode. The information should be available in our database as we speak. I will be taking a team of technicians and escort to finalize our decision later today.”

“Good.” Without another word the communication winked out of existence. Laren put the holocommunicator back on his belt and turned to look at the communications officer.

“Contact Commander Taasii at once. Tell him to relay his current location, as I will be joining him shortly,” Laren commanded the slave.

“At once, sir.”

What comes from the top always ends up at the bottom.

Laren turned to exit the command centre, his dark cloak flowing neatly behind him with the quickness of his stride. However, before he could reach the door, another slave came to an abrupt halt in front of the Pantoran. He folded his arms across his chest, looking at the slave huffing and puffing in front of him.

“I was told to give this to you, sir,” spoke the man. His voice wasn’t natural, and Laren could see an implant in his throat. That was the reason he could speak, and the vocal emulator made his voice mechanic in nature. Laren shivered slightly, trying not to imagine the circumstances that led to the ‘enhancement’.

The messenger handed Laren a datapad and waited, clearly looking for orders of dismissal from the cerulean-coloured man in front of him. Laren paid him no mind and read the contents of the typed message. There are credits to be had in service to another. Keep an open mind. CL. The fact that whoever had wrote the message had the gall to send a slave running to find him was ridiculous, but Laren was keen enough in his boredom to keep the contents to himself. Credits weren’t his true goal, but they were necessary, even among the likes of the supremely odd Force-wielding acolytes he now called his superiors and subordinates.

“You may leave. I’ll keep this.”

Nothing was ever how it seemed with the Plagueians. It did keep the bounty hunter on his toes, though.


Plains of Aliso


A slight breeze blew through the air as Malice surveyed her surroundings. How good it was to feel a breeze again, have her feet on solid ground instead of constantly in space. Aiya sat beside her, the feline’s four eyes scanning the horizon carefully. A small beep interrupted the woman’s thoughts, and she dug a small holocommunicator out of her pocket. A small image of Selika Roh appeared on the device.

“You’ve been very useful as we have made this transition onto a planet of our own. Have you finished your reports on the planet?” the little hologram asked.

“Thank you, Master. Aiya and I have both been eager to explore the area. We were grateful for the assignment. I finished the reports and set them on your desk.” Malice replied, “They should still be there.”

“I trust you are continuing to get along with Arden and the other house?”

“Yes, Master. Though it’s a lot less entertaining, if you see this path as the most logical, I will follow it.”

“You have been an obedient student. See that it continues and I expect you will do great things for the clan. Once you have completed your current assignment, return to my office and we will go over your findings.”

Malice inclined her head to the hologram of her master before it disappeared, and she stowed the device back into her pocket. She’d been sent out by Arden to try to find a good spot for their house, and was pleased only a moment later to find that something else had caught her eye. Two figures stood across the plains, standing next to a large cliff.

“Come on, Aiya. Let’s go pay our good friends in Karness Murr a visit.”

Climbing on the large feline’s back, the two raced down the hill they had been standing on and down towards the pair of men. She wasn’t anything more than acquainted with the Togruta, and had yet to even meet the house’s new Aedile. She knew he had been a bounty hunter, and even more interesting, he wasn’t a force user.

Slipping off and back onto the ground, Malice continued towards them, smirking as they noticed her.

“So, you’re the new guy, hmm?” She asked, looking the man up and down. “You’ve got your work cut out for you, Taasii. It must be difficult to work under a basic.”

The Togruta behind her only folded his arms. He neither agreed nor disagreed, which was probably smart on his part. He didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter.

“Malice, is it? It seems you have placed me in this ‘basic’ category off of a mere assumption. I have made it this far relying only on myself and not on any mystical power.” The Aedile finally returned, looking at her.

“Kaysh mirsh’kyramud.” she mumbled to the Nexu beside her, who swished her tail in agreement.

“Boring you, am I? Well, I don’t recall ever asking for you to join us. Feel free to be on your way.” the blue skinned man snapped.

“Is it not my duty as your fellow Aedile to welcome you to your new position?” she asked, pushing aside the surprise at him understanding mandalorian. “I’ve merely come to say that I look forward to seeing what you bring to the summit. We’ll see how long you last, Laandur.

“Copaani mirshmure’cye, vod?” Laren asked, taking a step closer. A low growl rose up in Aiya’s throat, stopping him in his tracks with her warning.

“Not particularly, though I spend a good deal of time in the training rooms. You’re welcome to stop by sometime. I’d be very interested to see just what got you here.” she said, smirking. She didn’t expect much, at least not anything that she couldn’t handle. She was used to sparring with Selika and Kalon, both much stronger than this man was. Perhaps their eventual spar would be refreshing.

“I’m sure I’ll take you up on that offer sometime. As for now, you must excuse us. We have more work to do.” Laren said, signaling for Abadeer to follow him. The Togruta shot a glance at her before following, the two of them disappearing over the same hill she’d previously been on.

Looking around them, Malice realized that perhaps the two of them had also been searching for somewhere to take for their own house. The area itself was much too small, but up ahead a large waterfall fell over the cliffside, creating a mist that to the normal eye might have completely covered what laid behind the waterfall. Both she and Aiya, however, picked up on it right away, and she once again freed the holocommunicator from her pocket, calling Arden.

“Sir? You may want to come join us. I think I’ve found something that might interest you.”


Aliso, Plains

Nearly 20 km NE from The Pinnacle

“Your silence was unexpected, Abadeer,” Laren began only moments after the witch named Malice was out of sight. “And perhaps also telling. What is it you truly think of me?” Laren paused in mid-step as they were climbing a small, grassy knoll, turning to look at his Togruta subordinate.

His Sith companion mirrored his movement, stopping and turning to face the Pantoran Aedile he reluctantly tolerated. Though he said nothing, his expression and stance communicated a multitude of strong emotions to the perceptive bounty hunter. The Togruta’s eyes were focused, almost squinted, though his back was turned to the soft, Alisian sun. His mouth twitched downward periodically, a sign of a sour look attempting to be hidden from view, exposing his disdain for the cerulean-skinned man before him. His exposed, heavily muscled arms were stiff, with one resting diligently on the hilt of his intricate lightsaber, and the other loose at his side, palm open and ready to grasp his weapon at a moment’s notice. The man seethed hatred for Laren, but it was a hatred tempered by obedience not only to his Clan and master, but to the Dread Lord himself.

Teylas Ramar had originally employed Laren just under a year ago. In a way, he had elevated Laren’s status and training as a mercenary and bounty hunter. Teylas paid the bounty hunter handsomely, but what Laren really cared about was the training, the missions, and the undeniable thrill of the chase. He finally put his unique skill set to use, making people who opposed the expansion of Hyperdyne Industries disappear, and publicly dispatching others in the company who skimmed too close to the truth of its ownership. All of this, and the knowledge that the evil witchcraft he knew in legends as the Sith were alive and thriving, and ways in which to combat them. His love of the kill had bred him into a blaster-wielding scalpel for the Ascendant Clan, and for that he could accept his ignorance of their precious Force.

The Togruta relaxed after a few moments and turned away, making his way up the side of a grassy knoll. Laren followed, barely realizing his own hand had unconsciously shot toward the holster fastened to his left leg. He stopped himself from fiddling with the clip, the only sign of his constant fear of being surrounded by his Sith and Dark Side-wielding brethren.

Abadeer crested the top of the knoll, only to be met with another, longer hill, topped with long, golden grass that was endless as far as their eyes could see. To the west, a small mountain range could be seen in the distance, of which this amalgamation of hills was definitely derived from in some fashion. The two continued forth, the taller Togruta maintaining the leader, with the cautious Pantoran walking behind him.

“Your relevance extends only so far as your reach,” the Togruta suddenly began, his deep voice smooth, but dangerous. “If it wasn’t for your standing, I would kill you now - my Lord,” Abadeer added after a moment’s pause, considering his words carefully.

His honesty was unsurprising to Laren. He knew as a member of the Willing he would never be considered equal. His employer - their Dread Lord -had made it clear the way of their precious Dark Side was chaotic, at best. But Abadeer speaking to Laren was surprising.

As a Battleteam Leader, he had been an effective commander, leading his troops and acolytes into battle in multiple engagements. And yet, since they had met, the Togrutan Sith had said no more than was necessary beyond mandatory responses to commands. Even their first meeting, he had said nothing, choosing instead to stand defiantly before his new Aedile, even as he had proven his skill in front of the Force-wielding ilk of Karness Muur.

“You may try, Taasii,” Laren responded slowly as he followed the crimson and white Togrutan to the top of the next hill. “But I’m certain I would kill you -”

By the stars!

Both Abadeer and Laren found their eyes stuck on the sky above them. Gargantuan balls of Fire lit up the late afternoon sky, reflecting off the vast body of water below. The lake was more than thirty kilometres away, perhaps more, but it was vast enough that it’s true berth was lost beyond sight. But the brightness of the onslaught above clouded the calm, blue surface, leaving only a reflection of the chaos from above in its wake.

Suddenly one of the balls of fire became a hulking mass that was flying into the ground below. The mass was large, perhaps a ship, but it’s angle and the debris being torn apart from its hull clouded any chance of determining it’s exact origin, even with macrobinoculars.

At the same time their comm links were filled with desperate cries and confusion, and without a word they began a brisk run toward their new command post. It wasn’t only where they needed to be, but it would also save their lives from the impact of the falling ship.

One Week Later, following the Battle of Capis

Aliso, Lakeshore

Ruins of the Ascendancy

Laren, Abadeer, Taranae, and a slew of soldiers, technicians, engineers and more looked down upon the hulking mass of the Ascendancy. Its hull had plowed directly into the surface, obliterating a large swath of land and making a massive impact crater under the much more shallow waters of the lake in which it rested.

Karness Muur had been tasked to salvage what remained aboard the vessel. The Plagueian fleet was completely destroyed, but nothing that was of use could be wasted, if it could be collected.

“Shall we begin?” Taranae quipped with a playful grin. Laren and Abadeer were stone-faced, and the farthest thing from impressed.


Aliso 34 ABY

The Pinnacle

Control Room

The Dread Lord of Plagueis waited as patiently as a dark lord could while the rest of the Summit filed their way into the room. There had already been a debriefing concerning their mission against the Order of Vader, so as Kul strode into the room he found his emotions switching between curiosity and excitement. In fact, he noticed that everyone was slightly on edge. Perhaps they had not defeated the Order of Vader as well as they had believed? He quickly fought down such doubts and nearly tsked aloud at himself. The Clan would have been mobilized before now if that was the case. Not that he would mind a fight, though.

Kul’tak took his place near the edge of the group, subconsciously placing himself near his master. His Vornskr sniffed along the floor before curling at his feet. The table before him was sheeted durasteel, light but durable. It hummed softly as he strummed his fingers on it, the bladed claws he always wore threatening to scratch the surface. His fellow Summit members sat according to rank, the Quaestors and Aediles sitting closer to the front. The Zabrak’s Aedile, Malice strode by with her Nexu closely at heel. It growled as it caught the Vornskr’s scent, but continued on when it did not receive a challenge. Kul’s connection with his Vornskr allowed him to semi control her actions to a degree, his own mental fortitude keeping her in check. He was indeed curious how me might compare with the woman, but as her master was the Wrath, he’d avoid any unnecessary confrontations. He was patient. One day he might even challenge even the Dread Lord himself to a duel. Because it would be fun.

The Zabrak’s thoughts had begun to wonder from the present, but they quickly snapped back as the Dread Lord stood and rapped a knuckle upon a small dais, his demeanor as sure and calm as ever. His Anzati eyes probed the collection of Force sensitives and mercenary as if deciding which would better serve as an appetizer. Kul felt the presence of his battleteam counterpart, Abadeer, as he took his place in the rear with Kul. With everyone present now, Teylas began without delay.

“To begin, this meeting is not a briefing. We’re not under attack, or planning to assault anyone else. So you can relax a little.”

The energy in the room began to slowly ebb a bit at that. Kul felt a slight frown itch at his face. Maybe he’d poke at Malice, after all. Or…

His gaze found the sapphire skin of the mercenary Uscot, his presence itself irking. There was something about the Pantoran that bothered Kul. He was often surly and secretive, traits good for a mercenary but possibly detrimental to the Clan as a whole. What was to stop him from betraying them all for a few credits later on?

The Dread Lord was continuing, “Fortunately we have a chance to breath again and focus on regaining our strength and finishing the construction of the Pinnacle and the new headquarters for the Houses. With that in mind, I have some important news to discuss.”

He waved a hand to his right and a hologram appeared on one of the control boards, showing a tree diagram with names and ranks. At first glance it seemed an ordinary list, but after a few seconds the ones closer to the front realized that something was different.

“As you’ll notice, the current rosters of the Houses have been reshuffled and the battleteams are no more,”

Both Kul and Abadeer’s red skin blanched. The battleteams gone? So what happens to them? They both leaned forward slightly, trying to get a better read on the screen, but noticed each other’s reaction and leaned back trying to pretend it hadn’t happened.

“In order to solidify the chain of command even more, I have seen fit to remove the battleteams as assets for the Houses and placing a single battleteam under the direct control of the Clan. This battleteam will be known as the Circle. And at it’s head–” Kul and Abadeer raised their eyebrows, “–shall be Taranae Rhode. Aiding her as XO will be Kul’tak Drol.

“This leaves a dilemma as Taranae’s position as Quaestor remains open. So I have decided to hand the reigns to Arden. Filling Arden’s old position as Quaestor will be none other than Laren Uscot, who has proved himself time and again as a great asset to Plagueis.”

Kul’s eyes became slits as he frowned at that. He could accept being placed a step down as an XO to his master, but having a paid mercenary possess such a high rank within the Clan unsettled him. Again his feelings warned him of mercenaries lack of loyalties.

“This may seem a lopsided way of doing this, but there is a reason. As this leaves Karness Muur’s Aedile position open as well, the spot will filled by Abadeer Taasii. All other positions remain as is. Any objections?”

The Dread Lord waved his hand again, this time shutting the projection down. When no one voiced any objections he nodded.

“I’ll be sending lists of the new House memberships to the respective leaders so you can inform your members. You’re dismissed.”

He turned to leave but stopped and glanced at the two Quaestors.

“Arden, Laren, walk with me. I want to see the plans you have drawn up for the new House headquarters.”

As the group went their separate ways Kul filed in beside his master, Vornskr hard on his heels. Taranae had grown rather sullen as of late, the dark energy swelling within her corrupting her slightly more everyday. It had been some time since he’d really been around her for an extended period. Part of him was still unsure how to approach the beast she was becoming. He could not help but grin at the analogy, though. He’d tamed a few beasts in his day. He gave her a sidelong glance, and the grin quickly faded.

Trying to keep that one in check would do nothing but kill him.

As if sensing his amusement, the crimson-haired human spoke. Even though she was shorter than he, he had to pick up his pace to keep up with her.

“No time to waste, Kul. Let’s get the team in order and get to work. We have journeymen to prepare.” Her saberstaff jingled at her side, eager to educate some poor acolyte.

Kul and Shar’kala shared a shrugging look and he gave a curt nod in deference.

“Of course, Master.”


The Pinnacle
34 ABY

Moments after the summit adjourned, Selika began walking away from the splitting group, contemplating, if not outright musing, over the change in guard. Power shifts in a chain of Sith and Dark Jedi were rarely welcomed with open arms from all parties. Although Clan Plagueis was very tightly knit, the appointment of a Force-blind outsider was bound to rustle some feathers. It was practically begging for a challenge. Through the sound of her own thoughts, the di Plagia began to sense the ping of a slightly familiar presence. It was small, in the distance, and she couldn’t tell quite who it was. Then the presence changed, suddenly shifting to a closer, more vibrant signature.

“Good afternoon, Proconsul,” a familiar voice greeted from a few meters behind.

“Good afternoon to you too,” Roh stated, turning around in a deliberately eased fashion.

Furios Morega stood with his hands casually placed on his hips, dressed in the armor of the Inquisitorius. His hood and mask were pulled away to reveal the slight smile on his face. As her lightning fast instincts analyzed the sudden intruder, something seemed a little off about him. Some tiny, mental red flag warned her to stay on guard with her former Aedile. Selika instinctually steeled herself for a fight.

“Though I’m not disappointed to see you, you’re not supposed to be here. We were never informed of your arrival,” the woman stated, challenging the rogue Battlemaster’s intrusion.

The Epicanthix raised his hands in a mock surrender. “I don’t know what to tell you. I was on a mission in the area and I was given orders to return to the Clan when I reported success. I just happened to run into you first.”

The sudden beeping of the Proconsul’s holocommunicator interrupted the starting confrontation. She pulled the device from her hip and held it in front before activating the display. An ethereal blue form of Teylas Ramar appeared with the faded silhouettes of the Clan’s two Quaestors behind his shoulders.

“Yes, Consul?” Selika asked the projection.

“I just received a curious transmission from Moff Xox. We’re supposed to be anticipating the arrival of one Furios Morega back into our ranks.”

“Isn’t that a wonderful surprise,” the Krath said sarcastically, turning the device to face Furios. The Epicanthix shifted to attention as his visage was projected back to the Anzat.

“Curious,” Teylas muttered to himself, just loud enough to be heard over the channel. “Report to Rollmaster Dracaryis Sunstrider at once.”

“Yes, Dread Lord,” the Epicanthix replied. “I’ve also been instructed to inform you both that I have some Inquisitorius business to attend to before I am entirely at the Clan’s disposal.”

“Understood,” the hologram of Teylas Ramar stated. Furios saluted and turned to go and find the Rollmaster. As soon as he was out of ear shot, the leaders spoke.

“Do you think he’s meant to be working with the Grand Master’s Inquisitor?” the Proconsul asked.

“I’d say that it’s likely but I don’t know for sure,” the projection replied.

“And where are you putting him?”

“Under Laren. We’ll keep a close eye on him for the time being.”

The Pinnacle, Delta Hangar
34 ABY, The Following Day

The sound of running machinery echoed throughout the hangar as engineering teams worked on repurposing the salvaged materials from the Ascendancy. The chattering of workers and the static of primitive radios could be heard under and between the sounds of industrial saws, welding torches, and various power tools. An occasional salvage drop-off was the only thing interrupting the constant droll of the engineering operation. On the opposite side of the hanger stood Battlemaster Furios Morega, facing a procession of thirty of the most promising slaves. His ear held an active communication link channeled to his Quaestor.

“The Dread Lord demands at least a ten-man Special Forces unit from you. You have these thirty to work with.”

“Understood,” Furios replied and closed the channel. He looked to his subordinates. The obvious darting of nervous eyes showed the uneasiness of the group. They stood in varying failed attempts of attention, each of them wearing fatigues and unarmed. They would have to be trained and conditioned from the ground up.

“You are already dead,” the Sith stated. “This is Hell. The Dread Lord is the Devil. Any questions?” Nobody said anything.

“Good,” he stated. “What you need to keep in mind while you are here is that you only live by the will of myself and the others who command the Legion you are all a part of. This means that you die by our will also. Do you understand?”

“Sir, yes sir,” the group replied in attempted unison.

“Excellent. To begin with, I only need fifteen of you. You are all ordered to kill each other until there are only that many left.” Several of the men shifted and turned but all of them hesitated to engage their fellow slaves. Their handler sighed and swiftly stepped to the two nearest slaves. He quickly placed his hands over their eyes, gripping their heads by the temples, and shot a bolt of electricity into each of their skulls.

“Fifteen,” he barked. “Now!” As the two bodies fell to the floor, the remaining men overcame their hesitation and engaged each other, each fully driven to come out alive.

The Pinnacle
34 ABY, One Week Later

Thirteen troops stood at attention, forming a shoulder to shoulder line in front of the Dread Lord and his Wrath. Behind the two leaders stood Laren Uscot and Furios Morega. The unit was adorned in old, specialized Ravager armor that had been recovered from the Ascendancy, each holding their helmet under their left arm. Teylas Ramar approached the second to last of the thirteen elite troops presented him. “What is your designation soldier?”

“Lambda fifteen-twelve, Dread Lord.”

“Kill yourself, Lambda fifteen-twelve,” the Anzat commanded. The Pantoran behind him shifted ever so slightly. He wasn’t quite used to the utter disregard for life that these Plagueians had. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier drew his pistol from the right hip and held the end of the barrel against his right temple before pulling the trigger. The sound of the blaster resonated through the room before the man collapsed to the floor with a smoking hole in his head. No other soldier so much as blinked.

“Impressive. And how did you say they scored on their combat training?”

“All of Lambda fifteen received full Excellent marks on all forms of combat training,” the Battlemaster replied.

“I expect to see their scores at Acceptable by the end of the week.”

“It will be done Dread Lord,” Furios replied.


The Pinnacle
34 ABY

Abadeer exited the room, stunned at the proceedings of Summits meeting. He wouldn’t deny that he had wanted the position of Aedile, but he never thought it would come like this. There was so much to grasp. Things had changed, and they would continue to do so. Laren seemed to have no end in his climb through the ranks. There would be feathers ruffled, and some very displeased members of Plagueis. Taasii couldn’t say he was happy to see the Pantoran go, as the man had saved his life on more than one occasion.

Arden Karn strode up behind Abadeer motioning for the Togruta to follow. The tall Warlord took long strides through the compound that now served as their base of operations. Durasteel blended with stone through the long hallways of their half underground base. Eventually the two men reached Karn’s temporary office. Each of the houses were scouting for their own place to call their own to begin training their forces.

Arden sat down behind his desk before motioning for Taasii to take a chair opposite him.

“Welcome back to Karness Muur sir.” Abadeer stated while sitting down. He was never sure quite how to act around the man who was sitting before him. Technically Karn had finished Abadeer’s training to become a Knight, but their relation in that regard was short lived.

“Thank-you Abadeer, it’s good to be back home. We have much to discuss, and much to plan.” He reached under his desk and pulled out a data pad, and altering bringing it to life, a map of the area was pulled up. “These are the schematics of the area that we’re searching for place for Karness Muur to settle down. We’ve got several potential locations, but I think we have one in mind already.” Karn zoomed in the image on the data pad showing a location. Abadeer couldn’t help but grin.

Sometime later after several hours of coordinating reports and discussing the next stages of their upcoming months of work, Abadeer departed to his quarters. The last thing that Arden had suggested to him was change in garb. Becoming the Aedile came with it’s perks, but also a significant amount of risk. Abadeer was one of the newest members of Clan Plagueis to begin with, while also being the lowest ranked and weakest members of the Summit. Karness Muur held many members who were more skilled and much more experienced than himself. And being surrounded by Sith as he was, this brought no comfort to Abadeer’s mind. Even as a Battleteam Leader there were those who murmured against him receiving any kind of position before them, but now he was their direct superior.

Arden’s suggestion was to take time to focus on his training. He would have to become stronger, and more capable to garner to the respect of those he was chosen to lead. He would have to train and enter the ranks of the Equite. Abadeer’s first stop was the armory. He’d worn his Plagueis embossed armor ever since he stepped into the rank of Knight, but it was time for a change. His new attire consisted of a long dark cloak, bracers and pauldrons. As part of his training Abadeer was going to further his studies in lightsaber combat, and as such, he had a second purple saber crafted. His fighting style would feel more unique and individual to him. Last on his list of things was requisitioning a combat droid, trained for melee combat.

A few days later Abadeer was training hard in his sparring pit, the droid proving a significant challenge. He was using training saber, along with the droid, but the sting of the hits he’d taken were taking their tole. Just as well as most real opponents, the droid could read and learn his movements, and exploit weaknesses. It also hit harder and moved faster than any organic person could. After several hours of constant combat, Abadeer yelled out halt in his native tongue. The droid only responded to Togruti, a feature he specifically requested. As Abadeer turned to his pile of thing by the wall he noticed a presence up above him. He was surprised that anyone was there watching him without him noticing. It was Malice, his Aedile counterpart of Ajunta Pall. She had a cocky smirk on her face that Abadeer knew was not her amused with his portrayal of skills.

“I’ve never bothered to get to know who you were, because I just didn’t care, but I figured if a low life like you could get promoted to Aedile, there must be something different about you. I’m still not convinced though.” The gray haired young woman dropped from her perch and landed gracefully, almost cat like on the floor below.

“I’m seeing you use two different styles, but if you’re going to do it that way, you’re going to need to blend them into one. As of right now they’re contradictory to each other. Let them meld. Why don’t you try with an actual opponent, not dummy over there.” She motioned over to the droid. Abadeer sighed, he’d seen Malice fight and he was going to bed hurting tonight.

“Let’s see what you’ve got then!” he shouted back with a snarl letting both sabers ignite before leaping into a purple flurry.


@Xolarin @LarenUscot

Kiast, The Village
34 ABY

The sun was setting on Kiast, although with the sometimes odd atmosphere different colors played off the buildings and the floating cities left behind from the battles of the past here. Xolarin sat peacefully on the hull of his customized A-Wing fighter. It was old and beat-up, but it got him to and fro. And for now, it was a place of meditation.

Dael approached and waited silently. Given Xolarin’s talents, he knew Dael was there before Dael did.

“Ahoy friend,” said Xolarin stolidly.

Dael grinned and walked closer to the Zirael leader. “Heya Xol.” He leaned on the edge of the ship and took in the same view as Xolarin. “You’re gonna leave this?”

Xolarin chortled a bit and looked down at Dael, preparing to get up and off the ship. “Hey, it’s only for a few weeks.” His lungs pushed out a slight bit of air as his boots hit the ground. “And Ranger Corvus will be around to check in on things.”

“That’s not what I meant. I mean…” Dael paused and began to follow Xolarin, who was packing a few last minute bags into the ship. “This is a beautiful place, and we’re just starting to make headway with Essadan Prime, and you want to go searching for dad again?”

Xolarin’s face turned grim or even slightly angry, although he was not facing Dael so it would not show. “I’ve always been searching for my father. That’s what my life has led to all along.”

Dael nodded from behind, getting the point, although still disagreeing. “Just be safe, mate.”

Xolarin perked up a bit and managed a grin, still thinking about the sarcastic remark about his search. But he looked over at Dael and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m always safe. How do you think I’ve managed to stay alive this long?” He chuckled. “Besides, I knew you were standing here before you ate your porridge this morning.”

Dael chuckled back. “Your back is covered - watch out for the front too.”

~Keep your eyes looking forward, focusing on the here and now.~ He could hear those words from Turel now, from back when they trained together. The High Councilor would probably caution Xolarin’s trip as well, but it was something the Jedi Knight had to do as a part of his own journey.

“Force be with you, my friend.” Xolarin gave a small shake and let go of the shoulder.

Dael nodded. “And you, sir.” Dael had been a good confidant and friend, and he was a good Jedi. But this was a solo mission, and Xolarin needed to get going. No sooner had they said good by than Xolarin’s ship was taking off into the sky.

Orbital Trade Ship, Corellia
Several days later, 34 ABY

The A-Wing Xolarin flew, A-121GHZ, was on loan from the Clan and was still on its last legs. It was a good ship, and Xolarin had worked with the deck crew to get her working, but he had grown partial to her even with her faults. And those faults shown through as he arrived in orbit of Corellia. Before he would take the chance to land, he would board a trade ship and see if he could get some repairs, or at a bare minimum a trip down to the surface. Of course he would wipe the travel coordinate records clean first.

Xolarin was here, at his homeworld, to search one last time for clues about his father. He’d been here a thousand times since he became an adult, and yet he had found very little. There was one clue that led him to fortuitously meet Turel here, but that was it.

The Jedi, in clear gear, meandered throughout the trade ship and had managed to find a mechanic who would take a look, and not for much credit. In the meantime, Xolarin arranged for some food and began taking in the sites, which mainly consisted of a variety of ships and cruisers docked at this trade ship, or orbiting near her, for many of the same reasons Xol was here.

Finding a seat in a common area near one of the large porthole windows, Xolarin pulled out his secure datapad and began to do some searching. He closed his eyes and began to search through the Force, trying to get a hint of something related to his family and heritage. There were tendrils reaching out into the depths of knowledge, and nothing was coming back, as usual.

He kept at it though. Xolarin suddenly recalled Dael’s comment back on Kiast, and how that sparked in him a more raw emotion. And in that very moment, one of those tendrils yanked back at his mind. It was like someone pulled a hair out of your scalp, which was ironic given Xolarin’s usually-buzzed head.

But that feeling - it was unique, something he had not explored before, something that gave him an answer in a way. Nothing concrete, but it was definitely an indicator. This had to be the Force telling him he was close to something.

Xolarin’s hands swept over the datapad typing in something from the vision and then he heard a whisper. “Open your eyes…”

“Excuse me,” came a voice from just above Xolarin’s chair. “Do you happen to know where I might find the Maker’s Might? It’s a ship repair–”

Xolarin nodded and interrupted, a bit upset for being interrupted himself. “Yes yes, it’s a repair station. My vessel’s there as well. Back down the main corridor, up three decks, and down a bit further towards the aft docking bays.”

The man grinned and did not move. He cocked his head a bit and continued to look at Xolarin. He moved around slowly and sat down across from him. “I’ve disrupted you, haven’t I?”

Xolarin looked over at the man finally, a Chiss or Pantoran - the latter upon further thought. “Indeed,” he replied rather curtly.

“Apologies.” The man went into a very methodical and proper explanation. “I find that in places like this or markets or pubs that everyone is busy doing something, even when alone. My only recourse is to interject myself into their business so that I might become busy as well.” He smiled a half-genuine smile.

Xolarin squinted, physically examining the man. His connection to the Force began to reach out a bit as well, although not much would come back on the man. “So can I help you other than finding the repair shop?”

The man leaned in, putting his elbows on his knees, keeping his gaze on Xolarin. “Actually, I think we might be able to help each other out.”

Xolarin’s brow furrowed at that statement. “How’s that?” His adept perception, both natural and in the Force, were not giving him insights into this conversation, that was for sure.

The Pantoran smiled and leaned back in the chair, placing his hands on the armrests and crossing his legs. “I couldn’t help but notice, upon further thought, that you were the one who came in on the unkempt A-Wing. And given your garb and your current seating arrangement,” he said as he motioned Xolarin’s Jedi robes and the datapad, “you are obviously searching for something.”

“You see, I have a ship that is done being repaired,” continued the guest. “And your ship, at a guess, is going to be in the bay for a while. Why don’t I fly you down to the surface or to your next destination to assist. You’ll find I am quite resourceful.”

Xolarin did not get a negative vibe from the man, and even his rather calculated responses were not unnerving. He was skeptical of course, and his senses started to kick in giving him pause in the scenario. “That’s all well and good, but what do you get out of it?”

The man grunted a laugh and leaned his head in a bit in almost a bow motion. “Ah but what is not to be gained out of traveling with a Jedi, hmm?”

Xolarin shook his head, going back to his training and his own logic board inside his noodle. This was starting to sound silly, like tricking kids with candy. “I don’t think so. I’m fine on my own.” He stood up and began to put his datapad away to go do something different.

“But are you?” asked the Pantoran. “You’ve been searching a long time, haven’t you? This is a major part of who you are, isn’t it.”

Xolarin paused after he turned, stopping and taking in those last words. The man was very observant. And as he paused, thinking about those words, another nudge came in the form of a whisper, similar to what he had heard earlier. “Go with him.”

Xolarin spun around and looked at the man, giving him a once-over again. “Ok, I’ll go with you to the surface for an errand. And that’s it.”

“That’s all I ask,” the man answered. “That should be enough Jedi excitement for a while, no?” He chortled a bit, trying to bring some levity to the situation.

Xolarin gave a hint of a grin and then nodded his head. “Let’s go check on your ship.”

The Pantoran stood up after a nod of his head and went to walk beside Xolarin. “Name’s Uscot. Laren Uscot.”

“Xolarin. A pleasure.”

Ten Days Prior…

Aliso, The Pinnacle
34 ABY

The Pinnacle was still a maze to Laren in the weeks following its occupation by the Ascendant Clan. The sheer size of the complex, as well as the majority of time being spent exploring the surface of Aliso had meant he was still not fully accustomed to its layout. Luckily, the spry Pantoran was being led through the place by a silent Ravager, whose dark garb was securely fastened and noiseless as he – or perhaps she – was vocally. It was a testament to their hardened discipline and refined enslavement methods that the Ravager seemed prepared to face any threat at any time, even among the confines of Clan Plagueis’s new and largely unknown stronghold.

The guard was leading him to one of the Pinnacle’s upper chambers. He hadn’t been told exactly where, as the datapad stated to follow the Ravager before him. Most likely, however, he was being led to the one place he was used to going: the command centre.

However, this wasn’t any regular House call. The datapad also stated plainly that he was to meet with the Dread Lord and his Wrath in person,and, he suspected, alone. In all the time he had served the dark organization, he had never met both leaders by himself. He had interacted with both during the various briefings and engagements they had thus far fought since his service began, and had spent an almost equal amount of time acting solely in service to the consul himself. But the thought of both in the same room made him feel uneasy.

The guard had led him to the lift’s on the ground floor of The Pinnacle. One of the doors opened with a soft whoosh, and the guard entered, with Laren following close on his heels. They turned, the guard taking a position near to the controls, much like the elevator-workers found in some of the more posh urban planets as Coruscant and Corellia - though he suspected he wouldn’t have to tip. Laren stood in the middle, attempting to look calm and collected, even though the Ravager didn’t have the capability to care. The lift doors closed and the guard entered the only familiar control he knew: the one that took him to the command centre. Well at least I’m right about something, he thought nervously. What exactly did they have in store for him? What had he done? The whole situation made Laren’s heart beat somewhat violently.

The lift climbed ever upward, and the odd duo stood in a mutual silent reverie only broken by Laren shuffling his feet and adjusting his holster. He didn’t ever keep track of how long the lift took to reach their destination. When his focus returned, the doors opened to the sight of an empty hallway. Normally the place was bustling with technicians and crew going about their business trying to improve, repair or operate various systems or going from task to task. As the Ravager stepped out and gestured to the command centre, Laren obliged and began moving through the lonely passageway.

The adrenaline coursing through his body made him distinctly aware of every footfall, every slight sweep of his arms, the rhythm of his heart in overdrive. To say he was nervous was an understatement. Perhaps frantic. He was meeting two people who could kill him without a thought and on a whim, if they so chose. Though they pay me extremely well. Though Laren didn’t understand their ‘Force’ or ‘Dark Side’, he knew that the consul and proconsul were far beyond simply dangerous, even among their brethern. And yet, even knowing all this he trudged onward, straightening his posture and attempting to hold himself with the coiled grace of a battle-hardened soldier. He took a few deep breaths as he reached the door of the command centre, and his face became a hardened mask that made duracrete seem soft in comparison. Even though they could probably feel his emotions, he would not give them the benefit of seeing it in person.

Heavy, armor-plated doors slowly swept open, revealing the Command Centre and the familiar conference room adjacent to it beyond. Though the stations were manned, it was a skeleton crew in comparison to normal operations. But Laren barely paid any attention to the personnel he passed, as his eyes, and his mind, were keenly focused at the figured sitting at the table located at the far end of the room.

The Dread Lord and his Wrath had always puzzled Laren. Besides their oddities and their obsession with the ways of the Sith, the two stood in stark contrast to each other. Teylas Ramar, whom Laren was familiar with – or as familiar as any bounty hunter could be with a client – was a vision of ruthless command. His face was a stony-mask that could cut diamonds, revealing nothing, but seeing everything. He sat upon the edge of the table closest to Laren, dressed in simple, though finely tailored robes. His lightsaber sat idly at his hip, though the location of his folded hands gave him easy access to the refined weapon. Selika stood next to him, her arms folded over her bosom and feet planted firmly to the floor. Her expression was diabolically mischievous, and her eyes seemed to probe Laren as he came toward them. Her robes left some to the imagination, but the air of danger she exuded kept Laren’s usually wandering eyes fixed to a point of the wall behind the two powerful Warlords.

When Laren was a few paces away, he dropped into a low bow. He wasn’t going to take any chances in a new situation. Pleasantries were necessary, even if he considered them a useless bore.

“What is thy bidding, Dread Lord?” Laren asked in a traditional fashion, addressing only the highest ranking member in the room. Protocol was paramount.

“My, how you have tamed the beast,” Selika remarked, the beauty of her vice marred by her clear disdain for Laren. Or better yet, someone lacking in the ability to control the Force.

“Rise,” Teylas stated, ignoring Selika’s goading comment toward Laren.

The Quaestor complied, rising slowly and taking a solider-like stance, feet placed shoulder width apart, hands folded neatly behind him at the small of his back, golden orbs staring straight ahead with a disciplined gaze.

There was silence among the odd trio. Laren’s heart was racing faster than a speeder, and he tried his best to keep his breathing calm and contained. Selika looked as though she were studying a wild animal, her gaze wandering over the Pantoran in mock fascination. Teylas, however, remained still, his position unchanged, though his eyes bore into Laren’s own with intense scrutiny. Laren dare not say a word first, for it was evident who was in command. And who paid him.

“Though your responsibilities have grown numerous as Quaestor of Ajunta Pall, a matter has come to our attention of which we require your services,” The Dread Lord began, his tone taking a more cautious inflection.

Laren nodded his understanding. Again, he dare not say a word, as he felt what the two before him had to say did not yet warrant his response. He was keenly aware that the two powerful Force-users before him could easily end his life. His hand ached to at least rest upon his holstered blaster to give him some small measure of comfort. But he dare not move a muscle out of place, for he was truly at their mercy.

“Events have been set in motion that provide us a chance to strike yet another blow to our enemies,” Teylas continued cryptically. He stood and produced a datapad from his robes, handing it to Laren.

“Your target and assignment can be found in the file. Study it. Learn it. Then dispose of it. Understood?”

Selika suddenly moved, coming nearly face-to-face with the Pantoran, her eyes looking slightly upward into his own. Her gaze was sharp as a knife, and Laren couldn’t help but shiver. In truth, he would have preferred being stabbed to the insatiable fear of being in her presence.

“Failure in this matter is not an option,” she purred. “You know what I do to failures.”Her lips curled in something resembling a gorgeous, wide smile, but there was no sincerity behind it. In its place was cold malice and calculating hatred. And the worst part was, Laren didn’t actually know what she did to those who wronged her, though he had heard the brutal rumours.

As the Wrath turned away, the Dread Lord sat down once again. The tips of his mouth had formed into his signature, insidious grin.

“Tell me, Laren - when was the last time you visited Corellia?”

Once the Pantoran departed, Teylas and Selika remained behind, sitting together around the conference table.

“We should have assigned someone else to a matter this sensitive. I will admit he is a proven warrior, but he cannot even begin to comprehend the complex workings of the Force,” Selika said, her tone quiet but confrontational.

Teylas said nothing, though held her gaze steadily.

“Arden should have been assigned to the task, Ramar. Or someone else --”

“I understand your predicament,” Teylas replied, “but Laren’s lack of Force ability is precisely why he is necessary. If you want to see your vision fulfilled, the Jedi must fall on his own terms.”

“See to it your dog does his duty. I want nothing more than to turn one of Turel’s precious acolytes against him.”.

“Laren may be reliable, but you know I don’t resign myself to such singular trust. The trap will be sprung, and the Jedi will be no more, one way, or another.”


The Pinnacle, Main Hangar
34 ABY

8 Days Prior

With a heavy bag nestled onto his back and his gear securely fastened to his body, Laren entered the massive hangar of the Pinnacle. Starfighters of various makes and sizes that survived the attack by the Order of Vader were being eagerly tended to by mechanical droids and their mostly enslaved, sentient counterparts. Until the Dread Lord was able to acquire his new fleet, it was imperative that what assets they had at their disposal be ready and available to meet any potential threat. Luckily, the possibility of that happening was negligible.

The Pantoran had acquisitioned a freighter for his upcoming mission to transport him to Corellia. Though he had had training as a pilot, he had always preferred to let someone else do the driving. A lonesome, rather rusted YT-1000 sat at the far left corner of the hangar, looking out of place and rather worse for wear - which suited his purposes. It was ramshackle to the point that an eager mechanical droid took a brief glimpse at the vehicle before throwing up its hands and skirting away in an eerily sentient frustration. Laren also saw one of the Plagueian pilots enter the craft and bash his head off the bulkhead. It was, it seemed, going to be an interesting ride.

As Laren neared the freighter, he came to a halt. Leaning among some cargo crates in front of the shabby vessel was a gorgeous Zeltron with an intricate lightsaber at her hip, and equally menacing daggers accompanying the more traditional weapon. The woman was trying to remain discrete among the large durasteel boxes, but she also clearly wanted to be found. She was dressed in a dark cloak, though it hung loosely behind her to expose her revealing garb: pieces of finely tailored leather generously embracing her enticing frame. Turquoise eyes reminiscent of a tropical ocean peered out from under equally exciting sapphire hair, searching the bounty hunter with a fierce intensity. If it wasn’t for the lightsaber and his naturally suspicious nature, Laren would have found his eyes wandering. Instead, he found himself meeting the Zeltron’s stare head on in a rare show of defiance.

“Do you normally take to casually hiding among the cargo?” Laren quipped, probing his new companion. His left hand instinctively moved to his waist, coming to rest upon his holstered hand blaster. It made him feel more at ease with this relatively unknown individual.

“Leaving so soon, bounty hunter?” she asked, ignoring his goading. “I just got here, and now I find you preparing to leave. I wonder whatever for?”

“I may be stuck serving this Clan, but I still have to make a living.” The statement wrung true, a perfect deflection away from his real intentions.

The Zeltron smiled playfully, at first. “Let’s make things perfectly clear: you serve Lord Ramar. He is the Clan.” Her tone was low now, almost a growl, and her demeanour had become aggressive - or was it protective?

“You’re perfectly right,” Laren replied seamlessly, flowing with the rapids of the conversation. She doesn’t know, he thought to himself, hopeful. “But in order to serve him, I need money. Unlike you Sith types, I can’t rely on some magic, a shiny sword and fate. And besides,” his expression changed now, his smile dangerously feral and his eyes gleaming with malcontent, “I prefer a good hunt to paperwork.” He was hoping a lesson he had learned long ago was about to be proven successful: the best lies are truths found in the wrong place.

The Zeltron was silent, her dauntingly beautiful gaze still locked with Laren’s. He thought that perhaps she was reevaluating Laren, attempting to understand how a sentient that lacked any ability with their precious Force acted in such an arrogant manner toward her. But for someone as herself to return so recently and be given the honour and title of Rollmaster, he knew to remain guarded, revealing nothing through his body language or his thoughts. She knew this, as well.

“The Dread Lord chose well in you,” she mused, more to herself than to Laren. She took a step toward him now, and then another. Laren didn’t move a muscle, remaining firmly planted as she came within mere millimetres of where he stood. Their bodies were nearly touching, and she looked up at him with a longing look. Or was it loathing? Laren couldn’t help but think, as gorgeous as she was, that she was akin to an Arkanian lioness sizing up her next meal rather than a woman gazing upon her next conquest.

“Sadly, bounty hunter, we’ve run into a bit of a hitch in your plans,” she began, her voice softly seductive and melodic. She was tracing a finger along his facial scars methodically. Laren shivered in response, but ultimately chose to stay completely still.

What is it with bloody Sith and personal space? he asked himself holding fast.

“You see, there’s no record of your upcoming journey in the flight manifests. If one were to learn that the Left Wing of Dread was making undocumented flights on and off the planet --” she paused, clicking her tongue for dramatic effect. She stood up on her toes and whispered into Laren’s ear, “Well, I’ll let your imagination run wild with that.”

He let the implication of her words wash over him. He had learned from this exchange that, though she had evidence of his past covert travels, she didn’t exactly know the meaning for the trips. Up until this point, it wouldn’t have mattered if she did. He doubted she would care regardless, which worked to his advantage. Best to let the woman think he was shirking his duties and gallivanting off Aliso to pursue contracts of his own accord.

But this time, it was imperative that his assignment to intercept the Jedi on Corellia remain a secret to all except the Dread Lord and his Wrath. Pursuing an individual with the intention to monitor his supposedly imminent fall to the Dark Side on the whim of a vision would not inspire confidence in the leadership.

After a few moments, he concluded that he could use the situation to his advantage, forcing her into a false sense of superiority and deflecting her gaze away from the finer details of his escapades. Let her think she had him figured out. But doing so would require some sacrifice. She wanted something, and she would call upon him, one day.

“And what, my Lady, would you require to maintain your silence?” he asked, emphasizing the formality in an attempt to touch a nerve. But he needed to play the fool, and acting cornered was best.

She thought about it for a moment, rocking forward and backward on the balls of her feet. Her eyes, those deep, turquoise pools never left Laren’s own golden orbs. She was perceptive, this one, looking for him to reveal what else he might have hidden. This time, she wouldn’t get it from him. This time.

“Nothing – right now,” she began slowly after her silent pondering. “I just got home. I need time to relax, take in the sights. I’ll call upon you when necessary.”

The sweat forming on Laren’s brow was slowly beginning to stream down his battered face. Though he made no outward appearance, he silently thanked himself and whatever higher power may be that the Zeltron woman had been dealt with and remained ignorant of his assignment, willfully or otherwise. He also decided he would provide her the favor she would eventually call upon, if only to save face among such a ranking member of the Plagueian Summit. Best not cause more waves than was necessary. She was a Sith, after all.

“I’ll eagerly await your beckon call,” Laren seethed sarcastically, still subtlety playing the role of defeated and arrogant.

“How did such a specimen as yourself come to be in the direct service of our consul?” she asked suddenly, turning away and folding her arms under her bosom.

The question was unexpected, but it was a good sign. She seemed to be shifting the conversation away from the previous matter, resolved that her own ends had been attained.

“I tend to be called upon when individuals like our Dread Lord have a list needs shortening,” he responded in an equally inconspicuous manner. One would think they were speaking of nothing, or perhaps anything if one were to overhear their conversation. It was almost an art form to speak without saying anything.

“Impressive.” The comment was quick, but it spoke volumes to Laren. In some form or another she had noticed his existence through the effects he had had in the last year for the Clan. A keen eye with a penchant for patient scrutiny could see his watermark all over the fringes of the Plagueian takeover of Hyperdyne, as well as his more direct involvement on Florrum and, recently, Antei. Those who opposed the efficient Plagueian war machine had disappeared, or worse, at his hand. He suspected Jai’de herself to be an expert in such matters, considering the odd circumstances of her return.

“Your approval is appreciated, Rollmaster. I know you to be an expert in such matters yourself.”

Her surprised expression pleased Laren immensely. He may not have the Force, but the right contacts and a little digging led him to suspect she had a hand in protecting the Ascendant Clan from the insidious clutches of the Iron Throne’s spies. She quickly composed herself, however.

“Be on your way, Laren. I won’t hold you from such important tasks.”

Thankfully, she had no idea how important. She would eventually, he suspected. But until such a time, he sought the Jedi with the A-Wing on Corellia. Though for how long the man would be a Jedi would remain to be seen.

He made a mental note to check the ship for tracking devices before they departed. She may have departed his sight, but her eyes were fixed on Laren. He was on her radar, now. Best not be played for a fool.


His eyes slid open in darkness. Lying still, his orange eyes remained immovable as he let his other tuned senses guide him. The echoing silence of a durasteel room assured his edgy mind that he was indeed alone. Two hearts beat a staccato rhythm as he felt adrenaline rapidly flush itself throughout his system. Something had given him start, but it appeared to have been a false alarm. His jagged black tattooes were but blurred smudges as his red hand slowly massaged the sharp pain that suddenly struck him. Ah, yes. It was the dream. A suckling leech that had attached itself to his conscious and refused to give him peace. He could see a shroud of the Sith’s face again, his metallic jaw eternally forged into a demonic grin. His inner instinct reported that it was approaching dawn, so he roughly tossed back his sheets in an effort to wipe the memory from his mind.

Sensing its master’s alertness, the Vornskr lying beside the door to his quarters rose as well, greeting him with a wagging tail. The Zabrak stifled a yawn as he placed a hand atop her head and ran his fingers through her black and silver fur.

“Good morning, Shar’kala. Looking forward to a meeting with the Summit today?” He opened himself up to her consciousness, letting the familiar beastly nature mingle with his own.

Questioning trepidation.

Kul chuckled slightly. “No, I don’t believe I’m in trouble. At least, not that I’m aware of.”

He nearly tripped as she weaved through his legs in her excited state.

Warm suggestive assurance

Kul’s left eyebrow rose.

“A promotion? I highly doubt it. With my own master running the battleteam, I’m not sure I would even accept such a thing. The last thing I want is to alienate her.” He paused in front of his wash mirror and folded his arms as a thought hit him.

“Although, she did mention possibly being sent away on a mission recently. In any case we’ll find out soon enough.”

Acknowledgment and snide humor

Kul grabbed a dry rag and gave a sidelong look at his companion as she traipsed toward the bath.

“You’re one to talk about taking one’s time, Miss 'Sniff-everything-I come-into-contact-with.’”

Sarcastic retort

34 ABY
Main Room, The Pinnacle

“Step down, my lord?”

The Dread Lord let his gaze flicker down upon the kneeling Zabrak. His Anzati glare was stern, but not harsh. Kul could sense no hostility directed towards himself, even the Wrath maintaining a calm, albeit bored, presence in the background.

“Yes, Kul. It has come to my attention that you’ve been distracted of late, and as such it has begun to affect your duties.” He raised a pale hand before Kul could respond. “No one here is despairing your work on this Summit, but I think it would be best if you found a way to free yourself of whatever is holding you back.”

Slowly, Kul nodded his understanding. His eyes never left the cold floor. The muscles in his jaw tightened before he spoke.

“It is as you say, my lord. My nights have been grim of late. An old enemy still resides among the living, and I can feel him. He is closer than ever before. If the Summit would allow it, I wish to finally sate that old desire for revenge.”

Upon his dais the Dread Lord maintained his stalwart disinterest from most of the menial details of every Plagueian’s wants and wishes, but curiosity rode his eyebrow as it raised.

“You seek the permission of the Summit? You’ve never needed it before to kill.”

He did not speak the words, but Kul knew he meant the Zabrak’s connection to the Inquisitorius. During their attempted annihilation of the his clan, Kul had revealed his secret to the Dread Lord in order to prove his loyalty to Plagueis. The revelation had surely bothered the Summit, but Kul had been allowed to remain, though he still found small traces that he was being watched. He steeled himself against the sudden rush of heat in his face.

“In this case, my lord, it is a sensitive subject. My target you see is a Plagueian, though no longer among us. The Sith who first brought me to you more than two years ago.”

Selika’s bored expression piqued at that. Her eyes squinted sharply.

“The exile? Turix Darmin…such a loss would not affect the clan negatively. In fact, you would be welcomed to bring his head to us. Whether or not you leave it attached to his body is up to you.”

The Dread Lord sat pensively for a brief moment before nodding his own approval.

“If this is something that you need to do, then I see no harm in it since it removes a blemish to Plagueis’ name. Go then, and return the stronger for it.”

He reinforced the command with a wave of his hand. Kul stood slowly and spun on his heel to leave. As the blastdoor slid shut, the Wrath lost the cloak of disinterest she had hung about herself. Her voice emerged from the shadow behind Teylas’ throne.

“His bloodlust was nearly palpable. If the mutt cannot learn to control it entirely he will fail against the draigon that is Darmin.”

Teylas nearly smiled at Selika’s lack of faith in the young Zabrak. Her sense of superiority would one day came back to bite her where it hurt someday.

“Patience, Selika. The thing about a mutt is…it always returns to its master.”


The Pinnacle
Overseer’s Office

“… you need to continue to demonstrate your worth Jai’de. I did not bring you back in from the cold to slack off. With limited resources, the new transfers from the Shadow Academy are your responsibility. Make it a productive one.” Teylas finished before disconnecting the call.

Jai’de paced atop the Pinnacle. The sun was setting on the day, red and angry against the sky. The analogy was fitting to the mood of the newly returned Overseer for Clan Plagueis. Fingertips steepled, she thought furiously upon the task.

“You can do this you know. It’s nothing new to you. Just trying thinking outside your circle.” Tra’an Reith remarked. Jai’de turned with a whirl, her amethyst lightsaber snapping into existence as she elevated it and crouched to pounce. With a subtle hiss, he emerged from the ruby glow coloring the Pinnacle.

“Think about what Plagueis needs now. In the past, we needed a Blade to sever us from that which tied us down, thus was born Primus Pilus.” Unlimbering his Sapphire Blade, Tra’an Reith placed the tip against the duracrete and scribed a circle into it, before replacing the weapon. Jai’de shifted warily, but waited patiently.

“Now? Now we need a future. We do not forge a weapon to make a future, we teach instead. Thus the Circle, a place of learning, to which even the Master returns for further instruction.” His voice faded with a soft hiss, teeth clacking as his snout closed.

“So what you’re saying is that rather than trying to emulate the past, I should do something different? Something less aggressive?” Jai’de lifted her eyebrow in suspicion before deactivating her lightsaber and replacing it within her robes. “That’s not like you, to counsel caution.”

“Without a fleet to threaten our opponents, we have nothing but time. Time is best spent in preparation of action. Action, which will inevitably happen.” The di Plagia chuckled, the sound like something between a bellows and water evaporating off hot rocks. “Death comes less for those who train more. Training builds teamwork. Teamwork increases survival. Not even I can survive alone forever.”

“And why are you helping me? You despise most of us.” She asked hesitantly.

“Just because I’m not actively involved in the games you play, doesn’t mean I despise you. I just tend not to pay attention to things that don’t involve the future of Plagueis.” Tra’an replied slowly, enunciating to ensure his hissing was understandable. “This? This is important. It sets the stage for the future, thus it is of interest, even in passing.” Jai’de thought about what he said, and what it meant to her as the Overseer, in charge of the burgeoning number of Journeymen within Plagueis.

“I hear Furios has returned,” he continued. “Mayhaps think about tapping him to lead the Circle. He was there for Primus Pilus, he knows about building teams. And he needs some polish after so long away.” Jai’de nodded, deep in thought as he stepped back into the shadows. As the sun finished setting and plunged the Pinnacle into Darkness, he vanished, and left Jai’de alone with the moon and her thoughts of the Circle and its place in Plagueis.

Several hours after the mysterious Kaleeshi had left her office, Jai’de sat cross-legged on top of the massive desk that was now littered with pages and books. Flipping open a holo-communicator, she tapped the man Tra’an had suggested to help her.

“Furios.” She stated simply as he answered her call. “Come to my office, I have something I wish to discuss with you.”

Supply Station Omega

Furios ended the call and stared at the holo-communicator in confusion for a moment. He had just returned to Plagueis, and was wondering what the returning Overseer could possibly want with him. Stretching his long torso, the Epicanthix bent to gather his weapons, not knowing what lay in store for him. As his long stride quickly ate up the distance to the transport, Furios took a moment to survey what Plagueis had created for themselves. The clan’s discovery of Aliso had been fortuitous, to say the least. Finally, having a new ‘home’, if you could call it that, Plagueis was well underway to expanding their hold and resources on the planet.

Furios looked it over as he waited to arrive at The Pinnacle to meet with Jai’de. As the Pinnacle rose up before him, he looked it over with a keen eye for any potential faults, despite the former prison being virtually impregnable. Exiting his transport in the hangar, he did his best to conceal his weapons while being escorted by one of Plagueis’ many slaves to the Overseer’s new office.

The Pinnacle
Overseer’s Office

Furios hadn’t been sure what to expect when he arrived at the Overseer’s office, but the sight that greeted him was nowhere near what he had feared. Jai’de was still cross-legged on her desk, with myriad books and pages strewn about the desk and all over the floor. Long fingers rapidly retrieved information on one of her many screens while making notations on another. Her long sapphire hair that normally hung to mid back had been thrown into a haphazard bun on the top of her head, and she was mumbling to herself to top it all off.

Furios stood there in shock for a moment, not used to Jai’de being the type to obsess over anything at all, much less to the degree he saw before him, and then cleared his throat.

“One minute!” She snapped, slightly annoyed at the interruption, though she had summoned him. The information she was looking for was almost at her fingertips, and she couldn’t afford to lose her place.

Furios stood silently, reading over the material Jai’de had on one screen, and as he started to understand her cryptic notes, realization dawned on him. A spark of excitement took over at the information on her screen and he spoke up unexpectedly. “What if you did this instead?”, as he pointed out some information she had discarded earlier. “If you pair this technique with these learnings, the new initiates will be forged in fire and then tempered through teaching.”

Jai’de knew in that instant that Tra’an had been right. Quickly scribbling down the suggestion that Furios had, she leapt off her desk, pulling on the tie that had been holding her hair up. “Come, there’s something we must do.”

Keeping up with the much smaller woman should have been easy for Furios’ long legs, but the woman was moving like she had the devil on her heels. She stopped abruptly in front of an ornate set of doors and pivoted to him. Fussing a bit with her unruly hair, Jai’de turned to Furios and looked him over quickly. “Leave some of your weapons here”, she said simply. “Wouldn’t do to go to see the Dread Lord armed to the teeth now would it? Might give him the wrong impression”.

They both turned, ready to fight when Kul’tak emerged from the Dread Lord’s office with his vornskr at his heels. The bloodlust emanating from him causing them to be ready for a fight. Jai’de had known Kul’tak would be asked to relinquish his seat as Taskmaster for the Circle, but she wasn’t sure where all the anger was coming from.

Slipping inside Teylas’ office, she dragged Furios in behind her. “Dread Lord, Wrath.”, she addressed them formally with a low curtsy. “I’ve solved the problem of our very recently vacated Circle position.” Teylas looked from his apprentice to the Epicanthix in front of him, showing nothing on his face.

“You’re sure?”, he addressed Jai’de through their link without looking at her. “Absolutely”, she responded in kind. “So be it.” Teylas said aloud, addressing Furios directly. “Welcome to the Circle, Taskmaster”.

Through all of this, Furios stood silently by trying to process what was going on. All he had done was answer Jai’de’s request to come to her office, and now he found himself responsible for running The Circle and training the new initiates.

“Would you like to see your new training ground?” Jai’de said, smirking mischievously at Furios.


Residential Area, Coronet City, Corellia
34 ABY

‘Twas dark, and musty, which one might expect in the lower levels of a city as large as Coronet. This was not quite Coruscant or Nar Shaddaa, but it was big and full of smog and all kinds of varying living conditions. And this particular neighborhood area was not that bad - quite a few moderately wealthy folks lived in these ‘scrapers.

Two shadowy figures walked through the foggy realm in the late evening, the sunlight well masked by the tall buildings and small streets. They moved on foot at this point, having left their speeder craft a few blocks back and up. It was a bit more inconspicuous to travel this way.

“You sure no one will notice?” Xolarin was obviously nervous, although he was using his connection to the Force to try and stay calm. He pulled the hood a bit more over his brow.

Laren shook his head and chortled. “Well, to be honest, in your garb, it’s hard not to notice who you are.”

Xolarin shook his head a bit in return. He was indeed still in his Jedi browns. His undergarments were more adventure gear, but his cloak and boots and such were definitely Jedi-looking. And if he did not close his cloak tight, his belt and lightsaber would be fairly obvious to anyone on the planet. “Well, let’s just get this over with,” replied the Jedi, picking up his pace.

The two made it to their destination, just one building over from where they stood. They scouted it out and there was in fact a guard of some sort in the front. That was not a good sign, or perhaps maybe it was a good indicator of something valuable being inside there.

“Ok, we have to come back. There’s a security camera and a guard out front.” Xolarin breathed in and exhaled slowly. “The barkeep we bribed was bad enough, this is just getting careless.”

The Pantoran decided to pull a few more marionette strings, looking quizzically back at Xolarin. It was as if the mercenary was scanning him like a droid. “Your father… he fought back in the Rebellion, no?”

“I don’t know that, actually, I just–” Xolarin tried to answer.

“And then he left you when you were four and never came back.” Laren was speaking quite frankly and with a less-calculating tone.

“Essentially,” replied Xolarin plainly.

“And now you might actually have a solid clue and you want to bail?” Laren chuckled, leaning back casually against the building edge. “This is NOT the Jedi adventure I had in mind. And this is NOT how one goes about a proper investigation.”

The words were left to hang there. Xolarin would not care about the adventure - that was a ruse to keep up Laren’s ploy. But the Jedi would care about the investigation. The whole point of this trip was to find out more, and that sentiment plummeted deep into Xolarin’s mind and heart. The thought sank down and loomed there while the gears in his conscience churned.

Laren would notice the inner turmoil. “Listen, if you wanna go, let’s go instead of just standing here looking ominous.”

Xolarin had thought long enough and the seduction of the hunt would get the better of him. He held up his hand to silence his new friend. “Fine, let’s get this over with.” A small grin would show on Laren’s face.

The two men approached as Xolarin spoke out of the corner of his mouth back at Laren. “You able to pick off the camera? I can handle the guard.”

“Mhmm.” Laren nodded, his grin growing into a smile. While Xolarin was looking away, the merc’s poker face vanished as well.

Seconds later, a shot rang out from Laren which hit dead on at the camera, disconnecting it from its mount. The guard noticed and looked up at the camera, and Xolarin took a chance. He reached his hand out and made a yanking motion, as the detached camera slammed into the guard, knocking him over almost instantly.

Xolarin did not waste time and went right for the front door, leaning down to check on the guard. Laren kicked the gun away as the Jedi checked the man’s vitals by laying his hand over his head. His connection to the Force gave several indicators, but not a lot of help in those quick seconds.

“He’ll be ok, but there is another bodyguard inside.” Xolarin looked as Laren was fiddling with the door. He sighed and went over, extending his hand with a bit of a push, which sent a burst of energy. It was not enough to take down the heavy door, but the locking mechanism could be heard crunching under the will of the Force. “They have to know we’re here anyway…”

The Pantoran chuckled. “Now that’s the adventure I craved, my friend.” Laren looked on with true pleasure in his eyes and smile, seeing the slight transformations in Xolarin, even in this brief stint. The Jedi was using more raw skills to accomplish what he needed.

Xolarin went in and looked around, although his eyes were closed. Those tendrils of the Force reached out and poked and prodded all around the large apartment, picking up the guard who was in a control room nearby, but no other lifesigns. And yet, he could not feel anything else. If his father was hinted at being a Jedi, surely by now, with all of Xolarin’s training he would pick up a trace of something that was in his family’s heritage if it was here. He shook his head and pressed on, opening his eyes.

The other guard came out of the control room as sure as Xolarin had foreseen it, and he was ready and ignited his lightsaber as a couple shots rang out from their foe. Xolarin blocked them, and then used his off hand yet again and thrust it at the man. But this was different that the other movements in the Force. Xolarin meant it this time. Time was wasted, alarms could have been sounded by now, and they needed to get in and get out fast. This time, the slamming of Force energy was hard, knocking the guard back against a wall, his head impacting as in backlash, his body then crumpling onto the ground.

In that instant, Xolarin knew what he had done. He didn’t need to get closer or check his pulse - he knew it. The man was dead, his spine heavily damaged from the wall, and his head fractured from the backlash. He died almost instantly, which was in a way the only good thing about the interaction.

Xolarin looked back at Laren, panic on his face. “What have I… he’s dead!”

Laren had as serious and concerned look on his face as well, as he moved to a console, breaking eye contact with Xolarin. His concern was both a ruse and also real, as this Jedi was turning out to be more powerful than he had assumed. “Self defence, man,” the merc replied quickly, tapping furiously at the panel. “And the alert has gone out. The owners and the local police undoubtedly know we’re here.”

The Jedi Knight breathed in deep, exhaling slowly, trying to gather himself again. This was not good. This was not what he had planned at all. But what was done, was done. His face turned to a look of stern determination, with a hint of worried frustration. And then Xolarin turned and went upstairs.

It did not take long for the Jedi to find what he was looking for. Inside the small office on the second floor of the apartment was a rather obvious locked chest. The barkeep was at least right about this part - now just to see what was inside. Xolarin hastily ignited his saber again and sliced open the locked front, flipping open the compartment with his boot.

Inside were stacks of several paper moneys from remote systems, a pile of credit chips, a code cylinder or two, a blaster, a datapad, and a book of paper with a leather cover. Xolarin quickly checked the datapad and flipped through the book. At a glance, these had nothing to do with the Jedi or other families. They were all financial logs and some details about business partnerships, probably not all legitimate, but they were inconsequential to Xolarin and this little “mission” of theirs.

“What the frak, man!” Xolarin exclaimed as he noticed Laren entering the room. “There’s nothing!”

Laren’s eyes grew quite large at seeing the open container. He immediately went for the credit chips and grabbed a few that could be seen to have quite a bit on them. Xolarin was too busy to notice.

“It was all for naught, Laren.” Xolarin’s panic from before had turned into frustration. Nay, actual anger. And it was noticeable by not just a Force user. “We bribed, vandalized, assaulted, and killed. For NOTHING!” The last word was shouted, and the emotion was high. His adrenaline, his anger, his frustration - they were consuming him, and he knew better. But the emotions had the best of him.

Laren grew calm as he finished loading his pockets. “You’ve been at this, all by yourself. It’s not your fault this led to nothing.” Well, not nothing - Mr. Uscot had gained quite a bit this day.

“My friends, the Jedi, my master.” Xolarin shook his head, standing still, gazing out the window of the office, still gripping his lightsaber hilt. “They could have helped. They knew this is what I wanted, and I’ve been patient.”

Laren took a cue from the Dread Lord and his Wrath. “You waited long enough, and still got nothing.” He paused before continuing, trying to appear empathetic. “Your frustration is understandable. It is warranted, one might argue.”

The merc was going to put a hand on Xolarin’s shoulder as he stood, but the Jedi turned and moved towards the exit and the stairs. He stopped at the door briefly, looking back down at the broken chest. “You’ve no idea, friend.”

The Jedi ignited his lightsaber, still pointed downward and out at a slight angle. The lightsaber immediately punctured the door frame. As Xolarin walked out and down the stairs, exiting the building, the burn marks left quite an obvious trail. It would be unmistakable what type of person was here to perpetrate the crimes here. But Xolarin did not care.

Once outside he put his saber away and headed back the direction from which they came, his hood up this entire time, draping his robe over more of his body. He could sense Laren was not far behind, but he did not show concern if he was there or not. His mind was elsewhere, and not really in a good place. Master Turel, had he been nearby, could have sensed the Knight’s dark emotions.

But alas Xolarin was on his own, as he had been all this time in the search for his father. He needed answers, and he needed help, and the Jedi were not giving it to him. They had bigger fish to fry for sure, but something was missing. And yet answers in the Force were just outside his grasp, unclear and foggy, bringing him to strange situations like this. Perhaps this rabbit hole needed some exploration…


Coronet City, Corellia
2 Weeks Later
34 ABY

Since Xolarin’s sudden departure a few weeks ago, Laren had remained on Corellia in accordance with the Dread Lord’s orders. He didn’t completely understand the logic of remaining on Corellia instead of following the confused Knight, but he trusted Ramar’s machinations for their complex scheme. The order had been crystal clear: His journey will lead him down the dark path, and that path will inevitably include your assistance.

The Plagueian Quaestor had taken up temporary residence on Corellia. His former contacts within the black market had provided him a small flat in the lower levels of Coronet City that he used as a base of operations. Laren rarely stayed in the flat, however, preferring to wander the musty depths of the Corellian megacity rather than sit idly by as the days passed. Laren had kept himself busy during his urban adventures by spending a good deal of credits. purchasing a multitude of new weapons and equipment. Laren finally had enough to purchased his own starship as well - something which he required to complete the next part of his mission. It was an old but reliable single-pilot interceptor with hyperdrive capability, perfect for lonesome type operations. He kept it docked a block away from his flat, and it already packed with the gear required for another journey - including a new, rather annoying astromech droid.

Currently, Laren was wandering down a large boulevard in the business sector of the city. Even within the lower levels, commerce and business of any sort was the lifeblood of the city. Stores, shops, and kiosks of various makes dotted the boulevard with tacky signs and competing advertisements for their wears. Potential customers flitted between each establishment, enthralled with the entire spectacle, and slowly being bled of more and more of their credits - some of which, Laren suspected, were not earned in entirely honest work. He passed easily through a large crowd of pedestrians waiting in line to enter a speeder dealership for their chance at purchasing a ‘revolutionary’ new vehicle. Laren doubted how revolutionary one could make a landspeeder of any kind, but his upbringing had not really educated him on the finer aspects of creature comforts. The Merc resigned himself to a shrug as he exited the throng and continued his aimless journey.

Suddenly, the familiar chirp of his holocommunicator breached the noise of the crowded boulevard. He retrieved the circular device from his utility belt and held it tightly in his left hand. Laren stopped walking and turned his head, scanning his surroundings for a relatively hidden and exclusive location to take this communique. Across the street and beside a small restaurant, Laren saw what appeared to be a small alleyway, perhaps used as a side entrance for the staff of the restaurant. That’ll do.

The backstreet was no more than an arm’s length wide and ill-lit. The stench of rotting foodstuffs and decaying matter tormented Laren’s nostrils, and he quickly realized why so few people used this alley as a shortcut to the parallel street at the other end. But ultimately, it served his purposes well, for he was alone and unseen

Laren turned his left palm face-up and the communicator burst to life. The cerulean figure of Teylas Ramar in miniature greeted Laren. Composed as ever, his robes perfectly set and his lightsaber resting completely straight on his utility belt. The Sith’s powerful arms were folded in front of him and his expression was blank and cold.

The Quaestor bowed his head slightly in reverence to the Dread Lord - having learned how far pleasantries could go among the Sith - greeting him, “My Lord.”

“Your wait is almost over, Laren,” he began, his voice composed and equally unreadable. It was a mark of the Dread Lord when he was deep in thought to take on a more somber tone. “The Jedi will contact you, of that I am sure. Where the path will lead you, however, is unclear.”

“I have a tracking system on my person. My tracking data will piggyback through multiple communications networks to get to you on Aliso. You’ll know my every move as I do,” Laren replied.

“Excellent. I won’t ask how you accomplished that task - the anonymity of your former contacts in the underworld have proven useful in these unique situations.” The Dread Lord let his expression soften into his signature grin as he continued, “Don’t fail me, bounty hunter. The rest of the plan is in place.”

“I suspect even if I did fail, a man of your power has a contingency plan.”

The Dread Lord laughed for a brief moment, though it did nothing to break the tension Laren felt speaking to the Warlord. “You’re more right than you know.” The sapphire reflection of Teylas winked abruptly out of existence, leaving Laren alone in the dimly lit alley.

Twenty minutes later

The mercenary expertly traversed the urban maze to return to his quaint hideout one of the many underworld urban sectors. His flat was one of a number of proverbial holes-in-the-wall that could barely be considered living quarters. His was a part of a long, nearly two hundred meter long building, each with a doorway leading into a rectangular compartment. Each interior door was a set of rooms, and though some couples and even the less fortunate families lived in these amenities, the rooms were barely large enough for one to live in discomfort, let alone multiple people. Squalor is the way of the galaxy, Laren reassured himself, squandering any pity he had for these people to focus on his task. You are forged through fire - but their fires have left them in this ash heap.

Complex eight-nine-one-aurek was the location of his flat. He entered through the automated sliding doors. They were rusting to the point of being broken, yet somehow the proprietor still managed to keep the door’s automated system function. But that was the signature of any poor ward in the modern urban expanses on planets like Corellia and Coruscant: as long as it worked, don’t fix it, even if there’s a face-sized hole in the door.

The bounty hunter suddenly froze as he came near to his own unit. His was located in left corner from the entrance Laren had just strode through. His door happened to be wide open, revealing the quaint apartment within. He saw his bed at the far corner, but the flat was just wide enough to hide the chair that sat behind the thick duracrete wall. He would have to enter the flat and turn left, blasting whomever or whatever may or may not be hidden there.

Before he could draw his blaster, however, Xolarin appeared. He was still clad in his Jedi robes, but they were much shabbier than when last he saw him. His hands were tucked neatly inside the sleeves of his sodden robes, and his lightsaber lay within view on his belt. But the aggressive way he stood, and the piercing look of his green eyes were immediately apparent to Laren. He’s already changing.

“Hello, friend,” Xolarin said, emphasizing the word. His voice bristled with nearly unchecked rage as he stared at the mercenary. Laren’s left hand rested idly on his DC-17 blaster pistol, ready to draw the weapon at a moment’s notice. He had expected to make contact with the human man, but not under these circumstances.

“Use that term liberally. I don’t recall friends letting themselves in without permission,” Laren replied cautiously. His index finger tapped anxiously against his holster, the only outward sign of him being on edge with the enraged Jedi. “How did you find me, Xolarin?” he asked after a moment of pause, attempting to calm the situation.

“Patience,” was the ambiguous reply. “You cover your tracks well, Laren. But you rely on others - your contacts, as you refer to them. They reveal everything for the right price.” The way Xolarin ended the sentence, the Pantoran knew the meaning of ‘price’ was not limited to financial gain. The mercenary hid his satisfaction at the thought - the Jedi had taken the bait Selika and Teylas had set out for the conflicted Knight. Laren knew he would have to dig further and speak with the Jedi at length to determine if the catalyst had been discovered.

“If you’re here to kill me, Jedi, might as well get it over with,” Laren growled, his own feigned impatience beginning to bubble to the surface. “Otherwise step aside and get on with your business.” The second comment was adeptly placed, meant to goad Xolarin into revealing his motivations. Whether or not the Jedi realized it, Laren was attached to him at the hip from now until Selika’s brief vision was realized. The Jedi would turn, and he would see it happen. He wasn’t ready to face torture at the hands of someone as sadistic as the Wrath if he failed.

Xolarin’s green eyes probed Laren’s own golden orbs as he stood motionless in the door for another few moments. He was clearly considering his options, though Laren had only the faintest idea what those options were. But if the consideration of thought was any indication, it meant Xolarin had choices to make, and they clearly involved the mercenary. His quest for his father was beginning to become an obsession, much to Laren’s private delight. Eventually he stepped aside, gesturing with his arm the same way a concierge would welcome a client to a hotel. It’s my flat, you damn nerf-herder, he thought angrily, though he managed to keep his expression vacant.

“So I’ll ask again, Xolarin,” Laren said, making himself comfortable on his small double mattress, legs outstretched and boot-clad feet crossed one over the other. “Why are you here?”

The Jedi mirrored Laren and took a seat on the chair opposite, facing Laren. The door finally shut, and it was clear to Laren that Xolarin had been using the Force to keep the entrance open for some time. Finally he sighed, resting his hands on his knees. His gaze finally met the Pantoran’s again, but this time it looked fatigued and defeated, rather than predatory.

“Some of your contacts withheld information from you last time. Information that could have saved a life,” the Jedi began, his voice hoarse with bitterness and confusion. He was clearly still grappling with the death of the guard during their last investigation together. The confusion and anger building within the Jedi would be assets in the days to come. “After a brief chat with a man named Chetlik, I learned he was an information broker. I accessed his database and began looking for any information about my father. I found a lead.” Xolarin let the words hand in the air, clearly waiting for the mercenary’s surprised reaction.

“Really?” Laren exclaimed, sitting up on his mattress and mimicking genuine excitement and compassion at the revelation. Xolarin was traversing the maze Plagueis had created perfectly, finding the next piece of the trap they had laid for him. Chetlik had been paid handsomely for his service, though Laren had forgot to mention he may be subjected to the whims of an aggravated and testy Jedi.

“Rumor has it he was discreetly involved in an old operation during the Galactic Civil War on Sullust. Another information broker has information he would be willing to part with- for a price.”

“Say no more,” Laren said, standing once again and clapping his hands together. “We’re going to Sullust. I could always use another adventure with a Jedi. And if it helps bring you some closure, all the better.”

“Just like that?” Xolarin asked incredulously.

“I crave the hunt, Jedi,” Laren replied, giving the Jedi a knowing look. “And though you may not accept it yet, so do you. Now, how are we going to get to Sullust?”

Overseer’s Office, The Pinnacle, Aliso
34 ABY

Nearly half a galaxy away, as Laren and Xolarin were in the middle of scheming and planning their investigation, the Rollmaster of Clan Plagueis sat in her secondary office within the gargantuan complex known as the Pinnacle. The midday sun cast a golden glow over the space, though it also illuminated the absolute mess of books, scrolls and datapad that covered various spaces throughout the office. As Rollmaster, it was her job to learn in order to teach those who thought themselves as worthy to wield the Dark Side - and that required painstakingly detailed research every day, even as she managed a new training ground offworld.

Jai’de had just returned from The Circle after overseeing the new training regime implemented by her second, Furios. She was more than pleased to see her students suffering and challenged at every turn. The only way to build powerful Dark Side wielding acolytes was to relieve them of their worldly comforts and thoughts, and turn their attention to the raw reality of survival and power. Now she poured through old Sith writings, combing through the depths of knowledge and time in order to reach the limits of her trainees’ raw potential.

The sun eventually set along the mountainous horizon of Aliso, but Jai’de was still deep within her reverie. However, her exploration of the Sith archives was interrupted by the chime of her door. She looked up, clearly shaken from her immense focus.


The powerful form of Teylas Ramar strode through the doorway, and Jai’de immediately stood behind her desk as a sign of obedience. She bowed her head as he came to a stop at the foot of her desk.

“What is thy bidding, Dread Lord?”

“Sit, Jai’de. We have much to discuss.”

Jai’de complied, sitting behind her desk once again. Teylas took a chair opposite her, sitting straight backed, his hands resting gently folded upon his lap.

“I heard that you met the Quaestor of House Ajunta Pall some time ago,” Teylas began, his thoughtful gaze fixed on the Zeltron. “You were curious about his intentions, I gathered.”

“I don’t trust that mercenary,” Jai’de replied, nodding. “He lacks the ability to wield the Force, and his loyalty to the Clan only runs so far as the credits you pay him.”

“Perhaps,” Teylas replied simply. He smirked, suddenly, and Jai’de reacted with a puzzled look. She had missed something.

“Is he acting under your orders?” she asked after a moment of silence.

“Indeed, Jai’de. But his mission has come to a critical juncture, and we require your talents for yet another assignment.”

Jai’de sat back in her chair. She had known Teylas for some time, and thought of herself as one of his most trusted advisors. But now he was the consul of the Clan, and the realization dawned on her that no one would ever know what Teylas’s intentions were anymore. She accepted that fact and then let it go, focusing on the task at hand.

“Furious can manage The Circle without me, for a time. What is it you require of me?” she asked, her interest captured.

Teylas stayed in Jai’de’s office for about an hour, explaining to her Selika’s vision of the fallen Jedi, Laren’s assignment to turn the Jedi to the Dark Side, and their ultimate plan of claiming the Odanite, either for their ranks, or as a trophy of the Ascendant Clan’s power. The consul also explained that Jai’de was imperative to bringing out this task, and would assist Laren in whatever capacity she felt necessary. She was his contingency plan, though she doubted she was the only backup in place.

“When do I leave?” she asked finally, understanding her mission.

“Today. Prepare your ship and whatever else you require. Before your departure, you’ll be sent Laren’s coordinates. If we can turn this Jedi away from his foolish devotion to the Light, we will strike a critical blow to our enemies in Odan-Urr. No one is safe from the power of the Dark Side.”

“It will be done.”

“But be warned, Jai’de. Once the trap is sprung the Jedi will be unstable. Tread carefully and subdue him - with Laren’s help.” Teylas stood and turned to leave, satisfied Jai’de understood her important assignment in its entirety.

“The Wrath and I will be waiting.” And with that, Teylas strode through the doors of the Overseer’s office to see to other matters of the Clan.

Pinyumb, Sullust
One day later
34 ABY

Bribery always held immense sway on the black market, and Laren took advantage of the strategy with the ease of an experienced player of the game. The Pantoran had bribed a Rodian smuggler and his crew to transport Xolarin and Laren to the distant planet of Sullust. Specifically, the duo wanted access to one of the larger industrial cities of Pinyumb, which is where the final stage of the Jedi’s quest was leading them. But being a Jedi, and dressed in the obvious garb, Laren didn’t want to be seen by the sea of people that always crowded more traditional and legal customs-run docks.

The smuggler agreed to come out of hyperspace just within the security grid of Sullust so they wouldn’t be detected by the authorities. The Rodian captain expertly piloted his freighter exactly where he intended, and within a minute had landed his craft in one of the concealed landing platforms of the underground city. Laren passed the captain a credit chip that held some jaw-dropping numbers before gathering his gear and departing the craft, the human man silently stalking in tow.

“So,” the Pantoran said as he fiddled with his new blaster carbine. “Is this the place?”

“Indeed. My contact is an old Sullustan by the name of Wrenyub. He said he’ll see us coming when we land.” That fact was true - Wrenyub had a vast network of underworld spies on Sullust, like any good information broker in the galaxy. Laren hoped that the man would play his part of the performance. Everything was about to come to a head, and he didn’t want to be caught in a mess.

The landing platform was a wide space, protected by an active force shield covering the hangar door behind them.The force shield cast a cerulean hue on the wide space. The air of Sullust was toxic to sentient lifeforms due to the volcanic activity on the planet, meaning there was likely an extensive air filtration system in place - and surprisingly still functional. Laren looked to his left, observing a large control room with tinted windows. His hand instinctively shot to his utility belt and holster, knowing that if someone had set up show in that control room, they were completely open to an assault. He continued his observation of the control room, noting a rarely used lift at the far end of the long hangar. To his right there were a multitude of closed doors, most likely break rooms or secondary control rooms of some kind - perhaps even quarters, at one point.

“If I’m not mistaken, this Wrenyub doesn’t sell information for a cheap price. What did you offer him? Credits? Information?”

“Credits is all I have. My unique information will never be for sale,” Xolarin concluded. “And now the party begins.”

The lift doors at the opposite end of the landing pad opened, revealing a short, clearly aged Sullustan and four imposing guards. Laren was unsure of the race or look of the guards, though he surmised based on their height, athletic builds and armor that they were most likely not native to this world. They slowly made their way closer to the eccentric duo, Xolarin in his Jedi coolness under pressure, and Laren thumbing his holster, ready to draw his hand blaster at any moment. Though the carbine slung on his shoulder would be a more conventional weapon to use, he trusted his hand blaster to get him out of any situation - it was also ideal for running and gunning, Laren’s favored method of battle.

“You must be the Jedi,” the old Sullustan said slowly as he and his guards came to a stop in front of Laren and Xolarin, Galactic Basic emanating from his lips with a heavy Sullustan accent.

“I am assuming you’re Wrenyub,” Xolarin began confidently, “Though you didn’t mention anything about guards.”

“Don’t be flattered, Jedi,” Wrenyub replied coldly. “Besides, it looks like you have your own beast ready to pounce at a moment’s notice,” he continued, pointing at Laren. The Pantoran raised his brow, surprised at the bold comment. Wrenyub knew of Laren through his own, covert channels - yet he didn’t seem to realize the audacity of angering the mercenary. But he resigned himself to remain still and ready to strike if the situation turned on its head.

“Let’s make this quick, Wrenyub. Show me the evidence, prove to me -”

The Sullustan reached into the pocket of his long, brown robes and quickly took out a datapad. He must have anticipated Laren’s reaction and extracted the item quickly to avoid suspicion, though the mercenary drew his DC-17 and was ready to fire, regardless. Wrenyub’s own guards mirrored Laren, and there were blasters pointing in both directions within moments. Xolarin, however, remained steadfast and unarmed, though Laren guessed he had a tight hold on the Force.

“Tell your dog to lower his weapon -”

“He’s no dog, Sullustan,” Xolarin interrupted. “However, you’re right. Let’s defuse this situation. Uscot, put your blaster down.”

Laren complied, and Wrenyub’s guards did the same. Inwardly, Laren was pleased with how the proceedings were going. Wrenyub was selling his part of the plan flawlessly, and hopefully Xolarin wouldn’t look too deeply into the finer details of the evidence presented. An emotional response was what they were going striving for, the final catalyst that would set the Jedi firmly onto an irredeemable path to the Dark Side.

The Jedi took a few steps forward, placing himself between Laren and Wrenyub’s posse. Wrenyub also took a few steps forward, the datapad nestled firmly under his right armpit. He stopped in front of Xolarin and looked up at the human man, a quizzical expression on his face.

“You know I’m cheating you out of credits?” he asked, placing the datapad in front of him with his right hand.

Xolarin reached into his robes and procured a credit chip containing a sizable amount of currency. He held the chip in his own right hand, ready to hand it to the Sullustan information broker.

“What you’re giving me is worth more than credits,” responded Xolarin, his voice low and subdued. Laren realized that this was a moment he had been waiting to experience for nearly his entire life. Now that it was upon him, he had no idea what to expect. “Now, the datapad. It will be yours again once I have seen its contents, along with the credits.”

“As you wish,” said Wrenyub, handing Xolarin the datapad.

Laren felt a twinge of pity for the man. Ultimately, what the Jedi was being given was a lie forged from truth. This entire exchange and the culmination of their brief adventures together were the machinations of evil and perceptive people attempting to ruin the life of an innocent man to gain another soldier in a never-ending war among the fractured Dark Jedi clans.

The moment Xolarin had finally come. After years of his former Jedi compatriots giving him various bits and pieces of information about the origins of his father, Xolarin had forsaken his friends - his family - in pursuit of the truth. To some, his journey of self-discovery by learning of his father was misguided, as they believed the individual was shaped by their own experiences, and not by the reputation of their parents. But Xolarin had never known his father. He had never known why his father finally resigned to leaving him parentless, and why his father had simply vanished from his life. These were questions that ran deep to Xolarin’s very core. These next few moments would wash away doubt, and finally provide him closure. But what he saw on the datapad drained the color from his tanned face in horror and agony.

Scrolling through the datapad, the Knight’s eyes were illuminated by the faint glow of the datapad. There were snippets of video footage, Imperial and Rebel intelligence briefings, autopsy reports, and even a few reports stolen from the archives of the Dark Brotherhood. These were genuine sources, and it was tearing his entire world apart. He saw his father, the Jedi, wielding his blue lightsaber and killing Rebel and Imperial soldiers alike. He saw his father, the hero he had never known, being cast as a traitor and a madman by bitter enemies of a war long past. He saw the image of his father, the pride of Jedi dedication and courage, shatter before him. In its place was the image of a violent and devious villain, a man who had betrayed his core principles in pursuit of aligning with the winning side. But instead of his surviving his self-made treachery, his father had been assassinated in cold blood by a third party. The final document was orders from the Iron Throne of days past, and it was an order to kill Xolarin’s father on sight. They had used him to insight conflict between the Empire and Rebellion, striking two birds with one stone.

“He was scum,” Xolarin muttered. He could barely control his breathing, and the rage he had once had under control was beginning to boil. In fact, it was pouring out of the pot. “He was scum and you knew, it, didn’t you?”

“That is the nature of my trade, human,” the Sullustan replied indifferently. “I know things, and sell them for a steep price.”

“All this time you have been here - all this time you have held this information. My Master, he must have known - yet he never told me,” Xolarin’s rambling became indistinguishable as he reached for his lightsaber. Wrenyub’s guards reached for their blasters and pointed it at the incoherent Jedi. “My father was a traitor - and yet he was betrayed all the same.”

“The credits, Jedi.”

In one effortless motion, Xolarin activated his emerald lightsaber and cut the arrogant Sullustan in two. With a feral roar, Xolarin charged at the guards as they activated their blasters. He deflected blaster bolts with minimal effort and close range. He dodged a final blast and stabbed the front-left guard through his black armor. The guard to his right fell to Laren’s expertly placed blaster bolt. Suddenly, the doors of the control room opened, revealing four more guards armed with blaster rifles and vibroblades. They began firing on the unconventional duo. Xolarin paid the blaster bolts no mind, running toward the guards on the high ground and batting away blaster bolts effortlessly. He could hear Laren shouting behind him, telling him to stop and think. But there was a new voice in Xolarin’s head, darker than his normal thoughts, and yet familiar. It was telling him to do one thing, the voice reverberating over and over again in his head: kill.

Every motion Xolarin made felt light and painless. Power of the caliber he had never felt before was coursing through his veins, augmenting his already adept abilities. Through his bloodlust he could see every blaster bolt, feel every pull of the trigger, every hair and fiber on his body. For the first time he felt alive. And his eyes gleamed a tainted yellow.

As Xolarin advanced on the remaining guards of the dead Sullustan, he saw a blur suddenly appear in the corner of his eye. He turned briefly to look at the blur in the form of a short, yet stunningly beautiful Zeltron woman. She had been hiding in the shadows, perhaps, though Xolarin’s eyes were sharp and he hadn’t noticed anything upon their initial landing. But when she brought her violet lightsaber to bare in a reverse grip, her understood why. She had concealed herself like the Sith of old, hiding her abilities with the Force - and perhaps herself, through other means - in plain sight.

“Sith!” he exclaimed, shifting his attention to the advancing Zeltron woman.

“Guards first, dear,” she said, effortlessly gliding by him, deflecting blaster bolts with a precision that left Xolarin in awe.

She advanced up the stairs to the control room while Xolarin remained pinned down by blaster fire, barely managing to deflect the hail of streaming plasma gliding his way. If it wasn’t for his current surge of power and anger, he might have already been shot.

When she was in range, the Zeltron woman quickly got to work. With a wide, sweeping strike she severed the head of the closest guard from his body. She adeptly jumped and dodged a frantic flurry of blaster bolts as she downed the second guard, and the third. Finally a blaster bolt in the face of the fourth guard finished off their quarry. Xolarin turned to see Laren, his hand blaster still pointed at its intended target, smiling in satisfaction at his own skill.

Xolarin was fuming. The Sith had just helped him, his father was a traitor - He’s a traitor. Kill, were the thoughts flowing through the broken mind of Xolarin. He turned to look at Laren - an easy target, perhaps. But the Sith, no, he wanted to kill the Sith. But where was she?

“Show yourself, Sith scum!” he barked.

“Just sleep.” Jai’de dropped her Force cloak behind the fallen Jedi and smashed the butt of her lightsaber into the back of Xolarin’s head. The Jedi dropped to the floor and fell into a deep and dreamless slumber, one of which he would awaken from with an immense headache and a yearning rage.

“Why the hell are you here!?” Laren roared. “This was my operation -”

“Our operation, actually,” he interrupted, correcting the Pantoran. “But ultimately, it was their operation.” She nodded her head toward the entrance of the hangar.

There, to the bewilderment of Laren, a ship was entering the hangar. It was the distinctive design of a Star Courier, a larger, though very sleek vessel. Laren could easily hypothesize about who was aboard the vessel, and why they were here. The Dread Lord.

The Star Courier performed a quick and effortless landing, the bow of the vessel facing the shield, while the stern was facing the Plagueian Summit members and their captured Jedi - if he could be called that anymore. The ramp of the Star Courier quickly lowered to the ground, revealing Selika Roh and Teylas Ramar. As they strode down the ramp to inspect their prize, Jai’de and Laren knelt before the consul and his Wrath, bowing their heads to the floor.

“Jai’de, Laren, you may rise,” the Dread Lord commanded as he inspected the limp body of the human Jedi. Laren stood and took a relaxed stance, his hands folded behind the small of his back. Jai’de did the same, though she stood with feet shoulder-width apart and arms folded under her bosom.

“Bounty hunter, pick this wretched creature off the ground and place him on the Oppressor,” Selika commanded, pointing to the Star Courier. “Now!”

Laren bounced into action, picking up the unconscious body of Xolarin and walking him up the ramp of the vessel. He placed the Jedi in a small room flanked by two guards. He nodded at the guards before turning and walking back out of the vessel. When he returned to the entrance, Teylas and Selika stood waiting at the foot of the ramp with Jai’de, looking up at the bounty hunter. Laren didn’t know how to react, so he stopped walking, taken aback by the sight of the three Sith staring him down.

“I was doubtful you could be successful in a mission such as this,” Teylas began, “for the intricacies of the Dark Side are beyond most of your kind.”

“I’m an evil man,” Laren responded with a shrug. “I’ve accepted my fate, and relish in its reality. Killing is my trade, money and glory are my reward.”

“Our reward, Pantoran,” Selika said, her gaze piercing Laren and causing him to shiver. “Ultimately it was the Force that destined this man to the fall. You were simply alive and available to hasten the process.”

“Your wisdom is immeasurable as always, my Lady.” Laren made an intricate bow to the powerful Warlord.

Selika grinned, yet Laren felt no comfort or warmth from the simple gesture. Only hatred and ambition seemed to exude from the veteran Sith warrior as she walked up the ramp. She stopped beside Laren, looking him in the eye. She seemed to look at him in a different light, now. He was a tool to be used, now, even without the Force. It made him less valuable than many of her other assets, but valuable all the same. Expendable, as well.


Shuttle en route to 10-Alliel aka ‘The Circle’
Aliso system

Zuser Whuloc sat strapped into his chair, his Mandalorian helmet on the seat next to him while his other belongs were stowed in the cargo hold. In his hands was a chance cube constantly being rolled between his fingers. But his mind wasn’t on the chance cube, not on the shuttle or even where he was going. He didn’t even acknowledge hearing the pilot announcing their arrival. He didn’t care.

Hangar bay
The Circle

Freshly appointed Taskmaster Furios stood waiting at the bottom of the ramp. Next to him stood Tra’an Reith di Plagia, hood drawn over his draconian face, hands folded in his sleeves. They looked on as Zuser stomped down the ramp, helmet held on his side, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. The young Knight came to a stop before them.

“Furios, longtime no see. Congrats on your new position. Greetings Master.”

The pilot’s voice was quiet, no longer enthusiastic like it once was as he bowed his head at the two of them, his right fist going across his chest. Furios nodded his head at the compliment, thrown off by the lack of hyperactivity Zuser usually had, while Tra’an merely nodded back.

“Come Zuser. Your quarters are this way. Until next time, Furios.”

Tra’an’s voice rasped at the pilot and the Taskmaster as he turned and began to walk away. Zuser nodded once again to Furios, drew his own hood over his head, adjusted his bag once, and fell into step behind his master.

First Floor, Training Ring
The Circle

The green blade of Zuser’s lightsaber cut through a battle droid, its body falling in two pieces before going into a roll and coming up to blast apart another droid with a point blank force lightning shock. Around the Knight, other trainees were doing other forms of close combat training. Nearby, Overseer Jai’de watched other trainees and initiates while on the second floor, Taskmaster Furios watched the ranged weapons training. From the second floor, Tra’an Reith di Plagia’s eyes followed his apprentice destroying the holographic droids, before deciding that enough was enough. He turned and made his way downstairs.


The Knight’s lightsaber dispatched yet another battle droid. As the hologram began to fade away, Zuser turned his head just enough to see his master approach, hood drawn as always.

“Your attacks are too stiff. You need to be more fluid in your strikes…”

Zuser’s breathing was slightly labored, evidence of the holographic skirmish, as he deactivated his weapon, listening to his master pick apart his performance. Again. His teeth began to show as he fought back a growl of irritation and anger. He wanted Tra’an to stop talking. Months and weeks of constantly being kept on a short leash had fueled his growing rage, and the recent loss of the Chaser only added fuel onto the fire. His grip on his lightsaber tightened, his hands shaking with anger.

“Would you just shut UP!” Zuser interrupted, glaring at his Master. The Knight’s green eyes took on a yellow shade as his anger turned into rage and peaked.

“For months you have done nothing but keep me on a short leash, and use me as a karking errand boy! Even when sparring, all you do is pick apart my performance. And now my ship is gone! If I wasn’t on the ground I would have been flying and the Chaser wouldn’t have been crushed under a giant pile of slagged metal!”

As he ranted, Zuser’s arms gestured wildly. He was loud enough to gain the attention of the training sessions nearby, including one being watched by Jai’de herself.

“Ever since you stepped down from Quaestor, you locked yourself away and I’ve been left to fend for myself in the ways of training. When you do actually train me, it’s just another lecture on how terrible my form is or how much I suck with the Force. And now you pull me out to the middle of kriffing nowhere just to do more of the same!”

Tra’an pulled back his hood and raised an eyebrow at his apprentice.

“Are you done yet, you stupid boy?” He hissed.

Zuser opened his mouth, and then shut it, as he realized for the first time that he might have finally gone too far. The sounds of sparring and fighting were gone now, the room eerily silent. From up above on the second floor many heads poked over the railing, including Furios. Security guards stood by, unsure if they should intervene and subdue the Knight.

By now the yellow in Zuser’s eyes faded completely, leaving them green and looking just a little panicked. He steeled his resolve and tightened his grip on his lightsaber, his knuckles white.
His glare came back again and stood his ground, uncaring of the many eyes on him and his Master.

“Yeah. Yeah I am done, Master.

Tra’an Reith sighed and loosed his outer robe, letting it slide to the ground. His custom lightsaber dropped into his hand and hissed to life as he depressed the thumb switch. Sliding his feet so that they aligned one behind the other, the former Quaestor of House Plagueis beckoned to his apprentice.

“Come then you foolish boy, show me what, if any you have learned. If you had been paying attention, then you would not be acting so churlishly.” The Kaleesh taunted. His yellow eyes seemed to burn, ready for this fight.

Zuser Whuloc bristled at the taunt and growled. He threw his right arm out to the side, the verdant blade igniting with a snap quickly followed by two smaller blades of the same color forming a crossguard. He spun the weapon vertically at his side before lunging at his Master, channeling the Force into the movement in an attempt to force Tra’an onto the defensive. Instead of his green blade finding purchase with his Master’s orange blade, it hit only air followed by burning a hole in the robes the Kaleesh dropped to the floor.

In his peripheral vision he saw the orange blade slashing down at him and the pilot quickly rolled to the side, Tra’an’s lightsaber striking the ground where Zuser once was. Growling, the former Obelisk lashed out with his lightsaber only for Tra’an to simply swat it away with his own. This went on for for a couple minutes, each nonchalant swat of the orange blade against the green infuriated Zuser further. His Master was toying with him.

Zuser let out a scream as he brought his verdant blade crashing down on Tra’an, the orange blade of his Master blocking the strike, prompting the Knight to push against the Kaleesh, trying to use the crossguard to get past his Master’s lightsaber. His teeth clenching in determination, padawan braid swishing back and forth from the swings. By now Jai’de had moved closer to the fight and Furios had turned his full attention to the first floor.

“Damnit Master! Stop toying with me!”

Jai’de’s eyes widened a bit in shock.

“That kid is so dead.” Furios whispered to himself.


Tra’an Reith narrowed his eyes.

“Stop playing with you? I’m trying to teach you, insolent boy! You’re too focused on your precious ship to see that!” he taunted Zuser. The fool that his Padawan was, he never saw the leg sweep coming, over balancing him, and breaking their saber lock. As the pilot fell, Reith reached out to the Force and used it to slam his young friend into the ground.

There was the definitive sound of cracked ribs as Zuser made impact, as if he’d been crushed by a weight upon his chest accelerating his landing. The Kaleesh withdrew from close range, and Zuser coughed, groaned, and coughed some more, rising slowly from the floor. With his hand over his ribs, It was easy to tell that the Padawan was mending his ribs enough to continue the fight.

With narrowed eyes, the former Quaestor waited, his toe tapping on the floor, as if to signify his waiting and his mounting annoyance with it. Without warning Zuser snapped his palm out and a bolt of lightning stretched from his out-thrust palm, licking towards his Master with hunger. With contempt, Tra’an reached out his hand and just as the lightning touched it, the flickering power dissolved into motes of light. Zuser once again rushed into combat, only to find that his Master did not hold back.

Where before he had been toyed with, this time he was abused. As Zuser executed a cross-slash, his veridian blade was bashed aside, leaving him wide open. the di Plagia registered his contempt with the backswing, leaving a bubbling line of burnt flesh across Zuser’s chest with the tip just grazing the skin.

As the young maverick screamed in anguish, and doubled over from the pain, two more followed along his upper arms. Even as he fell over, to pass out from the pain, he found himself being healed just enough to stay conscious, to endure the agony.

“Please Master,” Zuser screamed. “Please let me die or let me pass out. The pain is unbearable!” Zuser’s nose ran with snot, his tears streaming down his face as the pain overwhelmed him.

Tra’an knelt down next to his apprentice.

“This is to teach that as you are a powerful force to be reckoned with among the uninitiated, you are nothing to those of us who have spent our lives in dedication to the truth of the way of the Force.” Zuser’s eyes began to glaze, the pain leeching his comprehension. Tra’an slapped him, the stinging sensation jolting him out of his slip into indifference, the fresh pain blossoming as a brusie upon his cheek. “As your arrogance has blinded you and brought you low, so shall you rise again. This time, you shall do so without the pride that is your weakness. If you fall prey to it again, there will be no saving you.”

This time, at last, the young man was allowed to succumb to his wounds.

The room was silent, the surrounding young members of Clan Plagueis unable to comprehend the cruelty they had witnessed, in the sake of progress and learning. More than one had retched, the acrid contents of their stomachs lining the floor. Sensing the crowd, the Equite turned to Jai’de and bowed.

“Overseer, I apologize for commandeering your facilities for my own use and making such a spectacle, but the boy had to learn now, before he imperiled the lives of others.” With a nod for Furios, he left as the medics moved in to put Zuser on a stretched and escort him to the Bacta chambers, where he could be healed. As they left, Jai’de looked at her charges and then at their mentor, Furios.

“Let that serve as a reminder of why you find wisdom in the code,” she said. “Some of you have expressed that it seems like gibberish, I trust now you know otherwise. Clean up the messes you have made, and get back to training.”


The Pinnacle
32 ABY

Abadeer was sitting in the Plagueis council room, no one else present. It’d been a busy several weeks, working off planet to secure the allegiance of several neighboring systems. Taasii had spent most of that time on the planet of Seolara, bringing the locals under the Dominion. It had taken some serious persuasion, and a lot of killing, but in the end Seolara was now under Plagueis’ control.

The Sith had taken some time scanning through several datapads, holovids and other information on Plagueis’ holdings throughout the Outer Rim territories. There was a lot of information to review, especially with the fleet newly intact. That had also been a lot of work. Abadeer and Arden had taken several days inspecting the newly commissioned Task Force Cresh, Karness Muur’s new fleet. The Vigilant was their new capital ship, a well put together ship indeed. It would be more than enough to bring back the force that was Plagueis.

Abadeer had also spent a significant time training, he’d been able to make it into the ranks of the Equites of the Brotherhood, but the desire for power hard to fight. He wanted more, no he needed more. There were a lot of opponents in the Plagueis dominion who were more skilled than he was. He spent time studying their movements, copying their form, sparring against their simulations. Abadeer was a fighter, and he was determined to become the best in Plagueis, if not the whole Brotherhood.

Taasii stood and left the spacious conference room, and mad his way back to hangar. Though it had been nice to take some time for himself, there was much for him to do. Establishing a presence in a new sector took time and effort, and every member of the Summit was expected to do much of this work. During his time on Seolara, Abadeer was also establishing trade connections with the newly appointed Regent, Evant. He was spending a lot of time learning the business, something he was entirely unfamiliar with, but was anxious to learn. He was good at fighting, but needed other skills elsewhere that would make him just as dangerous.

The Togruta stretched his neck to each side, feeling a stiffness in his shoulders. He needed a work out, he needed to beat something into submission. Smiling darkly, Abadeer continued his way towards his ship in the Pinnacle landing bay.

Training Ring
The Circle

Abadeer strode confidently into the training arena, students sparring all around him. There was something nostalgic about being here. Though he’d never been in this building itself, he’d spent most of his time in Plagueis in the Battleteam. Even after becoming a Knight, he lead his Battleteam for a number of months. Seeing the young and upcoming students was definitely rewarding, but also a great place for Abadeer to blow off some steam.

A tall figure, just a touch taller than Abadeer himself, strode over towards the incoming Sith. The newly instated Taskmaster, Furios.

“Welcome Abadeer, to what do we owe this intrusion today?” Furios asked with a slight cock of his head, as he folded his arms across his chest.
“A fantastic question. There are several capable students that you’ve been bringing up here in your little Circle, and I’d like to see just how well some of them are being trained, having been a trainer myself.” Abadeer responded, his eyes narrowing at the man across from him. Furios raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

“And it’s times like this that I love to blow off some steam,” Abadeer said, caving in, “Seolara has been taken, and my reports are finished. I can’t go and get rusty. Plus as I’m sure you know, simulation combat can only get you so far. Sometimes you need a real challenge to get the blood pumping. Lend me two of your students for the afternoon. It’ll be a special training project for them.” Furios sighed in response. No one liked having someone else coming in and intervening.

“Fine, you can have two, but I expect to see some improvement in combat ability by the end of the day.” Furios turned away quickly, calling out two names and pointing them towards the Togruta Warrior. This would be fun Abadeer thought to himself.

“Come on boys, it’s time for you to learn some new tricks.” Abadeer turned walking towards an empty circle where the three could spar without anyone else getting in the way. Taasii stood in the center of the training mat waiting for the other two. One was a large human male, tall and broad. The other was a Rodian, smaller but wiry.

“Let us begin. I want to see what skill you’ve developed so far.” Abadeer drew his saber igniting the orange blade. It hung loosely at his side, ready for combat. “I want to know what you can do. Now attack!” Abadeer barked out the order. The two looked warily at each other before igniting their respective sabers. They both took awkward stances, that Taasii easily recognized. It wasn’t terrible form, but against someone who had more skill with a saber, they wouldn’t stand a chance. Taasii rolled his eyes as the pair continued to stand close to the edge of the mat, not willing to be the first to attack.

“I want to see some effort, let’s see some rage!” Abadeer lunged forward with unnatural speed. He made his way for the big one first, lightsaber fully extended in a lunging attack, before suddenly cutting to the side with a large sweeping strike at the Rodian. Both students tensed as Abadeer made an unexpected and ferocious charge forward, the Rodian barely able to block the incoming attack.

“Keep up your guard!” Abadeer shouted, retracting his blade before changing the angle and attacking again. “And when you block, attack back!” He shouted at the Rodian who could barely keep up with the incoming blows. “When there are two of you together, support each other! Don’t just stand there you idiot!” Abadeer reached his left hand underneath his outstretched right arm, and forced the larger opponent to fly across the mat. Turning back to the Rodian, Abadeer narrowed his eyes. “That was an incredible opening right there, you should have taken it.” The Rodian began to stammer in response, but Taasii kicked out into the student’s thigh, bringing him down to one knee. “Let’s see what else we can learn.”

Abadeer strode confidently towards the bigger student, who was just getting back on to his feet. Taasii sensed the bloodlust from behind him, and without looking dodged out of the way of the smaller student’s attack. It was awkward and overbalanced him, causing him to stumble and fall forward next to his partner. The Sith shook his head in disappointment, they had so much left to learn.

“Coordinate! Attack me together!” Abadeer shouted again, waiting this time for the pair to take initiative. Both stood up, somewhat more confident now, and angry. The larger student launched forward, using a heavy overhand attack that could have crushed most opponents. Instead of taking the attack, Abadeer redirected it to the side with his own blade, not fighting the force, but just refocusing it elsewhere. This was the nature of Makashi, his preferred fighting style. He had to be quick though, as the Rodian was quick to follow with a quick and explosive lunge right towards Abadeer’s chest.

The sparring continued on for several hours, Abadeer having to strain himself a little more towards the end of the session. It took some time but eventually the pair was able to coordinate their efforts and put up a moderate offensive. After the match, Taasii spent about half an hour criticizing and critiquing the students. Furios made his way over to listen to the lecture, nodding as the two students left.

“You did well, teaching those two to play off each other’s strengths. You have a capacity to lead.” Furios noted as he walked closer to the Togruta.

“Thank-you, I teach what I can, and what I’ve learned. Maybe a lesson from you some time. I understand that you yourself are not too bad at fighting. I always look for a chance to hone my own skills.” Abadeer responded.

“I might have to take you up on that sometime, but don’t expect to get away as easily as those two did from you. I’m a hard teacher, and I expect excellence.” Abadeer nodded, not doubting the man’s words.


The Pinnacle, Aliso

Teylas Ramar walked across the long runway, shadowed by the Pinnacle, towards a small group of technicians and engineers. As he approached closer one of the engineers began making a hasty walk towards the Dread Lord.

Bowing, the engineer reported, “M’lord, the ship was right where you said it would be. Hyperdyne retrieved it and delivered it to us last night. We just gave it some final systems checks. It needed some upgrades due to age and misuse, but other than that it should be in pristine condition.”

“Thank you. Is the stealth technology still intact?” the Falleen consul asked carefully analyzing the Star Courier-type shuttle from the outside. Teylas was pleased, at least, that the ship appeared to be still in mint condition.

The engineer nodded in the affirmative, “Quite advanced, too. Even for a ship that’s over 15 years old.”

“Perfect. That’ll be all,” the consul nodded as he continued his pace towards the ship.

“We still have a few things to finish up, but they’re all exterior. The interior has been checked and cleared. You’re free to enter,” the young upstart engineer added.

Teylas smirked, “Well that’s very gracious of you…” he looked at the engineers rank insignia, “… lieutenant.” Continuing he activated the panel from the outside which opened the hatch allowing entrance to the ship. Walking inside the Dread Lord took a deep breath. A familiar atmosphere for him on board a ship that was his many years ago.

As he made his way to the cockpit the ship came to life little by little – it was a ship with high automation. It wasn’t a fighter or something that was going to stay in a fight for an hour, but it served its purposes in years past for Teylas.

After a quick glance in the cockpit, Teylas made his way back down into the ready room area where he approached one of the closets. It was locked. The Falleen punched a few commands into the door console and it opened, revealing a familiar face to Teylas.

He sighed, “Oh HK. It’s time to get you back up and running, friend. Now that I have the Oppressor again, we have plenty of work to be done. Things have certainly changed since last we were together.”


The Circle
35 ABY

It had been months since the capture of Aliso, yet Kelly hadn’t set foot on the planet since deciding she needed to undergo a period of intense training. A weapon of war was only useful if it was kept sharp, any periods of inactivity would let the upstarts think that she was weak and there for the taking. Mind and body in harmony would lead to endless amounts of destruction, something that needed to occur if she was to ever wipe the slate clean for Plagueis to rebuild the world in their image. No more Jedi, that was why those who weren’t worthy of her presence had the chance of bearing witness to her.

Combat training was the primary focus, one would think having the appearance of a politician would prove beneficial to personal security, yet it was not if anything the Seeker needed to be better in combat to ensure that those who disagreed with her couldn’t beat her. To this end, she regularly trained with more than one opponent at a time, while weaker opponents, balancing offence and defence had to be a priority. The broad sweeping motions of Shien were good at maintaining the gap between Kelly and her opposition. On the other hand, Soresu was capable of grinding down an opponent’s energy and will, providing opportunities to strike.

The mental aspect couldn’t be allowed to lag behind; a fragile mind would prove to be a playground for those trained well in the arts of using the Force to affect the mind of their opposition. To strengthen her spirit, Kelly decided to take a similar approach as she had to combat, use the trainees and build up to more talented practitioners. The process was exhausting, hours at a time, having to concentrate and resist, but if she didn’t have control of her mind, then what good was being a great duelist and wielder of the Force? As a side effect of seeing the techniques utilised against her, the Human was able to improve upon her skill.

The Pinnacle
Two weeks later
35 ABY

Plagueis had changed, Teylas was no longer the Dread Lord, and his former Proconsul Selika Roh di Plagia had assumed his position, whether this changing of the guard was voluntary or not Kelly didn’t know, or care. She just had to keep her head down and focus on doing what she could to bring about the future Plagueis deserved, even if not everyone could see it. There had been rumblings, which suggested the pet project Teylas had sent Laren and later a returning Jai’de on hadn’t had quite the result he was expecting. The Jedi had snapped under torture from the new Consul and had fled.

That left Laren down an Aedile. While not the highest possible position, it was one Kelly knew, in many ways, it would be the perfect job if she could convince Laren, Selika or both to choose her for it. The two women’s concerns about the mercenary could be monitored, and Laren would have a new Aedile, relieving some of his burdens. With a plan in mind, all that as needed now was the execution of said plan. Navigating the former detention facility’s many hallways, the Savant arrived at the Consul’s office. There she waited patiently for Selika to gesture for her to enter.

“I think I know why you’re here Kelly…” The newest di Plagia to sit in the Consul’s chair began. “You would like to be my Proconsul would you not? I’ve already sent out a message detailing my requirements and how to give me your application.”

“ Not this time, Dread Lord, I had something else in mind.” Selika leant forward slightly in her chair. If Kelly didn’t want to be her Proconsul, then what brought her here? The Warlord was genuinely curious about what Mendes had to say.

“Well then, consider my curiosity piqued. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.” The Consul maintained the cold aura that had long associated with her, but she looked pleased about being wrong.

“I have doubts about the bounty hunter, Uscot, he seemed to be loyal to Teylas, but that’s because the credits kept flowing. I get the feeling that despite whatever other differences we have, this is an area that we can reach a consensus on. Therefore, I would like to take over the position of Aedile of Ajunta Pall. It would benefit us both and ensure the merc doesn’t try anything stupid.” A look of confidence slowly emerged across the face of the Savant, looking for any indication as to what the response of Roh would be.

“You’ve got it, but if I find out that you’ve failed to report on active threats posed by Uscot, there’ll be more than one head rolling.” Selika made sure to let the new Aedile know that she was still in charge and that any attempts to use Laren to get rid of her would end up being dealt with severely.

Kelly bowed her head in subservience to the new Consul, showing that the message was received and understood. There would be no plotting with Laren as she didn’t have any ambition to take Selika’s job, she had seen Teylas forced into depending on the allegiance of others to survive, she preferred to be in the shadows driving her agenda than openly leading the clan. Now she just needed to notify Laren himself.

Supply Station Omega

Laren stood aboard the downed Separatist Supply Ship that lay grounded in the Valley of Typhojem. He looked out into the valley, looking for any signs of his Aedile, it had been days since Selika tortured him and he hadn’t received word of Xolarin’s death, so he was alive, trouble is Laren needed an Aedile. As he pondered what to do, he heard the holotable was receiving a transmission from the Pinnacle. Hopefully, it would have something to do with Xolarin.

“Hello Uscot, I’m your new Aedile by decree of the Dread Lord. From what I’ve heard the sooner I can arrive the better.” It was Kelly Mendes, she’d not been seen for a while but upon her return had clearly done enough to impress the Consul.

“I look forward to your arrival and getting to work with you, I’ve only heard good things about you.” Laren turned off the holotable promptly, what did this mean? A new Aedile without informing him, he knew Selika didn’t trust him. The move was indeed made with something in mind; he didn’t know. Maybe his network could turn up some leads.


The Pinnacle
35 ABY

How long had it been now? Two, three months? Perhaps she should have returned sooner, but Malice had wanted to ensure that everything would be prepared for her arrival. Aiya walked in step beside her, occasionally glancing up at the bundle in her arms. It wasn’t just the two of them now. Now, there were three. Four, if you counted Kalon, but he was absent so often that she rarely did anymore.

Her room was just as she’d left it, everything in place. The only difference were the newly acquired droids, who all beeped happily when they saw her.

She remembered the first time she’d seen a droid. They were curious things. Seemingly alive and yet not even human. Cautious of them at first, she now found they often provided a nice level of amusement and companionship.

“Ah, Lady Malice, you have returned,” Alexa, one of the few who could speak basic, said. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d be returning at all.”

“I told you I would be, Alexa. Did you think I would simply abandon you all?” Mal asked, setting the bundle on the bed and reaching down to give a few pats to the smaller droids that circled around her feet. Most she’d taken in because their personalities were not in sync with their frames or purposes. Conky, her Gonk droid, and Amélie, a spider-like probe droid, were both always set on making sure she had everything she needed, and were constantly ready to lend a hand, despite the fact that neither possessed any sort of limb capable of grabbing.

Mortem, her Magnaguard, approached the newest member of their group, who was still laying on the bed.

“It’s alright, Mortem, she’s with me,” the Wildling told him, standing after she’d gotten her cloak off.

Now, to see about the bundle itself.

It was not a sort of good, or food, or anything that perhaps would be expected to be nestled in such a blanket on a planet occupied by the Sith. It was, in fact, a baby.

She had not told anyone but her master when she’d found out. Her master and Kalon, of course, the child’s father. Nine months later, she’d had a baby girl in her arms.


It was a Mandalorian name, one that held multiple meanings. All of which fit her perfectly.

Dark brown hair was already beginning to softly frame the child’s face. Light brown eyes blinked up at everything curiously, and she’d been born with markings similar to the ones her mother possessed. A few lines under her eyes, though hers flowed far more gracefully than Malice’s did, at least in her mother’s opinion.

“Everyone,” Malice started, picking her child back up, “This is Ora. You don’t have to try to say her full name. It’s long and complicated and some of you can’t speak anything but Binary, so we’ll keep it simple. She is to be protected at all costs, do you all understand?”

Whistles and beeps of confirmation sounded, while her mouse droid, Souris, drove right on up, seeming to show how ready it was to be a grand protector.

Malice laid Ora in the crib she’d gotten for her, and it didn’t take too long for the child to fall asleep. What was the best way to go about introducing her to everyone? While Sith were not always known to be the most caring or gentle, she had few fears about how they would react. Yes, they were a group of lethal and occasionally backstabbing individuals, but she did not have bad relationships with any of them. She’d invite Selika first, though Malice was unsure if she’d have time with her new job as the head of the clan. The Consul was regularly referred to as ‘Lord’. Would she do the same, or continue to call the woman Master?

It seemed there were multiple things that would take some getting used to.


Aliso System
The Pinnacle
35 ABY

The black expanse of space above Aliso distorted as a starship entered the area through the hyperlane. The Delta-class T-3c shuttle banked as it began to approach the planet and the autopilot began preparations for hailing the security team keeping a watch on any incoming traffic. Standing to the side, Kul’tak gazed at the grandiose colors of Plagueis’ home. It certainly was a beauty of an emerald. After his time spent in search of the exile, Turix Darmin, Kul was elated to find himself among his clan again. Well, most of them. His encounter with his Wrath aboard the Herald’s Ungodly Matron during his search had certainly come as a surprise, but he had never been one to believe in coincidence. Whatever her reasons for being aboard, it had been at the Dread Lord’s request or a personal affair.

A thin layer of clouds swept across the vessel’s hull as it approached the landing platform. Kul watched as the vessel’s A.I. took care of the transfer of clearance codes and landing information, and then strode to the makeshift cell he’d prepared for Darmin before his capture. It was fitted with electronic dampers in order to keep his cybernetics shutdown. Unable to utilize his legs and most of his face, Darmin posed little threat in such condition. It hadn’t been as easy to put him there, but Kul had vastly enjoyed the fight.

Within the clamps and wires trapping him, Darmin glanced at the approaching Zabrak, his only original eye flicking weakly upwards. His body was slouched in utter defeat and the lack of support from his mechanical legs. Kul had savored the victory during and after the battle, but now that his only drive for becoming stronger had suddenly been completed he felt only a sour taste rise in him as he looked at the man. His hate for Darmin would soon drain with time after his execution. It was that hate that had given him the strength to accept his fate and apply himself vigorously for Plagueis. What would sustain him now?

What was his purpose?

Without speaking to Darmin, Kul marched back to the cockpit as they began their landing descent. It would be good to breathe the fresh air of Aliso; it was a clean and desirable planet since it lacked much industry. It could use more forest, but since the planet was mostly empty because it was still healing from the event that had killed everything off he did not complain much. Perhaps he would endeavor to seek funds to quicken the restoration pace. He made a mental note to remember it when he presented his catch to the Dread Lord.

The artificial hands guiding the Zoehumai’ru landed it flawlessly upon the platform, and Kul made his preparations for departure. A small cadre of uniformed personnel waited patiently outside the vessel: the disciplined troops of the welcoming committee that met every Plagueian personally. They failed to hide their expressions immediately though as the Warrior came plodding down the ramp, dragging a secured Darmin behind him. The lieutenant of the group stepped forward and saluted the Zabrak.

“Welcome back, milord Drol. I trust your expedition was fruitful?”

Kul dropped the cyborg just long enough to throw his cloak’s hood back over his horns. He gave a slight grin as the soldier winced at the sound of the cyborg’s durasteel scratching durasteel.

“Indeed it was, Lieutenant. He thought himself safe in the luxuries of exile. But you know, Lieutenant, the darkest shadow appears when the sun shines brightest. He never expected to see me again. A grave miscalculation. Or arrogance. Either way, I will present him to Lord Remar and have him place judgement.”

The lieutenant frowned in confusion.

“Lord Remar, milord? I believe you mean Lord Roh.”

Now it was Kul’s turn to be confused.

“Has something happened to Lord Remar?”

The man shook his head excitedly.

“No, milord, fear not for the di Plagian. He has been chosen to assist in the offices of the Master-at-Arms. As such, her Lordship Roh now holds the throne.”

Selika is the Dread Lord…this bodes ill.

Kul tried to hide his shock, but he’d always been driven by his passions and was rusty in hiding his emotion. It had been the hardest part of his Shadow testing, after all. The lieutenant eased into a relaxed stance as he recognized Kul’s trepidation.

“Indeed, milord. Some of the men and other Willing have been careful not to voice such views aloud, but there’s a sense of worry beginning to hang about. A…concern for those of us not gifted with this Force like yourself. If I may be so frank.”

The Zabrak glared deep from within his hood, pondering the lieutenant’s words. The soldier began to flush, thinking he may have spoken to the wrong ears. Kul waved away his concerns and motioned for the squad to follow as he drug Darmin behind him.

“An understandable plight, lieutenant…ah what is your name again?”

“Grifen, sir. Altean Grifen.”

“Lieutenant Grifen. Tell your men to keep performing their duties well and all shall be fine. I am not one of these Sith that seeks to dominate so ruthlessly among their subordinates. In fact, I know of where I can find an ally to help keep a watch on her. With that in mind, I need to you to deliver a message for me.”

As they approached the entrance the lieutenant stepped forward and opened it with a quick salute.

“A message, milord? Certainly. Who should I be looking for?”

“A certain blue mercenary. I’d like to set up an informal meeting.”

Grifen nodded once and followed the Zabrak, trying to avoid tripping over Darmin’s body as he did so.

“Of course, milord. I will handle it personally.”

Kul offered a passing grim smile.

“Good…ah until then I’ll need to place this mess of flesh and metal somewhere until I can deal with him. I’d rather avoid a face to face with her Lordship at the moment. I’ll toss him in the lower brig and return once I’ve met with the mercenary. Until next time, Lieutenant. I imagine we shall meet again at some point.”

“I look forward to it, milord.”

With that, Grifen spun on his heels and returned to his post while Kul drug his victim every scratching meter to the lift that would take him to the lower brig.

Korada Monastery
Kul’s Personal Quarters

Blue and red faces regarded each other with something a little bit less than disdain. The Pantoran spared a glance at the furnishings the Zabrak had chosen, though spare they were. A bed, a desk, and the table they sat at were all of the main attractions; most of the other space on the walls and floor were filled with tribal paraphernalia he assumed was from Iridonia. Behind Kul, placed diagonally on the far wall was a zhaboka with blades that glinted if the head tilted just right. Upon his meagre bed lay two Massiffs, snoring contently in the presence of their master. His main attention was focused before him, however, upon the drink he was swirling in his hand and the lingering thought of how dangerous it was to be cramped with someone who could tear his limbs off if angered. He was still unsure as to why the Zabrak had called him here. Neither one had been socially amiable towards the other before. He had not even know the Zabrak partook of alcohol until he’d seen the drink slammed back with his own eyes. He sniffed at his own. It smelled stale and unfamiliar to anything he’d had before.

Kul refilled his own glass as he chuckled to himself, placing a thin crack in the ice freezing their desire to converse. He drained his glass again, sighing wistfully. He appeared to be sinking into memories. Laren noticed how much smaller the Zabrak looked without his billowing cloak to cover him. It begged the question of just where the Zabrak kept that abnormal strength of his. He almost missed Kul begin to speak as he wondered. The sudden sound made his fingers twitch towards his blaster beneath the table.

Slaretmireth. It means blood-fire in Basic. An old luxury I had nearly forgotten. It smells worse than it tastes, trust me.”

Laren hoped the Zabrak knew how ironic it was for the assassin to ask for trust. He took a sip anyway, but not before he had tested the drink’s readings with his scanner while Kul had not been looking. The name was certainly fitting. The liquid made him instantly flush with heat, the alcohol spreading quickly through his body. Even though he had consumed strong drinks before, the sudden burst made him cough slightly. Kul grinned and set his drink down.

“I sometimes forget that other species cannot bear the hit as well as a Zabrak…”

He trailed off as he watched the Pantoran drain the rest of his glass in one gulp before he laughed and pounded the table with a fist. The shock made the Massiffs look up from their resting places with blinking eyes and looks of mild annoyance.

“Ha! That’s the way, mercenary! Another?” He asked as he offered the tall-necked bottle beside him.

Laren raised an outstretched palm.

“No, one is enough. Besides, surely you did not call me here just to share a drink and reminisce about your Iridonia?”

The Zabrak’s eyes grew stern and he set the bottle aside.

“No. I did not.”

“Then tell me why I am here.”

“Selika is the Dread Lord.”

The Pantoran scoffed.

“I’m quite aware, Drol. I was there.”

Kul shook his head.

“No no you know what I meant. Her ascendance feels somehow off to me. I can’t help but shake the feeling there’s something big at play.”

Laren couldn’t help but think, There’s always something at play with you Force types, but he did not say it aloud. Instead he voiced another concern.

“These are words that play to close to the edge of treason, Drol. Not something that I would expect from someone who harps about loyalties at me so often.”

Kul wore his face on his sleeve. His eyes cast down for a moment as he felt a brief tingling of guilt.

“Yes, well I will admit to being slightly wrong about you, Uscot. The strength you have shown to be able to thrive amongst Plagueis is respectable. But as for myself, you will know that the words I speak do not come lightly then.”

Laren nodded in understanding.

“So say I choose to believe that there may be a plot in action. What makes you assume that her Lordship is involved?”

Kul settled back into the rear of his chair, trying to find the right words to describe the ache in his mind.

“I don’t know for sure. I have some small leads I’m following through the Inquisitorius, but nothing solid yet. Regardless, I just know there’s something missing here. If only for the fact that she holds no care for those among the clan who are not gifted in the Force. Yourself, for example. If you’re willing to listen, I’d like to discuss possible safeguards.”

The thought had occurred to the mercenary. But with his own security mostly assured by his new position of power, he had considered himself reasonably safe. Still, it was known that Selika had no qualms about throwing the lives of the Willing and slaves away when necessary in her eyes. Perhaps keeping a close watch wouldn’t hurt? Not that he overly cared for the clan’s slaves, but he would like to avoid being lumped with them should lines be drawn.

“I’m listening, Drol…”


Orbit around Tonus
Outermost planet in the Aliso System
Unknown Regions
35 ABY

A new year had just dawned as space warped and the Upsilon-class command shuttle The Infinity popped out of hyperspace. At least, the new year as commonly accepted, originally based on the astronomical timing of the Old Republic capital Coruscant. The reality of measuring time across thousands of star systems of varying gravitational pull was a problem as infinite as the depths of a black hole, but a standard had been needed to aid inter-system trade. Such decisions had been made by high minded politicians and space-time experts hundreds of years ago, yet despite the galactic changes since some things remained the same.

For example, Moff Zanet Xox, former Master at Arms of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, was now a grand 100 years old.

Some beings across the galaxy would be celebrating the occasion. Not Xox’s centennial, a notable achievement even among Falleen, but the promise of the future and all it would bring. They were oblivious to the dark storms hiding just past the horizon.

Not everyone was celebrating. Billions of beings on far flung worlds, ignorant to an event whose very notation marked privilege from the drudgery of life, were not celebrating. The leaders of the New Republic, in disarray since the destruction of the Hosnian System, could not celebrate. Even Zanet, too preoccupied with tomorrow to consider today, did not care to celebrate.

His plan lay shattered at the feet of the Grand Master light years behind him. Ahead lay his future, and it was as ever-changing as the cloud formations of the gas giant he approached.

“We are being hailed,” came the crisp artificial voice of Dex, his HK-series assassin droid seated in the pilot’s chair. The droid’s matte black coat appeared to absorb all light, rendering it nearly invisible against the dark space outside the viewport.

A small holographic image appeared on the console, another Falleen, his green hued skin rendered blue by the communication signal. Teylas Ramar, Consul of Clan Plagueis, stood stately and nodded slightly, “Moff Xox, welcome to the Aliso System.”

Only a week prior, Ramar would have shown more deference as Magistrate to the Master at Arms. Now he was the Dread Lord addressing an asylum seeker, though one with well placed references.

“I thank you for welcoming me, Lord Ramar,” Zanet replied. He was not one to hold grudges or judge those who seized opportunities. Zanet was a player of the great game; setbacks were an expected, though frustrating, occurrence.

“We have been provided landing codes,” Dex said as the vessel drew near enough to the planet to shudder under the gravitational pull, “The ride may be bumpy.”

Office of the Dread Lord
The Anchorage
Upper Atmosphere of Tonus

“I find myself in a curious position,” the words dripped out of Teylas’ mouth with as much joy as the smirk on his face revealed, “You and I have worked together for months, and I am aware of your standing as representative for Master Dupar during his travels.”

Zanet, sitting opposite the Consul, took a sip of his brandy and listened. He had strategized his arrival for days, and while confident was always waiting for the unexpected.

“Yet you are also a known ally of Darth Pravus,” Teylas continued. “Thus, how I am to ascertain whether you come to us as friend of Aabsdu Dupar,” he paused to sip his own intoxicant, “or spy of the Grand Master?”

“Are you unable to read my mind?” Xox asked knowing his highly trained resolved would keep out most of the duplicitous force sensitives he now lived among. Teylas knew this, but knowledge did not stop him from sliding himself against the Moff’s mind. Zanet continued with his own smirk, “For what respect has formed between us, I call on that to assure you it is the former. I was brought into this by the Grand Master, yes, but current circumstances prove my standing with Pravus is diminished.”

Moments passed before Teylas responded, “One would think if the Grand Master lost trust in your service, you would not live to tell me.”

“My loyalty is two fold, Dread Lord. The Grand Master respects Dupar enough not to eliminate his proxy. My withdrawal as Master at Arms was…politics.”

More silence. Zanet continued, “Clan Plagueis is the home of Aabsdu Dupar, former Dread Lord. When appointed his delegate, he accorded me all rights and privileges, including those of the di Plagia.”

“Then you seek to blackmail me into following the wishes of a man who has never set foot in this system,” Teylas snapped, “I ask myself how much Dupar would care if he returned to discover you had simply vanished. Poached by another firm, perhaps. Do you speak with him?”

“I do, and am happy to arrange a correspondence,” Zanet answered, “but I hope to sway you on my own. I am not here to divide. I seek to help those Dupar was loyal to as if he were here himself. Now, that entity is Plagueis, and I wholly offer my services.”

Zanet’s objective extended far beyond the political whims of any position. He could easily flee the cult of the Brotherhood, like so many other contracts, but Zanet could see past the horizon now. Aabsdu had told him whispers of what lay ahead, and he had committed himself to ensuring Dupar, Plagueis, and the Brotherhood prepared.

Teylas Ramar stood, “It matters little to me. I am soon stepping down as Dread Lord to spend more time with the Master at Arms.”

At that, Zanet smiled openly, “I taught you well.”

“You think too highly of yourself,” Teylas quipped as he headed toward the entrance. Zanet followed as the Consul held out a hand. “I will be watching,” he said as Zanet shook.

Clan Plagueis, home of his benefactor, would prove useful to accomplishing the mission Zanet had set upon nearly a year prior. He may have been taken off the board, no longer a trusted confidant of the Grand Master, but Zanet Xox still knew the game was being played.

And knowing was half the battle.


Korada Monastery
35 ABY

Furios stood still, silent, and invisible, meditating on the future of the clan in a trance-like state. The sounds of the ocean waves were all that broke the silence as the new Quaestor of House Karness Muur stared out over the waters. Standing on his new balcony, the comings and goings of Plagueians and slaves gently echoed from the courtyard below. A lot of changes had just occurred but the goals of the clan on Aliso didn’t. Their efforts to make Aliso their home would not be impeded.

10-Alliel "The Circle"
Aliso system
35 ABY, Two Weeks Earlier

The searing thrums, swings, and clashes of training sabers echoed in the colosseum-like structure of the Training Ring. Proselyte Malacath and the Novices of The Circle sparred with training droids while their Taskmaster watched from the ring above. A mildly frustrated scowl adorned his face as he input various correctional notes on his datapad. He’d just lost three students during their trials and was growing frustrated and concerned. They had all failed to internalize the full attitude of Clan Plagueis and it was only a matter of time before the Overseer decided the failure rate was higher than the desire to produce dedicated, competent members of the Ascendant Clan. He grumbled under his breath as a student overextended himself and received a burning blow to the abdomen. The Taskmaster was recording the mistake when an idea came to him. He’d seen Abadeer Taasii make a similar mistake during his little training session. Perhaps some decent sport was in order. Furios made a couple of final notes on his datapad and pulled up the training droid controls. He turned it up to eleven (a custom addition for The Circle) and watched each of his students succumb to the burning pain of training sabers.
The Epicanthix strode back to his office while his students grunted and cried out in pain. He pulled out his chair and sat at his desk, pulling a bottle of clear spirits from the chiller behind him. One of the perks of virtually teaching children all day in Clan Plagueis was access to a decent supply of alcohols. He poured himself a shot, paused for a moment, and drank it before deactivating the training droids. He barked orders into his comm link, echoing into the Training Ring below. The Battlelord opened a channel to the Korada Monastery on Aliso, hailing the Quaestor of House Karness Muur. A few moments passed and he took another shot. The holoprojector on his desk flickered to life with the figure of Arden Karn.

“Greetings, Quaestor,” the Epicanthix stated plainly.

“Furios, speak of the devil!” the House leader exclaimed. “I was just talking about you.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask what that conversation pertained to,” the Taskmaster replied with mild sarcasm.

“I’d like to make use of your facilities to test my Aedile. The summit has something in mind for him and we need to verify his abilities.”

“Coincidentally, I’d like to do the same. He’s taught my students a bad habit and I want to break it, starting with him.”

“Are the children not holding your interest?” Arden asked almost rhetorically.

The Taskmaster only frowned in response.

“Then I believe we can kill two birds with one stone,” the Quaestor continued.

Korada Monastery
35 ABY

The late afternoon sun was warm over the beaches of Aliso. Abadeer Taasii sped his Starhawk along the coast, crossing the cove that approached the ancient building as waves crashed along the northern cliffside. The Togruta slowed his speeder to a crawl as he reached the stone of the monastery courtyard. Sentries perched atop the compound’s towers checked his return as the vehicle pulled into the South Garage. He dismounted the speeder and boarded the personnel lift, turning his thoughts over in his mind. A sudden tone sounded from his communicator, snapping him back to attention.

“Taasii here,” the Warrior answered into his wrist unit.

“Aedile, anything to report?” the Quaestor queried quizzically.

“Business as usual.”

“That’s good, but don’t get comfortable,” Arden commanded. “I need you to report to 10-Alliel. It seems you owe the Taskmaster some quality time.”

Abadeer frowned. He’d just been there three days prior and something told him this would be anything but a cordial visit. “Understood, I will depart immediately,” he replied before redirecting the lift to the hangar.

10-Alliel "The Circle"
Aliso system
35 ABY

The command shuttle’s wings folded up as its landing gear touched down on the hangar floor. The ramp descended slowly as hydraulic stream exhausted around it. Abadeer descended as the ramp touched the ground. Two sizeable Ravagers of Furios’ personal unit met him at the bottom. They bowed slightly, restricted by their black armor and the rifles in their arms. “Taskmaster Furios is expecting you, Lord Taasii. If you’ll please follow us.”

This greeting didn’t improve his perspective of the situation. He followed The Circle’s enforcers from the hangar down the corridor. The feeling of scanners and eyes made him ever so slightly uncomfortable. The commandos reached the sealed security door and opened it with the security key on his belt. They led the Togruta to the railing around the Training Ring where the grunts and thuds of some particularly rough sounding training could be heard. As he approached the ring he could see the tall Epicanthix dressed in fatigues, sparring with a student. The Taskmaster stepped to the left before kicking his student’s knee out and flipping him onto his back. The audible crack of either ribs or vertebrae preceded a particularly painful scream from the Novitiate. A pair of facility medics entered the ring, carrying a stretcher for the injured young man. As they took him to the medical bay, Furios turned to face the Aedile above him. “Welcome back, Taasii. Would you please join me?”

The Togruta raised an eyebrow. “Alright, Furios. We can dance if we want to.”

Abadeer hopped over the railing, drawing his crimson saber to life. He was almost shaking with anticipation. His legs were poised to charge, his hand gripped tightly around his weapon. He was ready for the challenge. Furios did not step into a stance or draw his saber. He simply held up his hand, gesturing for the Warrior to stop. With another signal from the Taskmaster, two students entered the arena and stood before their teacher. They were the ones Abadeer had trained himself on.
“Malacath, show us the technique you picked up from Lord Taasii,” the teacher instructed.

The Proselyte drew his saber and readied himself before the equites. Furios readied his weapon as well, activating it with a searing hiss. The student began with a short series of rudimentary strikes that were quickly and precisely parried. The Aedile watched with almost bored impatience. The Novitiate shifted his weight forward, setting up a Djem So technique that the Togruta immediately recognized. The Battlelord allowed the strike to hit his saber, pushing it wildly to the side. The other equite almost smiled at how well the maneuver was executed but it was in vain. Unfortunately, the successful blow left the user overextended but rather than recover from it, Morega stepped in and punched the student’s exposed ribs hard. He fell to the ground, holding his side.

“This is what happens when you don’t follow up your strike,” the Epicanthix stated as his students left the ring. “My battle team might be weak and pathetic but they only do what they’re taught. You taught them this so what about you, Taasii? Are you weak as well?”

Abadeer chuckled at the insult, “Maybe. Care to find out?”

“Would I have called you here if I didn’t?”

The Warrior drew his saber once again while his opponent turned and shifted into his own defensive stance. He charged the battle team leader and aimed a powerful blow at his head. The cerulean blade snapped to meet it. The Togruta moved to strike again but the blade only connected with air. Furios had stepped out of reach and now pressed his attack. Fast, deadly jabs and slashes pushed the Aedile back, keeping him on the defensive. He parried and blocked but the intense effort required to keep up was steadily starting to strain. He jumped back, forcing the Taskmaster to halt his assault. He lightly panted while the Battlelord exhaled slowly and deliberately.

The Aedile caught his breath and charged. Fast, strong swings were precisely redirected away from the taller Equite with quick parries. Suddenly the Epicanthix stepped in and swiped his opponent’s saber to the side. The Sith Adherent’s saber was pushed down as he saw that Furios had done just what he’d been chastising Abadeer for and overextended himself. He almost smiled as he made to riposte a slash at the exposed tricep. With a blur of motion, the Warrior slashed at air. The Taskmaster had spun around, moving his saber arm safely out of reach. The surprised Togruta barely gasped as the balled fist connected with his head. Abadeer fell to the floor, his left montral ringing. The man standing above him waited silently for him to get up.

“Strike one, Taasii.”


10-Alliel "The Circle"
Aliso system
35 ABY, Two Weeks Earlier

“Strike one.” Furios looked down on Taasii, an almost condescending look in his eyes. It was as if he was saying, “How dare you try to use my own move against me?” Abadeer could only hear out of his right side. The left was ringing constantly, an incredibly painful sensation for one who relied heavily on montrals to hear.

“You’re problem, Warrior Taasii, is that you are overconfident. Everything has come so easily for you, you’ve come the ranks too quickly. You been handed everything you’ve got, and now when things get a little difficult you expect them to continue to be handed to you on a silver platter. That’s just not how the world works, and I’m here to help you learn that.”

Furios continued on, but Abadeer was droning him out. He was drawing on the Force around him, bringing it to left side of his head where it was slowly healing what internal damage there may have been to his montral. It wasn’t serious, but it still took a few moments.

“Are you ignoring me?” Furios roared. This caught Abadeer’s attention, as it was followed up by a boot coming right towards him. The kick caught him square in the ribs, a sharp pain spreading throughout his side.

“If you’re going to be so arrogant as to never learn, then you’re not fit to be in the position you are.” Furios followed up with his saber across the Togruta’s face. It was set to training mode, but it still burned intensely. The last hit had been enough though, now Abadeer could feel his rage welling up inside of him. He would no longer allow this humiliation to continue.

Another kick came for Abadeer’s head, but the Warrior’s now Force enhanced reflexes allowed him to catch the kick mid-flight. Furios grunted slightly as he tried to pull his foot away, but the Aedile was no long his punching bag. Abadeer closed his hand, trying to crush the foot he now held. Furios grunted again, this time pulling with much more strength to get away from Abadeer’s crushing grip. Taasii let him go, giving a bit of a shove to overbalance the Epicanthix.

Taasii stood, igniting both lightsabers. He would not be hit this time. He would make sure of it. Abadeer launched into a furious tirade of blows. Each one was swift, precise, heavy and deadly. The rage that was consuming him was pushing all of his abilities to their upper limits. He knew it was destroy his body for the next several days, but he didn’t care. Furios had to pay now. The Battlelord, to his credit, did not falter. He stayed focused on Abadeer’s attacks and was able to block or dodge them effectively.

Abadeer continued his assault, frustrated that he could not land a blow. His attacks became wilder. Each swing was heavier, but there was no precision to his attacks. Furios danced easily between the raging blows, not needing to waste his energy blocking them. After only a few moments though, the attacks began to slow. Abadeer’s rage began to falter, as did his body. His muscles had been pushed past their normal limits, and were entirely shredded. Furios looked at him, shaking his head.

“You have great power, but you do not yet know how to fully wield it. Maybe next time you will fair a bit better.” He pulled back one arm, and punched directly into the side of the Togruta’s head. There was nothing Abadeer could do about it, as his arms were held limply at his side, unable to move. He fell to the floor, darkness creeping up on him. He would get his revenge.


18km North of Supply Base Omega
35 ABY

“Do you think this is a bloody game?”

“NO SIR!” came the unified reply through strained breaths.

It had taken Laren and the platoon he had selected for training a little over three hours to reach their destination. As the Quaestor, he wanted to instill some direct authority into the troops relegated to his command. Having been a career mercenary until he had found Clan Plagueis, Laren thought of no better way to test troops than to push their limits to and beyond their breaking point. He wanted to know how far their conditioning went, how loyal they were to attaining their objectives, and what it took to break them. If combat couldn’t be found, the Pantoran mercenary saw no other means to effectively test them.

Laren had ulterior motives for escaping the dreary confines of the Supply Station. Since he had been introduced to his new Aedile, Kelly Mendes, he had been on guard. When Teylas Ramar had been the Dread Lord, he knew he was relatively protected from the prejudices that plagued the majority of the Sith. If he performed his tasks to the utmost peak of his ability, he maintained his rare status among the diabolical Force-wielders. However, Laren suspected that her presence was due to the new Dread Lord, Selika - a woman who had failed to ever hide her disdain for the Forceless mercenary. Clearly she respected his ability, but he knew that with her in power over the Clan, his position as Quaestor was tenuous at best.

And so that morning he had organized a march. He chose thirty of his troops and random and ordered them to gather their gear. Within fifteen minutes, a group of heavily armored soldiers met the equally laden Pantoran at the north side of the Supply Station. Not only would he push his troops and himself to the limit, but he would manage to justify an extended escape from the daily administration of the House. Since Teylas had left, his undocumented excursions had been cut short, and the leash with which he was allowed to operate stood beside the heels of the dangerously beautiful and deadly Dread Lord.

With the sun peaking over the flat top of the valley, Laren had led the march deeper north into the valley. He set a strikingly quick pace that was even beginning to push the limits of his own stamina. Halfway through the march he had turned to look at his troops. Some were falling behind, but their conditioning through initial combat training forced them to keep their mouths shut. None would complain, but no one soldier or slave had the same capability as another, gear not withstanding. And yet the lot trudged on single file, ignoring the calls of their bodies to stop and rest in favour of following the fanatical Quaestor to their unknown objective.

Yet once they finally stopped and waited, standing in two ranks, Laren was unsatisfied. They had pushed and performed, yet something was missing. Something was amiss. Something that even the crazed Quaestor couldn’t exactly put his finger on was - off.

“You have two minutes to strip your armor and gear. Form a circle around me when you are done. Move! Move! MOVE!”

What has gotten into you? he asked himself incredulously as he fiddled with his equipment. I’m being watched, Laren replied to himself. The moment my usefulness as an asset is questioned, I am finished. He dropped the Inquistorious armor he had been wearing to the ground in a heap, exposing a soiled black tank-top and his lean, sweaty body. Kul’tak saw it. I can see it. Hell, I bet some of the Knights can see it. The armor around his legs was released and fell to the ground, and he placed his DC-17 hand blaster and his blaster carbine neatly atop the pile. I’m going to show these fools exactly why they need me.

Laren looked up to see thirty troops assembled before him, forming a circle around him. He hadn’t been counting how long it took them, but he himself was feeling the effects of the march. His body ached and called for water and rest, but he forced himself to remain loose and mobile. His breathing was deep and hoarse, yet he tried to maintain some form of calm. He looked inward, using his training to focus on a single point in his mind and pushing his pains and worries to the periphery. Yet before he could form a void, the figure of a face he had not expected to see at the edge of the platoon shattered its formation.

“What in the bloody hell are you doing here, Mendes?” Laren growled at the human woman at the far end of the platoon.

Kelly ran a hand through he damp brown hair and laughed, though Laren knew there was no amusement behind the sing-song guffaw. She stepped forward, her robes barely damp and her lightsabers on her hip, standing a few feet away from the shocked Laren.

“My Lord,” she said mockingly, followed by a horrid curtsy not fit for any court in the galaxy. “I simply wished to partake in the festivities - to see your training regime in action, for what it’s worth. Instead, I learned that my Lord’s thoughts are clouded with doubt and confusion.”

“You stay out of my thoughts, Mendes,” Laren barked, reaching for his hand blaster with nearly unnatural speed. He ripped the weapon from its leather holster and pointed it at Kelly. However, the Savant was quick, and she had her own lightsabers in hand and activated, ready to defend herself from any attack Laren could throw at her.

“Whatever you may think of me, I’m not here to kill you,” Kelly said after a moment, relaxing her stance. She returned her lightsabers to her hip and crossed her arms over her chest. “If that had been the intention, you would already have been dead.”

How in the bloody hell did I miss her, Laren found himself thinking. How did I not notice - how did I not see?

“I can guarantee you this, mercenary: we won’t like each other. Frankly if I was given the chance, I most likely would kill you. Yet the Dread Lord, in her wisdom, still sees some use in you, and so you retain your status among our kin. Until such a time, I am yours to command.” This time she bowed her head with a reverence Laren had not seen before, before returning to gaze at him quizzically.

She may be Selika’s eyes, but she will be my bloody hammer.

“All right, Lady Mendes. Ask the soldiers to identify the slowest member of the platoon -” a grin flashed upon Laren’s face, toothy and all-too devoid of anything cordial before he continued, “and kill him.”

“Shall we end there?” she asked as she turned to face the stunned troops.

“Perhaps not. I only want the fifteen best in front of me in ten minutes. If the rest aren’t dead, they’re all dead anyway. Make it so, Lady Mendes.”

Six hours later
Supply Station Omega
Quaestor’s quarters
35 ABY

Laren returned later in the day, parting ways with the fifteen remaining soldiers and his new Aedile. She had certainly made an impression on the Pantoran, and perhaps she had achieved whatever objective she had set for herself in their interaction. Laren suspected that she needed to gain his trust and learn his methods of operation, making it a possibility to learn of his motivations, loyalties, and intentions. She was a student of battle in the same way he was, and he knew the best way trap a potential enemy was to corner them before they even know you’re there.

Yet she had played a little of her own hand in the process. Not only had Laren discovered that she was an asset that he could use with some reliability, but perhaps Kelly could be used as a method to stay apprised of the intentions of the Dread Lord. He knew that the coming days would require Laren to create a solid escape plan in the instance that he was no longer welcome in Clan Plagueis, and he needed information. What little he could gather from Kelly’s objectives surrounding his own reconnaissance would prove invaluable in saving his life.

The commlink on his desk suddenly sprung to life, and the form of Kul’tak appeared. An unlikely ally in their interest to learn all they could of the Dread Lord and her plots, he would never consider the imposing man a friend. He was an asset and an equal, nothing more.

“Drol,” the mercenary nodded his greeting. “We may have found an unlikely asset. Listen closely…”

Some would consider their encrypted discussions treason. Yet throughout their discussion, Laren had the prickling sensation of being watched. Could Selika suspect the deep distrust Laren and Kul’tak shared of her rule? What did she know? Yet treason was, perhaps, their only option for survival.


Aliso City
35 ABY

The Geonosians had damaged the city; here they were helping with the reconstruction efforts. A testament to the wisdom, bravery and selfishness of the Dread Lord. Had Kelly known her promotion to Quaestor at Laren’s expense would necessitate babysitting a bunch of bugs, she might have turned it down. To make things even worse, she needed to use a translator droid to be able to do her job. Still, it wasn’t like anyone spoke the language, so the bucket of bolts would have to do. It had been a significant conflict, to say the least. First, the droids then came the Geonosians themselves.

The Dread Lord had big plans for the planet, what those plans where Kelly wasn’t in a position to know. It bothered her a little, being promoted and still not being trusted with anything. Well, she had been saddled with a student, he only went by the name Obsidian, not something she understood but had to deal with. He was almost ready to be put forward for Knighthood, enough, so he had already left The Circle to join up with Ajunta Pall. She would have to summon him once she was able to return to Supply Station Omega. Still, she had work to do for the moment.

“No, not there, you stupid droid.” Kelly barked at the translator who was pointing the Geonosians in the wrong direction. It seemed this particular translator wasn’t very good with his motor functions. The Quaestor shook her head in disgust; surely it wasn’t supposed to be this bad. Maybe this was a bizarre way of punishing her; Kelly wasn’t sure why Selika would feel the need to punish her, but couldn’t offer another explanation. Still, her time was nearly done, she could retreat to the sanctuary of the supply station soon, just had to wait for Azmodius to arrive. Luckily, she wasn’t waiting long as the newly appointed Aedile announced his arrival by tapping her on the shoulder. Surprised by the touch, the woman spun around, gave her Aedile a stern look, then proceeded to walk towards the shuttle that would take her back to Supply Station Omega.

Command Centre
Supply Station Omega
Later that day

“My Lord, we have a man at the entrance, says he’s here to see you. Only identifies as Obsidian. Shall we let him in?” A rather nervous looking guard reported to the now sitting Quaestor.
“Sure, send him up, I probably need to have some words with him at some point. May as well get it over with. Oh, and just before you go, maybe tell him he better be prepared to bend the knee.”

“Yes, My Lord, as you say.” The guard looked even more nervous than before. He would do as told, but he wasn’t sure if he’d survive carrying out his orders.

Kelly eagerly awaited the arrival of her apprentice; it would be interesting to see how he’d react.

“I don’t even know why I’m here; I don’t need you, I was doing just fine by myself.” Obsidian wasted no time in letting his feelings be known. He may only have been a Hunter, but he was confident in his abilities.

“Heh, I like your moxie kid, maybe you won’t be a total waste. But you’re wrong about not needing me, as you’ll find out soon enough. For now, I’ve got a mission for you. Go somewhere, anywhere at all, and train. Just because you aren’t fighting for your life anymore no need to get out of practice.”

“I don’t need to train, or need you. Why don’t you get that?” The rebellious Journeyman spoke out against his master. Why had this been done to him? He was the most promising of his class in The Circle, and he needed mentoring? Still, he appreciated not having to live in those conditions anymore. Obsidian stormed out, and Kelly returned to her new found Quaestor work.


Supply Station Omega
Aliso City Outskirts

The recently promoted Zuser Whuloc sat on a crate, resting his chin in his gauntleted palm, arm perched on his knee. In his other hand, he rolled a chance cube. His gaze went to the empty sky, waiting for something, anything. He had recently sold the Auzituck ship. It didn’t feel right, too cramped. He dropped his arm and let out an aggravated sigh as he leaned back on the crate, looking straight up.

Zuser missed the Chaser. He’d sold the Phantom shortly after the Geonosion mess. It was too big of a ship, way too big. He thought he could get used to it but the dimensions and the fact that he was seated on the side of the ship became too much of a headache. Too many times he scraped the opposite side of the Phantom on some surface or drifted too close to a hangar bay wall. It happened so often Zuser gave up on repairing the same spot over and over again. He slipped the chance cube into his pocket as he looked at his pocket chrono.

It should be here any minute now. Maybe this ship will feel a little better.

He heard the familiar sound of repulsors kicking in and he snapped his head up to see the supply ships fly in from the atmosphere.


The Mystic vaulted himself off the crate and waited for the ships to land.


Zuser stood with the attendant outside the YT-1000 Light Freighter, painted black and green.

The maverick sighed to himself as the attendant, having had the datapad signed by Zuser, walked off. He keyed in the access panel and the ramp lowered, that old-yet-new ship smell hitting the young human’s nose full force. He took a deep breath and walked up the ramp, taking in his new digs. It felt better. Not great, but better. After flying and caring for a Firespray for so long, it took a long time to get used to anything else. He walked around the ship, checking panels and other devices to make sure they were operational. Zuser soon found himself at the cockpit, this time at the full front of the ship, which felt more familiar. He sat down in the pilot seat, running a hand along the controls to get a feel of his new ship.

You’re gonna need a name…

He thought to himself as he mulled over names. Zuser activated the controls, going through pre-flight procedures as the new craft came to life.

“Alright Spectre. Let’s get you home so Widget can get acquainted with you.”


Korada Monastery Hangar

Zuser flew the newly dubbed Spectre into the Hangar, a few heads turning at the appearance of a new ship. Widget rolled up to her master and emitted a short series of beeps which appeared as translated on the maverick’s wrist communicator.

“Yeah, this is our new ship. Widget, meet Spectre. Go on inside and get familiar with her. I’ll start loading equipment and gear onboard.”

The little droid beeped in acknowledgement as she rolled up the ramp and Zuser went to push a crate inside. The Mystic liked the Monastery, namely because it was on the coast. He liked that salty smell in the air and the ocean breeze always felt nice. Speaking of the wind, a while ago he volunteered to help with setting up machines that will harness the wind for power. His Master, Tra’an Reith, urged him to help better Plagueis, and who was he to disobey his Master.


Korada Monastery

The halls echoed with the rhythmic slapping of Kul’s footfalls as he strode past one of the loading bays used for supply drops. Sparing a passing glance (he would need to remember to see if his order for more zhaboka wood had arrived), he recognized the energetic form of the pilot Whuloc. His presence brimmed with an anxiety skirting the edge of both ecstasy and regret. The Zabrak halted suddenly. Unprepared, a small figure that had been trailing behind him crashed into his leg in a jumble that would have made any scout trooper flinch. With a short twist of his neck Kul focused his full attention on this young, human female. His tone was cold and reproving.

“Reeka. What have I said about becoming distracted? You must be aware of what is happening around you in order to react to situations accordingly.”

The small girl bowed her head in disciplined shame, tugging at her concealing cloak with tiny fingers so that her hood fell away to reveal long locks of brown hair billowing over her smooth, yet thin, features. She had yet to gain back all of her weight from living on the streets of the Herald’s Matron, but was making good progress. Beneath the daunting gaze of her “father” (it had surprised him the first time she had called him that, but he let it slide. The title was a good sign of loyalty.) her words flowed carefully on her dainty breaths.

“I-I-I’m sorry, Father. Everything here is so new.”

Kul faced forward again, trying to hide the small twitching at the edges of his mouth. He could understand the feeling. Even though Plagueis had given him scars, physically and mentally, he could not deny the fact that he’d been able to see some amazing things because of them.

But he wasn’t about to ruin what training he’d already given her by closing the distance from master to parent.

“A fair point, perhaps, if you had the luxury of such things. However, you’re here to learn. Follow.”

Without waiting for a response, Kul continued on his way with hands clasped behind his back. Reeka found her eyes attracted to the flowing design embroidered on his cloak: a silver, stylized image of a Krayt Dragon. Churning her stringy legs to keep up, she took a place to his left and tried to focus on her surroundings. She was not gifted in the Force like the Zabrak who’d rescued her from thugs, but her keen perception had served her well enough to survive as an orphan on those metallic streets. When it wasn’t distracted by the closest shiny object.

They continued this way throughout the monastery. Every so often Reeka would break into short skips as though she were having fun just walking alongside him, but Kul would stop and correct her with a reprimanding glare. She’d bow her head and repent, only to repeat the cycle sometime later. Regardless of how much he disciplined her, he doubted he would ever conquer her will completely. He’d leave that sort of work to someone like Selika. As long as Reeka proved to be the efficient tool he hoped she would, he was more than happy to leave her some creative freedom. Dread Lord knows he appreciated the freedom Plagueis and the Inquisitorius gave him.

Their journey brought them finally before a turbo lift. Opening the door, Kul shuffled his protégée inside. As the lift began to descend, Kul began to sense uneasiness wafting from the girl.

Good. Her instincts are strong.

He curled his fingers, hesitant, before placing his hand lightly, but more than a little awkwardly, upon the crown of the child’s head. It was not a gesture Zabrak would normally make, because of their horns, but Kul was aware it often gave humans a sense of being protected by their parents. The light trembling eased off beneath his touch, but the air was rife with her uncertainty.

“Reeka. Do you know why I wear a Krayt symbol upon my back?”

With his hand there she could only move so much, but she shook her head enough to confirm her answer.

“The Krayt Dragon is a predator of great power. It stands only under us sentients as the top of the food chain in its environment, and not many are willing to challenge it one-on-one due to its ferocity and dominating size. It uses these strengths in order to defeat its prey and other enemies…”

The lift came to an abrupt stop and the door snapped open, revealing the dank underground where the slaves were housed. A uniformed officer was waiting for them and snapped a salute as Kul gave him a nod. With a forceful shove, Kul sent Reeka careening to the ground at the man’s feet.

“…As you will now use what I’ve taught you to defeat yours. Survive for a week here, Reeka, and you will have earned a place in my Umbra squad. Fail…and your corpse will at least be useful for fertilizing Aliso’s growth.”

The girl gazed up at him with shock and tears covering her face.


Kul smashed a thumb into the turbolift’s keypad and the door began to close.

“Survive, Reeka.”

His last image of her until the next week burned itself into his memory, and an unfamiliar sensation squeezed his chest. His hands shook so he balled them into fists. This only gave his feelings a tool of application and suddenly his fist slammed into the durasteel fueled by rage.

Survive, Reeka. Please.


35 ABY
The Circle

The near crimson Kel Dor walked through the circle attempting an air of dominance and intimidation as he watched his fellow members of the Brotherhood train. Behind goggles his pitch black eyes focused on the lightsaber battles that drew his attention most of all, it had been a long few weeks since he had joined the Brotherhood and he didn’t think he would ever get used to all of these force users in one place. They seemed powerful enough to him but he had heard stories of how they paled in comparison to the senior members. It sent a shiver down his spine.

He had just finished training and was headed to the library to study more about the Brotherhood and its members. TuQ’uan Varick had always prided himself on procuring information and sometimes that meant long periods in a library, plus he had just been promoted to Journeyman and had to meet some expectations. He had been climbing the ranks here quickly and had barely anytime to register that he had joined the Brotherhood, let alone that he held such a rank already.

How the hell had even got here? His life seemed so strange to him now, almost like a dream, or sometimes a nightmare.

Busy Street
Nar Shaddaa
35 ABY
2 Months Ago

The streets of Nar Shaddaa were a hustle and bustle of characters all with somewhere to go and mostly illegal wares to sell. A hunched figure moved with the crowd down the streets wide brimmed hat pulled low hiding his face. Seeing his opportunity the figure slipped unnoticed down an empty thin alleyway. Straightening his stance and pulling out his data pad TuQ’uan plugged it into a security terminal located near a door a little less than halfway down the alley. I don’t have much time he thought to himself. After a short burst of typing a click was heard from the door. TuQ’uan glanced around quickly, taped at the datapad a few times before unplugging and slipping in the door.

Moving as quickly as he dared up a flight of stairs and down a hallway TuQ’uan glanced from door to door. He came to a halt two steps past a particular door. He almost missed it. Pressing his ear to the door he listened closely for any sound coming from the other side until he was satisfied (and running short on time). Opening the door just enough to let himself through he glanced around the room looking for the terminal locating it in the corner of the bare concrete room near a small window.

He inserted a spike into the terminal and powered it on pausing only briefly to glance out the window into the alley two floors below where he had entered. Good, it was still empty. But it won’t be for too long.

Going back to the terminal he began searching for the data he came for. Before locating it he heard a ruckus from outside as three burly men came lumbering down the alley. Damn, they’re back sooner that expected. Well, they’re in for a shock.

As the men reached the door the man in the lead reached for the security terminal and was suddenly thrown backwards, his heart stopped and smoke rose from his body.

“WHAT THE FRAK?!” One of the other men yelled.

TuQ’uan left them a nasty surprise in the form of an overloading terminal, that door was now useless as an escape route. That should slow them down a bit, but not for long. As the other two men in the alley began to realize something was very wrong TuQ’uan increased the speed of his search. Finally hidden deep in the terminal and under quite a few layers of encryption he found what he was looking for. Quickly he put a data disc in and copied the files he needed, while the files copied he checked his blaster.

Grabbing the data card and spike from the terminal he slipped them into a hidden pocket in the back of his jacket and slipped back out the door of the room. The two men had gone around to another door and he could hear them running up the stairs to his right which meant he was going left and up. Well they know I’m here now. Smoke started to waft out of the room behind TuQ’uan as he bolted down the hall.

TuQ’uan pulled his blaster from it’s holster on his hip and fired two quick shots at the men beginning to emerge from the stairwell at the opposite end of the hall letting them know which way to follow before turning the corner and disappearing up the stairs.

The memory of their recently deceased friend still fresh in their minds the two men were more than a little apprehensive when they reached the top of the stairs. The door to the roof of the building stood slightly ajar. Looking around cautiously the first man nudged the door with his foot, when he was satisfied that the door wasn’t going to kill him he gently pushed the door open further with his foot keeping his blaster trained on the opening. The men slowly moved through the door onto the roof of the building the first man going left and the second going right, eyes sweeping for any sign of TuQ’uan. The first man looked around at the flat roof they stood on, the only thing on the roof was the concrete cube with the door back into the stairwell on one side and nowhere for TuQ’uan to hide.

Where the hell did he go?! The first man thought to himself as he looked around the empty space. A sudden realization came to him, he was alone now, he began to spin around.

A blaster shot rang out.

The first man’s body fell to the ground still turning around.

TuQ’uan stepped over the body of the second man, a pool of blood forming from his neck. TuQ’uan slipped his blaster back into it’s holster and activated his comm unit.

“Vos, I got it, can I get an extraction”

“On my way,” Vos Dusan replied.

On Board The Smuggler Ship The Wild Rancor
35 ABY
A Few Hours Later

TuQ’uan sat in his quarters which were no more than a spare jump seat and a desk made of piled boxes supporting a piece of scrap durasteel. He sat with his datapad in hand looking through the files he had acquired on Nar Shaddaa seeing if it was worth the price being offered or if they needed to renegotiate the terms of the job.

At first nothing really caught his attention, it just looked like boring old corporate espionage, it seemed someone had a vendetta against a company called Hyperdyne Industries. In all actuality it seemed to him that they were being paid way too much for this information. TuQ’uan was about ready to put the datapad away and get some rest when something caught his eye. A name actually.

Laren Uscot.

What the hell was Uscot doing in these files? TuQ’uan knew Uscot mainly through reputation though they had met a couple of times a few years ago on Onderon. And even though they weren’t necessarily what you’d call “friendly” (then again this wasn’t exactly what you’d call a friendly business) TuQ’uan definitely had respect for Uscot and even though he hadn’t heard anything about Uscot in quite some time now he wasn’t someone TuQ’uan wanted to be on the bad side of.

Suddenly the door slid open and Vos was standing on the other side. Vos was light skinned for a Kel Dor and a few inches shorter than TuQ’uan but he made up for the lack of height with extra muscles.

“We’re here, let’s go.” Vos barked before turning around and leaving.

TuQ’uan grabbed the datacard and slipped it into a secret pocket in his jacket before following Vos through the ship. Vos spoke without turning.

“Did you find anything of interest?”

He sounds tense, something doesn’t seem right here. “Nothing” TuQ’uan lied. Vos came to a stop at the top of the loading ramp and turned towards him, he shook his head and stretched his hand out.

“Give it here.”

When TuQ’uan didn’t move, Vos continued on.

“Look I’m going to need you to hand that datacard over to me right now.”

So that’s how this is going to be. TuQ’uan started to drop his hand towards his blaster but before he could Vos had lunged forward and tackled him the the ground. A fist smashed into the side of TuQ’uan’s head knocking it into the ground and blurring his vision. Regaining some clarity TuQ’uan was able throw Vos off of him and clamber to his feet needing to take just a moment to steady himself. TuQ’uan’s hand grabbed for the handle of his blaster getting it just out of its holster when


His blaster dropped to the ground as Vos connected with his forearm using a metal rod. In a near fluid movement Vos was on his feet again, he took the few steps towards TuQ’uan with amazing speed. Suddenly they are eye to eye (well as eye to eye as their height difference will let them be) Vos’ hand on TuQ’uan’s shoulder pulling him in close almost to a hug. TuQ’uan was stunned, unable to move. He tilted his head in confusion beginning to realize Vos had stuck a vibrodagger in his abdomen.

“Sorry TuQ, it’s nothing personal but I was offered more double the credits if no one knew what was on that Datacard and I like credits. I just want you to know I don’t take any pleasure in killing you.” Vos twisted the dagger. “Well maybe some pleasure.”

TuQ’uan’s confusion quickly turned to anger. The muscles in his face tightened. He pulled his head back and smashed his forehead into Vos’ face hitting him in the Antiox mask. Again he pulled back to smash his head into Vos’. Again and again he smashed his forehead in Vos’ until Vos fell backwards dazed and blood trickled down TuQ’uan’s face. He drove his foot into Vos’ head a few times to ensure he would stay down and then reached down and began to rip his Antiox mask off. Struggling Vos started to grab at TuQ’uan’s arm in an attempt to stop him but it was too late, the oxygen in the atmosphere was already filling his lungs and poisoning him. TuQ’uan finished pulling his mask off and dropped it on the floor, giving it one good stomp with his foot he heard a satisfying crunch as the mask became irreparable.

Gasping for breath against his will Vos writhed in pain, oxygen quickly spreading throughout his body, every breath making it so much worse. TuQ’uan pulled the vibrodagger out of his abdomen before reaching down and dragging Vos by the throat over to the loading ramp of the ship.

“Don’t worry Vos, I did get pleasure from killing you.” He gave one good shove and watched Vos roll down the ramp onto the ground at the bottom. Placing his hand over his wound he hit the control panel lifting the ramp closed and walked away towards what was considered the medbay on the ship.

35 ABY
A Few Days Later

TuQ’uan sat in a dark poorly lit booth in a cantina. Nobody paid attention to him because in turn nobody wanted the attention. Silently and almost before he could notice a Pantoran male slid into the booth across from him.

“I’m glad to see you got my message.” TuQ’uan said, trying to keep a sense of levity as he motioned to the cantina around them. “Just like old times right?”

Laren did not look amused and continued to glare at TuQ’uan with his piercing golden eyes. He shifted uncomfortably. Taking a breath TuQ’uan straightened up and reached into his jacket to pull out the datacard, he placed it on the table between himself and Laren.

“This is why I asked you to join me here.” His voice took on a more serious tone. “Someone hired my, former, partner and I to steal this.” He nodded toward the card and Laren picked it up and inserted it into his datapad. As Laren’s eyes scanned the information their hostility seemed to shift away from TuQ’uan and onto what he was looking at.

“It seems like someone was looking into you. Out of what you’d call a “professional courtesy” I decided present you with the information instead.”

Without looking up from the datapad Laren spoke. “And I suppose you’d like some credits for all of this trouble?”

TuQ’uan made a small shrug. “Well it would be appreciated. I made sure that was the only copy. The terminal it came from was isolated from the holonet and I put a hole through it before leaving. That’s gotta be worth something to you.”

Laren looked up from the datapad finally, a smirk growing on his face. “It is, but I have something else in mind. I may have use for someone of your talents. I think you’d fit right in with the Brotherhood.”

A recognition at the name flashed in TuQ’uan’s mind. He had heard rumours of their existence but never a confirmation. “Well then, consider that my resume.”

“It will be hard, but it will be worth it.” Laren replied as his hand extended and shook TuQ’uan’s.


The Pinnacle
Aliso City
35 ABY

Abadeer swiftly strode through the long corridors of The Pinnacle. There was purpose in his stride. The events recently had broken his pride. Being captured by the Queen, having to be rescued by Selika and his Summit, it was an embarrassment. It gave him a wake up call though, he wasn’t invincible. Abadeer had been running solo for a while now, but he believed it was time for that to end.

Taasii made his way to one of the Pinnacle’s spacious conference rooms. Waiting inside were five heavily armed individuals. The Proconsul had used his connections with the Clan to search for some hired help. He needed someone capable that could watch his back, with skill sets that couldn’t be found among the regular soldiers of Plagueis. The Sith and Jedi were all too free willed, they were difficult to control. Abadeer needed someone he could pay that could be with him whenever he needed. Mercenaries seemed one of his best options. It was how former Consul, Teylas Ramar, had found Laren Uscot.

Arranged before the Togruta was wide assortment of mercenaries. Two humans stood together in a corner whispering to each other. Both wore several belts on their person, filled with grenades and thermal detonators. A female Nautolan was sitting on the conference table, inspecting a large, black sniper rifle. Behind her was a grey Wookie, who had propped himself up against the far wall, arms crossed and eyes closed. He had a small blaster on his hip, and a huge sword type weapon on his back. The last was a Kel Dor, who sat at one of the seats flipping a very impressive dagger over and over in his hand.

“Welcome,” Abadeer started, surveying the gathered mercenaries, “Let’s get right to it. My name is Abadeer Taasii, the Wrath of Clan Plagueis. I’ve summoned all of you here today as some of the most notorious fighters in the Galaxy. I’m looking for only most capable combatant,” There was a uncomfortable stir from the mercenaries, “Let’s head down to the range, and see what you’ve got.” Abadeer did not wait for a response, turning on his heels, he left the room with a flourish.

Taasii strode back down the long halls towards the closest lift. He could hear the gathered footsteps hurrying to keep up with his long strides. Abadeer opened one of the private lifts reserved for Summit members. He waited as the mercenaries all clambered into the lift as well. It was an uncomfortably cramped ride, the air starting to get stale with the large hairy Wookie. There was almost an audible collective gasp for air as the lift doors opened at the ground floor. Taasii pushed through group, leading the way to the outside. It took another several minutes to proceed to the firing range. It was mostly empty, and Abadeer had it cleared off in mere minutes.

“Here in Plagueis we’ve got only the best of facilities. Our shooting range has the highest technology available. I’m sure all of you can hit stationary targets, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Today we’ll be using mobile hard light targets.” Abadeer walked over to a control panel on the side of range, flicking a few switches. There was a loud humming, and some large poles rose out of the ground. Each of them started shining bright lights, causing a dozen hologram humanoid shapes to appear in the range. Each of them started running, sometimes cutting and switching across the field.

“Hit the target, and they’ll dissipate,” To emphasize the point, Abadeer pulled into himself for a moment, and outstretched his hand releasing a bright flash of lightning into one of the targets, causing it to shatter, “The more targets you destroy, obviously the better you do. Show me what you’ve got.” Abadeer pushed a switch causing more holograms to appear. He watched on as the mercenaries got ready, lining up their various weapons. The Nautolan opened up fire first, letting her rifle fall into position and began firing. The human pair pulled blaster pistols off their hips, and also began firing into the crowd of targets. The Wookie did the same with his blaster, firing a volley into the range. Abadeer watched nodding his head as the mercenaries began demolishing the fleeing targets. Then his attention honed in on the Kel Dor, the alien didn’t have any other weapons besides his daggers. He had a long belt of them on his back and chest, and had thrown them all. Now he stood with his arms crossed watching the hologram massacre.

“You on the end! If that’s all you’ve got, just get out. You’re done here.” The Kel Dor’s brow furrowed as he turned to look at Abadeer. He began to storm over to the Proconsul, yelling something in his own language. Taasii couldn’t understand a word, but the alien did not look happy. Abadeer could strike the fool down in only a moment, but he wanted to see how this played out. The humans paused to see what would happen, the Wookie and the Nautolan continued to fire.

Abadeer watched on as the Kel Dor strode forward threateningly.

“What did you think would happen? You brought a knife to a gun fight. It just didn’t work out for you. I’m sure there’s a circus somewhere looking for work.” Abadeer smirked to himself as he goaded the already angry alien. At this point the Kel Dor yelled something unintelligible, and started charging towards Abadeer. The Proconsul stepped with one foot back, staying in a ready position, his right hand dropping to his side already beginning to crackle with Force energy.

Taasii was caught a little by surprise as the Kel Dor pulled another long dagger out from under his jacket just before reaching the Sith. Taassi reached out with his hand, the energy flashing in his fingertips. Abadeer was stopped just short though, as the point of his focus was blasted apart. The head of his charging opponent had exploded, splashing the Togruta in dark internal fluid. Abadeer let the energy in his hand dissipate, before looking for the source of the Kel Dor’s death. Looking down the range he saw the rifle wielding Nautolan, pointed right at him.

“I think that means I win.” The Nautolan called over to Abadeer. He wiped some brain matter off his cheek, then stared the Nautolan in the eyes.

“I believe that just might. Follow me.” Abadeer turned to leave, waving the rest of the mercenaries away. He’d found what he was looking for, someone to watch his back. Hopefully she’d prove her loyalty, at least loyalty to the credits if nothing else. “What’s your name?”

“Rhin, Immanlil Rhin. Now if this is going to work our, let’s talk about my commission. We’ll count that first kill as a freebie, a show of my work, but it’s not going to be free every other time.” Abadeer slightly shook his head, wondering if this is what it would be like for their time together.


The Training Ring, The Circle
35 ABY

Every aspect of the accursed Circle reminded Laren of just how isolated he was. The hunk of space rock was located within the Aliso system’s asteroid belt, well away from the seat of Clan power and influence on Aliso. The population of the facility was negligible at best, barely worth noting on any datapad that would cross a Clan administrator’s desk. There was a small garrison assigned to defend the station, but the guards remained out of sight until called for. This left the mercenary surrounded by increasingly cunning Sith acolytes whom he was responsible to train. He had no colleagues, no friends, and next to nothing that could occupy his time otherwise.

The only solution to Laren, therefore, was to fully immerse himself in his new station. The Summit chose to make him Taskmaster? So be it. They would have themselves a capable and ferocious leader in charge. He may have lacked any talent in the cherished Force, but he was not about to roll over and be trudged upon by mere children of war. No, Laren was stubborn enough to persevere. It wasn’t the first time in his life that his intentions had been quashed, and it wouldn’t be the last. So what better way to spend his days relegated to the abyss than by honing his unique tradecraft on these students?

As Laren watched from the perimeter of the training ring, two recruits of The Circle fought viciously near its centre. The scuffle briefly faltered and the two combatants regained their footing, clearly relishing for a pause in the match to catch their breath, and their wits. Closest to Laren’s position was a pale-skinned, female Zabrak with a knack for K’thri and acrobatics - Sereph Buio was her name, he recalled. She had been pinned down by the bulkier opponent, Sev Ur. The Kel Dor’s technique lacked finesse or grace, but for a moment it had looked as if he would have broken the arm of a desperate Buio. Yet somehow she had managed to escape the grasp of Sev, providing her the distance she required to take advantage of her skills in close quarter combat. The fighters each took a fighting stance, awaiting the command to continue fighting. It seemed they had been trained well, until now. Discipline was a key to success on the battlefield.


Instantly the duo bounded at each other, their expressions firm and concentrated. Their eyes, however - Laren knew the looks well. They were out for blood, and they intended to get it.

There, Laren saw it. Sereph was ready to strike her opponent with a well-placed side kick. Just another inch, and Sev would have been helpless to block the blow aimed at his head.


The two warriors paused, looking to their Taskmaster with simultaneously puzzled and enraged expressions. Sev turned his head slowly, noticing that Sereph’s leg had nearly connected with his flesh. But neither dare move for fear of the wrath of their masters, even if their master in this instance was, as Laren had overheard many times over, “A filthy insensitive.” He had taken pleasure in the brand, especially for instances like he had planned now.

“At ease,” Laren said smoothly, striding into the training ring.

The two pupils returned to a resting position, facing the Pantoran as he paced about the training ring. Laren allowed a mocking grin to breach his calm visage, hoping the nuanced expression would be enough to goad one of them into battle. Regardless, the seed had been planted. He intended to see it through.

“That was pathetic,” the mercenary seethed. “You, Kel Dor. You’re dead. If not for my stopping the bout, you would have been left on the floor of this very ring to rot.” Laren paused, seeing the brief hint of a smile on Sereph’s face. She thinks she’s safe, does she? “And you, Zabrak. While you leveled a knock out against our friend here, you left yourself exposed. Do you think you’re always going to be fighting one-on-one? Battle is fluid and unforgiving. Assume nothing.”

“But my Taskmaster, I -”

Laren rounded on Sereph, his piercing golden eyes locking with her own. The mercenary sensed an opportunity, a real hook that could provoke them into an attack. “You what?” he sneered.

Sereph took a moment to collect her thoughts before continuing. “I won the battle, Taskmaster. If not for your intervention, this runt here would be dead.”

“This runt,” Laren repeated through bursts of maniacal and mocking laughter. “As if you think he’s deserving of such a title. Allow me to make it perfectly clear what I think of you. Guards?”

Within moments, members of the garrison rushed through the doorway on the ground level, and also took up positions on the second floor around the training area. Their blasters were leveled on the trainees, and Laren knew that it only took one command for them to reign molten plasma on the students.

“If I could, I would kill you both right now. And I’ll be honest, folks.” Laren paused, shaking his head. “I want nothing more than to give our eager garrison something real to kill.”

Laren had done it. He had assumed their anger had been simmering, and now he had managed to unleash their boiling rage. Sereph was the first to charge, circling to the mercenary’s left flank, attempting to launch an aggressive assault with a slew of wild kicks and strikes. The mercenary responded quickly, ignoring the blaster on his hip and taking a defensive stance, feet placed wide and thin, elongated hands placed palm-outwards toward his opponent. Sereph was a fluid warrior, appearing to dance around the mercenary with an acrobatic grace. Her strikes were probing Laren’s austere defenses, searching for an opening that could be exploited. Sev followed a few seconds later, attempting to level a powerful strike from behind the Pantoran. Mere moments before the assault would have met its target, the Pantoran stepped out of the way. Sev’s fist met nothing but air. The Kel Dor man lost his balance and fell at the feet of Sereph, who quickly stepped over her fellow pupil, a desire for death burning in her eyes.

“Taskmaster,” came the voice of another sentient. Laren was barely aware of the guard’s auto-toned voice as he continued to toy with Sereph.

“As you can see, I’m busy,” Laren replied through baited breath. Sereph had overextended herself, and her balance faltered. Her rage was unmistakble through the heat of battle. In contrast, Laren’s senses were focused and his thoughts empty, with all of his energy and emotion dedicated to defeating the Sith apprentice in the most roundabout way possible. She was skilled, to be sure, and a valuable student - but a student that needed to be taught a lesson in humility.

“I’m sorry to disturb, but Master Whuloc has nearly arrived. With Lord Karn planetside on Aliso, you’re required to oversee the delivery process.”

Crack. Sereph landed a perfectly executed roundhouse kick on Laren’s torso, causing him to falter a few paces. He had barely enough time to regain his footing and mount a proper resistance.

“I guess -” he ducked, sidestepping a well-placed sweep that could have left Laren on his back. “I have to finish this. Now.”

Sereph had taken a step back, readying for another attempt to break Laren’s defenses. A few feet away and off to Laren’s right side, Sev had taken the last few moments to acquire a quarterstaff from the weapon’s racks nearby. The two looked at one another, nodding. So they’re working together, are they? The pair were still fools.

“My turn.”

There was no time to waste. Under the watchful eye of his guards, Laren dashed toward Sereph first. Though he had seen Sev make work of a numerous other trainees with a lightsaber, he was not well trained in martial arts. His intention was to remove the threat that presented the most immediate challenge, before finally turning to level a crushing blow against Sev. He could see - no, he could feel - the climax of the battle solidify with every step, already knowing its outcome. Sereph’s rage fueled her thoughts, and she wanted a killing blow.

Left side. Sereph swung her left leg wide, missing the second opportunity to sweep Laren off his feet. Face, groin. Even as he pressed forward, her fury was almost palpable. With every motion, every failed strike he could almost sense her desperation growing. His open left palm abruptly squeezed shut as he leveled an uppercut against the rookie. Laren’s fist caught Sereph in the stomach. She briefly keeled over, and in one fluid motion he crashed his right knee into her exposed jaw.

He didn’t take any time to inspect his handiwork, turning toward Sev. Laren skirted to the side, avoiding the Kel Dor’s dangerous swing of the quarterstaff. Laren knew in most instances that Sev preferred to remain at a distance, probing his opponent’s defenses. But Laren also knew that the Dark Side was flowing through Sev, urging him forward. The passion of the battle had overcome the student, and his only thought was to kill the feeble mercenary standing before him.

Sev attempted to smash the quarterstaff into Laren’s torso, likely hoping to break ribs. Laren could almost feel the weapon flowing through the air as it neared its target. With his arms outstretched, he reached out to grasp the quarterstaff. His left hand made contact first, securing his grip. With his right he had solidified his hold on the weapon, and with one quick motion he pulled with all of his might. Sev maintained his own grip but found himself stumbling helplessly toward the Pantoran. Laren juked the Sith disciple, stepping aside at just the right moment before allowing Sev to tumble to the floor. He launched a quick flurry of deadly strikes, his arms a wild blur as he punched, poked, and prodded the downed Kel Dor. In moments the battle was over, leaving Sev howling in pain from Laren’s final assault.

Standing straight, he wiped the sweat from his brow with the cuff of his jacket. Laren always relished in the opportunity to practice his trade, and the rush of engaging opponents with an Echani philosophy was perhaps as close as he could come to truly feeling like these damn Force-sensitives could. He made a mental note to be more careful in the future, because to underestimate one of these students could mean instantaneous death. After all, these people could potentially shoot lightning out of their hands. The first time he had seen such a feat he had been left in awe of the sheer power of it.

“Attend to these two,” Laren ordered as he exited the Training Ring. “When is Zuser supposed to arrive?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“I had so much more time,” he whispered to himself. Putting on a commanding voice, he continued, “Notify me the moment he’s cleared to land. I’ll meet him in the hangar.”

The hangar of The Circle was a trivial thing, barely large enough to house more than a few fighters or shuttlecraft at any given time. A space had been cleared for the Corellian-designed freighter that was arriving, but the lack of additional space could have been problematic for less skilled pilots. Though some had doubts as to the mental stability of this particular pilot, one never had to doubt their skill behind the controls. The rickety YT-1000 freighter passed through the shimmering sapphire forcefield and came to hover metres above the surface of the hangar. The freighter slowly rotated, aligning its cargo hold and entrance to the interior of the complex. A few seconds later, it landed, the decompression of the gears letting off a loud whoosh as the craft slowly entered stand-by mode.

When the ship finally lowered its landing platform, Zuser Whuloc emerged from its depths. The darkened goggles that Zuser normally wore over his quizzical hazel eyes instead were placed shabbily atop his forehead. He had resigned to keep his unique braid, complete with what seemed like small stones or gems inlaid in a complex pattern. Laren could see the lightsaber and blaster that had almost managed to remain hidden under his the cloak, which billowed behind him with his quick stride.

“All right there, Taskmaster,” Zuser said with mock innocence. Everyone had known of Laren’s dismissal, but the fact that this man thought he could rub it in was comical. Zuser produced a datapad from his robes before Laren could retort. “Here’s the supply manifest - your copy. Once you’ve had your men inspect the cargo, I’ll have you sign mine and be on my merry way.”

“What news from Aliso, Zuser?” Laren asked, controlling his anger and embarrassment and maintaining a cold and emotionless persona.

“Well, there’s the Geonosians, but you were there for that.” Zuser paused. “Lady Mendes has taken your position as Quaestor. But you knew that, too. Oh!” Zuser exclaimed. “Oh, no. Did I bring it? Tra’an will - please tell me I didn’t forget it.” With a snap of his own fingers, Zuser turned away and began to stride back up the ramp.

The mercenary ignored the eccentric Dark Jedi Knight, lost in his own thoughts. Aliso. If not for you, they wouldn’t even know it existed.


The Circle
35 ABY

The word circle was a misnomer; it could represent unity, infer inclusion, support, cohesion or a countless number of other synonyms intended to foster a sense of connectivity or togetherness. It could be indicative of karma, what ‘goes around, comes around’, you ‘reap what you sow’, or some other passive-aggressive banality. Maybe the circle of life; we enter this universe young and vulnerable, utterly incapable of fending for oneself. Yet, if any one person lives long enough to reach a ripe old age, they leave it in nearly the same way… with someone wiping their shebs and coddling them like a child. The lucky ones escaped this fate, whether by choice or some other happenstance. Buio hoped to live a long and prosperous life, but not so long as to retire to some old-folks home, forgotten and neglected. Given his chosen occupation, however, he doubted such a future existed.

The Circle, as it applied to Force wielders, was the primary training ground for those enticed by the dark side and seeking admission into Clan Plagueis. Its propensity for inflicting a torcherous curriculum was well known, while the cruelty of the instructors was unprecedented; rumors speculated that you left The Circle with a broken body and mind, but were all the stronger for it.

Or, that you didn’t leave at all.

Buio had no experience with the Force, at least not firsthand. He certainly believed in its presence, having been around long enough to understand the clear definition of good and evil, and how the waters muddied between them. Yet, the ability to tap into and manipulate the very essence of the universe as a means of sedition or accumulation of power was a foreign concept to Buio. Well, maybe not completely foreign; there were things he could do that others couldn’t. Then again, quietly slipping past a guard or seamlessly bypassing encryption was a far cry from shooting lightning bolts from one’s hands.

Regardless, The Circle was a far from any semblance of unity and, yet, that was where he was heading. For what purpose, he could only speculate; but he assumed it was to disseminate the intelligence he’d successfully collected during a recent mission to Tatooine.

2-Weeks Prior

The sound of his boots were muffled by the coarse sand, the imprints devoid of detail and all but forgotten as the harsh wind whipped through the corridor separating a length of clay huts on either side.

The stars in the night sky were blotted from view as the sandstorm relentlessly pounded the settlement. This offered invaluable cover as he moved with remarkable speed from the cantina to the target location.

Earlier, he’d taken up quiet residency in the modest establishment, nursing an overpriced ale and watching one of the slave girls shed an item of clothing whenever presented with a credit or two–later gifted to their pimp, he surmised. That was, until his mark showed up.

Right on schedule. Buio thought.

The man was anything if not predictable. A devoted connoisseur of lascivious activity, the wretch never missed a night to waste away the days credits on watered down drinks and cheap lap dances. And he’d stay until the cantina closed or the credits ran dry, whichever came first. Either way, the man’s being here allowed unrestricted access to his humble abode, of which Buio intended to take full advantage.

The locked door was easy enough to pick and the alarm was bypassed without incident. The only problem was all the sand. No matter, he doubted it would be of any concern to the drunken fool upon his return in the wee hours of the morning. And when he awoke late the next day and took notice, the man would assume it happened upon his return the night before, while Buio was well on his way home to Aliso City.

The hut was that of a lifelong bachelor who barely earned a living wage. The lack of furniture and homey decor made it easy for Buio to navigate without worry of disturbing anything, while its diminutive size allowed him to locate the datapad with minimal effort.

Upon finding the device, Buio activated it. The fool hasn’t even enabled a passcode or biometric security. He scoffed at the man’s brazen disregard, yet felt like this endeavor was going far too easy.

Shrugging off the unease burbling within, the Zabrak located the file he was tasked with retrieving, inserted a data disk, and started the upload. The file was of considerable size, something that piqued Buio’s curiosity. But he wasn’t there to read, those weren’t his instructions and he’d hate to think doing so would have unintended consequences.

With the upload finished, Buio removed the disc, but not before adding several layers of encryption, and storing it in one of the leather pouches hanging from his belt. Inserting another data disk, Buio downloaded a virus that would corrupt the datapad and erase all contents from the devices’ memory banks and drives. Provided the man hadn’t made a duplicate, Buio would walk away with the only copy known to exist.

Placing the device back to where he’d found it, Buio made his way to the front door, the thick bundle of dreadlocked hair sweeping over his bare shoulder.

As he approached, the faint sound of conversation could be heard just on the other side of the metal door. Although muffled, Buio had the distinct impression the man had returned home early.

And he wasn’t alone.

Glancing around the hut, Buio quickly assessed the best place to hide or where he may have a strategic advantage if he needed to take control of the situation. Although he preferred to slip in and out of any situation or setting unseen, the Zabrak infiltrator could hold his own if necessary.

A nearby closet would offer the necessary cover, and a vantage point of tactical value. Wasting not a second more, he quietly slipped into the closets’ tight confines just as the front door started to creak open.

The closet door left ajar, Buio saw two people enter the hut; one was the drunkard, the other a Twi’lek female, whose skin was a subtle shade of pea-soup green.

“I have what you requested, but it was hard to come by. I think we should re-negotiate how much I’m being reimbursed.” The man’s words were slurred. Buio surmised the man was already several drinks in prior to meeting his contact. The man not taking notice of the front door being unlocked or the deactivated alarm affirmed this assumption.

Or perhaps the meeting was unplanned, and he’d not been expecting the woman to arrive on this night. Buio thought casually as he dutifully observed the interactions of both individuals.

“My contractor would undoubtedly refuse any type of re-negotiation.” The woman replied, nearly scoffing at the man’s presumption or gall at trying to change the conditions of his compensation package at the last minute.

The man stumbled closer to the woman, his posture hunched and his legs unsteady. “Why involve them, when you and I can settle this ourselves.” Buio nearly scoffed at the man’s less-than-subtle, if not sloppy, inference. The woman had nearly the same reaction, her stiff posture and less than amused expression confirming as much.

“You’d do well to remove your hand from my body, before I remove it for you. Produce the datapad. Now.”

“Alright, alright… don’t get all bent out of shape.”

The man disappeared from Buio’s view, yet he knew of his exact location. There was the faint sound of rummaging through a cupboard before the man stumbled back into Buio’s line of sight.

“Right where I left it.” He commented before handing the device to the woman.

The beat of Bui’s hearts quickened; although he’d downloaded the virus on the device, he wasn’t certain its work was done. After all, he’d not expected the man back for many hours. Regardless, the damage would be enough that the information contained on the device, would be corrupted beyond any degree of repair.

The woman accepted the device and activated it. For what seemed like several minutes, she studied the display, her expression muted. Finally, she released a drawn out sigh before returning her attention the man.

“I think you’re right, we should re-negotiate the contract.”

The man smiled broadly as he clapped either hand together and rubbed them, outwardly pleased with what he thought was an outcome that would work toward his benefit; “Fantastic!”

In one swift movement, the woman produced a blaster hidden within the length of her outer cloak and immediately discharged it. The impact of the blast propelled the man backward with considerable force. His body hit the floor with a sickening thud, smoke wafting from the sizeable hole that now took permanent residence in the middle of what was once his chest. In his intoxicated state, the man never had a chance.

The woman tossed the device atop the man’s lifeless body and sighed once more, “Useless bag of flesh.” She commented with general disregard for the lifeless corpse laid strewn and contorted before holstering her sidearm and departing the hut.

Upon hearing the front door close, Buio waited a few minutes before silently extricating himself from within the closet. He glanced at the dead body, his plum-colored eyes appraising the woman’s work in the burnt flesh and the soft wisps of smoke still rising from the ghastly wound, the stench of burnt flesh thick in the air.

Shaking his head at the man’s demise, Buio exited the hut and hastily made his way to the spaceport to catch a transport back to Aliso City.

The Circle
Present Day

Upon arriving at the training facility, Buio was immediately escorted to the Taskmasters’ office by a protocol droid and left in solitude to wait for the arrival of Laren Uscot.

Buio didn’t wait long before he was joined by a blue skinned Pantoran. The man’s presence was undeniable, projecting an air of confidence and intrigue.

“I’m Laren Uscot,” he started by way of introduction. “I’ve been told you have something that may be of value to me.” It was more a statement than a question, which led Buio to believe the merc had acquired more information about Buio’s mission than he was initially led to believe.

So this is the Taskmaster of The Circle. Buio mused. An unconventional choice for the position, to say the least. Buio had done his research on the man, or as much as he could in the short time he’d been told to meet with Laren. Surprisingly, the information was sparse, with only bits and pieces available. What was more, each time Buio attempted a search for more, what he’d once discovered was slowly being purged from the data banks.

“Word has it, sir, that much like me,” Buio started, arms casually resting on his utility belt, “you’re turning into a ghost.” Of course, Buio was referring to his pale colored skin, while pointing out the gradual disappearance of information on Laren. “Soon enough, the only way someone will be able to learn about the Taskmaster, is by way of rumor, speculation, and conjecture.” He said, taking a step toward the desk situated on the far side of the room.

“Or by meeting me firsthand.” Laren stated flatly. “The information?”

Buio nodded, unsnapping the cover to a utility pocket and removing the disk.

“Someone was pretty upset she didn’t have access to this before I stepped into the equation.” He closed the distance between himself and Laren, handing it off to the Pantoran.

“Other people’s feelings are of little consequence to me. Did you view its contents?”

Buio’s head sashayed from side-to-side, all the while scrutinizing Laren as closely as the Taskmaster was to him.

Laren held the disk for a passing second, studying it as if to confirm his own suspicions. He’d already been down this path with TuQ’uan, and if he was right–which he usually was–this data disk held additional information about him that was meant for the Dread Lord’s eyes only.

It angered the Taskmaster, that Salika was going to such lengths to learn all she could about him. Others may have been flattered by such efforts, but Laren knew all too well that information was power and, like any good Sith, Salika was trying to acquire as much as possible. To what end, Laren could only surmise was his eventual downfall.

At least when his usefulness to the Dark Lord and Clan Plagueis was spent.

“You’ll need a level seven decryption algorithm to access the information.” Buio’s voice sliced through the silence, reminding Laren of his presence.

“Who was after this?” Laren asked, coming around the desk before leaning against its sharp, angular edge.

Buio shook his head once more, “I’m not certain. All I know is that she was a Twi’lek who blew a hole the size of your head through the chest of the gentleman originally tasked with running down whatever information is on that disk.” The Zabrak stated, gesturing to the data device. “And by ‘gentleman’, I mean an honorless troll.” It wasn’t that Buio had anything against mercenaries, smugglers, or scoundrels; it’s just that they lacked a certain degree of integrity and loyalty unless offered a certain amount of credits. They served a purpose, but were nothing more than a means to an end. Blunt instruments that were disposable when that end came.

Buio liked to think himself a soldier of fortune, doing the good work that served to better those he held an allegiance. He didn’t do it for money or recognition, but for the advancement of those he had relentless loyalty toward. They provided for his needs and offered a little slack to the leash, while he did as instructed to help them advance whatever agendas were on the docket at the time. If that meant it strengthened their position of power, so be it; at the end of the day, it improved the clan and that’s all Buio was ultimately concerned with.

For now anyway.

Laren nodded. The Zabrak loyalist could be of use to him, in time. He could use someone with an unflinching commitment and Buio might very well be that person.

“Very well. Tell no one of your mission. As far as you’re concerned, Tatooine never happened.” Laren straightened his posture, “I may call on you in the future, so be ready to serve when the time comes. In the meantime, report to Warlord Teylas Ramar of house Ajunta Pall; I’m certain he’ll have something of a new assignment for you.”

“Yes sir.” Buio replied, casting his head in a soft bow of acknowledgement before turning on a heal to leave.

Curious now more than ever about what was on that data disk, Buio quelled that intrigue for the time being. All would become clear soon enough, patience was necessitated and if there was anything he had a considerable amount of, it was that.


Maiden of Muunilinst
Aliso Orbit
Aliso System
35 ABY

Minevra Niache was waiting for her escort to the surface of Aliso. Despite the fact she had to rely on a droid that wasn’t suited to being a gunner to use the limited weaponry on her ship, the Plagueians weren’t taking any chances. As a Delta-class T-3c shuttle designated Beta 1 made its way towards the Maiden, Minevra keyed in the access code given to her by her employer, one Kelly Mendes, who was assigned the use of the shuttle that was greeting the Muun. The shuttle’s pilot turned his vessel around and began guiding the GX1 Diplomatic Short Hauler to the surface.

It was a pretty short and uneventful journey to the surface, a positive sign that the woman who had procured her services had as much influence as the mercenary had been told.

“Ms Niache, I’m so glad you could join me. Now while we’re away from the cameras, let me tell you what I need you to do. I was given my current position due to the demotion of my then superior. As you can imagine, this doesn’t please everyone, and I need to prove myself. That’s where you come in. You see, people like you, mercenaries I mean, aren’t exactly in the good graces of my boss, at least the ones she doesn’t control. Being as skilled as you are across the board, I am hoping you will be able to distract the others of your occupation away from making plans to oppose my boss. If you can do so while helping out with the expansion efforts even better.” Kelly presented the specifics of the job to the scoundrel.

“Well, even for me that sounds like a challenge, so I’ll do it. Who knows, I might even make some credits while I’m at it. I’ve got one name, but I’ll need you to send me the rest of the names of the people I need to work on.”

“They’ll be on your datapad momentarily, just have to go make sure nobody burned down MY station.” Emphasis was placed on my to show how Kelly had now taken ownership of the facility in her mind, even if technically it belonged to the clan leader and merely used by the holder of her position.

3 hours later

Minevra was looking at the list of names on the datapad, the numbers were few, as were recognisable names. The one that stood out was Laren Uscot, who was most well known for being in the employ of Hyperdyne Industries. TuQ’uan Varick was the newest of the bunch, being brought into the fold by Uscot. It was certainly a genetically diverse group, with a Kel Dor, Pantoran and an Aleena joining the Muun. There were rumours of a Twi’lek who called herself Muse joining them, but from what Niache had discovered she was merely a delivery pilot playing merc.

Still, a pilot would add to the skills the others had. Varick was a decent enough slicer, not quite developed enough to be a serious threat outside of that, but Uscot had the combat ability locked down. Paratus was demolitions, his size helped him in that regard, even if he wouldn’t look out of place on somebody’s shoulder. If this Muse were as good as she thought she was a pilot would come in handy, though Varick was no slouch in the cockpit either. Minevra would be the brains naturally, and able to keep things rolling to her benefit.

She had put out a message to each individual, appealing to their egos, bank accounts, whatever it was that got their attention. The one who went by Muse was the first to appear. She and Minevra had a little discussion while they waited.

“So, Muse eh? Where’d that come from?”

“My mom and dad.”

“There are certainly benefits to using your real name, no hassle with getting paid. How much do you know about why you’re here?”

“Well my friend Taranae was working a delivery and she never came back, I decided to track her down and I was lead here. She suggested I might want to speak to you.”

“Wise woman, once a couple more show up all will be revealed, don’t you worry your little head about that.”

“Am I interrupting something here ladies?” A new voice asked it was Uscot alright.

“I’m sure you aren’t, or at least nothing important.” Varick’s voice joined in, at least they’d bothered to turn up so far. The pint-sized plaything Paratus was yet to show as Varick and Uscot stood next to each other opposite Minevra.

“Gentlemen, glad you could join us, I was just asking our friend over here how it was she came to be here. Didn’t miss much, same as most of us, had involvement with someone here and was brought along for the ride.” The Muun brought the new arrivals up to speed.

“Well let’s get this thing over with, I have places to go and important people to see.” Laren was clearly seeing the meeting as not worth his time. The Pantoran was avoiding eye contact with the other Raider. Something wasn’t quite right about him, yet Minevra couldn’t focus on it for long because the final voice, that of Pollus Paratus could be heard.

“Ok, my brother told me this was a way to increase my chances of not being punted, so can we get this over with already?

“If you agree to what I’m about to propose, I calculate the chances of punting dropping to one percent. Now that we’re all here, it’s about time we got started. As I’m sure most of you have noticed we aren’t the most liked people around here. I’ll change that if you want in you can stay and listen, if not you may leave.” The Muunilinst born mercenary began her pitch “This planet needs buildings, as attractive as open land is, we need an economy to survive. Now, of course, we can have either ourselves or the Force types provide security in exchange for a small fee. But why stop there? We need to make this place thrive, doing so will prove our value and secure our places here. Call in any and every favour you’re owed, this is the job of a lifetime if some credits are made in the process even better.”

“Well I’m out, I’ve got other irons in the fire that would prove more beneficial to me.” Uscot didn’t mince his words nor hesitate to leave the table. It was a surprise, a potentially dangerous surprise at that, to have the most influential of the group leave. Minevra looked at the remaining three contractors.

“Uscot’s good, better than most of you left. I won’t hold it against you if you walk out, but know this. He has protection, him leaving isn’t a risk. For you lot it is. You don’t have big important patrons to bail you out whenever you screw up.”

“I can do it. You don’t know me.” TuQ’uan chimed in.

Well if that’s the case, you can choose to not be a coward and try to prove me right.” The calculating Muun had found out the best way to obtain Varick’s co-operation would be to question his ability to accomplish the mission. Now, it was time to see if the info had paid off.

“And if you’re even half right about what you claim, this place might start looking even better.”

“Glad to have you aboard Varick, now Muse and Pollus, what say ye?” Minevra spoke in what she imagined to be a caricature of a pirate’s voice.

“If Tara has no issue with it count me in.” The Twi’lek spoke quickly, exuding enthusiasm from her lips.

“I’ll let you know once I’ve talked it through with my brother ma’am, we’re quite close and consult each other on big things like this.” The Aleena neither confirmed nor denied his co-operation with the plan.

“Fine, just let me know soon, I’ve no desire to be kept waiting, but given the circumstances, I have a few days while I get in touch with my network.” Niache was holding back how irritated she was that she’d only got half her fellow mercenaries to agree, but she was confident enough in herself that the plan would succeed.


The Twi’lek was excited. This mission held promise for her and her skills and she was glad she would have a chance to test them out finally. She hadn’t found Taranae yet, but the signature of the ship she had disappeared in had led her all across the galaxy in search of her childhood friend and she would be damned if she was going to give up now. Looking around the ship, the faces of the gathered squad showed many signs; determination, stoicism, even boredom and she wondered why. They had all been brought aboard for this and all had been willing, so why decide to cut and run all of a sudden. She shook her head, her lekku swaying from side to side as she judged each and every one of the other assembled mercenaries. They were paid to do a job, why not do it and take away something from the mission instead of coming along and then refusing to do what it was you were assigned to do?

Minevra came recommended to Muse as an ally of Kelly Mendes, a close friend of Taranae’s. She was happy to work with her if it brought her closer to her goal of finding Tara. She just hoped that once she found her friend that she would still be recognized. Muse had no idea how much Taranae would have changed; she knew her as the sweet redhead from Naboo who used to deliver freight to the station that orbited the planet and they had become lifelong friends after a chance meeting. Now she was Sith, and she knew not whether that bode well for their friendship or not. She heard a few whispered tales about her; about her rise to power as the leader of one of the houses of Plagueis and wondered how that power may have corrupted her. Still, she was determined to face her and find out for herself.

She had also heard about Laren Uscot, another who had risen quickly through the ranks to become a leader. It seemed that if you were up to the task and were good at what you do, anyone could become a leader in this so-called Brotherhood. She made a mental note of this and watched as the blue-skinned Chiss chatted away to Minevra. It was strange that only half of the assembled mercs had agreed to take on whatever this mission was, and Muse waited patiently for the others to arrive so she could find out what they had been tasked to do and why not everyone had agreed to the mission.


The Circle

Zuser Whuloc stepped around various crates of supplies and other things placed somewhat haphazardly yet secure in the hold of the _Spectre as he ran a hand through his hair in a panic. If there was one thing Zuser hated doing, it was displeasing Master Reith. He kept switching his gaze from the datapad to picking through the crates, eyes wild as they flicked from item to item, searching for something very important. He squeezed by crates of medical supplies, not even looking at the crate he almost pushed over containing training equipment.

“Where is it, where is it? Where in Lord Vader’s name is it?! Oh don’t tell me I left it back on karking Aliso?!”

He rounded a crate of sanitation supplies and released a great breath of relief. If he had forgotten this, he would have been a dead man. He sighed to himself as he checked it off on the datapad, took another look at the large crate packed with bottles of Whyrens Reserve, just to make sure it was really there, before turning to make a final check. As he went through the manifest the Mystic would mumble a sound and point at specific crates, slowly winding his way back to the ramp to the waiting Taskmaster.

As he walked the erratic pilot sighed to himself as he reflected on his situation, fingers tapping away on the screen. Here he was again; errand boy for his Master Tra’an Reith. Only this time it was a supply run for the Circle itself. At least this time it felt like he was bettering Plagueis as a whole, like his Master wanted him to do. He paused, finger pointing at an item on the datapad as he chuckled to himself as he remembered reading that the Non-Force User had been given a job to train others in the Force. It sounded ridiculous. But in all seriousness he had to have respect for the guy.

He walked back down the ramp to an obviously irritated Laren, if the rapid tapping of his boot on the durasteel floor was any indication. Zuser grinned to himself as he offered the datapad over to the Taskmaster of the Circle.

“Here you go Taskmaster. Everything is accounted for, as well as a special delivery for my Master. I trust you will see to it that he gets it in a timely manner?”

Zuser’s eyes took on a mad edge, head tilting in inquiry as he asked his question, while his Padawan braid swayed loosely with the motion, a grin a little too wide on his face.

Laren responded with a hand resting on his holster and narrowed his eyes, to which Zuser’s free hand went to his own holster, his grin widening.

“I’m not your Master’s errand boy. If you want him to get it, do it yourself.” Laren snapped at him.

The Mystic huffed, dropped his hand away from his holster and held the datapad out to Laren once again, deciding that having a shoot out in the hangar of the Circle with the Taskmaster would be much trouble than it was worth.

“Very well then, just sign this and I’ll be on my way.”


Valley Of Typhojem
Supply Station Omega

The clasp clicked loudly, echoing around the hangar as the last of the weapons were stowed into neat piles. It was almost empty here as the required supplies for the Brotherhood had almost been finished and packed neatly, allowing most of the workers to drift away and have time to themselves. Taranae was busy checking that the loads were secure and had happened across an unfastened clasp that could have proved to be a disaster if the pile had moved during transit and spilled into the cargo bay it was kept in, throwing the carrying ship into a fight with controls and gravity as the pilot tried to adjust for the sudden weight shift. Add to that the possibility of the load crushing an unsuspecting soldier or member of the Brotherhood and only the worst scenarios played out in her mind.
Grumbling to herself, she resolved to track down the name of the person who had secured this particular batch and berate them in her own, personal way.
“Battlelord,” spoke a voice from behind, “The Dread Lord would like to speak with you regarding a new entry into the ranks.”
Taranae stopped what she was doing and slowly turned, her eyebrows raising, as she gazed upon the figure before her. A man, younger than herself stood almost at attention in Plagueis military uniform and looked so much younger than her with short, cropped dark hair and a worried look on his face.

“And why would Sel- I mean, the Dread Lord like to speak to me of all people? I don’t have anything to do with new entries to the Circle. That is Arden’s job.”

“I don’t know, Battlelord, I am just transferring her message. She says you should see her immediately.”
Taranae noticed the man look downwards as he spoke, obviously not used to talking to high ranking members of the Brotherhood. She growled at him as his head dipped and shouted, her words clipped;

“Look at me when you address me, not at the floor! Do you not know proper etiquette when speaking? I will visit the Dread Lord as soon as I secure this load properly. You are dismissed.”

The man hastily looked up, snapped a salute and strode off quickly, not wanting to raise Taranae’s ire any more than necessary. Absent-mindedly, the Sith pulled a stray auburn hair from the clasp on her cloak that it had managed to lodge itself into and sighed inwardly. Yes, the troops were trained well enough, but they lacked in so much more.

“The right temperament,” she thought, “But lacking in so much else.”

With that she flipped the catch one last time, checking its strength, turned on her heel and headed for the exit.
There was more foot traffic outside the hangar than inside and sometimes it was a bustle in some of the corridors as she made her way to the office of Selika Roh, the Dread Lord of Plagueis. She had no idea why the trivial matter of a new recruit would require her to be brought before the Dread Lord and quailed at the thought. Had she done something wrong, was it someone she knew? It couldn’t be the latter as she knew no-one that had any ideas of where she was, so she prepared herself for the worst.
Reaching the doors, she paused and readied herself before knocking and hearing a deep voice reply “Enter,” from within the chambers. Opening the doors, she strode purposefully towards the huge throne that Selika sat on. The Dread Lord looked at her with a smile and a curt nod, signalling that all was fine. Taranae let out a breath of air; she hadn’t realised until now she had been holding it in as she entered. Reaching the throne, she stopped and placed her fist against her chest in salute.

“You called, Dread Lord?” she spoke.
“Yes, Taranae. I have news you may find interesting about one of our new recruits who at the moment is out on a mission with Minevra and her squad. A certain Twi’lek I believe you are acquainted with?”

Taranae’s face screwed up in bewilderment as she tried to recall a Twi’lek she may have encountered on her travels. Who had she upset this time?

“I’m not sure what you mean, my Lord.” replied Taranae. “What Twi’lek do you mean? Have I offended someone or killed their relatives?” she quipped with a sneer.
“No, Battlelord. I believe this one is looking for her ship. Says you stole it quite some time ago?”

The Sith’s expression suddenly became one of recognition and horror as the situation hit her.

“Blue Twi’lek? Gold bands on her lekku?”
“That’s her, Taranae. You know her I believe?”

Her gaze focused inward and memories of her time back on Naboo and the station orbiting the planet came back to her. Muse, her best childhood friend had come to the Brotherhood. She had tracked her down, but how? How was she going to fare here? Could she use the Force? Had she been forced into complying like herself or had she given herself freely to the cause? Taranae’s knees buckled as she mouthed, “Muse…”


The Circle
Hidden Quarters

As Zuser waited for his master to open the door, he realized that in choosing to carry the crate here, instead of taking the time to bring it on a dolly, he’d ensured himself a punishment. He’d been given a pass code for a reason, and as he recalled the incident that had led to him being given the information, the door opened before him.

Tra’an Reith stood, hooded in his robe, yellow of his eyes visible, as they glared at the Human apprentice first with malice, and then with just reproach as Zuser lifted the Whyrens to get his attention. The red scaled hands reached out to grasp the crate with their four thick fingers each, the nails making a clack noise as they sank into the wood.

Without a word, the Augur vanished into his quarters and Zuser moved to follow.

“Stay there Zuser. I’ll bring you something I need you to deliver to the Pinnacle,” he heard as the words floated out from within the warm and moist cavern. He’d forgotten how his Master preferred to keep the cave. Even just standing in the doorway, he began to sweat from the humid heat that welled forth.

As Tra’an returned to the door with his hood swept back, the Mystic was finally able to see the elaborate mask the Kaleesh always wore. It was still the same one that it had been since the di Plagia stepped down from power as Dread Lord. It was cracked in a perfect line from right eyebrow to the bottom of the cheek, where Zuser knew a scar lay on the actual face of his Master. It had just appeared one day, and the Human knew better than to ask from whence it came.

“Take this,” he said as he thrust a bottle of Whyrens and a sealed note, “and deliver them to Ronovi Tavisean. She’s in the Pinnacle. I don’t suggest waiting around.” the alien turned to leave and then stopped. An audible sigh could be heard. “This time, try not to piss off Laren. I have to live here for a while yet, and I’d rather not have to beat sense into him because you trash his hangar in lift off.”

The door to the room slammed shut and clicked as it locked, leaving a very confused and befuddled pilot standing in the much colder corridor with shivers.

To be delivering a package to the Pinnacle, could only mean that things were about to get interesting again.

And Zuser knew that interesting, meant getting shot at.

He hated getting shot at.


**Airspace over Aliso City **
Enroute to Landsdown Docks

Zuser flew the Spectre over the sprawling city, flying a tad low as he looking down at it. It had been quite a while since the attempted takeover of the Geonosians with their battledroids. He had read up on what he could of the Clone Wars, but he couldn’t have imagined how something so frail could put such a fight. Then again the number of droids spoken of in the texts he read suggested that there were hundreds of thousands.

He banked slightly as he angled the Spectre towards the edge of the city, hailing the docks as he approached.

“This is Mystic Zuser Whuloc, pilot of the Spectre requesting a dock while I run an errand to the Pinnacle.”

“There was hardly a pause before he got a reply.

“Welcome Lord Whuloc. Please proceed to bay 33. A taxi will be arriving shortly for you.”

Zuser banked the YT 1000 slightly starboard and sank in a spiral on its repulsors. The Mystic shook his head as he set down the craft expertly in the bay, getting out of his seat as soon as it touched terrafirma.

“Still not used to such formalities.”


**Aliso City **

After a quick taxi ride through the city, Zuser stepped out in front of the building, the bottle of Whyrens whiskey tucked in his arm and the note in a pocket. Adjusting the belt on his shoulder which held his lightsaber behind his right shoulder, he turned to the taxi driver.

“Wait here. This shouldn’t take long.”

The driver shrugged and pulled out a holozine even as Zuser turned towards the building and strode forth.


Getting past the lobby was the easy part. Now he had to find his way through to the Dread Lord’s floor. After consulting the droid at the lobby he found himself stepping out of a lift and turned left down the hall, and straight into an armed security detail. There was a tense pause as the two guards on either side of the hall tensed, before seeing his lightsaber and the Plagueis icon on his left shoulder.

The guard on the left spoke up.

“State your business regarding the Dread Lord.”

“Delivery to Ronovi Tavisaen from my Master, Tra’an Reith.”

The guard on the right put a hand to his ear and nodded to something.

“Lady Tavisaen will see you. Keep it brief.”

Zuser laughed dryly to himself as he walked by them.

“Oh trust me, that’s the plan. Last time I interacted directly with her she strangled me.”

All too soon the pilot found himself standing in front of Ronovi’s door. He reached for the door until a voice cut through the door.

“Get in here, Whuloc!”

His hand poised to knock he sighed and keyed the door, stepping into the room.

“Afternoon Ronovi.”

“The hell do you want, Zuser?”

He produced the bottle of Whyrens

“I bring a gift from Master Reith.”

The Warlord raised an eyebrow and straightened up slightly on the couch she was lounging on. He set the bottle down on the table in front of her and her hand shot out to grab the bottle.

“Just a bottle? Are you sure there was, nothing else?” she asked him, eyes narrowing. Zuser began to sweat, the look reminding him of the last time he’d suffered at her hands.

“Umm, uh, wait!” With a quick search in his pockets, the pilot produced a folded, sealed envelope and handed it to her.
“As expected. I didn’t think he’d tell you anything. Get Out.” Ronovi snarled.