Arden didn’t have time to respond. The assassin droid had decided that he was the critical threat and had leveled his blaster upon the Corellian. Laren watched from the side of a durasteel crate as the marksman performed what could barely be called a barrel roll, evading the stray bolts in the nick of time. With the droid’s back turned, Laren lobbed a few shots at the clanker. However, it seemed that it had anticipated the attack. It stepped out of the way of Laren’s volley with inhuman speed and focused on the Pantoran.
The assassin droid quickly closed ranks with Laren and knocked the blaster from his hand with a well-placed round house kick. Moments later, a metal fist rammed into the blue-skinned man’s gut, cracking ribs and sending him flying backward a few feet. Before the droid could fire a finishing blow with his rifle, however, Laren reached for the carbine strapped to his back and fired. The droid took a shot in the shoulder, though it seemed unimpeded as it scurried away, taking cover behind another one of the numerous cargo containers dotting the space. For the moment, it seemed, Laren was not to be troubled by the droid. His ribs caused him some pain, but nothing he couldn’t handle. He knew it was only a matter of time before it commenced its next attack.
He took the brief respite in the battle to gain some insight into the other combatants’ movements. How was everyone else faring? From his current position, he could see Ronovi fighting that brutish Devaronian. She seemed to be on the defensive, parrying Drake’s blows with expert precision and leading the man deeper into the complex. Further behind her, he could see a large stack of cargo containers near a secondary entrance that reached all the way to the roof. He grinned, finally understanding the full extent of Ronovi’s intentions.
He’s falling into his own trap, Laren mused. Even as the two brutes battled against one another, explosives were going off all around them. His explosives. Those crates are his big trap, I bet. He surmised that they had to help Ronovi get Drake into position, and fast.
Searching for Arden, Laren found the man a few metres ahead of him. “Arden!” Laren shouted again, trying to get the Overseer’s attention. “Help Ronovi and keep any lingering troopers off her back. I’ll take care of the droid.”
“Best not get yourself killed, Laren!” Arden roared, smashing the butt of his blaster rifle into the face of a Guild trooper who got too close. “That makes six!”
Laren snorted. “I think we’re both well behind Selika and Teylas right now. Now fly, you fool, and help Ronnie with her little trap.”
Did I just call Tavisaen Ronnie? She is going to kill me before the killer clanker will.
But he wasn’t going to let that happen. With a trained eye, Laren scanned their battlefield, looking between the various containers and other immobile vehicles for any sign of the droid. He saw Teylas fighting four goons a few meters away. The troopers seemed well trained, perhaps even a member of some elite force, but the Falleen dispatched both head and torso from foe after foe with relative ease. Definitely more than a dozen now, Laren thought as he continued his search. Seconds later, he saw Selika taking a rather horrid delight as she tortured two Guild soldiers on their knees in front of her. Of course, he couldn’t see what was causing them so much pain, but considering her affinity for this particular type of interrogation, he really didn’t want to imagine, anyway.
He observed for a few more moments, listening as lightsabers whirled, blasters fired, and the sound of thermal detonators exploding made his ears ring, and yet he could not find the blasted droid. Unless it was… Oh, no.
Laren dropped on all fours, swinging the carbine onto his back and freeing his hands moments before a blaster bolt would have taken his head clean off. Instead, the impact left a scorch mark on the nearest cargo container. He turned to look where the shot had originated from. The droid was there, and its blaster was trained on the mercenary. It quickly let loose another volley. Laren rolled to the side this time, avoiding the shots and contorting his body in such a way so that he found himself on his own two feet, running away at a brisk sprint. He ran with a distinct hobble, but he was quick enough to escape the HK droid’s precision shots by dodging between cover.
Taking his Clone Wars era blaster back into his hands with a firm resolve, he was set upon by two troopers who turned a corner to his left. Ignoring the fatigue creeping in his bones and the sweat trying to impede his vision, he let his training take over. He seized the calmness that Echani taught him, funneling his emotions into his every move. Before the unsuspecting duo could fire, Laren had already released two bolts from his carbine. He took the trooper to his right in the face and neck, leaving nothing but a smoldering, charred mess where a face should have been. Closing distance with the second, he fired a bolt into the man’s leg. The trooper crumpled onto one knee, and before he could raise his blaster again, Laren had dispatched the man with another clean headshot.
“Laren,” crackled Arden’s voice over the comm. “Are you finished with that droid yet? Ronovi’s almost in position. It seems Drake’s laid a few explosives. You might have heard one or two go off already.”
“No, I’m not done with the bloody droid,” the Pantoran responded coarsely, the unique Pantoran accent more pronounced under stress. “How are Selika and Teylas holding up?”
“Holding. There are more troopers every minute, though.”
“We need to end this,” Laren agreed. “I don’t think I can take this droid head on, so I’ll lead it to Ronovi’s location. If you can hit one of the explosives he has planted, we should be set.”
“That’s the plan. Make quick work of the droid, Laren, or we’re all dead!”
“I’ll lead the droid toward Ronovi. I - I’ll need your help to terminate it. “
“Done. Now run, damn it!” The communication cut out, and Laren knew time was short.
Blaster fire suddenly rang in his ears, and he began running toward the location of the trap without looking for the weapon’s source. Using the tall stack of cargo containers as his guide, he expertly hobbled and zig-zagged between cover. He could hear shots ring out from behind him, singeing the ground where his boots had been moments earlier. By the frozen hells, don’t bloody hit me. The droid was bounding atop the containers, trying to use an advantage in height to more quickly kill the spry mercenary. However, with Laren constantly changing direction, he hoped it would be enough to throw off the HK unit’s targeting scanners long enough to bait the trap.
Just ahead, Laren saw a clearing near the towering stack of cargo containers. He could see Ronovi managing to maneuver around Drake even as she continued to step back in a defensive posture. The man was confident in his surroundings, it seemed, confident enough that having his back facing his own trap caused him little concern.
“Arden, are you seeing this?” Laren demanded between breaths.
“I have you in my sights, Laren. Ronovi,” Arden continued, his voice level. “Laren’s about to enter the battle with the droid on his heels. We’re all in position.”
“What’s this about position?’ Teylas cut in over the communication channel. His breath was a little ragged, and you could still hear his lightsaber whirling over the open net.
“What are you planning, Tavisaen?” Selika droned, the sounds of battle equally prominent through her own microphone. “Are you about to blow something up?”
Ronovi growled over the comm, but said nothing. Her focus was all on keeping Drake busy.
Bounding into the open space, Laren fired a few stray shots at Drake. The Devaronian stepped away from Ronovi, clearly distracted by the mercenary’s fire. She took advantage of the situation without hesitation. Ronovi launched into a flurry of all-out attacks, sacrificing what little grace she had in lightsaber combat for pure brutality. She beat back against Drake, pushing him closer and closer toward the cargo containers.
Laren turned, knowing that the droid was nearly upon him. He fired his carbine at the clanker, but it dodged his attempts easily. Luckily, all he had to do was make sure the droid couldn’t fire it’s blaster, and hopefully Arden would do the rest.
“Arden…now might be a good time to shoot this droid.”
“Not yet, merc. I like seeing you dance as your life flashes before your eyes.”
“Karn, just bloody do it!” Ronovi roared suddenly.
Three shots in quick succession reigned down upon the droid from afar, and the HK Droid fell in a smoky heap of metal and parts. The rifle it carried clattered to the ground, and the light in its eyes dimmed and disappeared.
“All right, Ronovi. You’re clear.”
Laren watched as the Epicanthix shoved the equally massive Drake aside, forcing him back a few paces. That moment was all she needed. With a look of bloodlust in her eye bordering on near insanity, she stretched out a free hand before her. A violent torrent of blue lightning erupted from her fingertips, engulfing the unsuspecting Drake. Falling to the ground, he loosened his grip on his weapons, allowing them to clatter to the ground harmlessly. He flailed and screamed, now, rolling back and forth as the Force lightning caused excruciating pain the likes of which Laren wished never to imagine on anyone.
Teylas and Selika appeared nearby from opposite sides a moment later. The Falleen used the Force to throw a few outmatched troopers into the fray beside their master, while Selika dispatched one final head of a lone trooper that had desperately been trying to kill her. The two turned to watch as the Juggernaut maintained her powerful burst of lightning on Drake. It wasn’t as powerful, but it kept the man immobile - and, Laren suspected, Ronovi enjoyed seeing Drake so helpless. She wasn’t exactly the type to enjoy being outmatched by a non-Force user.
“Arden, fire when ready,” Laren finally said.
The Pantoran barely had time to hear Arden fire his blaster before the explosion rocked the complex. Containers at various intervals of the towering stack exploded, sending pieces of metal shrapnel flying in all directions and toppling others that were more intact. Numerous crates fell upon Drake and his lackeys. Laren saw Ronovi’s Force lightning die as they watched their enemy be crushed by multiple tonnes of thick durasteel and the contents within. What remained of his pulverized body was now hidden beneath metal and stone.
“Shame about his kids,” he heard Ronovi say as he came to stand beside her.
“He had kids?” He asked incredulously.
“Yeah. And now they’re orphans. Go, us.”
Arden finally appeared, blaster rifle still in hand. He caught Ronovi’s eye and gave her a nod of respect. She returned it, then turned to look back at Teylas and Selika. Their lightsabers were still activated as they walked forward through the dust, and Laren could tell they were still searching for any survivors that might have been nearby.
“So, about those scrolls,” Ronovi began. “They are supposed to be where, exactly?”
As if on cue, everyone in the group turned to look at Selika. She looked pale and worn down, despite not appearing to have a scratch on her body. As her eyes darted back and forth, Laren knew that she was using her Force senses to scan the space for something - anything - to give them the answer. Laren, of course, felt nothing - except for the outside heat. But he had a sinking feeling that Selika had bad news.
Ronovi spoke again. “Any dark artifact ought to have some sort of trail on them. Like a scent, but in the Force. Do you feel any remnant of the dark side besides us? A shadow of Darth Plagueis? Anything?”
Selika’s breath came out in short, haughty bursts. She let her lightsaber deactivate and hang limply in her hand.
“Nothing,” she finally announced. “I sense nothing.”
She was met with silence at first - and then, a sharp, curt laugh from Ronovi.
“Well!” the Epicanthix cried. “Isn’t that special.”