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

[Clan Plagueis - Team Beyond]


Team Beyond

Selika Roh (CS)
Teylas Ramar (CS)
Ronovi Tavisaen (CS)
Laren Uscot (CS)
Arden Karn (CS)

Mission: You are a member of an Elite Strike Force assembled by your Clan to infiltrate Nancora Prime, rendezvous in the Badlands, and assault the Technocratic Guild’s compound. Your mission will require you to overcome enemy combatants, fortress security measures, and infiltrate one of the most heavily guarded and secure vaults in the Outer Rim. You mission will be complete once you turn the artifacts over to the Dark Council, claim their for your own, or destroy them for the good of the Universe.


Command Deck

Selika drummed her fingers on the rim of the large, circular display that dominated the lower level of the command deck of the Pelta-class frigate Abrogator. It had been several hours since they had departed Plagueis-controlled space on their way to the reported Collective outpost on Nancora, and she was getting restless.

“Patience, as they say, is a virtue,” Ronovi chided from where the taller woman stood at Selika’s side.

“Of all the people in the universe to give lectures on patience,” Selika replied with a raised eyebrow.

“Spending a few years as a meat popsicle gives one a different perspective,” Ronovi retorted as a smile tugged at her mouth.

Selika nodded, acknowledging woman’s point, before turning back to face the Inquisitor that stood across from her. “So, you’re expecting opposition to be light, Keris?”

“Yes,” the short, solidly built Inquisitor answered. “Intelligence reports suggest that the Collective maintains a small staging area on the planet. It’s probably being used as a transfer point for the artifact before it is sent to another location.”

“Good,” Teylas Ramar intoned from his place at the display. “Taking it before it reaches its destination is key.”

“Agreed,” Laren Uscot, the blue skinned mercenary turned Plagueian added.

“How long before reversion?” Selika called up to the upper level.

“Thirty seconds,” Arden Karn responded from where he stood beside the ship’s captain, directly behind the pilot stations.

The five Plagueians, along with the ship’s crew and assorted ground troops, had been all that Selika had been willing to spare for this operation. With the Collective launching its assaults against the Brotherhood, the remainder of Plagueis’s forces had been required elsewhere. But, the information the Inquisitor had provided detailing the possible location of artifacts created by Darth Plagueis himself had proven too important for Teylas and herself to pass up. Ronovi had come along in her capacity as bodyguard, while Laren provided a similar role for Teylas. Arden, ostensibly the Abrogator’s master, had contrived enough of a reason to come along as the mission was making use of “his” ship.

“I still say this is a wild nerf chase,” Ronovi said, the same dour look on her face that Selika had seen time and time again since she announced the expedition to Nancora.

“Noted,” Selika quipped back.

“Five seconds to reversion,” Arden reported.

The timer ticked down zero and the ship’s pilot pulled the levers that would drop the ship to sub-luminal speeds. The mottled blue sky of hyperspace was replaced with starlines and finally a static field of stars, a brown planet filling the forward viewports.

“We are secure from lightspeed, Captain,” the navigator announced.

“Good,” Captain Vorten replied. “Get me a scan of local space, I want to know…”

Before he could complete his order the ship was rocked by an impact, nearly knocking Selika from her feet. It was only the strong grip of Ronovi’s hand on her shoulder that prevented the Dread Lord from being tossed unceremoniously to the deck.

“Did we hit something?” Selika demanded.

“Negative!” Arden said.

At the same time, the Captain was barking orders to his crew. “Raise shields! Get me targeting solutions on those ships!”

The holodisplay on the lower level flashed to life, displaying a tactical plot of the ship, Nancora, and surrounding space. A swarm of enemy ships dominated the space around the Abrogator, all moving on the attack. Fighters, picket ships, and even a pair of Dreadnaught cruisers moved in to surround them. Laren quickly moved from where he stood beside the display up to the upper level of the deck.

“My Lord, we are not equipped for this engagement!” the captain announced to Arden. “I can’t even field a full fighter screen with half our hangar deck filled with ground craft!”

“Launch what you can to cover our retreat,” Arden barked back. “And get us out of here!”

The vibrations of the bow hangar doors translated through the ship’s structure, Selika feeling them through the deck below her feet. Just as they halted, and the first fighter was nearly ready to launch, Laren pointed out into space.

“There! Gunners, splash that target now!” he shouted into the comm system.

The ship’s gunners tried to react, but the small craft was too fast for them. It was moving so fast that Selika didn’t get a good look, but it appeared to be a small space tug. The craft seemed to dive just at the last second, avoiding the bridge, revealing its target all along. The craft crashed against the shields as the energy fields took the brunt of the impact, but it was too much for them to hold against. The debris and resultant fireball shoot through the shield and penetrated the hangar deck below, shrapnel destroying everything in its path.

“The hangar deck is gone,” reported the officer manning the damage control console, his calm demeanor belying the catastrophic nature of his report.

Selika studied the tactical display in front of her in confusion. She wasn’t a master of naval tactics by a long shot, but she still knew that they were massively outnumbered and outgunned. Either of the Dreadnaughts alone could have blasted the Abrogator apart.

“Why don’t they finish it?” Selika hissed through gritted teeth.

Fire finally lanced out from the nearer of the two cruisers, but only a fraction of what the ship was capable of doing. Green bolts buried themselves into the stern of the Plagueian ship after quickly battering their way through the shields. Bulkheads flashed to vapor in their path, what passed for armor on the frigate not able to stand up to the onslaught. The omnipresent thrum of the engine systems that could always be felt aboard a large starship faded as the main cabin lighting flickered and died, replaced with the dimmer, red tinged glow of emergency lighting.

“Main engines are down,” the engineering officer called out. “Hyperdrive, as well. We are down to maneuvering thrusters only.”

“I think you have your answer,” Ronovi said resignedly. “They want to capture, not kill.”

“She’s right,” Teylas said, pointing to a series of dots on the main display. “We’ve got breaching pods coming in!”

“They mean to board us,” Laren added. “They must want to take some of us alive.” The Pantoran pulled his blaster pistol from its holster on his hip, and checked the charge on the weapon to ensure it was full.

Ronovi nodded. “They must be after something more important to them. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Selika nodded, feeling out of her element in the ongoing space battle. “Right,” she said shakily.

“We need to get power back to the hyperdrive,” Teylas said, sensing that someone needed to take charge. “Arden, get down to the engine room and see if you can get your crews to get this ship moving again. Laren and I will come along in case you meet any unwelcome guests.”

Arden nodded and moved towards the rear of the command deck, grabbing his rifle from his station as he did, Laren following along behind him.

As Teylas moved to the exit himself, he passed within earshot of Ronovi.

“Don’t let her get taken by the enemy,” he whispered, his eyes darting to where Selika stood uneasily.

Ronovi’s eyebrows raised a little, but any other response she had went unspoken.


While Arden could easily hide his annoyance at being ordered off the bridge of what was supposed to be his ship from the mundanes, the others would have sensed it. This also wasn’t the right time to be making some petty show of dissent. There were far more urgent things at hand, not exploding being the main one. Given the last glance he’d gotten at the tactical display, even if they were to get propulsion restored, getting out of this mess was going to be extremely difficult.

One step at a time though.

Thankfully, the trio of Plagueians managed to make it the couple hundred meters to the engine room in the frigate’s aft without meeting any resistance. This was likely to change any moment so just as they crossed the threshold Arden looked to Teylas and Laren.

“Hold them off when they arrive.”

Laren shot Arden a look. “And what will you be doing exactly?”

Arden took a deep breath. “Doing what a captain is supposed to be doing, motivating his crew.“

Laren looked over to Teylas, the Falleen replying with a wordless shrug while Arden made a beeline for the Abrogator’s Bothan chief engineer, shouting once he found him, “Damage report!”

The overwhelmed engineer’s fur dripped with sweat as he worked to stabilize the ship. The last thing he needed was someone looking over his shoulder. Not even looking up from his work, the Bothan shouted back. “Main power is gone, hull breaches, main fuel transfer lines are ruptured, and a coolant leak in the hypedrive.”

Before Arden could respond there was a small explosion from a console just behind the Bothan which sent an engineer flying into a bulkhead. As the fire suppression system engaged, Arden shook his head in disgust. “You want to live? Get me hyperdrive before we get overwhelmed by boarders.”

Almost on cue, the distinctive thud of a breaching pod making contact with the hull nearby followed shortly thereafter by the sound of a breaching charge ripping into the hull. Arden simply glared at the engineers that looked up to see what was going on. The Bothan mumbled something, but the words were lost over the sound of a flash grenade going off in the doorway.

At the doorway, Teylas and Laren had managed avoid the worst effects of the grenade by anticipating it’s arrival, but it did still have the desired effect of allowing the first wave enemy troopers to make their way into the corridor leading to the engine room. Laren took aim at the first trooper through breach, planting a shot into his torso. The trooper staggered back, but managed to return fire at the Pantoran and was joined soon after by a second trooper. Teylas then stepped into the threshold,the violet blade of his lightsaber knocking aside several blaster shots before a streak of electricity crackled from his fingers and tore into both troopers. As their bodies recoiled in pain, Laren took the opportunity to land a shot on both of them before shooting a glare at Teylas.

“I would have had them.”

“Probably, though that was more fun.” Teylas quipped back as more figures emerged from the breach. The new figures looked different, a combination of what some might consider “perfect” human specimens and cybernetics. As their blaster rifles let a hail of bolts, another breaching charge went off behind where Arden and the engineer had been trading words. Arden barely had time to close his eyes before a second flash grenade clinked to the deck and went off with a disorienting flash and concussion.

As Arden got his bearings, more boarders started pouring through the new breach in rear of the engine room. The engineers closer to the breach were cut down by blaster fire while the Bothan had managed to dive for cover. Unslinging his rifle Arden shouted to the Bothan.

“I got these guys, do what you can to get us going again.”

Without waiting for the Bothan’s reply, Arden knelt behind a console and fired several carefully aimed shots back at the advancing troopers. He figured Teylas and Laren would hear the fire and pick up on the fact they were being flanked without Arden saying anything. As the next trooper stepped into the breach, Arden flicked his hand in the direction of the hole and caused the area to instantly go dark. He took the opportunity that the Force allowed him to see through the dark to line up a headshot on the trooper.

“You okay back there Arden?” Laren shouted.

“For now, yes.” Arden replied. “You?”

“Amazing.” Teylas shouted back as he sliced into an advancing trooper.

Arden happened to catch a glance at the console he was hiding behind that happened to be showing the status of the numerous hull breaches on the Abrogator. A new amber light flashed on as he examined it , causing the human to scowl.

“Well, looks like Ronovi’s going to get her fun.”


Ronovi should have felt at home on the command deck - the days she spent as Dread Lord were long past now, but the memories remained embedded in her, like shards of steel or glass, that she could never remove. Despite never quite adjusting to being a space nomad while she led Plagueis during the Dark Crusade campaign, seeing the cosmos outside her viewing portal as she stood on the bridge of the Ascendancy certainly lent itself to the reminder of past power.

But the red glow of the emergency lights did nothing to bring back a more brightly tinted nostalgia, and as the officers of the Abrogator scrambled to make heads or tails of the consoles, the Epicanthix cast a quick glance at the woman who she always accompanied. Her presence as a bodyguard, more than anything, was a demonstration of Selika’s power, not based on an actual need for protection. And yet, here she was, still listening to the rasping echoes of Teylas’s words in her head:

Don’t let her get taken by the enemy.

“Roh?” The formality slipped out, brusque and terse, out of Ronovi’s mouth before she could think twice about saying it. The dark lady stood beside her stiffly, silently. “Any orders?”

Selika said nothing. This was the first time that Ronovi had ever seen her so disoriented before. Normally, she was the pinnacle of calm and calculation, of cunning and manipulation. But that was when she was actually in her element - in a duel, or on a smaller assignment. Not while commanding a fleet that was being breached and boarded.

It reminded Ronovi of Athiss.

“I remember trying to board enemy ships,” she said, thinking it was only to herself. “I’m not much of a naval strategist, but surprisingly, it worked.”


She blinked. Selika had heard her, and her eyes had narrowed into deep, dark slits. The fingers twitched on each hand, as if itching to hurt something - or someone. Ronovi could tell how mentally affected the woman was. She was not prepared for this. Nobody really was. But having the Dread Lord compromised in the heat of a deep space conflict?


“I said quiet.”

But Ronovi persisted - it was within her character to do, after all. “The last thing we need to do right now is sit and stare. Give a command to fight, or get off the deck.”

Selika didn’t move. Ronovi felt the veins in her forehead bulge. Regardless of whether feelings or admirations she had for the Dread Lord, in the current situation, it was getting dire…and frustrating.

Fire lit up the flank of the cruiser again, only this time, it wasn’t from ships’ ammunition. The impact caused the cruiser to careen to the side, the bridge rocking dangerously as everyone on the deck scrambled to maintain their balance. In the distance, sirens could be heard wailing - but from where? And what could they possibly warn of now?

“Status report!” bellowed the captain from the upper level.

The officer on the damage control console was pale. “We’ve detected several pods making impact with our hull. The engine room could very well be compromised.”

“Pods? What pods?”

“Breach pods, captain,” stammered the officer. “They’re here.”

Ronovi’s one organic eye widened. “Kriff.”

Despite the quite literal shake-up on the command deck, Selika still had barely moved from where she stood. She simply stared out the viewing portal now, watching the sky outside light up with stars and fire. If the officer had been correct, and if security forces couldn’t hold, then the intruders could quickly, and easily, move to the bridge.

“My Lord,” Inquisitor Keris intoned from nearby. “We’re officially under siege. What is your command?”

“I’m trying to think,” Selika curtly replied.

“Teylas, Arden, and Laren are all in the engine room,” Ronovi spat. “I doubt they can hold back everyone. What do we do about them?”

“I’m trying to think.”

“Damn it, there’s no time to think!” the Epicanthix exploded. “Give an order to attack, or do it yourself!”

Selika whipped her head around to face Ronovi, and despite the latter’s advantage in height, the two locked eyes easily. Ronovi was no longer intimidated by the woman’s stare. The piercing violet eyes of her superior settled deeply into her, heating up her body her like light glaring from the nearest sun. But it did not deter her.

“In situations like this, you need to make a decision. I’m going to break it down for you. We can’t go to the hangar bay because the deck is gone. The hyperdrive doesn’t matter now because even if we could jump, we’re taking a bad case of fleas with us. The engine room’s compromised, and we’ll most likely be confronted with something in mere minutes. We have two options, Roh: Fight now, or fight later. So which is it?”

Two Plagueian officers flanked the doors to the bridge, rifles at the ready with their angry metal snouts snarling by the entrance. For a moment, Ronovi thought she heard footsteps outside. She felt the sweat grow clammy under her collar. She had not had time to dress in her battle attire, and so she still wore the stiff grayish white uniform that she always donned while playing the bodyguard. Still, her saberstaff was bare on her hip, and in nearly one movement, she ripped her weapon from her belt while yanking her cape from her shoulders, letting the heavy fabric drop to the floor and the cerulean blades belch from her saber’s emitters.

“Lord Roh!” called another officer. “More breaches detected! Intruders coming from aft!”

“Guess we’re stuck with the first option, then,” growled Ronovi, glaring at Selika, whose hands only continued to shake above her own lightsaber. “You going to back me up or not?”

The Dread Lord said nothing, though fire seemed to blaze from her eyes. The percussive rhythm of boots was now obvious to the ears. It was clear that the boarding had been successful - and it had spread rapidly throughout the ship. Whatever the Collective had up its sleeve, now was the time to confront it.

The doors to the bridge more caved in than opened, as if crushed by the might of a golem, and Ronovi felt her jaw clench as a swarm of armored soldiers buzzed in like metallic insects. Instantly, two men on the bridge were down, and a hailstorm of red blaster bolts added only more to the already crimson glow of the deck. The Epicanthix felt her boots skid as she tried to shuffle into an offensive position, and she was immediately intrigued by the appearance of those who had infiltrated the Abrogator. Rather than the usual grunts she liked to tangle with and easily eradicate, these troops had some…enhancements, to put it succinctly. Of the two dozen or so that had entered, many had a cybernetic arm, or a jacked up leg, or a glowing eyepatch. It was as if they all wanted to be more than just human. And perhaps that made them more powerful.

That didn’t concern Ronovi, of course. If this was what the Collective had to offer, then she wanted a refund for the lousy experience.

As one wild blaster bolt strayed her way, she knocked it aside effortlessly with her saber, as other failed shots buried themselves into the nearest console or wall. She was not exactly paying attention to what Selika was doing now, but she was aware of her presence behind her, and her goal was simple.

“Roh!” she bellowed. “Last chance - we both leave the bridge! No sense in us staying here!”

“You suppose it’s so easy?” Selika’s voice snapped from behind her. Her words were accompanied by the humming of a lightsaber. Ronovi grinned; at least now she was cooperating.

“A bunch of rejects from the droid-human hybrid assembly line,” she replied. “How hard can it be?”

And then she launched herself forward, sticking one blade of her saber into a Collective soldier’s chest and hearing the sizzle of both flesh and metal underneath. As one lump of steel-riddled meat dropped, so, too, did others, as Ronovi let her body succumb to the dance of Juyo. Her blades moved like blue whirlwinds as she did her work, though of course, as if she were fighting the Hydra, more minions popped up where others had been cut down.

“I need back-up!” she roared, eyeing the destroyed entrance, which remained open like a bloody, toothless maw. “Captain, train your men on the center to stop them from spreading out!”

“Doing our best, ma’am!” gasped the captain from the upper deck, just as those officers who were still alive unleashed a volley of blaster fire from their pistols and rifles.

Ronovi’s plan was to move parallel to the perimeter of the command deck, while also maintaining some distance from the actual walls. She knew that she could not leave herself open to being pinned or cornered. To her relief, Selika was actually following her, her violet lightsaber trained on blaster bolts and soldiers that came their way. The Dread Lord was certainly more in tune with the Force than combat, of course, and soon, the screams began in earnest, erupting from the raw throats of their enemies.

“Dirty Force user!” one Collective soldier screamed as he slapped a hand over his good eye, as if trying to blot out a nightmare unfolding before them.

“At least you didn’t forget how to traumatize people,” smirked Ronovi, just as one brave soul tried to confront her and wound up with plasma buried in his neck.

Selika didn’t respond, most likely too deep into her offensive mental warfare at this point. But she continued to move, and the two managed to reach the exit to the bridge. Soldiers continued to trickle in, though at a slower pace than before, and hesitating as they saw the fallen bodies of their comrades. Inquistor Keris had done her part as well, using her pistol to subdue a handful of the intruders before sweeping in beside the two Dark Jedi. Despite her shorter stature, she was certainly a force to be reckoned with in combat.

“If I’m not mistaken,” she said, “those breach pods ought to still be buried in our hull.”

“A way out,” grunted Ronovi, “with or without a hangar deck. Dread Lord, time to go.”

The corridors outside the bridge had been strafed with gunfire, patterns of scorch marks decorating the once pristine walls. Men and women in dark armor, with cybernetics and metal gleaming from their faces as if they were incomplete androids, leveled their firearms at the three escapees as they burrowed their way through the sentient barricades. Ronovi did what she was best at - she served as a living battering ram, the blades of her saberstaff doing the handiwork as she severed limbs and caved in chests as if the armor were made out of paper. Bit by bit, the trio inched their way in the direction of the aft - closer and closer to the beginnings of a war zone.


The engine room of the Abrogator had slowly become more of a free-for-all melee as the invading forces pushed towards the control center of the room. Teylas and Laren continued to fight them off, but the numbers were becoming overwhelming even for the two veteran fighters. “Do you think you could pick it up over there?” the Falleen Sith shouted at Arden as he was, too, shouting orders at the engineering crew.

“It’s a hyperdrive. This is going to take time!” Came an agitated shout over the noise of blasters and alarm klaxons.

Laren leaned into his Sith ally as the two continued fighting, “Who the hell cares about the hyperdrive?”

Teylas turned back towards Arden and the Bothan chief engineer, still shouting, “To hell with the hyperdrive! Just get the damn sub-light working and get us out of the line of fire!” The two seemed keen on the idea, and as Teylas turned his attention back towards the boarding parties the chief engineer was back to work on the new solution.

The Falleen dodged slightly as a blaster bolt whizzed past his head, nearly grazing his ear. Before he could retaliate, Laren had already taken dead aim to the invading figures head, folding his body over itself like a crashing deck of cards. The Sith nodded, but knew Laren’s assist was likely more out of self-preservation than his respect or love for him. The duo continued fighting against the boarding parties in what seemed like a never-ending onslaught of enemies. Although Teylas did find them to be a challenging opponent, there were bigger concerns and he was growing weary of the situation.

He shot a glance back at Arden who finally retorted, “It looks like we’ve got it.”

“Punch it. Get us the hell out of here,” Teylas ordered rhetorically. While he wasn’t Dread Lord any longer, he still commanded respect. But in this instance, even Arden wouldn’t argue with him, given the situation. They just had to get out of orbit of Nancora and away from the battle field.

The ship jolted, knocking some off their feet, as the sublight engines engaged and moved the ship from its parked position. Teylas could feel the hum of the engines moving from the deck plating up through his body as they pushed themselves to move the Pelta-class frigate through space. Several moments passed as the impacts of the breaching pods lessened until none could be heard reverberating through the ship’s hull. The engine room was also quickly falling into a silent hum of only the engines as the breaching pods were being emptied, and their crews being cut down by the Plagueian forces.

“I think we’re clear,” Arden commented somewhat unsurely. The Bothan engineer nodded his head in agreement.

Teylas and Laren approached where the two men had been working on the Abrogator’s systems. “Can we establish contact with anyone in command to get an update there?” Teylas asked.

“Communications are still down, and I don’t think it’ll be a quick fix. You’ll have to head up there yourself,” the engineer answered.

“Very well. Laren, Arden… let’s head up there and clear a pat—” Teylas was interrupted in his sentence by a massive explosion somewhere on the ship. The entire engineering room was rocked, sending everyone off their feet. Teylas found himself several meters away from where he was, collecting himself off the ground, and nursing a nice laceration on his right eyebrow which was already dripping blood onto the deck plating.

“What was that?” Laren asked, also collecting himself from the deck.

The four men stood in front of a master display of the ship where most of the sections in the center of the ship were flashing red. They stood there a moment, puzzled. Finally, the engineer pushed a few commands into his station to change the displays around. A hypothesis finally left the lips of one of them as the Bothan tried to explain, “Sensors picked up a ship heading towards us on a collision course right before the explosion. Most of the center sections aren’t responding to commands or sensor input, and it looks like dozens of emergency bulkheads have been activated. If I had to guess, I think the ship just got broken into two.”

Teylas pushed a few commands into the console to his side. Once confirmed he spoke up as well, “Looks like we weren’t all the way out of the planet’s gravity well, either.”

“We’re going to have to evacuate,” Arden calmly resigned himself to, surprising for the master of a ship who was inevitably watching itgo down through no fault of his own.

Laren nodded in agreement, “Guess we’re going to have to fight our way through the ship to get to the escape pods. The surface will be our only chance.”

“Best not to waste any time, then. Sound the evacuation,” Teylas ordered the chief engineer as the klaxons changed slightly to signal the evacuation of the Abrogator. As the three Plagueians made their way to the door out of the engine room, the Falleen put his hand on Arden’s shoulder and commented, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you a new ship.”


Arden shot a glare at Teylas, hoisting his rifle into a ready position. “I’ll hold you and Selika to that new ship once this is all over.”

“So, we’re evacuating then?” Inquired the Bothan engineer as he turned away from the console.

The three Plagueians turned to stare at the chief, ignoring the not so distant rumbling of their half of the ship falling apart around them. He cast his eyes to the deck and took an instinctive step backwards, clumsily bumping into the console behind him.

“Might be a burden,” Arden said absently.

“Best to put him out of his misery,” Laren added, tightening his grip on his hand blaster. Laren had never been a fan of holding onto dead weight, which this clumsy engineer surely would be in a firefight.

Teylas shook his head, eyes alight with thought. He clapped the Bothan on the shoulder, turning the man and staring face-to-face with the petrified engineer. The Falleen’s stare was unnerving at the best of times, though now he seemed to be burning holes in the poor man. “We’ll need our good friend here to help escape the ship. Arden can hold his own at slicing, but our engineer has technical skills beyond our own that might be useful in a pinch. Don’t you?”

“Ah, well,” the Bothan began, his voice shaky. “Well yes, I do at that.”

“And combat experience?’

“Enough to stay out of the way.”

Teylas flashed a toothy grin at the Bothan, though his gaze bore no semblance of compassion for the engineer. “Excellent.”

“The hallway we came from is probably crawling right now,” Laren cut in. “We have to go.”

“Astute as always, Laren,” Arden replied drily.

“At least I haven’t lost a ship, Karn,” Laren spat back.

Neither had time to retort, however. Before Laren could blink, the Falleen had activated his violet lightsaber and nodded to the entrance. “It looks like we have company,” Teylas growled.

Though the thick metal door was sealed shut, the intricate central locking mechanism was beginning to glow a faint amber. Dull thunks of concentrated blaster fire could be heard blasting away at the entry from the other side. Eventually they - whoever they were - would breach the hardened alloy and disable the locking system within, opening the door and paving the way for an assault on the engineering room. Laren estimated they had mere minutes at best before the enemy on the other side would be able to reign blaster fire and explosives down upon them. This, of course, assuming that their half of the ship didn’t crumble beneath their feet before they could reach the escape pods. They had to move, and soon, lest they be trapped in engineering fighting a battle that would end with them dead in one of many horrible ways.

“I thought our forces had it contained? Nothing can break through a good team of Wraiths.” The Bothan engineer looked up at Teylas, a worried expression on his vulpine face. “Right?”

“That assault team will likely be the least of our problems. Arden, get us out of here and find those escape pods. Laren, cover our retreat. You, whatever your name is -”

“It’s Reg -”

“I don’t care,” Teylas interrupted coldly. “Just stay close and out of the way. Let’s move!”

And so they began to run. Dodging between scattered debris and semi-functional computer interfaces, Arden led the odd team to a port-side service exit at the opposite end of the room. The group stopped short, however, for the door was jammed shut. Arden and Laren both cursed under their breath, whirling around and pointing their weapons at the weakening main entrance, while Reg groaned softly and attempted to repair the service exit console. Teylas, meanwhile was stoic and confident as ever. Laren observed Teylas as he stretched out his hand, and the Pantoran knew he was drawing upon the Force.

Suddenly the door began moving, the broken mechanism giving way under pure the pure strength of the Warlord’s telekenetic power. The door opened just past halfway, and Teylas let his hand drop. It was enough for one person to move through, at least. Laren knew Teylas would have done more, but time wasn’t on the team’s side.

“I repaired the console,” the engineer said in hushed tones. “We’ll be able to close the door on our way out, and the console will shut down after that.”

No one replied to the Bothan. The combat effective members of the team were too focused to be bothered. Instead, Arden peered into the dim hallway a moment later, carefully scanning for any sign of danger. Laren could hear sparks bursting from destroyed wiring exploding onto deck plating landing with a soft hiss, but no movement. That was a good sign.

After a moment that seemed an excruciating eternity, Arden nodded back to the other three and proceeded into the dimly lit corridor at a soft trot. Teylas followed, with Reg close on his heels, the two hugging the left side of the hallway where the debris provided the most cover. Laren was the last to follow, touching the entrance interface, shutting the half open door just as he saw a squad of those partially cybernetic soldiers breach into main engineering. He didn’t know if they had seen him, but Laren preferred to assume the worst in order to be prepared for what came next.

“They’re right behind us. Where are the escape pods?” the Pantoran said as he rejoined the others.

A little further down the corridor, they came to a doorway similar to the one in engineering. It was the same design, though smaller, made to act as an entrance between two deck corridors rather than a main entrance to critical ship location. But as Arden neared the door it remained closed. The console was also dead, a large piece of metallic shrapnel lodged where the interface once had been.

“Reg, you’re up,” Teylas called.

The Bothan quickly examined the damaged console under the faint ruby glow of the emergency lighting. After a brief inspection, he turned to look at Teylas, his expression grim.

“This might take a minute,” Reg said softly, his shaky voice oozing fear.

“You only have one. They know we’re here.” Teylas looked to Arden and Laren. “Take cover. Reg, disable the emergency lighting.”

In moments, the corridor was pitch black. Arden had taken a position back along the corridor behind a fallen bulkhead, his blaster rifle mounted in a small rut for extra stability, and his favored eye trained on his scope looking down the hallway. Laren had his own night vision gear covering his eyes, scanning the corridor with hand blaster at a relaxed ready position a few meters in front of Arden.

“Got it!” Reg whispered hoarsely.

His timing was impeccable. As the doors leading to the port-side corridor slid open and Reg walked through, Pantoran and Corellian alike began sending a hail of deadly plasma into the now open doorway from engineering. Within seconds, Arden and Laren had neutralized three overconfident troopers, though their comrades had dragged the bodies out of the doorway. More troopers quickly began returning fire, forcing the two Plagueian shooters into cover. A few moved into the hallway, advancing with tactical acumen rarely seen in front line boarding parties. Laren looked back noticing that Teylas had also joined the fight, whirling his lightsaber with unnatural speed and grace, sending blaster bolts harmlessly into the wall and ceiling.

“Arden, go first!” Teylas called over the din of the firefight. “Prep the escape pods!’

The Warlord responded with a brisk nod. Laren looked back at the human marksman who used hand signals demanding covering fire for his retreat. The mercenary responded by rapidly firing a long succession of cerulean bolts down the corridor, forcing the enemy into their hiding places as Arden snaked through the corridor and through the doorway.

“Laren, you’re next,” Teylas roared firercely as he continued to deflect blaster bolts. “On my mark, begin to -”

The remaining two Plagueian combatants saw it at the same time. A grenade landed a few metres short of Laren’s position and was seconds from detonation. It vaporize Laren at this distance, and half the hallway along with it. With mere moments to spare, the mercenary wasted no time in holstering his blaster and turning face.

“Teylas, get out of here!" Laren roared, sprinting down the corridor as blaster fire streaked by his head and torso. "Shut that damn door, now!”

In classic fashion, the former Dread Lord refused the demand of his lessers. Instead, the Falleen outstretched his free hand, lightsaber held deftly in the other. Before Laren could react, he was floating through the air and flying past Teylas through the doorway beyond. He crashed into the Bothan engineer on the other side and the two toppled against a window in a heap. Laren felt the impact crash through his body, sending ripples of pain coursing through his back and arms. However, battle instincts overtook him, and he managed to look up as the door shut just as the grenade on the other side exploded. The entryway bent inward, but the ship was built for battle, and the door held fast.

“By the frozen hells,” Laren began. “I thought -”

“No time for thinking.” Teylas interrupted. He used his now deactivated lightsaber and pointed at an escape pod. “We’re getting in.”

“And what about me?” Arden demanded.

“Take Reg. He has his charm, no?”

Another explosion rocked the corridor behind them. They were out of time. Teylas and Laren entered one of the escape pods, the door of the small craft firmly shut behind them. Arden and Reg took a similar escape pod for their own, this one located beside the other and to the right.

Laren was briskly typing commands into their escape pod when he heard the assault team breach the final door.

“I’m not done programming the escape pod for atmospheric entry,” he told Teylas, exasperated.

“No time. Punch it.”

Laren nodded, and no sooner had the assault team entered the corridor were Laren and Teylas streaking through space toward the planet below. As the escape pod was drawn deeper and deeper into the planet’s gravity, they looked up at their former ship, two halves slowly drifting further away from each other in a churning sea of frozen cadavers and ship’s debris.

“Do you think the Dread Lord made it out okay?” Laren asked.

Silence greeted him, though that too was interrupted by an emergency klaxon emanating from the escape pod console. Laren read the message and groaned.

“Hold on tight. This is not going to be a soft landing.”


This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Selika’s mind was racing furiously as she followed Ronovi towards the aft part of the ship. The Dread Lord was still reeling from the sudden change in circumstance. Space combat wasn’t her forte, but even still she was as often as not standing at the head of a star fleet that would make most planetary governments jealous. Now, it was just one ship against a swarming mass of enemies. At least the boarding parties had given her something, finally, to lash out at. For all their physical augmentations, she could still twist their minds.

“Move!” Ronovi shouted, once again jarring Selika into motion.

“I was just making this one feel like he was on fire,” Selika said, stepping over the twitching form of one of the enemy soldiers.

Ronovi turned momentarily, but before she could offer a quip in reply, the corridor before them erupted into a fiery hell. The deck bucked beneath them, tossing bodies around like rocks in a can being shaken violently. When Selika’s eyes could focus once more, she pushed herself up to her feet and saw that their way forward was now blocked by the gleaming metal of a blast door.

Selika reactivated her saber and was about to plunge it into the impediment when Ronovi grabbed her hands to stop her.

“No,” she said. “Don’t you feel that?”

Selika pushed out her Force sense and tried to see what was on the other side of the bulkhead that was giving Ronovi pause. But, instead she sensed nothing. No life, no energy flows, nothing.

“I don’t think the rest of the ship is there any longer,” Ronovi stated matter of factly, her calm demeanor contrasting sharply with the news she delivered. “Back the way we came!”

As Ronovi brushed past her, Selika nearly stammered in consternation. “Back?”

“We have to see what our options are, and the command deck offers a lot more information than these bulkhead walls,” the Epicanthix replied, gesturing at the blank, white walls that surrounded them.

“Point taken,” Selika admitted.

The command deck itself was a mess, the bodies of enemy soldiers and Plagueians alike littered the deck, but in far smaller numbers than there had been before.

“Looks like one of the viewports blew out,” Keris said, pointing to a section of transparisteel that was now covered over by an emergency bulkhead. “Probably sucked a fair few of them out into space.”

Ronovi stepped over to the main display and called up a system diagnostic. “Looks like we were rammed again,” Ronovi explained. “Bigger ship this time, likely a quadjumper.”

“And I thought our slaves were fanatical,” Selika mused.

“The aft portion of the ship, everything beyond section 12, looks like it was still intact,” Ronovi continued, ignoring Selika’s comment. “Sections 4 through 11 simply don’t exist any longer.”

“So where does that leave us?” Selika asked.

“Stuck on a floating can in space,” Keris spat, “waiting to be taken.”

As if on cue, there was a loud whump from the bulkhead behind the Inquisitor and then an explosion. A breaching pod had finally burned it’s way through the outer hull and blown in through the inner. Shredded metal ripped through the short, squat woman like she wasn’t even there before embedding itself in the opposite bulkhead. The lifeless Inquisitor dropped to the deck like a sack of tuber root. The three enemy soldiers that were manning the pod charged onto the bridge, only to find themselves facing three lightsaber blades between the weapons of Ronovi and Selika. Compared to the horde of soldiers that had faced them before, the two Plagueian women made short work of them.

As the last of them fell, his head having been cleaved cleanly from his body by Ronovi’s blade, the one eyed bodyguard appeared thoughtful.

“I’m not going to just sit here and wait for more and more of these Force hating fanatics to show up,” Ronovi said.

“So where exactly do you suggest we go?” Selika demanded.

“Down there,” Ronovi answered, pointing out the still intact part of the viewport that framed the planet Nancora.

“You’re insane,” Selika said, her eyes widening. “Trade some boarding pods full of soldiers for an entire planet of them?”

“Better than staying here,” Ronovi said. “Sit here.” The larger woman pushed Selika up the steps to the pilot’s station.

“I don’t know how to fly something like this,” Selika said, exasperated.

“At this point, just point it at the planet and fire the reaction control system. Gravity will do the rest,” Ronovi coached.

Ronovi took the seat beside Selika’s station as the human tentatively activated the controls to follow her bodyguard’s instructions. The ship bucked slightly under her inputs, her unfamiliarity with the systems only compounded by the fact half of the ship didn’t exist any longer.

“I’ve got external sensors working again,” Ronovi reported. “Looks like we’ve got some starfighters moving to pace us.”

“And?” Selika said, her hands held wide.

“Make your entry angle as steep as possible. They won’t be able to follow,” Ronovi ordered, a mischievous look evident in her one good eye.

“And we won’t be able to pull out without main engines or repulsors, either. Your plan is to ram the planet and take your revenge?” Selika asked, rolling her eyes.

“We won’t have to pull the ship out,” Ronovi replied, pointing at the newly formed entrance to the bridge formed by the breaching pod. “Like I said before, a way out.”

Selika shook her head, but said nothing. Outside, she could see the friction with the atmosphere beginning to heat the ship. Soon, the viewports were awash in firey red and the roar of the air rushing by the hull filled the bridge.

“Good,” Ronovi shouted to be heard over the din, “the enemy fighters had to slow, they’re falling behind!”

“And we’re just falling!” Selika yelled back.

“With style!” Ronovi cackled.

The height above ground indicator was beginning to display numbers far smaller than Selika normally liked, and the ship was now passing through high level clouds instead of space. Firing the thrusters, Selika did what she could to flatten out their dive. But, as she had surmised, it wasn’t going to be enough.

“All right, time to go.” Ronovi said, nearly pulling Selika bodily from her chair as the larger woman moved towards the breaching pod.

The interior of the pod offered the close, cramped space that Selika had expected. The smell of various lubricants didn’t do it any favors. Strapping herself in, Selika grabbed the control that would close the boarding hatch and slammed it forward, sealing the pod. Another control fired the pod’s own thrusters, ripping it free of the falling bow section of the Abrogator. Now free, Selika could survey the damage through the viewport. The outer hull was scorched from the heat of entry, and the ship simply ended about a third of the way aft from the bow. Wrestling with the controls of the spinning breaching pod, Selika watched as the bow section of the frigate rushed toward the ground. It clipped the side of one of Nancora’s peaks, sending the entire ship spinning on it’s axis as it rushed downward. Before she could blink, the remains of the vessel disappeared into a deep valley, the flanking mountains hiding it’s final resting place.

“You are going to pull us up, right?” Ronovi inquired.

“I’m trying!” Selika snapped. “This thing isn’t exactly a starfighter, it handles like a drunken purrgil.”

The ground rushed up to meet them at an alarming speed, but there was nothing more Selika could do.

“Brace for impact!” Selika ordered.

Selika felt a creeping fear as the moment came, and then fell into blackness as the force of the crash drove consciousness from her.



Arden glanced up at the panicking Bothan on the other side of the escape pod as he did his best to stabilize the craft as it began to enter Nancora’s atmosphere. The pod vibrated noticeably as it contacted the atmosphere, something that didn’t help the engineer’s state of mind.

“Yeah. Breathe. Of course. I always knew you Sith were going to get me killed.”

The Bothan was stammering so much Arden had no idea whether the statement was supposed to be serious or sarcastic. Not that it mattered at this point, they still had to get to the ground in one piece. Between the lack of time to properly launch and the amount of debris falling with them, that was not a certainty. It was all Arden could do to get the pod to level out and headed in the direction of a safe landing site. Looking down at the status display, the Overseer reached up to tighten his straps on his seat.

“Twenty seconds to impact.”

It took Reg a moment to realize that the Overseer had said impact and not landing. When he did, a look of palpable terror shot across the Bothan’s face as he hurriedly tightened his own straps. He considered saying something to the Sith, but realized Arden was deep in focus and might not have heard him anyway. With no way to readily see the ground, all the two had to go from was the display in front of them. Both readied themselves as the display ticked down.




Both men lurched forward in their seats as the pod slammed into the sandy surface of the planet. Even Arden was a bit nervous as the craft skidded along the surface for several hundred meters before coming to a stop when it embedded itself nose first in the side of a massive sand dune. Once craft had come to a complete stop, Arden looked over to the Bothan with a wry look on his face.

“Not dead yet.”

Though somewhat queasy from the rough landing, the Bothan was uninjured as was Arden. Reg nodded in response to Arden’s comment.

“Lucky we found a soft spot to land.”

Arden shot the Bothan a look as he undid his harness but didn’t immediately respond. While many Force users would credit the Force for the safe landing, Arden recognized there was still a place for luck alongside the Force. Really didn’t matter which it was in this case, they were on the ground and alive. That might have been the easy part. Now they had to survive and get off this rock and possibly even find a way to complete their original mission.

One step at a time though.

“Reg, get the survival packs. We’re going to need to get out of here and find some better cover and soon. Their ground forces will be looking for us.”

The Bothan nodded and started unbuckling himself from the seat. While not in sheer terror like he was before, he was still anxious. As the engineer fumbled around for the survival gear, Arden did a quick scan with the Pod’s damaged but still somewhat functional sensor. As the Bothan hurriedly shoved a pack into his lap, Arden nodded at the results on the display and spoke with a hint of relief.

“Looks like at least Teylas and Laren made it down, roughly four clicks Northwest of here.”

“Any idea on the forward section?” The Bothan queried as both men through the survival packs over their shoulders.

Arden shook his head, but as the Bothan opened the pod’s door, he got his answer. The massive form of the Pelta’s forward section was plummeting through the atmosphere and looked like it would land somewhere in the vicinity. Of greater interest though, despite the rain of debris in its wake, the section seemed fairly intact. For a moment Arden considered waiting for the section to make impact, but the Force alerted him to an incoming hunk of debris.

“Reg, move!”

Arden grabbed the Bothan and pulled him out of the pod and started sprinting down the dune they had landed in. A few seconds later, a chunk of what looked like the comm tower smashed into the dune, crushing the front portion of the pod. When Reg realized what just happened, he looked over to Arden.

“That was close,” the Bothan said. “What now?”

“I thought that would be obvious,” Arden answered with a glare as he pulled out his datapad to get his bearings. “We find Teylas and Laren, rendezvous with the Dread Lord with the assumption she survives the crash, and then get the scrolls and get off this rock.”

“Scrolls?” Reg asked. “And what makes you think the Dread Lord will survive the crash?”

Arden ignored the first question and skipped straight to the second. “She’ll survive, Ronovi is with her. Now come on, before the bad guys show up.” Arden glanced down at the datapad and then looked up and pointed. “That way, about 3900 meters.”

Arden trudged off in the indicated direction without looking back. Reg shifted the load of the pack on his back whined a bit in protest, and then followed. The Nancoran desert was by far the hottest place the Bothan he’d ever been in his life, even hotter than the bowels of the freighter he’d been serving on before he ended up on the Abrogator. He didn’t really like to think about the process that led him there, though he was grateful for one thing. At least he hadn’t ended up like some of his crew mates. A little bit of sand in his fur was well worth not having one’s freedom stripped entirely.

Arden, for his part, wasn’t showing much emotion at all. Having a ship shot out from under him and landing in an inhospitable place was becoming a common enough thing for him. Compared to someone like Brimstone, he was taking it very well, saying nothing as they trekked over several dunes. Sand wasn’t really his thing either, but it would wash off, eventually. Getting the scrolls and escaping might be tricky, but he’d find a way. He had no intentions of dying on this rock, though he was getting the feeling someone else might be thinking the opposite.

As the pair crested a dune that would put them less than a kilometer away from the location of Teylas’ pod, Arden called for a halt and then, a moment later, dropped prone and pulled the Bothan down with him. When the Bothan looked over to protest, Arden put a finger to his lip to call for silence. Pulling his rifle up to his eye, he confirmed what his initial glance had suggested.

“Enemy patrol,” Arden whispered. “At least one heavy, three others, and what might be a medic. You armed?”

Reg glanced back and whispered a reply. “Not really, must have lost my blaster in the chaos on the ship.”

Arden pointed to the pistol on his hip, suggesting that Reg should take it, but without saying a word. He stared down the rifle’s barrel and slipped into what a casual observer would mistake for a sort of trance. For the first time in a long time he was in a combat situation that suited his skills. He had the high ground, he was unspotted, and he had an appropriate weapon.

Hopefully the crash hadn’t thrown off the calibrations on his rifle.


Nancora Prime

Well, this is a familiar situation.

Ronovi was able to extricate herself easily from the pod, the sand and smoke billowing around her and threatening to mix with the clotted blood that decorated her face and neck. She inhaled deeply and let the Force do its work - cuts on her body slowly began to heal, and bones that felt knocked out of place before now reset themselves and worked out their kinks. She had never been one to be over the top with her Force use, but sometimes the situation certainly called for some deus ex machina.

And hey, her eyepatch hadn’t cracked, let alone shattered, upon landing. That was worth something, right?

This crash, in all honesty, had not been one of the worst she had endured. The blankets of sand had done wonders as a cushion, and so most of the damage had been from the viewing portal exploding into fragments upon impact. The landing itself, funnily enough, had been rather soft. It was certainly quite a change from barreling into the snow several years back. Or landing around active Mandalorian ships and troops.

This definitely ain’t my first crash. New Tython, Khar Delba…

The dunes of the Badlands seemed to go on forever. Ronovi’s boots settled into a deep bank, their heels disappearing into the brown morass, and she struggled to keep her breathing shallow in order to avoid sand getting in her nose. The stories told about this place were pretty harrowing, to say the least - the predictable “Many enter, but few make it out” slogan was tossed about quite a bit. The Epicanthix wasn’t worried. She had survived several “no man’s lands” before. It was just a matter of inconvenience that they had lost a ship and now had to casually stroll over to their destination.

And as she watched Selika slowly maneuver her way out of the crashed pod, she figured that this was just a hiccup in the entire situation. The Dread Lord appeared intact - shaken and irritated, perhaps, but certainly not too much worse for wear.

“So!” Ronovi called out to her. “Farewell, Abrogator. Sorry, Karn.”

Selika said nothing. The gashes on her own body had healed far quicker than Ronovi’s had, and her fingers were taut at her sides.

“That was lucky,” she uttered, perhaps more to herself than to her bodyguard.

Ronovi shook her head. “I don’t believe in luck,” she replied. “It’s too cheesy. Fate and destiny and our lives written in the stars…”

“We’ll need to find the others,” interrupted Selika, “if they survived. And after that, we search for the scrolls.”

Ronovi laughed, and she scratched at the back of her neck, some remaining dried blood collecting under her fingernails. “Yeah,” she sighed. “About that. Can I be candid here?”

“I’ve never been able to stop you before.”

“If you ask me, this whole Plagueis dark scrolls arrangement is…too good to be true. I’m going to pay homage to the famous Admiral Ackbar and offer this hypothesis: It’s a trap.”

Selika rolled her eyes; Ronovi had expected that. The two of them began walking then, abandoning the smoldering breaching pod entirely, using their gloves or sleeves to cover their mouths as the wind picked up all around them.

“What makes you think it’s a trap?”

“I told you,” answered Ronovi, “it’s too convenient. It honestly looks like something a kriffing Jedi would plant to lure us here. I mean, Plagueis? The Dark Lord Plagueis? His scrolls somehow winding up on Nancora? Don’t make me laugh.”

“The intel we received was pretty solid. I detected no inconsistencies in the reports.”

The Epicanthix snorted derisively. “Well, the Jedi certainly aren’t dumb. They know how to manipulate just as well as some of the Sith I know,” she countered. “Seriously, how can you be so sure that these scrolls are real?”

“Because unlike you,” Selika retorted calmly, “I’m not a cynic. You’ve seen much, Tavisaen, and you’ve toughened up since then. You have a history. I don’t blame you for being overly vigilant.”

“No, Roh, I’m the perfect amount of vigilant. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”

Selika ignored her after that. Ronovi smiled. She was accustomed to the coldness of her superior. Still, they walked together, side by side, anticipating anything or anyone to approach them. The heat beat down on their heads like angry halos, their breath labored as the gusts of wind came and went around them. After a while, Ronovi left her jacket behind, dropping it carelessly into the drift, so that only her shapeless gray tunic bristled against her chest. The garment wouldn’t be missed; Plagueis had plenty of extra jackets waiting for her on Aliso, at the Pinnacle.

No chance to put on her armor or gauntlets due to the sudden infiltration of the enemy. But her saberstaff and pistol were ready. She at least had her weapons - protective accouterments be damned.

There was something to be said about how quiet everything was on Nancora Prime, as Selika and Ronovi walked. The din and chaos of the destruction that had just befallen them now felt like distant memories, echoes of a time that had legitimately just happened mere minutes ago. Perhaps this could be explained simply by Ronovi’s past and experiences. Perhaps the idea that she had been frozen in stasis for so many years had numbed her to the noise and violence of the outside world, and she was more apathetic than ever. Selika exuded a different kind of aura about it. Ronovi could sense it from her - the ambition, the chilling calculation, the need to prove herself. Seeing her vulnerable on the Abrogator had given her a different perspective. Maybe Selika now viewed Ronovi differently as well.

“Hey, Roh?”

Selika turned her head to look at her. On the horizon, the sun was beginning to set. “Yes?”

“Are we there yet?”

The look Selika gave Ronovi for that question was expected. But definitely worth it.


“We aren’t going to be able to cover ground quickly, but we should be able to meet up with Arden before night fall,” Teylas commented to Laren, readjusting his jacket and equipment from their crash.

“What about my leg? I’m going to slow you down,” Laren responded, still in a bit of shock from the state his leg was in.

“That is true, but I’m not going to leave you here for a patrol to find you,” Teylas said, turning back from his view of the path ahead and back to the Pantoran. Teylas grabbed Laren from under the shoulder and helped to hoist him up onto his feet. “It’s too bad Ronovi isn’t here, she could probably heal this up. But we’ll make due.”

Laren pulled out his scanner as he hobbled along with the help of his Falleen Sith compatriot. Looking over the scanner a bit, Teylas turned his head waiting for a report. Once satisfied, Laren reported, “We’ve got patrols all around. But if we’re going to meet up with Arden, they landed that way,” a blue hand with a finger extended pointed.

“Then that’s where we’re heading. We’ll be better off if there’s more of us,” Teylas said confidently. As the two began the trek towards where Arden’s escape pod landed, the Falleen could sense the pain that Laren was in. It didn’t take someone sensitive to the Force to tell that the Pantoran was in pain. After almost an hour of walking Teylas uncharacteristically said, “If you need to stop, we can.”

“No,” Laren shook his head, “If we stop, we chance being spotted. We’re doing good so far. Let’s push on.”

Teylas didn’t verbally respond, but the two continued their trek with Teylas still supporting Laren’s ability to stand up. His leg was a mess with at least two deep lacerations, and what seemed like at least one broken bone. He was unable to support himself on it, and barely able to put any weight on it. It was slowing the duo down, but Teylas refused to leave him behind.

As they made their way across the Nancoran surface, Teylas spotted a patrol ahead of them. As he plopped Laren behind a large boulder, Teylas joined him swiftly after getting a good look at the patrol. He reported to Laren, “Four soldiers… one looks like a medic. Think you can aim that thing?” Teylas nodded towards Laren’s blaster holster.

“As long as I don’t have to do any cartwheels I should be fine,” the blue-skinned mercenary quipped back.

Teylas snuck out from behind the rock, slowly approaching the patrol. As he observed, he sensed something – someone – familiar, but brushed it off prepared to clear their path towards the other escape pod. He withdrew his lightsaber, activating the violate blade, and lept from his position towards the center of the patrol. Taking them by surprise, he was able to cut down two of them with one swipe. Engaged with the other two, the Sith extended his hand and hurled lightning at a third member of the patrol. The last, the heaviest armed of the group, was ready to come down on Teylas. As the Falleen began to defend himself, the heavy patrolman stopped suddenly and dropped as a smoke trail followed him down. Kicking his body over, Teylas saw a perfect headshot through the helmet.

Looking back up at a far ledge, perched up high, he saw that familiar person he felt earlier: Arden, who was lining up for another shot. Teylas turned, realizing the medic was still standing there, frozen in fear. The bolt of energy left Arden’s position and Teylas extended his lightsaber, deflecting the bolt into the ground.

“We need him alive!” Teylas shouted, only creating more panicked fear in the medic’s body language.


“For what?” Arden hollered back over his scope.

“Just get down here,” Teylas said, turning away and beginning to search among the cauterized corpses. He actively ignored the medic for now, letting the unarmed man shiver with uncontrollable fear. Laren knew what game he was playing. He wanted the man to run.

Almost as if on cue, the medic scrambled forward on all fours, attempting to gain his balance and make a futile dash for freedom. A shot that originated from Arden’s rifle landed in front of him, causing him to stumble, and moments later the man was floating effortlessly towards the Falleen. He was caught in an invisible web that held him firm, sinuous arms and legs held at odd angles. Two bulging red eyes were filled with terror as he came face-to-face with the Warlord, but instead of screaming his jaw trembled uncontrollably. Smart, to keep his mouth shut. Or perhaps he was too frightened to make even the slightest noise.

“I will say this once, and once only,” Teylas began coldly, staring into the medic’s eyes. “First, you’re going to fix this man’s leg.” He nodded to Laren. The Pantoran responded with a wave of his free hand and then winced, holding his injured leg. Even subtle movement added to the inflammation and pain. “You will have access to your medical kit for this task. Do this, and I’ll spare your life." That, Laren knew, was a lie.

The medic nodded vigorously.

“Excellent. And before I let you do this, can you do it?”

“On my life,” the medic responded hoarsely.

“Choice words,” Arden cut in as he came to stand beside Teylas. Laren noticed with surprise that the Bothan was still with Arden. It seemed Reg was more resourceful than they had originally given him credit for. “Any funny business, and I’ll make you wish you had never been brought into this world.”

“Cut the dramatics, Karn,” Laren called to the Corellian. “Just let Teylas scare the karkin’ medic so he’ll fix up my leg. Then you can torture him for information.”

“You know, Laren, you really do spoil the fun,” Arden called back, casually shouldering his rifle.

“Enough.” Teylas’ voice was soft, but firm. His two companions complied without question. He may not have been the Dread Lord any longer, but none could question the air of authority surrounding the tall Sith. “Besides, I’ll be leading the interrogation. Now, my friend. Begin.”

The Duros medic was let down to the ground, and he moved with a trained precision toward his medical equipment. While Arden began poking through the falling bodies, Teylas stood over Laren and watched as the medic opened his bag, fumbling through the kit until he found a scanner. Laren himself watched closely, blaster pointed with at the medic and finger hovering just outside of the trigger mechanism. The Sith just watched over the proceedings in case the procedure made the spry Pantoran fall unconscious from pain or something similar.

“What in the hell happened that caused this?”

Laren shrugged, wincing as an intense bout of pain shot up his entire leg. It felt cold, like a thousand needles pressing deep into his very bone. “Crash landing and bad luck. Can you fix it?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. Might have a few new metallic bits that weren’t there before, though. And I can say for certain it won’t be a perfect fix.”

With that, the medic set about to work. With the imposing Warlord looming over his shoulder, Laren was sure that the man wouldn’t attempt any trickery. Focus gleaming in his eyes, the Duros set to work on the lower part of his leg. Not wanting to watch the process unfold as the medic tore into his flesh, Laren instead focused on the top of the Duros’s head. A few moment’s into the procedure he felt a sudden chill creep up his leg. Unlike the pain, this was a soothing sensation. Though his curiosity was peaked, Laren still refused to look. Seconds became minutes, and the Duros’s methodical pace didn’t falter. Laren heard scanners, what sounded like drills, cutters, and he felt a constant poking and prodding all over. What the frozen hells is he doing? No. Don’t look down. He didn’t want to know.

Finally, the medic sat back and put his tools away. He looked down at Laren’s leg one last time, shrugged, and then nodded.

“Afraid it’s the best I can do. Not good as new, but good enough to get along with.”

Laren finally looked down. The sight before him was one he had only imagined seeing in one of the holovids coming out of the Core. Though come to think of it, he had to expect anything among these Sith-types. His leg was mostly intact, but shoddily installed cybernetic components protruded out of his former wounds. They were of various sizes and makes, and the wiring snaked into his skin and likely connected to his nervous system. Instinctively, he bent the leg at the knee. It complied, though it felt - stiff was the only word Laren could come up with.

“Hey, I found something!” Arden called suddenly. Laren and Teylas looked over to see a datapad in the man’s hand that he had taken off of one the bodies.

Ignoring Arden for the moment, Teylas looked to Laren and asked, “So, how does the leg feel?”

Laren responded by getting to his feet. His balance was a little off, and he almost felt as if the height of his leg was different. But even so, he felt sure enough on his feet to traverse through dirt and sand.

“It’ll do. I’ll get a replacement back home.”


Without warning, Teylas activated his lightsaber and made a superficial cut down the chest of the medic. The Duros howled in agony, falling onto his back and writhing on the ground.

“You - you wretched Sith sc - scum. I just saved your filthy friend and this -”

Suddenly Teylas had his lightsaber in hand, the violet blade activated and hovering less than a finger width from the medic’s throat. They were both still.

“What do you know about the installations of Nancora Prime? What do you know about the artifacts being kept here? Speak.” Teylas’s voice was no more than a whisper, but it dripped with barely controlled fury. With the datapad in hand, Arden joined them and stood off to Teylas’s left. He paid the torture no mind, choosing to comb through its contents. Laren, however, watched with eager anticipation as Teylas began his aggressive interrogation.


Arden was still examining the datapad he’d taken off the Patrol when he looked up and saw Selika and Ronovi walking towards his position overlooking the Collective facility. Glancing up, Arden smirked slightly.

“Looks like you still have all your original limbs. Good.”

Selika glared back and then looked at Laren, stared for a moment and then nodded. “You encountered a patrol?”

“They encountered my lightsaber, yes,” Teylas piped in and glanced to the medic that had resumed quivering in fear. “We brought what’s left of it in case you want to have some fun.”

“You have what you need from him?” Ronovi asked.

Arden nodded. “Access codes, location of a service entrance, and I’ve sliced their comms. He doesn’t know where the scrolls are, we asked.” The scorch marks on the medic’s uniform indicated to Ronovi that they didn’t ask nicely.

Hearing this, Selika nodded to Ronovi who promptly pulled out her DH-17 pistol and shot the medic in the head. As their victim’s blackened brain matter erupted from his skull and his body crumpled to the sand, Arden tossed Ronovi one of the comlinks looted from the patrol. He then looked to Selika and calmly stated the situation.

“Front door is 700 meters to the northwest. I count at least two heavy blaster turrets, bunch of droids, and at least one squad of their cyborgs. Durasteel plated doors, security sensors, all the usual stuff.”

“Out,” Ronovi muttered. “Next.”

Laren jumped in before Arden could continue “Road over the ridge leads to what our friend with a hole in him said was a loading dock. Only a small lookout post, and Arden thinks he has the gate codes.”

“Thinks?” Selika asked. “What do you mean, thinks?”

“For an organization that called itself ‘Technocrats,’ they have a rather inefficient file indexing system,” Arden replied. “It’s as if the name doesn’t mean what they think it means.”

Piping up from the back, the Bothan engineer that had been tagging along since the crash raised a furred hand and meekly and nervously interjected. “My lords, you’re actually planning to storm that fortress? On your own? Without backup?”

Laren chuckled at the comment, but Arden shot a glare over to the sweaty furred Bothan. “Reg, this is only a moderate challenge for this bunch. You should have seen Khar Delba. That planet sucked more than this one.”

“Definitely,” Ronovi responded. “And Khar Shian, too. That place was cold as kriff, and we had that blue arse Alaris. Oh, and behemoths. Don’t forget the behemoths.”

Reg nodded meekly at the responses. “And you’re going to…”

“Reg, shut up,” Teylas interrupted. “Stay out of the way and we’ll be fine.”

The Bothan quietly nodded and took a couple steps back from the group. Arden glanced down at the datapad and listened to the comlink in his ear. He looked back to the group and spoke.

“Guard shift change in 20, probably an appropriate time to get moving so we can catch them at their most exhausted.”

Selika nodded and gestured towards the loading dock entrance Laren had indicated. “Let’s go and keep it quiet.” She glanced around to the Bothan to emphasize a point. “Especially you.”

It wasn’t far to the area where the loading dock was, and the group benefited from the cover of a low ridge most of the way to the door. Without proper equipment there was no way to tell if there were other sensor systems, but they wouldn’t be noticed by a Mark I eyeball. Then again, from what they knew of the Technocratic Guild, they were on at least Mark IV eyeballs. When the group got to the end of the ridge, Arden signaled for a halt. Selika looked confused for a moment, but figured out what Arden was thinking as he raised his rifle scope to his eye and pointed it towards the lookout post. Also noticing what Arden was thinking, Laren stepped up to join him.

“Three in the tower, 300 meters, windage from the south,” Arden whispered to the group.

“Thinking out loud, Karn?” Teylas replied in a slightly mocking hiss.

Arden didn’t react to the comment and kept his focus on the job. “I got left.”

“Right, then meet you in the middle,” Laren replied.

Arden steadied his rifle and took a breath and Laren did the same. With near perfect synchronization, the pair pulled their triggers. A split second later, two of the guards in the guard tower crumpled backwards, blaster holes in their heads. The third one reached for something, but before he could move fully react, he had two holes of his own.

“Mine,” Laren mused as Arden muttered in defeat.

“You’re getting better,” Arden replied and then looked back to the Bothan engineer. Arden tossed him the datapad with the gate codes taken from the medic. “Get the door, would you?”

The Bothan caught it but looked confused. “Me?”

“Yes, you,” Ronovi replied with a glare.

Reg shook his head nervously and started skulking towards the loading gate while Arden and Laren covered him. Once the Bothan was out of earshot Ronovi couldn’t help but glance over to Arden.

“Why’d you bring him along, other than to do expendable things?”

“Mostly that,” Arden replied. “But I also kind of like him. Wouldn’t have pulled him off the slave processing line if I hadn’t.”

“He has been useful,” Laren added. “That said, I’m actually aiming at him, just in case he stops being useful.”

For the moment, Reg did continue to be useful as after a few moments the loading gate opened and the quintet of Plagueians started moving towards it. As they passed him, Arden patted Reg on the shoulder which was met from a wry smile from the Bothan. Meeting no resistance immediately beyond the gate, the group pushed into the cargo handling area beyond. Arden looked around, expecting there to be enemies here, or at least worker droids or something. Aside from the stacks of cargo containers, there was nothing. Ronovi glanced over to Arden as she took in the scene.

“Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“I think so, Ronovi,” Arden replied. “Trap?”

“Trap,” Ronovi answered.

As Ronovi spoke, Arden jumped back a split second before the other Force users did as an explosion ripped through the room from behind one of the nearby sets of cargo containers. As the cargo containers fell to the floor in front of the group, the sounds of boots could be heard entering the room. A moment later, a dozen of the Technocratic Guild’s cybernetically enhanced soldiers had taken up positions surrounding the room. A massive Devaronian with greenish skin and a full beard stepped in with them, an assassin droid at his side. He looked to the group and chuckled.

“Clever, avoiding that one.”

“If you’re going to demand our surrender, you should have brought more than twelve!” Ronovi shouted back in clear disgust.

The Devaronian chuckled again as he readied his riot baton. “Then I guess we have to fight, then. Good.”

Teylas looked to the group. “Who wants the really ugly one?”

“He’s mine,” Ronovi answered, stepping forward. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”


Oh, I’ve been so looking forward to this again.

Ronovi’s organic eye narrowed as she slowly unhooked her saberstaff from her belt. From what she could tell, these guys weren’t any more of a threat than the One Sith she had faced several years before - in fact, perhaps they were less of a threat. The Technocratic Guild, and the Collective in general, certainly weren’t pushovers - but Ronovi was beginning to think that their capabilities and prowess had been a little exaggerated in the reports and data that she had read over the past few weeks.

Or maybe she was being too cocky again. That wasn’t new to her. Old habits died hard.

The Devaronian standing in front of her, his lackeys all crowding around him with metal glinting from their faces and bodies, grinned a terrible grin beneath his beard. It was a wonder he had managed to grow that, considering that the top of his head, save for the presence of his horns, was completely and totally bald. The two stood fairly far apart in the warehouse-like facility. From a first glance, everything seemed serene, untouched. That was not even close to the reality of it.

I recognize this guy from the reports, Ronovi thought to herself. What’s his name - Kerin? Kershwin? No - Kerwin. Kerwin Drake. He’s the strongman of the group. Has a couple of kids. His picture looked way better, though.

“Not much of a talker, are you, Drake?” she asked aloud after some silence elapsed. “Don’t worry - I like it when people act rather than blab.”

“You know me.”

Ronovi shrugged. “I do my homework.”

“I know what kind of creature you are,” Kerwin Drake replied calmly as the Epicanthix approached him. “With or without that silly cybernetic of yours.”

“Aw,” replied the Epicanthix, putting on her best pout. “And I thought maybe you could invite me into your gang.”

“You thrive on tricks and manipulation. I’m used to facing fools like you.”

“The only foolish one,” retorted Ronovi, “is the guy who thinks I rely on anything besides my beautiful brains and brawn.”

Drake sighed and said nothing. His cybernetic left arm, too slim for Ronovi’s liking, seemed to slither from the rest of his body, the fingers gripping his Z6 Riot Control Baton. His assassin droid whirred beside him, as if calculating its own path around the room. The rest of his men, of course, unshouldered their blasters, their muzzles clicking as they leveled them at the woman’s Amazonian frame.

Ronovi shrugged at the display. The metal of her saberstaff was surprisingly cold in her sweaty palm. Heat, not stress, was warming her body - adrenaline, too.

“All right,” she declared. “Clearly, you’re itching for a fight. So am I. I’m willing to take you on. But I’ve got one question for you before I knock you down flat.”

“I suppose I’ll humor you.”

The Epicanthix smiled. “Is that a rocket on your wrist, or are you just happy to see me?”

She was answered by the crackling of the projectile itself, as Drake launched the rocket straight at her, and she jumped out of the way with ease. The wall behind her ruptured, miniature meteors of debris flying into the air and then crashing down in sluggish pieces around her. Ronovi let her back hunch and her body lurch forward, both the concentration of Broken Gate and the raw, unhindered wrath of Juyo calibrating her form and dictating her stance. She watched warily as Drake unhooked his electrostaff from his belt with his right hand, his two blunt weapons twirling in his fingers as he now pointed them in the direction of his new opponent.

“I take it those are equipped to handle lightsabers?” she asked. “Or are you going to make this easy for me?”

Drake glowered at her. “Enough talk. Men!”

As a hailstorm of blaster fire rained upon her, Ronovi launched herself forward, as the rest of the Plagueians brought their sabers and blasters to bear and joined the fray. Arden and Laren fired shots into the space between Drake and his droid, easily separating them so that they didn’t appear attached at the hip. It didn’t matter to her if they were backing her up or simply fighting independently, trying to take on the metal assassin themselves - Ronovi knew who her target was now. As the cerulean light burst forth, she let her saberstaff spin deftly across her palm, the blades crossing her body and threatening to leave gashes in the Devaronian’s Katarn-class commando armor.

She was immediately countered by a rather wild swing from Drake’s electrostaff, and as the weapon surprisingly held firm, Ronovi felt her mind beginning to race and her breathing already becoming labored. Drake, for his lack of Force potential, was strong. Very strong. He was clearly trained in Wrruushi, yet somehow, he was making even battling a Wookiee feel like a romp in the park compared to facing him. He shoved his frame hard against Ronovi’s shoulder, her boots skidding slightly on the floor as she tried to resist. It was as if they were both attempting to topple the other over - and they were equally matched.

Ronovi yanked herself back in order to break the stalemate, and Drake became ruthless after that. He beat down against Ronovi’s parries, dealing blow after blow after blow, seeming to become more animated and yet more dexterous as he fought. A couple of times, he made contact, but barely - his staff or baton would glance off the edge of Ronovi’s elbow or shoulder, producing a stinging sensation but not quite recreating the stunning effect that he needed. The Warlord gritted her teeth then, her arms already aching as they were exposed to the elements.

She attempted to follow Drake’s steps, but he always seemed to be at least one ahead of her. She stabbed, and he parried. She swung, and he deflected. His hands worked together, metal and organic matter, his weapons sometimes blurring in the air as he blocked one strike and unleashed another. Ronovi shut out the rest of the noise in the room - the blaster fire, the walls opening up, the occasional screams as Selika mentally tortured a poor sap with a firearm. She only focused on Drake, and Drake only focused on her.

I’ll be kriffed, she thought to herself. This guy ain’t a cake walk, that’s for sure.

Her mental quip was interrupted by what felt like a klaxon screaming in her head. She knew she could not take her gaze off her opponent - doing so would be suicide. But she was becoming acutely aware of what challenge she and her compatriots had taken on. The entire space seemed to be personalized for someone - for Drake, perhaps. He appeared to thrive off his environment. She noticed how his eyes darted about even as he jabbed at her with his electrostaff while simultaneously swinging at her head with his baton. Ronovi felt her body tense as Teylas emerged in her peripheral vision, taking on a goon with more than just one cybernetic arm.

“Ramar!” she snarled. “Ramar, get back!”

She let the Force do the rest of the talking, pushing Drake back only a few steps and then thrusting her left arm to the side. It was then that the Technocratic grunt scuttled across the floor, dragged away as if by an invisible hand. Once he made contact with the nearest corner of the building - the one Teylas had been edging closer to - a blue line lit up around his ankles, and the entire area erupted with an aggressive flame. The explosion was more than enough to incapacitate the enemy, but had Teylas gotten there first, it would have been him flung across the vast space as a charred husk. The victim of a laser mine.

All alarm bells went off in Ronovi’s head then. She tightened her grip on her saberstaff as Drake recovered his gait, shaking off her push as if he had merely been disturbed by a gust of wind. Her words came out faster than Drake could get to her.

“Guys! This bastard is loaded!”

She swung her saberstaff outward just as Drake’s electrostaff nearly made contact with her abdomen, and her vigilance peaked as soon as she saw the thermal detonators on the Devaronian’s belt. The guy was packing more than heat, and because of this, he had left himself vulnerable. At the same time, the Plagueians were all vulnerable, too. Ronovi remembered that only one specific member of her strike team was trained with explosives - Laren, and even then, his understanding was rudimentary at best. No one here was particularly equipped to utilize the very things they now needed to avoid triggering or setting off.

Still, perhaps melee-style fighting alone was not the way to go. And perhaps the way Ronovi usually handled these types of combat situations was not ideal now. Sure, she would look ridiculous in front of everyone as she planned her next move. In front of Selika, especially. But it had to be done.

Damn it. Why did the best strategy had to present Ronovi in a less than flattering light? Selika appeared so composed now, so calculated in her attacks against the enemy - though she moved slowly, deliberately, like she was treading through water as she targeted Drake’s minions. Ronovi had seen how easily the Dread Lord had healed her own injuries after the crash landing on Nancora…too easily, actually. Come to think of it, the Epicanthix wasn’t even sure if Selika was capable Force-wise to mentally stitch up her own wounds. There was something she was missing here - some sort of trick or illusion. Something that she couldn’t think too hard about in the heat of the moment.

Her stream of consciousness was cut off by a glancing slice of Drake’s electrostaff. She pushed herself backward then, shuffling toward Selika as the latter split one goon in half with her saber. She nodded to her, then to Laren, Teylas, and Arden. Then she broke into a run.

“What are you doing?” demanded Drake. “Running away?”

“Nope!” Ronovi snapped back. “Just recalculating!”

Then, to perhaps the Devaronian’s confusion, she let the blades of her saber whirl on the cybernetic soldiers instead, just as they aimed and fired at her. The blaster bolts would do nothing - she just had to clear the spare fodder. She darted away from Drake after cutting open one of his troops, and he marched after her as if attempting to wrangle a stubborn toddler. Her vision flitted from corner to corner, wall to wall, looking for anything that could trigger an explosion. A mine, a grenade, anything - she had to know her surroundings. The others had to as well.

The sight of the Epicanthix dancing about the facility, avoiding the Devaronian’s swings and only striking back when defending herself, must have been bewildering to some and amusing to others. The Dread Lord, personally, was not focusing on her. She let her terrors do the work, revelling in the shrieking of Drake’s subordinates before separating their limbs from their bodies with her lightsaber. Laren, in the meantime, seemed to understand what Ronovi was doing. She was certainly attracting Drake and his men to her, and even without the Force, he could sense her purpose.

“Hey, Karn!” he called out to Arden, as the assassin droid marched towards the two men. “Want to lend me a little help?”


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.”


As the dust settled and everyone holstered their weapons, Teylas said the obvious. “I don’t think any scrolls are here. This is just a wild goose chase.”

“Might have already established that…” Arden muttered under his breath, though Teylas chose to ignore him.

“Agreed. I’m not sure how or why, but either they’ve been moved or were never here to begin with,” Selika added.

“If that’s the case, we should move before reinforcements arrive. We don’t want to take on any more risk than we have to if the prize isn’t here. It’s only a matter of time,” Arden submitted the idea which was only responded with a few glancing nods of approval. The group of Plagueians made their way outside the bunker, opposite of the side they came in, to a large open field of ships.

“Fighters?!” Arden yelled, frustrated. “This isn’t going to work.”

“Split up and look for any other ships. It’s a large airfield,” Selika ordered and the group dispersed without any hesitation.

Teylas began a quick dart to the far side of the field trying to see if he could get a sense for the scope of how many ships were there. It was a unique amalgamation of different fighter classes from the past 100 years sitting on the field ready for launch. The problem was: they were all fighters.

“Over here!” came a faint yell from Laren from a couple hundred meters away, echoing off of the hull of the fighters and bouncing around the field.

Making his way towards the Pantoran’s position, Teylas laid eyes on what he had found. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” the Falleen exclaimed.

“That must be at least 50 years old,” Ronovi postulated to the rest.

The YT-1000 Corellian freighter in front of them certainly looked it, but was likely their only hope to get everyone off Nancora. Teylas opened the entrance ramp and the Plagueians assembled into the ship. In the cockpit Teylas took the pilot seat with Selika taking the co-pilots seat. Laren immediately made his way to the gunners position, with Arden and Reg making their way to the outdated engineering compartment.

Using the ship’s internal communications Selika asked, “Arden, will this ship actually start up?”

“Looks like it, but it won’t be a pretty ride.”

Teylas sighed lightly in preparation for what was to come, and pushed a few commands into the pilot console to fire up the engine. After a few sputters and growls from the bowels of the ship, the engine came to life. Reading over the instrument panel, the Falleen Warlord commented, “Looks like the ship’s systems are in rough shape, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin on fixing them. But we should be able to get where we need to go.”

A few commands from the cockpit and the freighter took off from the Nancoran surface. It didn’t take long for the ship to be noticed as Selika reported, “We’ve got incoming fighters. Hope you’re ready, Laren.”

“Uhh, well… we’ll see,” came the reply over the comm.

As the fighters approached, Laren immediately unleashed bolts of energy in their direction from the freighters single pointed cannon. Most missed, but a few hits sent a few fighters back towards the surface. Not that it mattered, as Laren could see even more fighters in coming.

“We’re almost back into space, but it’s going to take the computer a few minutes to calculate the hyperspace jump to Aliso,” Teylas commented as bolts of energy were also flying past the cockpit window.

“Can’t you just plot it yourself?!” Laren yelled as his entire body vibrated from the firing of the cannon.

“Not unless you want to end up in a planet,” Teylas quipped back, turning his head to see Selika rolling her eyes at the two men.

A shot glanced off the freighter, rocking the ship, and prompting a lecture from Arden, “We can’t take many more shots like that! This bucket is old as hell!”

“We might not have to…” Teylas reported as he was looking at the ship’s sensor display. Directly in front of the ship several cruisers, frigates, and destroyers dropped out of hyperspace with fighter’s incoming from that direction. “Transponders indicate they’re Brotherhood ships,” Teylas added. “They’re giving us a screen to get out of here.”

“Computer is done calculating our course. Engaging hyperdrive,” Selika pushed a few commands into the co-pilot’s console as the cockpit window glowed with the light of streaking stars.


Dread Lord’s Private Quarters
The Pinnacle

17 hours later

Ronovi followed Selika into the outer office that served as an antechamber into her living quarters. The trip back to Aliso from Nancora had been interminable, with Selika knowing the other woman was just waiting to say her piece. The Clone Wars vintage ship had lengthened their trip enormously with its pedestrian hyperdrive, and it had been nearly impossible to find a place of privacy to collect her thoughts.

“You’ve been positively overflowing with anticipation ever since we made the jump from Nancora,” Selika spat to the woman behind her. “Out with it.”

“I told you so,” Ronovi said tautly, without the self satisfaction that Selika had assumed would come with such a statement.

“Yes you did,” Selika said with a sneer, and whirled back to face her bodyguard. “Happy?”

Ronovi’s countenance didn’t harbor a grin, or even a smile. Instead, she was almost dour. Maybe regretful. “No, damn it! I’m not happy.”

“Then what?” Selika demanded.

“You were wrong, and now you have to deal with that,” Ronovi said sharply. “And you had people around you giving you advice that you ignored, ignored because you thought you could handle anything these mundanes could throw at you.”

Selika was steaming, an angry, sullen look on her face, but she said nothing. Ronovi took the opportunity to continue.

“I told you this was a bad idea. That Admiral, what’s her name?” Ronovi asked.

“Ranin,” Selika offered quietly.

“Right, Cyvaria. She told you that this was unwise. She told you to take the fleet with you, otherwise you’d probably end up on a slab,” Ronovi went on. “At least one of your minions is willing to speak her mind.”

“Are you done?” Selika asked, nearly in a whisper.

Ronovi stopped short, taking a deep breath. “I’ve been where you are now. More than once. Dread Lord, master of the slave hordes. Headmaster, with my own little moon to rule. The invincible prince of Yridia, slayer of Adamu and vanquisher of the Keepers!” She said this last part with a theatrical flourish.

“And look how well that turned out!” Selika shot back. “Aren’t they back with their tendrils into your old clan? How ‘vanquished’ were they, really?”

“That’s exactly my point!” Ronovi thundered. “I didn’t know everything, I couldn’t do everything. I needed help, help that I never asked for and never took if it was offered. Because I was right.”

Selika turned away from the Epicanthix, a bit of her bravado and anger fading as she did so. Deep down, there was a part of the Plagueian Consul that knew Ronovi was right, but the rest of her was still too angry with her own failures to be able to acknowledge that now.

“Selika,” Ronovi said, taking a step forward to close the gap that separated them and placing her hands on the shorter woman’s shoulders. “I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did. Learn from my kriff ups.” She paused for a minute, leaning in close to Selika’s ear. “Don’t end up frozen in some meat locker on the Anchorage.”

Selika breathed in deeply, then exhaled slowly. “All right, you’ve made your point. Now, just give me some time alone.”

“You sure?”

“Just go!” Selika barked, her tone carrying a bit more anger than she really felt towards the other woman.

“Fine, take some time,” Ronovi replied, warmly. “When you’re ready, you know where to find me.”

Selika listened to the other woman turn and depart through the automatic doors that provided entry into the chamber. As much as she was tempted, Selika resisted the urge to turn around and ask her to stay. She was finally alone for the first time since the mission had started. Stepping forward gingerly, Selika nearly dropped to the floor and reached out to her desk for support. Datapads were swept from the dark, wooden surface as she fell across it, only the unyielding piece of furniture preventing her from ending up sprawled across the floor.

The strain of the last day was finally catching up with her. Her Force-aided self control and illusions finally faded, the power to keep up the facade finally deserting her. Bruises became apparent on her body, scrapes and gashes that had not received treatment. It had been all she could do to keep up the appearance of strength in front of the others. She had already been diminished by her failures on Nancora; it wouldn’t have been wise to show even more weakness than she already faced. Karn was always waiting for any opportunity to make his move, the scheming former corporate enforcer always on the lookout for ways to climb the “corporate ladder” as it were. Teylas might have lost confidence in her leadership, thinking that their carefully executed plans over the last two years risked coming to naught.

And Ronovi…

The Epicanthix respected her power, her ability to stand tall in the face of danger. It had been bad enough, nearly freezing up during the attack on the Abrogator. To have been limping across the Badlands, or worse yet carried, would have been unacceptable. So, the illusion had remained. Until now, that is.

Struggling, Selika made her way to the plush chair that stood behind the desk. With all of the energy she could muster, she pushed herself up just enough to sit back into the cushions, her body protesting all the way. Her hand was able to find the comm key, even though what was likely a bruised or fractured rib flared in protest.

“EMD,” Selika called to her medical droid, “Report to my quarters immediately. Bring KES with you. And take the private lift tube, I don’t need anyone seeing you.”

“At once, my lord,” the mechanical voice of the droid answered.

Selika settled back into the chair and was left alone with her thoughts. Maybe Ronovi was right, that the entire thing had been some sort of set up. It was just something the Jedi would have thought of, especially given the history between Turel and herself. It would definitely merit examination.

Communications Center
Collective Warship Vulcia
Deep Space

The comm center was dark, lit only by the various indicator lights on the equipment, when Kendra Icasta entered. Those that normally manned the stations there had been ordered away before her arrival, as operational security had to be maintained. Approaching the holo-comm, the Chiss leader input the comm code she had long ago memorized. After a slight delay, the form of Daggo Mouk coalesced within the holo-field.

“Report,” the Ithorian demanded.

“Sir, the mission outcome was unsuccessful,” Kendra said. “We were unable to either capture or eliminate the Plagueian Consul.”

The Ithorian’s eyes narrowed. “You doctored the intelligence reports? Changed the data on our resources on Nancora? How did you fail so spectacularly?” he chided her condescendingly.

Kendra bristled at the castigation she was receiving but was careful not to allow any of her annoyance to show. “She brought along some effective companions, and they engaged in some… innovative tactics to escape our ambush in orbit.”

“Unexpected. But,” Daggo mused, shifting into a more contemplative tone, “it wasn’t all a waste. Your agents were able to leave a trail with the altered data that will point back to the Jedi of Odan-Urr?”

“Yes, sir,” Kendra replied.

“Excellent. Given the history between the two, I’m sure that it will lead them into conflict once again. At best, Plagueis will be driven to locate the Jedi’s new bolt hole and our agents within Brotherhood space will learn of it, too. At worst, the Jedi and Sith might just do us the favor of wiping each other out. So, all is not lost.”

“Indeed,” Kendra said, a dark smile spreading across her face.

“The Sith,” Daggo clucked. “So predictable.”