[Clan Taldryan] - Kooki’s Merry Men
VT-49 Decimator Noctis
“Did she really have to come with us?” Kooki snapped.
“We needed every pair of hands we could get for this one. Especially with your news,” Andrelious replied, not taking his eyes from the transparisteel window.
“Hush!” the Alderaanian ordered, storming out of the cockpit. She was so annoyed with her spouse that she almost knocked Rian Taldrya over as she brushed past.
“One minute until we reach our destination,” Andrelious stated, still focused entirely on the hypnotic blue swirls of hyperspace.
“I just hope that we can get down to the surface without a hitch,” Rian responded.
“The information we received went to all of the Clans. They’ll be planning their own operations. Not to mention Inquisitorius agents. Nancora orbit’s going to be very busy. Add to that how fast this ship is? I’m just going to fly us directly through the chaos,” the Rollmaster explained.
“Just make sure you land as close to the rendezvous point as you can. Tensions are high among our team. I don’t want anything to happen before we can meet with Arvalis and his team,” the Mirialan commented.
Andrelious chuckled. “As long as Granta doesn’t upset Kooki, nothing will happen. Now, if you’d like to assist me, I’ll do my best to get us down unscathed,”
Rian nodded. He had known the ex-Imperial long enough now to have unshaken confidence in his ability in a cockpit.
“Everyone strap in!” Andrelious called out.
The assembled passengers did as they were asked. Granta Prackx squeezed herself into one of the seats as best she could, whilst Kooki, still scowling at her husband’s ex-lover, took extra care not to restrain her stomach.
“Still feeling funny, darling?” Prackx taunted. “You spent the first half hour in the frakking fresher,”
Swil Phift, a slicer that had become one of the Mimosa-Inahj family’s closest allies, sighed at the two females as he settled into one of the remaining seats. Kara Zallow was already sat down and strapped in, spending the time carefully checking her MM9 Wrist Rocket.
The remaining two seats were occupied by a medic and a demolitions expert from Taldryan’s armed forces. They both kept quiet, perhaps mulling over their roles in the mission ahead.
The ship exited hyperspace with a slight jolt. Andrelious’ eyes pored over the scopes, quickly translating the various coloured shapes into different classes of ship. Without saying a word to Rian, he grasped the flight yoke and bolted for a gap between two orbiting capital ships.
“Careful! I’ve not seen modifications quite like these before! Are you sure you know what they’re capable of?” Rian warned.
“Perhaps not. But I’m sure that they don’t know what we’re capable of,” Mimosa-Inahj replied.
Rian could feel the adrenaline beginning to pump through his colleague. Andrelious steered the ship expertly, moving his eyes only to keep scanning the scopes for new arrivals. Even an incoming squadron of X-Wings didn’t faze the Sith.
“Gunners. X-Wings inbound. You know what to do!” Rian ordered.
Bolts of supercharged green plasma shot from the twin turrets aboard the Noctis. The incoming X-Wings scattered, avoiding the laser fire, but Andrelious was able to make the most of the panic. The two nearest capital ships were now close enough to fire their own guns, but Mimosa-Inahj jinked the VT-49 from side to side.
With another jolt, the ship entered Nancora’s atmosphere. The X-Wings continued to give chase, but Andrelious remained calm. He allowed the planet’s gravity to help him accelerate away from his pursuers.
“No sign of Arvalis, yet,” Rian announced as the landing area began to come into view.
Andrelious cursed under his breath as he brought the Noctis into a fairly shallow approach. The VT-49’s landing gears skidded along the ground a little, jolting the occupants around, but, they soon came to a halt.
“Thanks for that!” Kooki yelled sarcastically.
Half of the team had arrived…
VT-49 Decimator Nightjar
The Nightjar hung silent in the empty space about halfway between Nancora and the edge of the system. The assembled party of Raistline Taldrya, Arvalis Raith, and Celia Aurum stared out the viewports of the cockpit at the pieces of debris floating in the void, the whole resembling a small asteroid field. Even further in the distance, red and green lines lit up space as the battle for superiority was at its apex.
“Any sign of the Noctis?” Raistline asked, shifting anxiously in his seat.
“Knowing that son of a Hutt, Andrelious is already planetside.” Celia stated, her hands softly gripping the yoke of her ship, awaiting further orders.
“Language, Major.” Arvalis interjected while peering over the scanners, hoping to find any sign of the Noctis. “There’s too much rubble and activity to single out a specific ship.”
“Might I suggest we break through the blockade as fast as possible?” Hesperus, the KX-series droid that served as co-pilot brought up.
Celia and Arvalis turned to face each other, a question on one face, a faint if not creepy smile on the other.
“Paleface? What do you want to do?”
Arvalis turned towards the viewport again, focusing on the battle ahead. “Let’s skip dogfighting. You can get us through that chaos unscathed. Jam sensors if you have to.”
The whine of engine coils heating up was followed by the soft rumbling and shaking of the hull as the Nightjar shot into motion towards the battle ahead. Its black plating provided it with natural cover against the backdrop of space, at least until it would start flanking the larger ships entangled in the battle.
On the edge of the expansive battlefield, a squadron of Z-95 Headhunters picked them up and rapidly closed in on them from a head on vector. The Nightjar didn’t budge from its path however. Inside the cockpit, Raistline balled his fists.
“I doubt those are friendlies. How about some evasive maneuvers?” When no answer came, Raistline fumbled for words “. . . Major? Evasi-”
“Oh hush old man.” Celia snapped, her eyes not breaking away. “My ship, my flying.” she blurted out.
“We have a weapons lock, Major.” Hesperus interjected.
Celia bit on the inside of her lip, where the scar on the outside was. Focus and determination lit up her amber eyes. Her hands smooth and rapid on the controls, she made the ship dance through the lattice of fire that erupted from the Headhunters, afterwards bringing the ship sideways as it knifed cleanly through the squadron.
“They’re coming around, Major.” Hesperus noted as it punched in a sequence of buttons. “Weapons are live, Jedi.”
Both Arvalis and Raistline took aim on their respective controls and loosened green streaks of plasma as moments later the Headhunter squadron exploded into balls of fire and twisted metal.
The Nightjar picked up more speed as it roared through the battlefield. Celia expertly wheeling the craft left and right, avoiding fire and rubble as she took it passed the Joyriak, it’s dual turbolaser turrets drawing lines of power on the empty canvas of space. Celia swung the Nightjar hard into a barrel roll before taking it under and passed the Thanewulf, the latter being preoccupied by a swarm of Brotherhood forces.
Nancora’s sphere grew larger and larger in the viewport. Celia swung hard right as trails of red plasma colored the velvet of space.
“That was close,” Celia laughed.
“Scanners show two X-wings, Major. Someone must have taken out the rest of their squadron.” Hesperus’ metallic voice resounded in monotone.
“Do that thing,” Arvalis blandly stated. “And get us on that planet.”
Celia let the X-wings close a bit, then slammed hard on the reverse thrusters, throwing everyone in the cockpit forward in their seats, before immediately powering up the engines once more. The abrupt stop and start was enough to cause the X-wings to shoot past, before they erupted into fire and death at the hands of the quad-lasers on the Nightjar.
Nancora’s atmosphere hit the ship hard as they came in too sharply, causing it to skip and bounce as it met the resistance of air. The metal groaning under the sudden stress. Celia burned the thrusters as she adjusted the angle, reducing the violent bounces to mere vibrations as friction fires surrounded them.
“You people are crazy!” Raistline shouted. Massaging his shoulders where the straps had bitten into them.
“Wait till you meet my droid.” Arvalis turned to face the older Son of Taldrya with an eerie grin painting his face in a twisted expression.
“Oh yeah, that bucket of bolts is tons of fun!” Celia let out a throaty laugh as she guided the ship towards the rendezvous coördinates.
“I’m going downstairs, check up on our troops, maybe get a drink.” Raistline let out a sigh as he unclipped and stood up, still rubbing his shoulders.
The second half of the team was coming in hot.
The Badlands, Taldryan Landing Zone
An unknown time ago, a small settlement may have sat amid the ruins of large labyrinthian structures built around the spire. Yet now, they served as the headquarters of the Technocratic Guild’s leader. The nearby Taldryan landing zone was sizeable enough to accommodate two VT-49 Decimators belonging to the group. It was probably the settlement’s market place, with rotten remains of buildings surrounding the clearing like watchful bystanders.
Dried soil crunched under the boots of Andrelious, Kara, Kookimarissia and Rian as they set out to secure the vicinity around the landing zone while Granta and Swil remained with the two Taldryan Marines at the ship, waiting for signals from the rest of the team to arrive.
“Sectors One and Two clear.” Sounded the voice of the Taldryan Rollmaster over Rian’s headset comlink. “I swear. They got ten more minutes or we start without them.”
“Take it easy Andrelious, there is a war raging on above this planet and though Celia is a skilled pilot, she’s hardly on par with your skills.” Rian replied turning the corner of another structure which once might have served as a silo for the citizens of Nancora but has long fallen victim to rot and decay. “Sector Five and Six clear too, I’ll return to the Noctis now.”
“Seven and Eight secure, returning home too.” Kara said. “Kookimarissia?”
“Almost back again. Nothing to see in Three and Four.”
“Great. Granta, any sign of the Nightjar on the scanners?” Rian asked, looking at the sky where the azure was broken by light streaks of red and green from the various capital ships battling each other in the orbit of Nancora.
“Nothing as of y–” came the voice of the hulking female over the groups com-channel. “Wait, I got them, they are coming in hot.”
Having listened to the conversation in silence, Swil Phift, the group’s designated slicer raised his trusted sniper rifle to the sky and magnified it to the max. Tracing the growing shape of the flame trailed assault ship in its descent to the surface from his vantage point upon the remains of a two storey house. He mentally shook his head. That pilot surely had guts, coming down through the sensoric blackness at such speeds, either that or this “Celia” was simply stupid. Swil shouldered his rifle and climbed down from his vantage point to the others.
A good two minutes later the Nightjar skidded across the sandy surface for a heartbeat before coming to a halt next to the Noctis.
“Glad you found the time to join us.” Andrelious said, a hint of sarcasm on his tongue as Arvalis and the rest of the Team joined their teammates.
“Sorry we made some friends along the way. They weren’t too pleased we didn’t want to play with them” Arvalis replied with a shrug of his shoulders."
“Guys, this isn’t the time.” Rian interrupted them. “We have a job to do and the sooner we start, the sooner we can get off this rotten pile of dust and sand.”
“Alright.” Andrelious said, dropping the matter. “We all know what we are here for, intel has come to the clans that the leader of the Technocratic Guild, Daggo Mouk, has somehow gotten a hand on scrolls belonging to Darth Plagueis. We are here to uncover whether or not this is the truth and to make sure neither Pravus nor the Lotus gets their hands on them.”
Andrelious took a piece of metal to draw a rough circle into the sand before digging it into its center. “Our agents within the Inquisitorius are sure that the scrolls are located within the spire in the center of this maze, which apparently serves as the training ground for the elite guards of the Technocratic Guild.”
"Rian, you and Kara will do the recon, find us a safe way to get through that maze, the rest of us will follow your lead.
Activating her Sentry-droid to guard the landing zone, Kara followed her fiancé who had already reached the nearest gap in the wall that separated the landing zone from the next area of the circular city ruins.
She didn’t want to be here. Simple as that. Kooki had been practically forced to come. Her twins had pestered to join her, but given that she didn’t want to be here, she wasn’t going to bring two noisy and inquisitive girls along. Knowing they were safe on Corellia with their grandparents eased her slightly. Each time she left them she knew it grew increasingly likely they would venture to the lake for a picnic. Luckily torrential rain was forecast for the next few days for them.
Meanwhile on Nancora, deep in a labyrinth and still irritable, Kooki sighed heavily.
“Are you sure you should be here?” A tall female asked Kooki, whilst gently patting her shoulder.
“Why do you even care?” Kooki hissed and pushed Prackx’s hand away.
Andrelious spotted the two women having a heated discussion. Admittedly he was rather apprehensive about approaching them, but standing around was not helping the team progress.
“Come on ladies,” Andrelious teased.
“No need to fight over me. Shall we continue?”
As expected, Andrelious received two very icy stares for his comment.
“Did the air just get colder in here?” Mused the demolition expert, watching the conversation with amusement.
Before Prackx could say anything, Kooki glared at him.
“Quiet you!” The Alderaanian snapped.
“Just stick at blowing things up. We wouldn’t want you to sit on your own detonator would we?”
Kooki turned round and noticed her fellow teammates looking significantly paler. Fear loomed in the air.
“Come on ladies!” She called back.
“OI! Aslar! And your missus. Wait up! I’m coming too!”
With that Kooki disappeared further into the maze following Rian and his female companion.
Andrelious sighed and looked quite uneasy.
The medic accompanying the team patted him gently on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry Mr Mimosa-Inahj.” She soothed in a gentle tone.
“She’ll be fine. Just fine.” The medic hushed, whilst gesturing a reassuring smile.
Andrelious sighed once again and nodded silently.
“It’s not her I’m worried about…” he whispered to himself.
“It’s the others she happens to come across!”
Tal Landing Zone
Raistline Majere, Son of Taldrya, was overdressed for the Nancoran Badlands. His armorweave cloak hung tightly against the dark armour worn underneath. He pulled the cloak tighter to his form and leaned closer to the fire. Casually he fiddled with his stick while watching three of the six hand picked members of Taldryans’ 61st Special Missions Company work through their task with meticulous speed. In under two minutes of beautifully theatric action, the soldiers had covered the Noctis and Nightjar in camo-netting, blending the VT-49’s with the surrounding refuge. Even Celia Aurum looked on with confidence that her ship was in good hands.
“Sir, we shouldn’t have any fires,” one of the scouts from the 61st addressed Raistline, nodding towards the fire. “We don’t want the enemy to have any chances to know of our presence.”
Laughing loudly, Raistline pulled the stick out of the fire and finished his meat stick in two bites.
The red sun had just begun her descent upon the horizon. Though twilight had yet to fall upon Nancora, the planet’s temperature began to sink. Raistline’s eyebrow twitched uncontrollably; his fingers trembled. As his tongue savored the meat stick’s flavour, his hand ran mindlessly over the flask over his belt. “Not yet,” Raistline’s subconscious spoke to him.
“What will give us away? This fire?” he asked, then raising his arms to the air. “That fire in the sky?” pointing at the lights of the seven clans fighting their ununited battle with the Collective. “Hell, those are probably the most dangerous threat to giving us away.”
The scout followed his hand to a droid in the distance, coming from behind the cover of the former city’s debris created. HUD information flowed before both their eyes, giving the droid’s heat readouts and unknown information in all other categories. They watched as the droid moved from one metal pile to another, preparing to mine the metals and then resetting to move on, lost in its maddening loop of broken circuitry.
“Statement: If you are hungry, I could rip out that droid’s motion sensor module and boil it up with some of Nancora’s finest bloodworm. The metallic burn of the circuitry would amplify the gooey texture.”
Both Raistline and the scout stared at the HK-model Orcus in disbelief. “Stupid droid,” Raistline heard the scout say as he walked away. He was envious of the scout walking away, not noticing his hand unclipping the flask. The Commenorian brandy felt good on his lips.
“Damnit,” Raistline thought, putting the flask back.
“Where is Arvalis?” Raistline started to say and stopped, trying to remember how to deal with Arvalis’ insane droid. “We are probably going to need a makeshift cover when we stop moving for the night. Why don’t you collect supplies on our way.”
“Statement: I am a hunter, not a gatherer. If you want to sleep in hides, I could easily procure some, Master Taldrya,” Orcus spoke with eagerness.
“Guys,” Rian’s voice broke in over the comm. “You gotta see this.”
A heavy rumbling broke over the comm and then static.
Hollow windows from neglected buildings lined the path followed by the three Taldryanites that slowly went through the streets of the maze-like ruins. The sun had already began to set, casting shadows in every corner, forcing the group to slow down and scan the area for anyone or anything that might have hidden within them. Additionally, every once in awhile, large pieces of debris that had long ago broken from nearby buildings, blocked their way forcing them to work a way around or climb over the debris, further slowing down their progress.
“I really don’t like this place.” Kara said when they passed a crossing leading into an area with less buildings, giving way to see the illuminated spire in the center of the ruined city yet still several kilometers away. “You said this place served as training grounds for the Technocratic guild, but this place seem to have been left untouched for some time now. Not even a single footprint except our own.”
“Don’t worry girl,” Kookimarissia tried to appease the other woman. “There have probably been storms in this area recently, taking away any signs of activity.”
“I am not worried,” Kara replied. “But there aren’t any signs of combat training either, how can they train witho–”
Suddenly, Kara stopped in her tracks. The group had just passed some sort of stairway, leading underground from the streets. However, it wasn’t the first time she had stopped since they broke from the main group, causing Rian to become worried they had missed something.
“What is it?” Rian asked, as he turned, seeing her standing a couple of meters away from him as if frozen in time.
“I’m not sure,” Kara said. “It’s like… whenever we pass one of these stairways… I hear a whistling coming out of them.”
“Maybe it was just the wind?” Kookimarissia mused.
“Maybe, but maybe not." Rian said, feeling a soft rumbling under his boots.
The look from the two women confirmed that they had felt it as well and it was clear that they should give this ‘blowing whistle’ a closer look.
Carefully, they stepped down the stairs into the darkness, each holding their favourite weapons. Right at the end of the stairway, the corridor turned sharply to the right, leading into darkness. Kooki and Rian ignited their lightsabers, granting them at least some sort of illumination. After several meters, the corridor made another turn, then split into another staircase leading further down. However, when they reached the last of the stairs, they were able to make out the muffled sound of voices from the end of the corridor. Powering down their lightsabers, they sneaked towards the voices.
Eventually the corridor broke into a cavernous hall with tracks and some sort of mag-train next to a small guard station. Taking cover behind a railing well past its best years, they watched the deployed sentries sitting at a nearby table playing some sort of card game.
“This must be some sort of depot or warehouse to transfer goods and men around this whole place.” Kooki stated after falling back into cover, having watched the scene for a couple minutes.
“I’m counting five near the table and one more on each end of the platform.” Kara added, after checking with her helmet mounted sensors.
“Yeah… maybe we should call the others. This train could be our ticket into and out of the spire.” Rian said taking cover once more behind the railing. “Guys. You gotta see this.”
Rian peaked over the railing only to see that the table was now devoid of any sentry. Cursing himself, the next thing he saw were the muzzles of the sentries’ blaster rifles aimed at them, then the sole of a large combat boot violently connecting to his face. Thrown back against the brittle railing, he felt it break under his weight, causing him to fall down onto a pile of rubble.
Then there was only blackness.
The howl of wind was only broken up by the clangs of Hesperus’ plating being struck repeatedly and the screams of the blonde haired women slung over his shoulder. The rest of the party paid the pair no mind as they steadily advanced through the maze.
“Pick up the pace!” Andrelious shouted.
Arvalis, who trailed the Rollmaster by a few steps, could note the slightest hint of worry in the otherwise levelheaded Sith. Even if the man did his best to hide it. Not that the Umbaran didn’t share those feelings. Although new to the ways of the Force, even he could sense that something was distinctly wrong. Turning to face Raistline, Arvalis was surprised to see the veteran Jedi taking a swig from his flask in a casual manner.
“Put me down you walking scrap pile!” Celia shouted from behind them, her voice having already turned gritty and hoarse.
“Negative, Major.” Hesperus calmly stated. “Master Raith requested you come with us.”
“Paleface!” She continued, despite her voice being on the verge of breaking. “You know I don’t like it when you drag me on these excursions!”
Flashing an apologetic smile her way, Arvalis brought his commlink up to his lips.
“Orcus,” the Umbaran started. “Status report.”
The miniature screen of the commlink lit up moments later with condensed sentences.
“Path is clear, but there is a small complica-”
“Arvalis, I swear on the Force!” Andrelious cut him off. “If you finish that sentence…”
Perhaps luckily for the Umbaran, Prackx heavy-handedly patted the male Sith on the back, causing him to stumble forward.
“Don’t worry so much, Andrel.” She spouted.
Just inside hearing range, bringing up the rear with the Taldryan military forces, Phift shook his head.
When the assembled group entered the ruined city, Orcus was already waiting for them by one of the staircases that led below. Arvalis ran ahead to his droid to get the latest update while the rest of the group took a moment to catch their breath and take in the sights.
“Statement: Footprints belonging to Master Rian Taldrya, Miss Zallow and Miss Kookimarissia stopped at this passageway. Statement: I suggest we immediately descend, Master Raith.”
Arvalis, looking back at the rest of the group before returning his gaze to his droid, sighed. “I know someone who won’t like this at all.”
“Statement: I can knock out Major Aurum, if it puts your mind at ease.”
“Geez, would you? No, nevermind, I know you would.”
The droid’s silence was enough of a response, he guessed, before returning to the rest of the group.
“Orcus picked up on a trail going underneath this…city. He also suggests we make haste.”
When he saw a fire lit up in Andrelious’ eyes, the Umbaran got his answer.
“So. What’s the plan? We go in slowly?” Raistline questioned.
“No! We go in NOW! We get Kooki and whatever is left of the others out of there, then we make those bastards pay!” Andrelious seethed.
“Statement: Master Andrelious appears to have abandoned any notion of a tactical approach,” Orcus chimed in as the Rollmaster ignited his lightsaber.
Without waiting for the rest of the team, Mimosa-Inahj charged down the staircase. Granta was the first to follow, her gigantic strides allowing her to easily catch up with the fuming father.
“Well, at least we know where we’re going now…” Arvalis trailed off as he began to give chase.
By the time that the group were able to find Andrelious again, he and Prackx were engaged with a small group of guards. The guards were surprisingly well prepared for the fight; they did not cluster into a single group or fire straight at the two Sith, instead spreading themselves throughout the room and making Andrel and Granta work as hard as possible.
On seeing the new arrivals, one of the guards ran towards a nearby mag-train. Swil, spotting the movement, quickly aimed a shot with his DLT-20A. Moments later, the would-be runner writhed in agony on the ground, his right kneecap dissolved by the sniper rifle’s powerful attack.
“Observation: A prisoner is a good idea. I don’t believe that Master Andrelious has any such intentions,” Orcus pointed out, moments after shooting at another of the guards.
With both numbers and ability now firmly on their side, the Taldryanites soon mopped up the remaining sentries. Mimosa-Inahj, his eyes a deep shade of red, started to march over to the man that Swil had disabled moments earlier.
“We could do with some intel!” Arvalis warned.
Andrelious knelt beside the wounded man.
“I’m not going to tell you anything, Sith scum!” the guard snarled, spitting at his enemy.
“Speech is not necessary,” Mimosa-Inahj declared.
The Sith stretched out his hand, as if he were about to grab the fallen sentry’s head. Instead, he commanded the Force to break down the guard’s mental barriers, forcing all kinds of information to the surface.
“Tell me where she is. What you’re doing to her!” Andrelious ordered, doing his best to assimilate the incoming information. Eventually, he saw an image of the guard forcing Kooki into a mag-train at blaster point, accompanied by a wounded Rian and an angry Kara Zallow. He made a mental note of the Twi’lek soldier who had confiscated the group’s weapons, but he could not ascertain anything else.
“They were taken aboard a mag-train. They went somewhere else in the facility, but I can’t find out where,” the Sith explained.
“You will never find them!” the guard taunted.
The Rollmaster activated his black handled lightsaber. Without another word, he beheaded the defeated sentry.
“Swil. Get yourself into the system. I want to know where Kooki and the others are, right now!” Andrelious commanded.
The dark skinned Human nodded, and started searching for a dataport. The rest of the group quickly secured the area, taking extra care to watch the mag-train tracks.
Those scrolls can wait… Andrelious thought.
Kooki flickered open her eyes. She felt unusually groggy. Everything around her looked blurry. After what felt like forever, her vision began coming into focus. She still felt queasy, but could just make out the outlines of Kara and Rian. The confused Sith was trying to piece together the fragmented memories of the events leading up to her new eventuality. Even her thoughts felt scattered.
So…we were…he was there…and…HER!!
Suddenly a flash of red hair entered Kooki’s mind’s eye. She frantically rose to her feet. She actually needed her spouse. Usually she mostly saw him as a metaphor or the father of her children, but today she really needed him. Today his childhood sweetheart was accompanying them. Kooki didn’t trust Prackx at all. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was slightly afraid of this much taller woman. To make matters even worse, her traumatic past was creating violent imagery in her head. Despite being around others, she felt alone and rather vulnerable.
Kooki was quite wobbly on her feet, but at least her vision had returned to normal. She stumbled over to Rian and Kara and tried to rouse them.
“Up! Up!” She screeched, whilst frantically shaking the arms of her teammates.
The couple started to wake. But further panic was about to unfold…
Kooki heard a noise in the distance. She frantically put her hand to her side in an attempt to arm herself with her saber. However, to her horror it was GONE!
Things were spiralling out of control, and fast. Andrelious was elsewhere with his flame-haired female, Kooki and her friends had been drugged AND now someone had stolen her weapon.
Just as Rian and his girlfriend began regaining consciousness, Kooki started panicking and pacing up and down. The noise outside the claustrophobic room was getting louder.
Rian looked up at the panic-stricken female.
“What…Where’s the fire Kooki?” He asked.
She began rambling and talking really fast and incoherently.
“Riiiiiightttt!” The Mirialan replied.
“We need to get out…NOW!” Kooki urged.
“But we need our weapons!” She screeched.
“Calm down.” Kara soothed.
The noise was now right outside.
Luckily Kooki felt a familiar lump deep in her boot.
“Don’t worry Kara, she’s probably just on her ‘special’ week.” Rian whispered quietly.
The door flung open. Without a second thought, Kooki grabbed her blaster, closed her eyes, shot blindly at the open door and hoped for the best.
A loud thud echoed. Kooki opened her eyes carefully and spotted the dead body on the ground. After wiping a few tears off her cheeks, she hastily hid her blaster and ushered her teammates out to try and find Andrelious and the others.
“Hope she’s alright. Kooki never cries.” Kara whispered.
“I told you. She’s on her ‘special’ week.” The Quaestor hushed.
“I’M PREGNANT, OK?” Kooki hissed.
Before they could question Kooki’s place on the mission, a klaxon sounded.
The attack had begun.
“This is incredible,” Swil said to himself, whistling in admiration. His brown eyes scanned the screen as he casually scratched the fresh stubble on his cheek. “I could spend weeks playing in here.”
“Swil,” Andrelious’ voice grated with impatience as he shoved Raistline’s hand from his shoulder.
“Let’s not dilly dally too long,” Arvalis interrupted, not giving Andrelious’ rage time to grow. Raistline and Arvalis had done all they could to keep Andrelious’ anger to a seething, not letting the Rollmaster give into the compulsion of action before they had a plan. Or at least an idea of where to go.
“Truly a work of art,” Swil continued on, not looking up from his data-pad. His cheerful voice, to the annoyance of all others in the room, was filled with glee. “It’s as if the coding is alive. I hope I brought enough spikes. I might have to go back to the ship for more.”
The ground began to shake gently.
“Where’s my wife, Swil?” Andrelious’ voice sounded like stone grinding against stone. Swil took no notice to the movement of the floor or the Sith’s demands, continuing to tap away thoughtfully at the data-pad. “Swil!”
Raistline sensed the flare of anger in Andrelious. He reacted without thought, catching the Rollmaster’s wrist as Andrelious reached for the black hilt of his lightsaber. The walls were now shaking with the floor’s tremors. “Arvalis,” Raistline called cautiously over his shoulder. Before the last syllable left his mouth, he had been spun around, face parallel to the ground with his own arm cradled behind him. He shook in restraint to not react; now was not the time to fight. The rooms shaking had become violent now. “Arvalis!” Raistline pivoted his foot preparing to strike.
The tremors abruptly stopped, and with it the Rollmaster’s grip on the Gray Jedi. Not expecting either, Raistline fell to the floor, panting in relief. “Man this thing has some power to her,” Arvalis was saying to himself as he entered the doorway of the newly arrived mag-train. Standing up and sighing, Raistline reached into his cloak.
“You could have just said you were securing us transportation,” Andrelious said with a grin as he entered the train.
“And ruin the surprise?” Swil replied wryly. “As for the others I followed recent orders of troops that were allocated to what looks like a guarding position. That HK unit has already accepted files of this place’s schematics that I’ve sent him.”
“If you want to surprise me you’ll make sure we we have a way out of here.” Andrelious then ordered two soldiers keep the slicer safe and boarded the train with the others.
As the doors closed Raistline leaned against a seat and shook his flask, eyeing it greedily. Half full, he mused to himself. But then he stood and walked to Celia, pressing the flask into her hands. She looked at him confused.
“I’m right where I need to be,” he smiled, “but you look like you could use some strength for what’s about to happen.”
The train pulled away, violently shaking the foundation of the room. Swil paid no mind as he fiddled with the data-pad, seeing what else he could learn. The two soldiers immediately set up preparing and planning possible defenses and evacuation of the room.
“No. That’s not right,” Swil muttered to himself. He keyed in a few more commands, paused, then typed the same commands in again. “As if the coding is alive…”
The screen reverted from what he was working on to the schematics of the facility. A blip moved rapidly along the line representing the railway. As Swil watched the architecture of the schematics molded to show a completely different layout. The screen abruptly went blank and words scrolled across it.
The Collective thanks you for your contribution to the cause.
Swil dropped the data-pad and grabbed his com link. He wanted to warn them that he was not the one that sent for the train, that he didn’t find the schematics. He wanted to apologize for allowing someone to play with his ego, tricking him into thinking he had hacked the network. But all he could do was listen to static. The rail lights went out and Swil listened to the the distant screeching of very powerful brakes in the dark.
Dashing over the corpse and out of the confinement of their makeshift prison, the group immediately started to search for their gear. There was still no sign of it when the door to the next burst open and a group of female Kiffar entered the room each of them aiming strange looking bow-like weapons at them with more of the Elite Soldiers entering the wagon from behind them.
“Don’t move.” The leading women shouted.
Having seen the capabilities of the Elite Soldiers first hand at the train station, Rian gestured Kookimarissia to lower her weapon as they were clearly outnumbered in both men and weapons. Gesturing at one of her comrades one of the Kiffar disarmed Kookimarissia. Kooki ground her teeth in angry frustration when she felt a sudden spike of pain shot through her body before it went limb. Looking to her side through a blurring vision she saw the same happen to the others, then her vision went dark.
Rian slowly opened his eyes, taking in his surroundings. The last thing he remembered was a sudden burst of pain in his neck before he lost his consciousness. By the looks of it, they all must have had been unceremoniously dragged into another wagon and strapped onto a rail running along the ceiling of the their wagon after he lost his consciousness due to the poisoned darts that were shot at him. Next to him, the Rollmaster’s wife fought heavily against her restrainments. Though by what she was mumbling, the ektrosian Quaestor wasn’t sure she was fighting her restrainments or some inner demons like those she had faced for whatever reason when they were imprisoned earlier.
“He’s waking up.” sounded the voice of a female Kiffar. “Inform the Hunt Master.”
Turning his head he saw one of the Technocrat Soldier’s bowing before his orders and leaving their part of the train.
“So what are we doing with you now?” The women asked,
“We could sedate him like that other Force-user.” A second woman appeared next her, matching the first one in every detail.
“No, he doesn’t look that dangerous, not like that witch.”
“Maybe we could toy a bit with him.” A third woman joined them, making it three identical women staring at the Ektrosian Quaestor.
From behind them another, different voice said calmly: "You shouldn’t underestimate him, even while you got him secured in shackles.
As been ordered by an untold command, the identical women split, giving way for a distincively azure hued woman with a cybernetic implant covering her right eye that appeared out of the nothing. “Rian Taldrya, Son of Taldrya, former Consul… and former Quaestor as soon as we reach the Spire.”
“So the little girl has done her homework. I’d love to show you my appreciation but you see.” Rian replied, lifting his cuffed hands towards the hologram.
“Show some respect for the Hunt Master you dirty –” The first woman said angrily, but she was immediately put down by the image of the Chiss.
“No, Master Mouk has different plans for them.” the hologram of Kendra Icasta said. “For all of them.”
The woman lowered her head, accepting the orders of the Chiss. “Of course, my lady.”
“It’s alright, Huntress. You will get the chance to prove yourself soon enough.” The Hunt Master said, lightening the mood of the female Kiffar. "Master Mouk has new orders for us, there are others coming for them and you will capture them as you have done with these.
“When?” The female Kiffar said in unison, anticipation in all of their eyes.
“Soon, prepare the Shikari, and get them to the last wagon.” Kendra curled up the corners of her lips in a wry smile, dismissing the Huntresses, while vanishing herself into empty space.
Within their train, Raistline appreciated the lavishly furnitured seats after taking seat in one of them. “That’s not what I would have anticipated from a supply train.”
“Swil must have gotten us a VIP pass I guess.” Arvalis concluded, taking the seat opposing Raistline’s. “So what do you think? How long it will take to find the others?”
“Not as quickly as I want it.” Andrelious answered before Raistline could, passing them for the trains control room, hoping to find a way to make the train go faster. Eventually he found them not far from the lavish seats but they looked like nothing he had seen before. Turning to the rest of the team he ordered Arvalis’ HK-unit "Orcus.
“See if you can make this bucket go any faster."
Doing as he was ordered, Orcus immediately went past the Rollmaster and began to work the controls and the train began to speed up. Faster and faster, the train rode its rail up to a point where Andrelious, despite his hunger to free his wife, became suspicious.
“Not that fast, do you want to kill us?” Andrelious said, shoving Orcus aside.
“Statement: The Collective thanks you for your contribution to the cause.” The droid said, staring at the Rollmaster with his emotionless face, before shutting itself down.
“What are you saying Orcus?” Arvalis sprang onto his feet, but the droid was already upon him.
Trying as best as he could to slow down their ride, Andrelious worked the controls, swearing again and again while trying to reduce their speed.
Eventually the rear lights of the other train became visible in front of the control room. "We need to slow this bucket down or we will crash! "Andrelious shouted leaving the trains control room. Frantically, the group searched for any in built emergency brake controls when suddenly the train began to slow down on its own and docked onto the other train with a bump.
The moment the train that carried Andrelious and the others bumped onto theirs nearly rocked Rian and his team from their feet and soon after the distant sound of combat was audible.
“It sounds like they could need some help.” Rian said after the sound of combat held on for a while.
“Shut up Jedi, the Shikari have been especially trained to fight those like you.” One of the soldiers said.
“What makes you think it was you I was talking to?” Rian said smiling. “Kara?!”
With a sudden burst of motion Kara lifted herself up and slung her legs around the neck of the nearest soldier while Rian used the distraction to call his lightsaber from a nearby bench into his hand, activating it to cut his shackles the moment it reached his hand.
The hiss of the lightsaber bursting to life freed the remaining soldier from his distraction but before he could draw his blaster, the azure blade cut a deep swath through his chest. The second soldier didn’t fare any better with Kara knocking him over straight into the Equites reach who finished him off with impaling him with his lightsaber before finally freeing Kara from her shackles.
Taking their remaining gear from the nearby bench, Kara asked. “Don’t you want to free her as well?”
“No way to tell if she wouldn’t attack us when we free her, better to leave her where she is and look for the others first.”
“Alright, then let’s go.” Kara replied unsheathing her blasters.
Andrelious and his comrades were finding the group of seemingly identical Kiffar very tough opponents indeed. The all female team appeared to be experts at ranged combat, their agility allowing them to stay well out of the way of lightsabers, but, when one of the Taldryan soldiers did manage to close in, proved to be no slouches at hand-to-hand either.
The unusual weaponry used by the Kiffar was giving the Taldryanites more than a little trouble, even with the Force users able to swat the projectiles out of the air with their lightsabers.
Slowly but surely, the numbers on both sides began to thin out. Andrelious tried to remain at the rear of his group and direct things, but as he began to run out of men, he too was drawn into full on combat. As he moved forward to get involved, a deflected projectile skimmed his right thigh.
Mimosa-Inahj cried out in pain, his hand moving to grasp the newly inflicted wound.
“NOBODY HURTS MY LITTLE INAHJ!” Prackx roared. She leapt straight for a pair of hunters, catching them out with an extra turn of speed. The flame haired female slammed her lightsaber straight through the chest of one of her enemies, before landing a powerful punch on the second. Before the fallen Kiffar could get up, Andrelious finished her off with a shot from his E-11.
The surviving Taldryanites took stock. They had defeated the Kiffar, but, as the medic quickly confirmed with a grim look on her face, they had lost nearly all of their backup.
“It’s a good job that she’s on our side. She’s nuts!” Arvalis remarked, watching as Prackx moved over to Andrelious.
“I wouldn’t want to be her when Kooki finds out what she called Andrelious,” Raistline replied.
“You two. Keep watch whilst I get patched up,” the Rollmaster commanded.
“You should be more careful, sir. I’d hate to have to tell Kooki that her baby-” the medic began, cutting herself off as she realised what she was saying.
Raistline and Arvalis had barely made it to the train’s entry hatch when it slid open. The pair readied themselves for another fight, but were mightily relieved when they came face to face with Rian and Kara instead.
“Looks like you had some trouble,” Rian stated, his eyes scanning over the dead bodies.
“Rian. Where is Kooki?” Andrelious demanded, his wound wrapped in a bacta soaked bandage.
“She’s in the other train. I wanted to find the rest of you and she’s not in a good place right now,” the Mirialan explained.
“You left her on her own? In her condition?” the Rollmaster snapped.
“I felt that it was for the best. She didn’t seem to be in a good place. Safer for the rest of us that she was left where she was,” Rian continued.
“Safer for you perhaps. How dare you make that decision!” Andrelious roared, punching Rian square in the face.
Aslar staggered back, shocked at the attack.
“I guess it was the wrong call,” Kara observed, watching as Rian put a hand up to stem the blood flowing out of his nose.
“I suggest we go and rectify Rian’s little mistake. Now,” Andrelious commanded.
The restraints dangled against the wall. Kooki was rather agitated. Her so-called friends had left her behind. She really wished she had stayed at home. This mission was just one thing after another. She couldn’t trust anyone…
Meanwhile the remaining teammates were retreating back to Kooki’s captivity. Not many words were being exchanged since the bitter fist fight that Andrelious had cast upon Rian who had abandoned Kooki. A furious father was not one to mess with. Admittedly the team (including Andrelious) were quite scared as to how Kooki would react to their return.
The door flung open and Andrelious ran to Kooki and bent down beside her, checking that she was alright.
“Prackx! Get her out of these restraints…and fast!!” He ordered.
For a change, Kooki was pleased to see her spouse’s childhood sweetheart.
“Thank you!” Kooki exclaimed happily.
“For saving you? Think nothing of it, love,” Prackx commented.
“No! Not that! Thank you for the new experience,” she teased.
The redhead looked positively puzzled.
“What new experience?” She asked, curiously.
“The one where I am happy to see you!” Kooki teased.
The others were trying not to make a sound, let alone snigger. They could all sense that this was just a front. Kooki was deeply angry and vengeful at being left behind.
Eventually Raistline was brave enough to speak. Soon as he opened his mouth to speak a pathetic noise eked out and all eyes turned to him.
“You wish to contribute?” Kooki barked.
He suddenly felt very vulnerable and started to stutter.
“S…so… w…what’s the p…plan?” He asked.
Before anyone could say anything, the train suddenly began moving causing everyone to jolt and stumble over. However, Rian fell into the wall and bumped his already sore nose. Seconds later it began bleeding again.
Andrelious couldn’t help but laugh.
“Twice in one day Aslar! What bad luck! Call it karma for leaving my wife…my PREGNANT wife chained up.” He mocked.
“Quiet!” Shushed Kooki.
“There’s no need for that!” She continued.
“But…he…” began Andrelious.
Kooki went over to Rian and patted him on the back.
“Ignore him. Are you ok?” She asked, calmly.
Rian seemed puzzled and slightly scared at her unusual niceness. Admittedly so did the remaining teammates.
He merely nodded silently.
Just as everyone prepared to leave, Kooki turned round suddenly and punched Rian hard in the nose.
A loud crunch echoed and he let out a huge scream.
His nose was now broken.
He tried to look up, a bloodied mess and unable to speak.
Kooki looked back…
“Well…they say bad luck comes in threes. Come on. Let’s go!”
With that she fled the scene ready to take on whoever else dared to cross her.
Arvalis exchanged glances with Celia, who was tinkering with the droidbrain she had taken out of Orcus as a precaution. The Umbaran was slightly troubled by the team’s rather poor cohesion, even if it didn’t outright register on his face. Then again, he knew Sith performed better in madness.
The slightest of dinks in the train tracks created a massive feedback bounce sending the squad flying inside the cart. Rian in particular was once again struck by bad luck as he smacked face first into the wall. The Mirialan struggled to hold back expletives as a dark grin rose on Andrelious’ face.
Shortly after, the automated PA resounded throughout the cart. It’s mechanical female voice informing the party they’ll be arriving at their destination shortly. Nervous looks were exchanged and gear was checked. The Collective had proven to be more of a hassle than originally expected.
Andrelious met the gaze of everyone there before sighing and gripping his saber. “We’re coming up shortly. Expect heavy resistance.”
Rian, nursing his nose chimed in. “We still have no idea where the objective is located.”
“Master Taldrya, I can find the scrolls.” Hesperus interjected, his interface spike rummaging through Orcus’ brain.
“Yeah, um, be careful you don’t get hijacked by the Collective doing that, Bolts.” Celia noted. “Losing one droid is bad enough.”
“Your concern is noted, Major. If unwarranted.” The Droid said as he continued restoring the his companion’s programming.
“I seriously need a drink.” Raist said, holding his flask upside down and giving it a firm shake. Confirming his suspicion that he was dry.
Although the bleeding from his nose had stopped, a few gashes on his arms and torso gave Rian’s lime colored skin a red veneer. Breathing came deep and hard. “They really fortified their position didn’t they.”
Andrelious, ahead of the pack on the circular stairway looked back at the team. “They sure did. Droid, how much further?”
“Master Inahj, the Collective vault should be on the next floor.”
“Maybe we should take a short break here? We do have a pregnant lady here.” Arvalis brought up. Although Kooki was humming a chipper tune behind him while nursing her stomach. “We’ve been fighting since we got off that darn train after all.”
“Oh, mister Raith, I’m fine. Let’s continue.” Kooki abruptly chimed, drawing a sigh from the Umbaran.
“If my wife says she’s fine, then she’s fine.” Andrelious gave an awkward smile. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Ugh, fine. Whatever.” Raist, Rian, and Arvalis sighed as they reached the vault floor.
As the last of the group entered the room Rian punched the door release button. Two steel doors slid shut, soundless on their grooves, sealing the group inside. Arvalis gave a quick signal to his HK droid and Orcus took out the security cameras, each blasting with bright sparks into metal fragments. Turning, bracing for combat, Rian was taken aback by the simplicity of the room. Squares of lockboxes adorned each wall, marked only in numbers. No electronics, aside from the shattered cameras, could be seen with the naked eye. A single chair and desk placed in the center of the room was the room’s only decoration.
“Anyone good at picking locks?” Arvalis muttered under his breath, surprised by how loud the empty room carried his voice.
“No time for that,” Raistline spoke as his lightsaber hilt flew from his belt to his hand. A purple glow filled the room as the energy of the blade came to life. “Everyone pick a row and start cutting. We gotta get the hell out of here.”
Celia, Orcus and Prackx stood guard by the door as the dark jedi ransacked the vault. Papers littered the air as lockboxes were sliced open, their contents strewn upon the floor. Each worked diligently in their task. Soon they were falling over the trash littered upon the floor: blueprints, jewels documents and bottles.
“I think they drink more than Howlader, Halcyon and Raist put together,” Kooki commented as she threw Raistline a bottle of Halmand Prime. Raistline dropped his reflexive hand, letting the bottle crash to the floor.
“Thanks, but I’m already at carrying capacity,” Raistline laughed, dumping out another lockbox.
“I think I found it!” Andrelious called out just as Arvalis was pocketing a first release of Figrin Da’n’s greatest hits. He held aloft a worn leather bound book. Though no writing was upon the cover all felt the artifact’s power. “Now let’s clear out.”
As the group approached the door Celia hit the unlock and open commands on the door. The door slid open revealing a large group of Technocrat soldiers, weapons already drawn. The soldiers fired into the vault. Acting on instinct Arvalis and Rian deflected the fire, casting blue and white light around the room as they swung their blades. Lighting streaked from Raistline and Andrelious’ fingers upon their assailants to no effect. An electro-net, fired from a Technocrat soldier, opened wide to capture its prey only to make contact with the closing door.
“What did you do that for?” Kooki yelled at Celia. “I was about to use that net!”
“I…I didn’t touch anything,” Celia stammered confused. Her fingers jammed on the wall panel. “It won’t open!”
All stopped talking and moving. No one breathed. They sensed it before they could hear it. Tapping. Small metallic taps coming from the ceiling. Slow and soft at first, then casually building in tempo and crescendoing in volume.
“Swil!” Andrelious yelled into his comlink. “We need a way out. Swil?”
The dim blue light of the datapad shown on the unshaven angry face of Swil. He shook the datapad with futile effort and threw it to the floor. Locked out he thought. The datapad shattered upon the ground, leaving only the emergency lights to fill the room. He stood up and began pacing. Then the emergency lights suddenly went out.
“Get down,” the first of the two elite Taldryan soldiers yelled, pulling Swil to the ground by his shirt collar. His comlink bounced on the ground next to him.
An explosion ripped through the darkness. Blaster fire opened into the railway station as Technocrat soldiers piled into the room. Switching to night vision on their HUD the Tadryan elites began returning fire upon the intruders, dragging the panicked Swil with them. The second Taldran soldier pressed a button on his forearm. His visor lessened the brightness of the explosion as their first trap went off in a ball of flame.
More Technocrat troops poured in, firing and stepping over their fallen comrades.
“We need a way out. Swil?” could be quietly heard over the blaster fire and the crackling of burning electronics.
“Swil. Can you hear me?” The Rollmaster continued to shout into his comlink. We need a way out and we need it now."
“Andrel, we don’t have time for this.” Rian remanded the Sith. “We need another exit and we need it now.”
Andrelious pocketed his comlink again, glaring at the Ektrosian Quaestor, there was still anger left at the Mirialan, and their current situation only fueled this anger. “As if I wouldn’t know that, but apparently if there would be another door it would surely be locked as well.”
“Why would we need a door if we could make us one?” Rian said. “Hesperus, what’s below this level?”
The droid cocked his metallic head imitating the human act of thinking while accessing his memory core. “Nothing but four meters of reinforced duracrete where you are standing, but there is a maintenance shaft near the desk where Master Andrelious had found the tome we were looking for.”
“Alright, Kara, you have heard him, show them what you got your nickname for.” Rian ordered his fiancé who immediately broke from the group, unpacking one of her proton charges from her pocket.
“Don’t you think a proton charge would be too much for the building?” Arvalis questioned.
“There is no need to worry Master Arvalis, the entire building has bee –” Hesperus wanted to reassure his master when Kara came back, jogging, a remote control in her hand.
“Everybody stay down.” She ordered and triggered the explosive.
The sound of the detonation was deafening and once the dust and flying paperwork had settled the group could clearly say that while the building seemingly was intact, the explosive had been more than adequate to do the job. Several nearby shelves had been burst apart and the hole the explosive had torn into the floor was large enough to easily accommodate a mid-sized container.
“So here’s your opening, now let’s get out of here.” Andrelious ordered. “Droid you take the lead.”
One by one they jumped down into the maintenance shaft with Hesperus leading them through the dimly illuminated corridor. On their way through the corridor they were forced change their direction a few times to avoid being detected by Seeker Droids but eventually they reached the end of the shaft and left it to another corridor only a couple of levels above the train station.
“And now?” Celia asked once they all had exited the maintenance shaft. “We made it out of the vault but we are still in the building and they will have already began searching for us again.”
“Always so negative Miss Aurum.” Arvalis said. “I am pretty sure Andrelious or Rian already have a plan.”
“I am worried because I couldn’t get a hold of Swil back in the vault, that for I suggest we go back the same way we got in and take the train we came here with.” Andrelious said worried on the men he had left.
“Same here, it seems our best option, though only for I am not sold on the option of fighting our way back to our ships through a whole city full of these Technocrat cyborgs.” Rian agreed.
“Then back to the train station.” Arvalis said ironically as he was fully aware that their way down would as well be grounded with corpses of “these Technocrat cyborgs”.
However in the end their way down was less secured than the group had expected and with only having to work through a couple of patrols they arrived at the train station where their train was still waiting for them.
Jumping onto the first wagon, Kara placed her remaining explosive onto the coupling before merging with the rest of the group when Hesperus looked at her puzzled.
“Just a precaution.” She said entering the wagon now facing the tunnel they had come from.
Andrelious examined the mag-train’s control panel. He wasn’t entirely sure that he would be able to control the vehicle; the controls were simple enough but the Taldryanites had already been hijacked.
“Whoever’s controlling this spire might still be around. This might be a short journey!” the Sith warned.
“Just get us out of here!” Kooki snapped.
“You really shouldn’t get stressed in your condition. Especially now we’ve lost our medic,” Rian added.
“Silence!” the Alderaanian responded, glaring at her Quaestor icily.
The train started to move off. The surviving Taldryanites breathed a sigh of relief.
They were on their way back.
The mag-train journey sped along, its occupants hoping that the trip remained completely uneventful. Andrelious remained attentive in the cockpit, making sure that the vehicle took the correct path whenever it reached a fork in the tracks. He was concerned about the lack of communication from Swil; the young man usually kept Andrelious in the loop when it came to exactly what was happening. A blackout was not like him, at all.
As the control panel indicated that they were nearing their destination, things outside went completely black.
Perhaps the lights got taken out in the fighting? Andrelious wondered as he brought the train to a halt.
“That was all a little too easy, don’t you think?” Rian observed as the Rollmaster rejoined the others.
“The Collective are fanatics, Rian, and they’re very tough, but they’re not invincible. Especially against a team of Force users. A team of Taldryan Force users,” Arvalis answered.
“We’d best see what happened to Swil,” Andrelious declared, hopping out of the train. The rest followed, those with lightsabers generating enough light to find the way back to where they had left the slicer.
“Well, they definitely had some trouble,” Raistline stated.
“Hey. Andrel. Over here,” Rian declared, pointing at one of the corpses. “That’s not a Collective soldier. Or one of ours,”
Sure enough, Andrelious examined the fallen soldier, immediately recognising the insignia.
“Arconan. I was wondering if the other Clans were ever going to show up. Be careful. They’d have had plenty of reason to attack Swil,” the Rollmaster answered, failing to spot Swil’s corpse.
“I want to get back to surface. It’s getting very stuffy down here,” Kooki complained.
Andrelious simply nodded and, not bothering to step around the dead, made his way to the exit. Kooki followed closely, with the rest of the team quickly moving into formation behind.
On reaching the surface, Andrelious immediately spotted Swil, who was crouched down and peering into the scope of his sniper rifle.
“Report,” the Sith ordered.
“I got locked out of the system by another slicer. His codes were just something else. After getting ambushed by the Collective, we were on our way out when we ran into a joint team from Arcona and Odan-Urr. I got away in the confusion, by I’m afraid my protection didn’t make it,” Swil explained matter of factly.
“Where did the Arconans and Urrites go?” Rian asked.
“All I know is that they were headed somewhere into the spire. Did you not meet them?” the slicer responded.
“We did not, but that’ll be why we got out so easily. Can we get to our ships, Swil?” Andrelious questioned.
“The way to Nightjar is clear, but Noctis is surrounded by more Arconans. I’ve picked two off, but they’ve retreated out of sight,” Phift declared.
“Time to kill some Arconans then!” Kooki yelled, sprinting away in the direction of Rian’s ship.
The Arconans covering Noctis turned out to be little more than a group of younger members of the Expeditionary Force. The Rollmaster was relieved to see none of his former clanmates; he was already tired and the last thing he needed was a long, drawn out fight against someone he had most likely helped train.
On seeing Kooki, the young men cocked their blasters.
“Freeze. This ship is seized in the name of the Shadow Clan!”
“Seize this!” the Alderaanian roared, her purple blade cleaving through the nearest Arconan.
Andrelious, Rian, Kara and Granta barely had time to join the fight before it was over.
“Well, that’s certainly proven you belong to Taldryan now, Kooki,” Rian observed.
“Don’t you start! I can easily arrange for another casualty or two!” Kooki warned.
“Nightjar is away! See you back home!” Arvalis’ voice crackled over Andrelious’ comlink.
“We’d best get up there too, Andrel. We need to get these items to our Elders. Perhaps they can figure out what to do with them,” Aslar declared.
“The sooner we’re away from this planet, the better! Everyone get aboard!” Andrelious shouted.
It had been a good day for Clan Taldryan. They had suffered only a few losses, destroyed the Shikari Hunters, and, most importantly, their mission was complete.