Khryso cursed under his breath. From the viewing portal, he watched the Black Silence weave in and out of buzzing swarms of ships - Task Force Besh, Collective, Principate, it was gettng more difficult to tell the difference now. Leaning forward in his captain’s chair, the Chiss pushed his vessel into full throttle, lurching into the fray.
“We got the Wrath coming in hot!” Ohli cried out, watching the blips on the Scream’s radar.
While Khryso had known that Plagueis would win the battle, he was pleased that TuQ’uan’s arrival would at least reduce casualties on the clan’s side. As the Eviscerater emerged unscathed from the conflict, the Knight keyed in a transmission to Abadeer. “You good, Taasii?”
“Sure am,” replied the Togruta, sounding out of breath. “Brimstone here helped me take out some sort of Raider II-class corvette. Is that the one Kel Zar’s in?”
“Nope. Sorry, buddy,” replied Khryso. Still, a nagging part of his Force senses told him that despite that, whomever they had fired down had been a rather valuable friend.
In the next few minutes, the Collective offensive would withdraw.
The Pinnacle - Level 101
Mant Krafin, once a lively informant, was now bleeding and near vegetable status. Andrelious had done a number on him. The vengeful father had heard enough of the damned spy’s ramblings about the fate of his sons; now he had to suffer for even bringing them up in the first place. The information he had received, ultimately, was worrisome - a potential infiltration into the Pinnacle itself was underway.
Signaling to Lieutenant Grapik, a member of the Willing, Andrelious marched out of the interrogation room and made his way to the main turbolift, making sure to use the proper credentials to get to the Dread Lord’s office. In the aftermath of his report, he had expected a speedy response, but he had gotten none. This bothered the new member of the clan: Was Ronovi really so careless or nonchalant? What about the possibility of a demolition squad attacking Plagueis’s headquarters scream non-urgent to her?
He waited impatiently as the lift zipped up the remaining 94 floors, until the doors slid open and he was greeted by two guards. They inspected him, forced him to cede his blaster rifle, and only caved to letting him keep his lightsabers after he made good use of his mind trick prowess. While the Dread Lord, powerful as she was, had to take time to sway weak minds using the Force, Andrelious could get his way without so much as blinking.
When he entered the Dread Lord’s office, he was both surprised and disappointed to see that Wrathus and Tahiri, his so-called “superiors,” had beaten him to the punch. The Togruta and the white-haired Epicanthix flanked Ronovi at her desk, the near-half cyborg perusing a datapad with a smile. Once she set it down, she eyed the former Arconan cautiously, and Andrelious knew full that she was wary of him being here. After all, the man was not one to simply follow orders, and while he was technically now a Plagueian, he would not act like a rank-and-file yes man.
“You’re a bit late, Inahj,” opined the Consul. “Seems like your squad already had a go at the Pinnacle’s hangar bay.”
Andrelious’s eyebrows fluttered upward. “So fast? Good thing I filled you in, then.”
Ronovi waved her hand as if to dismiss his contribution, which irked him even more. “Not much to sneeze at. A few Aleena, some humanoids. Our Willing forces took them down quite efficiently.”
“Some damage to the bay itself,” Tahiri added, “but nothing we can’t fix.”
“Nothing my lunch can’t fix,” corrected Wrathus.
Ronovi gave Wrathus a look. “Wrathus.”
“I’m not calling them ‘assets,’ Tavisaen.”
With a sigh, Andrelious left the office and returned to the turbolift, a confused Grapik following him. Even if Ronovi hadn’t provided him credit, he had done his job, and perhaps she would thank him later. Unfortunately, despite being staunchly opposed to all facets of the Jedi Code, the Warlord would have to practice patience.
CR90 Corvette Respite
Unknown Regions - Open Space
Thirty minutes later
“Work,” snarled Kel Zar, slamming her hand repeatedly on the panel in front of her. “Work, damn you. Work!”
Her comm system had been nonfunctional since receiving a glancing blow to her starboard side, which threatened to fry everything. As the Zabrak steered away from the looming gravity well, she tried desperately to stay focused. Thusak was dead. Many pilots on her side had been destroyed or had simply fled. The Ascendant Clan’s assault had done a number on her fleet, and now she needed reinforcements.
She had to reach somebody. Ordam, preferably. The woman had been instrumental in Kel Zar’s attempts to free Plagueis’s slaves, though of course, such efforts had been fruitless. Perhaps she could help again. Pressing several buttons in rapid succession, Kel Zar exhaled in both shock and relief as the appropriate lights bloomed back to life, and a shaky, shuttering hologram of the Nautolan appeared before her.
“Ghafa! Thank the stars! I need you to - ”
“Don’t bother, Kel. I’m not interested in getting involved with your petty vendetta.”
Kel Zar blinked slowly, letting a heavy and palpable silence linger in the air like a bad smell. She stared at the tiny silhouette of her superior in a daze. “Petty vendetta? I’m under siege by Brotherhood forces!”
“I know,” replied Ordam. “And I told you to leave it. We’re still recouping our losses after their strike on the Thuvis Shipyards. We have their Deputy Grand Master, and while we’ve been plotting, you’ve been zipping around like a chicken with its head cut off. Of course you’re under siege, you horned fool - you invited it. And now you’re paying for it.”
“Ordam,” Kel Zar. “For the love of everything, I need back-up.”
“Save your breath, Kel. We’re not coming.” The words stabbed at the Zabrak’s head and chest. “We have more important things to tend to than blindly throwing punches at a clan. Do yourself a favor - head back to base, or do something better with your time. I’m out.”
And she got nothing but dead air.
Just nearby, a Firespray-31-class Interceptor zipped toward the Respite’s port side, and with a few concise shots, it ripped a neat yet pronounced hole in its flank. Kel Zar swore wildly, shrieking with eyes blazing as she attempted to right her course. In the Firespray, the manic gaze of a Chiss signified a desire to finish the job. Brimstone was ready for the kill.
The comm system went haywire in the cockpit, and for a few seconds, Kel Zar’s ship accidentally intercepted a signal from the assaulting ship. “Scream, this is Nehso Retan’ci. I have Kel Zar’s vessel in my sights. I’m going to - ”
“No!” bellowed the Zabrak to the air, and with a lucky stretch of her arm, she activated the hyperdrive just before it could be cooked.
The stars began to stretch out into angry white streamers in front of her. Kel Zar stared at them aggressively, lips pulled tight, veins pulsing in her forehead. That was the way it was? Fine, then. To hell with you, Ghafa Ordam. And to hell with you, Rath Oligard. To hell with the whole ridiculous organization. If they wouldn’t take her mission against Plagueis seriously, then she’d find others who would.
She didn’t need the Collective. Not anymore.
All right, suckers, she thought to herself. Be back in a few.
Then the vacuum of hyperspace swallowed her up, and she was gone.