Opposite Florrum system primary
“This had better work, Roh,” growled Admiral Cyvaria Ranin, commander of the Ascendant Fleet. “Were we in time for a blockade, my ships could have littered their remains across the desert easily.”
“And in that situation, we would lose the opportunity we have been presented with. There is nothing more alluring to the Jedi than the chance to protect the innocent,” Selika replied. Her image floated above the holodisplay at the rear of the Transcendent’s bridge. Selika’s tight beam transmission was being relayed from Florrum to the Transcendent’s position opposite the system’s star by a small comm satellite.
“The forces we have en-route to Florrum’s surface will strike before the Jedi realize we are there,” came the voice of Teylas Ramar, Dread Lord of Clan Plagueis, from behind the admiral.
The woman snapped to attention as she turned to face him. “My lord.”
“You will get your chance, Admiral. Once the light siders are forced to retreat, we will etch their destruction so far into their memory that it will be spoken in the same breath as New Tython,” Ramar explained. “Your ships will jump in, and we will trap them between us and our army already present on the ground before they can realize what is going on.”
“Easier said than done,” Ranin muttered to herself as she turned back to her duties.
Landing Zone Bravo
Five Kilometers South of Objective
The deafening roar and accompanying gust of hot air from the engines of the last LAAT/i taking off temporarily drowned out the barking of orders and bustle of the landing zone. Soldiers rushed to get their crew-served weapons and defensive positions in place. Time was not on their side.
A male Chiss with regulation cut black hair in a KUDF officer’s field uniform stood surveying the bustle of activity. His glowing red eyes darted across the various positions of the perimeter making sure all the avenues of approach were covered. Len Iode had briefed his troops, it was time to let them do what they do best.
Len’s follow KUDF officer, a graceful Human female with silver hair and ice blue eyes approached. “How are we looking Len? The first of my scouting patrols will be ready to move out in twenty minutes.”
The Chiss gazed toward his Human counterpart. “Major Archenksova, my squads are setting up their sectors of fire now.” He pointed toward a nearby creek bed in the rocky terrain. “There’s more deadspace than we anticipated in this position but we’ll have to make due with the grenades we have if it comes to that. Orders are orders after all, the Plagueis forces can drop out of hyperspace any minute.”
Alethia nodded in agreement with her peer’s assessment. “Well if all goes well we should have all the approaches the planetary shield generators secured before they arrive.” She let that wishful thought hang in the air for a few moments. “But you know the old saying, no plan survives contact with the enemy.”
Len chuckled. “No it does not.”
Contingency Landing Zone X-Ray
Zoso Quinn sat crouched behind a makeshift barricade of durasteel supply crates. She sincerely hoped they had food and not ammunition in them. The LAAT/i which had been her ride was partially embedded in the ground in what had clearly been a hasty landing. All the shuttle’s occupants save one had taken cover behind whatever they could find. The distinct roar of swoop bike engines in the distance circling around their position foretold another assault from their pirate assailants.
The commlink on Zoso’s wrist crackled to life. “Say again Colonel Quinn, you were breaking up. Did you say unexpected resistance?”
Extremely perturbed, the Miralan keyed up the comm to respond. “Yes, I have a squad’s worth of Weequay on swoop bikes shooting at us!”
The operations officer on the other end of the line hesitated. “There isn’t supposed to be any gang activity in that quadrant.”
“WELL TELL THEM THAT!”
“Copy that Colonel, we are routing air support to your position. ETA ten minutes. Command out.” The commlink fell silent as the boisterous engines grew closer.
“Ten minutes….frak that.” Quinn turned to her fellow defenders, “Look alive people! We have incoming and air support won’t be here for tick so we’ll have to make due.” The Mirialan looked up at the diminutive grey-skinned Sullustan fiddling with one of the shuttle’s smoking engines. “Tekk! You got that shuttle running yet, we might need a quick exit.”
“First the acid geysers they neglected to tell me about and now her. I don’t get paid enough for this.” The Sullustan muttered to himself inside the engine compartment before poking his mushroom like head out. “I could get it up faster if you’d stop asking me about it!”
“Well if you haven’t noticed, we’re getting shot at.” Zoso retorted while peeking her head over her makeshift cover.
“I’d better get bonus combat pay for this!” Tekk punctuated his sentence by waving an hydrospanner in the air at the Mirialan . “Ya crazy green-”
“WHAT WAS THAT?!”
The Sullustan returned to the engine compartment with a dismissive wave. “I’m workin’ on it, calm yer fun bags luv.”
Zoso shook her head, the little grey mole was insufferably mercenary, always fussing about his pay during the worst possible times. But he was a wizard with engines and she was actually glad he had been on the shuttle. The sound of the swoop bikes was almost deafening by this point and the Mirialan popped up from behind the durasteel crate. A particularly ugly Weequay noticed an exposed target and brought his blaster to bear as he circled around the disabled shuttle. He was too slow, Zoso had already sighted in her .48 slugthrower and lead her assailant. She held held the air in her lungs mid breath, focused, and pulled the trigger. The Weequay flew off his bike with a splash of hot, crimson blood as the slug round found its mark in his chest. The swoop bike continued forward with its previous momentum and struck a nearby rock with a pillar of fire shooting into the air.
“One down, twelve to go.” Quinn remarked to no one in particular as she resumed her previous cover and the sounds of blaster fire and swoop engines filled the otherwise peaceful evening.
Undesirable Base Camp
The intercom of the shuttle crackled to life, “30 seconds until landing.”
Turel and his assigned bodyguard Socorro “Echo-3” braced themselves against the walls of the passenger compartment as the shuttle banked for its final approach. Both occupants had been pacing in frustration prior to the craft’s final approach but for very different reasons. Turel for the stubbornness of his undesirable counterpart whom he was now travelling to meet and Socorro for being the Councilor’s only protection during this meeting.
Finally unable to contain her anxiety Socorro broke the silence. “How do we know they simply won’t take you hostage or even kill you to gain leverage with the Inquisition?”
Turel had to strain his neck to look up at the cybernetic woman towering over him. “That’s why I have you.” He nudged her hip with his elbow. “Besides, I’ve gotten out of tougher jams than that if they do decided kidnapping me is in their best interest. Trust me.” He flashed his signature confident smirk at her before turning his attention to the ramp at the rear of the transport. The craft shook as it touched down on the ground.
“It won’t come to that. I promised the General I’d protect you…even from that purple witch.” Socorro thought as she readied her rifle and placed herself between Turel and the ramp that would soon open.
Both the Odanites squinted their eyes to adjust to the evening sun pouring into the compartment as the ramp slowly descended. As they stepped onto the ramp and their vision cleared they noticed a squad of rag-tag militia pointing blasters at them. Socorro instinctively raised her weapon in response but Turel gently pushed her rifle down.
“Whooookay, let’s not get hasty here. We’re all friends.” The Jedi raised both palms in the air as he slowly walked down the ramp. “I’m here to talk to Tonraq.”
A Chiss male who appeared to be the leader of the security squad motioned for Turel to follow. “Come with me Jedi, your escort stays here.”
“Like hell I am!” The cyborg protested.
The Proconsul motioned for Socorro to be calm. “I’ll be in the next building, just sit tight. I’ll holler if I need help.” He sent directly into her mind through the Force. “Please lead on.”
The Chiss male led Turel into a makeshift bunker near the landing pad where the biggest Cathar he had ever seen in his life stood in the center of the chamber, towering over everyone else. Tonraq, formerly an Obelisk Primarch, dominated the room with his fearsome presence. His thick arms, broad shoulders and stout chest reflected a man who dedicated his life to the art of war. The visible fur on his entire body was white, as was his mane which had been braided into traditional dreadlocks.
“So, you’re here Jedi, state your business.” The Cathar flatly stated in a low gravely voice that was nearly a growl.
Turel ran his fingers through his hair absently, “Look, General, I appreciate face to face meetings and all but we really don’t have time, this could have been done over holo. We need you to lower the planetary shield protecting this so our forces can integrate into your defensive positions.”
Tonraq stepped closer so the Proconsul had to look up at him. “And how do I know you’re not simply Inquisition agents? I can’t afford that risk.”
“Really? You’ve scanned our ships, you know we’re from Odan-Urr. You know, the Clan the Grand Master is trying to wipe out. We’re not exactly the Inquisition’s biggest supporters. Let us help you!”
The Obelisk stared at the Jedi for a few tense moments as he weighed the demand. “Why would you help us? What do you get from all this? It’s just hard to believe.”
Turel smiled. “We’re Jedi…mostly, it’s what we do.” He could sense his words were not convincing his counterpart. “What we gain is a chance to oppose Plagueis and the Inquisition and hopefully some new allies.” The Jedi extended his hand to the Cathar in a gesture of friendship. He could sense Tonraq’s skepticism, but also him softening.
The Obelisk gestured for the Jedi to lower his hand. “It will take more than a handshake to earn my trust Jedi.”
Turel retracted his hand with slight frown, pausing for a moment to think of a response. “And we are prepared to do more. Any minute now the Plagueis battlegroup will drop out of hyperspace and the landings will start. We will engage them in orbit and on the ground but any of us are to make it out of this we need to stand together.”
“When that happens….then you shall have my trust. But if what you say is true then the time for lowering the shield has passed. Your forces will need to move quickly if they are to join ours in time to make a difference.”
Plagueis Forward Base
The image of Turel Sorenn and the Cathar winked out existence as Selika killed the holofeed from the bunker. It hadn’t been easy, but Plagueis had been able to position discreet holocameras on the ridge around their base. The undesirables were well-guarded and the image of the Cathar made it all the more intriguing. Turning back to another holodisplay, Selika’s gaze met that of the holographic Plagueis Consul.
“So, the Jedi have already made contact ahead of our armies?” Teylas asked.
“Yes, my lord” Selika answered. “The Jedi have faced some opposition already from the Weequay bands around them. Our forces are ready to strike at your command.”
“Excellent,” Teylas mused, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. “The fleet is positioned for a sweeping advance on their fleet as the Jedi evacuate the undesirables. Make sure your forces are in place.”
Selika bowed as the hologram switched off. A short walk took her from the comm tent to the command center. The encampment had been camouflaged as best as possible given the terrain and the time available, with most of the heavy equipment hidden in caves or under sensor dispersal nets made to look like hills. The force was a small part of Plagueis’s total military, but, caught between it and the bulk of Plagueis’s military coming from orbit, Odan-Urr wouldn’t stand a chance.
Odan-Urr Forward Base
Featureless orbs scanned the room in contemplative thought, the Arkanian commander reading the projection of allied movements like a book. His tactical genius was the model of perfection—or, as close as possible when the lesser beings under his command carried out his orders. Rather, he consoled himself with the fact that if his strategic proposal failed, the blame could be shouldered onto the undesirables under his watch—Barabels, Cathar among them.
Glinting off his chest was the new badge of his command—the Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force. Although the commander held his own flaws and beliefs, the Brotherhood made a grave error in underestimating the genius of their former commander. Indeed, his own tactical training was now backed by the visions of another. Previously, the notion of Force-given farsight was something he would have dismissed as hogwash.
Now, he was well aware of how wrong he was, all this time.
Even so, the High Councillor’s gift of farsightedness didn’t save the scores of civilians massacred as New Tython bled. Such was the act of a cruel, heartless maniac—a plausible, if unorthodox tactic, he admitted. Earlier, his holoscreens showed the data; projected casualties, seismic events and the length of the assault was enough to fill him in.
He heard of the compassion Jedi were supposed to show, but didn’t think twice of angering the Togruta High Councillor, meditating so close to a lightsaber that had moments ago, sliced the end off an Inquisitorius agent’s blaster before being driven through his sternum. Darth Pravus has already sent the first of his assassins and failed, but now the Consul was on edge.
Waving a clawed finger around the projections, he gazed at her tense figure, “Give me a battalion of pure-bred Arkanians and I’ll make the battlefield kneel. Give me a glimpse into the future, and I’ll turn even these fur-lickers and lizards into a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know whether to be glad to have this on our side, or anxious to see what powers our foe has. Wars should be won at the hands of commanders and generals, not sorcerers and seers.”
“I agree, commander. Pravus and his followers in Plagueis do not share these sentiments. It isn’t just winning for them—the Sith feed on mindless killing as a means for control. None of them can see past their own hand when searching for the next leaders.”
The commander gave a sharp salute, “Well then, it appears I will need to show them what the genius of an Arkanian commander can do to their armies. Bolster these men and continue with the…” he paused, unsure of how to refer to ‘it’, “…intel.”