It took three men to roll the Apparatus from the lab, the aperture the size of a man’s head. Salbor Vier smiled as he watched the Trandoshans move ahead, stalking and stomping toward the interlopers. They followed the champion, a follower of the Scorekeeper’s ways, tallies of successful hunts adorning the lizard’s heavy armor. Salbor had seen the Trandoshan fight before, the holofeeds a gruesome reminder of the need for their skillset.
He hoped it would be enough.
The one in the dark armor kept walking toward them, a steady and constant pace. The other, taller and broader, darted from soldier to soldier, fast hands constantly in motion, the whirring of his saber scorching broadly. Salbor cursed himself quietly, flipping the safety off of the power controls, the Apparatus cycling up, drinking deeply from the power cells that they had rigged together. They all had hoped it would be enough, but the Ancient Traveler’s technology was still a huge mystery in more ways that they all would have liked to believe.
Particles concentrated around the apurture, dust motes shifting phases into plasma, burning themselves out brightly, their molecules dancing into the fourth state of matter and then into the abyss of nothingness. Salbor watched the kitbashed control panel as it indicated efficiency, throughput, frequency. He needed a few more moments. He would have liked more time, if only to shuffle the artifact off onto a transport before the fool of a commander decided to allow their own to bomb the skyhook. He understood why he would not want the Sith to have the secrets held on the skyhook, their power too frightening to leave on the surface, vulnerable and tragic if abused. Involuntarily, he recalled the collapse of the Farfield Labs, another artifact of the Ancient Traveler’s pulling more power than they had expected, blacking out half the continent, and then erupting with the fire of angry gods, killing thousands. They kept the labs in the stars now, high enough that if anything happened like that again…
He shook the thought from his head, watching as the Champion smashed against the Sith, the cowled one bounding between his blows, meeting skill with skill. And yet the other, moving dispassionately, stoic beneath a black helmet, the hair of the stylized animal head atop his helm wafting in his wake. He kept moving, silently contrasting the bravado and brutality of the other.
Eyes darted back to the control panel. Only a few seconds now before he could warn the Trandoshans to run, before he could activate the artfact, the seige machine. His communicator chirped at him, the voice of He-Who-Remembers coming through, trembling behind his accent.
“Do you see him?”
Salbor winced. He-Who-Remembers was never a fearful man, and the tone in his voice frightened him. “Who?”
The second team reached the calm one, and calamity ensued. Salbor knew of the Force. He had seen the mystics weave their ways, seeking the truth, the future, knitting together broken flesh and broken relationships. It was a path of love.
This was not love.
The first Trandoshan snapped. He didn’t even really see what happened well enough to understand. Just that the Lizard got close to the man, and suddenly, he was broken, falling to the floor. The second one was lifted from his feet, flung back as though hit by an invisible monster. His back gave an audible crack as it smashed into the bulkhead so hard that it was dented afterwards. The third fared even less well, hatred dripping off of it’s teeth at …whatever it was under that armor. Salbor shuddered as he saw the third, the fourth, and the last of the team were set aside, their lives extinguished as if they were insects. He didn’t even raise a hand, twist a finger. They were just gone.
Salbor’s eyes widened as he came to the realization that he hadn’t even broken stride, stepping toward him, toward the artifact. He screamed, diving for the control panel, his hand sliding to the activation stud. It was only at 70% efficiency, but he couldn’t wait any longer.
The command came inaudibly, worming its way through the Sith’s head. He darted sideways, bringing his saber to bear against the champion, wistfulness in his eyes ans he tasted the blood on his lips. It was a valiant foe, a worthy challenge, but in the end, all too disposable. His weapon sang through armor, bone and flesh as easily as it would have cut butter, the light in the Trandoshan’s eyes flickering as he realized his own doom. Darkhawk’s blade swung sideways, freeing itself from the dying foe. He turned, seeing the Dominion scientist break for the contraption that they had been wheeling down the hallway. It was the size of two men, dull metal with an enormous hole in the side facing them, and whatever it was doing, it was frying the air around it.
Realization came quickly. It was a weapon. Something that could change the balance of power in the clan, in the Brotherhood. He looked quickly at Muz, at his unrelenting pace, aiming directly for it. To what purpose would the Lion of Tarthos use this tool, DarkHawk wondered. To the benefit of whom? His mind returned to conspiracy and politics too quickly, weighing the alternatives, all too many paths from this singular moment.
And a moment later, it would not matter.
The very air around them erupted into blue flame, scorching their senses like the painful howls of a million dying souls. It overwhelmed the senses, muscle memory the only thing permitting them to raise sabers, to deflect, to absorb some of the brutality that was directed at them directly. Yet it was nowhere near enough.