[GJW XIV] Arcona Run On

Team Dorn

Well. It certainly wasn’t Shadow Academy staff waiting for them in the hangar. Things just got better and better. At least The Collective was always good for a warm welcome.

“They aren’t paying me enough for this Sithspit!” Dax spat at no one in particular as he ducked under a stream of crimson blaster-fire, a few stray shots sparking off the edge of his cloak. They’d been pinned down in the center of the hangar, just a few dozen feet away from the downed Lady’s Flower. A full platoon of Collective partisans was closing in around them, threatening to surround their position. Not that he was worried. He’d seen far worse before. Grumbling under his breath, the old soldier ripped the pin from his sonic imploder, tossing it blindly over the edge of his cover. The deafening double-detonation followed moments later, pierced through by the sounds of ragged screams and broken bones.

“Are you kidding me? I ain’t had this much fun since the Battle o’ Mimban!” Zodiac laughed from Dax’s side, his mane of greying hair shaking. Popping to his feet, the ex-Imperial let loose a salvo of slugs, smoothly picking off the soldiers that Dax had stunned, gunshots cutting through the air.

“You fought at the battle of Mimban?” Luka questioned, narrowing their eyes. Crouched behind a shattered crate, they crooned softly under their breath as they wound a tight bandage Bico’s paw, tending a wound that had been dealt during the initial fighting.

“No, but I drank during it!”

“I’ll drink on your Mimban!” Diy interjected, flashing Zodac a sultry grin, before spinning Whyell around in her hand and smashing a Partisan in the jaw as he tried to vault over her cover, following the blow by kneeing him harshly in the groin. The Kiffar brought Whynetta around in her other hand, and the man was dead before he hit the floor, a smoking hole between his eyes.

One member of the team, however, did not join in the joking… though she certainly wanted to. But, someone had to keep them alive. Even as the Arconans laughed and joked and rambled, not seeming to take the fight at all seriously… they fought like a well oiled machine, like a single entity. Their movements were timed together, running like clockwork: when Dax moved to launch a wrist-rocket into a pocket of Partisans, Diy was already spraying cover fire. When a few well-aimed bolts almost sped for Zodac’s throat, Luka was there, saber reflecting the shots away.

It was efficiency. Synthesis. Harmony. It protected Sera’s team. That was all that mattered to her. Crouched just behind Diy, the Zabrak’s eyes were tightly shut, her hearts pounding to the rhythm of the Force, her lips murmuring a silent prayer to her ancestors. Even with her eyes closed, she could feel Diy standing over her protectively, sense Dax and Zodac as they reloaded their weapons, discern Bico’s pain and Luka’s worry.

There was more. She could feel the minds of the people that they were fighting, their fear. And… she could feel something approaching from behind them. A familiar presence drawing closer, from deeper within the station. It put a smile on her face.

“On my word,” Sera murmured, breaking her silence. “We charge them. Head on.” Breaking her meditation, the Zabrak moved to one knee, her amber saber igniting.

“Are you crazy, Baldy?” Dax shot back, his brow rising incredulously. “There’s still a dozen of ‘em out there, we’ll be running to our death.”

“Just trust me,” she responded, giving him a bright, sunny grin, nonchalantly ducking as a stream of crimson fire hissed over her scalp. “We’ve got help coming up right behind them. We attack, they’ll fall back. It’s our best chance.”

Diy smiled, hefting her blasters. Luke shrugged, brandishing their saber. Zodac chuckled, pulling deeply from his flask… and Dax just sighed.

“I’ll give you a little bonus…” Sera promised, her smile growing wider.

“…right. Just give damn the word.”

“Sweet! Now…ARCONA INVICTA!” the Zabrak cried, raising her golden saber high. Bursting into a sprint, she vaulted over her cover, listening as her team poured out behind her…

And just beyond the enemy’s line, she saw another shining yellow saber ignite.

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Team Esk

Agreed on a course of action, the team refrained from any further chatter as their VT-Decimator hurled from the hangar when their turn came, leaving the pattern and the safety of the Will of Our Lady’s shields behind.

The thrust of their boosters gave them gravity, pressing each Arconan and the pilots into their seats, but they endured with steady breaths and clenched jaws as the immediate chaos of entering a live fire zone began. The skilled naval officers navigated them this way and that, their course set for docking with the Nesolat at the nearest available point of ingress, but a lot of plasma and shrapnel between them and it. They pitched and rolled, dodging fire, their own [guns] heaving with a heavy retort occasionally, either to scatter enemy vessels or clear a path through the debris field of the Nesolat’s increasingly overwhelmed defenses. Chatter across the comms indicated some of their own fighter screens being engaged, while other assault and rescue teams had already made a successful approach to the docking towers and breached.

To Marick, the Force suddenly screamed. The Hapan inhaled, head whipping around.

“Incoming!” he snapped, like the sharp crack of an ice crag splitting at a seam.

They braced, hands reaching for straps, feet stamping. But not Atyiru. Her hands clasped in prayer, her silver brows plummeting like fallen stars, sepia face scrunching under them.


The marrow of their bones reverberated as the volley of laserfire rocked against something…but not against the hull. Not directly. Instead, a protective corona, limned in starlight, surrounded the whole of the small vessel. Or it did, until a half heartbeat later, when two more impacts came as the ship pinwheeled through the plasma-lit voidscape. One, fainter. The second, not at all. Their transport shuddered hard, metal screeching, klaxons blaring.

The Miraluka cried out a gasp. The copilot belted, “Grazing shot to the starboard thruster! Not gone yet but it will be! Hold on!”

Atyiru groaned lowly, sweat beading her brow. “So much stronger than a blaster. I can’t block them…”

Her murmuration was lost to the noise of the battered ship spiraling to and fro, the hum of engines and cannons and barked communications. They heard none of the so very deadly shots that passed by them, their fury lost to the silence of space when they didn’t impact with the vessel.

“Coming in hot, brace for impact!”

The scream of metal on metal filled their ears, though they felt more than heard the contact when it came, grinding and vibrating through their bones to the marrow, through their teeth in their gums. For a few moments everything ached.

But then they could all feel the slow of their momentum, the inevitable grate to a halt, and all had a moment of relief that they hadn’t crashed into anything.

Marick and Emere were the first out of their seats, one utterly unruffled thanks to all his training, the other a soldier of enough battles to recover fast. The Hapan unbuckled Atyiru while Emere aided her fellow Human. Once on their feet, the medic rushed to check the two pilots, and altogether they piled off the ship lest it be about to explode before she began first aid for sprains and scrapes.

A quick check of both senses and sightlines revealed them alone in the hangar. Nonetheless, the others stood armed and ready while the Miraluka administered hyposprays and bandages.

“Are you not an adept of the healing arts?” Alaisy’s modulated tones asked.

“Indeed, my friend, but I have to save my energy more these days. Who knows when we may need it most on this mission?” She finished quickly and stood again. Atyiru’s comm crackled as she activated it, hailing the Will of Our Lady, whose communications officers would route every team’s transmissions. “This is Team Esk. We’ve landed, but our transport won’t be returning. We’re on,” she paused.

Marick’s icy eyes flitted to the various designation markings on the hangar’s walls that she could not read. “The seventeenth level, Hangar Senth-Twenty,” he murmured. There were signs of some struggle, technicians on the floor here and there who may have been preparing for evacuation or flight, but not many. The control center was a spray of red on glass. Personal ships sat silent and untouched. It seemed no one had made it here en masse to join the fray before the enemy had.

“We’re on the seventeenth level. Proceeding with the mission. We will make way to the rendezvous site once we’ve secured the civilians.”

She knew they were here. If not on this floor, then close. Their cries echoed in her head.

A brief reply of confirmation followed. It seemed they were one of the last to arrive, likely on account of the damage they’d taken; but they were alive and in position, so that was what mattered.

The pilots were already grabbing equipment and armaments from the cooled ship as they removed their flight gear, ready to proceed as well. Blasters in hand, a quick word decided that one would go with each group. They took a well-placed spray of plasma fire to the Decimator’s controls and databank and hurried away, crossing the mostly-empty hangar in tense alertness.

The hallway just outside the blast doors was empty, yawning long in either direction, scuffs and smears on the floor. It was quiet, but that didn’t mean much. The group paused a moment more.

“Well, let us be gone then,” Alaisy decided, and began to flow away down one side of the hall, swaying with each predatory, knife-sharp step. Emere turned for the opposite, mouth firm, gun ready.

Atyiru took a step towards Marick, briefly clutched at his cloak. Touched her forehead to his again. “We’ll be safe,” she murmured, and he nodded back. Then, the assassin slipped away, following like a shadow in Alaisy’s wake along with their pilot.

The Miraluka joined her own companions and set off into the dark.

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Team Esk

The hallway was lit with a single crimson emergency light on the ceiling that pulsed from beginning to the end. Glossy walls bounced it around, creating an ominous, mirror-like atmosphere. Marick kept his eyes peeled and took each pause between the tall woman’s click-clacking heels and the pilot’s combat boots to listen for any permeating sounds. The aviator kept himself several steps away from the Shadow’s shimmer at the back of the group.

Pockets of untouched relics were on display on each side of the hallway, locked away behind transparisteel. One could break through the walls themselves to reach for those glittering prizes, but even the Sith woman did not slow down her stride. Alaisy realized that any artifacts so early in sight would not be worth the trouble, while Marick was about to grind his molars as he readied himself to elucidate her and found that he did not have to.

As they made their way further, they could all hear an artificial voice in the distance. The message was concise and repeated itself over and over.

“Security breach detected, all personnel are to follow the designated red lights for artifact recovery as per protocol Leth-36,” the robotic, male-sounding voice repeated.

Some scrapes were starting to show on the walls ahead and further away bright white light beckoned them. Blood and burn marks became more apparent until they finally reached a three-way crossing. The way to the left was blocked by a malfunctioning blast door, the middle was closed up with a bottom part missing and a crushed Acolyte’s arm squished underneath it. The only remaining route was to the right, which incidentally also had a flickering and swirling red light adorning it.

“This leaves us little choice. You heard the announcement, follow the scarlet trail,” the latex clad woman said with amusement in her modulated voice. A voice command in ancient Sith activated her self-contained breathing apparatus as she noticed the air filled with smoke when the door slid open.

“Just smoke. We are not alone,” Marick’s aristocratic voice hushed quietly.

As both Force Users stepped through the opening, the pilot donned a breathing mask as he heard the hissing from Alaisy’s mask, following her example. His hands tightened around his blaster as the atmosphere itself felt disturbed. The broadcast from earlier was gone, only the sound of small fires and cut electric wires filling the corridor.

Broken droids littered the first few steps out of the entryway. Blaster marks on the walls and cracked durasteel plates from explosives followed. A quartet of incinerated bodies lay next to a shattered cavity in the wall.

“Debris from a possible former artifact, perhaps?” The pilot suggested as he turned his head away from the pile of bodies with disgust and pointed at the shard filled gap. Marick’s shimmer faded and his form showed himself to the pilot for just a moment as he nodded, then gestured to move on.

Two tiles away from the pile, in the middle of the path, an amputated droid piqued Alaisy’s interest. With grey eyes behind her transparisteel visor she blinked and noticed the eye sockets of the droid flickering on and off.

The Sith’s pupils grew as she curiously tapped her boot against its cranium. The bot’s sensors picked up on it and a robotic voice sputtered to life.

“Require assistance, security compromised, enemy utilized scorched earth tactics. My circuits estimate with an eighty-eight-point-nine-nine percent certainty that they will be stuck two blocks ahead. Caution advised. Recommend extraction of artifacts. Protocol dict—" the last of its power drained away as its damaged battery could no longer sustain the bot’s vocal emitter. Moments later its mechanical eyes dimmed out for good.

“Good droid, looks like there are visitors after all,” she bent over just to pat the droid on the head.

“I concur. I hear plasma torches ahead of us,” Marick interjected.

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Team Esk

Emere was on high alert as she and Atyiru traversed to where the literal smoke was the thickest. The blaring alarms and evidence of preceding skirmishes were more than enough of an indicator for the major. The Miraluka was guided by the sense of life and fear to which she offered simple directions of ‘this way’ or ‘that way’. There were a few disapproving grunts that left Galo but she had no protest otherwise. The deeper they delved into the ship, the more carnage and bodies of Brotherhood personnel they saw. Both women were disturbed by the sight but in different ways. Atyiru wished they had arrived sooner to save them but to the soldier, it was fuel for her inner fire toward the Collective.

“Wait,” the Adept said tersely and reached out and grabbed Emere’s arm gently before she rounded a corner. “There’s a patrol of Collective soldiers ahead. They are on high alert and they’re…” She paused, seemingly in deep thought. “Guarding something— no… they’re guarding hostages.”

Shrugging the hand away, Emere asked, “How many?” Atyriu inhaled, her brow furrowing to gauge for a number.

“Six… but there may be more out of my range.”

Emere readied her rifle with fire in her eyes before she muttered, “Good.” The Miraluka was not taken back by the soldier’s willingness to kill but, perhaps, she could change her mind.

“We should see if they can be reasoned with first. They may have valuable intel that could give us an advantage in this war.”

As though she’d drank a vile of poison, Emere shook her head vehemently. “No.” Her jaw was taut as her teeth became mortar and pestle. “They didn’t reason with our people, most of which were unarmed, who are now dead. They need to pay.” No amount of negotiation would back the dead so blood for blood was the most logical outcome in the Major’s mind. Of course, the chance for intel was a compelling argument but it would be a disservice to the perished.

“Very well,” the Arconae said solemnly with a gentle smile on her lips. Before she spoke again, she heard Emere’s heavy boots hitting steel fading away, the sound obviously alerting the patrol. The Miraluka heard the first blaster shot and instinctively readied Seraphim.

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Team Esk

There was a clarity in battle. Normally, that clarity was an anchor to Emere. It was familiar, just like the oceans of her homeworld. The ocean did not care for anything, it just was. It would uplift travelers or drown fools, and it was up to anyone interacting with it to know well enough and respect it. The mission was her ocean. Kill the bastards who had massacred their people. Protect her team. Save the Academy staff.

Atyiru took her clarity and threw it out the window.

“‘Very well,’” she’d said. Bunch of kark, Emere thought, furious, as one second she was lining up a clear shot around the wall where she ducked for cover and the next second there was a blur of white and rainbow getting in her way. The staff-like lightsaber spun up, flashed, and the headshot she’d been aiming bounced away into the wall.

“Out of the way!” Galo shouted, but Atyiru just cartwheeled towards the enemy line and the hostages. Growling to herself as they focused on the woman coming at them, Emere stepped into the open and lined up another shot carefully, mindful of where Atyiru was poking holes in a Partisan’s knees. She pulled the trigger.

And watched what would have been a chest-shot deflected, this time into another enemy soldier’s leg. He buckled to join his friend without kneecaps.

“Non-lethal!” the Adept called out as their pilot joined Emere, raising his own weapon.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! the Major wanted to scream, but contained herself. She couldn’t afford to waste any time or risk friendly damage. Galo aimed her next shots for a thigh, an arm, a hand. They flew true. Atyiru danced between the enemy and them, batting away bolts, an unceasing twirl.

A few more moments and it was over, the group of Collective downed, the researchers huddled and mostly unharmed. Atyiru stilled at last. Emere marched up to her, intent on snapping, but noticed a smoldering rip in her robes.

“Were you hit?” she barked.

The eyeless woman ghosted a smile.

“I don’t bleed,” she said.

“That doesn’t make any sense.” The Human’s expression twisted in anger, flavoring a cocktail of adrenaline and battle-focus.

“We Force-Users need not make sense.”

“Were you hit or not, Atyiru.”

“Alright, yes, yes, I healed it though.”

“You—” Galo cut herself off. She had to focus on the mission, or she’d erupt at the infuriating woman in command. Working her jaw, she marched over to the enemy and began taking away their weapons and tying them in place with brutal efficiency, yanking on wounded limbs when needed. The Miraluka radiated disapproval but busied helping the hostages.

“You are going to answer my questions,” Galo informed one Partisan, who spat at her. She buried her thumb in the surgically-precise lightsaber cut in his knee.

A bit of wiggling didn’t quite get him talking, but Atyiru coming over and whispering, power in her words, “Tell us everything,” encouraged.

That was when they heard the robotic drumming of heavily booted steps. A squadron rounded the corner, all armored in black, armed.

Emere’s rifle rose before anyone could react. The rapport hissed down the hall and burned into the flattened, pallid white face of one unhelmeted marine. He dropped, and in synchronicity, the other three marines stepped around him.

“No!” wailed one student, while a Liberation Front member began to laugh wildly. The major’s eyes narrowed. Atyiru shrieked.

The downed marine erupted into a tidal wave of flame and force, secondary detonations from the other three and all their belted explosives following. The explosion ripped down the hallway to consume them—

And broke, flaring, around the bubble of a barrier. The students and researchers screamed. The enemy forces howled in outrage.

Emere gasped, “That was too close, ma’am.”

“That wasn’t me,” Atyiru answered with a panic-tightened tone, straightening again from where she’d curled in on herself. “It was—”

“DUH, WYNNING!” cried a voice as a tall, slender figure slid powerfully around the corner of the hallway, the tails of the lab coat he wore fluttering behind him like a cape, spotlighted by the dying flames. “It was me! The great and Wyniful!”

“Wyn!” the Miraluka cried, the barriers having dropped as the heat faded. The entire section in front of them was just gone, slagged durasteel dripping at the edges of beams below and above that composed the next layers of the ship, walls punched out in concave from the concussive force, red-hot and making the air waver to those with eyes. Wyndell Tyris ignored it all gleefully as he took a running, Force-enhanced leap to clear the gap and dramatically roll to his feet in front of the huddled group. Only the immediate area around them was clear of scorch. They would have been incinerated.

“Hey sis!” chirped the Human happily.

“What are you doing here, Wynnie?”

“Looking out for my favorite sissy! Have no fear, for Uncle Wyn is here!”

Emere’s gaze sharpened, like two chips of obsidian in the sand. “What do you mean ‘uncle?’”

“Why, of my very special future niece, of course!” Wyn’s smile was, well. Winning.

Emere did not find it so. A muscle in her jaw twitched violently as her head whipped around to look at Atyiru. The Miraluka’s face was a dusty rose pink, and she was scowling with her eyebrows at her in-law.

Emere’s eyes narrowed at her, then widened.

“Have to save my energy more these days…”

“…We’ll be safe…”

…braced, curled in on herself, curled around her stomach…

“You’re pregnant?!” the Human woman growled, stabbing a finger at the healer. Her own daughter’s face flashed in her mind. “And on a combat operation? You’ve been out front this whole time!” She swore in her homeworld’s tongue. “That’s it. I’m taking point. You, other Tyris, fall in at the back. Ma’am, between us.”

“That is hardly necessary—”

"Between us. That goes for everyone. The enemy is staying here. No arguments. Move."

Her commands were obviously final.

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Team Esk

The artificial air had grown stale with the emergency and backup systems working overtime to compensate for rapid loss of oxygen and pressure throughout the station. Marick wore no helmet, but the Elder managed to control his breathing in time with only what he needed to move and think. His cloak through the Force would be moot in moments, but he could get one more quick use out of it.

“Tir’eivra, point,” Marick said as he disappeared from sight.

Alaisy nodded, pulling the jagged hilt of her vicious-looking saberstaff and simultaneously igniting each of the crimson blades. She needed little motivation to meet the anticipated threat head on.

Sure enough, as Marick had predicted, a raiding party of Technocratic Guild soldiers and Liberation Front partisans kicked through an improvised doorway, compliments of a plasma cutter. As the first one stepped through, however, Alaisy reached out with a clawed hand and made a quick yanking motion to one side. The first Liberation Front partisan through the breach was ripped from his feet by an unseen hand that mirrored the Sith woman’s gesture, sending him hurtling into a durasteel wall.

“Sith scum!” another Liberation Front partisan yelled as he trained his blaster rifle on the tall, latex-clad woman.

“Stand behind me,” Alaisy’s modulated voice ordered the pilot, who seemed more than eager to comply.

As the rest of the raiding party focused their fire on Alaisy, the Sith spun her double-bladed saber adroitly like a pinwheel, deflecting away the barrage of blaster bolts.

Even if the remaining five Collective raiders had not been focused on Alaisy, it was unlikely they would have noticed Marick stalking up on their exposed flank.

The Elder Shadow suddenly materialized into view to the left of one of the Technocratic Guild soldiers. The hidden blade in his gauntlet extended and in one smooth motion stabbed up through the bottom of the soldier’s jaw and up into his skull. The stiletto blade retreated as quickly as it had arrived, leaving the mouth of the Technocratic Guild soldier’s agape and sparking with electric current from a shattered cybernetic implant.

Whether the Technocratic Guild soldier could fight after a strike like that mattered little. Marick grabbed hold of the soldier with his free hand and shoved him bodily into the remaining cluster of Collective raiders.

The Liberation Front partisan yelped as he caught his assaulted ally while the remaining three raiders seemed to be calculating which threat was more immediate to them.

The black-cored blade of Marick’s ultraviolet lightsaber stabbed through the back of the first Technocratic Guild soldier. Its dual-phase length pierced right through its chest cavity and into the Liberation Front partisan that had caught it.

The lightsaber deactivated, hissing at it retreated back into its hilt and left the two skewered Collective bodies slump to the floor.

The next Collective raider swiveled their blaster combine into Marick’s face. Before he could pull the trigger, however, Marick became a blur of motion, side-stepping the carbine and again striking with the hidden blade in his wrist bracer. The stiletto tip jabbed into the raider’s eye, blood spraying and squirting around it. As they reflexively dropped their weapon to cover the wound, a deft twist of the wrist brought the wrist-blade down and then across the Collective raider’s neck. More blood, one more target down.

Two left, a distant part of Marick’s mind counted.

The first used the time her allies’ demise had afforded her to brandish a riot-baton. She let out a feral battle cry as she lunged forward, swinging with purpose for the Hapan’s head. Marick dipped, ducked, and dove to the side, reaching to his hip and drawing an obsidian dagger free from his belt. Rising to one knee, the Assassin hurled the dagger into the chest of the Collective raider with the baton with preternatural precision.

As she gurgled blood and dropped to her knees, the last remaining Collective raider charged the prone Shadow and went to run him through with the bayonet-like attachment on their rifle. Marick was off balance slightly and was not sure he’d be able to react in time.

He didn’t have to. Before the Collective raider could strike him, Marick’s eyes caught the trail of a crimson lightsaber cleaning separating their head from their soldiers.

Marick worked to control his breathing, and idly wondered if he’d lost a step. Alaisy stepped towards him, shrugging casually at the soldier she had just decapitated. She offered a gauntleted hand to the Hapan.

He was not going to say thank you, verbally, but he did take the hand and let the towering woman help him back to his feet.

As they stepped through the improvised entryway created by the Collective raiding party, Marick’s too-blue eyes spotted a huddled form behind a stack of supply crates. “Those aren’t Collective,” he murmured without looking back at the Sith woman.

“Students, it seems,” Alaisy’s modulated voice agreed. “We should leave them. They will only slow us down.”

Marick started to nod, but then felt something pierce through his dispassionate discipline like a blade through cloth. It was almost as if he could see Atyiru’s frown, even though he knew she would support him no matter what he decided to do. He looked closer and noticed one of the students had stark-white hair and a tight braid. Something in his perfectly organized mind slipped out of place, and he tipped his chin up at Alaisy.

“No. They come with us,” Marick said with iron in his voice. “Let’s go.”

“Ughh, fine, but if one sprains their ankle they get their life essence drained for a little pick me up,” the Sith muttered but nodded and fell into step behind him.

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Team Esk

It was not more enemies they encountered when they reached the floor’s largest archive room, but familiar faces who had followed a trail of red lights.

“Marry,” Atyiru called. They didn’t run to each other, but Emere noticed a subtle loosening of posture in both of them as the two groups approached. She glared harder. “And more friends. I’m so glad.”

“The rest of the surviving staff is inside,” Galo said, right to business. Alaisy’s visored head titled as her clacking steps stopped. The people they escorted huddled well away from her, hanging back with the pilot, though they cheered at seeing more of their own with Atyiru and Emere.

“As are the most valuable artifacts,” replied modulated Imperial tones. “We should enter and be done with this floor.”

“The door is trapped. High yield explosives, maybe thermal detonators.”

“Then we go in from the side,” Marick intonded, quiet but decisive as stone. He did not seem surprised to see his brother had joined them, only long-suffering.

“That’s what she—” Wyn began, and was promptly cut off by Atyiru’s finger smushing into the side of his face instead of over his lips, shushing blindly.

The adjoining rooms were empty, save for some more unfortunate corpses. Emere and both pilots kept a watch on the halls at either end, while Wyn gathered the growing group of civilians and began chattering at them to keep them calm. Meanwhile, Atyiru, Marick, and Alaisy activated their various lightsabers and began cutting through the wall that one study shared with the archive. It was slow going through durasteel, even with plasma, and they had to telekinetically extract one layer of plating before they could continue cutting all the way through to the other side. Atyiru sensed the alarm that caused those inside, and focused on mentally soothing the emotions in the trapped academics while Marick and Alaisy finished their work.

The slab of metal lifted free, and the Miraluka was the first to step through the new entrance and into the archive. She was met with over two dozen researchers, students, staffers, and professors, all huddled in various spots behind tables or cases, some clutching one another, some clutching datapads. All save one, a small girl with dark curls and brown eyes. She ran forward as soon as Atyiru appeared, and Atyiru opened her arms to catch her.

"Oh, Violet," the Miraluka sighed, hugging the slip of a woman to her. The researcher was in tears, stifling a sob into white robes. “I am so very sorry, my sweet. You’ve just come back from that horrible prison, and now this? It is not very kind or very fair at all. But Ashla and Bogan are with us. I am here. I have got you. Everything will be alright. Look, these are my friends, Marick and Alaisy. And there’s Emere and Wyndell, and our pilots, Reinel and Wista. We’re going to take you home. All of you. I promise it.”

“I knew it was you, M-m-miss At-yiru,” Violet cried. “W-when I felt you doing that thing, I knew— we were s-s-saved.”

Alaisy and Marick stepped through next, followed by Wyn.

“Lord Voice!” the academics cried out in relieved recognition. “You came!”

“Everyone, come,” the Hapan ordered, not correcting them. “Extraction is at the administrative section. If you have wounded who cannot move, tell us now. Minor wounds must wait. Time is of the essence.”

A few spoke up. Atyiru shushed and let go of Violet to go heal the invalids. Alaisy began prowling the archive.

“Hello there,” Wyn said, taking Violet’s hand and bowing over it with the perfect poise of a born and raised High Courscanti courtier. “I like your shades! I’m Wyn. What’s your name?”

“U-uhm, Violet D’slan, my L-Lord.” She touched the dark visors in her breast pocket. “Ah, L-Lady Vasano commanded I never take them off, but it made it hard t-to read so I use my g-glasses when inside. I and t-three others were allowed to study the Ordu Aspectu…I-I argued for it, because they k-kept asking me about them when we were i-imprisoned. It seemed important. More than the Sith artifacts. We were reporting to the Headmistress but then when the attack began, we joined, um, everyone here…I know this can help us! I know it can. We just had to wait for Miss Atyiru and…everything would be okay.”

“Well I bet if you thought it was important, it is! Gotta tell the people up top right away, right? Let’s grab all your stuff and get you safe and sound!” He winked, smiling. Violet went scarlet.

“Enough flirting,” Emere snapped, head and shoulders sticking through the door. “We need to go. Those who can walk, follow me.” She began herding the staff out into the hallway to join the rest.

In quick enough order everyone was through, carrying what artifacts or research they could, refusing outright to be parted with it. The amount of civilians in the group was burgeoningly large by now compared to their defensive force, but they had expected that; and it would only be growing larger once they cleared out level eighteen on their way to nineteen and the administration section. Atyiru could easily sense many more alive up there, both enemy and not.

“There’s other Clans’ forces…some of our forces…many Collective…more staff,” she murmured as their team planned, the academics milling in various stages of fright. “More of those marines too. We must be careful.”

“Then let’s go. And you,” Emere pointed at the Miraluka yet again. “Stay in the middle of the pack with the civs. You’re support. Other Tyris, you too. You said you’ve got defensive skills, use them. Lord Tyris, you scout ahead. Tir’ierva, in the back with one ensign, the other up front with me.”

Everyone nodded along, even Marick deferring once Atyiru did. Alaisy seemed most interested now in protecting their researchers, and drew her whip along with her saber.

“Move out.”

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Team Dorn and Besh

As the battle cry echoed from both ends of the hangar, bisecting the blaster-fire laden space, the Collective Partisans’ attention was torn between the two groups of Arconans. A quick snap of their platoon leader’s glove instructed them to cluster up protectively, and their split groups started banding together like nerfs versus a pack of akk dogs. They didn’t have much time before the swift Aay’han slipped past their bolts, leaping and bringing down a ferocious crimson strike upon the nearest soldier. With a burnt hole in his chest, the man slid to the ground just as Tali and Sera joined the fray. Their three amber sabers were a cyclonic force, slashing into their opponents in an overwhelming whirlwind.

A growl erupted across the hanger as both Bico and Luka charged the other group of soldiers. The nexu lunged and pinned one soldier to the ground beneath her weight, teeth gnashing on the partisan’s blaster while she ignored her earlier injury. With a flourish and vibrate hum, the Arcanist finished them with their familiar dual-bladed vibrosword, face grimacing with reluctance. They had moved to face their next opponent when a large bulking figure loomed beside them, blaster trained point-blank. Adrenaline calling forth the Force to their muscles to dodge the incoming shot, they were surprised as the large man fell to the ground — an arrow embedded in his back. Archain shifted his attention to his next target with only a swift nod to the Human before notching his bow. A heavy boot stomped on the dead collective’s head as Dax Ryder let loose a burst of flame upon the deceased’s friends, muttering about the worth of his pay.

Qyreia and Aru laid down cover from the blaster doors. The Zeltron’s eye for a scope honed in on targets quickly, while the Human’s fire from the hip methodology scored himself a kill. Unable to stay still and giddy with some ‘gods damn action,’ Dyrian jogged and rolled between the action — peppering the crowded enemy with bolts while risking friendly fire. Slugs tore into a partisan’s armor as Zodac shot from behind his riot shield. It was not long before the Collective unit had dwindled.

Death will rain on thee, you Force Karkers!” hollered one of the last soldiers, her cybermoduled voice crackling. She pulled a comrade behind her as she retreated, lifting her blaster towards Sera.

A streak of crimson darted through the air and, without thinking, Dyrian jumped in front of the Zabrak. The bolt grazed her side, scorching through her pilot suit and roasting her skin. Before anyone else could react, the sound of metal striking flesh with a solid crack could be heard as K-8-O caved the partisan’s skull with its fist. The remaining enemy was shocked to unconsciousness by Dax’s KX Security Droid as the bots returned from their own collective fray. 4R-7H3R scoped Diy into his functioning arm, the other damaged severely.

Sera opened her mouth to say something, state she had dodged in time? Offer to heal the wound? — but the crisp voice of the Shadow Lady over the comms urging all to get to the administration section took priority. She reached a maroon tattooed hand out to fist bump the Kiffar with a nod of thanks, before turning to the others.

“Ve got to go,” Tali instructed first, beckoning them to the entrance deeper into the Shadow Academy.

“I suggest we do it now, cus it sounds like a whole lotta schutta’s coming this way to feck our day,” Qyreia relayed, pulling Aay’han back as she moved eagerly in said direction.

The group filed out of the body and rubble hued hanger, and through the passages at a brisk pace. Whatever resistance they found along the way was removed swiftly, either with blaster or saber. They had rounded the final bend to the Administration and Observation Section when four cyborgs stepped from a side hall behind them. They moved with precision so unnatural and inorganic, synchronized like machines — and their mindscape felt as such to Sera and Tali who reached out quickly to sense, only to recoil.

Here, Miss Diyrian, go on ahead and I will defend this hall,” 4R-7H3R stated, setting the woman to her feet awkwardly and pulling the electroripper staff from his back.

Aw, scorch my circuits. We are committing this course of action?” DN-32 asked, it’s staff crackling to life as K-8-O raises its fists. Motraka uttered a stream of organic slurs towards various parentage of the fleshies behind it as it hosted its blaster.

Zodac gave a pat on ‘Kato’’s metal shoulder before turning to the rest, “Well, ya heard the men! Let’s go!”

The ten Arconans rushed to the safety of the administration section, sliding through partially held doors as the galvanized four droids sacrificed themselves.

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It’d come in waves, the Collective troops forcing them back to the administrative section of the station. Although it had been the plan the whole time to evacuate to the detachable part of Nesolat and ride it down to Arx, they hadn’t expected to be herded.

Blasterfire echoed down the halls, smoke filled the air, and the emergency lighting was failing. Slowly but surely each entrance to the section was being shut down, blast doors sliding into place and controls disabled. A half dozen Arconans and many rescuees in varying degrees of wounded were being seen to off to one side by the blindfold-wearing Arconae, while others were reporting progress to the Shadow Lady.

General Garmis stood, staring out a viewport into the disturbingly lively void of space. The station’s defences were failing, and less and less laser fire was being sent towards the Collective fleet pounding it. Ships from multiple Clans were harrying the Collective Dreadnaughts, but it was too late for anything to matter.

The station was going down. Soon. There was no stopping it at this point; they just had to hope they had salvaged as much as they could.

“Separation protocols activated, clear section entrances, separation protocols are now active,” came an automated, droning voice over the intercoms.

The Chiss glanced at the wounded, eyes tight as he took in the sight of several Journeymen among them. People he was responsible for training.

“Arconans, be ready to depart when we make planetfall,” came the insistent voice of their Consul, enhanced by the Force to carry over the sounds of the station coming apart around them.

The separated portion of the station began to drift towards the planetary shield, and Strong could feel sweat trickling down his back. They were exposed, vulnerable, and with limited support. He could pick out friendly fighters driving off enemy craft, speeding past viewports, but Arx felt very far away. He kept waiting for the alarms signalling decompression, the final blast of oxygen being ripped out of the vessel they found themselves on. Turbolaser fire flashed past, splashing against their shields, but most seemed to go wide.

Perhaps our targeting profile is so odd that their systems are incapable, mused the man as they passed, finally, through the shield ring. He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

Then the shield flickered and died. Dropships and transports flew past, diving towards the surface. Bombers and starfighters followed, Brotherhood forces in pursuit.

Moments later there was a gasp from the ad hoc first aid station, and all eyes turned to an ashen-faced Atyiru, eyelss stare directed at the surface below.

“They’re just…slaughtering people,” she whispered.

Lucine looked at her old master, then glanced around the compartment, a comlink in her hand.

“It seems Collective forces have breached the planet’s defenses. I’m told we are landing near Eos City. Anyone able to fight…prepare to defend the city until reinforcements can arrive to secure it,” she ordered, sounding uncharacteristically grim. In the background they heard the section land, the shudder of landing gear and airlocks hissing open, and fresh smoke from burning buildings filling their senses.

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Team Besh

Out of one fire and into another. Nesolat Station’s administrative module had landed without too much issue, save for the fly-swarms of Collective ships careening through the atmosphere — just as they were — pecking and poking away at the hull and limited shields. Between the researchers and the Arconans, being on the Arx proper seemed a welcome reprieve for many compared to the space foray.

“Oh, I never thought I’d be so glad to see solid ground,” Qyreia said, drooping down to run her hand along the dirt and duracrete.

Aru looked at her curiously. “Aren’t you supposed to be a spacer? A pilot?”

“Yeah, and I feel fine when I’m the one piloting. Hurtling through the atmosphere in a giant repulsor-brick, not so much.”

“Ve needt to hurry,” Tali interjected, pushing past the conversationalists. “The Collective are already attacking the city vall.”

Archian sniffed the air and surveyed their surroundings, looking curiously at the distant gray line that was the defensive wall in question. “Will we have some sort of transport there? That seems a long way to walk.”

The Twi’lek pointed out a whole line of transport speeders, with soldiers and warriors of all types piling in. Their Arconan brethren that had joined them in space prior to the module jettisoning into the atmosphere were boarding multiple craft, headed for different sectors of the city. Led on by the purple Quaestor, the quintet soon found themselves holding onto the rungs inside as the speeder, packed full of soldiers, rushed to the front lines. Overhead, those near the armored slats that served as windows could see Eos City’s defensive guns firing at the Collective ships that dared to approach too close or directly overhead. Few were so bold, but occasionally the observers would be witness to small explosions, fireballs hurtling deep into the urban landscape, and occasionally starfighters and transports disabled by ion cannons tumbling out of the air to land beyond the wall.

There was a certain uneasiness in the thick air inside the transport, almost as oppressive as the humidity of so many breathing, sweating, battle-worn bodies packed so close together. It bespoke of violence, lidded and simmering since the fight for Nesolat Station was finished, waiting expectantly for it to resume again.

“You okay there, Aay’han?”

“Yes. Why?” Her expression didn’t quite match the supposed curiosity in her voice, drawing quiet attention beyond that of the Zeltron.

“Uh… no reason.”

Fortunately for everyone, this tension didn’t last too long. The closer they came to the wall, the more the sounds of turbolasers and ion cannons were replaced by the dull cacophony of blasters and small explosions. Nearer still, they could hear voices — shouts of commands and panicked lamentations — mixed in among the weapons fire.

No sooner had the transports stopped and the doors opened than they were met with a small crowd of people. Some were wounded soldiers, most were fleeing civilians, and all were vying to board the transport the Arconans were on.

In the midst of it all were soldiers, directing the flow of traffic in repetitive, methodical yells. “Those who just arrived, get off the transports! Once empty, wounded load first! Refugees load after all wounded are aboard!”

“Well this is karkin’ grim,” Qyreia muttered as they disembarked, the group practically shoved along toward what could only be the ongoing fight.

“That is var for you.”

“No I mean… Nancora was practically devoid of non-combatants, and just about all the other fights we’ve had with the Collective — the big ones, anyway — were nothing but their troops and ships.”

Tali pointedly recalled how the ex-Quaestor was not present for the Brotherhood’s introduction to the Principate: the miners and the salvage yard workers that became part of the collateral. Still, no need to hold that over the Zeltron’s head. The purple-skinned Force user kept quiet instead, focusing more on not getting trampled and making their way to the open space beyond the crowds. Something tugged at her lekku though. Something that was sensory; phantasmic. Her eyes darted around, noting the group members’ faces, and seeing the look of nervous hesitance on Aay’han’s face. For half a heartbeat, the world felt dangerously quiet.


Team Besh

The explosion was sudden. Not even a whistle of dropping explosives could be heard. Explosion was close enough that the schockwave threw everyone to the ground.

Confusion effected by aftershock passed. Everyone checked their surroundings for the next possible missile or explosion. Almost no recognisable bodies remained at the impact site, and red smears of blood were everywhere. The ground had effectively changed into a mass grave.

Archian, still confused and on his knees looked at the damaged transport. He slowly stood, giving his body a few seconds to show signs of any wounds. Once sure that nothing serious was wrong with him, he started back to the vehicle. A strong grasp stopped him — his Master’s hand. He looked at her — she shook her head.

“Ve can’t do anything! Ve have to go andt take our positions at the valls.”

Rational explanation of his Master convinced him to turn away from the vehicle, but after a few steps the smell of the blood caught his nose.

Before Tali could do anything, he was running to the vehicle. “Stupid fracker!” shot Qyreia in his direction, still sweeping off pieces of flesh from her clothes, while Aru was checking on Aay’han.

Tali looked at her apprentice and wanted to stop him again but at that moment Aru’s said “Let him go, he must learn what war means.”

"You are right, let’s keep going. Ve von’t be far vhen he vill be ready to join us.”

They were slowly moving forward but Aay’han was lagging behind.

Qyreia was suspicious of the young Zabrak - ordinarily full of energy, she was always at the front of the line or at least by the side of the group to have better view of any oncoming danger.

They reached top of uphill road. Behind it was a big market square in front of them, where they could be an easy target for Collective ships and snipers. They could already see the walls, it was no more than a few minutes — but this square didn’t promise safety.

To the West of them Aru spotted a ditch which could make for good cover.
“It’s risky but I think we should follow the ditch. It should take us straight to one of the watchtowers at the walls.” He said. Qyreia looked at him a bit annoyed." Last time when we picked the safer way we were almost fried like a chicken if I can quote our missing Puppy. By the way where is he? ".
Tali was hoping that he survived alone and was on their heels, but she had to keep the others alive, so she stayed focused on their destination and how reach it. “He vill findt us,” she said with fake confidence.

With big risk of ambush but lower risk of dying by simple bomb dropped from the ship, they walked between the rocks.
Tali was up front, and Aay’han was closing the line. Aru’s and Qyreia’s task was to look above at concrete walls of sewege.

Tali felt that something was wrong and showed everyone the sign to stay silent.
There was a split of the corridor . Tali wanted to check them so she made a three steps forward.

From both sides came out ten collective troops surrounding her “Frak” she swore.
Those words didn’t help much, as three soldiers come out behind them. “Sithspit - never again the ‘safer’ way” Qyreia whispered in frustration. Aru’s eyes passed soldiers behind them and said " This is not over yet". He was right. High posture showed up and they recognised single Hive Mind Marine. He stood a few steps back of group of three other soldiers . Aay’han didn’t move and said anything, she was only staring at each enemy soldier one by another, but nothing more.

Corridor walls were too high to climb, and group was blocked. Fight was unavoidable.
Collective troops started to step closer, they shooted single laser shoots, but Aru’s and Tali’s lightsabers easily took them down and defence from damage, as each of them took one side to defence.
"Aay’han defend Yourself " Commanded Tali, but Aay’han didn’t move.

Both forces were staring at each other and measuring chances, and trying to find out how to win. Tali felt something approaching their position, but couldn’t focus on it as enemies in front of her started to shoot faster and stepped closer. Qyreia took her Heavy Blaster Pistol and returned fire, supporting Tali. When Zeltron took down one of them with a few clear shots, shadow appeared above them. Someone was standing at the top of the corridor wall, and looked like enjoying view of the fight.
“Hey! Take cover or You will die!” shouted Aru in direction of mystery persona. Troops started shooting at new target, but they missed, even though stranger didn’t move.

Suddenly Hive Mind Marine shoot stranger into head. Body starts to fall and roll down the wall. It didn’t fall far away from collective troops so two of them checked remainings. It was a body parts glued together with Syncflesh Dispenser.

Arrow landed in one of the puzzled soldiers backs. Then second one missed chest of another soldier, stopping in his forearm. He tried to took it out, but that was mistake.
He touched the detonator of thermal bomb glued into arrow and explosion ripped his body apart and took a slab of concrete wall down, buring other soldiers. At the same time smoke bomb exploded next to Hive Mind Marine and other three soldiers.

Shistaven slide down of wall and landed between Aru and Aay’han. “Apologise for delay Master” . He directed words to Tali. Zeltron used this seconds to grab Zabrak and said to her with poison in her words " Do You want us to die? ".

" Leave her alone," Archian snapped, “I found You only because she’s bleeding.”

Shots came out from behind the smoke. “So what do we do now?” he asked his Master

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Team Aurek

The Administrative section of the Nesolat station landed surprisingly smoothly, given its size. Lucine’s lips were pressed into a thin line as she watched their descent, observing the state of Eos City and the number of invading craft wheeling past as the repulsors slowed their descent. Occasionally, the sound of laser beams impacting against the hull could be heard. Clearly, the Collective was shooting at them, trying to hasten the trip down for them.

With a final rumble, the remnants of the section set down within Eos City. Team Aurek gathered near one of the blast doors as the grim-faced technicians keyed in the sequence to open them. Lucine checked her lightsaber, before looking at the rest of them. “We must do what we can to save as many citizens as possible. The Collective are to be given to quarter,” she said. “Good hunting.”

Her words were punctuated with a loud hiss as they began to slide open, revealing the city beyond. Some of the buildings had already crumbled into rubble beneath the onslaught of the city. The air was hazy with smoke and dust and carried with it an acrid smell.

Team Aurek hurried off of the platform, their senses alert for any sign of danger. It was Magik who spoke up first. “There. One block to the north and west,” he said. Shielding his eyes, Strong thought he could make out the flicker of blaster fire.

They took off in the direction that Magik had indicated, hugging the ruined and collapsing walls as they went. As they drew nearer to the intersection, the sounds of combat became louder.

No, not combat, Lucine realized as she peered around the corner. It is a slaughter.

The street was littered with bodies. Some were charred beyond recognition, others appeared mostly unharmed, save for the blaster bolt that killed them. A ragged group of survivors huddled behind what cover they could. Most of them were cowering, though a few clutched battered weapons, mostly Clone-war era blasters. A mixed company of Collective fanatics and cyborgs were the ones responsible for all of the carnage. Their weapons tore into the nearly helpless citizens as some tried to flee.

Lucine’s eyes narrowed as she took in the scene before her. Her emerald lightsaber flared to life.

“Your orders, my lady?” Strong asked although he was already powering up his hammer.

“Get them.”

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Team Besh

“Ve are pinnedt down.” Tali said looking around. The state of her team was less than desirable. Aay’han was hurt and incapable of fighting back. Archian looked afraid. Nothing could have prepared him for such destruction. Qyreia stood unfazed, ever watchful for more Collective soldiers that might try to sneak up on them. “Ve have to get out of here.”

“There’s an access staircase two hundred meters from here,” Qyreia announced, after having looked through her map, “though that takes us directly to the open streets of Eos.”

“With luck, Arconan forces will have reached it by now.” Aru hoped.

“Ve have to try.” The Qel-Droman Quaestor decided. Archian bandaged Aay’han one more time since her old bandages were soaked and useless by now, and helped her up.

Qyreia led the line, closely followed by Aru. Behind them was Tali, keeping an eye on Archian and Aay’han who were moving along slower.

When they reached the access staircase there was only silence.

“I’ll cover my presence and look around.” Aru explained, as he began climbing up the stairs.

Before taking a look, he took a moment to focus on himself and on hiding his presence the best he could. Archian was looking at the Aedile, curious on what he was doing until the Human vanished from view.

“Master!” He urged Tali, in shock of what he had witnessed.

“Do not fret.” The Twi’lek said. “It’s a Jedi trick.”

“Jedi and their sneaky ways. I say we throw a thermo grenade and charge in.” Qyreia countered.

Aru slowly peeked his head out and saw emptiness. The street was quiet, though blasters and screams could be heard in the skies. Quickly getting out, he urged his companions to follow him under his watchful gaze.

Qyreia was the first to climb out. She crouched silently towards a little doorway that offered some cover. Then Aay’han came out, she grunted as she struggled to climb the last section and walked towards Qyreia. Archian followed up, climbing out nimbly and looking around in all directions. And finally, Tali exited.

“Right, there’s no one here.” Aru said. “We should look for Arconan refugees.”

Everyone agreed on that. They followed along the walls towards the closest crossing. As they reached it, a wider plaza, tarnished by bombings and riled with bodies was what they had to cross. Before they could traverse it, Archian fell on the ground, an open wound on his chest’s right-hand side.

It was all so quick. The Shistavanen didn’t even have time to scream with pain, his breath having failed him. From inside the nearby buildings, more than fifty Collective soldiers charged in. Immediately, Qyreia started shooting bolt after bolt, taking down a few soldiers. But their armor was thick and durable and it took more than two shots sometimes to down just one enemy.

Archian was still down on the floor, bleeding out quickly. He tried to move and get back to Aay’han, his medical sense taking over his own health, but his vision was failing him and he felt his strength wavering.

Tali Sroka was spinning around with gracious flow, her yellow lightsabers moving like an extension of her. The rage of seeing her apprentice shot down consumed her and she pressed on relentlessly through wave after wave of soldiers.

A transmission was being broadcast on the team’s commlinks, very imperceptible.

“We’re being jammed!” Aru yelled.

More soldiers kept coming, making the path to Archian and Aay’han very difficult to traverse. Tali was slicing Collective soldiers as fast as she could, but there didn’t seem to be an end to them. Amidst the movement and chaos, she caught a glimpse of the Shistavanen’s fur and charged, but before she could even get close, she got cornered by several soldiers.

The Collective soldiers fired upon the Twi’lek, who was reduced to heavy defence stances. There were too many bolts to deflect. She got hit on her leg and scratched on her arms.

“Die! You bastardts!” Her scream was followed by two bolts, flying from behind her, with great precision, headshotting the two closest soldiers in front of her. And from thin air, Aru appeared right beside his Quaestor and helped her deflect the incoming bolts.

“Are you alright?” He yelled.

“Archian needs me!”

“Go!” Aru picked up a corpse that was by his feet and pushed him against a group of Collective soldiers, opening a slight breach in their ranks, allowing Tali to blaze past them. Qyreia took the opportunity to get closer to the Aedile and, together, they fended the remaining soldiers the best they could.

Tali slashed the last soldier between her and Archian and kneeled by his side. Turning him over, revealed a puddle of blood beneath him. She immediately pressed on his wound with some cloth she tore from her cloak.

“Master…” The Shistavanen’s voice failed.

“Don’t speak. You’ve done goodt.” She was determined to not let him die there.

Aru and Qyreia had managed to attract most of the soldiers’ attention. They were now surrounded. Aru was getting very tired, and Qyreia was running out of charges for her blasters.

“Here,” Aru threw her his own blaster pistols, “they’re still half charged!”

“Thanks! Not my style but they will do.” The Zeltron replied.

“Never thought I would die here!” The Human joked.

“You better not, I won’t be buried next to you.”

Tali had managed to drag Aay’han and Archian inside a house and went back out to help her teammates. Aru and Qyreia were back to back. The Aedile had put up a barrier focusing his last strengths on the Force. It was soaking most of the bolts, but was quickly fading away.

As Tali charged towards them, lightsabers lit and buzzing, there was only silence in her head.

“Is this it?”

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*** Arx System, Eos City ***

The Collective slaughtered Eos City. As Aurek approached the scene intensified. Bodies scattered across the landscape of Eos City. The walls barely stood as the citizens could not defend themselves. The blaze glared off in the distance as they were getting closer. The city was invaded and the Collective were behind the attacks. The system was invaded and the Brotherhood would not watch it’s demise. Lucine led the way as they entered Eos City with nothing to look forward too. They joined the battle against Collective again for Arcona the Brotherhood and the citizens of Eos City.

Wondering the streets was nothing Magik wanted to do. They stayed together as they made their way through Eos. Finishing off what Collective stood in their way. The center of Eos was now in sight. The Collective were very distracted as they attacked with what strength they had left. One by one they were taken care of by Aurek as they marched through Eos with their blades in hand. Nothing stood in their way. Without being noticed Aurek managed to breech the city. The Collective were very distant as they patrolled Eos on foot. Many of the citizens did not make it out of the city as the Collective invaded.

It seemed that no one survived as far as they knew. They commotion was not far off. They could now see the Collective congregating in the center of Eos as they were getting closer. The scene was far worse than a nightmare. They walked the city stepping over countless bodies of both citizens and Collective. As they followed closely the city was ablaze. Preparing for the worst they stayed together in battle.

Team Aurek,

Eos City, Arx System

Tyga made his way carefully down a debris-strewn street, when the sounds of footsteps close by brought him to a halt, followed by the sensation of a weapon being pressed up against his neck. Turning to see who or what had been shadowing him, he saw another Twi’lek, but this male was wearing heavy armour and his finger twitching upon the trigger of his blaster rifle. His teeth were sharpened into fangs, and he flashed them, hissing in anger at his opponent.

The two Twi’leks’ locked eyes in a death stare as the orange blade plunged deeply into the Collective soldier’s torso, piercing his heart. Withdrawing the blade, Tyga watched as one of his species crumpled onto the cobblestones in a heap, a look of fear etched onto his face for ever more. Seeing his clan mates nearby, Tyga joined them. Surveying the scene before him, the young Knight saw a sea of lifeless sentient bodies that stretched beyond his line of sight. As it was only his second major conflict since joining the Brotherhood, it was still unnerving to see the effects that total war had on people and places throughout the galaxy as a whole.

The centre of Eos loomed ahead out of the smoke and fire. The Collective must have surely also been making their way there too. Holding his ignited lightsaber down by his side, he felt a sense of hopelessness; so many innocent lives had been lost here and all for what?

The chaotic sounds of battle became louder as the team made their way towards the centre of Eos. Holding the lightsaber hilt in a death grip, Tyga made a solemn promise to himself that he would kill as many of the Collective as he could for their treachery and bloodlust. Looking up through the smoke-filled skies, he prayed in hushed tones to the Great Mother Goddess, Kika’lekki, to guide him in the ensuing battles and to grant him strength to kill his enemies.

“Great Mother Goddess, allow me to receive your guidance, wisdom and protection for the upcoming battles I must face. I am a humble follower of your words and beliefs, but with your help, Great Mother, I can become a weapon of the Light, and use my power to strike down my enemies before they can do the same and to free those who are being held in chains.”

Team Aurek
Arx System, Eos City

Fire and ash consumed the city around them as those civilians that were still able to flee did so into and behind the now engaged Arcona ground forces the street fighting had devolved in many places into a vicious melee and other into something far worse. This reminded the Kaleesh far too much of the slaughter he had witnessed when he had returned home to Kalee. His own family and clan had been laid to waste in the same fashion and brutality.

It enraged the Juggernaut to no end to see such senseless killing. He channeled that anger into running down each and every Collective soldier he could find, men, women, cyborgs and fanatics alike he killed with cold efficiency.

Their screams filtered into his ears but he ignored them all; they deserved far worse than what he could do now. Perhaps he could ask the Shadow Lady if he could be permitted to take a few prisoners back to his lab beneath the Citadel. So many experiments to make, so little time and ‘willing test subjects’ to play with. But that would be a conversation for later, after the battle had calmed down to something better than street brawling

Again and again the Kaleesh’s lightsaber flashed out, carving into flesh and metal alike tearing limbs free from the body’s that it uses then and heads from the very same. It had been awhile since the Sith had been allowed to just let go and cut loose with his rage like this and it felt good.

Team Besh and Esk

There was the space between seconds, between shots from the muzzles of their guns.

Tali charged. Aru’s barrier shattered. As one, monstrous unit, the Collective soldiers pulled their triggers, spitting plasma—

—that hammered into bewitched bastions of will-made-manifest. The surrounded Arconans gaped but momentarily at the mystical defenses suddenly shielding them before two figures dropped down into the space next to them, at the epicenter of the attack.

Marick Tyris landed with barely a sound, his cloak a swirl of shadow around him, holding a woman all in white in his arms, her hands clasped in prayer. She stepped down out of his arms quickly, her rigid posture dropping, but the barriers did not waver even as her concentration was redirected.

Up on a nearby roof, a loud, falsely-happy shout explained how. “HAH! TWYNNING! BARRIER BUDDIES FOR LIFE, YOU JERKS!” Wyndell Tyris yelled, his own normally jovial expression tightly focused, his emerald eyes hard chips, face soot- and blood-smeared.

“No one is dying here today,” Atyiru Caesura Entar Arconae declared, as if having read all their thoughts. A multicolored lightsaber sprang to life in her hands, and similarly, Marick drew an obsidian dagger in one and used the other to telekinetically lift a black-cored plasmic blade. “That, I will not allow. Fall back with your wounded. We will take care of them.”

The intervention was only a few heartbeats, between salvos of fire, but the tide had turned with it. The two Elders rushed forward, parting like waves, step in step, one spinning, circling, the other a shade that slipped and struck.

For just a moment Tali hesitated, still wanting to punish those who had hurt people under her care; but those wounded took priority. “Go!” she ordered. “Ve must get Archian and Aay’han.”

“Hey, hotshot!” called Wyndell from his position on the roof. He tossed something to Qyreia, and the Zeltron mercenary deftly caught a kit with more energy packs for blaster pistols and rifles. “Join me ups in the where with the doings?”

“Feckin’ finally!” Qyreia cried, and quickly reloaded her beloved weapon, scrambling up a gutter pipe to plant herself on the roof of the home their bleeding teammates were in. She tossed Aru’s pistols down to him, also reloaded, and together with his Quaestor, the Aedile arranged to defend the door. The mercenary was truly a terror with a rifle and a good vantage point. Collective militants that Marick and Atyiru had not yet cut down — and cut them down, they were, moving between the enemy ranks like wind and water — dropped to headshots one by one.

As quickly as it had happened, it was quite suddenly over. One moment, they had been ruined. The next, rescued.

Arcona is family, Aru remememberd Tali once saying. Andt family means—

“…no one is left behind,” Atyiru was saying into the sudden quiet, though by no means was it silent, the sounds of battle still nearby, the city being sacked. “Let me see them.” The Miraluka rushed into the house and dropped down beside Archian, her hands faintly glowing with light. The gaping hole in the Shistavanen’s chest closed miraculously, instantly, and she was moving on to Aay’han in mere moments.

The words dropped out of Aru’s very tired mouth, watching her svelte figure bend and move gracefully, “…are you an angel?” Or a reincarnated Master Fay?

He had, perhaps, been spending too long in the legendary history section of the archives. And too long awake. And maybe lost blood. Marick Tyris materializing out of the shadows to narrow icy blue eyes at him made him swallow.

The woman only tinkled a laugh at him though, smiling reassuringly. “There is a transport just down the block from which we came, guarded by Alaisy and Emere. We will take them there and head back to our foothold to recuperate with the others. I have seen to most of the wounded, and we are collecting more as casualties occur. You ought to join us and rest. The fleet is coming.”

“They shouldt rest,” Tali agreed. “But I vill be continuing. Ve must save these people.”

“I’m going,” Aru added.

“You’re not in charge here,” snapped Qyreia from the doorway. “And we’ve got some schuttas to blow away. Can’t just let 'em run wild.”

The smile grew, softened. “Of that, my friends, we agree. Marick and Wyn will join you all. Wynnie is very useful helping groups, and Marick, well, you know. If anyone is hurt, come to me immediately, or send a comm if you cannot move them. I will be there.” She stood, Aay’han’s small, unconscious form in her arms. “Arcona Invicta, dears.”

The sounds of blasterfire and the screams of the fearful shook him. His vision blurred and his head ached as he slowly came out of unconsciousness. For a moment he could not remember where he was, then it all came back: the fight through the platforms halls; clashing with the Collective; even the descent to the ground of Arx, before finally the shell that exploded near his team.

Aiden slowly rose from the charred ground. The war-torn battlefield around him was abuzz with civilians and soldiers alike running to and from the battle. As the Human looked around, he couldn’t find any trace of his group. He saw only the many bodies that the fight left in its wake.

As the Proconsul righted himself on his feet, shaking off the stiffness he felt, he heard the whirring of the exposed mechanics in his newly damaged cybernetic arm. Locating his lightsabers, he had only one thought: get back to his Clan. It was an impossible task. But he had to try. Activating his comlink, he sent out a message.

“This is Aiden Lee Deshra, is anyone there?”


“Lucine? Strong? Anyone? This is Arcona’s Proconsul, is anyone there?”


The only response was static. Either his comlink was ineffective, or everyone else was gone. He hoped beyond hope it was the former.

Lucine stood outside of her transport and watched the events around her. The war was more than she had ever expected. So much death and destruction. So much senseless violence. The Collective had struck and they struck hard. So far most of Arcona’s troops had been in some way accounted for. Many were injured. Many had not made it. Those who were still upright and kicking worked nonstop, either fighting or helping those who could fight no longer.

The one caveat was her Proconsul. He was missing and his team who had been rescued had no idea of the man’s whereabouts. Whether he was alive or dead, no one knew.

“This is madness,” she said under her breath.

The sounds of war were closing in. The Collective were advancing on their position and without a miracle, Arcona wouldn’t make it out this time. The distress signal had been sent out, but comms were jammed. There was no way of knowing if the signal made it or not. They may have been on their own.

“Lady Vasano, what shall we do?” the deep baritone of the Rollmaster echoed around her.

“I do not know right now, Strong. But we must stay vigilant. We are Arcona. We do not fall so easily.” Her voice was firm and commanding, a feat granted by many hours of practice. “We will proceed with any and all means to secure our Clan’s safety. Call all teams back here. Now.”

“As you command it.”

Aiden teetered on his feet as he searched. His head throbbed as blood leaked over his eye. Surely there had to be someone still around the area.

“This is Aiden Lee Deshra, anyone come in?”


“Darn it!”

A scream in his head set the Proconsul in a quick turn as his silver-bladed saber hummed to life. He deflected a blaster bolt back at the Collective soldier who fired at him.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this…” Leaning against a wall, he dropped to the ground. His hands were shaky and his vision blurred.

“Please, can anyone hear me. This is Aiden Lee Deshra, I need extraction!”


The Proconsul was losing hope fast. Was this the will of the Force? Was this his destiny?

“… Ai…Aiden com………Aiden, can you hear me?” the Human heard a familiar voice. The voice that had saved him before. A voice he knew well was his new saving grace.

“Atty? Is that you?”

“We have your location, extraction is on its way. Hang in there, Aiden.”

“My lady, we found him!”

“Thank you, Strong, that is welcome news indeed.” Lucine measured her relief over the Proconsul being found with her worry for how they would make it out of this mess. She sat at the makeshift battle station they had set up in the Arconan fortification camp. “And what of the Collective?”

“They still advance upon us. They will be here soon.”

“Ma’am!” an Arconan officer ran towards the talking pair, out of breath. “There’s something you need to see!”

Lucine was intrigued by the look on his face. There was hope. There was relief.

“What is it?”

“They came!”

Lucine and Strong followed the officer out of the structure and they saw it high in the sky. Their ship was there. The Will of our Lady had come. A multitude of shuttles flew from the capital ship down to the ground, hailing the thousands of troops that would secure Arcona’s escape.

The Clan would live on, but the fate of Arx remained unknown.