[GJW XIV] Clan Odan-Urr Run On

Phase 1 Primary Theater: Nesolat Platform

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE : Board the Nesolat and ensure that the platform’s Administrative and Observation section successfully departs for the surface. Protect and evacuate personnel, artifacts, and research materials in any way possible while engaging Collective forces on the station.

SITUATION : The Shadow Academy’s orbital Nesolat Platform is The Collective’s primary target in the early phase of its attack on Arx. The Collective has fully committed the might of its Battle Group Elysium to the assault, and Brotherhood forces are mounting a desperate defense as the station attempts to evacuate personnel and artifacts to the surface, and to disengage its Administrative and Observation section for an emergency return to the surface Academy on Arx itself. Collective forces on the station include Hive Mind Marines, which pose an unprecedented threat due to their superhuman coordination and lack of fear or pain. Exercise extreme caution when engaging them.

If your Clan provides aid to the Nesolat , the Shadow Academy may be able to save much of the station by returning it to the surface. The Imperial Reclamation Service will reward your Clan’s assistance following the conclusion of the War.

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MCS Solari
Hyperspace
Arx system

“General.” the navigation office of the Solari called out across the bridge. “Thirty seconds, ma’am.”

Vorsa nodded at the Duros and adjusted her shoulder plate. The ancient ARC trooper armor was burnt, scarred and damaged in so many fights she had forgotten them all, but it fit her without issue. “Are the transports ready?” She activated her comm to contact Aura who was organizing the Clan’s forces in the hangars.

“Yes,” Aura replied briskly, rushing to keep pace with the hangar staff. LAAT transports lined the large hangar, ready to depart. Starfighters flanked them on either side, with their pilots ready in their seats and their droids chirping with anticipation of what was to come. She stopped as the last soldier entered their transport. “Everyone is in their transports.”

“Good,” Vorsa replied with a smile. “We have a plan, now it is time to execute it. Give them a good speech. I will see you on the station.” She silenced her comm. no further words needed to be spoken between her and her former apprentice. Vorsa’s smile changed to a frown as she saw the last streaks of hyperspace pass over the viewport and the light of Arx shone into the bridge.

“Destination reached, General. We are outside sensor and weapon range. Nesolat station is sunward at fifty-seven million klicks,” the sensor officer spoke up.

“Orders, general?” the captain asked, politely if rhetorically.

“This is your ship, captain. Execute our plan as discussed,” she replied with a comforting nod, knowing the full extent of the man’s loyalty and belief in the valued they all held dear.

“Yes, general.” He smiled back. “Chief, sound general quarters. Nav, get us within transport range. Sensors, keep an eye on incoming hyperspace entries. Time to work for a living!” Cheers erupted across the bridge, their captain spurring their enthusiasm and hope. They could win. They would win.

Vorsa turned on her heel and, flanked by two Tanduran commando officers, entered the turbo-lift to the hangars. They heard the general quarters alarm and saw the flashing red lights as the ship turned to battle readiness. The fight ahead was perilous and they would require every bit as much luck as experience and expertise to get through it.

The turbo-lift opened with a hiss, revealing the hangar and ships standing in readiness. She could sense the tension in the air as she turned her comm back on to hear Aura’s voice.

“…the plan is simple,” Aura’s voice came through clear, precise, and determined. “Our mission is to save as many lives as we can and give the ordinary people on that station a chance to evacuate. We will fly in on our transports under cover from the fleet and accomplish what we have set to do today. We are Odan-Urr. We are Peacekeepers. Life is our mission, and once we save everyone on that pile of junk they can an Academy, we can watch what’s left crumble into the void.”

Vorsa sensed a shift in emotions across the hangar. Their moral lifted by their leader’s encouraging words, the Peacekeepers of Odan-Urr were ready for a fight, and a fight they would get. Vorsa and the Tanduran officers boarded their transport as she shared an approving nod with Aura. They would all land together, advance as one, and eliminate any threat along the way.

“All transports, stand by for deployment,” the captain resounded through the speaker system just as the starfighters were making their way out. The transport jostled in place as the retro-thrusters lifted it off the ground. Doors slid closed as the parade of ships left the hangar bay and fell into formation with the squadrons.

The Remembrance of Seher, Rholan’s Vision, Dawnblade, Dac’s Lament and the starfighter and transport flotilla trailed after the Solari, plunging deeper into the Arx system, straight for the main planet and the station under attack above it.

The Nesolat had taken quite a bit of damage before the Peacekeepers arrived in Arx space. In front of them, smoke and debris could be seen wafting out from the holes that peppered the hull. The massive feet of Battle Group Elysium had fully surrounded their target, X-Wings and B-Wings flew frantically to target any and all Brotherhood ships trying to make their way to the planet’s surface. The airspace grew increasingly littered with the remains of the unfortunate.

Transports, remain tight. Fighters, Finger-four until we engage,” Aura’s message came across all frequencies clear and was confirmed by the flight leaders. “Stay on target, their lives depend on us.”

As the Peacekeepers drew closer, a barrage of turbolaser fire erupted from behind them as their Light Cruiser escorts began engaging the Collective Ton-Falk-class Escort Carrier and the various Lancer-class frigates that stood between them and the Nesolat. Each beam of green energy that hit its target was absorbed by the sturdy shields. As kicking a hornet’s nest would cause the hive to awaken and attack, Headhunters and X-Wings began pouring out of the carrier and the frigates turned to take on the opposing cruisers.

Hostiles incoming! Engage!!

The A-Wings of Banshee Squadron and Avenger Squadron broke off first, followed closely by Flare and Raava Squadron’s X-Wings while Valkyrie Squadron’s X-Wings and Celestia Squadron’s B-Wings remained close to the LAATs that carried the boarding party. Multiple dots now blanketed the LAATs radar screens as they maneuvered to find any opening they could. Several Collective X-Wings ignored the dogfight when it became apparent that a small group of ships remained on course. They immediately diverted to intercept and open fire on the transports.

Evasive maneuvers!

The remaining fighters broke formation to protect the Peacekeepers. With their escorts busy clearing a path, the transports were on their own but the nerves of the pilots remained strong. Their target, Docking Bay 327, was now in sight.

Remain on course, we only have one shot at this!

Drawing closer to the docking bay, the Ton-Falk carrier was now directly above them and began opening fire. The ships dodged and weaved to avoid the incoming bolts but one miscalculation caused a direct hit on the cockpit of one of the LAATs, causing it to explode instantaneously. This sent the lost ship directly into the path of another, striking it’s port side and gouging a massive hole in the durasteel hull. Bits of debris slammed into the engine, triggering it to explode. Doing his best to keep the ship alive, the pilot instinctively cut fuel to the razed engine. He fought to keep the ship steady but fell back behind the rest. The remaining LAATs made their way into the docking port, landed and began deploying their troops. The ill fated LAAT fought to remain stable but collided with the side of the station. The fiery wreckage tumbled a bit before sliding to a stop. The snap-hiss of an igniting lightsaber was barely heard over the sounds of the inferno or the choking beings inside. A violet blade burst through the side door panel and carved a hole big enough to allow the crew to crawl through followed last by a Zabrak Jedi. Now in the relative safety of the doomed station, the Peacekeeper boarding party gathered what supplies they had and made their way further into the station.

Aboard the YT-2000 Black Vornskr
Hyperspace
Near the Arx System

Through the Force he felt it, a feeling that he hadn’t felt in a long time. The rush of fear towards imminent deadly combat, wondering if he was prepared for what was to come. Hoping he was ready to answer the call once again, to re-join the fight.

He had his eyes closed, fingering the token. It was a very common artificially created diamond of virtually no value, but etched inside was a name he hadn’t heard about or from for many years.

The name of the former Headmaster.

The token and what it represented was not something he could easily dismiss. In fact, if he did his entire honor would be at stake, and those of his people. While they immediately volunteered, they could not leave their home in The Pearls. Their numbers were still extremely depleted and they were all needed to help keep the nascent community going. But they never forgot their duties. They never forgot their pledge.

So they sent him. He knew that clearly he was the best choice. But war was never easy. However, there were possibilities. So while he fingered the diamond, the one that was given as a token of honor to the former Headmaster, he knew it was up to him to keep their honor.

They were almost there.

He got up from his meditation couch and went forward to the cockpit. He slid into the pilot’s chair, and had a single command.

“Report.”

The heavy droid voice instantly replied, “Reactor… online. Sensors… online. Weapons… online. All systems nominal.”

He nodded, and verified that the sensor baffling systems were online and functional, as well as the heavy ion guns. Here we go.

A short distance away
Arx System

The battle was on. Commander Antonio Sakurayla had enough space near him for nothing to be an immediate danger. That gave him a chance to direct his squadron. His eyes flickered to something… There… Damn.

“Banshee Squadron, on me. There is an inbound Quadrijet bomber squadron that is targeting the transports, with a Z-95 escort. Second flight, third flight, engage the bombers at max range. First flight, kill the escorts.”

A chorus of affirmatives filled the comms channel. However, it seemed that the enemy Z-95 squadron saw them turn to engage and responded to the new threat of the inbound A-Wings immediately. Sakurayla saw that they were well trained, as they maintained a tight formation pattern that took maximum advantage of overlapping shields to deflect the incoming fire.

They punched through the initial merge, and Sakurayla reefed his fighter around, the impossible agility of the A-Wing affording him this advantage over the older, slower and less maneuverable Z-95’s. They spiraled out like a flower expanding its’ petals, shedding them in a well rehearsed move that forced him to chase a fighter element but giving the other elements a chance to circle back around. Sakurayla didn’t worry about it for a few precious moments, pouring fire into his chosen target and nabbing the port laser array. However despite the fire the legendary Z-95 absorbed the rest of the punishment, and now it was time to dodge to avoid his buddies.

He broke to port and was looking for the one that was trying to catch him by surprise. There he was… And there was the incoming fire. Sakurayla easily dodged and hit his throttle to the maximum. He could do this all day, but these two that he was engaging meant that more of the other Z’s were still free to engage the other flights. It was his job to stop them. He glanced around again, and there they were, a pair trying to catch up to Third Flight, launching a pair of concussion missiles at that moment. Sakurayla frowned, as that forced the flight to scatter to avoid the incoming missiles. He saw their target, and he knew they were getting close to be able to launch proton torps against the still inbound transports. Sakurayla punched the throttle to the maximum again, forgetting he was already there, trying to ignore the Z’s and locking up one of the bombers. He didn’t get a chance to fire, however, as laser fire crossed his flight path, impacting his shields and dropping them by half.

He cursed, dodged, and glanced at his sensors. Some of that first flight of Z’s had come around and started to shoot at maximum range, trading volume of fire for accuracy. He frowned, dodged some more fire, but they were doing a good job of shielding him from the bombers with weapons fire.

He was about to check on the status of the flights to see if any of them were able to engage, and while he saw concussion missiles streaking in towards the bombers, taking out some, they were dying too slowly and just about ready to launch.

Then, from nowhere, a ship dropped out of hyperspace right behind the bombers. A split second… Then it opened fire.

Brilliant blue ion cannon fire lanced out from ship, striking the bombers, causing them to short out and their engine glow to die out. The ship was a beast, accurately and with overwhelming fire shutting down the bombers. Sakurayla knew this meant that the ship must have heavy ion cannon aboard, which was rare. The ship itself was a hazy blur, painted to match the deep black of space, and his sensors were confused as to an identification. But it was hitting his targets, which left him free to engage the stunned Z-95s and called the flights to re-engage the fighters.

The new ship finished off the bombers and streaked towards the platform, his sensors finally getting some kind of identification. It was a YT-2000 with proper Odan-Urr recognition codes. Sakurayla shrugged as they still had a job to do.

Docking Bay 327
Nesolat Platform
Arx System

Bolts were already rebounding from the gunships’ armour plating as they set down, the doors pulling pack and revealing the carnage beyond. Docking Bay 327 had been hit hard in the fighting, and what wasn’t broken was on fire. A large section of the cargo maintenance system, the vast crane network built into the docking bay support beams, had been torn away from its supports. Most of the ships present at the time of the attack had been reduced to burning skeletons by the invaders, each bearing the telltale signs of torpedo strikes. Sections of the walls and ceiling had been torn away seemingly at random by turbolaser impacts, leaving twisted metal scattered across the area.

These were the sort of tactics that the Brotherhood had come to expect from the Collective: Clever pragmatism disguised as zealous fanaticism. Most troops would have conserved ammunition and pressed ahead, but the destruction denied Nesolat’s defenders a means of escape. At the same time it also provided the Collective troops cover for their rearguard, who were now firing upon the LAATs in a constant stream of blaster bolts.

“Most of them have clustered about the remains of the cargo system, they’re using the rails for cover,” Essik Lyccane spoke up, staying at the gunship’s door as the rest of those with him piled out. A set of electrobinoculars were held up to the Gand’s bulbous compound eyes, while a comlink was clutched in his other hand. “Flanking efforts are indivisible given that position, and the build-up of debris gives them a high ground advantage.”

“I’m assuming you have something in mind?”

The question came from the crimson armoured Nautolan to his right, Nikora Rhan. The twin blades of her emerald lightsaber were working in a constant blur, working to deflect the incoming fire. Those at her back fired through momentary openings in her swings.

“Quite so,” Essik said, lowering the electrobinoculars and raising the comlink to his mandibles. “We remove the high ground.”

Essik spoke several words and three of the gunships now bereft of passengers rose into the air once more. A few of the Collective soldiers, likely predicting what was to follow, began to run as the gunships fired. A barrage of missiles hammered into the area, detonating with sunbursts of energy among the makeshift barricade. Other detonations, likely ammunition supplies or pre-placed mines, soon joined the first in a chain reaction of searing blasts. The Collective soldiers fortunate enough to escape the display were soon sent fleeing, each trying to escape the storm of durasteel fragments swept up by the explosions.

“Charge!”

Essik couldn’t see who had yelled the order, but every Odanite was soon sprinting for the gap cleared by the gunships. Revak Kur’s group were the first through, having not stopped running since breaking out of their downed LAAT. Charging over the blackened deck plating, they were soon joined first by those with Aura Ta’var, then the rest in a flood of bodies. The Collective troops who held their ground barely lasted long enough to slow the Odanites’ advance.

“That’s the easy part done,” Essik said, half-limping and half sprinting as he fought to keep up with those from his own LAAT. This earned him a concerned look from Rhan, and a laugh from nearby.

“You’re sure that you don’t want to wait with the gunships, old man?” Gui Sol said, passing him by in a sprint. “We can’t afford to stop for a breather every few minutes.”

“Essik will keep pace, thank you all the same,” Essik answered the Kiffar. “Someone has to make sure that you don’t stumble into any obvious traps.”

“If you say so. Just remember this isn’t the Clone Wars anymore!”

Essik held back a laugh. He never would have admitted it, but the sight of lightsaber-wielding figures leading troops had rekindled memories of fighting alongside the Republic’s Grand Army. That sense of nostalgia, along with a lifetime of experience in this sort of operation, was why he had forsaken his usual place far behind the frontlines.

Aura Ta’var ran alongside her fellow Jedi as they raced across the broken landscape that was now the once gleaming Shadow Academy. The lingering fires and charred durasteel were almost fitting for an institution that for so long had pretended to serve the Force. In reality, it had only ever served itself, guided by the self-absorbing interests of the Sith who led it. Now they fled like cowards, leaving behind their servants to die for their ambitions of a Sith Empire. The Jedi High Councillor sensed their despair and anguish in the Force, a silent cry for help against the very thing they swore their life to. These were tiny sparks of light and the Zeltron swore that Odan-Urr would help them.

The burned out skeleton of a downed crane that had torn through the docking bay stood before them, red blaster bolts zipping just above it. The forward unit took cover behind its wide beams for a moment, those with guns laying down covering fire so the Jedi could get a closer look at a large double-wide door on the other side. Aura could feel some of those sparks of light behind that entryway. Two hive mind marines stood in their way, backed up against the closed doorway.

“Master Jedi, if we overwhelm them from all sides we can take them. Just remember they can fly,” offered Essik, who had just caught up.

“Indeed. Two Jedi per attack angle with troopers should do it. But for it to work we need to take their grenades,” Vorsa added.

“Why not just detonate them?” asked Revak.

“Essik doubts they will fall for such a trick. But it will probably catch the civilians as well.”

“That’s a no go then. I’ll pull their grenades away from them if the rest of you get in position,” said Aura as she mentally counted their enemies’ armaments.

Docking Bay 327
Nesolat Platform
Arx System

Elyon followed Tarvitz from the main entrance through the cargo area. She followed her master the same she had once fought alongside Jedi generals during The Clone Wars. Different times, different people but the same feelings. Fear, pain, death that comes from fighting. Although Elyon wasn’t entirely sure of her role at this time, she knew she couldn’t give up.

As they pressed through the debris cleared by the LAAT gunships, Elyon’s lightsaber hummed with every swing, deflecting bolts back toward the Collective soldiers holding their positions. She pressed through the hail of blasterfire, keeping pace with the others as they rushed past the few pockets of resistance left to them.

Both Elyon and her Master soon caught up with the others, now establishing a small perimeter about the main blast door leading out of the docking bay. From what they were discussing, she quickly picked out that two grenade equipped Collective soldiers were waiting on the other side, and holding a number of civilians hostage. Most solutions brought up so far suggested detonating the weapons, but that would likely kill anyone nearby.

In a pause in the conversations, Elyon spoke up. “If we created a barrier with the Force, could we protect the civilians from the shockwave?”

“That could work,” Tarvitz said, looking at the others. There was a chorus of agreements in response.

“Let’s go,” Vorsa said at last, and everyone started moving.

Revak, Aura, Vorsa, Lambow, and Lu’aisha held up their hands, forming barriers about the enemy soldiers awaiting them, pinning them close to the door. At the same moment, Tarvitz and Elyon reached out with the Force and activated the grenades they were carrying. There was the dull crump of explosions hitting reinforced metal, and the large door bent inward under a series of detonations.

Docking Bay 327
Nesolat Platform
Arx System

“Ca-WHOMP.”

The Wookiee felt the blast wave both through the Force and from the shockwave of both grenades cooking off a split second from the other. As expected, the soldiers holding the point there disappeared in a tangle of limbs and other body parts, of which the Wookiee cared not one bit. What cowards, he thought to himself, using civvies as human shields. He made a mental note as to the depths of depravity that these Collective people were willing to sink to.

With the danger of the blast passed, they dropped the shield and made their way to the civilians, which were not harmed, but scared. Lambow spoke, “Hey people, this droid will escort you to safety back to my ship, that YT-2000 there. Step quickly now, you can’t stay here.” He then turned to his guard droid, “Thin Man, take these people to my ship, defend them. We’ll probably send more civilians back to join you, let me know when the ship is full and we’ll arrange for them to be moved. Move.”

The droid buzzed with an annoyed acceptance of the orders but nonetheless took charge, scanning for threats but moving with the civilians.

Aura nodded, one potential problem fixed. “Okay, people, let’s spread out. You know the drill. Find and evac all civilians. Once one transport is filled communicate with the command ship to arrange an escort and get out of here. No heroics, save as many people and special items as possible but don’t risk yourselves in the process. Head out in pairs, I’ll have troops secure the evac routes as we create them. Go!”

Lambow glanced over at his old acquaintance Revak, as he glanced over as well. They both nodded silently and pushed forward, peeling off to the right.

They pushed out, initially not meeting any resistance. “Good to see you old friend, back into the thick of things as usual for us!”

Lambow grunted, his eyes constantly scanning, looking for threats. Unseen, but felt in the Force, he felt Revak’s amusement but quickly solidified back to wariness. Sooner or later they were going to run into a patrol or security checkpoint and then…

Blaster bolt fire came through, immediately blocked by both Odanites with their lightsabers, Revak’s pale white blade on the one and the light violet on the other contrasting with the dual green blades of Lambow’s paired blades. The volume of fire was impressive, and the grenade that was just chucked at them even more so. Lambow took a split moment and pushed with the Force, sending it sailing back to sender where it exploded with a brilliant flash, the cries of agony coming from the security post.

Revak grunted out, “We can’t get held up here, we need to push through!”

Lambow nodded and moved behind the other Odanite, taking cover. The Warden reached out with the Force, and found the light. With a twist of his mental grasp, all light was extinguished in a sphere five cubic meters centered around the security post. Their mental confusion was immediate, causing them to slack their fire for just a moment. Revak, familiar with this technique, wasted no split seconds as he Force leapt among them, and went to work. They all died by his blades in under ten seconds. They had no chance.

Lambow let go of his hold on the light. “Let’s push on,” he said, as Odanite troops came up from behind to secure the area.

Tassk pushed on through the hallways alone. He mentally ran through his personal armory, hoping he would not need his weapons, but knowing that a fight was inevitable in his current situation. The less conflict the less chance of casualties, he thought hopefully to himself.

He turned a corner only to be ripped from his thoughts by a stray blaster bolt hitting the wall paneling just next to his shoulder. Before him was the cafeteria, and things weren’t looking good for the station’s defenders. The tables had been thrown on their sides all around the room, the Collective’s troops on one side, the Nesolat’s on the other. The Collective and their marines were pinning down the defenders, and it was obvious who would win the battle in its current state.

Tassk dashed through the blaster fire narrowly dodging a bolt headed straight for him. He slid down next to the defenders, who were trying their best to return fire without getting their heads blown off. Tassk closed his eyes and slowed his breath focusing on the Force. For now, he was safe behind the cover of the table. He reached out slowly taking in his surroundings mentally, and then it hit him like a podracer colliding with his mind. The fear of many people all together, fearful for their lives coming from his right. He turned and peaked around the table, seeing the kitchen, but the panel next to the door had sparks flying out haphazardly. Even worse, smoke was coming out of the crack beneath the door. His eyes widened “They’re trapped, and there’s a fire!” Tassk said.

He looked at the troopers around him and an idea formulated. “We’ve got to do something, those people are trapped. I’m going to detonate a marine’s grenade and hopefully every other explosive on him too. When I do, I need the leftmost table to go left and swing around, they’ll be distracted by the explosion, and I’ll be doing my part to draw their fire. You’ll be in a prime flanking position, and I need you to open fire on the collective troops, while everyone else charges forward in the confusion. It’s close enough we’ll have minimal casualties. Focus fire on the marines, they’re the most accurate shooters.”

Tassk reached out with the Force again, but this time with a specific target in his mind. He found what he was looking for in the form of a bandolier of grenades strapped to a marine’s chest. There was a thermal detonator, a mine, a sticky grenade, and a frag. He smiled at that last explosive. He yelled “Get ready, now!” as he twisted the top on the grenade.

The shrapnel from the grenade shredded through the bandolier setting off a chain reaction and incinerating those closest to the blast. The troopers burst into action sprinting through the cafeteria and pushing forward towards the other side. Tassk knew that their opening wouldn’t last long, and so he prepared his second distraction. He closed his eyes and drew on the fear and pain around him, drawing it into himself to augment his own. The emotions coursed through his body as though pure adrenaline, and he let out the primal roar of a hunter. He leaped over the table and hit the ground on all fours, sprinting through the chaos and quickly running past his troopers. He leaped again, this time over the enemy’s tables and drew his saber and sword in midair. He landed and quickly entered a deadly spin, cutting down two troopers in mere seconds. He looked around for his next target, but in his rage he was oblivious to a blaster bolt that landed in his left shoulder. The pain forced him down to his knee, and he looked up to see a Hive Mind Marine taking aim for a killing shot.

In the knick of time, his troopers reached the enemy’s position and opened fire on the marine, buying Tassk a second to finish him. As the marine looked towards the incoming fire, Tassk raised his hand and drew upon the last of his anger, sending a lethal arc of energy lancing towards his opponent. The cybernetics conducted his lightning perfectly, instantly frying the marine. In seconds, the battle was over and Tassk stayed where he was, taking some time to breath after that. As he fully came back to his senses, he felt just how bad the blaster injury was. Nothing lethal, but it definitely hurt enough to greatly hinder him.

A trooper ran over, and frantically said “The civilians! They’re still trapped in the kitchen! They took cover in there to be safe from the marines while we tried to defend them, but a stray blaster bolt hit the control panel locking them in and starting an electrical fire.” Tassk forced himself up and went over to the door as fast as he could, grimacing with pain as it jostled his shoulder. He ignited his saber and quickly cut a circular hole in the thin metal door.

The troopers quickly helped everyone out, just as the burning ceiling collapsed on the kitchen. “I’m injured and this is a lot of people, we need to start moving back towards the ship,” Tassk said, I’ve done what I can, now let’s just hope everyone else got out safely.

Aura Ta’var turned around a corner and finally reached the makeshift cafeteria. She had been listening carefully to the comms just in case anyone needed backup. A crowd of people, some slightly burnt, was being escorted by her troopers. As they walked by she could feel their fear, palpable and very real. A pair of them were still arguing angrily about the hive minds.

“I’m telling you they marked us. How else did they know we were there?!”

“That’s impossible. We were just making too much noise.”

“And were we making too much noise in the library when they literally zeroed in on us amongst all of those bookshelves?”

“Move along quickly before they come back. A shuttle is not far away. Hurry!” said the Zeltron, breaking up their argument but worried about their words all the same.

She joined Tassk at the back of the group of civilians, making sure the Togorian was protected as well. His blaster wound stood out like an angry welt, frying some of the orange fur around it black. Aura resisted the urge to fuss over it and decided to settle on a verbal promise.

“I can heal that once we board the shuttles. Can you listen to me next time and bring along a partner?” Aura asked with a sigh.

“I had it covered,” replied Tassk with a feline yowl at the end, the pain from the blaster shot already becoming acute. Though the short stim needle the Zeltron had just stabbed into it didn’t help.

“Personal space!” he hissed, taking a reflexive step away from her.

“That was to help with the pain. I’m no doctor and you aren’t fainting on me before we get back. You’ll thank me later,” Aura replied as she chucked the used stim. “Oh and try not to get shot again.”

The Togorian thanked her and gingerly moved the painful joint, the tight corridor making them walk closer together than he usually preferred. Meanwhile, she caught the arguing civilians from before sneak off into a room off the hallway. Aura nodded Tassk to stick with the main group and followed the stragglers. They were at a desk and already starting to unlock one of its drawers. Oblivious, they didn’t see Aura until she ignited her blue saber, the snap-hiss echoing slightly in the empty room.

“No time for trinkets. We will leave without you. Move!” she yelled, the threat idle but it motivated them enough to run.

The Jedi walked around the table and opened it with a flick of her wrist. She pulled the drawer open and a gleaming holocron caught her eye. Grabbing it for Odan-Urr, she turned off her saber and stored the holocron discreetly in the folds of her robes. Pulled the Force into her legs, Aura ran at top speed, finally meeting back up with the group as they reached the hangar doors.

“Another group back to the hangar and boarding. Status update on the other evacs?”

“Last one loading up as we speak,” Jon called out to the approaching High Councilor. “Ready to move out in ten, Aura.”

“Make it five,” Aura said, coming to a stop. Her eyes were darting around the room, and the Captain could tell she was just looking for yet more problems to solve. Any kink in the machine that might interfere with them all getting out of this alive was something she would zoom on and attack.

“We need to get things moving as quickly as possible… and somebody move those gas canisters! They’re sitting right out in the-”

“You doing alright, Aura?” he interrupted. “You look a tad… tense.”

“I could ask you the same thing, Silvon,” Aura said, barely glancing at him. “You look like death warmed over.”

Jon took in his own ragged appearance, and shrugged. “May have had a run in with some Liberation Front lackeys on my way to the hangar. And, uh… the Nesolat might be down a bridge. Don’t deflect though.”

“Did you just say you destroyed a bridge?” the new Togorian asked, an incredulous look on his face. Jon ignored him.

“Aura,” Jon said, and the Jedi turned to him sharply. “Calm down, would you? The last of the civilians are loading up now. We’re practically home-”

It was at that moment the hangar doors exploded.

“Free,” Jon sighed, and the now-familiar snap-hiss of a half dozen lightsabers activating echoing around him. The Force hated him, for some reason.

As the space-wizard engaged the hive mind soldiers (seriously, when had this become his life?), Jon ducked behind a row of crates, firing off blasts from his vambraces as he went.

“Jon!” Aura called, “Forget the five minutes! We’re leaving. Now” The Jedi in the group were deflecting the blasts fired at them, but they weren’t advancing - they were moving back towards the ships, covering them from fire even as they moved to board themselves.

Jon knew that now was the time to move, but… He looked back over the row of crates, at the advancing soldiers, and an idea began to form.

“Silvon!” Tassk shouted out, just barely audible over the now roaring engines of the ships preparing to leave. “Did you not hear the High Councilor? We’ll leave without you!”

Jon wasn’t listening at that point, though. Instead, he counted the seconds, knowing he had to time this just right… now!

He bolted out from behind his cover, cape flowing behind him. Several of the soldiers advancing on the Odanites turned to him, raising their rifles to fire. Each one found a dagger sticking out of their visors soon after, but they weren’t the captain’s focus.

Instead, he fired off three shots from his vambraces. One went wild and missed by a mile. The second was blocked by a soldier getting in the way but the third… the third slammed right into the gas canister that was carelessly left out in the open.

Fire erupted from it, and for a moment the hangar lit up like a bonfire before the flames died down. It was enough, at least, to catch a third of the soldiers on fire, distracting them from firing on the ships any longer.

And who says you need the Force to be a hero?

Jon was already running, the soldiers too distracted by the flames to fire at him as he moved through the open, and leaped for the now closing doors of the shuttles. He was too slow, and began to fall… until an invisible set of hands grabbed him, and lifted, rather forcefully, onto the shuttle. Aura and Tassk caught him, dropping him to the floor.

“Ok,” Jon said to no one in particular, gasping to catch his breath. “Now, we’re home-”

“Don’t even say it Jon!” Aura snapped, collapsing against the now-closed doors in exhaustion. “Don’t even think it.”

“Alright, alright,” Jon chuckled. “Take a breather. Now, where are we landing this tub?”

The High Councilor looked thoughtful for a moment. “Eos City,” she said finally.

Jon nodded. “Eos city it is. I’ll inform the pilots.”

LAAT gunships and shuttles peeled away from the station, their groups quickly falling into defensive arrowhead formations to see off attacking fighters. Most joined escorting A-Wings as they escaped the carnage, racing for the outskirts of the warzone where the bulbous hull of the Solari. The remaining few turned instead toward the Arx, and began the long dive toward the far worse battle which awaited them below.

“Status,” Essik said as the LAAT gunship began to shudder under the forces of atmospheric entry, fire licking against the hull. In front of him, having found a small space among the Jedi and troopers, SP-4770 paused in its reading. While the rest had been fighting to free those left on Nesolat, it had patched through the gunship’s communications and had begun examining the myriad of signals echoing about the nearby area.

“Primary Collective assault is underway,” it said flatly, its clipped and blunted tones retaining an artificial quality that Essik had never fully gotten used to. “Massed infantry formations have been deployed across its surface, supported by heavy bombardments from orbiting cruisers and air support.”

“Specifics?” Essik asked. None of this was too surprising.

“Advances toward both Iron Legion headquarters and local infrastructure. Fragmentary signals indicate intentional efforts to eradicate the local civilian population. Airborne and orbital supremacy is underway, now that Arx planetary shields have collapsed.”

It took Essik several moments to register that final point. He eased back, looking through one of the gunship’s transparisteel windows until he picked out the expanding debris field that had once been the shield gate. Some distance from it, the molten remains of what had likely once been a Resurgent-class Star Destroyer were being readily stripped apart. Enemy cruisers circled about it, readily stripping it apart in a ceaseless assault.

“Thank you, keep me updated,” Essik said, reaching for his comlink. “High Councillor, we might have a problem.”

“The shield gate? We already know,” Aura’s voice answered, awash with static. “We’ll have to make this quick. If you have any advice when it comes to reaching Eos City alive, I’d like to hear it.”

Waiting and listening as SP-4770 relayed further information from the situation developing below, a plan quickly formulated in his mind.

“Rapid assault accompanied by demoralization methods,” Essik said, wishing he had a map in front of him. “The main group moving into the city consists of poorly armed Liberation Front fanatics. It seems like their leaders are keeping the actual soldiers in reserve.”

The gunship shook as it entered the stratosphere, the craft swerving as an outdated Z-95 swept toward them, its guns blazing. It passed overhead, moving into a turn before a burst of cannon fire reduced the fighter to fast-moving scrap metal. An X-Wing in Odanite colours hurtled past, accompanied by other fighters as they moved to punch a hole through the Collective’s air cover.

“Please keep in mind, High Councillor, we will not be able to save them all,” Essik finished, and then looked over at Rhan. The Nautolan was waiting opposite him, her arms folded and watching him carefully. “May Essik ask if you are interested in crowd control?”

Rhan’s answer was a flash of white teeth as she grinned.


Eos City
Arx
Arx System

Eos City was quickly resembling a vision of hell. What wasn’t on fire was being torn down. The Sith had built it as both a city and fortress, ringed by towering duracrete walls and defended by heavy cannon emplacements. Efficiency had been prioritized in its construction, forming a grid-like network of streets and easy choke-points. Against any conventional army it might have held out for weeks, but it had never been designed to oppose the Collective.

The fanatics had washed over every defence which had been mustered. An unending wave of bodies and suicidal attackers had worn down the defending troops through sheer inertia, dragging them into battles where only numbers mattered. In many places their dropships had simply crashed through buildings, making landing zones rather than choosing them, and bypassing defences entirely. Several had rammed massive power generating facilities, crippling the city’s turbolasers. Those who fled the horde had been herded into one of the towering residential suites, only for the cheering mobs to set it alight.

The Odanites swept over the city, closing upon the building. As the lead gunship hurtled over the crowd, wisps of smoke clinging to its wings, one side door slid open. Leaning over the side, Rhan dropped grenade after grenade into the nearest members of the mob. Adhesive explosives and flashbangs detonated among their number. Similar actions were repeated as other gunships swept overhead, entering an orbiting pattern about the building and firing their cannons at the nearest fanatics. A few missiles streaked up in response, missing as they were fired in anger.

“Kill them if you have to, please try to force them to run,” Essik spoke into the comlink, as the gunship swept past. “Hold them at all costs.”

He barely held back from ordering the pilots to fire until none were left standing. The sight below kindled old anger within him watching as he watched the shrieking mob. In them, Essik could only see the same blind hatred the Empire, the First Order, and countless other powers before them had embraced. They would butcher everything in their path because someone in charge had told them it was morally right to do so. For them this wasn’t a war, it was a prolonged slaughter.

The LAAT came to hover next to an upper window. Turning, its rear ramp lowered with a hiss of hydraulics, until it was resting against the underside of a shattered window. With a gesture, Rhan reached out with the Force, pulling free the shattered glass and revealing a number of surprised faces from within.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen, we are your flight out of here,” Essik said. “Please move forward one at a time, we do not have long.”

Fighters thundered overhead blasting Collective defensive positions on their way out of the city, vacating the area to allow the city defenses an unobstructed field of fire. Shuttles and gunships landed across in nearly every block with Odanites and local planetary defense forces joining in the defense.

Vorsa’s LAAT landed next to one of the several utilitarian residential buildings, side doors opening even before the hull touched the gravel. Three squads of Tanduran commandos rushed out and charged towards the makeshift barricades, hastily built by the Iron Legion several dozen meters away, between the habitation blocks and the advancing Collective forces. They were abandoned for more defensible positions, at the expense of the civilian. Kneeling behind whatever cover they found the Tanduran commandos opened fire on the enemy.

“Sergeant Brolen, keep them occupied,” Vorsa ordered, reaching him over the comm. “We have reports of several squads already entering the habitation blocks. I will take a squad and head in that direction. You and the rest of the incoming forces must keep them away from the residential area or there will be civilian casualties.” As if on cue three more LAAT transports landed on their position, with Odanite regulars rushing to support the commandos.

“Yes, ma’am.” Brolen replied, winded. He needed no more explaining than that. He had trusted Vorsa with his life before and never regretted it. “You can count on us.”

With a nod, the Neti instructed one of the squads to follow her. She took note of other LAAT transports landing around the habitation blocks, with groups of Odanites rushing into and around the buildings to evacuate whoever they could. Essik’s transport was already crowding with people when the soldiers jumped into the building to search for more. The transport blasted off, having collected its precious cargo, and sought cover among the orbital defenses.

“Southerns blocks are rigged with explosives and full of enemies,” she heard a call across the comm. Through the blaster fire and yelling on the other side she heard the unmistakable roar of a Wookie.

“It is the same on the east,” said the familiar voice of Revak Kur, replying to the earlier communique. Their fight would get desperate sooner or later as the advancing invasion found firm ground to settle on. Vorsa and her squad ran across the duracrete streets, rushing to support. As PDF and Odanite troops stormed the buildings gunfights erupted more frequently with explosions from grenades and stray blaster shots peppering the city at every corner.

Running into one of the buildings in the middle of the large habitation complex, Vorsa could sense the familiar presence of A’lora Kituri somewhere in the city. “With haste,” she said to her troops as they searched the rooms one by one, clearing as they went.

“Civilians here,” one of them exclaimed, escorting a mother and child through an open door and back where they came.

“Flight, we could use transportation for the civilians,” the squad leader said over his comm.

“Transport incoming to your location. ETA sixty seconds,” the pilot replied momentarily. Clearly he was already airborne.

After a silent agreement the squad, Vorsa at the fore, rushed onto the second floor, then the third, and finally the fourth. They had found a dozen civilians and several officers with their families, hiding from the attack. All were sent to the shuttle that had landed not too far from the building itself.

“Good work,” the squad leader praised his troops. “Now, into the next building.”

Ryan Hawkins’ ears rang with a hollow, painful chime as an explosion a floor above him thumped through his chest. A second blast followed as the Jedi’s squad breached the slate-grey wall with a detonation charge and surged into the room in continuation of the vicious building to building fighting, adding to the chaotic roars of blaster fire and shouted commands…

Ryan charged forward, his Clone Commando armor shining white and reflecting the azure glow of his lightsaber as its point snapped forward in a vicious thrust. Ryan winced as its point found home in the helmeted face of a Collective trooper. If his face were visible, Ryan doubted it would even have had time to express surprise, though Ryan was unsure someone so heavily modified could even feel anything resembling surprise, shock, or fear anymore.

Even in the “him or me” atmosphere of war, killing never got easier and it seemed at odd times memories of horrible moments like this would flare up, even against a seemingly inhuman opponent. Ryan pushed it down inside like he had several times before and leveled his lightsaber before him, its point now menacing the squadmates of the dead trooper who were now turning to engage the Jedi’s squad, their attention now drawn from their firing positions at the window.

Blaster bolt fire came suddenly and rapidly in Ryan’s direction. Even with Force-augmented reflexes springing him into melee to negate the superior firepower of the Collective forces, a couple of glancing blaster shots found home and staggered the Odanite, sending him stumbling forward. Blaster fire arced overhead as Ryan dove for the leg of a Collective marine, driving forward and sending the augmented soldier crashing to the ground.

Ryan scrambled skillfully to control the legs of the soldier and bring his lightsaber back to bear but was rapidly kicked away by the powerful legs of the marine who quickly fumbled to raise his blaster again. Ryan lashed out with his lightsaber and struck the Marine’s wrists, sending hands and blaster flying across the room. Ryan awkwardly scrambled to his feet, his nimble skills as a martial artist and wrestler weighed down by his heavy armor. That said, given how the armor had recently saved him from serious injury or death just a few moments ago, it was unlikely that he would eschew it based on grounds of occasional “clumsiness.”

His squadmates, true military men and women, dropped the remaining marines in a fusillade of blaster fire as each covered their corner of the room like true professionals. Ryan hated lagging behind the “real soldiers” and it reminded him that although he could best most of these men and women in a wrestling match or in the ring, military combat was a product of tactics, teamwork, and training. He was rash to rush in so furiously, and at least wise enough to recognize that although he was a Jedi, he was the last person who should be in charge of even one of these men and women.

One of the squad had suffered a solid hit, but her armor had taken the brunt of it and saved her life. Nonetheless, Ryan concentrated deeply and reached out through the Force to take some of the edge off of the pain. Complete healing, at least in a timeframe consistent with the squad’s current operational tempo was beyond the knight’s skills. But he could at least get her moving again and make sure the pain wasn’t too great. The fact that healing, Ryan’s weakness, was useful here, and close combat, Ryan’s strength, was seemingly useless, would certainly be the subject of many nights of meditation to come.

But that was the future and this was now. Ryan focused on the present moment and looked to follow the lead of his sergeant, Sergeant Tevisa, her tough, scarred face currently hidden by her helmet. She was a true veteran, and on campaign Ryan wished every bit he was more like her. She never treated him like a fop or a joke, but he always wondered if she felt it deep down. She nodded “This fighting is going to be close and vicious so I’m glad we have some lightsaber support from the Jedi. Remember that each of these fights…” an explosion accompanied by screaming and blaster fire sounded from below “…is separated only by a wall or floor and someone can blast through at any angle. Everyone needs to stay karking frosty or we’re all going to karking die.” Ryan nodded along with the squad. “Also remember that no matter how fanatical someone is or how much they want to win they can’t do it with broken limbs or no skull, so shoot to kill, drive on, continue mission. We’re going through the next door, then we’re going straight karking down. We’ll pincer attack from above while our friends blow the next door below. We need to hurry. Let’s karking go.”

While Sergeant Tevisa kept her swearing simple, it was delivered with the practice and polish of a true military woman and had a way of, like a punctuation mark, really heightening focus on the task at hand. The detonator charge was being placed against the door as the frame was swept for wires and booby traps. Ryan reached out through the Force and found a swirl of half-life beyond the door. “Augmented soldiers,” he said as he tried to sort through the muddle of chaotic energy brought about by the movements of emotion and combat. “Alert, still, possibly entrenched…”

Tevisa tapped him on the shoulder “Good, stay away from the doorframe so they can’t funnel us and kill us. We’re going to use grenades and we’re going to deliver serious violence of action. Once we kill a few, you and your karking glowing wizard stick are going to be our cover until we get in the room. They shouldn’t be deluging you with fire after the breach and grenades, but if they are try your best not to karking die in the door frame.” The last seemed to be said with a smile.

“Yes, Sergeant.” Ryan said with a nod as he stood on one side of the door frame, channeling the Force into his limbs so he would be able to drive in fast and hard and provide cover against blaster fire with his “glowing wizard stick.” Ryan smiled, but deep down he was possibly some of the most scared he had ever felt in his life.

Another of the LAAT gunships swept in for a landing, its doors pulling back to reveal the ruined habitation block. Elyon kept close to her master, Ka Tarvitz, trying to keep in step with him as they departed the ship and into the battle. It was very strange to her. The shadows of the past lengthened, Elyon faced an unknown enemy for her, but at the same time she faced feelings of mistrust in herself and in this war that flooded her in the current situation.

“Your target is the western buildings,” Vorsa’s voice came from the comlink. “Sweep through it, make sure anyone alive in there stays that way.”

“I understand. We’re on our way,” Tarvitz replied, gesturing in that direction to the others and started running. Elyon followed him to the nearest building in the area. The group sprinted into the building as a Collective fighter strafed the area outside it, trying to pick off Odanites racing for cover. The shockwave of a missile battered the structure as they disappeared through its doors.

"Now we will split in two. With the first half I will search the right side and the other half will be with Elyon searching the left side. As soon as we go through the entire floor, we will move to the upper floor.” Tarvitz gave the order and looked at them.

“Yes, sir,” the squad leader replied.

“I understand, Master,” Elyon replied, activating her lightsaber.

After this decision, the two groups broke up and began searching the individual rooms for residents of the residential block before the attack. All civilians found during this search were taken to the entrance of the building. There they waited for the arrival of the gunship to evacuate them.

Both groups scanned the rooms as quickly as they could. They walked floor by floor until they reached the last one. “More civilians,” the trooper informed Elyon about another group of civilians in one of the rooms.

“Take them down and inform the transport,” Elyon said and began searching the room with another trooper, the rest of her group moving on to the next part of the building. They were already leaving when the room was hit by a grenade that was thrown through the window. The window was located opposite the entrance to the room. There was a deafening bang as the grenade hit the floor. Its shockwave threw Elyon back to the opposite side of the corridor and knocked the trooper to the ground in the room.

“Is everyone okay?” Tarvitz asked through his comlink.

“I don’t know yet,” Elyon answered with her conlink and slowly rose from the floor. She crossed the corridor and peered into the room. There was smoke everywhere. Through the Force, she sensed the trooper and pulled him out into the corridor.

“What happened?” Tarvitz asked when he reached them.

“A grenade exploded in the room. Civilians have already been evacuated,” Elyon replied, coughing as she inhaled the smoke. “This trooper needs treatment. I need a few minutes to at least stabilize him,” Elyon said, looking at her master.

“Okay, we’ll go to check the rest of the rooms quickly and pick you up here,” Tarvitz nodded and went with the rest of the soldiers to search the remaining rooms.

Elyon reached out with the Force and concentrated, holding one hand over his wound. A halo of energy encompassed it, the energies working to reknit and renew the damaged cells. At this point, Elyon felt stronger than ever since she had woken up to this time. She remembered her first healing lessons and the feeling that always flooded her when she helped the injured. A few minutes later, as her master and troopers returned, Elyon was done with the most necessary blows. And so the rest of the group came back down.

“Flight, we could use transportation for civilians and a wounded trooper,” the squad leader said through his comlink when he saw the rest of the group running out.

“Transport inbound. ETA one hundred and twenty seconds,” the pilot answered.

The LAAT landed near the building so that the entrance was protected by its hull. Its hatches slid back, ready to receive civilians. The troopers came out of the building and opened fire on the nearest Collective forces, covering the civilians as they ran to the LAAT. They were soon followed by two Odanite troopers, supporting a wounded colleague. Yet as the pilot signalled for departure, explosions rained down about it as a new wave of enemy fighters began strafing the building blocks.

A few blocks away, explosions rained down. Tassk hardly looked up at this point. This day had started so promisingly, but had deteriorated so quickly. He was beginning to enjoy himself at the Praxeum. He met nice people, made new friends, and enjoyed his classes. Then all that changed with the Collective.

First it was the station, with grenades and hostages. Now a partially collapsed city, dodging blaster bolts at every turn, treading carefully in unstable buildings, an apt metaphor for the unsteady footing they all were on. So much death, so much carnage.

Tassk and some troopers were crossing the street quickly. Tassk’s lightsaber was out, deflecting the shots he couldn’t dodge. This day was tragic, but more than anything it was tiring. Tassk couldn’t remember the last time he had been this exhausted. He had started strong, but the marines, the explosions, the hostages, the deaths, it was all too much.

They entered a house, and began their search. Another search, house after house. The day was not a marathon by any means, but more akin to a series of sprints right after the other, until you couldn’t run any more. Then at the end, all remaining was a pile of corpses for the finish line. Around him he saw mirrors of his own emotions in the troops around him. They all carried the same burdens. Their faces were full of regret, pain, sorrow. Tassk had fought before, but never like this.

Even now, he heard the frantic talk over the comms. The others were in similar shape, but they fought on. They fought on, and now so would he. He and the troopers all must keep fighting. They were fighting not for survival, but to save those all around them. Those drowning in a pool of blood, trapped under duracrete tombs that had once been their shelters. They fought to help all those desperate people, to push back the harbingers of death marching through the streets. They fought the Collective, and they must carry on.

Ryan turned and whirled his lightsaber in a defensive shell as he launched himself into the room, deflecting bolts as enemy marines gave an opening salvo, safe behind improvised cover made from overturned furniture and rubble. The firepower of the marines was lessened due to the liberal use of grenades by his assigned squad as the marines attempted to ascertain what was happening and regain their order. His sergeant had given him every chance to succeed and he appreciated it greatly as he continued to channel his pain from earlier wounds into enhanced speed and stamina. Ryan leaped the barricade with the Force flowing through his limbs. He felt daring and bold, light as a feather, forgetting for a moment the grind and horrors of war as he had that single, fleeting moment of flowing with the Force through the universe as he seemed to sail through the air forever. However, the accuracy and discipline of the marines proved devastating and while Ryan was able to cut through one marine as he turned through the air, his hurried attempt to deflect point blank blaster fire from the remainder sent his weapon flying from his hand, its sapphire blade winking out as it skittered across the floor. Ryan landed awkwardly next to an enemy marine, stumbling under his armor’s weight, and could think of nothing else but to hurriedly close with the remaining Collective cyborgs while the rest of his squad stormed the room and provided flanking fire.

Ryan stoutly stepped into the powerful punch of a Collective marine attempting to clear space to continue deploying his blaster against the headstrong Jedi. The stepping in combined with a firm parry with his forearms robbed it of strength before it could develop any real power. The marine attempted to backpedal and give himself room to strike and fire his blaster at the brawling Odanite. These cyborgs were skilled and nimble with a blaster and heavily augmented. It was clear that if Ryan gave them too much space they would give him one salvo too many and his armor and saber could only save him so many times. Ryan pushed forward, maintaining contact with the marine, before wrapping an arm around the Collective trooper’s head in a powerful headlock and with a powerful throw sending him crashing hard to the ground with a wheeze which betrayed some of his remaining biological nature.

Ryan remained atop the marine, locking him in a powerful, crushing submission around the head and neck as cranked hard on the neck and spine of the black-armored trooper. He reached out through the force to call his lightsaber to his hand. The squadmates of the now pinned marine were too engaged with Ryan’s squad to be of much use as Ryan’s saber flicked to life in his hand, its hiss breaking the greys of rubble and smoke like a brilliant flame as he brought it down quickly into the heart of his pinned opponent. He winced, then tried to shut out of his mind whatever face the Collective marine had under his helmet.

Ryan scrambled to his feet with the skill of a practiced wrestler, though he was still inhibited by the weight and construction of his armor. He rushed forward again, his saber whirling to deflect what little blaster fire remained whether due to casualties or the inability to effectively split fire between the Jedi and his squad. A few moments later, a flash of a saber and another dead marine, and all was still.

A roar of a breaching charge from a floor down took Ryan by surprise and he dropped into a fighting stance, unsure for a moment. Tevisa shouted above the din. “DOWN! WE’RE GOING THE KARK DOWN.” Ryan nodded and slammed his saber into the ground, cutting slowly through the floor. As the floor melted away from his saber’s brilliant blue blade, Tevisa slammed her boot down, sending the floor crumbling below. She locked eyes with the surprised Collective marines before opening fire, “SURPRISE!” she shouted in a voice which seemed too angry to be the joke she may have intended. Attacked from above and from the side, the firefight was over in seconds.

Ryan’s eyes whipped around, hyper-vigilant even as the building he was in grew silent. His squad likewise checked angles and corners as he heard the squad the floor below do the same. Tevisa turned to him, clearly hearing something on comms that he could not, as she nodded and mumbled.

“Let’s get the kark out of here, kill every karking Collective we see on the way, go home. and get drunk” she said plainly as if reciting a shopping list. She hardly even seemed out of breath or rattled in the slightest by the fighting. The Jedi wished he could be more like her. He wondered if she ever thought about the killing like he did or if she was made of sterner stuff. Her muscles spoke of someone devoted to her craft and her squad remained in awe of her leadership and her skill. She was the best shot in the squad, one of the best brawlers, and the leader who you knew would always bring you home.

“Yeah…” Ryan said, wincing again as he looked at the corpses “I’ll… I’ll catch up at the cantina once we fly back. I may meditate for a bit first.”

Tevisa could read his tone well. Nothing seemed new to her and she likely had several troopers and Jedi come and go like him. She leaned in close so only he could hear, locking eyes with him: “You take care of yourself, alright? This isn’t something you ever want to get used to. No one ever really does.” The Sergeant gave a slight smile, one of the few smiles he’d ever seen from her.

Ryan and the squad remained alert, hydrating and checking weapons before continuing along the floor to await pickup from supporting forces remaining alert.