[GJW XIV] Plagueis 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.

Phase 2 Primary Theater: Eos City

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: Take up defensive positions in Eos City and repel the Collective’s ground invasion.

SITUATION: Collective forces are landing in the country surrounding Eos City as its Battle Groups approach from above. The Grand Master has ordered Brotherhood forces to vacate the space above the city, leaving it exposed to the Collective fleet but also permitting the city’s own weaponry to fire indiscriminately. Defensive ion cannons and turbolasers are deterring a full invasion for now, giving your Clan just enough time to join the city’s thinly stretched defenders. Your clan will decide whether to expend resources on protecting, evacuating, or conscripting the citizens of Eos but the city must be held.

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The Ascendancy - Bridge
Arx system
38 ABY

Ronovi still remembered Antei.

She remembered the wastelands of Adas. The volcanic bowels of Codei Prison. She remembered decapitating droids and skewering the Jedi serving under Omancor Crask. That was during a war she had participated in almost fifteen years ago, beholden to a clan that no longer existed. Serving a Grand Master who was long since dead.

She also remembered, with a bitter tang lingering on her tongue, the moon of Lyspair, where the Shadow Academy remained.

Ronovi Tavisaen had once been the steward of that Academy. Now Ciara Rothwell Tearnan Tarentae stood at its helm, a woman she respected and had worked closely with during the Tenixir Prison Riots. Ciara had sent a distress signal to all the clans, and many of them had responded. Not only Plagueis, but also Naga Sadow and Scholae Palatinae, as well as, disappointingly, Odan-Urr. Why the Dark Council continued to humor the lighties in this fashion baffled the Dread Lord of the Ascendant Clan, but if they were suitable cannon fodder, then perhaps she ought not to complain.

Still, that did mean that the Shadow Academy was now complacent in training light siders. Ronovi’s subordinates had made it clear to her how they distrusted and even despised what they believed the institution had mutated into. Aleister Mavros, the newest Dreadbringer following the death of Wrathus, had made himself very vocal from his perch on the Instigator. So had high-ranking members of the clan such as Andrelious J. Mimosa-Inahj. They were more than happy to watch the Collective burn down the Academy entirely. However, there were artifacts to obtain, staff to evacuate, and students to rescue. Especially from the Nesolat platform.

Aboard the Plagueian flagship Ascendancy, Ronovi had diligently pored over the reports and transmissions she had received from both the Nesolat’s observation building and from Teebu Nyrrire; the strange little Ewok had been keeping himself busy among the research materials that the Academy’s orbital platform had to offer, and now he was caught up in the carnage caused by the Collective’s Battle Group Elysium. The Dread Lord did not envy Nyrrire’s plight, instead clicking her tongue as she worked with Admiral Cyvaria Ranin to decode whatever encrypted messages had been sent the clan’s way.

“Varick has been attempting to contact you from the Wrath for over an hour now,” announced Captain Owen Serrus, his body hunched over his designated console on the bridge.

“Why? His orders are clear.”

“He still has several reservations regarding Plagueis’s point of attack,” Serrus replied.

Ronovi scoffed. “If TuQ’uan can’t handle one docking tower, then I suggest he choke on his own hat and leave it to the professionals.”

“What should I send back, my Lord?”

Sighing, the Epicanthix popped the bones in her remaining organic wrist, while her cybernetic left arm remained stiff against her hip. Unlike the campaign against the Thuvis Shipyards during the prior war (how many more would she endure in a lifetime? Not enough, she decided), Ronovi had decided to shirk expectations and join the clan’s main boarding party. This meant that TuQ’uan Varick, her Wrath, was assigned the task of creating a naval defense pocket around the platform’s docking towers - sealing the enemy within and preventing others from entering as well. That would give the ground forces - both the Sith of Plagueis and members of the Ascendant Legion - an opportunity to gut the Collective offensive and save the damsels in distress. The Nesolat’s many treasures, of course, would also be reclaimed.

If TuQ’uan was still not in favor of his superior’s plans - most likely finding them too reckless, as usual - then this left the Ascendant Fleet with a major weakness in its structure. Aleister hated the Academy’s new priorities, but he doted upon Ronovi, and he would not go against his former Headmaster’s orders. The new Dread Hand of Tyranus, Liandry, also sufficed as a suitable subordinate, though the old man serving as her Aedile was starting to grate upon Ronovi.

“If you ignore all of our concerns, my Lord,” Gaius Julius Caesar had rasped during the most recent briefing, “then why are we here?”

He knew the answer; he just didn’t like it. They were there to serve the might of Plagueis, and by that same token, they served Ronovi Tavisaen. Ronovi had quickly tired of dissent and bickering, not at all helped by certain Plagueians’ snide remarks about how she had been “overruled” during the previous war. She had unilaterally decided to defend the Nesolat platform. She had determined the proper infiltration and battle strategies with the help of Ranin. She had decided to preserve the platform through all means necessary. And why?

Even a jilted steward can still play the role of steward quite well.

Ronovi allowed herself a small smile. Perhaps Ciara could use a lesson on how to properly do her job. After all, the former Sadowan had rather large boots to fill.

She turned back to Serrus, who had been very patient while awaiting her reply.

“Tell Varick that I expect him at the northern docking tower within the hour. Whirlwind and Tempest Squadrons will back the Wrath up. Then I’ll pop in.”

“Shall I get your transport ready?” asked Serrus.

The Dread Lord’s sneer grew wider. “Start your engines, captain.”

Shadow Academy - Nesolat Station
Observation Building
Same time

Teebu was furious, storming down a corridor of the observation building’s halls with his BB-8 unit “Scooter” right on his heels. It was rare that he ever failed to kill his mark, which then would normally never be a major issue, much less anger him. The issue at hand, however, lay with the fact that he had been blatantly humiliated.

Though he loved to humiliate or even scare others, often finding it like a game to do so, he hated when the tables were turned. Especially by an enemy. His miniature Grand Admiral uniform, usually only worn for non-combat situations, had scorch marks and tears in it from the numerous battles he had already been in thus far. One of the two code cylinders was missing as well. This made him especially irritated, as he spent a lot of credits and time getting his hands on it despite not really being a Grand Admiral. Normally, he preferred to be in his Inquisitor outfit for things like this, but he never expected enemy forces to push into the heart of the Dark Brotherhood’s territory. So there was little he could do about it now.

Just ahead, two Collective troopers rounded the corner with weapons raised as they began firing at the Ewok and droid. Teebu leaped into the air, narrowly dodging two shots that lanced directly below him, as Scooter came up underneath him to catch him and together they sped forward at high speeds with him riding on top.

The troopers continued to fire on the pair, though Scooter had no issues weaving away from the shots. As they closed in, Teebu placed his hands on the hilts of his daggers before backflipping directly between them.

In a swift motion, he arced his daggers outwards and behind him, and the blades passed under the soldiers’ helmets and pierced their necks. The pair suddenly dropped their weapons and grasped their necks in a panic as blood poured outward. Their efforts to stop the bleeding proved futile, however, as the plasma continued to expel from their bodies, both of them falling to the floor as Teebu descended to the ground behind them. He looked back at them with an angry sneer and clicked his daggers back into their sheaths before continuing around the corner.

He was going to get even with that Twi’lek from the Collective, one way or another - regardless of who stood in his way, friend and foe alike. He had shown this ruthlessness earlier already when he breached a glass dome in one of the walkways to kill four Collective Elites that the Twi’lek had dispatched to kill him, having sealed the bulkheads on both sides to trap them.

Unfortunately, this action had cost the lives of at least twenty Shadow Academy personnel and several Force-sensitives, though he could not say from which Clan or hall of the academy they hailed. He did not care; protecting the station from those things was his priority. By blowing up the dome, however, he had trapped himself on the side opposite where the Twi’lek was. And he planned to get back there one way or another, as he was not finished with her yet.

The section ahead had rooms on both sides of the hall, classrooms Teebu had quickly discerned. Inside the first room, Teebu spotted a Academy instructor cowering behind a desk. Upon noting the Imperial uniform, he stood up, relieved.

"A Grand Admiral Ewok?” the instructor gasped. “I almost thought I was a dead ma -”

He was unable to finish that last word. Teebu had thrown one of his daggers across the room and straight into the forehead of the instructor, who fell to the floor like a sack of bricks. Scooter rolled over to him and extended an arm to pull the dagger from his head.

Cowardice, to Teebu, was one of the major unforgivable acts that an ally could exhibit. To him, they were better off to die a honorless death. Besides, his loyalties were with the Dread Lord, Clan Plagueis, and one other most of all. Not to the Brotherhood at large, or to its general membership.

He reached into his tunic and pulled out a comlink, speaking to his droid in Ewokese before holding the comm to the droid and activating it.

“Reached the upper classrooms. Beginning examination and purge procedures of enemy forces.” The droid spoke in a squeaky, comical voice. His voice module had been damaged in the fight with the Elites and would need to be fixed. For now, it was fine. Only officers were hearing it, and he prayed that they were not laughing or snickering, or there would be hell to pay.

He put away the commlink before pulling out a second one, which had been hidden in the hilt of his left dagger.

“Explosives placed in delta and gamma strut areas, structural breach above in Observation Lounge as originally planned though the plan was accelerated. If an enemy breaches one of the archives, or the vault, the entire section will be destroyed to keep them away from it. They will not get a hold of your artifacts, my lord.”

He spoke this in Ewokese, not using his droid to translate this time. He returned the commlink to its hidden compartment in the dagger, not waiting for a reply.

He then left the room. Hopefully, he thought, there would not be much more strong resistance, as he was beginning to tire from the constant battles.

Silent Scream - Bridge
Arx System
Same time

When the Ascendant Fleet had arrived in the Arx System, the battle for the Nesolat platform had already been under way for quite some time. Collective forces had boarded the station, and the ships of Battle Group Elysium had formed a blockade around the platform. It hadn’t taken long, fortunately, for the Dread Lord to formulate her strategy and disseminate orders down the chain of command. While Tavisaen led a boarding party onto the station to begin facilitating the evacuation of personnel and elimination of Collective boarders, the fleet was to begin securing the station’s various docking towers.

Warrior Khryso Mallus once again found himself on the bridge of the Silent Scream as the corvette took point for Task Force Besh to repel the enemy fighter screens. The fighting had already begun: the ship’s viewscreen was filled with tiny indicators marking the positions of enemy ships, as multitudes of turbolaser and laser blasts screeched across the void of space.

“Lord Mallus.” Ensign Puvv turned to Khryso from her position at the comm station, “we’ve just received word from command. Task Force Besh will be moving to support Command Force Aurek as they break the blockade.”

Khryso nodded, glancing over to Captain Ohli, who was seated behind him on the left. “Stay in formation, remain focused on providing cover fire.”

As Captain Ohli took over the more direct command of the Scream, Khryso leaned back in his chair, taking the time to consider the upcoming confrontation. With the support of some of the other Brotherhood Clans that were here, breaking through the blockade probably would not be difficult with the entire Ascendant Fleet at their back. It was entirely possible, however, that once they broke through, the Fleet’s Task Forces would split their efforts to secure the various docking towers. That fight could prove much more taxing.

“They’re intercepting us. Prepare for a fight.”

As the fleet advanced, Khryso gave command of the ship over to Ohli. In this moment, he was at peace with handing over the tactical reins to Ohli. She had proven herself before. The Sith, however, had other valuable ways in which he could contribute. Closing his eyes, Khryso drew himself inward. He could feel the anticipation and the tension reverberating throughout the bridge as the fleet advanced on the blockade. Drawing on that, he pulled himself further into the Force, allowing it to overtake his senses.

Fully immersed in the energy and vitality of the battle, Khryso began to meditate, putting his will into the net he cast out as far as he could. Any heart and mind within range became a bright star in a clear sky. To the untrained eye, the night sky might seem like a random cluster of pinpricks, flickering in and out of luminescence. To Khryso, however, it was so much more. There were patterns, constellations, movements, and an intelligence to all of it. They all moved like clockwork but were barely aware of each other.

That is, until they had someone to chart that path for them. An astronomer who could read the stars and communicate what he saw back to them. With a guiding hand and a clear line of communication, the floodgate was thrown open and it all became clearer. The stars began to exist in harmony and were able to begin pushing towards their common goal. A thousand stars moving in sync in the name of Clan Plagueis.

Thuvis Imperial Shipyard
Lyra System
1 year earlier

“Muse, they’re attempting to flank us.”

“Khryso, hit the lead fighter.”

“I’ll circle around.”

“Andrelious, follow my lead.”

Speeding fighters banking…

Red and green turbolasers pulsating…

A dangerous game of mynock…

No.

NO!

Dominant
Arx System
Current Time

Brim, focus!

Brimstone snapped back out of his daze due to the sudden presence of Khryso enveloping his mind with the Force. The Chiss was remembering his near fatal encounter with Emery Rose, the ace pilot of the Collective. He had never forgiven himself for letting her escape, and it had nearly cost him and his teammates their lives. He had already been chastised by TuQ’uan for his mistake. He also felt responsible for the attempted assassination of the Dread Lord that cost her her arm. He was a proud man who was always cautious of battles and wars, but he was slipping into mistakes that were uncommon for him. Everyone noticed this, and they were not silent in their criticism.

Khryso’s message was clear: He wanted everyone focused on the mission at hand. Brim admired his fellow Chiss; even if he was younger and less attuned in the dark side than he was, he had done his part and earned his respect. The Battlemaster had sent his droid to lock up his ship, knowing he wasn’t going into battle to fly, but instead to participate in the actual defense of the Nesolat Platform. Next to Aliso, the Academy was his second home, a place where he had learned to better himself as a Sith.

He looked around as the other troops of the Clan started following their tasks. Khryso’s voice had inspired the masses, and Brimstone felt a wave of pride washing over them as they prepared for the eradication of the Collective. He checked his RK-3 Blasters for their fuel cells and placed them back in their holsters. Both lightsabers were stored in his armor slots on his legs, ready for deployment if needed. He then walked to one of the shuttles, and as he approached, he recognized a fellow member of his house. Andrelious J. Mimosa-Inahj was walking down the ramp of a Delta-class JV-7 Escort shuttle.

“Need a lift, Brim?” he asked. “At least we’re not flying into a swarm like we did in Lyra, eh?”

Brim felt the sarcasm from Andrelious’ lips like a sharp needle jabbing into his soul. He didn’t know the human as well as others, but perhaps he resented him for that fiasco. “So what’s the name of this fine shuttle of yours?”

“I call her the Tseb’si’tsaerb III.”

“So that means you lost the other two? I hope you ain’t flying it this time.”

“Blame my father. Those were his to lose.”

The two Plagueians both laughed. As they waited for the bay crew to finish fueling and arming the shuttle, Brim wondered who else was going to come along on this escapade.

Cockpit
JV-7 Escort Shuttle Tseb’si’tsaerb III
Docking bay, Vindicator-class Heavy Cruiser Dominant

Andrelious climbed into the pilot seat of the ship that was usually his family’s transportation. The mission ahead, however, called for the ship to be restored to its original configuration to maximise how many passengers it could carry. Andrelious had deliberately designed the modifications he had made to be easily reversible, but it still felt a little off to him to remove the toys that his children typically played with during their voyages around the galaxy. Poppy, Etty and Mostynn were, of course, safe back on Aliso with their grandparents, but Andrelious couldn’t shake the idea of a Collective trick out of his mind - what if the move on Arx was a ploy to draw the Clan fleets away?

“We’re actually launching with a full complement?” Swil Phift asked.

“Did you ever wonder why this ship is always rattling about the galaxy?” Andrelious responded. “It’s designed to have a command crew of six. We’re going to fly her today, Swil, like she was meant to be flown.”

The tall Human raised an eyebrow. “Sir, if I may ask, you seem unusually…chipper today. We’re about to go to war. Again. The Collective are a bigger threat than ever.”

“When we land, you’ll see just how ‘chipper’ I am,” Andrelious explained. “We’re taking the war to these bastards. And we’re going to destroy every last one of them. Not to mention any of those Imperial traitors that are unfortunate enough to get in our way.”

“Aren’t the Principate supposed to be our allies?”

Andrelious stared hard at the floor. “The Dread Lord made her feelings clear a year ago. She backed down in the face of weakness from the rest of her summit. And look what helping the Principate did. Now none of my children have a mother…”

Swil didn’t respond. He had known Andrelious for many years. Once he’d made his mind up, that was that. With the exception of the now deceased Kooki, nobody could get through to him.

“Of course…Ronovi’s proven to be able to see the light, so to speak. After what happened last year, she’s found her backbone again. And I am behind her. How about the rest of you?” Andrelious demanded to know.

A chorus of agreement sounded throughout the shuttle’s small cockpit as Andrelious began the launch sequence. Brimstone was acting as the copilot, whilst the rest of Tseb’si’tsaerb III’s stations were occupied by officers of the Ascendant Fleet.

The shuttle broke through the magnetic containment field of the Dominant’s hangar. Andrelious skillfully steered towards the Nesolat platform, his eyes darting between his sensors and the transparisteel windows of his cockpit.

“Gunners, if anything gets in range, blow them out of the sky.” Andrelious ordered, seeming to enjoy the fact his personal ship was once again being used as a fully stocked military vessel.

The space battle was still very much undecided. Andrelious was forced to test his ship’s manoeuverability to its maximum. He found himself compelled to shoot a couple of enemy fighters down himself with the shuttle’s frontal laser cannons, whilst the gunners operating the rear turret joined the fray with a kill of their own. Eventually, as the shuttle approached the Nesolat platform, the enemy fighters turned their attention to the waves of Iron Navy and allied Clan starfighters still operating in the area.

Andrelious didn’t bother to go through the ritual of gaining landing clearance. He guided his shuttle to the nearest docking tower, setting the ship down as fast as he dared. Climbing to his feet, he patted the two lightsabers that were clipped to his belt.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We’ve touched down. You all have your reasons for being here. Assuming any of us survive, we’ll meet back here,” Mimosa-Inahj announced.

Cheers of agreement rang throughout the shuttle. Andrelious smirked.

It was time to take things to the Collective.

The Dominant - Bridge
Arx system
38 ABY

Liandry looked out into the void of space that was known as the Arx system. For someone who had only recently joined up with the Plagueis organisation, it was quite a surreal feeling. However, this was not the time to be admiring how well she had done so far. She had met a few of the people she needed to know back on Aliso but there still many she hadn’t had the opportunity to meet yet, including the big boss herself. Liandry and Ronovi had talked - that was how she got her job - but the two had never met face to face.

The Pantoran turned to look at the Dominant’s crew. The holovids usually had a big, rousing speech from a military figure before the fighting started. The crew had gathered together, the stage was set, now was the time to perform.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Most of you don’t know me, only that your commanders trust me. I know you signed up to fight wars, and fight a war is what you shall do. But before you do me the honour of showing why you’re the best crew in this whole darn fleet, I want to get real with you. We are not people like the Sith who we serve. We can’t shoot lighting from our fingertips. We can’t move at supernatural speed. We can’t lift rocks with our minds. Yet we are here.

“We are proud, and we play just as important a role in making sure this whole thing doesn’t burn down around them as they do. We are the unrecognised lifeblood that keeps this war machine running and today is no exception. We enter this war because we want to show our strength. Because we are not content with not being recognised.
“We are going to smash this Collective so damn hard that they’re going to wish the Sith were torturing them, and from what I’ve heard, that’s not particularly pleasant, either. I know you can adapt to whatever this enemy throws at you, and you will ascend into greatness. Now get back to work and do me proud.”

Liandry saw the nodding of heads in agreement and felt a different, more amped up energy emanating from the crew. She herself felt a different kind of energy coursing through her body.

“Excuse me, ma’am, we’re being contacted by the Dread Lord. Shall I put her through?” The young comm officer asked Liandry as a newfound pride could be seen in her eyes and the way she held herself.

“Yes, please. I’m sure the Dread Lord heard my rousing speech and is just waiting to compliment me on it,” the Hand of Dread joked before the visage of the Consul of Clan Plagueis appeared before her.

“Dread Lord, what a pleasantly unexpected surprise this is. To what do my crew and I owe this immense honour?” If Liandry had learned one thing in her short time with Plagueis, it was that a little servility went a long way.

The hologram of Ronovi Tavisaen blinked, her face stoic. “As you know, our mission is to relieve the Nesolat from the Collective. I will personally be leading a boarding party to the Headmaster’s office and evacuating Ciara from her post. You will be there. I think someone with your particular set of skills will be crucial to the success of the mission. Julius will also be there.”

“Very well. I shall prepare for departure immediately.”

The Consul’s image disappeared as the call concluded. Liandry placed a datapad in the hands of the Captain and headed off to the secure locker she had brought aboard that contained her equipment. As the Pantoran walked across the bridge, a smile spread across her lips as she saw how determined the Dominant’s crew were. She had done well.

Arriving at her locker, which she’d had brought across before leaving Aliso, Liandry fetched a comlink and attached it to her ear. She then fastened her Sith Sword and a dagger to her waist.

“Jesse, meet me in the hangar. We’re going to work.”

With her faithful droid companion en route, Liandry set off to meet him in the Dominant’s hangar.

Termagant - Hangar Bay
Arx system
38 ABY

Tahiri Thorn Morte Tarentae was no stranger to battle. She had just finished outfitting herself for the battle ahead, after getting the newer soldiers situated. The Battlelord was proud of the new group; she knew that they would serve the Ascendant Clan well.

She could feel the electricity in the air and the anticipation of the fighting, and so could her pet companions. A nervous warble chirp from Keraathol and a growl from Hadzuska brought her back to her surroundings, as the mechanics were doing their final checks and fueling of the Nocte Drakon, her personal retrofitted Star Courier. The large brightly colored hybrid Varactyl stood close to the crate the petite Togruta was sitting upon, sharpening her blacked-out Vibrosword. The black as night Vornskyr sat on his haunches in front of her, as if both creatures were guarding her. Tahiri sensed they knew that she was going into battle and wanted to protect her at all costs.

Feeling the Termagant shudder as it engaged the Collective forces outside, Tahiri felt the edge of a wave of calming, unified energy close by. Before she could figure out who was behind the wave, her wrist comm link dinged at the sound of an incoming transmission. Setting her Vibrosword and whetstone down, she allowed the transmission through.

“Battlelord Tahiri Tarentae, speaking.”

“Tahiri, your ship ready to go yet?” The crisp voice of Ronovi Tavisaen came through loud and clear.

“The techs just finished, my Lord. I’m ready when you are. What is our target?”

“We’re getting the Headmistress, and everyone else we can, evacuated out,” Ronovi replied. “Think you can handle that?”

“Of course. Meet you there.”

“Good. You should have the coordinates.”

The transmission ended as abruptly as it started. Tahiri grabbed her Vibrosword and, using the crate as a jumping point, deftly leapt over the sitting Zuska, sheathing the blade as she landed. Utilizing the Force, Tahiri called the whetstone to her hand, also mentally calling her pets to her side as the Battlelord headed up the ramp.

Termagant - X-wing Hangar Bay
Arx system
The same time

Ro-Tahn Drakon was excited to be helping his sister out again, even if he didn’t fully understand the full who’s and why’s. The Collective, as Tahiri put it; were arrogant scum that destroyed more than they helped, even though their message was one of justice and peace. This war, they claimed, was one that the Dark Jedi Brotherhood had started a long time ago. But that was just lies and propaganda they fed to those who were too weak of mind and will to fully grasp the truth.

Tahiri had told him about the fall of Tarentum, and he was there for a part of the attack on Plagueis through its Asset population. He saw the grief on her face as she recounted her experiences with the Collective, and he had resolved to help her no matter what. Tahiri had almost left him on Aliso, but he had stolen aboard her Star Courier before lifting off.

As he readied a T-70 X-wing Starfighter that had been assigned to him, awaiting the orders to take off and engage the enemy, the taller Togruta smirked as he remembered how mad his sister had been about his deception. He even pictured the moment she spotted him close to the cockpit.

”I told you, Hiri, your enemy is my enemy.”

“You are as stubborn as ever, Ro-Tahn. And I told you not to call me by my nickname.”

His holoproject beeped, and a small blue image appeared, the tiny form of his older sister standing before him.

“I’m heading for the Nesolat Platform. Stay out of trouble, and stay safe, brother.”

“You, too, sister. Go kick some ass out there.”

Brother and sister shared a smile before the hologram disappeared, and the order came through for the Squadrons to take off. Ro-Tahn cracked his knuckles and began the flight sequence.

The Instigator - Bridge
Arx system
38 ABY

“Tavisaen, we’ll leave the evac to you and your team. Opress will do what we do best,” Aleister said to the hologram of the Dread Lord.

A simple nod from his mentor was all he needed. Opening a shipwide channel, he spoke loudly.

“Savages! The stage has been set! It’s time for us to make our galactic debut! So let’s give ‘em a show, eh?”

The crew of the Instigator responded with a raucous cheer and much whooping and hollering. With a confident smirk upon his face, he turned to leave the bridge, speaking over his shoulder as he left.

“Take us in close. Light ‘em up on the way. Then, Whuloc, join us on the platform.”

The human First Helmsman responded with a wave of his hand. In the next moment, the black and yellow ship rocketed forward from its position at the head of the Ascendant Fleet and descended towards the Nesolat in a hail of laser fire and explosions.


The Nesolat - Dormitory Wing
Arx system
38 ABY

The four Collective soldiers stood in front of the emergency docking port. They’d been tasked with guarding the port against any of the Brotherhood scum attempting to flee the platform. Suffice it to say, they were confused when the port registered a ship docking outside. Especially with the entire wing quiet.

They were turning around to face the airlock when the lights cut out and the entire wing was plunged into darkness. Moments later, a female’s cackling laughter filled the blackened airlock as it was illuminated by many bars of colored plasma.

The soldiers grabbed for their weapons but were no match for the speed and reaction time of a team of Force users. Two of them were lifted from the ground by unseen hands around their throats. The other two were flung back by blasts of power and slammed into the nearest wall. They were climbing back to their feet when a half dozen lightsabers made short work of the door. Two swirling blades of red plasma were the first things to fly through the hole, easily cutting down the two soldiers as they tried to regain their footing. The two levitating soldiers died when their throats were remarkably crushed, their bodies crumpling to the floor.

The saberstaff was recovered by its owner: a woman with fiery copper hair and a bemused smile.

“Rhode! One of those was mine!” an Epicanthix in blue armor snarled. He stooped through the hole in the door and came to stand in front of the woman.

“Hehe, you snooze, you lose, Furios,” She responded with a little giggle.

The pair began to argue as the rest of the team stepped into the corridor. Furios glowered at the redhead. “Look here, Rhode. I outrank you, both in the Brotherhood and the Squadron. So if I call dibs on a kill, you better damn well respect my wishes.”

The girl smiled and playfully poked him in the chest. “You remember what Wrathus told us when we joined up, don’t you? Nothing is given. Everything must be earned through combat. If you can’t keep up, that’s not my problem.”

As she turned away, the Warlord stared daggers into the back of her head.

“Oh, really? Nothing is given?” he growled. “Then I assume that you earned all the attention and affection that Mavros always gives you, hmm? I’m sure it has nothing to do with you being the only female member of the squadron, or all those private meetings the two of you have when we’re planetside.”

Taranae rounded on her heels and began approaching the man, twirling the hilt of her saberstaff.

“Listen here, you overrated, half assed di Plagia!” she hissed, the malice behind her words palpable. “Yes, I am the only female here, because I’m the only woman with the stones to keep up with this lot. Yes, the Dreadbringer treats me specially because I am special. And for you to suggest that I got here by anything other than my merit and skills is enough to make one think that you don’t have a genuine interest in living.”

As she spun her saber’s hilt around and was about to activate the blades, hoping to cut the Epicanthix in half, a stern voice split through the air.

“Enough, you two!” Aleister ordered as he stepped into the hallway. "Tara, go check -”

He was unable to finish speaking when the red-headed Nabooite practically skipped up to him, alluringly placed her hand on his semi-exposed chest, and leaned forward, accentuating her backside.

“Aleister! You value me as a member of the team, and not just because I’m a woman, right?” Her entire tone and demeanor had changed.

The leader of Opress Squadron placed a hand on her shoulder. “Of course I do, Taranae,” he cooed. “The Savages are of equal worth to me.” A sly smile broke his normally stoic expression as his hand moved to cup her chin. “I have a plan for each and every one of you.”

Despite what was being said, his tone and actions hinted that there might have been some truth to Furios’s statement. But none of that even occurred to the woman. Something about the way he looked at her…the way he spoke to her…it made her feel like she was in control again. Not since Kelly Mendes had taken off into space with no indication of when she was going to return, had she felt like this. When he released his hold on her chin, she wistfully rubbed the place where their skin touched.

“Now, Tara, go check out the corridor ahead for - "

“Good, I’d hate to have to kill you otherwise,” Taranae giggled, interrupting him again as she started to skip away.

Aleister let out a long sigh. “Furios, check those bodies. See what we can learn.”

He was turning to the rest of the team when they all sensed the presence of something in the ceiling. Five pairs of eyes swiveled up to the air vent and weapons trained in the spot. At the last moment, the Dreadbringer motioned for everyone to stand down as a little Ewok and their droid dropped down into the corridor.

“So nice of you to join us, Teebu.”

The Nesolat - Northern Docking Tower, Hangar Bay
Arx system
Minutes later

With the arrival of multiple clans, the entire cosmos around the Nesolat had turned various shades of new colors, mostly due to shipfire and the flames of new charred skeletons of once pristine fighters. The Collective’s many Lancer-class frigates and Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers were holding their own quite impressively against the onslaught, their Headhunter and X-wing squadrons doing heavy damage despite their smaller numbers. Still, the sheer ratio of Brotherhood to Collective forces was decidedly disproportionate, making it easier than expected for those loyal to the Iron Throne to board the platform itself.

With the Wrath orbiting the northern docking tower, Ronovi had managed to get her shuttle to land in its docking station, where members of her boarding party were awaiting her in the hangar. Whatever Collective grunts remained in the bay were easily dispatched by slugthrower fire from Julius, a blow to the neck from Liandry’s Sith sword, or from a simple slice of either Alaris Jinn’s or Kz’set’s saber. Tahiri let her beasts do some of the dirty work as well.

The party gathered with members of the Willing, a handful of Wraiths, and Ronovi in a corner of the station. Ronovi busied herself with her Royal Guard-bequeathed comlink, which was looped over her ear, and hemmed and hawed as she received information from Ranin, TuQ’uan, and others within the Ascendant Clan.

A tense minute passed, and Kz’set, Tahiri, and Alaris stood guard and kept on the look-out for any soldiers - or worse, those newfangled Hive Mind Marines. At last, Ronovi had a report.

“Aleister and his Savages are deployed near the emergency docking port on the starboard side of the Nesolat.” she explained. “They’ll be handling any artifacts we need to recover and killing anyone in their way. Beyond that, we’ve got Callus leading some Ravagers and Wraiths from the western docking tower - I believe they’re heading toward training centers to ensure that any stranded faculty or students are rescued. Brimstone and Andrelious have landed at the eastern docking tower and are pretty much making mince meat out of any Collective bastards they find.”

“So where does that leave us?” Julius demanded, his voice coming out crosser than perhaps he anticipated.

Ronovi shrugged off his sharp inquiry with a slight wave of her cybernetic hand. “Ciara is our number one priority as a party, but I wouldn’t charge in one awkward mass. I’d recommend splitting up and heading to the Headmistress in at least two smaller groups. Tahiri and Kz’set, you ought to take the port side corridors with Liandry. Alaris and Julius, you’ll stick with me on starboard. I don’t think your elite cane is enough to defend yourself against these marines, old man.”

Julius clicked his tongue but otherwise said nothing. Kz’set hummed quietly, his bulbous eyes always consistently perusing Ronovi’s face as if digging for a deeper meaning behind her expression. Tahiri stroked the head of her Vornskr, Zuska, a low growl emitting from behind its massive, clenched jaws.

And Alaris exhaled loudly, hot air bursting from his blue nostrils, as one of his lekku twitched.

“So are we going to stand around digesting this information?” he asked coolly, his eyes narrowed. “Or are we going to actually get a move on?”

Ronovi was growing accustomed to sneering at her subordinates. Jinn’s return to Plagueis had been a gift to her, not a curse - if anything, it told her that he had conceded defeat to her, after all those years he had been away. She was, after all, the reason he had left the Ascendant Clan in the first place. And now, here he was again, only able to bare his teeth at her and not go in for a bite.

“Ladies and gents,” she announced, her right hand resting comfortably on her hilt, “commence Operation: Rescue the Princess.”

No one verbally commented on her allusion to a certain rebellion. However, Liandry let out a dry chuckle; she did her best to look good in front of the Dread Lord. Tahiri was more receptive; she outwardly giggled, her fingers dancing along her upper lip. She got the joke.

And with that, the boarding party split in half, the mirrored faces of the helmeted Wraiths blank as they marched with their superiors into the corridors and wings of the Nesolat.

The Wrath - Bridge

Arx system

38 ABY

TuQ’uan paced back and forth, his eyes darting between the information displayed on screens across the bridge, the battle raging just outside the viewports and the loyal members of the Ascendant Fleet hard at work to ensure a decisive victory against the Collective once and for all. A sense of uselessness had overcome the weary Kel Dor; he was beginning to feel like he was just getting in the way, and getting sidelined to play babysitter to a very capable crew didn’t help the situation.

The di Plagia had been on thin ice with the Dread Lord for quite some time. He was meant to be a voice of reason among the clan’s summit, but whenever he raised his concerns, they were unilaterally shot down by Ronovi, be it in public or in private. Even now, when every ranking member of the clan had been sent headlong into a battle with the Collective, including the Dread Lord herself, he had raised his concerns. Begged her not to go. Explained that her presence was unnecessary with so many powerful Force users and devoted soldiers already on the attack. Reminded her that the last time Plagueis and the Collective had faced off, she had nearly been torn in two by an explosive.

This had set her off, even more so than his use of the word unnecessary. Not that he thought she was unnecessary in the slightest. It had been a poor choice of words on his part; he really should have described the hulking juggernaut of an Epicanthix as overkill. Her amber eye, tainted from constantly drawing on the dark side of the Force, bore down on him, seething with rage. TuQ’uan shuddered as he remembered the way the scene played out in the briefing room, the way he felt a sudden sense of dread and oppression wash over him. The way he felt like he might collapse under the sheer will of Ronovi’s glare. The way he felt like the breath was about to escape from his lungs and his skull could be crushed by Ronovi without her even lifting a finger. And then it was over as fast as it had started, and the message was clear in TuQ’uan’s mind.

Do not question the Dread Lord’s power.

TuQ’uan caught himself fidgeting with the brim of his hat, anxious from the memory of the encounter. A cheer went up throughout the bridge of the Wrath as a Collective cruiser erupted into flames, shot down by a combination of the talented starfighter pilots within the Ascendant Fleet and the barrage of turbolaser fire unleashed by the Wrath.

Little did these poor people know—or maybe they did and just didn’t care—how the Dread Lord and her loyal subjects were just using them for their own gain. Very few members of the Plagueian hierarchy not gifted with the blessing of the Force were allowed to climb out of the deep dark pit the Dread Lord had placed them in, above their positions at the bottom of the system and into a meaningful role. And even those who did such as himself, the newcomer Liandry or his former second in command Gaius, only held a modicum of power which, in the end, was only actually an illusion offered to them to give hope to others like themselves. Those who were weak in the eyes of their supposed Force wielding comrades.

The Kel Dor let out a deep, mechanical sigh, which was filtered through his antiox mask. He was truly beginning to feel alone out here.

“Sir, an encrypted transmission has come through for you,” a young Lieutenant murmured, sheepishly approaching him with a datapad in hand. He was glad for the distraction from his rumination.

“From whom?” the Kel Dor asked. He had decided to forgo the formalities, as he’d rather talk to the crew of the ship as equals rather than subordinates.

“I’m not sure, Lord Varick. The only thing accessible is a silly phrase, it says, “The Furry Vornskr”. We’re not sure what it means, sir.”

TuQ’uan quickly grabbed the datapad from the Lieutenant and shooed her away. He stared down at the device, mesmerized by the words that appeared on the screen. “The Furry Vornskr”. A memory came flooding back, the memory of the fateful meeting with an old friend that had changed the course of the young mercenary’s life. For better or for worse.

The Nesolat - Dormitory Wing
Arx system
38 ABY

The Sith’s red hair stopped bobbing as she rounded the next corner after being told to scout the corridor. Could she hear a noise ahead? Cautiously, she crept forward. In a crouch, she ran her fingers along the hilt of her saberstaff appreciating its closeness as she advanced. The Nesolat was eerily quiet after Opress had butchered their first enemies except for an extremely odd noise. A rhythmic hiss was emanating from the direction she was turned toward, and her face screwed up in concentration as she tried to remember where she had heard it before.

As she slowly approached the sound, her brain started creating images in her head as to what it could be. Clapping? No. Even clapping wasn’t that uniform. Escaping pressure: gas, perhaps? She couldn’t think of anything on the station that would cause it, unless it was malfunctioning. She knew that everything in this place was kept in pristine condition, but had the Collective damaged anything?

Moving more quickly but still stealthily, Taranae realised that the noise was getting louder. She was close. She stopped, unclipping the saberstaff from her belt, and was ready to ignite it when a notion hit her. Sudden realisation dawned as she found she now knew the origin of the noise. Feet. Lots of feet, marching in time. Sweat started to bead on her brow as she understood what or who was headed her way. If she was correct, she would need all of the Savages to survive this encounter. She couldn’t do this alone, and if that little switch clicked on in her head, she would surely die.

Activating her saber, she stood and turned on her heel in one fluid motion. Her red hair flowed behind her as the juggernaut did what juggernauts didn’t normally do: she ran. She knew her life depended on meeting with her comrades in Opress and facing this threat together. As she ran, she glanced over her shoulder just as a red bolt of energy flashed past her ear.

The corridor swarmed with soldiers - but different ones. Big ones. Dressed in purge trooper armour, they advanced quickly, marching as one. After they had spotted the Plagueian, all had raised their weapons and begun to fire. Taranae noticed one or two taking aim with wrist launchers as she turned again to look ahead. Her senses screaming, she raised her staff and deflected two bolts that were too close for comfort. As she reached the end of the corridor where the Opress squad would be waiting, she dove to the right of the door and pressed herself against the wall.

“Aleister!” she screamed. “You know the Hive Mind…thingies you were talking about?”
She waved her hand in front of her face, seeming dazed. Her mind was beginning to fog up, and her vision was blurring. As her heart raced, she always struggled with her words. She knew it was a sign that very soon, she would be lost to her ghosts. The red mist would settle in front of her eyes, and she wouldn’t remember a thing until it was all over.

Aleister turned as a missile flew from the corridor just as the redhead had emerged and threw herself to the side. It missed and careened across the open space, exploding on the far side of the room. All the rest of Opress squad turned and shielded their faces as the explosion reverberated through the station.

“What did you find, Rhode?” he shouted, after the smoke had dissipated. He knew what she was about to say, but he still wanted to hear it directly.

“Well, it seems to me that the swarm’s headed in this direction!” Taranae hollered as the first of the soldiers burst out of the passageway and turned on her.

Now she regarded them anew. Pale white skin and no hair. They made a frightening sight, but she knew she had help now. She swung her weapon in an arc across her body, attempting to cut across one soldier’s midriff. He leapt out of the way and brought his blaster around, aimed towards her temple. She was shocked at how easily he had avoided her attack and now knew that these were not normal soldiers. She steeled herself and prepared to fight for her life as more of the abominations streamed down the corridor.


The Nesolat - Northern Docking Tower, Hangar Bay
Arx system
38 ABY

For all sixty-three years of his life, Gaius Julius Caesar served others. For the past eleven, he served Plagueis, or at least that’s what he thought. For the first time in his life, he was feeling doubtful. He didn’t doubt his abilities or the abilities of those around him, but he did doubt his Dread Lord.

“My Lord, we can’t sustain these levels of casualties!” Gaius shouted as the old man tended to another pair of allied soldiers. “Please, have Opress lead the way for this rescue!”

Caesar’s hesitant voice fell on deaf ears as Ronovi and Alaris cut down another pair of Collective soldiers on the way toward the turbolift. Together, their movements were a blend of fluid parries and powerful strikes that would easily demolish any opponent. It was almost as if they were enjoying the assault.

“Let’s go, old man! We’re pushing forward!” commanded the Dread Lord.

Caesar looked down at his pair of patients with growing anger. Both Wraiths were unlikely to survive an exfil back to the Ascendancy. Their Dread Lord viewed their lives as expendable. Was this the way she viewed his life, even after his years of dedicated service? He felt no sense of regret as he unholstered his sidearm and rifled off two well-placed shots. Their lives were over, and it was probably for the better. They wouldn’t have to see the downfall of Plagueis.

He hobbled his way forward towards the fighting, only to be ridiculed by Alaris.

“Caesar, you’re much slower than I remember!” mocked the former di Plagia as the trio entered into the repulsor lift.

“You have no room to speak, tail-head!” Caesar lashed out at his former Dread Lord. “Karn would have killed you on sight!”

Ronovi commanded an end to the bickering without saying a word. Her towering presence alone should have been enough, but Ronovi drew upon her connection to the Force in a moment of intense pressure that caused her Aedile to flinch. She turned back briefly towards Alaris, who smiled in pleasure. The Augur remained silent as the lift made its way towards the fourth level.

“My Lord. Please,” the old man begged once more as the lift began to slowly approach the team’s destination. The doors of the turbolift ripped open to the shrieking of nearly a half dozen Shikari Huntresses, their charged arrows flying in a crackling flurry.

Ronovi said nothing. She stared straight ahead, removing her saberstaff from her belt.

Nesolat - Dormitory
Wing

Arx System
38 ABY

Blackhawk was among the first to react after the explosion dissipated. Turning towards the hallway from which his teammate had emerged, the Clawdite sent a stream of lightning down the hallway, staggering several enemies with the attack. In the time it took them to recover, his lightsabers were active, and one of them spun down the hallway in a whirlwind, decapitating one of the troopers before returning to Blackhawk’s hand. The rest of Opress quickly joined in, engaging the enemy forces with no shortage of enthusiasm. Blaster fire was returned, missiles dodged, objects and people thrown, whatever was convenient to deal with the meddlesome Hive Mind troops that were now bearing down on their position.

Blackhawk called upon the Force to blacken the corridor, hoping that it would allow the team to prepare for a quick surprise once the sphere of blackness faded. He positioned himself behind a wall nearby, prepared to cut down anyone who advanced into the docking port. He slashed upward, removing a hand from the first soldier who came through. His second attack would have cut it in half, but Blackhawk’s hand was grabbed before he was able to. The newly one handed Marine quickly stepped in and pinned the Marauder’s hand to the wall, hitting him in the face with the stump where his hand once was. The former Tarenti dropped his lightsabers, momentarily stunned at the force of the blow. He managed to partially dodge the second blow. The third punch was met by a knuckle plate vibroblade, which drove Blackhawk’s elbow against the wall. He twisted the blade as his opponent brought the stump back for another blow before retracting the blade. As blood began to trickle from the wound, Blackhawk smiled devilishly.

“Gotcha.”

The Clawdite fired a burst of lightning. His opponent spasmed and released him. A second burst of lightning quickly followed. Then a third. A fourth. The soldier stumbled and writhed with each zap of electricity. Then, Blackhawk lifted his enemy with the Force, pinning him to the ceiling. He drew his blaster, pointed it at the now immobile soldier, and fired. The corpse fell to the floor with a heavy thud. With that, Blackhawk advanced to assist the rest of the Savages fighting their way down the corridor.

Though he was normally all about business, Kz’set couldn’t help but glance repeatedly at the vornskr that was moving just ahead of Tahiri. He had always been a bit nervous around animals, but this one was messing with him more than usual. He’d been making an effort to avoid saying something, but eventually, he couldn’t help it and whispered to Tahiri:

“He…won’t bite me, will he?”

Tahiri had to stifle a full-on laugh, but a giggle still snuck out.

“Zuska only bites who I tell him to bite,” she explained. “Besides, I don’t think vornskrs like insects.”

“Precisely my concern,” Kz’set whispered in response.

The vornksr shot the Verpine a menacing glance. At almost the same time, another nasty look came down the corridor from Liandry who was scouting ahead a few meters. Kz’set and Tahiri immediately got the message and went quiet, but Tahiri still had an amused look on her face. When Liandry reached where the corridor turned to head towards the lift, she held up a hand, and Tahiri and Kz’set stopped in their tracks. Liandry then expertly glanced down the corridor towards the lift. She silently raised four fingers and pointed down the corridor. She then made a motion as if she were pulling a bow. Kz’set and Tahiri both nodded in recognition.

Collective huntresses.

Kz’set and Tahiri looked silently at each other for a moment before Kz’set took a step forward and nodded and advanced. Once he reached the corner, the Verpine quickly located the huntresses and snapped an orb of blackness between them. Kz’set then quickly drew and activated his lightsaber and charged in, Tahiri close behind. For a moment, the corridor was a swirl of red and orange. Four huntresses and a couple of straggling Partisans were no match for the two Plagueians and were quickly dispatched. When they were done, Liandry and the vornskr were looking on in a disappointed silence. Kz’set seemed confused at the creature’s reaction.

“Was he hungry?” He looked at the vornskr. “He didn’t look hungry.”

Tahiri patted the vornskr on the head. “Plenty more food, I’d expect. And we should leave Liandry one next time, too.”

The Pantoran just glared as she moved to call the lift. “I’m fine, thanks.”

Kz’set didn’t know what to say to that, and neither did Tahiri. A moment later, the lift arrived and they all piled in whilst maintaining the rather awkward silence. It seemed that no one wanted to bring up the fact that Liandry hadn’t mentioned the Partisans in the corridor. It didn’t really matter, but it was rather odd. The ride up to the fourth floor was quick and, thankfully, there was no more Collective to meet them when they arrived. Kz’set looked around a moment and then shrugged.

“Figured Tavisaen would have been here by now.”

Tahiri shrugged as well. “She must be having her own fun, then.”

The Nesolat - Dormitory Wing
Arx system
38 ABY

Fenrir watched as the Hive Mind Marines streamed into the corridor with relish. Now there would be a hunt. Now there would be a bloodbath. Now he could finally settle his bloodlust and fight worthy foes.

He had heard from his master, TuQ’uan, to be careful of Hive Mind soldiers, that they were the pinnacle of elite troopers. Fear never ate at Fenrir then, only the desire to match might against might with these worthy foes.

He watched them enter the corridor, and the Savages began fighting them. Some of his teammates were already going head to head with them. Fenrir started striding towards the foes. He focused on the Dark Side, and used it to lift one Hive Mind trooper who had just noticed the huge Shistavanen through the smoke of battle.

This unfortunate trooper was unceremoniously lifted up with a telekinetic grip, and dashed him like a puppet against his fellow Marines. Fenrir used the body as a weapon, used him to confuse and destabilize his allies, even knocking a few off their feet. He was pretty sure he even accidentally knocked the overly muscular Marine into a fellow Savage, but he didn’t care.

Fenrir strode across the skirmish zone, pushing, pulling, scratching, and biting anyone who kept near him. Using the Force, as well as his naturally impressive agility for one of his size, he tried to keep away from danger. Suddenly, someone fired several bolts at him. Fenrir reacted in time, yet he was grazed by the bolts: one caught him on the side of his right ear, the other hit his left shoulder. That infuriated him, and his eyes nearly blazed red with rage.

He started sprinting all over the corridor. He tore off hands from their wrists with his teeth , scarred faces with his bloodthirsty claws. Someone was yelling a battle cry, while others grunted as they fired blasters and attempted to pierce the Marines’ armor. Some swung their lightsabers in whirls of many-hued colors. There were explosions and bursts of flame. There were blood-curdling screams and piteous moans.

All these sights and sounds greeted the monstrous Fenrir as he was causing devastation across the area, killing, hunting, and slaughtering. When the battle came to a pause, he was seen chewing on a decapitated head and pawing a detached cyborg arm. The Marines were strong, but Opress was stronger.

Nesolat Platform
Administrative Building, Fourth Floor
Arx System

The Huntresses’ arrows pierced only durasteel as the forward two Plagueians seemed to defy all logic, every shaft either missing their target or being deflected into oblivion. Gaius may have felt his trust of the two “Foxtrot Uniforms” wane, but he was glad not to have searing plasma tearing through his body. He quickly returned fire into the Collective assassins, though the flashing movements of Alaris and Ronovi made hitting his targets less than ideal. He stayed in the turbolift, using it for cover.

The Twi’lek moved in quickly and deftly, paying more attention to not being hit than actually doing much attacking, but when he finally did make his strike it was swift and decisive. A slight tap with his off-hand made his first opponent lose balance entirely, as if he could see the precise point to remove equilibrium. Her skull was removed just as quickly.

The Epicanthix was much less choosy about her attacks. She spun her staff with a rage never seen in a Sith. Two Huntresses dropped their bows knowing they would be less than ideal in close combat. They stepped back quickly, trying to give their backline sisters time to get a few more shots off before engaging the massive woman. Their tactics may have worked if they were facing only Alaris Jinn, but Ronovi Tavisaen was much less subtle. She was pure violence.

A saberstaff had many flaws, such as a predictability of follow-up attacks, and it had a lesser range of motion because the user’s body could get in the way. This didn’t matter when it was in Ronovi’s capable hands. The remaining front line Huntresses began swinging their stun batons, but they both ended up flying harmlessly into the wall as the bodies propelling them suddenly ceased providing any energy, momentum, or grip. They were corpses before hitting the ground.

Ronovi recoiled suddenly, as if she had been stung in the neck by a small, but potent, insect. She shook it off and dove toward the last three foes. Alaris flanked her with speed, an orbital satellite, defending the planet of a woman. He ran two steps along the wall and slashed violently at the left remaining Huntress. She stumbled backward a few steps, firing a bolt as she tripped over herself.

The bolt skimmed Ronovi’s skull which startled her. I should have felt that coming, she thought to herself. She shook the thought away as fast as it arrived and engaged further. She refused to allow two minor inconveniences to bother her any further. Alaris was forcing one of the three back further and further allowing Ronovi to focus on the other two.

Ronovi spun the staff in a flurry, used more to intimidate than any functional use, and swung at the now baton-armed Shakari. They deftly moved back from range and moved in unison to flank the giant. It barely mattered. The Dread Lord twisted her massive frame and with a heavy slice, cleaved the first Huntress through. Before she had the chance to deliver the same fate to the final Huntress, a bolt of electricity shot through her, driving the woman to her knees. She tremorred involuntarily and collapsed on her side.

Why? Why am I barely seeing these coming?

She didn’t even have the opportunity to contemplate what could come next when a face fell in front of her, bleeding profusely from the skull. The Shakari’s lifeless eyes looked to Ronovi as if she were staring into the Epicanthnix’s soul.

The Dread Lord stood as the effects of the stun baton died down and looked over at the old man wiping blood off his cane.

“You mocked it, but it saved your life,” he remarked with a hint of humor. He looked curiously at her neck and then pulled a small piece of metal from it.

“It appears,” he said slowly, “as if you’ve been shot.”

“Me, too.” Alaris had joined them from dispatching the last of the Huntresses, and he tossed an identical dart to Ronovi. “I got it out quickly, but no doubt Collective toxins move quicker.”

Ronovi took the dart from Caesar and threw both to the ground next to her would-be assassin. “No matter. We’re here, and the Headmaster is there.”

She started toward Ciara’s office. The trio stepped over the dead or mostly dead bodies of the Huntresses and through the front administration offices of the Shadow Academy before reaching the Headmaster’s office. They heard the screams of a woman from the other side.

Alaris and Ronovi reignited their sabers and burst into the room ready to slaughter whatever was there. They quickly realized they didn’t need to. In her glory, Ciara Tearnan Rothwell Tarantae stood over a Huntress, purple tendrils of dark side energy seemed to slowly melt out of the Huntress into Ciara’s fiery amber eyes. As the last of the life was pulled from the now sunken face of the poor Shakari assassin, Ciara exhaled and then looked over at the three Plagueians who between them showed shock, excitement, and humor.

“Is this a rescue attempt?”

The Nesolat - Dormitory Wing
Arx system
38 ABY

A cry of anger followed Zuser as he shoulder checked a Marine, shoving them back before the mad pilot’s green lightsaber stabbed into a soft spot in the armor, dropping the Marine where it stood. Ripping the blade of plasma out of the armored corpse, Zuser stepped back and wiped his mouth with the back of his left hand before being forced to deflect more blaster fire.

“We can’t keep this up forever!” he snapped. “Anyone have any bright ideas?!”

Aleister grunted dismissively as he sidestepped another ball of superheated red plasma before responding.

“We need to make a tactical retreat,” he said. “Lure them somewhere else. Staying here isn’t conducive.”

Zuser blinked, remembering seeing a training room near their drop location during the briefing.

‘Rhode! I need a thermal!”

The redhead threw a small round object in his direction. He caught it in midair and thumbed the activation button.

“Savages! I have an idea! Follow me on my mark!” Zuser shouted.

“You heard him! Follow the pilot!” cried Teebu, bobbing along on his BB-8 unit.

Aleister barked his support as Blackhawk cast more Force generated lighting at the Marines. Their armor crackled from the electricity, their own bodies temporarily stunned by the assault.

With a grunt, the young human tossed the thermal detonator into the gaggle of Marines.

“This way!” he called out. “Now!”

Three…two…one.

Zuser turned and darted through the rest of the Savages, turning sharply down a corridor to lead his team to a training room as an explosion engulfed the hallway they had just been occupying with the Marines.

It was a beautiful explosion indeed.

Nesolat Platform - Hangar Bay
Northern Docking Station
38 ABY

Ciara had not needed any help defending her post, yet it was imperative that the Headmistress be removed from the Nesolat as soon as possible. She proved to be a tremendous asset to Ronovi and the others as they reboarded the turbolift and departed from the administrative deck.

Tahiri, Liandry, and Kz’set’s team had done wonders, providing back-up as needed and doing a hell of a number on the remaining Shikari Huntresses. As Ronovi’s section of the boarding party led Ciara to the docking tower, the Dread Lord’s comlink was all abuzz. There was plenty of news to be distributed amidst the Ascendant Clan:

“Observation deck is monitored and defended by Callus Bo’amar’s team…”

“Mimosa-Inahj and Brimstone have been slaughtering all Collective forces they can find. Bit messy, but effective…”

“The Praetor to the Headmistress has been leading Taldryan forces in the administrative building. Should we tell Erinyes we got her boss, or…?”

“Tyranus soldiers are eliminating Partisans and targeting Academy vaults, seeking out relics. Opress is keeping Marines at bay…”

Ronovi ignored most of the noise bursting from the device still hooked onto her ear. Instead, she worked with Alaris and the Headmistress to quickly dispatch any remaining Collective resistance. Once the docking tower was fully under the Brotherhood’s control, she focused on the shuttle she had arrived in, which would take both Ciara and her back to the Ascendancy. From there, she would reconnect the Headmistress with the Grand Master and ensure that the Shadow Academy’s artifacts be preserved. Which inevitably brought her to her next series of orders.

“Julius,” the Dread Lord grunted, “I want you to join Liandry, Kz’set, and Tahiri and ensure that all Shadow Academy staff is evacuated as soon as possible. The Termagant and the Dominant should have plenty of room for these ‘refugees.’ Check in with Aleister and begin a clean ‘excavation’ of all notable items belonging to the Brotherhood. We are far from done here.”

Alaris crinkled his nose. “I’ll join you on the Ascendancy, if you don’t mind,” he requested. “I have some wounds to tend to in your prestigious medbay.”

Ronovi cautiously eyed the Twi’lek, though she told herself that he would not cross her; whether or not her hubris would betray said preconception remained uncertain. “Very well. You’ll board the shuttle with me.”

This comment seemed to set the old Tyranus Aedile off, and he glowered at his superior. “You ought to be fighting alongside us here, if you’re going to force us to remain on this wretched platform.”

“I need to check in on Plagueis’s naval offense and ensure that Ciara is safe,” retorted Ronovi. “I think you can handle a treasure hunt.”

“I resent you acting like my protector,” teased Ciara, grinning. “I’m a big girl.”

Julius said nothing. Ronovi did not make an effort to interrogate or prod him. Her mind was grinding along a single track, and she was intent on following it. She silently instructed Ciara and Alaris to board her shuttle with her, and as its doors slid shut, she paid no mind to Caesar’s lingering stare. If he had something to say, he would have surely said it by now. Unless he had another strategy in mind.

Within the orbit of the Nesolat, the Collective fleets were pulling away. Plagueis would decimate the enemy soon enough.

Or so they thought.

As the Plagueis transport zipped away from the docking tower, a strange sight could be seen from its viewing portals. Alaris, Ronovi, and Ciara watched in bewilderment as the administrative and observation sections of the Nesolat broke off from the rest of the platform, like they had simply been unhooked from their moorings. The loose “piece” spiraled downward toward Arx until it was nothing but a speck in the stratosphere.

“I…didn’t tell anyone to do that,” murmured Ciara, furrowing her brow.

“Then who did?” demanded Alaris.

He was almost immediately answered by an incoming transmission from the shuttle pilot’s console. Ronovi stormed over to the cockpit.

“Patch it in.”

Cyvaria Ranin’s voice was calm, yet full of agency.

“My Lord. We’ve received word that Deputy Grand Master Taelyan has led Collective forces to Arx’s surface via the Nesolat’s administrative deck. The rest of the platform is in a decaying orbit, and we’re not sure how long it’ll stay viable for sentient lifeforms. Grand Master Cantor wants Plagueis to focus on Eos City now. Your orders?”

Ronovi said nothing. Not even Taelyan’s betrayal fazed her. Her goal had been, admittedly, to show off to Ciara and the Shadow Academy. To collect artifacts. To prove herself as the better steward after all. It was petty now, in retrospect. And currently, multiple Plagueians were still on the Nesolat, stranded unless they found a way back to their transports. Several others had also been in the administrative or observation buildings at the time of their ejection. Their fates were far from certain.

But the Dread Lord had a fleet to maintain. And a clan, overall, to preserve. Some were expendable. That was the way.

“Begin a full withdrawal,” Ronovi ordered. “Our job now is to defend Arx. Send a transmission out telling all Plagueians to leave the Nesolat with whatever they have.”

“My Lord…”

“We don’t have time to save everyone and everything,” snapped Ronovi. “Pull back. Now.

She could already see the gaping maw of the Ascendancy’s hangar bay in the distance. Ronovi Tavisaen would assume the role of a naval admiral again. It was time to move from offense to defense.

Silent Scream - Bridge
Arx System
38 ABY

Everything had been operating smoothly thus far, each gear in the operation freshly oiled and turning in time. Clan Plagueis, along with its Brotherhood allies, had successfully infiltrated the Nesolat and assisted in the evacuation of the facility’s personnel and valuable curios. Meanwhile, the Ascendant Fleet had surrounded and secured the station’s docking towers, locking down travel in and out of the Nesolat’s many hangars. When word spread down the chain of command that the Headmaster had been secured, Khryso Mallus expected that the operation would soon be coming to an end. The Collective was being pushed onto their backfoot, at least in this particular front, and was slowly being brought to heel.

What the Sith didn’t anticipate was a reversal: the Collective had several aces up their sleeve that they began to play with impunity. The Nesolat’s Administrative and Observation platforms separated from the rest of the platform and began their descent to Arx, which by itself might seem benign. However, Arx’s planetary shield was rendered inert not long after as a massive collection of Collective reinforcements dropped out of Hyperspace nearby.

The atmosphere on the bridge of the Silent Scream almost immediately grew more anxious, but the Plagueian officers knew how to hold their composure. The sudden shift in tide threatened to destroy their operation, but it didn’t take long for new orders to come in from command. With the Nesolat quickly becoming crippled and most of their work there done, the Clan was effecting a retreat from the station immediately. The newly arrived Collective fleet was sending the bulk of its forces to Arx’s surface and Plagueis would be reinforcing Eos City’s defenses.

“Keep our sensors trained on the space surrounding the docking towers,” Khryso quickly ordered. “Keep enemy fighters away from any of our ships that leave the station.”

They were beginning to pull away from the Nesolat, but Khryso didn’t want the Collective forces that remained in nearby space to take advantage of the maneuver and start shooting down retreating Plagueian shuttles. The Clan’s forces had been ordered to extricate themselves from the station, so in a matter of moments, a cluster of transports should be leaving the Nesolat’s hangars.

Even as Task Force Besh regrouped with the rest of the Ascendant Fleet, the Silent Scream continued to monitor the Plagueian ships that began to emerge from the docking towers. As Khryso predicted, Collective forces were taking advantage of the shifting battle lines and began to press their attack on the ships leaving the Nesolat. Although the bulk of the Collective fleet was focused on Arx, it seemed they remained intent on eliminating Brotherhood forces wherever they were found.

Without proper cover from the Ascendant Fleet, which was moving to defend Eos City and largely abandoning the Nesolat per the Dread Lord’s orders, the Plagueian retreat was messy. The Silent Scream, as well as some of the fleet’s other capital ships that were still in range, continually provided cover, but there were still a few losses. Of course, the Plagueian retreat was not bereft of talented pilots who were more than capable of defending themselves despite the adverse odds. The majority of transports were able to make it past the initial Collective killbox and into the safety of the turbolaser screens and fighter support provided by Task Force Besh.

As Khryso monitored the situation, he was thankful that the reported losses were absent of recognizable names. Higher ranking officers and Force Users reunited with the fleet without much issue. That being said, as the stream of vessels evacuating the docking towers came to a stop, the space station’s own trajectory as well as the Ascendant Fleet’s retreat slowly drew the hangars out of defensible range.

As the evacuees reported in, there were still a few missing names. There were Plaguieans who had been stranded on the sections of the Nesolat that had made landfall or perhaps had simply lagged behind too slowly to keep up with the quickly ordered evacuation. They would have to fend for themselves.

As for the Silent Scream, however, the approach to Arx and a new battle required Khryso’s attention. He had spent much of the previous battle in meditation, bolstering the effectiveness of those he could reach, but his batteries had yet to fully recharge for another round. For this clash with the Collective, he intended to take direct command of the Silent Scream. With a new objective presented to them, the crew had once again found their focus, and they were ready to do their duty.