[GJW XIV] Taldryan Run-On

Bridge, Command Deck
Dreadnaught-class Collective a70 Heavy Cruiser Thala
In Hyperspace

The planet Arx. The seat of power of the Dark Brotherhood following the loss of the Antei System, it was the real target. The biggest fish they could fry, figuratively speaking. Their own forces were already nearly unstoppable, but if Arx fell, it would deal a catastrophic and crippling blow to those wretched Force Users. Better yet, this war against their kind and supporters would almost be at an end, with the power returning to the real people of the galaxy.

Through Passion, I Gain Strength.

The captain of the custom-built, mostly-automated Collective a70 Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruiser Thala stood at the helm of his vessel’s command deck with his eyes nearly glossed over. The blue streaks of travel through hyperspace blazed past his view and the cruiser itself as he stood with his arms crossed behind his back, with a rigid and firm stance. A staunch man with years of military service under his belt, Captain Ken’ick was one of the first men to enlist with Rath Oligard’s forces. Ken’ick was a true believer of Oligard’s vision of a galaxy free from the influence of the Force, wishing death to the cosmic power.

If Ken’icks own family had not been murdered due to the campaigns of the Brotherhood - like the Collective’s leader - then perhaps the slightly above middle-aged man would not be in his current position, with his thoughts focused only on vengeance. Yet here he was, leading a Collective Battlegroup to assault the Brotherhood’s homeworld. Their crown jewel of power.

“Sir,” began a nondescript officer that wore traditional officer’s attire for a member of the Liberation Front, the main fighting force behind The Collective. “We’re approaching the Arx System now. We’ll be arriving in the next few minutes, and have no doubt triggered their early-warning defenses.”

“Very well then,” Captain Ken’ick turned his head to the right to peer back over his shoulder, nodding, “Bring up all fleet defenses, focus power on the front deflector shields and prime our weapons to fire the moment we leave hyperspace.”

The officer saluted before taking his leave of his captain’s presence.

Conference Room C-09, Corridor CL-2
Deck 3, Mattock Station
Planet Arx, Arx System

“A promising proposal. A very promising proposal indeed,” stated the head Severian representative as he rubbed his chin in thought. Several representatives from both parties, the Severian Principate and Arx Capital Exchange - sometimes known as ACE - were seated at the large and lavish conference room table. Each group had a small protective detail situated both in and outside the room, but neither hoped to need them.

Though the Severian representative was distracted with the proposition made by the opposing delegates, one of his guards was not, and a small flash caught the corner of his eyesight. “Hmm?” the guard mused to himself quietly. Curious as a Togorian cub, he positioned himself closer to the room’s smaller viewport and gazed through the transparisteel glass to view the pitch black space and a portion of the planet below. Unfortunately, that was not all that was present outside the window. A sizable fleet of unknown origin appeared through the slightly reflective glass. The guard’s eyes went wide, and he turned to face the rest of those gathered.

“We’re under attack!”

Zxyl took three armored steps forward as the door to the room directly across the hall from Conference Room C-09 slid open, ignoring the Principate and ACE security as he tapped the control panel directly adjacent to the conference room door. With a quick woosh, that door slid open as well, to reveal both negotiating parties beginning to turn frantic. Neither delegation had signed up for an attack from an outside force, let alone in their current location. The assembled group turned to gaze upon the new entrant, already fearful for what may come through the door.

The almost-menacing appearance of the newest Taldrya’s gun-metal grey Mandalorian armor and non-traditional helmet gave them slight pause, but they relaxed when they realized he meant no harm. The half-breed’s helmeted head turned to face the visiting party once he’d seen the incoming forces through the viewport. Already, smaller rumbles - most likely from explosions - began to vibrate the room as the Collective’s fleet began its assault on Mattock Station.

Immediately after they had reverted to realspace and deployed their forces in full, one of the enemy force’s Dreadnaught-class vessels targeted the engines of a Dark Council-affiliated Vindicator-class Cruiser undergoing a retrofit, causing catastrophic damage to the vessel within seconds. The triangle-shape cruiser exploded in its dry-dock berth. The blast rocked the nearby portions of the station, blowing holes in the side and shattering transparisteel windows in the vicinity. The dry-dock itself was completely annihilated, and debris from both it and the Vindicator drifted slowly downward, towards Arx’s planetary shield.

“To the center of the station, if you want to survive this day,” Zxyl Venzos Taldrya declared to the group still gathered before him inside Conference Room C-09, before raising his right arm and tapping on the black and red viewscreen present on his vambrace. Taldryan had an interest in protecting this station as well, and now it wouldn’t be long before they joined the fray, too.

Through Power, I Gain Victory.

Main Hangar
Victory-class Star Destroyer Bastion

For the first time in a very long time, Erinyes climbed into the cockpit of a Brotherhood-flagged starfighter.

It wasn’t where she wanted to be, really; if the Taldryan Consul had had her way, she’d be in the thick of the battle she knew was coming aboard Mattock Station, hewing through scores of Collective troops with her lightsaber. Then she’d spent the trip to the Arx System listening to the Clan’s top military leaders insisting that her job was to oversee the entire battle. Erinyes had, in turn, informed them in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t spend the entire battle stuck on the Bastion’s bridge.

The argument had gone back and forth until one officer suggested that, with the Secutor-class Star Destroyer that carried most of Taldryan’s starfighter corps out of action, maybe the Consul could take the field in one of Tempest Squadron’s spare TIE/D Defenders? It would at least let her get in on the fight, the brave soul had reasoned, while both ensuring Erinyes had a high-level view of the battle and reinforcing Taldryan’s depleted fighter forces.

It was a compromise solution, and like any good compromise, it left everybody angry—but it also let them get on with tackling the real issue. Taldryan’s Summit and their military advisors (minus Zxyl, of course) had spent the rest of the hyperspace voyage working out the best plan they could. The Clan’s naval forces were no match for the firepower of an entire Collective battle group, especially with the Resurgent in drydock. The Severian Principate’s fleet was en route, but it was up to Taldryan to keep Mattock Station’s shields online until then.

Luckily, Taldryan had plenty of its own soldiers to bring. Rian, Vodo, and Appius would take to the field with the battle-hardened Dark Fire Brigade, supported by the elite Typhojem and Derriphan assault battalions and the skittish Sephi spy and assassin, Dasha. Two squadrons of TIE/D Defenders, Tempest Squadron and the Summit Guard’s Hyperion Flight—with Erinyes flying as Hellcat One—would escort the strike team to Mattock Station.

Meanwhile, Battle-Team Tavros had volunteered to capture a hostile capital ship and using it to wreak havoc among the enemy forces. Based on the scans Zxyl had been able to provide, the Collective Dreadnaught Durga was the most viable target. One of Ektrosis’ members, a recently-arrived Battlemaster named Meleu, had volunteered to join Ankira, Aylin, and Zentru’la in their assault while Bale and the Z-95 Headhunters of Helos Squadron flew escort for Zentru’la’s Upsilon-class command shuttle. If all went well, Aylin would be able to use her slicing expertise and the Collective’s reliance on automation to steal the Dreadnaught right out from under their noses, then inflict as much damage as possible before the Collective had to destroy the Durga in self-defence.

A wicked smile crossed Erinyes’ face at the thought of the Collective reducing one of their own capital ships to scrap. Battle Group Scargill, the task force assaulting Mattock Station, was the same one that had stood by to invade Taldryan’s home system while the Collective tried to turn its government against the Clan. That incident might not have erupted into open war, but as far as Erinyes was concerned, this battle was very much a grudge match.

Two minutes to realspace reversion. Stand by to open bay doors.” The notice reverberated through Erinyes’ helmet speakers and pulled her back into the Defender’s cockpit. After a moment of staring dumbly at the fighter’s controls, the gears of her memory began to turn, and she worked through the rest of her pre-flight checks. Then a gentle wave of inertia marked the Bastion’s arrival in the Arx System, and klaxons sounded throughout the hangar as the doors began to retract. As the abyss revealed itself, Erinyes saw needle-thin spikes of green and orange erupt from gunmetal blurs trailed by ion-blue streaks. The forms of half a dozen Collective Dreadnaughts were easier to make out as they spewed fiery bolts at Mattock Station and Taldryan’s own flagship, the nigh-defenceless Resurgent.

Hyp’rion Flight, stand by for launch.” Erinyes allowed herself a chuckle when she heard how the flight controller shortened the squadron’s name. In the chaos of battle, there was no time for extra syllables. “Hellcat One, stand by for launch. Three, two, one… launch!

The force of the Defender’s acceleration pushed Erinyes back in her seat for a split-second, but abated as the craft emerged from the artificial gravity within the Bastion’s hangar, and her sensor board immediately lit up with green and red dots. A quick glance at another readout confirmed that the Collective was fond of Republic snubfighters. That was fine by Erinyes; plenty of those had died to TIE Defenders over the years.

Within a few breaths of chemical-tinged atmosphere, a swarm of Collective fighters had turned away from Mattock Station, ion trails collapsing into blue-white auras around them. A moment later, a familiar voice came over the comm: Andan Taldrya Marshall, leader of Hyperion Flight and overall commander of Taldryan’s starfighter forces in this engagement. “Fighter wing, engage the pointers on approach and keep ‘em off the transports. Stay away from the cap ships until our cruisers take down the Lancers.”

Erinyes spared a glance as Andan and the rest of Hyperion Flight peeled off from the rest of Taldryan’s fighters and dove toward the nearest frigate, then brought her Defender into formation with Tempest Squadron. The “pointers”—Imperial pilot’s slang for X-wings—were close enough now that she could make out the shapes of the fighters’ hulls through the engine glow. A yellow indicator started blinking on her HUD, signalling that one of the Collective pilots was trying to acquire a missile lock.

We’ll see about that, Erinyes thought. Throwing the Defender into a roll, she lined her targeting reticle up with the offending X-wing’s cockpit and squeezed the trigger.

ACE Shipyards
Arx System

Helos squadron broke out of hyperspace as the Taldryan forces traded first shots with the invaders. The sea of Collective capital ships swarming Mattock Station, the fireworks of turbolasers, the outnumbered Brotherhood forces—it was a dire sight, carrying with it a sense of déjà vu for Bale. The memories of Battle Group Scargill’s recent offensive in the Caelus system flashed in his mind and he could not help but wonder if perhaps it had all been a practice run. No matter, he thought. Whatever this was, he welcomed it.

He was more than ready for round two.

“You’re grinning.” The whining voice belonged to his Rodian co-pilot, Etho Pavi, or Onecup, as Bale had taken to calling him on account of his intolerance to alcohol.

“And you look like you forgot your coonies back home, kid. Get ready.”

Onecup left the cockpit with a nod, a nervousness to his step. Bale didn’t blame him. This was his first space battle, afterall, and this one was a doozy. The kid was a real Jedi with ships and electronics, but he’d never been in a real fight. In fact, he’d never been offworld until Bale found him. You could run all the simulations you wanted—and this Rodian ran a whole lot of them—but nothing prepared you for the all-too-real chance of death, or the insurmountable odds they were now facing. The truth was that fear never truly left you. You just learned to cope with it. Bale just hoped that Onecup would survive long enough to learn that precious lesson.

As battle erupted and swarms of Collective fighters rushed the Brotherhood defense, Bale veered the Nomad towards the melee. The Aggressor-class Assault Fighter cut through the night sky, his squadron of orange Z-95 headhunters in tight formation behind him. It wasn’t a pretty sight by any stretch but then, that was not the point. No, the point was for them to draw the eye away from the pitch-black Upsilon-class shuttle flying right smack in the middle of their formation. Any sentry would have trouble catching sight of the Harbinger amidst a flock of flashy old starfighters and Bale hoped the shuttle’s state of the art tactical jammer would keep the Collective’s automated defense from spotting it in such tight formation. They dove as one into the fray, pouring through the oncoming wave of enemy fighters. Then they did the exact opposite of the other Taldryan starfighter forces and beelined for the capital ships, Lancer and all. Any commander worth his salt would have known that was a suicidal move, and Bale wondered for a moment as they drew closer if perhaps this was a mistake. It wasn’t long before they were swimming neck deep in bad guy, a rain of turbolaser hammering their shields. As another wave of fighters came at them, Bale kicked the ship to full thrusters then activated the comm.

“Onecup?” he asked.

“Copy,” the Rodian responded.

“Like we practiced. Disengage in three, two…”

The Nomad appeared to come apart mid-flight, splitting in two beneath the ship’s forward pincers. The top part, the assault fighter, swerved up with Bale onboard whooping and gunning, while Onecup and the Pathfinder tore away from the hard dock with a roll, belching turbolasers at oncoming Collective fighters. Together the two ships exploded through the ball of fire that were their enemies. Helos squadron fanned out besides forming a blade ready to cut a swathe through the enemy forces.

Soon, the announcement came. Erinyes said over the clan-wide frequency, “Mattock station is clear for launch. Transports are a go. Let’s get these people off the station. Protect the transports.”

That’s our cue.

Harbinger, do you copy?” Bale said after flipping the comm frequency.

“Shure thing, boshman!” A female voice broke through the speaker with an overeager slur. Bale grinned. The Harbinger’s pilot at her finest. “One secon—”

“We hear you,” General Zen’trula’s no-nonsense baritone interrupted the pilot.

“Got the word. Ready, old man?” asked Bale.


“All wings report in,” Bale demanded over the squadron-wide channel.

The reports came through one by one. “Helos Two, standing by.”

“Helos Nine, standing by,” confirmed another. Others followed.

“Hold tight!” All surviving ships accounted for, Bale brought the Nomad swerving in a tight arc. The squadron veered straight for the Durga, the Dreadnaught filling up the entirety of the Nomad’s cockpit window. Bale let out a whistle. “Alright, boys and girls. We’re going all in. We gotta make them think we mean business.”

Turns out they didn’t have to do all that much to get their attention. The barrage of cannon fire that greeted them told Bale the enemy was taking them seriously. Too seriously. Helos squadron took serious damage. Three of them were blown to smithereens mere moments into the engagement. Several shots rocked the Nomad tearing away at its shields. The onslaught was so intense that even the Harbinger was forced into defensive maneuvers. Onecup and the Pathfinder seemed to have the easiest time of all despite the ship’s poor maneuvering capabilities. The boy was good.

One head-on hit shorted the Nomad’s shields. Bale let out a long hiss through grinding teeth. He squirmed in his seat, suddenly feeling terribly hot. The beads of sweat rolling down the back of his neck felt terribly cold by comparison. He couldn’t take many more hits before he was carbonized.

“We need to pull out!” Onecup screamed through the comm, his voice terribly shrill.

“Almost there,” Bale said.

A turbolaser tore through a Z-95 as it cut across Bale’s vision. Bale swore.

There was a crack of thunder that rocked the Nomad and a great big shadow swept over Bale. The Spear, the battle team’s Marauder-class corvette, dropped out of hyperspace above the Durga with impeccable timing, firing a volley into the Durga’s flank. All fire turned for the corvette. Just as Zentru’la had planned.

“Helos, fall back! Your turn, old man!”

Upsilon-class Shuttle Harbinger

A lot had changed in the last year for General Zentru’la – once a Scholae war hero, now a hired gun for Taldryan. From supporting his daughter, to avenging her death. From commanding imperial legions, to a private military company. The Harbinger’s engines screeched over the cacophony of the erupting battle outside: the staccato rhythm of dogfights and the base tones of capital ships bringing their main guns to bear. Everything had changed, but war? War never changed. The one constant in Zentru’la’s life – the one thing he truly understood.

The colossal mountain of a twi’lek fastened and secured his armour, Beskar plate with an Imperial aesthetic that covered him head to toe, as the ship swayed and tumbled like a leaf in a hurricane. Zentru’la locked and loaded his weapons, a powerful heavy repeating cannon and a grenade launcher. The plan was relatively simple. Board the dreadnaught Durga, blast everyone in sight, get Aylin Sajark to engineering so she can take over the ship’s controls and turn it against The Collective.

“One minute ‘til boarding!” shouted a slurred, female voice from the cockpit as the Harbinger lurched into a sharp banked turn, avoiding a volley of turbolaser fire from an enemy Dreadnaught and towards the Durga.

“How much has she been drinking this time?” questioned another heavily armoured figure, Ankira, wearing Manadalorian armour with that iconic T shaped visor and carrying a pair of blaster pistols.

“I’m only on my fourth!” shouted Rohla.

“Hah, those are rookie numbers,” Meleu Karthdo was unfamiliar to Zentru’la, a human Sith Battlemaster carrying a lightsaber and a sword. Zentru’la had spent long enough fighting alongside Force-users to appreciate the value of a lightsaber on the battlefield.

“Major Trugaim is currently consuming her sixth beverage,” said a synthetic voice within the walls as the ship suddenly launched into a full loop, avoiding more fire and shooting a warhead back at the Dreadnaught.

“That’s less than last time she gave me a lift,” laughed Aylin with her infectious smile as the ship exited its loop and carried on back towards the Durga. One of Zentru’la’s few real friends, he once considered the young Nautolan slicer simply insane until he learned the value of her boundless creativity.

For as terrifying as the drunken pilot could be for unfamiliar passengers, she generally got to where she needed to be without too many near-death experiences. “Get ready for combat,” Zentru’la growled as the Harbinger entered the hangar bay of the Durga. Zentru’la got to his feet and raised his rifle while the ship spun 180-degrees to land facing the hangar exit. The spin gave everyone a view of the Collective troops assembled to intercept the Taldryan boarding party.

To his left, Ankira stood ready with a pistol in each hand. To his right, Meleu’s crimson lightsaber exploded into life with the characteristic snap-hiss. He could feel the rage emanating from the Sith behind him, Aylin loaded her anti-armour rifle. No plan the General could possibly have come up with would have survived first contact without degrading into chaos. “CHARGE!” he simply roared as the boarding ramp lowered.

Meleu all but flew out of the ship with inhuman athleticism. The hangar bay erupted into violence. His aggressive approach landed him right in the thick of the action in mere seconds. “Lightsaber!” shouted one of the defenders. There was a moment of panic. The Collective forces immediately turned towards the Sith. It was rare Zentru’la missed a shot at the best of times. With the attention divided between the Harbinger and Meleu, it was even easier. A series of precise shots from Zentru’la’s heavy repeater and Ankira’s pistols thinned the numbers of the Collective troops, preventing Meleu from becoming overwhelmed.

Alarms blared out across the Durga. “Boarders in the hangar bay!” shouted a voice from every corner. “All hands to the hangar bay!”

Reinforcements arrived as Meleu dispatched the last of the first wave. The bipedal scout walker barely even fit through the blast door as it shambled into the hangar, firing continuously at the team. Zentru’la executed a roll to evade a powerful blast from the mech, raising his weapon to return fire… but there was no need. An explosion from underneath the walker sent its legs flying in opposite directions, and the cockpit unceremoniously crumpling to the ground. Aylin smiled. Time bombs were fun when you got the timing right.

Zentru’la raised a hand signal towards his ship. The Harbinger rejoined the battle in space as the team advanced into the ship, towards engineering.

Upsilon-class Shuttle Karufr Knight

The Collective were certainly ambitious; Vodo had to give them that, at the very least. Yet he knew the power of the Force would prevail. The Dark Side’s tendrils stretched galaxy-wide, especially in the Brotherhood’s domain, and he knew they would succeed.

The man glanced towards his companions for this little endeavour. He had the utmost respect for his fellow Taldrya and having the former Consul nearby was a great asset to the mission. Rian was certainly more than capable. The other two, however, he was uncertain of. His new Aedile’s loyalty had yet to be tested and not to mention It was a strange situation having his predecessor as his new subordinate. Appius Wight had left the Brotherhood out of the blue, abandoned his duties as Quaestor, only to return weeks later as Vodo’s Aedile. Needless to say, he needed to prove himself if he had any hope of getting on his good side.

Then there was Dasha, or ‘Jala’ as she preferred to be called. He’d done his background research on her. Orphaned child, horribly distrustful of men in general and yet she seemed oddly attached to his Aedile. Likely because he recruited her during his brief tenure as leader of Ektrosis and was now her master. Why someone gifted with the Force would bother wasting their time training someone without was a mystery to Vodo.

The Warlord walked over to a com-panel, pressed several buttons and began to speak, making sure to not take his eyes off his Aedile. “To all Taldryan forces, this is Vodo Biask Taldrya.”

“Today we head to battle—not for the first time, but also not for the last time. I expect every one of you to do your utmost, to do your duty. Duty to the Clan above all else. A brotherhood within a Brotherhood. I am reminded of an ancient general of the Sith Empire. Bethus Julius Korbulo was amongst the Emperor’s most loyal warriors but one day he ran afoul of his Lord. Ordered to take his own life he is recorded to have said, ‘Axios!’. I am worthy.

“Duty above all else. Korbulo died for his master, proving his worth, and I expect many of you will die today as well—but you will do so for Taldryan. Axios.”

Vodo took his fingers off the com-panel, his gaze never wandering away from the Mandalorian that was his Aedile.

“Well, seems like we’d best get ready!” Rian said jovially, rising from his seat and stretching his limbs. “Rousing speech as always, Vodo.”

“You’re welcome.”

The response was cold and uncaring, deep in tone. Rian shrugged as the Quaestor never looked him in the eye and proceeded to the back of the ship. Appius and Dasha were set to follow, until the Mandalorian’s pathway was blocked by the half-mechanical Twi’lek.

“A word, Appius.”

The female Sephi’s ears twitched and she paused, realising the Aedile wasn’t following her. Though turning around, she managed to catch him giving her a slight nod to go on without him. Reluctantly, she left the two of them alone.

“Is there a problem?” Appius asked.

“That depends on you, doesn’t it?” responded the Twi’lek. The two stared each other down, neither willing to back away. “I don’t know why it is you left in the first place, and I don’t care. What I do care about is your loyalty to Taldryan, loyalty to Ektrosis, and your willingness to see this through.”

Appius was about to interject until Vodo cut him off.

“I’m not done. Second chances are rare. The summit has given you one under me, but heed my warning. If I even so much as feel you hesitate in the slightest, the Collective will be the least of your problems,” He finished, allowing the threat to sink into his fellow Sorcerer’s mind. “Am I clear?”

“Crystal.” Appius forced the word out of his mouth.

“Good, then come. We have preparations to make before we land.”

Mattock Station

The hangar bay was supposed to be secure, impenetrable, no reinforcements in sight, at least not for a good while. Truthfully, their arrival was much sooner than expected and caught them completely off guard.

The moment the Karufr Knight landed in the hangar, several TIE/D Defender flights joined them. The ramp to the Upsilon-Class Shuttle lowered first, revealing both the Ektrosis Quaestor and Aedile.

“Shoot them!”

“Kill them!”

“Don’t let them through!”

The very first thing Vodo did was fling some poor fool across the hangar with the Force like he was a ragdoll. In response, the Mandalorian Force user summoned the darkness within him to lance a streak of lightning at the opposing troops like a javelin, frying the first individual it touched and killing him in seconds.

Immediately blaster fire rang out in response to the hostility, and members of the Typhojem and Derriphan battalions responded, engaging the enemy in front of the House leaders and drawing their attention away from them with tried and true BlasTech E-11 blaster rifles in hand. Rian and Dasha joined the two Sorcerers as soon as blaster fire commenced.

“What in the frack!?” Dasha suddenly blurted out, unaccustomed to this kind of battle.

The Elder Juggernaut placed his hands on his lightsabers, he ignited them and joined the fray to defend his Taldryanite brothers and sisters. He deflected several blaster bolts back to their Collective attackers, killing several in the process.

“Rian.” Vodo said, gaining the Elder’s attention.

“I know,” replied the Juggernaut. He sheathed his weapons. They had a plan in place, and he knew it was time to execute it. They flanked around the sides of the conflict whilst the enemy’s attention was off them. it was time to go find their Proconsul.

If he was even still alive.

The Tavros team quickly advanced through the Dreadnaught. Any resistance they found were either quickly cut down on or riddled with blaster fire. When they finally got to engineering Aylin had the task of first opening the heavy blast doors that they had closed to keep the invaders out.

Plugging her spikes into the system, Aylin quickly started to work on the door’s security systems. As she was working the pressure on the others to keep her safe increased with each reinforcement that arrived at their location.

“We can’t hold them off all day, Aylin,” Zentru’la urged her.

“I’m doing my best!” Aylin said as she ducked from a stray shot coming her way, “Seems they updated their systems since last time, though.”

As Aylin kept slicing away, Ankira, Zentru’la and Meleu kept fighting off the reinforcements. Meleu was often a blur with a streak of red weaving between the incoming guards while Zentru’la and Ankira released salvoes of blaster fire at them.

“Yes! I’m in!” Aylin yelled above the blaster noise and the door that hissed open.

Pulling the spikes out of the controls, she tossed a flash grenade inside as shots started to pour out the room.

Ankira quickly followed inside after the grenade exploded and took out the few people inside within quick succession. “Clear!” she shouted and the rest quickly followed inside.

Aylin hurried over to the larger consoles and stretched her fingers, a big grin starting on her lips as she started to type away at the console and plugged her spikes into the system again.

The others closed the doors and set up a defensive line. Zentru’la glanced towards Aylin and saw the determined grin on her face and the furious typing on the keyboards and panels.

“Will she be able to get control of the ship?” Meleu asked.

“I’m sure she will, she knows her way about computer systems more than anything,” Ankira replied. Even though she didn’t know her that long, she had seen more than once what she was capable of.

Aylin kept frantically typing away at the station, a few mutters and Nautolan curses escaped her lips more than once, but finally she had the ship in control.

With a wide grin she looked to the others. “First mate reporting for duty, sir captain Zentru’la. Where do you want this baddy to go?”

“Do you have control of everything?” Zentru’la asked as he turned towards her.

“Of course… except the living things. Droids and the likes can be used as well by me.”

“Turn those against the crew of the ship and undock it, we are going to join the party.”

“Right away,” Aylin said with a chuckle and typed away again.

“And that is why I don’t trust droids,” Ankira muttered as she heard panic erupt from the other side of the doors.

“When in position, open all cannons at the other dreadnaughts,” Zentru’la ordered.

Giggling, Aylin cheerfully replied, “One large firework coming up.”

Typing away, the cannons turned towards the other dreadnaughts and one huge fire salvo erupted from theirs, hitting the closest one full in the flank of the dreadnaught.

Corridor BC-2, Deck 2
Mattock Station

Zxyl leaned his armored form around the corner of the Arx Capital Exchange space station’s corridor, firing three shots in rapid succession from the Dur-24 Wrist Laser built into his left vambrace. The vambrace’s main offensive weapon sent crimson bolts of superheated plasma careening down the hallway at flank speed, with the Proconsul of Taldryan quickly flipping back around the corner for cover… A split second after the final blast left his wrist, Venzos flipped back around the corner. The newest Taldrya was seeing immense resistance inside Mattock Station as he and the Principate representatives slowly inched their way throughout the shipyard.

The group was pinned down, stuck in an access corridor with no-where to go. Both sides of the hallway they were currently in had collapsed due to intense physical damage, leaving only a small nook and corner for the Mandalorian and members of the Principate to shield themselves with. Nearly all of the Severian Principate representatives’ own accompanying security forces had been wiped out, eliminated by the Collective forces swarming the station. The ones who were still alive were getting more and more frightened about the grim reality of their own fate.

Once blaster fire had been returned down at the end of their corridor, Zxyl leaned out again to fire off a couple more shots from his Mandalorian vambrace. He loved these multi-function weapons. As he did so a bolt of plasma fired from the enemy combatants grazed the body glove of his left bicep below the shoulder pauldron, creating a cauterized channel of burnt flesh that crossed his arm horizontally. His nervous system immediately sent flashes of pain up from the wound into his brain, the tendons and nerves in Venzos’ bicep spasming as another level of adrenaline kicked in and his teeth clamped together hard.

“Ack!” the Mercenary cringed as the channel where his flesh had once been smoked slightly. He still managed to let off a couple shots, swiftly twisting back around the corner to avoid any more incoming fire his way. Immediately after, a small group of Liberation Front soldiers began to push forward down the corridor - soles clanking against the metal floor of Mattock Station.

“Zxyl, come in,” requested Vodo Biask Taldrya over the comm-channel, “We’re nearing your position, but there’s heavy resistance between us. Is there a way for you to move away from your current position?” The Mandalorian looked down at his right vambrace for a moment, before shaking his head at the current situation.

“No,” replied the Mandalorian as he tapped on the screen of his right vambrace, activating the microphone on his comlink, “They have us pinned in a corridor, with no way out except through them.”

“Very well,” came Vodo’s cold voice over the earpiece, “Then we go through them. On the count of three, we’ll all flank them.” Zxyl nodded to himself, and reached down to remove his custom crossguard lightsaber Valyr from his left hip. Placing his right hand on the upper portion of the grip and left on the lower, he waited patiently as the more elder Taldrya began his countdown.

The footsteps continued to get louder as the armored Zabrak-Human half-breed prepared to step out. Once the word three filled his earpiece, the Mandalorian gripped his spoonbender weapon tight to trip the pressure sensor in the hilt and activate the brilliant sun-yellow blade. With a double snap-hiss the weapon burst to life, the main unstable blade activating a split second before the two crossguards. Venzos brought the weapon above his head before stepping clear of the corner’s safe enclosure and out into the open, swinging it back down directly towards a Collective soldier.

The poor soul who was first in the advancing party lost an arm, screaming out in pain momentarily before that was silenced from the loss of his head. Two of the Principate’s remaining three guards stepped out with the Proconsul, having grown a set in this do-or-die moment. Blaster fire erupted on both ends of the corridor as the Ektrosian combatants advanced on their position, the group’s lightsabers swinging wildly and cutting through the Collective forces between them. The Mandalorian pushed forward, even with his injured arm tingling and searing at the damaged bicep.

As the Principate representatives cowered behind the safety of the corner, it did not take long for the Collective force centered between Zxyl’s group and the Ektrosian search party to be dispatched now that they were being flanked on either side, many going down with a brilliant show of fight. The two guards that had stepped out into the conflict with Venzos didn’t make it, removed from the plane of the living by Collective blaster fire.

The Corsair and Aedile of Ektrosis, Appius Wight, reached the final target at the same time. The two nodded at each other from either side, the Collective soldier realizing his time was at an end. As both of their lightsabers pierced the body of the final combatant he was rendered limp, slumping sideways to the floor like a sack of stones.

The reunited group of Taldryanites relaxed for a moment, before the Severian entourage exited their hole of safety and proceeded over.

“Our forces are en -route and will be here soon,” stated the head representative matter-of-factly. There was a hint of annoyance in his voice, as if the Brotherhood forces were somehow in immense fault over the appearance of The Collective at Arx. Not that they weren’t.

“Oh, so you’re good then?” Zxyl asked sarcastically, pointing a thumb over his shoulder “You won’t mind if we just peace out then, would you?” As the members of the Principate struggled to form coherent words in a response, Zxyl shook his head and raised his hand to quiet them.

“Lets go,” he sighed, just wishing to be rid of these useless hams of flesh. Moments later, the newly formed group of both Taldryanites and Principatriots took off for hangar bay area towards the Karufr Knight.

ACE Shipyards
Arx System

“On your left!”

The Nomad banked right in time for Onecup and the Pathfinder to cut through oncoming enemies, lighting up the sky with a string of explosions. It looked like those simulations had paid off alright. The Rodian was truly coming into his own as a pilot. Bale sunk back in his seat, puffing his cheeks and blowing out. This had to be the fifth time the kid saved his backside in this skirmish. He reckoned he’d never hear the end of it.

They weren’t out of the woods just yet. The Spear, Tavros’ Marauder-class flagship, had been taking heavy fire since coming out of hyperspace and guiding Zentru’la and his team to the Durga. Helos Squadron was down to half-strength and the Nomad had taken more than its share of hits. In fact, his backend was smoking like a Gamorrean steam bath.

Bale flipped the comms and contacted Erinyes.

“Andros here, we gotta pull out or we’re pfassked, boss,” he announced, ashamed of the sudden squeak in his usual gravitas.

There was no immediate response. By the amount of explosions and turbolasers filling the sky over Arx, he didn’t blame her. If she wasn’t already a carbonized smear on the galactic background, she was fighting not to become one. Just like he was. He hoped she was faring better.

He switched the comms back to squadron frequency and announced, “Onecup, bring her around. Helos, on me. Sandflies on the Bantha. Spear, begin away maneuvers. We’re done here.”

Helos Squadron and Onecup came up on the Nomad and they swerved as one, gunning down the enemy resistance. One of his guys went up in flames, and another lost his thrusters and ended his flight against the Spear’s hull. Onecup took a glancing hit, then another, then whipped out of a third shot’s trajectory, nearly colliding with a Helos Z-95. Bale hissed under his breath.

Something caught the corner of his eye, the flare of engines leaving one of the Collective frigates. He craned in his seat. There was definitely something out there and it didn’t look like starfighters. He punched a command into the Nomad’s computers and brought the radar up on screen.


“Onecup, are you seeing this?” he asked.

“What’s that, boss?” The Rodian sounded confused.

“Transports, starboard side.”

“Copy. I see them. Looks like they’re heading for—”

“The Durga.

Shiess,” Onecup answered, echoing his thoughts.

Bale punched the dashboard, then kicked it. Then he called the ground team.

“Alright, Zen. We’ve got troop transports heading your way. We are moving to intercept,” he announced. He was half-surprised by his own words. If they didn’t get out of there now, they likely weren’t leaving. “Better ready yourselves.”

“Copy that, Andros. Thanks for the heads up,” answered Zentru’la’s controlled baritone. The man never lost his cool, no matter the circumstance. Bale didn’t know if he liked that or if it annoyed the ever living milk out of him. He reckoned it was probably both.

He turned his attention to the task at hand. “Spear continue away maneuvers but don’t jump yet. Helos, we have a new target. Onecup, dock with the Spear.

“Not a chance,” was the Rodian’s response.

A big, toothy grin split the Zabrak’s face. Guess the kid didn’t forget his coonies after all! He didn’t like the thought of Onecup getting blown up, but then the boy was his own master. “You’re choice, kid.”

There were six enemy transports on intercept trajectory with the Durga, with a full squadron of fighters running point. The odds weren’t good for Helos, but then, when were they ever? Bale, for his part, did what he did best: he ran headfirst into the fray guns blazing and yelling obscenities at the enemy. His squadron did the same. It was like flying into a flock of birds, except the birds were shooting back. He held the yoke white-knuckle tight, dodged left and right as turbolasers grazed the Nomad. He swung again and this time rammed one of the oncoming fighters, the Nomad’s reinforced hull tearing through the weaker ship like a wrecking ball.

Bale burst through the escort, his guns trained directly on the front transport. He flicked a switch then slammed his hand down on the away button. A missile shot out of the Nomad’s retrofitted launcher. It struck the enemy ship head on, which belched black smoke and spun off course right into the trajectory of an Helos fighter. Both ships disintegrated on impact. Onecup shot past the Nomad cannons blazing. Despite the VCX starfighter’s lesser agility, the Rodian kid managed to take out the second ship’s propulsors. Helos fighters finished the job.

They destroyed a third ship before everything went sideways and the enemy escort came back around. This time they were ready. They shredded through Helos Squadron like a Sith did through soldiers in a hallway. They didn’t stand a blasted chance. The Nomad took another hit, shuddered and Bale braced himself. It didn’t blow up. That’s a relief, he thought.

“Head for the Spear! Head for the Spear!” he shouted again and again.

What remained of Helos Squadron veered away from the fight, Bale and Onecup in tow. They flew for the Spear, thrusters blazing, but the enemy wasn’t done with them. The Marauder-class warship’s cover fire did little to dissuade the Collective. When the Nomad finally landed inside the ship’s hangar bay, there were only four of them left.

“Alright folks. We make for the Bulwark. Regroup. Resupply. This battle is just beginning. Let’s get ready for round two.”

None of this sat well with him, not with his folks still on the Durga but he reckoned he didn’t have much of a choice.

“Good luck, old man. Be safe.”

Pfassk, I need a drink.

Mattock Station

During the fight pincering the Collective, Jala spotted an access a control panel nearby and sought to see about slicing through the system to see about any and all updates to the Mattock Station, but failed to do more than get an updated map of the station onto her datapad and a table of where various ships are currently docked.

As the team escorted the representatives through the halls, the stunted Sephi continued to trot near the rear. She shrugged off some concerned looks as the representatives seemed to pass gazes down at her smaller size.

Soon, they could see the closed hangar doors to their exfiltration point when a disconcerting fizzle was heard and the station shook violently beneath their feet. Everyone glanced out a nearby hangar bay window from their hallway to match screams to an inferno and the shadow of Collective Dreadnaughts just beyond it.

Vodo swore under his breath, looking none too pleased, while Zxyl turned to “reassure” the representatives who were starting to make a small bit of a ruckus about “professionalism”. Appius on the other hand, turned to Jala to ask, “We’ll be right here, can you find another-” He stopped as he saw that she had already started trotting off, her nose in her datapad with a map of the station up. The only hint that he had of her hearing him was one of her slender ears twitching towards him.

** A short time later… **

The Sephi’s ears flicked about as she made turns through the hallways, picking out the safer routes as she headed towards another hangar bay. Occasionally, she ducked into rooms and doors and locked them while waiting for patrols to pass, not knowing if they were friendly or hostile.

Left turn, right turn, right turn, left turn. Some non-combative workers in a hurry to protect their own lives sometimes passed by but paid no attention to the child-like figure with a cloak; after all, the Sephi seemed more like an older child trying to run to safety.

She neared another hangar bay where another Taldryan transport was supposed to be and peeked through the corner of a window to find a Collective transport ship on their way in through the bay doors while the Taldryan transport was sitting closed surrounded by a large swarm of enemy soldiers.

Jala’s ears pinned, unsure if it was a good idea to guide the others here as the next hangar bay was a large distance away. Just to be sure, she stayed to the lower corner of one large window and started tapping away at her datapad, noting down numbers, types, and other information of all the enemies she spotted.

She grimaced as she did a last overall count. Not even a trap by the hangar bay door would help. Then, she spotted an in-station vehicle that would definitely speed up travel; so she dashed off to the next hangar bay. A thought crossed her mind, “Could I stall them long enough for us to reach the other hangar bay?”

Carefully, she hurried over to the bay door connecting the ships to the station and found it unguarded… for now. The Collective must’ve just landed and were preparing to set out. With her tools, she tried to slice into the control panel to lock the door by initializing the airlock breach protocols.

Alarms went off as large shutters closed over the windows. No doubt the station closed itself off from the hangar bay due to safety concerns via protocols. Seeing as it was fine for now, she started running off to check the next transport.

At the next hangar bay, it seemed unaffected by combat for now. The transport ship seemed to be perfectly fine and the Collective seemed to be nowhere in sight. Breathing heavily, she whipped out her Advanced scanner and continued cautiously around the perimeter to find that the bay and nearby area had been evacuated.

And as she hoped… There was a larger version of the in-station vehicles sitting right there with the keys in the ignition. It wouldn’t take long for there to be dents and scratch marks on both walls and the vehicle… actually less than 3 turns. The only thing people within earshot would hear would be a lot of metal-on-metal screeching sounds that quickly were hidden amongst the battles both in and out of the station.

** Meanwhile… **

While Jala was away, the team stood attentively at the location when most of the team sensed a group of people coming their way. Vodo summarized his orders to the veterans, prompting each to move into action. Rian ushered the representatives behind cover while Vodo, Appius, and Zxyl prepared for battle.

A group of Collective Fanatics had found them; one stayed back to call for reinforcements while the others began their approach. If it weren’t for needing to stay on the defensive, the fight wouldn’t even have been a contest. Soon other scouts began to show from adjacent hallways — most of whom met the same fate, intimidating the remaining lesser trained soldiers, who soon ran for their lives.

With a slight lull in the battle as confusion and panic in their enemies set in, Vodo looked around to make sure his team was alright and the representatives unharmed. His attention quickly went back to his surroundings as the group heard the banging and screeching of metal starting to get closer. That was when a grin appeared on the corner of Appius’ lips.

For an unfortunate couple of the fleeing stragglers, a battered in-station taxi was screaming down the hall. They flew back into view of the team before one was road-killed underneath during the vehicle’s drift and the other was crushed as the vehicle side-slammed a wall of the station. The driver seemed invisible, but then a familiar voice said, “I found one!”

Dreadnaught-class Collective a70 Heavy Cruiser Durga

“Excellent work Aylin,” Zentru’la acknowledged as the Durga launched another broadside attack against its former allies, orchestrated by the staccato rhythm of Aylin’s fingertips on the terminal. “But it won’t take them long to work out what’s going on, everyone, defensive positions.”

Zentru’la lifted his blaster support off his back, taking a low firing position behind Aylin. Beside him, Ankira stood ready with her twin pistols trained on the open blast door, and Meleu stood relaxed, his crimson blade ignited and ready for combat.

“Fifteen seconds,” the General growled with grim determination, training his sights on the door.

“How do you know that?” Ankira questioned.

Zentru’la tapped his helmet. “Motion detector.” He gestured with his giant armoured hand. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. “Suppressive fire!” A barrage of firepower was unleashed at the blast door. Zentru’la’s cannon launched a continuous stream of high power rounds, Ankira’s twin blasters covered every angle not covered by the twi’lek’s cannon, and for good measure, Meleu’s lightsaber curved in a smooth arc, outside the door and back again, spinning violently and cutting everyone that got in its way before returning to its master’s hand.

“Reloading!” shouted Ankira, as she emptied another two clips.

“We can’t hold here forever!” shouted Zentru’la as he two needed a rare moment to reload.

The break in fire allowed Collective assault troops to funnel in, but their shots only landed glancing blows on Zentru’la, whose powerful armour was up to the challenge. Meleu launched into action as they breached the door, slicing up the remainder of the wave of troops before they could take aim at Aylin.

As the last troop fell to the ground, the world suddenly lurched to one side. Zentru’la could barely hold his balance. “What happened?”

“I’ve set the autopilot to ram one of the other dreadnaughts!” Aylin smiled. “We probably shouldn’t be here when it does.”

There was a moment of silence while everyone digested that Aylin just plotted the ship they were on to crash. “Rohla! Come in for evac! ASAP!” Zentru’la shouted down the commlink. “No! No more drinks! Now!”

Meleu led the charge back towards the hangar. It would be a race against time to get back there before the Durga finished it’s self-destruct course.

Mattock Station

The air around them had quickly become dense with blaster fire from Collective Partisans swarming in on their position. To their own detriment, the zealots seemed to be completely ignorant of the fact that the magical weapons of the spoonbenders could not only be used offensively. Towering in front of the Principate representatives, Rian let his lightsabers weave intricate patterns through the air, sending bolt after bolt back at the Collective soldiers. In the meantime, those Collective soldiers daring enough to engage the Taldryan group head-on, hoping to overwhelm them through sheer numbers, soon found themselves within reach of the blazing blades of the four other Taldryanites.

Just when another wave of Partisans burst around the corner with their blaster rifles spitting superheated plasma, the sound of their weapons was drowned by the sound of metal screeching against metal growing nearer. For a brief moment, everyone—Taldryanites and Partisans alike—stopped in their tracks, trying to determine where the sickening sound had come from.

The question was solved when a battered skiff came around a corner, mowing down an unlucky Partisan and making the hovering vehicle wobble as it raced over his form. When it came to a skittering halt in front of the Taldryanites, the pointy-eared head of Jala poked out from behind the vehicle’s controls, calling out happily: “I found one!”

Rian chuckled, lowering his blades. “Well done, Jala. Okay everyone, that’s our ride. Everyone aboard.”

Hesitantly, the representatives left their cover and sat down onto the center of the skiff while the Taldryanites all took the seats on the outside—except Zakai, who sat at the helm beside Jala. “I hope you don’t mind me taking over controls from now on.”

Jala moved over, and Zakai turned the vehicle to face the direction it had come from. She had to admire the skills of the young hybrid as he raced the vehicle through the corridors without even scraping a single wall on their way back.

Coming around the last junction before their new exfiltration point, they could already see that the Collective had moved more troops to take over Mattock Station, and were currently deploying cyborg shocktroopers from a recently arrived transport ship. Suddenly, the speeder was hit by an explosion, and immediately the vehicle tipped to one side. Zakai tried fighting the momentum, but the vehicle went into an uncontrollable skid until it crashed into a nearby wall.

Shaken but unharmed, the group left the vehicle and found itself in front of a group of Collective soldiers advancing to their position at the edge of the hangar bay.

“Looks like we will have to fight our way out,” Vodo grunted.

“Indeed. Jala and Zxyl, take the representatives and Zakai and try to sneak into the transport. The rest of us will go straight for the Collective,” Rian ordered, the irresistible feeling of motivation emanating from him as the Mirialan spoke.

The group acknowledged Rian’s orders and formed up to move out, with Appius, Rian, and Vodo taking the lead. As they neared the first line of elite soldiers, the three fanned out, the lightsabers in their hand bursting to life as they charged.

Within mere seconds, the hangar bay became a fierce battlefield, with blaster bolts crisscrossing from all directions as the majority of deployed shocktroopers met the Taldryanites. Rian’s blades split the air, cutting across the chest of the nearest cyborg with one blade while deflecting blaster fire with his other.

To the Elder’s left, Vodo sent a cyborg he had impaled with his lightsaber just a second ago into a nearby group of running towards his position, tossing them over like pins. To Rian’s right, however, Appius found himself pinned against a wall with at least a dozen artificially enhanced soldiers firing at him. Yet he held his ground, deflecting the blaster bolts sent into his direction.

Though everything in his mind shouted for him to join his brothers as they charged the Collective shocktroopers, Zxyl knew that although he had a lightsaber at his disposal and was more than capable of using it as a melee weapon, without a connection to the Force, there was no way he could use the sun-colored blade to protect others. Rather, it was Zakai who protected the representatives from incoming blaster fire as they circled around the edge of the battle.

After what felt like an eternity, the representatives and their escort reached the ship Jala had discovered—and from Zxyl’s perspective, it couldn’t have happened at a better moment. Looking through the hangar, he saw several groups of freshly deployed soldiers starting to erect E-Web heavy repeating blaster cannons.

Turning away from the rest of the group, Zxyl said, “Zakai, prime the ship. I will help the others.” He charged the nearest group of Collective troops, sweeping the first soldier from his feet with his grappling line before unleashing a volley of blaster-fire from his bracers. The last one, however, managed to duck under the blaster fire and charged the Mandalorian with his electro-stave in his hand. Zxyl rolled under the first slash, coming up only to see the stave thrusting towards his chest. Activating the flamethrower in his vambraces, he engulfed the cyborg. Seeing his opponent tumbling back ablaze, Zxyl turned to his intended target. Lifting the E-Web from its stand, he swung the repeating blaster around, opening fire at the shocktroopers.

Missile warning! Key to target?

“I know,” Erinyes growled over the warning klaxon that rang through the cockpit. She threw the control stick to one side, sending her TIE/D Defender into a corkscrew turn for what seemed like the hundredth time since she’d launched. The status reports she’d heard over the course of the battle weren’t nearly as positive as she’d hoped. The Collective was gaining the upper hand by sheer weight of numbers, and Taldryan’s most effective counter to them—the twelve squadrons of TIE/D Defenders that normally filled the Resurgent’s hangars—were stuck on the other side of Arx’s shield gate.

Several seconds later, once the concussion missile dogging her wake had run out of fuel and detonated, Erinyes hit the targeting control that would lock on to the fighter attacking her. The image of another T-70 came up on her targeting computer’s screen, but vanished into a fireball a moment later, after one of the Consul’s fellow pilots descended on it. When another sensor pass showed that nothing else was actively attacking her, Erinyes fired up her comm system. “Bastion, give me a status update, over.”

“Hellcat, this is Bastion. We’re below fifty percent hull integrity. Valor’s weapons are offline. Dawn and Vein have taken critical damage and need to retreat. Over.”

Erinyes cursed. If they’d had their fighters on field, the Dreadnaughts that were savaging Taldryan’s capital fleet would’ve been destroyed by now. “Bastion, report status of hostile fleet, over.”

“Four Dreadnaughts and two Strike Cruisers still on field, over.”

The Consul swore again, louder this time, and pulled back on her control stick to guide her ship towards the still-idle Resurgent. "Standby, Bastion. Out. " After changing comm frequencies, she opened another channel. “Arx Control, this is Consul Ténama. I’ve got eight squadrons of fighters ready to face-frak the Collective fleet. Get that shield gate open.”

The communications technician who replied was so monotone that Erinyes wondered if he was actually a droid. “Consul, this is Arx Control. We’re under orders not to open the shield gate without prior authorisation due to the risk of Collective forces making planetfall,” Control said.

“That’s my point, Control. If you let my squadrons through the shield gate, there won’t be any Collective forces left to make planetfall.” Erinyes rolled her eyes, wondering when the Iron Legion had started manning their control tower with school-aged children.

“Like I said, Consul, we’re under orders–”

Erinyes cut him off with an annoyed huff. “Look, there are two ways this can happen: Either you open the shield gate and let my pilots do their jobs, or I tell the Grand Master we lost Mattock Station because some pissant watch officer wouldn’t let us deploy our fighters. Which one of those options do you think will go better for you?”

For several seconds, the only sound in Erinyes’ helmet was that of her own breathing. “Very well, Consul. The shield gate will open in ten seconds for a window of one minute.”

“Acknowledged.” Without waiting for an answer, Erinyes toggled her Defender’s comm system over to the Taldryan command channel. “All squadrons, this is Hellcat. The shield gate will be open in ten seconds. I want rockets on those Dreadnaughts within the next two minutes. Dreadnaught Durga should be your last target. Tavros, haul ass, you’re about to have incoming. Over.”

“Roger. Out.” The reply was as speedy as it was terse. Erinyes didn’t know whether that was just Zentru’la being his usual laconic self, or if Tavros was in trouble. Over the next few seconds, the rest of the Resurgent’s squadron leaders sounded off.

The instant the shield gate opened, a cloud of TIE/D Defenders poured out of the opening like killer insects from a hive. Blue-white engine trails flared behind them as they swarmed over the Collective Dreadnaughts, releasing pinpoints of amber light that blossomed into massive explosions when they struck the capital ships’ hulls. As two of the remaining four Dreadnaughts were engulfed in flames, the remaining Collective capital ships began to maneuver away from Mattock Station, likely in preparation for a retreat.

Erinyes had let out a victory cheer when she saw the first Dreadnaught break in two, but the expression cut short when the Consul saw the Dreadnaught’s front half descending toward Mattock Station, rapidly picking up speed thanks to Arx’s gravity well. “Mattock, collision incoming, get your shields up!”

“Acknowledged, Hellcat. We’ll do what we can.” An incandescent field glimmered to life around one section of the shipyard, then let out a bright flash as the Dreadnaught debris glanced off it.

The impact seemed to divert the hulk away from the shipyard’s core—and to Erinyes’ dismay, instead set it on a collision course with the unprotected Resurgent. “Mattock, get your shields back up!”

“Negative, Hellcat. The emitters are burned out.”

Erinyes sputtered in disbelief, then slammed her fist against the Defender’s controls and hauled back on the stick. Briefly, she considered trying to blow up the piece of Dreadnaught with her own laser cannons, but there was too much metal and too little time. A few moments after she moved her fighter out of its path, the Dreadnaught’s bow slammed into the Resurgent, knocking it free from its moorings. Both ships tumbled toward Arx, and erupted into a brilliant fireball as they slammed into the planetary shield.

For several moments, Erinyes sat stunned, until she heard a transmission over her comm system. “Brotherhood forces, this is the Star Destroyer Lurio of the Principate Seventh Fleet. Requesting status report, over.”

Fraking… Now they show up, Erinyes thought, bitterly. “Lurio, this is Hellcat One. You’re late.”

Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruiser Durga

The Taldyran ensemble raced towards their exfiltration point, the Collective response force hot on their heels. As they rounded the corner towards the hangar, the bay doors slammed shut, and churning sounds emitted from the locking mechanism from inside. This section of the corridor was much larger than most, clearly the section that the scout mech platoon transport their walkers through.

“I’ve got it! You guys cover me,“ Aylin called out to the rest of the troupe as she bundled herself in the direction of the door console.

Meleu simply nodded to the others, spun on his heel and marched back along the route they had just taken. General Zentru’la gestured to Ankira to cover the Sith Battlemaster in front of them.

Meleu stopped in his tracks. His senses immediately heightened by the Force as danger was imminent. Without hesitation, nor caution, the Collective troops hustled around the corner and immediately began raining fire upon the enemy in front. Meleu expertly batted away the first grouping before leaping in the air. Almost like clockwork, his two ranged allies behind him returned fire; Zentru’la’s heavy repeating blaster cutting through several of the foe before Meleu had even landed. As the Sith planted his feet on the ground, he discharged the kinetic energy absorbed as he touched down. Whilst not strong, it temporarily unbalanced many of the soldiers that now encircled him. Without delay, Meleu erupted into a wild frenzy of unpredictable and cyclonic movements with his crimson-red saber. The blaster-armed combatants around him stood no chance, especially with Ankira picking off any that came close with precision shots from her blaster pistols in each hand.

The first wave was easy. The Taldryan quartet had a short respite before more Collective soldiers arrived.

“Aylin, status report?” the Twi’lek General barked.

“Lookin’ good on my end, give me another couple of minutes. Watch my back!” Aylin chirped in response.

Meleu took this time to ensure each of the soldiers lying motionless on the ground were in fact dead, plunging his saber through each of their hearts. His fellow Taldryanites did not even blink as he carried out his murderous executions; in fact, Ankira couldn’t hide the smirk on her face.

The momentary breather ended almost as soon as it had started. More shouting broke out not too far away from the Taldryanites’ location. Mechanical clanking sounds followed; yet another scout walker was closing in on their location.

“Right. Meleu, take this mine and place it on the wall. I’ll control it from here.” the General threw the explosive to an ungrateful Meleu.

The Human was silent; even his usual quips and witty remarks had no place at this moment in time. He cautiously caught the explosive lure and placed it on the wall, finishing with a nod in the direction of the Twi’lek.

Once again, the rhythm of battle marching approached the group. Meleu braced himself once more - this time he wanted to have more fun. He unsheathed his electro-sword and with a simple flick, it hummed to life in his left hand. This quickly turned out to work in his favour as Collective soldiers poured around the corner. The Battlemaster raised his lightsaber as a signal for his two fighting companions behind him to get ready. Heavily armoured shocktroopers stormed down the corridor, electrostaves in hand. They had come prepared.

The Sith adherent paused a second to relax, took a deep breath through his nose and closed his eyes; this had to be fought differently than the last skirmish. He invited the horde of zealots to attack him rashly due to his lackadaisical stance. When the first electrostave swept towards him, he ducked, then came back up with a similar manoeuvre to the one he had just avoided - instead aimed at the shocktrooper’s legs - instantly amputating them. The man’s body collapsed, followed by a scream. Meleu couldn’t take notice of this however; an incoming barrage of electrostave attacks were the focus of his attention now.

The locking mechanism of the hangar bay door started whirring, and Aylin jumped up in excitement. “We’re in business guys, let’s go!”

Meleu did not hear Aylin’s call, but he was forced to retreat towards the open door regardless as he continued to defend against the advanced shocktroopers. Zentru’la and Ankira continued to support the Human with their meticulous sharpshooting abilities, however even they could realise their fellow Taldyranite was in danger. The General hurried forward, shouting at the Sith to withdraw.

“BLOW IT NOW!” Meleu screamed as he tossed his electro-sword onto the ground and broke out into an all out sprint towards the hangar, Zentru’la close behind. Several of the shocktroopers followed with their electrostaves, while others swapped melee for their accurate blaster pistols and began shooting down the corridor.

Just as a bipedal walker aligned itself for a clear shot at its target, the lure mine exploded and collapsed the ceiling section above where it had been placed, cutting off the ranged forces of the Collective and leaving the few melee warriors to chase after the now fleeing Taldryanites.

Meanwhile, the Harbinger was waiting for them. Aylin had already made her way to the boarding ramp. Ankira had gotten behind cover by the hangar bay doors and was easily dispatching of the remnants of the pursuing Collective troops.

As Meleu and Zentru’la ran past her, she joined on the tail of the line and the three of them joined Aylin on the ramp of the Upsilon-class command shuttle. The ramp began to rise back into the ship’s hull as the starship rose from the ground and turned towards the hangar bay shield - shooting off towards the Bastion.

Mattock Station Hangar

The scene in the hangar was devolving into chaos. The Collective soldiers seemed to be emerging from every entrance to the hangar, threatening to envelop the Taldryanites. Vodo cursed loudly as he pulled a pile of barrels towards his ship, the Karufr Knight, with the Force to provide some cover to the others. He sensed Rian doing the same, followed shortly thereafter by Appius when he was able to get out from underneath sustained fire. Zakai, Vodo’s son, kept his guard high and deftly deflected blaster bolts as they’d practiced innumerable times. Redirecting one of his own, Vodo thought he sensed a determined need to protect someone from the boy, and saw the skittish Dasha behind Zakai.

“They aren’t going to give us time to board and take off!” Zyxl shouted to Vodo.The Proconsul had herded the Principate’s delegates aboard the shuttle, losing one at the foot of the boarding ramp, and was now firing his E-web blaster at the Collective’s attackers.

Vodo brought his wristlink to his mouth while briefly taking cover. “Colonel Gerherdt, if you take much longer there won’t be a trap to spring.”

Joachim Gerherdt was a hardened soldier, a veteran of many of Taldryan’s wars, and the senior commander between the 1/10 and 1/9 Assault Battalions. “Understood, Lord Biask. The Collective is just proving a bit more stubborn than they have a right to.”
“Lord Biask, this is Derriphan 6,” a new voice came over the comnet—Colonel Daxton, the commander of the 1st/9th and the operational XO, “My companies are in position.”

“Do it now," Vodo barked.

While much of the 1st/10th set about attempting to secure the whole of Mattock Station, the 1st/9th had secured their flank, and was now in position behind the Collective forces assaulting the hangar. The Taldryan soldiers scythed through their enemies, who suddenly found an entire hostile formation hitting them where they were least prepared.

Vodo watched curiously from cover as the cyborg fighters arrayed against them reacted to the new threat, almost as one. It wasn’t that they all moved at the same time, but rather in groups of three or four at a time in a way that reminded him more of bonded Force Users than well-drilled warriors. He filed that information away for later.

“Rian!” Vodo shouted.

The man nodded his understanding. “Got it.”

Together, the two of them moved away from the ship and drew attention to themselves. Rian bellowed as he charged a nearby soldier and crashed, shoulder-first, into him. Vodo, trailing shortly behind, beheaded another and disarmed a third. The two Taldrya fought like a well-oiled machine, and together they tore a hole into the Collective’s position.

At the far end of the hangar, a small group of Collective fighters ran through an entrance, fleeing the approaching Taldryan soldiers. Zyxl swung the cannon in his hands around and laid into the unsuspecting troops.

“Alright! We’ve got them on the run," the Pronconsul said. “Let’s get this ship out of here!!”

Rian nodded to Vodo, and the two of them beat a hasty retreat to the Karufr Knight. Vodo stood by the boarding ramp, batting away the now-fewer blaster bolts sent their way. Taldryan soldiers were pouring from several of the entrances to the hangars and soon the room was secured. The cyborg soldiers Vodo had noticed had had to be killed to a man, never surrendering, while some of the more run-of-the-mill troops had tossed their weapons down and gave themselves over to the advancing troopers.

An officer trotted over to where the Quaestor was and saluted Vodo, “My Lord. Captain Dagos: Besh Company, 1/9th. Colonel Daxton sends his regards.”

“Very good, Captain. Inform the Colonel that he can turn his attention to Mattock Station. My team will regroup here.” Vodo dismissed the man, who ran back off to his formation.

The Karufr Knight, already prepped for take off by its pilot—a Torgruta officer wearing the Taldryan uniform, and assisted by Zakai, who was suppressing his frustration not to be in command of what he saw as his ship—rose and turned for the atmospheric containment shield. The half-Hapan, half-Twi’lek boy watched his father as the ship rotated around, and felt an odd sensation. It was foreboding but he shook it off, eager to prove his courage to the pilot and his father.

Zakai flipped a few switches on the com-panel and spoke into his headset, “Hyperion 1, this is Karufr Knight heavy. Departing Mattock Station, over.”

The words, so professional, sounded strange coming out of the mouth of a 14 year old but he was an old hand at the etiquette of radio usage by now. The com buzzed as the aging ace pilot Andan Marshall replied, “I got you, ’Knight’. We’re swinging in from above to escort you out. Make for Principate Destroyer Lurio, over.”

Sure enough a flight of TIE Defenders descended from a higher orbit and took up a protective position around the Upsilon-class shuttle.

Appius approached Vodo and together they watched the shuttle leave. “He’s a hell of a fighter, that kid.”

The Quaestor looked over his Aedile appraisingly, noting several carbon scoring marks on the man’s armor, “As well he should be. I trained him. Get yourself squared away; the supply cache should have some more blaster packs.”

Rian and Zyxl greeted the Aedile amiably as he went over to them. Dasha watched the ship leave a bit longer as well, which Vodo noted and related to the feelings his son had radiated earlier. He’d keep an eye on those two. The immediate action dealt with, he turned his attention to the battle which still raged across the station. The Collective was still not beat, and the Taldryan forces had more to do.

Command Bridge, VSD Bastion
Arx Orbit, Arx System

With Principate forces on field and the Collective’s Battle Group Scargill mauled and in full retreat, the recapture of Mattock Station was a simple, if tedious, affair. Clan Taldryan’s members and their military forces, supported by a full regiment of Principate soldiers, had scoured the shipyards from top to bottom and wiped out any remaining Collective intruders. Meanwhile, Taldryan’s naval forces—what was left of them, anyway—had limped into the few free berths that the ACE shipyards could provide.

Now, though, Erinyes had a different problem: the Dark Council.

“Consul! Glad to hear from you. Sorry to hear about the Resurgent. She was a fine ship, the few times I was aboard her,” Justinios chattered. His usual unnaturally cheerful demeanour had been replaced with something more frenetic, which Erinyes took as a sign that the stress of the Collective attack was taking its toll on the Aleena. “I have your next set of orders from the Grand Master, regarding where Taldryan’s ground forces should be deployed to secure the Brotherhood’s infrastructure on Arx. Sending them now.”

“No,” Erinyes said.

Justinios frowned, and hesitated for the briefest of moments—an eternity by his standards—before answering. “I don’t understand what you mean. Is the Bastion’s communications system unable to maintain a direct data link, or have you already received the orders from a different source?”

“I mean ‘no, we’re not going’. Taldryan’s already pulled one Dark Council member’s ass out of the proverbial fire today. I’m not sacrificing thousands more lives and millions more credits because nobody in the Iron Legion thought to leave a garrison on Arx,” Erinyes said.

“I’m sure the Grand Master will be willing to make some kind of arrangement with you after the Collective attack has been repelled,” Justinios said, in the smooth, steady tones of someone who was used to being caught between a rock and a hard place. “But if we don’t get those forces in position now, we’re not going to have anything left for him to make an arrangement with.”

Erinyes snorted. “That sounds like Mav’s problem to me.”

“When the Collective’s done with Arx, they’re going to come for the Clans next,” Justinios said.

“All the more reason for me to preserve what forces I have left, then, considering the Iron Legion didn’t bother showing up when we had an entire Collective battle group in the system next door. We’re going to need some way to fight back, now that we don’t have a fleet.” The Consul folded her arms across her chest.

Justinios blew out an audible breath, somewhere between a huff and a sigh. “What’s it going to take to get Taldryan’s army on the field?”

“First of all, my people need time to rest and resupply. It’s going to take our forces a few hours to get into position no matter where they’re deployed, so if you want our help, you’ll have to make sure that the quartermasters on Mattock Station put Taldryan’s forces at the front of the queue.”

“That’s Atra’s call, not mine. I don’t run Mattock Station,” the Aleena protested.

“I have every confidence that you’ll work something out. The other condition is that if you want our help, you get it on our terms. Everyone in Taldryan is sick of having the Collective hanging around our necks, and we’re sick of always being on the defensive. If we’re going to fight Oligard’s fanatics, we’re going on the offensive, and we’re going to slaughter them to the last cyborg.”

“Well, when you put it that way… the Iron Legion’s HQ is under siege by a Collective regiment. I assume you won’t have any difficulty resolving that situation in the Brotherhood’s favour.”

Erinyes smirked. “Consider them dead.” Justinios nodded, and after a few more pleasantries, ended the transmission. Erinyes activated her wrist comlink. “All Ektrosis and Tavros personnel, be in briefing room Aurek in ten minutes.”

Briefing Room Aurek
VSD Bastion

To Erinyes’ mild surprise, the entire group had ambled into the briefing room by the appointed time—probably because everyone was still jittery after the battle for Mattock Station. They didn’t waste any time before they started discussing how best to approach the orders that Justinios had given Erinyes. After receiving and processing each participant’s input. Erinyes announced her final decision on how the Taldryanites would be deployed.

“First, Rian, Zentru’la, Appius, and Meleu will join Typhojem and Derriphan Battalions and deploy into the Iron Legion headquarters by air, to reinforce the troops already present. Their job will be to hold long enough for us to get the rest of the army into position.” Erinyes grinned when she spotted Meleu’s frown at being given guard duty. “Oh, don’t be so cranky. Just park yourself in front of a breach in the walls and see how many kills you can rack up.” The suggestion brightened the junior Marauder’s mood considerably.

“Anyway. Vodo will lead a covert-action team to infiltrate the Collective’s staging area and wreak as much havoc as possible. Nihlus has been working on ways that we can disrupt the Collective’s control over their new hive-mind cyborgs, so he’ll be joining the infiltration team, along with Aylin and Dasha. They’ll be accompanied by our forward observers, who will designate targets for artillery and air strikes.” The covert-action team nodded, though Erinyes could sense Dasha’s skittishness already.

“Finally, Bale and I will lead the spearhead against the Collective. I hear the Vornskrs’ mechanics managed to modify a 2-M repulsortank so that Bale can actually fit inside it.” Erinyes smirked when she saw Bale’s face split open in a grin, and sensed the surprise and dismay hidden behind Zentru’la’s typically stoic demeanour. “I’ll be deploying with the Dark Fire Brigade, because I’m sick of being cooped up on a ship. Questions?”

There were none.

“Good. You’ve all got two hours to rest and restock your supplies before our transports launch. It’s time we started fighting this war for real.”

Planet Arx
Elos Vrai
1km from Collective Encampment

Dasha shivered in the predawn air. She crouched next to her Quaestor, who was so still that he seemed to be made of stone. Vodo peered through the borrowed quadnoculars at the enemy emplacement and frowned. The Collective had brought an entire regiment to assault the Iron Legion’s fortress. Zentru’la and Rian were organizing the defense, as it seemed the Grand Master’s forces were less fearsome than the Clans had been led to believe. Vodo handed the young woman the quadnoculars and pointed to the dry river bed that approached the Collective’s position.

“Use the terrain to your advantage. I’m confident you know how to remain unseen, but I won’t have you getting caught or killed; the paperwork would take valuable time out of my schedule. Sergeant Kline and his team will accompany you." Vodo indicated to a twenty-something year old man behind them and his six-man squad, part of the 1st Fire Control Company.

Dasha, for her part, decided some snarky quip was probably not what the grim-faced Sith wanted to hear and nodded. “Got it, uhh, my Lord.”

“And Dasha?” Vodo said firmly.

The young woman swallowed a lump in her throat. “Yes?”

“Stay away from my Apprentice.” Vodo’s voice was not cold, but it was iron, brooking no protest or reply.

The young Nautolan woman, Aylin Sajark, was close enough to hear and was indignant on Dasha’s behalf. Vodo could feel it radiating through the Force, but paid her no mind. Zakai’s training would not be derailed by adolescent hormones.

It was to Nihlus and Aylin that he turned to next.“You two already know where you’re headed. Take your teams and get moving. We want to be in position before sun up. Mission start is 0600 per the Consul’s orders. Bombardment to commence at 0700, so be clear by the time the shells start dropping.” Vodo stared into the faceless obsidian mask of his former Apprentice, Nihlus, who stared back at him impassively.

Dasha, Aylin, and Nihlus all went their own ways, leaving Vodo on his own for a moment. The air was cool, though he barely felt it under the growing excitement he felt in his blood. There were few joys in life so rewarding as organizing and executing military operations. The thrill of a battle, so thoroughly dominated before it even started, was second only to that of discovering lost secrets of Force Mystics and Sith of centuries long past. Here he was in his element, surrounded by professionals and deadly men and women of every flavor. Though he could taste his anticipation on the wind, there was an unfamiliar sense of foreboding in his chest that Vodo did not care for. He’d faced death and danger an untold number of times. He and they were old acquaintances by now, long past the time when he considered them enemies, but that did not mean the dread they conjured in others was welcome.

Vodo backed away from his observation place and trotted over to where Captain Jor’rod waited. The Chiss was a formal man, in his late twenties, and a consummate professional. Vodo liked him, as he did most military men, and gave the officer a respectful nod as he approached. The man returned the nod and pulled out his datapad.

“The 5th is ready when you are, My Lord.”

“Good. Let’s be on our way, then.”

The 1st and 5th Fire Control Companies were veteran forward observation units of the 1/9th Battalion. Vodo’s orders from Seraine were straight-forward enough: scout the enemy forces, identify targets of opportunity and value, mark them for artillery barrage, and disappear. The others had their own objectives but he was taking the majority of the company with him. Platoon leaders began marching their troopers into the early-morning darkness followed by the command section with Vodo and Captain Jor’ord. They moved quietly, expertly, through the dark across wooded terrain to the edge of the Collective encampment.

There was, of course, an established perimeter around the encampment, with regular patrols of men and droids. Captain Jor’rod nominated the crest of a hill as his command post where he had a good overview of the area in which his men would be infiltrating. From here they could see a great number of prefab shelters, cargo containers, disassembled equipment, and a handful of sensor aerials on booms and masts. Of more concern was an area of construction to the rear of the base which the Captain drew Vodo’s attention to.

“There, My Lord." he handed the Warlord a pair of quadnoculars. “What do you make of that?”

The construction was hard to make out in detail. “Whatever it is, it appears they’re building it from scratch.”

The Captain agreed, taking the device back when it was offered, “There’s six of them, whatever they are. The ones on the far end appear to be the most complete and if I had to venture a guess… They look like linear rifles to me.”

“Surely the Collective has artillery of their own. They don’t need to construct slapdash pieces,” Vodo said, more to himself than to the officer beside him. “What’s that object behind them, with the hoses connected to it?”

The Captain looked through his quadnoculars once more. “I would guess that’s the power source—a big one, by the looks of it. Now that I’m seeing the completed ones more clearly, their bores are enormous. Whatever they intend to launch from those things, it’s not a shell of any sort I’m familiar with, My Lord.”

Never underestimate the capacity of the enemy to surprise you. The words echoed in Vodo’s mind, something his mentor Halcyon had once said to him on another battlefield years before. “Whatever they are, they need to be marked for bombardment. If your men can’t do it, I’ll attend to it myself.”

Eos City, Elos Vrai

The Harbinger swooped over the Iron Legion HQ as it made its approach. An imposing square structure, the Iron Legion HQ rose up to ten stories high, clad in black reinforced armour, surrounding a central courtyard. The only gap in the structure was blocked by a gate of thick, blast-proof durasteel to allow vehicles in and out of the courtyard. Anti-air turrets lining the roof pointed to the sky, interspersed with snipers and laser cannons scanning the ground from their high vantage point. Platoons of Iron Legion AT-ATs and AT-STs stood ready around the outside of the base, on a constant state of alert in preparation for the impending Collective attack.

Rian, Appius, and Meleu, three Force-users, armed with lightsabers, sat with Zentru’la in the Harbinger as Rohla brought the ship in to land on a landing pad outside the HQ. Meleu had already proven his combat proficiency aboard the Durga. He knew Rian and Appius by reputation, which was surely a mutual sentiment. “Let me sort out the troops,” said Zentru’la. “We need you three causing as much damage as possible on the front lines.”

“Works for me.” Meleu smiled. It wasn’t often that guard duty led to an encouragement to cause chaos.

“The Typhojem and Derriphan Battalions will arrive by air in five minutes,” said Rian, the Elder in constant contact with the Taldryan Army top command.

“The Vornskr Battalion will arrive shortly after,” replied Zentru’la.

“Are they ready to fight?” Appius’ question was fair. The Vornskr Battalion was a brand new private military company, and this was to be their first major engagement. In truth, Zentru’la didn’t know. Most of his men were new recruits.

“They’re all talented, but some have never seen live combat,” said the general. “Sometimes, one’s true character is only revealed on the battlefield.”

Some people didn’t need an official title to command. Zentru’la was one of them. The General immediately began barking orders at the Iron Legion troops the moment he set foot on the ground. It didn’t matter if he had no place in their chain of command and no official authority over them. AT-AT platoons and their supporting soldiers began mobilising to better defensive positions, orchestrated by the General-in-shining-white-armour’s booming voice.

The rest of the Taldryan support forces arrived shortly afterwards. The Taldryan Army, mostly troopers equipped with stormtrooper armour and blaster rifles, detachment dropped in by air. Zentru’la’s Vornskr Battalion stood out like a sore thumb when they arrived by a mixture of walkers and hover tanks. The private military company was far from the finished product, armed and armoured with a mix of standard-issue military equipment and their own personal gear.

“Support Rian, Appius, and Meleu,” Zentru’la ordered his men. In their semi-trained, semi-organised state, chaos suited the Vornskr Battalion more than fighting alongside traditional, regimented military units, so he had them support the professional bringers of chaos. With the troops and hardware organised in their optimal defensive positions, all that was left was to stand ready for combat at a moment’s notice.

Collective Encampment, Elos Vrai

Dasha, Sergeant Kline and his team made last-minute checks on their gear. The young Sephi had no clue what to even say to these people placed under her, and they looked down at her with why-are-we-taking-orders-from-a-child glares. All she could mutter was, “Don’t get caught.” Before they moved down to the riverbed where Dasha, with her far lighter gear, quickly and quietly jogged to her destination. Leaving the men struggling to stay quiet with their heavy armor.

Annoyed, Dasha made sure to stop and wait for the men just before their destination, where their equipment wouldn’t be heard. She had to walk from here, it seemed, or leave the men behind.

By the time they got to the edge of the encampment, Dasha was already fed up with the slow pace. She turned to the sergeant, “Set up things over in this region as you see fit. Traps and the like, so if they need to use the area… they’ll end up regretting it. Just don’t make it obvious. Meet me back here before dawn.” Then, she took off before he could reply.

She pulled her cloak close then made her way further down the riverbed before finding a spot to get into the camp and starting her own task of finding backup communications equipment. Thinking about things further, she decided to ensure her escape as she searched.

Dasha swiftly went from various vehicles and stacks of cargo, fiddling with one thing or another. A small tweak to this vehicle by snipping a wire, whisking explosives for doors away to be set on long timers in other boxes, emptying out an unsuspecting canteen or flask left carelessly about… oh, spilt fuel canister there…

She zig-zagged and left some things behind as needed, knowing full well she would probably need those distractions to escape after she found the backup communications equipment and supplies that Vodo wanted her to sabotage.

Medical Section, Collective Encampment
Elos Vrai, Arx

Tensions in the camp were high as everyone was doing preparations for the day. Deciding to dig a bit deeper while it was still dark, Dasha found a region with neatly organized large tents with a lot of activity with red crosses, medical zone.

The young girl peeked inside one and found lined-up cots and medical supplies. Medics ran about preparing each station and talking about where to get what. The one that seemed to be calling the shots kept yelling into his radio about needing more supplies.

Looking around, the supplies seemed neatly stacked in another centralized tent including gas tanks and crates. Her eyes narrowed into a squint to see that the tanks were filled with medical-grade oxygen and nitrogen amongst various other useful gases. With a grin, she ducked inside the tent and loosened a couple of seals at random before making her way to another area of the camp.

Stockpile Area B, Collective Encampment
Elos Vrai, Arx

It was still dark, there was still time. Dasha continued moving past various tents probably to bunker troops in case of a drawn out siege with a large vehicle area next to it with mechanics all milling about servicing and prepping the vehicles. It was too obvious to get spotted here.

Dasha continued on to find a medium traffic area filled with large crates. Her eyes lit up as she made her way around various boxes and peeked inside; a grin appeared on her face as she snatched some strong, timed explosives. Her work had just started as she went around distributing said explosives set for approximately when the bombardments would start.

Finally, traffic died down once more in the most frequented set of large crates, and to her pleasure she found some equipment with antennas sticking out of them. It wouldn’t take her long to surgically add mechanical issues to each before she started making her way back to the riverbed before the sun rose.

Outskirts of Collective Encampment
Elos Vrai, Arx

The sun was starting to rise, and the bombardments would commence soon. She looked around for the sergeant and his team; but they weren’t by the riverbed.

The Sephi made her way towards another part of the camp nearest to the riverbed meeting point when she heard a commotion from within the camp. Looking back, Dasha noted that the temporary hospital had caught fire. Soldiers ran towards the burning building to help put out the flames and pull people away. Those rescued seem to be clumsily stumbling about.

During the chaos, Dasha saw seven men were making their way towards her location. Had she been spotted? She lowered herself slightly in case they started shooting. Suddenly,tents started to collapse within the camp.

The group heading towards the riverbed dove to the safety and looked back at their work; some struggling to catch their breath first before taking a peek. The sergeant looked over at the cloaked Dasha and grinned. “Wait till the bombardments start, they’ll think we have invisible missiles.”

Dasha just watched the chaos before her as she couldn’t get deeper than the general outskirts of the camp. As soon as the morning rays started peeking over the horizon all she could say was, “Let’s go back. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do when the battle starts.”

Sergeant Kline raised an eyebrow, “We spotted a cavernous area over there. It’s a small climb behind some rocks so we can stay hidden, high enough to watch, and close to the riverbed in case we need to run. Perhaps, we can watch from there and come back to do some more work once things here settle down.”

Dasha looked over at the sergeant and shrugged, “Okay.”

Outside Iron Legion Headquarter
Elos Vrai, Arx

Watching the scene from some distance, Rian had to admire how the Twi’lek general orchestrated the troops. They both were men of great tactical knowledge, but as much as Rian had learned over the years, his knowledge relied heavily on how to react to a situation from moment to moment rather than setting up a battlefield. Zentru’la however, easily realigned the position of the different units present on the courtyard of the Iron Legion Headquarter as if he was setting up the figures on a dejarik board.

At last, the time had come. Rian felt the unmistakable mix of anxiety and excitement among the soldiers. Turning back from the General to the group he was standing with, the sound of business around the headquarter was broken by the whining sound of engines rushing the sky over their heads. Anti-air turrets immediately swiveled around, opening fire at the incoming airspeeders.

One of the speeders got hit and blossomed into a ball of fire. The next one crashed into the dark walls of the facility as it tried to evade the explosion. Turning to the crash site, Meleu said, "Looks like that is our signal."Rian nodded in agreement, gesturing at the Taldryan soldiers to move out.

“Rian, we are receiving distress calls from within the headquarters. It looks as if a group of Collective soldiers has managed to slip through the defense grid,” Zentru’la said over the comlink.

“Copy that,” Rian replied. “Meleu, take the Derriphan and stop them.”

“On my way.” The Sith turned to relay the orders to Commander Krays, who immediately called up his troops to fall back.

Appius and Rian along with the troops of Typhojem and Vornskr continued their advance toward the frontline covered by a group of imposing AT-AT’s.


This felt much more like what Meleu had expected. It may not lead to scoring as many kills in his book, but now, he was on the hunt. Bursting into the building, he opened a channel on Zentru’la’s frequency. “ General, any updates on the Collective’s location?"

“Currently Level 5,” Zentru’la replied, voice booming from Meleu’s comlink. “We are slowing them down by closing the blast doors in their path but still they already managed to descend two levels.”

“Any chance you know where they are heading?”

“Based on their current location, Command assumes they are heading for the Fist’s office on the Ground Level. The fastest way to get there would be through the courtyard.” Zentru’la said, anticipating the next question from the Sith.

“Thank you, General.” Meleu ended the call, with Krays standing at his side already gesturing in the direction of the large blast door leading into the courtyard. Approaching the door, Meleu expanded his mind, examining the courtyard with his mind. Nodding at the leading trooper, the Advanced Recon Commando pushed the lever and stepped out into the courtyard only to have his head disappear in a cloud of blood and broken beta-plast.

“Get back inside!” Meleu shouted to the rest of the troops. He should have expected that, with the General having deactivated all blast doors, the Collective would set traps for those trying to get to the Fist’s office as quickly as possible. Meleu re-opened the channel to Zentru’la. “General, the courtyard is under enemy control, I repeat, the Courtyard is under enemy control. We need an alternative route to the target.”

“Negative, all blast doors have been sealed to slow the enemy,” Zentru’la replied.

“It’s that or getting shot from behind by some skulkers camping on a higher level,” Meleu growled. For a brief moment, there was silence, then a red light above a distant door turned to green. “Thank you, General. We’re moving again.”

Meleu and what was left of the Derriphan ARC’s arrived just in time as the Collective just managed to tear a hole into the door leading into the Fist’s office. The Sith’s crimson blade burst to life when the first of the Collective Jedi Hunters, stepped through and into the office of the Fist, while his comrades opened fire at the nearing Taldryan Forces. The Force surged through the Meleu as he dodged the incoming blaster fire before carving a deadly swath into the enemy line.

The battle outside the office was short-lived, and soon, Meleu and his Commandos had taken out the Collective soldiers protecting the hole that was once the door leading into Justinios Drake’s personal office. Inside, a lone Collective Jedi Hunter was stuck working the encryption of the Fist’s personal computer terminal. Watching the progress bar on the computer spike crawl from left to right, he was suddenly grabbed by an invisible hand and torn forcefully through the transparisteel window and into the courtyard.

Eight stories above the office, cyborgs that had been given a single order took aim. By the time they recognized the fallen soldier as one of their own, the trooper in the courtyard had been hit by at least half a dozen high-energy blaster bolts.


Outside the Iron Legion Headquarters, Appius, Rian, and the soldiers of Typhojem and Vornskr were caught in a fierce battle. The Collective had brought up packs of small, agile walkers, making life difficult for the Legion’s heavy artillery.

While most of the Collective Walkers were only armed with lighter cannons, some of them were equipped with multi-rocket launchers. One of them launched a volley of rockets at the leg of an AT-AT, but the Taldrya Elder stood in between, pushing out both hands, reversing the direction of the rockets back to the walker that had fired them. Breathing heavily from the exertion, Rian looked over the battlefield, hoping the rest of the Clan would soon be ready to unleash hell upon the enemy.

Aylin glanced at Nihlus for what had to be the hundredth time. She didn’t mind working with someone else, but he was a Space Wizard—and even worse, he kept his face hidden behind a mask. She shook her head and sighed, reminding herself to keep focused on the mission.

When they got near the camp it was time to do their best not to get caught in the activities of the Collective soldiers. Aylin had snuck up to a crate, and frowned when she glanced back to see no one. She was sure Nihlus was behind her a moment ago.

“Great…” she whispered to herself.

Glancing around the corner of the crate, she made sure everything was safe before she continued on towards the next hiding spot. She continued this until she got near one of the communication towers. Taking the code cylinder from her remote code pad, she plugged that into the tower comm port and glanced at the little screen to make sure it was working before moving on towards the operations tent.

Hiding between the next set of crates and close to the thick cables running from the tent, she made a cut in the tarp and carefully snuck into the tent, ending up behind the consoles.

Taking out her other slicing tool she started to take away a back panel of the console and plugged in her tools. Just when she glanced around the corner of the consoles she spotted Nihlus and nearly had a heart attack.

“Sheesh. You scared me there for a second. What have you been up to?” Aylin whispered.

“Making sure we could get here safely,” Nihlus replied with a mechanical voice.

Aylin frowned for a bit and then shrugged, “As long as we are safe, I guess. I got myself into the first layer of the systems. So far their defences aren’t that difficult to break, but I guess we will find more resistance when we find the more interesting parts.”

Nihlus gave a slight nod and joined her slicing work at a different console.

Aylin’s eyes widened when she found something that came from the Mindbreakers. “Well, this will be painful if they get it into play.”

“What did you find?” Nihlus asked as he glanced towards her.

“A group called the Mindbreakers have a bioweapon and they are constructing it here somewhere.”Glancing at her remote datapad, she smirked, “It also seems the chaos has started.”

“Time for us to hurry up, then.”

Aylin nodded and got back to work, her fingers racing over the keyboard to find more information that could stall the Collective. As she worked her magic, she got into the deeper security layers, where she found even more interesting information.