A read-only archive of discourse.darkjedibrotherhood.com as of Sunday May 01, 2022.

[Herald Fiction Updates] Mysteries of the Shroud



“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” - Unknown

SD Dark Star
Unknown System
34 ABY - Day of the Fall, H-hour - 6

Heavy footfalls echoed in the corridors of the Star Destroyer Dark Star. The ship seemed to stall in its daily activities during the night rotation. Being commanded by a skeleton crew only during times of peace, there weren’t usually people in the hallways. But all of that was about to change, and for the worse.

The hulking form of V’yr Vorsa — Herald of the Brotherhood and paragon of the Jedi Order — turned another corner, followed closely by her Hand, Morgan Sorenn. She made haste along the wide corridors, her intent and purpose unclear but palpable to the raven-haired woman.

“I have a mission for you, Morgan. One that will test you to your limits,” the Neti had told her only a week ago, but now that she knew what it was it made her stomach churn and her skin crawl. The pair rushed through several more corridors before entering the massive hangar bay, housing several shuttles and other utility craft. The Neti stopped as she came face to face with three black-clad Inquisitors, all holding sabers at the ready.

“Former Herald,” the leader spoke up first. “My Lord Pravus orders your presence. Immediately.” He took a step towards the Neti just as her crimson blade flashed to life. Without missing a beat, the Neti lunged through the air at the first Inquisitor. Striking his saber out of the way, she landed a solid, strong punch to his neck that broke his windpipe and sent him sprawling and gasping for air. The other two were on her in moments, but found themselves outmatched by her brute strength and mastery of the art.

Without missing a beat, she deflected a blade from her left, while the one on her right met with an invisible barrier that sent its owner tumbling back from the backlash. It took her but a moment to pin her standing opponent’s blade, grab him by the head and twist his neck around until his dead eyes were staring directly at Morgan who fidgeted, grasping her blaster.

Do it, she heard the Neti’s voice in her mind. Please. It was like something out of a nightmare. Sorenn stood there, hands shaking, blaster at the ready as the Herald walked up to her crawling opponent. She clicked the safety and sweat gathered on her brow. Her knees almost gave way as her index finger slowly compressed the trigger.

“You should have sent more men,” Vorsa said as her lightsaber rose above her head to dismember her enemy. The sound of blaster fire and the light of three blue rings illuminated the area as Morgan let out a barrage of stun fire into her Master’s back. Her heart stopped for a second. She had committed betrayal of the highest order and no one in their right mind would believe otherwise.Is this your plan?

The Inquisitor breathed labored breaths as he looked at the raven-haired woman in complete shock. She just pulled on her sleeve to reveal the glowing tattoo of a Chief Inquisitor on her arm. He picked himself up and looked at the Neti prostrated in front of him.

“Animal.” He shot his leg across the former Herald’s face, letting chlorophyllic blood drool from her nose. A swift backhand sent him sprawling again, as the ravenhead stood over her former Master’s body.

“Lord Pravus wants her undamaged, you imbecile,” she hissed as darkness crept into the man’s heart and mind. Morgan was good at making people feel what she wanted them to feel and she played her role well. The lower Inquisitor simply knelt before her in fear and respect.

“As you command. What are your orders?” His voice did not quiver, despite his rising anxiety. A mark of a well-trained dog. A small contingent of stormtroopers filed into the hangar bay from the same corridor Morgan and Vorsa had entered from. They made their way to the trio, awaiting orders.

“We’re taking her to the Grand Master,” she ordered and motioned the stormtroopers to carry the Neti. Morgan took the Inquisitor’s chin in her palm none too gently as he stood up. “Pray to whatever frakkin’ gods you know that he finds her in satisfactory condition.” She gave him a light slap before he walked away. Morgan observed the stormtroopers dragging away the unconscious body of her Master and only true friend she might have ever had as she reached for Vorsa’s discarded saber and linked it onto her belt.

“A reminder.”


SSD Suffering - Throne room
Unknown System
34 ABY - Day of the Fall, H-hour - 5

The lump in Morgan’s throat traveled to the tips of her toes as she tried to steel herself in front of the the doorway. Two Royal guardsmen, more than likely the Iron Legion’s elite, stood tall and unmoving as she passed them and entered the converted observation lounge that served as the Grand Master’s throne room. Viewports left and right of her painted a beautiful picture of the Iron Fleet and the unknown planet below, every color of the spectrum dotting its surface. Consoles beeped in the gloomy atmosphere as officers and Inquisitorius agents went about their business, shadows of existence vowed to secrecy. The room was illuminated only the the brightness of the world they orbited, giving her an added sense of dread. Had this been any other circumstance, she’d have stopped and admired the sight.

The click, click, click of her stilettos echoed through the room as the Fist conversed with the Grand Master who stood behind his throne, being tended to by a servant. Two Royal Guardsman stopped Morgan mid way, blocking her path but otherwise not displaying any hostile intent — not that they needed to. Darth Pravus simply dismissed one of the officers that brought him a datapad before turning to face Valhavoc.

“The fleet will be ready, my Lord. As will your Guardsmen,” the Adept bowed low, his discussion with his Master concluded. The Sith’s eye caught the woman approaching, and he sneered. She stopped just short of the dais as two stormtroopers carried the unconscious body of V’yr Vorsa and dropped her onto the floor beneath her feet. Morgan took one last breath to steady herself before the game began. No going back now.

“What is this?” Valhavoc spoke first.

“My words are for the Grand Master, not his lackey,” Morgan replied without sparing him a second glance. She was precariously close to to death already, but in this game you risked it or you died anyway. Valhavoc’s rage was palpable through the immaterium of the Force. She sensed his imminent attack only moments before it would have happened, but she kept perfectly still, still looking at the Grand Master.

As the Adept moved, his intent to murder the wench as clear as his rage, Pravus raised his hand. “Leave us,” he ordered in a tone that allowed no disobedience. Valhavoc sneered again before turning on his heel and stomping out of the throne room, followed closely by his own royal guard.

“No disrespect intended Lor—” Morgan’s words caught in her throat as she felt a tremendous pressure on her windpipe. Pravus suffered no fools, and certainly no disrespect. Neither did he need words to convey what he would do to her should she ever do so again. He released his vice grip only when he felt the message settle in, and she dropped to one knee as he did so. Morgan rubbed her neck carefully, internally cursing her own tongue. But still, the show must go on.

“You are this…thing’s apprentice, were you not?” Pravus sneered as he spat out the words, momentarily gazing at the Neti prostrated before the dais.

This was it. Do or die. “I was her apprentice…my Lord.” The words barely escaped her tongue. “I’m not anymore.”

“Why betray your own master?” Pravus’ voice was full of doubt, suspicion, but he felt Morgan’s boiling anger. The reasons why it was there didn’t matter, as long as he could feel it; feel her intent.

“What does it matter?” She lowered her gaze as she hissed the words. She felt like she would burn up from the inside as she slowly drew on the Dark Side to fuel her ever increasing anger. “As long as I’m free from her poison, what does it really matter why?” Her eyes dashed at the Grand Master in an instant, full of rage, hurt and betrayal. Even Pravus raised an eyebrow as he felt the turmoil within her. Slowly he rose up from his chair and raised his hand at the stormtroopers.

“Take this thing to the interrogation ward. I will have words with her soon enough.” He stepped down onto a lower step and circled the kneeling mercenary as the stormtroopers went about their business, followed closely by one of Pravus’ Inquisitors. “Where did you capture her?”

“In the hangar bay of the Dark Star, my Lord. She tried to escape. I knew about it, contacted the Inquisition…” she looked over at one of the Inquisitorius agents. “…but they underestimated her. She killed two before I stunned her. She would have killed the third as well.”

“Tell me, did you shoot her in the back?” Pravus inquired as another wave of dread fell on Morgan. The hairs on her neck stood up straight, the ache in her bones intensified, and she felt like the world was crushing down on her very soul as the unstable blade of the Grand Master’s lightsaber shone next to her face.

“Y-yes, my lord. There was no other way,” she spat out, quite unintentionally this time.

“Betrayal of the highest order. And why would I have a traitor in my ranks?” he growled and Morgan felt the Force scream in response. She willed herself not to move, even as she sensed the scorching blade close on her throat.

“I have an offer!” she squealed before he could finish the stroke. The buzzing of the blade continued only inches from her ear, as if Pravus was waiting for more. “I gave her to you to extend an offer. If you want to kill me after you’ve heard it…well, I can’t stop you either way.”

Long seconds passed before she heard the blade deactivating and the Grand Master circling around her again. “You are on borrowed time. I suggest you hurry.”

Of course. Morgan exhaled internally. She got his attention at least, but she wasn’t out of it yet, not even close. “The Herald’s position and mission are defunct. They have been ever since you succeeded to the Throne, my Lord.” She swallowed a lump again, and exhaled to regain her composure. “You don’t need a diplomat, you need someone who will spread chaos, discord and fear among your opponents. Someone to spread the word and remind them who rules.” She felt sick to her stomach just speaking the words, but it was necessary.

“And you are this person?” Pravus stood one stair above her, back turned as he clipped his saber back onto his belt.

“I am.” The words fell from her tongue easier than she had anticipated. “This is what I do. This is what I’m good at.” She finally stood up as the whole room full of people turned their heads towards her. The dark side enveloped her like a veil, sending tendrils of terror into all of their minds. Only the guardsmen, steeled against mental intrusion, stood upright. The rest cowered, their most primal fears oozing through their thoughts.

“Indeed,” Pravus replied flatly. “And what of your brother?”

Morgan expected that question above all. It was the crux on which this whole thing hinged and hung. The dread pirate looked outside at the Iron Navy and the many ships it help; the many people that served its lord and master. “He picked the wrong side.” Her voice was as flat as her emotions, but as certain as her power.

Pravus inhaled a deep breath. Seconds passed, but Morgan’s resolve did not waver, and neither did her control. She excreted dark energy like a faucet, so much so that even the guardsmen now squirmed in place.

“I approve,” he stated simply as he turned to face her. “You will be my herald of dread. But first, you will see New Tython burn.” His face revealed no emotion, but his aura was insanity, chaos and suffering; rage incarnate. And it creeped into Morgan’s heart like an icy sheet, terrifying her to her core.


SD Dark Star
Unknown System
34 ABY - One day earlier

“Vorsa, what’s wrong?” Morgan’s exasperated voice echoed through the observation lounge of the mighty warship as she followed after her Master. Vorsa had always been calm and serene in any situation, but now…now she was a flurry of anxiety and bad omens.

“Something is coming, Morgan. I can feel it.” The Neti was riled, walking in circles like a madwoman. The ravenhead couldn’t even fathom what was going on, but she trusted her Master enough to know it was serious. “First the ominous downfall of Ashen, then the Inquisitorius and the purge of those deemed undesirable. And now the Iron Legion.” Vorsa paused to look at Morgan. “I fear New Tython is in danger, and with it all Jedi.”

“No, no. No way. They wouldn’t attack New Tython. There are conventions to follow, and Urr has allies out there. They won’t just attack out of the blue. They have to set them up somehow or else the other Clans will—” Even as she spoke the words she knew deep down that Pravus didn’t care about the Clans or their alliances, and no Clan would come to their aid against the Dark Council and their superior military might. The game was rigged from the start — they knew New Tython was always the losing player. “Frak.” She gripped her forehead with both hands. “We have to tell them.”

“What is there to tell? We have nothing but what we speculate, girl. We have to learn more before we order an evacuation of an entire planet based on speculation,” the Neti said firmly, rubbing her chin in thought. “I also doubt the Council will attack New Tython right now. We’ll have heard something about it. The fleet is not yet ready and there are still repairs being done after the Antei battle.”

“You’re probably right,” Morgan replied, having her own doubts on the matter but not voicing them. Vorsa had a much clearer vision of what the Council’s plot was. She was older, wiser and more observant in her position. She knew what to do.

But even so, Morgan couldn’t help but feel her Master was becoming less and less focused of late. The pressure of being away from home, of being away from the one she truly cared about and, even though she would never admit it, the one she loved most, were beginning to take her toll. But Morgan kept quiet. Vorsa knew what she was doing. She always knew best. That was why everyone relied on her so much.

“So what do we do?” the younger woman inquired sheepishly, clearly unsure of what their next move was but suspecting it had something to do with her. Why would Vorsa summon her otherwise?

“I have a mission for you, Morgan.” The Neti’s aura changed. “One that will test you to your limits.” Morgan could sense her anxiety even more palpably, and her regret and sorrow were almost visible before the Human’s eyes.

A single thought jumped into her mind: please don’t do this.

“I have thought long and hard about my…position,” Vorsa started as she turned towards the viewport. “It is precarious, Morgan. I do not understand their intent nor their plan for me, but I know there is one. They do not do these things without forethought or something to gain.”

There were telltale signs whenever Vorsa had bad news to share. Her hair would shrivel slightly, flowers that sometimes grew folding in on themselves. Even her skin would become visibly rougher. Anxiety had a devastating effect on her; a very visible and devastating effect.

“I fear they plan to execute me as a show of force and as an example.”

It wasn’t so much that Morgan didn’t know or suspect something like that was possible, but it chilled her to the core nonetheless. The prospect of losing Vorsa. She dreaded to think of the consequences. Of course, the Neti never thought of herself or her image. She only thought of the mission at hand and how many people she needed to save, never even once thinking that maybe, this time, she would bite the bullet for someone else.

But Morgan couldn’t think like that. She was a Human, she had a family she wanted to protect and friends she loved dearly; friends who would go off and get themselves killed to save the Neti general. She thought of the many people on New Tython and further away, on Selen, and Sepros and other places, who looked up to her Master not only for her ideals and loyalty, but for her courage. She was a beacon of hope for them, but they knew little of her true nature; of the stress and pressure Vorsa felt in command. Of the grief and sorrow she felt for the mistakes she had made and the dead she bid farewell too many times to count. Yes, they knew very little of the true face of V’yr Vorsa, whom Morgan had come to call friend above all else.

But it was her image and the idea she represented that made all the difference to those people. Standing defiant and alone against the growing darkness? A symbol like that must not be eviscerated, or else the fight was already over. So Morgan braced herself for what she knew was coming. Mentally she bit her tongue at the instinct to say “no” before the question even came up, because she knew that once it did she couldn’t say no. Not to her. She had already accepted her course a long time ago, and there was no turning back.

“I need you take me prisoner and give me to Pravus.”

WHAT?! the thought echoed in her mind so deafeningly she swore she said it out loud. For several long moments the ravenhead stood completely still, as if her body gave out and couldn’t move anymore. Her arms were welded in place, as if they were made of thick durasteel. She felt a deadening chill roll up her legs and over her spine before she even spoke the words out loud.

“What…are you asking me to do?! Are you….insane!” It was an outcry more than a question. It was outrage. Downright insanity. “To even think…! Do you have any idea what…? I mean, Turel and A’lora alone…!”

“Listen to me, child.” Vorsa grabbed the woman by her shoulders and brought her close. “You must take my place as Herald.”

Even more insanity. Morgan could barely contain herself anymore. Did Vorsa’s mind flip on its end? “Are you crazy!? You want me to be Herald? What for? And to give you up? I’d rather they stuck my head on a spike right then and there.”

“Calm down, Morgan, and listen to me.” The Neti’s soft words and her calming aura made Morgan pause and take a breath. It was usually like this. She would freak out and the Neti would calm her nerves by merely saying a word or two. Even more reason to never leave her side. “You will hand me to Pravus as a means of leverage. I cannot remain Herald for long. Soon enough they will kill me, sure as day. This way you shall take my place and you are uniquely gifted for just this task. I have made sure your training and your skills would lead to this.”

Wait, what? Morgan thought as she heard the Neti’s explanation. Just how long have you planned for this? She gave her Master a hard stare before replying. “You know you won’t survive if Pravus gets you. You know that very well.”

“This is not about my survival, Morgan,” the Neti replied with an even tone, letting the Human go and straightening to her full height. “It is about everyone else’s. And you know how devoted I am to my beliefs. I fear neither death nor injury as long as the day is won.”

Finally Morgan’s legs gave out and she sat in the chair, arms shaking in desperation. She’s right. Of course she is, but how can I accept this? She couldn’t bear the thought of losing Vorsa, but somehow she always knew it was a possibility. “I…can’t…do this.” Glossy eyes looked up at her Master as the Neti came close and crouched.

“You can. I am pleading. I beg you, do this for everyone’s sake. You are the only one who can. Do what must be done.” Vorsa took the woman’s head in her palms and kissed her forehead. Morgan bit down on her lips as pain rushed through her mind, overriding the anguish she felt in her soul, preventing tears from seeing the light of day.

She could feel Vorsa’s overwhelming presence enter her mind through their bond. It had a calming effect, like a waterfall clearing up a lake during snowmelt. The Neti made a strong connection and let all her thoughts flow. Her moments with loved ones and friends; her moments with A’lora and the Jedi; her victories and celebrations; her moments with the man she loved most of all. All of them passed through Morgan, and she knew Vorsa was at peace with her decision.

The pirate exhaled a long-held breath. Of course, she knew what had to be done. There was only one game in life worth living, and in the game of survival, if you weren’t a player, you were a loser anyway. The die was already cast. She just had to snatch it before it fell on the wong number.

And she would.



“Never take a gamble you’re not prepared to lose.” - Unknown

34 ABY - 6 hours ago

Fial System, Nilgaard Sector
Corellian Star Shuttle Vespira - Convoy Sigma-6 en route to Kiast

Alarms reverberated in Major Len Iode’s eardrums as the emergency lights came online. The ship’s sudden and violent rocking made him lose his running step and he stumbled onto a passing crew member whose expression, Len thought, mirrored his own. The craft let out a low rumble as another blast dissipated on the protective shield somewhere above their heads. He bolted, again, through the corridors leading to the bridge. He passed several more technicians, likely as not running to fix whatever damages popped up around the ship.

Len finally reached the massive door to the bridge section and it slid aside, giving him entry and a view of a full blown starfighter battle surrounding the ship. X-wings from Paladin squadron buzzed around, blasting hot plasma at what looked like modern TIE fighters. One of the enemy craft flew close enough to the view port for Len to see the custom paint job and what looked like a red and white skull painted on its fuselage.

“Report!” he yelled out as he entered, disregarding any protocol or formalities along the way.

“They jumped us out of nowhere, sir. Massive ship off our port bow. Lucrehulk class.”

Len peeked out, through the left-hand view port. A massive battleship of a design he saw only on the historic holovids, loomed like a predatory bird over his ship and the small transport fleet they were leading. He saw its ion cannons pounding on the smaller craft, left largely undefended and at its mercy. The X-wing’s were doing their job well enough, keeping most of the small fleet protected, but very soon even that would not be enough.

“Status of our fighters?”

“We’ve lost four, sir. Madgal, Simms, Ceshta and Huun. If we lose many more —”

“We’ll lose the fleet,” the officer trailed off as Len muttered in response. “How many transports intact and jump-worthy?”

“Seventeen, sir, out of twenty-one.”

Len bit his tongue at the thought that materialized in his mind. It would be the hardest decision he would make in a long while, and indeed one that would haunt his nightmares for days to come.

“Inform the ships that are jump-ready to prep their engines, and send them the fallback coordinates to exfil point Gamma. We and the squadron will remain behind to provide them with cover.”


“You have your order, Lieutenant.” The officer looked around for only a moment, as if to see what the others on the bridge had to say about it. They were condemning so many to an unknown fate, and after what happened on their homeworld they all felt like giving up even one more soul was a personal failure. But in the end he followed his orders, and with the push of a button the orders were away. Now, all they could do is keep the enemy busy while the civilians escaped.

Minutes later

Unknown space
Mon Calamari star cruiser Solari

Turel Sorenn spent most of his time on the Solari handling day-to-day business while the consul was away on her crusade. It had become tedious, but with the support of his whole Clan and the survivors of New Tython, he had managed it. Their newest allies, the Vatali Empire, were of great help and open to cooperation in many ways.

None of that, however, mattered at the moment.

Sorenn stared at the holographic projection of Major Iode, reporting to him, and the council, what had transpired with convoy Sigma-6 and the damages they suffered at the hands of their enemy yet again.

“Len…I mean Major” Turel stuttered before continuing. “How many ships did we lose?”

“We have lost four ships, Councillor, minimal damage on the rest. We managed to evade them successfully and would have succeeded at saving the rest had they not—” Iode trailed off.

“Under the circumstances, I’d say you did as best as you could have. Seventeen ship saved and brought under our wing, despite the losses, is a victory,” Turel replied, standing behind Iode’s actions before any of the other Councillors could intervene and make this an even more awkward and painful experience. None did. “Now, Len, describe the ship you saw one more time.”

“Yes, sir. Black and rusted, like it’s been abandoned for too long. Large ball-like main body with a ring of hangars and turbolasers. We are sending holos as I speak.” The ship was half blanketed by the darkness of space, only sporadically alight from its own cannon fire. Of course, Turel knew the ship well enough. They had had intelligence on it for quite some time now and even an agent on board. What troubled him most deeply was the lack of communication on this particular raid.

“Turel,” Alethia, Aedile of Satele Shan said in what some would consider an accusatory tone. “This ship, it’s captained by your sister, Morgan, isn’t it?.”

Turel huffed in acknowledgement, “yes, yes it is.”

“I think, though I can’t speak for the Council, that we all know what must be done.”

“I’ll not allow rash action to compromise our efforts.”

“She has raided three fleets already before we even knew who she was, and now she’ is blatantly targeting our weakest links and seems to have a keen knowledge of where our ships are in the first place.” Alethia’s tone took on an even more aggressive note.

“There is a reason Morgan is good at what she does, she’s been doing it longer than any of us. She knows the hyperlanes and she knows the likely routes smaller vessels will take. Though, considering how few ships she’s caught, I think she found them by coincidence or dumb luck. She’s testing the waters before she bites. I know how she thinks. We can outsmart her.”

“And what happens if we do?”

Turel paused for a moment as he observed each Councillor’s hologram in turn, stopping only long enough on his wife’s gaze to notice her discomfort. “By then, we will have made a decision.”


34 ABY - 5 months ago

Taris System
Upsilon-class Shuttle Royal

Her vision was blurry, to say the least. Whatever spotlight illuminated the room, and pointed directly into her eyes, didn’t help matters. The bruise on her left eye that she could feel throbbing, seemed to swell even more as she wiggled around and the blood finally circulated. She spat out saliva and blood that left a coppery taste in her mouth. Her breathing was shallow, and every breath brought about another jolt of pain, likely from the bruised ribs she felt aching under her skin. Her knees hurt more than anything else, scraped as they were when she was dragged like a rag doll across the metal floor.

C’ree looked up with her one good eye and through the blur and glare saw only whiffs of smoke circles caressing her face. A leather boot dragged along the floor as strong hands held her down by her hair, stopping her from seeing whomever it was that imprisoned her. She hadn’t spoken a word, not a single word as the ruffians beat her senseless. After all she did kill several of their companions when they captured her. One of them burned to a crisp. What they wanted and who they were, though, was still unknown and for once, C’ree felt a tinge of fear and excitement creep under her skin.

She tried calling on her much desired abilities but whenever she did so, she felt weak. It was as if her mental strength had been sapped from her as well. Her attempts were, expectedly, followed by another kick to her loosened jaw, as if her captors knew what she was doing. But they weren’t in vain, no, in fact she sensed something all too familiar.

“Why is she bloody?” C’ree’s buzzed up hearing picked up on the tone of voice, the subtle accent falling off the woman’s tongue, and the sweet and tender way she accentuated every word — as if she were trained to do it — and she recognized it immediately.

“Captain?!” C’ree exhaled, as it all clicked into place like an elaborate jigsaw.

“She fought us, cap’n. Took out a couple before we knocked her down some. And, it’s not all her blood.” C’ree licked her bloody lip with amusement and glee.

“Oh I know that much.” Finally, the woman overshadowing her knelt and the light from the lamp illuminated her dashing, albeit mature features. Morgan blew a ring of smoke into C’ree’s face, making her cough.

“Kark yeah, it’s me,” the Herald replied in an even, cold tone.

“How you—?

“Alive?” Morgan finished C’ree’s sentence before she could. “Sheer force of will and a nasty, burnin’ desire for revenge. You’d know all about it, seein’ as you threw me to the dogs four years ago.”

C’ree’s memories rushed back to a time when she and her captor were as closely bonded as family, part of the same raiding crew and good friends to boot. The Torrent was a fast and successful raider; she was Morgan’s ship, and she ran it with an iron fist — until the mutiny.

“What? I didn’t…I fought.”

“When? When I was cold and dead?”

C’ree lowered her gaze. She could never forgive herself for being so helpless in that final moment, but a part of her was gladdened by the sight of Morgan, alive and well. The witch exhaled, finally letting her confused feeling settle into place as she felt the room in her mind. She cracked her knuckles and stretched her fingers, managing to alleviate some pain at least.

Morgan’s pistol came out in a flash at C’ree’s movement. “I’m not willing to let you start something here, so you best behave and keep yourself under control or this blaster’s searin’ your brain.” In truth Morgan knew C’ree well enough to tell when she was lying, and what she saw was sincerity, not subterfuge, despite the unnecessary beating.

“Now,” she placed her pistol on her lap, “start talkin’, from the top and hope I believe you.”

C’ree sighed and stretched her neck, making it crackle. A bit of pain, the same pain she felt back then, helped her her go back in time. “I was there, yeah, but you already out cold when I show with backup. Rounded us, tied us, made us watch as they tore First mate’s face off. They laugh, they squeal as he screams.” C’ree flinched at the memory, clearly yet strangely disturbed by what she saw that day. Morgan went numb, her fingers shaking unintentionally at the mention of Isaac, her first mate. Their history was…complicated. “They finished, grabbed you and tossed out. Garbage, they say, nothing more. Nothing I could do,” C’ree’s tone was sincere, that much Morgan could tell, but her ingrained need for revenge wouldn’t let it be.

“So what happened then? Why didn’t they kill you as well?” The Herald tapped at her chair with a long fingernail, vexed and clearly out-of-sorts.

“They gave us a choice: work for no pay, or join you in the cold and black. Nothing I could do then. Ride along,” C’ree’s one good eye looked at the pirate intently. “I stayed on to jump ship. Found new crew, new life. Tried to forget.”

Morgan had real response so she bit her lip so as not to lash out. She wanted to yell and curse C’ree; she wanted to tell her she should have died just as Isaac did, just as part of her did, but in hindsight, she’d have probably done the same. She couldn’t blame C’ree, even now, for what her treacherous crew did to her.

Morgan took a deep breath and tried to remember some of the lessons she had learned over the years. Inhale, exhale, focus. She repeated the process until she was sure she had control over herself again, and she noticed her mysterious meditation draw C’ree’s attention.

“Fair enough. Let her go,” she ordered with a wave of her hand as the spotlight turned off and the room was illuminated by several hanging, neon lights. The cuffs came off in a flash and C’ree could feel her hands again. She rubbed the numbness from her wrists as Morgan came closer to the brute standing to the side. Her open palm slammed against his rugged cheek with such force that the other one cringed. “That’s for beating her without my say-so. Next time I’ll hit much, much lower. Now get her to the infirmary, and if anything else happens to her, I’ll have your skull on my bridge.”

Morgan was two times smaller than the pirate standing in front of her, yet he seemed smaller in comparison. His head was lowered, his shoulder slouched; where he a puppy his tail would have been between his legs. There was palpable malice excreting from the pirate captain through the Force. C’ree half smiled at the display. It seemed that they had both grown in the past four years.

As the pirates carried her out, this time far more gently than before, Morgan called out from behind her, “C’ree, you’re helping me find them, and my new ship. Welcome to the crew.”

Three weeks later

Raxus System, Tion Hegemony Sector
Hammerhead Corvette Scorpius - under attack

The Scorpius lurched on its starboard side under another impact. Ion cannon fire littered its hull, sending shockwaves through its internal systems. The ship was dead in space before it could even warm up its hyperdrive. A plume of smoke, bursting from its engines, followed in its trail as it meandered sluggishly away from its intended course. A shadow loomed over it’s bow, approaching ever closer until a its extended mooring hatch locked onto an exposed airlock. The Nebulon-B frigate, Torrent, had snagged another kill.

The airlock opened with a rush of stale air as the atmospheres of the two ships mixed. Shouts and hollers echoed through the Scorpius’ hallways, a dozen or more pirates gleefully running every which way in search of plunder. They found the ship dark and seemingly abandoned, but for the blaring, red alarm light and deafening siren.

A group of four pirates, lead by a burly Clawdite, approached the large bridge door leading to, what they believed were the remaining terrified crew members. Shots had already been heard across the ship, likely from pirates looting and murdering whomever they saw. The Clawdite smirked at the cheaply encoded coor mechanism before pointing at it.

“Scroom, get this handled. The rest’a ya follow me inside. Shoot first, ask questions later, you get me?” His grin extended further as the rest of his crew reciprocated with confirming nods. Easy kill.

The door swung open and the pirates rushed inside… only to find an empty bridge. Emergency lights illuminated the consoles, but not a soul manned them. It was only then that they noticed the captain’s chair turning to face them. Pure disbelief covered their faces as Morgan Sorenn, their former captain, looked them dead in the eyes and stood up.

“What? Seen a ghost?” Before any of them could answer Morgan pulled a blaster out of her holster and shot the Clawdite in the chest. He fell back, squirming and gasping for air as the stink of burnt flesh filled the room. A moment’s pause was all she got to jump into cover before a hail of blaster fire swiftly followed. She peeked out and shot a burst of fire across her targets, wounding two who fell on the floor squealing.

The last man standing, Scroom the Toydarian, held his pistol like a sheet of paper, hands shaking in abject horror as Morgan appeared from behind the burnt console.

“Put it down. I won’t hurt you,” she cooed in a milky, soft voice as she waved her free hand. Scroom seemed to stare at her blindly before dropping the blaster. “I’ll put it down. You won’t hurt m—”

The blaster bolt pierced his brain point blank before he could finish. Two more shots finished his companions before Morgan pulled out her comm.

“Status in the engine room?” she ordered, more than asked.

“We’re fine here, cap’n. Miss C’ree’s got them scared karkless,” Morgan’s quartermaster, a Zabrak named zahlia, responded with a chirpy giggle. She was likely sitting by the side, letting C’ree have all the fun. A burst of electricity and a muffled scream were heard, as was Zahlia’s reaction, an audible “Ouch!”

“Alright, tell C’ree to finish it off. We have a ship to commandeer.”

“Aye, cap’n. Oi, C’ree—” Zahlia’s signal broke up and disappeared as Morgan hurried down the corridor. The Force giving her step supernatural speed, she came to the airlock seconds before the rest, only to find a fleeing pirate rushing through the mooring tube. One point blank stun shot to the back and he was down. Morgan came closer and turned the man around — a human she remembered as one of her treacherous boatswain’s mates.

Absolute terror reflected in the man’s eyes as Morgan’s influence reached him. Whatever he saw in that moment was enough to make him evacuate his bowels. Morgan took complete delight in putting the barrel of her pistol into his mouth, pulling the trigger and melting his brain. The man’s eyes retreated into his head as smoke billowed from his mouth and nose.

Morgan turned, making eye contact with the newly arrived Zahlia, C’ree and the rest of her small crew. There were only twenty… eighteen of them as far as she could tell.

“Jada, Kryyas?”

“Dead. Got snagged between a blaster and a hard place. Shame,” Zahlia said, shrugging as she did so. She didn’t care one bit. You get dead, you get left, she always said. Morgan wasn’t so sure of that.

“Make sure we pick up their bodies when we take the ship. I’m not letting them rot with this scum.”

“We no leave family behind,” C’ree interjected, solidifying the order further in place, not that she needed to. Zahlia sighed, not completely understanding the notion of risking one’s life for a dead body, but she accepted the duty anyway.

Morgan marched into the mooring tube first, followed closely by C’ree. On instinct, the two women knew where they would strike and who exactly they would face on the other side. It was an ingrained ability all Force Users shared and it was their one major boon. Both women spread their senses through the Force, pushing their minds out through an incorporeal eye to see the area beyond: several pirates stoop around the airlock but most of them still spread around the ship. There was no time for subtlety.

The airlock door was unhinged, but it blew open to the side as the two women rushed in. An enemy screamed as his body was pinned against the bulkhead by the massive door, breaking enough bones in his body to render him unconscious moments later. A Wookiee wearing tribal armor, half his facial hair burnt away, lunged at the two only to meet a spiraling arc of pure, dark energy from C’ree’s fingertips. It seared his flesh and sent him tumbling backwards into the corridor beyond.

A Sullustan with one good eye and raggedy clothes pulled a blaster on Morgan only a moment too late. Morgan shot first, burning a hole in his gut. His entrails spilled out through the gaping wound, searing against the burning flesh left by the blaster. A barrage of fire made the other two on Morgan’s side duck for cover, just in time for the rest of the invaders to dash through the airlock. Morgan’s speed and grace had only increased over the years. She jumped high enough above the cover to surprise the defenders, leaving them riddled with another barrage from her auto-blaster. She switched the clip and looked at Zahlia who had just finished off the another defender.

“Zahlia, clear the engine room. Don’t damage the ship, but make them suffer.” Morgan’s tone was determined and unwavering. Nothing would stop her.

“C’ree, you’re with me. We’re going for the bridge.”

The witch licked her lips in response again feeling the same old desire she yearned for — to let it all loose. Morgan could swear she heard a muffled moan from the woman as she dashed down the corridor.

“You sure you’ll be able to handle this?” Zahlia gave her a quizzical confused look.

“Clearly you don’t know C’ree. Just watch your back and come back alive.” There was no humor in the Captain’s tone, she really wanted her crew to survive this or else she’d never live with herself. “The rest of you, follow her and give her backup, C’ree and I will handle the bridge” she barked finally and dashed behind C’ree.

The Torrent’s pirates had depleted since her time as Captain, leaving only a skeleton crew piloting the frigate. Resistance was sporadic and easily handled for the most part. She finally slammed her fist against the locked bridge door, with C’ree behind. The door was the only obstacle between her and complete revenge, and she had no way of entry. Her slicer was with zahlia, likely disabling the engine room systems. She hadn’t thought it through, letting her anger and desire for revenge blot her mind. Even C’ree could sense how distraught she was.

“Reiles, open this door you banthakarker!” she bellowed against the metal as she sensed her treacherous boatswain’s aura inside. She could feel his anxiety and that of his bridge crew. There were no more than a dozen, maybe less in total, all afraid, all an. No matter. She would get in one way or another. Morgan’s blaster dropped just as her lightsaber flew from her holster and ignited in her open palm. The fiery blade made her pause for only a moment as she remembered her Master for the first time in days. “Never give in to anger and hate. They will lead you astray.” Morgan stayed like that for only a moment before the anger resurfaced. The torn and mutilated face of her first mate and lover vivid in her mind.

C’ree pulled out her own dark azure saber in preparation for the inevitable fight just as Morgan stabbed at the metal, searing and melting it apart. It burned with an infernal glow as the bulkhead buckled and gave way. She circled the blade in a slow arc, only then noticing that C’ree was doing it as well. A smirk broke her angry facade, knowing well that C’ree would have her back — family is as family does.

Finally the door gave way as the metal slag melted to the floor revealing a hole. Blaster fire emerged only to be swiftly rebounded back. The time it took her target to yelp from the other side, was all it took for both women to charge in and roll over the floor, sabers blazing every which way. Blasters illuminated the bridge with multicolored blasts, some ending up in consoles, others searing flesh. Chaos ensued as one after another the bridge crew fell to the force users’ blades. C’re took particular enjoyment in dismembering each of her victims. Limbs littered the floor and lifeless halves of bodies slammed against the metal floor.

Finally the last of his crew fell as C’ree slowly, patiently pushed her blade through the pilots chin and brain as she licked his cheek in demented glee. The man’s insides cooked and his eyes popped out before she tossed him aside.

The “captain”, Reiles, dropped his blaster and crawled on all fours, crying for his life. He pulled himself up against a console and tried for the door, but one precise slice at his tendons left him face first on the floor. He squealed like a bantha for slaughter before Morgan turned him to face her. Her heeled boot made her way to his open palm and pressed it against the cold metal. Reiles screamed in agony as his finger bones crackled with the pressure.

“You… have taken everything from me,” Morgan hissed into his ear as she dropped to his level, straddling him in the process. “Now, I’ll take everything from you.” The raven-haired pirate pulled out a five inch blade from her boot. Reiles’ eye widened just as C’ree’s free hand shoved outward and an invisible force held him in place. He was helpless as Morgan started her gruesome work.

The blade slid against the man’s cheek, pushing in only so much to make him bleed. He yelped at the pain, making C’ree grin. She enjoyed watching his suffering just as much as Morgan liked inflicting it. The blade bit in deeper, finally reaching bone as Morgan slid it across the outside of his face. Reiles screamed as tears trailed down his cheeks, their saltiness biting into his exposed flesh. Fleshy sounds followed deeper and deeper cuts as Morgan did her work. Her hands were soaked bloody before Reiles passed out. Just before she tore his face off completely she buried the dagger into his heart with satisfaction.

Reiles’ fleshy skin dropped on the floor with a meaty plop as Morgan cleaned her dagger against her arm, leaving trails of blood and gore in its wake.

“C’ree,” she turned to her new first officer. “Get rid of this yeasty maggot-ridden sleemo from my sight.”

“Airlock.” C’ree smirked, receiving no reaction from morgan except an empty stare. She dragged the body out of the way and went out in search of their crew.

All of Morgan’s thoughts in that moment split down the middle. She could hear her Master’s voice and her words of wisdom that she refused to follow. She could hear her brother telling her revenge wouldn’t change anything. But all she really ever saw was Isaac’s face, ripped and slashed into a deathly grimace.

And her knees buckled.


34 ABY - Present time

Fial System, Nilgaard Sector
Lucrehulk battleship Godless Matron

C’ree observed the ships being pulled in by the Matron’s tractor beam. Three Gallofree medium transports and an old Hammerhead corvette floated through the main hangar doors into the Matron’s starboard hangar, a good catch for such an easy raid. She had only hoped that they had had enough goods to satisfy the crew’s growing financial and material needs, not to mention corporeal. She rubbed her chin in thought as the ships landed one after another onto their pre-determined locations. The woman standing next to her — the Matron’s Zabrak quartermaster, Zahlia — looked over at the first mate with an inquisitive glare.

“Expecting trouble?” she asked, sparing the Hammerhead a glance, the one ship C’ree was entirely focused on.

“Might be. Might be soldiers in them containers. Stun first, question later,” C’ree’s heavy tone and utter lack of expression left no clue for mercy. “Maybe we sell them good.”

“Alright, you heard the lady. Weapons on stun. I’ll not be wanting any dead, you hear? If any of you kill even one of them, it’s your cut,” she hollered as the small raiding teams rushed the three transports. Zahlia turned to the techs and deck crew. “Soon as they’re done, you lot put the cargo on the tracks. Make sure you don’t break anything.” She gave one of the Rodian crew members, known for his clumsiness, a stern look. “It’s worth more than your miserable lives, now move it!”

C’ree observed the quartermaster do her job with surprising efficiency. The Gallofree crews, and what few guards accompanied them, were swiftly hoarded to one side of the hangar, blasters pointed at them from all sides. They numbered twelve, all Urrian Resistance pilots and sympathizers in Resistance flight suits and uniforms. C’ree furrowed her brows as her attention shifted to the Hammerhead corvette again, neatly closed off and barricaded from the inside, no doubt. Unlike the Gallofrees, the Hammerhead had security, and passengers — a most valuable cargo for pirates like them.

The charges on several of the airlocks detonated as the pirates stormed the small vessel. Blaster fire and slugshots reverberated through the hangar for longer than she would have liked, but eventually it all died down. Several men from the raiding party dragged their wounded out to the gravstretchers waiting on the deck. They rushed to one of the several medbays located in the ship’s massive arm. Minutes later a steady stream of civilians and security trudged from the interior of the Hammerhead: men, women, children, elders. All of them would have good value on the market. The pirates hoarded the civilians to one side and bundled what was left of the security detail and crew with the Gallofree pilots.

C’ree’s eyebrow shot up at the sight of a very angry Zeltron female. She was bruised and bloody, limping on one leg where a stun shot had likely struck her. She looked like she held her own against the raiders. She wore brown trousers with an empty belt holster, a beige blouse, now bloody from a trickling broken nose, and black boots. The Zeltron glared around the room before her eyes locked with C’ree’s. Defiance and no small amount of fury radiated out of those eyes. C’ree smirked and licked her lips.

Walking forward at a steady pace, she joined the Matron’s security chief, Keelan Vars, a handsome Human with bright red hair and beard, and a steady posture. He was svelte in build, dressed in a leather jacket, shirt and “smuggler pants” — trousers that usually held too many pockets to check, common amongst freighter pilots.

“What?” Vars spoke up, sensing the first mate’s presence in his vicinity. She had a way of creeping under everyone’s skin, so much so that everyone had a bad feeling or premonition whenever C’ree was around. It gave the crew chills.

“Zeltron? Who she?”

“No idea. She just joined the fight in the Hammerhead, apparently. Took down five of our guys before they could stun her,” his gaze trailed of towards the bodybags being carried off on gravstretchers.

“We break her first,” C’ree’s razor smile left little doubt in Keelan’s mind at what she was planning. It made his stomach churn.

“And the soldiers?”

“We sell—” the first officer trailed off as her comm buzzed on her hip. She pulled it off and compressed the switch. “C’ree. Go.”

“C’ree, I want the Zeltron alive and unharmed,” Morgan’s silvery voice echoed through the device. Keelan cocked his ears to eavesdrop, “kill the rest.” Morgan finished after a moment’s pause. Keelan’s expression changed to abject horror at the captain’s order. She wasn’t usually one to execute prisoners; something was wrong. Or maybe she had gone completely mad.

“I take her. Captain wants her.” A wide grin spread across her face, making Keelan edge away in disgust. C’ree whistled to grab everyone’s attention on the deck as Keelan and two guards brought the Zeltron up front.

“Welcome. Matron is home now. For you all,” C’ree spoke loud enough for the civilians and soldier to hear her as she waved her hands around, pointing all around her. “If try to run. Death. If try to disobey. Death. If think about escape. Death.” As she said the last word her arm lowered and the raiders opened fire. All the security guards and pilots lay dead in a pile only moments later, blaster burns scorching their mutilated bodies. Sobbing and shocked expressions spread like ripples through the civilians.

“You frakkin’ animals!” the Zeltron yelled out, fighting against her restraints. “I’ll kill every last one of you!” With a feat of strength and agility that surprised her captor, the Zeltron bit down on his arm, blood pooling in her mouth. Untangling her arms from the raider’s grip, she pulled his pistol from its holster and, before he could do anything to stop her, set the barrel on his head pulled the trigger. The two others around her went for their weapons as most others ducked for cover. The Zeltron backhanded the second raider, forcing him to stumble back, while the third one received a shot to the stomach that made him tip over.

The crazed woman turned toward C’ree with a vengeance, but the Human was too fast, far too aware — and she had the Force on her side. The Zeltron’s arm shot up, pushed by an invisible force from below, just as a steady stream of lightning surged from C’ree’s extended hand. Her eyes were full of rapture as the red woman howled in agony. She fell to her knees, releasing the grip on the blaster.

“You lucky captain want you alive.” C’ree’s diabolical smile gave everyone around her chills. Her unstable nature and her overwhelming power were the reasons she was so feared among the crew; the reasons they gave her the monicker Fury. When she finally stopped, the Zeltron curled on the floor, recovering from the pain. C’ree stepped closer to her and grabbed her by the windpipe, making the smuggler choke. The pirate had a steely grip for one her size.

“What your name, pretty face?” the pirate hissed.

“Q—reia,” the smuggler managed a defiant growl through the grip.

Morgan Sorenn crossed her legs in the captain’s chair as she disconnected her comm link with C’ree. She pondered, momentarily, the decision she had made, but the bridge required her full attention. The crew worked swiftly to establish an escape route before more ships arrived. The route they were on was less traveled, but that only meant a higher possibility of surprises, and she didn’t like surprises.

“I’m intrigued,” a male voice came from behind her chair, prompting an eye roll and barely audible grunt from the captain. “You would murder people so readily, even as your profits are endangered? I never figured you for a loyalist, Madam Herald.” Chief Inquisitor Bama Hodrren sauntered in front of Morgan with a self-satisfied smirk. He was short, but stocky, sporting a rather large belly. He wore the uniform of the Iron Legion, much like his small contingent on the Matron, despite his status as Inquisitor.

“They were Resistance sympathizers, my dear Inquisitor. I had thought you’d have learned that sympathizers get the noose. Or the firing line, in this case. Isn’t that in your job description?” Morgan’s eyebrow rose in an amused microexpression. The Inquisitor was not at all a stupid or particularly egotistical man — apart from considering himself more worthy and able than most other people — but he did like playing these mind games with the captain. He kept trying to get… something out of her, some sliver of information he could likely use to try and ruin her. His cleverness had its limits, Morgan had found, and his utter lack of self control in many things made him moderately easy to manipulate. Despite his vices, he was a very, very dangerous obstacle in her plans.

“Cap’n, coordinates input into the system,” the navigation officer spoke up, distracting both of them from their little duel.

“Good. Proceed.” Morgan stood up from her chair, just as the ship jumped, long white lines fading into the wide blue spiral of hyperspace. “If you’ll excuse me, Inquisitor, I have business to attend to. I’m sure you can amuse yourself with what the Matron has to offer?”

“What do you intend to do with the prisoner?” the Inquisitor’s tone changed, as it often did when he became serious about matters.

“That is none of your concern,” she replied, equally as serious.

“I should think it is. If she is a sympathizer—”

“Then I shall inform you of such. For now, I have desires to sate, and you are boring me.” The Herald left no room for discussion; after all she was a member of the ruling body, and he was just a lowly Inquisitor. Hodrren bit his tongue, sneered at Morgan’s back and promised himself he’d have something on the pirate captain sooner or later. He retreated to the observation lounge behind the bridge just as Morgan left through the main door.

Her quarters weren’t that far off from the main bridge, either. Several decks below, in fact. She entered the lift that lead to her deck, finding no crew along the way. Even now, the scale of the ship astonished her. You could walk for hours on any deck and not find a living soul. She exited the lift on deck four, starboard wing, and proceeded towards her room, not too far off. There she found her guards, stationed as always. They were Shadow Academy rejects and Iron Legion drop outs who had just a few too many issues with authority than the norm allowed. So instead of dumping them somewhere, she gave them a purpose. They comprised most of her raider and fighting forces. Even her pilots were former Iron Legion recruits. With a fighting force like that, few other pirates could stand against the Matron, as the past year had shown.

“Evening, gents.” She gave a mock salute as she walked into her quarters, ignoring the replies from the two men. Her room was little more than a refurbished observation lounge, far too roomy for her alone. She had acquired a comfortable bed, shelves for her personal effects and several tables and other furniture for a more comfortable social environment. Other than that, it was surprisingly empty, and cold. Morgan huffed, took off her jacket and plopped on the sofa, raising her legs on the small caff table. She took up a datapad with the latest ship reports and had read through about half when the door buzzed.

“Enter,” she said in an unamused tone. The doors opened with a hiss as C’ree walked in, Keelan in tow, dragging a bruised and slightly more bloody Zeltron. Qyreia tumbled to the ground as C’ree pulled her hair. Qyreia looked up from the floor and her eyes widened when she saw the captain.

“You kriffin’ bitch! I’ll—” C’ree’s foot to her back made the Zeltron kiss the floor, panting as the Human’s heel dug into her spine .

“That’ll do, C’ree,” Morgan ordered, none too softly. “Why is she damaged?”

“Had to put her down some. Violent. Dangerous. Have guards with you.”

“No. No need for that. I’m sure we’ll come to a mutual agreement in a few moments,” the pirate captain informed them, more than suggested. “Now, leave, all of you.” C’ree stood in place for several long moments, looking at both women in turn, but finally decided to listen. She stormed out, likely going back to the main hangar. Keelan gave Morgan a worried look.

“She’ll be fine. She just needs to vent. You and the guards stay outside, I’ll need you shortly.” She gave the security officer one of those looks he was used to getting when the situation required discretion. He simply nodded and stepped outside, closing the door behind him. That was all that Qyreia needed. She leapt from her position on the floor, pushing herself off with her legs while her hands were cuffed behind her back. She charged over the caff table, hitting Morgan head-first, and tumbling them both across the floor, along with the sofa. Morgan untangled herself from the Zeltron, rolled backwards and landed on her feet. Qyreia stood up after her, ready to bite her if necessary.

“Stop what you’re doing—” was all that Morgan could utter before the Red Qek charged her again. This time she sidestepped and let the woman roll over the bed and onto the other side.

“What happened to the Morgan I met back on Aoetheran? You told me you left your old life behind, and what do I see? You’re murdering people! For what?”

“Old habits,” Morgan replied nonchalantly, enraging the smuggler even further. Qyreia jumped on the bed and over, to Morgan’s side. Best she could do was kick the pirate. Her first high kick felt clumsy and Morgan evaded it easily. Her second, more precise but just as easy to dodge, knocked over a lamp. Morgan caught her third kick with both her hands and shoved the Zeltron back on the floor. She had had enough. The pirate extended her hand and Qyreia felt a familiar sensation of her limbs going stiff. Unable to move, all she could do was struggle.

“You’re a kriffin’ traitor. You betrayed your friends, and everything they stand for, for this? You’re lower than scum.”

“Will you stop and listen to me, you dumb schutta?” Morgan would have yelled but for the guards outside. “I could’ve made my guards hold you down while I interrogated you. Or I could’ve handed you over to the Inquisitor I conveniently have on my ship. Luckily that fat Hutt-spawn has no idea who you are, and I aim at keeping it that way.”

Qyreia wanted to spit at the Force-user, but kept her words at bay for the time being, contenting herself with a sour expression at the Human while grinding her teeth.

“I don’t really care what you think, but I’m sure as hell not letting you die on my ship. Now shut up and listen to me, and you might just get the hell out of this alive. If the Inquisitor or his men find you, they will kill you. If the bounty hunters on the ship recognize you, they’ll sell you to the Inquisitors placed on this ship, and they will kill you. If you even breathe in any way that would alert them, they will kill you. Am I clear?”

Finally the Zeltron calmed down enough and started listening. “Fine. I’ll bite,” she said with no small amount of revulsion.

“Good.” Morgan sighed silently. “The man outside, Keelan, he’ll help you get to a TIE fighter — you can still fly one of those, yeah? He can give you coordinates to one of the Resistance outposts, but from then on you’re on your own.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not doing this au gratis?”

“Deliver something to my brother.”


Florrum System, Sertar sector
Black Sun safehouse, Florrum

Kaal Sakoss — a Gotal smuggler of poor renown and even poorer stature — sat in a chair in the office of one of Sertar sector’s most notorious crime bosses. He held a drink in his sweaty hand and tried to keep the shakes from revealing his anxiety to anyone perceptive enough to notice. Kaal’s eyes shifted from one person to the next, hoping that none of the Black Sun goons would jump out at him and do any one of the unspeakable things he had heard about.

Vehdo, the Iktotchi Black Sun boss who controlled most of the operations in the Sertar sector, seemed at ease and relaxed in his own leather-bound chair. His feet were on the table and he drank a shot of high-end Corellian whiskey he had shared with the obviously terrified and no less paranoid Gotal.

“Relax, Kaal,” Vehdo said with a glint in his smile. “I’m sure your partner will be back soon with our earnings. After all, a deal is a deal.”

“Oh, um…I’m sure he will, yeah. We did promise seventy percent and seventy’s what you’ll get, Vehdo.” The smuggler barely suppressed his voice breaking. He was terrified and Vehdo enjoyed every moment of it. It was his usual M.O. — find a sucker for a job he wouldn’t be up for and then rip him apart when he failed. There was also the added benefit of keeping many of the victim’s belongings to himself. Scratch off the top of the Black Sun’s profits, as it were. That and Vehdo had already killed the Gotal’s poor partner hours earlier. He just waited for the opportune moment to hand him his one way ticket to the afterlife.

The door chime echoed through the room, making Kaal exhale. Vehdo’s eyebrow shoot up. He wasn’t expecting company. One of his guards slid the door viewer aside and muttered something to the visitor. He went stiff and slid the door latch open, letting the newcomers in.

“What the kark are you—?” Vehdo stopped mid-question as his guard turned towards him, his blank stare chilling the Iktotchi’s bones. An elegant Duros entered the room, dressed in fashionable clothes, resembling those of a diplomat more than a slum-ridden criminal. His posture was regal, almost noble-like. Vehdo already hated him just for that. A woman entered behind him, half-shaved head, tattoo on her scalp, and blood red markings covering her face. Her eyes showed killer intent that seemed caged for some reason, but Vehdo felt its presence very keenly. He had seen eyes like that before, and they were never a good sign. The Duros drew the attention of his eyes, but all his thoughts were bent on the woman. Sweat trickled down his brow for the first time in a while, and he couldn’t for the life of him tell why. Vehdo’s men already had their blasters out, aimed intently at the pair. The Iktotchi raised his hand to prevent a sudden outburst of violence.

“Who the kark are you?” he asked seriously as Kaal seemed to melt into his chair, hoping to escape whatever this was.

“Leave,” the Duros spoke softly, turning to the Gotal. “We have private business with Master Vehdo.” Kaal needed no further incentive. He scurried out with all haste, likely as not thanking whatever good fortune he believed in that he survived. As the door closed and grips on blasters became tighter, Vehdo’s patience ebbed away.

“We are here with a proposal, Master Vehdo,” the Duros spoke up again, just as the Iktotchi started fuming inside. “I am named Sult, Iden Sult. I represent a certain authority based within the Shroud Syndicate.”

At the sound of those words Vehdo’s fists clenched on the table. He knew of the Shroud Syndicate — smugglers playing crime lords from an ancient wreck somewhere in space. Rabble and mongrels, for all he cared. His grimace turned to a chuckle and then a gleeful smile. Maybe his entertainment for the day wasn’t finished yet. “Come, please, tell us this proposal.” His tone was obviously sarcastic, a fact that Sult didn’t miss. The Duros kept his composure either way.

“The Shroud Syndicate has interest in this territory. We are willing to part with a large sum of credits to have your cooperation in this matter.” Sult’s tone was calm, serene, and sweet. He was weaving his words like a fine tapestry. “This, of course, would assume you leave your current employ.”

“That so?” The Iktotchi was so amused by the brazenness of these clowns that he actually laughed at the proposal. “We are the Black Sun,” he added, as if that was enough of an answer.

Sult slid a datapad across the crime boss’ table, letting him glance at it. “What’s this?” Vehdo asked just as his eyes glimpsed the amount. His expression changed from amusement to abject surprise.

“A million credits, for your cooperation and business. We call that a fair exchange,” Sult added so that everyone in the room could hear. Heads turned on swivels, looking at Vehdo and each other, expecting someone to react. The offer was more than generous — more than any of them would ever earn in the Black Sun. But they also knew Vehdo.

“You taking a piss? Think this is funny?” Vehdo’s words flowed between his gritted teeth. Despite his tendencies for aggression and his utter lack of conscience, he was loyal to the Sun. He truly believed he was an important cog in the wheel of the grand machine — that he mattered. Throwing it all away wasn’t really in him.

Vehdo stood up in a flash, brandishing his expensive blaster pistol directly at Sult’s head. The Duros never flinched or showed a sign of fear. “Karkin’ clowns playing big shots from your clanker reject of a ship. What? Daddy give you too many credits to throw around so you can play king? You and your harpy schutta better get out of my sight.”

“I see.” Sult gave a long pause before speaking again, “We will not make this offer again, Vehdo.” The distinct lack of respect in the Duros’ voice made the Iktotchi go off the rails.

“Yeah?” Vehdo shrugged as he looked at his men with slight annoyance and amusement wrapped in one. The blaster bolt shot out at lightning speed as the crime boss compressed the trigger. The blue bolt traveled mere meters between the men — and scattered in mid air right before Sult’s never-moving eyes. Shock and awe reverberated through the room as C’ree’s barrier shattered from the blast. Time seemed to slow for the gangsters — or maybe she was just too damn fast. In what seemed like mere moments C’ree found her way in between Sult and her target and raised her scorched fingers towards the bewildered Iktotchi. Lightning crackled from her hand. Sult awaited what he knew would be a dazzling display of electricity and fire, but it never came. Suddenly, C’ree’s hand contorted and spasmed, turning on itself as the energy dissipated.

“No, no, no, no,” C’ree kept repeating. “Get out my head.” Fingers grasped at her hair as her eyes widened into globes. Fingernails scratched at bare skin as she fell to her knees. Ozone spread around her as electricity arced across her body, as if turned against itself. “Get out!” she screamed.

Sult came to the sudden realization that he was very much alone. The first mate’s sudden outburst left him vulnerable and without a weapon. Quickly, his eyes scanned the room, all the objects in it, the faces, the expressions. Most were focused on C’ree but the three gangsters to his left. Their gazes kept dancing in between C’ree and the datapad. “Gotcha.”

“Seems you’re dead now,” Vehdo chuckled, pointing his blaster at the Majordomo’s exposed, bald head. The glass on his table shattered, the jars on his shelf cracked and a huge pressure could be felt as C’ree fought against whatever demons she had inside her. Vehdo paused for a moment as he noticed his whiskey defying gravity and spilling upward, onto the ceiling. The world made little sense, but he was determined. The blaster leveled and took aim.

“Gentlemen,” the Majordomo addressed the three to the left. “One million each if you shoot them.” Vehdo eyed his men for any sign of treachery, and indeed they were thinking about it. His blaster turned towards them. The other two men in the room followed suit, aiming for the would-be traitors. The traitors pointed their blasters in return. Triggers squeezed.

Sult grabbed his opportunity. He rarely carried a weapon — he found it much too uncivilized — but he did carry a flash grenade in case of emergency. He ducked as the device spiraled through the air onto Vehdo’s table just as the shootout started. With a loud bang, light flashed and sound reverberated through their ears, but still they kept firing. Sult pinned C’ree on the floor and covered his ears and eyes from the effect.

Suddenly all sounds but the buzzing in his ears stopped. He opened his eyes to a scene of devastation. Fire burnt the curtains and floors. Vehdo’s wooden table was scorched from the grenade blast and heated plasma. Vehdo himself was dead, a bolt to the head made sure of that. His two loyal men were peppered with blaster fire every-which-way. Only two traitors remained, one severely wounded. Sult stood up, fixed his robe and shook off the lingering effect as best he could. His legs were shaky but he could stand.

A comm device appeared from under the layers of his clothes. “Medical unit to the hideout. We have an ally down. And bring a cleaning crew.” Sult’s gaze fell on the one remaining uninjured thug who leaned against the wall in a muddled haze of stunning scenery and buzzing sounds. The Majordomo smirked. “You did well. Very well.” His free hand grasped the blaster laying next to the man, pointed it at his temple and pulled the trigger. The thug rolled over, his brain seared by artificial fire.

“Just good business.”

Godless Matron
Somewhere in hyperspace

Two Trandoshan pirates dragged, none too lightly, the more cooperative Zeltron into one of the many interrogation rooms in The Ball. The room was empty but for an Imperial interrogation chair — which looked out of place — and a small tray with instruments. The room was lit with one single spotlight, aimed at the chair itself; it was dusty and aged, its metal walls stained with the years. Several figures, obscured by the darkness, stood in a circle around it patiently awaiting its latest resident. A small lump traveled through Qyreia’s throat as she started questioning this whole idea. Morgan walked in briskly, catching everyone’s attention with her piercing glare. She looked at the Trandoshans and nodded at the chair with anticipation.

“Well? Let’s get this over with.” She leaned against the wall and lit a cigarra as Qyreia’s boots dragged along the floor. They strapped Qyreia firmly into the device. Her arms, legs, hips, neck and forehead were all tightly pulled against the hard surface, uncomfortable and painful. Four people in dark leather and rags walked into the light — two women and two men. One of the women, clearly an authority figure, had an empty eye socket that made Qyreia cringe. Her every instinct told her to run, break the bonds and dash out of the door.

As the two pairs started chanting some kind of rite in an obscure language, Qyreia glanced over, her eyes searching but not finding Morgan. “What the kark is this?”

“I told you, sweetie,” the pirate captain inhaled a long whiff of smoke before replying fully. “It’ll hurt, so better bite down.” Morgan’s indifferent tone chilled her blood even more as one of the Trandoshans put a piece of leather in between her teeth.

The chanting mixed into grunting and wailing, twitching and head bobbing followed suit as the crazed cultists did their ritual. Panic spread through the Zeltron’s body as green and black energy swirled around her, coalescing into her chest. She felt a sharp pain in her abdomen, imagining that it was what daggers cutting her skin felt like. Tears rolled down her cheeks in an instant but she never screamed out. She huffed and groaned, bit down on the piece of leather and ground her teeth, but not once did her voice escape her. She would endure whatever torture they had planned for her.

Qyreia felt like her bones were shifting, like her skin was crawling across her body, like her arms and hands were contorting out of shape. The chanting grew louder as even more energy enveloped her and the pain became too much. With a single scream that pierced Morgan’s ears, Qyreia fell silent and blackness enveloped her.

Godless Matron
Some time later

Qyreia woke up on a comfy bed in — what appeared to be — a lavish suite. She was naked but covered with a warm blanket, only her toes showing on the other side of it. Her head spun but otherwise she felt no pain or discomfort.he memory of her ordeal felt like a bad dream now, but she knew it wasn’t. She rubbed her temples to weed away the exhaustion.

“How are you feeling, sugar?” Morgan’s voice came from across the room. She sat in a chair, reading a datapad, observing the woman. “You had it rough there for a second.”

“I’ve been… better. Then again, I’ve been worse too.” Finally, as she gestured, Qyreia noticed the skin on her arms was pale white, tattoos covering every inch of their length. Her fingernails were longer and well manicured and the hair that fell over her eyes was distinctly dark.

“Bork me. It worked?” She was in genuine shock. At one point during the ritual she was sure it was all just a ruse to torture her. She stood up and ran to the nearby wall mirror. She looked at herself, to be sure, but she saw the Herald in all her femininity. The tattoos covered every inch of her body, scars as well. Every minute detail down to the crystal blue eyes and the small beauty mark was exact. Qyreia poked at her currently much larger breasts and felt the sensation as if it were her body.

“What’re you doing?” Morgan asked with a raised eyebrow. “Please don’t ogle my body like it’s a plaything.” The Zeltron seemed to flush with redness at the realization. She was too amazed and astonished to ever notice that fact that it was actually Morgan she was touching. “Clothes are on the other chair. Get dressed, the cloak too. We have a busy day ahead of us. There’s a flask of Corellian whiskey in there somewhere. The kind you like.”

“How long?” Qyreia asked as she put her undergarments on.

“How long… what?” Morgan asked, clearly unsure what the other woman meant.

“Will I be like this?” A worried tone carried from her voice.

“It’s temporary. Ebeda, the pretty lady that conducted the ritual, will be with you down there. As soon as she leaves the planet, it’ll dissipate,” Morgan replied, lighting another cigara. “Or so I’m told. Who knows, maybe you stay like this forever.” She winked.

Qyreia gave her an obscene gesture in return. She paused before asking, “Will it…?

“Hurt?” Morgan anticipated. “Most likely. Nothing we can do about it, though. You’re physically changed, it’s not just an illusion. Only way to be sure you survive what comes next.” Morgan’s gaze fell on the woman and then moved away. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Qyreia concluded, draping herself with the provided shirt as Morgan walked out of the room to leave her with her thoughts.

Dajorra system
Three hours later

Shipping traffic around Selen had always been fairly dense. Numerous ships, most simple cargo haulers or small freighters, dashed to-and-from the planet carrying goods and commodities Selen’s large population could not do without.

Slowly, a shadow passed over all of them as the bulk of the Godless Matron lumbered into view. The massive ship trailed smoke in her wake as she entered orbit above Estle City. Half a dozen freighters, corvettes and transports lifted out of the main hangars, heading for places unknown, while several smaller craft exited the ship’s more private hangars and rushed towards the surface through a secured entry corridor. The Herald had announced her visit to the Consul of Arcona, and the Arconans had made sure they were prepared… for anything. With the most recent events at home and abroad, they could never be too sure.

The Upsilon-class shuttle, Royal — escorted by six TIE fighters — roared through the clouds towards the colossal Citadel, and landed on the landing pad softly with the folding of its wings. The ramp lowered slowly in front of Guard Captain Bly, who awaited cordially for the Herald to disembark. He had seen the woman before, when she was a temporary envoy to the former Herald on Selen. Many rumors spread after Morgan’s ascension to the Council, mostly bad rumors. Bly, ever the loyal son of Arcona, had little love for treacherous Huttspawn like her — let alone for witless pirates — but it was his job to protect the Shadow Lady, not question her orders.

Behind the Guard Captain a small retinue of Citadel guards, and part of the summit of House Galeres stood waiting. Ernordeth, Galares Quaestor, and Rulvak, captain of the Nighthawk. Behind them stood the Consul of Arcona, in all her splendor.

The first people off the ship were two well-armed men in patchwork armor wearing the symbol of the Skull Kraken Morgan’s pirates were known for. The two men had a stance and aura about them that made Bly think of the military, but he was unsure whose. They smirked at him as several more individuals, even worse-for-wear than the two pirates, strode down and took position to the left of the ramp. One of them, a middle-aged woman, had lost her eye in a very brutal fashion, considering the scars. She reminded Bly of a Sith more than any pirate, but his attention focused on the woman they’d all been waiting for: Morgan Sorenn swaggered down the ramp in front of Bly and raised her eyebrow.

“My Lady Herald,” he greeted, nodding politely, as he was instructed. “Welcome to the Citadel, again. May I introduce Quaestor Ernordeth Puer-Irae, Captain Rulvak Qurroc—”

Morgan pulled out a flask and took a swig. “Yeah, nice to meet you.” She waved to both men as they gave their nodded replies.

If the interruption irked Bly in any way, he did not show it, but simply continued, ”and of course, our Lady Consul, Atyiru Caesura Entar.”

Atyiru walked in front of them all and, wearing the biggest smile on her face, took Morgan’s hands in hers. “Oh it’s so good to see you again, Morg—an.” The length of the reply made Morgan raise her brow. There was a pause, and Morgan swore that if Atyiru had eyes, she’d be winking right then. “Come, come now. We have a lot to do.” The smaller woman pulled the Herald into a run as both their guard retinues followed suit, shoulder bumping against shoulder…


Port O’lval
Dajorra System

Ol’val was one of the few “free ports” in the subsector and the only one in Dajorra that operated under the assumption that business came first. Run from the shadows by a mysterious individual called the Blindman, the whole complex was a series of caverns, tunnels and exterior facilities merged into one. From the outside it looked much like any asteroid, but for its many-glowing lights and apparent activity.

Four ships slowly edged out of the darkness into view of the station. One by one the Gallofree transports and the Hammerhead corvette docked into the massive sills carved out of sheer rock. Zahlia, the Godless Matron’s Quartermaster, jumped off of the loading ramp as it descended towards the metal floor, followed closely by several of her crewmates. They had taken the corvette with a minimal crew while the rest of her team piloted the Gallofrees, twelve of them in all.

“You two,” she turned to a Twi’lek woman and a Kel’dor, both in traveling clothes, with blaster carbines strapped to their shoulders. “The coast is clear. Tell her to come out and then you stay behind. Someone has to watch the cargo.” The two nodded and went about their business, leaving Zahlia with two humans — former Iron Legion recruits — to oversee the meeting. Moments later, familiar footsteps echoed in the dock as Morgan Sorenn — the real Morgan Sorenn — walked down the ramp and onto the pad.

“You’re paranoid,” Morgan said as she lit her cigarra and gave her Quartermaster a look of annoyance.

“You say that now, but give it time. It’ll settle in,” she said in a very serious manner.

“Kark’s sake, Zahlia, I got my blasters and my saber. And those aren’t even the worst of my weapons. I can handle more than the three of you could, and I can do it karkin’ alone.” She clicked her tongue and threw her cigarra with irritation.

“S’my damn job to keep you alive! Now, shall we go, your highness, or do I have to ask politely?”

Morgan rolled her eyes, turned around and knocked on the metal ramp several times. “Vatuu, c’mere boy!” she hollered and whistled. Seconds later, a small furry creature skittered across the ramp onto her arm and latched onto her fuzzy collar. It purred with delight as Morgan scratched its head.

“Ugh,” Zahlia gave a disgusted grunt. “That furry thing o’yours keeps spreadin’ its dung all over my ship!”

“Your ship?” Morgan asked quizzically as she swaggered towards the Ducts.

“Fine, your ship, but still—”

“Vatuu can spread his dung all he wants. It’s his home, now shut up and let me think. I have a meeting to catch.” She walked a mere ten feet before she felt something. Not unlike a lingering feeling of dread in her bones. A disturbance. She was never particularly good with those premonitions, but when it came to the people she cared for, they were unusually strong. A single thought whispered through her mind: C’ree.

Her wrist-comm beeped and she stood there, frozen in space, looking at it as if it were the worse call she’d get all day. She pushed the activation switch and replied, “yes?”

“Captain.” Iden Sult’s voice came through, clear and true.

“Mister Sult. News?”

“Yes, captain. We have achieved our task, despite… complications.”

“Complications?” Morgan’s gut twisted. She knew her Majordomo well enough that he wouldn’t have bothered with a report unless something went awry. And it usually did.

“Miss C’ree. She’s been… incapacitated. Very much by her own doing, I’m afraid,” Sult said calmly, but Morgan could detect a sliver of anxiety in his tone that wasn’t usually there. She also knew what had likely happened. C’ree had never been the most stable individual. She had had episodes of pure rage and uncontrolled lunacy in the past, and it was usually Morgan who could help her, and even then… Sult’s anxiety, while subdued, was very much justified. “Ma’am, I cannot find the words to explain what had happened. She asked for you by name. Perhaps it is best that you not linger.”

Kark it. Morgan thought as she bit her fingernail nervously. This whole business with Ol’val would have to be done quickly. She hoped that nothing would go awry. “Understood, mister Sult,” she finally said, after a moment’s thought. “Keep her in her room. Post a triple guard if you need to, but do not approach her in any way, someone will die otherwise. Sorenn, out.” She pushed the switch and broke the connection without Sult’s acknowledgement.

Morgan’s breathing intensified as that same gut wrenching feeling traveled up her throat, and she walked it off. Nothing else would distract her from the deal she was about to make. Ol’val was too important for their efforts to let it slip by because of an incident like that. Followed closely by her crew — a suspicious and worried Zahlia included — she moved towards the Ducts.

The station was fairly large, something they had become accustomed to of late on the Matron. The Ducts were an area connecting the docks to the main plaza where most of the activity was happening. That was where, hopefully, Morgan would meet someone to take her to the Blindman. She didn’t much care for the secretive title, but she also knew who the person likely was, so it mattered little. They had their secrets, but she had her ways of uncovering them.

As they stepped onto the plaza, Morgan’s gaze stopped on a group of individuals. Really, it was their Force signatures that gave them away. Pirates and lowlives were rarely that strong in the Force. Rrogon Skar, someone she had seen before in the Citadel on Selen and who was very hard to forget, stood near the Duct entrance with two others, a Wookiee and a Twi’lek. Apparently, they were waiting for her. I guess they have their own ways of finding information.

“Herald,” Rrogon hissed. “These are Kelviin and Tali Zorah. They are my associates. Please follow us. The Blindman will see you.”

Morgan turned to Zahlia with a satisfactory expression. The Zabrak simply rolled her eyes and hated every moment of the unsafe visit. Hell, she’d have prefered to have that crazy psycho-schutta C’ree here, but with her and the pompous Majordomo working a job, Zahlia was stuck “babysitting” queen-schutta.

“So,” Morgan started as they walked along towards some sort of side tunnel. “How’s business in Port Ol’val?” she asked no one in particular.

“The Blindman will explain,” the Twi’lek, Tali, spoke up. Kelviin remained silent, though Morgan would have probably just nodded like a brain-damaged Hutt to whatever he’d have to say, considering her knowledge of Shiriiwook.

“Fine bunch,” she sneered under her breath, just enough for Zahlia to notice. Vatuu seemed to hiss silently over her shoulder as if to agree with his master.

They took a longer trip down the tunnel and several side passages, finally coming to mag-car station. It was small, private, and secluded. Probably secret. Arcona liked their secrets. They entered one of the cars that ferried them across the asteroid into the unknown. The area they’d entered was in no way different to the previous one, even more tunnels and passages awaited. Morgan did, however, notice a stark contrast in whatever rooms were littered around. Most held weapon caches and supplies. She just might have picked a good place for her new operation after all.

They finally arrived in front of a metal door that lead, supposedly, to whoever the Blindman was. Rrogon opened the door. “Herald.” He pointed simply. Morgan walked in leisurely without delay; recent events had postponed her stay already. As Zahlia tried to enter. The Wookiee, Kelviin, stopped her with a low rumble.

“You wanna go, tall-an’-ruffly? I need a new carpet.”

“Zahlia,” Morgan spoke softly but with volume enough for everyone to hear. There was authority in her tone and that was all the Quartermaster needed. For all their back and forth, Zahlia knew very well who the boss was and just how capable she was at protecting herself — she felt that power in her own bones. The Zabrak fell back, leaning against a wall with her two crewmen and stared down the Arconan trio as the doors closed behind her boss.

Vatuu was tense in the darkness of the room, coiled like a spring ready to jump, but Morgan’s soothing touch made him relax. The room was as plain and practical as a Mandalorian barracks; three or four chairs and one table with plenty of datapads and other necessities for running an asteroid base; overhead light, dimmed; table light pointed at whatever was on the agenda. There were boots on the table and she could hear the creaking of a metal chair against smoothened rock. She knew the man in the chair even before he spoke.

“Herald,” his tone revealed no respect. The title was there out of sarcasm more than anything.

“Terran Koul. You can drop the titles. Morgan works just as well.”

“That so? I thought you Council-types liked your titles?” He leaned forward, putting his feet back down.

“You’re one to talk, ”Blindman”.” She smirked and scratched Vatuu under his ear.

“Ha. Sit. What can I help you with today?” he said, curving the topic to business rather than replying to the quip. Morgan’s heels clicked and clacked as she straddled the empty chair. Vatuu jumped off of her shoulder and, skittering across the table to Terran’s hand, sniffed it.

“Don’t mind him, he’s just exploring,” Morgan said preemptively, before Terran decided to push the weasel away. Another figure walked in from a small side door; a large figure with long fur, dressed in red garments. She had a hair braid and carried a bowcaster, just in case Morgan had any ideas.

“To business, then,” Morgan started, ignoring the imposing Wookiee. “You’ve no doubt heard of my ventures in other systems by now. Knowing Arcona, you even have some information I haven’t shared through regular channels.”

“Might be we heard, yeah. You got some beef with Black Sun, I hear.” His tone was obviously skeptical, but intrigued at what she was saying.

“Had. They’ve fallen in line. At least the ones that matter in that sector. But I’m not here to talk pleasantries. Here’s my proposal—” The door of the office opened sharply as Uji Tameike, Proconsul of Arcona, walked in and interrupted the Herald. Rrogon tensed as Uji entered, the Kaleesh growling but nonetheless bowing slightly. Terran sighed as he looked up, the only one seemingly unsurprised by the visit. The door closed again and Uji came to a halt to Morgan’s left, next to the table.

“Somethin’ I can help you with, Tameike?” Terran used the Scion’s surname rather than first name, Morgan noticed. Not something she’d expect.

“While I trust your business sense, Koul, this particular meeting is on behalf of the Clan, not just the corner I chose to give you.” The Proconsul didn’t attempt to hide his disdain for his surrounding or the individual beside him.

“You can leave for all I care,” Morgan said indifferently.

“So long as Ol’Val remains Arconan, I will do what is necessary to ensure the safety of her possessions.” With that, Uji took the third seat and waved for them to continue.

Terran coughed and turned his attention back to the Herald. “You were saying?”

“I need Ol’val for my business. It’s large enough, has enough room, has a good hyperspace connection, and it can store a hell of a lot more than most dung holes I’ve seen in the last year.” She laid her cards on the table to see if they’d bend.

“What kind of business d’you have in mind?” Terran stroked his nose, probably knowing the answer already.

“Smuggling, mostly. We have a lot of traffic on artifacts from Antei and other worlds around the Shroud. Obviously, there’s fencing goods as well since pirates usually do the dirtiest work.” She had one more card to play but she didn’t want to push too hard. “And slave trade.”

She could see Terran’s fist tense up. Uji’s posture turned stiff and coiled. There it was, the crux of the thing. Even Vatuu sensed it and skittered back to Morgan’s collar, away from the Quaestor and Proconsul.

“We don’t deal slaves, Morgan.” Terran’s tone turned much more dark as he slowly turned his head towards his fuzzy companion. She had held her bowcaster very, very tightly.

Morgan gave it some thought to let them simmer a bit. “Fine, no slaves. Ol’val won’t see any of those.”

“And other places?” Uji interjected.

“That’s not your concern.” Morgan didn’t even look at him. She swore she could sense his expression through the Force.

“That’s not good enough, Sorenn,” Uji added, intentionally using her surname. It always reminded her of her brother.

Morgan draw out a cigarra, slowly, and lit it. The smoke coalesced into a ring and flew off into the ventilation shaft overhead. “You don’t get to dictate how I run my show. Neither of you do. Some business deals come out of necessity.”

“Then you can expect no assistance from our Clan,” the Proconsul sneered.

Terran exhaled as he looked at Uji with a raised brow. Obviously there was more going on here than either of them lead on. “Is there something here I should know about?”

“No. I’m here to talk business with the Blindman, not the skirt-saver of Selen.” Her gaze returned to Terran and she inhaled another whiff of smoke. “Gentlemen, my visit here is a courtesy I’m extending because I need partners, not drones. The other members of the Dark Council would just take this place by force. Let’s not forget what happened to Odan-Urr and Taldryan when they defied the will of the Grand Master. I hear say that even your Clan wasn’t unaffected by it.” Terran eyed Uji with a measured expression. Tameike’s aura fumed at the mention of the new Voice and the ordeal another one of their clanmates, the Barabel Zakath, had gone through.

That was a genuine threat, not just lofty words. The Grand Master was fully behind Morgan in any endeavor that brought profits to his efforts. There wasn’t much they could do, either way.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Morgan mellowed and added before either of them replied. “You run your business as usual, I won’t send any slavers to your door and you get two percent off the top of every deal the Shroud Syndicate makes on Ol’val. I’ll also include three transports, a corvette and a heap of cargo you can fence to anyone you’d like,” she ended by squishing her cigarra in an ashtray on the table.

“Partners,” Terran said, contemplating the long-term consequences should he accept.

“You get a spot on my ship as well. We hold regular meetings, discussing the finances of our little microverse. A holocall every so often should suffice.” The Herald smiled.

Uji gave Terran a severe look, but he knew little could be done. Morgan was, by far, the most moderate of the Councillors and the profits she brought in would benefit the Clan. Whatever problems they’d have in the future would have to be resolved then.

“Supply a trading hub and storage for cargo, entertainment for the crews — the fancy kind — security for the number of folk comin’ in daily. Call it five percent and you got yourself a deal,” Terran replied and mentally crossed his fingers.

“Three should be more than enough to cover an enterprise this small, and you get four ships with cargo.”

“Fine. Three and the ships. You got yourself a base,” the Kiffar concluded.

Morgan reached for her comm device, punched in several commands and sent it to Terran’s glowing datapad. “There’s my number. Call me.” She winked and walked towards the door.

“Herald,” Uji stood up abruptly, clearly disatisfied by the meeting. “I’ll have a few words before you leave.” Morgan shrugged and walked out the door with the Proconsul following suit. Terran simply exhaled and relaxed, finally rid of both of them.

Zahlia fell in step with her boss but Morgan waved her away as Uji walked beside her. “What’s the cargo?” Uji asked intently. Something about this deal smelled wrong.

“Excuse you?” Morgan raised a brow and stopped in place.

“What’s the cargo on the ships? You failed to mention that.” There was no give in the Proconsul’s stance. He wouldn’t let it go.

Morgan paused for a moment. “Weapons, supplies.”

“There’s something more. The deal is not square, and I know your reputation and experience well enough to know you don’t make deals that you don’t come out on top of. You’re willing to do anything to improve your standing, as you’ve often shown in your past.” There was the bait she’d been expecting from him.

You have no idea what you’re on about. Good, keep guessing. Morgan brushed her nose with her index finger. “There’s also some two hundred people stashed neatly in the cargo hold of the corvette.”

“It’s a shame, Morgan. You’re willingly becoming the thing your brother tried to save you from. I didn’t think you’d sink this low. Is a seat at Pravus’s table really worth this?” Uji sounded more disappointed than angry.

“That so?” She didn’t bother answering the latter question. “See, you make me look like this evil thing. You toss me in the same box with murderers and psychopaths. Yeah, I killed and robbed my fair share, but I own it. Meanwhile you’re playing high-and-mighty, while you and Satsi destroyed half a city and killed how many people?” Uji seemed caught off guard for a moment at the mention of his sister. “Oh yes, she talks in her sleep.”

"You know, when she told me about you two, I wasn’t pleased, but I trusted Turel and I thought at the time I could trust you. It’s one of the many lessons Atyiru taught me that I’ve had to throw away.” Uji stopped and Morgan’s senses told her he was contemplating something. She looked around and realized that at any point the Proconsul could have staged an ambush. The death of the Herald on Ol’val would be the closest he could come to getting away with it; after all she had knowingly walked into a port of murderers and scum. Yet she wasn’t one to back down and knew that Uji’s leash would keep him from attempting it.

“And you know kark about Turel or me, so leave your holier-than-thou attitude in the dung hole where it belongs. Much like you, that’s about as much as it’s worth.” She turned on her heel. Uji’s sneer turned into a sad smile, then a light chuckle of amusement

“You don’t know, do you?” he added watching her expression turn to one of impatience waiting for what he had to say next.

Morgan rolled her eyes, indulging in her curiosity. “Know what?”

“Satsi’s dead.” Uji’s expression turned flat, almost angry. He was as emotionless as a wall of duracrete.

The words hit Morgan like a mag-train. Her eyes widened, her breathing quickened, her heart skipped in her chest, and her legs felt just a bit more shaky. A towering tsunami of disbelief washed her away and snuffed out any other thought. “W-What?”

“She’s been dead for months.” Uji let the words sink in, twisting the knife before he turned and walked away. “Enjoy your day, Herald.”

Morgan stumbled backwards as Vatuu clung against her jacket. She almost fell but for Zahlia grabbing her. The woman had never seen her captain this shaken before. “Let’s… get outta here, boss.” Morgan’s silent acknowledgment, barely audible even to Zahlia, gave her all the incentive she needed. The Quartermaster held the Herald by her shoulder as they trudged along, back towards the docks.


Preceded by: Rogue One Celebration Run On: Discourse

Part 3: Expansion

“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.” ― George Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism

Shroud Nebula
Godless Matron - Chute town
2 days ago - 2 weeks after the Paragon Colony incident

The clamor of Chute Town was almost deafening what with the hoard of the city-ship’s inhabitants rushing through the streets at breakneck pace. Everyone wanted to see the newest spectacle presented to them by the deranged and the psychotic. Even through her well-padded cowl, the Stryga cultist and undercover Inquisitorius agent, Yoi Rosa, could hear the overwhelming uproar. She wore her Strygae red and purple outfit without worry of attack. In fact, most people who saw her or her conveniently-chosen family seemed to avoid her completely. No one wanted to mess with the religious lunatics, and that was precisely why she chose them as her cover. They had an ethereal and utterly dominating influence of the rabble.

She skulked and hugged the shadows under one of the many ruined slums as she approached the crowd lingering in one of the many square-like clearings in the makeshift town. They seemed to cheer, wave their arms, blow their horns, sing, dance, and drink at the sight that didn’t really seem to surprise the woman at all: a human of short, stubby stature — her handler and now former boss, Grand Inquisitor Bama Hodrren — being pulled by his arms and neck and strung on one of the many scaffolds overlooking the street. He wore the gray uniform of the Iron Navy, as he usually did, preferring to keep his identity in plain sight for anyone stupid enough to challenge him. Well, he had certainly found several dozen of those. His uniform was torn up, insignia and honorabilia ripped off and likely already fenced away.

Next to him, his “honor guard” served the same fate, their black armor stripped and hijacked away. Yoi was certain their capture didn’t go without consequence for their captors, which likely only infuriated and antagonized the crowd. Bama was a smart individual, but he put entirely too much stock into the Herald and her crew for protection. He used her notoriety to stave off the many who sought to take a piece of him. It had worked, until now. He was an officer in the Navy, an interrogator of a certain high class; but he didn’t know the rabble and gutterslag of the Matron like Yoi did. She was born into it and knew its smell all too finely. Hodrren was so sure in his influence that he let himself be slaughtered. His loss.

A part of Yoi seemed excited at the prospect of getting a promotion, but really it was the fact that she was a step closer to her goal that gave her that special giddy feeling. The pleasure of seeing Hodrren being ripped to shreds was just a bonus. The man’s body did not even stop twitching before an entourage of Leviathans, Herald Sorenn’s crew, rushed in and split the crowd apart. Among them, Yoi could see the Zabrak Quartermaster — Zahlia, she recalled — barking orders. Four of her men climbed the scaffold and lowered the bodies, while the rest scattered the rabble with threats and stun rods. Yoi observed with interest as the captain herself rushed over, kneeling over the former Inquisitor’s body. Even from far away, Yoi could see her expression — no caring, no compassion, only a slight smirk, just barely noticeable. Anyone else would have missed it, but Yoi knew the captain better than most, even though the captain herself knew nothing about her.

The Inquisitor smirked in turn, relishing the opportunity that opened before her as she stepped out from the shadowy enclosure she found refuge in. As she did, she drew the attention of the Leviathans’ blasters.

“Guns down, slugs! She’s a Stryga,” Zahlia ordered and nodded at Yoi, not really knowing who she was, just that the Strygae had free reign in Chute Town. The captain gave Yoi a good long stare and she met the it readily, seeing no recognition in them, only silent contempt for her kind that seemed to seep out of the cracks of her normally perfect poker face. For once Yoi was thankful she was masked and that such a large crowd mingled with her. Morgan would have seen through her otherwise.

Yoi turned on her heels and headed for the Inquisitorius cell as the Leviathan’s dragged the body of Bama Hodrren away. She had a report to write to the Voice and his Praetor. A Grand Inquisitor was dead, and that was no small thing. The Herald remained standing upright, staring into Yoi’s back as she walked away.

Planet Arx, geostationary orbit
SSD Suffering, Command deck
Present time

Morgan strode down the halls of the massive Executor-class destroyer with a distinct lack of pop and pow. For someone as flamboyant as she was, she was certainly known for a clear no-nonsense attitude when it came to business. Even if the staccato sound of her heels clicking and clacking hadn’t drawn the attention of every pair of eyes on her path, her white, stylish suit would have. Her entourage of four tattooed and nasty-looking pirates in flight suits and leather gambesons, completely contrasting their charge, stared at the officers and Stormtroopers with silent contempt as they followed their Captain in complete silence. Iron Legion rejects, the lot of them didn’t particularly care what their former compatriots thought about their current ‘employment’, only that they never walked into striking distance of their Captain. Tensions were always high when the Herald arrived fleet-side, not least because the Iron Legion troops truly hated the pirates and saw them as nothing more than deranged, rejected garbage.

Their path took them past the secondary bridge and well into the main, dorsal cityscape. One of the tallest towers in it was the temporary Councilroom that the Grand Master used for all audiences with important dignitaries, and indeed Council meetings. In fact, most of those meetings went by with Morgan in holographic form rather than in person, and mostly with her listening intently about the goings-on in the Brotherhood at large rather than contributing in any meaningful way. Her work was in the field, and her Majordomo had her reports well in hand and delivered regularly to the Grand Master’s entourage of bureaucrats and aides. In fact, she was sure he never read one of them unless it was of particular and personal interest. Master Telaris most likely did, however.

But this time it was different. This time she was summoned specifically and personally, and she knew exactly why. The failure to accomplish the mission on Paragon Colony rang across the secured network like a chime bell, what with four major assets killed and several of the most wanted enemies of the New Order escaping — Morgan’s brother included, conveniently enough. This was a sort of audit, and an interrogation.

As they departed the last turbolift that they had entered only moments earlier on a lower deck, the decor around them changed in tune with the company. Instead of dull gray, black, and gunmetal, red, white, and gold popped out from every corner of the large waiting room preceding the Council chamber. There, red-garbed Guardsmen flanked the door, barring entry to anyone not of the Council itself, or the Royal Guard and advisers. Other people mingled in the large room as well, mostly bureaucrats, politicians and dignitaries who loved to brown-nose with the Grand Master. As she entered, the crowd separated and the clamor of conversation turned to hushed gossip. Usually she enjoyed higher society gatherings, but this particular lot disgusted her. Morgan simply waved her hand at her men to stay in the room and behave themselves. She noticed, with all her insight, the Guardsman squeezing their force pikes just a bit too tightly as the four unkempt and unsavory individuals mixed in with the suit-and-dress elite. The pirates simply took their drinks, gave several of the guests looks of contempt, growled, and sat down in one corner where nobody but the waiter droid would bother them. The pressure grew around Morgan as everyone’s attention snapped back at her. She could feel it as tangibly as the sweat on her gloved palms and stared them down. Most turned their gazes in dignity while some continued staring at the floor.

As she approached the door, the Guardsmen stood at attention and showed her the way by opening it for her. A hiss of temperature differential traveled across her boots, forming a shallow mist in its wake. The ambient inside was much like she expected it to be — gloomy and sibylline. She never saw the place in person, mostly because she was always a hologram projected off of the Matron’s bridge, but it wasn’t far from what she imagined: dim lumen globes lit the large, open space within where serfs and high ranking officers walked in silence. The central area, purposefully better lit than the rest, was crowned by ten chairs, eight of which were mounted into the floor on either side of the wide path Morgan’s feet trampled over, with the remaining two standing on the other side of the door. The smaller of those, equal in size and appearance to the other eight, remained on an equal footing with the rest, albeit at the head of the room, while the largest, the Iron Throne itself, stood on a raised platform accessible by a flight of illuminated stairs some dozen yards behind it. It dominated over all the others, though it remained empty. Curiosity sparked in the pirate’s expression as she noticed the Grand Master’s absence.

Most of the other chairs were filled, except the Master-at-Arms and Voice’s. The Regent, a pompous, blond Human with an ever-smug look on his face, was present in person, as was the Headmaster who seemed to be resting his head on the banister of his chair. The Deputy Grand Master, who was charged with presiding over the meeting, stood next to his own chair, his back turned towards the Herald. The Fist, a man she had only met in holo-calls until now, sat cross-legged in his seat, draped in red and black armor and speaking with the Deputy Grand Master. Next to him a hologram of the Justicar, the elderly Taldrya Morgan had never met in person before either, sat leaning on one armrest of his chair. The Seneschal, as cryptic as ever as he fiddled with his datapad, sat across from the Justicar, also in holographic form.

As she walked in, she felt the eyes of every person in the room focus on her. While she usually cared very little if she drew attention — in fact, most times it suited her — a none-too-pleasant feeling crawled up her spine. Her ethereal senses were attuned to a sharpness rare few could match, and everything she felt told her to run. But none of it showed, not one inkling of fear or doubt, as she walked to the center and stopped.

“Herald,” the Deputy Grand Master spoke first, before she could even open her mouth. “Take your seat so that we can begin.”

Without much for it, Morgan walked over to Farrin Xies’ right and took the empty seat next to the Seneschal, James Arconae. Their gazes kept following her as she sat down, crossed her legs, and rested her hands on her armrests. It was a cold and unfamiliar feeling, the chair too steep for her back and uncomfortable despite the cushion, but she made the best of it.

“I was summoned,” she finally broke the silence with determination that carried through the chamber. Not an inkling of weakness, she thought.

“So you were. We are here to determine what exactly happened on Paragon Colony, Herald. Our reports are fragmented at best, what with some of the Inquisitors dead.” Telaris turned to face her, one hand behind his back. The man’s stance alone told Morgan enough about his standing and demeanor. “What, exactly, happened? Let us start from the beginning.”

It wasn’t a suggestion.

Morgan exhaled, clearly annoyed. “Well, let’s begin by saying who was involved in the exchange. A crew of smugglers working off of the Matron, part of my crew, and the Inquisitorius.” She looked over to the Voice’s empty seat, as did Telaris. “For my part, the ordeal began with rumors on the ship, and on my ship rumors tend to be a good source of information, or cause for concern. Rumors, mind you, that implicated a certain party on board that has always been a cause for concern. The Inquisitorius agent in command of the cell aboard the Matron, one Grand Inquisitor Bama Hodrren, organized a covert operation to acquire the scientists by blackmailing one of the prominent captains on the Matron. He had the good captain make a deal under the table with one of the gangs, the Azure Fangs. He wanted all the glory with none of the cost, so he bypassed me and my establishment completely, likely wanting to grovel at your feet with the scientists as a cause for a promotion.”

“Inquisitors work under the Grand Master’s jurisdiction. They are not required to report to you, Madam Herald, or have I missed something?” the Regent raised his voice, interrupting her.

“They also don’t know my ship, Master Taelyan, and would benefit from my counsel and help in such situations. For example, had they come to me initially, they wouldn’t have had a riot asking for their heads after the ordeal happened. But, as I said, they opted not to include me and the whole operation fizzled into a mess once Ishanta, the Grand Inquisitor investigating Odan-Urr, got involved.”

“What was the nature of her presence there?” Telaris asked, despite likely knowing the details already. Morgan was sure they had already debriefed the Inquisitor, gently or otherwise, on what had happened. She only hoped Ishanta was sweating much more than she was.

“She was a nuisance and an obstruction to an otherwise straightforward exchange. If she hadn’t commandeered the operation the transaction would have been smoother. But as it stands, all I’ve seen from the Inquisitorius so far is unrivaled arrogance and ambition. Shame Tyris isn’t here to hear all this.”

“The Voice is otherwise occupied with precisely such cases at this very moment. We have found some more…troubling instances within the Inquisitorius that had to be handled by him personally. Fortunately, they are of no concern any more. Rest assured, Master Tyris is well informed,” Telaris said as he sat back into his chair. “And what of the scientists and priority targets?”

“For my part I did not see what happened to them, but I was informed that they had been shot by the terrorists. That was when I ordered a retreat.” Her expression expressed regret at the mishap. “It could have been avoided. As for the targets, we were hardly a match for three squads of well trained soldiers with military grade weapons.”

“You didn’t expect an exchange like that would draw attention? I’d be there with a platoon first thing,” Dracaryis stated matter-of-factly. “Fixes the problem right there.”

“Of course, except you’re the High Commander of the Iron Legion. All I have are cutthroats and brigands. Not exactly your 501st legion. They were never meant to handle well organized, well coordinated special forces,” she noticed him scoffing, “and before you say it, yes those were special forces. My time in Odan-Urr has given me enough insight to know when I’ve seen a grizzled commando.” She looked around the room intently, at every one of them before continuing. “If my loyalty to this room and the Grand Master is in question, I would have you tell me why. Because my brother is a misguided cretin that needs to learn how the galaxy works? Or that my former ‘master,’” she said the word with enough venom to poison a small town, “seems to remain a thorn in our side even after I delivered her to this very council room not too long ago? None of these are of my doing.”

Telaris raised his open palm. “That’s quite enough. We agree that there was little you could have done with minimal assistance from ragtag pirates. It may have been a blessing that the terrorists decided to lose the assets rather than see them falling into our hands. That means they’re desperate, and that means they can hold to their ideals and morals only so much before they fracture from the inside. We do, however, doubt your decision to retreat at a pivotal point and leave the Inquisitorius agents behind. Three of them were killed in the rout.”

“One more was strung up aboard your ship, the very Inquisitor who orchestrated the whole ordeal, in fact,” Evant added. “How would you explain that? Convenient suicide?”

Morgan raised an eyebrow. “It was his mistake. He misguidedly thought he held the power on the ship to do what he wanted. The good captain and his crew didn’t think so, so they murdered him and strung his guts around Chute Town. Someone smarter will replace him.”

“So maybe we send a few legions to the Matron and get it sorted?” Dracaryis exclaimed with suppressed excitement.

“And waste all the work I’ve done so far in creating and maintaining the Syndicate? I think not. With respect, keep to the army and navy, Master Dracaryis.”

Farrin spoke up next, changing the topic. “I personally don’t hold the Herald responsible for the outcome, on Paragon that is, and I don’t doubt her loyalty in any way. The evidence is fairly convincing that they were overwhelmed and that her retreat from the fight was the right move given the assets were killed. No sense in losing more men to a lost cause.” He nodded at Morgan in tentative respect and she returned the gesture. “However, I do think that Inquisitorius agents aboard the Matron have to be adequately protected, which requires cooperation.” He shrugged.

“The data supports her claim as well,” James Entar added. “Certainly, there is some information that can only be gleaned through thorough interrogation and analysis, but I don’t doubt Morgan’s loyalty either. She had no jurisdiction over the Inquisitorius agents, and though she was supposed to coordinate with the cell leader, under the circumstances of mistrust between them, in particular, the Inquisitorius’ mistrust of Morgan’s surname, I do not see how she could have forced them to retreat without losing more men.” He finished by running a finger down the datapad and closing it.

“I would have done this differently, that’s all I’m saying. I respect the Herald and wish her success in her business,” the Fist added with a shrug, as if that was enough to dismiss any suspicion of the Herald’s supposed disloyalty.

Evant pondered momentarily and added, “I am convinced that Morgan’s efforts were genuine in getting the scientists, but I also believe that it is on her to extend the olive branch to the Voice and his organization so that this never happens again. The reason the Inquisitorius views the Herald as they do is partially because of her familial ties, but moreso because of her hostility towards authority, and the Inquisitorius have authority over terrorist matters.”

Telaris looked over at the aging former Grand Master, who simply nodded his approval and tapped his knuckles on the arm rest, imitating a gavel. “Fair enough,” Telaris started, turning to face Morgan once more. “I tend to agree with Evant on this matter. An olive olive branch in matters relating to the terrorist Lotus sympathizers must be extended. The Inquisitorius, while diligent and aware, must leave the Herald to her work, while she provides ample protection to them aboard her ship.”

Morgan looked over at the Iron Throne before focusing on Telaris. “Seems fair to me.”


Stygian Caldera - edge of the Shroud
Godless Matron - Bridge

Dolash watched as the the Matron’s Majordomo, Iden Sult, stared at the group of mercenaries and bounty hunters that were summoned by name to the bridge of the ship. The Twi’lek recognized a number of them: an Iktotchi woman called Decima from Arcona, a Nautolan girl he couldn’t quite name but knew he saw before somewhere on a job or during a mission — or maybe in briefings — he was pretty sure she was from Scholae. There were several more familiar faces he could not rightly name, but they were certainly not accidentally here. All of them were experienced and all of them served the Dark Brotherhood as killers in one way or another.

Dolash turned his attention back to the Duros who held a datapad with what the Twi’lek assumed were detailed profiles on all of them. Iden Sult was certainly in the know about their affiliations towards the Clans they served, but he seemed to care very little for such trivialities. The Clans of the Brotherhood, their politics and wars, all were left behind aboard the massive ship. The only loyalty and purpose in the Syndicate’s business was currency. As long as the credits flowed, the self-righteous Lotus and the zealous New Order could kill each other as much as they wanted. It offered a unique opportunity for the young Twi’lek to gather some extra credits without hurting his Clan’s particular goals.

A luxury droid walked up to the man and woman in the gathering and gave them each a datapad. As he himself scrolled through the info, Dolash found that it held different locations and events that seemed to have occurred in the past week.

“Port Ol’val in Arconan space,” Sult started as he grabbed the attention of everyone present, “Paragon Colony in the former Taldryan system of Kr’Tal, Vassago in the Cocytus system where the Scholae Empire held sway until recently, and even in Tarentum space, just outside the Yridia system, there cropped up incidents that seemed to undermine our profits." He tapped several buttons on his own datapad which brought up a very familiar symbol on each of their screens: the black double circle with expanding rays — the signature symbol of the Black Sun syndicate.

“As you can see,” he said, in turn pushing additional buttons that brought more and more images on all their datapads showing the same symbol emblazoned on derelict ships, ransacked cargo containers, and dead crews, “there has been a well organized and successful attack on our holdings. Our profits have dropped in the past week as the Black Sun has made their move in swift response to our takeover of their territory.” The Majordomo gave the first mate, C’ree, who was sitting in the captain’s chair while the Herald herself was away, a sheepish look.

Dolash remembered an incident that happened not too long ago where a Black Sun underboss had been murdered in his office, including all his thugs and underlings. The whole cell was wiped out in mere hours. The news traveled across the holonet like a thunderbolt, with rumors about possible assailants popping up everywhere. Most thought it was the Perlemian Cartel or the Hutt Kajidics that did it, but Dolash assumed something else entirely. The Shroud Syndicate had expanded in that territory quite readily in response. No mere coincidence. The look Sult gave his compatriot only meant to embolden his theory.

“This move was expected, of course, and that’s why you’re here. As some of the best mercenaries and operatives in the Dark Brotherhood,” he said the words openly, despite the crew listening in. Dolash assumed that the éminence grise that was the Dark Council wasn’t really an unknown on the ship; it just wasn’t talked about for fear of reprisal. “You all have been summoned here to complete specific tasks set in all these locations. Your jobs have been added to your personal datapads, as have the advance payments for each job. You will get the rest upon confirmation of a job well done.” The Duros smiled at them and awaited questions. None came as everything looked to be exactly the way Sult promised it was. At least the Syndicate was efficient.

“If there are no questions, I wish—”

“Contacts dropping out of hyperspace on vector 02-33-56,” a crewman interrupted the Majordomo as every soul on the bridge turned their gaze at the coordinates. At first only a single hammerhead corvette appeared from the void, then another, then a frigate, a cruiser, and more and more followed. A flotilla now stood between the Matron, lingering now like a behemoth on the edge of the deadly nebula, and its escape from the system. “Starfighters inbound, I suggest we raise shield, cap’n,” the same officer offered advice as C’ree stood up.

“Full deflector. Tell crew, send fighters. Ready for fight!” She barked orders to different officers in turn and gave Sult a surreal, intimidating look.

“They looked to attack us when the Captain was away,” the Duros said and turned to the gathered mercenaries. “This would be a good time to go. Additional payment will be included should you assist in the defense of the ship before setting off to your mission.” Just as he said it, the sound of point-defense batteries filled the hull. Turbolaser batteries opened fire on the distant flotilla while the advanced TIE fighters hanging from scaffolds in many a hangar aboard the Ball scurried out into the fray. Corvettes and frigates detached from the massive docking arms as gunboats exited the starboard hangar arm. The Godless Matron was far from defenseless.

“What in shadow’s name is going on?” Decima yelled over the rumble as the first massive volley struck the deflector screens of the behemoth.

Dolash took one more look out of the viewport and turned to the woman with a grave expression. “I think the Shroud is at war.”