Ektrosis was more than just a House of the Brotherhood. It was the living, beating heart of Clan Taldryan and you only had to look within the membership itself to understand this as fact. Everyone from the former Consul of the Clan himself to newly-promoted apprentices shed their blood sweat and tears for Taldryan. Worked for Taldryan. Killed for Taldryan. Fought for Taldryan without question. Why? Because Taldryan was a Brotherhood within a Brotherhood and no-one understood this better than those of House Ektrosis. It was more than a house, it was the Clan’s very soul and the whole reason Taldryan existed in the first place.
Two decades, that’s how long the House has stood strong. Two decades of war, strife and conflict, yet despite the shifts and changes that often come with times of need, relocation, purpose, war, or whatever kind of kark was thrown their way, the one constant was Ektrosis was always there, always watching and always vigilant.
Our Watch Eternal; Our Aegis Strong; Our Brotherhood Unbroken.
Appius would be damned if that Brotherhood was ever going to be broken, and on this occasion, he thanked his lucky stars that the Force Mystics had been particularly descriptive about the location of a Collective rebellion plotting not only against the Caelus government but Taldryan itself. Of course they were, Appius mused. Why wouldn’t they be? The Collective were like an itch that refused to be scratched, or a fly that wouldn’t leave the room when it flew in through the window. A constant thorn in Taldryan’s side even after the war in the Arx System though it was one Ektrosis was more than happy to deal with.
The OSI managed to pinpoint the exact location of the warehouse they were held up in and as he arrived in Chyron’s industrial sector he was treated to the sight of a large oval-shaped building cut off from the rest of the populace. Caelus Security as well as members of the Taldryan Navy surrounded each side. They were surrounded with no way out.
The Aedile was approached by an emerald-eyed, copper-haired woman with a faint scar on her right cheekbone. The moment she was within a few feet of him she raised her left hand into a salute.
“Captain Orainn, a pleasure as always,” Appius acknowledged with a small nod of his T-shaped visor. “What’s the situation?”
“Collective are held up inside, they are armed and dangerous,” Crysenia responded.
“Aren’t they always?” replied the Sorcerer with a shrug and just a hint of sarcasm, though judging by the slight frown on Crysenia’s face, she didn’t appreciate the comment.
“They’ve taken hostages,” the Captain stated seriously as she watched the younger man’s head lower slightly.
“Of course they have… Bunch of frakking hut’uun’s… there’s no way out is there?”
“No,” Crysenia confirmed.
“Excellent, make sure it stays that way and meet me around the entrance in a few minutes.”
Like the true soldier she was, she nodded and immediately set about her duties. No-one was getting in or out, not on her watch. Appius was certain of it.
“When are we going to do something?” voiced an intimidating man with back face paint around his eyes and mouth. “We could have had them all dealt with by now.”
“Patience, Rakhai,” a middle-aged Miraluka responded, his dirty blonde hair stretching down to his shoulders and eye sockets covered by a thin cloth, almost a requirement for those of his kind. He sat cross-legged on the ground, almost in a meditative position though the vein bulging at the top of his head seemed to suggest his moments of peace were constantly interrupted. In the middle of the two of them was a smaller Sephi girl who, quite frankly, looked mortified to be in that position. Upon seeing Appius, she beamed with a smile and immediately leapt to his side.
“Dasha, everything ok?” Appius asked.
“Everything is not ok,” Replied the frustrated Warlord. “We are standing here waiting…”
“Waiting for my orders,” interrupted Appius. “Let me remind you that I am the Aedile here, not you Rakhai. Don’t worry, I have a feeling you will get your chance to prove yourself soon enough.”
This seemed to appease the Sith, at least for now as he returned to his place beside Shanree and quietly began calculating his next course of action. The Miraluka lifted his head and shot the Mandalorian a sly smile, a gesture of gratitude for easing his headache for the time being.
The voice of the former Consul of Taldryan boomed over everyone else. A Mirilian with light, olive skin, brown hair and facial tattoo’s approached him without haste and a wide, gentle smile.
“Rian, I assume the Community Outreach is ready?” asked the Aedile.
“Of course,” the Juggernaut responded with pride evident in his voice. “The Caelus System news is locked onto this story and all of Chyron is watching."
The Mandalorian smirked behind his visor and was glad no-one could see his face.
“Good, I trust you’ll be able to put your usual spin on things,” Appius said as he rubbed his hands with glee.
“AHA!” a loud voice boomed over near the entrance to the building. The man was almost unassuming, tall and averagely built with short and messy brown hair, a clean-shaven face and hazel eyes. “I hereby deduce that this is the front entrance!”
“Ben… I could have told you that,” responded Raistline Majere to his fellow Son of Taldryan as he failed to hide any irritation in his voice.
“Ah! But what you don’t see, my dear friend is the possibility of a trap set behind these doors! I have deduced that due to the pressure I feel once I push against the steel here…”
Benevolent Taldrya pressed against the durasteel door with both his hands a tiny bit and sure enough, the door buckled slightly under his weight.
“Any further and that will likely spring a whole host of explosives. Yes, that’s what I deduce,” the Adept said with satisfaction as he rubbed his cleanly shaven face with his right hand.
To Tracinya Entar, that was more of an invitation than a warning. The young Mandalorian Sith raised her hand and focused it on the door itself and pried it from its hinges. Both the Adept and Augur leapt back from the sudden resulting explosion that boomed and tore apart the entrance to the building. Shards of metal splintered and the local populace were quickly evacuated out of the area amidst their panic.
“Huh, looks like you were right,” Tracinya spoke bluntly, much to the amusement of Meleu Karthdo. A well-toned, male Sith Juggernaut who burst out into ruckus laughter. Benevolent shot Raist a victorious grin, to which the Arcanist simply rolled his eyes.
“Try to be careful guys, I don’t want to have to tell the summit that members of the House have been K.I.A’d,” Appius declared nonchalantly. The members of House Ektrosis gathered around him quickly as Crysenia returned having completed her round of checks.
“So, what’s the plan?” inquired Rian as he rubbed his hands eagerly.
“In and out and let’s be done with it,” Rakhai said bluntly much to the concern of Raist.
“Do we have to kill them?” the Augur voiced. “And what of the hostages?”
“What if…” Benevolent interrupted. “The hostages are secret Collective agents!?” he announced it like it was the biggest secret in the known galaxy. Though as the Taldryanites all looked at each other, it was clear no-one believed him. “Hmph, you could at least try to look impressed.”
“Anyways,” interrupted the Aedile. “On a more serious note, I highly doubt they will execute the hostages. They were smart enough to grab them, so if they kill them they lose what little insurance they have. Captain Orainn?”
On cue, the Imperial opened a holoprojector that displayed the inside of the oval building. It was fairly straightforward, an entrance followed by a wide-open hall with access to five separate levels, some on top of the ground floor whilst one remained below. The image rotated to give everyone present the best view possible of just what they were getting into.
"Any chance they are all locked into one room? Asked Meleu.
“Highly unlikely,” Crysenia responded. “That increases the risk of snipers being able to pick them all off at once.”
“Ok, so five rooms, five floors and ten of us. Divide and conquer?” Shanree suggested with a smile.
“Indeed,” Appius agreed. “We’ll split into five teams of two. Meleu and Tracinya, Raist and Ben, Rian and Rakhai, Shanree and Crysenia, and myself and Dasha. Any further questions?”
“Just one,” Rakhai said with a cold, uncaring glare. “Who takes the first floor?”
Being the calculating, methodically inclined Sith he was, Rakhai volunteered to take the first floor along with Rian. The Equite Juggernaut didn’t bother to wait for any kind of signal and instead just activated his amethyst blade and plunged it into the door. The intense plasma cut through the durasteel like a sharp knife through string. As soon as he was satisfied with the damage, he kicked the door down as it flattened the floor in front of him.
“Your hero has arrived!” the Warlord boldly proclaimed. Immediately the Force alarmed him of incoming danger as four Collective agents opened fire upon him.
“Rakhai!” Rian yelled as he too jumped into the fray and pushed Rakhai out of the way of being overwhelmed by blaster fire from four directions. This simple little act proved to be most effective as they separated the room and conquered their enemies within. Without a moment’s hesitation, the Sith lunged towards the right-hand side of the room and hacked the closest Collective scum he could with a speed and ferocity they didn’t see coming. His plasma blade cut through the first whilst his momentum carried through and sliced through the left arm of the second without so much as a thought of defending himself. The Collective soldier recoiled in pain and Rakhai finished him off by plunging his lightsaber directly through his heart.
As Rakhai proceeded to the right side of the room, Rian, Son of Taldryan and former Consul of Taldryan himself swept through the left. As blaster fire rained upon him the Elder ducked under the initial barrage and summoned the Force through him. He moved faster than they could see as he swung his sapphire bladed lightsaber over his head to cleave the nearest attacker in twain. He dug his foot into the ground and shifted his weight to follow through with another powerful attack into the neck of the last Collective soldier whose head rolled nonchalantly across the floor.
It was over in moments, and as both Taldryanites deactivated their weapons, Rian approached a terrified looking young couple in the corner of the room who had just witnessed the devastation. The Mirilian smiled and offered his right hand.
“It’s alright,” he spoke gently. “You’re safe now.”
Meleu and Tracinya were nothing if not deadly efficient and as the pair of Sith Battlemasters approached their intended targets. The Collective were smart, splitting up themselves as well as the hostages was a smart move, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Much like she did outside, the Mandalorian Force User raised her right hand as the door buckled under the pressure she applied to it as she sent it careening to the other side of the room. It crashed into. a poor unsuspecting Collective Marine as it crushed the life out of him. Meleu launched himself in and with quick, acrobatic strides and aggression he began to make short work out of the Collective at either side of him, his crimson blade a natural blur as it whirlwind around everything that was in the room with them. Men and women, it didn’t matter, they were Collective and deserved to die.
Five dropped by the Juggernaut’s hands in quick succession and only two remained, a man and a woman as they backed away from the now smirking Meleu who twirled his blood-red lightsaber in front of them. The Collective held up their blaster rifles, ready to gun down the blonde-haired Sith before an invisible grip wrapped itself around the female soldier like a rope and started to pull her against her will.
“What the hell!?”
She very quickly found her answer when her body flew on its own into the path of Tracinya’s ignited lightsaber. Red cut through flesh as body parts dropped behind her into the hallway. The last Collective soldier tensed and pointed his weapon at Meleu, then Tracinya and back and forth. Panic took hold of him until his back was against the durasteel wall.
“Now what are you going to do?” Meleu asked with a smirk. He was about to do the deed and finish the pathetic, whimpering man off until a sudden burst of electricity soared from beside him and collided with the man’s heart. He screamed before his charred corpse collapsed to the ground, lifeless and unmoving.
“Hey!” Meleu protested as he turned to the Mandalorian Force user behind him as she folded her arms.
“What? You’ve hogged every kill in here!” She responded to which her fellow Sith rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “There are no hostages in here…”
Meleu went wide-eyed at that statement and his eyes darted about the room. She was right, there were no hostages in here. He turned to her, a determined look now present on him.
“We’d better tell Appius.”
Crysenia was nothing if not thorough. For as long as she could remember everything she did was to make her parents proud of her. The path of the military was something she lived and breathed. It was all she’d ever known and the day her father died she vowed to herself that she would do whatever it took to make them proud, be the best version of herself she could be and one of the very best in whatever army she served. That was why she inspected the doorway for traps and explosives, using her training to the utmost efficiency.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Shanree’s face looking down at her. The cloth over his eyes made her uncomfortable, especially with the ease of which he followed her without a pair of eyes.
“Something wrong?” the Miraluka inquired with a raised eyebrow.
“No,” Crysenia replied with a blunt dismissive tone. “I’m done,” she said, backing away from the door.
“Ladies first,” said the Miraluka politely with a smile.
The Captain rolled her eyes and retrieved her trusty sidearm into her hands. With her fingers on the trigger, she kicked the door open as hard as she could and dropped to one knee and opened fire the second she caught a glimpse of Collective scum. The slug hit her first target right between the eyes and they dropped dead instantly. However, her weapon’s slow rate of fire left her vulnerable to the blaster fire by the other Collective Marine in the room.
“Sithspit!” She exclaimed as she took cover on the other side of the door to Shanree. Red plasma soared past the pair, threatening to end their lives if they tried to enter again. The Loyalist gritted her teeth and tried to come up with a plan of attack.
“May I?” Suggested the Force user.
“You have a plan?” Crysenia inquired.
“Yes,” Shanree declared with a smirk. “I do.”
The Augur timed his movements carefully and waited for a moment for a lull in the string dangerous lasers before he made his move. He peered carefully around the frame until his face could be seen by the one shooting haphazardly at them.
“Lower your weapon.”
Three words, that was all it took. The Collective soldier didn’t know why, but he found the Miraluka’s words soothing to his ears, like warm honey settled on his nerves. He wanted to follow what the Force User said and relaxed his trigger finger off his blaster rifle and gently placed it at his feet.
Shanree grinned and with a speed that Crysenia didn’t expect for a man with no eyes, he quickly closed the gap between himself and the now unarmed man before he quickly began to unleash a volley of fists that rolled of one another, as soon as one punch was done, another was already on its way. It disoriented the Collective soldier as Shanree quickly swept low with his right leg and shifted the soldiers’ weight and knocked him flat onto his back. The Seeker then finished the deed with a quick, decisive elbow into his enemies skull which rendered the poor guy unconscious instantly. Unfortunately for the Augur, he didn’t get the chance to admire his own handiwork.
Shanree!" Crysenia cried out. One of the Brotherhood’s enemies were smarter than his comrades and hid at the side of the room, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. With his blaster pistol in hand, the Collective grunt pulled the trigger as a small beam of red plasma darted towards him like a tiny, deadly arrow.
It stopped dead in its tracks.
Shanree’s right hand was held out an inch away from it. Complete focus on his face as he held the blaster bolt in place with the Force. Before the soldier got the chance to voice his astonishment, Crysenia appeared from within the doorway and pulled the trigger on her pistol, the resting slug impaled the soldier through his chest as he closed to the ground with blood trickling from the open wound.
Shanree carefully stepped to the side and released his hold of the stray plasma bolt. He breathed a sigh of relief as it soared harmlessly into the far wall of the room.
“There are no hostages in here…” Crysenia commented, choosing to ignore Shanree’s rash actions for the moment. What was in the room seemed to be several caches and crates filled with an assortment of weaponry and supplies that were enough to last a small army for days, possibly weeks. It was apparent that whatever they were up too, they planned to stick it out for the long haul.
“Well, that’s good,” Shanree declared, the Force acting as a guide for him as he felt Crysenia’s curiosity upon their discovery. “And at least we have our own prisoner,” he finished as he gently nudged the unconscious body down at his feet.
The situation couldn’t be that bad, right?
If there was one thing both Raistline and Benevolent Taldrya could agree on, it was that. The two Sons of Taldryan ascended the stairway until they reached their target floor. The Force was Raistline’s biggest ally and he could already feel the life force of several innocent civilians panicked around one angry, u stable individual. The Augur bit his lip and burst in through the front door.
Before his very eyes lay a small sea of civilians laid on their front. Women, men and children alike of various races and genders scattered the room. Handcuffed with a tight rope around their ankles and feet. None dared speak lest they ignite the ire of the man with a scarred and marred face who currently stood holding a blaster pistol against the skull of a frightened young woman.
“Freak!” he exclaimed at Raist as he pressed the blaster further into her skull, though much to her credit, she remained standing and vigilant in the face of certain death.
“I wouldn’t recommend you do that,” Raist said, a calmness resonating through his voice.
“And why not!” the Collective grunt sneered as sweat dripped down from his forehead. The stench of fear filled the room, fear from a man that believed he had nowhere to go and no further options. “This was supposed to be our last stand! To dent a hole into Taldryan right into the heart of your pathetic little Citadel. I bet you think you are all so special, don’t you? High up in your tower looking down on the rest of Chyron like your kind looks down on the rest of the galaxy. I hate you, we hate you, and no matter if I die here or not, I’m taking as many of you with me as I can!”
Raist listened to the man’s ramblings without so much as flinching. He gets his trained eyes locked onto him.
“You didn’t let me finish,” Raist responded cooly. “I wouldn’t recommend you do that, because I’m not the one you need to be worried about.”
The room suddenly went cold as the Collective soldier absorbed the meaning behind the Arcanist’s ominous statement. Yet, as fast as he could ink, a crimson lightsaber pierced him from behind directly through his abdomen.
“Peekaboo,” a calm voice eerily spoke from behind him. The six-foot-tall adept smirked as he held his lightsaber in place against his opponent as if it was the only thing keeping him upright.
Seeing the pained, shocked and horrified expression on his enemies face, Raist wasted no time springing into action, grabbing his lightsaber hilt as it spun in-between his fingers. He activated the amethyst coloured weapon as the blade sprung with a quick snap-hiss and with one hand, the Arcanist lunged forward and sliced off the Collective soldiers wrist. Both the appendage with the blaster in hand dropped to the ground with a thud as Benevolent deactivated his lightsaber. As soon as the blade retracted into the hilt, the body followed suit and dropped into a clump on the ground.
“There we go!” the Shadow declared triumphantly whilst rubbing his hands. “Job done!”
Raistline Majere rolled his eyes and inspected the room. He would have preferred to not have to kill The woman being held prisoner had leapt to the side of an elderly man who remained tied up, likely a family member was what the Augur deduced as she frantically began untieing him from his shackles.
It appeared that they had stumbled upon most of the hostages the Collective had captured. So amongst all the thank you’d, the pair of Taldrya set to work freeing them.
Communication was quick and brief, but he got everything he needed to know. Not every room and floor was the same and it was difficult to say what they were going to find when they got to it. But one thing was for certain, Ektrosis had outshone themselves and Appius knew he needed to bring his best. Can’t have the Aedile being a let down now, can we?
Dasha reached the door first, uncertainty crossed her facial features as her nerves began to take hold. From the outside, Appius couldn’t feel very much except… fear. From right within her. It didn’t help that Dasha’s left hand trembled as she placed her hand on the hinge.
“Dasha,” Appius said, grabbing the attention of his young apprentice. “You’ve got this.”
A small smile appeared on the Sephi girls face as she forced open the door with renewed vigour, though it. She clutched her vibrodagger in her left hand and with gritted teeth, waded through the archway into the room. Appius followed suit with anger sparking in-between his fingertips like a violent storm. But when the pair entered the room, they were taken aback by what they saw.
“Oh, sithspit. That’s not good…” the Mandalorian commented ominously. The place was barren. Green carpets and windows on each side of the oval which provided natural light. In the middle of the room strapped to a lone wooden chair was a middle-aged, bald man. Unable to move his arms and legs as they were bound tightly. But the most horrifying detail was the device strapped to his chest. A central panel lit up the moment they entered the room. Starting at sixty, now at forty-five and counting down.
'HELP! PLEASE, I DON’T WANT TO DIE!" the man screamed as his voice trembled.
“EVERYBODY OUT OF THE BUILDING, NOW!” Appius yelled into his communicator attached to his wrist. He didn’t bother giving a reason since he didn’t have the time. The gears in his head turned as he tried to formulate a plan of attack to get out of this situation. He didn’t know how powerful that explosion would be and he did NOT want to find out, especially with the members of his House at risk.
Suddenly, the young Scavenger stepped forward and knelt in front of the device just as it hit the thirty-second mark.
“Dasha, what are you doing!?” Appius exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, as you said. I’ve got this,” she responded with confidence that Appius did not expect out of her. Dasha immediately retrieved her decoder and computer probe out of her backpack and got to work. The Sorcerer had no idea what she was doing, yet as the timer started to count down from ten a bead of sweat dripped down his face. Should he do something? Get her out of here and save themselves?
No. He trusted her, and if she said she knew what she was doing, then she knew what he was doing. He mentally prepared for the worst to happen and readied himself to shield her from the blast should it happen.
Five seconds and Appius’ heart pounded harder with each moment. His eyes were wide and his fists were clenched. One second until oblivion and the Force User was ready to leap into action but then… nothing. With zero-point-three seconds remaining the timer stopped. She’d done it. She’d actually gone and done it! The Aedile released the breath he didn’t realize he was holding as sweet relief washed over him.
The man strapped to the explosive let out a sputter if thank you’d very quickly as Dasha turned to her master to seek his approval, and whilst she couldn’t see the smile he gave her through his T-shaped visor, the red-plated Mandalorian gave her a thumbs up.
“So, that’s everything that happened?” questioned the Taldryan Consul. The pink-skinned Zeltron with wavy red-haired held her hands together and her eyes closed. The woes of leadership often weighed heavy on her. When she was younger she often did whatever she could to avoid such responsibility, yet she felt a sense of duty to Taldryan and now here she was, sitting in the driver’s seat so to speak. Beside her, staring out into the orange Chyron skyline was Zxyl Venzos; Proconsul and fellow Mandalorian who was business as usual.
“Yep, that’s everything,” Appius replied with his arms folded across his chest. He could have just written this down in a report, dusted his hands down and just left it at that, but Seraine had an intentionally forgetful attitude to paperwork that resulted in the Sorcerer personally giving her what she needed to know in person instead of on paper.
“Fair enough,” Seraine said definitively. “And the community outreach are putting their usual stamp on the situation?”
“Of course, and by the looks of things we appear to have won some favour over in that sector,” Appius answered. “The OSI has a new toy to play with as well. You can thank Shanree and Crysenia for that one.”
“So I’ve heard,” Zxyl finally said as the horned man turned to face him. “Apparently he’s been very… co-operative. We should have information out of him very soon.”
Appius didn’t know what they were doing to the Collective prisoner they had but decided he’d rather not know and live in blissful ignorance on this occasion.
“Well, let me know if he says anything important, I’ll see myself out,” Appius said as he stepped towards the exit.
“Actually, Mandaboo. There is one thing we still need to discuss,” Zxyl commented. “We finally decided on a Quaestor for Ektrosis.”
“Oh really?” Appius inquired. “So who’s the unfortunate soul that has to deal with Vodo’s lingering odour in the Quaestor’s office?”
“You,” Erinyes stated dismissively. The room went quiet as the pair of Taldryan leaders awaited a response from the Human Mandalorian.
“Excuse me?” Appius finally replied, failing to hide any hint of surprise in his voice. “Why me?”
“Why not you?” the Zeltron responded with a shrug. “You’ve been handling things on your own since Vodo bit the dust. Might as well make it official.”
“Unless you think you can’t handle it,” Zxyl backhanded.
“Or are we taking too much time away from you and your lady friend?” Seraine commented with a wink, and judging by how tense Appius had suddenly become, it clearly hit the mark.
“No, no, no. I can handle it,” Appius answered quickly.
“Good, then welcome back to the Quaestor’s seat, Zappy. Try not to mess this up again, there are no more second chances,” the Consul said with a slight threat in her words. To the Sorcerer’s praise, he remained firm. He didn’t respond and instead took his opportunity to leave.
He didn’t know what the future held for Ektrosis, but what he did know is that whatever obstacles they faced, they would face them together as one Clan, one unit, one house.
Our Watch Eternal; Our Aegis Strong; Our Brotherhood Unbroken.