House Ektrosis (World-building Run-On)

House Ektrosis: Once More unto the Breach

This is a run-on for members of House Ektrosis of Clan Taldryan. This is not a competition event, and is for the purpose of world-building, and more importantly, fun. There is no sign-up required for this, and it is open to all House Ektrosis members.

The prompt will be provided down below.


Rules

  • Minimum post length is 250 words.
  • There is no maximum word count.
  • Members should not post twice in a row. There should be a gap of at least one post from another member before their next post.
  • Members may make up to three posts each.
  • Posts may be edited after submission, though no major changes must be made in case it affects the story differently.

Prompt

There is an island just off the coast from Taldryan’s temple on Ostara that is surrounded by shrouds of mystery. Following the events with The Unchained, Quaestor Appius Wight has commissioned the construction of a brand new Ektrosis Headquarters.

However, nothing has quite gone to plan. Upon arriving at the island, it was discovered that the presence of an Unchained Hideout has been affecting the workers. Some have been killed, captured, tortured, or worse.

The Quaestor has requested the aid of both House Ektrosis and the Vornskr Battalion to investigate this hideout, and if needed, eliminate the threats that lay within. Due to the damage caused by the Unchained during their recent attack, the House is unable to call upon the Taldryan military to aid in the investigation, though the Vornskr Battalion’s forces, being independent, can be called in if necessary.

Be cautious. The island is unexplored by Taldryan, and who knows what traps lay in waiting, especially as remnants of the Unchained attack remain everywhere you look.


Unchained Hideout
39 ABY
Ostara

It was only the most logical choice.

Lady Krea placed his superior intellect in charge of the remnants of the Unchained Forces on Ostara should the attack end in disappointment. It did, just as the Scientist had predicted and…

“Colonel Kiren, all the Troopers and Sith know they all report to me now and blah, blah, blah. You know the drill.”

The Voice of a tall, slender and pale man echoed from within the lab, a dark, ocean blue luminance poured through each corner of the rectangular room like a performance light at a ballet. The scientist spoke with a derision that undermined the Loyalist before him. Yet the experienced soldier did nothing to retort and simply gave a slight nod. This man, the ‘Unchained Madman’ as he was often called, had a reputation for creating cruel and unusual punishments for those that interrupted his train of thought. Right now was not the time to put that to the test.

“Do you know why I prefer machines over organics, Colonel?” The Unchained scientist questioned as he raised a single cybernetic arm in front of his face, admiring it like it was made of gold.

“No, Mr. Test. I do not.” the Colonel responded gingerly.

“Of course not. Your feeble mind could not begin to comprehend the ingenuity and mechanisms behind these machines,” Test started, smirking confidently at the pathetic being in front of him. “There are approximately eighty-six to one-hundred billion neurones in a normal Human brain. Do you know what that means? Human beings have an incomprehensible ability to think separately from each other, and that’s just Humans! Chiss, Sakiyans, who knows what the possibilities are, and it’s revolting.

Test sneered as he stomped over towards a monitor. Various signs appeared on the screens that surrounded his lab. Blue-hued lights showed internal organs of a normal living mammalian, and how it could be altered with cybernetics.

“Machines, Colonel. They don’t have a complex network of neurones. They can be made completely identical to one another. Completely obedient. Never questioning your authority. They aren’t encumbered with fatigue, or a need to eat and drink. Whoever it was that decided droids should be semi-sentient is a damned fool!”

Test danced from one terminal to the other whilst the Colonel watched the mad genius conduct his research.

“But what if the Force could be combined with machines? Think about it, Kiren. An army of completely subservient half-man, half-machine, super-computer enhanced super-Sith! Oh, doesn’t it sound wonderful!” Test clapped his hands together in giddy excitement.

"If you say so… " Kiren dared to comment.

Unfortunately, that one remark would earn him the ire from the Unchained genius. The Human’s eyes locked onto him, bloodshot and crusted yellow from dark side corruption. The military man’s posture straightened as sweat dripped down his face. To his credit, he remained in place as Test’s face came eerily close to his like a man possessed by a demon.

“Congratulations, Colonel. I’m running out of test subjects, and you just volunteered.”

With a flick of the Sith’s one organic hand, the Loyalist was flung hard into a nearby durasteel wall. With a sickening crack, Kiren’s lifeless body dropped to the ground, dead in a heap amongst files of Test’s research. The Loyalist wasn’t Force-sensitive, but the Unchained scientist was certain he could find a use for the body.

“Thank you for your contribution to my experiments, Kiren! Oh, no. No need to trouble yourself, I’ll get one of my helpers to lift you out,” Test declared. The Unchained genius tapped a series of buttons as several IG-11 droids entered the room and dragged Kiren’s carcass out of the wreckage.

A distinct ringing vibrated from the communicators attached to Test’s forearms, and the mad scientists groaned with distinct exasperation.

“Yes, what is it?” Test ordered with annoyance.

“Sir, surveillance drones have located several beings approaching the island. They appear to be from House Ektrosis of Clan Taldryan. How do you wish us to proceed?”

If anyone living were in the room with him, they would have been graced with the sight of a sadistic smirk that stretched across the Sith’s face.

“Once more unto the breach, ladies and gents. It’s your lucky day!” Test responded gleefully. “We have trespassers coming to visit us. Do you know what that means? Target practice! Eliminate them and recover the bodies for further experimentation. Failure is not an option. For Lady Krea, for our Sith Empire.”

Just like that, communication ceased and Test rubbed his hands together.

“Evolution. It’s closer than they all think,” Test mused before he broke out in maniacal laughter.

Naliah’s bare, maroon-skinned feet barely moved the leaves beneath her as she stayed low, moving silently through the jungle. Scissors of sunlight pierced the thick canopy overhead - the only source of light, her black hide tunic kept her hidden in the shadows. A mere fifteen years old, the small Zabrak orphan had lived in this jungle for ten of them. She was not alone.

A canine predator almost as large as the girl prowled beside her. An orphan just like her, Naliah and Boop had grown up together and survived the harsh jungle together. She couldn’t read but she could draw a map of every tree by memory. They knew something was wrong. The trees felt agitated, the birds sounded quiet, Boop kept curiously sniffing everything… more than usual. She clutched a knife tightly in her hand. These woods were no longer hers, her dominion engulfed in a war she did not understand. She understood only one thing - the large yellow man was her friend. Or at least, Boop trusted him. That was enough for Naliah.

She dropped a low crouch. Boop looked from one direction to the other, alert. She could hear voices. Slowly she moved towards the source of the noise, Boop staying right by her. She saw them before they saw her, a group of three, cloaked figures, maybe more, she couldn’t see. The yellow man had told her what to do in this situation.

“Boop,” she said in a hushed voice. “We need to go.” She left the area, going back to her campfire as early as she could. She looked down at the alien device left to her by the foreign warrior. “Hello?”

“Naliah,” said a powerful, gruff voice, the only other voice she recognised. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, but I found some people in the forest.”

“Did they see you?”

“No,” said Naliah. “We got away before contacting you, just like you said.”

“Well done. Stay hidden. Trust only the people I told you to trust.”


Zentru’la despised involving children in war, but the jungle was Naliah’s home. If she was going to live there during the Taldryan-Unchained war, then using her understanding of the jungle to identify early threats was the best way to keep her safe while also providing valuable intelligence. “G14”, he said to the walls of his ship. “Open a communications channel with Appius Wight.”

“Really, General?” Said the smooth synthetic voice. “The man tha-”

“Just do it.” He waited a few moments. “Quaestor Wight,” said the General, greeting the hologram in Mandalorian armour with a formal salute. “Our scout has detected an enemy presence in the Ostara jungle. Sending coordinates to you now.”

“Good to know, Zentru’la,” said the Quaestor. “I’ll alert the members of House Ektrosis and we’ll investigate it from here.”

“The Vornskr Battalion will assist at our usual rate.”

“Deal,” said Appius at such a rate that Zentru’la knew he hadn’t actually considered the cost. He also probably hadn’t considered a proper strategy for investigating the island besides tell all the Ektrosis members that the Unchained are there and that they should do something about it.

“Captain Trugaim, take us back to Taldryan headquarters. Everyone else, prepare for another jungle mission.”

Inahj Homestead
Elysia

Licon and Parck Inahj were making the most of the absence of the rest of the family to tidy their mountain home. With three young children who didn’t like to keep still, there were a lot of things to put away and a large amount of laundry to get through.

“How did he ever manage to keep this house running? I’m going to need a long sit down!” Parck complained as he finished loading dirty dishes, glad his son at least had appliances capable of doing the more laborious tasks.

“Because he was absolutely terrified of her. I don’t think you ever saw that woman when she was at her angriest. Andrel would have done anything to make sure she stayed relatively calm. Unless the children were in danger, anyway,” Licon replied.

The mere mention of Andrelious’ Alderaanian spouse was enough to chill Parck to the bones. Neither he nor Licon had expected the Mimosa-Inahj marriage to end the way it had, but as they looked back the signs of an unhealthy relationship were all there.

The homestead’s holotable buzzed to indicate an incoming call. Licon stopped what she was doing, thinking her son was calling home for some incomprehensible reason.

“Did you forget some-” the woman began, but it was not Andrelious on the other end of the call. Instead, the holographic image of a figure in Mandalorian armour was generated by the table.

“Oh. Hello there, Mrs. Inahj. I was hoping to speak to Andrelious,” the man said, Licon identifying the accent as that of Appius Wight, Quaestor of Ektrosis.

“I’m afraid that my son isn’t here right now. Is there anything I can help you with instead?” Licon asked.

Appius remained silent for a few moments as though he were taking the offer seriously. “I don’t think Andrelious would forgive me if I got you killed. Is he in system, at least?” he finally questioned.

“He and the children went into space about half an hour ago. He did say he was staying local, so you’ll probably be able to reach him,” the female explained. “Oh, and Appius? If you get Andrelious killed, I won’t forgive you either,”

The Quaestor nodded and signed off.

Delta-class JV-7 Escort Shuttle Tseb’si’tsaerb III
Caelus system space

“That’s it, Etty, hold her steady!” Andrelious declared proudly as the slightly younger of his twin daughters grasped the shuttle’s flight yoke.

“Still nothing new on this scope, Daddy,” Poppy announced, pretending she understood what the different dots on the screen in front of her meant.

Although the twins were only six standard years old, Andrelious had insisted on allowing them to develop their Force abilities even before they’d been able to walk. Things were a little more difficult now that their mother was gone, but the plus side of that was it allowed the former Imperial to train the girls, along with their young brother, Mostynn, exactly how he wanted. Licon, who had only shown Andrelious the basics for fear of the Empire discovering their Force sensitivity, was making the most of the chance to pitch in with the training of her beloved grandchildren.

“Mostynn! That’s the main weapons console! Leave it alone!” the Sith cried out, scooping his son away before the boy could push any more buttons.

“Make ship boom Daddy?” Mostynn asked.

“Yes, those buttons would make a ship go boom. That’s why you mustn’t touch them. Why don’t you practice lifting the chance cube instead?” Andrelious offered, gesturing to the offending item.

“Cube float float!” the toddler giggled as he shuffled over to play.

“What does this red button flashing mean?” Etty asked.

“Push it. Someone’s trying to talk to us. Probably Grandma,” the father said warmly.

Etty did as she was told.

“That isn’t Grandma. You’re silly, Daddy,” Poppy teased as a miniature Appius hologram materialised on the comms console.

“Andrelious. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to stop whatever you’re doing. I hope that’s not going to be a problem?” the Mandalorian questioned.

“You have a mission for me, don’t you?” Inahj countered.

“I have reports of enemy activity on Ostara. With things as they are, I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to need you to rendezvous with the rest of Ektrosis at the coordinates I will send to your datapad,”

“Looks like the lesson is over. Sorry girls,” Andrelious stated, annoyed at Wight’s interruption.

“Awwwwww” the twins moaned in unison.

“I will drop the children off then see you on Ostara,” the former Imperial told Appius.

The light emitted from Caelus contrasted sharply against the hull of the Sharal’verd as it streaked into Ostara’s green atmosphere. The aptly named E-9 Explorer may not have had the speed and armament that Tracinya would have normally been comfortable with, but as a transport it had served its primary purpose without a fault. There was also the extra space; a welcome change now that the Mandalorian no longer needed to cram her belongings in the space behind the pilot’s chair. She had been halfway through making further modifications to her ship when the priority message had come in from Appius, putting her work on an immediate hiatus until the more pressing matters at hand had been settled.

Within the confines of the dimly lit cargo hold, the young Sith sat against an industrial shipping crate with her equipment strewn about across the floor and a lit cigar held tightly between two fingers. She had always been fond of the prep-time before a mission, finding a quiet spot and checking her gear for a final time could sometimes take the edge off before things started to get chaotic.

“We’re approaching the coordinates.” A clear and confident voice crackled through a speaker in the far corner of the hold. “Thought you’d like to know.”

Tracinya let out a sharp sigh; she muttered inaudibly and pushed herself up onto her feet, flicking the spent cigar aside. The Sith quickly collected her gear and retrieved her helmet from on top one of the crates. She climbed out of the cargo bay and paced along the main deck toward the cockpit where Tyrus was waiting. When the Marauder entered through the doorway, the pilot pulled his gaze away from the flight instruments to greet her.

“Looks like more of your Taldyran pals will be there soon,” he stated plainly, leaning back into his seat. “You ready? I’ve got places to be.”

“Just find me a clearing and I’ll work inland from there.” Tracinya replied, giving her cousin a thumbs up.

The Sharal’verd swooped in low around the edge of the island and came to rest atop a cliff face. The ramp dropped down and the Mandalorian stepped out into a patch of dense grass. Ahead of her the clearing dissipated into a blanket of trees that seemed to swallow much of the daylight, the distant calls of the many jungles hazardous denizens reaching her ears. Inwardly, Tracinya wished for a mission on an ice world every once and awhile, the heat was already starting to pierce through her jumpsuit but she shrugged it off and took a few steps forward, looking to see if anyone else was nearby.

Behind the Marauder the sound of starship engines intensified as Tyrus pulled away from the surface, no doubt on his way to get inebriated at some shady cantina. The girl let the thought drift into the back of her mind as she changed the frequency on her comms unit.

“Anybody home?” Asked Tracinya, curious to see if anyone else was in the vicinity.

The shuttle felt like a thin layer between the travellers and the unforgiving vacuum of space.

It seemed to glide with ease right up until the breaking of the atmosphere and then the vibrations of the hull began as the heat placed even more pressure upon the small vehicle.

Aay’han had managed to sleep deeply, she had hung limp in her seat, the only thing that had kept her upright were the durable straps attached to her chair. She had dreamt of many things that she had never actually laid eyes upon in person.

The rhythmic tides of water at the beach, the feeling of grains of sand under bare feet and the scent of salt in the air. Just as suddenly she found herself elsewhere, in thick forests of vibrant greens and woodish browns where the scent of life hung thick and heavy.

These were the things the child wished to know.

Like an unwanted guest the atmosphere began its crushing assault, the pilot had announced the beginnings of the entry not five moments prior but the pale creature had just slept through until she awoke with a start, hands lashing out at imaginary enemies that could not be seen.

Her travelling companions eyed her with looks of one who was teetering on the edge of a full blown psychotic break with reality. The little creature had put them all on edge, as though her very being seemed like it should not have been. The Warrior had not been completely unaware of the feelings of the others, it slithered in and out of her awareness throughout the whole journey, instead of confronting them she chose instead to ignore it.

No good would come of attempting to untangle the feelings of people who were all strangers. It would take time to settle in, having only really been within the Taldryian fold a few precarious weeks. It had been no different to Arcona though, the same bonds held them together in similar ways and the internal politicking had also been very familiar.

These ponderings had passed the time by. The Sith had barely registered the landing of the small ship. Not even the jolt of the sudden stop had interfered with the sojourn her mind had decided to travel downward into a more introspective lilt as her body acted out on autopilot. Ensuring all of her gear was to hand, and patting down pockets, generally hoping that she had not forgotten anything essential.

It was not until Aay’han found herself outside once more that her attention was lifted to her surroundings with the same curiosity that she faced all new things. Open and excited, her smile pulled at her lips. Exposing the newness of experiences and savouring every small detail like a fine wine.

The humidity was stifling. Breathing in felt heavy, as though a small creature sat on your chest. The moisture crept within the lungs, slowly but surely smothering her as though the whole planet wanted nothing more than to have her dead to feed the flora and fauna that called this place home.

This, in truth, passed the Mandalorian by as she took in the scene that lay before her. The trees stood tall, as though they reached up to the sky in worship of the bright sun that beat down. Had they not landed in a cleared away area it was doubtful you would see the sun at all.

Trees here had a dense canopy of vivid green, water heavy leaves created a saturated blanket between the ground and the sky which burnt orange as the sun began to make its way downward past the horizon.

It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, even if the silence was deafening. It was no surprise, offworlders rarely came to this place, the signs of neglect were everywhere as nature had begun to reclaim the landing port with creeping vines that were now being cut away once again.

Something was calling her though, an inexplicable pull on the senses forced her feet forward as she lept off the small landing pad and without warning walked into the forested jungle.

Beneath her feet crunched the dead leaves and bark of long fallen trees that had been slowly but surely decomposing. It was another thick insulating barrier to accompany the leaves above. Within, if one chose to take the time, could be heard the pitter of insectoids that ate the dying things. They crept away as feet walked by idly following the perceived beckoning fingers that summoned without words.

The scent of fertile soils bloomed upward with each step forward and if one were perceptive enough, beneath the detritus of the flora one could perceive the interconnected webs of the fungi that spoke to one another palpably through the interconnected webs they had spent lifetimes developing in peace.

No one would ever know what they said to one another, but like a pulse of electricity that sparked a heartbeat they communed in the language of nature. In between the webs sat the deep drinking roots of the trees that sucked up precious nutrients to grow and each one sang its own kind of song.

When Aay’han touched the rough bark she could have sworn the plant tensed beneath her fingers. As though it awaited pain and damage from the strange newcomer, it knew she did not belong to this place.

Everything here knew.

Begrudgingly the Iridonian left the tree in peace, she could have remained here for a lifetime and spent every moment learning something new about this place.

It had deep secrets, some that would kill, and others that would grow within the soul, others that balanced out the parts in the in between places of the soul and added balm to the weary soldiers of war.

A world that could swallow you whole and when you managed to find yourself again you’d never be the same.

It was a cold Master of harsh lessons.

Of that, she was left with no doubts.

No one had stopped the child wandering off, no one had paid enough attention to care, busing themselves with reclaiming what was theirs from the creeping plant life that had invaded. Setting up the communication posts and readying to defend against any that made it through to the surface of the moon.

Trance-like the Taldryanite moved between the monolithic trees, soaking in the vibrant rainforest as though she was born to be within it. The light armour did not hamper her progress, allowing her to be light footed enough to not draw predatory attention to her passing.

There was little consideration to the direction she had picked, or the distance she had travelled but the light was beginning to fade with a suddenness that the child hadn’t taken into consideration. Gradually her feet began to falter to a pitter patter even though a power called her forth.


Three days later

The ship that flew overhead startled the Mandalorian out of her nap, her body swayed precariously, her balance in the tree branches tipped over one side.

With an audible thump she hit the floor, dead leaves crunching as she gave a pained wheeze in a dishevelled pile on the floor. She rolled over with a groan, counting her blessings she had picked a shorter tree rather than risk the higher canopy.

The child started, recalling the sound of the ship overhead. With reflexes that bordered on startling she was on her feet and sprinting through the forest, not even making an effort to dodge the hanging vines and small branches that whipped at her armoured form.

The Sith didn’t stop until she had reached the familiar clearing that hosted the landing port. Though, truth be told the word port was generous at best. It was more accurate to call it a platform.

Hesitation caused the half-breed to falter, she stumbled and skidded to a halt against the rough bark of a tree, the sudden stop eliciting a hiss of pain as her ribs still smarted after the earlier fall.

Caution gave way now to the earlier reckless abandon, eyes watching wearily as the pulse skipped a beat in anticipation.

Friend or foe, it didn’t really matter, she would be content with either outcome. As the ramp to the ship came down her blood pumped faster picking up heat into her limbs yet again. When her half-sibling came into view a grin tugged at her lips as she prowled from tree to tree to maintain her cover.

The ship did not linger for long, staying just long enough for her to get out before a rapid fire departure left her sister just stood there, pack in hand with no one else.

Knowing Tracinya as she did, Aay’han figured it would be best to not anger the Mandalorian, better to conserve the energy for whatever mission they had to complete.

The Marauder called out, voice echoing out with the bird calls which had gradually come back with the departure of the ship. Aay’han couldn’t help but make a small game out of it, creeping as close as she could before a stray twig was trodden on.

The cracking noise it made was shockingly loud after the thick silence that hung in the air.

In an instant Tracinya had wheeled around, as she pivoted her hands worked instinctinctually. They reached for the rifle she had with practiced ease, the motions came to her with an effortlessly practiced motion that came from hours of training.

The blaster shot echoed out, Aay’han dodged the bolt skimming her shoulder as it flew past. Had she been a second slower it would have been her head.

“Gedin’la?” Aay’han asked, almost laughing at her sibling. It took a moment for her to rise to her feet, half heartedly she patted the new layer of grime off her armour. Though it did little to improve her condition it made her feel better.

Tracinya’s arms lowered the rifle, cigarra still hanging at her lips. She gave a derisive snort of dismissal.

“Di’kut, I could have killed you.” With her now free hands she plucked the smoke from her lips to speak more clearly instead of mumbling around the obstruction.

It was now she took in Aay’han’s dishevelled appearance, dirty didn’t do the half-breed justice in describing her current situation.

“Nar dralshy’a.” With a quick step she stole the cigarra. Taking a long drag off it, Tracinya swiped to slap the other girl but the Marauder deftly lent away to avoid the half-hearted blow.

With a plume of smoke passing from her lips the Iridonian offered the cigarra back to her sibling but Tracinya just allowed the Mandalorian to keep it, uncertain if she was happy to take it back looking at the muck that caked Aay’han’s armour.

“How long have you been here? You look disgusting.” Knowing her sibling’s harsh tongue the Iridonian let the insult go with increasing ease. At first the jabs had been hurtful but now they washed over her skin like water.

“Three sunrises now. I hitched a ride to pick up something and see the temple that is supposed to be here, then that message dropped so I decided it was easier to just wait.”

“And how exactly were you planning on getting home?” Tracinya felt like she knew the answer to the question already but allowed the younger girl to try and wriggle her way out of it.

“Weeeell…” Aay’han gave a sheepish grin. “In exchange for a cut in my delivery I was going to hitch a ride from you.”

“Of course you were.” The sardonic glare the Marauder gave her younger sibling was very palpable. Though knowing the Warrior’s shenanigans she probably would have agreed to the trade but she didn’t tell Aay’han that.

“We shouldn’t linger too long in open places. Plus it’s going to be raining soon.” She gave a smile and tugged Tracinya towards the treeline as the first few droplets began to fall from the heavens.

The speeder rocketed over the surface of the water. On it you could make out two characters. One clad in a bright orange shirt and blue combat pants and green skin and one clad in a white armour with red details. The latter was tightly holding onto the first.

“Aylin! Why couldn’t we take the shuttle!?”

“Oh, come on! This is way more fun!” The nautolan said cheerfully.

“It is not!”

“Wait! It isn’t!?” Said the girl as she hit the brakes of the speeder. The mando got pushed even more into the Nautolan.

“Aww Ankira, I didn’t know you liked me that much!”

“Aylin!” Ankira protested.

“Don’t worry, I’m not telling Appius,” she said with a cheeky grin as she untangled herself from Ankira’s arms.

“What are you doing?” Ankira said with a light panic as she grabbed hold onto the speeder.

“Have more fun! Give me your boots.”

“What!? Why?”

“I need those jets,” Aylin said as she held out her hands.

Sighing, Ankira disconnected the jets from her boots, knowing all to well it was no use going against it.

“Thanks! You can have my jetpack in return.”

If her face was visible to the Nautolan she would have seen her stare at her. She glanced at the backpack with their equipment and saw the jetpack between the items.

Suddenly the speeder rocketed sideways and a splash was heard. In a reflex, Ankira grabbed hold tightly onto the speeder.

“Aylin! Where are you?!” Ankira called out in panic.

Aylin surfaced a little distance from the speeder, “I’m here! Don’t worry about me and fly on towards the island.”

“What? I’m not leaving you here!”

“You aren’t!” Aylin said cheerfully as she rocketed out the water and splashed back into it a short distance further.

Scooting up the speeder, Ankira grabbed hold of the controls and started flying after her. Aylin was jumping out the water each time a little further as she gained speed.

“Aylin! Don’t be crazy!” Ankira yelled after her as she chased her friend.

“Can’t! … already am!” She said between jumps.

It took them longer than Ankira wanted to get to their mission site, but they finally got to the island and contacted Zen that they were close.

“Di’kut, never do something like that again! We are on a mission. Now come on we have to catch up.” Ankira said as she connected the jetpack to her backplate and started to walk.

“You got to learn to have some fun too,” Aylin protested as she slung her backpack onto her back and jogged after her, her boots making splashing sounds from all the water locked in them.

The cloaked man was at the top of one of the many empty towers of Chyron, watching the city lights with an absent mind. Since his return in the Clan, he find himself more often than not thinking about his life, as if he expected something to find a secret in it. Past actions, kills, victories and defeats, joy and sadness, everything was rolling in his head like ancient film reels, with some being more vivid than others.

Hidden under his black hood, his legs dangling from the tower, his mind wandered back in his body when a faint blue light was blinking. Someone was trying to reach him.
“Yes?” he answered to the small hologram that appeared on his wrist.
“Rakhai, we need you on Ostara. House Ektrosis is there, and we need you.” replied the Quaestor of House Ektrosis, Appius Wight.
“Why?”
“Because we’re on the offensive. I will send you the coordinates, I’m expecting you to be there in a hour. Appius out.” ordered the Quaestor, a bit more directive than usual.

Rakhai pondered if he could just ignore the order and stay alone, right here. But he sensed that something could be worth the trouble if he joined the rest of the House. The Sith shook his head, and started the long climb down.


After gathering his stuff in his quarters, Rakhai entered his ship, the Kom’rk-class Fighter Polaire. He ordered his droid crew for departure, and as he took place on the pilot’s chair, he entered the coordinates sent by Appius Wight. The trip wasn’t very long, and nearly without any incident of note. On his way to Ostara, he managed to detect the *Tseb’si’tsaerb III", Andrelious’ shuttle, a bit ahead of him. Pushing the power a bit more, the Sith managed to reach the shuttle, flying besides him. He waited for his Sith fellow to notice his presence.

“You know I detected your ship a while back, do you?” Andrelious said, annoyed.
“I know. What’s going on Ostara?” Rakhai asked.
“How would I know? I suppose you got the same orders from Appius as I did. No explanations, just to get our arses on Ostara.”
“Yeah. See you there then.”
Both pilots pushed their engine at maximum power, just to get there before the other.

The Polaire landed first, and Rakhai ordered his droid crew to get in orbit around Ostara until he call it back. As soon as the starfighter took off, the Tseb’si’tsaerb III landed in a swoosh. The Sith got out of the shuttle, his face showing signs of anger, and maybe hatred, towards Rakhai.
However, both weren’t there to fight each other. A mission was going on.

“The gods know I hate this planet.” said Rakhai, thinking of removing his hood.
“Me too.” replied a female voice, out of the jungle surrounding the landing port.
“Welcome on Ostara.” Tracinya announced, sarcastically.

Rakhai finally decided to remove his hood, as the terrible humidity of planet was already taking its toll on him. He wasn’t at ease of showing his face, but he couldn’t stand the heat.
“So, where’s Appius?” he asked, with his raspy voice.
“Not sure. Haven’t seen him yet, but I guess he will show up pretty soon.” the Mandalorian replied.

The Sith Juggernaut walked a bit further, as the other Taldryanites chatted among them. He sensed something on this island, something…dark. But everything was blurred, he couldn’t focus on it. He sat on a chair, and let his mind slipped away again, waiting for Appius to show up.

This is fine.

It was absolutely not fine.

Ominous hissing jittered out of the Mandalorian’s fingers as electricity fried the Sith trooper closest to him. From every direction around him swarms of blaster fire descended like angry wasps. Twin emerald blades hummed and swung around him, instinctively deflecting each shot that got near away and out of harm’s way.

He had to do it, didn’t he?

He had to go ahead of the rest of the House when Zentru’la gave him the coordinates.

I’m the Quaestor! Appius thought to himself. I need to set the example! He said to himself.

He knew Aay’han was on the island, at least. Appius felt the young girl’s presence when he arrived. Though he stubbornly decided to do some quick reconnaissance first.

Ankira was going to have his hide if he got out of this in one piece.

So much for being on the offensive…

It started out well enough, nothing more than a couple of stormtroopers clad in red, nothing the Mandalorian Juggernaut couldn’t handle himself. One turned into two, two turned into four, and four turned into the small army currently trying to gun him down.

Appius already knew they were here, hence his reasoning for summoning Ektrosis and the Vornskrs. What he hadn’t expected was just how many and how organised they were.

They were expecting him. They knew they were here, and for all Appius was aware of , he was leading Ektrosis straight into a trap. Damn it all! He refused to let anything happen to his House!

Not that he had much of a say in the matter. Red armoured troopers surrounded him and kept him pressured and unable to do anything but defend himself. Even as a Master of Soresu, the sheer volume of shots was enough that a small number were able to ping against his beskar armor.

Suddenly, a small spherical object landed at his feet and started beeping. The Force rang through Appius’ subconscious like a klaxon as alarm filled his heart.

Frakk!

He activated his jetpack and leapt into the air without a single thought. The thermal detonator exploded with a thunderous boom, and whilst Appius was out of range of having his limbs blown to bits, the resulting shockwave sent him careening back.

The Juggernaut crashed into the dirt and rolled to a stop. Shaken, but mostly unharmed, Appius forced himself back onto his feet and dug his feet into the soil. The Force Disciple’s back was literally against a stone wall. With nowhere else to turn, he summoned the Force to harden his body like rock to withstand whatever was about to be thrown at him.

A woman clad in silver stepped forward. Tall, gangly, the corruption of the dark side seeped into her facial features. She wore her auburn hair freely down to her hips. The Sith licked her lips. So what if Test wanted them alive? He was a weakling compared to the rest of them!

The tall Kiffar woman activated her crimson-bladed lightsaber and stalked closer to the Mandalorian. She could almost taste the blood. With overwhelming numbers in her favour, she was sure she could win!

Or at least, that’s what she thought.

The sparkly Sith was so preoccupied with her bloodlust she failed to sense the arrival of another Mandalorian. One clad in white with red streaks. This new Mandalorian, Ankira Irr, glided through the air with the jetpack strapped to her back and began to unleash volley after volley of blaster fire from her brandished blasters.

The Nautolan Scavenger, Aylin Sajark, stood atop the hillside nearby. She held her trusty grenade launcher in her hands and explosions rang around the battlefield and confused the enemy within their ranks.

As if that wasn’t already bad enough for the Unchained forces, two pairs of lightsabers began to cleave through the enemy ranks from their flank. The first of these two beings was Tracinya Beviin Entar. The young Mandalorian Sith cleaved through the first trooper beside her without so much as a thought to her own safety before following up with an open palm.

The Force was a mighty weapon in the Marauder’s hand, and sent a following of three red-clad soldiers into the path of Aay’han Agrona Beviin. With the dark side coursing through her bloodstream, Kalon’s other daughter sliced through each of them with her own red-bladed lightsaber like it was a hot knife through butter. Body parts scattered across the ground, barely recognisable after she was done.

The Silver Sith’s anger boiled within her, threatening to erupt like a volcano. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t get the chance to retaliate. The Sith held her lightsaber in a high guard position against the violent strikes that came from a tall, heavily tattooed Sith Juggernaut. Rakhai was on the battlefield, and he immediately prioritized the Silver Sith as the main threat.

They’d all either heard or sensed the fight from wherever they were, and came running into the fray.

Amethyst crashed into red amongst the raging chaos of battle. Yet, before she even had the chance to enjoy the thrill of the fight for herself, the Force alarmed her of immediate danger that lurked behind her. She spun on the spot as tendrils of agonizing dark energy wrapped around her like a deadly net. The Sith shrieked as lightning coursed throughout her entire body. The one responsible for this pain, Andrelious J. Inahj, stood proudly given his smaller stature, happy with the damage he inflicted. This momentary action was just the opening Rakhai was looking for. With one swift, assured strike, he cleaved the Sith’s head from her shoulders as it hit the ground, rolling to a stop a few inches away.

Despite the death of the Sith at their helm, the Unchained army were unrelenting in their assault. They piled on the pressure as the small stretch of land turned into a warzone. One that thankfully, General Zentru’la was more than adequately equipped to deal with. The Harbinger’s engines roared as it descended upon the fury below.

“Create a perimeter around the House members. Cut off the Unchained access points and open fire.” The blunt, direct tone of the aged Twi’lek voiced from within the cockpit.

The Duros, Rohla Trugaim, might have had an alcoholism issue that would give many pause about letting her behind the controls of a ship. Yet, Zentru’la did it anyways, and it was time for Rohla to show them why.

With his own relationship to the rest of Ektrosis being fairly unconventional, Andrelious hadn’t met several of his colleagues until the rendezvous on Ostara. He’d heard a fair bit about the Vornskyr Battalion, mostly from Appius, but this was the first time he’d encountered any of them.

The Harbinger began its attack run, its heavy laser cannons peppering the enemy with deadly plasma.

“Not bad, given that model’s not exactly designed for close air support,” Andrelious commented.

“At least they’re not flying around in something that was designed before any of us were born,” Rakhai answered.

Inahj ignored the comment and watched as the Vornskyr’s ship let rip again, this time destroying an AT-ST walker that had been closing in on the Ektrosians’ position.

“We can’t just stay here! If we don’t move, they’ll pick us off, one by one!” Inahj shouted, hoping Appius could hear him over the general din coming from the ongoing battle.

The Ektrosis Quaestor silently conceded the point. He’d been completely caught off guard by how numerous, and how well organised the Unchained forces were proving to be. He knew that Andrelious would already be judging his leadership, and that the former Imperial would seize upon any further mistakes to attempt to advance his own position in Taldryan. That was something that the Mandalorian was simply not prepared to allow; although Andrelious largely kept himself to himself, his desire to keep his children safe above all else was not something that suggested any loyalty to the Clan, and certainly not to Appius himself. If Inahj believed that his nominal superior was no longer able to guarantee his family’s safety, his actions could not be safely predicted.

Andrelious, meanwhile, could sense Wight’s discomfort at the situation, but almost found himself wanting to assure the Quaestor that his position was safe. He was far too busy dealing with the threat that the Unchained were posing to even think about making any kind of challenge for Appius’ position, and was in fact developing a quiet respect for his fellow Sith’s abilities in combat. At any rate, he had far too little in the way of support among the members of Ektrosis, and he knew it.

With the assistance of the Harbinger, the Ektrosians managed to allow themselves a few moments between waves of enemies.

“So…” Andrelious began, casting his eyes over the assembled group.

“What’s with all the Mandalorians? Are we becoming Vizsla?”

Dasha had received the message from Appius and came to the coordinates as fast as she could without killing someone with some vehicular accident. Seeing people head off in a direction, she ‘borrowed’ a speeder and followed. Her sensitive ears picked up sounds of battle a safe distance away.

‘High ground’ flashed through her mind as she swiftly climbed a tree to watch the battle turn to their favor though, how many enemies are there and can everyone else hang on? She spotted a couple of people appearing by a familiar red armor’s side, decapitating an enemy. From how her Master moved, she knew she should do something soon.

Drawing her cloak close, she transversed the higher branches as she followed the conga line of troopers to their hideout.

It was nestled in a hillside with a canopy of trees obscuring some of the entrances from any high aerial surveillance. Red Troopers steadily came out from the hangar and it seems they were preparing heavier firepower.

Not on her watch. She hid behind a bush of leaves as she sent the coordinates out to fellow House members before she heard someone crunching on dry leaves below.

A pale Sith had spotted her! She started her escape when she felt yanked to the ground. At such a velocity, she managed to flip and draw her own lightsaber in time to cause their sabers to shriek upon clashing. Her forearms screamed at her from the blow yet her instincts said to hold firm or she’d be killed.

As she started to drop from gravity and she rotated vertically in reference to the surprised Sith. Dasha stepped her first foot onto the ground to push herself away as she twisted to throw a small cloud of blinding dust into the face of a very angry force user. As they recoiled in pain, Dasha hastily retreated while dropping a surprise of her own.

The homemade bomb went off soon after Dasha was out of range sending shrapnel and shrapnelized glitter in the vicinity. The Sith couldn’t escape or deflect them all causing various wounds all over their body.

Blaster fire was already on its way to Dasha as her bomb was dropped, so she advanced backwards… biding her time until others came. Her lightsaber was already off again and safely secured on her belt.

A series of undergrowth later, they had lost track of where exactly the small Sephi was. Their search was futile as the camouflaged Sephi stayed as clear and too far for any enemy Sith to pull her closer.