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[House Mortis] Fiction Updates - Chapter 0
[ From the QUA Report on Nov 20, 2015 ]
0.0.0 - Memories
The Castle was quiet. Scion Tarentae wandered the halls. He admired the ocean vistas through the transparisteel walkways around its perimeter. He passed through the Library, devoid of researchers today. He strolled through empty barracks and training arenas, finally stopping in the throne room. His mind flashed through memories of this room, too many to count. The struggles and triumphs of his beloved House… no, Clan Tarentum. Houses Gladius, Cestus, Tridens, Reinthaler and Kaerner. Anshar sat in the Prince’s chair the first time he saw this room. He had stood beside Ronovi and Dralin on the dais long before he sat in it himself. The terrible day when Pravus fired him, and the triumphant day when he stood in this room with all his brothers and sisters to be named a Tarentae. It was almost enough to well up tears in the old man’s eyes. Almost.
“What are you up to in here, boss?” Zekk’s voice shook Scion from his reverie.
“Just an old man thinking old thoughts,” said Scion, stealing a sip from his flask. “But you’re right. It’s not the time to dwell in the past. We have a new House to get up and running. Is it time for that planning meeting already?”
“Yeah, I just came up here to remind you. Solas and Revoc are waiting for us.”
“Thanks. Let’s get to it.”
[ From the QUA Report on Jan 21, 2016 ]
0.0.1 - The Bantha
“That looks like a good place to set her down.”
The Bantha was a small ship of uncertain origin. It no longer matched any common configuration, having been welded together from at least four other ships and refitted with smaller parts from dozens of others. It bristled with antennae and weaponry in almost every patch of open hull space. It flew awkwardly, rolling and bobbing through the thermals and eddies in the atmosphere as an object that clearly had no business whatsoever hovering above the ground. It tumbled and dove up the beach of a small island on Yridia II, weaving between trees and finally settling down to a stop in some heavy brush that almost completely obscured it from view. A small band of humanoids emerged from a hatch in the ship, taking their first look around the planet they had just arrived on.
“We should be pretty safe here. Let’s set up camp. Make sure to get the sentry guns in place before you do anything else. We don’t want any visitors wandering too close.”
As night fell, the encampment had already begun to form. A ring of camouflaged prefab walls encircled the Bantha and motorized gun emplacements swiveled menacingly in case anything was lurking outside the base.
“My Lord, we are receiving reports of unusual power readings and encrypted radio transmissions emanating from the nearby island.”
Scion Tarentae raised an eyebrow quizzically. “I thought we had exterminated the native Yridian population. It’s not one of ours?”
“No, my Lord,” said the nervous Lieutenant. “We have confirmed it is not a Tarentum or Dark Council code. So far we have been unable to decrypt it.”
"Very well. Send a scout to investigate. Do not engage if there is an enemy presence."
Castle Tarentum was nearly undefended at this point. Most of the Clan were aboard ships. The Order of the Trident had moved to Altera Station, the Nekros Syndicate was holed up in their Pyramid, Farrin was wherever the frak he was now; he was always on the move. It was down to the regular staff, Scion and a handful of others now. Even the planet itself was deserted. During the Yridian Revolt the effort it had been required to fight the native Yridians down to the last man. All that walked the archipelago now were ghosts.
And that was kind of the point. To the casual observer, Clan Tarentum was scattered to the winds. Nothing but a few lost souls fragmented across an entire star system. Most would say it no longer existed in any recognizable form. Even the Castle had been designed all those years ago to be all but invisible unless you knew exactly where to look. The Marshal’s military doctrine consisted of fast, mobile, small pieces that could assemble quickly into a strong force and disappear just as quickly in every direction. They could be everywhere at one moment, and focused on the chink in your armor at the next.
It was a good strategy, Scion thought, but it may not be appropriate for what was coming next. Once the House of Bloodfyre began their gruesome work in earnest, they were bound to make some enemies. There was so much left to do to prepare.
0.0.2 - First Contact
“Very well. Send a scout to investigate. Do not engage if there is an enemy presence.”
“My lord… there are not many people left here. Mostly journeymen…” the lieutenant paused, not quite willing to mention the rest. “and… the Sith Lord…”
Scion nodded. Darth Aeternus was not someone to give orders to, not even the Consul had the power to do so. He would ignore the lieutenant at best. At worst? Best not to contemplate. Hopefully, the thought of investigating this would amuse the Lord.
“Very well. I’ll talk to him myself.”
“Talk to who?”
Both the lieutenant and Scion were startled. Somehow, Aeternus had joined them unobserved. Unassuming, He was not even wearing full robes. If you didn’t know who he was, he would be mistaken for just another dark jedi. Unlike the other sith lords, the one with them now eschewed standing out. This was one of the things making him so deadly, as he was often underestimated. Those who knew, however, knew enough to not assume anything.
Gathering himself, Scion prepared to explain the situation.
“Lord Aeternus… we are detecting signals on one of the islands. It’s not us, nor is it the council. No-one is supposed to be there, and right now, all I have to send there is you, and some journeymen. I was going to ask you to look into this, and perform recon before we decide what to do.”
Taking the datapad from the lieutenant, the former Master at Arms looked through it. “Correct. These don’t match any of the codes used by the council. Nor are they used by the other clans. Very well. Lieutenant, prepare a shuttle, and make sure there is proper diving equipment on board. I’ll find out what we are dealing with. I’ll depart in 15 minutes.”
A couple of hours later, Aeternus was crawling through the bushes on the island, making good use of the nighttime. He had dropped out of the shuttle well outside sensor range, and had gone the last of the distance underwater, swimming, so as to keep as low a profile as possible. The journeymen would not have been able to swim the distance, as it required more stamina than he had seen from them.
He was controlling his body to emanate very little heat, and moving very slowly, so as to throw the sentry guns he had already spotted off. He knew he could easily handle them if they did track him, but his goal was to gather information, not to wreak havoc. He wanted to know who was on their planet, and what their objective was.
Finally, he was nearing the ring of walls that were set up. Making a small opening was not a hard task. The walls were apparently of the same quality as the ship he saw behind it: ramshackle. He listened, and could make out some voices.
“I tell you, there must be something on this planet. Other crews keep going missing, I tell you, something is responsible for it! And if we find that, we could make use of that ourselves! Rumour has it that it’s a group of jedi hiding out here! Imagine the artifacts they could have!”
“And I keep telling you, I don’t want to end up like those others! It’s probably wildlife, maybe there are Nexu or Rancor’s on this planet. Everyone knows the Jedi are gone. I don’t want to end up like Raunu’s crew: missing on this backwater planet… boss.”
“Fine! But there used to be a population here, and now there is not. There must be something left of them we can sell. Besides, we were paid good money to check if anyone is alive here.”
So, these were regular smugglers or pirates, with an extra agenda. It was not uncommon for them to visit by, even after Yridia’s native population was… removed. And as these, those now visiting were mostly after a profit, and taken care of easily.
He counted about a dozen smugglers in total. He could fight them, and win, but he had a better idea. He would make them leave on their own regard, minus some of them. The men with them already looked spooked, and he would work with that. Focusing, he decided to use a form of battle meditation, focused on these smugglers, amplifying their paranoia.
The shift in their mood was almost instant. He added more to it by pulling one of the prefab walls down with a burst of telekinesis. One the men got near him, looking very frightened. Putting on his energy claws, not even bothering to ignite them, he used more telekinesis to pull him towards himself, and maimed him badly with the claws. Following that, he telekinetically threw his victim into the middle of the small clearing, still alive. The result was a gurgled scream, which scared them even more.
Their leader tried to rally them, and gave the example to fire from the walls. Excellent, just as he had hoped he would. A brief burst of telekinesis sent him over the wall, and screaming into the bushes, where the sentry guns started tracking him. This one, however, Aeternus wanted alive, and shielded with a force barrier, silencing him with a mind trick as the guns opened fire on their owner. No use in letting his companions know he was still alive.
The second in command wasn’t so brave. Seeing their leader getting, apparently, shot up by their own sentry guns broke his spirit, and he ordered the remaining into their ship, took off immediately, clipping several trees as he went.
As soon as they were gone, Aeternus stood up fully, and used his power to crush those sentries in range almost instantly. He walked over to the cowering smuggler leader.
“Wh… who are you?”
“Your worst nightmare.” He tapped the commlink. “Mission complete. Two for extraction.”
Half an hour later, he walked into Scion’s office, tossing the now unconscious captive down. “They were smugglers, and I bring you a gift… this one was their leader. He’ll wake up in an hour or so.”
Now, Scion was startled. “Did you engage with them?”
“… of a sort. They left, and several probably peed their pants out of fright. They have no idea what it was, however. Our secret is safe, and we have the chance to find out more from this one.”, he said, motioning to the smuggler on the floor. “Enjoy.”
With that, the Sith Lord left the Quaestor’s office, grinning. He had enjoyed this little tryst.
0.0.3 - Tanian’s Escape
The quiet calm of the cell swam around Corvus, the middle aged man enjoy the break from the torture and interrogation. His body and mind ached, wracked with pain from Scion’s handiwork. He was surrounded by an energy field, the plasma humming as it shimmered down to the floor. That is, until, it all of a sudden shut off. The quiet hum left abruptly, the sucking sound of absorbed energy seeming to burp into the air to take its place. Then, silence. No alarms rang, no emergency lights kicked on, nothing to indicate power failure of any kind. The Corellian smelled a trap, but he felt like a fool just sitting there.
He got low and skulked towards the wall, his efforts working towards masking any sound he could make. What was going on? The Smuggler knew he had no friends inside the Castle, knew that once he gave the Tarenti what they wanted he was as good as dead, so what was going on? The Human pushed those thoughts away, focusing more on his survival and less on the circumstances of it. He moved towards the door and pressed the button to open it, revealing an empty hallway devoid of any guards. He took a right and followed the hallway, lights flickering every so often. Perhaps it was a power failure after all, thought Corvus to himself. It wouldn’t be long, mere moments from leaving his cell, that the Corellian came to the end of the hallway and upon another door. His brow furrowed as he debated with himself, sweat beading on his forehead. His hand trembled as it rose to hit the button, the door activating and revealing more corridors devoid of any life.
“Phew.” sighed Corvus.
“Phew, indeed.” said a voice from behind him, “Thought Scion was gonna hog all the fun.”
The Corellian didn’t look to see what the voice came from, instead he booked it down the hallway. The voice from behind turned to boisterous laughter as the Smuggler ran further and further away from it, turning a corner and activating another door.
Inside what appeared to be a boiler room, Corvus waited in darkness. His heart pounded, adrenaline coursing through his veins and ridding his body of its aches and pains. But as most good things do, the sensation dissipated as light bathed the room as the doors opened once more.
“Fear is a strange thing.” said the voice, “To those attuned to it, fear can lead you to anything.”
The voice flicked the lights on in the room, and the visage that embraced Corvus’s eyes was horrid. A chalk white figure with no ears, nose, or lips stood before him. The abomination had a beard, braided and soaked with saliva, that seemed to only briefly distract the Smuggler from the rest of his strange body. Brands and tattoos covered his skin, something Corvus got a good look at when the strange figure grabbed him by the throat.
“My name is Samael, I’ll be your executioner tonight.” he said, something akin to smile covering his face.
Corvus swung his knee as hard as he could, impacting the Umbaran’s testicles with great force. The Sith released his grip and let go of Corvus, who immediately ran out of the room and further down the hall. Samael laughed as the pain ebbed and flowed through him, giving him one more reason to want to kill Corvus. The Smuggler ran for minutes before he found an elevator, which he promptly began to hit the up button. His finger smashed against it repeatedly, gaining in ferocity when he saw Samael round the corner. The doors opened, and the Human ran inside.
“Close. Close. Close!” said Corvus as he hit the close door buttons.
Slowly but surely, the doors finally began to close and the elevator ascended Castle Tarentum. Corvus slumped against the wall as he thought of a way out, some possible escape from the hell he found himself in. The elevator chirped and the doors opened, Samael waiting on the other side with a wolfish smile.
“Can lead you to anything.” said Samael, thrusting a punch forward and connecting with
the forehead of Corvus. His brain jostled back and hit his skull, knocking the Human unconscious. The Umbaran looked down at the Smuggler and frowned, dragging him over to one of the submersibles that the Tarenti used to leave the Castle. He took the Smuggler and dipped him in the water, focusing on the darkness inside himself and sending it pulsating through the Human. Electrical arcs of power skittered out of the Human as the Umbaran threw him on the ground.
“Just kill me if you’re gonna do it.” said Corvus.
“Can’t. See, if I kill you, it’s this whole big thing. The higher ups would KILL me if I killed
you. Believe it or not, they still think you’re useful. But me? Not so much.” said Samael, kneeling over the Human and pressing one of his daggers into his throat, “I mean, I COULD kill you. Accidents happen, I could say you gave me this…”
As he finished his sentence, Samael cut a large gash into his face, the blade of his
dagger scratching the crystal eye. As he did it, the Smuggler took his opportunity and swung as hard as he could at the Umbaran. He connected with the side of his head, tossing the man off of him and able to get up. The Sith dropped the dagger, its blade delivering a much deeper gash than intended, blood spewing from the wound. The Umbaran began to laugh once again as he scrambled to find his blade.
The Corellian, however, had found it first. He tackled the Umbaran to the ground and forced the blade on his throat. The Sith smiled and encouraged him, seemingly begged him, but the Human wouldn’t do it. Instead, the Human began punching the Umbaran over and over, landing four strikes before the scarred Sith knocked him off. Corvus landed on his back, twisting awkwardly in the air and arms flailing to and fro. When he landed, his hand hit some control panel and activated two buttons. Doors opened up, seeming to appear from nowhere, and droids marched out from their hiding places. They carried large blaster rifles, the sight of which caused more adrenaline to swarm Corvus.
“Hoo hoo hoo!” cooed Samael, “You invited guests for lil ole me?”
The droids swiveled on their feet and pointed at Corvus, who was rapidly trying to slice into the terminal and reprogram the droids. Samael giggled as he saw the Smuggler panic, the droids raising their guns and taking aim. Corvus didn’t look up at them, just continued his work with the determination of a man who might soon be dead.
“Any last words?” asked Samael as he awaited the firing squad to react.
“Yeah…good bye!” said Corvus.
One of the submersible’s hatch doors opened, the Smuggler rolling and sprinting to get to it. The Umbaran commanded the droids to fire, but they refused to respond. The Sith cackled as he watched the Smuggler work towards escaping, the Human playing right into the Tarenti’s trap. When the Corellian got in the sub, he closed the hatch and left as fast as he could. Water sprayed into the air as he sank into the depths, the sound of Samael’s final cackle repeating in his ears.
Relief washed over the Smuggler, freedom and his survival open for him to enjoy. Corvus couldn’t help, however, that something was wrong. Was that too easy?
Back at Castle Tarentum, the Tarenti assembled in the Throne Room. Samael was standing before them, explaining what had happened. His voice was monotone, calm, and it was apparent he took no pleasure in explaining what happened.
“So, he didn’t suspect anything?” asked the holographic image of Farrin.
“Not to my knowledge. His mind was too busy focusing on escaping, he didn’t seem to realize I was not actually trying to hurt him. He’ll lead us to what we seek. I still think I should have been able to hurt him…at least take an ear.” explained Samael.
“There will be a time for that, Samael.” said Sith Bloodfyre, “For now, retire to your quarters and wait further instructions.”
Solas Night-Thorn 13525
Tebbo Jensen 14406
0.0.4 - The Patrol
“How did I get here?” Tebbo kept whispering to himself. He could always feel the eyes of Force users on him wherever he went and it made him uncomfortable and now he was assigned to patrol the area around Castle Tarentum. He could tell that many members of the Brotherhood looked down on him because he was not a Force user and not afflicted with the Dark Side. Tebbo knew this would be a chance to prove himself to his leaders that even a mercenary could be as useful as a Force user. Tebbo walked into the hangar where he would meet up with the other Journeyman that was assigned to be his partner. It took a few minutes of looking and asking around before Tebbo realized that his partner wasn’t here yet.Tebbo had only seen his partner a few times while going around the Nekros Syndicate’s base, The Pyramid. Tebbo couldn’t fight the excitement he was feeling. He was brand new and Tebbo still didn’t know why he was sent here in the first place, but it was fun and it killed time. This would also be the first time interacting with the Supreme Commander of the Nekros Syndicate.
Tebbo started flirting with one of the female maintenance crew members when he was suddenly being dragged from behind by an Epicanthix with white hair. Tebbo gave the female crew member a wink before getting a foothold and walk behind the Epicanthix. A moment later he noticed another individual walking with them. One look and he knew this person was an attache of the Supreme Commander.
“So you must be Solas?” Tebbo said cheerfully while holding out his hand. It was clear by his black and red robes with his dark demeanor. Solas handed the datapad he was reading to his attache and dismissed her with a silent nod.
Solas stopped and turned a little, “I am Supreme Commander Night-Thorn, you will show me respect. Now let’s get going.” Solas gave with a squinted and looked Tebbo up and down before turning away and back to the two underwater modded starfighters.
“Yes sir, very sorry sir.” Tebbo responded quickly and nervously. Tebbo jumped inside his starfighter, glad to be in a starfighter since his was destroyed after his arrival.
The starfighters were standard models modified for underwater travel because most of Yridia II is mostly underwater and so was Castle Tarentum. The patrol would consist of following a perimeter that would get near some islands that were near Castle Tarentum. The pair entered their ships and took off from the hanger. As they passed through the airlock Solas clicked on his comm.
“Alright, set heading to twonine. Follow my lead.” With confirmation from his partner, Solas fired up his underwater systems and lead them along their patrol route. “Set scan range to thermals, we’re looking for living things after all.”
“Understood sir.” Tebbo quickly adjusted his scanners to the thermal spectrum. “Permission to speak frankly sir?”
“Have you ever raced one of these babies before?”
“Once back when I was a Novice. It frankly didn’t end well.”
“What happened sir, if I may be so bold?”
“My opponent crashed his ship and we wound up spending the next month scrubbing the hangars. Well he did, he was an apprentice Sith and thus wasn’t called to the battlefield when the Dark Crusade began.”
“Oh, well I will try my best to not disappoint you sir.” Tebbo responded with a quiet disposition.
“See that you don’t.” As they were speaking both ship’s scanners beeped. “Eyes up, we’ve got contacts at two five. Switch your systems to low power and follow me.” As both of them turned to low power, the tension started to creep on both Tebbo and Solas. Tebbo felt like there was a storm about to hit and it made him feel nervous. Solas brushed off the feeling to keep a sharp eye out.
“Sir, should I go for a swim and take a look at what’s up ahead?” Tebbo whispered into his mic.
“No need. Just get ready to go loud. I can feel them coming, we’re going to force them to surface. If we take out their lifesupport systems they’ll be forced to go ashore on one of the nearby islands. We’ll attack there. Now train your blasters on that rock formation at two o’clock.
They’ll be there shortly.”
“Ok, are we planning to wipe them out or take at least one prisoner?” Tebbo mentioned while aiming towards the rock formation. Solas sighed at the question.
“Normally I’d say let’s just wipe them out. But considering that our last captive didn’t yield much in the way of information. We should try and take one alive. Now focus they’re here.”
As Tebbo and Solas fell quiet, they waited till two small ships started to pass under the rock formation. “Fire!” Solas yelled as he fired his blasters at the rocks right above the ship. Tebbo quickly followed suit and a huge part of the formation fell off. It quickly sank and hit the first starfighter, breaking off the back left part of the ship. The second starfighter hit the rock directly on, but was slow enough to not be instantly killed. Solas knew that it was an immediate success.
“Cut all nonessential systems and let your ship drift, if they pick up on us this will get messy.”
Solas barked the command as he disabled everything in his ship aside from the lifesupport.
“Yes sir.” Tebbo replied before following suit and shutting down his fighter. Soon the two Tarenti were drifting with the current.
Solas reached out with the Force and felt their enemies making for the surface. Snaking his way into the lead pilot’s mind and planted the idea to land on small island nearby. Smiling to himself as he felt the ships begin to move away. Solas waited until they were out of scanner range to reactivate his ship.
Tebbo saw his leader activate his ship and followed his lead as the Sith lead them around to the far side of the island. Coming ashore just as night began to fall, Solas turned to the nautolan.
“We’ll make camp just inside the treeline. No tents, no fire. We’ll wait till midnight and strike once they believe their safe.”
“Very good sir, I will take first watch so don’t worry ‘bout a thing and get some sleep if you would like to.” Tebbo slyly said. Tebbo was good at guerilla warfare and knew he could impress this Sith with his skill.
“I’m fine.” Solas respond before proceeding to lean against a nearby tree and watch the forest for movement.
“Wake up now.” Tebbo quickly opened his eyes to find Solas staring at him with annoyance.
Tebbo looked at the time and it was almost midnight.
“They made a light sweep of the island, so they didn’t notice us.” Solas turned back to the forest.
“We should get a move on.”
“Of course,” Tebbo grabbed his blaster and shouldered it.
“Stay low and close. Move on my command.” Tebbo nodded as the Sith lead the pair through the forest. It wasn’t long before they could see the smoke from their target’s campfire. The pair came to a stop just inside the treeline that ringed the beach their enemy’s camp was set up.
Giving their canteen a gentle push with the Force, Solas knocked the water into the fire pit dousing the flames. Both men jumped to their feet and began arguing over who had knocked their water into the fire. Amidst this argument, Solas gave a silent signal to Tebbo to look away from the camp. Once he was certain his partner wouldn’t feel the effects of his next move, Solas extended his hand towards the bickering pair. Closing his eyes he exerted his will over the Force and a moment later the beach was lit up with a blinding white light that caused the two unsuspecting mercenaries to stumble back in pain covering their eyes.
“Now Jensen! Target the one on the right! Try to bring him in alive, I’ll take the one on the left!”
Solas shouted before leaping out of the trees igniting his crimson lightsaber.
As Solas ran towards the man on the left, Tebbo took aim from their hiding spot. Tebbo had just lined up the shot when the man dove for his tent. Coming back up, the man started shooting franticly.
“Oh, frotz, that was close.” Tebbo fell behind his cover.
“Hurry up Jensen!” Solas yelled as he was almost to the camp.
“By the thousand tides, fine,” Tebbo leaned against a tree and took aim again at the man on the right.”Try not to get shot and it’s all your fault.” The man had gotten some of his vision back so he had taken cover behind the stump they were using as a seat.
“Not quick enough” Tebbo whispered as the man started to aim at him. Tebbo’s blaster bolt went through the man’s shoulder. The man quickly fell with a scream and dropped his blaster. The man started to roll on the ground and Tebbo knew the fight was over, Tebbo took a Death stick out of his coat and drank it. Tebbo walked over from his spot to grab the blaster and brought his aid kit… As Tebbo walked he watched Solas.
Solas landed just in front of the man on the left just as his sight was beginning to return. Seeing the six foot nine Sith looming over him, lightsaber inhand, the man frantically tried to take aim.
This was a fruitless action as one swing of the Knight’s lightsaber severed the man’s arm just below the elbow. The man stumbled back with a scream, clutching his severed limb. Panic set in as he clumsily drew his sidearm and fired off a shot that caught the Sith in the leg. Seeing this he began to look for a way out of the situation, then the Sith began to laugh. But not a joyous laugh, this laugh was hollow, raspy, chattering, it was the laugh of a madman.
“Good, good. Your fear is what’s keeping you alive. Too bad it won’t be nearly enough!” At his words, Solas lunged at the man one move sliced both his legs off and kicked him over towards the firepit. Solas watched as the man began to weakly crawl towards his ally. Laughing, the Sith slowly walked after his prey, pausing only to pick up a smoldering log from the firepit.
The man slowly but surely reached his ally, who had fallen to the ground from a shot to the shoulder. Just as he began reaching out to his friend, the man felt something grab his hair and lift him into the air. A moment later he felt something press into his back, then he felt the heat. The man’s screams filled the night air as Solas slowly forced the smoldering log through the man’s back and out his chest. In an instant everything went quiet, and the Sith dropped the man’s corpse. His ally tried to retreat, only to earn himself a shot in the head from the butt of Tebbo’s blaster, knocking him out. With a nod Solas grabbed his comm.
“Castle Tarentum, this is Nekros Patrol One. Calling for extraction.” A moment later the comm clicked.
“We read you Nekros One, has your transport been compromised?”
“Negative, we have a captive that needs pickup.”
“Understood Nekros One. Shuttle is enroute.”
As daybreak arrived, Sith Battlelord Scion entered his office to find the Supreme Commander of the Nekros Syndicate leaning against the wall while a nautolan stood at attention just inside the door, clearly uncomfortable to be standing that way. Scion sighed.
“At ease young one. Now Solas what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” Solas smirked at the question.
“Well, our patrol bore fruit. We’ve got a captive in the brig, he’s not exactly in the best shape. As expected after seeing me impale his partner on a burnt log.”
“You are one twisted individual. You do know just how to make my day.” The pair shared a laugh.
“Physically, he can be questioned any time you like sir.” Tebbo stammered out “He only got hit in his shoulder and hid.”
“Very good. Now head down the hall to Zekk’s office for your debriefing. Solas, walk with me.”
The two Sith walked out the door and down the hall.
0.0.5 - Eradicate the Settlement
“We MUST attack now, Quaestor! They have already had enough time to dig in and fortify themselves. If we had just taken them out when they first landed we wouldn’t have this problem!”
Zekk stood with both palms planted on the Quaestor’s desk, while the older man seemed to take little notice of him.
“Now we must risk the lives of our men to deal with a big problem that you have let grow out of a small one,” Zekk continued. “The Consul will not be pleased when he hears of this!”
Scion was engrossed in something he was reading on a data pad, and seemed to take no notice that his office was slowly filling with the highest ranking members of House Mortis. Solas had entered during Zekk’s tirade, and Darknyte was already leaning casually against the wall near the door, having slipped in a few minutes earlier.
“Frosty has been angry with me before,” Scion said quietly. “I’m sure he will be again in the future.”
Zekk threw his hands up in exasperation, spinning on his heel to storm out.
“Maybe you two can talk some sense into the old man. I’m done here!”
“Zekk,” said Scion, louder this time. “You are correct. We should have killed them on sight. In fact, I wanted to. The Clan Summit directed me not to.”
The Aedile turned slowly, a quizzical eyebrow raised.
“Apparently one of them got a ‘feeling’ or something about these mercenaries and they wanted to wait and see how this would play out. As the Quaestor of the House in charge of keeping the Castle safe while the Clan Summit is hiding,” Scion nearly spat the word, as if it tasted foul in his mouth, “I say we have waited long enough to know with certainty that they are hostile. Tebbo Jensen and Solas here nearly lost their lives trying to patrol the encampment, and that was before they were re-supplied.”
“Re-supplied, sir?” Solas Night-Thorn asked.
“Affirmative. This report indicates that our sensors detected a cargo ship in low orbit last night. They have received supplies of some kind and you’re right: they are much more fortified now than they would have been if we hadn’t given them the time.”
“I’ll assemble a team, sir,” Zekk said, finally smiling.
“Listen up! Remember your orders. Blue team goes left and Red team goes right. We’ll meet in the middle and knock out the fortifications from both directions. Watch out for anti-aircraft fire. The ground teams will be right behind us to mop up the survivors. Try not to leave any.”
“Roger that. See you on the other side.”
The squadron of TIE Bombers modified for underwater “flight” broke up into two flight groups, skimming just under the waves of Yridia II toward the mercenary encampment. The underwater approach would ensure that the camp’s scanning equipment could not see them coming until they were close. X-Pilot pulled the stick to the right, and his flight followed in formation after him. Nyx Erinyes pulled her flight to the left, and her flight followed after her.
As they approached the encampment, each flight prepared to attack.
“On my mark, ascend to 300 meters and ready weapons,” Nyx ordered. “Mark.”
In perfect synchronization Nyx and X-Pilot’s flights rose above the waves and skimmed over the encampment. It took a few seconds for the anti aircraft batteries to spin up and return fire, and a few seconds was all the opportunity they had to track the fast moving aircraft before the Tarenti bombs had left gaping holes in the defensive barriers and eliminated most of the turrets. The remaining guns fired a few shots in retaliation, but within moments the squadron had descended below the waves again to regroup.
“Solas, my team is ready when you are,” Darknyte’s voice crackled over the comm. “X-Pilot is en route and should open a hole for us any time now.”
Volunteers from both Nekros Syndicate and the Deathsworn were hiding out in the brush a few hundred meters from the mercenary encampment. Darknyte could sense movement behind the walls but, strangely, could not read any thoughts or sense any emotions. A general feeling of unease percolated up from his gut as he waited for the bombers to do their job.
It was a majestic sight when it happened. A flight of TIE Bombers emerged from the ocean, water sloughing off them like snow sliding off a roof. They rose into the air like avenging angels, leaving a swath of heavy explosions in their path. As soon as they had appeared, they were gone again. The anti-aircraft guns fired a few shots helplessly into the sky but by the time they had locked and rotated it was too late. The holes in the barricades would be more than enough for his team to make their way inside and the smoke pouring from within the encampment told him that most of the turrets were already out of commission.
“Hope they left something for us to do in there,” he said wryly over the comm.
The battleteams made their way inside the base with precision straight out of the Empire’s military textbooks. They made their way around the perimeter, planting charges on the remaining anti-aircraft turrets and locked doors. Inside, however, they found nothing.
“It’s the weirdest thing,” said Solas. “There’s nothing left here except the automatic anti-aircraft guns.”
Darknyte nodded in agreement.
“Yeah. It looks like they packed up and left. Scion’s re-supply must have actually been an evac.”
“I wonder how they knew we were coming,” Solas mused.
Darknyte shrugged. “We’ll find ‘em,” he said. “And we’ll make them wish we hadn’t.”
0.0.6 - Seeking the Light
Every time Kadne Jax settled in behind the controls of a ship these days her instincts screamed RUN but she did not. These Tarenti played mind games better than anyone she had encountered in this entire sithspit galaxy.
This time she was on her way to Eden City, sent by Scion Tarentae. He hadn’t told her much, just that some new religious organization had appeared and started to aggressively try to convert citizens. The Sith wanted to make sure they were legit, and not a threat. Easy enough. Years of working as a smuggler had taught her well about how to tell if someone was lying, and that was part of why she was still working for them. So far, they had never lied to her.
Whenever they told her they were watching her. Whenever they told her she owed them her life. Whenever they told her she would never make it out of Yridia alive before they caught her. Whenever they told her they would kill her without a second thought… none of those were lies. Scion’s manner was matter of fact. The clipped speech of a career soldier, with the razor’s edge of someone who had seen the unexplainable - the unconscionable - and not batted an eye. Hades always alternating between good cop and bad cop so you never knew which one you were getting. She had been working for these Sith lunatics for what? A year? Longer? It all ran together now. She couldn’t say she was glad to be alive, but she was certainly glad she had not died in these monsters’ hands. So far.
The streets of Eden City were crowded tonight. Thousands of people going about their business. Going home to their wives, working at their jobs, scratching out a life among the stars. On the corner across the street an older human in shabby white robes was yelling something. She leaned against a shop window to listen as the throng rushed by.
“Who are your gods?” he bellowed. “Do they answer your prayers? Do they comfort you when you are sick?”
People pushed past him, paying little attention.
“Your gods are dead, citizens! They have left you alone out here! What, when you have questions? What, when you lack the strength? When you feel doubt, you do it alone because your gods are dead!”
A few people were starting to stop nearby the man now, trying to look like they were answering messages on their datapads or sipping their kaf but Kadne could tell they were interested in hearing where this diatribe was going.
“But do not despair, citizens! I can bring you the comfort that you seek! The Seekers of the Light will shine peace and prosperity across Eden City! All you need to do is hear my message!”
Seekers of the Light. Those are the ones Scion mentioned. Kadne crossed the street and took up a position closer to the preacher.
“Excuse me,” she interjected, sensing a pause in his yelling. “Can you tell me more about the Seekers of the Light?”
He turned to her and smiled. His eyes were warm and crinkled at the edges. He looked like a man who had spent a lot of time in his life smiling.
“Certainly, my child. This is an incredible time to be alive, you know. This city’s gods may be dead, but mine is about to be reborn!”
A conversation had turned into a cab ride. Kadne now sat in an office with several members of the Seekers of the Light, who were touting the benefits of joining the organization. The office itself was nothing special. It looked clean, like they had just occupied it recently. The three men in the room with her all wore business suits, and the one behind the cheap desk had more expensive looking rings on his fingers than the other two. They all smiled broadly and talked about how amazing and fulfilling life was with the Light in it.
When they asked about her past she did not lie, exactly. She told them about her time as a smuggler, making her way through the galaxy trying to strike deals moving illegal goods. She explained that she was all the way out here in Yridia because she had heard a rumor about a treasure.
“It seems that you have found it, daughter,” said the man behind the desk. The rest of them thought it was very funny.
Kadne raised a quizzical eyebrow for an instant before she got it, then cracked a big, fake smile.
“Certainly seems so,” she lied. “Your guy that I met on the street said something about your god being reborn. What’s that about?”
“Well, daughter, it’s true.” The man behind the desk folded his fingers together and leaned forward. “We are here looking for something too, if I may be serious for a moment. Our god is here in Eden City, and we must find him.”
“Seems pretty easy to find a god,” she said, a little confused. “I’d think a god would be hard to miss.”
“Normally, yes. But our god does not yet know that he is a god. Today, he is merely a man. We are looking for him so that we may help him on his divine journey. Sleeping gods are apparently harder to find.”
“Will you help us?” one of the other men asked. “Help us find our god?”
“Then he would be your god too,” said the other.
Before she could answer, a needle jammed into her neck. The world went black in seconds.
0.0.7 - The Nanite Plague
Eden City, economic center of Yridia IX, a city divided by more than its established districts. But now the city was being brought together through strife. Eden City is a city currently being ravaged by a plague of microscopic machines that are choking the air and slowly consuming the city’s metals and plastics. Now the question on the minds of the city’s leaders is who is responsible for this event and why they did this? The answer to those questions would surprise and shock those asking. And who is this person you ask? His name is Oret Omega, President and CEO of Omega Industrial, but he’s better known as Solas Night-Thorn, the Supreme Commander of the Nekros Syndicate. Now you may be asking how is this possible? Well to get to the heart of the story you have to go back to the beginning.
Early in the year Solas NightThorn formed the Nekros Syndicate. One of the objectives of the Syndicate was to bring the criminal elements of the Yridia system under their control. And while it was relatively easy to bring the lesser assets, such as minor mercenary companies and bandit crews, into the fold. It would prove considerably more difficult the further up the chain they went. But in order to eclipse the greater elements the Syndicate had to play the game, and play the game they have. A few months after its formation the Syndicate’s leadership founded Omega Industrial, a small manufacturing company that rose in Eden City’s District III. Now how does a small time manufacturing company help the Syndicate take control of Yridia’s major players?
Well most of those players are either backed by Eden City’s big companies or the companies are fronts for those criminal organizations. So through calculated business acquisitions, tactical assassinations and criminal actions, Omega Industrial quickly began snapping up their competition. And before long Omega Industrial was one of the single largest conglomerate companies in all of Eden City if not the entire Minos Cluster. But this is only where this story begins, as Omega Industrial grew so did the knowledge within the Minos Cluster that they were an aggressive competitor and weren’t afraid to fight dirty. And as such, those companies that remained under threat began to hold their assets close and did their best to stop the juggernaut that was Omega Industrial. But nothing could prepare them for when Omega stopped playing their game and started their own.
Lest we forget that Omega Industrial, at its core, is nothing more than a front for the actions of the Nekros Syndicate. Or that the Syndicate is lead by three powerful Sith with a distinct lack of boundaries. It was because of this change in tactics that gave rise to the Nanite Plague that was devastating the city.
“Mr. Omega, the Megadyne-WayCo representatives are here.” The intercom shattered the silence of the president’s office.
“Very good Shiela, please show them in.” Shortly after three men stepped into the office. These men made up the Megadyne-WayCo Board of Directors. They were, however, actually the men known collectively known as Silent Tribunal; the leaders of the Sanguine Fangs, a criminal collective that was had held most of Eden City for almost 90 years. But now they were on the verge of collapse due to the Nanite Plague. So they had come to Omega Towers in the hopes of reaching an arrangement with Omega Industrial, the only major company so far not devastated by the plague. What none of them realized was that this meeting had been planned from the beginning.
“Hello gentlemen. Thank you for coming.” The president spoke from behind the back of his large chair.
“No Mr. Omega we should be thanking you. Your company has become a beacon for the city.
Your rise to the top has been unprecedented to say the least.” The three sat in front of the desk.
“And with the fates smiling on you in the face of this tragedy we had hoped that you might see fit to lend a hand to your peers.”
“Ah yes, you gentlemen have lost a considerable amount due to the nanites. They are an impressive lot. I will have to commend my scientists for their work.”
“I’m sorry sir, but what are you saying?”
“Oh that’s right I haven’t released the news. You see gentlemen, the nanites devastating our city are the latest piece of technology developed by Omega Industrial’s Strategic Warfare division.
And you see that we decided to perform a live test.”
“You’re insane, why would you do this?” The trio stood in shock.
“Simple, we needed a way to draw you and your contemporaries out and bring you to the table.”
A hand extended from behind the chair and gestured to side of the room. “Gentlemen I’d like for you to meet our chief benefactor Solas Night-Thorn, Supreme Commander of the Nekros Syndicate.” At his words a large white haired man stepped out of the shadows.
“Hello gentlemen, how are the Sanguine Fangs doing?” The three stepped back from the nearly seven-foot man with facial tattoos. A wicked smile spread across the man’s face as a crimson lightsaber blade ignited.
[ From the QUA update on Jan 8, 2017 ]
0.0.8 - Who is Jahad Kard?
Kadne Jax awoke slowly. The drugs coursing through her veins were finally being filtered out by her liver and her eyes pried themselves open. They were crusted shut, as if she had been crying. She had not dreampt. It felt as if just moments ago she had been in an office with three men discussing religion, but her body ached as if she had been laying still on duracrete for hours. She tried to wipe the rheum from her eyes, but found her arms would not move. They were bound tightly behind her back.
The room was bare. Just three gray duracrete walls that she could see and a single, flickering light. She squinted. Each time the light flickered it made her head ache.
A heavy clanking noise snapped her to attention as a door groaned open behind her. She could hear the clicking of expensive men’s shoes on duracrete, and then the door clanked shut again. Some metal objects rang out as someone dumped them out behind her, but she could not turn far enough to see it.
“We checked up on you, Kadne,” growled a voice behind her. It was the low rumble of a very large man, speaking softly and slowly. “We didn’t like what we found.”
Kadne’s mind raced. What could they possibly have found on her? She had been smuggling her entire life almost, and covering her tracks was second nature. She had never been caught before except that one time by Hades, and that other time by Voor’shask, but the Tarenti were the most careful people she had ever dealt with and the first time was so long ago. So far away. It couldn’t be that. She had been so careful since then.
“What did I do?” she asked. Her heart was racing. She was short of breath. “Why…”
A cord pulled tight around her neck, cutting off her voice. Her nose stung from the big man’s expensive cologne. After what felt like eternity her eyes bugged out and her mind flooded with panic.
“I’ll ask the questions,” the voice rumbled into her ear. She whipped her head around to try to get a glimpse, but could not. The cord loosened and she gasped for air.
“Then ask one,” she muttered, too loudly. He kicked her.
“What do you know about Jahad Kard?” he asked.
0.0.9 - Kadne’s Escape
Thanadd Mawgath - 10503
A carrion stench lingered on the wind, pushing at his wrinkles and furrows. It threatened to worm its way into his pores, saturating his skin. It wanted to taint his anima and transform him into one of them -
Poor. Disheveled. Weak. Unworthy.
The wretched souls eking out an existence here were the sycophants and grime-lords of the slums. They were pretenders to power, sniveling vassals and levers for the Clan’s benefit. He would not so much as grant them the opportunity to kneel.
Refuse circled dilapidated lampposts like nervous tumbleweeds, and he yearned to escape the yoke of such dross. He heard the familiar hum and watched his communicator blink to life. Inspecting the screen, he frowned, dropping the weight of his massive boot on the accelerator.
His great-cloak cracked and whorled, its length twisted by an ominous gale which penetrated the colorless landscape. As the Starhawk carried Thanadd Mawgath out of District VI, he was relieved.
“…end disk log 6732-B.”
Haal Galniss was pleased. The element was even stronger than they anticipated. He knew there was no end to what they could do with it!
Of course, protecting such proprietary information was critical to the program’s success. Learning to encrypt the holodisks was a work in progress, but that was a risk they would have to take. This needed to be documented. All would know what he had done – eventually.
He smiled. The crow’s feet which emphasized his sunken eyes seemed to stretch the corners of his mouth. His grin remained as the laboratory doors – the portals to his holy sanctum – hissed to consciousness.
The person who entered was secretly thankful for the old man’s apparent mood. Haal Galniss was known as a demanding and particular individual, and he had certainly not made the task of organizing and reinforcing the archive an easy one.
“You know what to do,” Galniss advised the young man, his combed hair as white and immaculate as the room surrounding the pair.
“Yes, of course. I’ll classify it right away.”
Blue eyes shined with an eager purity, one which Haal appreciated. The boy reminded him of himself, once upon a time.
“Thank you, son,” he replied, meeting him on the shoulder with a firm, comforting hand. This kindness was the one moment of joy he had allowed any of the new converts. Such benevolence was not distributed carelessly; the initiates needed to prove themselves worthy.
Much trust had been placed in this one. So far, he had risen to the task.
The boy tucked the holodisk into his tunic, the white collar grasping the nape of his neck. The pocket was discreet, as if it had been sewn in later, inserted not far from where his sidearm sat on his hip. He turned from his mentor with a nod, smiling as he exited the sacred room.
Haal sighed, worried for the boy. His faith would soon be tested.
The smashing of his open palm against Kadne’s jaw forced him to recoil a moment, wringing his hand from the impact. It stung.
He looked upon the helpless woman with contempt; she had forced him to such measures. It was too late to go back. They couldn’t. Not now, when they were so close!
Kadne’s head hung nearly into her lap, now, her legs tucked beneath her haunches. She breathed slowly and desperately, spittle and blood trickling from a now swollen bottom lip.
“Do you know now, child?” he growled, impatiently. He squeezed his hand into a fist, forging it into an anvil. Kadne was a keen observer; she watched his fingers curl, knowing what would come next.
Recovering from the last blow, somehow finding equilibrium, Kadne smiled. She spat, sucking in through her teeth and swallowing hard. Her tongue cleared mucus and debris from her throat.
The large man – the Anvil – simply stared.
“Okay, okay, I…”
The Anvil stirred with excitement.
“…wait, no – I still have no idea!”
Kadne grinned even wider, pleased to let him down. “When I get out of these…” she promised, silently.
Rage coursed through the Anvil’s massive frame, cumbersome muscle now being coordinated into what promised to be a crushing blow. Watching him swing his gigantic arm back at the shoulder, Kadne squeezed her eyes, waiting for blackness. It came with the territory.
Screams of final agony echoed somewhere nearby, snapping both Kadne and her captor out of the moment. Both listened with widened eyes, jolted to life by the horrific wail and what seemed like earth-shattering impacts. Blaster fire called out in urgency, a sonata of distress composed by some unlucky wretch.
….and then silence.
The Anvil disappeared from Kadne’s view, but she heard his heels clicking against the concrete beneath them. They stopped not far from where she knelt. Only her labored breathing persisted. Carefully, nervously, Kadne turned her gaze over her left shoulder. A few feet away, the Anvil stood quietly.
His hands were open.
Eternity lingered in the passing moments, before what must have been an explosion sent Kadne reeling. Thrown forward, she braced against the fall, trying her best to absorb the shock. Coughing, she blinked dust out of her eyes, specks of duracrete that seemed to twirl to the tune of her ringing ears.
She pulled her eyelids back in time to see the Anvil tossed, like so much detritus, against what remained of the walls around them. He lay still, lifeless, just inches away, his eyes frozen in surprise. Somewhere, singed flesh still burned a little. She could smell it.
That was when she felt it. Felt him. His presence was forceful. Invasive. Choking the room with a cold, baleful puissance.
Kadne’s blood seemed to curdle for just a moment, and she resisted the call of her spine to shiver. The soft thrum of power-driven respiration whispered on the edge of her perception. It built to a lingering tension, finally broken by the deep murmur of a voice modulator.
She didn’t dare turn around.
“What have you done, Kadne Jax?”
The words were guttural and deep, as if spoken from some abyssal realm.
“What did they ask of you?”
The question was arcane, but calm. She could feel…whoever towered over her struggling to maintain his tranquility, grasping at frayed threads and just barely restraining buried rage.
“I…I haven’t told them anything!”
Kadne rushed to decide whether or not she should panic. Neither Hades nor Scion had exactly inspired confidence in her safety. Her eyes widened.
This time, it was broken by the sibilation of a lightsaber, the hot blade humming in the soot and fog of the demolished room.
“I swear, I didn’t say anything! They kept asking me about somebody I have never heard of…some…”
She stammered, unable to spit the syllables out quickly enough.
“Kard! Jahad Kard!”
The deadly instrument purred, its wielder having raised it for a measured blow.
“NO! I don’t know who it is! I told him that! The man you…you killed him! I never met him! I don’t know!”
This was it, Kadne knew. The end of the line. The Harbingers of Tarentum had always warned her that they could collect her life, like some paltry debt, at any time. They were fickle masters. Cruel. Irascible.
“You’re going to do this over a phantom? Who is he, that he is worth such a price?”
She didn’t plead, didn’t beg any longer. She closed her eyes. Finally, peace would come.
Thanadd Mawgath brought his weapon down with unhurried precision, lining up the perfect strike. It met its mark, and Kadne Jax was now free.
Free of her restraints. The collar and cuffs which bound her now waited at her feet, cauterized and useless. The mechanical voice spoke in somber clicks.
“…he’s me. I am Jahad Kard.”
The siren screamed.
“WE HAVE A BREACH! THIS NOT A DRILL! I REPEAT – NOT A DRILL!”
Jornat squinted, wishing there was some kind of volume on the thing. He hated the way they were always just there, as if waiting for the perfect moment to break his peace. At least Forebearer Galniss had inserted the comlink personally. Yet another way he could get under one’s skin.
Today, he was grateful. “Thank the Light for small moments of joy.”
“SECTOR 3-G, CASUALTIES CONFIRMED! ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY!”
The Seekers were so regimented, and that is how he knew they were real. Focused. Enlightenment could be both quantified and discovered, they said. Measured and granted, or found in great moments.
He chose to ignore the mandate. Fingering the disk in his pocket, he began to pick up speed, breaking into a sprint. This would be his great moment – and the Forebearers would be proud. If he didn’t find enlightenment here, they surely would grant it.
Kadne Jax could not believe what she was hearing – at least, before the siren destroyed any hope that the pain in her temples would not grow.
“An alias,” he explained, adjusting his pauldrons. “We got too close.”
The Dark Jedi’s words were frozen, but fire burned beneath the glassy sheets through which he bore into Kadne’s soul. She felt it, and barely had time to process the monstrous revenant, clad in black armor, which clambered over hewn bricks before her.
A Monster which had saved her life – probably because he was responsible for endangering it.
She nearly lost it a second time, a bolt of searing energy just missing her skull.
“BASTARDS!” she heard her savior call out, leaping out into the plumes of smoke which rolled through the corridor ahead. The lights were much too bright, as if beacons to those in their last moments.
With a familiar poise, Kadne raced out into the blinding hallway, dodging blaster fire and charging to keep pace with her rescue team – which she now realized was more than a lone Knight of Tarentum.
A pair of operatives, clad in black fatigues and adorned with skull motifs, raced down the corridor alongside their foxtrot uniform. Clearly veterans, they moved with practiced agility and flawless suppression, pinning a more numerous but clearly inferior enemy for the Dark Jedi to finish them off.
Kadne wondered who was responsible for breaching the room.
Not some mere distressed damsel, she sprung to her feet, gritting her teeth and peering through the uniform lack of color to search for a weapon of her own. She thought nothing of the corpses, hurdling over expiring human beings without a second thought. Her survival instinct had almost completely taken over -
- and then she saw him.
A young man, clutching his blaster, lay prone against the wall. He gasped and gargled, waves of crimson rushing from his mouth. Adrenaline had already begun to wear off, and he was in great pain. He would not live long.
For a moment, Kadne felt pity for him. She remembered herself at his age, the things she survived. Experiences this one would never live to see. It broke her heart.
Just for a moment.
“LET’S GO!” she heard the Tarenti call, his dark eyes sunken far into azure-grey flesh.
She hurried, reaching to grab the young man’s weapon – and realizing it had never made it out of the holster. Popping the button, she gripped the handle with a finger on the guard, unsheathing it from dark brown leather which glistened with thick, dark blood.
He clawed for her with a desperate lunge, trembling as he began to lose the battle against unconsciousness. Out of the corner of her eye, Kadne caught the glint of fresh metal, peeking out from where his outstretched hand had been.
The boy had not yet died as she dug the delicate circle from his tunic. As his eyes began to roll, he saw only light.
“Sir, we are tracking them now. Team is en route to extraction location.”
Scion Tarentae nodded, his hands clasped behind his back, sending the man away as quickly as he had come.
Tranh Walq basked in the glow of the chamber, a false ceiling filtering the beams of fluorescents which imitated the sun’s natural illumination.
He had heard the call of the Forebearers. There was only one way out for the intruders. He lamented that he would have to defile his temple with the blood of lost lambs, but it was a burden he would carry. They had given him the gifts of the Light, and now darkness would recoil.
Time seemed to slow around him as he stood from his pew. He took no pleasure in turning weapons against living creatures, but he had little choice. The skull-bearing strangers were too easy to destroy, a testament to the power of radiant faith. Like quarreling brothers, the two turned their hatred towards one another – and pulled the trigger.
The avatar of blackness, the foretold adversary of enlightenment, soon followed. The foul being bore the countenance of death, a promise to the weak and unfaithful. As an anointed Saint, it was his duty to expel such evil. His calling. His fate.
The girl surprised him. He did not sense wickedness in her.
Perhaps, he thought, he might spare her life.
Kadne Jax watched the troopers fall, cast aside like Hutt goons.
Not good. Ahead, a figure in a simple white tunic waited for something. Was he looking at her?
“Who…the hell is that?”
The black knight – Mawgath, he called himself – barreled past her, stomping through the rows of benches in a center line.
Right for the white stranger.
The lumbering warrior leapt into the air, a baleful howl projected through the cybernetic collar which concealed half his face. His crimson blade crackled as it missed its target, the quiet man rolling through the lightsaber’s path far too easily. He carried no weapon, but hardly seemed disadvantaged, leveling strikes at the wrathful Tarenti.
The pair danced a terrible waltz, far too intimately for Kadne Jax to get a clear shot…
…at either of them.
She wondered if that moment was the chance to rid herself of Tarentum. To escape the terror they inflicted. She swore she saw the man in white look at her. Into her. It was jarring.
Suddenly, the tide of the battle seemed to turn. Heavy blows bore down on the Sith, who seemed to withstand each one less and less. She heard him groan, collapsing beneath the weight of inhuman attacks. A knee buckled, his posture beginning to sag. His immortal endurance kept him hanging on – barely.
Kadne’s mind raced. How was this possible? How could this one man perform such feats? She had seen Jedi. Seen Sith. This one was neither.
She made her choice.
“Hey!” she cried out, forming a tunnel over her lips with her hands. The battle raged. She tried again.
Thanadd Mawgath, soldier of Tarentum, now knelt. His lightsaber hilt hung loosely in his hand, his hairless skull circling and dropping into his chest. The man in white paused, producing a pair of shivering fists. Just like the Anvil.
The bolt froze, held in place by its intended target. The man in white clenched his jaw, swallowing as he shifted his focus to Kadne. She watched him flick the beam over his shoulder, and he stood up tall, looking into her eyes.
It was the moment the Tarenti needed, who thrust his weight, from a deep lunge, into his opponent’s solar plexus. The temple pews broke like toothpicks as Thanadd Mawgath drove his would-be killer through, one by one. The logical conclusion of such brute force was the collapsing of the altar around the two of them, burying them both in polished stone and broken wood.
It felt like days before Kadne saw the Tarenti pull himself from the wreckage, debris falling from his figure the way fighter vessels broke apart upon Star Destroyers. He was exhausted, hunched over, gasping for breath inside a dented and scarred exoskeleton.
Bolts of white cloth could be spotted between fragments of the cave-in, but nothing else stirred.
Kadne Jax waited for the hulking Dark Jedi to get close. She threw the bloody blaster to the ground, the way surrounded legions might surrender their weapons.
“Bring them in,” he demanded, to somebody whose face he did not bother to look upon.
Scion Tarentae waited patiently as Thanadd Mawgath and Kadne Jax entered the throne room of Castle Tarentum. It was a haunting setting, this hall of power – one with which the old commander within shared much history.
Approaching his superior, the battered Tarenti took a knee – this time in reverence.
Scion fixed a stern gaze on the knight of House Mortis, who did not dare meet his liege’s gaze.
“Your team has perished, I presume?”
“Yes, sir,” he admitted, ashamed.
Scion stood to the fore of the chamber, grasping his finely trimmed goatee. The empty thrones of the Sith king and his heirs joined the Quaestor in grim contemplation, perched upon the summit of a dark staircase.
“Tell me, Knight – who has brought so low the champions of Tarentum?”
Thanadd Mawgath restrained his anger. He seethed, but knew his place. Responsibility was his.
“I…I do not know.”
He chose to remain terse, not wishing to test the patience of a Tarentae. Excuses, he knew, would not be tolerated.
“Of course you don’t.”
Scion inhaled deeply, walking a few paces before stopping to pour a drink. His back was turned to his guests, but they would wait.
He sipped the caramel-colored scotch, a stiff but satisfying relief. He decided he would not reward the knight’s incompetence with a debriefing. Disappointment and defeat, like other trials, were effective tools. Teachers.
“You are dismissed, Knight.”
Thanadd Mawgath lurched as he rose, a massive fist supporting the weight of his frame. He said nothing, but waited for a moment, as if expecting something more.
Whatever it was, it never arrived, and Kadne Jax watched the creature who saved her life saunter out of the dark room. She wasn’t sure which was the more broken – the man, or his armor.
Scion took another sip.
“…and what of you, Kadne Jax? What have you brought me?”
She countered with her own question.
“How did you know where I was?”
Scion turned back around, his ponytail draped over his shoulder. He smiled, without a care in the world.
“You think we’d let you just leave? The chip has been in you for weeks.”
He finished the drink.
“You understand. Now, what have you learned? Are you going to tell me, or do I have to figure it out myself?”
Kadne wasn’t sure what the words meant, but she knew it couldn’t be anything good. She pulled the holodisk from her pocket, tossing it to her tormentor. It was a token of acquiescence, one which she traded for her life.
“I already watched it,” she said, continuing to make herself useful.
“They’re giving people Force powers.”
Outside the throne room, Thanadd Mawgath chuckled to himself. All was going according to plan. He thrust his cloak behind him, retreating from the door with a hurried gait.
Sith Bloodfyre waited.