Veiled Curtain Part I: Three Shades of Black
Imperial II Class Star Destroyer
Within a sparsely decorated room usually reserved for high ranking officers, Bentre Stahoes and Ashia Keibatsu, two executors of the ancient Sith Lord’s will that their Clan was named for reviewed a very interesting intelligence report.
“It seems a mining company has unveiled a time capsule of some description supposedly containing an ancient staff on Vjun.” Bentre studied the photos, scowling for a few moments, then raised his brows in astonishment. The Dathomiri peered at them from around the Consul’s shoulder with an intense gaze.
“Are those…” Ashia’s voice trailed off. “That looks familiar.”
“They look a lot like Lord Orian’s work.” The Consul interjected as he handed them to his Proconsul. “I am cross referencing now. Databases confirm the match,” the Warlord said enthusiastically.
The Augur reviewed the databases as well. Ashia’s curved eyebrows rose in the same astonishment as her Consul. There were numerous photos and diagrams. An image of the lost staff of Sith Lord Urias Orian floated directly in front of the CNS Summit. “This would be a significant find. Any confirmation on the piece?”
The Consul slowly stroked his finger over his chin. One could almost see the gears turning in the Warlord’s head. “No, but the mining company has already made this discovery known through the back channels. If it’s truly authentic, every scavenger and mercenary will be moving on this thing to more than likely sell it.”
“We can’t have that. This needs to be with us.” the Keibatsu stated plainly.
“Indeed…indeed. Who do we have immediately available?” asked Bentre.
The ProConsul looked through the datapad in her hand momentarily. “DarkHawk, Sanguinius and the Dakhani are all aboard the Korsin. You know Takagari is always down for these type of missions. I also hear the Alchemist has been seen above ground and is with him.”
“Lets get them here,” replied Bentre. “Macron, huh? Is that good or bad you think?”
“Depends on whether he finds something of use to him or not.” Ashia went over to the Holonet Communications station and hailed the Korsin. Within moments an opaque figure appeared in front of the ProConsul. Battlelord Takagari “DarkHawk” KogaRyu knelt before his Summit.
“I am at your service” the Battlelord said.
“Takagari, your presence is requested here in the Consul’s office…” the Keibatsu instructed. “Bring Macron with you. Have Sanguinius get your forces ready to deploy.”
“As you wish Ma’am” replied the Quaestor.
Within the hour a shuttle approached the Perdition. It completed its landing sequence and the crew door whisked open. The Quaestor of House Shar Dakhan and a heavily armored Sith disembarked and made their way towards the nearest turbolift. Takagari hit the button for the Command level. Macron did not speak. The madman’s mismatched eyes darted to and fro. He had been in hibernation a long time and much had happened since he had left. There was a lot to take in, including the new vessel.
The turbolift stopped heavily at the requested level. DarkHawk exited the turbolift with the Alchemist following behind him. The Perdition was impressive to say the least. The crew worked diligently. Buzzers chimed and stations were abundantly productive. The Quaestor walked past the Command section and came upon the offices of the Summit. Takagari hailed the office on the door COMM. As the door whisked open the two Sith eagerly entered. Warlord Stahoes sat at his desk, Augur Keibatsu stood beside her Consul with a datapad in her hands.
DarkHawk centered himself on the Summit desk and approached. He dropped to one knee about a meter in front of his Summit.
Macron bowed behind him quietly but did not take a knee. “Consul, Lady Ashia.”
The Keibatsu sighed and looked over the datapad in her hands. She had never quite got use to the Shaevallian’s formality, but was by now quite used to the Alchemist’s quiet arrogance. “These intel reports have just come to us and we believe that it holds enough merit for us to take a closer look.”
DarkHawk scanned through the Intel and photos. His reaction was much of the same as his Summit. “Is this for real?” Takagari asked.
“We believe so, but it bears closer scrutiny.” replied the Augur. “Have a look Macron.”
The Elder regarded the images quietly and then closed his mismatched eyes. After a few quiet seconds he opened them. “It appears to be authentic. The image matches engravings I have seen of the staff in the Temple of Fire and Tombs of Orian. But the instrument has no power other than the sentimental. There was no mention of any artifact of this sort having actual power in the Force in the archives. It was merely a symbol of office. Still, the staff has a power of its own for the morale of our Clan.”
“We have cross referenced the photos through the database and found that it is indeed a match. I’m inclined to believe it is legitimate. Having said that, we need you to verify and retrieve it,” instructed Consul Stahoes.
“Opposition?” asked DarkHawk questioningly.
“More than likely…and probably heavy. Seems the word is out about this so every low life scumbag will be looking to grab it and sell it on the black market,” said the ProConsul. Ashia looked at the port windows as stars scrolled past. “We can’t let that happen.”
“We need to move fast on this. Get in, grab it, get out,” the Consul stated firmly. “Keep it as smooth as possible.”
“Understood Sir, I will return to the Korsin and have Disciples of Dakhan jump on this immediately.”
“Very good DH. Given both the historical and intrinsic value of this artifact to the Clan, we would like full support on this. We will need more than DoD. If this truly is the Staff of Urias Orian I want you to ensure its return,” the Keibatsu said intently. “Macron will go with you. His expertise on artifacts and Lord Orian’s history is solid. And he is one of our Elders.”
DarkHawk heard the seriousness of his PCON’s words. “Understood Ma’am, rest assured HSD will carry out your request.” The Battlelord immediately gave a hardy genuflection to his Summit, “We will return with the staff.”
Both Summit members simply nodded. Takagari rose, executed a crisp about face and left the Consul’s chambers with Macron following behind with a measured stride. There was a purpose to their steps as the two Sith made their way to the turbolift. DarkHawk hit the button for the hangar and the turbolift rushed to its destination. Takagari studied the Intel reports further. “Details, the details are what makes a mission successful” he told himself.
“I can hear your thoughts,” commented the Juggernaut with a chuckle. “We will be successful, I assure you.” He clenched an armored fist. “And I will personally enjoy crushing the life from those pitiful thieves.” The madman looked down at his hand. It had been just a microsecond slow to respond and trembled slightly. Shaking off the hibernation sickness was taking more time than he had expected. He might not be ready for full-on battle. He clasped his hands behind his back and hoped no one had noticed.
The turbolift halted, the doors whisked open. The Quaestor’s shuttle crew had stood by waiting adamantly. As soon as the Battlemaster appeared the shuttle commander fired up the engines. Within moments the shuttle made its way down the tarmac and left the Korsin’s hangar.
DarkHawk hailed ahead to his Aedile, “Master, House Shar Dakhan has a mission. Gather the team. I will be there shortly.”
“I will have them ready for you,” replied the Augur.
The shuttle raced on its course, making its way to the HSD ship. The pilot expertly maneuvered the shuttle into position and down the flight deck, landing in its designated spot. DarkHawk disembarked the shuttle before the engines wound down. He raced to his ready room where the HSD members awaited his arrival.
Macron took his time walking to the ready room. There were documents to study on his holopad display. He had to be sure. If this was indeed one of the lost objects of Orian’s time it could be a rallying point for the Clan. The Clan seemed in need of something to unite them and make them hungry again. This could be just the thing. He could also feel something, a nagging feeling in the Force. Like most things this operation had the possibility of more going on than met the eye. The Alchemist was uncertain as to what the future held. His vision was not clear.
DarkHawk brought up the intel report on the main viewing screen. The House sat intently taking in all the information. Seeing this piece of the Clan’s history had a palpable effect. Though the staff held no powers but the historical and sentimental value was priceless. The feeling of absence hovered over the House. “The Staff of Urias Orian belongs to all of us. It shall not be lost within the bowels of the black-market. It is part our legacy” the Battlelord said intently.
Augur Sanguinius stood. “If all of us are on this Takagari we should have little problem retrieving it. And as for those that do stand in our way… well, we know how to deal with them effectively.”
Battlelord Malisane Sadow acknowledged his Aedile and agreed. “DarkHawk this should be a by the numbers mission. Are you worried?”
“Just a feeling” the Quaestor said. “And I have learned to trust those instincts.”
“Well we trust your perception of the mission Sir. We will execute this operation with precision and deadly force when needed,” said Warrior Erik Cato confidently.
“Good Erik, I want you to lead the Disciples into the archaeological site. The rest of us will be reinforcements and recon patrol. Any sign of resistance while Erik and DoD acquire the staff, we take them out.”
Jinius spoke abruptly, “Still worried Boss?”
Pausing for a moment at the comment, “Just a feeling” Takagari said.
“Macron will lead a heavy assault squad in case the retrieval teams have trouble but only if needed. I would rather have him work as a science officer on this mission.” The room quieted a little. The madman had not been seen in well over a year and there was some resentment that he had not been present during the conflict that drove the Clan from the Orian system. “Your thoughts Macron?”
“There is an aura of uncertainty about this mission. More I cannot say, my vision is not clear. Expect the unexpected.” The madman looked about the room. “I’m confident that the valiant warriors in this chamber can handle it with skill. And we will crush those who stand in our way.”
“Any questions…then lets get this done!” DarkHawk ordered. “Move out!”
On the other side of the Perlemian Way, a dense fleshy skinned hand sifted thru intel reports. Baltrog Quillen sat on his newly acquired throne diligently reading the reports in front of him. His claw like fingernails separated the pages as he went from one to the other.
The Iktotchi’s forehead raised in astonishment where eyebrows would normally rest. Low audible grunts emanated throughout the Itkotchi’s throne room. Baltrog extended one of his long meaty fingers and a black fingernail depressed a COM button. A loud squawk floated throughout the room.
“Essk, Get in here!”
Essk Tsubra, a behemoth of a Trandoshan, made his way from the ready room he currently was stationed in. He moved his beastly mass towards his master’s chambers. The Trandoshan’s hulking body quaked as he walked. The exposed claws on his feet raked across the cold steel of the Refuge floor. Essk entered the throne room and approached the Iktotchi who was still studying Intel reports.
"What you got there Boss?" the Trandoshan asked.
"We have had an interesting sales offer come through," Baltrog answered, "An artifact Essk."
Essk frowned, "Artefact Boss?"
"Yes. It is being offered by some miners on a planet called Vjun. It looks like they are a small independant group, not affiliated with the mining guilds. They clearly have no idea what they have except that it is old."
"What is the artefact?"
Baltrog studied the image in front of them. "It is a staff. I recognise it from documents I took from my former enemies amongst the Dark Jedi."
"Dark Jedi big trouble Boss."
"Indeed they are Essk," Baltrog answered. "And they caused me a great deal of trouble. That is why this interests me. If all is as it appears, this is a staff belonging to one of their deities of sorts. My research of the location would suggest it might be genuine."
"This Vjun?" said the Trandoshan, "Not heard of it."
"I seriously doubt many have," Baltrog replied, "it is something of a lost planet. It was a hotbed of activity during the Clone Wars and the Empire’s time but largely forgotten since."
"I do not see point," Essk admitted.
"It is not relevant," Baltrog replied, "Thousands of years ago a Sith Lord named Urias Orian visited Vjun."
Essk peered at the image over Baltrogs shoulder.
"And that his staff?"
"It appears to be," the crime lord replied, "And if it is I want it. Essk, gather the troops and the twins, time to go hunting…”
“Yes Boss” the Trandoshan said as he meandered off.
A stiff smile broke over the Iktotchi’s face. Within minutes the Trandoshan returned with a group of mercenaries, bounty hunters and pirates. Plus two menacing Rattataki who were both dressed in long flowing black cloaks with matching gold trim around their necks. Their hoods were pulled up over their heads and you could barely make out their chalk-white skin.
The Trandoshan led a league of unsavory individuals to the end of the room to where Baltrog “The Bull” Quillan stood in front of his throne.
“Ahhhhh, my flock of mischievous parishioners…. Come, come see what I have in store for you. You all are to journey to the remote planet of Vjun. There you will locate the Illban Mining Company and retrieve what they have found. Once you have my prize in your possession, kill everyone who remains.” Baltrog barked.
He motioned for his Rattataki Lieutenants to come forward. The two moved forward and pulled back their robes to reveal more of themselves. One male and one female approached their minister. He handed a data disk to the female, pulling her in closer.
“Kee’ri, expect resistance. Force users. Make sure none return for an encore.” The Bull sneered.
As the two Rattataki turned away Baltrog spoke again. “Gabrael, please stay a moment. Your sister can take lead on this. I have something more divine for you on Ord Radama.”
The Korsin’s massive engines spun up and began gain speed, moving the Marauder-class Corvette through space. Within seconds the Korsin vanished racing towards its target. The jump to the Vjun System gave the members of HSD time to prep Krill Flight, 3 ATR-6 gunships.
Aedile Sanguinius made his way into the hanger and found his team readying their transport. “DarkHawk, you are going to want to see this.” the Augur said. He handed his clanmate a piece of paper. “The communications guys gave that to me just before we jumped.”
The Quaestor looked at the intel sheet Sang had given him. His eyes widened a bit and then he handed it back. “Greedy miners. Damn, looks like we are going in hot.” replied DarkHawk. “Not a lot of wiggle room here on this mission.”
“No doubt,” Sanguinius said sarcastically. “How’s he doing?” He gestured at Macron who was checking over an HK droid in the shuttle bay. “We’ve worked a lot together over the years. He’s good to have around in a fight but still a bit unsettling.”
“Good. I think he’s a little more together mentally since before he disappeared.” The Quaestor shrugged. “He’s always been an asset in my book.”
“Well, he’s been there for me a few times when I was sitting in the Consul’s chair. The main issue with his methodology is collateral damage. Sometimes… well, often actually the wrong people get killed and things get broken when he engages in combat. He can be a loose cannon.” Sanguinius eyed the madman as Macron’s labor droid pushed a hoversled loaded with military crates onto one of the shuttles.
“It’s true. But it’s a loose cannon is better pointed at your enemies. Aside from that he’s got deep knowledge of historical Sith lore and archaeology. I’m hoping we can keep him assigned to scientific duties on this mission.” Darkhawk took a holopad from one of the deck officers. “Looks like the preflight checks are go.”
Within minutes the strike team comprising of members of HSD and twenty hardened SP Rangers made all their preparations after hearing the news. The plan was to take all three ships, one for the troop transport. The remaining two would serve as fire support.
The entire strike team loaded up in blacked out ATR-6. The other two ATR’s were already making their way down the tarmac. Finally the third, followed suit, making its way down the launch bay’s tarmac and into the blackness of space.
With everyone on board, Commander Krill, leader of the Rangers, broke down basic assignments.
“Sirs, with your permission…” Krill stated, aiming his comments at the House Summit.
Both Takagari and Sanguinius nodded.
Commander Krill continued. “We will split into three groups. Devil’s Shroud will roll with Alpha team, DoD will run with Bravo team to retrieve the target , the rest of us will be providing cover support, in case we have visitors…which we plan on. We don’t know know our opposition, but we do know the layout. One way in, one way out. We are just as much as fish in a barrel as anyone else. Ensure COMM’s stay open on freqs 4.71 and 5.87, eyes up, weapons hot.”
Etah spoke next, “Mercs are us….I love it!” he said as he connected his helm to his Dark Age Sith Armor.
Macron did the same. As the helm clamped down on his Battlesuit he flexed his crushgaunts. Beside him his HK droid shouldered a heavy repeater blaster. “22, it feels good to be moving again. I hope you oiled your joints tin can.” The Adept checked his analysis equipment over.
“Master. Be sure you can keep up old man,” the droid quipped smugly. HK 22 earned a cuff upside it’s metallic head with a clang for it’s efforts at humor.
Augur Entar nudged his Apprentice and Quaestor, “You ready for this?”
“I am Master, but I feel a strange intrusion in the Force…a familiarity,” replied DarkHawk.
“Embrace that feeling. This veil will lift very shortly,” the Augur said confidently. “The Force has a way of making things clear to those who trust it.”
The ATR’s broke into the planet’s surface, wind shear raced across their winglets. As the transports made their descent the planet became more clear. Knight Calenhad watched as the gunship flew over the ruins of Bast Castle. The planet was a mass of barren acidic desert. The terrain showed swathes of greens and whites from the crystallized acid salts that permeated the dead soil. When it did rain the liquid that came down from the evil-looking clouds was often composed of concentrated acid. No plant life lived here.
“Castle to our East,” Cal announced. “This place has an atmosphere of darkness.”
“It’s a magnificent sight. We should surely pay it a visit after our objective is cleared……much to see inside still,” exclaimed Macron. “Given that so much happened here it is not surprising that Vjun is a dark place. The Sith were here long ago, and The Empire after that.”
The Flight commander piloting the ATR hailed the other two gunships.
“Spectre two and three, continue on current glidescope, Echelon formation. Mining location two klicks to our northwest. Eyes open, weapons hot…”
The gunships came in low and fast. Staying low kept them out of most radar tracking, keeping them tight to the terrain aided them to shadow themselves even more. Warrior Erik Cato watched out the port side window, the gun turrets of the other two ships never stopped moving. Each gun making sweeps of their designated pattern as the ships maintained their formation. The first gunship made an standard combat descent, circling their LZ on a downward spiral as the other two gunships trailed behind to provide cover. The shuttles masked themselves behind massive rock formations. A thick cyan mist loomed heavily around them. The crew had limited visibility and relied on their instrumentation to land successfully.
Spectre-1 shuttle crew door opened and the Rangers methodically made their way out forming a perimeter around their LZ.
Commander Krill bringing his weapon to ready, “By the numbers Rangers, lets move out!”
The Strike team broke off into their assigned groups and made their way South towards the yawning mine entrance. As the teams separated off to flank the entrance, Krill ordered four scouts to trek ahead and survey the mouth of the adit. The four Rangers disappeared and within minutes had the mine entrance in sight. Each pulled out their electrobinoculars, scanning the surrounding area and memorized every detail.
“Commander Krill, entrance in sight, but we have an issue…”
Krill expressed a puzzled look across his weathered face, “What is the issue Ranger?”
“Sir, the mine appears to be abandoned. We have shipping containers scattered around, they definitely have been ransacked. Whoever it was, looks like they were looking for something, we got fresh blaster marks on some of the containers, so someone is not to friendly,” the Ranger said.
“Shavit,” Krill exclaimed.
Krill held up a closed fist and the Strike team stopped in their tracks. Krill came over COMM’s “Looks like we have company, the mine site appears to be abandoned by the crew but there may be hostiles on site, maintain radio silence, we are going dark…”
The teams closed in on the mine entrance, moving stealthily across the terrain, converging from three different directions. The four Rangers Krill initially sent ahead to scout, closed in on the wreckage of shipping containers scattered through the work site. One of the container doors creaked as the door clasp knocked against its locking mechanism. One Ranger gave the hand signal to move forward. Cautiously they approached, as the SPEC-OP team closed the gap, one Ranger setup a laser designator for the assault shuttles to identify.
Krill and his team, crested the last rock formation to gain a better visual of the mining site. The Commander watched his four Rangers approach their target. The smell of death was pungent to say the least. The lead Ranger gave the signal to hold fast as he used the muzzle of his assault rifle to push the container door open. Inside was a graphic sight, dozens of miners were herded inside this container and slaughtered. Gore and viscera lined the interior walls and blood flowed towards the exit.
In a trained whisper the Ranger called his commander, “Sir, they are dead…”
A low voice whispered in the Ranger’s earpiece, “Who is…”
Krill pulled a small laser light from his web belt, and flashed dots and dashes to his remaining teams. Recognizing the signal, all three teams again made their way silently to the mine.
entrance. Hugging the rocks that encased the opening to their treasure, the convergent movement of the teams was swift and precise. The entrance was less than three meters ahead when the sound of blaster fire echoed from the tunnel.
Krill gave the signal, the three squads of the strike team readied themselves. The heavy assault group with Commander Krill and Adept Sadow took the lead and headed into the mine entrance. The second strike team, lead by Warrior Cato faded into the darkness of the mine as they followed the heavy assault team. Erik felt some reassurance with Krill and a Son of Sadow at the point. He was confident of his team’s mission, he could almost feel the Staff of Urias in his hands. The Force flowed through the Warrior and a small smile crossed his lips. He felt comfort in his connection with the Force. Lastly, the remaining Rangers and the House Quaestor melted into the darkness.
Each team scaled the walls of the mine as the traversed deeper into the planet’s gullet. The cave narrowed as the groups delved deeper into the subterranean area. Several Rangers were affixing communication repeaters to the cave walls so that they can keep in contact with their gunships, just in case a hasty extraction is necessary. The cavern was pitch black. The entire strike team wore their own personal night vision apparatus for illumination. It was easily noticeable that the power to the generators had been disrupted, in a few instances cables had obviously obviously been severed by a bladed weapon. In others, blaster fire had decimated the generators leaving scrap metal in their stead.
The tunnel’s passage started to converge inward towards a split. Krill stopped short and held up a hand signal halting the teams. Another sequence of silent signals and two Rangers moved forward. One took the path to the left, the other to the right. After what seemed like an eternity the two Rangers returned. More hand signals, Krill nodded with acknowledgement. He held up a hand displaying one gloved finger, and motioned right, next two fingers, lastly holding up three. Krill then held up one finger a second time, followed by all five of his digits. Counting down silently, five…four…three…two…one, before leading into another motion to the right. Team One silently headed into the split and diligently took the right passage. He followed suit instructing Team Two to take the left. Lastly he silently instructed Team Three to separate and split between the two passages.
The winding passages snaked deeper in to the planet for nearly half a klick. As the teams traversed farther on their current path a dim light could be seen in the distance. An opening yawned where voices now could be heard faintly. The Rangers at the head of each passage held up a closed fist, once again halting their movements. Commander Krill broke ranks and moved to the front of his team. Tapping the lead Ranger on the shoulder, Krill took the lead and his Rangers followed. Their narrow tunnel led to a small incline in which another opening could be seen. Krill dropped to a prone position and crawled up the incline, bringing up his weapon and peering through his scope. Dead ahead a hulking Trandoshan stood before three kneeling mine workers. Krill signaled for his Ranger and he crawled to his Commander. Both Rangers were then were astonished at what they witnessed next. In one fell swoop the Trandoshan brutally beheaded the three mine workers and their bodies fell lifeless to the adit floor.
Krill tapped his partner on the shoulder once again and the returned to their team. By this time the second strike team had made their way into sight of the other team. Krill held up a closed fist and his subordinate followed his orders. Another sequence of silent signals ensued. Krill pointed at his eyes, then back to the opening before the teams. He held up five fingers, meaning he had five targets in sight. DarkHawk, moving up in the ranks to garner a better view, suddenly stopped.
The Quaestor’s eyes closed and the Equite felt a familiar yet vague feeling. He searched the depths of the Force to recognize the anomaly within his connection to that energy. He could not pinpoint the source as it seemed to be masked. The Battlelord reached out to his Master and to Commander Krill telepathically, “Our presence has been compromised, they know we are here…”
Krill shook his head having never gotten used to that feeling of trespassing on his psyche. He turned back towards his team giving more silent signals. He nodded to the Madman Alchemist. Macron closed his helm faceplate. The Son of Sadow held up a clenched fist at the gesture and moved toward the opening. DarkHawk reached out to his Sith brethren, “Sir, there is something within that knows of our presence…”
“I am well aware of that young one. One of them has some minor skill in the Force. Let their arrogance be their undoing. I will provide a distraction and our stalwart warriors can make the kills.”
Macron stood nearly at the opening and took in every detail of what was being portrayed in front of him. Three innocents beheaded for sheer pleasure. There was no honor in killing the helpless, no power to be gained by the death of those who could not fight. This wanton slaughter of the weak was dishonorable. The Son of Sadow slowly unhooked his sabers from his belt, bringing them down to his sides. Raising his right saber hilt directly in front of his face, the Adept activated his saber and an orange glow illuminated his tattooed and scared face. The curved red blade in his left hand activated pointing at the floor. “For Sadow,” whispered from his lips underneath the helm he wore.
From inside the massive cavern the sound of two lightsabers igniting was very apparent to everyone. Steely black eyes gazed upon the scene unfolding before them. The tangerine and scarlet hues of the humming blades now flowed into the cavern. The Trandoshan and his minion’s eyes widened their eyes at what stood before them. They raised blasters to fire at the red-armored figure that stomped into the room directly towards them.
The Adept reflected some of the bolts back to their source with his slicing lightsaber blades. A personal shield generator absorbed the first few seconds of the attack and then burned out. Other bolts splashed against momentarily erected barriers of invisible Force energy. The very few that made it though struck Macron’s Dark Age battlesuit, leaving blast marks as the Juggernaut’s skin hardened underneath. His now-ragged Armorweave cloak began to smoulder and burn slowly. Behind the madman his HK droid had taken cover and was methodically firing at any of the enemy that exposed themselves.
“Can’t… take this much longer,” growled the Adept under his helm through gritted metallic teeth as he slogged forward. The pain was drowned out by the Dark Side. It was taking every bit of energy he had to defend himself against the intense fire. He had certainly drawn their collective attention to himself but at a high price. Macron was at the center of plasma beams that lanced at him like the spikes of a sea urchin in reverse. A normal person would be dead, and even many Jedi could not have handled that amount of firepower directed at them. He dropped to one knee and crossed his blades in front of himself.
That momentary delay gave Krill his opening to strike. A final silent hand signal and the hardened Rangers went into battle mode as if it was a primary reflex. Removing their NVG’s and maintaining protective eye goggles, smoke and flash grenades sailed through the cavern, clinking across the rugged rock floor. The Trandoshan’s eyes widened. Before the reptile Lieutenant could utter a word of warning multiple flashes erupted along with a simultaneous backup of thick white smoke that filled the cavern.
The blinding light worked as orchestrated. The Strike teams moved with efficiency as they charged forward. Blaster fire began to fill the grotto. All three Strike teams made their advance, ripping through their closest adversaries. A humming mixture of illuminated blades echoed throughout the battleground as they sprung to life. Behind each searing blade members of House Shar Dakhan drank deeply from the Force, feeding their anger.
The Dakhanians and the Rangers flanked their aggressors. Commander Krill scored the first head shot of the engagement as he pushed forward. His victim’s head exploded painting a trail of blood and brain matter across the dark damp walls. By this time the flash bang effect began to wear off and the enemy commenced to returning fire upon the Rangers and House Shar Dakhan.
A set of attentive eyes perched high above the cavern floor watching this initial onslaught take place behind a darkened cloak. Each Dakhanian moved in unison with the Rangers, slowly pushing their assailants back. Dark Jedi deflected blaster fire back to their points of origin, plasma bolts ricocheting off rocks and jagged walls. Essk shook his scaley head to shake off the effects of the flash bangs. The smoke filling the cavern burned his nostrils. His heightened sense of reptilian smell repeatedly flared his nostrils trying to adjust. The Trandoshan could feel his rage coming to a head, squinting his eyes and narrowing his vision the hulking reptile unleashed with a barrage of blaster fire from his minigun attempting to cut down anyone in his crossfire.
Three Rangers dropped from that onslaught, burning holes filling their chest plates. One Ranger in close proximity of the assault screamed “TAKE COVER!”. Rangers and Dakhanians followed those directions, as a continued volley of blaster fire raced narrowly above their heads. Two more flash bangs dropped at the Trandoshan”s cybernetic legs, Essk was able to kick one away. But as he scurried to displace the last flashbang it exploded directly in front of him. Xuner Holst was mere feet away from the Trandoshan and the Knight moved in for the kill.
Nostrils still flaring, Essk picked up the hint of a human scent and swung a backhand towards the scent. Xuner narrowly ducked underneath the blow, returning his own attack by way of a solid jumping front kick to the reptile’s scaly face. The Trandoshan staggered backwards from the blow. Xuner once again moved in for the kill. Essk violently shook his head trying to correct his blurred vision. Xuner lept into the air and descended on his target, saber now held in a reverse grip. Essk caught a mere glimpse of the Knight’s attack and pivoted out of the way at the last moment. Xuner drove his blade deep into the cavern floor in a missed blow. Essk swung back around with another volley from his minigun. Xuner was close enough to duck under the repetitive blaster fire, although he was not far enough away to to avoid the searing hot barrels of the mini gun. The minigun roasted the flesh of the Knight’s neck and face. Without warning, from the shadows of the cave, a plasma arrow severed the minigun.
Xuner dropped to his knees and grabbed his face in agony. The stench of burning flesh carried a pungent aroma throughout the cave. As the Trandoshan once again regained his vision, he focused on the seemingly fallen Dark Jedi at the his feet. Essk dropped his now worthless minigun and pulled a large vibroblade from its hilt. The reptile lunged at the Knight and two more plasma arrows ripped thru his cybernetic legs causing him to fall short of his target. The reptile’s face scraped against the jagged floor, leaving a trail of scales and green blood. Xuner summoned the power of the Force and initiated his healing powers. As he tried to stand a shadowy figure assisted the movement. Xuner looked up to see his Quaestor aiding him.
“Thanks DH…”, the Knight said, obviously in pain.
DarkHawk examined his Knight, the left side of Xuner’s face and neck was badly burned. Chunks of the Journeyman’s skin hung from his face, but much to the astonishment of the Battlelord his House mate’s face was not scared like normal. Instead like a reptile shedding his skin, another layer of tattooed skin was clearly visible from underneath the wound.
“How does it look boss?” asked the Knight.
“Another mystery falls before us good Sir. You will live to fight another day,” replied Takagari.
Just then a grenade dropped close to Takagari and Xuner. Xuner grabbed his Quaestor and pushed them both over some supply crates as the grenade exploded.
“Seems you have many eyes upon you Takagari, I can sense your growth since last we met…” an obsessively eerie voice bellowed from above, with an obscure macabre accent.
DarkHawk looked up to spot his would-be moderator. The figure pulled the hood back revealing the features of a female Rattataki. “Kee’ri…” the Battlelord said through gritted teeth.
Xuner pulled up his Blastech 280c rifle, “I got this scamp boss…” he said zeroing in on the bald head of the Rattataki.
DarkHawk grabbed Xuner’s rifle barrel and pushed it down. “No this one is all mine. Stay on mission Xuner, get back to the others.” Xuner did not question the tone of his Quaestor. He leapt over the crates and began firing his rifle at more assailants.
Behind him the fallen Alchemist had staggered to his feet with a groan and tore off the smoking rags that had been his armorweave cloak. One red lightsaber had been damaged and sputtered in his hand. He returned it and the functional one to his belt and pulled the faceplate off of his ruined helm. One of the enemy charged him with a drawn vibroblade, hoping to capitalize on the injured Sith’s apparent weakness.
Macron raised his empty left hand with a wince and bolts of vicious blue lightning ignited from his fingertips. The Elder Storm illuminated the bones of his assailant as the azure bolts bolts fried sizzling flesh. The human dropped to the floor dead and twitching. “I may be injured.” The madman chuckled painfully as he limped away from the battle. “But I am by no means helpless.” Macron keyed his wrist comlink as he leaned on HK 22. “Dakhan Actual, I am withdrawing to the shuttle. I’m too injured to fight effectively. Gentlemen, ladies and other beings this battle is up to you to win. Today yours is the glory. I leave my apprentice Jade to represent me, haha.”
Kee’ri narrowed her eyes as she searched for the Sith’s feelings. Before her connection to the Force could be made, her eyes were diverted. Blaster fire hammered against her perch leaving her with little time to react. Her footing was lost and shards of rock debris pierced her skin like needles. The Rattataki fled to the shadows. DarkHawk swung around to see Cal tip his blaster towards him in a genuflecting manner. Cal adjusted his shield and moved in to render medical aid to two fallen Rangers.
DarkHawk watched four Sadows rip through a group of attackers. The heavy hitters save Macron had been held in reserve and they now provided overwhelming force. His Aedile Sanguinius, Malik, Malisane and Jade disarticulated their assailants with precision, though their blade work differed in their results. Sanguinius and Malik fought with the medium amount of effort to disarm their opponents, neutralising the danger and refusing to take lives, while Malisane and Jade ripped through their adversaries. From what just transpired in that very moment, it was abundantly apparent how worthy they were to carry that title.
Malisane continued his onslaught on a heavy marauder about to unleash with a minigun. Rolling to close the gap, the Son of Sadow came up and delivered a crushing front kick that shattered the man’s knee. He collapsed in agony as the blow caused him to redirect the mini gun barrage. In one swift arching motion Malisane removed the man’s head from his torso with a lightsaber strike.
Marcus Kiriyu took a ricochet from that minigun, though he never faltered as he finished dispatching his own aggressors. One of his aggressors wielded a wicked two-handed blade. Marcus dropped to one knee and pivoted away from the blow. Keeping his target in close, the Seer ripped through the armor and leather of his enemy that covered his lower torso. Blood and viscera painted the walls and floor from the lethal blow. The man fell over face first as the life left his worthless body.
Etah Bloodfyre, Jinius Griffin and Vosiri Lightcrest were all back-to-back as another bevy of minions surrounded them. The enemy seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The three Dakhanians braced themselves with sabers at the ready as blaster fire rained down on them. Redirecting blaster bolt after blaster bolt the Dark Jedi dropped three of the aggressors with smoldering holes to their chest cavities. The remaining raiders goggled for a second at what had just transpired. Etah drank from the Force and fueled his hatred. A massive wave of power left his hands, which on impact, rocketed the men backwards splattering their bodies against the cave wall. Their bodies clung to the rock momentarily and then slowly slid to the cavern floor like a wet sponge.
Krill and his Rangers were pushing forward, shredding through the remnants of raiders. Without warning, two of his Rangers were cut in two from behind. Blood splattered like a cloud of rain, Kee’ri relished the feeling as the Ranger’s blood dripped from her face and her long-handled vibro-axe. Krill swung around and attempted to fire. The Rattataki’s movements were as fluid as ever, slicing Krill’s blaster in two. She carried her momentum through the blow, pivoting to come around for a killing blow.
Before the axe could split the skull of the Commander, a light blue and red saber blade parried the Rattataki’s attack. Warrior Erik Cato and Mystic Mactire absorbed the blow, pinning the assassin’s vibro-axe to the ground. Mactire sarcastically blew the female a kiss. Erik embraced the Darkside energy flowing through him, spun around and executed a spinning back kick that caught the Rattataki on her jawline. She crashed hard against the wall. A jagged rock pierced her shoulder as she hit and she slumped to the floor.
“Thanks…” Krill replied simply. “She must have some special gear, those weapons of yours usually destroy vibroweapons on contact.”
Warrior Cato simply nodded. The Rattataki grabbed her shoulder and unleashed a reign of expletives. She began to laugh, sadistic jubilations echoed throughout the cave. Mactire brought his saber to her throat and she continued her cacophony of laughter.
“You tried to kill us, I do not not find any humor to that!” he said through gritted teeth. “You have no honor.”
“You FOOLS!! You have no idea what you have interfered with! You are all dead, all of you, especially that one…” as she pointed at DarkHawk.
“What are you doing here Kee’ri? You certainly are not adept enough to orchestrate this.” DarkHawk said in an almost condescending fashion. The Rattataki simply glared at the Battlelord.
“True, Sith. But this is just the beginning, we are everywhere…” Kee’ri said.
“We…?” asked Krill.
She never acknowledged the Ranger, keeping her eyes fixed on the Quaestor, “Three Shades of Black…”
Before she finished those words, she executed a lightning fast heel kick to Mactire’s arm. His blade slammed into the rocks to his left. This whole time of verbal exchange she had strategically masked her connection to the Force, allowing her to gather the strength and agility to evade the Dakhanian’s blade. She leapt into the air, simultaneously activating two smoke grenades of her own. She escaped into the mist with another subtle laugh. From deeper within the cave, from the shadows, her eerie voice bellowed, “Baltrog sends his regards…”
A blank expression hung from the Quaestor’s face, giving the Rattataki’s comment no further attention. “Where is the target?” asked the Equite.
“Over here…” Sanguinius said firmly. The Aedile stood poised in the far corner of the cavern. He stared down at a symmetrical pit close to twelve feet deep. House Shar Dakhan and the remaining Rangers positioned themselves next to their Aedile. There, in an antiquated glass top case lay the Staff of Urias Orian. The members of House Shar Dakhan all took a knee and paid tribute to their lineage.
Sanguinius extended his hand and utilised his connection to the Force. The case began to rise, emerging from the rubble and then lay gingerly into his cradled arm. Krill activated his commlink and hailed the gunships, a small delay and Spectre One’s crew came in over the Commander’s earpiece.
“Red Flag, Red Flag this is Spectre One, we copy and we are moving to extraction point Alpha, see you in a few. The Alchemist is already onboard.”
“Copy. We are high tailing it out from under this rock, ETA, Eight mic…” Krill replied. “Let’s move out.”
“Grab our wounded who can move, we will get the medical droids down here to retrieve our…” Krill hesitated as he looked at his fallen Rangers. “fallen and the rest of the wounded.”
“We need to expedite this extraction, I have a feeling we just dealt with the first wave,” replied DarkHawk.
The teams started their evacuating process immediately, grabbing the wounded Rangers that could be moved. Those that were not attending to the wounded gathered vital equipment. The Rangers moved with a purpose, no doubt still amped up from the firefight. Commander Krill instructed four Rangers to reconnoiter the auxiliary tunnel at the back of the site.
“Sergeant, recon that tunnel, lets see how these clown shoes flanked us. I want eyes and ears wide open, full spectrum analysis, maintain communication and live feed to the gunships.” Krill instructed.
“Roger that Commander,” replied the Sergeant.
DarkHawk paused for a moment to watch the House members working in unison, their coordinated efforts completing the mission. Just then the Quaestor’s commlink squawked followed by a familiar voice.
“DarkHawk, this is Jurdan, I have Macron in Spectre Two. He sustained a couple good hits but is stable for the moment. He’s a tough old buzzard. He wants to speak.”
“Copy that, go ahead Spectre Two.”
“Give them Hell,” coughed the madman. “Kill all of them.”
Jurdan’s voice chimed back in. “That’s the spirit. The rest of the Rangers and myself are on the way back in….Copy.”
“Copy Jurdan, double time it. I don’t know how much time we have so let’s get these folks the hell out of here.”
“Loud and clear boss…”
Within minutes more Rangers flooded the cavern with medical supplies. The quick and efficient efforts of the Rangers were impressive to say the least. Battlefield medical has never been a pretty sight to say the least. It is raw in every aspect. Krill’s men were impressive tending to their wounded. Each Ranger had meticulously trained to treat their brethren. They were combat medics. They treated the wounded and began to extract them out to the gunships. The casualties would receive further treatment and surgeries they were returned to the fleet.
Commander Krill began barking orders as soon as his reinforcements hit the dig site.
“Devil dogs! No time for lollygagging, stabilize and mobilize! Move your arses!” Krill barked.
Sanguinius Entar remained stoic as he stood over the burial site. The three remaining Sadows, Malik, Malisane and Jades, approached their Aedile without disturbing his thoughts.
“All this time our history laid in this desolate gravesite, forever lost,” the Aedile spoke in soft words.
The four Sons of Sadow embraced those words and allowed them to flow through their consciousness. This was more than an artifact to the members of the House. I was heritage, which at that moment was everything.
Krill and his Rangers continued to diligently evacuate the dead and wounded. Battlelord Jurdan Krennel and a dozen fresh Rangers entered the site. With fresh medical supplies and gurney’s the last of the dead and wounded would be on their way back up to the surface shortly.
DarkHawk approached the House Aedile and the other Sadows cautiously. They appeared to be in deep thought.
“Master, we need to get to the gunships. I feel this fight is not over.”
“Indeed DH, I agree with your assessment. Though I feel we should leave our new friends with a parting gift…”
The Quaestor knew exactly what his Master was referring to. He motioned Commander Krill over, explaining the situation. A small smile broke over Krill’s war torn face. The Four Sadow’s started to make their way out of the dig site when DarkHawk called upon his Master.
“Master, how big of gift shall we leave…?” asked DarkHawk.
The Aedile paused his walk momentarily and looked over his shoulder, “All of it…”
“You heard the man Commander, blow it!” DarkHawk said, emphasizing the last part.
“Affirmitive!” Krill said enthusiastically.
Immediately Krill starting barking more orders to the remaining Rangers, “Let’s move Rangers! Grab those mining explosives and start setting them up, daisy chain them all the way out!”
The Rangers began placing explosives throughout the burial site. Within minutes the burial site far beneath the planet’s surface had been strategically lined with explosives. As the remaining members converged on the route they entered from, Krill’s COMM pierced his ears with screams and blaster fire.
“Commander, second wave is in route. This tunnel is a secondary entrance, we were only able to get about 1.5 klicks in before we encountered the second wave!”
“Double time it back here, we have a surprise in store for them!” Krill exclaimed.
“Heads up, we have incoming, HSD double time it to the shuttles! You four cover their six and keep placing the rest of those explosives on the way up. The remaining Rangers and I will stall them.”
Just then the four Rangers raced out of the secondary tunnel, “Go! Go! Go!” they exclaimed as they sprinted for their teammates. Blaster fire followed them as they dove for cover, Krill and the rest of his Rangers began a barrage of suppression fire on the tunnel entrance. A frag grenade appeared from the murk of the cave as if it was spat out from deep within the planet’s bowels. The grenade bounced about ten feet from the entrance and rolled within feet of the Rangers who just exited the cave. Without hesitation Jurdan Krennel, broke into a dead sprint fueled by his connection to the Force. The Battlelord tackled two of the Rangers just as the frag went off.
The explosion filled the cave with massive reverberations. It may not been intended to kill, though the cavern walls amplified its percussion. Jurdan and the two Rangers crashed hard against rocky floor. Jurdan shook his head to loosen the effects of the blast. No such luck, the ringing in his ears was almost debilitating. After one deep breath the Battlelord strengthened his connection to the Force and managed to get to his feet. He could see the barrel of a minigun breaking through the darkness and into the light of the cavern. The Equite launched into the air igniting his saber. The Battlelord came down cutting thru the minigun’s barrels, rendering it useless. Jurdan looked up to see a large Gamorrean holding the remains of the minigun with a flock of reinforcements behind the creature. In a swift and fluid motion Jurdan drank from the Force and unleashed a massive Force push. A wave of Force power could be seen by the Rangers as they continued their suppressive fire. The Gamoreans did not stand a chance as the relentless wave of power struck and sent the squealing pigs hurdling back into the darkness of the tunnel.
“Let’s go NOW!” Krill screamed.
The Rangers and the Battlelord double-timed it to the main entrance and began their ascent to the surface. Krill gave no relief to the enemy as he and the Rangers continued their onslaught on the secondary tunnel. The Rangers moved with precision as they fired, backing themselves into the main entrance. Just then, four streamers of white smoke trailed out from the secondary cave, clanking against the rocky floor. POOOF!!! The canisters began emitting more thick white smoke that filled the cave.
Krill responded back with smoke grenades of his own, countering the incoming attack. The burial site was now engulfed in thick and pungent smoke. As members of the TSoB flooded into the burial site they were overwhelmed by smoke and zero visibility. The hardened officer pushed his men and members of Shar Dakhan to hustle it up to the surface. The move was a classic counter, set to disorient adversaries and hinder their sense of direction. Krill had not, however, considered the fact that not all members of this faction would be of the human species. They were a hodgepodge of species, some with the natural ability of having thermal or ultraviolet vision. Today happened to be one of those days. A squad of Trandoshan and Umbarans closed in on the exit shaft in pursuit of their enemies.
Close to three quarters of the way up, both Commander Krill and Jurdan could hear the footsteps bearing down on them from their six. As the team made their way up the final ascension, Krill pulled three flash grenades, pulled the pins and waited. Jurdan paused with the Commander, Krill pushing him forward barked “Get your rear to the surface…NOW!” Jurdan nodded his head and the Ranger and took off to catch up to the others. Krill waited until he could make out shadow movements within the tunnel. He tossed the frags out, igniter spoons clanking against the rock walls, the flash bangs falling just barely in front of the would-be pursuers. Krill took off on a dead run up the tunnel and the flash grenades unleashed their fury.
BOOOM! BOOOM! BOOOM!
Screams echoed through the cave as the frags did exactly what the Commander needed. The blasts slowed the pursuers down. The steady hum of the gunships engines could be heard now and a feeling of assurance raced over the team. As the first set of Rangers broke the plane to the surface, the gunships were already engaged in a firefight with flanking members of Three Shades of Black. They were laying down heavy suppression fire and Krill’s COM unit squawked at him.
“Commander, this is Spectre One, do you copy, we have inbound enemy vessels, we need to EVAC immediately!”
Krill never responded, he just kept his dead run pace up and out of the hell hole he was in. He could still hear the footsteps closing in on him and knew he had to keep pushing forward. The break of daylight crested out into the cave, a small smile broke over the Ranger’s face. Now those footsteps behind him evolved to heavy breathing and Krill knew he was being converged upon. As Krill made it to within feet of the tunnel entrance he dove through the darkness and into the light of the planet’s surface.
Marcus Kiryu stood in front of the gunship surrounded by a squad of firing Rangers. Krill scrambled away from where he landed and dove again distancing himself from the entrance. The Seer drowning himself with the Force and fueling his rage, reaching out and feeling the massive body of the cave. The Sadowan collapsed the entrance of the mine crushing two Trandoshans as the breached the surface. Due to the sheer size of the entrance and the mass of the cave, the Seer staggered from exhaustion. Jinius grabbed his Master and assisted the Dark Jedi into the gunship.
Krill picked himself up and raced into the Gunship and ordered his Rangers to do the same.
“Is that everyone?” DarkHawk exclaimed.
“That is everyone Boss,” exclaimed Erik Cato.
“Get us the hell out of here!” replied Sanguinius.
The gunship pilot hammered the throttles forward and the shuttle raced away from the mining camp.
DarkHawk never took his eyes off Commander Krill, the Quaestor simply nodded his head and said “Do it…”
Krill pulled a receiver from his harness and a large smile broke over his face, “Happy Birthday you rotten Son of a…” Krill depressed the button and instantly a roar was heard followed by a shockwave that rocked the shuttle. Buzzers and alarms emanated throughout the gunship, as the blast concussion rocked the gunship violently. The crew worked furiously to suppress all the alarms and regain system normality.
As the pilot leveled the gunship out, the ships passenger gazed upon the scene. A massive cloud hung over the mining camp. What was once a cluster of mammoth rock formations was now a mound of rubble. Enemy blaster fire was now hammering towards the gunships as they made their escape out of the planet’s atmosphere. Pursuit ships were closing in, as all three gunships broke into the outer atmosphere. With the vastness of space ahead of them, the gunship crew’s wasted no time in making the jump to lightspeed. In a flash the three gunships were devoured by the blackness of space.
A pursuing UT60D of the TSoB watched as their prey vanished. A chalk white fist slammed against the control panel. Kee’ri stared out the main cockpit window, she never uttered a word, she simply got up and walked off in utter disgust.
The sigh of relief could be felt throughout the Sadowan ships as they raced across the lightspeed highway. The Rangers on Spectre One were not just sitting and enjoying the ride. The secondary mission was now ever present as they tended to all the wounded. The coppery smell of blood was still very present within the gunship. Parts of the floor were drenched with bloody soaked gauzes from the Rangers makeshift operating room. The mad alchemist held up an arm and motioned his Quaestor over. Takagari obliged the Elder. Macron pulled in the Equite a bit closer and spoke softly, “I hope you killed as many of those dishonorable weaklings as possible. You need more training, you must come visit me soon…”, Takagari simply nodded.
The gunships came out of lightspeed with the Command ship of Clan Naga Sadow at their eleven o’clock. The pilot requested permission to land entering the correct transponder codes. A familiar voice broke over the ships COM system, “Spectres One, Two and Three, I am elated to see you all back here in one piece.” Warlord Bentre Stahoes said excitedly.
“A little worse for wear Sir. We lost some good Rangers, but we are ok,” replied DarkHawk.
“The PCON and myself will await for you in the hangar.” replied the Warlord.
The ATR’s made their way down the tarmac and landed in their designated positions. A parade of CNS members stood in mass formation as the shuttles ended their flight. The doors opened and its battered, bloodied, and bruised members made their way to the awaiting Consul and Proconsul. Sanguinius grabbed his apprentice and handed him the staff. DarkHawk looked it over and handed it back to his Aedile. “Sir, I would be honored if you presented this gift to the Summit.” The Augur simply bowed and his Apprentice returned the gesture.
House Shar Dakhan approached their Summit with Quaestor and Aedile at the front of the march. Both the Augur and Battlelord took a knee, Sanguinius gingerly raised his arms and presented the ornate staff to the Clan Summit.
“Consul, Proconsul, it is with great pleasure and on behalf of House Shar Dakhan that we present this gift to you. A piece of our history is now in its rightful home,” Sanguinius said intently.
Bentre Stahoes lifted the staff and held it up above his head, “This staff brings new meaning to our heritage. Those that gave their lives will forever be remembered for this day. A new era begins, forever we will reign in Sadow’s name!”
In unison the mass formation exclaimed “Forever in Sadow!”