Tarvitz watched the smoking corpse of the former Iron Legionary, quietly wishing it would stop twitching. Malformed and unnatural as they were, a small part of him had been hoping that the crew had perhaps taken them from some distant hellish world. Knowing instead that the monsters had spread like a plague among them, warping their bodies and twisting them into brooding killers, was something he would never have wished to learn.
“There’s nothing more we can do here,” Corvus said, breaking the silence “There’s no way i’m risking bringing this thing back to the Resistance, not if there’s something on board which can do that to a person.”
“So, we find a way off-”
“-And hit it with enough ordinance to make certain there’s nothing left alive on this ship.” Corvus nodded, then stopped “Actually, are you any good at slicing?”
“That’s not exactly my forte, no,” Tarvitz frowned, looking across the rows of monitors and bewildering control systems before realising his point. They were stuck on a bridge, with no obvious way out, monsters waiting outside the door and, unless a crewman helpfully left their workstation open before they turned, no way to access the main systems.
“Exactly.” Corvus stroked his chin, thinking for a few seconds “Poke around and see what you can find, perhaps we’ll get lucky.”
“That would be a first for today,” Tarvitz nodded, heading towards the forwards consoles and starting from there.
The effort, brief as it was, produced few results. Scouring the various rows of monitors and blinking controls for any signs of life, the jedi circled about the bridge. Most were pulsing with the pale yellow hue of a locking measure, with any functions now hidden behind multiple walls of encryption and security procedures. The few that had somehow escaped this had been ripped open, their innards torn apart and core power couplings severed. What little could be made from the relative sterility of the bridge spoke of a final ditch effort to scuttle the ship, perhaps done simply in the hopes of quarantining themselves against the rest of the galaxy.
As he surveyed the scattered ruins of the Charon’s command center, Tarvitz could not help but feel some small shred of respect for the crew. It was no easy feat to damn one’s self for the betterment of others, and he had all too often seen the opposite of wrecks, where the crew had fought one another like dogs in their final moments. Whatever role they played in serving Pravus, he could at least appreciate their efforts to safeguard the galaxy from their fate, even if it damned the Jedi now trapped there.
“Tarvitz?” Corvus suddenly said from the other end of the room, breaking the Padawan from his brief moment of silence “I think I have found something for you to fix.”
“Oh?” Tarvitz asked, hurrying over to join where Corvus was standing, pointing towards the gunmetal grey of a dislodged monitor. He didn’t add anything, but as the human examined its innards, he saw what the Rollmaster meant. While still damaged, the bewildering network of wires and circuits seemed somewhat more intact than other examples. Save for the sparking of a few severed cables, there did not seem to be anything especially notable missing from its interior.
Trying not to curse the fact he had failed to bring a few essential tools with him, and hoping that the natural insulation of his armour would be enough to keep him alive, Tarvitz reached inside and began delicately working about the live wiring. The sound of sparking cables being forced together, followed by the thrum of reactivating machinery reverberated throughout the console, and after a few moments, the screen flickered into life.
“Is it anything of use?” he asked, dragging the screen back into place and stepping back, allowing Corvus to leap up onto the seat before it.
“Well, it’s not locked at least,” he answered, squinting at the dulled lettering occupying the middle of the screen “it looks more like a log record than any controls system unfortunately.”
“And not the kind which lists how to take back the bridge, i’m guessing,” Tarvitz sighed, glancing back at the blast doors in time to hear something heavy thud against the reinforced metalwork. Clearly the monsters weren’t about to give them up just yet.
“No, no, nothing like that,” Corvus admitted, leaning forwards and striking a few keys “It’s actually a record of the ship’s recent weeks. Ship manifests, crew transfers and a few notes from the first officer.”
The Aleena said nothing else for the better part of a minute, looking increasingly perplexed before his eyes widened in shock, recoiling back slightly from his position.
“Tarvitz, you might want to read this.” he managed, his voice tinged with horror at what he was reading.
Unsure of what to make of it, Tarvitz leaned in and peered at the screen, skimming through the initial pages of information. It was little more than a log, a personal journal really, made by the Charon’s second in command. The opening sections seemed rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The officer spoke of a weapons specialist crew they were collecting from an outpost, alongside a group of biochemical specialists and engineering corps personnel. An extensive transfer to say the least, much of it complained more against how they were getting in the way of day-to-day duties, of the mysteriousness of their mission and seemingly directionless nature of their flight. Then, Tarvitz noted the “sudden disappearances” covered under the log entry and things took a turn for the worse.
The log, quite abruptly, began mentioning problems among the crew. Odd moments of violence erupting between lifelong friends, or even surprising bloodlust among crewmen manning standard posts. It spoke less of the iron discipline expected of such a crew, and more of the hunger for war the Mandalorians were more infamous for. Then, bodies began showing up, deformed or warped in some way, with several having never appeared at all on the crew manifest. Too ill to possibly have stowed away, and too poorly trained to simply be saboteurs, they were instead locked down to the medical wing.
The following pages depicted a downwards spiral of failing control, and a complete breakdown in discipline among their forces. There were more conflicts, more bouts, and finally the head of the specialists speaking out against the Captain, requesting and then demanding that the mysterious arrivals be handed over to them. Then, when that failed, all but openly threatening what might happen should they not be allowed to finish testing their weapon to see its final results.
For a few moments Tarvitz just stood there, horrified at the implications of this single message and unsure whether not not he should believe any word of it. The very idea seemed impossible, and yet, he could not wholly deny it.
“Those things,” he said slowly, turning towards Corvus “They’re a living weapon?”
“If this is to be believed, yes,” Corvus answered “A bioweapon, likely intended to be dropped on our troops or anyone who offended the Brotherhood’s current despot.”
“Sithspawn,” Tarvitz cursed.
“It’s possible,” Corvus nodded, apparently mistaking the curse for a suggestion. “Unlikely, but certainly not the most unlikely outcome to this. There’s more here as well, mentions of the symptoms, mentions of the effects it has on people, even some holographic examples.”
Risking another glance back at the doors, Tarvitz half expecting to see more of the creatures crawling inside. Given the repeated pounding at the door, given the snarls and screams emanating from the other side, he could only imagine how many were lurking back there now.
“Is there enough data to know what to avoid and how to counter it?”
“Enough to give us a head start, certainly; and once we finish what the Charon’s crew began, hopefully we’ll have inflicted enough damage to put them back to square one.” Corvus, patted down his waistcoat, searching about before procuring a small datacard from one pocket and inserting it into the machine. “Speaking of which, I don’t suppose you have a way out in mind do you? One which doesn’t involve us risking the horde once more, I mean.”
Tarvitz nodded reluctantly.
“One,” he admitted “a very risky one which I get the feeling you’re not going to like.”
“Let me hear it,”
Tarvitz paused, outlining his plan, pointing to each stage in turn and going through it moment by moment, right down to the very last second. Even as the screaming outside rose in pitch, he finished off the last details, trying not to let the Aleena’s incredulous expression make him pause.
“You honestly think this will work?” Corvus said once he was finished.
“There’s no denying the risk, but I have done it once before. Not with screaming abominations at my back and a sealed helmet, admittedly, but it’s possible to pull it off.”
“Define risk,” Corvus said, unable to not look at the Padawan as if he were insane.
“A painful death,” Tarvitz admitted. “but unless you can think of an alternative to this plan, I can’t see us getting off of this ship alive. Especially once the power for that door fails and those things outside start pulling it open. Something which, given the failing power core, will likely happen long before they finally get bored and walk off.”
Corvus looked almost ready to object, and then shook his head slightly “If we don’t survive this, I’ll expect a long and heartfelt apology once you become one with the Force.”
Despite their situation, Tarvitz couldn’t help but smirk at the comment as he raised the comlink to his lips.
“Tarvitz to Fire Hawk. What I’m about to ask is likely going to sound insane, but we’ll need your help pulling this off…”
A few scant minutes later, as the two Jedi waited hunched behind the ruined consoles of the bridge, the neon blue lights of their freighter’s ion engines thundered into view. Growing closer by the second, it grew to fill the window, bobbing in place as the vessel came to a halt parallel to their hiding place. By the time it halted, it was close enough for Tarvitz to count the individual individual vents across its rear plating and even make out the carbon scoring of the blast damage from their last engagement against enemy fighters.
“Alright, that’s as close as you’re going to get, just hold there and wait until I give the signal,” Tarvitz spoke into the comlink before turning to Corvus as he pocketed the datacard, now filled with everything they could salvage from the logs. “Ready?”
“No, but I don’t think either of us are.”
“Just remember to breath out - completely - before we hit it,” Tarvitz sighed before raising the comlink again. “Ready? Fire.”
Ruby streaks of energy spat outwards from the light freighter’s dorsal turret, repeatedly hammering the viewport of the bridge over and over again. It resisted for the barest second, before the warm glow of molten transparasteel began to spread across the impact zone, warping as the intense power melted it out of shape. Weakening it enough that even the slightest pressure would shatter the now fragile material.
Nodding for Corvus to follow, Tarvitz broke from cover, sprinting directly at the failing viewport. Crossing the distance quickly, the both of them reached out with the Force one final time, shunting against it with a blast of Telekinetic power. The material cracked, spiderwebs rapidly spreading across its surface under the abrupt pressure as it splintered into a thousand shards, before exploding outwards. The air howled as it was dragged out of the room, sucked into the void within moments and taking with it anything which wasn’t bolted to the deck. A storm of metal fragments, personal items, and two Jedi was pulled into space, torn from the relative safety of the vessel as the atmosphere was stripped away, and hurled towards the awaiting vessel.
Fragments bounced from the Fire Hawk’s hull, ricocheting off in all directions as it weathered the abrupt storm. Neither of them seemed to notice it however, as each was far more intent upon reaching the open docking-ring awaiting them, and feeling their bodies begin to fail. Few would ever wish to experience open vacuum for themselves, and save for the most sadistic beings few would wish to ever inflict it upon a foe. The holovids all too often depicted it as little more than a place without oxygen, where victims drowned in the emptiness, but there was a far more horrifying truth to it. It was akin to burning away and freezing at once, feeling both the experience of being crushed to death and torn apart as one. Within your veins, your blood would seize up, ready to freeze over even as it boiled over, ready to be torn away under your skin. Your very organs would strain themselves to bursting point, your lungs screaming for a breath which would not come, even as your eyes threatened to rip themselves from your skull. Your very being was ready to be ripped asunder by the very nature of an environment so alien, it could bear no life, ready to kill you thanks to its mere existence. For twelve long, drawn out seconds the Jedi experienced this, before mercifully crashing into the far end of the airlock.
As the doors slammed close and air was vented into the area, all Tarvitz could do was slump in place, feeling his body burning under the brief exposure, sapping him of all strength. As the pressure equalised, there was the sound of pounding footsteps, and the Padawan felt himself being dragged to his feet, hearing someone doing the same for Corvus.
“We,” he heard the Aleena choke between stuttering breaths “Are never doing that again. Not for as long as I live.”
“Orders sir?” one of the soldiers asked from somewhere close to Tarvitz’s right. Corvus tried to answer but the words came out in a hacking cough, retching for several moments.
“Finish it and leave,” Tarvitz translated “There’s nothing left on that ship. End its misery once and for all.”
The trooper hurried off, and Tarvitz heard the thunder of the main guns firing up once more hammering the Charon over and over again. Momentarily reaching out with his senses, Tarvitz directed his senses towards the creatures still crowded around the door, hungering for the prey within. For as dim as they were through the Force, he felt split-second of abrupt terror breaking through the rage as the blaster fire punched through the doors, atomizing most of their number within moments, and leaving the rest to rapidly die, drawn into its fire as they were dragged into space. Then, there was nothing.
Turning away from the dying husk of a ship, the light freighter’s engines flared up, pulling back before making the jump to hyperspace. Behind it, the Charon slowly flickered and died as its power core began to finally give out, leaving the frigate in darkness and surrounded by the corpses of dead monsters.