The Duro came barreling into the hastily fortified command post. Dante looked over his shoulder, nodded in acknowledgement of the red eyed Krath and turned back to look down the scope of his rifle.
“You would not believe what I just went through to get here,” Xantros said brushing dust off his robes. Shadow let out a slight laugh from the corner of the room. She was holding a bloody wad of cloth to her head while slumped on the floor of the building.
“You may have noticed we’ve run into all kinds of trouble ourselves,” Delak said not bothering to look up from a copy of the Palace’s blueprints. He shifted slightly and some sparks flew out of his right knee.
“See what I mean?” He continued. Xantros nodded and ran a hand over his bald head.
“Yeah but I just took out an outpost! Solo!” Xantros said looking around. He looked a bit disheartened that congratulations for his feat would have to wait.
“We got movement, far west side of the Palace grounds… Is that Evant?” Dante asked rhetorically. There was a flutter inside the command post as the present members of Scholae Palatinae piled up behind Dante to get a look.
“Blue blade, looks like him. He… he kind of looks drunk,” Lucyeth added looking closely. Lucyeth recoiled slightly before continuing, “Did he really just do that?”
Dante sighed and pulled back, hoisting his rifle over his shoulder.
“Yeah, he did. Move out. Time to take this on the offensive,” he ordered.
Under the influence of the fear toxin, Evant had the vague sensation he was walking, and possibly fighting. Well, at least his body was. His mind was a drift in the sea of his own subconscious. The last moments of clear thought against the fear toxin he pushed toward one goal.
Save the Empire, or die trying.
Not even the powerfully dark fear toxin could take that from him.
Luckily for the Aedile of Scholae Palatinae, his housemates came to back him up in that goal.
He was slammed back into awareness as his head smacked into the ground.
“What in the name of Palpatine are you doing?”
Evant blinked hard and found himself pinned to the ground by one of the house’s newer members, Landon Cruise. Blaster bolts illuminated the sky beyond Cruise’s head.
“I… I was doing something. something…” Evant started to say still trying to get his mind back in the game.
“You were doing something bloody stupid, but lucky for you I’m here,” came the confident voice of Archangel. He pushed Cruise off of Evant and pulled the Sith to his feet.
“Take two of these and call me in the morning,” Archangel added, slamming a clenched fist full of injection needles into Evant’s back. The combination of stems and a boosted anti-toxin surged into Evant’s blood stream.
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t go to medical school,” Evant said as he turned toward the entrance to the Palace. The ship that had crashed its way into the entrance hall had been sealed tightly as the Palatinaeans pressed toward it.
Delak came half running, half limping due to the damage to his robotic leg carrying a very large and long object, excited grin on his face.
“I can’t believe I get to do this,” he said, taking a knee and scoping out his shot. The undertone of glee wasn’t hard to pick up from his voice. He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. With a rush of steam and smoke, Delak fell back. They had modified some spare surface to air missiles into makeshift shoulder rockets. It had been a bit messy, but it had done the job.
The back end of the ship exploded in a giant fireball. They now had a way in.
The members of Scholae Palatinae were coming home.
Even deep beneath the palace, it would have been hard to miss the knocking at the door the Palatinaeans just gave. Deep in meditation Xen felt his housemates surging upon the palace. Xen stood up from his meditation at the sound of the echoing explosion floors above his head. He looked up at the statue of Palpatine for a brief moment in careful contemplation.
“No one is taking this from us,” He said, mostly to reassure himself. He slipped his mask back on and moved out to the main hall of the sub-levels. The Praetorian Guards who accompanied him down there stood up at attention.
“The Cavalry has arrived boys. Open it up,” Xen commanded as he neared the lift doors. He and the Guards took several long steps back from the lift entrance. One of the guards keyed in a command code on a wall terminal.
“Just give your authorization,” The guard said after a few seconds of flitting through the menus. Xen reached over and placed his hand on a scanner. Things remained silent for several long seconds as the computer verified the commands.
Emergency evacuation protocol activated. The PA chimed.
Then came the sound of a thousand tons of durasteel moving and moaning as they swung down, opening the passage up to the main levels. It would take a team of a dozen men and heavy machinery to reset the system and bulkheads before they could seal off the lower levels again. Given what else had happened to the palace, the fact there were any levels remaining was a small miracle.
The PA gave a nice chime, signally the passage up was clear. Xen grabbed a harness. It was still a long climb to the top.
The Entrance Hall
The Scion’s had clearly done some redecorating in the great entrance hall. Bits of rubble had been moved in place to fortify their position. Emblems of the Empire had been torn down, burned in many cases. They had set up mobile turrets to help take out anyone who would dare try to remove them from their new nest. Bodies of Scholae Guards and Military had been left in piles near the crashed and crumbling entrance.
None of this gave the members of Scholae Palatinae, or their supporting military, any pause. Free of the nightmares of the fear toxin; Focused away from the distractions of the chaos that was the Capital City; they moved with a firm resolution. And the grunts of the Scions were quickly realizing that this was more than a simple band of Dark Jedi. These were honed warriors. And they were angry.
“Hold the Line! Anyone who runs will be shot as deserters!” Lady Il-Kayd ordered. Her face was unusually white. She had had her own close calls in the city, and had opted to return to the safety of the Palace. She was no stranger to uneven odds, but the resistance they had been facing was beyond anything Zhan had told them to expect. He had promised, no he had foreseen their easy victory. Yet here she was, fighting for every inch back to the throne room.
Dante had positioned himself back up by the crashed ship. The slight elevation helped give him a clear sight of the whole hall. He barked out orders while shooting off slow moving Scions. In the center of the Hall, Evant led the bulk of the Palatinaean Dark Jedi toward the throne room. They would carve apart the palace itself if they had to.
“Zhan must die at any cost. Cut off the head of the snake, and the body dies too!” Evant ordered, as he swung his lightsaber around, removing the head of a Scion from its body.
He turned and found himself face to face with Lady Il-Kayd herself. She gritted her teeth, and a lightsaber snapped to her hand. With a hiss the red blade came to life.
“Well, that answers that question,” Evant said under his breath, grip on his saber hilt adjusted for dueling.
“You fools will not succeed. Zhan saw the future. He saw our success. Palpatine came to him and showed him the way. Thi-” Lady Il-Kayd’s statement was cut short. A blaster bolt connected with the side of Il-Kayd’s head. Evant fumbled and nearly dropped his lightsaber.
“Wha?” He exclaimed while turning in place. From the entrance he heard Dante yell out.
“You’re welcome Evant!”
Evant rolled his eyes and waved his saber above his head, signalling for the push to continue.
From the rear of the hall came a spark of red lightning. Out of the shadows stepped Bernard Leo. He was shirtless, and bits of skin was falling from his torso and arms. The clear sound of ripping, squishing flesh was heard even above the sound of battle. Beneath the meat of his flesh, sparked the life of robotic limbs.
“You cannot stop this!” Leo yelled. He stuck out with one of his arms turning one of the pillars of the room to dust, crushed in the arms grip. He cackled as the dark energy coursed through his enhanced body and robotic limbs. The air around him sparked with dark red lights. He struck out again, arm extending forward dozens of feet and slamming through the torso of one of the soldiers. He pulled his arm back and up, shooting the body of the soldier toward his comrades. The soldiers dove out of the way of the mangled corpse.
Bernard Leo turned his attention directly toward the huddled group of Dark Jedi, smiling with an evil grin full of ultra-white teeth that shone in the light of the hall.
“The Doctor is in,” he said taking a step forward. He was so focused on the group of Dark Jedi in front of him, he failed to take in his full surroundings. Dante fired another shot, which was dissipated by Leo’s shield. He took another step forward. If he had been paying attention he would have seen the spark of electrical malfunctions high above him in the rafters of the crumbling ceiling.
Delak Krennal came falling out of the ceiling with a roar, red saber lit. He brought the blade down clean through Bernard Leo’s head. Everyone in the room froze, including the Scions, as they stared at the cloud of dust that formed from Delak’s impact. Several seconds later Delak popped up with a moan of pain. Bernard Leo’s body had cushioned the fall, although it had been a bit rougher than Delak had expected when he had made his way up into the rafters.
“Did he really say the doctor is in?” He managed to get out through several deep breaths. He leaned up against one of the piles of rubble. He took a few more deep breaths before adding, “Are we in one of Thran’s crappy holovids or something?”
Delak looked around the room, everyone still in shock of what had just happened. Evant first to come to his senses, partly because he was a trained leader, partly because he had enough stims in his system to power the sun, yelled out, “Onward! To the Throne Room.”
The Throne Room
“Fortify the door!” Kelac Lasha yelled. He was pushing a rather heavy bust of someone he didn’t know about and its stand toward the door. Zhan remained seated on the Throne. Lasha looked back expecting further orders.
“Sir, this isn’t going like you planned. What do we do?” Lasha asked. Zhan remained still.
“Thi- This is just a hurdle, one last test to prove our worth. These Dark Jedi cannot stop us. Palpatine is on -” Zhan started after a moment.
“My side,” Xen said stepping out of the shadows behind the throne, mask bathed in the red glow of his lightsaber. Zhan startled to his feet.
“Finally you show yourself,” he sneered. Xen shrugged and pointed to the main doorway across the room. It exploded open, bits of rock, metal, concrete and other debris shoot through the air. One particularly unlucky Scion soldier had a piece of rebar shoot and land its way through his throat and neck. Kelac Lasha was blasted back, sliding on the floor, alive but dazed. Zhan looked wide eyed at the opening, and the illumination of lightsabers and blaster fire behind it.
“Your allies might be here, but that won’t be enough to stop me from killing you. With you dead, my victory is assured,” Zhan snarled, lightsaber activating. He rushed at Xen, striking with surprising strength and agility for a man of his age.
The members of Scholae Palatinae were streaming into the Throne room. Some remained in the main hall to keep more Scions from advancing in on them. Evant, first into the room saw Kelac Lasha stumbling to get to feet. He jumped through the air, traveling an unnatural distance. This kill was going to be his, and his alone. Kelac managed to block the incoming saber strike with his bracers.
“Cortosis?!” Evant exclaimed in shock. Kelac swept his feet bringing Evant to the ground. Evant swore as he fell, lightsaber deactivating and rolling away. Kelac got back to his feet and pulled a knife from his belt. He jumped to pin Evant to the ground. Evant managed to grab the man’s wrists, stopping the knife inches from his own face. Evant groaned and strained. Kelac was stronger than he was, and the knife slowly made its way closer to his face.
Xen still up by the throne, locked sabers with Zhan. He saw Evant’s situation and for a brief moment turned his focus away from his duel, and toward a small piece of duracrete. It flew off in the direction of Evant and Kelac. Xen’s temporary distraction cost him, as Zhan brought his blade down. It was a glancing grazing blow to his right arm. Xen let out a small yelp of pain and fell back a few paces, smell of burnt cloth and charred flesh filled his nose. He tried moving his arm. It moved but hurt too much to be used. He gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on his lightsaber. He was not about to die here.
The piece of duracrete found its way, striking into the back of Lasha. Xen has missed hitting his head, but the blow to his back shoulder was enough of a distraction that Evant was able to get a hand free. Reaching out through the force he pulled his lightsaber to his hand, and activated it. Before Kelac could return to attempting to drive his knife through Evant’s eye socket, Evant had his blade up and through Kelac’s neck. Kelac’s head fell from his body and smacked Evant in the face before rolling away. Evant pushed the now headless body of Kelac Lasha from off and got to his feet. Blood rushed from his now broken nose, a final injury from the now deceased Kelac’s decapitated head. Evant reached with his free hand to stem the flow as he watched the duel between the two self called Emperors.
Everyone’s attention was turned to the duel between Zhan and Xen, as they made their way into the throne room. Blasters were pointed, lightsabers held tightly, waiting to jump in should Xen fall. The two were moving in circles around the throne. Xen, unable to use his right arm to help brace against Zhan’s attack was left constantly moving to redirect the force behind Zhan’s attacks and thus kept the circle moving.
“I expected more, Emperor,” Zhan sneered. Xen’s blade dance centimeters away from Zhan’s face, close enough Zhan could feel the heat of the blade.
“If you prepared for more, why aren’t I dead yet,” Xen retorted. He kicked out with his left leg, stamping on Zhan’s foot. A momentary distraction, allowing Xen to regain better footing.
“I just wanted to give the audience a chance to take their seats. All should see why I am Palpatine’s chosen one,” Zhan said, continuing to push on the offensive. Xen continued to sidestep the attacks and deflected the attacks away from his body.
As the two came in front of the throne again, Xen felt the smallest of force warning in his head. He dove backwards just as a missile flew between where he and Zhan had been standing.
The missile struck the wall behind the throne with a sizeable explosion. Crack ran up the wall and into the already weakened ceiling. Zhan remained standing in place before the throne, unwilling to step away from his prize, as large chunks of ceiling fell upon him. Xen rolled as fast and as far away as he could, debris nearly falling on him as well.
The Scions still in the throne room at seeing the ceiling fall on their leader turned and ran. As they ran, the other Scions in the building who could do so quickly followed suit. The Palatinaeans mowed down as many of the retreating forces as they could. As the dust settled Xen painfully got to his feet and looked around. He looked at the path he had rolled away, most of which had particularly jagged pieces of steel and duracrete sticking out of the floor.
“What the hell?” Xen asked, turning to look toward the entrance, several members of the House taking steps backwards. Zagro Fenn dropped the single use rocket launcher from his shoulder.
“Sorry sir. Missed it seems,” He said grinning.
“Missed? If that had hit him I would have been incinerated as well!” Xen yelled, pain beginning to overcome his self control.
“We were told Zhan had to die at any cost. I was just trying to be thorough. Your sacrifice would have been remembered,” Zagro replied, giving a salute. Despite the pain, and his anger over the entire attack by the Scions, this statement along with Zagro’s absolute serious delivery made Xen laugh.
There came a moan from the pile of rubble at the foot of the throne. Xen walked and limped as fast as he could around the pile. Zhan had fallen back partially out of the way, laying on his back, legs crushed under the weight of the ruble. He let out another moan and tried to pull himself away, unable to break free. He looked up at Xen, who was removing his mask.
Xen stood there silent, as his housemates filled in behind him. He let his mask fall to the floor with a clang. He grabbed a chunk of duracrete and pinned Zhan’s torso down with his knees.
“Do you see what you have done to my home? What you put my brothers and sisters through? And for what? To be crushed under a bunch of rubble. Looks like you were wrong about Palpatine being on your side,” Xen said rage boiling over with each word. He tightened his grip on the chunk of duracrete and brought it down on Zhan’s face. There was a crunch as parts of Zhan’s face broke. Xen brought the piece back up. He pauses for a moment, savoring the look of fear and pain in Zhan’s eyes.
“Bu-but I was told,” Zhan managed to say weakly.
“Then you were lied to,” Xen said bring the piece of duracrete down.
Zhan managed to moan out one more word, “D-ddd-dawn.”
Again and again Xen rammed the piece into Zhan’s face. When he finally stopped there wasn’t enough of Zhan’s head left to identify it. Blood dripped down from Xen’s face as he sat in silence.
“I think its time we address clean up. And getting the city back in functioning order,” Evant said after a moment, he clapped his bloody hands together and made a gesture that the soldiers and members of Scholae Palatinae had other things to direct their attention to. Xen shakily came to his feet, nodding absent mindly in agreement with Evant.
There a ping through several of the personal communicators in the room.
“This is Elincia, we need people here at the lab, we found a way to disperse the antitoxin through the air. Should have at least that part fixed within the hour. Does anyone copy?” Evant stepped aside to discuss the particulars with the scientist. Dante walked up to Xen and offered a rag. Xen wiped off his face.
“Well that was chaos,” Xen said face only slightly cleaner than it was.
“How do we come back from this?” Lucyeth asked. He was looking around at the damage to the palace. He pointed back toward the main entrance and continued, “How do they come back from this?”
“People like the comforting lies. This was a terrorist attack by a radical anti-government group. So radical they were willing to have Ohmen tear itself apart just to destroy the Empire. They will accept that. As for the seeing lightsabers on the streets, well. They were all under the influence of a powerful hallucinogenic. Besides, give the population of the Empire some credit. They don’t ask too many questions, and we don’t have to offer uncomfortable answers,” Xen replied, he had spent plenty of time locked in the sub-levels thinking about this very problem. He looked at Dante, who was standing attentively and nodded.
Dante struck out with a quick punch, Xen’s head snapping back. Lucyeth and Zagro stepped back confused. Xen shook his head. Fresh blood, his own this time, came pouring out of his nose. Dante punched out again. Xen blinked hard as his eyes watered. Dante looked at the remaining surprised Palatinaeans calmly.
“He is the Emperor, he had to show he put up a big fight against these guys when they took the palace,” Dante explained. Between the lightsaber wound, knicks from various sources and now a freshly beaten face, no citizen would question the great lengths the Emperor went through to keep them safe.
Two Weeks Later
“Is there a reason we stopped using this place as frequently as Thran did?” Koryn asked wiping some dust from the table.
“This was the Summer Palace and you know how much Thran sweats when it gets hot out. Plus its easier to work in the Capital,” Xen replied taking a seat. The wound on his arm was finally starting to heal, but was now being very stiff in movement. He paused a moment thinking, “Actually Evant can you look into why we did stop using this place so much? It should have more usage than just a vacation home.”
“So I imagine we are going to quickly see the damage done to the Ohmen palace repaired?” Koryn followed up with. Xen shook his head.
“Having the civilians go along with our lies, in this case is a bit much to ask for. We rebuilt and fix Ohmen, treat the civilians there, and honor those who died. After that, we can see the palace rebuilt. Bigger and grander than ever, as a testament to the Empire’s continued health,” Xen said.
“Oh, and we are going to have to burn that throne. I’m not sitting in it after Zhan did,” he added. An aid stepped into the room.
“My Lord, you have a message from the Orian system. Flagged high priority.” Xen sat up straight.
“Now that is curious,” he said taping open the message, “very curious.”
Cocytus Holonet News
“Good Evening, I’m Skye Tavernet and this is Cocytus Holonet News.
“The Emperor today made another public appearance, this time at the Palace in Teyr. Still looking a bit weary from the event’s two weeks. As the headquarters transfer to Teyr, he promised a renewed life to the Capital city of Ohmen. Bodies are still being found, and damage assessed from the terrorist attack. The last apparent members of the so called ‘Scions of Cocytus’ have scattered.
“Primary government resources, along with aid from the Imperial Military are going toward helping the citizens of Ohmen, and rebuilding the parts of the city damaged. When asked about repairs to the main Palace, the Emperor said that the priority is the well being of the citizens of the Empire, and that the government will be able to function just fine until such a time renovations can take place.
“The Emperor also instructed that any civilian in need of aid following this attack can stay at a makeshift shelter inside the Teyr Palace. Extra food and medical supplies have been transported in for those who will be displaced until they can return home.
“Here is a direct message from the Emperor, ‘People of Judecca, and citizens of this great Empire. We were violated by this Scions. We were wounded. But I swear to you our resolve has never been greater. As we recover we will find ourselves stronger and firmer than ever before. We will mourn our losses, and learn from their sacrifice. As always I am your humble servant.’
“We will continue to give you updates as the rebuilding process continues. Until next time, thanks for watching.”
“That was part of tonight’s news broadcast. Zhan failed. And now this Empire is even more motivated to endure. They are even more sure that are keeping the legacy of Palpatine. What should we do next my Lord?” The hooded servant remained kneeling, head bowed.
He waited silently as the feed rewound to the face of Xen’Mordin Vismorsus addressing the Cocytus system. After several more moments a powerful voice spoke from the darkness, pressing in to the servant’s mind.
“We turn that legacy against them. Send out the probe. Time for plan besh.”
“These markings, they aren’t like anything else we’ve found on the planet,” Karen said shining a light on the walls. They had fallen into this chamber just hours before while studying artifacts from the more primitive civilizations of the planet.
“What do you think this means, Polis?” she asked. Polis Jones remained silent as he looked over some crudely painted images.
“This image here, a being shooting energy out of his hands, and over here, the same figure with people bowing to it,” Polis said. He took his flashlight and shined it down the hallway, bits of metal caught the light reflecting it, still shiny even after all these years.
“If this is anything like that box we found,” Karen replied. She shuddered at the memory. Polis put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“Come on, odds of us having something that bad happening again? Not a chance,” He said. The two turned back to climb out of the hole they fell through, not noticing back in the darkness a single red light starting to blink.