Orian Assembly: Vengeance

Prologue

Kwa Temple
Nifokalija
Aeotheran

“Master, the remaining Organisation Star Destroyer Pandora’s Box and her forces have returned to the system for revenge as planned. Clan Naga Sadow’s forces are away at Nicht Ka, and it’s the perfect time to strike.” Dark Adept Rex Drayfus smirked. “My clone was killed as predicted by the madman.” The former Jedi appeared confident.

“Do not think that will lessen his zeal for blood,” replied Dark Jedi Master Anaxela Goura. The red-haired woman touched her chin thoughtfully. “Our common enemy will be of use now that we have in effect assumed command of their ship. Tell the Organization forces to attack. It should distract the Clan from our efforts here.” She nodded towards the confused-looking Ombi woman. “Once she gets the Gate open, we will have unlimited power. Enough to rip their ships from the sky like moths burning in a candle flame,” smiled the darksider with an evil grin. “Have the mercenaries and VSD begin their attack on Mucenic.”

Firefox-class Carrier Final Way
Nicht Ka
Stygian Cauldron
Sith Space

The living tree, Admiral Simonetti, and the Mad Sith stared at the viewscreen. “It appears Nicht Ka is nearly under control,” spoke the Consul slowly. “We’ll be done in a few days.”

“Excellent,” chuckled Macron. “This one was relatively less painful than the others.”
The holocom link chimed, and the figure of Kaayn Salis appeared in a flickering blue light. “Priest Salis.” The Adept nodded. “We’re impressed with your work since your fall to the Dark Side of the Force.”

“Gentlemen, we have a problem.” The figure spoke. “The Pandora’s Box has moved into Orian space and is headed towards Tarthos. The Space Platform can’t hold long against a VSD.”

Macron and Malik looked at each other. “Anaxela,” growled Macron Sadow.

Simonetti remained characteristically quiet. The seasoned commander usually considered his words carefully. “We can spare the VSD and Acclamator at this point, gentlemen.”

Malik pondered the situation. “Macron, Take the VSD Covenant and the Acclamator Absolution and go deal with this problem. We can spare them. We’ll need as many of the Dark Jedi onboard both ships as possible.”

“As you wish,” nodded the madman as his fists clenched. The Juggernaut turned towards Admiral Simonetti. “Have your officers and flight crew ready my transport. Inform Captain Rineval I’m taking command of the Covenant. Captain Mahdi Jeisel is hereby ordered to bring the Absolution along as part of the task force. We move as soon as possible, at flank speed.”

“Yes, Marshal Commander.” Admiral Simonetti picked up a comlink and issued the orders tersely. “Now hear this. All available Dark Jedi are to report to the docking bays of their respective ships, by order of the Consul. Our system is under attack, and the Covenant and Absolution will be moving to intercept.”

The Neti and the Admiral watched the Alchemist storm off the deck onto a turbolift. “Always in such a bad mood,” commented the Consul.

“He’s almost worse when he’s happy. The only thing that makes him happy is inflicting pain and death. I have a grudging respect for him after he revenged my lover’s death, but I’m still more comfortable with him off of my ship.” Admiral Simonetti turned to the holoscreen and began tracing possible hyperspace jump routes.


More coming soon!

VSD Pandora’s Box
Approaching Tarthos
Orian System

Counselor Two surveyed the helm of his ship. The former Republic Admiral had allied himself with Anaxela and the Gomorag in order to seek revenge on Clan Naga Sadow for the humiliating series of defeats they had been handed. The majority of their fleet was elsewhere, as Anaxela had predicted correctly. It was time to strike, time to deliver a hammer blow that would weaken the Clan and exact revenge. If his forces could cripple Platform Onyx 2, smash Mucenic and House Marka Ragnos and kill many Dark Jedi, the Clan might never recover. Their natural enemies would be sure to finish them off when they sensed weakness.

Onboard the VSD were a plethora of Ghrag mercenaries, as well as numerous starfighters. The fighters were mainly TIE Avengers, and the pilots he had were experienced. The Organisation still maintained a few surprises and he had spent time out of the Orian System recruiting from their other bases. An entire partial brigade of troops, along with droids and a small company of gene-soldiers awaited within the bowels of the VSD to deliver death to their foes.

“All hands. We are approaching their Cardan-Three class space platform known as Onyx Two. Launch fighters. I repeat, launch fighters. Once the platform is neutralized, begin the landings at Mucenic. Dark Jedi are to be your primary target- kill as many of them as you can. Especially the Journeymen.”

Cardan-III Platform Onyx 2
Tarthos Orbit
Orian System

Klaxons blared as Verpine and others rushed back and forth on the Space Platform. A Starwind-Class Yacht, the Violator landed in one of the docking bays. Krath Priest Kaayn Salis debarked with his Apprentice, T’Espera. The naturally arrogant man was a natural-born spacer after being raised onboard a starship. He immediately began issuing orders in typical commanding fashion. He had been a competent Jedi General in his former life. “Our back-up is on the way. Man the turbolasers, raise shields, and prepare to repel boarders. We have to hold out until our reinforcements arrive. All Dark Jedi in-system who are available prepare to defend Tarthos. Contact Jeric Cyrin and the Authority Barracks in Kar Albarek and have them reinforce any landing zones if the bastards get through to the surface.” Get here soon people, thought the Fallen Jedi. We won’t last long.

Ship’s RnR Room
VSD Covenant
Approaching the Orian System
Sith Space

The room was quiet except for the powerful throb of the hyperspace engines that echoed throughout the bulkhead walls. Some of the most powerful Dark Jedi of Clan Naga Sadow gathered here. There was no formal table, or any other such silliness. Instead they all sat at the ship’s bar in the recreation area.

Adept Macron Sadow, Pontifex Manji Keibatsu, Quaestor Shirai Dupar, Aedile Maelous Ascarend, Exarch Mirado L’eonheart, Exarch Araxis Farron , Epis Jade Sadow, Warrior Alexander del Gotto, Templar Dyrra Skye, and Prelate Roxas Buurenaar were present. Others were on their way to the chamber. The room literally stank with Dark Side energy and quiet venom besides the smell of alcohol.

Their home, their loved ones, their system was under attack. As the bulk of Naga Sadow’s forces assaulted Nicht Ka their enemies had struck back. It was a dirty back-stabbing blow. The attack was typical of one particular enemy that had been a thorn in the Clan’s side for almost ten years. Anaxela Goura had returned at the head of the Gomorag Dark Jedi and had roped the remainder of the Organisation forces into supporting her in an attempt to destroy the Clan.

“Dark Jedi of Clan Naga Sadow,” said the madman Macron as he raised his glass. The Bottle of Sadow had made it’s rounds earlier. “Today we face an enemy that has the potential to destroy us. Already their VSD is about to hit Platform Onyx, and Tarthos is now in a battle for it’s life. They intend to destroy our Cardan III platform, and then Mucenic in a ground invasion thereby crippling House Marka Ragnos. I hope our proud and capable Journeymen and Journeywomen can hold on there and give them a drubbing! I have ultimate faith in their power and love of this Clan, as they are our future. Our Acclamator, the Absolution will engage and reinforce them them shortly. May the Dark Side be with them!”

The Alchemist turned to a blank wall and gestured at a hovering IT-3 droid. “Unfortunately, bad as it is, that is only a distraction.”

The menacing droid opened up a holoprojector as Macron spoke. “My… sister,” he spat on the floor as he said it to remove the foul taste from his mouth. “Has entered one of the Kwa ruins on Aeotheran. Kalon and others did reconnaissance on the site as she entered before we were drawn away to Nicht Ka. She seeks Kwa technology and magicks there. Perhaps even a Gate.”

At the mention of the Gate, the room’s normal chatter grew quiet. All eyes turned to the holodisplay as a diagram of the planet orbits lit up. It showed a planet that did not exist, in an ancient time. A ray seemed to radiate from Aeotheran towards the phantom planet, and it was reinforced by radiations from Ombus. The perfect conjunction resulted in an explosion and the planet was destroyed. It became an asteroid field.

“That’s right. Dentaavi. I’m convinced that this might have been what Urias Orian used to destroy Dentaavi. If she opens it, she will have enough power to blow our system to stardust, planet-by-planet. Lord Orian’s work on Dentaavi may have been a mistake- or not. But my evil twin surely intends to use it to blow us all to quarks. We must all band together and do our part to put this vile bitch and her minions in the ground, once and for all. The Clan needs you, and I need you. Who is with me?”

The Sith Adept looked at the many faces that looked back. A roar of assent and blood-lust was his response.

Staging Bay
Acclamator Class Assault Ship Absolution
Hyperspace Transit to Orian System

Locke nodded as he listened to the aide give Captain Madhi Jeisel his report and depart their presence.

"It’s not looking good, " the Captain said. “They’re already in place.”

“And that Victory Star Destroyer is probably more than the Absolution can safely handle,” Locke noted. Even with the fighters that had made the jump with them from Nicht Ka and whatever would launch from the Onyx II, it still wouldn’t be a fair fight.

“After deploying troops, the Absolution will attack anyway, buy some time, prevent the star destroyer from bombarding the surface or destroying the station.” Madhi replied, voice calm and neutral. She had a job and a sense of duty, and Locke respected that.

He turned his back to her, looking out from the raised platform over the cavernous staging area in the troop carrier’s hangar bay. All across it, clones and soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Battalion and 1st Armor Battalion suited up, tested their weapons and other equipment, and prepared for battle. The metallic sounds of gears echoed throughout the chamber as, in the distance, AT-STs and other walkers’ joints were checked and prepared for action. Dark Jedi were among them, taking their places among the groups of soldiers, many that had taken command already issuing orders and planning strategy for the coming battle. Locke saw Prelate Roxas Buurenaar surrounded by a group of elite clones, while Dark Jedi Knight Daedric Turelles conversed with the captain of one of the Armored units. He also saw Jedi Hunter Sebz Janren in the pilot’s seat of a Multi-Altitude Assault Transport, looking over the various flight controls as the craft’s missile launchers were reloaded. He saw other Dark Jedi as well, ones who he could not identify for the moment. Locke knew that this was not all their force; some, such as Templar John “Dragoon” Witwalker would be joining them in starfighters.

This was all that could be gathered on such short notice. Many had boarded the Covenant to pursue Anaxela to her temple and finish her once and for all. The rest of the Warhost remained at Nicht Ka, still cleaning up the One Sith. These men and women and their Dark Jedi allies would have to be enough, though their numbers were not great. They had fought at Nicht Ka, and then been told to prepare for another battle right away, with no rest in between. They were battle-hardened, but tired, yet they would have to do.

“Perhaps a speech?” Captain Jeisel suggested. “Some words of encouragement?”

“I hate speeches,” Locke grumbled, but he could see her logic. After all, she likely worked closely with the Warhost commanders before battle, and knew that extra bit of kindling to the spirit could fan the fires of passion for warfare, and that passion won battles. “Put me through to the starfighters as well, if they can receive a signal in hyperspace.”

Locke tapped the microphone in front of him, hearing the tap sound throughout the massive chamber. Noise and motion stopped, and Locke found hundreds of eyes staring toward him. The platform was not high, but it was enough to make him visible to everyone.

He began without delay. “Soldiers of the Warhost, disciples of Naga Sadow, the coming battle will not be easy. The witch Anaxela has chosen this time when she thought we were weak to reveal herself, to summon those other enemies we thought were broken. But the Organization seeks to strike at us one last time, cowardly attacking our homes on Tarthos while we are away.”

“Even now, as we speak, they have already landed and are marching on Mucenic, hoping to destroy our sacred monastery there and the town that surrounds it. In space, their warships are nearing the Onyx Two, seeking to destroy a station that not only serves us, but the entire Assembly. The Orian Authority holds them back alone, desperately outnumbered, yet not without grit and determination.”

Locke let his voice rise as he continued. “We will assist them. We will dive into the heart of this battle and drive these insurgents off our system! We will cleanse our worlds of this plague, this time once and for all!” He let his voice fall to a quiet, level tone as he finished. “Show no mercy. Destroy the Organization. Destroy their minions. Teach them that to attack Sadow is to beg for death.”

Cardan-III class Space Platform Onyx 2
Tarthos Orbit
Orian System

The few meager TIE Interceptors launched. Platform Onyx Two was under attack, and only a few fighters that had been under repair were available as the rest were with the Warhost at Nicht Ka. The VSD II Pandora’s Box loomed a few thousand meters away, and it had launched it’s own bevy of TIE Advanced fighters. Things were looking pretty bad as the first of the Platform’s TIE Interceptors were shot down almost immediately. Soon, the VSD would be within turbolaser range.

Rollmaster Kaayn Salis slammed his fist onto the console inside the Platform’s command area. “Shavit! Where the hell are…” Just then, an Acclamator Class warship dropped into real-space from hyperdrive nearby.

“Platform Onyx Two, this is the Absolution,” came the welcome comlink call. Cheers went up from within the command room. “This is Senior Commander Locke Sonjie. Captain Jeisel and I are ready to assist.” A small group of fighters shadowed the ship, a mixture of different classes along with a few HLAF-500 class ships. Multiple transports and dropships slid from the Acclamator and dropped towards Mucenic far below.

“Good hunting Absolution!” shouted Kaayn in reply. His brow furrowed as he thought to himself. “This still doesn’t look good though…”

Mucenic Plains
Tarthos
Orian System

The Organisation forces had departed their dropships and transports, and were now massing on the plain outside of Mucenic. The monastery sat on a hill, overlooking the plain below. Nearby was a small homestead. General Kalorg gestured towards several mercenaries. “Go see what’s in those shacks over there, and kill anyone you find. Then burn them to the ground.” The Trandoshan grabbed his electrobinocs and scanned Mucenic. “Amazing. No military response so far.” The lizard-man pointed at the hill. “Bring me into that castle.”

Docking Bay
VSD II Covenant
Aeotheran Orbit
Orian System

“Marshal Commander, we sent as many of the HLAF’s as we could spare to assist the Absolution,” Captain Rineval commented. “Your group has boarded the transports.” His voice echoed across the comlink speakers.

“Very good, Captain. Take your ship to reinforce the Absolution. Granted, it will take some time to reach it as we cannot risk a micro-jump within system. When you arrive, use the gravity well generators to ensure that they do not get away. I want all of them dead and that ship reduced to scrap. Our Dark Jedi are more than capable of getting back to Command after we deal with the Gomorag down there.” Macron turned to the control surfaces of the Delta class assault transport he was on. “We’re launching.”

MAAT #1
Staging Bay
Acclamator Class Assault Ship Absolution
Hyperspace Transit to Orian System

Sebz jittered with controls one last time. All his instruments were looking good, and everything had been reloaded. He then adjusted his mask, perfectly aligning it over his whole entire face.

“Ok, let’s see what you can do.” Said the Jedi Hunter as he pressed a button on the right side of the mask. Control readings and marker flew all around him. The mask depressurized and a steady stream of oxygen let him breath under the heavy but useful mask.

“Hey Worms, you there?” asked his good friend, Dark Jedi Knight Daedric Turelles.

“Yup. You ready?” asked the Jedi Hunter as he prepared the ship to be launched out the hangar doors and into an intense space operation.

“Damn right I am!” said Daedric as he quickly lowered his mic and gave an encouraging cat call to his troops, which they all responded to. “We’re ready. Just waiting on you.”

A grin was smacked onto Sebz’s face. “MAAT gunners, you ready?”

“Hell yeah!” said 3 voices all simultaneously over the comlink.

Sebz smiled as he began to talk to his passengers and crew. “This is your captain speaking. We are just about to launch out of hyperspace into the orbit of Tarthos. Please turn off all comlink devices and hold on. We hope you enjoy your flight.” Sebz knew that it wasn’t part of the job, but he did it anyway.

Sebz looked around the docking bay. Several pilots were running to their ships, while many troops were preparing to be next in line to board a ship to get them to their destination.

Suddenly, a voice appeared over the ship’s intercom.

“Exiting hyperspace in 3… 2… 1…”

“All forward ships go.” said the docking bay commander. The blast doors opened and the docking bay was instantaneously engulfed by space.

“Here we go!” yelled Sebz as he hit the throttle forward and launched the MAAT into battle.

Installation Seven
Nifokalija Mountains
Aeotheran
Orian System

“Master, I sense… trouble.” Rex Drayfus closed his eyes and felt within the Force. A disturbance surrounded Aeotheran, and the meaning was unclear. Whatever it was, it was coming quickly like a black storm cloud shot with red lightning in his mind. The Gomorag Adept spoke up. “This feels quite dangerous, unlike last time.” His own connection to sensing things in the Force was strong for one of his power, reflecting his former Jedi training.

Anaxela closed her eyes. “Yes… yes. My little brother- and he has brought friends. Many… powerful, angry friends. I can feel their anger and hate. Including at least one who rivals my own power. One known as the Wolf… my, how he has grown since we last laid the Orian System low at the hands of the former True Brotherhood.” She sneered. “Severina was a fool. Fah. It will do them no good. Soon we will have the power of the Kwa Gate, and with that I will destroy this entire system and everyone in it. We will rip every planet in this pathetic backwater system and their dying red sun to atoms, like Urias Orian did with Dentaavi.” She coughed and clutched her side after peering so deeply into the Force. “Heh heh.”

Rex eyed her carefully as she turned to the clone of Hafa Chun that was fumbling at the door to the inner courtyard. He wondered at his Master. She had shown him a deeper way to the Dark Side, but at what cost? Would she destroy him too? As a greedy Fallen Jedi, his main loyalty was to himself. Drayfus could only hope the expensive clone would retain some of her lost memory and challenge Anaxela. With her help, they could destroy the madwoman- or at the very least, he could get away with his life intact. He had no problems abandoning both of them to their collective fate. So be it.

The clone of the former Ekind princess laid her slightly scaly hands on the complex locks of the massive stone door. Nothing happened. “Mistress Goura, I do not understand?” She looked confused and lost, nothing at all like her progenitor. The fierce fire and awesome power of the last consort of Urias Orian himself was not within her. “Will you help me? What must I do?”

“You little fool,” growled Anaxela as she pulled a sharp razor from within her sleeve. She turned and lighting-quickly whipped it across the back of the clone’s outstretched hand. The cut hurt, but was not especially deep. As the Ekind woman screamed, her hot blood splashed across the door. Rex grimaced and looked away in disgust.

The madwoman spoke. “It’s in your blood, you former Ombi idiot. In your very twisted genetics. Lord Orian himself saw to it that your… signature was encoded before he died. I saw it in the past as I Flow-Walked here years ago. Now bind that wound and let’s get moving.” She gestured to the Gomorag Dark Jedi and hard-core mercenaries that followed them as she licked the blood off of the razor with gusto and a sick grin. “Get ready to move in. Huh huh huh.”

A grinding sound was her only reply as the massive Force-imbued door began to shift. A musty charnel odor of long-dead reptilian flesh and pent up gasses met them as they moved forward. A one-eyed woman wearing strange carapace-like armor and carrying a lightsaber, a hardened female Togruta warrior, and a plethora of Dark Jedi and Ghrag mercenaries followed.

Medical Bay
Acclamator Class Assault Ship Absolution
Orian System
Tarthos Space

Dragoon got up from the Med table as the Medical Droid finished checking him. "Where’s my armor?" he asked the Droid. "I Do Not Know sir". It replied. Dragoon then headed to his make shift quarters. Even though he resigned as Battle Team Leader of Devil’s Shroud, he had been asked to at least ride along with the Ground pounders, just in case. Well “Just in case” had happened. Turns out his master Bantha waste of a sister had decided to attack while everyone was working on Nacht Ka or what ever it was called.

Dragoon had made it to his quarters and found his armor and weapons ready laid out. He donned his armor and clipped his light saber to his hip as he noticed the MAAT’s launch and the blaster and laser fire from the different fighters. Dragoon thought for a moment. He then turned to his wall communications device and punched up the code for the 1st batts. Infantry commander, LT. Col. Criss. He answered at once. "Yes Senior Commander?" He asked.

"Colonel, i will be taking Dorn Company from 1st battalion, 1st Brigade combat team, with me to Mucenic on Tarthos. Prepare them and have them waiting in the shuttles. Also include a rough command set up team for a Forward operating base. Inform the men to expect heavy resistance."

The Man nodded and cut the comm channel. Dragoon finished getting ready. He then called up two other men to let them know, Roxas, the horseman of war, and Locke, his Aedile.

Shuttle Bay
ACC Absolution

When Dragoon walked in he was met by two troopers, one a Captain and the other a Master Sergeant.
“Sir, i am Captain Jakarolo, and this is my Company Sergeant, Master Sergeant Nagotto.” The Sergeant saluted him, “Sir” was said sternly at the same time. Dragoon nodded, "Are we ready Captain, i have men waiting on us." the Captain nodded ,“yes sir, but to my understanding, wouldn’t it be easier to just bombard the Planet? there’s not much…” Dragoon grabbed the man by the neck and started to squeeze, "THIS IS HOUSE MARKA RAGNOS’S HOME PLANET. THERE ARE LOYAL PEOPLE TO CLAN NAGA SADOW DOWN THERE. IF YOU FEEL YOU CAN NOT UP HOLD YOUR DUTY AS A TROOPER OF THIS CLAN FEEL FREE TO RELEASE YOURSELF OF COMMAND CAPTAIN. OTHERWISE, DO AS YOUR TOLD. IS THAT CLEAR?" The man, despite turning blue from the grip and being held off the ground slightly, manged to utter a very noticeable “CRYSTAL.” worded response.

Dragoon let the man go as he doubled over gasping for are like some one with asthma who had just ran 3 miles. "And that goes for the rest of you as well. We will protect these people and KILL ANYONE who gets in our way. SAFETY’S OFF FOR THEM. NO PRISONERS. FOR SADOW!" Cheers rang out as the rest of the company headed for the transport shuttles. With the Space battle well underway now, it was time for the Ground troops to make their move. Dragoon got on the lead shuttle and walked up to the pilot, “Pilot, lets depart and make your way for the northern flat just north of the city.”

The man nodded, the doors closed, and the Shuttles launched…

Brief blasts of superheated air ruffled the kama draped around the Primarch’s legs, stirred up by the departure of Janren’s MAAT, Witwalker’s shuttle and the scant other craft that followed suit as soon as they were filled with ground troops and Journeymen. Shi Long spared a glance for each one that launched as he beheld the marshalling of Naga Sadow’s war machine.

Each piece was essential and every action, crucial, especially if he were to believe the reports that Sonjie had broadcast across the Absolution’s ‘net. They’d be hopelessly outclassed and out numbered; the interlopers had chosen their moment of attack wisely, waiting for the Clan’s forces to be severely depleted by its assisting the Brotherhood’s main action, then launching a two-pronged assault that split their defenses even more.

“Crafty bastards,” the Long said to himself more than anyone else, but his voice held no bite of hatred. No, the baritone was smooth, any edge smoothed by a mounting excitement.

With “Project: D.I.E.” over, Shi Long was moments from departing to resume his search for his Blind Sister and the Falleen. A necessary action, but not one that he’d relished undertaking; he was a fighter, not a bloodhound.

Thankfully, he’d been saved by the fools who would strike while the Clan was at her most vulnerable and his trip would be delayed.

He stalked across the hangar bay, various rallying cries and shouts for glory erupting briefly around him before being drowned out by the departure of yet another shuttle. Shi noted to himself how markedly different this was from what he’d witness if he were still with Arcona. The Shadow Clan had numbers and would take hours upon hours to plan and plot and scheme, seeking the most tactical advantage before undertaking something of this level of importance.

Not so, these Conquerors of Destiny. This was pure survival. The more experienced fighters and pilots acted with a sense of primal urgency, despite knowing the odds. There was no hesitancy, no delay. After all, If the Clan was to survive this latest affront, the defenders would have to react with an almost religious fervor; fitting, since the Organisation’s primary goal seemed to be the taking of the Temple.

His thoughts drifted to the moments before Witwalker had departed and his “gentle reminder” to Captain Jakarolo. Some would question how the Templar had treated the Captain, bodily assaulting him in front of the sergeant, but not Shi. What some would call abuse, Shi would call an “aggressive focusing aid”. It was something he half-remembered doing himself time and again, a lifetime ago. Witwalker understood, it seemed, that displays like that were necessary at times, not only in cementing one’s own command, but also in making sure that as many Naga Sadowans lived to be able to tell the tales of glory and honor they’d begun crafting today. Wounded pride was far better, for a leader of Men, than a stilled heart.

Religious fanaticism. Aggression. An absolute refusal to be bowed. These were ideals that Shi Long could live with. Mindsets he could work with.

Warriors he could die with.

The smile that had begun to curl the corners of his mouth was only half-formed, however, tempered by a stark reality. Their singular ability to turn back Tarthos’ attackers alone was questionable, at best. They were strong, the Tarthos liberation forces, but they were young. United with the heavy-hitters on Aeotheran, they’d be nigh unstoppable.

Time was not on their side, Shi thought, espying the stark silhouettes of the Onyx Two and the Pandora’s Box through the ray-shielded bay’s entrance, the brief blossoms of bright ochre explosions peppering the space between them.

But, the Apostate knew something that the Organisation did not. Time had yet to reach its fullness, and there was much to be revealed. If the forces here at Tarthos had half as much will as Witwalker and were a third as fearless as Janren, time could be bought. Shi Long would add his power, and the Revelation would be glorious, indeed.

The Stone Dragon’s eyes alit upon some drop pods, and he began to make his way towards one when a strong hand clapped him on the shoulder and pulled him around. Whirling, Shi looked at the hand’s owner, his molten-mercury eyes meeting those of murky green. A name drifted from between the Primarch’s teeth, bared in a rising defiance.

“Sonjie.”

Mucenic Plains

General Kalorg was backlit by a fiercely burning homestead, his mercenaries obedient and efficient. The Trandoshan had his snout craned skyward, his electrobinocs bringing the section of the sky near the space platform’s coordinates into sharp relief.

Several burning trails briefly scorched his vision, the angry plumes short-lived but signalling craft breaking atmosphere. “Ah, that’s more like it,” the lizard-man hissed in quiet satisfaction. Then, louder, “they’re coming,” his muscled arm sweeping forward as he shouted. “Now, as we planned!” The General’s orders were drowned out by the rising sounds of the Organisation’s forces mobilizing and moving towards the temple. There was a crash as a burning timber within the homestead gave way, and a plume of ash and flame soared skyward.

Vault of Naga Sadow
Location Redacted
Sepros

The past is a reminder of what was done right and what must never be done in the world. Inside the vault on Sepros, articles of the past served as a reminder to the strength of warriors and the madness of tyrants. They were the memories of individuals who refused to let history write them off as a side note. As the echo of his footsteps boomed throughout the area, Shikyo ever wondered if his life would be nothing more than a footnote in the history of his clan, his brotherhood.

So much time had past since the Wolf of Kyataru left the frontlines of the Great Reclamation to serve his eldest brother’s will. Since then, he’d stayed in the shadows, missed the birth of his son, and committed atrocities that would bring shame to his family, all in the name of establishing order. Once the war had ended, he found himself drifting from planet to planet to grasp a sense of purpose he’d long lost sight of. Somehow, this wandering led him back to where he first found his calling: Sepros.

He walked among the artifacts and remembered the stories passed on with each item. Every story told of individuals who were pushing the bounds of sanity or thirsty for more power than they already had. However, each one refused to be a victim of history and carved out their own destiny. The Krath Sorceror pulled a small, disc-like device from under his robes and pressed a button on the side.

Elysia Moxla’s image appeared, cradling a bundle in her arms that shifted and cooed slightly. Her pale, cyan image stared down at the child before turning her gaze at that of her husband. Shikyo knew the image was a hologram and knew she couldn’t really see him. Nonetheless, he felt the connection of her look and it struck him to the bone.

The clatter of boot on stone echoed through the vault as the Keibatsu turned towards the source of the sound. Katsuhide, the Nihilgenia commander assigned to Shikyo, made no attempt to hide his presence as he moved with purpose. The general bowed his head slightly before removing his helm.

“My lord, the Dokugan-Ryu is preparing to take the field in Aeotheran and reports indicate that Shi Long is on Tarthos.”

His family was here. His brother on one planet, his cousin on the other. One who held him in so high a regard, one who held him in contempt and betrayed his family. The conflict didn’t matter as greatly to the Krath as it did to those in battle. But his family was there and the Keibatsu refused to stay behind while his family fought.

“Are my mask and Shinsei on board?”

Katsuhide nodded.

Shikyo turned his attention to the sith sword placed upon an altar. He recognized it as one belonging to Shar Dakhan and had seen it before in the possession of Anaxela Goura. The Force had an odd way of bringing events full circle to the lives of so many. With a smirk on his face, the Master placed his hand on the hilt of the sword and claimed it for himself. He would carve his destiny with this blade, if only for the time being. He would return to the place he first called him. He would defend it with his brethren.

Placing the blade on his right hip, the Keibatsu turned towards his friend and comrade.

“Inform Macron that I will take the field at Aeotheran. Inform the Dragon the Wolf will arrive via hard-drop. Once you jettison my pod, remain in orbit but away from the conflict. I’ll need a quick departure.”

“The Masarao will be ready.”

The Nihilgenia placed his helm back on before leaving the vault. Shikyo turned his direction to the sword and took in the power of the Dark Side. It was potent and begging to be unleashed on the world. It had created an impact in history and wanted to do so again. In the hands of the Wolf, it would be able to do so one more time.

Jade watched as everyone moved from the RnR room, each intent to seek vengeance, each wondering why macron wasn’t an only child, each slightly drunk on Sadow. It was going to be a battle that each member both looked forward to, and dreaded.

As she left the room and headed towards her post she saw Maelous in some small quarters, the door likely malfunctioning and staying open. Jade grinned as she leaned against the door frame. So this is what he did to prepare for battle? Stand In front of a mirror, which was covered by some blanket, his helmet on the table beside him. She chuckled to herself. His precious helmet.

He was whispering, must be talking to it…oh she couldn’t resist. Using the force she reached out and took the helmet, the armour floating effortlessly to her hand. Maelous quickly turned around then looked back at the wall.

Jade played with the helmet in her hand, “you know, praying to your helmet isn’t going to help you?” She chuckled.

Maelous groaned, “give it back.” He refused to turn around, he’d been hiding everything so well. How did jade even get into the room? Curses! The door was malfunctioning earlier, he thought it had been fixed…he’d have a few words with maintenance next chance he got.

Jade grinned, like a cat who had her pray trapped between her paws. She looked at the helmet then slid it on over her head. “Ug, how do you even see in this thing?” Jade mocked him as she walked closer.

Maelous stretched his hand out behind him and made a grabbing motion with his fingers, “helmet, now.”

“Hmmmm, too demanding.” Jade couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was different about him, different, yet strangely familiar.

“Fine, give me back my helmet…now.” He didn’t want anyone to know his weakness, or what he deemed to be a weakness, particularly Jade, but he couldn’t figure out why hiding it, especially from her, was on his priority list. He tried telling himself it was because she would likely squeal to Macron.

Jade took a step closer and shook her head side to side, “I don’t usually wear helmets, but I like it…think I might keep it.” The tips of her fangs showed as she grinned under the mask, poised to pounce the moment her prey moved.

“Please.” Why did he just say that?

Jade sighed, “well now you just had to go and take the fun out of it.” She took the helmet off and placed it on the table beside him. “Just remember, it won’t help you like the force, or your brethren, can.” She tapped his shoulder and her body instantly tensed up, as feelings and memories not only shot through her, but from her. Each one too fast to catch details, swirling and moving on dark tendrils of the force.

As the Absolution emerged from hyperspace, Senior Commander Sonjie commed the platform.  “Platform Onyx II, this is the Absolution.  This is Senior Commander Locke Sonjie, Captain Jeisel and I are ready to assist.”  A reply from from the Rollmaster, Kaayn Salis, from on-board the Onyx II, “Good hunting Absolution.”  As the ground forces started to depart, Dark Jedi Knight Armad felt the ship bank away from the planet and presumably towards the Victory Star Destroyer.  
Getting up from a spare bridge console, Armad walked over to where the Captain and the Senior Commander were standing.  Standing at a semblance of attention while his two superiors finished giving out new orders and receiving the latest reports.  “Yes, Knight Armad, you have something for us?”  the Senior Commander stated without turning her head.  “Your eagerness is palpable.”  Captain Jeisel didn't start at the Senior Commanders ability to know when there was someone behind him, she’d been working with the Dark Brotherhood for far too long to let that bother her.  
“Sirs, I may have a come up with a tentative plan to scuttle that ship and save both the Onyx II and the Absolution.”  Armad stated, then paused when both superiors turned and looked at me incredulously.  
“You definitely have our full attention, continue,” Captain Jeisel said.
“If we can get the ventral shields to fall, we could get a strike team aboard to either plant a bomb or cause enough damage to neutralize her.”  I state, gesturing towards the VSD.  “We would need to maneuver in her stern, fairly below her mid-line so we can concentrate on her ventral shield and engines.  This way we can reinforce the forward shield to weather what we can from her.”  I paused looking out the forward viewpoint.  “Throwing what we can at the shields and engine at a steady pace to bring down the shields.  So we can slip a ship into the secondary hangar to do what they can.”  
I look towards the Captain and Senior Commander, who were looking at me with thoughtfulness.  
“Of course, that presupposes we can a team together and in place at the same time the shields go down.”
“What about any forces on-board?  Wouldn't they have security in place to prevent such a thing?”  The Captain asked, thinking she might have gotten me on that point.
“I’m making a very large assumption that a vast majority or all of their troops are on the ground.  That’s why we would need to have a Clan member fly close enough to get a sense of what could possibly be still on the ship”
“It could work, it most likely won’t work exactly like you plan, but we can work off it.”  The Captain stated, stroking her chin in a thoughtful gesture.  She then turned to the Senior Commander.  “Well Sonjie, looks like we've got the battle up here in hand, if you’d like to join the ground battle.  The last of the drop-ships are about to launch.”
“KE Locke nodded to the Captain, then turned to me, “Very well, Commander Armad, I leave things up here to you and Captain Jeisel.”  With that he turned and hurried towards the hangar.  Once he was gone, the Captain turned toward me and asked.
“Ok, Commander, what else do you have in mind as we get into position?”
“We need to send word to Sepros and see if they've launched their fighters, we’ll need them.  We’ll need to find our strike team, a ship to ferry them to and from their destination, and fast.”
“Easy enough, anything else?”  The Captain said with raised eyebrows.
“Yes, put a request in to Fleet Admiral Simonetti to see if we can get one of the Warrior-class gunships to jump in, do a flyby on the VSD and the TIE Avengers, circle the Onyx II, flyby the ships again and jump back out again.  I’m assuming the Covenant will be headed here after they drop of the Aeotheran strike team.  It will keep them guessing as to how large our force actually is until the Covenant arrives.”
“That’s a tall order, but I’ll put the calls in.”  The Captain said with a smirk on her face.
  • VSD Covenant
  • On Approach to the Orian System

As silent as a plague, Mirado moved through the halls of the Covenant, his hands moving across his body in an often practiced gear check. Of course, to the occasional passerby, it looked more like the assassin was trying to find his keys. It was futile, as everything he would be carrying in usual day to day operations were contained within a hardshell case strapped to the armor he was wearing. Similar to Stormtrooper armor, it was designed to protect a person specifically from sudden temperature variances and vacuum. It was designed specifically for the very task he was set to perform.

As he walked, he could feel the palpable tension. The ship was alight with the barely restrained killer instinct his clanmates cultivated like a vintner and their grapes. So many were itching to wreak violence and spill blood. They were a merry band of sociopaths and soon enough they’d have their chance to show the very best sides of themselves.

As he walked into the hangar deck, he was greeted by a pair of troops. One carried a large backpack, while the other waved to flag him down.

“We have your airfoil prepped, and the bomber is set to deliver.” The unburdened troop informed him. “Just waiting on launch clearance.”

“Good,” Mirado murmured as he turned to allow the other trooper to affix the airfoil to his LOLO suit.

“You’ll need to deploy this at a half klick from the ground. Any higher and you risk being tagged by sensors, any lower and you’re a dirt dart.” The jumpmaster said. “Your altimeter is already set to give an alert.”

Mirado nodded, tugged at the fasteners affixing the foil to his jump armor, and simply walked towards the lone TIE Bomber sitting in the hangar bay. The craft had been grounded for repairs to the weapons system, which made it perfect for the job at hand. A quick bit of work by the Verpines had turned the weapons magazine into a very uncomfortable passenger coffin, suitable to protect a person from incineration upon atmospheric re-entry, or so they’d promised.

Without another word, the assassin slid into the makeshift compartment, and waited.

  • A few Hours Later
  • Aeotheran’s Thermosphere

A small buzzing in Mirado’s helmet let him know that he’d reached jump height. During the trip, he’d had the time to do the math, and in a maintained ballistic dive, he’d be in freefall for over an hour. It was more than enough time for the weather to do unpleasant things for sure. Fortunately, he was intimately familiar with the Jungles of Aeotheran, having spent plenty of time hunting within them. The idea of humping several dozen klicks or farther just didn’t seem like a good use of his time and energy.

Still, it was go time, and with the rotation of the planet, projected weather, and insertion point carefully calculated by someone much better at math than he was, Mirado wasted no time in hitting the launch button.

A series of micro-detonations blew the seal off the weapons pod, which cued the pilot to turn their nose to the sky, allowing Mirado to just fall out. Immediately, the Obelisk assassin was buffeted by the wind, making his movements to adjust far tougher than simple acrobatics. It was a tense moment before he got himself in the correct position, but when he did, he began his descent towards the planet at almost 340 kph.

For many, even the thought of pulling this stunt was blood chilling, but to the Assassin, it was one of the perks of the job. As planned, he fell for quite a long time, though during this time he found a quiet calm, and took advantage of it, allowing himself to become one with the living Force surrounding the planet. When the time came to deploy his airfoil, he didn’t even bother with his altimeter.

When he slapped the activator, there was a sudden, powerful jerk, arresting most of his downward momentum. Saying it was painless would have been an outright lie, but it wasn’t debilitating, so he pushed it to the back of his mind, and guided his airfoil towards his destination.

About 70 meters up from the jungle canopy, he hit the releases on his airfoil and dropped into the trees. A combination of the Force and his own athletic ability brought him to a silent and controlled stop about halfway up one of the jungle trees. He wasted no time getting out of the jump armor and began the task of equipping himself, sliding all manner of sharp objects into their proper sheaths, taking a moment to coat several in poison, putting his lightsabers in their wrist sheaths, and clipping on his utility belt and scout pack.

Satisfied with his preparations, he reached out with his senses again, and felt the presence of several people not far away. Only one had any strength in the Force, and even then they were no match for the Equite. The trick would be to eliminate them quickly enough to prevent calling for aid or raising an alert, without allowing himself to get lynched.

Fortunately, this was his home turf, and he had the advantage.

VSD Covenant
Aeotheran Orbit
Orian System

The Sith turned to face the Epis as the Force flowed between them. The shock of the connection made his concerns for hiding the dark side corruption vanish, his blazing yellow eyes locking with her own violet ones. Maelous wanted to pull away but could not as the Force showed him emotions not his own. Mischief, pain, hatred, confidence, and even the hints of love from long ago, and amongst all of this somewhere in his mind he was aware that the same was happening to her.

The two finally managed pull away from one another, eyeing each other with suspicion. The Aedile was suddenly aware of a small knot of thoughts and emotion, as if she had set up a small room in his mind. She was stunned, is that confusion, he thought. The Horseman broke the stare and scooped up his helmet abruptly.

“We need to go,” he said flatly.

“Of course,” Jade said, “we will discuss this later.”

Maelous let the helmet slide over his head, the automated sealing mechanism engaging with a click and soft hiss. He checked his lightsaber and pouch on his belt absently as he left the room. He stopped in the hallway and looked over his shoulder at Jade and waited.

“How kind of you, Maelous,” the Epis cooed, trying to break the tension as she glided up next to him. He nodded as he lifted the hood of his cloak over his helmet. The two walked together toward the shuttle bay that the rest of the team would be meeting in.

They moved silently down several corridors until they reached the hangar. The team was gathered around and loading into the two shuttles. As they moved toward the gathered Dark Jedi a tone alerted overhead followed by a male voice that informed how much time they had until launch. Maelous absently touched the back of his left hand with his right as he went to find which shuttle he would be assigned too.

ACC Absolution
Hyperspace
En-route to Tarthos

“Captain Scott,” Daedric stated as he approached the Captain of Besh Battery, First Armor of the First Brigade Combat Team. The two served together when Daedric was in the Dlarit Army, and had become best of friends during many battles. Scott was standing in the shadows of an AT-ST with a hologram floating effortless in front of him. He was mapping out the strategies that he planned to implement for the upcoming engagement.

“Ah, Commander Turelles. Just the man I was looking for.” Captain Scott stated as he turned towards the approaching Knight. He rendered a quick salute that was returned. “We have begun the preparations for the assault on Tarthos.” Captain Scott stated as the two looked at a passing AT-ST who was moving into place so that it could be loaded onto one of the awaiting Warlord Dropships that the First Special Forces Group loaned. “What have you come up with so far, Captain.” Daedric stated that began to examine the holo version of the battlefield in front of him.

“We currently have a LAAT/i, a Missile Attack Launcher, five MAATs and three AT-STs. First Special Forces Group has loaned us three Warlord Dropships, so they will carry the AT-STs, Juggernaut, Missile Attack Launchers, AT-AT. If we can fit it, we will stuff the LAAT/i in the Warlord too. We are understaffed that’s for sure but I think I have an idea. I plan to have the MAATs fly cover for the Dropships as we break for planet side.” Captain Scott stated as he moved the screen around showing, Mucenic. He had an area circled about two click south of the Temple limits. “This is where we plan on landing, and then push north getting them from the south end.”

Daedric looked over the plan deciding if he wanted to change anything. Content with the plan for now he turned back to the Captain. “Captain Scott…never thought I would be calling you a Captain.” Captain Scott laughed, “Never thought I would be seeing you as a Knight either, but times have changed.” Daedric nodded, “That they have my friend. This isn’t going to be an easy fight man. These guys hate us with everything in them and just want nothing but death.” Captain Scott looked at Daedric, puzzled. “You’re a Sith, Daedric. Isn’t that all you want too?” Daedric turned, facing away from his long time friend. “Not exactly, Captain. Continue your preparations. I have things I need to do.”

Two Hours Later
Daedric sat on his knees in the middle of his small cabin. He had been there since he left the hanger from speaking with Captain Scott. Using his Battle Meditation he began to send out thoughts of victory and honor to those surrounding him and heading to Tarthos. Allowing his own Pride to swell within himself, pushing it through the Force and into the hearts and minds of his comrades. He could feel the moral increase and the men getting eager to defend the home of House Marka Ragnos. Moral had been low since the go order came down from the Consul that they were going to Tarthos. Nicht Ka took a toll on everybody, especially the Warhost. Some of the Navy were still there assisting the rest of the Brotherhood. Daedric continued his mediation, allowing his own Pride swelling in him. This was the first time the Warhost has geared up for a defensive operation under it’s new reorganization and things seemed to be flowing smoothly. He allowed his own Pride to reach out and touch those around him.

ACC Absolution
Present Day
30 Minutes Ago
A chirp sounded from behind Daedric, who was still on his knees meditating. “Commander Turelles, Commander Janren wishes for me to inform you that his MAAT is ready. Captain Scott has been informed to meet you there.” The distinct sound of the communication set chirped off again. Daedric eyes opened, locking straight forward. He no longer was a member of the Black Guard, so there for he chose to longer wear the full set of armor. Since Nicht Ka he had been promoted to the Battle Team Leader of Devil’s Shroud, so he chose to wear his black battle armor along with a standard repeating rifle and his Lightsaber, Phoenix clipped to his side. He quickly rose and set off toward the hanger for his awaiting ride to planet side.

ACC Absolution
Present Day
Present Time

“Here we go!” yelled Sebz as he hit the throttle forward and launched the MAAT into battle.

ACC Absolution
Orbit over Tarthos
Orian Space

Sebz’s MAAT launched forward at his pushing of the throttle. The blast doors opened allowing the MAAT to pass through and head toward Tarthos. Almost immediately the Organization’s head cruiser launched laser beams of energy toward the Absolution. Miraculously no ships went down, but several recieved hard hits to the right side of their ships.

“How’s it looking out there?” asked Daedric who could’t see anything beyond the side doors.

“It’s hectic as hell. Tell your men to hold on because this could get nasty.” Said the young Jedi Hunter as he dodged enemy fire as best as he could. Markers lite his eyeballs up from his mask indicating several drops points and enemy ships within the vicinity. One particularly caught his eye.

A lime green marker was placed in the middle of Tarthos. Sebz knew exactly where he was going.

“MAAT Besh Company, on me. Sending you coordinates for insertion drop. Warlord ships follow suit. Blow anything out the sky that’s not ours.”

“Droid enemy ships straight ahead!” said a MAAT pilot on Sebz’s right. THe markers popping up on his mask confirmed the call. The droids were heading straight toward Sebz’s and Besh’s company.Sebz knew that he wasn’t the primal pilot he could be, and that dog fighting would lead to his own death.

“Can I get a target on the ships?” he asked as he lead the company 2 degrees left of the original plan.

“Aye my lord.” said a voice coming from the Absolution’s navigation command post.

“Weapons hot!” said Sebz as his gunners took the call into full effect. His ship rattled with jolts of energy being released. The other MAAT gunners followed suit.

BOOM

One of the enemy’s ships had blown up by a well placed shot from the far right MAAT gunner.

BOOM BOOM

The gunners were hitting their marks and sending droid ships to the scrap yard. All but three ships remained form the once dozen sized fleet that had decided to pursue Besh and Company. The gunners were failing with their guns, but not receiving any explosions in return. Shots were being missed.

“Sir, we can’t hit any of the ships that remain.Their too fast and are out maneuvering our weapons.”

“Well do something.” Said the inexpirienced Sith pilot as his ship was jolted by the blast of an energy bolt.

BEEP BEEP BEEP

“Crap, left engines been hit. I don’t know if I can last long.” The young Sith ran over the controls, flipping switches and pushing buttons, trying to stabilize the ship and keeping it on the planned path of trajectory.

“Sit rep!” said his loyal Dark Jedi Knight brother. “Are we dropping or what?”

“GIve me a sec!” said Sebz as he went over controls. The ship’s right engine began to take control and stabilize. Sebz tugged at the controls, lifting the ship up, hoping that the surface wasn’t as close as his instruments read. The ship had just entered the atmosphere and began jolting around.

“Coming in hot!” Sebz didn’t know what to do and hoped the ship’s controls would let him do his thing.

“Drop zone up ahead!”

Sebz looked out of his cockpit and into the surface of Tarthos. “Brace for impact!” Sebz felt his ship hit the surface and everything went black.

ACC Absolution
Maintaining Position Over Mucenic
Tarthos, Orian System

After speaking with Armad, Locke headed to the hangar. Along the way, he stopped in the armory. The Krath already wore his lightsaber and DL-44 blaster pistol at his belt, but he would need more firepower for this battle. From his locker, he retrieved the AXM-50 rifle he had come to prefer. Nicknamed the “Blast and Smash”, it boasted the ability to both fire as a rifle and as a micro-grenade launcher, making it a versatile weapon. Locke shrugged as he gently put the rifle’s strap around his shoulders, checking to make sure the throwing knife hidden under the back of his shirt was in place. He also checked the cuffs of his flightsuit, feeling the two hidden in his sleeves. Locke had recently taken training in using the weapons, after thinking that it might be good to have a way to kill from a distance without discharging a loud weapon.

Next, Locke headed down into the hangar, looking around slowly as everyone got ready. One of Cresh Battery’s AT-ST crews already knew to expect Locke. Their walker was being loaded into a drop pod at the moment, which would have to be attached to an overhead rack that could position it over the gap in the ship’s ventral hangar prior to the drop, so Locke knew he had a few minutes. Even with the rush and sense of urgency, he took his time. Somehow, he had found himself giving a speech at the beginning of this mission, and if he was doing that, soldiers might be looking to him for an example. Thus, he would force himself to stay calm and in control of his surroundings.

That thought lasted only a few seconds before Locke’s eyes set upon a particular unique individual. There was no mistaking that warrior’s gait, that hair that could best be described as a dark mass above the man’s head, but there was something different. He remembered that man, from an encounter years before.

Usually, Locke would not approach a deadly enemy, but in this case, he found himself shocked. He reached out, grabbing the man’s shoulder, distantly surprised that the move had not been met with violence.

“Tsainetomo?” Locke said when the man turned around. Anger welled within Locke, but he crushed it and soothed it. There was a battle coming; it would be a waste to let it affect him here.

The man simply looked at him, lips twitching slightly, brow furrowed as if remembering something. Was that a smile? “That is the man I once was, Sonjie.”

“And who are you now?” Locke answered, voice ice. How had the man gotten onboard? Last Locke had seen him, he had been carving a path of destruction out of the Cenota prison on Gamuslag. After that, he had disappeared.

“Shi Long,” the man said, that twitch in his mouth becoming a grin. Why was he grinning.

For a moment, Locke did not know what to say. Thoughts piled upon each other in his mind. He had mixed feelings about the Longs. They had fought him when he became Consul, but then his Proconsul had joined them, shortly before disappearing. They could have been a powerful force for the Clan, if not so volatile, unpredictable, and focused on their own goals. Was he being truthful? What was this one’s goals? He had been Keibatsu, was he still? One did not simply severe blood ties, although at the moment Locke found himself unable to recall the other man’s connection to the family. Battle would begin soon and Locke was not sure how easy he felt with this man in it.

“Why are you here?” Locke found himself asking.

“Why not be here?” the apparent Long said. “There is battle here. This was once part of my home.”

Locke sensed that he wasn’t entirely sincere, but for now, he would have to allow it. He couldn’t very well begin a duel right here on the cusp of battle. Even if he did, Locke thought he could sense the man’s strength. They had come closer in power, but there was still that gap. Locke would not assault him unless absolutely necessary.

"We will see, " the Krath said. As he headed to his AT-ST, Locke heard the other man chuckle behind him.

After entering the AT-ST inside the drop pod, Locke busied himself with studying the controls and speaking to the crew, questioning them about tactics and various issues relating to the machine. He wasn’t a walker crewman by any means - having spent his entire career with the Alliance on foot or in starfighters - but Locke always felt it was good to know as much about his and his troops’ equipment as possible. Besides that, he had always wondered what it would be like to crew one of these, or one of the Alliance’s hover tanks. He needed to keep his mind busy, to not worry about Tsainetomo, or whatever the man called himself now.

Finally, one of the pilots let Locke know that he would want to strap himself in for the drop. He did so, thanking the man, not knowing how long they had been talking. Some more time passed, the crew already maintaining radio silence. Then a red light lit up on the Walker’s center console and Locke heard and felt a jolt, as if something was released.

There was silence for a time. That silence stretched for what felt like dozens of minutes. Locke relaxed, closing his eyes, feeling the Force. There were others around him, distant pinpricks of life energy that must have been the other pods descending. Aside from that, there was nothing, and Locke knew that void must have been empty atmosphere or space.

Finally, there was another light, this one yellow.

"30 seconds, " the pilot said.

One last breath. Locke knew what he had to do as soon as they landed. The enemy would likely be upon them soon, if not immediately. They would be positioned just on the outskirts of the grounds at Mucenic.

Then there was a green light and a constant, solid ringing sound.

"Down, " the pilot said, “opening pod door in 3…2-”

“Now!” Locke shouted urgently, shoving his palm against the release that would trigger the door. It burst outward, bathing the three men in bright, natural light. As their vision adapted, he saw a slope covered in soldiers - but not their soldiers. “Fire, fire, fire!” Locke yelled, standing up. He didn’t wait to see if his command was obeyed. Instead, the Krath summoned the Force, pushing the top hatch open with inhuman speed. He had the AXM rifle in his hands a moment later as he steadied himself against the hatch threshold.

Then, as the first beams from the walker below him began to lance out at the enemy group, Locke fired the rifle, aiming at the closest enemy soldier. The two forces were right on top of each other, and worse yet, Locke could see enemy walkers among the throng of soldiers, including a couple of AT-ATs and groups of AT-STs, painted a dull green color, probably to differentiate them from their enemies. It was going to be a busy day.

Nifokalija
Aeotheran
Orian System

A tropical breeze rustled the treetops stretching out before Manji’s eye, the scene misleadlingly tranquil. Behind him, two shuttles rested on the grassy clifftop upon which they had landed. The Kwa Temple was just visible in the distance, buried among the lush rainforest- they had avoided setting down too close. Nobody wanted to rush into this fight- they all knew how powerful Anaxela was, and they knew she’d have left some forces outside the temple to slow them down. They’d need all the advantages they could get.

He felt a presence- a noxious, putrid presence- as Macron moved next to him, staring out at the landscape. Where the Keibatsu’s eyes saw lush greenery and tropical growth, Macron’s undoubtedly saw destruction and decay- the Krath had been absent for a long while, but he’d spent enough time with his former student to have a good idea of the way that Macron’s mind worked.

“The temple’s ten clicks that way,” Manji said, shattering the silence and gesturing at the ancient structure. “You got a plan, or do we just charge in like we’re delivering pizza?”

A grin twitched across Macron’s face- despite the hatred and fury at Anaxela that broiled within him, it was good to hear his former master’s sense of humour once again.

“If I know my sister,” the alchemist growled, “She’ll have left some forces outside. Our best bet is to be as subtle as possible- a head-on assault is just going to waste time and energy.”

Rolling his eye, Manji turned back towards the shuttles, checking the twin sabers thrust through his belt.

“You know subtle ain’t my strong point, right?”

Clustered around the landing gear of the shuttles were the other members of the kill squad- Shirai Dupar, Maelous Ascarend and Jade Sadow who were eying each other cautiously, Araxis, Alexander del Gotto and another of Manji’s former students Dyrra Skye, who was leaning nonchalantly against the landing ramp inspecting her nails. Manji didn’t break stride as he moved past them, one hand thrust into his kimono and Macron walking alongside him.

“Move out, ladies,” the Pontifex sneered, as the team began following them towards a small path leading down into the jungle. “Let’s go kill us some bad guys, eh? And keep it quiet!”

Dyrra grinned as she moved up alongside him, her shock of red hair standing out even more now that the sides of her head had been shaved short.

“You realise we’re the bad guys, right?” she chuckled.

“Yeah,” Manji grinned, “But we’re charismatic bad guys, see?”

The treeline enveloped the squad as they moved down into the green world beneath the canopy, outwardly jovial but with all their senses on full alert.

Tarthos’ Orbit
Orian System

Kalon pulled on the joystick of his XJ-3, maneuvering the starfighter around a large cluster of debris. Levelling out, he made his way towards the thickest infestation of enemy fighters situated midway between the ACC Absolution and the Organisation’s heavy cruiser. With what he could gather from both visual and radio feeds at least one MAAT had landed upon the planet’s surface, though how smoothly the landing had been was beyond his knowledge.

Acting on a feeling in his gut, the Mandalorian activated his comm unit, hooking onto a personal channel between himself and the first transport he had seen pass through the blast doors.

“MAAT-One, what’s your status?” He asked, his visored gaze turning towards the emerald illumination of Tarthos’ surface.

After being met with nothing but static for several moments Kalon tried his luck again.

“Sebz, you there?”

Still only silence and static met his ears, a small sliver of irritation flaring in his mind as he prepared to attempt a third communication. However, as he looked up from the controls he could spot two silhouettes in the distance heading his way; the profiles of these ships did not matching any in Naga Sadow’s current arsenal.

“Hostiles” Kalon muttered, activating his targeting computer and getting ready to take evasive action if his missiles missed their marks.

For what seemed like an eternity after that, the Prelate patiently waited until his targeter shone green, announcing a successful target lock. Without wasting anymore time he fired a single torpedo towards one of the enemy fighters, his computer retaining the lock on so the projectile knew where to go.

As expected the torpedo flew true catching the fighter’s left wing and causing what wasn’t outright destroyed in the explosion to disintegrate. Although there was only one more fighter, it was too close for a successful target lock on and Kalon did not want to risk unintentional friendly fire. Therefore he pulled up, the fighter now hot on his heels and close enough that it began to fire its stutter-fire laser cannons. The beams of crimson light brushed against the XJ-3, leaving ugly burn marks across it’s chassis.

“I want my StealthX back!” Kalon grumbled characteristically, accelerating his fighter and aiming it towards Tarthos. He hoped that he could lose the fighter in the planet’s atmosphere and with no assistance available anywhere nearby, it was probably his best option for the time being.

Approaching Aeotheran Space
KNS Masarao

Nihilgenia troopers hustled throughout the passageways of the armored transport, moving with purpose and grace. They were preparing the ship for its silent run once deploying their commander to the field. Shikyo watched their movements and wished he could bring a squad with him. And risk exposing yourself? The traitor amongst the Sons has yet to be revealed. Show no card in your hand, a voice in his head whispered. So many events had passed since the Keibatsu’s confrontation with the Sadow Overlord that he’d nearly forgotten past events. Good thing I have some collateral on them, the Keibatsu responded.

Brushing his fingertips along the hilt of the Sith Sword, the Krath caught the form of Katsuhide awaiting him at the drop pod. The Nihilgenia commander turned to face the former Herald, tucking his helmet under his arm.

“You have 90 seconds until drop, my Lord.”

Shikyo did a mental inventory check to make sure he was ready. Nightshade, his ultraviolet lightsaber, was strapped to the small of his back, his blasters were holstered to either thigh, the Sith Sword clung to his left hip, while Shinsei, his Diamond Sword, was strapped to his back. He was ready. With an abrupt nod of his head, the Dark Jedi Master turned and fell back into the pod as the Nihilgenia commander secured the Keibatsu. The two men nodded to one another before the hatch to the pod fell before the dark jedi.

Klaxons echoed throughout the pod, drowning out anything else from the ship. The Elder closed his eyes and began to steady his breathing. He extended his senses towards the planet and he could feel a cacophony of emotions coming from the planet. The mercenaries… Anaxela… former comrades… The Mad Alchemist… His brother… Everyone wanted blood but no one wanted to make the error of being the one to initiate. They required patience and a desire to exploit a sudden error. Shikyo pulled his mask from within his robes and slid it over his face.

Don’t wait for an opening. Create one.

The pod shuttered violent before a tremendous bang overpowered the sound of the klaxons. Sasuke could feel the thrusters push him toward the earth before cutting out and allowing the atmosphere to do the rest. Gravity ceased to exist in the time between and the Krath Master allowed his thoughts to drift from the impending battle to the woman on his holodisc. It wouldn’t be long before he could finally see her again and make amends for the distance and the mistakes.

Focus. Seize your destiny first. Assert yourself before the foolish and the mad. You’ve made a vow. Now… Act on it!

Forces snatched the HALO pod from space and into the atmosphere. Beads of sweat began to form on the brow of the Wolf as flashes of yellow and red overtook the void. More and more the voice taunted and lectured Shikyo on his words at Sepros. Forcefully, it commanded the Kyataran to step away from his eldest brother’s shadow. With a great roar, it demanded something impossible from the youngest Keibatsu. And as the sky and a sea of rich, tropic colors filled the window before the dark jedi, Shikyo allowed his rage to consume him and growled back.

A pulse of concussive energy tore through the pod’s hull, sending out a wave of unseen force along with various fragments of the pod to the ground below. He couldn’t see the Dokugan-Ryu but he could feel his presence on the other side of the temple. Extending his will towards the earth, Shikyo attempted to cushion his landing with the Force. Fingers dug deep into the soil as the landing became a little harder than the Dark Jedi Master anticipated. He could feel his shoulder jammed awkwardly at an angle and with a sharp tug, the Wolf of Kyataru spat out a curse at the pain.

Sasuke could feel the attention of the enemy before him focus on his direction. They were some distance away but it wouldn’t be long before they conversed on him. Extending his will towards Nekura, Shikyo grinned sharply before sending his brother a message.

‘Don’t let this opportunity pass, onii-chan.’