General Kalorg thumbed the deactivation stud on the com-link, several rather imaginative and vividly described Trandoshan curses slipping through his teeth, every one aimed at Councilor Two. “Yes, bark orders and celebrate your victory from the safety that I and mine provide,” he spat, giving the device back to the comms officer.
Still, he could not discount the Councilor’s battlefield acumen; even far removed from the field, it seemed his superior was as prudent about ensuring the Dark Jedi were crushed as he himself was.
Quickly scanning the field, he confidently issued his own orders. “Press on towards the Temple; they cannot hope to overtake…” He paused, the breath catching in his throat.
Looking to his left flank, the Sadowite Forces that he’d previously dismissed were surprisingly gaining ground, plowing through his lines and leaving them in disarray in their wake. Despite his rising ire, he found himself admiring these backwater rubes.
“Well, I stand corrected.” The General turned to his second-in-command. “Order the gene-soldiers to move. Staggered deployment. We shall crush their hope under wave after wave of our might.” He pointed to the left, his index finger terminating at the distant AT-ST lumbering towards them. “Start with them.”
At Kalorg’s order, a lone speeder-bike, its rider hulking and determined, roared past him.
Sergeant Major Cardon and Aurek Battery had adopted a “calvary” approach, using speed to begin a desperate dash towards Mucenic Temple in hopes they’d break through the lines of mercenaries and droids to bolster what defenses remained there.
The success of the gambit was solely dependant upon their ability to not be slowed, the AT-ST serving as the tip of the spear with the infantry fanned out behind in wedge formation.
The issue with that was, without sufficient troops on the ground, the rear of the formation was alarmingly unprotected. A grizzled veteran, the Sergeant Major knew this.
So did the gene-soldier.
The pseudo-human gunned the throttle of his speeder-bike, approaching the AT-ST head on, drawing the walker’s fire. He coaxed the vehicle towards his right, the Sadowites’ fire passing harmlessly around him. Angry red bolts of energy erupted from the speeder’s forward cannon, plowing unabated through several Sadowite troopers.
The Sergeant Major tracked the speeder’s path via the AT-ST’s 360-degree tactical display, and knew that the rider would be at his rear in less than a minute. “So close,” he said, peering up at the imposing silhouette of the Temple. He snatched the comm-unit, broadcasting over Aurek’s band. “Prepare to halt and repel lone rider, will be at our rear in t-minus…”
“Belay that. You press on.”
The baritone that broke through Cardon’s transmittal was smooth and firm, but his seasoned ears recognized the twinge underlying the countermanding order.
It was of anticipatory excitement, used by only those suffering from sublime insanity or a supreme confidence.
Shi Long was brimming with both.
When Aurek began its desperate charge, he allowed the main of the force to overtake him so that he could lope expectantly at the rear, hoping against all hope that their enemy would be good for more than just dying and fertilizing their field with their blood and bowels as they expired. Now, as his molten-mercury eyes tracked the speeder through the fog of battle, he was grateful that the fools did not disappoint.
If Cardon acknowledged his order, Shi did not know. Standing at the rear of Aurek’s formation, the Primarch racked a full magazine into the butt of his auto-repeater before holstering it. His hilt was tucked into his belt, seeming to vibrate with its own anxious energy.
“Not yet, not yet,” he whispered, his eyes never leaving the speeder until it disappeared within a dense cloud of dust kicked up by an explosion.
Taking a deep breath, Shi Long began to draw upon an obscene amount of the Force, his muscles cording and bunching and sinews drawing taut as steel cables. He closed his eyes and kept pace with an invisible metronome that could only be heard by him and him alone.
The Apostate didn’t wait until he reached “one”, springing suddenly forward, his body in blurred motion before his lidded eyes opened, catapulted by the Dark Side just as the stabilizing vane of the gene-soldier’s speeder broke the cloud of obscuring dust.
Shi left his feet, diving forward and just clearing the forward part of the speeder as their combined speed brought them together with alacrity. The Long bodily tackled the rider from his mount, the pair of them tumbling over the ground but each man came to his feet, facing the other, before the abandoned speeder could even cease its own haphazard path into the unforgiving soil, disintegrating in a spectacular explosion.
The warriors came at one another, Shi drawing his sidearm and firing nearly simultaneously. The gene-soldier was slightly slower, but came inexorably forward even in the face of the Long’s jackhammering weapon. Bright claret blossoms bloomed across the gene-soldier’s thigh, belly and chest, but the man kept coming, closing the distance with the Primarch just as the auto-repeater fell silent.
A ham-sized fist swatted the sidearm from Shi’s bronzed grip and a booted foot sent the Long to the ground, courtesy of a sweeping roundhouse kick to the side of the latter’s skull. Shi rolled with the blow, coming up smiling, his chest heaving.
The hulking gene-soldier closed again, hoisting Shi by his shoulders and looking to drive his forehead into the Long’s nose.
Shi had anticipated the tactic and responded with an unseen hand, the Dark Side thrumming mercilessly into the gene-soldier’s chest. Shi heard the satisfying crack of ribs and his enemy’s grip relaxed, but the soldier did not fall, instead spitting a fount of ichor from between his clenched teeth. It splashed on Shi’s face, but the Long was beyond seeing. The Stone Dragon was resolute, and would not be cowed by a rank-and-file, no matter his enemy’s resilience.
His fist suddenly filled with a wrapped unignited hilt, and Shi drove his loaded fist twice into his attacker’s face, splaying the nose wide across his gore spattered visage as it shattered under the assault.
Still the gene-soldier kept coming. A distant part of Shi’s mind lamented the fact that this warrior was probably a rarity amongst the rest of the Organisation’s mercenaries, and he silently wished that the opposite were true. The Clan facing an entire force of these juggernauts would truly test the mettle of her warriors, and they’d come out stronger for the horror in facing them.
Alas, it was not to be. There was only this one. And he, like so many others before him, would be destroyed, swept away by the searing wind that was Nenshogeru.
At that, the tangerine ragged blade erupted to life and punched itself through the gene-soldier’s back and emerged through his diaphragm as Shi Long easily ducked a lazy haymaker thrown by the former and stepped to the rear.
Reflexively, the gene-soldier grasped at the offending column of unstable light with both hands; there was an initial resistance, and then that fell away just as the scorched fingers of the soldier tumbled to the trampled earth, the stumps smoking.
Shi jerked the blade horizontally, and the gene-soldier slumped to the ground, his spinal column severed. The Apostate yanked his weapon free and turned to regard his opponent, who still hoped against hope to defeat him. The soldier’s ruined hands pawed at the Stone Dragon’s boot-tops when Shi stepped around to squat in front of the downed soldier; he made no moves to stop them as he considered the fallen warrior’s words.
“You…think you…kaff kaff.…have won?! I am but one of many…and you will ALL beg for death before this day is done!”
Shi Long tilted his head, picking up on something in the soldier’s threat that others may not have, considering the circumstances.
“There are others like you? Where?” The delight in Shi Long’s voice was grossly inappropriate but a perfect reflection of the battle-maddened sheen glossing his eyes. The gene-soldier nodded towards the Organisation’s forward command post, barely visible in the shadow of the keep.
“Out-STANDING!” Shi bellowed as he stood. “Don’t worry; they’ll be with you soon.”
Nenshogeru’s sunset judgement delivered to the nape of the soldier’s neck cut short any protestation that he might have spit in a final defiant act at the Stone Dragon.