[Prison Break] Team Powerful Women (And Man)

Introduction

Prison Break is a Run-On competition that focuses on the Dark Jedi Brotherhood story following the events of the last vendetta and revisits our new ally the Severian Principate. Members are given an opportunity to team up with other members from across the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, and engage with the story as they see fit. While also, by the choices and decisions made by members of the team, help to shape the future alliances of the Brotherhood. The higher placing a run-on is in the competition, the more will be drawn from it for the final official telling of the story. More information is available below and on the wiki.

Background

The Dark Council planned an uneventful transfer of prisoners from the Severian Principate facilities and control to the the Dark Jedi Brotherhood. The Collective, however, used the opportunity to launch a plan to recapture key scientists and personnel in a prison break. With the initial phase of this prison break already complete by the time the Grand Master was notified, he has requested the support of the Clans to stop the prison riots and re-establish control. Individual members are being asked to team up and immediately head to the prison facility, where they will receive orders to go down to the prison complex itself into the heart of the riots and establish control of the facility.

Prompt

Your team of collected members will travel immediately to the prison complex, and will receive orders that request the team to travel down into the riots and establish control of one section of the prison by whatever means possible. The specific orders can be created by the team with creative freedom as long as it’s about establishing control. Meanwhile, there are specific decisions that can be made by the team in doing this which, depending on what the team decides will count as a vote towards how the Dark Jedi Brotherhood reputation with various factions would be.

We have chosen…

First decision: The Severian Principate has requested the Dark Jedi Brotherhood restrain all prisoners or if necessary shoot to kill all who don’t obey to regain control. They are strict about control and order and do not stand for disobedience.

Run-on rules:

  • Form a team of three (3) to five (5) members of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood from any unit to participate, including members of the Clans, rogues, or otherwise.
  • Members can only be part of one (1) team.
  • Each team must create one (1) thread on Discourse under the Run-On category and all posts must be published to the thread to count.
  • Threads should include [Prison Break] and a team name to properly tag it as part of the competition.
  • No members can post twice in a row, or the Run-On will be disqualified from placing.
  • Each post must be 250 +/- 10 words with no maximum length. Keep in mind Cluster of Ice guidelines for awarding in a Run-On apply, however.
  • No edits to any posts after the conclusion of the event. Recommend you follow typical vendetta rules but will not be strict on small edits made to posts by the original author of the post made as long as the competition is running.
  • No strict requirements around characters, it’s advised you create an entry post with information on characters used and edit as necessary but this is open. It is required that an entry post include the dossier numbers of all 3 to 5 members of the team so organizers know who is participating.
  • Each member of a team must make two (2) posts each for a team to qualify for placement.
  • Grading will be handled using the Run-On Grading rubric.
  • Submission to the competition should be done by one (1) member of the team, with a link to the team’s discourse thread.

Screenshots

Ronovi Tavisaen - 9676
Serama “Erinyes” Ténama - 6393
Tasha’Vel Versea - 14192
Wrathus - 13525
Ciara Tearnan Rothwell Tarentae - 359

Raider-II class Corvette Penumbra
Near Tenixir, Varton system
Mid Rim Territory Space
38 ABY

They sat on crates for want of chairs. They did nicely as resting places for one’s laurels - no backing for aching shoulders or itching tailbones, but better than the slick, metal floor of the ship. And as the crew milled about at their respective stations, there was work to be done. Especially among a select elite team of five who had convened to talk logistics and strategy.

There was also food to be eaten. And Tasha’Vel Versea, Rollmaster of Naga Sadow, had done wonders with the menu.

“I have to ask,” mumbled Ronovi Tavisaen, Dread Lord of Plagueis, through a mouthful of Rodian eel. “But how many mind tricks did you use on Volkphunko to get this haul?”

She was referring to the renowned Mon Calamari chef who owned The Toasted Keelkana on Nar Shaddaa, an establishment that the Epicanthix and the Twi’lek were all too familiar with. In fact, it was his remarkable sushi that the quintet was dining on, and they savored each and every roll that Tasha had brought onto the ship. Tasha leaned back with an arched eyebrow and a thin smile, her teeth barely exposed within the dim light of the cargo bay that currently served as their mess hall.

“How many did you think I would need?” she purred. “It’s like you take me for a novice.”

“Whatever you did, it’s delightful,” opined Serama “Erinyes” Ténama, who was busy chewing on a Sulyet roll. “My compliments to the much persuaded chef.”

Even Wrathus seemed pleased with the array of marine treats, despite his preference for something more humanoid on his plate. Ciara Tearnan Rothwell Tarentae sat beside Ronovi, and the two exchanged a cordial glance. Not only were their two clans allies, but they shared a subtle kinship based on the fact that they were the only two women who had led Clan Tarentum as its Consul before the clan’s dreary, and perhaps inevitable, demise. Erinyes was also someone Ronovi could respect, as the newly honored leader of Taldryan, and thus, she was surrounded by women and a single cannibalistic man whom she could, surprisingly, trust as far as she could throw them. And, given her strength and Force prowess, she could trust them quite a bit based on her throwing ability.

The small fighting force assigned by the Dark Council to take on the Tenixir Prison was now quite close to the planet, the glare of the Varton sun quite obvious through the nearest viewing portal of the Corvette. Erinyes had been gracious enough to lend both her personal ship, the Penumbra, and loyalists to Taldryan to steer it (funnily enough, it had also been owned by both clans Plagueis and Naga Sadow at a certain point in time. How lovely that everything seemed to come full circle). She had quite a vendetta on the Collective, after all, as it had tried desperately to conquer the Caelus system, her clan’s home dominion. She had not been able to slaughter the invaders then. But she could now.

“So what’s your beef with the Collective?” she asked her other four teammates, as they cleared their plates and got started on after dinner drinks. “Besides the obvious, I mean.”

Ronovi snorted, having poured a dram of Whyren’s Reserve from her steel flask into a highball provided by the crew. She swirled the amber spirits around a bit, inhaled its fumes, and sighed. “Where do I start? You want the short list or the long?”

“Stick with the short list, Tavisaen,” teased Ciara. “We don’t have all night.”

“All right, I’ll be brief. Botched slave insurrection on my clan’s homeworld. Another attempt to take over the Aliso system later on. One of their cronies ripped off my arm.” The Dread Lord of Plagueis gestured to her blatant cybernetic arm, which had small red lights that flickered periodically as she moved the prosthetic tendons and sinews. “They’re persistent, I’ll tell you that much.”

“We just got back our home system from the bastards,” opined Tasha, grinning painfully. “Not an easy task.”

Ciara nodded in agreement. All eyes were turned on Wrathus now. He shrugged and pulled a skin from his hip, drinking heavily from it. When he pulled his lips away, they were red and sticky, a stark contrast to his white hair.

“I’m here ‘cause Tavisaen asked me to,” he grunted. “Happy to be the Dreadbringer for the Ascendant Clan.”

“My lovely Berserker,” Ronovi sneered. “He’ll do wonders. Just you wait.”

As the Dark Jedi drank their choice of refreshment - Ronovi had her whiskey, Erinyes her Tsiraki, Tasha her exceedingly rare Alderaanian white wine, Ciara her Spice Runner Hard Cider, and of course, Wrathus his crimson substitute for booze - Erinyes got to work. Retrieving a datapad from behind the crate serving as her makeshift stool, she turned it on and swiped through the treasure troves of data that the pirates still on Tenixir had sent to the Brotherhood and the Severian Principate - distress signal and all. The alliance had held firm - for now - and it was time to tamp down on a prison break within the shared facility.

“Seems like we’ve got about a few thousand inmates ready to spill some blood,” she commented as she read the recent status updates from both the Principate and the Grand Master. “We’re going to need to snuff that immediately. Even if it means busting some heads.”

Ronovi nodded. “I’m always down for cracking a few stubborn skulls.”

“How far now until we reach planetside?” asked Ciara.

Erinyes grinned. “Not much longer,” she replied. “An hour or so. I’d say digest, rest up, and get suited up, lovelies. It’s party time.”

At least she didn’t say show time, grimaced Ronovi, remembering all too well the catchphrase of the damned Zygerrian who had further mutilated her.

And as her memory began to cloud over from both her PTSD and the booze, the Penumbra began to slowly descend toward Tenixir.

As the rest of the Diva Division and their token male teammate finished their drinks and set about preparing for landing, Erinyes turned back to her Inquisitorius datapad. Adenn had been kind enough to forward the location from which the pirates’ warning had been sent—the Central Management Facility at Tenixir Supermax Prison—and the identity of their “contact”: a Togruta woman by the name of Rasha Hawee. Unfortunately, nothing in the massive store of data the Voice had sent along indicated what kinds of defences the inmates had established. The Inquisitorius analysis that the facility’s gun emplacements probably couldn’t destroy a Raider-class corvette was hardly reassuring, and the fact that they’d be landing in the middle of a literal herd of starship thieves didn’t help, either.

With a quarter of an hour left until landing, Erinyes keyed her wrist comlink, speaking loud enough to be sure the others could hear her. “Bridge, this is Erinyes. Once we’ve inserted, you’re to return to orbit and wait until I or one of the following Brotherhood personnel signals for pickup,” she said, listing off the other members of the team.

Several of the others turned to look as the Penumbra’s watch officer acknowledged the orders, and Ciara quirked an eyebrow. “You’re not giving us a ride home?”

“I’m not parking our ride home somewhere that probably has as many starship thieves as we have crew,” the Zeltron said. “Besides, if things get really out of hand, nothing suppresses a prison riot like an orbital bombardment.”

“Waste of good meat,” Wrathus muttered.

On that cheerful note, the five Dark Jedi made their way to the Penumbra’s boarding ramp. As they did, the watch officer’s voice issued from Erinyes’ wrist ’link. “Consul, the inmates are swarming the landing pad. How should we proceed?”

“Deploy the boarding ramp. We’ll jump,” Ronovi said, a split-second before Erinyes could answer. After a beat, the Dread Lord looked at her Taldryanite counterpart. “I know they weren’t talking to me, but it’s a good idea.”

“You heard her,” Erinyes said into her comlink, grinning. In response, servos began to whir under the team’s feet, and a slab of deck plate yawned open to reveal the agitated mass of prisoners below. The howling winds and shouts from the throngs below melded into a sort of rumbling, unholy shriek that filled the Penumbra’s boarding area.

7347. That was her name. 7347. 7347.

She sat on her bunk, taking in every smell. The scent of mold. The scent of damp. The scent of age. The scent of neglect.

The odors hung to the decaying stone walls, as Prisoner 7347 thought about her current situation, as she glanced up at the windows of the guard’s observation deck. Even through the filth covered glass, she could see the stark white walls, the filtered air, the cleanliness of their environment. Even though she could not remember anything of her life before this cell, she knew that she’d prefer to live on their side of things.

To be able to touch your own skin and not feel damp. To not have every scent hang about you like a malignant cloud. That was the life she knew she deserved.

She was certain of this. For she had a clue that told her that she had lived that life once; the ring. Wrapped delicately around her left ring finger was a simple but elegant gold band. It had a setting in it, but the stone had long since been pried free and stolen away. This small treasure was all she had on her when she had awoken in this cell all those years ago.

7347 stood up and walked over to the grime covered mirror on the wall. Brushing a lock of fiery red out of her eyes. The face in the mirror stared back at her with identical but foreign green eyes. She knew her face well. She knew each and every freckle on her cheeks. She knew that small scar on her lower lip. She knew that one stubborn lock of hair that refused to stay in place. But she did not know the person staring back at her. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Every now and then she’d feel her mind start to grab hold of a thread of memories, but inevitably it’d snap or loose hold. And she’d be left with no answers, and often more questions.

As she stood at the mirror slowly sinking into her own thoughts, she heard a cry go out. She dismissed it as just another byproduct of the ongoing uprising. But this seemed different. This sounded different. This felt different. This smelt different.

She was turning around when a prisoner, armed with a guard’s riot baton, stormed into her cell.

“Brotherhood’s here. They’ll do anything to stop us. Hold your ground.”

Even as he left, something in 7347’s mind was reeling and trying to grab hold of another memory.

Someone, somewhere, in another time. Had introduced themselves as a member of a “brotherhood”. But once again, just as she seemed to be getting to the heart of the memory, her mind lost hold and it spiraled away into the depths of her mind.

With a sigh, she stepped out of her cell and made a mental note to explore that thread again later… if there was a later.

Tasha’Vel glanced about at her team as the ramp glided forward. Ciara was holding onto the side of the ship with her left hand as her emerald eyes looked towards the facility. Her face was completely poker. Behind the Seeker was the Zeltron. She had a bemused look upon her face as she pushed her scarlet hair back. She looked up with her azure eyes and gave a slight smile towards the Twi’lek.

“You ready?"

“Ready as I will ever be.”

As Tasha looked beside her, the towering Epicanthix stood there in her black, short-sleeved Imperial uniform, DH-17 in her holster and saberstaff on her belt. She certainly looked no worse for wear after her booze binge. And Wrathus? The helmet was on, and the vapor was bursting out of the visor with each harsh breath.

It is certainly an interesting team. I hope this plays out well.

As Tasha prepared to jump off the ramp and into the fray, a harsh, crackling voice came over the communication systems of the facility.

"You see them? They mean to prevent your escape. They want to enslave you. Hurt you. Maim you. Kill you. Do you want that? Get out while you can. I repeat: Get out while you can.”

The stench of putrid flesh, sweat, and old blood hit Tasha’s nostrils as she saw a mass of disheveled prisoners charging towards the landing pad. They almost looked half-dead, but that didn’t hinder them.

“Let’s take their ride and get out of here!” shouted a Barabel prisoner in tattered clothes, as he picked up a metal pipe lying on the ground.

Well, frak, this is bad, thought Tasha. *I bet the Collective are responsible for this." She let her hatred for the Collective flow through her. How dare they use prisoners for their dirty work? They leave me no choice.

The Twi’lek leapt forward towards the Barabel climbing up the landing pad. Igniting her violet blade with a crackling hiss, she slashed through the Barabel’s body and let him drop. The Marauder spotted four more of them racing for the ship. Quickly, she hurled her lightsaber towards their shocked faces as she pulled out Vishra’ Reyal, her Echani vibroblade, and yelled at them.

“Stay back! They are lying to you. If you continue to come forward, I have no choice but to kill you. Please stop and think about what you are doing!”

“This is our way out!” snarled a Zabrak inmate. “We have to take it!”

He took a running jump and grabbed onto the ramp. Just as he was preparing to pull himself up, the heavy boot of Ronovi stomped on his fingers, breaking a few and causing him to let go. The Zabrak let out a shrill cry as the repulsor fields cradling the ship’s weight smashed him, his body resembling more of a red velvet pancake now.

Ronovi’s voice was cold and thin as she reached for her blaster pistol.

“No.”

The Dread Lord’s dispassionate rebuff of the prisoners hung in suspension above the flattened body of their fellow inmate for a single, silent breath – the vacuum before an explosion.

For Ciara, the poignancy of that breath was enough to mask the pungency of the mob. The roil of long-festered emotion rose above the stench to have its own vent. Fear. Suspicion. Hopelessness. Hunger. Desperation. In many respects, these were their wardens. But today – today, they were the shivs and pipes by which they would slit the throats and crack the teeth of those who would say “no” to their freedom.

And so one desperate Zabrak hand became dozens as the swarm ascended, the mob morphing into a mass of bodies clawing and climbing one another only to be cut down by crackling, humming blades of light and steel. Others were torn down by the hands of their fellows. One who made it onto the ramp found his skull crushed by an invisible hammer. Still they persisted.

“Enough play time,” the Zeltron declared as Glamour and Grace separated body from soul. “Get them off my ship.”

“Gladly.” The gruff voice preceded the massive form of the Sith Battlemaster hurdling toward the end of the ramp, sweeping men with him, as Wrathus leapt to the grounds of the prison yard. Exchanging pistol for saberstaff, the younger Epicanthix followed her berserker to the courtyard, landing in a fury that befit the too-eager grin at her lips.

Tasha’Vel was only a heartbeat behind them. Sensing the volatility of the mob that already surrounded her companions and continued to form from behind the rubble of downed walls, she tried again to dissuade them. “Surrender!”

The inmates pressed in.

Force knows, I warned them, the Twi’lek thought even as she felt the familiar warning of the Force press on her own mind. Ducking her head under an incoming blaster bolt, Tasha’vel drove her palm into the ground with a growl, and all but the sure-footed Plagueian Juggernauts were staggered or flung backwards by the telekinetic blast. Ciara and Erinyes landed in the wake of bodies, bronze and twin violet blades deflecting and redirecting additional blaster fire into the unarmored prisoners.

“Where did they get blasters?!” Tasha’vel rose back to her feet with a scowl.

“There will be more,” Erinyes assured gravely as she watched the Penumbra rise to follow her orders after briefly opening fire into the mob to end their last hope of escape. “We have to get inside.”

From there, the battle devolved into utter chaos. Though not linked through the Force, the five Sith moved more or less in concert as they drove toward their objective at the Central Management Facility.

After rending a few rabid slaves and pushing herself through the throng of biting, clawing, and raving lunatics that were the “classified inmates” of the Principate, Ronovi was happy to be in an interior space. The walls of the Central Management Facility were blank - bleak, even - cold, heartless steel that wouldn’t even bother to reveal one’s reflection properly. Down the corridors were a militant line of equally blank, black doors - all of which could slide open and reveal danger for the team.

Hooking her saberstaff back onto her utility belt, the Dread Lord of Plagueis edged toward the front of the gaggle of five, her organic eye flickering from side to side. She knew that, for all intents and purposes, Wrathus and she were the best people to serve on the frontlines. Granted, the other ladies were strong, but the two Epicanthixes were ruthless. Ronovi would slaughter, and Wrathus would dine. Such was the way.

It didn’t take long for Collective agents to notice the intruders. All prison guard uniforms and equipped E-11 blaster rifles, they emerged from a nearby corner and stared down the Dark Jedi as if they were flies lingering and waiting to be swatted. Stiffening, Ronovi reached for her DH-17 again, hoping to shoot rather than stab. It would have been quicker than launching back into Juyo, and she was frankly not in the mood to waste too much time on what she viewed to be cannon fodder.

Then she saw the riot batons. Kriff, she thought. It’s melee time again, isn’t it?

It didn’t take long for the guards to start firing at the “intruders.” Ronovi forced her saberstaff to life again, the two cerulean blades spinning like lighthouse beacons as she deflected the hot blaster bolts, which left sizzling scars on the once pristine walls. Bronze belching forward, Ciara was quick to intercept one of the guards, his baton serving merely as a slight obstacle before the arm wielding it separated from his body. Erinyes got to work as well, and as her violet lightsabers spun, whoever remained of the guards were backing up quickly, knowing that they were obviously outmatched. But they would surely raise the alarm.

Quite literally, in fact. The klaxons began to shriek, and the entire facility was suddenly bathed in an ironically calming blue light. Then, from both sides of the hall, the sound of both footsteps and clanging metal upon metal began. Beyond simply Humanoid guards, a teeming mass of B1 battle droids and cyborg warriors - provided by the Technocratic Guild, most likely - began hurtling toward the quintet, blasters cocked as the screaming sirens continued. The leader of this new droid unit - a BX commando - was chirping rapid-fire commands and gesturing for the troop to march on.

Now, Ronovi knew how powerful she was. Hell, they were all powerful. But, as she knew very well from the lore and history she had been engrossed in while serving her brief tenure as Headmaster, even the mightiest could be subdued by mere overwhelming numbers.

“Not good,” she heard Tasha’Vel mutter behind her, the woman’s lekku noticeably twitching.

“Pick a door,” commanded Erinyes. “Any door.”

And they did, but they were not the ones to open it. One swung open as if of its own accord, and a tattooed tanned arm reached out and waved them over with a frantic hand.

“Get in here! Now!

The klaxons howled. The Collective masses charged. Wrathus led the way. He barreled into the now open space with his head lowered, as if using his helmet as a battering ram. The others followed suit, the door shut behind them, and all, for a moment, was very, very quiet.

Ronovi’s vision adjusted to the new room - which was larger than she anticipated. She immediately recognized it as a modest medbay, most likely utilized for prisoners who had been injured or taken ill. A couple of bacta tanks glowed a sickly green against the nearby walls, and sleek cots meant for patients were now taken up by a smattering of motley individuals. Tatted, battered, dressed in patched up tunics and jackets, all carrying firearms of some kind. One of them smoked a pipe, while two others played dice and Pazaak in the corner, a dim ceiling lamp illuminating their games.

Rebels? No. Pirates. The very pirates that had most likely provided the intel they had received to begin with.

The Epicanthix exhaled slowly, and then, deliberately, she turned to face the one who had beckoned them into here. A Togruta, rugged and inked with what looked like miniature ebony galaxies, stared back, her muscular arms folded and her scarred lips parted into a subtle smile. One blazing green eye stood out in her gaunt face, though the eye beside it was useless - a milky white and filmed over as if by gauze. On the bulky belt circling her waist, there were four blaster pistols, two holstered at each hip, their butts remarkably shiny and sterile.

“Hey,” the Togruta greeted. “You all ain’t just tourists who took a wrong turn, are ya?”

Beside Ronovi, the Zeltron also grinned. “Rasha Hawee,” she said. “That’s you, isn’t it?”

“The one and only,” Hawee replied. “And you?”

Erin’s grin mutated into a sneer. “Your honored guests.”

Wrathus stood near the door of the med bay. His heavy sealed helmet blocking out a good deal of the sounds around him, his mind turning back to the preceding events.

After leaping from the Penumbra’s ramp, Wrathus had charged headlong into the mass of people scratching and clawing their way towards the ship. He had a job to do.

“Ragh!” The gargantuan Sith roared as he drove his boot into an inmate’s chest, sending the man staggering back before an arc of red light separated head from neck. Despite his roar, Wrathus was not invested in this fight. He was the Sith Warmonger, trained to fight and kill the enemies of the Dark Side. Not a mob of malnourished, ill trained, convicts armed with used equipment. As he fought, he found his attention being drawn inward.

His saber swept left and right, cutting a swath through the mass of bodies. The Epicanthix sighed. A year ago he would have reveled in this wanton death and chaos. Feeding off the fear and death that surrounded him, he would have easily fallen into the Force and made himself the eye of a storm. Now he dispassionately cleaved through man and woman alike. A painful byproduct of the growing void within him. He’d felt a void like this in the past, back when the Force was trying to rip him asunder from the inside out. Back then he could easily have filled that void with the flesh and life energy of these hapless inmates. But he’d tried that option, and no matter how many bodies he crushed, how many beings he consumed, how much death and chaos he sowed, nothing made a difference. He felt nothing.

‘I wish I knew what it was like, to care enough to carry on,’ he thought to himself as he threw another convict into the wall before impaling them with his saber. ‘But I am a machine.’ A part of him wished he could feel something.

There was a time when he felt many things, both good and bad. There were multiple times: as a child on Sarkhai, living in exile with the Azure Serpents, his romance with Salira, the subsequent relationship he’d had with their daughter Salinas, when he’d first joined the Brotherhood, serving on Khar Delba, meeting Kalin…! Kalin, his wife, his best friend, the last speck of light in his life. Snuffed out by a random mortar all those years ago. He’d searched for her for months, both physically and with the Force, but she was gone. They’d never found a body, but try as he might, he found no trace. Eventually, he gave up the search. He’d moved on. When he thought about it, that was the last time he’d ever been truly happy. A pure, untainted happy.

Sure, later he’d met his daughter and many other things had happened. But by then, his mind had been shattered. His emotions twisted. He found pleasure in places where others found pain. He found joy where others found suffering. Even after recovering his mind, he’d found himself spiraling into an internal abyss. He’d felt cold for so long, he’d even murdered his own daughter in the hope that her death might ignite the flame within him. But that, too, had done nothing.

He blinked a few times as his vision started to return to normal and his perception centered on the here and now. He’d returned to the present just as a new voice spoke.

“I’m frankly surprised that you’ve been surveying us so much. It’s rather invasive, don’t you think?”

“There are cameras everywhere.”

Erinyes arched an eyebrow. “And? Your point?”

“If you’re the ones sent to help us retake this place, then why have you lot arrived on a river of blood?” the Togruta asked with somewhat contained anger. “And why does that one have a severed arm in his hand?” She swung a none-too-polite gesture towards Wrathus.

Those assembled turned to look at the man, who, indeed, was still holding the bloody limb he had ripped from his victim. The Dreadbringer shrugged and spoke using his modulated voice. “What? I was still hungry.”

Ronovi was the only one not caught off-guard by the man’s voice. It was as if multiple people were speaking in unison, male and female, and they all possessed an edge to them that made the skin crawl. No one spoke for some time as the man sighed and retreated to a corner. Removing his helmet, he began to absentmindedly gnaw on the arm.

The dark siders were the first to recover from the gruesome display. Erin shook off the eerie chill that had begun to cling to her and cleared her throat.

“Uh-huh. Well to answer your question, Ms. Hawee. We had to take this course of action. Otherwise, that mob would have attempted to tear us limb from limb and stolen our ship. Is this how we wanted things to go? No.”

This earned a dissenting grunt from the gargantuan Sith still chewing flesh in the corner.

“Okay, most of us didn’t want to kill them.”

“I was fine with it, too,” opined Ronovi.

Erinyes threw up her hands in exasperation. “Okay, the slight majority of us didn’t want to kill them. But the inmates chose this path for us. So now we can either stand here bickering about what has happened, or we can discuss plans for how to retake this facility and make sure everyone is happy. Sound agreeable?”

A murmur passed over the group, though Ciara remained poker faced, before Rasha sighed. “Fine, let’s figure out a plan. And can you please stop that?!” she shouted at Wrathus.

The Sith made a sound of annoyance and tossed the half-eaten arm into a nearby medical waste bin before pulling his helm back on and sitting sullenly in the corner, slowly slipping back into his own thoughts.

Erinyes extracted her Inquisitorius datapad from a belt pouch and waved for the others to gather around a nearby table.

“Here’s the layout of the prison. We’re at the central maintenance facility. Block Dorn is where the Collective prisoners are being held. If we want to keep them from escaping, we’re going to have to make sure they stay contained.”

“How are they planning to leave Tenixir?” Tasha asked.

“There was nothing about that in the intel from Idris. I asked Sparky to look it over in case I missed anything, but–” Erinyes’ wrist comlink beeped, and her expression brightened as she read the message that glowed across the screen. “Aha. The Penumbra picked up energy readings from a flight of transports on the roof of Block Dorn. Gamma-class, it looks like.”

Ciara nodded thoughtfully. “Those are our targets, then. It’s about time someone put some effort into this battle instead of letting the Collective make us look like idiots. Five minutes with one of their scientists will fix that.” The disdain in the Sadowan Warlord’s voice was palpable.

“If we even bother,” Ronovi scoffed. “Erinyes’ ship could make short work of those transports.”

“Not really. Assault transports are designed to capture and board corvettes, and they can carry enough troops to overwhelm the crew. I’m not risking the Penumbra like that, especially when our job is technically to stop the prison riot, not prevent the Collective from escaping,” Erinyes said.

“Then we’ll have to blow the transports up before they lift off,” Tasha said. “What’s the easiest way to do that?”

“The main issue is getting into Block Dorn and up to the roof without being seen. There are walkways that run on top of the walls between the courtyards, but the roof of the building is higher than that, and there’s no cover. You know, like it was designed for security cameras to be able to keep an eye on what was happening.” Erinyes retrieved her flask of tsiraki from her belt and took a swig.

“My crew and I can deal with that,” Hawee offered, perched on a nearby exam bed. “We can slice the camera controls the same way as the comm system. Just get us to the computer core.”

“You aren’t going anywhere except back to your cells,” Erinyes said over her shoulder, replacing her flask.

Hawee’s eyes widened as she pushed herself to a standing position. “What do you mean, back to our cells? We helped you! We warned the Brotherhood that this attack was happening!”

Erinyes turned to stare at the Togrutan woman. “Yes, you did—you, people who make their living by taking what they want by any means necessary, sent out a distress call that would draw Brotherhood members to a prison where several dozen armed Collective personnel and thousands of hostile prisoners were waiting for us. How do we know you didn’t agree to lure us into a trap in exchange for your own freedom?” Erinyes raised her eyebrows at the Togrutan, then at Hawee’s crew, all of whom chose to remain silent. “Besides, you’re Severian prisoners, not Brotherhood ones. It’s not up to us whether you get a free pass.”

Hawee blinked rapidly, then visibly clenched her jaw. “That’s your answer?” she snarled. “‘It’s not our job?’”

“Yes, exactly,” retorted Erinyes. “Now that we’re all clear on that, I’d suggest you keep quiet before one of the Towering Twosome gets tired of your whining and makes you into Wrathus’ next snack.” The Adept turned back to the rest of the Sith. “Anyway, as I was saying, we’re going to need a distraction–”

The whisper of danger came in the same moment as the scratch of fingernails against duraplast. Hawee lifted her arm, laser scalpel in hand and indignant rage smeared across her face, lunged at Erinyes’ exposed back. The rest of the team reached for weapons or primed telekinetic gestures as the pirate lashed out at the seemingly bemused Adept, who simply lifted her arm. One of her lightsabers’ blades leapt from a hilt that the other Sith hadn’t seen Erinyes draw, and it lanced over her shoulder and directly between Hawee’s eyes. The laser scalpel clattered to the floor as the newly-minted corpse tumbled forward, and Erinyes stepped to one side, letting the pirate’s remains skitter to a stop in front of Wrathus.

"–to be able to get inside Block Dorn and up to the roof without being spotted. And what the kriff was she doing, stabbing me when she had four perfectly good blasters?” Erinyes sighed and turned to look at the remaining pirates, who had leapt up at the sound of the lightsaber igniting, forgetting all about their game, but were wise enough to stay at the range their own blasters allowed.

Ronovi narrowed her eyes at the Adept, then drew her DH-17 and shot the corpse in the head. The remaining pirates shifted their aim to the Dread Lord, who responded in kind. “Try it. I’ll enjoy making you suffer.”

“Frack off!” The pirate still smoking his pipe was the first to pull the trigger. Ciara, Erinyes, and Tasha backed away from the line of fire as a fusillade of orange bolts sailed through the air, only to spatter harmlessly against a rippling energy field. The blaster fire stopped as quickly as it had begun, as the pirates stared in disbelief at the sight of someone who was simply immune to their weapons.

Behind her barrier, Ronovi smirked at the dumbfounded assailants. “Suckers.” The energy field vanished, and three quick shots later, the pirates had followed their former leader into the great beyond.

The Dread Lord holstered her weapon with a satisfied hmph. “We could turn the prisoners against the Collective,” she suggested. “Tell them there’s only limited room on the transports, and that the first ones there get a ride off-planet. The ones who survive will make useful slaves to take back to Aliso.”

“And I’m sure I’m not the only one who would enjoy poking around in a researcher’s head,” Ciara said, brushing a lock of hair away from her face.

“Any other requests while we’re here? Tasha? Wrath– never mind.” Erinyes shook her head at the Battlemaster, who had already hefted Hawee’s corpse onto a nearby exam table and drawn his butchering hatchet. “What about you, Tasha?”

The Twi’lek’s upper lip curled in contempt. “I like just getting revenge on the Collective. Slavery’s too good for them, but I guess I’ll have to live with that.”

Erinyes shrugged. “Look on the bright side: so will they, and it’s not like every slave can be a burly male Chiss in Vasano’s bedroom.” From the corner of her eye, the Adept saw Ronovi shudder at the thought, and offered her a wicked grin. “What’s the matter, Dread Pirate Ronnie? Not a fan of Vasano?”

Or burly males.” Ronovi grimaced, before she shook her head and rolled her eyes when Erinyes pointed at her fellow Plagueian. “By Epicanthix standards, he’s tiny. He doesn’t eat enough.”

“This one’s fresher than the one she whined about,” Wrathus growled, helmet tucked under his arm, as he tore a chunk of flesh from one of the Togrutan’s severed arms with his teeth.

The three non-Plagueians wrinkled their noses as a smothering, coppery aroma wafted from Wrathus’ meal. “Can’t you just eat sushi like a normal person?” Tasha asked.

“I am,” Wrathus replied. “It’s Togruta sashimi.”

As Tasha made a face, Ciara sighed, and Erinyes reached for her flask of tsiraki again, it was Ronovi’s turn to grin.

“Since we’re all looking to take souvenirs home, Wrathus and I will go with Ciara to take over the prison’s control centre and make the announcement,” she decided.

“Then I’ll go with Tasha to plant the bombs on the transports.” Ciara and Tasha nodded their assent, and a hiss sounded through the med bay as Wrathus replaced his helmet. Erinyes tapped her datapad’s controls to bring up a map of the facility. A moment later the same image showed up on her comlink’s display. “Let’s move.”

Prison Control Center
Central Management Facility
Tenixir Supermax Prison

Tenixir’s Control Center granted its operators a hover drone’s-eye view of the courtyards that connected the prison’s four cell blocks from its shielded, transparisteel perch at the peak of the Central Management Facility. From that vantage point, all was proceeding according to plan. Having missed their opportunity to escape aboard the Force-users’ ship, the prisoners had returned to infighting amongst the gangs and hunting the Sith who had mauled their fellows. The diversion had drawn attention away from the Collective’s efforts in Dorn and, with luck, most remained oblivious to the rooftop-arrival of the transports.

Unfortunately, the management facility’s cameras, klaxons – thankfully muted from within the center – and soft blue glow told another story entirely.

“They’re getting closer, sir,” muttered the deep but tight voice of the Collective soldier who stood before the central control panel, meaty fingers fumbling across its surface in an effort to cycle through the cameras that were tracking the progress of the now split group of Sith. A lowered tone followed. “The group with the hatchet-wielder.”

“Closer to where?” demanded the more confident voice of his superior.

“To us!”

Ogin observed the expression on his subordinate’s face with disbelief. How a man with the bulk and brawn of a Dashade could be so fearful of these Force users was beyond him. It was clearly the reason he’d volunteered for this assignment, however – safely tucked away behind a control panel. Nevermind that he seemed no more familiar with that than he was with war.

“Contain yourself, Vesk. We did not arrive unprepared for this potentiality.” Ogin had to physically place a hand on the Dashade’s to keep him from moving past the frame. “Look, now. Our hunters have them.”

Their hunters were trained to face down Force users, and today they were supported by a small number of the Collective’s cybernetically enhanced warriors – prototypes of Varryn Antillus’ machine learning experiments out for a test run. Most were engaged with cell block Dorn, but one had apparently been enough to trap the trio in a corridor looking down the barrels of their soldiers’ CR-1 blaster cannons.

“Let’s see their magic shields protect them from those scatterblasters.”

That request was denied by a suddenly blank, black screen.

“What!” Ogin’s poise audibly cracked. “What have you pressed now?”

“I didn’t, I swear!” Vesk cursed as his heavy finger thumping against the screen did little more than smudge the void with grease. “I think –”

“Don’t. You’ll waste our time. See if the other cameras are operational.”

A grunt of acknowledgement.

“Then just find the others. Our hunters will make quick work of those three.”

Silence. Fumbling. Tapping. A soft click and the illumination of a green light.

… A green light? “Kriff, Vesk! You’ve opened the comms!” Ogin pressed his fingers against his forehead as he watched the Dashade scramble to turn it off. “Perhaps you would find it easier to maneuver if you would move that awful corpse out of the way and sit down.”

Vesk shifted almost delicately to the side to look back at the limp body of the Severian guard who once held the post. “Thought it would be disrespectful, is all.”

“For Rath’s sake!” Ogin lifted a heavy boot to shove the corpse to the floor. “Sit.”

The Dashade, of course, looked no more comfortable in a seat designed for leaner frames than he had standing cramped before it. Though he did find it somewhat easier to navigate the panels. This time, he managed to find something on the cameras before Ogin could “encourage” him again. “There! The Twi’lek!”

A muffled explosion congratulated the discovery before the control center’s heavy door fell forward to reveal its likely source – an irate Rodian.

“Ogin! This wasn’t the deal!”

“Ah, Bruskars,” Ogin coughed into his closed fist. He hadn’t anticipated working with incompetents like these would be part of his deal, either, but such is life. “Marvelous thinking, taking out those walls between the cell blocks, by the way.”

“Yeah, well, it looks like I should’ve taken out Dorn’s, too, eh?”

“You know that wasn’t our arrangement.”

“Exactly.” Dwipps Bruskars laughed as he lifted his Collective-supplied blaster to the man’s face. “You think we’re idiots and don’t see the transports there and nowhere else?!”

“I think you need to calm down,” Ogin cautioned as his eyes wandered to the regrettably seated Dashade. “There’s a perfectly sound explanation.”

Vesk didn’t make it to his feet before a hatchet found his skull, his body slumping forward onto the control panel. The Rodian jumped to the side, but found a woman’s arm snaking around his shoulders, encouraging his blaster to stay trained on Ogin.

“Then I rather think you owe this man that … perfectly sound explanation, don’t you?”

Ciara smiled as she watched Ogin’s eyes widen, saucers reflecting the images of the two Epicanthix ducking into the cramped room – one only long enough to retrieve his hatchet before turning to guard the entry.

Ogin struggled to find a composed tone even as he fought to focus his own thoughts, which felt more clouded by the moment. “Not that I owe any of you anything, but we intend –”

“The truth.” The woman’s words slipped almost unheard from her lips yet resounded in his mind with a weight that demanded obedience. A bead of sweat appeared at his brow, and the vein at his throat pulsed with visibly rising anger.

“You want the truth?!” It was all Ogin could do to tear his eyes from the dark emeralds that compelled it to instead deliver his message directly to the traitorous Rodian. “The truth is that we have the transports we need to get what we came for – and no more. Surely you never imagined we came here for a troupe of criminals and pirates!”

And so it was that Ogin joined the body of the deposed Severian guard on the floor of the control center, a small scorched hole between his eyes the only indication of his unceremonious end. Bruskars, having heard all the truth he needed, shrugged warily away from the strange witch at his side and rushed to the control panel. “I have to warn my crew.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” Ciara cast a smirk in Ronovi’s direction. “I believe our friend here has made that announcement for us.”

“I won’t stand for more lies. Don’t think I trust you lot any more than the others!”

Stepping atop a corpse to bridge the gap to the control panel, Ciara traced her finger carefully, intentionally, through the pool of blood that had collected at the Dashade’s hatcheted head. When she drew it away and lifted it to her lips, the stained but decidedly green light of the comms system confirmed the matter. Vesk had given them one last gift.

Ronovi stepped aside from the door, inclining her head toward the Rodian. “It sounds like you’d better make sure your crew makes it to those transports before … ”

Bruskars didn’t need her to finish. He was already storming out the door when he met the second Epicanthix.

“Let him go, Wrathus.” Ronovi grinned at the expression she knew must be behind that mask. “He should be given the same chance to prove himself.”

A chilling laugh gave no comfort to Bruskars as he passed the juggernaut.

“Then let the games begin.”

Tasha’Vel and Erinyes crept along the walkway between the Central Maintenance Facility and Block Dorn. They were nearing the access point to the roof and the transports just as the comm system kicked on.

“The truth is that we have the transports we need to get what we came for – and no more. Surely you never imagined we came here for a troupe of criminals and pirates!”

“Well, that is certainly going to attract a lot of attention here, and quickly,” Tasha’Vel remarked. “ I think we need to move a bit faster now.”

The Marauder began to sprint down the walkway with Erinyes keeping in pace. Just as they got halfway past towards the roof access, two human Collective snipers were already en route to their location and had gotten onto the walkway from Block Dorn. They were now in front of them blocking the way and preparing to fire.

Tasha’Vel let the hate flow through her veins to give her strength. She had a mission and no one would stand in her way. Sprinting faster than she had before, the Twi’lek ignited her lightsaber and charged towards the two snipers, yelling at the top of her lungs.

GET OUT OF MY WAY!”

The Collective aimed their sniper rifles towards the oncoming Twi’lek, but she was fast. Before they pressed the trigger, she was already on top of them, reaching out with her left hand, she forcibly blasted them out of the way with her telekinetic force and kept on running past.

“Frak! Get her!” yelled one of the Humans as they rose up and began to chase after the charging Twi’lek.

“I hope you have some kind of backup plan for these guys, Erinyes!” called Tasha over her shoulder. “‘Cause they are hot on my tail now!”

Prison Control Center
Central Management Facility
Tenixir Supermax Prison

The charred bodies remaining on the floor were already beginning to smell - not just of blackened flesh, but also of still drying sweat and rusty blood, due to the deft blow from Wrathus’s hatchet. The man himself had navigated to a nearby wall and was leaning against it, arms folded, the vapor from his visor thin and wispy rather than emerging in its usual, hissing puffs.

Ronovi watched the Dreadbringer carefully, ignoring Ciara as the Sadowan hunched over the control panel, checking the holocams to see how much more rabid the prisoners had become after Ogin’s unintentional proclamation. Wrathus had not stooped down to snag more flesh from his victim - had not done his usual subdued gloating over the carcasses he had yielded up to whichever gods he believed in. Instead, he was remarkably quiet, reserved. While he did have these episodes of somberness from time to time, to go through one now, in the midst of a mission, was unheard of to the Dread Lord.

In truth, despite all their interactions, Ronovi was not quite sure what went on in the man’s deranged mind on a daily basis.

She knew he was like her, in many ways. Both had seen their families and loved ones die, some killed by their own hands. Both had immersed themselves fully, like submerging themselves into basin of freezing cold water, into ancient lore and philosophy, so both harbored amber-tinted eyes due to dark side corruption (No, she reminded herself - not corruption. Enlightenment. That was the word). Both deeply enjoyed inflicting pain, and both were rather original about how they inflicted said pain. Wrathus, of course, was more avant-garde with his murders - Ronovi distinctly remembered a story from the latest war, in which he had separated a man by his flesh, organs, and bones, as if he were running a disturbing, yet artistic, morgue.

Yet Ronovi, for all intents and purposes, had been able to navigate the inevitable trauma of her actions and channel them into herself in order to make herself more powerful. And while she had assumed that Wrathus had done the same, she could not help but sense tension in his body, the way he closed himself off in the tiny space of the control center. Due to being an Epicanthix, she could not telepathically communicate with her Berserker - and neither could he for the same reason - but perception, even from a non-Force standpoint, told her more than she had bargained for.

She was torn away from her ruminations by Ciara’s clearing of her throat, as the other woman straightened herself up from the control panel. “Seems to be working, all right. The prisoners are going wild.”

Ronovi nodded with an arched eyebrow in reply. Ironic that, in an effort to subdue a prisoner riot, they had now turned to exacerbating it.

“Tasha’Vel and Erinyes ought to be closing in on the transports now,” continued Ciara, looking up at the Plagueis Consul’s battered and scarred face. “You better back them up.”

“What about you?” asked Ronovi.

“I’ll hold the fort here,” replied Ciara. “Just so the Collective doesn’t retake control of communications. I’ll see if I can trigger whatever safeguards they may have built in to keep everyone else out.”

“We’ll also need to carve out a landing zone for the Penumbra,” Ronovi added. “Wrathus and I can manage that.”

Wrathus said nothing, though a low, warped grunt could be heard from his helmet. So at least he was paying attention.

Looking around the control panel again, Ciara let her fingers dance above the various keys and dials as she sorted out the logistics. While she wasn’t a slicer, she had repaired and rebuilt her fair share of computers, droids, and other gadgets. Therefore, she knew some of the ins and outs of security systems, at least from an interface level. She clicked her tongue and let her fingers do the talking, clicking one button and turning another knob.

The lights changed color over the trio’s heads - that familiar, cool blue. Ciara nodded and smiled.

“Looks like I got something started,” she declared. “You two get out of here before you’re sealed in with me.”

“Roger roger,” Ronovi teasingly chirped like a B1 battle droid, and pivoting on her heel, she took off down the hallway, Wrathus following close behind as heavy metal doors began to descend upon the control center’s exits.

Block Dorn
Stairwell to Roof Access

It was so bright outside. She was not used to how bright it was. Stars, suns, moons. She was unaccustomed to light. Unaccustomed to a lack of shadows. All of that lit up the once dark stairwell that led into the heavens.

7347 squinted as she ascended among the swarms toward the rooftop of Block Dorn. Staircases were mobbed, turbolifts unable to move up or down. The stampede had begun, and she had to ensure that she avoided getting literally stepped on.

Perhaps it would make more sense to return to her cell. However, in the sheer insanity of it all, 7347 was being drawn outside - drawn to the cold air and the roar of the riot and the smell of fuel and blood and rancor and desperation. She could even taste these things already, her tongue fluttering behind her teeth, and she had to resist sticking it out as if it were forked like a snake’s, ready to savor everything about the tiny world she still felt rather minuscule within.

And now there was no way back. Too many prisoners were approaching. And too many of them were starving for escape.

7347 resigned herself to walking forward. And she did, right into the throng of chaos, right into the midst of madness, right into the vortex that would ultimately seal her fate.

Central Maintenance Facility
Catwalk to Block Dorn

“I hope you have some kind of backup plan for these guys, Erinyes!” called Tasha over her shoulder. “‘Cause they are hot on my tail now!”

“Well, it’s more like an idea than a plan.” Erinyes didn’t have time to explain further before another group of Collective soldiers appeared on the edge of the rooftop, metres above the walkway where she and Tasha were running. The wide-angle spread of blazing bolts that rained down on the two Sith told Erinyes that these were no snipers. From dozens of metres away, the shots were barely worth mentioning; Tasha’s swipes to deflect the blaster bolts back at their attackers were borne more from the opportunity to strike back than any danger to herself, and Erinyes hadn’t bothered igniting her lightsaber yet.

The closer the two women got to the rooftop, though, the more dangerous the scatterblasters would become. Erinyes glanced back at the mess of tangled limbs that Tasha had left when she sent the Collective snipers sprawling. With a gesture, the Zeltron hoisted the unfortunate soul into the air, then turned back to the Twi’lek, who had gotten a few steps ahead while Erinyes was distracted. “On your left!”

By reflex, Tasha leaned to the right as she swatted another blaster bolt aside—then heard an anguished wail as the Collective sniper soared past her, propelled by the Force. Before she had a chance to straighten up, another form sailed past her: Erinyes, soaring through the air in the sniper’s wake, using him as a human shield while she drew the Collective gunners’ attention away from Tasha.

Several Collective troopers ducked back from the edge of the roof to avoid being hit by their flying comrade. The rest turned to face the crackle of the lightning-wreathed violet blades that sprang from Erinyes’ lightsabers. The quickest ones on their triggers opened up with another volley, only to realise too late that while their blaster cannons’ spread made it easier to hit annoying glowbat-wielders, it made it easier to hit their fellow soldiers, too. The air filled with the scent of ozone and burning flesh, and the fusillade of blaster fire halted for a split-second while the Jedi hunters scrambled to revise their strategy.

That split-second pause was all Erinyes needed—or rather, all Tasha needed, having launched herself into the air a step after Erinyes flew past her. With all eyes on the Adept, Tasha had a precious moment to hit the ground running. By the time the goons could turn to follow her movements, the Battlelord’s Force-enhanced strides had carried her halfway to the closest Collective transport.

They wouldn’t live to regret their mistake. To Erinyes’ eyes, immersed as she was in her Elder Marauder’s battle-trance, the flicker-quick glances in Tasha’s direction moved almost comically slowly. The nearest cyborg couldn’t even raise her weapon in an ineffective parry before one of Erinyes’ lightsabers separated her head from her shoulders. The one behind her—or beside her, as Erinyes circled around the group—had his blaster at the ready, but didn’t manage to pull the trigger before the second blade speared through his chest.

As the third, fourth, and fifth of their number fell, the rest of the Collective goons backpedalled, filling the air with sprays of blaster fire in an attempt to keep Erinyes at bay. The Elder Marauder reached out with her feelings as she took to the air, tracking the flight of every blazing bolt before swatting aside the few that came close enough to pose a threat. She sensed every movement of the Jedi hunters below her as they shifted into an L-shaped formation, and realised that they were trying to force her into a kill box—a tactic that, with the sheer volume of fire those scatterblasters could put out, would’ve overwhelmed even most Jedi Masters’ defences.

All the more reason for her to stay on the attack.

With a touch of the Force, Erinyes redirected her path mid-flight, and dropped to the ground beside a Jedi hunter at one end of the “L”. The cyborgs’ formation instantly began to change in response to Erinyes’ assault, but the Elder Marauder chased them like a massiff chasing its own tail, darting from one side of the line to the other and back again to force them to shift their position and point of aim as she hewed through their lines. A dozen lightning-quick cuts later, less than half of the Jedi hunter contingent was still standing, though the exertion had left Erinyes panting.

Despite the frenzied pitch of battle, Erinyes found herself sighing with boredom as she plowed through the last few Collective troopers in the vicinity. If these “Jedi hunters” were the best that Rath Oligard had to offer, she had serious questions about how the Brotherhood had become so weak as to consider them a real threat—not to mention how it meant that this whole operation was a massive waste of her time, drudge work she could’ve let someone else handle instead of a genuinely interesting battle. The irritation just became fuel for the violet maelstrom created by Erinyes’ lightsabers. She set upon the last cyborg faster than even his enhanced eyes could track, and a long heartbeat later, the former Collective trooper collapsed to the rooftop in half a dozen pieces.

With the final enemy fallen, Erinyes shook her head and raised her comlink to speak. “Tasha, how’re we doing on those bombs–”

The question was rudely interrupted by an ear-splitting boom. Erinyes ducked instinctively as pieces of starship hull went flying overhead.

“First transport down,” Tasha answered via commlink, rather unnecessarily. “I’m on board the second one and planting the charges now.”

“Roger that.” Erinyes frowned as her Marauder’s senses informed her of new enemies emerging from one of Block Dorn’s stairwells. “Pick up the pace, they’ve got reinforcements.”

In hindsight, Erinyes realised she might have been better off accompanying Ciara to the control centre and sending the Plagueians with Tasha; her fighting style was more suited to taking terrain than holding it. Even the single wave of enemies she’d demolished had left sweat dripping off her face.

There wasn’t enough time to wait for Tasha’s response before the half-dozen new arrivals charged across the rooftop towards Erinyes. They were the same eerily uniform Collective cyborgs as the so-called Jedi hunters she’d just fought, but bizarrely, these ones seemed completely unarmed—no, they were wearing extra-long shockboxing gloves, Erinyes noted as she saw sparks crackling around their meaty hands and forearms. With a resigned sigh, Erinyes lifted one lightsaber into a guard position. Her Force-amplified senses made dodging the first swing trivial, and she snapped her wrist to aim a whip-like strike at the cyborg’s forearm, aiming to take the electrified limb off just below the elbow.

As the lightsaber came into contact with its target, two very strange things happened. First, the glowing violet beam stopped dead, and Erinyes felt the blade tremble as it scraped against a magnetic field—a feeling she would’ve expected from a stormtrooper’s riot baton, not a pair of shockboxing gloves. She had just enough time to absorb that tidbit of information before the cyborg grabbed the blade of her lightsaber, yanked her forward, and socked her across the jaw with enough force to send her sprawling across the rooftop.

A single thought filled Erinyes’ head as she tripped and tumbled across the permacrete: He grabbed my lightsaber. He grabbed my lightsaber. How the kriff did he grab my lightsaber?!

The Elder Marauder pushed herself to her feet, covered in scrapes and bruises and utterly confused, partly by the turn of events and partly from the cringe-inducing blow to the head she’d just received. When she turned to look at her enemies, she was met by the sight of the cyborg who’d punched her tossing her lightsaber out over the courtyard with a kark-eating grin on his face. “Oligard sends his Oli-gards.”

Somehow, the quip was even more painful than the concussion.

Even a concussion wasn’t enough to stop Erinyes from reaching out with the Force and catching her lost lightsaber before it sailed out of her sight, but it did make her significantly slower on her feet. The moment it took her to snatch her lightsaber out of midair was long enough for a second gauntleted cyborg to land a punch to her gut, which sent Erinyes staggering backward but gave her the satisfaction of seeing her attacker get a faceful of half-digested sushi.

Grunting in pain, Erinyes flicked a switch on her off-hand lightsaber, and the violet blade sputtered out as she reached up to wipe her mouth. This isn’t what I meant by a more interesting fight, she thought. Sure, one or two of these “Jedi punchers” would’ve been a fun match-up, or maybe a third once she’d gotten a feel for their fighting style, but getting swarmed and mercilessly beaten was definitely not Erinyes’ idea of a good time—and as if to remind her of the other reason she shouldn’t want to lose, another deafening boom rang across the rooftop as the second Collective transport was blown into shrapnel.

Right. The mission.

The good news was that between the dragging boredom and the sudden pain, Erinyes had gone from irritated to genuinely angry—furious, even—and that meant it was time for the Collective to learn how she’d gotten her nickname. Launching herself backward in a Force-amplified leap, Erinyes reached out and gestured with the first two fingers on her left hand. The Jedi punchers, charging forward like a pack of rabid vornskrs, didn’t have the good sense to pay attention as a speeder-sized piece of starship wreckage slammed into them from one side and knocked the entire group off their feet.

Growling in pain and concentration, Erinyes lifted her arm up, sending the wreckage several metres into the air. Then, the Sith Elder snapped her arm downward again, the duranium starship hull smashed into the rooftop like an enormous sledgehammer, crushing the six Jedi punchers beneath its weight. The cyborgs cried out in agony as their bodies were broken, and with a dark grin, Erinyes brought the wreckage down on them a second time. The third time silenced the remaining gurgles of pain, but shock of the impact was enough to break Erinyes’ grip on the debris as the splitting headache finally pushed through her rage. She pressed the back of her hand against her forehead as the wreckage rolled off its pile of corpses and tumbled over the edge of the rooftop, into the courtyard below.

It took all of Erinyes’ concentration to direct the Force through her body and repair the damage the Collective cyborgs had inflicted. For all her practice, it still took several long minutes before the splitting headache and blurriness in her vision began to subside, and she was only dimly aware of a woman’s voice floating into her consciousness.

“Let’s sweeten the pot, prisoners. Anyone who can prove they’re a Collective scientist gets a free one-way trip to Sepros instead of being left on this rock to rot. You’d better be quick about letting us know, though. The battle in the courtyard is getting pretty heated, and there are only two transports left.”

Boom.

“Make that one transport left.”

That must’ve been Ciara, Erinyes realised belatedly. If the Sadowan Warlord had time to offer commentary on the mayhem in the Block Dorn courtyard, Erinyes could only assume that the situation in the control centre was well in hand—which was a relief, because the Elder Marauder was still winded, and she felt the ache of a bruise forming where she’d been sucker-punched.

Ciara’s exhortation whipped the crowd of prisoners into an audible frenzy, a tidal wave of sound that rose up from the courtyard and crashed over the cell block’s parapets. Erinyes lifted her comlink again, intending to nag Tasha about getting the last transport out of the way so they could get off this miserable planet. As she keyed the device, though, Erinyes sensed a new problem—one that overrode her intended message as she turned to see a deluge of bodies emerging from the stairwell.

“All of you, get up here! The prisoners are storming the roof!”

As Wrathus and Ronovi jogged towards the stairs that would lead them up to the roof of the control center, something in his mind began to stir. Unlike the earlier fighting, the flame deep within him began to come alive. Something about the impending battle was different; he couldn’t place it, but there was something nagging at the back of his mind.

Double-checking his equipment as he mounted the stairs with his superior, he was suddenly struck with something: A force vision, like the one he had had on Dromund Kaas before coming to Plagueis. In that vision, he’d seen a galaxy in flames, and all lain bare before a new empire. This time, however, he saw the past. As he climbed the stairs of the here and now, he watched as a younger version of himself climbed a different set of stairs out onto the frozen surface of Khar Delba.

Remembering that place caused his step to falter, and he dropped to one knee. Ronovi turned at the sound.

“You all right, big guy?” the Dread Lord intoned.

The big man stared down at the stairs for what felt like a lifetime. To him, he was reliving the moments just before his first encounter with his late wife. It had only been about seven years since then, but to Wrathus, it might as well have been a different lifetime. As his perception centered on the face of Kalin, his rose, he felt that flame roar to life. He felt a fury and a passion that he hadn’t in many years. Why now, of all times, this was happening was a mystery. But he wasn’t about to let an opportunity like this slip away.

Channeling the Force through the lense of this newfound passion, he drew back a fist and slammed it down into the steps, reducing a particular patch of duracrete into dust. He stood up and, for the first time in a while, his voice caught Ronovi off guard.

“All good, Tavisaen.”

He had disengaged his modulator. He was speaking with his natural voice, only modified by the respirator in his helmet. The edge on his voice was what unsettled her. She was used to the multiple voices, the strange cadence, the almost oily quality. But to hear his voice cold and clear, sharpened to a razor’s edge…this was something new.

“Good,” she uttered with a light chuckle. “Can’t have you falling apart, now, can we?”

The pair ascended the rest of the way in silence. Opening the rooftop door, they stepped out into the harsh light of an overcast sky at midday. The sun’s rays filtered through dull grey clouds, giving everything a shadowless appearance. Ronovi could smell the coming storm; hopefully, it would hold off until they were long gone. This fight would be enough of a chore without having to do combat in the rain.

Looking around, the two spotted the growing crowd on the roof of Block Dorn. They were in a collaborative panic, a single blob of panic and desperation as they attempted to board the last transport. None of them would make it aboard. The team, and especially Wrathus, would make sure of that. The gap between the two roofs was more than wide enough to discourage any normal person from attempting to make that leap. But it only took one look at the man for Ronovi to discern what the big guy had planned.

Wrathus moved to face the gap between the rooftops. As he did, someone on the other roof spotted the two Sith, and a cry went out. Wrathus slowly reached up under his cape and withdrew two metal spheres, one in each hand. They were a little smaller than a fist and made of shiny chrome.

He began walking towards the gap. First with long deliberate steps, then a light jog. As he broke into a sprint, he used his thumbs to slide back a small activation switch on the two spheres. They began beeping as he neared the edge of the roof. The beeping increased as he planted his foot on the edge and threw the two balls across the gap. Channeling the Force into his legs, he leapt after them.


7347 stepped out of the door onto Block Dorn’s roof just as two balls of flame blossomed into life a few meters from her and consumed a dozen prisoners. The blast threw everyone to the ground and left a ringing in their ears. She looked up just in time to see a giant black clad figure land on the rooftop.

Who…who…?


Ronovi watched Wrathus bridge the gap and descend into a throng of prisoners, punctuating his landing with an explosion of Force energy that cast the prisoners away with dry leaves. He rose to his feet, and everything was still for a moment, as the monolithic warrior stood silently amongst the masses. Many were just regaining their footing as three of their compatriots roared and charged the Sith.

Wrathus drew on the Force and augmented his speed. The hilt of his lightsaber filled his hand, and its two deep red blades split the air. He crosscut the prisoner before him, leaving a black crevasse in his chest, continuing the swing through the one to his left. With his left hand, he used a blast of power to drive the third off the roof, sending his screaming body to the ground below.

This was enough to shake the rest out of the stupor of the thermal detonator’s blast, and they hurled themselves at the Sith, their collective roar the sound of a hungry, rage-filled beast. Wrathus responded in kind and howled at the mass of prisoners. Discarding the remaining restraints on his rage, he charged into the sea of bodies with a two-handed grip on his lightsaber. Emotion fed his power, and its swell fairly lifted him from his feet. He felt the power of the dark side around him, within him.

Blaster bolts traced lines across the roof as Ronovi drew her blaster and fired into the crowd of people. She spied an opening in the mass of sentients, and with an annoyed sigh, holstered her pistol. Then she ran and hopped across the gap, and once she was halfway across, her saber’s hilt leapt into her open hand. Two cerulean blue lines sprang to life as she landed.

Wrathus, nested deeply in the Force, perceived the attacks of two particularly large prisoners with perfect clarity. Without stopping, he whipped his blade left, wrenched it right, swung low, and eviscerated both men with ease. Behind him, Ronovi’s twin blades spun both high and low, cutting down several more prisoners.


7347 watched as the two attackers sever and rend body after body. She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew all the same that she stood zero chance against warriors like them and sought a way out. Spotting the final transport that had landed across the rooftop, she lowered her head and shoulder and began pushing her way towards it.

The last ship. Her last chance to escape. To be free.

But in the mass of people, she quickly found herself following the path of least resistance. Whether that was where she wanted to go or not, she wasn’t entirely sure.


Picking a prisoner at random, Wrathus augmented his strength with the Force, and he unleashed an overhand slash to split the man in two. Another prisoner sprung at him as he was still crouching, and landed on his back. Reaching over his shoulder with his left hand, Wrathus grabbed the back of the man’s shirt and roughly heaved him over onto the ground, driving the secondary blade of his saber into the man’s chest before he could react. He stepped forward and got his vision up in time to see a female rushing him, and he slammed a kick into the prisoner’s mid-section. The blow folded the girl in half and sent her reeling backwards five paces. Wrathus leapt into the air, flipped, landed behind her, and drove his blade through the prisoner. Roaring with battle lust, the Dreadbringer sought another opponent.

A flash of fiery red hair caught his gaze, but then it was lost in the crowd as a Zabrak swung a metal pipe at his head. Wrathus drew on the Force and with a blast of power drove the prisoner back into the arms of the swirling mass of bodies.

The battle turned ever more chaotic. Ronovi and Wrathus bounded, rolled, and flipped as red and blue lines slashed and spun. Blasts of power sent bodies flying through the air, over the edge, pulled loose rocks from the roof and sent them crashing into flesh. The rooftop was a cacophony of sound: shouts, screams, the hum of lightsabers, the intermittent sound of weapon fire. Wrathus walked in its midst, reveled in it.

He watched Ronovi corkscrew through the air, holding her weapon perpendicular to her body as she spun like a mad top and decapitated a dozen prisoners.

Wrathus, not to be outdone, picked a pair of prisoners at random. He spotted two human females ten meters away, held forth his left hand, and discharged veins of blue lightning from his fingertips. The jagged lines of energy cut a swath through the battle, harvesting two prisoners as they went, until they caught up to the two humans and lifted them from their feet.

The pair screamed as the lightning ripped into them, their flesh made temporarily translucent from the dark power coursing through them. Wrathus savored their pain as they died.

He caught Ronovi eyeing him and gave her a salute with his lightsaber.

Another flash of wild red hair snatched his attention.


7347 looked up and groaned. She hadn’t made much forward progress, but had instead moved about 10 meters to the right. Putting her head down, she shoved a blue-skinned Nautolan to the side and pressed forward. She was unaware of the angry eyes that followed her through the crowd.


Before Wrathus could follow the redhead, he felt his arm gripped by two individuals, both of whom attempted to wrench his weapon from him. He grunted and bodily threw them to the ground and savagely beheaded them with a single swipe of his weapon. He took a moment to watch the Dread Lord work as she spun her saberstaff left and right in a swirling figure-eight pattern and skillfully diced a handful of prisoners. Before spinning on her heel and uncorking a stream of lightning. Unlike Wrathus’s use of it earlier, Ronovi’s ignored the periphery and cut a bright blue line through the crowd, frying only its intended target.

Wrathus knew the battle had turned, that it soon would be over. He glanced around, still seeking the redhead, something about her drew him in.

Before he could locate her, three more prisoners swarmed him. He parried the bludgeon of a human male, leapt over the low kick of and orange-skinned Togruta female, severed the hand of the third, a female human, disarming her, then grabbed her by the throat with his free hand and slammed ther into the ground with his Force-enhanced strength.

“Kimbra!” shouted the human male.

Sidestepping the male’s crude overhand swing, Wrathus grabbed him by the collar and drove the front of his helm into the man’s face. Smashing his nose back into his head and sending little bits of skull up into his brain. Wrathus dropped the limp body as he felt the Togruta land a solid kick to his right arm. He spun around faster than she expected and caught her unprepared for a Force blast that sent her skidding across the roof and over the edge.


7347 felt a pair of rough hands grab her by the shoulders and spin her around. She stared up into the specked blue-green eyes of a Rodian who spoke rapidly in its native tongue before bodily pushing her towards the fighting. She tried to fight against the tide but the flow of bodies had her and she found her wading towards the sounds of chaos. She closed her eyes as she was thrust out of the crowd.


Wrathus ducked under a swing from a male, lunged forward, and took the man by the throat. He lifted him from his feet and held him suspended in the air, gagging. The man’s brown eyes showed fear, but mostly pain. Wrathus roared, squeezed hard, then dropped the body and stood over it, blade at his side, breath coming hard, thick puffs of vapor discharging from his helmet. The battle still swirled around him and stood in its center, the eye of the Sith storm.

Wrathus looked around for the redhead, Ronovi, or something to kill, when he felt another body push into his left side. Shoving the person away with his elbow, he lashed out with his hand and caught the person across the face with the back of his armored hand and spun to face his new opponent. Reversing his lightsaber during the spin, he rode it into a stab that pierced the person’s abdomen and came out the other side.

Wrathus looked down and found himself staring into a mop of fiery red hair. He moved to step back and withdraw his weapon, but halted mid-step, his rage temporarily abated. He continued to stare down as the head lifted to meet his eyes and he locked gazes with a pair of bright green eyes. Her hands grabbed his elbow to steady herself as he deactivated his lightsaber. Her knees gave out and she began to fall backwards with her eyes closed. Wrathus caught her on instinct and began to slowly lower her to the ground. The world around them simply fell away as he dropped his hilt to reach up and remove his helmet. He held it limply in his hand as he studied her face, its shape, the line of her jaw, the deep-set eyes with the faintest of lines in the corners, the freckles that adorned her cheeks. He remembered the first time he had seen her, a smiling, proud soldier, barely out of her teens. He’d served alongside her on Khar Delba, spent every waking hour with her, known her better than he’d known himself. She had been his companion, his rose, his wife, his light, and his pain ever since he lost her.

Her eyes fluttered open, focused. She blinked confused, but soon everything fell back into place. All the memories that she had lost, those threads that she never seemed able to grab hold of, all of it came sharply into focus. “Solas, is that you?”

Her word cut him like a knife. His helmet fell from his hand to the rooftop. He swallowed hard and croaked out.

“Yes.”

“What is happe - ” The words were drowned out as she choked on a mouthful of blood. She spat it out on the ground and looked up at him before putting a hand on his cheek. “I’ve always loved you.”

He leaned his head into her hand, closed his eyes, and sighed contentedly. “And I you.”

She smiled wearily. And he could feel tears forming in his eyes, his humanity made manifest. He opened his eyes to see her staring at him, not in pain, but concern. She gently stroked his beard as her eyes widened. Her mouth opened, she seemed as if she wanted to say something, but no sound emerged from her mouth.

And then it was over and she was gone.

He pulled her to his chest as his emotions took over.

He cried. He sobbed. He wailed. Tears raced down his cheeks as he rocked his wife back and forth, sixty-two years of pain and torment finally coming down on him. After an eternity, the world around him slowly came back into being and his body became his again. Taking to his feet with his lightsaber in one hand, hatchet in the other, he stood over her body until the tears dried.

He resolved that he’d never shed another. He had destroyed what he loved. And he knew he would do it again if that time came. But first…

Anger refilled him, overcame him. A shout of hate, raw and jagged, burst from his throat. Power went with it, shattering nearby ears and throwing bodies to the ground.

He turned his gaze to the prisoners and stalked towards them, his rage and power surging before him in a palpable wave. A bold tTrandoshan stepped in front of him, powerful scaly arms held high. Wrathus barely saw him. He simply swung his left arm forward and buried his hatchet in the beast’s skull. He wrenched it free and kicked the body aside, he moved towards the crowd.

A human male separated from the group and stabbed at Wrathus. Wrathus sidestepped the blade, punched the man in the stomach, doubling him over, and effortlessly beheaded him with his lightsaber.

Feeding off the anger from Kalin, Wrathus shoved the body away and unleashed an onslaught of whirling slashes and crosscuts as he dove into the crowd. Wrathus split another human’s head with his hatchet as he drove his saber through the chest of another.

He spun into a high, Force-augmented kick that hit a female Twi’lek in the face and snapped her head back with a sickening crunch. From there he became a whirling storm of blades, plasma and death, as he carved a bloody swath through the crowd.

Somewhere along the way, he lost his hatchet, probably buried in some poor soul’s body. This did nothing to slow him, as he simply filled his open hand with raw power and uncorked a blast of energy that cleared an entire section of the roof, sending countless bodies tumbling to their deaths and devastating the roof of the building.

Ronovi watched as this force of destruction passed over the rooftop like the wrath of an angry god. She reveled in his destruction until she felt the whole roof shudder and shift after he unleashed another wave of power that sent a score of prisoners sailing through the air in a cloud of duracrete

She watched as the prisoners broke into a run and began fleeing in all directions. Many began charging back down the stairwell that they had taken to get up here. But just as many decided that it would just be easier to clamber over the edge and down the side of the building.

Wrathus roared, the lust for battle so pronounced that he would have killed his own allies were there no prisoners left to slay. And soon there were none as those who hadn’t fallen had quit the rooftop and sought safety. He wanted, needed, to kill more and to do so with his hands. The hum of an activating lightsaber cut off his words. He looked across the roof and saw Ronovi, saberstaff in hand, standing over the body of Kalin.

The pure hate and raw rage pouring off Wrathus struck Ronovi like a physical blow. She braced herself against it as she might a hailstorm. She’d felt his anger before, always hot and projected outward. But this was different. This time he wasn’t simply projecting his anger, he was his anger, his hate.

“Stand down Wrathus. This fight is done,” Ronovi ordered, her voice cold and stern. She took a step forward, putting herself between him and Kalin’s body.

Wrathus simply snarled in response. The man was gone; only the monster remained. Ronovi knew that this would only end when he could no longer fight. She did not wait for Wrathus. She bounded across the hangear, her speed augmented by the Force, the bar of blue in her hands leaving a blur of light in its wake. Wrathus held his ground, blade ready.

She stabbed low with her first strike and carried it into a high slash. Wrathus stepped back and crosscut for her neck. She ducked under it while spinning into a reverse leg sweep that caught his feet and tripped him. When he hit the ground, she rose, turned, spun her saber at his knees. Wrathus rolled back over his shoulder, and Ronovi’s blades cut gashes in the ground.

Wrathus bounced up from the roll and unleashed a blast of power that drove her back a pace. Ronovi planted her feet and shot forward to close the gap and landed a jumping kick to his chest. He used the Force to diminish the blow’s impact but it drove him back a step and his breath hitched in his throat.

He recovered, roared, bellowed, raised his blade high to cut her in two, and brought it down. But she was ready and interposed his attack. She knew that they were close in raw strength, but even then, the power of his rage was enough to start driving her almost push her to her knees. She stepped to the side and guided his blade away from her with her own, spinning the weapon vertically.

Wrathus turned to avoid the spinning plasma, though it skinned his armor and showered sparks. He pushed her to the side with a shoulder and kicked her in the face. The sheer ferocity behind the blow blew through her defenses, and left her seeing stars. It sent her head over heels backwards. She landed on her feet, stunned slightly. She reached up and gingerly felt her jaw; possibly broken. Great.

Getting booted in the face with such malicious intent snapped something inside her, and she decided that enough was enough. Time to end this. Grabbing her jaw firmly, she popped it back into place and the world went white for a moment. She rubbed it slowly as the pain subsided and she locked eyes with Wrathus.

As Wrathus prepared to jump at Ronovi, she held forth a hand, focusing her energy through it, and lightning sizzled through the space between them. Wrathus interposed his lightsaber, but the power in the lightning exceeded anything he had felt before. It blasted through his defenses and his lightsaber flew from his hands. The lightning seized him, lifted him up, and threw him across the roof. He hit the ground hard, and his head bounced off the ground. Sparks erupted in his brain. There was pain.

And everything went dark.


Wrathus opened his eyes. Ronovi stood over him, her deep amber eye fixed on his face. She held his hatchet, his saber hung from her belt with her own.

She stared down at him, and he could feel her ambivalence. She was struggling with something.

“It’s over,” he said with a quiet dispassion. Removing his left gauntlet and squeezing his elbow, he allowed his entire forearm to snap open, revealing a thin silver tube. He extended the limb towards her. “End it.”

1 Like

Her jaw was still stiff, her face riddled with fresh new cuts to accompany the old, lingering ones. And yet, Ronovi stood rigid, alert, her lightsaber still ignited. Despite all the years she had known Wrathus, had relied on him to be her “Berserker,” her juggernaut, her aggressor - she certainly did not trust him. He held his opened arm aloft, the silver tube gleaming as the chaos around them refused to subside.

Until the last explosion happened.

It nearly knocked the Epicanthix off her feet, but what was done was done - Tasha’Vel had blown up the final transport. The entire rooftop disintegrated into a strange, eerie silence. Prisoners who had been clawing at one another for a seat on that ship had stopped. Some had dropped to their knees. Others simply stood and stared. After a while, crying could be heard. Actual, legitimate sobbing. The prisoners had already been betrayed by the Collective. Now their last hope had been literally set on fire before their eyes.

Ronovi didn’t heed any of their wails.

She dropped the hatchet, a strange unseen weight settling on both of her shoulders. Then, gingerly, she extended the fingers of her right hand toward Wrathus. He did not move - barely breathed, even. His once spiky white hair, now shaggy, fell over his eyes. His stubble-dotted mouth was drawn into a thin, cold line. His eyes revealed nothing - nothing but the absence of…sorrow? Anger? Pain? Anything, really. Harsh, dark tunnels never leading to light.

As she drew the silver tube out of Wrathus’s forearm, Ronovi spotted the activator stub on it. This wasn’t a tube; it was a hilt. And as soon as she pressed the stub, she saw the nearly invisible blade spring to life, slightly quivering in the brisk air of Tenixir. Red. A thin, dangerous sliver of sharp red.

“Perfect for a quick and quiet kill.”

She held the Inquisitorius stiletto carefully, eyeing it, allowing the words, “End it,” to settle in her mind like dust settling onto a soulless earth. Ronovi didn’t need to question Wrathus, or challenge him, or demand further explanation. She knew exactly what he wanted.

And she would willingly provide it.

Ciara’s voice crackled once again on the intercom speakers, but Ronovi didn’t pay any mind to what she said. She knew Erinyes and Tasha’Vel would see to the rounding up of the prisoners. They had nothing left to fight for, no reason to do anything besides retire to their cells. The dead would be swept up by those Severian guards who could now return to their duties. The best of the survivors would be cuffed and led up to the Penumbra, to be distributed to both Naga Sadow and Plagueis as “suitable assets.” Right - the Penumbra. That ship was bound to land at any moment, to take the team home. All of them alive.

No. All but one.

For just as the prisoners had no will to push forward, Wrathus, too, lacked that will. He was no longer the Dreadbringer. No longer the Warmonger. No longer master to Tahiri Thorn Morte Tarentae. No longer the psychotic warrior whom so many had grown to fear by name. All of that was gone. He was a broken man, a broken shell of the dark side, unredeemable and incapable of being spared. He was Solas Night-Thorn di Morte, and he needed to die.

Ronovi closed her eyes. She had not had to do this while killing someone in a long time. Perhaps it was to pay respect. To keep the memory of the man alive. Somehow.

She struck Wrathus with the stiletto, and his body slumped forward and folded, blood flowing copiously from his eye socket. She had stabbed him cleanly in his left eye, the blade effortlessly traveling into his brain, then breaking and leaving shards permanently in the withering gray matter. Ronovi let the now empty hilt drop to the ground, her breathing shallow, as the fresh corpse of her former compatriot fully collapsed, facedown, not even a final shudder moving through his flesh.

The Dread Lord stood there for a moment silently, frozen, still oblivious to everything moving around her. She thought she tasted the tang of blood in her mouth - perhaps her own blood, drawn from her biting the inside of her cheek. Her cybernetic left arm hung limply at her side. She forgot all about the chill, all about the screams and howls, all about everything for a moment. She always did when she killed someone who mattered. Not just another lamb to slaughter - someone whom she had never taken lightly.

May you forge your own Empire, friend, she could not help thinking, before chuckling at the sheer hyperbolic drama of her own consciousness. I’ll make sure you’re returned to Dromund Kaas.

She knelt down beside Wrathus and rolled him onto his back. His unwrecked eye remained half-open, as if he were in a daze.

Then, footsteps. Erinyes swiftly moved to Ronovi’s side, blinking as she surveyed the fallen Plagueian Battlemaster.

“What did you do?” the Zeltron demanded, certainly more shocked than accusatory.

Ronovi sighed and ran her hand across her brow. When she withdrew it, her fingers were stained with dark sweat. Nearby, prisoners who had managed to survive with all of their limbs intact were being lined and surveyed.

“I put him out of his misery,” she muttered.

Above their heads, the screech of a ship engine came to life. The Penumbra had returned for them.

1 Like

Ciara’s voice, amplified by the prison’s public-address system, barely pierced the din of the Penumbra’s engines. “Prisoners, your battle is over. Return to your cells, and Brotherhood forces will retrieve those of you who have proven yourselves worthy. If you resist, we’ll activate the inmate suppression systems. If you try to assault the ship that’s arriving at Block Dorn, we’ll destroy the grav-field generator when we leave, and you’ll all be crushed into paste.”

The timbre of the scuffle below changed as the prisoners’ survival instincts turned in the Brotherhood team’s favour. The few inmates who were angry or desperate enough to continue fighting and commit “suicide by Sith” were quickly subdued by their fellow prisoners.

Tasha, sitting on Block Dorn’s parapets to catch her breath, keyed her comlink. “Why didn’t you tell us you sliced the prisoner suppression system? That would’ve been a lot easier than fighting the swarm.”

“What makes you think I did?” The question was punctuated by the sound of a durasteel door clang-ing against the floor of a hallway.

Erinyes snorted from beside Tasha. Both women could practically see Ciara’s smirk through the audio feed. “Well, it seems to be working,” Tasha said, looking over the edge of the roof. “They’ve quieted down out here. Come join us on the Block Dorn roof.”

If the final minutes of the battle on Tenixir had lasted an eternity, the hours that followed passed in a blur. It quickly became clear that the new “assets” Ronovi had earmarked for Plagueis wouldn’t fit on a ship the Penumbra’s size, and the Dread Lord addressed the problem by summoning a squadron of Ascendant Fleet transports. Meanwhile, the two Sadowan Sith scoured Block Dorn for the Collective scientist that Ciara had wanted to bring back to Sepros, while Erinyes was left to coordinate between the Penumbra and the Severian Principate reinforcements, who had finally deigned to show up to their own prison riot.

One brief interaction between the Principate and the Brotherhood team nearly became a diplomatic incident, when a Principate soldier tried to remove the body of Kalin Rose Night-Thorn—he’d had the good sense not to try to touch Wrathus’ body, not least because it was two heads and fifty kilos too big for him to lift—and nearly ate Ronovi’s blaster for his trouble. It took both Ciara and Tasha to talk the Dread Lord down from doing anything the Dark Council would make her regret, but they managed to stall Ronovi’s wrath long enough for two Taldryan Navy corpsmen to appear with gurneys. Wrathus and Kalin’s remains were loaded on to the medical beds with the utmost care, and when the medics began pushing the gurneys back to the Penumbra, Ronovi stormed off with them.

Eventually, there was nothing left but busy work, and the four Sith retreated to their impromptu dining room aboard the Penumbra while they waited for the Ascendant Fleet transports to arrive. The spring that had been in their steps when they’d departed mere hours before had been replaced by an oppressive weariness, more of the mind and soul than the body. Nobody wanted to speak, though this time, there wasn’t any convenient, delectable sushi to fill the silence.

There was, however, alcohol—Ronovi’s whiskey, Erinyes’ tsiraki, Tasha’s Alderaanian white, and Ciara’s Spice Runner cider—and a decanter of Wrathus’ preferred beverage. The fallen Battlemaster had never bothered to refill his skin before the team set foot on Tenixir, but Ronovi placed the decanter on top of the crate where Wrathus had sat with the thunk of thick glass against duraplast. It was a fitting enough tribute for the moment, the four women thought, as they lifted their glasses and drank.

1 Like

And now…a classic tradition passed on by Plagueian members…outtakes!

Behind the Scenes (Planning Chat)

Erinyes: Oh, something that’ll help me: Erinyes tends to give people silly nicknames. So, if you have any ideas for what she might glom onto with your character, please do let me know.

Ronovi: I mean…Ronnie’s a lesbian boozehound who’s almost half cyborg with an anger issue and a penchant for hurting people?

Ronovi: Make of that how you will. :stuck_out_tongue:

Erinyes: … Robo-Dyke?

Ronovi: …Yeah…uh, that ain’t gonna fly with the judges, boo.

Erinyes: Oh. Back to the drawing board?

Ronovi: Back to the drawing board.

Ronovi Post #1

Ronovi snorted, having poured a dram of Whyren’s Reserve from her steel flask into a highball provided by the crew. She swirled the amber spirits around a bit, inhaled its fumes, and sighed. “Big thanks to Whyren’s Reserve for sponsoring this mission, because the Dark Council expects us to pay for this kark out of our own pockets!”

“Which we’d be able to afford if Ronovi hadn’t blown the entire budget on your product,” Tasha added.

Ronovi sighed again, dreamily this time. “Their wonderful, wonderful product…”

Erinyes Post #1

Several of the others turned to look as the Penumbra’s watch officer acknowledged the orders, and Ciara quirked an eyebrow. “You’re not giving us a ride home?”

“I’ll give you a ride anytime you want, honey,” the Zeltron said.

Beside them, Ronovi’s brow furrowed, oddly envious of the attention Erinyes bestowed upon Ciara.

Tasha Post #1

The Twi’lek leapt forward towards the Barabel climbing up the landing pad. Igniting her violet blade with a crackling hiss, she lunged forward to slash through the Barabel’s body—but a slightly uneven deck plate tripped Tasha up, dumping her on her flat on her face.

Her lightsaber skittered out of her hand and rolled toward the Barabel, who picked the weapon up and held it out. “Uh, think you dropped this.”

“This is our way out!” snarled a Zabrak inmate. “We have to take it!”

He took a running jump and grabbed onto the ramp. Just as he was preparing to pull himself up, the heavy boot of Ronovi descended towards him, aiming to crush his fingers before he could secure his grip. The Zabrak, thinking quickly, grabbed the Warlord’s boot and yanked in the instant before Ronovi’s foot would’ve landed.

The Dread Lord let out a squawk of surprise, and with the added weight on her unbalanced leg, tumbled forward and off the Penumbra’s ramp. After a beat, Erinyes stepped meekly forward and peered over the edge, eyebrows raised.

“Wow, he didn’t look that heavy.”

Before anyone else could speak, Ronovi’s voice could be heard through the howling winds: “Are you calling me fat?!

Erinyes Post #2

Erinyes shrugged. “Look on the bright side: so will they, and it’s not like every slave can be a burly male Chiss in Vasano’s bedroom.” From the corner of her eye, the Adept saw Ronovi shudder at the thought, and offered her a wicked grin. “What’s the matter, Dead Pirate Ronnie? Not a fan of Vasano?”

Ronovi blinked. “The dead pirates are over there.” She jerked her thumb towards the pile of corpses on the far side of the med bay.

“Huh?” After a beat, Erinyes facepalmed. “Sorry, I meant Dread Pirate.”

Erinyes Post #3

A single thought filled Erinyes’ head as she tripped and tumbled across the permacrete: He grabbed my lightsaber. He grabbed my lightsaber. How the kriff did he grab my lightsaber?!

The Elder Marauder pushed herself to her feet, covered in scrapes and bruises and utterly confused, partly by the turn of events and partly from the cringe-inducing blow to the head she’d just received. When she turned to look at her enemies, she was met by the sight of the cyborg who’d punched her tossing her lightsaber out over the courtyard with a kark-eating grin on his face. “The Collective judge gives a six.”

“Plagueis gives it a four!” Ronovi hollered from the catwalk below, as she and Wrathus rushed to catch up.

“And Naga Sadow gives it a five,” Ciara said over the intercom, earning a snicker from Tasha as the Twi’lek darted between transports.

Erinyes huffed, doing her best to look indignant in four directions at once. “I’m worth at least a seven!”

“Let’s sweeten the pot, prisoners. Anyone who can prove they’re a Collective scientist gets a free one-way trip to Sepros instead of being left on this rock to rot. You’d better be quick about letting us know, though. The battle in the courtyard is getting pretty heated, and there are only two transports left.”

Boom.

“Make that one transport left. One transport! Ah ah ah ah!”

That must’ve been Ciara, Erinyes realised belatedly, wondering how the Sadowan Warlord had time to follow along with children’s shows in the middle of a prison break.

Wrathus Post #3

Her eyes fluttered open, focused. She blinked confused, but soon everything fell back into place. All the memories that she had lost, those threads that she never seemed able to grab hold of, all of it came sharply into focus. “Solas, is that you?”

Wrathus raised an eyebrow. “No.”