[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 thousand armed Collective personnel 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.”