[Prison Break] Team Red, Blue, And Purple All Over

We have chosen… the Second Decision!

Character Snapshots:


The Katurno was not often so abuzz with activity. Stres’tron’garmis was a familiar face aboard, navigating the tight confines with his beefy bulk as best he could, accidentally kicking the R3 unit scuttling about to ensure everything was ready for takeoff. The Zeltron “pilot” — her lot in life with so many around her that could hardly handle a speeder — was busy making her own preparations when the Chiss popped his head into the cockpit.

”Miss Arronen, a pleasure to see you again.”

“Not right now, Strong,” Qyreia said, fingers dancing over the consoles, screwing in panels that normally weren’t strewn about the dash. “Mother frackers tell me this poodoo’s going down on the one day that I decide to do circuitry maintenance. I karking hate circuitry.”

”Er… Where shall I…?”

“Kriffin’ sit in the lounge area and wait there!” she barked, taking a jolt to the hand for the distraction.

Strong hesitated a moment before doing as he was told. She was the captain of the ship, after all. He backtracked to the familiar lounge and made himself comfortable on the floor, his armor’s added bulk making it near impossible to utilize the dedicated furniture. Not long after, his ears were greeted by a high-pitched, muted bellow as the engines were called to life, before settling into their usual quiet hum. It would seem she fixed the circuits. To abate the monotony, the Chiss took to inspecting his armor and weapons. He was in the midst of handling his large hammer when he heard footsteps from the hall.

“Vell, goodt to see ve’ll have a meat shield.”

Strong looked up to see an equally familiar purple Twi’lek. ”Miss Sroka! I see you found our chariot without issue.”

“And the chariot is not happy,” Qyreia said as she slipped into the room. “Hi Tali.”

”You’ve met?”

“In passing,” Tali answered for the Zeltron, the merc clearly focused on checking the ship’s gun compartment.

“Take a seat anywhere.” She pointed in a broad, waving fashion to the room in general. “I’m gonna get us off the ground and we’ll talk mission essentials.”

An awkward silence hung over the pair once the mercenary was away, presumably back to the cockpit. Tali took a seat at the table, near the Chiss. “Have you vorkedt with her before?”

”Indeed! We were forced into a struggle with some Trandoshans not too long ago. Miss Arronen is very keen in a fight.”

The Twi’lek nodded in acknowledgment, pleased that they were in capable hands, but not especially relishing the fighting ahead of them. There was still so much on her mind. It seemed that every time she tried to just sit down and process things, some new mess would pop up for her to contend with. Her hand absentmindedly drifted to where the knife wound had been in her abdomen, only to jerk away once she realized it, her lekku perking at the sound of the engines purring slightly louder just before a light shudder ran through the hull.

“It would seem we are off,” Strong said, quieter than his usual bombast.

“It vouldt seem so, yes.”

After a minute of normal flight, they heard the harmonic crescendo from the engines before settling again. Qyreia reappeared in the lounge soon after, her droid in tow.

“Well, we’ve jumped to hyperspace. Got a little while to get our poodoo sorted,” she said, going over to the kitchenette. “Tea anyone?”

“Yes please.”

”Yes, thank you.”

“Remee, if you would pull up the files on the table.”

While the Zeltron busied herself with the kettle and mugs, the droid whirred over to the table, linking with an interface port and, with a few bloops and bleeps of Binary, brought the holoprojector to life. The blue-tinged hologram displayed a quadrilateral map and several textual blocks hovering on the fringes, all labeled in big, bold Aurebesh Tenixir Supermax Prison.

“I take it you guys already know the basics?” Qyreia asked, setting out three mugs as she took a seat by Tali.

“Ve go in, stop the rioting, subdue any prisoners that don’t vant to cooperate.”

Strong nodded in a similar understanding of the mission. “Seems a simple enough mission.”

“Something about this seems fishy, though. Once we retake the… ‘hanger’? Am I reading that right?”

Tali shrugged. “Must be some Principate dialect.”

Qyreia shook her head and drank her tea. “Anyway, we land in the hangar, make contact with the folks that contacted the Brotherhood from the inside.” The holoprojector expanded an image of a Togruta woman. “This schutta right here could be our ticket in. Probably make things a lot easier in the long run.”

“So long as ve complete the mission,” Tali said, shifting uncomfortably at the Zeltron’s profanity.

”Can we trust this… Rasha Hawee?”

“Principate says she’s on the level,” Qyreia said, squinting at some of the smaller text in the hovering dossier. “Model prisoner. Former pirate.” Her voice soured on the last word. “Only one way to find out.”

”Agreed.”

“So ve landt, secure the hangar, and findt this Hawee. Pacify the prison from there.”

“There’ll be other Brotherhood folks down there, so we shouldn’t have to do the whole prison ourselves.”

”What of our Principate contacts?”

“What about ‘em?”

Qyreia’s curt response was more than just a little off-putting to the blue and purple pair. ”Lady Vasano mentioned to me…”

“Say that name on my ship again, Strong,” she warned pointedly. The Zeltorn also remembered the Trandoshan incident, including who planted Strong as a stowaway.

”…We should try to continue to improve relations with the Principate.”

“I honestly couldn’t care less about a bunch of pissant Hutt-fracker Imperial Remnant schuttas.” Qyreia stood and made for the cockpit. “Imma check our course and get us sorted for approach to Tenixir.”

Tali craned her head to watch the Zeltron leave before turning to Strong. “Is she always like that?”

“There are… extenuating circumstances,” Strong said quietly. “Ones that should not be discussed without the subject’s knowledge.”

They tried not to watch their chronos as they hurtled toward the prison world. Every passing moment meant a greater likelihood that the rioting prisoners would win out and escape. With little to do, it was also an incredibly boring ride, and so glancing at the clocks was only that much more frustrating. The monotony brought with it complacency; a feature that made it all the more surprising when they felt the ship’s engines wind down, followed by a rattling of the hull. Tali and Strong both made quick work of getting to the cockpit to see the cause of the ruckus.

“Vhat’s happening?”

“Tenixir, it turns out,” Qyreia said as she struggled with the controls, “has a very strong gravity field.” She readied her hand on the throttle, just in case. “You guys might wanna buckle in. It’s gonna get bumpy.”

“It’s already bumpy.”

Despite the gripe, Tali took the seat next to the Zeltron and strapped herself in. Strong was forced to swing down a spare seat from the wall — one not quite suited to his size or weight — before likewise buckling the safety harness around his waist. Their pilot rattled off some messages to the Brotherhood ship in orbit of the planet, rapidly shifting out of view, as well as something about clearance for landing to the prison below. Over the shaking of the hull and the buffeting noise of what they hoped was just wind, it was hard to make out the specifics.

They did hear her warning to brace.

A moment passed where they questioned the wisdom of taking over the controls, only for the whole ship to shake and shudder angrily as their vector and speed shifted suddenly. Outside the transparisteel canopy, they could see the square-shaped layout of the prison complex — four points around a central hub that seemed to be their destination — in addition to the movement of tiny black motes beneath the gravity shielding and flashes of colorful light that could only be blaster fire. The ship settled harshly when it hit the protective field for the administrative structure. However, for the Katurno’s occupants, the relatively smooth but short ride to the hangar was a welcome change, even as they set down with a gentle thud.

“Ladies and gents, we have arrived.”

The trio set about the Katurno, gathering their gear while they heard the ship settle around them. The various sounds of cooling metal from reentry and engines winding down heard just beneath the noise of armor being wrestled into place or weapons being checked. When the ship’s loading ramp descended, the trio of Arconans were an imposing sight for the prison official waiting below, flanked by a pair of guards in riot gear.

“You are the, ah, specialists sent by the Principate to assist?” asked the hand wringing man, a Human of some stock who looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week. His guards wore helmets with reflective blast shields down, hiding their faces, but their body language spoke of fatigue and skittishness. He stuck a sweaty hand out in offering, “I am the grid supervisor for this area, Ta—”

“Our assistance has been requested by your government, yes,” came the neutral answer from the Zeltron standing in the front, cutting the man off. She ignored the hand, looking him in the eye instead. Qyreia looked casual compared to her compatriots, dressed in her everyday gear and already shorter than the other two. While the towering Chiss held rank, they had agreed that Q should ‘do the talking’ when dealing with their allies, to avoid intimidating the bureaucrat. “Seems simple enough, go in, tell them to calm down, smack anyone who won’t behave, yeah?”

“Well, ah, you uhh, have permission to do whatever you need to do, yes? Should prisoners refuse to lay down arms or surrender, well, they knew what they were getting into the moment they began rioting, didn’t they? Once you’ve gained control of the command center you can simply call us. I would give you a communications code, but the facility is shielded, so it wouldn’t do any good.”

“Do not expect us to ‘put down’ prisoners who cannot fight back, Supervisor Ta,” rumbled the Chiss.

“What? No, my name is not, I was not suggesting you, I, I,” the man sputtered, his exhaustion obvious as he rubbed a hand at his eyes, sighing. “Look, the entrance is over there, you can’t miss it, its where all the guards are gathered. The prisoners tried to break through during the initial riot, now they’ve pulled back and are waiting things out. Maybe someone got a message out and are expecting help from someone.”

“Help? From vho?” asked Tali, her hands resting near the saber hilts on her belt.

“Vho knows? I mean, who knows? We have all sorts in Tenixir, pirates, thugs, gangs, slavers; maybe one of the prisoners has more clout than we realized and has friends coming for them. Or maybe the Hutt’s want to knock us down a peg and get a free army out of it. If the prison isn’t under control soon, we’ll have to take more drastic measures, so please don’t take too long.”

“Drastic measures huh,” commented Qyreia, already studying the prison entrance. Heavy doors were sitting open, revealing a lobby area and a half blasted sign that had the word ‘visito—’ on it, a littering of blaster riddled bodies scattered across the floor. Another set of doors could be seen further in, a bright red sign saying ‘locked’. “Well you better make sure we’re out before you do that, because our friends can be pretty rough when they get upset.”

The supervisor lifted a finger and opened his mouth, but the Arconan team was moving past him already. They walked past the barricades and firing line set up by the prison guards, and turned at the sound of grinding gears when the outer blast doors began to shut.

The visitor lobby was a mess of tables, chairs, and bodies. Stres’tron’garmis overturned one of the tables approximately centered with the door leading further into the prison, barely grunting as he heaved the durasteel construct onto its side. The light above the door shifted from red to yellow, and then to green as it began to open. They could already hear shouts on the other side of the door. The Chiss unslung his riot shield and baton, activating both with a hum that was muted in comparison to the brilliant golden blade of Tali’s saber.

“I do not believe these first ones vill be the harmless or scaredt kindt,” spoke the Twi’lek, taking up a defensive stance.

The world opened into chaos as the twin halves of the blast door pulled back into their recesses, exposing the trio to a scene of utter carnage. If the damage sustained on their side of the barricade had been bad, it was complete devastation on the other. Wet bodies, or what was left of them, littered the floor amidst torn and ravaged remains of what must have been solid durasteel furniture.

Dressed in the ragged remains of bright orange prison overalls, a pack of inmates, dangerous lunatics armed with an even more dangerous selection of blunt and jagged instruments, leered at them and the path to freedom that lay behind them. Even if barred for now, it was a step in the right direction, and for a caged beast, any small measure towards freedom was worth taking. Even one soaked in blood.

”Return to your cells, inmates. This riot ends now,” Strong called out, his riot shield held at the level in case of thrown projectiles. ”Disobey, and there will be violence.”

“We prefer violence,” the lead thug said, eyes wild with hunger for blood.

“Are you sure?” Tali asked, raising her saber with a humm. It seemed to catch the rioters’ attention. Some exchanged glances.

“Chop-chop, we don’t have all day,” Qyreia snapped, blaster rifle shouldered and pointed at them.

The group exchanged a few more glances, before their ‘leader’ spoke up again. “You just want us in our cells, right?”

”Correct,” Strong nodded, pleased that they seemed to be able to avoid the bloodshed. ”Simply relinquish your weapons and return to your cells. The guards will return and all will go back to normal.”

The leader nodded to himself. “Back to normal…?”

Tali felt droplets of ice run down her spine.

“…FRAK THAT!” The leader raised his weapon and bellowed something in an alien language.

A pair of molotov cocktails arced towards them, hastily assembled from cleaning supplies. In the cramped corridors and hallways with nowhere to escape, they were a positively lethal concoction.

But they were also slow projectiles, susceptible to interception.

With the help of a forewarning, Tali raised her hands with eyes squeezed shut, wrapping both projectiles in a cocoon of Force energy and slowing their travel to a soft halt. The thugs had lost their trump card, they would have no chance but to surrender.

“Standt down andt return to your…”

”Miss Sroka, get down!” Strong lunged towards her, intercepting the crazed inmate waving a meat cleaver who’d tried to rush the preoccupied Twi’lek and body slamming him into the ground beneath his riot shield.

“Go frak yourselves,” Qyreia spat coldly as she raised her aim up at the bottles still suspended by Tali’s little party trick and snapped off two bolts. The bottles exploded in a fiery conflagration, dousing the inmates caught beneath them in a rain of burning chemicals.

Screams filled the air as crazed inmates tried to extinguish their clothes, running around in a blind panic or dropping to the ground to smother the flames. Yet a handful cared not even for their own immolation, charging towards the trio with reckless abandon.

The first broke against the Chiss’ shield, the second batted aside by a backhand swipe of his mighty hammer. The next never reached him, a clean blaster hole shot through his cranium, with his two mates filing their guts with more crimson bolts from Qyreia’s rifle. The last reckless charger, ducking beneath Strong’s sweeping hammerblow, thrust up at his shoulder joint with a wicked serrated dagger, only to slump headless onto the ground as Tali brought her saber to bear with immaculate precision.

The rest, badly burnt, or still marginally alight, fled in a blind panic.

“Those didn’t seem like normal inmates to me,” Qyreia stated dourly as she checked the charge on her rifle.

”I concur, miss Arronen,” Strong grunted as he stepped over the headless corpse at his feet. ”Perhaps the Principate chose to house only the most dangerous of criminals at this location. Surely the immense gravity alone speaks of a high security installation.”

Tali wrinkled her nose at the stench of burnt flesh, clearly eager to move along. “Or something happenedt to them, the guards vouldt have mentionedt if this place only housedt lunatics.”

Her two companions exchanged a look that said they weren’t quite as sure.

Surveying the destruction they caused for a moment, the three moved past the doors leading into the inner workings of the prison. The blast doors shuddered behind them, grinding shut despite bodies and debris, before locking with an ominous ‘clunk’ sound. The only way would be forward.

Directions inlaid in the duracrete walls pointed towards where they needed to go, as well as other locales such as intake, various cellblocks, and a cafeteria. They moved on, following the signs towards the command center, noticing that this was also taking them towards the mess hall.

“Anybody want a snack?” asked Qyreia, wryly as she swept her rifle muzzle across the hall, the signs taking them around a corner.

Tali’s lekku flickered in agitation, eyes narrowing as they moved further in. She could sense prisoners moving around the facility all around them, largely avoiding the trio of heavily armed Arconans. More worrying to her was the feeling that as they walked on, the life forces she could pick up on were not dispersing, but enveloping them. It made it difficult to differentiate between them, picking up threats would be—

“There is a large gathering of people aheadt,” she hissed. “I sense…fear…malice… amusement. Not goodt.”

The hall opened ahead of them to a wider space, scatterings of tables and benches, once secured to the floor. Prisoners, stripped of the top of their jumpsuits, moved around with pillaged shock batons and makeshift weapons. They were laughing and prodding at a gathering of inmates who sat in the center of the cafeteria, still fully clothed, but also wearing…

“Collars,” growled the Twi’lek, at the sight of the metal shock collars securing the prisoners.

“They must have found those within the prison. Why would they secure their fellows in such a manner?”

“Oh no,” groaned Qyreia, already eye balling the area, setting up her field of fire.

“Remember!” came a shouting voice from the farside of the cafeteria. “When that shuttle gets here, I don’t want any lip! You lot are all getting to leave this kark-hole of a prison, you should be grateful! Me and the boys are trading you to that Hutt sleemo. I’m sure he’ll treat you better as house slaves or whatever than this place did!”

There was an abrupt silence to the man’s overbearing shouting when one of them yelled, spotting the trio at the entrance to the cafeteria.

“Hey, boss, free merch! A couple of good looking schuttas!

“Oh, that was a poor choice of words,” sighed Strong, turning a bench over and settling down on it.

“Strong, what’re ya doing?” asked Q, kneeling behind the seating and resting her rifle on it for support. “You’re not gonna—” she was cut off by the snap-hiss of Tali’s saber thrumming to life.

”Miss Tali…” began the Chiss, watching her with a mixture of wariness and pride.

“If they surrender, they live,” stated the Twi’lek, walking with careful measure towards the would-be slavers. Several seemed to get the message, throwing down weapons and fleeing before the smoldering gaze of the woman. Others were more foolish, suicidal, or brave.

”Mistress Sroka has a dislike for traders of the flesh,” murmured Strong to his Zeltron companion. ”I agree with her pursuits in the matter, if not always her methods.”

He rubbed unconsciously at a spot on his upper left leg, recalling a recent ‘discussion’ about such things.

”I do not believe she will need our help in this matt—” he began to say, watching with interest. The Chiss jumped, just a bit, when the merc beside him spat hot blaster fire at a slaver trying to sneak around to flank Tali, and shook his head with a rueful chuckle.

Even as shots rang out, and the lightsaber in the Twi’lek’s hand dealt her version of justice, he was looking past the crowd to the next hall, a security checkpoint just visible. It looked manned, oddly enough, and bodies were scattered across the hall leading up to it. The sounds of combat died down, and he looked over to see the collared inmates holding the man who’d been threatening them with Hutt servitude by the arms in front of Tali. A short exchange produced a key, which she gave to a nearby prisoner to begin removing collars.

Strong stood with a grunt, watching as the prisoners dragged their former captor off, Tali watching with her back rigid, lekku twitching.

“He surrendered, I take it?” he asked quietly as the three reconvened.

“Cowardt,” she spat, turning to look at him. “They may deserve prison, but they do not deserve slavery.”

“Nobody does, now can we please keep moving?” asked Qyreia. “There’s dead people ahead. Looks like they got shot down.”

They moved cautiously, into the hall, stepping over bodies and watching for whomever had managed to blast them. A crackle from an intercom in the ceiling brough Strong forward, his shield up and between the security checkpoint and his allies.

”Whoever you are, you better know we got this place locked down! We’re armed and ready to gun down anyone stupid enough to run in here! Go back to your karking cells before the Princies space the lot of us!”

“Somebody reasonable,” remarked Tali. She raised her voice, “Ve got a call for help, from someone named Rasha. Vill you let us in?”

There was a long, pregnant pause, before, ”Thank the fracking stars. Just a minute, we’ll open the door, just make sure you’re not gonna get rushed from the back.”

The trio that materialized as the door opened was an odd one, though perhaps less so for the circumstances. The Togruta they recognized from the dossier, Rasha Hawee, far more yellow in person than in the file. Her companions were less famous: a Rodian prison guard, seemingly very wary of everyone in his newfound group, and a human in the same orange coveralls as all the other prisoners. Both seemed to defer to her and the subtle tension that filled the space between the two newly-met groups, both fresh still with the flavor of killing in their hands.

Qyreia leaned toward Strong and the big blue man leaned into her whisper. “She’s cute.”

“And she can hear you,” Rasha said tersely, though not without a hint of amusement. Something about the team had her fight-or-flight instincts settling, and her relaxed posture had her own compatriots drawing their fingers further away from the triggers of their blasters. “Who are you with?”

”We are here to help!”

“Ve’re part of the Principate relief force.”

“We’re with the Brotherhood, out of Arcona.” The Zeltron’s two companions looked at her discerningly. “What? I don’t give a kark about these Impy schutta fracks.”

”Perhaps a little discretion, Miss Arronen?”

“If it matters,” Rasha interjected, “I don’t know what brotherhood you’re talking about, or what an Arcona is.”

The wry, overt smile on Qyreia’s lips as she looked to the members of her team screamed of I told you so. Tali was less amused, preferring to get to business and, hopefully, finish this mission quickly so they could get home.

“Ve’re here to stop the riot. Vordt is you vant that too.”

“Well you all probably know the alternative.” The Togruta looked around tiredly, likely wondering where all this was going. “Sooo, I assume you have a plan then?”

“Take the commandt center,” Tali said flatly.

“You said something about Oligard in your transmission?” Qyreia broke in.

“Yes,” she sighed, a little relieved that someone was listening to her. “The guards were talking back in the yard. Something about trying to spring some scientists and…” A look of realization hit her eyes. “And making the Brotherhood look bad to the Principate. And you said…”

“Yes yes, Brotherhood.” Qyreia waved her hand, motioning for the cogs in the prisoner’s head to turn a little faster. “So there’s scientists need stopping, some guards are bad guys,” she eyed the Rodian pointedly, “and the whole thing in general was orchestrated by Rath Oligard and the Collective. Did I miss anything?”

The prison trio looked at each other momentarily, then shook their heads.

Tali’s eyes rolled, exasperated. “Seems this just got more complicatedt.”

The revelation made the Arconans’ goal all the more imminent. There would be reinforcements from across the Brotherhood landing here — albeit in bits and pieces — but if they got word out fast enough, they might be able to prioritize locking down the skies and preventing any sneaky ship departures. At least the Zeltron’s ship was locked down and safe, courtesy of her droid. The Arconans wouldn’t be losing their ride out.

This all meant they had to move quickly though, if they were going to beat the clock and the Collective. At Rasha’s insistence, she led the party through the maze of halls of the Central Management Facility. There was general chaos everywhere. More prisoners in their path were knocked out or put down. Few were ready and willing to return quietly to their cells, which seemed to wear on the Togruta’s nerves. The Rodian and human in their company seemed more intent on simply not getting shivved, or worse. Getting to the control center was, all things considered, a relatively short endeavor though. The trouble came when they realized the path was blocked by an exceptionally thick blast door.

“Well fracksticks,” Qyreia grumbled, tapping on the metal. “Not getting through this way.”

“Vell, I could alvays try my universal key.” Tali twirled her lightsaber hilt in her palm.

”It is worth a try.” Strong was clearly agitated, but he did a good job keeping it to himself. Something about the prisoners all fighting vainly against him (and his companions) and, hurting his pride, none provided even the semblance of a challenge.

As soon as Tali ignited golden blade though, the Togruta’s hopeful expression dropped. “That won’t work.”

The Twi’lek grimaced and plunged the blade into the metal, cutting through the dense material like a butter knife in a block of cheese, making slow but steady progress. Something seemed off about it though. Even so, she completed a full circle to make them all a doorway and stepped back. Reaching out her hand, she focused the Force to throw the hot metal inward on those that had hijacked the room beyond.

Only it didn’t move.

“Vhat?” Tali tried again, but still nothing.

“It’s too thick,” Rasha said, her frustration lined with a certain satisfaction of being right. “This part of the building was pre-fabbed and brought here to bring up the gravity field. The whole thing, doors included, were built to stand up against the moon’s gravity.”

“There a way around? Ventilation or something?” They all looked at Strong. “Yeah, nevermind.”

“There’s an auxiliary entrance,” their guard ally said — one of the few times he’d said anything thus far. “We’ll have to go through Cellblock Dorn though.”

”That should be no issue. A roundabout route will necessitate speed on our part.”

What Strong did not seem to notice were the looks of apprehension on the three prison-folks’ faces. His two female compatriots did. “Vhat’s in Cellblock Dorn?”

“It’s the isolation wing,” Rasha said coldly. “These are people serving multiple life sentences. Why the Principate keeps them around is anyone’s guess.”

“I hope their cells are still locked shut.” The human’s spoken thought drew everyone’s gaze.

Qyreia bemoaned, “You just had to say it, didn’t you?”

Time was ticking, and there was little other recourse than to do as the Togruta suggested; that, or have Tali gradually shave off pieces of the door until they could more directly cut through. Even Qyreia’s Denton Charge would purportedly have been of little help. Going through Cellblock Dorn would solve that problem though. Somehow.

“What makes you think this way will work better?” Qyreia asked their guides as they walked through the walled path to Dorn.

“It’s inmates and crooked guards that took the control node.” Rasha spat at the thought. “Everyone trying to put them back is on the side where the big blast door is. They need a way out and a way to get reinforcements. That’ll be the back way.”

“Eeeveryone always wants to use the backdoor.” The Zeltron laughed quietly to herself. Most everyone else just groaned at the joke. “You all need to lighten the frack up.”

“I think they want you to take this more seriously,” Rasha whispered as she sidled up to the merc, noting Tali’s furrowed brow.

“They have their ways, I have mine.” Qyreia eyed the prisoner warily. “So why are you trying to help us and the Principate? Why not try to bust out like the rest?”

Rasha shrugged. “I earned this sentence. I just want to do my time.”

That drew a curious look from the Zeltron. Through her time as a trader and later smuggler, pirates were always a constant threat, and one she’d dealt with on more than one occasion. To hear one of such ilk owning up like this was an intriguing concept.

Everyone was still wary of the ever-present danger, but Tali had difficulty comprehending how their gunslinger was getting so friendly with the convict. “Vhy is she being so friendtly? She’s just going back into a cell vhen we’re done.”

Strong leaned low, lowering his voice and ensuring that his helmet speaker wasn’t activated. “Good behavior has its merits. Perhaps she wishes a reduced sentence?”

“I vas talking about Q.”

“Perhaps she sees a kindred spirit in the former pirate, or is intrigued by her want of redemption.” Strong shrugged. “In either case,” he said, pointing out the letters painted on the reinforcing arch of the hall, “we seem to be nearing our destination.”

That called everyone’s attention. Further ahead were the doors to Dorn Cellblock, wide open, and with spotty lighting, with some fixtures torn out of their housings, leaving the place more dreary and foreboding than any of the other rooms or corridors than they had thus far witnessed, so long as one discounted the dead bodies. And the attempted enslaving of other inmates. And that one time where they were propositioned for three packs of cigarras, though that was more insulting and creepy than eerie.

Qyreia held her blaster a little tighter to her shoulder. “Does it always look like that?”

“No,” the guard said. “This is… new.”

“They did it on purpose,” Rasha muttered darkly. “It’s an invitation. And a warning.”

“But it’s a straight shot through the block to the other access hall,” the guard added.

“Easier to ambush,” Tali muttered.

Hearing all of this, Strong stepped around his compatriots and hefted his shield and hammer. ”The scion of Garmis does not fear the dark, nor the creatures that lurk within. Let us be about this, friends!”

Despite the haute and archaic verbiage, the armored Chiss’ small speech offered some reinforcement to the group’s nerves. With their weapons at the ready, they entered the isolation cellblock, the intermittent dark and dim on the cusp of swallowing them whole. Aside from general detritus from the battered light fixtures, the corridor seemed relatively clean; clear of corpses and blood that had been so prolific in the hotspots of the Central Management Facility. There was only one exception to the otherwise undisturbed scene: all the doors were open.

“You had to say it,” Qyreia hissed at their human prisoner companion.

“I’m sorry!” he whispered back.

As they walked by each cell though, they were all empty. Clean, less so. Many had tick marks to count the days; in one, feces was splayed across a wall; another was covered in loose flimsiplast containing drawings of a dark and disturbed nature. But despite going deeper and deeper in, they were met with silence, and a growing sense of unease.

“Did they all kark off once the doors opened up?”

“Maybe they vent to the commandt center.” Strong threw up an armored fist, holding his hammer, motioning for the others to stop. “Vhat’s wrong?”

”There is some rather overt violence up ahead.”

The group peered around either side of the Chiss and saw a morbid display. In the dim and flickering lights, it was hard to tell how many bodies there were. What they all had in common, however, was their opened abdomens, and the long rope of gore that was cinched around their necks, suspending them off the ground against the wall through the ventilation bars above every cell door. The human retched, taking the rest out of the engrossed trance that the display had cast over them.

“What the actual frack?!” Qyreia nearly yelled, dropping to a high-pitched whisper as quickly as she’d started.

“I told you,” Rasha said with as much stoicism as she could muster. “The inmates in Dorn are karked. We need to leave.”

“Strong,” Qyreia said quietly, “take point. Me and the prison guys will cover the middle. Tali, can you watch our back?”

Her lekku twitched as she nodded, tapping into the Force to give them a better sense of what was going on around them. They had already started going forward when the pictures started to form in the Twi’lek’s head, only just coalescing into a large form around the corner when a warning went off in her head.

“Strong! Your right!”

A heartbeat was all that separated the Chiss’ movements and the massive Dashade fist that struck his shield instead of the side of his head, helmeted though it was. A second motion flitted into view: a smaller human, his face a two-toned blur as he sprinted to take Strong in the back while he wrestled with the reptilian. Tali hardly needed to warn any this time, though. A green bolt lanced out from Rasha’s scavenged pistol, zipping by his head for the hasty aim, but forcing him into cover. Igniting her lightsaber, the Twi’lek rushed forward, keen on ending this fight quickly and preventing any more of the abbatine displays as still hung on the walls.

As she dashed by, Qyreia spun from her attempt at getting around Strong’s shield to help. “Tali, wai-ghk!”

Taken from behind, a pale, bluish hand clutched at her throat, the other holding her rifle firmly in place. She hadn’t even noticed the Rodian getting stabbed, but she saw him slump to the floor as she struggled, blood pooling on the ground and making her heels slip on the smooth duracrete floor.

“Three years of waiting,” she heard growled into her ear, just over the din of the ongoing fight. “Never thought I’d get something like you and your friends. So… colorful.”

As Tali ran past, Rasha urged the other inmate to follow and assist as necessary, only to see the Zeltron in this stranglehold. When she raised her blaster, he only hid behind the red woman. Qyreia could feel the sadistic delight he was taking in the moment. She felt something against her back — his face, another knife, something else — and she was done. Choking against his grip for a moment, she released her grip on the rifle, struggling with his knife-wielding hand, while the other went for the pistol on her hip. She jammed her hand into the holster and, without even drawing the gun, jerked her leg and let the red bolt crash into his knee.

Pain seared through the Umbaran’s limb, tearing away out of primal reflex, leaving a shallow cut on the Zeltron’s arm as she likewise hopped out of his reach. Her step had a slight limp as well from the burn spot where her pistol’s shot had raked her own skin on its way to its target.

“Ass fracking Hutt-licking poodoobiscuits!” she yowled, almost hopping as she favored her good leg. “Tha kark?!”

“That’s Kroj Sko-”

The Zeltron shot him again, followed swiftly by Rasha, before the human inmate could finish his fearful sentence. “He’s a dead fracker now!” She looked to the Togrutan. “Thanks.”

Meanwhile, Tali had rounded the corner into the prison cell, lightsaber ready, but her eyes met an empty room. Something in her lekku jolted her senses and she spun aside as the human dove down from above the door. Her second spin whipped out the golden blade, cleaving him across the chest before he had even recovered from his failed ambush. Matching yellow eyes danced around the room, waiting for a follow-up attack that never came. Satisfied that it was over, she went back outside to see the others watching Strong’s battle with the lamprey-mouthed behemoth.

“Vhat are you all doing?!”

Rasha pointed at the Zeltron. “Don’t ask me!”

“Oh he’s fine,” Qyreia assured them. “C’mon Strong! Finish this guy so we can go! Glory of House Garmis or some kark!”

”Miss Qyreia,” he groaned, struggling just to keep hold of his shield and thus unable to bring his hammer to full effect, ”I am trying to concentrate, if you would be so kind.”

“Vhy are you not helping him?!”

“Hush honey. Let the man work.”

Tali felt a blood vessel break somewhere in her cranium, but watched as, with no more distraction, Strong’s fight seemed to shift. It was subtle at first. So subtle that he lost his shield when the Dashade tore it away and threw it down into a pile of humanoid refuse beneath one of the hanging bodies. In so doing though, it left the lizard wide open for the Chiss’ hammer, slamming into the side of its misshapen head.

Normally the scion of Garmis would engage in honorable hand-to-hand fighting and grappling. These inmates though, beyond their simple ambush, had proven time and again to have little honor of their own. Giving this one his Big Blue was all too appropriate. Not that he didn’t have to apply it multiple times. Even with his full might, the Dashade seemed to only stagger, forcing him to pound the violent convict again and again. The massive reptilian took every single hammering, struggling to beat his way past Strong’s armor, until his body gave out over his resolve. With the Dashade on his hands and knees, the Chiss warrior finished him off with one final downward slam.

“I think ya got him,” Qyreia chuckled, poking the Dashade’s shoulder with the toe of her boot.

”Indeed!” Strong panted, the heave of his chest visible even under his armor. ”A worthy adversary. Unfortunate that I was forced to end him.”

Tali stood there, aghast and confused. “I… I have qvestions!”

“No time for those now, sweetcheeks,” Qyreia replied. “We need to get the frak out of this hellhole and if there’s some Collective eggheads trying to bail, they need to be stopped too.”

“But…” Tali insisted.

“Yes, you have a cute one. Now let’s move.” Without a further word, the Zeltron pressed on, doing her best to ignore the lingering sting in her thigh as they moved on past the gory art display they’d narrowly avoided joining.

”I recommend we follow Miss Arronen,” Strong murmured, flinching a little as he picked up his shield from the remains of human. It would require a thorough cleaning after all this was over.

The Twi’lek merely sighed, shaking her head with enough vigor to make her lekku sway before following the zealous Zeltron and stoic Chiss out of Cellblock Dorn with the troubled Togruta and her Human helper in tow.

The way to the Command Center was far from straightforward, but compared to the macabre horror halls of Dorn and the mob-infested corridors of the Central Management Facility, it was easy going. By the time the five survivors made it around their detour, they’d each earned a few more tasteful dents on their armor and annoying bruises from moments of laxity, though on the whole these were but superficial blemishes.

“There,” Rasha Hawee panted, exhaustion clear on her yellow cheeks, “That’s where we need to go.” She gestured at a pair of familiarly styled blast doors, each over a meter thick, that lay invitingly open at the end of a gently curving corridor.

“Goodt, finally some progress,” Tali murmured, clearly getting fed up by their thankless task of subjugating dissidents alongside the more palatable culling of slavers and psychopaths.

Barely had the words left her purple lips when they spotted movement by the doors and a pair of cybernetically enhanced forms in matching jumpsuits emerged to inspect the lock. Brandishing blaster rifles far too heavy to be prison guard issue, the Arconans did not need to see any insignia to know where their allegiance lay.

“It appears we have found the true masterminds behind all this chaos,” Strong rumbled, flexing his shoulders in anticipation of the inevitable.

“I’d hardly call those two gearheads masterminds, but I get your point,” Qyreia replied, her own blaster giving of a slight hum as she prepared it for combat. She dropped to a knee and zeroed in on the pair of Collective troopers, still busying themselves with the door controls.

“Wait!” Rasha Hawee cried out in warning, inadvertently attracting the Collective soldiers’ attention and forcing Qyreia’s hand. “If you hit the door contr-!”

The Zeltron’s blaster spoke and a short flurry of bolts raked the two cyborgs, skewering them against the wall.

“See?” Qyreia smirked at the Togruta. “I don’t miss.”

Behind her, one of the cyborgs, still clinging to life, raised its weapon and aimed at the door controls. With Qyreia’s smug grin juxtaposing the imminent disaster, Rasha could only stare in disbelief as the cyborg managed to discharge his weapon at the door controls, and with a hissing of fried electrics, the blast doors began to close.

“Oh kark.”

“Run!” the Chiss bellowed, already sprinting towards the doors at the end of the corridor with thunderous steps.

Tali fleeted past him in a blur of purple, the Force filling her limbs with speed. Reaching the doorway, she hastily concluded the controls were indeed shot, and did the next best thing to impede their closing. The pair of bodies were thrown in the path of the blast doors, the organics pulped beneath the tonnes of slow moving durasteel, while the cybernetic bits offered at least a moment’s resistance before bending and crumpling all the same.

But it bought them precious seconds. Seconds they sorely needed as the Chiss, Zeltron, Togruta and Human all made their wild dashes through the ever-smaller portal between the two door halves. For a moment it looked like they’d all make it, before a harrowing scream sounded as the Human’s leg had snagged on a jagged piece of cybernetic jutting out from a door half. He was frantically pulling at his pant leg to get it loose before the portal closed completely, only to have Strong grab him by the shoulders and yank him out.

There was a horrific sound of wet tearing and the Human squealed in tortured agony. Tali winced at the sight and even Qyreia felt a knot tighten in her gut as the Human’s foot tore off at the ankle and was promptly mulched between unyielding durasteel.

The man, however, was still alive.

“Swiftly, he needs urgent care!” Strong bellowed, looking at Tali-and her saber.

Understanding the implication, the Twi’lek nodded and ignited the weapon. Before Rasha could offer her protests, she’d cut down on the stump, searing the torn flesh to stem the bleeding. The scent of burnt flesh wafted in the air, again.

The man, mercifully, slumped into unconsciousness from the shock. Only a trickle of blood seeped from the cauterized wound, though he would require medical care if he was to avoid sepsis.

“Sithspit,” Qyreia spat. “They must have heard that half way through the prison.”

Rasha gave her a bewildered look, struggling to comprehend the callousness. “Who hurt you?!” she managed, before tearing off a sleeve of her jumpsuit to wrap up the man’s footless leg. Strong tore off a medpac from his belt and offered it to Rasha, who swiftly proceeded to apply bacta to the gruesome injury.

Tali shot Qyreia a look, but didn’t say anything further. They were all getting fed up with this place and nerves were starting to show.

“You saidt the Collective vas behindt this? Vell, ve now have proof. They must be trying to arrange their departure from the commandt center. Ve’ll probably have to politely ask them to reschedule…” Tali thought out loud as she left the injured Human into Hawee’s care. It was obvious the Togruta cared for her fellow inmates, at least those who’d not succumbed to the utter madness of the riots.

”I have no reason to doubt your judgement, miss Sroka,” Strong concurred, hefting his shield wearily as if preparing for one last fight. ”Let us end this.”

“I like the sound of that,” Qyreia replied tersely, cycling her blaster’s power clip. “Never a bad day ridding ourselves of some Collective scum.”

Leaving Rasha to tend to her wounded companion, the trio pressed on into the command center proper. The narrowing corridors and increasing humming of computer cores betrayed the nature of the surveillance hub long before they reached its epicenter. There, arrayed around the various control panels and surveillance equipment the guards had used to run the complex, they found the remains of the Collective strike team, and the haggard scientists they’d been sent to extricate.

“Useless piece of Principate junk!” a heavily augmented Collective lieutenant growled, the Zabrak’s face mostly replaced by cybernetics and his horns plated with durasteel. “Who builds a prison that opens every damn pen at the same time in case of an emergency?!”

It was obvious at a glance that the Collective operatives had faced significant hardships getting this far. The troopers were visibly exhausted and the scientists appeared shocked, some clutching at shallow cuts while others merely stared into the middle distance.

“If we could just get a signal out to our ship…” the lieutenant snarled when he was interrupted by the snap-hiss that so many Collective soldiers had been taught to instinctively recognize.

”Relinquish your weapons. Your scheme has failed!” Strong declared, using the full amplification afforded by his helmet to truly drive the point home. The sonic barrage was enough to make the scientists cower in terror, and even some of the strike team soldiers took instinctive steps back before their cybernetic implants overrode the fear reaction.

Standing next to the towering Chiss, Tali brandished her lit saber at her side, eyes ablaze with the same golden fire as its plasma edge. “If you vish to live, you vill do as he says.”

The lieutenant glared at the pair of interlopers, a hateful Jedi and her Chiss minion. Of course they would be here, the incessant pests, to foil his triumphant mission. “You Jedi scum…” the Zabrak spat with physical revulsion. “The Collective will never bow before your reign of terror. Until every chain is broken!”

The troopers echoed the Collective warcry and opened fire, the flurry of crimson bolts raking the Chiss’ heavy shield and staggering the mountainous man, but he did not flinch. At his side, the Twi’lek deployed her own defensive bubble, dispersing bolt after bolt upon a barely visible barrier that kept her safe from the murderous barrage. Deflecting bolts back was too risky, lest she hit something vital on the control panels.

“Flank them! We have the numbers!” the Zabrak roared, firing his own sidearm at the two Arconans while trying desperately to adjust the sequence of blast doors around the compound to give them an exit to the hangar, and a clear transmission to their getaway vessel.

The cyborg troopers fanned out, dispersing in a wide firing arc around the Chiss and Twi’lek, probing the edges of their defences with their fire. They could not hold out for long. A bolt glanced off the edge of Strong’s shield, the battering it was taking causing the power field generator to shriek from the strain, and struck the side of his helmeted face. The Chiss roared in pain, feeling the burning even through the ablative layers, and tore the bucket off his head. A son of Garmis fought best with his hair in the wind.

By his side, Tali had had to raise both hands to maintain the barrier and even so, she was faltering. Beads of sweat ran down her forehead as she maintained her focus against the lethal onslaught, the ephemeral shield between her and her foes growing ever weaker by the second.

“Now vouldt be a goodt time, Q!” Tali shouted, seemingly to no-one, her voice betraying the mounting fatigue.

Behind the Collective troopers, a ceiling ventilation grate slammed down, dislodged by the butt of a blaster rifle, and the muzzle of the selfsame weapon emerged to take aim at the centermost troopers. It spoke briefly and laid waste, Qyreia’s aim swiftly moving to sweep away the gunners attempting to outflank the Twi’lek.

In horror, the Zabrak lieutenant watched the ambush unfold, his men gunned down by the ceiling assailant who’d outflanked his outflankers. Growling in anger, he raised his blaster pistol and fired a trio of shots at the vents, the last of which earned a sharp yelp and ceased the blasterfire.

He never got a chance for a killing blow as the next moment the pommel of a lightsaber slammed into his face with a metallic clang as it met the durasteel plate, and the pistol was swiftly yanked from his hands. He tried to recover and sent a low hook into the Twi’lek’s abdomen, drawing a grunt of pain from the Jedi who withdrew to break the distance. He had no such desire and pressed in after her, intent on dying his plated horns in Jedi blood as he lowered his head for a ramming headbutt.

With a roar, the Zabrak charged in after the Twi’lek, the Jedi still reeling from the cybernetic punch to her side, but managing in the nick of time to pirouette away from his reckless charge. The Zabrak could not see where he was going and the next moment crashed against a bulwark far greater than a lithe Twi’lek woman.

”Ooof,” Stres’trong’armis grunted as the Zabrak rammed into his side. He hefted Big Blue from the caved-in chest of the last Collective trooper and jabbed its haft sideways into the lieutenant’s flank. The man went sprawling to the ground, dizzy and disoriented by the concussive impact of his charge and the Chiss’ swift retort. Before he could make a further move, Strong brought down his armored boot on his augmented head, knocking him out with a satisfying clang.

“Are ve alright?” Tali asked, drawing ragged breaths while holding the terrified scientists once again as prisoner.

A series of expletives sounded from the vent overhead, being enough a verification that Qyreia had only suffered a flesh wound if even that. Strong looked worn, but smiled through the fatigue. Finally a proper scrap!

“I’ll contact the Principate. Tell them ve have securedt the commandt center. Hopefully they can take it from here,” Tali said and moved over to the controls that had confounded the Collective commander.

“They’d fraking well better!” Qyreia muttered as she dropped down from the vent, brandishing a minor burn on her cheek from molten metal. “And tell them we’ve got a new prisoner too, to make up for all the ones that didn’t make it,” she added with a look at the unconscious Collective officer. There would be fun times ahead for him in Tenixir; dropped soap bars or not.

”And make sure supervisor Ta is adequately appraised by miss Hawee’s invaluable aid,” Strong added. “Speaking of whom, I will go and make sure she is doing alright,” he added and trundled along the way they’d come.

Tali managed to get a connection, albeit a dodgy one, and after some back and forth the situation began to clear. Apparently other Brotherhood strike teams had managed to clear out the other sectors and bring the riots under control.

“Vell, seems another Collective scheme vas foiledt,” Tali sighed and leaned back against the control panel while Strong returned with Rasha Hawee, the injured Human carried between them.

“Yeah, they don’t seem to be getting any smarter,” Qyreia scoffed, before getting distracted by something she spotted beside the Twi’lek’s armored posterior. “Move a bit, will ya?” she inched closer and brushed the bewildered Twi’lek aside, uncovering a label on one of the controls; Hanger bay access.

“Motherfraker…”