Vivackus stood back on the bridge and watched the tide of the battle turn in his favour. The additional support that Dacien and Aabsdu had provided were monumental in ensuring his success.
The smaller fighters were carving paths for the shuttles to get in closer to The Anchorage in order to drop off the ground support teams. The destroyers and gunships were supporting the smaller fighters and trying to cause as little damage as possible. These ships were after all, part of Plagueis’ fleet.
Vivackus sighed as one of the small fighters exploded near the bridge. He hoped the cost of success wasn’t too great.
“Sir!” One of the communications officers called to him. “We just received word that the rest of Strike Team Alpha landed on The Anchorage.”
This was not the way things were supposed to be going at all. The unexpected arrival of the ships under the command of the di Plagia serving on the Dark Council had been unexpected. They had shifted the balance of power between the two forces engaged in battle around the Anchorage decidedly against Xander Drax.
Neither Esoteric nor any of the other members of the One Sith had responded to his calls for help. And it wasn’t simply that his requests had been refused or gone unanswered, it was even more confusing than that. Call codes could not be reached, communications relays to One Sith forces no longer responded. It was as if the One Sith military apparatus had simply evaporated into the vacuum of space like air escaping from a crippled ship. Once again getting nowhere, Drax slammed his fist down on the command console in frustration one last time.
“My lord?” one of his military commanders asked.
“It appears that the time to make our withdrawal has come, commander,” Drax responded, composing himself quickly.
Drax knew that, with the battle going the way it was, it was only a matter of moments before the enemy vessels powered up their gravity wells to prevent any of their former assets from escaping to hyperspace. But Drax was never one without an escape plan, as unlike Imperial commanders such as Grand Moff Tarkin he never was above an evacuation when required. He had done it before. He had left the Empire when all seemed lost, fled the Emperor’s Hammer just ahead of a self-appointed Grand Admiral’s thugs, and disappeared from a Brotherhood locked in combat with the Yuzzhan Vong by faking his own death. Plagueis had not been able to eliminate him on Khar Delba or Athiss, they would not do so now. Having been forced to rebuild his power from nothing on several occasions over his long career, the prospect didn’t leave him with much worry.
When he had first come aboard the Anchorage, he had located a docking port unused by the station’s previous tennants. Located on the lower spire, nearly the station’s lowest deck, the docking port had stood ready for his possible need ever since he had docked an assault shuttle there. Now, it would serve its purpose.
“Sergeant, you and your men come with me,” Drax sharply ordered the troopers that served as his bodyguards.
“Secure the hangar!” Athrun barked at the troops under his command as the second of Plagueis’ shuttles were able to land. “Strike teams! Prepare for breach! You know your objectives. Failures will not be tolerated.”
As the soldiers smoothly moved to fortify the area, Athrun stood back with his hands on his hips, nodding slightly to himself at their efficiency. Strike team Dorn was preparing to breach the hanger bay door in order to allow the rest of the strike teams to advance towards their objectives. Moving quickly into place, he prepared to lead Strike Team Beta to their objective. Seizing the command center was imperative to Plagueis’ success.
Strike Team Alpha was ready to move out the second the hangar door was breached. Joining their respective troops, Dracaryis and Mayda looked at each other and nodded as the doors exploded outward allowing them access to the interior of the Anchorage. Moving swiftly and following the Dread Lord’s instructions, the strike teams quickly moved toward their target. Xander Drax had to be neutralized once and for all. Breaking off quickly from the other teams, Dracaryis and Mayda took the point and rear positions, stealthily progressing their team toward the command deck. The nerve center of the station, it had been identified by the Dread Lord as one of the most likely locations to find Drax.
Nearing the command center, the team slowed down and stealthily approached. Suddenly, they were under fire from a squad of five soldiers, with Drax seen down the corridor behind them. Ducking behind cover, the Plagueian assualt team just caught Drax making his escape down a side tunnel behind one of his men.
“Quick Dracaryis! We can’t let him escape!” Mayda called out to her comrade.
The five troopers were putting up fierce resistance, but they were outnumbered and outgunned. Finally, the last of them fell to the deck, a burned and smoking crater where his face had once been.
Dracaryis took off at a sprint before the others, chasing Drax through the convoluted corridors of the Anchorage, Mayda close on his heels. As they chased Drax down, trying to catch up with the older man Mayda drew out her communicator to update the Dread Lord and his Wrath of the situation.
“My Lord, we’re approaching what looks to be an unexplored portion of the Anchorage’s lower levels.” Mayda said briskly into her communicator. “Drax still has a lead on us, but I believe we can catch him!”
“Fall back!” Came the sharp reply from Vivackus.
“I’m sorry my Lord?” Mayda replied, confused. " Did you just say to fall back?"
“Yes.” Came the terse reply. “Just follow my orders."
Confused, the two stopped running and listened to the steps of Xander Drax fade away into the dark, seemingly abandoned stairwell.
If Drax was right, he was nearing his destination. The dark, nearly unexplored section of the Anchorage had proven somewhat more difficult to navigate than he had first thought. Entire sections had malfunctioning gravity plating, most of it not working at all but some creating fields several times higher than a standard G. Many areas had doors fused shut, some flash welded, likely as barriers to the previously encountered Sithspawn that had lurked in the station. At least the Plagueians had dealt with those particular annoyances.
Rounding a turn, he finally could see his destination another thirty meters down the corridor. He smiled, banishing the last nagging doubt about his eventual escape that he had not even admitted to himself. As he walked towards the docking port, suddenly he felt the warmth in the air disappear. His breath formed a fog as the warm moisture condensed in the suddenly nearly freezing air. And that’s when he felt the cold through the Force, not simply on his skin. It was a darkness like he had never felt before, a level of hate and anger that made his skin crawl.
Turning, he felt the blood drain from his face as he saw what was behind him. Experiencing real fear for the first time in many decades, his eyes widened as his hand moved to his belt as he fumbled for his lightsaber.
You can’t leave, no… I’m not done with you yet.
It wasn’t a voice, he felt the words as much as heard them in the Force. The cold darkness rushed towards him, and he screamed. Echoing through the corridors the scream trailed off into a wet gurgle before fading completely, the lower levels of the Anchorage once again reclaimed by a heavy silence.
[Four Days after the recapture of the Anchorage]
Finally, everything that was once his was once again whole. The Dread Lord allowed himself a small smile, knowing that his base of power was now, once again, firmly planted beneath his feet. The disloyal officers had been dealt with, some of them executed while the majority of them were thrown down into the ranks of the slaves they had once commanded. The latter seemed a more fitting punishment, death was simply a release from their obligations.
“Lost in thought again, I see,” a man spoke from behind Vivackus.
Turning, Vivackus saw the presence in the Force created by Dacien Victae and Aabsdu Dupar, the di Plagia who had brought ships loyal to the Iron Throne to recapture their home clan.
“Always,” Vivackus responded. “You know how it is with me, always schemes within schemes.”
“You know this will not happen again, Kavon,” Aabsdu continued.
“You will have to clean up your own messes from now on,” Dacien agreed.
“Yes, yes,” Vivackus acknowledged, privately frustrated with the two men even as he was thankful for their intervention. It had been these two that had first supported Esoteric and started the Ascendant Clan down the path that had brought them to this point. That neither seemed inclined to share in that responsibility grated on the Miralukan consul.
“I’ll just do better picking my second this time,” Vivackus went on. “Perhaps the next one won’t feel the need to skewer me.”
The two other men nodded, then turned and headed for their shuttle. It would take them back to the Suffering and the Dark Council.
That’s when he saw it, the form of a man standing in the shadows near the far side of the docking bay. It seemed to be accompanied by a presence he had encountered on several occasions before. This time it was an older, bald headed human with mustache and goatee. Perceiving the man through his new senses left him unsure if he recognized him or not, but there was something familiar about him.
[Dread Lord’s Quarters]
[One Month after the recapture of the Anchorage]
Jai’de watched from the back of the room as Vivackus Kavon di Plagia, Dread Lord of Plagueis stood tall in his rightful place on the Anchorage and wondered why she had been summoned here. She hadn’t felt she’d been particularly integral in their success regaining the Anchorage, or the effort to piece Plagueis back together from the ashes that followed.
“Ah, Jai’de,” Vivackus called suddenly, startling her out of her musings. “there you are. Come over here, there’s something we wish to discuss.”
She looked around at the rest of Plagueis’ summit as she drew nearer to the group, growing more curious and wary. Teylas, having been installed as Proconsul and Dread Lord’s Wrath following the retaking of the Anchorage, stood flanked by Quaestors Callus Bo’Amar and the newly anointed Selika Roh. “Yes, my lord?” She finally responded.
“You may not have yet heard but Dralin has resigned his position as Overseer.” Vivackus started. “And we have found ourselves his successor.”
“I’d be happy to greet the new Overseer and bring them up to speed for you, my lord.” Jai’de responded.
“That won’t be necessary, Overseer.” Vivackus responded with a slight smirk at the Zeltron’s obvious shock. “Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have business to discuss with Teylas.”
As Jai’de left the room she thought she saw a man standing off to one side, nearly hidden in shadow. Pale white skin was framed by long dark hair the color of volcanic glass, a goatee on the man’s chin. Whomever the man was there was an odd feeling about him in the Force, and if the Dread Lord did not want to acknowledge him to her at this time he likely had his reasons.
[Dread Lord’s Quarters]
[Nine weeks after the recapture of the Anchorage]
“You saw it again, didn’t you?” Vivackus asked, almost more of a statement than a question.
Teylas nodded. “This time, I could have sworn it was him. We never found a body, and no ships left the Anchorage during the battle. Our gravity wells saw to that.”
“It wasn’t him,” Vivackus said.
“It wasn’t him,” Vivackus repeated, this time more coldly, “it was something else.”
Vivackus steepled his fingers. “I’ve seen others, not just him. Others that I know cannot be here, that must be…”
“Must be what?” Teylas spoke up after the Dread Lord had trailed off into silence.
“I have a mission for you. It’ll require some diplomacy,” Vivackus said, leaving his Wrath’s question unanswered. “It will also require a bit more sway than you currently hold as Wrath.”
“What do you need?” Teylas asked.
“I need you, as one of our newest di Plagia, to reach out and attempt to create a new alliance.” Vivackus stated.
Teylas took a moment to process Vivackus’ announcement and then looked up at him. “I’ll need to bring support.” He stated simply.
"I already considered that,” Vivackus explained. “You’ll also be taking our other newly anointed di Plagia with you. Selika’s experience out in the galaxy is likely second only to your own.”
“I still don’t fully trust the woman,” Teylas said with glare, “she’s still playing her own game.”
“Yes, but her game appears to be working to our benefit,” Vivackus replied. “But, I understand your concern. Who else did you have in mind?”
“Jai’de,” Teylas said without hesitation. “As her master I would feel more comfortable with Jai’de by my side. Her effectiveness in recapturing the Anchorage was paramount and skillset might be required. And, unlike Roh, I trust her."
Vivackus’s eyebrow cocked slightly at that, a bit of a smirk playing on his lips.
“As much as I trust anyone, that is.” Teylas finished.
Vivackus considered for a moment then nodded. “We will send two di Plagias and our Overseer then.”
As Teylas turned to leave the command deck and start preparing for his mission, Vivackus spoke again. “Oh and Teylas? Do not fail.”
[Lamba Shuttle Trigati]
[Ten weeks after the recapture of the Anchorage]
“What are we doing here, Teylas?” Selika asked, point blank.
“We aren’t exactly going to find any visitors out here in the middle of no where,” Jai’de shifted uneasily beside Selika, unsure what to think.
Teylas turned to study the two women assigned to come along with him on this mission. Their uneasiness with the current situation was obvious, but Teylas saw no reason to explain the real reason for their mission until necessary. They trusted his judgement and the half truth he had told them about why they were there, but that would only last for so long.
The stated intention was to find allies for Plagueis considering that the clan had been beaten down repeatedly over the last several years, only forced to rebuild on their own. They stood with no allies since their break with Scholae Palatinae during the Orian Incursion. They had only retaken the Anchorage with the intervention of Dacien and Aabsdu, intervention that could not be counted on in the future. It made sense, but it wasn’t the sole reason they were here.
“Signal coming in for your, my lord,” the pilot’s voice came over the intercom.
“Route it here,” Teylas ordered, then turned to the other two passengers in the rear compartment of the shuttle. “And you two, go spend some time in the cockpit.”
The two women stood and headed forward, Selika with a look of annoyance on her face while Jai’de looked more confused. They would find out soon enough, but not now. Once they were gone, Teylas activated the holocomm unit and the face of Farrin Xies, newly crowned Consul of Clan Tareantum, swam into view above it.
“Farrin. I’ve been expecting your call,” Teylas greeted him.
“Your signal was intruiging, to say the least. What exactly are you looking for?” Farrin asked.
“I’ve been sent as both the Wrath of Plagueis and an honored di Plagia, joined by another di Plagia and our Overseer, to negotiate terms for an alliance.” Teylas responded to Farrin. “Perhaps a face-to-face meeting would be a more suitable setting to discuss?”
“Why Tarentum?” Farrin inquired.
“Your Clan has special experience in an area that may be germane to the situation Plagueis currently finds itself in,” Teylas explained.
From the look on the man’s face, Farrin was intrigued as to what that situation might be. “Then I will receive you as envoy on Yridia. I’ll send you the coordinates.”
“I thank you,” Teylas said, inclining his head.
[Dread Lord’s Quarters]
[Ten weeks after the recapture of the Anchorage]
The feeling in the Force was back, this time stronger than it had ever been before. This time it was accompanied by a cold that chilled the Consul to the bone, his breath fogging the air in his quarters even though the climate control systems registered nominal conditions.
“I know you’re there,” Vivackus spat.
The darkness in the Force seemed to swirl around him, taking the shape of men and wearing faces that were not it’s own.
“You’re not Faetor! Not Drax!,” Vivackus yelled at the apparition. “You’re certainly not Calliban Crimson, I killed the man myself! You wear the faces of the dead, but you never show your own!”
The shapes of men melted away as the darkness ebbed. The only response that Vivackus could illicit was the sound of laughter in the Force.