[RoS: Escalation Event Long] Fiction - Small Group Run On - Blockade
Princess Royal, Luxury Vessel Berths, Tipool City
Qotho Peninsula, Dandoran
The main lounge aboard the Princess Royal with its lavish appointments now played host to five representatives from a pair of the Brotherhood’s clans: Naga Sadow and Plagueis. The ship and it’s occupants had traveled to Dandoran at the behest of Selika Roh di Plagia, recently returned to the position of Dread Lord of the Ascendant Clan, as the Hutt controlled planet was ostensibly neutral ground while still being familiar territory to the former Herald from her time overseeing the Shroud Syndicate. The other representatives from Plaguies were Arden Karn di Plagia, himself a former holder of the title of Dread Lord, and Qormus Aquila, the newly minted head of House Ventress who was along to gain experience in the political games of the Brotherhood’s upper echelons if nothing else. Also seated on the luxurious cushions of the various appointments of the lounge were two of the senior leaders of Naga Sadow in the form of Consul Bentre Stahoes and Rollmaster Tasha’Vel Versea. The latter seemed to have come along to prevent Bentre from giving away the farm at their first meeting.
“Your proposal is intriguing,” Bentre spoke, responding to the outline for a pact between the two Clans. “But, the last time Plagueis came to the Orian System you dropped a destroyer on our planet from orbit.”
“Different times, different regimes,” Selika offered. “Both of our Clans have come far since then, both have been forced from our throne worlds and had to rebuild.”
The Sadowans seemed to bristle at the mention of the last, their own exodus being a much more recent wound than that of the Plagueians following the Horizons Incident all those years ago. But, it seemed the effect was overall positive. Selika had worked with Bentre before, while both had served together in the Brotherhood’s Holocron center, and they knew each other much better than most of the other leaders of the disparate Clans.
“As I said, intriguing,” Bentre said.
“And,” Arden interjected, “Profitable. Plagueis has many resources, but Aliso still lacks the type of widespread infrastructure that older, more developed worlds have such as yours do. Export markets for goods would seem to be quite desirable for you at this time.”
“You seem to be well informed,” Tasha’vel said, her eyes narrowing somewhat.
“You can take the Sith out of the Corporate Sector,” Selika mused, “but you cannot take the Corporate Sector out of the Sith. I would be most alarmed if Arden did not know the current price of self-sealing stem bolts or reverse-ratcheting routing planers on the Muunilinst trade markets.”
“We will take your offer back to consider, of course,” Bentre said, stopping Arden before he could offer the said prices. “But I think it shows promise.”
Before the Plagueians could respond, the lounge shook as a loud boom rattled the occupants.
“Groundquake?” Selika wondered aloud.
“No,” Qormus answered. “That felt like an explosion.”
“Computer, viewports!” Selika commanded.
The nearly opaque viewports flashed to full transparency as the privacy system built into them was disabled. From where they stood, high above the luxury docks where the Plagueis Consul’s Kalevalan star yacht was berthed the quintet had a commanding view of whole of Tipool City.
“There!” Qormus called out, pointing towards the main starport and the wisps of smoke beginning to rise from within its perimeter.
Before anyone could respond, the lounge once again shook as a flight of four landing craft screamed directly overhead, their course directly for the starport. Selika activated displays around the lounge and tied them into the ship’s tactical systems, comms, and sensors. The vessel might be a luxury yacht of the finest order, but Selika had made sure that she could have the information she needed at a moment’s notice. As the minutes went by, the image began to take shape. Forces of both the Tenixir Revenants and Severian Principate were turning Dandoran into a war zone, both on the ground and in orbit. Troops and vessels loyal to both were shooting at one another at every opportunity. And both were sending signals calling out to their allies in the Brotherhood.
“Message arriving from the Grand Master,” Qormus reported. “It says we are free to assist either side, but not to let the hutts know that we are here. No Brotherhood colors, no Clan emblems.”
“So, the Revenants or the Principate,” Selika offered. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of pirates and smugglers.”
“As have we,” Bentre responded, Tasha’vel nodding beside him.
Arden seemed willing to go with the consensus, though Selika was sure he would need something to make it worth his while after the fact. The man was nothing if not overly conscious of the bottom line. Qormus would follow his Consul’s lead as the newest member of the Plagueian summit.
“So, the Principate,” Selika offered. “But, where best to offer our assistance?”
“This looks like the lynchpin of their efforts,” Qormus said, pointing towards the orbital plot displayed on one of the screens. “The Revenants seem to be boarding the Interdictor.”
“And whatever else comes of this,” Tasha’vel said, her brows furrowing, “allowing a gang of pirates to capture and control an Interdictor is not an acceptable outcome.”
“Indeed. However, we can’t just fly up there and retake the ship given the Grand Master’s directive. The Hutts are quite familiar with my ship,” Selika said, her gesture taking in the ship upon which they stood. “Blasting off into that orbital melee would be anything but subtle.”
“True,” Bentre said with a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Which is why I have an idea.”
“This is a perfect opportunity to display your newfound power, Bentre.” Ferro’sotah hissed softly into Bentre’s mind. “If you allow me a bit of control, I can show you how to lead this group to victory.”
“Not now, I need to think for a moment.” Bentre replied inwardly to the Spirit. “I can handle this on my own. I do not need your assistance right now.” He still smiled at the thought of his idea as he paced slightly.
“And just what sort of half-baked idea are you proposing?” interjected the green-eyed Twi’lek as she turned her gaze slightly toward the smiling Corellian. “I mean besides the foolish idea of going in blasters blazing. This is not like the action holos.”
Bentre stroked his chin while he mused a moment. “That does sound fun, though.” Casting his eyes upward, the Corellian closed his eyes in concentration. I could always take a note from the heist holos. I mean, we could do something slightly less brazen like charging in on one of their ships. I think you would look cute in an Imperial uniform, but we could always dress up like the filthy pirate scum and stab the Tenexir Revenant in the back before they are able to put two and two together. It would be pure pazaak. We make it on board, I get to keep a new ship, and we don’t break our Dark Council’s rules of engagement. A nice round of fighting, lots of chances to gain profit and still have a way we can get in without blowing our cover. Does this sound good to you all?"
“As long as we can pull it off, it might work. For once, it isn’t too crazy.” replied Tasha’vel now smirking, "However this will need to be a joint operation, if we choose to do it. " She then turned her body towards Slagar, Arden, and Qormus. “How about it, Plagueis? Would you be willing to entertain a Sadowan Consul’s plan?”
Arden nodded a bit. “As long as it works and Plagueis will profit from it, I can work with the plan.”
“I am amused.”Selika answered, “So tell me how we get in first without detection?”
Even before Bentre suggested borrowing a Revenant ship to infiltrate the Interdictor, Arden was already looking into that option. After a brief search through the spaceport records, he had located a potential target in a nearby berth in the spaceport, a Texinir SS-54 assault ship. How it got there was not important, what was important is that they could get into the docking bay without having to wade through too many Hutt security guards. After collecting their gear, the group set off to steal a ship.
Sneaking around the perimeter of the spaceport was not a challenge. They did encounter a couple Hutt guards, but being the weak-minded types, getting them to look the other way was not a challenge. What was going to be tricky would be getting into the docking bay itself. Arden had taken up the task of scouting ahead of the rest of the group and had gotten into position on a gantry overlooking the area where the Texinir assault ship was berthed. After surveying the area, Arden keyed his comlink.
“Selika, got a pair of heavies guarding the docking bay entrance, possibly one more inside.”
Hearing this, Selika and the others ducked behind a collection of cargo crates.
“What’s the hold up?” Tasha asked.
“Guards, two of them.” Selika replied. “And these might require more aggressive measures to deal with.”
Bentre and Tasha both reached for their lightsabers, but Selika held up a hand.
“Might not be a good idea,” she whispered.
“Why?” Tasha asked.
“Too obvious.” Bentre answered in a hushed voice. “Waving lightsabers around would make it pretty obvious who killed them. We’re supposed to conceal our involvement, remember.”
“Then what?” Qormos asked.
Tasha got a vicious grin on her face and went for her serwa which earned her an odd look from Selika.
“That works, but might be loud. I have a better idea that’s quick and clean.”
Tasha looked at Selika as the Dread Lord keyed her own comlink. “Arden, feel free to handle it.”
“Copy.” Was Arden’s brief response.
There was a long, tense, moment of silence before the distinct crack of a blaster bolt rang out from the gantry. As the first guard crumpled to the ground, and before the second could raise his own weapon or call for help, a second bolt rang out. A moment later, Selika’s comlink crackled to life.
“Tangos down, on my way.”
As Arden made his way down from the gantry, the rest of the group made their way over to the docking bay entrance. Qormos was the first to arrive and was shocked at the sight. Both guards’ heads were reduced to a burned mess with a massive hole in their respective helmets. As Arden walked up, he looked up to the Ettian and dropped his jaw.
Arden simply nodded as he slung his rifle back over his shoulder and readied his pistol, just in case. Selika also nodded and looked over to the Sadowan Rollmaster.
“Don’t need swords when you have a sniper. Now, I think we have a ship to steal.”
“I highly doubt we will find the ship empty.” Bentre commented as he looked at the door. “This isn’t going to necessarily be as easy as a couple of quick blaster bolts into fleshy targets. So it might fall to one of us to play a distraction or otherwise draw people away.
“Don’t do anything too foolish.” The voice in the Sadow’s head was welcome for once. He glanced sideways back toward the Twi’lek Marauder and smirked in spite of himself.
“Well, let’s get to it.” As the doors opened, Qormus visibly tensed. To the relief of those gathered, the hanger appeared to be mostly empty, save for an astromech droid moving across the far side of the hanger.
“Quickly now.” Arden’s tone was business-like, but punctuated by a sense of urgency. Tasha’Vel glanced around nervously as she watched Bentre strive forward with purpose. As Selika followed closely behind, the Twi’lek followed along at a slight crouch. Qormus followed up, followed in turn by the ever-vigilant Arden.
The group was brought to a stop by a raised hand. The Sadowan Shadow motioned ahead. There were two guards standing outside of the ship’s open ramp itself.
“This will be no matter.” This time, it was the voice of Selika that was scratching at the back of Bentre’s skull. Stepping forward with an air of grace, the Krath raised a hand. The guards snapped onto their new target. The di Plagia was unmoved.
“You have done well to keep the ship waiting.” There was a weight to her words, a power backed by the Force. Even from the group’s distance away, one could see the eyes of the guards flutter for a moment as the Master’s influence washed over the pair. The two lowered their weapons, and gave a simultaneous nod. “My companions and I thank you for your good work. It is hard to find beings so attentive to their duty. You may have the rest of the day free” One of the guards smiled at the words of praise while the other looked back at the ship.
“The pilot will be glad to see you have arrived.” The second guard gave a slight salute as he joined his comrade.
“It cannot be that easy.” Bentre grumbled as he walked up the ramp with his blaster raised. Arden followed closely behind, with his own SE-44C in hand. Together, the pair moved through the ship, sweeping carefully but meeting no resistance. Upon arriving in the cockpit, they were drawn to a stop. The Quarren pilot was sitting in the cockpit, waiting patiently. As the alien turned questioningly, Arden leveled his weapon and fired.
“We are ready for boarding.” Arden spoke into his commlink as Bentre gawked at the efficiency of the di Plagia. Selika moved equally quickly, possessed of a cat-like grace as she pushed the corpse from the seat and slipped into the pilot’s former position. As Tasha’Vel and Qormus came up behind, Selika was already working to bring the ship’s engines online. Her fellow di Plagia was slipping into the co-pilot seat beside the Consul as she did so. A few moments of chatter with the landing authority passed by, underscored by tension from the Sadowans before the hanger doors were open.
Once the SS-54 was out into open space, Tasha’Vel let out a nervous laugh. This prompted a look from Arden and Qormus, but Selika and Bentre were watching space closely as the Plagueian Consul turned their ship onto the desired vector. “This is not going quite as I had imagined it.”
Selika cleared her throat as the looming form of the Geta grew larger in the viewport. She pressed down upon the comm’s panel. “This is the Teta-2, requesting permission to dock with the Geta.” Her tone was clear and authoritative.
“Proceed to dock Bantha-Bantha-4, Teta-2.” The transmission sounded muffled. As the ship moved into its designated position to dock with the Interdictor cruiser.
“Tasha’Vel is right. Something feels really off with this whole situation.” Qormus shook his head, leaning forward as the SS-54 moved toward the still-closed hanger doors. As though on cue, the doors started to open. Standing inside, the group could see three groups of armed individuals, with weapons trained on the Teta-2.
“That might be why.” Arden’s tone was mildly humored as he leaned forward.
Arden’s hands danced lightly over the control console before him. Two blaster shots erupted from the Teta-2’s forward cannons, sending intended hostiles scattering. As the ship barreled towards the open hanger Qormus, Bentre and Tasha’Vel were already making their way toward the soon-to-open landing ramp.
The ramp was already descending as the SS-54 touched down. The air was already hot with blaster bolts as Tasha’Vel ducked down. The Corellian Sadow was standing foolishly tall as he fired his blaster into the fray. The air was already hot with the burned-ozone stench of blaster fire. Both Sadowans and Plageuians surged forward together, with both Marauders surged forward.
Tasha’Vel allowed the adrenaline rush to overtake her as she dangerously brandished her axe. As she closed the distance between the first of the hostiles Qormus was close on her tail. When the first blow failed to immediately fell her attacker, the Warrior followed up with his own rage-fueled lightsaber strike.
The next few moments were a blur of confusion and violence. The initial attack with the ship’s weapons had served to rout the attackers. The enraged Marauders carved a hole in the ranks of those holding the hanger, allowing Selika to enter the fray with her own lightsaber flashing dangerously around her. Both Shadows laid down supporting fire, with Arden taking more than his fair share of the hostiles.
Soon, the hanger grew silent, save for the labored breathing of Plagueians and Sadowans. As they drew together, Arden gave a nod at the hallway. “No better way than forward, I suppose.”
“Qormus,” Selika intoned as she stared hard back at the carnage, “do you mind looking ahead for us?”
As the least experienced member of the group and thus considered the most expendable, Qormus nodded to Selika. He didn’t mind. He was not overly familiar with the others in the party and trusted in his own abilities.
He emerged into the empty corridor lightsaber in hand. After that little battle in the hangar bay, he was ready for more trouble. But so far, he only sensed confusion and anger from those who remained. It appeared they didn’t know how to handle their little landing party, and this gave the infiltrators the advantage.
After a moment, he gestured for the others to follow. They could have been on any Imperial ship from the past 50 years. The signs of the earlier battle were all around them. The highly polished black floor was littered with the corpses of this ship’s former crew. Their bodies leaked fluids of different colours onto the deck. Scattered pockmarks from errant blaster bolts spoiled the pristine white walls of the corridor. Over near the door into some unknown room, a small droid was attempting, unsuccessfully, to clean the mess of blood and body parts.
Qormus walked over to a nearby computer terminal and began tapping away.
“I thought we were trying to sneak aboard,” Arden muttered to Selika.
“We were. Plans change.” She replied wryly.
“I hope this isn’t indicative of how Plagueis usually conducts their operations.” Bentre light-heartedly teased Selika.
Before Selika could reply, Qormus slapped the screen of the terminal in frustration.
“They shut down the terminal. I think it is safe to say they know we’re here. Oh well, two can play this game.” Qormus said.
He grabbed the small cylindrical comlink clasped to his belt and spoke into it.
“Hey Scourge,” He said, speaking to his Imperial Sentry Droid, “stay in the hangar bay and see if you can interface with the ship’s computer. Try to keep them off our scent.” He replaced the comlink.
“Qormus, keep the lead. Find us a path to the Bridge.” Selika said.
“We will need to find a way off this deck. They know we’re here, so I doubt the lifts are still functional.” Qormus replied.
“Then we’ll have to climb,” Arden said.
Nodding, Qormus turned and started walking down the hall with the party in tow, each alert for signs of trouble.
They reached a lift. Qormus grabbed his data padd and called up the standard schematics for an Interdictor cruiser. Above the door to the lift was a code, 14-137-2. This code was the key to their location and their path to the Bridge. Deck 14, section 137, lift 2. Qormus examined the schematics and shook his head.
“This lift only goes as far as deck six. Oh well, it’s a start.”
He put the lightsaber back on his belt and pried the lift door open with his fingers. He held it open while his companions walked in and began climbing. The last one in, Tasha’Vel, held the doors open so Qormus could enter the shaft.
They climbed to the top, the door indicating that they were indeed on deck 6. As the first in, it was Selika’s turn to pry the door open for them to exit. Qormus examined his padd again and pointed to his right, “This way,” He said.
This part of the ship showed no signs of battle, and they made quick time to the next lift. According to his schematics, this one would be close to the Bridge. He pried the door open, and they repeated the earlier exercise.
After another tiring climb, they emerged onto the Bridge deck. Qormus grabbed his comlink again.
“Hey Scourge,” He said, quietly this time, ”Give me a status report.”
“Master, it seems that the pirates believe that you are headed to weapons control. There are only three remaining on the Bridge.”
“Good job, Scourge," Qormus smiled, "Track our position and open the Bridge door 30 seconds after we arrive.” He put the comlink back onto his belt and grabbed his lightsaber.
They reached the Bridge door, and each of them prepared for what was certainly to be a simple battle.
Qormus counted in his head and just before he anticipated the door was going to open, ignited his lightsaber, the others following suit.
The doors opened, and the group was met with a hail of blaster bolts from six automated turrets located on the deck about 10 meters inside the Bridge.
The three pirates whirled in complete surprise at the sudden chaos behind them, taking cover behind a console.
Arden and Tasha’Vel pushed forward to block the blaster bolts. Seeing that they had it covered, Qormus shut down his lightsaber. He turned to Bentre and Selika, “Help me disable the turrets. I’ll take the left, Bentre the middle, Selika the right.” He said.
Bentre and Selika shut down their lightsabers. Bentre and Qormus looked at Selika who nodded.
Qormus turned to face his two turrets, closing his eyes. He felt the turrets through the force, their barrels blazing red hot. He focused on the barrels and reached out to them through the force. They easily distorted under his onslaught. Satisfied, he opened his eyes. The turrets were still firing but helplessly into the ceiling of the Bridge. Molten metal began to drip down onto the deck in front of them. Bentre’s turrets were barely recognisable, having been crushed as if they had imploded. Qormus couldn’t even see where Selika’s turrets were. The only sign of their existence was scorch marks on the deck.
The three pirates emerged from behind the console with their arms up. Qormus looked at Selika who nodded.
Qormus reached out with the force, and at the same time, snapped each of their necks. The pirates fell to the deck, dead.
“Good job, everyone,” Selika said to the group.
Bridge, Interdictor Geta
Low Orbit, Dandoran
“I’m going to see if I can contact any of the crew,” Arden said from an engineering station at the rear of the bridge. “Seems like the gravity well systems are still functional, just that they’ve been disengaged.”
“Good, if we can get the Principate officers back in charge we can move on without leaving our fingerprints on this any more than we have to,” Tasha’vel opined.
Before Selika could reply the deck lurched under her feet. “I thought you said the grav wells were offline?”
“I don’t think that was the gravity wells,” Arden responded, looking at his board.
Qormus jumped down into one of the crew pits and took up the sensor officer’s position. “He’s right. There’s a Principate Victory-class destroyer out there, the Vel, that’s firing on all the ships in the area. Including us.”
“They must think the ship is under the control of the Revenants,” Selika realized aloud.
The Naga Sadowan Consul must have been thinking the same thing, as he had already crossed the bridge to the comm station across from the engineering display. He activated the vessel’s comm systems and broadcast in the clear.
“This is the Interdictor Geta,” Bentre spoke forcefully. “We have successfully repelled a Revenant attack. Hold your fire.”
Nothing but static was heard over the return transmission, but then the deck lurched again accompanied by the sound of distant explosions. The 600 meter ship shuddered under the impact of continual turbolaser fire from the destroyer that was now closing on them. The bridge instantly became a hive of confused activity as the five interlopers scrambled to try to get the vessel moving.
“Shields are inactive,” Arden reported from his station.
“The Vel appears to be on an intercept course, closing fast,” Qormus added as he interpreted the sensor display.
Selika jumped down into the crew pit beside her Quaestor and tried to make some sense of the helmsman’s control board. Her understanding of piloting was limited to smaller craft, but the principles had to be at least somewhat related. The controls, however, did not seem familiar.
“Engines are offline,” Tasha’vel said from the engineering station beside Arden. “Looks like the primary power system as well with that last hit.”
Then, suddenly, the ship was hit hard enough to knock the five representatives of the Brotherhood from their feet. As each one of them hit the deck, they could feel the momentary sensation of movement in the ship as the inertial compensators struggled to keep up with the ship’s movements. Selika pulled herself to her feet using the edge of the bridge station above her, and the helm display revealed a symphony of flashing red indicators as she regained her footing.
“That last hit took out the auxiliary power systems,” Tasha updated everyone. “We’re on emergency battery power only.”
“That’s not the real problem,” Selika interjected. “Our orbit is decaying.”
“Are you sure?” Qormus asked from beside her.
“I’d say she’s pretty sure,” Bentre said, pointing to the viewports at the front of the bridge.
The planet below, which had been a half lit crescent just visible in the starboard-most viewports now dominated the forward view. The bow of the ship seemed to be pointed directly at the terminator between day and night that was now moving towards Tipool City. Without power, there would be nothing they could do to halt their headlong plunge.
“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Bentre observed , “But I think it’s time to be somewhere else.”
Bentre’s suggestion of removing themselves from the ship was a very wise suggestion as it was only a matter of time before the ship made a nice dent in the surface of the planet below. As the group made their way towards the bridge exit, Arden could not help but shoot Selika a crosswise look.
“You know, we’re going to have to rethink whether we’re allowed to be on the same ship during a mission again. It doesn’t seem to end well.”
Selika chuckled. “At least this time it’s not your ship that’s crashing.”
“Don’t remind me.” Arden retorted. The other three got a confused look on their faces, but Arden waved them off.
Aside from the occasional blown power conduit or sparking control panel, the first part of their evacuation was uneventful. They had made their way down through the ship to the main hallway leading to the hangar bay. In the process they had only encountered a pair of repair droids who seemed far too occupied with their seemingly futile repair work to pay them much mind. Arden, for one, seemed rather perplexed by the lack of crew or Revenants in their path.
“Everyone couldn’t have evacuated by now,” Arden mused.
“Don’t you dare jinx it,” Tasha interjected as they made their way slowly down the corridor.
Almost on cue, a quartet of heavily armed and sneering Revenants appeared from a cross corridor in front of them. Tasha shot Arden a glare that said far more than words. Just as the Dark Jedi were readying their lightsabers and the Revenants were aiming their blasters, everyone was first yanked sharply into the right-hand wall and then started to feel lighter.
“What the kriff was that!” Tasha shouted as she fumbled for her lightsaber.
“We’re on a damaged vessel with artificial gravity that’s designed to project an artificial gravity well, take your pick.” Bentre answered as he steadied himself on a nearby door frame.
“Well, this should be fun then.” Selika added just as another jolt caused everyone in the corridor to start floating towards the ceiling. With a quick kick off the floor, Selika launched herself at the Revenants, igniting her lightsaber on the way. The next few moments were a chaotic mess as the neither group of combatants had any real expertise in low-G combat. Blasters fired wildly, saber swings sent people in unexpected directions, and severed body parts simply hung in the corridor. Their skill with the Force gave the Dark Jedi a marginally easier time of it though and they managed to dispatch the pirates, but there was nothing elegant about it.
As the last Revenant was killed, another jolt shoved the group and corpses against the ceiling for a moment before unceremoniously dropping them all to the floor. Bentre was the first to take stock of the situation, though he had the strange sensation of finding a severed leg had landed on his back.
“Guess this gives me a leg up on the rest of you.” Bentre mused as he stood up.
Tasha shot Bentre a look, sarcasm evident in her tone. “Har har har.”
Once the rest of them stood up, they found they had a clear path to the hangar bay and, for the moment, gravity had stabilized. Selika, once she’d picked an errant finger out of her hair, gestured towards the hangar bay.
“Shall we, before this gets any messier.”
“Agreed, I grow weary of all these puns.” Tasha sighed as she quickly followed alongside the group. As they entered the hangar, several Severian Principate officers turned around.
“You aren’t getting away alive,scum,” One of them shouted. Several had pulled out blasters and aimed for the group, just before they fired, a loud buzz went off and once again the group and the officers began floating.
Just what I wanted, another anti-gravity fight. Tasha’Vel thought about the moments before her grandfather had died. Tapping into that memory allowed her to tap more deeply into the Dark Side of the Force. She leaned into the rage that boiled up inside of her, using it to shape the Force that flowed through her.
Little ringlets of lightning coursed along her fingers, traced up her hands and then trickled down to her fingers again. With a cry borne of one part anger and one part deeply-felt pain, the Twi’lek extended her hands. As she stretched her palms out, a blue streak of lightning arced from extended digits. It passed from fingers and lanced from her palms into the chest of a Principate combatant. The man screamed in agony as the lightning coursed through his body and began to char his flesh.
As this was happening, Bentre had pulled his blaster and fired, killing another as Qormus pushed off the edge of a nearby box. He propelled himself forward towards another officer, cutting him down with his lightsaber while Selika dispatched the last one by smashing his head against the side of the wall with her telekinetic power.
The last, recently-deceased officer’s corpse crumpled and floated for a moment. As gravity reasserted itself, all persons living and dead within the hangar descended to the floor plates with a painful crash. The survivors swiftly leapt onto their feet, turning together to make a charge for the ship.
“Quick, let’s finish up so that we can get out of here!” Tasha shouted the words as she sprinted for their new space vehicle in the hangar.
“I couldn’t agree more.” Arden spat back as he followed behind with the rest of the group. “I am growing tired of all this altered gravity nonsense.”
The group hunkered behind some cargo crates. Just a few metres away was their ticket out of this nightmare, a pristine SS-54 assault ship. Well, it was pristine before the day’s events anyway. Its hull was riddled with scorch marks, and some debris littered the deck around the vessel. It looked perfectly functional, however. The Geta shook beneath their feet as an explosion far away in another section rocked the ship. They had to get out of here before it fell out of the sky.
Qormus grabbed the commlink from his belt and spoke into it.
“Scourge, open the ramp of that ship.”
Replacing it just as the ramp began to descend, the group emerged from behind their cover and ran for the ship. They ascended the ramp, and Selika slapped her hand on the mechanism to raise the ramp.
They all stopped in the entrance corridor and waited for the ramp to complete its cycle. They had to be sure that no stowaways made it onboard.
“Let’s head to the command deck. I think I am the best pilot here; I’ll fly this thing out of here, Qormus, you’ll co-pilot.” Selika said to the group.
They all nodded and took off for the nearest lift that would take them up to the command deck. After arriving, they entered the cockpit. A tall and menacing droid stood there waiting for them. Selika hissed and ignited her lightsaber.
“Selika, that is just Scourge!” Qormus called out as he entered the cockpit behind her.
Selika stopped and eyed him for a moment.
“You could have warned me.” She said with a slight tone of menace in her voice.
Qormus gave her a puzzled look, “And who do you think lowered the ramp? The emperor?”
Selika relaxed her shoulders and uttered a quiet chuckle as she shut down her lightsaber.
“Scourge, head back down to the entrance corridor and let us know if anyone attempts to board,” Qormus ordered.
Scourge nodded silently and exited the cockpit.
The cockpit was small for a ship this size, measuring barely ten square metres. With the five of them in here, it was very tight, and it smelled more than a little ripe after the day’s events. The pilot and co-pilot consoles were situated across the front of the cockpit in front of the glass panel. The side and rear walls were filled with panels and readouts of various systems, their lights softly blinking in the dark cockpit.
Selika and Qormus took their seats, their fingers dancing over the control panels as they prepped the ship for launch. A slight thrum could soon be felt through the deck plating as the engines began to spool up and after a minute, the lights on a nearby panel began switching from red, to orange and then to green, indicating the related system was ready for flight.
Arden, Tasha’Vel and Bentre pushed between Selika and Qormus, their eyes fixed on the hangar bay for any signs of more approaching troopers, but there was nothing. Another explosion rocked the ship. This one was much closer and caused those standing to stagger for a moment.
Outside of the hangar, they could see Dandoran far below. It was strange the planet seemed to be moving and getting closer. Of course, it wasn’t the planet that was moving, but the Geta.
“I think it is time to get out of here!” Arden said to them, Tasha’Vel and Bentre nodding in agreement.
“I know, I know. I can only go so fast!” Selika barked as she continued to massage the engines into life.
A door on the far side of the hangar bay opened. A squad of troopers emerged and began firing at their ship.
“I thought we left this party already,” Tasha’Vel muttered to herself.
“Take care of them, Qormus,” Selika ordered.
Qormus nodded and instructed one of the surface-mounted lasers to target the squad. It began firing but was not designed to be an anti-personnel weapon. The best it could do was suppress the squad. The enemy troopers were sent scurrying out of the hangar bay as the area surrounding them was turned into a hellscape of melted deck plating and exploding cargo containers.
“Uhh, guys,” Arden said. Qormus looked over his shoulder at him, and then followed his gaze out of the cockpit window. Dandoran loomed large outside the hangar. They were close enough to the surface now that they could start making out cities on the surface. A red glow could also be seen as the Geta entered the atmosphere.
“I see it!” Selika said, the alarm in her voice evident.
“This is going to get rough,” Qormus said as pieces of the hull began flying past the hangar bay as the ship begin to disintegrate.
“Yes, it will,” Bentre said in agreement.
“Finally, we’re ready to go. Qormus, ignite the engines. Raise shields as soon as we have lifted off,” Selika said.
Qormus did as instructed, and a moment later the ship began to lift off the deck. It spun on its axis and pointed towards open space, just as the hangar bay went dark. Qormus reached over to raise the ship’s shields.
“Ok, hold on everyone!” Selika said as she stabbed a button on the control panel. The ship abruptly rocketed out of the hangar bay, engines roaring at full thrust.
The assault ship sped away from the Geta, the surface of Dandoran impossibly close. A piece of errant hull plating collided with them which sent them spinning violently. A moment later, the Geta impacted the surface of the planet, disappearing into a cloud of fire and debris.
Selika, only held into her seat by restraints battled the ship’s controls trying to regain control. The ship’s violent rotation began to slow as Selika succeeded when the shockwave from the Geta’s demise hit them.
Selika felt the SS-54 assault ship tremor beneath her as the shockwave hit, the impact of which sent the vessel into a fresh, wild and uneven spin. The bone-jarring impact caused Tasha’Vel to involuntarily gnash her razor-sharp teeth together. Self-preservation kicked in as she extended one hand to her side and the other against Selika’s seat to arrest her forward momentum and ensure she didn’t brain herself on the pilot’s seat. Arden braced himself by clutching at the sides of his seat while Qormus held onto the back in a desperate attempt to keep his footing.
An alarm sounded as the ship rotated out of control, ringing in the ears of the escaping group. Selika continued to attempt to fight the ship back under her control, the two Sadowans scrambled to try to find something to anchor themselves. The Twi’lek Rollmaster was successful in wrapping an arm around the pilot’s seat but the Corellian Consul found himself sliding across the floor to smack into the back wall of the cockpit with a painful thud.
The ship continued to spin as Selika fought to stabilize their flight or at least to stop their wild movements. For a moment, it seemed as though the Consul would be successful. Though their view still bucked and twirled, the turning seemed to slow as Selika fought the yoke’s movements to further slow their spin.
For a moment, it seemed that she had been successful. Tasha’Vel was able to get a foot beneath herself and Qormus was able to grip the back of Arden’s seat with both hands again. As Selika attempted to level out the SS-54 to soften their landing, the assault ship bucked again. Bentre was standing again, brushing himself off and taking several deep breaths to settle his pounding heart. His attention was drawn to the view outside the cockpit when Arden let out a low groan. Tasha’Vel and Qormus looked up in time to see a fragment of an engine flying just out of sight as it plummeted to the surface below.
While the Sadowans and Qormus were thrown off their feet, Tasha’Vel felt a hand reach out to push her. The shove was the last thing that Tasha’Vel was sure of for several moments. The last moments before impact were a confusing mixture of vertigo and pain punctuated by the loud crash of ship plates slamming into the unforgiving surface of the planet. That moment sent Tasha’Vel into blackness.
When she finally came back to full consciousness, she was met by a ringing sound in her ear cones. The ringing in her ears was completely deafening for what felt to be several minutes. Tasha’Vel felt that her sense of time was quite distorted. However, when the shrill, piercing ringing grew quieter, she was comforted to hear her husband and Consul’s voice coming through the noise.
“Seriously though, that could have gone a lot worse.” Bentre winced in spite of himself as he carefully stretched his arm and shoulder. He didn’t appear to be much worse for the wear all things considered.
“That seems oddly optimistic with regard to a crashed ship.” Arden shook his head before turning back to continue looking himself over for injuries.
“Well part of it is to be expected. Ships tend to drop out of the sky when Naga Sadow and Plagueis get together.” Bentre smiled painfully. “Oh yeah, I definitely pulled something.” He winced. “Back on topic though, in terms of the injuries that could have been, we made out in spades. Not everybody gets to walk away from a shuttle crash, let alone one like what we just experienced.
Tasha’Vel cleared her throat. “It could have been worse, honey.” She let the word hang as Bentre looked from Qormus to her. “You could have been the one in the pilot’s seat. I don’t think you would have left us in a much better state.”
Bentre opened his mouth to respond, but Selika stood up and held a hand up. “Look yourself over a bit before you rake him over the coals too much, Tasha’.” Selika’s smile was cool, with a hint of concern for the Rollmaster.
The Sadowan Marauder took a moment to look herself over. No blood, or obvious exterior injuries. As she moved, the Twi’lek slightly regretted the impulse. By the feel of it, she might have cracked a rib. Pain was radiating from her side. As she poked at the area, Tasha’Vel was met with sharp pain. She winced as she realized she might have cracked a rib. She brushed one of her lekku behind her shoulder as she tried to compose herself, but was met with another alarming pain. The pain was telling, but it wouldn’t stop her from fighting in a sticky situation. Looking at her battered compatriots, it could certainly be worse.
“Hey,” Bentre laughed with a grimace. “At least we don’t have some previously-unknown but deadly third group jumping into things, right? I mean, the likelihood that a third party joins the fray and injects themselves into combat after the time we just had?”
“You wouldn’t want to speak too soon.” The controlled cadence of Arden drew everyone’s attention. He pointed out the viewport, where the lines of a gathering army stood. The crystalline projections of the beings fascinated some and repulsed others in the cockpit.
“Well,” Selika said, “I suppose that the siren’s call of battle cannot be ignored after all.” She looked to her compatriots, Sadowan and Plagueian alike. Without a word more exchanged, they took stock of themselves and their equipment one last time. This could be their last time to salvage anything.
There was no alternative for this party. They were going to have to fight. So the five of them pulled themselves out of the wrecked assault vessel. Standing on their own feet in spite of their aches and injuries, they stood together, united in that moment. Together they strode forward and together they ran to meet this new threat headlong.