Time Remaining: 2:55
Whatever else could be said about the Collective, their members did not die easily.
Breathing hard, the whirlwind of slashes and ripostes between Tarvitz and the MagnaGuard continued, each hacking away at the other in a relentless frenzy. It had seemingly emerged from nowhere, perhaps installed into the shadows behind one wall or kept deactivated until intruders arrived. Whatever the truth was, it was proving to be frustratingly hard to kill even with his precognition. Worse still it hadn’t been alone.
The headless form of a second MagnaGuard lay near the doorway. Tarvitz had brought it low through a lucky shot, first taking its head and then impaling it through the chest. Beyond it through the open blast doors, the pile of bodies had been steadily rising, each ignoring any sense of caution in favour of storming the room. Typically headlong into a hail of blaster fire or, in one particular case, having the misfortune to step between the two duellists.
“There,” he made out Walsh’s yell over the buzzing of the MagnaGuard’s electrostaff, “We’re done!”
“Get moving, I’ll keep it distracted!” Tarvitz yelled, briefly locking blade against staff before shunting the droid back, “Don’t stop until you reach the hole!”
He heard Khal and Walsh rushing out of the room, clinking as they rapidly bundled up the man’s equipment. He heard the sound of blaster fire being exchanged from somewhere outside and hoped that his allies had been the ones to finish it.
“Alright, let’s get this over and done with,” Tarvitz sighed, readying himself and holding the lightsaber before him in a two-handed hammer grip. The droid tilted its head in comprehension, before it spun the buzzing weapon in both hands and dropped into a fighting stance of its own.
The MagnaGuard struck first, swinging its weapon wide before reversing the attack into a short stab. With no reason left to limit the collateral damage to the room, Tarvitz stepped to one side and dragged the droid forward with a slight telekinetic pull. It tumbled forward, punching its weapon clean through the nearest server in a shower of sparks and stuck fast. Lightning arced up its body, shorting out main circuits and causing it to momentarily pause as its systems rebooted. That split-second was all Tarvitz needed. It was trying to pull it free as he came at the droid in a series of whirling strikes. The technique was unsubtle, crude and brutish, but it was fast. The hallmarks of Shii-Cho. In the space of three seconds, the MagnaGuard was struck multiple times, its body rapidly carved into a shower of metallic fragments which scattered about the floor.
“And stay down,” Tarvitz said between breaths, feeling lightheaded now combat had paused. The duel had dragged on for several minutes, and he could feel his limbs aching from blocking so many powerful strikes. Briefly switching off the lightsaber, Tarvitz closed his eyes and clasped his hands together, reaching into the binding energies of the Living Force and channeling them into himself. For a brief second the ship disappeared, and was replaced by the glowing light of the hundreds of entities on the ship, and the thousands on the vessels surrounding it. Then that second passed, and the world took shape once more. Renewed and with his fatigue disappearing in an instant, Tarvitz turned and ran after the others.
Tarvitz met up with the other two at the still cooling holes where they had burned through two decks; both the explosives expert and sergeant had been in the process of clambering up the grappling rope fixed into the uppermost ceiling. Before he had even skittered to a halt, Tarvitz reached out with the Force, plucking the two of them free from the rope and pushing them up the final few meters to their intended level. Then, amplifying his own body with its energies, he half jumped, half climbed up after them and reached the top within the space of a few heartbeats.
“Any word from the others?” he asked, joining them as he leaped free from the rope.
“Hello to you as well,” Walsh answered, rising from where he had been sprawled some distance from him, “Next time, a warning would be appreciated before you use space magic on us.”
“He means that we have not, sir,” Khal groaned from somewhere further up the corridor.
“Then we’ll just have to keep going, we’re cutting this fine enough as it is,” Tarvitz answered, helping each of them to their feet, one after the other, “We’re going to be leaving this ship one way or another. It’s just a case of whether we do it by shuttle or riding a fireball.”
“Then perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to bump into them on our way to the hanger,” Walsh answered, his pain forgotten as he broke out into a run ahead of the other two, “We’ll probably just need to follow the explosions.”
Walsh wasn’t wholly wrong. As they rushed toward the route they had taken to the hanger, the sound of multiple handheld explosives detonating echoed up toward them, accompanied by a constant scream of blasters firing. Someone yelling insults in Mandalorian confirmed it. As they rounded a corner, they were greeted by the rapidly retreating other half of the strike team, rushing away as they exchanged fire with several cybernetically enhanced figures. Creon, as was to be expected, was holding his ground at the back of the group and deflecting as many shots as he could back at the Collective forces.
“When did they show up?” Khal asked as they joined them, laying down suppressing fire against the nearest cyborg. Tarvitz fell into line with Creon, blocking shot after shot as they retreated.
“Just as we were leaving the bridge,” Dral answered, yelling over the sound of the heavy repeating cannon he was wielding, “I’m guessing someone called for help as they died.”
Their numbers were relatively few but the remaining partisans and cyborgs were fuelled by desperation. Each knew that they were dead men, but they had been granted the opportunity to die while murdering the enemies of the Collective. Such fanaticism was hard-wired into them, quite literally in some cases, and it had become their only reason for living.
“Ah, we don’t have time for this!” Walsh yelled, more out of frustration than fear, and a moment later a sphere of black metal bounced into the middle of the enemy group. Someone briefly offered a warning cry - though from which side Tarvitz never found out - before the entire front line of opposing soldiers disappeared in a bright light. The sound of munitions and explosives cooking off against the detonation followed a moment later, felling others, but the screams did not stop there. Tarvitz squinted through the thin veil of smoke, frowning before he felt the presence of someone hacking their way through the Collective forces. Someone powerful in the Force and fuelled by sheer rage.
Creon seemingly sensed her as well, and was barely give a moment to voice his warning before a shape hurled itself through the smoke. A blazing lightsaber was clutched in one hand, and her thin tattooed face was a mask of snarling contempt.
“You ruined all of it!” the Sith yelled, ignoring Tarvitz in favor of Creon as she hacked toward him in a series of rapid strikes, beating back the Jedi in a whirling mass of strikes.
She continued screaming, yelling about their actions on the bridge and the loss of something irreplaceable to an Ion grenade as she smashed against Creon’s defenses. Tarvitz rounded on her, swinging his own lightsaber down toward her head, only for it to be intercepted by a red glowing blade. She began slicing from one of them to the next, her own actions fuelled by a hatred Tarvitz only knew too well. While she might not have been skilled, no more so than either of them, there was a power to her actions which was allowing her to keep pace with the two Jedi.
“Run for the hanger,” Creon warned, “If we’re not there by the last thirty seconds, just take off!”
Most of the group, unable to intervene, fled for their lives. Tarvitz, however, stayed where he was, trying to force an opening in the Sith’s defenses.
“That includes you!” Creon continued.
“I know, I’m just ignoring you until she’s dead,” Tarvitz answered. Even were it not for his unwillingness to leave someone to die, experience had taught him that showing his back to a madwoman with a sword was always a bad idea.
Both of them began working as one, forcing her back as one struck as the other blocked. While their styles could not have been more different, the Sith was struggling to utilize her acrobatic style against a sheer defensive wall of lightsaber blades. Step by step, moment by moment they were forcing her back, but could not press their advantage to finish the fight.
The battle itself ended as abruptly as it began. The Sith stabbed out at Tarvitz, trying to catch him under his guard as he sliced down before turning, catching the edge of her blade in a lock. As they moved, Creon raised his hand and held it inches from her chest, shunting out with the Force. The telekinetic blow smashed into the Sith and sent her flying, through the smoke and back down the corridor. There was a crash as she landed somewhere out of sight, and then there was nothing. Creon stepped forward, as if ready to go after her, but Tarvitz caught his shoulder.
“No time, just run!” he warned, already turning to flee, “We have a minute left at best!”
He wasn’t exaggerating. They turned and ran, sprinting toward the awaiting hanger, amplifying their pace with the Force in bursts. Neither slowed until the ruined mess of the blast doors came into sight with their ship beyond it. The engines of the TIE boarding craft were already firing as it made ready to take off, swinging about as it turned to exit the Dreadnought’s hanger. The hatch at its side was slowly closing, already withdrawing its boarding ramp. Each of the Force users crossed the distance in a series of leaps, hurling themselves onto the TIE just as the hatch swung closed with a hiss of pressurization.
“Sorry for the delay,” Tarvitz managed between breaths as he looked at the faces of Len and Dral, each equally stunned at relieved at their last moment arrival, “She was remarkably determined not to die.”
The TIE pulled out of the hanger, just as a series of explosions rocked the ship. Behind them, chain reactions ran up the Dreadnought’s spine, ripping it open from bow to stern as its reactors went critical. There was a flash of light as the entire vessel was torn in two, before it faded down into nothingness. There were no escape pods, no ships, and no distress signals which escaped from the ship. It had gone down with all hands.
The group exchanged few words as the TIE raced back to the safety of the fleet, each lost in their thoughts and hoping that the knowledge they had taken would finally turn the tide against the Collective.