The Epicanthix cocked her head to one side at the sight of the Shard in its HK-47 vessel. Though she couldn’t see the crystal, she could detect it - feel it pulsating, despite the fact that it could not harness the Force. There had been, at least at one point in time, a group of Force-sensitive Shards that had fought alongside the Jedi, even taking their names from lightsaber crystals. But Rutgar-4 was not one of them - nor would he most likely been keen on being one, given his allegiance to the Collective.
To her, the droid was not very tall, nor did he appear very intimidating. Still, huddled in this control room, he was most likely armed, and the turrets were there to prevent something like this from even happening. All the Warden simply had to do was wait, and he did. And if he could, he would have been smiling.
Of course, Ronovi was smiling back.
She knew that she, Kz’set, and Teylas could topple their opponent easily, despite the presence of the turrets and the defensive systems built into the control center. TuQ’uan and Dralin could very well have struggled if they had been on their own, but their powers together contributed vastly to the overall group effort. Having a team made a world of difference. And yet, Ronovi was more interested in seeing how they could defend her rather than how they could join her in the fray.
In the end, she wanted to be the one who cut down the literal metalmouth herself.
Ronovi turned and smiled at her companions, both seeing and listening to them shuffle into their primary stances. She closed her organic eye for a moment, taking in breaths to steady herself. Her hand settled around the cold hilt of her saberstaff. A deep, modulated chuckle rang around her. She heard the slippery sound of blades as they were joined together at their base.
“Come at me whenever you’re ready, hot shot,” Rutgar-4 buzzed in her ears. “I’m happy to take the second option, if that’s what y’all want.”
The Epicanthix sneered. Before anyone else could speak, she raised her right foot and let it simply settle in front of her.
The turrets fired off as if they were volcanoes aimed for a target. Each shot almost made the walls rattle, every large bolt aimed precisely at the woman in front of them. Rutgar-4 let the cannons do their work, the flames they created nearly ripping up the floor beneath him and lighting up the doorway behind the team with white fire. Each resounding volley was enough to deafen the average grunt just making his way past the control center on a jaunt. Whatever detonators or explosives had been rigged up, they went off in a spectacular fashion, like miniature fireworks. The turrets roared. They bellowed. They echoed. And then they settled.
The smoke, both literally and figuratively speaking, cleared. The control room was intact in the center but ravaged around its flanks, like preserving the head of an otherwise scorched and unrecognizable body. Ruin and destruction formed a mighty ring around the edges of the prison complex’s core. And all five of the Plagueians were still standing. Even Ronovi.
She allowed the barrier erected by Dralin to drop from around her, as well as her hardened body to relax as if metaphorical iron were melting away. She had not been knocked back by the attack - in fact, she had done well to disperse each burst of energy through both her barrier and that of the Coruscanti’s, the double shield nearly impenetrable even by the turrets themselves. Her chest rose and fell with haggard, ragged breaths. She managed to grin despite that.
“Tell me,” she asked, as she unclasped her saberstaff from her belt and let its blades burst to life. “Are you a good dancer?”
Rutgar-4, armed with his twin vibro-arbr blades, did not emit a single sound. He merely raised his weapon in front of him, and Ronovi accepted the challenge. Embracing the primal choreography of Juyo, she pushed herself forward, again allowing her barrier to appear as the turrets coughed and sputtered while attempting to recharge and fire again. She let one blade of her weapon sink into the droid’s shoulder, leaving a glowing orange scar, then uprooted it and smashed the silver hilt, by the broad side, into his expressionless face.
The Warden staggered back, all efforts to retaliate offensively gone. He could defend, and poorly. His right arm now nearly useless, he tried to hold his melee weapon across his body, his head still wobbling from the impact of Ronovi’s blunt-force blow. Behind the Epicanthix, Kz’set and Teylas were making quick work of the turrets, which now aimlessly fired in any direction, and the two Dark Jedi deflected shots while attempting to dismantle them with theirlightsabers. Dralin, of course, backed them up defensively, while TuQ’uan kept his blaster aimed forward, ready for a kill shot in case Ronovi lost stamina.
But Ronovi didn’t - not yet, anyway. She could feel the Force surge through her. This gift she had, and what Rutgar-4 lacked, would be the latter’s downfall. She allowed every part of her to become amplified; she began swinging her saber faster, hitting harder, reacting quicker as the twin blades swished around her. Eventually, the droid’s arm was mangled beyond prepare, and to add insult to injury, he dropped his weapon and staggered back as if ready to surrender.
The response he received was a harsh, sharp, hasty jolt of Force lightning, and his whole metal shell dropped like a downed ship, with electrical coils winding around his slumped appendages.
“I,” rasped the warrior. “Am. A. Juggernaut. Metal man.”
Then she stopped to breathe, allowing herself to drop to one knee as the cold air washed over her. Her attempts to amplify her physical strength were now getting to her, and exhaustion set in like an old friend, its hand pressed on her back as if to remind her of her own limits. She heard footsteps behind her, and she looked up to see the Verpine staring at the fizzling, sparking husk of their opponent, his eyes lit up as if salivating at downed prey.
Ronovi knew exactly what Kz’set wanted. The Warden didn’t, though.
“Well,” came the now mangled, choppy voice from the droid’s somehow partially intact modulator. “Upon my word. I didn’t expect y’all to pack such a punch.”
“We’re not ending it here,” Ronovi sneered between harsh exhalations, still kneeling and attempting to regain energy. “In fact, I think it’d be nice if you came back with us. Take a little vacation from your prison job here, eh?”
Kz’set clicked his proboscis cheerily at her words. “Yeszzz. I’m happy to take a souvenir.”
For the coup de grace, he swung his saber outward in an enormous sweep, the orange blade separating the HK-47’s head from its torso and allowing it to pirouette a few times before it tumbled to the ground. Then Kz’set aimed for the dented chest, ready to cut away the metal and extract the red crystal beneath it. Meanwhile, Dralin hurried to help Ronovi to her feet, and her sheer weight and height pressed against him caused him to gesture for the Kel Dor to help.
“I’m fine,” Ronovi grunted, as TuQ’uan supported her from her left side, Dralin from her right.
“You overworked yourself,” Dralin chuckled. “Now we have to make sure you don’t faceplant once we head back into the mob.”
The Epicanthix groaned, though even that caused her muscles to ache and her lungs to tighten. She let the two of them lead her to the nearest, least unscathed wall, where she all but collapsed, her right hand pressed against her abdomen. Teylas eyed Ronovi cautiously, as Kz’set busied himself with sawing away at the Warden’s corpse.
“You’ll be a liability if you stay worn out like this, Tavisaen,” he remarked. Ronovi glared at him.
“I didn’t ask for your opinion, Ramar,” she scowled at the former Dread Lord.
“And I don’t need your permission to give it,” replied Teylas, coolly as always, though with that familiar hint of arrogance in his voice that I had adopted as he grew older.
Dralin gave Ronovi a, “Leave it,” look before she could retort. TuQ’uan flanked what remained of the door to the control center.
“Kz’set better hurry up,” he quipped. “I don’t see it getting calmer out there.”
Indeed, outside, the yelling from the rioting prisoners was getting louder, and up above, in the dead of the cosmos, the Brotherhood fleets were arriving. The Ascendant Fleet was no exception. And it was ready to join in on the action.