Sins of the Past - Plot Updates

This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

It is a story of love and loss, brotherhood and betrayal, courage and sacrifice and the death of dreams. It is a story of the blurred line between our best and our worst.

It is the story of the end of an age.

A strange thing about stories—

Though this all happened so long ago and so far away that words cannot describe the time or the distance, it is also happening right now. Right here.

It is happening as you read these words.

This is how twenty-five years come to a close. Corruption and treachery have crushed loyalty and integrity. This is not just the end of a covenant; night is falling on the Brotherhood itself.

This is the twilight of the Shadow Clan.

The end starts now.

Crawl
Plaintext Version

T-00:02:12
Unknown Location
Dajorra System

“Our strike teams are in position at their individual targets?”

The Sullustan to his right warbled affirmatively as the pair studied the map in front of them. Ethereal blue lines slashed through the empty space above the holoprojector, forming the image of a massive industrial complex. It was recreated in intricate detail, down to the locations of first aid stations and sewer access points. The gray-skinned Muun scratched the side of his elongated cranium thoughtfully before reaching out and touching a location on the projection. With the slightest hum from the holoprojector, the map seemed to rotate, centering on the area he had tapped and zooming in. A dozen pipes of varying width filled the screen, label-lines connecting them to a list on the right-hand side of the projection.

Sewer…water…methane alkalides… The Muun snapped his long, graceful fingers, breaking his Sullustan companion’s silent study of the schematics. “There. Why in the world would they need two natural gas lines? And why would it be flowing out from a power plant?”

The Sullustan chittered excitedly, bobbing his oversized head and reaching out to rotate the map. His stubby fingers zoomed in on another section of the base, showing a similar grouping of pipes and the same inconsistency in their labeling.

“Nice catch, Laiv. Forward the data to Strike Team Esk.”

As his mouse-eared second-in-command bent over the holoprojector’s terminal to comply, the Muun steepled his fingers and closed his eyes. Nearly there, he thought, sighing contentedly to himself. They used me for a scapegoat. Blamed me for their own shortsighted failures. Cast me aside. Forced me to live like a rat, hunted, subsisting on scraps and luck alone. It’s taken the better part of a decade to rebuild my fortune, to orchestrate their downfall, but Arcona will finally pay for their betrayal.

“What’s that, Mr. Lorden?”

The voice snapped the Muun from his musings, and he realized belatedly that he had been muttering to himself again. Such a bad habit. Can’t let the others think I’ve gone off the deep end. No, that wouldn’t do at all. If they think I’ve cracked, they’ll never trust me. And then I’d have to kill everyone. Bad for business, that would be. “Nothing, Captain Vance. Nothing at all. Any word over the GravTrans?”

“The usual status updates. Strike Team Onith had a slight hiccup with the security patrols around Naruba Investment’s headquarters, but they handled the situation quietly. Nothing from them, though,” replied the Dajorran native, answering the Muun’s unspoken question. “I’ll let you know immediately if anything comes in.”

“Very well, Captain. Carry on.”

Nearly there. Not long now at all.

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T-00:00:12
Industrial Distinct, Estle City
Selen
Dajorra System

Fools, thought a mountain of a man. Wrapped in a dark, nondescript cloak that enveloped his bulky frame, his burning golden gaze passed over the second of Selen’s moons and lingered, for a moment, on the shadowed spires of the Citadel in the distance. Fools mothered by even greater fools in turn.

He turned his back on spires’ silhouettes and strode purposefully down an alleyway wide enough for a hovertruck. Distantly, he heard just such a convoy passing, their engines rumbling and straining under what he assumed was heavy cargo on its way to the ports. Whub-ub-ub-ub. The machinery echoed on and on, maddeningly. The cloying, pervasive fumes of oil and grime seeped into the nearby factory walls and the ground underfoot, assaulting his nostrils.

And still, it was not so vile as the stench of his Jedi-adoring clanmates. Still, the cacophony was not so infuriating as their traitorous murmurs of revolt or death at the mess hall tables. His fist tightened around the hilt of the saber at his belt as if clamping around a throat, his mingled blood boiling at the thought. He couldn’t stand to bite his tongue much longer.

And perhaps, fortunately, he wouldn’t need to. Not if the message he’d received was genuine.

The hulking half-Human stopped in his tracks, glancing around briefly to orient himself. His eyes turned to the warehouse before him and the faded, soot-smeared numbers of its address.

If you, brethren, doubt the Path our Consul has us pursuing, then come to a meeting at 0300 tonight…

The message, signed with the encryption certificate of the Arconae, had offered an unremarkable meeting place in Estle City’s industrial district. It had also offered hope. Hope that, perhaps, he wasn’t alone in his desire to see the Brotherhood united for the first time since the Lion of Tarthos’ debacle at New Tython. Since the Jedi joined the Brotherhood.

It was possible that the message was a trap, sent by one of the Consul’s agents to lure in dissenters. If so, I’ll just claim I wanted to track down the source of the dissent and present them to Atyiru’s little Rainbow Friendship Squad myself. He thought that unlikely, though. The certificate itself had been genuine, and the di Tenebrous Arconae guarded their secrets jealously. Besides, any price would be worth paying if it meant stopping this madness and bringing his Brethren back into the fold.

Ernordeth Puer-Irae pushed back his hood, cool air meeting his reddish scalp, and smiled confidently at the building that beckoned to him. One way or another, it was bound to be an interesting night.

T-00:00:03
Industrial Distinct, Estle City
Selen
Dajorra System

The hooded Knight nearly jumped as he felt the mountain of a man pause a few dozen meters ahead of him. Sithspit! He hated how on edge he was. Without his mask, he felt defenseless, naked. “Can’t risk being seen, though,” he muttered under his breath, remembering the younger Mandalorian’s orders. Running his fingers through his auburn goatee, he tried to force down his ire at taking orders from the baby-faced Erinos - trusting, despite his irritation, that his fellow Mando’ade would know best for the Clan whose name he carried.

Taking one more deep breath to settle his nerves, the Human took a casual step out of the alley and strode slowly towards the scarlet-skinned figure in the distance. He glanced quickly over his shoulder, eyeing the Citadel’s spires in the distance, and smiled. His mission was simple: follow the half-Human Battlelord and report if he veered off course. He wasn’t sure why they felt the need for the theatrics, why they didn’t just arrest Ernordeth if they suspected he was disloyal. But he knew enough not to question an Arconae.

As the distant Galeran lowered his hood and entered the warehouse before him, Rins’zler turned away and began a slow trot back towards the Citadel, a hint of a smile creasing his scarred face. With any luck, they’ll be arr—

The thought cut off abruptly as he was hit from behind. The blow threw him bodily to the ground and heat roared over him, taking razors to his skin. Ignoring the dull ringing in his ears that drowned out the world around him, he rolled over instinctively and scanned the street around him. The sight chilled his blood.

The world was awash in flame. Fire licked its way over a half dozen buildings. The dilapidated warehouse was engulfed in an inferno. A handful of people ran from nearby buildings, half rushing to offer aid, the rest fleeing in terror. Exhausted, the Knight’s head fell back and hit roughly against the duracrete roadway. Too roughly. He could feel himself losing consciousness. Even preoccupied with the struggle, the sight above him stole his breath. The sky itself looked made of cinder.

T-00:00:00
Unknown Location
Dajorra System

As the countdown hit zero, nearly a dozen spots of red bloomed across the clean blue lines of the holo-projection, marring Estle City’s faux perfection. The Muun knew without looking that similar blasts would be taking out factories, power plants and other facilities in Naruba City, Zainab and Korda. Even Celeste wouldn’t escape unscathed - carefully placed droids would have focused energy beams to create strategic holes in the underwater city’s dome, letting geysers of salt water pour into the otherwise self-contained metropolis. Suppressing a grin, Lorden turned towards Laiv and nodded once.

The heavily-jowled Sullustan typed a brief set of commands into the console in front of him, then chittered back in his high-pitched fashion.

“Good. Set the sabotage droids to self-destruct when they detect tampering and order the strike teams to pull out. All except Esk. They’re to assume their disguises and pursue the secondary target at their discretion.”

The mouse-eared lieutenant trilled an acknowledgement and continued to tap away at the console. The staccato click-clat was music to the Muun’s undersized ears. Turning away from the holo-projector, the former Naruba CFO pulled a small, palm-sized holocomm from his back pocket and hit the single button on its nondescript surface. The device’s signal, the Muun knew, would even now be travelling through encrypted communication channels, lighting up a similar button on an identical device in a remote sector of the galaxy. He expected it might take several minutes for the signal to be acknowledged, but even as he turned back to the room’s main display, he caught the tell-tale fuzzing of air out of the corner of his eye as the holocomm buzzed to life. Tamping down on a swell of irritation, the Muun plastered on his business face and turned back to face the device.

A small figure, no more than half a meter tall, floated in space a dozen centimeters above the holocomm. A voluminous cloak shrouded the form’s figure, making any sort of visual identification impossible. Nonetheless, a slight crimson glow peeking from beneath the figure’s cloak tugged at Lorden’s curiosity. It always had. It was possible it was simply an artifact of lighting, or maybe the gleam of optical implants. Whatever the case, it was one of the few clues the Muun had to his employer’s identity.

“Report, Mr. Gray.” The words were clipped, rigid in their formality, but the voice itself bespoke a cultured upbringing, one of etiquette and protocol despite years barking orders. Silk over durasteel. Another clue.

“Everything went according to plan, sir.” The Muun chafed at the ridiculous pseudonyms this Mr. Blue insisted on, but he swallowed his tongue. For now. “All teams report success. One of them uncovered evidence of a second facility buried beneath their primary target. They’re investigating now.”

“Excellent,” the hooded projection replied. “Esk, I assume?” When the Muun nodded, his employer resumed. “Order them to uncover whatever intel they can and await instructions. If it looks like they’ve been compromised, they’re to blow the facility.”

“Already done,” Lorden replied, suppressing a smirk of satisfaction at actually being ahead of his employer for once.

“Comm me if the situation changes. I need to have a conversation with our young compatriot and make sure he understands the part he’s to play in all of this.”

The Muun snorted involuntarily. “Good luck.”

“There is no luck, Mr. Gray. Only Justice and the Force.”

T-00:02:37
Treyairn Point Apartment Complex
Estle City, Selen

“…still say you just toss him over into the pool. Not like he doesn’t deserve it.”

Kordath groaned in his sleep, words filtering in from the outside world, breaking up the lovely dream he was having. Twin Twi’leks twirling together towards the tub. It was a work of art inside his brain, which is probably why it was twisting and weaving. Though why there was a tub at all he couldn’t understand. Alliteration, part of his brain tried to speak up, but it was drowned out by the annoyances from the waking world.

“I’m aware of what occured, young Sprout! That is the only reason I’m allowing you to use the bucket, a manner of waking drunkards that’s been passed down the Garmis family line for generations! You deserve the honor after last night, most certainly.”

The second voice boomed and rattled his brain, causing the lovely scene before him to quiver and fade. He tried to chase it, reaching out to grab a fleeing lekku, only to watch the entire image shrink and implode. Then the entire world went goopy as he was shocked awake, sputtering as water tried to fill his mouth and nose.

His first sight in this new, unpleasant place was the Falleen midget, Sprouts, holding a bucket and looking smug. Strong, his other Fade, the big Chiss, was standing behind him with muscular arms crossed. Why the large man had a look of disappointment on his face, Kordath didn’t know. Yet. He was certain Strong would inform him. Loudly. Before he had a chance to have a nip to settle the hangover that was already crashing like waves against his gut and head. Another figure stood nearby, black coat and boots, serious face.

“Wassa goin’ on,” grumbled the Ryn, lying back in the puddle he’d been splashed with. “Why’sa DIA agent here?”

He blinked a few times, “And why’s we outside?” he asked, noticing that they were on the walkway that ran around the inner ring of apartments. His own was just over there, behind the dour looking agent type.

“We are outside, Master Bleu,” bellowed the Chiss, causing Kord to curl up and cover his ears in desperation, “Because you decided this was where you would sleep last night! After your meeting with the Consul you felt a desire to, I quote, “hit up the ole’ waterin’ hole” while you were still in Estle City. Whatever you had left for an operations fund for this month has been spent on covering the tab. Not to mention the damages! We got you this far before you declared you’d be sleeping under the stars.”

“Ya didn’t try ta drag me inside when I fell asleep?”

“I did,” growled Sprouts, still gripping the bucket in a manner that made Kordath nervous. “You, barely opening your eyes, picked me up with the Force and tossed me over the railing! Into the pool!”

“Least it wasn’t the bleedin’ ground,” he muttered, sitting up and rubbing his head. “What about spooky over there?”

The Human agent stepped forward, his boots clicking loudly on the duracrete, at least loudly to Kordath. “Master Bleu! Your presence is requested in Korda City, the Zratis Arms Manufactory’s warehouse has suffered, well, it’s been blown to hell, sir.”

“Cut the Master, cut the sir, start over,” he growled, patting his sodden clothes, looking for his smokes. He looked up to find Strong holding a single one out to him, a look of disdain on his face. The Fade didn’t approve of the habit. Blowing a stream of smoke out, the Ryn sighed and pushed himself up to standing. “Somebody blew up a plant?”

“Not the plant, no sir, the finished product warehouse.”

“Why would a loon blow that up, steal the bleedin’ cargo! Weapons are always worth credits. Now who’s requestin’ me presence?”

“Si–I mean, uhh, Mister Bleu, the order comes from the Citadel, it has the Shadow Lady’s seal.”

“Grand, bloody grand, shoulda hopped the shuttle back to Ol’val last night,” he muttered, looking at the document with bleary eyes. “Ya got a transport waitin’?”

“Yes Sir, I mean, uhh, yes, a shuttle is waiting for us at the spaceport, umm, you’re turning quite pale…”

“Kord doesn’t fly so well,” spoke Sprouts, a look of glee on the small man’s face.

“Kark it, turn the tint to full, get me half a dozen liters of caf on board. Lemme change into somethin’ dry first,” stated the Ryn, glaring at his diminutive Fade. “I think I’ll skip the shower, sorry lads, sounds like an emergency.”

He entered his apartment in search of cleanish clothes, smiling as he heard both Fades groan in realization. When questioned by the Agent, they simply mentioned ‘smell of a wet rat’. He’d figure it out by the time they made it to Korda City.

Thirty minutes later the hungover Ryn was sipping a steaming mug of caf, staring at the ceiling of the shuttle and pretending it was a speeder bus. He also affected to ignore the smell, knowing it was himself but blaming Sprout and Strong. The Agent wasn’t much help, looking pale in the corner after handing off a datapad to the Ryn.

Kordath was swiping through images that had been taken of the scene, a bomb of decent power had level the warehouse. From the way the wreckage was laid out, it looked as if the blast had come from inside.

Worker planted it? Or somebody broke in?

Flicking through to the preliminary report, he skimmed, picking out quickly the mention of finding the security guards on duty dead in the wreckage.

Stabbed in the back, slashed throat, not a worker then. Somebody broke in and planted the bomb, sloppy work, good sized explosion though. Professional but in a hurry. Hope they left something behind.

Wishing he could have a smoke with his caf, Kordath closed his eyes and sighed. He hated flying, he hated shuttles, he hated being back on Selen where everyone watched him out of the corner of their eyes. His time spent under the machinations of the Perdition forces had left a sour taste in most people’s mouths when they saw him. A tone played over the intercom, and the Ryn roused, realizing he’d nodded off at some point.

Taking a sip of his caf he grimaced, it’d grown cold, which meant…

“We will be landing in Korda City in five minutes, please fasten your restraints and return to your seats. Thank you, for flying Air Selen.”

“Karkin’ finally,” he muttered, stretching as best he could in his seat, trying to work his tail’s circulation back up, wedged in the back of his chair as it was. Tapping his feet impatiently, he could hear the landing gear cycle as the shuttle settled down. With a sigh he watched the hatch hiss open, and knew his day could only get worse.

The Fades stood to follow, Sprout carrying an awkward bag over his shoulder.

As soon as Bleu stepped off the transport he knew he was right, gagging as the fragrant air of Korda City hit him. The Ryn hated this place, the manufacturing center of the planet was in perpetual smog, it was brighter at night when all the lights reflected from the dark sky then during the day. With a sniff, Kord squinted his eyes, hoping the burning sensation would go away, and knew that he’d spend the next week in the refresher scrubbing this smell out.

The Agent lead them from the shuttle to an enclosed speeder, settling in for yet another boring ride. As they road, the serious looking black jacket tried to brief him on the situation, repeating what was in the datapad. He also felt the need to mention that ‘Zratis Arms Manufacturing was a company that manufactured weapons.’

“What would we do without the DIA,” muttered the Ryn under his breath as the speeder came to a stop. With a groan he and his Fade’s exited, the Agent giving them a nod and closing the door as they got out. Kordath turned to find himself face to chest with a tall Human who looked surprised.

“Master Bleu, thank you for coming so quickly!” stated the man, speaking to Strong and extending a hand.

Kordath looked from the Fade, who had the decency to blush just a tad, and the Human DIA Officer.

“Oi. I’m Bleu. He’s with me.”

The man’s face swiveled down and recoiled in surprise at being presented with the Ryn’s mustachioed visage. Said mustaches were quivering in indignity as he glared up at the officer.

“My…apologies, Master Bleu, I, ah, well. Sorry. I didn’t expect you to be so, well…small.”

“Blow it out yer arse, smoothskin, you got anythin’ to actually show me here? Besides the smokin’ crater behind ya.”

“Well, ah,” the officer blinked, trying to ignore the smells wafting up from the Arconan as he spoke. Stale cigarette smoke, alcohol and caf, mixed with the smell of wet hair and the general smog of Korda City did not make for a pleasant scent. “One of the forensic teams found what we believe to be the device that caused the explosion.”

“It’s called a bomb, ya git,” growled Kordath, watching the man wave at a figure in a white jumpsuit, who came scurrying over with a clear bag filled with mangled electronics. Another growl followed as the forensic officer tried to hand said bag to Strong. Bleu tore open the do not tamper seal, much to the annoyance of the white suited man, and dumped the contents out on the ground to squat over them.

“Well then, lesse who done what,” he muttered to himself, picking up pieces and focusing on them with the Force. Kordath’s forehead bunched up as he concentrated, trying to ignore the lingering effects of his hangover and annoyance with the DIA. Picking up impressions and past events from an item was a new technique to the Ryn, he was still getting used to it, still he was able to glean something from it.

“Smoke.”

“Do you really think this is the time, Master Bleu? It could contaminate the scene or-”

“Not a smoke, Strong, smoke, somebody was smokin’ when they set this bloody thing up,” stated Kord, scanning the ground around them. “Too pungent to be a cigarette. Cigar? Cigarillo? EVERYBODY LOOK FOR A BLOODY CIGAR BUTT!” he shouted. “STOP BLEEDIN’ MOVIN’ ABOUT AND LOOK AT THE GROUND YA THICK SKULLED BUGGERS!”

Despite his shouts to not move, his mangling of the Basic tongue not helping, people shuffled about in small circles, staring at the ground. Kordath felt frustration well up even as he channeled the Force to his own eyesight, his vision darting about the area, trying to find some trace of what he’d smelled in the psychometric reading. A tingle at the back of his mind told him to turn around, just in time to see Sprouts pluck something from the debris ridden ground.

“Ah! Little Green! You found it? You are closer to the ground, so I suppose that makes sense, eh?”

“Always a short joke,” muttered the midget, holding up the burnt and frayed cigarillo butt. Kordath hopped to his feet and snatched it from his hands, holding it up closer to examine it, sniffing.

Licking his lips he glanced at his two companions, one blue, the other green, “Well it smells right, hmm, this part is gonna not be great fun, lads.”

Butt in hand, Kordath turned to find the officer watching him with a look of perplexion. “What?”

“Sorry, not used to watching your kind work, that’s all, Sir.”

Strong’s firm grip on the Ryn’s shoulder stopped him before the incident could really occur. Kordath felt his teeth grind as Sprout jumped in front of him, arms waving, “I think he means Force user, Kord! Not, ya know, uhh…”

“Sleemo,” he growled. “Listen, DIA spook number two, NO, don’t interrupt me, I don’t care what your name is at this point. You didn’t feel like introducin’ yerself when I got here, ya don’t get to argue about what I call ya. Me, Big Blue and Little Green here,” he stated, glaring at the man and waving at his Fades, “are gonna go track down yer bombers. Take it ya got men checkin’ whatever other warehouses and such is about? Don’t want nobody else gettin’ exploded by these loons.”

“All essential personnel have been evacuated while we search, yes, of course. At least no one important was hurt in this explosion.” The officer shrugged with nonchalance. He also blinked, and found the Ryn standing in front of him once more, a fire in his eyes, a perplexed Strong a few feet behind him.

“How did he…”

“Nobody important, mate? Just a few workin’ stiffs who got killed doin’ their bloody jobs, aye. Which is why I’m off ta find who done this, so no more of them get offed. You’ll not be callin’ the dead worthless, number two, ya hear?”

“Sir I-” the agent stopped in mid statement as he felt a pressure from below, glancing down to see the curved edge of one of Bleu’s daggers pressed along the bottom of his groin. He licked his lips, suddenly dry, “Sir, I meant, ah, no, uhh, offense…”

“Ya best not,” snarled Kordath, pulling his blade away. “Self entitled Human arseheads. Comeon, lads, we got some mad bloody bombers to track.”

Sprout hefted his bag up onto his shoulder, waddling awkwardly after the two others. “How?”

“How what?”

“How are we going to find them?”

Kord gave the little green man a grimace, “Well ya see, I got this cigarillo butt, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So ya see, I can, like, use the Force ta form a link with the bloke who left it. Or girl, could be a bloody woman bomber, wouldn’t surprise me, my luck. Best not be more Zeltrons, go me whole life without meetin’ another karkin’ Zeltron.”

“How is Misstress Aryelline doing since her promotion, Sir?”

“You know damn well she don’t count, Strong! Anyways, Little Green-”

“That’s not my name!”

“Not now, Sprout, anyways, like I was sayin’, I can use the Force to kinda track where the, ah, person, who dropped this wee bit of garbage back ta where they are now. Hopefully. If they’re not movin’ much.”

“Do you have a firm lead already, Master Bleu? Perhaps we should be moving faster!”

“Well I gotta focus pretty hard on this, Strong, so it’s gonna be a bit o’ slow goin’ from here on out. Just hope they ain’t left tha city–what the kark are ya doin’!?” screamed the Ryn as he was lifted off the ground and set on one of the big Fade’s shoulders. Eyes wide, the Arconan wrapped his tail around the Chiss man’s neck to hold on, wondering how ludicrous this looked to people on the street.

“If you must focus, allow me to do the running for you! This technique of jogging has been passed down the Garmis line for generations, I will not tire!”

“Runnin’? What? But if ya go too quick like, Sprout ain’t gonna be able ta keep up!” shouted Kordath, trying to convince the big man to end this foolishness before he could get a good trot going.

“Put me down!” shrieked Sprout as he was tucked up under Strong’s other arm, the big man already huffing along at a good jog.

“Which way, Master Bleu?”

Kordath swallowed back the escape attempt of his caf as the Chiss trotted down the sidewalk, a Falleen tucked under one arm, the Ryn on his shoulder. “L…left up ahead!” he shouted, forcing himself to keep an eye open while he focused on the cigar butt in his hand, watching the shimmer in the air that the Force was showing him. A trail to follow, hopefully not too far.

“Right, down that alley,” he screamed, one hand still holding the butt, the other clutching Strong’s head. He could still hear Sprout spouting a stream of obscenities from the other side of the massive Fade. “STOP!”

Strong came to an abrupt halt, causing both of his unwilling passengers to lurch and complain even more. “Put…us…down…Strong.”

“Ah, we’re here then? Excellent! What would you have me do, Master Bleu?”

“They’re, urp,” Kordath paused as he spoke, turning away from his Fades to toss up before continuing, wiping his mouth on his coat. “Oh Gods; they’re in the buildin’ on the corner, other end of the alley. Me and Sprout is gonna take tha roof opposite, yeah? You go ‘round to the other side and wait for me ta tickle yer brain, then go chargin’ in. We need ta take one or two alive, find out if they’re just loon’s or workin’ for somebody. Little Green, ya got what I think ya got in that bag you been haulin’?”

“If you think it’s the collapsible rifle Strong found for me, you’re right,” spoke the Falleen, looking even greener than normal. Kordath could feel the nausea coming off of the midget, and knew the little fella would love to shoot a few people. “So we need to find a ladder? Maybe they have some staaaaaaaaaaaaaaairs!”

“…why…why did you toss him up there, Strong?”

“It seemed to be the most efficient method, up you go, Master Bleu!”

“Wait, what? Gaaah!”

Kordath tried to tuck and roll as he hit the rooftop, bouncing a few times before coming to a stop.

“Please, please. Get off of me,” came the muffled voice of Sprout below him. The Ryn pushed up, rubbing his head and stumbling sideways as the Falleen got to his own feet. “Why did he think that was a good idea?”

“Because he’s karkin’ mad. Did he break yer gun?”

Sprout looked around where they’d landed, confusion evident, before hitting the rooftop again as a black bag sailed through the air and landed on him. “Thanks…Strong…” he muttered.

“Well here’s hopin’ we did nae make too much noise. Give the big blue idiot a chance ta get in position, I’ll see what I can feel out from over here. Stay low, anybody upstairs is gonna notice us quicklike, we keep movin’ ‘round.”

“Stay low, sure, jackass. Be amazed if they don’t know we’re here after Strong’s delivery method.”

Kordath and Sprout moved to the edge of the roof, still nursing bruises from the big Fade’s manner of tossing them. Crouching below the low wall that ran around the edge of the building, Kord closed his eyes and drew on the Force. The energy suffused him, burning off some of his fatigue and generally improving his mood.

“Ah, alright,” he said, peeking his head over the edge and pushing his Senses out. “I got…one, two, three of ‘em on the second floor, ‘nother half dozen on the first. Lotta ordnance upstairs. Whole lot, that comes inta play we’ll have a bad time, might blow up Strong when he goes runnin’ in.”

“So we’re aiming for the guys downstairs?”

“We’re nae lettin’ ‘em kill Strong, Little Green,” said the Ryn with strained patience. An idea crossed the Arconan’s mind, a grin breaking the look of concentration he was holding. “Ya got that A280 ready?”

Sprout laid the barrel of his armor piercing rifle on the edge of the roof, placing himself behind the scope. They’d cut the stock down significantly for the small guy to get behind it, but the little Falleen’s marksmanship was more than proficient. The weapon being longer than Sprout was tall when full put together made the image laughable, but having a midget that could put holes through a tank was in the Ryn’s opinion, pretty bloody handy.

“I’m ready. Don’t see anybody through the windows.”

“Ya wouldn’t, they’re hangin’ about around a table, middle of the room or so.”

“So what, I’m guessing?”

“Not quite,” spoke the smug Ryn, waving a hand at the wall across the alleyway. A trio of shimmering red X’s appeared on the surface, projected through the Force and Bleu’s will. “Think ya can get all three before they move? Not sure I can track and maintain the illusions at the same time.”

“This isn’t gonna be quiet, you know that, right? When I start shooting, the one’s downstairs are gonna know.”

“Let Big Blue handle that, Little Green, just be ready to pick off anybody who tries to scurry off. Legshots, eh? Need some prisoners to give over to the DIA.”

“Fine,” said Sprout, taking a few steadying breaths to get himself into a rhythm. Readying the rifle he gave the Ryn a little nod, “Ready then.”

“Grand, let’s get this over with and go home. Do the thing, Little Green.”

Three shots rang out, the armor piercing laser rounds making loud crack sounds as the rifle fired. Duracrete and brick alike exploded as the wall was pierced, and Kordath felt surprise, fear, and then nothing from the three targets upstairs. Downstairs it was like someone had kicked a hive of insects over. With a light push of the Force, he brushed Strong’s mind with a simple sense of ‘do it.’

“Good shots, mate, stay up and here and see if anybody comes runnin’.”

“Where the hell are you going?” asked the Falleen, watching Kordath swing a leg over the short wall.

“Gonna go back up Strong, there’s about a half dozen of ‘em after all,” he stated, waving as he rolled over the side, landing on the alley with a little cushioning of telekinetic Force usage. Reaching back into his coat, he drew a dagger and rolled his shoulders. Now he just needed a way in.

From above he heard Sprout shout, “Do you really think he needs help? Or that going in there is a good idea?”

Before the Ryn could retort, shouting from inside drew his attention, even through the wall.

“YOU DARE LAY HANDS ON A SON OF THE GARMIS FAMILY!? I GAVE YOU A CHANCE TO HONORABLY LAY DOWN ARMS, FIENDS, NOW YOU SHALL WITNESS THE COMBAT TECHNIQUES THAT HAVE BEEN PASSED DOWN MY FAMILY LINE FOR GENERATIONS!”

That was when Kordath got his entrance, as a portion of the wall shattered outwards, a body propelled through it. Bleu heard a little moan from the figure, though he wasn’t moving, covered in mortar and dust. Sticking his head through the newly formed hole, he sighed and shook his head. Strong had, almost predictably to those who knew the big Chiss, shed his shirt and jacket to do battle.

Twin vibro-knucklers on the big blue Fade’s hands sung out as he blocked blows from improved melee weapons and returned vicious strikes to his victims. Kordath crept in, watching as the muscular Chiss grabbed a particularly slow assailant and spun him in the air, striking one of the other bombers hard enough to put him through one of the inner walls of the building. Another blow sent a target sliding across the the floor to Kordath, who kicked the man in the side of the head when he tried to get up.

Left with the one he was holding, who was crying in Strong’s grip, and one other which the Chiss was stalking towards. This one felt a desire to live without major reconstructive surgery, darting out a door and into the streets. A strangled cry was heard, along with the report of an A280 blaster rifle moments after he got out of the building. Strong was smiling, his red eyes aflame as he looked about the room. With an offhand motion he brought the one he was holding up and glared at him.

Kordath let out a gagging sound as a puddle formed under the bomber, who then went limp. Strong grunted in approval and tossed him aside, snapping to attention towards the Ryn.

“Master Bleu, happy to report that all enemies have been disabused of the notion of running away!”

“Grand, call the DIA, get ‘em down here. They’ll want ta interrogate the lot of ‘em. And put your bloody shirt on, Strong, dunno why ya feel the need ta flaunt the muscles liket hat when ya fight.” The Ryn looked tired suddenly, his usage of the Force having drained him.

“The intimidation factor, of course! Also the Garmis family has ever been proud of its noble physique, one should never be ashamed to show off such a work of art!”

“Great, good, put on a jacket or somethin’. Think I saw a couch over there,” muttered the Arconan, moving some of the debris to uncover said piece of furniture. Collapsing into it, moments later he was asleep, confident the Fades could take care of the rest. He deserved a bloody day off from this insanity.

T+00:12:37
The Citadel, Estle City
Selen
Dajorra System

“No other explosions reported?” the blindfolded Seer inquired.

“None,” replied Braecen.

“And the warehouses in Korda that were hit? The wounded?”

“Emergency responders have all left the scene as clean-up crews report in. Styx is overseeing them. All civilian casualties have been taken to medcenters as you ordered, my Lady. Our own injured were few, and recover in bacta tanks as we speak. A few of our people are still missing in action.” Keys tapped, clack-clack-clack. “Young Knight Sang-Kalinor is stable, yes?”

“He was burned badly and lost limbs…but nothing I and bacta cannot attempt to mend. Once he awakens, perhaps we can finally have some more answers.”

“Should I call Argona?” The dark-haired, violet-eyed Kaeth paused. “Either — well, any — of them?”

“Ashla and Bogan, no, Starbuck. He needs rest, not an interrogation. Zakky and the others have plenty to apply themselves as is,” the Shadow Lady responded, distaste at the prospect evident in her tone. She swiveled her sightless gaze to her other Quaestor. “Alright, then, and what of our databases, our security? Our funds?”

The Erinos gave a half-shrug. “Not quite robbed as blind as—”

“Celahir, dear, much as I enjoy the jokes…”

“We’ve been set back,” the Qel-Droman went on more seriously, fingers flitting over the datapad in his hands. “Particularly in munitions when those warehouses went up. It looks like they might’ve accessed several of our databanks too, and the DIA is still investigating what intel, exactly, might’ve slipped. However,” he offered with a grin, “we managed to contain most of the damage and kick those di’kuts in their teeth before they could do more.”

“Uji?” The Miraluka turned to her Scion, who stood beside her at the head of the table, neglecting his own seat to her right. “Enemy movements?”

“The DDF has successfully routed this Lorden’s Horizon-class Star Yacht out of Dajorran space. They are in pursuit now. Officer Marinus is due to report shortly, as are Timeros and Sashar,” stated the Sentinel, his narrow eyes fixed on the holoprojections of Korda and Estle City that hovered above the meeting table. His tone was cold steel. As if Pravus’ tyrannical madness wasn’t enough to combat, now they suffered this attack as well. The Proconsul’s stance remained calm, but his gaze was constantly flickering these days, belaying a mind now consumed with strategies, defenses and all manner of war.

“For it to truly be that damnable Muun behind this debacle…” ground out the blue bulk of a man nearly too tall and wide for his chair, his maw-toothed helm on the table before him. Though Wuntila had calmed in his time away, his promise still carried conviction. “It is an insult. I shall crush him.”

“Yeah, and, uh, for those of us who ain’t been at this kark for ages, who the ‘ell is that, again?” called a voice from the door. Kordath, a towel slung over his shoulders and a finger stuck twisting in his ear, stepped inside, his hair still dripping.

The Ryn had been present at the start of the meeting but, for the sake of the lungs and lifespans of all those present, had been asked to go bathe as soon as his report was finished. He’d delivered it in an exhausted slur — he and his Fades had tracked the warehouse bombers down and seized the cabal for interrogation by the DIA. The “testimonies” of the bombers had further corroborated what Arconan agents had already decrypted from the anomalous gravitational wave readings they’d picked up: the man behind this insurrection was a Muun named Tehr Lorden, and he was not, in fact, unfamiliar to the Shadow Clan.

Several noses still curled as the Rollmaster flopped into a seat. He gave the room an irritated glare. “Oi, ya dinnae get to complain about wet rat smell if yer gonna make me shower first. So…?”

“Lorden,” the Galeren Aedile and Arconae began, “was the Chief Financial Officer of Naruba Investments, one of our front establishments, if you will recall. After Aneti’s fall, under Timeros’ reign, he was decommissioned.”

No one present had to ask for clarification on the meaning of that particular statement.

“He fled into exile, and evaded numerous assassins. He was nothing, forgotten. An afterthought.”

“Got a bit of a bite for an afterthought, eh, mate?” Kordath scathed, tail twitching. “Bloody arrogant…”

“Gentlemen, please,” Atyiru interrupted, flowing gently to her feet, her command swift and smooth. “Our concerns, our lives, are here, today. And today, we may be thankful for these small victories.”

“The point is,” piped up Terran Koul in an overly cordial drawl, kicking his boots up on the tabletop and causing the projection to fuzz momentarily. “that we won. Maybe, gents, lady, we could forget the brooding long enough to enjoy that a bit, hmm?”

“GREAT IDEA!”

A silent sigh seemed to pass through most of the gathered Summit as the doors were flung open with yet another disturbance, the Summit guardsmen bowing to two new figures. Timeros Caesus Entar strode in like a ghost, chill and imposing, while a lavander mass of veritable madness skipped along beside him, her heels clicking.

K’tana’s palms slammed down on the table as she half-tripped to a stop, her lekku thrown over her shoulders. She pointed at no one in particular and declared, “I. Am. BORED. And you’re all boring, and are we done yet? Shouldn’t we be celebrating? Drinks, glitter, SOMETHING!”

“K’tana,” Timeros murmured, dread rolling off him in waves, causing the Rollmaster to cringe while the Gatewardeness merely grinned.

“Is right? I knoooow.”

“K’tana,” the Consul called, more gently, and the Twi’lek’s demeanor blinked away as she dipped her head in supplication. “Calm a moment more, please. Brother, your report?”

“Our mission to Boral is completed,” the Entar answered mechanically. Uji waved to Kaeth, who then waved to his Aedile, to take note. “Fruitfully. I have compiled a summary and accorded the DIA custody of our prisoners for further interrogation.”

“Following your own, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.” The Shadow Lady’s hands folded, prayer like, in her lap as she observed the room, the Force swirling around them to a heartbeat rhythm.

“So again, what you’re saying is, we won,” Terran repeated, drawing a snort from Celahir.

“There are no victors in war or death,” Atyiru whispered, then shook her head and gave a smile that burned brightly. “But so to say, yes, my friends…in this, we’ve won.”

T+00:12:04
Horizon - class Star Yatch Momo Neymopro Blems
Dajorra System

The stars stretched to contrails around the sleek hull of the Momo Neymopro Blems as the ship jumped to hyperspace. Tehr Lorden wiped a few beads of sweat from his brow as he observed his Sullustan companion. They Horizon-class Star Yacht had been detected leaving the Dajorra system, but they had made the jump before their pursuers could get within firing range. Barely. With Laiv bent over the helm’s terminal, no doubt triple checking the course for the second leg of their journey, the Muun businessman allowed himself the briefest hint of smile. Conscientious to a fault - that was Laiv. It was why the Muun had recruited him so many years ago. Always pick the right tool for the job.

A chirrirp from his personal commlink brought Tehr Lorden from his reverie, and he quickly stood and strode from the ship’s bridge into its elongated galley. Taking a seat at the Dejarik table in the corner, Lorden keyed in an intricate sequence of symbols on the table’s controls. A few moments passed as the encryption module in the table validated the passcode and prepared a secure channel, then the holo-emitters sparked to azure life. A now-familiar figure, half a meter in height, seemed to perch atop the table. Though shrouded, as usual, by a cloak, the tell-tale crimson eyes glowed from beneath the hologram’s hood.

“Report, Mr. Gray.” The words were the same as before, and their tone close enough to have been a recording. Nonetheless, the voice continued to tickle at the Muun’s memory, a mystery begging to be unraveled. But not here. And not now.

“The plan succeeded without deviation, sir. It appears that we even managed to injure a few of the Arconans with our little surprise. We’re en-route now, though with our circuitous path, it’ll be several hours before we make the rendezvous.”

“As expected, Mr. Gray. What of Strike Team Esk?”

“Laiv forged identities for them planet-side. They’ve joined one of the construction crews tasked with clean-up on the site above the facility we uncovered. We’ve arranged dead-drops for them should they learn anything useful.”

The figure’s hood dipped as he nodded in acknowledgement, then steepled his fingers in front of him. “And they spotted you leaving the system?”

“They did. We were running a false transponder, but I suspect they’ll see through the deception in short order. Is Phase Two ready?”

“It will be soon. I’m just sharpening the knife. While Arcona is still off balance, we’ll shove it in and twist.”

“As you say, Mr. Blue.” Lorden grinned toothily at the thought, and there was nothing brief about it. First Arcona, then this Mr. Blue. Once they’re out of the way, I’ll have Dajorra in the palm of my hand.

Crawl
Plaintext Version

T+12:07:34
YT-2400 - class Freighter Dragon’s Wings
Dajorra System

Klaxons filled the small cockpit and the freighter pilot’s youthful complexion grew worried. His blue eyes darted to the ship’s control board as he took a step towards his seat, but the sudden lurching of the freighter threw him forward, slamming him into the console. The steaming mug of caf flew from his hands, shattering against the transparisteel viewport as the elongated contrails of hyperspace resolved themselves into the brilliant pinpricks of stars.

Sithspit!

Lysander pulled himself to his feet, sweeping his long, raven black hair behind him and sliding adroitly into the pilot’s seat, fingers dancing across the ship’s controls and silencing the alarm. Barely pausing for a breath, he called back over his shoulder to the passenger in the freighter’s galley.

“We’ve been hit by an interdiction field. Looks like there’s two ships on our six, half a klick and gaining. No way I can lose them at this rate.”

A hulking figure strode through the doorway in striking yellow and black armor. Accented in blue to match his skin, it fit him like a carapace and shined like onyx. The resplendent armor was dull beside the fire in his cobalt eyes, and his unyielding countenance made clear his thoughts on a pack of impertinent pirates trying to hijack his ship.

“Let them come.” His tone was half smirk and half snarl, and his fingertips played over the dragon-headed hilt at his waist.

The pilot took a moment to look back at his brother, his own fingers running softly over a chiselled cheekbone, feeling the telltale sting where it had struck the ship’s console. After a moment, he nodded. “As you say, Wun.”

Even as the words left his lips, a second alarm, higher in pitch than the first, sounded from the weapons console. “They’ve locked a tractor beam on us,” stated Lysander flatly, punctuating it with a sigh that bespoke aggravation and inevitability in equal parts.

“Arm yourself then, brother,” replied the storied Arconae, nodding to the Sapphire Blade at Lysander’s hip. “It’s past time your blade tasted blood.”

T+12:07:36
The Citadel
Selen, Dajorra System

“How are your treatmentzzz going?”

“They’re fine, Grandfather,” mumbled the young Kaleesh from behind his mask, fiddling with the pipe in his clawed fingers. A berry-colored puff of smoke emitted from it, making the pale Zabrak woman to his left wrinkle her sharp nose and recline further into her humanoid seat.

Zakath gave a nod in response to Skar’s answer, his tail tighening around his adoptive daughter’s ankle at her movement. “Good. I would have not liked sending you to the Jeedai after all.”

Nath snorted outright at that, a strong expression as far as the reticent woman was concerned. The Barabel merely patted her arm. “See, I don’t need to keep my promise,” she said shortly before lapsing back into her lounging silence.

“Yes, yes, Mother,” grumbled the Kaleesh. “I will make our family and Arcona proud.”

“Yezzz, you will,” Zakath asserted, his talons clacking. “And you will have many opportunitiez to come, both with the Inquisitoriuzzz and these foolish attackerz to our home.”

“Has anything more been found out, Grandfather?”

“We are tracking them now,” the Barabel said, his glowing eyes flashing with expertly controlled rage. “The damaged partz of the city are being rebuilt, and our remaining prisonerz have…taken their leave. We have beat these cowardzzz back once already, and we will do so again until they are no more.”

Nath gave a pleased sound at that, her hands twirling a small knife. Zakath gave a toothy facsimile of a grin, and Skar growled defensively.

“Nothing can stop Arcona,” the Kaleesh hissed, and his patriarch raised one taloned finger to caution him.

“Do not underestimate our enemiez, Rrogan. I have a sense that there iz yet more to come…a greater enemy waiting in the wingzzz to strike.”

T+12:07:49
YT-2400 - class Freighter Dragon’s Wings
Dajorra System

The black-clad figure cut through the air, his outsized nerf-hide coat flaring as he came down from his leap and slammed his fist into the larger man’s face. Caramel flesh met cobalt and a sickening crack split through the galley, driving the Dragon to his knees.

Lysander scrabbled for the nearby pilot’s seat, hauling himself to a sitting position - his legs had been numb and useless since the first blast of lightning struck him in the back. His blue eyes were glued to the short man who had boarded their vessel. The intruder moved with preternatural grace, spinning on the ball of his foot and slamming the durasteel toe of his heavy combat boots into Wuntila’s chest.

“Come on, old man.” The cocksure youth’s tone set Lysander’s teeth on edge, and he grimaced as he tried to clear his head. “You can do better than that!”

Acting on instinct, the pilot’s hand dropped to his trusty DH-17 pistol, practically ripping it from his holster and firing a salvo of crimson bolts at the dark-haired man. The young Kiffar turned before the first bolt had left the barrel, raising a hand that showed nearly as much derision as the smirk on his face. The fiery bolts dissipated as they hit his palm, and the intruder’s lips curved into a snarl that had nothing to do with pain. He flicked his hand and Lysander felt the blaster twist in his grip. The twist blossomed into pain, his trigger finger snapping as the DH-17 was ripped from his grasp and hurled across the freighter’s small cabin.

The pilot’s pale skin - almost translucent in the best of times - grew paler still as he reflexively pulled his hand to his middle, cradling it. He grit his teeth, trying to stand, but the boarder turned away dismissively, as if Lysander was no more than a distraction.

Distraction or not, Wuntila had taken full advantage of the intervening seconds, and the black-clad figure turned back just in time for the mountain of a man to crash bodily into him, propelling the pair across the ship’s galley and slamming the intruder into the hull. The younger man’s head cracked against the durasteel wall, and Lysander dared to hope it would take the fight out of him. The intruder moved faster than thought, putting the lie to Lysander’s hopes as his fists crashed upwards, slamming through the Dragon’s grip with unnatural strength. His head came forward, smashing brutally into the blue-skinned man’s nose, and a spray of crimson soaked the young man’s face and jacket as the former Consul staggered backwards.

As the hulking half-Theelin regained his footing, the boarder tried to wipe the blood from his face with a sleeve. The movement only served to smear it around, and he shrugged out of the jacket, revealing a sleeveless Mandalorian mail vest beneath. Though he wore a lightsaber at his belt, he drew the pair of trench knives sheathed at his back and circled calmly around his blue-skinned opponent. Teroch. The name clicked in Lysander’s mind like a lockpin tumbling into place. Sashar’s bastard son. He’s back.

The pilot finally managed to regain his feet and resolutely drew the Sapphire Blade his brother had gifted him in his off hand. There are worse ways to die, I suppo— The thought was fleeting, and cut off abruptly by a cacophonous roar. His brother’s head lifted, bellowing, and the bigger man’s hands moved like liquid lighting, unsheathing his dragon-headed saber and swiping towards the Erinos before it had even lit. The blade snap-hissed to life, amethyst light flooding the galley and bathing the two opponents in its soft glow. The former Arconan bent backwards at the waist, nearly horizontal with the deck as the blade passed above him, crackling through the air. He recovered in an instant, bringing himself vertical and lunging into a crouch, his blades angled upwards towards the former Consul’s solar plexus.

The Dragon was quicksilver, darting out of range and swirling back in, punching towards the clone. The reverse grip on his lightsaber turned the punch into a sweeping strike, angled to decapitate the erstwhile Arconae. Teroch flowed backward, smooth as a river running downstream. The pillar of amethyst fire burned through his vest, but it left his skin unscathed as he spun to the right, behind the arc of Wuntila’s blade. His trench knives whipped out, slicing furrows across the Dragon’s back and sides. The Arconae growled, turning into a backswing aimed to bisect the younger man from hip to shoulder.

Teroch rolled under the blow, toward the mountainous Battlelord. Lysander opened his mouth to call a warning, but the Kiffar’s blades sunk into Wuntila’s sides before the words could form. With a resolute grimace, Teroch drew the knives upward, laying open his flanks. The Dragon’s lightsaber fell from his grip, going dark as it clattered against the deck. Lysander froze, not quite believing his eyes. He had seen his brother fight. He had seen him prevail against insurmountable odds. To see him beaten by this…child

Before the pilot could finish the thought, the son of Sashar turned towards him. His black hair was tousled and mussed, his face splattered with his elder’s blood, and his tattered vest hung half-off him. He smiled briefly. Then the trench knife flew from his hands. Fire erupted in Lysander’s gut, and he looked down to see a pool of crimson spreading across his light blue shirt, radiating out from the knife in his middle. The pain buckled his knees and he found himself back on the deck, looking at the flight cabin’s ceiling.

The young man’s face peeked into Lysander’s vision as Teroch knelt to retrieve his blade. Locking his blue eyes with the former Arconan’s brown, he mouthed a single word. Why?

“I have a message I need delivered to my father.” The dark-haired man’s voice seemed to waver between sincerity and mockery. “And I think the two of you will do nicely.”

Lysander saw the Kiffar turn casually as he left his field of vision. With no other options, his eyes moved to the transparisteel viewport. The view in front of the ship was fairly routine. I could almost fool myself into thinking I could see Selen in the distance. His head lolled slightly to the side as he heard the snap-hiss of, he assumed, the young Mandalorian’s lightsaber. It seemed distant, though. At the corner of the viewport he could barely make out the fringes of the Crabhorn Nebula. The mottled greens and purples, interspersed with scarlet streaks, had long been his favorite sight on these treks to and from Selen. They made it worth it. Hell, the chance to see it up close was half of why I became a pilot in the first place. If only the ship would move itself a few degrees to port…

The pilot heard a small crackling, plasma on durasteel, then the small hiss of air escaping the ship’s hull. Just a few degrees…

Then he heard nothing at all.

T+21:16:32
Estle City
Selen, Dajorra System

Cool, calculating eyes the color of half-frozen mud fell on ash.

Ash, rubble, and twisted metal. The crumbling remains of the warehouses before him had gone cold in the handful of weeks since the first explosions — originating here — had rocked the city. While other sections of their industrial sector were already being attended to, he had quietly ordered this particular handful of decimated buildings to be quarantined.

Heavy, clacking footsteps approached from behind the man, one of Estle’s classic mountain breezes lifting his hair and scattering dust. His knife-sharp gaze continued dissecting the wreckage, even as he spoke.

“Greetings, Agrona.”

“Lord Proconzul. It haz been some time since we last spoke without holoz. Who knowzzz you’re here?”

“Atyiru, and yourself, and so it will stay.”

“Aye.”

Uji Tameike finally turned, his hands folded neatly behind his back, ensconced in the sleeves of his robe. His saber hung unlit on his belt. His stare was unflinching as it combed over the black-scaled Barabel towering next to him. Zakath dipped his mawed head in a respectful gesture, and the Shadow Scion nodded back.

“What are we here for, Proconzul?”

The Human pointed with his chin, saying shortly, “This was the site of the first attack during Lorden’s incursion. Knight Sang-Kalinor was found where you stand.”

“Lorden waz repelled. What more iz there for uz to see here?”

“Our mission is not just to serve the Clan and carry out the Shadow Lady’s wishes, Agrona. I will not stand traitors among us. Not the Inquisitorius or anyone else. You and Tal’Mahe’Ra have already made progress, but your focus is too narrow. The Inquisition is not our only enemy. Do you know what Kalinor was doing here?”

“Following orderz, I presume,” said the Barabel, the hiss of his voice scathing.

“He was not following any orders I issued. More importantly, he was not following Atyiru’s.” The Proconsul turned back to the detritus spread before them. He thought of the Nighthawk, out that very moment searching for any footholds their enemy might have, cloaked and silent. He thought of Shadow Gate, smuggling supplies through their channels in Ol’Val to predetermined drop points for the Resistance to pick up. “There are those in our ranks that would oppose our aiding the Odanites. They, not the Inquisitorius or the Muun, are responsible for this.”

Beside him, Zakath growled, a terrible sound like crashing rocks. His talons clacked on his weapons belt. “So we route them out, az we have the Inquisitorzzz. Being clanmatez doez not excuse one from punishment of idiocy.”

The Scion’s hands never strayed from where they rested, never twitched towards his weapon, but his grave countenance was condemnation enough as he glanced from his subordinate to the Citadel’s spires far behind them. His words were flat and certain when he spoke. “In time. I will find each and every one of them, and they will be dealt with, by any means necessary.”

“And the Shadow Lady?”

“We live to serve,” Uji replied. “Whether or not she wills it.”

T+22:14:07
Erinos Homestead, Venku Range
Arconae Primus, Dajorra System

“Mi…Mia?” the broad-shouldered young man rasped. He tried to breathe and could not. His chest was cold and his lungs felt heavier than the beskar his forge shaped. For a brief, sluggish heartbeat, he worried over the fact that his body was no longer screaming at him, the multitude of wicked plasma burns and bleeding lacerations crisscrossing his skin felt oddly numb. Numb like his fingers, like…no, that wasn’t what was important. Mitra. Trikar. Where were they?

Briikase spit blood and coughed, trying to draw the air for more words, to call louder. “Mia! Trikki! A-a…ANSWER ME!”

Their home was silent. Horror, colder and sharper than any of his pains, gripped the man. He pushed himself to his knees, thickly muscled arms trembling, then dragged one leg, the one that was not broken, under him. His vision blurred, and he focused on his foot, staring at it. Move, he thought. Move! His twin brother. His sister. He had to find them. He had to. Move, you shabuir!

His foot slid along the floor, its bottom pressing flat, and his leg bent. Briikase bared his teeth in an expression that wasn’t a smile, digging his strong fingers into the stone and pushing upwards. His leg wobbled, and he half-stood.

A boot planted firmly between his shoulderblades and slammed him down into the floor. His cheek cracked under the supernatural impact, sending waves of hot, red-tinged darkness crashing through his skull. A whine escaped him, pained and nearly intelligible. “Trikaaar…Mi…traaa…”

“You know, vod…” The word was twisted, warped, no semblance of brotherhood to it, just venom. “It’s almost a shame Mitra and me never got on, her always tagging after Voden and all, not like us and Trik. She’s really quite the fighter. You all were.”

“Wha…do…to them?” the downed blacksmith asked around crimson spittle.

“I cut them to pieces.” Mangled, angry laughter came from above him, and Briikase turned his head just infinitesimally enough to wheel his eyes around, watching the man he had once known as his older brother, one of his best friends, his family, drag a bloody hand through his mussed, dark hair and sneer. Aliit ori’shya tal’din, Sashar had told them all when he adopted them into his clan. Family is more than blood. “Never heard Mitra do much more than curse and gloat, but you know, she did cry for dear dad in the end there.” The metal-capped toe of the boot on his back ground into his spine. “As if any of you have a right to call him father. You three are nothing! Nothing.” He laughed again. “And yet the old man’s still gonna cry over you.”

The weight on his back lifted, and Briikase dragged in a ragged breath. A kick plowed into his side, rolling him over and making him gurgle, that heavy feeling in his chest pooling at the back of his throat.

Walls. The smoke-colored ceiling. The holo of he, Trikar, Mitra, Teroch, Sashar, and Voden on the mantel. It was old, five or so years old, from he and Trikar’s ninth birthday. They hadn’t had a chance to take another. Father had been gone, and then too much, they too busy, the Erinos clan and…and…what? Above him. Walls. The ceiling. Teroch. Teroch. The Kiffar’s tan face was manic, wild with rage, but his dark eyes were cold and flat, their wrath like iron. He snarled, and then that boot came back, settling almost gently on Briikase’s windpipe.

And then it began to press.

T+22:14:05
Entar House
Gethsemane, Erebos, Dajorra System

Dark brown eyes surveyed the grassy fields and played over the rolling hills that cradled them. The window, situated on the topmost floor of a corner room in the northwestern most mansion of Entar House, was unblemished, wholly untouched by technology or society. Not even gardeners tended the fields - the mix of geothermal energy was enough to offset the cold death of entropy that threatened any celestial body this far from a system’s sun. Enough, and no more. So long as the planet’s fires still burned, this small enclave of faux fertility would flourish. In the end, though, entropy would win out. And the darkness would have its due. Such are the lessons of life. No light burns so bright it can escape the darkness for long. That, after all, was what had brought such an unlikely group together.

Clearing his throat, the young-again clone turned his gaze back to his compatriots and took a few steps towards the center of the room. Just a few years ago, such a gathering would have been unthinkable. Then again, a few years ago their Clan hadn’t had a Jetii’ad at its head.

“Times change. Priorities shift. Grandmasters rise and fall. Arcona is constant - must be constant. We have worked too hard, sacrificed too much…” The stern drawl of his voice tapered off, and for a moment flashes of New Tython filled his vision.

The Jedi city was awash in a firestorm of hate. Sashar’s head canted left and, through the T-shaped visor, he could see his best friend, his vod. They had stayed behind, knowing what it would mean. Knowing there was no other way. Some sacrifices were worth it. Their eyes, the same dark brown, met, and Zandro cracked a smile without a trace of pain or regret. Then his skin turned to charred paper, crackling, and blew apart in a gust of flame.

The Mandalorian bit down hard on the inside of his cheek, and the vision blew apart like his brother’s flesh. Clearing his throat again, he forced himself to continue. “We have sacrificed too much to let Arcona crumble under the wrath of a Grandmaster mad with power and slaved to purity. And that wrath is exactly what this child invites down upon us!”

“Hear hear!” echoed one of his companions from an oversized chair along the wall.

Sashar needlessly ran a hand through his close-cropped black hair, using the gesture as an excuse to eye the speaker. The Entar was unnaturally young, though whether a trademark of his species or some unnatural Force-fueled alchemy was a topic of hot debate. Despite the solemn eyes and immaculately groomed hair, the white linen suit looked comical on Strategos, like a child dressing up in his parents clothes. If his parents ran a cartel of death-stick dealers. Few people knew Strategos, former Consul, remained active among the Arconae. Fewer still would recognize his appearance. That could be useful in the days to come, if the Erinos Patriarch could convince him to take part in their plans. It would take a great deal of planning to draw Atyiru to the Shadows while remaining unseen. But if Arcona was to continue to thrive, their Consul would have to be brought to see the truth. The only question was how to convince her.

“So, step one: bring down the Consul.”

Or not… The Erinos clone suppressed a snort as the Entar stood, telekinetically floating his tumbler to a nearby table. Instead, he studied the meeting’s other two attendees. All four of them had known each other for decades. They had been friends - and, at times, enemies - and their acquaintance had outlasted death itself. Still, he wasn’t sure how far they could be trusted in this. Timeros, in particular, would be a difficult sell. As for the fourth…

His musings cut off abruptly as something Strategos had said set of alarm bells in his mind. He quickly replayed the last few seconds of the conversation.

“You want to make them think we were responsible for the bombings?”

The overdressed Arconae chuckled and shook his head. “No, ad’ika,” the Entar replied mockingly. “I already have.”

Their fourth member leapt from his seat, datapad tumbling from his fingers in shock. He took a few steps towards the cultured former Consul. “You did what?” he demanded.

“Calm yourself, Celahir.” Rather than escalate the confrontation, the smartly-dressed Entar took a step back and gestured towards his brandy. The glass rose in the air and sailed gently into his hand. He took a sip, then met the eyes of each companion in turn. “I - or rather my agents among the DIA - left bits and pieces of evidence - scraps, really - that suggested an Arconae might be responsible for the attacks. If I know our vengeful Proconsul - and I think I do - he’ll put together the pieces sooner rather than later.”

“And when he does?” The younger Erinos’ words were clipped, impatient.

When a response came, it wasn’t from Strategos. Timeros’ voice was quiet and contemplative. Though it was clear he hadn’t been briefed on his fellow Entar’s machinations, he was quick to follow them to their logical conclusion. “He will start a witchhunt. One that is sure to foment rebellion among those who rightfully know their Clanmates are innocent.”

“At which point,” Sashar continued, grasping the brutal simplicity of the plan, “Atyiru has no choice but to turn to us for help. Then we lead her down our path.”

The eldest Entar shrugged nonchalantly. “Lead her. Kill her. Either way, Arcona will reclaim her former glory and we’ll buy the time and security we need, without needing to worry about Pravus or the Inquisitorius.”

Though Celahir’s face seemed pensive, unsure, Sashar saw Timeros nodding along thoughtfully. “It has potential.”

Sashar let the briefest hint of a smile crack across his stone-planed jaw. He thought of the homestead on Arconae Primus, of Briikase at the forge, and of Arcona united once more. No light burns so bright it can escape the darkness for long. But for now his flickered, at least.

Then the light went out.

T+32:06:58
Port Ol’val
Dajorra System

It was raining.

Alree hated the rain. It made her fur stick to her and it was cold and she did not like being wet one bit. And Meeka smelled when he was wet. He smelled bad.

The little Cathar girl stuck a foot out and jabbed at her little brother, a toothy pout on her face. The smaller boy let out a yelp, his teeth showing.

Hey!” he hissed. “Mother, she hit me!”

“Stop it, you two,” their mother said from where she stood over by the door, staring out a small crack. “Be quiet. You have to be quiet.” They were in a tiny room with flat gray walls and hard floors and a leaky roof and Alree hated it here too but Mother had made them come. They’d had to walk all the way, in the rain, and Mother hadn’t let her take her doll, hadn’t let them take anything good. Just clothes and stuff. Stupid stuff. Alree didn’t care. She wanted to go home. Why’d they even have to leave?

She kicked her brother again. He sprang up to his feet and hissed at her, and she hissed back. His hand cuffed her ear.

MOTHER,” yowled Alree. “Meeka hit me, he hit me!”

“She hit me more! First! First, she hit me first.”

“I said quiet!” growled Mother, rounding on them suddenly and looming all the way to the ceiling. Alree shrank back, elbowing Meeka for trying to duck behind her. Mother grabbed them by their shoulders, one of her big hands each, her eyes wide and voice very important and scary and were they in trouble? Alree didn’t want to be in trouble. Stupid smelly Meeka.

“Sorry,” whispered her brother, and she mumbled the same, wrinkling her nose.

“Alree, Meeka, listen to me,” Mother said, gripping them tighter. “You have to be quiet.”

“Why?” Alree stomped her foot. “Why? This is dumb and I hate it and why can’t we go home?”

“We’re leaving, children. We can’t stay. It’s not safe.”

Alree blinked, then frowned, grabbing Meeka’s arm and hugging it. “Why?” she said again, tiny this time.

Mother moved to pet their hair, looking over her shoulder at the door again. She looked over there a lot. “There are some people looking for us. Bad people. Understand? Strangers. What are you supposed to do with strangers?”

“Not talk to them or go to their speeders or talk to them and come get you.”

“That’s right. You don’t talk to these people either, understand? Don’t even go near them. They’re here, so we have to go.”

Alree unhunched the slightest bit, her pout returning. “I don’t wanna. Make them go.”

“I can’t, sweet cub. I can’t. We’ve got to go, okay? Mother has a friend that is going to help us leave.”

“But…” Alree protested, eyes watering. She inhaled snottily, wiping her face on her hand. She wiped that on Meeka. He stepped on her toes. “But Father’s here.”

For a second, Mother looked funny, her face getting all scrunchy like Meeka’s did when he was gonna cry. But Mother didn’t cry. She was Mother. Maybe she had to sneeze. Alree was about to suggest using Meeka’s shirt when her mother covered her eyes with a hand, then pulled it away and smiled.

“I know, little cub. But he’s with us wherever we go. Right? So it’s okay to leave.”

Alree thought briefly of the jar back in their apartment, then about her dolls, and not being wet, before nodding. “But Meeka can’t come cause he’s gross.”

“Hey! Mother!” The boy looked pleading. “I can come right?”

“We’re all going,” Mother huffed, hugging them. “We—”

She went stock-still, her head snapping up, braids snapping into Alree’s face and making her squeak. Mother’s hand clapped over her mouth as she pushed them back into the corner of the little shed, watching the door again very hard.

It creaked open, but nobody was there. Alree squirmed and poked her head around Mother’s shoulder, squinting. It was dark, but she smelled something, not just Meetra.

The air shimmered and twisted a bit and then there was just a girl standing there, pulling down a big hood and getting more water all over. Alree felt her mother slump, releasing the too-tight hold on she and Meeka.

“You’re late,” hissed Mother, approaching the lady. Her face was covered by a scarf, and her big cloak and big clothes covered everything else. She looked silly, like she didn’t have hands. Her nose was odd, her hair white. A stick of some kind was on her back.

“It was difficult slipping away. Things are…busy,” the weird woman said. “Kela, I have to tell you, Estle City is under attack. We’re trying, but…”

“Lo? Tira? Anyone?” Mother asked, sounding strange again. Like when Alree and Meetra had nightmares. Scared. But Mother was Mother and she didn’t get scared.

The lady bowed her head, white hair falling over her face. “I’m sorry, Kela. I went to find them in the bakery and they…the district had already been…”

Mother made a whining sound. “I— right. Right. We need to go. We need to get out of here. The Inquis—”

“I won’t let them hurt you,” the woman said fiercely, her brown eyes flashing in the dim glow of the streetlights outside. “Come on. We just have to get to the port. I’ve already got you a spot out of the system on a ne…”

Alree stopped listening. Her fur was stuck to her all flat and cold but her skin still crawled. She turned and pulled Meetra over and held him tight to her protectively even though he smelled.

Mother went and grabbed their bag, and the lady knelt down, meeting Alree’s gaze. She gave a smile.

“Hi there. I’m Zujenia, but you may call me Zuj, Zuji, Zu or what have you. Pleasure to meet you. What’re your names?”

“I’m Alree and this is Meetra. He’s my brother.” Pausing, she added, “Little brother.”

“Big sister! That’s good. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“Why’s your nose funny?”

“It’s not funny, it’s my nose. I’m half-Ryn, half-Human.”

“What’s that?”

“Me. Now hush, and be good. We’re going on a trip, and we’re going quietly. First one to talk loses, understand?”

They nodded. Mother came back then and bustled them out back into the rain. Alree would have complained, but she didn’t want Meetra to win, so she just ran through the puddles as Mother pulled them along. Zujenia led the way. They went past apartments and big dark buildings and bright ones that hurt Alree’s eyes and ears because they were loud. She never liked them.

Soon she was tired, but Mother wouldn’t let them stop. Meetra soon lost the game by crying because his feet hurt and he wanted to go home. Alree agreed with him.

But no. They couldn’t, Mother said. There were bad strangers there.

Mother picked up Meetra and Alree was left to be slung up onto Zujenia’s back with firm instructions not to touch the stick there. She did her best, wrapping her arms around the half-Ryn’s neck.

More running. Alree didn’t like it. She was uncomfortable and Zujenia jostled her with every step and it was still raining and—

They skidded to a stop. Alree fell into a puddle. She yelped as Zujenia scooped her back up and shoved her into her mother’s arms, pushing them all behind a dumpster. That stick came off the half-Ryn’s back, and her cloak hit the ground in a soggy lump. The woman waved them back, pressing herself flat to the metal and peeking around it.

A bright red flash of light streaked past, making Alree wince. More followed, too many for her to count. Mother made a sound like whining, but Mother didn’t whine.

Zujenia hissed out a bad word and then dove into the alley when the flashes stopped. Alree darted forward, mouth dropping open and as she stared at the half-Ryn who went sprinting at three men standing further away. The ends of her stick lit up and crackled, violet-white like lightning. She spun it around her body, twisting, and hit one of the men with it in the back of his knee. He yelled and dropped to the ground, and the other end came back to crack into his head.

The other two men moved towards her, but she slithered around them, too fast for Alree to see what was happening. There were more red flashes, and Zujenia’s lightning stick slammed into one figure’s legs, sending him to his back. It came down again like a hammer on a nail. Alree gasped, watching as more people in the same funny clothes and metal hats showed up.

Claws dug into her shoulders and dragged her backwards. Alree writhed and yowled, wanting to see, but Mother crushed her firmly to her chest, tight against Meetra, hunching over them. The noises kept coming through the rain: banging and shouting and even screaming that made Alree’s skin crawl. The red lights flashed again, all around them. She could just barely make out their color from the soaked, stifling confines of her mother’s coat.

Mother slowly relaxed, her hold loosening on them. Alree wiggled free, kicking Meetra in the process, and scampered back out into the alley, panting. Her wide gaze landed on Zujenia, walking quickly back over to them. Her stick was still in one hand, dark. Her other hand pressed to her side. All the other people laid on the ground like they were napping. In the rain? People didn’t nap in the rain.

Alree ran over and kicked one in the arm. He didn’t move. She nudged him again, puzzled.

“Why—” she started to ask, but Zujenia seized her by the scruff and wordlessly carried her back to where Mother sat, depositing her there.

“Quiet,” said the half-Ryn, and Alree swallowed, nodding quickly. Mother hadn’t moved from where she laid against the dumpster. Meetra was shaking her. Crying.

Alree darted over and hit him. “Shhh! You’re supposed to be quiet!” she snapped, earning a quick, hard look from Zujenia. The woman knelt down next to Mother, speaking too softly for Alree to hear. She looked angry and sad. Mother shifted a bit finally and lifted her face, saying something back. The fur around her eyes was wet and dark, like she was crying. But Mother didn’t cry.

Mother didn’t cry.

“Thank you,” Mother coughed, and Zujenia got up and picked up Alree and Meetra under her arms with a grunt. Then she started running again.

“Wait, wait, hey!” Alree cried, kicking at the air to no effect. “Wait for Mother!”

“She’s not coming.”

“She said we all had to go. Hey!

“Quiet, Alree. Be quiet like your brother.”

“No! He smells. Mother!” she tried to yell. “Mother!”

Hissing, the Cathar girl lashed out, digging small claws into the half-Ryn’s sleeve. Zujenia didn’t stop or let go. She just grunted and kept going.

Alree whimpered. She didn’t recognize this part of the city anymore. The rain made it dark. Meetra hung limp and quiet on the half-Ryn’s other side. It was cold, and Alree was tired, and she wanted Mother.

When the girl next opened her eyes, Zujenia was setting them down, sitting them on…seats, with buckles. Alree blinked slowly as she was strapped in, like when Mother put them in the speeder. But this was different. The thing they were in was big and round except for the flat floor, with more seats and people opposite them. There were lots of crates. It smelled worse than her brother’s wet fur ever had.

Zujenia was talking to someone, a man in a brown cloak. He said, “…they’ll be safe, you have my word.”

“See to it,” the half-Ryn insisted. Alree noticed they both had smaller sticks on their belts, metal and fancy. Somebody behind a box somewhere coughed. Zujenia came back and knelt close to the Cathar pair. “Listen, you two. That man there, you see?” She pointed, which Mother said was rude, and Alree nodded. “His name is Yels. He’s a friend of sorts, and he’s going to watch out for you, okay? Make sure you get home safe.”

“But we just left home,” Alree growled frustratedly. “When’s Mother coming?”

For a second, the funny-nosed woman’s lip trembled, and then she wrapped her arms around their shoulders, squeezing tightly. She breathed hard, then said, “She’s not, little one. I’m sorry. I have to go now. You two watch out for each other.”

Zujenia let go, turning away and walking back out into the rain down a little ramp that started to rise. Alree saw her just…disappear again right there before the big door closed and blocked her sight.

Meetra sniffed and leaned into her. She almost shoved him off, but didn’t. People moved around for awhile doing things. The man Zujenia had pointed at came by and gave them a blanket and a hot drink that tasted bad.

“You’re safe now,” he said. “It’s all going to be okay. We’re going far away, whole other planets and stars away, to a secret place. Have you ever left Ol’Val?” Alree shook her head. “Where we’re going is rather different, but exciting too. The cities float. You’ll see.” The man smiled gently again and took her hand. It was soothing. “It’s going to be okay,” he repeated.

“Okay,” Alree echoed, and she believed him, even though Mother wasn’t supposed to cry.

T+32:18:03
The Citadel
Selen, Dajorra System

“Damnation!”

Sepia hands slammed down on the meeting table, making the holos of the cityscape projected from its center flicker. Grim faces cast in blue stared through it, at the woman at the table’s head. Some from the usual assembly were missing, busy elsewhere in handling troop movements or coordinating counterstrikes, search and rescue, fire containment and ten other things. Some were not so lucky.

Terran resisted the urge to massage his forehead or otherwise roll his eyes. For one, the pressure building between his eyes hurt like a rancor, and he wasn’t so inclined to put the effort into the expression of exasperation. For another, he had an image to maintain.

“…Koul!” The whipcrack of his name, like wind over water, summoned his attention back to the conversation he’d begun to drown out. The Consul, having finished ordering off the others, stared straight at him. Or would have, were she able. He got the distinct impression, as ever, that somehow there were eyes under that ridiculous candy-printed cloth, boring holes into him. “What is Shadow Gate’s status?”

“I sent them out already, my Lady,” the Kiffar replied smoothly, his face an easy mask of seriousness he deemed appropriate to the situation. “They’ve paired off, four teams fanning out through the city at last-known locations of the enemy combatants.”

“And my apprentice?” demanded the Miraluka for what seemed like the fifth time that day. Terran’s head throbbed harder, and he bit back his irritation. Miss Sunshine Giggles had gotten grimmer and grimmer since the attacks had started and the vague casualty reports began rolling in. At this point, she was downright insufferable. To make matters worse, his Battleteam Sergeant was missing. He’d sent her back to Ol’Val to stir up their contacts and make certain none of this Teroch kid’s people were sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. It was simple recon on their home turf, and she’d been due to report back nearly sixteen hours ago.

He was not getting paid enough for this kark.

“I’m…investigating it, my Lady. I’ll have her back as soon as possible.”

“See to it, Koul,” she snapped, lifting one hand to wave him off as her other fluttered over the panels on the table, plunging the display, and the room, into darkness. “And while you’re finding her, perhaps you can find something more than the same platitudes you gave me four hours ago.”

With that, the Consul stalked to the door in a rustle of fabric, her footsteps swift and harsh like the grating thud of blood in his ears. The doorway swished open with a bright knife of light from the hallways, then closed again, leaving the freshly-minted Quaestor in the black once more.

Frak.

“Not getting paid enough at all,” he muttered to himself, standing from his seat with a stretch and a groan. His neck was stiff. He’d been holding too still in the same ‘of course I’m paying attention’ position for too long. “Issh was right. Too much kriffing ideology and too many pieces. Never makes for a clean job.”

The Kiffar slammed his boot toes against a chair leg on his way to the door, taking his aggravation out on the furnishings. When that girl turned up, there would be words.

Terran stepped out into the hall, his left foot mid-step, when klaxons shouted in his mind and he turned the motion into a swift pivot, hands dropping reflexively to the pistols holstered there.

He turned just in time to meet a pair of wide, red-tinged amber eyes and watch, as if in slow motion, as a small, heavily cloaked figure barreled right into him. They hit the floor in a tangle of limbs and muttered curses, rubbing ringing heads as teeth vibrated in their sockets from the collision. The Quaestor extricated himself and stood, brushing off his coat, gaze landing on Zujenia herself, still on the ground. She looked like a half-drowned rat, with bloodstains on her dark clothing and the shadows on her face that told the story of crying women across the galaxy. It was obvious she’d been through one hell of something in her missing hours.

Too bad he didn’t give a damn. At least, that’s what he tried to tell himself.

Terran folded arms across chest. When he spoke, the impatience in his voice couldn’t quite hide the rural drawl.

“You’re late. Start talking.”

This Plot Update sponsored by Braecen Corp. - Your best source for quality business fulfillment needs this side of the Unknown Regions!

T+36:12:42
The Citadel
Selen, Dajorra System

The alert chirped three times. Deet-deet-deet. It drew Braecen’s eyes from his datapad towards the device. He grumbled something unintelligible about how it kept him from his work. Sprawled across his ornate desk in his office were numerous reports that detailed the destruction of Dajorra over the past several days. The one that remained open, at the center of his desk, was a detailed debriefing about Teroch’s attack on Wuntila. He rewound the holovideo from aboard the vessel once more, watching the pair as they exchanged blows before a nearly fatal, final blow from the rogue Adept. The old man grunted. He knew the pain from such an attack.

Casually, he paused the video, then turned his attention to his comlink nearby. It flashed repeatedly – the amber light pulsing throughout the dreariness of his office. Upon seizing control of the Dajorra Defense Force, Braecen had begun coding messages in pings and chirps to prioritize the level of communication. Frustrated that it had not reduced his workload, he had created color coded alerts to categorize the type of communication. As the amber hue diminished in his palm, he prepared himself for communication from the Dajorra Intelligence Agency; specifically, he prepared himself for communication from the Director.

“Timeros,” Braecen cooed, “my old friend.” The pair had once been bitter rivals in Braecen’s youth. A time where he had been more preoccupied with standing on his soapbox waxing about righteousness. Meanwhile, Timeros had been laying a foundation — solid brick and mortar — in Arcona to overthrow Taldryan and claim the title of First Clan. The Corellian knew better than to underestimate this particular Arconae. Better to have him as a friend than a foe, Braecen concluded.

“No time for pleasantries, Kaeth,” his peer Elder grumbled. “I have important information concerning Teroch. There is a pattern to his attacks…”

Braecen listened intently as Timeros explained the rotation.

T+36:12:44
Agavae-class Picket Ship Nighthawk
Selen, Dajorra System

The words came through strained, yet clear, as the Intelligence Officer hacked the secure link from the Director to the Quaestor of Galeres. Rulvak hated what he was doing, but he felt it was necessary as an Officer and a leader within Arcona. Before her departure, Arcia Cortel had confided in the young upstart Sith her suspicions that Braecen was a traitor. That he had purposely sabotaged SCEPTER, then Arcona, against the Perdition forces.

“There is a pattern to his attacks in our system. I’m not sure if you were read-in on Teroch’s file, but he had a very high IQ—”

“Not as high as yours?” Braecen inquired.

“No,” Timeros quieted, “not as high as mine, but enough that it makes him decidedly dangerous.” The Entar Elder paused, collected himself, and continued. “I plotted the attack locations, but that did not reveal anything until I also noted the time of the attacks, too.”

The data spooled out an equation that was too complicated for the Officers aboard the Nighthawk to understand. As the information began to slow, an image jumped to life that represented the Dajorra System with red, pulsing lights to indicate locations of known incursions. The attacks had been brutal. Teroch had been privy to access levels, as a member of the Erinos Clan, that gave him a decided advantage. No one had bothered to update or change the protocols since the Dark Crusade. Rulvak made a mental note to address the matter personally at the conclusion of this conflict.

“When I started connecting the seemingly random attacks with a single line…” Timeros trailed off. “As you can see, it provided nothing. When I introduced nearly alternating lines or, rather, two teams, a pattern began to emerge.” Two spirals — one in white, one in green — showed a circular rotation. One rotation seemed to be working inwards towards Selen, while the other rotation worked outward towards military outposts.

Braecen’s eyes widened. “Does this mean—”

“Yes,” Timeros concluded darkly. “He is heading to Dusk Station.”

The revelation confused the Captain of the Nighthawk. “Pull up everything we have on the Cardan-V space station and send it to my personal holopad.” His crew processed the task immediately and information began downloading onto his device. The Equite consumed the words with a terrifying ferocity, but he simply could not find anything of note aboard the space station to cause such fear in two Elders of the Clan.

Rulvak turned to his helmsman, Karth Orsai, and issued his orders, “Remain cloaked, but I want all ahead to Dusk Station. We continue our pursuit of Kaeth until we know his intentions clearly.”

“Aye, aye, Captain Qurroc,” Karth barked as he turned to the task before him.

T+36:14:08
Dusk Station
Selen, Dajorra System

The Lambda-class T-4a shuttle set down on Dusk Station with one metallic thud as the repulsors whined against the exertion. At the rear of the vessel, the ramp begun to lower and several individuals exited in unison. At the forefront, her white braid over her left shoulder, marched the Shadow Lady. Atyiru commanded nothing short of absolute loyalty from her Elders.

She had built her empire on their backs. Some had been cajoled, others bribed, but otherwise they had all become hostage to her charisma and her hold on the Clan. To defy her meant certain death from the other Elders, to follow her agenda granted a moment of peace and protection – it was a prison of wills. None greater, none stronger, than the Shadow Lady’s though.

At her flanks came Timeros and Marick — her most loyal Lieutenants. Behind them trailed Braecen and Valhavoc. It was a deliberate move; two from Qel-Droma, two from Galeres. Two she trusted wholly, two she needed to know if she could trust. She had her suspicions about both Braecen and Valhavoc.

Timeros had assured her that he would report anything to her immediately, but the Galeres
Quaestor had become wily with time in service, his reports less frequent, his trips not fully documented or logged by Officers aboard the Darkest Night. Officers whom were supposed to be loyal to her first and foremost. Valhavoc had served at the side of the Grand Master for well over a year. She suspected his motives for joining Arcona were false and at the request of the Iron Throne. Why else would anyone leave the comforts of the Office of the FIST to become a lowly member of a Clan?

She could not see, but she sensed a more pressing issue as she neared the doors to the inner workings of the facility. As the Lady of the Dajorra System, she should have been received by the station’s Officers with a small parade of troops. Their absence concerned her deeply. She flicked her wrist forward, “Braecen. Valhavoc.” The pair tensed and awaited orders. “Breach these doors and clear a path to the Code White vault.”

The pair darted forward. A pair of white flames erupted from the hilts in Braecen’s hands while an E-11 carbine materialized in Valhavoc’s hands. The Quaestor punched a secure sequence into the doors, but an error message beeped and a red light flashed. Timeros raised his hands and plied his fingers, blowing the doors inward with the power of the Dark Side. Silently, the lead pair entered into the darkness and darted forward.

Atyiru marched deliberately forward, every step measured and calm. The Force wrapped her in a cocoon and cautioned her against rash actions. While she desperately wanted to charge forward, the Light Side of the Force urged against such reckless action. She would arrive exactly when she needed. No sooner. No later. Her loyal Champions stayed by her side. Neither questioned her actions or her motives.

T+36:14:08
White Level, Dusk Station
Selen, Dajorra System

Valhavoc’s carbine was leveled towards the darkly clad invaders. He pulled the trigger continuously and crimson bolts raced out from the barrel to find their marks. The Eminent dutifully pushed forward from the right flank of the Sith Elder before him. He matched the Juggernaut step for step as the pair began to ingress the defenses of Teroch’s forces.

Braecen’s twin blades created fans of white, brilliant light that intercepted numerous bolts hailing at them from all directions. He could not exert enough will to redirect each bolt, instead sending them off in numerous directions. The Force directed his hands, though, keeping the pair safe as they worked towards cover. The Mercenary rolled in a quick somersault from the Sith’s right to his left, taking cover from the barrage that met them. Braecen heavily crashed into the large containers beside his fellow Elder of the Iron Throne.

“They seem agitated,” Braecen laughed. “I don’t think they like us.”

“We have to clear the path quicker, Kaeth,” the cold tone of Valhavoc dowsing the joyful light in Braecen’s eyes.

“Alright, then,” the Sith barked. “Behind me.”

The pair emerged from cover. Braecen sped forward as both blades whirled in sequence. He cut through several of the invaders before they could react to the all-out attack. Kaeth drew up short at an intersection and locked his feet to the ground. From here he would rather die than give an inch. Valhavoc slid into position at his side. He barked an order and the Sith instinctively obeyed by creating a barrier before them to repel blaster fire. Two grenades were released from his hands. They beeped madly as they tumbled through the air and landed beside their foes.

An explosion rocked the landscape and tossed both friend and foe violently against bulkheads and hallways. An eerie quiet settled into the passage as the trio of Atyiru, Marick, and Timeros marched over the corpses — and, with regretful determination, their wounded allies — towards the vault of Mejas Doto.

Through the Force, Atyiru could sense the insanity pouring outward from the Dark Jedi Master of Clan Arcona. She could also sense a more familiar presence: Teroch. She reached for the beautiful, ornate hilt at her waist. Beside her, the Combat Master and a Combat Master Emeritus mirrored her, moving for their weapons.

The battle for Dusk Station was about to begin.

This Plot Update is brought to you by Zakath - a quality lizard you can trust.

T+38:13:04
DIA Safehouse
Eldar, Dajorra System

The smell of rapidly decaying flesh and acrid smoke hung in the hot, dank air.

With each step he took into the pockmarked warehouse, Zakath could feel his smoldering fury stoking to an inferno. With each step he took, he passed another body. His wrathful eyes blazed like hot purple coals, and his talons clenched into tight fists as he set foot in the main cargo area of the building where members of the Tal’mahe’Ra and DIA agents were sorting out the grisly scene in the dead center of the room.

There was a pile of bodies in various, crooked positions on the floor, all of them with blackened gaping holes in their chests, clear evidence of blaster fire. He mentally noted the fact that most of the corpses belonged to what were being considered ‘Undesirable’ species by the Iron Throne.

They were too late.

“Zakath.”

The Barabel let a low growl escape his throat as he stared down at the twisted carcasses, barely registering that someone had come up beside him and was trying to hand him a datapad. After a long minute, Zakath wheezed out a hiss and turned to face whoever was brave enough to disturb him.

Tamashi Adaephon Delat stood there, his features hidden behind his ebony mask. Zakath accepted the datapad but did not look at it yet, instead sparing another glance at the rotting bodies on the floor.

“How many?” he asked at last.

“We counted twenty-one bodies total: nineteen of the people under our protection, and two Iron Legion troopers,” Tamashi replied, his voice hollow from the mask. “There were ten survivors who escaped thanks to the intervention of a Jedi Knight who stayed behind.”

“Speciez?” Zakath asked curiously.

“Omwati.”

Zakath’s eyes narrowed at Tamashi’s reply. He had not seen an Omwati body on his way in. Taking another harder look at the pile of corpses, he could not see any evidence of an Omwati within it.

“Where is the body?” Zakath hissed out.

“There is no body,” Tamashi replied flatly.

“Waz he taken alive?” Zakath asked, his voice a low snarl. “If he waz taken alive—”

“No,” Tamashi raised a hand. “The DIA has recovered footage from our security feeds, and it shows an unidentified Inquisitor killing the Omwati. However, the footage also showed Iron Legion troopers taking the body with them when they withdrew.”

Zakath’s eyes glowed brighter as he stared hard at Tamashi. After a moment, he switched the topic.

“How many safehouzez did we have on Eldar?”

“Seven,” Tamashi replied.

“And how many were hit?”

“Seven,” Tamashi repeated.

All seven were hit?” Zakath hissed out, his voice a low and dangerous tone.

“Yes. The DIA is still compiling its analysis, but…” The Sephi’s voice trailed off.

“Not even the Inquizitoriuz has such a powerful intelligence network,” Zakath finished Tamashi’s sentence. “We have traitorz among uz.”

“That is my thought,” Tamashi agreed with a slight nod. “I’m receiving reports from the Nighthawk as well. Not enough to get the full picture, but it looks like they’re getting bad intelligence on their end as well, bad intelligence that got one of the crew killed on his last operation. I think this rot goes much further than we originally suspected.”

“The Iron Throne iz playing gamez with uz,” Zakath growled out. “Teroch waz nothing more than a diztraction. Thiz waz their real mezzage.”

“Yes, and unfortunately Teroch’s…distraction delayed us long enough for the message to be made loud and clear.”

“No more,” Zakath said softly.

“Zakath?” Tamashi’s voice was uncertain.

“No. More,” the Barabel repeated before focusing his glowing eyes on Tamashi’s mask. “The Proconzul iz making changez. I am being elevated to hiz side to azzizt in the inveztigation of thiz traitoriuz rot.”

“I see. And the Tal’mahe’Ra?”

“Will be in your handz.” Zakath’s lips curved up into the first smile he’d had all day. “My new pozition will enzure that more rezourcez will be made available to you. We have laid the foundation, but you, Tamazhi, you will sharpen the Tal’mahe’Ra into an order that the Inquizitoriuz will learn to fear. And when the time comez…we will plunge it into their beating heartz and rip out their throatz.” Zakath’s eyes turned again toward the pile of corpses. His eyes shone with the Dark Side, and his words held hate. “The Inquizitoriuz thinkz thiz…dizplay will cauze uz to fear the Iron Throne. But all thiz doez iz make uz angry. And when our rage reachez a fever pitch, we will make the Inquizitoriuz drown in their own blood.”