Sphere of Influence [Plagueis Feud]

(Zanet Xox) #1

CHAPTER ONE - 20 JUNE 2014

President’s Conference Room
Hyperdyne Headquarters
Lethra City, Cadinth

Sleek. Pristine. Modern. With a lot of white hues.

The Hooded Figure noticed these things as he stood in hologram form in the center of the room, watching, listening, feeling out the emotions of those he spoke to. The room was large, but presently empty save for President Corvin Zexx and his Executive Assistant Fiona Dravvad, who sat quietly, taking notes. A man of the Hooded Figure’s stature deserved a private audience, though the meeting was quickly turning sour.

Zexx laughed. His laugh was boyish, youthful, but lined with a ruthlessness the Hooded Figure knew he should not underestimate. Zexx had not developed Hyperdyne Manufacturing into one of the premiere starship manufacturing plants in the sector because of his fresh perspective on the galaxy. He seized opportunities when they arose, and guarded himself against threats when they emerged.

At present, he saw the hooded Figure’s presence as more a threat than opportunity.

“I granted you an audience because Hyperdyne values returning customers,” Zexx said, “Especially ones as resourceful and in demand as you, but I find it laughable you come to me with this.”

The Hooded Figure spoke, “I offer you partnership, sir. Continued operations with a controlling stake in my group’s hands, but we value your methods and do not seek to alter them.”

Zexx leaned back, his arms laid casually on either side of his chair, “Look, you know who we contract with, so I do not seek to insult you by comparison but I’m afraid Hyperdyne is not interested in new ownership.”

The Hooded Figure expanded his reach into the room. He could feel the heartbeat of Zexx - calm, steady, undeterred by his advances. His mind was strong, too healthy to exert any influence over from this great a distance, but the girl was different. Fiona Dravvad, sitting quietly two seats down. The Hooded Figure prodded.

The Twi’lek suddenly whispered, “Perhaps we should bring in the other executives, sir.”

Zexx turned, his face suddenly dark and frowning, “Shut up.”

The command was short and crisp, hard, and the Hooded Figure felt his lease on Dravvad snap.

Zexx returned to the Hooded Figure, "Look, I am grateful for your business and commit Hyperdyne to continuing our fruitful relationship, but we are not looking for new ventures right now. Thank you for meeting with me.

The Hooded Figure frowned, silent, before the hologram faded into oblivion.

Zexx turned back to Dravvad, still frowning, “Do not speak unless spoken to.”

“Yes, sir,” the Twi’lek submitted quickly.

“That was quite…curious,” Zexx mused, “Who did you say manages this account?”

Dravvad checked her datapad, “Teek Amavia in R&D brought in the account originally. It’s handled by Naveev Treeess.”

Zexx’s fingers tapped on the arm of the chair, his mind buzzing with activity as he pondered, his gaze narrowing.

>———————<

Hyperdrive Development
Hyperdyne Headquarters
Lethra City, Cadinth

The power generator rained sparks and shined a bright white light before fizzling away and going completely silent.

“Shit!” yelled Teek Amavia as the short Dressellian threw down his tools and banged a fist against the table.

“Very mature,” quipped Lorainne Korn from the side of the room. She was smiling, amused but uncaring, “You set excellent impressions, Teek.”

Amavia fumed, not embarrassed for the first time, “I need access to the newer model converters, Lorainne, which means I need funding to purchase them.”

“Your funding is satisfactory,” Korn responded, “We have to shift resources into other priority areas. The orders are straight from Zexx.”

“What other areas?”

Korn smiled again, “Teek, please. You’re an excellent engineer, but know your place.”

She left the room on her heels, Amavia still fuming behind her. The beeping of his communicator brought his senses back and he walked to his computer to activate the transmission.

A blue hued transparent rendering of a Hooded Figure appeared and spoke immediately, “President Zexx did not respond kindly.”

“I told you he wouldn’t,” Amavia said, “He’s hard headed and short sighted.”

“Luckily you are not,” the Figure smirked, “But we will need to move forward. You need to retrieve blueprints of the plant for us.”

Amavia shifted uncomfortably, “I already told you, there are only so many things I can acce…”

He stopped abruptly at the wave of the Hooded Figure’s hand. The Figure spoke, lower, darker, softer, “You will retrieve blueprints of the plant for us.”

“I will retrieve blueprints for us,” Amavia repeated.

“Good. Stand tall, my friend. Things will get much harder before your future is realized.”

Amavia squirmed slightly, “I hope you do not intend to destroy the factory you hope to control.”

The Hooded Figure grinned, “There are many ways to accomplish one’s goal. Time will tell which proves successful. I will contact you shortly for the blueprints. Do not disappoint, President Amavia.”

The hologram disappeared, leaving Amavia standing with a grin of his own.

>———————<

Consular Offices
The Anchorage
Classified Location in the Esstran Sector

The Hooded Figure stepped back from the holoreceiver and removed his robes. Aabsdu Dupar had never much liked the garbs. Too loose hanging.

The Adept had expected President Zexx to turn down his offer. Acceptance would have gone against Zexx’s business nature, but none of it mattered. The outcome remained the same. Clan Plagueis used to think of itself as homeless, wanderers with nothing but a contingent of ships and now this previously abandoned space station. Now they realized their true potential. This was their home.

Darth Plagueis had been a rich and powerful Muun. He had continued to operate businesses, controlling the rise and fall of industries across the galaxy, even while he trained Palpatine to one day take over that galaxy. While Sidious had achieved the Sith’s lifelong dream, Darth Plagueis’ acumen had granted Sidious the resources and influence necessary to unlock his potential. Plagueis had ruled from the shadows, confident knowing his legacy intact even if no history books knew his name.

Clan Plagueis did not need a system of planets to conquer. It needed a base from which it could stretch its dark fingers across space.

Hyperdyne Manufacturing would be Plagueis’ first acquisition.

Aabsdu moved out of his inner offices into the outer conference room where Quaestor Kz’set and Teylas Ramar were waiting, both seated and chatting. They stood at attention upon the Consul’s entrance, bowing their heads in respect.

“Dread Lord,” each said. Aabsdu returned the gesture before sliding each a datachip.

“Hypderdyne Manufacturing is based in a corner of the Tion Sector. A planet named Cadinth. Hyperdyne specializes in starship manufacturing, notably hyperdrives but they have recently shifted funds into a currently unknown project.”

“Are they a threat to uszz?” Kz’set asked.

“No, but we are a threat to them. Clan Plagueis is in need of resources and we have not the planets to mine. In the name of the Dread Lord, you and your houses are to infiltrate Hyperdyne and seize control of its operations. My own agents have already placed themselves throughout the company. You will find details on all executives and blueprints of their factories on that chip.”

“If we have already infiltrated their ranks,” Kz’set clicked, “My house will be able to slip in quite easily.”

“Your main obstacle will be President Corvin Zexx. He is not the type to bow to outside control,” Aabsdu said.

Teylas spoke up, “Then we make him. Permanently.”

Aabsdu grinned, “Perhaps. I leave the details to you and your teams. I want Hyperdyne. Intact and fully operational. Bring me this.”

“Does the Dark Council know Plagueis intends to leave the Begeren battlefield?” asked Teylas.

“General Benzayn is capable of maintaing our advance planet side,” Aabsdu answered, “And Proconsul Rai and myself will remain here to oversee both operations. I have arranged for each of you to send a small forward team in the guise of Alliance safety inspectors. This is as far as my assistance extends.”

“What are we there to inspect?” asked Kz’set.

Aabsdu gave a genuine smile, “A recent accident in their boiler systems.”

>———————<

Primary Heating Duct
Lower Levels of Hyperdyne Headquarters
Lethra City, Cadinth

There was a team of six engineers working in the heating systems, performing standard repairs and calibrations. There was a man on this team, a Bothan whose name was unimportant because this Bothan was not suppose to be on this team. This Bothan was not suppose to be in this building, or on this planet. It mattered not. This Bothan was not himself.

There was a team of six engineers performing standard repairs and calibrations in the heating systems, during which time the Bothan removed a block of explosives from his pack and detonated.

>———————<

Bridge of the Transcendent
In Orbit Around Begeren

Former Admiral Brimstone stood looking at the viewports at the monochromatic tan planet before them. Admiral Cyvaria Ranin stood next to him, the two joined in a moment of silence as they gazed out at the infinite of space momentarily interrupted by this small sphere of matter. The two were as friendly as one gets when both stand in clear positions of power to the Dread Lord. Brimstone admired Ranin’s intelligence and knowledge of naval strategies, two traits his Chiss ancestors placed in high regard.

An Officer approached and spoke, “A message for you, sir.”

Chiss and Human turned at the same time, but the Officer’s communicator went to Brimstone. Ranin watched as Brimstone activated the transmission and a blue form of Callus Bo’Amar appeared.

“Brimstone,” Callus spoke, “You are to return to the Preeminence immediately. You and your Apostles are needed for deployment.”

“I thought our Begeren campaign finished,” Brimstone inquired.

“I expect your arrival promptly,” Callus asserted and ended the call.

>———————<

Forward Plagueis Command
Northern Mountain Ranges
Begeren

Ophelia Delacroix and Marduss sat around a table displaying holographic imaging of the surrounding area and the various Dark Brotherhood and One Sith forces nestled throughout. Both had been pulled back from the front lines to manage House Ajunta Pall’s new recruits and liaise with General Benzayn.

A holographic rendering of Furios Morega suddenly appeared in the center of the table. He didn’t waste time, “The Left Wing demands your return to fleet. Our attention is being shifted elsewhere.”

“Both of us?” asked Delacroix.

“Immediately,” and the transmission of Furios ended. Ophelia and Marduss looked at one another, both unsure as to what could call away Plagueis’ commanders from the Crusade battlefield.

>———————<

Back in Consular’s Offices (previously)
The Anchorage
Classified Location in the Esstran Sector

The Dark Side Adept and Consul leaned toward the Quaestors, his face stern, "Do not mistake the importance of this mission. When one tells your hands to reach out, the hands obey. They grasp firmly the goal, without question or hesitation.

Aabsdu straightened and continued, “Otherwise, you cut off the hand.”

(Zanet Xox) #2

CHAPTER TWO - 30 JUNE 2014

Written by Kz’set

NSD Preeminence
Combat Information Center

Dossiers, diagrams, and schematics filled the screens around the CIC. All the intelligence that the Brotherhood had on Hyperdyne Industries, as well as some that Kz’set had extracted from the Extranet, covered every monitor. In the middle of it all, the Verpine Right Wing and his deputy studied them all, trying to plot a strategy. Corporate politics, at least those of non-Verpine companies had always baffled Kz’set. Distinguishing the real decision makers from the functionaries and lackies was always tricky but Kz’set enjoyed a challenge.

“And I thought ancient Sith power structures were difficult to unravel.” Callus said with a sigh. The Epicanthix was clearly overwhelmed by all the information. “Who exactly do we need to kill to get our foot in the door.”

Kz’set shook his head, “Blunt force alone isn’t the answer here. In fact, it might create a bigger problem. No, the key is finding the right person, destroying their reputation, and then making them disappear. Besides, a corpse tells you nothing, a captive begging for a chance at life says far more.”

Callus didn’t quite understand, but nodded anyway. “Anyone in mind?”

Kz’set’s spindly fingers worked over the console, pulling up a dossier of an older human woman who’s dossier lister her as head of the R&D department. “Her. President Zexx trusts her to a fault. Destroying that trust would turn the company on itself. Chaos breeds opportunity, especially for people like us.

Callus’ brow furled. “Sounds like something that would take a long time. Surely Teylas’ minions would just shoot her and be done with it.”

Kz’set simply grinned. “Falls can be quick if the push is hard enough. Prepare an infiltration team, a small one, and some commando droids. I have work to do.”

>———————<

Oridin City, Fondor

Knor was very rarely nervous when he went to meet a potential contact. Several years of service with the Galactic Alliance Intelligence Service had taught the middle aged Bothan that dealing with shady people in shadier places was all a part of the norm. But something was different about this contact. Knor hadn’t even met the man yet and for some reason, his fur was standing on end and it wasn’t just from the steam. Whoever this person was his handlers had insisted he meet, he definately didn’t want to be noticed. Choosing to meet in an undeground steam tunnel, at night, alone, all signs of someone who didn’t want to be seen.

As Knor rounded a bend in the tunnel that was partially shut down for service, he spotted a hooded figure at the edge of his vision.

“Good, you came, and on time. Not what I normally expect from your kind.” The hooded man said, clearly through a breath mask. He could spot a pair of blasters hanging from the mans hips and a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“You’ve been dealing with the wrong sorts then.” Knor replied. “Hooded, mask, big guns, you must be Karn.”

The hooded man nodded. “Indeed, though I prefer Arden.”

Wanting to get straight to the point so he could get out of these tunnels, Knor stated, “I’m told you have information for us?”

“I’m told you’re investigating the disappearance of a task force over Ord Pardon.” The hooded man replied.

The Bothan perked his ears up at the mention. “Task Force Apex’s disappearance isn’t exactly common knowledge. I’m not even sure the Senate has been briefed. You have a lead?”

“I might.” The man said as he reached into his cloak. “Did you bring what I requested?”

The agent nodded and produced a datacard. “Our entire file on Xander Drax. Don’t know what your interest is in him though.”

“That’s my business, and it’s the sort you don’t want any part of.” Karn replied. “As for your missing task force, I have information placing them in Allied Tion Sector at a base controlled by a company known as Hyperdyne Industries. It’s all here and verified.”

The hooded man promptly withdrew his hand from his cloak producing several datacards and offering them to the Bothan. The Bothan eyed them before accepting them and handing over the datacard with Drax’s file.

“The decryption key will be transmitted as agreed, once we verify these files. I have to admit, the Tion Sector, that’s a bit of a shock. Long way from Ord Pardon. How did…” The Bothan stopped abruptly, realizing what he was about to ask. Arden, for his part, answered anyway.

“I doubt you’d believe me if I told you.”

(Zanet Xox) #3

CHAPTER THREE - 03 JULY 2014

VIP Booth
Low Orbit Casino
In Orbit around Cadinth

Things proceeded well.

Koth Rai’Hakk lounged in the private booth of the upper atmosphere club, orange drink in hand, as he considered the scenario. Clan Plagueis’ capitalist takeover of Hyperdyne Manufacturing was well underway. An hour prior he had spoken to the Dread Lord, taking other business back on the Anchorage, and informed him of the successful assassination of Lorainne Korn. House Karness Muur had proven stronger, though the warriors of Ajunta Pall had not disappointed. A young Protector named Calvo had proven himself worthy of Plagueis’ resources. Only Naomi Felian had been wounded in their not so subtle assault against Hyperdyne, but the Hunter would heal well enough.

A tingle shivered down Rai’s spine, a whisper in the Force, or a side effect of the potent toxin he was sipping.

Teek Amavia would slide into Korn’s upper executive position and gain a close eye to President Zexx, but Plagueis’ goal was not yet fully achieved. They had gained access to Hyperdyne’s computers and leaked enough information to form their own company, but the Dread Lord did not desire new ventures. He wanted…He demanded Hyperdyne.

While the true nature of Clan Plagueis was still unknown, President Zexx was wholly aware of outside forces with ill intent toward his leadership. The early assaults had seemed little more than another instance of corporate espionage; some rival manufacturing seeking trade secrets. The death of Korn would change that mindset into one of caution and safeguard. Zexx would be difficult to reach physically and even more hard headed than before toward the thought of simply selling his company.

Hyperdyne was like a child to Zexx, and Plagueis sought to ripe his child from his arms, dead or alive. In the name of the Dread Lord.

First, Rai needed a new in. Amavia was invaluable and ideally not expendable. He needed an asset who could gain access to Zexx in the most dire of circumstances. Second, he needed a distraction.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Three quick chirps from his comlink drew his attention. The voice of Taranae Rhode emerged on his answer. The Rollmaster was overseeing things at Plagueis’ staging camp in Lethra City while Rai slipped away on his own business.

She spoke, “There has been a development.”

“Zexx died?” Rai asked amusingly.

“No,” she shook her head. Her body posture suggested alarm as she continued, “A small contingent of vessels appeared a few minutes ago. Their cause is currently unknown, but their sigil belongs to the Galactic Federation.”

Rai sat up, his mind racing at the possibilities good and bad. A distraction had presented itself. Now he only needed to find the right pawn.

(Zanet Xox) #4

CHAPTER FOUR - 6 JULY 2014

Lethra City, Cadinth
Light Rail Route 3

Corvin Zexx was having a difficult week; not that he had an easy job. He had started Hyperdyne Manufacturing at a young age built on his strong ties to Sienar Fleet Systems, and developed it over the last eighteen years to be a stable and reliable business — large enough to pull heavy hitting clients, small enough to only be noticed by the clients he cared to work with.

This week was proving to be wholly different. Corporate espionage was an expected reality of the playing field, especially when he held so many contracts at the galactic level, but never, never did it turn into outright murder. Yet here he was, in a private car heading back to Hyperdyne from the funeral of Lorraine Korn. Hyperdyne had been plagued over the last two weeks by multiple outright assaults against their security forces, attempted hacks into their computer systems, and now the assassination of his executives.

Yet he still did not know who was responsible. Security had been beefed up, but Zexx knew Sienar or even the local authorities would not be helpful until he could show them what was at stake. Sienar would not take kindly to working with a company so easily penetrated by weasels, and for all he knew Sienar was the one trying to topple him.

Zexx was growing exceedingly cautious and paranoid. There were few he could still trust.

Luckily, two of them were sitting across from him.

Jevin Zan was Hyperdyne’s Chief of Security and his closest ally next to Danyë. The balding human veteran of the Vong Wars was tough, rough, but intelligent. He knew what it felt like to be besieged on all sides, and he knew how to push back until victory was yours.

Then there was Danyë Sukat, his oldest and closest friend, ally, confident, business partner. She meant everything to Zexx, perhaps more even then she knew. The tan skinned Zabrak was dressed in a sleek black dress for the funeral. Korn had been a good friend to them both. She would be missed dearly, and it saddened Zexx even more to see Sukat so wounded.

“Are you ok?” he asked her calmly. She was staring out the car window at the stream of rainbow colors whipping by. His address pulled her attention back to them.

“Sorry?” she asked.

He repeated his question. She gave a sad smile and a small nod before turning her attention back to the window.

Zan was keeping to himself, knowing Zexx and Sukat’s relationship to be a private matter but remembering Zexx’s command that he not leave either of them alone until their attackers were eliminated with prejudice.

“Jevin,” Zexx addressed him, “Any news?”

The man was scrolling through a long list of reports, constantly updating stream of security checkpoints from around their facilities. He was doing an admirable job, but his face betrayed their situation.

“No, sir. Korn was off base at the time of her…incident. We don’t even know where she was killed before being delivered to us. We’ve boosted our firewalls against further cyber attacks, but our analysts are still piecing together what they were able to siphon the first time.”

Zexx frowned, “Korn was foolish to leave the perimeter at a time like this.”

Sukat looked up harshly, “Corvin, please.”

“I’m sorry, Danny, but she shouldn’t have left Hyperdyne. She at least should have kept Zan informed.”

Zexx was frustrated. He did not have control over the situation. These were the moments that tested a man as a leader. He would not allow himself to fall victim to the follies of others.

“We need something, Zan,” he said, “I want these rats flushed out and drowned.”

“I have a possible lead, sir. A few of our local intelligence officers haven’t reported back from visiting their Lethra City contacts. It’s likely the attackers are based somewhere nearby, a staging area.”

“Then let’s find them,” Zexx said.

“We will, sir,” Zan answered, "I’m sending a tactical team in to sweep the streets.

Now Zexx, too, stared out the window at the passing colors.

“Remember, Zan,” he said, “We need someone alive who can tell us who is responsible.”

He looked to Zan, his harsh face multi-colored from the window light, “I don’t want the fingers of this conspiracy. I want the head.”

>———————<

Medical Ward
West Side, Lethra City
Plagueis Staging Point

Jedi Hunter Naomi Felian would survive. The Echani had taken a turret blast to the chest and an arrow shaped shard of glass to the knee that knocked her into unconsciousness, but she would survive. Protector Calvo’s role in her survival was no small one. While the small team of infiltrators he and Naomi had been a part of had failed to pierce the inner levels of Hyperdyne security, they had successfully caused quite a ruckus. Calvo had pulled Naomi back to safety. He had failed a lot of people in his life. His father, the Jedi, the inventor, the barkeep. Now he had failed the mission and disappointed his master and his Quaestor.

He would not fail Naomi. She would survive.

“Looking over your girl, boy?” a voice called from behind. Calvo turned to see Quaestor Teylas Ramar watching him, the Anzat’s keen eyes bearing down on the young Elomin.

Calvo stood at attention, eager to present himself as the rock he wanted to be. He answered, “Checking on Felian’s status, Master.”

Teylas stepped closer to Naomi, looking her over top to bottom with a frown. He turned to Calvo, “Do not weep for the weak.”

“She was not weak, Master,” Calvo countered, “She fought bravely for Ajunta Pall.”

Teylas waited, watching the Protector, curious to see how long he would hold. Finally, the Quaestor spoke, “And she will have the chance to prove herself again, but it matters not to you. Care for those fallen is a fallacy of the Jedi. Do not show weakness, young one.”

The Battlemaster stepped back to the door, turning for one last warning, “Weakness is a cancer. I care not for it, and I will not allow it to infect my house. I will cut it out without hesitation or care.”

Calvo watched the Quaestor leave, the Elomin’s gaze falling back on Naomi as he considered the advice. He would not fail her, nor would he fail his Quaestor.

There was work to be done.

>———————<

Strategy Room
West Side, Lethra City
Plagueis Staging Point

Clan Plagueis had established a small staging camp among a block of abandoned buildings in Lethra City. Their fleet was stationed one system over, within easy reach once needed but far enough away not to call attention. Only their most elite warriors and infiltrators had been brought planet side to assist in the capture of Hyperdyne Manufacturing. Destroying President Zexx’s creation would have been easy enough. Plagueis held one of the strongest fleets in the Brotherhood.

The Dread Lord sought power, however, so Hyperdyne required control.

Quaestor Kz’set, Aedile Callus Bo’Amar, Battle Leader Brimstone, and Dark Adept Braecen Kaeth sat discussing their options. House Karness Muur had successfully accomplished the Dread Lord’s challenge of eliminated Senior Vice President Lorraine Korn and moving Teek Amavia into her place. While they had no direct contact to Amavia, Kz’set had little doubt that Dupar owned the man.

Still, Corvin Zexx remained, and he was more difficult than ever to reach. Kz’set had hoped to take Korn alive and use her to their advantage, but Adept Kaeth had seized an opportunity to draw her out of Hyperdyne’s fortress. Korn’s brain was filled with useful information…if only it remained attached to the rest of her body.

“What about the partner, Danyë Sukat?” asked Callus, scrolling through their intelligence reports.

“I could easily gain control over her,” Braecen said with a confidence unnerving to Kz’set. The Adept had only recently returned to Plagueis. His motivations remained unclear. The Adept continued, “Despite her obvious personal ties to Zexx. No one is completely loyal.”

“Indeed,” chimed Brimstone, “Allow me to woo her, Master. She will not stand the charms of Chiss.”

Callus laughed, “I would rather avoid the wrath of Admiral Ranin. Amusing as it would be to watch you make a fool of yourself.”

The Chiss glared at Callus, his red eyes a stark contrast to his deep blue skin tone. The Sith Warrior did not take kindly to insult, and still held embarrassment over his loss of the Predominant.

Kz’set decided to step in. He held no interest in a debate over the matter.

“Our objective iszz clear,” the Verpine declared, “Zexx grows farther from us each day we delay. I do not wish to waste time on romances or hopeful mind tricks.”

“Perhaps we stage ourself as private security,” Braecen suggested, “Javin Zan is short handed and Zexx seems unwilling to reach out to Sienar for support. We could offer our services and put ourselves in the same room as…”

The Adept stopped short as Dark Jedi Knight Octavia Obrie burst into the room. She came to an abrupt halt before the small council and bowed.

“Masters,” she inclined her head, “Rollmaster Rhode requires the presence of the Quaestor and Aedile.”

“What has happened?” asked Brimstone.

Octavia looked up and answered cautiously, “The Galactic Alliance orbits Cadinth.”

>———————<

MC90 Star Cruiser Starbow
In orbit around Cadinth

Task Force Bellbright was without question reliable, as was its admiral, Toss Agram. He had been fighting alongside the Republic for decades, served with valor and distinction in the Vong and Swarm Wars, and made a name for himself as the Duros you call when you want something done without fuss or fanfare.

This, however, was something of a personal mission. Admiral Agram had been stationed over Ord Pardon several months prior when a gang of pirate thieves had stolen a contingency of his fleet, Task Force Apex. The assault had been swift and seamless without casualties or warnings on either side. The situation was an embarrassment to his career, and he would not sleep until he captured those responsible.

Thus, he was here, above Cadinth, searching and not seeing the ships that rightfully belonged to the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances. He knew the stakes. The galaxy was held together more on words and handshakes then a true central government, which meant it vital no one been seen strong enough to take advantage. Alliance intelligence had whispered to Agram that a starship parts group, Hyperdyne Manufacturing, may have handled repairs for the stolen vessels.

The mission was simple. Determine whether the lead was worth following and act appropriately. These were the days Agram liked best — when the plan was laid out clearly and without confusion. He expected no delays or distractions.

“Hyperdyne President Corvin Zexx is waiting, Admiral,” spoke an officer neary. Agram moved to the communications portal and activated the hologram. The man that appeared was young, dressed wealthily, stood powerfully, yet Agram knew a distressed face when he saw one.

“President Zexx,” Agram introduced himself, “I am Admiral Toss Agram with the Galactic Alliance.”

“Admiral,” the hologram answered, “I am surprised by your unscheduled visit.”

“My apologies. My task force is here seeking information on a recent client of yours. If you would allow us to land, we may speak in person and be on our way.”

The hologram wavered, hesitating before speaking, “You wish to bring Alliance forces planetside?”

Agram was use to caution toward his arrival. Many across the galaxy still healed from past war. No matter what sigil you painted on the hull, warships in the sky was seen by some as an omen.

“Only a group of intelligence officers, sir,” he assured Zexx, “I assure you we are only here for a meeting.”

Zexx hesitated again before answering, “So be it. My Chief of Security will meet you at the landing site. Hyperdyne is, as always, an ally to the Alliance.”

The hologram disappeared, leaving Agram wondering. Something whispered to him, warning him that his perfectly planned day was threatened. He cared not for the distraction, and would have to move cautiously forward if he was to determine the appropriate strategy.

He turned to the communications officer, “Where is Agent Ostrander now?”

“On board the Trigati, sir. Awaiting orders.”

“Good,” Agram started moving off the bridge, “Make sure I speak to him before their leave.”

Admiral Toss Agram suspected Hyperdyne held secrets they did not wish him to know. He only hoped the identity of his thieves was one of them.

>———————<

President’s Conference Room
Hyperdyne Headquarters
Outskirts of Lethra City, Cadinth

“What the hell was that?” Zexx raged as he stepped back from the communications deck. He looked to Javin Zan for answers.
“I’m looking into it, sir,” the man gave no answer Zexx desired, “We were not expecting an Alliance presence.”

“Is this who plagues us?” Zexx asked aloud, “Does the Alliance seek me dead?”

“Perhaps there is trouble with Santhe/Sienar,” Sukat suggested. All three had been privy to the conversation with Admiral Agram. All three were unsure and cautious. She continued, “Valles Santhe had funded the Alliance’s enemies in the past.”

Zexx scoffed, “Valles takes the side of the winner, and right now that is the Alliance. I’ve heard nothing about Sienar moving otherwise.”

Both Zexx and Sukat had been on Lianna when Valles Santhe had convinced the Reborn Empire not to invade their planet due to its manufacturing potential. She had since prospered greatly as the head of Santhe/Sienar, but so had Zexx and Sukat. Santhe was a good friend and colleague of them both.

He turned back to Zan, “Surely the Alliance would not resort to violence if there was trouble with Santhe.”

“I’m inclined to agree, sir,” Zan answered, “But things aren’t as clear cut these days. Admiral Agram could be operating under orders from the Hegemony or Cronese. We just don’t know yet.”

“Then find out,” Zexx said sharply. He grew tired of having to operate in the dark. His enemy still hid itself, he had Alliance troops at his doorstep, and the two forces may well be one and the same.

“Why don’t we contact Valles and ask? If the Alliance is asking questions, we have to make sure we don’t tell them about something Santhe doesn’t want known,” Sukat suggested. Zexx shook his head.

“Let’s see what these “intelligence officers” are looking for first. Then we’ll decide how to handle their request,” he looked at Zan, “Send your team after your missing officers, Javin. I want this solved now.”

>———————<

VIP Booth
Low Orbit Casino
Upper Atmosphere of Cadinth

“Hyperdyne is, as always, an ally to the Alliance,” said the small hologram of Corvin Zexx before dissolving into the equally elegantly dressed Aabsdu Dupar. Proconsul Koth Rai’Hakk had contacted the Dread Lord immediately upon hearing of the Galactic Alliance’s arrival at Cadinth. The news, to him, was a startling turn in their quest against Hyperdyne.

“Quaestor Ramar’s intelligence suggests this Admiral Agram may be following a lead on a task force stolen above Ord Pardon several months ago,” Rai told the Consul.

“A task force we stole,” Aabsdu remarked.

“Indeed. It’s not clear whether the meeting is a coincidence or if they are aware of their presence. It seems unlikely.”

“Which?” Aabsdu asked.

“Pardon?”

“Is this an unlikely coincidence or unlikely leak of our presence?”

Rai did not know, and chose not to waste the Adept’s time with uncertainty. He instead continued with what he did know, “They sent a small frigate planet side with a team of intelligence officers. Perhaps we should pull back and wait for them to depart.”

“No,” Aabsdu asserted, “If the Alliance is here in search of us, they are closer than I desire. They cannot interfere with Hyperdyne, nor can they be allowed to continue their search in the right direction regardless of whether they know it.”

Dread Lord and Wrath stood silent for a moment, both considering their options and drawing on the Force for guidance. Rai had learned the value of house competition during the elimination of Lorraine Korn. While he found himself juggling the egos and demands of conflicting personalities, the result had been satisfactory. Perhaps the Force had brought this task force to them for a reason.

“The Alliance offers us an opportunity,” Aabsdu finally spoke, “Let us see how the houses seize upon that opportunity. Two problems present themselves. The takeover of Hyperdyne and the deflecting of Alliance eyes. I want both resolved on Cadinth.”

“It will be done,” Rai bowed as the hologram disappeared. He would need to meditate further if he was to pierce the veil of the Force around the situation, but one thing was certain. Plagueis and this Alliance admiral traveled separate paths heading for a collision, and the convergence event was centered on Hyperdyne.

(Zanet Xox) #5

CHAPTER FIVE - 10 JULY 2014

Written by Teylas Ramar

“What is the status on the situation with Hyperdyne?” Consul Aabsdu asked of the quaestor.

Standing on the bridge of the Transcendence, Teylas stepped forward. With a smirk on his face he reported, “It will be under my control within the next few weeks.”

“Good,” the Dread Lord nodded as he turned his head slightly, “I’ll leave it in your hands. What of the situation with the Anchorage?”

“Teams are still exploring the station. There are many levels that have yet to be fully explored, but there is certainly something unnerving about that place. You will be pleased to hear that repair facilities are finally up and running. The Harrower is the first ship to be scheduled for repairs of battle damage from our engagements with the One Sith; the first of many ships. There was only so much repair we could do in the field without a proper repair facility. With the help of Kz’set, I’ve been able to get the Anchorages’ repair facilities up and running,” the Anzat reported.

“Admiral Ranin will be pleased. Some of our ships have been nearly incapacitated by our engagements, and she’s been screaming for proper repairs,” the Consul somewhat grudgingly spat out. “Are you departing for Cadinth to oversee operations there?”

“Yes. Furios has been monitoring the situation with our assets in the field, but I will be returning to finalize our… oversight… of Hyperdyne,” Teylas responded as he nodded, receiving one in return from the Dread Lord, and making his exit from the bridge to return to the Ascendancy.

(Zanet Xox) #6

CHAPTER SIX - 17 JULY 2014

Plagueis Staging Camp
West Lethra City, Cadinth

The wall seemed to visibly vibrate as screams forced their way through stone and echoed around the room. It never ended, the torrent of pain and horror, yet Republic SIS Agent Tyree Ostrander pushed back. Wave after wave of energy coursed through the Klatooinian’s body just as the screams from next door coursed across the barren room he sat in, strapped to the titanium chair.

Like the screams, his words echoed, “Tyree Ostrander, Republic Intelligence Division. Tyree Ostrander, Republic Intelligence Division.”

Dark Adept Braecen Kaeth stood above Ostrander, hand pressed over the spy’s head as he pierced the man’s memories. Ostrander was well trained and proving a formidable foe. Braecen had been at it several hours while Shadowkind took a more physical approach to his Bothan associate, Knor, next door.

The Bothan had been easy but worthless for information. Ostrander was the real prize, head of the Galactic Alliance’s intelligence team tasked with discovering who stole Task Force Apex. Little did he realize the answer was standing above him, projecting horrors against his subconscious.

“Tyree Ostrander, Republic Intelligence Division. Tyree Ostrander, Republic Intelligence Division. Tyree Ostrander, Republic Intelligence Divi…”

The door to the interrogation room opened as House Karness Muur Quaestor Kz’set and Aedile Callus Bo’Amar stepped inside. Behind them emerged Koth Rai’Hakk, Wrath of the Dread Lord and Proconsul of Plagueis.

Braecen released his hold over the spy and stood at attention, though not before sending one final command that forced the Klatooinian into unconsciousness. He was an Elder of Plagueis and former Consul, but he had recently disobeyed the Right Wing of Dread’s command to capture Lorraine Korn alive. While he cared only slightly for the insect’s approval, Rai and his master were another matter.

“Bring me up to speed,” Rai jumped right into it.

“The Bothan next door,” Callus started, “was taken by Muur forces three nights ago. He told us little, but we have been telling him quite a lot.”

Rai’s expression prompted Kz’set to step in, “The Alliance iszz on Cadinth searching for fleet stealerszz. We gave them who they are looking for in the Crimson Tide.”

Rai’s confusion persisted, “I thought the Tide defeated.”

“They were,” Braecen spoke. He had himself played a role in Calliban Crimson’s downfall after years of war games between the Tide and Plagueis. Things were so different, then, compared to now.

“We used our accesszz to Hyperdyne’s system to plant evidence of Tide forces in need of repairs,” continued the Right Wing, “There were a few players in the Tide whom we disposed of in a less visible way. To most, they are merely on the run as always.”

Rai’s confusion disappeared as the subterfuge revealed itself, “The Alliance believes the Crimson Tide to be their thieves, and will pursue an enemy already vanquished.”

Callus corrected him slight, “They will believe. The intention is to release Knor back to the Alliance with this information. Knight Octavia Morgan has been tasked with returning the prisoner as if he escaped the Tide and was roaming the streets of Lethra.”

Rai’s attention turned to Ostrander, “And what of this one?”

“Delivered to us courtesy of Tra’an Reith and Vivackus,” Kz’set informed the Proconsul, “He is less malleable than the Bothan.”

“Perhaps better suited if we eliminate him,” Braecen suggested. The implication brought a strong look from the Quaestor, but Rai seemed unfazed as he leaned toward the sleeping spy.

“What secrets do you hold?” he asked himself as his mind raced. Plagueis’ takeover of Hyperdyne had introduced many uncertainties, but uncertainties brought possibilities the Dread Lord would wish to be made aware of.

“More than we have time to decrypt,” Callus posited, “We’re finished with him.”

Rai turned to the leaders of Karness Muur, a smile on his face, “Far from it.”

>———————<

Communications Room
MC90 Star Cruiser Starbow
In orbit around Cadinth

Admiral Toss Agram stared at the holographic rendering of Lethra City and the Hyperdyne complex displayed on the center table. His mind, too, raced through the uncertainties and possibilities arisen since his mission to recover Task Force Apex had brought him to Cadinth. He had been quiet several minutes, considering his options.

“Sir?” asked an aide. Agram snapped back to reality and turned to the group of officers next to him. They stood around a chair where a crippled, tired Bothan sat three-quarters hunched over. Knor was too weak to sit straight, much less hold himself up.

Knor’s return had been an unexpected development, as was the rest of Cadinth. Agram had arrived expecting to spend a day for Ostrander to comb through records. Instead, Intelligence had lost several in an embarrassing kitchen accident and Knor and Ostrander had gone missing.

Then there was Corvin Zexx. His hesitation toward the Alliance’s presence had not subsided. Ostrander’s initial meeting with the president was tense and unrewarding. Over the past week, they had looked over Hyperdyne’s records of customers in search of anything related to Task Force Apex.

At first, nothing revealed itself, but then the information started gushing.

Three separate owners of vessels matching Apex ships had sought repairs at Cadinth. All three linked back to the terrorist organization called Crimson Tide. Calliban Crimson’s gang of pirates had not been heard from in years, but the task force theft fit their past crimes.

Agram’s hand stroked his bottom lip as he looked at Knor.

“Utapau, you say?” he asked the Bothan, “Why did they tell you this?”

Knor coughed over his words, “They…they didn’t. I overheard them…discussing…Ostrander.”

“And Zexx was never brought up?”

“No, sir. Greedy…pirates,” Knor coughed.

Everything seemed clean. The Tide boosts his ships. The Tide gets repairs at Hyperdyne, and kidnaps his people for whatever sadistic pleasure they sought. The Tide moves to Utapau.

Toss Agram liked clean. He planned for clean. Clean fit his calculations. He could not allow both Task Force Apex and Agent Ostrander to go missing under his watch.

He turned to the officer, “Arrange a course of the Utapau system. Instruct Spindrift and Trigati to remain and keep an eye on Hyperdyne, though from a distance.”

If his ships and Ostrander were heading to Utapau, that was where Agram would go. These pirates would soon wish they had remained hidden.

Agram stepped to Knor and placed a reassuring hand on the Bothan’s small shoulder, “Let’s get you home, son,” he consoled, “There’s nothing more for us here.”

>———————<

Hyperdyne Headquarters Lobby
Outskirts of Lethra City, Cadinth

Beep, beep, beep.

The comlink chimed at the Left Wing of Dread’s hip. Teylas Ramar, Quaestor of House Ajunta Pall, activated the communicator, though he already knew the transmission. He had been in the main lobby of Hyperdyne Manufacturing several hours waiting for it.

Aedile Furios Morega was also seated in the lobby, though several seats away to avoid suspicion. Security had ramped up even greater since the arrival of Alliance forces, but Teylas knew his team could knock down any door no matter how thick.

The voice of Koth Rai’Hakk buzzed through, “Agram has gone. You are clear to move.”

The Anzat switched channels to a frequency open to his team and sent his own transmission, one of two possible cues.

“Dread is go.”

Everything happened at once.

Famosus Aspicio entered the lobby making straight toward the receptionist, sweet talking the local female with a wave of his hand.

Further in the lobby floor, Kythar Jakan and Kul’tak inconspicuously ran into each other and began throwing insults and threats. Kul’tak drew a blaster and fired, drawing the attention of the security droids. Kythar ran down a side hall with Kul’tak and the droids in chase.

With the room distracted, Teylas and Furios calmly stood and made their way to the elevator.

Elsewhere in the building, Ophelia Delacroix stood at a computer console. She licked her lips, hungry for the flesh of the young boy slain at her feet. In the hallway outside, Ra’gnar and Zuser Whuloc cut their way through a wave of security droids.

Back in the lobby, the elevator opened and the duo of dark companions stepped inside. Qormus Aquila appeared just as the doors closed; the Jedi Hunter prepared to hold elevator access as long as it took.

Ophelia hit her cue, and the elevator dropped.

>———————<

President’s Office
Lower levels of Hyperdyne Headquarters

The President’s offices were not at the top of the main building of Hyperdyne’s complexes, but the bottom. Corvin Zexx had developed a distinct fear of heights, despite making trade in the starship business. The phobia meant he had less of a view than other CEOs, but meant greater security during times such as these.

“All but two of the Alliance’s forces have entered hyperspace, sir,” Jevin Zan told Zexx. Zan and Danyë Sukat had rarely left his presence in the week since Admiral Agram’s suspicious arrival.

“And you’ve no idea what they discovered?” he asked. Agram’s departure from Cadinth did little to ease his worries.

Zan shook his head.

A chime drew their attention to the far side of the room where the hallway led to the only elevator with access to this part of the building.

Sukat spoke, “Are you meeting with someone, Corvin?”

“No,” Zexx said as he stood, “No one.”

Jevin Zan’s hand dropped to his blaster as two ominous figures strode around the corner into Zexx’s office. The men were dressed in basic dark tunics with golden trim. One an Epicanthix, the other Anzati, a species Zexx admittedly had never seen before.

“What is the meaning of this?” Zexx yelled as he reached for the blaster strapped to his desk. Zan drew his own weapon while simultaneously activating a beacon on his waist to alert a nearby team of droids.

Both blasters were ripped from their grasp by an invisible force, falling to the floor at the feet of the Epicanthix.

The Anzat spoke bluntly, “President Zexx. I represent a firm that seems to empower Hyperdyne during these trying times.”

“How did you get past security?” Sukat asked as she cautiously slid her way around the room closer to Zexx, Zan, and the shelves of rare and expensive artifacts built along the back wall.

“Consider it our first successful test of your perimeter,” the Anzat answered, “But allow my Lord to fully explain.”

The Anzat pulled a holocommunicator from his pocket and activated the transparent blue form of a Masked Man.

The hologram spoke, “President Zexx. I am pleased to see you alive.”

Zexx frowned, his body trembling with anger visible even through his ornate gown, “Who the hell are you?”

“I am your savior,” the Man said, “I wish to better you and that which you have spent so long building.”

Zexx’s frown deepened, “You’re the one who wanted to purchase Hyperdyne!”

His frown turned into a smile as he laughed heartily. The Anzat and Epicanthix showed no reaction, nor the hologram of the Masked Man.

Zexx continued, “You overplay yourself. You’re not Santhe or the Alliance, which means you can expect the full might of Sienar crashing down on you.”

“I offer you one more chance to save your legacy,” the Man stated. Zexx laughed again.

“I see your ultimatum,” the President conceded, pausing as he looked to Zan, “And consider it insulting.”

Zan tapped the beacon again as Zexx pulled another blaster and fired. A cerulean lightsaber ignited in the Epicanthix’s hand and deflected the fire into the floor.

Metal clunked in rapid unison as a team of security droids turned the corner, blaster rifles raised and firing. The Anzat ignited a similar weapon of magenta hue and launched himself into the droids, cutting down one while bouncing a second’s fire straight back into the machine.

Danyë Sukat pulled hard on a false Mustafar lava crystal, and a portion of the back wall slide away to reveal a short tunnel. Zexx, Zan, and Sukat raced into the tunnel and through the second door of a hidden elevator. The door closed as the elevator shot upward, leaving Teylas Ramar and Furios Morega cutting their way.

>———————<

President’s Landing Pad
Roof of Hyperdyne Headquarters

A hundred stories up, the elevator reopened at the roof of the tower — Corvin Zexx’s private launchpad on which a small Lambda-class shuttle waited. The wind whipped past as they stepped, Zexx moving slowly, eyes pointed at the shuttle as he worked to avoid peaking at the long fall around them. Storm clouds gathered.

Suddenly, Danyë stopped moving, her body frozen and lifted two feet of the ground as she screamed, arms flailing.

Zexx and Zan spun to see a woman in an ebon dress step toward them out of the shadows, her smile dark and sinister.

“Hello, boys,” Selika Roh chimed.

Zexx raised his blaster only to have it ripped from his hand and tossed at the feet of Zan, but the security chief didn’t move.

“We thought you might head up here,” Selika said in a seductive tone Zexx found infuriating, “So we’ll just wait while the others join us.”

The elevator beeped at the sound of nearby thunder and opened to reveal the Anzat and Epicanthix, wholly uninjured. Teylas stepped forward and pulled the holocommunicator out, activating the hologram of the Masked Man.

“President Zexx,” the Man said, his voice harsher, “I offer you no ultimatum. You will establish Teek Amavia as your successor to Hyperdyne.”

Zexx was sweating as his gaze darted between the hologram and Danyë, hanging in the air, her face filled with fear.

“If I do that you’ll kill us,” he said, his voice tense.

“I would prefer not to,” the Man said, “You are good at your job. Sienar/Santhe is a glass ceiling I want to break for you.”

“You can’t expect me to take the word of a murderer over Valles Santhe,” Zexx countered.

The Masked Man paused before continuing, his words calculated and considered, “I have no desire to negotiate. We’ve made our intentions clear.”

The Man looked to Selika, who smiled and moved her raised hand horizontally. The invisible force holding Danyë in a vice shifted her body across the platform out over the hundred story drop.

“Danny!” Zexx yelled as he raced toward her, but stopped upon seeing the drop.

Furios Morega pulled a datapad from his tunic and pushed it toward the CEO. Zexx looked; he only had to sign.

“Do what’s best for all of us, Zexx,” came the voice of Jevin Zan. Zekk turned to see his chief of security holding the blaster at him, his face blank and emotionless.

This was what twenty years of hard work led to. He and Danyë had turned a teenage dream into a multi-million credit reality, only to have it collapse beneath him at the hands of a psychopath. Fury boiled against his skin, craving to be let free, but he knew the consequences.

Rain drizzled down on them.

As Zexx’s hand reached to the datapad and pressed for his three-finger identification scan, his shoulders drooped, face marked by tears or rain, he no longer knew.

Furios stepped back, the job finished.

Zexx looked to the Masked Man, a sense of hate brewing within he had never felt before, “What do a bunch of pirates want with my company?”

For the first time, the Masked Man smiled, “Mr. Zexx, we are not the Crimson Tide.”

The Man’s holographic gaze shifted to Selika as he continued, “We are Clan Plagueis, and my Wings cast a shadow from which you will never escape.”

The Man nodded, the woman smiled, and Danyë Sukat dropped as long and hard as Zexx’s stomach. She screamed, but the wind and rain whipped it away as quickly as she fell.

“Mr. Zan,” the Man turned his attention to the security chief, “My Wrath tells me you wish to expand your horizons. Prove your loyalty now.”

Jevin Zan looked from the hologram to Corvin Zexx, his friend and employer of many years. He had learned many things fighting the Vong, chief among them being your first sight of power did not necessitate it the greatest. Here, now, Corvin Zexx showed no power.

He raised the blaster and fired.

(Zanet Xox) #7

CHAPTER SEVEN - 22 JULY 2014

Low Orbit Casino
In Orbit around Cadinth

An empire’s fall in just one day You close your eyes and the glory fades

Arden couldn’t help but be reminded of that as he walked into the casino. He’d told himself several times he’d never had anything else to do with his former…associates. He couldn’t help remember all he’d gained and all he’d lost with them. It didn’t matter how many victories he brought or how much glory he gained for them and himself. It all turned around on him in an instant. It was something he had to rectify and this was just one more step on that path.

Despite all the distractions of this place, he glided right past the Sabacc tables and Jubilee Wheels. Such things carried little interest for him these days. Chance wasn’t a luxury he could afford to indulge anymore. It was never something he liked to indulge to begin with. With proper planning everything could be controlled, manipulated, massaged to go the way he needed them to. The Force, of course, helped, but even it could be fooled at times. Still, Arden wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this encounter. Betrayal was in the nature of these people, he’d learned that first hand. This one seemed different, though. Arden knew he was being played for some greater end but, for now at least, the Masked Man’s schemes and his played into each other. A man on a mission, changing the vision I was never welcome here.

“He’ll see you, in here.”

The Ettian looked up as he heard the familiar voice of a commando droid behind him.

Saying nothing, Arden pivoted and followed. There were several other droids in the room and at least a couple other Force-users in the crowd. The Masked Man didn’t trust him, far from unexpected. Still, Arden for some reason was unconcerned. Naturally, he had his own contingencies, but he still doubted he’d need them.

“Karn, good, you came,” The Masked Man said smoothly as Arden was led into a private booth. “Please, sit. I’ve procured some fine Corellian Brandy, I’ve been told you enjoy it.”

“I’m not here for pleasantries, Dupar. I’m here for business,” Arden replied. “I will, however, make an exception for that. Assuming you haven’t poisoned it.”

The Masked Man quirked an eyebrow. “Why would I do that to someone who’s performed so admirably?”

Arden gave the man a slight glare. “As a general rule, I’m skeptical of those who know my preference in potables. Last time someone did I ended up in the trunk of a speeder.”

The Man chuckled a bit. “Kritch said you’d say that. He also said you’d never pass up this vintage.”

Arden was silent a long moment, trying to gauge the man’s sincerity. After a few seconds he chuckled and sat down. “I’m glad he remembers and that you haven’t killed him yet.”

As the Man pulled Arden a drink, the Ettian reached into his cloak and pulled out a datapad. Sliding it across the table Arden said, “The virus I put on the datacard I gave to Alliance Intelligence was only somewhat successful before I had to leave Fondor, but I did manage to get some data. There was hardly a mention of anything related to…”

Arden stopped cold for a moment, unsure of the right word.

“To us.” The Man filled in. “As I hoped. And in case you haven’t heard, the Alliance took the bait quite well.”

Arden nodded. “I saw the Majestic on the way in. Interesting way to make sure the Alliance stays off your rear, at least until they realize they’re chasing ghosts.”

The Man slid the glass of brandy to Arden. “We’ll deal with that when the time comes. Besides, from what I hear you’re chasing a ghost, too.”

Arden pulled his mask up slightly and took a sip of the brandy. “Drax took my master from me, he deserves nothing less than a blaster bolt between his eyes from my rifle.”

“You could always come back.” The Man stated, though somewhat half-heartedly. “It’s only a matter of time before we take the fight to him again.”

“I don’t have a choice to stay.” Arden stated as he finished the brandy and stood up. “I’d rather die than do it your way.”