Shadow Academy Ruins
Bare feet padded softly over smooth stone. Slender, waifish arms hugged tightly around a small bundle of rags. Within the bundle, a child slept, its gentle breathing barely audible. The woman was scared and shaking, sniffling every few steps she took as she clung to the shadows of the large pillars that lined the rows of the Shadow Academy.
Usually filled with students of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities, the Academy had become a shell of its former glory. Now it was no more than a ghost town. In this case, however, the ghosts appeared in the form of men; men loyal to the Grand Master and his Inquisitorius.
Karuna did not know why they had been forced to flee to this place. She did not know why the Grand Master had deemed her undesirable. All she knew was that her friends had been killed without mercy. She refused to end up like them. Karuna had followed the rumors until she found a reliable source, and used the last of her funds to make her way here. She had expected to find solace with the other refugees.
She froze as she heard voices entering the chamber she was traversing. She ducked into the corner behind a large statue and took up shelter in the shadow. She steadied her breathing and held her child close until all she could hear was her heartbeat thudding in her own ears.
“What is the delay, Captain,” a cold, eerily calm voice called out. Footfalls echoed in a haunting metronome.
“Lord Marshal, the tunnels beneath the academy are an endless maze,” the Nephalim Captain explained. Our teams are doing their best to hunt them down, but even an Arcanaist would have a hard time dowsing out–”
“–You would assume,” Nix cut off the Nephalim with a curt motion of his hand, “that the throne kept some kind of record or map of these “tunnels.”
“While that may be the case, sir, all local files were destroyed when the… incident occurred with Lord Ashen on Antei. But according to Lord Daicen, someone managed to sabotage the backups that were stored off-site.”
Nix’s face became pensive as he tapped his chin. “Someone, indeed,” he mused. “Very well, then. I will be looking into this matter, personally. If someone with access to those files is running loose, the Grand Master will not be pleased. Not pleased at all.”
“As you say, sir,” the Captain replied.
“Make sure that any you find are dealt with accordingly,” Nix said as he turned to walk away.
Karuna realized she had been holding her breath. She let it go with a quiet hiss. Her mind started to race, adrenaline flowing through her as her only thoughts turned towards survival. Not just for her, but her baby. Her pulse beat in her ears. If she could somehow get towards the tunnels…
The baby stirred. Before Karuna could get her hand over the infant’s mouth, she let out a choked whimper before Karuan could get her hand over the infant’s mouth.
Nix turned his head at the sound and paused in his tracks. With a casual turn of the wrist, he signaled for two Nephalim to investigate. He continued on his way.
Karuna felt her heart jump into her throat. Panic seized her as she turned and started to run, but came up short as she bumped into the barrel-like chest of a hulking man with a wicked scar running down the entire right side of his face. He wore a variation of the Nephalim standard armor with the sleeves to the vest removed to show his scarred, powerful arms. His full beard was as black as his shaggy, greasy hair. But what shook and his eyes were far too crimson to be natural.
Karuna, of course, could not see any of this. The Miraluka woman could feel it, though, and her body went numb with paralysis.
“What do we have here?” the bear-like Nephalim said with a gruff baritone.
“Please, sir, you don’t understand. I only want to–”
The large mans hand blurred as he backhanded her across the jaw. Karuan felt a unique kind of vertigo as the sting of the smack registered on its heels. She staggered back into one of the pillars, the bundle in her arms slipping and falling towards the ground. The baby started to cry. The sound filled the hallowed halls.
‘That’s ‘Lieutenant’, you filthy alien,” the man said as he grabbed a hold of her shoulder, turned her around and forced her face against the stone pillar.
The two other Nephilim arrived and looked over towards the burly Captain. The child screamed.
“Silence the child,” the Lieutenant growled.
“No, please I’ll, mmmmff–” she started to plead but felt a heavy hand clamp over her mouth.
The first Nephalim lifted the child up while the second pulled out a hold out blaster. Karuna bit down on the hand over mouth, but received a heavy blow to the back of her head that left her incoherent. Through her connection in the Force, however, she could sense her child as if she were standing beside her. She felt the cloth go over the child’s mouth. She felt the bolt of energy depress from the blasters barrel, ending the fragile life of the infant Miraluka.
Karuna’s world went dark then. Her screams were muffled as her will and desire to live sunk like stones at the bottom of a lake. Her mind shut down long before the Lieutenant tossed her body into a cart with the rest of the undesirables they had found straggling.
ISD Eye of the Abyss II
K’tana heaved a frustrated sigh as the large Kaleesh scowled at her from behind his Huk mask.
“So it isn’t ALL of the non-Human’s that he’s after?”
“Of course not. He can’t rule a Brotherhood of corpses, ya’know?”
“If anyone could…” Skar paused to rake his claws over the back of his scaly neck, “it would be Pravus.”
K’tana giggled. “Pervus.”
“Should you really be saying things like that.”
“What? Is the old man gonna kill Twi’leks because I think he’s a karkin creep?”
“Have you even met him?”
“She’z still alive, so I would say no.” A large Barabel approached the two Shadow Gate members, his gravely, hissing voice catching the violet Twi’lek off guard and causing her to spin around with a glare.
“He wasn’t askin’ you, rancor-breath,” K’tana snapped as she leveled her green-eyed gaze with the reptilian’s stare.
The Dark Jedi stared off for several moments and Skar went unnoticed until he stepped right into the Mystic’s face.
“K’tana, meet Zakath.” He purposefully stood in the Twi’lek’s way as she tried to glare around his broad shoulders and stayed there until she scowled up at him.
“Aight, aight!” she said, dancing around Skar to stand, once again, in Zakath’s view. “How ya’doin’ Zakki? What brings you here? How’s my Maxxi doin? Are ya’-”
The Barabel interrupted the rapidly talking violet woman as she began bouncing in place.
“Skar told me you were an Inquizitoriuz of moderate rank and that I should speak to you on mattez concerning the Grand Mazter’z mission.”
“Oh. Really.” She spun to face Skar, her head cocking to the side as she narrowed her gaze. “Do you trust this…undesireable?”
“He has been a vital mentor to me.”
“And Timeros has been mine. But I do not trust him with my life, or my crew. Why do you think he is not here?” she gave him a meaningful look and waited until the Kaleesh nodded that he, in fact, did trust the giant lizard.
“Perfect! Welcome to Shadow Gate-” she ignored the Savant as he opened his mouth to protest, “an honorary placement to be sure, but one you may find has its uses to you in the future. Should you need it.”
Zakath tilted his head in acknowledgement and Skar moved again to stand in a triangle with them.
“So, what is your plan, Gatewarden?” The Warrior asked as the three noticed the hatch of the docking bay begin to open.
“We are going to rescue our non-human…kin. Every being has a right to their existence. Every bird, beast and bastard deserves a fighting chance to live or die at their discretion.” K’tana paused and shrugged, looking down at the ground and avoiding the eye contact of those around her, “Not because some violent dictator wishes them all dead.”
“You say that after all the people you’ve killed and tortured to death,” Skar scoffed.
“Well, I didn’t kill them simply because of the race or species they were born. I kill because I am a predator and they were in my way.” Her gaze stayed upon the ship as it entered the dock. “I hold no feelings of hatred towards them for their life. I only ever make them suffer if they’ve given me cause. The fact they live…that is not cause. Not for anyone.”
Skar seemed slightly taken aback at her tone and K’tana heaved a sigh. Whatever fun time could have been had discussing her idea was about to come crashing down as the ship landed.
“As for my plan…I’m sure Lord stick-in-the-mud will tell you once he gets out of the ship. I let him in on it a few days ago.”
“Who?” Zakath asked.
“I believe you know him as Marick. I call him Captin’ Crabby-Pants.” The former Priestess bit her lip as she smiled up at the landing ship. “And I hear he’s bringing me a present.”
The shuttle settled into place before the door slid open and the ramp lowered. K’tana, Skar, and Zakath all turned and watched as one of the more elusive member of their Battleteam walked towards them with the silent confidence of someone that owned the hangar bay. For a time, that had nearly been the case, as the former Shadow Lord had spent more time on Arcona’s Flagship than he ever did in the throne room back on Selen. Each of the Gatekeepers had served Marick Arconae over the course of the Dark Crusades. So each held their own opinions to the Arconae joining their discussion.
Those questions would hold for the moment, however. From behind the Combat Master came the click-clacking of lighter footfalls as he came down the shuttle’s boarding ramp. Every eye turned to see just who he had in his wake. Their first glimpse, a dark leather boot trailing up an athletic feminine leg as it stepped with a sort of military cadence. The legs gave way to torn fishnet stockings that caressed beautifully defined calves that were themselves cut off before the knees by a dark and long billowing duster coat that hugged the female’s lithe frame and hid whatever weapons they could conceal.
As the pair made their way off the shuttle, the woman’s face was hidden in darkness, hints of golden locks cascading out from under the duster’s hood. She seemed to wait, or take in the trio waiting for them at the bottom of the boarding ramp, and almost as an afterthought, pushed back the hood to reveal her delicate cheekbones, intelligent brown eyes, and the unruly golden tresses that were loosely held together in a hasty ponytail that bespoke of a casualness and laissez-faire attitude, nestled in a dark scarf rolled about her shoulders and delicate neck. Some tended to notice that her neckline plunged into a well rounded…
“Karkin’ Durese head muck! Did you see those boots!? I need a pair like those!” K’tana cried from where she stood, bringing everyone out of their thoughts, thus earning a small grin from the woman standing next to Marick. The Hapan male nearly brought up his hand to pinch his forehead in a sign of exasperation, but held firm as he had become accustomed to K’tana’s selective attention span.
“Skar, Zakath, K’tana,” he said flatly but with enough snap to draw her attention to him. “Allow me to introduce Calindra Hejaran. She is a friend and colleague of mine from Scholae Palatinae and has offered to lend a hand with our…goals.”
The woman at his side smiled as she stepped forward. “You say that like having awesome boots wasn’t part of the goal, Marick…! I had to practically ’kill someone’ to get them,” she confided, “and good boots are sooo hard to find…”
“No buts, Marick,” Calindra insisted, “it’s just a common fact. Every girl knows that.”
Marick was pinching his nose now, and was likely counting backwards in his head. The woman was obviously goading him, but to his credit the Combat Master maintained his composure. “As I was saying,” Marick said in a crisp voice that overrode anything anyone could possibly add on the matter, “I would…”
The Hapan was interrupted by the crackling of plasti-paper.
Crackle, crickle, crackle…
Everyone looked at the Kaleesh as he fiddled with a bag of Corelian corn. Skar looked up, suddenly aware that all eyes were suddenly upon him.
“Ooh! Is that Corelian corn?” Calindra asked from her corner as she waved a finger in the bag’s direction. From the now opened bag came a single white kernel of corn which floated towards Calindra’s opened mouth. However, just as the corn was about to make it into her mouth, the Combat Master’s gloved hand captured the offending kernel from the air and crushed it, giving Calindra a withering look in the process. As she put up her hands in feigned surrender, another glare went to Skar who hastily popped a kernel into his mouth and chewed as quietly as he could.
The four of them were now, for all intent and purposes, finally quiet.
“Can we get back to the izzue at hand?” Zakath growled out as he glared at the trio, his tail flicking to and fro in annoyance.
“First,” Marick continued, “If you’re going to pull this off, discretion will be–K’tana…”
The Twi’lek’s eyes darted from Calindra’s outfit back to the Hapan. “Hm? Yes, discretion, carry on.”
“…Discretion will be required,” Marick finished without missing a beat or letting a sigh slip out.
“Indeed,” Zakath said, his tail flicking even more rapidly now, a slight sign of his displeasure. “Pravuz wants me de-
Crackle, crickle, crackle…
Zakath paused and turned to stare venomously at the Kaleesh, who paused in mid-chew before swallowing nervously.
“Put. That. Away.” Zakath hissed out, his voice dangerously quiet.
The bag quickly disappeared from sight, and the Barabel returned his attention to the group.
“Az I waz saying, Pravuz wantz me dead,” Zakath continued on, his eyes beginning to glow, a sure sign of his anger. “So I will be marked az Kill on Sight. Dizcretion will be necezzary for me for certain.”
“If that’s the case,” Calindra spoke up, “maybe discretion isn’t required?”
“What do you mean?” Skar asked.
“Well, if he already has a mark on his head, wouldn’t concealing him be kind of…redundant?”
“Az in…” Zakath’s lips curved up into a serpent’s smile as he quickly realized the Sith’s logic. “Uzing me az bait? It would certainly draw off Pravuz’ agentz for a time… and they will not find me eazy prey.”
“Could work,” Skar added, but he was clearly growing bored with the dialogue. “Not sure why he gets to have all the fun though.”
“Now now, Skarbie,” K’tana added, apparently deciding that now was an appropriate time to pay attention to the conversation. “We will have plenty of fun playing dress up!”
“Oh, I love dressing up!” Calindra added.
Skar sighed, his shoulders sinking slightly.
Skar looked at Marick for possible reprieve, but the Arconae’s expression remained a neutral mask.
“That seems fine,” Marick nodded. “The real trick will be to not have anything trace back to Shadow Gate and Arcona. Failure to do this could result in…” Marick searched for a word, “…bad things for Arcona. And Atyiru.”
“Makez senze,” Zakath acknowledged.
“And Scholae,” Calindra chimed in.
The frown that had begun to form underneath Skar’s bone mask grew into a full blown scowl as those around him decided on what was best for this mission. However, his disguise for this excursion was already picked out and ready for him on the shuttle they would be taking.
“Well if my opinion matters anymore, I would like to suggest something that might help,” Skar interjected, halting the conversation.
“And what would that be, Grandzon?” hissed Zakath as he turned to look at the young Sith. While not related in blood, the two reptilian aliens had formed a kinship within Arcona.
“Besides the aliens that the Grand Master has decided to kill off, what are the other elements of the execution orders?”
“The parameters are pretty clear. Eliminate the refugees hiding in the tunnels. No quarter, no prisoners,” Calindra explained.
“I wasn’t talking about those orders, what I was referring to was the Krath and the Obelisk. With these Orders nearly wiped out, it gives us an opportunity we can exploit.” The Kaleesh turned and walked into the waiting shuttle. The rest of the team exchanged glances as they waited a full minute before Skar reemerged from the shuttle. The Kaleesh was clad in full ‘Templar’ war gear, cradling the suit’s fearsome-looking helm in the crook of his arm.
“Why make the Nephalim think any less than the last remaining combatants of the fallen Orders would try and help those refugees trying to escape and hide. Today I am a Templar once more and those who stand in my way will fall. Questions?” Asked the now rechristened Templar.
“Workz,” Zakath said with an approving nod, rolling one of his burly shoulders in a stretch.
A cough from the Combat Master drew the group’s attention back towards the Arconae.
“I would accompany you on this mission,” Marick added, “but I have my position as Combat Master to consider. My Fade, Ace, however, will remain with your ship and run interference on whatever drones the Nephilim are using to record activity at the Academy,” the Hapan explained. “His slicing will hopefully keep your mission off the books. You will still need to be mindful of the Nephalim, though. A Twi’lek and a Kaleesh are not exactly the most inconspicuous. I’ll leave that part to you guys.”
“And where will you be, if you’re not coming with us?” Skar asked.
Marick blinked once, looking over the gathered team. “I will be ensuring that Nix’s attention is kept elsewhere,” the Hapan said with a certain finality in his voice. While his tone was perfectly level and controlled, there was a hint of venom lurking at the edges.
“Fair enough,” Calindra said with a half-shrug. Sensing the growing weight of Marick’s words, she gently nudged his shoulder. “So, you’re just going to leave me with a bunch of strangers?
“It does seem a bit rude,” K’tana commented.
Zakath shrugged, but Skar nodded his head.
Marick’s eyes shifted back and forth between the team members. “Calindra, we talked–”
“I know, I’m just pulling your leg, Marick,” she grinned.
Marick sighed. With a gesture, he motioned for the four to follow him towards the shuttle he had prepared for their mission. The craft had been stripped of any of the logos or affiliation with the DDF or AEF, and a clean shaven Hapan with spiked hair and a tribal tattoo over his eye typed away at a portable terminal. He offered an absent minded wave, but seemed focused on his computer screen.
The team shuffled about as they checked over their loadouts. K’tana paused and tapped her lip, and remembered something she had forgotten about between all the excitement.
“Soo, why exactly are you helping us with this?” K’tana asked as she poked a finger into the Hapan’s chest. “Seems like a big risk, which isn’t like you.”
“The Hapan are being targeted as Undesirable as well,” Skar offered. “Seems like motivation–”
“–Noope. I don’t think that’s why,” K’tana interrupted. “Marick hates his own people and probably isn’t losing too much sleep over it.”
“Hate is a…strong word,” Marick replied calmly with a differential shrug. “She is not wrong, however,” he admitted.
“Right, so, I ask you again. Why. Are. You. Helping. Us.” K’tana waved her hands in the Hapan’s face.
Marick didn’t say anything, so the Twi’lek grabbed him by the arm and pulled him around to the far side of the shuttle. She jabbed a finger into his chest. “Spill it, frangface.”
The Arconae blinked once and then looked away. His face remained stoic. “This is bigger than the refugees, K’tana. This is bigger than any of us. Nix is the key. I don’t have proof, but I know that Nix is somehow responsible for…everything.” Marick exhaled slowly. “The Crusades. Orv’s death. The War.” His eyes shifted out of focus for a moment, far away and remembering. He shook his head slightly.
”I don’t expect you to understand. I just need you to continue to trust me. Please.”
K’tana stared at the Hapan intently, digesting his words. Marick turned his eyes back to the Twi’lek and met them. For that brief moment, her manic persona took a seat. As quickly as it passed, it returned with a grin that was all teeth.
“Ugh! Fine!” she huffed and spun dramatically away from the Arconae. “Between you and Mastimeros, I’ll probably die of curiosity over all these ‘secret plots’.”
K’tana skipped back over to the rest of the team and made a gesture with a hand. “Come on you scaley frangs, we’ve got work to do.” She skipped over towards Calindra and took a hold of her hand. “While we’re at it, you HAVE to tell me who does your hair! Human hair has always fascinated me, and it’s been literally killing me not knowing!”
Marick watched them all go, quietly. He waited until they boarded the shuttle before turning back towards his own. While their challenge was a tall task, the Combat Master had work to do.
And his first order of business was Lord Marshal Damon Nix.
Zakath sat on the floor of the shuttle, his large muscular tail wrapped around his legs as he slipped into a meditative state. He kept his emerald green eyes open, however, as the team chattered among themselves. Despite his focus, his gaze kept returning to the beautiful blonde woman who was quietly conversing with the much more enthusiastic K’tana. But before he could speak up, Skar approached, clearing his throat slightly.
“Yez?” Zakath asked mildly, breaking his gaze at Calinda to look up at Skar.
“Grandfather, I took the liberty of bringing a second set of armor with me for you to use. It will give the Nephalim less cause to look into who you are after this is over.”
“I see,” Zakath replied slowly, considering Skar’s idea. “Bring out the armor. Let uz see if it can fit me properly.”
Zakath watched as Skar nodded once before walking swiftly over to where his own armor was kept. Moving the armor case aside, The Kaleesh warrior lifted up a second identical case and carried it near Zakath, setting it on the floor and unlatching it. Opening it up, Skar began to remove pieces of armor and handing them to Zakath, who had slipped behind a small privacy screen to dress in private.
The Barabel examined each piece of armor, noting its design characteristics. After a moment, he grunted and began putting on the underarmor, pausing slightly as he tugged up his pants and met resistance. After a few seconds, he sighed, dropped the pants and stuck his head out past the screen to look at Skar.
“Skar, hand me my dagger.”
“The armor iz made for humanoids.” Zakath said with an annoyed sigh. “I need to make modificationz.”
“O…kay.” Skar blinked as he glanced over, fetching Zakath’s dagger from where it lay on the seat, and handing it over to the Barabel. “What are you talking about, though? You’re humanoid, aren’t you?”
“Most humanoidz don’t have tailz.” Zakath pointed out sarcastically before disappearing behind the screen where fabric tearing was soon heard.
“…that’s a good point, actually.” Skar mused to himself.
Soon, Zakath was completely dressed in Obelisk Templar armor, minus the helm, with a large hole carved into the seat of his pants where his large muscular tail spilled out, twitching slightly as he tried to get used to the fit.
“Hm. It will do,” Zakath noted as he returned his attention to Skar. “Thiz iz a good idea. Excellent thinking.”
“Thank you, Grandfather.” Skar said, bowing his head slightly with pleasure at the praise.
Feelings of pride swiftly passed as the young Kaleesh moved back into his original position in the shuttle near the exit ramp. A cool and almost ice like calm began to wash over him as his eyes bore into the durasteel plating.
Glancing down at his left hand, Rrogon realized that it was shaking, and not because of the turbulence of the shuttle but because of his own physical strain. It was soon snatched up by the other hand so as to keep it out of sight of the others. Showing such weakness now could end up badly for him.
Why am I shaking? This isn’t fear I’m feeling, so why? The Kaleesh thought to himself. Kindness is a luxury that was taken from me, Lady Atyiru. I have none left to give.
Skar actually winced at the memory burning bright in his mind and quickly placed the war helm over his head to hide what facial features that his Huk mask did not cover up. An almost subsonic growl formed in his chest at the memory of his meeting with the Shadow Lady after his outburst in the Arconan capital.
“Why now? I don’t understand why I would be remembering that now,” he growled to himself as the encounter began to replay in his head
Oh, my dear, no. You have everything left to give. And do you know why? Because forgiveness, kindness… these are traits of the strong, not the weak. And you, you are so much stronger than you know. The Arconan Consul’s reply during their meeting echoed within his head.
Stronger? No, Atyiru, don’t pretend to know me or my past just because you read some file.
The shuttle shook violently as it entered the atmosphere of the planet below, causing Skar to come out of his recollection. He looked around at the others surrounding him. Shaking his head he turned back to the ramp, spacing out once more into his own thoughts.
Calindra felt someone looking at her, but when she raised her head to find out who, everyone was busy doing something else. She knew she was one of the strangers to the group, and she expected someone to test her loyalty or at least question her reasons for being with them. Indeed, why was an imperial sympathizer accompanying a bunch of non-humans in a quest to save some undesirables from the clutches of the Grand Master’s ire?
She was hard pressed to explain it herself. She didn’t know these people, owed them no allegiance. So what was the motive? Someone was bound to ask what was on everyone’s mind. They had grilled Marick – the ex-Shadow Lord himself – about his own motivations, what was a simple imperial-affiliated woman to them? She could feel their mistrust, though she tried to be radiant and charming – conciliatory even – but none of that would impress these folks very long. At worse it would delay the inevitable confrontation between her and the members of the group. She only hoped it’d be much later.
Unfortunately, it did not last very long.
A rather large, muscular and now fully armored Barabel stood over her, the tip of his scaled tail cupping her chin and forcing her to look up into the lizards’ emerald eyes. Her initial thought was the grab hold of the tail and jab a knife into it, but she suppressed the feeling and simply tilted her head quizzically as she matched the Barabels gaze evenly.
“So… the Human girl accompanies zah group of non-humanzes. It iz unuzual for imperialz, no?”
‘Just kriffing terrific… and here I thought I’d get a bit more time to prove myself,’ Calindra thought to herself as she took in the Barabel’s imposing figure. She did not want a conflict, but it looked like it might find her sooner than expected.
She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to calm her nerves. “You’re right,” she said as she reopened them, “if you’re judging me based on my new career in House Imperium, then it makes no sense for a Human to be here. Let’s just say I disagree with the Grand Master’s extermination edict, and I won’t be able to help out from within Scholae. In this, I am… acting against the Clan, I believe. It will be extremely dangerous for me to be involved, as it will mark me forever if I’m found out. Marick trusts you all, though, so in that I am willing to trust as well.”
“Then why are you here?” The Barabel’s eyes seemed to grow more defiant and menacing as they began to glow slightly, like dim coals being stoked.
Having enough of him towering over her, Calindra finally stood up and looked at the Barabel defiantly in the eye. “Be careful… Zakath, was it? I might be a lonely and fragile little human girl, but don’t underestimate an Alderaanian’s desire for vengeance.” There was a sudden red tinge to her defiant brown eyes. The Barabel could smell the anger, the hostility. It fuelled his thirst for more.
“What doez it matter about being Alderaanian, eh? And what vengeance do you seek to extract here?” he growled, poking her right under her trachea with his tail. “How does rezcuing the poor Undezirables serve your vengeance?”
“I though that should be evident enough to anyone,” she growled. She couldn’t get into the all the stigma attached to Alderaan’s destruction. All the loved ones they lost, all the hurt the old generation has felt and the survivors carried, passing it on to their children. It threatened to spill out of her like an uncontrollable floodgate. Once it opened, it would be nearly impossible to close again.
“Perhaps because the karkin’ Empire decided to blow it up?!” K’tana hollered peevishly from from the pilot’s chair. “And pipe it down already! I’m trying t–” She suddenly stopped talking, which should have been indication enough that trouble was on the horizon.
A sudden jarring of the controls to the left made everyone topple over each other and scream in surprise at the back. It was soon followed by the sickening sound of metal screeching on something hard. The deafening sound started from the front and trailed loudly towards the cargo hold, shuddering the whole vessel as K’tana tried to save their necks from impending doom.
“See what you two shuttas made me karkin’ do!?” she growled as she fought the controls. “Karking chuddy weather and childish tantrums. We’re supposed to be a team until this mission is done, so put your differences aside until you two flarg sacks can either murderize each other in a ring or bang out the tension in the back room. Either, both, whatever!
There was a pregnant pause throughout the whole shuttle. Calindra and Zakath continued their stare-off until the shuttle lurched again and both were forced to grab hold of something.
“Is “murderize” and actual word?” the armored Kaleesh asked.
“Shshhshhhh,” K’tana hissed as she attempted to double-down her focus on the controls.
Calindra folded her arms across her chest and moved towards the other side of the shuttle. She took a seat where she could keep a visual on the rest of the crew.
“If Marick trusts her, so should we,” the additional member of the crew finally piped-up without looking away from his computer terminal. ‘Ace’ was one of the first two Fades in the program and would follow Marick Arconae off a cliff if asked. Calindra spent enough time around the Combat Master to understand that much.
Where was he a minute ago, though? she thought irritably to herself.
Skar grunted an affirmative. Zakath hissed but nodded begrudgingly. K’tana made an odd clicking noise that no one thought twice about.
I can do this.
K’tana inhaled slowly through her nose as she gently held the controls of the large ship. The Mystic never bothered to tell the group that she had never driven anything of this size. Even so, when she sat in the pilot’s chair no one questioned the Gatewarden. The majority of the flight was simple enough.
K’tana read buttons, flicked switches and the ship moved. Her copilot, who she ignored with a focused intensity, did most of the steering and coarse adjustment. However, now that they had entered atmosphere it was the Twi’lek’s job to start the landing procedure.
Of course, that was exactly when Marick’s Fade, the spiky-haired Hapan, decided to look away from his portable terminal.
The Mystic realized immediately that she had done something wrong, but she chose to ignore it. When ‘Ace’ looked back, a cocky smirk slipped over her lips as he looked at the violet woman from the corner of his eyes.
“Hey, are these meters supposed to be in the red?”
“Shh, I’m focusing,” she snapped, trying to keep the beastly-ship level.
“I don’t think they’re supposed to be red…”
“Yeah, kay. Thanks. Shut the kark up and help me fix it.”
The snarky male snickered and began strapping himself in.
“Everyone sit down and buckle up. Our pilot has decided we need to try a new landing technique,” Ace announced loudly enough for the whole shuttle to hear.
“Oh? What would that be?” Calindra asked as she buckled herself in.
“Nose down. Ass up.” Ace laughed as he tried to compensate for the unbalanced nose-dive while the Twi’lek began scowling at the dashboard.
“Shut the hell up, boy.” K’tana hissed, snapping her teeth at the Hapan.
“Hey now, it’s not my fault women can’t drive.”
Had anyone been able to see K’tana over her chair, they would have watched her twitch visibly and known to prepare for the worst.
With a low, primal grunt, the spiteful Mystic drove her hand against the terminal and channeled her electric rage into the ship, cutting off the power and sending the ship into a spinning nose dive.
“What the frak have you done? You crazy bi-” Ace screamed in a panicked rage.
K’tana laughed manically then went cold as she leveled her green gaze on the Hapan.
“Survival of the fittest, shutta.”
K’tana’s eyes snapped back open, her fingers gripping the arms of her chair as her eyes rested on the window and the gentle sloping of the nearly corrected nose dive. She sat quietly, the sound of her team talking behind her sounding like incomprehensible echos that had no definition or meaning.
Part of her did not realize that she had imagined crashing the ship. Part of her wished she really had gone through with it. A smaller, almost unheard part sat motionless and in shock at her own willingness to end it all and take those around with her.
As the ship landed K’tana unclasped herself from the chair and silently walked to the exit. Skar crept up behind her and quietly asked over her shoulder.
“What was that about?”
The Twi’lek stopped in her tracks and locked her green eyes on his.
“I’ve never flown before.” Her manic demeanor suddenly overtook her and a girlish giggle radiated from her smiling lips. “I think I did pretty well!”
The Gate Warden did not wait for the Kaleesh to respond and she spun around with a flourish and pranced off the ship.
Zakath blinked as he descended the shuttle ramp, his eyes adjusting to the bright sun that was already warming up his armor-covered scales quickly. He allowed a small sigh of pleasure to escape him as he felt the strong heat. Although Lyspair was drier than his own homeworld of Barab 1, the heat was similar enough that the Barabel would be comfortable operating here- unlike most of his teammates.
He cast an impassive glance at K’tana, Calindra, and Skar, and shrugged internally. They had survived and graduated from the Shadow Academy. If they couldn’t take the heat now, that was their problem.
The Barabel turned his gaze to the east, where the the ruins of the Shadow Academy lay a fair distance away - they had landed further away to avoid detection by Inquisitorius agents-, and growled softly as he stared at his target. The trek to cover the distance would be easy. What laid within most likely wouldn’t be.
“Rrogon,” Zakath called out, attracting the attention of the Kaleesh warrior, who came over.
“Yes, Grandfather?” Rrogon said quietly, ignoring the chattering of the women behind him.
“Make sure thoze two don’t get killed before I rejoin you at the Shadow Academy.”
Zakath could feel Skar’s slight smirk coming from behind his mask. “Of course.”
“Good. I’ll see you inzide.”
With that, Zakath began to take off in a jog toward the east.
A half hour later, he was crouched behind a small bluff that overlooked one of the side entrances into the Shadow Academy. Marcobinoculars in hand, he surveyed the area and was pleased at what he saw. Only three Inquisitorious agents were stationed outside. Reaching out with the Force, he looked further inside the immediate entrance with his senses. Feeling nobody inside, he was satisfied. Fishing out a comlink from within a pouch on the belt slung around his armored torso, Zakath thumbed it on.
“Rrogon, you are on schedule?”
The comlink hissed a brief burst of static before the Kaleesh’s voice crackled through.
“Yes, about 10 minutes behind you. Nothing of note to report so far.”
“The otherz are adapting alright then?” Zakath asked, mildly surprised.
“…nothing to report.” The reply came back flatly.
“Heh, very well,” Zakath hissed in an amused tone. “We’re looking at three guardz on the outzide. I will attract their attention now - there iz nobody in the immediate entrance, but be on guard.”
Zakath smiled. Rising to his feet, he began to walk toward the entrance, his rancor-tooth lightsaber hilt in hand. As he approached the three guards, he noted that they were carrying lightsabers of their own. A few seconds later, they faced each other, three on one.
“Obelisk Templar scum,” The middle one, a Human male, spoke, practically spitting out the word. “Have you come here to die for the glory of the Grand Master?”
“No,” Zakath replied as he closed his eyes for a brief second. When he opened them again, they were glowing a deep violet, giving the Barabel a demonic look to him. “I have come to make you die for hiz glory.”
With that, he ignited his lightsaber, the crimson blade spilling out of the hilt. At the exact same time, he thrust his other hand forward, dark energy pouring out of his claws to slam into the one of the other guards - a female. Before it could shock her however, an invisible barrier appeared to absorb the blast. Three more lightsabers ignited, with three more crimson blades appearing.
His eyes widened slightly as he began to step back, one step at a time. Wolfish grins appeared on the Inquisitorius guards’ faces as they sensed their enemy’s fear. They began to spread out, seeking to encircle their prey. Zakath snarled as he thrust his fist out again, this time sending a telekinetic blast toward the leader. Although his barrier was in place, the impact still forced him to stagger backward, at which point, the Barabel began to retreat, turning to run toward the north. The guards, sensing blood, gave pursuit.
Which left the side entrance into the Shadow Academy entirely unmanned.
Skar was growing annoyed. Behind him, Calindra and K’tana were deep in discussion about various fashion items and the sheer amount of sand that had gotten into their clothing. The Templar had given his Grandfather five more minutes since his last transmission before they would move and now the time had finally come.
“Calindra, K’tana it’s time to move,” he said. The tone of his voice sounded more cold then he had intended to, but at this point- so close to their mission- the necessity of kindness meant nothing now.
“Fine lizard boy, but you’re paying for my new boots when we get back on the port, this sand has practically ruined mine.” Replied his Battleteam Leader as she came up beside him with Calindra on the opposite side
“You two are up. Sneak into the Academy and find the civilians. I will follow and draw as much attention on the inside as I can. When you find the civilians, take them to the basement level and into the tunnels. There, you should be able to find a way out,based on the maps Ace uploaded to your datapads. Once that is done meetup at the extraction zone,” Skar spoke briskly as he knew their time was slowly dwindling.
Calindra nodded and made her way towards the temple and away from the Kaleesh, K’tana paused for a second to glare at the Templar before moving to catch up with the Human woman. Now Skar had been left to his own thoughts about his actions leading up to this mission.
-> |=o=| <-
Exactly five minutes later, Skar slowly made his own way into the Academy. As sand turned to stone, his footsteps echoed in the now empty hall. Making sure to mind his surroundings, the Kaleesh’s head moved back and forth, scanning the room. He saw no troops waiting for him. His foot collided with something small on the ground, so he stopped to look down and when he did, his blood went ice cold.
It was an infant Miraluka, one that appeared to have a blaster bolt burned straight in the middle of its small forehead. It had been left on the floor like a discarded lump of rags. The sight of the dead child made Rrogon step back in shock, memories of him doing similar horrible acts to the children of his home planet so many years ago. So many villages lost to his rage. So many dead. All because of his untethered rage.
A slow boiling anger began to form in the pit of his stomach. The throbbing pain in his heart followed suit, but as he was about to try and pull his rage into a more controllable level, a tremor in the Force spiked through him, causing him to dive to the left behind the column nearest to himself. He narrowly dodged the hail of blaster fire that peppered the ground he had just been standing on.
Climbing to his feet, Skar pressed his back against the pillar and griped his lightsaber in his right hand. Risking a glance, the Gladiator peeked his head out ever so slightly and was met with more blaster fire for his efforts. Growling, Skar raised his voice and called out to whoever was in the room.
“What, are you such a coward that you would hide behind a blaster rather than face me?!” he bellowed out, trying to anger the other combatant or combatants
“Coming from one who is also hiding, Templar. You were once a proud Order, but now I see that those who are left… are cowards.” came the heated reply
This got Skar angry. He was not a coward. The familiar snap-hiss of his yellow lightsaber filled the room and boldly he stepped into view, ready to deflect any incoming fire back at his attackers, but all that met him was one man. A Human just as tall as he was with greasy black hair and burning crimson eyes. His armour was a custom job but it was still Nephilim in origin and from his exposed arms the Templar could tell that this man was strong.
The man held one of the newly acquired riot batons that the Brotherhood had recently acquired, electricity sparking along its two pronged ends. The two combatants stared at each other for another moment.
When it finally broke, the two men charged forward, challenging yells bellowing from each of their chests. When they finally met, the the din from the templar’s lightsaber striking metal became deafening in the empty hall. Each strike was meant to kill as there was going to be no mercy for those guardsmen that remained in the academy. No. If Skar had his way each one will die a slow and painful death before the day was done.
The Human was being pushed back. His defenses and the flaws in them became more apparent with each passing second. The Human was well trained and strong. Skar would give him that, but it would not matter. From past experience, he knew that everyone slipped up- and when he did….
Rrogon thought as the Lieutenant seemed to slip on a bundle of rags and a tiny dead body.Capitalizing on the opening , Skar raised his lightsaber and brought it down in a bold strike intended to cleave his opponent in two. But just after he let out another howl of victory, Skar saw his mistake the human had faked him out. He saw the Lieutenant change his footing and duck under the yellow blade, spinning around to drive the pommel of his weapon into the helm that the Kaleesh wore.
It struck with a loud clang and the metal around the Templar’s right temple crumpled inwards and staggered him. There was a loud ringing in his ears and he struggled to get his bearing.
He felt the baton strike him again, this time a direct strike into his chest which drove the air from his lungs. He felt the electric discharge from the baton coursing through him, slowing his movements and reaction time. This was all the Lieutenant needed to finally press his advantage. Blow after blow struck the Kaleesh’s body, not giving him any time to recover. The inside of his helm had become a furnace and sweat streamed down his face, making it hard to see as his breath became ragged as the onslaught continued.
The final blow came as another pommel strike to the opposite side of the helm caused Skar to crumple to the floor, his vision going black. Groaning in pain, Skar blinked and opened his eyes to see that he was lying on the ground face first. But what surprised him was the fact his helm had been removed and the mask under it was removed as well.
“There are not many Kaleesh in the Brotherhood you know, much less one with red eyes like yours,” said the lieutenant in his gruff voice. There was a long pause and the weight of his failure began to set in. A boot crashed down on his upper back and drove the Kaleesh further into the floor.
A comlink chirped and the Lieutenant grunted and tapped something on his wrist “What is it, Sergeant?” There was a slight pause before the reply came
“Sir we found another group of undesirables, two families with children. Please advise.”
“You know the protocol, Sergeant. Kill the children and capture the adults.” The Lieutenant’s reply was cold and terse
“Yes sir.” The comlink clicked off and the boot on Skar’s back pressed down harder. The Kaleesh could feel several of his ribs beginning to crack under the pressure, but that wasn’t the problem. The Kaleesh was struggling not with the physical pain but the mental. There was war going on within his mind and the rage and madness was winning and growing stronger with each passing second.
He did not want to lose himself again. He knew that this would be the last time his heart could not take another rage like the one building inside of him. It was the most he had been angry since the loss of his family back on Kalee. The blood rage he had fallen into then had consumed villages and parts of his own soul alike. No one man had any right to play God over those they deem unworthy and decide who lives and dies because they’re not Human. Not him. Not Pravus. Not anybody had that right.
He could hear the voices of his friends and his family all calling to him, screaming at him to resist, but it was far too late. Even now he could feel himself slipping. Forgive me Grandfather, Mother, I tried. Skar thought before he slipped into the darkness and the dreadful all-consuming rage began to burn through him.
Placing his palms on the ground the rage induced Kaleesh pushed up against the man on his back. A grunt of surprise sounded above him and he could feel the human trying and force him back to the ground, but with no avail. It was like pushing against a raging tidal wave; one could only be swept away by it.
With a howl of fury, Rrogon threw the man off of his back and finally climbed back to his feet. Glancing around, he tried to locate his lightsaber. Behind him, he could feel the Human’s fear emanating from him. Skar reached out with the Force and seized that part of the man’s mind and began forcing it to go into a panic. He met resistance, but that was soon shattered by his own indomitable will and hate. He twisted his own fears about the Kaleesh Retribution for killing so many innocents.
Slowly turning on his heel, Skar finally looked the man in the eyes and what he saw reflected back at him was terrifying onto itself. His face had been beaten and bruised; several welts had begun to form on each side where the pommel had hit. Most of his upper amour had been stripped off til there was nothing left but the under layer of black fabric.
But what truly scared him was his eyes.
They were glowing a dark deep red, like the coals of a forge. They flickered ever so slightly in the dim light of the hall, but it was clear to him. The pain in his chest was some of the worst pain he had ever felt in his entire lifetime and he knew there was not much time left. There was no turning back from this, but before he left this world he was going to make this man suffer.
Throwing his head back, Skar let out his last war cry, a haunting howl of rage and regret that reverberated through the Academy halls. And when he charged he fed all of his hate, all of his rage, into the Dark Side and felt it flowing in him, around him, and through his very soul.
The Human had his hands clamped over his ears to try and deafen the howl the Kaleesh had released and was defenseless when the Gladiator slammed into him at full force. Skar tore at the flesh on his arms and any other exposed skin he could get at.
The Lieutenant panicked and brought down the baton on the back of Rrogon’s head. The Kaleesh simply shrugged it off and seized the Human’s right arm spun around and snappedit over his shoulder. There was a sickening crunch of bones as they shattered.
Releasing the arm, Rrogon spun back around and seized the man by the throat with both hands and lifted him up a foot off the ground.
“All the people you killed for the name Pravus, I feel their rage, their cries for mercy, all of it in your mind. That ends today, Human! I will be your end. I am the rage they felt! I am the vengeance they seek!” roared Rrogon but before he could tear into the flesh of the Human’s neck, he felt a flash of fire in his stomach.
Looking down he saw the left hand of the Human wrapped around the hilt of a combat knife that had impaled itself in his lower half. The knife retreated and plunged again and again into the Kaleesh. Rrogon could feel the blood welling In his mouth but he didn’t care. All he wanted was to end the man and this he did. With a savage wrench of his talons Skar clawed deep into the man’s throat, severing the arteries and exposing his windpipe to the cool air.
Dropping the dying man at his feet, Rrogon staggered back into one of the broken pillars and slumped down onto the floor. Blood seeped from his wounds like syrup and he knew that if they were left to bleed out he would be gone in minutes. His eyes began to blur once more and his injures finally started to register in his mind, but at least he could stop the external bleeding and wait for the others to come back for him.
Skar could feel his heart slowing down within him, but he was determined not to give up- not until he saw his family again. He made a promise and he was going to keep it.
I will make it. I won’t die like this.
He swore to himself as he began the slow painful process mending his wounds with the Force.
He hoped Calindra and K’tana were faring better.
K’tana’s head buzzed with furious thoughts that came from a thousand directions. The Twi’lek was thankful for silence as she approached the Academy with Calindra. They quietly moved towards the wall that hid their entrance point beneath a mound of golden sand. The Mystic wordlessly began digging through the sand and unearthed the heavy metal grate that led to old ventilation that was no longer used. With a smile towards the blond Human, K’tana gestured for Calindra to show her telekinetic aptitude.
As she approached a large grate at the base of the Academy with Calindra, the Twi’lek was thankful for the need for silence. She watched the Human lift and then move the metal object with a wave of her hand. The Warrior gave the Mystic a warm smile as she invited K’tana to crawl into the duct first.
The Arconan moved through the vent and let her body automatically slither through the familiar passageways as her mind fluttered back to the conversation with Skar.
The Kaleesh, her subordinate and her friend, had ordered her to do as Marick had instructed. For some reason that she could not determine, being undermined was a painful sight to the GateWarden. K’tana knew that she had not been much of a leader and yet she felt the sting of something she could not explain. Something about this new sensation was very disturbing. Her heart fluttered and her cheeks flushed as tears threatened to push themselves from her eyes. All she could think of was crawling into a small corner where she could hate herself in peace.
She was no leader. She was a fraud. A pawn to be used by the Elders at their whim. Everyone knew it. Even she knew, but it had taken Skar giving her orders to make the facts so blatantly obvious to her. K’tana, as she often did, put up no fight and simply obeyed- as she always had. The sensation of humiliation passed and was replaced by an endless pit of self-pity and rage. She wanted to curl up, resign and sob until the warm arms of the Goddess came to take her.
“How did you know this place?” Calindra broke K’tana’s preoccupied thoughts with a whisper that caused the Twi’lek to stop and glance back suddenly.
“I used to sneak out and stare at the stars during the night months,” she continued to speak as she once again started forward, “I was never one to spend a lot of time asleep. My mind is plagued with nightmares. Even while I’m awake. Especially now.”
“Why especially now?” Calindra’s question somehow caught the Mystic off guard. Her fellow Arconans knew exactly why she would experience constant nightmares. They would not have needed to ask, nor would they have cared to. As such, she replied with only a noncommittal shrug.
The Mystic’s mind snapped back to the moment as she reached the next metal grate, looking out through the spaces in between K’tana saw the hallway was empty.
“This is as close as we can get,” she said, elegantly adjusting her position and placing her feet against the enclosing exit. With a slow inhale, K’tana channel her feelings into a powerful kick that smashed through the vent and sent the grate crashing into the opposite wall.
Calindra let out a stifled, bubbly laugh, thinking that she could have removed their obstacle with a more silent approach. K’tana ignored her and slipped from the ventilation, her heels clicking against the floor as she landed. In mere moments, voices and clattering footsteps were heard coming towards the women.
K’tana flung herself towards the far wall and ghosted just as several troopers came around the corner and began firing at Calindra.
“Hey! Where the frak?!” the Human yelled, assuming the younger woman had vanished with the intention of abandoning her.
In truth, K’tana swiftly moved, unseen, against the wall. She quietly stalked the two closest guards, moving in on them like a Manka cat hunting Eopie. Calindra extended her hand, her trusty blaster moving from its holster and into her hand. She fired as many shots as she could at the seven guards, and did not immediately see the Twi’lek appear behind the two guards until she heard a lightsaber hum to life accompanied by a lilting, girlish giggle.
K’tana grabbed the man on her right by the back of his neck as she extended her left arm and freed the closest guard from the burden of his helm - and the top of his skull. In the moments between, the Mystic channeled her rage and insecurities into the man to her right. The skin along his face and chest cracked and burned from the blue energy that coursed from her fingertips and into the base of his neck.
K’tana spun her lightsaber with a grin, cartwheeling along the wall and away from the remaining guards’ incoming blaster bolts. Her Human companion took out another one of the guards that was trying to draw a bead on the Mystic from the far wall. With four of seven men left, Calindra reholstered her blaster and summoned her lightsaber into her grip. She bolted toward the men as she activated her crimson blade.
Blaster fire echoed through the corridors for several moments after it was all over. K’tana and Calindra grinned at each other as they stepped over the limbs and armor that lay scattered across the hallway. The two women silently walked on either side of the hallway in silence as their violet and crimson blades cast shadows of brightly colored death as they moved towards the refugee’s location. Their supernatural senses were cast before and behind them, sweeping the hall for more guards and foes.
When the Mystic and the Warrior reached the large double doors to the library, being used as a temporary prisoner containment, they stood stoically as they reached out as far as they could within the room.
“I count more than thirty beings behind these doors.” K’tana’s telepathic voice rang in Calindra’s ears. “Most of them will be refugees, but I’d bet several of them are guards. Can you sense if there are any with our abilities?”
Calindra focused on the door, her warm brown eyes blurring as though she were trying to look through the solid metal. With a quirk of her lips and shake of her head, the Human gestured to the Twi’lek that she could not.
K’tana inhaled slowly. She quieted the thoughts racing about her skull.
”Take the left side. Block as much fire from the civilians as you can. I’ll take right. We must be quick if we are all to survive this. Remember, just because you cannot see me, does not mean I am not there.”
With those final words, K’tana disappeared from Calindra’s sight and the doors to the library prison flew open.
That’s far enough.
The Nephalim guards slowed down and spread out, hesitant looks appearing on their faces as they saw the toothy smirk that now touched the lips of the Barabel. Four lightsabers hummed as they cut through the dry desert air. Zakath’s eyes grew even brighter as he stared directly at the leader, his smirk growing.
“Thank you for proving cooperative,” Zakath’s voice held a mockingly icy edge to it.
“What do you mean, scum?” the leader of the trio demanded, his sulphuric eyes narrowing as he raised his lightsaber.
“You did as expected,” the Savant replied, raising his lightsaber to point it directly at the leader, while his other hand clenched into a fist. “Now to finish this charade.”
“What the frak ar-” The confused guard asked before he was interrupted by a blinding flash of light exploding from Zakath’s fist, sending all three guards stumbling back as their eyes were seared.
“Your lives end here,” The Dark Jedi said as he raised his crimson blade.
It was all over by the time the flash of light faded…
Zakath was now stalking the darkened and chilly halls of the Shadow Academy, following the trail of bodies left by the others as he retraced their route. Reaching out into the Force as he moved, he extended his senses, trying to locate his fellow teammates by their Force signatures. One signature was felt almost immediately- and was familiar. Tracking it through his senses, Zakath soon came upon a scene of violent battle- more so than the carnage that he had already seen.
He noted the broken debris flung across the room and paused for a second on a battered looking helm. Striding over, he picked it up in his talons and examined it closely. His eyes narrowed as he noticed the Templar markings on the severely dented helmet. Reaching through the Force again, the Barabel narrowed his focus to the room he was in. Almost immediately, he felt the presence of Rrogon Skar, his signature more faint than usual. Sweeping through the room, he quickly noticed a Kaleesh body slumped over by a broken pillar, his chest barely moving.
“There you are.”
The Barabel was instantly crouched at the Warrior’s side, his talons ripping through Rrogon’s bloodied shirt. Upon seeing the gruesome stab wounds, Zakath frowned as he turned to retrieve a small first aid kit from his cargo belt.
“G-…grandfa-” The Kaleesh tried to croak out.
“Quiet,” Zakath murmured as he withdrew a syringe from the kit, turning to look down at the Kaleesh’s chest. “Let me heal you, then we can talk.”
Rrogon obeyed, remaining silent and only grunting slightly as Zakath stabbed the needle through his chest. Injecting the antibiotic serum into the Kaleesh, he tossed the needle aside and laid both hands on the Kaleesh’s chest. Drawing upon the Force, Zakath directed its energy into the Kaleesh’s chest, trying to knit together torn and ripped open blood vessels.
The entire process took almost a half hour, with the Barabel keeping a wary eye out for any potential Inquisitorius patrols. Fortunately none came, and Zakath soon finished what he wanted to do, allowing the Force to slip away from him. Rrogon was breathing easier now, and his eyes were now more clear as he stared up silently at his Grandfather.
Zakath soon had the wounds cleaned up and dressed, wrapping them in clean bandages. Helping Rrogon to his feet, the Dark Jedi was satisfied with what he saw.
“You are not healed yet- the woundz are beyond my ability to heal quickly, but the internal bleeding iz stopped, and you are able to move,” Zakath said as he dropped to one knee to repack his first aid kit. “More than that will have to wait until we return home.”
“I understand,” Skar replied, wincing as he prodded at his bandaged wounds. “But I will fight.”
“You will do no such thing,” Zakath replied brusquely as he rose back to his feet. “If you suffer more injuriez, the chancez of you dying goez up, and that iz unacceptable to me and your mother.”
“I… of course,” Skar’s head dropped then for a moment before rising to look at Zakath again. “Grandfather, I fell into another-”
“I know,” Zakath’s voice was soft. “You did what waz necezzary. Now come. Let uz find the otherz. If any fighting happenz, I will handle it. Stay back.”
“Yes, Grandfather, but we should hurry,” Skar’s lips twisted into a grimace as one hand gingerly touched his chest. “I don’t think I have much time before my heart gives out. I will need to get to the Consul soon for treatment.”
“Then uz let move quickly,” Zakath’s frown deepened as he turned away to retrieve Skar’s bone mask from the floor, handing it to him. “Let me know how you feel, and I will help az much az much az I can. Now let uz move into the tunnelz. Calindra and K’tana haz by now located the refugeez and are making good their ezcape. Time for uz to join them.”
’Like she’s the only one who can disappear,’ Calindra thought, a bemused smile crossing her face as she bent the Force around her. With the shadows wrapped around her like a shawl, the Human followed on the Twi’lek’s lekku’s like a ghost while those gathered inside scrutinized the library entrance. They were alerted to the duo’s presence by the doors suddenly opening for no obvious explanation.
Several alien prisoners were lined up in the middle of the Library, with some children and infants crying. Parents were huddled protectively around their children, frightened and desperate to shield their young from the soldiers.any sported cuts and bruises from the beating they’d received when they tried to resist… One of the larger aliens that Calindra couldn’t identify had decided to use the distraction to attack the guards again.
The new distraction was a welcome one, however brief it was.
Reaching out with the Force, Calindra slammed two of the nearest guards to the ground, and threw her lightsaber towards the back of the library. The red blade twirled and hummed, bisecting one of them through the chest and slicing another from pelvis to shoulder before arching back towards its master and gracefully returning to her hand. Screams from the panicked guards rang out just as K’tana plunged her own blade into another guard’s back, as the two at Calindra’s feet got back up from the ground and faced the warrior together.
The Sith Warrior revelled in the cries of pain and fed off the fear in the room. Her gaze became predatorial. The game was afoot and she wanted to play with her victims. She yearned to face them in a long and intricate dance of death, but she knew all too well that time was of the essence. With a flick of her wrist, both guards flew towards the left wall, clawing at the necks as she exerted the Force on their wind pipes. Meanwhile, K’tana’s blade hummed and blaster bolts erupted around the room. Calindra’s lightsaber flew from her hands, decapitating her two captives before returning to her hand just in time to pary a hit from of the electromagnetic tip of a guard’s Z6 Riot Control baton.
Red blade met electrostatic blue hues as the Warrior’s eyes narrowed in defiance. ‘We don’t have time for this.’ The thought was distant, the last shreds of logic echoing a vast corridor of instinct and blood lust. She heard it, and obeyed. Had it been K’tana or herself, she didn’t quite know anymore. She blocked and parried as the guard expertly matched her swing for swing, evidently trained to deal with Force users should the need arise.
From the corner of her eye, she saw her Twi’lek teammate make her way towards them, so Calindra kept the man’s attention on her. Her right arm swung wide, and the guard easily parried the blow, seeing it come towards him since she hadn’t exactly been hiding her intentions. What the guard didn’t know, however, was that K’tana had moved in, and struck him down from head to toe. A look of surprise coursed through him before he slowly crumbled to the ground.
“Time to split!” the Mystic giggled gleefully.
Calindra turned around to find that the room was now littered with dead guards and cowering prisoners who cautiously eyed them in fear. They must have been quite a sight to see, but they must have sensed that Calindra was on the precipice edge, ready for more violence. They must have sensed that the only reason she had not slaughtered them too was because she hadn’t quite achieved the bloodlust she wanted and craved.
“Get up you fools!” she cried, her lightsaber still humming menacingly in her hand. Her features were raptorial and her muscles taut like a viper, ready to lash out unexpectedly against them.
A worried look crossed K’tana’s features, having sensed the depth of Calindra’s hunger. “Alrighty then! Time to goo…! Freedom is that way, wewill lead you all to safety. Stay grouped together, and let us do the fighting, ya’hear?”
The group gave a collective sigh of relief, though they gave Calindra a wide berth as they fled out the door, following K’tana into the tunnels.
Calindra trailed them with hunger in her eyes. She hoped that she’d get to satiate her thirst for violence. And soon.
Mobile Command Center
“Sir, I don’t understand–”
“Don’t understand what, Corporal?” Captain Drexel snapped, gnashing his teeth like a wild vornskyr. “You don’t…understand how an entire squad of soldiers trained to fight Force users can so easily be wiped out? That’s good, because I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept!”
“Yes, but they–”
“There are no excuses in an Inquisition, Corporal. Only success. And failure,” the Nephilim Captain chewed on his molars, trying to desperately think of a way out of this situation. Lord Nix would not be pleased. “Were we able to at least pull the ID’s on the culprits?”
“Scans coming in now, sir,” a technician piped up. Transmitting to your display now.
Captain Drexel tapped his chin as he saw a holofeed displaying a giant Lizard drawing away four of the guards he had assigned to the side entrance of the Academy. Pinching the screen, he enlarged the image as a reading on the display spitting out a name and dossier digitally tagged the aliens face.
“The Barabel is already marked in the database and is wanted by the Lord Marshal. However, he is under the protection of Clan Arcona, and the file here says that he was “off duty” this week. Pursuing official action would end in a dead-end…”
Drexel waved a hand. “What about his accomplices, then?”
A series of beeps, creeps, and sweeps chirped as the technicians fingers darted across her terminal. Captain Drexel narrowed his eyes as he watched two lithe figures engaging a squad of Nephalim. When he pinched the screen to enlarge the images and zone in on the faces, he was instead greeted a bright yellow, cartoon-like smiley-face with a red tongue sticking out. As the figures cut their way through the soldiers, the cartoon-face tracked perfectly along their heads.
“How is this–”
“Um, sir?” the technician swallowed, “Someone hacked into our security system through a set of backdoors by overloading one of our security protoc–”
Captain Drexel slammed his fist down on his desk in frustration.
Back in the shuttle, Acaelus “Ace” Del’aran cranked up the fast-tempoed music he was playing. The Slicer sat upside down in the captain’s chair with his feet laying over the headrest as his eyes tracked the string of aurebesh code on his terminal. He bobbed his head and played imaginary instruments as he laughed at his own cleverness.
Dark Council Flagship
“Lord Marshal,” a lilted voice called out from down the corridor. Damon Nix slowed his walk and lowered his datapad, glancing casually over his shoulder at the approaching figure.
“Combat Master,” the Lord Marshal replied easily. “I’m a bit preoccupied at the moment, is there something that you needed?”
“Just a moment of your time,” the Hapan said with a slight smile.
“I could spare a moment, but need to have this briefing prepared for the Grand Master. You know how much he detests waiting.” Nix matched the smile with a tight one of his own, as was proper, but his eyes crinkled at the corners.
“Of course,” Marick replied curtly. “I’ll get right to the point, then.”
Zakath’s eyes glowed with power as he cast a final glimpse at the Shadow Academy halls behind him as Skar slowly descended down the ladder into the tunnels. With all of the chaos that K’tana and Calindra had managed to cause, judging from the bodies that they ran across, Zakath was fairly confident that they had to managed to elude detection- for the moment, at least. He had no doubt that the Inquisitorius soldiers were now on high alert and regrouping for an intensive search.
It would not remain quiet for long.
Hissing softly to himself, Zakath quickly followed the Kaleesh down the ladder and took up point, his lightsaber in hand but deactivated for the moment. As the two slowly made their way forward, slowed by Skar’s still substantial injuries, Zakath kept his mental senses on alert, keeping a wary watch out for any sign of the Nephalim.
“Hold,” Zakath whispered harshly as he stopped suddenly, his glowing eyes narrowing to slits as he sensed a large presence ahead. Reaching out with the Force, his tense muscles relaxed slightly as he picked up the familiar aura of K’tana. “Let’z hurry, they are ahead of uz.”
The two picked up their pace slightly, with their strides increasing as the nebulous sense of K’tana and the other life forms grew steadily more defined in the Force. When they rounded a corner, they ran right into K’tana and Calindra, their lightsabers drawn and poised.
“Skarbie!” K’tana squealed as she sighted the Kaleesh, her amethyst saber lowering in response. As Skar’s torn and bloodied shirt came into view along with the clean bandages that were slowly becoming stained with blood, the Twi’lek frowned. “What the kark happened to you?”
“Nephilim officer,” Skar said flatly, his eyes showing the only hints of pain behind his bone mask. “I survived. He didn’t.”
“And I see you were succezzful,” Zakath noted as he took stock of the huddled group behind the two Dark Jedi.
“We’re not out yet,” Calindra said, her brown eyes flashing under the glow of her crimson blade.
A slight tremor in the Force tugged at Zakath’s senses, and his eyes flared up into violet flames as he swung around, his lightsaber igniting. Stretching out with the Force, the Barabel tried to find the source of the tremor. Within seconds, the blood in his veins turned to ice as he suddenly felt a huge number of life forms closing in. A quick glance at Skar revealed that the Kaleesh had picked up on it too, his eyes beginning to take on a crimson glow.
“It appearz you are correct,” The Barabel said grimly as he nodded to Skar to ignite his blade. “They will be here in a minute. The Nephalim seemz to have found uz.”
Dark Council Flagship
“Yes, I can confirm that there were indeed separate, isolated instances, but nothing that my men are unable to handle,” Nix explained with dismissive confidence.
“But of course, Lord Marshal. I merely wanted to offer my services in any way possible.”
“I appreciate the offer, Arconae, and I do appreciate the tip you fed us on the location of that band of inbred, dirty Hapan,” he paused. “No offense, of course.”
“None taken,” Marick mirrored Nix’s earlier dismissive wave. The Hapan continued to match steps with Damon as they talked.
“Is it also true, then, that you’re holding the Praetor to the Headmaster for trial?” Marick inquired as casually as if he were asking after the weather. “Something about stolen plans to the Shadow Academy infrastructure.”
The corners of Nix’s eyes crinkled but he nodded once, knowing it was best not to question the Combat Master’s sources. “Indeed. We have pegged Ood Bnar, an undesirable ‘himself’, to be the most likely culprit for the sabotage.”
“I see. I’m sure the Justicar will be swift. Are you sure you do not require any assistance with following up on leads?”
“No, as I said, I appreciate the offer, Master Arconae,” Nix replied smoothly.
He is after something. But what?
Nix paused his walk, and decided to steer into an alternative direction for conversation. “Which reminds me, I never got to express my apologies for the loss of the former Herald. Orv Dessrx was a great man. The Brotherhood lost one of its best that day. Damn that Esoteric.”
Marick Arconae’s eyes met Damon Nix’s. The two men stared at each silently, tension swelling around them like a creeping fog. Marick’s face was a perfect mask, but his eyes flared with Nix’s desired effect. Everyone had their weak points, and Nix was well versed in the former Shadow Lords connection to his Clan Title. To Marick, the Arconae were his only family.
“And that reminds me,” Nix continued, tapping his chin speculatively. “Wherever is that white wolf creature of yours?”
Whatever fire was festering behind the Hapan’s too-blue eyes went flat and dull as his jaw tightened and his mask hardened. Nix eyed the tuft of white fur that hung around the Hapan’s neck like a pendent. Marick never broke eye contact, and simply stared back at the Lord Marshal.
That should keep him quiet. For now, Nix mused as he turned and continued to walk.
To his credit, Marick fell mechanically into line, matching the Lord Marshal step for step. Externally he showed no signs of damage, but Nix could sense the edges of Marick’s control slip ever so slightly to let traces of anger seep through the cracks.
They were moving too slow. As the adrenaline of the blissful violence and discord faded, the weight of the task at hand started to settle heavily on K’tana’s shoulders. Calindra was doing her best to navigate the tunnels based on the small datapad they had been given. Skar and Zakath both turned and looked off down the distance of the tunnel they had just come. She did not need the Force to deduce that something was coming. And it wasn’t good.
Looking around at the refugees huddling together and shuffling as quickly as their plethora of different kind of feet, hooves, and talons could carry them, K’tana swore to herself.
“Halt, Undesirable scum!” a helmeted voice echoed through the Tunnels.
“Keep moving!” K’tana yelled, as the group veered around a corner and ran right into–
A dead end. Calindra came up short, and looked at K’tana. The Twi’lek opened her mouth to say something, but then stopped. Then her body was moving on its own accord, lightsaber snapping to life as she turned away from the group.
“Everyone stay behind us,” K’tana’s voice had an odd resonance to it. There was a fierce determination in it that had nothing to do with courage or leadership. It simply bore the weight of a creature that had adapted and survived through every morbid and terrifying obstacle thrown her way.
Calindra moved quietly to her side, and the two joined Zakath and Skar to face down the coming threat.
They rounded the corner. It was a whole squad equipped in full riot gear. Two of them wore no armor, but had long cloaks and brandished lightsabers. One of them had a backpack on and a weapon with a long snoot and a small flame lit towards the tip.
“D-93W Flame Projector,” Calindra said automatically.
“Looks like we’re…toast?” K’tana said with a feral giggle.
“…and yet she finds the energy to pun,” Skar grumbled.
The Nephilim readied their weapons, but paused as a bellowing sound caught up to them from an adjacent tunnel.
“THUNDER BOLTS AND LIGHTNING,” a powerful, bubbly voice swelled into a crescendo.
The battle cry bathed the tunnels in a storm of blue-white light. Torrents and tendrils of lightning crackled and cascaded into the bodies of the Nephalim soldiers. Their cries of agony reverberated through the winding tunnels, fading off into faint murmurs in the distant. The tunnels were too narrow. There was nowhere to run or hide from the Tempest. Only death at the hands of an Elders Force Lightning.
Then there was quiet. A lone figure padded over the heap of charred bodies, inspecting his handiwork. As he drew closer to the group, he lowered his hood to reveal a set of large, bulbous eyes.
“VERY very frightening…” the robed Moncalamri finished with a dramatic flare, pointing a flipper at the group and then waiting expectantly.
K’tana, Calindra, Skar, and Zakath stared mutely, genuinely at a loss for words.
“Bah, kids these days,” the Moncal gurgled.
“Is that…?” Skar asked, squinting his eyes.
“FISHY!!!” K’tana exclaimed, giggling excitedly.
“Who?” Calindra asked.
“Troutrooper,” Skar explained. “He served on the Arcona Special Forces during the Crusades and fought beside Marick in the last war.”
“Ah, I see. So, why did he just fry all those Nephalim?”
“Why indeed,” Troutrooper answered for himself, stepping into the light to survey the team. “I’m actually surprised you made it this far. I was half expecting to find your bodies with the rest of the refugees.”
“Your confidence in us is inspiring,” K’tana replied dryly. “Did Marick send you?”
“He may have mentioned that there would be a golden opportunity to get one last jab in at the Shadow Academy,” the Moncal shrugged. “And that you would need an actual exit strategy.”
“And you knew how to find us…how?” Calindra asked, clearly skeptical.
“Peh. You kids know nothing. I practically designed these tunnels back when I was Headmaster. Now come, quickly–”
“–That’s what she–” K’tana tried to interject.
–We must make haste,” Trouty finished, unfazed by K’tana’s interruption.
K’tana made a mock pout then nodded solemnly before turning back towards the refugees. “Alright everyone! We’re getting out of here. Follow that Fish!”
Damon Nix politely raised a hand to request a moment to answer a call. Marick nodded easily, his hands remaining clasped casually behind his back as he stood up straight and studied the Lord Marshal’s face intently.
Nix pressed two finger to his ear, his eyes shifting sideways as if acknowledging the audio transmission going directly into his eardrum. He nodded once. Twice. Then his jaw tightened ever so slightly. The Lord Marshal was good, though and quickly smoothed it out.
“Something wrong, Lord Marshal?” Marick asked, his tone carefully pitched with polite concern.
“Just a minor incident,” Nix said with a forced smile. He lowered the hand from his earpiece and started to send a reply message over his wrist-communicator.
“Well, I don’t want to keep you from your appointment. Thank you for your time, Lord Marshal,” Marick’s words came out tight but crisp as he offered his gloved hand. His face remained a stoic mask, any hint of emotion locked away behind his iron will and perpetually calm demeanor.
Nix glanced away from his communicator and took the extended hand woodenly, and held his false-smile. As he went to retract it, he noticed the Combat Master’s wrist turn slightly, his sleeve shifting away just enough to reveal an archaic, roman numeral tattoo in black ink on the Hapan’s wrist.
Nix’s eyes darted away quickly and ran right into Marick’s. The Combat Master’s face was a perfect mask, but his eyes glistened with an icy, knowing clarity that made Nix want to reach out and strangle the life force out of him. The Lord Marshal had access to many things, but the Inquisitorius ranks were known only to the Grand Master himself. While Nix had his suspicions, the fact that the Arconae was willing to reveal that small detail to him set his calculating mind into speculation.
Curious. It mattered not in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps he could somehow spin this towards his favor. Nix flashed an easy smile until the two men parted without further word.
Once his back was turned from the Arconae, Nix’s smile evaporated into a stern scowl as his mind began to work furiously. Still, the Grand Master would not be pleased.
Not pleased at all.
-= End =-