Tunnels below Aliso City
The quiet of the caves was almost oppressive, but at the same time welcoming. Most of the fighting had moved away from this section of the tunnel system, focusing instead on the Pinnacle. From time to time the strike team could hear the echoes of combat happening elsewhere, but, aside from a few sentries, their progress had been relatively uneventful. The lion’s share of the Plagueian forces were concentrated on the assault on the spaceport, so the Geonosians had done the same with their own. And that suited Selika just fine.
“We’re close, my lord,” the captain leading the detachment of soldiers stated, viewing his wrist mounted display. “Another hundred or so meters down this tunnel.”
Selika nodded. Their chosen point of ingress into the large cavern that housed the queen would be from above. She could already feel the energy of the Geonosians though the Force, their queen dominating the center of the chamber. Alongside was a burning fire of rage that was her Wrath, chafing at his bonds.
As they reached their destination the soldiers began drive their pitons as anchors into the tunnel ceiling, attaching cables with which to make their descent. Selika and the assembled Sith that accompanied her stood in the center of the tunnel, backs to one another, and readied their lightsabers.
“Stick to the plan,” Selika instructed. “The queen is our goal.”
The others with her voiced acknowledgements, and then each of them ignited their lightsabers. Selika thumbed her own weapon on, and then drove it into the ground before her nearly to the hilt. Each of the others followed her lead, then began to carve their blades along the floor around them. Slicing out a circle that left them all standing within, each member of the strike team reached out with their telekinesis as their cut met that started by the person next to them. Now, all that was holding the circular stone plug aloft was their combined Force grasp. At Selika’s signal, they let the stone beneath them drop, slowing its fall as it reached the ground just enough to prevent injury.
The crash of the stone to the cavern floor below scattered the Geonosian soldiers, driving many of them to the ground. The Sith were down from atop the stone and amongst the Geonosians quickly, their blades slashing through the chitinous skin of the enemy. Selika unclipped a second lightsaber hilt from her belt as her eyes sought those of Abadeer Taasii from her raised position. Locking her gaze with that of her Wrath she threw the lightsaber toward him, guiding it just enough with her telekinetic grip to drop it into his hands. The red blade was alight in an instant and slashed through the chains that held him to the floor. The enraged Togruta trust his weapon first left then right, cutting down the two Geonosian guards that flanked him.
The whirring sound of unspooling line sounded from above as the elite soldiers descended into the battle, firing their blaster rifles as they descended. The red bolts contrasted with the green blasts of the Geonosian sonic weapons, painting the cavern walls with dancing lights.
Selika looked to the raised dais to the rear of the cavern that held the corpulent Geonosian Queen, seeing the insectoid ruler screeching at her warriors.
“Stop them! Stop the Jedi!”
Selika stepped down from her own position and began to move towards the queen.
“Hold the doors, captain,” she ordered her soldiers. “We don’t want to be overrun.”
“Yes, my lord,” his voice replied, the electronic amplification of his helmet making it audible over the sound of battle.
Selika moved slowly, but with purpose. Slicing her weapon through the enemy warriors, twisting minds to fire on their own compatriots, and projecting the searing fire of pain into their weak minds. Each step brought her nearer to her quarry, the queen’s shrieks becoming more and more panicked as the glowing violet weapon came ever closer.
Selika cut down the last of the Geonosian warriors that separated her from the queen and launched herself forward with a Force-aided leap to land atop the dais. The queen screamed.
“We will devour you, Jedi! You will slaughter no more of our children, your armies will burn!”
Selika readied her weapon for a slash through the alien’s torso, cutting her in half. Suddenly, as she sensed what was in the queen’s mind, she hesitated. Selika could feel what the queen knew, that even with her death the hive at her command would not falter. Their undirected rage would burn itself across the surface of Aliso, taking the Ascendant Clan with it. Beneath that, however, was fear. Not just the fear of her own demise, which of course was there, but below that was a deeper fear. The fear of the demise of her species. It was then that Selika realized what she had to do.
Moving her weapon, Selika held the blade mere inches from the bulbous egg sack of the last of the Geonosian queens.
“No, you will submit,” Selika commanded.
“Never!” she screeched back. “We may die, but our hive will destroy you! Our warriors will slaughter your kind, and you along with it. You will never leave here alive, Jedi!”
“And then your hive will die,” Selika continued, a dark smile painting her features. “You know that you are the last, that if you die so goes not only your hive, but your entire race.”
The queen’s eyes darted back and forth, searching for answers that remained out of reach. But, she said nothing.
“You will submit to my will, your highness,” Selika commanded. “Or I will finish the genocide the Empire began all those years ago.”
Selika moved her blade even closer to the queen’s skin, close enough that the flesh began to burn with the intense heat.
“You will call me queen,” Selika demanded sharply.
Selika could feel the resignation washing over the proud Geonosian as she realized what she must do.
“All right, Jedi,” the queen hissed, “you shall be Karina.”
Selika nodded, knowing the Geonosian title for the ruling queen. “Your forces will stand down.”
“Yes, Karina,” the queen replied, then launching into the clicking language of her species. Around them, the Geonosian warriors stopped their resistance, the Ascendant Legion soldiers doing the same while keeping their weapons trained on their adversaries.
“Captain,” Selika called, “Get a signal to General Benzayn. If he confirms that the fighting has stopped, tell him to send a detachment down to relieve us here.”
Several hours later
The Pinnacle Command Center
“I don’t like it,” General Benzayn said, slamming his open palm down on the surface of the table for emphasis. “First they’re trying to kill us, now they’re going to be our friends?”
“Come now, general. It’s not that simple, more they will be our somewhat unwilling subjects,” Selika explained. “Not all that different from how the Saraask’ar came to serve us, and they have been a dependable part of our Clan for some years now.”
“Well,” the general continued, “I’m still suspicious of this deal.”
“As you should be,” Abadeer interjected. “As are we all. That doesn’t mean it cannot work for us, however.”
Selika nodded to her assembled military commanders and the Plagueian summit. “Our main guarantee, and our ability to control them, hinges on getting them moved out from beneath the Pinnacle and Aliso City. Once out from under the infrastructure the Clan depends on, Admiral Ranin’s forces can reduce them to slag at the slightest hint of betrayal,” Selika said, gesturing to indicate the commander of the Ascendant Fleet.
“That is accurate,” the naval officer confirmed. “Even if they were to dig in, the main guns on the Ascendency alone would be up to the task. The main battery of the Imperial-class was designed to execute Base Delta Zero orders, after all.”
“Exactly,” Abadeer added. “And they know that we have a hammer hanging above them waiting to smash them into nothing.”
“Their society is also well suited to the sort of overruling queen that the Plagueian Dread Lord would represent,” Selika went on. “On Geonosis before the Clone Wars the queen of the dominant hive ruled over all others, assuming the title of Karina the Great. It seems that the queen of the Valneikian Hive has seen fit to place me in that position of dominance.”
“I can see the benefits to bringing the Geonosians under our control,” Arden relented. “It’s widely believed that they were the work force that built the Emperor’s first Death Star, and their droid foundries were second to none. Adding several million Geonosian workers would exponentially increase our industrial base.”
“Those were my thoughts as well,” Selika went on. “Their industrious nature would also add to our ability to maintain and repair our military machine. I’m sure that General Benzayn and Admiral Ranin would welcome that.”
The Devaronian general snorted. “That would be a benefit,” he seemed to acquiesce. “Right now, our logistics department is stretched to the breaking point. I can’t imagine that the fleet is any better.”
Admiral Ranin nodded in response.
“Good, then it is settled,” Selika concluded. “All that now remains is finding a place to put them.”
Three weeks later
Aliso’s Southern Continent
The view outside the glass nose of the patrol gunship revealed the cloud wrapped stone pillars of the coastal mountain range. The deep canyons on the leeward side of the mountain peaks were stark and dry, speaking to the rain shadow they occupied. The dry, arid climate was about as close to the surface of Geonosis that you could find on Aliso, and had been the focus of a survey mission that had started more than a week before.
Standing behind the pilot’s stations were a trio of Plagueians, all three having acquitted themselves well during the recent battle against their erstwhile enemies. Furios Morega stood behind the pilot with Azmodius Equesinfernum behind the copilot, the tall form of Ronovi Tavisaen standing between them with her head bowed to fit within the cockpit.
“There,” Ronovi signaled, pointing to an outcropping of rock about three quarters of the way up the rock face.
“Looks good,” Furios agreed. “Put us down there, pilot. Let’s see if our new subjects will find this place to their liking.”
Azmodius shook his head, a frustrated scowl framing his features. “It’s as if they’re incapable of being happy with anything,” he grumbled. “Six different possible locations scouted, six rejections.”
Ronovi shrugged her shoulders, as much as she could in the crowded confines of the cockpit. “Never know until we look,” she mused.
The three moved back into the main hold of the repulsorcraft to join the quartet of Geonosians that were flying with them. Three of them looked like the ubiquitous workers while the third had the facial features that marked him as one of the ruling class that served just below the hive queen. As the craft alighted on the flat stone, the Geonosian leader spoke in the clicking language of his species.
“The archduke says that this place may suit their needs,” the accompanying protocol droid translated in it’s prim tones.
“We’ll see if things are as to their liking once we get out,” Ronovi said, taking a pull from the flask that she carried with her. “It’s not like they’ve said the same thing at the last four stops.”
The droid turned to translate to the Geonosians, but Azmodius reached out and held his palm over the droid’s vocoder. “Maybe not,” he instructed.
The droid was still fretting as the Plagueians and Geonosians stepped out onto the rock, immediately being buffeted by the winds blowing through the peaks and canyons. The Geonosians spread out, poking at the rock face and surveying the surrounding area. The Plagueians stood and waited as they had before, Ronovi leaning against the gunship as the other two faced her.
“You’d think that since the Dread Lord had seen fit not to exterminate their species they’d be a bit more eager to show their appreciation,” Furios said sarcastically, cocking his head in the direction of Ronovi’s flask inquiringly.
Ronovi narrowed her eyes and scowled as she appeared to weigh answering yes or no, before finally yielding and handing the vessel to the Quaestor. “I’ve never met an engineer who didn’t get so wrapped up in his work that he wouldn’t’ forget to get out of the way of an avalanche, these insects are no different,” she scoffed.
“Maybe,” Azmodius replied. “But I’d rather not spend the rest of my life on survey duty out here with the creepy crawlers.”
“Ah, the reward for a job well done is getting the special assignments the Dread Lord won’t trust to anyone else,” Furios needled.
Before the conversation could continue, the discussion was interrupted by the excited chittering of the Geonosian survey crew. They were gathered around their leader, nearly jumping from foot to foot with excitement.
“Droid?” Furios spat.
“Oh, my lords,” the droid answered, seemingly distracted by the chatter from the Geonosians. “They are saying the stone here will be perfect for their applications. It seems we have finally located a new home for the Valneikian Hive.”
The droid was almost beaming, and the trio of Plagueians were all equally sure that it would have been smiling widely if it had been physically capable of doing so.
“Well,” Ronovi said while rolling her eyes, “I guess this calls for celebration.”
Her hand shot out and seized the flask back from Furios. The other two looked on with raised eyebrows while she proceeded to drain the contents in a few hearty gulps.
~ FIN ~