[Tides of Change] Co-op Fiction - Team 16
Space above New Tython
Zakath was feeling impatient even as the battle raged on.
The Barabel was stuck on the bridge watching the progress of the space battle while he waited for the situation to change in which he could put his fearsome combat skills to good use. So far, however, nothing had occurred for him to take up his lightsaber. He let a long sigh whistle through his razor sharp teeth as he observed a holo-display of the space battle, tiny icons signifying various ships blasting each other with tiny pinpricks of laser bolts.
“Chief.” A cold female voice rang out from across the bridge.
Zakath looked up from the map to see Arcia Cortel, new Quaestor of Galeres striding across the bridge toward him. “Quaestor.” He acknowledged with a bow of his head in a gesture of respect.
“Get down to the hangar, we’re getting a ship ready for you to go to the surface.” Cortel ordered as she passed a datapad into Zakath’s hands. “I want you to assess the situation on the ground and report on the status of Odan Urr forces. Your landing zone is being programmed into the navigation computer as we speak.”
“As you command.” Zakath replied quietly, his eyes narrowing. “Is enemy forces landing?”
“Yes. We’ve detected troop transports slipping through our inner defenses.” Cortel replied, her cold eyes steadily meeting Zakath’s. “I want to know why. Find out.”
“Of course.” Zakath bowed slightly and spun on his heels toward the turbolift.
“Oh, one thing. We’re assigning a Protector to you. This will be one of her first field missions in Arcona’s service. See to it that she survives.”
Zakath paused for a second before replying. “…as you command.”
With that, the Barabel entered the turbolift and punched the hangar button.
Hopefully this Protector is at least combat-trained. The Barabel thought venomously to himself as the doors hissed shut.
Sumsol Salackta was preparing her weapons for her first mission as part of Arcona. The Mon Calamari female was fairly excited as she had been doing little more than training since her arrival. Before happening upon the Brotherhood, she had found work on a freighter as its chief of security. During her last flight on that ship, its navigational computer failed and left them stranded in the Dajorra System. The rest of the crew had panicked, leaving them as fairly easy targets. Only the intervention of a Mandalorian called Luna Okami had saved them from being destroyed by one of Arcona’s many capital ships.
Having gone her own way after the rest of her friends had chosen to fix their ship and leave, Sumsol gained a reputation for always wanting to even the score during her first trials at the Shadow Academy. This had earned her the nickname ‘Karma’.
Today was Sumsol’s first chance to develop away from Luna, who had become her Master. The Mandalorian had told her that she was to meet with another Arconan, who would arrive shortly with details of what her mission was. As she waited in the hangar, she felt herself growing annoyed at the lack of action. She began to reach out with the Force, already feeling its flow. All around her she could feel the presence of the various operatives in the hangar. One presence in particular seemed to be getting closer to her.
The turbolift doors opened, revealing a large Barabel. Sumsol had worked with Barabels before, but this one was different - he too could touch the Force.
“So are you the one who’s got the mission for me? Shall we hurry this up? We’ve waited long enough already.” Sumsol said rather rudely
Space above New Tython
Zakath fixed the insolent Mon Calamarian with a cold stare before striding past her without bothering to answer, climbing up the ramp into the passenger section of the shuttle. As he entered the cockpit, his claws already reaching to begin pressing buttons to trigger the ship’s activation sequence, Zakath could hear the annoyed sounds of the Protector as she followed behind him.
“Hey, do you have the details or-” She started to snap at him as she entered the cockpit, but before she could complete her sentence, Zakath’s heavy claws were tight around her throat and she was being lifted up into the air as if she was nothing.
“I will not say this again, Calamarian.” Zakath hissed out slowly as he stared up at the choking Protector, his eyes beginning to glow a dim violet light as he tightened his crushing grip on her throat. “I am a Sith Battlemaster in service to Arcona. Next to me, you are nothing. You may not have to like me, but you will address me with respect.”
With that, Zakath released his crushing grip and allowed the Protector to fall unceremoniously to the floor as he returned his attention to the shuttle controls. “And in answer to your question, yes, I have our mission. We are to assess the situation on the ground with the Odan-Urr forces and find out why the enemy is landing troops there. Further orders will come at that point.”
The Barabel let a thin smile touch his lips as the engines came online, the landing ramp now raising to seal itself as the pre-flight checklist ran itself down. Opening a channel with the docking officer, Zakath spoke quietly into the communicator. “Hangar control, this is Zakath, requesting permission to launch.”
“Permission granted.” The docking officer replied instantly, triggering the personnel on the ground to clear a flight path for the shuttle. “Good hunting.”
Zakath made a sound of acknowledgment and closed the channel, taking the controls of the shuttle and guiding it gently out of the hangar bay and into the deep dark of space. Almost instantly, a pair of Arconan X-wing starfighters appeared on both sides of the shuttle, with one trying to open a communication channel with it.
“Shuttle Black Hawk, this is Black Wind 3 and 4, we’ve been assigned as your escort to the surface. If you will follow the flight plan we’re transmitting, we’ll see you safely to the ground.”
“Understood. Lead the way.” Zakath replied as he shifted the shuttle onto the indicated flight path. Glancing at the co-pilot’s chair where Sumsol had settled herself into, he let a gruff chuckle escape him. “Nothing to say now?”
The Mon Calamari glared at her partner, still shocked at what he had done. The Protector was tough enough that the pain from the grip that Zakath held was largely gone, but her pride remained wounded.
“Do you always turn on those that are there to assist you? Still, perhaps I was a little snappy. I’m just wanting to get in on the action after all the theory of the Force that my master is teaching me,” she finally replied.
“Who is your master?” Zakath asked.
“Luna Okami. She certainly seems keen to turn me into a great warrior. Not that I wasn’t one already…” Sumsol trailed off, readying her blaster.
“Makes sense. Mandalorian master. Sure of yourself. No wonder you showed such disrepect,” Zakath replied.
Sumsol nodded in response, disliking the Barabel a little less. She watched as he flew the shuttle along the flight path, whilst keeping an eye on the co-pilot’s status monitors for any signs of a mechnical issue. She was pleased to see that the ship was functioning correctly. As they came into land, she operated the switch to move from sublight engines to the far less powerful repulsorlifts so that Zakath could land the ship far more easily.
The shuttle landed softly thanks to the Battlemaster’s skilful piloting. Sumsol leapt out of her seat and headed straight to the hatch, followed by her teammate who was a little surprised at the Protector’s zeal to get going.
“So why are we helping these Odan-Urr people? I heard somebody say that they’re light siders,” Sumsol asked suddenly.
Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force Staging Area
The Barabel joined Sumsol at the landing ramp just as it began to descend. As soon as it hit the ground, Zakath took the lead as the duo walked down the ramp and onto the ground of New Tython. Breathing in the fresh air, he let it whistle through his teeth before finally turning to answer Sumsol.
“We are aiding the Jeedai because our Consul has ordered it. No more, no less.” He replied at last, his face carefully blank. “I do not presume to know her motivations.”
“They’re Jedi?” Sumsol’s mouth dropped slightly. “We’re aiding the Jedi?”
“Yes.” The Barabel’s tail twitched in amusement as he turned to survey the bustling landing area, having landed in a major outpost for one of Odan-Urr’s military units, having transmitted the proper authorization codes just before landing. “Try to refrain yourself from killing them, as tempting as it may be. They are allies for the moment.”
“But they’re Jedi!” Sumsol insisted, her hand clutching at her blaster as she surveyed the area suspiciously.
“And no doubt you’ll have your chance to kill some of them one day.” Zakath replied calmly as he finally spotted what he was looking for and began to head in that direction. “But that day is not today. So restrain yourself. Take the opportunity to study them while we’re here. Any insight you can gather today can only help us on the battlefield in the future.”
The Calamarian fell silent as she trailed behind Zakath, her large eyes peering around at the bustling military personnel milling around the area, carrying supplies and setting up defensive positions. Zakath’s long strides eventually put him into reach of a nondescript human who have been waving them over.
“You are Zakath, our liaison with Clan Arcona?” The human asked, his eyebrows raised slightly at the sight of the hulking Barabel.
“Yes.” The Sith Battlemaster confirmed, one hand gesturing at Sumsol. “And this is Sumsol, who is aiding us on this matter.”
“Understood. I’m Agent Malkan, an operative of Shadow Company on temporary assignment with the militia forces here.” The man replied as he turned to open up his portable terminal. “Not my real name, of course.”
“Of course.” Zakath replied dryly. “I’ve been ordered to assess the situation on the ground, find out why the enemy is making landfall, and transmit that information back to Command.”
“Yes, I’ve been ordered to do the same thing, but for the moment the enemy has caught us flat-footed.” Malkan admitted as he began to tap furiously at the terminal. “We’ve determined that the O’reenians don’t have enough forces to sustain a full scale occupation for any length of time, so we’re thinking this is either a targeted raid, or a multi-prong attack with one primary objective, with the other prongs serving as a distraction to spread us thin.”
“And since this caught you Jedi by surprise, it’s going to take a while to send them packing?” Sumsol interjected, mockery evident in her tone.
“Yes.” Malkan gave her a sour look before returning his attention to Zakath. “We’ve tentatively identified the local O’reenian forces as one of their primary assault divisions, and our forces are mustering for a counter-attack to begin within the hour. We don’t have the forces currently to push them back, so this will serve primary as a distraction while you and your… friend here, along with a team of our operatives infiltrate their front lines, and take their division commander prisoner, at which point our forces will disengage and cover our retreat. Once we get him or her back to our own lines, we’ll be able to interrogate for further information, and then we can proceed from there while you relay the results of the interrogation back to your command post.”
“A sound plan.” Zakath approved as Malkan finally engaged the program he was tapping away at, causing a holoprojector to activate, showing a map of the terrain. “Show us our exact infiltration route.”
“Right, here’s the plan…” Malkan began as he zeroed in on a key piece of terrain.
Shadow Company Attack Launch Point
Odan-Urr - O’reenian Front Line
“Alright, the artillery is about to start firing.” Malkan said as he got off the communicator. “Let’s get moving team.”
Zakath smiled grimly to himself as he joined the team of heavily armed and equipped commandos in their forced march toward the O’reenian military positions. The Barabel could hardly remember the last time he had been engaged in a proper fight against military forces that had been properly trained. This was going to be… memorable.
“Are you prepared for this?” Zakath asked Sumsol as they moved at a crisp pace, just as the sounds of explosions and engine noises began to rock the landscape as the Odan-Urr militia forces began firing their artillery and military transports and infantry began moving toward the O’reenian positions.
“Oh yeah.” Sumsol grinned viciously at the Barabel, her hand gripping her blaster tightly. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
“Good.” Zakath returned the grin with a toothy smile of his own. “I’ve heard and seen much of the Mandolarian prowess in battle, so you should acquit yourself well today. Enjoy yourself.”
“Oh, definitely.” Sumsol almost purred
Zakath laughed as he unclipped his lightsaber.
O’reenian Divison Headquarters
Near Odan-Urr – O’reenian Front Line
“How’s it looking?” Zakath hissed to Malkan as they crouched, hidden behind a large outcropping of rocks, with the human agent scanning the O’reenian position with his marcobinoculars.
“Looks like our forces are making good headway, their headquarters are pretty thinned out of military personnel beyond security forces.” Malkan replied as he gave the area another scan. “Yeah, we’re good to go.”
“Excellent. Time to move then.” Zakath smiled as he ignited his lightsaber, allowing the crimson glow to fill the air.
“Yep. Men! Hit them hard and fast! I want that commander in our hands and us gone within 10 minutes!” Malkan bellowed as he gestured toward the identified outpost. “Now!”
With that, the Shadow Company operatives roared as they began to charge toward the O’reenian headquarters building, with Zakath and Sumsol leading the pack, Sumsol expertly picking off security personnel with her blaster while the Barabel Sith began deflecting the blaster bolts of the surprised security personnel.
With each kill, Sumsol grew more and more confident. She could feel her partner nearby, and wondered if her own ability was somehow being further enhanced by his. She had heard about such things being possible, but remained sceptical, even as her grasp of the Force increased.
After a few minutes of determined fighting, Zakath and Sumsol, along with a few of their allies, had secured the immediate area. Malkan had been wounded, but was already in the care of one of the field medics. He would survive, but would play no further part in the current mission. Zakath seemed unbothered about this.
“You’re an impressive fighter, Barabel. I’m actually feeling a little guilty over what I said before.” Sumsol said. The Mon Calamari glanced around the area to check for further enemies, and to find the way ahead. She eventually spotted an elevator. Zakath noticed it too.
“This way. Our target will be directing the battle from somewhere near the top.”
Sumsol smirked. Her thirst for blood had not yet been fully quenched, and she was not too thrilled with the idea that the mission was to capture the enemy leader. In her eyes, the only good enemy was a dead enemy. Captured enemies drew attention that they weren’t going to want.
The pair, escorted by what was left of the Shadow Company, entered the elevator. Zakath operated the controls so that they would exit on the top floor.
“Malkan said they’re pretty much on their last legs. Don’t expect an easy fight from their leader, though,” Zakath warned.
The elevator reached the top floor and the soldiers spilled out, flanking both sides of the doors to allow the Dark Jedi a clear path through to the center of the room.
To their surprise, the only occupant of the room was a wirey old man, who nontheless wore the uniform of a high ranking official.
Zakath and Sumsol walked boldly up to the O’reenian.
“You. You’re coming with us,” Sumsol demanded, pointing her blaster at the man’s chest.
The man chuckled at her. “Do you think I’m just going to go without a fight? I may be old, Miss, but I am NOT a pushover!”
With that, he threw a pair of smoke grenades, one at Zakath and Sumsol, the other at the Shadow Company’s men. Both began to billow thick, black smoke that soon filled everyone’s eyes, nose and lungs. Several of the soldiers began to cough and splutter, but Zakath and Sumsol quickly dove to the floor.
The sound of blaster fire came from the direction of the turbolift. Knowing she had one chance, Sumsol set her blaster to stun and fired blindly into the cloud of smoke. She heard an older male’s cry.
“Impressive. You use your instincts well, Protector.” Zakath declared. Sumsol had managed to pick the escaping enemy out. Before, she’d have called it luck.
Now, she called it the Force.
O’reenian Divison Headquarters
Near Odan-Urr – O’reenian Front Line
“Yes sir, I’ll relay the news. We’re bugging out as soon as we secure the package.” A Shadow Company operative chattered on the communication link back to the militia command post as Zakath and Sumsol supervised the securing of the high ranking officer, which another operative had tentatively identified as a Lieutenant General.
“What is it?” Zakath barked as he turned his attention to the operative, his hand tight on the lightsaber.
“The O’reenians figured out the gambit and have redeployed their forces to pinch off the salient leading to their headquarters. Our forces are preparing to withdraw according to the plan. Command has ordered a battalion to launch one last attack in our direction.” The agent replied calmly as he packed away the communicator into his belt. “We’re striking out in that direction to join them, then fall back together, at which point we deliver our package to the command post.”
“Alright.” Zakath agreed and turned to Sumsol. “It’s time to leave. Get ready to blast an exit corridor.”
“After you, Barabel.” Sumsol offered her equivalent of a smirk.
The Barabel inclined his head in a mocking gesture of respect and swept into the turbolift, followed swiftly by Sumsol and the Shadow Company operatives, along with their unconscious prisoner. Thumbing the button for the ground floor, it was only seconds before the group spilled out into the area, being held by more of Shadow Company’s operatives in a small defensive perimeter.
“We got the package?” A senior operative that was picked to run the defensive area spoke up as he turned his attention to the group, ignoring the rain of fire that was being poured onto the building by an besieging group of O’reenians.
“Yes. Time to strike out.” Zakath replied. “Where is Malkan?”
“Over there, he’s just about patched up and will be mobile in a couple minutes.” The senior operative gestured to the makeshift med area.
The Barabel reached the area in three long strides and looked down at the injured Malkan with a curious gaze. “We have the package- a lieutenant general, if your operative is to be believed.”
“Good.” The human agent grunted as he swung his legs out of the makeshift cot, one leg being held together in a tight splint. “Then we’re retreating. Command sending us that battalion?”
“Yes.” Zakath nodded slightly.
“Great. Then let’s get out of here.” Malkan hissed as he began to hobble toward the center of the room. “Alright men, time to bug out. Festuv, you got the grenades ready?”
“Yes, boss.” Festuv spoke up, reaching into the satchel at his side and pulling out several plasma grenades and passing them out to the men.
“Good. As soon as everyone is equipped, we’re going to break out.” Malkan replied as he glanced out of a blasterproof window at the enemy. “I want four operatives laying down covering fire along the whole north flank, while the guys with the grenades toss them in the center position. As soon as they explode, we bust out of here in that direction, with our Arconan friends leading the way. Any questions?”
“Can I have a couple of those grenades?” Sumsol asked, eyeing the grenades with a devious eye.
“Yeah, pass a couple to her, will you Festuv?” Malkan replied. “Anything else? No? Good. Let’s get out of here.”
Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force Command Post
The escape was executed to perfection, and soon the Arconans, along with what remained of the Shadow Company forces, linked up with the battalion tasked with aiding their escape and returned to the Odan-Urr side of the front lines. The Arconans, along with Malkan and the captured prisoner was soon at the division’s command post and were now discussing what to do with the prisoner.
“How long will your interrogation take?” Sumsol was asking Malkan while Zakath was on the line with the NSD Invictia, updating Arconan command.
“Not too long, I think.” Malkan replied as he tapped away at his terminal. “Our interrogators are experts at their jobs, and due to the severe nature of the situation, we’ve brought in our best.”
“Are you sure we can get this fast enough?” Sumsol replied with a frown. “We have… experts… of our own.”
“I just bet.” Malkan snorted as he gave a disgusted look at the Calamarian. “And I’ll be surprised if the General is in one piece at the end of your… interrogation.”
Before Sumsol could retort back, Zakath interrupted, striding up to the two. “Sumsol, we’ve been ordered back to the Invicta for another operation. Get ready to leave.”
After a cold look at Malkan, Sumsol nodded slowly. “As you say.”
Zakath offered a thin smirk at the Obelisk before turning his attention to Malkan. “I assume you have the interrogation in hand. You will relay the results of it back to the Invicta when it is complete?”
“Yeah, we’ll make sure you guys are in the loop. Least we can do for you guys pulling our chestnuts out of the fire.” Malkan replied, relaxing a little as the Calamari turned away to walk to the Arconan shuttle.
“Very good.” Zakath replied before turning to follow Sumsol, pausing for a second to look back at Malkan. “Regardless of how I feel about the Jeedai, you have… earned my respect, Malkan. Your men are well trained in their positions. My compliments.”
Malkan’s eyes widened at the praise before he inclined his head. “Well thank you, Zakath. You and your friend fight well too. Good luck out there.”
The Sith Battlemaster nodded gravely before walking away.
Shuttle Black Hawk
En route to NSD Invicta
In Orbit of New Tython
“Hangar Control, this is Shuttle Black Hawk, Zakath, identification code Gamma-Alpha-Six-White, requesting permission to land.” Zakath growled softly into the communication unit.
“Identification confirmed.” The reply was instantaneous. “Transmit your security codes and then we can open a flight path.”
“Done.” Zakath replied as he hit the transmit button.
“…you are authorized to land in hangar bay six. Transmitting flight path.” A brief pause before he resumed. “Quaestor Cortel requests to see you when you board.”
“Acknowledged.” Zakath said before shutting off the communicator and shifting the shuttle onto its flight path, a pair of Arconan X-wing fighters escorting it.
“Well, that wasn’t a bad fight after all.” Sumsol finally remarked, glancing over at the Sith Battlemaster. “Never thought you would be the type to get along fine with the Jedi though. You were pretty damn complacent with them.”
“Don’t mistake being cordial with being complacent.” Zakath offered a toothy smile as he felt the shudder as the Invicta’s tractor beam locked onto the shuttle. “When the time comes, I would be more than delighted to rip out the throat of every single Jeedai. One lesson you learn about being Sith, it pays to have the enemy underestimate you. It makes them all the more weaker when you finally confront them on the battlefield. Remember that.”
“Hmm.” Sumsol thought about it for a moment. “I’ll do that.”
“Good.” Zakath replied as he slid out of his chair, stretching cramped muscles. “You fought well on the surface, and I see great potential in you. Return to your master with my compliments. I will be watching your career with great interest.”
“Well… thanks.” Sumsol replied, her wide eyes growing slightly wider at the thought.
“When you get a lightsaber, do let me know.” Zakath offered her a serpent’s smile. “I would be… delighted to test your prowess with a blade.”
Zakath let out a low chuckle before he entered the passenger section, leaving Sumsol alone to stare at the retreating Barabel with apprehension.