[Unsteady Ground Phase 2] Decapitation Strike - Battleteam Tavros

Character Sheet Snapshots:

Bale’s Characters

Bale: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/826/snapshots/2295/4171

Zentru’la’s Characters

Zentru’la: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/5951/snapshots/2258/4124

Masakado: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/78/snapshots/2030/4126

Lilina: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/254/snapshots/2259/4125

Rohla: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/483/snapshots/1940/3670

Aylin’s Characters

Aylin: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/14505/snapshots/2025/4155

Zehsaa: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/83/snapshots/2026/4157

Ankira: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/416/snapshots/2284/4156

Ala’ar’s Characters

Ala’ar: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/14234/snapshots/2303/4183

Jord: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/non_player_characters/434/snapshots/2304/4184

Post 1

All signs leading to the Blacksmith had pointed to this spot, this musty, run-down old garage laced with the stench of smoke, sweat and chemicals, littered with spare parts and broken mechanics.

A blazing hole through the barrel of his repeating cannon had rendered the General’s main weapon useless. Reduced to his pistol and stranded on a hostile world, Zentru’la’s hand hovered over the weapon as he slowly made his way inside. It was a better armament than Lilina Mirin: the Miraluka beside him was completely unarmed, although her electric purple hair was the brightest thing in the garage. This was precisely when he could have done with some support but his team were scattered and even his ship was unavailable, the Harbinger along with its pilot had been whisked away by the on-board AI for their own protection.

A flash of movement in the corner, a staccato movement of a shape indistinct through the smoke and darkness. Zentru’la snapped into action, raising his pistol and scanning the room. “Who’s there?”’ his booming voice called to the darkness.

It was a blaster, not a voice that answered his call, potshots from behind cover as flashes of red light lit up the garage, bathing the broken machinery in a scarlet hue. Lilina swatted the bolts away with a wave of her hand, blending flashes of cyan among the red. “We come in peace,” the mystic said serenely.

A hulking Zabrak as big as Zentru’la himself leapt from cover, his pistol still raised. “Stay back, Mirin,” Zentru’la guided Lilina behind him with a powerful arm before he recognised the beast. “Bale? You’re alive! What in the blazes happened to your leg?”

“Your blasted Empress can’t let me retire in peace?” Bale spat with venom. The Zabrak roared a ferocious battlecry that shook the garage walls and charged at his former ally, firing as he went.

Zentru’la just had enough time to sidestep Bale’s charge as the blaster bolts crashed off his energy shield, raising his fists. Jab, cross, hook from the General. A slip, bob and weave from the Blacksmith. Bale darted under the twi’lek’s punching combination, attempting to wrestle him to the floor, but the mechanical leg lagged behind. Zentru’la dropped his weight into a powerful put some distance between himself and Bale.

“Calm down Bale!” Zentru’la growled. “Elincia is dead!”

“What?”

in Bale’s moment of pause, Zentru’la took his arm with both hands, breaking his structure and sending him to the floor. “I said Elincia is dead.’’

Bale swiftly got back to his feet and picked up his blaster. “What happened? She was hard to kill. I didn’t like the witch but I respected that about her.”

“Long story.” As much as Zentru’la respected Bale, this wasn’t the time to go into the story of how and why he killed his daughter.

“So if you’re not here to kill me…”

“I’m here to get this fixed,” Zentru’la pointed to his broken cannon. “How was I supposed to know you were the Blacksmith? But I could use you on my team. No clan. No leaders. We pick our own battles and do things our own way. I could use someone like you. Like old times.”

Bale grinned for the first time. “That makes two of us. But looks like I’m a step ahead of you.” Zentru’la’s eyes panned the room.

Zehsaa Hysh had found Bale first, a legendary sniper that Zentru’la had the honour of serving with numerous times. “Like you said,” Zehsaa said, stepping up beside Bale. “Like old times. Good to see you again, General. Guess this saves on the awkward introductions.”

“Hey Zen!” A young Nautolan came in grinning ear to ear. It was impossible for Zentru’la to look at Aylin without remembering the time she encased him in battle droid armour and smuggled him into Collective territory as ‘Z3N’.

“I’m assuming your team is more than… err… an unarmed magic blind woman,” Bale teased.

“Lilina,” said Lilina.

“Whatever. You guys should join up with us. Help me take the Sentinel Station, and I’ll mend that for free,” he pointed at Zentru’la’s cannon.

Zentru’la tapped his commlink. “Change of plan, Rohla. We’re not fighting Taldryan anymore, we’re taking a medical station for them. Bring the Harbinger back to Chyron and join up with the Marauder attacking Sentinel Station.”

“So Zen, where’s Swords?” Aylin asked.

“I’m here,” said a rasping voice from the shadows on the borderline between synthetic and organic, a body almost entirely cybernetic other than his canine face, covered in short grey fur and framed by a thick mane of black hair. Masakado’s footsteps were silent as the cyborg infiltrator approached the group from within the garage, ignoring Bale’s snide comment to Zentru’la about having found a lap dog. “General, you were being followed."

Zentru’la turned on the spot towards the entrance, raising his blaster as Bale did the same beside him. A suit of pitch black armour quietly entered the garage, blasters in each hand pointed downward but at the ready, his armour and T-shaped visor of his helmet marking him as a Mandalorian. “Easy now, just had this armour repainted,” the Mandalorian’s voice crackled through his helmet’s speakers.

2 days later, on the Marauder.

Bale stood straight, hands clasped behind his back, looking as commanding as he could manage, which, by his reckoning, meant intimidating. The truth was that he never fancied himself a leader. People had fought by his side in countless battles, but never for him. That much was a fact of life. They followed Bale Andros because they stood to gain from doing so. He wasn’t an inspiring figure. He wasn’t a resounding tactician. He had a talent for murder and mayhem. Nothing more. Blast it, he never aspired to all that much in life. Some credits in his pockets, a stiff drink in his hand, and above all else, the well-being of his daughter. Somehow, these simple desires had landed him on the command bridge of a Marauder-class corvette, leading his strike force into battle against the Collective. He could only hope that every single one of these fools following into battle, from the pilot Rohla to their youngest recruit Jord, had something to live for.

That was the only way they were going to make it out of there alive.

Zentru’la stepped up next to him, the weight of his boots thumping against the durasteel platting. They exchanged a glance, Zabrak and Twi’lek, and with a single nod they were in sync. Bale’s eyes wandered from the Twi’lek to the Nautolan and her Togruta companion. Aylin waved, Zehsaa offered him a grin. The two Mandalorians, Ala’ar and Ankira, were for their part far more somber and stoic, limiting their acknowledgement to a stiff nod of their helmets.

They did make for a good looking bunch, allies old and new, come together to tear the Collective a new one. The sight of this group was enough to bolster Bale’s spirits. He might not be much of a leader, but he knew a killer crew when he saw one. He shot a sideways glance towards the Twi’lek. Bale had great respect for Zentru’la. How could he not? A veteran in his own right, the two of them had fought many a battle side by side through blood and grime. There were few others in the so-called Brotherhood that the Zabrak considered a friend but old Zen was one of them. More than that, he had come to regard him as a brother in arms. Yet, ever since their reunion back at the garage, Bale had a strange feeling like cold sweat creeping down his spine whenever he looked at the former Palatinaen general. His appearance back on Chyron, his eagerness to join up with him, not to mention the circus freaks he was travelling with, it all seemed too good to be true.

He felt the dead Empress’ hand in all of this.

Say what you will about Bale Andros, say he was careful. He’d keep an eye on them, lest he find a blaster cannon pointed at the back of his head.

“Coming up on Sentinel Station,” the navigator announced over the din of the command bridge.

Their arrival imminent, Bale gave a single nod punctuated by a grunt and everyone moved at once. Aylin and Zehsaa left with the Mandalorians in tow, heading for the landing bay. They would be joining Zentru’la’s squad aboard the Twi’lek’s ship, the Harbinger. Between the lot of them, they had all the skills required to safely infiltrate and capture the station. It was the first time Bale would not be participating in a ground assault, but he reckoned that with his shoddy cybernetic leg he’d only slow them down.

“The ship is yours, General,” Bale told Zentru’la. He shot a glance over his shoulder as he turned to leave, giving the grizzled veteran his trademark grin, “Give them hell.”

Bale left the deck as the ship dropped out of hyperspace. Sirens rang across the Marauder, urging all personnel to battlestations. The Zabrak’s heavy footsteps took him across the ship to the landing bay where the Nomad waited for him. He rapped his fingers on his wrist-mounted terminal and an access ramp at the back of the bulky ship hissed open. Stepping onto the Aggressor-class starfighter, Bale swept his helmet up from a rack and threw it over his horned head as he promptly made his way for the cockpit. He was punching commands into the Nomad’s console, flicking switches and levers before he was even sitting down.

If there was one thing Bale hated, it was the sheer anticipation, and he’d been longing for some good old fashioned mayhem for some time. To call him eager would have done a disservice to the urge he felt.

From his cockpit, he looked over the Harbinger across the bay. The ship had reached them in the nick of time. Apparently, the onboard A.I. had whisked the ship and it’s pilot away, leaving Zentru’la stranded on Chyron, leading to their reunion. It was an unlikely story, but then it seemed too crazy not to be true. It had been a point of contention when Bale requested that Rohla, the Harbinger’s usual took over flying the Marauder, but after a heated argument, Zentru’la had conceded that Bale was right. It was a sound tactic to have their best pilot handling the war ship. Aylin and her companions were now boarding the Harbinger, shepherded inside by the canine assassin, Masakado. The grizzly assassin looked over his shoulder as Bale’s eyes fell on him. The Zabrak could have sworn the Shistevallen was meeting his gaze from across the landing bay. He took a deep breath. He reckoned he couldn’t trust Zentru’la’s lap dog any more than he could the Twi’lek himself, and the more he thought about it, the more the sudden flood of Palatinaen effectives in his orbit made him jittery. When the hammer came down, he didn’t rightly know who would have his back. Zehsaa? Aylin? Maybe. They too worked for the Palatinaen empire and he hadn’t exactly welcomed them with open arms.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Bale muttered to himself.

Everyone was boarded. The landing bay’s blast shield went down. Here goes nothing! The Nomad punched out of the hangar at breakneck speed, placing him at the forefront of a squadron of Z95 starfighters. Not the prettiest flights by any stretch, but he had a mind to show the Collective it could be the deadliest one yet.

Give them hell.

Masakado had shuffled the group into Zentru’la’s ship, an Upsilon-class Command Shuttle, The Harbinger. Ala’ar followed with his t-visor under his arm, his blue eyes narrowing in surprise as he recognized the ship as Empress Rei’s personal shuttle – well now deceased empress he reminded himself. He took a few moments to appreciate the vessel before he was ushered inside.

Upsilon classes had great maneuverability and speed, powerful armor and top-of-the-line shielding. Ala’ar wondered if the rumours about this particular vessel boasting extensive stealth technology that could render it nearly invisible to all but the naked eye were true. It was probably thanks to a combination of the specialized black coating on the hull and special electronics that could make it incredibly hard to detect with starship sensors, so it wasn’t exactly invisible, but with the dark of space, he could see how most people would probably miss the ship, especially if it also managed to evade sensors…

From behind him, the Shistavanen gave a low growl, bringing Ala’ar out of his reverie. “If you don’t get to the controls soon, the ship might just start to pilot itself,” it added tersely when it finally had the Mandalorian’s attention.

Ala’ar raised an eyebrow in surprise, thinking that he was exaggerating. “So there are some things you’re not good at…!”

The Mando’s grin widened when the Shistavanen gave him a condescending look with his piercing hazel eyes. It clenched its cybernetic lower jaw, and grumbled: “Just stick to piloting, and get us into position, without blowing our cover.”

“I’m just surprised the General is letting me pilot it,” Ala’ar said, slightly bewildered. He turned towards Ankira, the other Mando in the group. Unlike Ala’ar, she had kept her helmet on.

A Mando could never be entirely sure who was hiding beneath another Mando’s helmet. From experience, not everyone that wore the mando armour espoused the Mando’ade as their creed, most people believing – wrongly – that what made you a Mandalorian was the armour and the bounty hunting. What most didn’t realize was that Mando culture wasn’t about the armour you wore, what race you were a part of, or what jobs you took; what mattered was how you lived as a true son or daughter of Mandalore, regardless of where you came from. In fact, most people didn’t realize just how deeply the dream of having a family ran in most of them. In Ala’ar’s case, he wasn’t quite ready to be a clan-father, or even have his own household, but whenever he met another Mando woman, he couldn’t help but look at them and wonder if they were only capitalizing on the Mando reputation, or if they were in it for the long term, espousing the Mando’ade as a true Mando.

“Jatnese be te jatnese, for us it looks like, eh ner vod?” Ala’ar’s blue eyes watched Ankira as she gave the ship a good long look, her helmet swiveling from left to right.

He still didn’t know what she looked like, and he was curious to find out just how deeply she had espoused their culture, if at all.

“The best of the best. Elek, gar serim,” she finally nodded approvingly.

Ala’ar’s eyebrow shot up, surprised that she had gone as far as to learn the language. Perhaps there was more to her claim to that armour than just trying to look tough! He grinned.

“In that case, I’d be honoured if you’d assist me with the piloting,” he said waving towards the co-pilot’s chair.

She considered him, amused by the offer. “K’atini, fly boy,” she said as she elbowed him in the gutt. “There’s work to be done.”

Ala’ar’s grin widened in approval, his appreciation of her deepening - tough cookie that one.

Soon the shuttle exited the hangar and banked towards the space station, two Mandos at the helm and a rather eager boarding party getting ready behind them. Things were about to get real, and soon!

The Z95 starfighter formation dove into battle with gusto, Bale leading from the front onboard the Nomad. Green turbolaser bolts shrieked past them as the squadron cut a swathe through space, swerving as one along the pointed flank of a Raider-class corvette, pelting its shields with firepower of their own. Two Raiders formed a blockage between the Marauder and their target, Sentinel Station, a solid defense replete with two Collective starfighter squadrons. Facing them was a tall order. Even with Zentru’la’s fire support from the Marauder, they were outclassed and outmatched like a swarm of bogflies on a Happabore’s backside, and in any other situation it would have been pure folly to rush in cannons blazing the way Bale and his team had done. The Zabrak reckoned it might have been a mistake even in this situation.

Bale dug his feet in and clamped his massive hands down around the controls so tightly his knuckles turned white, banking the Nomad away from the Raider’s hull into the path of Collective fighters causing them to break formation as they scattered to avoid him. His thumbs crunched down on the twin joysticks and the Aggressor-class fighter belched a stream of red plasma at the oncoming defenders. The Z95s took Bale’s lead and followed suit. The two squadrons clashed violently, a sudden cloud of chaos and explosions swallowing them whole. Enemy fire pummeled the Nomad’s armored hull, leaving carbonized scorch marks against its dark paint job. Hissing, Bale swung the ship left and right to evade further attacks. He broke free of the swarm hooting and whooping, then brought the ship around in a tight, screaming arc, right behind enemy stragglers. A vicious grin drew cross his lips. He punched the thrusters into overdrive, then stabbed his thumbs down. The Nomad spat fire once again, this time ripping through reactors and s-foils until his quarry came apart in a flash of light. The Nomad cut right through the explosion, swatting debris aside, Bale already focused on the next enemy. Again, his thumbs came down. One bolt caught his prey’s rear thrusters. The enemy ship shuddered, careening out of control. Gaining speed, the Zabrak swung away then back in, his Aggressor’s armored s-foils ramming the spinning enemy out of its trajectory, sending it rocketing into an ally. Both Collective fighters went up in a spectacular explosion. The Nomad bucked violently, thrashing Bale around in his seat. Turbolaser exploded against the hull, once, twice, three times, ripping a violent string of curses from the Zabrak’s curled-back lips.

A few more hits and Bale reckoned he’d be done for.

They were coming up on the first Raider again.

“Hit ‘em hard, lads. They need to think we mean business!” Bale spat in the comms.

“Copy, Blacksmith!” confirmed the Squadron’s leader, a Duros named Baldur, using Bale’s callsign.

“Remember, you need to outlast them. That is your primary goal,” Zentru’la’s deep voice advised through the comm.

“Won’t do much if we don’t give ‘em a reason to take us seriously, Hammerhead.” Bale snarled, spitting the Twi’lek’s callsign as if it was an insult.

Firepower exploded around the cockpit window, drowning out the veteran’s response.

Phfassk!” Bale cursed as he took the Nomad screeching upside down along the Raider’s underbelly, keeping as close to the hull as he could manage without tearing his own ship apart. He broke free from under the enemy corvette, came out the other side swirling. The distant sun gleamed on the hull of the second Raider, nearly blinding him. Suddenly, the Zabrak felt dreadfully vulnerable flying between those two giants, enemy fighters hard on his tail.

He swallowed hard.

“I got you!” Baldur’s voice crackled in Bale’s ears a split second before the Collective fighters trailing him turned into fireballs.

“Whew! I owe you one! Blast me but that was close!”

The truth was, Bale wasn’t sure how long they could last out here. He could only hope Zentru’la would manage to draw some of the heat from aboard the Marauder. The Harbinger and the boarding crew had to slip through unnoticed otherwise their mission was over before it began.

The blackness of space had erupted into life as the battle escalated. Formations broke down as dogfights began to emerge between the Marauder and the Raiders. The tiny speck that was the Harbinger vanished from sight as the matte black shuttle masked itself against the backdrop.

“Open fire!” Zentru’la roared across the bridge. The Marauder swayed under the recoil of its own fire as its turbolaser cannons began to converge on the Raider’s guns. Rohla brought the ship into a dive as the Raiders returned fire, taking their guns off the fighter battles below.

Zentru’la barely moved as the Marauder was shaken by a heavy volley of missiles and lasers. Rohla swore aggressively from the pilot seat as her drink spilled over her lap. Still cursing, she downed what remained of her liqueur. “We’re sitting ducks over here!” she yelled in a slur. “Everyone hold on to something!” The Marauder rolled into a severe banked turn away from the fire of the Raiders.

Rohla’s inebriated, jittery piloting sent many of the crew stumbling about the bridge as she guided the corvette underneath the belly of one of the raiders, outside of the firing arc of its laser cannons. The Marauder launched another series of attacks as it rolled underneath the target.

Pursued by bursts of fire from the other Raider, Rohla slammed on the thrusters, bringing the Marauder up to the opposite side of the target, using one Raider as cover from the other and recommencing the attack.

Zentru’la heard a bleep in his earpiece, followed by a hollow, half-mechanical voice. “We’re coming up on the station, General,” Masakado growled into his commlink.

As the Harbinger was on its way towards the station, Aylin was busy going over the blueprints they found of the station so they knew where they wanted to go.

It had been a while since she was part of a larger team. Some of them she already knew like Zehsaa and Zentru’la and his little team, but others she didn’t know as well.
She had called in the help of Ankira before for a different mission, which she couldn’t solve herself and knew she was quite effective in it. To her surprise Ankira agreed to join their team again and work together with the others. All she knew she was Ankira was a bit blaster crazy and a good fighter, probably because of her Mandalorian background. She had seen Ankira talk a bit to the other Mandalorian on the ship and listened in wonder to the Mando’a being spoken between the two of them.

Glancing over to Zehsaa from her datapad she saw that she had changed quite a bit, her happy highs weren’t that high anymore ever since she was told that Bale was dead, only to find out he suddenly wasn’t so dead as she believed. Their reunion didn’t go as well as she might have hoped. Bale didn’t trust her as he used to, and Aylin knew Zehsaa well enough to know this realization had cut her deep.

Sighing softly, Aylin hoped that it did get better between them, because she wanted to see her friend happy again.

A signal went off and all got ready to prepare their boarding action to get into the ship. As soon as the ship touched down, the hatch hissed open. Quickly they poured out of the Harbinger, Masakado and Zehsaa taking point, both working well together to take out the first defenses getting into the landing bay. Ankira and Aylin followed quickly after them and last came Ala’ar.

Taking the rear, Ala’ar turned his back on the infiltration team as they made their way to the door controls. Last thing they needed was someone sneaking up behind them as they infiltrated the station, so he scrutinized the bay, its dead, the Harbinger, the crates; his helmet’s HUD interface helping him look for any tell-tale signs of trouble.

Noticing some movement at the rear of the bay, his pistols suddenly rang out, making Ankira duck and turn around in time to see one of the station’s security personnel with more wiles than his comrades trying to get a bead on Aylin as she worked on the bay doors. In the blink of an eye, another shot rang out, and a slug hit the man in the chest, downing him, but not before a bolt fired from his blaster and hit the bulkhead a meter above Aylin’s head. The close proximity of the blast, coupled with the flying debris had the Nautolan cursing in her native tongue, but she kept slicing away at the doors’ controls. As if on cue, the blast doors hissed open, Zeshaa and Masakado who were both at the ready and alert on either side of the doors, scrambled through when it was evident that the corridor beyond was clear. Satisfied that Ala’ar had everything under control, Ankira waited for Aylin to slide through, taking it upon herself to protect their slicer while Ala’ar took care of their backs.

The team’s progress into the station, was quick. Aylin’s blueprints, saving them precious time, but as they say: even the best laid plans…

From his position, Ala’ar heard the others walking into some resistance from one of the cross corridors. Trusting the others to hold their own, Ala’ar kept a careful watch on the corridor behind them as Zeshaa adeptly crossed the other corridor’s entrance, gaining cover on the far side just as blaster fire erupted from the far end, hitting the bulkhead where the Togruta had been seconds before. Aylin, instinctively kept her back against the wall as Zehsaa and Ankira fired a volley of blaster fire from their respective flanking positions.

“I count six of them!” Masakado shouted, “two hundred meters down. We’ve got them pinned…”

Ankira reached for a concussion grenade from her hip, crouching up towards Masakado, then tossed the grenade down the hall. Screams of surprise went through the station’s security personnel as they dove for cover. The slower ones were hit by the grenade’s shock wave, sending them reeling.

Taking advantage of the chaos, Zehsaa and Masakado rushed into the adjoining corridor, weapons raised. Blaster bolts rained on anything that moved, while Masakado’s blades left a trail of blood on the white bulkheads around them.

The rest of the team rushed into positions behind the two as Zehsaa’s blaster fire died down. From behind them, Ala’ar’s pistols started firing, sending slugs down the corridor as the station’s security started to converge on their positions. “Guys, we’ve got company!”

Ankira glanced behind her and quickly took action to cover their rear together with Ala’ar. Together with him, she was able to at least slow their advance on them, taking a few out in the progress.

“Close the blastdoors! We are quickly getting more targets down here,” Ankira yelled above the cacophony of shots.

“Working on it!” came a hurried reply as Aylin pulled more wires from a console and plugged them into her datapad. After a few grunts and curses she sealed down the bulkhead behind them and pulled her datapad free. “Let’s go!”

The team moved further down the corridors, down the path Aylin learned from the blueprints. Along the way they came up with more coordinated resistance, but the teamwork of Zehsaa with Masakado made quick work of them, while Ankira and Ala’ar kept the rear in check.

“Around this corner we should be able to get to the command center of the station,” Aylin told the team.

Masakado just rounded the corner as a loud hiss could be heard. Zehsaa who was mere steps behind him, grabbed him through the Force and pulled him out of the line of the fired rocket. Stumbling back a bit, he acknowledged her save with a simple nod and took place at the corner.

“They have put up a serious barricade there,’ Masakado told the others.

“Even those can be broken,” Aylin said as she took her DC-17m from her back. “Plus it’s a chance to try this one out,” she said with a grin.

“You can’t be serious,” Zehsaa said, “If you step around that corner they will fire everything they have at you.”

“That’s why I’m counting on your tricks,” she said as she readied the rifle and looking hopefully at Zehsaa.

Frowning at her for a moment she finally nodded, “You only got one chance to do so,” turning to the others, “You guys get ready.”

The others nodded in agreement and Aylin moved forward, with Zehsaa close behind her. As soon as they got out of cover they opened fire at them, sending another rocket their way. Going into full focus, Zehsaa pulled up a barrier created through the Force. Aylin gulped, but quickly got into action and fired a grenade their way.

The rocket fired at them exploded against the barrier, shattering it and sending Zehsaa and Aylin sliding back over the floor. Aylin’s grenade exploded on impact at the other side of the corridor.

“Status report,” a sharp, strong voice sounded in Masakado’s earpiece. His status was frustrated. This was not his fight; he was the sword in the darkness, not a blunt object to batter defences with. If I have to fight guards, I’ve already made a mistake, Masakado had once told the General… and yet this team had done nothing else since boarding the station. Zentru’la was lucky he had Lilina working for him, the cleric was the only thing securing his services.

“We’ve thinned their numbers, General,” the cyborg growled as Zehsaa and Aylin got back to their feet, unleashing a barrage of blaster fire and grenades at the enemy.

“Acknowledged,” the General replied. “New objective, the council president is on board, hiding in the commander’s quarters. Take them out.”

“The council?”

“I don’t know either, just kill everyone there to be sure. Let the rest of the team deal with the security force.”

The lone wolf disappeared into the comforting shadows in the midst of the skirmish. Alarms rang across the station, enemy communications buzzed with the location of the Taldryan boarders, enemy troops scrambled to converge on their location. Panicked prey always left blind spots. It was the perfect distraction.

He moved swiftly and silently towards the commander’s quarters, the actions of the enemy a barometer for the success of the main team. Moving alone, Masakado had developed a sixth sense for knowing exactly where the guards would be, and where they would not.

Security became lighter and lighter the further he distanced himself from the team. With all hands on deck called to repel invaders, only a single, lightly armoured guard stood outside. One repulsor dart to the neck was all it took. The man flinched, swayed on his feet as the toxins coursed through his veins, and by the time he realised what was happening, his consciousness succumbed. Masakado was already behind him, catching the man before he fell, and lowering him to the floor slowly and silently. Masakado placed him in a natural, comfortable position and pulled the dart out of his neck before searching for the security pass for the door he was guarding.

Clearly, the commander’s quarters had been used to hide the non-combat personnel. The politicians, the office workers, those with no fight or courage within them that cowered at the sight of the cyborg Shistavenan assassin. Masakado didn’t know which one of them the council president was, but that didn’t matter to him - only that they were among the fatalities. He drew his sword…


Masakado stepped over the guard that still slept outside the quarters. “Target eliminated.”

“Excellent work,” Zentru’la responded. “The main team have beaten the security forces into submission. The station is ours…” Zentru’la’s voice trailed off. “Hold on…”

The station shook under a sudden thunderous blast. “Enemy reinforcements just dropped out of hyperspace!” Zentru’la bellowed down his commlink to the whole team. “They’re targeting the station. Everyone get to the Harbinger ASAP!”

“Ground units are to secure and hold the Station,” Bale announced flatly over the comm, overriding Zentru’la’s command.

“What? The reinforcements are targeting the station! They’ll be killed!” Zentru’la’s voice held a fire Bale had never heard before. He knew he’d struck a chord with the Twi’lek.

“Our orders were to kill the Director and secure the station. This changes nothing!”

“To hell with you, Andros! They’ll get killed! Masakado, get to the Harbinger, now,” Zentru’la’s voice was sharp and authoritative, the voice of a career General.

“We’re gonna do this, huh? Blast it, old man! They signed on willingly and so did you! Ground team, hold position, secure the station. There are civilians on that thing. We’ll keep these chubas off your back! We can’t let them destroy the station.”

This was it. The moment Zentru’la would turn on him. Bale knew it. Any moment now, the Marauder would fire a shot and end him. He knew he’d made a mistake bringing the Twi’lek along, emboldened as he was with his new crew and his new found freedom. If Masakado broke rank now and got on the Harbinger, the Zabrak reckoned Zentru’la would retreat with the Marauder leave them stranded. What a mess, Bale bemoaned as he punched the Nomad into overdrive, angling the ship to get a good view of the reinforcements.

A massive cruiser, the kind armed to the teeth with firepower, had dropped out of hyperspace with his two additional corvettes in tow. The fact was that they stood no chance and Bale didn’t rightly know why he’d ordered his people to stay behind. For the sake of a few unlucky civilians? For pride? All his senses begged for a swift retreat.

What ensued only punctuated that sentiment.

Bale broke away from the first Raiders, the ones that had been defending the station, and plunged through space towards the cruiser with the Z95 squadron—at least what remained of it—behind him. That was his first mistake. The enemy quickly picked up on their intentions and, despite their dwindling numbers, they were presented with a perfect opportunity. Their rear exposed, the Z95s were sitting mynocks and the Collective wasted no time. The Collective tore through Bale’s squadron with deadly precision.

“You blasted fool, Andros!” Zentru’la’s voice barked as the Marauder opened fire, trying as best as he could to get the enemy starfighters away from the Z95s. “If we get through this, you and I are going to have a chat!”

“Copy that, Hammerhead. Looking forward to it,” Bale growled. He had no illusions about it. They weren’t having that chat. He had miscalculated their chances in a moment of unfounded bravado and they were all going to pay for his foolishness. He knew it. Zentru’la knew it. They all knew it. For a moment, Bale considered changing trajectory and jumping to lightspeed. The thought filled him with shame. Say one thing about Bale Andros, say that he’s no coward.

The remaining Z95s rushed the cruiser with reckless abandon, the Nomad at the vanguard. They came up on the massive ship, hammering it with all they had. Turbolasers, torpedos. It did nothing. The Marauder wasn’t far behind, drawing fire from all enemy corvettes.

“I don’t get it! Why would they blow up the station?” wondered the Duros squadron leader. “It makes no sense!”

“Heh. If they can’t have it, neither can we,” Bale hissed.

Shiess,” the Duros cursed. Bale saw from the corner of his eyes two pointed shapes appear behind the leader’s Z95.

Blackjack, pull up!” Bale blurted.

“N—” Blackjack disappeared in a fireball.

“No! No! No! Pfassk!” Bale roared, the blood draining from his face. It was over. He spoke into the comm, stuttering, his voice as defeated as he felt, “Ground team… get off the station. Save yourselves.”

A sudden, and all too familiar voice cut through the comm, overriding all their communications, “You will do no such thing! Ground team remain in position. We’re here now!”

A massive explosion tore through one of the corvettes escorting the cruiser. Another explosion rocked the side of the larger ship, then another, and another.

“Chancellor?” Bale squealed as he twisted his seat to see where the attacks had come from. He saw them, two dreadnaughts, a shining beacon against the black of space. He immediately recognized Chancellor Ceyra Ky’Lian’s insignia, but he couldn’t believe his eyes. What was she doing here? Last they had spoken, she had been clear: she could not be seen cooperating with Clan Taldryan or Bale.

Yet, here she was.

The dreadnaughts unleashed hell on the Collective forces. Everything that followed seemed like a blur, Bale’s instincts taking over his consciousness. He saw explosions, he remembered swerving this way and they, the Nomad firing at and obliterating Collective fighters.

Suddenly, everything seemed quiet.

“It’s over, Blacksmith,” Zentrula’s voice tore Bale out of his stupor.

The two corvettes were gone. The cruiser was battling in retreat, then jumped to hyperspace, disappearing in a flash.

Before his brain had fully processed everything that went down, the Chancellor’s youthful face and dark eyes appeared over his holoprojector. She offered him the wicked smile he had come to appreciate. “Looks like we’re even,” she said, the tone warm and playful.

Bale realized he’d been holding his breath. He let out a long, deep sigh and sank back in his seat, his hands still shaking over the controls. “Why? How?” was all he managed to get through the panting.

“You saved my life. It only seemed fair that I returned the favor,” she explained. Bale recalled the attempt on her life only a few months before. He’d been assigned to protect her, and nearly failed there too. An assassin had snuck aboard their vessel and killed her decoy. She had survived through her own guile, though he had thrown himself over her to protect her when their ship was shot down. Why she deemed him worthy of her aid was beyond him.

“But you said you could not fly alongside Clan Taldryan,” he asked, still confused.

“I’d say it’s about time I picked a side, wouldn’t you? You and yours have proven yourselves to be stalwart allies coming out here and taking on the Director.”

“And we’d be star dust if you hadn’t come along,” Bale sighed.

“You can thank your Lady Erinyes for that, though… she sounded drunk. Was she drunk?” The sudden drop in decorum on the Chancellor’s part had Bale roaring in laughter.

“It’s quite possible,” he admitted.

The battle in space had escalated at the speed of light, and died out equally fast with the arrival of the Chancellor’s fleet. The team on board the station were glad it was over but many of them were still unsettled by the way things had transpired. Zentru’la and Bale arguing over the comms, the Zabrak’s willingness to risk their lives. Aylin couldn’t believe he would do such a thing, even if they had been through tough times already. She shook her head slowly, it was probably the heat of the battle that made him say such things. The station was secured, the director was dead according to Masakado, and that was what mattered. It had been close at times, but they finished their mission with success. Now, all they had to do was wait until Taldryan’s forces arrived and took command of the station.

Aylin let out a sigh in relief when she heard that Bale and Zentru’la had both already docked onto the station and were on their way. She sure was happy that it was all over and, more importantly, that they were still in one piece. She was sure the others were thinking much the same. Resting back in her chair, she glanced over towards Zehsaa who was looking out the window towards the massive ships outside.

A door swished open on the far side of the command center and two massive figures came stomping in. Aylin tensed up as their voices exploded out the door. Bale had turned red and was wagging a massive finger in the Twi’lek’s face, flecks of spit flying as he spoke. The Twi’lek stood tall, straight, with his hands locked behind his back, a carapace of composure, but Aylin knew him well enough to know that he was just as angry as the Zabrak.

“You signed up for this!” Bale was screaming, “You’re a blasted soldier! Act like it.”

Aylin noticed the Twi’lek’s hands ball up behind his back. Were they really going to come to blows after all they had been through together? She had to admit the death of the Empress had affected Zentru’la in ways she could not comprehend. He wasn’t the same man since he set out to kill her. He and Bale had been like brothers.

E chuta!” Zentru’la spat. “Listen you pebble-brained bograt, I’m not going to let you jeopardize the safety of my squad, and certainly not to protect your fragile little ego. We’d be dead now, every last one of us, had the Chancellor not intervened.”

“If you’d done your blasted job and kept your mouth shut, we might have stayed on top of them. You lost your edge old man. I’d thank you for gutting that witch Elincia if you hadn’t lost your coonies along the wa—” there was a flash of white armor and Bale’s words were cut short by a fist to the jaw. The massive Zabrak stumbled back, wiped blood from his mouth, his eyes wide, bursting with rage. “You are dead!”

The two titans clashed in the middle of the command center, screaming and swinging, cursing and crushing. Aylin could only stare slack-jawed. How was this happening? There was suddenly pain building up in her temple, a burning pressure, and she found she was gritting her pointed teeth.

Enough, she thought.

“ENOUGH!” she screamed. Nothing. The two overgrown children kept at it.

She didn’t even realize she had her blaster in her hand when she pulled the trigger. Nearly everyone jumped at the sudden discharge. In fact, only Masakado stood calmly, a vicious smile on his lips. The single warning shot crashed against the ceiling over head. Bale and Zentru’la stood, staring at her completely dumbfounded, like two children aware they’re about to get scolded.

“You two ingwa need to get a grip! We’re on the same team. We won, NOW SHUT UP!” The words were spilling out of Aylin’s lips faster and far harsher than she expected. In fact, this had to be a first, and they knew it. It wasn’t like her to speak up or make some noise, and they had to be feeling like two big fools right then.

Both spared a glance at each other before huffing and stomping away in opposite directions. Aylin who had been glaring at both of them let out a frustrated sigh and plopped back into her chair, her blaster clattering on the floor next to it.

This is going to take a long time before they are going to be friends again and most of all trust each other again, she thought, but at least we are together. But to be honest, even Aylin herself didn’t know how much that meant at the moment.

It would be some time yet before they were relieved from duty. Bale seemed to have regained some of his old, jovial self.

“Drinks are on me when we get back. Good job, team!”