Torian paced back and forth, his heavy boots thumping across the intake room floor. Mako stared at him with dark eyes above her gasmask, unsure what to say to him in his obviously agitated state.
The tall Mandalorian felt a knot forming in his gut. Apoc is down
. The rational part of his mind knew that what they did was fraught with danger at every turn. They had worked for Sith lords, and Imperial Moffs. They had fought countless battles against entire companies of soldiers with just the two of them.
He sighed, clenching his right fist and slamming it down into his left palm. The difference between then and now was that he had been there with her. For a long time, he had always been the one at her side.
He had watched her face death head on and with no fear, and it always filled him with a sense of pride and wonder at her bravery and code of honor. For Torian, the fear wasn’t that Apocalypsa might be killed. It was that he might not be there to die with her.
He came to a stop in front of the silvery doors leading into the prison rings. Beneath the darkened, t-shaped visor of his helmet, Torian’s sapphire eyes hardened. “Mako,” he said, placing his hands against the hard metal doors. “We’re going in.”
“We can’t, Torian. If I open the door, I won’t be out here to close it again. And I won’t be able to direct Layne to where he needs to go.” She frowned as he banged his fist against the wall in frustration. Suddenly, her expression brightened.
“Hey look, I can’t go, but you can.” She smiled at him as he cocked his head to the side in contemplation. “I’ll open the door, and I’ll monitor everything from out here.” She gestured toward the door leading into the crew areas. “Everyone is sleeping, remember? I’ll be fine.”
Torian was torn. He wanted, even needed to get to Apoc, but the thought of leaving Mako alone with a crew of two hundred soldiers, sleeping or not, didn’t sit well with his sense of duty or honor. “Don’t know if that’s a good idea, Mako.”
Mako’s fist crashed down on the desk, startling him. “Hey,” she said, a hint of anger in her tone. “I’m not some helpless kid, you know. I’m older than Apoc. I’m older than you!” She threw her hands up in the air as he began to laugh quietly.
“Look,” she began earnestly. “I’m not a Mandalorian, we all know that. I never will be. I don’t like to fight as much as you, I don’t like to drink as much as you, and I don’t like spicy food at all.”
“You did look a little green after Apoc made that tiingilar
. Thought that was just because she can’t cook.” He grinned at the exasperated expression on her pixie face.
“Anyway!” She stood up from her chair, pointing a slender finger at Torian. “You can’t baby me just because Apoc does. She’s not here. And, well, she needs you. So go. I’m not defenseless.” From her belt she pulled her blaster pistol, laying it on the desk.
He closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed and nodded. “Alright. Open the door.”
“Okay then!” She sat back down, tapping at the computer keys once more. The doors in front of Torian slid open. “Good luck.”
He nodded at her once, then stepped through the door. As it shut behind him, he felt a familiar sensation come over him. Torian’s heartbeat slowed, and his mind sharpened like the keen edge of a vibroblade. His focus narrowed, until the only thing that existed for him was his goal.
He had to find Apoc and Layne.
Apocalypsa’s fingers twitched as she attempted to pull her arm closer to her body. She groaned softly, finally managing to bring the limb to her side. She struggled to push against the floor, to lift herself from her prone position and regain some semblance of control over her unwilling muscles.
The sound of the approaching droids was getting louder by the second, their metal limbs banging out a cadence that began to pound in her head. Everything she heard seemed to hold a ghostly echo, and when Layne spoke to her, it was as if his voice was coming from under water.
“Apoc, I need you to get up.” His voice was a desperate plea. As the first droid came around the bend in the corridor, he lifted the blaster in his hand and fired.
Green light splashed over the machine’s silvery form, scoring several lines in the plating. The droid’s body was shaped like a crescent moon atop two clawed legs. Long, arm-like blasters sprouted from either side of the body, both barrels aimed at Layne.
When the droid shot, the young warrior dove to the side, rolling as he hit the ground. The bolts flew down the hallway, leaving scorch marks on the wall. His weapon came up, and he squeezed the trigger, aiming for the droid’s articulated leg.
With a loud crash, the guard droid crashed down on its left side, the green energy weakening its knee joint. As it fell, it fired again, yellow beams of energy spraying erratically through the air. Behind the first droid, Layne could see another approaching.
He frowned. There was no way for him to defend both himself and Apocalypsa if more droids came. Even as the thought entered his mind, he imagined he could hear the sound of metallic clattering from behind. If the droids flank us, we’re both dead.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Apocalypsa’s hand slowly moving to her belt. Her fingers fumbled with the smooth, round surface of a grenade. As she pulled it free, it slipped from her weak grasp and rolled across the floor.
Layne dove for it, his hand stretching out and closing around its cool, hard surface. His pale eyes looked up to see the second of the crescent shaped droids bearing down on him. He scrambled backwards across the floor, half-sitting up, and depressed the button on the side of the detonator.
The droid planted its feet firmly on the floor, the durasteel claws digging furrows into the metal decking. With a high-pitched whirring sound, the droid’s body began to rotate forward and down, exposing the blast cannon mounted on its back.
An ominous whine began to fill the air, red and yellow lightning playing over the spinning barrel as it began to glow with an intense orange light. A ball of nascent energy flared at the end of the cannon, coalescing into a super-heated sphere of plasma that shot forth, expanding as it traveled.
Apoc could feel the weight of Layne’s body as he shielded her, then the wash of heat as the fiery globe passed over them. He tossed the grenade at the droids and it exploded, sending bits of twisted metal through the air.
Tiny spots of blood appeared on Layne’s cheeks as minute particles scraped his skin. He felt something hard impact the center of his back, and then a sharp, fiery pain in his upper right thigh that caused him to howl in agony.
Looking down at his leg, he was considerably disconcerted to find a sharp shard of metal as long as his forearm imbedded in the flesh of his thigh. Dark red blood stained the floor beneath him, and he grimaced as he reached out and grasped the shrapnel in both of his hands.
!” He grit his teeth, then tugged, yanking the durasteel projectile from his leg. Blood spurted from the wound, and he clapped his hand over it, throwing the blood-stained shard into the pile of rubble that had been the pair of guard droids.
His hands tore at the fabric of his pants, ripping the right leg apart at the seam. Tearing it off at the knee, he wrapped it tightly around the wound, holding his breath to keep from crying out with the pain as he knotted the ends together.
Leaning his head back against the wall for a moment, he took stock of his situation. The shrapnel had apparently missed the main artery in his thigh, and though the wound throbbed and burned, he was fairly sure he could stand. He would not be as fast or agile as he liked, but it was better than the alternative.
Apocalypsa was still unable to stand on her own, though the rush of adrenaline from the fight had given her the strength to pull herself to a sitting position. She slumped against the wall, her pale face turned to the side and pressed against the cool metal.
Sighing, Layne ran his palm over his face, wiping off the sweat that trickled into his eyes. His fingers left bloody streaks across his forehead and cheeks. Apoc lifted her hand, pointing at him and offering him a shaky grin.
“Nice war paint.” He wasn’t sure what she meant until he tasted the blood on his lips, and he chuckled softly. His mirth was cut short as the sound of metal pounding on metal once again filled the air.
“More droids?” Layne’s hand sought out his dropped blaster, fingers curling around the grip and sliding over the trigger. He lifted the gun, aiming it at the curve just ahead of them in the corridor. “Come and get some, you rusting heaps of Jawa scrap!”
Raia frowned, staring at the silvery doors that had shut in her face. Moments after her failed attempt to shoot the downed Apocalypsa, she had heard a soft hissing sound fill the air. Recognizing it as the sound of the null gas being released into the medical bay, she had almost panicked.
Null gas worked by displacing the available oxygen in the air, gradually suffocating its victims. The Incarcerator
’s gas had been chemically altered, depleting only enough oxygen to cause those who inhaled it to fall into a deep sleep, which would last until the oxygen levels returned to normal.
Raia’s vision swam as she cast her glance around the room, and she could feel her lungs burning. Black spots began to appear in front of her eyes, her heart pounded painfully in her chest. Stumbling over to the white cabinet against the wall, she tugged open the doors.
The medical bay was stocked with several small, portable canisters of pure oxygen. Raia grabbed one up, untwisting the clear plastifiber tube attached to it and placing the small mask at the end over her mouth and nose. Twisting the canister’s release valve, she felt her heartbeat return to normal as the oxygen flowed into her lungs.
She had to get out of that room. Stepping back toward the door, she slapped the control panel to the side with the palm of her hand. The panel beeped at her in a decidedly negative tone, three red lights atop it blinking. The door remained closed.
Sighing, she closed her eyes and tried to think. A slight breeze washed over her face, and she looked up to see the metal slats covering the air duct rotating slightly, sliding open. She reached up, placing her hand over the vent. The feeling of air rushing over her hand caressed her skin.
All the gas in here is being sucked through the vents into the crew area
. Her amber eyes widened. I’m the only crew member on this ship who’s conscious.
Equal parts anger and fear filled her, and she sank down on the examination table, her legs dangling off the side. Who knew what nefarious purpose Apocalypsa had for boarding the Incarcerator. Raia shook her head. The criminals housed in this facility were dangerous; many of them had led rebellions or committed violent acts of terrorism against the Galactic Republic.
Whatever Apocalypsa was here for, it couldn’t be good for the Republic. The fact that Layne was still with her made Raia absolutely furious. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she had seen him standing there, blaster in hand, over the corpses of two of her fellow soldiers.
She grit her teeth. Obviously that Mandalorian had corrupted him beyond redemption. As a former member of Special Operations, he presented a great danger to the Republic, having intimate knowledge of classified information.
Her mind went through a catalogue of Layne’s crimes, both against her and the Republic. First, he had betrayed his squadron, getting them killed, then he had betrayed her when he left with Apocalypsa. He was working for the Empire, as well as for crime lords and Hutts. He was a criminal himself, a murderer and a traitor.
Leaning her head back, she sighed softly. Now he had broken into the Incarcerator
, killed more men, and was currently running around loose in prisoner population. With that thought, Raia lifted her head up again, her amber gaze staring at the air duct.
She stood, letting her eyes travel across the ceiling. There, on the other side of the room, was another vent, this one leading deeper into the population areas. She hooked the small oxygen tank to her belt, then pushed a fiberplast chair over to the base of the wall under the duct.
Precariously balancing on the back of the chair, she pulled a thin vibroknife from her belt. The vent was level with her chest, and she braced herself against the wall with her left hand as her right used the blade to pry the duct cover off.
It clattered to the floor, and she popped her head into the opening it left behind. The space was just wide enough for her to squirm her way inside, flat on her belly. Slowly, she inched her way forward.
Heavy black boots thudded loudly across the floor as Torian ran down the dimly lit corridor. Pale blue light reflected off of the dark visor of his helmet as he passed the rows of stasis chambers. Reaching the door which led into the next ring of prisoners, he allowed himself a small smile.
Stepping through the door, he heard a crunching sound come from beneath his foot. Looking down and lifting his boot, he saw charred and twisted bits of durasteel scattered across the floor. The bits of debris became more numerous as his eyes tracked over the floor toward the curve in the corridor.
“Come and get some, you rusting heaps of Jawa scrap!” Layne’s voice came from just ahead. Holding his empty hands in the air, he slowly stepped forward.
“It’s Torian.” Coming around the curved section of hallway, the tall Mandalorian felt a quick, sharp pain in his chest as his heart skipped a beat. Apocalypsa was leaning against the wall, her eyes closed. Layne had risen to one knee, balancing on his uninjured leg while holding his blaster pistol steady before him. The bloodstained fabric around his thigh and the crimson streaks across his face gave him a menacing look.
“Torian…” Apoc’s eyes fluttered open, and she smiled weakly. “Good. Need to get Luxel.” She tried to push herself off of the floor and succeeded only in using up what little strength she had regained. Torian knelt down beside her, his hand moving to brush a few errant strands of raven hair from her pale forehead.
“What happened to you, cyare
?” His brow furrowed with concern as she turned her face into the cool metal of his gauntlet. He looked over at Layne. “Don’t see any injuries.”
“My sister.” He nodded as Torian’s head tilted to the side. “She’s stationed here, apparently. She was in the medbay when we came through the doors. Apoc tried to put her in restraints and somehow, Raia managed to stab her with a needle – it must have been full of some kind of sedative.”
He shook his head slightly. “She didn’t get the full dose, but she’s weak, can’t stand or walk on her own. It should wear off eventually, but not in time for us to get Luxel.”
Torian sighed softly, his mind working to absorb all of the information and formulate a plan. He frowned beneath his helmet, his hand cupping Apoc’s face, thumb rubbing gently over her jaw. She mumbled something he couldn’t quite make out, then smiled at him again.
His first instinct was to scoop her up in his arms and carry her out of there, and Luxel be damned. Torian dismissed that thought almost as quickly as it came, knowing it would be the exact opposite of what Apoc wanted. They were there on a mission, and if they abandoned it, then all the work they had done would be wasted.
More than that, he knew Apocalypsa would never approve of turning and running. Neither would he, for that matter. Mandalorians didn’t run, didn’t get scared when things took a rough turn. He pulled his comlink from his belt and thumbed it on. “Mako, what can I expect in the center ring?”
Mako’s voice crackled over the comm. “The inner ring is small, and houses only 100 prisoners. They’re fitted with neural inhibitor bands and kept in stasis chambers like the others. These are the guys that the Republic really doesn’t want to let out, so the security is more sophisticated.”
There was a slight pause in the transmission. When Mako began talking again, Torian couldn’t help but notice the slight tinge of worry in her tone. “Looks like we didn’t get all the information in our briefing files.”
“What does that mean?” Torian frowned. “Did the Sith Lord set us up?”
“No, I don’t think so. According to these records, they implemented the use of a new series of droids, the TRGD-R.”
Torian’s eyes narrowed slightly as he digested this information. Tactical Response Guardian Droids were notorious for their efficiency and resilience. Starting with the A series of TRGD’s, each new iteration of the powerful machines had garnered an even more impressive reputation than the last.
“Any specs?” He cast his glance up and down the sweeping, curved hallway. Scorch marks blackened the walls, and several of the stasis chambers looked partially melted, their occupants still and silent.
“They’re bipedal and humanoid shaped, use blaster carbines and apparently are also equipped with flamethrowers and miniature shield generators.” Mako’s quiet laugh came over the comlink. “They’re like Mandalorians, only droids!”
Torian shook his head as a slow smile curved his lips. “Well, guess what, Mako.” He stood, pulling the two-meter long metal staff from his back. He relished the feel of it in his hand, taking a deep breath. “They aren’t Mandalorians. They’re only droids.”
Layne looked up at the tall blond man. “Going in?” He arched a pale eyebrow.
“Stay with Apoc.” Layne nodded at Torian’s order. “Be back with Luxel.” Torian turned, heading further down the corridor, carefully avoiding triggering any of the bright red sensor beams. Layne watched him go, his hand falling down onto Apocalypsa’s shoulder.
As the Mandalorian warrior disappeared around the curve ahead, Layne sighed quietly. “K'oyacyi
,” he whispered. “Stay alive.”