Senate tower, Coruscant
28 days ABDK
Prudii held his helmet and gazed incredulously at the screen in front of him. To its left, General Garza made notes on her datapad as they waited in silence for their superior.
“If this mission goes over Garza’s head,” Jorgan said, “it must be big.”
Prudii nodded. “Yeah…big.”
A moment later, Director Marcus Trant, SIS agent Merok, and Supreme Commander Jace Malcom came into the office. Prudii whirled and saluted Malcom, and he glanced to his left and saw Jorgan mimic the gesture. So did Garza.
“At ease,” Malcom said. “Good to see you again, Major–always a pleasure to work with the old colors. General Garza, how are Special Forces treating you?”
“Sufficiently,” Garza said politely. “I still think you could do better, sir, but I’m honored to do my part.”
“You and me, Garza, we’d rather be in the field,” Malcom agreed.
There was a moment of silence, in which Trant moved over to the computer terminal and typed in a command. An image appeared, depicting the galaxy. Trant highlighted the Imperial space in red.
“Taris was at one time our only foothold in the Empire,” Malcom said. “When they took it back, they took our only chance at striking some of their worlds. It would be a waste of manpower to retake it, though. We need options. Merok?”
Merok was a Chiss–he’d once been Cipher Nine of Imperial intelligence, but dissatisfied with the rule of the Sith Lords and their bootlicking moffs, he’d defected.
“The outlying Imperial worlds are used for slave-trading and grunt work. They’re not well defended. If we captured just a few of those, and freed the slaves to begin uprisings, the Empire would focus as much of its gaze in as out.”
Malcom nodded. “Which worlds do you suggest, agent?”
Merok tapped the terminal, and the map zoomed in on several different worlds. Merok highlighted one of them.
“Begeren, for starters. It was once home to a Sith Lord who elected herself queen, but she was killed late in the Cold War. Begeren is ripe for taking, and its slaves are ready to rise up.”
“Garza, get to work on that,” Malcom said. “And Merok, I want you to infiltrate the slave ranks and stir up insurrection. Dismissed.”
Voidhound fleet, Coruscant space
29 days ABDK
Dankin signaled Republic fleet command, briefly telling them of their capture of the Exchange ships and then requesting permission to land.
“Roger, Voidhound,” then controller replied. “You are clear to land your ships on Centax I. RFC, out.”
“You heard the man,” Dankin said to his ships. “Set down on the moon.” He flipped off the ship-to-ship comlink and activated the intercom. “Bowdaar, Akaavi, prepare to board the Exchange command ship.”
He stood and strapped on his twin blasters before pulling on his pilot’s mask and lowering the goggles. It didn’t offer as much protection as a trooper’s kit, but the light-dimming visor kept him from being blinded by a flash grenade.
As the ship attached its boarding tube to the other, Dankin met Akaavi and Bowdaar in the main hold. Bowdaar slung his vibrosword over his shoulder and then hefted a bowcaster. Akaavi twirled her techstaff in a quick motion before nodding to Dankin.
“Ready,” she said.
Bowdaar growled in agreement.
As they entered the boarding tube, Exchange troops opened fire from the opposite end. Dankin ducked back behind the wall and tossed in a flash-bang. There were several cries of pain and the blaster bolts ceased.
Akaavi charged in first, her staff cutting down the Exchange thugs before they could recover. Dankin motioned to the tube with his head, and Bowdaar ran in, firing his bowcaster.
Dankin counted to five and then joined them, both of his weapons cutting down thugs. In moments, they had cleared the airlock.
“Let’s move on,” he said. “Gotta get to the bridge, and make sure the troops down on the moon don’t encounter resistance.”
Akaavi nodded. “For Mandalore!”
They ran through the ship, several times stopping to take out patrols of combat droids. Once, they were trapped in a corridor with ray shields on either side, but Dankin managed to slice through an astromech’s access tunnel, and they crawled through–though it was unpleasant for Bowdaar.
When they finally reached the bridge, the captain glanced up indignantly. He was a dark-skinned man with short hair and an unpleasant face, with a badly kempt beard.
“Hands up, everyone,” Dankin ordered.
“The Voidhound,” the captain growled. “I should have fought to the death. I still can.”
He drew his blaster and fired. Dankin ducked and returned fire. The captain rolled behind a computer console, and half the bridge crew leapt to the center of the bridge and raised their hands over their heads.
The other half pulled out blasters and fired on Dankin. Bowdaar roared and sprayed fire from his bowcaster. Two crewmembers went down with large quarrel holes in their chests.
Akaavi leapt into action, beating down two of the crew with her techstaff. Another charged at her from behind and she jerked her elbow back into his mouth. He cried out and grabbed his nose.
Dankin armed a grenade and set it to cook. When it had two seconds left, he hurled it. The captain came up to fire, and the grenade exploded meters from his face.
Dankin stood and fired quickly, taking him out. He twirled his blasters and holstered them with an exaggerated motion and then turned to one of the crewmen that had surrendered.
“Now,” he said. “We can do this peacefully, eh?”
He walked over to a comm terminal and punched in the flight controller’s number.
“RFC, this is Dankin,” he said. “We’ve got them.”
“Roger. Captain, where was this crew bound?”
Dankin glanced at one of the crewmen and gave him a look.
“Begeren,” the crewman said.
“You copy that, control?” Dankin asked.
“Confirmed. Stay there, Captain. There’s someone here who wants to speak to you.”
Dankin frowned and glanced back at Akaavi. She raised a questioning eyebrow and he shrugged.
“Captain, this is Supreme Commander Malcom,” a voice said. “I’d like to speak to you in person.”
Kaas City, Dromund Kaas
29 days ABDK
Dha put an affectionate arm around Mako’s shoulder. The hooded man had finally sent them instructions–go to the bank and wait for an astromech droid with green markings to approach.
Dha glanced around, feeling conspicuous in his Mandalorian armor and not minding whatsoever. He was Mandalorian, through and through, and anyone who tried to approach it as an issue would get a quick punch.
“We’ve been waiting ten minutes,” Mako said.
“But we arrived five minutes early,” Dha replied.
“Still means he’s ten minutes late,” she observed.
A moment later, the green astromech finally showed up, beeping a friendly greeting and extending a manipulator arm holding a datapad.
“What’s this?” Dha asked.
The droid beeped a response then rolled away, not waiting to see if Dha understood. He glanced over at Mako.
“He said it’s got your job on it,” she supplied.
He nodded. “Great.”
Without waiting for permission, she opened the ‘pad and read through. She whistled quietly.
“Wow,” she said. “Nice job. Nicer reward.”
Dha took the datapad from her and read through it. He frowned.
“Well,” he said, “let’s go.”
Sith Academy, Korriban
31 days ABDK
Darth Nox entered the Sith Academy and without any word to the guards or overseers, took the lift to the Dark Council chambers. It was the first meeting that Darth Jadus would be returning for.
Time to meet him.
Nox stepped into the Council room and sat in his place without a word to the other Council members. Darth Rictus glared at him, and Nox grinned under his cowl as he awaited the Sith Lord’s demise. It was a long time coming.
Soon, everyone save Darths Marr and Jadus had arrived. Nox sat back patiently, enjoying the fact that this was the final time he would ever be in the same room as the revolting Darth Rictus.
“Darth Marr,” greeted Darth Mortis.
Nox looked up and saw the two men enter, each of them imposing, both physically and in the Force. He wondered, if it came down to it, which one would win a fight, and then ridiculed the thought. Marr was leader of the Dark Council. Jadus would have that position were he worthy of it.
“Welcome back, Darth Jadus,” Darth Vowrawn said.
“Thank you, Darth Vowrawn,” Jadus replied.
His voice was powerful but…quiet. Yet it was still full of menace, and immediately Nox knew that Jadus could scare the fight out of even the likes of Ravage, if he had a mind to.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the honor,” Nox said.
Jadus turned and looked at him, his faceless metal mask somehow more frightening an image than Darth Ravage’s scarred and lined visage.
“Nor have I,” Jadus said softly. “A pleasure to meet you at last, Darth Nox.”
Nox inclined his head. “And you, Darth Jadus.”
“Council members, your seats,” Marr said.
Those that had been standing now sat, and once again Nox turned his attention to Rictus. Tonight, the ancient Lord of the Sith would meet with an accident while traveling home.
“It has been a long time since I’ve been in this room,” Jadus said. “But I have not been idle in my cell. I still can name the activities of everyone in this room.”
As he said this, he glanced at Nox, and a chill ran down the Twi’lek’s spine. He knew. Blast it, he knew somehow, and it hadn’t even happened yet!
“Quick as ever,” Vowrawn chirped. “Darth Jadus, your presence among us was missed.”
Political double-talk. Nox loved it. He tried to smile but he was still disturbed by Jadus’ apparent knowledge of his schemes. And he was always so careful.
Jadus had just made his watch list.
Korriban space station
31 days ABDK
After the Council meeting, Nox took a shuttle to the space station where his interceptor was docked. He quickly stepped into the central chamber and looked at the holo of Korriban expectantly.
Even as he watched, his Force senses were probing the area for anyone who approached. But he still did not sense Darth Jadus until his hand was on Nox’s shoulder.
Nox whirled and reached for his lightsaber, but Jadus stood, his attitude apparently as unrevealing as his mask. He only raised a casual hand to indicate he meant no harm.
“You know,” Nox said.
Jadus tilted his head. “I suspect. I merely wish to see if your actions line up with what I sensed at that meeting.”
“And that was?”
“Hatred, and loathing, for one of your fellow Dark Council members.”
Nox tilted his head. “There are several. Which one could I despise enough to do something about?”
Jadus chuckled, and it was more fearsome than when he was silent and disapproving. Nox took a step back instinctively.
“Let us just see,” Jadus said.
Nox sighed and resigned himself. He turned his gaze back to the hologram of Korriban. A sleek ship exited its atmosphere–Darth Rictus’, though he never piloted it himself.
Nox braced for the inevitable.
Darth Rictus’ shuttle
31 days ABDK
Xalek grinned under his bone mask and reached for his double-bladed lightsaber. The pilots were sealed in the cockpit, and Rictus only had a pair of acolytes for bodyguards.
He released his Force cloak, and the two acolytes looked up in surprise. They reached for their training blades, and Xalek laughed, lifted one with the Force, and blasted him with lightning.
The other charged, and Xalek ignited one end of his double-bladed lightsaber. The acolyte swung his blade in the barest imitation of the Shien form. Xalek decided to give him a fight.
Switching to Soresu, the defensive form, Xalek casually blocked the acolyte’s brutish and awkward blows. Finally, deciding to waste no more time, he ran his lightsaber through the acolyte.
Then he ran his lightsaber through the room to Rictus’ meditation chamber. As the door burned, he reached out with the Force. Rictus was getting ready. But he was old, and Xalek was in his physical prime.
As the door clattered down, Rictus stood and drew his lightsaber. Xalek let out a feral growl and leapt to attack. Rictus raised his blade to block the blow.
Xalek backed up. Rictus was using Niman, the most basic form–and certainly not one for a Sith Lord to use, since it focused on balance. But Rictus was old, and he did not have the strength for Shien, the endurance for Soresu, or the agility for Ataru.
Xalek raised his lightsaber and entered Juyo, the most aggressive form. He leapt in. Rictus blocked his blows well, but Xalek was fast and powerful. Rictus, seeing his advantage lost, opened up with a powerful hurricane of Force lightning.
Xalek shrieked in agony and rolled to the ground, raising his lightsaber to block the lightning as he did. He could not fight against Rictus’ power, only deflect and absorb it. The Dark Lord’s storm subsided, and Xalek bared his teeth.
He ignited his second blade. Then he charged in again, his saberstaff spinning in rapid flurries. Rictus roared in frustration and rage. Xalek brought his saber down, and Rictus’ blade fell from his grip.
Grabbing him by the throat, Xalek savored the moment of victory as he thrust his lightsaber through Rictus’ chest. As the Dark Lord fell to the ground, Xalek twirled and slashed through the dying man’s neck. The head rolled to the ground.
Korriban space station
31 days ABDK
“Well, well.” Jadus clapped slowly. “A very well-executed attack, from start to finish. Your young apprentice is quite an assassin.”
Nox whirled on him. “How?”
“I had a holocam installed in the halls outside all of the Dark Council members’ meditation rooms. As I predicted, your target was Rictus. He is now dead, by the way.”
Nox inclined his head. Finally, he decided Jadus was too much of a risk. Igniting his lightsaber, he sent a blast of Force lightning. Quick as a flash, Jadus lit his own blade and blocked the energy as though parrying a blow from a child.
Nox snarled and sent a whirlwind through the Force. It lifted Jadus off his feet, but the Dark Lord instantly broke the wind with the Force and sent his own blast of lightning at Nox.
“Stop,” he commanded.
“You will reveal me to the Council,” he said.
“I will not,” Jadus said simply. “Luckily for you, Darth Rictus’ fall may yet serve my purposes. He is one of the last anti-alien members on the Council. With him gone, only Ravage stands in our way.”
“What do you mean, ‘our’?” Nox demanded.
“You would be wise to align with me, Lord Nox.”
“Why should I?”
“I am pro-alien, for one thing. If you think you would be better off with the likes of Ravage, you are a fool. For another thing, even after nearly two years in a cell, my power base is greater than any other on the Council.”
Nox considered. “We have a deal, Lord Jadus.”
He reached out, and shook Jadus’ hand.