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01.17.2012 , 08:09 AM | #9
Chapter Eight: Going Down

If ever Verra So’Quan had wondered how one might spend three-hundred years worth of savings, Ban Garus was quickly showing her the way. Magestus City was several hundred kilometers away from the Garus Estate and as she did not have any intention of riding on a transport shuttle until she arrived at the city, her latest means of transportation would have to do. As the door to the jet slid open, Verra’s hair was sent to whipping about in the gale presented. She glanced to her side, where the pilot droid remained focused upon his task. An aerial drop was the only means of breaching Darth Erectus’ defenses, she had surmised.

But that did not mean she was mentally prepared to jump from a speeding jet!

“One minute to drop location,” the droid reported as it steadied the plane and prepared to position Verra safely in the trajectory of her target. While the jet was surprisingly quiet and stealthy she could not help but wonder how well it would do in depositing her without drawing the attention of more persons. Perhaps the two events would be linked – the death of the governor and the mysterious jet. Regardless, the two events would occur: she would jump from the jet and Darth Erectus would die. As the seconds ticked away the first of those conditions fast approached.

“Paurneux.” Q’leeta’s voice suddenly transmitted through Verra’s com-link and drew her mind away from her encroaching jump. She lifted a hand to her ear in order to silence the lacerating wind.

“Yes, Q’leeta?”
“Thank you.”

It was an utterance that came without further explanation. Generally when she was given her pre-mission briefing it came from Ban Garus, but with the Sith lord’s absence she was instead treated to the sound of earnest gratitude from his beloved wife. She did not need to question the reason for the thanks – in many ways it had a great deal to do with how she had rationalized that the governor needed to die.

“I’d appreciate some Ba’jiin-ara when I return,” Verra finally responded.

A rich and velveteen laugh escaped from Q’leeta then; reassuring, yet near teasing. “As you wish it.”

The droid spoke then, drawing Verra away from her conversation. “We have arrived at our target destination.”

Verra nodded her head and removed her hand from her ear. With her visor pulled down once more, she inhaled for courage and then pushed away from her position in the jet. Arms spread outward; she fell backwards through the darkened sky toward her destination. The HUD on her visor constantly counted down her meters, each one that passed reminding her of how soon she would need to begin her manipulation. There were Jedi that had fallen from extraordinary heights and landed without injury, though not many had done it from a speeding jet she supposed that there was a first time for everything. Either her manipulation worked or she’d splat into little more than a smudge. As the latter outcome was undesirable, she focused on the former.

Alone in her descent, Verra considered everything that she would need to do in order to reach Erectus. Ignoring the legion of droids that were at his command and the boundless mercenaries, his estate would be the first that had the potential for Sith warriors to truly enter the fray. Minutia’s castle had little more than boys pretending to be Dark Side proponents, but without a doubt a man as fierce as Erectus would have his own cadre of Force users. It would be an extremely difficult battle to overcome, but she had placed herself on a path but with one outcome: success.

But what was that success costing her, she had to wonder? It seemed the oddest time in the world to consider the course of her actions, but freefalling and without anything other than the whistling of air about her, it was not at all inopportune. She had become an assassin – a person contracted to kill for a reward. Was the life of Master Zi’los truly any different than accepting credits? Had she been in the Republic, the answer would have been a definitive no. But since arriving on Thorne IV she had made deals… compromises, that while a Jedi might do a Shadow – no, the Shadow had to in order to survive. This latest mission would just been another drop in the bucket, she told herself.

It did not have to be anything more than that.

The HUD marked off the maximum allowable distance she could fall before she needed to begin her Force manipulation. She returned her mind to the very serious fact that the ground was fast approaching and she was without a parachute. Her eyes closed and she began to picture the various currents working against her. With a careful grace that denied the very present threat of crashing into the ground, she pulled upon strands of gravity until her body began to feel weightless. The HUD beeped once more, marking that she was ever closer to the ground, yet her speed had not slowed in the slightest. Time was of the essence; she had to act quickly.

The Jedi’s spiraling dive came to an end when she drew the Force into herself entirely and landed in a crouch upon the ground. Other than a faintly jarring sensation she felt no different than if she had jumped from a small ledge onto a nearby one. Pleased with herself for her masterful landing, Verra lifted her hand and checked her lightsaber, then rose from her crouched position. All she had to do now was –

A wave of bright light flooded Verra’s eyes, forcing her to lift a hand to shield her visor as it frantically struggled to dim its settings to protect her eyes. The entire courtyard came to life then, the sound of additional spotlights flashing on preceded the emergence of several silhouettes.

“So the Shadow has come to me at long last,” a booming voice announced from the distance. Verra looked in its direction and found that though the lights originated near him, she could easily discern Darth Erectus’ frame. He was no less imposing in person than he had been on the holo-feed. “I do not know who has put you up to this spree of yours, but I know that it ends here, tonight.”

Verra did not bother to respond to the boast. She noted that the silhouettes were drawing closer to her. The HUD indicated several organic life forms and even more droids approaching from the distance. It was most definitely a trap – a trap crafted to capture a shadow.

“Remember to keep her alive,” Darth Erectus shouted from his position on the balcony. “If she is dead then we cannot confirm who it was that sent her.” With that said, the large Sith lord turned about with a sweeping of his cloak and vanished back inside. The lights that showered the area dimmed and Verra was allowed to take in all that were about her. It was not a very appealing reality.

The majority of those gathered were assault droids, weapons at the ready and an obvious order not to kill her. Interspersed through their number were a few Empu’dunz and other sentient, though otherwise uninteresting bruisers. While she was certain that she could fend off two or three of them, she knew that to take on the entirety was more than she was capable of. Luckily, their order not to kill her placed them at the disadvantage. But more important than that was they believed “the Shadow” to be a mere assassin by the look of it. Who would have thought her to be a Jedi?

For a moment reality came to a single point of existence. The hoisted weapons and their superheated payloads; the tension in her muscles as she prepared to move; the billowing of Darth Erectus’ cape as he made his escape; the twitching finger of the Empu’dunz brute that had his weapon level with the Shadow. There were an infinite number of possibilities that could be played out within the following second, yet none seemed to manifest for that briefest of seconds. In the blink of an eye, however, all of those chambered realities were ushered to the fore.

Leave no witnesses.

The first blaster had not yet fired by the time that Verra sent herself strafing to the right. The plangent report of endless fire streaming toward her position placed the Jedi within a zone that few could comprehend unless they were blessed with an affinity for the Force. Her left hand lifted to her shoulder, willing her lightsaber from its carrying case into her hand. She dashed directly for the Empu’dunz guard whose finger seemed ready to compress his trigger a moment before. With the woman charging him, but under orders not to kill her, he thus was forced to hesitate as he sought a safe location to shoot. She held her hand out and then yanked backwards, the lout dragged forth from his position and into the trajectory of the incoming blaster bolts. Utilizing his larger mass to her advantage, she slipped around him and shielded herself with his body before shoving outward with the Force to send his bolt-riddled body in their direction.

One of the bolts grazed her shoulder, but the catsuit held true to its promise and diminished the feeling to little more than a sting. That she felt pain at all informed her that a direct strike would more than likely be incapacitating, which gave her precious little leeway with her maneuvers. She followed in the wake of the fallen Empu’dunz and jettisoned into the air, her feet connecting soundly with the chest of one droid, before she twisted sharply and executed a rising kick across the face of one of its comrades. The torque, augmented by her Force-based rotation, was enough to jar the droid’s sensors and send it toppling to the ground. As she landed she rolled herself against the droid she had used to purchase ground and shifted it into the way of another of its comrades’ bolts. Its hull absorbed the majority of the shots, to which end she charged with it as a shield to impact soundly against another cluster. Lightsaber at the ready, she made short work of the nest she found herself within.

Where she had previously felt uncertainty and perhaps a tinge of fear, Verra felt a much more powerful, though foreign sensation wash over her. In many ways it was similar to Q’leeta’s touch; soft, yet reassuring in its presence. While she may not have known what it was, the pristine experience granted her the valor to forge onward against her opponents. She dashed in the direction of another of the Empu’dunz guards and slid between his legs, clearing the distance in less time than it took for him to realize that she had moved. Springing upward, she placed her feet to his back as her lightsaber zipped into her hand, then pushed away and slashed outward to part his flesh and spiral once more through the air. She landed with her left leg extended to the side and right bent, lightsaber gripped in a reversed position and held before her. The sound of the Empu’dunz falling forth was all the warning she needed to be set forth to rejoin the battle anew.

True to Ban Garus’ words, the droids would continue to follow their directives even if it meant they would be destroyed; however, the various organics about them were the ones that began aiming for more pernicious locations to strike. While the catsuit would do well to protect her lower body and torso, her face was woefully revealed in its current state save for the mask that addressed its lower half. She lifted her lightsaber so that its luminescent blade nearly obscured her features and ran forth; deflecting blaster bolts as best she could in a maddened dash to hunt down the few remaining brutes that numbered amongst the droid army.

There was more to her newfound energy than a simple increase in her physical prowess. Faster and stronger though she may have been, that would have accounted for little if not for the acuity that her ever expanding power introduced to her. The only source of fuel it required was the violence of the moment, and as she had more enemies on hand than she knew how to count, that was a supply that she did not doubt could be sustained. Her presence within the Force was one that created, rather than sustained – it commanded, rather than supported. Whatever it was inside of her that continued to grow in strength begged to be unleashed and she saw no reason to hold back.

Her shoulder slammed soundly against the torso of an Empu’dunz, bending the creature against her as her lightsaber made a forceful thrust through its chest cavity. She twirled away as he grip reversed and slashed to further part flesh from the creature. With her left hand extended, she caught hold of the falling alien through the Force and flung him toward another cluster of droids. Rather than wait for him to land, Verra dashed in his wake and then sprang into the air. Her trajectory shifted several times as she made minute adjustments to her course before, like a comet descending from the heavens, she careened into the midst of a droid cluster. Twisting about, her lightsaber became a torrential force that sundered all within its path. The dismembered droids fell apart as she leapt away.

Blaster bolts continued to shower her direction, but Verra no longer operated on the same plane as the mundane implements that sought to strike her. Her HUD sent a cursor all about the area directly before her, clicking onto each of the droids in her field of vision. Performing a backward aerial, she unleashed her lightsaber and sent it in a swooping arch along the designated path, each of the previously targeted droids severed in its wake before she twirled to the ground and caught it once more within a reversed grip. Her position presented her with a closer proximity to yet another of the Empu’dunz, who after seeing all of the death wrought in her wake, sought to kill her rather than join the kill count. It swung the stock of its weapon in her direction, but she pivoted around it and dispatched it with a slash across the lower back, only to encounter a second and run up its torso. Performing a back-flip as she reached the creature’s head, she slashed across its neck and landed only to spring for another.

She could hardly believe that she had not dealt with one of the mansions like this before. Although dangerous, the exhilaration that washed over her as she gave herself over to her unleashed vehemence was not at all an unpleasant one. She was quicker; more powerful. Where at one point she may have been captured within the threshold of an opponent’s assault, she now moved with a confidence that denied them the opportunity to harm her. Zigging this way and zagging that, she sundered, slashed, sliced, and struck whatever that was placed before her. It was not until her lightsaber’s blade slowly crept back into its base that she caught her breath and looked about her immediate area. The courtyard had become a testament to her aptitude. Carnage littered as far as the eye could see.

From the mansion’s gates, a new troop of soldiers emerged. Garbed in black attire and with masks adorning their faces, Verra understood at once that her expertise had finally drawn out a more worthy adversary. Though the guard force consisted of no more than a three men, the influence that the Force held over them was a powerful and vicious beast. They were far more dangerous than the army of slovenly mercenaries and droids that she had just emerged from. Even if ordered to keep her alive, they surely would value their own lives over orders.

Each compressed his lightsaber blade, sending a crimson blade off to the side. It was a nightmarish sight for any Jedi to behold – in truth; it was a sight that Verra had once feared.

But as she looked up them at that moment and held her deactivated lightsaber up, it was not fear that she felt. Once more did its amber blade projected itself to the side as she held the blade in its once more-reversed state.

Her burgeoning power yearned to be tested.

Darth Erectus was close to exploding.

He had known that the Shadow would be arriving: his information was never incorrect; however, to see her tear through his defenses was not at all a pleasing sight. The mercenaries and droids should have been enough to stop her, yet as his holo-feed reviewed there was more to the woman than simple acrobatics. The glowing of her lightsaber said it all – she was a Jedi and she had come for him. While normally that thought would have brought nothing more than smug satisfaction to his face, as he watched the woman engage his three apprentices he could not help but feel a small amount of concern grow within the pit of his heart. She would die, undoubtedly, but that did not mean that he was necessarily pleased to see so many investments brought to an end.

The governor’s estate was a palace unto itself, with countless servants that could be placed between himself and the approaching wraith. During the Great Hyperspace War he had heard of Jedi that fought with unrelenting intensity and fervor, but nothing had ever spoken of what he saw at that moment. There was a rawness to her combat that he knew all too well and although he knew it was possible she was a Sith in disguise, the sheer audacity with which she battled was bereft the requisite ruthlessness to truly label her as anything more than a Jedi lost within the maelstrom of the Force. It had been too long since he had a worthy opponent and something told him that anyone that could kill Vitro, Prematus, and Minutia would indeed be just that challenge.

True, those three had been little more than demented beasts pretending to be Sith, but they did have a presence in the Force that was relatively well balanced. It had been their potential that kept him from removing them from power on his own accord; however, the Shadow had done that service for him, and in truth had she not predictably come for him he would have been more than willing to allow her to continue her rampage. The more that died, after all, simply meant that there would be more room for him to expanse his influence. That those three had died in such quick fashion though, told him that someone else was looking to as well.

And just who could that someone be? In years past he would have contented himself with removing the problem and being done with it all, but as years became decades and decades became centuries, Darth Erectus had wizened. The Shadow was nothing more than an agent; a symptom of a disease far darker than the catsuit that hugged her delectable physique so. The black eye patch that covered his now vacant eye socket was proof enough that being overly concerned with the present would in no way lead to victory. He touched against the emptied socket then, his irritation at his past failings reborn anew. Organic implants could have easily been purchased to refit his eye; however, he did not believe it necessary. The loss of his eye was a lesson in warfare; the last one that his brother had ever shown him.

Until now, anyway.

There was no doubt that Conseptus was behind this latest string of attacks, but his belief of fact was not proof. The Emperor had always favored Ban Garus, even when they were children, and to move against him without complete proof of his treason would simply not do. For all he knew, a preemptive strike may have been exactly what the sniveling coward desired. Only the Force truly knew just what he was planning, for it always seemed to land him ahead. Had any been asked who would emerge victorious in a battle between the brothers, Ss’elo Nicus’ would have been the name to paint every list. Yet against the odds Ban Garus had been the victor, and in his most sinister act ever allowed him to live.

The very thought of it was enough to draw him away from concern and back toward anger. Yes, that was exactly what he needed to feel. Melancholy and fear were motivators, but anger was a power source. The more vehemently he felt, the more powerful he became. He thought of having to surrender Q’leeta to his brother’s demands; how she had been the exchange for not only his life, but a promise of non-aggression. Q’leeta, his most prized possession. Though he did not believe in the fanciful notion of love that Ban Garus professed, he did understand that there was much to be desired from the Haur’nii woman. Hers was a touch that was ever ready to please; a voice that could only bring joy. How long ago had it been since he last experienced either?

Anger. That was exactly what he required. He could feel his muscles filling with rage; his ligaments with acrimony. The more that he allowed his mind to wrap around the entirety of the situation, the more furious he became. If the “Shadow” was as skilled as she was rumored to be then she would surely make her way to his throne room, eventually. And when she did? He would be waiting.

A century’s worth of hatred would be waiting.

The crisp clashing of lightsabers bounced off the walls of the mansion as Verra engaged the remaining two Sith apprentices. It had been a moment of indecisiveness on behalf of the fallen one that claimed his life, but as his comrades saw just how quickly she capitalized on that weakness they each vowed not give her a chance to dispatch them with quite as much ease. Whatever standing orders may have existed were forgotten: no Sith would sacrifice his life simply because he was ordered to do so. If Darth Erectus wanted the woman alive, then he would have to rescue her from their combined might. Or at least, that was the manner in which they believed events should have proceeded.

Fighting two to one, Verra still managed to control the flow of the battle. What had begun as a simple desire to have her prowess tested had become something more. These vile creatures were responsible for more than Master Zi’los’ disappearance. They were the cause for the Sacking of Coruscant; for the fall of the Jedi Order’s honor. It mattered naught that neither were actually at the battle. All that she cared about was the singular notion that they were Sith and she was a Jedi. The Shadow would seek vengeance against those that had harmed her former comrades; who had ripped Master Doseir away from her. The fuel that pumped through her veins was of a quality far greater than she had ever known before, and rather than shy away from it she gave into it willingly. None would deny her vengeance.

One of the Sith apprentices approached from Verra’s left, his lightsaber poised for the strike. Verra met the slash of his comrade, then pushed away and twisted to her left to address him directly. Rather than hold the interlocking of their blades she spun sharply in a pivot that placed her at his side and swung downward to catch him in the side with her blade. He predictably blocked, but as he did so she projected a gust of the Force to blast him away and send him smashing into the wall behind him. Plaster spiraled away from the point of impact as an overhanging picture fell, momentarily stunning him. Not to be forgotten, the other Sith closed in upon her, but she answered his presence with a rising, underhanded slash that forced his lightsaber away, then converted the strike into a horizontal cut that he narrowly evaded.

The two met in a fervent series of lightsaber slashes the likes of which rang through the hallway with a nearly endless report. Where Verra slashed, the Sith blocked; where the Sith blocked, Verra thrusted. The Force’s hold upon each increased their acuity and with that awareness came the ability to strike in ways that previously would have seemed impossible. The Sith behind her began to arise from his injured state, his refractory period nearly completed as the Force worked to correct his previous errors. Hardly a fool, Verra realized that if she did not quickly deal with the Sith before her then the other would come up from behind to assault her. Caught between the two, she’d be able to do little more than wait for them to exploit whatever openings they could find.

She refused to be bent out of shape over the possibility.

She committed herself entirely to bringing the Sith down in front of her, but just as she had become aware that his partner would soon be rejoining their frenzy, so had he. Assuming a defensive stance, the Sith did his best to ward off Verra’s strokes even as they became more feverish and focused. The clasping of their weapons began to form a steady rhythm, Verra’s moans of frustration met with the Sith’s own groans of exertion as he fought to remain on his feet under her unleashed assault. The sooner that his ally recovered was the sooner that the two could make short work of the Jedi in between them. The end was coming; he could feel the tingle of victory at hand.

The fallen apprentice’s lightsaber activated once more. Verra heard the sound and narrowed her eyes more intently upon the apprentice before her; however, whichever way she attacked he seemed to be prepared for her. Though she could not see behind his mask, she was certain that he was smirking as he noted the Sith behind her begin to rise. Time was quickly working against her, and as she gave off a mighty cry she pushed with all of her might to penetrate her opponent’s defenses. He resolutely checked her strike and she was left without an opening against him. Behind her, the sound of his ally rushing toward her told her that she was out of time.

This was her chance.

With her opponent focused upon denying her lightsaber, she was not at all surprised to find that his upper torso had been left open following his denial of her attack. She jumped in the air, each of her heels forced outward to impact soundly with his chest. The Force exploded through her then, sending her rocketing backward and toward the approaching Sith, whose attention had been primarily on catching her unguarded rear. Now sailing over his head, she made a deft movement with her lightsaber before completing her back-flip and landing in a sliding crouch. The action had hardly come to completion before she propelled herself forth and past the standing Sith, whose head slid away from him as she rushed by.

Verra opened her free hand and caught the defeated Sith’s lightsaber through the Force. She struck savagely against the sole remaining adversary’s lightsaber, and then pulled forth upon the other to unleash a second strike from her newly acquired weapon. Battling with two lightsabers against his one, despite the fact that she had hardly trained at all in the art of dual wielding lightsabers, it was simply logical that she would be able to do more damage than he – who had specifically trained to handle a single lightsaber against multiple adversaries. Where one of her strikes landed, the next was already incoming for a pass, and the Sith found himself incapable of properly erecting defense against her.

The trial was decided when Verra slashed with the former Sith’s lightsaber and her opponent eagerly blocked it. With her latter hand still free, she executed a sharp slash that bisected his arm, and from there used both of her lightsabers to first behead, and then disembowel him. The Z slashing came to an end as she deactivated the lightsabers and twirled them in her hands, walking away as her final opponent toppled over to the ground. She had overcome her adversaries, but still she was not sated. Darth Erectus needed to go down and she’d use every technique that she knew to make sure it happened.

Once she took the head, this would all be over.