Please upgrade your browser for the best possible experience.

Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer
×

Imperial Special Projects: The Seven

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
Imperial Special Projects: The Seven

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.26.2012 , 04:59 PM | #31
Chapter Thirteen: The Catch

Esk and Dorn awoke to find themselves embedded in the sand, gazing upward into the unrelenting Tatooine suns. Their armor had begun relaxing itself after absorbing the kinetic impact of falling from the cliff. The duo raised themselves and turned away from the mountainous ridge in unison, to see their shuttle hovering a short distance away.

“See? Even WITH ‘signal interference’ I could pilot this thing from my datapad,” Dorn teased his companion.

“You’re right. I was wrong,” Esk admitted with positivity.

“Hold on a second, let me get a recording of that,” Dorn joked.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Esk bantered with a soft wave of his hand. Looking around the scene, the demolitionist searched for any signs of the Zabrak. He received an answer when he saw the Sith’s lower half jutting straight out of the ground and pointing toward the sky. Esk went over to prod the leg’s, ensuring the Sith’s defeat, and received another answer when the leg’s fell over, the other half nowhere to be found. Leaning down, Esk took a device from the belt located just below the cut of horizontal bisection. Holding the silvery gray metallic box in his hand, the demo-man crushed it in his armored gauntlet not a moment latter. Suddenly, an influx of words on the squad-wide comm channel.

“Is anyone there? Anyone? Aurek? Dorn?” Besh stoically chatted into the comm.

“Besh. This is Esk. I read you,” Esk replied, soliciting a nod toward Dorn who proceeded to approaching the shuttle and prep it for travel.

“Esk? Are you and Dorn okay?” Besh inquired.

“Yeah we’re fine. A little banged up, but nothing we couldn’t handle. How about you?” Esk asked.

“We’re okay at the moment. We’ve discovered some interesting things about the cult, but we're unfortunately a little stranded right now,” Besh declared.

“Understood. I’m reading your locations. I’ll have Dorn set a course to pick you two up with the shuttle,” Esk informed.

“The shuttle? You made it to Mos Ila?”

“Not exactly," Esk answered. "We can exchange stories when were safe and together again.”

“Agreed. You guys haven’t heard from Aurek’s group have you?” Besh inquired.

“I’m afraid not,” Esk plainly admitted.

“Damn. We have reason to believe they’ve been captured,” Besh confessed.

“Understood. We’ll make our way to you and plan a course of action from there.”

Dorn lowered the shuttle’s ramp and beckoned Esk to enter with him. As the two ascended into the ship’s interior, they set a course for their stranded allies.

----------

Aurek awoke to find himself on his knees, his hands bound together behind his back. Looking around, his surroundings were cold, cramped, and metallic, a small cubic room of manufactured design. Across from him, his squad mate Forn rested in a similar state.

“Finally awake?” Forn stoically asked.

“Yeah…” Aurek stated, shaking his head from side to side, hoping to lessen the creeping fatigue he felt within him.

“Something tells me… this isn’t how you thought the plan would pan out. I tried contacting the others… but it was useless,” Forn commented.

“Things were going fine as we entered the caves, but right after… just a blank. Then… this place,” Aurek confusingly recounted. “Where are we?”

“Don’t know.”

“Where’s Grek?”

“Don’t know. Woke up not too long ago. Quite the sleep program… isn’t it?” Forn coldly joked.

“No… this was something else. It had to have been,” Aurek confessed. Before he could formulate any more thoughts, an audible click resounded within the tight chamber, and the singular entrance door rose. In walked a duo of male Sith, barely illuminated by the dim artificial lights that scarcely dotted the ceiling. A domineering Sith Pureblood and a skulking Human behind him.

“It would seem that our captives have awoken from their slumber,” the Pureblood commented, his voice utterly low and empowered. “Hard to believe you belong to the squad that has been causing such trouble for our group. I expected beings of stronger minds, able to resist a little hypnosis.”

“Go into sleep mode he says,” Forn muttered.

“Where are we? Where is our other squad mate?” Aurek spitefully interrogated the Sith from his knees.

“Calm yourself Imperial,” the Pureblood politely stated. “All your questions will be answered in time. Now, follow me.” The Human companion quickly backed out of the prison cell in order to allow the Pureblood room to maneuver. Hesitantly, the troopers shifted themselves off of their knees and walked out the door, their hands still bound by metallic cuffs.

Following the pair of Sith out of the room, the Imperials witnessed a peculiar sight. There was little evidence of them being in a cave to be found. They walked amongst an industrial corridor, architecture comprised completely of uniform, dark metals.

“Introductions are in order,” The Pureblood commented as he lead the troopers down the corridor, the Human Sith now skulking behind them. “You may address me Lord Ra’kus. My sorcerous companion is called Lord Tumul.”

“Separate from the Empire… and you still can’t give up your titles,” Aurek snidely commented.

“We’ve turned our backs on the Empire, but not it’s lessons. It’s teachings. We seek strength. Purity. Something the Empire has abandoned,” Ra’kus informed.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t see the apparent connection between finding strength and running across the desert with a tribe of tech-hating Sand Persons,” Aurek stated.

“They are mere tools, like yourselves, serving their betters until they are ultimately cast away,” Ra’kus mocked. “Have you any idea of the things buried beneath these sands?”

“Let me guess. A font of dark power. One that opposes the Ardent Sons’ source. So you recruited the tribe’s exiles and utilized their knowledge and manpower to uncover it,” Aurek detailed.

“An astute observation,” Ra’kus praised. “You’re correct. That is basically the lie we told the Fallen Sons. But the truth is much, much grander. “

As the four figures passed the threshold of the corridor, they were now walking upon a raised platform that overlooked a sizable room. Looking over the guard rail, the Imperials saw a small group of Sand People situated in ceremonial circles, dueling one another in hand-to-hand combat as a multitude of Sith warriors looked onward, supplying their own movements as reference.

“We came to them, wanting to return to a simpler lifestyle, free of the aberrant practices the Empire perpetrated. Technological impurities. Guile and trickery replacing actual skill,” Ra’kus listed.

“And it was all a lie,” Aurek commented.

“Oh there was more truth to it than you could possibly know,” Ra’kus confessed. “We find ultimate worth within the Force and someone’s ability to wield it. And a Sith’s ability to manipulate the Force is hampered as they welcome inorganic materials into their bodies.”

“So what if you don’t like cybernetics? I really don’t see where becoming enemies of the Empire and looking for some hidden artifact becomes the wisest course of action,” Aurek admitted.

“The Sith Empire is weakening, bloated, and more accepting now more than ever. It welcomes weakness and impurity into its ranks, with the burden of the standard Imperial populace weighing it down. In his want for widespread domination, the Emperor has abandoned true strength and slowly drives the Empire toward its own destruction,” Ra’kus detailed. “The new Order will be comprised solely of powerful beings, consolidating its strength in the few. A few ascendant beings who not only wield the Force, but utterly control it.”

“And how does a group such as yours accomplish that?” Aurek asked. Passing into a grandiose chamber with numerous other passageways leading to the room, the Imperials were greeted with a remarkable sight.

“With this!” Ra’kus proclaimed, gesturing toward the opposite end of the room. The entire face of the room’s wall was a fascinating assemblage of heavily layered blocks of sturdy materials, supplemented by interlocking rods and pillars. It was a door. More appropriately, a locked door. Directly in front of it, a trio of lesser Sith picked through a small pile of gathered machinery that lay at their feet. A pair of Sand People carrying a deactivated protocol droid by its two ends entered and tossed the chassis next to the pile. “Everything you see before is the work of Czerka. This facility, this scrap, and most importantly this vault, behind which rests the Source.”

“Czerka must have built some sort of research station around a Force artifact. But why would a tech company be interested in such a mystical thing,” Aurek mused.

“That mindset is exactly the reason for our separation from the Empire,” Ra’kus lambasted. “There is a technological impurity. One that rigidly defines and separates the notions of life, the Force, and machinery. We do not seek to separate ourselves from technology. We seek to fully embrace it, until there is no separation between the Force and cybernetics. Like the great ones before us.”

“The great ones?”

“The Rakata,” Ra’kus plainly stated. “Beyond this vault lies no sparkling grotto, no luminous stone, but a trove of original artifacts used by the Rakata and the plethora of technological innovations drawn from their designs. The history of the powerful species is deeply imbedded in the underworking of this planet. They left devices buried beneath the sands. Czerka saw the advantages in searching out the items, creating new technologies from their models. Numerous facilities like this one dotted the planet. But one day, there was a disaster at one of the stations. Czerka started disengaging their operations on Tatooine, consolidated their findings, their creations, behind this very vault!”

“So that’s what you’re after, the leftovers of a dead civilization,” Aurek sardonically commented.

“The only reason the Rakata died off, was because of the same situations and pitfalls your Empire currently finds itself inevitably heading toward. Overreach. Devastating infighting and civil wars. Something we will not repeat!” Ra’kus proclaimed.

“Assuming you can get the vault open,” Aurek stated.

“That is where you come in,” Ra’kus admitted. “This vault is a wonder in and of itself. Of Rakata and Czerka design. Dynamic recognition and connectivity. It is set to open in the presence of a particular code, a string of data hidden within some Czerka device. It can repel plasma cutters, and even lightsabers. It won’t render unto us it’s bounty until we prove ourselves worthy.”

“And what’s make you think I can help you with that in any way?”

“Czerka has its hands in a number of realms and trades. Whether you realize it or not, your ‘state of the art’, ‘Imperial’, armor probably contains some trace Czerka influences. Or your comm systems, or any data receptor. The vault is capable of drawing out hidden information, peeling back layers of data to search for that mythical Czerka code… that key. Whether it be in some datapad, or even in someone’s mind. So all you simply have to do is present yourself to the vault, and we’ll see if you possess the code we seek.”

“I’m not taking a single step until I know where you took my other squad mate.”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to be making demands Imperial.”

“Doesn’t mean I won’t make them anyway,” Aurek stated.

“The giant was the first to wake, in the middle of transit to your holding cell. Killed three acolytes before we could incapacitate him. He refused to cooperate further, not uttering a single word. The vault couldn’t draw anything out of him, so we decided to let our beast handler have a playmate.”

“Beast handler?”

“The Dark-side is heavy in this area, due to the Rakata influence. Powerful creatures are known to pursue and thrive off of the resonant energies Rakata artifacts can produce. In the caves below, Lord Zoh’a is most likely feeding him to one of the dark beasts of the desert!” Ra’kus proclaimed.

“You mean you left them alone with each other? Well, we have nothing to worry about then,” Aurek casually dismissed.

“Your overconfidence with be your undoing!” Ra’kus barked.

“Our overconfidence?” Aurek balked. “We’re not the ones hedging our bets on overcoming the consequences of treason by our ability to unlock some mysterious cache of unknown leftovers from an extinct species. By the way, why did you lock us up? Why not take us straight to the vault? Does it not work if we’re unconscious? Do you even know? The only reason you’ve succeeded thus far in your plans has been complete, utter, blind luck. That’s why Intelligence thought a small squad of above average troopers would be able to put a stop to the entirety of you, your allies, and whatever inane plans you’ve managed to cobble together out of some inane, selfish desire to be better than your peers because you couldn’t advance through Sith society the hard way. Instead you head out to Tatooine in search of artifacts that may or may not exist behind a vault that you may or may not understand hoping to unlock it with a key you may or may not possess.”

Ra’kus let out a primal yell and lunged at Aurek, stopping in front of him, clenching his throat within the cusp of his clawed hand. The two figures’ companions remained utterly still and silent, Forn seeing business as usual and Lord Tumul taking no interest in his partner’s rage.

“You would do well to watch your tongue Imperial,” Ra’kus growled into Aurek’s facemask. “I would like to keep you as insurance against further acts by the Empire, but don’t think I couldn’t and wouldn’t kill you where you stand! We don’t…” Ra’kus was interrupted by the entry of a familiar figure into the room from one of the numerous passageways. The figure was garbed head to toe in black clothes incorporating the styles of both the Sith and the Sand People. Beneath his hooded cloak, his face was featurelessly wrapped in dark cloth. Forn immediately recognized the warrior.

“I thought you thought you killed him?” Aurek stated with the Sith’s hand still around his neck. Looking over, Forn only offered a shrug of his shoulders, his hands still bound behind his back.

“Ah, Dunestalker,” Ra’kus greeted, releasing his grip on the trooper’s neck. “We were just about to see if the Imperials are capable of opening the vault. The leader of the Fallen Sons offered only a slow, silent nod.

“Dunestalker…” Aurek muttered in confusion. “Wait, he understands Basic?”

“Only the simplest of terms,” Ra’kus informed.

“Oh, good. Then I can tell him you’re lying in two languages,” Aurek admitted.

“You honestly think he’d take the word of someone still loyal to the Empire?” Ra’kus asked after a chortle. The Force-sensitive Sand Person looked upon the Imperial with little more than a passing interest.

“Now, if you would be so kind as to stand in front of the vault door,” Ra'kus ordered. The two Imperials looked to one another, each refusing to move. “Would you prefer my companion force you to move?” To his side, Lord Tumul began to conjure crackling arcs of blueish purple lightning between his fingertips. Without another word, Aurek began walking toward the grandiose door in from of him, with Forn close behind. As they near the door, Aurek was forced to pass right by Dunestalker.

“Dunestalker… we met your replacement,” Aurek informed the Fallen Sons leader as he continued his slow trek toward the vault. The trooper's words had an obvious effect on the warrior as he continued to gaze upon the soldier behind his wrappings with a curious slant in his head. Now directly in front of the vault that stretched to over five times their height, the Imperials looked up, wondering how the locked door would react to their presence.

----------


Grek stood alone inside a sizable man made pit, a smooth cylindrical wall surrounding it and stretching far above, out of typical climbing distance. Uniform for the most part, the only break came across from Grek, where the wall discontinued on both sides of a large cave. The cave and the ground upon which the large trooper stood seemed natural formations that rested on the fringe of the Czerka facility. The shadowed opening was utterly dark, showing no sign of an exit, but was wide and tall enough for a large shuttle to pass through. Numerous hanging lights illuminated the room which for all intends and purposes appeared to be an arena. Above, Grek heard the slow methodical clapping of a figure pacing around the pit’s edge.

“Well, well, well. I had hoped to run you through agauntlet of nefarious beast after nefarious beast,” Lord Zoh’a teased from above. “But it would seem Ra’kus doesn’t want me wasting any time with you, so you’ll have the privilege of meeting my favorite pet. The tribals become so depressed when one of their banthas mysteriously disappears, so he’s been on something of a diet recently. I’m sure he’ll enjoy a light snack. Allow me to introduce you to the Greater Krayt Dragon!”

From the shadows of the cave emerged the head of a gigantic beast. Razor sharp teeth bared themselves from its reptilian snout, it’s elongated head topped with a crown of four horns jutting backward. From its head sprouted a lengthy neck that connected to a torso the size of a starfighter supported by five legs on each side. Lumbering forward, the beast had not yet fully entered the arena as it’s utterly long tail yet trailed in its gait. Upon its finally terminating end, sharp boney spikes protruded from the tail’s tip, acting as a bladed cudgel. All in all, from tip to tip, the Greater Krayt Dragon approached one hundred meters in length, comprised of thousands upon thousands of kilograms worth of carnivorous fury wrapped in a dark gray hide.

At the opposite end of the arena, Grek silently tilted his head back and forth before cracking his knuckles.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.27.2012 , 08:35 PM | #32
Chapter Fourteen: The Pit

Inside the cockpit of the Imperial shuttle, Dorn manipulated the various devices that laid in front of him with Besh sitting in the adjacent seat. Looking out the front viewport, Besh pointed out toward the horizon toward the waving soldier standing in the sands below. Dorn descended the shuttle and lowered the entry ramp, inviting the trooper inside. Ascending the ramp, the trooper received a hearty welcome from Esk who was lackadaisically sitting in the passenger bay alongside one of the Ardent Sons escorts.

“Cresh! Glad to have you aboard!” Esk boisterously greeted.

“Thanks Esk. Only one of our escorts made it?” Cresh inquired, shooting the occasional glance toward the stern Sand Person.

“I guess. You’ll have to ask Besh for the details,” Esk confessed. Circulating the gap created by the entry ramp, Cresh knocked on the cockpit door and proceeded to poke his head into the area as the passage opened.

“Good to see you’re okay Cresh,” Besh stated as he looked over the shuttle’s diagnostics with Dorn.

“Yeah, that was a damned good shot you pulled off back there,” Cresh complimented.

“Just doing my job,” Besh replied.

“So did only one of the escorts make it?” Cresh inquired.

“You could say that,” Besh answered. “It would seem there’s a bit of backstory with the tribe’s huntsmen. Many years ago, before the Ardent Sons were what they are today, they were your typical raiding band of tribals attacking any settlers that they deemed had encroached on their territory. Like others of their kind, they were known to adopt children of defeated cultures into their own ranks, raising them as their own. On one excursion, the tribe brought back four settler children. Humans. They would come to be the tribe’s prime hunters. And our escorts.”

“Wait, so that one’s actually a Human?” Cresh asked.

“Genetically, yes.” Besh answered.

“Makes sense. During our stay in the village, I came across a wounded Sand Person. I could find no deviation from Human biology when I treated him. I suppose there’s little telling how much of a Sand Person's tribe is composed of outsiders under those wraps.

“I call ‘em Sandalorians,” Esk piped up from the passenger bay.

“Cute,” Cresh replied, completely deadpan. With a sudden realization, the medic turned back toward the cockpit. “Wait, you said four?”

“It seemed the hunters were not unanimous in their approval of the Ardent Sons changing ways. The lead huntsman, the one who greeted us when we first contacted the tribe, had a predecessor. His brother. A Force-sensitive. He was the one who left the tribe and founded the Fallen Sons.”

“So that’s who Forn fought at the outpost.”

“Correct. And while he left the tribe, another of the hunters remained with the Ardent Sons as an inside agent. My escort. He had turned his weapon on me back at the cliffs, and if it weren’t for your escort coming back, I probably wouldn’t be alive. And in turn, you probably wouldn’t be alive. You should probably thank him.”

“You’re right about that,” Cresh admitted. “So, do we have a heading?”

“Well, we’re not picking up any signals from Aurek’s group, so we can’t exactly head directly to his location,” Besh informed.

“The logical thing to do would be to take the shuttle back to the Ardent Sons settlement, make good on our agreement to give them the power generators, and plan a search expedition alongside the Sand People,” Dorn explained.

“And the illogical thing?” Cresh asked.

“Take this shuttle to the last known location of Aurek and bring down the fist of Imperial might upon whomever we encounter,” Besh answered.

“Sounds like a plan,” Esk admitted.

“Do you think they’ve gotten themselves into any real trouble?” Cresh asked.

“Well, Aurek has a knack for getting himself into trouble. But he also has a knack for getting himself out of trouble,” Besh confessed. “I’m sure they’re doing alright.”

----------

The entire chamber shook as the Greater Krayt Dragon whipped its pendulously tipped tail toward Grek. Rotating the entirety of its mass, the dragon embedded its barbed tail into the metallic wall behind the trooper not a moment after he dodged out of the way. Rescinding its tail, Grek saw the boney protrusions capable of easily slicing through reinforced metals. The beast barked a horrible growl from its ravenous maw, whilst Grek stood in silence, watching every lumbering movement the dragon made, while putting some distance between himself and the beast.

The two circled the area, hugging the pit’s high barrier and staring each other down as the cackling Sith Lord enjoyed the show from above. Whether he knew it or not, Lord Zoh’a was witnessing a clash between two remarkable forces. One, an unstoppable juggernaut of a brute. The other, a rather large Krayt Dragon. Grek studied the beast from across the arena, watching its movements, its form, its tendencies. The dragon’s head alone surpassed the trooper in size. Its tail followed in his gait as a lashing flail. One after another the ten legs that supported the beast slowly shuffled the beast along its intended path. An advantage.

The Krayt undoubtedly possessed greater reach, but its legs were intended to propel the beast beneath the sands of the dune sea. On sturdy foundation, Grek possessed greater mobility. Positioning was key for victory. The trooper knew he could try his luck in the caves, but stood a greater chance in the known pit. The beast lunged its head down and toward the trooper, repeatedly snapping its jaws. Taking a leap back, Grek stood just outside the reach of the Krayt’s neck. Upon one final snap forward, Grek offered his first response by slamming a fist into the beast’s snout. The dragon reeled with a harsh shriek, resonating within the cavernous arena.

Furious, the Krayt lashed out at the troublesome pest, raising its head before swinging it horizontally against the trooper. The side of the beast’s skull impacted against Grek, sending him flying and eventually impacting against the wall a short distance away. Lifting himself from the ground, the large trooper immediately recovered. Weak sinus cavity. Strong skull. Slow moving. Thick hide. In his position, there was nothing he could to bring down the titanic beast. No environmental factors, no tools. Just him and his armor. Seeing only one recourse, the trooper calmly walked toward the middle of the arena where the dragon currently stood.

From above, the beast master curiously watched the Imperial’s action of bravado, approaching the beast head on. Standing completely still, the Greater Krayt Dragon slowly approached its next meal. With one final bellow, the beast surged its open jaws down upon the trooper before promptly snapping them shut. The beast handler giggled with dark delight at the show as he watched the Krayt raise his head to swallow the Imperial. A moment later, however, the beast began to thrash its head about, wildly swinging its neck back and forth.

From within the dragon’s mouth, Grek had firmly planted his feet at the precipice of the beast’s throat and began to dig his way upward, through the flesh and cartilage and bone that rest between him and the beast’s brain. Eventually the dragon’s flailing stopped as its head fell to the ground, the rest of the beast’s lifeless body soon following. Prying open the toothy maw, a fluid stained Grek emerged from the beast, to the shock and dismay of the watching beast master.

“You… who are you? What are you?!” Zoh’a exclaimed into the pit. Grek offered no response, only continuing the dead stare from beneath his facemask. “You… you can’t escape! You still can’t leave the arena!”

Looking around, Greek saw the cuts and indentations left in the pit’s wall by the dragon’s tail. Deep cuts. Taking a running leap, the troopers imbedded his foot in the gap in the otherwise smooth wall. A second later he leapt upward, catching his hand on the edge of the path surrounding the arena. Pulling himself up, the Imperial saw a panicking Zoh’a a short distance away, fiddling with the control panel of the singular door that connected the cavern with the rest of the facility. Grek began his stern walk toward the Sith. Turning, Zoh’a caught a glimpse of the approaching juggernaut.

Diverting his attention, the Sith thrust both of his hands forward, as if clawing and rending the air in front of him. The motions appeared to have no effect on the charging Imperial. Panicking, the Sith drew his lightsaber from his belt and ignited its bright crimson blade, placing it between himself and the trooper. It did no good, however, as Grek merely grabbed hold of the Sith’s hand and bent it backwards, driving the Sith’s own lightsaber back, raking it across the Force-user's shoulder and chest. Grek quickly sent the lifeless body plummeting over the edge of the pit before kicking down the door to the interior of the research facility.

----------

Aurek and Forn had been standing directly in front of the vault door for what seemed like a minute with absolutely no results. The gathered Sith looked at one another in disappointment.

“Looks like it's more digging through the desert for you,” Aurek insulted Ra’kus as he turned away from the vault.

“Unfortunately for you. I have since decided you are of too little worth to keep around as hostages. We’ll simply have to dispose of you,” Ra’kus admitted through gritted teeth.

“Alright, I’ll make this easy on you. I challenge Lord Ra’kus to a duel!” Aurek shouted to no one in particular.

“Are you insane?” Ra’kus balked. “Regardless of the fact that you would never succeed, what make you think I would accept such a pitiful challenge in the first place?”

“Because my dear Sith Lord, I’ve spent enough time amongst the Sith to know how they operate and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t expect you to accept. However, I have also now spent enough time amongst the Sand People to know how they operate,” Aurek informed. “You see, they value skill, much as you claim to. If you refuse, you’ll no longer have the trust and respect of Dunestalker here. Without him, you don’t have his tribe, without them, no more scouring masses looking for your key. If you refuse my call for a duel, my mission will be completed. If you accept, there’s a fifty-fifty chance my mission will be completed. So what’ll it be? Lose your followers? Or fight little ol’ me in a duel to the death?”

“You think you’re smart, don’t you Imperial?” Ra’kus grumbled.

“I try my best.”

“Then tell me, how would you even expect to win a duel against me?”

“I believe someone confiscated our vibroblades. We’d like them back please.”

“Aurek are you sure this is wise?” Forn whispered to his squad mate. “I mean, would you rather I be the one to duel him?”

“Don’t worry, I got this one,” Aurek state, attempting to alleviate whatever fears the trooper had in his capabilities.

“Lord Ra’kus, are you sure this is wise?” Lord Tumul whispered to his companion. “I could assuage the Fallen Sons even if you refuse.”

“No, it is our duty to put the Imperials in their place. And we can’t accord any shake ups with the tribals at this juncture.

“Fallen Sons, will preside over duel,” Dunestalker muttered in debased Basic. “Bring them their weapons. Meet on mountaintop.”

----------

Sneaking through the facility halls, Grek found the utter lack of guards and sentries peculiar. Having ventured through several rooms and halls, the trooper pondered where the Sand People and Sith he had witnessed wandering the halls during his first encounter were. Turning a corner, Grek had finally laid eyes upon a life form. A Sand Person, the figure wore a distinctive red sash around his shoulders. It was their squad’s escort, Dunestalker. The huntsman was sneaking along in much the same way as Grek. Pounding his fist against the wall beside him, Grek produced a sharp ring catching the attention of the Ardent Sons hunter. Grek was happy to see the escort had managed to track the squad and infiltrate the facility. Dunestalker was happy to see a friendly face, as faceless as it was.

Together, the two moved throughout the labyrinthine research station, intent on reconvening with Aurek and Forn.

----------

Finally standing amongst the exterior of the facility, Aurek and Forn stood on a flattened platform of stone stemming from the side of a mountain formation. High above the ground, they matched the height of some of Corellia’s taller skyscrapers. The area was somewhat cramped with the majority of the cultists and Fallen Sons circling the dueling arena. A natural formation, no vestige of the facility had encroached upon the peak. Instead a cave in the side of the mountain would lead them back down to the vault.

As Aurek and Forn stood within a dueling circle no wider than an average apartment dwelling, they watched as Ra’kus prepared for the duel with Tumul by his side. Close to a hundred pairs of eyes gazed upon the duelists from behind the ring’s threshold. Sand People and Sith alike, with Dunestalker taking a special place between the two parties. Aurek held and twirled the straight-edged vibrosword within his hand, readying himself for the duel.

“Aurek, they gave me my knives back, I can take over from here, if you’d like,” Forn advised his squad mate.

“No thanks, Forn. I need you to keep an eye on the warrior's buddy while we duel. I don’t want him pulling off any tricks from the sidelines,” Aurek admitted.

“Honestly, this is overconfident... even for you,” Forn commented.

“Good, then that’ll be something me and Ra’kus have in common.”

As Forn parted ways with his squad leader, Aurek took a series of deep breaths and walked closer to the center of the ring. Lord Tumul took his partner’s cloak and walked out of the ring’s boundaries to stand next to Forn and Dunestalker. Ra’kus approached his opponent, garbed in the body armor of war. Darkened chest plates, greaves, gauntlets, and boots, yet the stern visage of the charismatic cult leader remained utterly unadorned. The two figures, the two warriors, met in the center of the dueling ring, standing at equal heights, gazing into the eyes of one another.

Helmeted Imperial versus Pureblooded Sith. Tech versus the Force. The faceless versus the famous. Red plasma versus black metal.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.30.2012 , 05:29 PM | #33
Chapter Fifteen: The Match

Aurek held his sword in his right hand, firmly gripped but ever fluid in its motion. The opposing Sith had yet to adopt a countenance of battle, utterly confident in his ability to repel the Imperial. Activating his weapon, the blade of Aurek’s vibrosword softly hummed. Separating themselves from the surrounding commotion of clamoring Sand People and cultists eager for a fight, the two duelists locked gazes, ignoring the sights and sounds unfolding around them. Nothing mattered accept for the test of might between two individuals that was about to take place.

“You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into Imperial,” Ra’kus grumbled toward the featureless trooper.

“I’ll readily admit that,” Aurek admitted, no hesitation in his voice. “However, think of it this way, if I do win, I’ll technically have proven you right, displaying the profound impact technology can have.”

“Do not kid yourself Imperial,” Ra’kus countered. “What little trinkets and toys your technicians outfitted you with are nothing compared to the might held by the Rakata. The ability to channel and manipulate the Force. To create something from nothing. To hold the ability to decimate an entire planet within the palm of your hands. You possess nothing!”

“I’ve got a suit of armor and a blade that can resist lightsabers. I’d say, right about now, that’s all I actually need,” Aurek verbally prodded the cultist.

“We’ll see about that.”

From the sidelines, Dunestalker raised his hand high into the air, prompting the gathered Sand People to momentarily hush their lust for conflict. Shouting a single word, the leader of the Fallen Sons dropped his hand, practically cutting the air on its way down. The signal to begin had been given.

Taking the initiative, Ra’kus raised his saber and promptly brought it down upon Aurek. Reacting quickly enough, the trooper parried the blow with the flat of his blade, keeping contact to a minimum. Aurek brought his weapon in close before promptly thrusting it forward, attempting to pierce his opponent’s chest. Twisting his body, the Sith batted the blade away with his saber. Rather than attempt to recover, Aurek followed through with the motion, utilizing the momentum to try and spin around to the Pureblood’s flank. The movement was promptly stopped as the Sith directed the elbow of his free arm into the trooper’s facemask, sending him on a short fall to the flat of his back. The Sand People began to howl and cheer at the display.

Ra’kus thrust his saber at the fallen trooper, only for the Imperial to roll away. Barely escaping, the crimson blade of energy scrapped Aurek’s left pauldron as he fled, soliciting a brief display of sparks. Putting sufficient distance between him and his opponent, Aurek returned to his feet to see the Sith slowly moving toward his position. The Sith was in no rush, and with the dueling arena’s border rigidly defines by the encircling Sand People and Sith, there was nowhere for the Imperial to run. The two would continue to clash in much the same way for the next few harrowing minutes. The two would connect for but a moment, parrying each other blows and attempting to capitalize on the sequence. Ultimately, Aurek would fail the contest, failing to overcome the Sith’s strength, or reflexes, or weapon.

Watching the Imperial continue to be turned away, on the retreat, gave rise to a growing confidence within the heart of Ra’kus. The Sith was now toying with the trooper. Unfortunately for the Pureblood, Aurek had been toying with him for much, much longer. Ever since their meeting in the bowels of the Czerka facility, Aurek knew a confrontation was imminent. The only question was, could it be on his terms? And it most certainly was.

Aurek had gotten him alone, relatively speaking. A one-on-one bout. Aurek had gotten his psychological profile from previous conversations and monologues. Aurek had gauged his capabilities, when he opted to manually choke him instead of use the Force. He was strong, but could only find confidence and success through the manipulation of others. Relying on the Fallen Sons. Relying on Czerka. Relying on the Rakata. Ra’kus wasn’t invincible. Far from it. And utterly predictable.

Aurek was ready to end the duel. Charging forward, Aurek clashed with Ra’kus, them bringing their weapons against one another’s. Each pushed against the other, one’s strength supplemented by powered armor, the other by the Force. They had met, and each refused to yield. No quick maneuvers. No deft turns of the blade. Only a match. Strength for strength. As the two figures pressed their blades against one another, evidence of change was inevitably seen. While the two might have reached a stalemate with similar weapons, Aurek’s vibrosword was beginning to yield, the heat of Ra’kus’ lightsaber making its away past the weapon's vibrating field, heating the metal where they met to a bright orange.

“The ability to ‘resist’ lightsabers… is sadly not enough,” Ra’kus taunted, continuing the clash. Aurek pressed on in silence. Eventually, the heat was too much for the vibroblade, and the lightsaber passed through, cutting off the sword’s top half. Each combatant now had free reign to press themselves forward. Ra’kus raked his saber across Aurek’s chest, only to find the trooper had just enough sword left to slice through his own neck. The saber managed to produce as sparkling display as it attempted to cut through the trooper’s advanced armor, but ultimately only managed to leave an shallow diagonal gash across the chest plate. Aurek’s broken sword however, was able to freely pass through the Sith’s unprotected neck, slicing through flesh and bone, the wound exponentially exasperated by the weapon’s vibrations.

The Sith slumped to the ground, his spinal cord severed, using the last of his inhuman strength struggling to breath. Kneeling down, Aurek took what remained of his sword and drove it into Ra’kus’ heart, piercing the thin armor that protected the Sith’s chest. The lead cultist faded to utter motionlessness, as the gathered parties gazed on the scene in utter silence. On the sidelines, Forn softly crossed his arms as he looked upon his squad leader with a profound respect. Oddly enough, Dunestalker did the same. Rising from his knee, Aurek had expected to be greeted with some modicum of a response from the Pureblood’s sorcerous companion, but the Human stood completely unfazed by the events that had taken place.

“Congratulation Imperial… you’ve managed to take down our finest warrior,” Tumul congratulated. “Unfortunately, he was little more than an idealistic figurehead, possessing little of what could amount to true power. However, with him out of the picture, the line of succession calls for me to resume his duties. Dunestalker, the Imperials have proven themselves a threat. Remove them.”

The order fell on deaf ears, as the Fallen Sons leader refused to move from his spot, let alone issue any commands to his tribe. Now the cultist was beginning to show a sense of uneasiness. The gathered Sith looked nervously at one another, unsure of how to proceed.

“Looks like you just lost your workforce…” Forn commented as he left the sidelines to meet up with Aurek, who still stood over the fallen warrior. A sense of rage was slowly building up in the sorcerer to the point of imminent release.

“Do you honestly think you’ve won?!” Tumul bitterly shouted at the Imperials and he paced toward his fellow cultists, the divide between Sith and Fallen Sons growing ever wider as they moved toward separate ends of the dueling arena. “We will not be stopped by some meddling Imperials or some pitiful tribals! We are strength! We are the future! We are…” The sorcerer found himself cut off by an intruding voice ringing in his ear.

“Sir! We’ve got trouble!” a voice sounded off over the Sith’s hidden comm system.

“What is it?!” Tumul impatiently shouted back.

“We got a blip on the tracking systems. Some unknown distress beacon that activated a while ago!” the voice explained.

“What? Why didn’t we know about this before?!”

“We did! Except primary logistics group got trashed! One Imperial. One tribal. They decimated everything! Everyone! I barely escaped. Had to get away... They brought down everything! Monitoring equipment… scrambler signals…”

“What does this mean?!” Tumul incessantly inquired.

“Alright boys, it’s show time,” Aurek calmly stated with his finger pressed to his helm.

Suddenly, from over the precipitous cliff rose an Imperials shuttle, slowly raising itself over the cliff’s edge like a magnificent beast emerging from the waters. Facing the masses, the shuttle directed its front toward the proceedings, displaying its open maw in the form of a lowered entrance ramp. Standing at the threshold of the ramp, two Imperials stood resolute, their weapons raised and trained upon the numerous figures that lay before them. Sniper rifle and scattergun at the ready, Besh and Esk anticipated their squad leader’s orders.

“Awaiting confirmation of targets,” Besh stoically chatted into the comm.

“Target the Sith. The Fallen Sons are with us for now,” Aurek explained.

“Understood,” Besh commented before firing of a round from his rifle. The bullet propelled forward before striking one of the cultists in the chest. Ejecting the spent cartridge over the edge of the ramp, the shell daintily fell from the sky toward the distant base of the mountain below. Immediately the small army of Sith retrieved and ignited their sabers, producing a brilliant sea of red lights.

With a primal howl, Dunestalker raised his fist into the air and commanded his forces to strike. Firmly wielding their gaderffii, the Fallen Sons charged down on the Sith. Reaching to his belt, the tribe leader grasped the gifted lightsaber in his hand, intending to use it against those who gave it to him. Forn pulled the two vibroknives from his side and marched forward alongside the Fallen Sons. Looking down at the blade still embedded in his deceased opponent, Aurek instead knelt down to retrieve Ra’kus’ lightsaber. Igniting the crimson blade, Aurek twirled the elegant weapon within his hand.

The shuttle repositioned itself so that it was now hovering over the arena behind Aurek. Esk lept to the ground with nary a bend in knees and proceeded to join the battle. Besh and Cresh left the shuttle to reunited with Aurek, a place of relative solace amongst the ensuing bedlam of hostilities that took place a short distance ahead.

“Where’s Grek?” Besh hastily asked as he fire a careful shot toward the crowd.

“Below,” Aurek plainly stated, gesturing toward the cave in the side of mountain. “He’s doing fine without us”

“We need to bring him up for extraction,” Besh reminded his squad leader.

“Good point. Dorn keep the shuttle circling around. Stay safe whilst we deal with the remaining hostiles,” Aurek calmly commanded.

“You got it Aurek. We got some spare rifles aboard the shuttle if you need replacements,” Dorn informed over the comm.

“No thanks,” Aurek stated looking toward the lightsaber in his hands. “We’re doing just fine.”

“Aurek, got any maps of the area?” Besh asked, firing another shot.

“Been collecting data ever since we were ‘captured’,” Aurek admitted. A loading indicator appear in the lower corner of the extraction team’s HUD as they received an update to their map. Studying the intricate layout of the Czerka facility, even Besh was immediately overwhelmed with the grandeur of the research station. In one of the lower levels, Besh saw an indicator for Grek’s position. Even with the cultists’ scramblers offline, the natural layering of the facility had a way of masking signals within its depths.

“Me and Cresh will reunite with Grek,” Besh informed Aurek. “You coming with us or staying up here?”

“The majority of their forces are up here,” Aurek admitted. “I’ll keep an eye on Forn and Esk. You shouldn’t have any troubles below.” With a nod of their heads, Besh and Cresh entered the darkened maw of the cave that would inevitably lead them to the Czerka facility below. Lightsaber firmly gripped in his hand, Aurek leapt forward and entered the grand melee that was taking place.

Though at a disadvantage, the Fallen Sons were capable of putting up a sufficient fight with the Sith warriors. As each side’s massive mob clashed against one another, it was a chaotic tussle of people capitalizing on the innumerable mistakes of other people that would inevitably occur in the process of the uncalculated conflict. Distractions abound, even the most stalwart and focused of cultists could not keep their guard up as flanged metals and jagged blades stabbed at them from all angles. Sand People fell one after another as lightsabers passed with ease through their gaderffii. Some would fall instantly, others would shove the melted edge of their weapon through the attacking Sith.

Forn and Dunestalker had their eyes set of Lord Tumul., who had managed to lose himself within the chaotic crowd. Esk fared particularly well in the melee, ducking under swinging sabers only to react with a point-blank blast of his scattergun. Dunestalker walked with patience through the engulfing melee, paying no attention to the plethora of clashes and contests of life and death. A Sith unwise enough to challenge him was met with an immaterial grip crushing his neck and lifting him from the ground as the Fallen Sons leader clutched the air in front of him with his condensing hand. Terminating the warrior, Dunestalker promptly discarded the lifeless body out of his implacable path.

The Imperial huntsman found himself unable to make significant progress toward his bounty, meeting Sith after Sith whom would rather combat him than his newfound tribal allies. Forn had no interest in initiates. In acolytes. Aurek had defeated the cultists' previous leader. Now was his chance. Dodging out of the path of an unruly lightsaber swing, Forn quickly gashed the attacker’s wrist with his blade, before promptly sinking it into, and retracting it from, the warrior’s chest. Suddenly, Forn laid eyes on a tempestuous display or arcing light a few layers deeper into the quarrel. Evidence of his target.

Tumul lashed out at the approaching Sand People, not with his lightsaber, but with streams of Force lightning arcing from his fingertips. The azure and purple energies flew in wild chaotic jolts, connecting with charging Fallen Sons and paralyzing them with pain. One after another the Sand People fell to the sorcerer’s destructive might, arcs of lightning burning and wrecking any who would dare approach. A wringing in his ear was enough to capture the cult leader’s attention momentarily.

“What is it?!” Tumul lambasted into his comm.

“Sir! It’s the vault!” a voice chattered in his ear.

“What?!” Tumul asked in disbelief.

“The vault! It’s… reacting to something.”

“The Imperials…” Tumul whispered to himself. “Tell me, what exactly is it doing?”

“Parts are… lighting up,” the voice struggled to explain.

“Is it steady… or increasing?” Tumul probed.

“It seems to be getting stronger,” the voice explained.

“Then the key is getting closer. I’m on my way.”

“Sir, what should we… oh no… he’s back! The one from…” the voice began before being cut off with a resounding bang.

Looking beyond the thinning crowd, the cult leader saw a clear path between himself and the cave leading back to the facility, but found himself unable to move from his spot. An invisible force wrapped and compressed his entire body, locking him in place. Trying with all his might to turn his head, the sorcerer saw Dunestalker standing a short distance away, his hands outstretched, clawing at the air in front of him. Unable to move, the Sith shot a sharp glare at the Fallen Sons leader as his own body was slowly crushed at the whim of the tribal Force user.

The grasp was broken when a charging warrior interrupted Dunestalker’s channeling. While unharmed, the Sand Person was ultimately forced to deal with the aggressor before continuing. Turning back toward his goal, Tumul thought himself clear to proceed, but was shocked to see a leaping Imperial descending upon him. Forn cascaded down upon the sorcerer from his boisterous jump, intending to drive his dual knives into the Sith’s flesh. Holding up his own hands, Tumul was unable to adequately stop the trooper’s descent. The sorcerer grabbed ahold of Forn’s wrists as he descended, the Imperial’s weight sending them both to the ground.

Upon his back with the Imperial looming over him, Tumul held Forn at bay as he continuously drove his daggers down. Eventually the trooper dug the tips of his vibroknives into each of the sorcerer’s shoulder. Howling in pain, Tumul channeled a torrent of electricity through his hands and through Forn’s wrists. The arcing energies pulsed throughout the Imperial, his armor, and his weapons, but the stalwart soldier refused yield even after a few seconds of sustained agony. Unfortunately, the electricity had made it to the power cells fueling the weapons’ vibrating function, causing the two knives’ hilts to explode in pair of small but powerful detonations sandwiched between the two figures.

Forn relinquished his grip and rolled away, whilst the upper torsos of him and the sorcerer were consumed with fire. Rolling upon the ground, the fire had little lasting impact on the armored Imperials before it was extinguished. Looking up from the ground, Forn saw that the cult leader was already gone from his sights. The trooper slammed his hand into the ground with a curse, before realizing his gauntlets had been compromised. Locked into the position of gripping a knife sans knife, Forn found himself unable to move his fingers. Rather, he could wiggle his fingers within the glove, but the gauntlet proved unresponsive, meaning he would have little luck trying to wield a weapon at this moment.

The battle proceeded with the Imperials and Fallen Sons eventually claiming victory. All of the once spectating cultists had been dealt with, only Dunestalker and a small allotment of his tribe standing to appreciate the victory. Aurek walked amongst the battlefield with his new lightsaber having met his expectations. Esk took a short rest and slowly put a new batch of shells in his scattergun. As Forn raised himself with his locked-up hands, he looked around for any sign of Lord Tumul, but found none. Aurek, Esk, and Forn reconvened alongside Dunestalker.

“Is everyone alright?” Aurek asked of his squad mates.

“Hands locked up,” Forn explained. “Force-lightning and a couple small explosions did it. Now I can’t even hold a weapon. Rifle or blade.”

“Relax,” Aurek advised. “Take a moment to rest.”

“Their leader’s still alive,” Forn explained. “He’s heading toward Besh and the rest. We have to stop him.”

“He’s injured,” Aurek reminded.

“But not dead,” Forn replied. “I let one foe get away. Not again.”

“Uh… he’s right here,” Esk informed as he jutted a finger toward Dunestalker.

“Hrmph,” Forn grumbled, having moved on from his previous quarrels with the Sand Person. “Dorn, set the shuttle down. Need new weapons.”

“I thought you couldn’t hold anything?” Esk chided.

“Get me two vibroknives… and the welder,” Forn continued into the comm. Esk raised his hand to rub the brow of his helm.

“Besh, have you reconvened with Grek yet?” Aurek asked into the team comm, ignoring his neighboring squad mates.

“Uh… affirmative,” Besh replied, almost dumbstruck.

“Besh, is there something wrong?”

“No… no… not wrong, it’s just. There’s this big door here… and it’s opening.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Essence_of_Light's Avatar


Essence_of_Light
05.30.2012 , 08:46 PM | #34
Awesome story and has kept me hooked the whole time so far.

Keep you the good work!
For the Republic!
Click my referral link here for 7 free days as sub, free server transfer, and free CC unlocks!

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.03.2012 , 12:30 AM | #35
Quote: Originally Posted by Essence_of_Light View Post
Awesome story and has kept me hooked the whole time so far.

Keep you the good work!
Thanks for the encouraging feedback. I've had the feeling in the back of my mind that this episode has been dragging itself out for a bit too long, but its good to see someone's enjoying it. The next episode I have planned is set to be much more contained with the 'investigation period' for the 'mystery' being much more focused.

But for now... here's a new chapter. With 3.8 thousand words. A new record for me I think. Neutral feelings regarding that aspect...
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.03.2012 , 12:31 AM | #36
Chapter Sixteen: The Vault

The numerable bars and locks that graced the grandiose vault door slowly rescinded one by one. A circular ring of light had appeared in the solid façade, glowing a bright red signaling it’s activation to all who gazed upon it. Captivated, Besh almost missed the incoming transmission from his squad leader.

“Besh, there’s trouble heading your way,” Aurek informed over the team comm. The trooper was hastily navigating the cramped pathway that lead back to the Czerka facility through the upper tiers of the mountain. To his flank, Esk and the elder Dunestalker followed in close proximity as the group marched through the downward and winding paths that had been carved out of the rock and stone, only the resonant tapping of their boots against the metal floor and stairs reminding them that they were running amongst the machinations and dealings of progress and industry.

“What kind of trouble?” Besh calmly inquired, momentarily rending his attention from the captivating vault door.

“The Sith Lord slash cult leader kind of trouble,” Aurek detailed. “Forn inflicted some damage but he managed to get away.”

“Who? Forn or the Sith Lord?” Besh joked.

“I heard that,” Forn grumbled into his comm from the shuttle’s cargo bay. The ship had settled down amongst the remaining Fallen Sons warriors that stood alongside the scene of death and dismay that had been painted onto the mountainside canvas.

Dorn made sure everything in the cockpit was reading normally and none of the Fallen Sons seemed intent on entering his ship. Making his way to the cargo bay, Dorn passed the surviving Arden Sons escort that had taken to silence and sat alone on the bench that ran between the two ends of the ship. Poking his head through the next door, the pilot saw Forn rummaging through the built in side panels and storage pockets not occupied by the squad’s power generators. Even with his nonfunctioning gauntlets, the Imperial hunter was able to procure a spot welder and a rung of high-quality patching tape.

“What are you doing?” Dorn asked, utterly baffled with his squad mate’s actions.

“Can’t find any spare vibroblades. Going to affix what’s left of mine to my wrists,” Forn informed as he continued his rummaging. Looking to the soldier’s feet, Dorn saw the remnants of Forn’s knives, the majority of their handles had been reduced to scrap as a result of their compromised power cells.

“And I thought Esk was dedicated to his craft. Look, just use one of the spare blasters… or pick up one of the slew of lightsabers laying around outside,” Dorn advised.

“No. Even if I were capable of holding either… don’t use lightsabers. Only use blades with weight,” Forn admitted.

“And how exactly are you going to attach those blades with your non-functioning hands?” Dorn teased.

“Look away… I’ll take off my helm and use my teeth,” Forn replied. The pilot could not measure the seriousness of his squad mate.

“Fine,” Dorn stated after a heavy sigh. “Come ‘ere. I’ll help.”

Back in the bowels of the Czerka facility, like the fearsome red eye of a raging Sith, the light of the vault stared down at the three Imperials whom stood dumbfounded at the marvelous spectacle. Then… it finally blinked. After a few sporadic flashes, the light eventually ceased and the gargantuan door began to part in the middle. Slowly, the massive slabs of security folded inward, allowing the gathered troopers a glimpse into the dark abyss that laid beyond the vault’s threshold.

Then, one by one, row by row, the lights that hung from the ceiling of the vault’s interior began to light up, shining their dull iridescence on what rest inside. The size of the door did little to prepare the Imperials for what they saw before their eyes. Stepping beyond the parted vault entrance, the troopers and the younger Dunestalker stared in awe at the hangar sized room that spread out before them. Cold, uniform, gray panels made up the walls. To their left and right, racks upon racks and high-stacked crates held the technological innovations Czerka had stored within. Handheld weapons, terminals, scanners, droids. But perhaps the biggest prize held within, was the starship that politely sat in the center of the hangar. Similarly sized to a freighter, yet unfamiliar in make and model.

“Remarkable,” Besh commented over the comm. “That doesn’t look like anything Czerka’s ever made.”

“What have you found?” Aurek asked as he continued his downward trek.

“A starship. Sort of looks like one of the Fury-class Interceptors,” Besh struggled to describe.

“When you think about it, it kind of looks like the ‘Besh’ character,” Cresh admitted. The construct possessed an inherent contradiction in its design, bearing both utterly smooth and angular characteristics. The ship’s central mass was consolidated in a sphere-like chassis, with two flattened wedges jutting from its equator on either side forming the wings. All of it a possessed a cold, gray finish.

“It’s probably Rakatan,” Aurek informed.

“Rakatan? It makes sense. It does resemble some other artifacts and devices the Empire has uncovered,” Besh admitted.

“It has a lot in common with the artistic depictions of the Star Forge that pop up in some of the historical texts,” Cresh proclaimed. The sniper offered a curious gazed toward his squad mate. “What? There’s a lot more xenology in our history than you’d expect. They were a crucial part in the Jedi Civil War, and practically the reason we have the hyperdrive today.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but we’re almost to your position,” Aurek informed over the comm. “Any sign of the Sith Lord?”

“None yet,” Besh admitted. Taking a quick look around the hangar, the sniper saw that nothing had been disturbed. He and Cresh took a few steps back toward the singular entrance to the vault, whilst Grek and the younger Dunestalker examined the various pieces of tech that lines to interior walls. Looking toward the parted doors, Besh only saw the empty room that laid before them. Until a dark figure ran into his view. The sniper raised his rifle, but walking into the light of the vault revealed it to be Aurek.

“Huh, figured the Sith would get here before you did,” Besh chatted into the comm as his squad leader continued his approach, extending a warm hand of friendship.

“What do you mean?” Aurek asked into the team comm.

“I thought you were chasing him,” Besh replied. “Must have given up on this place if you made it here.”

“Besh, we haven’t made it to the vault yet,” Aurek informed, as the trooper grasped Besh’s hand with his own. Without pause, arcs of lightning surged from the man’s armored gauntlet and transferred to Besh, causing him to drop his weapon. The electricity pumped throughout the sniper’s armor, slowly disengaging its systems. Before his very eyes, the image of his squad leader slowly dissolved and faded into that of a charred visage of a human garbed in dark robes as the illusion dissipated. As Besh screamed out in pain, the others in the vault rose to attention.

Seeing the Sith sending numerous streams of electricity into his squad mate, Grek turned from the hangar wall and began a lumbering charge toward the aggressor. Bridging the gap almost immediately, Grek knocked the Sith across the room with a brunt of his shoulder. The robed figure impacted hard on the floor and slid a good distance before coming to a complete stop. Gazing upon the unconscious body, Grek watched in dismay as the figure was slowly revealed to actually be that of Cresh. The giant turned around, catching a glimpse of the Sith telekinetically slamming the younger Dunestalker against the wall, before finding himself under attack from an unending torrent of Force electricity. Slowly Grek turned, seeing his friends Cresh, Besh, and Dunestalker, motionless upon the floor, and witnessed the Sith standing behind him with his hands raised, unleashing more arcs of azure lightning.

His armor was reaching the point in which it could no longer protect the wearer from the onslaught. But still Grek moved. Putting on foot in front of another, trying to reach the firmly planted Sith. The suit no longer absorbing the attack, the electricity surged forth and began wreaking havoc on the trooper’s biology. A barely audible growl could be heard from beneath the giant’s facemask as he pushed himself past his limits, fighting through the pain, moving the hefty inactive armor through strength alone. Unable to retreat, the Sith continued his assault as the Imperial pressed on. Grek grasped ahold of the Sith’s robes at the chest and raised him off of the ground. Concentrating all his power grasping ahold of the trooper’s wrist, Grek finally succumbed to the attack, ending his charge as his stance froze.

Dangling from the trooper’s hand, the scarred Lord Tumul wrung himself free from the Imperial’s locked grip, eventually falling to the ground. Looking around the vault, none of the Czerka devices and machinery interested the cult leader. He was panicking, in a hurry, and had to time to spare. Instead, he turned his eyes on the Rakata starship and approached it. Gazing upon the wondrous find, Lord Tumul outstretched his hands and began to concentrate. Closing his eyes, the Sith felt the inherent Dark-side energies emanating from the vessel. As if responding to an unheard communication, the Sith began to produce similar energies. Drawing upon his own pain, the Sith offered the ship his response, asking it in no words permission to enter. The ship recognized the cultist’s efforts, as a platform lowered from the central spherical hull.

Aurek and his group had finally reached the vault, and saw the worrisome scene of four motionless figures between them and the Sith entering the ship at the end of the hangar. The trio rushed into the room as the ship rescinded its platform. Esk had begun to run after the Sith, but Aurek quickly recalled him.

“Let him go! Check to see if everyone’s okay!” Aurek commanded. The fallen Imperials’ diagnostic systems had been compromised by the Sith’s lightning, prohibiting them from providing accurate vital readings to the standing troopers.

Esk tended to Besh and Cresh as Aurek tended to the still standing, but unmoving, Grek. The elder Dunestalker calmly walked to the overturned racks of tech that currently laid on top of his face-down brother. Reaching out, the elder Dunestalker began lifting and parting the debris telekinetically, uncovering the Ardent Sons huntsman. Kneeling down, his brother had yet to regain movement, and only the faintest spark of life remained within him.

Aurek passed a hand over Grek’s facemask over and over, looking for any sort of response. The squad leader began to check the entirety of the standing giant’s physique, seeing the layer of char that existed on almost every facet of the trooper’s being. The Imperial had been utterly devastated, but Aurek had no way of actually diagnosing the damage to Grek’s armor or body. Suddenly, Aurek let out an exasperated chuckle when he heard the tell-tale clicks of Grek’s comm opening and closing.

Esk managed to get a response out of Cresh as he had recovered from the solely kinetic damage he had sustained. Rising to his feet, the combat medic quickly turned his attention to Besh. Patching into Besh’s comm, Cresh checked to see if the sniper was breathing, and let out a sigh of relief when he had confirmed that he was. Seeing his friend all but incapacitated, Esk angrily rose to his feet and took a couple of measured steps toward the Rakatan vessel. Firing a shot of his scattergun, Esk grumbled as he saw his weapon’s blast effortlessly deflected by the ship, a slight electronic rippling effect appearing where the pellets impacted. The demolitionist turned his attention to the weapon’s that lined the walls of the hangar.

From the inside of the alien ship’s cockpit, Lord Tumul managed to make little sense of the controls or directions that lay spread out before him. Utterly archaic and yet sufficiently advanced, it would require countless hours of study to make sense of any of it. Taking a seat in one of the pilot’s chairs, the Sith took ahold of the unassuming handle in front of him. Slowly, he felt as if the ship was peeling back the layers of his mind and prodding his psyche. Words and texts began flooding the Sith’s brain, some understandable, some utter nonsense. An unknown voice echoed throughout Tumul’s senses, whispering, shouting. With his hands upon the console, the cultist offered the same energies as before, and an array of lights and machinations began to take place.

The Imperial’s watched in awe and concern as the Rakatan ship slowly rose from its grounded position. Their concern grew as the vault door behind them had re-sealed itself. However, before they could process the event, a deafening siren began to echo throughout the vault chamber. As the room began to shake and stir, the opposite end of the hangar began to fold inward, revealing a new exit even larger than the previous entrance. Beyond the hangar opening, a mysterious sight. A wall of rock seemed to block the path, but a source of light shined effortlessly through it from the other side. Then, the rocky façade began to flicker, revealing itself to be a digital projection of the mountainside exterior hiding the vault of outside eyes. Rotating whilst hovering, the Rakatan ship slowly moved into a position in which it could leave the vault into the world outside.

“Dorn, look out. The Sith is piloting a Rakatan ship and is making his escape,” Aurek informed over the team comm.

“Don’t worry… we got it,” Forn responded.

“Dorn, don’t put yourself in danger,” Aurek ordered. “Let the Sith go, there’s nothing more we can do. There’s an opening in the other side of the mountain. You can pick us up in when it’s safe.”

As the ship began its slow hovering toward the land still touched by the burning Tatooine suns, Aurek saw that the elder Dunestalker was marching toward the vacating ship. Unable to properly control the vessel, Tumul could only pilot the ship at a lumbering pace. Outside the threshold of the facility, the cultist began his escape in earnest, putting some distance between himself and the Imperials. However, the ship suddenly became unresponsive, driving the Sith toward a furor.

Standing upon the facility’s edge, overlooking the rocky cliff that rested below, Dunestalker stood with his hands outstretched, arms shaking and trembling. Using the entirety of his concentration and power, the Fallen Sons leader was prohibiting the ship’s movement with the Force. Pulling around the mountain, Dorn saw the stationary starship hovering a sizable distance from an unfamiliar gap in the middle of the mountain.

“Aurek, I have a confirmed visual on the ship,” Dorn informed over the comm.

“Do not engage, we don’t have any idea what weapons that thing has,” Aurek proclaimed.

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Dorn admitted. “Still don’t have any weapons on this thing.”

“You have me,” Forn stated.

“You’re not a… okay, I guess you are a weapon,” Dorn commented.

“Don’t worry guys, I got this,” Esk proclaimed over the channel.

Aurek looked to see Esk was dragging an unfamiliar device toward the hangar exit. Matching its wielder is mass and size, Esk had apparently uncovered a new weapon of Czerka make.

“Esk, what are you doing?” Aurek insistently inquired.

“Don’t know,” Esk immediately responded. “I’ll have an answer in a minute though.” Rushing forward, Aurek picked up the dragging end of the device and followed his squad mate to the edge of the hangar. Dunestalker was holding strong, but was showing signs of growing fatigue. Setting down the device, it resembled a single barreled turret one might find defending a capital ship. Wedging the middle of the weapon under his arm, Esk tried to maneuver the device’s business end toward the distant Rakatan ship.

“You’re going to need someone to aim that…” Besh woozily commented as he approached the two troopers with a limp. “Esk, act as the pivot. Aurek, line up your sights behind the barrel.” The soldiers moved into position, Esk directing the barrel toward its target while Aurek looked down the barrel from behind. Besh stood to the side, patching into his squad mate’s helmets, bringing up a picture-in-picture view of Aurek’s HUD, and began calculating a firing pattern.

“Damn it, keep it steady,” Besh commanded.

“Trying…” Esk replied, shifting under the weight of the weapon. The demolitionist turned to see a hand resting on his shoulder belonging to Grek. Taking ahold of the weapon, Grek shouldered the burden of the barrel’s hefty weight, providing a solid and motionless base.

“Alright… fire when ready!” Besh commanded. Aurek flipped a switch near his end, and the weapon began to hum and whirr. Subtle ticks rang out and the weapon began charging. A delightful ping rang out alongside a green light, signaling the device was ready.

“Are we sure this thing won’t explode in our face?” Aurek asked.

“The plaque where I found it said it passed initial testing,” Esk detailed.

“Good enough for me,” Aurek commented as he flipped the switch at the weapon’s base. What followed was silence. A pause. An eternity of nothingness in the minds of the Imperials. However, breaking that silence, was the sound of the weapon seemingly taking in a deep breath. Then, it exhaled. A pillar of crimson energy vacated the weapon’s tip and flew toward the Rakatan ship. Impacting against the vessel’s hull, the entirety of the ship rocked back and force as the bolt of energy exploded against the shielded surface. The shimmering surface of the ship crackled and faded as the shield was disabled.

“Again,” Besh said, as they readied another shot. Looking over, Aurek saw that Dunestalker was beginning to falter, his stance lowering to its knees.

Across the hangar, Cresh tended to the wounded Ardent Sons huntsman who had finally begun to rise. Looking out to the hangar exit, the younger Dunestalker saw his brother. Saw him for the first time in a long time. A flurry of emotions washed over the Sand Person’s mind. Hatred. Betrayal. Uncertainty. Longing. Slowly, the Ardent Sons huntsman rose to his feet and began limping his way toward his brother. About to give up, the elder Dunestalker turned to see his younger brother standing beside him, looking out to the hovering ship. Without a word, the younger one stretched out his hands, and began to imitate his brother’s motions, clawing the air with clenching hands. The sight was enough to reinvigorate the Force-user, who continued to hold his grasp upon the ship.

With another flip of the switch, the Imperials fire another explosive charge at the Rakatan vessel, unleashing the full potential of its destructive capabilities on the hind end of the stationary ship. The ship began to waver and falter, black smoke rising into the air behind it. Relinquishing his grip, Dunestalker watched as the craft plummeted to the ground below. From the ship’s interior, Lord Tumul began to panic, trying to work out any solution. One by one, the lights and movements of the control console faded. Then so did the voices in his head. Not a moment later, Tumul’s craft embedded itself in the sands at the base of the mountain.

The ship sat lopsided, half buried in the Tatooine surface. The cult leader clawed his way out of the cockpit and forced his way outside of the craft. Tumbling out of the ship, the Sith Lord rolled away amongst the shifting sands. Looking up, the cultist saw a dark figure leap from a shuttle hovering a short distance away. As the shuttle ascended, the dark figure continued its approach toward his location. The Sith tried to move, but he was utterly exhausted. He had no more control of the Force. Pain resonated throughout every fiber of his being. His face was charred and an errant drop of blood from a wound generated by the crash was promptly absorbed by the sands. All he could do was watch as a faceless demon approached, steadily marching across the dunes, blades firmly affixed to the wrists of his armored gauntlets. The suns behind him, the growing image of the Imperial appeared as nothing but a solid shadow, featureless.

“If you haven’t figured it out yet… you were wrong,” Forn stated to the bleeding Sith. “You see, the Rakata weren’t that special. Anyone worth learning... worth taking... we've already done. They built an Empire… it eventually fell. Such is true of every civilization. True value presented itself in remarkable individuals. One warrior… who managed to concur worlds. One scientist… who managed to create doomsday weapons. You placed your faith in non-existent gods. You wanted salvation from a species no greater than yourselves. Instead of believing in the one thing worth believing in… you wanted an answer to a question you shouldn’t have even been asking in the first place. The Rakata weren’t immortal. The Sith aren’t immortal. The Empire isn’t immortal. Thinking otherwise means you are simply destined to fail. When you remove death, you remove a vital piece of the puzzle. When you remove death, you lose structure… meaning. I know I’ve got no more than a solid hundred year shelf-life on this body. I kill people. People try to kill me. I’ve accepted that. Rather than trying to alter and manipulate the parameters of my existence, I simply choose to make the most out of it. I live. I fight. I die. I’ve found meaning, something you and your little cult can’t say. Even if you had succeeded... could you have said to have accomplished anything? No. You would simply have been along for the ride for some ancient and long dead being’s accomplishments. If I were to die in this instant, I would have no regrets… let’s see if you can say the same.”

One by one, the injured and beaten Imperials and Sand People boarded the Imperial shuttle after it touched down at the lip of the vault hangar. The Ardent Sons escort jumped at the presence of the Fallen Sons leader walking amongst them, but the younger Dunestalker calmed his nerves. Three of the tribe’s greatest huntsmen had been gathered, and the uneasiness of past betrayals had not yet been extinguished. Leaving behind the vast array of technology Czerka had placed in the vault, the trooper’s picked up only their own belongings as they rested aboard the shuttle.

Aurek joined Dorn in the cockpit as they left the hangar. Looking below, they saw Forn flagging them down a short distance away from the fallen Rakatan ship. Touching down on a nearby dune, Forn calmly ascended the deployed ramp, leaving behind a scene of silence and stillness as the sands slowly consumed the cold body of the prone cultist.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.03.2012 , 09:48 PM | #37
Chapter Seventeen: The Promise

The day was ending, and the desert was calm. The shuttle had dropped the elder Dunestalker off with the remainder of his tribe. An understanding had been reached. Thanks to the Seven, the Fallen Sons realized that skill was capable of persisting in the face of technological progress. Though not entirely ready reenter the arms of the Ardent Sons, the two groups had settled on relative peace.

The Seven returned to the Ardent Sons village. Touching down outside their walls, they were warmly welcomed by Officer Hingsley who had come out to see them. The Imperials and Ardent Sons escorts entered the village to rest and recover whilst villagers retrieved the power generators from the shuttle’s cargo bay that Aurek had promised them. As day turned to night, the Imperials gathered around a campfire, regaling one another with their exploits.

“Really? We can’t get more than a few words out of you and you deliver a monologue?” Dorn teased.

“What? Not my fault… if I take pride in certain parts of my work,” Forn explained.

“We all have our drives,” Aurek plainly commented.

“Pardon?” Forn inquired, missing the meaning in his squad leader’s words.

“Oh yeah, you weren’t there for that one,” Cresh explained. “Aurek gave us his own little monologue while you were fighting Dunestalker on the ridge that one time.”

“I don’t know if I’d call it a monologue…” Aurek embarrassingly stated.

“It’s strange. I don’t think we’re used to doing as much actual ‘thinking’ on a mission as we did here,” Besh admitted. “Usually it’s just an objective with a nav-point attached that they just throw us at.”

“I think we got more questions than answers on this mission,” Cresh proclaimed.

“Like why did the vault open up in the first place?” Forn mused.

“You, Aurek, and I guess Grek, would have a better clue than the rest of us,” Besh admitted. “We just sort of rolled with the developments as they happened with no real understanding of what we were moving through.”

“The cult leader, the first one, told us that the facility was a Czerka research station trying to create new technologies from Rakatan artifacts,” Aurek informed. “There were more than one, each separate, unique, and independent. One day, when one of the facilities went offline, the company began to panic, and began consolidating their research and developments in one place. Somehow, they lost that one, losing track of it, or forgetting about it, or something. That vault was something special. Probably more Rakatan than Czerka. It was set to open when a special code was placed in front of it. That code was supposedly hidden in some Czerka device, but the vault was capable of looking into the minds of organics as well as searching through any bits of data. It must have found the code it was looking for.”

“What code? All we did was pass in front of it after we regrouped with Grek,” Besh explained.

“Don’t suppose any of you had anything of Czerka make in your possession?” Aurek inquired. Looking down, Besh laid eyes on the rifle that he had laid on the ground next to him, and let out a soft chuckle.

“The Czerka Bolt-Cycler Prime ‘Odyssey’. What do you know, I guess buying this thing was prudent after all,” Besh admitted. The gather Imperials shared a laugh, though Aurek showed a deeper investment in his squad mate’s words.

“Do you believe in fate, Officer Hingsley?” Aurek remembered the words he uttered back in the caves below the Ardent Sons settlement. Looking over, Aurek saw that Hingsley sat amongst them, utterly fascinated by the troopers’ tales. Tapping the officer on the shoulder, Aurek raised himself from the campfire and beckoned the anthropologist to follow. Walking away from the jovial gathering, Aurek had led the officer to the threshold of the village where they stood upon the settlement’s boundary walls and looked into the dimming sandscape.

“I’d say we found what you’re people were looking for,” Aurek stated.

“It all sounds too good to be true,” Hingsley admitted. “Experimental Czerka technology. Uncovered Rakatan artifacts. An actual starship.”

“I just wanted to let you know, we already sent a high-priority message back to command. Shouldn’t take long for it to wade through the proper channels and get to Reclamation.”

“That’s good news, I’d hate for mere scavengers and bandits to get their hands on this magnificent find. Is… something troubling you, Aurek?”

“Not at all. I was merely thinking back to our time in the grotto. Thinking about fate. Our relation with the Sith. Even after all this… I don’t think I have any more of an answer. But I do know one thing.”

“What is that?”

“I’d like if the Empire kept their distance from the Ardent Sons. Not just for the sake of their artifact, but for their society itself. These people are Human. Some biologically, some culturally. They live and breathe, learn and adapt. They’re a society worth preserving. Something I’d like not see corrupted because some individual high up the chain of command doesn’t agree. We’re giving the Empire a remarkable find, and since you’re the only one of your division left, much of the praise and admiration will fall to you. They’ll look to you for more answers. I’d like it if you’d use that power to turn their attention away from these people.”

“I’d like that too,” Hingsley admitted. “I grew up enamored by the Empire’s inherent superiority. To be honest, I still know us to be a supreme society and culture, given our history, and our rise, and our perseverance. But none of that means we should needlessly destroy our ‘inferiors’. No matter how much ‘lesser’ we think of a peoples, they still possess a history, a story. They provide more answers than those we revere. There’s a worthiness in that.”

“Come on, let’s get some rest,” Aurek advised.

“I’m not the one who assaulted an entire cult of Sith earlier today,” Hingsley chuckled. The two calmly returned to the campfire and sat down amongst the troopers who hadn’t taken a pause in their conversations.

“That’s right. Two kilometers,” Besh stated. “So, I guess that’s the new distance if you want to go head to head, Forn.”

“Still took out more Sith than you. In melee combat,” Forn elaborated.

“One had just suffered through crashing his ship,” Besh commented.

“But not before suffering an attack from me. The duel doesn’t end… just because you run away,” Forn explained.

“Well, thanks for showing restraint and not jumping on the bloody ship whilst it was still operable.”

“Oh, he wanted to…” Dorn informed. The rest of the squad shared a hearty laugh as Aurek retook his seat.

“Still, I think the greatest achievement… goes to Aurek,” Forn stated.

“Yes, getting captured was quite the accomplishment,” Besh stoically teased.

“That was part of the plan… mostly… I hope.” Forn explained.

“How about you Grek, take down any Sith?” Cresh inquired, friendlily elbowing the large trooper. Grek offered an affirmative nod, then raised his hand as if to catch the others’ attention. When more eyes were upon him, he added to the story, placing his hands together, palm to palm, and bent his fingers toward one another, interlocking. He began to clamp his hands together, creating the simulation of snapping jaws.

“The Sith tried to bite you? I’m sorry, I’m not getting anything out of this,” Cresh admitted. Dropping his hands, Grek adopted the full-body version of a pout. Placing his hand on the giant’s shoulder, Cresh offered his silent apologies and condolences.

“So Aurek… you going to keep that lightsaber?” Forn asked, looking and black hilt that hung at his squad leader’s waist.

“Not sure. Protocol says we’re not supposed to come off as Force-sensitive. Then again, it’s a lot less cumbersome than a vibrosword across my back.”

“Still can’t believe that thing actually came in handy,” Esk chuckled. “Then again, I still can’t believe Dorn got to kill a Sith.”

“I don’t think that actually counted…” Dorn shied away.

“What happened?” Cresh inquired.

“Dorn hit one with the shuttle,” Esk plainly stated. The others stared in silence, awaiting, if any, further details.

“Avalanche blocked our speeder’s path. Knocked us out. Had a Sith on our tail. Couldn’t go anywhere but up. I initiated the self-piloting program I had uploaded and recalled the shuttle to our position. Led Sith to the edge of a cliff, jumped off just before the ship arrived and clipped him,” Dorn formally detailed.

“Wait, we don’t have a single speeder to return to the renter, do we?” Cresh wondered aloud. The squad remained silent, but each knew he was right.

“I wonder how the starport reacted to our shuttle leaving the hangar without any of us inside it,” Besh pondered.

“Wow, I didn’t realize how many loose ends we still have on this planet,” Aurek commented.

“We got our ship. Tribe has their generators. Empire on its way to facility. Why don’t we just leave?” Forn asked, the demolitionist offering a complimentary nod.

“No. I’m not one to leave things unanswered,” Aurek admitted. “I’ll take care of things in the morning. For now, get some rest. We did good today. Consider our mission officially over.”

Still situated around the fire, the Imperials chatted for a few minutes more before turning in for the night.

----------

Morning dawned on the Tatooine landscape. Each of the Imperials entered the shuttle outside the settlement after receiving an honorable departure from the Ardent Sons. Departing the Sand People village, Dorn piloted the ship toward the Czerka mountain facility. The Fallen Sons long since departed, the facility was completely unoccupied when the first batch of Imperial researchers arrived on scene. An expeditionary sand crawler was parked next to the fallen Rakatan vessel, and a team was examining the wreckage. Setting down in a clear spot, Aurek escorted Hingsley into the new research outpost. Few words were shared, with the leader of the Seven offering up Besh’s sniper rifle to the reclamation officers, and offering a firm handshake to Officer Hingsley as he returned to the shuttle.

The Seven made their way back to Mos Ila. Parking the shuttle in the starport, the Imperials marched into the building’s administrative offices. They wondered how it was that they came across their shuttle abandoned in the desert, and how it could have possibly been stolen under the watch of the starport’s security. Unwilling to potentially harm their relations with the Imperials' superiors, the manager offered a sum of credits for the inconvenience.

Credits in hand, the squad returned to the speeder vendor on the edge of town. Offering no details of their mission, the simply apologized for the loss of the businessman’s vehicles. Though unable to adequately threaten seven heavily armed Imperial soldiers, the vendor wanted compensation. Offering the man the credits awarded by the starport, the two parties parted ways on somewhat agreeable terms. With no more business at hand, the troopers began their trek back to the starport, intent on leaving Tatooine behind for good. Passing through the market area, Aurek had to wrangle in Besh and Esk who wanted to take a secondary peak through the underworld weapons dealer’s selection.

About to enter the starport, the Imperials passed a duo of robed figures garbed in black cloaks walking past them. A couple of the trooper’s shot a wayward glance at the cloaked figures, obviously Force-users. One Human. One Sith Pureblood. The two groups passing one another, the cloaked Human offered his own errant glance toward the group of soldiers through his one eye not covered via an eye patch.

“Ignore them,” Aurek calmly stated over the team comm. “If they’re here with the cult, there’s nothing for them to do. If they’re here with Reclamation, there’s nothing for us to do.”

“Friggin’ Sith everywhere…” Esk muttered as the squad moved forward on their unaltered course back to the shuttle.

----------

Exiting the starport, the duo of Sith noticed a squad of Imperial troopers approaching them. Keeping to themselves, the Sith did nothing more than shoot the occasional glance toward the passing soldiers.

“Ignore them,” The Pureblood advised his companion. “We’re here for the artifact. We can’t afford to be distracted.”

“Friggin’ Imperials everywhere…” the Human muttered as the duo moved beyond the passing squad. Stopping ahead of the entrance of the starport, the two Sith took in their surroundings, examining the dusty town that rested before them.

“We’ve got little to go one,” the Pureblood admitted. “Hopefully we can get more information from the natives. And for Emperor’s sake Lorrik, will you take off that eye patch?”

“What?” Lorrik shot back. “Lighten up Jresh, if I’m spending time on this dust ball, I’m going to adopt the appropriate persona for our investigations.”

“You have to admit it’s a bit ridiculous,” Jresh proclaimed.

“Maybe, but ridiculousness has helped us before,” Lorrik reminded. The other Sith offered only a sigh, and the two continued their venture into Mos Ila.

----------

Boarding the shuttle, the Imperials took their traditional seats amongst the benches and pilots’ chairs, and the Seven began their final departure from Mos Ila leaving behind the curious and utterly baffling planet as they embarked on their journey back to the Ulterior.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.04.2012 , 07:50 PM | #38
Epilogue: The Departure

Earlier…

In the lower level of the Mos Ila cantina, Aurek and Sebastus ended their meeting with a series of subtle nods to each other’s person. Despite earlier protests of having to stay on Tatooine, the agent seemed keen on remaining at the bar while the trooper exited the cantina. The agent watched as the armored trooper ascended the stairway intent on carrying out his mission.

“Curious,” Sebastus muttered as he stirred the thin straw embedded in his drink, intently watching as the ice and clear liquid gently swirled about. He lost himself in the image, spending his energy trying to keep the thoughts that were trying to creep into his mind at bay. With a sigh, the agent swiftly finished his drink, reached into his pocket, and placed a small credit chit on the counter with his gloved hand. He methodically raised himself from his seat and straightened his coat before walking out into the Mos Ila streets. In the distance, the agent could see Aurek and his men walking toward the edge of town.

Sebastus set his focus on returning to his vessel currently docked at the starport. With a briskly casual pace, the agent entered the building, signaled his departure, and boarded his personalized civilian shuttle. Taking a seat in the cockpit, the agent effortlessly booted up the ship’s systems and piloted it out of the starport. Free of the building’s boundaries, the shuttle began its trip away from Tatooine’s atmosphere. Passing into the blackness of space, Sebastus was about to put in the hyperspace coordinates for Dromund Kaas, but took pause.

The agent stared at the console in front of him, his chin supported by his hand whilst the other melodically tapped its fingers against the armrest. He stared at the communications panel, pondering. After a few careful breaths, the agent opened a communications channel. Entering the information of a specific contact, Sebastus awaited a response. A short while later, the system’s miniature holographic emitter ignited. The image of a regally garbed woman appeared. That of the Director.

“Agent Sebastus?” the Director started, her tone suggesting she had not expected the communication. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“I was calling in to confirm that I made contact with your agent before leaving Tatooine,” Sebastus stoically detailed.

“Oh! Well, you have my thanks for prolonging your stay for the benefit of my men, but you didn’t have check in with me,” the Director warmly acknowledged.

“To be honest, there is something else I would like to confirm… well, for you to confirm,” Sebastus continued.

“And what might that be?” the Director hesitantly asked.

“In the process of sharing intelligence with… Aurek, I came across something peculiar in regards to his mission.”

“Is that so?”

“Quite. Would you mind explaining to me why believes he is working for Imperial Intelligence?”

“He simply understands the Ministry’s responsibilities in tracking down traitors of the Empire. Your agency has provided the Seven logistics and support for almost all of our missions.”

“As a distant, unaffiliated party. He seems to be under the impression that ours is the governing body of Imperial Special Projects,” Sebastus informed. The channel remained silent. “Director?”

“Did you inform him of the contrary?” the Director plainly inquired.

“I know better than to actively work against whatever is it you are attempting to achieve… Director.”

“Then our business is concluded. Good day, Agent Sebastus,” the Director concluded, turning her back, about to cease communications.

“You should be careful, Director,” Sebastus interrupted. Slowly, the Director reaffixed her gaze toward the agent. “After what happened to the Dirge Project, you’ll find the toleration for mishaps remarkably low for people in your position.”

“You know every Project is completely separate and independent of one another,” the Director stated, slightly raising her tone. “The Seven have nothing to with that failure.”

“Ensure that your project does not suffer the same fate. Beneath that armor, there are actual people that you are toying with. People in my line of work are conditioned to being lied to. I can’t say the same for your men. Don’t become so focused on appeasing your patrons that you lose control of your operation. As Director, the burden of failure will fall upon your shoulders.”

“Good bye, Agent,” the Director concluded, shutting off the communications.

Leaning back in his chair, the agent calmly rubbed his chin as he processed the events that just took place. With a soft shake of his head, he finished programing the coordinates for the Imperial capital and resumed his trip home.

----------

Later…

The Seven’s shuttle exited hyperspace a relatively short distance away from the Ulterior. Dorn flew toward the assigned hangar bay of the capital ship as Aurek conversed with the Ulterior’s guidance officers. Neither the Captain nor the Director were in the hangar to greet the returning soldiers. Descending the shuttle’s ramp, the battered but stalwart troopers exited, prompting a round of curious looks from the ship’s maintenance workers. The lowly officers had no real idea whether the Seven had returned after successfully completing their mission or not, but they had never heard of the squad failing. The scars of battle still graced the troopers’ armor, but they carried themselves utterly upright and proud.

The weapons cart rested in its usual position slightly ahead of the parked shuttle. As the soldiers passed, there was a distinct lack of weapons being returned. A couple of rifles, a pair of pistols, and a peculiar scattergun. The technician was about to utter a word of inquiry, but seeing one of the troopers with blades attached to his wrists prompted him to remain silent.

The Seven returned to their rooms, under their own desires rather than being ordered there. They wanted to rest. They wanted to relax. Debriefing could wait. Time in the mess hall could wait. Everything could wait. For now, only solitude and solace rested in the minds of the Seven. They had successfully completed a mission unlike any other they had faced before. But it was behind them. The troopers cared not for the past, nor the future. Instead only the present could be bothered with attending. Because in the present, there were beds available.

It was for the best, because there was no danger in the present. No troubles. No strife. No death. The same could not be said for the future of the Seven. Not at all.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.07.2012 , 10:37 PM | #39
Intermission



Attack on Vertex Systems – Part One

The Seven walked the halls of the Ulterior, heading toward the conference room. The ship’s crew was remarkably bustling, soldiers and officers shifting throughout the capital ship in preparations for a military assault. The Seven walked single file toward their destination in as casual a way as possible, contrasting the hectic atmosphere developing around them.

It had been a few weeks since the Seven’s last mission on Tatooine. They had recovered completely from the injuries they had sustained, organic or mechanical. Aurek’s chestplate had been replaced with one sans lightsaber gash. Forn had his gauntlets replaced. The entire squad had their suits checked and given a tune-up to repair any damage wrought by the sustained Force lightning they might have endured. All in all, they were physically ready for their next mission. The same could not be unanimously said for their mental and emotional states.

“Aurek, any idea what we’re getting into?” Besh inquired into the team comm. “I mean, usually we’re just secondary fire support. I don’t think we’ve actually been called to work alongside Ulterior Battalion like this.”

“It’s true, we’ve always kept our distance from Imperial Army affairs,” Aurek admitted. “But I suppose we’re as much a part of them as Imperial Intelligence. We’re still soldiers after all.”

“What is with the string of unusual missions lately?” Besh inquired. “It’s starting to feel like we’re an actual squad of troopers rather than a group designed to hold a growing series of exaggerated accolades.”

“We’ve always been a real squad, Besh. We are capable individuals, bolstered by unprecedented technological advantages and an uncanny knack for teamwork given the rather unorthodox makeup of our group,” Aurek proclaimed.

“I agree, we’re not like other soldiers. Which is why I’m confused as to why everyone seems to think we are as of late,” Besh mused.

“To be fair, we did just eradicate a cult of renegade Sith and uncovered a remarkable scientific find on our last mission,” Cresh explained.

“To be fair… they were a band of incompetence incarnate,” Forn added.

“What makes you say that?” Cresh asked.

“Disjointed ranks… Unclear goals… Overconfident…” Forn listed.

“Well, let’s get this out of the way now. Don’t want to give off the impression that everything we do is a lie in front of the Captain and the envoy from the Ministry,” Esk joked.

“Maybe if we show a little humility we won’t be sent on these kinds of missions anymore,” Dorn admitted.

“Wouldn’t want that, now would we?” Besh sardonically commented.

Two Imperial officers stood at attention in front of the door to the ship’s conference room. Recognizing the squad’s approach, they stepped aside, permitting the Seven entrance. Entering the conference room first, Aurek saw three figures examining what looked like schematics being projected from the central table’s holo-emitter. The Director, the Captain, and curiously enough, Agent Sebastus.

“Welcome to the proceedings gentlemen,” the Director greeted the soldiers with a smile as they slowly populated the room. “If you would, please take a seat.”

The Seven quietly complied. Settling down upon the chairs that surrounded the circular conference table, Aurek shared a quick glance toward the assembled parties. The Director possessed her trademark radiance. The Captain possessed his trademark sternness. The Agent, however, shared his own curious look toward the trooper.

“Sebastus,” Aurek stated, with a nod.

“Aurek,” Sebastus reciprocated. The two possessed an inherent understanding, but relinquished no signs of emotion in their tone. As the troopers situated themselves, the three Imperial representatives remained standing, focusing more on the image produced by the holo-projector. It showed the exterior view of an expansive above-ground facility.

“Gentlemen. I am Ulren Sebastus, field agent from the Ministry of Intelligence. This…” Sebastus detailed as he expanded the image, unfolding various cross-sections of the building’s schematics, “is an arms manufactory owned and operated by Vertex Systems. They are an unaligned producer of military tech and battle droids. Our interest in them lies in the fact that they are harboring a rogue Imperial scientist, Dr. Volun. Due to his intervention, the company has managed to take a resounding leap forward in technological quality. This, coupled with their resounding resources and output capabilities, makes them worthy of Imperial attention. That is why, with the aid of Major Synric and Ulterior Battalion we will be assaulting the company’s prime manufactory, within which we’ll find Dr. Volun. However, the facility’s unique defensive arrangement is preventing us from carrying out a full-scale ground or aerial assault. That is where the Seven comes in.”

“Wait just one minute,” Aurek spoke up. “Let me get this straight… the Captain is actually a Major? When did that happen?”

“I’ve been the commanding officer of the Ulterior Battalion for as long as we’ve been acquainted, Mr. Aurek,” Synric sternly informed. “You’ve been calling me Captain because I’m technically the commanding officer of this ship as well.”

“A rather strange position wouldn’t you say?” Aurek remarked.

“I believe you and your men are more than acquainted with the unorthodox,” Synric commented.

“Ah, see, we’re not so different after all,” Aurek warmly admitted. The Major’s stern face yet remained, shifting only when the officer opted to raise a single eyebrow.

“Gentlemen, we were about to detail the target’s defenses…” Sebastus interrupted.

“Yes. Correct,” The Director proclaimed, seemingly taking control of the room. “The prime manufactory is located on a small planet completely owned and privatized by Vertex Systems.”

“What’s the planet’s name?” Aurek inquired.

“Vertex Systems Production Planet Number One. They changed the name when they bought it,” Sebastus plainly informed.

“Of course they did…” Aurek stated with a disapproving shade of his head.

“This is an image of the manufactory,” the Director stated, directing the attendees’ attention toward the displayed holo-image. “As you can see it is rather expansive, with areas stretching as high as it does delve into the grounds below the planet’s surface.”

“Overall, it doesn’t seem any larger than the Czerka facility we uncovered on Tatooine,” Aurek commented.

“Correct,” the Director admitted. “Unlike that facility, however, it possesses no natural formations to bolster its defense. It is located in the middle of a stretch of flatlands. Stemming from along its base, off in various directions, are supply lines connecting it to mines, supply depots, and secondary production facilities. In order to keep this sprawling facility operating and sufficiently defended, a remarkable array of automated defenses surround it from all angles. In a time of trouble, the manufactory and halt production and direct all the power from its subterranean generators to the defense systems.”

“What kind of defense systems?” Aurek asked.

“Automated turrets. Anti-infantry. Anti-armor. Anti-air. They’ve even an orbital defense cannon,” Sebastus detailed.

“Is that what’s preventing a full-scale assault?” Aurek inquired.

“No. Even if they possess surface-to-orbit defenses, the Ulterior is capable of operating outside of their effective range,” Major Synric informed.

“But I take it the intention isn’t just to bombard the facility until nothing remains,” Aurek suggested.

“Correct. Dr. Volun has proven himself disloyal to the Empire, ensuring his termination. When he left, we still retained records and copies of his research, so we’ve no interest in bringing him back,” Sebastus admitted. “Our intent is to deliver a message, to those with traitorous intentions and those whom would harbor such peoples.”

“We are however, seeking a particular tactical asset with this operation,” the Director added. “It wasn’t just the Doctor’s expertise that Vertex Systems acquires when they brought him aboard. The company integrated a new Artificial Intelligence into the prime manufactory. It has remarkably increased their production, efficiency, and innovation.”

“Was Dr. Volun responsible for the A.I.?” Aurek asked.

“All signs point to yes,” Sebastus admitted. “There are no records of him being involved in a project dealing with developing such an entity, but it was within his area of expertise. It is possible that he was covertly diverting resources to it as a pet project.”

“We don’t want Dr. Volun. But I take it we want that A.I.,” Aurek suggested.

“The A.I. and the production facility,” Sebastus clarified. “By deciding to join forces with a traitor of the Empire and refusing to cooperate, Vertex Systems has opened themselves to the threat of military retaliation. They have decided to challenge the Empire. We have decided to answer that challenge.”

“Given the company’s independent nature, we’ve little reason to expect the Republic to find our actions in violation with the Treaty of Coruscant,” Synric admitted.

“So we don’t want to outright destroy them, we want to seize their assets,” Aurek stated, signaling his understanding. “Where does my squad come in?”

“The facilities defenses are formidable, but most of it could be overcome by the battalion’s strength and numbers. However. There is one defense system capable of utterly crippling any attempt at traditionally assaulting the facility. This tower…” Sebastus detailed, zooming in the holo-projection on a large antennae that sprouted from the top of the facility’s center.

“This array is capable of disabling traditional modern weaponry within its radius,” the Director informed. “It works by acting as a… sort of scrambler…”. The Director’s word immediately elicited a groan from a majority of the Seven.

“We had to go through the last part of our mission on Tatooine having our long range communications scrambled. It was not the most accommodating of situations,” Aurek admitted.

“Well, this tower emits a pulse every five minutes. That pulse scrambles the inherent electronic signals that run through blasters and anything more sophisticated than a simple chunk of metal nowadays. Modern weaponry possesses a special sequence within it that ensures its operation. However, they are unique to their manufacturers. Republic blaster have different sequences than Imperial blasters. It’s the reason the pulse is absolutely harmless to the facility’s own technologies. With Dr. Volun on their side, however, they now possess information regarding Imperial sequences.”

“So the pulse would render the Major’s forces useless,” Aurek guessed.

“Correct,” Sebastus informed.

“Let me, guess. The Seven’s load outs don’t use traditional Imperial sequences.”

“Correct,” the Director informed.

“So you need us to go in and shut down that array so Ulterior Battalion can launch an assault.”

“Correct,” Major Synric informed.

“There is a bit of trouble however, even with your squad’s unique equipment,” Sebastus regretfully informed. “With the A.I. installed, the facility is capable of recognizing new sequences within its radius and adapting the array to knock them out the next round. You’ll only last a single pulse before your weapons are taken offline by the second. And given the advanced nature of your armor, so will it, leaving you somewhat trapped inside it.”

“I don’t suppose there’s any way to re-sequence our equipment on the fly or anything, is there?” Aurek inquired.

“I’m afraid not,” the Director regretfully informed.

“So. One pulse. We get ten minutes, five on either side, to shut down that array,” Aurek mused.

“We calculated the possibility of sending in numerous smaller squads in, one after another, to continue where the last group left off, but the downtime of transportation coupled with a group being left defenseless means the facility’s droid defenders could potentially overwhelm the attackers,” Major Synric informed, still casually stern.

“So how will the seven of us even go about shutting down the array in the first place?” Aurek asked.

“Eight. I’ll be going along with you,” Sebastus admitted.

“With his non-standard equipment, Agent Sebastus will be able to endure the first pulse as well. With his skills in logistics and intrusions, he be a valuable asset to your squad’s success,” the Director stated, shooting an admiring nod toward the Ministry agent.

“Don’t suppose we’ll have an extended amount of time to formulate a plan,” Aurek admitted.

“We can’t risk the facility catching on to our activities,” Sebastus detailed. “We’re launching our assault in one standard days’ time. For now, we prepare. Tomorrow, we begin Operation: Techblade.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.09.2012 , 09:01 PM | #40
Attack on Vertex Systems – Part Two

The Imperial strike force currently resided in the Imperial Shuttle the Seven were accustomed to. Dorn sat in the vessel’s cockpit while the rest patiently rested in the passenger area. Aurek stood at the door to the cockpit whilst Agent Sebastus stood opposite him in front of the cargo bay door. The shuttle had left the confines of its usual spot amongst one of the Ulterior’s hangar bays and was on its way toward the Vertex Systems primary manufactory. The Imperial dreadnaught and Ulterior Battalion sat in orbit above the planet, ready to intervene the moment the assault squad succeeded or failed.

“Listen up squad,” Aurek attracted the attention of his fellows. “Our mission is to penetrate the defenses of the prime manufactory and shut down the inhibitor array so that Ulterior Battalion can begin taking control of the facility. I’ll let the Agent go over the specifics of our approach.” The helmed faces of the seated Imperials shifted toward Sebastus who stood, arms crossed, leaning against the cargo bay door. The agent wore a lightly armored flex-suit beset by a heavy overcoat, all black and adorned with tactical pouches and belts. Across his eyes he wore a thin visor that stretched horizontally from ear to ear providing the agent a head-up-display alongside a means of communicating with his new allies.

“Our target is the Administrative Control Center of Vertex Systems’ prime manufactory,” Sebastus detailed. “The facility’s above ground portion is roughly one kilometer by one kilometer at its base and begins thinning as it stretches toward its five-hundred meter peak, on which rests the shielded antennae for the inhibitor array. There are five tiers above ground. Our target rests at the third, near the facility’s epicenter. Along the southern face, there is a blind spot in the outlying automated defenses once we’re right up against our entry point outside the facility. Until we get there, Dorn will keep us low and along the appropriate vector to take as little fire as possible. We will breach the exterior wall and follow the floor plan you’ve been given. The ship will continue to hover outside whilst we make our way to the control center, meaning I will be taking over his role of slicing through the facility’s internal security systems. We only have limited intel on the inhibitor’s range, so we will be keeping to a completely safe distance until we read a pulse. Then we will begin our approach in earnest. Everyone understand?” The troopers provided a series of dutiful nods. “Alright. Dorn, begin phase one.”

“You got it,” Dorn replied as he pressed the shuttle forward. The strike force dropped out of orbit into the planet’s atmosphere, and continued their descent toward ground level. Passing through the environment’s natural cloud cover, the pilot caught a glimpse at the company installation several kilometers away, a speck on the generally featureless lands that surrounded it. On the threshold of barrenness, only a muted brown pasture of flatlands stretched as far as the eye could see. From the facility, a series of tunnels the size of your typical freighter stemmed and continued for kilometers in every direction, splaying out like roots or veins. Lower and lower the shuttle descended, until it hovered softly over an unpopulated field and came to an abrupt halt. The pilot waited, removing his hands from the ship’s controls to monitor a specific data screen picturing a rough image of the manufactory. In silence the strike force sat, awaiting their signal. A signal not from the pilot, not from the agent, not from the dreadnaught. But from the target itself. Then, upon the console, the monitor let out a sharp ping.

“We have confirmation of pulse!” Dorn declared over the comm.

“Commence phase two!” Sebastus commanded. Without hesitation, Dorn pressed the shuttle forward toward the facility. Still little more than a black spot on the horizon, the strike team had only a limited time to bridge the gap and finish their assignment. As the shuttle zoomed toward its destination, the first line of defense unsheathed itself from its hidden repositories. Auto-turrets raised themselves from the ground, and delivered a hail of blaster fire upon the intruding vessel from their dual cannons. The defenses’ fixed positions allowed Dorn to adequately perform evasive maneuvers whilst not sacrificing velocity. The shuttle rocked from side to side, due to the pilot’s shifting position and because of the errant bolts of energy that would impact against the ship.

The shuttle specialized in fast non-atmospheric transfers, where it would be forced to endure attacks from fighters and capital ship point-defense systems. Projections showed it would more than endure the assault. Consolidating is defenses to its front, the Imperial vessel surged forward, deftly dodging of absorbing any attacks that flew towards its face. Eventually, the details of the facility were visible, no longer a shady mass on the blur of the horizon. The southern face of the grand installation presented itself to the Imperials, and the Seven readied themselves for infiltration.

Still in motion, Esk was the first to stand from his seat. Reaching under his bench, the demolitionist hoisted up a bulky, shoulder-mounted weapon, bearing a single armament. A single rocket propelled explosive device. Readying the weapon's stock atop his shoulder, Esk held his primary hand at the firing mechanism, whilst the other held the stabilizing handle near the end. Aurek had relocated himself to Sebastus’ side, leaving no one standing in front of the demolitionist. Removing a panel above the door to the cargo bay, Aurek revealed a winch bearing a wound rope tipped with a clasping device. Taking hold of it, Aurek pulled the resistant cord and attached its clasp to the rear of Esk’s utility belt. As Aurek let go, the line became taut, securing the demolitionist to the ship’s frame.

“Phase three primed,” Aurek stated into the comm.

“Phase three commencing,” Dorn declared as he directed the shuttle up from its ground-hugging trek. Now at the facility exterior’s third tier, the pilot began to drop the entrance ramp. Standing upon the ramp’s tip, Esk was slowly lowered from the passenger area. Once the ramp was fully deployed, Esk took aim at the facility wall and fired the explosive rocket. A stream of smoke erupted and followed the projectile for the short moment before it erupted against the solid face of the facility’s outer wall. A sizable hole revealed itself once the smoke cleared, inviting the Imperials into the installation.

“Ready for phase four,” Esk admitted as he discarded the spent launcher. Aurek returned to the winch, and flipped a switch, causing the securing line attached to Esk to immediately slack. The demolitionist took hold of the thin beams that supported the lowered ramp as Dorn eased the shuttle closer to the impromptu entrance.

“Phase four. Go!” Aurek commanded. Esk immediately leapt forward from the shuttle, barely landing beyond the threshold of the facility. Unclipping the lax line from the back of his waist, the demolitionist attached it to the end of a mechanical spike that hung from his belt. Holding the spike in his hand, Esk placed it above the hole he had just created in the station’s exterior and with the push of a button, the device began to bore itself into the intact wall above the entry point. Presenting his squad mates a thumbs up, Aurek flipped the switch of the winch, making the line taut once more.

One by one the members of the Seven made their way into the facility by way of the zip line, utilizing the armor of their gauntlets to traverse the gap, whilst Grek remained seated upon the bench. Aurek and Agent Sebastus retreated into the cargo bay for a moment, before returning with a couple of duffel bags. Hooking them to the cable, the duo slid into the facility one after another one another with their bags. Standing within the outer realm of the facility’s third tier, the Imperials unslung their weapons and held them at the ready.

Besh’s favorite sniper rifle had been re-serviced and replaced his lost cycler. Cresh utilized his dual pistols. Esk left his scattergun back in his quarters, using a more traditional rifle for this mission. The demolitionist also accepted the duffel bag Aurek tossed him and slung it over his shoulder. Forn had a new pair of blades upon his hips and a blaster rifle within his hands. Agent Sebastus possessed a single pistol and knife, along with a duffel bag upon his back. Aurek held his blaster rifle firmly in his right hand as the other was raised to his temple.

“Three minutes until the next pulse. Eight to shut down the relay. Beginning phase five, let’s move!” Aurek commanded as he took the lead of the strike team. The Imperials had landed in a large maintenance hallway that wrapped around the entire level. The facility was composed of muted grays, exposed wires running along in bundles to and from various ports and vents that populated the brutalistic manufactory. No style. No elegance. No organic touch. The hallways stretched laterally in either direction, but if the strike team wanted to progress toward the level’s center, they’d have to bypass the security door that laid in front of them.

Reaching into his duffel bag, Agent Sebastus retrieved a security spike and integrated it into the door’s control panel. There was no time for diagnostics, or taking a quick peek into the facility’s systems. They merely had to push forward through whatever defenses lay in their way. The first wave of which was already upon the squad. Turning the corners of the ends of the hallways, a steady flow of battle droids presented themselves and opened fire on the intruders. Sebastus was busy overriding the lock as the troopers fired back at the droids. Cresh and Esk unleashed a flurry of bolts toward one end of the hall whilst Besh and Forn dealt with the other.

“Dorn, Grek. Security will likely move in behind us, and in front of you. Be ready,” Aurek suggested into the team comm.

“Understood, sir,” Dorn relayed as he kept the shuttle steady in its position. Silently, Grek shifted from his position on the passenger bay bench, and slid out from beneath him a black, plasteel footlocker.

The doors opened, and the Seven immediately rescinded their attack on the approaching droids to move forward. Pressing on into a large room, a series of conveyor belts any meticulously moving machinery dotted the area to the left and right of the Imperials. As they approached the next door, a siren began to blare throughout the facility, and the room's artificial lighting gave way to a periodically flashing red luminance. The subtle whirrs and clicks of the manufactory seemed to take pause as the administrator decided which systems took precedence at the moment.

Sebastus went to work on the next door. The Seven turned around to see if any of the droid had made it to the entry point. Beyond the threshold of the bypassed door, the Imperials only saw the errant flash and spark as the droids passed in front of the shuttle and promptly fell to the ground in a crimson haze. Sebastus had pulled a panel from the wall bordering the security door,and took another security spike from his bag. Thrusting it in, the agent made short work of the electronic lock and the strike force moved forward.

The Imperials found themselves moving forward through an incredibly cramped passageway. Long, the strike team could only barely make out what lied at the end. Short and narrow, the hall barely measured twice the height and width pf the Imperial individuals. The squad moved forward in a staggered single-file line. Battle droids appeared ahead of them, forcing the two opposing forces to once again open fires upon one another. Storming the opposition, the Imperials were relieved to see the hall widened closer to the door. Leaping over the fallen chassis of dismantled droids, Sebastus went to work on the third security door. A series of blaster bolts impacted against the Seven’s shields, produced from droids entering from the hall behind them. Besh took a knee and began picking off the new influx of droids toward their flank. As the security door opened, Besh remained perfectly still.

“Establishing a defense point,” Besh declared. “Keep going.”

“Understood,” Aurek stated with a nod. The strike team entered the next room, grand in its design and scale. The circular, domed room was devoid of any of the usual machinations of industry, possessing smooth walls and nothing between the squad and the door on the opposite side of the room except a slightly raised dais in its center. Unable to show hesitance, the squad moved forward on either side of the platform toward the next room. The room’s lights shut off before being replaced by a the familiar blinking redness . As Esk looked toward the squad’s flank, he saw the dais rescind into the depths below the room, producing only a shadowed pit in the center of the chamber for the moment. Sebastus rushed to get the door open and as it began to part, the room’s dais returned, this time bearing a single battle droid upon it.

“Establishing a defensive y’know…” Esk declared over the comm as he tossed his duffel bag to Aurek. His rifle in hand, the demolitionist calmly approached the single droid that stood before him. The battle droid was typically humanoid, but surpassed the flood of its insignificant brethren in size and sophistication. Over two meters tall, the gray monstrosity held in its grip a heavy barreled weapon, fed by a belt that dangled to the floor, ending near the droids feet. With a pull of the trigger, the droid sent a rounded cartridge flying out of the weapon with a resounding ‘thunk’ sound. Stepping out of the way, the low-velocity projectile shot past the demolitionist, its arc eventually bringing it into contact with the floor behind him. The moment the metallic shell impacted against the ground, it detonated in a significant blast of explosive force and flames. Esk looked upon the weapon with a carnal desire.

Aurek thought to pause when he heard an explosion ring out behind him, but knew that the first pulse would be coming soon and couldn’t waste any more time. The strike team progressed with little incident until they breached an unsettling room. With a square floor plan, there was an entrance into the room upon each of the chamber’s faces. Along the walls, were a series of inlets, within each sat a seemingly deactivated droid chassis of different design that the usual fodder. The remaining Imperials made their way toward the next door when they heard a curious sound almost bellowing from deeper into the facility.

“Pulse incoming!” Dorn proclaimed over the comm, as a bright ping emanated from the pilot’s control console. The Imperials felt a wave of static wash over them. The members of the Seven cringed and almost lost their footing as they momentarily lost mobility control. Fully recovering but a moment later, Aurek sent a message out over the team comm.

“Status update. Everything okay?”

“All the ship’s systems are holding up. We’re okay out here,” Dorn admitted.

“Threw my aim off for a bit. Perfectly fine now,” Besh detailed.

“Never been better,” Esk declared, standing over the beheaded chassis of a floored droid, rifle in one hand, newly acquired grenade launcher in the other.

“We’re fine,” Cresh informed, standing next to Forn, to the flank of Aurek and Sebastus. As if on cue, the two side entrances to the chamber opened up, allowing a cavalcade of battle droids dual entry.

“For now,” Forn added. The agent breached the security door, as a spark of light emanated from one of the deactivated droid chassis. The metallic humanoid’s eyes aglow, the droid stepped from the inlet wielding a charged electrostaff. Then another. Then another. “Establishing… defense point,” Forn declared as returned his rifle to his sling, grasping ahold of his dual blades.

Aurek and Sebastus passed through the breached security door. The Seven’s squad leader momentarily looked back to see Cresh and Forn hacking and blasting away at the droids as they activated and stormed in. Sebastus issued a command for Aurek to keep up, and the duo made their way toward the facility’s center. Moving through one last hallway, the two Imperials had finally reached the central area of the manufactory. The circular room was absolutely grandiose and bridged the many tiers of the facility, giving the pair a glimpse into the areas above and below them. Beyond the safety rail that circulated the room was a pit that stretched below the planet’s surface. In the center of that pit, a column of shifting poles and mechanisms stretched from the facility’s base to its roof, bustling with electricity arcing up and down its length. Rounding toward the right, the duo approached the eastern side of the room. Standing in front of a heavily fortified door, the two Imperials gazed upon it with understanding.

“This is it. The Administrative Control Center,” Sebastus informed.

"Phase six. Commencing."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------