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Of Blood and Honor - Jailbreak

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:19 AM | #1
After months of work and driving my husband absolutely insane, I have finally completed the third novella in the Of Blood and Honor series, Jailbreak.

As I had discussed in another thread a while ago, Jailbreak finally brings some of the characters from my first story, In the Shadows - A Smuggler's Tale together with the Mandalorians Apocalypsa Cadera and her husband, Torian.

Jailbreak continues the story of Apocalypsa and Torian, along with Apoc's protege Layne Malan, as they embark on a mission for the Sith Lord, Darth Umbral.

As before, this story is long (it IS a novella, after all!), and I highly reccomend that if you have not, you read my previous three stories first. In order they are:

In the Shadows - A Smuggler's Tale
Of Blood and Honor - A Mandalorian Vacation
Of Blood and Honor - Jedi Hunt

Please read and enjoy - and if you like my work PLEASE leave a comment. It doesn't need to be long, or a full-scale review. It makes it a lot easier for me to continue writing when I know that people enjoy reading my work.
And by that I mean I may go all emo on you if you don't leave a comment or two
Project Mayhem
The Ebon Hawk

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:20 AM | #2

Apocalypsa lay on her side, propping her head up on the palm of her hand. Her raven hair, mussed from sleep, and the dark, inky tattoos around her green eyes contrasted with her pale skin. Her dark lips curled upward in a smile as she gazed at the man lying next to her.

Torian’s blond hair was ruffled and spiky against the pillow, his arm flung up over his head and bent at the elbow. The white sheet rose and fell where it half-covered his chest, just the hint of an outline of well-defined muscle visible underneath the clinging fabric. Reaching out, Apoc gently laid her left hand on his skin, just over his heart.

Her thoughts wandered as she felt it beating, strong and steady beneath her palm. A memory surfaced, of his strong arms wrapped around her as her ear was pressed to his chest, the rhythm of his pulse keeping her grounded. They had been on Taris, nearly a year ago, and Apoc’s estranged brother had threatened her, wanted to kill her.

Taking shelter in an abandoned building within the Tarisian swamp, Apoc had finally told Torian the tale of her childhood – how her spice-addicted mother had threatened to sell her into prostitution to pay for her habit – and how she had escaped at the age of thirteen, climbing down the side of her building, taking her chances on the perilous streets of Nar Shaddaa.

Her brother hadn’t been the only danger they faced on Taris. Her gaze shifted, focusing on her fingers, splayed out over the warm skin of Torian’s chest. The hand that rested on his body was badly scarred. A network of jagged lines twisted over the skin of her forearm, snaking all the way to her elbow.

As if Cavus hadn’t been enough, Apoc’s arm had been nearly destroyed by a monstrous reptile that had torn apart her skin and muscle with its razor sharp teeth. She could have had the scars removed surgically, but had chosen to keep them – a reminder, she said, that no pain is too great to bear.

She lifted her body slightly, leaning over Torian to look down at his face. She smiled and shook her head a little – even in sleep, his expression was intense. Her eyes moved over his chiseled features – his strong jaw, his sharp nose. Lifting her hand, she traced a finger softly over the crescent of one of the twin scars he bore on his cheeks.

His sapphire eyes opened, staring into hers intently as she caressed his face. His hand came up to grasp hers, their fingers twining together. There was no need for words between them as their gazes locked, and her emerald eyes darkened to a mossy green. Reaching up to slide his free hand through her short, dark hair, Torian tugged her head down toward his.

Her eyes slid shut as their lips met, sending little shockwaves through her body. Her heart pounded in her chest and her mind whirled, her senses filling up with Torian’s electrifying presence. His kiss deepened, lazy and slow, yet with a hint of teeth behind it, a fierceness lurking behind the surface of the gentle touch, much like the man himself.

Torian’s fingers were tangled in her hair. Sliding his hand down, he pulled at the strands, a little harder than was necessary. Shivers ran through her as his fingertips traced down her naked spine. Her mind whirled with the depth of her feelings for him, the love and desire that filled her heart sending waves of heat over her body.

There had never and would never be another man who could evoke this sort of reaction from her, this sense of wonder and passion that swept away all other cares, until she ached for him, to be here, in his arms. As he rolled her onto her back, she felt his weight come down on her, and all thoughts fled her mind as his lips sought hers once more.


Layne Malan sat at the helm of the Flameshrike, pale blue eyes focused on the swirling colors of hyperspace outside of the transparisteel viewport. Sighing, he raked a hand through his short, white-blond hair. The Shrike was silent, save for the thrumming of its powerful engines.

It was quiet times like this that Layne found himself thinking, wondering. It still surprised him, still sent a little shock of disbelief through his brain when he realized he had somehow ended up traveling with one of the most famous bounty hunters in the galaxy.

And not only traveling – but working with her, living with her. The past eight months had flown by as if in a dream. The young, confused Republic commando Layne had been was slowly falling away, transforming into a thoughtful, intelligent warrior.

Under the mercenary’s tutelage, he learned to fight with his head and heart as much as his fists or a blaster. As his skills improved, so did his confidence in them, and he was now a far cry from the frightened kid that he had been when he had first met the Mandalorians who had become like his family.

He had been part of Requiem Squadron, an elite Republic Special Forces unit headed by the Jedi Master, Aran Ortain. On a mission to demoralize the Mandalorians who fought for the Sith Empire, Requiem Squadron had been tasked with systematically striking at members of Mandalore the Vindicated’s own clan.

This had drawn the ire of the Mandalorian leader, and he had sent his enforcer – Apocalypsa Cadera – to remove the threat to his people. On an unnamed, uninhabited world covered in dense, dark forests, Requiem Squadron had attempted to take out Apocalypsa and the man who was both her partner and husband, Torian.

They failed. Layne sighed as he remembered the deaths of his squad-mates. First Trace Malan had been killed, devoured by a strange cat-like creature made of shimmering, twisting shadow. Layne himself, as well as the squad’s commanding officer, Captain Nicke Corel, had almost met the same fate.

Apocalypsa and Torian had saved them, had pushed them out of harm’s way, and then, when they finally escaped, Captain Corel showed his gratitude by attacking Apoc at her most vulnerable, sending her off a cliff to plummet to her death.

Torian had flown into a rage, killed Nicke, and would have killed Layne had the young man not surrendered, speaking the Mandalorian language to the furious warrior. Feeling he owed the Caderas a debt of honor, Layne had gone with Torian to find Apocalypsa, or her body.

Miraculously, she had survived her fall with only a dislocated shoulder and some cuts and bruises. Layne had been enchanted by her strength, amazed that she bore no ill will toward Nicke Corel for attempting to take her life after she had saved his.

When Aran Ortain contacted them, Apocalypsa had challenged him. Layne could close his eyes and remember the exact tone of her voice, the way her emerald eyes had hardened and narrowed. She had been covered in bruises; her shoulder was newly back in its socket. Still, she had smiled as she spoke.

“You and me, Jedi. Me and my blaster, you and the Force. No help, no interference. We don’t stop until one of us is dead.”

They had fought in a clearing surrounded by ancient trees. Layne had watched as Apocalypsa pitted her battle skills against the Jedi Master’s Force powers. Eventually, the Mandalorian woman managed to crack through Ortain’s outward sense of calm, throwing the Jedi off-balance. She had stood above him, a blaster pointed at his face.

Layne squeezed his eyes shut, the image in his mind vibrant, alive with color, sound, and emotion. He heard the voice of his sister again, next to him, calling to her husband to shoot Apocalypsa. To strike her down from behind, in her moment of triumph.

He heard his own voice, crying out a warning. The whine of blaster bolts and the sickening, wet thump that had been the noise of his brother-in-law’s body falling to the ground behind him. He remembered the way his sister’s husband had lay in a heap on the mossy ground, a neat hole burned into his forehead.

His sister, Raia – she had screamed. And screamed, and screamed, her grief at the deaths of both her husband and Jedi Master Ortain erupting from her throat. She had gone for her blaster, had wanted to kill Apocalypsa. Layne had held her back.

Raia had taken Layne’s actions as a betrayal, not only of her, but of the squadron and the Republic. Choking back the sorrow at the deaths of those she loved, Raia had told Layne he was no longer her brother.

His pale blue eyes opened, focused once more on the swirling colors of hyperspace outside of the Flameshrike’s viewport. He sighed softly. Apocalypsa and Torian had taken him in, had given him a home. Apoc had even started bringing Layne with her when she had a contract to fulfill, teaching him the little tricks she had picked up in her years as a bounty hunter.

Footsteps sounded softly behind him, and Layne turned his head to see Mako, Apoc’s friend and code-slicer, enter the bridge. She smiled at him, the expression reflected in her dark, shining eyes. “Hey Layne,” she said as she slipped into her usual chair at the ship’s main computer. “You look like you were deep in thought there, sorry if I bothered you.”

“It’s alright. Wasn’t really anything important, just persistent. One of those things you don’t like to think about but every so often it kind of just pops up.”

“Oh.” She leaned her elbow on the panel in front of her, resting her chin on her hand. Her fingers tapped lightly against the silvery cybernetic implant near her eye. “I know all about those kind of thoughts. When Apoc and I first met, a lot of bad things happened. So even though I’m so glad I met her, thinking about when we met isn’t all that great sometimes.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s exactly like that.” Shaking his head, he forced a smile to his face. “Speaking of, where are Apoc and Torian?”

“Sleeping, I think.” Mako shrugged her thin shoulders. “We haven’t had any work to do in a couple of weeks, and I think she’s getting bored. Torian told me she started a fight in a Tatooine cantina.”

“How’d that go?” Layne raised an eyebrow.

“Well, you know how male Devaronians are…” Mako’s voice trailed off, then she giggled softly. “I guess one tried to buy her a drink, and ended up going through the bar.” She shook her head slightly. “She paid for the medics to patch him up, and for the repairs to the bar. If we don’t get a contract soon, we’ll go broke paying for Apoc’s version of stress relief.”

Layne chuckled quietly, then leaned back in his chair. “Hey Mako, I wanted to say thanks. You know, for helping me get those messages to my sister.”

Turning toward the computer she sat in front of, Mako placed her hands on the keypad. “No problem. It really wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was code them correctly and then re-route them through the Republic holonet. Have you heard back yet?”

He shook his head, frowning slightly. “No. I’m starting to think that I never will. Raia is stubborn, and she was really mad at me.” He looked down at his hand, started picking at the skin next to his thumbnail. “I think she might actually hate me.”

“She’s your sister, she doesn’t hate you.” Mako’s voice was kind. “It’s not like me and my sisters – heck, you could hardly call us sisters. You said she was your best friend.”

“That was before I got her husband killed and then left the Republic military to travel around the galaxy with a Mandalorian bounty hunter.” He grimaced, dropping his hands into his lap.

“I’m sure you’ll hear from her.” Fingers tapping on the keypad in front of her, Mako shrugged her slender shoulders. “Maybe she’s just out in the field and can’t respond.” She turned her head and grinned at Layne. “Let’s take a look at the holonet, shall we? Maybe there’s some juicy gossip we can laugh about.”

Layne watched as Mako’s dark eyes scanned the screen before her. She frowned suddenly, and he leaned forward a bit in his chair. “What did you find?”

“Well, it’s not anything to laugh about, that’s for sure.” She sighed. “It’s a Republic wanted notice.” She shook her head, and he felt a cold pit form in his stomach as she continued. “It’s for you. Sergeant Layne Malan, wanted for treason and desertion. A million credits for your capture or proof of your death.”

“Proof of my death.” His hands clenched, forming into fists on the armrests of the chair. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t hurt anyone, and they’re paying money to see me dead.”

A husky, low voice came from the shadows just beyond the archway leading out of the bridge. “Most militaries don’t like it when their members run off and join up with people they consider the enemy, even if nobody dies in the process.”

Layne turned to face Apocalypsa. She leaned in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest. Her brilliant green eyes seemed to bore into him for a moment, then she shrugged her shoulders, running a hand through her short, dark hair.

“Don’t worry, kid.” She shot him a brilliant smile. “I won’t let anything happen to you. They’ve wanted me for a really long time, and haven’t got me yet. They’re not going to get you either.”

“Thanks, Apoc. It’s just that it feels almost surreal, you know?” He frowned as he turned once more to gaze out the viewport. “The Republic was all I knew, my whole life. And now, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go back.”

“This is your home now, Layne.” Apocalypsa’s voice was firm. “You belong here, with us.” She waved her hand to indicate the Flameshrike and its inhabitants. “Forget the Republic. There’s nothing left for you there.”

As silence fell following her statement, Apoc turned to leave the bridge. She hadn’t taken more than a couple steps before a soft chiming sound filled the air. Moving to the holoterminal, she pressed the flashing answer button on the console.

A shaft of light shot up through the projector lens in the center of the holoterminal, coalescing into the form of a handsome, dark-haired man wearing the uniform of the Imperial military. His face was hard, and there was a coldness about him that somehow projected through the hologram. Apoc furrowed her brow slightly as the image opened its mouth and began to speak.

“Apocalypsa Cadera, I presume?” She nodded. His voice was smooth and cultured, possessing the precise accent and inflection of Dromund Kaas born Imperials. “I am Captain Malavai Quinn, in service to the Sith Lord, Darth Umbral. My lord requests a meeting with you, to discuss a possible undertaking of mutual profit.”

Apoc crossed her arms over her chest, raising an eyebrow at Quinn’s image. “A possible undertaking? You’re going to need to be more specific, Captain.” She turned her head slightly as Torian entered the room, coming to stand behind her.

The Imperial soldier raised a hand, palm outward. “I am not at liberty to provide details over holo. This mission is of a… sensitive nature. Darth Umbral has heard of your talents and, most importantly, of your discretion. I will provide you with the coordinates to make a hyperspace jump to our location in the Outer Rim, where my lord will provide you with the specifics of this venture.”

She glanced at Torian, who shrugged slightly, his expression one of slight curiosity. Her gaze moved back to the hologram. “Fine, Captain. Transmit your coordinates and inform your Darth Umbral we will arrive shortly.”
Quinn nodded. “Very well then. Transmitting coordinates now. We will await your arrival.” With that, the image winked out.

Apoc and Torian walked together back to the bridge of the ship. As they entered the room, Mako turned to smile at them. “Hey, I heard the holo. I fed the coordinates into the computer so we’re all set to go. Looks like we’re heading to the far Outer Rim. Not much out there, civilization-wise.”

Grinning, Apoc moved to stand behind Layne, seated in the pilot’s chair. “Right now, I wouldn’t care if we were flying into the Maw, if it meant we had a job to do.” She clapped a hand on Layne’s shoulder. “Let’s go, kid. Take us to the Outer Rim.”

“Sure thing, Apoc.” Layne reached out, pushing on the hyperspace lever on the console in front of him. Outside the viewport, the swirling colors slowed, twisting and coiling about the Flameshrike as the starship altered course.

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:20 AM | #3

The room was dimly illuminated with a red glow, shrouding the figure seated at the dark, wooden table. Long, pale fingers drummed against the surface, a soft sigh of impatience whispered through the air. At the sound of a quiet chime from the holocommunicator before her, Darth Umbral reached out, jabbing her finger against the blinking red button.


A gravelly voice responded, issuing forth from the small speaker. “My lord, a D5-Mantis patrol craft has entered the system and is currently heading toward the planet. Preliminary scans identify it as the Flameshrike.”

“Very well, Lieutenant.” Umbral’s precise inflection added a sharpness to each word. “Communicate with the bounty hunters ship and then activate the landing beacons to guide them in. Meet our guests at the hangar, then bring them to me.” She paused a moment, pursing her lips. “Pierce? Have Captain Quinn accompany you to greet the bounty hunter.”

There was no mistaking the slightly insolent note in Pierce’s voice. “As you wish, my lord.” The comm unit crackled quietly as the signal terminated.

One corner of Umbral’s lips quirked upward in amusement. Leaning back against the plush upholstery of her chair, she awaited the arrival of her guests.


Apocalypsa stood at the holoterminal within the Flameshrike, her arms crossed over the gleaming black beskar’gam covering her chest. The semi-transparent image of a large man wearing an Imperial uniform flickered in front of her.

“We’re here for our meeting with Darth Umbral.” She tilted her head to the side slightly. “Interesting planet you’ve got here.” Glancing out the transparisteel viewport to her left, she gestured with her gloved hand at the world spinning beneath the starship.

The atmosphere swirled with black clouds, the toxic emissions erupting forth from great volcanoes which covered nearly the entire surface. As the Flameshrike orbited in the space above the small planet, the navcomputer began chiming softly as it received information from landing beacons down below.

“It serves our purpose.” The man’s deep voice growled forth from his throat. “I’m Lieutenant Pierce, and I’ll be bringing you to the Darth.” He held up the datapad in his hands. “I’m transmitting the signals for our landing beacons to your ship. Follow them closely; it can be a tricky landing.”

Apoc nodded. The image of the soldier winked out, and she turned to make her way to the bridge. As she entered, Mako looked up from her computer terminal.

“Hey boss. Did some quick scans of the planet. Nearly ninety percent covered with volcanoes, very little water to speak of - most of it in vapor. Two landing beacons are set, one in the crater of an inactive volcano, and the other seems to be within the volcano itself.“ She frowned as the scanner display suddenly went dark. “Scanner’s out.”

Apoc grimaced, glancing sidelong at the other woman. “Again?”

Shaking her head, Mako keyed for a restart of the scanner’s system. “Could have replaced this scanner a long time ago if you didn’t need to keep repairing and upgrading that armor of yours.”

The Mandalorian woman narrowed her eyes. “What’re you trying to say?”

“Get shot at less.”

A mischievous grin spread across Apoc’s face. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Seated in the pilot’s chair, Layne attempted, but failed, to choke back a burst of laughter. He turned to Torian, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat next to him. “Apoc’s only happy when she’s dodging lasers.”

“She’s not very good at dodging.” Torians sapphire eyes sparkled. “That’s why we spend more on her beskar in three months than we do on fuel and ammunition in a year.”

Mako pounded a fist on the top of the scanner as Apoc’s eyes began to glint dangerously, narrowed in Torian’s direction. With a reluctant beep, the display winked back on. “Scanner’s up!” she sang out merrily.

“I hate all of you right now.” Apoc pointed at the planet outside the viewport. “Let’s just get down there, so I can throw you all into a volcano.”

“You’d trip and fall in.” Torian ducked as Apoc’s hand glanced off the back of his head.

Shaking his head, Layne began to guide the Flameshrike down toward the surface of the planet. As they punched through the atmosphere, roiling black clouds of poisonous smoke engulfed the green and gold starship. “Visibility is zero.” He grit his teeth slightly. “That Pierce guy wasn’t kidding. This is going to be tricky.”

Apoc’s gloved hands gripped the back of Torians seat tightly. She strained her eyes to see past the billowing blackness. With great care, Layne slowed the Shrike’s descent, lightening his touch on the steering controls to drift down along the path prescribed by the landing beacon.

They descended through the swirling darkness for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, the ship broke through the cloud cover. Below them spread an expanse of lava pools, glowing orange, red, and white, the colors so intense that it made the eyes water to look at it.

Waves of heat billowed through the air as the Flameshrike soared over a lake of molten rock. Apoc nodded in silent agreement with Mako’s quiet gasp as the edge of the lake came into sight, a sheer drop of many hundreds of meters down into an ancient crater.

Lava streamed down the side of the cliff, pooling on small crags of rock and then cascading downward again to slowly harden as it met the cavern floor. “It’s like a glowing orange waterfall.” Mako’s voice was quiet as they all took in the sight.

As the starship descended further into the crater, a large gaping hole became visible in the ancient lava shaft. Layne clenched his jaw as he skillfully guided the Flameshrike into the tunnel. Darkness engulfed them once again, broken only by a series of small red reflective panels that ran along the top and bottom of the tunnel.

The Shrike’s running lights winked on, and Apoc’s hands once again gripped Torian’s chair tightly. The tunnel they flew down was rough, full of crags and stalactites that could easily take out an engine.

“The other beacon is just ahead.” Mako glanced up from her computer display. “There’s a magcon field at the end of the tunnel. The atmosphere here must be pretty toxic, so that’s probably to keep in breathable air.”

Moments later, they broke through the shimmering force field. Layne lowered the Flameshrike to the landing pad beneath them, settling it down next to a gleaming black starship that resembled a large starfighter.

Fury class Interceptor.” Torian whistled appreciatively. “Nice ship. Must belong to the Sith Lord.” He glanced up at the name emblazoned on the other ships wing. “The Nova Eclipse.”

“Dark and sinister. Yep, sounds like something a Sith would fly.” Apoc grinned at him, then glanced around at Mako and Layne. “All right. Layne, Mako, stay with the Shrike and keep us prepped for launch. I don’t anticipate any trouble, but you never know with a Sith.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Mako leaned back in her chair, putting her feet up on the computer console. “I always hate meeting Sith anyway. I can’t help but feel I’m just waiting to be mind-choked.”

Layne frowned. “Can’t I come? You’ve brought me on every other mission we’ve had in the past four months. Why would this one be any different?”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Apoc tapped her foot. “This isn’t the same, kid. We haven’t worked for a Sith in a while. They can be pretty touchy, and by touchy I mean if you say the wrong thing they might try to kill you.”

“I won’t say anything.” He stood up, turning to face the Mandalorian warrior. “You said I needed to learn. And you’re right, I do. Don’t you think that I need to learn to deal with Sith eventually?”

Apoc frowned. There really wasn’t any disputing that logic. Her emerald gaze fixed on Layne’s face. His jaw was set, his eyes determined. Inwardly, she smiled. There would be no dissuading him this time. She glanced at Torian. He remained silent, letting her make the decision.

“Fine.” She held up a hand as Layne’s face broke out into a grin. “No talking unless the Sith asks you a direct question. And don’t volunteer any information you aren’t asked for.”

He nodded, then hurried off toward the ships exit ramp. Torian stood up, stretching his arms over his head. “He’s eager.”

“I know.” Apoc sighed.

“He’s hungry.” Torian shrugged his shoulders, reaching out a gauntleted hand to lay it on Apoc’s shoulder. She could feel the weight through her own beskar’gam, and smiled up at him.

“I know. I have to let him learn. He’s got talent, and I would hate to see it go to waste.” She turned to exit the bridge, talking quietly as Torian followed her toward the cargo hold. “Did I tell you I talked to Mand’alor?”

He shook his head, raising a blond eyebrow at her. “What did he say?”

She smiled at him. “It’s a go. Final preparations are being made, the clans are in agreement. I thought you would be pleased.”

He stopped walking, and she turned to face him. Wordlessly, he reached out and tugged her to him, wrapping his armor-clad arms around her. The feel of his gauntlets scratching against the back of her beskar’gam made her smile.

“I am. It’s great news. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ll be commanding legions instead of being a bounty hun-“ He was cut off as Layne came sprinting up the ramp through the hold. Stepping back from Apoc, Torian frowned. “What?”

“There’s two men waiting outside the ship. One is that Pierce guy, the other is the one who first contacted us. Quinn or something.”

“Let’s go then.” Apoc reached out, clapped a hand on Layne’s back. “Time for you to learn how to handle a Sith lord.”

As the Shrike’s boarding ramp lowered, Apocalypsa let her gaze travel around the cavernous hangar bay. Her eyes were drawn to two enormous turbolaser guns, one on either side of the entrance. The massive cannons were pointed directly at the magnetic containment field that held in the breathable atmosphere. She shivered slightly. Any unwelcome ship entering the field would be slagged within moments.

At the bottom of the ramp stood Malavai Quinn, uniform impeccable and every dark hair in place. Next to him stood the other Imperial, Pierce – a hulking man with a weathered face. Stepping forward, Quinn moved to greet the Mandalorians as they exited their starship.

“Apocalypsa. Darth Umbral is expecting you.” The Imperial’s precise inflection grated on Apoc’s nerves. He projected an unmistakable aura of command, obviously used to issuing orders which were followed immediately and without question. Apoc’s natural anti-authority tendencies threatened to kick in, and she took a deep breath as she stepped in behind the man, following him toward a small door built into the side of the hangar.

Torian and Layne fell into step on either side of her, with the massive Lieutenant Pierce bringing up the rear. They stepped through the door into a long corridor, dimly lit by small red light strips imbedded in the ceiling.

Their footsteps echoed through the empty hall, and Apocalypsa noted that every few meters they passed between a series of shield projectors. Designed to slow intruders down, these projectors would create an energy barrier from one side of the corridor to the other, raising walls which would have to be bypassed to proceed further into the compound.

“Nice defenses you have here.” Apoc’s comment elicited a nod from Quinn, and a soft chuckle from Pierce.

“A few months ago, the Darth tells us we’re moving to our new home.” Pierce’s gravelly voice rumbled from deep within his chest. “When we got here, there was a band of pirates that had set up shop. They had all of this defense technology, but were powering it using external generators in some of the volcanoes.”

They reached the end of the corridor. A small panel built into the wall beeped as Quinn entered a code on the numbered keypad. The door slid open, allowing them access to a large, circular room. A thick black carpet covered the floor, the Imperial insignia in the center a dark red reminiscent of blood.

“So you blew up the generators and then liberated the compound from the pirates?” Apocalypsa raised a slender eyebrow at Pierce, who shot her a crooked smile.

“That’s about the size of it. Blasted about fifteen of them myself, what ones the Darth didn’t get. We drilled down into the old lava shaft here to replace the generators. The volcano isn’t active but we were able to break through to a neighboring one that is – the whole place runs on thermal power.”

“Lieutenant, return to the hangar bay and secure the bounty hunters ship, then go back to your duties.” Quinn stared hard at the other man, his ice-blue eyes narrowing. Pierce’s jaw clenched slightly, then he turned and marched away, disappearing into one of the doors leading out of the room.

“Come, Darth Umbral is waiting.” Quinn gestured for them to follow. Apoc squinted at his back as he led them to another door. Was it her imagination, or had there been a hint of a smile on that expressionless face?

The dark-haired Imperial pushed open the door, motioning for Apocalypsa, Torian, and Layne to precede him into the room. Apoc’s boots thudded softly against the thick carpeting covering the stone floor as she stepped into the chamber.

The dim light did not allow her to examine the contents of the room closely, but did serve to illuminate the wide desk in the middle, made of a gleaming dark wood. A woman sat behind the desk, leaning back in her chair as if it were a throne. Apocalypsa found herself studying her closely, as if she could not help but be drawn to the other woman.

Her pale skin was the color of new-fallen snow. Her hair was as red as flame, and fell down over her shoulders, framing a face with full lips and regal features. Large blue eyes as fathomless as a storm-tossed sea shone with an inner fire that burned from deep within the Sith lord’s soul.

Apoc struggled to keep from frowning. Despite Darth Umbral’s undeniable beauty, there was something unsettling about her, something that made Apoc’s skin crawl and her breath come just a bit harder. She couldn’t put her finger on it, couldn’t tell what it was that made her feel so uncomfortable.

As her emerald eyes locked with Umbral’s, Apoc felt herself being weighed, judged. The Sith lord’s burning gaze delved deep within the Mandalorians soul, like an insidious presence Apoc could feel worming its way through her brain and into the very core of her being. The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Suddenly, the feeling was gone as Umbral’s focus shifted, her eyes turning to Torian, and then to Layne, before flickering back to Apocalypsa.

“Apocalypsa Cadera.” The Sith lord’s voice was deep, yet feminine, much like Apoc’s own, yet missing the husky quality and instead bearing a sharp, Imperial accent. “A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance. I have heard much of your exploits.”

“I always try to put on a good show.” Apoc glanced around her, trying to make out details of the room in the dim light. From what she could tell, the walls of the room were lined with shelves covered with datacards, the type of which could be found in most libraries.

Quinn moved to stand next to Darth Umbral, one of his hands resting on the back of her chair. “Your reputation is the reason we have called you here.” He placed a small, hand-held holoprojector on the center of the desk. “You have an uncanny ability to complete contracts that have been deemed impossible to fulfill.”

“And you have an impossible contract for me?” Apoc allowed herself a small smile. “I do enjoy a challenge.”

“Good.” Umbral drummed her long, pale fingers on the surface of the desk. “As you have no doubt observed, we have implemented many security measures within our stronghold here. You have seen the guns we have in place to deter enemy ships from landing, and you have seen our ray shield generators in the corridors.”

Shrugging, the Mandalorian mercenary waved a hand dismissively. “I’m sure you have a bunch of other fun surprises just waiting for someone foolish enough to walk in here.” She watched as the Sith lord pressed a button on the side of the holoprojector on the desk.

The image which appeared above it was that of a humanoid alien with a tall, dome-shaped head and two eyes set low on either side, protruding from short eye-stalks. The image spun, hanging in the air, as the Sith lord spoke.

“You likely recognize this creature from your exploits on the prison planet, Belsavis.” Umbral’s hands returned to the desk, her fingers taking up their incessant drumming. “Rakata, they are called, an ancient species which claims to have ruled over the galaxy in some sort of Infinite Empire, before the Sith rose to power.”

Apocalypsa nodded. “I remember. Most of the planet’s prison complex was built by them, as well as a transport system that uses some form of teleportation.”

“Stasis chambers, prisons for the mind.” Torian crossed his arms over his chest. “Droids. War droids.”

Lifting her hand to push her red hair behind her ear, Umbral nodded. “Yes. The Rakata possessed some very interesting technology, technology which we have not yet even begun to understand, nor replicate.”

“Is this where you ask me to go get you a piece of this interesting technology?” Apoc raised an eyebrow. “I’m a bounty hunter, not a treasure hunter.”

The Sith lord’s eyes began to narrow. Clearing his throat softly, Malavai Quinn stepped between the two women, momentarily blocking their view of each other. “Indeed, mercenary. It is not a piece of technology which we wish you to retrieve, but a man.” He gestured toward the hologram as Umbral changed the image.

The hologram changed to that of a starship. Elliptical in shape, it bore the markings of the Galactic Republic. Bristling from the sides like giant spines, massive weapon batteries bore heavy turbolaser turrets and ion cannons. As Apocalypsa watched, the grey exterior of the ship faded away to reveal a floor-by-floor schematic of the vessel.

“This is the Incarcerator.” Umbral’s dark blue gaze flew to Layne as the young man coughed suddenly, his eyes growing wide. The smile she gave him caused his heart to skip a beat and his body to turn cold.

“Your young friend must recognize the name from his service to the Republic.” The Sith lord chuckled softly as Layne cast his eyes to the ground and fidgeted. “Oh yes, Sergeant Layne Malan. I know who you are.” She turned her attention back to the hologram. “As it turns out, your prior connection to the Galactic Republic may aid you in this endeavor.”

“What is the Incarcerator?” Apoc took a step forward, moving closer to the desk to study the ship. “Sounds like a prison ship.”

“That’s exactly what it is.” Quinn’s polished boots moved swiftly across the carpeted floor as he began to pace back and forth in front of the desk. The Sith lord’s dark gaze followed his every movement. “The Incarcerator is a mobile prison ship owned by the Galactic Republic. It houses terrorists, seditionists, defectors, and brilliant minded criminals whom the Republic deems too dangerous to have contact with general prison populations.”

“Since the discovery of their experiments among the prison populations of Belsavis, the Republic has used the Incarcerator to hold around two thousand prisoners.” Quinn’s finger tapped the button on the holoprojector. The image shifted once more to show a tall, muscular human male. His long, dark hair was worn free, and he gazed at Apoc from the hologram with cunning, intelligent eyes.

“This is Roth Luxel, a Coruscanti native who proved to be something of a technological genius from a very young age. Before he was ten years old he had sliced into some of the toughest Imperial encryptions that we had designed, and had helped to build the Republic some of the more advanced war droids which they use today.” The Imperial officer took a breath before continuing.

“When the Republic stumbled onto some Rakata technology on Belsavis, they brought in Luxel, then seventeen, to study it and perhaps reverse-engineer parts of it. Intelligence is spotty after Luxel’s arrival on Belsavis, but it would seem that he somehow came into contact with some of the more unsavory members of the prison population.”

Apocalypsa impatiently fidgeted, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She felt Torian take a step closer to her, and took a deep breath, focusing her attention on Quinn, who stopped pacing and stood with his hands folded behind his back.

“There is some confusion as to what happened, but Luxel did learn from the technology he had studied. In some sort of pact with a band of prisoners, he had begun work on a powerful type of war droid. There are few details, but reports have described the creation as a ‘virtually unstoppable force of destruction.’ Whatever it was, we know that the Republic officials deemed it dangerous enough to destroy the prototype and all of Luxel’s research.”

“Not to sound disrespectful,” Apocalypsa began, crossing her arms. “But I haven’t heard the word ‘credits’ anywhere in all of this. Are you telling me you want me to get this… Roth Luxel and bring him to you?”

“That is precisely what we are telling you, Mandalorian.” Darth Umbral’s voice was quiet, yet held an edge sharper than a vibroknife.

“Great. Jailbreak. I love a good jailbreak.” Apoc smiled. Torian chuckled softly next to her.

“You’ll have your work cut out for you.” Quinn gestured to the hologram again as it switched back to the Incarcerator’s schematics. “The Incarcerator holds two thousand Republic prisoners, one of which is Roth Luxel. The ship is built to minimize interaction between crew and the prisoner population.”

He pointed to the image, finger tracing the outline of several rings within the ovoid ship, which began to glow with different colored lights as his finger passed over them. “There are four ring-shaped prisoner compartments, each separated by another ring of dioxis gas. The gas is deadly to most carbon-based life forms, and so the prisoners are tended to by droids.”

“Let me guess.” Apocalypsa allowed herself a small smirk. “Luxel is being kept in the innermost ring.”

“Exactly right.” Quinn nodded. “While droids tend the prisoners, there is a small crew of two hundred Republic military personnel, responsible for flying the ship and overseeing prisoner transfers as well as new prisoners coming aboard. Prisoners are kept in stasis fields or in comas induced by neural inhibitors, so the small crew has little fear of a revolt.”

“And the ship’s defenses as well as it being hyperspace-capable are enough to deter most outside attacks.” Apocalypsa’s brow furrowed as she stared at the hologram. “So what you’re saying is that I need to get onto a Republic prison ship, fight my way through two hundred defenders and then rings of deadly gas to retrieve some tech specialist.”

“Yes.” Umbral pushed her chair back as she stood. Her hands moved to rest on her rounded belly, and it was then that Apoc finally noticed the Sith lord was quite visibly pregnant. “Luxel’s knowledge will be quite useful in helping to advance our defenses here. I have chosen you to retrieve him both for your reputation in doing the impossible, but also for your discretion.”

With a pointed look at Umbral’s stomach, Apoc nodded. “I always keep my employer’s secrets. I’m a professional.” She took in a deep breath. “And my fee?”

The Sith lord smiled, a predatory gleam of white teeth between her full lips. “One million credits. If you deliver Luxel in good condition.”

Layne’s pale blue eyes grew round at the number. Apoc simply frowned. “What’s ‘good condition’?” Alive? Mental faculties intact? I can’t be responsible for what years of imprisonment does to a man.”

Umbral’s eyes hardened. “One million credits if you deliver him alive. Two million if you deliver him alive and in possession of his mind.”

Apoc turned to Torian. He raised an eyebrow at her as she shifted into Mando’a. “Gar mirdir'mhi liser ruusaan darjetii?” She pointedly ignored the sneer on Umbral’s face. “You think we can trust the Sith?” She waited for Torian’s response.

Nayc.” He emphasized the negative with a shake of his head. “Not much choice, though.”

She sighed slightly. He was right. They needed the money, not to mention that if they refused, the Shrike would probably be shot down as they tried to fly out. She shook her head. No, they would just disable the beacons and let them crash in the volcanic atmosphere.

Her emerald eyes locked with Umbral’s blue orbs. “Fine. Done. We’ll need that schematic.” She gestured toward the holoprojector. Quinn stepped toward her, several datacards in his hands.

“Captain Quinn will give you the relevant information.” Umbral gestured at the man as he placed the datacards in Apoc’s hands. “I expect results quickly, Mandalorian.” Her voice dropped as she turned, moving toward a door in the back of the room. “I do not have much patience for failure.” Her pale hand reached out, opened the door. She stepped through it and was gone, leaving Apoc, Torian, and Layne staring after her.

“She really knows how to leave a room.” Apoc’s comment brought a smile to Torian and Layne’s faces, and just the slightest twitch to the corner of Quinn’s lip.

“If you’ll follow me, please.” The Imperial officer marched his way back to the opposite door, holding it open as the Mandalorians preceded him through it. In silence he escorted them back through the volcanic fortress, finally returning to the hangar bay and the Flameshrike.

Apoc raised an eyebrow slightly as she noted Lieutenant Pierce standing at the bottom of the Shrike’s boarding ramp, talking to Mako, who hung half in and half out of the cargo bay door. The pixie-faced woman smiled broadly at Apoc as the bounty hunter approached the ship.

“Hey boss, was just telling the Lieutenant here about the time you blew up all those Republic walkers on Corellia.” Mako grinned at Apoc, who chuckled softly.

“Yeah, I did do that.” She shrugged her shoulders slightly. “Breaking into the Green Jedi headquarters was a little bit more fun, though.”

“Ha!” Pierce’s laugh boomed from his chest. “Gotta say, I’ve been a big fan since you took out all those Republic reconstruction bases on Taris.” He shook his head. “I was stationed there when you arrived. By the time you left, the Republic had almost nothing left.”

Apoc glanced at Torian. He had a small smile on his lips, and his sapphire eyes sparkled brightly at her. She nudged him softly with her elbow. “Yeah, I ran into this one there and never could get rid of him.”

Torian narrowed his eyes at her. “That’s the last time I track down a bounty for you, cyare.” He grinned at her pseudo-shocked expression.

The sound of Quinn clearing his throat caused the conversation to halt. Pierce rolled his eyes, then threw an insolent salute at his commanding officer before turning and marching away. Quinn stared lasers at the bigger man’s back. Apocalypsa very carefully kept her face neutral.

“Darth Umbral expects results within two weeks.” Quinn turned back to face the Mandalorian woman. “Time is of the essence, and there can be no failure.”

Apoc frowned. “If you’re going to threaten us, get it over with. This veiled passivity is getting old.”

Malavai Quinn rarely smiled. When he did, those who witnessed it usually wished that they hadn’t. The ice cold orbs of his eyes showed no mirth or amusement, though his lips curled upward and the shine of his white teeth could be seen beneath. It was an expression of pure malice, with nothing warm or friendly about it.

He smiled now, as Apocalypsa’s words hung in the air between them. Layne shivered slightly, watching as Apoc’s defiant gaze remained locked with the Imperials. With the pretense of politeness gone, Quinn’s sharply accented voice cut through the air like a lightsaber.

“You are not a stupid woman, Mandalorian. What do you think will happen should you fail, or should word of Darth Umbral’s involvement or presence here get out?”

“All right then.” Apoc turned and began to make her way up the ramp into the Shrike’s cargo hold. “See you in two weeks.”

Torian followed his wife into the starship. For a moment, Mako and Layne stood at the bottom of the ramp, watching as Quinn left the hangar. Layne’s soft sigh caused Mako to raise an eyebrow.

“What’s wrong, Layne?” Mako smiled at him, and he turned toward her, shaking his head.

“This is way bigger than anything we’ve done since I’ve been with you guys.” He ran his hand through his white-blonde hair. “Way bigger.”

“Don’t worry.” Mako shrugged a slender shoulder. “Did you think all Apoc did was go after random Hutt’s lost slaves and the men unfortunate enough to be sleeping with the Moff’s wife?”

Layne couldn’t help but laugh. “No, you’re right. I studied her, you know. In the Academy. I know she’s done some really big things. I guess I just never thought I’d be doing them.”

“She wouldn’t let you go, if she didn’t think you could handle it.” Mako clapped her hand on his shoulder. “I shouldn’t tell you this, you know. But she says you’ve got talent. She says you could be the next her.”

Layne’s eyes widened as he peered up the ramp where Apocalypsa had disappeared with Torian. “She really said that?” At Mako’s nod, he sighed again, then nodded firmly. “Guess I better suck it up, then.”

He turned, making his way up the ramp. It closed behind Mako, and together they walked to the bridge. Sliding into the pilot’s seat, Layne engaged the Flameshrike’s repulsorlifts, drifting slowly into the air. With a little nudge, he pushed the starship forward and through the shimmering barrier of the magnetic containment field.

As the Shrike’s three sublight engines roared to life, Apoc slid into the co-pilot’s chair next to him. Strapping herself into the seat, she flashed him a quick grin. “Let’s get out of here, kid.”

He nodded, taking a deep breath before he focused on the viewport in front of him, guiding the ship out through the twisting, dark tunnel. Breaking through to the roiling black clouds of the atmosphere, he angled the Flameshrike for space.

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11.28.2012 , 07:22 AM | #4

The next week was a blur of mission planning, or so it seemed to Layne, who watched as Apocalypsa came up with strategy after strategy for penetrating the Republic prison ship, discarding each one in turn. She stood now in front of the Shrike’s holoterminal, staring at the schematic for the Incarcerator. On the other side of the hologram, Torian watched her with his thoughtful gaze.

“So, let’s go over this. We need to get onto the Incarcerator.” Apoc glanced around the room, then pressed a button on the terminal. The image changed to that of a Republic starfighter, an angular ship with pivoting dorsal and ventral wings.

“A BT-7 Thunderclap.” Layne pointed at the hologram. “That’s a Republic Spec Ops ship.”

Apoc nodded at him. “We’re going to steal one.”

He stared at her for a moment. “Steal one? How are we going to do that?”

She grinned at him, her dark lips curling upward in amusement. “Since the Treaty of Coruscant was officially broken, the Republic has been openly aiding the resistance on Balmorra. Doing a fairly good job of it too, or so I heard. Anyway, Mako got a line on a few Spec Ops squadrons arriving on the planet for some missions.”

Mako nodded, leaning against the doorway leading to the bridge. “One of the squadrons tangled with an Imperial convoy a few light years before they arrived on Balmorra. Their ships shields were damaged and it’s in for repairs, which means it’s not in the military yard and is less defended.”

“Right.” Apoc gestured at the hologram, which broke up, then re-coalesced into the image of a small, planetside shipyard. “This is our target, just outside the Republic spaceport. The area is protected by an electrified fence which will deliver enough juice to kill a fair-sized bantha. There are also twenty Republic soldiers on station to keep out Imperial saboteurs, and one anti-aircraft gun battery.”

“I can slice into their systems and shut down the fence’s charge.” Mako pulled a datapad from her belt and began to tap away at the keypad. “I’ll start working up a program.”

“Good. Once your coding takes effect, Torian will cut through the fence and the four of us will blast our way through whatever they throw at us.” She frowned slightly. “Can you slice the AA gun?”

Mako pursed her lips, then shook her head. “Doubtful. Most of them have fairly decent emergency overrides. You’ll either have to take it out or outmaneuver it.”

Layne leaned forward in his seat. “I can do that.” Apoc raised an eyebrow at him. “What?” He grinned at her. “I told you, I can fly anything. I fly the Shrike. The BT-7 is the ship I learned to pilot on. One AA cannon is nothing.”

“Alright.” Apoc sighed softly. “Let’s assume we succeed and get back out into space. The Incarcerator makes regular hyperspace jumps to random systems. Which system is chosen by a computer algorithm which keeps the ship from visiting the same place too many times too close together.”

Torian nodded. “The Siths lackey gave us the codes.”

“So, we’ll jump to the Incarcerator.” Apoc tapped the button on the holoprojector once more, and the now-familiar image of the Republic prison ship appeared. “When a ship arrives in-system, the Incarcerator launches a squadron of snubfighters.” Twelve glowing golden dots appeared, orbiting swiftly around the starship’s hologram.

“The fighters will query our Identify Friend/Foe transponder. Mako already has a code worked up to change the BT-7’s transponder to broadcast that we’re the Golden Dawn, a ship used by a Republic Spec Ops squad that hunts down then captures traitors and defectors.”

As Apoc spoke, her eyes turned to Layne. “We’re going to respond to their inquiries by telling them we’ve captured a defector. When we give them the name of our prisoner, they will query Coruscant while having us stand by.”

“I see where this is going.” Layne chuckled grimly as Apoc nodded.

“It has to be real. We’ll need to transmit a hologram of you and a voiceprint, which they will check against their records. Once they’ve confirmed you’re actually wanted, they will allow us to dock in the Incarcerator’s hangar bay.”

Torian laughed softly, bringing his hand up to stroke the light coating of blond hair on his chin. “Too bad we can’t collect the bounty while we’re at it.”

“I’d never collect a bounty on Layne.” Apoc gave Torian a shocked look. “At least, not one for the Republic.”

“All right, all right.” Layne shook his head as Torian punched him lightly on the shoulder. “What do we do once we’re inside?” His eyes traveled up and down Apoc’s form. “That armor of yours is pretty distinctive.”

“I thought of that. And as disgusting as it’ll make me feel, I thought of a solution as well.” She chuckled quietly. “You still have your Requiem squadron armor. We’ll buff off the Requiem emblem and repaint it white and gold. I’ll wear that, and you’ll be my prisoner.”

Layne nodded thoughtfully. “That could work. What then?”

“When a prisoner comes in, they are brought to the intake area which is located here.” She pointed at the hologram. A bright green light began to glow in the forward area of the ship, just beyond the first prisoner ring. “They are processed and then taken into the population, then placed into a stasis chamber and given a neural inhibitor band that keeps them in a coma.”

The rings began to glow with their own lights, shining pink and blue and yellow. “Because the prisoners aren’t put out until they are in their permanent… residence, the dioxis gas is cleared from each ring during the intake process. So once we get out of the intake room, we just have to get to where they’re keeping Luxel.”

“What if they just turn the gas back on?” Layne frowned at the hologram. “Seems like that could put us out of business in a hurry.”

“That’s why Torian and Mako will sneak on board while we’re in the intake room.” Apoc couldn’t help but smile when Mako pumped her slender fist in the air. “Due to the number of droids they have crewing, there are computer terminals at regular intervals throughout the ship. They’ll find one, and Mako will alter the ship’s code to stop the dioxis from coming back on.”

Apoc grinned mischievously. “Also, the Incarcerator has a medical bay where prisoners are routinely taken for health checkups. While they are there, they’re woken up and looked over by a medic. If they get rowdy while being checked out, the medic activates a switch that floods the room with null gas.”

“Knocks them out?” Layne nodded. “Makes sense. How does that help us?”

Apoc’s emerald eyes narrowed. “After Mako shuts off the dioxis, she’ll insert another program into the ships computer. This one will divert the flow of air through the ship’s ducts to pass through the medical bay. At the same time, it will activate the null gas. It will take a few moments, but the gas will slowly seep into the crew area, depriving them of oxygen and causing them all to take a nice, long nap.”

“Sounds good.” Torian’s arms went up over his head as he stretched. “So you get in, get Luxel. We turn the dioxis off and knock out the crew. You come out, we fly away. What’s missing?”

Apoc’s smile turned grim. “The Incarcerator’s guardian droids. They are quick, agile, and each sport dual lasers as well as a blaster cannon.” The hologram in the center of the room changed to show a three-legged droid, somewhat circular shaped, with two arms, and a blaster cannon on its back.

“We don’t know exactly how many of these droids they have, but we do know that the corridors within the prisoner rings are too narrow for us to have to face more than two or three of them at a time.”

“Only two or three?” Layne scoffed. “We got this.”

Apoc snickered at him. “Once we get Luxel and get out past the droids, we’re going to blast our way out here.” She pointed to the hologram. “At this spot, the prisoner population area is adjacent to the hangar bay we’ll come in from. Mako and Torian will meet up with us at the ship and we’ll fly out, then take Luxel to Darth Umbral.”

Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath, then opened them. She looked around the room, letting her gaze linger on each of them for a moment. “We do this tomorrow. Get some rest, eat a hearty meal, and be ready for some fun.”


Later that night, Apocalypsa sat at the edge of the bed she shared with Torian, watching him as he lay on the floor, exercising his abdominal muscles by doing a set of sit-ups. She nudged him in the ribs with her bare toe.

“Hey,” she said. He relaxed, looking up at her with his hands behind his head. “It’s a good plan, right?”

He chuckled at her, beginning his exercises once more. “It’s a good plan. As good as we’re going to get.”

“Any number of things could go wrong.” Apoc nudged him with her foot again. “Stop that. I can’t talk to you when you’re doing that, it’s distracting.”

Torian gave her a lopsided grin that filled her with both exasperation and love. “Why do you think I’m doing it, cyare?”

“You’re impossible.” She shook her head at him. “I’m serious. I keep looking for a flaw. I can’t find one, which makes me extra nervous.”

“Isn’t like you.” He sat up, resting his arms on his knees. “Why so worried? Layne?”

She nodded. “This is a Republic ship we’re infiltrating. Republic soldiers we’ll be fighting. He hasn’t done that yet.”

“You’re worried he won’t be able?” Torian shook his head. “Kid’s more Mando than you give him credit for.”

“I know that.” She frowned at him. “Don’t you think I know that? I want him to do well. I want him to earn his place.”

Torian’s sapphire eyes softened as her meaning suddenly dawned on him. “You want this to be like his verd’goten.” He reached out, placing his hand on hers. “You want to give him a gai bal manda.”

Apocalypsa nodded. Her own adoption by Mandalore the Vindicated had been the proudest moment of her life. Marking the moment she had become a Mandalorian, the gai bal manda was even more sacred to her than her triumph in the Great Hunt.

“Don’t you?” Her eyes locked with his, shining out from within the dark ink tattooed around them. “I’m not a big believer in fate or destiny, but it feels like there was a reason he came with us.” She smiled as he nodded. “I feel like he’s supposed to be our son. Like he should have been born our child.”

“Same.” Torian twined his fingers around hers. “Layne will do fine. Won’t shrink from what he has to do. Isn’t going to turn around and rejoin the Republic. He’s a Mando, even if he doesn’t know it.”

“Now,” he grinned at her as his grip tightened and he tugged her down onto the floor with him. “Tomorrow we might all die.” He lowered his face, his lips hovering centimeters above hers.

“Oh, is that so?” She lifted her arms, wrapping them around his neck. “I suppose we better make the most of tonight, then.” A soft sigh escaped her lips as his brushed against them, banishing her worries to the deepest parts of her mind.

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11.28.2012 , 07:23 AM | #5

Apocalypsa had always thought that Balmorra would have been a beautiful planet, were it not for the war trenches and military installations that scarred the landscape. Home to some of the galaxy’s most advanced weapons manufacturers, the world had been heavily fought over by the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire.

When she had first arrived on the planet during the Great Hunt, there had been an Imperial base where she was standing. Now, the crashed hulks of downed walkers and half-collapsed pre-fabricated buildings served to hide Apoc and the others from view as they peered into one of the impromptu shipyards the Republic had set up.

“There it is.” The Mandalorian woman pointed past the tall fencing. Just visible over the round hulk of a Corellian freighter was the triangular wingtip of the BT-7 Thunderclap they were there for. “Right smack in the middle of the yard.”

“Figures.” Mako’s dark eyes were trained on the datapad in her hand. “I’m having trouble with the coding for the fence.”

“What do you mean, trouble?” Apoc raised a slender eyebrow.

“Patrol.” Torian’s quiet warning caused Layne to press himself up against the walker leg. Mako sighed in frustration as the datapad she held beeped softly.

“I can’t get the override.” She looked up at Apoc. “They’ve implemented some new security measures.”

Apocalypsa grit her teeth. The three-man patrol was getting closer. She could hear them talking to each other as they marched along the outside of the electrified fencing. Taking a deep breath, she drew her twin blaster pistols.

“Is it still possible, or are we going to have to do this the messy way?”

“Apoc.” Torian’s voice was low, so low in fact, that she would not have been able to hear him if he had not been speaking over the private communication link built into their helmets. “Company.”

He was right. The trio of soldiers had seen something – a shadow, the dying light of the setting sun shining off of her beskar’gam, Layne’s boot sticking out from beside the walker leg. She shook her head. It didn’t matter what they saw, they were headed straight toward their hiding spot.

“The messy way it is, then.” She stepped out from behind the walker. Layne would have followed, but Torian’s arm reached out to hold him back.

“Wait.” Layne could hear a soft chuckle from beneath Torian’s dark helmet.

Layne’s pale eyes followed Apoc as she sauntered toward the trio of soldiers, who had drawn their weapons but seemed confused by the confident figure in the jet-black beskar’gam. He heard one of the men challenge the bounty hunter.

“Halt! This is Republic territory.” Apoc smiled under her visor as the soldier, a tall man with chiseled features visible under his open-faced helmet, stepped forward with his blaster rifle pointed at her chest.

“I was just looking for the nearest cantina.” Her fingers tightened around the blasters in her hands as she brought them up and fired. Sky-blue bolts of pure energy screamed through the air, scattering the soldiers as they dove to the ground.

Oya!” Torian’s battle-cry erupted from his throat. He leapt out from behind the walker, pulling the two-meter long phrik alloy staff from his back in one smooth movement.

The air suddenly seemed to be full of blaster bolts. Apoc’s pistols whined as she squeezed the triggers again and again. She twisted and spun as the soldiers returned fire, the verdant energy lancing out toward her.

Several hits scored marks on her armor, but the Mandalorian woman didn’t even flinch. Activating the jetpack built onto the back of her armor, she flew several meters into the air, firing over and over. Her laughter filled the air as she rained death on the men beneath her.

Torian’s leap carried him to the soldier closest to the walker. The man looked up only to see the knobbed end of the mercenary’s staff come down toward him. Staggering back, the Republic trooper brought a hand up to his ruined face, staring dumbly at the blood trickling down his fingers before falling to the ground.

Layne saw his moment to act, and scrambled out from behind the walker just as Apocalypsa released several missiles from the miniature launcher attached to her gauntlet. The rockets collided with the ground, exploding into clumps of grass and soil that flew through the air.

He stumbled, and nearly went down as the ground shook from the impact. From within the fenced-in shipyard, alarms began to sound. He heard the scream of blaster bolts heading his way, saw them fly past his shoulder to dissipate in the air.

Layne’s goal was in front of him, the durasteel fencing surrounding the shipyard humming with the energy that ran through it. From his belt he pulled a small, round thermal grenade. From the corner of his eye, he could see one of the soldiers lift his rifle to release another shot.

Silence descended in Layne’s mind. In an instant, his vision seemed to focus, throwing everything into sharp relief. The emerald energy bolt flew toward him, and he dropped to his knees, skidding across the ground as he twisted his body back, watching as the shot meant for his gut soared just over his face.

His arm went back, then came forward. The grenade flew from his grip, sailing through the air to land at the base of the fence. He rolled his body, covering the back of his head with his arms as the grenade detonated. A wave of heat washed over him as the fencing melted, leaving a gaping hole in the middle.

The ground beneath Apocalypsa shook as her feet came back in contact with it. She felt the world lurch, and went tumbling forward, losing her balance. She landed, face first, at the feet of the large soldier who had first challenged her.

He drew his foot back, aiming a hard kick at the prostrate woman. As fast as he was, she was even faster, her hands coming forward to wrap around his ankle. One massive tug, and he was on his back, with Apocalypsa scrambling up over him, straddling his chest, her blaster pointed directly down at his exposed face.

She stared at him through her visor. His breath was raspy and weak as the weight of the fully armored Mandalorian threatened to crush his ribcage. His dark eyes were full of fear as they stared down the barrel of Apoc’s blaster.

“You could have just given me directions.” She squeezed the trigger. The smell of burned flesh wafted through the air as the man twitched several times, then lay still. Standing, Apoc brought her blaster to bear on the remaining soldier.

He dropped his weapon, throwing his hands into the air. Apoc sneered at him under her helmet, gesturing toward the fence with her blaster. “Take us in.”

The man looked from her to the hole in the fence and back. His mouth opened as if to say something, but nothing came out. From the corner of her eye, Apoc could see Mako move out from behind the walker and hurry to check on Layne, who was lifting himself from the ground.

“Move!” She aimed her blasters at the ground before the man’s feet, firing off several shots in rapid succession. The soldier gulped and nodded, running toward the fence and through the gap. Apoc and Torian hurried after him, followed by Layne and Mako.

As they moved into the yard, they could see another half-dozen soldiers heading their way as the alarms continued to blare. Sprinting forward, Apocalypsa grabbed her hostage, making sure all could see that she held her blaster to his head. Behind her, the others fanned out, their weapons all held at the ready.

“Mako, get ready to override the Thunderclap’s security.”

The dark eyed woman nodded at Apoc’s command. “Already worked it up.”

The starship’s white and gold paint gleamed pink under the crimson hue of the sunset. As they reached it, the approaching soldiers halted. Reluctant to fire with one of their own being used as a shield, Apoc could see the frustration each wore on their faces.

One of the troopers, a bulky man wearing a captain’s insignia, stepped forward. His deep voice boomed across the shipyard. “Stop, Mandalorian!”

“Sorry, I need this ship.” She nodded her head toward the Thunderclap. Mako edged around, datapad out. Pressing a button, she gave a little giggle of triumph as the doors opened with a hiss. She scampered aboard, followed by Layne.

“Go.” Apoc nodded at Torian, who moved up the ramp. She turned her attention back to the captain. “Let’s everyone stay calm and Private Wuss here stays alive.” She cocked her head to the side slightly. “Though you might want to get him a bath. I’m pretty sure he wet himself.”

She felt vibration under her feet as the Thunderclap’s repulsorlifts engaged. Backing up the ramp, she stood in the open doorway of the starship. Turning her head, she shouted toward the ship’s bridge. “Layne, go!”

Spreading her legs apart, she braced herself as the engines kicked on. Wind whipped at her, threatening to suck her out of doorway. Beneath her, she could see the Republic soldiers standing open-mouthed as the ship gained altitude.

“Hey!” She yelled down at them, then grinned as she lifted her foot. Planting it in the middle of her hostage’s back, she pushed with all of her might. “Catch!” With a short-lived yelp, the man flew forward and down, plummeting into the middle of the collected soldiers, bowling several of them over.

The door hissed shut, and Apoc’s boots thundered across the metal floor as she ran toward the bridge. Finding Layne behind the pilot’s chair, with Mako next to him, she stared out of the viewport at the massive anti-aircraft gun as it began to track toward them.

“Get us out of here, Layne.” He nodded, rotating the ship to orient its bow away from the shipyard. The sound of the anti-aircraft battery firing its massive energy bolts was a piercing whine that cut through the sound of the engines. Bright red energy beams splashed against the Thunderclap’s shields.

“Shields won’t hold for long.” Mako’s eyes were trained on the computer readout. “Good thing they fixed them though or we wouldn’t have any.”

Suddenly, the sound of firing turbolasers was much closer as the Thunderclap shot back, Torian in the dorsal turret tracking fire down toward the ground. His shots told, as the AA gun slowly whirred to a stop, its tracking ability fouled by Torian’s expert blast to the sensor array.

Several of the soldiers on the ground opened fire, but their shots were ineffective. The Thunderclap angled for space, and Apoc sank down into the co-pilot’s chair, heaving a thankful sigh as they punched through the atmosphere.

Now they just had to break into the Incarcerator.


Lieutenant Raia Jesses sat at the computer terminal in her small quarters. Her honey-colored hair was braided into many small plaits that fell around her face, just dusting her shoulders. Her amber eyes, once warm and full of life, now stared dully at the screen before her.

Dear Raia,

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write to you, and it’ll probably be the fourth time that you don’t reply. I’ll keep trying, though.

I know there aren’t any words that can take away the pain I’ve given you. I know that you blame me for the deaths of Elias and of Master Ortain.

She looked away from the monitor for a moment, brushing a tear from her eye. Next to the terminal, a hologram of her and Elias on their wedding day shone with a dim light. Her husband’s warm gaze stared at her, full of the love and hope they had felt when they started their life together. Sighing, she returned her eyes to the screen.

I can’t take back what happened, and I won’t blame you if you hate me forever. I wanted you to know, though, that I love you, and I really am sorry that you’ve been hurt so badly.

I feel like I owe you an explanation. I know I owe you an explanation, even if it might make you hate me even more. Raia, so many things have started to come clear for me, I don’t even know where to begin.

After Mom and Dad died, when I joined the Academy, I was so angry at the Empire and at the Mandalorians who killed them that I didn’t even question it. I just wanted revenge, and the Academy seemed the best way to get it.

Imagine my surprise when I started studying Mandalorians and found I actually liked them! Their tactics, their tenacity, their enjoyment of every moment life has to offer. Their quest for a challenge, their love of battle.

The more I studied them though, the more I wondered. In all of the things I read, they had never done something as dirty as blowing up a medical facility full of civilians, not once. They were described as cold, arrogant, or greedy, but never as cowardly. It made me think.

And then I was assigned to Requiem Squadron. I was happy that day, Rai, because it meant I got to be with you, and with Elias. But I was confused too, because it meant that I would be hunting down and killing Mandalorians, and I wasn’t sure they were the real culprits behind our parent’s deaths.

So I used the clearance that I was given to look up some old records. And I found out I was right. Mom and Dad didn’t die protecting civilians in a hospital, Raia. They died protecting a secret chemical weapons facility with a hospital as a cover.

It dawned on me then, Rai. It wasn’t the Mandalorian’s fault. It wasn’t even the Empire’s fault, really. It was the Republic. It was the military I had sworn to serve. They put those people in the line of fire. All those civilians, dead because of a lie. The Mandos didn’t attack a hospital. They attacked a chemical weapons facility.

The next day we landed on that forest world with Master Ortain and the rest of the squad. Nicke, Trace, and me went to find Apocalypsa. And we did. And then terrible things happened, Raia, things that changed everything.

I watched Trace die a horrible death. I saw Nicke gun down Apoc after she saved him from that same fate. It didn’t matter to him that she had saved him, that she had kept him alive. The only thing that mattered to him was that she was his enemy.

That was it. I think that was the moment I really knew that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be who I was trying to be, because that just isn’t who I am. I saw Torian kill Nicke, and when he turned to come at me, all I could think of was the sight of Apoc falling over the edge of that cliff, and what a terrible waste it was for someone like her to die that way.

But she didn’t die, and Torian didn’t kill me. I stood there and watched as she challenged Master Ortain, even though her shoulder had just been hanging out of its socket moments before. He accepted, and as we walked back to the ship, Apoc told me about other times she had fought warrior’s duels, and what an honor it was for her to be able to fight Jedi Masters.

And you saw that fight, Raia. You’ve seen her fight. Can you deny the beauty of watching that deadly dance? As I watched it, thoughts just kept bouncing around in my head, smashing together and making a terrible mess.
All I could think was: How beautiful. How terrible. How awe-inspiring. Blasters versus lightsaber, Force versus a warrior’s skill. When Apoc stood over Ortain at the end, I felt as if I would never let out the breath I was holding, waiting for that final shot.

And then… then you told Elias to shoot her. To shoot her in the back before she could claim her victory in an honor-bound duel. I couldn’t let him do it, Rai. I just couldn’t. Not after everything I had learned, everything I had seen.

So I called out to her. I gave her a warning. I didn’t know Apoc would shoot Elias. I guess I thought she would just dodge his shot and kill Ortain and it would be over. But that’s not what happened. And that, Raia, I am truly sorry for. My heart broke for you.

But I’m not sorry that I saved Apocalypsa. I’ve learned so much since being with her. One of the things she’s taught me is that telling the truth is one of the most important things that we can do, even if it hurts the ones we love the most.

She’s the one that told me I should tell you what really happened to Mom and Dad. She said you should know, that I wasn’t really protecting you by not telling you, but that I was protecting myself from having to see you hurt any more.

I don’t know if you’ll even read this, but I had to try to tell you the truth. I had to try to tell you why I did… what I did. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you, and hope that you’re alright.

Mako (that’s Apoc’s code-slicer) tells me that I’m just about at my data limit for this transmission. So I guess I’ll just end this by telling you that I love you, Raia. And I hope that one day, you’ll be able to forgive me.

Your brother,


Raia’s eyes welled with tears once more, the lids closing to spill those tears down her cheeks. Opening her eyes again, she furiously stabbed her finger down at the delete button before her. Layne’s message disappeared, replaced by the emblem of the Galactic Republic.

She stared blankly at the screen for a moment before her attention was diverted by a voice coming over the comm system in her quarters.

“Attention, Incarcerator crew members. We will be coming out of hyperspace in ten minutes. All off-duty personnel are reminded to be prepared to return to duty if we encounter hostiles.”

Sighing, Raia stood and moved over to the small cot that rested in the corner of her room. Laying down, she stared at the ceiling as the massive ship hummed around her. As she slowly drifted off into a light sleep, Layne’s face loomed, unbidden, beneath her closed eyes.

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:49 AM | #6

The cold glint of stars in the distance filled the viewport of the gold and white BT-7 Thunderclap as it came out of hyperspace. Before it loomed the Incarcerator, the bulk of the massive ship eclipsing the view of a small planet beyond it.

Apoc stood in the doorway of the bridge, clad in Layne’s old Republic Spec Ops armor. She grimaced as she ran her fingers over the black Republic crest. The metal beneath her touch was durasteel, not Mandalorian iron. Shot through with cortosis ore, it would deflect glancing shots from small arms and lightsabers, but provided little protection from a full-out assault.

The blocky helmet she held in her hands bore almost no resemblance to the one she normally wore. No heads-up display, life form sensors, nor the night vision and auditory enhancements that were built into her beskar’gam.

“That looks terrible on you.” Torian chuckled softly.

She sighed softly. He was right, and not just for the Republic emblem painted on it. The armor was designed for a man, not a woman, and didn’t sit quite right on her shoulders or hips. The breastplate felt somewhat confining after years of wearing armor specifically contoured to her own body.

“If I knew I’d be wearing this uniform one day, I might have let that lizard on Taris eat me.” Apoc’s hands tightened around the helmet. “Mass-produced, bulky, uncomfortable, and cheap. I don’t know how Republic soldiers survive.”

Mako turned from her computer terminal. “Scanners show the Incarcerator is launching fighters.”

Twelve glowing orbs of yellow light shot out from the side of the Republic starship, resolving themselves into a V-shaped screen of Talon-class starfighters. The fighters swiftly approached the Thunderclap, and Apoc slipped the helmet on over her head.

“Showtime, I guess.” With a nod toward Torian and Mako, Apoc moved back to the holoterminal. The blinking light on the side indicated an incoming transmission. Taking a deep breath, she punched the button. The image of a thick-set woman with graying hair and a scarred face appeared.

“Starship Golden Dawn, this is Lieutenant Fia Tarei of the Incarcerator. You are approaching a restricted area. Hold position, power down all weapons, and state your intentions.” The woman’s voice was nasally and grated on Apoc’s nerves. The wail of the Thunderclap’s alarms began to sound as the Incarcerator’s torpedo launchers locked onto the smaller ship.

Apoc waited until Mako had shut the alarms down before responding. “I’m Captain Serame Lidian of the Golden Dawn. We are transporting a prisoner for insertion into the population.”

“One moment please, sir.” Lieutenant Tarei’s eyes looked off to the side as she tapped into a keyboard out of Apoc’s sight. “Prisoner’s name?”

“Layne Malan. Transmitting holorecord and voiceprint to you now.” Apoc glanced toward the bridge, where she saw Mako give her a thumbs up. “Requesting permission to dock and bring prisoner on board.”

She impatiently waited while Tarei looked over the information Mako had sent. As the seconds ticked by, Apoc could feel her heart beating harder in her chest. With the Thunderclap’s weapons and shields powered down, it was defenseless if the Incarcerator chose to open fire.

After what seemed an eternity, Tarei’s gaze turned back to Apocalypsa. “Permission granted to come aboard, Captain. An escort will meet you in the hangar bay to make sure the prisoner is secure.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Apoc turned off the holoterminal. Outside the Thunderclap, the fighter screen fell into escort formation. Taking a few steps toward the cargo hold, Apoc paused a moment. She glanced back toward the bridge, where Torian and Mako worked to guide the ship into the Incarcerator’s docking bay.

She took in a deep breath, let it out slowly, then shook her head. There was no need for her to go back, no need for her to say anything to Torian before the mission. Theirs was a mutual understanding, simple knowledge of the others feelings without the need for words. If something happened to one of them, the survivor wouldn’t need a good-bye as a reminder of the love they shared.

She drew her blasters, checked the power packs. Continuing into the cargo hold, she holstered them, smiling as she saw Layne standing by the exit hatch. He was weaponless, dressed in a simple black shirt and pants. His hands fidgeted with a set of energy binders. As Apoc approached, he handed them to her.

“Better put these on me.”

“Hands in front.” He complied with her order as she snapped the bands around his wrists. Purple light flickered over his skin as the binders activated, preventing him from pulling his hands apart. “Remember, look downcast. You’re a prisoner. And… don’t take anything I say personally.”

He chuckled. “Yeah.” His brow furrowed. “Hey, Apoc. Thanks.”

She blinked at him. “For what, parading you around in binders?”

Layne laughed, leaning his head back. “No. For thinking I’m ready for this.” He shrugged slightly, the movement hampered by the binders. “I won’t let you down.”

She smiled beneath her helmet. “I know you won’t, Layne.” She clapped him on the shoulder, then turned toward the door as the ship shook slightly with the impact of landing. Mako’s voice came over the Thunderclap’s intercom.

“You’re on, boss.”

Apoc reached out, her right hand gripping Layne around his upper arm. Her left slapped the door control panel, and it hissed open. Pushing Layne in front of her, she stepped out, maneuvering him down the ramp. From the far end of the hangar bay, three men in Republic military uniforms approached.

They halted before Apocalypsa, saluting. She responded with a salute of her own, glad that her helmet hid her smirk. “Captain Serame Lidian. This disgusting bucket of Hutt drool is Layne Malan.” She pushed Layne forward roughly, keeping her hand tight around his arm. “I’m here to lock him up.”

Layne kept his eyes downcast as the soldiers glared at him with undisguised hate. One of them, a lieutenant with the barest hint of red hair on his head, stepped forward. “I’m Lieutenant Vaile. We’re here to take you to processing, sir.” He gestured for Apoc to follow him. As she walked behind him, the other two soldiers fell into step on either side of her.

Apoc’s steps were sure and swift as she followed Vaile through the hangar bay doors and into the long corridor leading into the Incarcerator’s administration area. She smiled slightly as she noted the computer terminal about halfway down the hall. A small, boxy mouse droid sped by her feet, chirping to itself.


Raia had a headache. After two hours of restless sleep, she decided it wasn’t worth the trouble any more. She kept thinking about Layne’s letter, and what he said about their parents. She sighed, moving to the door of her quarters and opening the door.

She wasn’t sure if it really made a difference that they had been guarding chemical weapons. Mandalorians still killed them. Mandalorians hired by the Empire. Layne blamed the Republic, but the Republic hadn’t planted the charges that collapsed the hospital’s foundations, bringing the whole thing down in a cloud of dirt and smoke.

She walked down the hall, passing several other members of the Incarcerator’s crew. She ignored the looks they gave her, looks that she had gotten used to over time. Poor Raia Jesses, those looks said. How sad and how tragic – her entire family killed, her squadron wiped out, and her brother a traitor.

Raia’s hands clenched into fists at her sides. No, Layne was wrong. The Republic had its reasons for using a hospital as cover for weapons. They would never have done something like that without a good reason. And her parents had been good people, loyal soldiers. She had gone through doctor’s training, then joined the military as a combat medic to be like them, to save lives both on the battlefield and off.

She reached the turbolift at the end of the hall. Punching the button, she waited for it to arrive, crossing her arms over her chest. Layne was a traitor. Not only had he gotten Elias killed, but then he had run off with that- with that bounty hunter. That Mandalorian.

The turbolift arrived with a chiming sound. Raia stepped into it. “Administration,” she said softly. The lift complied with a beep. Reaching its destination, the doors opened and Raia moved out, heading down the hall. She furrowed her brow slightly as she saw three men exit the intake room, heading toward the hangar bay.

Prisoner coming in, she thought. Better get to the medbay so I can do the exam. She stepped into the intake room. The dark-haired woman behind the desk smiled at her. “Hey, Raia.”

“Hey, Eveli.” She cocked her head slightly to the side. “Prisoner coming in, isn’t there?”

Eveli’s blue eyes glanced down at the desk suddenly, avoiding Raia’s stare. “Yeah. You didn’t hear?”

Raia frowned. “Hear what? I was off duty sleeping.” She lifted her hand and tugged slightly at one of the many braids in her honey-colored hair. “What’s going on?”

“N…Nothing.” Eveli shook her head. “You don’t have to do the exam on this one, Netvers was coming down to do it.”

“If I want to do the intake exam, I’ll do the intake exam.” Raia glared at the other woman. “Shut off the dioxis, Ensign.”

Eveli grimaced slightly. “Y-yes, sir.” She tapped the buttons on the keypad in front of her. Three red lights set to the side of the large, silvery doors began to blink. A few seconds later, the lights turned yellow, then finally green as the deadly gas beyond was cleared from the halls.

Raia threw Eveli one last dirty look before she hit the button on the wall. The door panels slid apart with a hiss, and she stepped through, turning to the right and entering the medical bay. She stood in the middle of the brightly lit room for a moment, taking a few slow, deep breaths.

The clean, clinical whiteness that surrounded her comforted her. It calmed her as she moved to the metal cabinet against the wall, removing a thin syringe and filling it with a dose of powerful sedative before laying it on the tiled counter next to her instrument tray.

Leaning back against the countertop, she sighed softly, hoping that the exam would prove a distraction from the turmoil in her mind.


Apocalypsa could feel excitement mounting within her as she stepped into the intake room. Her gaze focused on the large, silvery doors opposite the entrance. “RESTRICTED ACCESS” was painted across them in bright red letters. A set of three green lights on the side indicated the absence of dioxis gas in the ring-like corridors behind.

A slender woman in an ensign’s uniform sat behind a desk next to the doors. Her wide blue eyes stared intently at Layne as Apoc roughly shoved him forward, causing him to stumble slightly. “This him?”

Apoc’s slender eyebrow shot up. “Why else would he be in binders, Ensign?” She pointed at Layne. “This is Layne Malan. Traitorous scum. Ran off with some Mandalorians about a year ago. Stinks worse than a rancor covered in Gamorrean grease.”

“Yes, sir.” Eveli’s fingers tapped at the keypad before her. “Sorry, sir.” The computer beeped at her, and she nodded. “He’s to be put in the second ring with the other deserters, sir. He’ll need to be examined by our medical officer, and sedated for the neural inhibitor band.”

Apoc nodded, tugging Layne over toward the doors. She smiled under the helmet as he finally began to resist her a little, adding to the realism by making her drag him. “Let’s get it over with, then.”

“Wait, Captain.” Lieutenant Vaile interposed himself between Apocalypsa and the doors. “We need to search him for contraband one last time.” The two soldiers who accompanied Vaile stepped forward, one of them holding Layne’s arms out while the other patted him down.

Apoc fidgeted slightly while she waited. While every second of delay gave Torian and Mako more time to get into place, it also increased the likelihood of discovery. Finally satisfied that Layne was unarmed and wasn’t hiding anything, Vaile nodded at Eveli.

The dark-haired woman hit the door switch. The silvery panels hissed open, and Apoc gripped Layne’s arm again, propelling him forward and through the doors.


The hangar bay was dark, the lights having been dimmed after Apocalypsa and the soldiers had left it. Torian moved swiftly and silently across the metal floor, his heavy boots making almost no sound. Behind him, Mako was like a little ghost, ducking in and out behind piled plastifiber boxes.

She wore no real armor, just her nerf-leather jacket and leggings with many pockets that held her array of datapads and slicing tools. Her slender blaster pistol hung from a belt over her hips, and her dark eyes sparkled over the rebreather mask she wore to keep from being affected by the null gas they would release.

Torian shook his head slightly, glad that his helmet would filter the air for him, preventing him from having to wear the uncomfortable protective device. Flattening himself against the wall, the Mandalorian warrior edged up to the doorway. As it slid open, he peered around it into the hallway beyond.

The corridor was empty, and he motioned for Mako to follow as he stepped through the door. There it was, about fifteen meters ahead. A small computer terminal was tucked into a small, shadowy recess. As they crossed the open area, Torian waited for the sound of a door opening, a shout of discovery – anything that might jeopardize their mission.

Mako pushed ahead of him, ducking into the tiny alcove. From her pocket she pulled a datapad, plugging the cable dangling from it into the port in front of her. Her dark eyes fixed on the display in her hands, and she smiled, then nodded at Torian.

He smiled. When Apoc gave the signal, Mako would activate her programming. “Nice work.” His voice was a soft whisper.

“Hope Apoc contacts us soon.” Mako frowned slightly. “I’m not likely to go unnoticed for long. After a few minutes we have about a ninety percent chance of being det-“

“Shh.” Torian held up his hand. Mako immediately quieted. After a moment she heard it too - the quiet chirping of a mouse droid and the whirring of its tiny wheels as it traversed the floor. Torian’s hand went up, pulling the staff from his back.

He held it in his right hand, thumb hovering over the small button in the center of the metal span. The sound of the droid’s approach came closer. As it came parallel to the alcove, Torian stepped out, jabbing the end of his staff down at the droid.

It squealed with alarm as Torian released the ion charge within his weapon. Sparks flew from the tiny droid, and its wheels spun uselessly. He kicked it, and it fell apart.

His relief was short-lived, as moments later, a door opened. A voice came spilling from it into the hall. “I’m telling you, Ecker, I heard something.”

Ecker’s reply was intelligible. Torian’s right hand tightened around his staff. He glanced over at Mako, who also held her weapon ready, dark head peeking out from the alcove.

Mako’s comlink suddenly came to life, a short burst of static followed by two short clicks. Apoc’s signal. As two men stepped into the corridor from the open door, Mako’s finger punched down on her datapad. The computer beeped quietly as her programming began to work its way into the system.

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:53 AM | #7

The sound of the intake doors shutting behind her was her cue. Reaching for her comlink, Apoc thumbed it on, double-clicking the transmit button. In front of her, Lieutenant Vaile turned, a questioning look on his face.

Adrenaline surged through Apocalypsa’s veins as she released Layne’s arm, her hands dropping to her hips. She drew her blasters and fired in one smooth motion, the pair of sky-blue bolts catching Vaile in his stomach. The confused look he wore intensified as he looked down at the smoking hole in his gut.

Layne moved fast, ducking behind one of the soldiers, slipping his bound hands over the man’s neck. He pressed his fists against the struggling man’s throat, cutting off his oxygen supply. The soldier’s face began to turn purple as the young warrior’s death grip intensified.

Apoc whirled on the last soldier in time to see him thumb on his comlink. “Intruders loose in population! Send backup immediately!” He leveled his blaster at Apoc, squeezed the trigger.

She dove to the side, her own guns coming up to spit fire at the man, his shot grazing the durasteel plating on her leg. He dropped to his knees as the wailing keen of the Incarcerator’s alarms cut through the air.

Apoc rolled as she hit the ground, coming up in a low crouch. Her pistols held before her, she triggered another series of shots, catching the Republic soldier in the thigh and high in the chest. He slumped over, laying still.

The man struggling in Layne’s grasp choked out his last breath. Layne lowered him to the floor, and Apoc ran over to remove the binders from his wrists. Banging and shouting could be heard on the other side of the doors.

“Come on kid,” Apoc returned the binders to her belt. “We gotta get going.” She handed him a spare blaster from her belt.

The sound of a door hissing open caused Apoc’s head to snap up and around. From a door to the right stepped a young woman with braided golden hair and amber eyes. The expression on her heart-shaped face was one of shock and disbelief.

“The things you see when you don’t have a flamethrower.” Apocalypsa laughed quietly as Raia’s hand went to the blaster at her waist.

Raia’s eyes moved from the dead soldiers, to Apocalypsa, and finally to Layne. He stood over the bodies, blaster in hand. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then changed her mind and simply drew her weapon.

“We don’t have time for this.” Apoc lunged toward Raia, wrapping her hand around the other woman’s wrist. She smacked it against the wall, hard, and the blaster clattered to the floor. With a forceful shove, she pushed Raia through the doorway to the medical bay.

Raia struggled against Apocalypsa’s grip. Twisting, she managed to free one hand, aiming a series of blows against Apoc’s shoulders and neck. The ill-fitting helmet she wore was knocked askew, partially obscuring her vision.

The mercenary was relentless, twisting Raia’s arm behind her back even as the woman struggled. Apoc was pushing her forward, gauntleted hand going to the back of Raia’s neck and forcing her face down onto the cool white tile of the countertop.

Honey-colored braids fell down into Raia’s eyes as her amber gaze focused on the instrument tray lying on the counter. She slammed her hand down onto the tray, wrapping her fingers around the sedative-filled syringe she had prepared earlier.

She lifted the needle, tearing the safety cap off with her teeth. As Apocalypsa’s hand moved to remove the energy binders from her belt, Raia twisted around, bringing the syringe up. The slender needle pierced the exposed fibermesh flightsuit covering Apoc’s neck, just below the helmet.

Haar’chak!” Apocalypsa cursed and whirled away, reaching up to tug the helmet off her head. In a blind rage, she threw it at Raia, who ducked, causing the heavy durasteel projectile to ricochet off the wall and skid across the floor.

Layne flew through the doorway, his arms reaching out to grab Apoc as she stumbled, emerald eyes rolling back in her head. He wrapped an arm around her, supporting her so she wouldn’t fall.

Raia stared at him, at Apocalypsa in his arms. Layne’s pale blue eyes hardened as he plucked the offending needle from Apoc’s neck. The plunger had been pushed about a quarter of the way down. He threw the syringe onto the floor, then pulled Apocalypsa back into the hallway.

Layne activated his comlink. “Mako, seal the medbay doors!” Raia was moving, was coming toward him. “Mako, seal the medbay doors now!” There was a burst of static from his comlink.

“Can’t…you…jamming…” Mako’s voice was broken up by more hissing static.

“The medbay doors! Seal them!” He tried one last time. Raia was almost to the doorway. She picked up her blaster from the floor, aimed it at Apocalypsa’s limp form in Layne’s arms.

The doors shut just before Raia reached them. Layne breathed a sigh of relief, leaning Apoc up against the wall. The alarms wailed loudly, and he could hear shouting and blaster fire beyond the intake room doors. He frowned. Torian and Mako.

His attention turned back to Apoc. She was slumped back against the wall, her head falling forward. Her eyes were dull and glassy, staring at him from beneath hooded eyelids. Blast, he thought. What do I do now?


The first soldier out of the door stopped short, staring at the armored Mandalorian warrior in the center of the hall. The second trooper, a thickset man with a bald head and bushy sideburns, bumped into the first, knocking him off-balance.

Torian grinned under his helmet and leapt forward, aided by the rocket thrusters hidden in his boots. With a quiet laugh, he held his left hand out in front of him. A gout of blue and white flame shot forth from his wrist, causing the bigger trooper to go wheeling backwards.

Pulling his arm back, Torian’s right fist shot down toward the smaller soldier, who had fallen to his hands and knees. A thin, keen-edged vibroblade extended from the knuckles of Torian’s gauntlet. The blade just barely grazed the soldier’s cheek, slicing the skin open.

Blood began to drip onto the floor from the wounded troopers face, and his hands slipped in it, causing him to fall face-forward. Torian planted his foot in the center of the man’s back, pressing down with the heavy boot of his beskar’gam.

The big soldier recovered from his shock at having his sideburns singed by Torian’s flamethrower. As Torian lifted his staff, preparing to strike the man at his feet, the other lifted his weapon and took aim at the mercenary.

Mako sprinted out from the shadowy alcove, her slender blaster pistol held in her small hand. With an impish grin on her face, she let out a burst of laser fire. The emerald energy bolts flew forward, lancing into the large mans forehead.

He pitched forward with a groan. Torian swung his staff in a downward arc. The knobbed end slammed into the man underneath his feet with a wet thump, and he ceased struggling. Mako crouched low behind Torian as the Incarcerator’s alarms began to blare.

The sound of shouting and boots thudding across metal decking came from beyond the open door before them. Torian looked down at Mako. “Thought you were turning on null gas.”

“I didn’t have time to activate that program.” The sound of the approaching soldiers grew louder. “We’re about to have a whole lot of company.”

Torian’s sapphire eyes swept up and down the hall. About sixteen meters distant loomed the doors to the intake room. “Mako, can you open those doors?”

Her dark gaze followed his. She nodded, and took off in a sprint. Frowning, Torian placed his staff on his back, bending down to pick up one of the dead soldiers weapons. Quickly checking the power cell, he hurried after Mako.

She was standing at the door, the cable from her datapad running into a small panel to the side. “I just need a minute.”

“Don’t have one.” He lifted the pistol in his hands, aiming it down the hall. From the door spilled five men in heavy, black and white armor. He triggered off a volley of shots, causing them to back up a few steps. They drew their blaster carbines as Torian began to run forward.

From his belt the Mandalorian produced a small, round grenade. Depressing the button on the side, he lobbed it at the men coming from the doorway. As it flew forward, he skidded to a stop. The grenade detonated, throwing shards of twisted metal through the air.

The men howled in pain as the red-hot shrapnel pierced their armor. Giving them no time to recover, Torian lifted the pistol once more, firing and catching one of the soldiers in the shoulder. “Come on, Mako!”

“Got it!” She gave a little laugh of triumph as the door flew open. She stepped inside. “Get in here, quick!”

Torian turned and ran for the door. The thrusters in his boots kicked on as the whine of blaster carbines filled the air. He twisted and spun, diving for the ground and rolling forward over the threshold of the intake room doorway.

With a giggle and a wave at the approaching soldiers, Mako yanked her datacable from the wall. The door slammed shut. Thumps and the sound of shots ricocheting from the door were accompanied by the frustrated yells of the soldiers on the other side.

“It secure?” Torian sighed softly when Mako nodded. “Can you get the gas on from here?”

“Yeah, just need a terminal.” Mako’s dark eyes swept the room, lighting up when she saw the wide desk with the computer by the doors leading to the prisoner rings. “Perfect!” She ran over to the desk, sliding into the seat behind it.

“What the?” She frowned as her feet encountered something solid beneath the desk. Peering under it, she found Ensign Eveli curled into a ball, eyes squeezed tightly shut. “Hey Torian,” Mako called. “Come take a look at this.”

Torian shook his head slightly at the woman on the floor. “Republic’s finest.”

Mako giggled. “Well, what do you want to do with her?”

He shrugged. “I find it’s best to just leave airheads alone.” He gestured at the computer. “Get that gas on before they get the doors open.”

“Right.” She plugged her datapad in, tapping at the keypad. The computer whirred and beeped as her program flooded through its circuits. “This will divert the flow of the null gas from its tanks in the medical bay through the ships air ducts, flooding the crew compartments.”

The sound of a burst of static filled the air as Mako’s comlink came to life. “Mak… the… doors!” Layne’s voice was fading in and out, shrouded by telltale hissing and squealing sounds.

She thumbed on her own transmitter. “Can’t hear you, communications are being jammed!” She pulled the computer’s input board across the desk toward her. The program was almost done working its way through the system. When it finished, the medbay doors would lock and seal, and the gas would begin to flow.

“Mako… medbay doors!” Layne’s voice was insistent. She frowned, tapping away at the keys. Bringing up the ship’s security menu, she looked for the program which controlled the communications block. As she finally located it, a soft chime indicated the activation of her code.

“Program is in.” She smiled up at Torian under the mask that covered her mouth and nose. “And I think I can get our communications restored.” She punched a few keys. From the door leading into the corridor, the sound of voices faded away.

A soft snore came from underneath Mako’s feet, and she grinned when she looked down to see Eveli fast asleep. The null gas was working.


Layne reached out, his fingers feeling for the pulse in Apocalypsa’s neck. It was strong, but very slow. He cupped her chin in his hand and lifted her face. Her green eyes were unfocused as she tried to fix them on his face.

“Apoc!” He shook her slightly, and her head fell back. “Apoc, come on. We gotta get moving.” He moved next to her, slinging her arm over his shoulder as his own arm went around her back. He groaned softly with the effort as he tried to lift her to her feet.

“Layne…” Apoc’s voice was a low groan, the words slurred and barely coherent. “Mission. Luxel.” She pushed feebly at him. “Go.”

He shook his head. “I can’t just leave you here.” A short, high-pitched buzz came from his comlink, followed by Mako’s voice.

“Took care of the jamming. What’s your status?” Layne chuckled grimly as the transmission ended. He reached for his comlink, thumbing it on.

“Not good. Apoc’s down.” He looked down at her limp form in his arms. “Some kind of drug, she’s barely conscious.”

Torian’s voice was distorted by the comlink, but not so much that Layne couldn’t hear the concern in his voice. “Can you still get Luxel?”

Layne closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. This is on me. I have to do this. His pale blue eyes snapped open. Clenching his jaw, he nodded. I can do this.

“Mako,” he said into the comlink as he hauled Apoc to her feet. She leaned on him heavily, and he tightened his grip around her. “I need you to tell me where to go. Can you bring up a floor plan and direct me to Luxel?”

He took a few experimental steps forward. It was much slower than he would like, but Apocalypsa was able to drag her feet, shuffling them across the metal decking. He grit his teeth as he half-carried, half-dragged her into the circular hallway surrounding the prisoner rings.

“Yeah, I’ve got it.” Mako spoke through the comlink. “You need to get into the inner ring. There’s a door about halfway down either way that will take you into the second of the three.”

“Great, thanks.” Layne replaced the comlink on his belt. Step by agonizing step, he moved forward, supporting Apocalypsa’s body. His eyes were drawn to the sides of the corridor as they began to move through the prison’s stasis chambers.

Rows of silvery columns lined the hall. Cold blue light glowed from within, shining out from transparisteel panels that afforded a view of the prisoner inside. Each one floated in the void within, their faces peaceful, dreamlike.

Digital readouts above the windows flashed the vital signs of their occupants in bright green numbers. Layne shuddered slightly. The corridor was silent save for the sound of his footfalls and Apoc’s feet dragging across the floor. This place is giving me the creeps.

Finally, he reached the door Mako had told him would take him into the second of the trio of hallways. “I’m at the doors, what now?” He readjusted his grip on Apoc, who stared dully at the wall.

“The middle ring is full of laser sensor beams that cross the hallway. Any organic life that crosses the beams will activate the guard droids and start them patrolling for intruders.” There was a pause in the transmission. “I can’t shut them down, it’ll flag as an anomaly and the droids will immediately become active.”

“What about the droids themselves? Can you deactivate the droids?” He looked down at Apoc. In her current condition, he doubted she would have the agility necessary to avoid triggering the sensor beams, never mind fight the droids that would be coming at them.

“No.” Mako’s voice held a hint of frustration. “They’re independent of the main system, probably another security measure. I’d have to be within a few meters of them to have any effect on their programming.”

Blast. Layne frowned. In his arms, Apoc stirred, her head lifting slightly.

“Layne.” She groaned with the effort required to speak. “You have to go. Get Luxel, leave me here.” When he shook his head, she took a deep breath, pushing out as many words as possible before her strength fled.

“Just go. I’ll be fine out here. I can’t fight, Layne. I’m a liability. Go.” Her head fell forward and her eyes slid closed.

“No, Apoc. I’m not leaving you out here, Torian’d kill me.” He shook his head again, vehemently.

“I might kill you.” Apoc’s words were a quiet mumble.

Layne couldn’t help but chuckle, despite himself. He reached out, hand slapping the control panel mounted on the wall next to the door. It slid open, and he stepped through, tugging Apocalypsa with him.

The hall was dim, lit only by the ghostly light from the stasis chambers and the bright red beams that crossed the floor every few meters. Located about half a meter up from the ground, the beams shone with scintillating crimson light.

To Layne the lasers looked almost menacing, as if they were lurking in wait to ruin their mission. Apoc in tow, he stepped toward the first sensor. The laser was projected from two small, round knobs that stuck out slightly from either side of the wall. He knew that he could easily step over each beam, but Apocalypsa’s unwilling muscles would prevent her from doing the same.

For a moment, he contemplated lifting her in his arms and carrying her, but quickly dismissed the idea. Apoc alone weighed around seventy kilograms, and the durasteel armor she wore likely added another ninety. It was taking nearly all of his strength just to hold her up.

Finally, he came to a decision. He lifted his left leg over the beam and brought it down on the other side. Bracing Apocalypsa’s body with his right arm, he leaned down slightly to wrap his hand around her ankle. Lifting her right foot into the air, he attempted to maneuver it over the beam.

He knew she was going to fall before it happened, and tried to straighten before she crashed to the floor. Her left foot slid out from underneath her, and she toppled over with a quiet moan. Her armor clattered loudly against the metal decking.

The harsh blare of an alarm began to fill the hallway with its incessant shrieking. Eyes wide, Layne stared at Apoc’s limp hand, lying just below the bright red laser extending from the wall. The clattering noise of metal on metal reached his ears, and he knew that he had only moments before the Incarcerator’s droids were upon them.

From where she lay on the cold floor, Apocalypsa gave him a weak grin. “You didn’t really think that would work, did you?”

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 07:58 AM | #8

Torian paced back and forth, his heavy boots thumping across the intake room floor. Mako stared at him with dark eyes above her gasmask, unsure what to say to him in his obviously agitated state.

The tall Mandalorian felt a knot forming in his gut. Apoc is down. The rational part of his mind knew that what they did was fraught with danger at every turn. They had worked for Sith lords, and Imperial Moffs. They had fought countless battles against entire companies of soldiers with just the two of them.

He sighed, clenching his right fist and slamming it down into his left palm. The difference between then and now was that he had been there with her. For a long time, he had always been the one at her side.

He had watched her face death head on and with no fear, and it always filled him with a sense of pride and wonder at her bravery and code of honor. For Torian, the fear wasn’t that Apocalypsa might be killed. It was that he might not be there to die with her.

He came to a stop in front of the silvery doors leading into the prison rings. Beneath the darkened, t-shaped visor of his helmet, Torian’s sapphire eyes hardened. “Mako,” he said, placing his hands against the hard metal doors. “We’re going in.”

“We can’t, Torian. If I open the door, I won’t be out here to close it again. And I won’t be able to direct Layne to where he needs to go.” She frowned as he banged his fist against the wall in frustration. Suddenly, her expression brightened.

“Hey look, I can’t go, but you can.” She smiled at him as he cocked his head to the side in contemplation. “I’ll open the door, and I’ll monitor everything from out here.” She gestured toward the door leading into the crew areas. “Everyone is sleeping, remember? I’ll be fine.”

Torian was torn. He wanted, even needed to get to Apoc, but the thought of leaving Mako alone with a crew of two hundred soldiers, sleeping or not, didn’t sit well with his sense of duty or honor. “Don’t know if that’s a good idea, Mako.”

Mako’s fist crashed down on the desk, startling him. “Hey,” she said, a hint of anger in her tone. “I’m not some helpless kid, you know. I’m older than Apoc. I’m older than you!” She threw her hands up in the air as he began to laugh quietly.

“Look,” she began earnestly. “I’m not a Mandalorian, we all know that. I never will be. I don’t like to fight as much as you, I don’t like to drink as much as you, and I don’t like spicy food at all.”

“You did look a little green after Apoc made that tiingilar. Thought that was just because she can’t cook.” He grinned at the exasperated expression on her pixie face.

“Anyway!” She stood up from her chair, pointing a slender finger at Torian. “You can’t baby me just because Apoc does. She’s not here. And, well, she needs you. So go. I’m not defenseless.” From her belt she pulled her blaster pistol, laying it on the desk.

He closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed and nodded. “Alright. Open the door.”

“Okay then!” She sat back down, tapping at the computer keys once more. The doors in front of Torian slid open. “Good luck.”

He nodded at her once, then stepped through the door. As it shut behind him, he felt a familiar sensation come over him. Torian’s heartbeat slowed, and his mind sharpened like the keen edge of a vibroblade. His focus narrowed, until the only thing that existed for him was his goal.

He had to find Apoc and Layne.


Apocalypsa’s fingers twitched as she attempted to pull her arm closer to her body. She groaned softly, finally managing to bring the limb to her side. She struggled to push against the floor, to lift herself from her prone position and regain some semblance of control over her unwilling muscles.

The sound of the approaching droids was getting louder by the second, their metal limbs banging out a cadence that began to pound in her head. Everything she heard seemed to hold a ghostly echo, and when Layne spoke to her, it was as if his voice was coming from under water.

“Apoc, I need you to get up.” His voice was a desperate plea. As the first droid came around the bend in the corridor, he lifted the blaster in his hand and fired.

Green light splashed over the machine’s silvery form, scoring several lines in the plating. The droid’s body was shaped like a crescent moon atop two clawed legs. Long, arm-like blasters sprouted from either side of the body, both barrels aimed at Layne.

When the droid shot, the young warrior dove to the side, rolling as he hit the ground. The bolts flew down the hallway, leaving scorch marks on the wall. His weapon came up, and he squeezed the trigger, aiming for the droid’s articulated leg.

With a loud crash, the guard droid crashed down on its left side, the green energy weakening its knee joint. As it fell, it fired again, yellow beams of energy spraying erratically through the air. Behind the first droid, Layne could see another approaching.

He frowned. There was no way for him to defend both himself and Apocalypsa if more droids came. Even as the thought entered his mind, he imagined he could hear the sound of metallic clattering from behind. If the droids flank us, we’re both dead.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Apocalypsa’s hand slowly moving to her belt. Her fingers fumbled with the smooth, round surface of a grenade. As she pulled it free, it slipped from her weak grasp and rolled across the floor.

Layne dove for it, his hand stretching out and closing around its cool, hard surface. His pale eyes looked up to see the second of the crescent shaped droids bearing down on him. He scrambled backwards across the floor, half-sitting up, and depressed the button on the side of the detonator.

The droid planted its feet firmly on the floor, the durasteel claws digging furrows into the metal decking. With a high-pitched whirring sound, the droid’s body began to rotate forward and down, exposing the blast cannon mounted on its back.

An ominous whine began to fill the air, red and yellow lightning playing over the spinning barrel as it began to glow with an intense orange light. A ball of nascent energy flared at the end of the cannon, coalescing into a super-heated sphere of plasma that shot forth, expanding as it traveled.

Apoc could feel the weight of Layne’s body as he shielded her, then the wash of heat as the fiery globe passed over them. He tossed the grenade at the droids and it exploded, sending bits of twisted metal through the air.

Tiny spots of blood appeared on Layne’s cheeks as minute particles scraped his skin. He felt something hard impact the center of his back, and then a sharp, fiery pain in his upper right thigh that caused him to howl in agony.

Looking down at his leg, he was considerably disconcerted to find a sharp shard of metal as long as his forearm imbedded in the flesh of his thigh. Dark red blood stained the floor beneath him, and he grimaced as he reached out and grasped the shrapnel in both of his hands.

Sithspawn!” He grit his teeth, then tugged, yanking the durasteel projectile from his leg. Blood spurted from the wound, and he clapped his hand over it, throwing the blood-stained shard into the pile of rubble that had been the pair of guard droids.

His hands tore at the fabric of his pants, ripping the right leg apart at the seam. Tearing it off at the knee, he wrapped it tightly around the wound, holding his breath to keep from crying out with the pain as he knotted the ends together.

Leaning his head back against the wall for a moment, he took stock of his situation. The shrapnel had apparently missed the main artery in his thigh, and though the wound throbbed and burned, he was fairly sure he could stand. He would not be as fast or agile as he liked, but it was better than the alternative.

Apocalypsa was still unable to stand on her own, though the rush of adrenaline from the fight had given her the strength to pull herself to a sitting position. She slumped against the wall, her pale face turned to the side and pressed against the cool metal.

Sighing, Layne ran his palm over his face, wiping off the sweat that trickled into his eyes. His fingers left bloody streaks across his forehead and cheeks. Apoc lifted her hand, pointing at him and offering him a shaky grin.

“Nice war paint.” He wasn’t sure what she meant until he tasted the blood on his lips, and he chuckled softly. His mirth was cut short as the sound of metal pounding on metal once again filled the air.

“More droids?” Layne’s hand sought out his dropped blaster, fingers curling around the grip and sliding over the trigger. He lifted the gun, aiming it at the curve just ahead of them in the corridor. “Come and get some, you rusting heaps of Jawa scrap!”


Raia frowned, staring at the silvery doors that had shut in her face. Moments after her failed attempt to shoot the downed Apocalypsa, she had heard a soft hissing sound fill the air. Recognizing it as the sound of the null gas being released into the medical bay, she had almost panicked.

Null gas worked by displacing the available oxygen in the air, gradually suffocating its victims. The Incarcerator’s gas had been chemically altered, depleting only enough oxygen to cause those who inhaled it to fall into a deep sleep, which would last until the oxygen levels returned to normal.

Raia’s vision swam as she cast her glance around the room, and she could feel her lungs burning. Black spots began to appear in front of her eyes, her heart pounded painfully in her chest. Stumbling over to the white cabinet against the wall, she tugged open the doors.

The medical bay was stocked with several small, portable canisters of pure oxygen. Raia grabbed one up, untwisting the clear plastifiber tube attached to it and placing the small mask at the end over her mouth and nose. Twisting the canister’s release valve, she felt her heartbeat return to normal as the oxygen flowed into her lungs.

She had to get out of that room. Stepping back toward the door, she slapped the control panel to the side with the palm of her hand. The panel beeped at her in a decidedly negative tone, three red lights atop it blinking. The door remained closed.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and tried to think. A slight breeze washed over her face, and she looked up to see the metal slats covering the air duct rotating slightly, sliding open. She reached up, placing her hand over the vent. The feeling of air rushing over her hand caressed her skin.

All the gas in here is being sucked through the vents into the crew area. Her amber eyes widened. I’m the only crew member on this ship who’s conscious.

Equal parts anger and fear filled her, and she sank down on the examination table, her legs dangling off the side. Who knew what nefarious purpose Apocalypsa had for boarding the Incarcerator. Raia shook her head. The criminals housed in this facility were dangerous; many of them had led rebellions or committed violent acts of terrorism against the Galactic Republic.

Whatever Apocalypsa was here for, it couldn’t be good for the Republic. The fact that Layne was still with her made Raia absolutely furious. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she had seen him standing there, blaster in hand, over the corpses of two of her fellow soldiers.

She grit her teeth. Obviously that Mandalorian had corrupted him beyond redemption. As a former member of Special Operations, he presented a great danger to the Republic, having intimate knowledge of classified information.

Her mind went through a catalogue of Layne’s crimes, both against her and the Republic. First, he had betrayed his squadron, getting them killed, then he had betrayed her when he left with Apocalypsa. He was working for the Empire, as well as for crime lords and Hutts. He was a criminal himself, a murderer and a traitor.

Leaning her head back, she sighed softly. Now he had broken into the Incarcerator, killed more men, and was currently running around loose in prisoner population. With that thought, Raia lifted her head up again, her amber gaze staring at the air duct.

She stood, letting her eyes travel across the ceiling. There, on the other side of the room, was another vent, this one leading deeper into the population areas. She hooked the small oxygen tank to her belt, then pushed a fiberplast chair over to the base of the wall under the duct.

Precariously balancing on the back of the chair, she pulled a thin vibroknife from her belt. The vent was level with her chest, and she braced herself against the wall with her left hand as her right used the blade to pry the duct cover off.

It clattered to the floor, and she popped her head into the opening it left behind. The space was just wide enough for her to squirm her way inside, flat on her belly. Slowly, she inched her way forward.


Heavy black boots thudded loudly across the floor as Torian ran down the dimly lit corridor. Pale blue light reflected off of the dark visor of his helmet as he passed the rows of stasis chambers. Reaching the door which led into the next ring of prisoners, he allowed himself a small smile.

Stepping through the door, he heard a crunching sound come from beneath his foot. Looking down and lifting his boot, he saw charred and twisted bits of durasteel scattered across the floor. The bits of debris became more numerous as his eyes tracked over the floor toward the curve in the corridor.

“Come and get some, you rusting heaps of Jawa scrap!” Layne’s voice came from just ahead. Holding his empty hands in the air, he slowly stepped forward.

“It’s Torian.” Coming around the curved section of hallway, the tall Mandalorian felt a quick, sharp pain in his chest as his heart skipped a beat. Apocalypsa was leaning against the wall, her eyes closed. Layne had risen to one knee, balancing on his uninjured leg while holding his blaster pistol steady before him. The bloodstained fabric around his thigh and the crimson streaks across his face gave him a menacing look.

“Torian…” Apoc’s eyes fluttered open, and she smiled weakly. “Good. Need to get Luxel.” She tried to push herself off of the floor and succeeded only in using up what little strength she had regained. Torian knelt down beside her, his hand moving to brush a few errant strands of raven hair from her pale forehead.

“What happened to you, cyare?” His brow furrowed with concern as she turned her face into the cool metal of his gauntlet. He looked over at Layne. “Don’t see any injuries.”

“My sister.” He nodded as Torian’s head tilted to the side. “She’s stationed here, apparently. She was in the medbay when we came through the doors. Apoc tried to put her in restraints and somehow, Raia managed to stab her with a needle – it must have been full of some kind of sedative.”

He shook his head slightly. “She didn’t get the full dose, but she’s weak, can’t stand or walk on her own. It should wear off eventually, but not in time for us to get Luxel.”

Torian sighed softly, his mind working to absorb all of the information and formulate a plan. He frowned beneath his helmet, his hand cupping Apoc’s face, thumb rubbing gently over her jaw. She mumbled something he couldn’t quite make out, then smiled at him again.

His first instinct was to scoop her up in his arms and carry her out of there, and Luxel be damned. Torian dismissed that thought almost as quickly as it came, knowing it would be the exact opposite of what Apoc wanted. They were there on a mission, and if they abandoned it, then all the work they had done would be wasted.

More than that, he knew Apocalypsa would never approve of turning and running. Neither would he, for that matter. Mandalorians didn’t run, didn’t get scared when things took a rough turn. He pulled his comlink from his belt and thumbed it on. “Mako, what can I expect in the center ring?”

Mako’s voice crackled over the comm. “The inner ring is small, and houses only 100 prisoners. They’re fitted with neural inhibitor bands and kept in stasis chambers like the others. These are the guys that the Republic really doesn’t want to let out, so the security is more sophisticated.”

There was a slight pause in the transmission. When Mako began talking again, Torian couldn’t help but notice the slight tinge of worry in her tone. “Looks like we didn’t get all the information in our briefing files.”

“What does that mean?” Torian frowned. “Did the Sith Lord set us up?”

“No, I don’t think so. According to these records, they implemented the use of a new series of droids, the TRGD-R.”

Torian’s eyes narrowed slightly as he digested this information. Tactical Response Guardian Droids were notorious for their efficiency and resilience. Starting with the A series of TRGD’s, each new iteration of the powerful machines had garnered an even more impressive reputation than the last.

“Any specs?” He cast his glance up and down the sweeping, curved hallway. Scorch marks blackened the walls, and several of the stasis chambers looked partially melted, their occupants still and silent.

“They’re bipedal and humanoid shaped, use blaster carbines and apparently are also equipped with flamethrowers and miniature shield generators.” Mako’s quiet laugh came over the comlink. “They’re like Mandalorians, only droids!”

Torian shook his head as a slow smile curved his lips. “Well, guess what, Mako.” He stood, pulling the two-meter long metal staff from his back. He relished the feel of it in his hand, taking a deep breath. “They aren’t Mandalorians. They’re only droids.”

Layne looked up at the tall blond man. “Going in?” He arched a pale eyebrow.

“Stay with Apoc.” Layne nodded at Torian’s order. “Be back with Luxel.” Torian turned, heading further down the corridor, carefully avoiding triggering any of the bright red sensor beams. Layne watched him go, his hand falling down onto Apocalypsa’s shoulder.

As the Mandalorian warrior disappeared around the curve ahead, Layne sighed quietly. “K'oyacyi,” he whispered. “Stay alive.”

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 08:07 AM | #9

The air duct was cramped - a tight fit even for the slender Raia, who squirmed her way through it on her belly. Every fifteen meters, she came across a grated vent which afforded her a view into the corridor beneath her. A gentle breeze wafted across her face as she ventured further into the heart of the Incarcerator.

Strange, high pitched sounds began to fill the air, and she paused to listen. Recognizing the distorted, shrieking noise assaulting her ears as the sound of blaster fire from deeper within the ship, she began moving again, quickening her pace.

Layne. Raia’s thoughts swirled in her mind like the dark clouds of a burgeoning thunderstorm. I don’t know what you’re here for, but I’m going to make sure you don’t get it. She felt determination swelling in her soul. I’m going to stop you, Layne.

She considered attempting to use her comlink to call for help from the Republic, but knew that by the time any ship arrived, Apocalypsa and Layne would be long gone. There was no help coming. She grit her teeth. She was truly on her own.

Realistically, Raia knew that she stood little chance against Apocalypsa in a fair fight. She was a soldier, true, but had been a doctor first. Apoc had never been anything other than a warrior. Raia knew how to shoot, and she knew how to fight, but her knowledge paled in the face of Apocalypsa’s lifelong experience as a bounty hunter.

This wouldn’t be a fair fight, though. A little smile lifted the corner of the woman’s lips as she remembered the syringe she held sinking into the neck of the Mandalorian mercenary. The needle had easily pierced the fibermesh flightsuit covering Apocalypsa’s skin, driving through her flesh.

It sent a little thrill through Raia to remember the experience, the sight of the helmet knocked askew over the other woman’s face, the furious look in the warrior’s deep emerald eyes as she had yanked the helmet off and threw it at the slender soldier.

Serves her right. There had been enough sedative in that syringe to kill a fair-sized bantha. Though Raia had only managed to inject about a quarter of the contents into Apocalypsa, she knew that there was very little chance that the mercenary was even conscious, never mind able to fight.

An explosion rocked the air, and Raia instinctively attempted to cover her head with her hands, only to slam them up against the hard metal duct, causing her to wince. Ahead of her, a bit of reddish light shone dimly through the opening in another grate.

After what seemed like an eternity, she managed to drag herself over to it, peering down into the corridor beneath. Her amber eyes narrowed as they focused on Layne, kneeling next to Apocalypsa, who leaned against the wall for support.

Something alerted Layne, and Raia watched as he raised his weapon, then lowered it when the tall form of Apocalypsa’s partner came into view. She couldn’t help but sneer at the armored warrior’s tender gestures toward the downed mercenary. In her opinion, a woman like Apoc didn’t deserve to be treated with kindness.

Layne and the tall Mandalorian exchanged words, but Raia was unable to understand the words they spoke. Mando’a, she thought. A language as ugly and coarse as the people who speak it. When the man’s comlink came to life, Raia listened intently as he switched to Galactic Basic.

Her brow furrowed as the conversation reached her ears. He’s going into the inner ring? The stasis chambers in the center of the Incarcerator housed some of the most repugnant terrorists who had ever struck at the Republic.

The roster of prisoners housed in the inner ring read like a who’s who of evil geniuses. Men who had created viruses that spread plagues throughout whole planets. Code-slicers so skilled that even the most advanced encryptions couldn’t stop them from reprogramming planetary security, turning a world’s own defenses on its citizens.

There was even a woman who had been caught designing a weapon supposedly capable of unleashing power strong enough to destroy entire star systems. Raia’s slender hands clenched into fists, her eyes tracking Torian’s steps away from Layne and Apocalypsa.

She waited for a moment after the armor-clad mercenary disappeared around the bend in the corridor. Inhaling deeply, she slipped her vibroknife under the edge of the grating beneath her. As the blade scratched against the metal, she grimaced, waiting for Layne to raise his eyes to the ceiling.

Finally, she pried the grating free, wincing as it flipped sideways, falling through the hole to crash against the decking below. Her stomach lurched as she dropped through the opening, landing in a low crouch, blaster drawn. Layne scrambled to his feet, interposing his body between his sister and the bounty hunter who was his mentor and friend.

Raia’s amber gaze was cold as she leveled her weapon at Layne’s chest. Several of the honey-colored braids which framed her heart-shaped face fell over her forehead into her eyes, and as she shook her head to clear her field of vision, she felt an odd sense of detachment come over her.

“Get clear, Layne.” Her voice echoed strangely in her own ears, muffled by the thunder of her heartbeat. Apocalypsa’s head slowly lifted, her clouded emerald eyes staring dully at the blaster in Raia’s hands as the soldier held it steady before her.

Raia grit her teeth. The mercenary’s death would be a victory for justice, and for the Republic. In one shot, she would have her vengeance and end the career of one of the most skilled hired killers in the galaxy. Her eyes narrowed. “Layne, get clear or I will kill you.”


Torian peered intently around the arched doorway that led into the heart of the Incarcerator. With a whispered command, he activated the heads up display built into his helmet. His darkened visor came to life before his eyes, flooding him with information about his surroundings.

The helmet’s night vision bathed the area with starlight, affording him a clear view of the circular chamber he stood in. Little lights on the side of his HUD indicated the presence of life forms all around him, some lined against the walls, others kept within stasis chambers formed into a spiraling series of rings that wound ever so inexorably to the center of the room.

He pumped up the reception of his auditory enhancement, then immediately wished he hadn’t. Suddenly the room came alive with the sound of breathing - deep, synchronized breaths taken by each prisoner within their cool metal capsules. The sound rushed through his ears, slowing his own respiration until it matched the incessant rhythm surrounding him.

Torian’s sapphire eyes swept the room, scanning the digital readouts on each stasis chamber. He began to move forward, seeking the one that held Roth Luxel - and their mission objective. He hadn’t taken more than a few steps, however, before the hissing sound of a hydraulic door opening caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up.

Around the room, three hidden panels flew open. Glowing red lights smoldering in the darkness resolved themselves as the eyes of the TRGD droids within. From each hidden recess stepped two of the machines, blaster carbines held in their three-fingered metal hands.

With little warning, the droids leveled their weapons and fired. Verdant bolts of energy sprayed across the room, and Torian dove for cover, rolling behind one of the silvery stasis chambers. The droids stomped across the metal decking, converging on his hiding spot with inhuman haste.

Torian waited until the first of the droids began to clear the side of the tall metal column. Swinging out with his staff, he punched his thumb down on the button in the center of the phrik alloy span. Blue-white lightning played over the droid’s body, shorting out its systems and filling the air with the scent of singed electronics.

He didn’t hesitate as the second of the machines advanced, weapon spitting fire at him. Pulling his staff back and holding it like a club, he swung hard, the heavy cortosis-knobbed end of his weapon connecting with the head of the dead droid in front of him.

Red chunks of plastifiber flew through the air as the blow shattered the eye-panels of the smoking droid, and the head flew off, hurtling toward the one behind it. The second of the droids lifted its carbine, sending off a well-aimed shot that shattered the projectile flying at it.

Torian grimaced as the other four droids opened fire. He twisted and spun, left arm out and in front of him. From his wrist poured a gout of blue and white fire. The droid in front of him let out a noise that could only be described as mechanical rage as the flames licked over its metal body, charring it and melting parts of its internal sensory chips.

The droid’s movements were jerky and uncoordinated as Torian spun his staff in front of him. The blaster fire coming at the warrior was mostly ablated by his beskar’gam, but he knew it was only a matter of time before one of the shots told.

The Mandalorian’s thought process shifted, his brain working like a combat computer. Time seemed to slow for Torian, his mind considering and discarding a dozen strategies in the span of a heartbeat. Eyes narrowing beneath his helmet, he felt a deadly calm come over him and a surge of confidence filled his heart.

Ramikadyc, it was called in Mando’a. A commando state of mind – the attitude that one could do anything, survive anything, and achieve one’s goal. As the feeling swept over him, his lips curved upward in a smile.

Oya!” The mercenary’s cry rang out from beneath his helmet, his legs gathering beneath him as he leapt forward and up, kicking his feet out toward the damaged droid. The thrusters in his boots activated as his legs extended, sending another plume of fire down over the machine as he cleared the air above it.

The whirring and creaking of overheated servos signaled the demise of the droid, Torian’s boots coming down on its articulated shoulders. With another yell, he flew forward, his staff coming down in a devastating arc at one of the remaining droids. The machine jerked its arms upward to block the blow, and its blaster carbine flew from its clawed grip to skid across the floor.

Landing heavily, Torian felt the breath knocked out of him as the droid rushed him, slamming its body into his and driving him back against one of the coldly glowing stasis chambers filling the room. The shock jarred his staff loose from his hands, and he growled low in his throat.

His gauntleted fists pummeled the droid relentlessly, the machines armored plating absorbing each blow. As the droid held him pinned against the transparisteel window in the front of the stasis capsule, he could see the other three approaching, weapons held at the ready.

They opened fire, and he suddenly dropped to his knees, letting his weight carry him to the floor. Ducking between the droids legs, he scrambled away as the bright green bolts meant for him struck his attacker instead, some of them sizzling off of the purple energy shielding surrounding it, others penetrating and lancing through wiring and microchips.

The droid crashed into the stasis chamber, shattering the transparisteel paneling and falling against the man housed inside. Smoke rose from within the silver column as the droid sparked, setting fire to the simple clothing the prisoner wore.

Torian winced as the smell of charred flesh filled his nostrils. Diving for his staff, he closed his fingers around it, coming up in a crouch in front of another one of the stasis chambers. The green script flowing across the readout above it caused another smile to lift his lips. He had found Luxel.

The remaining three droids were fast approaching, their weapons erupting with emerald fire. His hand went to his belt, pulled a grenade free. Hefting it in his hand, he hesitated only momentarily before depressing the button on the side and lobbing it toward his enemies.

With a concussive blast that rocked the metal decking beneath his feet, the grenade detonated. The middle droid was caught directly in the explosion, becoming nothing more than a hail of spare parts that rained down throughout the room. Two of the stasis chambers, their support weakened by the grenade, tipped forward, lifting free from the ground in a shower of sparks and smoky, pale blue light.

The heavy metal cylinders crashed down on the two remaining droids, bowling them over and blocking their field of fire. Torian turned, gripping his staff tightly in his hand. He swung it hard, smashing the transparisteel window on Luxel’s chamber, reaching in with his armored hands to grab the man and pull him from his prison.

The man’s long, dark hair fell forward over his face, tangled in the silver band that encircled his head. Tiny green and red lights blinked on the slender strip of metal that kept Luxel in his comatose state, and Torian frowned slightly.

He didn’t have the time to remove the band and wait for Luxel to wake up. The droids were struggling to their feet, and while their movements were hampered by the damage they had suffered, the weapons they held were no less deadly.

Grunting, Torian hefted the man up, slinging him over his shoulder unceremoniously. Weighed down as he was, it was an exercise of sheer will to get his feet moving, to make his way toward the doorway leading back to the middle ring, where Apoc and Layne waited for him.

Behind him, the droids began to fire again, and he cursed loudly as one of the emerald bolts grazed Luxel’s head, singing his hair. Reaching the doorway, he stumbled through it, turning his body to lean heavily against the door control panel. With a hiss, the door closed.

Loud thudding sounds reverberated through the thick durasteel door as Torian held the button on the wall depressed with his body. The droids slammed themselves against the barrier, causing it to bulge alarmingly. Torian frowned, but the door held. Shifting Luxel’s body slightly on his shoulder, he activated his comlink.

“Mako, seal the doors to the inner ring.” He heard the woman’s confirmation of his order at the same time as the door panel beeped loudly, turning a bright crimson to indicate the door was sealed. His burden heavy on his shoulder, Torian turned, hurrying back to where he had left Layne and Apocalypsa.


Layne’s pale blue eyes bored into Raia’s amber ones, the expression on his face a mixture of outrage and disbelief. “Don’t do this, Rai.” He whispered the words as she held her blaster before her, her finger tightening around the trigger.

“Don’t call me that!” Her voice ground out between her clenched teeth. “I can’t believe you think you’re going to get away with this! Breaking into the prison, killing Republic soldiers!” She gestured with the hand that held the blaster, and Layne tensed, ready to leap.

“I have a job to do, Raia.” He winced as she began to laugh, the shrill sound echoing down the corridor, tinged with rising hysteria.

“A job? You have a job to do?” She gripped her blaster in both hands, taking a step forward. “Well, so do I. It’s my job to stop you. You’re a traitor, Layne.”

He swallowed past the rising lump in his throat, lifting his own weapon and pointing it at the slender woman who he had once called his sister. “Yeah,” he said huskily, “I guess I am.”

The whine of the blaster bolt and flare of crimson light caught him by surprise. A searing pain ripped through his abdomen as the shot penetrated his gut, and he doubled over, groaning. Red haze swam before his eyes as he collapsed onto the cold floor.

Apocalypsa felt a surge of adrenaline rush through her veins as she watched Layne go down. Her emerald eyes cleared and she narrowed them at the woman who stood in the hallway. Raia stared at Layne, her weapon in hand. She couldn’t remember firing it, but she had.

“I’m going to kill you!” Apoc’s voice was an animalistic roar as she launched herself toward the slender soldier, her weakened muscles only carrying her part way across the distance. She lunged at Raia from the floor, wrapping her arms around the woman’s legs and sending her crashing to the ground.

Raia felt the blaster fly from her hands as she landed hard on her back. She kicked out with her feet, catching Apoc in the side of her head. As the Mandalorian woman groaned and rolled to the side, Raia scrambled to her knees, crawling over to the mercenary and aiming her clenched fist at the prone woman’s face.

Apocalypsa jerked her head to the left and Raia’s fist hit the hard floor. She howled in outrage as fiery pain shot through her knuckles and wrist, extending upward to her elbow. Her amber eyes were burning with anger as she swung again, this time connecting solidly with the side of Apoc’s face.

Apoc’s vision swam. Her burst of energy quickly fading, she knew she was in trouble. Layne was struggling to rise, his hand clutching the wound in his stomach, blood seeping out between his fingers. Raia scrambled on top of the Mandalorian warrior, her slender hands reaching down to encircle Apocalypsa’s pale throat.

“I hate you!” Raia screamed the words into Apoc’s face, her breath hot as it washed over the struggling mercenary’s skin. The fingers digging into her throat were threatening to crush her pharynx, squeezing her esophagus tightly. Apocalypsa’s breath was a whistling gasp as darkness began to cloud the edges of her vision.

“Apoc!” The sound of heavy footfalls signaled Torian’s return. He stood staring in horror, with Luxel draped over his shoulder, watching as his wife’s face began to turn purple, her lips taking on a blue tinge. Carelessly, he dumped Luxel onto the floor next to Layne, then strode quickly forward, rushing toward Raia’s back.

The sound of her name coming from his lips gave Apocalypsa another burst of strength. With every last bit of energy remaining in her body, she lifted her head, slamming it forward viciously. There came a loud smacking sound as her forehead connected with Raia’s face, splaying the soldier’s nose to the side as the cartilage gave way, sending a stream of blood down her face and splattering over Apoc’s features.

Raia shrieked, falling back and clutching at her shattered face, her amber eyes clouded with pain. Struggling to sit, Apoc’s hand went to her blaster, pulling it free from its holster. She lifted the weapon in her shaking hand.

Before she could fire, a bright blue flash filled the air. White lightning played over Raia’s body as Layne’s stun shot caused every nerve in her body to fire at once. Her muscles began to spasm, sending her twitching form to the floor.

In seconds, Torian was upon her, his hands swiftly pulling hers behind her back. None-too-gently, he clapped the energy binders at his belt over her wrists. Making sure they were secure, he turned toward Apoc, who had risen to her knees, leaning forward and taking grateful gulps of air.

“Time to go.” Torian’s statement was more of a command, and Apocalypsa nodded. Layne regained his feet, bending over as he held onto his aching gut with one hand and his blaster with the other. Stumbling toward Apoc, he slipped his arm around her shoulder, and she in turn wrapped hers around his waist. Supporting each other, they stood, waiting momentarily for Torian to lift Luxel’s limp form once more.

With as much haste as they could muster, the trio of warriors began their trek back to the intake room where Mako awaited them, and then to the Flameshrike, where they could escape to the relative safety of space. Raia’s unconscious form lay on the cold metal decking, and though Layne’s heart was heavy in his chest, he walked away without looking back.

silvershadows's Avatar

11.28.2012 , 08:08 AM | #10

Apocalypsa stood within Darth Umbral’s volcanic fortress, Torian at her side. A repulsorlift sled before them held the body of Roth Luxel, the red and green lights blinking from the band on his forehead shimmering on his skin. Above him stood Darth Umbral herself, deep blue eyes staring down at the unconscious man.

“I trust you completed your task with little difficulty?” Umbral arched a slender eyebrow at the Mandalorian couple, moving to sit behind the massive desk in the center of the room.

Apoc chuckled wryly. “Could have done that in my sleep.” She watched as Malavai Quinn entered the room, bearing a small, hand-held scanner. He approached Luxel, waving the sensor wand over the man’s sleeping body.

“I should be able to wake him up shortly, my lord.” The Imperial captain nodded at the hulking form of Lieutenant Pierce, who stepped out of the shadows to grip the handles of the sled, pushing it toward the door at the far side of the room.

It closed behind the men as they stepped through, and Umbral’s pale fingers began to drum out a rhythmic cadence on the desktop. “You realize,” she began, a tiny smile curling the corner of her lips. “That I cannot pay you the two million credit bounty without knowledge of Luxel’s mental state.”

A tiny flash of anger sparked through Apoc’s mind. The Sith Lord chuckled quietly. “Now, now, Mandalorian,” she chided softly. “I am a woman of my word. The transfer of one million credits into your account took place as your starship landed here.”

Her fingers ceased their incessant drumming, reaching out instead to grasp a datapad that lay on the desk. “Once the Captain has woken Luxel and performed an examination and tested his cognitive ability, the other half of your payment will be delivered.” She tapped a few keys on the datapad, then looked up at Apoc. “Assuming his mind is intact, that is.”

“Fine.” Apoc ground out the words from behind clenched teeth. “Don’t suppose I have much of a choice.”

“True,” Umbral’s smile was cold. “You do not.” She laid the datapad back on the desk. “However, there is opportunity here. You performed your mission adequately, and I will likely have need of your services again in the future.”

Apoc carefully kept a sneer from her face. “I’m a busy woman, and I’m at nobody’s beck and call.”

Umbral stood, planting her fists on the desk as she leaned over its surface. “Mind yourself, Mandalorian. I am the Emperor’s Wrath.”

Apocalypsa raised an eyebrow. “Look, I don’t care if you are the Emperor.” Her emerald gaze locked with the Sith lord’s blue one. The flame-haired woman’s anger was palpable, hanging in the air between them like a curtain. “I answer only to Mand’alor. If you want to hire me, you’ll have to get in line.”

The tense feeling in the air evaporated as Umbral began to laugh, her head falling back as she nearly dissolved into a fit of giggles. Apocalypsa and Torian stared at each other, then at the Sith Lord, wondering if she had finally lost her mind.

“Oh, that’s good.” Umbral’s laughter died off, leaving that cold smile on her full lips. “You will need such defiance to complete the missions I will give you in the future.”

Apoc shook her head. The Sith Lord was obviously not going to take no for an answer. Waving her hand dismissively at the Mandalorians, Umbral’s expression suddenly shifted into boredom. “Be gone, the both of you.” She abruptly turned, and left the room.

Torian’s hand gripped Apoc’s arm as they walked through the dark fortress, their steps echoing in the empty corridors. “What a strange woman.” He chuckled at Apoc’s exasperated expression.

“I’m not sure strange even begins to cover it.” She sighed as they reached the Flameshrike, making their way up the boarding ramp into the cargo hold. “Can you get us out of here? I want to check on Layne.”

“Sure.” He left her side, disappearing through the archway that led to the Flameshrike’s bridge. Striding toward the starship’s small medical bay, Apoc stood in the doorway for a moment, watching Layne as he lay on the small cot within, reading from a datapad in his hand. A thick bandage covered his abdomen, and he lowered the datapad as he noticed Apoc’s presence.

“Hey,” he said, slowly pushing himself to a sitting position. “How’d it go?” He grimaced at Apoc’s wry laugh. “That bad, huh?”

“Not bad, just… odd.” She stepped into the room, lowering herself into a chair next to his cot. “You feeling alright?”

“Yeah. Well,” he frowned slightly. “Little pain here and there but I guess that’s to be expected.”

“You did get shot.” She gestured toward the bandage. “Thanks, by the way.”

“For what?” He cocked his head to the side.

“You know what for.” She smiled at him, and he returned it with one of his own. “That couldn’t have been easy, shooting your sister.”

“It wasn’t.” He shrugged slightly. “But watching you die would have been harder.”

They sat in comfortable silence a while, listening to the sound of the Flameshrike’s engines as they made their way through and beyond the smoky atmosphere. A slight lurch indicated their entrance into hyperspace, and shortly thereafter, Torian entered the medbay, leaning on the doorframe.

“Tell him yet?” Layne furrowed his brow at the tall man’s words, glancing between Torian and Apocalypsa.

“Tell me what?” His pale blue eyes narrowed as Apoc smiled. “What is it?”

“Well, Layne,” she began, leaning forward in her chair and clasping her hands before her. “We have a little surprise.” She grinned at him, her pearly white teeth flashing from between her darkly tattooed lips. “Clan Cadera is being reformed.”

“What? How?” Layne frowned. “I thought – “

Apoc held her hand up and he fell silent. “After Jicoln defected, the clan fell into Mand’alor’s disfavor. Most went along with the traitor. Others, like Torian,” she gestured at the tall blond man in the doorway, “did not. Because of Torian’s loyalty, Mand’alor has agreed to dissolve what remains of Clan Cadera. Those who have stayed with Mand’alor will be absorbed into both his own clan, and Clan Fett.”

Layne remained silent, digesting the information as Apocalypsa spoke. “However, Clan Cadera will continue to exist, with Torian and I as the head.” She glanced over at her husband, who shot her one of his brilliant smiles. “On the surface, we will continue to act as Mand’alor’s enforcers. Our true mission, though, will be to hunt down those Mandalorians who followed Jicoln, and those who have gone into the arms of the Republic.”

As Apoc leaned back in her chair, Layne let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “What about me?” He frowned slightly. “I’m not a Mandalorian.”

Both Apoc and Torian chuckled, and the emerald-eyed warrior reached out, laying her hand on Layne’s arm. “Layne,” she said, shaking her head slightly. “I’m so proud of you. You’ve come a long way since we first met. The entire time I’ve known you, you’ve kept to your code of honor as best you know how, and you seek to learn everything that you can, to be the best that you can.”

She looked over at Torian, who stepped to her side, placing his hand on her shoulder as she continued to speak. “Layne, you are a Mandalorian. And we would be proud to have you as the first new member of Clan Cadera.”

Layne’s pale blue eyes widened, his expression one of joyful shock. “Really?” He looked back and forth between the two Mandalorians in front of him.

“Yes, really.” Apoc’s smile sent a surge of pride through Layne’s soul. She tightened her grip on his arm, her voice taking on a formal tone. “Ni kyr'tayl gai sa'ad, Layne Cadera. I know you as my child.” The words of the Mandalorian adoption vow were echoed by Torian, who reached out with his other hand to clap Layne on the back softly.

The young Mandalorian opened his mouth, but no words came out. He sat there for a long moment, basking in the warm feeling of acceptance and friendship that washed over him. Finally, his lips lifted in a mischievous grin as he looked to Apocalypsa. Innocently, he asked, “Am I supposed to call you Mother now?”

Her horrified expression prompted laughter from both Layne and Torian. The sound rang throughout the starship, filling it with their merriment. Apoc’s emerald eyes narrowed dangerously, though her voice shook with her own laughter.

“I’m going to kill you both.”
Project Mayhem
The Ebon Hawk