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Offline Joshmaul

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The Guns Fall Silent
« on: 03/07/20, 04:01:23 AM »
The deck was strewn with bodies, Imperial, Republic, and all in between. Crawling across the floor, spattered in blood - most of it his own - Captain Eidan Zherron reached out for a weapon.

A black boot stepped down hard on his wrist, snapping it with a twist of the heel. He looked up and saw that there were at least two dozen Imperials there. The one with her foot on his wrist was an agent of Sith Intelligence, her eyes like two pits of ice. In one hand, she carried a silenced blaster rifle. In the other, she held one of his pistols, pointing it at his head.

Behind her were two people he had hoped never to see again, always hoping whenever he'd heard of their deaths, it would stick. In this case, he was disappointed. "I applaud you for your bravery, Captain Zherron, but now it is over."

Zherron sneered. "Typical Sith arrogance. Always talking and not able to back it up." He laughed. "I'd get that gloating out of the way now, Malagant. Any moment now... the others will come and put you out of their misery."

"I don't think so." Darth Malagant lifted him up off the deck with one hand and slammed him up against the bulkhead. "If you have a message for your daughter, Captain, I will be glad to take it for her. After this, I think I will make it a point to get to know her... quite well."

The captain seethed with rage at the very idea, but nonetheless kept up his mocking smile. "You wouldn't know what to do with her. I think she's a little... out of your range. She doesn't look enough like your mother, you sick bastard."

Eyes wide with fury, Malagant's hand tightened around Zherron's neck until the bones began to crack...

----

Two days earlier...

"Well, you certainly know how to keep things interesting, Leric."

Inside her BT-7 Thunderclap Wayfaring Stranger, still presently based in the Onderonian capital of Iziz, Colonel Ashmara Danrei listened with barely-concealed trepidation as the orders cape down from her old comrade-turned-boss, General Aleric Savel. Standing on one side of the holoprojector with her were her CSM, Toral Linavil; both Captains Zherron - Eidan, white-haired and battle-scarred, and his daughter Lucia, black hair tied back; and Jedi Master Tergahn Dai'lo, his white and red Zakuulan robed armor matching the red-and-white of his skin. Around the edge next to Tergahn was Jedi Commander Ediren Lorath, whose hand tapped on the hilt of his lightsaber in a rhythmic pattern. On the other side of the table from the colonel were Captain Nelys Lorath of the Brigantia, Ediren's cousin and Lucia's foster brother, and Captain Zulim Bazsha of the Iron Shrike, Nelys' former first mate.

The general chuckled. "Interesting is one word for it, Mara."

"I've got a few more to describe this," Toral muttered. "Sending in the expendables on a suicide mission."

Mara glared at him. "You secure that shit, Toral."

Savel raised a hand. "Let him speak, Colonel... you have a problem, Sergeant Major?"

"I do, General. We're all 'pardoned' deserters and what not, so we're getting sent to take this on because nobody in Republic Command gives a damn about us. How much longer do we need to get sent to do this kriff before they start treating us decently instead of sending us into Imperial guns with nothing but sharp sticks and harsh language?"

"The way you can swear, Sergeant Major, sometimes I wonder if you give yourself too little credit." The general sounded amused, but sobered quickly as he continued. "I'll correct you on one point: You have one person who gives a damn about you in Republic Command. That might not seem like much, but you know I don't lie to fellow soldiers. Certainly not to one like you, Linavil." He sighed. "I'll admit that part of this is because of the fact that the Irregulars are only a step or two up from a penal regiment, but it's also because their 'irregular' training gives them skills we want to put to use against these Imp bastards. It may seem like you're getting thrown away just for the sake of it, but believe me: Your contributions to the war effort have worth."

"I hope so. Sir."

Savel looked back to Mara. "How soon can you get underway, Colonel?"

She glanced at the Zherrons, then at Nelys and Zulim. All of them were carrying her men on their ships. The four captains all nodded. "Just say the word, General."

"Then good hunting, Colonel. I look forward to hearing from you." Savel disappeared in a burst of holographic static.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #1 on: 03/07/20, 02:53:48 PM »
"Coming out of hyperspace."

On hearing those words, Eidan stepped onto the bridge of his old ship, the Direwolf, now run by his daughter and her crew. As the ship came out of lightspeed, he looked out at the cruel-looking station in the front viewport, orbiting a gas giant. The Castellum Carnivora was the Empire's max-sec prison for the Reydovan Sector, a place that had once again come under the control of Darth Malagant, as news of the slaying of Darth Metheius on Dromund Kaas some months before had spread.

And right now, it was in a state of panic as two Republic cruisers, and all their fighters, decided to pay a call. The bulk of the Reydovan Sector Defense Fleet had been recently deployed to the Onderon and Corellian fronts, leaving only a few patrols. Intel reported that quite a number of high-profile Republic prisoners were being held here, including a Republic Army general taken on Iokath. And so they were sending the cannon fodder to break them out, knowing that they would fight like demons because they had nothing to lose.

Eidan didn't like the idea of sending troops whose only crime was trying to fight for a cause they could believe in - when the Republic wasn't providing it anymore - to die. It stank of spite to him.

"Danrei to strike team, move in. Direwolf and Iron Shrike, the airlocks on level Esk. Brigantia, with me in the main hangar."

"Acknowledged," Lucia confirmed. "We're going in." A moment later, a loud thunk through the hull indicated they had attached to the airlock on the starboard side of the ship. She glanced behind her at her father, seeing him in his black coat. He was adjusting the rebreather that came with his hat. "You up for this?"

Eidan grinned behind the rebreather. "I was fighting Imps before you were born, honey. I think I can handle it."

Lucia returned the grin as she rose, looking over at her first mate/navigator. "Liam, keep the engine warm." The half-Etti spacer nodded once as they joined Toral and his squad in the hold, heading for the airlock. The old Mirialan unclipped a flash-bang grenade from his vest. As the airlock opened, he hurled it into the hallway, which created an overwhelming burst of noise and light. They heard first the cries of pain from the Imperial troops in the corridor... followed by klaxons.

Eidan drew both of his pistols. "Move in!"

(Cue the music...)

Lucia drew her own blaster and then shimmered out of sight, as did Tergahn, both electing to take the sneakier route in. Coat flapping as he stepped onto the station, Eidan whirled the blasters in his hands as he heard the footsteps of the station's garrison. Beside him, Toral raised his blaster rifle, and between the two of them, they shot down the approaching guards. As they heard further footsteps coming down the hall, Toral toggled his helmet com. "Linavil to Danrei. We have entry. Resistance encountered."

"Copy. Lucia, status."

Silence for a long moment, then the sounds of a struggle... followed by a blaster shot and a body thudding to the floor. "Could've waited two seconds, Colonel... but I'm here." A pause. "Kriff... bad place to have a keycard, buddy. Gonna need a slicer here."

Eidan turned to hear some rather excited beeping and booping coming from behind him. "J5 = ready to help!" To emphasize that point, T7-J5 added a few shots from his own blaster at another group of soldiers, one taking the helmet clean off the man's head.

A sigh on the line. "Toral, send someone with Jayfive."

"I'll do it," Eidan immediately volunteered. "He and I can handle whatever comes."

Toral nodded. "Go."

----

Darth Malagant walked in the gardens of his new home on Reydovan Prime, from where he once again ruled the sector with an iron fist. The Palace of Winterhome was built in the Caymarnian Mountains, on the site where Malagant had once had a Massassi temple - his "Temple of Introspection" - relocated from Yavin Four. But this time, he decided on a "proper house", using a mixture of architectural styles, Imperial efficiency mixed with the kind of grandeur seen on planets like Alderaan. The liquidation of Darth Metheius' estate on Dromund Kaas had allowed him to indulge his whims again... although he retained his hidden base on Kelenek'che'sa, just in case.

Malagant was seated at the desk in his study, surrounded by artifacts he had brought out of his storage vaults, as well as those "recovered" from Metheius, when he heard the voice of the palace steward. "My lord, Moff Daltyn is here, requesting an audience."

"Send him in." Malagant looked up from his work as Arik Daltyn, the planetary governor, entered. He took note of the expression on the moff's face. "A problem, Arik?"

"There may be, Lord Malagant. We've received a signal from the Castellum Carnivora. The Republic is attempting to free the prisoners."

Much to Daltyn's surprise... Malagant smiled.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #2 on: 03/08/20, 05:06:28 PM »
"Kriffin' cowards! Can't fight real soldiers without a Sith holding your hand, eh?" Zulim Bazsha laughed as the Imperial guard squads began falling back. "Yeah, that's right, run from the squid-man!" He tapped his commlink. "Luce, how we doin'?"

The particularly unhealthy sound of someone being shot by a scattergun at point blank range answered him, followed by Lucia's voice. "He's a droid, Zulim, not a magician! Don't rush -- what?" In the background, he heard a spattering of Droidspeak. "What do you mean, you opened the detention levels on that floor five minutes ago? What the hell have you been doing this whole time, playing Pazaak with the computer?!" A short beeped response, which made Zulim chuckle to himself. Lucia sounded indignant. "You cheeky little trash bin... I oughta melt you down."

"Can the chatter," Mara put in, although her voice sounded rather amused. "Captain Bazsha, take the security room on that level. Get those folks out of there."

"From your lips to what passes for my ears, Colonel." Like Lucia, the Nautolan had been a member of the crew of the Brigantia under Captain Davyd Lorath, acting as a sort of enforcer - a job he kept up for Lucia after Makeb, before becoming Nelys' first mate, then going to his own ship. Zulim never thought of "going legit" like Ardenar'cad, who'd been Davyd's right hand during the Great War; the Republic military had too many rules. So did privateering, come to that, though not nearly as many as the Navy.

But the only thing he disliked more than bureaucratic shackles were actual shackles - having been in a few himself, courtesy of the Hutts, until he had escaped on a ship that had been shot down when it tried to take a "detour" on Balmorra. He had been rescued by the pro-Republic resistance there, and had shipped out on the Brigantia after the liberation. When Davyd volunteered to break the Hutt Cartel blockade on Makeb, Zulim had eagerly volunteered to help on the ground, working with ex-Regulator Saliya Taldir. His disdain for slavers was a reason why, when Nelys had reached out to him to help ferry Colonel Danrei's troops for this op, he had accepted without hesitation. Imps disgusted him almost as much as the Hutts. "All the slime without the fat," Davyd used to say.

Zulim waited at the door to the security room; across from him was Ediren Lorath, saber in hand but not ignited. He holstered one of his pistols, keeping the other at the ready as he put his now-free hand on the door mechanism. He glanced over at the young Jedi, who nodded. The moment the door opened, the lightsaber ignited, and Zulim's other blaster was back in his hand in a split second as they entered the room. His eyes went wider than usual as he took in the sight. "What the hell...?" He tapped his comlink again. "Colonel, the security room is empty. With all the shooting going on, I'd think they'd have gathered up like gizka to block us from breaking the prisoners out."

"One less thing to worry about then," Mara replied, although she didn't sound any more convinced of that than he was. "We came here to break the prisoners out. Open the block up."

"That's a roge." Zulim glanced at Ediren. "Your Jedi sense tingling at all?"

Ediren gave a light snort. "I don't need the Force to tell me something's not right here."

"Well, that's reassuring." He glanced at the security boards, seeing the prisoners sitting in their cells - most of them appearing to be Republic troopers or navy crewmen. "Well... here goes." He deactivated the forcefields to the cells, as Ediren entered one of the cell blocks to meet the prisoners.

Zulim's fingers tightened around his blasters. He didn't like this at all.

"My friends," Ediren was saying, "we're here to take you out of this dark place, and bring you home."

A voice Zulim had never thought to hear again answered. "Let's agree to disagree, Jedi." As he watched on the monitors, the back walls of each of the cells opened, producing Imperial soldiers. Each was carrying two blasters... and to his horror, he watched as the soldiers handed one each to the prisoners. At the end of the hall was the one who had spoken, face scarred and blotchy, the right eye replaced by a cruel-looking cybernetic. He wore a dark armored suit and cape favored by senior Imperial officers, his rank insignia showing him to hold the rank of general. He carried a long rifle with a computerized scope.

Even with the scars, Zulim recognized him instantly, terror rising in his soul. "Colonel!" he shouted into his commlink. "Someone set us up!"

The door slammed shut behind him.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #3 on: 03/09/20, 02:15:32 PM »
"Say again, Captain!" Mara tapped her helmet, seeing if the comms were still working. "Captain Bazsha or Commander Lorath, come in!"

"Sithspit! I'm locked out of the computer!" That was Lucia now.

Her father's voice came up a moment later. "Mara, Jayfive's been trying, but the whole computer system's gone dead in here... and the door's slammed shut. Tergahn, can you cut through it?"

"Attempting to now..." The sound of a lightsaber cutting through metal could be heard on the link. "Something is not right here."

"No shit, Master Jedi," Mara snapped. "Toral, you copy?"

"Five by, chief. I'm outside the security room. Tergahn's cutting through it now."

"Leave him to his work, then. Take some of the men and head to level Forn. See if you can't catch up with Captain Bazsha and his crew. Go quickly."

"I'm gone."

Mara let out a particularly vile curse in her native Zabraki. "Somebody dropped the ball."

"Colonel, Nelys Lorath here, do you read?"

"I hear you. Hope you have some good news for me, Captain."

"I'm just outside detention block Dorn-Two, my crew is trapped inside." The captain sounded grim. "The prisoners aren't prisoners, Colonel... and they're not Republic, either. They're Imperial."

Mara's voice got dangerously quiet. "Say that again, Captain."

"The prisoners are all Imperial soldiers... and my first mate said something about false walls in the cells with more of them before the door slammed shut between us." Nelys sounded angry. "Somebody kriffed us, Colonel."

"Score another for 'military intelligence'," Toral said bitterly. "I'm at Forn-One, last known location of the Shrike crew... slicer's crackin' the door and... got it." He was immediately greeted by gunfire, followed by the sounds of a slashing saber. "Captain, get your people out! Now! Move!"

Ediren's voice. "Sergeant, look out, he's got a bead on you!" A high-powered sniper shot, followed by an explosion... then silence.

"Toral! Toral, come in!" Mara let out another Zabraki curse. "Tergahn, if you're still cutting through, cut faster and get them out. I'm going to Forn-One. Rest of you, get the hell out of there if you can! Fall back to the ships!"

"Colonel, the computer is back up," Lucia said. Her voice had a hint of puzzlement. "But it's being accessed remotely..."

----

Aboard the Imperial dreadnought Stormwatch, Admiral Bardin Krysiak observed the Republic attack against the Castellum Carnivora. At that moment, Malagant entered the bridge, accompanied by two agents of Sith Intelligence - Indizar, a Chiss commander and an old ally of Commander Varan, and his chief agent, Merelan Kinsale.

"Reading a Thranta-class corvette with fighter squadrons, Admiral," the sensors officer reported. "They don't seem to be attacking the station proper, just battering away at the defensive systems. Strange that they only sent one ship..."

"Would you risk an entire fleet this far behind enemy lines without proper bases of supply, Lieutenant?" Krysiak smiled. "This is all they can spare, the poor beggars." He had developed the plan with Indizar, and both men had then taken it to Malagant. The idea was to use their agents in the Republic - S.I. operatives who had been part of the Alliance during the Zakuul war, who then "returned" to the Republic after it was over - to send false intel on important POWs held at the Castellum... when in fact they were Imperial soldiers used as bait, knowing that a dangerous mission behind enemy lines would be assigned to the "expendables" - the New Talaos Irregulars, which Sith Intelligence pegged as a particularly persistent guerrilla force. It was a plan to remove the Irregulars from the greater strategic equation; it was also a defensive move to protect the Imperial interests in the sector, as several members of the Irregulars and their allies had been long-time foes of Malagant and his servants, some of whom had been involved in the brief Republic takeover of the planet at the end of the Great War.

And, if one was honest, it was a way to settle some personal scores.

"The internal scanners show the boarders are in the lower airlock area on level Esk, and the lower detention blocks on Dorn, Esk, and Forn," the sensors officer continued, rather than answer the admiral's theoretical question. Krysiak noticed, too, but said nothing. "Weapons fire reported in those sectors. I have remote access to the station's security in those sectors, but the command center remains unmanned for now." This was also part of the plan; with the exception of the troopers on those three levels, the station was empty, left in standby mode.

Malagant turned to his S.I. agents. "Commander Indizar, you and Agent Kinsale will dock at the upper airlock on level Besh, and make your way to command level Aurek. They'll probably be wanting to beat a retreat back to their transports. Override the hangar and airlock controls, and do not let any of those ships leave. Once the shuttles bring in reinforcements, take the ships."

"Understood, Lord Malagant," Indizar acknowledged with a nod. "And the crews?"

Malagant quirked an eyebrow, as if wondering if he needed to ask. "These people are pirates, Commander, not soldiers. Execute them all."

Indizar nodded with a cold smile. "With pleasure."

As the Chiss left the bridge with Kinsale, Malagant looked now to the commander of his flagship. "The jamming field is up, Admiral?"

"Aye, my lord, we brought it up the moment we entered the system."

"And we recently had the Silencer re-installed and integrated into the Zakuulan reactor, yes?" Refitting ships with Zakuulan solar reactors became a fad following the collapse of the Eternal Empire. Both the Republic and the Empire sported ships with the technology.

Krysiak smiled and nodded. "Indeed we have, Lord Malagant. The weapon is charged and locked on target."

"At your discretion, then, Admiral. Let's hope they fixed the radiation leakage problem like they said they did..."
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #4 on: 03/11/20, 06:11:10 AM »
Once the troops had taken the wounded outside, Ediren shut the door and disabled the controls, before turning to the wounded. Zulim was a mess, his right eye shredded by superheated shrapnel to the face. The medic was also among those down for the count, but some of the men had retrieved the medkit, basic first aid being standard for the Republic Army.

Mara and her command squad approached to see the grisly scene. Zulim looked up at her, his expression a mixture of pain and anger. "Bastards laid a trap for us, Colonel."

"Toral?"

The Nautolan gave a slight shake of his head. "The Imp sniper got a shot off that hit the power pack of his blaster. The explosion tore him apart. I'm, uh... wearing him at the moment." Indeed, except for the wounds in his face and arms, most of the blood on him was not his. But what Zulim said next made Mara's blood go cold. "Looks like the Butcher of Sobrikarill Valley still lives up to his rep."

Her eyes went wide. That was the name popularly given by the Balmorran resistance to Andav Undjo, a reviled Imperial war criminal, the sick and twisted little brother of an equally sick and twisted Sith Lord. Which meant that if he was here...

"Colonel, this is the Brigantia." Larisa Fyvie, the first mate and engineer, spoke up on the comms. "We've got a problem. I've been communicating with the other ships, and we're all locked in place. Someone's trying to keep us from getting out."

"Kriffing terrific." The entire station shuddered violently at that moment; Ediren held firmly onto Zulim to keep him from getting tossed across the corridor. "What the hell...?"

"We've got a Harrower in system, and it looks to me like they bolted a Star Fortress cannon on it... seeing as that's what just tore apart our carrier."

Mara clenched her teeth. "We're trapped."

"Indeed you are." She had been so focused on her wounded and the sudden shaking that she hadn't heard the door open. Standing in the doorway was General Undjo, a cruel smile on his scarred face. "Welcome to the Castellum, Colonel Danrei. We have been waiting for you." He took in the sight of her entourage, all of whom now had their weapons pointed at him and the soldiers behind him; Mara held up her hand, instructing them to hold fire. "Although there seem to be a few of you missing. No matter. We'll handle them." He tapped the commlink in his ear. "Commander Indizar, are the internal feeds back up?"

"They are indeed, General. Some of our 'guests' seem to be stuck on the two levels above you. Shall I send our... hospitality staff to attend to them?"

The general chuckled. "Certainly, Commander. We must be attentive hosts, after all." He looked back at Mara, raising his rifle to point at her. Behind him, his men did likewise. "Normally, this would be about the time I would tell you and your pathetic cannon fodder to drop your weapons, but... I get the feeling you're about to tell me where to shove it, hm?"

Mara grinned at him as she primed her autocannon. "Something to that effect, General."

----

Tergahn finished cutting through the door, allowing the Zherrons to get out of the security room... and then froze as he heard footsteps.

Eidan heard them, too. "Ours or theirs?"

Lucia moved quickly, activating her stealth field. As soon as she rounded the corner, the footsteps stopped... followed by the sounds of a blaster pistol and a scattergun. Lucia was running back around, weapons in her hand... and the footsteps were back.

Eidan smiled humorlessly as he raised his pistols. "Well, that answers that question."
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #5 on: 03/13/20, 05:24:15 AM »
Having a little bit more room to manuever than the general, Mara was able to move around the corner from the entrance hall into the main corridor. There, Eidan and T7-J5 joined her. "I thought I told you to get the hell out of here and back to the ships," she said as she hosed the hallway, forcing Undjo and his men to duck for cover. The screams she heard told her some weren't so lucky.

"Ships that can't leave," Eidan pointed out. "The Imps must be overriding all the secondary security hubs down here from the main control room."

She moved to fire again, only to be greeted by a shot that missed her head by centimeters. "Kriff!" She ducked around the corner again. "Then get up there and deal with it!"

"We will," he assured her. "Just as soon as we get you and whoever can be moved out of here. Ediren can levitate them if he has to."

"Master Tergahn would probably be probably better at it than I am, but I can try," Ediren agreed.

"Where the hell is he, anyway?"

"Gone with Lucia to break out Nelys' crew," Eidan replied. "She would no sooner leave them behind than she would me."

"Go catch up with 'em," Zulim said, staggering to his feet; a bandage had been set up over his wounded face, and a kolto injection had helped with the worst of it. He had drawn his blasters. "I'll stay with the colonel. Figure my crew and I are walking wounded anyway."

"You shouldn't be walking at all," Ediren protested.

Zulim snorted. "Jedi, I'm only half-blind and half-dead. When I'm either all-blind or all-dead, then you can worry."

Mara looked like she was trying to repress laughter. So was Eidan. Ediren glared for a moment... then shook his head with a chuckle. "Alright, then," he said.

"Go, Eidan," the colonel said, as she chucked a flashbang grenade down the hall. "Good hunting." Once it went off, she shouted, "Fall back!"

"Shake it off, you fools," she heard Undjo snap. "After them!"

----

Tergahn withdrew his saber pike as soon as the door was cut open, whirling the blade with swift, graceful motions to deflect the incoming fire the Imperials sent his way. While he kept himself visible, Lucia snuck in under stealth, careful not to get hit by the blaster fire that Tergahn deflected back at them. Finally, she was behind the Imperial captain commanding this group, and raised her scattergun. "Hi there, sleemo," she said as she deactivated her stealth field.

"What --" was all the captain could say before most of his head and shoulders disappeared in a bloody spray. The Imperials turned as the smoking corpse of their commander toppled to the floor. Like a blur, the Togruta Jedi Shadow was among them, ducking under their shots and slashing them down with his pike. While he kept the Imperials busy, Lucia joined Nelys in tending to those troopers he had carried on his ship... but it was clear few of them would be coming back.

Nelys' face was wet with tears of anger and sorrow. "They will suffer for this, Lucia," he whispered bitterly. "They will suffer for this."

Lucia gently put a hand on his shoulder. "We'll extract the price from them, Nel. Count on it." She looked up on hearing footsteps running toward them, raising her pistol - only to lower it when she saw it was her father, with Jayfive wheeling up behind him. "How's tricks, daddy-o?"

Eidan snorted with laughter. "We're not on Nar Shaddaa, hon. No need to go with the lingo."

Lucia shrugged. "It helps keep my spirits up." The sounds of battle quieted as the last Imperial soldier fell dead to Tergahn's blade. "What's the word?"

"Imps have locked down the hangars and airlocks. I think they've got people upstairs in the command center. Mara's taking whoever's left and falling back, but it'll do no good if we can't leave." Eidan shook his head. "This is a mess."

"That's an understatement." Nelys' usually pleasant face was pinched with rage. Lucia looked worriedly at him. "Somebody screwed us. Whether intentionally or not... I want to have a word with this kriffing general who sent us out here and find out."

The elder Zherron caught the mood too. "Luci," he said, "take Nelys and whoever's still up here, and head back to the Brigantia. Master Tergahn, come with me. We need to disable the primary security hub, and the only way we can do that is by going up."

"I'm not gonna just run away, dammit," Nelys protested. "I need --"

"You need to clear your kriffing head, Nelys," Lucia interrupted. "You're pissed off, and you're right to be - and you'll also get yourself killed if you go charging in all hot-blooded. We need to get the survivors out and back to the ship." She gripped her foster brother's arm. "We don't need to lose any more if we don't have to."

Nelys clenched his fists, shaking them... and then sighed. "I'm... not ready to end up with Gramps just yet," he whispered. "Let's get out of here."

Lucia glanced over at her father for a brief moment, before leading Nelys and the surviving men out of the cell block. Once they were gone, Eidan, Tergahn, and Jayfive headed for the maintenance spaces.

"A thought also occurs to me, Captain," Tergahn said as they moved. "It might be an idea to overload the station's primary reactor. It may not be much of a loss for the Imperials, given that they used a maximum-security prison as bait, but at least they will not be able to pull the same trick twice. At least, not here."

Eidan thought about it for a moment... then nodded. "Agreed. Given the horrors that've been committed here, the best thing for it is to blow it to hell. Jayfive, that'll be your job."

"J5 + Captain + explosions = good times" was the little droid's response.

Eidan laughed. "In so many ways, buddy."
« Last Edit: 03/13/20, 05:28:07 AM by Joshmaul »
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #6 on: 03/15/20, 12:44:39 AM »
While Tergahn went ahead through the corridors, using his Force shrouding to stay hidden from the Imperial patrols, Eidan and Jayfive made their way through the service crawlways. Finally, they reached an access hatch on level Aurek, at the top of the station. Eidan waited for the little droid to scan for lifesigns first.

"Corridor = clear!" it tweeted a moment later.

Eidan opened the hatch and stepped out of the crawlspace, working out the kinks in his joints. He was definitely getting too old for this kriff. The operations center was a dome at the central summit of the station, connected by six long corridors to the outer level, which had the officers' facilities, as well as an exclusive turbolift to the hangar and airlocks for personnel one floor below, on level Besh. Eidan moved cautiously along the wall of corridor Aurek-Three towards the center. As he approached, he heard a voice speaking over the holocom.

"...status of the Republic scum, Commander?"

"Those who are not dead have retreated to their ships in the airlocks and auxiliary hangar on level Esk, my lord. But we have activated the security override and locked the ships in place. No one is going anywhere. I have also been in contact with General Undjo; you mentioned en route that you wanted proof of decease, so he is already deploying the reinforcements to terminate them at the source."

"Well done, Commander Indizar." Eidan felt his gut churn as he recognized the voice. Of course it would be him... after all, it was his psycho brother commanding the troops. "The Republic will not mourn the loss of a bunch of 'rehabilitated' criminals, but at least we will not have these meddlers to deal with as we commit the sector's total strength to the war effort."

Eidan looked up. "Wait here," he whispered to Jayfive... and to Tergahn, whom he presumed was standing nearby, before he stepped inside. "Excuse me while I make it a point to meddle."

"Ah, Captain Zherron, welcome! I must say, I'm somewhat surprised at how easy it was to get you all here... as if I would keep prisoners for you to liberate! You Republic fools all seem to have a thing for lost causes."

By this point, Eidan had figured that this whole setup had been Malagant's sick little game. What galled him, though, was that the Sith was right - the Republic had all but leapt at this. Still, he kept cool as he replied, "The only causes that tend to get lost are yours, Malagant. How're your apprentices these days? You know, the ones you keep getting killed, when they aren't kriffing you up and taking your stuff."

Malagant smiled cruelly. "About as well as your mother, your wife, and two of your three daughters on Dantooine. I happened to pass by your little house during the recent... pirate troubles. Funny how there's no memorial to them there, but you made a point of having a grave for your dear friend Master Fayhan..."

Eidan seethed with rage at the Sith Lord's taunting; only sheer willpower kept him from riddling the holocomm (and the Chiss in front of it) with blaster bolts.

"You didn't get to see them before the end, as I understand," Malagant went on. "That grenade you took to the face, during your short-lived 'liberation' of Reydovan Prime at the end of the Great War, kept you from having to witness their deaths. You need not worry this time, however. I'll make sure you see every slow, delicious second of your daughter's suffering before I let her die. And then I will take you back to Reydovan Prime, and let you rot in the same cell where I kept Fayhan... where I finally broke him."

Eidan kept up his nonchalant tone, not wanting to give this sick bastard anything. "Big talk for a man sitting on the sidelines, Malagant. Come on over and say it to my face. Unless you're afraid."

"Afraid? Of you?" Malagant laughed. "Hardly. But your request is not unreasonable; it's only fitting that the host attends to your needs in person." The comm channel closed.

The Chiss - Indizar - smiled. "Agent Kinsale, if you please."

Eidan stiffened as a syringe was plunged into his neck; his hands loosened, his blasters clattering on the deck plates, before he crumpled to the floor. He remained conscious, however, as Merelan Kinsale deactivated her stealth generator, the barrel of her rifle pointed at his head, and a smile on her face. "You obviously have not dealt with Intelligence before, Captain," she mocked him. "You should never assume the room is empty just because you only see one person."

The snap-hiss of an igniting lightsaber got the attention of the two agents. "Good advice," Tergahn said with a hint of a smile as his Force shrouding faded. Next to him, Jayfive had activated his blaster. "Unfortunate that you forgot to follow it."

----

Lucia had brought Nelys and his surviving wounded back to the Brigantia. She had hoped that they would have reached the command center by now. She toggled her commlink, trying to reach her father, but only got static; she then tried Jayfive. "You get that thing open yet?"

"J5 = pinned down with others / Intel agents + stealth fields = trouble"

Lucia sighed. "Colonel?"

"I heard. We've got another problem - we're trapped on the ship. Imperial troops are in the hangar, and there are a lot more of them than there are of us. And the rodders took out our outside support."

"Can we call for backup?"

"No. Kriffing Imps are jamming long-range comms." The colonel sounded agitated. "They'll probably start heading your way too. Unless we can somehow get up there and get the damn lockdown disabled, we're dead."

"Nelys, think this might be a job for your recovered Zakuulan sentry turrets?"

"Good a time as any." When they docked, Nelys and Larisa had set up a dozen of them along the corridor outside the airlock. "If we can take care of the scum down here, Larisa and I can see if we can't get a few to the hangar to back up the colonel."

Lucia nodded. "Alright, I'm going up."

"As if I could stop you even if I wanted to." Mara sounded amused and a little sad at the same time. "Good luck, Captain."

"For us all, Colonel," Lucia agreed, as she activated her stealth field.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #7 on: 03/16/20, 05:10:50 AM »
Lucia arrived swiftly, able to move quicker with the stealth field than her father had, running to the sounds of fighting. To her horror, she saw her father lying on the floor, and he wasn't moving.

Indizar rolled under the swing of Tergahn's saber pike, drawing his combat knife; he had made it a point to polish up on hand-to-hand combat during the Zakuul war, and Jedi were not much different from Knights... it also helped that he was carrying a Zakuulan weapon. Kinsale prepared her poisoned weapons, knowing of a few things that would work on Jedi - but blaster bolts narrowly missing her head forced her to duck. Two other agents, all equipped similarly to Kinsale, opened fire on Tergahn, who was whirling the pike around with the speed of an engine turbine, a bright green blur acting as a kind of shield.

Still unseen, Lucia knelt next to her father, seeing he was still alive, but his limbs had all gone rigid... and then she noticed the injection site in his neck. He had been injected with a paralytic. She hesitated only for a second before she deactivated her stealth field, opening a pouch at her belt. After a run-in with a particularly nasty poisons expert during the five-year lull between Valkorion's "death" and the foundation of the Alliance, she had made it a point to carry antivenins. She applied it to him quickly.

"L...Luci." She glanced at him, able to hear his whisper clearly despite the sounds of battle. She hadn't realized he was conscious, because of his mechanical eyes. "Jayfive... plug him in."

She looked back up, seeing Jayfive still exchanging fire with Kinsale... and then she rose, cracked her knuckles, and broke into a run. She leapt over the console in front of her and barrelled right into the agent, her blaster rifle clattering across the deck. "Go, buddy!" she shouted at the little droid.

Jayfive rolled up to the computer console and jacked in as Lucia grappled with Kinsale, who had drawn her own combat knife. Grabbing onto the wrist of her knife-hand, Lucia impulsively headbutted the agent in the face, hearing a crack as her nose broke. Kinsale staggered backwards, dropping her knife as she put her hands to her bleeding nose. For good measure, Lucia rammed her knee into Kinsale's gut, knocking the breath out of her, then tossed her into a bulkhead.

A blaster shot from one of the other agents singed the hair right next to her face, causing a flash burn. Crying out in pain, Lucia whirled, drawing her blaster and scattergun...

----

Malagant stepped down the ramp of his ship in the primary hangar on level Besh, where he was greeted by Andav. "Fighting going on in the command center," he said without preamble. "I've already sent men ahead."

"And the others?"

"The three freighters have deployed turrets near the access points to their ships, and there are reports of some of the crew from the freighter in the lower hangar deploying them near the access to Colonel Danrei's ship. They're using the turrets and the narrow corridors to nullify our numbers." The general's scarred face was flushed with anger. "I can see why you made it a point to get rid of this crew."

"Center your humors, Andav," Malagant warned. "There is more than one way to skin a nexu." He activated his commlink. "Admiral Krysiak, come in."

"I read you, Lord Malagant."

"Lock onto hangar bay two on level Esk. Pinpoint targeting. Turn the bay and everything in it to slag." Malagant clapped his brother on the shoulder. "Come, Andav, we have guests waiting."

----

Nelys ran back up the ramp into the Brigantia's cargo hold. "Is that the last of them?"

"We got all the ones we had in our hangar, and in the corridor between our hangar and the Stranger's," Larisa confirmed.

"Here's hoping that will be enough." He toggled the commlink. "Colonel Danrei, your fire support is prepared. It's all on you now."

That was the last thing Nelys Lorath ever said.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #8 on: 03/17/20, 12:57:36 PM »
Ediren felt the death of the Brigantia and all of her crew as he made his way towards the hangar where the colonel's ship was docked. His eye closed tightly as he contained the pain he felt in his soul; there was nothing he could do for Nelys and his crew now.

But Nelys had had a wife and two children back on Onderon... and as family, Ediren would have to be the one to break them the news. He promised himself that he would do at least that much.

"Commander Lorath." That was the colonel's voice now, sounding grim. "Where are you?"

"En route to your hangar, Colonel. I've got the remainder of Sergeant Linavil's men with me."

"Belay that. We're secured for now. But..."

"I know," he said gently. He sensed she had been about to tell him about the Brigantia. "What can I do?"

"Head up top. Jayfive just told me that Malagant himself is onboard, and that he and that psycho brother of his are headed for the CC. Eidan is down, and Lucia and Tergahn have their hands full." She paused for a moment. "He's just overridden the security system and disabled the lockdown, so Captain Bazsha and I are taking our ships out of here. Get up there, and see if you can't get the others back to the Direwolf. It goes without saying..."

Ediren nodded to himself. With the whole reason for their being here more or less done, it made sense. "Understood."

"For what it's worth... I'm sorry, Ediren." She sighed. "Good luck, kiddo." The channel closed.

Taking a deep breath, Ediren was still for a long moment as he heard the telltale signs of engines spinning up down the hall in the hangar. When the sound faded - and thank the Force, no sign of another lance strike - he turned and made his way to the turbolift. Without a word, his men followed.

They would not sneak through the Imperials... they would fight through them.

----

With two of the three remaining ships gone, Jayfive beeped over at Eidan, who was propped up against the console next to him, still recovering from Kinsale's poison. "Wayfaring Stranger + Iron Shrike = away / Imperial dreadnought = out of range"

Eidan breathed a sigh of relief. "Alright, pal... do it. If we get out of here, great. If not... hopefully we'll take those kriffing freak brothers with us."

"J5 = accessing engineering security" A long moment, as finally the sounds of battle faded with the sound of a scattergun. Eidan peered up over the console; Lucia had killed the other two agents. Kinsale was knocked out, having had the crap beaten out of her by Lucia... and Indizar had also been rendered unconscious, courtesy of a crack upside the back of his head from the shaft of Tergahn's saber pike.

A computer voice sounded over the stationwide comms. "Warning. Self destruct sequence is activated. Reactor core levels rising to overload. Personnel are advised to evacuate. You have ten minutes to reach minimum safe distance."

"That's that," Eidan said as he came to his feet, leaning on the console for support. His legs still felt wobbly. "See if you can't lock out the main computer."

"J5 = ahead of captain," the little droid beeped smugly. "Main computer = encrypted / Imperials = unlikely to crack it in time"

Tergahn suddenly realized something. "Wait... Jayfive, you said that two of the other ships got clear. Where is the Brigantia?"

Jayfive accessed the internal security... and let out a mournful sound. "Brigantia = destroyed / Cause = turbolaser blast + Imperial dreadnought / Lifesigns = none detected"

Lucia was horrified. "Nelys..." Tears began to stream down her face. "Damn them all," she whispered, before taking a shaky breath. "Alright... we have to get out of here."

"I don't think so." All of them turned at the sound of the voice. Kinsale, bloodied and battered, had come to her feet, her blue eyes glittering with hate. "The only place any of you are going... is to HELL!" She triggered the device she had in her hand... and then hurled it in Lucia's direction.

Without a word, fuelled by paternal desperation, Eidan barreled into his daughter and knocked her across the room, away from the bomb... before the world went white around him.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #9 on: 03/18/20, 07:41:56 AM »
Some of the men who had come with the Direwolf had made their way towards the command center to meet with Ediren. They had actually gotten there ahead of the Jedi and the five men with him - just as General Undjo's guards arrived.

Inside the command center itself, Tergahn stirred first, shaking his head to clear it, as the computer announcement sounded again. "Warning. Self destruct sequence active. You now have nine minutes to reach minimum safe distance." That was punctuated by the sounds of weapons fire in one of the outer corridors.

Jayfive had been lucky to avoid the bomb blast. Eidan, however, had not. His long coat was shredded and bloody, but he was alive. Lucia had taken a glancing hit to the head on the console when he had shoved her away, and was unconscious. When he saw the Jedi there, Eidan coughed blood, spat, and looked up at him. "Tergahn... Luci?"

"She's alright, Captain, but... I don't know if I can get you both back to the ship in your conditions..." Tergahn looked up. "Although I sense help coming. Ediren is on his way."

"Good... take Luci back to the ship first. If... if we can't get out in time, then..." He reached over to where his hat had fallen, and handed it to him. "Give this to her." Then he reached into the pocket of his coat, producing his pipe; it had been broken in the fighting. "And this... to them. Tell them... I'm sorry."

Tergahn knew the "them" he meant. He nodded. "I hope it won't come to that, but if it does, I will." He set the hat on Lucia's chest, and stowed the pipe in his robes. He then took her stealth field generator, and attached it to Jayfive's chassis, right around where a restraining bolt would go. "I will shroud her," he said. "Use this to return unseen." Jayfive gave a single beep in response, shimmered, and vanished. Tergahn then gently scooped Lucia up in his arms... and then he, too, was gone, his burden with him.

Eidan felt relief, knowing that his daughter would be safe. Ediren was on his way up... but for now, he needed to tend to himself. He needed a weapon; his own seemed to have vanished. Crawling across the room, through the bodies of the Imperial troops, he began to see Republic bodies now too. Perhaps one of them had a sidearm...

A boot on his arm put an end to that. Bloodied but unbowed, Kinsale stood over him, breaking the wrist, and holding him at gunpoint. And then footsteps ahead of him, heralding new arrivals... his stomach churned as he recognized Malagant, accompanied by his murdering freak of a brother.

"I applaud you for your bravery, Captain Zherron," Malagant greeted him mockingly, "but now it is over..."

----

"You knew?"

General Savel was grim. "Not when we planned this. We only found out after you were inside that it was all fake... Sith Intelligence moles gave us false leads on everything. Had we known, we would not have wasted the time on this."

"Wasted time?!" Mara was absolutely livid. "How about the wasted lives, you son of a bitch?!"

"Mara, calm down!" Savel raised his hands to placate her. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."

"Do I? You talk a big deal about how you're our friend in Republic High Command, but you seem to forget that, not long enough ago that I ever forgot it, you were near the top of the list of people condemning my men and I as deserters and traitors. In fact, weren't you the one who said if I didn't like how we did things, I should defect to the Empire? Maybe you're the Imperial mole, because the only other reason I can think of for this colossal kriff-up is that your contempt for us has led you to send us to our deaths!"

"Oh, come on, Mara! What happened then has no bearing on what happened now."

"Doesn't it? I find it funny, Leric, that when you decided to assault a maximum-security Imperial prison in a sector run by a lunatic who burns planets for fun, you sent people that the powers that be wouldn't miss. Or are you allowing the bureaucrats to pull your strings and 'make' you do these things, like you tried to say Saresh did when you signed the warrants? Hell, even you said that part of the reason we got this job was because we're only one step up from a penal regiment."

"Alright, enough! You've made your point!" Savel now sounded annoyed, which made Mara even angrier. "Make your way to Carrick Station for debrief. I will be waiting for you." He sobered for a moment. "And the Direwolf?"

Mara shook her head, her anger now replaced with worry. "No word."

Savel took a deep breath. "Alright. Get back here as quick as you can. With any luck... they will make it, too. Savel out."
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #10 on: 03/19/20, 01:33:52 AM »
Eidan tried to pry back the fingers of the hand strangling him with his undamaged hand, and felt the cracking in his neck... but while his hands couldn't do much, his feet still could. With his back against the bulkhead, he kicked Malagant in the chest with both feet, sending the Sith Lord reeling backwards, head over heels over the console. Eidan collapsed to the deck, coughing blood. To his surprise, his neck was not broken, but he felt fire all around his shoulders when he raised his head. Broken collarbone, very possibly.

"Warning. Self destruct sequence active. You now have six minutes to reach minimum safe distance."

"My lord, they've locked out the main computer!" Kinsale shouted as she worked desperately at the console. "We have to get out of here now!"

As Malagant came to his feet, Eidan charged at him, roaring like a raging rancor, barely noticing the amount of blood he was losing from all the shrapnel he had taken. With his one hand, he held the gorget of Malagant's breastplate and then kicked him in the knee. Malagant cried out in pain as his leg buckled and he toppled to his hands and knees on the deck, and then received a kick to the face for his trouble... and another.... and another. Fuelled by adrenaline, pain, and sheer rage, Eidan had gone berserk, kicking and stomping the prone Sith Lord, screaming like a lunatic.

Malagant began to wonder why the others in the room weren't shooting him down when he heard there was indeed weapons fire - but not from where he was expecting. The fewer men in Ediren's squad were able to mow down the tighter-packed superior numbers of the general's guards... and then Ediren himself began running forward, saber in hand.

The hate and rage boiled up in Malagant and finally, with a scream of pure fury, was unleashed, throwing Eidan across the room. "ENOUGH!" Bringing himself to his feet, Malagant's eyes burned like two hateful furnaces. He reached out with one hand, pulling the injured captain to him.

The other held an ignited lightsaber.

Ediren's eye widened in horror. "NO!!!!" He ran forward to try and stop it... but it was too late.

Looking down at his chest, Eidan Zherron saw the lightsaber impaling him before he felt the pain. To Malagant's shock, he started to laugh. "S-so... that's what... that feels like," he rasped... and then spit blood into Malagant's face.

----

Ediren Lorath felt agony in his soul. First Nelys, now this. But as much as he would have liked to storm in and slash Malagant to ribbons...

"Warning. Self destruct sequence active. You now have four minutes to reach minimum safe distance."

...he had more important things to do. He disengaged his saber and hooked it to his belt.

Reaching out with the Force, he pushed Undjo away. The other members of the general's squad were dead or incapacitated. When Malagant saw him, he pushed Kinsale into him, causing them both to fall over. He then stooped and gently picked Eidan up, holding him over one broad shoulder. As he began to back up, his free hand again reached for his saber, just as Malagant picked himself up (again) off the floor.

Ediren, despite the contempt he felt for this murdering bastard, raised his saber in a flourishing salute. "Another time, Malagant," he said. "You may want to consider retreating." Then he continued to back away, his surviving men - two out of the five that he had brought along - with their weapons up as cover. Once Malagant's hateful stare was out of his sight, they turned and began to run, making their way to the turbolift.

Malagant watched him go, knowing that the Stormwatch had redeployed out of the blast zone, which meant the Direwolf would escape to fight another day. No matter. Indizar had taken some wounds, but he would live. Kinsale and Undjo both dragged him to the express lift to the officers' hangar. Malagant, his knee on fire, staggered behind them.

"Warning. Self destruct sequence active. You now have two minutes to reach minimum safe distance."

Despite the unexpected resilience of the Republic fighters, and the considerable Imperial casualties they had inflicted in this operation, Malagant was content. He had essentially removed the resourceful "Irregulars" from the war, and the idea of men whose only crime was not being gung-ho Sareshian cultists during her reign over the Republic being treated like garbage and thrown into a pointless meat grinder would - he hoped - spread dissension in the Republic ranks. And on top of that, he had removed a hated enemy, one who had regularly meddled in his plans for more than a decade. He would meddle no more.

All in all, a good day, Malagant mused as he limped up the ramp to his ship. Now, if only victory did not hurt so much... I'm getting rather too old for this.

The Shadowlight cleared the hangar, followed by the Blood of Adasta, Agent Kinsale's Phantom. The Stormwatch was waiting on the edge of the system, as the Castellum Carnivora erupted into white brilliance behind the fleeing Imperial ships.

----

Lucia regained consciousness in the Direwolf's small medical bay, feeling a splitting headache - and a bandage around her head, which would likely explain the headache. From the vibration through the hull, the ship was at lightspeed, which meant they had escaped. Careful not to move too fast, she sat up in her bed and gently began moving her legs to hang over the side - and then stopped cold as she saw the body in the next bed, covered by a sheet. Dread seizing her soul, she carefully walked over to raise the sheet to see the face beneath it.

Her wail of agony echoed through the entire ship.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #11 on: 03/19/20, 11:58:14 PM »
"Colonel?"

Mara looked up, a tired smile on her face as she recognized her visitor. "Saliya. Thank you for coming." She limped to her feet to embrace the ex-privateer. Saliya Taldir had been a retired InterStellar Regulator who served as Eidan's first mate, and later captain of the Direwolf when Eidan had taken the helm of the Custodum flagship, the Custodian's Watch. She had retired to her homeworld of Makeb and turned the Direwolf over to Lucia when the Zakuulan invasion had started. "You're one of the only people I know tied to this ship and crew, and to the Brigantia."

"A kriffin' shame in both cases. We'd known the Loraths and the Brigantia for years... and Eidan, well..." She chuckled a little. "I admit I kinda fell in love with the guy, but even in death, Mira was the only girl for him. He often said as much, when he was in his cups." She sat down with Mara at the table. "Lucia?"

Mara gave a pained snort. "How do you think?"

"Fair point." Saliya looked her over with a worried glance. "You look like hell, Mara. Have you slept at all?"

The colonel shook her head. "I went into that death trap with two hundred men. I left with less than thirty. I don't feel much like sleeping." She sighed. "Ediren's ship is still here, and when they arrive, he's gonna head back to Onderon to notify his family about Nelys. Tergahn will handle all the nitty-gritty reporting for the general, we're not gonna subject Lucia to that... which is why I've asked for you."

Saliya nodded, instantly knowing what Mara was asking. "You want me to take her home."

"And him, too," Mara confirmed. "I have a suspicion that's why Ediren made a point of getting him out before the Castellum went up. Maybe he felt Lucia would not have forgiven him if he had left his body behind." She sighed. "It's like I've reached the point where the people in my life are taken away. The Linavils, Eidan..." Tears welled up in her eyes. "All the kids I lost in this shithole of an op, suffering in exile because we weren't bloodthirsty enough for Saresh, putting their lives on the line for the people left out in the cold..." She finally broke down sobbing, causing some of the cantina patrons to look over at her.

One quelling glare from Saliya made them look away.

----

Galen Tavener had come on the same transport as Saliya, and for much the same reason - although he had been drawn by the Force rather than by the call of the anguished colonel. He stood on the upper level, looking over into the cantina, his hooded robe leading any passers-by to think him a Jedi.

"You ever think all of this could have been avoided if the Outlander had not been freed from Arcann's carbonite prison, Captain?"

Galen glanced beside him at the speaker, Kaiya Sokhem, one of his former Knights, who also wore simple robes. "Knowing what we know now, Kaiya? No. The Republic and the Empire would have continued to butcher each other whether we dominated them or not. But the Outlander - the Commander - was freed from the carbonite, and all that followed... perhaps it was destined. We were blinded by our own hubris - a common failing among all sentient beings. We believed too much in our own hype. And we suffered for it, when we were reminded of the truth."

"Which is?"

"That no emperor is immortal, no empire eternal... no one lives forever." He nodded over in the direction of the colonel. "Even those who accept death as a possibility because of their career are never prepared for it." He paused. "No, that's only half-true. They are prepared to lose their own life... but not the lives of others. Especially not so many."

Kaiya was stone-faced, but her voice shook ever so slightly. "I see what you mean."

Galen looked up, sensing a familiar presence in the Force. "They have arrived."
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #12 on: 03/26/20, 10:14:46 AM »
"Thank you, Master Jedi." Savel sighed tiredly. "As I said, I wish we had learned the plans earlier, but we did not find out what was intended until after you had already left."

Tergahn's head tilted slightly. "How?"

"Well... you will have to judge for yourself." He gestured to a figure standing off to the side in his office. "Colonel?" The figure turned and stepped into view. He was a Cathar with gray fur, a grizzled black mane of hair, and blue-gray eyes. "Master Tergahn Dai'lo... Colonel Menrim Tekan, formerly of the 54th Recon Battalion, Imperial Wild Space Command."

Menrim inclined his head slightly. "The soldiers you fought on the Castellum were mine, Master Jedi," he said, his Imperial accent sounding perfectly natural; he had been born on Bosthirda, a planet that had been an Imperial holding for more than a millennium. "Emphasis on 'were'. My men have been at Malagant's whim for years, ever since the Zakuulans came knocking. This was the last straw."

"Colonel Tekan and about twenty or so of his men arrived just after you entered the Sugilar system," Savel explained. "They had left Reydovan Prime in a shuttle that surrendered itself to a patrol on the border, seeking asylum. They were lucky the captain chose not to blow them out of the stars."

"Indeed." Tergahn looked over Menrim appraisingly. "Which begs the question, Colonel: Why now? You're an Imperial officer of some rank - and undoubtedly of some experience as well, given the still-extant prejudice against non-humans in the Empire. Which would mean you've made a career out of fighting and killing Republic soldiers. So why come to us now?"

"Because for all the differences, you Jedi don't tend to send Republic soldiers to pointless deaths just to satisfy your vanity," Menrim replied bitterly. "You tend to leave that to your military command." Savel made to protest that statement, but Tergahn gently raised a hand, beckoning the colonel to continue. "I allowed myself and my men to be used as glorified bodyguards, toy soldiers for Malagant to station in his palaces and temples. Perhaps they wouldn't be allowed to do what they were trained for, but at least they would live, rather than be sent to die in a pointless war. We were laughed at and scorned by our brothers in arms for it when we were sent to Iokath... and we lost so many there, if not to your soldiers, then to the damn droids. We'd just got back up to strength last month. And then, what he did at the Castellum... he sacrificed hundreds of men on that station, just to try and trap you. I protested the waste, telling him that they weren't properly battle-tested, not like what we had before on Iokath... these new recruits could not withstand even the number of men you brought along. 'What else are soldiers good for?' Malagant told me... and then he laughed, him and that sick brother of his that somehow got made into a general. That was it for me."

Tergahn could not sense any deception from him. "I see." His expression was thoughtful. "You of course realize, Colonel, that you will not have any easier time of it here than you did in the Empire. Especially now. I believe you to be sincere, and General Savel must at least find you credible... but you know we will likely be the exceptions."

Menrim nodded. "I know that. But my men and I are willing to fight and die for something that's worth fighting and dying for, not just the sick whims of a monster like Malagant. And if that means we do so fighting under our enemy's flag... then so be it."

Tergahn glanced at Savel, as that was a matter for the Army, not the Jedi. "There will be questions of rank, of course," the general said, "but I believe I may have a place for you with Colonel Danrei's Irregulars. And former Imperial soldiers are pretty damned irregular in the Republic Army."

"Just keep me with my men, General," the Cathar replied firmly, "and I will go wherever you want us."

"Very well. I will ask you to stay on here at Carrick Station, until Colonel Danrei has adequately recovered from recent events, and then I will put you up with her. I suspect she will raise a stink about your origins, but given what we lost to this trap, I wonder how much protest she will be willing to put up." Savel sighed. "At worst... I may end up giving you her command, which will go over like a neutronium balloon with her remaining men." He looked over at Tergahn. "The others?"

"Colonel Danrei has asked Saliya Taldir, the former captain of the Direwolf, to take the ship home to Dantooine. I believe the idea was to bury Captain Zherron on his family property, next to the grave of Master Fayhan. Ediren has gone back to his own homeworld of Onderon, to break the news of the Brigantia's loss to his extended family there. Nelys Lorath left behind a wife and children in Iziz."

Savel bowed his head. "A shame. I knew Nelys' grandfather, Davyd, during the first war. He was a good man with a fine family... even Ediren, who I thought I'd want to behead with his own lightsaber when all was said and done. He's... changed quite a bit." He appraised the Togruta Jedi Master thoughtfully. "I understand you had something to do with that."

Tergahn shrugged. "I may have given him a nudge here or there. But it seems the event that really changed his mind was when he was marooned on AZ-1194, when he was working for Saresh... trying to arrest Lucia and I as 'traitors'. That time in the snow must have convinced him. The mercy he was shown by Dassalya and the others." He pondered. "How many of them remain, I wonder." Then he smiled. "I suppose I will have time to find out, as we attempt to bring together the scattered pieces of our Order."

"Not a task I'd be optimistic about," Savel commented, shaking the Jedi Master's hand. "Thank you, Master Tergahn. I'll not keep you."

Tergahn inclined his head first to the general, and then to Menrim, before leaving them alone. As he stepped into Carrick Station's main hall, he spotted two figures in hooded robes, and recognized them at once. "Galen, Kaiya," he greeted them. "Up for another trip?"

Galen Tavener raised an eyebrow. "Where to?"

"Coruscant," Tergahn replied. "We have work to do."
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #13 on: 03/30/20, 08:43:21 AM »
"What do we employ you for, if not for gathering intelligence? Something you could use a little bit of yourself, it seems, given how deficient your brain appears to be."

Indizar clawed at the hand strangling him. "I... I..."

"You screwed up, Commander, is what you did. Rooting these people out is supposed to be your job. If you had been as suspicious as you claim, you should have terminated him immediately. Better a hundred loyalists die than a traitor lives!"

"Andav." Malagant was smiling, but his tone brooked no argument. "Release him."

Andav Undjo glanced at his brother and bowed his head in reply, before tossing the Chiss agent to the floor. Indizar's guts suddenly heaved and he spit up bloody bile onto the polished tiles. Next to him, Merelan Kinsale stared straight ahead at Malagant, appearing composed, but her eyes were wide with the sheer terror she was determined not to let her face show.

The Sith Lord leaned forward in his throne, catching her gaze. "Agent Kinsale," he said, his voice taking on a hint of amused malice, "anything to add?"

She hesitated only for a second, enough for him to notice. "No, my lord," she replied evenly, grateful her voice did not shake.

Malagant sat back, taking in the sight of the two injured S.I. agents. "General Undjo is correct," he said after a moment. All the traces of mirth in his expression were gone. "This is your mistake... and if you value your lives, you will both work to rectify it. Consider it a token of my generosity that I do not simply kill the both of you and be done with it." He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "No doubt he will be utilized by the Republic in due course - and when he is, you will be the ones who deal with him." He waved a hand in dismissal.

"Agent Kinsale, escort Agent Indizar to the medbay," Andav said with contempt in his tone. "Maybe you can both have your heads screwed on properly while you're there. When you're properly patched up, I will send you on your way."

"Yes, sir." She bowed deeply to Malagant, and then gently helped Indizar to his feet as he limped (with her aid) out of Malagant's audience chamber.

When they were gone, Andav shook his head. "This level of incompetence surprises me."

"It's not just them," Malagant said darkly. "I am as much to blame for this lapse as they. All these years, I never suspected Menrim would do this simply to spite me. It was hardly my fault Iokath ended up being a death trap, which left him with untried rookies for this mission." His tone became sharp. "Anyone else getting any ideas?"

"Moff Caudell and I can vouch for our task force. Ditto for Admiral Krysiak - I think he's just glad to kill Republic scum again. Moff Daltyn... with the revolving door of Sith leadership in this sector, who knows what he's thinking."

"See what you can find out. Right now, your contacts seem to be more... reliable."

Andav nodded. "I'll speak with Thias and get back to you." As he turned to leave, he gestured to one of the troops at the door. "You, get the clean-up crew in here to get this bile off the floor. This is the residence of a Sith Lord, not a back-alley cantina on Nar Shaddaa."

"Yes, sir!"

Malagant couldn't help but grin as he watched his brother leave.
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Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Guns Fall Silent
« Reply #14 on: 04/02/20, 10:12:29 PM »
Dantooine was still plagued by pirate problems, but Lucia Zherron could not be bothered by them. The family farm was far enough away from the battle zone to escape notice... at least for now. When Saliya had brought her back here, she told the veteran privateer to take over the Direwolf for the time being. She needed to be alone, in this place of family memory... and she had to attend to her father personally. Saliya had understood.

Once the ship had gone, Lucia had buried Eidan just outside the front entrance, next to the weathered grave of his old friend Saxtus Fayhan, dead and gone for close to a decade now. If it was true that "there is no death, there is only the Force", then perhaps her father would be in a better place. Certainly a better one than she was in.

Once that was done, she had gone back inside and accessed her comm terminal, sent out a brief, encoded message... and waited.

----

Two days later, a visitor arrived. Like Republic privateers and the XS freighter, this particular craft - the Kuat D5-Mantis - was a favorite of mercenaries... a lot of them employed by the Empire. This one had a known Imperial service record, even briefly being drafted into the Imperial military... but since the Zakuul mess had begun, she had been a freelance contractor employed by the eccentric ex-Sith Lord Taelios. It was that connection, among other things, that had led Lucia to her.

Lucia took in the sight of her guest as she stepped down the D5's boarding ramp. She wore battered armor with a long dark leather coat, and her wristguards came equipped with all the typical bounty hunter "goodies" - flamethrower, dart launcher, the works. Her face had dark streaks across it, which one would mistake for dirt at a distance, but were in fact tattooed into her skin. Bright blue eyes stared from those dark patches, a contrast to her fire-red hair. She carried a blaster pistol on each hip.

"Gotta say, didn't expect to find a Republic privateer's kid-turned-Alliance dogooder calling for me," she said without preamble. "Your rep goes around, Miss Zherron."

"So we both know each other. Good, then we can get to business." She led the hunter into the house, and poured drinks for the both of them as they sat at the table in the kitchen. "I would like to employ your services... provided you answer one thing for me: Given your prior history, do you have a problem taking out Imperial targets?"

The hunter gave a slight shrug. "If the pay is decent, what they don't know won't hurt 'em." She took a sip, and nodded approvingly at the quality of the beverage. "I suppose it would depend on the target."

"Two targets." Lucia pushed a datapad forward.

The hunter browsed the datapad... and she let out a low whistle. "Kriffing hell... you're not asking for much, are you?" She chuckled. "You do know I used to work for him, right?"

"I know you used to be his pilot, and that you broke with him. Given his past... troubles with Taelios, I'm sure your mostly-absentee boss would not begrudge you removing an old thorn from his side." Lucia met her stare evenly. "Can you do it?"

A long pause... then finally, the hunter nodded. "I believe so. But if you want me to do this, you'd better be willing to pay."

"How much?"

Another, shorter pause, as the hunter took a much larger drink. "We can negotiate the full price when and if I manage to pull it off, but as a starting fee... one million credits."

Lucia's eyes narrowed. "And given your prior history, how do I know you won't accept a counter-offer if he finds out?"

"You don't." The hunter simply smiled. "Putting a bounty out on a Sith overlord and an Imperial general is a big enough gamble... but hiring a hunter with known Imperial connections? That takes guts. I like that." Her smile faded. "But you'd better be prepared to go all in with the hand you're dealt, Miss Zherron, even knowing the game might be rigged. Because if you're looking for trust, you're in the wrong kriffing business."

Lucia was silent, staring... and then finally nodded. "Very well. It will take some finangling, but I will have one million credits accredited to your account within the week. After that, how you proceed is up to you. After all, you're the hunter."

The hunter nodded in agreement, that smirk back on her face as she polished off her drink. "Glad we understand one another, Miss Zherron." She rose. "Damn good whiskey, by the way." With a slight nod of her head, she walked out the front door. A moment later, her ship rose and flew off into the night.

----

Sitting at the controls of her Mantis, the Dragonqueen, as it left Dantooine behind, Nyssha Petrand couldn't help but laugh at the ironic circumstances. Not two days ago, she had been contacted by Malagant himself, seeking her services to terminate the recently-defected Colonel Tekan. When she asked why his pet Intelligence agents couldn't do it, his face had flushed. "Can you, or not?" he had snapped.

"You know I can," she had snapped right back.

"Then do it!" And then he had cut the channel. He was offering only a hundred grand, no upfront; either do it, or get nothing. Given how much money the man spent on palaces - having again returned to Reydovan Prime to rule, after engineering the "resignation" of Darth Metheius some months back - it was small wonder he was such a cheapskate when it came to hiring help. A credit spent on others was a credit he couldn't waste on himself.

But then, just moments after Malagant had hung up, the Fourth Wall had relayed the call from Lucia Zherron... and the job the aggrieved privateer offered was far more than she could have expected. Not only did Lucia want her to kill Malagant, but she had her sights set on his little brother, too. Nyssha had met Andav Undjo a couple of times, and though she would never show it in public, he sickened her even more than Malagant did. Her experience taught her that Sith were naturally sadistic, and certainly Malagant fit that bill. But Andav had no dark side corruption to excuse his insanity. In fact, she was glad he had no Force powers, because even without them, he was a sick bastard. He made her skin crawl.

Since she was on a job for Malagant anyway, she would have access to him. It certainly made it a lot easier for when the time came. But she would do his job first... the paycheck from offing Tekan would help cover expenses. Even the most veteran hunters had to eat, after all.
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows